Macro is Alive and Well at Mana

9 04 2012

Our Meal: L-R Okinomiyaki Pancake, Sauteed Greens with Shiitakes, Kidney Beans, Brown Rice, Sweet Potato Dumplings, Veggie Dumplings

When I started learning about vegetarianism, way back in the 70’s and 80’s, the word on everyone’s lips was “macrobiotics.” While American vegetarians were eating mac and cheese and pizza, followers of Macrobiotics were into something else. If you are not familiar, Macro is a way of eating that is all about balancing the energy in the food, and balancing your body and mind in the process. It’s based on Japanese ways of thinking about food and the Universe, and the food reflects a deeper Asian aesthetic, as well.

In a macro way of looking at healthy eating, food is analyzed as to its yin and yang qualities. Yang foods are heavy and dense, and bring heat to the body. Meat and dairy are very yang. Yin foods are light, diffuse, and cold. Sugar is very yin. All foods have some balance of yin and yang within them, but generally, whole grains are the most balanced, and therefore balancing, foods. Macrobiotics eat 60% whole grains, 20-30% vegetables, and 5-10-% beans and soy, and sea vegetables, fruits and moderate amounts of fat. Small amounts of fish might be consumed. Foods like miso soup, seaweed, sesame and kanten are important. Eating local, low on the food chain, and organic, with no processed or refined foods is a core principle. A seasonal emphasis also promotes balance, with heavier roots and beans in winter and more leafy, light foods in summer. Certain foods, like nightshades eggplant, tomato and pepper and tropical fruits are not recommended.

Of course, that is just a quick summary, but you get the gist of it. Macrobiotics is very plant-based.

Somewhere along the line, Macro just kind of took a back seat to vegan, in recent years, even though the two have much in common.

I was excited to get a chance to go to a macrobiotic restaurant in New York City, accompanied by vegan blogger Sharon Nazarian (her blog here) and vegan pastry expert, Fran Costigan (her website, here). The restaurant, called Mana Organic Cafe, is run by owner Sung Lee, who graciously introduced herself to us, probably because we were photographing our food. It was a treat to share a spread of modern macrobiotic, vegan food.

Of course, when I saw dumplings on the menu, I had to have them. We shared two kinds, one filled with curried sweet potato and one with chopped vegetables. With dipping sauces, they were wonderfully comforting and fun to eat. I also ordered the Okinomiyaki pancake, in part because I created a recipe for one in my book, Big Vegan, and wanted to see how they did theirs. It was a lovely, dense cake, made up of sauteed cabbage and vegetables and mashed tofu, topped with a sweet tomato sauce and some salad greens. On the menu it was billed as macrobiotic “pizza.”

Okinomiyaki

Sauteed Bok Choy, Broccoli, Kale and Shiitakes

I love it when I can get beans, greens and rice in a restaurant, and it was great fun to share a meal with some vegan ladies. It would have been fun to try some nori rolls, soups, and other entrees, which all looked delicious, as we watched them being delivered to other tables. A specialty of the house is the Mana bowl, a big steaming bowl of broth, noodles and vegetables that smelled divine.

Vegans and vegetarians would do well to take a walk on the macrobiotic side, and get into the centering, nourishing foods at the core of the macro way. It can be fun to eat a vegan version of the Western diet, but if you are eating alot of refined food and forgetting your grains and beans, it’s time to start balancing the yin and yang on your plate.

You’ll feel better for it!

Mana, 646 Amsterdam Ave. (212)787-1110

Mana Restaurant’s Menu





The Environmental Impact of Your Food May Surprise You

11 09 2011

Just One Planet

If you still had questions about the impact of the consumption of meat, you got more answers in the last couple of months.

In August, Al Gore finally weighed in. Gore’s emphasis on transportation in his lectures and film, An Inconvenient Truth, had left many of us wondering why he didn’t mention the role of global meat production in climate change. Since the film came out in 2006, Gore has kept silent as Peta staged protests at his events, and various organizations asked him to speak publicly on the impact of meat on the environment. Finally, in an interview he acknowledged the role of ag. “Industrial  Agriculture is part of the problem,” he said, and went on to discuss the clearing of forests and reliance on synthetic fertilizer as well. Better late than never.

