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We all love cheese. But it is the French who have mastered the art of serving cheese and setting it within the structure of a meal. Try serving cheese accompanied with fruit after the meal instead of a dessert. Most people do not complain and for those who do, just serve a “real” dessert too. If you have never tried, you may find cheese is more satisfying at the end of a meal than something sweet and syrupy. Cheese is fun to experiment with. Most people quickly determine which types they like and which types they can do without. Each cheese has its own unique character and its own finite shelf life. A hard cheese like parmiggiano or aged cheddar will keep months as long as it is stored correctly. A fresh cheese like goat should be eaten relatively quickly. A camembert will keep a while. The delicate aromas and textures of cheese are enhanced when served at room temperature, so remove cheese from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. Pictured below is the local Hudson Valley Camember cheese (5.6 ounces/156g) I picked up at my Greenmarket.
one camembert cheese 6-8 ounces (150g-250g)
cost $7.00 – $10.00
calories depends on size
serves 6 to 10
140 calories per serving
Pictured here on the left are the green Pepin apples I also picked up at the Greenmarket. Thin crispbreads, water thins, or a good baguette are a must. Crispbreads or water thins are my preference because they provide a surface for tasting and savoring cheese but are less calorie dense than bread. A plain wooden board makes the best serving plate. The best garnish is an attractive cheese knife.
camembert cheese, count 1 ounce (25g-30g) per person
box of crispbreads
crisp fall apples, count 1/2 apple per person
Cheese is a good source of calcium and protein, but is also high in butterfat and for sodium for some people. See nutrition information for fat content. So here is the question — can we eat our cheese and be healthy too? Guess the answer to this one has got to be it depends …
A serving of cheese on my plate is about an ounce or 25 to 30 grams. Small is beautiful!
Comparing my cheese plate to the calories in an equivalent dessert say a piece of cheesecake, the camembert does well. A classic restaurant style cheesecake will run about 550 calories, considerable more than my camembert plate. More extravagant cheesecakes go up exponentially up from there to 1000 calories or more. As for salt, comparing my camembert to an equivalent weight of American process cheese, the camembert has less sodium.
Liz Thorpe has written a wonderful book chronicling how local cheese makers across our country have reinvented European traditions for American consumption. Check out The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey through the Making and Selling of Cheese in American, from Field to Farm to Table, 2009.
Per Serving of cheese,crispbread, and apple (103 g): Calories 140, Fat 7g, Saturated Fat 4g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 20mg, Sodium 290mg, Carbohydrate 14g, Fiber 1g, Protein 6g.
I love sardine sandwiches. Always have. I learned how to make them from my mom. She used red onion, some mustard, some lettuce, and always a robust whole grain wheat bread. So I was pleased to see two version of the sandwich honored recently in The Sandwich Issue of SAVEUR Magazine and delighted to fine both versions were provided by Michael Colameco, an engaging and knowledgeable New York City food writer and broadcaster.
The moment was right and the version with the horseradish mayonnaise caught my eye. A can of slightly smoked Portuguese sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil was sitting in my cupboard ready to go. Next to the sardines was a jar of imported roasted red peppers from Italy. With some improvisation in the making of the horseradish cream and a quick switch from lettuce to arugula, I put together my amateur’s version. But I stayed with the whole wheat bread. We never used rye bread when I was growing up in California. And it is heresy to admit this, but I have never really developed a taste for rye despite the great selection that is now available to me living in New York.
My amateur version is detailed below. For Chef Mike’s version, check out SAVEUR #137 The Sandwich Issue for his Sardine Sandwich with Horseradish Cream.
makes 2 open faced sandwiches
330 calories per serving
2 to 4 pieces thinly sliced red onion (30g)
2 tablespoons (30g) mayonnaise
1 teaspoon (1.6g) horseradish powder dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
2 large pieces (100g) multi grain or whole grain wheat bread
10 arugula leaves (20g), trimmed and washed
4 ¼ ounce tin sardines (120g), packed in oil and drained
1 piece roasted red pepper (85g) cut into slices
Incorporate the horseradish powder into the mayonnaise about 20 minutes before assembling the sandwich and keep refrigerated. Assemble the rest of the ingredients. Toast the bread. Start by spreading the horseradish sauce on the toasted bread. Place the arugula leaves and sliced onion on next. Remove the sardines from the tin, divide in half, and arrange on top of the onion slices. Now garnish with the slices of roasted red pepper. Finish with some black pepper and an optional dash of salt.
