Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's a Dicey Business
Israeli Salad
Kristen Makuch's latest newsletter has some great, easy-to-make, raw salad dressings, as well as instructions for making chopped salad to have on hand in the fridge. Reading it prodded me to make up a batch of Israeli salad — an old favorite, long neglected.

Check out Kristen's website and while there, sign up for her newsletter. It's a wonderful resource, filled with great ideas to give us some nice diversity on our raw food journey.

I first made an Israeli salad following Mollie Katzen's instructions in her fabulous cookbook, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. It was my first vegetarian cookbook, a Christmas gift in 1985 from my son, Bill. Many more of Ms Katzen's volumes have found there way into my collection over the years, but the first one is perhaps the most memorable . It was certainly the most used.

Mollie's version includes minced dill pickle, sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives as well as sliced radishes. Most versions you find on the Internet are pretty straight forward with a simple dice of tomato, cucumber, scallions, parsley (or an assortment of fresh herbs such as dill and/or mint). The salad is dressed with a little olive oil and the juice from a large lemon. For the sake of 'raw', I made mine without the added olives and pickles and no radishes, but only because I had no radishes in the house.

Basic Israeli Salad

3 Kirby cukes, unpeeled, diced

3 plum tomatoes, diced

3 sliced green onions - white and green part

1 medium red pepper, diced

1/2 - 1 cup finely-minced fresh parsley

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1 large lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper

Toss all ingredients together gently and chill. It keeps well in the refrigerator for several days and is great served on its own, but I like to incorporate it with fresh, crisp lettuce.

This big bowl of juicy, crunchy greens with the vibrant, flavorful diced vegetables makes a super lunch or quick supper. With the Israeli salad ready in the fridge, washing and spinning some hearts of Romaine makes for an instant meal.

For those of you who are pursuing a whole foods diet, but not necessarily 100% raw, here's a nice little finishing touch:

Ciabatta with fresh ricotta and organic fig spread.

The bread, organic white whole wheat, is sliced super thin, then lightly smeared with a teaspoon of fresh ricotta cheese and a half teaspoon of fig spread. Low on calories, big on flavor — a wonderful way to finish off a light veggie meal and the perfect mate for a mellow Merlot.

Whole fresh foods — fabulous flavors, nifty nutrition — give it a try.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Champagne Omelette

Enough of the holiday leftovers, I said. Yet, when I opened the fridge to get out the eggs, I found another leftover — a forlorn, opened, bottle of bubbly with a decent amount left, sans bubbles, to be sure, but with a lovely, dry, fruity, lasting reminder that there's still some life left after the mimosas have been consumed.

I planned on sautéing some minced sweet onion, and red pepper with a small diced Yukon Gold spud. After the mix began to sauté in a little olive oil, I gave the vegetable medley a pinch of kosher salt, a few grinds of spicy peppercorns, and then a generous splash of the flat sparkling wine. I popped on a lid, for a few moments, to let the flavors marry, and give the veggies a little steambath in the fruity haze. Then with the lid removed, I turned up the heat a bit to let the liquid evaporate and to finish up the peppers, potatoes and onions as they turned a lovely golden brown, before adding two well beaten eggs whisked with a little half and half, a touch of salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper and a scattering of basil chiffonade.

Following my grandmother's frequent admonishment to "waste not; want not", I poured the remainder of the flat bubbly into a flute to enjoy with the plated omelette, a sliced tomato and a bit of sweet roll.

Among the many gifts and surprises my sons bestowed on me over the holiday weekend was a little individual panettone which turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to my hastily improvised champagne omelette.

Another simple, quick kitchen adventure.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dressing with a Twist

Shortly before Turkey Day, I ran across Mark Bittman's take on a simple, crunchy dressing. One that's cooked outside of the bird, without eggs or stock. A light bready side accompaniment that turned out to be the prize winner of the assortment of food platters presented.

We've decided this is a must for the repertoire as it could easily be used with other animal offerings, how about as a side with pork chops?

But it will be a big hit with vegetarians as a great alternative filling for stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini, perhaps wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves? Or as an interesting crunchy side with steamed veggies.

The easy instructions lend themselves nicely to alternative renditions. Changing the nuts, using different herbs, including other additions. I added sliced chestnuts to our Thanksgiving version. Dried cherries or even bits of dried apricots would be a lovely alternative with perhaps toasted hazelnuts in place of the walnuts.

