Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How Many Calories in a Vietnamese Spring or Summer Roll?

That's one of the topics I find Blog Appetit is searched for a lot. I didn't really have an answer. But in today's Oakland (CA) Tribune, freelance writer Jill Silverman Hough gave her version of the uncooked, rice paper wrapped treat and the newspaper did the nutrition breakdown for us!

Now Ms. Hough uses sliced roast beef in her wrappers, but these stats should get you in the ballpark if its nutritional data you are looking for:

According to the Oakland Tribune, (per serving including hoisin-based dipping sauce): 161 calories; 3g fat; 7g protein; 22g carbohydrate; 1g dietary fiber; 18mg cholesterol; 321mg sodium. The recipe made 8 rolls but it didn't say on line or in the newspaper if a serving was one or two rolls.

Want to check out Blog Appetit's versions with shrimp, tofu, cucumber or even mango -- click here.

Based on what I could figure out from Weight Watchers, a traditional unfried spring roll (also called a summer roll or salad roll) with shrimp is two points each. No recipe or size or ingredients list was given for this figure, however.

I'll keep looking for more info on this topic and update the post when I do.

Update: Please check the comment below for a reader who has done the research for all sorts of Asian salad, spring and fried rolls in terms of Weight Watchers' points and serving sizes.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

35,000 Page Views on the Blog. What if One of Them Happened to Fall? 34,999 Page Views on the Blog ...

Wow, my counter hit 35,000 page views. I've been checking all day to see when it would hit, but missed the actual milestone by two. I was able to check my stats though and saw it was someone searching for the number of calories in See's Candies, probably my number one most searched post right now.

Thanks for reading. And if you are wondering, there are approximately 160 calories for a two-piece serving according to the nutrition information packed in my See's Candies' box. You can see all the nutritional data here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Blast from the Past -- June 2006

Last June was a busy month for Blog Appetit -- 14 posts. Two highlights of the month were my recipes for Fennel and Chicken and a Caribbean greens soup with foo-foos. Enter the Blog Appetit wayback machine here.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Chocolate & Zucchini – The Cookbook and Recipe

My overall impression of the book Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen was very positive. The food (and Paris) photos, taken by author and web star Clotilde Dusoulier, are sumptuous, the recipes are imaginative but relatively easy to prepare, the directions clear and the little stories (known in the trade as head notes) before each recipe and each section are really charming and candid reflections on the author’s life and outlook and really give the reader a sense of Clotilde’s Paris.

At the book signing, Clotilde had described herself as drawn to combinations of ingredients that might look intriguing and combine in interesting tastes and textures and that predilection really comes through in the book.

The book has an interesting organization which makes for very pleasant reading. I very much enjoyed her extended forward which traces the history of her affinity to food, a section on her philosophy which encompasses her approach to life, not just to food marketing and preparation. There is also a chapter on how to stock a C&Z pantry. Wine pairings are offered by Lenn Thompson.

The recipe organization is somewhat unique. Instead of being listed as in chapters labeled as appetizer, main course, etc., the recipes are sorted into when you are most likely to serve them or the mood that might strike you to want to eat them. These include “Simplicity” (salads, sandwiches, savory tarts, soups and eggs), “Entertaining” (which offers up a complete dinner party menu, some appetizers, side dishes, recipes for a French-style buffet dinner), and a section called “Impromptu” which includes dishes the author feels can be whipped up without much notice using mostly staples), and finally a “Sweet Things” chapter, which, or course, features a chocolate and zucchini cake.

There are more than 75 recipes in the book; almost all of them have not appeared on her website. The ones that were have been reworked and adapted. The author seemed very concern of making sure the book would have appeal to long time website readers as well as those who are just making her acquaintance.

(Now, I am a fan of Clotilde and C&Z, but I am a bit afraid to mention my slight criticism of the cookbook. So many people are very much taken with her, the website and the book, that I am afraid of upsetting anyone. I’ve read of fans who are considering buying both the British and the American versions of this cookbook because the American version has one recipe the British doesn’t and the British one has two the American doesn’t. We are talking very loyal fans here.)

