Last week, Keith and I were invited to participate in a Macy's Culinary Council event with Chef Cat Cora. She was visiting the area to promote her new cookbook, Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist, and provide a cooking demonstration. We were lucky enough to attend a meet and greet with Cat before the show. What did we learn? How to make grilled okra, among other things. Read on.
Cat was very down to earth and answered questions about her book, her cooking experiences, her television work, and how she balances work and family (for more on that, see a post by Leslie at NOLA Eats). Cat explained that her new book features traditional recipes from around world with modern and healthy twists. For instance, she turned the classic tomato soup with grilled cheese pairing into a spicy tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons. In addition to culinary arts, Cat is trained in exercise physiology so health and wellness are very important to her.
Since her book features a collection of classic recipes, I asked Cat to tell us about her favorite classic dishes such as the meals she enjoyed growing up. Being from Mississippi, she named several southern favorites as well as favorites from her Greek heritage. But overall, Cat feels like she has a connection with every recipe in her new book. She explained that she would not include the recipe if it did not feel "classic" to her.
Fuzzy but still cool
Keith asked Cat some questions about her role on Iron Chef. In particular, he wanted to know if the secret ingredients were in fact secret. Cat explained that the Iron Chefs and contestants are given a list of 4 to 5 possible challenge ingredients, but the actual secret ingredient is not revealed until the show is live. Cat finds it the easiest to focus on a particular cuisine when competing on Iron Chef and incorporating the secret ingredient into the cuisine.
During her cooking demonstration, Cat showed the audience how to make a Chili-Lime Flank Steak Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa and a simple Broccoli Slaw on the side. For dessert she made a fresh fruit ambrosia with cherries, grapefruit, pineapple fresh honey whipped cream, and walnuts. The audience was given samples of the dishes and each had a lot of flavor. I have since made the broccoli slaw (see future post for details) and it was crowd pleaser!
A fellow audience member asked Cat about her favorite meals to cook at home, and Cat said that she likes to grill just about anything. She explained that she recently grilled okra while visiting her parents. I was intrigued! Okra is a relatively new vegetable to me. Before moving to the South a year ago, I had never tried okra. I, too, love grilling so I decided to give it a try this week. Simple, easy, and super flavorful. Grilling the okra results in caramelization of the skin which gives the vegetable a smoky flavor - a perfect pairing with the sweet okra taste. It served as a superb accompaniment to the London Broil I also cooked on the grill.
Find some okra at your farmers' market and give it a try! Rinse one pound of okra and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Toss to combine. Using long tongs, place okra on grill heated to medium, perpendicular to grill grates. Grill for 2-3 minutes, or until okra begins to brown. Flip and grill for about 2 minutes on the other side. Remove and serve with your favorite entree. Enjoy!