Thursday, February 2, 2012

Healing Foods: Honeybell Orange Juice and Candied Orange Rind

January marks the month for Honeybell Oranges. These delicious, juicy oranges are only available at the first of the year for a very short time. We ordered a few cases of them for our office to give everyone some much needed vitamin C and a delicious treat during a long, post-holiday month.

I brought some of these beauties home to make freshly squeezed orange juice for part of my two week juice fast (more on that later) and to give the girls a glass of vitamin packed goodness in the morning. I also zested the skin of the orange to use in salad dressings. Even the zest was delicious, so I decided to candy some of the rind in a sugar syrup (a very English thing to do--my mother loves candied citrus) and--once cooked--dip the candied orange rind into a semisweet chocolate. It makes for a heavenly, bitter/sweet treat that provides additional vitamin C and dietary fiber along with a bit of vitamin A and calcium.

Easy to make and an elegant, delicious sweet to eat--these are great to serve as a light, sweet treat with tea or coffee.

Candied Orange Peel
Cut and quarter 4-5 oranges, removing the fruit. Thinly slice the skin quarters lengthwise. Bring 21/2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water to a boil, add orange peel and reduce heat to medium/low. Let orange rinds simmer in the sugar syrup, stirring occasionally, for about 1.5 hours. With a slotted spoon, remove orange rinds from the syrup and place on a rack to cool. Let sit for 24 hours. Melt 2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels. Holding the rind at one end, dip the rind and cover one half of the length of the rind with melted chocolate. Place on a sheet of tin foil or wax paper to cool. Refrigerate 5 minutes to allow chocolate to harden, then peel from paper and place in an airtight container. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Comfort Food: Pulled Pork Sliders for Laura's Superbowl Party

My friend Laura went looking on the blog for a dish I have served a few times at potlucks. Pulled pork sliders are a crowd favorite--and easy to make. She will be hosting a Super-Bowl party, and wanted to serve these. They are easiest made in a crockpot--but since I don't have one--I bake them in a dutch oven on low heat for most of the day. The smell is heavenly. I put a basket of mini-brioche rolls (or mini potato roll slider buns) onto the table with a big bowl of cole slaw and a party is made. So for Laura and all looking for a great party food--here you go:

Pulled Pork (for sliders)
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder-trimmed of fat
1 onion sliced thin
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt

Using a large dutch oven (or 6 quart crockpot), place trimmed roast, onion, ketchup, water, vinegar, brown sugar and seasonings. Cover and cook at 275 degrees for 6 to 8 hours, stirring sauce occasionally and basting the roast. To check done-ness--try shredding an area of the meat with a fork. If it shreds easily, remove onto a platter, and shred with a fork. Return to sauce and stir over low heat on the stovetop--taste and correct seasoning. Serve with mini rolls and cole slaw (recipe follows)

Cole Slaw

3-4 cups shredded green cabbage
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
1 cup shredded carrots
1 /4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup seasoned sushi rice vinegar
1/4 cup neutral oil (canola or grapeseed)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all vegetable ingredients together. Whisk oil, vinegar salt and pepper together. Stir into cole slaw mixture and turn to mix well.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Comfort Foods: Crabmeat Crostini with Sriracha Mayonnaise and Toasting Another Happy Year

After a lovely Christmas with my family in Ohio, we came back to New York to enjoy the city with our daughters for the rest of the holiday vacation. After-Christmas shopping, Christmas windows and decorations and the giant tree at Rockefeller Center still hold their magic for all of us.

Last night, we opened a bottle of champagne to toast the end of a great year, and the start of a happy one. I made spicy crabmeat crostini, and they were a perfect accompaniment to the delicious champagne.

Easy to make, serve and eat, the crostini are elegant, rich and delicious. The crab gets an unexpected kick from the sriracha, and the toasty crostini adds crunch to the silky crabmeat pâté. If you are looking to cut down on carbs--you can spoon the spicy crabmeat into endive leaves for a light but crunchy amuse-bouche.

If you are looking for an easy and tasty appetizer to ring in the New Year--this is it. Not that a good glass of champagne needs much to go with it--a toast with loved ones and a grateful nod to all that is good in your life is plenty. Happy New Year!

Crabmeat Crostini with Sriracha Mayonnaise
1/2 pound fresh lump crab meat
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons sriracha sauce (available in Asian grocery/markets)
1 baguette, sliced and toasted
Freshly ground pepper and chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

In a bowl, mix crabmeat, mayonnaise and sriracha with a fork until the sauces are mixed through with the crab. I prefer to keep the crabmeat a little chunky, but more mixing will make the
pâté more smooth. Spoon onto crostini (or into endive leaves for a lighter dish) and garnish with freshly ground pepper and chopped cilantro.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Healing Foods: Persimmon Orange Salad and He Can Cook, Too!

I have often invited my husband to join me in the kitchen to cook. A dashing French gastronome, he has introduced me to many lovely dishes in our years (and travels) together. In the past couple of years, as we both try to take control of our health, he has become a wonderful partner as we peruse recipes, shop for ingredients and discover dishes that are both delicious and nutrient filled.

For Thanksgiving, he came across a recipe in the New York Times that he thought would be a great pairing with our “lighter than years past” meal with friends. It is delicious, and so worth sharing. The refreshing, sweet persimmons and the citrusy sweet/tart oranges are a great combination, and the peppery watercress is a great juxtaposition to fruit’s textures and flavors. We have made it a few times since Thanksgiving, and it is a welcome addition at any dinner. And although making this delicious salad isn't exactly is a treat to have my handsome man joining me in the kitchen!

