Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Spice it Up

It has finally hit freezing in New York City and all I want to do is drink red wine, roast sweet squash and apples, saute bitter greens, down a good juicy steak, and daydream about the upcoming holidays. 

In the past week I've made cranberry sauce (that's practically a pie filling) by mixing about a cup and a half fresh Pine Barren cranberries, with a generous 1/4 cup of beet, apple, carrot, lemon and ginger juice (a blueprint juice), a heaping 1/2 cup of cane sugar and a dash each of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. I've sauteed spicy mustard greens with lots of garlic, and roasted cubed kabocha squash, purple Hawaiian sweet potatoes (who knew there was such a thing!), onion and apples for a knockout side dish. And most recently added a little nutmeg to my pancake batter, fried them up in a little coconut oil, and separately peeled and sliced up two sturdy baking apples, tossed them into my rice cooker with a couple tablespoons light brown sugar and some more coconut oil, cooked until soft and golden, and piled them on top of nutmegy flapjacks for a breakfast that will get you through to dinner.

I want spicy, winey, coziness.

And with all this blustery, eye watering weather I want to stay indoors wrapped in a wool blanket drinking hot cider, and in doing so I've been browsing some of my favorite blogs and websites looking for gift ideas and holiday cheer and just thought I'd share my favorites. A little gift guide, of mostly local, made in the US delights, if you will. 

1. For those who sew, knit and crochet like champs, or would like to learn how:

2. For Wine and Spirits from the always helpful and knowledgeable:

3. For something sweet, decadent and a little over the top:

4. Everything for the home you will never find at crate and barrel:

5. For the cooks who can't get enough:

6. For the coffee buzzed:

7. For the special lady in your life:

8. For clothes, hats, scarves and everything else wearable, the New York standard:

9. For those in need of healing hands:

10. For a beautiful, one-of-a-kind botanical illustration to hang on the wall:

11. For unisex soaps, candles, lotions and potions made in New York:

11. And to spread much needed cheer to those near and far:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Some wives drag their husbands to romantic comedies or shopping malls. I drag mine to remote eateries down highways and industrial park roads, for miles, on chilly overcast days, in a foreign country, on an empty stomach, with the possibility that we will arrive past the two hour lunch operation window. 

At the possibility of travel, down the block or across the sea (I don't discriminate), I immediately start to plan where we will eat like a hound thrown a new scent. The glimmer in my eye at the prospect of a new epicurious adventure strikes fear into the heart of my beloved. I'm like a child constantly seeking out the nearest amusement park. For my partner this only foreshadows long lines, too much money spent on ethereal pleasures and questionable restroom facilities. But I live for it.  

I must state for the record, it was Chris' idea to take the 30 minute train ride from Copenhagen to Malmo, Sweden early in our recent week long visit to Denmark, and that it was he who suggested going to Saltimporten Canteen after having read an article singing it's praises in my Bon Appetite magazine. And he will be the first to admit this. But be careful what bones you toss my way, I will bite.

It is true however, that I knew, well in advance, that Saltimporten Canteen was located at the end of a long industrial pier with no direct access from the city center, and that according to Google maps it anticipated a 25 minute walk along highways and long, sidewalk-less roads. And they were right! And it is true that I chose not to share too much of this information with Chris. I figured that the pot of gold at the end of a long, rainy rainbow, would more than make up for the highly unpleasant trek to the restaurant.

About half way through, however, I began to wonder if I had made a terrible mistake. Every exasperated "are we there yet" from Chris turned from annoyance on my part, to inward panic. Walking a long deserted road, using only my phone to navigate us, I began to worry that not only were we going to arrive at the end of the pier to find that they had 1. sold out of all their food because of all the foodie, hipster attention they are basking in at present, 2. that the line would be around the block and more waiting would incur filled with sighs and glares or 3., worst of all, there would be no restaurant at all, and Chris and I would be in a self-inflicted Waiting for Godot foodie Hell, without even a turnip or carrot to chew on. In Sweden. 

