Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fathers day

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The White House Garden: A Twofer

With the adoption of a healthier American lifestyle that the White House Garden models, we could knock a serious blow to two serious concerns:  obesity and spiraling health care costs .   All for $200--the reputed cost of installing the White House Garden.  Labor is on a volunteer basis and free unless you count in the cost of Sam Kass, the official garden keeper.  Sure there are plenty of externalized costs that Obama detractors will be  happy to calculate.  Like the costs of those cute yellow t-shirts the school kids all wear.    But given our frugal times, this can be held up as a paragon of government spending on any cost-benefit/impact analysis spreadsheet.  

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rotisserie Chicken: Take Three. Italian Wedding Soup

On Wednesday you had your rotisserie chicken.  Next up Caesar salad with diced left over chicken.  Next stop, Minestra Maritata, better known as Italian Wedding Soup.  I've improvised the recipe to take advantage of the left over hot dogs that we got from our farm-co-op.  You might think hotdogs as an off ingredient for this blog but these are from pasture-raised cows and taste all the better for it.  Plus it's much faster to prepare the soup.  In the conventional recipe meatballs are used.

It's been a cold and rainy June her in New England.  After putting my long sleeved shirts away a few weeks ago, I retrieved them along with some sweaters from the closet top shelf.  With the overcast skies and relative chill in the air, it's a good day for soup. 

A culinary fun fact.  The origin of the soup is Italian.  The name was miss-translated in an Ellis Island way--it is literally, Married Soup, meaning that the ingredients go well together and in well-married sort of way.  A culinary marriage made in heaven, Italian style!

Use the broth made from the chicken bones and any left over chicken scraps deemed inedible like the gristly parts.   See my broth blog entry to come :-)

chicken broth
tomatoes - I'm using the last of the jars canned last fall
diced onions
butter, ghee and or coconut oil for frying
hotdogs - diced in small pieces
spinach - washed and cut into small pieces
2 eggs
parmesan cheese - grated
creme fraiche

Saute onions and garlic.  Add chopped up hotdogs.  Add broth and chopped spinach and tomatoes.  Stir in the eggs until thin strands appear.  Add the hotdogs to the soup.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with grated cheese and/or spoon of creme fraiche.

Rotisserie Chicken: Take Two. Caesar Salad

Always spelling challenged, this blog entry taught me two new spellings:  Caesar and Rotisserie. 

Early June is true lettuce season.  Romaine is my favorite and considered one of the most nutritious.  I especially like its crunchyness.  When preparing I cut out the stems and use them for scoopy snacks they way most people use celery sticks.  Julia likes these in her lunch box with some sea salt.

A bit of history and a great culinary story.  This salad originates from Mexico and named after Casaer Cardini, an Italian immigrant working as a chef in Tijuania.  There are many variations of the story as told on Wikipedia but I like the one best told by his daughter, Rosa.  The dish was invented as a result of depleted kitchen supplies.  The improvisation made all the better with the table side preparation by the chef himself. 

For the salad
head of romaine
Parmesan Reggiano Cheese-- 2-3 ounces grated
diced left-over chicken

For the dressing
1 table spoon apple cider vinegar
1 table spoon lemon juice
1 table spoon Parmesan cheese 
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 egg yolk
1 clove of garlic
sardines - optional
rinsed capers - instead of the sardines

This is based on the recipe from Sally Fallon's, Nourishing Traditions.
Wash, dry and slice across in bit sized pieces.  Grate Parmesan to sprinkle on top of lettuce or use a vegetable peeler for thin slices.  Combine ingredients for dressing and toss with the lettuce and chicken.  Add the optional croutons at the last minute so they won't get soggy.  

About raw eggs:
Raw egg yolks are a great source of nutrients.  We get our eggs from a farm that has pasture-raised chickens, so I am not worried about using raw egg yolks.  If you are concerned about raw eggs in general or don't have access to pastured [vs pasturized!] eggs, probably best to omit the raw eggs.  

