True College Food
Why Raw?

After consuming a whole wheat bagel and caffeinating myself—neither of which I do often—I realized it was about time I ate a healthy meal. So, I dragged my carb-loaded, groggy ass (because, like all drugs, the energy high of coffee runs out) to the refrigerator. Since the farmers market excursion, I’ve used quite a bit of our loot, but I found a lovely culprit to incarcerate tonight: the beet.

Beets are, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite vegetables. I love drinking beet juice, eating them raw, boiling them lightly, or pickling them with some citrus and herbs. Since I have fairly limited resources though, I decided to roast the purple critters this evening. This is my family’s favorite method of cooking beets. Roasting the beets gives them a nutty, familiar taste—almost like a roasted potato. But better, because beets contain vitamins A, C, antioxidants and fiber (iron I believe too!) Take that, you lame, lazy potato. 

Roasted Beets w/ Goat Cheese

Serves 2

5 small beets, quartered

1 handful rosemary

1 T Spike (or other salt substitute)

1 T olive oil

1 t cracked black pepper

Goat cheese

1. Quarter beets

2. Mix herbs with olive oil

3. Cook at 400 for about 45 mins

4. Crumble goat cheese on top or melt right before beets are ready to come out of the oven.

Since girl cannot live on beets alone, and since this meal was seriously lacking in the green department, more needed to be prepared. 

Now, for some reason I’m not all that keen on eating raw vegetables. Sure, I love a good mesclun salad. But aside from lettuce I spend very little time really munching on uncooked vegetables. While at the farmers market the other day, the Paffenroths of Paffenroth’s Gardens in Warwick, NY suggested trying their fresh kale raw. This idea was not necessarily mind blowing, but I suppose it had never really occurred to me at all. I’ve seen my boyfriend’s mother occasionally dip dainty slivers of bok choy into dollops of hummus, but that didn’t faze me. This concept was a bit different.

You see, frankly, kale scares me. It’s large-leafed and intimidatingly curly. It’s oddly textured and while I love consuming it—I’ve always felt the compulsion to blanch it, or puree it into a soup, or do anything to not overemphasize the shape of this spooky spawn of cabbage. Tonight though, I chopped. And added some other ingredients. And when I ate my salad, I didn’t feel so fretful at all. In fact, it was pretty delicious.

Not-So-Mean, Very Green, Salad

Serves 2

5 very sturdy kale leaves, chopped

1/2 a bag of boiled, frozen, shelled edamame

1 small handful of mint, chopped

1 T olive oil

1/4 t salt 

Cracked black pepper

1 avocado, cut in bite size chunks 

Juice of half a lemon (although lime would be delicious as well)

1. Boil your edamame, cool with ice water.

2. Chop kale and avocado. Add cooled edamame beans with chopped ingredients.

3. Combine olive oil, citrus juice, s&p, and mint together, pour over veg and toss to combine.

Voila! Green and delicious. 


Permalink | October 12, 2010
Comfy Mushroom

Of course on my three day weekend I was blessed with beautiful weather, changing leaf colors, and an endless pile of work. Having spent the majority of this past week knee deep in a pile of assignments, I admit that I did rely all too heavily on my debit card to do my cooking for me. But with a little help from Monique and her fine hook up at the Union Square farmers market, a beautiful array of FREE (yes, I said FREE) organic veg were suddenly at my disposal. We also finally grocery shopped for dried goods, spent several hours in the library, and autumn comfort food was prepared. 

Creamy Mushroom Covered Polenta:

WARNING: THIS IS A STICK TO YOUR RIBS KIND OF DISH

1 cup medium polenta

1 tbsp butter 

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Handful parmesan

Handful mild blue cheese

4-5 Portabella mushrooms 

2 Shallots (although a sweet white onion would do the trick as well)

2-3 Generous glugs of half & half or soy creamer

Several shakes of Spike (or other salt substitute)

1 handful parsley*

1 handful basil*

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (if possible, replace this with a red cooking wine like Madeira)

*=Dry spices can be used too

1. Sautee shallots and herbs in butter until translucent. Add herbs as well.

2. Slice mushrooms and sautee with shallots and herbs. Once adequately browned, add balsamic and taste for acidity (don’t go overboard with the vinegar.) Add cream and cheese. Set aside. 

