Thursday, April 29, 2010

Buying seasonal and local throught the CSA program

Today I am excited; I joined a C.S.A. (Community Supported Agriculture) as i bought a share of vegetables from a New York state farm.
"My" farm: Norwich Meadows Farm has the following statement on their web site:
"No longer is there a lake, river or stream that is not contaminated with toxic agricultural chemicals. No longer is there a person who does not know someone who has cancer, or who has had a heart attack. There is only one way to reverse this destructive path and we believe we have taken the first and most important step and that was the decision to dedicate our god-given energies to the task of growing food as it was created, and to provide access to the local community for the betterment of its physical and economic health."

My summer is going to be following the crops schedule: first some greens in May, then garlic (fresh), in June, lettuces, radishes, (no peas for me.. it gives me migraines), beets, summer squashs, in August melons, watermelons, just to name a few and I can't wait to create recipes based on the crops schedule..

Monday, April 19, 2010

Killer instincts: Have you checked your ingredient lists recently?

I’m an advocate for whole, unprocessed foods. However, many of my friends inevitably turn to packaged or processed foods when they are short on time:-( Maybe they grab a frozen dinner or pizza for a quick dinner. Maybe a quick nutrition bar to satiate their hunger until they can sit down for a real meal. Or maybe, they just don’t like to cook. Whether I like it or not, packaged and processed food has become a huge part of our food industry and, as a result, a part of many of people's diets.
Although there are some brands that I hugely advocate for, there are many more that border on outright unhealthy and “scary.” Many packaged foods that seem healthy often contain fillers, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want in your diet. It is always preferable to choose products that have only a handful of ingredients, all of which should be recognizable. One test to know whether an ingredient is healthy is to ask yourself whether your grandmother would recognize it. If not, there is a good chance the ingredient is less natural food and more man-made chemical. Another good test is whether or not you can easily pronounce the ingredient. If you feel like you need a science degree to pronounce it properly, chances are the ingredient is worth avoiding.
If you do have to resort to a processed food for a snack or dinner (anything canned, packaged, etc.), try to avoid those that contain the ingredients listed in the following chart. Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, these ingredients are some of the most highly processed and least healthy of all:
Ingredient / Why it is Used / Why it is Bad
Artificial Colors
* Chemical compounds made from coal-tar derivatives to enhance color.
* Linked to allergic reactions, fatigue, asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches.
Artificial Flavorings
* Cheap chemical mixtures that mimic natural flavors.
* Linked to allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma
* Can affect enzymes, RNA and thyroid.
Artificial Sweeteners (Acesulfame-K, Aspartame, Equal®, NutraSweet®, Saccharin, Sweet’n Low®, Sucralose, Splenda® & Sorbitol)
* Highly-processed, chemically-derived, zero-calorie sweeteners found in diet foods and diet products to reduce calories per serving.
* Can negatively impact metabolism
* Some have been linked to cancer, dizziness hallucinations and headaches.
Benzoate Preservatives (BHT, BHA, TBHQ)
* Compounds that preserve fats and prevent them from becoming rancid.
* May result in hyperactivity, angiodema, asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, tumors and urticaria
* Can affect estrogen balance and levels.
Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)
* Chemical that boosts flavor in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks.
* Increases triglycerides and cholesterol
* Can damage liver, testicles, thyroid, heart and kidneys.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
* Cheap alternative to cane and beet sugar
* Sustains freshness in baked goods
* Blends easily in beverages to maintain sweetness.
* May predispose the body to turn fructose into fat
* Increases risk for Type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer
* Isn’t easily metabolized by the liver.
MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
* Flavor enhancer in restaurant food, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, soups and other foods.
* May stimulate appetite and cause headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensations and difficulty in breathing.
* An indigestible fat substitute used primarily in foods that are fried and baked.
* Inhibits absorption of some nutrients
* Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding and incontinence.
Shortening, Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Palm, Soybean and others)
* Industrially created fats used in more than 40,000 food products in the U.S.
* Cheaper than most other oils.
* Contain high levels of trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, contributing to risk of heart disease.

Have you checked your ingredient lists recently? Do they contain any of the above? Have you tried cutting some of these ingredients out?
All it takes it's to start.

Gotta love the road.. And be ready for it with curried chicken wraps

Any trip, any road for any "migraineurs" will generate the following dreadful question: what am I going to eat on the road? Those food exits are for me the exit to hell. From Starbucks to Mc Donald to Roy Rogers, Julian’s Steakhouse, Blimpie Subs, Dunkin D., the array of pizzas, fried fishes, ketchupy, un-healthy, far from fresh things called food seems to be my only choice. Always in a rush to leave for the week-end, leaving behind my world famous egg sandwich, curried chicken wraps are then the perfect solution:

1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
5 black peppercorns
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 sprig fresh thyme
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 4 ounces each
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
3 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 cup milk or heavy cream
1/2 cup green grapes, halved
freshly ground black pepper
2 large whole wheat flour tortillas
2 lettuce leaves, shredded

1. In a large saucepan combine the water, mirin, white vinegar, salt, peppercorns, and thyme. Saute the chicken breasts for 2-3 mninutes then add enough water to cover them. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let the chicken cool in the liquid.
2. To make the curried sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until it becomes very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in the milk ( or heavy cream)
3. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove it from the liquid. (Discard the liquid.) Cut the chicken into small pieces, place it in a bowl and toss it with the curried sauce and grapes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the wraps:
4. Lay the tortillas out and divide the curried chicken mixture among the tortillas. Divide the shredded lettuce among the tortillas and tightly roll each tortilla into a cylinder, ending with the seam side down.
5. Cut the wraps in half on the diagonal and serve.
Serving Size: 1 wrap

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Edible Estates: from the great lawn to the edible one

I went to the release of the new edition of Edible Estates, great book and amazing lecture exploring the possibilities for publicly growing food in the most unlikely of places - on the streets where we live, in the middle of our cities, and in particular, in New York City. They told us stories of projects, gardens and urban farms that are already in the ground as provocative examples of what New York, and other cities, might look like in the future.

