Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ecofest, September 28th

This Sunday's 20th annual Ecofest environmental festival will definitely be a local event worth checking out! It will feature speakers on sustainability, alternative energy technology and encouraging activism, an eco-fashion show, a display of energy efficient cars, locally-based eco vendors, and activities for kids.

Ecofest is free and open to the public; it will be held in Lincoln Center Plaza from 11am to 6pm this Sunday, September 28th.


And though I'll definitely be talking it up as the dates get closer, the annual Green Festival in Washington DC will be taking place the weekend of November 8th and 9th. The largest environmental expo in the country, the original Green Festival was born in San Francisco, and festivals are now held in DC, Seattle, Denver, and Chicago as well. A short film I worked on for eco-friendly chocolate company Sweetriot screened at the Green Film Festival last year, and it was difficult to focus on work with a giant Fair Trade Pavillion with hundreds of fair trade/organic & all-natural product vendors and lots of delicious vegan food! They're accepting volunteer applications now, so if you're looking for a socially responsible excuse for a weekend getaway, this is perfect for you!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Spicy Black Bean Soup




I'm normally an advocate of using fresh, local ingredients in your cooking, whether you're an omnivore or a vegetarian. But sometimes you really just want instant gratification with some of the things you might already find collecting dust in your cabinets (though that could very well be a rarity in our tiny NYC apartments). And why not? Waste not, want not, no? But just because you might yawn by simply looking at that big can of black beans in your closet, doesn't mean you can't spice it up and make something fun and delicious on a weeknight.

Soup is the easiest way to make good use of those black beans- one-pot dishes are simple, and now that it's fall, you can't help but crave a bowl of soup while still utilizing the last of the summer veggies at the GreenMarket. This recipe goes out to my mom, who's probably reading this now: even more the health advocate than I am, I made this without oil, so it's fat free too :)

The Whats:

* 3 cups vegetable stock
* a 1 1lb. 13 oz. can of black beans (or 2 15 oz. cans of black beans), drained and rinsed
* 1/2 cup your fave salsa (I used Rosa Mexicano Tomato Chipotle salsa for it's smoky flavor!)
* 1 large poblano pepper, diced
* 1 yellow onion, diced
* 4 cloves garlic, diced
* 1 large tomato, diced
* 2 tbsp. lime juice
* 1 packet Sazon seasoning
* 2 tbsp. cumin
* 1 tbsp. chili powder

The Hows

1) In a small bowl, set aside half a cup of the black beans, and a small handful (or a palmful) of the tomato and poblano pepper. You will be adding these to the soup at the end of your cooking.

2) In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in a few tablespoons of vegetable broth over medium heat. Add poblano pepper, tomato and lime juice and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining black beans with half a cup of veggie broth and the packet of Sazon seasoning. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the ingredients together until relatively smooth. Add the black bean mix to the veggies cooking in the pot, along with the remaining vegetable stock. Stir in your choice of salsa, cumin, and chili powder and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.

3) Remove pot from heat and allow a few minutes to cool. If you like your soup smooth, blend soup in batches using an immersion blender. (I like chunky soup, so I placed the blender directly in the soup and blended for just 15 to 20 seconds.) Add the reserved black beans, tomato, and poblano pepper to the soup, and cook soup for another 5 minutes; if needed, you can add more chili pepper/cumin/pepper/salt, etc to your taste. Laddle into bowls and serve hot with tortilla chips.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crostini Toppers, Two Ways




Everyone loves options, no? Sometimes you want appetizers that are light and somewhat sweet, and sometimes you want something more satisfying- and with sweet plum tomatoes and a savory seasoned cannellini bean spread, you can have the best of both worlds! Slice up a whole wheat baguette for either recipe, and you've got classic Italian appetizers for four to six people, whatever flavor might be in their favor.

Also, as I'm a proponent of bringing your lunch to work, you can spread these mixes on large baguette slices for a satisfying lunch.


Sicilian Crostini

The Whats:

* 1 large eggplant
* 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* about 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
* about 10 basil leaves, finely chopped
* salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* a sprinkle of dried rosemary
* optional garnish- shredded ricotta salata

The Hows:

1) Preheat grill or broiler to medium-high heat; slice eggplant lengthwise into 1/2 inch thick slices. Season each slice with salt and pepper, and brush each slice with olive oil. Place on grill or under broiler, and cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side until soft and slightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, mix the diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir a tablespoon of olive oil into the tomato mix. Roughly dice cooled eggplant slices, and mix into tomato mixture.

3) Drizzle baguette slices with remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper, and toast or broil until crispy and lightly browned. Top toasted slices with the tomato-eggplant mixture, and if desired, sprinkle with shredded ricotta salata before serving.


Cannellini & Sage Crostini

The Whats

* 1 15 oz. can of low sodium cannellini beans
* 3-4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
* 1 clove garlic, crushed
* 1 tbsp rubbed sage
* 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
* 1 tsp. salt

The Hows:

1) Drain and rinse cannellini beans; place in a medium bowl. Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil over beans, and add the garlic, sage, salt, and pepper; stir together. Mash the beans slightly with a fork or with a potato masher; alternate mashing beans with drizzles of olive oil until mixture is incorporated, but still slightly chunky.

