Conscious Food Choices

For the love of delicious healthy food…

“Chinese Chicken” Salad

This is an old recipe of mine, which I used to do a lot and then forgot about until recently. It’s a bit labor intensive, and slightly evil (if deep-fried tofu qualifies) but it’s a serious crowd-pleaser and gets people into eating heaps of salad so I think it’s worth it.

Vegetarian “Chinese Chicken” Salad for 8Vegetarian "Chinese Chicken" Salad

  • 2 # tofu
  • 1 -2 cups peanut oil (for deep-frying)
  • 2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • pinch of red chili flakes
  • 1/4 t. white pepper


  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • high quality salt
  • white pepper


  • 2 romaine heads, cut into 1″ strips
  • 2 cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1/2 green apple, sliced paper-thin
  • 1/2 red pepper, in thin strips
  • 2/3 cups toasted almonds
  • 2/3 packs rice or bean thread noodles (optional)
  • 2/3 cups thinly onions or shallots (optional)

Make the tofu “chicken” by cutting tofu into thin strips –  roughly 1 x 3 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick. Deep fry in small batches in hot peanut oil, draining well on fresh paper towels as you go. As you fry, combine water, soy sauce, maple syrup, yeast, chili and white pepper in a large deep skillet or braising pan, bring to a boil.  As you fry, add well-drained batches of fried tofu to the simmering liquid, mixing in as you add each new batch. Continue to boil the tofu in sauce, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid in the pan is absorbed and the tofu just begins to caramelize on the bottom of the pan.  Watch it carefully here and pull off just before it browns or starts to burn. There should be a nice slightly thickened glaze coating all the tofu, and some tofu pieces will be a bit crunchier than others – that’s all good. Transfer to a sheet pan or baking sheet and cool completely.

Once the tofu is out, deep fry handfuls of dry rice or bean threads very quickly in the hot oil just until they puff up. Drain on towels. Fry onions or shallots if using.

Whisk together all dressing ingredients to combine. Set aside.

Vegetarian Chinese Chicken Salad and Ginger Carrot SoupSesame BunsWhen ready to assemble, combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl, topping with cooled tofu and fried noodles, and toss lightly with some of the salad dressing. Serve immediately while the noodles are still crisp, passing the remaining dressing at the table.

For a great almost-Fall meal, I serve this with sesame or scallion buns, and a hot (or chilled, depending on how almost it is) ginger carrot soup…

October 7, 2012 Posted by | Fresh, Recipes, Salads, Vegan Recipes | , , | 4 Comments

Gazpacho Andaluz!

Hola from España! I am back at Suryalila and midway through cooking for about 45 people on another Yoga Teacher’s Training with Vidya. Everyone here is studying very hard right now and I am again in the Suryalila kitchen, where our team has happily hit cruising altitude and is flying smoothly through meal after beautiful meal.

What could be more appropriate for September Equinox in Southern Spain than Gazpacho Andaluz? Here is my favorite recipe – when I made it the first time I was here I was shy about how truly “Andalusian” it was, (especially with my obvious deviations, like fresh ginger!) but since then I have gotten the big thumbs-up from our local friend Manuel and many of our neighbors, so I now can proudly say it’s been officially sanctioned. The hard-boiled egg topping, “huevo duro”, was the only suggestion from Manuel – and it’s a great one – so I have added as an optional third condiment.

Gazpacho Andaluz  –  for 10

  • 4 cups fresh sweet tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups cucumbers, peeled (seeds ok), in pieces
  • 1 cup sweet red bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 small red onion, cut small
  • 1 T fresh ginger, cut small
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 t. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 t. freshly ground pepper, or to taste
  • 1 T high quality sea or Himalayan salt
  • 2 T honey or coconut sugar, or to taste
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in 2 cups water

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl, then blend in batches in a Vitamix until completely silky smooth, adding tomato soak water if necessary to blend, or a little ice as necessary to keep cool. Adjust for salt and sweet, and chill well before serving.

Serve well chilled in a big bowl, along with small bowls of toppings…

  1. Homemade Garlic Croutons (or leave out, for gluten-free)
  2. Mixed Veggie Topping
  3. Huevo Duro  (or leave out, for vegan version)

Homemade Garlic Croutons

Please do not use prefab croutons here! Once you try these you will never go back.

  • 8 slices of whole grain bread, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1 T crushed garlic

Mix garlic, salt and pepper into olive oil in a large bowl, combining well. Add bread all at once and toss vigorously to coat all the bread as evenly as possible. Taste and adjust, adding more oil and salt if necessary. It should be delicious already. Toast slowly in a dry stainless or cast iron frying pan, stirring occasionally until browned and crunchy on all sides (my favorite method, since they stay a little soft in the middle) or toast in a 325° oven until crisp through.

