Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Case Study 62: "The Hidden Fruit"

"Fish, to taste right, must swim three times -
in water, in butter, and in wine."  
- Polish Proverb

I have friends who are vegetarians, friends who are vegans, and friends who are "pescatarians."  There are the locavores, the brocavores, the ones who ascribe to a shot of cod liver oil and apple cider vinegar, and the occasional worshiper of a caffeine-free god.  I know people who work out in the early morning, people who play squash every night, and people who can't even stomach the idea of exercise.  But regardless of the health trend au courant, in the end, I've always tried to stick to two practices:  try anything at least once and keep everything in moderation.
As an Italian, I was genetically pre-destined to be a culinarian, a foodie, a gourmand.  By the time I harnessed dexterity in my index finger, I sampled the foods of my elders.  Nothing was off-limits, even the baccala I so voraciously desired at 16 months to the delight of my Neapolitan great-grandmother. Growing up, although our family processed food ban cultivated a much handy kitchen prowess, my parents were stellar cooks, and evenings were spent either passionately whipping up meals or relaxing with a bohemian board of cheeses and charcuterie. But throughout it all, we ended up more than aware of the amazing powers of honest-to-God good food in fueling the body and satiating the soul.

"The Hidden Fruit" is a vegan zucchini and dark chocolate muffin topped pillows of (non-vegan) cream cheese frosting and a cinnamon sprinkle.  Made with carrot puree and lightly sweetened cereal, agave, lemon peel and unbleached flour, it's jam-packed with antioxidants and protein, a musty chocolate punch, and a citrusy kick.  Though it's unlikely that I'll put an end to my carnivorous ways, these organic power bites are enough to reignite the flames in any lackluster culinary affair.

Many of my most memorable life moments occurred at the table. I recall squealing in delight over the creamy funk of foie gras at Payard's, grilling up white Connecticut corn in the summer, or sucking down just-harvested oysters in Wellfleet, the freshly shucked cold brine dripping down our chins as we chased them with a crisp dry vin blanc.  Or maybe it was the tart passionfruit and chocolate Pierre Hermes macarons or the Coeur de Chevre I carried back from Paris, stinky and oozing in it's brown paper between my leather journal and a dried lavender bunch in my purse.  And don't even get me started with the time we holed up in Pietro's in Trastevere for hours one January, the Tiber flowing gently outside as we salivated over plates over the most musty and divine organisms this earth has ever created: black and white truffles.  My weakness for these divine sporous fungi is so evident that I once had a boyfriend whose pheromones reeked of something along the lines of a paradiso tartufato to me, and in the end, I'm pretty certain that's what aroused (and sustained) the attraction. 

What I have learned over 25 years of good solid eating is that in the end, what we eat is very much a part of who we are.  Whether we stick to a plan, modify as we go, or just simply don't care what we stick in our mouths, the act of eating shapes and enhances our sensory experience as we travel throughout life.  So don't forget to open wide and eat it up.  In the end, you'll never be hungry for anything but more.  

"The Hidden Fruit"
Makes 16-18 Mini Muffins

1 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup carrot puree
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 raw organic sugar
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup high-fiber cereal (Kashi Honey Puffs)
1/4 cup organic unbleached white flour
1/4 cup organic whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (70% or darker)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Vegetable oil cooking spray

1.  Heat oven to 350°, and spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.
2.  Combine zucchini, egg white, zest, sugar and oil in a bowl; mix well. 
3.  Slowly stir in cereal, flour, cocoa baking soda and baking powder, stirring until flour is just incorporated. Fold in chopped chocolate.
4. Fill muffin cups with batter. Bake until muffins spring back to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center, 20-25.

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