*STRANGE CRAVINGS*
Recipe: Mushroom Soup

May 13, 2013

Most people crave things that are sugary or greasy or otherwise unhealthy. Chocolate cake, for example. Or French fries—did you know French fries are the First Lady’s guilty pleasure? I knew I liked her for reasons beyond her politics and dedication to tackling childhood obesity. Most people, including health conscious ones, crave junk food, or at least that’s what they are vocal about craving. I don’t generally crave junk food. Aside from French fries, which I want to eat about 90% of the time, my food cravings are a little on the unorthodox side.

For example, the other day I was driving home from work, sitting in traffic on what must be the worst freeway in LA and thinking about how incompetent my health insurance company is, when all of a sudden I felt this overpowering urge for a glass of grapefruit juice. The odd part is that I don’t ever drink grapefruit juice. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I smelled grapefruit. Now you could argue this was my body telling me I need vitamin C, but if that were the case wouldn’t I crave orange juice, which I used to drink every morning?

Some of my more frequent cravings include tomatoes, pasta with lentils and Swiss chard, dumplings, peach ice cream, and Trader Joe’s olive hummus. None of these foods are that high in sugar or dense in calories (ice cream aside, obviously), and they’re not engineered by the food industry to induce cravings. So why on earth do I wake up in the morning and immediately think about, for instance, roast chicken with tahini sauce? It’s like my body is in a perpetual state of hysterical pregnancy. Continue reading

*RETHINKING COMFORT FOOD*
Recipe: Soft Tofu Stew (Soondubu Jjigae)

October 15, 2012

Fall is the season of comfort food. Even in southern California, where the leaves remain green and the temperature doesn’t drop below 65 degrees, pumpkin lattes and hearty stews abound. Most Americans, me included, associate comfort food with dishes like macaroni and cheese, chicken pot pie, beef stew, ice cream, apple pie, or pretty much anything loaded with fat and processed carbohydrates.

Conversely, most Americans associate unappetizing health food with things like tofu, salad, and any vegetable but potatoes (unless it’s a vegetable smothered in cream and/or cheese, in which case it crosses over into the realm of comfort food). But there’s definitely no American-style dish involving tofu that’s considered comforting. The very suggestion is enough to give children nightmares.

I always thought the American notion of comfort food was the universally accepted definition. Then I moved to Egypt and realized that comfort food in the Middle East generally involves rice, which was not on my comfort food radar at that point in time. Growing up, my family would eat rice for one of two reasons: either it was an accompaniment to some kind of “ethnic” meal, like Indian or Mexican food, or it was the only starch we had in the house. Potatoes, pasta, polenta and bread were always preferable to rice. So I associated rice with either foods outside of my comfort zone or as the undesirable substitute for much-loved potato dishes.
Continue reading

*DOUBLES*
Recipe: Double Mushroom Pasta & Double Jalapeño Hummus

September 24, 2012

The word “double” in the name of a recipe always elicits a sense of mischievous anticipation and entitlement from me. I feel like I’m 6 years old again and allowed to eat dessert before dinner. Please allow me to demonstrate this sentiment with a little experiment. First, read this list of food items:

  • Fudge Brownies
  • Brie
  • Apple Pie
  • French Fries

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*AN ELEGANT MEAL FOR ONE*
Recipe: Salt Crust Snapper with Mandarin-Fennel Salad

August 21, 2012

I don’t require much to be happy. A new book by my favorite author, this awesome lamp from IKEA, and—above all—an elegant meal for one made my weekend nearly perfect. This is why I think everyone should take up cooking as a hobby. There’s nothing more satisfying than using your imagination, culinary knowledge, and artistic skill to create something that pleases all of your senses. Learning to cook is practical, healthful, and a great conversation starter—who doesn’t like to talk about food?

But I imagine I’m preaching to the choir writing about the joys of cooking on a food blog. I also can’t imagine that everyone would be able to enjoy grocery shopping—the prerequisite to cooking—as much as I do.

Last week was stressful and emotionally exhausting, so on Saturday I braved the heat and walked to a nearby Korean market to peruse the fish counter and let my imagination run wild. After an hour of exploration to the soundtrack of this song on repeat, I left the store with a whole red snapper, a bag of fresh mandarin oranges, a bunch of watercress, two pounds of sea salt, a few perilla leaves, some taro root, radish sprouts, and a significantly better a state of mind (except for a slight headache from that horrible Korean pop song). Continue reading

*THE DOCTOR’S ORDERS—Composed Salads*
Recipe: Albanian Tzatziki

August 10, 2012

This week we have another guest post from Dr. Ingrid Nelson. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the story and recipe as much as I did! Ingrid’s composed salad lends itself to both creativity and the use of leftovers. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!       -Chloe

The best fish I have ever eaten was a trout simply fried served on a white plate under a tree on the roof of a restaurant overlooking a cerulean blue river from where the trout had been plucked.  The flesh was firm and tasted of cold snowpack water, bright sun, and deep misty valleys planted with walnut trees.  In short, it tasted of where it came from—high in the Dinaric Alps of Albania.

When traveling, I have noticed that the best foods taste like where they come from.  I wasn’t a big fan of figs—mushy and sickly sweet was my opinion—until I picked one off of a tree in Montenegro and popped it whole into my mouth.  It literally exploded with delicately flavored nectar, soft flesh, and crisp little seeds that crackled when I bit into them.  I looked around the garden I was standing in.  There was hot sunshine and a cool salt breeze off the ocean scented by the flowering shrubs that grew around the fig tree.  My fig tasted exactly like this.  Since then, I have searched the specialty shops of Manhattan for an even vaguely similar experience, but without luck.  I guess it’s back to Montenegro for my next fig! Continue reading