I find the recipe organization a bit awkward to cook from and the book could use additional main courses. When I tried to plan a menu out of the book it was a bit confusing going back and forth between sections where types of recipes overlapped.
To choose a starter, for example, I had to page through the “Simplicity” section, then the “Impromptu” section and finally the “Dinner Party” section. (I ended up making the Zucchini Carpaccio with Raspberry Vinegar, see below for more on that.) The book has an excellent index which helps somewhat.

My main course dilemma is that there are very few recipes to choose from. I found lamb tagine, beef bourguignon and Flemish carbonades (a kind of beef and beer stew) in the dinner party section, mustard chicken stew, steak tartare, lamb and prune meatballs and asparagus and sea bass papillotes elsewhere in the book. Now there were plenty other recipes (many vegetarian) that one could serve for a light dinner or in combination with others for a more filling meal, but I was disappointed there weren’t at least a few more traditional main course options.

Overall, though, her dishes and approach were inspiring and sent me out to the farmers’ market that weekend. My resulting menu was heavily inspired by Chocolate & Zucchini.

I had planned to open with her two-olive tapenade or eggplant caviar, but one vendor at the market had an amazing assortment of Afghani dips and flatbreads. I switched to that, a move that I thought Clotilde would have approved of based on her stories of taking advantage of food finds. The first course was the zucchini carpaccio (my directions for how I made that dish follow). The fishmonger had a wonderful piece of white sea bass (not an endangered or threatened species), which I cooked in the same manner as Clotilde’s sea bass dish (steam baked in a foil packet) but with the seasonings and vegetables that looked good to me at the market. The fish was served with some spring pea ravioli and light tomato sauce (again from a vendor at the market). Salad was simple and green. Dessert was sliced peaches and strawberries.

I definitely would never have thought to serve the zucchini in such a starring role in the meal and although the other dishes were not strictly speaking from the cookbook, I felt that reading it inspired the rest of the menu.

Sliced Zucchini Appetizer
(Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini, Broadway Books, by Clotilde Dusoulier)

Young, fresh, slender zucchini
Goat cheese (choose one that is on the drier side)
Vinaigrette made with raspberry vinegar
Ground thyme
Chopped parsley or basil
Chopped walnuts

Cut the zucchini very thin into round slices. Arrange on individual plates to cover. Crumble or shave bits of cheese on top. Splash a light coating of the vinaigrette on top. Add thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle top lightly with parsley or basil and walnuts. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the zucchini slices to absorb the vinaigrette and for the seasonings to meld.

Serve at room temperature.

Read more about "my" evening meeting with Clotilde here and here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Curried Spinach Soup with Eggplant Cream

I had been too long without soup and my soul needed the particular warming one receives from consuming a bowl of nourishing sustenance created from humble and healthy ingredients. Plus I had been eating like I had to gain weight not lose it, so soup I craved.

Below is a recipe for Curried Spinach Soup served with Eggplant Cream. The recipes for both just kind of popped in my head and I don't think it was a coincidence that I was able to use my new immersion blender for both recipes. (I got a Cusinart 200 watt model and boy can that baby puree!)

The ingredients were pretty much what I had in hand in the pantry, fridge and freezer. The peanut butter adds a certain creaminess to the soup, but not a distinctive peanut flavor. I found I needed to use a lot of curry powder to pump up the spiciness. Feel free to use more or less to your taste.

The soup is pleasantly herbal with an earthy warmth. The eggplant cream adds a whole additional layer of flavor, smoothing out the spinach's grass notes and adding the deep intriguing smoky bite of the eggplant to the soup. I hope you'll try it with the soup. If you decide to skip it, try plopping a little plain yogurt or sour cream on top your soup bowl. I served my soup with some Indian flatbreads on the side.

Curried Spinach Soup with Eggplant Cream

For the Soup:

Olive oil or spray
1 small red onion or about half large, roughly diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
2-3 tsp curry powder
Dash of cinnamon
2-3 carrots cut, roughly diced
6 or more cups of vegetable stock or water
4 tbs peanut butter
16 oz chopped frozen spinach
12 oz chopped frozen spinach
15 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Hot sauce
One recipe Eggplant Cream (see below)

Spray the bottom of a large pot with the olive oil spray or use a tablespoon of olive oil and coat the bottom of the pot. Heat. Add onion and sauté until beginning to soften. Add garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes. Sauté until aromas are released. Add curry powder and cinnamon and stir until incorporated. Add carrots. Sauté until onions are golden and garlic has started to brown. Add 6 cups of stock or water. Stir up any bits stuck to bottom of the pot. Cook over medium heat until simmering. Add frozen spinach; cook stirring to break up, until defrosted. Add peanut butter. Cook, stirring occasionally until incorporated.

