Food Is Not Your Enemy

Winging It in the Kitchen
February 27, 2010, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Beans, Grains, Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: , ,

Last night chef Kim Pistone came over and gave my husband and I a lesson in how to cook without using a recipe. Sounds simple, perhaps, but we are recipe slaves in my house. The thought of just “whipping something up” has always instilled fear in me.

In preparation for her visit, Kim suggested I head to the Park Slope Food Co-Op and just buy whatever looked good, and pick up anything we’d been thinking about trying but just didn’t know how to deal with. Enter rutabagas, budock root, and fresh turmeric. Plus we loaded our cart with other winter veggies like celery root, carrots, and potatoes, as well as lacinato kale, artichokes, some diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, and vegetable broth. We dumped all this stuff as well as any grains and beans we could find in our pantry onto our kitchen counter, and waited for Kim to tell us what to do.

It took what seemed like 60 seconds for Kim to declare that we would make roasted artichokes, a potato/celery root/rutabaga gratin (with some romano, goat gouda, and cheddar we dug out of our cheese drawer), millet with fresh turmeric and grated burdock, Hoppin’ John with our half-bag of black-eyed peas, roasted winter veggie medley, and a pasta sauce made with tomatoes, cannellini beans, kale, onions, and bacon.

Within a couple of hours, all this food was steaming on our counter, and all of it delicious. Kim explained to us that it’s just a matter of getting comfortable with what goes with what, and using some basic techniques that we pretty much already know (sauteeing, blanching, etc.).

It all felt nice and free and easy, and the session gave me the confidence to try going recipe-less on my own next time. I know more than I realized about preparing food, and now I also know how to properly hold a knife, thanks to Kim’s quick knife-skills lesson.

In addition to providing expert cooking instruction, Kim is also a caterer (she was the executive chef of last year’s Brooklyn Food Conference). If you’d like to work with Kim, you can e-mail her at

What Self-Respecting New York Woman Cooks?
January 29, 2010, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Beans, Eggs, Fruits, Grains, Meat, Mushrooms, Vegetables | Tags: ,

Ten-hour days. Tiny kitchens. And I didn’t go to college to major in home economics, now did I?

When I was in high school and college, I had zero interest in cooking. I was going to be a career woman, not a housewife. Preparing food was something done by women with no ambition. So forget it.

Luckily for me, I married a man who loves to cook, and is great at it. Trout baked in parchment paper with julienned vegetables, veal osso buco, and authentic Hungarian goulash are regular fare in my home. My contributions in the kitchen were generally limited to post-meal clean-up. Until I decided, after 15 years of working in media, I wanted to become a holistic nutrition counselor.

If part of my new job was going to be teaching other people how to prepare healthy, simple meals at home, then, I reasoned, I better learn how to do it myself, and quick. I do have some fear around preparing meat (How do you really know when the steak is a perfect medium-rare? Or when the fish is cooked but not overdone?), so I decided I would start trying to cook some vegetarian meals, and leave the beef to my man.

I’m really good at following rules and directions. So I soon discovered that cookbooks work for me. Just do what the recipe says, and wow, cooked food! And now, after preparing hundreds of dishes at home, many of them truly great, I must say, I am a New York woman who cooks.

And I’m finding that I actually love it. I find it relaxing and meditative. I enjoy hearing my husband and two daughters say “Mmm!” after trying their first bite. And it feels good to know that I’m helping to nourish myself and my family with real, wholesome foods, not some salty soup dumped out of a can or a frozen dinner loaded with chemicals.

Home-cooked food is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. My early rebellion against the kitchen left me with stomach problems and low-level depression for years–I was relying on pre-prepared foods that were not making me feel good. Oh what a difference some sauteed fresh food makes.

To see some of my favorite recipes, click here.

Click here to find out how to take part in “Prevention not Prescriptions.”

Six Easy Ways to Go Veggie
January 12, 2010, 5:11 pm
Filed under: Meat, Recipes, Vegetables, weight loss | Tags: , , ,

I like this post from Dr. Andrew Weil about how to go about eating less meat. Like me, he doesn’t necessarily advocate going fully vegetarian, but eating meat/dairy less often is good for all of us–it helps you lose weight and lower your cholesterol and cancer risk, among other benefits.

I think many of us eat meat every day simply out of habit–we grew up with some kind of meat as the center of our dinner plate, and so we continue eating that way now. Getting out of that habit is simply a matter of trying things a new way. Once you see how satisfying a good vegetarian meal is, it’s easy to cut down on meat. Take it from a serious steak and burger fan like myself.

Click here to see some of my favorite vegetarian recipes.