Category Archives: healthy

Making Red Wine Vinegar


Red wine vinegar is one of my favorite pantry staples. Growing up, my mom often used a simple red wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette to dress our salads. This is usually how dinner would end- with a simple lettuce salad tossed with vinaigrette. I can’t say these were my favorite when I was young, but I quickly grew to appreciate the refreshing ritual of ending a meal this way. Plus, I fell totally in love with red wine vinegar.

When I moved out of the house, I soon began identifying as a “foodie.” This made me think that I had to buy my red wine vinegar at gourmet food stores. I generally don’t mind paying a little more for quality, especially if it’s something that will last a long time in my pantry and that we will enjoy many times. However, anytime there is something that I can DIY, I am all over it! Turns out, red wine vinegar is quite easy to make and the results of my first batch were wonderful.

It helped that, for my birthday, my parents gave me a beautiful vinegar crock from Clay Coyote. The crock is definitely useful, but you can make vinegar without buying a special vessel for it. A large glass ice tea jar covered with cheese cloth will probably work, as long as you keep it in a dark place.

My vinegar crock, lightly covered with cheesecloth

The crock came with a top that holds the cheesecloth down, and has a hole in the top to allow for airflow

In my research for how to make vinegar, I found a wonderful article from Sunset magazine that outlines the ingredients and steps for making red wine vinegar.

Really, there’s no reason for me to go through the steps here since you can just follow the guide provided by Sunset. I’ll just add this- once you get past the initial stage of starting your mother culture, you can be pretty lax about when to add more wine. Maybe that isn’t “good vinegar mothering” advice, but mine seems to be doing fine, even though I don’t necessarily add more wine every week. I follow the vinegar’s lead. If I can smell the vinegar while I’m washing dishes (the crock is right next to the kitchen sink), I know it’s time to add more wine (or ready to be bottled). Before bottling, I just taste to make sure it’s vinegary enough for me. Then, I boil some old vinegar bottles that I saved from store-bought vinegar, let them cool, and bottle my vinegar.

By the way, other reasons to make your own vinegar (other than it being really cool to DIY!) are the health benefits you get from the probiotics. Just like yogurt, unpasteurized vinegar has good bacteria in it. To read more about that, check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. It’s full of information on the benefits of fermented foods, plus tons of recipes.

Boiling bottles- the canning jar was a perfect fit for doing this.
Simple as that! We’ve been enjoying the vinegar for a few weeks and it’s fantastic.

Chicken Meatballs with Fettuccine and Tomato Sauce


For Christmas this year, I got treated to a kitchen gadget I’ve had my eye on for ages, but never pulled the trigger on….because I mean, who really needs a meat grinder? I would say this definitely falls on the “want” side of the spectrum rather than the “need,” but it’s still really cool! Plus, as we are seeing more and more news stories about food-born illnesses, my already crunchy-green-locavore-sustainable self is becoming even more cautious about where my food comes from. Especially meat. Even more especially ground meat. I always have to wonder what all is included in ground meat, and what bacteria might be lurking in there. My solution for the past few years has been to purchase my meat from local sources of grassfed beef. For a while, we were able to purchase beef from our CSA. At the time, we were using Eating with the Seasons. They had a deal with Paicines Ranch in Hollister and would deliver the beef in a cooler along with our veggies. This worked pretty well for us, but I found the quality and variety of veggies to be lacking, so we switched to our current CSA- Two Small Farms. They don’t offer meat delivery, but we’ve been very pleased with their veggies, so we’re sticking with them! Next season, starting in March, they are splitting back to their two original farms- Marquita Farms and High Ground Organics. I’m sure we wont be disappointed! Anyway, back to the meat. After Paicines Ranch, we started buying most of our beef from Prather Ranch, available at the Campbell Farmer’s Market, supplementing with grassfed beef from Whole Foods. The meat grinder doesn’t change where we will buy our meat from, but I may start buying more whole cuts of meat and grinding them myself. Even Whole Foods is not perfect and grinding the meat myself helps me to know exactly what went into my hamburger.

As far as chicken goes, Prather Ranch has whole roasting chickens, in season, although they often run out before I get to the farmer’s market. Mostly, we get Rosie Organic Chicken from Petaluma Poultry (through Whole Foods). That’s what we bought yesterday to try out my grinder! My new toy was super easy to use, and Trevor even said it was easy to clean. I think I see homemade bolognese in our future. Below, I’ve posted my recipe for the tomato sauce and for the chicken meatballs. Obviously, you can purchase already ground chicken for this recipe and they will turn out just fine. So if you don’t have a meat grinder, don’t fret…try it out!

Tomato Sauce:
Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 cans diced tomato sauce
  • 2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • dried oregano to taste
  • dried thyme to taste
  • salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pot and then add the onion.
  2. Once the onions begin to become translucent, add celery and carrots. Cook until they begin to soften.
  3. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Add spices. Allow to simmer for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Before serving, remove bay leaves. Season with salt just before serving.

