Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Supper

Summer Sky above Manhattan at dusk

I love the summer.  At this time of year more than any other, I want dinner that's quick and easy - and if I can avoid the stove top that's a plus too.  Today's recipe is Lemon Basil Monkfish with Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade.  (I was going to call it Debra Monkfish but that doesn't sound as appetizing. Not that I don't love Debra Monk.)

Les Ingredients

This one is super easy.

1/2 pound Monkfish per person
2 - 3 heaping tablespoons of Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade  (I bought the jar in a store - my mother believed if God put something in a jar the least you can do is use it)
3 - 4 tablespoons chopped garlic and scapes (if you have them)
1 tomato sliced
Lemon Zest
Lemon Basil (or regular basil if you can't find the lemon)
1/2 cup white wine

Line the bottom of a casserole dish with lemon basil, lemon slices and tomato slices.  I schmear the fish top and bottom with the tapenade, salt and pepper.  Place the fish on top of that and top with garlic, lemon zest and scapes.  A little extra salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the wine in making sure not to wash off the mixture from the fish.  Roast in the oven at 450 degrees for 16 minutes.

Watch the Yankees game while fish roasts

Have your dog watch the game with you

When the fish is done pour the white wine mixture into a sautee pan along with some of the garlic and tapenade.  Whisk over low heat. Pour over the monkfish.

Dinner is served!  This recipe also works well with Mahi Mahi, too!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Verdict is in . . .

Crisis Averted - Salvaged Salmon - the freezing trick worked!

Bulletin from the Skinny Gourmet Guy test kitchens: If you get carried away as I did with the wet ingredients when preparing Salmon Sliders merely freeze them overnight.  Seven hours or so before cooking, transfer the frozen slider to the fridge.  An hour before cooking I put the slider on the counter - and soon found that I should put it back in the freezer, which I did.  They really do defrost quickly.

Easy Dinner

When you prepare and freeze Salmon or Tuna Sliders in advance you have an easy dinner ahead.  Just add frozen peas, cherry tomatoes and fresh garlic and you've got dinner.  Not to mention inexpensive.  I made three Salmon Sliders from a pound of Scottish Salmon which cost $12.  So, that's $4 a slider.  The price of the frozen peas, etc. is negligible - the frozen peas are less than $2 per package and I only used a portion.  The cherry tomatoes were $1.99 per package.  And the cloves of garlic cost pennies.  You can cook dinner in less than 5 minutes.  The Tuna was a bit more expensive - $15 for the pound I purchased - but still I got 3 Sliders out of it, so that's $5 a slider.  (Skinny and a whiz at math!!!)  There's a scoop of lentil salad on the plate as well - the container was $5.99 at Citarella.

The Salmon Slider cooked very quickly - two minutes on each side

I have already waxed poetic about my beloved cast iron skillet because I was afraid the Slider would crumble over the ridges that give those wonderful grill marks.  So, in this case I used my flat pan with the non-stick coating.  It's from Le Creuset.  This brand is a tad expensive but you're getting quality.  The Slider stayed intact and I still got a nice charring. 

I'll continue to post any missteps in the kitchen, gentle readers - and hopefully have the satisfying outcome as I did last night.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Disaster Strikes . . .

Happier times - Tuna Sliders on Sunday night

Things went really well with the Tuna Sliders on Sunday, but things went south when I tried to make Salmon Sliders on Monday night.

I couldn't wait to try making Chef Bobo's Tuna Sliders (see blog entree on June 24th).  I bought some wonderful, ruby red tuna at the farmer's market across from Lincoln Center on Saturday.  I bought about a pound.

The Ruby Red tuna was so beautiful it broke my heart to cut it into chunks -
Tuna is much meatier than Salmon

I opted for the version with cilantro and lime juice.  I added a touch of cilantro and had some fresh lemon basil so I tossed some in as well.  Per Chef's instructions, I formed the sliders and chilled for the afternoon.  For the last hour I put the patties into the freezer.  It worked like a charm.  Tuna is so substantial that it was easy to put them in slider form.  They were so red they almost looked like hamburger sliders.

