Velvety Mediterranean Gazpacho with Avocado Cream (+ Cookbook Giveaway)

by | Sep 9, 2013
Velvety Mediterranean Gazpacho with Avocado Cream

Photo Credit: Leo Gong

Today I’m thrilled to share a recipe from The Longevity Kitchen, the fabulous new cookbook by Rebecca Katz, MS. Rebecca is a Marin-based nationally recognized cookbook author, nutrition expert and chef. She is the founder and director of the Healing Kitchens Institute at Commonweal, which is dedicated to transforming lives through nutritional science and culinary alchemy. Her previous book, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, is a two-time IACP award-winner.

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Foodist Approved: Fabulous Fish Tacos with Fiery Peach Avocado Salsa

by | Aug 19, 2013

Fish Tacos

 

Elyse Kopecky is a social media consultant and whole foods chef based in Portland, OR. After 10 years working for NIKE and EA SPORTS she left her desk job for the chance to study culinary nutrition at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. Follow her adventures in the kitchen and on the trail at www.freshabits.com and @freshabits.

Foodist Approved: Fabulous Fish Tacos with Fiery Peach Avocado Salsa

by Elyse Kopecky

If you’ve just finished reading Foodist you’re probably inspired to cook more at home, but are wondering where to begin. Fret not. I’ve got you covered. As a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, I know how to make healthy food taste amazing. And amazing food that satisfies and keeps us energized is the key to giving up all that barcoded junk once and for all.

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Better Than Pasta Subtitutes: Summer Squash Noodle Recipe and Video

by | Aug 27, 2012
Squash Pasta

Squash Pasta

Recently a reader asked:

“Any tips on pasta substitutes? (I did read your post about how whole grain/whole wheat pasta isn’t really a whole lot better than regular pasta).”

Pasta and noodles can be tricky if you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy. Though some people consider Italian pasta (made from semolina flour) to be a low glycemic index food, in my experience frequent pasta consumption will start the scale moving slowly upward.

I love pasta, but eat it sparingly.

Luckily I have found a noodle substitute that I absolutely adore, and it’s even faster than boiling water.

Although I was shocked at how delicious this turned out, I was even more amazed at how easy it was to prepare. All you need is some summer squash, a vegetable peeler and a bowl (optional). Cook the noodles by quickly sautéing them with a little olive oil and Kosher salt.

You can use any sauce you like. I modified the simple tomato sauce recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.

Summer Squash Pasta & Simple Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 summer squash such as zucchini
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium fresh tomato
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ~10 leaves fresh basil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

First run your garlic through a garlic press and place into a small bowl or cup. Add 1 tbsp warm water to the garlic, stir and set aside.

Next drain your tomatoes and reserve the liquid. Dice your fresh tomato into half inch cubes.

Chop your basil. Leaves such as mint and basil are easiest to cut if you chiffonade them by stacking the leaves on top of each other and rolling them lengthwise like a cigarette. From there they are easy to cut into thin strips.

In a pan heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and add the garlic. Cook until fragrant but not brown, about one minute. Add the canned tomatoes and simmer until sauce starts to thicken, about 8 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, peel squash as shown in the video. Saute the squash ribbons in olive oil on medium heat. Sprinkle with salt and sauté for no more than 2 minutes. Do not allow them to brown or soften. Noodles should be brightly colored and al dente. Remove from pan and set aside.

When sauce starts to thicken, add fresh tomatoes and basil. Add some reserved tomato liquid if it becomes too thick to work with. Cook sauce another 3 minutes or so and salt to taste.

Toss your sauce with squash noodles and serve immediately.

How else do you like to eat squash pasta?

This post and video are pretty old, but this is still one of my all-time favorite recipes. Originally published July 29, 2009.

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Klamath River Spicy Pickled Green Beans

by | Aug 24, 2011
Pickling Green Beans

Pickling Green Beans

The first time I really appreciated the art of pickling was at Slow Food Nation here in SF back in 2008. I thought a pickle was a pickle, but when I tasted the variety, complexity and depth of pickled vegetables at the SFN Taste Pavilion, I realized how naive I had been.

This weekend I tweeted out that we were pickling some green beans and several people asked for the recipe. Though this is my first pickling experiment we are using a well-tested family recipe, so it should be good. It sure looks good!

The pickling process takes 45 days, but green bean season will be over by then so I figured it would be best to post the recipe now for whomever wants to try it.

A few notes on successful pickling:

  • Though pickles have rather high acid levels, botulism is still a risk. Be careful to use sterile materials, and be sure to follow the protocol exactly.
  • You can get mason jars for canning at any cookware store or order them online.
  • The Exploratorium Science of Cooking page has more awesome pickling tips.

Klamath River Spicy Pickled Green Beans

Makes 4 pints

Pickled Beans

Pickled Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs green beans (blue lake is best)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 heads fresh dill (approx. 4 heads per tied bundle)
  • 1/4 c. salt
  • 2-1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 2-1/2 c. water

In each pint jar, put in the following:

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 head fresh dill
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Vertically pack each pint jar with green beans until fairly packed (1/2 inch from the top).

In a pot bring to a boil the brine (salt, white vinegar, and water). Pour over the beans (1/4 inch from the top). Seal jars with lids and rings.

Place jars in a boiling bath of hot water for at least 10 minutes. Carefully remove jars and let sit until cool.

Store 45 days before eating.

Thanks to Kevin Rose for sharing his dad’s recipe. Originally published August 16, 2010.

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Perfect Summer Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

by | Aug 15, 2011
Bruschetta

Bruschetta

Bruschetta was the first sophisticated dish I could really make. That’s probably because it doesn’t require any cooking and is entirely dependent on the quality of your ingredients. Find some good ripe tomatoes, a decent baguette and you’re in business.

For this recipe I used the abundance of spectacular tomatoes I found this weekend at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I chose one big striped heirloom tomato, several dry-farmed early girls and half a basket of mixed cherry (red) and sungold (orange) baby tomatoes. It doesn’t matter much what varieties you choose, just make sure they are ripe and have good flavor.

Bruschetta Ingredients

Bruschetta Ingredients

The next essential ingredient is a good baguette. I bought sour and Italian baguettes from Acme Bread Co. To turn your bruschetta from good to amazing, be sure to brush your bread slices with olive oil and lightly toast them in the oven.

For this recipe I added a diced roasted pepper, but feel free to get creative with your ingredients. Chunks of fresh mozzarella are a great addition, especially if you are having a hard time choosing between bruschetta and caprese salad.

This recipe is the perfect summer snack and can be served as a starter, side dish or brought to a potluck (keep bread and topping separate until you arrive).

Summer Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. diced summer tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, worked through garlic press
  • 1/4 c. good quality extra-virgin olive oil

    Roasting Pepper

    Roasting Pepper

  • juice of half lemon
  • 8-10 basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
  • paprika, to taste (optional)
  • good sea salt, to taste
  • red bell pepper, fire roasted (optional)
  • splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • sour baguette, sliced into 1/2 in. discs at an angle

If you are roasting a pepper, start by turning on a burner and placing the pepper on top. Blacken the skin evenly by using tongs to turn periodically. When the pepper is completely blackened, remove from flame and allow to cool. Scrape off blackened skin with a dull knife or fork, remove seeds, dice and set aside.

Bruschetta Mix

Bruschetta Mix

In the meantime preheat oven to 325 F and slice bread.

Combine first 9 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Some people add sugar, but I prefer to add a splash of balsamic vinegar if I want a little more sweetness. Paprika is also optional, but I find it adds a nice, subtle complexity. Don’t be shy with your sea salt in this recipe. Allow mixture to marinate briefly, stirring occasionally.

Olive Oil on Baguette

Olive Oil on Baguette

Next brush your baguette slices on one side with olive oil and place in warm oven. Toast for 6-10 minutes. Monitor carefully and do not allow to burn.

Place baguette slices on your serving plate and heap marinated tomatoes on top. Add extra small spoonfuls of juice on top of the mixture to add flavor and soften bread.

Serve immediately and crack the champagne.

What do you add to your bruschetta?

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Healthy Pasta Substitute: Chickpeas (with recipe)

by | Sep 29, 2010
Chickpea Puttanesca

Chickpea Puttanesca

I’m generally not a big noodle fan. Homemade fresh pasta is great, but I rarely go through the trouble to make it myself. Also, pasta isn’t particularly healthy and I’m happy to keep it as a special occasion food.

