Monday, July 7, 2014

Pass it On!

if i had to describe myself i might use the title of a song i wrote recently called "home sweet home-made & hand-me-down." i am a new traditionalist.  sounds mighty devo but i am firmly rooted and a true believer in the art of tradition.  apparently, i am also a "hippie."  i put that in quotes because i was recently called a hippie by a friend while discussing my living situation (24 years in a microscopic west village nyc apartment rental with big tall husband and two rapidly growing children).  my friend wanted to know why we were still in this tiny apartment and why we hadn't left for greener pastures, a bigger space, a house, a place we could call our very own.  equity.  what she termed a solid investment or something we could pass on to our children when that time came.  i thought about it for half a second and blurted, "i'm good.  i have enough right here. owning big stuff seems like a drag. why would i want to pass that down to my kids when i already pass on priceless amounts of love and tradition every single day."  

she didn't quite understand what i was saying until i explained what my legacy to my children is: recipes, culinary skills, kitchen know-how, clean food resources, decades long relationships and bonds with farmers, fisherman, butchers and other sustainable growers, flavorful memories, vibrant health and the nourishing traditions of home that they will carry with them wherever they go and pass on to their children and grandchildren. the type of investment in health and wellness that unfortunately most people don't see as valuable or worthwhile anymore.  that's probably why we are seeing so many parents passing on inherited "taints" like eczema, depression, addiction, diabetes, ADHD, dyslexia, anger, endocrine disorders and many other chronic degenerative illnesses today.  we need to take the emphasis off "things" and money and put it back on solid ground where it belongs....the perfect roast chicken, health restoring and life giving bone broth, probiotic rich cultured foods, a chopped liver that brings back the days of great grandmothers' passed, a connection to a higher power and mother nature that is as solid as the roots of a 200 year old tree that you know will bear fruit year after year.  what i pass on is an embarrassment of riches that will feed my family physically and spiritually for generations to come.  equity that is heartfelt, homemade, happily handed down and held in highest regard.  

the handing down of traditions, skills, recipes, clothing, dances, songs, domestic heirlooms like candle sticks, photographs, artwork, tablecloths and other linens, dishes, pots and pans etc. is quickly becoming a lost art.  once upon a time these things were called a dowry and they went with a bride when she was married.   as a matter of fact, animals were once part of the inheritance and they were prized for milk, meat and muscle in the field.  i am not suggesting we bring back dowries by any means but i am lobbying for these assets to be looked at as having real intrinsic value again.  we have become a society that places value on material goods that are disposable and obsolete in a matter of months.  this skewed perspective on what is worthy of our attention has brought us to this place where mothers do not think it is important to impart kitchen or marketing skills to their children (boys & girls).  fathers have lost their desire to teach their kids (boys & girls) how to pick up a hammer and nails to create and fix what can be home-made and fixed.  in my tiny little kitchen, every creation is a potential inheritance for my children.  when i make a new recipe for a dish or figure out a new flavor combination that wows the masses, i feel like i just put money in the bank.   a deposit that we will be able to draw on forever and will always pay dividends.   it's a no risk, win-win situation.

this might seem silly to some but i am confident that what i pass on each time i bring my Family2Table is obvious and valued.  true love, first and foremost.  passion, respect, creativity and resourcefulness.  with each plate i serve i feel certain that my children are assimilating each physical and emotional nutrient and will  someday feel the need to recreate all those flavors and feelings for their families, making them strong and wealthy beyond all the riches in the world.  because at the end of the day, you can't take it with you when you go so, pass it on and enjoy!

and now i pass on to you The Perfect Roast Chicken


herb roasted chicken

- preheat oven to 425 degrees -- go to 450 if you can without the oven smoking.

- place whole, pastured chicken (3.5-4lbs) in a roasting pan and leave at room temp for half an hour to take the chill off

- liberally season the whole chicken including cavity with sea salt & pepper

- chop herbs (fresh thyme, rosemary, mint and basil -- other options are tarragon, parsley, marjoram, oregano and chervil) and coat the entire chicken.

- use herb stems to put inside of the cavity.  you can put whole garlic, lemon, orange, onions, anything aromatic inside that chicken to perfume and flavor the meat.
be creative and use this as a way to use everything -- even vegetable ends and scraps that you might not have any other use for.

- place chicken in the oven legs first and roast for 20 minutes

- after 20 minutes turn down heat to 400 and rotate bird, legs facing door.

- after another 20 minutes turn down to 350 and turn chicken sideways and leave for another 30 minutes.

- after 1 hour, remove bird and let rest for at least 15 minutes before you cut it up and serve allowing the all the juices to disperse nicely throughout the bird.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Buttermilk Corn Cakes


corn bread is one of the simple pleasures in my life.  It is also a staple of the pioneer kitchen from the 1800s.  ma ingalls was a big fan of corn cakes and i am a big fan of ma ingalls.  a versatile, filling treat used to sop up gravy (meat drippings), egg yolk, butter, syrup, bacon grease, BBQ sauce and more, corn bread is your friend. i turned to corn bread and developed this particular recipe when i stopped eating wheat almost four years ago.  corn is a flavor that resonates with me on many levels and just like me, it happily goes both ways: sweet and savory.  when i want a "biscuit" with my eggs these buttermilk corn cakes are just the ticket.  when my children want what we call "afters,"  these cakes, fried in pastured lard and grass fed ghee are a classic with a thick schmear of maple cream or jam and an ice cold glass of raw milk.  my husband prefers his corn cakes topped with german style pickled vegetables, raw sour cream and chives.  i am happy to enjoy them with cumin spiced avocado mousse (not unlike guacamole) with chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime and course sea salt.  very much like an arepa, a flatbread made of ground maize dough popular in venezuela or columbia, the corn cake is an individual, grain-free bread at home on the breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner table.  they are marvelous for appetizers and hors d'oeuvres. 

