Category Archives: September 2011

Meatless Monday: Slow Food $5 Challenge, Autumn Succotash

I love challenges and paying bargain prices for nice looking veggies. If you’re not that familiar with seasonal produce shopping, then friends let me introduce you to my little friend: the fine art of buying the freshest, nicest looking and great tasting vegetables (and cheaply) from your local farm supply.
Steps to figuring out what’s cheap or what’s on sale: 

1. What’s on sale at the big commercial supermarket (though they most likely do carry seasonal items) is not always what’s in season. Just because something’s on sale doesn’t mean it’s in season. The key word you’re looking for is local. Look around you. Don’t be shy if you don’t know. Ask a few older folks — they’ve likely been around the block longer than you and might just know a thing or two about the region.

2. Looking on the web doesn’t hurt. Search the key words: “Farm”, “farmer’s market”, plus (+) your zip code and see what pops up.

3. Last but not least, visit websites like this one (,, where we list what’s local and in season right now, and tell you how to cook up the recipes!

I am very lucky to live nearby a little forest of local Farms (not literal, just describing here folks). At De Piero’s farm in Montvale New Jersey, they grow their own varieties of heirloom tomatoes that just left us recently. If you haven’t been following my farmer posts and where to buy what, check out my heirloom tomato article here.

Right now is the beginning of the Fall Harvest Season. The last “pick your own” farm I visited had ripened pumpkins ready to be ransacked by herds of mommies and their kids. I was very much tempted at grabbing them right then and there, but thought to leave room for the upcoming weeks of cooking, so I left the pumpkins alone. I went there to nab some of the local apples (which are also very much in season right now). I picked my golden, delicious gala apples two weeks ago and managed to cook off a beautifully fragrant apple butter.

This week I’m writing about my $5 Slow Food Challenge. At De Piero’s, I found one of my favorite fall/winter vegetables: Butternut Squash, boys and girls, and for only $.79/pound! I was ecstatic. The sight of the sale-sign (much like the time I found zucchini flowers) and fact that they were local and ripe for the cooking had me planning my meal before I had even picked out the produce. I also managed to pick me up a cute little orange tagine clay pot-cooker-serving piece. Clearly the meal was shapping up.

I found zucchini and squash, too (fortunately, since supplies are limited at this time of year), a beefsteak tomato and fresh cranberry beans. I looked at my little shopper’s basket and visualized a fragrant succotash in my orange tagine, brewing up in my kitchen, its sweet aromas filling up the air, luring little children from the backyard to come back into the house and eat their vegetables. Ok, so maybe there weren’t any children involved, but you get the point — I couldn’t wait to get cooking. So I rushed home that afternoon and made my stirred up  Autumn Succotash.

It’s seasonal, it’s sustainable, and the best part of it is that it cost me just about $5.00 to create a beautiful, bountiful fall harvest dish (that DEFINITELY serves more than one person). I’d eat this any day of the week, whether in September, October, November or December, and certainly before any fast food value meal that would cost me more money and health.

So go on, taste the season, and for 5 bucks only.

Succulent Autumn Succotash Recipe:
Yields 2 servings


1 butternut squash, diced
1 zucchini, sliced with mandolin
2 yellow squash, sliced with mandolin
1 eggplant
2 cloves garlic
1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
1/2 cup fresh cranberry beans
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

In a tagine, place slices of tomato on the bottom. Add diced butternut squash with cranberry beans. Place sliced zucchini and squash on top. Drizzle olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Simmer on the stove top for about an hour stirring occasionally.

Uncover and enjoy!

Here’s the break down of the food cost for this recipe:
Butternut Squash (in season right now in the NE Coast $1.71 @ .79/pound)
1 Zucchini and 1 Yellow Squash ($1.74 @ 2.99/pound)
2 Garlic Cloves (pennies)
4 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (pennies)
1 Beefsteak Tomato ($.98 @ $2.49/pound)
½ cup fresh cranberry beans ($1.15/3.99/pound)
Grand total: $5.58/ dinner for 2=$2.79/person!

You can include bread in your shopping trip if you’re dining as a pair and that would bring the grand total to less than $5.00/person for the $5 Slow Food Challenge!


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Filed under Hot on the Blog, Meatless Mondays, Rina's Food2 recipes, September 2011, Slow Food Challenge, Uncategorized

Meatless Monday: Mixed Vegetable Medley

Here’s an easy and quick way to enjoy your summer vegetables all year long. Eat it as a side dish, or stuff your sandwich bread and pack it as a weekday lunch for the office. Don’t worry if you’re not yet a cooking expert — this recipe is so easy that even the most amateur cooks will come out looking like a pro.

Mixed Vegetable Medley
Yields 4-6 servings 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ yellow onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 Japanese eggplants, peeled and sliced (lengthwise)
½ head red cabbage, sliced (lengthwise)
2 roma tomatoes, sliced into 8 parts
½ cup fresh perilla leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent for about three minutes. Add eggplant and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes. Stir in cabbage and continue cooking for an additional 10-15 minutes then add tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in perilla leaves and cook until they are wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Cooking tip: season with salt and pepper every step of the way to extract the flavors of each vegetable as it cooks!

