mad for figs!

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Figs for lunch 3, originally uploaded by Xerones.

forget the pies and trifles! i’m mad for fresh fruit and if it wasn’t grilled peaches then it simply has to be about figs. this luscious, decadent fruit. check out what i whipped up yesterday – an easy breezy recipe adapted from nigella lawson’s Feast:

1 tablespoon red wine (i substituted for rosewater as i don’t drink)
1 orange, zested
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup lowfat yogurt
Pinch ground cinnamon
2 to 3 ripe figs
2 teaspoons nibbed or splintered pistachios, to garnish
1/8 to 1/4 tea of pistachio oil (my addition) to drizzle over the pistachio garnish

Put the red wine (or rosewater), orange zest and honey into a bowl. Whisk in the yogurt and ground cinnamon. Quarter the figs and divide them between 2 bowls. Pour the yogurt mixture around the figs in each of the bowls and sprinkle with the pistachios to decorate.

who says dessert can’t be virtuous?

foodie gal

when it’s all about dessert

Saturday morning at Dean & Deluca it was all very innocent. i just happened to pop into dean & deluca. i just happened to pause in front of the rows and rows of delicious fruit, scallions and sweet basil already overflowing from my tote bag (saturday at the farmer’s market), when i considered the apricot and then the pinnacle – the peach. the worst thing you can do is squeeze the fruit – you’ll bruise it. to tell if it’s ripe, you only need to smell it – if the fruit is fragrant, it’s ripe. so i piled a few peaches in my bag and headed home. i dusted the fruit with brown sugar and set it on the grill. a little honey, a little vanilla gelato and a silver spoon and forget lunch.

because it was all about dessert.

foodie gal

ravishing radishes and other delectable finds at the greenmarket in union square

Ravishing Radishes Forget the morose black – the uniform of the tragic urbanite, I’m mad for color – for succulent pinks, blistering pomegranate reds and terracotta peaches. Fragile violet orchids besides austere lilies. I want to buy home-spun wool gloves and apple-sage sausage. As I grow older and the food which lies shivering in supermarkets becomes more processed, more odd and so far from its origin, I’m willing to spend a few dollars at my local farmer’s market and know I’ll be saving on medical bills and illness in the long run. At the year-round Greenmarket in NYC’s Union Square, you not only have access to local and organic fruits and veggies, grass-fed beef, cheeses, flowers, preserves and handmade clothing but you meet the farmers and harvesters who grow the food you’re about to eat – and I don’t know, there is something incredibly honest about that. There’s something honest about looking a farmer in the eye and seeing how proud they are of their harvest. About how they explain crop rotation, natural fertilizing methods and how it’s simply not normal to eat strawberries in the winter. And I agree. I can prattle on about how we’ve evolved into a consumerist culture that wants what we want when we want it, regardless, but there is something to be said for shaping your diet around what is freshest and what is in season.

Basil, all kinds And hey, I’m not perfect. I hide my Californian navel oranges like the rest of them, whilst shopping for my in-season cherries and strawberries and the basil! (the colors! oh my!), but I make a conscious effort to tailor my dishes to the season. So away with butternut squash lasagnas, fritters and raviolis with brown butter and sage sauce, and hello to heirloom tomato soups and compotes and berry chutneys.

Union Square Farmer's Market On the weekends the market is a circus, and navigating it can be an exercise in Chinese torture if you’re not prepared. I’ll stop by during the week to get an idea of the wares and I’ll plan my dishes ahead – because the last thing I want to do is have delicious, expensive produce rotting away in the fridge. I make a list of supplies for the week and possible dishes (and leftover reinventions for that blueberry pie) and on Saturday, I get up early, cart along my cloth bags (forget the plastic, people) and head into the city. I’ve been going to the market enough to know where certain vendors are located (and how fast their goods can clear out) and I’ve made my “priority” list in advance.

Number one rule: do not buy with your eyes. It’s easy to get seduced by the swiss chard. Frankly, it’s a hot looking vegetable. It’s easy to want to rip away the Thai basil with your teeth and run through the market, arms flailing, preparing for flight. I once had a fit over rhubarb and tried to rationalize buying ten pounds of it. I CAN FINALLY MAKE THAT PIE! So, I’m realistic and I have sometimes have to physically restrain myself. I buy what I need and what I know I can easily cook with.

I’m in and out like a very shameless one-night stand. I do linger and chat with some of the farmers, but I usually get my goodies, sob over them on the subway and burst into my apartment, ready to cook.

new york eats

the girl who ate EVERYTHING and had no shame in doing it

Noodles with a little Arugula Salad. i really feel that you needed to be in my house, seated at my table, in front of the huge serving platter of spicy sesame noodles with chopped peanuts and thai basil and a side platter of peppery arugula salad with citrus vinaigrette to understand why i was silently weeping over my dinner. and if that didn’t kill me, the wild blueberry pie with almond crumble topping sure as hell did. Bon Appetit, the July issue, you are indeed the death of me. after we helped ourselves to a second heaping serving of noodles, cheryl and i agreed that the magazine is porno for foodies.