But sauce is a different story. I love a chunky summer tomato puttanesca sauce. In the past I have made a big batch, put the first serving on rigatoni, then used the rest on whatever I happened to have in the fridge over the next few days. I’ve tried it on brown rice and quinoa (neither is particularly good), but one day all I had was some chickpeas I made in the pressure cooker.

This changed everything.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a perfect match to a thick Italian red sauce. At this point I actually prefer my puttanesca on chickpeas rather than pasta. And I feel way better after eating it. This is also a wonderful substitution if you are sensitive to gluten.

I doubt chickpeas would hold up as well with all sauces, but I think red sauces are safe. My guess is lighter sauces that rely more on the distinct flavor of pasta would prove disappointing. Pesto might be nice, but probably as more of a side dish than a main course.

This is a new version of my puttanesca recipe. In a pinch you can substitute a 28oz can of diced tomatoes for fresh ones.

Chickpea Puttanesca

(serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes (Early Girl or San Marzano are best), diced
  • 8 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2-3 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas

If you’re starting with dry chickpeas, soak 1 cup (or more) dry beans overnight. Cook in pressure cooker until tender ~20 min, or boil covered in a pot (~1 hr). The rest of the cooking takes about 20 minutes, so adjust accordingly. You can make these a day or two ahead as well.

Press or finely mince garlic and soak it in 1 tbsp of water in a small cup or bowl. Let sit 5-10 minutes.

Heat a large pan on medium and add 2 tbsp olive oil. When the olive oil swirls easily in the pan add anchovies, garlic mixture and chili flakes. Stir continuously until garlic just begins to brown, about 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and simmer.

Allow tomatoes to cook, stirring occasionally. If the tomatoes begin sticking to the bottom of the pan, add 1/4 cup water to thin the sauce. You may need to do this several times, depending on your tomatoes. When the tomatoes begin to soften, use a wooden spoon to crush them a bit in the pan to create smaller chunks.

After sauce has simmered about 12-15 minutes toss in capers, olives, and parsley. Mix to combine. I tossed in some excellent olive oil at this point to brighten it up. (Don’t bother with this if you only have cheap olive oil.)

Pepper is a nice addition, but salt is probably not necessary because of the anchovies.

Drain chickpeas and scoop about 1/2 cup into a bowl. Remember that chickpeas are much more filling than pasta, so you will likely need less than you think. Spoon over sauce generously. Serve immediately.

You may also enjoy Better Than Pasta Subtitutes: Summer Squash Noodle Recipe and Video

Have you tried beans as a pasta substitute?

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Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

by | Sep 15, 2010
Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Last weekend I bought some amazing, gnarly looking chantenay carrots from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market. When I found them at Tierra Vegetables they were just begging me to turn them into soup. I rose to the challenge, but first I had a few problems to solve.

Usually when I eat or make carrot soup it is in one of two styles. It can come either curried, warm and spicy, or gingered with hints of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. While I love these soups, they feel a little too much like fall and winter for me to get excited about them when summer in SF is just starting.

I didn’t want a soup that is warm and wintery, I wanted a carrot soup that is bright and summery.

To achieve this I started with carrot and ginger, but add a twist. Rather than spicing the soup with cinnamon and other fall flavors I added tumeric and a few Thai chili peppers to give it color, flavor and some heat. Then I brightened it up with lemon juice and preserved lemons. The soup is finished with crème fraîche, scallions, ginger flowers and lemon-scented olive oil.

To my delight this soup turned out amazing and unlike anything I had ever tasted. And it was exactly what I wanted. If you don’t have preserved lemons, I’m sure zest would produce a similar effect. Likewise, you can swap a serrano pepper for the Thai peppers and sour cream for crème fraîche. Ginger flowers and lemon oil are just bonus.

To blend the soup I used my new Cuisinart immersion blender (aka hand or stick blender), and I was very pleased with the result. I’m really happy about this because the Cuisinart is half the price of the Braun blender I used to use.

You can make the soup in a regular blender if you do not have an immersion blender.

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 3 chantenay carrots or 5-6 regular carrots, peeled and cut into half inch slices
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated
  • 2-3 Thai chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped and seeded (optional)
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 qt vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 lemon juiced (and zest if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp preserved lemon strips
  • Crème fraîche
  • Scallions
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • salt to taste

Heat butter or oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot and add onions. Saute until they become translucent then add the carrots, half the ginger, peppers and tumeric and cook until carrots are tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, lower the heat.

