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Monday, March 28, 2011

And The Beet Goes On To Become One Fine Hummus

At my local farmers' market a couple of weeks ago one of the prepared food vendors had a new product that made a big impression on me.  First of all, I love hummus, nearly every flavor I've ever tried.  Not only does it make a healthy dip for fresh veggies, it also adds a great creaminess to o/v salad dressings, it's a good sandwich spread, or back in a dip formation with crispy flat bread or slightly softer pita it's a great party starter.  This clever vendor took hummus and added something else I love to make another delicious hummus variety with incredible color and flavor.  I'm talking about BEETS!  Yes, they're not just for fancy salads with goat cheese and candied pecans any more, though I will still eat quite a few of these too.

Fellow beet lovers will immediately think "yes, beets in hummus, why hasn't someone thought of this before".  Beet haters, who are mostly haters because they were force fed canned beets when they were young enough to still be force fed, and thought "yuk", will give beets another chance and fall in love with their earthy goodness in this fuchsia colored pool of creamy deliciousness.

Beet Hummus
4 whole beets, cooked/peeled -------------------->
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. minced shallots
juice of 1/2 a blood orange                                
zest of 1/2 a lemon                                             1 Tbsp. ground cumin
Kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 pkg.. silken tofu

Put everything in a processor and blend until you're
happy with the consistency.  This will take a while
but it's worth the wait.


Beet Hummus & Mixed Grain/Veggie Salad
(bonus serving suggestion)
 Here's where I try and include something sort of cute and/or funny to weave into my post.  In looking for a title of course I thought of the classic Sonny & Cher tune 'The Beat Goes On' so I googled it and there were a ton of sites, blogs, story titles, etc., already using this title.  But then I found 'And The Beat Goes On' which was a classic tune from The Whispers that I had totally forgotten about and that I really like, so I clicked on that, enjoyed a trip down movin' groovin' memory lane, and I know those of you who loved Disco (and you know who you are) will love it too:  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday, Monday, So Good To Me

Rainy days and Mondays don't get me down anymore because 1) it's warm and dry inside, 2) I don't have to start a diet because I'm already eating mostly healthy and portion controlled meals, 3) I've worked physical activity into my lifestyle most days even though it's not my favorite thing to do, and 4) it's Meatless Monday again!

And it just so happens that my all-time favorite, go-to-meal includes Mother Nature's most nutrient dense vegetables, kale or collards.  Remember when "dense" was a bad word and meant you weren't smart.  Now eating nutrient dense is one of the absolutely smartest things you can do.  The consensus is that the secret to a long life and even disease reversal is to eat a diet lower in calories but higher in nutrients.  Vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods on earth, and kale and collards are at the top of the nutrient dense heap.

Leafy Greens Salad from Whole Foods 

At recent cooking classes and demos I've attended included recipes using kale and other leafy greens, for everything from green smoothies, to slaws or salads (key here is to let the kale sit in the dressing for at least 30 minutes or so to soften it up), and ragouts - which I think is a fancy word for stews.

Oh yes, back to my go-to recipe.  It's a really easy, stove-top, 2-pot, colorful, healthy, nutrient-dense dinner that I hope you'll love as much as I do.  (Leftovers, if any, can be chopped up and added to a salad with a light dressing for a delicious lunch on Tuesday.)

Steamed Greens & Yams with Glazed Tofu
1 bunch kale or collards (ribs and leaves separated)
8 Japanese yams* or another yam/sweet potato, cut in half
1 pkg. extra firm tofu
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
teriyaki glaze:
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
cooking oil spray

In a stockpot with a steamer basket set over about 2" of water add the potatoes, cover the pot, and cook over medium/high heat about 10 minutes.  Add the kale or collard ribs and steam another 4 minutes or so.  Then add the green leaves, steam another minute or two, prick the potatoes with a fork to check that they are tender, then turn off the heat ( lid on).

Mix the glaze ingredients together in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Slice the tofu into 1/2 thick slices, then in half, and brush glaze on both sides.  Spray a saute pan with oil and then the pan is hot add the tofu slices.  Saute about 5-7 minutes on each side, adding additional glaze if needed.

For each serving place some of the tofu, yams, and greens on a plate, drizzle with additional glaze, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Post Script:  The rain has stopped, the sun is out, all is good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lucky Leprechaun Latkes

 As you know, March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, when everyone claims to be Irish at least one day.  But  did you also know that March is National Potato Month, which is kind of a coincidence seeing as Ireland is the world's biggest consumer nation of potatoes.  One of the classic potato recipes for St. Patrick's Day is Colcannon, basically a mash of potatoes and cabbage.  Ireland - Potatoes - Beer - March/Spring - Latkes ("funny, but you don't look Irish").  These were the sparks of inspiration that ignited the fire to fry up these panko crusted potato cakes and gussie them up with a creamy Spring garlic aioli.  So lift a pint and make a toast to all things Irish, and Jewish, and whatever. 
                                  "May the lilt of Irish laughter lighten every load,
                                  May the mist of Irish magic shorten every road,
                                  And may all your friends remember all the favors you are owed!"

