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Spring Clean – simple, clean-tasting food is in season

Posted: Monday, Apr. 30, 2012

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Chef Troy Gagliardo

"Chef Troy" Gagliardo hosts a weekly cooking segment called "Tuesdays with Troy" live every Tuesday on WCCB News Rising from 7 to 9 a.m. He has made over 300 appearances on the show showcasing over 1000 of his unique original recipes. He was also voted one of the Top Five best chefs in Charlotte in 2013. Troy has penned a cookbook called Pseudo Southern, which has been endorsed by celebrity chef and best selling author Fabio Viviani. His business Motown Spice Provisions supplies some of the top restaurants and country clubs in the greater Charlotte area for the past 10 years. He is a self-taught chef who learned early on the importance of family and food, and the connection between both, from his parents and grandparents. Contact him at troygagliardo@gmail.com. Visit www.cheftroy.net, and follow Troy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Warmer weather changes everything. It changes what we wear, what we do and most certainly what we eat. The cold snap of winter weather entices us to eat hearty comfort foods to warm our bodies and spirit. Spring weather means lighter clothing and lighter food.

“Light” doesn’t have to mean tasteless boring food; it can mean clean, colorful and most importantly flavorful dishes. To bring such a dish to life with guaranteed success it has to be balanced. Contrasting textures, flavor combinations and different temperatures of the main components sway the taste-bud scale in the right direction.

Creating and preparing your own lighter dish starts with fresh ingredients. Buy proteins from a reputable store that carries fresh seafood, farm raised beef/pork and free-range chicken. There is no substitute for getting fresh vegetables from a farmers market or organic-friendly food store to make your dish taste of wholesome goodness.

Whenever creating a dish of your own, think of it in separate parts even if you plan to put them together. Choose a protein and decide which cooking method you are going to use and then determine how you want to flavor it. You may want to go “all natural” and only use olive oil, salt and pepper – or maybe spice it up a bit with bolder flavors. That is what makes cooking enjoyable – the freedom to mix and match ingredients and flavors according to what you like.

Naturally, after the protein is determined you have to make the decision of what will go with it: fresh vegetables, a grain, rice or pasta. The days are long gone that we have to have a meat and two or three side dishes. Some of the most successful and satisfying dishes we eat/create are one-plate meals that have different components to make a complete dish.

However, the most important item to make an awesome light, clean-tasting and great looking dish is simplicity. Complicated dishes normally have flavors that are muddled with no real taste of each individual ingredient. Using fewer ingredients will highlight each individual taste of the great products that you purchased.

Chipotle Molasses-Glazed Salmon Spinach Salad with Orange Ginger Dressing

Salmon/Glaze:

• 4 4/6-ounce salmon filets, skin off
• To drizzle, canola oil
• To taste, kosher salt
• To taste, black pepper
• 3 tablespoons molasses, full flavor
• 1/2 orange, zest and juice of
• 1 teaspoon chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce); peppers only, deseeded, diced

Salad::

• 10 ounces baby spinach
• 1 cup shredded carrots
• 1/4 cup red onion, thin
• 1/2 cup smokehouse almonds
• 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Orange Ginger Dressing:

• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1/2 orange, zest and juice of
• 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
• 1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated
• 1/4 cup canola oil
• 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
• To taste, kosher salt/black pepper

Salmon/Glaze:

Whisk together the molasses, orange juice and chipotle until well combined.Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Drizzle salmon with oil, season with salt and pepper, place on the grill flesh side down. Let salmon grill without moving for 2 to 3 minutes, then carefully slide a flat metal spatula under the salmon and turn 45 degrees. Grill another 2 to 3 minutes then flip (see tip below).

After flipping the salmon, brush with molasses chipotle glaze. Continue grilling and brushing with the glaze, cooking salmon until just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Brush with glaze just before removing from the grill, set salmon on a plate to rest.

While the salmon is cooling, prepare the dressing by placing the mustard, orange juice, vinegar and ginger in a blender. Blend to combine. While the blender is running, start adding the oil slowly until all has been incorporated. Pour dressing into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk in the sesame seeds, set aside until ready to dress salad.

On a large serving platter or 4 individual plates, place the baby spinach and top with the carrots, onions and almonds. Brush salmon with glaze and place on salad. Top with goat cheese, drizzle dressing all over the salad and serve immediately with the remaining dressing on the side.

Troy’s Grilling Tips:

• Always preheat and clean grilling surface – lightly oil grates with cooking oil
• Remove refrigerated proteins 30 minutes prior to grilling – this ensures even cooking
• Pat proteins dry before seasoning – moisture starts a steaming process instead of a char
• Learn your grills hot spots – after preheating, white spots will appear on the grill grates
• Let grilling proteins lie… it will naturally release itself, don’t force it
• Let cooked proteins rest – this allows the natural juices to firm up

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