A few reasons why I love eating in Italy…..
French Toast with Crumbled Potato Chips, Beer Battered Hotdogs and Saltine Marshmallow Toffee were three of the published recipes I judged recently for a culinary contest. All I could think about as I critiqued them was how differently I eat from most people around the country.
Don’t get me wrong, I love regional cuisine. One of the primary reasons I travel is to try shrimp and grits in South Carolina or mole in Mexico, but I certainly don’t dabble in what I call carnival dishes using processed foods as ingredients. While I’m certain that many of these foods are delicious and have countless fans, the thought of eating them makes my arteries cling. In fact, according to a recent study, unhealthy eating habits are responsible for more deaths than tobacco and high blood pressure per year.[i]
We have an obesity epidemic in this country and we need to put aside our willful ignorance about food, as the Brooklyn Borough President accurately called it at a symposium I recently went to[ii] , and start reading food labels, shopping outside the inner aisles of the supermarket where all the junk food is located, and educate ourselves about taking changes in our diet instead of just buying everything Big Food pushes in our faces.
Forget the Keto diet, the Paleo diet or whatever else is the trend of the day. The healthiest diet is a whole foods diet. Skip the doritos, the donuts and the bleached white flour and put aside a little time each week to prepare food that uses fresh ingredients. Tweak your grandmother’s apple pie recipe - cut back on the sugar in it and definitely don’t add potato chips for crunch if you really want to eat healthier. (Nuts and oatmeal, for example, are natural foods and are healthier ways to add crunch.)
And don’t forget to eat seasonally. Right now, the alliums (onions, garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks, and chives) and asparagus are coming into season on the east coast. So start by adding some asparagus to your diet. Asparagus is high in vitamin K, folate, copper, vitamin B1, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin C and vitamin E.[iii]
Growing up, it was fashionable in my house to cook them standing up in a tall asparagus pot and steam them to death. Of course, this killed all the nutrients, too. No wonder we all hated asparagus then. The rule of thumb when cooking asparagus is that they start out bright green and should end up bright green. (In other words, don’t overcook them!)
Here are ten simple and delicious ways you can prepare asparagus:
-Asparagus Soup (Add some spring peas!)
-Asparagus goat cheese tart
-Asparagus grain bowl
-Poached and served with grated hard-boiled egg
-Shaved in a coleslaw
-Asparagus with pasta, lemons and tomatoes
-Poached salmon and asparagus
I recently went to Oaxaca and Mexico City. Oaxaca is known for its mole and mezcal. I went to many of the notable restaurants there but my favorite meal was a simple breakfast a local woman made for us on our way to Hierve el Aqua, a petrified waterfall outside Oaxaca City.
But first, I thought it would be appropriate to master traditional frijoles or beans. In Mexico, black bean frijoles are spread on tortillas the way we spread mayo on a sandwich. I even had some on a Mexican pizza – the black beans were used instead of the tomato sauce and it was topped with avocado and cheese. Such an easy thing to make at home!
Black beans are high in fiber and are a great source of magnesium (good for your bones!) and a great vegetarian source of protein.
It’s best to use dried black beans if you want to make a batch but if you’re in a rush, you can substitute canned black beans.
PATI JINLICH’S FRIJOLES OAXAQUENOS
1 pound dried black beans rinsed
1 white onion halved
1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
A couple sprigs fresh epazote or cilantro
5 dried avocado leaves
3 dried chiles de arbol
2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
1/2 cup white onion finely chopped
For garnish queso fresco
For garnish ripe avocado
Place the black beans and the onion in a large soup pot or casserole and add enough water to cover by at least 2- to 3-inches. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat and cover with a lid, leaving it slightly open. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes – making sure there is always sufficient water (if you need to add a cup, make sure it is boiling hot).
Once the beans are cooked and tender, add 1 tablespoon salt and a couple sprigs of fresh epazote or cilantro. Cook for another 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
In a hot comal or skillet set over medium heat, toast the avocado leaves and chiles de arbol for a couple of minutes until fragrant and browned, flipping as they toast. Remove from the heat. Break the leaves into pieces. Remove the stem from the chiles and break into pieces without discarding the seeds.
Working in batches if necessary, add the cooked beans and at least 1 1/2 cups of their cooking liquid (or add water if need be) to the jar of a blender, as well as the avocado leaves and chiles. Puree until a little chunky. In a large skillet or casserole set over medium-high heat, heat the lard or vegetable oil. Once hot, but not smoking, add the chopped onion. Cook until translucent and edges are beginning to brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Incorporate pureed beans and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they thicken to your liking. I cook them for about 10 to 12 minutes.
While my daughter is busy learning about mechanical engineering at college, I recently decided to take a class about mushrooms. (Yes, life is hard!) Why mushrooms? Of course, mushrooms taste wonderful and are part of the culinary heritage of most Asian and European cuisines, but more importantly, they have incredible medicinal benefits.
Mushrooms are one of the only plants food in the world that have naturally occurring Vitamin D. For many women, who have a tendency towards osteopenia and osteoporosis as they age, getting more Vitamin D is essential.
