Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
March 28, 2011, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Salad, Side Dish, Vegetable | Tags: , , , ,

This is a more of a continuation of the last post than a new post.  This brussels sprouts dish provided a healthy complement to the white truffle mac ‘n’ cheese.  It was an addition that I was hoping would be used to provide a simple and alternative flavor to the rich, creamy flavors of the mac ‘n’ cheese.

My delicious meal of white truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, brussels sprouts, bread and wine was complemented by the wonderful personalities and conversations of/with Saoirse and Ciara Owens and Juan Graham.  It was a great and relaxing way to end the weekend.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta (from Food & Wine)

I feel redundant, but this is a straightforward recipe.  Believe it or not, three pounds of brussels sprouts do fit in one pot of boiling water.  Lastly, I have one addition and one suggestion for you.  The addition: increase the sun-dried tomatoes to roughly 10 ounces and add 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts to the final product.  Toast pine nuts over moderate heat, no oil required.  The suggestion: The recipe states to cook the brussels sprouts, cut side down, with 1/4 cup olive oil over high heat until slightly browned.  I can’t believe anyone has a pan big enough for 3 lbs of brussels sprouts to be facing down on the pan.  So either divide the oil and brussels sprouts in three batches or forgo the requirement that they all lay cut side down.  I learned by doing and therefore needed to use additional olive oil which resulted in a final product that had slightly too much olive oil.


Seared Tuna Steaks with Citrusy Soy Sauce, Crisp Sushi-Rice Cakes and Asian Cucumber Salad
March 1, 2011, 10:33 am
Filed under: Dinner, Fish, Vegetable | Tags: , , , ,

I subscribe to several magazines – Time, Cooking Light, Food and Wine and Philadelphia Magazine.  The first three subscriptions (Time, Cooking Light and Food and Wine) are the result of my participation in my cousin Anna’s magazine drive.  Buying magazines through these drives is great.  Not only do you get great deals on magazine subscriptions, but you also support schools and, obviously most importantly, the prizes that the kids earn.  I will never forget the days of working towards those spy sunglasses, the “money machine,” and all you can eat Taco Bell!  Apparently prizes have improved slightly.  My cousin yearned to sell enough magazines to ride a limo to McDonald’s.  I’m sure to a 3rd grader life doesn’t get any better than this and I was more than happy to help her reach her goal.  This post is dedicated to Anna since the recipe came from one of the magazine’s which helped her reach her goal.

Seared Tuna with Citrusy Soy Sauce, Crisp Sushi-Rice Cakes and Asian Cucumber Salad (from Food and Wine Magazine)

This recipe was part of a section in Food and Wine Magazine highlighting the unofficial “edgy” category of wines.  Edgy wines are described in the article as “natural” and then some, with a slowly evolving taste.  They use natural ingredients with little or no chemicals.  The authors broke “edgy” wines into several categories, the “Traditionalists” (producers who have been making wine the same way for hundreds of years), the “Revivalists” (winemakers which have recently rediscovered ancient methods) and the “Experimentalists” (producers which combine ancient and avant-garde techniques).  This particular recipe fell under the latter category, the “Experimentalists,” which was described as having umami flavors (the infamous 5th taste, also known as savoriness) which the author thought went well with “rich, supple orange wines from California” which also share this taste.

This is a dish with bright colors and fresh flavors.  I thought the citrus flavors from the soy sauce definitely brought this dish into any sort of “Experimentalist” category.  The citrus helped balance any overwhelmingly salty tastes that most normally associate with soy sauce.  It was almost a refreshing renewal to a common Asian sauce.

The recipe was deceivingly easy and quick to prepare.  I prepared the cucumber salad first using a mandolin to cut the carrots, English cucumber (seedless cucumber) and scallions into thin slices.  I tossed them with the juice from one lime and set aside.  I next made the sushi-rice cakes next.  These were slightly challenging solely due to the stickiness of the sushi-rice.  The recipe says to cook each side for 4 minutes, but I might only do so for 3 minutes next time.  Just prior to serving I put these in the oven to warm.  Lastly, I made the tuna and citrusy soy sauce.  Pretty straightforward to make.  The aroma and flavors of the soy sauce were awesome!

Protein-Rich Black Quinoa Salad
January 13, 2011, 4:55 pm
Filed under: Dinner, Salad, Side Dish, Vegetable | Tags: , , , , ,

Since this is the first true post in 2011 (I made the food from the last post on Dec 31st) I thought it was mandatory that it be a healthy dish.  And maybe rightfully so for Philadelphia if you believe Men’s Health Magazine.  According to Men’s Health, Philadelphia is near last in fitness and overall health categories.  I neither agree nor disagree with Men’s Health’s ranking of Philadelphia.  It’s hard to take a magazine seriously that also ranks the  drunkest cities in America!  However, at the same time there are many days where the lines at Wendy’s are more populated than the running trail or the gym.  To dissect Men’s Health’s results and understand it’s flaw, one has to understand the make-up of this city.  The majority of the city can be found outside the tall buildings of Center City in poor neighborhoods. Although not an excuse for poor overall city health, it does tend to skew the city’s image for someone outside Philadelphia.  We do not have an extensive subway system (not that we truly need one) and as a result, many people walk and bike to work. The city has even begun a bike-share program similar to  the car-share program, Zipcar.  After-work hours and weekends provide lots of activity such as running and biking, swimming and hiking in Fairmount Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country.  If you combine the physical activity aspect of our city with the availability of fresh and relatively low cost fruits and vegetables (Note: it was recently reported that Philadelphia’s food stamp program, SNAP, is used more in Reading Terminal Market, than in anywhere else in the city.  A diverse and healthy selection of foods can be found at Reading Market.), I think we have a city that is just as healthy as any other large city.

