NYC Dining: Eating Healthy at Le Pain Quotidien

September 27, 2008

Le Pain Quotidien
124 Seventh Avenue
between 17th & 18th streets

Other Locations: (Various)

Web Site: http://www.lepainquotidien.com/

Two weeks ago I was in the city during the evening for the PEPCOM Holiday Spectacular press event, which was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, on 17th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues.  I was hungry, and I knew that the show was going to be busy and serving lots of fried and carby appetizer-type crap I probably shouldn’t be eating. I also knew that I would be racing around like a lunatic taking photos and talking to PR people for two hours, so I should probably eat something before going in there.

Anyone who is familiar with the Chelsea neighborhood near the Metropolitan Pavilion will probably tell you its slim pickins in terms of good food choices. So I walked down to 7th avenue, looked around, and noticed this particular branch of Le Pain Quotidien. I’m not usually one to visit bakery type cafe restaurants these days — since I’m limiting my bread and carb intake, and there’s usually too much temptation to eat something I shouldn’t. But I was literally starving and it was better I ate there than eat what was likely awaiting me at the Pavilion, along with an open bar.

Le Pain Quotidien, NYC by you.

I had never been to a Le Pain Quotidien before, but I was hungry and intrigued, so I went in and had a look.

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NJ Dining: Su

August 1, 2008

Su Restaurant
The Marketplace Shopping Center
725 River Road, Edgewater NJ
(201)840-7988

Web Site: http://www.surestaurant.com/

The Record/Northjersey.com recently reviewed Su, a new Vegetarian restaurant in Edgewater, and gave it extremely favorable reviews (excellent). Rachel and I visited it several weeks ago, and enjoyed our experience greatly, so I thought I would share some of the photos of the restaurant’s food.

Su, Edgewater NJ by you.

Su storefront in Edgewater. Su is also in the same shopping plaza off River Road as Sushi Cruise, a new “Kaiten-style” sushi place.

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Re-engineering the Classics: Charlie Deal’s Kung Pao Chicken

May 3, 2008

I’ve been wanting to do a post series on re-doing classic dishes in a healthier way for some time now. To start it off, I thought nothing would be better than giving props to someone who I thought that nicely re-engineered one of my favorite Sichuan Chinese dishes, Kung Pao Chicken.

Charlie Deal’s Jujube Restauant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is known for its inventive Asian Fusion cuisine. The dish which struck me the most there was his Kung Pao, which is radically different and much more healthier than the one that is made in most Chinese restaurants, which typically has a great deal of oil and not really that much vegetable content in it, if at all. Most versions as served in the United States at Chinese-American restaurants just consist of Chicken, Peanuts, Hot Peppers, and maybe some chopped up celery as an accent flavor. In my opinion, the definitive version of the dish is published in Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land Of Plenty, which is one of the best and most authentic Sichuan cookbooks there is.

Here’s one of my favorite traditional versions, from Chengdu 1 restaurant in Cedar Grove, NJ:

IMG_7890

As you can see, it’s in a brown sauce, thickened with cornstarch, with basically no vegetable content in it other than water chestnuts and maybe some onion. It’s tasty, but not optimized for my current diet. It’s also heavily dependent on sopping the sauce up with rice, which leads to more carbyness ingestion.

Here’s another variation that I had at a Korean-Chinese place that I really enjoyed. Again tasty, but healthy, no.

Here’s another really good version of the classic at Mary Chung’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There’s no veggies in this at all. I can’t believe I used to eat like this all the time.

Here’s Charlie Deal’s version at Jujube Restaurant. The difference is dramatic — the vegetable to protein ratio is much higher, and he is using a lighter sauce, which is essentially just soy, Chinese Black Rice Vinegar (which gives the dish its amazing tang and brightness) and seasoned with Sichuan Peppercorns, a small amount of sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and dried Sichuan hot peppers. Another thing I like about this dish is that during dinnertime he does it in a completely vegetarian version using Soy chicken, which cuts down on the fat tremendously.

I loved this dish so much that I ate it on two of the three visits that I made to the restaurant so far. I also was determined to try to replicate it at home and make it part of our usual Asian stir fry night repertoire.

To make my version of this dish, you will need the following

8 oz “Soy Chicken” or Firm Tofu (that has had the water pressed out of it)
12 ounces Chicken Breast, cut up into small pieces (or omit to have completely vegetarian)
1 Bunch Scallions, chopped, whites and greens separated
1 large thumb Ginger, minced
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 small Napa Cabbage
1lb of Baby or Shanghai Bokchoys or one big regular Bokchoy, chopped, hard and leafy parts separated
8oz of Mungbean Sprouts
8oz of Snow Pea Pods
1 oz peanuts
1 Tbsp Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 Tbsp Sichuan Peppercorns
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
10-15 Dried Sichuan Red Chiles or any other small dried red chile
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Chinese Black Rice Vinegar (Chinkiang grade preferable)
White Pepper to taste

Want to learn how to make this great dish? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more..

