Aaron Brooks is one of 12 Miami chefs participating in the Fit to Fight weight loss challenge, which is just two weeks shy of coming to a close. So far the executive chef of Edge Steak & Bar has lost a whopping 20 pounds, most of which he attributes to his new found diet.
In order to share the wealth (or weight loss tactics), the chef brought back his popular cooking classes and decided to give it a healthy twist. Short Order was invited to Saturday's festivities, where we learned a thing or two about healthy eating, and must-have kitchen essentials.
If you've ever been to one of the cooking classes at EDGE before, you know they are well worth the cost. Not only do you get a welcoming cocktail (in this case a drizzle swizzle with Bacardi superior, pineapple and other goodness), but you also get free-pouring wine and champagne throughout the class. "Strong drinks and sharp knives. That's how we start," said Brooks.
Small bites prior to class were a good way to open up the appetite portals and still line the stomach with some healthy chow. All were easy to make, like this chickpea, tomato and hard-boiled egg bite.
Brooks admitted to stealing all canapés from his personal nutritionist, Rachel Sheridan's, Instagram who is currently getting a PHD in nutrition. The reason the chef joined in the challenge is that he wants to try to fit into his wedding tux. Kidding, although he totally mentioned that.
The challenge has helped him make life changes, like giving up most dairy, going from regular milk to almond milk, regular yogurt to Greek yogurt and now incorporating that in a lot of his cooking (like the gazpacho). He also recommends a Vitamix blender as a must-have kitchen essential for smoothies, shakes, gazpachos, and margaritas. "Forget the Ninja."
First healthy dish we made was a avocado gazpacho, which simply takes throwing everything into a Vitamix. In this case, everything consists of avocado, almond milk, sliced almonds, green grapes, baby cucumber, white bread (with crust removed), one garlic clove, sherry vinegar, Greek yogurt, extra virgin olive oil, jalapeño, and ice instead of water to thin it out. Easy peasy and delicious.
Turkey meatballs are always a good healthy choice. For one ounce balls, Brooks mixes the ground turkey with chopped shallots, parsley, garlic, ground cumin, paprika, eggs, cooked quinoa and EVOO. He then blends a salsa verde using mint, cilantro, parsley, jalapeno, olive oil, salt, lemon zest, and a spice blend. You'll want to bake the meatballs for eight minutes at 275 degrees.
Next up: salmon. Brooks lectured the intimate group on the importance of eating wild salmon vs. farmed salmon. He watched a documentary that made him believe in wild salmon permanently, not only for its extreme flavor but for its sustainability. He taught us how to slice perfect fillets and make sure nothing is wasted, utilizing the salmon belly and "scraps" for other things. Even then, we only used one half of a filet from the entire fish. So basically, if you're craving some wild salmon head over to EDGE. It's likely to be on the menu this week.
Other kitchen must-haves are a lemon juicer and zester. It's the ultimate way to get juice and zest in your dishes without any of the unwanted stuff. You'll also need some kitchen tweezers in case you plan on filleting a whole salmon (to pick out the pinbones). We learned it's just like plucking your eyebrows. Needless to say, the ladies had a much easier time with this task. As far as must have ingredients, chef Brooks can't get enough dill. "If it were up to me, I'd use it on everything."
Or these things. "This is the most underrated item i the produce section of the grocery store." Snack sprouts are healthy and great for snacking or cooking with. Also, maldon salt, which chef prefers over regular salt.
Another thing we learned: microwaves are the devil. So, uh, don't use them. Or try not to, anyway. Wrapping something in foil is like pressure cooking it. As far as whether the shiny side should go up or down, chef prefers it up, but only because it looks better when it hits the table. "People like shiny things." Ten minutes is how long your anything that's been baked in foil should rest before serving after tearing the foil open.
Finished salmon product is tossed with olive oil, dill, onions, beets, lemon, salt, and apples. To get the most out of slicing your apples, make sure the flat surface you're working with or cutting is always facing down on the chopping block.
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Desserts can be healthy, too. Use buckwheat flour for your chocolate brownie and you've got a winner. For some homemade ice cream, you need only five ingredients. This one has banana, Greek yogurt, and three other ingredients all that drinking made us forget.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha