Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kid appeal – renaming food

As an editor, I had a saying, ‘when in doubt, recast.’ In other words, if you couldn’t figure out how to fix a sentence, rewrite it.

Feeding kids can be an exercise in recasting, or renaming. This started years ago in my home, when my oldest daughter, Hallie, refused to eat Indian food. If you are a vegetarian and you don’t eat Indian food, you might as well say you don’t drink water. You just HAVE to eat vegetarian friendly Indian food.

Hallie was still pretty young, maybe around four, and certainly not reading when I realized I could just say that we were having Pakistani food for dinner and she’d be none the wiser. In fact, she loved it. What’s not to love? Dumplings (called pakora), tofu korma in a nut enhanced sauce, curried vegetables, rice. Indian (er, Pakistani) food has become a staple of her diet.

Another vegetarian dish my husband and I love is riboletta. This stew-y soup, loaded with vegetables, has a broth thickened with pureed white beans and sourdough bread. For whatever reason, my kids decided they hated it. They wouldn’t even try.

But I persevered. I renamed it bread soup and they spoon it up happily.

Now, if there only were a new name I could give to spinach salad..

Monday, April 26, 2010

Living off the land

Although I live in New York City, I have farmer fantasies (no, not X-rated ones). I love to grow my own vegetables and herbs, although I probably wind up spending $25 to get a full bunch of basil. I buy seeds, new soil, organic vegetable fertilizer, I compost my produce leavings, but I still cannot grow a decent tomato.

Part of this is a sunlight issue. In our old brownstone, our south facing garden was flooded with light and we grew, well, not bushels, but armfuls of vegetables. Our current home has a north garden and I’ve tried container tomato plants that I obsessively move to sunny spots, hybrid tomato plants, heirlooms – nothing seems to work.

This year, I have a new plan. I got one of those ‘magical’ upside down tomato planters that I can hang off our trellis, 6 feet off the ground and closer to the sun.

Allegedly, each plant should grow up to 30 pounds of tomatoes.

Planting did not go smoothly.

First, we mixed the dirt and water. Admittedly, fun. We were making mud pies! On the dining room table! But this soil was not like ordinary dirt –it was light and fluffy and I worried that it was loaded with chemicals.

Then it turned out our ‘complete kit’ came without seeds. But no worries –we had bought two, and the seed pack had extra seeds.

So we planted, and now we wait.

And wait.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day star

Rouge Tomate is an elegant restaurant on the Upper East Side that also walks the walk on sustainability. The restaurant’s philosophy is SPE, based on respect of ingredients and combining delicious food and nutrition. Rather than butter, Executive Chef Jeremy Bearman relies on pure flavors.

Rouge Tomate also supports local farms, fisheries, and producers who use sustainable practices.

Of course a restaurant with this commitment also has many options for those who shun meat. Inventive soups and salads, ricotta gnocchi, and tagliatelle with Oregon morels are great for those who won’t eat fish; there are also a number of fish dishes with no hidden veal stock or beef marrow.

On Sunday, April 25th, Bearman is cooking at the NYC Grows Festival at Union Square at 1pm. The family-friendly even, from 10am – 4pm, includes workshops on healthy living, gardening, tree planting and sustainable cooking.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eat your veggies

The refrain ‘eat your vegetables’ is uttered worldwide, even if the moms are saying ‘coma sus verduras.’ Universally, it seems, kids have to be encouraged to eat vegetables.

In honor or Earth Day, Square 1682 in Philadelphia offers a six-course vegetable tasting menu. Since two of the courses are actually dessert, vege-phobes can rest assured that they would only need to eat four courses of vegetables. But this is the kind of food that will entice in the most inveterate meat eater.

Chef Guillermo Tellez is also offering organic wine pairings and an eco-cocktail, the “Green Squared,” with organic Square One vodka and cucumber. A drink that helps celebrate Earth Day? I can get down with that.

The vegetable tasting, only $40 is available April 22-24.

The menu:

Terrine of asparagus and petite carrots

Preserved mushrooms, carrot cardamom vinaigrette

Spring pea soup and bleeding heart radishes

Cashew butter, lime-mint granite

Petite vegetable medley

Celery root, red wine reduction, mustard vinaigrette

Roasted local mushroom tart

Brie cheese, pickled turnips, herb oil

Lemon curd napoleon

Almond cream

Valhrona dark chocolate pate

Coconut eggless custard

Monday, April 19, 2010

Earth Day vegetarian

Being a vegetarian is often associated with being ecologically correct. I am a fanatical recycler and believer in reusable products; sponges and rags instead of paper towels, Sigg water bottles instead of plastic. And I carry my own tote bags everywhere.

