Tag Archives: Lyme Disease

Carrot Soup with Tarragon, Ginger and Toasted Pepitas: Private Chef-ing By the Book with Seamus Mullen

Funny story:

Last April I was soaking my arthritic bones in a deep bath full of Epsom salts and essential oils, melting away the wet of Spring, with Seamus Mullen’s soon-to-be-released Hero Food cookbook. I was interviewing Chef Mullen for my column on Serious Eats NY, and the book had been messengered over for my research. As I flipped through the intro, I was flabbergasted: Seamus has rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic immune disease that manifests with symptoms and patterns similar to my own with Lyme. I jumped out of the tub, threw on a robe and, dripping, held the book up to my roommate, with a “you’ll never guess what this cookbook is about!!”

Which was an unfair proclamation.

Because while, indeed, Chef Mullen battles RA, the book isn’t about that. It’s about delicious food that also happens to be good for you.

When I was first diagnosed with Lyme Disease at 12 years old, massive amounts of antibiotics weren’t cutting it. I couldn’t walk for a long period, I couldn’t eat, I attended school sporadically when I could, and in general my brain and body were in Lala land seemingly without end. It wasn’t until my mom found a nutritionist who put me on a strict diet, lots of supplements and IV vitamin drips that my immune system got so strong that my symptoms went away – relatively speaking – even though the Lyme did not.

Growing up with Lyme – including dealing with two serious flairs again in adulthood – taught me a lot about food. There were many I had to avoid – some incredibly strictly during certain periods but in moderation in others – and some that to this day I can’t touch. But there were also some that I needed to load my diet with so that my digestive tract, immune system and joints had a bit of extra help.

Seamus calls them hero foods.

Two decades later, I’m a private chef in a household with no dietary restrictions. Actually, I call myself a “private cook”, because a chef I am not. I am adept at making delicious things and, yes, can cook without guidance. But for inspiration and to widen my skill-set I often take advantage of my job and bring favorite books I want to explore to work with me. And as my blogging time has been diminished by my cooking, interviewing and event-covering time, I figured I should let my professions overlap when possible.

Hence this new series, “Private Chef-ing By the Book”.

It’s fitting that I’m starting with Hero Food because this time of year I’m back in the tub often. My job is physical, and I have to medicate, soak and sleep more often to battle the pain it brings my joints. 

Just reading through Mullen’s Spanish-based recipes brings me comfort; not only do I love the ingredients he focuses on (olive oil, almonds, anchovies, good eggs, good birds, parsley etc.), but reminding myself why they’re healing for me helps me connect more intimately with them, reminding me to give them more attention when I’m frantically cooking in someone’s kitchen.

In Hero Foods this carrot soup is made to celebrate summer, with gorgeous fresh carrots and a splash of citrus. But since it’s chilly and damp in NYC I’ve made a few tiny adjustments. In the original recipe Chef Mullen blanches the carrots: I’ve chosen to roast them. He tops his with yogurt: for my boss-family I stirred some creme fraiche in instead, and for my holiday dinner-party I’ll serve it with tangy goat yogurt so I can enjoy it too. And because it’s autumn now in New York City, I toasted some pepitas and tossed them in cinnamon and a pinch of sugar to sweeten the deal a bit. I adjusted some ingredients a tad and served the soup hot rather than chilled.

This soup is delicious. I’d never thought to add orange juice or zest to a carrot or squash soup, and it brightens and enlivens the rooty vegetables. Streaming in olive oil at the end emulsified it to a smooth cream. And not using chicken stock – which is my go-to for adding flavor and depth – really let the carrots remain the star and the gentle garlic, ginger and tumeric do the flavoring. And while I love tarragon and use it often, serving it on top rather than blending it in as I usually do helps it stand out rather than meld with a pluthera of equally-amazing flavors.

I’ve cooked from Chef Mullen’s book a few times already. And on top of the deep flavors I’ve created, it’s given me mindful time in the kitchen with ingredients that should be constantly in my rotation. Soon I’ll be pickling mushrooms to add to my cheese plate and pan-roasting Brussels sprouts with some (Portuguese… sorry Mullen) chorico for Thanksgiving. At work next week I’m going to make his tender lamb meatballs in a gentle tomato sauce and ricotta. And when the weather warms up again, I’m going to utilize the grill in my boss-family’s summer home to do more smoking, which I can’t do in my tiny NYC apartment.

But, until then…

There’s Hero Soup.

