Wednesday, December 02, 2009

2010 Predictions

What will 2010 bring for hot new trendy foods? According to an article in MediaPost, the following will be hot next year:


Sweet Potatoes



Rose water

Latin herbs and spices, like cilantro

Cardamom is a great spice that I use often when making rice. These fibrous pods are cracked open and added to soups, stews and other dishes. Make sure to remove the pods when finished cooking as they are inedible.

Rose water has long been a favorite of mine. I love to drizzle it over desserts, like chocolate cake or vanilla ice cream. You can find it at most middle eastern markets.

I was not familiar with capuaçu [pronounced coo-poo-ah-sue]. After a bit of research, I found it is the next big super fruit (think açai berry and mangosteen of the past). This tropical fruit grows wild in Brazil and is related to cacao (the bean that we get chocolate from). The capuaçu has a chocolaty taste similar to its cousin and is sweeter than the açai berry. Locally in Brazil, it is used in desserts. Drinks, jams and jellies are also made from the pulp. It is full of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
I look forward to seeing what new unique ways all of these ingredients will be use.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

In Her Shoes

Today I was honored and privileged to be a guest on In Her Shoes. This radio program airs Sundays at 1pm on 1240 AM.
Shelley Mielock and Tiffany Dowling host the show, “getting straight to the point on platforms that matter to women.” They asked me to give some tips for entertaining during the holidays. I have never had the opportunity to appear on a radio or television program so it was an exciting new event for me.

Just a few of the tips from the show:
When you are entertaining and short on time, think about using premade deli or restaurant items and serving in your own bowl or platter. Garnish with fresh herbs or edible flowers (available with herbs in several markets).

Another fun option is to make fruit skewers with a few of your favorite in-season fruits and serve with one of the following dips:

Cream Cheese Dip
8 ounces plain cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar or 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

Maple Dip
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamonPinch of ground cloves

Combine thoroughly and serve warmed.

Orange-Ginger Dip
1/2 cup of orange juice, if using fresh orange zest first
1 Tablespoon of lime juice, if using fresh lime zest first
8 ounces plain Greek yogurt (like because strained, if using regular, allow to strain through cheese cloth or coffee filter)
1/2 - 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger, to taste

Combine the orange juice, lime juice and zest from both fruit (if using) in a small skillet and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 Tablespoons. Allow to cool.

Add reduce juice and ginger to yogurt. Serve at room temperature.

To listen to the program in its entirety, go to In Her Shoes and listen to the November 8 broadcast. The show airs live from the studio next to Grand Traverse Chocolate and Coffee Company in the Stadium District.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall Goddess Retreat

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of co-hosting a half day fall goddess retreat with massage therapist, Shannon Branstner. Shannon had originally approached me in the spring, asking if I would help with a cooking demonstration for her long time dream. Over the months it evolved to co-hosting with her. The goal of the retreat was to allow women a chance to take off their many hats (moms, wives, daughter, sister and work/professional) and relax, rejuvenate and learn. Shannon's dream was to help women ease into the hibernation season of fall and winter.

Having never attended a retreat, I wasn't sure what to expect. But in doing some research and talking with others, I realized what a gift a retreat can be to us women. We couldn't have asked for a better day. The sun was shining and our hearts were light. We started the day learning about each other. Even though I knew several of the women, I learned new things about them.

Shannon then led the group in an introduction of Ayurvedic Medicine. We answered some questions to learn our dominant doshsa. We learned about the different doshas: vata, pitta and kapha; how they influence our bodies; and how our choices influence our bodies.

During the discussion we snacked on some fresh Michigan cheese (of course I have to talk about the food!). We had Reny Picot's Camembert Fermier (from Benton Harbor) and Grassfield's Organic Raw Milk Gouda. This was served with organic grapes and organic red and bosc pears. We accompanied these with Almond and Pecan Blue Diamond Nut Thin Crackers.

Bonnie Schnautz, Wellness Coach from B-Renewed, lead us in a discussion of essential oils. These oils were used to make the salt scrubs and bath salts. She discussed lavender, lemon, lemongrass, peppermint, eucalyptus, orange (my favorite), grapefruit and rosewood.

She gave us the benefits and several uses for each of these. It is amazing how much these natural ingredients can do for our health.