the following recipe can be adapted and expanded to include, cheese, herbs, spices, banana (or any fruit) puree and is lots of fun to play with so go ahead and have a ball.  the simplicity is almost ridiculous and the value is priceless.  these cakes can be made and eaten right away or they can be stored in an airtight container right on the counter for a few days and then pan toasted before eating and serving.  OH!  if you love smoking meats or slow braising meats, these cakes are a must for your repertoire.  they are a cool twist on southern corn bread and will hold even the most saucy pulled pork or brisket if you are looking for an edible carrier for all that summer lovin.'  if they are going past two days, i recommend putting them in the refrigerator to avoid spoiling.  if you come up with any interesting new recipes or ways to serve the cakes when you bring your Family2Table, please email me and let me know! enjoy! xx


BUTTERMILK CORN CAKES

2 cups organic corn flour (corn meal)
1/2 tsp. aluminum free baking soda
2 pinches of sea salt
1 1/2 cups cultured (raw) buttermilk

combine dry ingredients
add buttermilk and mix to a thick batter

1. heat a cast iron skillet on medium flame till very hot
2.  add 1 Tbs. pastured lard and 1 Tablespoon grass fed ghee and melt.

3. When fat is hot,  add one large soup spoon of batter to the pan per cake.  I do 3 at a time.
4. after about a minute and a half to 2 minutes, flip.  depending on the pan and the heat source, this can vary so please watch what you are doing and never let the pan or the cakes burn.  you want them golden and crisp, not black and burnt.
5.  when they are golden on both sides, put them aside (or eat them while they are hot!)
6. enjoy with your condiments and accompaniments of choice.






Friday, June 20, 2014

I'll Drink to That!

this week i had the good fortune to raise my glass in celebration many times.  it started on monday with my birthday in the form of a spritzer made from passionfruit juice, gerolsteiner naturally sparkling mineral water and a slice of lime.  super refreshing! tuesday i toasted a paper cup full of my home-brew of choice, vanilla-cardamom kombucha, at greenlight bookstore in fort green, brooklyn. i was there to do a cooking demo for the recent release of Nina Planck's Real Food Cookbook. i am very proud to have contributed an essay and the drinks section to this beautiful book.  wednesday i sipped fermented beet kvass the color of blood, sweet and silky and infused with fresh tarragon as i made the announcement that my band, the emily duff band, had officially released our first single, now available for sale online at bandcamp.com and then ran out to gig at arlene's grocery on stanton street.  thursday found me and my entire family with ball jars full of gingerade at murray's cheese, once again excited and cheering for the official release of Nina's book.  finally friday, i will churn up a frothy glass tumbler full of a vanilla balsamic raw milk egg cream and thank my lucky stars that i have the night to relax and enjoy my family!  

i don't know about you but i am a child of the 60s and was raised drinking hoffman's and dr. brown's sodas, seltzer brought by irving the seltzer man in beautiful blue glass bottles, egg creams from seymour's luncheonette and chocolate milk made with u-bet chocolate syrup and pasteurized milk.  in the 70's we took the nestea plunge, went to the moon with tang and got our country time on with "convenient' powdered drinks.  who knew?


these days my life does not include soda, powdered drinks and not much from a bottle you buy at the store. we stay away from vegetable and fruit juices unless we juice them ourselves. as a chef, i have found that creating your own drinks can be as creative as putting together a three course meal and more economical too!  kombucha has become a popular trend these days and i am very happy to see that.  a fermented sweet tea, kombucha is a restorative cold drink that supplies, enzymes, probiotics and helps to detoxify the liver.  not to mention that it tastes great!  in the store you will pay anywhere from $3.50 up to $5 for a 16 oz. bottle.  by brewing your own at home, that same 16oz. bottle costs just .50!  not to mention the fact that you get to make up your own flavors and have a bit of microbiology going on in your own home.  our favorite flavors are lemon-mint, watermelon-basil, lemon-ginger-raspberry, straight-up strawberry, pink grapefruit, concord grape in the fall, vanilla-cardamom and cinnamon-spice. my children love to see the process of fermentation going on in our home kitchen.  sometimes they will have an idea for a new flavor and want to take me to the market to find all of the ingredients to make that flavor happen.  at the end of the brewing process they can't wait to taste the final product and share it with friends and family.  talk about a community building project! the brewing process takes roughly 2 weeks, give or take a few extra days for the secondary fermentation to flavor and build up "fizz."  for a really special treat, add a few generous shakes of angostura bitters and a generous squeeze of lemon to your kombucha for a cocktail that quenches the thirst and helps with digestion!  if i am going to spend money on a store bought kombucha these days, sometimes we drink faster than we can produce,  i tend to gravitate toward high country kombucha.  their wild root and ginger flavored kombucha is top notch! while i am here....kombucha in all it's flavors and forms is also great to cook with.  remember my post on ginger kombucha battered fish and chips?  check it out!  

other fermented beverages we like to make at home are beet kvass which calls for freshly peeled and cut up beets, liquid whey, sea salt and filtered water.  this rich, silky drink is a great tonic to start the day and is a great blood builder - not to mention a great base for a salad dressing!  my son loves to make fermented ginger ale.  it is different from bottled ginger ale in that is has no C02 added. it gets it fizz from liquid whey, rapadura sugar and natural fermentation.  fresh ginger, fresh lemon and lime juice and some chopped dried apricots lend a beautiful sweetness to the brew.  we often add fresh mint or thai basil to create a freshness when we serve it.  it goes so well with spicy thai dishes and home made sushi.


the egg cream is something that i hold near and dear to my heart.  it is a soda fountain experience that brings back memories of my old neighborhood in queens, my grandma sylvia and my uncle mitch. in the old days it was a combo of pasteurized milk, u-bet chocolate syrup and fountain seltzer.  these days i make it with a vanilla balsamic syrup i make by reducing balsamic vinegar with a split vanilla bean till it's a thick syrup.  you can store this in the fridge for ages and it will be good to go, no worries.  in an 8 oz. glass i use 3 TBS. syrup, then fill the glass half way with raw milk or raw milk kefir, then slowly add naturally sparkling mineral water while vigorously stirring to create a head of foam on the top.  this drink takes me right back to my childhood and begs me to eat a good kosher beef hot dog and knish.