3. Boil broth, add polenta. Cook for about 2 mins. Done! 

4. Top polenta with mushrooms and cheese for garnish

This dish is admittedly heavy, and perhaps not very great if you’re looking for a low-cal meal as I often am. Alas, sometimes you need a little nurturing and love came out of this dish. I felt adequately warmed and sleepy after this meal. 

I served the polenta with a side of braised farmers market kale. But serve with any leafy green of your choice.

:) Happy food!

Permalink | October 12, 2010
East Village Thai

Ok, so, I’m just gonna go out and say it.

I’ve been raised wrong. You hear that, Mom? Are you reading this? You’ve raised me wrong.

I’ve been raised to stray away from the grimy hole in the wall, the dimly lit Dim Sum shop, the alleyway curry and paneer joint. I’ve been told to run, and not just run, but run quickly in the opposite direction if I ever encounter a sushi restaurant that offers delicacies on Mondays. My general food exposure, while expansive, has been limited to the Western-looking chain, the sterilized, rubber glove clad assembly line. I found it odd that I struggled with this engrained impulse tonight while ordering food from a Thai restaurant on the lower east side of Manhattan. 

Sure, New York City is a colossal metropolis. It’s Amurrrrica (as my brother Arel says). So sure, it’s my country, my state, even my city. But it’s also a mecca for the both the international palette and, of course, the cockroach. 

Yes, I’ve been slacking on the cooking front. I’ve written a blog about cooking so of course I’m writing restaurant reviews. That’s just the way my counter-logical mind works. 

Tonight, Thai was on my mind. I needed a conglomeration of veggies, a sweet peanuty sauce, a fiery hot soup. There is a thai restaurant a whole 6 doors down from my dorm. BUT, but, but, but…it’s small, and dimly lit, and not, in a conventional sense, clean. So I sucked it up and ordered 

Vegetable Pad Thai

Tom Yum soup

Pad Roum Mit

Now, if I am keeled over the toilet in 45 minutes, I’ll let you know. If not, this is my new favorite restaurant on this planet. 

For starters, I have had a religious experience with this small, tupperware container of soup. Spiked with Thai chili, lime, and lemmongrass, this soup has warmed my soul. My roommate Sophie, who didn’t believe me that this soup could be so damn earth shattering, lit up when she took a sip and exclaimed that she’d be “ordering this soup all winter most likely.” 

The Pad Thai was equally delicious, although not the most memorable taste I’ve ever encountered. The peanuty crunch, and tender rice noodles, and a huge array of bean sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, and broccoli accompanied this. Along with the usual suspects of scallion and scrambled egg garnish.

The Pad Roum Mit was good. Basically mixed veg with tofu and a black bean sauce. The most delightful aspect about this was the fact that it wasn’t the least bit greasy. 

Visit East Village Thai food. Not for the ambiance but certainly for the limey soup. It’s magical. 

32 East 7th St, between 2nd and 3rd aves

(212) 673-4610

Permalink | October 6, 2010
Eggs and other plants

Since these two meals have gained such considerable hype within room 202 of the Greenhouse, I suspect it’s time to share them with you, oh blogosphere. 

Before classes, nail biting, and caffeine cravings kicked in, there was a pleasant little room, atop NYU’s Greenhouse dormitory on 40 East 7th, called 202. In this era, it was common to dine leisurely in the common room, to grocery shop at a glacial pace, and to resist the temptation to shell out a few bucks at Mamoun’s or 2Bros for a greasy pocket of chickpea stones or a barely melted slice of pizza. Cooking ensued.

My first time cooking for my new friends was admittedly shameful. This was an improvisational dinner and not what I’d like to call my finest work. Nevertheless, this meal was damn tasty! And also fairly healthy as it involved some local produce, prepared to retain nutrients, and zero processed additives.

Once again, measurements are improvisational and so these are guesstimates. 

Omega-3 Open Faced Sandwich

(Serves 4)

4 Organic, large eggs

4 9-grain English Muffin tops (or bottoms)—some markets sell them with added flax seeds!