Mushrooms also have anti-aging properties, reduce inflammation and have been used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome and other conditions in traditional medicine. 2]
In addition, mushrooms have adaptogenic qualities. Adaptogens, which are naturally occurring substances in plants, have become popular of late on mainstream health blogs, even though Chinese medicine and Aryuvedic practitioners have been talking about them forever. Adaptogens help regulate the body’s stress response. They react to whatever is stressing your body at that particular time.
In order to pull out their medicinal properties, mushrooms have to be heated. Whether you cook with button, cremini, oyster, shiitake or any mushroom variety, it’s important to use organic mushrooms to ensure you get their medicinal effects. Try them in a soup or stew, or sauté them and put them in an omelet or on polenta.
In the class I took, we focused mostly on reishi mushrooms. Reishi mushrooms are also known as the mushroom of immortality. Studies show that they can strengthen immune responses in humans, lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation and moderate stress. They’re also good for your kidneys.
According to the herbalist who taught the class, you use mushrooms to avoid illness, not to get better. In other words, they might help prevent you from getting a cold, but won’t cure it once you have it.
The easiest way to use reishi mushrooms, is to make your own delicious mushroom tonics and teas. When using actual reishi mushrooms to make your tea, fill a large pot (a dutch oven will do) with filtered water. Bring it to a boil, as soon as its boiled, put in the reishi mushrooms and let it simmer for three hours. (If you have an instant pot, cook it for an hour.) After cooking, wring out the mushrooms into the water.
You can reuse the mushrooms. You’ll know it’s time for a new mushroom, when the water turns clear. Store the mushroom in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with a little water. (I tried this but left it in there for too long and it started to get moldy so use it within a week or two.) I went to Blue Oyster Cult at my local farmers’ market and they told me it was okay to store the mushrooms in the freezer.
So what does mushroom tonic taste like? It’s definitely bitter. I added some salt to it and was very happy with the taste. (I had a little truffle salt sitting around and well, that made it divine). Others like to counter the bitterness with a bit of honey.
If you don’t have access to reishi mushrooms, look for a dried source online. You can also use tinctures or dried mushroom powder.
I know, I know, I haven’t written a blog post in a very, very long time. I’ll just leave it at this: last year at this time, my mom died. A few months after that, my dad passed away, too.
From dealing with elderly parents the past few years, my mind has been more on aging gracefully than eating gracefully. But if I’ve learned anything of late, it’s that they’re ever so connected.
During this time, I've also been teaching kids how to cook and eat healthy with a national non-profit called Wellness In the Schools. As my parents became the children and I became the reluctant parent, I realized that a lot of the culinary skills I used in dealing with children (including my own child, now in college) helped me in dealing with my parents.
Working with mostly underserved kids everyday, I saw firsthand how much junk food they bring for lunch and how they avoid the salad bar and other healthier options that are readily available. Sadly, many have never been exposed to them at home. I see lots of obesity, diabetes, asthma and allergies. Cut to fifty, sixty years later and you can see how these things can play out, especially with the obesity and diabetes.
My parents had so many health issues but they never made the connection that food can be medicine. You can imagine how many times I explained to them how their first line of defense with the diabetes, the acid reflux, the hypertension, etc. was to eat healthier. So I’m going to focus this blog more on how eating healthy can affect us as we age. As kids, we all think we’re indestructible and will live forever.
We can all make gradual changes in the way we eat. Going on diets is difficult because it’s all about loss, but if we add things or “crowd the plate," as we teach the kids, with some healthier options, eventually we might have less and less fries on our plate and more and more salad. And guess what? After a while, we don’t miss the fries as much.
My parents never saw a vegetable they liked. I would sneak some broccoli or other vegetables into their pasta, the way many parents do with their kids. (I know this is controversial but I'm all for it!) My dad was severely constipated- partly because of medication, but mostly because he didn’t eat any fiber. When I spoke to him one day about how diet could be helpful, he more or less admitted that it was easier to take a pill. He was from that generation where doctors were considered gods and if the doctor gave him a pill, he’d rather take that than make a lifestyle change or two.
In my schools, I learned that one way to get kids to eat salad and other healthy greens is by having them growi their own food. We have hydroponic gardens in some schools. In other schools, there are programs where the teachers and children grow enormous amounts of greens in outdoor gardens. (See Edible Schoolyard, for a great example). When you’re involved in growing and harvesting your own food, you become more likely to eat it. I love that some of my kids who wouldn't be caught dead eating the salad bar at school would eat Swiss chard when they'd see me walking around with a bowl of it that's been harvested from their tower garden. I always tell them, try it five or six times, because you need to give yourself time to develop a taste for something new.
Now that’s it warm out, if you've never done it before, start bringing some healthier foods to your diet by growing a few herbs. Start with basil, cilantro and parsley because not only are they full of vitamins, but they complement so many things that we eat. I used to buy my herbs from my local farmers’ market. Being a city girl without a lot of direct light, I now grow my own with a small hydroponic garden. My parents wouldn’t eat the broccoli or other greens, but they did like that pesto I’d make with fresh herbs in some of their foods. So did the kids. Herbs add such great fresh flavor to what you eat but also have wonderful health benefits. Basil is anti-inflammatory. Parsley aids digestion. Cilantro has tons of Vitamin A. If you end up having too many herbs, just throw them in the food processor with a little olive oil, garlic and salt and make pestos that you can freeze in ice cube trays.
