Sunday, August 21, 2011


(that's what she said.)

as of late i have been experimenting with homemade hummus. this isn't the first time i've thrown beans in the food processor and seen what happens (for a fava been blast from the past, click here). last week, i used a combination of chickpeas and fava beens with sea salt, fresh lemon juice, garlic, cumin and turmeric. delicious. and it inspired me to see in what directions i can take this super simple standard...and so the bird hit the berkeley bowl to get some chickpeas and some ideas. i returned home with 2 hummus plans - one a hummus based on cilantro and the other a hummus flavored with tamarind. this afternoon i made the cilantro hummus. this recipe is a keeper.

but, before we get to that, let's take a moment and show cilantro a little love and attention. i'm gonna go ahead and start at the very beginning, i've heard it's a pretty good place to start. cilantro is the leaves of the coriander plant, which grows wild in south east europe and has been cultivated in egypt, india and china for, well, a very long time. thousands of years. it gets shout outs in sanskrit texts. cilantro was introduced to mexico and peru by spanish conquistadores, where it has gone on to become a staple in their cuisine. on the folklore/who-knows-if-it's-true front, coriander and cilantro have long been thought of as aphrodisiacs. (hey, no! that is not why i used it, the bird doesn't need any aphrodisiacs...but if that compels you to pick up a bunch and whip this up, by all means go for it, and i hope, in turn, you have a very good night. wink wink.) on the why is this so darn good for me front, well, this little herb is extremely high in vitamins a & k, a being good for mucus membranes and vision and k being good for the bones. overall, cilantro has quite an impressive % of rda (recommended daily amounts) profile:
15% of folates
11% of vitamin b-6
45% of vitamin c
225% of vitamin a
258% of vitamin k
22% of iron
18% of manganese
so, go ahead, use cilantro. and, hopefully, it will get you lucky. but, at the very least, it will help you be healthy. so you either win win or you just win. not too shabby.

cilantro garlic hummus

1 can chickpeas, drained and liquid reserved
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp chili flakes
2 fresh limes

put chickpeas, cilantro, garlic and spices in food processor. (a blender will also suffice) squeeze lime juice on top. blend until smooth, adding reserved liquid from chickpeas as needed.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

the mighty miso.

miso. little word. big possibilities.

although miso has become more and more common in our american food vernacular, expanding its appearances in grocery stores across our great nation, for most americans, the ignorance and fear factor remain at an all time high. the color descriptions of miso - red, yellow and white - might as well be levels of security alert. for most of us, miso is little more than the freebie soup that comes with dinner at a japanese restaurant. we're not really sure what makes miso soup "miso soup". we're not sure what fermented soybean paste is. and we tend to not know what to do with it if we ever take the leap and buy a jar at the store and throw it in our fridge. okay so i have a tub of miso. now what? and the basic miso soup recipe calls for a tablespoon or two? if we figure out how to make the dashi broth that is the foundation of miso soup and actually make some from scratch, we still have most of a tub of miso. so, really, now what?

first things first. think of miso as a condiment. use it in soup, use it in salad dressings, marinades and spreads. it adds flavor and texture and a whole lot of healthy benefits.

okay, so what is miso? miso is a fermented paste made from rice, barley or soybeans. the taste and color will vary based on what grain is used and the fermentation process. this is why there are so many types of miso, some are very tangy and very salty, some are far milder, some even taste slightly sweet. experiment, find the miso that suits your palette best.

alright, why is miso so good for you?
first of all, miso contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein
it is a powerful digestive aid - it stimulates the secretion of digestive fluids, restores probiotics to the intestines, and aids in the digestion and stimulation of food in the intestines
miso is a good source of b vitamins and high in antioxidants, it strengthens the immune system and lowers LDL cholesterol
miso can protect against radiation
most importantly, miso has been shown to help prevent against breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers

so, everyone should have a little miso in their lives. or a lot of miso. and it's pretty darn easy to make that happen. miso soups can be far more than just some tofu and scallions floating in a salty, cloudy broth. here is a little soup i came up with using vegetables that were in season at the market:

miso soup with leeks, chinese mustard greens and sunburst squash

4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/2 cup hijiki seaweed (dried)
1 small bunch of leeks, cleaned and sliced
1/2 bunch chinese mustard greens, cleaned and chopped
2 small sunburst squash, sliced
1/2 cup white miso (you can use more or less depending on your taste)

fill a large pot with 6 cups of water. add garlic and hijiki, bring to a boil.
add leeks, greens and squash, return to a boil, then simmer about 10 minutes.
add miso, one tablespoon at a time, let it dissolve, allow soup to simmer for just a minute or two.*
remove from heat and enjoy.