It was about time, since The Environmental Working Group came out with a new report, called the Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change, which compares the carbon footprint of all the protein-containing  foods.

http://breakingnews.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/

The report didn’t pull any punches, and ovo-lacto vegetarians will be sad to hear that cheese is number 3 in environmental impact, just behind lamb and beef. Next in line were pork, salmon, turkey, chicken, tuna, eggs, and then plant foods, although yogurt and milk were down in the lower impact group with things like beans and nuts.

The metrics they used were pretty sophisticated, taking into account all the environmental effects and costs. It’s a fascinating report, and they really added in everything, start to finish, from the gas used to grow and transport animal feed to the emissions that come from the animals’ waste, to the refrigeration at the sales point. It’s interesting to know, just to nail down numbers for all these things. It all adds up.

The group also makes the important distinction between local and grass fed animal products and industrial ones. They urge that anyone who wants to eat meat and cheese will do far better by choosing those that eat only grass, not trucked in high energy grain, and that are not trucked or flown long distances to get to you.

Still, what it all comes down to, is eat plants, save the planet. One person eating one less burger a week is like taking your car off the road for 320 miles, on up to if the whole US population ate no meat or cheese just one day a week would be like not driving 91 billion miles.

So, if you are a meat eater, try meatless as much as you can. Eat small amounts of local, grassfed, and stretch it with plants. If you are ovo lacto, go local, and go vegan some nights, to reduce your impact even more.

We only get one planet, and it only seems polite to save a little for the next guy.





Heirloom Tomato and Basil Season is Here!

21 08 2011

Tomato+Basil+Olive Oil

To you, it’s August, which may mean that the school year is almost upon you, or that it’s time to get to those projects in the yard you had been putting off. For me, it’s heirloom tomato season. Here in Minnesota, we wait through several frigid months of winter to make it to this respite, and we are very serious about enjoying summer. One of the most fleeting joys of the year is the homegrown heirloom tomato season. Because our season is short, and the heirlooms take a long time to mature, we are lucky to have them from late July into September.

My personal tomatoes, all 8 plants, have produced 3 small regular tomatoes and a few handfuls of mini-pear tomatoes in red and gold. It has been a tough year for them, with high heat and periods of heavy rain. Of course, I always wonder why plants that originated in the tropics would be so unhappy with heat, but I shrug and just keep pulling those brown leaves that might have fungus.

And buying great tomatoes from my local farmers.

So when the juicy, lumpy motley crew that is the heirloom tomato harvest finally comes my way, it’s time to put down whatever I was working on and revel in deep, vine ripe flavor. Luckily, my basil is in sync with the tomatoes, so all I really have to do is put the two together and magic happens.

From the purple and black to the yellow and nearly white, heirlooms are a rainbow of goodness. They call them heirlooms because they were saved from seed by home growers, and bred for flavor rather than shippability over many years. The results are fragile, sometimes oddly shaped, and intensely unique tasting tomatoes.

Of course, tomatoes have the super healthy bonus of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that is thought to lower risks of prostate and breast cancers. Tomatoes are also good at lowering cholesterol and unhealthy fats, and are associated with lower risk of osteoporosis, too. It’s not hard to get the recommended 3 servings a week that are recommended for your health. This is food as medicine at its most delicious.

The Purple Blush

So tonight I will simply chop some tomatoes, I’ve got some gorgeous Purple Cherokees, ready to go. Chop some fresh basil, mince some garlic, and toss it all with olive oil and coarse salt and cracked pepper. You now have a versatile dish that can become a salad, with a spritz of balsamic and maybe a few croutons or bits of fresh mozz. You can pile it on some toasted French bread and call it bruschetta. You can boil some angelhair and toss it with the tomatoes and basil in the hot pan before serving.

You can even add a chopped chili and scoop it up with chips, and call it Italian salsa.

The main thing is to let the simple flavors of those precious tomatoes and basil shine through. They won’t be here long.





Grilling Pizzas at the Mill City, So You Can Too!

31 07 2011

"Don't Make Your Pizza Too Thick!"

