Tuesday, August 30, 2022

A final word on Dr. Esselstyn's Black Bean Salsa

 Jose, who works at the Premium Halal Supermarket on the corner of Starling Avenue and Odell Street, has become my official taste tester for any Mexican-style dishes I try my hand at. Recently that was Cactus salad (approved), and lately I have been perfecting Dr. Esselstyn's Black Bean Salsa (From the book How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease). First time I gave it to him, I had forgotten the cilantro (pics), but yesterday I gave it to him with the cilantro, which was definitely better, but I am also fine tuning the number and blend of peppers that go into it. Recipe follows. 

By the way, while we're at it, there is an excellent site to research peppers, called Pepperscale.

I now like to use the following in my Black Bean Salsa:

Now for the updated recipe:

  • 2 cans of black beans, or 1 lb dry beans (cooked with some kombu in the pressure cooker or Instant Pot).
  • 1 can of corn
  • 3 stalks of celery, sliced paper thin
  • 2-3 Jalapeños, finely sliced
  • 2 Serranos, finely sliced
  • 1 Chilaca or Poblano pepper, sliced fine
  • 1 bunch of cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 bottle of Salsa Verde
  • 2-3 limes, juiced 

Clean all the ingredients, and slice the peppers fine, paper thin is the ideal. The celery also, paper thin is best (use the mandoline). I use all of the cilantro and again, just try to millimeter is. Now you'll understand why I love sharp knives. The finer you cut these things, the more the flavor spreads throughout. The secret to success here is the balance between aroma and heat.

As a practical matter, if you first pour the Salsa over the mixture, then you can wash out the bottle with the lime juice to get all of the salsa out. 

I prefer to let it marinate in the fridge for a day, and you can keep it for 4-5 days. You can serve it on tostadas, or rice cakes, or masa tortillas.




Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Start of Summer at Neerob & Honoring Sal - #WFPB style.

Sal, Salvatore Falzetta ("Mr. Hairstyling from Italy"), was the man of the hour yesterday at our small celebratory #WFPB (Whole Foods, Plant-Based) dinner, to celebrate the start of summer but also to honor Sal, who is the most famous barber in the neighborhood. He now practices at Silver Star Salon at 1470 Unionport Avenue, around the corner from Neerob Restaurant, where we had our dinner.

This was a recent picture of Sal, reading the paper between clients at Silver Star. Sal started cutting my hair fourteen years ago, and upon listening to my lengthy explanation of how I wanted it, including hand gestures, he rolled his eyes, and said: "I got it. Notta too long, notta too short." That was the one and only time we talked about hair.

Our dinner on June 21st was a proper Italian dinner with a small Bangladeshi flourish.

The appetizer was Capellini Pesto, with Rogier's Green Pasta Sauce, as per the recipe I recently posted here, and followed by a Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, along with a wonderful Arugula salad and Mixed Vegetables (Broccoli and carrots) as well as a Dal with spinach, and some whole wheat naan bread. Naturally, for the appetizer we used whole wheat angel hair pasta (Ronzoni), and for the main course we used Luigi Vitelli Whole Wheat Pasta. Desert was fresh strawberries with a drizzle of a 50/50 mix of Balsamic glaze and Balsamic vinegar.

As a practical matter, for the Puttanesca sauce, I used this Kelp this time instead of the hijiki and wakame that are listed in the recipe, which also worked just fine. I soaked it and cut it up, and, along with the capers and the kalamata olives, it provides all the flavoring that anchovies otherwise would in a traditional style recipe. 

The whole project was a collaboration with Neerob Restaurant, I cooked the Pesto Sauce, and Red Sauce - and the Restaurant, made the salads, the vegetable sides and the dal, and put the whole thing together.

One of Sal's loyal clients, my friend Ed Kremer, presented Sal with a Honor Certificate to celebrate his achievements. Sal came to the USA from Italy in 1958, form Cosenza, Reggio Calabria, and he's been a barber in the Starling Avenue neighborhood for 50 years. (The certificate said 1963 by mistake, but it was 1958).

We had mostly clients of Sal, and a few of my friends from other parts of town, and the result was a wonderful mix of people, and lots of interesting discussions.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Time for #WFPB Pasta Puttanesca

Supposedly, you cannot make Pasta Puttanesca without anchovies, but this story proves otherwise.

