Put some pizzazz into your next fundraiser (or book club gathering, or baby shower) by hosting a classy, authentic English High Tea. Picture a table set with fine linen, beautiful antique cups and saucers, and a spread fit for a Queen! Your guests will enjoy locally sourced blends of teas, a variety of finger sandwiches (on organic bread from a local bakery); miniature scones paired with delicious jams, clotted cream and lemon curd; little lettuce cups with curried chicken salad; and a beautiful spread of buttery short breads and little tea cakes. Add some bubbly to that, and your guests will gladly whip out the checkbook . . . now doesn’t that sound better than the proverbial rubber chicken?
Shhhhh, they’re back . . . my very favorite winter fruit. Persimmons are showing up again at farmers markets and the shelves of Dan’s Produce and Alameda Natural Grocery. I’m always amazed how many people don’t know what they are or what to do with them. Like any fruit, persimmons come in a number of varieties. Best known locally are the hachiya and fuyu cultivars. Hachiya are eaten only when very soft – in order to avoid the astringency present in the unripe fruit – and can be spooned right out of the skin like pudding. Fuyu are more like apples, eaten while still firm, and they’re sweet and crunchy. Look for fruit with good coloring and a bit of give. If very firm, allow to ripen on the windowsill or inside a paper bag.
Fuyu persimmons can be part of a fruit salad, they make great snacks (with a handful of nuts), add them to a green salad in place of tomatoes (when tomatoes are less than fabulous) — or serve them with cheese and your favorite cold cuts to jazz up an antipasto platter.
With corporate holiday gatherings right around the corner, a great way to show employee appreciation is to make allowances for people’s dietary preferences and multi-cultural backgrounds. A great menu is one that delights and surprises with options that offer variety and take special dietary needs into consideration (e.g. gluten free, vegan, vegetarian).
While many holiday offerings can pack on the calories, how about offering a menu that is healthy AND delicious! Try it and you will like it.
Like many comfort foods, this simple dessert does not require a trip to a fancy store but makes use of what is on hand: day-old bread, apples and butter. Cut bread into fine slices and brown in butter. Remove from pan and add sliced apples, a little sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon. Cook until apples are softened, then add toasted bread to soak up the liquids. Serve with a dollop of cream.
Empanadas, dim sum, pasties, piroshky…the list goes on. Many cuisines feature tasty little packages of meat and vegetables wrapped in dough–the perfect finger food–which can be served as an appetizer or with a salad for a light meal. Our vegan empanada is a new favorite from The Vegetarian Gourmet, served with chimichurri sauce. The filling has a nice little bite to it, made of a mix of caramelized onion, yams, black beans, cilantro, garlic and Field Road Mexican chipotle sausage. Our chimichurri sauce has lots of parsley, mint, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, salt and a splash of red wine vinegar.
A newly “discovered” grain, freekeh, has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisines for centuries. If you’re gluten-free, this one’s not for you, as it is created from green durum wheat. The grains are harvested while still green and roasted over an open fire, to burn off the straw and chaff. What remains is a tasty wheat berry with a slightly smoky flavor. Available as a cracked grain from Bob’s Red Mill, it can also be found as a whole grain in most Middle Eastern markets.
High in protein and fiber, as well as iron, calcium and zinc, freekeh has been called the new “supergrain”. It cooks in about 20 minutes and can be eaten in place of rice, as a cereal, or added to a salad. I love the combination of cooked grains or legumes with raw veggies, olive oil, white balsamic and spices. Try a drizzle of pomegranate molasses for a tangy treat.
. . . go for the fast food joint, here are some recommendations from Dr. Andrew Weil:
Go for the salad bar; with any luck, it will include beans, cheeses or nuts
Avoid fried foods (haha, I know!)
Skip the soda
Grabbing a quick meal in unfamiliar surroundings can be a challenge. Whenever possible, you’re better off at a grocery store than a fast food restaurant. For a quick pick-me-up, grab some nuts, yogurt, protein smoothie, fresh fruit . . . you get the point. As they say, it’s not rocket science.
If you planted summer squash in your garden, chances are, the harvest always exceeds your capacity for consumption. Best policy is to pick the squash when they’re small and tasty, instead of trying for immortalization in the Guinness Book of World Records. So what can you do with all that excess produce? In addition to freezing them or foisting them on your neighbors, summer squash also make excellent pickles. Just go online and find a recipe to your liking. Fill them in jars and give them away as Holiday gifts.
. . . don’t forget those pesky vegetarian friends. Here is a quick and easy dish to serve with your summer BBQ; it’s vegan, high in protein and DELISH!
Try this easy recipe for salsa or a side dish:
3 c cooked black beans
1 c fresh or frozen organic corn
1 medium ripe tomato
1 medium mango
1 small chili, seeded & minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ bunch cilantro
Salt, lime juice
Rinse the cooked black beans to get rid of the dark cooking liquid until water runs clear. Cut the tomato into small cubes, cut the mango into small cubes, salt, and carefully fold into the drained beans. And here’s a fabulous trick: add the corn while still frozen – it will keep the dish cold for a long time on a hot day! Mince the chili and garlic and fold into the beans. Fold in chopped cilantro and cubed avocado. Season to taste with lime juice and salt. Serves 8-10 as a side dish.
. . . it tastes good! Here’s an appetizer spread we created for the Oakland Ballet: skewers of brie & apple with maple syrup, and dates filled with mascarpone and gorgonzola. And a little garnish of finely chopped green onion . . .