La Piquette La ZeeZ: Two Cultures, Both Pleasing

Tried two places far apart on the cultural spectrum but both of them were representative of their own diverse and interesting dishes. At La Piquette in D.C.’s upper Cleveland Park area, you may want to try to Steak Fritte, but also not to be missed are the scallops with prociutto crisps and cauliflower onion sauce.  We also liked the salmon tartare with avocado, shallots, chervil and citrus and the creamy cauliflower soup.  The decor was just so very French bistro and the red table wine at $6 a glass warmed my tummy but didn’t overwhelm.  La Zeez is an old stand by because we walk there from home.  On the unusually humidity-free evening in Bethesda, we sat outside at one of the seven or eight tables.  The menu really hadn’t changed featuring a fattoush salad that was very crisp, fresh and satisfying and juicy tender lamb kabobs with their signature herbed red potatoes as a side. It’s middle eastern that isn’t too splashy and obviously cooked to order.

Clean and Cook Soft Shell Crabs – They’re In Season

We visited a small fresh seafood market in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland over the weekend.  The place was there twenty years ago when we biked through town en route to Huntingfields, the farm where my parents lived for many years.  I was pleasantly surprised to see they sold soft shell crabs for $5.00 each.  In Potomac, Maryland, they were selling for $9.99 each. What a difference. I immediately bought some.

When I opened the package at home, excited to begin to bread and sauté them, I noticed the claws were wiggling. Ahhh!!  I had two choices. Ditch and order carry out. Kill, clean and prepare.

You will be happy to know that while I am an animal lover – I chose to embrace my complete chef persona, I apologized and praised the crab for the feast we’d soon have and looked on Google for how to clean soft shells.  Dumb me.  Not every seafood market offers to clean them for you (as mine did – and priced midway between the $5 and $10 range).

So here’s what to do.  First, flip the crab over.  Gently lift the shell and remove the fibrous gills on each side.  You’ll need to scrape away any yellow goo mustard fat that appears in the underbelly. Then, there is an area I call the “key” in the middle of the bottom side of the crab, flip that up and cut it off.   Finally cut off the eyes and mouth.  Do it quickly so you don’t have to think about it too much. That’s what I did. Be sure the rinse it off and put on ice while you do the others. Keep on ice and refrigerate if you aren’t using them right away.

Now you can begin to cook the soft shells any way that suits you.  I simply put about a half cup of flour and added 3 tablespoons of Cajun seasonings to a plastic baggie; then I added the 3 crabs.  Increase if you have more.  Meanwhile, I heated ¼ to ½ cup of oil in a pan and waited until it was hot but not burning.  I added the crabs, cooking for several minutes on each side.  When they turn a nice orange caramel color they are done.  Drizzle with chopped scallions and parsley.

What Language Is Your Food Speaking?

A Body on Fire:  The Fat-Inflammation Connection

Most of us are familiar with inflammation.  It is the body’s natural defense system against infections, irritations, toxins, and other foreign molecules.   A specific cascade of events occurs in which the body’s white blood cells and specific chemicals mobilize to protect you from foreign invaders.  Classic signs are pain, swelling, and redness.  In fighting various ailments such as a sore throat,  rash, or migraine headache, inflammation is a good thing.   However, the natural balance of the immune system, which produces just enough inflammation to keep infection, allergens and toxins under control, can get disrupted by various foods.  When this occurs, the immune system shifts into a chronic state of alarm or inflammation, spreading a smoldering fire throughout the body.  This fire in the heart causes heart disease, in the brain causes dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, in the whole body causes cancer.  New research links obesity and inflammation.  Being overweight promotes inflammation and inflammation promotes obesity in a terrible, vicious cycle.  Cooling off excess inflammation is critical to your wellness .  Avoid or cut back on foods that promote inflammation -sugars, trans fats and hydrogenated fats, alcohol, refined grains, red meats, commercially-processed foods, and artificial food additives.  Include in your diet foods that will boost your immune health and help control inflammation:  berries, omega-3 fatty acids, extra virgin olive oil, turmeric, ginger, green tea, mushrooms, pineapple, papaya, avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and sweet potatoes.

Fats:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

There are essentially three different kinds of fat:  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Healthy fats enhance brainpower and help you lose weight, and bad fats drain your brain.  “Good” fats are fats that turn on the genes in your DNA that increase your metabolism, help you burn fat more quickly, become healthier, and promote brain health.  Examples of foods containing good fats are salmon, nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocados, flaxseed, and coconuts.  “Bad” fats are the ones that affect slow your metabolism adversely, making it difficult to lose the weight you would like to and lead to cognitive decline.  These fats can be found in vegetable oils (including corn, soy, and safflower oils) and saturated fats from beef, pork, lamb, chicken and dairy foods.  “Ugly” fats are a different animal entirely.  These are man-made fats that simply cannot be properly digested by your body at all.  These fats interrupt the natural operation of your cells that have the capacity to affect your health in radically negative ways.  These fats include trans fats and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats.  Food containing these fats include cake and pancake mixes, cookies, crackers, frozen meals, French fries, and some breakfast cereals, corn/potato chips, and frozen pizza. The type of fat is more important the amount of fat you consume.  Good fats promote a  healthy body and a healthy brain.  That’s the skinny on the fat.