2) As with Sicilian Crostini recipe, drizzle olive oil over baguette slices and season with salt and pepper; toast or broil until crispy and lightly browned. Spread cannellini mix over toasted slices and serve.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Presidential Picks... Food Picks!

As if I needed another reason why I love Obama... how many candidates put "vegetarian pizza" on their list of fave foods?

We've been reading continuous information about our candidates, including articles analyzing what they eat and how that translates into what type of person they are... but let's stray from being too serious for a little while, shall we? This fun little piece from Eats.com is a short list of McCain and Obama's fave foods :)



Obama & McCain's Unofficial Food Preferences

donkeyelephant.jpgJohn McCain

Likes:

Dislikes:

Barack Obama


Likes:

  • Chicken wings
  • Ribs
  • Grilled fish
  • Steamed broccoli (anyone see the irony there?)
  • Cheddar Cheeseburger
  • MET-Rx chocolate-roasted peanut protein bars
  • Black Forest Berry Organic Tea
  • Planters Trail Mix: Nuts, Seeds & Raisins
  • Roasted almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Water
  • Dentyne Ice
  • Nicorette
  • Spinach
  • Handmade milk chocolates from Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle
  • Chili
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Pizza
  • Cosi
  • Shrimp and grits
  • Waffles
  • Shave ice
  • Tuna fish sandwich
  • Vegetarian pizza
  • Topolobampo

Dislikes:

  • British food
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt & Vinegar potato chips
  • Asparagus
  • Soft drinks
  • Beets

Upcoming Restaurant Weeks... in the Boroughs!

Because why should Manhattan have all the fun? The rest of us representing Queens and Brooklyn already know our boroughs have some amazing culinary traditions and more to offer, and if for some reason you haven't been clued in, then check out these great (and inexpensive!) ways to familiarize yourself with some hot BK and Q-boro spots!

Discover Queens Restaurant Week encourages you to "eat like a king in Queens" from with $25 prix fixe lunches, and $35 prix fixe dinners at places like Riverview and Mezzo Mezzo in LIC, Cascarino's in Bayside, and Winegasm in Astoria; be sure to check the website for the full list of participating restaurants. Queens Restaurant week runs this week, September 15th thru 18th, and next week, September 22nd thru 25th.

And mark your veggie calendars, because coming up in October (which happens to be Vegetarian Awareness Month!), is Brooklyn's own vegetarian restaurant week, BKLYN Goes Veg! Imagine hitting up restaurant week and NOT worrying about what you can/can't eat on the special prix-fixe menu... okay, maybe that's something that only excites the Friendly Veg, but it's about time that someone brought the national vegetarian restaurant week initiative to NYC, especially to a borough with so many great restaurants to choose from! BKLYN Goes Veg runs from October 19th thru 25th, and participating restaurants can be found on their website.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Peppers Stuffed with Tomato-Basil Risotto



Can you think of anything better to stuff a pepper with than creamy, yummy risotto? Didn't think so. Stuffed peppers are an inexpensive and filling meal, and you can customize 'em however you like- in the past, I've made stuffed peppers with couscous, raisins, and ginger for a more North African flavor. But hey, San Gennaro is going on as we speak- how could I not post my veggie Italian version? And though the texture is wonderfully creamy, risotto is naturally low in fat... all the more reason to mangia!

The Whats:

* 2 large bell peppers, halved
* 3 tbsp. olive oil
* 3 cloves garlic
* 1 1/4 cups arborio rice
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (you might need just a tad more/less than this)
* 1 large tomato (I used a beefsteak tomato), cored and diced
* 2 sprigs of basil
* 1/3 cup shredded parmiggiano reggiano, plus some more for sprinkling on peppers
* freshly ground black pepper to taste


The Hows:

1) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; saute garlic in olive oil for two minutes. Add arborio rice and mix until rice is coated with olive oil. Stir in white wine with the rice until the wine is mostly evaporated.

2) Add one cup of vegetable broth, and continually stir until broth is absorbed. Add the basil leaves, and continue to add broth half a cup at a time, and stir until broth is absorbed.

3) Add the diced tomato; if the tomato is particularly juicy, cook for another few minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in parmiggiano reggiano and black pepper.

4) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon risotto into each half of pepper. Top with some shredded parmiggiano reggiano. Place stuffed peppers on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and peppers are slightly softened.

Recipe serves 4.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

San Gennaro 2008!

Va bene!

The culmination of all things wonderfully loud, cheesy and greasy with good ol' "how YOU doin" charm and Dunk-The-Insult-Clown goodness, the 81st Feast of San Gennaro kicks off today!

Yes, I'm Italian, I'm allowed to poke fun at my wonderfully loud, vino-guzzlin, cannoli-eatin' brethren.

