Summer Tomato Holiday

by | Dec 19, 2012

Darya with Daikon

Thank you all for another wonderful year at Summer Tomato. I’ll be taking a break from writing for the rest of 2012 for some much needed R&R. In the meantime, feel free to keep up with me around the web at: 

@summertomatoGoogle+FacebookInstagram, Pinterest and the like.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you back here in January.

xoxox

Darya

For The Love Of Food

by | Dec 14, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

My heart goes out to those affected by the shooting this morning in Newton, Connecticut.

This week the food industry can’t handle the truth, false memories can make you feel more full or hungry, and why vegetables may be good for bone health.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week


What inspired you this week?

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6 Tips To Make Dessert Worth It

by | Dec 12, 2012

Photo by http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2248/2149319173_8bcab71ba4_z.jpg

Never trust anyone who believes dessert isn’t an essential part of life.

There may be some small, joyless percentage of the population who can live indefinitely without sugar, but in my experience those who attempt it are kidding themselves and will inevitably fail.

Sugar is wonderful sometimes, and in general it is easier to find a way to live with it than without it.

But I’m not here to propagate any illusions either. The scientific literature makes it is pretty clear that sugars, specifically sucrose (table sugar) and fructose (the sweet stuff in fruit and corn syrup), are some of the worst foods you can eat and should generally be considered dangerous.

Sugars promote aging, weight gain and most chronic diseases. Sugar is also regarded as addictive by many in the field of obesity and weight loss.

So how should you deal with it?

Keeping desserts in perspective goes a long way to helping you make smart choices.

Keep these tips in mind to make sure the desserts you choose are worth it.

6 Tips To Optimize Your Dessert Choices

1. Make it formal

Self-control is not the easiest thing to practice when dessert is involved. You probably know this from experience.

Make a rule for yourself to not eat dessert in an informal setting. That is, do not eat sweets between meals and always sit down and be fully present when you eat treats.

Resist the piles of cookies, brownies and candies set out around the house. If you do choose to eat one, do not make light of it. Sit down with a chair, table and napkin and enjoy every bite.

Try to wait until after a meal so you are eating for indulgence and not to satisfy your hunger. Trying to feel full from dessert is a losing battle (see tip #4).

2. Size matters

Dessert has an obscene amount of calories. I know this is not fun to think about, but you should be aware that if you are eating something with sugar and fat there is an excellent chance you are putting down 50-100 calories PER BITE.

A single Godiva or See’s truffle runs at about 100 calories. A slice of Oreo cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory has 600-800 calories. It is hard to overemphasize how huge this really is. If you eat a reasonably healthy diet, this is likely more calories than you consume in an entire meal.

When you do sit down and eat dessert, remember that you do not have to eat everything that is put in front of you. The first two bites are always the most satisfying. There is no need to test the hypothesis that the 12th bite doesn’t live up to them.

3. Make an allowance

You should keep tabs on how often you eat dessert, and one or two per week is a reasonable goal for someone looking to maintain their weight. Zero to one serving is best for someone trying to lose weight.

For most people, weekly allowances are easier to manage than daily or monthly allowances.

Rules likes this help you make smarter choices. Do you really want to waste your only treat this week on a cookie from a box or a cake from Costco?

If you are ever going to be a picky eater, dessert is the best place to turn up your nose.

4. Don’t treat yourself when hungry

Sugar does not satisfy hunger. In fact, repeated sugar exposure creates spikes and dips in blood sugar that make you feel hungry again sooner than you should.

For this reason, sugary foods should never be substituted for real food and you should not rely on them to satisfy your hunger. Not only is this ineffective, it also makes it more likely you will overeat. Remember tips #1 and #2 and eat your small desserts after a real meal.

5. Eat healthy meals

Having an overall healthy, balanced diet is another effective way to avoid dessert binges. If you already feel satisfied with what you have eaten, dessert will truly be a treat and not an overcompensation for poor nutrition.

