Healthful


I just love the farmers market during Summer.  This is not my fave season, although if you have friends with a beach house — as it turns out I do —  life is certainly greatly improved.  But, goodness, the market is lush with fruits and vegetables for the most healthful cooking.  And, living.

Of course, we are in the middle of peach season – yummy.  Eaten in the hand, or sliced into whole grain cereal and a dash of nutmeg, or macerated in cognac with a scrape of vanilla bean.  And, that’s if you aren’t going to cook cobblers, pies, crumbles.

Summer Wonders

Summer Wonders

This weekend, at the Union Square greenmarket in Manhattan, I happened upon the cutest little tomatoes.  Larger than cherries, smaller than standard.  With a deep orange/red color and topped with a dash of burgundy.  Wonderful.  I cut them up and added them to my sautéed fairytale eggplants, with some roast chicken.  And a crumble of James Brown blue cheese from the Cato Corner farm.

I would show you that dish, but gee, it seems to have disappeared.  But, here are some of my market goodies sitting on my NYC kitchen windowsill.

 

This is the time of the year when I cook up some of my grandmother’s garden vegetable dishes: with fresh green beans or zucchini. When I was growing up, you could not get me to eat them.  Now, they are not only redolent and evocative of my youth, they are simply delicious!

Grandma’s Green Beans

2 Tomatoes (Beefsteak are fine, no sense overpaying for heirlooms at this time of the year)

3 handfuls of Green beans (look for those flat Roma beans – but any type or color will work)

2 or 3 smallish Potatoes (I like the little Yukon Golds — starting to see the first picks of the season)

3-4 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cut up the tomatoes, put them in a saucepan first — they create most of the liquid you will need for this dish.  Cut up the potatoes into biggish chunks then toss in the green beans. I remove the ends – cook’s choice.  Drizzle on the olive oil, pour in (maybe) a couple of tablespoons of water, salt and pepper.  Put on the lid and cook at a low, slow simmer.  20-30 minutes or so.  This is no al dente affair.  More like a vegetable stew.  I let the potatoes determine the length of the cook.  If you pick a potato that can stand up to the cook, you should be fine.

Buon appetito!

 

 

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I am a big fan of frittatas — whether whole egg, whole/egg white mix, or just egg whites — it is a great way to use some leftover vegetables – and, maybe, but not necessarily, just a little cheese as condiment.

So, I was surprised to learn a new addition to my usual frittata that I had never even considered: Greek Yogurt.  The UBIQUITOUS protein-rich greek yogurt.

It is from the New York Times fabulous health writer and recipe maven, Martha Rose Shulman. Her recipes always work, and she has this great technique of teasing out the flavors.  A recent recipe for a frittata with chard and green garlic – calls also for greek yogurt.

I made a successful batch this week.  Check it out!  And, tried it in another version of a frittata.  Everything Shulman devises works out well.

 

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Whenever I go on vacay, it is my sincere intention to eat healthfully while still enjoying the food of the town and county I’m in. Certainly that is/was my plan for my visit to Denmark.

This is a country where some 60+% of the land is dedicated to farming. Now, I admit I haven’t seen a lot of cows — but I have certainly seen cheese. Sometimes at lunch, always at breakfast accompanied by crusty, yeasty, mouth-celebratory (is that even a word?) bread. Blue, aged, smoked. All kinds, though there seems to be a inclination towards a semi-soft cheese called Danbo. It comes in many forms. Cuts beautifully. And makes a kick-ass sandwich, typically served open-faced.

When I made my first cheese sandwich here, I was given specific instructions: slice the roll in two horizontally. Spread a little mustard and/or butter, slice the cheese thinly usually with one of those wired kitchen tools made specifically for the task (a common kitchen tool here — in the USA we tend to have them around for cheese and cracker time). Maybe some slice of tomato. Eat. And enjoy. I once tried to make a traditional American “sang-wich” and have to admit felt a little barbarian trying to get my mouth around the bun and the filling. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not totally stranger in a strange land on this front. Of course, they make and eat sandwiches like we do. Just not so much.

Perhaps this is why even though they are presented with this foodstuff on a regular basis, the Danes are not a fat people. They eat naturally in moderation. And, as in many places around the world, bicycle everywhere.

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Just as I was about to accuse the Danes of eating only cheese in their sandwiches (which of course I knew was wrong thinking from this country of the fabulous smørbørd) — I am treated to an afternoon picnic by the sister and brother-in-law of my friend, the priest.

They thought it would be fun to take me on a little countryside excursion into the woods outside Odense (home of Hans Christian Andersen). The woods here, by the way, remind me of what I imagine the woods are like in Hamlet. Spindly medium-tall trees — I think they’re beech — one after the other after the other. Crowded together. If you were to gallop a horse through this fragile forest, you would be brushed by the branches, yet not thrown off.

