With Phantom of the Opera, Elvis Costello or Van Morrison in the background blaring from our BOSE Wave/CD you’ll find me cooking on a Saturday morning or Wednesday afternoon, the two days of the week I typically reserve for cooking healthy foods for my wife and friends. Since we have to eat something, we might as well make it a healthy meal. Favorites come from Cooking Light, Melissa Clark or Marsha Rose Shulman found in the New York Times, or The Skinnytaste Cookbook “light on calories, big on flavor”, or from recipe books purchased from countries we have visited like Morocco, Israel and Greece. A few years ago I decided to concentrate on a Middle Eastern foods: Lebanese. Israeli. Moroccan. Iranian. Spicy vegetable tagine with couscous or Za’atar roasted carrots with Labne. (Za’atar is a blend of ground sumac, sesame seeds, salt and ground Za’atar, whereas Labne is Greek yogurt drained of almost all of it’s liquid until very thick). Some days when bored at my last job, I used to search online for new recipes to try on the weekend. I found dinner recipes like feta stuffed red peppers with chickpeas and black beans, and a roasted squash and red onion gratin with quinoa, and for breakfast a nutty carrot flatbread. Yummy.
I enjoy food shopping too, squeezing the ends of melons and cantaloupes, comparison price shopping, sampling cheeses, fruits, crackers and salty snacks. I read the ingredients and try to limit my sweets knowing that sugar is still sugar whether it’s agave, rice syrup, cane sugar or honey. My wife buys Z-sweet (zero calorie sweetener); it’s ingredients say Erythritol, stevia Rebaudiana leaf extract, natural flavors. Each packet is equal to approximately two teaspoons of sugar and is a good substitute for the real thing with no calories.
Just today I cooked up “Irresistible Vegetable Medley” from Skinnytaste (broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, red onion, garlic, carrot roasted in the oven, with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese sprinkled on at the end). I also made the labor-intensive cauliflower crust pizza, a healthy alternative to the traditional pan pizza. My cauliflower pizza is as good as the original and since it’s “dough” is all cauliflower, it’s healthy. We both like it better than the commercial versions from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
Some families consist of all attorneys or all fireman, policemen or physicians. My family of origin not only savored good food and drink (like most others I would guess), but most of the males in my family and extended family, worked in businesses having to do with food and drink or mouthy professions. (I don’t know anyway else how to categorize it). My father was a small businessman who manufactured and blended snack foods and health foods. My Uncles Al and Marvin each owned a package store, and Uncle Alan (Marvin’s fraternal twin) ran a specialty meat market and package store. Cousins Ralph and Matthew sold liquor, whereas Uncle Gerry was a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer distributor, and then switched to selling cigarettes wholesale to American Indians. My brother Skip made a living as a litigator, and my cousin David is a dentist, as was my grandfather in Germany. One of David’s sons was planning to become a sports broadcaster, but didn’t follow through and became a financial analyst instead. I sometimes wonder if Leo Durocher, The American League player and manager nicknamed Leo the Lip might actually have been a cousin of mine, given our family’s penchant for mouthy professions.