Book Review

Book Review: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

I’m going to go ahead and admit I’m totally new to the foodie scene. I don’t know most famous chefs, cooking TV shows personalities, or food writers. Though I had heard of Ruth Reichl, I didn’t know anything about her career or what to expect from her memoir, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic (my Amazon affiliate program link).

It appears that the general pitch as to why you should read this book is because of all the strange disguises and characters Ruth Reichl would create to avoid being recognized in New York City restaurants while she worked as The New York Times’ restaurant critic in the 1990s. While they were entertaining, I felt like there was so much more to the book than that. Reichl is a great story teller and she really pulls the reader in, even if you don’t know the first thing about the restaurants or food she’s talking about. Sprinkled throughout her memoir are the actual reviews she wrote for The New York Times, as well as unpretentious recipes for everyday home cooking. You might think being paid to eat at fancy restaurants is the best job ever (like I did), but Garlic and Sapphires is a thoughtful reflection on elitism, office politics, and one woman’s struggle with finding her real priorities and passions.

Reichl included a recipe for spaghetti carbonara, which is such a classic, yet I’ve surprisingly only had it once! And as much as I’d like to get my pork jowl on, I already had bacon in the fridge so I followed her lead and used that instead. So simple but so tasty.

On an unrelated note, this book reminded me of that 80s Steve Martin movie, The Lonely Guy. If my memory serves me correctly, his lonely guy buddy tells him he can eat out at restaurants by himself if he pretends he’s a restaurant critic. A silly movie, but I like this scene when he first walks into the restaurant:

Please check out the book club I joined, The Kitchen Reader, and Marian’s blog, Spelt for Choice.

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Dessert

I Did It For The Fruit

There’s a reason why I switch to ice pops in the summer. It’s dang hot! I still want dessert but I don’t want to turn my oven on. However, now that we’re in late, late summer, I’m feeling sad that I will no longer be seeing gorgeous berries, peaches, nectarines, and watermelons at the farmers market. I’ve been enjoying summer fruit raw, but it would be a shame not to bake something delicious with them while they’re still around. So as gross and hot as it is, I turned on the oven. I did it for the fruit.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m totally obsessed with the Joy the Baker podcast. So here’s a recipe from Joy’s partner in crime: Tracy from Shutterbean.com. I’ve had a bag of black sesame seeds sitting in my cupboard for God knows how long, so I saw her Peaches and Plums with Sesame Crumble recipe as a good excuse to use some.

It turned out really good. Even better with a dollop of whipped cream. Why do people buy the pre-made stuff anyway? It takes like 10 seconds to whip up.

P.S. I got a new toy! And by toy I mean camera. Still have no idea how to use this thing, so the photos came out so-so. But I have high hopes for the future of photography at Eating Clean in the Dirty City.

 

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Dessert

The 2012 Ice Pop Project: Mocha

I am a serious coffee lover. While I’m pretty plain when it comes to drinking it (black espresso in the cold weather and black cold brewed coffee in the summer), I do love coffee flavored desserts. I’ve been dying to make another one since last year’s crazy delicious Thai Iced Coffee Pops. Thankfully I came across A Cozy Kitchen’s Mocha Popsicles.

It’s a tasty but simple recipe, but sometimes simple is good. My only complaint–I would love to eat this for dessert but am scared it’ll prevent me from falling asleep. I guess this is my weekend ice pop!

Wait, summer is ending soon. Noooooo! Only a few more ice pops left to go. Sad. Let’s make the most of the last days of summer, people!

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Local Food

A Blogger Event: Whole Foods, Local Food, and a YouTube Celebrity Chef

Last week I got to attend a cool little blogger meet-up with my friend Laurel (check out her healthy eating blog). It was hosted by Everyday Health and The Wellness Club at Whole Foods Market TriBeCa here in New York. They had representatives from Hudson Valley Harvest and Chef Laura Vitale come to discuss eating locally. I buy almost 70% of my ingredients from the farmers market so you know I didn’t need any convincing that eating local is a good way to go, but it was cool to learn about a couple of things and taste some delicious local produce.