By learning about each oil, its benefits and how fabulous it smells, it gave all the participants a better idea on how to make their bath salt or salt scrub.

From here some decided to ride the zip line while others began making their scrubs. We had four daring riders on the zip line.

After riding the zip line and making their scrubs everyone went to the kitchen to make dinner.

The menu: Salad with Green Goddess Dressing, Lentil and Winter Vegetable Soup with Parmesan Crostini and Spiced Raisin and Apple Crisp.

We broke into small teams and made each piece of the dinner. The green goddess dressing was a blend of Greek yogurt, garlic, fresh herbs, baby spinach and lemon juice.

The Lentil Soup consisted of sautéed leeks and garlic, with diced tomatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, lentils and fresh herbs.

The soup was topped with Parmesan crostinis which consisted of a French baguette sliced, brushed with oil and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Dessert was a blend of fresh apples, raisins and spices topped with a traditional crisp topping of butter, sugar and flour.

After dinner, we tasted three Riesling wines: a dry from Germany, a semi-dry from Michigan and a sweet from Michigan.

The evening ended with reading some additional meditations and discussing what we were thankful for.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Celebrate Sun Dried Tomatoes

October is Celebrate Sun Dried Tomato month. These little gems have a sweet and sometimes tart concentrated tomato flavor. They are easy to make at home and great to have around to add flavor to salads, sauces or cheese plates.

When drying tomatoes, it is best to use Roma tomatoes but any variety works. Romas tend to be meatier having more flesh with less seeds and juice. Cherry tomatoes are also a great choice as their already sweet flavor concentrates nicely.

Whatever type of tomato you use, make sure you wash it well before you start and discard any with blemishes. Slice them in half lengthwise and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Two optional choices are to sprinkle with a bit of sugar to enhance their sweetness or sprinkle them with dried herbs if you would like a flavored dried tomato. Just remember whatever you add to the tomatoes will be concentrated as it dries, so use a light hand. Place the seasoned sliced tomatoes, cut side up, on a clean drying screen. If your screen does not come with a top screen, you can cover the screen with cheese cloth to keep the bugs away from your treasures. Make sure the cheese cloth or top screen do not touch the tomatoes.

Place your screen in the sun. Depending on the size of your tomatoes and the temperature it can take several days to two weeks to dry your tomatoes. Make sure to bring inside evenings to keep the morning dew from negating any of your hard work.

Tomatoes can also be dried in the oven. I'm not very patient so oven drying is my preferred method. Prepare the tomatoes the same way as you would to dry in the sun, however place on a baking sheet instead of a screen. Make sure to place cut side up and leave a bit of room between each tomato. Place in a preheated 250F oven for 2 to 6 hours (depending on their thickness). Adding some parchment paper to the baking sheet (or a Silpat pad) will help with clean-up.

Whichever your drying method, you want the tomatoes to be dry with the edges shriveled . The tomato will shrink to about three-quarters to half of its size.

The tomatoes can be stored in an airtight container for a few days in the refrigerator or a few weeks in the freezer. They can also be covered with oil (flavored or not) and stored in the refrigerator for up to two months.

Your dried tomatoes can be used:

In a Mediterranean style salad with greens, artichokes, cucumbers, feta and red onion, drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Tossed with pasta and olive oil (or the oil the tomatoes were stored in), fresh garlic, salt, pepper and chopped fresh basil, oregano or marjoram.

Or made into pesto by combining in the food processor with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, a splash of balsamic vinegar. Drizzle in some olive oil, toss with pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese.

The pesto can also be spread on lightly toasted bagette slices for a delicious bruschetta. Mix a bit of goat cheese as well for a real sublime treat.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

September is National Honey Month

Honey can come from several species of bees, but the honey bee is best known to produce honey. In its lifetime, a single honey bee will produce only about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. It takes about 550 bees to visit 2 million flowers to produce one pound of honey.

These hard working insects have been around for 30 million years with evidence of humans collecting their honey for at least 10,000 years. Archeologists have found cave paintings depicting women collecting honey and honeycomb from hives. Honey has also long been referenced in religion and is evident in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.