Well, lets just say we made it and might I suggest taking a taxi from the train station, as we discovered upon arrival that the restaurant takes credit cards and so the few Swedish Kroners we had just changed over from Danish Kroner, would not have been wasted on the door-to-door service. Live and learn. But on to the food.

Saltimporten Canteen looks like this from outside:

And like this from the inside:

And it works like this, the food is prepared by NOMA graduates in a different location in the morning, brought to the restaurant before opening, and then lunch is served from noon to 2pm. And that's it. There are two options, a meat option and a vegetarian option along with freshly baked bread you slice yourself, wine, beer and water, and coffee with milk and sugar for dessert.

At about 1:30 on a Monday the place was about half full with what seemed to be a nice, local crowd, chewing away, some quietly doing business while they ate. I chose the meat dish and Chris ordered the vegetarian. It was brought to our table (although I think that's just because we looked like harried foreigners close to fainting, most people just waited at the counter for their bowls) I sliced some bread, water was poured, Chris washed his hands and we dug in.

Chris had Cauliflower on a bed of grains and yogurt (?) with raw shaved cauliflower, a Swedish berry broth (tasting a bit like a kumquat) and sprinkled with leek ash.

I had stewed lamb resting on braised rhubarb and yogurt with shaved cauliflower, lovage and chervil and a light sprinkle of sea salt. I was in heaven. The bread was awesome. Chris agreed his meal was delicious too, and the tension began to dissipate. A nice older couple drove up and sat just opposite us and in my foodie buzz I considered asking if we could bum a ride back to the city, but after food and hydration, we sucked it up and walked 25 minutes up a different but equally unpleasant route.

I don't think we shall be returning to Malmo anytime soon. Perhaps ever again. But I am certainly glad we went. Speaking for myself, it was the best lunch I've ever had.

If you want to make a Saltimporten lunch at home Bon Appetite has a lovely selection of recipes following an article on the restaurant, with no walking required.

(not for the faint of stomach)

Upon arriving back in Copenhagen at our hotel, Chris proceeded to get sick, very sick. Undoubtedly food poisoning. To the point that I considered calling a doctor or taking him to the hospital. It passed after 12 or so hours, but it was fierce and swift.

In recounting our story to friends later I cracked a joke, farm-to-table-toilet! But it wasn't funny while it was happening. Some days later a friend told me that 70+ people got severe food poisoning from NOMA, perhaps a risk in the whole foraging-farm-to-table trends. I hope those preparing food in this new and burgeoning cuisine can figure out how to keep their food as safe as it is delicious. I mean come on guys. I cook in my bathroom!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Smoked Paprika Chickpeas and Garlic Dandelion Greens

I made this last night. Made it again tonight. I had to post about it. It's soooo good. It's not Forks Over Knives, but I think I know how it could be. It's a combination of recipes from Heidi Swanson's cookbook Super Natural Every Day, that I tweaked and adapted. Happy end of summer, almost fall. Bitter greens, nutty red quinoa and smoky and spicy roasted chickpeas. And maybe a nip of bourbon later on. Mmmm.

Red Quinoa

1 cup red quinoa
2 cups cold water

Combine ingredients in a rice cooker or stovetop pot, cover and let simmer about 20 minutes until cooked through and fluffy. Set aside.

Roasted Chickpeas

1 13.4 oz can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried on a paper towel
2 tbs olive oil or any neutral oil (I use grapeseed)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp smoked, spicy paprika (if you don't have these, cayenne and chipotle work well, but use less, a scant 1/2 tsp. and more sweet paprika)

Preheat your oven to 425 (or in my case, toaster oven). Toss the ingredients together so all chickpeas are well coated. Then on a foil lined baking sheet, spread chickpeas in one layer and roast for ten minutes. If you want them tender, remove them now, if you prefer them a little more crispy you can roast them another 8 minutes. Then try not to eat them all before dinner is ready. Keep the oven on...