I had the opportunity to do a cooking demonstration at the fabulous Mill City Farmer’s Market a couple of weeks ago, and of course, I wanted to grill pizza. Why? Well, for anyone still a little afraid of pizza on the grill, I want to show  how easy it is to make a really good meal from local and seasonal stuff on the grill. I was being selfish, too, I wanted to make something that did not require turning on the stove once in the whole process.

I was lucky to have some locally grown and ground flours from Sunrise Flour Mill:  http://www.sunriseflourmill.com/

I know there are people who think pizzas should be made with white flour dough, and I hope this crust will change some opinions. It’s got a fuller flavor and texture from the overnight slow rise, and I love the nutty taste of the fresh whole wheat flour.

When I arrived, toting my dough, it was raining and the wind was whipping through the market, but we had a feeling that it would clear up. After a few cloudbursts, the sun shone through. Heather Hartman, a fellow whole food teacher and chef runs the cooking stage, and she was going to follow me with a grilled smashed potato demo, so we got to stroll the market and pick out the freshest ingredients.

We picked out everything for the pizzas from the wonderful vendors there, from the huge bunches of basil I used for pesto, to amazing Shepherds Way Cheese for the topping. I grilled the veggies ahead of time in my grill wok, and we were ready for the show.

My Overnight Pizza Dough

PHOTOS BY JAY WALTER

Overnight Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Makes four or five pizzas

2 cups unbleached bread flour

3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/4 teaspoons instant or bread machine yeast

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sugar

3 cups water, room temperature

 

1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl and mix for one minute, to form a coarse, sticky gob of dough. Let the dough rest for five minutes, then mix again for one minute.Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, rub a little oil on your hands, and fold the dough into a smooth ball. Let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes and then stretch and fold the dough into a tight ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and immediately place in the refrigerator. The dough can be used anywhere from 6 hours to three days after it goes in the fridge.

2. When ready to make the pizzas, pull the dough from the refrigerator three hours prior to when you plan to bake. Divide the dough into four or five pieces. With either oil or flour on your hands, form each piece into a tight dough ball and place on a lightly oiled pan. Mist the dough balls with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or place the pan inside a large plastic bag. Give the dough at least 90 minutes before making the pizzas. If you don’t plan to use them all, place the extra dough balls inside of an oiled freezer bag and keep in the refrigerator (for up to three days) or in the freezer (for up to three months).

Stretching By Hand is Best

Each dough ball makes a 10-12 inch pizza, depending on thickness.

Grilled Pizzas: Pesto of the Day, Grilled Veggies, and  Local Cheese

Canola oil for the grill, cornmeal

4 cups of fresh herb- arugala, basil, cilantro

4 cloves garlic

½ cup nuts-pine nuts, toasted pumpkinseeds, pistachios, walnuts

½ cup aged cheese, shredded

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon salt, to taste

16 cups of veggies to grill: Zucchini, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, mushrooms, etc

Olive oil

1 pound of good cheese, chevre, fresh mozz, etc

Handfuls of fresh spinach or basil

1. Make the pesto, put the herbs, garlic , nuts and cheese in a food processor and process to chop finely. Add the olive oil gradually to make a smooth paste. Add salt and process. Scrape out into a bowl or cup. Cut up the veggies for grilling: if using a wok, cut in bite sized chunks, if not, slice in longer strips that will not fall in the grill. Put in a large bowl and toss with olive oil and balsamic, salt to taste.

2. Prepare the grill, preheating it on high. Get a cup and put a couple of tablespoons of canola oil in it, and get a paper towel and tongs for oiling the grate. Put your grill wok on and let it get hot, or brush the grate with oil. Put the veggies on and toss or turn to grill them until soft and ready to eat. Take off the grill and transfer to a bowl.

3. Roll or pat out each dough ball to desired thickness, place on a cutting board or pizza peel coated with cornmeal. Turn the grill to medium. Transfer to the hot oiled grill and quickly close the grill for just a couple of minutes-peek under the dough to see if it is browning. Open it and when the dough is stiff enough, turn the dough with the tongs, then quickly top with pesto, veggies, and cheese. Cover the grill until melted. Use tongs to slide back onto the cutting board and slice to serve immediately.