Bees use the nectar they collect from flowers to produce honey. They collect the nectar by sucking the nectar from flowers with their straw-like tongues and storing it in one of their two stomachs. They have a regular stomach to digest food and a second stomach to store nectar. They can carry double their body weight with stored nectar. The collected nectar is taken to the hive where worker bees mix the honey with enzymes to break down the complex sugars making it easier to use later and more bacteria resistant. The nectar is then spread throughout the honeycomb, where the water is evaporated from the nectar turning it into gooey honey. This honey is used as a food source during the cold months for the bees. In one year, an average honeybee colony will eat between 120 and 200 pounds of the honey they produce. Beekeepers encourage overproduction of honey by the bees so to not endanger the hive.

Honey produced by honeybees must be 100% pure with no additional additives. Honey produced by other types of bees does not follow this same strict guideline. Honey is usually classified by the flowers in which the nectar is collected. Honey classifications include: Blended meaning coming from more than one type of plant; Polyfloral or wild flower honey comes from varies types of flowers; Monofloral comes primarily from one type of flower. Raw honey is completely unprocessed. Pasteurized honey has been processed to prevent crystallization over time.

If your honey develops crystals, the honey is still good. Gently warm it in the microwave or in a pan of warm water until the crystals dissolve.

Besides used as a sweetener, honey has also been used to embalm bodies, as a form of currency and as a gift to Gods. It has also been used for medicinal purposes like as a sore throat remedy. It is also used topically for its antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. By consuming locally produced honey, it may help combat seasonal allergies.

Honey can be added to coffee or tea to sweeten instead of using sugar. It can be drizzled over fresh fruit or added to your favorite vinaigrette in salads. To makes a great additional to barbeque sauce and helps caramelize the outside of the meat when cooking. It can be mixed with butter and spread over warm biscuits or toast.

Infants under one year of age should not eat honey because of the risk of botulism from their underdeveloped digestive systems.

For additional information, visit these sites:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Five-Star Dinner

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our one year anniversary. We treated ourselves to a night out at The 1913 Room at the Amway Grand Hotel. This five star rated restaurant boasts "classic cuisine with a French influence."

It was an amazing dinner and I wanted to share it with my faithful readers.

The dinner started with an amuse bouche of Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup with Fresh Herbs, Smoked Whitefish with Freeze-Dried Corn and a Herb Terrine with Basil Oil.

Our hors d'oeuvre was the special: Duck Prosciutto with a Cantaloupe Chutney; Foie Gras with Crostini and Marinated Cherry; and Chicken and Duck Galantine with Blueberry Gastrique.

We both chose the same salad: Heirloom Tomatoes and Wild Arugula with English Cucumber DancingGoat Creamery Local Chèvre and Maui Onion Vinaigrette.

This was followed by an Earl Grey Sorbet intermezzo.

For dinner, I had the special: Crusted Lake Trout with Roasted Heirloom Tomato-Relish and Steamed Spinach with a Heirloom Tomato-Chardonnay Sauce.

My husband chose lamb, his favorite: Roasted Rack of Colorado Lamb, Sweet Potato Pavé, Broccolini and Foie Gras Emulsion

For dessert (I can't believe we had room), I went chocolate and my husband went creamy: Milky Way Chocolate Tower with Baci Mousse, a Trio of Sauces and Amarula Liqueur; and Tres Léches – a White Cake soaked with three types of Cream served with Mango and Pineapple, Cajeta Caramel and a Caramelized White Chocolate Passion Sauce.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cherry Tomato and Watermelon Salad

Yesterday, since we finally are experiencing summer weather, I decided to make Cook's Illustrated's Cherry Tomato and Watermelon Salad.

Saturday I had visited the South Lansing Farmer’s Market and picked up several of the ingredients needed to make the salad. It was my first visit to the small market, but was excited to see a nice mix of vendors. I purchased some locally grown produce, a Jamaican meat patty and even a cute pair of earrings (with proceeds to send a grandson to college).

At the market, I was able to find cherry tomatoes and fresh mint. From there a quick stop at the regular market for a watermelon, shallot and feta. The rest of the ingredients were in my pantry. I followed the recipe as it was written. The salad took about an hour to prepare. It was a great combination of sweet (from the cherry tomatoes and watermelon) and tangy (from the feta). The mint added a nice coolness which really helped exemplify the flavor of summer.

