May 30, 2010

Spice Crispies

Adapted from a recipe that appeared in the February 2010 issue of Food & Wine, this Indian snack mix is a spicy, complex blend of salty & sweet. Put out a bowl with cocktails or serve instead of popcorn for movie night. It also makes a great traveling or hiking snack with a mix of salt, carbohydrates, sugar, protein and fat to keep you going.

MAKE IT: Spice Crispies

What you need:
4 cups puffed basmati rice*
1 cup cashew pieces
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened is fine)
2 cups fried chickpea fritters or lentils*
6 TB vegetable oil
1 TB mustard seeds
2 tea cumin seeds
1 tea ground coriander
1 tea mild or medium curry powder
.5 tea red chili flakes (or more)
2 tea salt
1 TB amchoor (dried mango) powder*
6 TB light corn syrup
salt (optional)

How you make it:
Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Heat oil and mustard seeds in a medium non-stick saucepan over medium heat until seeds begin to pop. Reduce heat a bit and add next six ingredients, stirring to combine. Cook until cumin seeds begin to darken, add corn syrup and stir well. When corn syrup begins to bubble vigorously, remove pan from heat and pour spice syrup over contents in bowl. Mix gently until everything is coated in syrup, spread into even layers on two baking sheets lined in parchment paper, sprinkle with a little salt, and bake at 300 degrees until rice is crispy and cashews are turning golden, 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and let mixture cool on pans for a few minutes before breaking up into bite size clusters. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

*Available at Indian markets or on-line. You can certainly use a puffed rice cereal like Rice Krispies in place of the puffed basmati but no substitutions will really come close to the fried chickpea bits or tangy, tart mango powder so it’s worth the extra effort to get your hands on the real thing(s). Of course, while you’re at the Indian market you could just as easily grab a bag of ready-made snack mix, called chevda, but that’s not really in the spirit of things, is it?

May 27, 2010

Veggie Tales

Scenes from the week:

These were all Dinner For One this week. They were all perfectly edible and sustained me through a long, tough work week. But none of them really dazzled, so I'm not going to present recipes as though they are worthy of you... yet.

Mostly I just want my mother to see how many leafy green vegetables I've consumed this week. I know she worries.

May 24, 2010

Local Heroes

When you go to the farmer's market you expect to find some really great stuff - farm fresh veggies & fruits of course, maybe some bread, cured meats, even cheese... but creamy, thick, absolutely delicious greek yogurt that's 100% local, organic and comes in the coolest flavors? No, I didn't expect that at all.

But this weekend, there it was - the Atlanta Fresh Artisan Creamery stand. And I'm in love. The Vanilla & caramel flavor? Like pudding, it's so good. I also brought home the Black Cherry & Port Wine and Tropical Sweet Heat (mango, pineapple & habanero pepper) flavors and I'm having to forcibly restrain myself from gobbling them all up right now...

For a list of local retailers, or to order some on-line, visit them here. They're also on Facebook & Twitter if you're into those kinds of things...

May 20, 2010

Da Bomb

This salad is a protein bomb packed with soy, dairy and grain proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Not to mention its beautiful colors and the delicious combo of sweet carrots, salty feta and nutty quinoa... it's a keeper.

Roasted Carrot & Red Quinoa Salad
with Honey Lime Vinaigriette 
4-6 servings

What you need:
4-5 large carrots, peeled & sliced into large bite-size pieces
3 TB olive oil
1 TB ground cumin
4 cups water
2 cups red quinoa
1.5 cups shelled soybeans (frozen works great)
4 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled ( I used reduced fat)
1 large handful parsley, cilantro or combination of both, chopped

Juice of 2 limes (about .25 cup)
.5 cup olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1-2 TB honey
1 handful chives, chopped
salt & pepper to taste

How you make it:
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss carrots with olive oil and cumin and roast, turning occasionally, until tender and starting to brown – about 40 mins.

Meanwhile, heat water and quinoa in a pot over high heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until quinoa has absorbed all the water and is tender. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Heat a small saucepan of water over high heat until boiling and cook soybeans until tender. Drain and set aside.

Make dressing by combining lime juice, olive oil, shallot, one tablespoon of honey and chives. Mix well and add the additional tablespoon of honey if needed – it will depend on how tart your limes are – and salt & pepper to taste.

Combine carrots, quinoa, soybeans, feta and chopped herbs in a large bowl and toss with dressing. Serve hot or cold. 

Note: I found red quinoa at Trader Joe's but the regular kind will work just fine...

