Thursday, September 8, 2011


definition: the act of renouncing: to formally declare one's abandonment of (a claim, right, or possession).
Have you ever thought: oh my god i need to go for a run otherwise i might get a muffin top and need new to buy new jeans, how embarrassing.
Try the Hunger Challenge (ahem starts this Sunday, September 11th. sign up for the hunger challenge HERE). I won’t even get into all of the good fortune that thought conveys. Psych: I will: 
1) the obvious: you’re well fed
2) you can afford running shoes, jeans, and new jeans
3) your schedule, stresses and lifestyle includes time to exercise and focus on your physical well being
4) you have time to focus on your physical appearance
I started my blog in order to increase awareness and support the SF Food Bank 2009 Hunger Challenge. It’s a week of eating/drinking on the same amount of money that people who require assistance from the SFFB and Food Stamps use.
I live for food. You know how some people think about what they want for dinner, right after lunch? or even breakfast? I’m days ahead.
 This has become increasingly more apparent since I’ve moved to Nicaragua and often need to plan in advance (sometimes by 2 weeks) to get groceries in a rural/island community. But this is not just for work:I can tell you right now that I have a Trader Joe’s Panang Tuna Tasty Bite and I am going to save until Sunday night so I don’t have to share it with my brother because he’ll be out of town (sorry, Mateo). 
gluttony knows no bounds:
 it takes 2 servers to bring out
a double order of our already huge nachos
(pictured: 1 lb. beef) to the bar
I waver. I volunteer with my community but I work in high end restaurants. I want to cook gastronomically but I also want to save the world. It’s a tough balance. I remember cooking at Google, with all of the included snacks, like Vitamin Water, Lara Bars, things that were free at work at we’d take advantage of (as in, take home), because, these treats were expensive, and, we deserve them ALL the time, not just during working hours, right? Eesh. But not everyone said this, anyway, I don’t remember one dishwasher I worked with sharing this thought with me. And FYI, there’s no limit to the type of people that Hunger affects:  kids, senior citizens, families; and one heartbreaking story after another affirms that there is such a thing as bad luck ((see: they should just... no, it's not that simple)). Not bad luck, like, 'oh, I'll take a staycation to save more money, or wait to get an iphone 4 because things are pretty tight...
So. Hunger Challenge (sign up for the hunger challenge HERE).Give it a shot, eh? What!!! No way. A whole week?! But I already have dinner plans on Tuesday! (Guess what, cancel them. Say no. Withhold. Besides the great conversation piece of, Oh, I can’t because I am on the Hunger Challenge, yada yada ... is the deeper, more influential feeling of having to say No to something that you want. Bienvenidos al Mundo Injusto!  Aha... awareness comes in...
Okay, I’m not convincing. And you don’t even live in San Francisco and don’t want to google your own city and participate in a local challenge.
how about ONE MEAL.
When I participated in the Hunger Challenge in 2009, the hardest part for me was being social on $4/day. September 17 is a nationwide awareness event that you can host in your own home- with friends! Show that slow food can be inexpensive, too; and sign up for the slow food $5 potluck challenge HERE
for yous guyz up for the challenge ( sign up for the hunger challenge HERE), here be:
my tips for the week:
Utilize legumes! (mix with grains: rice/bread/corn tortillas for a whole protein meal)
I am talking more than beans, here. I have nightmares reminding me of bloggers that forget to presoak the beans and end up without dinner... but what about others?
why? healthy, tasty, variety, inexpensive, and no need to pre-soak! can be cooked in under 30 minutes! Leftover legumes make great patties to fry up as you would a meatball! It’s less expensive to eat vegetarian, and these offer color, texture and variety.
* split pea soup with chopped ham
* garlicky green lentils with hardboiled egg
* golden lentils simmered with carrot and pepper chicken thighs (bone-in)
* PS: pinto beans are delicate and don’t need a presoak! Boil ‘em up!
I hope you eat pork! Sausage, bacon and ham are a great way to add a little flavor and protein to any meal. If you can swing it, poultry substitutes can have the same effect.
If you’re going to go the pasta/canned sauce route: here’s how to jazz it up and make it super tasty:
*in saute pan over medium heat, warm about 2 Tbs. of oil (any kind will do). 
*add 2 chopped garlic cloves, cook for about 30 seconds, then:
*add can of tomato sauce, stir and cook for about 1 minute
 *frying the sauce will help get rid of a tinny flavor and the garlic will punch out some freshness!

in general: cook in bulk, but not too much bulk. Say, no more than 2 meals worth of food at once. It's a great concept: BUT you are probably trying new recipes that you've never made and making weird modifications because of budget, and don't want to get stuck eating gluey potatoes for 4 days (or throwing them away at the end of the week when you go back to 'real life').
buena suerte, and let me know if you need an extra push or any advice!

