Vitamin C – Where You’d Least Expect

With doctors and news reporters claiming 2013 is the worst seasonal flu outbreak in ten years, how should one prepare? As many know, the flu shot won’t prevent the flu altogether, just lessen the blow. And often times when people detect the slightest onset of illness they stock up on quick fixes like Airborne, or Vitamin C tablets. But by that time, it’s too late.

As a person who loves food, I like to impart not only the most decadent tips and advice for preparing and finding delicious meals, but also how to use food to our advantage.

Food is the most natural source of vitamins and minerals we can feed our body. It is the most natural way to prevent illness and chronic diseases from diabetes to heart disease. If you think about it, back in the day, people didn’t have a million varieties of Advil and Tylenol, or steroids or antibiotics. They self-healed. Don’t get me wrong, medicine has come a long way and has made tremendous advancements in saving lives. But Imagesomething like the common cold, and even the flu epidemic of 2013 can be easily combated or at best avoided altogether with some simple dietary alterations.

To start, Vitamin C is our best friend when it comes to boosting immunity and injecting antioxidants into our system. Most people immediately reach for the OJ. But, here are some all-star Vitamin C rich foods that far surpass the orange.

A few things to keep in mind when reviewing the list:

  • Guys – your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C is 90mg
  • Chicas – we need about 75mg
  • If you go over your daily allowance, no fear, your body with flush it out
  • To obtain maximum vitamin capacity eat these foods raw

1. Guavas

377mg (628% DV) per cup

These exotic tropical jewels are in season from November through April, a perfect addition to your winter fruit bowl. Try and find ones that don’t have a stamp in their passport. Farms on the west coast and Florida have started distribution.

2. Hot Chili Peppers

Green – 181.88mg (303% DV) per half cup, chopped

Red – 108mg (180% DV) per half cup, chopped

Don’t have to tell me twice! Most common chili peppers are jalapenos, Thai chili peppers, poblanos, and fresnos. These guys might be tough to eat raw, so considering they already have a massive amount of Vitamin C, a cooked chili pepper will still have a pretty healthy dose.

3. Strawberry

98mg (163% DV) per cup, sliced

I might add a qualifying note of consideration when consuming strawberries. Their season doesn’t come until May/June and the winter months are really tough on strawberry distribution. If you have your heart set on those big, perfectly red, all similar in shape and size strawberries you see in the markets now, save them to dip in chocolate. Chances are they will need an extra boost in flavor.

4. Bell Peppers

Yellow- 95mg (159% DV) 10 sliced strips

Green- 22mg (36% DV) 10 sliced strips

Sweet, delicious and easy to eat raw. You can also find orange and red bell peppers which carry more Vitamin C than the green.

5. Papaya

87mg (144% DV) per cup, cubed

Another exotic beauty, maybe we should just move to the tropics! When selecting one to take home with you, look for skin that is turning from green to yellow and you should be able to press your thumb into the flesh. If it’s too soft or mushy, or if it has a sweet smell to it, the papaya is overripe. Like avocados you want to buy when they’re firm and allow about 2-3 days to ripe on the counter.

6. Kiwi

84mg (141% DV) per fruit

These guys are also great sources of magnesium which supports nerve function, strong bones and regulate blood sugar. A real super food!

7. The crucifers or the cabbage family

Broccoli – 81mg (135% DV) per cup, chopped

Brussels Sprouts 75mg (125% DV) per cup, chopped

Cauliflower – 46mg (77% DV) per cup, chopped

Enjoy these raw veggies with some hummus dip or light dressing. Even raw Brussels Sprouts shaved thin is delicious in salads.

8. Fresh Herbs

Thyme – 1.6mg (3% DV) per teaspoon

Parsley – 5mg (9% DV) per tablespoon

Fresh herbs are great for garnish and flavoring agents. Most often they are used to build flavor in stews or sautes, but again, do your best to find ways to eat them in their natural form. (In comparison, they technically have the least amount of Vitamin C in this article, but they also have the smallest measured value. One cup of parsley is close to 80mg)

9. Kale

80mg (134% DV) per cup, chopped

Dark, leafy greens are full of Vitamin C and easy to use in salads.