Garlic Dandelion Greens

1 bunch dandelion greens, washed, ends trimmed and then torn in half, roll up greens in one or two dish towels to dry
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
1 scant tsp salt

In a glass baking dish, with the oven still on at 425, pour in about three generous tablespoons of olive oil or any neutral. Add the minced garlic and salt. Put uncovered into the oven until you begin to smell the garlic, careful not to let it burn. Give it a stir while it's sizzling and then add the dandelion greens. Still uncovered, return to the oven for about three minutes. Then toss greens around, covering them in the garlic oil so leaves begin to wilt. Return to the oven again for three minutes. Toss around some more, repeat one more time. Then add the lemon zest, toss greens and continue to roast a few more minutes until the leaves are wilted and the stems just tender.

In a wide bowl, spoon the red quinoa into the bottom. Then sprinkle with half the chickpeas and top with the sizzling hot greens and garlic oil. You can give a little squeeze of lemon juice as a final touch.

Serves 2

For a Forks Over Knives version (no oil), substitute water for oil in the chickpea recipe, roast, watching carefully that the  chickpeas don't burn. Then after they've come out of the oven, give them a squeeze of lemon and toss. And for the dandelion greens, add the garlic, salt and greens and three tablespoons water to a saute pan on medium heat, cover and steam till greens are tender, tossing from time to time, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add the zest towards the end. Toss greens and serve.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Forks Over Knives

Whenever I talk to my parents, a portion of the conversation always comes around to doctors visits. Which doctor did they see most recently, what test results just came in, when is the next minor or major surgery scheduled, which cap needs to be replaced by the dentist for the umpteenth time, when does physical therapy start, which medication needs to be adjusted, and on and on. And they're healthy, well informed, responsible people! I get text messages from my mother as she sits in waiting rooms, either waiting for my father to wake up or for a nurse to call her back to an examination room, bored and wanting to hear what's up in New York City. We laugh, another day, another doctor! It's not traumatic to go to the doctor, just time consuming, part-time job time consuming. At this point no one's health is great but it's all being managed by a series of specialists, and as long as my parents keep checking in, like getting the oil changed, cleaning out the air conditioner filters and paying the electricity bill, they can lead as happy, as rich and as long a life as they choose, obviously up to a point. My in-laws are in the same boat and around the same age as my parents, when you get into your sixties, seventies and eighties, all this is to be expected, and though Chris and I are still relatively young, I have begun to see that inevitable path before us. Which reminds me I need to make an appointment with my dermatologist for an annual check-up. Let's see what the sun did to me this year!

Here's the thing, you can totally ignore your health and let it bite you in the ass, royally, or you can be proactive. Right? And we know that being proactive means eating well and getting exercise. Not having access to information or health care however, is a whole other story. 

But being proactive, in a world of ask.com and webmd.com, and nightly news health updates, and pharmaceuticals vs. homeopathy, local vs. organic and high-fat vs. low-fat can be overwhelming to say the least. Never mind that most primary care physicians never actually study diet in the first place. Even Mark Bittman, the great Mark Bittman, who goes vegan for breakfast and lunch, except for the half-and-half in his coffee, then eats whatever he fancies for dinner, recently wrote an article in the New York Times about how dairy is one of the worst things you can put in your body. The other day my husband showed me a photo of an egg with the title, "Eggs are worse for you than cigarettes".


Two years ago I read Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and started inhaling pasture raised beef and happy Berkshire pig bacon after nearly 15 years of not eating red meat. And after reading Nina Plank's Real Food, I was all about whole foods, full fat dairy, butter, brown eggs with rich sunset yolks, whole grains, bitter greens and happy, healthy meat. And I still am, sort of, but......

Despite all my efforts to keep myself and my husband healthy, it still came back to bite us in the ass.