Sugar:  Not So Sweet     

The average American consumes 150-180 pounds of sugar per year.  Soft drinks and other sweetened beverages account for 66 percent of these calories in the form of high fructose corn syrup.  Consider eliminating these empty calories from your diet, as the fructose goes directly to the liver and the glucose increase (blood sugar) affects the pancreas, triggering insulin spikes.  As a result, your appetite will increase which will promote weight gain, and over time, can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.  If the label on your food contains “high-fructose corn syrup” or “corn sugar” you can be sure it is not a whole food full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.  Minimize or avoid these foods.  The can cause inflammation in your body.

Food is much more than calories; it is information.  Food communicates with your genes to positively or negatively impact your health.  What language is your food speaking?


UltraMetabolism, Mark Hyman, M.D., Atria Books, New York, 2006.Use your Brain to Change Your Age, Daniel G. Amen, M.D. Crown Archetype, New York, 2012 The Blood Sugar Solution, Mark Hyman, M.D., Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2012.  What Do Specific Foods Do?  Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, University of Minnesota.

You Are What You Eat

I got this directly from my workplace – how nice to know that they care about our health. I’ll provide it in several posts – the sources will be listed at the end.

The Language of Food

“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.” – – Hippocrates

 There is a concept called nutrigenomics  and it is the power of food and its impact on wellness.  Food gives instructions to genes to provide health or prevent health.  This month we will explore how specific food and nutrition interact with genes turning on messages of health or disease. You may already know what to eat to be healthy: a variety of foods – especially whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; and minimize candy, soda and other empty calories.   However, you might be surprised to learn the information your food is communicating to your genes.

Food Talks to Your Genes

farmacy comicDo you sometimes wish life came with an instruction book that contained all the directions for what to eat and how much to eat to live a healthy life?  As the science of nutrigenomics advances, strides are being made to prescribe a lifestyle that will help maximize your wellness and minimize your risk for disease.  Each person has his/her own set of DNA, which is one reason why one diet does not work for everyone.  Some people require more protein or fats or carbohydrates than others.  Regardless of the genes, everyone will benefit from eating “whole foods” every day.  These are unprocessed, fresh and simple foods that are as close to nature as you can get – fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, organic dairy and unprocessed meats.  A whole food diet speaks to your genes in a language it understands so that your metabolism will rev up and use these foods efficiently to promote health.  Your body has difficulty “digesting” information from the foods that come out of a box or from the middle aisles of the grocery store.

Simple Start Chicken Recipe

An easy way to make a crock pot chicken and stay on track during the first two week plan of Weight Watchers.  Or any easy low fat recipe for anyone. Use any type of chicken you like such as skinless thighs, breasts, wings, or a combination or even a small whole chicken.  Season it generously with garlic salt, a combination of your favorite spices, some can be fresh from your garden if that suits you.  Put chicken into the crock pot and pour about a cup of Wishbone Fat Free Catalina dressing on top.  Add 1 – 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa to the crock pot and stir gently to mix the dressing and grains.   Cover and turn to low and cook from 6 – 8 hours.  Very good and very low fat.

Meet the Farmers at West End Market

Go for the Food and Crafts but Meet the People

It’s surprisingly quiet when you enter Ben Brenman Park in Alexandria, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C., where the West End Market sets up shop every Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m..  The farmers and vendors start much earlier, some coming from as far away as Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania, or southern New Jersey or Montross, Virginia. The small farm market has around 22 vendors including the artisans, but prepare yourself for some nice surprises. There’s ample parking and an eclectic array of fresh produce and hand-made goods to buy. It was early in the season—opening day — when I ventured out there, but the weather mostly cooperated until late morning when gusts of wind threatened some of the tents and small handicrafts set up on tables that couldn’t withstand it.  You can meet the farmers on the next page….

Eating Healthier & Making Vegetarian Chili

We’re trying to eat healthier and take advantage of the new offerings at the farmer’s market.  This week I returned to an old recipe and started fooling around with it, making it better, I think.  I used the first fresh corn I had seen in a while as well as beautiful orange carrots from one of the farmer’s stands.  Our mushroom guy brings so many varieties of mushrooms, but baby bella work well here and can be found in the grocery store, too. Look on the recipe page to find out how to make it.

Chinese Hot & Sour the Easy Way

If it weren’t for lingering in the soup aisle and accidentally picking up the wrong box, I probably wouldn’t have had such an easy dinner tonight.  I purchased a box of Swanson’s Chinese Hot & Sour broth — and simply followed the directions for the soup on the box.  It has just the right amount of bite to it.  Instead of using shiitake mushrooms, which I didn’t have on hand, I substituted dried porcini mushrooms that I soaked for 15 minutes in water and then drained and added to the broth.  You’ll also need canned bamboo shoots, a boneless pork chop, some firm tofu, if you like it, a green onion and an egg.  The broth is infused with soy sauce, cayenne, ginger, garlic and more.  You have got to try it.  It’s near the Swanson chicken broth which is also full of flavor. I’m not getting anything out of highlighting this brand, but I can tell you that it really is good!

Remembering Weinstein’s, the Oakland deli

Learning to make matzo balls is not that difficult. But learning to make them so that they are light, fluffy and irresistible is another matter altogether.  When I was eight or nine my grandma Esther owned a deli in Pittsburgh where she taught me her technique.  You can read more about it in my article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.




Meatless-In-Seattle Matzo Ball Soup

With so many Passover Seders including foodies who are vegetarian, I recently developed a broth that is a good substitute for chicken soup, and I added the matzo balls to it. This recipe, also on the next page, is one I  just shared it with our cousin who will be going “Meatless in Seattle” this year with her daughter and son-in-law who are vegetarians.  It’s a hearty broth and it works perfectly for either vegetarians or non-vegetarians. Yum.