10. Citrus

Grapefruit – 85.1mg (142% DV) 1 cup, sections

Oranges – 83.25 mg (139% DV) 1 cup, sections

Clementine – 36.11mg (60% DV) 1 fruit

So here we are at #10 and to be fair, 1 cup of raw orange does have just about the appropriate amount of daily recommended intake.  The point is, there are 9 other foods that have super Vitamin C values (not to mention a whole host of other vitamins and minerals) so change it up every now and then, and be well!

Reference here: click

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

More Salt and Fat Please – Sel et Gras Opens in the West Village

After several weeks of preparation the the wine is chilled, the caps are closed on the spray cans, and the knives are honed and sharp. Sel et Gras the newest member to the overflowing diverse culture that embodies the West Village is ready for business.

Sel et Gras is French for Salt and Fat which is the first sign that this isn’t your typical French restaurant. Sel et Gras is here to buck the system, make you surrender all of your previous druthers with stuffy French food, and roll up your sleeves for some stuffed pigs foot and a pomme aligot (mashed potatoes meets mac and cheese).

The menu comes from Chef Patrick Lacey of Eataly, Del Posto, and Elettaria to name a few. He has worked under Chef Akhtar Nawab (currently head chef at La Esquina Williamsburg) for several years and now is creating and executing as Executive Chef.

The restaurant concept is the intersection between the spirit of the French Revolution and the intensity of punk rock. The exposed brick walls are tagged by artist Chris Yormick. If you look closely you’ll see renderings of Napoleon Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette among other nods to the celebration of salt and fat.

Some of my favorite menu highlights are:
Stuffed Pigs Foot – Watercress, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Banyuls Vinaigrette
Poached Eggs en Murette – Red wine, Bacon, Mushrooms, Pearl Onions
Duck Egg Omelette – Morels, Ramps, Smoked sable fish
Pomme Aligot (the mashed potato, cheese, crack pie)

Still a lot to do and much more people to feed, but the opening was strong and Napoleon and his army are ready to kick some ass.

Image

Glazed Spring Vegetables – Basil and Pea Puree

Image

Pork Rillette – Pickles, Mustard and Toast

Image

Mussels au Vodouvan – steamed mussels with fennel, garlic, roasted tomatoes, and vodouvan

Sel et Gras

131 Seventh Ave at W. 10th St.

646-558-5468

Twitter: @Sel_et_Gras

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Salad A Day

Here we are months away before we dig through the bottom of our closets for those bathing suites we shoved back there just a year ago. Another year older another year wider. The best we can do is take advantage of the beautiful spring time vegetables and eat a salad. Yes that’s right a salad. That stale word on every dieters list of acceptable meals, right next to tuna fish and cottage cheese. I personally used to hate salads until I met Salad of the Day by Georgeanne Brennan. The book has 365 recipes divided into seasons. And the layout and photography are quite intriguing as well.  Nothing is more annoying than a cookbook with bad pictures. I’ve also discovered that it’s really easy to add little creative touches to salad recipes. Can’t really mess things up too bad!

My recent favorite is The 25th Day of April – Artichoke & White Bean Salad

Serves 8

For the Dressing

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (add more if you are a spicy freak like me!)
1 tsp ground fennel seeds (always toast your seeds first to release the aroma, then grind)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I thought this was a little much so I cut it back to 1/4)
I also felt it needed a little more acid so I added a splash of white wine vinegar

For the Salad

1/2 lemon (if using fresh artichokes)
I can’t let lemon zest go to waste so I put the zest of half the lemon on top for garnish
6 baby artichokes, or 1 package (8oz) frozen quartered artichoke hearts, thawed and brought to room temperature
2 cans white beans, rinsed and drained
1 small red onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano

1. To make the dressing combine all of the ingredients adding the oil in a thin stream and whisk. Or you can do what I do and put everything in an air tight container and shake really well.

