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I wish. To travel along the rebel who knows food like nobody I know in person, I wish. To learn about carta di piano from the mothers and grandmothers of a Sardinian village while raising a toast with wine made locally, I wish. To walk among golden fields of wheat and rye, to sink my teeth in a tomato bursting with flavors and straight off its vine, I wish.

I’ve been watching lots of “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel. Can you tell? I guess it’s only fair that I mention I’m a fan of the show on Facebook as well, so that I can get their updates and feeds about the upcoming episodes like:

As if it wasn’t alarming already, I follow the guy on twitter, too, because, well, he’s there and clearly wants to be cyber stalked.

Alright. I get it that it’s not quite Tony himself. It’s the producers, the marketing team, the network even, who the cracker knows. Tony is some other place every time a new twit appears online. Duh.

Have you noticed how familiar I got with Mr. Bourdain? It’s because his book “Kitchen Confidential” is sitting on my night-stand supported by no other than the most recent of his penned bricks “Medium Raw”. He’s everywhere I turn my eyes whenever the lights are on. I feel like I KNOW the guy in person. If he happened to be strutting down Sunset Boulevard right in my neighborhood, I would merely throw at him…

“WHASSUP TONY!”

… without so much as a wink, and keep walking Cosmo hoping for a rapid poop, so we can turn around and go home finally. Man, that dog takes FOREVER to empty his bowels! WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT PATCH OF GRASS??

I don’t even know how it all began, that boyfriend-approved affair with another man. Jason hasn’t shown any signs of jealously in fact since I took a break from watching “Dog Whisperer”. Back then he would ask me biweekly at least…

“ARE YOU GOING TO LEAVE ME FOR CESAR MILLAN?”

…I haven’t heard that phrase in a long, long time.

I will take my assumption even further. I am convinced Jason would not reject an offer of some sort of a ménage a trois, if we were given an opportunity to shlep along chef Bourdain across Europe for example. I mean it in a professional sense, of course, where our job would be to attend any finger-licking tastings and youth-reviving feasts. In such a setting I would gladly share a seat with Mrs. Bourdain, with their offspring gleefully hopping on Jason’s lap. Think sequel to “European Vacation”.

In my tribute to Tony (Yes, we go WAY back!), I’ll be writing today about PORK. My sweet Ms. Piggy in a flurry of crispy bibb lettuce and a nest of pea shoots resting right on thy head, make yourself at home.

No recipe is needed for this pink perfection. Simply season the loin with salt, pepper, a touch of olive oil and maybe fresh thyme as well; place it in a roasting pan, add a cup of white wine or chicken stock and shove all into a preheated oven (at 350°) for 35-40 minutes total. Take it out, cover with aluminum foil and let it rest for another 10-15 minutes. While the meat is gathering its juices, you make a glaze: 1/2 cup of port wine + 1-2 tbsp of honey in a small sauce pan. Let it come to a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer away until reduced two-thirds or so. When the liquid gets thicker and sticky-er, pour it over the slices of your roasted pork loin.

You know how I am–always chicken this, chicken that (the happy, organic kind of course). However, pork tenderloin is lean and healthy, rich in vitamins of the B family, then zinc and of course protein. Since it’s also referred to as the other white meat, I no longer feel like a cheater, well, because… how much chicken can I eat for my ass’ sake?

I made this dashing, juicy, bursting with flavors PORK LOIN last week and fell for its tender and oink pink flesh instantly. So did Jason. Now, guess who’s coming to dinner this week? The red carpet is ready for you, my dear Ms. Piggy.

That chicken that I told you I buy every couple of weeks or so goes a long way. We bought a beautiful, free-range, organic bird last Sunday. On Monday I took it out to pieces, let the legs and breasts sit and marinate in the ice-box, and from the rest I made a big pot of broth.

On Tuesday, we devoured the chicken meat from the broth in the form of my  Grain Medley & Chinese Flavored Chicken with Bok Choy. I used part of the broth to braise a cauliflower and the legs for our dinner on Wednesday. There was no need for starch, no rice, no pasta, no potatoes, no nuthin’. This simple, easy, inexpensive, light meal was all we needed and then some.

