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Winners. (BELCAMPO MEAT CO.)

May 4, 2015
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On November 3 2014, The New Yorker released it’s annual food issue, thick with articles about how we react to, and with, food. An especially inspiring piece by Dana Goodyear featured California’s farm to fork Belcampo Meat Company, a series of pastures, slaughterhouses, butcher shops and restaurants with an impressively high standard. The article recently won the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award (category: Profile), and really put into perspective the way a company can choose its methods to support its ideals, if creatively run.

Last fall was my first visit to the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles and, in a taco frenzy, I almost dismissed another butcher counter full of mustaches, muscles and beautiful fonts. But the meat was too gorgeous to ignore. I admired the cuts (pictured above), purchased some jerky, contemplated a tote bag and moved on to more tacos, unaware of the fascinating back story.
Upon return to NYC, I sat down with the food issue that was meant for in-flight reading and, coincidentally, read all about the meat I was gazing upon so lovingly. As it turns out, the most fascinating thing about Belcampo, the focus of Dana Goodyear‘s article, is the company’s CEO Anya Fernald. The story goes on to detail her fierce dedication to teaching consumers the value of eating well-raised animals, despite the significantly higher prices. There are no plans of compromising the pristine practices of Belcampo, which are outlined in depth on their own site. Instead, she and the company will wait for the rest of the country to catch up, hopefully rejecting factory farming for good.

 
Belcampo supports the idea of raising animals in a pre-industrial fashion. Allowing them to graze a variety of plants, and letting them live a bit longer (over two years), benefits the animal, the farmland and the taste of the product. Consumers also reap the benefits of a more nourishing meal on the plate.
Nutritional advantages of grass-fed beef include increased levels of Vitamin E, antioxidant-rich carotenoids and conjugated linolenic acid with fewer calories and less fat. And although beef can’t compare to salmon in its level of essential fatty acid Omega 3, it’s still 5 times higher in sustainably raised animals than in cows from the feedlot, as reported by Ms. Goodyear.
 
To navigate the soaring costs of beef, especially in the midst of the devastating drought California is facing, Anya Fernald suggests eating smaller portions, (another pre-industrial concept) or by trying other animals such as sheep, rabbit or “drought resistant” goat.
Better consideration for the origins of the food we eat is the way of the near future, for the health of the planet and every body that inhabits it. Sustainable butcher shops are starting to be more prominent and grocery stores are beginning to offer better choices in sustainably raised meat and poultry. But it is obvious that Belcampo is in the lead. They hold themselves responsible for the whole supply chain, consciously making every decision for the greater good. They are determined to put meat back on the table, making a hearty, well-raised steak something good for your health, as opposed to the stigma of the last decade or two when red meat was, as recalled by Anya Fernald, “like smoking a cigarette –a guilty pleasure”.
 
*Lucky for us east coasters we can have a Belcampo experience via their webstore. Gorgeous selection of frozen meats and dry goods.
** yes, my vacation photos include a meat counter. yes.
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Healthify. (COCONUT OAT FLAX MUFFINS)

April 1, 2015

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Certain foods are great vehicles for healthy ingredients, and muffins are one. It’s truly a case of a recipe just being a guide. You can switch around grains and flours and fruits and sweeteners to make a healthier snack that is customized especially for you and yours to devour. I took these muffins from Gold Medal Flour‘s website and messed with them. I find that product websites often have good, reliable recipes that are both healthy and -un. You can also find great starter recipes at Bob’s Redmill and King Arthur but, my point remains, don’t be afraid to tweak!

As an example of how and what I modified, you will find my recipe below, as well as the original, for comparison. You can see that applesauce has replaced half of the oil and I brought the sugar levels down all around. I swapped out half of the chocolate chips with raisins, and I omitted chocolate altogether from the topping. Some of the additions happened to be on hand (bran, oat flour, flax, etc.) and some, like coconut, my fam just enjoys. Gold Medal didn’t do a bad job here! Original recipe calls for whole wheat flour and oats, which is a perfectly acceptable health-supportive combo. Even the amount of fat in the original recipe is kept at a minimum, with just a bit of oil and some yogurt. But I went ahead and kept on pushing.

