Tuesday, October 20, 2009

purple potato salad

  • fresh purple potatoes, scrubbed and sliced in half
  • Dijon mustard
  • Champagne vinegar
  • honey

In salted boiling water, cook potatoes for 10-15 minutes until fork tender. Combine equal parts honey, vinegar and mustard; adjust according to taste. Pour dressing over potatoes and serve either warm or cold. I was lucky enough to have a close to empty squeeze jar of Dijon in the fridge so I used it to mix the dressing and I was able to achieve the cool drizzle effect in the photo.

The dish: I usually try to avoid Frankenfood because square watermelons and grape flavored apples just don't do it for me. I'm not sure how altered purple potatoes are, but our farm friends had some and I just had to try them. They taste just like a regular potato, but carry some of the health benefits associated with other purple foods. The most abundant of the good stuff are flavonoids, antioxidant compounds that among other things, might help keep cancer at bay. There's been a lot of research into the biological environment cancer cells live in and what we can do through diet to alter it. In other words, if Madame Cancer decides to take up with us, we don't have to be good hosts. Cancer is a tricky disease that's good at sending out signals to our bodies to divert resources like food and energy toward its own benefit. Everything we eat or drink changes the composition of our blood, and various nutrients in food can alter it in such a way that it blocks some of cancer's communications. Various flavonoids and antioxidants can actually fight cancer by doing things like controlling blood sugar to reducing inflammation. In addition to tasting great, this salad has tons of cancer fighting properties and nutrients our bodies can put to use. Not to mention, the distinctive purple and yellow coloring looks like the velvet pouch that Crown Royal comes in, and only good things come out of that magical bag.

Texas toast bruschetta

  • frozen garlic toast Texas style
  • fresh tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • Balsamic vinegar

Prepare toast according to package instructions. Dice tomatoes and basil finely and blend together, taking care not to over mix. Pile tomatoes on toast and drizzle with vinegar, serve immediately.

The dish: It's pretty scary to look in someones eyes and see pure hate. It's even scarier when that person is a friend you've known most of your life; scarier still when the occasion is his wedding. Yet this happened a few weeks back, and I feel nothing but proud of my comrade. You see, the good friend is a surgeon who specializes in oncology, practicing at the prestigious Fox Chase Cancer Center. I've never seen him as happy as when he was standing next to his beautiful wife, yet when the conversation turned to work he spoke with great admiration for the doctors who have taught him, compassion for the patients he's helped, and disdain for the ugly pile of cells he pulls out of the folks on the operating table beneath him. Having lost his father at a young age to cancer he has his reasons to dislike the disease, but has channeled it using his knowledge and dedication in a way that inspires awe. Like all great doctors, I'm amazed by them and yet hope to never have the occasion to be their patient. Doing things like not smoking and using sunscreen are obvious ways to keep cancer at bay, but there's much more we can do. Eating tomatoes gives our bodies lycopene, which some studies have shown will slow the growth of certain types of cancer. I can't think of a better way to get my dose of lycopene than the festival of tomatoes that is bruschetta. I would have used fresh bread but this batch was made at the last minute using some of my sister's bumper crop (you have a green thumb- you're adopted) and we had some Hannaford garlic toast Texas style on hand. It was delicious and our bodies were better off for the offering.

spinach salad with warm cider vinaigrette and seared scallops

  • fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
  • good quality bacon bits
  • fried onion strips
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • fresh sea scallops

In a saucepan over high heat, bring apple cider to boil, reduce heat to medium high and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar to cider and reduce heat to medium low, continue cooking while preparing scallops. Heat olive oil in pan over high heat. Season scallops with coarse salt and fresh pepper and add to pan when fully heated. Cook for 3 minutes, flip and continue to cook for three minutes or until done throughout. Arrange spinach on plate, build with onions and bacon, pour dressing over it and top with scallops.

The dish: Every now and again I'll have a dream that's so vivid that I'll wake up and not be sure if it really happened or not. While this phenomenon isn't always so pleasant when my dreams have bad twists to them, sometimes it can be quite enjoyable. Awhile back I woke up after having dreamt that I was at some social function where I stood with a drink in one hand and a bacon wrapped scallop in the other. The server was always nearby and by the time I pushed myself out of the REM cycle there was a formidable pile of discarded toothpicks on her tray and my drink had been refilled more than once. It was such a nice memory that I wasn't sure it didn't actually happen until Kim insisted it occurred only in my frontal cortex. From that moment I was on the hunt: I had to have some bacon wrapped scallops. Naturally things like this only happen on weeks when every minute I have is well spoken for in advance. It was about 6 days later when I finally dug into some and they tasted as good as I had been expecting (fortunately I didn't have to wait that long eternity for a cocktail). Bacon really does make most things better, but scallops in particular seem to benefit from their salty goodness. Throw in some spinach and a vinaigrette and you've got some nutritional absolution that tastes like a dream.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

chicken tortilla soup

  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into small pieces
  • 2 ancho chili peppers, seeded
  • 5 large tomatoes
  • roasted chicken, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1 white onion, chopped fine
  • cilantro, chopped fine
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • tortilla strips

In food processor pulse tomatoes and peppers until smooth. Combine mixture with tomato soup and cook over a medium low flame for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine avocado, chicken, onion, cilantro and tortilla strips in bowl, pour soup mixture over it and serve immediately. Note- if you can't find tortilla strips in the supermarket, look in either the produce section or near the salad dressings.

The dish: It's common to say that when people move from New York to points south their blood thins. I never saw evidence of this fact quite as astounding as when I was in Fort Lauderdale last August and had dinner with a good friend who is an empire state expatriate. As I was trying to battle the heat in shorts and sandals, he sat coolly in jeans and ordered the soup. I thought he was nuts until it was brought out; a bowl of fresh ingredients was placed in front of him as the attentive waiter poured a steamy tomato based liquid from a ceramic basin. It looked and smelled delicious enough that I immediately ordered my own bowl, and was amazed at the taste. We were sitting in Bar Zen, looking out on the rain forest garden that was home for the resident swans at the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure. Real life returned for my friend who had to go home and go to work the next day, but Kim and I hung around awhile longer; me reading by the pool while she got pampered behind the red door. Our stay was just what we needed to re-charge and relax, and the Bonaventure did a great job of making sure we did just that. We had many great meals there, and they all began with a bowl of tortilla soup. We've since been to a few other Hyatts and have tried the tortilla soup when it's available, and they're all good, but the Bonaventure is the best. I suspect that the chef at the Hyatt skips using Andy Warhol's favorite subject and instead achieves a velvety texture by adding crumbled corn tortillas to the simmering tomatoes, but I'm not sure. Either way, this was made on a weeknight when my own real life beckoned and I had to take a short cut. It was enjoyable, but certainly not as good as the Bonaventure's. We're booked to return for a long weekend in January, so I'm sure on those chilly Florida winter nights when it dips into the 60s, we'll enjoy many bowls of tortilla soup.