Mark Bittman can do it. click here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

it's the time of the season

Like the rainstorms here, in Nicaragua, fruits of the season come in hard, fast, in overwhelming amounts, and then clear out.
 Fruit of the week: Sapote!

 not to be confused with Zapota, or Níspero, a common mistake (“anyone who's anyone can tell the difference, puh-lease!” she guffawed half-heartedly, her martini spilling as her shoulders moved up and down, “ha. ha. ha.” )
 The outside looks like a russet potato, but inside is bright orange, soft with a stone-fruit pit. The inside texture is often soft, like the Hachiya (bell shaped) persimmon, that you only want to eat when very soft to ensure the absence of astringent mouth feel. 
But, unlike the bell persimmon, have no fear in the fruit being slightly firm. I can’t think of another fruit that tastes so good and similar if firm or ripened. YUM. The taste is that of a fuyu (squatty) persimmon mixed with pumpkin. The locals here eat the fruit as a snack. The soft texture reminded me of Libby’s pumpkin purée, so I used the classic Libby’s recipe off the back of a can (well, the internet), and subbed in sapote- DELICIOUS. I’ve got a few Americans swearing it’s better than thanksgiving pumpkin pie. It’s also great because it is rainy, cooler and somewhat autumnal compared to other times of year in Nicaragua, which makes eating this fruit even more worthwhile.
Silvia humoring me for a photo
 I am also fortunate to work in a location with a garden the size of an Olympic sized swimming pool. Silvia and her team have worked with a Canadian organic farmer to train and learn about new products, but she’s got a natural green thumb. Being so rural, getting some fresh produce within walking distance is a great treat. 
oKra. no, no free cars
 Right now, the garden is full of okra, basil, dill, radishes, chiles, tomatillos, and more foods are sprouting up by the day. I give her seeds and pits from fruit we use to asembrar (plant) more. I use them in specials and encourage staff to use them in our employee meals, too. 

Speaking of which, let’s get real with our produce for a second. How do I get staff to eat it? For our staff meals, the best I can get on a plate for vegetables is boiled carrots or cabbage salad. Like, one tiny piece. 
 I want our staff meals to be more than filling, but hearty and healthy! I’ve got pie charts showing how much vegetable I want doled out on the plate, and our current staff meal menu now has tips on the bottom of each day, like: 
add radish to the cabbage salad! roast carrots in oven with a little oil, salt and pepper until caramelized, or add cilantro, lime and sour cream to the beets for a cold salad
dishwashers Katia and Frankie standing in front of the menu and pie charts:
one is for whiteys and one is for nationals (more rice and beans)
the slogan says: "don't be afraid to have more vegetables, they are good for your health"

lastly, one more fruit: with it’s durable, thick skin, passion fruit (calala) has a long season here. It’s also pretty well known, and may be available in foreign markets. It’s great for juice, but I’ve found it is quite tasty and popular as:
passion fruit dressing - try it at home!
*1 cup fresh passion fruit juice
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable or soybean oil
1 Tbs. dijon mustard
1 Tbs. chopped mint leaves
salt and pepper
*Make the juice by scooping the flesh and seeds of about 8 fruit into the blender, puréeing and straining, no water added.
Add juice and remaining ingredients back to clean blender and purée until smooth. 
server Maria with a tasty calala beet salad
This dressing goes well with so many salads, even the blue cheese and bacon in a classic Cobb, but I like mine with:
roasted beets
mixed greens
toasted walnuts
feta cheese and 
grilled shrimp

and if you dare, challenge me to sing it with the modified lyrics 
(with practiced hands
to show you how to paint 
and make lanyards...) 
neverforget*copyright B. Johnson 2001