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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Blood Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette


As a conscious omnivore, when I eat meat, I eat as much of the animal as possible.

I like to treat fruits and vegetables the same way.

I save scraps like leek tops and shiitake stems for soup stock. I buy beets with their greens attached and eat those too. I roast the seeds from squash and pumpkins (one of my favorite snacks). And I always eat the outer layer of fruits and vegetables whenever possible because they are most nutritious with their skins and peels intact.

Citrus peels contain flavonoids like nobiletin and tangeritin that have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects in the body. Studies show that these flavonoids can induce the death of cancer cells (apoptosis) and reduce the chance that tumors will spread to other parts of the body.

Limonene, a monoterpene compound found in the essential oils of citrus fruit peels, also has anti-cancer activity. It stimulates enzymes in the liver that break down carcinogens and alters gene expression in cancer cells to inhibit their growth. Monoterpenes like limonene have been shown to prevent cancers of the breast, colon, liver, lung, pancreas and skin.

Because pesticides are often concentrated on the outer layer of produce, only eat peels from citrus fruits that have not been sprayed. When your citrus fruits are organic, always eat their zest.

Blood Orange Reduction 

If you can't find an organic blood orange, omit the zest and use only the juice.

Zest of 2 organic lemons (save the juice for another purpose)
1 organic orange, zest and juice
1 organic blood orange, zest and juice
Pinch sea salt

Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan and warm over medium heat. Once the mixture starts to simmer, turn the heat down to low. Swirl occasionally and allow it to reduce until it becomes a few spoonfuls of a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Blood Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe is the perfect amount for a big salad. If you want to have some leftover, double or triple the batch.

1 tbsp blood orange reduction
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
Ground peppercorn to taste
Pinch sea salt (optional)

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Use immediately or store in an air-tight container in the fridge.


Rooprai HK et al. Evaluation of the effects of swainsonine, captopril, tangeretin and nobiletin on the biological behaviour of brain tumour cells in vitro. Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology. 2001 Feb;27(1):29-39.

Crowell PL, et al. Human Metabolism of the Experimental Cancer Therapeutic Agent D-Limonene. Cancer, Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, 1994;35:31-37.

Crowell PL and Gould MN. Chemoprevention and Therapy of Cancer by d-Limonene. Critical Reviews in Oncogenesis, 1994;5(1):1-22.

Dietary Phytochemical Research Demonstrates Potential for Major Role in Cancer Prevention. Primary Care & Cancer, 1996;16(7):6-7.

Foods That May Prevent Breast Cancer: Studies Are Investigating Soybeans, Whole Wheat and Green Tea Among Others. Primary Care and Cancer, February 1994;14(2):10-11.
Haag JD et al. Limonene-Induced Regression of Mammary Carcinomas. Cancer Research, 1992;52:4021-4026.

Hensrud DD and Heimburger, DC. Diet, Nutrients, and Gastrointestinal Cancer. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, June, 1998;27(2):325-346.

Lee YC et al. Nobiletin, a citrus flavonoid, suppresses invasion and migration involving FAK/PI3K/Akt and small GTPase signals in human gastric adenocarcinoma AGS cells. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. 2011 Jan;347(1-2):103-15. Epub 2010 Oct 21.

Leonardi T et al. Apigenin and naringenin suppress colon carcinogenesis through the aberrant crypt stage in azoxymethane-treated rats. Experimental Biology and Medicine (Maywood). 2010 Jun;235(6):710-7.

Orange Peel Oil Studied as Cancer-Fighting Agent. Medical Tribune, May 30, 1991;11.

Potter JD. Your Mother Was Right: Eat Your Vegetables. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000;9(Suppl.):S10-S12.

Schardt D. Phytochemicals: Plants Against Cancer. Nutrition Action Health Letter, April 1994;21(3):7-13.

Stavric B. Role of Chemopreventers in Human Diet. Clinical Biochemistry, 1994;27(5):319-332.

Steinmetz K and Potter JD. Vegetables, Fruit and Cancer II: Mechanisms. Cancer Causes and Control, 1991;2:427-442.

Steinmetz KA and Potter JD. Vegetables, Fruit, and Cancer Prevention: A Review. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 1996;96:1027-1039.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fish Cakes with Lemon Yogurt Sauce


Fish cakes are a quick and easy way to eat tinned fish. Serve them like you would crab cakes: as an appetizer or atop a large salad for a main course. Or form them into balls and serve them wrapped inside lettuce leaves, skewered with cherry tomatoes and cucumber chunks, or as finger food.  Crunchy outside and soft inside, kids will love them and have fun dipping them into the yogurt sauce.

I buy tinned fish with the bones (they are a great source of calcium) and zip them up in my food processor in no time. Here I season them with fresh cilantro, ginger, lemon zest and red onion, but you could just as easily substitute your favorite flavors or whatever you happen to have on hand: parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, chili pepper, scallion, shallot, garlic or lime zest. If you don't have fresh herbs, use ground dried herbs. If your citrus isn't organic, omit the zest.

Fish cakes can be prepared in advance, which can make dinner a breeze on busy nights. You will have just enough time to steam some spinach or make a salad while they cook.

Fish cakes:
1 organic lemon
7 oz tinned sardines with bones, drained
1/2 cup roughly chopped red onion
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro
1 tsp fresh grated ginger, or to taste
1 egg
1/4 cup stone ground garbanzo bean flour
Sea salt
Ground peppercorn
Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing

 Lemon Yogurt Sauce:
1/3 cup organic plain whole milk Greek or strained yogurt
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (optional)
Fresh lemon zest and juice
Ground peppercorn to taste

Zest half of the lemon into a food processor. Add the sardines, onion, cilantro and ginger. Process until finely chopped. Add the egg, chick pea flour, and a pinch each of sea salt and ground peppercorn.  Process again until thoroughly mixed. Form the mixture into cakes (or balls).

Zest the rest of the lemon into a small bowl. Add the yogurt, mustard and peppercorn. Stir until smooth. Set aside.

Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, sauté the cakes until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a serving plate.

Cut the zested lemon into slices. Squeeze one or two over the fish cakes and serve immediately, with the rest of the lemon slices and the yogurt sauce on the side.

Yield: 3 medium cakes or 10 balls

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wild Salmon with Orange Ginger Sauce


This dish is a winner because it's so simple to make and you may have the ingredients already on hand.

I always keep wild salmon stocked in my freezer for fast dinners when I'm short on time. After you thaw it overnight in the fridge, it cooks quite quickly. You have just enough time to make a sauce and toss a salad before it's ready to eat. Dinner can be ready in 20 minutes.

I buy organic citrus fruit because it's important to eat the zest. The essential oils in citrus zest are the most flavorful part of the fruit and they have important health benefits too, notably anti-cancer effects. If you have other organic citrus fruit, like tangerines or grapefruit, feel free to experiment. If your oranges are not organic, omit the zest from this recipe.

A stove top grill pan is my favorite way to cook salmon and I always start with room temperature fish (take it out of the fridge in advance). Because there is minimal contact between the fish and the pan, the meat won't dry out if you don't overcook it.

Avoid overcooking the salmon because it will quickly lose its flaky and tender texture. I prefer cooking salmon on the stove top (rather than in the oven) because I can keep a good eye on it.

  • 2 organic Valencia oranges, zest and juice, or other oranges
  • Fresh ginger
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound wild Alaskan salmon at room temperature, fillets or steaks, cut into 4 ounce portions
  • Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing 
  • Ground peppercorn
  • Tamari (optional)

Zest and juice the oranges into a small saucepan. Grate enough ginger to taste. (I like my sauce spicy so I use a teaspoon or more.) Add a small pinch of sea salt, but not too much because you will want to adjust the seasoning at the end. Warm the mixture over medium-low heat until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the mixture reduces by half, about 15 minutes.