Mixed Veggie Topping

  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced

Combine together and toss with a little olive oil and salt just before serving.

Huevo Duro (optional)

8 high quality eggs, hard-boiled for 10 minutes and diced.

A Note on Eggs…

Please make sure your eggs come from happy, pastured hens, or forget about using them. Seriously, this soup is fantastic without the huevo duro, and the only reason I am including it is this is how they do it here in Andalusia. Everyone who lives here seems to have chickens pecking around in their back yards, and happy, sun-drenched hens make for very good eggs.  So please just skip the eggs if you can’t vouch for the happy hens.


September 22, 2012 Posted by | Food Consciousness, Fresh, Gluten Free, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Soups, Vegan Recipes | , , , | 8 Comments

Food + Art

This weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the very first Food Book Fair in Brooklyn with my friend Katherine from the Kosmic Kitchen. I only attended a couple of panels but those were so so fantastic that I am still ecstatic from the experience!

The Sunday morning session – yes, Sunday morning at 10am… (truly unfortunate scheduling because this was a brilliant session which should really be highlighted next year). Anyway, the ridiculously early Sunday morning session was called Food + Experiments and was actually an exploration of the intersection between food and art. You know…not the next chocolate piano, but Art art: totally creative, slightly insane, done for the sake of doing something totally insanely creative kind of art… using food as a medium.  It was incredibly fun and truly inspiring and I am so glad I made it.

Yael Raviv kicked it off, introducing the Umami: Food and Art Festival, a nonprofit, biennale event which she started in 2008 as a platform to support and broaden the horizons of food and/as art. Unfortunately, we just missed the last one in April, but I am looking forward to seeing what they do in 2014.

I loved the work of Emilie Baltz, who grew up in a traditional French family in America, and as a result is doing some brilliant works/reflections on American food culture – exploring the fear factor around food (Porcelain Dust Mask Bowls ) and the idea that junk food is a truly and uniquely American Cuisine (24 karat gold guilt hamburgers and twinkies in American Dream)… not to mention the Jello Boob, a mold of her own, featuring hand-squeezed peach juice jello, with a hand-squeezed watermelon nipple, and filled with a “dirty” lapsang souchong infused panna cotta. Ummm….wow!

JELLO BOOB by Emilie Baltz

JELLO BOOB by Emilie Baltz

Also stand out were some crazy events by Michael Cirino of the blog, A Razor, A Shiny Knife, who is responsible for the recent “A Casual Sunday Lunch” event, which was not casual at all, but a extravagant 6-course sit down meal served on the L Train. Check out the video – this is really a fun ride!

(Hmmm… Alcatraz? I can’t wait!)

La Baguette Enorme by Doug Fitch and Mimi Oka

La Baguette Enorme, containing one 6 foot long shark…

Moving the Baguette Enorme on broomsticks...

Moving the Baguette Enorme on broomsticks…

Best of all were some of the “Orphic Feasts” presented by Doug Fitch. This guy is brilliant. For one event, called Baguette Enorme en Gala,  he and his co-creative Mimi Oka got permission to join a town festival in France, and offered to feed the entire town (400 villagers) – they then built a HUGE oven and made a 2,000 pound baguette, which all the villagers brought things to put inside. This included everything….it was a fishing village so there was lots of seafood including an entire 6 foot long shark, an assortment of various French grannies’ homemade concoctions, a variety of fresh fruit as well and cutlery and cloth napkins and coins…all baked into this enormous loaf.

OK. So then… how do you move such a thing?

So the villagers went home, got broom and mop handles, picked the whole thing up like pall-bearers, and made une grande procession to the center of town, where everyone dived into the bread.  Apparently it was quite an anthropological event just to eat the thing, probably made even more lively by the inclusion of money and cutlery. Then the leftovers when to a local pig farmer for next year’s sausage, which then inspired “Orphic Memory Sausages“, another art event by Doug and Mimi at…the Umami Food Festival.  How cool is that? Art begets Art, with Food, bringing people together again and again in the most creative way.

French village devouring Baguette Enorme

French village devouring Baguette Enorme

Doug Fitch’s Baguette Enorme Recipe

1000 kg flour
20 kg yeast
a pinch of salt
1 shark
17 mason jars filled with whatever
33 liters of water (or 1 case of beer)
140 Francs (or 32 Euro) in centimes or coppers
20 pineapples
198 kumquats

Build oven, light fire, and heat till hot. Grease 5731″x16″x 4″ pan. Mix ingredients and let rise. Punch down. Cook until done.