Just Slide It On The Grill

Spread That Pesto On Quickly

Ready to Slice

Everybody Got a Sample!

Marinated Grilled Veggies





Austin, Weird and Wonderful with IACP

12 06 2011

Veg Authors at Koriente:Ann, Me, Jill and Ellen

One of the best things about writing cookbooks is that I belong to a unique community of food professionals. We food writers can lead a strangely solitary existence, staying home to test recipes and type, or indulge in the unnatural act of photographing our food so that we can post about it.

Seriously, think about it, the correct response to a plateful of hot food is to dig in, not to grab your cell phone to snap a shot, or set up a tripod and start aiming lights at it.

But once a year, I break away from my kitchen and go to a conference with my fellow food people, the International Association of Culinary Professionals. The group is open to anybody making a living in food, so there are restaurant chefs, writers, editors, publishers, teachers, historians, TV and video producers, photographers and stylists, manufacturers of food and cookware, representatives of various foodstuffs, and more. Every year a different host city organizes a bunch of events to show off their food scene, and we converge on the city to take a big bite of what they have to offer.

This year, we traveled to Austin Texas, where a thriving alternative food scene co-exists with Texas barbecue and longnecks. “Keep Austin Weird” is a local slogan, and I’m all for it. One of our speakers was Jim Hightower, http://www.jimhightower.com/an outspoken populist who counts food activism as part of his mission in life. I’ve always been a fan, and he delivered a funny, heartfelt talk about the importance of fighting for our food supply. His humorous one-liners and wry way with absurdity kept the crowd laughing at the early morning session, even as he talked about sustainable food and regulating the corporations that make our food supply less safe. I even got to ask him about the NRDC lawsuit I wrote about in last weeks post, and he was optimistic that the effort to ban antibiotics from animal feed could be won.

Jim Hightower, Fighting For the Common Eater

Another seminar, a panel lead by Kim O”Donnel, author of the Meat Lovers Meatless Cookbook, centered on the Changing Place of Meat on the Plate. This was a discussion about sustainable meat, more than vegetarianism, although Meatless Mondays and cutting back on meat were definitely promoted. Panelist Ralph Loglisi, from the Center for a Livable Future, was there to bring the facts about our unsustainable levels of meat consumption to light. He blogs here: http://www.livablefutureblog.com/

I also went to lots of seminars on things like how to do a good TV spot, demonstrated by Ellie Krieger, how to be a good radio guest, with Kathy Gunst, how to edit video for blogs, with bloggers Chef John and Average Betty and videographer Daniel Klein http://www.theperennialplate.com/, and more. There was a seminar on the new electronic world of cookbooks, and there were cooking demonstrations by John Besh and Jacques Pepin that were entertaining and inspiring.

A favorite moment was when a blogger told Jacques Pepin she was glad to see he had a twitter account, and he replied, “I do?” and after the laughter, she asked how he adapts to the new world of social media, and with his Gallic nonchalance, he replied, “I don’t.” Of course, Jacques will be fine, letting someone else write his tweets and letting the brave new world of e-books and apps court him, while the rest of us have gotten the message that the internets and social networks are a vital part of reaching our audiences, so we gladly attend seminars on blogging and tweeting.

And in between all this, I got to spend time with some of the smartest, funnest people I know, the collection of dear friends from all over the world that I have connected with at IACP for years now. There were dinners at gourmet destinations like Parkside and Fonda San Miguel, a food truck party, a reception at the Art Museum with local fare, and I even got to make a break to the Austin Farmers Market.

Locally Grown Seaweed

A unique offering was this stand, where a young man with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology, named Lewis Weill, sells cultivated Ogonori, a variety of sea vegetable. The fine, crisp strands of ogonori were a revelation, so unlike the dried kinds of sea vegetables that I have always loved. Lewis has a day job as a biologist, and in his spare time, grows this nutritious veggie in tanks of purified water enriched with salt and minerals to to make a cleaner version of sea water. He is an unassuming visionary, who wants to save the oceans and also provide a clean seaweed that isn’t bathed in the pollution that has become a problem in wild-harvested sea plants.