BRAISED CAULIFLOWER WITH ORGANIC CHICKEN LEGS

There were still two chicken boobies sitting on a shelf in our refrigerator last night, soaking themselves joyously in olive oil infused with garlic and thyme. Ah, chicken, more chicken, I sighed and heard Ina Garten’s voice in my head: JEFFREY LOVES CHICKEN, SO EVERY FRIDAY I MAKE HIM A ROASTED CHICKEN. BUT FRANKLY, I’M SLOWLY GETTING SICK OF IT. I am obviously paraphrasing Ina’s words, but chicken has always been big on her menu due to her husband’s love affair with poultry. I know it all, because I used to watch “Barefoot Contessa” on Food Network all the time. And then I got sick of it, too.

There’s no denying it, I also love keeping my man happy, hence I decided to make Jason’s favorite type of dinner–one he can build himself. There’s nothing that brings that boyish and exuberant joy to his face faster than a plate full of scrumptiousness he has assembled himself.

And so I sliced and sautéed onions, one red bell pepper, green sweet pepper and one more Anaheim pepper. The chicken breast roasted in the oven for about 25 minutes at 375°, after which I let it rest covered with a sheet of aluminum foil for another 10. When I finally cut into it, I heard a choir of fairies covering Wet Wet Wet’s hit song “Love Is All Around”, you know the theme song from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” with Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell.

(There was a time in my long life when I would listen to that song OBSESSIVELY. I hope you’ll appreciate my honesty knowing I’m risking getting a restraining order from my boyfriend, who, I can just see, will cringe in pain and gag when reading this. I WAS FIFTEEN AND BELIEVED IN SANTA BACK THEN, TOO.)

The meat was so incredibly moist and silky, I wanted to put it all in my mouth and run. But then I had a drooling man looking over my shoulder also wanting a piece of it. We set the table with whatever we found suitable for CHICKEN FAJITAS in our pantry and refrigerator: sour cream, Green Chili Sauce, a bowl of brown rice, little green salad dressed with cilantro, heated tortillas and the guest of honor–ROASTED CHICKEN WITH AN ENTOURAGE OF SAUTÉED VEGETABLES.

CHICKEN FAJITAS

I wish I had taken a photo of Jason when he sat down to the table and began the construction. The only time a smile was amiss from his face was when his mouth opened to receive another ginormous bite of his fajita stuffed with goods. Then there was lots of excited bouncing on the chair and head swinging when the jaws were busy molding the food. In fact, if that were a twelve year old boy who just got his first Star Wars toy that would later turn into a significant collection, and not a thirty-six year old respected TV producer, you wouldn’t be able to tell.

At that point I no longer needed food. The mere sight of that free expression of bliss was more satiating to me than the actual meal. Don’t get me wrong, though. I got my share of that chicken last night as well. It was glorious!

Weeks ago, just a few, I encouraged you to go for the organic chicks when grabbing your meats for the week at the grocery. Organic poultry comes with a price tag, as we know, but there’s a way to get every last penny out of the bird. In that mini series ORGANIC FOR PENNIES I shared my ways of utilizing one chicken for a week worth of dinners for 2 or even 4, if you help stretch that buck.

I buy a whole chicken every couple of weeks, and make my stock, marinate the breast and the legs, and scrape the leftover meat from the cooked carcass into a separate bowl. Every couple of weeks I’m faced with a new challenge to reinvent the wheel.

Last night I made this:

The chicken was mixed with chili peppers, grated garlic and ginger, low sodium soy sauce, and Hoisin sauce. A few scallions thinly sliced at an angle were tossed into the mix. Then I added my medley of cooked grains (brown and wild rice, black barley, red quinoa) and sautéed everything for a minute or two. To serve it, I wrapped the Grain Medley & Chinese Flavored Chicken in quarters of Blanched Bok Choy.

That’s it. The Asian theme is simply accidental. I use my Polish roots for inspiration in the kitchen just as often.

I looked through my recent posts and realized there’s not much recipe sharing happening around here these days. Time to fix it… Where’s my utility belt?