While the sauce reduces, brush the salmon with olive oil and season it with sea salt and ground peppercorn. Warm a stove top grill pan (or skillet) over medium heat. Once hot, place the pieces of salmon inside and do not move them once you put them down.

Cook until the fish detaches and develops grill marks, about 4 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish. Along the side it should look halfway cooked: the bottom half will be opaque and the top half will be translucent. Turn the fish over and turn the heat off. Cover loosely and allow to rest for 5 or more minutes, while the residual heat finishes cooking the fish.

Once the orange ginger sauce has reduced and thickened, taste it for seasoning. If it needs more salt, add a few drops of tamari (or more sea salt if you prefer). For a teriyaki-like flavor, add more tamari, to taste.

The fish is ready to eat when it is just cooked through. It should be opaque but soft and moist. It should flake apart easily when prodded with a fork.

Transfer the fish to a serving plate. Drizzle the Orange Ginger Sauce over the fish or serve it separately.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Apple Pecan Tart with Chestnut Pastry and Cinnamon Whipped Cream

This healthy dessert contains whole fruit, nuts and whole grains, with just a touch of maple syrup. It's a healthy alternative to traditional pecan and apple pies laden with white flour, sugar and sometimes even corn syrup.

The filling is a mixture of pecans, which make it nutty and creamy, and apples, which make it soft and smooth. Because I leave the apple peels intact, this dish is an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants.

When I was cooking the apples for the filling, I added a dry rosé of Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes, because I happened to have an open bottle in the fridge. Any sort of liquid is helpful in getting the sauce started, so feel free to substitute a dry white wine, apple cider, the juice of an orange, or even a splash of water.

I bake my tarts in a lightly-buttered 9-inch square tart pan with a removable bottom, but you can use any pie dish.

For the pastry:

  • 1/2 cup roasted, shelled, roughly chopped chestnuts (or 3.5 oz vacuum packed)
  • 1/2 cup raw oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 stick or 1/2 cup grass-fed butter, cubed
  • 5 tbsp ice water

Chill the ingredients before you begin: place the butter and chestnuts in the fridge and freeze the oats and flour in the bowl of a food processor, with the blade, for 20 minutes. Prepare a glass of ice water and a tablespoon measure.

Assemble the food processor and pulse the chestnuts, oats, whole wheat flour and butter together until pea-sized pieces appear. Continue mixing while you add just enough water (4 to 5 tablespoons of water) until the dough forms a ball. Gather the dough together and wrap it in aluminum foil before you transfer to the fridge for at least one hour to rest.

For the filling:
  • 4 medium apples (Opalescent, Stayman Winesap and Granny Smith work well)
  • Splash of dry rosé wine
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • 1 cup raw pecan pieces
Core and dice the apples (the smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook). Add them to a large sauce pan with the wine, sea salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the apple pieces break down into a sauce, about 30 minutes. Stir in the pecans and set aside to cool.

Once cool, pureé until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired.

For assembly:
  • 2 apples that will hold their shape (McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a clean, dry, smooth surface lightly coated with whole wheat pastry flour.

Once the dough has lost its chill, roll it out from the center, turning frequently, until it is an inch or two larger than your tart pan. Gently lift it into the pan and fit the dough into the corners and along the sides. Do not stretch the dough. Trim off any extra dough along the edges. Line the tart dough it with aluminum foil and fill it with dry beans to hold the shape. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and beans (save them for future baking projects) and bake for 5 more minutes.

While the tart shell bakes, quarter the apples and remove the seeds. Thinly slice each quarter into 6 pieces. Set aside.

Spoon the apple-pecan purée into the pre-baked tart shell and smooth the top. Arrange the thin apple slices on top of the filling in any pattern. Bake for 50 minutes or more, until the apples start to brown on top. Cool completely.

If you'll be serving freshly whipped cream with the tart, place a stainless steel or glass mixing bowl and a whisk or attachments for an electric mixer in the freezer to chill while the tart cools.

To serve:

I like to serve this tart with organic cream, unsweetened and freshly whipped with a pinch of cinnamon.
  • Fresh grass-fed cream
  • Pinch cinnamon
Pour some fresh cream, about 1 tablespoon per person, and a pinch of cinnamon into the chilled bowl and whip until sufficiently light and airy.

Cut the pie into individual portions and serve with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bone Broth


Broths made from bones have been revered as both food and medicine since ancient times. Rich in minerals and glistening with fat droplets, bone broth has even been called "liquid gold."

It's not just delicious, it's nutritious too. The nutrients and protein in bone broth are well absorbed and the gelatin acts as a natural digestive aid. It's a traditional food for sick individuals, people with arthritis and those with a weak constitution. Bone broth is also a healthy base for soups, stews and sauces.

Like all things, the quality of the finished product can only be as good as the quality of the original ingredients. Use bones from animals raised on pasture, fed their natural diet, and never exposed to hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or other chemicals. Bones, meat and organs from these animals are a good source of healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, unlike bones, meat and organs from animals fed grains (even if those grains are organic).

I used a turkey carcass plus the neck and giblets (save the liver for another use) for this broth but you can use bones from any wild, grass-fed, or pasture-raised animal. Smaller bones can be chopped up with a sharp cleaver and your local butcher can cut up the bigger bones for you (or use an electric saw). More surface area is better but they don't need to end up in tiny pieces. Just make sure that the marrow is exposed and they fit into your pot.

I usually add dry beans, pre-soaked overnight, to give the broth more nutrients and a bit more body.  I also add a splash of apple cider vinegar because the small amount of acid will maximize the release of gelatin and minerals like calcium and magnesium from the bones as the broth simmers.

Carcass or bones, preferably with some meat left on them, marrow exposed
Several cups of roughly chopped aromatic vegetables like celery, carrots, onion or leek tops
A head of garlic cut in half through the "equator" 
A pinch of sea salt (not too much because you can adjust the seasoning later)
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 fresh bay leaf or 2 to 3 dried bay leaves
1 or 2 dried chili peppers (optional) 
1 handful of dried beans (adzuki, white, pinto)
Splash of apple cider vinegar 

                        1. Add everything to a large stock pot along with enough cold water to cover all of the contents generously. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook the stock at a boil so gentle that just a few bubbles rise to the surface at a time. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Simmer the stock, tasting occasionally, until all the flavor has been extracted from the bones, about 4 to 5 hours.
                        2. Cool the broth, strain it, and portion it into clean, labeled glass jars with tight-fitting lids. If you plan to freeze the stock, leave an inch of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion and prevent the jars from cracking.
                        3. Once the stock has cooled to room temperature, screw the lids on the jars and place them in the fridge overnight. 
                        4. Once the stock is chilled throughout, transfer to the freezer all of the jars you don't plan to use in the near future. Leave the lids unscrewed, as the liquid will expand as it freezes and you don't want the jars to burst. The following day, when the stock is completely frozen, screw on the lids.
                        Yield: 6 to 7 pints of stock

                        Friday, November 26, 2010

                        Turkey Liver with Balsamic Reduction

                        GLUTEN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

                        When I eat meat, I try to eat as much of the whole animal as possible.

                        The day after Thanksgiving, I use the turkey carcass, preferably with some meat left on the bones, and the neck and giblets to make a nutritious stock.

                        And if I haven't already served the liver on Thanksgiving or used it to make paté, I make this dish the day after, to use it while it's fresh and to put something new on the table if we're eating leftovers. And unlike other holiday dishes, it takes just a few ingredients that I always have on hand.

                        This easy and elegant first course has been known to turn liver-skeptics into liver lovers. I used balsamic vinegar to make the sauce because it appeals to many palates, even when liver does not. But you can deglaze the pan with another liquid instead: port wine, red wine, cognac or turkey stock.

