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Thursday
Nov202014

Pizza Class & A Come-to-Jamie (Oliver) Moment

I spent the past week and will spend the next one teaching classes on the book I wrote for Colavita, Top Your Pizza.

Yes, I teach people how to make pizza. We cover homemade dough, four different kinds of toppings and a salad for balance. I talk about how to caramelize onions and wax poetical about mozzarella cheese. People actually listen. They pay attention and ask questions. They even laugh at my jokes (sometimes). I'm finding the process rewarding, energizing, fun and definitely exhausting and challenging.

I am aware that my students are a self-selected population — they've signed up and have an interest in the subject matter — and that I'm not imparting life-saving information. This is pizza making...or is it??

Buy a man a pizza and he has a meal for that day. Teach a man to make a pizza and... 

...he has apps for every Super Bowl Sunday??

Along those lines, I touch on the topic of nutrition in class, as I believe pizza can be a healthy, balanced meal depending on your topping choice and application. Now, I'm not suggesting we can improve the health of the nation with pizza (or am I??), but during my trip, I had a come-to-Jamie moment when I stopped at a roadside IHOP restaurant.

To clarify, I meant Jamie Oliver.

I've been a fan of his since I first watched his TED talk and saw how passionate he seemed about food education, nutrition and helping people change their diets in order to change their lives.

That IS life-altering information, folks. As I watched Jamie show a few clips from his show Food Revolution, I thought, "Damn, that's gotta be HARD."

And I mean a serious challenge, as it's hard to change people's minds about anything, and that is no less true with their diets. Consider my efforts with The Box. Part of the problem, as Jaimie addresses, is that people just don't know. They're not education on the topic of nutrition, so you can't really blame them for making poor choices. That's fair.

So it becomes a two-fold problem:

1. Education

2. Changing people's taste

I'm here to suggest that the latter might be the more difficult of the two.

On my class tour on the road from Boca Raton to Jacksonville, my driver and I decided to stop at an IHOP nestled snuggly on the side of Route 95 for lunch. Also known as The International (which other nation?) House of Pancakes.

I assumed I could get something moderately healthy like a veggie omelette, and in fact IHOP has about two "Simple and Fit" entrees, one of them being a veggie omelette, which is made with egg substitute. How a chemical combination made to resemble the taste and texture of eggs is healthier than the real thing, I do not know.

All the "Simple and Fit" entrees were listed as under 600 calories, which lead me to believe that the other dishes on the menu were all well over that number, including Dulche de Leche Pancakes featuring what resembled large tubes of icing sandwiched between pancakes.

Time out. 

I like pancakes. In fact, at the end of this post, I'm going to list all the pancake recipes I've posted on this blog. However, I recognize that I'm what some would call, "a healthy eater." I like vegetables. Even kale. I'll go out of my way to eat them. I exercise. Maybe more than some. Definitely less than others. I watch my food intake, not by counting calories, but by trying to make good choices and recognizing when I'm full. 

But I'm not perfect. I've attacked a carton of ice cream with a spoon. I've eaten more than my share of pizza. I've come home late at night and ransacked the fridge like a racoon in the trash. This is life.

I also realize I'm lucky. I live in a city that has more food choices than most with access to farmers' markets, classes, independent food producers, locavore/organic restaurants and the like. I'm able to take advantage of these options. I'm very grateful for this, and I know this is not the case for many who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. This is a topic for another essay, and it's financial and access issue that I didn't list in my two-fold numeration above.

But I take issue with places like IHOP that are continuing to serve nutritionally negligent, over-portioned sugar delivery systems. Yes, there are "Simple and Fit" offerings on the menu, but like my pizza class attendees, only a self-selected group are going to look for them and then actually order them (and also try not to feel like a total ass when you say, "Yeah...I'd like the Simple and Fit Egg Substitute Omelette").

Additionally, the resulting egg substitute omelette looked so sad and watery in comparison to its fluffy, whipped and stacked neighbors, that who, indeed WOULD choose that option. It didn't look good. And, in fact, it was probably the worst omelette I've ever had. And IHOP isn't the only one. There are many more, as you know. John has a post coming up about Papa John's Frito Pizza that will alarm you.

