Cooking with Ed Chiles: Manatee County an abundant food source

March 26, 2014 

Ed Chiles - Sandbar

Ed Chiles PHOTO PROVIDED

The local, sustainable food movement, sometimes referred to as the localvore movement, is the most important initiative I have seen in my career as a restaurateur. It is also the most satisfying. Knowing where your food comes from not only makes you feel better, it also tastes better. When menus are influenced by locally sourced seafood, produce and meats, one can enjoy the freshest and healthiest offerings of the season. Manatee County has an incredible wide variety of fresh, local choices.

Our seafood selections are second to none. Fat mullet starting in late summer and stone crabs available in fall, locally grown middle-neck clams and now we are seeing native sun ray clams becoming available. Grouper, snapper, amberjack, Spanish mackerel, kingfish, flounder, redfish, trout, blue crabs and the list goes on. We strive to focus on these items in our restaurants.

With our recent purchase of 3 Boys and Gamble Creek farms, we are able to directly drive the availability of fresh, local products to our restaurants and other local outlets.

The produce from our farms offers a cornucopia of the tastiest and healthiest choices one could ever ask for. If you want to be a localvore, become a member of Geraldson Farm's CSA in west Bradenton (www.geraldsoncommunityfarm.com). It's a great way to enjoy locally grown organic vegetables.

If you are looking to eat healthier, improve your blood work and overall health, try eating complex carbohydrates. Replace rice and potatoes with quinoa and faro. You will find them to be delicious, especially when prepared with local kale, collards, Swiss chard, broccoli or spinach.

Get an EarthBox (https://earthbox.com) and start growing fresh herbs or harvest the greens being grown in the Pine Avenue Community Garden boxes.

Good food starts at home. Our back porch has parsley, rosemary, cilantro, thyme, basil, chives, oregano, tarragon and sage. Chicken rubbed with lots of fresh rosemary and garlic marinated in a little olive oil is incredible grilled or baked. Red meat loves fresh tarragon and garlic, try it on short ribs and grill them on a hot fire.

Eating local is good for you, the economy and the environment. Food does not have to be trucked in. The best thing we can do for our local economy is spend our dollars here. The added benefits you get from eating healthier and better tasting food is the best part of all.

One of my favorite healthy recipes works great for quinoa and faro and it's very simple.

Cook the quinoa and faro according to the directions. Quinoa takes about 10 minutes and faro takes about 20 minutes. Don't overcook them. You want both to be firm, not mushy. I cook both in low sodium chicken stock. You can do half stock and half water if you want or all water. But stock imparts more flavor.

Quarter and seed some red and yellow peppers, brush with olive oil and bake at 375 degrees until they are blistered well. Let peppers cool, remove the skins and chop to a medium fine dice. Peel and seed a cucumber and chop to a little larger dice. Chiffonade some fresh basil. Chop or crumble some goat cheese to a medium fine dice and add a drizzle of good olive oil and a little lime juice to the grain. Toss everything together and mix gently. This can be served warm, room temperature or cold. Both are excellent with fish or chicken or as a salad. Add your favorite veggies as you see fit. Enjoy.

Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, BeachHouse and Mar Vista restaurants on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, can be reached at 941-778-1696.

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