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Monday, February 28, 2011

Rainbow Greens

Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.
(Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food.

When I was a child, I ate as a child, tormented by the greens on my plate.  Perhaps because the greens were never actually green.  They were steamed or boiled to death in variant shades of beige and khaki - far beyond recognition of their true color, flavor and natural goodness.  
How was I to know that asparagus, “the Queen of Vegetables” (as my mother proclaimed) was anything but a vile, limp, grey and fibrous stalk I could barely chew? Who’d imagine that broccoli had a snap, a pleasant crunch when braised to a lovely shade of bright green? Who knew from the mush of a brussel sprout that the true vegetable had a bite, and that it was, in fact, a delicious mini-cabbage?  Spinach?  Something of a slime of bitter dark and mysterious green with lemon. Who’d suspect it could be the gentle bed of a lovely salad?
Fortunately, cooking well is the best revenge for the assaults at the table of childhood.   
Rarely a night goes by when I don’t make a salad.  And I don’t just toss ingredients together.  I compose them.  To me,  a proper salad is a celebration of flavor, color and texture.   A combo of sweet,  salty, and crunch.  To make a salad, I often take out a saute pan, heat, and toss in a handful of snow peas or green beans, not so much to cook them, but to release the flavors in olive oil and garlic.    
So much for the general gist.  This week’s Kitchen Challenge on Open Salon calls for dark, leafy winter greens.  The rainbow chard at the market called to me.  
Confession: I’ve never cooked chard before.  
Discovery: chard is like spinach with big beautiful leaves and a hint of beet flavor running through in its veins.  Flash-cooked, it makes a sensational winter salad. Try it on a bed of spinach, as follows.
   
Flash-Cooked Chard with Roasted Beets 
on a Bed of Baby Lettuce with Berries, 
Pears and Pistachio Nuts
Ingredients:
Bunch of rainbow chard (or Swiss Chard)
3 or 4 cups baby spinach
6 or 7 leaves of radicchio
2 roasted beets, sliced
1 red anjou pear, sliced
1/2 cup blackberries
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pistachio nuts
salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar to taste
To prepare chard
  1. Soak in pot of cold salt water to remove grit from leaves
  2. Separate the stem and leaves of the greens. Chop the stems into 1/2 inch pieces. To shred greens, stack leaves, then roll them like a cigar, and cut into thin strips.
  3. Heat olive oil and garlic i skillet, toss in stems until they begin to brown, toss in leaves stir until the leaves begin to wilt.  
  4. Turn off heat and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice
To compose salad:
  1. Toss radicchio and spinach leaves together, and top with prepared chard
  2. Add slices of beets, pear, berries, nuts.
  3. Drizzled olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Health benefits of Swiss chard*
Swiss chard like spinach is a powerhouse veg, 
  • A source of many phytonutrients that have health promotional and disease prevention properties.
  • A low-cal choice, recommended for cholesterol control and weight reduction.
  • An excellent source of anti-oxidant vitamin-C to quench free radicals.  Lab studies suggest that foods rich in vitamin C help maintain normal connective tissue, prevent iron deficiency, and also helps boost immunity.  
  • An excellent source of vitamin-K, good for bone health.  Adequate vitamin K in the diet also helps limit neuronal damage in the brain - a factor in the treatment of  Alzheimer's disease.
  • A rich source of omega-3 fatty acids; vitamin-A and flavonoids - anti-oxidants like ß carotene, alpha carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • Also rich in B-complex group of vitamins such as folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid that are essential for optimum cellular metabolic functions.
  • A source of minerals like copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids. 
Safety profile
  • Because of its high vitamin K content, those taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid dark leafy greens since they can increase the vitamin K concentration in the blood which is what the drugs are often attempting to lower. 
Photos:  V. Henoch 

Happy, healthy greens to you ... and thanks for chomping by. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Food Bloggers: Are you or have you ever been...

Is it fair game to call a food blogger a flogger?




Well, are you?


On a quest for the “perfect” fudge meringue cookie?
Obsessed with the avocado?
Challenged by the smallest things in the kitchen?
  (I coulda sworn I had a zester in this drawer, now where the f@#!% is it?)

Do you read me?  Can you relate?  Let’s see: Do you shop for photogenic vegetables?   Do you photoshop your dishes?  Are you always on the  lookout for colorful plates for “props?”  Do you buy flowers for the table? Do you religiously follow your recipes? Or do sometimes cheat on the ingredients?  Have you ever invented a recipe, then passed it off as a old and treasured family secret? Are you epicurious?  Do you Saveur every bite? Do you wish your guests bon appetit? Do you have a passion for cooking?  Or do you prefer baking?  Do you frost your hair? Or is that frosting in your hair?   