                        Liver is a good source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin A, and minerals like iron, selenium, phosphorus and zinc. But like any animal product, it can also contain heavy metals and environmental contaminants. It is not necessarily due to the nature of the organ (the liver acts as a filter for the body but it is not a sponge; it changes toxins in the blood into excretable compounds). Contamination is usually a result of the way the animal was raised, so always choose livers (and eggs, meat and dairy products) from animals who were raised on pasture, fed their natural diet, and never exposed to pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals.

                        This recipe serves 2 or 3 people. If you will be feeding more, serve liver slices on whole wheat toasts, drizzled with the balsamic reduction. Or roughly mash the cooked liver with a little bit of room temperature grass-fed butter and the balsamic reduction, and serve it as a spread. 

                        Turkey liver(s) at room temperature
                        Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        Sea salt
                        Ground peppercorn
                        Aged balsamic vinegar

                        Trim away any connective tissue from the liver. Season the whole liver, in one or two pieces, generously with sea salt and peppercorn.

                        Warm the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the liver and sauté it for 3 minutes on each side. Do not overcook the liver; it should still be slightly pink inside. It will be done when the outside has browned and it feels firm yet slightly tender in the center. If it feels soft, cook it longer. Once it's done, transfer the liver to a plate and cover to keep warm.

                        Add 2 splashes of balsamic vinegar (or one per serving), enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Swirl it around to incorporate any brown bits stuck to the skillet or stir it with a wooden spoon. Simmer until the vinegar reduces and thickens, just a minute or two.

                        Thinly slice the liver and arrange it on a serving dish. Pour the sauce over the top and serve immediately.

                        Wednesday, November 24, 2010

                        Cranberries With Orange and Cognac

                        GLUTEN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

                        Need a last minute host or hostess gift? This one is perfect: flavorful, healthy and home-made. Cranberries are full of antioxidants and research studies have shown they can help protect cells against cancerous changes, prevent plaque from forming on teeth, increase good HDL cholesterol, prevent urinary tract infections, and kill H. pylori bacteria that play a prominent role in the development of ulcers and stomach cancer.

                        Home-made cranberry sauce is so different from store-bought varieties that are packed with sugar. This version is naturally sweetened with orange juice and a touch of cognac makes it something really really special. When a holiday favorite like this is so easy to prepare, there is no excuse for serving it out of a can.

                        It's easy to whip up the night before and so very versatile. If your hostess has already planned the cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner, she can drizzle a spoonful into the bottom of each champagne flute and fill with sparkling wine for a Cranberry Kir Royale, the perfect holiday apératif. Or she can save it to stir into yogurt or oatmeal, making breakfast a breeze, or serve it at another meal to accompany chicken, duck, pork, halibut or grilled tofu triangles.

                        If your orange is not organic, omit the zest. If you don't have cognac or prefer your cranberries without it, substitute additional orange juice, red wine, or a splash of water if you need more liquid.

                        This recipe yields 2 cups.

                        12 oz fresh cranberries
                        1 organic orange, zest and juice
                        Pinch sea salt
                        1/4 cup cognac (or substitute brandy)
                        2 tbsp maple syrup or honey

                        Add the cranberries, orange juice, orange zest and sea salt to a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have burst, about 20 minutes.

                        Stir in the cognac and continue cooking over low heat, uncovered, about 5 minutes more, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to the desired consistency. Use the back of a spoon to mash any remaining whole cranberries.

                        Stir in the maple syrup and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

                        Serve the cranberry sauce hot or at room temperature. If you're making it ahead or giving it as a gift, transfer the sauce an air-tight jar container and store it in the fridge until show time.

                        Monday, November 22, 2010

                        Celeriac Leek Soup with Crumbled Blue Cheese

                        This simple soup is an easy but elegant starter. Make it ahead and serve it up on Thanksgiving for an unexpected yet seasonal first course.

                        Celeriac is an unusual root vegetable. It has a gnarled exterior and a green leafy top. Inside, the flesh is clean and crisp and white, and it's flavor is slightly nutty and reminiscent of celery. Look for bulbs that weigh in under a pound and have a firm stalk end. To prepare celeriac, cut off the top and bottom, then slice off the rest of the peel. (Because the peel has an uneven texture, I find it easiest to do this with a knife.)

                        I picked fingerling potatoes for this recipe because they were irresistible at the farmer's market this week and because their creamy texture works well with this soup. You can substitute another variety of potato if you wish, but make sure to leave the peel intact because that's where all the nutrients and fiber are found.

                        I garnished this soup with a wet and creamy Bleu D'Auvergne, but you could use another variety of blue cheese if you wish. You could substitute crumbled goat cheese if you prefer, but the striking flavor of blue cheese is a perfect compliment for this nutty but mild soup.

                        If you don't like blue cheese or don't eat dairy, garnish it instead with pine nuts lightly toasted on the stove top or grains of cooked wild rice. For a vegan version, substitute extra virgin olive oil for the butter and use vegetable broth as the cooking liquid.

                        -2 tbsp grass-fed butter
                        -3 medium leeks or 2 large leeks, white and tender green parts, about 5 cups chopped (reserve the tough green tops for soup stock)
                        -Sea salt
                        -2 celeriac bulbs, trimmed and diced, about 2 heaping cups
                        -1 dozen fingerling potatoes, cut into 1-cm chunks (similar in size to the diced celeriac), about 2 heaping cups
                        -5 cups cooking liquid: chicken stock, duck stock, vegetable broth or bean broth
                        -1 bay leaf

                        Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and and a pinch of sea salt. Sauté until soft, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the celeriac and potatoes and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently.

                        Add the bay leaf and cooking liquid, more if needed to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft.

                        Remove the bay leaf and purée the soup with an immersion blender or by transferring the soup in batches to a stand blender (in this case, cool the soup a bit before blending and cover loosely to prevent a heat explosion).

                        Serve immediately or cool completely and transfer to an airtight container in the fridge for future use.

                        Garnish each bowl with crumbled blue cheese.

                        Monday, November 15, 2010

                        Fresh Dried Herbs

                        GLUTEN-FREE  |  DAIRY-FREE  |  DETOX-FRIENDLY

                        Store-bought, dried herbs in a bottle are often bland and who knows how long it's been since they were fresh. Once ground, dried herbs quickly loose flavor. So it's no wonder they are scorned by chefs and can quickly accumulate in the back of your cupboard before you even remember when or why you bought them.

                        A better alternative, if you don't have a year-round herb garden, is to buy them fresh and dry them yourself. Before they disappear from local farmer's markets, pick up the herbs you'll need most this winter. Use what you can while they're fresh and dry the rest:
                        1. Line a shallow baking dish with a cotton or paper towel and arrange fresh herb sprigs on top in a single layer. Cover them loosely with another cotton or paper towel. If you are short on space to dry them or pans to dry them in, you can place multiple single layers of herbs and towels in the same dish, as long as they are loosely packed and there is plenty of room for air to circulate (they may take longer to dry). Set them aside at room temperature in a dry place where they will not be disturbed.
                        2. Once the herbs are completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an air-tight jar. Label the jar with the contents and the date.
                        3. Before you use them in soups, sauces and marinades, grind the whole dried leaves in a spice grinder or crush them with a mortar and pestle to release the essential oils.
                        When you're ready to use them, if the label shows that it's been several months since you dried them, chew on a leaf to make sure they're still fresh. If they no longer taste good, neither will the dish you plan to use them in, so throw them out and start again.

                        Tuesday, November 9, 2010

                        Beef Stewed with Pumpkin and Cider

                        Now that Halloween is over, you can cook up those (uncarved) pumpkins you've been using as decoration.