My forty year old husband's blood pressure would not go down. My husband who's grandfather had a heart-attack and died at 40. I thought we were being healthy, really healthy. I even had books with medical science to prove it. It's an American obsession, health. We know it all!

I was not interested in changing my eating habits unless it was going to be delicious, because I thought my habits were already great. I can have my cake with the organic sugar and rich eggs, biodynamically raised cow's milk and spelt flour and eat it too! I thought we were eating better than most, I mean the cost alone should have cured something. But Chris' blood pressure, visit after visit, even with medications and increased doses and exercise would not come down. And it began to become clear that the blue cheese, chicken schmaltz and lamb chops weren't helping.

Chris' alternative doctor, for years (years!), kept trying to get him on a special diet that I resisted with my stack of books and whole foods receipts. 

But eventually there was no other choice. Chris was going to have to give up all animal products, no eggs, no meat, no diary, and then scariest of all, no oil. No canola oil, no olive oil, no sesame oil, no coconut oil. Nothing. And me being the cook in the household, was going to have to learn to cook onions with water.

We went Forks Over Knives, and after one year, now our families are doing it too.

(to be continued....)

Oil-Free Blue Potato Salad

An assortment of farmers market greens, washed and torn
Handful of cilantro, washed, leaves removed from stems
Six or so small blue/red/yellow potatoes, boiled till tender, cooled and sliced in half
Two heirloom tomatoes of different colors, large dice
Flat beans or green beans steamed or boiled till just tender but still bright green, cooled, cut into thirds
Half a red onion, small dice
Toasted slivered almonds
Yellow raisins

Arrange in your salad bowl then...


Juice of one lemon
Splash of champagne vinegar
Two teaspoons of Dijon mustard
One teaspoon of honey
One teaspoon whole cumin seeds ground with a mortar and pestle or 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
Pinch of salt

Whisk together and pour over salad just before serving. Crack fresh pepper on top.


Toast a couple slices of hearty whole grain bread, then rub each side with a raw garlic clove, and serve.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Trying to find solace in a city with 8 million people can be difficult. The other day I was walking through Times Square in 90+ degree heat and a slightly scruffy, shoeless young man was meditating in the middle of a throng of tourists. I thought to myself, "okey doke! " But I'm guessing he's a recent transplant, or more likely a passer-though, as opposed to the 70 year old upper-east-sider who wears hostility like a badge of honor and cuts in front of another 70 year old to get a slightly better seat on the crosstown bus after which the other 70 year old huffs and puffs and scowls and looks at you like, "can you believe this guy?". 

I was once in a dance studio taking an Alexander Technique class and there was high decibel street work going on three floors below. One of the students just could not get over it. He suggested closing the windows despite the warm weather and went on about how hard it is to find peace and quiet in this city, most dance and yoga studios are so noisy and on and on and on. Our teacher, also a great friend, sent a nice clear stream of energy up her spine and responded, and I'm paraphrasing, " we have chosen to live in this city, the city is noisy and we have little control over it. Why not accept the noise, make peace with it, let it move through you and lets get back to work!" That shut him up and cut down on at least 20% of the noise problem.

About a month ago, Chris and I went for an invigorating evening run up the Hudson River. While traveling north, one gets a view of spectacular sunsets over New Jersey, and on the way back, the glittering lights of lower Manhattan. You get fresh salty gusts coming up the river from the ocean and sweat out the day's bullshit, pardon my French. It's free, it clears my head and I get to spend time with my husband. Once we reach a certain point in our run, we slow to a walk and continue at that pace all the way home. On this particular day, red faced and sweaty, we walked passed the new Sarahbeth's which has outdoor seating. An older gentleman was sitting alone having what appeared to be some sort of dessert and a glass of wine. Out of nowhere he yelled up to us, " Have you been walking or running?" "What?" Chris I think was in disbelief. "Have you been walking or running?" "Both!" Chris barked. By this point we had passed the man and I was still processing what had just happened. Without skipping a beat Chris, gazing back over his shoulder shot back, "Are you having dinner, or dessert?" "Both!" we heard echo down the street.