When the carrots are soft add broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until the carrots are very tender and can easily be cut with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat, add the rest of the ginger and preserved lemons and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add water as needed to thin the soup. I ended up adding 2 full cups.

If you are using a regular blender, be very very careful when blending hot liquids. Only fill the blender half full and blend in batches, holding the lid down with a kitchen towel. I’ve had many steaming soups explode and burn me, and it is not fun. That’s why I love my hand blender.

At this point you can filter the soup through a fine mesh strainer if you like, but I prefer to keep all the fiber in the soup and simply blend it very well. The texture is rich and silky this way, but will be thinner if you filter it.

Whisk in lemon juice and adjust salt to taste. Ladle hot soup into a bowl and garnish with crème fraîche, scallions and lemon oil.

This makes a fairly large batch of soup. However, carrot soup freezes extraordinarily well so feel free to freeze a couple pints for later. The soup will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

What is your favorite way to make carrot soup?

Originally published Sept 7, 2009.

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Oops, I Forgot Corn Season!

by | Oct 19, 2008

Everyone knows that we here in San Francisco often get branded as elitist.

My first thought when I heard this was, “Great!” Who doesn’t want to be considered the best of the best? I personally love arugula (the latest symbol of elitism) and happily enjoyed it all summer as it was tossed around with contempt on the presidential campaign trail (I hope they added olive oil and vinegar too!).

But there actually is a problem with elitism. Sometimes we get so caught up in what is excellent that we forget about some simple pleasures in life that are branded less favorably. I sadly and apologetically admit that I have succumbed to this weakness. I am embarrassed to say it, but this summer I forgot about corn.

The problem is that corn is usually a four letter word synonymous with unhealthy foods.
As you are probably aware, government subsidies have resulted in massive corn over-production. Consequently, virtually all of the processed (i.e., really really bad for you) food in America is made from corn.
Corn is an especially bad word to local organic farmers, desperate to grow something different in America. What all of this boils down to is that there is very little corn available at San Francisco’s proudly elitist Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, even during corn season.
I realized the omission only last week when I found a beautiful pile of corn at my neighborhood corner store (Valencia Farmers Market). I bought a few ears, but according to my calendar October is almost over. At best, corn will only have a couple more weeks before it disappears.
To help make amends, I present this simple corn succotash recipe:
Ingredients:
  • 1 cipollini onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 ear of sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup frozen edamame (soy beans) or lima beans
  • 1/2 cup frozen petite peas
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 handful of cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

The corn I bought was so sweet that it was delicious even raw. My recipe highlights its natural sweetness by making corn the centerpiece of the dish and keeping the cooking time short.

To remove the kernels from the cob, shuck the corn then hold it top-end down in a large bowl. Keep the corn upright by using the bottom end of the cob (pointing upward) as a handle. Use a sharp knife to cut down the sides of the corn, repeatedly turning the cob and cutting until all the kernels are off. The advantage of using a bowl over a plate or cutting board: I had only one rogue kernel escape onto the counter during this entire process. Preparing corn this way takes less than 2 minutes.

Next dice the onion and bell pepper. Cipollini onions are small and flat, almost donut shaped. They are sweeter than normal yellow onions and are relatively easy to find. Heat olive oil on medium heat until it swirls easily in the pan. Add onions and peppers and cook until they just start to brown, about 5 minutes.

Next add the edamame and stir. When no more ice is visible in the pan, add the peas and mix. (For the record, I don’t measure out any of these ingredient myself. My ingredients list gives ballpark numbers for those of you who prefer detailed instructions, but feel free to ad lib as you see fit.) Continue to cook until no more ice is visible again, then add the fresh corn. Stir and season liberally with sea salt and black pepper.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally. After about 2 minutes, clear a space in the bottom of the pan and add the garlic. When the garlic becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds), mix it with the other ingredients. After another minute add the spinach and cilantro and stir again. When the spinach has wilted, your meal is ready.

Two Meals

This dish was so delicious I cooked it two nights in a row. The first night (pictured), I made it how I described above then served it on a bed of brown rice and topped it with half an avocado (salt and pepper).


The second night I roasted the red pepper instead of cooking it with the onion, and added it with the corn. Lacking spinach this second time, I used extra peas and cilantro to put more green on my plate. I did not use rice, and instead of avocado I topped it with half a can of salmon.

