Monday, November 7, 2011

Stuffed Courgettes, Co-op style

I cook. I clean. I host dinner parties. I sell cake. I cater. I know how to use a chef knife. Kinda. I like inventing menus. Good food is important to me. I like people. I am able to stand for hours and hours on end. So running a cafe once a week should be easy, right? Well, no. It certainly is not.

The Dublin Food Co-op is housed in 12 Newmarket Square, nestled within the parameters of Cork Street, Blackpitts and the Liberties. On Saturdays it is an excellent and rare Organic food market where the people selling food are the producers of that food. There are growers, bakers, dairy farmers and olive oil pressers. There are herbalists, crafters and chefs. There is also a Cafe managed and run by the talented Luca and Aisling who are also behind the ever popular Dublin Flea, For Food Sake events and Chow street food (straight up yummiest falafel in town).

I have been given the exciting opportunity of managing the cafe in the Dublin Food Co-op on Thursdays  for the past 6 weeks, and will continue to do so until then end of the year. I have tendered my proposal to stay on in the new year and have my fingers crossed that I am chosen for the job. So far it had been a rewarding experience and I have learned so much. My Thursdays are long and they are filled with on-the-job self taught lessons. I have refined my menus and plan of attack every week since I started. So far I have learned:

1. Always have soup on the menu. Chili as a main does not satiate the soup yearner's appetite. Although it is soupy, it is not soup.

2.  A flat grill is not a hob. It is very difficult to bring a huge pot to boil on a flat grill. Therefore potatoes must be baked or roasted, not mashed. Learn to work within the limitations of the equipment you've got.

3. Baristas have difficult, skilled jobs. It is really frikin hard to get the milk heated to a perfect foam that has some lift but isn't dry. The day I am finally able to get that milk to the perfect consistency, allowing me to create that milky heart on the top of a cappuccino, is a day I will celebrate. Annually.

4. Make sure the menu is varied. There are lots of vegetables in this world. Make lunch colorful. Some customers are coeliac. Some customers are vegan. Some customers have allergies that were previously unimaginable to me, like broccoli intolerance. For real. Try to have something for everyone.

5. People are hungry at noon. If lunch isn't ready by noon be prepared to pay the price by absorbing grumpiness and attitude. People should not be held responsible for what they do when they are suffering from the hunger grump. I have to make sure that food is ready at noon. I must be in the kitchen as early as needed to ensure this.

6. People love potatoes. I'm not talking exclusively people of Ireland. I'm talking people of the world.

All of the ingredients I use for this cafe are organic and I cook dishes that I love. I might not have ever cooked them before, but I make darn sure before the meal is served that it is tasty and healthy enough to make me happy.

I cook with ingredients mostly purchased from within the Co-op community. They are seasonal, fresh and local. The dry goods are bought from the Co-op shop, the produce is bought from Christy Stapelton's Organic Produce, the cheese and milk are from Moonshine Organic dairy and the coffee, chocolate and olive oil is bought from Lino Olivieri, whose family has made olive oil for so long that his surname is Olivieri.

Here is a well received recipe from last week's menu. It is fast, requires no boiling and contains no broccoli:

Stuffed Courgettes with couscous

Serves 2

Ingredients (all organic):

2 courgettes
100g wholegrain couscous
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried basil (or fresh if you have it)
1 vegetable stock cube
1 leek, cleaned and chopped (using only the white part)
100g emmental cheese, grated (vegans and lactose intolerants can omit this)
olive oil
Salt and pepper
sprig of thyme
1 lemon


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Heat some oil in a pan. Sauté the garlic until just fragrant. Add the tin of tomatoes and leeks. Season with salt, pepper and basil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce reduces by 1/3. If the sauce reduces too quickly you can add 1/2 cup water.

Place the raw couscous in a bowl. Boil 200ml water and dissolve 1 stock cube. Pour over the couscous, cover with cling film and set aside until the water has been absorbed.

Fluff the couscous with a fork. Pour the prepared tomato sauce over top and mix in.

Half the courgettes lengthwise and scoop out the seeds

Arrange the courgettes in a roasting pan

Fill the courgettes with couscous. 

Top with grated cheese. Bake until the courgettes are just tender but still vibrantly green, about 20 minutes.
This cheese is cubed instead of grated, as you can see. No big deal

Enjoy these Stuffed Courgettes warm with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice, served with a fresh left side salad

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