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Archive for August 2009

cold kale summer squash soup

Friday, 14 Aug 2009 | recipe inside

Though kale is usually a winter plant, I've been seeing it very frequently at the farmer's market this summer-- maybe it's due to all that rain New York had in June.  I first heard of kale a few years ago in an article about super foods and decided we needed to be eating it.   So, I went out and bought some and then got totally intimidated and had no idea what to do with it.  It's a pretty leaf-- dark and mysterious--  but looked more like a decorative plant than something edible.  Turns out my reticence was pretty silly-- it is delicious, so good for you, and easy to cook.

Summer squash doesn't have these problems.  It is so ubiquitous that the challenge in these late days of summer is how to give it some mystery.  I'm not looking to make a rockstar out of a librarian; I just want a sexy librarian.  But then what do you do with a sexy librarian when it is so hot and humid that all you want is to eat ice? Well, I made a cold soup packed with flavor.  El Burrito is training hardcore right now and he needed more than frozen water for fuel, so I found a couple of lighthearted friends (cilantro and lime) for my bookworm zucchini, and they all ended up doing a cumbia with the kale.

Both kale and summer squash are packed with nutrients-- vitamins, fiber, calcium, iron, omega 3 fatty acids, among others.  This soup is very light and refreshing-- low calorie with a super low glycemic load, so pair it up with some whole-wheat bread for a more complete starter.  If you prefer a heartier soup, you could invite a potato to the dance or stir in some cream.

watermelon, feta, pumpkin seed salad

Tuesday, 11 Aug 2009 | recipe inside

This past Saturday I was back at the greenmarket and came across some very cute and small watermelons.  One of the guys working the stand came up and asked if I knew how to choose a good one. Of course, I said, one that feels heavy for its size. No, he said, hold the watermelon by the stem (yes, these were tiny enough that you could dangle one between two fingers) and flick it. You are looking for a deep THUUD.  THUUD.  THUU-UUD.The sound definitely doesn't correlate to the watery lightness of the fruit, but he was right, when I got home I cut open a gloriously juicy surprise.  Surprise? Indeed, this watermelon was baby pink in color-- I'd never seen that before.  At first I feared I'd gotten a dud with the thuud, but no, this little surprise had a sweet delicate flavor to match its delicate tone.  

Though I was tempted to just cool the watermelon chunks and eat them as nature intended, I really wanted a nice salad for brunch and figured we could make some kind of anti-oxidant power salad.  Watermelons are super rich in antioxidants, primarily Vitamin C, and are also a good source of Vitamins A & B.  ABC, 1-2-3-, baby, you and me!  I decided to pair it up with some salty feta from a great Lebanese store in Brooklyn, omega-3 and mineral rich dark green pumpkin seeds and lots of mint.  It was delicious and incredibly refreshing on a summer day so hot that simply walking to the corner sapped me of all energy.

zucchini flower sea bass

Friday, 07 Aug 2009 | recipe inside

I grew up eating zucchini flowers. In Spanish they are known as "flor de calabaza" and are sold in large bouquets that you don't feel timid about using. Quesadillas, soups, whatever.  Elsewhere however, whenever I've found them for sale, they are handled and priced like precious jewels.  Sometimes it annoys me, other times it makes me nostalgic, always it makes my mouth water. I love their gentle flavor.

I found them at the Union Square Greenmarket the other day as I was heading home in the late afternoon. The market was closing down and one stand had discounted all their produce in an attempt to sell out before heading out of town.  Score!

Feeling lucky about my market deal, I wanted to try something new.  The last time I was in Italy, I had some outrageous ravioli in a zucchini flower sauce and started riffing on that, but with Mexican flavorings.  I was also making some pea pod soup, and decided to use some of the broth as a base for this sauce.  Good call, it gave the sauce an amazing depth of flavor that water or basic broth just couldn't achieve. However, it's not realistic to always have pea pod broth on hand, so I suggest making this with a basic vegetable broth unless you have the time and inclination to go all out.

raw beet foam

Sunday, 02 Aug 2009 | recipe inside

El Burrito is training for a marathon this fall, and we've been doing a lot of research into proper nutrition for a marathoner. He's been an athlete forever, but running only for about a year or so and we are still learning about the very specific tolls this sport takes on your body.

So recently, we've been all about iron due to its relationship with VO2 max.  VO2 max is your body's maximum capacity to transport and use oxygen during exercise.  High VO2 max means you are super fit!  One determinant of VO2 max is the transportation of oxygen through your red blood cells, and as iron is a key component of hemoglobin it is an important part of an athlete's nutrition.  Further, since I was a child I've teetered on the edge of low iron counts, so generally we make an effort to include iron in our meals.  

We don't eat too much red meat, so the goal has been to expand our repertoire by snooping around the farmer's market.  First came the usual suspects, spinach and beans.  Pretty soon we came to be known as Popeye's Trumpet Band in our building.  Ok, not quite true, being from Mexico I am pretty much immune to the bean's revenge and el Burrito has developed a good tolerance as well.  But not wanting to ruin spinach and beans forever as a food source, we had to find some alternatives.  Enter those beautiful rubies of the earth: beets.

I bought some red beets at the Union Square Greenmarket earlier this week thinking that I would make some cold beet summer soup.  When I got home though, a bag of pinenuts on the kitchen counter just wouldn't stop staring at me, so I had to find a way to make them feel included too. And then I poked around and found my favorite toy as of late: a siphon. So beet soup became beet foam, and wow, were our tastebuds happy.  The mouthfeel of foam is so special if you are like me and have a thing for textures.  The airiness feels ethereal as it melts in your mouth and then you have the crunchy creaminess of the pinenuts to bring you back to earth.

It turns out the beets are not only a great source of iron, but they are also rich in folate.  If you've never tasted raw beets, you are in for a treat! The taste is very different from cooked beets, sweeter less "like dirt," and I urge you to try this even if you "hate beets."  The mix of fresh beets and carrots results is a sweetly perfect marriage. The cilantro and pinenuts balance out the flavors and return some earthiness to the dish.