Friday Links: July 20, 2012

A field of blueberries near Yakima, WA. (Follow me on Instagram: anjaliruth.)

 

What I’ve been reading:

The government wants you to eat cheese – The Washington Post

High-Tech Shortcut To Greek Yogurt Leaves Purists Fuming – NPR

Raw Panic: Coping With Summer’s Bounty of Vegetables – The New York Times

A Vision of the [Gluten-Free] Future – The New Yorker (by Bob Odenkirk!)

 

What I’ve been cooking (on The Kitchn):

California BLT with Avocado & Basil Mayonnaise

Chickpea, Barley & Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Mint and Feta

Cilantro-Lime Sardine Salad in Avocado Halves

…and thinking about cooking:

Grilled Avocado Salad – Not Without Salt

Shanti’s Famous Fattoush Salad – Apples & Onions

Jamaica (Hibiscus Flower Tea)

It’s been a whirlwind of a summer: the past three weekends spent out of town, first with family, then with friends, then with strangers who became friends; two big work events that had me commuting to Malibu more times a week than should be legally allowed; and a new-ish bi-weekly recipe slot on The Kitchn, which is both a lot of fun and a lot of work.

That pretty much sums up this summer: both a lot of fun and a lot of work. But jamaica — jamaica is a lot of fun and almost no work, which is what I think summer should be.

Made with dried hibiscus flowers, jamaica is tart, refreshing and beautifully pink. It’s my go-to drink at taco stands, where it is usually ladled from giant jars into big styrofoam cups. The truth is, when I try a new taco stand I am usually hoping for two things, neither of them taco related: 1) that their pickled carrots and jalapenos are made in the style I like, and 2) that the jamaica is good.

There is one way to make bad jamaica and that is to add too much sugar.

This is just my opinion, of course, totally biased because I love tartness and can’t stand too-sweet drinks. Feel free to disagree; I just won’t be ordering any jamaica from your taco stand, sorry. (I’ll still try your pickled carrots though.)

The good news is that in addition to being a lot of fun and almost no work, jamaica is very easy to make as sweet or as tart as you like. It’s also high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, and may help lower blood pressure.

Plus it tastes good in a margarita or mixed with rum. I’m just saying.

{ read more }

Vegetarian New Orleans-Style Red Beans & Rice

What, more beans?

Look, I warned you. I’m a bean girl. And to be fair, this bean dish was not chosen by me. It was chosen by a committee, an eight-member group better known as The Crawfish Boil Committee, who spend countless hours every year putting together a bang-up party and food-fest better known as The Annual Crawfish Boil. This year they needed a red beans and rice upgrade and I, being a bean girl, volunteered to tackle the project.

The mission: vegetarian red beans and rice for at least 150 people. The problem: I have never eaten authentic, New Orleans-style red beans and rice. The other problem: my kitchen is sized for 2-4 people, not 150 people. The final problem: it’s hard to make beans exciting when two feet away there is some guy in overalls dumping a giant vat of steaming-hot crawfish down a newspaper-covered table. It just is.

More exciting than beans.

But despite all the problems, I was happy with my final beans, which were based on a Gourmet recipe that had encouraging reviews. The cloves and allspice add an almost Middle-Eastern undertone, while the Tabasco and chipotle provide a little heat. The chipotle also adds some smokiness, my addition along with smoked paprika, to make up for the lack of smoked sausage. If you were making it for a smaller group, a little vegetarian sausage would probably be a nice addition. It wasn’t in the budget for my giant pot o’ beans, but the crowd still ate them up.

A special thanks goes to committee member Todd, who as far as I know has zero to less-than-zero interest in cooking, but had some strong recommendations for making vegetarian red beans better, namely green bell peppers and Worcestershire sauce. He was right.

Looking for more healthy vegetarian bean recipes? Here are a few favorites:

Middle Eastern Spiced Lentils & Kale with Caramelized Onions (Mujadarah)
Black Bean & Pumpkin Soup with Peanuts & Lime
Garlicky Chickpea & Arugula Salad

Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

Yield: 10 side servings

{ Ingredients }

1 pound dried small red beans, washed and picked over
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2 celery stalks (with leaves), chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups water
4 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (Annie's Naturals or other anchovy-free brand)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon Tabasco

{ Directions }

The night before, put the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water.

Preheat the oven to 225 °F and arrange the racks to accommodate the pot you'll be cooking the beans in.

