Monday, June 27, 2011


The hottest item to hit the farmer's market scene: Poussins. About as large as your hand, these young pasture raised chickens from local East Fork Farm yield tender, dark, succulent meat with gelatin rich bones. One bird is ideal for a single serving and best eaten with your hands, a delicacy well suited for a lively dinner party. A perfect match for roasted early potatoes and braised garden greens. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fresh Raspberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream (Dairy-Free)

I can't think of a better way to celebrate the first day of summer than by making a batch of ice cream. The raspberry canes in the garden are completely doubled over with the weight of this year's crop. Already filling their own corner of the freezer, we are struggling to keep up with picking as they ripen. A fine problem to have.
Abundance is such a common occurrence this time of year, it becomes almost easy to take it for granted. I am literally throwing salad greens at the neighbors, meanwhile, I've eaten so many salads myself I'm in danger of getting bored. Yet here lies the loveliness of nature: it is continuously changing. Right when you think you can't eat another snap pea or bowl of spinach, another crop feverishly comes on. This continues throughout the growing season, with yields robust enough to effortlessly put by for later months. A true treat when you are enjoying a peach smoothie in October.
But I have not tired of raspberries yet, although I've eaten without abandon. Whirled with creamy coconut milk and maple syrup, this raspberry ice cream is sheer frozen summertime bliss; just in time for the blueberries to arrive. Oh the possibilities. . .

Fresh Raspberry Coconut Milk Ice Cream: (Requires an electric ice cream machine)
*1 can (or 13.5 oz) high quality full fat coconut milk
*scant 1/2 cup real maple syrup
*3 heaping handfuls fresh ultra-ripe raspberries (about 2 cups)

Prepare ice cream machine (I recommend Cuisinart's model, about $45) by freezing mixing vessel for 8 hours prior to ice cream making.
Whisk coconut milk and maple syrup together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour into ice cream maker. Add raspberries after churning has begun. Once contents freeze to desired consistency, (about 20 minutes) immediately scoop into bowls and serve. Leftovers (if there are any) can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower

Special in its ultra-simplicity, roasted cauliflower is one of my favorite ways to eat this commonly under appreciated brassica. The deep, nutty flavor brought out by roasting makes this dish a great side to anything from grilled meats to garlicky dips and spreads. Anne from Gaining Ground Farm had a gorgeous assortment of purple and white varieties displayed last week at market.

If you often ignore cauliflower for lack of knowing what to do with it, you will be pleasantly surprised how flavorful it truly is, tossed with nothing more than olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper before a brief hiatus in the oven. I like when some of the best dishes are this effortless.

Here are some more reasons to put this veggie on the table:
Cauliflower contains a phytochemical called sulforaphane which has been associated with preventing cancer. Another chemical also present in cauliflower, known as indole-3-carbinol, enhances the repair of DNA, decreasing the rate of cancer cell growth. In particular, those who consume high levels of cauliflower have a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
In addition, you gain a relatively high amount of fiber, folate, and vitamin C when consuming the vegetable. Eat up. . .

Roasted Cauliflower:
*2-3 fresh cauliflower heads, rinsed and chopped into florets
*extra virgin olive oil
*sea salt
*fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375.
In a medium mixing bowl, toss cauliflower florets with enough olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Spread onto a lined baking sheet and roast until slightly golden, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove from oven. Serve warm or cold.

Add toasted pine nuts, almonds or fresh chopped basil after roasting.

Friday, June 10, 2011

David's Stuffed Peppers

At a recent party, my friend David (stonescaping extraordinaire by day, creative foodie by night) arrived with an appetizer worthy of recreation. His brilliantly stuffed marinated peppers lit up like little packages of flavor in your mouth. Not only were they fantastic to look at, they drew party goers to them not unlike a confident street performer. They arrived, took their position, then worked their magic.
Thin slivers of blood orange and lemon peel elevated the filling of creamy goat cheese and salty olive perfectly. They did not last long. And thankfully, as I was pulling pulled pork from the oven, a friend came up to me and insisted I take a moment to go and try one. Only a few remained.