This makes me sad. It makes me sad because I want to be able to convince people that healthy food is delicious. I cook for myself, my friends, and now complete strangers frequently, and manage to make delicious dishes that are nutritionally redeeming. And I know I'm not making a positive difference in the nutritional education system of this country, but I'd like to.

I want to think that the way to stop having items like this on restaurant menus is for people to stop ordering them. But that requires a change in taste. HOW do you change people's taste? How do you convince people that beets are tasty? Or that a quarter pound of sugar-laced lard has no place between pancakes?

I don't know. But I'd like to make an attempt with this blog post. With pancakes. Here are some recipes that I think are both nutritionally redeeming (in moderation, people) and delicious. I created them for Colavita and I'm reposting them here in the hopes that they might inspire you to think of pancakes, food and nutrition in a different light. And, uh...Jamie? If you're listening, I'd love to talk.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Recipe here and video below:

7 (ish) Grain Pancakess.

What You Need:

1/2 cup rolled oats (the real stuff)
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked farro
4 tablespoons chia seeds
4 teaspoons ground flax seeds 
1 cup almond or soy milk (you can use regular milk if you like)
2 eggs, beaten
a few swirls of agave syrup for sweetening (you can also use honey)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt 

Butter, oil or non-stick cooking spray for you frying pan or griddle.

What To Do:

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (don't forget the salt and cinnamon!). You can even use a food processor if you like. 

Add in the milk, eggs, vanilla and agave syrup. 

Blend until well incorporated. If the mixture appears too dry or sticky, you can add more milk.

Heat up your frying pan or griddle and grease with oil, butter or spray.

Ladle the batter onto the griddle in 1/4 cup sized scoops. Keep in mind, you might like to make mini pancakes, or HUGE BIG AS YOUR FACE ones. Go nuts, I'm not gonna stop you.

Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes on one side. Break out your spatula and give those suckers a flip. Let them toast up on the opposite side for about 2 minutes.

Flop them onto a plate and serve with cinnamon butter (I used Ronnybrook's) and more agave or maple syrup. You can also store these in the frigde for quite some time and use them as pre or post-workout energy pancakes.

Feel free to add fresh fruit and nuts!

Blueberry Oat and Polenta Pancakes

Recipe here.

Oat and Whole Wheat Waffles (<-- Loosely Related to Pancakes!) with Fruit and Nuts

What You Need:

A waffle maker (gifted by your boss or bought by your own self. Either works)
2 1/2 cups warm (about 100 degrees) almond milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 egg whites
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds for garnish

What To Do:
Mix the almond milk, sugar and yeast in a medium bowl. Let it stand until it becomes foamy (this is the yeast working its magic) - about 10 minutes.

Mix both flours, oats, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl.

Add the yeast mixture and stir to blend it all together. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. You can also leave it to chill overnight so you will be ready for hungry brunchers in the morning.

Separate the eggs, setting aside two of the egg yolks. Mix these two yolks into the batter.

Put the three egg whites in large bowl and with a hand held mixer beat them until they are white and foamy and peaks form (ex: when you lift up the beaters the egg foam will stand up).

Fold the egg whites into the batter with a spatula.

Heat up your waffle iron and spray it with a non stick spray (you can also use butter). When it is hot enough, pour the batter into the iron. Cook until the waffle iron gives you the green light (literally). Your waffles should be golden brown.

Serve with extra blueberries, slivered almonds and maple syrup.

 

Monday
Nov172014

Zaza's Slice of Life and Pizza - Los Angeles

Zaza's returned from the West Coast and has her pizza report ready! Check it out on Issuu here:

And on Tumblr here!

Friday
Nov072014

Peanut Butter and Sprinkle Sandwiches

Today is my birthday. Yes it's true! Today I am officially grown up. 

No, that will actually never happen. Especially when I continue to keep a pizza sketchbook and talk for my dog in a very bad French accent. 

What? Did I just write that?

Along those lines, for my birthday this year I am going to make a few confessions. Food-related confessions. I have some weird food-related habits and I'm going to come clean and tell you what they are. Then you can bring on the judging.

Or perhaps, as a birthday gift to me, you can tell me some of YOUR weird food habits. Because I know you have some. Everyone does.

Here are mine (in no particular order):

1. I reheat coffee. Sometimes even the next day. Sometimes even when it has milk in it. Oh, and I actually like soy creamer. I know...horrendous.