There are many good nutrition based reasons to enjoy this sardine sandwich. In return for slightly “unhealthy” levels of fat and sodium, you get exceptionally “healthy” levels protein and fiber, an impressive array of vitamins and minerals, and a respectable amount of omega-3 fatty acids. This one really needs to be put in a manageable context. When going out to a diner or a deli, comparatively speaking the sardine sandwich is one of the healthiest items on the menu. When deciding between a tuna sandwich or a sardine sandwich, the sardine sandwich definitely has the edge.
How to determine when the risks out way the benefits continues to be a raging debate. There is a saying I heard first in the business world but which, I have just discovered, can actually be attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire: The perfect is the enemy of the good. I am beginning to wish the nutrition experts were better read in Enlightenment philosophy.
Per Serving (162g): Calories 320, Fat 19g, Saturated Fat 2.5g, Sodium 630mg, Carbohydrate 18g, Fiber 5g, Protein 17g.
Excellent Source: protein, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B12.
Good Source: iron, niacin.
As with so many of life’s important decisions, the choice of red, curly, or black kale comes down to your taste, your personal preference, and your pocketbook
Curly kale has broad based deep green leaves and a robust, pungent, fully developed favor. It is cultivated all year long and is easy to pick up in most supermarket chains. Some cooks blanch the leaves first, while others add a grated carrot to the pan to soften and sweeten the somewhat bitter taste.
makes about 2 cups (500ml)
cost $6.00 for black kale / $3.00 for curly kale
160 calories per serving
More exotic and expensive are red kale (pictured on the right) and black kale (pictured on the left). A little milder and a little less pungent, these kales can be found in green markets starting in fall through early winter and in specialty supermarkets all year long. My favorite is cavolo nero or black kale. Alternatively called dinosaur or laciniato kale, this blackish-green leafy kale is favored by the Tuscans who have developed a special affection for its distinctive taste and gnarled appearance. Chicken stock enhances flavor and a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice before serving sharpens the flavor. Check to be sure that excess stock or water has been completely evaporated so the final dish does not weep.
An excellent choice of greens to accompany a ham, a rack of pork, or a roast beef, keep kale in mind as you plan for the upcoming holidays. Each pound (½ kilo) kale as purchased yields 2 to 2½ cups cooked.
2 bunches (15 ounces/430g) curly, red, or black kale, washed, stemmed, and chopped into medium sized pieces
2 tablespoons (25g) extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves (10g) fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
1 – 2 cups (250ml – 500ml) low sodium chicken stock
¼ teaspoon (.7g) flake salt
Lemon juice or Balsamic vinegar
Warm oil in sauté pan and soften crushed garlic. Add kale a handful or two at a time using medium heat and stirring as you add each handful. Sauté the kale until the pieces start to wilt and the oil is evenly distributed, usually about 5 minutes. Add the salt and start adding stock or water a half cup (100ml) at a time. Keep adding the stock until the kale is softened. Keep heat high enough to evaporate each addition of stock. If more liquid is required, use water. Braise the kale for another 20 minutes. Reduce the heat when the kale is softened and all liquid is absorbed or evaporated. Adjust seasonings and finish with some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. At this point, the kale will hold nicely for at least 30 minutes. Check before serving to be sure that excess stock or water has been completely evaporated so the final dish does not weep.
Note: Both piece size and cooking time effect the texture of the final product. The smaller the pieces or the longer the cooking time, the softer and smoother the kale. Start with medium sized pieces and about 20 minutes, then adjust according to taste.
