Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Soft Serve Fruit Co.

It's unclear to me when cream became the enemy (it will always have a soft spot with me), but it seems transforming simple frozen fruit into an ice cream-esque treat is all the rage these days. In the August edition of Whole Living magazine there is a recipe for "Whipped Sorbet"- 3 frozen, peeled bananas and 1 cup frozen berries puréed in a food processor until smooth; Target recently began selling the $50 Yonana, a machine that turns frozen bananas into something that looks and tastes like ice cream without any added cream or sugar; and on June 30th, the rebranded Soft Serve Fruit Co. (formerly Simply Peeled) expanded to a location just off Union Square, bringing hordes of people willing to wait in a line that extends out its door.

Soft Serve Fruit Co.'s soft serve is made with just three ingredients- fruit, filtered water, and a small amount of cane sugar. It is dairy, gluten, fat, sodium, and cholesterol free- does it get any better than that? There are typically 4 seasonal flavors available at any given time, save for when one or two runs out (like today when there was no pear and the banana came with a wait as it was being made), and each hovers around 75-85 calories per serving. Of course the option for mix-ins in categories like hot toppings (all-natural peanut butter, maple syrup, etc.), fruit (blackberries, kiwi, etc.) and dry goods (carob chips, organic granola, etc.) will add a few calories, and if a solo cup of soft serve doesn't suit your fancy, you can eat it in a pretzel cone or make it into a smoothie or sundae for a few dollars more.

Soft Serve Fruit Co.'s nutritional information and philosophy are proudly on display
4 simple steps to ordering
Today's 4 flavors- pear was unavailable and banana had a short wait, so I sampled mango (delicious) and ended up with blueberry (even better)
Employees will let you taste as many of the 4 flavors as you'd like before deciding
A smoothie will set you back $7.50- for an additional $1 you can add protein powder, a vitamin boost, or flax and fiber
The Very Berry smoothie
Sundaes are served in a large cup and cost $7.00- the Crunchy Salty looks like a winner to me
I left with a kid's (small doesn't exist) blueberry in a pretzel cone- complete with flecks of salt

Monday, June 27, 2011

Market Mondays: The USDA And Eric Ripert

In yesterday's edition of the New York Post, an article entitled "New 'Plate' Special" delved into the USDA's ever-evolving dietary guidelines. Gone are the days of the food pyramid, in it's place- the equally confusing, though more individualized, "MyPlate".

The concept behind MyPlate is that individuals should fill 50% of their plates with fruits and veggies, and divide the remaining 50% between grains and proteins (dairy is somehow
attached to the plate in the upper right-hand corner, yet not counted towards the full 100% make-up of the plate)- remembering to make at least 50% of the grains whole grains, balance calories, choose the option with the lowest sodium, and drink water in lieu of sugary beverages (the government must have run out of colors because there's no circle for this).

The article asked three chefs (Eric Ripert, Lidia Bastianich, and Bill Telepan) to adapt their food to the new guidelines and create an ideal entrée. Eric Ripert's personal vision of MyPlate placed salmon, ratatouille, instant black wild rice, and strawberries with honey on a plate, adding a side of Greek yogurt, and the article included a copy of his ratatouille recipe. One look at that ratatouille and I couldn't stop thinking about filling my plate, and stomach, with it- so this week's edition of Market Mondays is dedicated to our government (specifically the USDA), and to Eric Ripert.

Eric Ripert's Ratatouille (Yield, 4)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced into ½-inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced into ½-inch cubes
1 banana pepper, seeded and diced into ½-inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (I used a garlic press)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced into ½-inch cubes
2 small zucchini, diced into ½-inch cubes
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced into ½-inch cubes (I opted to leave the skin on)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh basil, julienned
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, red pepper, banana pepper and garlic to the pan and sauté until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, adding water as necessary.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be done up to two days ahead and kept refrigerated. Serve hot with Parmesan and basil on top.

Sweet red onions- $3.50 a bunch at Monday's Union Square Greenmarket
An assortment of colorful sweet peppers
Juicy greenhouse tomatoes- $5/lb
Japanese eggplants- the only eggplants available at the Greenmarket today- $8/lb
Summer squash in all shapes and sizes
Organic basil- $3.50 for a large bunch
Sourdough wheat baquettes- $2 each
The final ratatouille, topped with Parmesan cheese and served over a slice of bread
Delicious, chunky ratatouille

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fat Fridays: Madeleine Patisserie

I'm a huge snacker, and I love sweets. But sadly, my past snack all day, skip three square meals repertoire isn't really conducive to growing a healthy baby. Once I learned I was pregnant, I made a conscious effort to eat better. Still, as with any diet, it became way too difficult to cut out all the good stuff all the time. My insatiable sweet tooth led me to institute "Fat Fridays"- a day when I can go hog wild and eat whatever unhealthy thing that crosses my path (with some sense of moderation). This week's gluttonous treat- an almond-chocolate croissant from Madeleine Patisserie.

Known for its wide assortment of addictive macarons, the French bakery's croissants are a buttery, flaky delicacy. Add almond and chocolate to the mix, and they become sinfully good. The flatter, twice-baked crunchy croissant is topped with toasted slivered almonds and a dusting of powdered sugar, and envelopes a sweet combination of almond and milk chocolate that melts in your mouth. It doesn't get much better, or much fatter, than that.

