Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Kitchen Reader - In Defense of Food

Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" was the July selection for The Kitchen Reader and the first review that I'm posting as part of this group.

It's hard to ignore Michael Pollan's legendary status in the food world, but this was the first of his books that I've read. To be honest, I found the first two sections of the book to be heavy and hard to slog through (it's definitely not a light read!). It was also depressing to be reminded of how much we've been so manipulated by the food industry.

The last part of the book was at least more interesting since he offered some practical advice, instead of just lamenting over where we've gone wrong over the last 30 years. My favorite recommendation was the following: "don't eat anything incapable of rotting". A priceless piece of advice, in my opinion, and the first food item that came to mind was Easter Peeps (I don't know if they're available the rest of the year). We don't have Peeps in Canada so it was truly a foreign concept to me for my first Easter in Boston. In case the not-naturally-occurring yellow color doesn't scare you off, this group of scientific experiments should: Peep Research

I think Pollan offers up a lofty but probably unattainable goal for the majority of the population with his "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" mantra, simply because it is very hard to live that way. To follow his message means two things: 1) that people have access to fresh and natural foods, and 2) that people can afford said foods. I think it's well documented that in poor urban neighborhoods, there are often only corner stores that supply food basics (mostly the packaged kind) with fast food restaurants supplementing the remaining of the meals. It's also a well known reality that unhealthy food is the cheapest and perhaps the only option that some families can afford. It's all well and done for Pollan to preach the virtues of eating as much produce from farmer's markets, but it is an expensive lifestyle choice that is probably not economically viable for many of those who could benefit the most from an improved diet.

All that being said, I do think his message is important. I feel fortunate that I'm able to eat almost all organic, local as much as possible, free range/grass fed/wild options when it's available. We cook the majority of our meals and always from scratch, and even now that I'm conscious of my cholesterol level I eschew low-fat anything, preferring to indulge in the full-fat option but simply eat less of it or less often. His book is a good reminder that we always need to pay attention to what we eat, and that even following some of his suggestions can improve our health overall.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Weekend in Vermont: And Now the Cheese...

I was intending to post earlier this week but that funny thing called work intervened, but now I'm back.

We spent an inordinate amount on food during our trip. Beyond just the dinners out (Hen of the Woods in Waterbury and Green Cup in Waitsfield), we hit the Waitsfield farmer's market on Saturday morning and came away with 2 steaks and a lot of produce that we stashed in the fridge in our rental to take back with us to Boston, plus we ate our way around the market (1 Danish pastry, 1 crepe with chocolate and raspberry, 2 freshly grilled lamb burgers and 1 freshly filled cannoli). The market had such a great small town feel to it - a lot of people catching up with each other and it seemed like almost everyone had their dog with them. It bums me out that there are so many vendors at this rural market offering a wide variety of great products - it makes the markets in the greater Boston area seem sad and pitiful in comparison.

Sunday morning we did the ~45 min drive up to the Burlington area to Shelburne Farm. We had no idea that the farm was really an estate - 1400 beautifully maintained acres on the shores of Lake Champlain. Below is a fairly crappy picture that I took when we stepped outside of the festival - it was heavily overcast but it was nice we didn't get rained on.


This ended up being the only picture that the husband took of inside the festival itself. Ironically enough, we didn't buy any cheese from this vendor but we thought their logo was cute. Anyhow, you can sort of see in the background just how packed the sold-out event was - I don't know for sure what the attendee numbers were but if last year's event was any indication, there were well over a 1000 people on the grounds. Most of the vendors were set up in a barn (a clean, vacant one) but it was hot and sweaty and with cheese everywhere, it didn't make for the most pleasant mix as the day wore on.

We arrived just as the festival opened at 10:30 and made a beeline for Vermont Brownie Company as soon as we went inside. A couple of months ago we watched a Throwdown with Bobby Flay episode featuring the Vermont Brownie Company, and what got the husband intrigued right away was their use of goat cheese in their dark chocolate brownie, topped with salt. We hadn't even finished watching the episode and I'd already ordered their sampler box of 6 brownies, which arrived via regular mail within a couple of days. Man they are as good as they looked on TV. Luckily they freeze beautifully and taste even better when warmed slightly, so stashing the bounty in the freezer allowed us to prolong our indulgence. Buying another box of brownies was our number one priority of the day and only once that was accomplished could we move on to the cheese.

