Chewing the Fat With Chef Tom Douglas

The kids and I chop the potent onion and garlic we picked up at the local Farmer’s Market.

There is definitely a difference between mass produced and local produce — like wild from tame. The cilantro was jalapeno green, wet and damply alive like flora in a rainforest.

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The fresh garlic looks prehistoric and nothing like its plastic jugged cousins of pre-peeled bulbs available at Costco. The husk surrounding the garlic cloves has a purple hue with little bits of dirt still clinging to the tendrils.

I watch my daughter, Sophie strip the seeds from her pile of poblano chiles. She’s 10 years old and a budding culinary master.

Today we were on another culinary adventure or what we like to call our “food experiments” – -in homage to Albert Einstein’s famed “thought experiments” of which E=MC2 was the result.

The E=MC2 of today’s “food experiment” is Chef Tom Douglas Roasted Tomatillo Salsa with grilled chicken skewers.

“What can I do now?” Amelia asks pointing to the now faded printed out recipe that has served as our field guide. A little like geo-cashing but instead of a hand held device the now crumpled and literally “rubbed with love” recipe had been carried all over our town.

Recently, the recipe, as well as good will hunting tips, had been bestowed upon us by Chef Tom Douglas.

We were in good hands… Chef Tom is one of eight siblings. I asked him if cooking with his family and working in their garden was a primer for his cooking career.

He chuckled. “I wish it was that romantic. We were forced into servitude or we didn’t get our allowance. I don’t know too many kids who ask to weed the garden.” Chef Tom said.

Boy could I relate. Shopping with four kids between the ages of ten and fourteen months sometimes feels like forced servitude or a Johnny Cash song—I’ve been everywhere, man.

We went to the Farmer’s Market, man.
To Mexican Tienda’s, man.
To Ay! Jalisco, man.
To the local butcher’s, man.
We’d been everywhere, man.

But it was worth it.

At the second local Mexican Tienda we went to we heard Amelia cry, “Mommmy! The Tomatillo’s!” Her look of delight as she held aloft a husked green fruit was pure Indiana Jones.

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Glancing at Amelia on the other side of the island it was a special moment watching Amelia carefully chopping her prized tomatillo’s, one of the main ingredients.

If like me you hadn’t a clue…T omatillo’s are referred to as the green tomato that are a staple of Mexican cuisine.

I explained to Chef Tom that out of the three generations preparing the recipe: grandma, mom and kids, none of us had ever cooked with tomatillo’s.

He seemed pleased like a benevolent food king who sent his fledgling food diplomats into the culinary road.

“Cooking with your kids is a remarkable exercise to let them in on the purchasing part of the process — kids love to shop and its great to take them to these ethnic places where people don’t always speak the language.

“You need to treasure hunt a little bit. Don’t be too parental, let them discover little things… like the palm sugar at the front counter and the little Mexican candies that will get them interested in food in other places and food from other places.”

I asked Tom if he had any cooking tips for parents.

“I think what you’re doing with your “food experiments” is a great way to translate that excitement into a kitchen and a recipe. They’re more invested in the process instead of just being dragged away from the TV and a video game.”

cheftom3Chef Tom Douglas is a big supporter of shopping locally. In 2006, Tom and his wife, bought a farm in Prosser, Washington. Using three acres for a vegetable garden.

As a devotee to community gardens I asked Chef Tom if his new farm was about the growing movement of people wanting to get closer to the land and their food.

“I don’t ever preach to people. Farm to table is a personal choice. People are connecting to farming in a way they haven’t in a couple generations. We have fun taking teams from the restaurant to get their hands dirty and to understand food at its core.”

Boy that was a relief. You mean we can cook with our kids and not try to impart our wisdom on them? Phew. I’ve learned that imparting wisdom to my kids for wisdom sake takes all the fun out of it. I’d rather just cook with them.

Chef Tom went on to amend the previous “not preaching” statement. The only thing he gets on a soap box about was helping feed people. He has been a supporter of Food Lifeline for over 25 years.

Chef Tom Douglas’s Roasted Tomatillo Salsa with grilled chicken skewers will be featured in Growing Sprouts cook book a portion of the proceeds to benefit local food banks.

Follow Carolyn Ossorio on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pippi_mamma

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