Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Interesting Read on Organic Foods

Sorry, I've been very busy lately and have had no time to blog! 

I read a very interesting post that I wanted to share with you....

Organic Milk Is Less "Fresh" Than Conventional Milk And 13 Other Food Shockers


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Restaurant Review - The Stone Rose

More than once, I have been asked by a few colleagues, "Why haven't you tried writing a restaurant review?" After all, this is "Suburban Spoon" - the adventures of a foodie in the suburbs of Philly! I have been dying to try a new-er restaurant in Conshohocken, The Stone Rose, so I thought - let's give it a try!

In the past week, I have been to The Stone Rose twice - once for lunch with my neighbor and once for cocktails & dinner with friends. Lunch was good; it was a lovely day and The Stone Rose has outdoor seating at the front of the restaurant which made it feel very metropolitan, as if I were eating downtown. I had the chicken pita special, which was very good but nothing noteworthy.

For my dinner at Stone Rose, I went with a couple of girlfriends for a night out. Since I am getting married soon, we thought it would be fun to go out and taste-test cocktails so that I chose the signature drink for my wedding. The bartender, who I believe might also be the manager, was extremely accommodating and friendly - especially considering I came with a list of cocktail recipes that we wanted to try.

One major point that I appreciated was that the menu strived to include as locally grown and organic ingredients as possible. From the local greens to the grass-raised beef, I was grateful to finally find a local, suburban restaurant with a green conscience.

The Food: presented beautifully, which of course is very important to a foodie. The first thing we have a chance to judge is the way a dish looks. I had the Stone Rose Salad to begin. The attractive pile of greens was tossed with the perfect amount of cider vinaigrette, but I was disappointed by the meagerness of the toppings: Wisconsin sharp cheddar, candied pecans, and apples.

For my entree, I chose the locally raised Oven Roasted Free Range Chicken. Those who know me well know that I love my chicken; I just can't think of anything more versatile and delicious! The chicken was seasoned and roasted to perfection. The herbed rice gratin that it was served with was fantastic, folded with a wonderfully sharp bleu cheese.

Sadly, we did not have any room for dessert, although I didn't even see any mentioned anywhere so I'm not sure that they even SERVE desserts.

The Service: the three of us sat at the bar, although there were open tables since we had gotten there fairly early (7:00PM) and it was a Tuesday night. Like I mentioned before, the gentleman taking care of us was very cordial.

The Atmosphere: the urban-like feel of this restaurant is unique to Conshohocken, and I think it is about time something of its caliber came along. From the open-air seating, to the hardwood floors and beautiful bar, the aesthetic of this restaurant was an A+ in my book.

Will I return? Absolutely. I am thrilled with this addition to my neighboring town. I cannot wait to try the Braised Beef Short Ribs over Mac & Cheese as well as their Stone Rose Burger. Since the location is not the largest, I will surely try another weeknight to avoid a crowd.

The Stone Rose
822 Fayette Street
Conshohocken, PA  19428


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Food News: What was she thinking???!!

I respect Lady Gaga as an artist.  Really, I think she is a great performer.  The next Madonna?  I don't know about that, but she is definitely trying to make waves wearing a dress made of meat to the MTV Video awards.  Lady Gaga, that is just wretched... stay away from my house, especially on Mondays!

Photos courtesy of Huffington Post.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Spiced Grilled Chicken with Couscous

Tomatoes are everywhere right now and the last of my basil is also sitting in pots on my deck begging to be picked and used before the cold weather sends my plants to basil heaven. 

Anyone who knows me personally also knows that I am a huge chicken fan.  I love how versatile it is; you can fry it, you can roast it, bake it, make soup with it, but best of all - you can grill it!

This easy recipe adds a little spicy kick to grilled chicken.  Add steamed vegetables to the couscous for an extra healthy addition.

Spiced Grilled Chicken with Cous Cous-2

Spice Grilled Chicken with Couscous
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken halves
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup couscous
  • 3/4 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup torn basil
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Heat grill to medium high.

Using a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken until about 1/2" thick.  Season with paprika, cumin, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Grill about 3 minutes per side, until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.  Transfer to a plate and tent with foil for 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring broth to a boil and add couscous.  Remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes.  Stir in lemon zest and juice, 2 T of olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Spoon to bottom of serving dish, scatter tomatoes and basil on top.