Lastly, there followed only enough time for two questions, and they were the perfect ones. One was:

“How do you get funded for doing these kind of things?”

This is the perennial question for artists everywhere, of course. But when it comes to food, it is even more interesting because food, until very recently, had not been considered an art medium, no matter how creative or talented the chef is. Probably simply because chefs traditionally get paid. So it is inseparable from the question: “What is the relationship to art and money?”

Doug gave a really interesting example which highlights this: An Epilogue to the Baguette Story…

Apparently Doug and Mimi did not charge for the meal/event – they just did it, cleaned up and left – leaving the villagers to wonder what just happened. So a few weeks later the villagers started freak out a bit and called several several town meetings to discuss whether they had been inadvertently infiltrated by some kind of cult or sect. (!)  In my mind, that kind of group paranoid egoic backlash is as close as you can get to proof that it WAS a truly transcendent art event, and it probably would not have happened if they had charged a centime for the “food”.

So it really makes you think about the relationship of money to art.. and food. Do you really have to not charge for what you do, to be called an artist?

And the other question asked was, “Do you ask permission before you do things like this, or do you just do it?”

What do you think? 😉

May 9, 2012 Posted by | Art, Food Consciousness, Recipes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Suryalila Vegetarian Paella

Hola from the Suryalila Retreat Centre Kitchen! We are now officially up and running and we have just brought in Eduardo, an excellent new chef who will be running the kitchen while I am away.  (I am planning to head back to the States next week to apply for my Spanish visa). It is sad to leave now –  just when the retreat center kitchen is happily humming along, and the garden in starting to really take off, and we have all started to find our groove here running a brand new yoga retreat centre… but I also am looking forward to being home and enjoying Spring in NYC with Hannes.

In Suryalila, we have been gearing up for our first 3-week long yoga teachers training intensive with almost 30 people, which will start on Sunday.  Everything has gone incredibly well here since we opened our doors last month – we have had 3 smaller yoga retreats and a steady stream of regular guests, which has given me exactly 3 Sundays to perfect my Vegetarian Paella technique!

I am so much better at doing things than explaining them… so I am sorry but this recipe is going to sound really complicated. It really is not difficult, but there are a lot of elements to it, so I guess it goes into the “Labors of Love” recipes category… which I just made. (This was previously called the “Dedicate Your Saturday” category, so now the gnocchi recipes have company on the weekends.) Also, as with every recipe, obviously you should feel free to adapt to what is in season, what you have on hand, etc. In Southern Spain right now, the fava beans are just coming out, oyster mushrooms and artichokes are plentiful, and wild asparagus is growing in the fields and beside the roads everywhere…


Suryalila Vegetarian Paella for 10

roasted red pepper strips for paellaPrepare all ingredients and set aside…

  • 3 cups Bomba rice (similar to arborio rice, and traditionally used for Paella)
  • 6 cups good vegetable stock, warmed with
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron
  • 1 cup fresh fava beans, peeled, lightly poached in salted water or broth until their skins split.
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus, trimmed into 5 -6 inch lengths, and lightly coated in olive oil and salt
  • 2 fire-roasted red peppers,  one cut into long decorative strips, and 1 diced finely
  • 8 -10 wedges of marinated artichoke hearts

Shredding oyster mushrooms for paellaMarinate the Tofu (optional)…

  • 1 pound of tofu, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t oregano
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3 T smoked paprika (or sweet)

Fry tofu in olive oil until slightly brown on some sides, add all seasonings and toast on low heat for a minute or two. Let marinade for up to a day at room temperature if possible.

sauteeing oyster mushrooms...Sauté the Oyster Mushrooms…

  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, torn into pieces
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t crushed garlic
  • 1/2 t salt and pepper

Sauté oyster mushrooms slowly in a non-stick pan  with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic until browned and flavorful on all sides. If not using tofu, add paprika and oregano to mushrooms instead of tofu.

Make a Kick-Ass Sofrito…

  • 1 cup onions, diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup green peppers, diced
  • 1 T garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups cubed or crushed tomatoes, bottled or fresh
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper

Making sofrito for paella

In one medium-sized paella pan or large skillet, saute onions with olive oil and salt until soft. Add garlic, green peppers, finely diced roasted red pepper and saute for 5 or more minutes until soft and onions start to brown. Add chopped parsley and tomatoes to middle of pan and cook n medium flame for another 5 minutes or until the tomatoes start to caramelize slightly.

Add dry bomba rice and stir into sofrito until rice is thoroughly hot and just starting to stick to bottom of pan, (about 2 minutes).