I cooked the tuna on the cast iron skillet for two minutes per side.  I sauteed frozen spinach (that I defrosted) in olive oil with fresh chopped garlic

It was such a success I couldn't wait to try it with Salmon.

You can see that the Salmon  isn't as substantial as the Tuna - so far less wet ingredients should be added and you should only pulse briefly in the food processor

I followed the same routine - but if you'll notice,
I put too many wet ingredients in and ended up with mush

I managed to get the mixture into the shape of sliders and put in the freezer overnight

The Tuna Sliders were so juicy and delicious -
hopefully the Salmon Sliders will work out in the end

Stay tuned to see how this one plays out.  After freezing the Salmon Sliders overnight I will transfer to them to the fridge for a few hours to defrost and then try cooking them.  (Salmon defrosts very quickly.) I'll post the results tomorrow.  Wish me luck!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Perfect Juicer

I like my juicer because it's easy to use

There's nothing like fresh squeezed juice.  It costs a fortune to buy it - but if you squeeze the juice yourself it's much less expensive. My juicer cost $22.  Ruby red grapefuit are sold 5 for $3.00 - and two grapefruit usually produce one large glass of juice.  And when you buy "fresh squeezed" juice it usually contains preservatives, so it's not as healthy as juice squeezed right in front of you (or by you).

The trick is to have a juicer that's easy to use.

Easy as 1 - 2 - 3

Forget about those fancy juicers with multiple attachments.  Others can be a real pain to clean.  You want it to be quick and easy or you're not going to use it.  My juicer, a Cuisinart CCJ-100, has a level that catches the juice and the reamer on top of it.  They remove very easily and clean up takes no time flat.  This model also has an auto reverse engine so you're able to get more juice out of even the tiniest limes.  When a recipe calls for lemon juice I use the juicer - that way you don't have to pick out the seeds when you squeeze lemons directly into the dish you're making.

Don't put your citrus in the refridgerator

Another good tip is to store your fruit in a bowl on a counter - when you put fruit in the refridgerator they don't yield as much juice.  Just buy enough for the next day or two so you don't have to worry about the fruit spoiling.  You should store your tomatoes this way too (though grape and cherry tomatoes can go in the fridge).

I like my juice to be cold so after squeezing I cover the glass with Cling Wrap and put it in the fridge. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Guest Gourmand

Tuna Slider with breaded panko

Today's Guest Gourmand is my friend Chef Bobo (aka Robert Surles).  He is the Executive Chef and Food Services Director at the Calhoon School in Manattan's Upper West Side.  We met in Spin Class at the Y and soon discovered we are both foodies.

When Chris Walsh asked me if I wanted to be a guest gourmand in his blog and contribute a recipe, of course I did – thought he wouldn’t ask.  You see he writes about food for skinny people or for people who want to be skinny.  As I reminded him, I’m not skinny!  Never have been.  I weighed 11 ½ pounds when I was born!  But I do know how to cook healthy, low calorie meals that taste delicious.  And I have a feeling that is what he really wants!  While I don’t really consider Chris a skinny guy he does practice a rigorous routine that keeps him very lean.
 One Saturday while visiting the farmer’s market at Lincoln Square, I went to the fish monger to buy fish for dinner that evening.  They had some beautiful small chunks of blood red tuna that sounded a bell in my head, “tuna burger sliders for the skinnies!”  So I bought some of the small chunks along with a couple of nice tuna steaks for dinner that night.  So, after my Thursday midday Spin Class (it was a rainy, humid miserable day to be outdoors) I decided to have some fun with my tuna sliders!  I had frozen the extra pieces of tuna that I bought on Saturday because I wasn’t sure when I would be getting around to making the sliders.  But on Thursday morning I when I saw the weather, I thought, “this is the day to play around with tuna sliders!” So I took them out of the freezer to let them thaw until I got home from the gym.  When I got home they were perfect. Still ice cold but not frozen hard.  So, I got everything out to have some fun.  I already had everything that I imagined would make these little hockey pucks taste good when I was fantasizing about them.  I had a lot of fun and here are the results of my afternoon playtime.