2. My favorite breakfast is poached eggs on oatmeal. But when I'm at the gym and can't get poached eggs, I'll get hard boiled eggs and mix them into an Apple Cinnamon oatmeal packet. Sometimes with strawberries. It's the best. It also grosses everyone out.

3. I cook with the refrigerator door open.

4. I've eaten tripe. And liked it.

5. I've eaten more food when on dinner dates. Yes, with men.

6. I have a gourmet food impulse buying problem. Please don't tempt me with $12 bags of artisinal granola or lemon curd made from the tree in your backyard. I will buy it. 

7. My favorite ice cream flavor is Chocolate Chip Mint. And that's how I say it, too. I like it to be green.

8. I was briefly employed as a funnel-cake chef at a Jersey Shore amusement park. I spent one summer constantly smelling like a donut. You'd think I'd have made more friends.

9. I really like chicken liver.

10. I prefer the tenticle parts of calamari over the rings.

11. I used to eat peanut butter and sprinkle sandwiches.

It's this last point I would like to address now, in honor of my birthday. Yes, I used to make myself peanut butter and sprinkle sandwiches. The bread must be white (a potato or buttermilk bread is an indulgent choice), the peanut butter must be creamy and the spinkles must be the long, multicolored kind.

It has recently (two days ago) come to my attention via my friend Kaz that the Dutch enjoy a similar delicacy called Hagelslag. The Dutch, however, prefer to use the butter of cows for sprinkle cement, while I enjoy the butter of peanuts.

The result is similar in that you have a glorious, sandwiched version of birthday cake. And I am going to tell you how to make my version (should you need instructions, which really does seem silly). 

Here goes:

Ingredients:

2 slices white, potato or buttermilk bread

peanut butter (I'm not going to judge you on how much you use, but don't skimp)

rainbow sprinkles (enough to cover one side of the bread in a thin rainbow layer)

Process:

Place bread on a plate.

Smooth one slice with peanut butter.

Spinkle sprinkles on top of the peanut better.

Cover with the other slice of bread.

Eat with delight and wonder like a child diving into her own birthday cake.

Happy birthday to me! 

Tuesday
Nov042014

Perspective and Squash in Los Angeles

I lived in Los Angeles from 2001 through 2007. When I lived in LA, I was married. 

Did the ground just shake? Yes, it's true. I was a married person.

When my marriage ended, I moved back to NJ/NY and I struggled with visiting Los Angeles. I felt awkward there, like I was always looking over my shoulder for a life I would rather leave behind.

So I stopped visiting. But this wasn't a very good solution either, because I missed some of the wonderful friends I made while I lived there. So last year, I decided to change my mind. I went back to visit, and I told myself I was going to enjoy it (dammit).

And, oddly, I did. Very much. So I returned. I'm in LA right now, writing this post and having a great time.

I swear I'm working too...here's evidence.

Great. Words are very simplistic sometimes. Too simplistic to articulate all the emotions that are happening at once. I often feel this way about food — WOW! This tastes AMAZING!

Well, that sounds stupid. And one-dimensional.

Definitely not one-dimensional.And there's been a lot of three-dimensional stuff going on. Stuff that makes me happy to have a bit of space from my usual NYC routine. To concentrate, and check in with me so I can try to figure things out.

When I try and do this, it's usually a combination of thoughts like:

I'm hungry.

This is weird.

Did I send that email to that guy about that thing?

Do I have indigestion?

I don't like these pants.

So I started going to yoga for a little assistance. I know! But, in California, they make you leave the state if you don't have either:

1. A regular yoga studio.

2. A therapist.

I've had both and have only positive things to say about them (stand by by for a hilarious story on #2 that I will only tell if you request it).

Also, I've been told that yoga is good for my solar plexus. I really want my solar to be less perplexus, and right now my solar looks like this:

Very perplexus.

Anyway, I tried out a new yoga studio and very much enjoyed the thought meanderings of the instructor. At one point in the class, she advised us all to look at our beautful bodies in the mirror which were made of, "light and stardust."

Wait for it....

I'm not making fun of her. After she said that, she pulled out her iPhone, looked something up and continued, "Yeah, stardust. You know, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen and Carbon."

Perspective (and word choice). Huh.

So I'm changing my perspective on Los Angeles, yoga, my solar plexus and squash.