Add hot saffron broth slowly to paella pan, allowing the broth to completely cover the rice.  Add mushrooms and tofu and push them gently into rice and broth, without stirring. Shake pan to even out rice level and make sure the liquid just covers everything, adding more if necessary.

Cover paella pan with foil and allow to cook over a medium flame for about 10 minutes. Remove foil and arrange red pepper strips, artichoke hearts, and asparagus spears decoratively on top of rice. Sprinkle fava beans over top, cover again with foil and simmer slowly for another 10 minutes*, or until water is completely absorbed and rice is cooked al dente. Don’t be afraid to add a bit more broth if your paella is starting to get crispy on the bottom but is still not cooked on the top or sides.

* If your paella pan is much larger than your burner, place it on 2 lit burners for the last 10 minutes, and rotate every minute, so the sides of the pan also get cooked.

Stick a fork into the middle of the pan and try the rice to test if it’s done. The bottom should be sticking to the pan a little, and the top should be al dente, but not actually crunchy.

Take off heat, remove foil, and serve with lemon wedges. Buon Provencho!

April 19, 2012 Posted by | Labors of Love, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , | 4 Comments

Wild Nettle Gnocchi Adventures in Spain…

“Hey – let’s walk out to the old convent to pick nettles and make stinging nettle gnocchi!” Krishana says…

How could I say no to that? Even though I have been in Spain for less than a week, and I am still living from a suitcase more or less camping out in a house strewn with unpacked furniture…and even though I only have a few weeks to get settled and get the new retreat center kitchen together, equipment purchased,  people organized, supplies ordered…

How could I say no? So we walked through the olive orchard (we have 350 trees!), over the neighboring wheat fields and to the god-only-knows-how-old crumbling ruin to which I  look out upon from my bedroom window each morning. They call it The Convent.  It is huge and roofless, with arched windows in the tower that look out over miles of surrounding countryside, including our property, Villamartin, Prado del Rey, and Arcos de la Frontera, a few the famous Andalusian white villages.

Inside, the entire ruin is completely full of waste-deep dark green stinging nettles! Armed with (almost-thick-enough) gloves, we harvest the lovely,  giant, tender nettle leaves from the one shady corner, carefully picking just the leaves. Nettle flowers contain an irritant to the urinary tract, but the leaves and stems are surprisingly rich in protein (up to 25% dry weight) and full of iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, as well as vitamins A and C. Steamed, they are very tasty… like a soft, rich, extra-green tasting spinach.

Krishana, who I come to understand is a bit of a celebrity gardener on Martha’s Vineyard, has taken it upon herself to create a giant organic vegetable garden for the Suryalila Retreat Center kitchen. In the two months since I was last here, has miraculously transformed about an acre of what looked to be hopelessly barren, rocky, dry soil into rows and rows of sprouting, peeking, microgreen potential! I mean, we are talking about rows of tatsoi, mizuna, spicy braising mixes, 3 or 4 types of kale, chioggia and bull’s blood beets… (wait – is that even vegetarian?). We are planting huge amounts of crazy gourmet vegetables, flowers, and herbs- some of which I have never worked with so I can’t wait until they all come up!

I have to say that Krishana is also the kind of person who is super fun, and who will always be getting you into trouble. I have known her for two days and already I know this – yesterday we were chased around by the local supermarket police, got almost lost several times trying to find our way back from town, and arrived back and the kitchen at 7pm which is when I should have had dinner finished. And now we are climbing through barbed wire fences to get to the elusive nettle patch when we are probably both supposed to be doing something more responsible… how great is that!

So yes, I am finally here in Andalusia Spain! I will be here for 6 months to a year to start, setting up the Suryalila kitchen, cooking, blogging and, I suspect, soon embarking on a crash course in organic gardening.  The property already has loads of fruit trees (lemons, tangerines, figs, cherry, peaches, apricots, quince and the Sevilla oranges) not to mention loads of olive trees and some almond trees, which are just starting to blossom. And now Krishana has planted almost an acre of organic vegetables which should take care of most of our veggie needs for most of the year. If not… well, there just happens to be an organic farming collective just 15 minutes away. Folks, we are going to eat well this year, so if you have ever harbored any fantasies about roaming the Andalusian countryside, picking oranges and almonds off the trees, drinking good (cheap!) Spanish wine, maybe doing a little yoga or horseback riding…all while enjoying amazingly fresh local organic gourmet cuisine… you might think about coming for a visit to Suryalila while I am here.

