Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Healthy Breakfast to Make in Advance!

I love to have a bowl of piping-hot oatmeal on weekend mornings. While many simply cook their rolled oats in water, with a pinch of salt, it’s a little too restrained for my taste. But, don’t get me wrong -- I want to keep my oatmeal healthy. I’ll add a tablespoon of coconut oil, for both a creamy mouth-feel and also the metabolism boosting qualities, along with some flavoring (like vanilla or almond extracts, depending on my taste), fresh berries or a banana, toasted nuts, and a garnish of shredded coconut. It’s a delicious breakfast that is so much better than plain-Jane oatmeal.


During the busy work week, however, I don’t have time to make (and enjoy) this weekend favorite. So, I’ve come up with this easy and healthy baked oatmeal recipe. I’ve subbed steel-cut oats for the classic rolled oats for added fiber and a nutty bite. The addition of frozen fruit adds a sweet touch that is right for breakfast (I’m toying with the idea of making this a savory oatmeal, with the addition of pesto and sundried tomatoes). Cooled and cut into bars, it’s a healthy breakfast that I can eat on the go without feeling guilty.

Baked Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Cherries
As published on The Daily Meal

8 1/4 ounces steel-cut oats
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon maple syrup, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 ounces frozen cherries (you can also use another fruit or berry, like raspberry or blueberry)
Toasted walnuts, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan, add the oats and cover with water by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer (alternatively, you can soak your oats overnight covered by an equal amount of water.

Meanwhile, combine coconut oil, eggs, water, and milk in a large bowl and whisk well. Add spices, vanilla, syrup, and salt. Add the oats and stir well to combine.

Lightly grease a 1 1/2-2 quart glass baking pan with 1 1/2-inch sides. Add the cherries and then the oatmeal. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until top is nearly set and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool until warm. Cut and serve. Alternatively, let the oatmeal cool completely then cut into single servings. Wrap in plastic wrap or layered in a glass storage container and freeze for breakfasts later in the week!

To serve heat until warmed through. Top with toasted walnuts and maple syrup.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

For Cocktails, or Dinner: Salmon Cakes with Honey Mustard Aioli

I used to not be a big seafood fan. Yes, I love my salmon and tuna (especially raw, a la sushi). Swordfish, line-caught from a dayboat out of Westport, Ma.? Of course! Even good old cod, out of New Bedford, baked with a miso-soy glaze. But lobster? Crab? Shrimp? No thanks.

In terms of sea animals living in a shell, scallops were the only thing that got my approval. I still remember (albeit vaguely), one of the first meals my mom cooked in our new kitchen in our home in New Canaan (circa 1993?). Scallops. I ate them, but wasn't the greatest fan.

Over the years, I learned to love scallops (summering near New Bedford, where there are some of the best scallops I've ever had), especially wrapped in bacon. But, even after a couple of summers in Maine, the lobster never clicked.

In 1999, I had my first whole lobster, bib, lemon, butter and all. I was on Appledore Island, just off the Maine coast. Steamed lobsters didn't get any better than that. I ate it (as there was no other option), but it wasn't love at first sight. At my uncle's wedding (in which the dinner after the rehersal was a lobster bake), I again opted for a land animal.

In 2002, I had my first soft-shell crab -- my first foray into the work of crab -- and was smitten, but stayed away until recently. I was at my dear friend Susanna's aunt's home in Stamford. Her mother was Latin, and this girl knows how to cook! She served this unforgettable crab salad in freshly-fried plantain cups (Susanna, I'm still dying for that recipe). It was a turning point: I think I love crab.

I explored this newly discovered love for over the years, ordering crabcakes when they were the star of the menu, even getting soft-shell crab in my sushi. But, it wasn't until culinary school, when I became closely intimate with lobsters and shrimp (and their innards) that I discovered the culprit behind all this: shrimp (and their nasty-smelling shells). 

I now eat crab and lobster with gusto (especially when out of the shell, bound with a light dressing or mayo; I'm currently eagerly awaiting lobster season so I can continue to sample Manhattan's lobster rolls...), and crabcakes will always remain a favorite, especially when bound with only a trace of breadcrumbs.

While I have yet to purchase crabmeat to attempt to crabcakes at home (why I don't know; possibly since I haven't been to Chelsea Market to get lump Jonah crab meat since September?!), I recently applied the technique to salmon. SO good; so easy (and not smelly; I promise!). 

