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Gimme some granola love

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Jenny’s Nutty Granola with fresh blueberries, Spoon Size Shredded Wheat and Hudson Valley Fresh milk.

I’m crazy about the tastiness, texture and nutrition of good granola, and while there are many on the market, most are too sweet for my taste. So for several years now, I’ve been making my own version, full of the nuts that I adore and lots of other components that bring flavor, protein and vitamins and minerals to the party.

Now if I don’t have it every day, I feel cheated. And I’m decidedly not one of those, “I’ll have the usual” types. I love variety and love to mix things up, on the table and otherwise. But I can never have this stuff too often, so when I run out I have to make more ASAP. Fortunately I currently have a gig in a natural foods store where it’s convenient and not too expensive for me to buy most of the ingredients in bulk.
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While it may look like a lot of items on the list, my granola is uncomplicated to make, and contains three groups of items. The first assortment is the oats, nuts and seeds tossed together in a bowl.

 

 

 

 

Then the mixture is drizzled with bit of sweetness, healthy fat and flavorings, tossed and toasted in the oven.

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The first two groups of ingredients after a bit of baking.

After the lot is redolent with the aromas of toasted nuts, vanilla and heady cinnamon wafting into the air, you just fold in the remaining ingredients, cool and store. Don’t forget to taste test!

This is not a clumpy granola but lovely sprinkled on cereal, yogurt or plain. I put it on my cereal every morning (usually Spoon Size Shredded Wheat or Heritage Flakes), and top with berries and milk. So good!

Give it a shot, and feel free to customize it according to your granola-y preferences, perhaps all of one nut instead of three kinds (2 cups), or maybe sub your faves like hazelnuts or macadamias. You can use less coconut oil, or more maple syrup or another sweetener that you like better. You can skip any seeds you don’t love, or maybe use dried cherries or blueberries instead of the cranberries. Make it your own (and make it often)!

I welcome questions and comments and would love to hear from you!

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Jenny’s Nutty Granola

Jenny’s Nutty Granola

Makes 16 1/2-cup servings
Group 1

3 cups oats

2/3 cup pecans, chopped coarsely

2/3 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely

2/3 cup almonds, chopped coarsely

1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds

¼ cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds

¼ cup wheat germ

 

Group 2

¼ cup water

¼ cup virgin coconut oil (melted if solid)

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Group 3

2/3 cup diced dried apples

2/3 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dried date pieces

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup chia seeds

¼ cup ground flax meal

 

  1. Preheat oven to 325° F.
  2. Mix together first group of ingredients. Mix together second group and pour over oat mixture. Toss to mix, then spread in foil-lined 10 x 15 pan.
  3. Bake for 22 minutes, then stir and bake another 15 minutes, stir and bake 5-10 minutes more or until golden. Toss together last group of ingredients and mix in. Let cool and store in air tight container.
A 1/4 cup serving contains about 170 calories, 5.5g protein, 37 mg sodium and 7.5g sugars.

 

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Favulous favas

I found some beautiful fava beans at work the other day (Mother Earth’s Storehouse Poughkeepsie NY store).  

Like giant green beans without, but with treasures within, they are irresistible. Had to take some home.  

 A bit labor intensive but entirely worth the trouble for a tiny treat for one. These seven giant pods yielded only a few fat white-coated beans nestled in soft down…wish I could minimize myself and sleep in one…  

  

 After a quick blanching, I …  

 … squeezed out the beans …  

 … Then sautéed shallot in olive oil, threw in the favas, tossed a few minutes with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then turned off the heat and stirred in slivers of mint, a splash more olive oil, a dash of white wine vinegar … then topped it all with microplaned fluffs of Parmigiano … sublime.  

  

This writer/editor/cook/teacher/former nurse is adding another hat: food tour operator. I’m launching a business called Hudson Valley Food Tours and will be running my first culinary crawls in Rhinebeck soon. I’ve had this in the works for quite a while–years, really–so it’s very exciting for me to be finally giving it a go.

Of course, like many a worthy project, it’s turning out to require much more time, thought and preparation than I anticipated, making the busy life of a single mom of teenagers even more hectic than I even thought possible. But that’s okay!

Although I think the gig is a very, very good fit for me, meshing with my aptitudes and skills and a perfect complement to my other interests and activities, I can’t do it alone. I’ve realized that while I can be on the shy side I’m happier around other people and wouldn’t do well in a room alone at the computer all day every day. I’ll never stop being a writer (“are you still writing?”, people ask me, as if I could stop!) and writing is part of the food tour biz, too, but now I have a fun new way to get out there.

Although I’m officially a “sole proprietor,” this new endeavor is requiring the help of many people and I couldn’t do it alone. Friends and family have been wonderfully encouraging. The other food tour operators I’ve reached out to around the country have been tremendously helpful and generous with their time. Luckily one of them is nearby, only two hours north of me, and invited me to attend a tour this weekend. Joe Haedrich of Saratoga Springs Food Tours very kindly took an entire afternoon out of his busy schedule to show me the ropes of a real tour. Seeing how a food tour operates, on the spot, right there, was a great way to jump in a get a real feel for how things work.