All DONE! and seriously, these recipes couldn’t be simpler. i got over my fear of asian cooking and peeled the aromatic ginger root like a pro. the noodle dish was all one bowl cooking (and low fat and healthy because the recipe nixed the peanut butter and i used whole wheat organic noodles – and YES, whole wheat sounds sketchy, but get over it. with a great sauce, you can’t even tell the difference) and the pie, although seemingly daunting at first, proved easy once i hauled ass to the market to buy pre-made pie crust. i’ve made pie crust dozens of times, and trust me, i don’t need the nervous breakdown and flour festooning my walls. i’m trying to lay off the xanax, thank you very much.

Fetching... after a trip to the union square farmer’s market (i got weepy all over again- will someone shove a box of kleenex in my paws?!) and noticed that strawberries and cherries are in season – wasn’t it a serendipitous treat to then find a voluptuous lattice-topped triple cherry pie recipe in my favorite, favorte magazine?!! all i have to say is: loosen those belts, folks, felicia is MAD for pie.

foodie gal

chow down, my friends.

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originally uploaded by Ian Ong.

this weekend i will be breaking in my fab new cookbook, Super Natural Cooking (every time I tell people about this cookbook (and trust me, you can’t shut me up about this) I have to say: no, not supernatural as in the occult, but healthy chowing).

enjoy the lovely weekend & don’t forget to tune into writers revealed this weekend (psst! new site for the show to launch very, very soon!)

foodie gal

heaven on a plate

perfection now this is something you don’t get at the midtown coffee cart. enjoy the long weekend, eat like a rockstar, and tune into writers revealed on sunday night!

and if you’re hankering for weekend reading, check out my friend alex’s boss lady podcast where a team of smart savvy “self-taught entrepreneurs (from graphic designers, to producers, to crafters) will discuss and offer advice on what it’s really like to be the gal running the show.” OR check out founding editor of JPG magazine, Derek Powazek’s candid post about why he left the publication (which evolved into 8020) Entrepreneurs, take note. (via)

and i’ve got a little foody gift for you after the jump…


foodie gal

because cookbooks are really the new crack…

Super Natural Cooking I knew I was done for (kaput, forget about it!) when I paraded around my office showing my coworkers pictures of lettuce. I couldn’t help myself when I squealed in such high octaves: WILL YOU GET A LOOK AT THAT LETTUCE?!! I proceeded to torture said coworkers with close-ups of sourdough, olives and the ubiquitous muffin (because there must always be a muffin). And it was only when I started howling in the Beverly Hills Anthropologie after I had pried open the pages of Heidi Swanson’s debut cookbook, Super Natural Cooking, and said PRAISE GOD FOR THE WHEATBERRY SALAD, that I knew I had a serious problem.

I’m mad for food. Growing up, food wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity and scarlet pomegranates and leafy legumes were only in my imagination, foreign, glossy things made for television viewing. Food that I was never allowed to touch much less eat. One summer, we lived on potatoes and sticks of butter. Because we ate so little and so poorly (fried anyone?), it’s only the past few years that I’ve developed a taste for food that is shamelessly commonplace. I found myself marveling over the caramelized carrot! the peppery arugula dressed in a honey vinaigrette! swiss chard sautéed with shallots, almond oil and garlic!

So I feel a bit childlike in my exploration of spices, veggies, grains, fruits and fowl and meat (I do lament that fish does give me vertigo and boy have I tried – I seem to recall an incident involving imitation crab meat that sent me shrieking) and even more thrilled when I because conscious of healthful eating. Of understanding my meal’s origin, for voting with my dollar. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to encounter Miss Swanson’s cookbook, which celebrates all the things I adore – discovery of new dishes, reinvention of one’s pantry and a return to a more soulful and honest way of eating. Although the recipes are mostly tailored for veggies, incorporating meat isn’t all that difficult. Swap the tofu for roast chicken, incorporate velvety strips of tender roast in a green salad, Swanson’s recipes are new to this home cook, but by no means are they not accessible.

Not only did I learn about alternatives to white flour (i had no idea that one could use banana flour! and so many different kinds of wheat flour, quinoa, etc, etc!), processed sweeteners and artery-clogging fats (you don’t need canola and vegetable oil to cook, just buy a better pan that can hold up to higher heating temperatures and use more healthful oils such as olive oil, almond, etc), Swason smartly gives you tips and measurements on how you can make swap outs of the recipes in other cookbooks. You’ll learn about varying flowers, sweeteners (agave nectar is a favorite of mine) and various oils (imagine pistachio oil in a green salad, oh my!)