Protein-Rich Black Quinoa Salad (From 5 second rule)

Lately I’ve been doing quite a bit of exercising.  Not because I’m like the majority of people who stated that this is the year they get back to the gym, but because I’m getting back into shape in preparation for training for a triathlon.  In other words, I’m training to train for a triathlon.  As anyone who has ever trained for athletic endeavors such as a triathlon or a marathon knows, with increased exercise comes increased need for energy.  I eat and I eat often.  In order to ensure that my muscles do not counter-productively wither away I have to make sure I consume plenty of protein.  I could speak for a couple hours on protein (in graduate school I gave two, one-hour presentations on protein to an undergraduate class), but just know that protein is an important macronutrient for overall health and sports performance.  This salad is packed with protein, great for both athletes and overall healthy eating.

If you already checked out the link to the recipe you know that it calls for pomegranate molasses.  Don’t worry, it’s not difficult to make.  It merely involves 4 cups pomegranate juice, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon lemon juice.  Combine the ingredients in a moderately sized pot over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow it to reduce to 1 cup, about 70 minutes.  Transfer to a container, let cool for 30 minutes and then store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Using the pomegranate molasses, make the dressing for the salad.  Combine 2 teaspoons molasses, 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.  Season with fresh ground pepper and salt.

Quinoa.  It’s name alone makes it intriguing.  Let’s be honest, there are a lot of words that sound nothing like how it is spelled.  Unless you live in Philly you probably still haven’t figured out how to pronounce “Schuylkill” as in the “Schuylkill River Trail” that I continually refer to when I reference my running.  To be honest, for the longest time I didn’t know how to pronounce “quinoa.”   I thought it was pronounced similar to one of my favorite vacation spots, “Kiawah.”  Nope.  Apparently it’s pronounced “/kin-wa/” or “/keen-wa/.”

Quinoa, a grain, is prepared like rice.  It must be rinsed and then is cooked in water until the quinoa is tender, absorbs a great majority of the water and lets out a white curlicue tendrils.  Remove any remaining water and let it cool to room temperature.

Dice the cucumber and avocado, collect 1 cup of fresh pomegranate seeds (~1 pomegranate) and rinse 15 oz of black beans.  Combine these ingredients with the cooled black quinoa.  Mix in the pomegranate molasses mixture and add additional salt to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

Cucumber Noodles
December 5, 2010, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Appetizer, Side Dish, Vegetable | Tags: , , ,

The first post after Thanksgiving.  You must have known it was going to be a somewhat healthy entry, right?  After eating so much turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving as well as the other foods I inhaled that weekend, my body craved (and perhaps demanded) several successive healthy meals.

Most of the time I like to believe that I eat a fairly healthy diet and get plenty of exercise.  There is plenty of literature to support that fact that most people believe they eating healthy and exercising adequately.  However, you don’t need scientific literature to tell you that most people are incorrect.  Since American’s have ever-expanding wastelines, increasing prevalence of chronic diseases as well as increased healthcare costs, we need to do more to help our friends, families, and most importantly, ourselves.  One of the most effective ways to understand what and how much we eat, as well as how often we exercise, is to write things down.  If you write everything down, you become more aware of your eating and exercise habits.  Using this information you can make small adjustments that can significantly improve the quality of your life.  This should not seem like a chore, but if you need added motivation, make it a game.  Team up with friends or family members and see who can do a better job.  This will motivate you to stay on task.  You could even put small wagers on it, such as $20 or a cup of coffee.

Cucumber Noodles (from Gourmet)

Eating healthy, like I mentioned a few posts ago, does not have to be bland and consist merely of “drab greens and browns.”  There are many simple ways of enhancing the taste of healthy foods.  This post is one such example.  Cucumber noodles are a unique and tasty way to eat your vegetables.  I made these noodles as an appetizer to last night’s dinner.  The ingredients are minimal, consisting of seedless cucumbers, mint, butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  The noodles were light and the taste wonderful.  The only difficulty with the recipe is that you really need a mandoline to cut the cucumbers.  Otherwise, this becomes a very tedious recipe.  Mandolines do not have to be expensive and can be very useful in the kitchen.  I splurged a little on mine and bought a De Buyer mandoline on Ebay for a discounted price.  It’s the fanciest cooking gadget I own and it’s actually kind of fun to use.  It has an incredible amount of cutting options.

This recipe really makes you look like you know what you’re doing in the kitchen, and yet it is so simple.  Like always, I won’t go into detail with the recipe since it can be found through the link above, but I will give you some suggestions.  First of all, Gourmet says the recipe takes 25 minutes for prep and cooking.  However, if you cook you know that nearly all cookbook writers must have slow clocks in their kitchens because it always takes longer.  In fact, it was fun to see that someone actually wrote on this topic (Thanks Robin Shook).  I would budget 45 minutes for this recipe.  Secondly, either use four to five cucumbers (the recipe calls for three) or decrease the amount of butter in the recipe from two tablespoons to one tablespoon. Without making these adjustments the taste of the butter is more prominent than the taste of the mint.  Lastly, this recipe only makes enough for a side or an appetizer for two, maybe three, people.  So if you’re feeding a large and/or hungry group be sure to double or even triple the recipe.

I loved this recipe.  It tasted great and I cannot wait to make it again.  I hope you try this as well, it will be worth it!