Unless you live in the Smurf Village, you must be aware of the food revolution going on in America these days. It hasn’t started with Jamie Oliver’s hit TV show under the same name. The documentary “Food, Inc.” came first (among others). Its very own, and my personal guru, Michael Pollan has been talking about the REAL FOOD versus FOOD LIKE PRODUCTS for years now.

I’ve been observing the growing trend of eating fresh among my own friends and my American family. (In Poland it’s still so much easier to eat real food despite heavy influences of the Western World, hence I’ll focus on my life in the US for the purpose of this rant.) Shopping at Farmers Markets is fun. Sprouting one’s own herbs in a recycled can on the window seal, turned out, has nothing to do with magic. Stirring away creamy Risotto at home no longer intimidates. To top it all, gastro pubs pop up all over the cities like mushrooms after it rained. Those are the yummy eateries where everyone gets a chance to taste what fine dining is about for a fraction of what it would cost them in a high-end restaurant. Places like “Animal” on Fairfax or “Lazy Ox” Downtown (both in Los Angeles) are getting the buzz for a reason.

It’s undeniable, the way the Americans think about food today is shifting. And it’s so exciting to watch. I realize the change cannot be completed over night, but the steps we’ve been taking are very promising. Many of us, however, still hesitate to take the leap onto the brighter side of life for the organic food is priced at a higher mark. Moreover, people got used to cheap food in this country over the last several decades. The truth is, the prices are low because of the industrialization of the food market. The quality of the food in America is so low for the same exact reason. The cost of health care is also directly related. You do the math.

While I personally believe that we should pay for quality (You get what you pay for!), today I want to show you how we can all eat more organic foods without breaking the bank. Let’s use the product that an average American consumes over 60 pounds of each year–CHICKEN.

The regular chicken, not an organic one, raised most likely in some horrendous conditions, lingering knee-deep in its own feces, with legs breaking under its own unnatural weight (due to added growth hormones and overfeeding with genetically altered corn), that whole chicken costs about $6 at our grocery store. When you look over to the right, where the Organic, Free Range Chicken rests right next to the sad guy, with its price tag of $12, that may be shocking. I get that. Now, think about where your food comes from first. I don’t think it’ll take you long to lean toward the organic, happy bird. Your challenge is to use up that $12 to the last penny. I’ll show you how I do it.

First and foremost, I save a bucket of money by purchasing an entire bird versus only breasts, or legs. Then I cut it to pieces myself at home. Next, I place the chicken thighs and drums along with the boobies in a glass bowl and rub them with a combination of herbs and spices. I cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the meat marinate for a day or two in the refrigerator.

The carcass, the neck and the wings go into a large pot along with a whole bunch of vegetables (cleaned, peeled if needed, and roughly chopped): 4-5 carrots, 2 parsnips, 1 large leek, 1 onion, 4-5 celery stalks (or 1 celery root, peeled and quartered). Next, I add a handful of whole peppercorns, no more than 1 tbsp of salt, 5-6 bay leaves and a bunch of fresh thyme springs plus a small spring of rosemary. (Dry will do, too, if you don’t have any fresh herbs handy.) Such arranged, I cover the content of the pot with water, as much as I can fit into my 6 quart dutch oven, and turn the heat on. You want to bring it to a simmer, and never let it boil. Leave the pot on the stove, with a lid on but not covering it completely, for about 2-2.5 hours.

When my chicken stock is concocting itself, I toss the giblets left from the bird (all the inner organs usually packaged along with the whole thing) in some flour and toss them onto a pan with hot oil. When those are cooked through, Cosmo has a ball. Frankly, I love chicken livers. I grew up eating them. Jason, on the other hand, is repulsed by the idea. Since one chicken liver won’t make a meal for me, I simply give it to Cosmo. You, however, can entertain the thought of using the innards for a cheap meal, if your feelings towards the meat are similar to mine.

Two hours later, I strain the stock and, once cooled, store it in an air-tight container. You can freeze it for up to 6 months! In my next installment, I’ll show you how you can turn that complex and aromatic stock into a pot of soulful soup with an addition of only a few bucks to your healthy food budget.

