"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Banana Date Muffins

I love dates - especially Medjool dates. Like all fruits that naturally have a pit, dates taste much better if you purchase them with the pit still intact. Can you imagine buying a pitted avocado or a pitted peach? It wouldn't taste very good. Buy your dates with the pit and always sample before purchasing. Dates can look sweet and juicy on the outside and be raw and dry and on the inside. At the Sunday Farmer's Market in front of the civic center on Market and 7th, there is a woman who sells a variety of dates. I usually sample one of each variety and I always buy the Medjool ones. I guess I just feel I have to sample the others in case I am surprised to discover that they suddenly taste superior. Keep your dates refrigerated for up to two weeks. Otherwise freeze them. Dates are nature's energy snack. Add them to bananas and yogurt in a smoothie. Add them to bitter green salads with goat cheese. Add them to a bowl of oatmeal, a banana and peanut butter sandwich. Dates - the food and the activity - are versatile, so have fun with them. I bought a huge bag recently and when we had some super ripe bananas, I decided it was time to bake dates in the muffins. Because dates have so much natural sweetness, you can omit all other sugar.

Banana Date Muffins :)

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup flax meal
3/4 cup oat bran

1 cup chopped walnuts
3 heaping tablespoons peanut butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsps cinnamon
3 ripe bananas
2 cups Medjool dates, chopped
1  cup dried cranberries
1 cup soy milk
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, butter two loaf pans.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, flax meal, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a separate bowl mash the bananas, add in the mango chunks, dried cranberries, soy milk, eggs and almond extract. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until incorporated.
4. Spread the batter evenly into the loaf pans.
5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cottage Cheese Blueberry Pancakes

This is one of my mom's favorite breakfasts. So I took her usual recipe and healthified it - not only are these healthy, but they are fluffy and delicious! Add any seasonal fruit. Get a glass of OJ and turn on some Keb'Mo' and fall in love with pancakes and his beautiful Blues music. The key to fluffy pancakes is all in the prep. Get the batter fluffy like D.J. McFlufster when it's in the bowl and your pancakes will be light and wonderful when they are on the plate.

3 eggs separated
1/2 pinch cream of tartar
8 ounces low fat cottage cheese
Pinch salt
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
Lemon zest
Blueberries (As many as you want!)

1.  Crack dem eggs putting the egg whites in a mixing bowl and the yolks in a side bowl. Using an electric mixer or a really strong arm, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Show those eggs whites what your made of!
2. Combine the cream of tartar, cottage cheese, salt and flour in bowl.
3. Add the egg yolks to the cottage cheese - flour mixture and combine.
4. Fold in the egg whites, lemon zest and blueberries.
5. Grease a pan with a little bit of canola oil and fry the pancakes like regular pancakes. When you start to see those little holes on top and the bottom edges turning golden, flip the pancake. I recommend turning on the oven to the lowest heat so you can keep the pancakes warm while you make the entire batter. Serve with syrup and fresh fruit.
So fluffy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Portland's Food Truck Noshery

Entering the 'D- Street Noshery'
The food truck movement in Portland, has become the focal communal dining experience. Like a new age version of Singapore's crowded hawker centers - this 'D- Street Noshery' is a buzzing place with hippies, hipsters and spirit charmers enjoying warm meals on communal wooden tables. I know food trucks are all the rave right now - but I hope this is one fad that is here to stay. The startup cost is minimal, compared to a restaurant, so more folks who are good cooks can share their food with us. In addition, it encourages communal eating and experimentation. I mean, we are more likely to try a new dish from a truck than a fancy restaurant. Each pint size truck at the Noshery was creatively decorated to match the theme of the food being served. 
Billie sitting in front of  the adorable 'Pie Spot' Winnabego.

