Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Introducing BigJeff, and recipe #1

This morning, after reading about the health difficulties of the food-obsessed in the New York Times article "The Fat Pack Wonders if the Party's Over," I thought of my brother, who I mentioned in my last post. We always talk about food, but the nature of our conversations had undergone a marked change in the last several months; now, instead of telling me where to find the best chicken wings or enthusing about the tripe tacos at Taqueria Coatzingo, he is debating the merits of macrobiotic restaurants and making recommendations for high-fiber cereals. Like Ed Levine and Jason Perlow, my brother is one who has seen the light, and his turnaround has definitely shown results. And since he's been sending me a bunch of great recipes lately, I thought it'd be cool if he started posting some of them up here. So here's BigJeff (who is not so big anymore)—say hi!

Hello all. Jealously observing the rise of S(cubed), I figured I'd piggyback with a series of recipes I've started writing down—all healthy, delicious, and kitchen-intensive (so you can still get that cooking fix).

Is this a big change for me, making healthy recipes? I've always loved food and cooking but after a ridiculously rich and hedonistic week spent in a cabin in California's wine country (where my friends and I cooked two huge meals a day, interspersed with Wii and a constant double Knob Creek and single rock), I came back to New York with an epiphany: I'm gonna die. Or at least die earlier if I continue with my food/alcohol-enthusiast lifestyle. I made a similar change about two years ago (my doctor's scary diagnosis of Syndrome X helped) but I got bored after four months and fell off the alfalfa sprout/tofu/sunflower seed/bulgur wheat wagon. This time, I knew it without anyone telling me (my friends were too polite to do that).
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Consider that I used to host "meatups" at my house where we'd roast twin orange-glazed pernils in the oven, serve six different kinds of satay, or do huge pots of confit or braised short ribs (whatever you do, don't trim the fat before browning!). One year, I made a ridiculous amount of Ming Tsai's delicious Soy Dijon Chicken Wings using 60 orders of Chinese takeout wings (240 wings total, folks). I've hosted DIY parties with full toppings and sides for both cheesesteaks and hot dogs (not at the same time), while Sunday brunches were full-on cooking demos. Christmas and Thanksgiving meals were always at least a dozen plates on the table (this past year, the mirepoix for my sausage stuffing was prepared with duck fat, and the whole thing was moistened with duck broth). And of course, this is just the food I cook so I'm not even gonna bother listing the stuff that other people cooked, although needless to say, all just as intense.

So with a deliberate change in my life (and no alcohol), I've simply converted my food style to one which is low in fat, high in fiber, heavy on the counter prep, and super tasty. I'm cooking just as much, if not more, but way healthier and still delicious. My sister mentioned the ten-grain "rice" that my dad makes, which is chock full of soy beans, lentils, barley, oats, mung beans, etc.; it goes great with the simple sautéed or roasted veg I usually eat. Salads have become full-on affairs, packed with crunch and taste while using minimally processed ingredients. Most of my meals consist of macro-style food groups (grains, legumes, simply cooked vegetables such as greens, cauliflower, or pumpkin). There's plenty of spice in the form of fresh chilis and herbs, while healthier food preps such as poaching, steaming, and roasting retain and intensify natural flavors.

The first recipe I want to share is typical of my style: clean out the crisper drawers and pantry and find some delicious goodies which, thankfully, make a great salad.
Fruit and Vegetable Salad
by BigJeff

2 Asian pears (julienned into 1/4" matchsticks)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
4 plum tomatoes (seeds removed, cut into long eighths)
2 cups snow peas (trimmed)
1 large beet (roasted for 40 minutes in foil, cooled and then julienned into 3/8" matchsticks)
3–4 jalapenos (keep the seeds and ribs, cut crosswise into circles)
1–2 carrots (shredded)
1 unripe green papaya (shredded with a mandoline)
1–2 stalks celery (cut into 3-inch long matchsticks)
1/2 head of red or savoy cabbage (shredded as if for slaw)
1 medium red onion (sliced into rings, as thin as possible)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
juice of 1–2 limes
1 tbsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste

Prep all the fruits and vegetables, toss with the wet ingredients, and serve. All ingredients and proportions are mere suggestions.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Big Jeff! Haven't seen you in ages but feel free to cook for me any time.