by Chef Corey Poonacha
Hi, Corey here. Most of you may recognize me at the South Park Senior Center as the Operations Manager. Many of you do not know of my life prior to working at South Park as an Executive Chef! Throughout most of my life I worked in the culinary field from a butcher shop to fine dining. I spent much of my time learning Italian cuisine! With our Culture Focus programming in full effect, and Chef Anita taking a much-needed vacation, I found myself with a rare opportunity to step in and showcase my experience as an Italian Chef. I jumped at the chance to prepare a six-course meal for our Seniors to enjoy.
In Italian cuisine, much like all others, various ingredients traditionally are best and sometimes only found seasonally. In the modern world we are often able to source out-of-season items easily with modern farming and shipping transportation thus making it easier for me to put together a multi-season meal. Since I don’t have the schedule to do these types of meals regularly, I wanted to try my best to provide a flavor experience for each season with the courses I chose.
We opened with the late-summer early-fall combination of prosciutto and cantaloupe melon. Melons are often at their peak of flavors at the end of summer. Letting them linger on the vine into fall allows for more sugars to develop.
Then followed by a fresh green salad of mint, peas, and arugula. The vibrant greens and colors found in herbs and vegetables are at their best and brightest in the wet spring months!
The third course was a wild mushroom risotto, a rich, starchy rice dish. The mushrooms used in the dish cannot be cultivated domestically. They can only be foraged in the forests during the late fall and early winter.
The main course was a red-wine braised beef on a puree of celeriac (celery root) accompanied by winter kales and fennel. Root vegetables and hearty greens grow year-round but are the tastiest during the winter months where the colder weather forces the plants to produce more sugars. The extra sugars serve to protect the plant from frosts by increasing the water density within it and lowering the freezing point.
We closed the evening with the sweet peaches of summer combined with amaretto liqueur to make a silky-smooth gelato ice cream. A relaxing finish to a hot summer day.
I truly hope everyone enjoyed eating the meal as much as I did creating it. Perhaps in the future there will be other opportunities for me to relive my chef days and flex my culinary muscle. Until next time… Ciao