another summer favorite, and a recipe i contributed to Nina's book is a cucumber lemonade with ginger, mint and stevia.  fill up a pitcher with good filtered water and add a generous handful of thinly sliced cucumbers, a TBS. of freshly grated ginger and 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice.  feel free to use lime, orange, grapefruit, etc....find your favorite.  add stevia to taste in very small amounts (it can go wrong quickly) and then mottled fresh mint leaves - basil is beautiful too.  you can let this sit out in the sun to infuse if you like and then refrigerate or just serve over ice.  a major refresher.....for the adults, add chilled vodka or gin. makes a nice summer martini!  garnish with pickled cucumbers or preserved lemons.

did you know that drinking your breakfast is an awesome way to start your day?  here is our favorite smoothie recipe:


1 cup of either (raw) milk, kefir, yogurt, colostrum, etc.
1 cup raw coconut water
2 crazy brown ripe cold bananas
1 tsp. camu camu powder
1 tsp. barleans greens powder
1/2 tsp. macca powder
3 capsules dr. ron's organ delight emptied in the jug
2 raw pastured egg yolks
1 cup frozen berries of your choice

whip it all up with a hand blender, vitamix or counter top blender and enjoy!

before i sign off and head to the kitchen to create something beautiful and delicious for lunch i want to remind y'all that what i mostly put into my glass these days is pure, clean water.  i don't go overboard and swill it all day long but i do get what i consider to be my fill and what's more important it is clean and pure.  we have a three stage counter top filter that we purchased at pure-earth.com that removes flouride, chlorine, bacteria, sediment, etc.  there are many types and brands on the market but i do recommend that you have a look and see what works best for you and your budget.  some of the popular, excellent filters come from radiant life, berkey and pure earth.  our bodies depend on water, please make pure and clean water a priority for you and your loved ones.

kombucha and water kefir are a great alternative to store bought sodas that are full of chemicals, refined sugars and unwanted additives. herbal teas, tonics, smoothies and ades are health restoring, thirst quenching and delicious!  what we can do with drinks in the creative kitchen is a super satisfying, loving and innovative way to save money and introduce new, fresh flavors when bringing your friends and Family2Table and i will always drink to that!  cheers & enjoy!!



KOMBUCHA 101

equipment/ingredient wise you need very little.
- 1 gallon glass pyrex bowl or 1 gallon glass anchor jar (an old fashioned candy jar)
- 2 air tight glass bottles to store the kombucha in the fridge (i use the Ikea bottles. they are tight and cheap)
- a box of 365 brand organic black tea from whole foods
- a bag of 365 brand organic evaporated can sugar from whole foods
- masking tape
- a tea towel
- a stainless steel pot to boil and brew
- pure filtered water
- a starter culture (from a bottle or a friend)

recipe
1. place 3 quarts of filtered water in a pot and bring to a boil
2. add 1 cup organic evaporated cane juice (i use whole foods organic 365 brand) to the pot and stir till dissolved (about 5 minutes)
3. add 4 tea bags (i use whole foods organic 365 brand) to the pot and turn off flame and cover
4. when tea has cooled to room temp (at least 5 hours - i put mine up at night and let it brew and cool till morning)
5. remove tea bags and put tea into 1 gallon capacity glass bowl
6. add 1/2 cup kombucha (starter to inoculate)
7. place scoby on top - it will float - sometimes it sinks. that's okay
8. using masking tape, make a criss-cross over the bowl and date with marker
9. put tea towel over the bowl and put in a warm place (i put mine on top of the fridge)
10. check after 5 days (the sweetness and the tea flavor should be gone) depending on the temp. in your house,
warmer cultures faster, it could take up to 10 days.

to harvest
remove scoby and baby - which will be attached to each other - and place liquid in bottles with air tight stoppers.
refrigerate and drink.  save 1/2 cup for next batch and now you have a scoby to share or put in a glass jar and refrigerate
with some kombucha until someone asks you for it.
(you can do a secondary fermentation in these bottles if you want it extra fizzy.
instead of putting it in the fridge, put an extra teaspoon of sugar in each bottle
and let stand for another 3 days before refrigerating).

as always, if you have any questions about the drinks please contact me at emilyduff@mac.com

cheers!

emily












Friday, December 13, 2013

Food is Parenting

the other day, while walking down the street, my 5 year old son, henry saw a child eating a neon blue frosted cupcake. as we strolled passed the child I watched his eyes narrow and focus on the glowing cake.  my 8 year old daughter, sylvia saw it too.  as we walked away sylvia said to me, "that was disgusting. have you ever seen blue like that in nature?" I smiled and said "nope."  then henry quickly chimed in, "I want a cupcake like that. how come we never get cupcakes like that?" to which sylvia immediately responded, "oh henry! have some self-respect!"  I had to stop myself from laughing out loud.  henry is at that age when laughing makes him feel a bit self conscious because he feels as if he is being laughed at.  so, in order to protect my little man's pride, i smiled ear to ear, put one arm around my sylvia tenderly, and walked on feeling very proud, knowing that my parenting choices were making a real impact and that my children were hearing me loud and clear.   i feed my family the way i do and teach my children proper nutrition because i want them to love themselves, to value themselves and to be able to be of value to others. 