I've noticed that the simple, yet very flavorful preparations that Mark Bittman offers, lend themselves very nicely to experimenting with variations or to using what's on hand.

Here's the New York Times video presentation of Mark making this tasty dressing:

I used multi-grain, many seeded baguettes from Whole Foods Bakery along with sliced chestnuts, walnuts and the recommended tarragon. We've been eating the leftovers with a little gravy for breakfast, lunch and snacks. Two baguettes makes a lot of dressing!

Add this one to your files. It's a keeper!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tropical Delight
Pineapples are flooding the market at reasonable prices. Take advantage. The combination of freshly squeezed orange juice, banana and fresh pineapple is a lovely light combo that makes a fine base for adding any dark leafy green. Romaine, kale, spinach are good choices.

This smoothie incorporates young spinach leaves, producing a very mild mix with no hint of bitter greens.

I used juice from 2 oranges, 1 cup of filtered water, 1 frozen banana, 1 fresh banana, approximately 1/4 of a fresh pineapple and once that was completely blended, added two big handfuls of spinach leaves.

Blend away and start your day! Delicious.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fried Pie? Oh, Yeah!

This week one of my favorite cooks, food writers and New York Times columnist, featured a fried pizza. Leave it to Mark Bittman to tweak my curiosity yet again with a new twist on an old favorite. But it seems it's not truly a new twist.

My friend, Helen, tells me her aunt in Italy, fries dough all the time, and often it's served with just a coating of herbs and garlic. Nice accompaniment to soup or salad and a fine light bite to nosh with wine.

In addition to being intrigued with this novel method of cooking a pizza, I was pleased with the added benefit of not running the oven at 500° for an hour to get it as hot as possible, then another 25 - 30 minutes to bake the pizza. Not only because it narrows the gap between cooking and eating, but it also doesn't waste kilowatts. Going green is a good goal!

Here's Mark Bittman's pie professionally
photographed by Evan Sung of the NY Times.

Notice it has meat, tomatoes, cheese and fresh basil. The basic premise is simple: fried dough with a few fresh toppings. The fewer toppings the faster it cooks. With more toppings, adding a lid or running it under the broiler is suggested.

While I'd like to eat 100% raw, I'm not there yet. But I do curb the servings of cooked foods I eat. Additionally, I limit them to non-processed, whole, vegetarian foods. This quick stove top version of pizza filled the bill and provided a very satisfying Saturday night quick supper.

I had a jump start on the prep work as I had whole wheat pizza dough snuggled in the freezer. Early in the day, I took out a ball to defrost in the fridge and then let it rest at room temperature for a half hour before I started cooking.

A batch of pizza dough makes four 8 -10" pizzas. I use a very basic recipe and have had great success using King Arthur Organic White Whole Wheat flour.

Dough: 1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 tsp); 1 cup warm water (105° - 115°); 3 1/2 - 4 cups whole wheat flour; 4 TBS olive oil; 1 tsp salt.Mix dough ingredients, knead until smooth, let rise in oiled bowl. Once fully risen, punch down and form into four balls. Proceed with recipe or wrap well and freeze.

I used a very simple topping of one sliced vine-ripened tomato; 6 pitted and chopped Calamata olives, a handful of grated mozzarella cheese and a little dried herb mix of basil, oregano, dried red chili and sea salt.

Process: Prepare topping ingredients of your choice. Roll out dough to a 10" round. Heat 10" or 12" skillet over medium heat, add a thin layer of olive oil and when it shimmers, arrange dough in pan and continue cooking until bottom browns. Turn dough over in pan, arrange toppings on browned crust and continue cooking until bottom side is browned, toppings are warm, and cheese is melted. Add a lid to help warm toppings or alternatively, place under broiler to finish. With light toppings, as pictured above, adding a lid for a few minutes melted the cheese quickly and the whole process from start to finish didn't take but 5 - 6 minutes.

I'm eager to experiment with other toppings to produce some interesting flat bread snacks.

• Arugula, fig and goat cheese with tarragon • Spinach, roasted garlic and feta with oregano • Caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella with basil.

Combinations are limitless and will be fun to play around with. Drizzles of flavored oil when serving can add another interesting dimension. Bring on the wine and let the party begin!