Sunday, April 23, 2006

Green Issues

What a week this has been; what a rare mood I'm in! Yikes,that sounds like a take off on an old song, doesn't it? But it has been an exceptionally busy, hectic week. The May issue of Vanity Fair arrived in my mailbox and just happened to be their first green issue. It's chock-a-block full of great articles covering all aspects of the green house effect with suggestions for what needs to be done going forward to avoid catastrophe. Don't hesitate to spend the best part of a $5 bill on this informative issue covering articles by Al Gore; Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Pataki among others. See hunky George Clooney in his "walk the walk" electric car along with Annie Liebovitz's fantastic cover photo: Included in the issue is a handy pull-out insert, "What You Can Do - 50 ways to help save the planet." Many good suggestions that each of us can incorporate into our daily routines. From something as simple as changing lightbulbs, recycling, eliminating plastic bags along with disposable goods and turning off the water while you brush your teeth to driving a hybrid car and planting your own garden. Get it, do what you can to make some changes NOW and encourage others. If we don't do it, who will? Had to look it up, but Eldridge Cleaver said, in a speech in San Francisco back in 1968, " You're either part of the solution or part of the problem." I'd prefer to be a part of the solution, wouldn't you? Check it out, then start making gradual yet regular efforts to eliminate waste, conserve energy and make wise purchases. Choose sustainable solutions remembering that we pay a very high price long term for cheap costs in the short run.

More Greens
I've been conscientiously adding items from the Rx Super Foods list to every meal. Incoporating most from the list every week. Broccoli is a favorite, so it's easy to include and lately I've found that it not only adds a nice little fillip to a grains meal as well as being a great side for meats, poultry and fish, but it makes a lovely light lo-cal lunch. Try this easy winner:
Broccoli, Red Peppers and Goat Cheese (serves 4 - 15 minutes)
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
1 head broccoli, florets only
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 - 3 bottled roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced (or use green onions)
1 tsp dried basil or 2 TBS fresh basil chiffonade
juice from half a fresh lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 - 3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Wash and drain broccoli, in a large skillet, heat oil over med heat. Add broccoli, garlic and shallots and cook 5 - 8 minutes until crisp - tender (add splash of water to steam a bit). Stir in roasted red peppers, basil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Remove from heat, divide among plates, sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese.
(This is particularly good with some whole wheat pita bread for a fiber filled light lunch.)
If you're curious, here's the list of Rx Super Foods:
Broccoli • Oranges • Spinach • Blueberries • Pumpkin
Turkey • Soy • Yogurt • Walnuts • Wild Salmon • Tea
Beans • Tomatoes • Whole Grains
How many of them do you eat each week?

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Book Bonanza
Orange County Library came through with a bevy of books from my request list. I quickly made my way through Jonathan Kellerman's new Alex Delaware saga, Gone. An entertaining fun, fast read. Another thoroughly enjoyable quick read is Tess Gerristen's The Apprentice, the follow up novel to her bold mystery novel, The Surgeon. This physician turned author delivers great plot and interesting characters combined with a solid foundation of medical facts producing an intriguing psychological mystery. I'm planning to zip through her entire oeuvre.
Abide With Me, Elizabeth Strout's new offering, was savored a little more slowly, but is definitely a page turner as was her previous best seller, Amy & Isabelle. I also devoured May Sarto's tiny book with a big message, As We Are Now, the story of an old woman trying to stay alive in a nursing home. This story was written in the early 70's, yet the intelligence, wit, dignity and fire revealed in the sparse pages, are not unique to that era but apply to all of us as we approach our final years.
And then, lest my mind grow rusty with fluff and floss, I'm wending my way, chapter by chapter through Kevin Phillips new offering on "the peril and politics of radical religion, oil and borrowed money in the 21st century," American Theocracy. This well documented, heavily referenced work delivers in-depth examples of the precarious position in which we now find ourselves - dependent on oil, with unprecedented levels of public and private debt while being swept along in a surge of politics based on fundamentalism that is shaping policies both here and abroad. This is not a quick read but it certainly is a must read.
And as man cannot live by books about a little pizza?
I've been enjoying homemade pizza many Friday evenings and several friends have asked for the ingredients. I usually make a batch of dough big enough to provide 4 crusts for 8" - 9" pies. Remember, I'm cooking for one. If you choose to make this, dividing the dough in half rather than fourths will produce a couple of 12" pies.
Pizza Crust
1 package yeast
1 cup warm water (105 - 115)
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups all purpose unbleached flour (use additional 1/2 cup if needed)
5 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
Place all ingredients in bowl and combine.
If using electric mixer, use dough hook and allow to knead for approximately 5 min. If kneading by hand, place dough on lightly floured surface and knead until smooth - approx 5 to 8 minutes.
This dough must rise once (in a well oiled bowl covered with oiled plastic wrap). When doubled in size, punch down and form into a ball, divide into 2 or 4 portions. Roll out on lightly floured surface to desired thickness (I like it pretty thin). Drizzle dough with olive oil, cover with tomato and grated cheese. Bake in very hot oven, preferably on a pizza stone, but if no stone, bake on a heated cookie sheet. (use cornmeal on stone or cookie sheet to prevent sticking)
I heat the oven at 500 for one hour, then turn the temperature down to 450 to bake pie.
I place remaining balls of dough in individual plastic sandwich bags and freeze for later use.
Tomato Topping
1 19oz can Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 TBS olive oil
1 shallot minced (or onion)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp oregano(dried) use 3 tsp if fresh
1 tsp basil (dried) use 3 tsp if fresh
Salt & pepper to taste
Saute the shallot and garlic in the olive oil. When wilted, add tomato and herbs and cook over medium heat until reduced to a thick consistency. 15 - 20 minutes. Spread sparingly over pizza crust, cover with grated mozzarella cheese, then drizzle with olive oil before placing in 450 oven for 12 - 15 minutes.
I freeze leftover tomato sauce for next batch.
If fresh basil is on hand, sprinkle hot pie with a chiffonade of basil before serving.
If you make it let me know...happy reading and good eats!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

In my long lost youth,when I was very thin, I read the dictionary when there was nothing else to read, now I read cookbooks, needless to say, I'm no longer thin!

