Wednesday, April 29, 2009

conscious family food

Spoke to a dynamic group of moms today about feeding our families. I did a cooking demonstration that resulted in lunch for the group while we talked about growing something edible, picky eaters, wasteful packaging, local farm markets, local organic delivery service, CSA’s, why choose whole grains, the smoke point of different oils, many specific ingredients and lots more.

I shared an excellent list that was recently updated of the most important foods to buy organic from the Environmental Working Group.

Several of the participants I have had discussions with before had incorporated elements of these discussions into their daily practices….herb gardening, lettuce growing, bread making….This was very exciting for me!

The menu was designed to be quick, easy, healthy and appealing to diners of all ages.

While I cooked everyone snacked on two potential after school Snacks-
Cashew Dip and Vegetables-
The Dip was made with Cashew Butter, Gourmet Rice Wine Vinegar, Light Soy Sauce and Water. Almond Butter, Sesame Paste, Peanut Butter or Soy Nut Butter could all be used in place of the Cashew Butter. Grated fresh ginger could also be added for additional flavor.

Air Popped Popcorn with Walnut Oil, Nutritional Yeast and Himalayan Salt-
After popping the popcorn in an air popper I tossed it with the other ingredients. The addition of nutritional yeast adds protein and B-12 to the already healthy whole grain and helps keep little bellies filled up longer.

Cucumber Salad-
I dressed the cucumbers with lots of herbs from my garden including salad burnette, mint, chives, lemon balm, thyme and bronze fennel as well as olive oil, a little lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Roasted Asparagus with Ramps and Sorrel-
I found just picked asparagus at the farmer market. Truly fresh asparagus needs barely any cooking. I roasted the ramps (wild leeks that are only available for a couple of weeks in early spring) first and set them aside. Seasoned the asparagus with grapeseed oil, salt and pepper and cooked it in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes then topped it with the ramps and julienned fresh sorrel.

For recipe see post from Wednesday, February 11, 2009, “cooking with mid winter herbs”

BBQ Tofu-
This is adapted from a recipe that will be in the upcoming Bob Greene Diabetes Book (scheduled for release November 2009, Simon and Schuster). I found beautiful leeks at the farmers market so I used them in lieu of onion. However the results are delicious with onion as well.

Serves 4
Prep time: 8 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 cup leek, finely chopped (you could use onion instead)
1 large organic sweet pepper, finely chopped
1 package (16 ounces) firm organic, non GMO tofu, drained
1 cup chopped fresh or canned no-salt-added organic tomatoes
1/3 cup cooked from dry or canned no-salt-added kidney beans, drained and rinsed, mashed with the back of a fork
4 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon clove
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt (nutritional analysis is with this much salt but add more to taste if desired)
Black pepper to taste

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray with the cooking spray and add the onion and sweet pepper. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring.

2. Crumble in the tofu and cook until browned. Keep breaking it apart with a spoon for about 4 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, tomato paste, cider vinegar, clove, cinnamon, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 4 minutes. Serve.

Per serving, about:
Calories: 232
Protein: 21 g
Carbohydrate: 18.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.395 g
Sugars: 6.44 g
Total Fat: 10.3 g
Saturated Fat: 1.518 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Calcium: 802 mg
Sodium: 474 mg

Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Mint (vegan)

Makes 12-16 cupcakes
Prep time 5 minutes
Total time 20 minutes

1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
inside of 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
mix until thoroughly incorporated
1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.Wisk together soy milk and vinegar. Add remaining ingredients and stir until just incorporated.
3.Pour batter into individual cupcake molds and bake until cupcake tests clean with a knife, about 12-20 minutes depending on size of cupcake.
4.Once cupcakes cool frost with ganache (recipe to follow) and sprinkle with julienned fresh mint.

Chocolate Ganache

Prep time 1 minute
Total time 5 minutes

4 oz good quality dark chocolate, cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons soy milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup

1.Heat soy milk to boil, stir in chocolate and syrup until smooth. Let rest until ganache reaches room temperature and then use to ice cupcakes.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Chocolate Cupcake

I did not make these for the lunch but a couple of people asked about a good cupcake recipe that was both gluten free and dairy here it is.