The ingredients
Tuna Burger Sliders
10 oz                Fresh Raw Tuna  about 1” thick
½ tsp                Grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp                Grated fresh garlic
½ tsp                Grated onion
½ tsp                Wasabi paste (you buy this in tubes)
 Pinch              Ground Cumin
½ tsp                Sea Salt
1 tbs                Soy Sauce
¼ tsp                Sesame Oil
                        Freshly Ground Black Pepper (I like lots of it)
1 tsp                Olive Oil
Whole Wheat Slider Buns

Optional Ingredients
1 tsp                Chopped Cilantro
1 tsp                Mayonnaise
¼ tsp                Sriracha
½                     Avocado
½                     Lime
Tomato Slices
Onion Slices
1 tbs                Panko Crumbs
Baby Lettuce Leaves and/or Sprigs of Fresh Cilantro

“Banh mi” dressing made with Mayo and Sriracha

Sriracha is made from sun ripen chilies which are ground into a smooth paste along with garlic and packaged in a convenient squeeze bottle

1.      Dry the tuna with paper towels. If not already done, cut tuna steaks into 1” cubes.  Tuna should be cold so that you don’t have to add egg to hold it together in patties after it has been chopped.  Put the tuna cubes in a food processor and pulse it on “chop” a few times.  Watch it very carefully, you don’t want a paste.  I stopped pulsing when the tuna was broken down into about ¼” – ½” chunks.  Remove tuna from food processor and put into a glass bowl.  Refrigerate until tuna is well chilled

2.      Prepare the seasonings for the slider patties:  Grate the ginger, onion and garlic, measure out the wasabi paste, combine the soy sauce and sesame oil, combine the cumin and salt.
3.      When the tuna is chilled, remove from the refrigerator and add all the seasonings (ginger, onion, garlic, wasabi paste, soy sauce, sesame salt, cumin and salt.)  Grind the black pepper over the tuna – put in as much as you want.  Mix the tuna and seasonings together with your hands until well combined.  If you are a sushi eater you can taste the mixture to see if you need a little more of this or that.  Shape the tuna into 4 patties, 2.5 ounces each.  Once again, put them in the refrigerator to chill.  They can hold like this for a few hours if you want, just cover them with some plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.
4.      On the stove, at high heat, get an 8” skillet, with a nonstick surface, very hot. 
5.      Remove the tuna patties from the refrigerator.  Add the olive oil to the pan and roll the oil around to make sure it covers most of the pan’s surface.
6.      Add one patty to the pan.  You’ll hear it sizzle (like a hamburger!) and it’ll smoke a little. Turn the heat down to medium high and let the tuna patty cook until it is opaque half way up the side.  At that point turn it to cook on the other side.  If you want the tuna medium rare leave it in the pan a very short period of time (1 minute) and remove. If you want it cooked a little more you can leave it for about 2 minutes. You can cook up to two patties at a time like this without interfering with the heat of the pan.
7.      At this point your burgers are done and you can do what you want from here!

Here’s some things I tried with my 4 tuna patties.
1.      I cooked the first patty in the olive oil, simple with no added ingredients .  I left it medium rare. It colored beautifully and actually looked like a beef burger slider.
2.      For the second patty I rolled it in Japanese panko crumbs and it fried in the olive oil. You can’t cook the breaded patty medium rare like because you want the panko crumbs to become golden and crisp.  It does make for a nice crisp surface for the tuna burger.
3.      For the third burger, I chopped up some cilantro and worked it into the patty with a little squirt of lime juice.  I then cooked it the same way I did  the first patty.  I have to admit, this one was my favorite of the 4.
4.      For the fourth patty, I cleaned the pan of all traces of oil and seared the patty on a dry pan.  It didn’t stick and it cooked nicely, but it had less color than the other 3 patties.  Since the flesh was seared on a dry pan the slider had the taste of having been grilled.
I have to admit I ate two of them with buns even though I was quite full after eating only one.  For both, I made a “banh mi” dressing using 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise and a healthy squirt of sriracha sauce. 