'Pie Spot' was serving pie holes! If a donut hole married a cobbler, they would have baby pie holes....and sell them for $3.50 a pop. Flavors included lemon, apple, s'more, and pecan pie holes! The lovely lady behind the counter told us that her menu changes seasonally. I LOVE the sea foam green color of her darling pie mart. Thinking strategically, my mom, sister and I split up to each grab some grub from a different truck. We'd share our findings under the white tent and enjoy our last warm evening in Portland. I chose to get my meal from the Samba Shack. The brightly colored truck, pictured below, was serving up hot plates of Brazilian goodness. 

The motifs painted on all sides of the truck took me to a tropical place with reggae in the background. My meal was delicious. Pictured below on a bed of aromatic Jasmin rice, it was fragrant slices of chard, sautéed with white onion, beans, and a sort of sweet fried yuca flour. Warm, vegan, perfect.
To swallow it all down I also got a delicious Acai smoothie, which could have been a meal all by itself. Thick and chunky and naturally packed with super antioxidants - the perfect sweet energy drink.
My sister got delicious Korean tacos from the truck KOI Fusion. Spicy, fresh, crunchy, fabulous. The beef and spicy tofu tacos are pictured below:
My mom got macaroni and cheese from Herb's Mac & Cheese that was disappointingly mediocre. Perhaps it was just an 'off' day for Herb.
There were other trucks that we didn't try - but should I find myself in Portland again, I will certainly go back and while I enjoy trying new things, I'd probably opt for the Samba Shack's Brazilian mash up once more.

D-Street Noshery
3221 South East Division Street
Portland, Oregon

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fig & Prosciutto Piza

Growing up we had a huge fig tree in our backyard. I though figs were disgusting until I was about 17. The first time I had proper prosciutto was last summer, while working at Cefalicchio. It goes without saying that this is a new combination for me. My roommate, Mallika, came home from a meal at the nearby, Ironside, raving about this fig and prosciutto pizza she had there. Figs are in season. I was having some friends over for dinner - and so this pizza worked it's way onto the menu. I didn't have the exact ingredients, but I reckon this combination is so good that it is difficult to mess up. 

Fig & Prosciutto Pizza

1 whole wheat dough
8 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
6 fresh purple figs
balsamic vinegar
2-3 ounces Prosciutto
1 handful fresh arugula

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Roll out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle cornmeal on baking pan. Place rolled out dough on pan. Poke holes all over the place with a fork. Drizzle dough with olive oil. Bake for about 7-9 minutes. This is just the pre-bake to firm up the dough and get it prepped.
3. While dough is baking, slice the figs into 1/2-1" slices. Place in a bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Flip the fig slices with a fork or butter knife to coat with the balsamic vinegar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes.
4. When crust is pre-baked with pockets of golden loveliness. Sprinkle ALL the Gorgonzola on the crust. Layer the prosciutto on the cheese. Then place the fig slices on top. Bake for 7ish minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven, place fresh arugula on top. Slice and serve with a glass of red wine and Van Morrison playing in the background.
Van Morrison's 'Into the Mystic'
We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

California Tacos

I love tacos. I love being creative with them and amping them up with new, unexpected ingredients. Inspired by Aaron's incredible Korean/Californian tacos - I decided to try something different than the usual tacos. I made a quick trip to the wonderful Mi Pueblo supermarket in San Rafael to pick up cheap ripe avocados, 10 limes for a buck (haven't seen that since my days of China Town in NYC!) and a few other seasonal staples. A few hours later and with a hungry mom and sister waiting at the table - I laid out the spread for these California Tacos. Why California? Because I can't figure out where else they would be from!
California Tacos

I serve these with whole wheat flat bread tortillas (low carb, high fiber - sorry if this sounds like an infomercial - but Trader Joe's has some excellent low cal tortillas!)

Ingredients + Directions:

Cabbage salad:
2 cups red cabbage, shredded to extract the juices
3 carrots grated
2 corn ears - husked
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons apple juice
half a lime - juiced
1/2 cup slivered almonds

1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl, mix to combine, refrigerate until ready to serve.

Arugula Pesto
2 cups arugula
6 cloves garlic - mashed in a mortar and pestle
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan
1/2 cup walnuts
lemon juice

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add lemon juice to taste.

