Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summer Slimmers: Watermelon

Thirsty for something sweet but trying to drink more water?  The summertime staple - a big slice of watermelon - can satisfy both desires. Watermelons contain 92 percent water so are true to their name. That’s why watermelon is one of the best foods to eat to keep you hydrated on a hot day.  

A sign of the season, watermelon salads are showing up on summer restaurant menus including watermelon with fresh mozzarella, almond mint pesto and green chilies at Two Urban Licks.  At Kyma it’s paired with feta cheese and fresh mint. 

The menu at Parish has featured grilled watermelon with heirloom tomatoes, mint and capers. Watermelon juice makes its way into refreshing cocktails, too.  
Frozen watermelon juice is refreshingly hydrating too. 

Seasons 52 has a recipe for a Watermelon Refresher made with light rum, fresh muddled watermelon and lime juice.
Hydration and Nutrition

Watermelon serves up way more than just water and natural sweetness.  With fewer than fifty calories per cup you can happily chow down on sweet, juicy watermelon during bathing suit season. Watermelon is a healthy choice for snacking too because its high water and fiber content help fill you up without filling you out.  
Summer camp, cookouts, catching fireflies, running in the sprinkler.
Childhood memories made even better when sharing watermelon.

It’s a lot of fun pick up a cold slice of watermelon and bite into summer’s sunny childhood memories so it fits in with modern nutrition advice to take your time while you eat and ‘be in the moment’ instead of mindlessly munching. 

Enjoying two cups of watermelon in chunks, sliced or cute little melon balls gets you a quarter of the way toward dietary advice to consume at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Seeing Red
Its red color is a clue it’s a leader in lycopene content, a pigment that’s a powerful antioxidant, which protects cells from disease causing damage.  Watermelon contains more lycopene than tomatoes. 
Heirloom tomatoes and watermelon- a delicious nutritious summer match! 

Watermelon’s also a good source of vitamin beta-carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A to boost eye health and the immune system.  Vitamin C, vitamin B6, and the minerals potassium and phosphorous are on the list of health benefits, too.  Registered dietitian, Elizabeth Somer, spokesperson for the National Watermelon Promotion Board  and author of “Eat Your Way to Sexy” says, “Where else can you get the wealth of nutrition, help keep your heart healthy, stay hydrated and satisfy a sweet tooth, all for so few calories?”
So, the next time you see a platter of bright red watermelon slices or watermelon chunks tossed into a salad you’ll know that this iconic symbol of summertime deserves more attention than a seed spitting contest.

Fruity Watermelon Facts 
o   The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of their ancient buildings. Watermelons were often placed in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife.
o   Southern food historian, John Egerton, believes watermelon made its way to the United States with African slaves as he states in his book, "Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History."
o   Watermelon’s official name is Citrullus Lanatus, the same botanical family as cucumbers
o   Wash watermelons. According to the FDA, all melons should be washed in clean running water before cutting into the rind.
Mind the Rind: Always wash melons carefully before cutting.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

All Fired Up for Memorial Day!

 While charcoal and gas fed flames burn brightly year round in restaurant kitchens, Memorial Day weekend signals the official start of the summer grilling season. 
This year everything from wagyu beef to watermelon is hitting the grill....is that cabbage? 
Joys Dubost, Phd, RD is a joy and did you know she's a competitive ice skater?

 “Grilling is one of the most popular preparation methods in restaurants,” says registered dietitian Joy Dubost of the National Restaurant Association, “ It's partly because of its appeal to health-conscious consumers and its impact on enhancing the flavor of food items.”  Hey, we love a win-win for taste and health!
All Fired Up

At newly opened King + Duke restaurant in Buckhead, the dining room features a showcase of open hearth cooking where hickory wood fires are expertly tended by chefs grilling octopus, steaks and artichokes over high heat on one grill; while slow roasting chicken, rabbit and beets over calmer embers. 
See the steering wheel things? They rotate the grill up and down. 

Using what looks like a steering wheel, grates can be raised or lowered over the fires to control the heat applied to the food.  The menu describes the North Georgia Brook Trout as “boy scout style” which means sautéed in a cast iron pan over the fire. Carrots, kale, eggplant, scallions and the vegetables for ratatouille are roasted on the hearth.  King + Duke chef and restaurateur Ford Fry says, “Our executive chef Joe Schafer even makes his own charcoal. Just about everything is cooked over the fire here. It’s an art and a science but the flavors are worth it. ”  
King + Duke has really cool chairs, too.

Beverage director Lara Creasy even uses fresh grilled pineapple to make King + Duke’s Pisco Punch. 

Why Grilling’s Healthy

Grilling foods is considered a healthy cooking technique for a few reasons. Excess fats drip off of meats lowering the total fat and calorie content; the fire concentrates flavors and adds textural contrast so small portions are satisfying and the high heat caramelizes natural sugars in fruits and vegetables making them taste a bit sweeter.
Registered dietitian Katie Sullivan Morford, author of the blog Mom’s Kitchen Handbook, says there’s some concern about carcinogens in grilled meats and poultry, “The key is to avoid burning and charring. Some research has found that using marinades as well as serving meat with antioxidant-rich vegetables helps offset the damage."
To over charr is to err when grilling. 

 Take these precautions and grilling can be one of the tastiest and healthiest ways to cook.