And did I mention the recipes are delicious??! I was practically licking the page – I kid you not. Fig Spread with Black Pepper and Toasted Sesame Seeds, Sprouted Garbanzo Burgers, Lime-Bathed Peanut Salad (seriously, are you not dying??!! I am, even as I type this), Peach Nectar Ice Tea, Quinoa and Corn Flour Crepes with Chile de Arbol Sauce, and oh, does it go on.

I’ve been a fan of Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks site for quite some time and her message that delicious food CAN be flavorful and healthy and with some slight modifications in your pantry, you can enjoy fine food without all the fanfare and fuss of weight gain, health-risks, etc.

So??!! Are you ordering this book, yet??!

foodie gal

dinner for two…

yummy pesto pasta! if dinner parties make you want to shriek or the idea of having people over for an after-work supper makes you want to pull your hair out, relax, take a breath and remember that, in all likelihood, you will not blow up the kitchen. until this year i used to treat intimate gatherings like formal state dinners – i shopped two weeks in advance and fretted over the place settings – bamboo runner or floral cloth?! oh the lamentations! will i be judged if i don’t have a salad fork? will they forgive me if the hummus is store-bought? is it okay, really, if i don’t cultivate the damn yeast for the bread, myself.

believe me when i say that i’ve made homemade bread.

i am a believer in the stress-free supper. i’ve found it’s all about casual food and the simplest meals are typically the best ones. use fresh ingredients, simple flavorings and always, always, a divine dessert. because a guest will always remember the dessert.

this weekend i had a friend over and i made a homemade lemon/roasted garlic pesto with a salad, hummus and read for a starter and a chocolate cloud cake for dessert.

3-4 fat garlic cloves in their skins: roast garlic in skins for 15-20min. remove garlic or you could simply chuck the roasting idea and remove the skins and process
1/2 cup of olive oil (invest in a good olive oil) – not extra virgin, ordinary.
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (purchased from your local farmer’s market) – note: you can also use mint, which is so delicious and is such an underutilized herb!
1/3 cup of almonds with the skins removed (or pine nuts/walnuts if you’re old school)
lemon (teaspoon) to prevent the pesto from turning brown (oxidizing)
salt/pepper to season
1/2 cup of grated pecorino romano (i don’t like parmesan and feel that romano has a sharper taste)

pulse the nuts first in a food processor then add the rest of the dry ingredients and slowly add the olive oil through the processing tube. after the pesto is all mixed, set aside. cook rigatoni (or any ridged pasta) 1 minute shy of the package so as it’s perfectly al dente. save some of the pasta water as this will make the pasta adhere more to the sauce and will make the sauce (the starch in the salted water) creamy.

add the pesto to the bottom of the serving bowl and toss in the pasta, 1/2 ladle of pasta water and serve with fresh basil as garnish. you can also chop up some cherry tomatoes to toss in and serve with a final sprinkling of cheese.

that was the star attraction. with the pasta pesto, i served two loaves of french bread with Suvir Saran’s homemade hummus (for me, hummus works well with a pesto dish) and olive oil and a baby arugula salad with a honey vinaigrette, and the finishing touch was Nigella’s Cloud cake.

I bought all the ingredients a day before the dinner. Made the cloud cake the evening prior and fixed the rest of the dinner an hour before showtime. sparkling water with limes and a bowl of fresh fruit as the table setting, made for a divine feast. Essentially the dinner is pasta, bread, salad, hummus and cake. How could you go wrong? Forget the insanity of a roast or a decadent starter! Simple is better and my guest was stuffed, happy and stoned, that poor girl, stumbling out the door.

cookbooks consulted:
Suvir Saran’s Indian Home Cooking
Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites

foodie gal

the omnivore’s dilemma, take two

farmer's market Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms on organic food being too expensive, thus elitist: “I don’t accept the premise. First off, those weren’t any elitists you met on the farm this morning. We sell to all kinds of people. Second, whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that with our food all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water – of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.”

-from The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

We as Americans spend only a fraction of our disposable income on food – a tenth, down from a fifth in the 1950s. Americans spend less on food, as a percentage of disposable income, than any other industrialized nation. Frankly, to me, it’s a matter of choice. One could choose to spend $50-$100 a month on a cellular phone (where cell phones are used broadly, not by the fashionable, rich and elite), we could choose to spend upwards of $150 on cable and internet service per month. We could choose to toss $1000 for a designer bag whose production costs are a slight fraction of retail. We could choose to spend $20-$40 when we go out drinking with friends.

foodie gal