Chicken Meatballs:
Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, cut into about 12 pieces.
  • 2 very cold chicken breasts, fat removed and cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • 5 Tbsp whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1-2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1-2 tsp kosher salt
  • Olive oil for cooking

Instructions:

  1. If using a meat grinder- set up grinder, turn Kitchen Aid to speed 4 and begin feeding pieces of chicken and onion. Use the provided plastic tool to push chicken down for grinding. If not using grinder, put ground chicken in a bowl and chop onion as finely as you can. Mix onion and chicken with your hands.
  2. Add egg and mix into chicken.
  3. Add breadcrumbs, oregano, thyme, garlic powder and salt. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
  4. Form meatballs and place them on a plate as you go to keep them from sticking together.
  5. Heat a heavy-bottom pan (I used a cast iron pan) to medium and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
  6. Place the meatballs on the pan, allow to brown on one side and use kitchen tongs to turn them.
  7. Once the meatballs are browned on all sides they are ready to serve. Remove from pan and serve with tomato sauce and pasta. Enjoy!




Paleo Meal


Before I jump into the foodie aspect of this dinner, let me preface with a little bit of background information. I learned about the Paleo Diet earlier this year from a friend and neighbor, Richard, who has experienced impressive weight loss and fitness success by revamping the way he thinks about food and eating. Richard writes a blog about his paleo lifestyle at http://freetheanimal.com/, which includes a nice balance of information from recently published research & position papers and personal experience in the form of recipes, progress photos, and emails from friends and family who’ve also experienced positive results.

For a complete overview of what paleo eating entails you really should check out Richard’s blog (nice overviews here & here), but I will do my best to give you a quick rundown. The basic premise is that, in the grand scheme of evolution, the amount of time that we’ve been agricultural people is about 2 seconds (approximation mine). This means that for the majority of human history, our ancestors have been hunters and gatherers. Things like grains, vegetable oils and processed sugars haven’t been available to us, and therefore we are not as well adapted to eating them. A paleo meal (also called “primitive”) usually consists of meat, vegetables, and some fruit (mostly fruits that would typically be gathered, like berries).

I know this sounds a lot like Atkins, but the focus is on eating real, unprocessed food, without counting carbs (or counting anything, for that matter). I find this all very interesting, especially given Richard’s results, and those of our good friends Kevin & Joseph after going paleo.

Recently, Richard has given me several flattering plugs on Free the Animal. Apparently, I’ve inspired him to focus more on food presentation and photography on his “food porn” posts (and his hard work is paying off, because the food looks great!). We decided to get together for dinner after our trip to France, and I knew that I wanted to cook Richard and his wife Bea a paleo dinner so that I’d be able to feature Free the Animal here.

Deciding on a menu took all week and a bit of research. I changed my mind several times, including the day before our dinner, when the beef I’d planned on making didn’t look as enticing as a beautiful fillet of halibut. But that’s how I decide what’s for dinner- pick what looks good at the farmer’s market/grocery store that day- so I’m used to last minute changes. Here’s what I ended up deciding on:

Chilled Tomato Soup with Basil-Infused Oil
~
Broiled Halibut Fillet with Parsley Lemon Butter
served with Pipérade
~
Paleo Raspberry Tart with Raw Whipped Cream

I was pleased with the results, and guessing from the reaction I received from Richard, Bea & Trevor, so were they. Below I’ll break down each component of the menu and provide recipes for your viewing (and perhaps testing/tasting pleasure).

Parsley Lemon Butter


Ingredients:
2 pints heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp creme fraiche
2 tsp cheese salt (optional)
1 cup parsley (washed & packed)
2-3 tbsp lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon

Directions:

  • For the cultured butter: Pour the cream into a clean, earthenware bowl. Add the creme fraiche and gently mix with a clean whisk. Allow the cream to sit overnight in a warm room (about 75 degrees). The next morning, the cream should have thickened slightly. Pour it into the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment. Turn the mixer on low and allow the cream to mix until the solids (butter) separate from the liquids (buttermilk). (I didn’t take any pictures of this part, but I’ll make more butter soon and post pictures). Pour the buttermilk into a jar and save it for another use. Add ice water into the bowl with the butter and turn the mixer back on low. Pour out the water (don’t save this time, just dump it out), and continue to “wash the butter” until the water runs clear. Once the water is clear, use the back of a wooden spoon to mix the butter by hand, trying to press out as much water as possible. Pour excess water out of the bowl. If you want to salt the butter, add the cheese salt now and mix it in. Congratulations! You’ve made butter!
  • Keep about half of the butter you’ve prepared for a different use. Put the other half in the bowl of a food processor (if you want to skip the whole “make your own butter step,” soften 1 cup of butter and use it as your base for parsley lemon butter).
  • Add the parsley and lemon zest to the butter. Turn the food processor on. While it’s running, add lemon juice in 1/2 tbsp increments. I recommend stopping the food processor a few times as you’re adding lemon juice to taste the butter. You may like more or less acid.
  • Transfer the parsley lemon butter to small ramekins, cover with wax paper and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. About an hour before you serve the butter, take it out of the fridge to soften.
Chilled Tomato Soup with Basil-Infused Oil