2. If using fresh artichokes, squeeze the lemon half (make sure you get the zest off first) into a large bowl of cold water. Trim the artichoke stems, leaving about 1/2 inch. Cut 1/2 inch off the tops.  Peel off the tough outer leaves (if you’re like me, you are probably sensitive to waste, but really those tough outer leaves have to go) until you reach the tender, pale green leaves. Cut each artichoke lengthwise into 6 wedges and put them into the lemon water pool. Bring a pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil.  Add the artichokes and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Its always good to taste test one first. Drain and let cool at room temperature.

3. Combine all the ingredients in to a large bowl. For best results let everyone get to know each other for about 30 minutes before serving.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Makin’ the Rice balls

I think it’s literally been about four years since I told my Aunt Ro that I wanted to learn how to make her famous rice balls. And as a 2012 Eating Resolution I finally made it happen! Rice balls, like pretty much everything in Italian food culture are made differently according to region. The main difference is the stuffing. In Italian, rice balls are called ‘arancini’ which translates to little orange, and no matter the variations on stuffing, all rice balls have the crispy golden fried exterior that makes it look like a little orange.

True to traditional family secrets, there was no recipe. So my senses were on high alert as I tasted the boiling salt water, felt the density of the rice as it cooked, watched as it cooled and checked for the gummy texture.  Aunt Ro makes a classic Sicilian rice ball with a stuffing that includes, ground meat, chopped onions, tomato paste, peas, grated Pecorino cheese, and ground pepper. The stuffing was the easy part, checking for seasoning as we added the cheese.  We waited for the rice to cool completely by laying it out in sheet trays. And finally, the time had come! Time to make the balls!

Here is a video of Aunt Ro explaining the technique:

Untitled from Allison Caruana on Vimeo.

Once the balls were done, we dipped them in egg, with a little bit of milk and seasoned breadcrumbs.  And then into the frier! We used a combination of olive oil and vegetable oil. Aunt Ro said you know the oil is hot enough when you throw a little rice scrap into the pot, it sinks to the bottom, does a little dance, and then floats up to the top.  We fried them until they were a nice deep golden brown and rotated them once just so the bottom didn’t burn.

The taste of a freshly fried rice ball is like no other experience! I’m used to eating them re-heated and they don’t have that crispy crunchy exterior like a fresh one. Quite a food nirvana moment for me!

I think the best part of the day, aside from the glorious moment of tasting a fresh rice ball was spending a day with Aunt Ro! She is true Brooklyn (if you couldn’t tell from her accent that video) and is a real ‘say it how it is’ kinda woman.  She’s pretty badass.  In fact she took me to get my first tattoo! And I was so happy I made her proud with my rice- balling skills, I was a natural!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Chili: It’s all in the technique

I used to think that taste buds were hereditary. And in some cases I still do.  But somehow I developed a semi-unnatural obsession to spicy food that hasn’t come from my dad and especially not my mom.  So you could imagine when mom told me she entered a chili contest I was a little confused. Not to mention, neither of us have made it before.  Growing up Italian, chili wasn’t exactly in our dinnertime repertoire. The closest we got was a pasta bolognese but still no heat. But in true mom form, she’s in it for the thrill and the social gathering with her friends that will take place at the bar while the judges are deliberating.

So I went to a few trusted sources like Ruth Reichel and Serious Eats and made a few decisions.  Ruth suggested bison meat because it’s naturally very lean and full of flavor. Both sources suggested making a homemade chili powder. And Serious Eats made some cautionary comments about using dried kidney beans properly (another thing I’m not familiar with).

After gathering some preliminary ingredients I went to Holiday Meats in Little Silver, NJ to pick up the bison.  Holiday Meats is a family run wholesale meat supplier to some of the best restaurants in the area. This was my first time visiting and owner Vinny Valentino was gracious enough to show me around the facility. Coming from a direct line of family butchers I always get excited by an opportunity to learn more about the craft practiced by my family. And personally, I feel that true butchers are a rare breed of artists. Vinny is especially rare.  He inherited the business from his father, who was a product of the golden ages of New York butcher shops with a legacy to do one thing, and do it right. While many things have changed from those golden years, the passion to share quality meat and service that takes you back to the days when businesses shared true genuine relationships with their customers, has not.