Be sure to check out the Cannoli Eating contest on Friday at 1pm, the Grand Procession up Mulberry Street on Saturday beginning at 2pm, a DVD release party celebrating the 35th anniversary of The Godfather hosted by Gianni Russo (for those of you who don't have goomba moments like I do and recite Godfather dialogue by heart, Russo played Carlo, Marlon Brando's nephew at the beginning of the first film), and a closing night KTU dance party.

San Gennaro runs through September 21st. Buona festa mi amici!

New School Panel: Gastronomica

This past Tuesday evening, I attended a free panel at New School University with the editor and two contributors to Gastronomica magazine, a seven year old quarterly publication with not just recipes, but scholarly articles on food culture, policy, and science, along with personal essays, poetry, and food art and photography. As a regular peruser of a variety of food magazines, websites, and blogs, I was impressed, because you never frequently see scholarly articles or specific food art with the normally flowery prose and all-too-serious tone that's associated with food writing. How have I never heard about this magazine before?!

Founder and editor-in-chief Darra Goldstein, a Russian professor at Williams College and cookbook author (including The Winter Vegetarian!), spoke about the magazine itself and its mission of initiating thoughtful discussion about food and advocating food studies as a serious discipline in schools. It makes perfect sense when you consider how many students will pursue degrees in sociology and cultural anthropology, and how cuisine and dining rituals define a myriad of cultures and could easily integrate within these established majors, or stand on its own. And though you might be curious (as many of us at the panel were) about Goldstein's experience in the two very different fields of Russian studies and food in creating this magazine, I thought her varied careers served as the perfect interdisciplinary foil for what she wanted to accomplish for Gastronomica and for food studies programs on a university level.

Even more impressive from my perspective, because I'd love to eventually bring together my love for writing, cooking, journalism, and production, and hearing from someone who has managed to do so is inspiring.

Listeners were also treated to readings from two Gastronomica contributors- author Arlo Crawford, who wrote a piece about growing up on his father's organic farm, and another New School writing professor (yes yes, I know, it's silly that I didn't write his name down and I apologize; he was a last minute subsitiute for author Sarah Odishoo) with a type of food science-fiction story where New York City was NOT the foodie paradise that we all know it to be. Both stories were definitely off the overly beaten path of "and when I ate this, I remembered my grandmother's floured hands lovingly rolling out the glistening dough..." style. Crawford's matter-of-fact writing really allowed us city-folk with romantic ideas about farming to be harvested into reality, and see the labor, the daily tasks, the no-frills side of the farm.

I had a great time at this lecture; it certainly got my creative juices flowing as far as new ways of thinking about food writing! If you really enjoy the more scholastic approach to everything food, check out the upcoming Gastronomica Forum: The Taste of Fame at the Astor Center on October 28th- panelists will include Momofuku's David Chang and Top Chef's Gail Simmons.

In other food publication news, the publishers of Edible Brooklyn bring you their newest New York area addition, Edible Manhattan, with more of New York City's varied culinary experiences. I can't wait to check it out, but I still gotta say... it took 'em this long for a Manhattan edition?

Ah well, happy reading!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Blueberry Pie


Nothing says summer like blueberries, and they're my absolute favorite- I'll put them in cereal, granola, salads, and of course, pies! When using really ripe berries, you can get away with using less sugar in the pie... calorie counters take note! I'll include a pie crust recipe later on, but for the sake of keeping this a quick and easy dessert, I used a pre-made pie crust (Fresh Direct uses mostly organic ingredients for theirs!)

The Whats:

* 1 unfilled 9-in. pie crust
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
* pinch of salt
* 1 cup water
* 4 cups fresh blueberries
* 1 tbsp. Earth Balance vegan butter (optional)


The Hows:

1) Bake pie crust for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool.

2) In a medium saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add 1 cup of water, and 1 cup of the blueberries. Cook over medium heat until mixture has thickened; about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

3) Stir in butter and remaining 3 cups of blueberries. Allow mixture to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour blueberry mixture into pie crust, and chill pie in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Happy September!

I'm back from vacation! I'd love to report some wonderful culinary adventures from my time in Los Angeles and in central Arizona, but, um, yeah... (though nothing beat cheese or tofu on a stick on Santa Monica beach on my first L.A. visit)

Instead, I'll plug the "Let Us Eat Local" event that will be held at the Water Taxi Beach in L.I.C. next Tuesday, September 9th at 6:30pm. With 20 famous chefs creating dishes from food grown within 250 miles of NYC, eating on the sand is a sure sign that summer is not over! As if the 90 degree, humid weather we're experiencing today didn't clue you in.

And because I'm in denial that summer is "officially" over, I'm posting a blueberry pie recipe later tonight. With the sweeter, end of the season berries, you calorie-counters won't need to add much sugar to this pie!

Is anyone else bummed at seeing more and more fall clothing on the street? I'll cling to my denial and to my little sundresses until the weather really cools off, thankyouverymuch!