Monthly Archives:

October 2010

Homemade Applesauce

Warm applesauce, fresh from the pan is one of my favorite fall childhood memories.  Every apple season, my grandmotherly babysitter, Ms. Betty, would whip up a huge batch of applesauce to store for the winter.  On almost every autumn visit and on into the brisk winter, Ms. Betty would heat up a bowl of that golden applesauce, topping it with a special sprinkle of extra cinnamon, for both my brother and I’s little stomachs.

What else is a traditional, old-time cook going to feed two unconventionally vegan kids?  Vegan or not, smooth applesauce almost always gets kid-approval.  I certainly didn’t care how many times in a row I was served the naturally sweet treat.  It never got old to me.

A childhood pleasure and still a favorite today, I continue to enjoy applesauce straight from the pan, this time filling my own kitchen with the sweet smell of cinnamon and apples.  Nothing beats that on a cool fall day, especially when the apples also come from a basket you filled straight from the tree.

Homemade Applesauce

(Serves 4)

-3 apples, peeled and chopped
-1/2 cup of water or apple juice, plus more depending on juiciness of the apple variety
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
-2 tsp. honey or brown sugar, optional

Heat medium-large saucepan over medium heat.  Add water, apples, and cinnamon.  Cook until water is reduced and apples are soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.  (Add in extra water by the tablespoon if water begins to evaporate too quickly, and apples don’t release enough juice.)  Remove from heat and stir in sweetener, if desired.  Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor, blending until desired consistency is achieved.  Serve hot or cold.

Eggplant Arugula Pizza

Pizza is undoubtedly a classic American favorite.  Often even the smallest of towns have a mom and pop pizza joint, whipping up pies to feed the insatiable pizza appetites of locals.  There’s just something about the simple combination of lighty, airy dough, rich cheese, and fresh toppings that makes pizza a timeless treat.

While finding a slice typically isn’t too hard, making your own pie guarantees a great time.  After a little fun in the kitchen, a crowd-pleasing, homemade pizza, topped with any ingredient of your desire, can be in your hands in less than an hour.

The following recipe revamps pizza into an adult version, loaded with quality ingredients and a ton of flavor.  Starring a variety of fresh, flavorful ingredients, you won’t even notice that the crust holding these toppings is whole wheat.  For pizza crust connoisseurs, well, feel free to ditch the healthier crust and stick with you own favorite dough recipe.  Either way, get ready for the show full of taste rocking out on top.

Eggplant Arugula Pizza
-1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4 – 1/3 inch slices
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 loosely packed cup arugula
– 1 cup asiago cheese, grated
– 1/4 cup fresh gorgonzola, crumbled
– 3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing/drizzling
– 1 tsp. lemon juice
-1 16-ounce ball whole wheat pizza dough
– Salt and pepper, to taste

Place eggplant on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Brush both sides with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Place on top rack of oven, and broil 4-8 minutes on each side, until golden brown and tender.

Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a small saute pan.  Add garlic, and saute until golden.

Preheat oven 450F.  Spread rolled out pizza dough onto a lightly greased circular pizza pan.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Sprinkle asiago cheese across entire crust.  Cover with baked eggplant and sliced tomato, overlapping the slices around the dough.  Sprinkle garlic on top.

Place pizza back in oven and bake 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, toss arugula with 2 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste.

Remove pizza from oven.  Add arugula and crumbled gorgonzola.  Return to oven and bake another 3-5 minutes, until arugula just begins to wilt.  Serve.

Q and A with Mark Bittman

 

Image obtained from markbittman.com

 

I recently had the chance to do a Q and A with Mark Bittman, currently on a book tour with his latest, The Food Matters Cookbook.

Bittman is also a columnist and creator of the New York Times “The Minimalist” column, as well as the bestselling author of Food Matters, How to Cook Everything, and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. He also appears regularly on the Today show, was previously involved with several public television shows, and is expected to begin a new show with The Cooking Channel this coming fall.

In short could you tell me how you first got into cooking and developed a real passion for food?

Bittman:  I started, as so many people do, at home, cooking for myself and later my family. I liked it more the more I did it; I talked my way into reviewing restaurants, and from there was able to make it a career.

Since making the dietary changes outlined in Food Matters, what comes to mind as the number one effect on your life that this change has ensued?

Bittman:  Well,encouraging this way of eating has become my main professional focus. I’ve spent decades trying to show how easy and enjoyable home cooking is–now I want to convince people that their lives and their children’s lives and the health of the planet depend on it. I truly believe that we, as a nation and as a planet, are facing disaster if we don’t change the way we eat.

When do you think this kind of notion to eat less dairy, meat, and processed foods will really take on in America?

Bittman: Unfortunately, not until the prices of meat, dairy, and processed foods begin to reflect the actual cost of these foods, which won’t happen until the government stops subsidizing crap and starts taxing processed foods and subsidizing fresh fruits and vegetables. But even in the absence of government intervention, I think more and more people will see the writing on the wall–it’s irrefutable that there’s a strong link between our diet, global warming, and our poor national health.

Do you think our food industry has shown, or at least shown enough, signs of significant improvement towards a healthier way of eating over recent years?

Bittman: No. Big Food claims to want to help fix the problem by creating products with less sugar and fat, and reducing portion sizes, and creating campaigns to encourage people to eat moderately and exercise–but they still pour hundreds of millions of dollars into advertising campaigns to convince us and our children to buy more and eat more. Can you blame them? They profit from the current system; they have absolutely no incentive to change it. That’s why we need governmental intervention and a stronger “eat real food” message.

When’d you decide you wanted to expand Food Matters and create a cookbook using its philosophy?