Are you a gourmet or a gourmand?  Do you travel for food? Do you seek out  farmers’ markets the way other people go to parks and museums? Do you know where to eat and drink in New Zealand? Do you ever carry a camera into a restaurant, then ask for an extra special serving just because you’re “writing a blog?”  Do you consider yourself a culinary insider? Or do you prefer cooking outdoors? Are you a smoker?  Do you keep kosher? 
Are you a literary cook? Do you like water for chocolate? Are you a Wild Thing in the Night Kitchen?  Have you ever fried green tomatoes? Have you tried green eggs and ham? Do you consider the lobster when steaming? Have you ever wondered what you’d order for breakfast at Tiffany’s?   Do you always write the truth? Have you ever dabbled in fiction? Do you know what mystery meat actually is?  Do you ever plot your posts?    
Do you taste-as-you-bake?  Do you lick the beaters?  Do you inexplicably put on pounds?  Do you have a dog who cleans your floors?   Would you experiment with recipes calling for tequila before sunrise? Have you ever mixed yourself a martini in the morning, just to sample it for taste, clarity and “bloggability?”  Have you ever started a tempest in a teapot?    Do you have strong opinions on brining turkeys?  Are you ambivalent or violently opposed to beans?  Do you know beans and rice? Have you seasoned all your pans?  Do you put your fine silver and crystal into the dishwasher because who really cares?  Do you ever want to just stop... and throw in the towel?   
Is that a smile on your face?  Well, wipe it off.  Because I don’t find this funny at all.  



Thanks anyway for stopping by. 


Saturday, February 19, 2011

When Life Hands You Lemons



Just add water

Think of the lemon as a small gift of nature. 


Rich in vitamin C, lemon is also a source of vitamin B, riboflavin, essential minerals - calcium, phosphorus, magnesium.   Proteins and carbs, too.  Add a slice of lemon to water and you have a glass of sunshine with the benefit of good nutrition
  • Good for your stomach, lemon is a natural tonic for indigestion,heartburn, even hiccups. 
  • Good for your liver as well as a cleansing agent for the kidney’s and blood.
  • Good for your skin, an anti-aging remedy and cooling agent for sunburn
  • Good for your teeth and gums and a palette clear.  
  • Good for gargling: lemon has an antibacterial property, a remedy for sore throat 
  • Good for your diet: lemon works as a catalyst for weight reduction.
  • Good for your heart: high in potassium content, lemon helps control blood pressure
  • Good for a cold and fever: a diuretic, lemon helps flush out flush out bacteria and toxins out of the body.  


For more benefits of lemons, read on. 

Just add ice. And fizz. 

A splash of sparkling water chilled with juiced-up ice. What could be simpler and more refreshing?  Call it lemonade-lite. With no sugar added, what better, healthier alternative to a cola?  For juiced-up ice cubes, take fresh squeezed lemons or orange juice, pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Keep plenty on hand. 



Just add fruit. And energy.    

Here's a Power Breakfast Smoothie for you. Anything goes: juice, ice and yogurt make the basic blend.  Suggested ingredients: 
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fruit juice (i.e. orange,cranberry, etc.)
  • 6 to 8 ice cubes
  • Dash of cinnamon
For added nutrition use:
  • 1/4 cup frozen berries
  • 1 tablespoon soy protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped almonds
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ.
Blend until smooth. Then add frozen fruit - berries of your choice -  until smoothie is the consistency you desire. The basic recipe is: ice, fruit, yogurt, juice and/or milk.  You might add just a splash of milk to smooth it out.
Just add alcohol. And wow.
This is One Bloody Good Martini, as martinis go.  (Down easily.) Need I say more?


Ingredients
  • 4 ounces vodka (Absolute Citron)
  • 2 tablespoons chilled Cointreau or flavored orange liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 
  • 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
  • 2 blood orange slices
  • 6 ice cubes
Preparation
  1. Shake all ingredients except orange slice in cocktail shaker until shaker is frosted and very cold. 
  2. Strain into one 8-ounce martini glass. Garnish with orange 
Nutrition Facts 
Makes 1 cocktail
Facts per Serving
Calories: 214 Fat, Total: 0g Carbohydrates, Total: 3g
Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 6mg Protein: 0g
Fiber: 0g % Cal. from Fat: 0% % Cal. from Carbs: 6% 
Tip: Shaken but not stirred.  The secret to making a bar-tender perfect martini is starting with very cold ingredients, and shaking the mix in a cocktail shaker until it becomes frosted and so cold that you can no longer hold it. Shaking chills the ingredients and blends the drink just enough to balance the flavors.
Just add Springtime.  And Cheers!

Drink to your health. And thanks for stopping by.

