Saturday, December 19, 2009

The "Clean" Food Movement

I've always found it challenging to describe my diet. It's easy to talk about what we don't eat. But shouldn't a diet be about what you actually eat? Fortunately, I'm pleased to see a new word "clean" entering our lexicon, popularized by recent two books.

"Clean" means food that is organic, local, sustainably raised. It is food that is mostly plant-based, but includes consumption of sustainably raised animal products.

The books Clean Food and Clean Plates N.Y.C. are written by fellow Integrative Nutrition graduates. I own and use both books and thought they were worth highlighting.

Clean Food is a beautiful seasonal cookbook put together by Terry Walters. If ever there was a cookbook for health counselors, this would be it! It's divided into four sections (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer) and contains easy-to-prepare recipes that use seasonal produce and whole grains. I'm currently eyeing her recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fennel and Shitake Mushrooms as well as Teff Peanut Butter Cookies. Terry does a fabulous job of introducing new healthy ingredients (like teff, an African whole grain) while keeping the recipes familiar and accessible. Check out her book and purchase Clean Food at

Clean Plates N.Y.C. is a restaurant guide to clean New York City restaurants put together by Jared Koch and Alex Van Buren, former food writer for Time Out New York. If you're concerned about what goes into your food at restaurants, and want to eat at high-quality establishments in Manhattan, this book is for you! Jared and Alex dined and met with the chefs at over 200 restaurants, getting down to what kind of salt they use on the table. The result is a great guide of hand-picked favorites. I especially love that in addition to highlighting the usual vegetarian and vegan restaurants, this guide goes a step further and includes restaurants that have macrobiotic, raw and gluten-free options as well as naturally sweetened desserts on the menu. Thanks to Clean Plates, I discovered a pizza place that serves gluten-free and dairy-free pizza (Slice), a healthy lunch spot in the wasteland of Midtown (Free Foods), and an organic taqueria that makes gluten-free burritos using corn tortillas (Cosmic Cantina). If you live and eat in New York City and want to discover more gems like these, you'll want to purchase this handy restaurant guide.

And if you haven't seen it - be sure to watch Food, Inc (now on video). It's a great documentary about our food system that will make you want to eat clean. I recommend it to everyone who eats food (i.e. you).


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Recipe: Middle Eastern Fish with Wild Rice

I've had a lot of good meals in the last month, but this one is definitely tops. It was inspired by a recent dinner at our friend Eran's house and recreated by Swati in our kitchen.

It's a great way to prepare any white fish (we used tilapia). We classified it as Middle Eastern, but it could possibly also cite influences from Mexican and Italian cuisine as well. We served this fish over a wild rice blend. But it could also work over couscous.

Feed this to others, they will be friends for life.

Serves 2

1/2 cup brown basmati rice
1/2 cup wild rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
16 oz organic tomato sauce
1 or 2 fillets tilapia
1-2 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

To make rice--
Add brown rice, wild rice and 2 cups of water to a medium sized pot. Bring to boil and let simmer for 35-45 minutes until rice is fully cooked.

To make fish--
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Saute onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add green peppers, cumin, coriander, oregano and thyme. Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Place tilipia fillets directly over sauce. Cover the fish in the sauce, without letting the fish directly touch the pan. Continue to cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Then flip fish over and cook for another 20 minutes.

Serve fish on top of rice blend. Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Recipe: Easy Brown Rice Salad

I can't tell you how many times I get asked about healthy lunch options. Well, lately I've been interested in this topic myself. As I previously posted, I recently started working in an office again, part-time. And considering there aren't too many great lunchtime eats in my part of town, I have embraced the opportunity to hone up my ability to create meals-on-the go.

For me, it's important to create something that doesn't take a lot of time to put together in the morning, tastes great, and can be eaten at room temperature. This brown rice salad is one of my favorite dishes that I've come up with and thought I would share.

I love the fact that this dish uses my leftover brown rice and doesn't require any salad greens. As a result it's a nice change from the usual salad, as well as a bit heartier. I really just throw in whatever I have in the kitchen - some parsley, canned chickpeas, carrots, cherry tomatoes, raisins, feta cheese. I even threw in some sweet pickle slices that I purchased from my neighborhood pickle guy. And then topped it with a simple dressing.

