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Chew on this


No need to be culinarily impaired in college when local chefs can pitch in with timely suggestions.

Carol Smaglinski October 12th, 2011

Back on campus and fending for yourself? Like most everyone else, a college student is on the lookout for cheap, fast, but above all, appetizing cuisine. Face it, meals eaten out tend to get pretty expensive unless you are employed by a restaurant and are allowed to sample a bit.

With the unhealthy stuff out there, it’s important to avoid the “freshman 15.” When you don’t feel up to snuff from all that bad-for-your-belly food, the mind goes off track, and brains must be alert in a learning environment.

To be able to make solid decisions, cope with a homesick roomie, and most of all retain what is being taught, it is imperative to have good fats such as omega-3 in our diets, rather than Styrofoam-wrapped battered chicken or hamburgers on steroids. Rather, reach for good fats found in avocados, walnuts, spinach and flaxseed, which is available in cereal. Apples, blueberries for the eyes, strawberries and cranberries are also nice.

OK, enough with the lecture. Chef Gerardo Lugo works at Chesapeake Energy Corporation as a sous chef where he cooks for hundreds of Chesapeake employees each workday.

Although Lugo’s cuisine is Mexican with a history as lively and colorful as salsa, in his spare time, the chef can be found at Platt College, where he teaches various cuisines to students.

More than 15 years ago, Gerardo Lugo began his career at La Baguette as a dishwasher and not only cooked at Gaillardia and Quail Creek country clubs, but owned his own restaurant in Guthrie.

Lugo shared good advice for students who don’t have time to slave over a stove to produce a good meal. But before you go digging at the back of the mini-fridge, get all the food with fur out of there and buy small quantities of fresh veggies. Remember the old adage: “When in doubt, throw it out!” Look the other way and just do it! After all, pretty much everything has an expiration date, except honey.

Lugo gives a great recipe for broccoli and salmon (available on the Oklahoma Gazette website, okgazette.com). Before you can do any cooking, you must have the right equipment. Lugo recommends a good set of knives and said that Super Cao Nguyen, 2668 N. Military, is a good place to look for inexpensive but good Chinese cutlery.

Get the food with fur out of the fridge.

“Get a plastic cutting board, not wood. The wood will hurt your knives,” he said.

His salmon recipe would be great if you are lucky enough to have a stovetop available in dorm kitchen or at a friend’s home. In his recipe, Lugo calls for capers, the flower bud of a bush native to the Mediterranean, found in the seasonings department in the grocery store.

While shopping, look for another nice piece of kitchen gear.

“If anyone ever asks me the one piece of equipment that a college student should have, that would be a convection tabletop oven,” said executive chef Marc Dunham. (That’s chef-speak for what is commonly called a toaster oven.) He is the director of culinary arts at Francis Tuttle Technology Center at the Rockwell Campus. Those stoves are available at any Walmart or Target.

For many years, Dunham was the executive chef at The Ranchers’ Club at Oklahoma State University’s Atherton Hotel and also cooked at the James Beard House in New York City.

“This recipe for chicken and peppers may sound complicated at first, but here is all you need for equipment,” he said of his recipe, which is available at okgazette. com. “You’d be surprised at what you can make in your dorm.”

One chef’s knife One plastic cutting board One small toaster oven with a tray included, if possible One small microwave Foil Another top chef from Oklahoma who has also made appearances at the Beard House is chef and consultant John Bennett. His advice to students? “Get an omelet pan — one of those from Super Cao Nguyen. Eggs are cheap and (students) can always make an omelet.”

Other equipment to consider would be a spatula, potato peeler, tongs, measuring cups and spoons.

See the recipes from the chefs on the Gazette website.

SAFETY FIRST
Most students will have access to a microwave somewhere in their dorm. By now, you have probably discovered the communal microwave. If not, just follow the smell of just-nuked ramen noodles or the aroma of burned popcorn.

Almost everyone knows to check that containers are microwave-safe and to keep metal out of the machine, but those aren’t the only microwave rules.

“Don’t use old, plastic containers that once held butter or whipped topping. They could possibly release harmful chemicals at high heat. They are bad!” said Eddie Hartwick, food director at Casady School.

Ditch those old frozen-food trays and containers designed for one-time use only. Microwaved food can get incredibly hot, so take care when removing food from the oven. If you do have a fire in the microwave, turn off the heat and keep the door closed. Try to unplug it if you can, but the fire will burn itself out.

Photo by Shannon Cornman

 
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