One lunch that I organized was to bring together the vegan and vegetarian food writers for a veg meal. I invited Ann Gentry, chef and owner of Real Food Daily in Los Angeles and author of Vegan Family Meals, Jill Nussinow, the Veggie Queen, author of The Veggie Queen, Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment, and The New Fast Food, The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less than 30 Minutes, and Ellen Kanner, author of the Hungry Ghost and Edgy Veggie, who pens a Meatless Mondays column for Huffington Post, a syndicated column  The Edgy Veggie, and freelances for publications like EveryDay with Rachel Ray Bon Appetit and Culinate.

We walked over to a wonderfully weird little spot called Koriente, where a Korean cooking style blends with a whole foods approach, and most of the menu is vegan, although meat and fish are available. We all really enjoyed the brown rice and fresh veggies, and Korean hot sauce and nori.

a Summer Roll with Hummus

Brown Rice Bimibap

Brown rice and veggies really hit the spot after a few days of rich food, and sitting with these stars of the veg world was a rare treat. This small group of women who live, write and cook to promote a plant-based worldview are usually operating thousands of miles from each other, and it was great to get these moments to share. These are changing times, and we are all seeing the interest in vegan and veg food growing, and that is cause for celebration.

Thanks Austin, and thanks to all my IACP brethren for a good time. I’m inspired and educated, and most importantly, connected to some amazing people.

Oh, and my publisher, Chronicle Books, threw a lively party to announce this years new releases, and I got to see the cover of my upcoming book!

Yes, It's Big!





Spring Chives, Spreading Like Green Wildfire

29 05 2011

Garlic Chives, Freshly Cut

If you garden, you know that there are certain plants that will happily take over every inch of your garden. Mint and oregano come to mind, both of which seem to have the kind of aggression that would make them bad neighbors, if they were people-sprawling their stuff across those property lines no matter how many times you push it back. But neither can match the kind of assault that a chive plant can make on your garden. Yes, as well as sending shoots out underground to tenaciously advance, they also have the self-defense mechanism of an oniony smell, and release tear gas that makes your eyes well up even as you dig the offending stalks from the basil bed.

You would think that I would be in the process of eradicating the fertile chives from my garden, but I am not. I’ve adopted a delicious containment policy. I figure that if something tasty and easy to use really wants to be there that badly, I had better come up with some fun ways to use it.

I should clarify that my particular chive plant is an Asian variety of Garlic Chives. With a hint of garlic flavor in its wild, oniony punch, it grows long, flat stems instead of the thin round ones of regular chives. Because of that it can hold up to a little more cooking. It’s also got the bonus of being the star of lots of great Chinese recipes, like garlic chive dumplings, and stir fries.

link to a tofu potsticker recipe:

http://chinesefood.about.com/od/vegetarianrecipes/r/vegpotstickers.htm

Because of their dual attributes of oniony and garlicky flavors, I can use them in place of scallions, chives, and garlic in recipes. They have a particular affinity for tofu, as the above potsticker recipe would attest. If you are not up for forming dumplings, try a tofu scramble with chives, simply seasoned with soy sauce and ginger, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Chives can take the place of scallions in stir fries and soups, and you can use large quantities of them in cooked dishes, since heat subdues their oniony heat a bit. If you are into eggs, chives are a classic addition to scrambled or baked egg dishes. If you eat dairy, cottage cheese, sour cream or yogurt, or creamy goat cheese all make good bases for a chivey taste experience.

Their flavor alone is good reason to use them up, but don’t forget how nutritious they are. They are high in vitamin C and carotene, and are a good source of calcium. They also contain Vitamin B1 and B2.  In Traditional Chinese medicine, garlic chives are considered to be a yang or warming food. And those sulphur compounds that sting your eyes are also antibacterial and antiseptic, and boost your immunity.

Of course, later in the year, my chives will offer up gorgeous, edible purple flowers. That will signal that the stems are too tough to eat raw, and I will snip them for use in salads, stir-fries, and as edible garnishes.