As the recipe indicates, I let the tomatoes sit for half hour in sugar and salt. This was ample time to chop the rest of my ingredients. I went a bit over 1 cup of watermelon and next time I will increase the watermelon to 2 cups. I would have liked an even mix of tomato to watermelon.

When the tomatoes had sat, there was quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of my bowl. As I spun the tomatoes of their seeds and liquid even more liquid was expelled. It had never occurred to me to spin my tomatoes. I spin everything else – salad green, herbs, why not tomatoes?! I was just able to get a 1/2 cup of liquid from my spinning.

Next time I make this salad, I will either sweat the shallots, by letting them sit for 5- 10 minutes with a bit of salt on them, or gently sauté them before adding my tomato liquid. The shallot flavor was a bit overwhelming in the final salad.

By reducing the liquid from the tomatoes, it gave you a sauce with a great concentrated tomato flavor. Adding the vinegar really helped cut the sweetness that you get from tomatoes. I did not add any additional salt to my final dish, as feta is usually so salty I did not think I would need any additional, and I was right, I didn’t.

This salad would be a great addition to take to a summer picnic or if you looking for a refreshing alternative to traditional salad. By our serving size (about ½ cup), we were able to get 6 servings from this salad. Here is my modified recipe:

Cherry Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Serves 6. Published July 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated, slightly adapted
If in-season cherry tomatoes are unavailable, substitute vine-ripened cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes from the supermarket, avoiding pale, unripe ones. If using grape tomatoes, simply cut them in half along the equator (rather than quartering them) to expose the maximum amount of seeds and pulp. If you don’t have a salad spinner, after the salted tomatoes have stood for 30 minutes, wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and gently shake to remove seeds and excess liquid. Strain the liquid and proceed with the recipe as directed. The amount of liquid given off by the tomatoes will depend on their ripeness. If you have less than 1/2 cup of juice after spinning, proceed with the recipe using the entire amount of juice and reduce it to 3 tablespoons as directed (cooking time will be shorter).
2 pints cherry tomatoes , ripe, quartered (about 4 cups) (see note)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Ground black pepper
2 cups watermelon , cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces feta cheese , crumbled (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves , roughly

Toss tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and sugar in medium bowl; let stand for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt on the minced shallot and let rest for about 10 minutes.
Transfer tomatoes to salad spinner and spin until seeds and excess liquid have been removed, 45 to 60 seconds, stirring to redistribute tomatoes several times during spinning. Return tomatoes to bowl and set aside.
Strain tomato liquid through fine-mesh strainer into liquid measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

Bring 1/2 cup tomato liquid (discard any extra), shallot, and vinegar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until reduced to 3 tablespoons, 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer mixture to small bowl and cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Whisk in oil and pepper to taste until combined. Taste and season if necessary.

Add watermelon, mint, feta, and dressing to bowl with tomatoes; toss gently and serve.
Jen's note: If you are not immeidately serving the salad, wait and toss the tomato dressing when ready to serve.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Those who know me know I never miss the Munger Potato Festival. It is something I have been going to since college (actually since I turned 21) and I haven’t missed a year. Not to date myself, but this will be my 18th year. Looking through my blog, over the last 3 years, I have yet to dedicate one single solitary post to potatoes. I’m embarrassed and its long overdue.

Potatoes are native to South America and there are thousands of varieties today. They are a relative to tomatoes and eggplants. Potatoes are America’s most popular vegetable and the fourth largest food crop grown globally. Potatoes are a very good source of vitamin C, low in sodium and a good source of vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Potatoes are also a great source of the antioxidants.

There are four basic types of potatoes we eat here in the United States: russet, long white, round white and round red.

The russet, or Idaho or baking potato has rough, brown skin. They are long and slightly rounded in shape. They have a low moisture and high starch content. They are excellent baking potatoes and used to make French Fries. Three-quarters of potatoes planted are russets.

Long, white potatoes are similarly shaped to the russet but their skin is thinner and grayish-brown. They are best served baked, boiled or fried. Baby long, whites are called fingerlings.

Round, white potatoes have a low starch and high moisture content making them
excellent boiling potatoes. Their skin is more waxy than russets and are the same grayish-brown as long, whites. They roast really well and also make good mashed potatoes.
Round, red potatoes are the same as round, whites however their skin is reddish-brown.

