Fresh Eats has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 5 seconds.

If not, please visit and update your bookmarks and RSS feed.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mark Bittman's Kimchi Rice with Beef

Remember that cold I told you about in my last post? Well, it turned out to be bronchitis. I've spent the better part of three weeks coughing incessantly, which, by the way, has really helped with the healing from the back surgery. It's been a lot of fun. Ahem.

Luckily, most of that is behind me and I'm finally starting to feel pretty good again. I'm doing everything in moderation, and it's nice.

All this downtime has given me a chance to catch up on my reading. Wes recently gave me Mark Bittman's new book: The Food Matters Cook Book: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living.

I've read and enjoyed Bittman for years in the New York Times, have a couple of his earlier cookbooks, and read his original Food Matters book.

Bittman is a voice of reason in the firestorm and confusion surrounding food and food politics. A few years ago his doctor told him his blood pressure and cholesterol were high, and despite decades as an avid runner, years of living the rich, food-writer lifestyle had taken a toll.

So, he made some changes. He now eats vegan until dinnertime, most days, and has created a collection of recipes that focus mostly on vegetables, with meat in a supporting role. He's lost 35 pounds and his medical numbers are back to healthy levels.

While I don't see myself going vegan, even part-time, I can relate to the idea of eating less meat, less often. I'm comfortable with treating it more like a condiment or side dish than a main course.

And I already limit my dairy intake to yogurt and cheese, since I don't tolerate milk or certain other dairy products particularly well.

But what I like about Bittman's book is he doesn't approach it as an activist -- he doesn't insist you adopt his lifestyle, or anyone else's. It's about getting educated and making your own choices -- doing what works for you.

He offers common-sense advice, stuff we all know: reduce animal products, enjoy plants "with abandon," add more beans and whole grains, avoid processed foods and make room for treats. Don't deprive yourself, just don't go overboard.

With this in mind, the book even contains beef recipes, including this one that instantly appealed to me: Kimchi Rice with Beef. It's so simple, even a sick, injured person can manage it, and so satisfying you'll come back to it again and again.

I adapted the recipe: I used a very good quality cole slaw mix from my local independently owned market instead of a whole cabbage, added a couple of handfuls of shredded carrot, upped the ginger by a tablespoon, reduced the red chile flakes by half a tablespoon, used reduced-sodium soy sauce and added 4 extra ounces of flank steak.

I know what you're thinking, I missed the whole point by adding extra meat. But, again, it's about choices and even with the added amount, the recipe yielded about 3 ounces of meat per person. Moderation, right?

Kimchi Rice with Beef
Adapted from Mark Bittman, serves 4

12 ounces coleslaw mix (or one head of cabbage, shredded)
1 cup shredded carrots

6 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1/2 tablespoon red chile flakes
1 tablespoon sugar (I used sugar in the raw, aka Demerera sugar)
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces beef flank or skirt steak, very thinly sliced
2 cups cooked short- or long-grain brown rice

Put the cabbage and carrots in a colander and toss well with two tablespoons of salt. Let it sit over a bowl until it wilts at least two hours. Rinse the mixture well and pat dry.

Combine scallions, garlic, ginger, chile flakes sugar and soy sauce in a large bowl. Mix, then toss in cabbage. Allow to sit another two hours.

When the kimchi is ready, put a large, deep skillet over high heat until it begins to smoke, about 3-4 minutes. Swirl in 2 tablespoons of the oil, add the beef, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is seared but still pink inside, 2-3 minutes. Remove the beef from the skillet.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet, swirl it around, and begin to add the rice a bit at a time, breaking up any clumps and stirring into the oil. When all the rice is added, cook, stirring frequently, until the rice becomes nice and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Return the beef to the pan and stir in the kimchi. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Five Stages of Healing and Homemade Chicken Stock

After you've had surgery, you have a lot of time to think. Or, as some might say, over-think. I've thus decided there are five stages of healing -- stages injured people must endure before they make a full and complete recovery. These are mine. Your mileage may vary.

Stage 1: Pain. With surgery, comes pain. A lot of pain. Did I mention a lot? And with pain comes apathy, in that you really don't care much what's happening around you. Sunny and beautiful out? Oh well, the sun will rise again tomorrow. Maybe then I'll care. Your friends are headed out for a fun night on the town? Whatev. It's time for my nap. Thomas Keller wants to make a special tasting menu designed just for me? Eh, I'm really not that hungry anyway.