The writer, Fritz Haeg is an artist, designer and initiator of edible estates, demonstrationg how people can publicly grow food where they live with a series of regional prototypes gardens established throughout the country. Since Haeg helped plant the first edible estates homeowner garden in Salina, Kansas, in 2005, a movement has taken off, expending all the way to the White House and Michelle Obama's widely documented Kitchen Garden. Over the past five years, Haeg's gardens have gained worldwide attention, and have been featured everywhere from the Martha Stewart Show to the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Many people credit Haeg with bringing the issue of substainable home gardening to a new generation of foodie and landscape sustainable activists. Haeg and his edible estates project have been nominated for the National Design Museum's 2010 national design award.
The panel included also Annie Novak, founder and director of growing chefs, a field to fork food education program, and farmer and co-founder of the eagle street rooftop farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power, is considered the leading authority in the field of urban agriculture.At growing power and in community food projects across the nation and around the worl, Allen promotes thebelief that all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious foods at all times. Using methods he has developed over a lifetime, Allen trains community members to become community farmers, assuring them a secure source of good food without regard to political or economic forces. He was invited in february 2010 to the White House to join First Lady Michelle Obama in launching "Let's Move!" her signature leadership program to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in America.
Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President, has made the mission of his office to foster a safe, affordable, and sustainable future for Manhattan - preserving a sense of neighborhood for the 1.6 million people who have made their home in this world capital of culture and commerce. In December 2009, he joined the not-for-profit JUST FOOD and New York University to hold a daylong summit attended by 1000 New Yorkers that addressed the impact of food on the health of New York City's people and our environment. They are also involved in the GO GREEN programs (Lower East Side, East Harlem). In February his office released a report entitled "FoodNYC: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System", the most comprehensive effort to date to unify and reform New York City's policies regarding the production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of food. More information can be found at
The good food revolution has started, with urban agriculture, green roofs on publics school, New York should be out of the food desert. Talk about food in your country and grow your own food!

The good food revolution

Today I am applying for a scholarship with Nora Pouillon (restaurant Chez Nora, in D.C.). Writing my essay made me think about the good food revolution that is growing around us.

We are what we eat.

Since the 70’s, the movement to bring fresh farm foods to restaurants has grown significantly and has met many successes. As a chef, it’s my obligation to use fresh, local, seasonal, organic and nutritious ingredients for my clients. As a conscious citizen, it’s my duty to promote this food movement to help people to take responsibility for their own health, and during this economic crisis, to support local small farms. The opportunity to learn from Nora Pouillon at her award-winning restaurant, at the farm (growing food is all about the soil) and in the market would be an invaluable experience for me. To be in the system, observing the “behind the scenes” process of bringing foods from farms to tables and to learn how to use these ingredients in the best way, will help me develop a greater understanding of the benefits of buying directly from local producers.
My interest in nutrition has been life long because early on I noticed a link between my migraines and what I ate. Eating well is a necessity for my wellness. For many years I worked in cosmetics and nutrition, most notably for the Weleda company (which uses biodynamic grown plants in their products). Most recently I graduated from the Chef Training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute, one of the few culinary schools that teaches organic, mostly plants-based, health-supportive cooking methods. Since graduating last year, I’ve been cooking as a personal chef for various clients, implementing healthy meals and eating habits. I am also in the process of starting a blog (, to share my experiences about eating the right foods to fight migraines and to promote lifetime commitment to nutritionally wholesome food.
This scholarship is so important to me because, although I embrace the principles of the philosophy, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to be actively and directly involved with the key players of the farm-to-table movement. In the near future I want to be able to share with my clients what I believe in with the actual experiences to back it up. Everyone has the capacity to participate: customers need to demand local grown food and this will change what is available to people. Nora Pouillon is an inspiration to me. She is a pioneer of bringing organic foods to the plates, and she has always been environmentally conscious. I deeply admire her commitment to her community: she created the first farmers market in D.C. (Fresh Farm Markets), she serves on the Amazon Conservation Team, the Environmental Film Festival, Earth Day Network and last but not least the Center for Mind Body Medicine’s “Food as Medicine” program.

This is an exciting time for me to be part of the local food movement. In my personal New York circle, I am becoming involved in the edible estates movement which promotes and supports the growth of edible gardens in people’s backyards. This hopefully will change the way America looks at its own landscaping: switching from the “great” lawn to the edible one. I would like to believe that if people would see where their food comes from, they would make better decisions and enjoy health sustainable living. The good food revolution has started.

Spring snack and spring onions

Spring is here! at least we thought! The weather is playing us and I dont know any more when to start my new detox! Any way I am using spring onions in my next recipe:
Roasted buttersquash soup and maple-glazed parsnips
First the parsnips. I love parsnips: they are sweet and make delicous treats for a mid-day snack. I love to either roast them or for a more moist texture I blanch them first then roast them. I peel them and I like to cut them in circle and remove the center. I mix olive oil and maple syrup and add spices: cayenne pepper, turmeric, a pinch of sage and coriander. Salt and pepper and I bake at 350 for half hour.

For the soup, peel the buttersquash, cut in small cubes, mix with olive oil, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and roast for 20 minutes. In a pot, heat olive oil, saute 5 minutes three spring onions (minced) and add after 3 minutes two heads of garlic. Add the roasted buttersquash, stir and add 2 to 3 cups of vegetables stock (depending of the thickness you want to achieve). Season to taste. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes. Blend. It's done! Store the left over in the freezer for one cold april day..