Monday, February 22, 2010

Ithaca Indoor Farmers Market

I was upstate President's Day weekend, and headed to Ithaca to enjoy a veggie bagel sandwich from Collegetown Bagels, hit the local TJ Maxx and check out the indoor farmers market. Now the outdoor market at Ithaca is pretty darn impressive so I wasn't sure what to expect from the "winter alternative."
But I was pleasantly surprised. The indoor market, which has been running since January, is located right downtown in the Womens Community Building (which also happens to be right across from the Dewitt Mall and the Moosewood).
There were a bunch of vendors stuffed into a room the size of a small gymnasium -- offering everything from baked goods to sprouts to meat to jewelry. In addition, some of the favorite prepared food vendors had turned out to tempt shoppers with samosa and tacos. Sadly, Macro Mamas was not among them. So I consoled myself by picking up a small bunch of baby leeks ($2.50), a head of napa cabbage ($3), parsnips, a pair of earrings ($5) and this really good piece of sweet almond brioche for $3 (hey, a half a veggie bagel only sticks with you so long). Since the following day was Chinese New Year (go Year of the Tiger!), I used the napa cabbage in a slaw inspired by a recipe in Eating Well (my new favorite food magazine). The recipe calls for cabbage to be combined with grated sweet potato instead of the traditional orange carrot. I fiddled with the recipe it a bit, cutting the amount of sweet potato in half, adding shredded snow peas, chopped mint and chopped cilantro plus rice wine vinegar for extra kick. Although you could not tell the orange was sweet potato, the end result was pretty tasty and a nice complement to the Chinese-themed meal my aunt prepared. If you happen to be in the Ithaca area next Saturday, be sure to check out the market. Sadly, it's only slated to run until the end of the month. Otherwise, you'll be stuck waiting for spring until the outdoor market opens again.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Soup for a Snowy Day

After a long dry spell, we've been getting "a lot" of snow in the metro NYC area this month. There was about an inch on the ground when I left the house today, which was nothing compared to the "snow day" last Wednesday. Fearing "blizzard-like conditions" (which never quite materialized), I elected to work from home.

There are two benefits to working from home: I had a window to look out of (since I worked from my kitchen table) and I was able to make lunch at home. In fact, I dragged out the root vegetables I had purchased at Union Square a few weekends before -- fingerling potatoes, carrots, parsnips and turnips -- and set to make soup.

Taking inspiration from Ina, I peeled (all but the fingerlings) and chopped the green market vegetables into small pieces, combining with diced onion and garlic, sea salt and Penzey's Parisien Bonnes Herbes mix. After 40 minutes in a 400 oven, they were ready to join the broth and chicken bubbling on the stove. I let a handful of egg noodles cook in the broth (yes, it's a double carb soup) and stirred in a teaspoon of dill just before serving...myself.

Although the garlic flavor was a little too pronounced, the end result was hearty and healthy, and gave me enough energy to go out and shovel eight inches of snow off the car. Spring cannot come soon enough.

Chicken Soup with Roasted Root Vegetables

*Note: I diced the garlic and roasted it with the vegetables but think that roasting the cloves unpeeled and whole would have given the soup a more mellow and more desirable garlic flavor. If you go this route, don't forget to peel and diced the roasted garlic before adding to the broth.
3 Carrots, peeled and diced 2 Parsnips, peeled and diced
1 Medium onion, peeled and diced
2 Small turnips, peeled and diced
3 Fingerling potatoes, diced 2 T. olive oil 1 t. salt Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 6 C. chicken broth
2 C. water
2 C. cooked chicken, diced or shredded
1 C. egg noodles
1 t. dried dill
Preheat oven to 400.
Combine vegetables, olive oil, salt, pepper and extra seasonings (if using) in a large pot; dump contents onto baking sheet that has been covered in foil.
Roast vegetables for 40 minutes, or until they start to turn brown and caramelize.
Heat chicken broth and water in original pot, bring to boil and add egg noodles; cook for six minutes or until noodles have softened.
Turn off burner. Add roasted vegetables* and diced chicken to pot and let sit for 10 minutes.
Stir in 1 teaspoon of dried dill and serve immediately. This soup is best eaten fresh as the noodles will continue to soak up moisture as it sits.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Top of the Muffin To Ya

Call it the winter blues, perhaps, but the last few weeks I have been craving muffins. Not the Starbucks calorie laden versions (thank goodness) but the smell and taste of a home cooked treat. First, I made the apple sauce muffins from the Moosewood.The following week, I whipped up the batter for the apple spice cake recipe in the same cookbook (which only uses maple syrup for sweetener) and baked that in muffin tins. Similar to the apple sauce muffins but with instant oatmeal part of the list of ingredients, the end result was hearty and healthy.
Cross-section of the apple spice cake muffins with fresh cranberries

Then, with leftover ricotta in the fridge, I stumbled upon Giada De Laurentiis' Nonna's recipe for lemon ricotta muffins. It's stretching it a bit to call these babies "muffins." Chock full of moist goodness and super sweet, these were more like little cakes. Add some glaze or frosting and you're looking at a birthday party treat.

And then I ran the recipe through MasterCook. Clocking in at 274 calories and 13 grams of fat EACH, these were "special occasion" muffins and definitely not the winter workday morning everyday indulgence I was after.
So I went out on a limb and messed with the recipe. I know baking is a science, it's all about chemistry, yadda, yadda, but even scientists experiment. So I slashed the fat and added fiber. The end result? Down to 200 calories and 8 grams of fat per muffin. So not exactly made for an everyday breakfast, but good for a weekend indulgence. And, given the temptation of moist lemon cake and tart berries, good thing they freeze well. After all, no one wants to gnaw on a frozen muffin in February.
Lemon Ricotta Berry Muffins
Inspired by a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis
Ingredients 1 Cup All-purpose flour
1 Cup Whole wheat flour 1/2 t. Baking powder 1/2 t. Baking soda 1/2 t. Salt 1/2 C. Sugar
5 T. Unsalted butter, softened 1 T. Lemon zest 1 C. Part-skim ricotta 1 Egg 1 T. Lemon juice 1/2 t. Almond extract 1/4 C. 1% Milk
1 1/2 C. Frozen blackberries, raspberries and/or blueberries
2 T. Sliced almonds
Method Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour through salt) in small bowl.
In a larger bowl, cream sugar, butter and zest with an electric mixer; add ricotta and beat until incorporated.
Add egg, lemon juice and almond extract to ricotta mixture and beat until well combined.
Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients by hand; adding up to 1/4 cup low fat milk if needed (batter should be stiff, but all dry ingredients should be well incorporated).
Fold in frozen berries by hand.
Using an ice cream scoop or two tablespoons, scoop batter into a 12 cup muffin tin that has either been sprayed or prepped with paper liners.
Sprinkle a few sliced almonds on top of each muffin.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for 5 minutes in pan before removing from tin and cooling on baking rack.