I'm on my fourth batch of macaroons for Passover. Love these because they're gluten-free but also because they're probably the easiest dessert I'll ever make. I don't know why I don't make them all year round, as what other cookie takes about 10 minutes to prepare?
Each time I make them, I add something different. I started off with lemon peel and vanilla extract. Second time, I subbed the vanilla extract for almond extract. Third time I used orange peel. And this last time, I added a little rose blossom extract, just because I'm always trying to think of things I can do with that bottle on my shelf.
Get creative when you make your own macaroons! Sprinkle chocolate on the top. Add crushed pistachios or almonds. Try lime peel. And don't just save them for Passover, especially if you're gluten-free.
MACAROONS WITH ORANGE PEEL AND ROSE WATER
Makes 2 dozen
4 large egg whites
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon rose water
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or cover with Silpat.
Stir together the egg whites, sugar, orange zest, almond extract, coconut and a pinch of salt until combined. Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop onto the baking sheet.
Bake 15-20 minutes, until the tops are pale gold. Transfer with a spatula to a rack to cool.
It''s hard being Jewish when you're gluten-free and don't eat meat. I mean, there goes Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls. But this year, I'm prepared and I made my own Vegetarian Matzoh Ball Soup. While my matzoh balls weren't as fluffy as my mom's, they were quite serviceable.
I admit, they took me a few tries. The first time I tried to make gluten-free matzoh balls, I substituted almond meal for the matzoh meal. They tasted exactly like I substituted almond meal for matzoh meal and sank like lead to the bottom of my soup.
Now that matzoh is on every store shelf, I bought a box of Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzoh from Whole Foods, (well, actually I bought three- the first two boxes got eaten before I got around to making the matzoh balls.) I put the matzoh in the food processor and ground it into fine matzoh farfel. From there, I made the matzoh balls, just like Bubbie used to make.
Because it's not made with one of the five grains -barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt- gluten-free matzoh, which is made with tapioca, is not really considered appropriate for a seder by religious authorities.
Serve with your favorite vegetable or chicken broth and garnish with fresh dill.
GLUTEN-FREE MATZOH BALLS
Makes 10-15 matzoh balls, depending on whether your ancestors are from the large or small school of matzoh balls.
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup gluten free matzoh meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons seltzer
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced (optional)
In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs.
Add the matzoh meal, salt, the seltzer, pepper and parsley. Add more almond flour if it appears to thin.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Bring to a boil a large pot of salted water.
With wet hands, roll the mixture into balls.
Drop the matzoh balls into the boiling water.
Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. The balls will begin to float to the top.
Drain and add to the chicken or vegetable soup with a slotted spoon.
Garnish with fresh dill.
Spring and St. Patrick's Day call for a little green pea soup. I grew up eating pea soup with dumplings. My grandmother made hers with dried split peas and she sent me home with some every time I visited her. That was comfort food to me. Even my dad, who can cook only about five things, likes to make split pea soup. Eventually, I learned to make it myself, and always had a batch around in the winter. I don't make the dumplings anymore, because they're not gluten-free, but they're easy enough to make with some gluten-free flour.
I never had fresh pea soup until about two years ago and then there was no turning back for me. Just the vibrant green color is enough to convince me that this is the only kind of pea soup for me.
It's light, versatile, vegan and vegetarian. And of course, gluten-free. I used rosemary in mine, but feel free to substitute sage or mint. Closer to spring, I'll use fresh peas once they start to appear at the farmers' market. In the summer, I'll switch out the rosemary for basil.
VEGETARIAN SPRING PEA SOUP
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch scallions, washed and chopped
4 cups homemade vegetable stock or 2 cups organic boxed vegetable broth + 2 cups water (I use Brad's Organic)
2 10 ounce packages frozen organic peas
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup plain organic Greek yogurt
1/2 cup chopped chives, mint or parsley
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot, add the scallions, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the scallion is tender.
Add the vegetable stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil.
Add the frozen peas and rosemary and cook for 3 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Fresh peas will take a few minutes longer).
Salt to taste and let the soup cool slightly.
Puree the soup in batches in a blender on low speed.
Before serving, add the lemon juice and a dollop of yogurt.
Garnish with chopped chives, mint or parsley.
When I went gluten-free, I saw it as a great opportunity to experiment in the kitchen. Without having to make dietary changes, I don't thing I would have ever been curious to try grains like amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat and so many varieties of rice including bamboo and black forbidden rice. Not just in main courses, but in desserts. Who knew I'd become obsessed with rice pudding?
Of course, the first thing most of us try when we go gluten-free is gluten-free pasta. I've tried brown and white rice pasta, corn pasta, and quinoa pasta from most major brands. I'm not a big fan of corn pasta, even though I must say some of them taste pretty good, because not only do many of them use non-GMO corn, but also because corn contains its own kind of gluten and some health practitioners advise to stay away from it.
Lately, I've been trying various Asian noodles that I haven't tried before. King Soba makes a variety of organic gluten-free noodles that I've been having a good time with in the kitchen. I've tried their Organic Sweet Potato and Buckwheat Noodles (all buckwheat, no whole wheat flour!) and now I'm loving their Organic Pumpkin, Ginger and Brown Rice Noodles. I like them because they are lighter, tastier and easier to digest than regular brown rice noodles. They're available at Whole Foods and most health food stores.
