Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Unrecipe of the Week: Fig Jam

June 27, 2016

 

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For a recent cocktail party I catered, I wanted to create a charcuterie selection that appealed to all of the senses. Rich and creamy, juxtaposed with savory and salty, and just the right amount of something sweet to offset it all.
This quick fig jam proved to be the perfect accompanyment to the assortment. It cooks up fast with little preparation and few ingredients, but yields something more complex. I served it with cheese, meats and paté, but it works just as well on a slab of toasted bread, or as upgrade to your next PBJ sandwich.

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Fig Jam ( adapted from Food & Wine)

Slice 2 pounds of fresh figs into quarters, and place them in a pot with about 1 1/4 -1 1/2 cups of sugar. Toss, and let it sit off the heatnuntil the sugar dissolves naturally and the figs begin to give off juice.
Add 1/2 cup of water, and the juice of a couple of lemons, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir until all the sugar is fully dissovled.Reduce the heat to and simmer, stirring often, until the fruit begins to soften, and the juices naturally thicken. This will take about 20-30 minutes. Taste, and add more sugar and|or lemon as needed.
Cool, spoon into a large jar and enjoy!

Photos: top: indigo jones | bottom: Spencer Jones @Glasshouse Assignment

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Spoons Across America

June 22, 2016

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Lately, I have been wondering what will happen to the wonderful work our current First Lady, Michelle Obama has been doing surrounding children’s nutrition when her husband leaves office. Sure, they can hire someone to oversee her beloved garden, and certain of her initiatives have become self sufficient enough to survive.

It is highly unlikely that the future First Person will take an interest in nutrition. Bill Clinton already has a foundation and will likely continue his work should his wife become President. Mrs. Trump has not shown interest in any philanthropic or charitable initiatives as yet, and childhood obesity isn’t likely to be an appealing subject for her.

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My concerns were quickly abated this week, when I was asked to volunteer with a wonderful organization called Spoons Across America, which offers programs dedicated to educating children, teachers and families about healthy nutrition through the culinary arts.

My first assignment was to work with a group of fifth graders in PS 1, a public elementary school on the east side of Chinatown in New York City.

After working in the classroom for several weeks discussing nutrition and where our food comes from, the program culminated in an event where the kids cooked and served dinner to their families, with the help of a team from Spoons Across America.

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Studies have shown that kids who have a hands-on experience preparing and sourcing new and nutritious foods, are more likely to develop healthy eating habits. There are also findings that show that sharing family meals have both psycological and developmental benefits for children. There are significant indications that teens who regularly have dinner with their families are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, tobacco or exhibit violent tendancies. These facts hold true for all income levels and for families with single or dual parents.

With these values in mind, we set out to assist the kids in The Dinner Party Project. Throughout the afternoon, small groups of students rotated through various stations, chopping, peeling, blending and mixing to create a healthy, delicous meal to be enjoyed later that evening.

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The menu consisted of chickpea hummus, served with raw vegetables and pita bread, followed by a cold pureed zucchini and cucumber soup, topped with yogurt and a sprig of watercress. The main course was a choice of chicken or tofu, roasted with garlic and fresh herbs,buttermilk biscuits, and a side of tomato and mozzarella salad, or greens with corn, and a honey mustard vinaigrette. The grand finale was a parfait with fresh berries and yogurt, topped with a drizzle of honey and a mint leaf.  The food was attractively presented, and proudly served by the young chefs themselves.

The kids were eager workers, and despite the heat in the small, un-airconditioned kitchen with multiple commericial ovens going, they took to their tasks with enthusiasm and a thirst for learning.
My teams made the chicken, and we touched on concepts, such as how to peel garlic, strip the leaves off fresh herbs, and handle raw chicken safely without cross contamination.

The greatest joy was in seeing the kids so excited about sharing the food they prepared, and the smiles on their faces as they brought back empty platters to be refilled.

It was an exhausting, yet gratifying day, and I hope to be able to work with this wonderful organzation again on other projects. In the meantime, it’s good to know that people have taken up the cause and are doing great work in the world of children’s culinary and nutrition education.

Don’t worry Michelle, we got this!

To learn more about Spoons Across America, click here.

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Keeping It Crisp

June 21, 2016

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Sunday night, I made chicken and waffles for dinner. With only one waffle iron and six people to feed, I needed to keep them warm, without them getting soggy while I made the balance. I also wanted to fry the chicken before the guests arrived, to avoid them being in the midst of a hot, greasy mess. The secret weapon in this story is a wire rack. 

Placing the food on a wire cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet, allows the heat to circulate, keeping everything hot and crispy. This trick works well for fried foods, potato pancakes, and yes, waffles. Setting the oven at it’s lowest temperature, usually about 200-250 degrees, is the key to keep things warm, while not allowing them to over cook. This is the best way to reheat the leftovers too!

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Washing Berries

June 14, 2016

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It’s berry season, and the markets are bursting with a variety to choose from. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are among the most popular of the mini fruits, and also the most delicate.