So, in celebration of our almost 1/4 acre of newly planted potatoes and to continue the gnocchi theme, here is recipe for potato gnocchi – the all day, even-though-it’s-not-Saturday type. We started with over 5 kg of potatoes, and after feeding a very enthusiastic crowd of 10, I  have enough frozen for at least one more meal, maybe two. This recipe I adapted from Michael Chiarello’s potato gnocchi recipe, because it seemed to have a higher ratio of eggs than most. Did I mention that the fruit orchard is also a huge chicken yard, housing nearly 100 birds – chicken, geese, turkeys, and peacocks? We are now bringing about two dozen eggs a day, and because I don’t use a lot of eggs or dairy in my cooking, they are starting to pile up. (My new challenge this year with be in managing abundance!)

So here is a great potato gnocchi recipe, to which I added the bounty of our our wild nettle harvest, with the result being the most lovely plump little green flecked dumplings you could ever imagine. Delicious and totally worth the work!

Wild Nettle Gnocchi for about 24

  • 10 pounds potatoes
  • 2 -3 cups coarse or kosher salt (not a typo)
  • 15 egg yolks
  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 cups fresh nettle leaves, without stems or seeds
  • Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425°

Blanch the nettles in about an inch of generously salted water. Drain, cool, squeeze dry and chop coarsely.

Wash and bake the potatoes on a layer of course salt for 45 minutes or so until very tender, then peel the potatoes while still hot, being careful not to get too much salt into the whites. You can save the salt to use in the next batch. Press the potatoes through a mill or grate, (or mash by hand if you are ok with something a bit more rustic and lumpy – this is what I did and it was great). Taste for salt and add some if they don’t taste like… well, mashed potatoes. I found that after the salt baking and messy peeling process I did not need to add any more salt, but you are probably a neater cook than I am.

If the potatoes are still screaming hot, spread out to cool a bit so the yolks don’t cook, then, using a fork, gently work the eggs yolks into the warm but not hot potatoes, cutting them in and keeping it all as fluffy as you can. Dump a couple cups of flour on a worktable, top with your potato mixture and gently work in most of the flour, using your knuckles and hands to gently work and fold it in, (without really kneading it though).  Scatter the chopped nettles over the dough and gently fold in a few times to partially integrate, leaving it a bit flecky. It’s nice to have bits of green here and there.

You may not need all the flour here, and you may need a bit more, but go for less if possible. This part is really “by feel” and its a great feeling so enjoy it! You should have something that is just barely a dough, and that you can roll into ropes as long as it is very well covered in flour. Split the dough into 4 pieces, and pat each piece into a 1 inch think rectangle. Slice 1 inch pieces off and roll them between your palms into 1/2 inch ropes, then cut again into 1 inch logs. You can leave these as little dumplings, or roll them off a fork, Italian Granny style…

Keep in a single layer on a well floured sheet-pan until ready to cook or freeze. If you are freezing, just put the whole pan in the freezer and bag up the gnocchi when frozen solid.

Cook gnocchi in small batches in boiling salted water for 1 -2 minutes after they bob to the surface of the pot. Drain well and toss in a pan with very good olive oil or butter and a little Parmesan, salt, and pepper, or serve with your favorite sauce.

About halfway through the process, I realized I had someone who did not eat wheat, but luckily I had a bit of potato left over so so I whipped together a gluten free gnocchi using rice flour. It worked amazingly well! Makes me want to try with corn flour, spelt, etc…

Gluten Free Wild Nettle Gnocchi for 2

  • 2 cups salt-baked, mashed potatoes (see above)
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 large egg  plus 1 yolk
  • 1/4 cup cooked, squeezed and chopped nettles (see above)
  • pinch of salt if necessary

Make gnocchi as show above, but don’t worry about overworking the dough… you can’t. These will be a bit more delicate to cook, so its best to keep them in a simple log or pillow shape, rather than rolling them off the fork which makes them want to fall apart. Enjoy!

February 19, 2012 Posted by | Gluten Free, Labors of Love, Main Courses, Pasta, Potatoes, Recipes, Wild & Foraged | , , , , | 13 Comments

Gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi gnocchi….

Besides being really fun to say, and sort of mind-boggling to spell, gnocchi are really super fun to make. And, apparently, you can make them with pretty much anything. This winter, after years of being intimidated by the process but drawn to the allure of these puffy little dumplings, I finally decided to tackle them and pulled out my mom’s old fashioned potato mill from the pantry….

I started with what looked most legitimate – the über fussy potato ones from Nancy Silverton’s gorgeous new Mozza Cookbook. Because I am incapable of following a recipe verbatim, (even my own), and because I wanted to try making them using white whole wheat flour instead of white all-purpose, I second-guessed the recipe and added about 1/2 cup less flour than she calls for.

