31 January 2011

product placement: bioitalia organic butter beans

This happy discovery was made sometime late last spring and they quickly became a must-have item. Unlike so many canned beans, these were perfectly cooked and tender, delightfully huge and plump, and well, kind of buttery. Guess they're not calling them butter beans for nothing.

I was picking up a can of them nearly every week and mostly throwing them in salads with glee. One day they were out of stock. I'd only ever seen this brand and Whole Foods, and so I just waited patiently for new product. Weeks went by. The other canned beans by this company were stocked, and I even tried a few of them--- good, but where are you butter beans?

As often happens to me and my favorite products, I figured that these weren't popular enough and they stopped carrying them, and even though I continued looking out for the luscious butter beans, trying another organic canned brand (not at all satisfactory), and working up a plan to see if they would order me some and I'd buy a case of 12 or something. (Yes, I like them enough to haul 15 pounds of them home).

Typically, I got distracted and never ordered the case, but still never let my hopes down. And what do you know-- my love is not for naught! On a recent grocery trip, I glanced down at the Bioitalia bean section and lo and behold! BUTTER BEANS! I bought two, for now. My day was made.

Stay tuned later this week for a quick recipe using these beans.

28 January 2011

review: lasagna cupcake at intelligentsia pasadena

Right before the winter holidays I went to Pasadena to visit my brother, grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousin. My brother, the big coffee aficionado he is, was looking for the opportunity to take me his favorite long-anticipated coffee spot-- Intelligentsia Pasadena. He goes there regularly enough for the baristas to know him and treat him to coffee regularly, and while I like the occasional cup, I was more excited to go when he told me they had lasagna cupcakes.

IMG_7197What the what? Lasagna cupcakes! One of the signatures of catering company Heirloom LA, this is lasagna's spin on "personal pan pizza". I also love the mind-trick of wondering if it's going to be lasagna flavored cake or what.

We ordered the the vegetarian lasagna (I can't quite recall, I think it was a pretty straightforward tomato, ricotta, mozzarella, etc. version) and I was excited by the cute little salad on top. The perfect size if sharing as a snack, I was a little disappointed in the end. It wasn't hot enough, and the flavor itself wasn't amazing, but I loved it as a concept and would be curious to try another flavor one day. I think it would be a fun idea to make these for a party, as it has a more elegant appearance than pan lasagna, is a little less messy, and just something a bit different-- not to mention that it would be really easy to make separate veg and non-veg versions!

IMG_7195I got a decaf coffee as well and was impressed by the beautiful service. The space itself was really great, with a bar in the back featuring local micro-brews and wines-- many of which were specifically created for Intelligentsia. Also impressed by the dapperness of the staff-- their dress code obviously has some sort of implications that require a nice, but unique appearance that had seeming required accessories of vests, ties, and/or suspenders. They all looked amazing, I was only surprised that none of them were wearing big glasses. Maybe that's just a New York thing.

26 January 2011

recipe: buttery kohlrabi with thyme


I'm pretty guilty of subscribing to food magazines, buying cookbooks, and scouring food blogs for photos and inspirations and then neglecting to make anything from them. So as I was trying to clean out my fridge and get some cooking done for the week, I spied some neglected kohlrabi* I originally bought for another purpose. There was already a plan in motion to roast a bunch of winter veggies, but I wasn't inspired to throw the kohlrabi into that and remembered upon my cursory flip through my latest issue of Saveur, that was happily still on the kitchen table, that there was something about kohlrabi in there. There was a simple recipe with ingredients I had on hand and so I went with it.

Rarely do I make any recipe as written, and despite the simplicity of Saveur's, it was not immune from my improvisations. I was really surprised by how incredibly sweet the kohlrabi was, and how perfectly the butter complimented it-- I don't use butter very regularly, but good quality butter will really make the difference on this dish.

Buttery Kohlrabi with Thyme
Serves 2-3 
You could make this vegan by subbing olive oil for the butter, or one of those "vegan butters" if you roll like that.

1 lb. kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted high-quality butter, divided
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add the kohlrabi, water, half of the butter, thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil, cover and reduce the heat, cooking for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add additional small amounts of water or stock if needed while cooking. Once the kohlrabi is soft and tender, remove from heat and eat it up!

*Kohlrabi: resembles a turnip, only it's sweeter and more delicately flavored. It's light green and sometimes sold with its edible greens attached.  It can be eaten raw or cooked. Choose small ones, and peel before using. (From Cook's Thesaurus) 

I first tried this funny "cabbage-turnip" in cooking school in a salad I think, and really loved it, but haven't done too much with it since. After this, I'm pretty sure that's all going to change.

24 January 2011

product placement: justin's maple almond butter

I have a confession to make.
I have an addiction. And I'm in love.

