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An Eggcellent Idea

by | Jul 30, 2008

All week the Health section of the New York Times has been singing the praises of eggs. They make the very valid point that eggs were (unjustly) given a bad rap back in the 80’s and, as far as the science is concerned, should be taken off the forbidden list. Eggs are now making their way back as a health food and the NYTimes argues, why not eat eggs for dinner?

Well, I’m here to tell you that I already do and I love it.

It all started when I discovered the meaning of “fresh eggs”. When an egg is referred to as fresh it means that it was laid by the hen recently, within the past week. Most eggs you find at the grocery store don’t qualify as fresh by a long shot. You can tell how fresh the eggs are by checking the two numbers on the side of the carton. One number is the day of the year that the eggs were collected and boxed. For instance, eggs collected today would be marked 212. The other number is the expiration date, usually about a month later.

I first read about the magic of fresh eggs in Cooks Illustrated (best cooking publication ever–you should all subscribe immediately). The next week I found the egg vendor at my local farmers’ market and gave them a try. Needless to say I have been hooked ever since. Fresh eggs are like a different species: so light and fluffy, so well behaved. I now use eggs as one of my primary sources of complete protein and have mastered the art of the perfect scramble.

The secret to scrambling eggs is to mix them really well with 1 or 2 tbsp of cold water. By the time you’re finished they should be pale yellow and frothy. The pan should be of the non-stick variety and well-oiled (I like olive oil, but butter is a nice treat occasionally). Pour the eggs (+ salt and pepper) into a pan on medium-high heat and slowly move the spatula along the bottom until the eggs start piling up in one side of the pan. Don’t be squeamish about runny eggs, they will continue to cook even after you remove them from the heat. The worst thing you can do is over-cook them until they are brown and rubbery. Ick. The whole process only takes 2-3 minutes.

Tonight I made a 2-egg scramble with leeks and a green chili pepper (that wasn’t nearly spicy enough). In general I saute veggies until they are finished cooking before adding the eggs. I paired this dish with some French green beans (haricots verts) that I seasoned with the rest of the leek, salt and pepper, fresh lime juice and whole Thai basil leaves. If this combination sounds odd to you, I assure you that it is delicious. The citrus and basil give the beans a bright flavor to complement the richness of the eggs and chili. Yum!

For those of you thinking to yourself, “Um, I don’t think I like green beans,” I urge you to try again. I realize that a good number of people grew up thinking that green beans came from cans, are actually a dull-gray color and were especially designed to make casseroles and bean salads gross. And I know this sort of trauma is hard to overcome. I deeply sympathize with your dilemma, but there are many varieties of green beans and you have probably only tried one kind. But any variety can be as sweet, crisp and delicious as any of your favorite vegetables, so long as they are prepared with care and love.

The beauty of this meal is that it was all cooked in the same pan (at different times, of course). Eggs cook so fast that the beans barely have time to settle in the plate before your scramble is sitting right next to them.

I was not in the mood for a whole grain tonight, so I skipped it this time. I have had a hard time getting in a good, hard workout this week because of a particularly busy work schedule. Consequently I think my appetite is diminished, especially for carbohydrates. Later tonight I am going to cut into a beautiful Galia melon I picked up at Whole Foods. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Questions about eggs or haricots verts? Please comment below.
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Fresh Berries

by | Jul 30, 2008

UPDATE: Experiment underway (see pic).

UPDATE2: Success!! No mold!

Berries are a bit of an enigma, but I think I’m getting to the bottom of it. I noticed that whenever I buy raspberries, blackberries or boysenberries at a regular grocery store they grow moldy very quickly, sometimes in less than a day. And at $4.00 for half a pint, who can afford that gamble?!

Traditionally blueberries have been a safer bet, they have fewer wet spots where mold likes to grow. But I really only care for the taste of the organic ones (one of the downsides of having an over-developed gustatory sense), so they can still be hard to get.

But I think I made a discovery this morning. It seems that if I buy my berries at the Farmers’ Market, they last much longer. Today for breakfast (a combo of Dorset Cereal’s muesli and Flax Plus by Nature’s Path) I finished off the blackberries and there wasn’t yet even a hint of mold. This is the third time in a row I have come out of the market with mold-free berries. They taste better than the store bought ones as well and are the same price or less.

My theory is that they are fresher. The guy I bought them from said they were “picked yesterday,” which on Saturday meant Friday. All that shipping of the mass-produced berries at Whole Foods must be too much for the delicate little guys.

Anyone else have any tricks for keeping berries fresh and mold-free?

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Braised baby savoy cabbage

by | Jul 29, 2008

As my trip to the Farmers’ Market on Saturday was winding down, my attempt to avoid making any more purchases was thwarted when a glistening pile of baby savoy cabbages caught my eye. You should have seen these things, they were absolutely adorable. Most were no bigger than a lemon, and they have such bright green, crinkly leaves they look as though they could blossom into one of those Cabbage Patch dolls I had as a child. I bought five or six of the small heads and have been thinking about what to do with them ever since.

Tonight I decided I would try braising them. I’ve never braised anything, and part of me wonders if I really know what braising is. Luckily for us all, Wikipedia knows everything.

Normally cabbage is shredded into strips before braising, but I wanted to try and maintain the beautiful appearance of this vegetable so I opted to cut them in half instead. In a hot pan with shimmering olive oil I threw in one diced leek, added the cabbage halves face down and salted liberally with fresh ground sea salt.

I seared the faces of the cabbage for a few minutes until they were slightly browned. I then added mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking wine), about 3/4 cup of water and a sprinkle of shichimi (a Japanese 7-spice chili mixture I found this weekend at Rainbow Grocery). I read about these two exotic ingredients when I was learning about how to make udon in my favorite soup book, so I was excited that I found them and curious how they would taste. The mirin is very thick and sweet, great for cooking; the shichimi is savory, has a slight sesame taste and not too spicy.

I also wanted to add the crimini mushrooms I bought this weekend at Rainbow, but they were already moldy. So sad, last time I make that mistake. But I still needed something with a creamy texture to counteract the soft, sweet cabbage. I decided to add a few of the garbanzo beans I made the night before in the pressure cooker (I made Indian food yesterday, curried okra and chickpeas). Eureka!

I simmered the veggies 20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. I had to add more liquid after about 10 minutes. In the mean time I boiled some soba noodles, sticking with the Japanese theme. Soba noodles are made of buckwheat, so they are much healthier than most other kinds of noodles. Of course I only made a tiny amount to give the dish substance.

I stirred my creations together for a delicious, healthy dinner!

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Ready To Blog

by | Jul 29, 2008

Today I am compelled to have more contact with people I know who care about food and health. Newspaper articles are a fantastic venue for conveying information on a specific topic, but the daily grind is really where all the action is. So I have decided to launch this site as a tool for us all to share information about life, food and fitness.

My goal for Thought for Food is to give you insight into the workings of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Posts will range from critical reviews of the latest nutrition research to the best recipes for seasonal dinner experiments. I encourage you each to share your thoughts and ask questions–tell us what does and doesn’t work for you–and we can all learn from it.

Ultimately I want to have more interaction with each and every one of you. In my experience, it is the people I have the most contact with who are the happiest and most successful at reaching their fitness goals.