Several handfuls of lightly steamed spinach (the heat of the egg cooks this down more, so don’t overdo it)

1 Tomato, sliced

1 Avocado, sliced lengthwise 

1/4 Cup of skim milk

Grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp butter

T tbsp whole wheat flour 

1. Steam your spinach, add any seasonings if desired. If this is being prepared for dinner, as I did, it may be nice to add some minced garlic to this steaming process for added flavor.

2. Toast muffin halves in oven or toaster. You may lubricate them with a small glug of olive oil if you wish, but it’s not necessary. 

3. Melt butter and add flour to a small sauce pan to create rue (flour and fat mixture to thicken sauces), once incorporated, slowly whisk in skim milk. Add grated cheese. Mixture should be creamy and silky, not gloppy. 

4. Poach eggs. This can be difficult for many folks and yolks. Poaching is the purest (and least fattening way). What you are basically doing is cracking and dropping your egg into hot water, giving it a little jacuzzi, and then removing it after a couple (or more) minutes depending on how you enjoy your yolks. This can get messy if your timing is not quite right, so please resort to youtube or the magnificent Julia Child if you need some pointers.

5. Assemble your ‘wiches! Top muffin halves with cheese sauce, spinach, avocado, tomato, and egg. Enjoy. Mmmmm

A day later I somehow agreed to cooking dinner yet again. I have always loved eggplant parm. I understand that eggplant can be an acquired taste—especially when it isn’t prepared properly. I am not a fan of adding any salt to meals, but when preparing eggplant it is very important to draw out the bitterness from this fruit and to do so, you.must.salt.your.eggplant. Traditional eggplant parm is battered, rebattered, greased up, and fried before loading it with tons of cheese and sauce. Not so healthy. When possible, I enjoy grilling my eggplant before adding sauce and cheese. My dorm does not have a grill, of course. I resorted to the more traditional (albeit slightly more carb-heavy) routine of breading the eggplant. In order to maintain a healthy twist, I baked the eggplant instead of deep frying. After the eggplants have been salted and the nastiness has been drawn out, you may rinse the fruit of any excess salt! Now, on we go:

Fryless Eggplant Parm

(Serves 6+….we had leftovers!)

2 Large eggplants (cut in 1” circles, salt lightly, set aside for 30 mins to draw out bitterness…rinse, useable!)

1 1/2 Jar of your favorite, veggie packed sauce. We made our own but store bought is great too. Wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some lentils or beans to create some more protein.

Panko crumbs

1 Tbsp olive oil 

2 Large eggs

Fresh basil (come on…this stuff is so fragrant and delicious in the summer, add as much as you’d like)

Dry oregano

Dry chili flakes

Parmesan cheese

Low-fat mozzarella cheese

1. Salt cut eggplant slices, allow to sit for 30 minutes. Rinse salt. 

2. Whisk eggs, set up for breading station. Also, mix panko crumbs with your dried herbs. Dip eggplant slices in egg and then crumb.

3. Lay breaded slices in baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for several minutes, flip, eggplants should be decently browned. Take out of oven.

4. Lay one layer of cooled, browned eggplant slices in tin. Cover generously with sauce and mozzarella. Repeat until tin is full. Top with parmesan cheese and basil. Cook at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until bubbly brown. 

Serve with a seasonal mixed green salad and love, of course.

Permalink | October 6, 2010
Pump

I know this blog is about cooking and about preparing your own meals, using your own ingredients, and knowing exactly what you are putting into your body. However, a girl needs a break every so often and since I arrived at NYU it seems as if all I’ve been doing is cooking for both myself and my friends and suitemates. So, alas, I found myself ordering in this afternoon while I took some time to catch up on some work. Since I live a block away from St Marks Place, it is all too easy to order from the standard greasy Chinese joint, or to grab a burrito or a $2 dollar falafel or slice, but there aren’t too many vegetable and protein dense options around here. Luckily I remembered eating at Pump Food several months ago with some friends and thought it’d be a nice idea to revisit, this time, via delivery.

Pump is a New York City based restaurant that specializes in “whole foods”. None of their options are processed, almost all of the veggies are organic, and they also have a great variety of juices (both veggie and fruit) and smoothies. Since I’m always a big fan of DIY concepts, I opted to build my own “Super Charged Plate”. Unfortunately, I am notorious for mismatching ingredients constantly when I’m given such a wide range of options.