I find solace in the kitchen. And sitting down to a delicious meal afterward is just icing on the cake. However, when you're cooking in your bathroom things don't always go smoothly. Suddenly the damp bath mat is covered in a dusting of flour, hot oil splatters back at you while pinned against the window, smoke billows from the toaster oven, etc., etc. But despite all this, I go on. Make pizza from scratch in a cubby hole with a dinky toaster oven, sure! Why not! It certainly keeps me on my toes.

I like to make my dough from scratch but you can also buy it fresh from a local pizzeria or from a Whole Foods or grocery store.

Jim Lahey's No-Need Pizza dough rises for 18 hours overnight, then 2 more hours before baking and it is delicious! I halve the recipe and it turns out great and  it's enough for two nights worth of dinners.

Bon Appetit has some toppings suggestions but here is how I top our pizza:

olive oil
Pomi crushed tomatoes
Maldon sea salt
red pepper flakes
shallots, thinly sliced
leaks, thinly sliced
crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
garlic, thinly sliced
nicoise olives, split 
fresh parsley, finely chopped 

Once you have the dough worked into a pizza shape, place it on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Splash a little olive oil around the dough and rub it around, coating the surface evenly with your fingers. (Olive oil on the edges will make for a more crispy crust, while no olive oil makes for a more chewy crust.) Spoon pools of tomatoes around the pizza, like you're making an abstract painting, a little pool of olive here, a little splash of tomato there. Sprinkle a little salt and red pepper flakes around. Then scatter garlic followed by shallots, then leaks, mushrooms and olives. Bake according to Lahey's instructions (about 13-15 minutes in my toaster oven). Remove from the oven, sprinkle with fresh parsley and you're done! Good with beer or a nice cold glass of white wine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cambodian/Vietnamese/Thai Vermicelli Salad

I lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn for five wonderful years. I scraped layers of newspaper and paint from underneath my kitchen sink, hung homemade curtains, watched a woman get mugged underneath my bedroom window, heard gun shots, cried with joy every year when the New York City Marathon went past my window, drank beers on the stoop with my future husband, made a tent in my living room with my roommate, and blissfully ate my way through the ever changing neighborhood with my student loan money at Madiba, Ici, La Table, Pequena, Rice, Cafe Lafayette, Olea, Cornerstone, Stone Home Wine Bar, Harlem Cake Man and more.

Some restaurants still thrive, others changed their names and some are gone forever. I must say, I still mourn the loss of Cambodia Cuisine. It was a large and very worn out restaurant a few steps north of BAM. The patio seating had a faded astro-turf-like carpet and I think the ceiling was hung with old dirty fabric or sagging ceiling panels. It was filthy inside and cheap but the food was bright, fresh and clean. I usually walked up to the window and ordered take-out from a sweaty, elderly man in a wife beater who oversaw sizzling woks and big pots of boiling water. I always ordered the same thing, vermicelli noodles with lemongrass chicken, crisp veggies, mint, peanuts and a sweet and sour sauce. The restaurant's service grew weirder and weirder and the food lost some of it's brightness as the years went by. But when it was good, it was the best.

I make a version of this salad with whatever I have around. It's sort of a Cambodian/Vietnamese/Thai mash up. It's easy to assemble, there's no cooking involved and it's the perfect crunchy salad for a hot summer day.