It is important to thoroughly wash berries, to remove debris. Running them under  water often damages them, as the stream provides too much force for something as fragile as a raspberry. The solution, is to soak, rather than rinse them, to get them clean. Strawberries, in particular, seem to make it to the dirty dozen list each year, due to their extremely high pesticide load. (Read more about the dirty dozen here.) Buying organic berries are recommended.

To properly clean fresh berries, place them in the basket of a salad spinner, and submerge them in cool, clean water to soak for several minutes. You can also add a couple of spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar to the first bath, to aid in the removal of debris. This may be too much acid for raspberries and blackberries, but for the sturdier varieties, the vinegar is fine. Use it sparingly, to make sure you don’t damage the fruit. Strain, and change the water a few times until the water remains clean. The vinegar is also helpful in fighting mold that develops quickly on soft fruit, like berries. Just be sure to get it all off before using them.

If you don’t have a salad spinner, a large bowl and a colander or strainer works as well.

Shake the strainer lightly, and allow the berries to dry before storing. (DON’T SPIN!!!)Place a folded paper towel in the bottom of the storage container to absorb any excess water and cushion the berries.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Unrecipe of the Week: One Pan Chicken Dinner

June 13, 2016

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Dinner doesn’t get more basic than roasted chicken with potatoes and a green vegetable. Today’s unrecipe lets you make the entire meal all in one pan. It doesn’t get much simpler than that! The chicken is roasted to perfection, yielding crisp skin and tender, juicy meat. The potatoes take on extra flavor from the chicken drippings, with a crusty outside and a fluffy interior. The asparagus gets tossed in during the last 15 minutes of cooking time, to keep it al dente. Add some lemon and a little garlic and dijon mustard and you have the making of a mouth watering feast.

Your dinner partners will thank you for the delicous meal. You’ll thank us for only having to wash one pan. It’s a winner of a chicken dinner for all involved!

Pan Roasted Chicken With Fingerling Potatoes and Asparagus:

Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the roasting pan, and toss with olive oil and a little salt. If they are larger potatoes, cut them into chunks. We used tiny little fingerlings, and left them whole.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, garlic, dijon mustard and a little olive oil. Massage the mixture onto both sides of the chicken and place it on top of the potatoes. Tuck a few lemon slices in amongst the chicken pieces, and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until the potatoes start to brown and the chicken skin is nice and crispy. Toss in the , trimmed and cut into 3″ pieces, and continue to cook until the asparagus starts to soften, but is still crisp, and the chicken and potatoes are fully cooked, about 15 minutes more.  Remove from the oven and enjoy!

In the spirit of a true Unrecipe, you can use any type of potato, and most any green vegetable. Try Idaho, red russet or even sweet potatoes, cut up. Toss in green beans, broccoli or zucchini spears instead of asparagus. Add a some olives, or artichoke hearts. Why not stretch your creativity a bit. It’s only on pan.

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A Magic Pill For Getting Your Greens

June 8, 2016

 

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We all know that we should be eating more vegetables. In fact, 75% of all Americans only eat one or two servings of vegetables per day, versus the recommended 5-13 servings. Of those one or two servings of vegetables  that are being eaten, almost half are in the form of chips or french fries.

Many health advocates hopped on the smoothie and juice wagon, drinking much of thier recommended amount for breakfast each day. However, many of those green juices contain four times the amount of sugar the World Health Organization recommends consuming in any given day. While drinking your vegetables is certainly an easier fix than chowing through bunches of kale, and stalks of broccoli, there is now an even more streamlined way to get your greens.

A new product called 8G is a fizzy tablet that you drop into water, which provides you with 8 different types of greens, all in one simple dose.

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The brain child of Dawn Russell, a former model, and current British royal, was developed after her battle with stage three cancer several years ago. Russell traveled the world seeking alternative cures when a bone infection prevented her from under going traditional chemotherapy. While many turned out to be more harm than good, she discovered that the more greens she consumed, the stronger she became.

Russell is not touting greens as a cure for cancer; she had several surgeries and other treatments as well. She does believe that eating healthy greens contributed to saving her life.

8G is comprised of 8 different greens, including spinach, wheat grass, blue green algae, kale, spirulina, aloe vera, chlorella and barley grass, which are purported to detoxify, oxygenate, and alkalize the body. It contains vitamins C, and B3, B5, B6 and B12, zinc and niacin. 8G is free of wheat, gluten, sugars, dairy, allergens, salt and preservatives. Each tablet contains only 9 calories, and is portable enough to keep in your handbag to drink anywhere that water is available.

After years of development, testing and tasting, not only has Russell hit on a formula that is palatable, she has also gotten the cost down from $100 to just $12.50 per vial of 10 tablets.

The Penninsula Hotel Group and Nordstrom are among those who have embraced the product, and expansion plans already underway.

You can try it yourself, by ordering through the 8G website.

Photos: Courtesy of 8G

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Frozen Lemons

June 7, 2016

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Summer is here, and now more than ever, it is important to hydrate. Ice cold water is not only refreshing, it is also more palatable than drinking it room temperature. A squirt of lemon adds a little flavor, as well as a jolt of vitamin C and potassium. Drinking lemon water is also reputed to boost our immune systems, aid digestion, and reduce inflammation. Freezing lemon slices can eliminate the need for ice cubes, and offer an infusion of taste and health benefits at the same time.