Bittman: Well, I’ve been eating and cooking this way for four years now; it was inevitable that I’d turn into a cookbook since that is, after all, what I do. Also, I can’t very well encourage people to eat less meat and more plants without giving them practical ways to do it.

You note that it was a relatively easy adjustment for you to scale back on meat.  What would you tell the people who find it just too difficult to give up their 3-times-per-day meat consumption?  Any particular recipes you’d recommend for these kind of people from the new cookbook?

Bittman: My advice is to start small.  If you currently eat meat three times a day, try eating a single vegetarian meal without changing the other two meals. Or–if you really want to eat meat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner–just eat less of it. The Food Matters Cookbook contains literally hundreds of recipes that contain meat, just in smaller quantities. I’m not promoting a vegan diet here. I’m promoting less-meatarianism.

What’s your favorite recipe from the Food Matters Cookbook?

Bittman: I can’t pick favorites. There are too many. But I have a soft spot for the ones that take familiar dishes and turn them upside down, like “Vegetables au Vin with Coq” and “Mushroom Stew with Beef Chunks.” I think they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you don’t need a ton of meat to create a flavorful dish.

Fav. Vegetarian recipe?

Bittman: Again, not to pick favorites, but some of the vegetarian pasta recipes, like “Pasta with Puréed Red Beans and Shiitakes,” for instance are awesome.

What led your passion for food towards food writing?

Bittman: I had some editorial experience as a young man, and I felt like I had a little bit of a knack for writing. I also didn’t see very many voices in food writing saying what I wanted to say–which is  that anyone can cook, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating.

What would signify as your proudest moment of your career?

Bittman: It’s hard to choose one, but publishing both How to Cook Everything and The Food Matters Cookbook means the world to me.

Any advice for other food bloggers like me?

Bittman: Develop a voice and a beat. With all due respect, most people aren’t really interested in what the average food blogger made for dinner last night. But if you have some expertise in one topic or another, you’re more likely to gain a real readership.

Where do you get your produce?

Bittman: I get my produce sometimes at the Greenmarket, sometimes in grocery stores. I used to garden when I was living in Connecticut, but it’s unlikely that I’ll get back into gardening anytime soon.  I don’t have the space. But here’s the thing: where you buy your produce is far less important than making an attempt to buy MORE produce, in place of anything else.

You tell your readers that you do enjoy the occasional piece of good white bread or a plate of white pasta…I mean, who doesn’t? But what would you say is your favorite indulgence?

Bittman: I have many indulgences. Wine. Good cheese. Pizza. Potato chips. It’s just a question of enjoying them in moderation.

So after you’re done with your current book tour, what do you have in store next?  I know you did the PBS Spain on the Road Again series….Any more TV shows in the plans?

Bittman: I’m pleased to say that The Cooking Channel will be airing episodes of The Minimalist starting this fall.


Butternut Squash Oatmeal

 

Similar to pumpkin oatmeal, butternut squash can add an extra boost of creaminess to your morning oats. I decided to use some of yesterday’s roasted squash in my breakfast, utilizing instant oats for a healthy morning meal made in no time.

I simply mashed 1/4 cup of the roasted squash, skin removed.  I then added 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, dash of cloves, and 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract.  I placed the mixture in with the oats, added some water, and nuked the oatmeal for three minutes in the microwave.  When the oats were finished cooking, I sprinkled some brown sugar (maybe 1-2 tsp.) on top and a pinch of salt.

Next time I think I’ll add some roasted pecans and maybe a dab of butter/Earth Balance.

Roasted Butternut Squash

I adore fall’s deep orange butternut squash almost as much as the orange-colored leaves currently overtaking my trees.  Butternuts are beautiful, tasty, and oh so healthy.

The health stats of the fall squash far surpass summer’s yellow variety, sporting flesh that’s exceptionally rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber.

It’s orange color gives away one of the key nutrients hidden within its flesh, beta-carotene (AKA, what your body uses as vitamin A).  In one cup alone, you get approximately half your day’s worth of vitamin C, along with 15-20% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin B6, known to support a healthy immune system and blood circulation.  Butternut squash also contains 12% of your daily recommended intake of potassium, essential for bone health.  All of these nutrients are packed into a small package containing less than 70 calories per cup!

Aside from all the health benefits butternuts put on your plate, they just downright taste good.  The flavor is comparable to that of a sweet potato, although not quite as sweet and with an added hint of nuttiness.  My favorite way to cook these babies is to pop them in the oven until they get soft and creamy.  Making a delicious side of butternut squash is a cinch.

Roasted Butternut Squash

-1 butternut squash

– Olive oil, for drizzling (1-2 Tbsp. depending on size of squash)

– Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut  butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Slice into half moons, approximately 1/3-inch thick.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Grease aluminum foil with a bit of oil.  Place sliced squash on tray, and drizzle with olive oil.  Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake 40 minutes, flipping halfway, or until squash is soft and just begins to brown.

Note:  While I honestly enjoy the simple version of baked butternut squash the best, there are tons of things you can do to dress this fall treat up.

For a sweeter version of baked butternut squash, top with 2 tsp. of brown sugar and 1/2 tsp. of cinammon.  Finish with a dab of butter once squash are removed from oven.

For a savory version, add 1/2 tsp. of sage and a few cloves of minced garlic.

Like pictured above, it’s also super convenient to roast up some brussel sprouts along with the squash (even if you think you’re a non-brussel sprout fan, roasting them might change your mind).  Just toss with some olive oil and salt and pepper, and bake right alongside the squash.  Depending on the size of the sprouts, you might want to check them 5-10 minutes before the squash is finished cooking.

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