Monday, October 30, 2006

Secret soup ingredient

If you are making soup, and you don't have time to make your own broth, then Better Than Bouillon is the way to go. 1 tsp. is the equivalent of 1 bouillon cube or 1 8oz. can of broth.

Friday, October 27, 2006

And That's How The Weekend Began - The Departure

When you live in New York, it sometimes seems impossible to escape the boundaries of the five boroughs. It may even appear that every building, train, avenue and pedestrian is conspiring to prevent your departure. Sitting in a cab on Sixth Avenue in bumper-to-bumper traffic with only fifteen minutes till our bus left, it became clear to me and Margeaux that the city was going to wield every one of her powers in order to insure that we did not have the chance to leave.
“Maybe you should take eighth Avenue,” I told the cab driver wile nervously tapping my foot. It was too seldom that I had the opportunity to visit my mother in the country and I was not going to pass this one up without a fight. Not only was it a necessary break from the melancholy cityscapes of autumn, but also it was to be the culinary kick-off the holiday season. It was the final weekend of apple picking and we planned on making my mother’s melt in your mouth apple pie, there was soups to be made, meats to be braised, and apple butter to be slaved over; we were NOT going to miss that bus!
The travel gods clearly heard my demand because, twenty minutes later, having emerged from the jaws of the city, Margo was settling into her seat, and I was telling my mom what bus be would be arriving on.
“Are you girls hungry?” she asked. My stomach was growling so loudly that I was getting glares from other bus riders who were trying to sleep.
“Mom, when am I not hungry?” I replied with a smile.
“ I’ll have a little something waiting for you when you arrive”
And that was how the weekend’s journey began.

And That's How The Weekend Began - The Arrival

The "little something" she had waiting for us.

Mama Bear’s Outrageously Delicious Carrot Ginger Soup
Serves 3

1-bag of baby carrots
1/2-medium vedalia onion
1inch x 2inch piece of ginger, peeled and shredded
1-clove of Garlic chopped fine
6-cups of vegetable broth
1-handful Pomegranate seeds
Parsley coarsely chopped
1-tablespoon coconut oil

1.) Heat coconut oil over medium heat and sauté onions until translucent.
2.) Add ginger and garlic and cook for 1min.
3.) Add carrots (almost whole bag) stir for 1min then add broth and bring to a boil.
4.) Once broth is boiling, lower flame and simmer for 25-30 min.
5.) Remove carrots from broth, purée in food processor, and add back to broth.
6.) Garnish with parsley and pomegranate seeds.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

One Way To Cure a Hangover -Part II

Breakfast and coffee had begun the process of recovery, but it would take time before I was ready to face the world. Weekends in Brooklyn can be daunting even when you don’t feel as though someone has been hitting you in the head with a hammer for hours. If it isn’t the posh brunch goers that parade Dekalb Avenue, it’s the baby stroller derby that invades Park Slope, or even worse the clumsy rollerblading clans that assault Prospect Park. Nowhere is safe from the nine-to-fivers, who all week-long are tucked neatly away in office building, and are now finally allowed to occupy otherwise peaceful restaurants, parks, and sidewalks. Weekends in Manhattan belong to the tourist, in Brooklyn they belong to the nine-to-fiver.

It was a beautiful day but I was hesitant to go outside. It was necessary however, to obtain some provisions for that night’s dinner so I downed yet another cup of coffee and prepared to brave the cumbersome strollers of Park Slope.
“How do you feel about Tuna?” I asked my Roommate.
I was now at the stage of a hangover when you feel guilty for everything you’ve put your body through and I was ready for a healthy meal. ‘A brisk walk will be good for you’ I told myself.
“ That sounds good,” she replied with a childish grin as she hid her face in her turtleneck sweeter,
“...and maybe some chocolate cupcakes.”