The best part? No heat of the oven required, and assembly is stress-free. May they become a welcome addition to your next gathering.

David's Stuffed Peppers:
*15-20 marinated peppers (often found on olive bars of specialty grocery stores)
*15-20 pitted cured kalamata or green olives
*4 oz package high quality chevre, room temp
*1 organic blood orange
*1 organic lemon
*handful of garlic chives

Choose firm peppers when shopping for ingredients. Begin by fitting a pitted olive into each pepper. Cut the corner tip from package of chevre. Pipe into the center of each olive, overfilling slightly.
Peel the rind from blood orange and lemon, avoiding the white pith. Cut lengthwise into very, very thin strips. Place lemon and orange slivers into the goat cheese filling with a small garlic chive sprig. Serve at room temperature.
Can be assembled in advance, wrapped and refrigerated until serving time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thoughts On The New USDA My Plate Guidelines

I can't help but reflect on the new USDA "My Plate" guidelines. First: bravo for finally trashing the pyramid. It was more than greatly flawed. It remained so with its equally confusing face lift not many years ago by adding a person running up the side of its face. Now we have a plate, which is at least getting us closer to an image associated with the dining table.
My Plate has a few things going for it, mainly in its visual resemblance to something we can all relate to, but remains dangerously simplistic for the public at large.

What each model has failed to recognize is the important issue of the quality of the food we choose to eat. Rewind for a moment to early Eskimo tribes of Alaska or Eastern Siberia for example. What did their "My Plate" look like? A 75% daily intake of protein and fat consisting of caribou, polar bear, fish, seal or whale meat, perhaps cooked, perhaps shaved raw from frozen bones including the animal's rich stores of fat and organs. The remaining percentage of nutrition came from a small amount of gathered tubers, berries, grasses and seaweed when seasonally available. These cultures where healthy, producing strong, round, happy babies. They did not drink electrolyte enhanced sports drinks or nibble on rice cakes. Most importantly, their lack of a modern democratic government kept them from falling victim to its agendas.

Here is the problem with our government's suggestions on what we should eat. They need us to consume the most of what they subsidize the most, and it's gotten them into a dilemma. With obesity at record levels, especially plaguing today's youth, we have a very expensive health crisis on our hands. But, how can they tell us to eat local, buy mostly produce and grass-fed meats and still hold the hand of their most powerful constituents? They can't. So as long as agriculture is dictated and funded by the US government, we will continue to see double standards like the new My Plate guideline as a means to gloss over a major political contradiction.
The dairy industry, corn/grain industry, and meat industry need the support of the government to be the colossal superpowers they are. All you have to do is look at campaigning to see where the money lies. "Beef- It's What's For Dinner," Pork- The Other White Meat," "Milk- Does A Body Good." Or how about all the famous athletes and celebrities sporting milk mustashes or gracing the front of a box of Frosted Flakes. Are these flashy advertising efforts for our health or for a profit? If the goal was in favor of the former, we may have a very different public health reality.

The food industry does not make a profit peddling broccoli, let alone diet diversity. They want us to load our carts with sodas (corn industry), lunch meat (pork, beef, poultry industry), Oreos (corn and seed oil industry), boxed cereals (corn and grain industry), and ultra-pasteurized gallons of low-fat milk (dairy industry). A diet like this will eventually kill even the most resistant individual, yet this is where the profit is made.

Who profits from a healthy individual? Not the pharmaceutical industry. Not the industries mentioned above. Not the hospitals. Not your family doctor. You may save insurance companies a ton, but then again if you are well, you may not need them. How about your dentist? Physical therapist? Mental therapist? They would all take a financial hit if you were robustly healthy. Oooh, reality bites, and yes, it all comes back to My Plate.