The Wellness Club at Whole Foods

I had never heard of The Wellness Club at Whole Foods. There are currently five of these Whole Foods Wellness Clubs in the country. Essentially, The Wellness Club is a community and lifestyle program for people who are enthusiastic about healthy living (especially when it comes to food, but a little bit of everything else too) and who want to learn more. Members get all kinds of cool perks like a 10% store discount, a supper club, all kinds of cooking, nutrition, and other healthy living classes, as well as cooking demos and other community events. Definitely something I would look into if I lived closer.

Hudson Valley Harvest

Hudson Valley Harvest is a fairly new company located in upstate new York that sells minimally processed, local food. They source their food from a collection of sustainable, small-scale farms in their area and sell beef, pork, and flash-frozen vegetable products. I got to take home a bottle of their tomato juice. I’m very keen to try it as, believe it or not, I’ve only ever had the mass produced canned stuff. Local Bloody Marys anyone? Oh wait, we don’t make vodka here. Damn.

Laura in the Kitchen

Laura Vitale is a YouTube celebrity chef. She and her husband started her own YouTube show as a means to get her name out there so she could eventually publish the cookbook she dreamed of. This self-taught home cook’s show got a really great response and she is now very much a YouTube celebrity chef and a regular on the channel, “Recipe Rehab.” Laura talked a bit about her story and did a quick healthy cooking demo (well, technically a no-cook demo) using fresh ingredients from Hudson Valley Harvest. She made a raw corn salad which I thought was going to be okay, but it was surprisingly really flavorful and satisfying! Who knew raw corn could be so tasty with a bit of bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, cumin, cilantro, and lime juice?

One attendee asked her a great question–it’s easy to shop local in the spring and summer when farmers markets are full of exciting produce, but how do we get out of our kale and potato rut in the winter? Laura suggested switching up your preparation of a winter vegetable to keep some variety going so you don’t get bored of winter produce. I thought that was a really great tip and a reminder that we have no excuse not to shop local in the winter months! Thinking back, I definitely wasn’t bored of sweet potatoes this past winter. They were great baked whole, or as sweet potato fries, or mashed with kale and bacon, or as hash with sausage and eggs, or as mini egg bakes. You just need a little creativity, that’s all.

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Lunch and Dinner

Jill Dupleix’s Goat Cheese, Beans and Walnuts

I’ve told you that I’m fighting the cookbook extinction by starting to use and buy more cookbooks. I still turn to the internet for most of my recipes but it’s been fun looking at small cookbook collection too. Today’s featured recipe is from the book Good Cooking: The New Basics by Jill Dupleix (my Amazon affiliate program link). She’s an Australian-born food writer that I had never heard of before. It’s quite a random story how I ended up with this book–back when I had no idea how to cook but wanted to get started, I thought I might need some video instruction. So I saw the Good Cooking DVD on Netflix and watched it. The food looked very tasty and doable, so I ordered the book on Amazon. I’ve made quite a few recipes from Good Cooking. I like her approach to basic, healthy, but internationally-inspired recipes. Her recipes seem so simple yet taste complex.

Last week I made her recipe for Goat Cheese, Beans and Walnuts. I found it online here but you’ll have to convert the measurements if you don’t use the metric system. I got some quality produce and artisan chevre from the farmers market to make this. It’s fairly light but tastes so decadent and elegant at the same time. It’s just one of those wonderful mix of flavors that come together so well. Melty goat cheese over string beans and walnuts, drizzled in a wonderful marinade…mmmm. A great idea for Meatless Monday!