And to think-I once contemplated digging them up for good. My chives are a lesson in making the best of something that is pushy. I’m learning to use it to my advantage, do a little garden ju-jitsu, rather than wage war with it.

Garden lessons are the tastiest kind.

Garlic Chive Vichyssoise

Chill this for a summer soother, or serve warm. If you only have regular chives, throw in a chopped clove of garlic with the saute.

4 medium yukon gold potatoes, 1 1/4 lb, chopped

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped garlic chives, divided

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious coconut creamer)

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a 4 quart saucepan, heat the olive oil. Saute half of the garlic chives until soft and dark green, then add the potatoes and stir. Add the water, bring to a boil, and cover tightly. Cook for ten minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the water is almost gone. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and add the “milk” and puree. Add salt and the remaining chives and process until smooth.

Serve warm or chill-you may need to stir in more milk after chilling.

Garlic Chive Vichyssoise

This recipe looks like a delicious way to use those blossoms later on!

Avocado Toast With Caramelized Sweet Onion and Grape Tomatoes With Fresh Garden Chives and Chive Blossoms.





How To Be Conscious, Gluten-Free, and Thrive

30 04 2011

Scrambled Tofu, Corn and Collards

I’ve always had a soft spot for whole foods cooking. Not the packaged, half white, trying to be conventional food kind of whole foods, but the old school way. The kind of cooking that involves a pot of whole grains and a pile of chopped veggies, and maybe some tofu, or beans that you actually soaked and cooked yourself.

I recently connected with a kindred spirit, Leslie Cerier, the author of Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook, A Seasonal Vegetarian Cookbook (New Harbinger Publications, $17.95.) Cerier has the crazy idea that basing a gluten free diet on whole grains can be really diverse and good for you, and good for the planet.

Says Cerier: “Eat as much local, seasonal and organic food as possible, and cook for health, vitality and pleasure.”

Cerier has packed the book with plenty of gluten free recipes, as well as recipe templates that allow you to improvise with what’s in season. Both celebrate whole grains that don’t contain gluten. “Four of the gluten free grains, quinoa, teff, amaranth and oats are complete proteins and very quick-cooking. They make a great meal, and you can mix and match, and try different methods of cooking them, for infinite variety.”

To show you how, she has cooking charts and measures for cooking grains, and several recipe templates, and suggestions for varying and subsituting. “If you take a creative approach to what’s in season you can have great variety. If you are cooking like an artist, and your plate is really colorful, you have great nutrition on the plate. A meal of brown rice, tofu, and cauliflower is not as exciting as a plate of black rice with red lentil curry, which is full of antioxidants.”

Cerier prefers to teach people in her classes and books, to make foods their own. “It’s really fun when people who take my classes come back and say they used my recipe as a jumping off point. Then I know I have done my job.”

Don’t expect recipes for breads just like the wheat flour ones you grew up with. “Alot of gluten free books use xanthan gum and potato starch and make refined products that are gluten free. These are foods that I eat for energy and vitality. They are nutrient dense.”

Using all real food, Cerier gives you tasty recipes for breakfasts, mains, sides, sauces and dressings, and desserts. If you have ever wanted a good recipe to try teff, definitely check out this book, even if you are not gluten-free. In fact, Cerier has no gluten intolerances herself.

“I eat gluten free because it expands my choices, and the nutrients are just off the charts. I’m a whole food vegetarian, so I’m not looking for ways to make gluten free hot dog buns or pizza, because I don’t eat those things.”

So if you love whole foods and eating seasonally, this is a good book for you, and if you need to avoid gluten, give these whole foods vegetarian recipes a try. You can shrink your carbon footprint and reap the benefits of ancient grains. You will feel so much better when you eat real food!

Veggies sizzling in the pan

Scrambled Tofu with Sweet Corn and Collard Greens

I admit that I was drawn to this dish by a rush of nostalgia for the many tofu scrambles I have prepared and eaten in now-defunct vegetarian restaurants. That and my obsession with eating leafy greens. Turmeric is a brilliant anti-inflammatory, and nutritional yeast is loaded with B12 that vegetarians may need.