Makes 12-16 cupcakes

Prep time 5 minutes
Total time 20 minutes

1 cup soy or almond milk
1/3 cup grapseed oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine milk, oil, sugar and extract.
2.Mix in tapioca flour and flax seed. Then add the remaining ingredients and mix until completely incorporated.
3.Pour batter into individual cupcake molds and bake until cupcake tests clean with a knife, about 12-20 minutes depending on size of cupcake.
4.Once cupcakes cool frost with ganache (recipe to follow) and sprinkle with julienned fresh mint.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tree Peony

The fall before my daughter Martin-Lane was born, 10 years ago, we planted a tree peony. The flower bloomed the day she was born and has continued to bloom every year on her April 16th birthday. This year was an exception. The cool early spring kept nearly everything in my garden dormant longer than usual this. The flower bloomed 10 days late this year on April 26th. Tree peonies have larger and more delicate flowers than most varieties of bush, also known as herbaceous, peonies. The trees grow slowly and prefer not to be moved. Also unlike bush tree peonies next year buds are formed above the ground on the woody stems during the fall so take care not to prune in the fall or you will not have any flowers the following spring. With herbaceous peonies next years buds are also formed in the fall but in the underground rhizome so cutting leaves will not affect the next springs flowers. Tree peonies flowers bloom before the other peonies and are better enjoyed on the tree because blooms fade very quickly once they are cut and placed in a vase.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Food Inc.

Last night I went to the premiere of Food Inc.
The movie, narrated primarily by Michael Pollan and Eric Scholsser, examines our food system. Much of the information is familiar. Regardless, the many anecdotes throughout the film were eye opening. I was particularly moved by a glimpse into the abusive labor practices of large food manufacturers, the intense power of Monsanto and a mother who lost her 2 year old on to e-coli. The film concludes by requesting that we all cast our vote for wholesome foods by buying wholesome foods. The premise being that if we use our dollars to select products that are produced with environmentally conscious methods the food industry will respond by providing more of these foods.
I sometimes get confused about this type of information that will be primarily shared with people who have already been exposed to much of the information. The challenge is to get this information out to people that are not familiar with it.
I highly suggest this movie. It will be released in mid-June.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Greater Goods April 14, 2009

Gardening in the city-and recipes for the cookies we ate during the discussion.

I spoke about urban gardening as it fits into the practice of everyday living, at Greater Goods a fantastic store that sells items to help you live sustainably. They sell well designed and consciously produced gardening tools and have the best selection of urban composters that I have seen anywhere. Our worm composter, our amazingly soft bamboo bath towels, a well designed market cart and many other items essential to everyday living come from the store.

I spoke to an engaged and well informed group who had lots of questions and valuable information to share. The group was an ideal size because it was possible to have a conversation.

Very abbreviated notes from the talk…..
When preparing for this talk or any talk I re-examine my everyday practice and in this case my gardening practice and how it relates to my life in so many different ways…

Started with a Michael Pollan quote that I have used in the past.

“...reasons to plant that garden, to bother. At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen.”

I started gardening in earnest when I lived in one floor of a Victorian house at the corner of 3rd and M streets NW. I started with flowers, lots of them on a fire escape but within weeks started taking over the yard of the rented house planting herbs, vegetables and fruit trees. At the time I owned a restaurant and it was very satisfying being able to supplement the food that we served with food that I grew in my own garden! This excitement about growing and harvesting food has not diminished over the last 15 years since I planted that first garden.

This year in addition to planting my own garden I am planting about 15 other gardens of various sizes which all incorporate some edible elements.
Some in a minor way such as a couple pots of herbs mixed in but many are more substantially productive. In a house in Wesley Heights we have plowed a large plot that will be dedicated to growing vegetables and fruit. In a house in Spring Valley several huge pots in a poolside back yard march towards the kitchen brimming with herbs in this same garden three large beautiful pots with different varieties of cherry tomatoes produce more than enough tomatoes for the family to eat. Last year there was a small plot of land where we planted corn……this year it will probably be blueberries.
On a small Georgetown brick patio we have lined the perimeter with planter boxes and are growing herbs, lettuces and will shortly plant some summer crops including tomatoes and cucumbers. We are also doing worm composting there which is an excellent way to compost in a small space.

All this to say….
Look at your available space. Think about what you would actually eat and enjoy and go from there.
Are you more of a few herbs in a window box type or are you ready to rip out your front lawn and plant rows of vegetables? How can you incorporate aesthetic considerations into your plan? Since we are talking about intimate urban spaces the way they function in regards to care, maintenance, productivity and beauty are all important.