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Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms a la NYT

March 19, 2008

When we were called and asked to prepare a dish for Kim Severson’s “Fat Pack” article in the New York Times that the photographer could watch me cook that very weekend, we took one look in the refrigerator and noticed we had a package of great, big, phallic King Oyster eryngii mushrooms, along with our usual staples of soy sauce, hot chile peppers and scallions.

“How about grilled King Oyster Mushrooms?” Rachel said to Phaedra, the NYT Dining Section photo editor.

“Great! We’ll be there Saturday morning at 9am”.

The resulting recipe that was used in my photo that accompanies the piece — which was originally intended to be published but ended up on the cutting room floor — pretty much came together last minute as the photographer was setting up. My idea was to replace the fattening butter yaki that typically is used as the prime flavor component of this dish with something more like a teriyaki sauce or a Korean BBQ marinade, but with an Awase Miso and fresh chili punch, and using a small amount of molasses instead of sugar.

Grilled King Oyster Mushrooms

1 bunch Scallions
2 tsp Awase Miso paste
1 tsp Ginger, grated
1 clove Garlic pureed
1 small Hot Red Pepper, minced
1/4 tsp White Pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp Molasses
2 Tbs Soy Sauce
1 Tbs Rice Vinegar
2 Tbs Chicken Broth (optional, use water if a vegetarian dish is desired)
1 tsp Roasted Sesame Oil
1 pound King Oyster Mushrooms
1/2 tsp Sesame Seeds

Clean scallions and separate the white part from the green. Slice the scallion greens and reserve for garnish. Mince the scallion whitesand put in a bowl with the miso paste, grated ginger, garlic, minced red pepper, white pepper, molasses, soy sauce, rice vinegar, broth or water, and sesame oil. Stir to combine.

Begin heating your grill pan or outdoor grill. Lightly spray the grate with cooking oil, or use a silicone basting brush to apply a scant amount of oil.

Slice the king oyster mushrooms lengthwise into 1/3 inch thick planks. Brush one side of each mushroom slice with the glaze as you place it, glaze side down, on the grill. Then brush the tops of all the slices. Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side, turning when the underside is well marked and basting to use up the glaze.

Serve hot or at room temperature, garnish with reserved scallion greens and sesame seeds. Serve with brown rice as a side dish (serves 4) or main course (serves 2). The leftovers are great sliced and added to a salad.


Soup, Glorious Soup: Part 2, Beans and Grains

March 17, 2008

In Part I of “Soup, Glorious Soup” Rachel presented a variety of recipes for lentil soup. Now, she’ll share some ideas for using other legumes and whole grains in soups.

Chunky Bean and Vegetable Soup

The first recipe is for split pea. Split pea soup has always been one of my favorites – I make a vegetarian version that you’d swear was cooked with a ham hock. And, contrary to popular belief, it’s hardly necessary to soak beans before cooking them, as you will see in the second recipe. I just simmer for an hour or so before adding the other soup ingredients and my mixed bean soup is perfectly tender. The third recipe below is for an addictive minestrone. Finally, I present Mushroom Barley. I brought this soup over to a friends house for part of a dinner we were making together. Jason’s friend went crazy over it, the wife has asked for the recipe for her mother – she said it tasted just like her grandma’s. Even the kids liked it, and it’s vegan!

If you don’t read the rest, there’s NO SOUP FOR YOU! Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Soup Glorious Soup: Part 1, The Pulse of Life (UPDATED)

March 16, 2008

Rachel has turned herself into a regular Soup Diva. Here’s the first in a series of articles about how to make some easy, healthy and nutrilicious soups. Take it away, Rachel.

Photo: French Lentil Soup.

In our Top 10 Lifestyle Changes list, we recommend adding beans and lentils (aka pulses to your diet. They are high in protein and fiber, while being low in fat. One of the primary ways we like to include legumes in our diet is in soups. Below are five lentil soup recipes. I didn’t even like lentils when we began all this healthy lifestyle stuff, back in October, but I’ve found many different varieties and recipes and have grown to love them.

In Part II, I’ll share some ideas for using other legumes and grains in soups.

Red Lentil Curry Soup

Soup’s on! Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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A NJ Benefit not to Miss with Great Food and Great Chefs!

March 14, 2008


The Big Salad

March 9, 2008

Julie: Please come, Elaine.

Elaine: No, no. How about if you bring me back something?

George: Sure, all right, what do you want?

Elaine: Um, hum, I don’t know.. . . A big salad?

George: What big salad? I’m going to the coffee shop.

Elaine: They have big salads.

George: I’ve never seen a big salad.

Elaine: They have a big salad.

George: Is that what I ask for? The BIG salad?

Elaine: It’s okay, you don’t…

George: No, no, Hey I’ll get it. What’s in the BIG salad?

Jerry: Big lettuce, big carrots, tomatoes like volleyballs.

George: You know, if it was a regular salad, I wouldn’t have said anything. But you had to have the BIIIIIG salad!