Photos: V. Henoch 
Recipes adapted from Sunkist.com,  lifeMojo.com




Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roses are Red.Oranges are . . . Orange. Chicken Israeli-Style


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Rising to the Kitchen Challenge in Israel
Jaffa Orange-Ginger Chicken with Baharat 

Generally, no politics at the table.  But this week’s Call to Citrus got me started.  Thinking about cooking and baking with zest on a cold winter’s day.  Thinking about Florida and California dreaming in the deep, heady perfume of the orange stands in the Westborn Market in Dearborn, Michigan.  Thinking about the warm appeal and hospitality of Mediterranean food,  and then the events over the past weeks in Egypt -- I find myself contemplating prospects of a new Middle East... and wrestling with the incomparable, incomprehensible,  and complex politics of the Jaffa orange. 

Jaffa oranges. Thick-skinned.  Easy to peel.  Nearly seedless.  Similar to Valencia oranges, but sweeter.  Jaffa oranges take their name from the ancient port city in Israel of that name, now incorporated with Tel Aviv.    Also known as the shamuti orange, the Jaffa variety is very cold tolerant, and adaptable enough to grow outside the tropical regions normally associated with citrus crops. 

Jaffa oranges have been in the world market for more than a century.  Along with kosher wine, they were the first imports from Palestine. In the 1880’s  they were introduced to Florida, where they are still grown today. 

A branded brand.

An enduring symbol of both Israeli and Palestinian national pride, the Jaffa orange brand has become the very icon of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a flashpoint for boycott of Israeli goods.  For Israelis, the Jaffa orange symbolizes the restoration of a neglected land. To Palestinians, the orange is emblematic of a land lost, a people divided,  a desperate state of limbo and deprivation. Waiting. 

Israelis speak of the unspeakable as “the situation” -- a state of constant vigilance, tension and military preparedness, described in one of two ways : sheket  (quiet) or war.   

A stone’s throw - or a Qassam rocket launch away - there’s Gaza City, hell on earth with a beach,  where 1.5 million people live on the basic subsistence of foodstuffs shipped in through Israeli border crossings or through the tunnels from Egypt.  There the Jaffa orange is a rarity, but a memory in the fruit stalls. 

The march of time and water shortages (nearing crisis in recent years)  have eroded the role of citrus in Israel’s high- tech economy today. And yet.   Those who understand the science and imperative of the land know that the solutions must come soon or blow the region apart. It’s not just the “bolitics” (it’s all bolitics, they say).  Peace must come out of necessity: for food and water.  Those who understand Israel know that Jewish and Arab roots run deep in the land and are entangled in a complex and delicate ecosystem, a battle for survival where science and technology, national security, water quality and agriculture, business and banking, bandwidth, communication, and tourism... all must be shared in order to move forward. 

Maybe this is the moment . . . to put our trust in freedom.' A quarter-century after his release from the Soviet Union, Natan Sharansky is quoted in The Jerusalem Post, (02/12/11) observing that the time for an ‘even purer’ push for democracy is unfolding in the Middle East.  And it’s coming now, he states: “Not from the peace process at all. Here, people are coming and demanding to build from the bottom, without any connection [to the peace process].  This is a great chance.” 



This is the time... For more perspective, read the cover article in the The New York Times MagazineThe Israel Peace Plan That Almost Was and Still Could Be.

Back on the range, cooking chicken today, I offer a favorite recipe.  Not by coincidence, it’s a recipe I often use for Passover, the Jewish celebration of freedom, in remembrance of Egypt. 

Jaffa Orange-Ginger Chicken with Baharat and a Taste of Honey

As in everything-Israeli and all-things Jewish in the kitchen, the recipe for Israeli-style orange chicken has a long history.  My version is an adaptation from The Foods of Israel Today, a fab cookbook by Joan Nathan. Jaffa Orange Chicken (oaf tapoozim) is a Friday night tradition that made its way into mainstream Israeli cooking in the 70‘s by way of a the popular Israeli cookbook, A Taste of Tradition, by Ruth Sirkis.  Nathan’s version kicks it up a notch using eastern Mediterranean spices -- chili, cumin, coriander,  cinnamon, nutmeg in a bouquet called baharat. 

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INGREDIENTS

4 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon baharat  (or to taste)
1 tablespoon ground ginger (or to taste)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup orange liqueur
1 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons orange zest
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystalized ginger 
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
2 tablespoon toasted almonds, chopped (optional)

Here’s what you do

  1. Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise. Mix with salt, baharat and ground ginger
  2. In heavy frying pan, heat oil and saute the chicken gently, just a few minutes on each side to brown. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
  3. Add the wine, orange liqueur, chicken broth, honey, orange juice and fresh ginger to the pan and simmer to reduce slightly until a light syrup has formed (about 15 minutes).
  4. Return chicken to the sauce in the skillet, add zest, crystallized ginger and almonds, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Add orange sections and heat just until warm.
  5. Serve on a bed of couscous or rice 

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For dessert:  Orange Mandelbrot (almond biscotti)  from Mark Bittman, 
The Best Recipes in the World.  (Will save for another time.)  


Happy Valentine’s Day.  And thanks for dropping in. 
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