COCONUT OAT FLAX BRAN RAISIN CHOCOLATE CHIP YOGURT MUFFINS
(makes 12 large muffins)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup oat flour

1/4 cup wheat bran

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons apple sauce

scant 1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup raisins

Streusel Topping

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 tablespoons flax seeds

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, bran, coconut, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, applesauce, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and yogurt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined. Fold in (1/2 cup) chocolate chips and raisins.
  • Divide batter evenly among greased muffins cups.
  •  Streusel: In a small bowl, stir together the struesel ingredients with a fork until well coated in the oil. Place a heaping tablespoon of streusel over the batter in the muffin cups.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes or until muffins start to turn golden brown and streusel is crisp. Let muffins cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to cool completely.Original recipe:Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Greek Yogurt Muffins
    1 cup Gold Medal™ whole wheat flour
    1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
    1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 cup canola oil
    1/2 cup dark brown sugar
    2 large eggs
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1cup Yoplait® Greek vanilla yogurt
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    Streusel
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    1/3 cup dark brown sugar
    1/2 cup old fashioned oats
    1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
 Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and Greek yogurt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined. Fold in 1 cup chocolate chips.
Divide batter evenly among greased muffins cups, filling each one almost full.
In a small bowl, stir together the struesel ingredients with a fork until well coated in the oil. Place a heaping tablespoon of streusel over the batter in the muffin cups.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until muffins start to turn golden brown and streusel is crisp. Let muffins cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely or enjoy.
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Handed down. (EMPANADAS)

March 18, 2015

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I was introduced to empanadas as a late night drunken treat in the deepest depths of Queens. The version we ate were greasy and deep fried, stuffed with ground up meat and some questionable, grizzly bits. Perfect drinking food. I will confess that Janine and I called them “Keebleros” because, in our boozy haze, we couldn’t remember what they were really called. We thought this was hilarious.

Empanadas vary greatly from country to country and are interpreted further still, by region. Colombia and Venezula deep fry their stuffed creations while Chile and Argentina bake theirs in the oven. In general, empanadas can be cooked either way and filled with anything; meat, cheese, egg, spinach, fruit, shrimp or squash, in infinite combinations. A basic (if not totally traditional) empanada is anything that tastes good wrapped in dough, which is almost anything. The key to success is pretty simple. As long as the filling you have created tastes great, your empanadas will be voraciously devoured by anyone you offer them to. Take into consideration, the doughy exterior will tone down the filling, so it’s important that whatever you are stuffing in is seasoned well.

Years after my experience with Keebleros, I befriend the lovely Erica and become close with her family who have relocated to New York from the San Juan province of Argentina. I am introduced to a whole new genre of amazing tastes. Chimichurri! Alfajores! Maté! Malbec! When Christmas rolls around, among the many delicious foods served, one of the family’s traditions is a heaping platter of freshly baked empanadas; stuffed with beef (picadillo), a green olive and a small chunk of hard-boiled egg. Guests are encouraged to eat as many as they possibly can …and to compete while doing it! I couldn’t quite beat out brother, but I held my own, foregoing other dishes so that more empanadas could fit.

Then the learning began. There were years that we helped punch the homemade dough* into submission, years that we browned kilo after kilo of beef, and many lessons about twisting the edges just right. Often times, Erica would arrive at my family’s holiday party with a heaping platter just for us, and it quickly became a ritual anticipated by all.

Because of these awesome memories –and sheer deliciousness– I have adapted the very same empanadas sanjuaninas as one of my favorite celebrational foods too. They are a perfect self-contained party dish. Easy to transport (I should know, I used to fill my pockets with them), and effortless to serve. Heat them if you have the means, but I have never seen empanadas refused neither cold nor at room temp. It is obvious, just by looking, that they are made with love. And so, the excitement continues to generate.