Stage 2: Frustration. After a while, the pain eases up enough so your mind can focus on other things. The things you like to do, whether it's cooking, running, skydiving or sailing. But here's the catch: you can't do any of it. Nope. No fun for you. You notice that everyone around you actually has a life, in which they partake in enjoyable activities and accomplish things. The world is moving, and, well, you are not. And, because you're literally not moving, you feel achy in all sorts of other places that never ached before, and this is annoying on top of frustrating.

Stage 3: Glee. This is the fun part -- when you start feeling well enough to actually DO something. You can tie your shoes without help. You choose to wear jeans instead of ratty sweats or PJs. You realize you're not planning your day around your pain meds. You shower and apply makeup just because. The mere act of stepping outside your home is a revelation.

Every bit of progress feels like a major victory -- you cheer yourself on the way we applaud for a toddler when she takes her first step or finishes his broccoli. You feel gratitude, satisfaction and a little bit giddy. In other words, you're no longer a complete hot mess. Squee!

Stage 4: Deflation. This stage tends to accompany a setback in your healing. You've overdone it, or suffered a re-injury. Me, I got hit with a horrific chest cold.

Now, I know, for most people, a cold is no big deal. They accept it like adults and move on. But, apparently for me, it involves melodrama and a hit to my pride. You see, in my mind, I have a natural and superior immunity against the rhinovirus. Uh-huh. I've been crumpled up into a grumpy, whiny, pity-partying gal who can out-hack a lifelong smoker.

Stage 5: Who knows? I'm firmly stuck in stage 4. But it'd better be good. : )

Homemade Chicken Stock

They say homemade chicken soup can cure all ills. While I think that's a gross exaggeration, I do know making your own stock will make your cooking infinitely better. If you're really organized, you'll save and freeze the carcasses and bones from your roasted and baked chickens, as well as vegetable scraps. If you're like me, you'll improvise and use what you have on hand. You'll also ask your husband to make this for you, and you'll fail to get a decent photo (see Stage 2). Resist the temptation to use old, wilted veggies -- it's just not respectful, nor will it make for a tasty stock. Freeze the stock in large or small plastic bags, label them, and use it as the base for soups, add a splash to enrich sauces, or ladle a cupful for the drama queen in your life. Trust me, you'll both feel better.


1 whole chicken, 3.5-4 pounds
2 large onions, quartered
4 large carrots, halved
4 stalks celery, halved
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
20 sprigs fresh parsley, with stems
15 sprigs fresh thyme, with stems
5 sprigs fresh basil, with stems
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon crushed peppercorns

Place all ingredients in a large stockpot over high heat. Add enough water to just cover the contents of the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 3-4 hours, skimming the scum and froth occasionally. Allow to cool slightly. Strain stock through a cheesecloth-lined colander into a large bowl or container. Refrigerate stock overnight, then remove the congealed fat. Use immediately or freeze for about three months.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Irony and Roasted Tomatoes

It's been four weeks since my back surgery, and I'm stiff, sore and tired. Exactly where I should be. The procedure, though more extensive and invasive than originally planned, went very well.

Having surgery gives a gal a lot of time to think. My mind is filled with gratitude. I'm grateful for family and friends who sent flowers, food and thoughtfully written cards. For those who called, stopped by and sent little "checking on you" notes electronically. And for my husband and mom, who have been more helpful and supportive then they could ever know.

Having surgery, aside from the pain, the limping, the endless fatigue, the wicked drug-induced side effects and the stunning shock to your system, is really pretty fascinating.

I can't remember a time in my adult life when I've had a singular focus. My job is to heal. Sounds simple, and in some ways it is. Walk a little every day. Slowly. Then, rest, relax, and rest some more. Read, rest, and read some more. Nap.

For years, my multi-tasking mind and body has yearned for time to simply slow down. And I'm grateful in more ways than I can express for this time. I can't imagine doing anything else right now.

But, honestly, it can also be frustrating. My mind wants to do things my body can't do. Yoga, for example. For years, I've wanted to start a daily morning yoga practice. Perfect timing, right? Um, nope. I mean, shouldn't I be using this time to write, create, cook, DO something? Anything?

Sorry, not happening. Because even my brain is off. Fuzzy, off-kilter, reaching for words. I've been trying to write this post for two weeks and could hardly string a sentence together.

