July 19th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Organic tomatoes and zucchini are top seasonal produce picks, and they marry as well as Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne (minus the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll).
In the hands of former Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani, executive chef/owner of L.A. hotspots Firenze Osteria and Café Firenze Italian Restaurant and Martini Bar, they’re the foundation for today’s savory appetizer.
As the photo illustrates, Viviani’s Roasted Tomato & Zucchini Salad is a restaurant-quality dish, with vertical stacks of veggies and cheese that are pleasing to both the palate and eyes.
Best of all, the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked natural and organic food store—and many are likely on display at your local farmers’ market.
Roasted Tomato & Zucchini Salad
6 Roma tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2 balls of buffalo mozzarella (6 ounces each), cut into 3/4-inch slices
Approximately 10 large leaves of fresh basil
Shaved Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Cut tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices.
- Cut zucchini lengthwise into 1/8-inch ribbons.
- Season both with minced garlic, salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil.
- Roast on grill, with cut side up, for about 10 minutes, or until evenly roasted.
- Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
- To assemble the salad, place the tomato, zucchini (folded) and mozzarella on top of each other, like a tower, with a basil leaf in between layers. Season layers with salt, pepper and a drizzle of dressing.
- Sprinkle with shaved Parmesan cheese.
Photo courtesy of Bertolli
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July 18th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Craving a Poached Pear Salad (Insalata di Pere), featuring mixed greens, blue cheese, candied walnuts, Chianti-poached pears and balsamic dressing?
You can follow it up with an entrée of Butternut Squash Ravioli (Tortellacci di Zucca), composed of fresh butternut squash and ricotta ravioli, a brown butter-sage cream sauce, freshly ground black pepper and shaved Parmigiano cheese.
How about ending your meal with a pistachio-encrusted Homemade Italian Cannoli, filled with ricotta cheese and chocolate chips, and dusted with powdered sugar?
If you’re in Los Angeles, you’re in luck. These are some of my favorite picks at Firenze Osteria, where Top Chef Season 5 contestant Fabio Viviani (above) serves as executive chef/owner. He also runs Café Firenze Italian Restaurant and Martini Bar in nearby Moorpark, where you can enjoy one of 18 “signature,” “luxury” and “dessert” martinis, including Pear Tinis, Blueberry Martinis, Key Lime Pie Martinis and Cosmopolitans. (The Poached Pear Salad, Butternut Squash Ravioli and Homemade Italian Cannoli are also on the menu.)
Viviani, who trained in his native Italy, recently coauthored the Café Firenze Cookbook, and even a cursory look through its pages will prove the man loves his olive oil. Chalk it up to the kitchen staple’s versatility, flavor and health benefits. Rich in polyphenols (antioxidants) that help fight against cancer, heart-healthy olive oil can be swapped for high-fat butter. Just substitute 3/4 teaspoon olive oil for every 1 teaspoon butter, which will cut the fat in recipes by 25%.
Here are some of Viviani’s favorite ways to use olive oil:
- Serve a simple appetizer of fresh bread with extra-virgin olive oil. Pour the oil into a shallow bowl for dipping, and season with cracked pepper or fresh herbs.
- Create a simple, yet flavorful, marinade of olive oil combined with either lemon juice or wine vinegar. Use it to flavor meats, poultry and fish.
- Give your favorite unsalted nuts a fine coating of extra-light olive oil. (You can toss them in a paper bag.) Add a sprinkle of salt.
Tune in tomorrow for one of Viviani’s special recipes: Roasted Tomato & Zucchini Salad.
Viviani photo courtesy of Bertolli
Read More:‘Top Chef’ Contestant Fabio Viviani Loves His Olive Oils
July 17th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Confession time: When I was in college, I used to buy off-the-shelf carpet deodorizers with artificial lavender or tropical scents.
Before becoming eco-savvy, I never suspected these carpet “fresheners” were hazardous—or that I was breathing in a nasty dose of their residues as I vacuumed.
Read their labels today, and you’ll find unhealthful ingredients you don’t want to inhale. And newer versions, available as quick-dry foams, have propellants that contain propane and n-butane.
