UnFoodie Tackles Zucchini Chips

January 31, 2017

By Karen

My weight has been creeping up, so I’m back on the Weight Watchers® Points Plus plan in earnest to get things back under control. The biggest hurdle is that all crunchy, carb-based snacks cost way too many points, so I continue seeking alternatives. I consider things like celery and hummus more of a punishment than a snack.

Remember my experiment with collard chips? Once the acrid taste of burnt weeds had faded from memory, I was ready to try again when I saw this easy recipe for Sea Salt and Vinegar Zucchini Chips (the link is a short video) in Cooking Light magazine. At only 57 calories per 24 chips, it was WW-friendly.

And the stars were in alignment. I had a zucchini that needed killing and the other ingredients, so what the hell?

The article said, “Light, crisp, and just as good as their junk-food counterparts, these veggie chips are a revelation.”

The recipe…

1 7 oz. zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices (about 48)
1 tbsp. malt vinegar
½ tsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. sea salt (which was laughably insufficient)

While preheating the oven to 200 degrees, I combined the sliced zucchini, vinegar, and oil in a bowl, tossed it, and let it sit for 10 minutes while I lined a baking sheet with parchment. I then laid out the zucchini and sprinkled it with sea salt. So far, so good…

zucchini-raw

After an hour…

Sure seemed like a lot more when I started. Time to flip them!

Sure seemed like a lot more when I started. Time to flip them!

Two hours…

Finally starting to brown, but still not crispy, and still shrinking.

Finally starting to brown, but still not crispy, and still shrinking.

After three hours…

The incredible shrinking snack.

The incredible shrinking snack.

Here’s what I ended up with. This bowl holds about a cup and I ate every chip myself without counting them — and then raided the cupboard for a real snack.

You won't be asking anybody to pass the dip.

You won’t be asking anybody to pass the dip.

To call them a “revelation” borders on Trumpian hyperbole. They were certainly not worth three hours of my life. My recommendation is to leave these wispy little time-sucks to the experts who sell them in bags.

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“Appetites” by Anthony Bourdain: A Book Review

November 23, 2016

By Karen

Since Anthony Bourdain hit critical mass, turning whatever he touches to triumph, it’s unsurprising that Appetites: A Cookbook is hitting best seller lists and getting rave reviews.

It’s beautifully produced under his own Ecco imprint, with recipe titles in a font that must be called BourdainHand. Its many full-page photos include several of wife Ottavia and daughter Ariane (never full face; he explains it’s her decision on how public to go when she’s old enough). Ottavia’s grappling dummy and Eric Ripert even make appearances.

Overall, the photos and artwork are intended more to shock and awe than illustrate. Bourdain told a talk show host (one of the Jimmys) that bookstores are wrapping the book in paper because the cover art is disturbing. Inside are gratuitous animal parts and guts, including a pig bladder inflated to float like a balloon.

appetites

I’m surprised the photo of Tony (page 176) armed and barely recognizable in camo hasn’t been hijacked by the alt-right. He could be Donald Trump’s poster boy.

It’s probably the only cookbook you’ll ever own with the words fuck and shit sprinkled throughout like condiments.

It’s dedicated to Ariane and Jacques. No, not Pépin, but Ariane’s BFF, the son of her Filipino nanny (see page 246).

As a Bourdainiac, I was fascinated by his deconstructions of what we’ve seen him eat. The dishes reflect his constant globetrotting, and perhaps unintentionally drive home that someone else cooked and cleaned up later. The book’s a towering testament to how thoroughly out of touch he has become with how regular people eat.

He claims the recipes are from his childhood, his travels, and “food memories” he shares with his daughter. If that’s true, Tony and Ariane are the creepiest father-daughter duo since Gomez and Wednesday Addams because 9-year-old Ariane must be possessed of the presence of mind to ask, “Daddy, can I have a Roast Beef Po’ Boy?” two days before she wants to eat it, because that’s how long it takes to make one (page 81).