Oh, Justin's Maple Almond Butter, so irresistible, just thinking of you gives me goosebumps of delight and leaves me otherwise at a loss for words. But I will try anyway.

I usually get my almond butter fix from the freshly ground almond butter contraption at Whole Foods and was introduced to Justin's by a client who's son was in love with the stuff. I tried some, curious as to what all the fuss was about it. My eyes widened and I'm pretty sure I squealed.

When I went to seek out my own jar, I skidded to a halt at the $9.99 price tag and opted for a couple of the 99-cent to-go packets instead-- the better to temper my addiction with (not to mention they are awesome for traveling, hikes, etc.). I haven't tried any of the other flavors (there are 8 in all)--  and I don't see why I should-- because if you are in love, nothing else matters. (Thought I recently just saw that they started making these, and I think I am in big trouble).

The jars went on sale a couple of weeks ago and I splurged on a New Year's gift to myself. Currently, a couple of teaspoons serves as my sweet treat or a pre-run snack. I'm trying to keep myself under control, but sometimes, like now, I catch my eyes drifting to the cabinet I've shoved the jar deep into the back of. After giving myself a mental slap on the hand, I did some homework on Justin's and am excited and impressed by their commitment to quality, sustainability, and giving back. Right now they are running a campaign, the "Sustainable Squeeze Pack Journey," to use 100% renewably-sourced squeeze pack film that can be home-compostable-- something that currently does not exist. Again, impressed-- I think they are setting a good example for how small companies can inspire big change.

So in short, this stuff is amazing and amazingly simple. Dry roasted almonds, maple crystals, organic palm oil, sea salt. That's it. There is really nothing more it needs other than you, and a spoon. 

Photo from Justin's Nut Butter

20 January 2011

recipe: massaged kale salad with quinoa, cherries, almonds, and feta

Massaged Kale Salad with Quinoa, Cherries, Almonds, and Feta
This simple dish highlights fresh produce and can be easily made vegan by omitting the feta.

Serves 4-6

1 bunch of kale, cut or torn into small pieces
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped (if not in season, substitute unsweetened dried cherries)
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1/4 cup feta, crumbled (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

Combine the kale, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice in a bowl. Massage the kale with your hands and observe how it begins to darken in color and become more “cooked” in texture. Do this for about 5 minutes or until it is a texture you like. Mix in the quinoa, cherries, and almonds. Top with feta.

18 January 2011

recipe: green smoothies!

My dear friend Shannon McCarthy was the one who first introduced me to green smoothies. While I consider myself a hippie-type eater, whenever I go to Shannon's I am definitely shown-up. One morning a few years back, she whipped up a blender full of green stuff poured some in a glass and said "Want some?! Mmm!" and the 5-year-old in me wrinkled my nose and asked "what is it?" as I reached out my hand and sipped with trepidation. Delicious! I think that particular blend was parsley, cilantro, lemon, apple, banana, and a pinch of salt. I was hooked after that, and even managed to convince my mom to try-- and she liked it! One of the things I personally like about green smoothies is that you still retain the great fiber benefits of the food-- something that you lose through juicing. I think this summer I will make some green smoothie popsicles...

Here's what Shannon had to say about Green Smoothies.
One of the easiest ways to add more greens to our palate is to enjoy them in smoothie form!

The simple recipe is this: 1/2 fruit + 1/2 greens + water to blend = yumminess

2 bananas + cilantro bunch
2 pears + parsley bunch
banana + apple + romaine lettuce

Greens such as romaine lettuce, kale, parsley, and cilantro blend easily. And blending makes them easier to digest. Eating these greens is an enjoyable way to alkalize the blood too!

To learn more about the health benefits of blended greens and fruit, check out Victoria Boutenko's book, "Green for Life" or visit her website http://www.rawfamily.com/recipes  for more recipes.

16 January 2011

facebook resolutions: eat more greens, part ii

In continuation with Mission: Eat More Greens, here are some ideas...

The no-cook dinner
Salad has long been my favorite food and I will make a huge bowl of salad with 1 head of lettuce and/or other baby greens and top it with whatever other veggies, herbs, nuts, seeds, and beans I have on hand and am in the mood for. I splash on some olive oil and lemon juice and a generous sprinkle of sea salt and pepper and I'm good to go! I like all the different textures, and how those textures change as the salad sits (if I can, I dress my salad and let it sit for 10 minutes before I eat it). I love all of the chewing-- it's very, I don't know, cathartic or something. It's pleasing to spend time sitting and chewing and taking my time with dinner. A big salad forces me to eat a bit more slowly, all that chewing and that big, huge bowl usually equates to at least 30 minutes of quality supper time.