And cheese there was, a dizzying array of options. The beauty of the regional focus was that we were introduced to a multitude of new cheesemakers - I think there were close to 50 cheese vendors, most of them from Vermont with the occasional Massachusetts farm thrown in the mix. Since we didn't know most of the producers, we started sampling and we ate, and ate, and ate... and in-between we sampled Vermont wines and beers until I hit a cheese wall about an hour and a half in. I wasn't the only one in that state - by 1pm the lawn outside the festival was littered with people lying in the grass in what looked like cheese comas.

Thankfully we could leave whenever we wanted since we drove. We met two women in the Ben and Jerry's line (not my fave, but hey free ice cream) who were also from Boston but had come on the Formaggio Kitchen cheese bus trip. The giant coach bus left Cambridge at 6am, and wouldn't be returning until 11pm because the shop brought a separate van full of meat to hold a BBQ on the grounds for the customers who were on the cheese bus. These women were lamenting that they were stuck at the festival because of the trip schedule, but they were looking forward to having a lot of meat at the end of the day to balance out their cheese intake. The husband commented that he wouldn't want to be on that bus after a day of eating.

We also ran into the lovely owners of Central Bottle, the relatively new wine and cheese shop in Central Square. They were on a mission to scope out new suppliers, and we hope a number of new Vermont cheeses will become available in their store. That was the one downfall of sampling regional artisanal cheeses - most of the cheesemakers are small producers who generally sell their products in their local area only, which makes it hard for us non-locals to track down cheeses that we fall in love with.

So what did we end up buying? We restrained ourselves, since we had a limited amount of room in our cooler, but we came away with the following:
  • A raw milk Tarentaise from Spring Brook Farms (a hard, mild cow's milk cheese)
  • Fresh Chevre from Boston Post Dairy, a mild and not tangy goat's milk soft cheese that made for an excellent spread on crackers
  • Madonna from Sage Farm Goat Dairy, another mild goat's milk cheese
It doesn't seem like much, but that's a lot of cheese for two people to eat before it spoils, particularly if one person is trying to watch their cholesterol intake. Goat cheese is supposed to better than cow, so that's my justification. But our best find of the day had to be this:

Cheese Curds!
So why on earth are we so excited about cheese curds, also known as cheddar bites from Maplebrook Farms? Because they are a critical component in making authentic poutine and no one in Boston was carrying curds after Trader Joe's discontinued them back in February of this year (we called everywhere). They are now safely stored in our freezer, waiting for cooler weather since the last thing I want to eat right now is a mass of fries, gravy and melted cheese curds but the time will come...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekend in Vermont: First there were the animals

No picture of the mini-donkey, unfortunately - there was just no easy way to stop on the highway and get a picture of the thing.

We did have a fairly odd animal adventure - it was a sticky Saturday afternoon in Central Vermont, so we made like the locals and headed to the Mad River to cool off. We found a local swimming spot that was unusually quiet for such a hot day - only one family floated by us on inner tubes. Since it was so quiet, we plunked ourselves down on a grassy knoll under a nice shady tree and fell asleep.

I don't know what woke me up initially - it was probably a flapping noise, but in any case I groggily opened my eyes and found myself staring up at a bloodhound standing over me.

My first reaction was to scream and to sit straight up, even though I realized it was a dog and it wasn't doing anything other than sniffing at us. That scared the crap out of the husband who was fast asleep ("What? What's going on?") and also scared off the dog, who scampered off to a nearby tree to pee. Within a split second I'd switched from shrieking to laughing hysterically, since the dog probably wasn't used to finding people passed out in the grass. The owner was quite a bit away and probably couldn't see us either. We tried calling the dog over but it was wary (rightfully so, after my yelling) - besides, it smelled like skunk and we were happy that it decided to keep its distance. It was a beautiful bloodhound, and despite their penchance for following their nose, this one was very well trained and ran off as soon as the owner gave the signal.

And now, for the less scary animals - here's the small menagerie they had on display at Shelburne Farms where the VT Cheesemaker's Festival was held:

Baby goats!