Some random potato tips and facts:

  • Yukon gold potatoes make the best mashed potatoes (in my opinion) with their high moisture content and almost buttery taste.
  • Adding a peeled, raw potato to an oversalted dish can help absorb some of the salt.
  • New potatoes are young potatoes and can refer to any variety.
  • Neither yams nor sweet potatoes are related botanically to potatoes.
  • In the United States, Michigan is the largest producer of potatoes used for potato chips. Three quarters of Michigan’s potato crop is used to make potato chips.
  • Frito Lay has added a feature to their website where consumers can track where their bag was grown. With a bag in hand, visit their Chip Tracker to see where your bag came from.
And many ask what type of potatoes you eat at the Munger Potato Festival and what type of potato high jinks ensue. Sadly, the amount of potatoes served in very limited in type and no games of hot potato are played. But for me it is a time to spend with great friends, laugh and forget about anything but potatoes for a few days.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

July is National Horseradish Month

July is national horseradish month. Horseradish is native to eastern Europe but grows very well here in the United States. Both the leaves and root are edible. The leaves are used in salads, but it is prized for its root. Horseradish is a member of the mustard family and the roots have a spicy, pungent bite. They are usually grated or ground. When grated or ground, the roots release their volatile oils. This gives horseradish its characteristic bite.

Bottled (prepared) horseradish is ground and usually mixed with vinegar. Vinegar stops the reaction and stabilizes its flavor. If vinegar is added immediately after it is crushed, it will give a milder finished product. Processors may also add sugar, salt or other ingredients like beet juice. If you have seen red horseradish, it is the beet juice that gives it its color.

Historically horseradish has been used as far back as 1500 BC. It was rubbed on the lower back to alleviate pain and the early Greeks thought of it as an aphrodisiac. It has also used to help expel mucus from the lungs, to treat food poisoning, scurvy, tuberculosis and colic. It has long been one of the five bitter herbs used in the Jewish Passover.

The odd sounding name is believed to come from a mispronunciation. The German name
meerrettich (meaning sea radish since it grows near the sea) was mispronounced by English speakers to meerraidsh. Meer is similar to mare which then was changed to horse. Radish comes from the Latin word for root, radix.

Horseradish goes really well with roast beef and ham. Remember it next time you are making yourself a sandwich. It adds a great kick to deviled eggs, artichoke dip and salmon rollups. July meets grilling, so think about horseradish when you fire up the grill. It goes great with burgers (add a teaspoon or two to the ground meat before shaping the patties), marinade for steaks, brushed on salmon or other oily fish. It also goes great in Bloody Marys and adds a kick to your Margaritas.

Enjoy horseradish this month!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Festival Weekend

We have an exciting weekend of festivals lined up for us Michiganders.
Today kicks off the National Asparagus Festival in Shelby, Michigan (about 30 miles north of Muskegon). Activities of interest include farm tours, asparagus dinner, 5K, parade and a bull riding extravaganza.
Today also kicks off the Gizzard Festival in Potterville, Michigan (about 15 miles south of Lansing). Besides gizzard eating and beer drinking, there is a 5K, parade, basketball tournament, car show and gizzard eating contest. It might be worth the drive to watch the contest!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ramp Up for Spring

Ramps, or wild leeks, are starting to appear. This wild relative to the onion starts growing in Appalachia at the first signs of spring and starts working its way northward to Canada as the ground warms and things begin to thaw.

The name ramp derives from the zodiac sign Aries or the ram. The ram is known for its stubbornness and people who fall under the sign Aries, born in late March to early April are also said to be stubborn. Because the ramp is frost resistant and therefore stubborn to Mother Nature, early on it was called Ramson, son of the ram. The name later morphed into ramp.

They grow on the damp forest floor, so keep your eyes open while hiking. Both the leaves and the bulbs can be eaten, but they have an assertive, garlicky flavor so use them sparingly. The bulbs can used like garlic cloves or a shallot - sliced and sautéed as a base for soups and sauces. The leaves can be sliced and added to egg dishes, casseroles or stir fry.