How to freeze lemon slices:

Scrub the lemons of any residue, and rinse them well. You can use a brush, a citrus based produce wash, or a mixture of white vinegar and water to get them clean. It is best to use organic lemons for this purpose, to cut down on pesticides. Wipe them dry.

Slice the lemons into 3/8″ thick slices, and cut them in half if desired. Freeze them on a parchment covered sheet pan until frozen through, and then transfer them to a zip lock freezer bag to store.

Grab a few to chill and flavor your water or iced tea, and enjoy!

Photos: Glasshouse Images

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Recall Madness

June 6, 2016

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In the last few weeks, there have been massive food recalls, as a result of potential listeria contamination. Not only are the recalls vast, they are also turning up in food products we may have deemed to be safe, and often healthy.

Once such recall stems from contaminated sunflower seeds, which were purchased by many different producers of granola bars and trail mix. The list of products being recalled seems to grow daily, with companies such as Nature Valley, Kashi, and Clif Bars being affected by the voluntary intiative.

Many ready made salads are joining the list, with Trader Joe’s being among the companies involved. They also have had significant issues with frozen vegetables, frozen fried rice mixtures and sunflower seed products.

 

5035600025_compThis weekend’s recall of General Mills flours is an especially alarming one, as the recall goes back several months, and the flour has likely been used to make other products, which could trigger more issues in the immediate future.

UPDATE: Hostess recalling donuts and snack cakes, based on potentially contaminated flour used to make them. Here we go…

Why are there so many recalls lately and what can we do about it?

An article by Tiffany Thomas on the website Romper suggests that the scope of the recalls could indicate progress within our food saftey system. According to Elliott Ryser, a professor at Michigan State University, the fact that a relatively small number of people actually became ill and the recalls were triggered by red flags during routine inspection, means our food inspection process is improving.

In fact, the CDC has new tools to track the genome sequences present in the bacteria. Listeria is also a hearty bacteria, sticking around and taking up residence in food processing plants. It is also able to survive extreme conditions, such as freezing. It can be killed if food reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees, but it best to avoid contaminated foods altogether. Even listeriosis symptoms can take up to 2 months to reveal themselves, although they often show up within days of consuming contaminated foods.

For a list of all food recalls, check the FDA’s website for the latest information.

Photos: Glasshouse Images

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Chilling Cookie Dough

May 31, 2016

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When we make rolled cookies, chilling the dough is a crucial step in the process. The room temperature dough is very soft and difficult to work with, while the chilled dough is firmer and holds it’s shape better.

The same principle holds true for drop cookies. While most of us (guilty as charged) just mix, drop and bake our cookies, chilling the batter is a step that greatly enhances the shape, texture and even flavor of our favorite chocolate chippers.

Just 30 minutes in the fridge has a positive effect on the batter. Chilled cookies spread less when baked. The result is a slightly denser cookie, with a more chewy- crisp texture. Because the dough dries out slightly when chilled, the flavors become more pronounced as the excess water evaporates, leaving the sugars to almost caramelize when baked.

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Next time you are baking chocolate chip cookies, try to resist the temptation to have them NOW, and cover the bowl and allow it chill for at least 30 minutes or up to a few days for optimum results. You’ll be glad you did!

This may also save you time, as you can mix the batter, go about your day, and bake them later. You can also bake a few to get your fix, and bake the rest another day.

Trust us, it is worth the wait!

Photos: Glasshouse Images

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Spring Flowers + May Showers

May 25, 2016

Spring seems to have passed us by. Everytime I think it is safe to put the sweaters and boots away, the temperature dips, and the skies open up. With Memorial Day just coming up this weekend, it’s time to think about summer!

In our quest to find springtime, we have become obsessed with edible flowers. We used them to garnish a blueberry tart this weekend, and now we want to put them on absolutely everything! Avocado toast with tiny little pansies? Crostini with mini violets? Salads tossed with colorful blooms? What a way to make day to day foods look festive, and dare we say fancy?!

We even added them to our ice cubes, creating beautiful crystaline blocks that will make even sparkling water seem special.

Flower ice cubes

Simply rinse the petals and freeze them in an ice cube tray until ready to use. We added a couple of blueberries here and there for variety. To avoid cloudy ice, use purified water to eliminate the chlorine and impurities found in tap water. Many people suggest boiling and cooling the water, and repeating, before pouring the water into the trays. We used filtered water, and got fairly clear cubes void of any unwanted flavor.

Flower ice cubes

The flowers you use need to be selected for more than just their beauty. It is important to use organic flowers that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides, to avoid unnecessary chemicals seeping into your food. Even more importantly, you must select non-toxic blooms that are completely edible. Some examples of those are violets, dianthus, nasturtiums and hollyhocks. Other flowers, such as roses,chrysanthemums, tulips and lavender have edible petals only.

 

Flower ice cubes

We purchased ours from Windfall Farms at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City, who had an incredible selection of fresh, beautiful and pesticide free edibles. They are at the market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Photos: Spencer Jones | glasshouse assignment

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