The first one, the one with the chopped cilantro, I dressed just like I would a hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion and the banh mi sauce.  I had caperberries and smoked pickled okra on the side, instead of pickles.  It was so satisfying and quite filling. And sooo good! Great flavors going on in this slider.
For the second slider, the one with the panko crumbs, I dressed it with sliced avocado (bathed in lime juice) and onion, and a nice sprig of cilantro, along with the banh mi sauce. This was over the top delicious! Next time I’d add some chopped jalapeno to the tuna patty and mix some ancho chili powder with the panko crumbs.  It would be a sort of Mexican Style Tuna Slider!
These nice little sliders are perfect for a “skinny” meal.  You certainly don’t need ketchup or French fries with these.  The nutritional balance of the meal includes 2.5 ounces of low fat tuna, fresh veggie garnishes and a whole grain roll.  Have a piece of fruit afterwards and you will have eaten a perfect meal, very much consistent with the Mediterranean diet.

Since you are making 4 patties with this recipe, go ahead and cook all 4 and freeze the ones you don’t eat.  I wouldn’t freeze them raw because when frozen fish thaws it has an awful lot of water that needs to be soaked up and I fear the patties won’t hold together.
Now if all the trendy people could see you eating your Tuna Burger Slider, they would be so envious!  You see, sliders happen to be very “in” right now!  You see them on menus in a lot of restaurants!  I’m having lots of clients ask for them when I cater an event. 
Today's Guest Gourmand Chef Bobo

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What's for Breakfast?

Fresh Fruit and Cereal are great for breakfast

Sure, Eggs Benedict taste great - but do you really want to start the day with a meal that's close to 1,000 calories, half of which are calories from fat?  It used to be thought that eating a hardy breakfast will steel you for the day and you'll eat less because of it.  But recent studies have shown that most people will eat as they normally would for the remainder of the day even if they have a huge breakfast.

I try to hold off on having breakfast until a bit later in the morning.  I try to grab a banana on the way to be gym, and end up having lunch at around 11 AM during the week - and not until 1 or 2 o'clock on the weekends.

At this time of year, fresh fruit is at its best.  So take a pass on the pancakes and waffles and try a low sugar cereal - Cheerios have 2 grams of sugar.  Be careful and read the labels because sugar can be hiding in cereals you would think are good for you.  Raisin Bran has 30 grams of sugar!  One bowl is close to 300 calories compared to 140 for Cheerios.  Oatmeal is great too - I microwave the milk separately and add it to the oatmeal.  Then I microwave the two together.  I add raisins and fruit after the microwaving.  Use raisins in your cold cereal too - they're naturally sweet.

I score a banana on the way to the gym in the morning

What's not to like?  Fruit is at its best at this time of year.
Fresh Strawberries and juicy Peaches featured here

On the weekends I splurge sugar-wise and have Quaker Oatmeal Squares
They have 9 grams of sugar - there are 250 carloies for a bowl with skim milk

Always opt for skim milk - why get your calories (and fat) from liquids?

Breakfast of Champions

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

After Theater Supper

Taking prepared foods and adding your own touches
makes for a quick and easy dinner - after theater or when you don't feel like cooking

Dressing up prepared food so it's more of a meal - rather than just a boring bowl of turkey chili - makes for a satisfying, quick and easy meal.  I like to add frozen peas, scallions and cherry tomatoes.  A squeeze of lemon and it's dinner.

First, I put turkey chili that I get at Citarella in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes.  A half a container of the turkey chili is enough for me - especially when I add tons of peas on top.  After I add the layer of frozen peas I microwave the chili and peas for another minute.  Since microwaves vary be sure to taste to be sure it's done to your liking.  When it's done garnish with chopped scallions and cherry tomatoes.  Squeeze some lemon juice and top with red pepper flakes and sea salt.

