Friday, February 22, 2008

4 A Word About This Blog & The Recipes Contained Therein

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Please note that the recipes on this blog are not for the timid or for those whose culinary comfort zone consists entirely of macaroni and cheese, milkshakes, hotdogs, hamburgers, and fries. Despite what you may've heard, not all of us Americans subsist on a steady diet of "fast food." ;-)

While I will reluctantly admit to liking the aforementioned foods, despite their appalling lack of nutritional value, they will never be the type of foods to which I gravitate as the central focus of my cooking universe, nor would I ever recommend that they form the primary basis of anyone's meal plans, atleast not if you want to eat healthfully! Contemplating the fat content alone in these products (as they are typically prepared in restaurants & many people's homes) are enough to literally send me running outdoors in search of the nearest trails!

While I surely enjoy rich and decadent foods from time to time as much as the next person, this blog is about redefining the meaning of the word "eating well." I believe that, while it's probably unnatural for most humans to live in a world without the pleasures of chocolate or perhaps even the occasional French fry, that it's also possible to not let these foods rule your world either. After all, you don't want to end up as a heart-attack statistic.

This blog is a testament to the idea that "eating well" can be about preparing meals centered about whole foods and fresh, quality ingredients that taste delicious AND yes, just so happen to be good for you. It's also about trying new foods & dishes, as well as reinterpreting "old classics" in new and healthy ways.

At the same time, this isn't your mother's "health-food" blog. ;-) There will be none of those disgusting, tasteless, & so-called, "diet" recipes here. Furthermore, if a dish tastes anything like one of those insipid, flavorless Weight-Watchers or Healthy Choice frozen meals, you certainly won't find it here. (And yes, when in a pinch for time, I've already tried enough of them to know that I'd rather think ahead & take the time to brown-bag my own meals than eat this crap. Consider the high amounts of preservatives, refined sugars, and sodium they contain, which aren't the greatest for you, no matter how "healthy" they claim to be -- Chuck them all in the bin I say! Eat food the way nature intended -- Fresh & organic; it's tastes so much better when it's made that way, & it's so much better for you too!)

Also, despite my rampant, rapid-fire rhapsodizing on the merits of eating healthy food, I assure you this: I don't care how healthy or nutritional something is, if it's not truly delicious, rest assured I'm not going to list it here. Ultimately, the yardstick by which all of these recipes are measured is taste.

Now of course, taste is said to be subjective, but in my foodie universe, it is not. I believe that there's good taste and bad taste, and you'll find that I don't have any problem with defining those barriers here in this blog. ;-)

For those of you who are puzzled about my attitude, I suggest you re-read the caption under my picture. They don't call me "Gourmet Foodie With Attitude" for nothing, OK?!

Also, you'll find that I don't define "good taste" based on "majority rule." If the majority of humans happen to like my recipes then it's merely a happy coincidence, but certainly not a goal of mine or a rule to live by. Bluntly put, I couldn't give a fig about this sort of thing, as it's certainly not my primary reason for cooking in the first place. ;-)

As is the case with most passionate & creative chefs and cooks, what motivates me to cook is the pure enjoyment of the experience and the excitement of tasting new flavors -- I just love the adventurous aspects of the cooking experience, and enjoy tasting new foods and dishes. And of course, I love cooking for like-minded people, who appreciate these very same aspects of cooking & eating!

Conversely, one of my biggest pet peeves is dealing with people who are stuck in their ways. And this applies to food & cooking as well. ;-)

Nothing annoys me more when I encounter individuals who rest on their laurels or just "play it safe" when it comes to cooking & food.

