Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Comfort Food: Farfalle with Smoked Salmon, Red Onion and Capers and Remembering Rigsby’s

When I lived in Columbus, Ohio, one of my favorite restaurants was Rigsbys in the Short North neighborhood. The deliciously inventive food created by Kent Rigsby and his team was the best in the city, and one of their dishes, a farfalle pasta with smoked salmon, red onion and capers in a creamy sauce is still one of my favorite pastas of all time.

I love trying new things, and attempting to dissect the ingredient list and recreate the dish at home. My sister, her friend P.R. and I tried recreating this dish together a few times when I still lived there. P.R. finally got the recipe down and shared it with us, and I have been making this hometown dish here in NYC for family and friends for 22 years now. It is easy, delicious, elegant, and addictive, with protein loaded smoked salmon, heart healthy onions and that forever comfort food—pasta (in a creamy sauce, no less!). It makes both the health and comfort foods list. It is great as an appetizer portion and elegant as a main dish meal. With a green salad and crusty bread, you have a dinner party!

So, with gratitude to Kent Rigsby and his wonderful restaurant for creating this dish (and so many great memories of dinner at Rigsby's in my Columbus years!), I offer our inspired version of his Farfalle with Smoked Salmon.

1 lb. farfalle, cooked al dente according to package instructions (you can substitute your favorite pasta cut as well—I prefer farfalle)

2 tbsp. butter

1 large red onion, sliced thin

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tbsps. capers

3 tbsps. vodka (I just use a shotglass and add a shot)

1 cup chicken stock

½ cup heavy cream

fresh ground black pepper

3-4 slices smoked salmon, julienned

In a skillet, melt butter and sauté red onion for about 5-7 minutes, until they start to soften slightly. Add vodka and stir, then add chicken stock, capers and pepper, and allow sauce to reduce by about half. Add heavy cream and mix sauce together well.

Toss freshly cooked pasta with sauce and smoked salmon. Serve.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Healing Foods: Asian Inspired Slaw and Cooking Chinese with Marilyn

It has become a bit of a custom for my friend Marilyn and I to combine ingredients from each of our kitchens to cook (and eat!) dinner together with our families. We did that on Sunday, in order to make the spring rolls that Marilyn’s Chinese mother-in-law makes from scratch. I would love to write about Mrs. Lee’s spring rolls, which are delicious. But Marilyn’s husband broke the news to us that our attempt was not at all authentic—so we need to keep perfecting our technique.

We did, however, create a lovely Asian inspired slaw to go with our dinner, and I am happy to share the recipe. It is a salad of shredded cabbage and carrots, with chopped broccoli, mung beans, scallions and cilantro tossed with a vinaigrette of seasoned rice vinegar, sesame oil, grapeseed oil and toasted sesame seeds. It is refreshing, light, super healthy and easy—and it goes great with the spring rolls made by a nice Jewish girl from Long Island and a nice Irish Catholic girl from Grove City, Ohio.

Loaded with fiber, vitamins and nutritional goodness, this slaw is a great accompaniment to many main courses. It is packed with vitamins C, K and A, is a good source of protein, potassium, and heart healthy and cholesterol lowering enzymes.

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup chopped broccoli

1 cup mung beans

½ cup chopped scallions

½ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar

¼ cup sesame oil

¼ cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil

1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in large bowl. Adjust the seasoning (may want to add more seasoned rice vinegar, pepper or salt)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Healing Foods: Onion Soup, Green Juice and some TLC

My friend Nancy is going through chemo….again. She has been brave, stoic, and strong throughout. But the other day, when I ran into her, she looked bone tired. Concerned about how pale she was, I suggested she needed some green juice shots to give her a vitamin boost.

She came over on Saturday with my friend Marilyn, and we made a green juice for her. Kale, spinach, carrot and pear juice to cleanse the liver, eliminate toxins, and infuse the blood with vitamins A,K, C folate, and magnesium. The pear and carrot are a sweet balance to the kale and spinach, and combined they pack a vitamin wallop. She liked the juice, and even took some home to drink the next morning for breakfast.