I was famous among friends for my pasta marinara with mushrooms as a teenager. I figured it was because none of my friends liked to cook but they did like to eat. Be that as it may. At that time I discovered the natural way of countering the acidity of the tomatoes by adding in a julienned carrot (or two) to the recipe. The sweetness of the carrots deepens the flavor of the sauce and buffers the acidity of the tomatoes.



Anyway, I seem to be having a new Italian period in my cooking, just when I was starting to get excited about Mexican food. I will get back to the Mexican cuisine, and for now I am going wild with my Italian Renaissance on Starling Avenue in the Bronx. 

The other day, a Chinese friend stopped by for dinner, but gave me only a half our notice, and normally it takes 2 hours lead time to get Neerob to do a #WFPB meal. So we met at Neerob Restaurant and Shamim improvised a delicious soup, and for the main course, we had Rogier's Green Pasta, for I had just cooked a batch of my green sauce, and I brought it, a box of cherry tomatoes, and some angel hair pasta, and Neerob served that for the main course. The owner, Khokon tried it and loved it, and one of the other diners also sampled some of it and loved it too!

So here comes the next Italian dish, #WFPB style.

Ingredients

1-2 red onion and optionally a few shallots
4-8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 carrot julienned
1 bell pepper, or preferably a mix of some green, red and yellow or orange pepper.
1 pinch of hijiki and 1 pinch of wakame, rinsed
1 cup water with yondu
1 tsp Italian Herbs
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
optional a 12 Oz box of Cherry tomatoes.
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted, sliced and/or some other sliced black olives
1/4 cup capers
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Optional topping: some basil leaves and some vegan parmesan.
You can have veggies on the side, zucchini, egg plant, spinach, broccoli, steamed carrots, whatever tickles your fancy.


Preparation

Note: Best cooked in a skillet to help with the evaporation of the liquid.

* Cut up the onions fine.
* Smash the garlic and cut it up fine.
* Julienne one or two carrots
* Cut up the peppers, I used a quarter green, a quarter red, a quarter yellow and a quarter orange pepper.
* Briefly roast the onions with the peppers and garlic and then add the water with Yondu.
* Add in the crushed red pepper flakes.
* Once the onions are caramelized, add in the olives, the capers, and the Italian herbs, the hijiki and wakame, and then add the tomatoes. Note: you can splurge on the olives and the capers to make up for skipping the anchovies, and the pinch of hijiki and wakame imparts a bit of "sea flavor," and in general depth to the flavoring of the sauce.
* Let the whole thing simmer until some of the moisture has evaporated and you have a sauce with some substance to it.

Serve over spaghetti, or linguini, or whatever shape pasta you happen to like.


 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Rogier's Green Pasta Recipe

Luigi Nanni died in April 1998, which probably means nothing to you, but Nanni was the proprietor of Restaurant Nanni, on East 46th, corner Lexington Avenue, and given I worked in Greenwich in the 80's it was one place that was convenient for lunch in the city, coming into Grand Central. Nanni was a center of serious Italian cuisine in the city. The death of Mr. Nanni was certainly an event, written up here by my friend Bryan Miller, who was then the restaurant critic for the New York Times.

One of my favorites was angel hair with pesto sauce. 

After the death of Mr Nanni, it lived on for a while, run by Vittorio, the old maitre d' and the cook, but they did not seem to have a happy partnership and a few years ago it all fell apart.


In any case, ever since I committed to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet, one of the biggest challenges was what to do for a pesto sauce. For the longest time, I was resigned to the idea that I would never again have angel hair with pesto sauce. Until one day recently, my #WFPB-friend and associate Enrica Sacca in Queens gave me the idea of making a pesto sauce based on sweet peas. Creativity took over and the result blew me away. It was better than the original. Since then, I've now made it three times and I think I've got the recipe down pat, and I think it will be a house favorite for a long time to come. 

There does seem to be an unwritten law that pesto sauce is served over angel hair, so angel hair is now sold out in my neighborhood. Normally, I buy Luigi Vitelli's Whole Wheat Pasta Capellini, but nobody had that, except one package, so I had to settle for Ronzoni, who apparently are Italian in name only, and don't have an Italian bone in their body and they just call it "thin spaghetti." Another marketing opportunity missed. 