Kale is not cheap, but it is incredible healthy. MyPyramid classifies kale as a dark green vegetable and recommends 2 cups dark greens per week. Whole Foods uses the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) to numerically rate foods and kale is on top with a score of 1000. For those of you like me who love kale and are willing to pay the price, we get both flavor and nutrition with each bite. The question I wrestle with is how to make this incredibly healthy vegetable appealing and acceptable to those of you who do not share my taste for slightly bitter greens. I can’t guarantee success, but I know where to start. A judicious amount of salt, a generous amount of fat, some acid, some culinary expertise, and a few discretionary dollars to invest in healthy greens.
Encouraging more people to eat and enjoy a healthy vegetable like kale is the best kind of healthy eating. So I choose to focus more on the sourcing and cooking end and less on the limits to sodium and fat end. To my simplistic mind, flexing a little on olive oil and salt makes good nutrition sense as long as more people eat more kale.
Per Serving (130g): Calories 160, Fat 13g, Saturated Fat 2.0g, Sodium 240mg, Carbohydrate 8g, Fiber 2g, Protein 3g.
A 2,000 calorie diet is used as the basis for general nutrition advice; however, individual calorie needs may vary.
Everyone loves Thanksgiving. It is our national family social get together and our yearly communal sit down. Probably the only American meal where we actually sit down and eat the same basic set of items. Roast turkey and gravy. Cranberries. Stuffing. Mashed potatoes. Squash or pumpkin. Checking my facsimile edition of The Original Boston School Cooking Book published in 1896, the menu items are pretty much the same. The notable exception is oyster soup. Does anyone serve that anymore? Certainly not me. I have made many Thanksgiving dinners for family and friends over the years because the tradition deserves to be honored. But turkey is not my favorite. A little too bland. And sometimes a little too dry. Do I love the day any less? Absolutely not! It just means I put aside my taste for a really gamey bird and cook to please the less adventurous who come to my table to indulge.
Looking at a whole meal has always fascinated me. Eating is holistic. People eat meals as opposed to individual items and since Americans eat pretty much the same set of items, Thanksgiving is a perfect meal to look at. Using recipes from my software data base, prices from various local markets, and some off the shelf preparations, here is the menu board for a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
Onion Soup, ¾ cup (180ml)
Roast Turkey with Skin, 6 ounces (170g)
Turkey Gravy, ¼ cup (60ml)
Bread Stuffing, ½ cup (100g)
Cranberry Sauce, 2 Tablespoons (35g)
Mashed Potato, ½ cup (105g)
Green Beans with Almonds, ½ cup (120g)
Sparkling Apple Cider, 8 fl oz (230ml)
Pumpkin Pie, 1 piece (155g)
total cost $7.40 ● total calories 1240 per serving
Let’s talk dollars first. Any foodie worth his salt can drive the cost up by sourcing specialty items. Free range grain fed turkeys. Even better heirloom wild turkeys (my personal choice). Maybe a bottle of vintage wine… But Thanksgiving is not complex and perhaps it is more in keeping with tradition to keep the meal simple. Besides, many people prefer the taste of turkey, not the more gamey flavor of a heirloom bird. My first surprise was how reasonably priced a traditional Thanksgiving could be.
My second surprise was how much time the analysis took. What I thought would be a straightforward exercise ended up getting complex. Some items have incomplete data and due diligence is required every step of the way to determine a reasonably accurate calorie count. That may be one of the reasons why so few meals seem to get analyzed.
Besides the time commitment, however, there may be another reason meals, especially great meals, do not get analyzed. Companionship, cooking, setting, sharing, savoring – the magic of a great meal is what my fellow foodies love and cherish. The risk of analysis is that it can break the magic of the moment. And that is a valid observation.
But let’s just try a bit of analysis by putting the calories into the context of who may be sitting at table. Aunt Sally is over 50, never exercises, sometimes indulges in sweets but otherwise eats like a bird – miniscule portions, no skin, no dark meat, no gravy, and a whole piece of pumpkin pie. Makes sense because her daily requirement is about 1600 calories. She will also get full benefit of the only deep orange vegetable on the table. Then there is cousin Jeremy. On the move, physically active, into sports, early twenties, always hungry. He eats double portions of everything in sight. Makes sense because his daily requirement is about 3000 calories. And then there is everyone else in between, but that is enough for now. A little bit of analysis goes a long way and I need to get cooking …
Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the meal!