What a great month it has been.
The National Women’s History Project has done another stellar job in highlighting the accomplishments of women this Women’s History Month by using their platform to show how the achievements of women matter to us all.
You may not realize it, but National’s Women’s History Month is a big deal. So big, it gets a Presidential proclamation each March. Here’s an excerpt of President’s Obama final Women’s History Month proclamation of his term:
“Throughout history, women have driven humanity forward on the path to a more equal and just society, contributing in innumerable ways to our character and progress as a people. In the face of discrimination and undue hardship, they have never given up on the promise of America: that with hard work and determination, nothing is out of reach. During Women’s History Month, we remember the trailblazers of the past, including the women who are not recorded in our history books, and we honor their legacies by carrying forward the valuable lessons learned from the powerful examples they set.”
There are many past and present women trailblazers that are so deserving of recognition. They are the bright lights among us that have illuminated a range of paths that we can now follow.
As a food journalist, I certainly have a hearty appetite for stories about women who have broke bread and shattered plates in the traditionally male dominated culinary world. They are a resilient and scrappy lot who cook with veracity, and simmer with determination and resolve.
More is certainly being written about women in the culinary world. They are quickly emerging as the newest culinary rock stars, shining as bright as their male counterparts who have enjoyed the lion’s share of media attention. And there will be more. The “wings” are full of them as the next generation of new female chefs is making their way through the ranks as senior chef, sous-chef, and executive sous-chef. Many of them hale from elite culinary institutes and work in some of the nation’s best restaurants. They are poised and ready to rock.
But who are some of the women who’ve paved the way for the next generation of women chefs? There are quite a few. And when you do a search on all the “who’s who lists of pioneering female chefs,” there are six women who pretty much consistently appear on all of the lists I found. They are (in no particular order):
- Julia Child – American chef, PBS television personality and author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia is credited with demystified French cooking for American home cooks.
- Rachael Ray – American chef, author, restaurateur, television personality, cookware mogul, and cooking and lifestyle expert. Her down to earth and cost effective cooking style has made her a household name.
- Lidia Bastianich – American chef, author and host of the Emmy Award Winning PBS TV show Lidia’s Family Table. Her forte is Italian and Italian-American food.
- B. (Barbara) Smith – American restaurateur, author, lifestyle guru and host of the nationally syndicated television show B. Smith With Style. Her specialty is southern-style cuisine. B. is currently suffering from Alzheimer disease and fighting valiantly.
- Alice Louise Waters – American chef, author, restaurateur, and food activist. Her specialty is seasonal farm-to-plate fresh foods. Her Berkley, California restaurant has been consistently ranked among the world’s best restaurants.
- Cristeta Comerford – White House Executive Chef. The Filipino-American chef joined the Clinton administration as a sous chef in 1995. She was appointed White House Executive Chef by First Lady Laura Bush in 2005. In 2011 she was reappointed to serve as White House Executive Chef by First Lady Michelle Obama.
A star in the White House
Cristeta Comerford is certainly a shining star among this list. If the culinary world were to celebrate Women’s History Month and the accomplishments of women in their field, she would be an exemplary choice.
Many of the dishes Chef Comerford prepares for the First Family are inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden. The First Lady planted the garden on the South Lawn in 2009 to inspire the nation to make healthier food choices, develop healthy eating habits in children, and reduce the epidemic of obesity.
Here’s one of Chef Comerford’s garden inspirations. Its broccoli soup and you can’t get any simpler than that. It’s nutritious, delicious, soothing, filling and budget friendly. Try it and channel your “inner White House Executive Chef.” I made it, loved and wanted to share a few of my notes:
- Use 6-7 cups of chicken stock instead of 8.
- Simmer for 30 minutes instead of 20. It took a bit more time for the broccoli stems to get tender.
- If you want a thicker consistency, don’t strain the soup. Keep all the creamy goodness. It helps to thicken the soup.
- A little crushed red pepper. It gives it a nice kick. Add it to taste after you blend the broccoli stem soup mixture.
- Stir in a little Mexican sour cream if you want a little extra creaminess.
Chef Comerford Creamy Broccoli Soup
1 tablespoon butter
6 garlic cloves, sliced
4 shallots, sliced
1 leek, white part only, sliced
1 sprig thyme
1 small onion, sliced
2 heads broccoli, stems sliced, and green tips reserved for puree
8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, add the garlic, shallots, leeks, onion and thyme. Sweat in the butter until fragrant.
Add the broccoli stem slices and saute until softened.
Pour in the chicken stock and bay leaf and simmer for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, blanch the broccoli tips in a pot of boiling water over medium heat until bright green. Remove the tips from the water and “shock” in a bowl of iced water.
Drain the green tips and puree in a blender. Set aside.
Remove the bay lea and thyme sprig. Puree the broccoli stem soup mixture in a blender and strain through a fine chinoise into a large serving bowl. (I blended the soup in the pot using an immersion blender and decided not to strain because it have the soup more substance and thickness.)
Add the green tip puree and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve piping hot.
Recipe courtesy of White House Chef Cristeta Comerford