While I've been playing in the kitchen with the noodles, I've also been enjoying a bottle of green cucumber vinegar that someone gave me. It's lovely drizzled in a salad. (Perhaps one with that black forbidden rice.) I decided to use it in this dish, too, but you can substitute brown or white rice vinegar instead.
GLUTEN-FREE PUMPKIN,GINGER & BROWN RICE NOODLES WITH SHRIMP AND SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thin
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
¼ cup green cucumber vinegar
¼ cup gluten-free tamari
¼ cup water plus one tablespoon
¼ cup raw honey
2 Persian cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch slices
2 portions King Soba Pumpkin, Ginger and Brown rice noodles (4.4 oz)
1/2 pound raw peeled shrimp, sauteed or grilled
2 scallions, cut into diagonal slices
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
In a small saucepan combine the mushrooms, ginger, vinegar, tamari and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. When cooled, add the honey and stir until dissolved.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook as this pasta gets mushy if cooked too long. Drain in a colander and run under cold water.
To arrange the noodle dish, place the noodles in a medium sized bowl. Add the shrimp, scallions, sesame seeds and dressing. Toss to coat. To finish, drizzle with the toasted sesame oil.
Who needs chocolates when you can start the day with this special Valentine's smoothie?
The color alone will make you fall in love! This is one of my favorite smoothies that I've made to date. I soak the cashews overnight to make them more digestible, but if you are making this at the last minute, don't worry about it.
For the beets, you can leave them raw but if you don't have a powerful blender, I would recommend cooking them. That way, you'll also have beet juice that you can save for another recipe. My favorite way to prepare them is to roast them in a pan with water and covered with foil for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Roast a few so you can use the rest elsewhere.
Beets also pair well with apples or cherries, so you can substitute the pomegranate juice with either an apple, a handful of cherries or apple or cherry juice. I originally used pomegranate seeds instead of pomegranate juice. The taste was delicious but I kept biting into too many seeds. If you have a Vitamix, the seeds should pulverize.
If you want the smoothie a bit thicker, substitute greek yogurt for the almond milk or do half and half. And lastly, start with ½ teaspoon rose water. If you feel it needs a little more, add a tiny bit at a time. You don't want the rose water to overpower the smoothie. You can find rose water at most Middle Eastern stores.
Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds or chopped pistachios as garnish and give to your favorite valentine.
STRAWBERRY, BEET & POMEGRANATE SMOOTHIE WITH ROSE WATER
Makes 1 large smoothie
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen strawberries, preferably organic
1 tablespoon raw cashews, soaked overnight
½ roasted or boiled medium size red beet
¾ cup almond milk or greek yogurt or a combination of both
¼ cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ teaspoon rose water
Optional: Pomegranate seeds or chopped pistachios
Throw everything in the blender and puree.
Garnish with pomegranate seeds or pistachios.
Vietnamese food is such a wonderful world cuisine because it balances sweet, sour, salty and spicy components. Although I still have a lot to learn about Vietnamese food, I’ve noticed that the more traditional food from Hanoi and the north is often influenced by their Chinese neighbors - with stir-fries and many rice dishes. Pho, the rice noodle soup, is from the north, as are many heartier dishes with beef.
In Saigon and other regions of the south, where many Vietnamese who live in American are from, you’ll see more seafood, vegetables and more spicy and sweeter dishes that use sugar cane. You’ll also find more of a french influence in many of these dishes. In central Vietnam, where the ancient royal courts once were, the food is more elaborate and features many small dishes.
A few years ago, I took my daughter to Vietnam. (She was adopted from Ninh Binh in the north.) One stop on the trip was Hoi An, which is on the south central coast of Vietnam. We were staying at a resort that served assorted regional Vietnam dishes. The food was serviceable, but like many hotels, it lacked any personality. Uninspired, we walked towards the local village and found a restaurant on stilts along the water that we ventured into with our friends who had accompanied us on the trip.
In our family, I’m the Soup Queen as I love to make soups more than anything. Grace is the official Soup Taster. Even though it was about 100 degrees outside, like most Vietnamese, she ordered soup. It was a tomato soup with lemongrass and Vietnamese spices. While The Soup Taster liked everything she'd eaten so far on the trip, this was the first time she said, “Mom, you’ve got to get the recipe." Not being able to speak Vietnamese, I knew this was going to be difficult. I tasted it and our friends tasted it, and we all agreed that I had to figure out how to prepare because it was worth eating again and again.
When I got home I consulted the three or four Vietnamese cookbooks I had but couldn’t find the recipe anywhere. Since I could make a good Italian tomato soup, I figured it wouldn't be that difficult to adapt it and make it Vietnamese. And that seemed just about perfect since we are always happy to adopt Italian food and culture into our multicultural lives.
VIETNAMESE GINGER TOMATO SOUP
2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1 28 ounce can Muir Glen organic crushed tomatoes
1 stalk of lemongrass, (use only the inner yellow section and pound it so the oils are released)
1 inch thick slice of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons nuoc nam sauce (fish sauce)
Juice of 1 lime
1 quart organic vegetable or chicken broth
Cilantro for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Soft tofu cubes, drained
Heat the oil in a large soup pot.
Saute the sliced shallots in the vegetable oil until softened.
Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and stir for one minute.
