I’ve been living with my parents in Springboro, Ohio for the past couple of weeks until I make the big move to Houston to being my doctoral program (more on that in a later post). I’ve got to admit that it’s been a bit of a life adjustment living with my parents here after having lived with one of my best friends in Cleveland, especially right after the Cavs won the NBA championship. Springboro has something, however, that Cleveland and Lebron do not: Dorthy Lane Market. Two nights ago my mom, sister-in-law, and I had a girls night at a one of the market’s cooking classes featuring The Vegetable Butcher. First, I need to say, the kitchen at the Dorthy Lane Market Culinary Center is BEAUTIFUL. There is something about a white kitchen that gets me. Every. Time. In a white kitchen, the food is the focus. I also think white kitchens just epitomize cleanliness and make me feel good, knowing what I am eating is good and safe to eat.
This feeling was made even better when Cara Mangini, the owner and executive chef of Columbus’s Little Eater, and our chef for the night, took the stove. Cara launched her first cookbook, The Vegetable Butcher, a few months ago and used this stop on her book tour to celebrate local, summer vegetables. The night began with a crostini topped with goat cheese and marinated basil and garlic peppers that was sweet and tangy in all the right spots. While making this, Cara went over the knife essentials she recommends (chef’s knife, pairing knife, serrated knife, and the optional “cashmere socks” (it is not necessary, but sure is nice!) knife, the Japanese cleaver). She also showed us a handy tip on how to chop a pepper without getting messy with the seeds. Cut off the top and bottom, make a cut through the side and then slide the knife around the pepper’s core, cutting it away from the ribs and seeds.
Next up, she made her seaside gazpacho, inspired by a gazpacho she had eaten in Spain with her best friend and (lots of) wine….could she have made me want her life any more? Cara loved the gazpacho she ate in Spain, but admitted that it was hard to separate the gazpacho from her experience traveling with her best friend and, of course, the wine! One of Cara’s main points about her food was not about the food. It was about how food is a celebration of the farmers and land that enabled it to grow and the people with whom you consume it. But, after tasting this gazpacho, I can tell you, that I would probably enjoy it even if I was eating alone in a dark box. This is tomato time, and they truly showed themselves off in this dish. My sister-in-law noted that it would be a great dish for her to pack for lunch at work. Couldn’t agree more.
Our next dish was corn fritters with a summer bean ragu and balsamic reduction. This one was all of our favorites. I was nervous that the fritters were going to be too oily after being fried, but they were perfect and still had whole kernels of fresh sweet corn that gave the fritters great texture. While making these, Cara gave us a great tip about how to shave corn off the cob without the mess: break the cob in half before cutting the corn off. The less distance for the kernels to fall, the less mess! Simple tips like this make all the difference!
My favorite part of the evening, though, was when Cara freestyled to show us how to chop an artichoke. Let’s be real. Those guys can be intimidating. Now, though, I feel ready to take one on! Confident that it’ll come out perfectly? Not quite, but I’m ready to try out her recipe for grilled and smothered artichokes–her recommendation for artichoke novices!
The meal ended sweetly with her olive oil zucchini cake with lemon drizzle. By now, you can safely assume, we thought it was delicious. Once again, Cara made vegetables a natural part of the plate.
I get a lot of questions about how people can make their diet better; “What is the one thing that I could change to be healthier?” At first this was a difficult question for me to field. Aside from usually not knowing about the questioners’ current dietary habits, I believe in helping people develop their own diet to support their life, not the other way around. But the one blank advice statement I can make, that holds true no matter who you are or what you do, is to eat more vegetables. I loved how Cara never mentioned vegetarian or vegan, like so many other cooks who focus on vegetables do. Her entire focus of this night and of her book is to make vegetables a natural part of people’s meals. Vegetables aren’t for vegetarians. Vegetables are for everyone.
I cannot thank Cara enough for such a wonderful evening (and my father for treating his girls to a night out)! I’m headed out for a trip to visit one of my best friends this weekend, but get ready, because I’m about to dig into The Vegetable Butcher and get real flirty with some vegetables! First up: getting over my artichoke fear!