February28

Food for Thought :: Just Food

The topic of food is pretty much on my mind constantly given that: 1) it's my job and, 2) there are few things better than sitting down to a simple meal that casts a splendid spell over you.  I admit however, that sometimes I get lost in the mix of daily of life and work...and forget to step back and think beyond the emails awaiting reply in my box, or about what fresh ingredients I have on-hand to whip up a quick dinner.  Which is precisely why I love the above quote by the well-known style blogger Garance Dore via this website.  Staying relevant.  Something that's quite important to many of us, myself definitely included.  How do you stay relevant when it comes to something so basic and intrinsic as eating?

Sometimes it just requires a bit of inspiration to bring relevant thoughts and ideas to life.  A big thank you to Just Food, the non-profit organization that connects New York communities to local food and farms.  Accessibility, information, sustainability and active change are their guiding principles around food.  I had the opportunity to attend Just Food's annual conference last week and the general theme of "relevance" and making connections through food was unmistakable.  I had the pleasure of sitting in on two extraordinary sessions - one where editors and writers from Saveur Magazine, Tasting Table and Gilt Taste (aka Ruth Reichl's new pet project) kept coming back to the "heritage of food," going back to the roots of food and the memories that spark sensory intrigue.  All of this can create innovation and gratitude -- and can promote good food existing right in our own kitchens.  It's the experience of a good meal, a seasonal ingredient, interacting with a farmer or local grocer.  All of this creates connections, and that furthers relevance.  

The second session featured a panel of local area chefs (from the Cleaver Company, Egg, and Palo Santo) who spoke about connecting with food and the value - and health - that good food and well-sourced ingredients can encourage.  When it comes to staying relevant, sustainability is certainly one ticket.  Considering, even in the smallest of ways, sustainability and where our food comes from is becoming more and more a way of living - or at least it should be.  A couple of memorable quotes from the afternoon:

"The idea of 'sustainable' should just be what we do because it's best for us."     

"You cook with what's available - and what's at the market, what tastes best...and that's also what's most healthful."

"You care about your body, you should care about what you put into it."

Here's to eating well, eating with consciousness and eating with memorable pleasure.  That's surely staying relevant.

February22

Winter's Warmth :: Le Soup

So what do you get when...you've been daydreaming about a friend's trip to Morocco (see here & here) + a chilly February afternoon + a random assortment of leftover root veggies, winter squashes & herbs in your fridge?  A wildly coloful and flavorful SOUP!  After taking stock of my fridge and spice arsenal, I went to work on this rich, hearty soup that's not exactly Moroccan, and not exactly South Asian.  I wouldn't go as far as calling it the bastard soup child of both cuisines, I think the love soup child is a kinder, more appropriate reference.  Regardless, the flavors whirl themselves together wonderfully, leaving you happily slurping an steamy bowl of aromatic goodness.  I'll be slurping away while dreaming of faraway places and the food, people and culture that make them so beautiful. 

Butternut Squash, Carrot and Red Lentil Soup :: with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Lemon-Garlic Compote

Serves :: 8 to 10

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 to 3 parsnips, chopped
3 to 4 shallots, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or 1 tsp ground cumin)
1 teaspoon harissa powder (or a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
good pinch of Aleppo pepper
3 bay leaves
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup of red lentils
salt to taste

lemon-garlic compote:

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

3 small garlic cloves, sliced paper thin

4 lemons, peeled and supremed, pulp roughly chopped

pinch of salt

 

additional garnish:

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

1/2 cup cilantro

Directions

In a large stockpot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add vegetables, shallots and garlic and saute for 8 to 10 minutes. 
Add in spices, brown sugar, bay leaves, broth, water, coconut milk and lentils.  Increase heat to medium-high, stir well and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.  Discard the bay leaves and puree soup in batches in a blender until smooth.

For lemon-garlic compote, saute garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat until garlic is crispy and slight burned.  Add in chopped lemon and salt, saute for 30 seconds and remove from heat. 

Garnish soup with cilantro, toasted pumpkin seeds and lemon-garlic compote. 

 

Photos by Nourish

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February21

Crushing On :: Occhipinti Wines

I'm not sure if it was ironic or simply good timing, but I don't really care either way.  I was plotting a post just last week about one of my absolute favorite winemakers (I'm slightly obsessed), and then who turns up on my doorstep Saturday morning smack in the middle of the New York Times Style Magazine.  Say "bongiorno" to Arianna Occhipinti and Occhipinti wines.  Many thanks to the fantastic Mr. Todd Selby who photoraphed Occhipinti in his NYT feature column, Edible Selby - appropriately titled "Natural Woman."  I discovered Occhipinti's wines - the SP68 Vittoria Rosso to be exact - at L'Artusi (a great Italian spot in the WV) a few years back and I've been hooked ever since.  At 29, Occhipinti is producing some of the most striking wines I've tasted - she's producing in southern Sicily where she's from...and she's doing it using natural biodynamic methods to farm the grapes (read: zero chemicals).  She's a woman with a mission, and I'm fully on board.  

Here's her recipe for grape marmalade as published in T Magazine (insert Italian accent).

1 kg grape moscato

.3 kg sugar

Remove the seeds from the grape and discard it.  After, put the grape in a pot with the sugar and mix by a wood spoon until the fruit changes thanks to the caramelization of the sugar.  When it is dense, put everything into a glass jar when it is hot.  Close and seal.  It is ready.

You'll find Occhipinti wines online and at Astor Wines.  Oh, and of course at L'Artusi thanks to Joey Campanale, owner, beverage director and wine slueth.

 

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