Healthy meals can also go far to prevent emotional eating, since they help create a feeling of fulfillment, comfort and satisfaction.

6. Stay on the bandwagon

Slip-ups happen with dessert, and it is not the end of the world.

Remember point #2, that size matters.

Just as 5 bites of dessert is much, much better than 10 bites of dessert, one slip-up is better than 3-4 slip-ups. Don’t let one holiday uh-oh send you into a week of unbridled gluttony.

When it comes to sugar, less is always better. Avoid the temptation to throw in the towel.

Are your desserts worth it?

Originally published December 21, 2009.

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Summer Tomato Holiday Wish List 2012

by | Dec 10, 2012

Photo by apparena

For this year’s holiday wish list I focus on the gear that I cannot live without. Whether the foodist in your life is new in the kitchen or a seasoned chef, there’s almost certainly something here they’ll love. Happy shopping!

Summer Tomato Holiday Wish List 2012

1. Mercado farmer market bag $24.99

One of the things I’m most proud of this year is the launch of Mercado, the farmers market bag I helped design over at Quirky. I’ve been using mine religiously for over eight months, and don’t know how I ever shopped without it. On big shopping days (e.g. Saturdays at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market) I use two to get all my produce home safe and unblemished.

2. Fitbit One $99.95

I’ve been using the new Fitbit One for the past couple months and love it. The new design is sleek and much more durable than older models. The display is also much sharper and easier to read. The Fitbit is still the best simple pedometer I’ve found to ensure I get my daily 10,000 steps. Tracking your weight is one of the most effective ways to find trouble spots in your healthstyle.

3. Fitbit Aria scale $129.95

If weight control is one of your goals, monitoring your progress is essential. Now that Fitbit has created their own wireless digital scale you can have your activity and body weight data in the same convenient place, making it easier to stay on track.

4.  Scanpan cookeware $91.73

I know that non-stick cookware is controversial, but I’ve still always preferred it since it is so much easier to clean and I don’t like spending any more time in the kitchen than I have to. Earlier this year I discovered Scanpans, which are eco-friendly, non-toxic pans that are dishwasher safe—it’s like all my dreams have come true. They can be a bit pricey, but I think they’re an investment worth making. I originally planned to recommend the two pan set, but it is already back ordered. This 10 1/4 inch fry pan is a good place to start.

5. The 4-Hour Chef $21

I think this book by Tim Ferriss would make an excellent gift for anyone who has just moved out of the home or out of the dorms, and needs to learn to cook on their own. It’s a simple, easy to follow cooking lessons that can take anyone from clueless to proficient in the kitchen. I recently wrote a full review of this book if you’d like to know more.

6. Le Creuset French Oven $256.99

I got my Le Creuset French oven as a graduation gift back in 2010, and use it constantly. I’ve been reluctant to recommend a $350 pot, but I also know it’s an amazing gift to receive and is worth every penny. Also, I found it on Amazon for $100 less than mine was from the super fancy cookware store, so now is as good a time as any to splurge.

7. Yogourmet Electric Yogurt Maker $49.95

Another new hobby in my household this year is yogurt making. We got this electric yogurt maker and have been using it to create our own batches of creamy yogurt, that I now eat almost daily. It’s fun to play around with different kinds of milk and starter cultures. I learned that if I choose pasture-raised dairy (e.g. Straus Organic milk), my skin doesn’t break out like it does when I use more industrially produced organic milks. Cool, right?

8. Aeropress $25.95

Though we still drink lots of tea, coffee is also a big part of our lives. Since I was in high school I’ve experimented with drip, French press, stove top Bialetti, espresso makers, cold brews and more, but by far my favorite device is the Aeropress. Not only does it make the best tasting coffee, it’s also the easiest to clean. And for $25, you can’t beat it. For the ultimate coffee experience invest in the stainless steel filter ($16.50) as well.