Lucky Leprechaun Latkes

2 Tbsp. fresh Spring garlic, minced
pinch of Kosher salt
3/4 cup Vegenaise
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Add a pinch of salt to the minced garlic and muddle.  Mix in the lemon juice and Vegenaise, blend well, and set aside.

Colcannon Cakes:
12 Dutch Yellow Baby Potatoes
1/2 cups shredded cabbage
2 green onions, diced

Steam the potatoes about 10 minutes, then add the shredded cabbage to the pot and steam another 3 minutes or so until potatoes are very tender and the cabbage is softened.  Put the potatoes and cabbage in a bowl and mash together with a fork.  Blend in the diced green onions.  Let mixture cook enough to handle.


Pot O'Dutch Yellow Baby Potatoes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 bottle of beer
1 cup panko bread crumbs
seasalt and fresh ground pepper

In a small bowl mix the flour and beer together until the consistency of buttermilk.  Put the panko bread crumbs on a separate plate, mixing in a few twists of fresh black pepper and seasalt.

Okay, here we go!

- In a small saute pan put about 1/2" of vegetable oil and turn heat to medium high.
- With wet hands take some of the colcannon mixture and form into a patty.
- Dredge the patty in the flour/beer batter, letting the excess drip off.
- Place the patty on the panko crumbs and turn to cover completely. 
- When the oil is sizzling, gently place a patty in the pan and cook on each side about 3-4 minutes until golden brown.  (If you can fit 2, go for it.)
- Remove the patty from the oil and place on paper towels to blot.
- Cook the remaining colcannon patties.
- Serve each pattie/cake/latke with a small dollap of aioli.                                 

Remember:  Never iron a four-leaf clover because you don't want to press your luck.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Flea Market Fun

On my trip to Oakland in February, Cousin Lee and I went to the incredible Alameda Point Antiques Faire.  This market is a must for flea market aficionados, for the amazing array of collectibles, treasures, and other stuff, but also for the amazing view of the San Francisco skyline.  This has to be one of the top flea markets in the country and it's worth a trip to the Bay Area for this alone.

At the other end of the flea market spectrum is my favorite local market in Old Town Torrance (  This is a low-key, small, and free-admission street market, just the right size to wander for a couple of hours.  Recently a group of my art & craft friends met for a pre-shopping late breakfast at Rudy's (excellent blueberry pancakes & home fries) and I came home with some fabulous flea market finds:

Treasures from Torrance Flea Market 

Beautiful Rosa Bianca eggplant in handpainted pot
 (You'll probably think I've completely changed topics here but just wait.)I love Middle Eastern appetizers, especially  eggplant "dip", but I've never made it from scratch.  So I roasted two kinds of eggplant, common globe and gorgeous rosa bianca,  did my usually twisting and turning to make it my own, and the results were delicious.  Here's where I bring flea markets and a great recipe together.  A name for my recipe popped into my head and it took me full circle back to the flea market where you'll see all sorts of Hollywood memorabilia.  Because I gave my eggplant dish a little Latin flavor with cilantro and some chile heat, with collectible Ricky Ricardo inspiration I offer you "Babalu Ganoush":

Babalu Ganoush
1 globe eggplant
1 rosa bianca eggplant
1 garlic bulb
vegetable or olive oil
3 Tbsp. ground flax seed
3 Tbsp. oil
2 pinches ground cumin
2 pinches chile powder
1 tsp. liquid smoke
Kosher salt
1/2 a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
 tortilla chips

-Preheat oven to 350.  Cut eggplants in half and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, along with the garlic bulb.  Prick the eggplant and garlic with a fork, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake for about 40 minutes.  Set aside until cool enough to handle then cut the eggplant into cubes and peel 3 of the garlic cloves.  (Half the eggplant and garlic is for this recipe and the other half is for I don't know what yet.)
-Add the ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons of oil into a food processor and pulse until combined.
-Add in the cubed eggplant, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, chile powder, and liquid smoke and process until smooth and creamy.  Add the cilantro and pulse to combine.
- Put the mixture into a vintage bowl on a vintage tray, garnish with additional cilantro and chile powder, surround with tortilla chips, and serve.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mardi Gras and Meatless Mondays

People around the world are committing to improve their personal health, the health of our planet, and to living a more compassionate life by joining the Meatless Monday Movement.  Movers and shakers like Bob Harper (trainer for The Biggest Loser), Mario Batali (celebrity chef and king of pancetta), Michael Pollan (food activist), Wendi & Rupert Murdoch (super rich media mogul couple so they must know something, right?), Yoko Ono (thinks everyone should give peas a chance), and Sir Paul McCartney (meatless Monday pioneer and Beatle) are leading the effort to better living with lentils.