*the key to miso soup is not allowing the miso to boil - it will compromise both the flavor and the nutritional and healing properties of the miso

Sunday, July 24, 2011

flex that mussel.

the early bird dove into the water and struck green! mussels, not only are they super healthy for you - high in selenium, which is good news for your immune system and thyroid gland; high in vitamin b-12, which is good news for your nervous system and red blood cells; and high in manganese, which is good news for your bone development and metabolism - but they are also farmed in methods that are environmentally sound, which make them green and we all know that green is good. eat some mussels and you are basically saving yourself and the planet at the same time. okay, maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but still, it is eating responsibly in pretty much every sense of the word. and that counts for something.

drawing from the flavors of the cuisines of north african countries like morocco and tunisia, this bird hit the spice rack and busted out the beans to create some spicy lentil chickpea mussel madness. i used a combination of turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon. yes, spices bring incredible flavor to this dish, but they also bring their own bevy of health benefits to the table. i've written about turmeric before, but i will say it again, this is a little yellow wonder power. recently shown to help heal or prevent health conditions from cancer to alzheimer's disease, it is also a natural antibacterial and antiseptic agent. turmeric is a natural liver detoxifier (and we all know our livers could use a little love) and painkiller. and let's not forget that it aids in fat metabolism. next up is paprika, which also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may lower the risk of cancer. oh cayenne, you are hot stuff. so much so that you have a cult following and a website devoted just to you. i mean, it's a little much, but i guess we all have our passions. cayenne, like all chiles, is a metabolism booster. it can also clear congestion and is a powerful digestion aid. it can heal and prevent ulcers. it is an immune booster and natural pain reliever. but it's effect on cancer cells and the cardiovascular system are its most awesome properties. it's fantastic for the heart, stabilizes blood pressure, and helps veins and arteries clear out toxins and bad cholesterol.

the bottom line is: spice it up. it's good for you.

spicy mussels with chickpeas and lentils

1 1/2 lbs mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
1 can lentils
1 can chickpeas, 1/2 liquid reserved
1 can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped and liquid reserved
8 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup water

in a large pot, combine onion, garlic, spices and water. cover, cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender, about 5 minutes.

add vinegar, chickpeas, lentils, tomatoes, and reserved liquids, simmer for 10-15 minutes until mixture thickens.

add mussels, return to a simmer, cover and cook until mussels open wide, 3-6 minutes. discard any mussels that have not opened after 6 minutes.


notes about mussels:
only cook mussels that are alive - live mussels are closed, or will close when tapped if they are open. tap any open mussels on a counter top, any mussels that remain open, discard.

scrub mussels to clean off barnicles and other debris before cooking.

to remove beard, gently pull beard towards hinge end and tear out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

give it to me cheap.

the early bird loves when what's cheap is what's good. it can totally work in your favor to walk into a market resolved that you will only buy what's on sale and what's in season and design your menu from there. this is how the bird buys anything from the fish counter. i always pick what is on sale and go from there. it keeps me on budget and on my toes. so win one for whole foods and a crazy sea scallop sale a couple of weeks ago. it gave the bird and her tiger a chance to have a delicious mexican influenced scallop meal. yum yum. the tiger and the bird LOVE scallops.

ah, the scallop. less common than clams, not as prestigious as oysters, but one of the best mollusks out there in the great wide sea nonetheless. i love scallops. even back in my unadventurous days of youth where i was convinced that the only fish i liked was haddock, i liked scallops. as silly as it may sound, the first time i cooked scallops and it was a success was a moment of genuine fulfillment. it had done my mother, who herself had never put a tough or chewy scallop on anyone's plate, proud. pronounce that "a" however you want, scallops are extraordinarily delicious and exceptionally nutritious. high in vitamin b12, and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and the minerals magnesium and potassium, scallops are great for cardiovascular health and can prevent both heart attack and stroke. additionally, vitamin b12 can aid in the prevention of colon cancer.

scallops are simple and fast. a little bit wham bam thank you ma'am. the trick is not to overcook them and make them tough and chewy. they cook quickly and they will continue to cook when removed from heat and in reaction to the acid of any lime or lemon juice that you may squeeze on them.