They were incredibly delicious – maybe one of the the most delicious potato things I have ever put in my mouth. But they were also almost too delicate, and could have used more flour in them for a bit more bite…(probably exactly what the recipe called for). Making potato gnocchi is really a project and the Mozza recipes are great – very detailed and wonderfully specific – so rather than trying to re-post my only slightly modified version of that recipe*, I am going to recommend that you get that book, which is loaded with other inspiring veggie recipes, and devote an entire Saturday afternoon to the Potato Gnocchi Gods as I did.  It’s wonderfully satisfying.

On the other end of the spectrum – for everyday life – there is ricotta gnocchi, which are so ridiculously quick and non-fussy to make that a dinner for two can be pulled together in about 30 minutes. Probably less. These are really a different creature than the potato ones, even if they look the same. Whipping these off the fork last night with the help of a somewhat ambivalent 12 year old was a whole different dimension from the Saturday mega-project, which was a dedication to art and love. The ricotta dough is definitely less silky and refined, and these gnocchi of course will not give you the Sublime Potato Experience (if you are prone to that sort of thing). Nonetheless, they are possibly even more fun to make because they can be made so easily and spontaneously, and they are unpretentious enough to really be dressed up with any funky old sauce, or none at all. They are amazingly tasty just as they are.

Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi in Herbs – for 4

  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta, (organic, grass fed if possible)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (use a microplane)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t white pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour, plus 1/2 cup for shaping
  • 3 T. butter, olive oil, or a mix
  • 1 T minced fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, or a combo)
  • 1 T freshly chopped Italian parsley

In a medium sized bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, nutmeg salt and pepper. Still to combine thoroughly. Add flour and mix lightly to combine. Dough will be very soft.

Dump out onto well floured board, turn over and fold over very gently a few times just to fully integrate dough. Separate into two balls and, taking turns, shape and flatten each one into a 1 inch thick rectangle. Using a clean knife, cut 1 inch strips from this and gently, on a well floured board, roll each one out into a 1/2 inch thick rope of dough.

Cut the rope into 1 inch “pillows” and, using your thumb on the back of a fork, gently roll each gnocchi off the fork tines, creating ridges on one side and a bit of an indentation on your thumb side. Don’t be afraid to be liberal with the flour. Or, you can just forget the fancy fork thing and do some rustic “loggy” ones or whatever you like. Try some fishes! Just make batches in relatively all the same size so that they will cook at the same time.

Repeat shaping the remaining gnocchi, dropping the finished ones on a floured baking sheet in a single layer. These can be frozen like this, to be bagged up after they freeze or cooked immediately.

In a well seasoned or non-stick skillet, heat butter, olive oil and minced herbs gently while you cook the gnocchi. Keep on low-med heat so the herbs get a little crunchy, but do not burn.

To cook, bring a medium sized pan of salted water to a boil. (The rule for fantastic pasta of any kind is to make the water as salty as the ocean, and to use high quality grey, sea, or Himalayan salt to do this with. Trust me, it’s worth it). Cook the gnocchi in 2 – 4 batches at a time, for only about 2 – 3 minutes after they float to the surface. Alternately, you can skip the cooking and try just pan frying them, but I found them a bit lighter if you boil them first.

Drain with a slotted spoon or strainer, adding all the cooked gnocchi to your skillet before tossing quickly and giving a slight reheat in the herb-butter. Finish with a touch of coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and parsley, and top each serving with a bit of grated Parmesan.

*The white whole wheat flour works surprisingly well in gnocchi! Substitute 1:1 for all purpose in the recipes.  It’s delicate and just slightly nutty which works great with the butter sauce, and you know…if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know.

February 1, 2012 Posted by | "Evil Butter" Recipes, Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Fresh, Labors of Love, Main Courses, Pasta, Potatoes, Recipes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chile Relleno Casserole with Warm Tomato-Coriander Salsa

OK, January in NYC and just finally snowed today after a freakishly warm couple of months that were supposed to be winter. And what I am thinking about? Mexico. 2 years ago exactly…laying in a hammock in an amazing little oasis in Tulum called Posada Yum Kin, which is the kind of place that once you discover, you have to work your entire trip around because you don’t want to leave. I have done a lot of tropical traveling in the last couple of years, but when I close my eyes and wish to be teleported off for a week to someplace utterly relaxing… this is where I think of. A hammock …and the watermelon margaritas at Salsalito Taco Shop. Not necessarily in that order.

I also had some of the best chile rellenos I have ever had on that trip, at a place called Wet Wendy’s on Cozumel. It’s a margarita bar right in the middle of tourista-ville which was so tacky I am afraid to link you there, but if you are ever on Cozumel you have to go for their chiles, which are just huge, divine, deep-fried goodness.