Needless to say my Pump experience was not all that satisfying today. Partially because the man who delivered my food hassled me for not tipping him more than I had designated on my online ordering form. But now for the food.

My plate consisted of:

A bed of steamed spinach, 12-hour turkey, sauteed peppers and onions, steamed sweet potatoes, their veggie of the day (steamed string beans) and sweet basil dressing. 

Sounds good, right? Wrong. I know exactly where I went wrong. The steamed spinach that sat below all the other veg and protein exuded a crazy amount of water and by the time the order was delivered to me, my “Super Charged Plate” was a lot more of a Super Soggy Plate. Next time I’d definitely opt for a bed of brown rice and substitute the sweet potatoes for a different green veggie. 

What did meet my expectations, however, was the juice I ordered. Rather than making my own blend, I chose Pump’s “Replenish” juice which consists of fresh pressed apple, carrot, ginger, and lime. I’m a big fan of ginger and I’m aware of the soothing effects ginger can have on a messy stomach so I really enjoyed this. So, flavor wise this was a great option for me. I definitely would not recommend the “Replenish” juice to anyone who has an aversion to ginger (Josh). This juice is pungent. The only real issue was, for $3.47 I got the tiniest little bottle of juice. Disappointment. 

So, overall Pump NYC was a bit of a let-down. I wouldn’t rule it out in the future but I’d definitely rethink my ability to build a successful meal all on my own without utilizing my own kitchen. I’d probably let the Pumpers do their jobs. 

Permalink | October 5, 2010
Wrap it up

Portable foods or “finger foods” are so often synonymous with fast foods. It seems like a reasonable equation. Portable=convenience=cheap=fast food. But this isn’t necessarily the case. After a raw, rainy day in downtown Manhattan, and a seemingly endless Israeli Immigration class full of groggy (and probably hungry) classmates, I got in tune with the hums and buzzes of my own tummy. It was time for some food.

Upon entering my dorm, I really had no clue what I could possibly eat that I could prepare quickly and then once prepared, it needed to be eaten with one hand so I could type an African history paper with the other. I looked at the contents of my fridge and instantly caught a glimpse of a massive zucchini I bought several days ago. I knew that while zucchini is undeniably green, it is actually a fruit and not all that dense in nutrients like a leafier, green veggie. So, in addition to the zucchini, I grabbed a box of frozen spinach. My veg were ready, but I needed to somehow incorporate these two stand-alone vegetables into one, compact, hand-held meal. Whole wheat tortillas! Ahoy! Here’s what I came up with.

Spinach and Zucchini Quesadillas:

Since I am a fan of improvisational cooking, I sadly cannot give exact measurements but the cooked veggies would definitely store nicely in your refrigerator and the meal, as a whole, does not really involve all that much potchkying

2 Servings

1 Zucchini (or any yellow summer squash would work too), cut in circles or strips

1 Box frozen spinach, or several cups of fresh spinach (as the fresh green reduces significantly)

Several generous sprinkles of Spike (or any natural salt substitute) 

1 Sprig of fresh (or dried) rosemary

2 Whole wheat, spelt, or gluten-free tortillas

2 handfuls Shredded, reduced fat organic mozzarella

Approx. 2 tbsp. Amy’s Organic vegetarian refried beans with green chiles (or any regular canned bean of your choice)

1/2 Avocado

Homemade or store bought salsa of your choice

1. Steam the frozen spinach in a medium pot. Be sure to fork pieces of cooked spinach into a separate bowl because the longer you cook this vegetable, the more nutrients you are allowing it to release. So, as the block of spinach begins to fall apart, separate the cooked spinach from the thawing spinach. Add Spike seasoning and sprig of chopped rosemary.

2. In a separate pan heat a tsp. of fat of your choice (I used olive oil), add cut zucchini, sautee for 6 mins or until tender. Clean pan as it is used to cook quesadilla.

3. Place both wraps on plates, assemble quesadilla by spreading refried beans, adding both veggies, and then topping with cheese and avocado slices on ONE side of your wrap.

4. Place quesadilla on heated pan and fold empty side of wrap over your fillings. Let quesadilla crisp on one side for about 3 mins. Flip and crisp the other side. 

Serve with salsa and maybe some chopped cilantro. 

Enjoy! :]

Permalink | October 4, 2010