Slice chicken into 1/4" slices and arrange on top of couscous.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Meatless Monday - Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Mushroom Lasagna

I recently had my neighbors Jody and George over for dinner to celebrate Jody's birthday.  Since the only night we were able to get together was a Monday evening, I wanted to come up with a satisfying meal for company.  This lasagna was so delicious, my guests didn't miss the meat one bit!

  Butternut Squash, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
  • 9 precooked lasagna noodles (I wouldn't use the no-bake kind here)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups fat-free milk 
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage 
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 8-oz bag of fresh spinach
  • 1 lb. porcini mushrooms,
  • 1 medium butternut squash, diced into 1" cubes
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

  • Kosher salt
  • White pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450°.

Combine 1 & 1/2 teaspoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, mushroom, and butternut squash on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.

To prepare béchamel, place flour in a Dutch oven and gradually whisk in milk. Add 1/2 cup onion, sage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 tsp. white pepper and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil.  Cook 1 minute or until thick.   Set aside.
Heat 1 T olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add approximately 2 & 1/2 cups onion and garlic; sauté for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 tsp pepper and spinach; sauté 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.  Set aside.

Combine cheeses in a small bowl and set aside.

Spread 3/4 cup béchamel in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over béchamel.  Top with half of squash mixture, half of the spinach mixture, 1 & 1/2 cups béchamel, and 1/3 cup cheese mixture. Top with 3 noodles,  remaining spinach mixture, remaining squash, 1 & 1/2 cups béchamel, and 1/3 cup cheese mixture. Top with 3 noodles and spread remaining béchamel over noodles and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes longer.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Teryaki Chicken Meatballs

Now and then, I like to try something a little different than the norm.  I'm also on a healthy kick, so substituting chicken or turkey for red meat where I can is always a bonus.  I came up with these Asian-inspired chicken meatballs, which are surprisingly moist and packed full of flavor!

Teryaki Chicken Meatballs

For the meatballs:
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 T lite soy sauce
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 scallions, whie and light green parts, chopped
  • 1/2 of a carrot, diced
  • 2 T canola oil
For the sauce:
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 3 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T sugar
In a large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients.  Shape mixture into 1" balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add meatballs and brown on all sides, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the sauce ingredients.  Add to the skillet after removing the meatballs and bring to a  boil.  Reduce heat, return the meatballs to the pan, and simmer for about 8-10 more minutes, until sauce has reduced by half.

Serve over rice, and enjoy!

I served this with a side of steamed edamame for a well-rounded, healthy meal.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Meatless Monday - Tomato Flatbread

Tomato plants across my neighborhood are producing so much fruit that you can often see the bright red produce exchanging hands; "I have so many tomatoes, I don't know what to do with them!"  Pots of herbs are also sprouting fragrant leafs, waiting to be brought into the kitchen to add brightness to dishes.

Here is a delicious meatless meal that can help you use some of them up.  The dough is so moist and delicious, you'd think an Italian chef prepared it himself.

Flatbread with Summer Tomatoes

For the dough:
  • 1 package of dry instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 & 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
For the rest:
  • 2 large or 3 medium tomatoes, sliced in thing slices
  • 4 oz. fresh mozarella or goat cheese
  • 2 T chopped fresh herbs, such as chives and parsley
  • Handful of fresh basil
To make the dough: Dissolve the yeast in the water and sit for 5 minutes.  Sift in flour, salt and pepper and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Add the oil, knead for a bit in the bowl, then turn out to a floured surface.  Knead until a soft dough forms.

Line a large glass bowl with olive oil.  Add dough ball and cover with a warm, damp kitchen towel.  Let rise 1 hour, or until doubled in size.  Punch dough down, and let rise, covered, an additional hour.

Roll dough out to approximately 15x10 inches.  Slide onto a cookie sheet, cover again with damp towel, and let rise for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange tomato slices on a stack of paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt and place a few more paper towels on top.  Lightly press down to remove excess juices. 

Arrange tomato slices over dough and top evenly with cheese.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned at the edges.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with herbs, arrange basil, and crack additional black pepper on top, if desired.