Serves 3 or 4

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cups chopped collard greens

1 cup green beans, cut in 1 inch pieces

1 cup coarsely chopped scallions

2/3 cups fresh corn kernels, steamed

1 teaspoon turmeric

14-16 ounces soft tofu, 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon tamari

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the collard greens, green beans, scallions, corn and turmeric and stir. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until the veggies brighten in color and become fragrant. Gently stir in the tofu and cook for about 3 minutes, until the tofu takes on the golden hue of the turmeric. Stir in the cliantro and cook for a minute more. Take off the heat and stir in the nutritional yeast and tamari. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. (Variations below)

Stirring in the Tofu

VARIATIONS:

Substitute other greens, like spinach, tatsoi, chard or even broccoli, whatever is freshest and most vibrant.

Substitute mushrooms, summer squash, zucchini, or asparagus for the greens and green beans.

To take the flavor in a different direction, add a few cloves of chopped garlic when you saute the vegetables, and substitute basil for cilantro.

Cerier has a website, where you can see what she is up to:

http://lesliecerier.com/

Here is a gluten free vegetarian recipe for amaranth (not by Cerier):

Amaranth and Roast Veggie Salad





Baby Spinach Season, Fall in Love with Tender Greens all Over Again.

22 03 2011

Spring Up, Little Spinach!

It’s really, really almost spring. As I write, the steady rain is washing away the dirty snowbanks that towered over us all winter. The annual rebirth of all the plants is a presence, all the energy marshalling under the frozen earth, waiting for the signal to burst forth and grow.

I think I am going to make it.

It’s also almost time for local growers to get into some of their early activities, and some indoor growers may even be able to harvest the first greens of spring. Now, like any good healthy eater, I have been powering through my kales and chards all winter. I’ve bought and blanched many a bunch of fine spinach, too. But the tender, young spinach of the first harvests, well, that is another thing entirely.

Ok, we can get fresh greens from Cali anytime of year, and they are pretty good. But depending where you live, it’s the time of year when you can have those super fresh, super tender spinach leaves that fully explain exactly why spinach is so beloved.

If you have ever bitten into a forkful of spinach salad and thought, wow, this is going to take some chewing, well, baby spinach is for you. Salads made with baby spinach are a treat, and the perfect seasonal flavor pairing of spring strawberries and raspberries in spinach salads is a super food that is super delicious.

Did you know that the brighter the green in your spinach, the more vitamin C is in there? Those greens that traveled a few thousand miles over winter were losing C all the way, so the stuff from closer to home will have more.

Spinach is also getting attention for its glycoglycerolipids It’s looking like these chemicals, which aid in photosynthesis, help prevent inflammation. Spinach is already a sweet source of antioxidants, vitamin K, vitamin A, Manganese and folate, and magnesium to help remineralize bones. A cup of boiled spinach has enough iron for 35% of your daily value, and 30% of the C.

Try a bed of baby spinach, sliced strawberries, and spring onions, and make a dressing of fresh lemon juice, olive and flax oil, salt and pepper. For a little more heft, add walnuts, or boiled eggs or goats cheese crumbles, if you are ovo-lacto leaning.

It’s also the perfect quick addition to pastas or roasted dishes- you can add the sliced leaves to the hot pasta or roasted veggies and just toss it to wilt in the residual heat.

I like to make an easy pasta where I simply cook whole wheat angelhair, adding some julienned carrots to it while it boils. Then while it drains, heat olive oil and garlic in the pasta cooking pot, and toss in the baby spinach. Turn a few times and add the hot pasta, and some lemon zest and juice if its handy. Turn it in the hot pan until the spinach is barely wilted, the whole mess is coated in garlicky oil, and salt and pepper to taste. If you eat cheese, this is a great place to feature a distinctive cheese, like your fave local goat cheese crumbles or a shredded aged cheese from a grass fed dairy. It you are vegan, a sprinkling of toasted almonds would be sublime.

And let the new energy of the fresh greens fill you back up, after a long winter. You deserve it.





A Local Adventure with “The Minnesota Table”

19 08 2010

I am guessing that if you are reading this, you probably have some commitment to local foods. Whether you trek to a Farmers market or shop your Coop or grocers looking for the local label, you seek out food with fewer food miles between you and the grower.