They were aggressive little buggers

A cute lamb

The cutest of them all: Judy the cow

This photo doesn't do justice to how cute Judy really was - she has the longest lashes that gives her the sweetest look. I never expected to gush over a cow but Judy made me gush - what a sweet little cow. I'm glad we were at a dairy farm since I'm not ready to associate a cute calf with dinner quite yet. More on what we ate tomorrow...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Speaking of animals

We're in Vermont for the weekend. Specifically in a tiny town reasonably close to Waterbury. We're in such a remote part of the state that we have no cell service - tho we are with AT&T so that's not saying much (fewer bars in more places, as the husband likes to say). A flock of geese just went honking by.The most unusual animal we've seen so far is a mini donkey - it was really cute! I was driving on a highway so I couldn't snap a pic.

The reason we're here in Vermont is to attend the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival. The husband loves cheese, so he should be in cheese heaven - I think there will be 30 cheese makers (cow, goat, sheep and whatever else they can milk). Luckily there will be multiple wineries, breweries and artisanal food products including our latest obsession, the Vermont Brownie Company. First we're off to eat at Hen of the Woods, a restaurant that Mark Bittman raved about in the NY Times a few years ago. I suspect I'm going to have a stomach ache by the end of the weekend.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mmmmmmm, pig...

Did anyone see this NY Times article on how to roast your own pig?

NY Times Article - Do-it-Yourself Pig Roast

As much as I love a roast pig, we definitely won't be roasting one in our tiny backyard - nothing like having a wood deck surrounded by a lot of wood fencing to kill that idea, though the husband is determined to one day have his own tandoor oven out back so that he can make his own naan bread but more on that topic another time.

Continuing on the pig theme, this was my birthday present from my best friend:


 
Yes, that is a pig-shaped cutting board and a cookbook entitled "Seduced by Bacon". These are not the first bacon-related gifts I've received, which somewhat scares me. I guess I'm just that obvious.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dangerously low on cookies

I've been quiet lately because I've been on a mission to redecorate two rooms in our house. We have two small bedrooms (each 9.5 x 11 ft, which incidentally is smaller than Lindsay Lohan's jail cell) that are used as a guest suite and office/laundry storage room. We've just thrown our old furniture in both rooms and bemoaned the lack of space for the last four and half years.

Our recent purchase of the iPad has led me to purchase online magazine subscriptions - frighteningly simple to do, and delivered on the beautiful iPad interface. We can now get two Canadian design magazines that we love and missed - Canada's Style at Home and Canadian House and Home. I've never figured out what the American equivalent is, and I'm convinced Canadian design is better anyways or why else would HGTV in US be filled with Canadian shows? :-)

So perusing design magazines again and browsing a lot of design blogs led me to consider our two under-utilized rooms. It wasn't until I tried room planning software (there's a program on the Better Homes and Gardens website) that let me play around with furniture that I realized we had positioned all of the furniture in the wrong spots in the guest bedroom. It would take something as simple as flipping the bed around so that the headboard was against the window and not the opposite wall that would free up tons of space and allow us to get a queen bed in there. (We have a full or double bed in there now - apologies to all past guests for the cramped sleeping quarters!)

We found a bed we liked pretty quickly - we got the Nailhead Bed from West Elm, pictured below, but in the natural color and not the gray shown:


We're going to keep the dresser we have in there now so all we need is a narrow desk/vanity table or bookcase and the guest room has been redone.

During my obsessive quest to find appropriate yet inexpensive furniture, the husband alerted me to the fact that he was dangerously low on cookies. While he's an extremely healthy eater, he enjoys his desserts and generally prefers them to be home made. His favorite is a ginger-cranberry chocolate chip cookie recipe that I saw on Ming Tsai and now make regularly. It is super easy to make (thanks to the my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer) and I pop each batch into the freezer when they're baked since they freeze well and they're delicious when warmed in the oven. It's also my diet trick - I forget that they're in the freezer since I don't see them, so I don't eat them other than 1 or 2 when they're first baked. The husband, on the other hand, meticulously takes one to work each day to finish off his lunch, and likes to alert me when he's running low. So I stepped away from my obsessive searching to whip up a batch.