Part 1: Basil Oil


Ingredients:
2 cups basil (washed & packed)
1 cup olive oil

Directions:

  • In a small pot, bring a few cups of water to boil. Toss basil into the boiling water for 15-30 seconds to blanch.
  • Remove basil and pat dry with a paper towel. Coarsely chop basil.
  • Place basil and olive oil in a food processor.
  • Run food processor until basil is chopped and mixed with olive oil (this doesn’t take long, maybe 10-20 seconds).
  • Transfer oil to a small pot and heat over low heat for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove from stove and allow to cool for about an hour.
  • Place a piece of cheesecloth over a strainer. Strain basil leaves from oil and transfer resulting basil-infused oil to a jar or condiment bottle for storage.
  • Store oil in refrigerator until ready for needed.

Part 2: Chilled Tomato Soup (recipe from Alice Waters: Vegetables…one of my very favorite cookbooks!)


Ingredients:
4 pounds ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp salt
1 small cucumber (peeled, seeded and finely chopped)
2 stalks celery (finely chopped)
3 shallots (finely chopped)
White wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)

Directions:

  • Cut the tomatoes into quarters and toss with salt. Allow to sit and soften for about 30 minutes. While the tomatoes are softening, cover the shallots in vinegar and set aside.
  • Once soft, mash the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill to remove tomato skins (I used the largest setting of my food mill). You should obtain a thick tomato juice.
  • Stir diced shallots, cucumber and celery into tomato juice. Add salt and vinegar to taste.
  • Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Now for my variation: Just before serving, top soup with basil-infused oil and a little sprig of basil.
Broiled Fillet of Halibut with Parsley Lemon Butter, served with Pipérade


Part 1: Pipérade

Ingredients:
1 yellow onion (chopped)
2 green bell peppers (seeded, halved and sliced)
1 red bell pepper (seeded, halved and sliced)
1 orange bell pepper (seeded, halved and sliced)
6-8 sliced prosciutto (coarsely chopped)
8 medium tomatoes (peeled, seeded and coarsely diced)
Butter & Olive oil for pan
Salt, pepper and herbes de provence, to taste

Directions:

  • Heat a medium dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add prosciutto and cook for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove prosciutto and set aside. Melt butter and/or olive oil. Add onions and slowly cook for 8-10 minutes.
  • Add bell peppers and seasoning. Allow to slowly cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Just before serving, put prosciutto back into pipérade.
  • Serve alongside halibut. Leftovers are wonderful and are traditionally served with an egg or two, sunny side up.

Part 2: Broiled Fillet of Halibut with Parsley Lemon Butter

Ingredients:
1 fillet of halibut
parsley lemon butter
1 shallot (finely chopped)
1/2 cup fresh parsley (coarsely chopped)
Juice from 1 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Basil oil (or olive oil) to grease pan

Directions:

  • Place tin foil on a large rimmed cookie sheet. Grease foil with basil oil (or olive oil).
  • Carefully rinse and pat dry the halibut fillet. Place the fillet on the greased baking sheet.
  • Place pats of parsley lemon butter on top of halibut. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon juice, shallots and parsley.
  • Turn your oven’s broiler on the low setting and place the halibut in the top 1/3 of the oven (no need to preheat, the broiler becomes hot fast).
  • Broil the halibut for about 15 minutes (more or less depending on the size of the fillet…mine was about 2.5 pounds).
  • Remove from oven and serve with parsley lemon butter and pipérade.

Paleo Raspberry Tart with Raw Whipped Cream


Ingredients:
For paleo pastry crust:
3/4 cup dates (pitted and coarsely chopped)
3/4 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup almond meal
1 stick cold butter, diced
1/4 cup very cold water

For paleo raspberry jam (no sugar!):
12 oz frozen, unsweetened raspberries
1/4 cup honey
7-8 lemon seeds

For topping:
Raspberries
Raw cream

Directions:

  • For paleo pastry tart: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add first 4 ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Turn food processor on and slowly pour in cold water. The dough should come together, although it will be nearly impossible to roll out. Instead press the dough into a buttered tart pan. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes (but I recommend checking after 10 minutes, because the almond meal will have a tendency to burn if it bakes too long). Allow the crust to cool completely before using.
  • For paleo jam: Cut a small square of cheesecloth and a small piece of kitchen twine. In the center of the cheesecloth, place your lemon seeds. Then use the kitchen twine to tie the cheesecloth into a small bundle.* In a small pot, add the raspberries, honey and lemon seed bundle. Cook over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. You can test whether the jam is starting to come together by spooning a small amount onto a clean plate. The jam should move slowly when the plate is tipped to one side or the other. If you prefer less seeds in your jam, pass the jam through a food mill on the medium setting. Allow the jam to cool completely before using.
  • For the topping: Top crust with an even layer of raspberry jam. Then top with raspberries. If desired, whip up some homemade whipped cream in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, to make for a more decadent dessert. I used raw cream to keep the meal the least processed possible.