Back in the kitchen my mom and her friend Margo were ready to get started. Margo is Greek and has  some experience with chili and definitely more of a risk taker when it comes to the spice factor.  Margo was a true asset in this operation and a trusted ‘double checker’ as I like to call it. We weren’t  working from a recipe so a double check in everything from when to add the tomatoes to the spice mixture was critical. And like hell my mom was about to taste anything spicy. I forced her to try a roasted poblano pepper just to expand her pepper knowledge. You’d think she was a 2-year-old about to take cough medicine.

One of the major things I learned in culinary school was to taste as you go along.  And that was absolutely a key part of building this dish. I was going purely off of flavor building techniques and trusting our instincts.  The voice of Chef Anna, a very influential ‘tough love’ kind of instructor was replaying in my head all day.  “Just think!” is what she would bark at us in the kitchen.  Cooking is thinking. Things just don’t magically taste good.  You have to think. Think that you better add those fresh bell peppers in last otherwise they will turn to mush. Think that its okay if your beans are still a little hard because you will be reheating the chili again in the morning and it will be sitting in a crock pot at the competition for at least four hours.

About six hours later with a little of this and a little of that we were in pretty good shape. The chili looked really nice and the level of heat was perfect.  You got the meaty, tomato base up front and that slow rise of spice on the finish.

With twelve other competitors I was keeping my expectations low. Chili is a very personal thing to most people. Family recipes that have been passed down from one tailgate to the next.  But I was hoping my homemade chili powder and chili paste would give us some muscle. As an added bonus I fried fresh corn tortillas to serve on the side.

The judges took a good hour to come to their decision. After which the public got to taste and make a public vote. We were table number 6, right in the middle of the tastings.  By the time I tasted up to number 6 I noticed ours definitely stood out from the previous five.  My mom had a small entourage of her bowling friends all of which said our chili was the best.  Somehow I wasn’t convinced.  There were some pretty good chilis out there, and it really comes down to what the judges are feeling.  I felt we put forth a decent, traditional chili with a foundation in good technique and balanced flavor.

What seemed like hours later as the crock pots were starting to burn the last remains and people began picking on the stale chips the crowd gathered to announce the winners. The small neighborhood pub was jammed with people and I barely make my way to the front of the pack as they announced second place #6! I literally screamed and ran to Margo and my mom, hugging all of my moms friends and our new supporters.  Some people in the crowd felt my reaction was even better than the 1st place winners!

While I’m not about to revel our secret recipe I will share some helpful tips:

1. Bison meat was a great choice. I was almost turned off by the fatty ground beef, some of which had little pools of orange fat at the top.

2. My mom made an excellent observation that starting the chili in a dutch oven rather than cooking in a slow cooker made a lot of difference.  Building flavor is a gradual layering process that you can’t achieve in a slow cooker.

3. Make homemade chili powder using toasted dried peppers and spices such as cumin and cloves. Who knows how long the chili powder in your spice rack has been sitting there.

4. I also opted for a homemade chili paste using a range of fresh peppers (on the hotter end) and canned chipotle in adobo which you can find in the International section of the grocery store. Blend all together adding a little tomato juice of beef stock to help it loosen up.

5 . For us, we kept it simple and didn’t use any secret flavor boosters like chocolate, soy sauce or beer.  But we did use about half a bottle of red wine to deglaze. Again, in the words of chef Anna, THINK. Take your chili in one direction then experiment later.

Leave a comment

February 16, 2012 · 8:55 pm

Piselli e Cipolle de Spaghetti Betty

This has been a recent favorite Italian comfort food of mine. Frozen peas are so easy to keep around and I pretty much always have an onion. My favorite part is when the little peas snuggle up into the shell pasta (in proper Italian the shell is called ‘conchiglie’).

2 strips of bacon, diced, preferably a nice thick slab or applewood smoked
1 onion, diced
A pinch of salt
1 package of frozen peas
1 cup of mini shell pasta
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
Fresh cracked pepper
Grated Parmigiano cheese (optional)

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat for several minutes, until you can feel the heat radiating off of the pan. Add the diced bacon and stir frequently until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan along with any excess bacon grease, but make sure you save a thin layer for the onions (I either pour into a glass jar or run a paper towel over it). Add the diced onions and a pinch of salt. Stir frequently until slightly brown and translucent.