May 18, 2010

What I'm Reading

Vanity Fair, June Issue

I love Vanity Fair and usually read every article, but this month it’s
all about the cover story. I mean, have you seen the cover?? I’m
calling it my treadmill motivator. I hang it up across the room and
run towards it…

Food & Wine, June Issue
Just about the best domestic food magazine left. Great article in this issue on how to grill one thing and spin it into a few different recipes. Makes heating up the grill or lighting the coals worth the effort.

The Kind Diet, Alicia Silverstone
I know what you’re thinking – “Alicia Silverstone, is she serious?” but I encourage everyone to flip through it before passing judgment. Yes, she’s pushing a macrobiotic vegan diet, which is too extreme for most of us but some of her arguments for eating less meat, chemicals, and refined foods are dead on. Presented in a friendly, nonthreatening way, she approaches a vegetable-based diet not just from a moral perspective, but from an environmental and health-based one too.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
Absolutely fascinating look at the food we’re all used to eating and how it all came to be. It’s so chock full of info though that I can only manage a few pages at a time before my brain threatens to explode. You’ll be horrified, embarrassed and seriously pissed off after reading this. And you’ll never look at an ear of corn the same way again.

New Good Food, Margaret Wittenberg
From the author’s site: Rather than being about what food is not, NEW GOOD FOOD is an introduction to or perhaps a reminder of what food is. It is a weaving together of descriptions, cooking suggestions, and just enough history, food science, and nutrition to get a glimpse of all the wonders each food has to offer.
Bottom line: this is a great resource and will help you feel like less of an uninformed loser while scanning the aisles at Whole Foods. Which, incidentally – is where I bought my copy.

Vegetable Love, Barbara Kafka
Beautiful cover design aside, this is like taking a walk through a farmer’s market – in fact, when I pick up something new from the market I come home and flip through Kafka’s ode to vegetables for a delicious way to prepare it.

My roommate’s autographed copy of Ad Hoc at Home, Thomas Keller
For the average person, this probably isn’t a cookbook you’ll actually
cook from, though you’ll definitely learn some neat techniques.
Rather, I treat it more like an art book because it is visually
stunning. Just flip through the pages and admire the passion of a man
who loves food and the beautiful way he displays it.

Quick Note: I’ve only included a link to Wittenberg’s book since it may be tougher to find. Everything else will be available at any major bookseller or newsstand. And until Barnes & Noble ponies up my sponsorship money I’m not playing favorites. That said, I know it’s a little more expensive than ordering on-line, but please visit a local bookstore to buy books when you can – we don’t want them to go away.

May 12, 2010

Turning Over A New Leaf

Hey guys,

I haven't been around that much lately and I'm sorry. Truth is, I’ve been struggling lately, due in part to the fact that this site doesn’t really reflect how I’ve been living. More specifically, how I’ve been eating. I’ve decided to take better care of myself and, as a result, my kitchen has become a very different place. A very colorful and vibrant place actually. But not necessarily the kind of place you’re used to.

And I’ve been having trouble finding great stuff to post for you here because, quite frankly, not a lot has been phenomenal yet. It’s easy to make food taste great with butter and bacon fat (I’m lookin’ at you Paula Deen) but whole grains and low sodium? That’s tougher.

Case in point – I tried out a new barley dish a few weeks ago. I served it to my eternally patient roommate who, after intently chewing for many, many minutes, asked sweetly, “is it supposed to be so chewy?”

And the thing is, I have no idea. But I’m going to figure it out. And I’ll continue to share the abysmal failures with you here, for your enjoyment, as well as the winners I hope to uncover.

I’m not going to be counting calories, but I’m going to make the food I eat count. While I’ve never put many meat-based recipes on these pages, you’ll find even less now. The food you find here will be mostly vegetarian, occasionally vegan, and full of whole grains and interesting new ingredients.

Every week I scan the aisles of my grocery store and come home with one new thing. In the past few weeks I’ve added miso paste, pearl barley and umbeoshi plum vinegar to my pantry and I’m experimenting with them to create new recipes worth sharing.

So the posts here may be less frequent for a bit, but I am finding that the more whole, unprocessed foods I include in my diet, the better I feel. That doesn’t mean there will never be Pasta Carbonara, but it will be fewer and farther in between.

So, in the immortal lyrics of Bruce Hornsby – ‘Gonna be some changes made’.

I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

The makings for tonight's dinner - roasted carrots, parsnips and Brussel sprouts. I'm going to serve them over a bowl of pearl barley with onions and thyme and the leftovers will get turned into a cold salad with sesame-miso dressing for tomorrow's lunch. 
I'll let you know how it goes.