Tofu Pieces:
Tofu chopped into rectangles
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Ground pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Place the tofu rectangles on the skillet. Sprinkle with garlic powder and ground pepper. Fry for about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown.

2 avocados
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
1/3 white onion, chopped
1 ear corn, husked
1/2 lime juiced

You know the guacamole drill. Prepare and combine :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jumbo Garlic & Jerky Galore ~ Oregon Coast

On the drive back from Cannon Beach, Oregon - we were craving blackberries and kept pulling over to road side stands along the one lane highway to check out their produce. We ended up pulling into a gem of a roadside stand. It had over 60 different kinds of locally made jerkys, JUMBO garlic (pictured above) and some brightly colored and sweet berries. I truly think that when traveling, the greatest finds are the least expected and more usually than not - they end up finding you. This nameless roadside stand with no actual address off of Sunset Highway 26 was a sample of what the green and lush state of Oregon has to offer in the world of produce.
Berries for the car ride to Portland. 
Jerky anyone?
Beef-n-cheese - the trucker's favorite:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dehydrator Diaries ~ Apple Rings!

I recently bought a Nesco home dehydrator. It arrived, I was excited, and then it sat in its box next to our washing machine for a little over a month. I was beginning to think it was an impulse buy that would never be used. Then one day my roommate, Nichole, came home with a box full of green apples from a farm. There were so many that it seemed like little apple elves were coming in the night and replenishing the box. Nichole made a whole feast for her friends centered around the apple, she froze them, made some into apple butter and then we pulled out the dehydrator. This is the first of many Dehydrator Diaries:
We've been experimenting with different thickness of apples slices for dehydration and Nichole prefers thinly sliced apples that dehydrate into chips and I prefer thicker slices that dehydrate into rings.

Apples Rings & Chips

For rings: Slice apples into 1/4" - 1/2" thick pieces
For chips: Slice apples into paper thin pieces

1. Place apple slices evenly on dehydrator trays.
2. Turn temperature to 145 degrees Farenheit
3. Dry apple rings for 6-9 hours

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Sausalito Soiree

My good friend's, Yasemin's, parents - Erhan & Sema - just moved to Sausalito and they had us over for a 4th of July BBQ. They have a gorgeous place looking out over the bay - it truly is an ever changing painting. This is a picture from their dining room:
The last time I saw Sema and Erhan was at their gorgeous home in Bodrum, southern Turkey. In Turkey, Erhan prepared delicious barbequed kebabs, fish, and incredible home made burgers. I will have to digup those pictures at some point to share the mouth-watering Turkish food. But now, 4th of July BBQ in Sausalito. As appetizers we had a selection of freshly prepared salsa, a sour-cream based dip to offset the spice of the salsa, and a fantastic guacamole:
As a main course, Erhan barbequed an area of foods, pictured below from left to right: jumbo shrimp, chicken drumsticks, kefta and lamb.
Here is Erhan - introducing the spread....
..which also included perfectly roasted vegetables...
 And a sweet barbecued fruit salad of pineapples, mangoes and apples.
 As a party favor, Erhan made me a take-home bowl of homemade apricot jam! It was delicious and good thing I had a spoon for the long bus ride home :) 
Tesekkurler Sema & Erhan!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Camping + Pulled Pork Burgers = Happiness

There are certain environments that are made for particular foods. Ice cream always tastes great at the beach. S'mores are made for bonfires. And - pulled pork burgers are pretty much the best camping food ever. I recently went to Lake Tahoe on a wonderful, invigorating camping trip with some of my best friends. We are a gaggle of 7 gals and 4 guys. Here's a little bedazzled picture of us:
And here is our Neutrogena ad on the water:
Pictured above is the 2nd best pulled pork I've had after the delicacy at Brooklyn's Fette Sau. After a full day of hanging at Emerald Beach and an uphill hike to our camp site. Ezra, one of crew prepared these divine burgers pictured above, and a sinful grilled cheese version pictured below:
 The pork was marinated begining on Wednesday. Then frozen on Thursday and Friday and slowly defrosted on Saturday to be simmered in a pot Saturday evening.
The buns were warmed on the other burner. Just because you are camping doesn't mean you have to have burgers on cold buns!
The final creations were served in fast-food style cardboard boats with a simple cold and crunch coleslaw.  Camping will never be the same :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Music & Ice Cream Powered by Biking!

