Sunday, October 9, 2011

you're so granola

According to Wikipedia, the original granola recipe was conceived in 1894, consisted of graham flour and was equivalent to oversized Grape Nuts. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I speak evocatively over my love for Grape Nuts, my favorite cereal. Reading more about granola, Wiki tells me that the"food and name were revived in the 1960s, and fruits and nuts were added to it to make it a health food that was popular with the hippie movement. At the time, several people claim to have revived or re-invented granola." Without digging into the later controversy and struggle over granola patents and bragging rights, I attempted to re-invent the crunchy, hippie food that's jumped onto the mainstream.

I love granola. I love fruit, I love fruit and granola. I don't eat much of the stuff because it's typically loaded with oils I prefer not to eat, and a lot of sugar. But I'm somewhat of a Grape Nuts-loving hippie and I like a good challenge--doesn't granola seem like it would be easy to make for yourself?
Turns out, it is, and it's a recipe that I could learn to love: you can add anything you want to it!

I based mine off this New York Times recipe. The recipe below includes my modifications. I made this at home in California and would most likely try a tweak using agave and coconut oil back in NYC.
Olive Oil Granola

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped, pitted dates
3/4 chopped nuts: walnuts, almonds, cashews
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup dried, flake coconut

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, maple syrup, honey, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes. Halfway through, remove, add dried fruit and coconut, stir for consistency and return to oven for 25 minutes or until oats become slightly crunchy and golden brown. Remove, cool and store!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

summer is really over! salad

I love my food policy class. It's small, the other students are knowledgeable and smart, and the pile of assigned reading is pleasurable to dig into, not a chore. This week, we're covering the locavore movement and the transportation cost of food, a topic much more controversial in scope than I had realized. Marion Nestle, a leading food policy advocate and nutritionist writes that her preferred buying philosophy when food shopping looks like this:

local + organic > local > organic > conventional + local > conventional

Buying local and organic is easy if you can journey to the farmer's market or food co-op for every one of your food purchases. I can't. But, I did buy beets and corn from my very tiny farmer's market...about three weeks ago. Because seasonal eating is tied to eating local, I had to finally use those ears of corn and what better time than after getting two rude awakenings: school started and it's getting cold!

Here's a simple salad to bid farewell to summer, summer produce, and sun!

2 ears sweet corn corn, husked & de-kerneled
1 large beefsteak tomato
2 cups spinach, chopped
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
1jalapeno, diced
handful fresh chives, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of one lime
to add: black beans, sauteed tofu, quinoa/wheatberries

Easy: Toss all ingredients aside from olive oil and lime juice, which serve as a simple dressing. To de-kernel the corn cobs, I like to hold cut off the ends of the cobs, giving me a resting place on a cutting board to slice downward with a knife, "shaving" the kernels off. Whisk lime juice and olive oil, dress. Salt and pepper to taste. Add in beans or tofu for protein and serve over grains.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

back to school: coconut oil + rain running

Tomorrow morning I'll have my first grad school class. I'll put on a backpack unnecessarily, get on the train with a cup of coffee and most likely listen to a professor read off a syllabus. I am excited about buying some nice understated notebooks. Really, I am looking forward to starting this program, and fittingly, my first class is all about food, food, food and changing the system.

My plan for today was to end my summer with a seasonably appropriate meal, using the sweet corn and beets I have in my fridge in a big old warm weather send-off meal.

It's been raining ceaselessly all day, and I didn't want sweet corn. Looking out at the huge pond forming on our roof, I wanted to use the vat of coconut oil I have, purchased on a whim after reading this New York Times article extolling it earlier this year--yes, I went for the 28 oz jar having never used it before. The coconut oil is interesting, it comes in solid form and melts at 78 degrees.

Coconut-Scented Sweet Potato-Chickpea Bake

1 1/2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 tablespoons agave syrup or maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg.
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (pretty spicy!)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat.
2. In a bowl, mixed together coconut oil, syrup, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne.
3. Coat potatoes and chickpeas in coconut oil mixture separately.
4. Spread the potatoes in an even layer on a large baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 1 hour. With about 20 minutes left, add chickpeas to the baking sheet and continue roasting.

I made this recipe from the article, but of course made my own variations on a theme. I served it with some brown rice and lightly steamed kale drizzled with tahini and balsamic. The apartment smelled heavenly and beachy while the potatoes and chickpeas were roasting.  Perfect fuel for the seven mile rain run I went for after. That's all for this school night.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

burning the crop

When I embarked on my summer of "freedom" in the city--AKA, my summer off from full-time work before beginning two grueling years of graduate school, I planned to construct a full-blown rooftop garden on our humble Brooklyn roof. Nevermind the fact that I know nothing about gardening and have only kept one non-succulent plant alive successfully. I tacked this on to the list of summer goals, along with: do yoga, paint, find furniture and avoid full-time work. Let's say I attacked some of these goals with more ferocity than others.

When I attended the inaugural weekend of Smorgasburg, I found myself at the Brooklyn Grange booth (a full-blown rooftop farm!), buying a tiny, potted pepper plant. I wasn't sure what kind of pepper it was, and sure it might be cheating not to start from seed, but I bought it and planted it on my roof. And it grew, and produced a bounty. Yes, this summer I harvested one sizeable, non descript pepper. To give myself credit, I got going with some chives, tasty basil, tomato and swiss chard. 

 It took me some time to pick the pepper. Was it done growing? What would I do with it? I felt like I had to do the little guy justice. So, I burned him to a crisp. Roasted, rather, and incorporated him into a delicious spicy hummus. 

Try it with your homegrown, or purchased nondescript peppers.

Spicy Roasted Pepper Hummus
  • 2 cups chickpeas, preferably dried and cooked, save 1/4 cup liquid
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 2-4 cloves roasted garlic, minced **
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, or 3 small, roasted and sliced **
  • juice of 2 lemons, or 5 tbsp bottled lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Optional: few squirts hot sauce
First, place chickpeas (without extra liquid), peppers and garlic cloves in food processor, grinding and scraping down the sides until smooth paste forms. It's okay if there are some pepper chunks left in there. Next, add lemon juice, salt and about half of the chickpea liquid. Process for about 20-30 seconds, scrape down the sides and then add the tahini, process, then add olive oil. Process. At this point, make a judgement call about the consistency of your hummus. If you prefer a thicker dip, you might be able to call it good. If you prefer a creamier dip, add more chickpea liquid or olive oil and keep going! If interested in upping the spiciness, add in a few squirts of hot sauce (I like Sriracha or Tapatio), which will also change the color of the dip.

**A note on roasting: Go ahead and roast your peppers and garlic cloves at the same time. You don't have to roast the garlic, but I find that it lends a sweeter, less tangy taste. Simply wrap a bulb of garlic in foil and place on a baking sheet in your oven at 400 for about 20 minutes. I just placed the peppers directly onto the baking sheet. They just become nice and charred. Wait for them to cool, unwrap the garlic, peel and mince. Simply slice the pepper. You could also follow these more involved instructions for roasting garlic.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

don't run and photograph

I lose things. Alright, I lose and break things. This isn’t just a casual habit, I could quickly tick off a list of notable items lost or permanently damaged in the past two or three years that would include 3 iPods, a relatively new Macbook, a wallet, backpack, multiple sets of keys, a pair of running shoes….

Rehashing this list is painful, but I’ve yet to learn my lesson. I’ve had friends kindly spout calming philosophies to me, like “things are things.” But I really like some of my things!

Because I’ve lost one too many iPods, kindly leaving them on planes for others to enjoy, I now run with my iPhone in hand for music and GPS mapping. It’s a little heavier than I’d like, but it does the trick until I decide I’m once again responsible enough to invest in a new (final?) iPod.

Carrying the clunky phone on runs does have a benefit: I get to take picture breaks. Touring the city on foot means I run into a lot of interesting graffiti, awesome sunsets, unexpected views and funny scenes. Here are some snapshots. What do you see when you run?

Brooklyn Bridge and South Manhattan skyline

Creepy Brooklyn Navy Yard at night

Running over 110 in downtown Los Angeles

Alien graffiti in Williamsburg

Yarned-bike in DUMBO

Technicality: gifted this bouquet by a construction worker while on a run (no joke!)      

Statues on a wall on the northern tip of Greenpoint

Monday, August 8, 2011

jamming, take 1 + 2

It's definitely summer in New York City. Living sans air conditioning and holding out on buying a fan until late July meant that I've suffered long sweaty, mosquito-filled nights like a martyr. Mostly, I was too lazy and stubborn to head to Home Depot for a window fan. Living in Brooklyn and away from my go-to NYC grocer stores,  I've started buying fruit occasionally from the "fruit cart" guys that sell everyday next to the subway. I have some hang ups about buying their stuff because I imagine that it's covered in exhaust and know that it's not organic and probably not local. I do like supporting them, and can't resist buying pints of bluberries or strawberries when they're $1.50. Ah, summer.

So, homemade jam was made. I perused recipes for simple jam, sometimes called a "conserve" made without difficult canning methods and without using pectin. The first time, I made a plain strawberry version, throwing in some ginger. The second go, I made an even better strawberry/blueberry varation. I've been putting it into morning oats and between bread with almond butter since.

Here's how:
1. 3 cups berries (I tried 2 versions, the second time mixing strawberries and blueberries)
2. 2 cups white sugar, or substitute coconut/beet sugar
3. Juice of one lemon
Optional: throw in cinnamon stick or sliced ginger for flavor, to be picked out later

Start by breaking up fruit. I like to leave larger chunks of fruit in my jam, but it is good to eat least chop strawberries in half so that natural sugars can break down. I placed everything in a big saucepan and then mashed the fruit a bit with the back of a tablespoon. 

Next, throw sugar and optional add-ins into the pot with the fruit and turn on high heat. Bring the mixture to a quick boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Without the use of pectin the jam will have a looser consistency, it won't "set" like jelly. To test, take out a spoonful after 20 minutes, let it sit until reasonably cool, and if it seems too runny, add a bit more lemon juice. While simmering, foam will appear on the top. I scraped this off. Let the jam cool, then store in a mason jar. Mine tastes good after two weeks.

This makes one small jar. To doubebatch, just keep the same fruit to sugar ratio (3:1 fruit:sugar).


Friday, August 5, 2011

i'm blogging, and eating a lot of fruit

Growing up, I woke up to a table-full of freshly chopped fruit hand cut daily by my father, who thought nothing of plucking an apple from someone else's lawn during a walk in the neighborhood. My mom chastised him, but he insisted that it would go to waste. So, now I'm the girl that  hoards produce, eating overly ripe fruit and cutting off bruises for fear of losing a piece to the trash.

I'm terrible at introductions--in person, too. I have a bad mumbling habit and a weak handshake, so I'll start this little blog appropriately- with awkward confessions about a passed-on affection for questionable produce, which should be about the right foot to start on.

This blog will follow my adventures in vegetarian eating, cooking, running, yoga and exploring New York City running around like a mad woman with too many activities in mind.

One day I might plant something on my roof, and one day I might ramble on about food policy. I'm glad you're here!