                        This dish is full of complex flavors: savory, spicy and slightly but naturally sweet, thanks to the apple cider.

                        Many of the herbs in this recipe are medicinal. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne and turmeric all have anti-cancer actions (they inhibit angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels necessary for the growth of tumors). Cayenne and turmeric are also powerful anti-inflammatories. Cinnamon supports good digestion. And garlic is good for the immune and cardiovascular systems.

                        Once herbs and spices are ground, they can quickly lose freshness and flavor. So I like to buy them whole whenever I can, and grind them as I need them. If you only have ground spices, substitute a similar amount for this recipe. (For example, use 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin instead of 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground). The difference will be minimal.

                        Because this recipe calls for several herbs and spices, if you are missing one or a few, the others should be sufficient. I used three different fresh herbs - rosemary, thyme and oregano - because I already had them on hand. If you don't have fresh herbs, you can substitute a couple of dried bay leaves and this dish will still be a winner.

                        When preparing the pumpkin, reserve the seeds for roasting (see the note that follows this recipe). There is no need to peel the pumpkin. The outside is edible, but can be a bit tough. Once thoroughly cooked, the flesh easily falls away from the peel.

                        Slow-cooking works well with inexpensive cuts of meat, which may start out tough but become melt-in-your-mouth tender after a couple of hours in a low oven. Season the meat in advance if you can; 24 to 48 hours is ideal.

                        ½ tsp cumin seeds, or substitute ground cumin
                        ¼ tsp coriander seeds, or substitute ground coriander
                        ¼ tsp cardamom seeds, or substitute ground cardamom
                        ½ tsp peppercorns, or substitute ground peppercorn
                        ½ tsp sea salt
                        ½ tsp ground cinnamon
                        ½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
                        ¼ tsp ground allspice
                        ¼ tsp ground turmeric
                        1 pound grass-fed beef for stew, cubed, at room temperature
                        2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        2 cups fresh-pressed apple cider, unsweetened
                        2 cups beef stock
                        2 carrots, cut into chunks
                        2 parsnips, cut into chunks
                        Several fingerling potatoes
                        10 Cipollini onions, blanched in boiling water for one minute, then peeled and trimmed (or substitute 1 large onion, cut into wedges)
                        1 large sprig rosemary
                        Several sprigs lemon thyme
                        Several springs oregano
                        1 small pumpkin, cut into chunks, seeds reserved for roasting

                        Grind the cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds with the peppercorns in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Add them to a large bowl with the sea salt, cinnamon, cayenne, allspice and turmeric. Stir to combine and toss with the beef cubes until thoroughly coated. Set the seasoned meat aside while you prepare the other ingredients or if seasoning the meat in advance, transfer it to an airtight container in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

                        Preheat the oven to 300F.
                        Warm the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the beef and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Add the apple cider and stir to incorporate any brown bits at the bottom of the pan.

                        Nestle the fresh herbs into the middle and add the carrots, parsnips, potatoes and onions. Pour the beef stock over the vegetables and place the pumpkin pieces on top, flesh-side down, to steam.

                        Bring the mixture to a simmer on the stove top, then cover tightly and transfer to the oven. Bake for 2 hours.

                        To serve, arrange the vegetables and meat in shallow bowls. Strain the broth to remove any stray leaves from the herbs, then ladle it over the top.

                        Alternatively, remove the flesh of the pumpkin from the peel and mash. Arrange the mashed pumpkin on individual plates, place the other vegetables and beef cubes on top, and spoon some sauce over everything. The mashed pumpkin will soak up the sauce.

                        To roast the pumpkin seeds:

                        Remove and reserve the seeds from the pumpkin. Discard any stringy material. Rinse and drain the seeds. Transfer them to a baking sheet, toss them with olive oil, and sprinkle them with sea salt. Roast them while the stew bakes, stirring them every 10 minutes, until crispy, about 40 minutes.

                        You can use the roasted seeds to garnish the stew, but because they quickly become soggy, I prefer to save them for a snack.

                        Tuesday, November 2, 2010

                        Cranberry Beans with Rosemary and Garlic


                        Fresh beans are fantastic. Dried beans are good too, but I like to buy them fresh when they're in season. Fresh shell beans are easy to prepare and cook much faster than dried varieties.

                        Beans are a healthy vegetarian protein and full of fiber. They can help balance blood sugar, regulate the digestive tract, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

                        Just like their pods, uncooked cranberry beans are white with splashes of red. The spots disappear as the beans cook, turning them white or a light purple color.

                        If you don't have cranberry beans, you can make this recipe with another variety of fresh shell beans (but cooking time may differ). You can also substitute dried beans if you don't have fresh ones, but make sure to soak them first (and the cooking time will definitely differ). Avoid canned beans unless the cans are labeled "BPA-free."

                        In this recipe I used smoked bacon from pasture-raised pigs, but if you prefer, you could substitute another bold and salty flavor like anchovies or cured olives. I also used an orange heirloom tomato, but any fresh, ripe tomato will do.

                        This dish is a good example of how meat can be used as a condiment in a protein-rich dish, rather than the main ingredient. A little bit of bacon goes a long way.

                        2 cups shelled fresh cranberry beans, about 2 pounds whole beans
                        2 sprigs rosemary, plus more to garnish
                        2 bay leaves
                        2 slices pasture-raised bacon, chopped, or 2 tbsp grass-fed butter
                        1 small onion
                        2 cloves garlic, grated, or more
                        1 large tomato, chopped
                        Sea salt
                        Ground peppercorn

                        In a sauce pan, cover the beans, rosemary and bay leaves with a  generous amount of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until they become tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Allow the beans to cool in their liquid (which may be strained and reserved as stock for soup).

                        Add the bacon to a large skillet over medium heat. Allow the fat to start rendering while you chop the onion. Once the bacon starts cooking and some fat has rendered, add the onion and sauté until soft. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until it becomes aromatic (less than a minute). Stir in the chopped tomato, a pinch of sea salt and ground peppercorn.

                        Strain the beans and reserve the cooking liquid. Discard the rosemary and bay leaves. Add the beans to the skillet and continue cooking until they warm through and the tomato breaks down to form a sauce, about 15 minutes. If the beans become too dry, add some of the reserved bean cooking liquid.

                        Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a serving dish. Finely chop the rosemary reserved for garnish and sprinkle it over the top, or arrange the reserved sprig on the dish with the beans as a garnish.

                        Wednesday, October 27, 2010

                        Dinner with Juliah

                        Only a feast is fitting when long-lost friends come to visit.
                        My dear friend Juliah recently returned from a year-long journey around the world and to celebrate her return, we cooked up quite a dinner.

                        We found fresh mussels at my local fish market and built the meal around them. Some dishes simply needed to be assembled, none were complicated, and I made the dessert in advance, so it was an easy meal to throw together while we caught up.

                        • Heirloom Tomato Salad  Green zebra tomatoes, orange heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, home-made hemp nut pesto
                        • Mussels in Vermouth Cream Sauce  Blue mussels, shallot, garlic, vermouth, Santa Julia Chardonnay, organic cream  (Recipe below)
                        • Broccoli with Red Wine Vinaigrette  Steamed broccoli, red wine vinegar, garlic, Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt
                        • Coconut Chocolate Ice Cream  Coconut milk, cocoa powder, honey, vanilla  (Recipe below)
                        • Fresh Fruit Plate  Concord grapes and white figs
                        • Jasmine Pearl Green Tea

                        Mussels with
                        Vermouth Cream

                        It’s best to cook mussels as soon as you buy them, but if you get them in advance, keep them on ice in the fridge. (Place a sheet of aluminum foil between the bivalves and the ice to prevent them from being submerged in water as the ice melts.) Always cook the mussels just before you serve them.

