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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Real Mayonnaise


Many years ago when my French friend Camille moved to the United States, she commented how strange it was for her to see Americans buy mayonnaise at the store and keep it in the fridge for months. At that time, I thought it was equally strange for her to make mayo from scratch whenever she needed it. But it turns out that she had the better idea.

Real mayonnaise is simply egg yolk and olive oil, with a little seasoning. Because there are only a few ingredients, quality is important. Use cold-pressed oil and eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Made right, it's a nutritious condiment you can whip up in minutes.

Eggs from pasture-raised chickens are more nutritious than conventional eggs and they aren't just good for us, they are also good for the environment. Grain production required to feed factory farm animals, and the waste they produce, is a major contributor to pollution of air, water and soil. And buying better eggs supports farmers who respect the natural behaviors of animals they raise.

This recipe makes about a cup and a quarter of mayonnaise. You can easily cut it in half to make less. Because it is so perishable, it's a good idea to make only what you plan to use within a few days.

Note: This recipe contains raw egg yolk. Salmonella bacteria thrive under conditions in confined animal feeding operations where a diet of grain, overcrowding, constant contact with waste, and mechanized slaughter make contamination a common problem. It would be extremely rare to find these pathogens on eggs from pasture-raised chickens, but it's always good practice to rinse them gently before you crack them open.

  • 2 egg yolks from pasture-raised chickens
  • 1 tsp Dijon or home-made mustard (optional)
  • 1 cup cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 2 to 3 tsp
  • Sea Salt 

  1. Combine the egg yolk and mustard in a small bowl and whisk until creamy. 
  2. Continue to whisk while adding the olive oil drop by drop until the mixture begins to thicken, then add the remaining oil in a thin stream. 
  3. Use lemon juice to thin the mayonnaise to the desired consistency. 
  4. Add a small pinch of sea salt and taste for seasoning. Make any necessary adjustments, adding more lemon juice or salt. 
  5. Store what you don’t use fresh in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Optional: To give your mayonnaise extra flavor, once it has been prepared, mix in minced garlic, finley chives or tarragon, a pinch of curry powder, grated ginger, and/or minced jalapeno.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tempeh Salad Tartine

I am always singing the praises of tempeh, a fermented form of soy. It is a healthy vegetarian protein and I love the chewy texture. Tempeh has a mild nutty flavor and, like tofu, takes on the flavors of sauces and other ingredients. Here I toss it with a lemon-yogurt dressing and capers for a creative alternative to tuna salad.

(Some individuals should avoid soy, including those who have a soy allergy or sensitivity, individuals with thyroid problems, and women taking Taxol).

Fermentation not only preserves food, it increases the nutritional value as well. Microorganisms break down protein and carbohydrates into carbon dioxide and amino acids, making food more digestible and nutrients more bioavailable. Fermented foods also help maintain a healthy balance of intestinal flora and inhibit the colonization of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and yeast.

I threw this together quickly to have a healthy lunch to take to work, so it just contains a few ingredients. But feel free to get creative with other additions like finely chopped celery, scallion, red onion, radish or olives; minced garlic; or grated golden beet or carrot.

I don’t eat a lot of bread, but I have been known to keep a loaf in the freezer for occasions like this. Foods made with flour should be limited, and they should always contain whole grain flour and nuts or seeds to ensure that the carbohydrates are digested and absorbed slowly, preventing sudden spikes in insulin levels. Choose whole grain breads with several grams of fiber and protein per slice. I used Trader Joe's Six Grain Bread with Pumpkin Seeds, but other good choices abound.

1 block tempeh, 8 oz
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 organic lemon, zest and juice
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt made from whole milk
1/4 cup real mayonnaise (or more yogurt)
Sea salt
Freshly ground peppercorn
2 tbsp capers or more to taste
Whole grain bread, one slice per serving
Lettuce or spinach leaves

Dice the tempeh into small cubes, 1 cm or smaller. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tempeh cubes and sauté, stirring occasionally, until crispy and browned on several sides.

Meanwhile, add the zest from the lemon to a medium bowl with the yogurt, mayonnaise, a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of ground peppercorn. Stir to combine. Add enough lemon juice to achieve the desired flavor and consistency, about a tablespoon or two. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

As soon as the tempeh is browned, add it to the bowl and toss to coat in the lemon yogurt sauce. Add the capers and any other ingredients, and stir to combine.

(If you are making this ahead, stop here and store the tempeh salad in an air-tight container in the fridge until ready to eat. Assemble the bread, lettuce and tempeh salad just before you eat it.)

Toast the bread if desired. Top each slice with lettuce or spinach leaves and a generous portion of tempeh salad. Serve immediately.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fresh Sardines


Fresh sardines make a fantastic meal. Not only are they full of healthy omega-3 fats like DHA and EPA, but they are approved by Seafood Watch. Because they are small fish that live low on the food chain, sardines are sustainable seafood low in toxic contaminants.