Sometimes during chemo, with a lessened appetite and not much taste for any kind of food, the best thing to eat is a hearty, comforting soup. Since I know Nancy loves onion soup, I decided to make some for her. It is nice to have a steaming bowl of comfort soup to help fortify your body and boost your spirits. And the onions are great for promoting heart health, to boot.

So for Nancy, I am offering this oh-so-easy onion soup recipe with a heaping dose of TLC….

Onion Soup

2 large onions, sliced thin

1 tbsp. margarine or olive oil

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp flour

I ½ cartons beef stock (Kitchen Basics is a rich, tasty broth that I prefer)

2-3 beef bouillon cubes

1 tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master (optional—but makes the broth richer)

Freshly grated gruyere/parmesan cheese toasts for garnish

In a large soup pot, heat oil. Add sliced onions and pepper and sauté for about 10 minutes until onions are soft. Add 1 tbsp. flour to onions and stir to coat. Add beef stock, bouillon cubes, and gravy master. Bring to a boil, reduce and let simmer 30 minutes.

Make cheese toasts by sprinkling cheese on baguette slices or sliced bread. Broil 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Ladle soup into bowl and top with cheese toast.

Nancy’s Green Juice

1 bunch kale

1 bunch spinach

1 large carrot

2 pears

Juice all ingredients together and serve.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Healing Foods: Carrot Ginger Soup and Carrot Ginger Juice and Remembering Glenn

A year ago at this time, my friends and I were in the full throes of cooking for our dear friend Glenn. Diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer in early March, Glenn hoped to beat the 3-15 month time left given by his doctors and stay here as long as possible to be with his partner and children.

I offered to be Glenn’s personal chef and nutritional coach, and assembled a team of our friends to help with research, cooking, shopping and food delivery. I bought a Breville juicer, and started making him freshly squeezed juices, soups and teas that would be comforting and nutrient dense during his first chemo treatments.

Glenn never lost his wicked and wonderful sense of humor during his illness. In an email to us on April 2, when three girlfriends got together to make him carrot and ginger soup and some other treats, he wroteI cannot thank you all enough! I have an image of the three of you over a pot, chanting, circling, chanting, circling, spitting on the pot, burning sage and chanting up the boil in the pot, toss in left ear of a dead man, POOF! and then y'all toss heads back and cackle and howl with delight! All to make the perfect Carrot and Ginger soup! Well, that's the image I have, and I like it.” We loved that image, too, and when he took to calling us Catherine’s Coven after that, the name stuck.

The carrot ginger soup was a puree of carrots, a bit of sautéed onion, and some chopped ginger simmered in a rich chicken stock and pureed. The beta-carotene and vitamins in the carrots were fortifying, and the ginger helped to soothe digestion and stave off nausea. In the early days of cooking for Glenn, both the soup and carrot ginger juice were staples in his fridge, ready anytime he had a bit of an appetite or needed some soothing food. More than the food, Glenn enjoyed the love and community that came with our nutritional gift, and was bowled over by all the love, care and concern coming his way.

Sadly, Glenn lost his battle with cancer, but we all still think of him daily as we remember our journey together last year, and the amazing father, partner, friend and man that he was. To carry out his wish that I write a cookbook, I started a food blog, and continue to cook for others and share healing recipes for people going through illness.

I have also continued my food research, and continue to learn more about the healing and nutritional power of food. I have begun juicing in earnest, and love the energy packed shots of juice in various fruit and vegetable combinations throughout the day. The recipes for carrot ginger soup, and carrot ginger juice have become regular menu items in my family--both the soup and the juice are delicious, healthy, and comforting.

Carrot Ginger Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ chopped onion

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

5-7 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a skillet, sauté onion and ginger. In a saucepan, put carrots and stock and simmer for 20 minutes until carrots are tender. Add onion/ginger mixture. Puree in batches in a food processor until smooth. Return to saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Carrot Ginger Juice

4-5 carrots

1 inch piece ginger

½ granny smith apple

Juice all ingredients together and serve!