G.T.’s Kombucha Delivers Grape Glee

IMG_9343In my early twenties as I stepped onto my personal journey through the alternative healing modalities, I heard about a beautiful woman who made miraculous tea from a mushroom in her kitchen. I sought her out and would spend the next two years of my life visiting her monthly in the afternoons to gain wisdom, an education in various systems of spirituality and a nice glass of the most, sparkling and effervescent kombucha.

Sanandra owned a company called Sea Chi Organics. She would raise batches of kombucha culture in her tiny condo kitchen, tending over her brood like true earth mother, and then funnel the life-affirming juices into bottles for the local health food restaurants and stores. She would also put the juice into creams for the skin, and proudly spoke of the way her creams had healed skin conditions in people who had all but given up hope.

The first time I tried kombucha while we were sitting on her living room floor pulling tarot cards and sniffing essential oils, I felt like I had snorted a shot of Vitamin B to the skull only better. Energized and tingling for the rest of the afternoon, I knew I had found a lifelong elixir.

Fast-forward to today and kombucha has become a household name. Just visit any Whole Foods refrigeration aisle and you will see shelves devoted to bottle of kombucha from a myriad of companies in flavored with everything from fruit to coconut to chai. After moving from the desert to Los Angeles where I was privileged enough to enjoy Sea Chi’s version regularly, I was grateful to know that I could still drink my favorite probiotic and antioxidant serum on a regular basis.

After trying my share of brands, I have settled on the company G.T.’s as my favorite. Not only do I like the company’s story of a young man named Dave bottling kombucha in his home as a teenager after seeing it heal his mom of breast cancer, I also like that it is a local company. I always prefer sourcing and consuming locally so as not to expend unreasonable resources. I also like that they offer a classic, stronger kombucha tea and a lighter line. Their flavors are bountiful and range from multi-green to gingerade to original to citrus and more.

But my favorite thing about this company is that they have a line of kombuchas stuffed with chia seeds. Aside from kombucha, chia is my next favorite health additive. Chia acts like a sponge going through the intestines, absorbing all the crap that lines our colons and injecting our bodies with Omega 3s. The chia varieties are super fun to drink and my favorite is the Grape Chia which tastes exactly like the super sweet, beloved Welch’s grape juice of my childhood without the processed sugars. The ingredient list states: raw kombucha, raw chia seeds, Concord grape juice and 100% pure love. Can’t get any better than that.

Off the Beet(en) Path

IMG_9337It has been about six years since I really started to take food seriously as both a diner and a cook. In that time, I am afraid I have turned into a bit of a snob. I am the girl who shows up to a girl’s weekend with my own fruits and vegetables for the pantry so that I am not forced to eat the packaged goods on site. Or the one who brings side dishes to a non-potluck dinner party so I am assured food that will taste good because I made it. Or the lady who does not do lunch because I am not a dame who can sit around and gossip over artisanal salads, preferring to spend my food budget on new and exciting top chefs in diverse kitchens. Holidays and social occasions that cannot be avoided, which revolve around food, consist of me grazing the crudite platter), waiting for the moment later when I might get home to some real food. I simply enjoy food so much now that I don’t want to waste calories eating things that don’t titillate me to my core and if I have tried it before, chances are I don’t need to try it again. For even if I love a dish, there are so many other dishes to try in my lifetime why bother repeating something I have already had? For the record, I am not one to watch movies more than once either, even if I adore them, because there isn’t enough time as it is on this planet to see everything I wish to.

So when there is an ingredient that I really love I am faced with the perpetual challenge of continually finding new ways to work with it. Beets are a prime example. I love them, and like everyone else in the 1990s, saw them exhausted within a sea of goat cheese and pinola salads prior to becoming one of those over-roasted and wilted tubers glazed in balsamic and sea salt on many a tapas menu in the 2000s. A few years back, while still single, I ashamedly and lazily spent many a dinner hour spooning pre-cooked beets whole from the laminated Trader Joe’s packages in the ready-made deli section into my mouth on the couch with some wine. Because of this, I had recently all but deleted them from my repertoire until I got a hankering for them last weekend after a particularly grueling hike. I didn’t want to just boil and chop and serve in one of the pre-mentioned applications so I scoured Food and Wine magazine’s archives for a twist on the beet-cheese-appetizer combo.

I was delighted by what I found—a starter on multigrain toast that made white flour bread bruschettas pale in comparison. The heartier loaf held up to the infamous, staining and sopping beet juice. The pre-glazing of the boiled beets prior to piling them underneath creamy burrata added a rich and tangy, buttery flavor to the bite that pulled everything together. Eaten as a yummy beginning to an afternoon long feast that included marinated tomato bibb salad and yogurt marinated lamb chops, these beets proved that everything can be improved upon in perpetuity with a little ingenuity and thinking out of the ordinary box.

Glazed Beet and Burrata Toasts
3 beets (about 3/4 pound total)
4 thyme sprigs
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 rosemary sprig
Salt
Twelve 4-by-2-inch slices of dense whole-grain bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted
1/2 pound burrata cheese, cut into 12 pieces
12 small watercress sprigs
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Flaky salt, such as Maldon, for garnish

In a medium saucepan, cover the beets with cold water. Add the thyme sprigs, black peppercorns and red wine vinegar and bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, until the beets are tender, about 45 minutes, replenishing the water if necessary. Drain the beets, then peel and cut them into 1/4-inch dice.