when i became a professional cook, feeding my customers was all about freshness and flavor.  as a parent feeding children, my focus is more on freshness, flavor and nutritional value.  my desire to feed them the cleanest, freshest, most delicious local foods, chock full of vitamins, minerals, live enzymes, love and proper nourishment became my quest from the time they were born.   looking back, i realize that should have been my goal throughout life and that eating the way we all eat now, since the kids have come along, is the way to eat before and especially during pregnancy since that is when we actually start feeding our babies.  creativity is also a key factor and will always remain high on my list since chicken will always be chicken and a potato will always be a potato. it's what we are able to do with those ingredients and the creativity we bring to them that takes them to the next level of excitement by allowing them to express their innate flavor and maximum nutrient values while we ask them to also perform exquisitely in our manipulation, preparation or "theater" of taste.  when we retain this creativity in our cooking, we remain engaged with cooking as an art or a craft. this challenges us or pushes us as the "servantless" cooks that we are in order to find the opportunity in every meal. the privilege in every act of culinary expression we put out on the table.  to please ourselves, our friends and our families with the most sensual act of giving that we can perform on a daily basis - in public.  as you can tell from just this last sentence, i consider cooking, prepping, eating and sourcing clean ingredients to be major, super-important, life giving, life sustaining, life changing, comforting, creative, playful, meditative, healing and more. simply put,  food is parenting.

when i became a parent, nothing became more apparent than the importance of feeding and nourishing. as a breast feeding mum i was reminded, every two hours, how essential this was (my son fed every two hours around the clock for 18 months!).   when you are the primary food source you are enlightened to the primal instincts involved in the growing of a healthy child's body and mind.  the physical and emotional attachment to nourishment is an equal opportunity for both parties to witness the miracle of life and growth as nature intended. following the path of Fresh, Local, Organic and Whole beyond the breast is always best.  my kids know the rule of thumb in our house when it comes to what we eat.  if people have been eating it for 200 years...go ahead, it's all good!  parenting (the verb), comes in many different forms.  we might then ask ourselves what it means to parent. in my eyes, to parent is to nurture, to nourish, to feed, to teach, to lead, to inspire, to cultivate, to raise, to look after, to bring up, to rear, to take care of, to love, to cook, to kiss, to play, to wash, to mend, to shlep, to read, to heal, to be present.....you get me?

i have waged major wars with my own parents regarding "treats" that they felt compelled to give to my children that are just not allowed in our family.  they claimed that i was depriving my kids of "kid food" and that it was their birth right to have these things just like i did when i was a kid.  my reply to them is "nope. we don't eat that."  i don't apologize and i rarely give in.  some even say  "but it's just junk food! everybody gets to eat junk food once in a while."  to which i respond, "there is junk. and there is food. we eat food."  as the mother of my children, their birth right is to be healthy, happy, safe and loved.  my job is to make sure they have all that and a bit more.  no where does refined biotech sugar, potentially cancer causing genetically modified corn, cottonseed, canola and soy, antibiotics and hormones from factory farmed meat, eggs and milk ever enter the picture.  the health & behavioral problems that go along with cheap, fast, junk are no child's birthright and every parent's worst nightmare.  as a parent it is our job to protect our children from this stuff.  and it is everywhere.

as a parent i feel there is no greater opportunity to teach our children than through the blessings of food, a medium that always conveys a good old-fashioned, farm raised lesson.  we can teach them how to read by taking them to market, we can teach them math by having them help pay the shop keeper or the farmer for the food and then follow recipes with us. we can teach them agriculture, farming and other aspects of the sciences when we take them to buy food from farmers and then teach them about how our body digests and utilizes the nutrients in our good food.  we engage their social skills at the dinner table whether we are home or at a restaurant and we certainly teach them self respect and self esteem when we teach them how to prepare, cook and eat well via proper nutrition.  we teach them that good food will build a strong mind and body. one that will be able to run, jump, play, think and create.  when sylvia commented about the neon blue cupcake being disrespectful to our bodies, i felt vindicated in my "food as parenting" style and how it is helping my children form their healthy sense of self in this often confusing and toxic world.  


think about it, what we put in our mouths and into our bodies is the most intimate relationship we have with another organism from the day we are born.  The food we introduce into our inner ecosystems becomes us. our cells, our fuel, our microbiome, our internal and external self.   what we put in the tank will determine our health, wellness and behavior.  and yet most  people do not even know who's growing their food.  most people don't even know what is in their food!  This brings up the very important concept of priorities.  Everyone has their own set or list in their appropriate order.  in my opinion, especially because of the times we are living in - GMOs, rampant allergies, autism, environmental toxicity, Fukushima (anyone talking about this, hello?) - making solid food choices is more important than ever and therefore sits at the very top of our family's list of priorities. as a matter of fact when we travel, i always search out where the cleanest food sources will be when we get there.  we always travel with our own food and this is also a huge lesson for our children. 

When I teach my cooking classes to parents I like to begin the session by asking a few questions to set the stage.  "how many parents spent a lot of time finding your family pediatrician?"  everyone's hand goes up quickly. then i go on to ask, "how many parents spent a lot of time and did a lot of research on a super safe family car, car seat and stroller?" again, everyone's hand flies up proudly and quickly. they all beam, actually. smiles all over the room.  then i slip this one in...."how many parents devoted all of those hours to finding your family farmer?"  at this point the room gets really quiet and they look quite confused.  not one hand (maybe one or two if i am lucky) goes up and i say..."really...i'm so surprised. you're all such amazing, dedicated, hands-on loving parents and you don't know the people who are growing the food you feed your children.  the person or people who plant, grow, harvest, kindly nurture and then humanely kill and healthfully process the beautiful food you and your family eat at least three times a day."  the crazy fact is that to most, this person is a total stranger!  

think for a minute about those people who spend tens of thousands of dollars on high performance vehicles.  i bet you would never catch them putting junk in that tank. it would ruin the machine. and yet, millions allow junk to go into their children's tanks at every meal.  children have never been sicker, more learning disabled and developmentally delayed and depressed than they are today.  why?  because they are malnourished from disrespecting their bodies with junk and calling it food.  this is why i teach cooking. this is why i help parents learn how to feed their families properly.  i used to think that i was a chef and a cooking instructor. now i realize that i also teach lifestyle and self love.  i parent my students who then parent their children via food and proper nutrition.  we must parent those who, perhaps, were not parented properly with food when they grew up.  parenting is also teaching, yes? food is all about the teachable moment. use it.  every meal you cook.  every meal you eat. every time you sit down with your family is another opportunity to be an effective parent. wow. how lucky we are.