Where it can be difficult to be environmentally correct is in body and hair products. A couple of new lines make it easy. Ekoh cosmetics (such a great name!) just launched Pre-Party Prep a natural face scrub made with walnut shell powder, organic aloe, rosemary comfrey root, lemon, apple, green tea, pomegranate, and oil from olives, apricots, grape seed and orange peel. It sounds like a really interesting salad dressing, but the exfoliating facial scrub hydrates and nourishes the skin while removing impurities. Ekoh cosmetics are packaged in recyclable glass jars, with no wasteful outer packaging.

For hair, try the organic emmett cooper line, packaged in recyclable containers. Curl Define uses extracts of quince, flax seed, yucca, chamomile, cherry bark ad ginger to control curly hair and the Volumizer Lift is a non-aerosol hair spray that enhances flat or fine hair. The emmett cooper is also vegan.

For moms-to-be, the Edamame Spa at some Destination Maternity stores (including NYC, White Plains, NY, Livingston and Paramus NJ) uses gentle, natural ingredients for its spa services. The Absolute Pearl Facial uses crushed pearl powder, mulberry, licorice and lemon and aloe vera. At Destination Maternity, you can stock up on such natural body care lines as Burt’s Bees, Mustela and Basq.

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Only in New York

New Yorkers never cease to amaze me. Only in New York does a kid come home from the local public elementary school with your kid and blithely announce that ‘Daddy won the Pulitzer Prize this morning.’ Only in New York does a tunnel shut down to bring in circus elephants. Only in New York are vegan and macrobiotic diets by tots not given a second thought.

And only in New York is the Veggie Pride Parade an annual event.

Ok, maybe some of these things happen outside New York. But they occur here with great regularity.

The Veggie Pride Parade, Sunday May 16, starts at 11am in the West Village. It ends at Union Square Park, where free vegan food will be served.

Kids and adults are encouraged to dress up and enter the costume contest. Presumably, those in fur and leather will not be awarded prizes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Small city, big time family fun

Touring around other cities can sometimes feel achingly familiar. The downtown revitalization project. The spanking new children’s museum. The gorgeous, refurbished zoo. Providence has all that, but it has something extra, too, the incredible WaterFire.

A couple of nights a month )usually April - October, but this year, it may not start until June), dozens of bonfires are lit on the three rivers in downtown Providence. The brainchild of artist Barnaby Evans, the evening includes music, fire tenders passing the flames, and scented wood, engaging several senses at once. Kids and adults find this truly magical; the only downside is that it begins at sunset and lasts till after midnight, cutting into daytime touring the next morning. Some hotels even have waterfront views of the bonfires, which are refueled throughout the evening, but music lovers will want to be at one of the stages presenting live music.

If you are not in town for WaterFire, Providence has another unique way to enjoy its waterfront, on a Venetian gondola. On warm evenings, you can see downtown from a gondola, replete with gondolier and Italian music. Late at night, gondolas are for couples, but early trips are family friendly, and can accommodate a family or group of six.

Providence Children’s Museum has a children’s garden, focusing on native flora and big water play area, where kids can sail boats and build fountains. Coming to Rhode Island, a ‘time traveling’ exhibit through state history and immigration, let kids board a Cape Verdean ship and try out a cotton mill.

Roger Williams Park has a small Museum of Natural History, with a planetarium. The Park has a beautiful antique carousel, part of a ”carousel village” with a playground and pony rides. The Hasbro Boundless Playground allows kids with disabilities to play on the equipment, and offers a full sensory experience for all kids; the adjacent Children’s Sensory Garden lets kids explore flowers through textures, scents and colors.

The zoo, located within the park, has polar bears, a tropical rainforest, and a trail where visitors can follow Marco Polo’s route. On the trail, kids see a Venetian Plaza, Bedouin tent and ancient trading vessel, encountering along the way the exotic animals Marco Polo saw: Dromedary camels, snow leopard and moon bears. In the rainforest, there is a canopy skywalk, a rope and wooden bridge up high, with free-flying birds. The Australasia exhibit has animals indigenous to Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia: tree kangaroos, kookaburras and scrub pythons.