Slice, and enjoy!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Peach Chutney

Rounding out a shipment of local produce, I had a bunch of peaches that were reaching past-prime status.  I hate... absolutely detest.. wasting food, so I came up with a plan to utitlize the over-ripened fruit.

With my Ball jar kit in tow, I set out to make a delicious chutney that would be an excellent addition to chicken, pork, or even atop cheese and crackers.

Peach Chutney
  • 6 ripe peaches
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 jalepeno pepper, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
Bring first 6 ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat so low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Stir in jalepeno and cover again.  Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Stir in parsley & lime juice and cool to room temperature before serving.



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Roasted Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is one of those easy-yet-elegant side dishes that is just so good, you think you should be punished for eating it with dinner rather than a dessert.  This winter squash is just beginning to appear on local farmstands and I am happy to welcome it here!

Try this method for a simple yet satisfying accompaniment to your next meal.  It is so effortless that with a small head start, you could add this to any weeknight meal for a special touch.

Roasted Acorn Squash
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 & 1/2 T butter
  • 2-3 T brown sugar
  • 2 T chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut acorn squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds, making little bowls.  Place the bowls in a baking dish.

Divide butter in each "bowl" and top with brown sugar.  Add walnuts and roast in center rack of oven for 40-50 minutes.  Don't be afraid, it is hard to overcook this squash!

That's all!  I told you it was easy ;)




Monday, August 23, 2010

Meatless Monday - Roasted Cauliflower Gratin

I am growing terribly upset that summer is almost over.  Though it is still quite hot outdoors, summer vegetables are less abundant.  I love fall veggies but there is nothing quite as bright and ethereal as those produced in June or July.

Making my way through a recent delivery of local, farm-fresh veggies, I pondered what to do with a head of Cauliflower.  A self-proclaimed Gruyere maniac, I thought there would be no better dish suited for this delectable white vegetable.

Roasted Cauliflower Gratin
  • 1 medium (about 2 lb.) head cauliflower trimmed and cut into florets
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • /2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese, divided
  • 2 T finely chopped chives
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups fat milk
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
Preheat oven to 400°.

Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and add florets.  Season with salt and white pepper, toss to distribute.  Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and set aside.

Preheat oven to broil.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then remove from heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs. Stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese and all of the chives.

Heat canola oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion to pan; saute 4 minutes or until almost tender.

Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add flour and stir over heat for a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste.  Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil.  Cook, stirring constantly, until milk has thickened, 3 or 4 minutes. 

Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1/4 cup cheese, parsley, nutmeg, 1/4 tsp of salt and a large pinch of white pepper. Pour milk mixture over cauliflower mixture and top with the cheese mixture.  Broil 3 minutes or until golden brown and thoroughly heated.

Stay tuned for a recipe for another late-summer produce gem appearing in markets across the regions... acorn squash!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding reminds me of my childhood, my mom always has a container of Kozy Shack rice pudding in the fridge.  We would serve up a bowl, sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar, and enjoy this unique treat.

This recipe is a very easy & quick way to enjoy this time-honored dessert.

Rice Pudding
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • pinch of salt
  • Cinnamon
In a small pot, add the rice and cover with water.  Cook on medium heat to bring to a slow boil.  Once water is boiling, cook for 5 minutes.  Drain in a colander and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In the same pot, add milk and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, add sugar and vanilla bean, and cover for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the vanilla bean and scrape the little seeds out with a sharp knife.  Add the seeds to the milk and stir in the pinch of salt.

Add the rice to the milk and bring to a boil.  Empty all contents into an 8x8 baking dish. 

Bake for 20 minutes, until think and bubbly.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve warm.



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Marinated Grilled Steak

Grilling a steak isn't that hard, but I often wonder how restaurants achieve such a tender, juicy cut of meat.  The trick: marinating.  Not only does marinating your meats supply a wonderful tenderness, but it also infuses your meat with an extra POW of flavor. 

Marinating requires a bit of forethought.  You want to marinate anything for an absolute minimum for 1 hour, up to 24 hours.  My fiances father even told me he sometimes marinates his steaks for 3 days!  A simple marinade is just dumping a bottle of good Italian dressing over your cuts of chicken or beef and leave it to bathe in the fridge for several hours.  Marinating with lime or lemon juice and olive oil is a good idea, too.  When marinating with citrus, be careful not to leave it for longer than an hour.  The acid in the juice actually begins to cook the meat!

