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Chef Monique Hooker
She is a culinary pioneer, chef, and teacher, who worked in restaurants throughout Europe and the United States and made life-long friendships with chefs like Jacques Pépin, Pierre Franey, André Soltner and Madeleine Kamman.
In 1983 she opened the widely successful Monique’s Café, located in Chicago’s River North district, featuring a bistro-style seasonal menu. She also mentored inner city youth through Career through the Culinary Arts Program and Share Our Strength program. She continues teaching culinary skills, promoting the sustainable table and art of “Slow Food” using local producers. She makes guest appearances on Wisconsin Public Radio, has authored the book “Cooking with the Season” and appears in various newspapers and magazines.
Monique is eager to share her knowledge and appreciation of good food with students of all ages. Chef Hooker advocates the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients in the preparation and presentation of original dishes. She’s an outstanding Culinary Change Champion.
How lucky we are to have Chef Monique Hooker as part of the guiding force in the U.S. for healthier school food.
Chef Monique creates recipes that are simple to prepare and stress using seasonal ingredients. She wants everyone to experience the joy and satisfaction of preparing meals from fresh ingredients.
Here is a few recipes that she shared with various school staffs during her training sessions.
About the Recipe: Late summer, when the vegetables burst with flavor, is the perfect time to make this dish. It’s easy to prepare and captures the wonderful comforting flavors of summer. You could easily add some yellow squash and add some fresh basil. It’s a real “farm to table” dish.
Monique’s Recipe Secrets: True ratatouille recipes do not add extra liquid. They allow the vegetables to achieve flavor from their own juices. It is important to heat and cook the vegetables slowly over a low flame to allow the vegetables time to sweat their own juices. The secret to good ratatouille is to balance the flavors and amounts so that no one vegetable takes over the dish. Each bite should be a concert of taste and texture, allowing vegetables to blend equally.
Cook’s Note: After cooking the tomatoes for 10 minutes, I removed tomatoes and easily peeled off the skin; then chopped them into smaller chunks and returned them to the saucepan.
Alternate cooking method: Combine in Dutch Oven pot; bake at 325 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes
Variations: Monique suggestions include:
- Drain excess liquid from ratatouille to make or add to another soup broth.
- Use the drained vegetables to make a delicious omelet filling.
- Spread vegetables over a pizza crust; top with mozzarella cheese; bake in preheated 350 degree F oven until bubbly.
- Puree ratatouille to make a summer soup, adding chicken stock if necessary.
- Use vegetables to make a wrap or pita sandwich