Squash? Yes, squash. I've always loved squash, but I find that I cook it the same way all the time. How about something new? Something with three-dimensional flavor. Something un-perplexus.

I cooked this for some of my very favorite people in the whole world (who just happen to be Los Angelenos), Kaz and John. They ate it with gusto. They declared it was AMAZING! In a good way. Of couse, I did threaten them with both a rolling pin and a metal spatula. But that was unrelated.

So if you'd like to change your mind on squash, here's what you should do:

Elana's recipes for Perspective-Changing Solar Un-Perplexing Squash

Ingredients:
serves 4

2 winter squashes, cut into rounds (about 3-4 rounds per squash) and emptied of their seeds and guts.

4 small eggplants, cut into 1/2" cubes

1 bosc pear, diced

1 cup of quinoa (I used a mixed yellow and red variety)

2 cups miso broth

10 dried roasted tomatoes (I found these specially at Surfas. You can use sun-dried tomatoes)

1 small shallot, diced

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

a bunch of fresh cilantro

lots of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Lebanese seven spice , divided (see mix blend below)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp maple syrup (grade B)

Process:

Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the squash circles and the cubed eggplant on the baking sheet.

Drizzle the eggplant with about 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Rub the squash circles with a small amount of olive oil. Now, drizzle both sides in the maple syrup and sprinkle with the Seven Spice Blend and a little salt.

Roast the veggies in the oven until soft, about 30 minutes. It's best to flip the veggies half way through the roasting period, if you can.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a medium stock pot. Place your diced shallot in the pot and sautée for about 10 minutes. You want the shallot to get brown, but not burn—almost caramelized. Once this happens, add in the cup of quinoa and mix to coat the grains with oil and shallot. Add the extra teaspoon of Lebanese Seven Spice and the smoked Paprika and mix to incorporate.

Add the tomatoes and the 2 cups of miso broth. Allow the quinoa to cook completely, about 20 minutes. Stir occassionally. 

Once all the liquid has evaporated, remove the quinoa pot from the heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, cover the pot and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a large serving dish. Place half the roasted eggplant and half the diced pear into the dish. Add about half the quinoa mixture and using a large fork and spoon, mix it up.

Then add in the squash rings, nestling them into quinoa. Fill the holes of the squash circles with more quinoa and add the rest of the eggplant, pear and quinoa around the squash circles.

Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and as much chopped fresh cilantro as you would like. Don't hold back! Then, garnish with the pumpkin seeds.

Serve with giant spoons and giant plates and more cilantro on the side. Everyone will tell you it's AMAZING!

Lebanese Seven Spice Mix:

1 tablespoon allspice, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground fenugreek, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg,  1 teaspoon ground ginger.

What the heck is fenugreek? It's a pretty cool Indian spice. If you can't find it, you can substitute with curry powder.

Mix all these fantastic spices together and store them in an air tight container for about 4 months.

The Last Bookstore, downtown LA

Sunday
Oct262014

Space in Seattle

I've spoken before about creating space. You may remember the accident that inspired this original post. Since then, I've continued to think about it. Continued to shift things around my apartment and my mind, clearing space for....

For what?

I think what I'm clearing space for is space in itself. When you have a clearing, it's tempting to fill it. With activities, with objects, with THINGS.

Instead, I'd like to clear space and leave it empty. Give myself and my thoughts room to breathe. Because there are discoveries that can happen in between the rest of the stuff that's crowding it all out.

Accordingly, I went to Seattle. Obviously people. I wanted space away from my space. So I signed up for a food photography and stories workshop out on the west coast and got excited about what discoveries I might make between the THINGS.

In my photos, I tried to think about space. The space that wasn't occupied by a spoon or a plate or a perfectly plated dish. What story would that tell? What would that leave room for?

For me, it left room for a story. Room to talk about aroma, and really smell the cilantro sitting atop a steaming bowl of soup. Room to hear the noises, of the coffee beans grinding, of the knife chop, chop, chopping. Room for laughter, and for friends to pull up a chair and listen to the stories I'm trying to tell.

Room to try a different angle and see from a different perspective.

And in shifting perspective, room to move something from the background into the foreground...

And refocus.

On an empty plate. Because the place you are filling is as important as what you are filling it with.

Recipes coming next time...