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Abrazos! xox Penny

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Power of Great Design

Hmmm... I don't know why the header is pulling up "Saturday" because it is actually "Monday". Oh well, whether you are visiting on Meatless Monday just for today and one recipe, I am so glad to "see" you ! If you are here because you think our meeting "meatless" like this could turn into an every day of the week, every week of the month, life-long adventure, I am thrilled! I have gotten lots of questions about my new vegetarian eating plan and I am happy to share everything, starting with the first 2 things I had to learn, even for eating well on Meatless Mondays.

Most choose to become "(fill in the name it)" for very personal reasons. I had more than several and as I learn more, that list continues to grow. This decision was so right for me. I feel terrific and am having a blast. But, I do not like being proselytized...Talk to the hand!  And so, I am just going to share some tips so that if you do choose, even for a day, to go veg, that day will be a big building block in your overall health and will support your own personal journey. For more specific info, you can always email me. I love mail!

Here are the first two things I needed to learn:

Number 1: Time management

I was concerned I would be in the kitchen all day, which, hey, I would love but just isn't practical.  I do have a life. Clients to see and orders to fill. The great news is that I start dinner about 6:00 and eat about 30-45 minutes later. There are some recipes I make the night before (while cooking other things) so they can chill or whatever. But overall, the kitchen time is surprisingly breezy.

Number 2: Plate design.

Not this... (actually served in some restaurants as their meatless option! Talk about gag order...)

                                        Soggy Plate

But this....Here is a great visual "cheat sheet" for a balanced veggie meal that I got from a wellness group in New York. It takes all the guesswork out. No worries, no protein angst, just great eats:

Great design is everything in architecture, beauty, fashion and food....everything, and I eat first with my eyes. The good news is vegetarians work with a list of masterpieces. It isn't called the Plant Kingdom for nothing!!! There are a phenomenal number of beautiful foods to try out and what a joy to be exploring foods outside the "frequent 10". Most Americans cook and/or eat the same 10 foods over and over and over. Take a look at these beauties...and these are just a few of the veggie Kings and Queens! Legumes, fruits, grains...get in front of that camera! 

With that powerful, plant-rich plate in mind, here is a luscious salad made from the figs my neighbor brought over. Sweet and short-seasoned fresh figs are also available at farmers' markets and some regular grocery stores. The recipe is from my friend Stuart (not my pup!!) who is a chef on the West Coast. There are no exact measurements. Just remember the reduction will also be your salad dressing, and so add in vinegar, perhaps a smidge more butter, until it is the amount you need to dress your salad and taste to see if you need a little more honey to balance it out.

This is regal stuff, magnificently designed from the Plant Kingdom. Just add some fabulous whole grain crackers and you have a Power Plate! I served this with a gorgeous chilled beet soup, but in larger portions, it could be a light, stand alone meal.

Regal Fig Salad with Riccota Salata

Figs, destemmed and cut in half, lengthwise
Unsalted butter
Ricotta salata
Sherry vinegar
Toasted pistachios (I bought raw and toasted them)
Field greens

Remove stems from several figs and slice in half. Heat a small amount of butter in  skillet. When hot, add figs, cut side down and sear. Continue to cook until they are caramelized. Remove figs from butter and place on top of field greens. Grate or shave ricotta salata over warm figs.

To drippings in pan, add sherry vinegar and scrape pan to loosen up leftover caramelized bits. Stir in honey and pistachios. Spoon over warm figs and greens.

*Note: I did have to hunt some for the riccota salata and found it at small chain called Fresh Market. I think you could use any sheep's milk cheese or even a mild feta. The tanginess was the perfect playmate for the caramelized figs.

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