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish a week for health benefits. Salmon is a perfect choice:  it is high in inflammation-battling omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, an excellent source of protein, and a rich source of vitamin E. 

But, cooking salmon on a busy weeknight doesn't have to take forever. Take these salmon cakes; they're easy to make, quick-cooking, and taste delicious. Plus, they're a perfect alternative for non-meat eaters to hamburgers, and are also easy to tote for packed lunches the next day.

As published on The Daily Meal

For the salmon: 
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried herb seasoning, preferably one with scallions, chives, shallots, and green pepper
1 pound skinless salmon fillets, pin bones removed, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of paprika
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, preferably panko
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the honey mustard aioli:
2 tablespoons honey mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

For the salmon:
Combine all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Shape into two patties. 

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the patties and cook 2–3 minutes per side. 

For the honey mustard aioli:
Combine the ingredients together in a small bowl and mix well.

To serve, plate the warm salmon cakes atop a simple green salad, and garnish with the aioli. Serve immediately.

Serves 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Storage: Let salmon cakes cool before refrigerating. Can be refrigerated for up to three days.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Macaron Day!

Do you know what tomorrow is, other than Sunday (ha!)?

Macaron Day!

A variety of pastisseries around Manhattan will be giving out free macarons tomorrow and tomorrow only. Click here to see which ones.

I might have to make a stop off at Jacques Torres and Almondine near me, and Francois Payard in NYC. Tres delicieux!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spinach Salad, Greek-Style

What is it about sweet and salty garnishes that makes eating your greens so easy? Think pear and blue cheese salads, greens with gorgonzola dolce and a drizzle of balsamico, even a warm spinach salad with a bacon-cider dressing.

While these combinations might not be so virtuous, they're delicious.

About a month ago, I had my first taste of halloumi – a Greek cheese made of goat and sheep’s milk - what an experience. Perfectly seared and served piping hot with a drizzle of honey, I ate it atop torn pieces of a fresh-baked tender flatbread. So good.

While I was initially hesitant about ordering a dish made solely of cheese, I became instantly enamored with this Greek cheese. The flavor is strong and salty, very different from other cheeses I’ve eaten before. It also has a higher melting point, allowing you to grill or fry slices without it losing its integrity.

Halloumi is a wonderful and flavorful addition to many salads. I’ve paired the salty cheese with juicy pears and a light maple vinaigrette in this salad that is good to serve whenever you can get your hands on a ripe pear. Feel free to swap out the spinach for another green, or try a different fruit -- in the summer, I’d pair cubes of halloumi with sun-ripened watermelon and fresh baby arugula.

As published on The Daily Meal

1 shallot, finely minced
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
1/3 cup maple syrup
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup grapeseed oil, plus more for sautéing 
One 8-ounce package Halloumi One 6-ounce package baby spinach
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 ripe pear, preferably Comice
Honey, for garnish
Herbes de Provence or fresh rosemary or thyme, for garnish

In a 2-cup Ball jar, combine the shallot, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad. Right before tossing the salad, add the oil and shake well to homogenize. Test for seasoning.

Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Slice halloumi and dry off slices. Add a little oil to the pan, and then add the slices. Sear about 5 minutes per side, until golden.

Finely chop spinach and toss with dressing. Thinly slice pear and lay in a circle on a plate. Add salad on top, then halloumi slices and pine nuts. Drizzle with a bit of honey and herbs and serve.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Healthy and Easy Dinner: Sweet Potato Frittata

Do you find yourself relying on takeout or a pre-made entree (you know, the salad bar at Whole Foods... ) on weeknights?

Cooking dinner for one (or two) at home doesn't have to take more than 30 minutes. Plus, when you make dinner at home, the meal is often more nutritious (read: lower in calories) than something you might pickup or have delivered.

This is one of my favorite go-to weeknight meals when I'm pressed for time and looking for something that will satisfy me -- and that is relatively healthy.

A frittata is an easy dish that is perfect for breakfast, or even dinner when served with a side salad. Inspired by my favorite combination of sweet potatoes, caramelized onions, and pungent blue cheese, this combination of eggs with roasted sweet potatoes and creamy Fontina cheese is surprisingly delicious and incredibly easy to make.

As published by The Daily Meal

3 sweet potatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
Olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
3 eggs
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 ounces Fontina cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the sweet potatoes with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until tender, about 40 minutes.

While the potatoes roast, crack the eggs and mix well. Add the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper.

Once the potatoes are done, remove them and preheat the broiler to high.