This is a wonderful recipe for marinating strip steaks, or any other fine cut of grilling meat.

Marinated Strip Steaks
  • 2 strip steaks (about 16 oz. each)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 bottle of dark beer
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds & ribs removed and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
Season both sides of steaks with salt and pepper, then brush with olive oil.  Place in a dish, just large enough to fit the steaks. 

In a medium bowl, combine beer, lime juice, jalapeno, onion, garlic, and parsley or cilantro to make the marinade.  Pour over the steaks, cover, and marinate for 2-6 hours.  The longer you marinate, the more flavorful and tender your meat will be.

Heat grill to direct, high heat.  Remove steaks from marinade, pat dry with paper towels, and season with more salt and pepper.  To grill steaks to medium-rare (in my opinion, the best way to get the most flavorful steak) for 4-6 minutes per side.

Transfer plate to a platter and cover loosely with foil, let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Serve and enjoy.  No need for steak sauce here!!


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Food News: A Great Article on the Meat Free movement!

NPR recently ran a story on the history of Meatless Monday and how people everywhere are trying to spread the word.  Read the article here.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Chicken stock

Using the remains after the organic roast chicken I made earlier in the week, I made a flavorful chicken stock to use later on, when the weather starts to get a bit chillier, and I am craving some good homemade soup.

Making chicken stock takes a little bit of inactive time, but it is extremely simple and well worth the end results!  You just can't buy the same essence in a pre-made stock.

Chicken Stock
  • The remains from a 5-lb. roasting chicken, including the giblets
  • 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled and quartered
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled and halved
  • 2 stalks of celery, with leaves, halved
  • 1 large handful of fresh parsley sprigs 
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 5 or 6 whole cloves of garlic
  • 1 T of kosher salt
  • 1 T whole black peppercorns
Throw all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Fill with water until about 2" to the top of the pot.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 3-4 hours.

Strain the liquid into storage container, the large soup containers from Chinese take-out work perfectly for this.  Store in your refrigerator for 4-5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

It's that easy!


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Roast Chicken and Asian Noodles

Earlier this week, I wrote about making a roast chicken for a satisfying weekend meal.  I wrote how I used the remainder of the meat for another meal, and the remainder of the chicken after that to make chicken stock.  So resourceful, if I do say so myself...

Here is the recipe for this meal, which puts some seasonal produce to work...

Roast Chicken and Asian Noodles
  • 1 cup sliced leftover roast chicken
  • 1/2 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
  • 8 oz. sugar snap peas
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, sliced into 1" pieces
For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 3 T soy sauce (I like Pearl River Soy Sauce)
  • 1 T + 2 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. honey (if you measure this in the same spoon as the sesame oil, the oil allows the honey to slide right out of the spoon)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. grated ginger
To finish:
  • 2 T toasted sesame seeds
  • 1-2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • Small handful of roasted, salted peanuts
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water to package directions.  Remove spaghetti with tongs & set aside. 

Add snap peas to the water, return to a boil, and cook 3-5 minutes, until bright green and crisp tender.  Remove snap peas with a spider or slotted spoon and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking.  Drain.

To make the dressing, whick together the canola oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, and peanut butter in a medium bowl.

Combine the spaghetti, snap peas, peppers, and scallions in serving bowl.  Pour the dressing over the mixture, bit by bit, until your liking.  You may not use all of the dressing.

Garnish with sesame seeds, parsley, and peanuts.

Serve, and enjoy!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It all began with an organic chicken...

One whole chicken, so many uses.  This past weekend, I summoned my inner-Barefoot Contessa and whipped up a delicious roast chicken for Ryan and myself.  This ambrosial bird provided not one, but two meals' worth of meat... and that was only the beginning!

Serving the roast chicken with roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions provided a gourmet weekend dinner for 2.  There was enough meat left over for a second meal, so I blithely contained the remains and stored them away in my refrigerator for a meal later in the week; a gratifying Roast Chicken and Asian Noodles.