Return the diced beets to the saucepan. Add the sherry vinegar, sugar, rosemary sprig and 1/4 cup of water and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat until a syrupy glaze forms, about 12 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprig and season the beets with salt.

Top each whole-grain toast with a spoonful of the glazed beets, a piece of burrata and a sprig of watercress. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, garnish with the flaky salt and serve.

NOTE: I didn’t have sherry vinegar so ended up using white wine vinegar. I also substituted gray sea salt for the more expensive Maldon.

 

A Smoothie a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

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The smoothie has come a long way since it first hit the trendiness scale in the late 1980s. I remember the day when my stepfather brought home a fancy schmancy blender and started making us the newfangled and so-called “healthy milkshakes” involving frozen bananas, real vanilla ice cream and high caloric protein powders for dessert or before we would hit the treadmill post-homework in our equally trendy home gym. The fad lasted for about a month before the blender ended up gathering dust in the cabinet above the fridge like many other good intentions in our household.

Nowadays, the smoothie has morphed into its new incarnation as a truly healthy way to disguise and suck down super foods daily, super foods having become the craze of my generation. We want to eat our kale and chia seeds, we just don’t want to taste them. Therefore we have created yet another way to hide the vitamins in something that tastes good in order to ingest them in the amounts we are told we need them.

A day does not go by in my household where I don’t fire up the Nutribullet early morn with its cup stuffed to the brim with ingredients designed to keep me well, glowing and vibrant. Because it can get a little boring to have the same old smoothie, or variations thereof 365 days a year, I am always on the lookout for new recipes. My neighbor recently went to New Zealand and found a little gem of a shake from a street corner vendor that we both swear actually does taste like an oatmeal cookie. I spiffed it up with some organic maca and pumpkin puree for the holidays to make it my own.

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NEW ZEALAND NUTTY

1/2 frozen banana
1/2 frozen pear
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. organic maca powder
1-1/2 cup almond milk
1 tbs. soaked chia seeds
Handful raw walnuts
Cinnamon to sprinkle on top

Put everything except for the cinnamon in a blender and blend. Pour into a glass and sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Foodies in Love

IMG_8273This elegant little block of tofu doused with a perfect amount of soy and striped with tender piles of meticulously placed chives represents the Cute Gardener. He is neat, ordered, minimal and aesthetically clean.

IMG_8274This chaotic bowl of ramen with awkwardly large noodles trying to elbow for room amongst the greens and wobbly eggs punctuated by strands of fatty pork represents me. I am messy, cluttered, rich and juicy.

Together these dishes make one of our favorite at home meals – food being the common denominator in our sea of differences that have always fueled our relationship with curiosity, wonder and mutual adventure. As we celebrate our third anniversary I thought I would pay homage to some of the best things I’ve learned or come to understand about our foodie life together.

  1. The CG will never share my love of white foods, i.e. bananas, coconut, etc.
  2. I will never share his love of sucking the goo from a crab head.
  3. When it comes to a bird, he likes stripping the carcass whereas I like digging the marrow from the bones.
  4. The CG received the gene that makes a person hate cilantro. I did not.
  5. If you want a cake or cookie in this household, you better ask the CG otherwise you may get something resembling rabbit food and granola without proper fat and termed raw.
  6. I make better homemade pizzas but his look prettier.
  7. Cooking the entire Dorie Greenspan Around My French Table is taking me a lot longer than I had envisioned when I gifted the book to him for our first Christmas together.
  8. Whereas the flavor of peppermint is like garlic and the sign of the cross to the CG, my kryptonite remains any form of poultry skin not fried to a non-flabby crisp.
  9. I am in charge of the baked salmon and other things in the oven; he is the king of the stove top.
  10. Rye bread doesn’t last in our household, especially if it’s from Diamond Bakery on Fairfax. He prefers it lighter without seeds and I crave dark loaves with seeds. Sometimes we get marbled.
  11. I am most assuredly spoiled because I get dinner cooked for me at least five days a week but I don’t take it for granted.
  12. Backyard produce has made grocery store produce unbearable to me.
  13. Bourbon is to be respected.
  14. For red wines, he likes his complex and balanced while I prefer funky, dark and big.
  15. We have found that there are very few restaurants that make us want to return more than once and so many good ones to choose from that it seems normally silly to do so. But there are exceptions that include Asenabo for simple yet sophisticated Japanese, Hatfield’s for buttery agnolotti, Scarpetta for scrumptious spaghetti, Papilles for Chef Tim Carey’s new-nightly dinner menu,  Il Fico for belly comforting pastas, Osteria and Pizza Mozza, Brent’s for the best pastrami in Los Angeles, El Faro for dollar fifty pastor tacos, TLT for pork belly nachos and Kokekokko because we will never tire of skewered chicken parts and cursing, beer slinging cooks.
  16. We will always enjoy non-American food for the Fourth of July.
  17. We will never eat out on Valentine’s Day preferring to whip up a feast at home.
  18. He was right when he told me I should ban dessert at restaurants because I would forever be disappointed.
  19. I was right when I told him he should do the same with BBQ anywhere on the West Coast.
  20. It is mutually understood at this point that we will never meet a pork belly we don’t like.
  21. You don’t have to like the same foods to be compatible but you have to be a foodie to be in love with a foodie.
  22. We are very lucky.

I say that last one, “We are lucky,” while knocking on wood because when you find your food soul mate you never want to lose him.