by giving children a solid foundation in proper nutrition and modeling good nutritional habits we are teaching them to love and respect themselves. we are raising little people with big confidence. my 8 year old understands that!  my 5 year old will too, i have no doubt.  i also know that as my children grow older they will use this foundation to make good decisions when it comes to situations that might harm them.  i hope that by teaching my children the importance of good food and nutrition they will respect themselves enough not to sucomb to peer pressure that might harm them in the future.  food is parenting in all the best ways -  food is communication. food is nourishment. food is health. food is happiness. food is love. food is community. food is tradition and so much more.  unfortunately traditions are being lost and food is becoming less important.  families don't always eat together anymore. we spend less of our annual budgets on good, real food, and cooking is becoming a lost art.  all the best parties wind up in the kitchen. why?  that is where the hearth is. the soul of a home beats strongest and truest from the kitchen.  hippocrates said let food be thy medicine.  i say that our best hope to heal is through our children. therefore, in my equation, parenting is my soul food and food is parenting.

there is an old expression that refers to something (an idea, a value, a concept, etc) being "in the water" meaning that it is pervasive, everywhere.  parenting, in my opinion, is "in the food."  to raise children well we must feed them well and teach them to feed themselves, with love and respect.  love and respect for self, love and respect for nature, love and respect for others and love and respect for life.  in doing this we will be raising generations of people who honor the natural cycle of life and consider their bodies sacred and worth caring for.  when we really think about what we put into our bodies we realize that what goes in is what we get back. teaching children why we eat fresh, local, organic, whole foods as nature intended and not genetically engineered science experiments will not only grow stronger healthier children but also produce generations of environmental activists, sustainable farmers and gentle souls who care about the planet they live on and the life that inhabits it.  they are smart people who deserve to know that eating well has a huge impact on the world and why. in august i asked sylvia what she wanted to be when she grew up.  without any hesitation she said, "a farmer's wife." i asked her why and replied "farmers are heros. they work hard to grow our food. i want to marry a hero." smart girl.

i treasure the Family2Table moments in my little home.  we say a prayer of thanks, appreciate each other and then talk about our days.  they are the sweetest moments when i feel most alive. sometimes they can also be the moments when i feel the most vulnerable too, because thank goodness, we are human.  in the end i know that communication, nourishment, health, happiness, community, love and tradition - in other words, real food, will heal whatever ails me.  our children and our planet are our greatest natural resources. love, respect and enjoy them! xx





Monday, December 2, 2013

got broth?

i live in nyc where we are fortunate to experience all four seasons in brilliant fashion.  just like that, right on time, mid november, the weather snaps and the cold arrives.  fall now feels like winter and the chill has set into my bones.  bingo! bones. there. i have said it.  a word that sets some folks on edge and others enthusiastically on fire when pertaining to food. in my house bones are a blessing and a friend because they give us "stuff" that no other food can give. nutrient dense broth and succulent, divine marrow.  (if you never saw or read my bone marrow omelette recipe when it was published by sarah, the healthy home economist, i recommend you click here after you have finished this post).  also, my post, skin & bones, on this blog gets into some rather boney good food.

bones are a foundation, a structure, a skeleton, a frame, a sturdy and strong base to build upon.  the broth we make from bones is an elixir to support all of that in order to keep the structure, in this case our bodies (which includes the mind, y'all) sound and healthy.  in it's most fundamental homeopathic approach to feeding or curing like with like....bone broth on a daily basis will supply the necessary amount of collagen, gelatin, minerals, vitamin C and more that we all need to maintain strong bones and vibrant health.  it is also the foundation of hundreds of great dishes and traditional recipes! 


however, over the years, the practice of making broth, or stock, from animal bones has gone out of "fashion" and people have turned instead to packaged broths and stocks from the grocer's shelves to save time.  convenience is king to americans it seems, but at what cost?  in this case it has cost us our birth right.  packaged broth has absolutely no nutritional value. as a matter of fact, it contains chemicals and additives (the product and the packaging) that are actually hurting us and making us ill.  it is no wonder that we are seeing so many people these days with weak and ailing bones - osteoporosis and the wide spread need for hip and knee replacements, etc.  bone broth made from properly raised animals could quite possibly be the key to feeling good and healing from chronic illness.  as a matter of fact broth is such a hot topic again that there is a new book in the works called "nourishing broth" by sally fallon morell and dr. kaayla daniel and i am hoping to contribute a recipe or two to that!  but enough about why this traditionally key food is so powerfully good for us and onto how to make it and use it!


in my little house on the urban prairie our stock pot is put up every week in order to make roughly 7- 8 quarts of delicious, gelatin rich broth.  we put two in the freezer (labeled and dated) for later and consume 5 - 6 quarts a week.  i alternate between beef, lamb, chicken and fish.  i make veal stock every once in a while on special occasions (and that process is a bit different) in order to make either an onion soup, demi glace for steak (in which i melt an other-worldly australian blue cheese on top of a perfectly rare, seared and peppered grass fed rib eye by pouring hot, reduced red wine, mushroom demi glace over it) or a savory base for my famous lentil stew.  all broths are consumed, salted to taste, for breakfast, first thing in the morning by all members of the family.  we have been doing this for years and find that it is an amazing way to start the day.  4 - 6oz. of hot broth is a gentle, beautiful way to start the day and can keep you going for a very long time as far as nutrients are concerned.  we have also been known to drink our broth as bacon and egg drop soup in the morning.  in this case we heat the soup to a simmer, salt to taste, beat 2 pastured egg yolks in a bowl and slowly drizzle into the broth as we stir it in the pot making what my kids call egg noodles.  we garnish with bacon lardons, thinly chopped scallions and sometimes a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and bacon drippings. again, a great way to start the day with a hot, delicious, nutrient dense breakfast.  


