Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chocolate-Dipped Frozen Bananas

I like chocolate.  I love chocolate, actually.  So, finding new ways to apply chocolate to something and then eating it, makes my world turn.  This comes from this month's, (April, 2009), Bon Appetit.  As soon as I finished reading this recipe, I already had chocolate melting away in the pot.

These 'nanas are so easy to make, it's actually ideal for those with little ones looking for some fun in the kitchen.  Since the chocolate and the pot are both quite hot, my advise would be to have different "toppings" and let your 'lil chef dip the just-coated bananas (a grown up job), and decorate  themselves.  But if you are like me, just looking for a healthy chocolate fix, then my only suggestion is to make enough to share!

Frozen Banana Bites
Bon Appetit, April 2009.

2 cups bittersweet chocolate
2 TBLS canola oil
Assorted toppings to coat bananas (try crushed chocolate cookies, toffee bits, chopped salted peanuts, toasted shredded coconut, etc) *Chopped peanuts are shown here.
3 ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices.

Stir chocolate and oil in heavy saucepan over low heat just  until smooth.  Let stand 15 minutes to cool.
Place each topping in separate shallow dish.  Line baking sheet with tin foil or parchment paper.  Using your fingers, dip 1 banana slice into chocolate.  Shake off excess chocolate.  Drop dipped banana into one topping, then transfer to baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining bananas.  Freeze until firm, about 3 hours.  Will keep in freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Move over, oatmeal...

On this cold, overcast morning, I had oatmeal on my mind.  In the way of my McCann's canister, was my forgotten jar of amaranth.  If you have never tried this darling of a grain (actually it's a seed), I would like to introduce you to the wonderfully tiny and delicious ancient food.  Used in cultures all over the world, amaranth, (an herb technically), is a powerhouse of nutrition, first used by the Aztecs, who believed it had supernatural powers and incorporated it into religious ceremonies.

The amaranth plant grows between 5 - 7 feet and has beautiful magenta flowers, or plumes.  It's an easy plant to grow - drought and heat tolerant - and the leaves are similar to spinach in both flavor and nutrition values.  

The seed, smaller than quinoa, is high in protein and iron as well as vitamin A and C.  It contains two amino acids, (lysine and methionine), rarely found in grains.  It is also high in calcium, five times more than milk, and is gluten - free.  
Cooked amaranth is 90% digestible, therefore a great food option for people recovering from illness.  For those with high blood pressure, amaranth can lower cholesterol and is high in linoleic acid.
Preparing amaranth is simple, I like it as a breakfast alternative to oatmeal and I fix it up the same way, with (almond) milk, fruit and honey.  But you could also use it in place of quinoa or brown rice, or add it to other grains for a added punch of texture and flavor.  It's sweet and malty, with a firm texture.  With a distinctive "pop", amaranth has a unique texture as it holds it's integrity after it's cooked.
You can find amaranth seed in a natural food store - as far as the leaves, check your local farmer's market.  Or even better,  grow it yourself!

Breakfast cereal:

1 cup amaranth seed
2 1/2 cups water or apple juice
pinch of sea salt

Bring liquid to boil, slowly add seeds, stirring as you pour, add salt.  Lower to simmer and cover for 18-20 minutes.  Be careful not to over cook, as seeds will become gummy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I am lucky enough to work for a family that happens to have a second home a few hours away from Los Angeles. Well, not just a home, a vineyard. Complete with a pair of sheep and lamb and lots of chickens (plus an organic garden). But it's the chickens that lay dozens of eggs that I get to bring home occasionally, when there is an over abundance. And these eggs are beautiful. They taste unlike any egg available at the market. These yolks are golden yellow, robust, just delicious.
If you happen to have a chance to buy farm fresh, local organic eggs, I beg you to bring a dozen home. You may not ever buy another egg from a supermarket again. Now, there are millions of ways to use eggs - but I want to offer you a simple breakfast. It takes longer than scrambling, or frying, but the pay off is huge and so yummy with an herb salad and piece of crusty bread.


Serves 2

4 farm fresh organic eggs
1 tbls butter
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease 2 ramekins with butter. Carefully break 2 eggs in each ramekin and place in an oven - proof dish. Fill dish with water to half the height of ramekin. Salt and pepper the eggs and place in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the whites are just set. Be careful not to over cook.
Serve in ramekin with simple herb salad and some crusty bread.

Photos by Yvette Roman Photography, 2009.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Charles Jones

I hope that I'm not doing anything terribly wrong by posting these photos out of one of my most cherished books.  They are the photographs of Charles Jones, an Englishman born in 1866.  Little is known of him, or his work, as he never left any notes or writings to explain his still - life photography of plants, fruits, flowers and vegetables.  
This is such a lovely book , I wanted to share this with you and encourage you to pick it up if you are at all interested in food and/or photography.  It's a beauty of a book.

Plant Kingdoms - The Photographs of Charles Jones,  Sean Sexton, Robert Flynn Johnson, 1998.

