Sweet Ponchatoula strawberries, Ruston peaches, New Roads pecans and a bounty of fresh Gulf seafood are just a few reasons why south Louisiana is a delicious place to be a locavore. This month, as part of the third annual Eat Local Challenge, Touro Infirmary and Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group have teamed up to offer cooking demonstrations focusing on light, local fare.
"We got involved ... to promote a healthier lifestyle in the community and give everyone the chance to experience something different," says Liz Cabrera, a dietitian at Touro Infirmary.
At noon on Wednesday, June 19, Touro Infirmary hosts a demonstration by chef Chip Flanagan of Ralph's on the Park. Flanagan will prepare a poached redfish with fresh peach salsa — and people participating in the Eat Local Challenge will be glad to know its healthy ingredients are all sourced in Louisiana.
"It only has about 500 calories per serving and approximately 39 grams of lean protein, coming from the fish," Cabrera says. "It also incorporates fresh fruit, so you can sneak some extra fruit into your meal. Dietary guidelines are three to six cups of fruits and vegetables a day, which can be challenging, but incorporating it into the recipe adds flavor, fiber and vitamins."
Flanagan says he chose a citrus salsa in lieu of a heavier sauce to reduce fat. The cooking method also lowers the dish's total calories. "Poaching was the best alternative (to grilling, sauteing or broiling) because you do it in a fat-free environment," Flanagan says. "You just submerge the fish in a bouillon enhanced with fresh vegetables and herbs and cook it at a gentle heat, never boiling. The fish has time to pick up the flavors."
Flanagan says rich, heavy sauces often mask the flavor of a dish. "Our job as chefs is not to sacrifice flavor," he says. "You're actually tasting the food when you do lighter dishes, and I think that's great," he says.
The flavors of the food are especially pronounced when ingredients are sourced locally, from farmers markets or by catching the fish yourself, Cabrera says. "The flavor is better with fresh foods that come from the farm to the table," she says. "And the farmers market exposes people to (seasonal) fruits and vegetables they may never have thought of trying."
Flanagan agrees. "People are trying different things (as a result of) making relationships with farmers and fisherman," he says. "(At the farmers markets,) I've seen artichokes from Mississippi, fava beans, English peas in the springtime. ... They hear us, and they're starting to give us more variety. And you're helping out your local economy on the financial side."
Louisiana Citrus Poached Redfish with Fresh Peach Salsa
6 oz. redfish fillet
4 oz. Jazzmen brown rice blend
3 oz. peach salsa
1 pinch micro greens for garnish
1/4 teaspoon Creole seasoning
2 cups citrus courtbouillion
Season the redfish with the Creole seasoning and poach fish in barely simmering courtbouillion for 8 minutes or until done. Mold the rice in the center of the plate. Top with poached fish and peach salsa. Garnish with micro greens.
Peach and Citrus Salsa
1/2 peach, peeled and diced
1/2 Meyer lemon supremes, segmented
4 leaves cilantro, chiffonaded
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom vinegar
Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.
1 gallon water
1/2 cup Meyer lemons, peeled
1/2 leek, rinsed and sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 bunch cilantro stems
2 cups white wine
Place all ingredients in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes, then drain and place liquid back on the stove until ready to serve.
Jazzmen Brown Rice Blend
1 cup Jazzmen brown rice
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1/2 cup mixed peppers, roasted, peeled, deseeded and diced small
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
Sweat shallots and garlic with the extra virgin olive oil until they are translucent. Grate ginger into the water. Add water to the shallots, add salt and bring to a boil. Stir in rice blend, remove from heat, cover tightly and let steam for 20 minutes. Add rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
Per serving: calories 521, protein 39g, carbohydrates 53g, total fat 14g, saturated fat 2g, fiber 5g, sodium 559 mg.