Stay warm and dry, East Coasters,

– Jacqueline

** Note: Chef Mullen is also the owner of Tertulia, in NYC. I took my friend Nikk – the chef whose job I took on – for his going away / birthday dinner. It’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and is one of my favorite restaurants around. If you love flavor-packed food, salty fish, cured meats, incredible cheeses, bright vegetables and potent wine, go there soon. If you don’t… um…

Carrot Soup with Tarragon, Ginger and Toasted Pepitas

Based on Seamus Mullen’s Chilled Carrot Soup with Yogurt and Tarragon from Hero Food.
Serves 4-6 depending on serving sizes

Ingredients:

2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 cup olive oil (the book specified Arebquina, which happens to be what I had on hand!)
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/4 tsp whole tumeric
Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper
Creme fraiche, if desired, or whatever yogurt you can digest (or omit completely to make vegan)
About 4 tarragon fronds or 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped tarragon

For the Pepitas:

Note: Thanks go to Chef Anthony Ricco at The Spice Market, NYC, for this pepitas idea. He serves it on an incredible sweet butternut squash soup that I’ll be for Thanksgiving. His interview coming up in a few weeks on Serious Eats.

1/4 cup pepitas (small hulled pumpkin seeds)
1 Tbsp olive oil 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sugar, if desired

Directions:

Heat oven to 375°.

Combine carrots and about 2 Tbsp oliver oil on a large baking tray. Sprinkle with salt, cover loosely with foil, and roast for about 30 minutes, until almost steamed and completely soft, and slightly browned on bottom. Remove to cool slightly.

While the carrots are roasting, prepare the pepitas: place pepitas and olive oil in a cold skillet and place over medium/high heat. As the temperature starts to rise stir and then start tossing until they crackle, pop and expand. When they’re equally lightly browned and full in size, remove quickly to a bowl. Toss with a pinch of salt, cinnamon and sugar (if desired – you don’t need to).

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add shallots, and cook to sweat, 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and toss quickly to warm and slightly sweat, about another minute more.

Place cooked carrots, shallots, garlic, vinegar, orange juice and zest, tumeric, and ginger in a blender, food processor or large pot (and use a hand blender). Start running the blender on high and slowly add warm water until you get to the “velvety” consistency you desire, about 2 cups. Reduce the speed of your blender/mixer, and stream in about 1/2-1 cup olive oil until emulsified and gorgeously smooth.

Adjust taste with salt and pepper, and add more acid from vinegar or orange if desired.

Pour into serving bowls and top with a dallop of creme fraiche / yogurt, a few fronds of tarragon, a swirl of olive oil and some toasted pepitas.

The Manhattan’s Manhattan and The Dusty Baker “Unplugged”

Doesn't get much more local than a Manhattan in Manhattan...

I’m a city girl, for a plethora of reasons.  But I daydream about what life would be like in a smaller city: San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Seattle, Portland (Maine), Boulder.  I may spend a bit of extra time pondering Boulder because it is home to one of my favorite, insanely inspiring food bloggers, Toni of Boulder Locavore, who blogs about by trying to eat as much she can of what grows within 100 miles of Boulder.  Her recipes are rich and fulfilling.  And her cocktail creations… wow.

Toni emailed me as to if I would participate in this “blogger unplugged” chain.  For her, anything.  I am interested in Toni, and I’m interested in the 5 bloggers I’ve listed below.  So I’m psyched to pass this on, and welcome them to continue the thread if they choose!

The other night on my way home, I tweeted that I wished I had someone to drink a Manhattan and play chess with me.  Toni immediately responded with loveliness and cyber-friendship.  So I’m adding a few questions to this little Q&A centered around what I would do to welcome her to my NYC food world:

If Toni were to come visit me in NYC, what cocktail would I shake for her?  A Manhattan in Manhattan!  The one above wasn’t constructed as the one I’d shake for her.  It would be as local to NYC as possible with my beloved Hudson Baby Bourbon and some insane artisanal Brooklyn-made Bittermans Bitters to rock the house.

What would I serve her?  Well, I’d take her down to Union Square Market during the early hours.  We’d pick up some grass-fed lamb, goat cheese, arms full of vegetables, bouquets of dried flowers and sweet fruits to bake into dessert.  We’d come back to my kitchen and just play!  And as Manhattans are reserved in my apartment for cocktail hour only (cough), I’d serve up some wine I’ve got stocked up from the Hamptons.

Where would I take her? To the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.  It’s my favorite museum in the city, and their fascinating tours track  waves of immigration in NYC through the families that lived over the decades in a building on Orchard Street.  Then maybe a walking tour of the area.  We’d stop by a bar nearby for some local beer (or at least look at them while we ordered a gluten free one).  I’d probably take her into Carroll Gardens for a stroll into By Brooklyn, where everything in the shop is made in that singular borough.  Depending on how long she was out here. we’d drive to my friends in the Hamptons and sit outside on the vineyards.

In short, I’d want to show her what I most love about my city.

Here are the five bloggers I tag.