To avoid chemical exposure, go the do-it-yourself natural/organic route, which also turns out to be less expensive. Today’s DIY carpet deodorizer recipe calls for only two nontoxic ingredients:
- Baking soda, which absorbs odors
- 100% pure natural/organic essential oils for customizable fragrances
As with Wednesday’s recipe for DIY Natural/Organic Carpet Cleaner, the aromatherapy experts at Aura Cacia recommend using deodorizing essential oils like bergamot (a refreshing citrus), coriander seed (like bergamot, with a woody nuance) or lavandin (a cross between true lavender and spike lavender).
DIY Natural/Organic Carpet Deodorizer
- 1 cup baking soda
- 18 drops essential oil
- Mix ingredients.
- Sprinkle on carpet, and allow powder to sit for 10 minutes.
- Vacuum normally.
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July 14th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Household cleaners are notoriously loaded with caustic and toxic chemicals, so trading them in for green cleaning products is one of the first steps organic consumers take.
After a while, however, we tend to figure out that we can use common household ingredients like vinegar and fresh lemon juice to create do-it-yourself versions that get the job done effectively and less expensively. Add your favorite natural/organic essential oils, and you can customize your cleaners’ scents—an added bonus.
Today’s DIY carpet cleaner recipe contains only three nontoxic ingredients:
- Baking soda, which gently scours surfaces while absorbing odors
- Natural liquid soap (made from vegetable or nut oils)
- 100% pure natural/organic aromatherapy essential oils
Aura Cacia, a manufacturer of natural and certified organic essential oils, recommends using deodorizing oils like bergamot (a refreshing citrus), coriander seed (like bergamot, with a woody nuance) or lavandin (a cross between true lavender and spike lavender) in today’s homemade carpet cleaner.
DIY Natural/Organic Carpet Cleaner
- 1 cup baking soda
- 18 drops natural/organic essential oil
- 1 teaspoon liquid soap
- Mix baking soda and essential oil.
- Add liquid soap and mix, until a creamy paste forms.
- Apply to spots on carpet. Scrub and blot dry.
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July 12th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Whether she’s playing human-turned-beast Dana Barrett in Ghostbusters, primatologist Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist, badass commander Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise or Dr. Grace Augustine in Avatar, actress Sigourney Weaver leaves an indelible image on screen.
The lithe actress, still gorgeous at 60, has finished shooting the Touchstone Pictures comedy You Again, with Kristen Bell and Betty White. The film will open in September. Weaver is also rumored to reprise her role in Ghostbusters III, set for a 2012 release.
On a recent trip to Morocco, where she was honored at the Marrakech International Film Festival, Weaver fell in love with the country’s North African cuisine, which is infused with spices like cinnamon, cumin, ginger, fennel and turmeric.
For a taste of the region’s classic dishes, you can follow Weaver’s lead and serve up an organic Cinnamon Beef Tagine, accompanied by Orange and Radish Salad with Cinnamon Vinaigrette.
Read More:Hollywood Foodies: Sigourney Weaver
July 9th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
An all-natural sweetener, honey shouldn’t be limited to dessert recipes. As today’s recipe demonstrates, it works beautifully in salad dressings.
When shopping for honey, follow the same guidelines used for pure maple syrup: The lighter the color, the milder the flavor. And with more than 300 honey varieties available—from blueberry and buckwheat to orange blossom and wildflower—you’re sure to find a few favorites.
All of the salad’s ingredients should be available at a well-stocked natural and organic food store. Enjoy!
Citrus Salad with Avocado
Makes 6 servings
3 corn tortillas (6 inches wide)
1/3 cup 100% pure honey
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 avocado, sliced
- Preheat oven to 255°F.
- Slice tortillas into very thin strips. Dry strips by placing on a cookie sheet and baking for approximately 15 minutes. Set aside.
- Peel oranges and grapefruits. Section and seed them. Place in large bowl, and set aside.
- In small bowl, whisk together honey, raspberry vinegar, oil and salt. Pour over citrus sections, and toss gently.
- Top with avocado slices and tortilla strips.
Recipe and photo courtesy of the National Honey Board
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July 2nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Nix the burgers and hot dogs this Fourth of July in favor of today’s more healthful, bun-free option.
Hearty portabella mushrooms can stand up to the heat of the backyard grill. In this recipe, they’re artfully topped with a savory tomato blend and garnished with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese.