Plus it was just great fun. Saratoga has an awesome, sprawling farmers market, and I got to meet some of the farmers and artisans who had been chosen to participate in the market, like Anna Mae, a beautiful fourth generation farmer who offers jams and jellies made from ingredients she grew herself (except for cranberries and citrus).

Anna Mae.

Anna Mae.

I experienced time travel to the distant past at the lovely Old Bryan Inn, a tavern that dates to 1773, and enjoyed a tasty, tender Balsamic Beef Tip Bruschetta. I was able to taste exquisite olive oils, vinegars and honeys of much finer quality than I’m used to at Saratoga Olive Oil Co. and Saratoga Tea & Honey Company.

I hadn’t been to Saratoga since Grateful Dead concerts years ago. For many the name of the small city evokes horse racing and little else. But thanks to Joe I was able to discover a new side of the town spiced up with his entertaining commentary and stories. He showed me various neighborhoods, many beautiful historic buildings and the lovely Yaddo Gardens at the artists’ retreat Yaddo (where my late dad, the author Donald Harington was in residence when I was a child) and of course the historic and famous Saratoga Raceway that occupies a large part of town but doesn’t dominate its loveliness.

Great to have a change of scenery in such a great town and in such good company.

 

For many years I’ve been doing cooking demos in the Harvest Kitchen at the NYS Sheep and Wool Fest, the challenge being to offer something with lamb meat or sheep cheese. As a big fan of both, that’s no hardship, and I’ve presented a variety of tasty recipes over the years. This year join me in a celebration of the luscious Spanish sheep cheese Manchego and taste samples of Mini Popovers with Manchego and Roasted Shallots and Kale Salad with Apple and Manchego. My demos are at 11 am and 3:30 pm Sunday in Building E.

Cooking demos Tuesday!

Join me for opening day of the Dutchess County Fair! I’ll be doing cooking demonstrations in the Harvest Kitchen in Bldg E at 11 am and 3:30 pm on Tuesday, Aug. 19.

On the menu are….surprise….cephalopods! Come learn about other things to do with these tasty critters besides fried calamari, and taste some classic dishes from Thailand and Sicily. I’d love to see you there!

A Montauk Beach

A quiet Montauk Beach.

It’s not often enough that I can get away for sun, sand and seafood. I ought to live near the ocean; being landlocked, albeit near the beautiful Hudson River, doesn’t always cut it for me. But thanks to a dear friend I got to go to a beautiful seaside spot last week, at the tip of Long Island’s South Fork, jutting out into the Atlantic.

There I had a feast for all the senses: sunsets so hot and stunning they dazed my eyes, soothing waves crashing and gulls screaming softly, briny breezes in my nostrils, soft sand between my toes, exquisite food and drink, and most of all, good company.

Watermelon margarita and blood orange margarita at FishBar, Montauk.

Fruity margaritas at FishBar, Montauk.

 

I’ve been there a few times before, in spring, fall, and then last year, finally, in the summer, but this was the longest, sunniest trip, and glorious all around.

A motel kitchenette for preparing oysters and littlenecks on the half shell and sauteed swordfish tidbits was the spot for the first feast, then another day it was off to FishBar for drinks, a watermelon margarita for me and a blood orange one for my companion.

We ordered a couple appies: soft shell crab with grilled watermelon, pea tendrils and yuzu yellow beet emulsion, and a flaxseed-crusted tuna tartare with avocado and spicy aïoli, topped with slivers of pickled watermelon radish. (The watermelon theme a welcome constant.)

Appies at FishBar. Photo by Nicholas Panayotou

Appies at FishBar. Photo by Nicholas Panayotou

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With bellies not yet full, we went for a glorious platter of fresh local sea scallops, pan seared and drizzled with lemon butter and fresh herbs, over a hash of chorizo, watermelon radish, crispy rainbow potatoes, kalamata olives, fava beans, house-dried tomatoes and yellow beets.

Sea scallops at FishBar.

Sea scallops at FishBar.

 

On the last night we ate at Gosman’s Inlet Café, a perennial favorite for sushi and other good food and a beautiful view of the harbor, a constant stream of all manner of boats gliding to and fro. After a couple of good sushi rolls, we had a lush lobster roll studded with generous chunks of sweet lobster. Although under seasoned and not as good at the one we had at FishBar last year, it was satisfying and accompanied by quality coleslaw and fries.

Lobster roll from Gosman's Inlet Cafe.

Lobster roll from Gosman’s Inlet Cafe.

The grilled local yellowfin tuna topped with eggplant caponata on a bed of orzo was rich and flavorful.