9. Sous Vide Supreme $429

When we first got our sous vide machine, I honestly didn’t think we’d use it much. The grill and stove top had always worked perfectly fine for me, and sous vide seemed like an extra step that felt unnecessary. I was wrong. The food we make using the sous vide, including vegetables and eggs, but mostly fish and meat, inevitably turns out better when we use the sous vide. The machine uses a water bath to get to a uniform temperature throughout the food you’re cooking, so it always turns out exactly how you want it. If it’s meat, that means you can hit that perfect medium rare, then just finish it on the grill for flavor. It’s cooked perfectly, and the food spends less time at high heat, which is a known source of cancer causing compounds. We use ours constantly.

Happy holidays!

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For The Love Of Food

by | Dec 7, 2012

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

This week how the FDA is killing us softly, rats get fat on calorie-free sweeteners, and why coffee is better than 5-Hour Energy.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato,  Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you. (And yes, I took that pepper heart pic myself).

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Moving Portraits: How Food Saved My Family

by | Dec 5, 2012

Darya Pino: Sharing Good Food at the Holidays from Moving Portraits on Vimeo.

My friends over at Moving Portraits asked if I would share one reason the holidays are special to me, so I sat down with them (and Toaster) last week.

The holidays are one of the few times in the year I get to visit my dad, whom I love more than anything. This is the story about how my trips home for the holidays helped him transform his diet, and save his life. This is the success story I’m most proud of at Summer Tomato by far.

Moving Portraits is a San Francisco based production company specializing in micro-documentaries for individuals, families, and small businesses. Moving Portraits transforms clients’ stories into vivid films, integrating intimate interviews, stunning visuals and personalized music.

Co-founders Simone and Haley Jude have more twenty years of filmmaking experience between them, and they love showcasing the beauty of stories on film. You can find them on Facebook at facebook.com/movingportraitssf and on Twitter @movingsf.

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How To Make Brussels Sprouts That Aren’t Gross

by | Dec 3, 2012
Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Hate brussels sprouts? So did I. But I also don’t like being a picky eater, so I was determined to learn to like these little devils.

This is the recipe that finally made me love brussels sprouts. Bacon makes anything taste good, but these days I appreciate the sprouts even without it.

Buy the freshest brussels sprouts you can get your hands on, preferably from your local farmers market. Like any vegetable the fresher it is, the tastier and more nutritious it will be. I usually buy a pound or so. The smaller they are, the better (sweeter and less bitter) they taste.

The secret is to halve and blanch the sprouts before cooking them with other ingredients. This helps them cook through and gets rid of the nasty, bitter taste that can be so characteristic of sprouts. The other trick is to balance the remaining bitter flavor with an acid like lemon or red wine vinegar. Oh, and did I mention bacon?

I prefer to purchase my bacon from a local butcher. Get two slices, but for a larger batch of sprouts increase it to three.

This recipe is delicious with either walnuts or hazel nuts. If you decide on hazel nuts, I prefer to toast them in the oven first (350 degrees) until the skins start to turn dark and crack, about 10-15 minutes. I then roll them in a paper towel or plastic wrap to separate the skins from the nuts. Don’t worry if all the skins don’t come off, they’ll still taste good.

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 1 lbs brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 cipollini onion (or 1 leek or 2 baby leeks)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or hazel nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp butter
Blanching Brussels Sprouts

Blanching Brussels Sprouts

Start some water boiling and add a few pinches of salt. Rinse and halve your brus sprouts. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add sprouts and set a kitchen timer for 5 minutes. Do not rely on yourself to remember, overcooking at this stage will ruin your meal. Boil sprouts exactly 5 minutes, rinse with cold water, strain and set aside.

In the meantime, chop cipollini onions (or leeks) and the nuts. Slice bacon (pieces stacked) into half inch slices.

Heat a pan on medium heat and add bacon slices. Allow bacon to cook about 4-5 minutes, until fat starts to render in the pan. Add the nuts and stir. If you are using cipollini onions, add those too (wait if you are using leeks).