Total cooking time 30 minutes.

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Filed under Food2, Meatless Mondays, Rina's Food2 recipes, September 2011

Meatless Monday: Vegetable Bibimbap with Jujube and Ginseng Hot Chili Sauce

Bibimbap is a signature Korean comfort food. The word directly translates as “mixed meal.” I rummaged through my fridge and found all sorts of vegetables and herbs, and thought about making a quick and easy version here.

I went to a local market and found American ginseng over the weekend. Ginseng is used as a natural remedy to help boost the immune system and lower blood pressure. It’s a bit on the bitter side, so mix it into sauces or use as an aromatic in brasing liquids. I paired it here with Korean jujubes, persimmon vinegar (another great find) and gochujang (Korean fermented red chilli paste), and it was amazing.

Vegetable Bibimbap with Jujube and Ginseng Hot Chilli Sauce

For the sauce
2 tablespoons persimmon or apple vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginseng
2 jujubes, chopped
1 cup cooked medium grain rice (sticky rice)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 California carrots, julienned
1 zucchini, julienned
1 cup daikon radish, julienne
1 cup hydrated shitake mushrooms, julienned
1 cup assorted peppers, julienned
1 egg, cooked sunnyside up (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium non-stick skillet, add a tablespoon of oil and sauté vegetables starting with zucchini (least pungent) on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until tender. Repeat steps for carrots, shitake mushrooms and peppers. Daikon is served raw (but you can cook them if you wish).

In a big bowl, place rice in center with vegetables surrounding it. Serve it with an egg or you may substitute it with tofu or any other legume. Mung bean sprouts are excellent also! 

Mix hot chilli sauce to desired level of spiciness and enjoy!

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Filed under Food2, Korean Food at Home, Meatless Mondays, Rina's Food2 recipes, September 2011, Uncategorized

Tequila Tasting: Two Tequila Cocktails, with Class

Last Thursday night I went to Irving Plaza for a 901 sponsored FreeSol concert. I got a glimpse of Justin Timberlake and watched the band rock out Irving Plaza. I sampled a few tequila drinks before and during the show. And after tasting the natural sweetness blue weber agave affords a margarita at the Sidebar, I sat down with 901 Tequila president Kevin Ruder to pick his brain about this new silver spirit.

I asked Kevin if he’s visited Mexico with Justin Timberlake and if they’ve had a chance to meet the agave growers. Surprisingly they’ve visited Mexico several times, tasting various versions of the distilled agave before developing a unique flavor for 901. Check out JT’s trip here. Tequila has always been JT’s favorite drink so naturally he opted to create his own when he couldn’t find a favorite after trying at least 300 varieties.

901 is a triple distilled spirit that deserved a little extraordinary attention. I first tried this tequila in a classic margarita. Then I tried it straight up in a shooter glass. My first pour was smooth and clear. It left lovely fruit notes lingering on my taste buds.

I took the muddled strawberry concept to the next level thinking about how much I dislike a watered-down version of the original cocktail (halfway through, when the ice starts to melt). So I opted to blend my fruit, and then turned it all into strawberry ice cubes. Next, I mixed the rest of the ingredients, which include home made sparkling lemonade (thanks to my new SodaStream machine), 901 tequilla. And then finally, I garnished the finished product with fresh basil and voila! a drink that only gets better the longer it sits.

Strawberry Rock recipe:

1 pound of strawberries
½ cup water
1 liter of home made sparkling lemonade
6 ounces of tequila
basil as garnish

In a blender, pulse strawberries with a few tablespoons of water at a time until mixture is smooth and creamy. Strain. Transfer mixture into ice cube trays and allow to freeze overnight.

Pour tequila and sparkling lemonade into a rocks glass. Stir. Add strawberry ice cube and garnish with basil. Allow cocktail to sit for a few minutes until ice starts to melt to fully enjoy the flavors of this drink. An occasional stir will enhance the flavor.

Next, I took the strawberry cocktail to the next level. This version I devoted to all you gastronomic geeks out there (I’m one of them!). I used lime instead of lemons, clarified it with some agar to make it crystal clear without losing any flavor.

A straight up version of strawberry purée didn’t work the first time around. It was too acidic and too thick, so I watered it down using a ratio of 1/3 water to strawberries, and then added balsamic vinegar and honey to sweeten it up. You can also use simple syrup, or even better, just more tequila.

To that mix I added xanthan gum and calcium gluconate. I waited a day, and then dropped the happy mixture into a sodium alginate bath, rinsed the pebbles in a water bath and finally they were immersed into the cocktail!

My mission was to create a unique and subtle cocktail that looks nice and is fun and exciting to drink. So there you have it: my Strawberry Bomb cocktail made with tequila, clarified lime juice, home made carbonated water, simple syrup, and faux caviar strawberries with balsamic vinegar. Next time you’re entertaining at home, whip this out and you’ll be sure to get some brownie points from your buddies. Enjoy!