But have you ever taken a tour of the state, seeking out growers, producers and wine-makers? I recently talked to someone who did just that, and the end result is now a book. BJ Carpenter, local chef and locavore, teamed up with Shelley Holl to seek out the Minnesota food gems that are tucked away in small towns and byways across the state. BJ developed the recipes for  The Minnesota Table, Recipes for Savoring Local Food Throughout the Year (Voyageur Press, $25.00) Her friend Shelly wrote the profiles of food makers and farmers throughout the book.

“It was fun,” said Carpenter, “the things we discovered when we got out there, like the Communion Wafer factory (Little Falls), and the largest Yak herd in the US (St Joseph). They were fun trips. Then we stumbled across the Nun who started the first CSA in the state, and even got to pet a big bison. It was a little scary, but he is a pet, who appears in commercials and movies.”

If that doesn’t pique your interest, the book is also packed with lists of u-pick orchards, wineries to tour, and contact info for the places that they found great local foods.

Carpenter’s recipes, though, make up the bulk of the book, and she has crafted a seasonal parade of local bounty. Alongside that are tips for putting up the harvest of each season, whether it is berries, herbs or root vegetables. Handy charts tell you how to blanch, freeze and dry, so you can save your favorites when they are best and cheapest. As an experienced chef and long-time canner and pickler, Carpenter knows people need some tips.

“Our mothers and grandmothers all canned and baked. They didn’t have the luxury of stuff trucked in from Mexico. They ate what was in season. Eating local foods in season is sort of a novelty now.”

Her pursuit of quality is as much a part of her interest in local as any sort of politics. “I call ahead to Mississippi Market to find out when they are making fresh mozzarella. I go get it and go straight home and slice it with some ripe tomatoes. It’s phenomenal how good that tastes. It sounds crazy, but if you put the water on to boil and then go pick the corn, and drop it in for a minute and a half, it’s like nothing you have ever had. My neighbor girl brings me fresh eggs she just gathered, and I cook them right away. There is just no comparison.”

The recipes are crowd pleasers, familar food with updates and tasty touches that make you want to give them a try. Pink Potato Salad, made with pickled beets, or a Roasted Garlic Custard are just a couple of variations on that theme. And for rutabaga fans, there is a rutabaga milkshake recipe from the rutabaga capital, Askov MN.

If you are a locavore and want to find some of the unique gems that your state has to offer, this book is your road map. And if you don’t feel like visiting the farm, you can always bring your treasures home and make the tasty dishes that were inspired by the amazing foods of Minnesota.





Eat Local, Corn Crazy

8 08 2010

Well, folks, it’s week two of the Eat Local Challenge Month, and what a fine month it is. Here in MN, even more than other parts of the country, we have a short, intense growing season. Things like asparagus happen in mid-june, and if we are lucky, melons ripen by August. While the Californians might pity us, I’d like to suggest that it has an up-side.

Minnesotans have a “carpe diem” approach to summer that borders on the fanatical. We spend so many months of the year with a frozen landscape that when it warms up, we get crazy. Only in MN have I seen people in shorts when it hits 40 F. So when we get our local produce, we go hog wild.

This week, we are on week three of local corn. The first two weeks always involve the purest expression of the love of sweet corn:simple boiling, buttering and salting. Like a reuniting with a friend, long away, we don’t need to leave the house. Then we start stepping out to the deck to grill some corn. Not far, though.

Nature's own best cookware, the husk.

But after a couple of weeks, we need a little more variety. The sweet, crisp corn calls out for some creativity. Now it’s time to start improvising with what is good right now. It’s time to start cutting the kernels off the cob and sauteing them.

So, looking around my garden, I picked some red jalapenos, golden zucchini, fresh thyme, and ripe, red tomatoes. Garlic from the farmers market and Pastureland butter completed the picture.

A quick chop and mmmm.

A hot skillet and butter met the corn, zucchini and jalpeno for a quick sizzle. The thyme and garlic joined for a few more minutes, then off the heat, I tossed in the tomatoes. It was even good the next day on nachos.

Simple is best when the corn is good!








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