Cook nuts and bacon until the bacon is almost done, then add butter. You can add leeks at this point or skip this step and add Brussels sprouts directly. When leeks just begin to soften (about 1 minute), add Brussels sprouts, sea salt and pepper.

Stir sprouts and turn most of them so their cut faces are resting against the pan. I strongly recommend using tongs for this. After about 2 minutes, stir the sprouts and sprinkle on oregano. Continue to cook, stirring every 2 minutes or so until the faces of the sprouts are all browned and onions begin to caramelize, 8-10 minutes. In the last 3 to 4 minutes, add vinegar (or lemon). This step is essential to cut any last bit of bitterness remaining in the sprouts. Use the taste test to determine precise cooking time (depending on the size of the sprouts).

Brussels sprouts pair beautifully with almost any protein. Pork, chicken and fish work especially well. Here they are served with French green lentils.

How did you learn to love brussels sprouts?

Originally published October 27, 2008.

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Farmers Market Update: Pteleos, Greece

by | Dec 2, 2012

Pteleos is surrounded by half a million olive trees

Matthew Denos of WeightLossTriumph.com is a biologist who lives in Greece. He enjoys the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle after spending 6 years in the US working as a research fellow in academia. He believes that health is our greatest resource and therefore it’s worth keeping it optimum. When he doesn’t review diets and gourmet food delivery programs he is outdoors biking, mountain climbing or windsurfing.

Farmers Market Update: Pteleos, Greece

by Matthew Denos

Pteleos Farmers Market

I am blessed to live in Greece. Yes, the economy sucks, unemployment is at an all time high, the cost of living is expensive, and basic salary is a joke. Yet, I wouldn’t trade the Greek islands, the beaches and the mountains for any of the strong economies up north or overseas. I wouldn’t trade the Greek food, either—the healthy  Mediterranean diet. The extra virgin olive oil, wine, feta cheese, seafood, olives, unique herbs and spices—the Mediterranean lifestyle in all its forms has a top place in my heart.

Fortunately, the Greek food chain is not as industrialized as it is in other Western countries. Of course, food is nowhere what it once was. But Greece is a relatively small market in Southeast Europe (the gate to the East), and, thankfully, has not yet totally assimilated the Western diet. Our traditional diet still holds strong, and healthy soils abound, especially in Greek islands and villages.

Last summer I spent a few weeks in my grandfather’s village in Pteleos, where I had the opportunity to visit the local farmers market. Pteleos is a picturesque village nestled among curvy hills on the west side of Pagasitikos Gulf, in Thessaly, Greece, not far away from gorgeous beaches facing Aegean Sea. Thessaly is the birthplace of Greek hero Achilles (think Brad Pitt in the movie Troy).

Melons

Olives and olive oil are the farmers’ main produce in Pteleos, and this shouldn’t come as a surprise given that there are over half a million olive trees planted within a radius of 3 miles from the village center. The village is basically embedded in a huge plantation of olive trees. The local farmers, which are mostly olive oil producers, own the plantations. Yet, it’s impossible for them to harvest all these fields by themselves, which is why each year in November, when the olive tree harvest begins, they hire workers from Bulgaria, the neighboring country, to help them out.

As I headed to the market that Wednesday morning, I was excited to meet the farmers. It was my first visit ever. Some of the farmers live and work in Pteleos while others come from nearby villages (Sourpi, Valestino, Almyros). Most of them have their own plantations and are proud and passionate about the quality of their products. Others are simply re-sellers of produce they bring from distant parts of the country. Farming is for them a family business. One can sense the care and passion that goes into cultivating the land, sowing the seeds, growing, protecting, and harvesting the plants, and finally selling the product. It’s a long and strenuous process which the family is proud of.

Beautiful Assortment of Peppers

The market takes place outdoors in a car park every Wednesday. It starts at 8am and goes until noon. It’s worth getting to the market early, so at 9am I was there, with my Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 in hand, greeting the first stall owner with a smile.

