Friday, July 22, 2011

White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford Takes A Star Turn On "Today" Show

Top Toque demos Kitchen Garden dishes from First Lady's 'Better Homes and Gardens' feature; Video & recipes...
Live from New York City this morning, White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford joined Matt Lauer in the Today show kitchen to demonstrate some of the White House Kitchen Garden-inspired recipes created by Better Homes and Gardens magazine for First Lady Michelle Obama's historic cover feature in the August issue (on news stands now). The nine-page spread includes photos of the picnic Mrs. Obama and BHG hosted in May for fifth graders from DC's Tubman Elementary School, as well as an interview with the First Lady. Mrs. Obama is the first public figure in more than four decades to grace the cover, and the feature includes online components, too (click here). (Top: Comerford and Lauer in the Today kitchen)

During her sixteen-year tenure at the White House, Comerford has cooked for everyone from Royalty to Heads of State to Hollywood stars, but cooking a healthy picnic for kids was a tough challenge, she told Lauer, and "inspiring."

"For chefs, kids are the hardest ones to please," Comerford said. "They're very blunt and honest. They will tell you if the food doesn't taste good. For us, that was our hardest audience ever."

Comerford demo'd a Chopped Green Salad with edamame and grapes, topped with Herb Dressing, made with orange juice; and Fruit Pocket Pies, made with fresh berries, fruit spreads, and whole grain breads. "Parents will love these," Lauer noted. The recipes are below; but for the record these were created by the Better Homes and Gardens food editors, not the White House chefs. The White House chefs cooked these for the First Lady's picnic photo shoot for the magazine.

More White House Salad recipes: The Winter Garden Salad. The Biggest Loser Salad. The Winter Green Salad With Honey Vinaigrette.

The BHG feature is designed to inspire parents to create healthy, veggie intensive meals at home.

"This was part of the first lady's idea that families need to think differently about how they're feeding their children breakfast, lunch, and dinner," Comerford said.

She noted that "kids are very visual," and they find brightly colored fresh fruit and vegetables very appealing. Watch the video to see how easy it is to make the Fruit Pocket Pies.

Chopped Green Salad with Herbed Dressing

4 cups torn spinach and/or romaine
1 small cucumber, seeded, if desired
3 oz. broccoli florets, blanched and shocked* (1 cup)
3 oz. tender fresh green beans, blanched and shocked* ( 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup frozen edamame, thawed
1 1/2 cups halved green grapes
1 recipe Fresh Herb Dressing
Lemon wedges

On a large cutting board, cut lettuce and cucumber into bite-size pieces. Add to a large salad bowl. Add broccoli, beans, edamame, and grapes. Toss gently to mix. Drizzle about 1/3 recipe fresh herb dressing over vegetables. Toss gently to coat mixture with dressing.

1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh Italian parsley, basil, or thyme
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

In a screw-top jar combine orange juice, olive oil, vinegar, herb, mustard and pepper. Cover and shake well. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. Stir or shake well before using.
Raspberry vinaigrette: Prepare as above, except substitute raspberry vinegar, and add 1/4 cup mashed fresh raspberries.
Serve salads in small tumblers or cups with lemon wedges, if desired. Pass remaining dressing, if desired.

*Notes: Before chopping lettuce, wash lettuce and remove excess water from leaves by patting dry with paper towels. Salad dressing clings better to dry lettuce. For Shocking vegetables: Bring a saucepan half filled with water to a boil. Carefully add vegetables and cook 3 minutes (do not wait for water to return to boil to start timing). Drain in colander and immediately add to a bowl of ice water to halt cooking. Drain well before using.

Fruit Pocket Pies

3/4 cup fresh raspberries and/or blueberries
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 Tbsp. smashed apple jam or apple butter
12 slices soft whole grain white or soft whole wheat bread
1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 lbs. of apples for Smashed Apple Jam

Method for Smashed Apple Jam
1. Peel, core and slice 4 pounds apples.

2. Place apples and 1/2 cup water in a 4 or 5-quart heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until very tender. Remove from heat.

3. Mash apples with a potato masher or blend with an immersion blender. Return to heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes until the jam thickens and most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently.

4. Transfer to a covered container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Method for Fruit Pocket Pies
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash berries and spread to dry on paper towels. Meanwhile, stir together sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

2. For each pie, spoon 1 tablespoon of smashed apple jam in the center of a bread slice. Top with 3 to 4 berries and another slice of bread. Gently press the top slice around the fruit. Trim crusts from bread using a serrated knife.

3. Bake pies for 18 to 20 minutes or until bread is lightly toasted and bottoms are browned. Transfer to a cooling rack. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

*Makes 6 servings

*Video from Today; recipes created by Better Homes and Gardens; photos by Better Homes and Gardens

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