I think from now on I’m going to have to refer to the history of my taste buds and cooking experience as BCL and ACL. Before Cooking with Lévana, I was a quick, shelved or frozen, white flour, white sugar, margarine toting, powder smoking spice kind of gal. I’d bend to the will of the dish….whatever it took to make it taste good…as long as it was easy, standardized and accessible, I was there. Rosemary or thyme were my occasional exotic additions. I avoided shopping till the cupboard was nearly bare – only then stocking up on the shelf life ‘big easyz’ frozen over canned, fresh produce reserved for guests and/or lichvod Shabbos. I’d bring home the symmetric little dried herbs that pour forth from large holed plastic dispensers, meat and chicken over fish, and whatever was on sale that might creatively fit the menu in some form or fashion. Healthy meant replacing vegetable oil with canola or extra light virgin olive oil and using sea salt instead of kosher salt. Even when I used fresh garlic or onions, I would sprinkle some of the magic elixir vita bottled powder just to make sure it had enough flavor. Oh, I can just hear Lévana’s horrified gasps in response to this confession, as she feverishly prays for my culinary soul’s redemption.
OK… OK don’t worry, all you brilliantly talented kitchen foodistas out there, I’m learning. Last night’s feast included a whole exotic array of new flavors to my unexposed palate. Fennel, saffron, turmeric (OK once or twice) and haricot verts (don’t worry it’s just lovely skinny green beans), agave and grey salt. As before, Lévana’s gift for blending natural healthy ingredients in a quick uncomplicated way to create delicious, good tasting, good for you dishes is nothing short of Merlin magical. Tonight, Monet’s color palette was resurrected, as Lévana paid close attention to the color scheme and blending of the evening’s Spring fresh offerings. The menu included Chicken Breasts with Artichoke and Carrot, Zucchini and Fennel Soup, Haricots Verts, Roasted Peppers and Heirloom Tomato salad with Grey Salt, Herbed Yukon Fingerlings and Plum Granola Tart.
Lévana likes to start out with the dessert prep while hands and surfaces are fresh, clean and residual free. Preparing the pie dough, Lévana talked about the perks of gluten free living and how the wide variety of healthy grain flours such as millet, granola, buckwheat, cornmeal, quinoa, chick peas, et al, are readily available as substitutes for white flour. As she spoke about nutrition she quipped; “There is no idea regarding nutrition that I have not thought of. It’s my life’s work! I’ve found the very best way to do it, and this is it! I’m not a chef, nor a sous chef, I’m a housewife who wants to do the best job possible…simple, simple, simple.”
While preparing the Zucchini Fennel Soup, Lévana explained her choice of yellow zucchini squash over the green colored ones. “Don’t throw off the color scheme. There is a color scheme in cooking…the yellow zucchini goes better with the colors of the fennel and leeks…light with light…” The soup was earthy and delicious. The flavors subtle and soothing, the licorice taste of the fennel blended well with its pale chartreuse partners.
In preparing the Chicken Breasts with Artichokes, as well as the Haricots Verts salad, Levana did advocate for the frozen packages for these items, although she took the time to show us how to prepare a fresh artichoke. She makes it look so easy…
The colorful Spring salad with its rich green colors, festively adorned with the reds and oranges of the tomatoes and peppers was tangy and flavorful; the chicken tender, rustic and delicious. CS, the potato lover, found the spuds scrumptious!
The Plum Granola Tart looked like a still life in a classic renaissance painting, its taste – especially the cassis custard – was fit for a king. What it did to my palate was reminiscent me of a fine dessert wine, a wine that starts tart and sweet but ends with delightful, slight hint of dryness.
Lévana uses what she describes as assertive ingredients. “The very best ingredients don’t need enhancement, they are like that perfect little black dress…add a string of pearls and you’re good to go…it’s fully stated.” And so was our evening, perfectly stated and sated. Thanks again Lévana for a delightful night out.