* Wondering what the lemon seeds are for? Lemons and apples are “high pectin” fruits and can be used when making jam to add a little natural fruit pectin boost. These methods have been used for jam-making for many years, in the days before you could buy nifty little boxes of pectin from the grocery store. For more info check here, or google it!

Kabocha Squash & Beer Soup


A little while back, we received a nice-looking Kabocha squash in our CSA box. If you’ve never had one of these hardy winter squashes before, you’re missing out! They look like a green, kind of ugly pumpkin on the outside. But when you cut it open, you get a smooth orange flesh that’s delicious when roasted, steamed, or cut into cubes and boiled. You can find them at most farmer’s markets or natural grocery stores during the late fall and winter seasons. My preferred preparation method is to cut the squash in half, place it open side down on a cookie sheet and bake it at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. Once the kabocha is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh with a spoon. You should get something like this:


I usually like to make soups with kabochas, because they have such a smooth flesh. Once roasted, the squash blends down to a bisque-like consistency, without the extra calories from heavy cream. With this particular soup, I decided to try something different- hence the beer component. My official taste tester called it, “the best kabocha squash soup I’ve ever had,” so I guess you could call that a “hit.”

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized kabocha squash
4 cups chicken broth (can substitute with veggie broth)
1/2 cup beer
1 tsp. ground cumin
leaves from 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and white pepper to taste
a few dollops of fromage blanc (can substitute with greek yogurt or sour cream)

Details:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, or a silicone mat. Cut the kabocha squash in half, scoop out seeds, and place (open-side down) on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the squash can easily be pierced by the tip of a knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Scoop out flesh from squash into a soup pot. Cover the squash with the chicken broth and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Blend the squash mixture with a hand blender until it is very smooth. If you don’t have a hand blender, use a food processor or regular blender, working in batches.
  3. Return the kabocha squash to the pot and add thyme leaves. Mix in beer and cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook soup on medium heat for 5 more minutes.
  4. Serve soup with a dollop of fromage blanc and a slice of crusty rustic bread.

Summer salsa with heirloom tomatoes and black beans

I’ve been reflecting on my past several posts recently, and I decided something. I need to incorporate some simpler recipes in fraises et tartines. I want this blog to be accessible to everyone without forcing my readers to be quite so “do it all yourself” as I am. This is just part of who I am. For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of creating everything my family and I need totally from scratch. One of my favorite books when I was young was My Side of the Mountain, a story of a boy who runs away from home and lives off the land in the Appalachians. You can probably guess that I also really enjoyed Little House on the Prairie. I can still remember when my class made butter, as an adjunct project to that book. It opened up a new world for me (“You can make your own butter!? That’s awesome!!). I wondered what other common grocery store staples I could make from scratch. Anyway, I digress…I just wanted to describe where I’m coming from while still recognizing that not everyone is like this. Many people just want to make a simple, tasty and healthy dinner for themselves or their family in as short a time as possible. That’s why shows like “Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals” are so popular. Many people don’t even want to do this, but force themselves to cook at home for health or financial reasons. So all this to say that I plan on including recipes of all ranges.

Now about this salsa. I recently started making salsa when friends come over because it’s super easy, quick, and a real crowd pleaser. The great thing about salsa is that you can adapt the recipe according to your taste and what you have at home. Here is what I used to turn my salsa
from this:to this: Well almost…the beans aren’t pictured in the first one, but you get the idea!

Here is the complete list of ingredients:
1 heirloom tomato
1/2 large bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1/2 c. black beans
1-3 hot peppers (the number of peppers you use depends on the hotness of the pepper you have, and your taste…if you have a habanero pepper you probably only want to use 1/2 of it, for example)
1 clove garlic
juice from 1 lime
salt to taste

Chop the tomato, bell pepper, onion, hot pepper and garlic into small chunks. Combine all of these ingredients except for the hot pepper in a bowl and stir in the black beans. Add the lime juice and salt. Then add small amounts of hot pepper at a time. Taste after each addition until you get your desired level of spice. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips and enjoy!

Oh, and by the way…this is also a local and seasonal recipe! All of the fresh ingredients (except maybe the lime) came from our farmer’s market, and the black beans came from Phipps Farm Store.