Oh What a Night!

Oh geez, I am so behind on blogging! OK, let’s dive right back in with something awesome.

On Thursday night I attended the Taste of the Marcellus (TOTM) event, a fundraiser for the Chefs for the Marcellus which is fighting to protect New York from the dangerous practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) which threatens our drinking water and food supply. It’s an issue I can about very much and the fact that so many fellow local foodies are leading the charge on fighting makes my heart sing.

Originally I was only going to attend the TOTM after-party because my broke ass current financial situation didn’t allow me to afford a ticket to the main event, but I was contacted by someone from Chefs for the Marcellus (C4M) and asked to help them promote the event and I was more than happy to help. Doing the right thing for a good cause is something I never have a problem saying yes too and I felt good doing my part, but the day before the event my contact at C4M asked if I’d like to attend the main event as her guest as a thank you for my help. That was some pretty sweet icing on the do-gooder cake.

 The event was AWESOME!

OK first let me get this out of the way; I didn’t eat anything at the event. This type of event is really hard with my food allergies especially as there was a focus on local seasonal foods which meant a lot of peaches (deadly) and legumes (also deadly), but for a food nerd like me, just being in the presence of great chefs and seeing them create is special even if I can’t eat what they serve. Besides I had a nice big meal before I left my apartment to keep me going all night.

The event was at Brooklyn Winery, a beautiful space in a neighborhood I hate; Williamsburg, but being the concerned citizen I am braved the subway full of pretentious hipsters and was richly rewarded. Brooklyn winery has a rustic charm with its dark wood paneling, planters running the length of walls that stretch up to ceilings 18 feet off the ground and an atrium room with a glass roof which was especially cool on a stormy night like we had on Thursday.

The space was filled with stations serving bites from some of the top restaurants in New York City and at each station there were different Finger Lakes region wines or Brewery Ommegang beers to pair your food with. I may not have been able to eat, but don’t worry I enjoyed the beverage selection just fine… Everyone raved about the food which included selections like; Chicken Meatballs with Pesto and Corn Salad, Black Forbidden “Fried Rice” with Oxtail and Seasonal Vegetables and Blueberry Brown Butter Cakes with Black Raspberry Compote. The two most famous chefs there, who you’ve probably seen on TV before, Chris Santos and Elizabeth Faulkner offered Whipped Ricotta Jewel on Toast with Grilled Peaches, Chili Basil and Honey and Summer Squash and Peach Salad with Ricotta and Almonds respectively.

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Aside from the abundance of beautiful food, wine and beer and the lovely setting, the atmosphere was truly something special. Imagine me, a progressive-lefty-social justice freak-environmentalist-foodie in a room filled with like minded people. I met so many amazing people working in food policy and environmental issues and everyone there was ready to lend their voices to stop fracking in New York State, including Josh Fox; Writer and Director of Oscar nominated documentary about fracking, Gasland and Hilary Baum, who’s pretty much the superhero of sustainable food.

Though the seriousness and urgency of the issue wasn’t dumbed down or shied away from, the vibe of the event was hopeful, not dire and it energized the crowd to keep on fighting.

On a personal note I also met one of my idols, nutritionist and Food Network star Ellie Krieger. It was definitely a full geek-out moment for me as I’ve admired her for years and share her philosophy on food. She was with two friends who were also dietitians and were so so nice to me. We spent a good few minutes discussing the way America eats, the body image crisis for young girls here and my own personal journey with weight. She is so warm and totally gorgeous (seriously her skin glows!).

All in all it was an amazing night which reminded me how important it is to protect our food, water and air.