Meantime, the rest of the world continues to move full-tilt. It feels strange, sitting on the sidelines. I feel a little left out. Yet, the thought of re-entering my old world and my former pace feels overwhelming.

And then there's my kitchen. It taunts me. I'm aching to start cooking again. I've worked full time for my entire adult life, and have never had the kind of time I'd like to devote to cooking. Now I have the time, but not the ability. Yet.

Well, I can make little things. Grilled cheese, roasted tomatoes, simple salads.

But I want to be making homemade bread. Pie crust from scratch. Braises and soups and glorious fall dishes. I want to be canning the last of the Roma tomatoes from my garden.

Not that I really even want to eat what I hypothetically could cook. My appetite is weak and my digestion is battered.

In the meantime, I've shifted into planning mode: scouring magazines, cookbooks and blogs for inspiration, developing recipes on paper, and making a list of dishes to whip up once I'm ready.

By the time I can really get cooking again, I suspect I'll be back to work and my chaotic schedule. Ironic, I know.

Roasted Tomatoes

This is hardly a recipe; it's really more of a technique. But it is a staple of my kitchen, a good way to use up some of summer's bounty, and even allows you to enjoy tomatoes in the middle of winter, when they're out of season. I add them to pastas, soups, salads, side dishes and to other vegetables. They're delicious plain. Feel free to play with the seasonings -- you can add crushed red pepper, smoked paprika, lemon zest -- the tomatoes are a blank canvas. Sorry, no photo this time -- that would require a level of organization and coordination that just doesn't exist at the moment.

1 package cherry or grape tomatoes, whole or halved, or plum tomatoes sliced medium-thick
Good olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil or thyme
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sliced tomatoes on cookie sheets lined with a Silpat, parchment paper or foil. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and combine well with hands. Arrange on the cookie sheet -- give them some room to breathe. Pop in the oven and cook until the skins are wrinkled and lightly browned and the tomatoes begin to collapse, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with fresh herbs and cheese.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Me: Under the Knife

This post isn’t about food. So if you’re looking for an early fall recipe or cheery write-up of last night’s dinner, feel free to search elsewhere.

You see, I’m getting my back fixed tomorrow. Disk surgery. A seemingly innocent injury has, over time, flared up into an angry mass of pain that can no longer withstand the rigors of everyday life.

Apparently, this disk wants out. So I will let it go.

I’ve done my homework. Sought multiple opinions. Bought cute pajamas and amassed a stack of reading material.

The logical part of me knows that this is one of those times in life when you simply need to dig up your courage and deal. So that’s what I’m doing.

The other part of me, though, cringes at the thought of a surgeon that I met for all of 30 minutes slicing into my lower back, digging into my spine and grinding off bone. Even if he is the best at what he does, a perfectionist by all accounts.

But, the day has now arrived, and at this point, I’m as prepared as I can be.

I’m ready to be better. Ready to again be the person I used to be: the one who ran half marathons, who lifted weights and joyfully practiced yoga. The one who reveled in the flowers and vegetables in my garden and could tend to them without paying for it later. The one who could pick up my three-year old nephew and carry him around, even as he wriggles away.

And, yes, the one who cooked. Because my cooking has suffered as well.

Which brings me to this blog. I’m not sure where I will take Fresh Eats for the next couple of months. It could become a blog about healing, about cooking while recovering, or it could go silent for a bit. But this much I know, I will be back, and I hope you’ll be there with me.

See you on the flip side.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

IFBC: What More is There to Say?

A pretty little burger at the IFBC food truck event

I recently returned from the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle.

If you attended the event or followed the
#IFBC Twitter stream, you already know that for many this was more than a conference. It was, at times, inspiring, exhilarating, overwhelming and exhausting. Meaningful and memorable. Humbling and hilarious.

I went to IFBC in part to meet several lovely women I “knew” online, like
Merry-Jennifer and Mardi, and along the way met so many more fabulous people.

Me, Mardi, Jen, Marie and Kelly

I went because of their inspiring speaker lineup, and found them gracious, warm and friendly. People like Dianne Jacob and Kristine Kidd, who reinforced yet again that good writing and recipe developing is at the soul of all good food blogs.

Kat Flinn (a former Michigan gal), who reminded me to use all five of my senses when I write. Shauna James Ahern, who "writes from joy" and inspires me to do the same.

Merry-Jennifer and Shauna

James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur, who after his sensational keynote, told ME that my job sounds fascinating. Can you imagine?

