CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Upon the arrival of resident director Dan Argento of AVI Food Systems at the University of Charleston, the focus has been on all aspects of healthy and environment-friendly food service.
There is something new this season, sprouting, literally, just outside the student union door on the campus lawn.
Move over White House, because an 8- by 14-foot herb garden has taken root with Swiss chard, oregano, chives, chocolate mint, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, parsley, lavender and four varieties of basil.
The "waves of green" are conveniently at the beck and call of executive chef Paul Smith for his many inspired culinary creations.
A poster in the garden indicates that the herb garden provides fresh herbs for dining services and is the university's example of support of ecologically sustainable communities. Argento says it's a way to illustrate that they embrace "growing your own" instead of reaching for a box or bag.
He is even cultivating stevia, the plant that has been used for ages as a natural sweetener and alternative to standard sugar in Latin American and Asian countries.
Its use is now more widespread, having reached our valley processed and packaged. But who would have thought you could see it fresh and on a university campus so close to home?
"We are embracing sustainability," Argento remarked. "UC's cafeteria is now tray-free, reducing cost in utilities, soap products, energy consumed and chemicals in runoffs."
Argento pointed out that his food areas are open to the public, year-round. "Where else can you get a full breakfast for $3.75 and all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for $5?"
A March 21 Healthy Bites column detailed just a smattering of the changing menu selections that complement a fit and natural lifestyle.
Even though it's summer and student population is minimal, dining is still available Monday through Friday in the food court of Geary Student Union with inside and outside seating. The latter is on the patio with a splendid river view.
Four days a week you might catch Chef Smith at the outdoor grill they have set up in the corner for to-order grilled items. The emphasis of their food is still on nutrition with healthier options and preparation.
In today's recipe, any fresh herb may be used. I've wanted to share this recipe since trying it myself. I couldn't believe it.
S-u-r-e it works, I thought when I first heard the recipe. Who would pour beaten eggs onto a hot waffle iron and not be scraping burned-on stuck particles until infinity and beyond? But I swear on the holy cookbook, it does work. It was amazing. On my waffle iron you can see the lid rising as the omelet cooks and puffs up.
I use a single-serving maker, but any will do. Just fill in one section of a four-waffle iron for each single omelet. Don't forget the cooking spray as extra nonstick insurance. I found one egg to be just right, but you may use two depending upon the size waffles your maker produces.