I am particularly interested in growing food and flowers that I want that are not readily available. This brings me to lettuce, herbs and figs…the main stays of my home garden. Just picked lettuce is different from lettuce even purchased at the farmers market. It is fresher since you can pick it minutes before a meal and you can choose tender varieties that would not survive the trip to market. By choosing varieties thoughtfully and planting small crops often you can have lettuce from late winter until at least the first frost.

I use lots of herbs in cooking so for me my herb garden is essential. Usually walking in the door, especially this time of year through the fall, I grab a couple handfuls of herbs from my front yard herb garden and that is the beginning of my next meal. I am able to use hearty herbs such as rosemary, sage, bay and lavender throughout the year. Also by growing my own I have access to herbs that are favorites of mine but are rarely find at the market such as lemon verbena, lemon balm, chervil, salad burnett….

Did you know figs thrive in the DC area? We get buckets of figs from late August through the third week in September. All summer long I use the branches for flower arrangements. I enjoy the figs on their own both raw and roasted, in smoothies, salads, and with dark chocolate.

I am excited about my newest addition to my garden, three persimmon trees, Hopefully there will be a large crop to enjoy this fall and I look forward to watching them grow in the meantime.

I also have a large cutting garden that I use for my cut flower business…and again am interested in flowers that I cannot buy. Garden roses, special varieties of hydrangea and viburnum, white spring lilac, butterfly bush and specific varieties of peonies.

That is my garden but what about yours? What do you want to grow, how much time do you have, how much space and sun do you have?

This was followed by lots of questions about gardening specifics. Hopefully I provided some helpful answers and I also learned several things including that one of the participants mothers dumps her coffee grinds on the spot where she plants tomatoes every year and has the most beautiful tomatoes.

In conclusion, how can gardening best fit into your everyday practice to enhance your life?

The cookies-

Salty Rosemary Biscotti

2 3/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons extra for rolling
2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons non hydrogenated shortening such as earth balance
2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
1/2 cup pureed silken tofu
2 tablespoons water
1 cup rough chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons excellent quality medium ground salt such as pink Himalayan salt

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.In a food processor combine sugar and rosemary until sugar is green, about 1 minute.
3.In a mixer combine flour sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, salt.
4.Add shortening cut in 8 pieces and process until the consistency is like sand.
5.Add tofu and water then walnuts, mix until just fully incorporated, about 45 seconds.
6.On a large plate combine the extra sugar and the salt. Roll batter into 3 logs and roll each log in sugar and salt.
7.Bake until dry to touch and barely golden brown, about 15 minutes, remove from oven, turn oven off and let cool for 5 minutes.
8.Move biscotti to a cutting board and cut into slices that are 1/3 of and inch thick. Return cookies to baking tray and place in oven until they dry to your liking, 1 hour for fairly crispy cookies as long as several hours for extremely crispy cookies.

Lavender Oatmeal Cookies

2 1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon honey or agave nectar
3/4 cup sugar in food processor
2 tablespoons lavender leaves
Pinch of salt

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.In a food processor puree sugar and lavender.
3.In a mixer combine oatmeal, soy milk, grapeseed oil, baking powder, honey, sugar and salt in a mixer with paddle attachment for 2 full minutes
4.Drop cookies on baking sheet and flatten with moist fingers
5.Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Restaurant 1508

Restaurant 1508
Number 1

Friday May 1, 8:00
1508 6th street, NW (between P and Q)- Sidra’s Studio and Home

Seasonal menu that may include:
Chervil, Sorrel, Salad Burnet, Artichoke, Asparagus, Bunching Onions, Spring Lamb, Pea Shoots, Baby Beets, Spring Greens, Rhubarb, Morels, Ramps, Diver Sea Scallops…
Herbs and greens from 1508 6th street, most other produce is from the members of the Path Valley Farm Collective located in south central Pennsylvania.

Reservations- I will accept reservations for parties of one to ten people until full (ten being the maximum dinner guests for May 1)
Share this invite with potentially interested guests!

Reserve via email-

For years I have considered doing this, now I am…hope you can join and if not this time, sometime. I will send out invites for future dates. Also, let me know if you would like to book a date of your choice for a private meal at 1508 for 10 or more guests.

Please advise if you have any food restrictions or allergies, vegetarians are easily accommodated.