I knew, and any of you that know my roommate know exactly where she wanted me to go, and it wasn’t at all healthy. She did not want just any chocolate cupcake; she wanted Two Little Red Hen’s Brooklyn Blackout Cup Cake, the most sinful and irresistible cupcake ever invented. This unbelievably large cup cake is made out of moist chocolate cake and is slathered in chocolate butter cream icing, sprinkled with chocolate cookie crumbs, and, if that were not bad enough, is virtually exploding with chocolate pudding.
“Okay I’ll go, but I’m not getting anything for myself!” I told her with faltering conviction.

The park was sunny and crowded but, armed with sunglasses and headphones, neither the gangs of pedestrians nor the UV emissions could penetrate my anti-social bubble. With music blasting I kept a steady pace repeating to myself, ‘I will not have any cup cakes. I will not have any cupcakes!’

One Way To Cure A Hangover - Part II cont.

The bakery was full of little children when I got there and I took a deep breath before entering. As I approached the cupcake counter my heart welled up with inexplicable joy. “CUPCAKES!!!!” a little girl screamed with uncontrollable excitement as she ran up behind me and gazed romantically at the array of lavishly decorated goodies.
Maybe I could get something less indulgent, like a cookie, or a slice of pumpkin bread. I glanced back down at the line-up of cup cakes one more time and lost myself in the ripples of buttercream. The name of each cake was desplayed on index cards lovingly decorated with colored markers, Brooklyn Blackout, Pumpkin Spice With Cream cheese icing, Red Velvet, Lemon Cloud…
“Can I help you?” a woman behind the counter asked me waking me from my confectionary daze.
“I’ll take a Black Out cup cake”
My stomach was now growling ferociously and I realized, perhaps too late, that it was not such a great idea to go cup cake shopping with an empty belly.
“How many did you want?” she asked me with a straight face.
Was she serious or trying to break my resolve I wondered? My determination waned by the millisecond!
“Um…” I stammered. What is a peasant to do when there is only one Lemon Cloud Cupcake left in a room full of vulturous children just joansing for their next sugar rush?
“and…a Lemon Cloud as well.”
It was a losing battle I suppose.

Sure there are healthier ways to cure a hangover, there is olive oil with egg yolk and Tabasco, Milk Thistle, and even plain old tomato juice, but I must say that, the cup cake method is the most tasty of all.

Healthy Hangover Dinner

"Well at least dinner was healthy."

> Curried Cream of Broccoli Soup with a sprinkle of squash
seeds and dash of Goat cheese

> Broiled Tuna with a carrot, olive and ginger marinade

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One Way To Cure A Hangover - Part I

“ Wine before liquor, never been sicker, vodka martini on an empty stomach before beer… "

I don't know, stupid?!? The one thing I can tell you is that, not eating all day then sucking back a Stoli martini before a night of beer guzzling is not such a hot idea. Is this something I should already know? Well, lets just say I had plenty of time to ponder the question as my morning hangover set in.
What does a Brooklyn peasant do to cure a hangover? Well it sure isn’t eating muesli. What I wanted desperately to do was to order in scrambled eggs and pastrami with grits and a side of pumpkin walnut pancakes from the cherished Tom’s Restaurant on Washington Avenue. Unfortunately, unlike every other restaurant in NYC that subjects its staff not only to Saturday brunch but to Sunday brunch as well, Tom’s is closed on Sundays. My hangover feast would have to wait for a Saturday hangover. With no other options for delivery, and a roommate also recovering from the abuses of alcohol, action had to be taken. I wiped the smeared mascara from my face, adjusted my tousled hair as best I could and made a quick run to the corner store.
I wanted to buy something greasy, fattening, and refined: pork sausage, bacon, cream cheese, and Jamaican Cocoa bread. I wandered slowly past the meat counter two or three times. I stood for an unusually long time staring lovingly at the boxes of pancake mix, much to the chagrin of the owner who probably thought I was a thief. It wasn’t easy, but I opted for at least a few of the healthier choices (whole wheat, turkey, and no cheese.)
At home, a sip of some strong hot coffee, a twist, a toss, and a dollop of butter later and breakfast was served: Toasted English muffins stacked with turkey bacon, scrambled eggs, a smear of creamy hummus, and a spoonful of my mothers homemade tomato chutney. Wow! Just what the doctor ordered: salty, sweet, with just the right amount of greasy. Hangovers are never easy when you don’t have delivery, but they certainly can be healthier.