Ginger-Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Simply Ming (Ming Tsai)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
9 tablespoons butter
1 extra-large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 pound chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1.Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

2.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle, cream together sugars and butter.
3.Add egg, vanilla and ginger and mix until combined.
4.In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and baking soda.
5.In a second large bowl, combine cranberries and chocolate chips.
6.Starting with flour, alternate flour and cranberry mixtures until dough is thoroughly combined.
7.Using a tablespoon, portion cookie dough 2 inches apart onto ungreased bake sheet (you can line with parchment, if you like).
8.Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown and underside is the same. They will feel moist on top, but will harden as they cool.
9.Let cookies cool on bake sheet for 5 minutes, then remove to a rack to finish cooling.

I generally use half oat flour and half regular flour to try and make it a bit healthier, and white chocolate chips seem to be a better match with the dried cranberries. I can usually get 24 cookies per batch.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I will spend $ on ice cream, but not on this belt

I haven't been shopping much lately, partly because I'm bored with what I've seen and partly because I loaded up with new items last month so I don't need anything for the time being. I've also been obsessing with exterior house renovations (minor cosmetic but still expensive work), landscaping (I think I need a landscape designer!) and re-decorating our two guest bedrooms (need inexpensive quality furniture - does that exist?). Since I'm distracted these days, it has to be fairly outrageous fashion item to get my attention. This belt did the trick:

This came my way via the daily Zoe Report. I'm really into sashes, and this one from Prada in Nappa white leather is particularly elegant. However, it's $710!!! For a belt! I may pay that price for a pair of Prada shoes but that seems absurd for a belt - who would buy this? I think I'm going back to my decorating magazines to try and find a queen-sized bed for under that price.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pavlovas are no longer the bane of my existence

I adore meringue. I don't remember how my love affair with egg whites and sugar began, but meringue is probably my number one dessert. I like lemon meringue pies, ile flottante (soft meringue clouds floating on a sea of custard, also known as oeufs a la neige), maracons (egg whites, ground almonds and sugar sandwich cookies), and macaroons (with coconut), but I think my favorite version is the pavlova.

Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer Ánna Pávlova. Essentially it's a cake with a light crust and a soft sweet marshmallow center. It's a great way to use up extra egg whites and it's theoretically a low-fat dessert since there's no butter involved, though serving it with whipped cream tends to negate that health benefit.

I hadn't make meringue or any other dessert in years until we decided to buy a KitchenAid mixer last year. We bought the smallest, cheapest model we could find (the white one) since we thought it would be a good appliance to have, but we didn't think we would use it that much - until we tried it. That mixer could make dessert on its own - which is a problem in that I now routinely make dessert.

I first made pavlovas when the rhubarb/strawberry season started last year. My husband loves rhubarb and strawberry - it reminds him of his grandmother, so every spring he asks me to make rhubarb+strawberry desserts. It's one of the few things he asks me to make, since he's very proficient in the kitchen, but for some reason rhubarb and strawberries are my domain.

I started with a strawberry-rhubarb compote with vanilla and cardamon. Super easy to make and lasts for days in the fridge, though go easy on the cardamon since it's a strong spice. It's very good over ice cream or angel food cake, but I knew it would go particularly well on a pavlova.

Meringue to me isn't hard to make. For some reason I've never had a problem whipping egg whites into shape with the trusty mixer. It's the baking part that drove me batty over the past year. I've made them crunchy on the outside (as opposed to delicately crispy) but so gooey on the inside that we needed a knife to cut into them and chewing them was almost impossible (think consistence of saltwater taffy). They've been undercooked so they're marshmallowy, which is still tasty but not the consistency I've been going for. Usually they're also too brown, when they're not supposed to take on any color. But I think I've finally got the technique down, thanks to the comments at Simply Recipes - Pavlovas - seems like I need to reduce the heat by 25 degrees and bake at least 1.5 hours. I think it was closer to 2 hours with the hot weather we've been having on the East Coast. Now let's see if this is what it takes to overcome the inconsistent results that have been plaguing me.



Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote with Vanilla & Cardamom
From Fine Cooking magazine

4 cups 1/2-inch-thick sliced rhubarb (about 1-1/4 lb.)

1/2 cup granulated sugar; more to taste
6 Tbs. fresh orange juice; more to taste
3 Tbs. honey
1/4 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 small vanilla bean
3 cups hulled and thickly sliced strawberries (about 2 pints)

Combine the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice, honey, all the cardamom, and salt in a heavy-bottomed stainless steel 3-qt. saucepan. With a paring knife, slit open the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with the back of the knife, and add the seeds and the scraped pod to the saucepan.

Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring often. Simmer until the rhubarb releases its juice and becomes tender but still retains its shape, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the strawberries and simmer until they start to soften and the rhubarb breaks down slightly, 1 to 3 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a bowl. Make an ice bath by filling a larger bowl with ice and water. Chill the compote over the ice bath at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until completely cool, 10 to 15 minutes. Discard the vanilla pod. Taste the compote and add more sugar and orange juice, if needed.

Yields about 4-1/2 cups

Monday, July 12, 2010

Playing with my food

It was a weekend of experimenting - for starters, I made David Lebovitz' peanut slaw which I first saw over on Jill's blog. I really liked the non-mayo based slaw, but I would recommend using lime juice for a more authentic asian flavor - the lemon that I used was too overwhelming and a bit jarring with the peanut butter for our taste. I'll also use toasted sesame seed oil in place of the vegetable oil the next time to further reinforce the asian theme.

The second new ingredient was whole Spanish mackerel, which made my 3rd fish meal in a week. We grilled them whole, head and tail on, after I had the relatively straightforward joy of gutting them. They're not the prettiest of looking fish (are any of them, truly?), and particularly not when I start playing with its head. Here's a bad shot after I pulled the lower jaw down and to make its tongue stick out - picture the fish going "ahhhhhhh" like you do in the doctor's office. That's just how mature I am at dinner these days...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A bowl of summer

My husband cut up a ripe nectarine, added blueberries, then declared - "Now that's a bowl of summer". I agreed, and snapped a pic of it. Doesn't get much better than this for breakfast.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'm blaming the tequila

So what if it was 5 days ago when I had a tasty but particularly lethal margarita - well, it was perhaps the two glasses of wine before the margarita that did me in. Here's a pic of my tequila-related injury, where my leg lost a battle with a coffee table - still looks nasty, 5 days later, but it definitely didn't hurt at the time!



Anyhow, I'm convinced it's the tequila that's thrown me off balance this week. It could also be the oppressive heat we've been having in New England, combined with my allergies flaring up and going to a friend's birthday dinner that ran pretty late on Wednesday night, but I'm going with the tequila as the primary culprit. I ended up being very tired on Thursday but I had some egg yolks sitting in our fridge that I needed to use. So despite my bleary-eyed exhaustion, I was determined at 8:30pm to make David Lebovitz' Goat Cheese Custards.

His recipe can be found here, along with some beautiful photos, but it's super simple and consists of just 5 ingredients (ack, I hope I don't sound like that awful chick on the Food Network): fresh goat cheese, sugar, milk, egg yolks and vanilla. Throw all in a blender then bake in a water bath. Should have been a fast and easy dessert.

We'd bought some fresh goat cheese that came from a farm in Massachusetts (available from Whole Foods, we are not that dedicated in chasing down our food - yet) and was very tightly vacuum sealed, making it much harder to cut open in my tired state. I hacked my way through the heavy outer wrapping and threw the freed goat cheese log into the blender without much thought. The rest of the ingredients went in and I whirred away. I tasted it to see what it was like (quite good, like a tangy cheesecake) and noticed that the mixture seemed to still be a little lumpy, so I gave it a few more seconds of blending and assumed it would be fine.

Pouring the mixture into the first ramekin resulted in a puddle of lumps. I leaned in for closer inspection and pulled up shredded bits of plastic as the source of the lumps. After I uttered "what the?" and upon seeing the offending plastic bits, my husband helpfully said "There's an inner wrapping of plastic around the cheese - did you remove it?".

No - no, I definitely did not remove it. I didn't even see it. I'd never been the one to handle this cheese before (my husband is always the one to add goat cheese to salads) so it was unfamiliar packaging to me. The struggle with the outer wrapping had worn me out and the lighting was dim where I had the blender so the goat cheese package got the better of me. I tried to salvage it by straining out the plastic shards, but only a thin liquid came through which didn't look like it would bake properly. I was too tired and there were too many bits of plastic to pick them out (I'd been thorough in my blending), so I declared defeat, threw the mixture in the trash and went to bed. So much for trying to be resourceful and use up some leftover egg yolks - at least I know it will be tasty the next time I attempt this recipe and I will definitely be looking for any and all plastic wraps in the future.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

America's Test Kitchen Helping Me to Eat More Fish

I think it's a sign of me getting old but I like PBS' food shows - I think they have the best food programming out there, though I don't subscribe to the new Cooking Channel so it's not a complete comparison. I enjoy watching America's Test Kitchen for its entertainment value, but we haven't really made anything from the show until we watched the recent episode "Salmon - Indoors and Out".