The twice-baked, perfectly browned almond-chocolate croissant
The interior holds a generous amount of almond-chocolatey goodness

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Eating For Two

An extra scoop on every ice cream cone to keep cool during the summer, a second helping of pumpkin pie as the leaves change color, and another round of stuffing during the holidays- no one will give it a second thought as I'm happily eating for two these days! From what I can tell, my little girl or guy wants to drive a wedge between me and one of my best friends- chocolate- so this should be an interesting couple of months...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Market Mondays: A Sweet Tribute To The Summer Solstice

This week's edition of Market Mondays is inspired by the impending summer solstice. Although the official start to the most sun-soaked of the four seasons doesn't hit until tomorrow, the Union Square Greenmarket was overflowing with summer's juicy berries. My initial thought was to make a trifle, but the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries I grabbed were too pretty to get lost in all those layers. Instead, I grilled Bread Alone's outrageously delicious almond pound cake, cut it into cubes, topped it with whipped cream, and tossed on a trio of berries and a few pieces of chiffonaded mint. So simple and so tasty.

Sometimes I wish I never discovered Bread Alone's almond pound cake- I keep going back for more
Potted mint plants
Locally picked strawberries are priced at $6 a quart, or 2 quarts for $10
A duo of New Jersey grown raspberries and blueberries is $7.50
Bread Alone's almond pound cake after a few minutes in a grill pan
The final dessert- in honor of tomorrow's summer solstice

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Scenes From A Pre-Summer BBQ

My husband and I spent the weekend with friends and family in Westhampton Beach. After getting rained out the prior weekend, and spending a very stormy Friday night staring out the window, we decided to take advantage of the most fantastic Saturday of the spring season by grilling a feast for five. Below are just a few of the scenes from our pre-summer barbecue...

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law fresh from a Saturday afternoon at the beach
Penne, Meyer lemon olive oil, lemon zest, cherry tomatoes, hand pulled mozzarella, basil, salt and pepper- a quick summer staple year after year
Shrimp and pineapple grilled with smoked apple and chipotle barbecue sauce
Locally harvested clams grilled with white wine, butter, garlic, and fresh herbs
Sweet corn on the cob
An oversized piece of halibut grilled with a sweet mustard based sauce

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls

Pop-up shop Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls has been garnering rave reviews since it's June 4th opening. The brainchild of Neesa Peterson, the colorful shop (yellow chairs, tables topped with daisies, and window seats lined with bright pillows) will serve over thirty flavors of New Orleans' inspired sno-balls, iced chicory coffee, Zapp's chips, vegan peanut and chocolate chip cookies and a variety of cream sodas through August (according to Grub Street, Peterson has retained an option to extend her 3 month lease).

Served in small, medium or very large Chinese takeout containers ($4, $5, and $7, respectively), inventive flavors like mojito, Mardi Gras king cake, and strawberry cheesecake can stand alone or get a boost from a topping of condensed milk or vanilla ice cream (an additional $1). Cream flavors, including coffee cream and almond cream, are also an additional $1.

Accompanied by two friends, I set out on a hot summer night to taste a "N'Awlins" style frosty sno-ball- ultimately sharing bites of the fluorescent dreamsicle (a creamy, orange infused dream), red and white sweet lou's nectar cream (a delicious combination of almond, coconut and nectar), and shocking yellow birthday cake flavors (an overly cloying sugar bomb). While it may be just as refreshing, comparisons to a traditional snow cone doesn't do a sno-ball, the Rolls-Royce of ice-based treats, justice. Not only does Peterson use a hand cranked machine to shave blocks of ice into a super fine slush that can be eaten with a spoon or slurped through a straw, she tops the ice with homemade syrups that any snow cone lover would be hard pressed to find. The result- the perfect combo of cold and sweet.

Sidewalk sign inviting passersby inside to cool off with a flavor packed sno-ball
Like the rest of the shop, the flavor board is loaded with color
A spoonful of the dreamsicle flavored sno-ball
According to Peterson, sweet lou's nectar cream is one of the more popular flavors
Birthday cake- each bite/sip is an explosion of sugar
The pièce de résistance- a large Charlie Sheen inspired tiger's blood topped with condensed milk
A staple in Louisiana- Zapp's potato chips
$3 for an oversized vegan peanut and chocolate chop cookie

Monday, June 13, 2011

Market Mondays: Roasted Potato And Veggie Salad

I love potatoes, but I've never been a huge fan of classic potato salad. There are definitely times I haven't passed it up (usually when there's no macaroni salad in sight)- but, in my experience, it's typically too mayo heavy and leaves me feeling like I've ingested a brick.

As I was walking through the Union Square Greenmarket for this week's edition of Market Mondays, I spotted a big basket of Russian Banana fingerlings and was inspired to make a lighter version of potato salad, one without mayo. After scooping up a few veggies to lend flavor and a welcome crunch to the dish, I headed home. I roasted fingerlings with extra virgin olive oil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper, blanched and shelled fava beans, blanched and cut asparagus stalks, sliced radishes into thin discs, chopped scallions, and tossed all of the ingredients with a light champagne vinaigrette- adding a few turns of salt and pepper at the end. A classic, reinvented.

The Russian Banana fingerlings that inspired this week's Market Mondays dish
Raw radishes lend a grassy, peppery crunch to the salad
I couldn't pass these up after hearing a market-goer describe them as "the most elegant asparagus stalks" she's ever seen- I have no idea what that means
Fava beans- worth the extra work to get them out of their pods and shells
This week's scallions are much smaller than last week's, but the price is the same
The final salad- one that I would eat at any summer picnic