Thursday, August 11, 2011

No substitutions.

For years I pleaded with customers in my restaurant to not substitute. No changes. Don't recook my ideas. No I will not put the lavender sauce from the halibut on your steak. Gross. Thankfully we didn't have too many whiner diners.

But now I'm looking for a substitute in my own life. For a most beloved, cherished friend.


Namely, bread. My bread. A couple years ago at the Hacienda I started making artisan bread. From one recipe in one book. We clicked. And I was soon known up here for my fennel and lavender organic whole grain crusty loaves. (there isn't a bakery for 50 miles so things like this make a big splash) then Jamie Oliver and his ease and Italian ideas showed me how to make thin, wafer crisp pizza crust. Then someone built that big giant fired pizza oven in my back yard. I had arrived!

And so it seemed had my belly.

Now, I'll admit this isn't the fault of recent bread prep. Back in the restaurant days there were many a night that dinner WAS a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou. OH and maybe some melty stinky cheese. My love affair was very French at the time and it filled a yearning and seemed good reward for a long day's work. Any chefs reading this know that we can have terrible eating habits. Pressed for time and often in close reach of carbs on the go...and well, it can be a career that  is driven by late nights of libations---and stress, also gut busters. But sometimes all that cooking kills appetite. You just need fuel. And that's pasta. Bread. Those roasted garlic mashed potatoes or the gorgonzola grits.  Sometime around 2003 I gained 30 pounds. Ack! At 36. And well, that was 8 years ago. Clearly, it is mine. But I don't have to keep anything I don't want. So let's see what else we can do.

But I retired from the resto biz. I have access to acres of greens from dandelion to sweet potato vines. I grow my own chickens for meat and eggs. I live in farm country and am a member of a really great CSA. I run my own little farmette.  feel great, don't get me wrong. Energy is strong and sustainable through the day. No crap out 3pm coma. No hardly any PMS. Rarely if ever get colds, skin clear, and my seasonal allergies are only rotten in May. And they go untreated by OTC drugs much to the frustration of my friend Sandy. But that stuff makes me feel funny. As does restaurant food, anything in a box or from a drive thru. I'm all natural, baby. But I still felt like a jug. An olive jug. Turkish.

Is it because I still found myself rolling out yet another version of my dough? Black sesame and flax flatbread with fresh mozzarella and heirloom okra and tomato oil. Rosemary and arugula pizza with cracked black pepper and shaved parmesan. I think it is. I'm addicted.

So since I'm not a dieter and I think all that South Beach, Atkins is too extreme and not sustainable for most folks, and full of a lot of crap that isn't real food. I was happy to find this book Primal Blueprint from Mark Sisson. The cookbook is laid out well, has really creative ideas for that hopeless, HOW AM I GONNA GET OFF PASTA panic (use zucchini with the mandoline) and other Whiner Diner bargaining. I'll just have it this once. And his blog started it all and it's FULL o' good science and myth debunking wisdom. Which I like. I gotta know the WHY. I like to know why grain isn't our friend. Isn't it the staff of life? Amor es el pan de la vida and all that? I know why corn is bad for cows, but I don't know why wheat is not working for me. They are both grains by the way. For those of you thinking it's veg. It's a sugary fattening grain. That's why they give it to cows. To fatten them up. So why would you be any different? But these NEVER diets do nothing but create craving and cheating. The prohibition model never works. you have to change your taste buds and your habits or you'll always be that guy who went to rehab but who can't stop talking about how he'd love to burn one right now. It's annoying.

It's a little heartbreaking. The goodbye to wheat. I don't eat any other carbs...some squash and maybe a weekly quinoa, but I think my carb cravings were sated by BREAD. It's been 10 days. I'm not gonna lie. It's kinda hard. But looking for distraction this week from a tragedy that I can't talk about right now because I'm not ready...I started making bread substitutes. I don't own a scale but I've lost two inches off my waist, so I might be on to something. I sort of feel like one grain craves another. And not having bread (crack) in there has quelled the wine crave (a little) and since bread likes cheese so much, knocking off one ignores the other. I have a little fresh mozz every OTHER day. I'm surprised at how many ridiculous combinations of foods I ate the first few days trying to 'satisfy' the hole on my bread plate. I seem to be past that a little. So here's my spinach pumpkin seed "bread" stuffed with my neighboring farms veg. English cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, beets and yes, mozz. So it's not just 'carb free' as the beets and tomatoes and even the seeds have traces. But too much depriving makes Jack fall off the wagon. I'll keep you posted. This was delicious, wonderfully textured and satisfying. Way more than the bloat and crash and weird tongue feel of a sandwich. Soy flour btw was used just to bind with the egg to give some holdable form. There are 8 gr of carb in 1/4 cup so this coming in at 4? No problem. And keeping it under 30 for weight can add up quickly. Again, it's about changing your palate.

Frozen organic spinach drained and sauteed beet tops, mixed with one org. egg, 1/4 cup of  raw pumpkin seeds (ground in coffee mill), 1/8 cup of SOY flour, salt, pepper, cumin. Make patties and crisp in olive oil in a pan. Press down hard to thin about 2 min on each side. Stuff with your choice of grilled veg and good quality meat. No need for condiments as the veg are plenty moist. Serve with roasted cauliflower, which in it's nutty perfection is a perfect sub for chips or fries.