With the remains of the chicken (I just can't bring myself to use the word "carcass" when describing food), after carving all of its moist, flavorful meat off the bone, plus the giblets which I set aside, I made chicken stock.  Sure, you can buy chicken stock at the grocery store, or even doctor up some boring ol' chicken broth by adding bullion and other flavors, but nothing - NOTHING - beats the flavor of homemade chicken stock.  I froze the chicken stock to use later to make a hearty soup.

One chicken, three potential meals.  Nothing went unused.  That is what I call a superfood!

Check back later this week for my Roast Chicken and Asian Noodles and Chicken Stock recipes.

Roast Chicken and Vegetables
  • 1 5-6 lb. organic roasting chicken  
  • Kosher salt  
  • Freshly ground black pepper  
  • About 30-40 sprigs of thyme, divided 
  • 1 lemon, halved  
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise  
  • 2 T butter, melted 
  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced into 1" chunks
  • 1 large onion, sliced into about 1" slices
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks 
  • Olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the chicken giblets, save for making chicken stock.

Rinse the chicken inside and out, pat the outside dry with paper towels.

Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with half of the thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic.

Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Place in the center of a roasting pan, cross the legs and tie together with kitchen string .  Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.

Place the potatoes, onions, and carrots around the chicken. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, the remainder of the thyme, and olive oil.

Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Place the chicken on a platter and surround with vegetables.  Cover with aluminum foil for about 15 minutes to allow the juices in the chicken to redistribute.

Carve, serve, and enjoy!


Friday, July 30, 2010

Bad news for basil lovers...

Summer is the time for basil, and boy do I have an abundance of it.  In Barbara Kingsolver's memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she talks about her annoyance over a local food writer who gives a recipe for making pesto - in January.  Now is the time to gather up your beautifully-scented basil and pesto away!  *Side note- if you haven't read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle yet, you are really missing out on one of the best food narratives I have ever read.

Since my last post, Lemon Basil Cake, people have been commenting to me about how much they love basil.  I hate to be a downer, but I thought I'd share a bit of sad news, or you can see it as a word of caution, for my fellow basilicum lovers...

About a month or so ago, my fiance Ryan came home with terrible news for me.  He had heard on NPR that there is a basil blight affecting the country's basil population.  Quickly, I ran to my back deck to survey my several plants of what just spells s-u-m-m-e-r to me.  I peeked under their leafs (or leaves? - they're actually both correct), wincing in anticipation for finding that "ugly shade of brown" underneath.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I ran to the next plant, and then the next.  I have been saved!  So far....

Read the article on NPR about this enemy wiping out basil across New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and even Florida.  And if you spot any of this "downy mildew" threat on your beloved basil plants, cut what good leaves you have and for the love of God, immediately proceed to make pesto!  Or, tune into Suburban Spoon for upcoming basil recipes...


Friday, July 23, 2010

Lemon Basil Cake

As I've mentioned before, I am growing several basil plants on mt back deck.  I have been trying to make things, other than pesto, to use it up.

This Lemon Basil cake is moist, delicious, and a fantastic summer dessert.  Be sure to try it!

Lemon Basil Cake

  • 2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 & 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp. lemon extract (found at food specialy stores - if you cannot find, use 2 T of lemon zest instead)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 T buttermilk
  • 1 & 1/2 cups mixed berries, such as raspberries and blackberries

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer on medium speed, until creamy. Add the eggs, basil, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Beat until blended.

Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, alternating with the buttermilk and beating on low speed until smooth.

Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and cool completely.

Place the cake on a serving plate and top with the berries.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Asian Green Beans

My CSA share for the past 2 weeks has had bunches of green beans.  The fun thing about CSA shares is that you are given items that you may not have thought to buy that week, and you have to be creative.  Bored with plain green beans, I thought I'd try giving them an Asian twist. 

I pulled out my wok, recalled the skills I learned from a Chinese cooking class, and created a delicious accompaniment to the General Tso's chicken I made that night. 

*You can use a regular saute pan if you don't own a wok.

Asian Green Beans
  • 1 pound green beans
  • Canola oil (for wok)
For the sauce:
  • 1 T hoisin sauce
  • 1 T Tamari (dark soy sauce)
  • 2 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp sugar
To finish:
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 1 T chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 scallions, white part only, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red chili paste

Wash the green beans and drain thoroughly. Trim the ends.
In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat the wok on medium heat and add 2 T oil.  Coat the wok all around with the oil.  When the oil is hot (it will shimmer and sizzle when a drop of water is thrown in), add the beans. Stir-fry for 7 - 10 minutes, until beans are bright green and just tender.  Set aside.

