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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dill Dressing


This simple summer salad is a perfect for entertaining because it's made in advance. Allowing the cucumbers to marinate in the yogurt sauce softens their texture and marries them with the other flavors.

2 cucumbers
1/3 cup organic whole milk plain yogurt
1 tsp honey
Pinch fresh organic lemon zest, about 1/4 tsp loosely packed
1 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion, red or other
2 tbsp fresh chopped dill, plus more for garnish

If your cucumbers are waxed, or if they are not organic, peel them. Thinly slice them using a mandolin or a sharp knife.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey, sea salt, lemon zest and juice. Toss the cucumbers, onion and dill with the sauce. Cover and transfer to the fridge overnight.

When ready to serve, toss thoroughly. Taste for seasoning and make any necessary adjustments. Use clean hands to arrange the cucumber slices on a serving platter or use a slotted spoon to transfer the salad to a serving dish. If desired, spoon some of the sauce down over the top of the salad or serve it on the side. Garnish with fresh chopped dill and serve.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dark Chocolate Pots de Crème


This deep dark chocolate dessert is one of my new favorites.

It calls for just a few ingredients, yet the finished product seems more than the sum of its parts.

Pots de Crème are usually made in advance and served cold, which is perfect for hot weather and convenient for entertaining, but I also like to eat them freshly cooled to room temperature, about an hour or two after they come out of the oven.

Either way, they will be creamy and silky and smooth. At room temperature they have a soft, custard-like consistency. Once chilled, they become a bit thicker.

½ cup whole milk
1½ cups heavy cream
Pinch sea salt
4 oz dark chocolate, 70% or darker, roughly chopped
6 egg yolks
1 tbsp honey (optional)

Preheat the oven to 300F. Place six 6-ounce ramekins or glass cups in a shallow baking dish.

Over low heat, warm the milk and cream in a covered saucepan until hot, just before it boils. Turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate. Cover and set aside.

Heat a pot full of water (tea pots are good choices because they are easy to pour) until boiling. You'll use it for a water bath later.

Add the egg yolks to a large mixing bowl with the honey and sea salt. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.

Once the chocolate is melted, whisk it until the mixture is smooth. Set it aside to cool slightly.

Add the chocolate to the egg yolks in a slow, gradual stream, whisking continuously. Don't rush this step, or the eggs may scramble.

Once all of the chocolate has been incorporated into the egg yolks and the mixture is smooth, divide it evenly among the ramekins. Pour boiling water around them, enough to come half way up the sides. Take care not to pour any water inside the ramekins. Transfer them to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, the custard should be set. Remove the pots de crème from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature.

Eat them within 2 hours or, once cool, cover and transfer them to the fridge until ready to eat.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lavender Lemon Iced Tea


I love cold tea on hot days. Not only is it refreshing, but it's a healthy alternative to sweetened beverages.

Tea, from the Camellia sinensis plant, contains powerful antioxidants. One in particular, a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate-3 or EGCG, has been shown to fight cancer by inhibiting angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels to feed tumors) and inducing apoptosis (cancer cell death).

EGCG also reduces inflammation and activates enzymes in the liver that detoxify toxic compounds and facilitate their removal from the body.

Studies have shown that regular consumption of black tea is associated with preservation of bone mineral density and protection against cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline
in older adults.

This Rishi Earl Grey Lavender Tea was a gift from my good friend Andrea. It's a blend of black Earl Grey tea, lavender flowers, and essential oils of bergamot and lavender. 

But it's easy to make your own lavender-black tea blend. I used black Darjeeling tea because I recently brought some back from India, but you can use any whole leaf black tea you like.

Find dried lavender flowers in stores that sell dried herbs and teas. (In New York City, find them at Flower Power in the East Village or at Kalustyan's.)

2 parts whole black tea leaves
1 part dried lavender flowers
1 part fresh lemon zest

Stir all of the ingredients together until thoroughly combined.

Steep 3 heaping tablespoons of tea in 1 cup of boiling water (or as much water as you need to fully submerge the tea). Cover and allow it to sit for at least five minutes.

