I love food. I love cooking it, reading about it, eating it and watching shows about it. I love the Food Network as well. Who doesn’t, right? My favourite show is Chef at Home starring Chef Michael Smith – the fabulous and personable gentleman that cooks without a recipe and makes me feel like I can too! I love the way he gets excited about food and genuinely wants to share his knowledge and recipes. I may also feel a certain connection to him because he’s 6’7″ and I’m 6’2″ – it’s a tall thing.
But I digress…
photo credit: Loretta Campbell
A few months ago I wrote a blog on making your own pasta sauce and in this posting I referenced Chef Michael’s delicious Roasted Tomato Sauce. That blog got a great response so it got me thinking “wouldn’t it be great if I could ask Chef Michael some questions about food and healthy living? And wouldn’t it be great if he actually took the time to answer them?”
Why, yes! Yes it would!
So, I sat down behind my computer and wrote my little heart out. I contacted his publicist who was unbelievably gracious and passed on my questions. And wouldn’t you know it? HE ANSWERED THEM! I am bursting at the seams with excitement. This is like the holy grail of food for me. Honestly. I am so very grateful that he was kind enough to take time from his incredibly busy schedule of filming and book touring to let me pick his brain! And not only did he answer my questions, he also gave me two of his brand new recipes from his just release cookbook – Fast Flavours- 110 simple speedy recipes.
So, without further ado. I give you:
staceygreenliving’s Interview with Chef Michael Smith!!!
staceygreenliving: You have travelled the world and cooked with some of the most unique ingredients out there. What would you say is your current favourite ingredient to cook with and why ?
Chef Michael Smith: Local apples. I love the annual ritual of loading up the car with the kids and heading for MacPhees orchard, picking ourselves silly than going home and making pies and applesauce for the winter.
staceygreenliving: You always stress the benefits of eating locally, and I totally agree! Now that we’re into autumn I’m loving crisp apples and delicious squash. Do you have a particular dish you love to cook up when the air gets a little crisp?
Chef Michael Smith: Baked Apples from Fast Flavours- see recipe (I have included this recipe here)
staceygreenliving: I try to stress the importance of cooking using whole and fresh ingredients although sometimes I buy canned beans and frozen veggies so I always have solid basics to work with. What is one ingredient you always have on hand to ensure success in the kitchen?
Chef Michael Smith: I keep canned chickpeas, legumes and canned tomatoes on hand but that’s it for cans!
staceygreenliving: While you are extremely adventurous in the kitchen, which your audience loves – not everyone is as brave. What are a couple of spices that you feel people should absolutely try?
Chef Michael Smith: Try rosemary in sweet dishes like apple pie and nutmeg in savoury dishes like mashed potatoes!
staceygreenliving: I know you’re a new dad (congratulations!!) and also have 2 other beautiful kids as well. I have a 4-year-old son and getting him to eat well is sometimes quite the challenge! Do you have any tried and true tricks for introducing your children to new foods?
Chef Michael Smith: Practice patience and persistence. Be ready with healthy snacks when they come home from school. Put veggies on the table first at dinner. Give veggies names like magic bushes for broccoli or flying spears for asparagus or shark for any fish! Our only rule is that you have to try it.
staceygreenliving: Finally, we all work crazy busy lives, you definitely understand this! When you come home and you’re tired and it’s late and everyone is hungry – what is your one go-to meal that saves the day?
Chef Michael Smith: Penne with rotisserie chicken and pesto from Fast Flavours
This recipe is also included below. I made it last night for my son who has never had pesto before and if you read my blog regularly, you know he’s quite the challenge when it comes to new food. Not only did he eat it, he ASKED FOR SECONDS!!
Baked Stuffed Apples
Ó Fast Flavours Chef Michael Smith
Nothing says cozy comfort better than local fall apples and cinnamon. It takes mere minutes to get this simple treat into the oven. Just fix and forget and when you remember you’ll be rewarded with lots of cinnamon scented baked apple flavour!
Prep Time>10 min
Total Time>50 min
Serves 4 to 6
6 or 8 of your favourite apples
1/2 cup of softened butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 cup or so of rolled oats
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 350F. Turn on your convection fan if you have one.
Rest each apple on its side and neatly slice off the top half-inch or so. The stem will fall out. Reserve the little apple hats. Use an apple corer to pierce the works and punch out the seeds. Nestle the apples tightly together in a colourful baking dish.
With your fingers stir together the butter, sugar, oats and cinnamon working the mixture until its combined and crumbly. Evenly divide the mixture between the apples, stuffing and filling their centers and mounding the rest on top. Replace the little tops on each apples.
Bake until the apples heat through, collapse a bit and taste delicious, about 45 minute, maybe longer depending on the apple type. They’re done when they soften and look and smell delicious. Serve and share with lots of vanilla ice cream!
Speed It Up
You can turn up the ovens heat and the apples will bake faster but above 350° you’ll run the risk of burning the sugar. You can use your microwave to dramatically speed up this treat. The results are not quite the same as baking but delicious nonetheless.
Penne with Rotisserie Chicken, Spinach and Pesto
Fast Flavours Ó Chef Michael Smith
Done in 20 minutes!
This rustic dish shows off one of my favourite flavour combos ever: roast chicken and bright green pesto with chewy pasta and dark green spinach tossed in for good measure. These are true comfort flavours to me. It’s nice to roast your own chicken but just as nice to save time with a store bought rotisserie bird!
1 store bought rotisserie chicken
1 pound (450g) of penne
1 cup or so of pesto, hopefully homemade
1 bag (10 ounces/284g) of baby spinach
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Use your fingers and a fork to shred as much meat from the chicken as you can. As the cook you get first dibs on the tender roasted wings. Snack if you like! (Reserve the carcass for making stock for another meal.)
Meanwhile, prepare a large pot of freshly cooked, steaming penne. Drain the pasta in a colander, returning 1 cup of the starchy cooking water to the pot. Don’t rinse the pasta. Stir the pesto into the water, add the chicken, toss in the spinach and top with the steaming pasta. Stir the works together until everything is combined and evenly coated. Serve and share with lots of freshly ground pepper.
Speed It Up
On the top ten list of time saving kitchen shortcuts is the ubiquitous store-bought rotisserie roast chicken. Just about every supermarket offers this tasty time-saver. You can slice and shred its goodness into a menu of food choices! Be sure to simmer its leftovers into a tasty broth, and you’ll save time for another meal.
A giant thank-you to Chef Michael Smith for allowing me this opportunity! Make sure you get out and buy his new cookbook Fast Flavours- 110 simple speedy recipes and visit www.chefmichaelsmith.com
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