A traditional way to eat at ramp festivals is to boil a bunch of ramps for 20 minutes in a large pot with a splash of cider vinegar. The ramps are then drained and quickly sautéed with bacon grease and served hot.

This month’s Bon Appétit has a recipe that just screams springtime. I imagine sitting on the back porch, eating this with some fresh fruit and lightly toasted English muffins.Enjoy!
Serves 2
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced trimmed ramp bulbs and slender stems plus 1 cup thinly sliced green tops (from about 4 large ramps)
4 medium asparagus spears, trimmed, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 ounce fresh morel mushrooms, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 1/2 cup)
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
Melt butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add ramp bulbs and stems to skillet; sauté 3 minutes.
Add green tops, asparagus, and mushrooms; sauté until ramps are soft and asparagus is crisp-tender, about 9 minutes.
Add eggs to skillet; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir until eggs are very softly set, about 2 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide scrambled eggs between 2 plates and serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Michigan Foods

Last night was the first of my two session class on local cooking. I am learning so much (as I always do prepping for my classes) about Michigan foods. I took local a bit farther than a 100 mile radius to encompass the state of Michigan. We have so many great resources that people overlook.
Did you know that Michigan is the nation's leader in growing potatoes for potato chips?
Or that we are the fourth largest grower of grapes and sugar beets?
Did you know that Okemos was home to the world's first commercially producing indoor shrimp farm?
Did you know that Michigan produces one third of all the blueberries devoured in the U.S.?
Did you know that one pound of mint oil, extracted from the fresh leaves, will flavor 135,000 sticks of chewing gum?
Michigan has so many locally grown items to offer and most are overlooked. Why chose a Washington apple when you can chose a Michigan apple? Why chose an Idaho potato when you can chose a Michigan potato? Asparagus season is right around the corner, think Michigan when you grab for your produce.
Farmers Markets will be opening shortly. Find one near you at Michigan Famers Market.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chef Steph's Recipes

Chef Stephanie Izard's recipe are posted on her site (see my post about meeting her)

Grilled Skirt Steak and Fennel Salad with Chive Yogurt

Olive Oil Poached Shrimp and Soba Salad

I would recommend checking out her site. She has some great recipes and an informative blog with cute short videos.

Where does your fish come from?

People are becoming much more conscious of where their food is coming from and how it is processed. Organic, free-range, wild-caught are all words you hear almost daily that were virtually absent 10 years ago. Sustainable is a word we hear more and more often, especially in regards to seafood.

I subscribe to several newsletter and one of them recently posted a site I was not familiar with, CleanFish. This helps buyers determine where their fish and seafood is coming from. I wanted to share this resource.

From CleanFish.Com, “We believe in a seafood marketplace that values the extraordinary efforts made by producers who are earnest in their pursuit of sustainable practices that deliver to your table fish you can trust.”

You can follow a particular fish back to its captured body of water, learn about the husbandry and harvest practices of the fishermen.

Unfortunately we do not have any providers here in Michigan, but some of the current purveyors do ship. I am going to ask my favorite fish monger if this is something they provide, so hopefully we will soon see a source in Lansing. I strongly urge you to ask as well.
I am adding the site as one of my links to the right so you can find it in the future if you are looking for it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jicama Stick-a-mas

Jícama (pronounced HEE-kah-mah) is a large, bulbous root vegetable which you may have overlooked at the market. It has a thin, brown, fibrous skin and its flesh is white and crunchy, very similar to water chestnut. It has a sweet, almost nutty flavor. It is often referred to as a Mexican potato or Mexican turnip.

Jícama can be eaten raw or cooked. I probably use it more frequently raw than cooked. I like to julienne it and serve it in salads for added crunch or on a crudités platter for something different. Or you can shred it (a mandoline works great with the smallest julienne blade) and make a unique slaw.

A very common way to eat jícama is to slice it like fries, sprinkle it with chili powder and salt and squeeze with some fresh lime. Yum!

When cooked, it retains its crispness. Since it has such a mild flavor, it can add crunchiness to a variety of dishes. Try dicing it and adding to chili, stew or stir-fry. Or finely diced and added to a crab or fish cake. Its juicy crispness compliments spicy dishes well. It is a great addition to a spring roll.