                        The fresh herb we used in this dish is savory. A member of the square-stemmed mint family, it's related to sage, rosemary and thyme. It has a surprising peppery flavor that works wonders with savory dishes.

                        If you don’t have savory, substitute another fresh herb, like dill, basil, thyme, rosemary or bay.

                        2 two-pound bags of live mussels
                        2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        2 tbsp grass-fed butter
                        ¼ cup finely chopped shallot
                        3 cloves garlic, or more, grated or crushed
                        Several sprigs savory
                        ½ cup dry white vermouth
                        1 cup dry Chardonnay or other dry white wine
                        2 to 4 tbsp grass-fed cream

                        Scrub the mussels, remove the beards, and discard any that are open and do not close when tapped. Set them aside in a strainer.

                        In a large pot with a tight-fitting cover, preferably one that is more tall than wide, warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until soft. Add the garlic, stir, and continue cooking until it becomes aromatic (less than a minute). Do not burn the garlic. Add the savory and vermouth. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the white wine and add the mussels.

                        Cover the pot and allow them to steam until just cooked through, checking after 15 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of the mussels. Do not overcook them.

                        Remove the mussels from the pot and discard any mussels that did not open. Cover to keep warm.

                        Strain the sauce and stir in 2 tbsp cream Taste and adjust as necessary, adding a bit more more cream or a pinch of sea salt (most likely it will be salty enough).

                        Fill individual bowls with mussels and pour some sauce over the top. Serve with soup spoons and an extra empty bowl to collect the shells.

                        If you' re not serving a separate green vegetable or salad, place 1/2 cup steamed chopped beet greens (or chard or spinach) at the bottom of each individual bowl before you fill it with mussels and add the sauce.

                        Ice Cream

                        This delicious dairy-free dessert has only 4 ingredients and really is more than the sum of its parts. If you don't have a vanilla bean, you can substitute a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

                        Because the coconut milk will solidify in the fridge and may separate, I blend the mixture again briefly before I put it in the ice cream maker to ensure it will be smooth and well-mixed. I find it most convenient to chill the mixture in the glass pitcher from my blender.

                        2 cans unsweetened coconut milk (not low-fat)
                        ½ cup plus 2 tbsp natural cocoa powder (non-alkalized)
                        ¼ cup honey
                        1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped to collect the seeds

                        Place the freezer bowl of an ice cream maker in the freezer overnight.

                        Place the coconut milk, cocoa powder and vanilla in a blender. While mixing, drizzle the honey into the blender until completely incorporated. Transfer the mixture to the fridge and chill overnight. 

                        Once the coconut milk mixture is thoroughly chilled, blend it again briefly and then pour it into the frozen ice cream bowl of an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Initially, the frozen mixture may be soft. Transfer it to a glass container (a 7-cup Pyrex dish is perfect and comes with a cover) and place it in the freezer to harden.

                        This ice cream is best served after it's been in the freezer for an hour or two. If you freeze it overnight, it can become quite hard, so take it out in advance and allow it to sit at room temperature until it becomes easy to scoop.

                        Serve as is or garnish with unsweetened coconut flakes.

                        Tuesday, October 19, 2010

                        Mizuna with Tomatoes and Garlic


                        As temperatures drop and fall settles in, salad greens give way to dark green leafy vegetables, at the farmer's market and also in my kitchen.

                        Mizuna is a green leafy vegetable native to Japan and a member of the Brassicaceae family, well known for its antioxidant and anti-cancer benefits. Sometimes referred to as Spider Mustard, it has long and feathery leaves, tender and juicy stems, and a peppery flavor that is reminiscent of mustard greens.

                        Smaller leaves can be added to salads and larger leaves stand up well to cooking. Mizuna can be prepared like any other green leafy vegetable: added to stir fry or soup, or simply steamed and drizzled with vinaigrette.

                        Mizuna was abundant at my farmer's market last Friday so I bought plenty and cooked it up with garlic, onion and orange heirloom tomatoes. I started the dish with anchovies, which gave the sauce a nutty, savory and complex flavor.

                        If you don't have mizuna, you can substitute another dark green leafy vegetable, like beet greens, Swiss chard or kale.

                        If you're not a fan of anchovies, I encourage you to try them anyway. They are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and, surprisingly, they don't make this dish taste fishy. Alternatively, you can start the dish with finely diced pancetta from pasture-raised pigs or add olives and/or capers at the end.

                        2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        3 anchovies
                        1 small onion, chopped
                        Pinch crushed red pepper
                        2 cloves garlic or more, grated, crushed or minced
                        2 large tomatoes, diced
                        Ground peppercorn
                        2 bunches mizuna (or other leafy green)
                        Sea salt (optional)

                        Warm the olive oil over medium heat and add the anchovies. Cook until they break down, a couple of minutes. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Stir in the crushed red pepper and garlic. Continue cooking until the garlic becomes aromatic (less than a minute). Do not burn the garlic.

                        Add the tomatoes and ground peppercorn. Cook until the tomatoes start to break down and form a sauce, about 5 minutes. Add the mizuna, working in batches if necessary, and toss them with the sauce. Cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Do not overcook.

                        Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary (it may not even need sea salt). Serve immediately.

                        Wednesday, October 13, 2010

                        Tat Soi with Tangerine Ginger Sauce

                        Tat Soi is a dark green leafy vegetable in the Brassicaceae family. Like other crucifers, it contains phytochemicals that can act as powerful antioxidants, detoxify carcinogenic substances, induce cancer cell death, and block the formation of new blood vessels necessary for the proliferation and metastasis of malignant tumors.

                        Boiling cruciferous vegetables like tat soi can destroy the beneficial compounds, so always eat it raw (unless you have thyroid problems) or cook it quickly (lightly steam or sauté).

                        With a texture similar to bok choy and a cabbage-like flavor, tat soi is a healthy addition to salads, soups and stir fry. Here I sauté it with a simple sauce that you could toss with any leafy green vegetable. If you love fresh ginger, add the full teaspoon. To make a more mild sauce, use half that amount.

                        If you don't have tat soi, you can substitute another dark green leafy vegetable, like spinach, chard or beet greens.

                        Zest and juice of 2 large organic tangerines, or substitute oranges
                        1/2 to 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
                        1 tsp tamari
                        1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        1 bunch tat soi, cleaned, stems and leaves separated
                        2 cloves garlic

                        Warm the tangerine juice, zest and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbles begin to appear. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture thickens and reduces by half, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the tamari. Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and set aside.

                        Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, stir and cook until it becomes aromatic (less than a minute). Do not burn the garlic. Add the tat soi stems, toss to coat them in the oil and cook until they start to become tender, just a few minutes. Add the green leaves and continue cooking until they have wilted. Remove the skillet from the heat.

                        Pour the tangerine-ginger sauce mixture over the tat soi and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

                        Monday, October 4, 2010

                        Oven-Dried Tomatoes

                        GLUTEN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

                        There is nothing like a great tomato.

                        Of all the things I buy from local farmers in season, tomatoes are at the top of my list. Vine-ripened and picked fresh, their distinct flavor and juicy texture are strikingly different from bland, watery supermarket varieties.

                        So, as fall settles in, I snap them up while I can, anticipating the colder temperatures that will bring an end to the now plentiful supply. I eat tomatoes raw with fresh mozzarella, chop them into salsas, toss them into salads, soups, omelets and stir fry, and turn them into sauces that I can freeze to enjoy over the winter. I also dry them in the oven.

                        Drying tomatoes in the oven not only concentrates their flavor, it also concentrates their nutrients. Tomatoes contain vitamins and fiber, and they are also a rare source of lycopene, a carotenoid with antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Cooking tomatoes makes lycopene more bioavailable, so oven-dried tomatoes are a better source of this antioxidant than fresh tomatoes.