Learn more and get involved in the fight against fracking here: http://gaslandthemovie.com/

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Actual Proof That Mario Batali Loves Me

Unfortunately you have to get through one quick commercial first, but then skip to 2:50 in and you’ll see Clinton read a tweet from me (26 Dishes) and then listen to what Mario says after

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Umm Alli, Mario was just joking around and doesn’t actually know you or know who he’s talking about,” but you’re wrong! This is just more proof that he and I are cosmically connected. 😉

http://abc.go.com/watch/the-chew/SH55125610/VD55222196/the-chew-725

xoxo,
Your favorite Batali Stalker

PS- If you live in the New York Area, don’t forget the Taste of the Marcellus event is tonight at Brooklyn Winery, with an after party to follow at Brooklyn Bowl. Tickets to the main event are $75 in advance with discount code FNF1 or $125 at the door (http://bit.ly/TasteTix). Tickets to the after party are $25 in advance or at the door.

Taste of the Marcellus July 26th 2012

In case it’s not obvious, I love food. I’m a big believer though, that if you’re passionate about food it can’t just be about cooking and eating food. To be a truly passionate foodie, you have to also care about that food before it comes to your pot or plate. I believe that passionate foodies should put as much of that energy in to caring about where that food came from, what’s in it, how the workers who produced it were treated, etc as they do making food taste good and so I am always delighted when I hear about other foodies who feel the same.

One such group of concerned foodies is an organization called, Chefs for the Marcellus (C4M). C4M, according to their website, is, “A group of chefs, restauranteurs and food professionals who have come together to protect our regional foodshed [in New York State] from the dangers of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.”

Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is a practice which extracts natural gas deep from within the earth by forcing highly toxic chemicals in to the ground. The practice is riddled with problems and accidents which cause those chemicals to leach in to the area water supply, contaminating not only your water, but your food supply as well (you can’t grown food without water after all) which is why so many area chefs and breweries (beer starts with water) have become involved in the fight to stop it in New York State.

To help raise awareness, C4M has planned a great event this Thursday, July 26th, right here in New York City! The event will feature food cooked by an all-star line up of chefs and will feature beer and wine from the Marcellus Water Gap region of New York.  Plus there’s an awesome after party to follow! Though the main event looks amazing and is certainly fairly priced, it’s a more than I’m able to spend ($125). Tickets for the after-party however are only $25, can be purchased separately and you’ll get a chance to support a great cause and meet those star chefs who will be attending the after party too!

Tickets can be purchased here: http://bit.ly/TasteTix (after party is down at the bottom). Tickets must be purchased in advance; no tickets will be sold at the door. UPDATE: TICKETS CAN NOW BE PURCHASED AT THE DOOR FOR BOTH THE MAIN EVENT AND THE AFTER PARTY.
I know that only a few of my readers are from the New York area, but I hope those that are will consider attending and I hope all of my readers will pass this on to their NYC area friends and encourage them to attend.
I hope to see some of you reading this right now on Thursday so look for me. I’m like short brunette who’ll be smiling from ear to ear with excitement!

J is for… Japan; All You Need is An Ice Cube Tray

Japanese Flag

Like all other Asian food establishments, it’s nearly impossible for me to eat at a Japanese restaurant, what with all that sesame and soy, but I’ve actually had Sushi before. Back when I was living in Boston I had one of those tiny little original Whole Foods (I think it may have been the first on the East Coast) right near my apartment and I frequented it often. I got to know one on the Sushi chefs there and he started making me Alli-allergy-approved salmon rolls. He rolled cooked salmon (I’ve tried raw fish several times and it’s not my thing), cucumbers and carrots in a layer of nori and rice on a clean work surface free of sesame seeds. I skipped the non-Alli-allergy-friendly soy sauce and enjoyed a bit of wasabi and pickled ginger, which I could eat a bucket full of, as accompaniments.