Do the math: a half a container of turkey chili (one container is $4.99), a package of frozen peas is under $2 and the garnish costs pennies.  Dinner for under $5 - much easier on the wallet and the waist line than burgers at Joe Allen after the show!

Easy as 1 - 2 -3

Just garnish and you're done

As you can see by the Playbill, I saw The Normal Heart on Broadway last night.  When I got home after the show, I settled down in front of the TV with my Chili and Peas, to watch The Good Wife.  Two of the actors in the play - Mark Harelik and John Benjamin Hickey - were guest stars on the show.  One of those "only in New York" moments!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Photo of the Day

My Dog Hubbell

Introducing Hubbell!  Hubbell is a bichon frise.  I rescued him from the NY Humane Society in 2005.  He was five months old and they thought he was a gift to a family who shouldn't have a dog.  Their loss was my gain.  Hubbs is a big guy - he tips the scales at 20 plus lbs.  I would wonder if he were a mix, but he came with papers.  A lot of his ancestors were named Napoleon!  Fortunately, Hubbell doesn't have a Napoleonic complex.  He's a wonderful little guy.

If you're looking for a dog I hope you'll consider adopting from a shelter.  There are many great rescue organizations but today I'll highlight the New York Humane Society.  Here's their website:

Me and My Shadow

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekday Lunch

Soup & Salad - My Weekday Lunch

I work in Midtown NYC and lunch can be an expensive.  It's also easy to grab a burger and fries or other high fat temptations.  Salad bars can be pricey and offer high fat ingredients like crumbled blue cheese, bacon and artery clogging dressings.

A few years ago I started to buy all of the ingredients for a gigantic salad that I can graze on all afternoon.  I have a  mini fridge under my desk so storing the ingredients isn't a problem.  Not only do I save money, but the salads are delicious and healthy.  I don't buy the high fat choices so they're not even an option.  For variety I have a different soup on the side every day.   I figure you can eat all of the salad you want - so long as the dressing and ingredients are low fat and healthy.  I use the old reliable EVOO and some type of vinegar for dressing.  Be sure to read labels.  I really love Ken's Dressing but a two tablespoon serving contains 150 calories and 2.5 grams of saturated fat along with some other not-so-good ingredients like MSG.

Healthy Ingredients

Shopping List

One Package pre-cleaned salad
One Package Baby Carrots
One Container Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
One English Cucumber
One Container Pitted Kalamata Olives
One Container Dried Cranberries
One Red Onion
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
Sprinkling of Sea Salt (I don't use pepper on salads)

The salad is very easy to prepared - just toss a good handful of the already cleaned salad (Red & Green, Spring Mix - there are lots of options) in a big bowl.  Halve the tomotoes and carrots, chop the cucumber and onion, sprinkle the dried cranberries and olives.  Top with EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar (though Red Wine Vinegar is a nice option, too) and toss.

For the soup, I purchase ready made soups at Citarella's. I only buy the vegetarian varieties such as Lentil, gazpacho or Split Pea. They're delicious, and I usually squeeze fresh lemon on them and sprinkle with sea salt. One container costs $4.99.  I split them in half so one container is good for two lunches.  Future posts will feature recipes for healthy soups if you'd rather not buy the store prepared -though Citarella's does a pretty good job!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend NYC

Manhattan Theater Club's revival of Terrence McNally's Master Class

The always watchable Tyne Daly (yes, that's Tyne above - can you believe it?) is starring in the MTC revival of Terrence McNally's masterpiece Master Class.  The original production, seen on Broadway in 1995, starred Zoe Caldwell and Audra McDonald, both of whom took home Tony Awards for their leading and supporting performances respectively.  While the original was directed by Broadway and Off Broadway stalwart Leonard Foglia, this production is helmed by Stephen Wadsworth, best known for his work in the opera world.