Apart from the name, this recipe has nothing to do with what they were doing. This is a hybrid between my mom’s chile rellenos, which she stuffed with a much lighter cheese mixture using fresh ricotta and onions, and my friend Linda Fry’s ingenious recipe which makes the whole thing into a baked casserole and avoids the nastiness of deep frying. Served with a Warm Tomato-Coriander Salsa, it is fresh and heavenly.

Baked Chile Relleno Casserole for 4

  • 12 fire-roasted green chiles*
  • 1  1/2 cup whole milk ricotta (fresh, organic, grass-fed if possible)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 3 oz goat gouda, in 1/2″ cubes (or raw milk cheddar, or jack)
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 t Himalayan or sea salt
  • 6 T white whole wheat flour (or unbleached white)
  • 6 T water

Oil a 9 -12″ casserole dish with olive oil or butter. Preheat oven to 400°.

Stuff the Chiles: Mix together ricotta, cheese and red onions in a bowl. Stuff each chile with about 2- 3 tablespoons of the cheese mixture. Alternately, you can open and spread half the chiles in a single layer on a plate, top with the entire cheese mixture and layer the rest of the chiles on top, like a chile-cheese-chile sandwich. What is important is that you have the filling stacked up and ready to go before you do the egg batter.

Make the Egg Batter:

Carefully separate eggs into two large metal or glass mixing bowls, making sure to keep whites completely free of any oil or egg yolks. Beat yolks and salt with a whisk (or electric beater) until very light yellow and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add flour and water and whisk lightly just to combine.

With a completely clean whisk, beat egg whites with a small pinch of salt to firm peaks. This should take only 3 -5 minutes, but should not be interrupted by anything once you start. (Ignore the phone. Make the Seventh Day Adventists ringing the doorbell wait.)

Fold whites lightly into egg yolks and spread half this mixture onto the bottom of your prepared casserole. Not missing a beat, top with your stuffed chiles, laying them carefully in a single layer over the eggs. Top this with remaining egg mixture and back for 20 – 25 minutes or until top is golden brown and puffy.

Meanwhile, answer the door, make the salsa…

Warm Tomato-Corriander Salsa:

  • 1 sweet yellow onion
  • 1 can whole organic tomatoes (such as Muir Glen) or 8 fresh Roma tomatoes, peeled.
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 1/2 t whole coriander seeds
  • pinch salt
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 t agave syrup, to taste
  • 1/4 C fresh cilantro leaves

Slice onion into 2″ strips. Using your hands, crush the whole tomatoes into a bowl, saving the juice.

Heat oil in a saute pan, and toast whole spices for 10 -15 seconds until fragrant, add onions, salt and red pepper if using, and saute on med-high for 4 -5 minutes until onions are just starting to color at the edges. Add crushed tomatoes and juice and sauté for a few minutes before tasting and adding a touch of agave as needed. (The sauce should be just slightly sweet, but how much to add will depend on your tomatoes). Simmer gently  for 10 -15 minutes to integrate flavors. Serve warm, adding whole cilantro leaves just before serving.

Serve Chile Relleno Casserole drenched with a generous ladle of tomato salsa over the top. Awesome with a few sprouted corn tortillas, guacamole, and a big colorful salad on the side.

¡Buen provecho!

*Roast the Chilies: I roast whole poblanos directly over the gas flame on my stove, turning to blacken all over,  let steam in a covered bowl for at least 10 minutes, then peel and seed them. You can also lightly coat whole peppers in oil and pop them into a 450° oven until they are completely black on the outside, then do the same. Roasted and cleaned chiles freeze really well so do a lot and freeze in batches to enjoy in the winter.  Or, you you can do what my mom always did, which is to use canned whole Ortega green chiles. If you do this, you might as well go totally deviant: use pepper jack cheese and spice up the sauce to give it some inside-out spiciness. Mmmm….

January 22, 2012 Posted by | Cheese 'n (Non) Dairy, Low Carb Recipes, Main Courses, Recipes, Sauces | , , , , | Leave a comment

Baked Samosas with Fresh Cilantro Coconut Chutney

I have a real soft spot for India. It is a magical place. When I was 18 years old, I traveled around India for 4 months, completely falling in love with the country. It is incredibly intense, beautiful, rich, magical and maddening all at the same time, all of the time. I felt completely at home there! And also knew from the first day that this would be a place I would keep returning to for the rest of my life. So far I have been back 4 times and after this week, it might be time to start thinking about it again. I have heard it has changed a lot, but during the 80’s and early 90’s India was pretty much completely vegetarian, even in the in the very Northern, Punjabi region. It was amazing to travel in a a country that was so vegetable oriented, especially at a time where it was not so easy to be vegetarian anywhere else.