Breakfast Ritual - Part I

I am almost as much of a devotee of my morning yogurt as I am of my morning cup a joe. I have always been a fan of yogurt, but it is Greek yogurt that has won my heart. Greek yogurts, such as Fage, Krinos, and Dana, have been strained of excess water leaving them luxuriously thick and creamy. They are so rich that they taste more like a sinful dessert than a healthy breakfast or snack. I like mine with my freshly made muesli, a mixture of rolled oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
Besides being wickedly tasty, this morning mixture is also insanely good for your health. The live cultures in yogurt help kill bacteria in the stomach and also help strengthen the immune system. The oats help lower bad cholesterol and are high in fiber, and nuts such as walnuts and flax seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids, essential acids that also help reduce bad cholesterol. I know, I am starting to sound dangerously close to a health fanatic, but its not true! Lets us remember that accompanying my healthy morning concoction is two cups of strong coffee with sugar and half and half. The health benefits of yogurt and muesli are simply the added bonus of my delightful breakfast ritual.

A Peasant Morning Ritual

1 container Fage 0% yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup of Peasant Power Muesli (recipe below)
1/4 of an apple (gala is my favorite) cut in very very thin slices
dash if cinnamon if you so desire

1.) Mix all liquid ingredients in your favorite cereal bowl then add muesli mixture, fruit, and cinnamon.
2.) Its as simple as that.Chow down.

Peasant Power Muesli

2 cups - rolled oats
1/2 cup - soy nuts (these add incredible crunchiness!!)
1/2 cup - almond slivers
1/2 cup - pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup - walnuts chopped
1/2 cup - coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup - dried cranberries, or apricots
1/4 cup - flax seeds, whole or ground

mix all ingredients and store in airtight container.

* Interesting food fact- Muesli was originally created in 1900 by the Swiss doctor, Maximillian Bircher-Benner. The very Swiss doctor was ahead of his time in nutritional research, believing in the benefits of a balanced diet that included raw fruits and vegetables. Of course his invention of the cereal muesli has been perverted by modern cereal companies that pack their cereals with refined sugar and corn syrup among many other unpronounceable and probably cancer causing ingredients. Do yourself a favor and try muesli in place of your morning cereal.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Works

Sahadi's Salad

Mango, Arugula, and Snap Peas Salad adorned with fig, goat cheese,
and pistachio truffles
Serves 3-4

2 bunches of arugula
1 1/2 –2 cups of sugar snap peas lightly blanched
1 seedless cucumber
1 Mango
1/2 cup of chopped dill
1/2 cup of pistachios shelled and unsalted
2 dried fig or dried apricot if you prefer
goat cheese
olive oil
sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

The Salad-
1.) Blanch snap peas for one minute then rinse under cold water and slice in half on bias.
2.) Peel cucumber and slice into large rustic chunks
3.) Peel mango and cut into thin slices
4.) Rinse arugula plunging into cold water then draining water in salad spinner. Repeat 3-4 times to get out all the sand (who likes sand in there salad? Not me.)
5.) Mix all the above ingredients and the dill. Set aside.

The Goat Cheese Truffles-
1.) In a clean coffee grinder (you have a coffee grinder, right? If no, then get one) grind pistachios and place in bowl. If you don’t have a grinder, then chop the nuts by hand.
2.) Chop figs in 4-6 pieces and surround each piece in goat cheese.
3.) Roll goat cheese balls in pistachio dust then chill until ready to serve.

The Dressing-
1.) Mix together two parts olive oil to one part Sherry vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper to taste.
2.) Toss 1/4 of dressing in to salad before adding the goat cheese truffles.

