Chef Spotlight: Nina Curtis
I had the pleasure of collaborating with chef Nina Curtis this week at the annual Women Chefs & Restaurateurs conference in Seattle. Mann Packing has been involved with the conference for several years now (for more background, see my post after last year’s conference here), and this year we were paired with Chef Nina on a culinary knowledge session entitled “Vegetables at the Center of the Plate.”
Nina was such an inspiration. A vegan and raw cook for 18 years, she is the Executive Chef at The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu, the acclaimed seven-day fitness and wellness bootcamp. She is also the Chief Nutrition Officer for the Ranch Daily, a meal subscription service in Southern California. Like most chefs, her love of cooking started as a child. The oldest of four, she began helping her mom in the kitchen at the age of eight. “My mother put so much love into her food,” she says.
Her father was no slouch in the kitchen, either. A classically-trained chef, he was not entirely sold on Nina’s pursuit of a vegan lifestyle and holistic practices. He was by her side cheering her on, however, when she received rave reviews of the 400 ‘live’ vegan tacos she served at the 2013 Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival.
Nina’s passion for a plant-based lifestyle began in 1999, when she was a professional body builder. Her own transition took place over time, and she applies the same philosophy to guests at The Ranch, for whom she and her team prepare daily meals totaling 1400 calories. It is during their six-day stay that guests are taught about the healing power of food through Nina’s lectures and cooking classes. “I meet people where they are at,” she says of introducing the guests to a vegan diet. She believes in starting slowly with foods that are familiar before introducing something totally new.
If the response to her cooking at Monday’s mentor session is any indication, this approach is certainly working. A group of 30 conference attendees eagerly gathered around the demo station at Seattle Central Culinary Academy to watch Nina whip up two mind-blowingly flavorful dishes and hear about her holistic journey. Her recipes are below and keep in mind that it’s always nice to share.
Thank you, Nina!
Power Blend Burrito Bowl
- 2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight in water
- 1 cup black rice
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon rice bran oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
- 3 cups Mann’s Power Blend
- ¼ cup vegetable stock
- 1/8 cup lemon juice
- 2 -3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 12 leaves of Mann’s RomaCrunch™ lettuce
Cook black beans in water until tender, drain and set aside.
Cook rice in 2 cups of vegetable stock. Bring to boil then immediately turn down to a simmer. Cover with a lid for about 20-25 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
In the meantime, add cooking oil to pan and let it get hot. Add the onions to the pan and sauté until translucent, add the minced garlic and Mann’s Veggie Power Blend and sauté all until the vegetables are fork tender, careful not to overcook. Turn heat down under pan to low, add spices and stir for 1 minute until fragrant. Add cooked black rice and drained black beans, and season to taste with salt and pepper. .
Taste and adjust seasoning with lemon juice (if it needs more acidity).
Use the leftover vegetable stock to keep the mix wet and “burrito filling” consistency. Plate and serve with RomaCrunch™ leaves, fresh guacamole, Pico de Gallo and sour cream.
Kohlrabi Spaghetti with Seared Broccolini, Roasted Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Shiitake Mushrooms
- 4 cups spiralized kohlrabi (I used Mann’s Jumbo Kohlrabi)
- 2 cups Mann’s Shaved Brussels Sprouts
- 16 stems Mann’s Broccolini(R)
- 2 cups marinara (use your favorite homemade or brand)
- 1 cup Shiitake mushrooms
- 16 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Spiralize Mann’s kohlrabi into spaghetti shape, set in colander, and let drain.
Roast Brussels sprouts in oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a lightly oiled pan, sear Broccolini, approximately 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
In another pan, sauté Shiitake mushrooms for 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Broil cherry tomatoes, just until they blister and get a nice color.
Heat marinara in a pot on medium high flame.
Place drained kohlrabi spaghetti in a large bowl, pour marinara sauce on top and toss together until the kohlrabi is well coated. Add the Shiitake mushrooms and toss.
Place the seared broccolini at the center of the plate, and place the kohlrabi spaghetti on top.
Sprinkle the roasted Brussels sprouts on top of the kohlrabi spaghetti and garnish with the blistered cherry tomatoes, parsley and parmesan cheese.
Top photo from The Ranch at Live Oak.