I recently biked to the San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival - a gathering of music and bike enthusiasts who all have an inner (or outer) hippy that needs to get out and dance bare foot every once and a while. There is something to be said for working for your entertainment and food. At this festival, everything - EVERYTHING - was powered by folks on bikes. Anyone could volunteer to bike for 15 min to an hour on the generator that kept the sound system going. Then when you tired of that, you just skip on over to the ice cream and smoothie station and hop on the creamsicle colored bike to make some smooth and creamy ice cream.  Pictured above is my cup of ice cream and in the background is the bike on a stationary platform that is powering the ice cream churner sitting next to the handle bars.
I love San Francisco
Powering the music on bike and a paper mache tree - no big deal.
Flowers at my Dad's house...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Eu Amo o Brasil ~ Figueira Rubaiyat

I fell in love with Sao Paulo, Brazil this past May. I had the best lunch of my life and it was the first day of Geeks on a Plane South America. Upon arriving in Sao Paulo after 17 hours of transit, we went to the world renowned Figueira Rubaiyat. One of my coworkers, Bedy Yang, had organized an impressive 'welcome lunch' that will be impossible to top. We had no idea what was in store for us as we were flying into Sao Paulo....
This restaurant is ranked number 4 in Sao Paulo which has more restaurants than New York City! The design of the restaurant is stunning. It is built around an old fig tree - Figueira means fig tree. The ambient here is really upscale, unique and memorable. This is an expensive restaurant but well worth the price as it is not just a meal - but rather an entire experience. Here is a picture taken from the entrance of the restaurant:
The bar was gorgeous. Long wooden shelves with warm colored bottles and a huge vase with impressive fuscia orchids and hibiscus flowers. Our lunch was in the private backroom but if I recommend trying to get a seat in the jardin, beneath the fig tree and having a drink at this bar while you wait for your table.
Welcome to Sao Paulo, Brazil. This is Geeks on a Plane with incredible cuisine all along the way...
The tables settings were unique and gorgeous. Bread displayed like vintage books...

The experience began with a small plate of warm Brazilian cheese balls - Portuguese cheese puffs brought to the table. They were soft and uniformly golden to perfection
 As soon as we all sat down, waiters promptly brought out white plates of superb antipastos. There were small marinated Bocconcini, roasted heirloom tomatoes with pesto sauce, thick slabs of grilled summer squash with pesto, marinated mangoes and peppers, and slices of spicy Sopresetta. The colors and flavors were all beautiful, vibrant and went together magnificently.
As a main course we were served large cuts of delicious tender, medium rare Kobe beef with a side of roasted olive oil potatoes. I am normally not a big meat-eater - but I decided to indulge when in South America and I'm very happy I did!
As an alternative to meat you could have the fish dish cooked in a cast iron skillet with a tomato vera cruz sauce and basil and cheese broiled on top.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the meal was the 20 foot long dessert buffet. Complete with freshly cut fruit, flans, tarts, cakes, dulce de leche, puddings, crumbles - this was a table of heaven on Earth.
Here is a plate of my dessert selections (I seriously love buffets). The small yellow round in the upper right corner is a traditional Portuguese egg custard tart. There are pieces of grilled fruit, peaches and plums, a square of heavenly flan and a dulce de leche custard tart.
Just in case a dessert buffet was not enough - an additional tray was brought to each table with an assortment of chocolates, cookies, and sweet delicacies. By this time, all the Geeks had fallen into a food coma...let the adventures begin.
Rua Haddock Lobo, 1738 - Jd. Paulista - Sao Paulo
Reservations recommended