Canned salmon can be really gross (slimy and full of bones), so be careful if you plan to buy it. That being said, I really enjoy Henry and Lisa’s canned wild Alaskan pink salmon (thanks to Emily for the tip). It comes in a box (pictured) and is available at Whole Foods. Canned salmon is better for you (but more expensive) than canned tuna because of its lower mercury content. Smoked salmon would probably be good on this dish as well.

If I had to pick I would say dinner #2 was better, but both were fantastic. It is hard to beat those roasted peppers though.

Comments and admonishments for my corn neglect are welcomed.

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Lunch: Office Envy

by | Oct 7, 2008

Several weeks ago I held a poll asking which meal people found the most difficult to keep healthy: breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner. The overwhelming response was lunch.

To me this implies that the vast majority of you do not bring your lunch to work, but opt to eat out every day instead. Indeed, it is extremely difficult (and boring) to be healthy if you rely on restaurants for your meals. But if you want to eat healthy you must find a way to bring your lunch, and eating out needs to be the exception rather than the rule.

I have heard several reasons why people choose to eat out for lunch, and would love for you to share your own personal reasons in this week’s poll. But so far, the most common reason I hear is peer pressure. People do not want to be the odd man out at the office. No one wants to be left alone at their desk with a salad, even if the alternative is a Big Mac and trans fat-laden fries. And it isn’t any better to try and choke down a soggy McDonald’s salad while everyone else enjoys their delicious salt and cholesterol.

I completely sympathize with these arguments and at first glance I can see how they seem almost impossible to overcome. But in my experience, it does not have to be this way. Believe it or not, most people agree about what food looks really delicious, and bright, colorful and fresh is always appealing. So as you can imagine, the first step to successfully bringing your lunch to work on a regular basis is to make sure you pack food you actually want to eat. An added bonus is that if you sit down with a meal that looks and smells amazing, it is likely your friends at work will not only respect your decision, but may even be a little jealous. Instead of being the poor sucker on a diet, you will be the new lunch trend-setter!

A couple years ago I started a mini revolution at work. Giant café sandwiches and personal pizzas were the norm in the lunch room. Knowing this was not an option for me, I started dropping by my local market on my way in to work on Monday morning. I would pick up a bag of spinach, a basket of cherry tomatoes, an avocado or two, zucchini or cucumber, red bell pepper, a bag of walnuts, some kind of salad dressing and fruit. This adds maybe 5-10 minutes to my commute (shopping can also be done on weekends). My office kitchen is stocked with plates, forks and knives, but clearly it would not be hard to bring these items in if necessary. A large tupperware is particularly nice to have around because it makes your lunch portable.

Chopping the vegetables and fruit onto a bed of spinach or mixed greens takes about 5 minutes, and within that time I am invariably bombarded with compliments and praise from envious people microwaving their Healthy Choice entrees. Since I started this approach fresh, seasonal salads have become a common sight in our lunch room, and a trend has grown toward healthier, homemade lunches in general. Importantly, this new lunch culture started without an ounce of resentment or exclusion from the former pizza crowd.

One obvious barrier to this method would be if your office lacks a refrigerator. But even then all is not lost. Cut up vegetables are perfectly stable in a tupperware for several hours without refrigeration so long as they are not dressed. I keep bottles of California olive oil (Trader Joe’s) and balsamic vinegar (TJ’s again) at my desk, along with walnuts and salt and pepper grinders.

If you feel the need for a more substantial lunch, brown rice, boiled eggs and smoked salmon are fantastic additions to any salad. Adding fruits like figs, berries, pears or grapes help create a gourmet “wow factor” that elevates your lunch from good to exceptional.

Alternatively, one could make a smaller salad and use it as a supplement to a purchased lunch. For example, one of those giant sandwiches can last you two days if you fill up first with seasonal greens.

I admit that I buy my lunch at least once every week or two, but on those days it is a choice that I make and it is never because healthy eating is too difficult or elusive. If you hope to hit your 60th birthday in full stride, healthy eating must become at least a semi-automatic part of your routine.

Consider that you eat lunch at work 5 days a week. I say that makes for a fantastic opportunity to streamline your healthstyle.

What do you think, does that really sound so bad?

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