Add the crushed tomatoes and the lemongrass, fresh ginger, sugar and nuoc nam sauce and stir.
Add the broth.
Bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the lemongrass. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the lime juice and stir.
Add more nuoc nam and red pepper flakes if necessary.
Variation: Add soft tofu, cut into cubes, during the last five minutes when the soup is simmering.
I was cleaning out the freezer where I keep all the gluten-free flours that I don't use very often- the chickpea flour, the brown rice flour, and the sorghum flour, to name a few. I decided I'd start using them up and so I proceeded to make the falafel recipe with the chickpea flour that was on the Bob's Redmill bag.
I'm embarrassed to say that I had never made something as basic as falafels before. The recipe called for the chickpea flour, onion and garlic powder and a host of other dried ingredients. I used real onion and garlic, and added more cilantro and parsley than what was in the recipe. I tested part of the batch and they were delicious but they looked like cookies I would make for St. Patrick's Day- runny green cookies. I added a bit more flour to the remaining batter and then the rest came out perfect.
The next day, I made them again using dried chickpeas that I soaked overnight. You soak them, drain, and then as with the chickpea flour recipe, you throw all the ingredients in the food processor and voila, you've got yourself falafels ready to be baked or fried. I don't know why I never made these before. They're the perfect gluten-free treat. To keep them healthy, I baked them.
They're so easy to make and while they're always great for a sandwich, they're even better to put in a salad or serve as an appetizer. I like them accompanied by some pickled vegetables and a yogurt tahini sauce. Drizzle with some dukkah if you have some around when serving.
BAKED GLUTEN-FREE FALAFELS
Adapted from Mark Bittman
1 ¾ cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
1 teaspoon flax seed
½ cup fresh parsley
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Rinse the soaked chickpeas and put them in the food processor with the garlic, onion, cumin, red pepper flakes, flax seed, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper and baking soda.
Pulse until minced. Taste and adjust seasonings. If they appear to dry, add a little water to the batter.
Form into about 20 balls, about 1 ½ inches in diameter. If desired, slightly flatten them into patties. Patties will make them a bit crisper. Place on a sprayed or oiled baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes and then flip and bake the other side for 5 minutes. Serve topped with lemon tahini yogurt sauce and pickled onions and carrots.
They'll last at least a week in the refrigerator.
LEMON TAHINI YOGURT SAUCE
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup greek or plain yogurt
¼ cup tahini
Pinch paprika or za'atar
Put in a jar and shake. Top with a pinch paprika or za'atar.
PICKLED RED ONION AND CARROT
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 carrot, chopped fine with a mandolin or shredded
Combine apple cider vinegar, water and sugar in a bowl. Stir until combined.
Pour the mixture over the onion and carrot and let it sit for an hour. Pickled onions and carrots will last a few weeks in the refrigerator.
In New York City, we have a rice pudding restaurant called Rice to Riches that people visit in droves. They have about 20 flavors of rice pudding from vanilla to rocky road. Rice pudding is a lovely dessert for those on a gluten-free diet. It's an everyday dessert or can be made festive when dressed up a little with pistachios, dates and a splash of rose flower water.
I love rice pudding warm because it's soothing and feels like comfort food. But I know a lot of people prefer it cold. Last week when I had a bit of the flu, eating a bowl of rice pudding made me feel so much better. Generally, I tend to eat one serving warm right after it's prepared and then refrigerate the rest for later.
I kept my pudding dairy free by using almond milk, but feel free to substitute organic whole milk instead. You can also switch the kind of rice you use. I love jasmine rice, but basmati, arborio and brown rice are just as delicious. Just double check the cooking times on whatever kind of rice you use.
CARDAMOM RICE PUDDING WITH ROSE WATER AND PISTACHIOS
You can find rose water at Kalustyans and other middle eastern stores.
1/2 cup basmati or jasmine rice, rinsed
4 cups unsweetened almond milk
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 vanilla bean, split open and scraped
1/3 cup organic sugar
4 tablespoons shelled pistachios, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons rose flower water
3 dates, pitted and chopped
Honey or maple syrup (optional)
Combine the rice, milk, cardamom and vanilla bean in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and let it simmer, stirring often, until the milk has reduced by about half, 30-40 minutes.
Add the sugar, half of the pistachios and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the cardamom pods and vanilla bean.
Stir in the rose flower water.
Serve warm or chilled, garnished with the remaining pistachios and chopped dates. Drizzle with honey or good quality maple syrup if you want it a little sweeter.
I've read numerous blogs and Facebook posts about detoxing for the new year and just about every post calls for making a green juice. I love green juices as much as anyone, but it's a bit cold outside and I want something a little warm, but still clean and light. For me, that's always been Carrot Ginger Soup. No need to ring in anything new when you've got such a delicious staple around.
When I was in culinary school at Natural Gourmet Institute, we were tested on making this soup. I've always used a sweet potato but at NGI, we used a white potato or oatmeal as thickeners. (If using oatmeal, make sure to use gluten-free oatmeal, if you're gluten-free. Regular oatmeal can be cross-contaminated.) They all work, but I like the sweet potato as it helps maintain the vibrant orange color. It's not a bad idea to double the recipe.