In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the roasted potatoes and toss quickly. Pour in the egg mixture and stir so that the eggs begin to coat the potatoes. Add the cheese.

Turn up the heat to medium and cook until 2/3 of the frittata is set. Broil in the oven until the top is set, and the edges begin to puff. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Where to Eat in Northern Manhattan

Photo by Paul Lomax via

Last weekend, I brunched with a couple of good friends after running in a 5k race in Northern Manhattan. As the race started at 168th Street and progressed up through Fort Tryon Park, I knew exactly where to enjoy a wonderful meal (featuring lots of fresh produce and hand-crafted treats and cocktails) afterwards: New Leaf Restaurant & Bar.

I love how all proceeds benefit New York Restoration Project, a non-profit organization founded by Bette Midler that has saved over 50 community gardens from development since it's founding over 15 years ago. The stone cottage-like building is also located in the most magical spot: under the tall trees adjacent to the Heather Garden in Fort Tryon Park.

To learn more about what we ate -- and New Leaf -- check out my friend Amanda's post. I can't wait to go back and try their Blackberry Margarita (and enjoy another Sour Cherry Scone. Oh my goodness, heavenly...).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Love wine? Check out Plonk!

My latest obsession? Plonk Wine Merchants!

For all you wine-lovers out there, they specialize in high-quality, low-production wines that are also reasonably-priced!

I'm lusting after their Malbecs and Zinfandels. You?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Simply French: Spinach and Gruyère Soufflé

For even the most experienced cooks, making a soufflé can be intimidating. I’ve begun to play around with soufflé recipes, each time remembering a couple of tricks to ensure my soufflé always rises.

To begin, you make a white roux, cooking melted butter with flour until the raw scent of the flour is gone. As long as you keep your heat on medium or medium-high, and watch and stir your roux, it won’t burn. To the roux, you add seasonings and milk to create the béchamel. The key here is to essentially bring this mixture to a boil, constantly stirring the bottom so the roux dissolves into the milk, which will cause the mixture to thicken. How thick is thick? You want the mixture to stop moving clockwise when you stop stirring it clockwise.

I also don’t use cream of tartar when whipping my egg whites. Instead, I always make sure there are no traces of egg yolk in my whites, and that I whip them to stiff peaks (I still raise the bowl upside down with a little shake to test this). Once I fold the whites together with the cheese, I’m very gentle, taking care to not deflate my whites, or the soufflé won’t rise.

This is a simple soufflé recipe that you can put on the table within an hour. Serve with a hearty green salad with beets, or simply alone for a light appetizer. Just remember to serve it immediately, before it begins to fall as it cools.

Spinach and Gruyère Soufflé
As published on The Daily Meal

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing molds
2 tablespoons flour, plus more for dusting in molds
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper
A couple pinches of cayenne
A couple pinches of nutmeg
6 egg yolks
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1 cup frozen and defrosted spinach
6 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter the insides of four 2-cup soufflé dishes and dust with flour to coat.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Cook until the raw flour smell is gone. Off the heat, add the milk, salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg and whisk well, making sure to get all the flour off the bottom of the pan. Bring back to the heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is nicely thick and smooth. 

Remove from heat and add in egg yolks, spinach, and cheese and combine well.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.

Whisk 1/4 of the whites into the cheese mixture to lighten, and then add the rest of the cheese mixture to the whites and gently fold in the cheese mixture (it will not be fully homogenous; don’t deflate your whites, as your soufflé won’t rise). Pour into soufflé dishes and place in the oven, turning the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the soufflés have risen and the tops are no longer wobbly (if you’re using a 4-cup dish, your soufflé will need about 30 minutes).

Serve immediately.

Serves 4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Quick Dinner: Pork Chop Milanese

One of my favorite dishes to order when dining out at an Italian restaurant, in addition to pasta, is veal milanese. Okay, it's not so good for you, but it's full of protein and is delightfully topped with an arugula and tomato salad (aka, healthy). So, when I'm craving something comforting, it's a lot better than any slice of bread with olive oil or ice cream. I can still remember the one Cava Wine Bar and Restaurant in New Canaan, CT serves. Sole Ristorante also makes a good one. Sadly, the chop Sant Ambroeus in New York City serves up was good, but just wasn't quite the same as the ones in Fairfield County. Il Cantinori, however? Cava and Sole, watch out. Frank and his team make something amazing!

Whether you're cooking for your kids, or just yourself, this versatile dish can be dressed up or down, depending on your needs. For picky kids, choose pork cutlets, or butterfly a boneless chop and serve with warm applesauce. For a dressier version, possibly for a dinner party, pound a bone-in chop to about 1/2-inch thickness and serve with a simple spinach and sun-dried tomato salad, tossed with a Champagne vinaigrette.

Pork Chop Milanese
As published on The Daily Meal

4 boneless pork chops, about 1 1/2 pounds, trimmed and butterflied
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably panko
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons canola oil

Season pork chops with salt and pepper. 

In a small bowl (that will fit a pork chop), combine breadcrumbs, cayenne pepper, and onion powder. Season well with salt and pepper and mix well.

Place beaten egg in another bowl of the same size.

Starting with the egg, dip each chop, making sure to fully coat it in egg and then let the excess drip off. Then dip the chop in the breadcrumbs, pressing down on both sides to fully coat the chop. Place chop on a clean plate and repeat until all chops are dredged.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of the oil and heat until shimmering. Add two chops and cook until the crumbs are golden, about 3-4 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining two chops.

Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Healthy Breakfast: Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oats

My typical Saturday morning routine usually involves sleeping in 'til 9, a big wet cappuccino in my Austrian Gmunder Keramik mug, and then off to a gym class downstairs or a run outside.

Rolling out of bed this morning, that was the "plan," yet, I wasn't feeling either...

With a full schedule ahead (cleaning, a work event at Columbus Circle, errands, a big party to get ready for), I wasn't sure what to do. But, feeling foggy and lightheaded, breakfast would certainly have to come first.

I love oatmeal, especially on the weekends, made with coconut oil, cinnamon, dried fruit, and a hit of maple syrup. Yet, for some reason unbeknownst to me (um, bad timing?), my local Whole Foods -- and yes, I live in N.Y.C. and there are Whole Foods all over -- seemed to be out of organic rolled oats. So, two weekends ago, I decided to jump off the deep end -- we're trying steel-cut oats!

I'd heard many wonderful things about them and was especially interested in their nutty texture. But, I wasn't sure if I wanted to wait 30-40 minutes for my oatmeal fix when hungry.

Though I was very sleepy Saturday morning, I had an ah-ha moment when waiting for my espresso machine's steam wand to warm up -- why not start the oatmeal now and by the time I'd want it in 45 minutes, it'd be ready. So, I did just that. Smart girl!

While I usually make oatmeal with half milk and half water, I upped the coconut oil content when toasting my steel-cut oats and used only water when cooking them, later supplementing the grains with the soaking water that my dried plums and figs were plumping in. Add a bunch of cinnamon, unsweetened coconut flakes, and pure Vermont maple syrup, and voila. I am a happy girl. Enjoy!

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup steel-cut oats
1 cup water
6 pieces dried fruit (I used 4 plums and 2 figs)
1/3 cup boiling water
Salt, to taste
Vanilla, to taste
Banana, for serving
Unsweetened coconut flakes, for serving
Nuts, for garnish
Cinnamon, for garnish
Maple syrup, to taste

Add coconut oil to a small saucepan. Add the oats and toast over medium-high heat until nutty-scented and very aromatic. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stir well, then re-cover and cook 10 minutes longer or until the water has been mostly absorbed but the grains don't stick to the pot (ah, the secret of coconut oil).

While the oats cook, add the boiled water to your dried fruit and let it sit. Once the oats have cooked, add the fruit and the soaking liquid. Bring to a boil and season with salt and vanilla. Reduce to medium-low and cook, covered, until the rest of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes longer (be sure to stir every couple of minutes so your oats are creamy).

Cut up banana and place in your serving bowl. Once the oatmeal is ready, add the oatmeal to the bowl and garnish with coconut, nuts, lots of cinnamon, and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup. Then it's time to combine it all together -- and eat!

Serves 1

Thursday, March 3, 2011

News from The New York Times

Many of you know I have a real love for coconut oil when cooking. I use it to make my oatmeal, cook my brown rice, saute my vegetables, in green smoothies -- AND in delicious chocolate brownies. My mom introduced me to this wonderful oil (which is also good for your skin and thought to boost your metabolism) over 10 years ago with Thomas Keller's recipe for almond sables with chocolate crunch, and I later became obsessed with serving it, topped with pumpkin butter, on toast. The rest is history...

Melissa Clark of The New York Times recently interviewed me for an article on coconut oil, and it debuted yesterday!
Read on and learn something new about this healthy (yes, contrary to popular thought) oil here.