Saturday, August 28, 2010

Watermelon Strawberry Smoothie

When I was studying in Aix-en-Provence, France, there was a little hole in the wall called Crepes a Go Go where I'd regularly stop to pick up my lunch, usually an egg and spinach filled crepe with a smoothie on the side. What I liked best about it was that I could choose the fruit and they would take my chosen fruits, a whole kiwi or pear or peach, and peel and cut it right in front of me before tossing the pieces together with some strawberries and ice into a blender. It didn't get fresher or tastier than that.

For some reason, it took me several years to make my own smoothies. I don't know why. They were easy to throw together and I'd seen it done a hundred times. But I guess it just wasn't part of my repertoire until I got together with my now-husband. He was a runner who made his own smoothies, and suddenly something clicked. I decided I'd make my own blended drinks too.

The usual was simply banana with a little yogurt, soy milk and honey (plus sometimes a spoonful of protein powder). But whenever there was some extra fruit lying around, into the blender it would go, along with a few ice cubes and juice too.

Now I deliberately buy more fruit than we can eat right away so I can blend the extra into a drink.

Watermelon Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Serves 2 adults or up to 4 children

1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen watermelon (watermelon cut into 1 inch pieces, then frozen)
 1 small banana
1 cup juice (any kind you like)
1 cup vanilla soy milk

Place all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. If mixture is too thick to blend, add a 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup more juice or soy milk.

Pour into glasses or cups and serve immediately

Friday, August 20, 2010

Egg-Free, Make that Dairy-Free and Fat-Free Too, Vegan Banana Ice Cream

Just as the chicken shit was hitting the fan and hundreds of millions of eggs were being recalled, I was playing around with an egg-free, fat-free, dairy-free "ice cream" recipe I had seen bouncing around the Internet for a while.

To be precise, I probably shouldn't call it a "recipe" because it's just one ingredient. But really, this frozen banana whip does taste like ice cream -- even my picky 7 year old thinks so.
The best part is that I haven't met a kid who doesn't like it and it's great for everyone -- meat eaters to vegans -- unless you're a banana hater. (Do they exist? Like unicorns, I've heard about them but come on ...)

No sugar is added, which is great for diabetics. Like most ice cream, it's wheat free, soy free and gluten free, so fine for celiacs. There is no cream or milk, thus no dairy for anybody who has a milk allergy or intolerance, and did I mention no fat? And there are no eggs, which is perfect right now, unless you WANT that side of salmonella with your dessert. All right, I concede that tomorrow, I'll probably use eggs in my next dessert. But I'll be checking the latest details on that growing egg recall first and making sure the dish is cooked fully.

Eggless Banana Ice Cream Recipe
Serves 4

4 to 5 ripe bananas, depending on size

1. Peel bananas, making sure to remove all strings. Cut into pieces (mine were from half inch to an inch), put them in a gallon-size freezer bag (or lay them on a layer of parchment on a cookie sheet or place in a non-stick 9 x 13 cake pan) and freeze the banana chunks at least an hour.

2. Put banana chunks into a food processor and whiz. At first the pieces will be rough chopped. Then they will be more finely chopped, and often resemble couscous. Keep processing (stop and scrape banana down from sides of processor as needed) and eventually the banana will become smooth and whipped, much like a soft serve ice cream or a churned ice cream that hasn't fully set.

That's it. Serve in a cone or in a bowl. You can top it with chocolate syrup, chopped peanuts or with hot fudge and whipped cream.

NOTE: The first time I made this, there was a distinct bitter aftertaste. When I made this again, it was fine. The second time I used organic bananas that were fully ripe (no green tinge, lots of brown freckling, but not black and mushy), and I was particularly careful not to allow the little strings to go in with the banana chunks.

Some people add a couple tablespoons of peanut butter to their banana ice cream. Some also like to make it chocolaty with a little cocoa powder. I personally think that Nutella would be fab.

Related: The Cornucopia Institute's Organic Egg Scorecard

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chinese Pulled Pork Sliders, or Non-traditional Gua Bao

Pork shoulder makes a great substitute for belly in this sandwich.

Until I learned about the Momofuku eateries in Manhattan and eponymous cookbook this year, I hadn't realized that Chinese pork sandwiches, a popular menu item, were so appreciated here in the states.
Momofuku's creator, Korean American chef David Chang, apparently knows a good thing when he tastes it and has shared his discovery.

Of course in my case, he would be preaching to the converted. Yesterday I was craving some Taiwanese gua bao, made of pork belly, pickled greens, a little crushed sugared peanuts and steamed buns, but around here there aren't any restaurants making that kind of food, traditionally served streetside from a cart. I have no better luck even finding a simple slab of pork belly. My supermarket never, I mean NEVER, carries slabs — just tiny packages of thin-sliced belly. But yesterday while I was picking up a few groceries, the packages of pork shoulder, my go-to economy cut, caught my eye. Hmmmm ... I love Taiwanese pork belly buns. I love Southern pulled pork.

At that moment I decided that Southerners don't have to be the only ones to claim pulled pork as their birthright. I would do a Chinese pulled pork shoulder as the filling for my homemade gua bao. For the braising liquid, I would go with something similar to the one for my soy sauce chicken.

I didn't have the pickled greens on hand, either. Tradition already out the window, I decided the shiso greens would have to stand in for the picked greens, or suan cai. It was a good choice. The shiso gave the sandwich a note of herbal freshness contrasting with the rich salty sweetness of the braising sauce. I had some honey roasted peanuts that I planned to crush and sprinkle on the meat, but ... ahem ... I mumble ate mumble them ... something happened to them while the pork was braising.

For the bun, I didn't have time or a steamer available to make my own from scratch, so I pulled a package of man tou from the freezer. My gua bao ended up being something like a Chinese pulled pork slider. I managed to take a picture just before I finished off the last one.

Chinese Pulled Pork Sandwich Recipe


1 1/2 cups low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 shallot, chopped
3 scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1-inch piece ginger root, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice

2 pound pork shoulder (aka butt roast)

1. Combine all ingredients except pork in a medium saucepan. Stir sauce over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then add the pork, turning to coat with sauce, and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, then cover and let simmer until pork is fall-from-the-bone tender, about 3 hours.

2. Allow to cool, covered, until pork can be handled.

3. Reserve one cup of braising liquid and bring it to a boil in pan until reduced to a thick, almost syrupy consistency. Meanwhile, pull pork meat apart and discard pieces of fat. Toss pulled pork with reduced sauce, and when ready, serve pork in a steamed bun (available in the freezer section of many Asian grocery stores), garnished with pickled greens or fresh greens, if you prefer.
If buns are unavailable, serve rice or noodles.
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