Aren’t you hungry?
Enjoy with some toasted pita points and a fine bottle of Malbec.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Weekend crowds at Sahadi's

I met my friend Margeaux on Atlantic Avenue this past Saturday so that we could go to Sahadi’s, one of my favorite food relates places to go in the city. Sahadi’s is kind of a Middle Eastern Balducci’s, for those of you who remember it, without all the pretension and definitely minus the high prices. Their dried fruits, nuts, coffee, and spices, displayed without frills in glass jars and burlap sacks, are some of the cheapest you’ll find. They are not lacking in variety either; they have raw, roasted, salted, unsalted, shelled, unshelled, and seasoned nuts. They have all the standard spices, pepper, basil, and oregano as well as Syrian and Lebanese spices and blends. They’re olive counter houses over a dozen varieties of olives, pickles and four types of feta cheese.
Did I say cheese? Lord have mercy! The cheese corner contains over a hundred assortments of cheese including fresh mozzarella, farm fresh cheddar, goat Gouda and Syrian and Lebanese cheeses that I’ve never seen anywhere else. In the back of the store there is a prepared food section where you can purchase, hummus, baba ghanoug, a selection of salads, and sun dried tomatoes.
As you head toward the registers you approach my favorite part of the store filled with huge jugs of olive oil, shelves of vinegar, mustards, and olive spreads. If you like jam, make sure to try mymoune, a brand of Lebanese jams including fig, strawberry, and mulberry. Yum! Closer to the register you will find an array of goodies including, huge chunks of Dutch dark, milk, and white chocolates for baking or just for eating, freshly cut Halvah, marzipan, and freshly baked baklava and pita from the very close by Damascus Bakery. To be honest with you, I rarely make it past this section of the store without purchasing at least a tiny piece of marzipan, or on my weaker days a hunk of luscious chocolate.
Needless to say, the store is very popular with Brooklyn locals and on evenings and weekends it can be found teaming with people. I myself hate crowds and make it a habit of going on weekday afternoons when there are virtually no line-ups. Unfortunately, Saturday, an hour before closing, was the only time that Margeaux and I could meet.
Margeaux was fashionably late so I waited outside the store and nerviously watched the store fill with shoppers eager to stock their pantries for the following week and to prepare for Saturday night dinner parties. I was getting anxious at the idea of squeezing and maneuvering the congested aisle ways. It seemed that hordes of people were entering the store yet only a few trickled out and I imagined the store slowly filling to its capacity then bursting like a balloon, showering the streets with the bitter sweet mist of almonds, cumin, and cocoa.
It was Margeaux’s first time at Sahadi’s and her eyes lit up with delight as we approached the overflowing bulk station, took a number, and stood aside for a substantial wait. I looked down at my number and pursed my lips with aggravation as an employee screamed out “NUMBER 37… 37….”; we were number 78. As I waited, I took in all the brilliant colors, wonderful smells, and breathtaking textures. I watched employees zipping and shuffling about the floor filling orders, and the energy and movement coupled with the blanket of layered conversation created a symphony for the senses. I released my clenched lips, and decided to enjoy the show.
The line went extremely quickly, in fact, and next thing you know our order was being filled and I had come up with a fabulous idea for a salad to make for dinner that night.
Having filled both of our baskets to the brim, we headed for the registers, successfully passing the enticing mounds of Dutch chocolate, the alluring array of Damascus pastries, and even the warm and fragrant stacks of freshly baked pita…well, that is until the woman behind the counter yelled out, “Pita bread three bags for a dollar, we must get rid of it, three for a dollar.” It was an offer we could not resist and we added to our load three bags of whole-wheat pita.
A quick trip to the produce store next door, and an interesting and eventful cab ride followed and we were at last at Margeaux’s humble abode where I was to attempt my newly inspired salad idea.
Not every time that I go to Sahadi’s is it such a momentous journey, but this Saturday’s visit was an event, one that I will hardly forget as it was the inspiration for the salad I have documented above. This one could even make it onto my Thanksgiving menu, or should I say “Gracias” Giving.

187 Atantic Avenue
Brooklyn NYr>