EMPANADAS DE PICADILLO

(Makes about 10 empanadas using 5-inch dough circles)

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

a few dashes of hot sauce (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped

10 small pimento-stuffed green olives

10 Goya Discos para empanadas (1 package), thawed

1 egg, whisked in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Start warming a skillet over medium heat, add half of the oil and the beef. Wait for some sizzling sounds and occasionally break up the beef with a spoon as it cooks. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. When the meat is thoroughly browned, lift it from the skillet with a slotted spoon and put aside in a big bowl.
  • Wipe out the skillet and warm the second tablespoon of oil. Brown the onions (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic and the next five spices until toasted and fragrant, another 5 minutes. Add a small splash of oil if dry.
  • Stir the onion mixture into the ground beef, combining well. Add hot sauce, if using. This is picadillo! Taste for seasoning. If needed add salt, pepper, etc.
  • Lay the dough circles on a work surface and brush half of each with the raw egg mixture.
  • Place a mound of picadillo (about three heaping tablespoons) on each circle. Put one olive and a piece of egg with the meat on each round.
  • Fold the dough into a half-moon shape over the meat-olive-egg pile and press to seal. Gather up small sections from the edge where the two sides meet and pinch them together in one-inch intervals, further sealing the dough. Another option is to push the two sides together by pressing down to ‘crimp’ them with a fork. Repeat with all meat/circles.
  • Place finished empanadas on a baking sheet and brush the tops with the remaining raw egg mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the exterior is golden and crisped.

* I am a busy lady, (frozen) Goya discos are my secret weapon, and puff pastry could be a last-resort substitute. But pleeease feel free to make your own dough.

Here lies post from way back, it talks about a sweet-savory experiment:

RICOTTA AND FIG EMPANADAS

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Five more food photos. (BY ORI)

February 24, 2015

 

 

 

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Homemade pizza with ricotta and sauteed kale.

Salmon tartare, creme fraiche, arugula, buckwheat corn pancake.

Salmon tartare, creme fraiche, arugula, buckwheat corn pancake.

Smokey butternut squash soup with parmesan tuiles and pepitas

Smokey butternut squash soup with parmesan tuiles and pepitas

Spices for mulled wine.

Spices for mulled wine.

Hamachi crudo.

Hamachi crudo.

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Not missing a pig. (VEGETARIAN SOPA VERDE)

February 17, 2015

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As the chill seeps through the crack under the door, our heaviest defense is in our soup pot. I am a soup person. In addition to being the perfect immune-boost, to me it is the best comfort food. And though it is quaint to work all day on a home cooked meal, I would secretly trade slow cooking for fast any day of the week. This shouldn’t mean that your food isn’t awesome. There are plenty of express meals that will keep the whole family happy, satisfied and fit, and come flying out of the kitchen in under 20 minutes.

Soups are especially good for this. It’s the ultimate one-pot meal. My auto correct wanted to write ‘unlimited’ instead of ‘ultimate’ and it is that too. A soup can be as decadent or as lean as the cook wishes. Many classic soups have a base of salt pork, hock, belly or some other flavorful cut that appreciates in taste with a long cooking time. I definitely support this style but when you want to get dinner out a bit faster or cook a little leaner, the pig can easily be
omitted from any recipe. The trick is to make up for that missing savoriness by building flavors as you go. Starting with garlic, cumin, red pepper flakes or onions with a little extra caramelization and finishing with a touch vinegar, olive oil or sea salt can really bring a soup to the next level. The recipe below features smoked paprika, or pimenton de la vera. It has a deep smokey spice akin to chorizo, without the fat and calories.

In this recipe, a take on a Sopa Verde, the ingredients are really flexible. The greens can be swapped out for any hearty leaf like chard, turnip greens, escarole, mustard greens or spinach (which will wilt straight into the finished soup –no cooking required*). You can also use any kind of broth or even water. Another way to get a little extra flavor if using plain water is a splash of white wine or beer.