                        Studies show that lycopene can be helpful in the prevention and treatment of cancer through its influence on cell-signaling pathways, inducing cancer cell death and preventing the formation of new blood vessels that fuel the growth and spread of tumors. Lycopene has also been shown to increase the activity of natural killer white blood cells that destroy cancerous cells in the body.

                        Oven drying can be used as a method of preservation and it's a great space saver for people with small kitchens and limited storage space, a common problem in Manhattan. Unlike dehydrated tomatoes, oven-dried tomatoes still have a small amount of moisture (which lends them a wonderfully soft texture) so they need to be stored in the freezer if you don't eat them within a week. But because most of the water has been removed, they will not take up much space.

                        In my kitchen, oven-dried tomatoes usually don't last long enough to make it to the freezer. Savory and sweet, they are just like candy. Eat them as a healthy snack or add them to dishes in place of fresh or canned tomatoes.

                        There is only 1 ingredient here: thinly sliced tomatoes. Any good tomatoes will work: red, yellow, orange, green, purple. If they taste delicious when they're fresh, they'll taste even better once they are dried in the oven. I like heirloom varieties, but I use whatever looks good at the market.

                        If you slice them too thin, they will burn easily.  If you slice them too thick, they will take a long time to dry. I cut slices approximately 3/4 of a centimeter thick. Whatever size you slice, make sure to be consistent so they will all be done at approximately the same time.

                        Preheat the oven to 225F. Arrange the tomato slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with a non-stick silicone baking mat (Silpat or other). Bake until the tomatoes have lost most of their water and are starting to turn brown. This will take an hour or more, depending on the size and thickness of your slices. Be patient and check on them as needed until they are perfectly done. Do not burn the tomatoes.

                        Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge up to one week or in the freezer for several months.

                        Monday, September 27, 2010

                        Dinosaur Kale Chips

                        GLUTEN-FREE |  GRAIN-FREE  |  DAIRY-FREE  |  DETOX-FRIENDLY

                        You never thought you could eat an entire bunch of kale in one sitting. Until now.

                        Kale chips are light, crispy, and melt-in-your-mouth good. They have a nutty and slightly sweet flavor, with none of the bitterness found in the fresh leaves.

                        I used dinosaur kale -- also known as black Tuscan kale and lacinato kale -- but curly varieties will work well too. This recipe is simple, using only olive oil and sea salt, but for extra flavor you can stir some grated garlic into the olive oil before you toss it with the kale or sprinkle on some ground spices like cayenne, curry powder, or cumin before you bake them.

                        1 bunch dinosaur kale
                        2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        Sea salt to taste

                        Preheat oven to 250F.

                        Wash and dry the kale leaves. Remove the stems and chop into chip-size pieces.

                        Transfer to a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss with clean hands to coat every leaf, then arrange them in a single layer on baking sheets or shallow baking pans, working in batches if necessary.

                        Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 25 minutes or until light and crispy, stirring halfway through.

                        Eat the warm chips immediately or allow them to cool first. If any are leftover, store them in an airtight container.

                        Monday, September 20, 2010

                        Eggplant Walnut Paté

                        GLUTEN-FREE | GRAIN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

                        This vegetarian paté looks like the real thing. The color and texture are similar to patés made with meat, but the flavor is a complete surprise. Creamy, nutty and well-seasoned, it will please omnivores and vegans alike.

                        Once you roast the eggplant, this dish can be whipped up in a snap. It makes a fantastic starter and can be made in advance. Serve it with whole grain crispbread (I like Kavli 5 Grain) and fresh veggies like radishes, carrot and celery sticks, cucumber and zucchini rounds, and strips of bell pepper.

                        Leave the peel of the eggplant intact, as most of the antioxidants reside there. One antioxidant in particular, nasunin, is being studied for its anti-cancer properties. Researchers in Japan found that nasunin in eggplant peel blocks angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels necessary for cancer cells to proliferate and metastasize.

                        Eggplant is a also good source of B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and trace minerals like copper and manganese. And it's full of fiber, which is essential for digestive and cardiovascular health.

                        Raw walnuts are an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which play important roles in neurological and heart health. Walnuts also contain protein, fiber, vitamin E, minerals and plant sterols (good for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels).

                        Serve this spread on toasted slices of whole wheat baguette. If you're avoiding grains and flours, serve it with cucumber slices instead.

                        1 medium eggplant
                        Heaping 1/2 cup raw walnuts
                        2 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
                        1 tsp grated fresh ginger
                        1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
                        Pinch sea salt
                        1 lemon

                        Preheat oven to 450F. Place eggplant on a baking sheet and roast until soft, about 40 minutes. Cool completely.

                        Remove the stem from the eggplant and roughly chop it. Add it to a food processor along with the walnuts, garlic, ginger, olive oil and sea salt. Squeeze 1 tbsp fresh juice from the lemon and add it to the food processor as well. Pureé until smooth and taste for seasoning. If desired, add more sea salt or lemon juice.

                        Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge until ready to eat.


                        Matsubara K et al. Antiangiogenic activity of nasunin, an antioxidant anthocyanin, in eggplant peels. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2005 Aug 10;53(16):6272-5.

                        Tuesday, September 14, 2010

                        Peach Rum Barbeque Sauce

                        Stock up on fresh peaches before the season ends.
                        (I bought 6 pounds at the farmer's market last week.) Eat some fresh and with the rest, whip up some sauces you can store for mid-winter special occasions.

                        This barbeque sauce may not be the typical brown-red color, but it has all the essential flavors: sweet and sour, spicy and smokey. I served it with grilled chicken, but it would also work well with wild salmon, duck, pork or baked tofu triangles.

                        I used a dark rum from Martinique with a rich and floral flavor, but if you don't have rum, you can substitute bourbon or even water. For a mild barbeque sauce, omit the chili pepper or remove the seeds and membranes before you chop it.

                        1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        3/4 cups diced red onion., about 1 small
                        1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced
                        2 cloves garlic
                        2.5 cups fresh diced peaches, about 2 large peaches
                        1 large date, pitted and roughly chopped
                        1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
                        1/2 tsp ground cumin
                        2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
                        1/4 cup dark rum
                        Sea salt to taste
                        Ground peppercorn to taste

                        Warm the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion until soft and starting to brown. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic and as much chili pepper as you like. Stir and cook for one minute more, until the garlic becomes aromatic. Do not burn the garlic.

                        Add the peaches, date, mustard seeds, cumin, vinegar, rum, sea salt and peppercorn. Stir until well combined. Continue cooking over low heat until the peaches are soft and most of the liquid has reduced. Remove from the heat and cool.

                        Transfer the cooled peach mixture to a food processor and purée until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately, gently re-heating if desired, or store in an air-tight container for future use.

                        Yield: 2 cups

                        Tuesday, September 7, 2010

                        Green Cayenne Hot Sauce

                        Cayenne peppers are long, slender and slightly twisted. Medium in size and medium in heat, these chili peppers are spicer than jalapeños but not as hot as habaneros.

                        The Scoville heat index, named after pharmacist William Scoville, measures the capsaicinoids in chili peppers:

                        Habanero:  200,000-300,000
                        Tabasco:  30,000 - 50,000
                        Cayenne:  35,000
                        Chipotle:  10,000
                        Serrano:  7,000 - 25,000
                        Jalapeño:  3,500 - 4,500
                        Poblano:  2,500 - 3,000
                        Pasilla:  2,500
                        Anaheim:  1,000 - 1,400
                        Ancho:  1,000
                        Pimento:  0
                        Bell:  0

                        The capsaicin found in chili peppers has therapeutic effects. It is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent with anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic actions. Capsaicin is used to treat pain, lower blood sugar in diabetics, improve blood lipid profiles, heal ulcers, minimize nasal allergies, and reduce the risk of blood clots. It is currently being studied for its anti-cancer properties as well.

