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Chicken Cacciatore/Puttanesca with 100% Flourless Spaghetti

In Recipes on July 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

Wait, What? Yes, you heard me right. The puttanesca sauce is amazing and all, if I do say so myself (and I do), but the spaghetti is the real star here. Not only does it lack any type of processed flour or fat, but it also happens to be ONE ingredient. That’s right, one. You may find yourself wondering how this can be possible. Well, you’re in luck because today, I have decided to tell you the answer: spaghetti squash. Maybe you’ve heard of it before, maybe you haven’t, but if you are reading this without having tried it yet, I am absolutely sure you’re saying to yourself, “There is no way that can stand in for real spaghetti, I’m just going to make the sauce on some whole wheat pasta.” NO! Just trust me on this one. Spaghetti squash is pretty much a miracle food. A blank palette matchable to any flavor profile, but still with a flavor of its own that will lend to any dish.

MIRACLE FOOD, YUM.

Credit: foodsubs.com

Now for the sauce. Our cacciatore-puttanesca combo here is a rich sauce, heavy in flavor, but still light on fat and calories. No cheese necessary at the end, except maybe a few shavings of parmesan or manchego (my favorite). This chicken “puttatori” (does that sound bad?) is one of my favorite sauces to make – always a crowd pleaser and extremely quick and easy to throw together. This is truly a one-pan meal. I guess you’d like to actually see the recipe at this point, so here it is. Enjoy.

*As a rule, I do not measure. Ever. Unless I’m baking. So please remember that I arbitrarily assigned numbers to these ingredients, and you should be depending more on taste. Also, DO NOT ADD ANY SALT to the dish beyond the instructions. More than enough salt is going to be in the ingredients going in (esp. capers). There is more to health than just calories, and sodium intake is often something we increase to make food seem more substantial when trying to slim down. Do not fall into that trap.

 

SERVINGS: 4 (3 without any side dishes)

INGREDIENTS

1 spaghetti squash (yes, really)

FOR THE SAUCE

2ish or less tablespoons

olive oil

1 can plum tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

2-3ish tbsp capers (and a little of the liquid in the jar)

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives

1/2 jar roasted red peppers

1 zucchini

1 full chicken breast (2 halves), rinsed thoroughly and patted dry

3-5 garlic cloves (the more the better, right?)

A few glugs of white wine (can be left out if you don’t drink, replace with a cap full of vinegar)

A half of a lemon (Don’t use “lemon juice” – it is usually not real lemon juice, just lemon oil, water, and chemicals)

Quarter cap full of balsamic vinegar

A few shakes of dried oregano

A few leaves of fresh basil, chopped

A few shakes of red pepper flakes if you like some excitement in your life

INSTRUCTIONS

DECONSTRUCTING YOUR SQUASH (the poor thing)

Poke holes in squash with a fork. Place on a plate and microwave for 12 minutes, 6 on each side. Let the squash cool enough that you can handle it, then cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds (bonus: let them dry and then plant them!), and then have at it with a fork. Use the fork (gently, when closer to the center) to scrape out the strands, which will seem a little mushy in the center but start to resemble spaghetti more closely (I promise) as you reach the edges of the squash.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SAUCE?

Season your WELL-WASHED (you never know the conditions in which your chicken was handled when being packaged) and dried chicken with a sparse sprinkling of kosher salt (less is more here, people) and a few healthy grinds of black pepper. Pour a little olive oil into a heated pan (rule: “cold oil, hot pan”) and leave on medium heat, wait a little under a minute for it to come to temp. If your oil starts to smoke, it is TOO HOT. Add seasoned chicken and let it brown for 3 minutes, until it’s a beautiful golden brown. Flip and do the same on the other side. It does not have to be fully cooked through, as it will finish cooking in the sauce. Take out, let cool, and chop into cubes. Move heat to LOW, chop garlic, add to pan. Let garlic become fragrant for about 30 seconds. Chop up olives, peppers, and zucchini, then add to pan with capers. Add chopped chicken. Sauté until zucchini starts to slightly soften, then crush in your tomatoes and a little of the juice from the can. At this point, add a tbsp or so of both the caper liquid and olive juice, as well as the vinegar and white wine. Stir together, then add the can of tomato paste, which will really thicken the sauce. Stir in, let cook for 10-15 minutes on low/medium (or at least until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink on the inside), then remove from heat and very lightly squeeze a little lemon juice (only a little!!!) into the sauce.

The rest is simple: Bowl. Squash. Sauce. A little manchego on top. And after all that… bon appetit.

 

David is a 20-something master of his own kitchen.  He is a salsero and an avid home-grown chef, interested in exotic ingredients and unexplored preparations.  David lives in New York, has roots in Boston, and has spent time in Montreal and Rio de Janeiro. 