Many recipes have a two-day lead time, not including shopping at specialty stores or Amazon to assemble myriad ingredients you’ve probably never heard of. This makes them also very pricey and will leave you with a pantry full of slightly used shit you’ll have no idea what else to do with.

For example, Korean Fried Chicken (page 165) looked good until I realized I was fresh out of gochugaru, gochujama, and cheongju, not to mention four QUARTS of oil, and I needed two days to fry it twice.

His whole steamed chicken, “Poulet ‘en vessie,’” (page 168) seems reasonable enough until you need to grab four whole truffles and 4 oz. of foie gras out of the fridge.

With each recipe, he thoughtfully includes a list of any special equipment needed. This often consists of a plate “lined with newspapers” for draining.

REALLY??!! Does he ever gaze out over his adoring, hip young audiences during personal appearances and see people who would ever dream of buying an actual newspaper? Would they even recognize one if they saw it?

Otherwise his cooking instructions and advice are pretty spot-on, if snarky, with occasional lapses into Les Halles-speak. For example, as an alternative to tossing his Salad of Boston Lettuce with Radishes, Carrots, Apples, and Yogurt-Chive Dressing (page 29), he suggests leaving everything “segregated, as for salade composée.” Got that?

My current idol, Jacques Pépin, gets mentioned in the first two recipes involving eggs for his cracking and stirring techniques. But Bourdain reveals himself as the unPépin of home cooking. Where Jacques relies on ordinary ingredients and simple preparation, with an eye always on the budget, Bourdain’s recipes are the polar opposite.

I noticed Tony lifted one recipe, Linguine with White Clam Sauce (page 126) from Pépin, which was named after Pépin’s wife, “Gloria’s Linguine with Clam Sauce.” The only differences are that they prefer different types of clams, Bourdain throws in butter (he uses vats) and he doesn’t mention topping with parmesan cheese.

Appetites probably won’t be your go-to cookbook when you need a quick and tasty meal on the table. If your idea of what constitutes a good recipe matches mine…

  1. Is it straightforward and uncomplicated?
  2. Do I already have most of the ingredients?
  3. Can I make it without destroying the whole kitchen?
  4. Can it be done in one day?

…for most of Bourdain’s dishes, the answers are no, no, no, and no.

I did like his tip on making a Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions (page 84). Instead of butter, he slathers the outside of the bread with mayonnaise for a nice brown crust. But then he blows it by recommending freaking Japanese milk bread, whatever the hell that is.

There’s no dessert chapter because Tony says he’s not a pastry chef and would rather have cheese.

Pépin, on the other hand, has many dessert recipes from his childhood that often call for a simple store-bought dough or cake, with fruit and preserves. They require no special skill, they’re quick, and they look tasty.

Bourdain’s chapter on Thanksgiving seems useful until he recommends roasting a small “stunt turkey” for looks and then a “business bird” you actually carve and eat — AND making stock with an additional 5-7 lbs. of wings and necks.

Blogger Treehugger totally went off on the stunt turkey, so I’ll let her handle that.

The book’s best, most usable chapter is Sides. I’d definitely try the Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame (page 241) because jazzing up cauliflower is a thing for me. And I’ve already tried Korean-Style Radish Pickles (page 251) because I had an abundance of radishes, although not the daikon he recommends.

It’s only been two days (he recommends three), but here they are. They look more like chopped hot dogs now, but they taste OK, slightly sweet, with a tad of bite.

pickledradishes

I consult my two Pépin cookbooks almost daily, Appetites isn’t meant to be like that. It’s more of a grand “Fuck you!” to the cookbook genre.

I’ll let it sit beside Tony’s also little-used Les Halles Cookbook and maybe ask for an autograph if he ever passes through Richmond again and forgives me for this review.

BONUS VIDEO: Tony recently stopped by to cook with Mario Batali on The Chew. They made Budae Jjigae, a Korean SPAM stew (page 58).