when the weather turns chilly, like it is now, i heat and salt the broth in the morning and then pour it into a 2 quart thermos so it is always ready to take the chill off of whomever requires that feeling of a warm cuddle in their bellies.  that's what good broth will do.  a warm embrace from the inside out.  there is an old south american saying that claims that broth can resurrect the dead.  i have never seen the actual act performed but i can attest to the lazarus effect it provides in someone with a bad cold, the flu or just suffering from being plain, flat out, knackered and tired.  bone broth, and meat stocks are the cornerstone of classical french cooking.  every soup, sauce, stock, stew and more are based on well made bone broths and can turn a plain tasting dish into a spectacular star.


if bone broth is so delicious and so good for you then why has it fallen out of fashion you might ask....well, like i previously stated above, todays american likes their convenience.  bone broth is something that takes a bit of time and effort.  not scary effort, mind you. just a bit of patience and preparation and then it couldn't be easier.  as a matter of fact i liken stock and broth making to babysitting.   in order to make a good bone broth you need to source bones from well raised animals who have grazed on pasture, or fresh, wild caught, non oily fish.  once you have located your source you are halfway there.  i always recommend starting at your local greenmarket.  if that does not pan out then your local butcher shop or fish monger will do.  please ask questions about the bones. you want to know where they came from. how fresh they are....etc.  also, if you do get them from your butcher, ask him or her to cut them if they are too large to fit into your pot - this will also produce more gelatin (especially if you are using a cow or pig foot - yum!).  okay, so now you have your bones at home. good work.  you will need a good stock pot - you can do this in a crock pot too - but i prefer the stock pot in my house. i use a 12 quart stainless steel pot.  you choose what is best for you.


5lbs. (give or take) of bones go in, cover with pure filtered water, leaving a few inches at the top.  with beef and lamb i use a combo of knuckle bones and marrow bones.  sometimes i roast the marrow bones first to eat the marrow then use the bones or sometimes i don't. it all depends on how i feel.  i love marrow - and so does my family - so we tend to eat the marrow and use the bones...but cooking the marrow into the soup is fine, healthy and nutritious.  into that pot of cold water and bones i put 2 TBS. Braggs apple cider vinegar and then let sit for 1/2 and hour to 1 hour.  This will leech more nutrients out of the bones and will not change the flavor at all.  then i turn on the flame - med. high and bring it to a boil  while the pot comes to a boil, the water and bones will produce a green/grey foam that will gather on top. these are impurities from the proteins. please scoop this foam or scum off. we do not need or want this.  my general rule in cooking is that if it foams to the top, skim it off - something is looking to be extracted because it is not necessary and floating to the top to say hello and tell you so. take the hint. keep the broth clean.  there.  when all of the scum has been scooped off the top you may add aromatics.  I will add a rib of celery, chopped, a carrot or two, scrubbed and roughly chopped, one onion peeled and quartered and about 10 black peppercorns.  i then reduce the flame and cover the pot.

you never want the pot to boil. you want it to smile.  if a boil is a laugh and a simmer is a giggle...find the smile.  here is a video to show you what i mean.


video

i let my beef and lamb broth go for 30 - 36 hours. my chicken, around 20 hours and fish, usually 6 hours.  what we notice here is smaller bones, less cooking time, yes?  generally, i will shut the broth off and let it cool. take out the bones and aromatics, then store in glass jars to cool.  when i freeze my 2 quarts (in plastic as i have had too many glass jars explode on me in my small freezer = nightmare) i will cool it overnight in the fridge, take off the fat in one solid piece then transfer to plastic to freeze.  sometimes i will even reduce the broth further to intensify the flavor before i freeze it.  this is a great solution if you have a small freezer and want to consolidate and concentrate flavor.  then you can add water later when you use the broth and expand the volume.

beef and chicken broth are sipped hot at least once a day by all members of my family. fish broth is almost always used for soups, risotto, curries, pad thai, stew and congi for weekend brekkie. lamb broth is the cornerstone of my lentil stew and slow oven roasted lamb shanks seasoned with fresh herbs, orange zest and cardamom seeds.  i highly recommend broth of all kinds for making rice that has been well soaked.  by using broth you are imparting nutritional value (just like in risotto).  finish with good raw butter and fresh reggiano parmagiano and hip hip hooray!


i will stop now because i could go on forever about broth and how wonderful, satisfying, restorative and versatile it really is.  making broth is a meditation for me -- just like parenting (a subtle hint regarding the topic of my next blog, hello).   oh! did i happen to mention that when you make broth your home will smell amazing for hours and hours? it does.......but before i disappear into my little 9x11 kitchen to thaw some bones and fill the stock pot with filtered cold water and pull out the bottle of raw apple cider vinegar, i want to leave you with this thought....good bone broth is an inspiration and an opportunity to create your next delicious, nourishing meal.  when you commit to making bone broth and having it in your home it is like making a commitment to good health and rich flavor.  It is like preparing and storing an insurance policy in your freezer.  when you have the basis, or foundation for good body health and properly cooked dishes ready to go, you have a home that it ready to heal. so get those bones and fill that pot (and email me if you need help) and get that broth going cause it might just be a long winter and when you call your Family2Table on one of those chilly nights, they will certainly smell the broth and feel the lovin' comin' out of the oven. enjoy!




