who knew vegetarians had it so good? feast your eyes on…the wheat berry salad!

Super Natural Cooking's Wheat berry salad

Heidi Swanson’s recipes are true culinary delights. I very well could prattle on incessantly about Swanson’s creativity, her passion for cooking close to the earth, her breathtaking food photography, but I’ll spare you the swooning. You can read my shameless praise here.

After a long day of shopping, running errands and negotiating my way through the Union Square Greenmarket, I decided to fix a recipe I’ve been dying to make: The Wheat berry Salad, and believe me when I say that I am eating this now, as I type this, straight from the serving platter.

Wheat berry Salad (adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking)

INGREDIENTS
2 cups of Wheat Berries (consider me an idiot. I’ve never cooked with Wheat berries before and I roamed my local Whole Foods market like a lunatic because, by god, was I going to make this salad.) I finally found a seemingly reasonable facsimile with Arrowhead Mills’ Whole Grain Wheat
2 teaspoons of Sea Salt (I used Kosher salt, which is what I have on hand)
Grated zest/juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice (I didn’t have a lemon handy, so I chucked this)
1 tablespoon of minced shallots
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (I used less than this and the recipe turned out fine)
3 handfulls of fresh spinach
1 cup of toasted pine nuts (I didn’t have this on hand, either)
1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese
Salt/Pepper to taste

My improvisations: I added a 1/4 cup of dried cranberries for color and texture and a handful of chopped fresh sweet basil.

Wheatberry Salad, the finale I boiled 2 tea of salt, 6 cups of water and 2 cups of rinsed Whole Grain Wheat in a pot. In a bowl, I added the chopped shallot, orange zest/juice, salt/pepper and stirred in the olive oil. After an hour, I drained the wheat (the wheat should expand in size and be al dente). I added the hot wheat to the dressing and then added the chopped fresh spinach, feta, dried cranberries, & chopped basil. I tossed until all the ingredients were combined and set aside to cool. You can eat this hot, cold or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

your very best dinner: pecan-crusted chicken breasts & sauteed rainbow chard

Rainbow Chard??? WHO KNEW!?? After having my third dinner at a local Brooklyn organic eatery, I decided to forgo spending another $25 on a meal I had suddenly become obsessed with but knew I could easily fix at home. The version in the restaurant comes with sauteed swiss chard and brown rice, but my home version calls for rainbow chard and cous cous cooked in chicken stock and seasoned with olive oil, ground pecans, dried cranberries, salt & pepper to taste.

But let’s get down to the chicken business.

INGREDIENTS
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup quinoa flour (you can use unbleached all-purpose white flour, but I’m opting for a more flavorful, healthy grain)
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
2 tablespoons olive oil (for sautee)

1. Marinate the chicken in buttermilk for a good 1/2 hr. Four hours is ideal. The buttermilk will tenderize the chicken

2. Set up your stations:
-egg
-flour + all seasonings + pecans blitzed in a processor or finely chopped

3. Dunk each breast in the egg and then the flour and settle on a rack before transferring into the oiled non-stick skillet. The rack will help with any excess egg drippage so your breasts aren’t “eggy” or “gloppy” (if that’s even an adjective)

4. Fry for 4 minutes/side, until golden brown and the pecans are toasted, not burned

While this is going on (or before or after as the chard can be served at room temperature), rinse 1 pound (sounds like a lot, but think of spinach – it reduces) chard & separate stem from leaves. Rough chop the leaves and stems and add (separately – first the stems, then the leaves and cook for 3-5 minutes each) to a pan with a tablespoon of butter or you can simply use the pan where you’ve cooked the chicken (all that yummy juice). sautee with a spritz of lemon, garlic (2 cloves), salt and pepper. cook until almost tender.

enjoy!

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?

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.

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.

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.

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!)

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…

Continue reading “heaven on a plate”

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??!