Nov 27 2012

The Clean List

A few weeks back I published a list of 12 foods, coined The Dirty Dozen, with the highest levels of pesticide residue.  So the question becomes: what are the “safest” foods to eat if organic is unavailable or unaffordable? With the looming fiscal cliff, there may be even less money to spend at the grocery store. I pray our government can work together, but that’s a discussion for another day and another blog….

In follow up to above, below is the Environmental Working Group’s 2011 Clean 15 list of fruits and vegetables that are least likely to be contaminated by chemicals:

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mango
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

Our taxes may be going up, but….

…well not sure how to put a positive spin on rising taxes, but the brownie s’mores I’m eating right now help!

Oct 31 2012

Delicious Delicata

Some of my favorite days as a chef are spent perusing the farmer’s market for local delicacies (and sharing them with you). Last week I discovered Delicata squash, with its distinctive green vertical stripes and bright yellow/orange background. Visually striking and a flavor that is rich, creamy and downright delicious. And did I mention that this squash does not need to be peeled!?

According to Wikipedia, it is also known as Bohemian squash, peanut squash (given its distinctive shape) and sweet potato squash. Inspired by this “Bohemian” vegetable, I put on some Janis Joplin and me and Bobby McGee got cooking.

Sometimes the best recipes are the simplest…and all about letting the ingredient shine through:

Roasted Delicata Squash

Delicata squash, scrubbed           1 each

Extra-virgin olive oil                     2 TBS

Salt                                                    as needed

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and then cut into 1/2″ thick moon shaped pieces (do not peel).

2. Spread on a small sheet tray, drizzle with olive oil and salt and toss to combine. Bake for about 25 minutes, turning halfway through, until squash begins to caramelize and is tender to bite. Serve immediately…. fiber-rich skin-on and all!

Oct 5 2012

Brussels sprouts

Quintessentially Fall: football, apple picking and, my favorite, Brussels sprouts.

Growing up, these “sprouts” (small heads that resemble miniature cabbages) were a household staple that my sisters and I despised. Sorry mom, but unbeknownst to you, the microwavable frozen variety with a little Molly McButter was often passed to Kiki under the table. Those days are long gone and now I enjoy Brussels sprouts roasted, caramelized, sautéed and even raw…yum!

Here’s a delicious recipe, elegant enough to serve at a dinner party or simple enough to prepare for a weeknight family meal.

Shaved raw Brussels sprouts with marcona almonds and Manchego cheese

Yield: 4 servings

Lemons, juice of                                              2 each

Honey                                                              2-3 TBS

Grapeseed oil                                                  1/3 C

Brussels sprouts, shredded (see note)         1 Lb

Marcona almonds, chopped                         1/3 C

Salt                                                                     to taste

Freshly ground black pepper                        to taste

Manchego cheese, crumbled                         2 Oz

1. Whisk lemon juice and honey and then slowly stream in oil. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Toss Brussels sprouts with dressing and half of the almonds. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Allow salad to rest for at least 15 minutes to absorb flavors.

3. Divide salad among 4 plates, garnish with remaining almonds and cheese.

Note: To save time, shred Brussels sprouts in a food processor fitted with the thinnest shredder attachment.

**For added sweetness, toss in some julienne apples.

Sep 9 2012

Call me crazy

No, this isn’t a posting about Carly Rae Jepsen’s [annoying, yet catchy] hit song.

An article was published this week in The Washington Post citing a recent study done by Stanford University that “organic foods offer no more vitamins and nutrients than conventional products.” Now make no mistake, this article was not discouraging consumers from buying organic. It was merely pointing out this common misconception people make about organic food. Personally, I don’t buy organic foods for what they do have, but rather, what they don’t have….

Call me crazy, but hormones, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (i.e lots and lots of chemicals) just don’t sound super appealing in my morning bowl of yogurt and berries. Forgetting the fact that I think organic foods just taste better!

As I continue to write about the importance of buying organic, I recognize that these foods often command a significantly higher retail. Challenging in this economy, especially when feeding an average family of 4. So here’s a list, coined “The Dirty Dozen,” of 12 foods with the highest pesticide residue (i.e. go organic here):

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale, Collard greens (tie)

And if you still need convincing….well then….call me, maybe?


The Washington Post

Jul 4 2012

Red, White and Blue

In honor of our nation’s birthday, last night I celebrated at a roofdeck party overlooking the city of Chicago. The temperature might have been hovering near 100, but these cute strawberries (and maybe the ice cold vodka lemonade) provided some much-needed refreshment.

I’m not sure who made these delicious treats (see photo – any takers?), but I had to come home and experiment with a copycat recipe for y’all today. Turns out, there’s not much to these (i.e. you have no excuse)….

July 4th Red, White & Blue Strawberries:

Large strawberries,  1 pint

White chocolate (I like Callebaut), 6 to 8 ounces

Blue sanding sugar, as needed

Clean strawberries and dry thoroughly, leaving stem intact. Heat chocolate in microwave in 10 second increments, until just melted, and stir until smooth. Dip strawberries in chocolate 2/3 up side, then immediately in blue sanding sugar 1/3 up side. Place on parchment paper until chocolate has hardened. Enjoy!