Monday, November 4, 2013

Bathing in Butter

slow cooking in fat is a technique that has been employed for hundreds of years.  we have all heard of confit, especially duck confit, a preparation for duck legs that are submerged in their own fat and slow cooked in the oven for hours until the meat is succulent, silky and falling off the bone. if you haven't tried it, get thee to your nearest french bistro and order it - or better yet, cook it at home! it couldn't be easier.  in my house we slow cook in clean fat all the time.  recently, i posted a picture of our dinner on facebook - something i do often - that sparked quite a lot of interest.  the dish was a simple, locally caught piece of cod that was slow cooked in raw spring butter. the butter was infused with fresh thyme, log grown shiitake salt (an amazing product that i brought home from melbourne, australia on our last trip back this past august) and truffle salt i purchased from my downstairs neighbor, the meadow, a lovely shop dedicated to fine salt, chocolates, bitters and flowers, owned by author and all around cool guy, mark bitterman....but i digress.  the cod was served with a delightful accompaniment of seared cauliflower (i seared it in bacon drippings first -- more clean fat)  and then added it to the butter i cooked the fish in, along with some frozen spring peas that i had put away for when i simply had to have peas.  i recommend putting away those precious vegetables when they are available - thank goodness for modern freezers!  the dinner was beyond flavorful, my children made all gone and today i have received numerous requests for the recipe.  because i have spent over two decades learning and earning.....my days are now generally filled with "returning."  as weston price said, "...you teach, you teach, you teach."  so here we go...

the butter bath was made for fish.  you can do it with almost all proteins, fruit and veg. but it was MADE for fish.  in case you don't understand what i mean when i say butter bath, here is a little video of me bathing some lovely halibut to illustrate.


video



by bathing the fish in butter you achieve a "buttery" (duh),  silky, perfectly cooked piece of fish that will never let you down.  you will be able to watch the progression of the cooking by seeing the flesh go from translucent to solid in color. also, please note the texture of your protein by touching it with your fingers.  i wholeheartedly recommend getting to know the touch texture of all protein in a raw state as well as the different degrees of their cooked state (rare, medium and well).  by adding herbs and spices to the butter you infuse the fish with rich aromatics and flavors that will beautifully take your flavor profile to the next level.  by slightly browning the butter - which will no doubt happen as you continue to keep it on a flame and the milk solids become golden - the butter takes on a nutty flavor, continuing to change the experience.  i like to use fresh herbs, citrus peel or zest, aromatic spices like curry powder, garam masala, cumin, fennel, caraway, etc.  ground spices as well as seeds are fine. experiment and see what you like best. believe it or not, one of my favorite additions to butter when slow cooking fish (and carrots too!) is vanilla bean.


before i write up the recipe for the cod i would just like to say that besides an animals own fat -- butter, ghee, olive oil and coconut oil are all great examples of fat to slow cook and bathe in.  as a matter of fact, i love to fill a saucepan with good olive oil and put it on a warmer (never cook with olive oil on high heat) and then toss in sliced celery and julienne carrots.  i add fresh herbs, chili flake, a split vanilla bean and 1 TBS. of rapadura sugar.  i let that go for a few hours. what i get is a heavenly smell and perfectly cooked vegetables that will hold for weeks if i need them to.  what is killer is to then saute some greens in butter until they are almost done - then hit them with a bit of these veggies and the olive oil to finish.  holy smokes!  oh! by the way....cooking and submerging in good fat will also preserve the freshness of your food and extend it's life.  fat has long been used as a way to preserve food as well as increase nutrient value. fat is good and it will not make you fat. it will however get your Family2Table in a hurry when they smell the butter calling.  enjoy! 

okay, as promised.....

slow cooked cod in raw spring butter with shiitake mushrooms and truffle salt served with cauliflower and peas.

note:  i have replaced the shiitake salt with real shiitake mushrooms because that product is not available in this country (as far as i know).  the following recipe is for 4 portions.


fresh atlantic cod (7 oz. per portion)
grass fed butter (kerrygold, gold package is fine)
1 TBS. picked fresh thyme leaves plus 6 springs
1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms
truffled salt (or truffle oil)
1/2 head large cauliflower
frozen spring peas (a bag of frozen organic peas will do nicely)

1. heat a pan on med high heat and place 2 TBS. bacon fat from good pastured bacon.  if you don't do bacon i suggest using butter or coconut oil.

2. cut cauliflower lengthwise so you have a flat surface to sear and get color on.

3.  place cod portions on a plate and sprinkle with sea salt, fresh thyme leaves, truffle salt and a few turns of fresh white pepper (i prefer white pepper on fish)

4.  when pan is hot place cauli in the pan and caramelize the cauli on both sides till you can pierce the cauli through.  remove from pan and set aside.  dump that fat and wipe the pan.

5.  reduce the flame to low and add 5 TBS. butter -- yes, that's right....5 TBS. good grass fed butter - you might even need more as you go.

6.  when the butter stops foaming, add the seasoned fish and let cook for a few minutes, add the chopped shiitakes, let those cook in the butter and then start bathing the fish in the butter.  feel free to add more butter if you need to.  cook till the fish is done.  could take up to 15 minutes.

7. remove fish and set aside.  

8.  add cauliflower to the fish and mushroom butter, add frozen peas (that amount depends on you but i generally put in 1/4 - 1/2 cup and cook till the peas are done.

9. to plate, put a piece of fish on each plate, veggies on the side and butter over the top.  drizzle the truffle oil over the fish and feel the effect! garnish with springs of thyme and enjoy!




Saturday, July 13, 2013

To Market To Market!

this morning i woke with the usual enthusiasm and excitement that is typical of a saturday.  not only does saturday mean that my husband is home from work for all of us to enjoy for two whole days, but it also means that i will be going to the market to see what my treasured friends and farmers have harvested for my family!  because we are a family that goes with the FLOW (fresh, local, organic - most of the time, and whole) and eats with the seasons, summer is always chock full of our favorite farm fresh treats.  saturday mornings are the best!

