Tasty food that’s good for you, too
MARQUETTE — If you’re thinking about cooking for large gatherings, you might want to think beyond traditional dishes.
How does Thai iced tea grab you? A segment on cooking was the focus of a recent “Northern Now” series put on by Northern Michigan University Alumni Relations. Leading the segment were Alden MacDonald, executive chef of Dining Services at NMU, and NMU hospitality management student Trixie Maguran Jacobson.
The webinar took place in the new NMU hospitality management kitchen, with participants allowed to ask questions virtually as MacDonald and Jacobson demonstrated recipes and provided tips along the way.
“We really wanted to pick dishes that meant something for us personally, but also dishes that you could make at home,” MacDonald said.
Jacobson demonstrated how to make wild mushroom soup with cashew creme, which she had to make during one of her college courses.
“I love using wild ingredients,” she said. “I love bringing it back home to the nature and what we started from, and that’s why I went with this dish.”
Mushrooms also have a special place in her heart.
“Mushrooms are one of my favorite things, and I feel like this is a great addition, especially if you have any allergen-restrictive guests attending your dinner because this dish is dairy-free as well as vegan,” Jacobson said. “I do use gluten in this dish, but that could easily be substituted.”
She said people are free to use any kind of mushroom in the dish (although she probably wouldn’t recommend using the poisonous kinds). At the webinar, for example, she used oyster mushrooms in long strips.
Jacobson started sauteing onions and shallots with the mushrooms to break everything down before the soup even was started.
Fresh thyme and nutmeg also found their way into the dish, with particular advice paid to nutmeg.
“What you do with fresh nutmeg is you use kind of a zester, and then you zest it on top of the ingredient that you’re using,” Jacobson said. “Now fresh nutmeg is very powerful compared to your ground nutmeg, so I’m only going to use a little bit.”
When fresh nutmeg is used, she said, the amount used is “to taste” and the desired flavor level for the recipe.
Jacobson also deglazed her pan with a small amount of white wine.
“This also adds more flavor, a little more depth to the soup, but the deglazing also helps bring up some of those brown bits that are left behind from sautéing and brings them to the surface,” she said.
That said, Jacobson doesn’t recommend pouring white wine directly from the bottle. Instead, it should be put in another container and then poured into the pan to prevent accidents.
MacDonald showed how to make Thai iced tea.
“If anyone’s had it, it has a very signature color,” she said. “It’s kind of orange.”
MacDonald said it’s also a lot easier to make at home than people realize.
“It’s all things that you can find in your grocery store or even on your shelf, which is really cool too,” MacDonald said.
Those ingredients include black tea leaves, whole star anise, green cardamom, a cinnamon stick, turmeric, sweetened condensed milk, water, ice and evaporated milk (optional).
For a non-dairy option, sweetened condensed milk can be substituted with a non-dairy milk alternative and sugar.
A little caution, though, is in order.
“If anyone’s worked with cardamom, you know that a little bit goes a long ways,” MacDonald said.
She also gave a little turmeric talk.
“It’s delicious,” she said. “It’s what gives the drink its signature color — a couple teaspoons of turmeric — and it goes great with these flavors.”
However, having a festive occasion could call for an added ingredient.
The drink, if a host wanted to make it an “adult beverage,” is tasty with rum, MacDonald said.
Yet, she called the tea drink “comfortable enough and approachable enough where it’s not too far out there.”
Also on the menu for the Northern Now session was gravlax, a salmon dish.
Pronounced GROV-lox, it is one of MacDonald’s top culinary loves.
“Salt-cured salmon is one of my favorite things to eat in the whole wide world,” MacDonald said. “It’s love it. It’s delicious. It’s buttery. It’s smooth.”
She has a particular way to make her salmon.
“Some people like a firmer salmon,” MacDonald said. “I like a really soft salmon, so I only cured mine for about 24 hours because I use kosher salt.”
By the way, she stressed that kosher salt or rock salt should be used when making gravlax.
“The reason we don’t want to use iodized salt or anything else that has a bunch of minerals is because it will affect the flavor and possibly the color of your salmon,” MacDonald said.
The full recipes can be found at bit.ly/3hR9W0z
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.