And, the mesmerizing
Penny De Los Santos, who, when viewing the world through her camera, follows her instincts, waits
for the moment, then snaps it with eloquence and generous spirit. Her mantra of making photos remains etched in my mind.

They reminded me yet again that writing a blog is about capturing moments. It’s not just about the food. It’s about telling stories, sharing your self and allowing your voice to emerge.

Because, you know, I also went to Seattle to try to reconcile myself with my blog: why I do it, where to go with it, and how much of my time and heart to invest in it.

This summer, I pulled back. The chaos of life interfered. This blogging thing; it’s complicated and competitive. It’s a commitment. There’s so much I still don’t know. But what I do know, and what was reinforced to me this weekend at IFBC, is right now for me the most rewarding part of blogging is the sharing, the friendships and the community.

I also know that we all need to set our terms – our personal terms, not just SEO or CPMs or price per recipe, as important as they might be – and respect them.

So, I ask myself, where do I fit into the blogosphere? And, should I care? These are questions I’d hoped to answer at IFBC, and while I’m still in the process of setting my terms, I’m gaining clarity.

I started this blog as an outlet for my creativity and anxiety when my city and world seemed to be collapsing around me. The blog became a resting point, a haven of peace.

I went in with no expectations, and gained so much. I’ve met some beautiful, talented people that I hope will be in my life for years to come. Fresh Eats has been a window of friendship and opportunity in so many ways. Where it will take me remains to be seen. And that's ok.

My goal was, and is, to share my love of fresh home cooking, and hopefully inspire others to love it too. Creating stories, making photos, building a collection of memories. Works for me.

Note: A new, redesigned version of Fresh Eats is coming soon!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bringing Order to Chaos

This post isn't really about food. In fact, for the first time in a long time, food hasn't been a primary focus in my life. Fact is, it's been the summer of chaos in my household. It's nothing earth-shattering -- really just all areas of life peaking at once. Among other things, we sent our daughter off to college, we had family in the hospital, I'm set to have back surgery in September, I've been traveling a lot, and work has been hectic.

The result is I've had very little time to plan, shop, cook and write. My meals have been simple and not particularly blog-worthy. And that was ok. Life happens.

But now, it's time to change all that. Today I'm headed to Seattle for the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC), where I'm going to meet some fellow food writers and bloggers, sit in on some great sessions and re-energize my blog mojo. Wish me luck!

By the way, Fresh Eats is also undergoing some changes -- I'll be launching a redesigned version soon, so keep an eye out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chicken Meatball Sub with Gobs of Fresh Mozzarella

Before we go too far, let me just say that when my husband first tasted this dish, he exclaimed: "Oh my gosh, this is good." And he's right.

It was Sunday night. We'd just finished a relaxing, refreshing week off work, and were looking for a comforting meal to ease us back into the real world. You know how that goes.

Chicken Meatball Sub with Gobs of Fresh Mozzarella fit the bill. This creamy, toasty sandwich delivers layer upon layer of assertive flavor and texture, elevating the meatball sub to something substantially more sophisticated.

I tested this recipe, created by apartmentcooker, a recent culinary grad, as an Editors' Pick for food52. While I typically follow these recipes to the letter, this time I subbed ground turkey, used an Italian seasoning blend with rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano and basil instead of plain dried oregano, and deglazed the meatball pan with white wine and added the bits to the tomato sauce. I did all this because it was what I had, or could easily find, and because my tomato sauces usually taste bland (yes, I know, I'm Italian, but apparently I didn't inherit THAT gene).

I also altered the method slightly, using a great trick from Giada DeLaurentiis, which is to mix all the meatball ingredients thoroughly before adding the meat, which helps assure the end result is tender and soft.

No matter, this recipe would be terrific as written. The meatballs are intensely flavorful, the sauce turned out perfectly and the fresh mozzarella adds a silky, luxurious touch.

This isn't a quick cooking meal, but it won't take you all afternoon, either. And, it's versatile -- my daughter ate the leftover meatballs and sauce for dinner the next night. I think it's a great dish for casual entertaining -- say, a football party, or a group of teens, especially since you can make the meatballs and sauce in advance.

I've become a fan of apartmentcooker's style. I recently tested her amazing Leek, Prosciutto and Egg pizza, and find she has a knack for taking seemingly simple comfort food and making it shine. Check her out and give her recipes a try.