I have read that it's not a good thing to read while eating, but I do. Occasionally, I just turn the pages of the latest New Yorker magazine and read the cartoons but mostly I read about food while I'm eating. Not only do I enjoy the meal in front of me but I use the time to gain more insight into the magical world of food preparation which never ceases to intrigue me, pique my imagination and assure I never have a dull moment. If I'm not shopping, prepping, or cooking, I'm reading about it. That's a bit of an exaggeration but close to being right on the money!

A couple of years ago, I discovered the remarkably simple yet soul satisfying methods of Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers of the London River Cafe in their eye appealing, easy to follow volume, Italian Easy. Their treatment of a humble center cut pork chop became my favorite way to cook a chop and I shared it with all my cooking friends - probably shared it with lots who think I'm daft going on so about the marvels of a simple chop with lemon juice!

My 'at the table' reading this past week has been Pierre Franey's compilation of columns he wrote for the New York Times back in the '70's, The Sixty Minute Gourmet. If he were writing it today, I'm sure the sixty minutes would be pared down. Think Rachel Ray or better yet, stick with the French who have made cooking one of the greatest of the performing arts. Jacques Pepin will delight you with his easy yet elegant, Fast Food My Way. If you need a technique resource book to give you some confidence with handling a saute pan from stove top to oven and out quickly with a variety of pan sauces to impress any guest, add How to Cook Without a Book to your arsenal. Master some simple techniques for meats, veggies and accompanying sauces and salad dressings that will put a fine meal on the table in 30 minutes or less using whole foods, skipping cans, prepared sides or swings through the ubiquitous drive-in window. Use the freshest whole foods, choose organic, free-range meats, poultry and eggs along with fresh vegetables and prepare them simply with a minimum of cooking to preserve the flavors and nutrients. It's fun and makes for some delicious eating as well.

The Simple Pork Chop
Adapted from Italian Easy and Sixty Minute Gourmet
Heat oven to 350 - Use saute pan that can go from stovetop to oven
(Use 8" pan for 1 - 2 chops, 12" pan for 4 chops)
Center cut boneless pork chop - 1/2" thick (1 per person)
Dredge chops in Wondra flour w/ salt & pepper, shake off excess
Saute chop(s) in 1 tbs olive oil & 1 tbs butter over med heat for
approximately 3 - 4 minutes until one side is nicely browned.
Flip over and squeeze juice of a lemon wedge (1/4 of lemon)over each chop.
Toss rind(s) into pan and place pan in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
Remove chops to warm plate, squeeze juice of 1/4 lemon per chop into hot pan along with 1 TBS butter, swirl to melt and mix then pour over chops on serving plate.
While chops are cooking prepare a salad and a steamed green veggie and you have another fabulous meal on the table in less than thirty minutes. Who says there's no time to cook great meals?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Life changes at my age are a big challenge. But without a challenge life is hardly worth living. Last Thursday, the little guy above came home to live with me. He was named Kris Kringle by his foster mom as he was found wandering dirty, matted, hungry and very frightened in a parking lot the week before Christmas. A good Samaritan called the Coastal Poodle Rescue Group and this miniature poodle was taken into a foster home, given medical care, love and attention and put up for adoption.

Kris is probably between 10 and 12 years of age, completely deaf with cataracts in both eyes but he doesn't let that slow him down from enjoying a good brisk walk. The hint of a walk is all it takes to get this little guy's nub of a tail in rapid motion and his tongue, which bears a strong resemblance to a slice of ham, starts wagging, too. Kris loves to walk. I'm delighted to have the company as I stroll the neighborhood and now I have no excuse for putting off a walk as Kris is quick to let me know it's time to go!

Fast Food

Enjoyed a wonderful 'fast food' dinner the other night. Bay scallops with steamed broccoli and mashed yam. This is a 15 minute meal, 20 if you dilly dally! Serving sizes listed below are for one...Just increase to accommodate.

1/4 lb bay scallops, rinsed, dried and tossed in a little Wondra flour and jerk seasoning. Saute over medium heat in a non-stick pan in a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of butter...Shake to cook evenly for 4 - 5 minutes. Finish with a squirt of lemon juice. Meanwhile, steam some broccoli flowerets and microwave a scrubbed sweet potato. When the potato is done, scoop out flesh and mash with salt & pepper to taste and squeeze the juice from a wedge of lime over it and mix it in. The broccoli can be dressed to taste, just salt & pepper and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes or a drizzle of olive oil or even a pat of butter. This colorful plate of delicious food is a winner from scratch to finish in 15 minutes. Get the potato and broccoli going first, when almost finished cooking, 5 - 6 minutes, start the scallops. Finish up the veggies while the scallops brown.