Monday starters

New ways, new ingredients

picture-1I love Chef John Ash. He has a creative touch with ingredients, and he’s a terrific teacher. His new online series, “Cooking with America’s Finest Ingredients,” offers videos, recipes, and tips for how to use gourmet salts, cured meats, cheese, oils, vinegars, and more.–Culinary Institute of America/National Association for the Specialty Food Trade

Balancing the vegetarian diet

picture-3In general, vegetarians eat a healthier diet and are less likely be overweight than the rest of us, largely because they consume more plant-based foods. That’s the good news. But a new study focusing on teens and young adults finds vegetarians are at higher risk of eating disorders than the general population.–

Enjoy it while it’s fresh

picture-4Antioxidants in foods don’t last forever, according to a pair of new studies. Green tea and olive oil both lost much of their antioxidant compounds after six months, even when stored unopened and unexposed to light or moisture. The lesson: Purchase both in small amounts you can consume within a few months, and shop a store with a high turnover of merchandise (you don’t want to buy oil or tea that’s been sitting on the store shelf for months).–HealthDay

Cheap restaurant eats

picture-2Tire of eating at home every night? Check out the Gayot Economic Stimulus Plan to find excellent value eats in your ‘hood. Also check out their picks for the best wines under 10 bucks.

Tuesday’s tidbits

picture-13The CIA in Spain

File this one under sites-you-must-bookmark. The CIA (Culinary Institute of America, that is) teamed up with the Spanish trade commissions for food and wine to create the spectacular new Worlds of Flavor Spain Web site. Forget Mario Batali traipsing through Iberia with Gwyneth Paltrow in tow and focus on this gem instead. None other than Ferran Adria and Jose Andres are this site’s co-chairs, and they’ll introduce you to a wealth of instructional videos, dozens of tempting recipes, explanations of Spain’s regional cuisines, glorious spotlights on its cheese and wine, and a marketplace to buy specialty ingredients. The site may be aimed at professional chefs, but there’s plenty here to entertain and inspire the home cook. This one sets a new benchmark for food on the Web.

picture-21Can’t wait to make this

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine featured the rustic charms of a British meat pie. The only motivation I’ll need to make this adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s pastry-topped meat-and-veg Guinness Pie is a chilly evening.

Not every one is a winner

fwpuddingThe March issue of Food & Wine has a gorgeous special section of 40 healthy recipes. The Creamy Caramel Pudding tempted my sweet tooth, so I made a batch this weekend. The results were…mixed. It’s more sweet than caramel-y (my fault–I didn’t let the caramel cook long enough). But what put me off more was the gelatinous texture, thanks to 6 tablespoons of cornstarch. Still, it wasn’t awful, especially when topped with chopped salty roasted peanuts to cut the sweetness. That’s OK, I’m still eager to try the Beet Salad with Tangerines. But for a more satisfying low-fat pudding experience, try Cooking Light’s Butterscotch Pudding or Chocolate Pudding (make it with dark chocolate–yum!). Both include egg yolks and a touch of butter for a richer–yet still low-fat–pudding.

Tom on Coke

picture-41What’s your opinion of “Top Chef” top judge Tom Colicchio in a commercial hawking the “taste” of Diet Coke during the Oscars? It left a bad taste in my mouth–much like a sip of Diet Coke does, blech!–but I still thought, “Dude, take the money and run.” Add your 2 cents at Serious Eats. Or check out what the community at Epicurious has to say about this tempest in a Coke can. Hey, it’s a diversion from worrying about the economy.

But we still love Fabio

picture-5Speaking of “Top Chef,” I joined a lot of other fans in mourning the exit of Season 5 charmer Fabio. Check out YumSugar’s interview with the man who will surely be this season’s fan favorite.

Resolutions that work, part 1: Fruit of the day


Meyer lemons and satsuma oranges

One a day: enjoying seasonal fruit like Meyer lemons and satsuma oranges is a resolution that's easy to keep.

We all do it: After an indulgent holiday season, we crawl into the new year with promises to do it better this time. Lose a few pounds, hit the gym regularly, revamp our diet. We set resolutions with all the hopefulness of the newborn year, but we’re barely into the first week of 2009, and I know some friends’ resolve is already wavering.

I’m a big believer in small, positive changes. It’s easier to embrace an enjoyable behavior than it is to break a bad habit. So in that spirit, I’ve asked friends and colleagues to share their food-related resolutions for 2009. I’ll focus on one a day for the next week or so, with tips to help them stick.

The first one up is courtesy of Cooking Light contributing editor and founder  Lia Huber: Eat one piece of seasonal fruit a day. “I’m not much of a fruit person, so I tend to just skip over them,” she confesses. “But when I do finally bite into an apple or peel an orange, it makes me feel so grounded and good and vibrant.”

I’m in the same boat; fruit isn’t the first thing I reach for when I’m hungry, and I have to make a point of eating the stuff. Which is odd, because I have an impressive sweet tooth that fruit can satisfy. 

Lia’s resolution to focus on seasonal fruit is a smart way to expand your palate and enjoy a terrific variety throughout the year. 

This time of year, I love citrus fruit, and especially satusma oranges. Once you start focusing a bit of attention on seasonal fruit, you’ll realize that there are many ways to incorporate it in your diet Here are three simple strategies:

Expand your fruit vocabulary. If you see something that looks interesting at the farmer’s market, or even the supermarket, pick it up. You can always ask the farmer or store produce manager for ideas on how to enjoy unfamiliar fruits. Or check out the produce distributor Melissa’s Web site. It has a helpful tool that allows you to search for fruit and other produce by season, with tips to buy, store, and cook with it.

Incorporate fruit into recipes. Of course, you can always enjoy a piece of fruit out of hand as a snack, but fruit can play many roles in sweet and savory recipes. This time of year, sectioned citrus pairs wonderfully with salad greens. You can use different fruits in salsa (depending on the season, try pineapple, mango, or peach), or in a smooth sauce (try tart cherries in summer) to pair with roasted meat or chicken. Fruit-based desserts can satisfy a sweet tooth and boost your nutritional profile; the Culinary Institute of America has some great tips for putting fruit front and center in desserts.  Melissa’s site has  plenty of recipes, too, from big-name chefs, as well as from Melissa’s test kitchen. (I want to try their Meyer Lemon Custard to use up some sweet lil’ Meyers I picked up the other day.)

avotrioDiscover the range of flavors and textures. Many of us associate fruit with sweet flavors, but that isn’t always the case. Consider the avocado. It’s a fruit that boasts creamy texture and mellow vegetal flavor. And I’m always happy to eat one.