CARROT GINGER SOUP
Generally when I'm pureeing a soup, I use the immersion blender. This is one of the few soups I feel it's better to puree with a blender because it makes for a smoother soup. Cool the soup and puree in batches. If the soup is too thick, add some more broth. Make adjustments with the ginger, lemon and salt. Don't be shy with the ginger as what makes this soup special is that extra flavor you're adding with the ginger and lemon. You can grate the ginger or make ginger juice by grating peeled ginger over a bowl covered with cheese cloth. Squeeze the gratings through the cheesecloth.
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 lb bag carrots, peeled and roughly chopped into chunks
½ medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chucks
4 cups vegetable broth
Juice of a lemon, to taste
2 inches ginger, peeled and minced or made into ginger juice
Sea salt to taste.
Garnish: minced cilantro, sprigs of dill or orange peel
In a soup pot, saute the onion in the oil and the salt until translucent.
Add the carrots, sweet potato and the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer partially covered until the carrots and potato are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. The smaller you chop them, the faster the cooking time.
Let the soup cool and then puree in batches in the blender. Only fill the blender about half way when pureeing. Return to the pot and add the ginger, adjust the stock, lemon juice, ginger and salt to taste. Serve with a garnish of cilantro, dill or orange peel.
In a perfect world, I'd give my friends homemade cookies and raw bars for the holidays made with healthy ingredients like almond butter, goji berries and hemp or chia seeds. But since many of my friends, and none of my relatives, are on the same health supportive journey as me, I thought I would settle on making something with chocolate for holiday food gifts. I just couldn't imagine giving my building's superintendent or my mother cookies made with chia seeds and goji berries and explaining them to either of them.
If I'm going to tell the truth here, I'm too lazy to make ten different kinds of cookies so dealing with chocolate is much easier. I usually make chocolate bark, but this year I thought I'd make some chocolate bars. I bought some 70% dark chocolate from Trader Joe's and also some white chocolate, for no other reason than because my daughter insisted.
To make chocolate bars, just pour the melted chocolate into a mold, and then strategically top with some add-ons. Homemade chocolate bars are a terrific project to clean out the cupboards with - I had orange flavored dried cranberries left over from Thanksgiving, tons of pepitas, sunflower seeds, almonds and a handful of pistachios sitting around and put them to use. My daughter had been given a few candy canes, so we took a couple and chopped them with a knife (a hammer will work, too) and decorated one or two of the chocolate bars with them. What the heck, right?
I don't think you need a recipe for these but for those who want some direction: just melt the chocolate over a double broiler. If you don't have a double broiler, fill a pot about halfway with water and put a stainless steel bowl on top with the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts over medium heat. Pour the chocolate into molds. (You can spray the molds so the bars are easier to get out.) If there's any leftover chocolate, pour it into a sheet pan and you can break it into chocolate bark when it dries.
Add your add-ons and refrigerate until the chocolate is hard. Turn over onto a plate. You can wrap them in cellophane bags.
Here's to a happy and healthy holiday!
I'm finally getting into the holiday spirit. Since I'm really trying to avoid sugar, I'm trying to stay away from making a lot of holiday cookies for gifts because they're just too tempting! But since those cookie cutters are just sitting there waiting to be used, I decided to go ahead and make a fun main course polenta dish using my gingermen cookie cutters. This is fun to have for the kids! It's gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan, too.
HOLIDAY POLENTA MEN WITH KALE PESTO AND TEMPEH TOMATO SAUCE
Soaking the cornmeal will shorten the cooking time. Don't be afraid to season the polenta with fresh or dried herbs. Instead of the ginger men cookie cutters, use other holiday cookie cutters. I also tried a few stars and candy canes that came out beautifully.
When using the kale pesto to decorate, I found it easier to control it by putting a little pesto on a knife and then adding it to the polenta. First I tried putting it in a pastry bag to decorate, but the kale was clumpy and the oil just separated from the kale and made a mess.
Serve on a bed of tempeh tomato sauce.
1 cup organic nonGMO stone ground cornmeal
4 cups water
2 teaspoons sea salt
Leaves from 1 sprig thyme
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing on polenta
Sea salt and pepper
Soak the cornmeal in the water for an hour.
Bring to a boil. Add salt.
With a whisk, slowly drizzle in the cornmeal. Continue whisking for about 3 minutes so the cornmeal doesn't clump. Add the salt, thyme and garlic. Partially cover the pot, and let the polenta simmer. After 10 minutes, remove the lid and stir with a wooden spoon. Repeat until the polenta is cooked, about 20 minutes.
When the polenta is finished cooking, drizzle in a tablespoon of olive oil. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour polenta on to a sheet tray. It should be at least ½ inch high. Smooth the top. Cool until firm in the refrigerator, at least 30 minutes.
Using a ginger man cookie cooker, cut out little men. Save the scraps for another meal.
Brush the top with olive oil. Arrange polenta, oiled side down, on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the top of polenta with oil. Broil until heated through and lightly browned. Alternatively, you can grill them on a stove top grill pan.
When they're cooled, add the kale pesto buttons with a knife or spoon. You can also try eyes, mittens or any other decorations.
Serve on the tempeh tomato sauce.
I like kale pesto because it has a strong flavor. Since the polenta and the tempeh tomato sauce are a bit mild, the pesto gives the dish a surprising burst of flavor. Save the extra pesto for pasta, rice or as a spread on a sandwich. It's also delicious on a baked potato.