That was 7 years ago and I’ve missed sushi ever since so when I was ready to make a recipe for the letter “J,” Japanese Sushi seemed a logical choice. Then “J” got closer and I started thinking about logistics. “Do I really want to buy a Sushi mat? How often would I really use it? What if I just made Chirashizushi, Sushi bowls, they’re legit Japanese, I know I looked it up. But that’s just too easy and boring, right? Maybe I should look up some Jamaican recipes…”

And so the inner monologue went until a few weeks ago when I stumbled on a recipe for mock soy sauce that people claimed tasted like the real thing and I reeeally reeeally wanted to make Sushi! Still the logistical problems remained so I did what anyone would do in 2012, I took to Wikipedia and looked up the various types of Sushi. My best bet seemed Oshizushi or box sushi, a specialty in Osaka where the ingredients are placed on the bottom of a box, rice is placed on top and then the whole thing is pressed together firmly, unmolded, cut in to squares and served. Oshizushi Seemed like the best bet, but where to get the box? Then it occurred to me; ice cube tray sushi.

Silicon trays work best

Using an ice cube tray to make sushi was something I’d heard about awhile ago and filed somewhere in the back of my mind (a scary, messy, disorganized space; I assure you!). I’d seen the idea in several places touted as a way to get kids to try Sushi* and I just adored it (kids in the kitchen yeah!), but I realized there was no reason I couldn’t use an ice cube tray too. Ok, ok so it’s not really authentic, but I’ve been really good up until now so cut me a little slack!

I had a hard time deciding on toppings because I wanted to at least keep that part authentic, but sushi has become so ubiqutes these days that it’s hard to tell what’s authentically Japanese and what’s not at this point so I kept it simple. I decided on thinly sliced cucumber, thin Japanese omelette and salmon roe. The roe was a bit of a splurge, but once in a while you just have to!

I followed Alton Brown’s recipe for making Sushi Rice which could not have been easier. I put a slice of cucumber in each square of the tray, followed buy a few strips of omelette, another piece of cucumber and then the rice and packed everything down firmly and unmolded them on to a plate and topped them with the roe. Of course there was wasabi, pickled ginger and mock soy sauce on the side too. And…

It. Was. Amazing!!

FINAL VERDICT: A

I’m sorry that there’s not really a recipe with this, but it’s really more of a technique then a recipe. I will so so soooo be making this again with a variety of different ingredients, authentic and otherwise. The only change I’d make is that I think I’ll just mold the rice in the trays and then stack everything else on top. Some of the toppings slipped off a bit after unmolding and I realized it’s really only necessary to mold the rice.

PS- *For anyone saying, “Kids won’t eat Sushi, they only eat chicken fingers,” go visit my friend Erin’s blog and ask her what her beautiful daughter eats!

Erin- I fully expect Katherine to be eating ice cube tray Sushi some time in the next few years.

Broiled Fish with Grapefruit Salsa

I worked out a lot this week. I worked out a lot last week too. Working out sucks which is why I try to avoid it as much as possible. I truly believe that every single person who claims to love working out must be lying. Sitting on my couch watching trashy reality tv = fun; working out = not fun. I (grudgingly) work out because it’s good for me, not because I enjoy it.

Anyway for some odd reason that even I myself haven’t figured out, I’ve gone from the absolute bare minimum of working out to working out almost every day for the past 2.5 weeks which in turn has left me tired. As much as I hate working out, even I can admit that it’s the good kind of tired, but tired none the less.

I was craving a meal that was light, fresh and bright and was inspired to make some simple broiled fish, in this case Arctic Char, with a grapefruit salsa. This was super simple to make and took very little time and was perfect for my workout weary body.

I did almost nothing to the fish, so there’s no real recipe there, but I did want to share this awesome trick I got from my friend Heather. I used to broil my fish in individual packets, but the last time I was at Heather’s she cooked up some salmon and placed all the filets on one piece of foil and folded it in on three sides, creating a packet with no top. She then loosely placed another piece of foil on top to cover the fish. That way you can easily check the fish for doneness without having to pull apart a packet and without risking steam burns.