‘Shroom Insanity

December 30, 2007

I like mushrooms. A Lot.

I do know some people that hate mushrooms, I guess because of texture reasons. Some are legitimately allergic to them. But those of us that truly love mushrooms — that could eat obscene amounts of them in a single session — we’re a unique and proud bunch.

Mushrooms, those weird and wonderful fungi are not without their health benefits either. They’re very low in calories (as they are about 80 or 90 percent water) and high in fiber. They are naturally high in potassium as well as riboflavin and niacin, and especially high in selenium, a powerful antioxidant that is sort of a sidekick to Vitamin E that protects your body’s cells against free radicals which can cause cancer. Additionally, white button mushrooms, criminis and portabellas contain substances called aromatase inhibitors which prevent both prostate and breast cancer. Shiitakes contain Lentinan, which appears to stimulate the immune system and protects against flu and other infectious diseases, as well as suppress tumoral activity. Those of you that hate the ‘Shroom should take all of that under consideration.

In any case, health benefits aside, Rachel and I just love ‘Shrooms. So we were happy to find a dish out of the Reversing Diabetes Cookbook called Mushroom Madness that used a lot of them. We decided to improve this recipe a bit by amping up the Asian condiments and the garlic and ginger, and using even MORE mushrooms.

‘Shroom Insanity

2 Tbs. Soy Sauce, divided

1 tsp. of prepared Chinese Chili Paste

1 tsp. sesame oil

8 oz. of Pressed Tofu or “Soy Chicken” (or any Vegan meat substitute, such as Wheat Gluten), sliced

4 Cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 large thumb of Fresh Ginger, grated

6 cups sliced Mushrooms (We used Shiitakes, Enoki, King Oysters. But White Mushrooms, Portobella, Crimini, or any kind of edible mushroom in combination is good.)

1 bunch of green onions, whites and greens separated, chopped.

1 cup Bean Sprouts

1 can of water-packed Bamboo Shoot Tips, drained. If you can get fresh hearts of bamboo (like you can during the wintertime) even better.

6 Tbs. Broth (Chicken, Vegetable)

1 Tbs. Dry Sherry

1/2 Tbs. Oyster Sauce or Mushroom Oyster (Vegetarian) Sauce

1/2 Tbs. Hoisin Sauce

1/2 Tbs. Black Bean Sauce or Chinese Fermented Black Beans

1 tsp. Cornstarch

1 Tbs. Cold Water

Combine sesame oil, 1 tbs of Soy Sauce and chili paste in a container with a tight fitting lid. Add pressed tofu, shake evenly to coat. Marinate while preparing other ingredients (at least 10 minutes), shaking and inverting container 2 or 3 times. Remove tofu from marinade and drain.

Mix broth, sherry, 1 T of Soy Sauce, hoisin, oyster sauce and black bean paste in a small bowl and set aside. Mix cornstarch and water together in a small bowl.

Brush about 1 tsp sesame oil in hot wok (use a silicone basting brush, or use spray oil). Add scallion whites, cook until translucent. Add garlic and ginger. Add tofu, stir fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from wok.

Brush a little more oil on wok. Add mushrooms and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Pour in sherry/broth/condiment mixture, simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bean sprouts, bamboo shoots (unless they are the fresh ones, in which case, you should stir fry them with the ‘shrooms), cooked tofu, and most of the scallion greens, reserving some for garnish.

Pour cornstarch mixture into wok, stirring constantly until sauce has thickened.

Serve over brown rice and garnish with scallion greens, with steamed Chinese green vegetables on the side (Gai Lan, Choy Sum Chinese Bokchoy, Mustard Greens, etc) with a drizzle of Oyster Sauce.


The Wonderful World of Tofu

December 27, 2007

A Simple Stir-Fry of Seasoned Firm Pressed Tofu with Ground Chicken and Chopped Vegetables.

When one thinks of Vegetarian and Vegan cuisine, most carnivores immediately snicker and think of Tofu — those big tasteless blocks of soy protein. And knowing that I probably would now be eating a lot more of this stuff than I used to, I started researching what I could do to make this highly malleable and versatile ingredient into something tasty.

Tofu comes in a number of different forms — in its most unprocessed state, they are simply blocks of bean curd, which come in different firmness levels. Personally, I prefer to buy firm or extra firm tofu, because it can handle much more man-handling when cooking so it doesn’t completely fall apart. I also like to buy firm-pressed tofu that has been seasoned (usually with a Chinese five spice blend or smoked, giving it a flavor similar to ham) which I typically buy from Asian groceries. This is particularly useful in stir-fries where you want sort of a meaty texture to complement vegetables or small amounts of meat to be used as flavoring. A third form, and less known to Westerners, is dried bean curd skin. In Japanese cuisine this is known as Yuba. In its most unprocessed form, it comes as dried “sheets” which in turn can then be reconstituted to use as wrappers or even cut up as “noodles”.

Want to enter the wonderful world of Tofu? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.


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