1 bunch kale, (about 2 cups)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup roasted walnuts or pine nuts
1 tablespoon white miso (for a vegan version)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Destem the kale. Rinse and roughly chop.
Boil a pot of water and blanch for 2 minutes.
Prepare a bowl with ice water.
Remove the kale from the water and shock in the ice water. When it's cooled, wring out the water from the kale.
Put the kale in a food processor with the garlic, nuts, and miso and blend until smooth.
Add the lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
TEMPEH TOMATO SAUCE
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, stay away from the three grain variety because it contains barley.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups
1/2 package organic tempeh, chopped with a hand grater
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
½ teaspoon oregano
1 28 oz can peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped (Set juice aside).
In a saucepan, brown the tempeh in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
Remove from pan and add onion. Cook until translucent and soft, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute.
Add the oregano, red pepper flakes and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.
Cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When cooked, puree using an immersion blender.
Spoon on a plate and top with the polenta men and kale pesto.
Here's a change of pace from all that Thanksgiving cooking: kelp noodles. I'm sure maybe all of two of you out there have tried them in the past.
So what are kelp noodles? Kelp noodles are made with kelp, a sea vegetable often used in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisines. Kelp noodles are gluten-free, grain-free, and soy-free, and if you're counting calories, you'll be glad to know that they have almost none.
Like tofu, they take on the taste of whatever you're preparing them with. When raw, they have a crunchy texture. Soaked, they'll be a bit less crunchy. I generally use glass noodles (mung bean thread) for Asian dishes but these are nice for a change of pace. You can also use shirataki noodles. Look for them at most health food stores and even at Whole Foods.
Here's a few other ways you can prepare kelp noodles:
Serve with a pesto sauce
Top with avocado cream
Use in an Asian stir fry
Add to a broth or miso soup
Substitute for spaghetti and add tomato sauce
Make pad thai
Stuff them in Vietnamese summer rolls
Serve raw in a salad
EASY ASIAN KELP NOODLE SALAD
Serves 4 as an appetizer
The first time you make a dish with kelp noodles, I would suggest keeping it simple. You'll want to see if you like the taste. Soak the kelp noodles in warm water with some lemon juice for about a half hour before you prepare them so they won't be so crunchy. NOTE: If you have leftovers and put them back in the refrigerator, they will get crunchy again.
I prepared an Asian dressing and served them tossed with red mizuna, edamame and toasted sesame seeds. A Japanese friend of mine noted that wakame, another sea green, would also be excellent choice to add to the kelp noodles for a delicious gluten-free dish.
One 12 ounce package kelp noodles
Juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon agave or organic sugar
1 inch peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 cup chopped red mizuna
1/4 cup organic edamame, cooked
Rinse and soak the noodles for 30 minutes in warm water with the juice of one lemon. Drain.
Toast the sesame seeds in a saute pan until lightly golden and fragrant, tossing frequently. Set aside.
Prepare the dressing in a large bowl by whisking together the brown rice vinegar, sesame oil, agave or sugar, and the ginger.
Heat the noodles quickly in a saute pan or serve them cold.
Toss the noodles in the dressing.
Add the red mizuna, edamame and toasted sesame seeds and serve.
The first time I ate roasted chestnuts was on a trip to Italy. I bought them from a street vendor one gloomy winter afternoon in Vicenza while they were still warm and fragrant. I felt the way my daughter did the first time she ate chocolate. She gave me a look that said why have you been holding this back on me for so long?
The first time I had chestnut soup was back home in New York when David Bouley had a little takeout shop in Tribeca. It was bitter cold and I bought a cup of chestnut soup to go and walked around the neighborhood drinking it out of a cardboard coffee cup. It was the best bowl of soup I ever had, decadent and earthy at the same time.
Last week I was reading The New York Times and came across a mushroom soup recipe for Thanksgiving and I thought I'd give it a try with chestnuts. The recipe also had rice in it and (optional) heavy cream. I played around with it by omitting the rice and adding chestnuts and cauliflower. Pureed cauliflower in a soup will give it the consistency of cream. I think I came up with a winner. The trick is to get the right proportion of cauliflower to chestnuts. My version is gluten-free, vegetarian and dairy-free.
GLUTEN-FREE HOLIDAY CHESTNUT AND MUSHROOM SOUP
You can substitute port for the sherry. For a thinner soup, leave out the cauliflower. If you want a richer soup, you can substitute heavy cream for the cauliflower. Serve with minced parsley or chives.
Makes 7 1/2 cups
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium leek, white part only, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ pounds regular or cremini mushrooms, sliced or coarsely chopped
1 6.5 ounce package peeled and cooked chestnuts roughly chopped (I used Trader Joe's)
1 cup cauliflower, cut into florets
4 cups vegetable stock, preferably homemade. If using boxed and it has a strong taste, dilute it so it's half stock, half water
Bouquet garni of 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs parsley and 4-5 peppercorns
2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari
2 tablespoons dry sherry or port
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or chives
To prepare the dried porcini, steep them in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Strain the liquid to remove any sand and set aside to use later for stock in the soup.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the chopped onion, leek, carrot, celery and the salt. Saute for 8-10 minutes, until the onions are almost translucent.