You'll note in my recipe there are no measurements. It's really about throwing things together.

cooked brown rice
a few sprigs of parsley, chopped
a carrot, cut into matchsticks
a few cherry tomatoes
a few sweet pickle slices
a handful of raisins
feta cheese

2 parts olive oil
1 part balsamic vinegar
1 part brine from pickle juice
salt and pepper

Throw all ingredients in a tupperware container. Top with dressing. Enjoy...wherever you are!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recipe: Toasted Nori Hand Rolls

I think sushi might be like pizza. Anything you put on it tastes good. At least that's been my experience as of late as I've been craving the salty, crunchy, 'mineral-licious' taste of nori.

I like to serve nori rolls with a variety of fresh vegetables. In addition to the standby avocado and cucumber, I also like to cut up red peppers, carrots, scallions, cilantro - and if I'm feeling adventurous some roasted sweet potatoes! I suggest putting out a plate with all the toppings and letting everyone make their own.

My recipe requires minimal cooking and is perfect for those who love to chop! It's also great for those who struggle to roll perfect sushi rolls.

Note: Most nori sold in the store is already toasted. I suggest buying untoasted nori (Emerald Cove sells this) and doing it yourself. I think you'll find it to taste much better.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet potato, cut into wedges

2 sheets untoasted nori sheets
1 cup cooked short grain brown rice
2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1 carrot, cut in matchsticks
1 cucumber, cored, peeled and cut in matchsticks
1 red pepper, cored and sliced
1 avocado, sliced
2 scallions, sliced
few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
pickled ginger (optional)

Coat a cast iron or heavy bottomed pan with olive oil. Cook sweet potatoes for about 10-15 minutes until soft.

While sweet potatoes are cooking, briefly pass each sheet of nori over a gas flame until it turns bright green. Cut each nori sheet into four quarters. Mix cooked brown rice in a bowl with vinegar and sesame seeds.

Top nori sheet with vinegared rice and choice of vegetable toppings. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Integrative Nutrition live classes to end next year

Recently, I learned the school that I graduated from, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, will cease to offer live classes starting next year. That means the upcoming school year (beginning January 2010) will be the last opportunity to sit in a live classroom.

Starting in 2011, the school will move entirely online with its Distance Learning Program. The effort according to its founder, Joshua Rosenthal, is to make the school more of a global one as opposed to a regional one.

While I think it's great that the school will be opening up itself to those unwilling to travel to New York City, I was upset to learn of this development. In my opinion, there is nothing that compares to the opportunity of attending live classes. I made so many great friends and loved being in the same room with so much like-minded energy.

My intention though is not to criticize the school, but rather to urge those of you who've been on the fence about enrolling to seriously consider taking the plunge. I know there are some of you out there! It's truly a life-changing experience - and you won't regret it.

The school's curriculum is unique, and so much more engaging than any other educational experience I've had. Integrative Nutrition does not have an espouse any sort of dietary ideology. You learn about it all - from raw foods to macrobiotics to Atkins. In the end we have to make our own decisions. I remember starting the school as a vegetarian. Now I'm a conscious carnivore. It happens.

The school is also fun. Joshua said his intention was to create a school that students would be excited to come to - more rock concert, less boring classroom. Which is why the school has chosen to host classes in vibrant spaces like Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.

And if you're outside the New York area or have a full time job, don't let that stop you! Classes are on the weekends, so you can still earn that paycheck. The school also offers discounts for those traveling from outside of New York. I myself was living in San Francisco when I started the program.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thich Nhat Hanh visits NYC

This weekend I had the privilege of seeing one of my heroes, Thich Nhat Hanh, in New York City. He was in town for two days, leading an event called Building a Compassionate Society, sponsored by the Omega Institute.

As someone who is passionate about personal growth as much as natural foods, I jumped at the opportunity to see this Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. He is one of the most prolific Buddhist teachers and I have always found his writing to be very accessible, simple and profound. Obviously, I'm not alone, as tickets were very hard to get - opening night was sold out! [That's New York for you - plan ahead, cause everything sells out here!]

My introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh came from the book Timeshifting written by Stefan Rechtschaffen, founder of the Omega Institute. [I reviewed the book in December 2008.] I was intrigued my him ever since, especially when he described one of Thich Nhat Hanh's mindfulness walks. It seems when he leads one time stands still and by watching you become transformed. I was excited to learn that he'd by hosting one in NYC as well. So on Saturday afternoon we lined up outside the theater to give it a go. Unfortunately, with 2,000 other folks in attendance, I don't think it necessarily had the same effect.