 

VEGETARIAN SOPA VERDE

6 main course-sized servings

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups stock/water
1 pound white or sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups kale and collards, washed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
2 cans (15oz, each) white beans (great northern or cannellini)
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
a few dashes hot sauce (optional)
Kosher salt
Black pepper to taste

cilantro leaves for garnish

• Warm the oil and butter (if using) in a large saucepan. Add the
onions with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sauté on low heat until soft and
translucent, about 5 minutes.
• Stir in smoked paprika and garlic.
• Pour in the 8 cups of liquid, raise heat.
• When it begins to simmer, add sweet potatoes.
• Bring the soup up to a boil and add the greens (except if using
spinach*). Boil for 5 minutes. Reduce to simmer, add beans.
• When the sweet potatoes are cooked through and greens are tender, remove from heat. (If using spinach add at this stage, stir until wilted*)
• Add another tablespoon of salt, mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of red
wine vinegar.
•Taste!
• Adjust the flavor to your liking with another spoon of vinegar,
salt, black pepper and/or hot sauce, if using.
• Serve the soup warm with fresh cilantro leaves and a few slices of
jalapeño if you love heat.

Like most soups and stews, the taste gets better as it sits, especially the next day! MMMMmmmm…leftovers!

HLE_pimenton

 

HLE_greens

 

HLE_sweetpotato

This is a great base recipe with plenty of possibilities. Personalizations can be beans, croutons, pumpkin seeds, dried chilies, mushrooms, tortilla strips and on and on.

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Five food photos. (BY ORI)

February 1, 2015
Raw beets with peanut-sesame hummus and fried chickpeas.

Beet rounds with peanut-sesame hummus and fried chickpeas.

Chicken with 40 cloves (of garlic) ready for a slow cooking.

Chicken with 40 cloves (of garlic) seared and ready for a slow cooking.

Homemade pizza: half shrimp, half ham and artichoke.

Homemade pizza: half shrimp, half ham and artichoke.

Caviar for breakfast (with tiny shots of gin).

Caviar for breakfast (with tiny shots of gin).

Chopped salad, buttermilk dressing… healthy times.

Chopped salad, dill buttermilk dressing… healthy times.

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Delicate balance. (POTATO FRITTATA)

January 26, 2015

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Lots of resolutions here. First, I resolve to ignore my blog less. As life is a bombardment of experiences, and I am always hungry for them, the time to stop and write about the thing I love to do most (cook!) escapes me frequently. And because I love to tell stories about cooking/eating adventures I need to practice it more. Hopefully these stories, inspired by experiences, help people to cook/eat well or better! I promise to exercise these meta things.

I have been meaning to write about frittatas for a long time, ever since my friend runningwithreilly and I made a frittata-making video. It’s weird. Why I am whispering at the frittata, we may never know.

Normally in an an 9 inch skillet I would use seven or eight eggs for a thickish round, full of chunked vegetables, cheese, greens or all three. This very different, authentically Italian version, inspired by a chef/colleague‘s mama, uses a mere three eggs and paper thin potatoes fried in the skillet before pouring the few seasoned eggs over. A refinement! I like my own method as well, it yields a hearty product, but this one is nice in many ways. It’s one of those five-ingredient recipes that achieves harmony. Each ingredient is used with a light hand, and together they are solid.

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It would be great with martinis. Or maybe wrapped around the straw of a Bloody.

 

MAMA’S FRITTATA

serves 4

1 potato

1 tablespoon cooking oil

small pat of butter

3 eggs

2 tablespoons milk or water

1 small clove of garlic, minced

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon of your favorite green herb, chopped

  • Warm the oil and butter in a 9 or 10 inch skillet (preferably cast iron or non-stick). Meanwhile slice the potato thinly on a mandolin or with a sharp knife. Place the potatoes in the skillet and allow to cook on both sides until brown and crisp in places but still pliable.
  • Whisk the eggs in a small bowl with the milk or water, garlic and a bit of salt and pepper. When potatoes are cooked, pour the eggs over and swirl around in the pan so they coat it evenly.
  • Sprinkle the herbs over.
  • When the bottom of the frittata is set, place a dinner plate over the skillet. With one hand holding the plate in place, use the other hand to flip the skillet (along with the plate) to invert the frittata onto the plate. The cooked side should be up and runny side down.
  • Slide the frittata back into the skillet (keeping runny side down) to finish cooking the bottom .*
  • Transfer the finished product to a plate or cutting board, slice and serve drizzled with some olive oil.

*if your cookware will allow high heat (i.e. cast iron) the alternative to the janky flip is to place the skillet under the broiler after the bottom has set to finish cooking the top with the direct heat. Just be sure to keep a very close eye on it and take it out when just firm.

 

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