Got Dinner? Rotisserie Chicken. Take One

You know the drill.  It's 4 or 5 o'clock.   Got Dinner?  Pick up a still-hot-from-the-oven rotisserie chicken and some baby spinach on the way home.  Once home put the chicken and any juices and bits you can scrape off the bottom of the container into a covered stove top casserole dish.   A Le Creuset if you are lucky enough to have one.  On a low flame -- just enough to keep the chicken warm and moist.  Saute some onions in another large pot that has a cover. This is much faster if you have some onions cut up and frozen.  Add a little garlic.  Add washed spinach. Baby spinach has the double advantage of tasting better and you don't have the tedious and time consuming task of removing the stems.  Cover the pot. Within minutes the incredible-shrinking-spinach is revealed.  Ready to taste with the addition of vinegar, butter, lemon zest or just salt and pepper.

Rotisserie Chicken Take Two.  Caesar salad with left over chicken
Rotisserie Chicken Take Three.  Minestra Maritata  aka Wedding Soup with chicken broth

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I got published! NYT Amanda Hesser on Michelle Obama as Commander in Chef

So I kind of threw this out there thinking that getting published was a long-shot at best.  If I got lucky, perhaps I could inspire others.  What I have learned has worked for us and maybe it could help others too.  At worst, if left unpublished, I did it for myself, a personal manifesto of sorts expressing my gratitude and respect to Amanda for writing this and to Michelle, for being and staying Michelle.  

On any typical Sunday, Chris an I split the NYT...he gets the front page, sports and business, I get the magazine, book review and style section.  The rest is up for grabs.   We then proceed to drive each other slightly and not-so slightly mad -- reading from our respective sections.  Mind you I have a fairly limited time horizon for reading on Sunday's.  Basically one Charlie and Lola, which lasts about 30 minutes.  

Last Sunday's Amanda Hesser Op Ed stood out.  "You've GOT to respond to this...".  So I did. In under 250 words.

Here it is world!  My 2 cents.

Friday, June 5, 2009

How to Dress an Olive

Olives straight from the jar? Never! At least if you listen to Steve Jenkins, best known for his all-things-cheese know-how. 

The scoop on olives from The Master himself:  

Drain the olives of their brining solution, wash, then soak in cold water.  Then 'dress' them with extra virgin olive oil, better know as EVOO and herbs and spices, if you please.  These will keep in a sealed container on your counter as long as you keep the olives submerged in the olive oil.  Not to worry even if they get a bit shrived...that just means the flavor is more intense.

Julia has these in her lunch box most days.  I've never heard this, but doesn't it make sense that plain old olives would be even better for you than olive oil given how processed olive oil can be?  

Krispy Kale or how to fall in love with a nutritional superstar

This was a big good it is!  And ridiculously easy.  Julia loves it -- I can credit this to her love of anything with salt and copious amounts of olive oil :-) 

Otherwise it can be hard to fall in love wit kale.  Sure it's a reputed nutritional superstar..full of antioxidants, immunity building properties, even anti-cancer factors. But it's funny looking, has a weird texture and a unappealing name.  #1 it needs to be cooked to change the texture and make it more digestible.  Like spinach cooking helps to neutralize the oxalic acid inside.  It also helps to mix it in other foods like you would spinach--eggs, soups and stir fry.  

If you can find kale at a farmers market you will benefit even more.  According to my traditional foods guru, Sally Fallon, conventionally grown kale concentrates the nitrates from the soil and this isn't good!

Head of Kale
celtic sea sale
olive oil

Give kale a good bath before you use--especially if organic.  Tear leaves into bite size pieces then toss with olive oil and sea salt so that the kale is lightly coated.  Cook at 350 for about 15 minutes until crispy.  Any more and it still tastes ok but shrivels up.  That's it!  


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Amanda Hesser: Michelle Obama as Commander in Chef

Amanda Hesser wants Michelle Obama to cook.

It would be great if Michelle or Barak loved to cook.  But they don't.  One of the things that I think is just so likable about Michelle is that she doesn't seem to pretend to be anything but herself.  Barak too but that's a different subject for another blog.  

What MO does love is good food, and I love her for this AND especially for making it so public.  The previous WH residents apparently did so also--but kept this a well-guarded secret.  So huge kudos to them for saying yes to anti-industrial food in such a public manner.

Full disclosure, I am a fan of Amanda Hesser's.  She is the right person to write this op ed.  I do disagree that Michelle or anyone else needs to become a chef, or even be trained by a chef to learn to feed themselves and their family well.  Although I do think a chef is a far better than the conventional approach: a nutritionist or god forbid, a RD, Register Dietician.  I could go on and on about this...and will, but suffice to say right's great to have this open for a true discussion.