BONUS PLUS: Michael Brendan Dougherty in The Week had an interesting take on Appetites, comparing it to Alton Brown’s new book, Everyday Cook, as spiritual autobiographies.


UnFoodie’s Secret Crush on Jacques Pepin

August 25, 2016

By Karen

Before Anthony Bourdain’s new cookbook, Appetites, comes out on October 25, I must confess une affaire du tube with Jacques Pépin. Ironically, Bourdain introduced us with a No Reservations segment where Jacques demonstrated proper egg-cracking technique. At the time, I thought he was cracked.

Then everything changed.

PBS has been rerunning three Pépin series: Essential Pepin, More Fast Food My Way, and Heart & Soul. After just a few episodes, I became obsessed and bought the DVDs and companion cookbooks for the latter two series, and all summer I’ve been studying Jacques like a culinary school groupie.

(Essential Pépin is good, but uses more mis en place and time-skipping, which minimize all that’s really involved. In the other two series, Jacques’ cooking is more down-to-earth. Heart & Soul is my favorite. Alas, it’s said to be his last for PBS.)

On weekends, my mother becomes my sous chef. I send her the recipe so she can shop, then I go over and we watch Jacques make it on DVD before we try it.

So far, every dish has turned out well and my parents enjoyed them.

Every time I see Jacques chop an onion, “poetry in motion” pops into my head. I even bought a good chef’s knife and keep it sharp, but I’ll never come close to his dexterity.

Also thanks to Jacques, I now use herbs de Provence.

Unfortunately, no photos, but here are a few dishes I’ve done. Many recipes are available online.

Poulet à la Crème (chicken thighs elevated)

Gloria’s Linguine with Clam Sauce (loved it!)

Corn Soufflé (practicing for a Thanksgiving side)

Asparagus Fans with Mustard Sauce (finally, green sticks get some personality)

Soda Bread (so quick and easy, I’ve made it perfectly twice)

Not only does Jacques explain what he’s doing, but tells how he economizes, appreciates ordinary ingredients (white button mushrooms, for example), and even uses canned goods without getting snarky about it.

Years ago I learned Chinese cooking from Wok with Yan with Stephen Yan (no, not Martin). I also liked Emeril, but can’t say I soaked up any technique or made his dishes.

And then there’s Bourdain. He was never a celebrity chef, though they keep calling him one. He wasn’t famous at Les Halles, and he quit that job when Kitchen Confidential took off. I’ve seen him cook only a handful of times.

That said, he remains my biggest culinary influence. Just watching what he eats and says about food has opened new worlds. I know what mis en place means. I cook more creatively. I ate squid with ink in Lisbon. And now I appreciate top-tier chefs like Eric Ripert and Jacques Pépin and learn technique from them.

I’ve pre-ordered Bourdain’s book Appetites with expectations it’s more user-friendly than his Les Halles Cookbook and will join my two Pépin cookbooks as favorites.

So, thank you, Tony, for putting Jacques Pépin on my radar. And thank you, Jacques, for enriching home cooks by sharing your amazing knowledge with such charm and generosity.

Pepin


UnFoodie Bakes Beans

January 15, 2014

By Karen

I think it’s a New England thing to eat pork and beans with eggs for breakfast, and my father likes to do that. Beans are a great source of fiber, which I worry my parents don’t get enough of because my mother seems unaware of how important it is and doesn’t like or prepare many dishes that contain it (like beans).

So instead of letting Dad eat mushy canned beans, I make him some from “scratch” — dried Great Northern beans soaked in water overnight. But you can use any type of bean.

Beans1

For this batch, I used 1 1/2 bags (24 oz.) because I wanted to keep some for myself.

After soaking the beans in cold water at least 12 hours, they more than double in volume, but they’re still hard. You have to cook them before you can do anything with them. Trust me on this, I once tried making this dish in a crockpot without precooking the beans, thinking they’d surely soften in 8 hours, but I was dead wrong.