as i dressed for my trip up hudson street to our local west village market at abingdon square, i began to fantasize about what i might find at this time of year.  Cucumbers, greens, herbs, radish, cherries, beets, perhaps the end of the sugar snaps from the farther upstate NY farmers, field tomatoes from the jersey farmers, many varieties of squash, freshly dug potatoes and much more.  I checked my computer to see if Dave from Muddy Farm sent his usual email last night detailing what he will be bringing to market today. he also treats us to the wanderings of his most hysterical brain.  i truly appreciate a farmer with bizarre sense of humor who is also not afraid to talk politics, religion and philosophy on the same page.  you can get on lots of farmer's mailing lists and they will happily let you know what they will be bringing each market day. it's a wonderful way to plan your weekly menus and start the creative juices flowing.  there is that word again....flow. it's a great word because it suggests constant movement which is how a healthy body operates. living, breathing organisms require vibrant, living, growing nourishment with living, nutrient rich foods to support the constant flow of cellular growth.  life, death, repair.  cycles. breathing in and out.  food being grown according to that flow, in harmony with nature. that is how we attain and maintain a healthy balance and a happy life.  our food source is our fuel source. our energy force and our life force.  freshly grown and properly grown is how we need to source it!


my first stop is always with my friend and favorite farmer nevia who is the owner at bohditree farm. her daughter uni is usually with her and my daughter sylvia has been working with them on saturday mornings.  they allow sylvia to help them with setting up the stand and restocking the vegetables as they are purchased.  two hours of work gets sylvia a bag of vegetables of her choice.  sylvia is 8 years old and working is very important to her right now.  she is starting to recognize her efforts as having value and the need to put her efforts to good use is a real feeling of pride and accomplishment...not to mention the fact that her mama worked the greenmarkets 25 years ago and she wants to follow in mama's footsteps!  the other nice thing about the kids putting their hands on useful "tasks" within our community is that they feel a connection and responsibility to the neighborhood and create a social bond with their neighbors within the context of offering & selling healthy food.  helping out at a local greenmarket is a golden opportunity for any child to participate in a socially conscious and connected role as helper in their community.  not to mention the fact that they also learn great math skills by weighing food and attaching value to it.  the adding, subtracting, making change and interacting with customers is a huge plus for self confidence!


from nevia i purchased 5 lbs. of kirby cucumbers to make pickles.  our family loves pickles and we really enjoy the process of lacto-fermenting the pickles ourselves and watching how they take on their exciting flavors.  these pickles are also loaded with enzymes, vitamins and probiotics.  i take much pride in knowing that my children are maintaining proper gut health just by eating pickles with their meals and snacks.  we are just finishing up 2 jars of garlic dill with jalapeno spears and 1 jar of tarragon chips.  i bought 3 different types of herbs from nevia today and we will be experimenting with new pickle flavors based on those herbs: shiso leaf, purple basil and more tarragon - my personal favorite.  the brine will be very simple.  filtered water, celtic sea salt, herbs, garlic, a spice perhaps and the cukes.  after 3 days we will taste and they will probably be done after 5.  they will keep indefinitely in a cool place but i doubt they will last very long. we tend to also give these quart jars to friends as gifts when we go visiting.  we will also ferment some chinese long beans today.  i love fermented dilly beans and this will be my take on that.  i plan to do them with Shiso leaf, one clove of garlic and a nice piece of ginger.  that takes care of the kirby cucumbers and the chinese long beans -- the long beans were originally purchased with the intent of accompanying tonight's monkfish dinner.  i generally like to saute and blister the long beans in rendered bacon fat and serve with smokey chunks of bacon lardons.


i also purchased sour cherries.  this is a personal favorite of mine. i can eat these all day long.  today i will set aside half of the quart plus that i purchased for raw eating and then pit & stew the other half as a topping for tonight's dessert of raw vanilla maple ice cream i made yesterday.  see how i skipped to dessert already?!  i have raw vanilla maple ice cream on the brain today.  what else did i buy and how will i use it....i found those sugar snap peas i was after.  my son henry adores these simply steamed with a drizzle of either olive oil or more than a drizzle of melted raw butter and lemon sea salt from cyprus.  talk about a gift!  we have a specialty store downstairs from our apartment, called the meadow, that sells fine sea salt, flowers, chocolates and bitters.  a very cool place for a foodie to live above, i confess.  i also purchased 4 lbs of assorted summer squash.  my favorite is a variety called avocado squash.  it looks like the inside, buttery flesh of an avocado and has that same, buttery, sweet flavor.  it can be sauteed, steamed, fried, seared, shredded and made into cakes, sliced thinly and eaten raw with just olive oil and sea salt or whatever you desire.  squash is versatile and forgiving.  it also makes great soup!


lacinato kale and sungold cherry tomatoes also found their way into my market bag this morning.  the kale will be chopped roughly and sauteed in coconut oil. i will add course ground sea salt and eat plainly and simply, savoring each flavorful bite.  that is what is so powerful about this food we buy at the farmer's markets -- it is so fresh and full of vital energy that we need not do much to it to make it an unbelievable experience.  each ingredient is a star that deserves to be showcased in it's full beauty and splendor.  i do not recommend tossing this type of food into a pasta all at once, creating a dish that does not sing the praises of each individual ingredient.  I usually go with the four ingredient rule but i prefer three when i can.  from PD & E seafood i happily purchased $20 worth of monk fish which will be our early dinner -- when my husband and the kids get back from the pool in about half and hour. that's $5 in fish per person plus veggies and assorted aromatics, seasoning...i reckon that will add up to $6.75 per person for the best tasting, freshest dinner ever.




i predict that my greenmarket haul from this morning will feed us all week.  a little here, a little there.  a meal. a snack. etc.  i didn't even mention some of the other vendors today who were rockin' their peaches, nectarines, melons, corn, lettuce, etc.  there was so much to choose from that it could have been a crazy race to see how much i could spend and carry.  but instead i will pace myself by enjoying a few things that are at peak right now and also by fermenting and putting up some others that we can enjoy beyond it's season in a different state.  the summer is a time of seduction and endless variety but we are able to bring all of that diversity and deliciousness from the markets and farms to our Family2Table with intent and creativity. our mission, to design plates that nourish the body, feed the soul and celebrate each individual ingredient which is as special and unique as each individual member of our family.  enjoy!