Cambodian/Vietnamese/Thai Salad

1 package vermicelli rice noodles soaked in hot water according to the instructions on the package (I recently found a whole grain brand that is very good)

Mix together: 
2 parts vinegar (white vinegar or rice vinegar are best but I've used apple cider vinegar and it's not bad! Just avoid red wine or balsamic vinegar, that would be weird)
1 part sugar (or honey or agave)
pinch of salt

You can heat the vinegar and sugar to help it dissolve. You should have somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/2 a cup liquid depending on how many mouths you're feeding. Taste, it should be sweet and tangy, add more sugar if necessary. Then add sliced chili and salt. When the liquid has cooled a little add some or all of the following and let pickle while you get everything else ready. I often leave the cucumber out unless I don't have any carrots:

cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
carrots, sliced into matchsticks
red onion, thinly sliced
a sliced thai chili (optional)

Assemble all or some of the following on top of your cool vermicelli noodles:
lettuce leaves
bean sprouts
fresh mint
fresh thai basil (optional)
chopped salted and roasted peanuts
chicken ( look-up a recipe for lemongrass chicken, I usually make a vegetarian version, but I'm sure shredded rotisserie chicken would be just fine)
red sweet pepper (not traditional but good)

Remove your pickled vegetables from their liquid and reserve liquid. Arrange vegetable on top of noodles with the rest of your toppings. 

Add to Reserved Liquid:
Few dashes fish sauce until you get the taste you like (omit for vegans)

Then serve the liquid in little bowls, one for each salad, to pour as much or as little as you like over your salad. Plop a nice big bottle of Sriracha on the table and mange. Cold beer is perfect with this meal.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Quick Salt Pickles

I am usually the one who is out at night. A play, a drink with a friend, a late night of work, or a weekend out of town, and when this happens, despite Chris' sweet calls wondering how soon I'll be home, I know that he secretly relishes the time alone. Our room becomes slightly less claustrophobic, he can spread out on the bed, leave dirty socks on the floor and watch whatever he wants on TV, without the nagging, tickling, squirming, dirty dish making wife around. 

But tonight the roles have reversed. Chris is off with a friend at a baseball game and everyone is out of town for the July Fourth holiday. So I shut the windows, turned on the AC and hooked my laptop up to the TV.

You see, I recently discovered (like two days ago) that you can instantly watch Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations on Netflix. Not an episode or two, not a bunch of clips, but 9 full seasons of badass, international, food-porn. 

I'm staying in tonight. A poor man's (woman's) vacation.

My lack of desire to cook has not gone away so after a trip to the farmer's market, I decided to quick pickle some cucumbers and radishes and toss them into a salad of leftover odds and ends from the refrigerator.

About half way through an episode in India, I started to get a craving. At this point I'd already eaten a large salad with peaches, goat feta, pickles and red onion, with some good crusty slices of sourdough. But I thought to myself, "If I were in a restaurant, that would have just been the appetizer!" I learned this sort of gluttinous justification from my mother, "a cupcake is really like only one layer of a two-layer cake, so why not eat two!"

So I paused Anthony, put on a pair of pants and flip-flopped over to the Pakistani Tea House on Church Street. It's open all night and frequented by cabbies and hardcore locals who don't need white linen napkins at every meal. The food resembles what you might find in an Indian restaurant and it's fresh, it's cheap and really, really good. 

I got a little curry chicken, some saag and some lentils. Now I needed a beer to go with meal number two, so, warm paper bag in hand, I flip-flopped down to the neighborhood bodega, and picked up an additional box of cereal and carton of milk, to justify using my debit card for a bottle of beer. New York is great sometimes.

When back at home, I gobbled down my take-out, as Tony gobbled down his. Discovered the food-porn episode, grabbed my beer, spread out on the bed and while admiring the sock-free floor, pondered which episode to watch next.


David Chang's Quick Salt Pickles (Master Recipe) (makes about 2 cups)

2 meaty Kirby cucumbers, cut into 1/8" thick disks
1 bunch radishes, well scrubbed and cut into wedges through the root end
1 large or 3 small daikon radishes, peeled and cut into very, very thin slices

1 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt

1. Combine the vegetable with the sugar and salt in a small mixing bowl and toss to coat with the sugar and salt. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Taste: If the pickles are too sweet or too salty, put them into a colander, rinse off the seasoning, and dry in a kitchen towel. Taste again and add more sugar or salt as needed. Serve after 5 to 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.