Heat 1 T oil in the wok on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped garlic, ginger and scallions. Stir-fry briefly for a few seconds until aromatic. Add the chili paste.

Add the green beans to the sauce and toss to coat.  Serve hot, and enjoy!
To learn more about CSA shares, I recommend reading Sharing the Harvest.



Monday, July 19, 2010

Meat Free Monday, by Sir Paul McCartney

Gwyneth Paltrow has a website called GOOP (funny name, I know).  She writes a weekly newsletter about her personal travel notes, recipes, and personal advice.  Now, I don't typically get caught up in celebrity lifestyles, but Gwyneth is, in my opinion, such a beautiful person who lives her life in an admirable way.

I was reading one of her past newsletters where she talks about Meat Free Mondays (the UK's version of MeatlessMondays.com).  She cites a letter from Paul McCartney himself detailing the pull for Mondays void of meat.  Read his letter below, and check out GOOP for a good read on wholistic living.

--Ok, here’s the story on Meat Free Monday. In 2006, the United Nations issued a report which stated that the livestock industry as a whole was responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the whole of the transport sector put together.

I found this interesting particularly because people at the UN are not a vegetarian society and therefore, could not be accused of bias. They pointed out the following facts:

* The Livestock industry produces gases that are extremely dangerous for the future of our environment.

* The two main gases, methane and nitrous oxide, are considered to be more harmful than CO2 (methane is 21 times more powerful than CO2 and nitrous oxide is 310 times more powerful than CO2) so the data suggests that this is causing a highly dangerous situation for ourselves and, more importantly, for future generations.

* Methane also remains in the atmosphere for 9 to 15 years; nitrous oxide remains in the atmosphere for 114 years, on average, and is 296 times more potent than CO2 - the gases released today will continue to be active in degrading the climate decades from now.

* Livestock production is land intensive: a recent report by Greenpeace on land use in the largest meat producing state in Brazil found that livestock (cattle) production was responsible for vastly more deforestation than soya.

* A third of all cereal crops, and well over 90% of soya, goes into animal feed, not food for humans. Eating less meat will free up a lot of agricultural land which can revert to growing trees and other vegetation, which, in turn, will absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

* Livestock production is water intensive: it accounts for around 8% of global human water use. The estimated 634 gallons of fresh water required to produce one 5.2 ounce (150g) beef burger would be enough for a four-hour shower. For comparison, the same quantity of tofu requires 143 gallons of water to produce.

* Livestock production is the largest source of water pollutants, principally animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures.

* The meat industry is set to double its production by 2050 so even if they manage to lower emissions by 50%, as they have promised to, we will still be in the same position.

With this in mind, my family and I launched Meat Free Monday in the UK, an idea which has been gaining support from people like Tom Parker-Bowles who, after a lifetime of denigrating vegetarians, recently wrote in his Daily Mail column, “I wince at the memory of my boorish antics” and who pronounced himself “intrigued” by MFM: “There’s no doubting the plain common sense of the message…Meat Free Monday is something to really savour”. Another supporter is Al Gore who stated that initiatives like Meat Free Monday “represent a responsible and welcome component of a comprehensive strategy for reducing global warming pollution and simultaneously improving human health."

Even a number of schools have already done this in the UK with great success. The town of Ghent in Belgium has a meat free day and, amazingly, Sao Paulo has one even though Brazil is a large exporter of meat. In Sweden, the government is now labeling food to give the consumer the opportunity to understand the dangers of indiscriminate food consumption and there are many more examples appearing online.

The point is that so many people these days are looking for ways to “do their bit” for the environment. We recycle - something we never would have dreamt of doing in the past. Many people now drive hybrid cars but most people understand that we cannot leave this important issue to the politicians of the world. Recently, at the Copenhagen Conference for Climate Change, this issue was not even on the agenda and so I believe it is once again left to us, the people, to do it ourselves.