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Dessert

The 2012 Ice Pop Project: Coconut and Mango Rice Pudding Pops

Ohhh man. I realized I hadn’t had mango in such a long time until I saw the recipe for these Coconut and Mango Rice Pudding Pops. I made them last week and they were so delicious, with chewy rice in every bite. It reminds me of a summer treat I ate a lot growing up in Hong Kong called “Mango Sai Mai Lo“. It’s a cold soup-y sago (similar to tapioca pearls) pudding with mango. A delicious ice pop that brought back happy memories, yay!

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Lunch and Dinner

Big Girls Small Kitchen’s Summer Scallops

Here’s an oldie but a goodie from one of my fave blogs, Big Girls Small Kitchen. Even looking at this photo makes me happy. Imagine how I felt eating it. I can see myself making these Summer Scallops with Sweet Corn & Tomato Succotash every summer from here on out. I adore seared scallops on their own, but on a bed of spiced seasonal produce? Amazing. No further explanation needed!

Go to the farmers market. Buy the ingredients. Make this happen.

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Health and Nutrition

No Vitamins? No Problem! Have a Tea and Berries Green Smoothie

We know we’re supposed to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday. And we mean well, we really do. I make the daily minimum most days, but alas, even a clean eating blogger will sometimes fail. I don’t take vitamins everyday but it’s a nice back-up plan when I don’t eat how I should.

But supplements aren’t ideal. I kind of don’t trust them. Nutrition in food is so complex; it can’t just be boiled down to individual vitamins and minerals. Eating junk everyday but popping a whole bunch of supplement pills isn’t the same as eating a balanced diet of real food.

So it got me thinking, how can I make a food version of a multi-vitamin pill? Obviously not something that will contain everything a multi-vitamin does, but a way to get an extra boost of health after a day of bad eating, in real food form. I came up with a smoothie exclusively made up of some of the healthiest and top cancer-fighting foods that would go together:

Tea
The most potent antioxidants are found in green tea and that’s why it’s the trendy one, but white and black teas are high in antioxidants too. Drinking tea is a very healthy habit, and if you don’t have the green stuff on hand, black or white tea are great options too.

Berries
All types of fresh fruit have a lot going for them, but berries are one those nutritionally superior ones. They’re particularly high in antioxidants and great for smoothies. I’m not limiting you to one kind of berry so go ahead and use your favorite, or even better, mix it up. I used strawberries in the smoothie I photographed for this post, so yours may look different. No biggie.

Red seedless grapes
Red grapes are also high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. Resveratrol has gotten a lot of attention as it is said to help protect your heart. It’s the same stuff you hear about in red wine but let’s stick to grapes. We can’t have you getting drunk off your morning smoothie!

Leafy greens
I don’t need to tell you how good leafy greens are for you. So you know that getting a serving of them in your smoothie is good news. You can use pretty much any leafy green here, but I like spinach.

Yogurt
Yogurt has friendly bacteria and is great for your digestive and immune systems. Just be sure to buy the quality stuff–no crappy yogurt with artificial additives, please.

Flaxseeds or chia seeds
This is totally optional but if you’re like me and other health-conscious people, you may have bought a big ol’ bag of flaxseeds or chia seeds. They’re great for you and have omega-3 fatty acids, but serve little culinary purpose. Here’s your chance to use it up! Be sure to grind flaxseeds first.

This smoothie is tasty and nutritious, and perfect for summer. It makes a great light breakfast or snack, with almost half of your daily minimum for fruits and vegetables covered. Plus it looks like there’s confetti in it, yay! Now go make a Tea and Berries Green Smoothie of your own.

Tea and Berries Green Smoothie
Makes 1 serving

1 cup brewed tea (green, white, or black)
1/2 cup berries
5-6 red seedless grapes
1/2 cup packed leafy greens
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp ground flaxseeds or chia seeds (optional)

After you’ve brewed your favorite cup of tea, wait for tea to cool and pour into ice cube tray.

Once your tea is frozen, throw in 3-4 tea ice cubs into a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth.

Putting my free The Great Googa Mooga cup to good use.

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