Local yellowfin tuna topped with caponata.

Local yellowfin tuna topped with caponata.

A classic Montauk sunset capped things off,

Sunset at Montauk harbor.

Sunset at Montauk harbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but for me the seafood feasting wasn’t over. Returning to Gosman’s Market the next morning before departing, I stashed some super-fresh local squid and a nice chunk of tilefish on ice in my cooler to bring home. I kept the sea bounty flowing the next few nights with fried calamari

Fried calamari with a variety of coatings: masa harina, flour, flour and grits.

Fried calamari with a variety of coatings: masa harina, flour, flour and grits.

and spaghetti neri

Spaghetti al nero delle seppie, a Sicilian dish.

Spaghetti al nero delle seppie, a Sicilian dish.

(testing recipes for my upcoming cephalopod cookery book). The squid was so impossibly fresh when I bought it four days ago that my leftover spaghetti neri for dinner tonight was still scrumptious. And I pan-roasted the tilefish with garlic and herbs. This fish, which I don’t believe I’d had before,  lives on crabs, making its flesh sweet and succulent.

Pan-roasted tilefish with garlic and herbs.

Pan-roasted tilefish with garlic and herbs.

Meeting a master

It’s not too often that strangers invite you to their home for a sumptuous dinner, but in this age of Facebook and LinkedIn, sometimes we get to be friends of a sort before we ever meet face to face, and thus luck is with us.

Such was my introduction, via LinkedIn, to Hiroko Shimbo, an author of three books on Japanese cooking. Last Sunday she kindly invited me–and three of her friends–to the weekend home of her husband Buzz and herself, which is only about ten minutes from me.

Six is the perfect number for dinner, per M.F.K. Fisher, and perfect and perfectly enjoyable it was, in spite of the fact I was meeting everyone for the first time.

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Jeremiah Stone and Hiroko Shimbo oversee the beef on the binchotan. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Buzz was welcoming and affable and Hiroko herself was warm and friendly, too, adorable with her small and energetic frame, pageboy and bangs, and a ready smile. Also on hand were Giuseppe from Colombia and Jeremiah Stone, a chef on the cusp of opening, with a partner, the eagerly anticipated Contra on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a “neo-bistro” that will offer a $55 tasting menu of five courses.

Hiroko Shimbo and Jeremiah Stone oversee the beef on the binchotan. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Jeremiah Stone and Hiroko Shimbo. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Also there was Annette Tomei, a very knowledgeable and experienced chef, sommelier, and food and wine consultant, based currently in Brooklyn and at www.vineducation.com. Good company indeed.

Hiroko is an accomplished chef who consults for many food companies and restaurants and also teaches cooking at the International Culinary Center in New York (formerly the French Culinary Institute). Her first book, which I’ve owned and used for years without ever dreaming I’d meet the author, is the award-winning The Japanese Kitchen (Harvard Common Press, 2000).  Her second is The Sushi Experience (Knopf, 2006) and her most recent, Hiroko’s American Kitchen: Cooking with Japanese Flavors (Andrews McMeel, 2012), which won the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ 2013 Cookbook Award under the American category.

After some refreshing young ginger tea, we assembled in the garage and sipped the couple’s scrumptious homemade umeshu (plum liqueur) as we nibbled peanuts and a Bobolink cheese and watched Hiroko assemble the cooking apparatus she’d be cooking some of dinner on. A Weber filled with sand (because the fire would be so hot it could melt through the metal), then regular Kingsford charcoal, and two types of Japanese charcoal, one to get it going, and then binchotan, a special one made of slow-burning oak and imported from Japan. It burns extremely hot for quick and perfect cooking. A pile of pale gray bricks specially arranged contained the intense and nearly smokeless fire.

Before we knew it, it was time to gather around the dining table for the first course, a silky smooth magenta chilled beet soup, garnished with bits of dried beet and a quenelle of lemon sorbet.

Chilled beet soup. Photo by Hiroko Shimbo

Chilled beet soup. Photo by Hiroko Shimbo

Then came what may well be my favorite part, a beautifully arranged quartet of baby vegetables lightly simmered in a delectable broth to drink after eating the veggies.

Eggplant, turnip, tomato, and squash simmered in broth. Photo by Hiroko Shimbo

Eggplant, turnip, tomato, and squash simmered in broth. Photo by Hiroko Shimbo

Then came top sirloin steaks of Australian grass-fed beef seared over the binchotan, with an Australian Shiraz, natch, and lima beans with fresh corn (also grilled) and baby eggplants (ditto).

Young ginger cake with plums and lemon sorbet. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

Young ginger cake with plums and lemon sorbet. Photo by Jennifer Harington Brizzi

The conversation lingered on many topics as we enjoyed a dessert of a lovely cake made with young ginger. It  was a true treat for me to be in such distinguished company and I was very grateful to have been invited to this delightful evening. Thank you Hiroko and Buzz!

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