Tag Archives: cooking

Friends and neighbors will drive you “plum crazy”!

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As creatures of habit and hesitant towards change, there are times when even the most adventurous of humans struggle with giving things a chance, especially when it comes to trying new foods. For me, I have always resisted the humble plum. I have eaten plums at homes of friends with pleasure. If one were to inquire of my opinion regarding this specific rock fruit, I would reply with positivity. I would even go on to describe them as juicy, sweet, tender, and excellent for cooking. Nonetheless, each week when I go shopping at Silver Barn market, I pass by the lovely display of locally grown plums, and each week I continue pushing my cart on by. Do not ask me why. It would likely play out like a Dr. Seuss story as I would proceed to confuse you with all sorts of riddling explanations as to why I never buy this particular fruit. Pretty soon your head would be spinning, then my head would be spinning, and before we could effectively end the discussion, we would both be searching for the nearest barf bag.

However, sometimes, what one needs is a gentle push in the right direction. Or, if you’re me, with stubborn German roots, it requires something resembling…more of a kick in the pants.

Last Saturday, I stopped by my friends’ house to pick them up for a night out in Astoria. Seeing their parents in the front yard, I hopped out to say my “hellos” and get my usual “don’t get into too much trouble there, Juhl-child”. While I was chitchatting about their newest landscape project, I found my friend talking to me in the background about her recent interaction with an Ecuadorian neighbor. Trying to multi-task, I nodded along to both conversations simultaneously – (always dangerous and yet I never learn). Beware – you will ALWAYS say, “yes” to something you don’t want or need. It’s like my sister, who at a naïve 23, had to be told by her Parisian friend to stop saying “Oui” to anything she didn’t understand. “You’re going to end up married to an Arab and in the African district if you’re not too careful!” Ignoring this universal advice, I headed back to the car and realized that I had just agreed to a bag full of plums. OF ALL FRUIT – REALLY??!! Apparently my friend had similarly been bamboozled by her Polish neighbor who asked if she liked plums – “ahhh I have a tree – no can eat it all. Here four bags!” So like a good friend, she “paid it forward” and bamboozled me into my very own bag. How nice.

Fortunately, my conniving culinary brain began working and I decided to similarly “pay it forward”. I had a friend for lunch today and prepared tilapia with plum mint salsa. The funniest part of this whole story – my friend doesn’t really like plums. Muahahahahahahaha!

Friends and neighbors will drive you “plum crazy”!

My little plums all washed and ready to be married to their beautiful mint friend.

The final product which my friend and I quickly devoured with pleasure. A successful “kick in the pants” indeed!
Plum Salsa
  • 6 medium (or 8 small) ripe plums, pitted and diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 20 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tb diced jalepenos
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 pinches Stevia

Put plums in a bowl with onion, cilantro, mint, and jalepeno. Add lime juice, salt, and Stevia and mix until combined. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Broiled Tilapia with Plum Salsa

  • Pam spray
  • 1 lb Tilapia filets
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tb olive oil
  • 1 recipe Plum Salsa (see above)
  • 4 lime wedges

Preheat broiler on High in your oven. Grease a baking sheet with Pam, then place filets on sheet. Generously sprinkle both sides of each filet with salt and pepper. Drizzle filets with olive oil. Broil until cooked to desired temperature (I prefer my tilapia to be medium-well, so I cooked mine for 8 minutes), depending on the thickness.

Transfer the fish to a serving platter and spoon the plum salsa generously over. Garnish with lime wedges and serve immediately.

YIELD: 3 servings

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Now that I have conquered my inexplicable fear of the plum, does anyone have any suggestions on what to do with my-new found gastronomical friend?!

The Dawn of My Delectable Delusions

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“One cannot live well, love well or sleep well unless one has dined well.” This quote by Virginia Woolf served as the mission statement for my family’s business and I am determined to carry on that legacy in my future career.

We live in a society that is getting farther and farther away from the family table. and getting closer and closer to our BlackBerrys, steering wheels, project deadlines, delivery boys, and McDonald’s.  Granted, the world has changed and the pace has hastened, forcing us to conform and give in just so that we can keep our head above water.  So, if we can’t change how many hours we work, the number of daily commitments, or the rising cost of living, what can we control so that we don’t all become Oompa-Loompas with heart disease, ulcer medications, and carpal tunnel from excessive texting?  Return to the basics and cook!

While Americans are becoming more and more health-conscious due to the popularity of “100 Calorie Snacks”, “Weight Watchers” and “Whole Foods Market”, we still see skyrocketing childhood and adult obesity rates.  Why?  “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have time to learn how to eat healthy”.  However, we do find time to interact with 150 friends on Facebook and catch every episode of American Idol.  We also seem to be going back to college for our second Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree – so somehow I don’t think intelligence is the issue.  You want the real answer – Americans are scared of the kitchen table.  WHAT???!  The kitchen table means you have to put the Blackberry on silent.  The kitchen table means that you have to use a knife and fork when you eat.  The kitchen table means that you have to talk to the person next to you.  The kitchen table means that you chew your food before you lift your fork for the next bite.  American media culture and the rising costs of living have possessed many families for so long that they have forgotten how to do these rudimentary things.  But what happens when they sit down at their kitchen table?  They find out about what’s going on in their children’s lives.  They don’t have heartburn after eating because they used a fork instead of a shovel.  They discover that they feel calmer because they aren’t worried about replying to an email.  But take it a step further – they begin to heal mentally, emotionally, and physically as they unwind from their day, strengthen family bonds, and eat a balanced nutritious meal.  They realize that they actually do have the time and knowledge to be healthy.  It was almost too simple.

Now while it is easy to say these things and believe them, putting them into practice after years of executing ingrained and learned behavior is where the hurdles arise.  This is where nutritionists and food professionals come in.  It is my firm belief that adults are not a lost cause – any person with the desire can learn what the Europeans have done for centuries with their eyes closed.  They just need someone to show them the way.  This is why the Food Network, TLC, Bravo, and the Travel Channel have all jumped on the “food-is-cool” bandwagon with amazing success across the nation.  This is why the “Food/Cooking” section of Barnes & Noble at Union Square encompasses half of the second floor.  Americans want to be told how to make dinner in less than thirty minutes on Tuesday night, how to seduce their husband with the right wine pairing on their tenth anniversary, and where to fly to for the best meal with a killer view.  It is our job as the ones with education and zeal to teach them, either in person or through the written word.

Lastly, this education and effort should not be available only to those tall enough to see over the kitchen counter.  Children love to please their parents and have a never-ending curiosity about this world that they have recently become residents of.  Teaching children the basics of proper cooking techniques, the value of having the right tools, the variety of choices in food and ingredients, and most importantly the serious worth of eating together as a family is what is going to change our society. 

As a passionate chef, nutrition enthusiast, lover of children, and zealous writer, I am dedicated to helping this generation know that they can stop the cycle by going back to the basics – by cooking the way your grandmother would have liked you to.