We were in Hesbjerg Skov — it appeared to be some sort of hippie commune, though not retro in any sense. Apparently some 45 people, not counting children, are living off the land in this area. My hosts say the citizens are the type to commune with nature, but drive into town to work. At real jobs. I guess holes in the ground for toilets and shared dinners in a hall of sorts are not too high a price to pay for This Simple Life. They certainly looked just fine, thank you, to me.

We parked our car and walked for awhile until we found a pile of cut wood to fashion into seats and a table for our picnic. It was lovely. The hostess had gotten up early to make crusty fresh rolls (they were still warm) of graham flour. And, for the filling she made flattened meatballs of pork, called (and I LOVE this word) frikadeller. Pretty much pronounced like they’re spelled. Later, I called them “flubber masters” or “freakin’ blasters”.

De. Lish. Us. Pronounced like it’s spelled!

My first meal in Denmark was Oksekødsuppe — “beef soup” — which the locals tell me is a typical Danish meal.

After a planes trains and automobiles type of voyage, I arrive at the home (and church) of my friend, the priest. He is celebrating his 50th with family and 130 of his best friends. He lives in Nykøbing Falster. This small Danish town is not called nigh-oh-bing fall-stir. It sounds more like New-kuhrbin fahstahr. To my ear, the Danish language sounds, well, like mumbling. I mean no offense. I love this country and its people.

I arrived in Denmark exhausted/jet-lagged and frankly a little traumatized after my train ride from the C’hagen Airport. I had an “open” ticket rather than a reserved seat. After getting bumped by German families, old ladies and a Turkish traveler because (by hand motions alone I realized) I was sitting in their seats, I gave up and stood for the 90-minute ride.

There was one disconcerting moment on the train when I tried to buy a bottle of water. The vendor told me she couldn’t make change for my 50 kroner bill. I was so frustrated — and, yes, angry at that point, I snarled, you mean you have NO MONEY. She jangled an envelope of euro coins and said “yes, I have euros. This is a GERMAN train.” Oh great!!!! I’m on the wrong flipping’ train. That once happened to me. Years ago, I found myself sitting on a train in Denmark, taking in the green pastures, when I realized I was the only person in the car. The conductor explained I had missed my stop. I was going the wrong direction. So — fade to black/fade up — here I am in 2013 with my 50 Kroner unchangeable bill on a German train. I was admittedly a little. Freaked! Out! But I made it. Just in time for a shower and soup.

My friend’s home was filled with the delicious smell of the Oksekødsuppe. What’s that, I asked — it smells downright celestial. Seemed the proper thing to say to a priest.

When the soup came to the table, it was this delightfully delicious melange of beef broth and leeks, carrots, little cubes of something called pastinakker (pretty sure it was parsnip, although before cubed — it was immense). Then kødboller: tiny little meatballs (likely veal) and melboller — small oblongs of dough the size and shape of garlic cloves — which I mistook them to be. Of course, the meal was preceded by the commensurate gin & tonic (there WERE some English priests in attendance after all).

All to the tune of the conversation most animated and entertaining to watch. I could understand the visiting Brits of course – but the Danes. Well, that’s another matter. I understood not a whit but they seemed to be a happy family by the look of it.

All in all — it was a comforting and reassuring way to begin this adventure.

Velbekomme!

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Charred and creamy, is there a more delicious veg than a roasted Brussels sprout? Hey, did you know it is called Brussels because it was first cultivated in Belgium.

Anyhoo, I wanted to make the dish for Thanksgiving and, using a 13-year-old recipe, I cooked them just like the Barefoot Contessa would cook them. Salty like a French fry.

Simple. 400 degrees, 40 minutes, olive oil, pepper and salt.

That’s it. Simplice but perfect!

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Here I find myself (as in Istanbul) surrounded by new experiences that make me utter “I’ve never blanked anything like this in my life!”

Sicily: a feast for all the senses. I’ve just arrived and am still processing what is and will be in this exotic Italian, but not really Italian, country.

When I left Rome this morning, I was talking with the woman who owns the apartment in Monti where I rent “my” room. We were commiserating about the heavy thunderstorm that had drenched la bella città that morning. “Brutissimo!”‘ we agreed. “Will it rain like this in Sicily?” I asked.

“It’s Africa!” said she. As if no more need be said.

I am in the land of pistachios, mint and dried grapes.

I cannot wait.

I am morally, ethically, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, un-de-niably and re-liably in love. Certifiably. With the High Line, that is. That delightful park built upon the elevated track right next to the Hudson River, along the west side of Manhattan.

Last week, Section 2 of the High Line opened up to the public. I have been waiting for just the right time to experience it myself. I usually walk in the early morning, both because it fits into my schedule and because there are usually very few people up there at that time. It always thrills me – whatever the season. But, man, they have dressed my High Line up for this particular moment. Like a grand dame all dolled up for the ball. The trees are lush, the flowers blooming, even the grasses are puffed up like peacocks.
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