Grapefruit Salsa

  • 1 large grapefruit
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper; finely chopped
  • 2 scallions; finely sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon cilantro; torn
  • A few squeezes of honey to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A drizzle of olive oil

Supreme the grapefruit and then roughly chop the segments. Toss into a bowl. Add jalapeno, scallions, honey, cilantro, salt and pepper. Toss together, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Serve over fish.

I really love the tang of grapefruit and the heat of the jalapeno, so I add just enough honey to round everything out, but not to add enough to add much sweetness. If you prefer things a little sweeter just add more honey.

I despise (if I could think of a stronger word I would use it) raw onions, but it you like them you could definitely use finely chopped red onions in place of the scallions whcich would add a nice color contrast.

I served this over brown rice.

Enjoy!

Summer “Pasta” (Zucchini Ribbons with Sauteed Veggies and Mascarpone)

Last night I made one of my absolute favorite meals, zucchini “pasta” with seasonal veggies and mascarpone cheese. If I had to list the top 10 dishes I make, this meal would very likely be on it. Not only is it absolutely delicious, it also speaks so much to how I see food. It uses local seasonal ingredients I bought at the farmers market and it makes the veggies the star of the show. I limit meat consumption not only by eating plenty of vegetarian meals, but also by making dishes where the meat is the guest star and not the main act. This whole recipe uses only 1/4 pound of pancetta for the whole dish (and certainly could be made totally vegetarian). This recipe also represents so much of what I believe about healthy living and eating. Now, take a deep breath and put that frozen “Jenny Craig monosodiumdycalcitride glucolaurelatepathos may contain rat poison, but it only has 2 grams of fat and 100 calories” meal down and listen to me; I used 1/4 pound of pancetta and 2 oz of mascarpone. I used very small amounts of two fairly fatty foods to add a ton of flavor. So I used a little and got a lot, got it? Plus this meal was fresh, natural and had a ton of nutrients from all the vegetables and I’ll take a little real fat over fat-free chemicals any day!

Zucchini “Pasta” with Seasonal Veggies and Mascarpone

  • 4 medium zucchini (I like using 2 green and 2 yellow because it looks prettier)
  • 1/4lb pancetta (optional if making vegetarian)
  • 1 large onion; sliced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2-4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes; halved
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves (or more or less to taste)
  • 2 oz mascarpone cheese

Using a vegetable peeler make thin strips of zucchini, working down all sides until you get to the seeds. Set ribbons aside and cube up the inside, seeded part of the zucchini (You could just discard them, but I think that’s a waste of food and they’re delicious). Set aside.

Cut pancetta in small cubes, then in large saute pan cook over medium high meat until pancetta is crisp and brown. Using slotted spoon remove pancetta to a plate covered with paper towels. Drain then transfer to a serving bowl. Do not discard the fat from the pan, if there is too much fat pour some out to leave you with a couple of tablespoons in the pan. If you’re keeping the recipe vegetarian skip and heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for the next step.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to boil. When water is boiling add salt and zucchini ribbons and cooks for about 5 minutes until ribbons are tender. Strain through colander then set aside in serving bowl with pancetta.

Lower the heat to medium and add onions and cubed zucchini to the pancetta grease with some salt and pepper to taste (go light on the salt since pancetta is salty, if you’re not using pancetta you can be a little more liberal) and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 more minutes.

Stir in cherry tomatoes and cook until tomatoes just begin to soften and lose their shape a bit, about 3-4 minutes. You don’t want the tomatoes to turn to mush.

Gently toss the sautéed veggie mixture into the “pasta” and pancetta. Stir in the basil. Gently fold in the mascarpone until it’s all melted and the veggies are coated.

Serve with an extra dollop of mascarpone and more basil on top.

Serves 4.

Enjoy!

Tips:

I think this recipe might look prettier if you didn’t mix the sauce into the ribbons in a big serving bowl and instead put the “pasta” in your individual bowl and then piled the veggie/mascarpone mixture on top. I put everything in one bowl because space is at a premium in my apartment.