Update: I was contacted shortly after I posted this by the author of this book, Mr. Robert Flynn Johnson. (!!)  He was very kind and glad to see this posting.  In his email, he mentioned his two other books, Anonymous, and The Face in The Lens, (Available May, 2009).   Check them out, more beautiful photography.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fried Rice

If you happen to have any left over rice, the only real way to salvage it is to fry it. I had brown rice from last nights' meal and a few sorted veggies and a couple of eggs. Amazing, since my refrigerator is generally bare on the weekends. In all of about 10 minutes, we had a lovely lunch of fried rice and arugula salad. (I love that!) Pull whatever veggies you have in the fridge and chop them up and throw into the pan. Here is a suggestion of some ingredients to throw in.

Quick Fried Rice

1 TBLS olive oil
2 cups cooked rice
2 eggs
4 - 5 cut scallions, use green tops and white base
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
1/2 cup broccoli florets
dash of shoyu or tamari (these are natural soy sauces, without any added sodium. I highly suggest it for your pantry to have on hand.)

Heat olive oil in pan on medium heat. Add rice and stir to coat rice with oil. Add any veggies and allow to heat through, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid rice from sticking.
Crack eggs in a bowl and scramble just enough to combine. Make a well in the pan by pushing rice out of the bottom. Slowly add eggs and scramble as you incorporate into the rice and veggies. Once egg is cooked, add a dash of shoyu and serve.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Almost too easy...

There are days when dinner needs to be done quickly - here's something you can do which is healthy, fun and easily manipulated to your liking.  You can do this with chicken, beef, lamb, or keep it veggie.  The basic idea is build your own gyro.  All you need to do is heat up some delicious flat bread,  make a quick cucumber salad, raita add some feta - maybe a side of hummus or baba ganoush - and dinner is done.  Want to make it even easier?  Get a rotisserie chicken from the market. 

Ideas for you gyro bar:

Kalamata or any assortment of olives
Chopped iceberg or romaine
Cucumber salad (see below)
Cucumber/Yogurt sauce , aka Raita (see below)
Plum or cherry tomatoes - halved
Good quality Feta or goats cheese
Hummus and/or baba ganoush
Flat bread, Naan or pita bread, lightly warmed.
Chicken, beef or lamb - cooked to your liking

Cucumber Salad:

2 seedless cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
pinch of oregano
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
good quality olive oil
dash of red wine or sherry vinegar

Place cucumber and onion together in a bowl, drizzle with oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce/Raita

1 cup Greek yogurt - plain
1 seedless cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
juice of 1 lime or lemon
2 radish, finely diced
salt and pepper

Combine in a bowl and chill until serving.  Keeps for 2 days.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Basil Crusted Meat Loaf with Brandy, Walnuts and Spicy Tomato Sauce

It's a slippery slope - to admit to someone that you actually like meat loaf.  It should be done with caution and only around people whom you love and trust.  (Especially if you used to be a vegan, like I was!).  It's the kind of meal that you make only for your immediate family, once it's clear that everyone approves of the concoction and only if it comes smothered in ketchup and a side of creamy mashed potatoes.  Well, I'm about to turn your world upside down and propose that you throw out that old, dated recipe and update it with this one.  (It's best to keep it to your self that the recipe calls for prunes).  But, please trust me on this, it is absolutely delicious. The basil crust and home made tomato sauce put this over the top.  I served it with a large side of sauteed kale and mustard greens, no starchy potatoes.  You will never make grandma's meat loaf again.
Note: I tried to get a good photo of this, but the combination of using an iPhone and having meat loaf as my subject, it just didn't work out!

Basil Crusted Meat Loaf with Brandy, Walnuts and Spicy Tomato Sauce
From How to Cook Meat, by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby

Serves 4- 8

1 Bunch basil - leaves only, roughly chopped
3 TBLS olive oil
4 Garlic cloves, peeled
salt and freshly cracked pepper

2 lbs ground beef, preferably grass fed.
2 tsp minced garlic
1 small onion - peeled and grated
1/2 cup walnuts -toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup prunes - pitted and roughly chopped
2 eggs
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 TBLS salt
1 tsp pepper

1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions - small dice
2 TBLS minced garlic
1 TBLS ground coriander
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine
2 cup canned Italian crushed tomatoes, with liquid
1 bay leaf
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350*

Make the crust:
1. With food processor running, feed basil, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper through the feed tube - in that order.  Form a paste - do not over blend.  Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, garlic, onion, walnuts, prunes, eggs, brandy, allspice, salt and pepper.  Mix well and shape into a loaf and place in a shallow baking dish.  Spread basil paste over the meat.  Bake for about an hour, or until juices run clear when you poke a knife through it. (About 130* with a meat thermometer).
3. While meat loaf is baking, prepare the tomato sauce.  In a large saute pan, heat oil on med high heat almost until smoking and add onions, and cook stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until they are golden.  Add garlic, coriander, cinnamon, and red pepper flakes and stir.  Add wine and stir once or twice, allow to simmer for about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer, stirring frequently until sauce has thickened to your liking, about 45 minutes.
4. Cut the meat loaf into thick slabs and serve topped with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.