Before cooking, replace the soaking water with fresh cold water that submerses the beans an inch or two. Then boil those suckers for 30-45 minutes, until they’re soft. You can add salt to the water, but I don’t usually because I’m trying to keep them healthy. The pot can be covered or uncovered; if the water gets low, add more. Here they are cooked and drained…

Beans2

While the beans were boiling, I microwaved and broke up 8 slices of cooked bacon from Costco. It gives the beans porky flavor without so much fat.

Beans4

I also diced and sautéed a large onion with 2 cloves of garlic until they were soft. And preheated the oven to 325°.

Beans3

Now it’s time to throw the bacon, onions, and garlic onto the beans.

Next, I added molasses, mustard, ketchup, and BBQ sauce. These were the brands I had on hand…

Beans5

As for quantities, I usually eyeball it, but ballpark would be 1/4 cup each of molasses and mustard, and 1 cup each of ketchup and BBQ (although you can go heavier on one of these last 2 if you prefer either one’s taste. I added more of both after I snapped this picture).

Beans6

Mix it all together gently to coat all the beans, but try not to moosh them. At this point, I transferred them to my soup pot for baking.

Beans7

Cover the pot and bake for an hour to give all the ingredients a chance to “get happy,” as Emeril would put it.

A 1/2 cup serving of plain beans has only 70 calories, yet 13 grams of fiber (that’s 2 Weight Watchers® Plus Points) and is very hearty. I’d guess everything else in them adds maybe 30 calories per serving, tops.

These beans freeze well and can be reheated in the microwave. I ate mine as a healthy, almost fat-free, guilt-free side dish with dinner every night for a week.


Marilyn Hagerty, Kindred Spirit

September 3, 2013

By Karen

The book deal Anthony Bourdain forged with Marilyn Hagert bore fruit on August 27 when an anthology of her newspaper columns, Grand Forks, a History of American Dining in 128 Reviews, was released by Bourdain’s imprint at Ecco Press.

I still have no desire to read it, but I caught online last week this clip of Hagerty doing the Today Show.

Only in a galaxy far, far away would an author publishing 30-year-old material be getting even a nanosecond of air time on any national talk show. Indeed, during Hagerty’s interview, they flashed several pics of Bourdain, looking fetching, as if to explain why they were letting this relative nobody fill space between their commercial breaks.

But it was while Matt and Savannah had Marilyn taste and give a spot review on the latest NYC foodie obsession, the cronut, which Marilyn pronounced “chewy,” that it suddenly occurred to me…

In spite of all the attention she’s gotten from Bourdain and the foodie elite since her review of Olive Garden went viral, Marilyn Hagerty was, and always will be, an UnFoodie!

She eats at Taco Bell and McDonald’s. She eats things out of cans. She probably eats cheese slices wrapped in cellophane. And her readers do likewise. And they enjoy it.

In other words, like most of us, Marilyn Hagerty eats to live, she doesn’t live to eat.

As I watched Marilyn hold her own against that pair of New York sophisticates, possibly not even realizing she was defanging them with her innate civility and common sense, I felt great admiration for her.

In the airless, jaded realm of food worship, where the grosser and scarcer a thing is, the more tasty it must be, Marilyn Hagerty speaks with a clear voice for the goodness of a meatloaf made with ketchup and cheap hamburger.

(Yeah, I know Bourdain’s been saying pretty much the same thing while flogging her book, but somehow it rings hollow coming out of his ortolon-tainted mouth. I, on the other hand, have no dog in this fight.)

The plain food we UnFoodies eat is OK, too. Sometimes it’s even tasty. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We shouldn’t feel bad about being grossed out by bugs and animal guts. It’s OK if our cheese is wrapped in plastic so it doesn’t get moldy.

Marilyn, you go, girl!


UnFoodie Slings Some Salmon Cakes

July 8, 2013

By Karen

After spending the past year losing 50+ pounds on Weight Watchers®, I’m not about to backslide and regain it all (especially after replacing my whole wardrobe), so healthier eating is here to stay. Salmon cakes are a surprisingly rich, yet PointsPlus-friendly dish I devised, and I wish I’d thought of them years ago because they’re so easy. They’re only 4 PP each, have good flavor, and have enough heft to make a decent meal.

