Friday, October 29, 2010

Healing Foods: Sweet Potato Purée

I am always trying new and inventive ways to get my daughter Sophie to eat her vegetables. Sometimes I get lucky, and she will actually like what I serve and eat a helping--but rarely more than that.

So recently, when I was reminded about the healing and nutrient dense powers of sweet potatoes, I decided to make some for Sophie. It really is a superfood, and we would all be well served to get more sweet potatoes into both our vegetable and dessert dishes. Baked, roasted, cut into fries and roasted with a little olive oil—or even in a pie, sweet potatoes are a healthy choice.

As an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and a very good source of vitamin C, sweet potatoes have healing properties as an antioxidant food. Both beta-carotene and vitamin C are very powerful antioxidants that work in the body to eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals that damage cells and cell membranes and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, and colon cancer. This may explain why beta-carotene and vitamin C have both been shown to be helpful for preventing these conditions.

Since simple is best for my daughter, I baked the sweet potatoes until tender, then removed them from the skin. I puréed them in the food processor with a little butter, salt, pepper and Chinese 5 spice powder (which has cloves and cinnamon, among other spices). She ate them, and asked for more! I will now happily add this to my vegetable repertoire. And next time, I may even whip some into a pie for dessert….

5-6 sweet potatoes, washed and pricked

2 oz butter

salt and pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder

Bake sweet potatoes in oven or microwave until tender. Scoop potatoes from their skins into a food processor. Add butter, salt, pepper and 5 spice powder. Purée until smooth. Serve warm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Comfort Foods: Channeling My Inner Asian

This weekend, I read a post by my food blogger friend Linda Skelcy. She is an amazing woman and cook with a delicious, soulful blog: ( Her recipe for apple egg rolls reminded me that I had both egg roll and wonton wrappers in my fridge, and it got me inspired me to experiment with my favorite Asian comfort foods—dumplings and egg rolls. I have tasted every soup dumpling I could get my hands on in New York, eaten dim sum as often as my family will indulge me, and have studied dumpling and egg roll making techniques with my friend Marilyn’s Chinese mother-in-law (an incredible cook!). I decided to experiment with my wrappers and ingredients that I had on hand. I channeled my inner Asian, which I firmly believe I was in a past life, to make dumplings and egg rolls—the Asian comfort food.

I started with sausage, onion and fresh rosemary dumplings, and followed up with some healthier cumin spiced edamame dumpling that my daughters love. Both were a big hit, and the ponzu sauce (soy sauce with lemon juice) and a spicier dipping sauce (soy sauce and rice wine vinegar with Korean red pepper paste) were a perfect accompaniment to the dumplings. They are easy to make, and the combination of filling possibilities is endless---I can’t wait to experiment with some more exotic combinations next time.

As my daughter and I tasted the dumplings, we talked about how comfort foods exist in every culture, and decided to try different comfort food recipes from different countries in our next Sunday cooking day. It will be an international comfort food adventure—without ever having to leave our kitchen!

Edamame Dumplings

1 cup shelled edamame, steamed

juice of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon salt

Wonton wrappers

Oil for sautéing (I use grapeseed oil, which is a healthy neutral flavored oil)

Purée first 5 ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling into the center of a wonton wrapper. Wet the edges around the square of the wonton wrapper and fold into a triangle. Pinch together the edges. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, about 1 tablespoon per batch. Sauté the dumplings on each side until browned and crispy. Add ¼ cup of water to the skillet (do this with each batch of dumplings), cover and let steam for about a minute or until liquid absorbs. Serve warm with a dipping sauce made with ½ cup soy sauce flavored with the juice of ½ lemon (Ponzu Sauce). Makes about 20 dumplings.

Sausage, Onion and Fresh Rosemary Dumplings

2 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed and meat crumbled.

1 cup red onion, diced fine

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon tamarind sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 egg, beaten

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling into the center of a wonton wrapper. Wet the edges around the square of the wonton wrapper and fold into a triangle. Pinch together the edges. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, about 1 tablespoon per batch. Sauté the dumplings on each side until browned and crispy. Add ¼ cup of water to the skillet (do this with each batch of dumplings), cover and let steam for about a minute or until liquid absorbs. Serve warm with a bowl of ½ cup soy sauce with 1 teaspoon rice wine or sushi vinegar and 1 teaspoon Korean red pepper paste or Sriracha sauce. Makes about 25-30 dumplings.

Apple Egg Rolls: (makes 4)

These apple egg rolls come from one of my favorite bloggers, Linda Skelcy. She proposes these apple egg rolls as the perfect substitute when a pie is too big.

1 large apple (your choice) peeled and chopped into small pieces

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Generous pinch cinnamon

1 teaspoon flour

4 egg roll wrappers

Oil for frying

Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Add the apples and sauté until just a bit soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the apples and cook for about 30 more seconds to thicken sauce. Cover and chill.

When apples have cooled, spoon a generous amount onto each egg roll wrapper, wrap up like an envelope.

Fry each egg roll until golden. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Healing Food: Farfalle with Butternut Squash and Sage Butter

My friend Gabs is an Italiophile. She lived there, speaks it fluently, and talks of her love of Italian food with an adoring, faraway look in her eyes. Now that she has finished the last of her chemo treatments, I have been looking for great Italian dishes that she can eat just for the pleasure of it---along with a glass of lovely Italian wine! So, since the fall season is upon us, I chose to cook with one of my favorite farmer’s market picks of late: butternut squash.