If you keep this vegetarian I might try adding some parmesan cheese for a salty kick. Or if you find mascarpone too bland without the pancetta, you could replace it with creme fraiche, which is a totally different flavor, but adds a great tang.

From a Concerned Food Blogger to Kim Kardashian: Please Help!

This may seem like a strange item to post on a food blog, but this blog is as much about food issues as it is about recipes and restaurants and body image often goes hand in hand with food, as I well know from my own personal journey.

Dear Kim Kardashian,

I love you! No, really I do. I actually love your whole family, though you’re my favorite (but don’t tell Kourt and Kim, ok?). I’ve defended you many times because I love how family oriented you are and I admire your work ethic, but when you burst on to the scene a few years ago I first loved you because you seemed to fully embrace who you were and how you look.

Now, I know that some people will read this and say, “Um it’s easy to embrace all of you when you look like Kim Kardashian,” and they’re right to some extent. I mean even the biggest Kardashian haters out there agree that you are truly stunning. Beautiful as you are though, when you and your gorgeous sisters entered the public view thier were few people in Hollywood who looked like the three of you. Where all we had was a sea of washed out bobbleheads, here you were with your knockout curves and jet black locks and you were proud.

I loved hearing you talk about your body with such acceptance, I applauded you when you proudly attributed your assets to your Armenian heritage and I delight in watching you on your show as you order sandwiches, soups and hearty salads rather than the macrobiotic lettuce leaf with a side of ice cubes that your contemporaries seem to subsist on. I thought then, as I still think now, that you could be a positive influence on young women who can’t see their own beauty just because they don’t look like the All-American ideal.

Last night I settled in to watch the latest episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and be entertained by your boisterous family and their crazy antics. As usual the episode put a smile on my face. That is except for one scene that left me frustrated. As you, Rob and Scott looked at pictures of your vacation; you looked at a picture of yourself and declared, “I look so fat!”

No, Kim! No! There are young girls out there thinking, “Wow if Kim Kardashian is fat, I must be…” and, “Well if Kim criticizes her body, I guess it’s cool that I criticize mine.”

Of course you did not create this problem, Kim, it’s the way girl’s a socialized in our country. Do you remember the scene in Mean Girls where Cady witnesses  a ritual in which the girls stand in front of the mirror and make negative comments about their appearance and Cady is encouraged to join in? It struck a chord with me because I think most women in America have had a similar experience. Most of us, especially adults, don’t have Mean Girl friends, but even the nicest among us have engaged in body bashing with our friends (“My thighs are so fat.” “What you’re crazy! You’re perfect, but my nose is too but.” “Oh stop it, both of you are so hot and I would kill for your tiny waists, I’m so big in the middle“). It’s how young girls are taught to relate to each other in our culture and it extends in to adulthood.

And then there’s the media. Ugh! Forget about it! Young girls in this country are constantly bombarded by unnatural and unattainable images of what they’re supposed to look like. Body image for young women is truly a crisis in this country.

So no, you didn’t create the problem, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be part of the solution! You have a public voice so use it the right way.

Though I adore you there are definitely a few things we disagree on like some of your endorsements and some of the language you and your sisters use when talking to each other (bitch, whore… I shudder), but for the most part I think you’re great and I think this is something we can come together on. So please, stop criticizing your body, it sends a terrible message.

Stop going through every picture of your gorgeous amazing self or looking in the mirror only to point out flaws. Appreciate how lucky you ate that the body you do have, even with imperfections, is a healthy one. Make sure your young fans know that you’re proud of yourself for your work ethic, for being a great friend/sister/daughter or being smart, funny, tenacious, kind or whatever it is that makes you most proud, so they know that way women look is only a fraction of who they are and there is so much more that makes a person beautiful.

Make a pledge today to start changing the conversation.

Thanks for listening.

Still a fan,
Alli