April 28, 2011

spring greens and garbanzo salad

Today I wanted to share some photos from my weekly visit to the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza greenmarket {Wednesdays on 47th between 1st and 2nd Aves}. Didn't feel like lugging the big boy to work -- I took these with my point-and-shoot.

It was a gorgeous spring day, and Lani's was even  more verdant than last week! A field day.

April 25, 2011

coconut curried mustard greens

Over the winter I tried, mostly successfully, to keep my produce shopping local. This meant my daily greens fix alternated rather predictably between the greenhouse-grown kale and collards available at the farmer's markets, with the occasional broccoli rabe, chard, and spinach making an appearance. Not a ton of variety in the green department, but actually I was surprised and happy to find locally grown leafy greens straight through the cold months this year -- just a few years ago the greenmarket produce selection was limited to root vegetables, squash, and stored apples during the January through March freeze.

April 21, 2011

Anatolian red lentil and chickpea stew

For a while I've been thinking about adding one of Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks to my kitchen bookshelf. She is, after all, the queen of Indian cooking. After paging through a well-worn copy of her World Vegetarian in the Green Gulch kitchen, I decided it was the one; I liked that it included a range of not only Indian recipes but also Middle Eastern, African, Caribbean, and more.

April 19, 2011

coconut date energy balls

I try to get to yoga most days of the week; it's my refuge from office life and the midtown Manhattan jungle. On workdays this means gearing myself up for an after-work class where the sweat might keep flowing till almost 9pm -- not always easy since that's not a naturally high-energy time of day for me. 

Having a light snack an hour or two before class helps motivate me to get to the studio instead of retreating home to watch reruns of The Office and eat Bobolink cheddar on Ryvita (which would be my natural inclination after a long day).

Thus, I am eternally searching for the perfect pre-yoga snack. Something that is energy-boosting, capable of bridging the gap between lunch and a late dinner, but not heavy or filling; a source of natural sugars accompanied by healthy fats to prevent the dreaded blood sugar spike-and-slump. Nothing packaged seems to fit the bill -- processed energy and protein bars nearly always contain soy protein isolate (the culinary equivalent of styrofoam, essentially) and refined sugars. And Larabars are a little too sweet for me. Homemade granola is a good snacking option, but I like to go grain-free before exercise since I find it easier on the stomach.

A while back, I dog-eared a recipe for coconut-date energy balls in Jessica Prentice's book Full Moon Feast. Jessica, a chef and fellow NGI alumna, is one of the worker-owners of the community-supported kitchen where I interned a couple of years ago (she also coined the term locavore and created the Local Foods Wheel -- I don't know where she finds the time! :). In Full Moon Feast she dives into the traditional agricultural and cooking practices among native populations according to the 13 lunar cycles, from Hunger Moon to Wolf Moon (my favorite is Moon When Salmon Return to Earth), concluding each chapter with recipes that correspond to that lunar period. It is a beautifully written book; if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

The energy balls sounded so good -- just a few simple, natural ingredients whizzed in the food processor, rolled up into little balls and then bathed in shredded coconut so they resemble tiny snowballs. And now that I've finally gotten around to making them (after scribbling 'make date-coconut balls!' about nineteen times in my little notebook), I can report they're very tasty, too, pleasantly less sweet than other date-coconut concoctions I've tried. A hint of citrusy brightness from lemon and orange zests makes them really special.

Dates are a rich source of natural sugars, and when paired with good fats from the coconut butter and oil, which help slow down the absorption of the sugars, supply a sustained boost of energy. The combination is satisfying but not heavy, grain-free so it's light on the digestion. Portable and a cinch to make. What's not to love? Plus they keep well, so you can make a double batch and store them in the fridge for several weeks. Besides being an ideal before-yoga treat, my night-owl Yogi says they also make a good midnight snack.

coconut date energy balls
Adapted from Full Moon Feast; makes about 20 balls 

I used Cocopura Coconut Creme in place of the coconut butter in the original recipe, which worked great, and also increased the amount of shredded coconut incorporated into the date-coconut mixture. Jessica's recipe calls for dipping the balls in melted coconut oil before rolling them in the shredded coconut. I found this wasn't necessary as the mixture was still warm from the food processor and sticky enough for the coconut to adhere, but if you find the coconut isn't adhering well you might want to try that trick.

1-1/2 cups dates, pitted
1/2 cup coconut creme or coconut butter, softened (place jar in a bowl of warm water for 5 to 10 minutes)
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, plus more for rolling the balls

Pulse the pitted dates in a food processor until a paste forms. Add the coconut creme and citrus zests. Pulse until combined. With the processor running, slowly pour in the melted coconut oil through the tube.

Add 1/3 cup shredded coconut and pulse again until combined. While the mixture is still warm, roll into balls and then roll the balls in shredded coconut.

Place the balls on a plate and refrigerate until firm, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a tighly sealed container and store in the fridge or a cool, dry place. Will keep for about a month.

April 11, 2011

baked sweet potato fries with furikake

Sweet potato fries. Close to perfect with just a sprinkling of sea salt, and even better with a scattering of furikake, a Japanese condiment made from sesame seeds and nori. I was reading the April issue of Food and Wine on my flight back from New Orleans last week when a photo of sweet potato fries with furikake caught my eye -- they serve them at the Bar at the Peninsula in Chicago. The F+W recipe called for using store-bought furikake, but I decided to make my own simply by adding some ground nori to the gomasio I made recently (prepared versions of furikake usually also contain dried fish, salt, sugar, and sometimes MSG).

April 2, 2011

green gulch gomasio

As Jessica deciphered from my cryptic previous post, the verdant gulch I recently returned from is the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach, California. Green Gulch is one of three centers -- together with City Center and Tassajara -- comprising the San Francisco Zen Center, founded in 1969 by Shunryo Suzuki Roshi, a Japanese Soto Zen Buddhist priest. About an hour’s drive northwest of San Francisco, the center is reached via a steep and scenic descent from highway 1 along a winding (as in, every turn is a hairpin) road, a ride made especially exciting by a shuttle-bus driver playing cowboy behind the wheel.