So, here goes. This is simple as can be - about 30 minutes for a delicious home made sauce.

Ingredients

1/4 cup of walnut pieces with some pine nuts

1 15 Oz can of green peas

1 bunch of basil

1 bunch of spinach

5-6 cloves of garlic, minced, or at least sliced thin.

1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 cup water

1 tsp Yondu

Optional: sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and, if you blend in one jalapeño pepper, nobody will notice it, but it will pick the whole thing up a notch, some vegan parmesan

Preparation

In your blender:
- add the 1/4 cup of nuts
- add the basil leaves, washed (sandy!)
- drain the peas and add them on top of the basil
- in a frying pan cook the spinach with the garlic, adding the cup of water with Yondu
- as soon as the spinach is wilted, put the spinach in the blender
- add the cooking water from the spinach.
- puree

Done. 
This quantity is enough for 4 people.



Cook the angel hair - 3 mins.
- The sauce will probably still be too thick, so you can add some cooking water from the pasta to make it more liquid - I use about 1-2 cups of it.

If you want to get fancy, you can cut up some sun-dried tomatoes in small pieces, and add those in the sauce, and I like making it with cherry tomatoes.
At your option, you can add some vegan parmesan.

Finger-licking good. I can't stop eating it.

Obviously, this is a very healthy sauce and you can make a meal out of this, I like it with mushrooms and some vegetable, be it broccoli or zucchini, or steamed carrots go really well because of the color combination: the green pasta, the orange carrots (with some parsley) and the red cherry tomatoes.

P.S. In the interest of science I tried regular angel hair with Pesto Sauce recently, and realized that now I cannot imagine why I ever liked that oily sauce. You just lose your taste for it.


Thursday, March 31, 2022

PPMNY 3rd Anniversary at Neerob Restaurant in the Bronx

A lovely dinner celebration was held at Neerob Restaurant on Starling Avenue in the Bronx, and it was a small demonstration of how Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition is reaching more and more people, along with lifestyle medicine.

#WFPB, Lifestyle Medicine, Neerob, PPMNY
Behind us is the banner from PPMNY, in the center is Md "Khokon" Rahman, the owner of Neerob, and from left to right, Tee Jay, Fr. David Powers, Rogier FvV, Khokon, Diane Brownlee, Lenwood Hicks, Nathanael Smith, and the Rev. Edith Mayfield.

The stories are interesting. Khokon was first introduced to plant-based food through me, and Neerob Restaurant was the first restaurant in the Bronx to be certified by Plant Pure Communities as of February of 2019. Before Coronavirus, for a few years, we had a Dinner for Doctors every six months, where there would be a substantive medical or nutritional presentation and we often had 40-50 people. Fr. David and myself had a monthly dinner, which we have recently resumed, on the 4th Tuesday of the month, at 9PM (after Bible class at St. Helenas). I also was conducting #WFPB cooking classes at the school cafeteria at St. Helena's school, which we hope to resume soon.

Neerob is a restaurant that services the local community, and predominantly Bangladeshi, but it has interesting menu options. Usually there is a "Tropical Bean Salad," which is #WFPB qualified. And there are a few #WFPB items on the menu, but they should always be ordered in advance directly with Khokon or with Shamim, for the demand is still infrequent. We are now planning to introduce a #WFPB Market Special Dinner at a fixed price, and, for about 50% premium, a #WFPB Market Special Dinner +1 with enough take home (except for the rice) for 1 other person or another day. Details will be forthcoming shortly, and posted on the Neerob website.

As to the various participants, the backstories are interesting, for they are a demonstration of how word about Lifestyle Medicine and Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition is getting around.