Butternut squash is abundant at local farmer’s markets, and winter squash is full of healthy vitamins and nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene—which prevents the oxidation of cholesterol in the body), a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese. In addition, winter squash is a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6, niacin-vitamin B3 and pantothenic acid. And fresh sage has long been used as an anti-inflammatory and memory enhancer in herbal medicine.

The butternut squash is cut into chunks, sautéed in a bit of butter until softened, then steamed with a bit of chicken stock. Then, the sage is sautéed in a browned butter, and the squash and sage mixtures are tossed with farfalle pasta (or your favorite pasta). I have made this dish with fresh ricotta cheese stirred in (or with a dusting of freshly grated parmesan) and without, and both are comforting and delectable.

So when she is up for it, I will host a celebratory dinner in her honor. She braved her chemo with a grace, strength and determination that made me proud. I am happy to celebrate her health and recovery with the circle of friends that she inspired with her amazing example. Salute, Gabrielle!!!

1 butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks

2 tbsp. butter or olive oil

½ cup chicken stock

6-8 sage leaves, julienned into thin slices

1 stick butter, clarified to remove the butterfat and dregs

salt and pepper to taste

Optional: ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese or ½ cup parmesan, freshly grated

1 lb farfalle (bow tie) pasta, cooked

In a sauté skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add butternut squash and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add chicken stock and allow the squash to simmer until fork tender. In a separate skillet, heat the clarified butter and add the julienned sage, until the butter comes to a simmer. In a bowl, toss the pasta with the squash, butter and sage and season with salt and pepper. Add the ricotta at this time, if desired. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

Healing and Comfort Food: Mushroom Paté

I have been busy trying new recipes using the local foods of the season from farmer’s markets—lots of root vegetables and squashes. The cooler weather makes it easy to move to hearty, comforting dishes—so you’ll be seeing new posts with lots of beta-carotene filled foods in the coming weeks!

This past weekend, while pots simmered and squash roasted in the oven, I came across some mushrooms in the fridge and decided to make an old favorite recipe from my vegetarian days—mushroom paté. This simple, richly flavored paté is great on baguette, crackers or crostini, and makes a delicious dip for crudités. And--mushrooms are great in the healing department, with plenty of vitamin B2 and B3, and selenium—powerful allies for cancer prevention.

According to World’s Healthiest Foods (, “phytonutrients in mushrooms have been the object of anti-cancer research. Most of this research has centered on the "specialty" mushrooms, including Shiitake, Maitake, and Reishi. More recently, however, common button mushrooms, including crimini, have been shown to have anticancer properties as well. In particular, adding these mushrooms to the diet may help protect against the development of breast cancer by preventing circulating levels of estrogen in the body from becoming excessive.”

As if that weren’t enough of a reason to eat more mushrooms, this paté is quick, easy and foolproof. If you are not eating dairy, it can be made with tofutti instead of cream cheese. And did I say delicious? It’s got that going for it, too.

Mushroom Paté

8 oz. mushrooms, rinsed with woody bottoms removed (I like to mix the mushrooms, using a combination of crimini, button, shiitake and portobello)

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped chives (for garnish)

½ cup chicken stock

8 oz. package cream cheese

sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and ¼ cup chives. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken stock and sauté until liquid is absorbed, about 7-10 minutes more. Allow mushrooms to cool to room temperature.

In a food processor, add cream cheese and mushrooms and blend. Spoon mixture into a bowl and garnish with 1 tbsp. chopped chives. Serve with crackers, bread or crostini.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Comfort Food: Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Savory Apples

While looking for ideas of what to do with the last of the Macoun apples from our apple-picking excursion, I came across a few recipes for savory dishes using apples. I was immediately intrigued by the recipe here today, from the Chow recipe website ( This bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin is served with savory apples, which are tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper before being scattered around the almost-done tenderloin and caramelized in the hot oven. Such a convergence of delicious flavors from the crispy bacon to the tender juicy pork to the caramelized sweet and savory apples!

I can say that apples are healthy, with phytonutrients that help regulate blood sugar, plenty of fiber and vitamin C—but I will stop there. This is really a melt in your mouth kind of comfort food—so I won’t go on about healthy properties—especially since there is bacon fat involved. Just serve it with some pureed sweet potatoes for beta-carotene, vitamin a and magnesium, and a side of the green beans with parsley and garlic (see previous post) and enjoy the bliss that bacon brings to almost any food experience. You will not be disappointed.

1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin

4 teaspoons olive oil

4 to 5 slices thin-cut bacon (about 4 ounces)

2 pounds Pink Lady apples, or other firm, sweet apples (I used Macoun)

1 teaspoon fleur de sel and freshly ground peppe

Heat the oven to 500°F and arrange a rack at the top.

Coat tenderloin with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, salt to taste, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Wrap bacon around tenderloin in a spiral so it completely covers the meat. Place on a baking sheet and roast until bacon just begins to render, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, core apples, slice into 6 wedges each, and place in a large bowl. Add remaining 3 teaspoons olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste and toss until well coated.

Scatter apples around tenderloin without allowing them to touch each other or the pork and roast until bacon is light brown, the underside of the tenderloin is browned and the meat registers 150°F on a digital thermometer, and the apples are knife tender, about 10 minutes more.

Set the oven to broil and cook the tenderloin until the apples begin to brown, the bacon is golden brown, and the pork reaches 155°F to 160°F. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.