Simple preparation best showcases the delicate and delicious flavor of sardines. Just brush them with some extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle them with sea salt and grill or sauté them for a few minutes on each side. Then squeeze some fresh lemon on top and savor this special fish.

I was a vegetarian for almost a decade before I started eating seafood again. The nutrition courses I took in naturopathic medical school convinced me that the fatty acids found only in fish are essential for good health, so I incorporated seafood back into my diet while I was visiting my husband's family in Martinique, an island in the Caribbean where fresh seafood is a way of life.

As a former vegetarian, it was unusual to eat fish, but even more unusual to have an entire animal on my plate. I was familiar with fish fillets, but given the whole fish, I wasn't sure how to eat it. Luckily, my mother-in-law taught me how to remove the meat from the bones with great patience and, eventually, great skill. In case you aren't familiar, I will walk you through it. It may take some time at first, but the more you cook and eat fresh whole fish like sardines, the easier it will become.

Sardines are quick to clean and quick to cook. In case your fishmonger hasn't cleaned them, I've provided some instructions for that as well. It's easy and doesn't take long, even if you've never cleaned a fish before.

Fresh sardines, 2 or 3 per person
Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
Sea salt
Fresh lemons

To clean the sardines:

If you don't have a food disposal in your sink, clean the fish over a strainer to catch the scales and innards.

Remove the fish scales using the square edge a paring knife (not the cutting edge) to scrape from the tail to the head.  Be gentle enough to keep the skin intact. Rinse well.

Insert the cutting edge of the knife into the end of the digestive track, a small hole on the bottom of the fish near the tail. Make one cut, slicing up toward the head. Pull out the internal organs and rinse well. Set aside to drain in a clean strainer or on a clean towel. Clean the other fish.

To cook the sardines:

Preheat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of each fish with olive oil (be thorough to prevent them from sticking) and sprinkle both sides with sea salt. Place the fish on the preheated pan and cook for about 3 minutes, until the skin becomes crispy and lightly browned. Flip the fish and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes on the other side, until crispy and browned. Transfer the fish to a serving platter and serve immediately with fresh lemon slices.

To eat the sardines:

Make a cut down the middle of one side of the fish and gently pull the meat away from the center, leaving as many small bones as possible attached to the back bone.

Turn the fish over, make another cut down the middle and remove the rest of the meat in the same way.

Discard the tail, backbone and head (they should still be connected and you should be able to lift them away all as one piece). Leave the skin intact (it's full of those healthy fats) and remove any visible bones from the meat, including the area of several small bones near the fins. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the chunks of fish and chew carefully, in case some bones went undetected.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Moroccan Shrimp Salad

This simple salad is full of Moroccan flavors. It is savory, spicy, and perfectly balanced with a hint of sweetness from the oranges.

You can make the Pomegranate Vinaigrette and marinate the shrimp ahead, then finish it in minutes once you are ready to eat.

  • 1 organic unwaxed lemon
  • 1/2 tsp corriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
  • 1 lb wild-caught prawns or large shrimp, cleaned
  • 1 orange, peeled and segmented
  • 1 cup cooked chick peas (garbanzo beans)
  • 8 cups salad greens
  • Pomegranate Vinaigrette (recipes follows)

  1. Zest the lemon, which should yield about 1 teaspoon zest, and reserve the fruit.
  2. Use an electric grinder (or mortar and pestle) to grind the coriander seeds, crushed red pepper and cumin seeds. Add them to a large mixing bowl with the lemon zest, turmeric, ginger, sea salt and olive oil. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the shrimp to the bowl and toss to coat evenly with the spice mixture. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for up to 2 hours. (If you are making this more than 2 hours in advance, transfer the shrimp to the fridge, then return to room temperature before cooking.)
  4. Mix together the Pomegranate Vinaigrette (recipe follows) in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Add the orange segments and chick peas, then toss to combine. Fill the rest of the bowl with salad greens and set aside while the shrimp marinate. (Do not toss the salad yet.)
  5. When ready to eat, preheat a grill pan (or skillet) over medium heat. Once hot, add the shrimp and cook until starting to brown, just a few minutes, then flip and brown on the other side until cooked through. Do not overcook the shrimp. Cooking time will depend on the size of the shrimp.
  6. While the shrimp cook, toss the salad greens with the chick peas, orange segments and vinaigrette. Arrange the salad on a serving platter or individual plates and top with the grilled shrimp. Squeeze the lemon halves over the shrimp and serve immediately.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette:

I don't usually add salt to vinaigrette because I never feel it is missing. But some find it essential, so add a pinch if you wish.
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses (concentrated pomegranate juice)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch sea salt (optional)
Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.