1 small shallot, minced

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons fruity olive oil

4 navel oranges

4 Fuyu persimmons

1 bunch watercress, optional

Put the shallot and vinegar in a small bowl and macerate 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and a little pepper. Whisk in the olive oil.

With a serrated knife, peel the oranges, then slice into 1/2-inch rounds. Arrange the orange slices on a platter. Peel the persimmons, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices or wedges and arrange over the oranges.

The salad can be covered and refrigerated up to 3 hours. Just before serving, whisk the dressing again and drizzle over the fruit. Garnish with watercress sprigs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Healing Foods: Mushroom Ragout and Renewed Energy

My salt-free eating plan (not a diet!) has had some very tangible results over the past month. My blood pressure has come down, my energy level has gone way up, and I have lost 7 pounds. I now scour labels to see the sodium content of any food that’s canned, frozen or packaged, and have largely eliminated them as cooking or meal options. Because I am limited to 500 milligrams (1/5 of a teaspoon) of sodium per day, I am motivated to eat foods without dressings, heavy sauces—mainly foods in their cleanest state. Because I can feel such a huge difference in my health and energy level—it has helped keep me motivated to be creative with herbs, spices and flavors without adding salt.

The mushroom ragout recipe, below, is wonderfully versatile. As an appetizer on crostini, served over pasta, risotto or polenta, or as a side to chicken breast or a filet mignon, it is delicious. You can make it with a single mushroom (like button or crimini), or mix several types of mushrooms for a richer, more complex flavor.

Mushroom Ragout

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped chives

12 ounces crimini, shitake, oyster, button or portobello mushrooms (I mix them all for the richest flavor), sliced thin

1/3 cup unsalted chicken broth (Kitchen Basics is my favorite)

1/3 cup dry red wine

2-3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 teaspoon truffle oil (for drizzling)

Saute butter and garlic together. Add sliced mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add broth, wine, and continue cooking until the liquid reduces by about half. Add cream and chives, and cook for another minute to combine all flavors. Drizzle with truffle oil and serve with your favorite protein or starch.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Healing Foods: Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and How Much is 500 Milligrams of Salt?

1 teaspoon of table salt is approximately 2400 milligrams of sodium. That teaspoon of salt thrown into boiling water to cook pasta is now almost 5 times my daily allowance of sodium (my cardiologist told me to limit my sodium intake to 500 milligrams a day). So, how does someone not familiar with watching her salt intake learn to live with less than 1/5 of a teaspoon per day?

Stop cooking with it, for starters. That has been going on for a few weeks now, and I have been pleasantly surprised that we can go without it at mealtimes with no complaint. My daughters have been enjoying their sodium-free meals, and eating more vegetables. One of their favorite veggie dishes is caramelized Brussels sprouts.

I grew up with an English mother, and Brussels sprouts, along with mashed carrots and turnips, were staples at our house. We always ate our sprouts steamed, until one year we discovered that if you steamed them lightly and then sautéed them, they were even better. When I learned in a cooking class what caramelized Brussels sprouts tasted like—I was hooked.

Steamed lightly, sautéed in a little butter sprinkled with ½ teaspoon of sugar, the sautéing process gives the sprouts a sweet/savory coating that makes the outside of the sprout a caramel brown color. They are tender, sweet/savory, delicious bites full of goodness. Steaming helps bring out the cholesterol lowering benefits of these healthy cruciferous vegetables, and they are loaded with vitamins K, C, and manganese—and fiber.

Paired with any protein, these are a healthy and delicious accompaniment.

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, stems cut and sprouts cut in half (or quartered, if they are large)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil

½ teaspoon sugar

Pepper to taste

Place Brussels sprouts in a steamer basket over boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain to remove excess water/steam.

In a skillet, heat butter over medium heat until completely melted, and sprinkle sugar over butter. Add sprouts and sauté, stirring gently ever 3-4 minutes for about 15 minutes, until outsides of sprouts become caramelized. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Healing Foods: Zucchini, Onion and Tomato Tian-Delicious Without Salt!

As I continue to eliminate salt from my diet—I am, of course, shocked at the amount of it that I was consuming on a daily basis. Not only did I salt as I was cooking, but most condiments, stocks, and processed food ingredients contain very generous amounts of sodium. I have had to rethink using canned tomatoes, ketchups and other condiment sauces, chicken, beef and vegetable stock, and other key ingredients as I scour the labels to assess the sodium level in all of them.

The other evening, I was pleasantly surprised (again!) at how tasty a dish completely devoid of my once favorite seasoning can be. I made veal cutlets that were sprinkled with pepper and sautéed in a little olive oil. Once they were cooked, I deglazed the pan with a little white wine, and added my favorite salt free Kitchen basics chicken stock. I added a teaspoon of spicy Dijon mustard to the liquid and let it reduce. With that, I made a vegetable tian of thinly sliced layered vegetables that are roasted with olive oil and fresh herbs. It was delicious—and with the fresh thyme and other herbs added to it—very flavorful. The vegetables, all heart-healthy and nutrition dense, meld deliciously into a tender side dish that you can serve with many different main courses.

My daughters didn’t notice that salt was missing, and ate it all. So, if you are looking to cut down on sodium—here is a recipe that is so yummy you won’t even know it’s not there.

Vegetable Tian

2 medium zucchini sliced thin

1 large onion sliced thin

2 tomatoes sliced thin or chopped into small dice

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped herbs (I use rosemary, thyme and parsley)

pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a 9X11 roasting pan with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of zucchini, and top with herbs and pepper to taste. Add the layer of onion, and sprinkle more herbs. Add the tomatoes to the top and drizzle remaining olive oil and herbs over it. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Serve with your favorite protein (it goes well with the veal cutlets above).