Discovering Natural & Fresh Ingredients

I was in California for my women’s mentor circle meeting. I have known most of the ladies for years and was so excited to see everyone again. Typically we have a structured meeting to plan for the year then we get to hang out and reconnect. That evening, our scheduled activity was a cooking class. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it sounded like a fun idea.

When we got in, the chef introduced herself and welcomed us. She had just picked up the fresh ingredients from a farmers market and was excited to walk us through the menu. What in the world. I had not heard of half the ingredients and from the sound of it, I probably wasn’t going to be able to eat any of it. Luckily, the hotel I was staying in had a room service menu, so in my head I had plans to just weather through the class then go have a real dinner when I got back. You may be more refined than I am but I’ll let you be the judge. Haha. Here was the menu:

  • Charentais Melon Salad with Kalamata Olives, Pine Nuts, and Sheep’s Milk Feta
  • Early Girl Tomato Panzanella
  • Tahini Burnt Eggplant with Pomegranate Molasses
  • Chicken and Cardamom Basmati Rice with Caramelized Onions, Cilantro, and Dill
  • Green Beans and Fingerling Potatoes with Black Mission Figs and Proscuitto
  • Bittersweet Chocolate Cakes with Dulce de Leche and Fleur de Sel

We split up in groups and each group was responsible for 2 recipes. My group scored the Potatoes and the eggplant dish. I worked on the potato recipe: Some thyme, garlic cloves and cilantro into boiling water, followed by enough potatoes for 10 women, then a table spoon of salt. Waaaa! I called for help. “Are you sure we only need a tablespoon of salt” She saw how confused and adamant I was so she let me put a few more spoons of salt in. lol. Then I made the green beans, added shallots, mixed in roasted walnuts, vinegar and oil. Then arranged layers of the potatoes, Proscuitto and figs on a platter. In little time my potion of the meal was ready for dinner.

Soon enough there was a feast on the table, it smelled good but I was confident that I would not enjoy it. We all sat and dug in. I could not believe it. Every bite of every dish was out of this world. The coolest part was that you could taste the freshness of the ingredients and the simplicity of the recipes.

The experience made me realize that Maggi is not God. Haha. For those who are not familiar, maggi is a staple seasoning in Nigerian cooking that makes every meal. I got back home and found myself upgrading my grocery list and my recipes. Some easy fresh ingredients that I started throwing into my current recipes for flavor include fresh  cilantro, basil, parsley, ginger, garlic, eggplant, Figs, cucumbers, shallots and chives. Depending on the meal and ingredients, these allows me to reduce the salt or maggi I put in and still has a great taste. My plan is to get a little more adventurous with time.

Typically our food choices are very limited and any extras seem so unnecessary or complicated. To keep your diet interesting, try out new recipes with new ingredients. The key is to keep it quick and simple. Here is a simple recipe that I enjoy making. I don’t use butter and I add mushrooms for texture and flavor. Serve with green beans and your choice of protein. Feel free to try it out and enjoy. Please do share any simple recipes that you love as I am scouting new ideas too:D



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