QUINCY — Vanessa Hall brings a bit of artistry into the kitchen.

“I have some recipes that I do over and over again, but always a variation. There’s always things I’m tweaking to make better, to change. I feel like food is my palette, and I get to constantly create new things and that’s just fun,” the Quincy woman said.

“I get to play with my art, but I also get to help people in the process. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.”

A private chef, known as the unrefined organic gluten free goddess, Hall works with clients’ special dietary needs — gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, nut-free and food allergies — and soon plans to market a line of spice blends.

“I got into it because I had to change my own eating and my own diet,” said Hall, who traded a demanding office job for going to culinary school and launching her own business.

Even with dietary restrictions, Hall believes food still can be tasty and creative.

“My diet is extremely restrictive, but every day when I put food in my mouth it tastes fabulous,” she said. “It just shows people that healthy food is not rice cakes and steamed broccoli.”

Apples add flavor to her Baked Sweet Potato Hash, while Cilantro Mint Salmon and Rosemary Amaretto Grilled Chicken make enough for a group — or a smaller portion by adjusting the seasonings as needed.

Butter Bean Curry is vegan on its own, but easily takes on chicken or shrimp, if desired, and is best when made a day ahead of serving.

Hall’s cooking ranges from catered meals to children’s birthday parties along with weekly featured meals often made with seasonal ingredients, and she’s noticed the pandemic, in many ways, helped people focus more on food and what they were eating.

“People are wanting so much more to be eating at home but not having to cook everything and needing help with dietary restrictions,” she said. “What I do comes into play a lot.”

Key is having a love of cooking — and an understanding of how things go together.

“You have to balance all your flavors,” she said. “I have a very strong musical background, so I talk about it like a melody. It’s all the different notes playing together to make the music. That’s what you want to happen when you’re eating food.”

It’s the case when she’s cooking and eating with her son, teaching a class at John Wood Community College or preparing food for clients.

The start of spring will provide even more inspiration with vegetables and herbs fresh from the garden.

“I try to eat a whole variation of vegetables, the rainbow of colors, just like I try to put that into anything I cook,” she said. “There is so much flavor that you can get out of things that are fresh-picked. If you go out and pick that tomato, bring it in and slice it up, you’re getting the maximum amount of nutritional value from that not to mention the flavor.”

Baked Sweet Potato Hash

3 to 4 sweet potatoes, large diced

1 can coconut milk

1 large onion, large diced

2 pounds apples, large diced

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons tarragon

1 1/2 tablespoons ground dry mustard

1/8 cup raw apple cider vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Mix diced potatoes, onion and apple with coconut milk and vinegar. Add the dry seasoning, salt and pepper. Be aware that the sweet potatoes will soak up a lot of the flavor from the seasonings and the vinegar. Adjust seasoning appropriately, if needed. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Serve hot.

Butter Bean Curry (Vegan)

2 cans butter beans

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, small diced

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh garlic, crushed or minced

1/2 head red cabbage, sliced thin

4 medium parsnips, sliced thin

3 medium carrots, sliced thin

3 cups broccoli, cut into medium-sized pieces

3 to 4 tablespoons paprika spiced curry blend

1 can coconut milk

4 cups vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high just until it starts very lightly smoking. Add the onions, stir to coat with the oil and leave until they brown on the bottom. Add enough water to just cover the onions. Let simmer hard until the onions have absorbed the caramel color from the water and there is very little liquid left. Add the seasoning blend, salt and pepper, and stir to coat the onions. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the garlic, cabbage, parsnips, carrots and butter beans. Stir to combine. Add the coconut milk and 3 to 4 cups of the stock until covered (consistency between a soup and a stew), and slowly simmer on medium-low allowing the vegetables to break down and the liquid to thicken and reduce. Add additional stock or water if it becomes too thick and stew-like. You want it to be thicker, but not stiff.

About 30 minutes before serving, add broccoli. Cover and simmer on low. Check seasoning and adjust if needed. Serve over rice or on its own in a bowl.

NOTE: Curry will take approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours to cook and properly combine. Curry is always better the next day. Add shrimp or chicken to this curry, if desired.

Cilantro Mint Salmon

3 pounds salmon filet

4 tablespoons fresh mint (freeze dried if fresh is unavailable)

4 tablespoons fresh cilantro (freeze dried if fresh is unavailable)

2 tablespoons raw honey

2 tablespoons water

1 lemon, zested and juiced

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced thinly

salt and pepper to taste

Combine honey, water and lemon juice. Warm gently on the stove until fully incorporated; set aside.

Lay the sliced tomatoes (which must be sliced very thin to dry properly) in a single layer on parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 325 degrees for about an hour, or until the tomatoes are dry and easily peel off the parchment.

Clean and dry the salmon. Lay on parchment on an oven safe tray. Brush with the lemon honey solution, completely covering the exposed flesh of the salmon. Top with an even, but thick, sprinkle of the herbs and lemon zest, salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees until done all the way through. Baking time will vary depending on the size of filet used. Top salmon with tomato slices for serving.

Rosemary Amaretto Grilled Chicken

5 pounds chicken breast

4 tablespoons amaretto

1/8 cup white wine

4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely diced (set aside 1 tablespoon for garnish)

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, crushed or minced

1/8 cup olive oil

1/2 cup whole cream

salt and pepper to taste

Clean the chicken breasts, removing all gristle and fat. Butterfly the chicken so it is approximately the same thickness. Add the amaretto, white wine, 3 tablespoons rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil into a bowl with the chicken. Mix thoroughly, coating every breast evenly. Cover and refrigerate to marinate for at least 3 to 4 hours or overnight.

Oil the grill before preheating. Take a towel you don’t mind using only for the grill, roll it into a tight roll and while gripping it with tongs, dip it or coat it in olive oil. Rub the oiled part of the towel on the grill until the grates are evenly coated with the oil. Set towel aside.

Preheat grill on high until smoking hot. Lay the chicken evenly on the grill, moving them around to work with any hot spots, but only flip once when they are nice and golden on the bottom. Cook until equally browned on both sides. Remove and set aside. Boil the remaining marinade from the chicken in a saucepan for 5 minutes, then add the cream. Bring just to a boil, and remove from heat.

Serve chicken with the cream sauce and remaining rosemary on top.

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