First of all, I can't stand watching people do things the same old way in the kitchen, because that's the way they've always done it, despite evidence of new & better ideas, techniques, &/or methods. That kind of behavior doesn't interest me, as it usually doesn't produce anything new, except maybe by way of a happy accident. ;-) If you're looking for that kind of foodie blog, I suggest you look elsewhere. There are more than enough blogs like that to satisfy that sort of taste & attitude. ;-)

Then, there's the issue of what I like to call "frozen tastebuds syndrome." If it's only natural to progress and change -- a boy of 5 doesn't usually like the same foods when he's 50, nor should he be expected to do so!, then why are there so many people who are unyielding & stuck in their ways?! Frankly, I am sick to death of dealing with stodgy, boring people who won't try new things. Get over yourselves, you rigid, crusted-over crumpets, or you will rust into place, permanently. Let's just say that I am DONE with these people, OK? It's not my job to convince them of the wider world of culinary delights or to drag them kicking & screaming into the modern world. Nonetheless, there's something in me that just makes me want to kick them to the curb! Arrrgh!

First of all, I think it's a crime not to try new things. After all, you only live once. So why not? Why the heck wouldn't you take that opportunity to "live on the edge" in one of the easiest and possibly safest of all possible ways? That is, of course, barring any unforeseen mishaps like food poisoning, etc. Or eating unusual & potentially lethal "delicacies" like torafugu, a.k.a. the Japanese Tiger Blowfish, which is one of the most poisonous species of pufferfish. That's certainly "seafood served with a sting." ;-)

So haven't we all had enough boring sameness for one lifetime? For most of us, it's some variation on the pattern, "Work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep," in an endlessly repeating cycle. Snore!!!!! If nothing else, you could make the eating part exciting!!! ;-)

Consider the alternatives. Hmmm, a life of endless boredom & sameness versus feeling alive & excited about life. Not a very hard to choice to make, really. Do I have your attention now?! ;-)

So let us end the cycle of boredom & "leading lives of quiet desperation," & instead put some adventure & excitement back into our lives. It's about time. You know it's true. Rev up your engines, harness your inner "hellcat," and come on a little culinary journey with me to shake things up a bit & re-energize your life!!!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

4 Recipe #28: Get Ready for A New Salad Concept -- The Greco-Asiatic Salad

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As promised, in reference to an earlier request, I'm going to list some of the more interesting & unusual salad recipes from my "recipe arsenal."

Ah, yes, salads. Be forewarned: These are not your everyday, run-of-the-mill salads.

As mentioned previously, I'm not going to give you some heavy, disgusting mayo-laden concoction -- that has a half-life of two millennia & will sit in your stomach like a lead weight! -- and tell you it's a salad, nor am I going to waste my time recounting simple recipes that could be made by a 5-year old and bore me to tears. Frankly, the usual "lettuce-&-tomato" deal that passes for a salad doesn't interest me. So be prepared for some new and exciting interpretations of the salad concept.

And now, after that intro, you might need to dust yourself off a bit and put on your crash helmet. Proceed, only if you dare. ;-)

So I will now kick off the first of a few posts that will offer new & creative ideas for salads. Sure, these salad recipes might be somewhat unconventional & stretch your boundaries, & you may or may not like all of the ingredients, but one thing is for sure -- They certainly won't be boring!

Greco-Asiatic Salad

Dressing Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. sesame seeds
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. mustard (Be sure to use high-grade/good-quality mustard.)
1/4 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Salad Ingredients:
1 pound mixed salad greens, washed
4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed & sliced
1 large eggplant peeled, steamed
4 oz. fresh uncooked/raw snow peas
2 Tbsp. capers
4 oz. nonfat feta cheese, cubed (Vegans can substitute with a sharp-tasting, vegan imitation cheese.)
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, shredded
1/4 c. fresh oregano leaves, shredded
1/4 c. fresh thyme leaves, shredded
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 Tbsp. pine/pignoli nuts

Directions: For the dressing, mix all ingredients together in a closed container or vial of some sort, shake vigorously & set aside. Steam eggplant until eggplant is tender but not soggy. Do not overcook. Set aside. For the salad, remove the thick stems from the greens & cut the leaves coarsely. Immediately before serving, pour in salad dressing & toss all ingredients together, & sprinkle feta cheese cubes on top.

Yield: 4-6 generous-sized portions.

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