Look forward to seeing you,

Friday, April 10, 2009


Lilac is easy to love in bloom. The rest of the year the bush is not much to look at. However in my mind that couple of weeks of blooms makes a hidden lilac bush a essential part of any garden.
In my garden and in others that I design I have hidden bushes so you do not need to look at them year round but can enjoy the blossoms. My lilac is literally on the side of the house where I keep empty pots and garden tools. However when it is in bloom I can see the blooms through my dining room window and of I cut them and bring them inside to enjoy their beauty and fragrance. In a garden I just completed I placed one in an inconspicuous spot on the side of a front porch, the actual bush is hidden but the blooms and fragrance will both be enjoyed walking in and out of the house and while sitting on the porch during that brief period in spring each year when it is in bloom.

I like all lilacs but am particularly fond on white lilacs. I have had success with the Madame Lemoine variety in the Washington DC area.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I have always liked coconut and in the last several years have been eating more coconut products and using coconut oil on my body and hair. Coconut Butter is a favorite that I use in smoothies, sorbets and baking is available through One Luck Duck. I am particularly fond of drinking young coconut water and eating young coconut meat. Young coconut water if fat free, full of electrolytes and is a great source of potassium. I often crave it.

Coconuts have been revered for generations by many cultures around the world for their healing powers and nutrition. At one time coconuts received negative press in the US because of their high level of saturated fat. However, current research has shown that not all saturated fats are alike and that the fatty acids in coconut oil are medium chain triglycerides which do not raise cholesterol or contribute to heart disease.

Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Coconut oil possesses healing properties and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders use coconut oil to cure nearly all illness. Auryuvedic medicine considers the coconut an essential food.

This all leads me to my story…I love to drink young coconut water and do not have a source for fresh coconut water in DC. In many cities juice bars sell young coconuts and they are often available at Asian markets. There are also a few brands of coconut water available at grocery stores in tetra packs such as One and Zico which are fine in a pinch but not the same as fresh from a young coconut. So, I decided to order a case of young coconuts through friends who have a restaurant and share them with a couple other friends who drink as much coconut water as I do. Yesterday my coconuts arrived but they were not young…instead I got a huge heavy bag of old coconuts!!

What to do with 40 old coconuts?

My friend Allison often brings me raw dehydrated coconut from Erewhon Market in Los Angeles (they do not sell products online). It is delicious and I am always sorry when it is all eaten (which is usually pretty quickly). Anyway I decided that I would try to make this with my old coconuts. Today with a whole lot of help I opened, cleaned and sliced nearly half of my coconuts. I just made some cookies with olive oil, coconut, walnuts and oatmeal (see recipe below). I froze some and the rest is currently slowly drying in a 90 degree oven.

Olive Oil, Coconut, Walnut and Oatmeal Cookies

2 1/2 cups oatmeal
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy or almond milk
1/2 cup fresh shredded coconut
1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon baking powder
large pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a mixer and mix for a full two minutes.

Form cookies on a cookie sheet and flatten with your palm. If the cookies are sticking to your hand you can dampen your palm slightly.

Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.


Sprouts are a live food…different than raw in that they are germinated which actually makes available the potential of a raw seed, grain or nut. Once a seed, grain or bean is germinated all the vitamins, mineral, proteins, enzymes and essential fatty acids that were previously dormant activate and multiply. The newly available enzymes aid in digestion and the bodies ability to use nutrients. In addition, many seeds also contain phytic acid which significantly reduces the absorption of calcium, iron, zinc and other minerals into the blood stream. When the seeds are sprouted, such losses drastically decrease.

I am in a sprouting mood. They taste good and make me feel great. I usually have something sprouting but right now I have a whole lot of things sprouting.

The sprouting process is quite easy. Soak raw (if they are not raw they will not sprout) seeds, beans or grains for about 8 hours. Drain and let sit at room temperature, rinsing and draining once a day. I use wooden bamboo steamers lined with parchment paper that I poke drainage holes into. I like this because you can rinse and grow in the same container and they stack neatly if you are sprouting more than one thing at once. Most sprouts take anywhere from 1-3 days. You will know when your sprouts are ready because the sprouted tail will be about 1/4 inch long. Place sprouts in the refrigerator to slow the growing process. Most sprouts will last 3-5 days refrigerated.

Right now I am enjoying red lentil sprouts, barley sprouts and quinoa sprouts. I am mixing them into salads, eating them alone with nut oil and black truffle salt or a good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.