For salmon, I used Costco’s Kirkland canned brand, but any salmon you like would work.

For me, for any recipe to be a keeper, it has to meet several requirements:

  • A few ingredients I would probably have on hand
  • Quick prep that doesn’t destroy the whole kitchen
  • Cooking that doesn’t need constant monitoring
  • Quantity such that you can cook once, but eat twice or more
  • Tasty and filling, but not fattening

Salmon cakes fill the bill on all counts, as opposed to my recent miserable foray into collard chips.

So here are my salmon cakes:

  • 6-oz. can of salmon
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tbsp. skim milk (more OK if the mixture seems too dry to stick together)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of diced onion (I like lots of onion)
  • Liberal sprinkling of Old Bay seasoning (optional)

Using your hands, mix all these ingredients in a bowl,

SalmonCake1

Split the mixture into 2 cakes. You can make 4 smaller cakes, but for me, 2 big cakes make 2 meals.

Spray a heated pan with nonstick cooking spray, then add the cakes and brown them well on both sides.

SalmonCake2

While my cakes cook, I make a topping for them by whipping together:

  • 2 tbsp. light sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. light mayonnaise
  • dill to taste
This makes enough topping for both cakes, so I refrigerate half for the second cake.

This makes enough topping for both cakes, so I refrigerate half for the second cake.

By WW standards, each cake is 4 PointsPlus, and the topping is 1 PP.

Voila! The yellow squash, zucchini, and onion side sautéed in cooking spray is 0 PP.

Voila! The yellow squash, zucchini, and onion side sautéed in cooking spray is 0 PP.


UnFoodie Stuffs Portobello Mushrooms

June 5, 2013

By Karen

I’ve reached my goal with Weight Watchers®, but I’m still experimenting with low-points meals so I can maintain my new svelte look. Mushrooms have zero PointsPlus®.

So I bought a couple of big portabellas and improvised using what I had on hand, after checking out some recipes online. These turned out good enough to share, but I’ll change some things next time.

Marinade (optional step)

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoon of olive oil

First, I marinated the mushrooms for an hour before cooking, but you don’t have to. If you use balsamic vinegar, line your cooking pan with foil, or the bitchin’ mess of burned vinegar you’ll be scraping later will destroy your manicure.

You cook all the components separately, then assemble near the end. This prep is all easy and doesn’t take more than 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°, then put in the mushrooms to pre-cook, gills side down, for about 10 minutes, or until you start smelling them. While that’s going on, you make the filling. Here is one of the mushrooms ready for the oven…

Mushrooms1

Recipes said to chop up the stems for the filling and throw away the gills, but I left the gills in because it seemed wasteful and I don’t mind eating them.

Dice and sauté in cooking spray any veggies for your filling, whatever you’d like. I used:

  • The mushroom stems
  • Onion
  • Tomato
  • Spinach
  • Pinch of garlic powder (because I didn’t have fresh garlic)

Mushrooms2

(I don’t know why my pics are still coming out blurry. They always look fine on the camera screen. Grrrr….)

I felt like I needed some herb to spice it up, but wasn’t sure what to use, so my filling was kind of bland.

Once the veggies are soft, remove from the heat and add bread crumbs and cheese. I used:

  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup 2% shredded sharp cheddar

Take the mushrooms out of the oven, turn them gills-side up, and fill.

Mushrooms3

Put back in the oven about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Voila!

Voila!

That’s the other change I’d make. I’d use full-fat cheese for a richer result. My cheese didn’t melt very well, and the crumbs didn’t brown. So I’d finish the shrooms under the broiler instead of baking longer.

But overall, was a tasty dish, and each mushroom was only 3 PointsPlus. I’ll definitely make it again.

If anybody’s got suggestions for seasonings or other improvements, I’m all ears.


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