And now I do, too!
Saturday was quite the exciting day for me. I was lucky enough to be invited to meet Cat Cora, who was in the Twin Cities to give a cooking demo and to promote her new book, Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist. Actually, the nice people with Macy's Culinary Council were gracious enough to offer me a press pass and VIP seating...and I certainly couldn't resist!
I really wasn't sure what to expect---after all, I had never met an Iron Chef before! It turns out that Cat Cora was fascinating, not just because of her fame as a Food Network star, or because she is an accomplished cookbook author, but also because of her work with the "Chefs Move to Schools" program, part of Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign. As a matter of fact, Cat had just been to the White House on Friday, along with hundreds of chefs from across the country, ready to take on the challenge of ousting childhood obesity. To further support the First Lady's initiative, the chefs are encouraged to adopt a school in order to support parents in the nutritional education of their children. Cat is doing her part by adopting her son's school in Santa Barbara.
As for the event at hand, Cat was demonstrating a couple of recipes from her new book. While we waited for her arrival, we were treated to a mini version of her watermelon margarita (sans alcohol, but oh so good):
It was quite the trick to balance this on my lap and take a picture, so don't be judging the picture quality today....
When she arrived, we, the invited bloggers, had a chance to have our pictures taken with her.
I didn't get a chance to meet everyone, but, for the most part, these are the ladies of the Minnesota Blog Pantry. I did have the opportunity to chat with Crystal of Cafe Cyan and Jodi and Patricia from Two Girls Cooking. Hopefully, I'll be able to get acquainted with more of the women at future events. Oh, and I can't forget Sue Zelickson, the lovely woman in the front (standing next to Cat Cora). Sue is a longtime Minnesota foodie--a columnist for Minnesota Monthly and host of a radio show on WCCO.
After our picture taking session, Cat went to work putting together a couple of recipes from her new book. She started with her Grilled Chili-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa. What a treat to watch and listen to her while she prepared this most delicious dish. Her demo was a great example of her philosophy of putting a "twist" on classic food. Here, she used fresh ingredients, adding a new dimension to her flavors by grilling the fruit for the salsa and making a "quick" and easy marinade for the meat. All the while she was cooking, she gave us tips (always use a sharp knife to mince your herbs to avoid bruising) and insight into the whys of her methods (grilling the pineapple adds a smokey, caramelized flavor to the salsa). Luckily for us, we each got a taste of this recipe, too:
For her second recipe, Cat took an old family favorite and freshened it up....Grapefruit and Cherry Ambrosia with Honey Cream. It was terrific!
Cat wrapped up her demo by taking questions from the audience. She talked about her four boys and how she connects with them while she's on the road, and she answered questions about her stint as an Iron Chef. For the record, she doesn't know the secret ingredient until the battle begins, but she has about 15 minutes to group with her team before she starts cooking. The chefs all go into it with a plan, so if the plan is "Greek cooking", for instance, then they just incorporate the secret ingredient into the pre-planned dishes. According to Cat, this works out 85% of the time. If the ingredient just doesn't work with the theme, then there is a "Plan B". Interesting stuff.
Throughout her cooking demonstration, Cat stressed how much she loved grilling fruit. She even mention avocados a few times, and, in fact, she has a recipe for Grilled Avocado Salsa in her book. Well, after my avocado cupcake experiment turned out so well, I couldn't wait to try avocados on the grill. Yikes, these things are good....and so easy:
Use avocados that are still a little firm. Pour a little olive oil on them.
Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top.
Grill them for just 2 or 3 minutes.
I topped mine with a little lemon juice...delish!
Who knew that a cooking demonstration could be so enjoyable? Or that an Iron Chef could be so cordial?
To try some of Cat Cora's recipes, simply visit The Marketplace at Macy's. I hear that the Hearts of Palm with Blue Cheese Salad is quite tasty....or the Minnestrone Soup with Burnt Ends....