The Rev. Edith Mayfield is an ambassador for the Heartsmarts program, at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, developed by Dr. Naa-Solo Tettey and directed by Dr. Holly Anderson of the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute. This shows again that the knowledge of plant-based nutrition is spreading. This program is focused on racial inequities, but I assure you "Southern Food," or "comfort food" is bad for white people too. ;-)


Nathanael Smith and Tee Jay graced us with their presence, coming all the way from Jersey City. Nathanael is ACLM certified Nurse Practitioner at the famous Ethos Primary care and Tee Jay also works in the healthcare field. They are a living example of how the word is spreading. And it is very exciting that there are ACLM-qualified practitioners like Nathanael in the field.
Interestingly, Nathanael shared with us that they now routinely test people for TMAO, which is the toxic chemical that is produced in your gut if you eat animal protein. Regular doctors do not pay attention to these things, but this is a very simple and direct test to ascertain your gut health, for TMAO is a reactive oxygen species, and your gut simply stops making it if you go plant-based.

Fr. David Powers and myself have both attended some of the trainings from Dr. Robert Ostfeld's Cardiac Wellness Program, and I used to attend the annual Montefiore Einstein Preventative Cardiology Conference, also B.C. - Before Coronavirus. Dr. Robert Ostfeld is definitely one of the leaders in the Lifestyle Medicine arena and whole foods, plant-based nutrition. Throughout the Montefiore Einstein system, plant based nutrition is becoming more available, and more doctors are recommending it.

The Menu for this dinner consisted of:

  • Vegetable Barley Soup
  • Grilled Veggie Oreganato
  • Vegetable Pasta
  • Salad with nuts
  • Whole Wheat Roti and Brown Rice
  • Moong dal with Squash
It was finger-liking good all the way around, and the company was great!



 
 





 


 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Hausa Koko, a new ingredient for breakfast

 Ok, is a picture still worth a thousand words? We shall see. I found this Hausa Koko at my nearby African store, Lady Afrique International Market, at 1406 Castle Hill Avenue.

Hausa Koko

The ingredients are fascinating:
Millet flour,
West Africa Black Pepper

I have made porridge from it directly and it works well, if you're into a breakfast that puts hair on your chest. It definitely has a hint of hot spices, but I love that, and while it may be counter intuitive to some, it combines well with sweet, including all my typical fruit and dried fruits:

  • grated apple
  • blueberries
  • raisins
  • goji berries
  • dates
  • cacao nibs and some cacao powder
And for a topping some strawberries and banana, hempseeds, and balsamic vinegar.

I think I may like it even better mixed with my steelcut oats, about 50/50. In that case I am leaving out my usual teaspoon of cinnamon, as I don't think that would combine very well. I have made it both ways, and I think I prefer the blend, for the steelcut oats add some more substance. I don't like the smooth porridge as much.

And here's the store front, in case you were looking for it:





Friday, March 4, 2022

Breakfast scramble

A friend gave me this amazing hot sauce from Sakara, a company that offers delivered meals and some food products that are plant-based, without actually following #WFPB nutrition. However, it is always fun to adopt recipes, and make them #WFPB, so here goes with a breakfast scramble that I found is quite amazing, it used one ingredient from Sakara, a limited edition Hot Pepper Sauce, but you can of course use your own favorite hot pepper sauce. Theirs was somewhat hot and very aromatic: 

Breakfast Bowl:

Ingredients

Besan (Chickpea flour) Scramble

  • 1/3 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp kala namak (black salt)
  • 1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (or fresh turmeric if you have it)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water

Base

  • 1-2 onions, garlic to taste,
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 scallion chopped
  • 1-2 sliced jalapeño peppers - to taste
  • 1-3 sliced thai chilis - to taste

Bedding

  • 1 cup spring mix greens
  • 1/2 avocado sliced
  • 1 cup water with Yondu, or Braggs Liquid Aminos

Dressing

- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp of your favorite hot sauce

Preparation

  • Whisk all the chickpea scramble ingredients in a bowl and let it sit for 5 mins.
  • In a pan over medium heat, caramelize the onions, and add the peppers (jalapeños, chilis, or whatever), sear the mushrooms with the scallions, using the cup of water with Yondu, until they moisture evaporates.
  • Pour the Chickpea Scramble over the mushroom mixture. Stir to create the "scramble," add more water as needed to achieve the desired consistency.
  • Place your favorite cooked grains in a bowl, and layer your spring greens on top.
  • Make a dressing for the lemon juice with the hot sauce and sprinkle it over the greens
  • Pour out the Chickpea Scramble on top of this, and enjoy!