Yet, the weekend was still powerful. I especially enjoyed his Dharma Talk on Saturday morning. He spoke of Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, and our President Obama. As someone close to Dr King, he said he sees a lot of the same characteristics in our President. He believes his winning the Nobel Prize this week will help shape his legacy, and help him stay true to his innermost beliefs. When one is in office he can easily be surrounded by folks wishing to influence him. This award, he hopes, will give him the courage to stay true to his convictions.

For an introduction to Thich Nhat Hanh and the power of his words and teachings, I strongly suggest the book Anger. It's an emotion we all share and can relate to, whether or not we care to embrace it.

On a side note--
I was saddened to hear of Thay's bittersweet homecoming in Vietnam. After being exiled for 39 years for his protest to the Vietnam War, his country's government opened its doors to him in 2005. His return has been embraced by many young people, eager to learn from him and become monks. Yet, apparently the government had a change of heart and views the Bat Nha monastery he set up as a threat to its power. There have been raids and mobs harassing the peaceful monks at Bat Nha and the government simply watched on as they took place. You can learn more about the situation at I plan to write Senator Gillbrand's office to voice my concern.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why I love the parks

the view at crater lakeI spent most of last week camped out in my apartment watching Ken Burns' amazing series of our nation's National Parks. I loved learning the history, and the personal stories of individuals who were committed to growing the park service and saving the space from development.

I too feel strongly for the need to preserve these magical places. For me, visiting the parks has always been a restorative, even spiritual experience. The parks are a place where I can shut off my mind, gain perspective, and simply be with my natural surroundings. Living in the city, you'll be amazed by how hard this is to do.

This summer Swati and I went and visited Crater Lake in Oregon and Redwoods National Parks in California. It was a second honeymoon for us of sorts, and a trip we desperately needed to take.

Swati's position as a Pro Bono Coordinator was eliminated from her law firm, and now she was spending her days with me in our one bedroom apartment. As I work from home, this was mighty challenging to do. I found my work being putting off. My blog posts reduced to virtually nothing. Instead of enjoying our time together, we sparred regularly. We needed a change.

biking in bainbridge, waWe decided to get out of the city and head West. We bought a one-way ticket for San Francisco and rented a car that we took up to Seattle, visiting friends and beautiful sites along the way. It was just what we needed. We again found the joy of being together. Our fights at home seemed petty, small. When looking at the larger picture, everything was okay.

I think the Redwoods had something to do with that realization. :)

next to fallen giant @ redwoods national parkIt's been six weeks since we've returned from our trip, and our home situation has improved dramatically. To make things easier for us both, I decided to take a part-time position that I have really been enjoying. I am happy to give Swati some time at home so she can reflect on her next career move.

If you missed the series, you can still watch them online until Oct 9. Just visit the official website for the PBS series on National Parks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Recipe: Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies

If you've ever wanted a simple recipe for a gluten-free cookie that didn't require the use of gluten-free flours or questionable ingredients like xantham gum, this would be it.

We discovered the concept for the oatmeal peanut butter cookie while vacationing this summer in Crater Lake, Oregon. To our surprise they were selling a packaged version of this treat in the gift shop!

When we returned home in August, Swati was eager to re-create the recipe at home. Her mission led her to the blog Mennonite Girls can Cook, which posted a great oatmeal peanut butter cookie recipe that she modified slightly.

I love that the recipe is simple and can be made easily. However, be warned, it is not health food! But after shunning flour and sugar for so long it was nice to indulge. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top of these treats for an added touch.

2 cups rolled oats (look for gluten-free oats if you have a sensitivity/allergy)
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the peanut butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Blend together using a hand mixer. Slowly add the oats into the bowl and continue to blend, leaving a few whole oats in the mix. When well mixed, add in chocolate chips and mix in with a spoon.

Grease the baking sheet with butter. Drop a teaspoon full of cookie dough on a baking sheet. Place the cookies one inch apart. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit on pan a few minutes before serving.

We definitely plan to make these again soon - next time experimenting with agave nectar or maple syrup.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Recipe: Three Bean Salad

I made this dish over the weekend for my friend Nisha's Fourth of July party. It is a great dish to serve during the summer, especially for barbecue's and potluck gatherings. The celery, parsley and rosemary give this dish a nice, fresh taste. Best of all - you can throw all the ingredients into one bowl. And it takes no more than 15 minutes!!

I enjoy eating this on its own, over salad greens, or as a side dish.