Drain the soaked beans. In a 5-quart dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid, place the beans and all remaining ingredients except the salt and the Tabasco. Bring to a boil over high heat on the stove. Cover and place on the middle rack in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bake for another 30 minutes and add the second teaspoon of salt. Bite into a bean to test for doneness; if they are still hard, return the pot to the oven for another 30 minutes or more. (Depending on the freshness of the beans, they make take longer to cook.) When the beans are cooked through, add the Tabasco and more salt if needed. Remove the bay leaves and thyme and oregano stalks. Serve over plain rice.

Additional Notes:
• If making this recipe for 150 people, 12 pounds of beans is about right.
• This recipe can also be made in the slow cooker.* Cook the beans on HIGH for 3-4 hours. (Time again depends on the freshness of the beans.)
• The Tabasco is added at the end because acidity slows the softening of beans and I have a feeling my first couple batches took longer because I was adding it at the beginning.

*But not more than two pounds of beans at a time. Trust me.

Adapted from Gourmet

Friday Links: June 8, 2012

Lunch when I don’t feel like making lunch: smoked trout salad with Ak-Mak and celery. (Follow me on Instagram: anjaliruth.)

 

What I’ve been reading:

The Mulberry’s the Worst Berry There Ever Was! – Gilt Taste
The End of “Ethnic” Food - CHOW
Teeny Tiny Pig Overcomes His Fear of Stairs to Get to a Bowl of Delicious Oatmeal – Jezebel
Isn’t It Always About the Dress? – Skinny By Monday (My pal Jen just started this blog about her amazing weight loss journey with Weight Watchers, told with lots of humor and sass.)

 

What I’ve been cooking:

Or not cooking: a lot of simple salads made with sliced heirloom tomatoes and the first summer peaches, drizzled with California Olive Ranch extra-virgin olive oil. Simple and good.

…and thinking about cooking:
Nobu’s Fried Asparagus with Miso Dressing – Food52
Socca & Leek “Tart” with Herbed Almond Spread – Love & Lemons

3 Ways Your Local Froyo Joint Is Trying to Fool You

I missed the whole Pinkberry thing. I was living in Japan when the popularity of frozen yogurt exploded, so by the time I moved back to LA, the backlash had already begun and everyone I knew hated it. When I finally got around to trying Pinkberry, I thought it was just…fine.

All of this is to say: I don’t go out for frozen yogurt very much.

I suspect it is because I see frozen yogurt for what it is — an occasional dessert — rather than what many people hope it is: a healthy habit. On the Master Dessert Spreadsheet I keep constantly updated in my brain, frozen yogurt ranks far below ice cream or sorbetto or milkshakes or many other frozen treats, no matter how many probiotics there are. I’ll get my Lactobacillus from kimchi or plain Greek yogurt, thanks.

So my ever-cynical eyes were open when I stopped by a local frozen yogurt spot with some friends last week. The place was packed, and all I could think besides Yum, coconut frozen yogurt was This is such a scam. Here’s why:

The Nutrition Information: At the Froyo Life shop I visited, each self-serve yogurt flavor had a nutritional information card next to it. At first glance, all the yogurts look remarkably low-calorie, clocking in around 22-25 calories per serving. Until you look at the serving size — one ounce. Five quarters weigh one ounce. A slice of bread weighs about one ounce. Would you ever serve yourself just one ounce of frozen yogurt? (And could you? Those machines spit the stuff out fast.) It would look ridiculous, especially in the big cups they give you, which brings me to…

The Cups: They are abnormally large. Rob filled up the smallest available cup to the brim with yogurt (I’m still not sure if this was an error in judgement or just his poor yogurt machine operating skills) and we calculated it to be about a pound of frozen yogurt. A pound of frozen yogurt.

Pinkberry’s cup sizes are similarly skewed. The nutrition info PDF on their website has slightly more realistic serving sizes, around 3.5 ounces or ½ cup per serving, but the only cup size that actually holds the equivalent of one serving is the Mini. The Small cup holds 1.4 servings and the Medium holds 2.3. If you get a Large, you are consuming 3.7 servings of frozen yogurt, or between 370-444 calories and 56-104 grams of sugar. That’s a lot of quarters and bread slices.

The Toppings: Frozen yogurt is not King Midas. Crumbled up Butterfingers and Oreo cookies do not transform into low-calorie, nutritious foods because they are touching yogurt. They make a fantastic DESSERT topping to your DESSERT of frozen yogurt, but they are not part of a healthy snack.

Sorry to the the Grinch of Froyo, but the veil of nutritiousness needs to be lifted. Frozen yogurt is a dessert — a low-fat, high-sugar dessert that tastes really good with a bunch of crumbled up candy bars and cookies on top of it. But then, what doesn’t?

 

(Image: ajcreencia/Flickr)