  1. Kym at Free Spirit Eater.  We met writing for Bromography, and so have worked together several times in “real” life.  She and her fiance are on a healthy new kick in preparation for their wedding, and I’m so psyched by the journey they’re on: while frustrating I’m sure, I bet these two trained chefs have a load of delicious discoveries to share with us!
  2. Kelly at Eat Yourself Skinny: I don’t know Kelly well.  But on her “About” page she has pictures of a winery, tomatoes and a dog that Mitra would probably fall in love with.  Her posts are energetic and full of positive energy.  And, heck, who doesn’t want to eat herself skinny?
  3. Stephanie at Clockwork Lemon.  I recently discovered her through a Pinterest photo that had blown up the boards.  Colored fondants she made from marshmallows. Check her out.
  4. Nick from Frugal Feeding.  I should take more advice from Nick as I’ve practically fallen into bankruptcy from the amount I spend on groceries.  His food always look amazing, he’s incredibly creative, and I don’t know enough about him.
  5. Carrie from Wheat Free Mom.  In making food for her family she has to deal with allergies, diabetes and low blood sugar complications.  I can totally sympathize.  I love how Carrie blogs about such a wide scope of the food world. Very inspiring.

And now… to yours truly…

What or who inspired you to start your blog?  When I got over my last bout of Lyme disease I was exploring alternative therapies, experimenting with healing foods and developing gluten, dairy and sugar-alternative recipes.  Friends were asking for advice constantly.  And so I started an extremely casual, unstructured blog called “I Am A Whole Human Being”.  It helped me celebrate all I could ingest despite my “restrictions”.  A bit of experimenting, observing my passions and trying to combine my theatrical experience with food, a took a little “rebranding” and voila! The Dusty Baker was born!

Who is your foodie inspiration? Every chef, passionate blogger, food writer, farmer, shop-keeper, barista, barkeep and eater I meet.

Your greasiest most batter splattered cook book is?  In the gluten-free field, Rebecca Reilly’s Gluten Free Baking.  I took a short pastry course with her in NYC a few years ago.  It’s a classic, creative, comforting book I highly recommend to use as a base for experimentation.

Me eating corn that was cooked in one of the springs in Furnas, on Sao Miguel in the Azores

The best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it and what was it?  Definitely caracas (barnacles) in Ribera Quente on the island of Sao Miguel in the cluster of Azorean islands off of Portugal.  Have fun getting there.  It’s the island my father grew up on, and my favorite foods are still there.  These incredibly sweet bits of shellfish are steamed and you pull them out with a tiny fork from big chunks of rock.  Can’t describe them better, sadly!  But they’re like what seafood would taste like in hypothetical heaven.  Portuguese food is incredible.  In Furnas, the town next to my father’s, there are hot springs constantly boiling (the islands are volcanic) and the ground is hot, so they boil corn from nearby fields in the boiling water and sell it on the street, and there’s a park that you can have pots of food buried in the earth.  It cooks away while you picnic with your large brood.  Ach, I could go on about food on Sao Miguel for a long time…!

Another Food Blogger’s table you would like to eat at?  Can’t pick one.  I think if I could pick a table of people to eat with together it’d be cocktails and veggies and yummy local meats with Toni (Boulder Locavore), Mari (The Unexpected Harvest), Lindsay (Rosemarried), Christianna (Burwell General Store), Chef Dennis and Bruce (Cakewalker), with one of his insane cake creations.  They’re all bloggers who I’ve met within the past year and think incredibly highly of, yet I’ve never met a single one of them in the flesh.  But I have a feeling we’d share a particularly splendid meal, either one that we all made together (oh MY that would be fun!) or one over many hours in a dimly lit, family-run joint.

What one kitchen gadget would you like Santa to bring you? (if money were no object)?  I honestly have all the gadgets I feel like I need.  If I could pick a cooking environment I don’t already have, though, the ability to smoke meats outdoors or an outdoor brick oven to bake bread like my Avo.

Who taught you how to cook? My parents are both incredible cooks.  Actually, everyone in my family makes pretty insane meals, down to many of my cousins.  We’re a food family.  Food, good cheap wine, coffee, laughter and love.  I’m a lucky gal.  I had a decent basis to work from when I had to start cooking allergy-friendly for myself.

I’m coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?  Hmm, no signature. But for special occasion for friends I make a spicy stuffed lobster.  And of course something sweet.

What is your guilty food pleasure?  I’m on board with Toni that I don’t like to equate food and guilt (or food and reward, for that matter).  But I guess I can admit that I feel both extremely shamed and indulgent when I get a decaf soy cappuccino in a throwaway cup.  I usually carry a reusable stainless steel cup with me and hate waste, but there’s something that feels so luxurious about those stupid red holiday cups from Starbucks.  Same thrill I get from taking taxis home all the way up the island after a long night of drinking and eating yummy things.