Serves 8

1 15 oz can kidney beans
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans
1 15 oz can cannellini beans
2 celery stalks, chopped finely
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
1 cup fresh parsley, finely cut
1 Tbsp fresh finely cut rosemary
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, unfiltered
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/5 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes to let flavors meld. Taste and serve.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I've got a new website!

the intuitive cook with ameet maturu, hhcDear friends, after much work, I am pleased to announce my website for my health and nutrition counseling business - The Intuitive Cook is officially up! Please visit and let me know what you think.

Special thanks to my friends and associates who helped make this happen - especially my dear friend Benny Zadik for his help with coding the site and my photographer Jonathan Fickies.

Oh yes, and it's my birthday today. I'm 31!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Food from my trip to Turkey

Swiss Chard Dolmas - from Parsifal, a great vegetarian cafe in Istanbul

Vegetable Kabob with Halloumi Cheese - also from Parsifal

Lentil Salad with Purslane (a green high in omega 3s) - from The House Cafe, Istanbul

Lamb Kabob with Cherries - Ciya Sofrasi, Istanbul

Candied Eggplant with Walnuts - Ciya Sofrasi, Istanbul

White Cheese with Quince Jam - from our breakfast buffet at Esbelli Evi, Urgup

Aubergine (the omnipresent eggplant appetizer) - Ziggy's Cafe in Urgup

Rocket Salad (you wouldn't believe how hard it was to find fresh greens)
Pelican Cafe, Kas

Lamb Kabob - the classic dish and oh so delicious!
Hamdi Restaurant, Istanbul

One of many mixed meze plates. This one from Istanbul.

Watch the honey drip - along the Iskital Caddesi, Istanbul

As you can see Swati and I ate very well in Turkey. Our Turkish hosts were very gracious and we had a great time. Although, I think it's gonna be a while before I can eat eggplant again... :)

Thanks to my friend Will who let me borrow his amazing SLR camera. I don't think I'd be able to capture my experience quite as well.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wedding pics are here!

Dear friends, it's official. I am a married man.

On Saturday, Swati and I celebrated our love with our family and friends. And in just a few hours, we are headed to Turkey for our honeymoon. I am looking forward to exploring a new culture and sampling a new cuisine.

We're still on a high, especially as we see the photos come in from our family and friends. I've posted some of our favorites.

I apologize for the delay in posting. I promise, Rice of Life, will be back soon.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Getting married tomorrow!

In case you're wondering where I am this week - I'll be at the altar (or shall I say mandap).

I'm trying my best to stay calm and focused, which has its challenges (especially the day before the ceremony). What I find helpful is the realization that the wedding is not about me. It is a coming together of several communities - and I am responsible for making sure my friends and Indian peers have a good time, and also get a glimpse of my blessed life with Swati.

I'll let you know how it all works out shortly. Please pray for sunshine!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What I'm craving: Raw Granola

Ever since returning from San Francisco last week, I've found myself addicted to the Raisin Cinnamon Buckwheat Crunchies Raw Granola from Kaia Foods.

I've had it with yogurt, strawberries, peaches, and apricots. You can also eat it straight out of the bag.

I've been looking for an alternative to my usual steel cut oats for some time, and think I may have found it. Especially as the weather gets warmer, my body starts to crave lighter breakfasts like this one.

I am by no means a raw foodist, but this product is delicious. Perhaps even addictive. I love that it is made from buckwheat, a whole grain I would like to eat more of. It is also sweetened by agave nectar.

Do you have a favorite granola? I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The food of San Francisco/Napa

Last week I returned to San Francisco, my home of six years. It was there I fell in love with food and holistic health.

In SF, it's hard to find a restaurant that doesn't support family farms or care about sustainability. It's also a place where having a gluten sensitivity isn't a big deal. So what better place to relax and enjoy the food.

Here are some highlights from my trip.

A beautiful wild salad at ubuntu. This restaurant in Napa, CA, operates a yoga studio and gathers its own greens from its garden. [Can you see why I had to visit?] I was surprised the salad was served without any dressing, but it seemed to work. Must try the house-made olives here. Delicious!

The most elaborate polenta dish I've ever had at - or perhaps I should say organic yellow corn grits from arbuckle infused with goat's milk whey

At the Alemany Farmers Market on Saturday morning

Oh, how I miss tamales. This treat comes from the All Star Tamales stand at the farmers market. A bargain too - each one is just $2.50!

Napa wouldn't be complete without a wine tasting. Here I am at Mumm Napa, enjoying some sparkling wine.