It originates from Central America and goes well with many Latin flavors like cumin, cilantro and citrus like orange, lemon and lime.

To peel jícama, simply remove the peel with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. The easiest way is to remove the top and bottom first, then peel top to bottom (not round and round like an apple). Rinse after peeling. A whole jícama can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. It is best eaten shortly after it is peeled. It is high in dietary fiber (5 grams per 100 grams) and is a good source of Vitamin C and potassium.

Chicken and Vegetable Spring Rolls
Serves 4 – 2 rolls per person

1 chicken breast
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon coarse mustard (can substitute yellow mustard)
1 Tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1/4 red onion, cut into match stick sized pieces
1 small carrot, cut into match stick sized pieces
1 small green bell pepper, cut into match stick sized pieces
1 small jícama, cut into match stick sized pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
8 rice paper wrapper sheets, 8” size
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (or basil or Thai basil)

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Spread half of the mustard on one side of the chicken breast.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Place the mustard side down on the pan, then spread the remaining half of the mustard on the top half of the breast. Cook until sides of breast start turning white, about 4 – 5 minutes then flip and cook completely on the other side, an additional 3 – 4 minutes.

Allow the breast to cool to the touch and shred the breast. I like to use two forks to shred chicken, using the tines to shred the meat.

While the chicken is cooking and cooling, sauté the onion, carrot, pepper and jícama in a large skillet until just al dente, about 7 – 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, stirring continuously for about 30 seconds.

Remove the vegetables from the heat, stir in the lime juice, paprika and chili powder.

Allow the vegetables to cool.

Place one rice paper sheet in a shallow dish filled with hot water. Allow wrapper to soak for about 15 seconds, or longer so it is pliable.

Place the pliable wrapper in front of you. Add a tablespoon or so of the shredded chicken at about 6 o’clock if the wrapper were a clock dial, about 1” from the edge. Place a tablespoon or so of the vegetable on top of the chicken. Top the mixture with about 1/2 tablespoon of fresh herbs.
Taking the edge nearest you, roll it over top of the chicken vegetable mixture. Continuing rolling towards 12 o’clock until you have one full roll. Fold sides in (3 o’clock and 9 o’clock) towards the center, then continuing rolling towards 12 o’clock until completely rolled. Repeat with each wrapper.
Serve with your favorite store bought dipping sauce or mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, minced garlic and ginger and a bit of sugar to taste.
EDIT TO ADD: This recipe is very versatileand you can add many different veggies in place of the ones listed. You could easily add vermicelli noodles in place of the chicken for a vegetarian option.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Meeting Chef Stephanie Izard

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend an event where Season 4 of Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard spoke and prepared some spring salads. It was interesting to hear her speak about her time on the show – one of my favorites!

She talked about her background, her time in Ann Arbor (she is a UofM grad) and about owning a restaurant before being chosen to appear on the show.

She made three dishes for us. The first was an oil poached shrimp tossed with roasted asparagus and roasted shiitake mushrooms and served over soba noodles with a vinaigrette made with fresh garlic, fresh ginger, soy sauce, honey, sriracha and sesame oil. She told us about making shiitake chips, which I am excited to try. She takes the caps and roasts them after tossing with oil, salt and pepper in a 300°F oven until crisp. That sounds interesting and tasty.

The second dish she made was a skirt steak marinated with an Asian garlic-chili sauce, soy sauce and honey. This was grilled medium, sliced thin and placed a top a salad of shaved fennel, fresh orange zest and juice, roasted red peppers and garbanzo beans then drizzled with a fresh chive yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt and chives blended until creamy). A treat she shared with us (again which I am interested in trying) is dipping garbanzo beans in rice flour and deep frying until crisp.

The third and final dish was a brown sugar cake, which was served as a mini cupcake. There were moist and tasty, sweet without being too sweet.

All three recipes will be available shortly on her website, She will be opening another restaurant in Chicago in the fall, The Drunken Goat (exact location TBD). It sounds like she has a lot of ventures she is involved in: TV, cookbook, new restaurant. I think she is going to be a rising star we need to keep our eyes on. I feel so honored to have had the chance to meet her. She has an even bigger fan now.

Monday, March 09, 2009


I just found this site, of scanned sandwiches aptly named scanwiches. This is too funny.