I will tell you what is not on my plate:
#1: My government whispering in my ear
#2: Milk from cows which stand in their waste and eat subsidized grain morning and night without ever feeling the sun on their backs, teaming with antibiotics and chemicals to keep their milk "safe."
#3: Corn syrup laden products filled to the brim with concentrated toxic pesticide residues
#4: A big pile of white rice, stripped of its original fiber, vitamins, and minerals
#5: A boneless, skinless chicken breast tender not from my clever marinade but from the animal's forced, indoor, un-exercised life of muscular atrophy.
#6: Vegetables shipped from Latin America where we still enjoy gaining a profit by selling them our "unsafe" DDT
#7: Spinach picked by underpaid, undervalued workers
#8: A color coded chart

Now for what is on my plate:
#1: Solar nutrition taken up by the grass then taken up by the animals which graze it
#2: Small fish from deep cold waters
#3: Well prepared, intact whole grains
#4: Pungent garlic, onions and spices
#5: Freedom of choice
#6: Curries rich with coconut milk
#7: Good fat
#8: Eggs from bug-eating, sun-loving chickens
#9: Flavorful vegetables full of unadulterated vitamins and trace minerals absorbed from real garden soil
#10: The occasional slug lurking on my salad leaf. . . a special treat for my hens.
#11: Fermented foods, teeming with friendly bacteria to help restore and aid digestion
#12: Seasonal, ripe, juicy fruits
# 13: Community
# 14: A moment to say Thanks before the first bite
# 15: Real patriotism
# 16: Bold flavors
# 17: Variety

In the end, the reality is: how do we help most individuals understand the importance of choosing wisely when it comes to food?
My answer would be to view government recommendations with caution. Until industries are held accountable for their products, food products should be approached carefully. I believe it unrealistic to think that each busy mom or grade-schooler can consult a chart and know what food options are best with so many forces at work to confuse them.
Those who manufacture processed, unhealthy foods which appear cheap need to be held accountable. It shouldn't be the public's responsibility to spend hours upon hours in the grocery store reading and comparing labels to ensure they are putting a worthwhile item in their cart-but it is. Soda should be heavily taxed. Oreos should carry a warning or be pulled from the shelves. We need our choices to be more trust worthy if the government is going to "okay" them for sale. If the food industry is comfortable selling us products which have been proven to negatively impact our health, we should send them to court.
When dog food and baby formula imported from China revealed toxic levels of melamine, we did what anyone in their right mind would do and discontinued imports.
Why should it be any different with other ingredients that make us sick?
In summation, the consumer is not the only one needing a lesson in what is appropriate to put on the table. I believe the vast majority of the public is doing the very best they can to stay well despite all of the many mixed messages thrown at them. I do not know a single person who enjoys being sick or overweight.

Additionally, it is impossible to claim that food and politics are unrelated. As we try our best to make the right choices, I think it's high time to expect the same from our government. Those in charge of what gets stocked on grocery store shelves need to be held accountable. I'm sure if they put their minds to it, they can give us more than a new color coded chart.

Time to rise up!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Photo Reflection

It's that time again- when I gush on a recent food image which literally stopped me in my magazine-flipping tracks. Of course, it appeared in SAVEUR. Somehow this foodie publication never fails to capture the brilliant moments in food culture.
The cropped image of these two women, (photographed by Todd Colman) says so much. (I had the magazine turned to this page while cooking, thus the addition of splattered cream). I love everything about the photo: from the mismatched stools to their fantastic old-school aprons. I gather they must know one another, perhaps are even sisters, and no doubt, know exactly what they're doing with that dough.
If I were standing there watching; their practiced hands expertly slapping pieces of dough into disks, I would enjoy overhearing their conversation. It probably included plenty of good neighborhood gossip intertwined with guttural laughs and broad smiles. I imagine the sun has made its mark upon their faces. I know they can cook meals fit for kings. . in their sleep. Yet they most likely cook mainly for family and visitors with as much ease as breathing itself.
I bet the meal following this dough session was one to remember: rich with pungent spices and years of fine tuning, steeped in centuries of authentic Mexican tradition. For a Scotch-English white girl, I can almost taste it as if it were my own.