                        This home-made hot sauce has just 3 ingredients. The chili peppers are the star of the show and the sea salt and vinegar act as natural preservatives. I chose plain white vinegar because I didn't want it to compete with the fresh green chili flavor. If you prefer red chilis, or another variety of pepper, use those instead.

                        To extend the shelf life of fresh hot sauce, store it in a sterilized glass container in the fridge. Or use an ice cube tray to freeze small portions for future use.


                        When working with fresh chili peppers, take care to not touch sensitive areas like eyes, nose, cuts or scrapes. Wash your hands thoroughly afterward or wear gloves.

                        To sterilize a glass container to hold your hot sauce:

                        Place a glass bottle with heat-proof lid and a stainless steel funnel in a pan of water. Slowly bring the water to a gentle boil, then turn off the heat and allow everything to sit for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the glass bottle from the water bath and set aside to dry. Place the funnel on top of the bottle and allow that to air dry as well.

                        To make the hot sauce:
                        10 green cayenne chili peppers, roughly chopped, about 2 heaping cups
                        1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
                        1/4 to 1/2 tsp sea salt

                        Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Transfer sauce to storage container(s). Shake well before each use.

                        This recipe will yield about 1.5 cups of thick hot sauce. If desired, thin out with boiled water or additional vinegar. Be aware that adding water may shorten the shelf life.

                        Wednesday, September 1, 2010

                        Hemp Nut Pesto

                        GLUTEN-FREE |  GRAIN-FREE

                        Making pesto is an end-of-summer ritual in my kitchen. I freeze enough to get me through the winter and enjoy the rest fresh.

                        There are so many ways to eat pesto:
                        • Slather it on fresh tomato slices
                        • Serve it with grilled chicken, fish or tofu triangles
                        • Use it to dress steamed vegetables
                        • Whisk in some vinegar to make a pesto vinaigrette
                        • Add a spoonful to the cooking water for whole grains like brown rice and quinoa
                        • Use it as a dip for fresh radishes, bell pepper strips, carrot or celery sticks, cucumber and zucchini rounds
                        • Stir a spoonful into scrambled eggs
                        • Add a dollop to garnish vegetable soups

                        Hemp nuts are the star of this twist on pesto. They don’t just lend a rich and nutty goodness, they add healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber.

                        Raw hemp nuts are worth tracking down (I get mine at the Galaxy Global Eatery near Union Square in Manhattan) but if you don’t have them, substitute another raw nut or seed, like walnuts or pumpkin seeds, and grind them in the food processor before adding the other ingredients.

                        1 cup raw hemp nuts
                        4 garlic cloves
                        1 big bunch basil, about 6 packed cups
                        1 cup shredded aged Parmesan cheese
                        1 cup extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        ½ tsp sea salt

                        Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree to a fine consistency, adding more olive oil if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired.

                        Store in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer.

                        Wednesday, August 25, 2010

                        Black Plum Vinaigrette

                        Stone fruits are not only delicious and nutritious – high in antioxidants, fiber and potassium – but they are also being studied for their anticancer benefits.

                        A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that compounds called phenolic acids, extracted from Black Splendor plums and Rich Lady peaches, killed breast cancer cells but not normal cells in the laboratory. They also prevented cancer in animals.

                        Many fruits contain phenols but stone fruits like peaches and plums have especially high concentrations.

                        So celebrate plum season with this colorful and flavorful vinaigrette. I used black plums but you can use whatever plums you find fresh and local. Add the whole plum because most of the antioxidants are in the skin.

                        2 large black plums, roughly chopped, about 1 cup
                        1 heaping tbsp red onion
                        ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        ¼ cup red wine vinegar or umeboshi vinegar
                        Pinch sea salt
                        Ground peppercorn to taste

                        Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

                        Toss with your favorite salad greens, raw walnuts, cucumbers and crumbled goat cheese.


                        Noratto G et al. Identifying peach and plum polyphenols with chemopreventive potential against estrogen-independent breast cancer cells. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2009 Jun 24;57(12):5219-26.

                        Monday, August 23, 2010

                        Health Food Lover: Mushroom Medicine

                        Dr. Cimperman was a recent guest on Health Food Lover, an Australian blog committed to nutritious and delicious foods.

                        Read her post on Mushroom Medicine and her recipe for Medicinal Mushroom Soup.

                        Wednesday, August 18, 2010

                        Ratatouille with a Kick

                        GLUTEN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

                        Like my husband, this dish is from the south of France. His family introduced it to me long ago and it's been a favorite ever since. In August, the farmer's market is full of all the essential ingredients so I serve it up often. Ratatouille is a hit with vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike. It can be made a day or two in advance.

                        Ratatouille has a savory flavor with a slight sweetness from the red bell pepper and Vidalia onion. This version is also a little bit spicy, as the fresh chili peppers looked especially good at the farmer's market this week. The traditional version is made without chili pepper, so feel free to omit it. Or make a mild version by removing the seeds and membranes before you mince it.

                        This dish involves a lot of chopping, but you can do it as you go. While the onion is cooking, chop the vegetables in their order of appearance and add them as you chop them. I used a 1-inch dice, but if you want the dish to cook faster, use a smaller dice.

                        Ratatouille can make a main dish or accompany almost any protein. Last weekend I served it alongside wild grilled halibut, but shrimp, chicken or tempeh would also work well. Prepare any meat without fanfare, using only olive oil, sea salt and ground peppercorn. The ratatouille is the star here and doesn't need any competition.

                        Save any leftovers for Ratatouille Baked Eggs: Spoon re-heated ratatouille into ramekins, make an indentation and break an egg or two on top. Sprinkle the eggs with sea salt and ground peppercorn, then broil the dish until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.

                        2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
                        1 large Vidalia onion, or other onion, about 3 cups chopped
                        2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
                        1/2 tsp sea salt
                        1/4 tsp freshly ground peppercorn
                        1 tbsp dried Herbes De Provence
                        1 medium eggplant chopped into 1-inch cubes, about 3 cups
                        1 red chili pepper, or other color, minced
                        2 medium red bell peppers, or other color, chopped into 1-inch pieces, about 3 cups
                        2 large tomatoes chopped into 1-inch cubes, about 3 cups
                        2 medium-small zucchini chopped into 1-inch cubes, about 3 cups
                        2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped, to garnish

                        In the bottom of a large, heavy-bottom pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to brown and stick to the pan, about 15 minutes. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until it becomes aromatic. Do not burn the garlic.

                        Add the sea salt, peppercorn, Herbes De Provence, eggplant, chili pepper, bell pepper, tomato and zucchini. Cook until the vegetables have softened, formed a sauce and thickened, about 45 minutes or more.

                        Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.

                        If making it in advance, cool the finished ratatouille to room temperature, transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge until ready to eat. Garnish the ratatouille with fresh basil just before you serve it.

                        Wednesday, August 11, 2010

                        Peach Salsa with Grilled Wild Salmon

                        This fresh fruit salsa isn't what you expect.

                        It's full of Thai flavors: ginger, cilantro, scallion, chili and lime juice. They all work well with the peaches, which are seasonably sweet and juicy at the moment, and the wild salmon. But this salsa would also be a great condiment for other seafood dishes, chicken, duck, pork, tofu or organic whole grain corn chips.

                        I left the seeds in the chili pepper because I like my salsa spicy. If you prefer a more mild version, remove the seeds and membranes from the chili before you slice it.