Despite my love affair with the country and the food, I find myself rarely cooking India food now because so much of it is so… well, cooked. In a country with very little refrigeration, fresh raw vegetables are not the primary focus, (and in fact can be deadly). The flip side is the wonderful complexity of the spices, which are not only delicious, but are often anti-microbial, immune system boosting, and anti-inflammatory. But, what about FRESH?

Last week I was looking for a recipe for Sarsan Ka Saag, (Punjabi Mustard Greens) and discovered a delightfully passionate Indian chef, Sanjay Thumma, who is fantastic becuase he is so exuberant about making delicious but also healthy and fresh Indian food. If you like Indian, make sure to check him out. He is endlessly entertaining, and I spent hours on Youtube this weekend watching the Vah Chef and then playing with “freshing up” his traditional Indian recipes even more.

This recipe is adapted from Sanjay Thumma’s Samosa video. Please watch it for the samosa wrapping technique.

Samosa Dough (makes 12)

  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t ajwain (I left out, but would have added in if I had it!)
  • 2 T oil
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 6 – 7 T water

Make the samosa dough: Mix flours, salt and spices in a bowl and add oil, mix well using hands to thoroughly incorporate the fat into the flours. Sprinkle with lemon juice, and 6 T water and toss lightly just to combine. Add more water if necessary for dough to hold together in a stiff ball but do not overwork. Flatten slightly and chill for 30 minutes or more, while you prepare filling.

Samosa Filling:

  • 4 cups cooked potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 T organic grapeseed oil
  • 1 t whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 c chopped cashews
  • 1 t turmeric powder
  • 1 whole hot green chili, finely chopped (to taste)
  • 1 T whole coriander seeds, soaked in warm water at least 5 minutes
  • 1 T crushed fresh garlic
  • 1 T crushed fresh ginger
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 t cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 t garam masala
  • 1/8 t asafoetita
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 t. lemon or lime juice

In heavy bottomed or cast iron frying pan, fry cumin seeds and cashews in hot oil for 30 seconds or so on medium heat. Add soaked coriander seeds, turmeric and hot green chili.  Saute one minute and add ginger and garlic paste and salt. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes. Add coriander powder, cumin powder, cayenne and green peas, saute 1 -2 minutes to coat. Add cubed cooked potatoes, garam masala, asafoetita and probably about 1 t.  more of salt. Combine well and heat through, adding a splash of water if necessary and adjusting for heat and spice (Go ahead and make it a bit spicier than you think you should – it mysteriously mellows out when wrapped in a samosa). Turn off heat and add cilantro and lemon juice. Adjust the spiciness and salt to taste and set aside to cool slightly.

Make the Samosas: Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly oil a heavy sheet-pan.

Cut the dough into 6 small balls and roll out each into a very thin oval (about 7′”x 5″ ideally). Use a well floured board to prevent sticking, and don’t be afraid of making the dough very thin or having ugly edges.  Cut each oval down the middle on the short side, to create two half-rounds. Moisten around each side with a bit of water and pinch the straight edge together, forming a cone. See the Vah Chef video, to watch how to wrap these exactly.

Fill each cone with samosa filling and seal edges as shown. Place bottom side down on sheet-pan and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until bottoms are well browned and tops become lightly golden.

Serve hot with lots of Fresh Cilantro Coconut Chutney! Yumm!

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Potatoes, Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fresh Cilantro-Coconut Chutney

Fresh cilantro is a blood purifier and excellent chelator, known for removing heavy metals from your body such as mercury, lead and aluminum. Like many herbs, it is also high in minerals, particularly potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. It is also very high in antioxidants (cancer fighting) and and one of the highest natural sources for vitamin K (good for bones).  This recipe is super easy to make and so delicious that I sometimes eat it out of the bowl with a spoon after I run out of things to spread it on… try it with the Baked Samosas for sure.

  • 1 whole bunch fresh cilantro, cleaned and chopped (stems ok)
  • 1 cucumber, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
  • 1 whole lime, juiced (or whole, just peel lightly and add in chunks)
  • 1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut
  • 4 fresh jalapeno peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 t salt

Blend all ingredients in a Vitamix or high speed blender, adding in cilantro and coconut last. Adjust the spice and salt to taste.

Make it your own – there are infinite variations!

  • Mix a 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves in with cilantro
  • Replace cucumber with fresh green bell pepper
  • Add hot Indian chili peppers instead of jalapenos for more heat, or leave out chilies completely
  • Add a bit of ginger, garlic or both

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Fresh, Low Carb Recipes, Raw Food Recipes, Recipes, Sauces, Sugar Free/Unrefined Recipes, Vegan Recipes | , | Leave a comment