Add 2 cups of cold water to a glass pitcher. Strain the tea into the pitcher. Taste it to evaluate how strong it is, then add more water as needed. Consider that the tea should be on the strong side because it will be diluted when served over ice. Chill thoroughly.

Serve the chilled tea over ice, with or without a slice of lemon.

Rishi lavender black tea blend:

My lavender black tea blend:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Moroccan Lamb Sliders with Lemon Yogurt Sauce


These two-bite burgers are bursting with flavor. Savory lamb pairs well with aromatics like fresh cilantro, ginger and garlic, and ground spices like cinnamon and turmeric. Golden raisins give it a sticky sweetness and pine nuts help hold everything together.

(If you're looking for a detox-friendly dish, omit the raisins.)

Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer actions in the body, so every cook should keep it handy and use it often. Because it is not well-absorbed alone, turmeric should always be combined with black pepper and cooked with some form of fat. A study in India found that combining black pepper with turmeric increased its absorption by 2,000 percent. 

This recipe calls for quite a few spices. If you don't have turmeric and black pepper, buy them. If you are missing another spice or even a few, don't sweat it, a variation will likely be just as good. If you don't have golden raisins, dried unsweetened apricots would be an excellent alternative.

In this recipe I form the meat mixture into small patties but I could just as easily make meatballs or large patties, or mold it around skewers to make kebabs. However you form it, the mixture can be made in advance and cooked on demand. The Lemon Yogurt Sauce can be made ahead as well and it couldn't be more simple. (It's just lemon and yogurt.)

This dish is a real crowd-pleaser, even for folks who think they don't like lamb. When prepared like this, almost everyone likes lamb. Find grass-fed and pasture-raised lamb at your local farmers market or search the Eat Wild database for other options in your area.

  • 1/2 cup raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, packed
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 2 or 3 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • Sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground black peppercorn
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  • Pinch or more cayenne pepper
  • 1.5 pounds ground grass-fed lamb

  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over low heat, until aromatic and just starting to brown. Set them aside to cool.
  2. Add the cilantro, garlic, ginger, onion, raisins and pine nuts to a food processor with 1/4 tsp of sea salt. Pulse until everything is finely chopped. Set it aside to allow the dry raisins to soak up some moisture.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the turmeric, peppercorn, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, cayenne, and 1/4 tsp sea salt.
  4. Go back to the food processor and puree the mixture until smooth. Transfer it to the mixing bowl and stir in the spices until everything is well-combined.
  5. Using impeccably clean hands, add the ground lamb to the bowl and mix it with the spice mixture. Do not over-work the meat, but make sure that the spices are thoroughly incorporated.
  6. Warm a small amount of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Make a small test patty, cook it on both sides and taste it for seasoning. If necessary, make any adjustments to the raw mixture, and test and taste again.
  7. Form the lamb mixture into small balls, then gently flatten them into patties. Cook them right away or store them in the fridge or freezer until you're ready to eat.
  8. To cook the sliders, warm a small amount of coconut or extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. (You won't need much because the lamb will release fat.) Cook the lamb patties on both sides until browned. Serve immediately with Lemon Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows). 
If you're feeding a crowd, consider baking the sliders instead: Arrange them on a baking tray and bake in a pre-heated 450°F oven until browned, about 10 minutes. 

Lemon Yogurt Sauce:

This sauce doesn't need a lot of seasoning because the sliders are so full of flavor. You can add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground peppercorn if you wish. To dress it up, stir in some finely chopped cilantro and a pinch of ground cumin. Left unseasoned, leftover Lemon Yogurt Sauce makes an excellent dip for fresh strawberries.
  • 1 organic lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cup Greek whole milk yogurt or regular whole milk plain yogurt
Stir all of the lemon zest and a teaspoon of the juice into the yogurt. Taste and add more juice if desired. 

Shoba G et al. Influence of piperine on the pharmacokinetics of curcumin in animals and human volunteers. Planta Medica. 1998 May;64(4):353-6.