Food tray from Mumm Napa - features membrillo, farm cheeses, spiced nuts, chocolate covered cherries, strawberries and more

A picture of the first ribs I've ever eaten. I don't think it will be my last.

Vegetable Masala Curry from Flora - a great restaurant in Oakland, CA

At Tacqueria Cancun - an old favorite in the heart of the Mission district with an old friend, Lisa, and her father

Didn't go here, but wish I did. Too much food. Too little time.

Special thanks to my Bay Area friends for shuttling me around and making this culinary feast possible. And also, arranging a great bachelor party. [I'm getting married in just two weeks!]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Recipe: Salmon with lentils and beets

The inspiration for this dish came from an amazing meal I had at The Farm on Adderly, one of my favorite restaurants in Brooklyn.

I decided to try my hand at making this recipe for myself and was really pleased with how it came out. I love how the beets add a nice color to the lentils, making this a very attractive dish.

Try if for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

Serves 4

1.5 cups french green lentils
2 small carrots, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
3 small beets, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic
a sprig of fresh rosemary and thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 salmon fillets, about 1/2 pound each, with skin on
minced fresh parsley (for garnish)

Rinse and pick over the lentils then place in a large saucepan with water to cover. Simmer over medium heat until they begin to soften, 15 to 20 minutes, then add the carrots, beets, garlic, bay leaves and herbs. Continue to cook, adding water as necessary (keep this to a minimum), until the lentils and vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes in total. Season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil and keep warm.

Brush salmon fillets with olive oil and cook in cast iron pan over high heat. Three minutes on each side.

Divide lentils equally over three plates. Rest salmon fillet on top. Garnish with parsley.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Photo essay: Brooklyn Food Conference

outside john jay high school in park slopehoneybeesthe farm comes to brooklynbob zuckerman, running for city councilLaDonna Redmond delivering a keynote addressChickens, honeybees, local farmers and politicians could all be food this weekend at the first ever Brooklyn Food Conference - a free event advocating a healthy, sustainable, and just food system.

If there was one clear message from the event it is the need to support small farmers. I got to meet my local growers and gain insight on how trade policies and legislation effect our local farmers here and across the world.

Special thanks to Nancy Siesel for providing these photos of the event.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Improving my fish literacy

fish, the cookbookLast week at The Strand bookstore, the universe came to my aid.

On top of a pile of perfectly stacked new titles stood a misplaced, used copy Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking by Mark Bittman. This book by the NY Times bestselling author, was largely foreign to me, as it was published over 10 years ago.

Still the book is very relevant and is a great resource for anyone who would like to cook more seafood. And for me personally, I can’t think of a more appropriate book to supplement my kitchen know-how. Other than the wild salmon, tilalpia, and trout fillets I use from my food co-op, I am largely illiterate when it comes to what’s available in the aquatic kingdom.

This book I believe will change that. Similar to cookbooks I enjoy, Fish is arranged by ingredient – each chapter outlining everything you need to know about a fish – from Perch to Mackarel to Sable.

Photo courtesy Blue Moon FishBittman's tips on how to shop for fish, inspired me to pay a visit to my Greenmarket fishmonger in Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza. I was in search of mackarel, a fish like salmon that is high in Omega 3s. Per his advice, I made sure the fish kept its vivid, rainbow-like color to ensure its freshness. [It did]

I asked for a pound of mackarel fillets, using half for dinner that night and the rest the next day. [Unfortunately, mackarel does not keep or freeze well. So make sure to use it up when you purchase it.]

I tried two of Bittman’s recipes – the Broiled Mackarel Fillets with Mustard Butter was my favorite. It was delicious served over Lundberg’s wild rice blend and some green beans.

The whole experience was so enjoyable, that I plan to make a weekly ritual out of visiting my fish stand every Saturday and trying somethign new.

I love the idea of supporting my local fishermen, who sustainably fish our waters and do not freeze or ship their catch long distances. I also love the taste!

Broiled Mackarel Fillets with Mustard Butter
Taken from Fish by Mark Bittman

Serves 2

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
Two 3/4 to 1-pound mackarel, filleted, skin on

Grease the bottom of a baking pan; preheat the broiler. Cream the butter with the mustard, lemon juice, cayenne, salt, pepper, and half the parsley. Spread the fillets with about half this mixture and broil, about 4 inches from the source of heat, for about 5 minutes. Brush the cooked fillets with the remaining mustard butter and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

Integrative Nutrition