You have to eat at Al Forno any time you are in Providence. They made grilled pizza famous and this will please any child or vegetarian. The wood-fired grill is used for met as well, but there is a 'grilled and roasted veggie' entree, eggplant parm, pasta, fantastic salads and a chocolate bread pudding that might be illegal.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Kid friendly chocolate cookies

Passover is ending either tonight or tomorrow, depending on your ties to Israel or Reform or Conservative Judaism, but these chocolate meringue cookies, specifically for Passover, can be eaten any time of year. You can even consider them sort-f health food – no white flour, no butter, only a couple of egg whites, some sugar and chocolate. Really, not that bad for you – and they are kid-approved.

Preheat oven to 250

2 egg whites

1/2 C sugar

3 T unsweetened cocoa

1/2 C chocolate chips

Beat the egg white until stiff, on high. Beat in the sugar. Add cocoa and beat on low. Fold in chips.

Drop teaspoon size cookies onto cookie sheet lined with Silpat liner or parchment paper. Bake for one hour, then leave in oven for 2 more hours.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Vegetarian Travel in Rochester

I am always excited to see a vegetarian tasting menu at a restaurant. Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, has a great one. I was surprised to see an elaborate vegetarian tasting menu at Horizon’s restaurant at Woodcliff Hotel & Spa in Rochester, NY. Alas, it was a tease; the tasting menu was no longer offered. But the restaurant did have a number of vegetarian choices.

On the menu, some things are labeled veggie or vegan (though vegans might dispute the ‘vegan-ness’ of a cheese-filled manicotti. But vegans, and you know who you are, usually make sure that their food really is vegan.

Appetizers for vegetarians include eggplant with goat cheese, roasted organic beets with macadamias and a polenta "gnocchi" with mushrooms and marscarpone that could be an entrée.

Horizons has several interesting salad combinations, including a pear salad with walnuts and gorgonzola and organic greens with olives, cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes.

That manicotti was the only vegetable entrée, but if you eat fish, try the Thai spiced scallops, lobster and peas with pasta or tilapia coated in vegetables.

The excellent wine list included many inexpensive wines by the glass. Or try the excellent ginger martini.

Come at sunset and request a table by the window.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Passover dinner - Pasta-less Lasagna

Bove's, in Burlington, VT, has had a restaurant since 1941. If you don't want to ski, mountain bike, hike, leaf peep or look at colleges in Vermont, you can eat Bove's sauce on your pasta at home. The sauce is sold online, or at specialty grocery stores.

But this week is Passover, so no pasta in our home. Or bread. Or anything with regular flour. Bove's developed a gluten-free lasagna with no pasta, but with bacon. I've adapted it for Passover use, but it can be served year-round even to those who don't have a gluten allergy. And you can use any sauce; just make sure it is a thick tomato sauce.

6 whole Portobello mushrooms

1 large Vidalia onion

3 roasted and peeled red peppers

1 large eggplant

Balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

1 bunch chopped chives

Bove’s Vodka Sauce

12 oz. ricotta cheese

3 eggs

½ cup grated parmesan

Chopped Italian parsley

20 oz. shredded mozzarella

4 oz. grated parmesan

Take the stems off of the mushrooms, clean and reserve. Cut onion in ¼” slices and reserve. Peel eggplant, slice lengthwise in ½” thick slices.

Toss mushrooms in olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper and 1/3 of chives. Grill on both sides until somewhat tender. Place in a perforated pan and reserve. Do the same with the onions and eggplant.

Mix eggs, parmesan, ricotta and Italian parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat convection oven to 325 degrees.

Spray two standard loaf pans with non stick coating and line with foil.

Pour 2 oz. of sauce on the bottom of each pan and then layer ½ the eggplant. Over this spread 2 oz. of ricotta mixture, 2 oz. of mozzarella and 2 oz of sauce. Layer half the mushrooms. Repeat sauce and cheese layer, layer ½ of the onions and repeat the sauce and cheese layer. Top with roasted peppers, then 4 oz. mozzarella and 2 oz. parmesan.

Tent top with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Turn 180 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more. Remove cover and continue to bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Let set in refrigerator overnight. Reheat in oven and serve with additional sauce.