From the strainer I pull out all the chicken parts, and you won’t believe it until you do it yourself how much meat there’s still on that carcass, the wings, the neck. I gently pull it all away from the bones using two forks, as the meat simply falls off those bones.

Let’s add it all up. We spent $12 on the organic chicken plus another $5 – $6 on all the veg for the stock. We ended up with:

1) about 8-10 cups (based on my pot) of homemade, flavorful, organic chicken stock to be turned into a big pot of HEARTY AND FILLING SOUP in a few days;

2) 2 full legs (or 2 thighs and 2 drums, if you separate them) and 2 full breasts that are marinating in the ice-box that will turn into 2-3 full meals for two, with an addition of some starch and/or salad;

3) chicken scraps that can be sauteed for added flavor, mixed with a variety of sauces and served over brown rice or whole-wheat pasta (See how I’m planting those healthy choices in your head? INCEPTION…), or used as a filling in dumplings or croquettes, that will again easily feed 4 – 6 people.

I will get back to the SOUP and my CROQUETTES in the next few days. Today, let me share my simple tricks for baking that bird in such a way that the meat is perfectly cooked and yet still moist at each bite.

I roast my marinated chicken in a roasting pan for about 35 minutes in a 375° oven (with an addition of  a ladleful of my stock and some water or white wine, 1-2 bay leaves, fresh rosemary and thyme), then take it out and let it rest covered with foil for another 10 minutes. I serve with in a variety of ways; sometimes it’s over a medley of brown rice (as seen above) for the enjoyment of our clients who love ONE MORE BITE’s Lunches. The sauce that surrounds the meat in the pan is divine. Just pour it over your starch, perk up with fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley, dill, cilantro, etc.) and you have yourself a hearty and satiating dinner! A side of simple green salad with a LEMON VINAIGRETTE makes the meal complete.

This is home cooking at its best. The food is always fresh, with no processed ingredients, all made from scratch, leaving you not only satiated and content, but also the satisfaction level from the accomplishment (when you realize what you have just CREATED ALL BY YOURSELF, FROM SCRATCH, SO DELIGHTFUL AND FRESH!) will get you like a drug. You’ll want to come back for more. IF I CAN MAKE THAT, WHAT ELSE CAN I MAKE MYSELF INSTEAD OF BUYING CRAP FROM  A STORE OR EATING EVEN WORSE CRAP AT CHAIN RESTAURANTS AND FAST FOOD PLACES??? Now you feel the power of creation.

The fact that it also makes sense money wise is just a cherry that flips its feet in the pool of icing on top of the cake. The cake I have just described above. You get it, don’t you.

Homemade, organic, fresh are the slogans of today. Stay healthy, America. Stay healthy, the World! And Bon Appetit along the way.

During our three-week vacation in Europe, we flew three times, made six separate trips by train, drove several cars, took a ride on a tram, subway and in a shuttle bus. We slept in countless beds and each one left a different imprint on our bodies. It turned out that sleeping around really is exciting and affects one’s libido (provided your bedroom is NOT adjacent to the one your conservative uncle sleeps in). The best part is that you can DO IT very successfully with the same partner throughout the journey! (That’s for those of you who duck when such words as FIDELITY and COMMITMENT are thrown at you.)

Since we were on the go for the most of the past twenty-one days, the little time we spent under a roof, any roof, we used up for hanging out with my family and friends, then here and there some tequila or pierogi-spiced hanky-panky , and most importantly–beauty sleep. The Internet got pushed back in time till the days I was about 14, meaning it didn’t exist. There was simply no time left for rants and scribbles. Hence, I have a whole lot of catching up to do here, and with no further ado I’ll bring up the foods we consumed while at the far eastern land.

I could summarize it pretty much with one word: MEAT. I’ll give you an example of our daily diet in Poland. On an average day we had cold cuts for breakfast, schabowe (tenderized, breaded and pan-fried pork chops) with cooked together carrots and potatoes (as seen below) for lunch…

 

Polish "schabowy" with my mother's "marchewka" (carrots and potatoes cooked together and finished with roux and fresh dill), on the side--my celery root salad.