Add the garlic, stir, and cook for another minute.
Add the fresh and reconstituted porcini mushrooms, the chestnuts, the cauliflower, the vegetable stock, the mushroom water and the bouquet garni and simmer for 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is very soft.
Let the soup cool a bit. Blend the soup in batches in a blender and then return it to the pot. You can also use an immersion blender but it won't be as smooth.
Once the soup is pureed, add the gluten-free tamari, sherry or port, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, thin it out with more vegetable stock. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley or chives.
When I went to culinary school, maple sugar was the only sugar we were allowed to use. Maple sugar and maple syrup are natural products so it was advocated that if we're going to use any form of sugar, it should be good old unprocessed, unrefined maple. Maple syrup supports the immune system and also contains manganese and zinc. If you're going to buy maple syrup, don't skimp on the cheap stuff either! Grade A maple syrup is lighter and milder, Grade B has a more intense maple flavor. Since I'm the one who always makes the cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, I thought this year I'd try it with maple syrup instead of the usual white, refined sugar.
Cranberry sauce gets very personal for people. Some people I know who eat very holistically insist on eating the canned cranberry sauce once a year, because that's what they grew up eating. Personally, I like mine homemade, but I don't like a lot of diced oranges in my cranberry sauce and I don't like nuts in it either. I just want to taste the cranberries.
This year, I bought some fresh cranberries from the farmers' market and thought I'd mix it up with another fall staple - apple cider. Because I love ginger so much and look for an excuse to put it in just about everything, and because it's so good for your digestive system, I added some to the cranberries. Since it's a holiday, you can go all out and use crystallized ginger instead, if you want.
When I was telling my friend Sarah Abrams from the New York Women's Culinary Alliance that I made this wonderful cranberry sauce with maple syrup, she told me that her mom used to make cranberry sauce with horseradish in it. I didn't wince because for years, I used to add a little jalapeno pepper to mine. It tones down the tartness of the cranberries and gives it a nice little unexpected kick. I ran out to my local supermarket, which is conveniently right across the street, and bought a bottle of Gold's horseradish (don't worry, it's gluten-free!) and added a bit to the cranberry sauce. New tradition in my home! Thanks, Sarah!
CRANBERRY SAUCE WITH MAPLE SYRUP
Serves a Thanksgiving crowd
1 ½ pounds fresh cranberries
1 cup unfiltered apple juice
1 cup good quality maple syrup
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated or diced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 ½ tablespoons white horseradish (optional)
1 tablespoon lime juice plus lime zest from 1 lime
Wash the cranberries in a colander. Toss out any bad ones.
In a saucepan, add the cranberries, apple juice and maple syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil and then let simmer until the cranberries pop, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and add the ginger and horseradish, if using.
When cool, add the lime juice and lime zest.
I remember when I was a kid my mom ordered a Waldorf salad at a restaurant instead of her usual iceberg lettuce wedge with Russian dressing. I tasted it and loved the crunchy mix of apples, celery and walnuts served on a bed of lettuce. The Waldorf salad was invented at the Waldorf Hotel in Manhattan (now the Waldorf Astoria Hotel) in 1928, and it deserves a comeback.
I was recently working with my friend Barbara Goodman on a project and she served me a celery root remoulade for lunch, another seminal dish, which combines celeriac, also know as celery root, with a mustard aioli. It was so delicious that I was inspired to go home and make my own twist on the dish- a Waldorf celery root salad.
The classic Waldorf salad uses mayonnaise to hold it together, but I'm not a big fan of mayonnaise. For a lighter, fresher taste, I use Greek yogurt. It's a lovely gluten-free dish for fall and winter.
GLUTEN-FREE WALDORF CELERY ROOT SALAD
Don't be shy with the mustard here. Start small, see if you like it and if you want it to have a bit more of a tang, by all means add more. This dish is great served over escarole or lettuce as an appetizer, or as a side dish with fish. Feel free to add some chiffonaded kale to the salad, too. Since the celeriac can turn brown, it needs to be acidulated right after it's shredded. You can peel the apple, or leave it unpeeled. I liked the unpeeled little pieces of lime green Granny Smith for color. Garnish with the walnuts and lemon thyme. If the thyme isn't available, use parsley.
¼ cup walnuts
4 cups peeled and shredded celery root – about 1 large celery root
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt + 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 1/2 tablespoons organic plain Greek yogurt
1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
2 teaspoons fresh lemon thyme or parsley
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and diced ( approximately 1 cup)
Salt, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
Preheat the oven to 350.
Place the walnuts on a parchment lined baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes until lightly brown and fragrant, tossing frequently. Do not burn. Set aside. When cooled, roughly chop.
To prepare the celery root, cut off the top and bottom ends. Using a knife, cut down the sides the way you would cut a pineapple. Grate the celery root in a food processor or use a hand grater to shred. If you're not afraid of using a mandoline, like me, grate it into matchsticks. Place the celery root in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt and 1 ½ tablespoons of the lemon juice so the celery root won't turn brown. Set aside.
To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together the yogurt, mustard, apple cider vinegar, lemon and lemon zest and salt. Add fresh pepper to taste.
Combine the vinaigrette with the celery root. Toss well. Adjust seasonings, if necessary. Before serving, add the diced apple, toasted walnuts and lemon thyme.