Bigger Can Be Better
This is a Porterhouse Steak. It's a strip steak on one side of the bone and filet mignon on the other. 
While ordering a petit filet may seem like the smart menu choice for weight conscious diners, chef Dave Zino of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association suggests a new twist on portion control, “Why not order a larger steak for ‘planned overs’ in mind? Restaurant steaks are high quality beef and they're fired at temps consumer grills can't reach so are more flavorful.” 
Chef Dave Zino knows a lot about beef. 
Considering price per ounce on the menu, larger cuts are often more economical. Ask the server to box up the portion you want to take home, enjoy the portion you want for dinner and the next day you can make a sliced steak salad or sandwich for lunch.  Tasty tip from Dave: Enjoy leftover grilled meats cold because reheating can create an undesirable ‘warmed over flavor’ and make them less tender.

Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD is the co-author of Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous! You can email her at carolynoneil@aol.com

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Oscars of the Food World

A Winning Weekend in New York with Top Foodies
Monday night at Thomas Keller's Per Se James Beard Awards After Party with the legendary Jacques Pepin 
What a thrill to wine and dine and chat with the top chefs, cookbook authors, TV food show stars and writers who tell us who's cooking what, where, why and how to cook it up yourself - or try!
Thank you Marion Laney for this fab photo of Gotham Hall glam! 

The annual James Beard Foundation Awards, held in NYC are a must for moi! Traveling with Atlanta gal pals, Gina Christman and Anne Marsden and my daughter Katie as an early graduation present - we took the town by storm with shopping sprees and the goal of dining in just about every 'hood in NYC.

It's easy to make new friends in NYC. Balthazar drinking rose Champagne Saturday while Anne and Katie shopped.

I am on the James Beard Foundation Awards National Broadcast Media committee so there's a lot of work leading up to the big announcements, but the weekend is a magical ride of Manhattan fun.
Friday kick-off lunch at Harry Cipriani. Vanilla cake.  We sat next to Robert Wagner. 

The big night is Friday for the Journalism Awards and the tables were set with pretty pink peonies as the wine flowed.  There's Martha Stewart with her entourage over there. Of course, I said hello to her!
Chef Marcus Samuelson at the table next to us and he won for his autobio book, Yes Chef!

Chef Marcus Samuelson of Red Rooster tweets out his news: Winner!

Martha Teichner of CBS Sunday Morning near us too. She won in the Best TV Food Program, in studio or fixed location. Congrats to her and the CBS Sunday Morning Team.
Martha Teichner accepts the JBF Award for CBS Sunday Morning's annual food themed show.

The South won big in Yankee territory. Nathalie Dupree and co-author Cynthia Graubert won a big prize, Best American Cookbook for their six pound cookbook, "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking" Nathalie accepted the award saying, "The South is the new Italy!"
A photo from the big screen of Nathalie and Cynthia accepting the James Beard Award !

More love! Martha Teichner and Nathalie Dupree congratulate each other on their James Beard Awards.
Both live in Charleston, SC.

We had dinner at Del Posto restaurant on Sunday night. 
Del Posto is my favorite restaurant in New York. The service is elegant but relaxed.
We sat down at 7:30pm and finished dinner at 11pm. I felt as if I'd been there 11 minutes.
A beautiful experience that began with flutes of 2006 Pierre Gimonnet Brut Cuvee Fleuron Champagne and the prettiest salad I've ever tasted or seen. Congrats to Del Posto for winning Best Service and Best Pastry JBF Awards and nomination for Best Chef NYC. As my daughter texted a friend, "I've just had dinner in first class on the Titanic."

Shhhhhh....this lunch is a secret. 

The "Southern Mafia Lunch" is an annual sort of secret invite only gathering on Monday before the Gala JB Awards at Avery Fisher Hall.  Top chef nominees from the South and Southeast categories gather along with Southern food writers, food producers and enthusiastic "southern-aires" at Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli's beautiful little Butter Restaurant.
Butter colored buttercup flowers on the tables at the Southern Mafia Luncheon.
Lots of fun - Andrew Zimmern sneaks into the photo with Gina Christman,
Publisher of Atlanta Homes & Lifstyle Magazine and Mary Reynolds, of The Reynolds Group, Atlanta

Here's a link to ALLLL of the winners thanks to Andrew Zimmern's website!  He won as JBF Best Media Personality 2013.  And I give him the "Nicest Best TV Personality Award!"
James Beard Foundation Awards winners

How about some punch? Top foodies tell us the cool places to go in NYC.
We're at Pouring Ribbons cocktail bar wayyyyyy down town on Sunday night.

It's all about the fun and frolic. As a busy food journalist, and three time James Beard Foundation Award winner including JBF Who's Who in Food Beverage - it's an absolute thrill to hang out with all of these great foodie folks. There are too many parties to go and too many people to hug - but we can only try!
JBF Award winner and uber famous chef, Todd English and I
 at Chef's Night Out Party at Todd English Food Halls, Plaza Hotel

Yes, it's important to burn some calories after burning the midnight oil eating and drinking so Gina, Anne and I hit the streets on Sunday morning and walked 5 miles through and around beautiful Central Park. A brisk start but sunny day and lots of needed oxygen. 
Nightlife followed by wildlife in Central Park. Birdwatchers abound and the flowers in full May bloom.

My favorite place to stay is The Kimberly Hotel. I booked a two bedroom, two bath suite for our Atlanta gals getaway for $322 and that includes free internet, a roof top bar/breakfast and free coffee/tea and pastries all afternoon on the rooftop terrace. Hello! Why would you stay anywhere else? 50th between Lex and 3rd. 

Goodbye Manhattan, thank you for a wonderful James Beard Foundation weekend!