What does Meatless Mondays have to do with Mardi Gras you ask?  Good question.  I think there's some connection in a backward kind of way because it's the day when you're supposed to eat the last of your favorite artery clogging foods until the end of Lent, and since Fat Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras) is tomorrow I thought it was perfect to create a traditionally inspired albeit convoluted New Orleanish recipe to have today, tomorrow, or whenever.


Red and Other Colored Beans & Rice with a Jambalaya & Etouffee Influence
1 pkg. Melissa's Six Bean Medley
2 green onions, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 red, 2 yellow veggie sweet peppers (or equivalent)
vegetable or olive oil
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance
1 Trader Joe's Italian sausage-less sausage (cut in half lengthwise, then in quarters)
6-8 Vegefarm vegeshrimp
pinch of smoked paprika
pinch of cayenne or ancho chile powder
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup brown rice

- Cook the brown rice and set aside.
- In a saute' pan with a bit of oil, saute' the sausage about 3-4 minutes on each side.
- Remove the sausage then do the same with the shrimp, but sprinkle a pinch of smoked paprika on these  and finish cooking with the Earth Balance for "buttery" richness.  Set aside the shrimp.
- Saute' the onions and peppers.  Add the package of Melissa's Six Bean Medley* and stir to combine.
- Season with salt, pepper, and chile powder to taste.
- Set aside 1/2 the cooked brown rice for easy brown rice pudding later.
- Put the rest of the brown rice on a serving plate or bowl.
- Pour the bean mixture over the rice.
- Strategically place the sausage and shrimp over the bean mixture.
- What are you waiting for - Laissez le bon temp roulez!

*Of course you can use dried beans or canned beans but these are so much easier and taste better too.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Very A-Peeling Candied Citrus

Citrus Man
The weather outside may be frightful, but candied citrus peel dipped in white chocolate and topped with surprising sprinkles is very delightful.  Have you ever taken citrus fruit for granted?  Have they ever let us down?  Year to year, they're always here, bringing sunshine colored brightness to so many favorite recipes.  Take time to try some new varieties, such as a Pummelos and Oro Blancos, relatives of the grapefruit but much nicer, sweeter, non-judgemental, supportive, and easy to peel and eat as a healthy dessert or a sitting-in-front-of-my-40"-flat-screen kind of evening.

So yes, citrus is easy to eat, zest, juice, etc.  When the spirit moves you to take seasonal citrus to another, slightly time consuming level, here's a recipe for candied oro blanco and navel orange peel dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with slightly unusual but delicious things.

            (Surprising sprinkles include dried lavender, basil, sesame seeds, Hawaiian seasalt, and poppy seeds)

Candied Citrus Peel with Surprise Sprinkles
1 Oro Blanco or 1 small Pummelo
1 navel orange
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup white chocolate chips

- Carefully cut the peel off the fruit, removing most of the white pith.  Cut the peel into strips.
-  In a pot of boiling water add the peels and boil for 5 minutes.  Drain the water, put the peels aside, and starting with fresh water repeat that step.  Then drain, put peels aside, and repeat a 3rd time. 
-  Starting with an empty pot, bring the sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil.  Add the peels, continue boiling for about 5 minutes then lower the heat to simmer and continue cooking about 45 minutes. 
-  Remove peel from syrup and place on parchment paper to dry overnight.
-  In a microwave safe bowl melt the chocolate chips, starting at medium power for 2 minutes, then stirring and adding more time in 30 second intervals.
-  Pat dry the peels.  Dip as much of the peel as you want in the melted chocolate, place on clean parchment paper, and sprinkle with the aforementioned surprise ingredients, or nuts, or something you really like.  These will be dry and ready to devour in about 30 minutes.

For more info about oro blanco citrus and for a gateway to other specialty fruits and veggies go to

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Movies on the Big Screen

My new 40" flatscreen has made movie watching at home better than ever.  Saturday morning I woke up just in time to catch "The Letter" one of Bette Davis' best.  Watching other oscar winning films in the last month on TCM made me think about some of my favorites, oscar winners and not.

     The Razor's Edge                    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty     Invasion of the Body Snatchers
     Rebecca                                 Arsenic & Old Lace                     Bye, Bye Birdie
     The Big Clock                         Now, Voyager                             The Big Chill
     The Uninvited                          Casablanca                                 Manhattan Murder Mystery
     A Letter to Three Wives           Random Harvest                          Baby Boom
     Leave Her to Heaven               The Haunting                               Double Indemnity
     The Wizard of Oz                    Vertigo                                       Flower Drum Song

My list skews heavy in 30's & 40's, some noir of course, later 20th century comedies and dramas, a little fantasy - old and modern, lots of suspense (Alfred H was the man),  and a couple of musicals thrown in to lighten things up.  Any one of these movies is worth seeing again and again, and I have.  Add the perfect snack and life is very good. 

Truffle Oil Popcorn
1 package natural microwave popcorn
1 Tbsp. white truffle oil

Pop the corn.  Pour in a bowl.  Drizzle with truffle oil.  Try not to make a 2nd bag - unless it's a double feature.

What are some of your favorite movies and movie snacks?