 

…and pierogi (Polish dumplings) with meat for dinner.

 

Mom's legendary pierogi with ground meat.

 

There are hundreds of things one can fill their pierogi with. My mom is an exceptional cook and she spoiled us rotten with the meals she prepared. Not only she made three different kinds of pierogi for us (with meat, with blueberries, and so called Russian ones, filled with a mixture of mashed potatoes and country cheese, served with a dollop of sour cream and freshly ground pepper), but also she cooked various meats, and soups Jason has never tasted before like Botwinka. In a sense, it is red chard soup made on the base of a home-made chicken broth, later thickened with flour and finished with heavy cream.

I say, in a sense, as for us Polaks this is a soup made of very young beets, when their bulbs are not quite developed yet, and the leaves get to play the role of the guest of honor in the pot. The beet root, however, belongs to the same family and the same species as the red chard does. If you’re wondering if the soup is any good, let me tell you that that damn Botwinka had put my relationship with Jason in serious jeopardy for a moment. After the few spoonfuls of the dish Jason was on the verge of proposing to my mother, who thank goodness is off the market.

When we got out of my mother’s kitchen, and off we went to bother the rest of my family scattered across Poland, we were welcomed at their tables heavy with foods of all kinds. While certain elements varied from a house to a house, two were constant: sausage and vodka. Jason was tested heavily by various men from my tribe. He passed, but I’ll bet the very lace on my chest he’ll stay away from the Fire Water for many years to come.

Kielbasa, or a Polish sausage as you may know it, is omnipresent across my country. Even when we went to the countryside with Kinga, we were invited to a picnic with campfire and the whole nine yards. There was beer, bread, and sausage (duh!) baked on a stick over raw and bursting flames.

Due to the obvious meat overdose, upon our return to Los Angeles we decided to stay on a vegetarian diet for about a month just to keep things balanced in nature. I will miss though the bread we had for breakfast each morning, whether it was in my mama’s kitchen, or at the boutique hotel in Krakow. I tell ya, what we get here, in the US, has very little to do with the real stuff. Sniff, sniff… I won’t even mention the pastries we devoured in Paris! How is that even legal? How is that legal that bread can taste like homecoming and poetry at the same time? And then, how is that legal that such crap, also labeled as BREAD, is produced and sold across the United States of America, the place once called the most powerful country in the world?

I’ll go to my room now and cry in silence for a moment. Just give me a second to compose myself to continue with my food report.

When we got to Krakow, a Georgian restaurant was highly recommended to us, and guess what we ate there. More meat, you got it, served with a bouquet of fresh salads and a traditional Georgian sauce that tasted surprisingly close to the mixture of mayo and ketchup. Jason, like a total girl, chose chicken. I went all the way:

GIVE ME SOME STEAK, WOMAN! I roared across the room and banged on the table with my iron fist, still holding a silver fork. Then I gulped down a chalice full of red wine unmoved by its trails dripping down my fat and matted beard.

 

Georgian Chicken Kebab for Jason

 

 

Georgian Steak for Agi and her balls

 

Heavy and balky, filled with at least three full animals in our stomachs, we meandered the streets of the Old Town in Krakow, visiting Wawel (The Royal Castle), and the magnificent Church of Saint Mary. And then a miracle happened. Following the Polish guide Jason had armed himself with before the trip, we discovered a food gem, an oasis of green in the midst of that Sahara of meat, a true heaven for any veg junkie in the vicinity–we found a SALAD BAR!

The place was magical, and became our stable for the remaining days in the Old Capitol of Poland. The same things that were served on our plates also decorated the walls of the venue.

Tears crawl back into the corners of my eyes when I look at this. It’s a true Love Manifesto on a plate. Delicious. Crunchy. Raw. Versatile. Colorful. Meatless…ahh.

We have seen so many places, peaked into so many corners of Poland, tried every Polish snack and experienced every Polish stereotype (from vodka and sausage through the cold and grey, to the world famous hospitality, to the ubiquitous green and primal forests). However, not once have we stumbled upon a white bear strolling down the street.

Then we flew to Paris, but that’s a whole new story.

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