Count on Daly to dig her chops into the role of the legendary, imperious, controversial and delicious diva Maria Callas.  Now in previews at the Samuel Friedman theater, this limited run production, which had a run at the Kennedy Center earlier this year, opens on July 7th and closes August 14th.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Snack Time!

Pop Chips have helped me kick the Potato Chip habit

Hi: My name is Chris and I'm a potato chip-aholic.  It's been a year since I had my last chip.

It started out small - just a handful here and there.  But soon I found myself coming home from work and ripping through an entire large bag.  What's worse is that it was mindless - I would graze on them and not pay any particular attention to what I was doing.

Snack Time Don't

Salt & Vinegar were my favorites.  But a large bag contains 6 servings.  Each serving has 150 calories, 80 of which are from fat.  Each serving has 2 grams of Saturated Fat.  Do the math: one large bag has 900 calories, 480 of which are from fat - that's 12 grams of Saturated Fat.  Medical, heart health, and government authorities advise that Saturated Fat is a risk factor in cariovascular disease.

Snack Time Do

On the other hand, a one ounce serving of Pop Chips has 100 calories, of which only 25 are from fat.  They have zero Saturated Fat.  They crunch just like potato chips.  My favorite is the Barbeque Potato - but they have a bunch of other flavors, including Cheddar, Sour Cream and Onion and, yes ladies and gentlemen, Sea Salt & Vinegar!  They come in large and small bags, but I prefer the small bags - for portion control - so I don't go back to my habit of getting carried away and eating an entire large bag (though it's still better than eating an entire large bag of my old Utz favorites).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


My yoga instructor Jason Amis - and yes, the clock says 6:30 AM!

Making exercise a part of your daily routine will send you on the road to skinny-ness. (Or keep you skinny.)  Some people may say that my schedule is a bit extreme, so we might as well start with my Wednesday plan. 

My alarm goes off at 5 AM.  I walk the dog, have a cup of coffee, hopefully pass a street vendor and get a banana on the way to the Y, and take yoga at 6:30 AM.  Jason teaches - he's a great guy, but he really kicks your ass.  You'd think he'd have a heart at 6:30 in the morning, but he doesn't.  He calls the class power yoga and he's not kidding.

As those of you who take yoga know, you work on keeping a smile on your face and relax through your practice, even as you are in poses that can be pretty excruciating.  (To quote Peter Pan: "Think happy thoughts!)  You remove yourself from the pain and try to get to a place where you are in your own world and not focusing on your discomfort.  I try to apply this to all of my exercising, and taking classes first thing in the morning helps - I don't really fully wake up until I'm in the pool at the end of the work out.

After yoga I take a spin class.  Again, the lights are out, the music is blaring, I've got my eyes closed, and I visualize being outside - on a beach, or riding my bike down a curving mountain path.  It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining, and I'm in La La Land.  Before I know it we're doing stretches and the class is over.

I wear a heart rate monitor so I can see if I'm working hard enough.  I love the feature that calculates how many calories you've burned at the end of your session.  This morning I burned 487 calories in the 45 minute class (I don't wear the monitor during yoga).

When I waited until after work to go to the gym I skipped the my work outs fairly often.  It's too easy to come up with an excuse not to work out and suddenly you realize it's been six weeks since you've been to the gym and you wonder why your clothes are starting to feel a bit tight.  I like to take classes, too, rather than do my own thing.  There's a nice sense of community and when you miss a class, your instructor and probably a few of the students will call or email to ask if you're OK.  You feel guilty when you miss a class.

At the end of every workout is dessert: sauna, steam and a dip in the pool.  There is a small pool at the Y that is absolutely heaven on earth.  There are hand-painted tiles, stained glass windows and the temperature is kept at 90 degrees.  It's great for stretching after gruelling power yoga!

Here's the crew from Wednesday morning spin, taught by Linda Schmidt (center in fusia and black & white stripes).  Linda is the perfect teacher for a post yoga spin class - she's calm and soothing and doesn't destroy my yoga buzz!

I sneak into the small pool as the senior's arthritis class is wrapping up.