chili lime scallops with corn black bean tomato salsa and rice on tortillas

1 lb sea scallops
fresh cilantro, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 limes
chili powder
cayenne pepper
sea salt
cholula hot sauce
1 can yellow kernel corn (organic &/or no-salt added if you can find it), rinses and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
corn tortillas
1 cup brown rice
1 small sweet onion, diced
4 tomatoes (a mixture of red and yellow tomatoes gives a nice color to the dish), diced

bring 2 cups of water, 1 cup brown rice, 2 cloves garlic chopped finely, a dash of sea salt and a dash of hot sauce to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until rice is done.

in a pot, combine corn, beans, tomatoes, onion, 2 cloves garlic chopped finely, sea salt (to taste), 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, juice of 1 lime, and hot sauce. cover and heat over medium heat.

in a skillet add scallops and the remaining 2 cloves of chopped garlic
squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the scallops
season with sea salt, cayenne pepper and chili powder (to taste)
add fresh chopped cilantro
cook over medium heat, turning scallops once, until opaque, less than 5 minutes
remove from heat and squeeze the juice of the remaining lime over the scallop mixture

to serve, spoon rice on top of a tortilla, top with salsa mixture and then top with scallops. add additional hot sauce and seasoning to suite your taste. (the bird likes it hot.) and enjoy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

yay! i squid it!

the bird has been missing in action for a bit, but she is back. relocated in oakland and reinvigorated to resume her explorations of the healthy and tasty side of things.

tonight, for the first time, i cooked calamari. i was introduced to fried calamari as a child and so was waned early from my squirmishness towards squid. being both stubborn and a sucker for logic, once i had admitted to liking that fried ring of squid, not knowing what it came from or looked like before being battered and thrown in the fryer, i could not rescind my allegiance when the truth of octopus and squid was revealed to me. i had tried it, i had liked it, it had looked just that way before it was fried and put on my plate. i liked squid. i couldn't take it back.

but just because i was okay with squid didn't mean i was okay with dealing with squid. it scared me. it still kind of does even after cooking with it. tubes and tentacles and that fine line between sweetest thing ever or rubber's like walking a tight rope. and i'm not known for my tight rope skills. but it was time to put on the leotard, slap on the make up and climb up the ladder.

my only advice about cooking calamari is this (unless you are frying or using a recipe that calls for a long slow low simmer) cook it quick! drop it into a pot of boiling salted water and leave it there for no longer than 30 seconds. yes, 30 seconds. it sounds a little unbelievable, but anything longer will overcook it and turn it to chewy rubber. so prepare the sauce or the rest of the dish separately and flash cook the calamari and add it at the end.

why take the risk with squid? there are many reasons. squid contains about 90% of our daily copper needs. a copper deficiency is generally at the root of anemia since copper plays an important role in our absorption and metabolism of iron and the production of red blood cells. it also contains selenium, which fights inflammation and helps relieve the symptoms of arthritis. it's got lots of important b vitamins - b2, b3 and b12. and it's high in phosphorus which aids the body in using calcium to build bones and teeth. plus, it's yummy.

calamari with broccoli rabe, tomatoes and spring onion

1 lb calamari (tubes and tentacles), cleaned and tubes sliced into rings
1 bunch organic broccoli rabe
1 can organic diced tomatoes
3 organic spring onions, sliced thinly
1 medium yellow organic heirloom tomato, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
fresh parsley, chopped finely
sea salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, 1 tbs (or to taste)
juice of 1 lemon

steam the broccoli rabe with 1/3 of the chopped garlic

in a large skillet add the remaining garlic, spring onions, and tomatoes (including liquid from canned tomatoes)
season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and chopped parsley
bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 - 10 minutes

when ready, combine tomato mixture and broccoli rabe in a large serving bowl

bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add calamari, remove after 30 seconds and drain immediately

add calamari to bowl
stir and season with salt, pepper and red pepper to taste
add the juice of the lemon

serve over pasta, serve over rice, or serve alone. and enjoy.