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn? I had to resort to my roommate about this.  She was surprised that I love horror movies.  Love ’em.  Having American Horror Story as a TV show made me actually independently start following a TV show (I usually just tag along what the roommate is watching).

Oh, and speaking of fear, I’m very afraid of dying underwater.  My mom wants her brood to join her on an Alaskan cruise for her next big birthday.  It took her a second to understand why freezing waters and a large boat might make me nervous.  She promised she’d never let go. Ha!  I’ll go with them, no doubt, but it may take me a few little white indulgent tablets and a few cocktails to get me through.  But WHALES!  Those I can’t wait to see.

So, that’s me!  And speaking of cocktails,  now here’s a classic, untainted, locally made Manhattan, for Toni.

A Manhattan and chess... in the future for me and Toni :)

The Manhattan Local

  • 2 oz Hudson Baby Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • a few dashes of Bitterman’s Bitters
  • Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with at least a cup of ice and shake it like a polaroid picture.  Strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with a cherry or (my preference) a twist of orange.

Savory Stuffed Acorn Squash with Lamb and Cranberries

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Lamb and Vegetables

For those of you who don’t know me very well, my food lifestyle and this blog started because of a lifetime of dealing with Lyme Disease and her related minions.  Since I was twelve I’ve had three serious flares of Lyme, which have resulted in severe joint and bone pain, muscle spasms, neurological waves of yuckiness (medical term) and scores of issues with food.

But I am very fortunate.  I have an incredible medical team, a supportive family, and health insurance through my family business (it’s practically impossible to get insurance outside of a business if you have a pre-existing condition).  And the intimate experiences I’ve had with my body have shaped my lifestyle and approach to wellness and food.  

This week I could feel the weather changing in my bones.  From a springy, energetic summer demeanor I’ve felt my body shifting into the Hunchback of Washington Heights.  Today, for the first time in a while, I had to medicate, and know the coming cold will make this a more regular occurrence.

But overall I still feel so far from where I’ve been before.  And that is a result of listening to my body, seeking out excellent medical advice and constantly nourishing my body with the goodness of positive things around me.

Enter this recipe.  I’d noticed I’ve been craving meat lately, suggesting that I may be slipping back into anemia.  The abundance of root vegetables and hearty leafy greens of the season is timed perfectly.  As is the new batch of Indonesian cinnamon I just picked up.  Along with the calming, inspiring affect I feel when working with food, a recipe like this provides so many nutrients to fortify us against the coming cold.

And it’s just plain tasty.  And not hard to make.

Many newer cooks can be intimidated by lamb – I know I once was.  But it’s one of my favorite meats to cook, and so deliciously versatile.  I find it takes the combo of sweet and savory that I so love better than pork or beef.  And it’s packed with iron.

Acorn squash is another of my favorite fall foods: along with simply roasting it, it’s the perfect nest for meaty and vegetarian dishes alike.  A favorite filling is tempeh stir-fried with quinoa, carrots and dried fruit.  Heck, even a Thanksgiving bread stuffing would taste divine.

But this one combines lamb, onions, carrots, cranberries, Brussels sprouts and sunflower seeds for warm, filling and dynamic results.

The recipe is endlessly adaptable.  Grab what you have leftover in the fridge or pantry, and have a blast.

Happy Autumn everyone!

Lamb, Carrots and Brussels Sprouts Inside Sweet Acorn Squash

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses, regular molasses or pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup rocking awesome olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 lb lamb, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 4 carrots, scrubbed and chopped into small pieces
  • 6-8 Brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 2-inch ginger root
  • 1 tsp sharp cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • sunflower seeds or other chopped nuts to taste

Method:

  • Heat oven to 350°.
  • Place squash in a deep baking pan skin down.  Brush with molasses / maple syrup.
  • Place in heated oven and bake for 30 minutes while prepping lamb.
  • In a large skillet or cast iron pot, heat oil on low.
  • Add onions and garlic and cook on low until golden and soft.
  • Season lamb with salt and pepper and add to skillet, browning on all sides.
  • Add rosemary and toss to coat.
  • Remove lamb to plate.
  • Into the hot skillet drop cranberries and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add carrots, Brussels sprouts and cinnamon.  Grate ginger over the mixture and stir to combine.  Cook for about 8 minutes until the vegetables soften.
  • Add vinegar and toss to coat.
  • Turn off heat, return lamb to skillet and mix thoroughly to combine.
  • Remove squash from oven, fill evenly with lamb mixture.  Cover with tin foil.
  • Return to oven and cook an additional 30 minutes or until lamb just starts to brown on top.

Serve sprinkled with nuts and a drizzle of molasses and vinegar, if desired.

Makes four hearty servings.  Great as a main course with a salad or wilted greens on the side.

Beautiful to present at a special dinner, too!

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