The token post

Posted: January 7, 2010 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Johanna | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Obviously, after a year like 2009, many of us are looking for a change. It was not the best of years for many, and I for one am thrilled to see the back of it. With all the deaths, and all the changes, and everything that’s gone on, sometimes it’s hard to remember that just a year ago, we were celebrating one of the most amazing moments of our time – President Obama’s inauguration. I was crying at my desk, unabashedly, thrilled that times had changed and better things were on the horizon. With that in mind, I toast 2009.
Cheers to Monsier Georges DuBoeuf tooThe 2009 Beaujolais, by the way, is lovely. Get some while you have a chance.
As we move into 2010, many people are thinking and talking about resolutions. Resolving to eat healthier, go to the gym, be neater, be whatever. My friends complain about the New Years Resolutioners clogging up the gym. Food Network allegedly runs a Healthy Eating week (although I can’t watch it, because Cablevision and Scripps Networks are in a fight). People make promises to themselves and break them, and it’s all part of the cycle of life.
I’m also hoping to shake things up in 2010 although mine are more along the line of lifestyle changes, not simply resolutions to abandon.
Regardless of what you’re looking for out of 2010, eating healthier can’t hurt anybody. And the fact that this dish I’m about to tell you about is both healthy AND delicious is like a double bonus. We could all use something like that, right?
Tilapia Puttanesca Tilapia Puttanesca
Puttanesca is a sauce that has many different origin stories. My favorite is that it is easy, hot, and quick, just like the prostitutes (putana in Italiano) that invented it to feed their customers. It may or may not be true, but hey, who cares?
Ingredients: (serves 2)
2 pieces tilapia – 4-6 ounces each
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 -2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 cup olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 small onion
chili flake, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
4 ounces dried spaghetti

1. Put some salted water on to boil. When it’s ready, cook the pasta.  Heat some olive oil in a deep skillet.
2. Dice the onion finely, and saute it in the olive oil for a  minute or two, until it gets translucent. Add  chili flake to your taste, and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, stirring until it is all combined and delicious and whatnot.
3. Add the tomatoes into the skillet, and smash them with a potato masher. WATCH OUT. They will spit liquid back at you, which can get icky. So smash gently, but get them good and crushed.
4. Once the juices in the tomato sauce are simmering, season the pieces of tilapia lightly with salt and pepper, and chop the olives roughly.
5. Add the olives, capers, and about 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet, then add the tilapia. Cover, and simmer until the fish is cooked through, and the flavors in the sauce have melded.
Serve the fish over pasta, and get ready to enjoy. It’s delicious. It’s supposed to be spicy, so be a little bit free with the chili flake. And just as a heads-up, tilapia falls apart when you try to scoop out of its poaching sauce. So be prepared for that, and just heap a little extra sauce over. I won’t tell anyone.

Happy 2010, folks. Here’s at least one healthy new meal.

Birthday Shabbat Dinner – now with pictures!

Posted: November 10, 2009 | Author: Rita | Filed under: Rita | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

For most people, birthdays are a time when you try to put aside stresses and responsibilities; at least, that’s in an ideal world. Since I enjoy coming up with ideas and executing them, I insisted on undertaking and cooking a full three course birthday Shabbat dinner (with help from a friend) as part of the festivities this year. Doing it my way would sidestep the usual overly heavy, starchy and store-bought meals that tend to be the case when it comes to such dinners, and it can be as healthy and unique as I want! Woo!

The menu was mentioned in a previous post, but basically everything I made was a veggie since my friend took care of the salmon appetizer and spiced baked chicken main. There were also pumpkin swirl brownies. I am very happy to have discovered such a potent, delicious recipe!

Here’s how it went down. Once the menu was set and the ingredients purchased I spent a couple of days prepping like seeding a pomegranate myself instead of paying $6 for fresh pomegranate seeds and spending about 45 minutes handwashing four bunches of rainbow chard, but it was all totally worth it, because everything came out great except the quinoa. Can’t win ‘em all.

The day before the dinner I prepared the beets, the chard and the butternut squash and sweet potato puree; the rest was made at my friend’s apartment. Now, I like experimenting but for this dinner everything came from a recipe. The beets with cumin and tamarind dressing is something my mom tends to make as one of the salads at a Shabbat meal and I don’t often experience such a dish anywhere else, so I consulted my copy of Aromas of Aleppo the Syrian-Jewish gourmet cookbook. It calls for ot’ (pronounced “oot”), which is a tamarind syrup found easily in the Syrian-Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn but nearly impossible to get anywhere else. Luckily I had some in my fridge. The cookbook also has a recipe for making your own.

Diced beets in cumin and tamarind dressing

The rainbow chard came out great. The recipe I used called for regular swiss chard but rainbow chard is more colorful and festive.

Rainbow chard stems Rainbow chard with golden raisins and pine nuts

The puree recipe came from a leaflet at a farmers market. I’ve been collecting the recipes they give out at farmers markets for years and put them in a three-ring binder to consult later. This particular one originally came from The Hudson River Valley Cookbook. It’s pretty easy, but time-consuming.