A few sauteed combos to try
Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Kale & Tomatoes
These are a few of my go-to greens combos that I sautee in a little olive or coconut oil. I usually have most of the "extras" around or they can be easily substituted. Having a few of these in my arsenal makes a quick turnaround with dinner less stressful-- especially if I've already got them cleaned and chopped.
- kale + canned diced tomatoes + white beans = a great side or a topping for pasta or polenta
- swiss chard + raisins + walnuts + chili flakes = sweet and spicy side
- spinach + shredded coconut + curry powder = add to some chickpeas and rice and you've got dinner
- quartered brussels sprouts + diced carrot + sunflower seeds = add some brown rice for an easy lunch

Brunch-worthy weekday breakfast
One of my favorite easy "real" breakfasts goes like this. I heat my 12" non-stick pan on medium high with a drizzle with olive oil and chili flakes, toss in a generous amount of my chopped up greens (usually about 2-3 cups raw kale, chard, or spinach) on one half of the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to mix. On the other side I crack an egg or two and maybe some leftover cooked grain from the fridge (brown rice or quinoa, typically), add a splash of water, turn the heat down to medium low, cover the pan and let my breakfast steam cook for 5-7 minutes-- about the time it takes me to put dishes away and make my tea. When it's done, I can pretty much slide the whole thing onto a plate without too much fuss.

14 January 2011

facebook resolution: eat more greens

Out of curiosity, a few days ago I put a call out to my Facebook crowd about what their non-going-on-a-diet food resolutions were for the year. I had no intention of blogging about what they had to say, but over the next week or two I'll post some responses for their personal challenges and goals. First up will be a several-day-series about greens!

From Mecca:  "Eating more greens. I love broccoli but I should try and venture beyond my tiny trees." 
Broccoli is awesome! But there is a great wide, wonderful world of greens out there waiting to be loved by you. My personal favorites are all varieties of kale, swiss chard, lettuces, and seaweeds. High in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamins A, C, E, and K, not to mention all of the fiber, folic acid, and other micronutrients, dark leafy greens in particular are some of the most nutrient dense foods you can consume and you should work to include them at least once a day. They also act as blood purifiers, improve digestive function and circulation, clear congestion, fight depression, and strengthen your immune system.  

Incorporate Greens Everyday!
• Once home from the market, take 5-10 minutes to clean and chop your greens before putting them away this way you can have them ready to go whenever hunger strikes!
• For convenience and green-mergencies, keep some frozen greens on hand at all times-- spinach, broccoli, collards, and kale are pretty easy to find. 
• Every time you go grocery shopping, get a new kind of leafy green to experiment with. Have fun!
• Green juice! If you have a local juice shop, try out a green veggie juice-- I like a base of cucumber and apple with kale, spinach, and ginger or lemon. You'll miss out on the fiber, but the bright flavors are a great-pick-me up if you're feeling sick or trying to stay off the caffeine. Stay tuned for a Green Smoothie recipe you can make at home!
• Check out this site, Cook's Thesaurus, full of photos and basic info on greens (and lots of other food). 

Photos by Aja T. Marsh - Broccoli in the Stafford, Connecticut CSA Garden; Tuscan Kale and Red Swiss Chard at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm - Greenpoint, Brooklyn

06 January 2011

recipe organizing gone wild!

Part of the fun of having free time is getting stuff done. Or it is for me anyway. Sure, relaxing and doing nothing is part of it too, but I feel pretty good when I'm organizing, tidying, and getting rid of things-- and I've been feeling pretty good lately!

Spinach and Matzoh Pie
Photo from Epicurious.com
Mediterranean Rice Stuffed Escarole
Photo from Epicurious.com
Begrudgingly, I tackled my ever-growing recipe collection. Early last year, I bought an accordion file to hold all of the loose recipes I clip out of magazines, are sent to me by my mom, and the occasional recipe I've scrawled on a scrap of paper before it's out of my head.

It took me several days and several hours each go, but I got through all of the recipes in the file and through a good stack of back issues of Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Edible, Veg News, Saveur, and Gourmet (R.I.P.) that I've had sitting around for a couple of years and digitized as many of them as possible. I looked up all of the recipes I liked, tore out photos from the magazines that I loved (to be framed and displayed in the kitchen later).  I still have quite a few in that accordion file, but one of the best things about it was rediscovering some interesting recipes. I found quite a few I'd like to try for myself and/or clients.

Salumi with Grape Mostarda
Photo from Epicurious.com
Goat Cheese Stuffed Grape Leaves
Photo from FoodandWine.com
Roasted Cauliflower and Sesame Spread
Photo from FoodandWine.com
Iced Maple Cream with Berries
Photo from Epicurious.com
Thai Ceviche with Coconut
Photo from FoodandWine.com
Grilled Chard with Fava Beans and Mint
Photo from Epicurious.com

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