Friday, May 21, 2010


Microgreens garden salad with toasted hazelnuts, beets, apples, and maytag bleu cheese.

My current read, although "study" might be more accurate, is "French Women Don't Get Fat," by Mireille Guiliano. Compelling title, no? It purports to offer the unique European formula to permanently shift your outlook and assumptions about lifestyle. That shift will lead you to equilibrium. The book is written for American readers, since the author is French but lives in NYC most of the year, and has experience with weight gain a la americaine. I am almost finished and so inspired. I ran out (read: clicked out on and bought her cookbook, too, assuming that it has all the recipes in the book, and there are many. I thought it was going to be a novel, and there certainly are stories of her life in there. But it's really more a lifestyle guide with pertinent recipes and anecdotes. I highly recommend it.
One lesson that I intellectually knew and understood but never truly put into practice, is about portion size. We have discussed how my family eats large portions and that my sister thinks we are uniquely endowed with the power to burn a multitude of calories and not get as fat as others we see eating similarly large portions. Maybe that's true, but what is definitely true is that we Americans eat way too much and it's way too big. In addition, what I have been slowly realizing, and what Guiliano also writes about, is this thing that the American food industrial complex is doing: ruining everything! So we eat more of things that are gross. Example #1: Chocolate can be something beautiful, sensual, luscious. How does a Snickers bar fit into that equation? It doesn't. The second example is embedded in the segue to the next lesson: pay more for quality (in smaller portions). After reading about Guiliano's charge that Americans, in the wake of the growing popularity of balsamic vinegar, found out how to wreck it, I checked the ingredients of my bottle. Who would ever think to check that? You should see only "wine vinegar" and probably "sulfites." Do you know what is in mine? Caramel color! It's made from corn and actually is on the no-no list is you are gluten-free. What the what?

Speaking of books and the French, I also bought "Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques." It is enormous, so my plan is to read a section every few nights and then add the wisdom therein to my Understanding and Practice. Even the introduction has good information. One tidbit that I will share with you here - because I was so shocked (Dad, you will need to be seated for this) - is that JP tells us, implores us to never (sic) use charcoal briquettes to barbecue. Never. He avers that the nice, smoky char on your chicken contains carcinogens and tar such that you might as well eat a pack of cigarettes. And guess who just bought two bags on sale at Costco. I will be making the switch to real chunk, because JP says so.
That takes us to my recent barbecue adventure. Let me just say here that I suck at fire management. I can certainly make one, yet once I dump the coals into the BBQ, I go from a bunch of red cherries to one eensy-weensy hot core that I try to squeeze everything around. Do I just need more, like way more, coals?

This is jerk chicken and it was pretty good. I have another jerk rub that I like more, so I won't bother with the recipe here for this one. It does have a habanero, also known as Scotch bonnet, in it! To my knowledge, this was my first dealings with the chile. I wore gloves so as not to get any juices on me. And I removed the ribs and seeds so as not to overdo it. For four chicken breasts, it was just enough heat for me.

Which reminds me. In Spanish, the "H" is silent. Always. And the "A" makes an "ahhhhhh" sound. Always. I recently heard a newscaster talking about Hugo Chavez and he sort of combined Spanish and English pronunciations of the first name, calling the Venezuelan president "Yugo," like the car. Funny.
That glop next to the charred poultry is plantains! Not my first taste of the pod, but definitely the first time I worked with them. I was supposed to get black ones, as the varying degrees of ripeness make a huge difference in texture and flavor, but they were only slightly black at the store. I stuck them in a paper sack with an apple to speed things along and it worked somewhat. Peeling those things is so weird - the peel sticks and is tough. The flesh itself it meaty and firm. The preparation has you boil chunks until tender, then mash them with coconut milk and butter and salt. It was pretty good, and fun to have something different as a starch. I would like to try this again with a different milk, maybe rice milk. I just don't like coconut milk. It tastes like I am eating suntan lotion.

There is so much going on in the food section of my brain right now. Notes to self:
1. Only chunk coals for the BBQ.
2. Smaller portions, always.
3. High quality ingredients that I must be emotionally prepared to pay more for. And, hey, note #2 helps with the pocketbook aspect, doesn't it?
4. Throw out my balsamic vinegar. Gross.

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