It’s amazingly easy to take one day in your week, Monday or any other day, and not eat meat. When you think about it, there are so many great alternatives, for instance, in Italian cooking, so many of the dishes are vegetarian already and Thai and Chinese cuisine are the same. All it means is that you have to think a bit about what you’ll eat that day but, in actual fact, far from being a chore, it’s a fun challenge.

Having been a vegetarian for over 30 years, I find it very simple and in fact, tasty and most enjoyable.

So there it is! Next Monday - don’t eat meat and do your bit to save this beautiful planet of ours. For more information, ideas and lots of meat free recipes, go to the official Meat Free Monday website.

Thanks Goopsters! Thanks Gwyneth!

Rock on ya’ll!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Meatless Monday - Grilled Eggplant with Pesto and Pasta

Coming up with ways to use seasonal produce is always a fun challenge for me.  With an abundance of basil in my garden, I always have pesto on hand.  This delicious meatless meal will definitely satisfy!

Grilled Eggplant with Pesto and Pasta (serves 8)
Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high. 

Brush both sides of eggplant rounds with olive oil.  Season with salt & pepper.

Grill both sides of eggplant for about 3 minutes, until grill marks appear.  Slice into 1/2" by 2" slices.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted water to box directions.

Combine pasta and eggplant, stir in pesto.  Just before serving, gently stir in mozzarella cheese.  It will melt into gooey goodness!



Friday, July 9, 2010

Zucchini Bread

As you've read, nothing excites me more than summer produce.  A visit to the farm stand is one of my most treasured times, I am in my element among the bright colors and fresh fragrance.

Zucchini is one of those vegetables that just signifies summer (or late spring) for me.  I love using it in kabobs, stir-fries, and bread.  Zucchini bread is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner!  Martha Stewart even suggests you use zucchini bread as a base for chicken salad for hors d'ouevres.

It's not only versatile, but it's good for you!  Zucchini is not only a source of Vitamin C, but also has good amounts of folate, potassium, and vitamin A.

Zucchini Bread (makes 2 loaves)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 & 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups plus 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 & 1/2 cups grated zucchini (a food processor with a fitted blade works very well for this)
  • 2 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 T walnut oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with a whisk for 2 minutes, until light.  Beat in the sugar.  Stir in the zucchini, vegetable oil, and vanilla and incorporate well.

Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients, a bit at a time.  Stop and stir to incorporate every so often.  Add the nuts and walnut oil.

Pour mixture into the prepared pans.  Bake for approximately 1 hour.  Cool on baking racks before you remove from loaf pans.

Slice, serve, and enjoy!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Pineapple and Avocado

I have to admit, I am not always a super-adventurous foodie.  I love to try new things, but have always been weary of fish.  I can throw back a tuna tartare with the best of them, but when it comes to cooked fish, I have always been hesitant.

Ryan loves fish and often wishes I would try making it.  During a recent trip to Whole Foods, I bit the bullet and purchased 2 Mahi Mahi fillets.  I knew this was one of the milder tasting varieties that I have sampled before and not been adversed to, so I rolled up my sleeves and bit the bullet.  Actually, I doubt I was wearing sleeves, it was 90+ degrees outside, but you get the idea...

A success!  Not only was it tasty, but Ryan could not have been happier.  He even came home during his lunch break today to tidy up his mess in the basement.  I took that to say, "I really appreciate the yummy fish!"

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Pineapple and Avocado

For the fish:
  • 2 Mahi Mahi steaks or fillets (about 6 ounces each)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
For the topping:
  • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp grated lime peel
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper

Rinse Mahi Mahi in cool water and pat dry. Combine oil, lemon juice and ginger and coat both sides of fish. Refrigerate for up to an hour.
Heat grill to medium-high, about 350 degrees.
Combine topping ingredients and set aside.
Add fish to hot grill for 5 minutes on first side.  Flip, and grill 5-10 more minutes on second side, until internal temp is 160 degrees.
Remove from grill to plate and top with pineapple and avocado.  Serve with white rice or polenta.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Food for Thought... Coconut Water

For thousands of years, coconut water has been revered as a natural source of nutrition, wellness, beauty and hydration. It has been used as an intravenous fluid and saved many lives. 

Coconut water has more potassium than a banana and is more hydrating than a sports drink, containing 5 essential electrolytes - sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. 

It contains no fat, no cholesterol and no added sugar.

Coconut water... it's something to think about.

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