Strawberry Bomb recipe:

For the reverse spherification, I went online and used Bob Stanton’s recipe.

For the lime clarification, I used Dave Arnold’s Agar Clarification Made Stupid-Simple technique found here.

1 pound fresh strawberries, blended, strained
½ cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon calcium gluconate
2 teaspoons sodium alginate and 500ml water (about two cups)
500ml water for water bath
12 limes, juiced and clarified with 1 teaspoon of agar (about 1.5 cups of clarified lime juice)
½ cup simple syrup
1 liter carbonated water
6 ounces of tequila
2 bunches of basil

Other tools and gadgets recommended
Plastic tube bottle or syringe
Mixing bowls
Small saucepan to boil agar solution

In a blender, pulse strawberries with water, balsamic vinegar, honey, xanthan gum and calcium gluconate for about a minute. Strain and pour into a squeeze tube bottle and refrigerate overnight.

Juice limes, strain. Boil 1/3 of liquid about 250ml (1 cup) with agar on the stovetop.

Mix with refrigerated agar to bring to room temp. Place over an ice bath and allow agar to jelly up. Break agar curds with a spatula. Place over strainer with cheesecloth beneath and gently massage mixture. Your resulting liquid should be crystal clear. Add simple syrup to the clarified lime juice. Carbonate water, add lime syrup.

Whisk in sodium alginate with water, strain and allow to sit for about 30 minutes. Drop strawberry liquid into sodium alginate bath. Allow to sit for about 2 minutes, transfer to water bath using a slotted spoon. In a martini shaker, pour 1 ½ ounces tequila, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 1/2 ounces carbonated water and 1 ounce of simple syrup. Shake in martini shaker with ice. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out strawberry caviar and place into drink.

Pour into martini glass. Add strawberry balsamic caviar. Garnish with basil, and enjoy!.

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Filed under Food2, Hot on the Blog, Molecular Gastronomy, September 2011, Special Events, Uncategorized

Meatless Monday: Roasted Purple Potatoes and Heirloom Grape Tomatoes

Purple potatoes taste delicious, come packed with antioxidants, and are reputed to help lower your blood pressure. I found these at a local farmer’s market and couldn’t resist bringing them home to try and taste for the first time. Pairing them with little heirlooms and seasoning them with olive oil, garlic, rosemary and thyme, proved a fantastic (and yummy) way to savor some of the season’s best produce.

Recipe: Rina Oh

Roasted Purple Potato with Heirloom Grape Tomatoes 

1 pound purple potatoes
1 pound fingerling potatoes
2 sprigs rosemary
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
6 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
kosher salt

1. Par-boil purple potatoes with fingerlings in salted boiling water. Add rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, garlic and peppercorns, and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, strain and peel while potatoes are still warm/hot. Then slice purple potatoes in half lengthwise.

2. In a baking sheet, drizzle olive oil and place potatoes on top. Top potatoes with remaining olive oil and season with salt, pepper and sage. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes turning the potatoes about half way through.

3. Slice grape tomatoes in half, drizzle with olive oil, add salt, pepper and combine in a bowl with potatoes!

4. Devour.

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Filed under Food2, Meatless Mondays, Rina's Food2 recipes, September 2011

National 901 Day: Get Your Tequila On!

Tequila cocktail recipe coming right up - above: the ingredients.

Today is National 901 Day (That’s 901 tequila day!) And in celebration of 901, there will be a free concert at Irving Plaza performed by the band FreeSol co-hosted by 901 President Kevin Ruderand CEO and founder Justin Timberlake. We’re celebrating the arrival of the premium tequila made with 100% blue weber agave, water and yeast. Over 500 accounts across the US are offering drink specials all night. I’ll be personally attending the FreeSol concert tonight which starts at 9:01pm. That’s right, 9. 0. 1. pm. I also managed to get my hands on a bottle of the silver tequila in the meantime to conjure up my own version of the premium blue weber.
If you’re out and about in NYC today, stop by for a free concert at Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place and East 15th Street in Union Square, New York, NY. I suggest getting there a bit early as this is a free concert and it’s first come first serve type of deal.

And if you’re out and about anywhere else in the US, drink specials featuring 901 Tequila will be available at the following venues (just to name a few!):

Tico – Boston
Cutting Room – LA
Spanish Kitchen – LA
Pink Taco – LA
Ed’s Lobster Bar – NY
SideBAR – NY
Southern Hospitality – NY
Masa Azul – Chicago
Depot Nuevo – Chicago
Justine’s – Austin
All House of Blues nationwide

In the meantime here is my buffet of ingredients. Tequila, strawberries, lemons, limes, ginger, basil, simple syrup, and a few magic potions to make an interesting & adventurous cocktail recipe… Stay tuned for some high tech home made cocktails coming your way!

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Filed under Food2, Hot on the Blog, Molecular Gastronomy, September 2011, Special Events