Using an immersion blender, puree soup to desired consistency. (Or cool, puree in batches in blender, return to pot and reheat.) Add the additional frozen spinach. Cook until defrosted. Add additional stock or water if soup is too thick. Add tomatoes and chickpeas and cook until heated through. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.

To serve, swirl in 1 Tbs of Eggplant Cream in each bowl.

Makes 6-8 servings

Eggplant Cream

1 eggplant (thin Italian, Chinese or Japanese preferred, but a small globe eggplant will also work, see note below.)
Crème fraiche, sour cream, Greek yogurt, plain yogurt oe non-dairy yogurt, drained
1 Tbs fresh lemon or lime juice

Place whole, unpeeled eggplant over an open gas flame, under a broiler or on a grill. Using tongs, turn frequently as skin blisters and the flesh begins to soften. When the flesh is completely soft, remove from heat and set aside. When cool enough to handle, peel away as much of the eggplant skin as you can. Mash eggplant flesh and puree with an equal amount of crème fraiche, sour cream of yogurt. (If using regular, plain yogurt, drain it first in a colander for a few hours before using.) Add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and serve with soup.

Note: If using a globe eggplant (the type usually available in stores), look for as small a one as you can find. Cook the eggplant whole, but only use half of the cooked flesh in the eggplant cream. Reserve the rest for another use. (Try mixing it with a little hummus for a nice dip.)

Watch this space -- photo to come

My Evening with Clotilde -- Part Deux

It is Blog Appetit's particular brand of bait and switch to call the time I spent with Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook and website fame "my evening" unless your definition of a private tete a tete includes a packed room full of fans, a brief encounter involving signing a book and the opportunity to ask a few questions.

Clotilde was sweet, disarming and charming. Her English is mostly unaccented except when a little musical lilt slips out on a word or two that is similar in English and French. Dressed in a long polka-dotted tunic over pants and with her long hair swinging loose, she seemed too young to be allowed to handle hot pots unattended. She was as gracious to her fans, loyal to her vision and as appreciative of the twists and turns of life and her upbringing that brought her to C&Z and food as a career as she seems in her writings on the website and in her book: Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen.

Here are some highlights of her conversation with her fans at the booksigning.

She is working on her second book, also for Broadway Books, her cookbook publisher, on food resources and restaurants in Paris.

She spent summers in England living with families to perfect her English as a teen. As a young adult she worked in Silicon Valley as a software engineer, a career she doesn't regret pursuing but has left to work full time on food endeavors.

Her sojourn in California had awakened her appreciation of food and moving back to Paris was a revelation. She was inspired to start Chocolate and Zucchini after reading food blogs such as Derrick Schneider's Obsession with Food. There were only a handful of food blogs at the time and they were all in English, so she wrote in English because she wanted other food bloggers to be able to read about her experiences.

She took all the photos of Paris and recipes that are in the book, with the exception of one taken by her boyfriend, Maxence.

The cookbook is being translated into French, but since her audience is so English speaking she is not sure what it is reception will be in France. Clotilde translated everything but the recipes, which are being done by someone else because of time consideration. She wanted to translate the narrative personally since she wanted to adapt the text to a French audience that would presumably be more knowledgeable about things such as cheese courses. She also insisted that the publishers not use a photo of her on the cover of the French edition since that is not done as frequently in France as in the U.S.

She finds her inspiration in the green markets and other food shops in Paris and looks for interesting juxtapositions of taste, texture and color. She misses the larger markets in the U.S. where one can just browse instead of walking in and having to know what you want right away.

True Confession: I helped test recipes for the cookbook and merited a mention as a thank you in the book's acknowledgement.

Next: I read the cookbook, try a recipe and offer my impressions.
Prior: Part One of the book signing event