He thought I was a tourist and greeted me in English. Pteleos, and the broader area, is a popular summer vacation destination. When I told him I am just taking pictures for an article I am going to publish at a California-based health site, he gladly pointed me to his colorful and fresh produce. I loved his beautiful array of groceries of the nightshade family. Peppers of different shapes and colors drew my attention, as well as the shiny, ovoid, dark purple eggplants. I bought two pounds of peppers. Pepper is part of my daily high-protein, veggie-rich omelet.

A little further down there was a stall full of melons. The football shaped ones are called “Thrakiotika” (Thracian), because they grow in Thrace, the northeastern section of Greece, bordering Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the east. I bought one and it was really sweet. In the summer, production of watermelons is in full swing. The stall owner was thirsty this sunny day and was feasting on a half watermelon.

Feasting on Watermelon

Across the way was a stall displaying a beautiful assortment of apples. Did you know that green apples have fewer calories than red? 30% less to be exact. This is because they contain less sugar. The same holds true when you compare the green and non-green version of almost any fruit or vegetable. Green olives have 38% fewer calories than black olives. Green peppers are 29% less calorie dense than red peppers.

Apples

As I had approached the apple stand, thinking about the calorie content of green and red apples, the farmer behind it greeted me. I introduced myself as a reporter for local Greek farmers markets. “Can you take a picture of me, too?” he asked. “Certainly,” I replied, “people in San Francisco and around the world will be glad to see your produce.” Another lady from a nearby stall heard the conversation and came along for the shot.

SummerTomato.com

As I wandered around the stalls, picking my weekly groceries, I stopped to buy some tomatoes. I love tomatoes, especially if they are produced organically. This was not an organic farmers market (like the one I visited in Patras), still the farmers try to use as little pesticide as possible to grow their produce. Some grow the produce in their backyards without using chemicals at all, mainly for their own household’s needs. They then sell what they don’t consume themselves. Tomatoes sell for 1 euro a kilo (USD 59 cents a pound).

Tomatoes

In general, organically produced tomatoes are less attractive than conventional ones. Take a look at these two photos below and compare the looks and the taste. Well, you cannot actually taste them, but I did. The difference is like day and night.

Compare Tomatoes

The ones on the top tasted much better and were full of flavor.  If you look at them you will notice that they are not as pleasant to the eye as the ones beneath. They are not evenly colored. They have patches of green. They have scars, too. Obviously, in the absence of pesticides and other chemicals, appearance is compromised in favor of taste.

At this point, I heard somebody coming from behind me and I turned around. “Take a look at these gigantic beets! You should feature them in your report,” a vendor said as she held these huge beets proudly in front of my camera. Her request was hard to beet.

Big Beets

Peaches, nectarines, and vanilla plums make it to the list of my favorite summer fruits. Their distinctive aroma and color drew my attention. The ones I purchased had really juicy flesh. They were highly flavored and had a sweet and sour taste.

Vanilla Plums and Peaches

Potatoes and onions are always displayed together in any Greek farmers market I have visited. I like onions because they add to the tastiness of many foods. I eat one a day as they are one of the healthiest vegetables. Being aware of the enormous health benefits onions, famous American chef Julia Child once commented “I cannot imagine a world without onions.” I got a few from the stand below.

Onions

As my Pteleos farmers market trip drew to an end, I looked around for grapes. Grape is regarded by many in Greece as the king of fruits. Here grapes support a vibrant wine industry which is rich in native varieties. Grapes are a seasonal fruit that is available in the market only from August to November. The variety I bought is called “σταφίδα” (stafida – raisins) because it is the variety used for the production of raisins.

Grapes

I was about to leave when I noticed two of my favorite medicinal herbs. Mountain tea (sideritis) and oregano. Both are native plants. They grow in Greek mountains. The vendor opened a bag where he kept the oregano, and the aromatic oils, which are strong enough to numb the tongue, filled the air.

Oregano and Mountain Tea

The farmers market in Pteleos is a lovely place to go shopping if you ever happen to visit Thessaly, the homeland of hero Achilles.

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