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Puree

Serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes
1-pound butternut squash
1 cup fresh orange juice – I halved this
1 tablespoon unsalted butter – I used margarine
A 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
I added 1/2 cup of brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the sweet potatoes in half. Cut the squash in half vertically and scrape out the seeds. Put the veggies, cut side up, in a baking pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake, uncovered, until they are very soft, at least 1 1/2 hours. Scoop the potato and squash out of the skins, combine them and smash until smooth.

Put the orange juice, butter, cinnamon stick and brown sugar in a small saucepan and reduce until it is about 1/4 cup syrup. Discard the cinnamon stick. Stir the orange syrup into the mashed vegetables, season with salt and pepper, transfer to a small casserole and reheat gently in the over or on top of the stove.

I doubled this since it was meant for 10. Only using 1/2 a cup orange juice even after doubling the rest is plenty, otherwise the whole thing will be overpowered by the citrus flavor.

The next day I prepared the quinoa, the sesame broccoli and a mixed green salad at my friend’s apartment, where dinner was held. No kidding, I brought a whole pushcart of the prepared food and supplies!

The quinoa was mushy because my friend didn’t have a proper sized lid for the size pot I needed. Oh well. The sesame broccoli was another farmers market recipe, this time coming from something called The Recipe Source. It’s super easy and quick. Just cut the broccoli into florets and cook in boiling salted water until tender, about 8 – 10 minutes, or you can steam it in salted water for about 5 minutes. Mix together sesame oil, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds, and toss. Done! I think properly salted water is key because I needed to add a bunch more soy sauce to make this have any flavor but it turned out alright in the end.

Quinoa with chickpeas, pomegranate seeds and spices

Then, dessert. I had made the brownies the night before so that was all ready to go. They came out denser than I expected and stayed super moist. The comments for the recipe really helped. I will definitely make them again!

Pumpkin swirl brownies

I’m ok with not doing another dinner party for a while. This was a lot of food!

Alex Runs, Joh Cooks, pt.3!!!

Posted: November 1, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, cheap, Johanna, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Just when you thought it was safe….. here comes another awesome and delicious vegetarian recipe, designed to help Alex run better, help her eat better, and help us fight cancer better. Please remember that for every comment with at least a name (that’s right, you can leave me the word “yum” and I’ll take it), I will donate to Alex’s cause. Her Half Marathon is coming up VERY SOON so we’re going to have a small blitz of recipes to keep her full and focused, and try to raise the donation total.

Vegetable Quinoa Salad I get really, really fired up about grains. I love them, and I love when they surprise me. Sometimes you read things about brown rice that surprise you. Sometimes, I order Barilla Plus multigrain pasta and it turns out to be the most delicious thing ever.

And then….. there’s quinoa.

Quinoa is basically a superduper grain. It’s high in fiber, it’s high in protein, it’s gluten-free, and it’s basically remarkable. The only thing you really need to know about it is that in order to get the most out of it, you need to soak it for a few hours in some water before you cook it. Otherwise, it’s easier and quicker to cook than rice, better for you than couscous (which is really just tiny pasta crumbs), more balanced than polenta, and delicious! Plus, it has a very interesting texture, and it’s super versatile.

To wit: I made Vegetable Quinoa salad. This isn’t really a hard-and-fast recipe, because you can change this up to fit what’s in season, what looks good, what you want to put in your vinaigrette, etc. Play around with it.

1 cup quinoa, soaked in cold water, and rinsed thoroughy
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 butternut squash, cut into cubes, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted at 375 until soft
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives (or other salty black olives) pitted and chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
Olive Oil
Balsamic vinegar (I used some lovely blackcurrant balsamic that I spent a fortune on but any type is fine)

Bring the quinoa and stock to a boil (covered). Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

Combine olive oil and vinegar in the bottom of a large bowl, season to taste, until you have a vinaigrette. You’re going to need to make a lot, because Quinoa will absorb a TON of dressing. Add in the squash, tomatoes, olives, and golden raisins. Season with salt and pepper.
When the quinoa has finished cooking, let it cool a little, and then toss it with a fork like you would couscous. Add the quinoa to the bowl with the veggies and vinaigrette, and stir to combine. Eat. Enjoy.

This is great with the quinoa still warm and the veggies all cool. It’s great with everything cold. It’s good to add to, because if you realize you need to use up your slivered almonds before they go bad, they’ll taste great in here. Have some steamed or sauteed kale or chard left over?? Toss it in, and enjoy. Like tofu or want some extra protein? Throw it in!

This makes a TON, and you can eat it for several days by fixing things. Plus,it feels light, so if you’re tapering you’re not going to feel guilty because you have a lead weight in your stomach.
The things I do for you…..
Comments = Dollars for Cancer Research!!! Hit it up!

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.