Friday, February 11, 2011

my heart has sprung a leek.

with valentine's day just on the other side of this weekend, it seems like the perfect time to dive into something that is good for the heart. so i decided to buck up, bite the bullet, wash the grit away, and deal with leeks. there is always so much fuss and drama surrounding cleaning leeks that i have always been frightened away from them. i have steered well clear, convinced they are a hassle, convinced i'll mess it up. and it makes me a truly happy bird to report that that is entirely not the case. leeks are pretty darn easy. just wash away the grit at the roots if they are dirty and just go for it, full steam ahead.

leeks may have a bad reputation and a bad name, but you'll be better off if you give them the benefit of the doubt, ignore the rumor mill and take the next step. leeks are a heart's best friend. like garlic and onions, they belong to a group of vegetables called alliums. it's actually suggested that we get at least one serving of allium vegetables per day. if you want to get the most nutritional value out of those allium vegetables, it's best to slice them thin and let them sit for 5 minutes between cutting and cooking.

how do those leeks go and treat your heart so sweetly? well, to begin with, leeks contain the flavonoid kaempferol, which protects blood vessel linings from damage. they also contain b vitamin folate, which keeps our homocysteine levels in balance and, in turn, protects us from cardiovascular disease. and, on top of that, they have antioxidant polyphenols, which protect our blood vessels and blood cells from oxidative damage. so come on, be your own sweetheart, and eat some leeks.

i decided to make my leek debut with a fish dish. and i upped the ante by adding shallots and garlic, other alliums, to the mix. i'm happy to report that is was a success and there are no broken hearts here on valentine's day.

lemon garlic cod with shallots and rainbow chard, leeks and asparagus over rice

lemon garlic cod
one piece of fresh cod (about 1/2 lb is plenty to serve 2, i got wild caught alaskan cod)
3 lemons
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 small shallots, sliced
1 tbs parsley - dried or fresh, depending on availability
salt & pepper

preheat oven to 385
in glass baking dish, lay out cod (after you have washed it, of course)
add shallots
salt & pepper the fish to taste
sprinkle parsley on top of the fish
spread garlic over the fish
slice 2 of the lemons in half, squeeze juice over the fish, place lemons in baking dish to cook with fish & shallots
bake in oven about 10 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes with a fork
when done, remove from oven & squeeze the juice of the 3rd lemon over it

rainbow chard, leeks and asparagus
1 bunch rainbow chard, washed & chopped
1 bunch leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly
1 bunch small asparagus tips, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
sea salt

add all the vegetables and garlic to a pot with about 1 inch of water, salt to taste
cover, bring to a boil
reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender
drain vegetables

serve fish & steamed vegetables over rice. and enjoy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

green bayby!

the early bird likes her greens, that is for sure. and yesterday was a big day for the green and yellow packer nation. handily putting the chicago bears to bed for the season, green bay is going all the way. and so it's only fitting to make today's post green.

in honor of the big event, i decided to throw caution to the wind, put my fears aside, and take the plunge. i juiced. for the first time. and it was amazing.

the early bird is no stranger to the wonders of juice and i have long been enjoying them - in new york i developed a pretty serious thing for liquiteria and bequ juice - but never before have i had juicer and veggies in hand and done the dirty deed myself. lucky for the bird, the tiger has a very nice juicer, that he doesn't use and is willing to share. and even luckier for the bird, berkeley bowl has all one's veggie needs, fresh and cheap, so that it actually makes economical sense to roll up your sleeves and get into juicing. by new york standards, you will pay anywhere upwards of $8 for a fresh green juice. today i juiced at home with produce that cost less than $4 all together, which yielded enough juice for 2 juices today and enough for another 2 with the leftover veggies i will use tomorrow. so, for under $4, i made 4 green juices. yes, the juicers are a bit of a labor of love to clean. but cleaning the produce and cleaning the juicer is actually not that labor intensive and it most certainly is worth bringing the cost of green juice down to about $1/juice.

okay. so green juice. what do i put in it? i used kale, romaine, celery, cucumber, parsley, and green apple. i could have also used ginger and lemon. why do i drink it? well it's pretty simple - the healing elements that are found in green leafy vegetables are so powerful and synergistic, that there is no synthetic equivalent. there is no synthetic medicine or supplement that can do what raw, fresh green leafy vegetables can do. and doctors, nutritionists and dietitians all recommend that we get 3 to 5 servings of these green leafy vegetables every day. juice is an excellent way to get these servings. it is also ideal because they are still raw and their nutritional values have not been compromised at all as a result of heat or preparation.

yeah, kermit, it's not easy being green, it's AWESOME! why?
well, the five main benefits of the ingredients in green juice are:
  • chlorophyll
  • trace minerals (potassium, magnesium, calcium, chromium and selenium)
  • vegetable protein
  • enzymes
  • alkalizing abilities

these components give the immune system and muscles the building blocks they need, bring oxygen to our blood and tissues, prevent disease, and help balance the alkalinity of our blood, in turn, helping us flush out the build up of lactic acid in our joints and muscles. a green juice a day will keep the doctor away, at least in a more positive way than say no health insurance keeps the doctor away.