I'm really trying to reduce my red meat intake and increase my fish consumption. Sushi is a favorite, tho it's expensive to eat out and it's not something I'm prepared to make at home. The grilled salmon prepared on the show was very easy to do - it required heating the hell out of the grill and oiling it like mad, but it didn't stick. It was the vinaigrette that made the dish particularly tasty. We had every type of vinegar in the house except the one I needed (white wine vinegar), so I substituted rice wine vinegar and it seemed just fine. The acidity worked nicely to cut through the richness of the fish, and with a big fresh salad, it was a great meal on a sweltering hot day.

With the success of our first foray into ATK's offerings, I think this salmon dish will make it into our regular weeknight repertoire. The next recipe to try from this episode is an oven baked salmon with a tangerine relish, but I think I'll save that for a cooler day.

Almond Vinaigrette
From America's Test Kitchen

Makes about 1/2 cup

Ingredients
1/3 cup almonds , toasted
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 medium shallot , minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cold water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Table salt and ground black pepper

Instructions
Place almonds in zipper-lock bag and, using rolling pin, pound until no pieces larger than 1/2 inch remain. Combine pounded almonds, honey, mustard, vinegar, and shallot in medium bowl. Whisking constantly, drizzle in olive oil until emulsion forms. Add water and tarragon and whisk to combine, then season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Am I becoming something I hate?

I'm a little late with this post - I meant to post it on June 30th since I was inspired by The Kitchen Reader - their book for the month was “Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating” by Mark Bittman. I'm a brand new member of this book club (not sure if that's the right descriptive term?) and didn't read this month's selection, but I did enjoy the reviews posted at Cooking for Comfort, Jill's blog, and Spike Bakes.

I'm all about meat. I'm a proud, unapologetic carnivore and everyone knows it - I've even had a former friend serve me meat with a side of meat for a New Year's Eve dinner. But of all things, I'm actually considering following Mark Bittman's lead and try to be mostly vegetarian before 6pm.

I should clarify - I don't hate vegetarians with the level of fervor that Anthony Bourdain does, and I definitely eat vegetables. It's just that I naturally gravitate towards a meat and then build my meal around the protein. Notice I'm trying to give myself some wiggle room by qualifying it as "mostly" vegetarian and there's no way I'm going vegan, as was Bittman's reported strategy to improve his health.  I'm thinking more along the lines of a day-time pescaterian, which is just a vegetarian who eats fish.

The good thing in learning of my borderline high cholesterol is that it's making me think about what I choose to eat, and if I'm going to eat something high in fat, then it better be worth it. So the other day, when I was in my daily "hmmm, what should I eat for lunch today while avoiding my work cafeteria at all costs" mode, I decided to go for Indian food and I went with lentils (dal) and rice as my meal. If I ever decide to become full-blown vegetarian, I'll have to move to India - they really know how to use spices to make vegetables interesting, flavorful and filling, though there may be more ghee (butter) than I want to know about.

I realize I can't rely on Indian takeout as a sole source of vegetarian meals, so I'll be picking up a copy of Mark Bittman's book for some vegetarian inspiration to expand my cooking repertoire.

While on the topic of Mark Bittman's recipes, here's one that I made last winter that I really liked - so simple to make and very tasty!



Winter Citrus Salad with Honey Dressing
2 blood oranges or tangerines

1 pink grapefruit
1 navel orange
Salt
1/2 small red onion or 1 shallot, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
Lime or lemon juice to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly chopped tarragon or a pinch dried.

1. Peel citrus, removing as much pith as possible, and slice into wheels. Remove any pits, layer fruit on a serving dish, sprinkle with salt and garnish with chopped onion.

2. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, honey, lime juice and tarragon until well combined; taste, adjust seasoning as needed and drizzle over salad.

Yield: 4 servings.
(Recipe from the New York Times, The Minimalist column Jan 20, 2010)

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