We are on the way to our second Stealth Health appointment with Chef Antonello Serra.
During my journey to Jesi the sea suddenly appears in sight and I feel calm and peaceful. I’ll get the same feeling at CNH. It’s a shiny winter morning, warm enough, and there’s a beautiful mood in the cafeteria, big smiles on everyone’s face.
Chef Serra’s recipe is a Red Pepper Duchesse with chickpeas, eggplants, a lot of seed and a homemade pepper sauce. This recipe reflects our host. Antonello may seem shy, but he’s a creative and sparkly one and his recipes are exactly like him.
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RED PEPPER DUCHESSE
by CHEF Antonello Serra
D. Hi Antonello, how is your recipe born?
R. I always try to cook salt-free, replacing it with spices or seeds. I look to maintain the flavour intact but also make my recipes healthier.
I chose to make a dish that could satisfy my need to avoid salt while cooking and also meet my quest to an authentic and natural flavour. Ground zero was just making meatballs with vegetables, I tried the recipe several times and I taught the layout could be important as well as the taste so I thought “Why does meatballs have always to be spherical?”, so I turned them into a salty Duchesse.
D. How many Stealth Health approaches are in your recipe?
R. I chose two Stealth Health approaches. Combination of ingredients, both because I avoided meat and used chickpeas and eggplants instead and I also made the breading with linen and hemp seeds instead of bread of course. Perfect match because of the pepper sauce paired with vegetables proteins that maximize the iron process during the meal.
What’s the most important thing to remember while cooking your Red Pepper Duchess?
R. My only advice is to cook the chickpeas slow, they have to be fluffy and elastic.
D. What’s the main challenge if you wish to cook this recipe at home?
R. The preparation itself is pretty simple, there are no particular challenges. You may encounter some difficulties when it comes to actually assemble the Duchesse, especially if you are not familiar with a sac à poche, but a few tries should give you the confidence you need.
D. Right now we are working on a single dish. If you have to cook this recipe for a whole cafeteria, what’s your plan? Should you change anything?
R. Probably the sauce will be the main problem. You’ll need to do it previously at least and also the yield of the pepper itself is very low. I used one kilo of peppers to make this portion [he shows to me the bowl with the sauce, a really small portion compared to the meatballs, ed.]. When you cook for so many people the quantity/price ratio becomes a problem. If you have to do it for a whole cafeteria, I suggest to choose another type of sauce with a better yield.
D. Now can I ask you something more personal? What was your worst culinary experience?
R. When I was young I went to catering school. In my third year (equivalent to Junior year, ed.) we had a cooking contest, I made it to the final round but I didn’t want to attend because I was aware a professor was trying to favour one of his students every way he could.
Another of my teachers convinced me to participate, after all I was in the finals, but I had absolutely nothing prepared and my opponent (and his professor) had spent so much money to buy fish and look for their trophy.
My Baking professor came to me that morning telling me he bought a not-so ripe watermelon, it was May, so I thought about a watermelon risotto. At that time fruit and starters was not a common match, and plating on a mirror was my other creative touch. I made the best out of it I guess, from a negative experience to a positive one.
And how it ended?
R. I won [he laughs, ed.].
D. Is there any ingredient you can’t live without?
R. We can say there’s one I actually want to live without, salt. I love healthy cuisine and I always look for new ways to replace salt in my recipes.
D. Do you have any secret in the kitchen? Let’s pretend you have to realize an entire Stealth Health Menu, you’ll need to commit all your kitchen staff for sure. What’s the thing that can’t go wrong?
R. My relationship with the kitchen is so spontaneous. I had this kind of feeling since when I was young, I can’t re-try the same preparation for hours, I do it of course but I find myself implementing new stuff in the meantime. To cook for me means to try, experiment., but it usually happens only when you do it for someone else.
D. What is the most particular combination of ingredients you’ve ever done/seen?
R. I worked in restaurants for many years, so in the past I had principals looking to bet on unusual combination between food and wine; the most particular one I can remember was a soup of greens with a red wine. Some people thought it was a scandal, I honestly liked it.
Thank you so much Antonello. Luckily, it’s time to taste your Red Pepper Duchesse!
R. Thank you!