Prep time is 15 minutes, grilling time is 10 minutes, and all of the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked natural and organic food store.
Grilled Portabella Mushrooms
Makes 6 servings (1 mushroom each)
1 can (14.5 ounces) Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 package fresh basil, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
6 large portabella mushrooms, cleaned and stems trimmed
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (see note below)
Shredded Parmesan cheese
- Spray cold grill and utensils with cooking/grilling spray. Preheat grill to medium heat.
- Combine tomatoes, garlic and basil in medium bowl; blend well.
- Grill mushrooms, smooth side up, 5 minutes or until browned. Turn mushroom caps over.
- Spoon tomato mixture into mushroom caps. Sprinkle with nuts and cheese.
- Grill an additional 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.
Note: You can easily toast nuts on the grill. Spray a small, cold ovenproof skillet with cooking/grilling spray. Heat skillet; add nuts. Toss until nuts are golden brown. Remove from heat.
Recipe and photo courtesy of PAM Organic Cooking Spray
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June 25th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Butter beans belong to the same family as lima beans, but each variety is slightly different.
Like lima beans, butter beans are large and flat, but they’re distinguished by their white or yellow color. Traditional lima beans are also large, but they’re quite green. The smaller varieties are often labeled “baby limas.”
Today’s picnic-ready salad recipe is chockfull of butter beans, sun-dried tomatoes, red onions and ham. Mustard and cilantro complete the flavor profile, creating a side dish that’s terrifically tasty.
All of the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked natural and organic food store. If you have any trouble finding butter beans, you can easily substitute lima beans.
Butter Bean Salad
Makes 8 servings
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 can (15 ounces) butter beans, drained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red onions
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
6 ounces sliced ham, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Mix mustard, oil and lemon juice until well blended; set aside.
- Combine remaining ingredients in large bowl. Add mustard mixture; toss to coat. Cover.
- Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Grey Poupon
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June 24th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Summer is officially here, and there’s no better time for an organic picnic at your local park or beach.
Simple recipes are the way to go, but try to flex your culinary muscles by experimenting with new recipes and flavors to make casual alfresco dining a special experience. Try these new twists on old favorites:
And tune in tomorrow for a brand-new recipe for Butter Bean Salad.
Picnic Food Safety
The picnic experts at Grey Poupon remind consumers to follow these important safety tips:
- Prep Properly. Wash hands before preparing food, and make sure storage containers are clean. Cooked foods need to be properly cooled. Spread them out in as many pans as needed so food is no more than 2 inches deep. This allows food to cool faster, reducing the chances for bacterial growth.
- Cool It. Store perishable foods in plenty of coolers with ice or frozen cold packs. Keep the food at 40°F. A full cooler stays colder longer than a partially filled one. Transport your cooler in an air-conditioned car, and place it in a shady area when you reach your destination. Use separate coolers for drinks to avoid opening and closing the food cooler.
- Implement the 2-Hour Rule. Don’t leave perishable foods out for more than 2 hours. (Cold foods should not sit out for more than 1 hour.) Any leftovers that have been sitting out past this time should be discarded.
Read More:Perk Up Your Organic Picnic
June 18th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Treat Dad to a home-cooked Father’s Day brunch on Sunday.
Today’s frittata recipe will awaken everyone’s taste buds, with the richness of eggs and cheese plus the added kick of picante sauce.
Prep time is 20 minutes, bake time is 40 minutes, and all of the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked natural and organic food store.
Makes 6 servings (1 wedge each)
1/2 cup water
1 cup cooked regular long-grain white rice (see tip, below)
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 3/4 cup)
2 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup picante sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
3 Italian plum tomatoes, sliced
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Heat greased, oven-safe, 10-inch skillet in oven for 5 minutes.
- Beat eggs and water in large bowl with a fork or whisk. Stir in rice, feta cheese, Cheddar cheese, picante sauce, cilantro and oregano.
- Pour egg mixture into skillet. Arrange tomato slices on egg mixture.
- Bake for 40 minutes, or until eggs are set. Cut frittata into 6 wedges.
Tip: You can use any type of cooked (unseasoned) rice in this recipe. It’s a great way to use up leftovers.
Recipe and photo courtesy of Pace Foods
Read More:Tomato-Feta Frittata