                        1 large ripe peach, pitted and chopped into a small dice
                        3/4 tsp grated fresh ginger, or more to taste
                        2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
                        1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced
                        1 red Thai chili pepper, thinly sliced
                        2 tbsp fresh lime juice, about 1 lime
                        Sea salt
                        1 lb wild salmon fillets or steaks at room temperature, cut into 4 to 6 oz portions
                        Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing

                        Add the peach, ginger, cilantro, scallion, chili, lime juice and a pinch of sea salt to a medium bowl. Toss to combine, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Set the salsa aside to allow the flavors to fully develop, up to 2 hours at room temperature or longer in the fridge, covered, until ready to eat.

                        Preheat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Brush the salmon on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place the pieces of fish on the grill and cook until grill marks appear, about 4 to 5 minutes.

                        If using a grill pan, flip the salmon over, turn off the heat and allow it to finish cooking with residual heat.

                        If using an outdoor grill, flip the salmon over and place it on a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.

                        After a few more minutes, when the salmon pieces are firm in the center, transfer them to a plate and serve immediately, with the peach salsa. Do not overcook.

                        Wednesday, August 4, 2010

                        Blueberry Yogurt Clafouti

                        This delicious dessert is a healthy alternative to blueberry pies that commonly contain a large amount of refined carbohydrates. My recipe contains no white flour or sugar. It is mostly fruit, yogurt, milk and eggs, and it calls for only small amounts of whole wheat flour and honey.

                        The texture is soft, between a custard and a pancake. Because you don’t have to bother with a crust, you can mix it up in minutes. Made ahead and served at room temperature, it’s a perfect picnic dessert.

                        Take advantage of the season now that blueberries are abundant, inexpensive, and perfectly ripe. Choose organic blueberries because this fruit is now on the list of the Dirty Dozen most contaminated produce items.

                        Organic butter or cold-pressed coconut oil for the baking dish
                        2 pints fresh blueberries
                        2/3 cup whole milk plain yogurt from grass-fed cows
                        2/3 cup whole milk from grass-fed cows
                        2 eggs from pasture-raised chickens
                        1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
                        1/4 cup raw honey
                        Pinch sea salt

                        Preheat the oven to 375F.

                        Coat a 10-inch round baking dish with butter or coconut oil to prevent the clafouti from sticking.

                        Wash the blueberries and pick them over to remove any stems or bad berries. Arrange them in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. 

                        Whisk together the yogurt, milk, eggs, honey and sea salt until thoroughly combined. Add the flour and whisk again until smooth. Do not over-mix. Pour the mixture over the blueberries.

                        Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until the clafouti is puffed up and golden brown and a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

                        Wednesday, July 28, 2010

                        Cucumber Lime Cooler

                        This cool summer drink can be made with or without alcohol.

                        Alcohol should always be enjoyed in moderation and red wine is my first choice, but I'm not opposed to the occasional cocktail, especially when it comes to summer entertaining.

                        I like to serve guests an apéritif, the traditional French before-dinner drink, and this refreshing cucumber lime cooler is a crowd pleaser. Unlike most cocktails that contain sugar, soda or fruit juice, this one is a healthier combination of vegetable juice, lime and mint. Use organic, unwaxed cucumbers and leave the skin on to get the most antioxidants in the juice.

                        Whether or not you add vodka, be sure to use a stainless steel cocktail shaker because this drink is best served very, very cold.

                        2 parts fresh organic cucumber juice, plus slices to garnish
                        1 part freshly squeezed lime juice
                        1 part good quality vodka (or substitute more cucumber juice)
                        1 part loosely packed mint leaves (2 or 3 sprigs), plus more to garnish
                        Ice cubes

                        Special equipment: juicer, stainless steel cocktail shaker

                        Juice the cucumber. Place 2 ice cubes at the bottom of a stainless steel cocktail shaker. Add the mint leaves on top and 2 more ice cubes. Use a large pestle or the end of a wooden spoon to muddle the mint and the ice cubes.

                        Add the cucumber juice, lime juice and vodka. Shake until very cold, pour over ice and serve immediately.

                        Wednesday, July 21, 2010

                        Cherry Salsa with Grilled Pacific Halibut

                        GLUTEN-FREE| DAIRY-FREE

                        To be perfectly honest, pitting and chopping cherries is a labor of love. It takes some time and effort, but you will be well rewarded with this unusual twist on salsa.

                        Spicy and sweet, it is a flavorful accompaniment to grilled fish and seafood. I served it with Pacific halibut, a firm fish that is good for grilling, high in healthy omega-3 fats, low in toxic contaminants, and approved by Seafood Watch. This fresh fruit salsa also pairs well with poultry or pork, and vegetarians can enjoy it over grilled tofu triangles drizzled with tamari.

                        I used local Rainier cherries from the farmer's market. They are yellow with a bright red blush and delicate flavor. You can substitute another variety of cherry if you wish.

                        I also used a Thai bird chili pepper, but jalapeno and Serrano chilies would also work well. I like my salsa spicy, so I used the whole chili. But if you prefer a mild salsa, remove the seeds and membranes from the chili pepper before you slice it.

                        1 pint cherries, pitted and finely chopped
                        1 scallion, green and white parts, thinly sliced
                        1 fresh Thai bird chili pepper, thinly sliced
                        3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice , about 1 lime
                        Sea salt to taste
                        Halibut, 4 to 6 oz per person
                        Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing

                        Pit the cherries by cutting them in half, working around the pit, and removing the pit with a spoon. If you want pieces consistent in size, slice each half into thirds, rotate them 90 degrees, then slice the thirds into thirds to yield 9 small cubes. If you favor speed over consistency, roughly chop the cherry halves instead.

                        Toss the prepared cherries with the other ingredients until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

                        Allow the salsa to marinate so the flavors fully develop, up to 2 hours at room temperature or longer in the fridge until ready to eat.

                        Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Toss the halibut with olive oil until well-coated to prevent the fish from sticking. Season with sea salt. Place the fish on the hot grill and cook until grill marks appear, just a minute or two if you are using 1-2 inch chunks, then turn and continue cooking on other sides until the fish firms up and cooks through. Cooking time will depend on the size of the pieces of fish. Do not overcook.

                        Serve the grilled halibut immediately with Cherry Salsa and a big green salad.

                        Wednesday, July 14, 2010

                        Central Park Salad


                        I live in the middle of Manhattan, but I can still forage for food.

                        I gathered all of these ingredients within a mile of my apartment except the sea salt, olive oil, and white wine vinegar (which I bought from the source on a trip to Napa). If I can do it in New York City, almost anyone can.

                        The amounts I used were dependent on what I found, so my measurements are only guidelines.For more information on these wild foods found in Central Park, read my this post on my other blog.

                        1 tbsp Wild Field Garlic cloves
                        1 tbsp Wild Chervil seeds
                        1 tbsp Poor Man's Pepper seeds
                        1 tsp white wine vinegar
                        1 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
                        Sea salt
                        Several small milk weed pods (1 to 2 inches long), boiled for 20 minutes and cooled
                        1 cup fresh Yellow Wood Sorrel leaves and flowers, and any tender stems in between
                        1 cup fresh Lamb's Quarters leaves
                        1 handful of fresh blackberries
                        1 handful of fresh Black Nightshade berries (DO NOT EAT THE LEAVES)

                        Add the garlic cloves and chervil seeds to the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Use a pestle or the back of a spoon to crush them against the bowl. Add the pepper seeds, white wine vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Whisk to combine, taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

                        Slice the cooked milk weed pods in halves or quarters.

                        Add the sorrel and lamb's quarters to the bowl. Toss the greens lightly with the vinaigrette and transfer to a serving plate. Top with the sliced, cooked milk weed pods, blackberries and black nightshade berries. Serve immediately.