As frutas do Brasil: Caju

In Food on May 9, 2013 at 4:59 pm

As frutas do Brasil

The beautiful caju fruit. Yes, this is where cashews come from.

I touched on the topic of acai a couple of days ago – now I would like to point your attention to another wonderful fruit native to Brazil, particularly to the northeastern region of the country:  the caju tree.

If you’ve ever traveled to Central America, you may have encountered this fruit too as it now grows in other tropical climates. For example, in El Salvador, juice made from caju is called marañon. It’s a sweet yellowish juice made from the fruit. The fruit in itself resembles an apple with carries a stem that is made into the cashew nuts we enjoy.

Health benefits of this Amazon find:

–          Vitamin C, 5x more than your average orange. Sorry oranges.

–          B vitamins

–          Calcium

–          Iron

–          Beta carotene

So this means it’s good for:

–          Sore throats

–          Strengthening the immune system

–          Fighting bacterial agents

–          Killing worms inside your body

–          People with anemia

Where you can get it?

I am still researching this. I have seen Goya products that carry frozen packages of the marañon for making juices, however, I am vague on its nutritional properties. Whole Foods seems to carry these juices. However, as with any juices, be wary of the added sugars.

If you are a consistent consumer of caju juice, please let us know how you get your fix.

Berry Good: What is Acai?

In Food on May 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm
Yum!

A cup of açaí mixed with banana and granola on the side.

Today I found myself craving a wonderful thing I discovered in Rio de Janeiro: açaí.

Acai (pronounced “Ah-sigh-EE”) is a reddish-purple berry that looks similar to a blueberry but is found in the Amazon region of Brazil. It’s becoming a popular item in the U.S., especially among health crowds, with companies such as Sambazon making a variety of food and drink products with the berry.

Recently, near my workplace in the Financial District of New York City – I’ve found a few of the juice carts making acai smoothies for $5 a pop. I was expecting the same rich, creamy texture that you get whenever you order it in Rio de Janeiro at a cafe or juice-post, but understandably it wasn’t the same.

While used differently in the Amazonian diet, in Brazil you will can get a bowl or cup of Acai almost anywhere. The berries are made into a frozen slush that can sometimes be mixed with other fruits, such as bananas, and is served in either a bowl or a cup.

At first taste, the concoction might taste like a slushy cross between blueberries and strawberries with a slight but delightful bitterness. You can also add fruit toppings or granola for an elevated taste.

On Why It’s a Valuable Fruit

My friends living in Rio raved on about the wonderful health benefits of Acai. It is similar in look, taste, and feel to berries, however it stands out among them because of its high content of fiber, anxi-oxidants, amino and omega fatty acids.

For example, 1 cup of acai is worth 84% of your daily recommended fiber intake. The fruit is becoming popular for assisting in slowing down the aging process, boosting the body’s immune system, helping you with your bathroom run, and removing destructive free radicals.

It’s also becoming known as the beauty berry as it can contribute to improving the quality and texture of your skin, hair, and nails.

However, all of this comes with a silver lining. If you are preparing it at home, the amount of sugar in the mix is completely up to you, but when prepared in at a cafe in Brazil, a hefty amount of sugar may be added. It’s also caloric, which means it can substitute for a meal. I loved having it for brunch while I was visiting in Rio as you can see in the picture above.

Going Green…with Energy!

In Recipes on May 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm

My most recent focus of interest has been making green smoothies.

After hearing raves from my sister I decided to buy a NutriBullet, a compact and efficient blender and food processor that turns your solids into beautiful and smooth liquids.

I begin my mornings with a green smoothie consisting of kale, banana and almond milk, which I recently read is great for balancing hormones, an essential for the ladies!

You can read an alternate recipe at For the Love of Food, but here is my morning version:

– 1 Banana

– a handful of Kale (make sure to wash it first as a great deal of your market kale has been exposed to pesticides)

– about 6 oz of unsweetened almond milk

– a squirt of honey

What you get is a beautiful creamy and smooth green smoothie to set your morning off with some energy. Just in case you were wondering, here are some of kale’s wonderful health properties (source):

Iron (great for anyone with chronic anemia, which can be common for women during menstruation due to blood loss)

Fiber for digestion and elimination (a good setup for your morning bathroom run, err no pun intended!)

Vitamin A for your skin and vision, but also for fighting oral cavity and lung cancers.

Vitamin C to boost your immune system, your metabolism and to keep you hydrated!

A morning wake-up call. A friend once told me that the bitterness of the kale give you that same feeling your morning cup of coffee does. So, this is great for anyone trying to reduce their overall coffee intake. 

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