While your bacon and onions are cooking you can multi-task and fill a medium sized pot with water and insert a pasta basket (or be prepared to reuse the water) and the bag of frozen peas. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then remove the peas from the water. At this point you can add the pasta and let cook until desired level of doneness.

Right before you pasta is ready add the bacon back to the onion pan along with the peas and give it a good stir so everyone gets to know each other. Drain the pasta and add to the party.

To finish, I drizzle with a little olive oil and some fresh cracked black pepper. If you are really feeling the need for extra comfort shave some Parmigiano cheese on top. And you are ready to mangia!

20120119-170345.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Year That Was Negroni

If anything has come out of my six-month commitment to the Food & Wine 2012 Cocktail Book it is a new appreciation for The Negroni. Quite frankly, prior to this project I didn’t even know what a Negroni was nor did I have a signature cocktail. I was leaning towards a gin-based cocktail, but it wasn’t until that fateful day in the test kitchen when the stars aligned and I found my one true love…cocktail love that is.

Unfortunately I’m a little late on The Negroni bandwagon. This past year was deemed ‘Year of the Negroni’ by the Camapri brand. Classified as an aperitivo, an amari or even a bitter, Campari is made from more than 60 ingredients, including herbs and botanicals like orange peels, rhubarb, wormwood, pomegranate, quinine, clove and ginseng. And for clever publicity they created a whole year to celebrate this supporting-role ingredient to the classic drink rising from the cocktail Renaissance.

The origin of The Negroni is said to have taken place in Florence, Italy around 1920 when Count Camillo Negroni asked his bartender to strengthen his Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda). The bartender subbed out the club soda with gin and a star was born. The Count loved it so much his family founded a distillery where they produced a ready-made version of the drink. One of the earliest reports of the drink came from Orson Welles while working in Rome in 1947. He described a new drink called the Negroni, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”
Nowadays the all the cool kids are throwin’ ‘em back. There is a bar called Jasper’s Corner Tap in San Francisco that even serves them on tap! Giada De Laurentiis was sipping on one at Meatball Maddess this past year as Campari was one of the sponsors to the event.

For me, the only way I can develop a taste for something is if I force it for a little while in the beginning and then I eventually come around. (For all who know me I will NOT be trying this technique with truffles. I do hope to one day try this with Whiskey.) In my early 20s  I went to one of those beer festivals and had to drink my $50 admission fee worth in beer. You just get on a line and hope it’s good. When you go through college drinking the cheap stuff it’s a little bit of a leap to find a taste for some well crafted beers, that I now can’t live without. Recently I’ve learned to drink coffee black, mostly because I can’t keep milk around long enough between one weekend to the next when I want a cup of coffee after rolling out of bed at 10AM. Also the milk situation at Food & Wine is a little temperamental and boy do they like their coffee strong. So alas my love for bitters is born!

A final contributing factor to my love of The Negroni is it’s Italian roots. There is something familiar about the bitter aromatics that soothes my soul. It brings me back to a former life when I lived on a farm on the Italian countryside and tended to chickens, rolled pasta by hand and had dried meats and peppers hanging form my porch. And the only remedy for a hot day in the Sicilian sun was a swig of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari with a fresh orange peel from the tree in the yard.

Below is the recipe for my hearts content. But let me warn you it is VERY easy to screw up an equal parts cocktail. A bad gin or a sweet vermouth that hasn’t been refrigerated or even the slightest mis-proportion can throw the whole thing off. I mean if you want a little more gin or whatever go for it, but be careful with the vermouth. Over New Years in Puerto Rico I had my fill of sweet rum cocktails and asked three times for the bartender to make me a Negroni. I was ready to jump over the bar in my mini skirt and high heels and take over. Also, The Negroni is best served with a large chunk of ice (as seen here) as to not dilute but still keep it cold. Happy Drinking!

1 1/2 ounce gin
1 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1 1/2 ounce Camapri
1 orange twist for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all of the ingredients except the garnish. Shake well and strain into a rocks glass. Serve over a large piece of ice and garnish with the orange twist.

20120118-171157.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized