Sea why we are crazy about Navy Soho’s new seafood-focused Navy is more than just a pretty face.

Black Bass Crudo

Soho’s new seafood-focused Navy is more than just a pretty face.

Sure, the restaurant is decked out in a handsome outfit of indigo curtains, antiqued mirrors and a deep-navy paint job (natch), but it is chef Camille Becerra’s inspired ideas about sustainable cooking that root the place. Becerra’s ideas gleaned from time spent studying macrobiotic cuisine and cooking at a Zen monastery weave their way quietly into this supremely stylish spot.

“As chefs, it is our responsibility to not only make great-tasting food, but to nourish people with sustainable food,”she says. With that idea in mind, this former Top Chef contestant opened her playbook of smart cooking ideas for us.

Foods That Grow Together, Go Together
Not only is Becerra inspired by the maxim of “eat what’s around you,” but she also makes an effort to pair local vegetables from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op that grow at the same climate–such as a parsnip and endive salad nestled with pistachios and blue cheese ($14)–on the plate.

Be Gentle with the Superfoods

Becerra is adamant that her food not appear “crunchy-hippy,” but that doesn’t mean she shies away from using superfoods. Right now, she’s loving goji berries pickled in a brine of vinegar, chiles de árbol, juniper berries and bay leaves. Flaxseeds make their way into a whole-grain crisp served with cured cod and crème fraîche ($14), and also into the restaurant’s mixed-grain bowls of quinoa, bulgur and farro that are done up with heaps of scallions, parsley, roasted vegetables, sumac yogurt and a poached egg ($14).

 Local, It’s Not Just for Produce

“To have something that just came out of nearby waters, the freshness is incomparable,” says Becerra. Look for just-caught local fish, such as Long Island Striped Bass with potatoes and Nigella seeds ($24) on the daily-changing, hand-written menus.

CHECK OUT: Navy

Dear Clean Plates: Are Granola Bars to Blame for My Bloat?

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Though I always aim to eat whole foods, I’ll sometimes grab a granola bar when I’m on the run. I thought their fiber was supposed to be gut-healthy, helping to manage weight and good digestion, but it seems like I’ve been bloated since I started eating them. Why might this be?

Sincerely,

Bloated & Bummed

Dear Bloated & Bummed,

It’s very possible your granola bar is guilty as charged. While foods like beans, Brussels sprouts and milk are the most recognized for causing bloat and gas, if your granola bar contains a certain high-fiber additive called inulin, it could be causing that flatulence instead of a flat belly.

Chicory root extract, a type of inulin, is one of the most popular ingredients in “high-fiber” products like granola bars. Inulin is a polysaccharide, which means it has long-chained sugar units that are hard for the body to break down. In addition, inulin is made of fructan, an indigestible molecule that feeds off the bacteria in the bowels. Between the body’s difficulty in breaking down inulin’s complex chemical makeup and the byproducts of fructan-feasting bacteria, it’s no wonder your belly feels (and shows!) some unhappy side effects.

And that inulin-induced discomfort isn’t just limited to granola bars. Foods such as Fiber One Cottage Cheese and Yoplait Light with Fiber each contain five grams of fiber, the majority being inulin. Fiber One Chewy Bars can have up to nine grams.

All this being said, the addition of inulin to foods is actually well intentioned. A good source of soluble fiber and a prebiotic (it helps to grow healthy bacteria in the colon), inulin is considered a nutrient-booster. Many foods contain inulin naturally, such as leeks, bananas, and asparagus. So just be aware of where your inulin is coming from. Plus, being a processed food, granola bars might have other additives working in tandem with inulin to cause that gas and bloating. Artificial sweeteners and coloring, sugar alcohols and other additives may be to blame, as well.

There is no RDA for inulin. We recommend you tune in to how specific foods make you feel after eating them, and eliminate the ones that cause discomfort. Stick to whole foods as often as possible, and next time you grab a granola bar, reach for a brand with as few dubious ingredients as possible before biting in.

Photo by Angie Garrett

Spring Cleansing: Rouge Tomate’s Green Tornado

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Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for the Granola Bars article click here.

As buds get ready to bloom, are you jonesing for your own fresh start? We’ve got a recipe that’s sure to put some extra spring in your step: the “Green Tornado.” Palatable for even an amateur juicer, this juice from Clean Plates-approved restaurant Rouge Tomate is incredibly refreshing and well-balanced.

“The Boston lettuce is mostly adding water,” notes Cristian Molina, the restaurant’s head bartender, “but the mint adds a ton of fresh flavor, and the tarragon brings that licorice taste, and then the spinach is filled with vitamins.”

Molina tops the drink with a stalk of celery, imbuing the Tornado with a refreshing nose, and a slice of lemon. “For some people, the lemon juice we have in the drink is enough, but for those who prefer a lot of lemon, they can squeeze more in to taste.”

So when should you drink it? Says Clean Plates founder Jared Koch, “You don’t need to think of juicing as a meal replacement. Think of it more like a snack that will give you a great boost of energy throughout the day, thanks to its abundance of nutrients.”

Green Tornado

Note: Rouge Tomate’s head bartender, Cristian Molina, makes his juices using a blender and a fine strainer, but you can use an extraction juicer if you have one. Yields will vary depending on your equipment.

Makes 3 drinks

Ingredients:

For Green Juice Blend*:

About 2 oz. water to get blend started (add more if needed)
About 1 1/2 lbs. spinach
About 1 1/2 lbs. Boston (butter) lettuce
2 large bunches of mint (about 12 oz.)
3 small bunches parsley (about 12 oz.)
about 12 oz. tarragon leaves

* Green Juice Blend can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. Too many ingredients for one blender? You can blend them separately and then combine.

For each drink:

6 oz. Green Juice Blend
1/2 oz. organic light agave syrup
1 oz. lemon juice
Garnish: celery stick and lemon wedge

For each drink, add 6 ounces Green Juice Blend to a cocktail shaker. Add light agave syrup and lemon juice to shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass, garnish with a celery stick and lemon wedge. Repeat for remaining drinks.

Image courtesy of Mynde Mayfield

Comfort Food Makeover: Casserole by Back Forty

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If the casseroles you grew up with involved a can, you’re not alone. Good news: that comforting winter standby can easily be made healthier. We turned to Chef Michael Laarhoven of Clean Plates-approved restaurant Back Forty for a recipe, and he came back with his seasonal Spaghetti Squash and Farro Casserole.

“I think the natural sweetness of winter squash pairs well with the nuttiness of farro,” Chef Laarhoven says. “The texture of spaghetti squash in particular lends itself perfectly to a dish like this.”

Farro is also something to get excited about. Full of health benefits, this ancient super food grain contains more fiber and protein and much less gluten than wheat.

Go ahead and squash those casserole cravings with this delicious update.

Spaghetti Squash and Farro Casserole
Recipe by Back Forty Chef Michael Laarhoven

Serves 6

spaghetti squash casserole2 spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
2 c. root vegetables (e.g. turnip and rutabaga), cut into large dice
½ c. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 c. dry white wine
2 c. farro
8 c. vegetable stock
3 cipollini onions, thinly sliced
6 eggs
½ c. flour (Clean Plates recommends using unbleached white flour, or trying spelt flour)
¼ c. organic heavy cream
1 c. semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese (Back Forty West uses Coomersdale from Bonnit View farms), shredded
2 c. fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp. tarragon
1 tsp. parsley
sea salt
pepper

Preheat oven to 350° F. Coat squash and root vegetables with ¼ c. olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast squash and root vegetables for approximately 45 minutes.

While squash and root vegetables are roasting, sauté the large onion in remaining ¼ c. olive oil over medium flame until soft and translucent. Stir in farro and cook for 1 minute.

Add white wine and reduce for five minutes, then gradually start adding stock, stirring often, until farro is firm and has absorbed all the liquid. When farro is done, allow to cool.

When squash is cooked, scoop into a large bowl and allow to cool. Add farro to squash pureé then stir in the cipollini onions, flour, and cream and season accordingly.

Place contents in a cast-iron casserole pot and bake covered for 20 minutes.

Top casserole with cheese, bread crumbs, and herbs, bake for five more minutes, then serve.

Photos by Alyx Cullen

Fresh Catch: Eric Ripert’s Cayman-Inspired Grilled Halibut

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Sick of the blustery winter? Even if you can’t jet-set to warmer weather, you can take your palate to the tropics with an island-inspired entrée from a seafood master, Chef Eric Ripert.

During the fifth annual Cayman Cookout on Grand Cayman Island, Chef Ripert (pictured center, between José Andrés and Anthony Bourdain) served a tasty seafood dish that captured authentic island flavor, yet would be easy to recreate using stateside ingredients. Though his version was originally made with swordfish (which often contains high mercury levels), his recipe below features nutrient-rich halibut—a sustainable choice—accented with the same herbed fennel and robust tomato vierge that made his entrée an event standout. Try it and let us know what you think.

grilled halibut with fennel & tomato vierge

Grilled Halibut with Fennel & Tomato Vierge (serves 6)
Recipe by Eric Ripert

Grilled Halibut & Fennel

6 halibut fillets*
sea salt and pepper to taste
herbes de Provence, as needed
olive oil
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
¼ c. lemon vinaigrette (or preferred vinaigrette)
*halibut can also be replaced by striped bass, if preferred

Season the halibut fillets with salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, and olive oil. Reserve. Grill to desired temperature.

Place the sliced fennel in a small bowl; dress with lemon vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Top fish with this mixture before serving.

Tomato Vierge

½ c. tomato oil (can be replaced with extra virgin olive oil)
4 Tbsp. sundried tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. basil, diced
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. shallots, diced
juice of 1 lemon, medium

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over fish of choice.

First photo courtesy of Creations Unlimited, Cayman Islands; second  photo by Megan Murphy

Food Talk: Jil Larsen of Magic Mix Juicery

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Physicians told melasma sufferer Jil Larsen (pictured) that she would forever live with dark skin marks, and could never step outside without harsh chemical sun protection. Today, you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. She left her job at a law firm, started studying nutrition, and has now founded Magic Mix Juicery in NYC. We asked her how diet transformed her.

Q. When you first introduced healthier foods into your diet, did you notice the difference right away?
A. It was a battle, because I had to wean myself off the standard American diet: dairy, meat, sugar (huge sugar addiction). I eliminated one thing at a time, seeing what worked and what didn’t work. Once I started incorporating living foods and all the plants (green juices, organic foods), that’s when I really started seeing that my body was starting to change, starting to replenish. I think I was overfed and undernourished, and this made up for years of an imbalance you don’t notice until either your skin or your energy levels change.

Q. Did you have to try a few different “diets” before finding the right one?
A. Absolutely. In the beginning, there was a lot of craving. I think it was more about being addicted to certain things (like the sugar), and I started to see what could I substitute it with. When I wasn’t eating wheat, I would eat all the [conventional] gluten-free products, but that really wasn’t helping me either. . .It took a little while until I figured out, okay, it’s the nutrients that I’m missing.

Q. You don’t insist that everyone follow the same diet that worked for you. Why?
A. I think everybody has a different makeup. I’m not here to deprive people of what they feel they need in their lives. For some people, meat works; for some people, dairy products work. It’s all about finding out what works for you. I think, most importantly, it’s about eating good quality food. So if you feel like having a steak, hey, absolutely have a steak, but look at where it comes from: how was it raised? What was it fed?

Q. Do you now have a morning routine?
A. I drink a large glass of water with some lemon juice and cayenne pepper, so it gets my metabolism going. Then I come to work (which to me, isn’t work anymore), and I’ll make myself a superfood smoothie, which consists of coconut milk (which we make here in-house with young Thai coconuts), a tablespoon of vitamin green powder, some spirulina, some cayenne pepper (I love my cayenne pepper!), and a banana. That gives me the boost to get to lunch, have a clear mind and get the day going.

Q. What advice do you have for someone battling a chronic condition?
A. I think what’s important is to breathe, not stress out too much. Take time to yourself to find out what it is that you might really be missing in your life, whether it’s a nutritional deficiency, or in your career, relationships or physical activity. Look at all those aspects and see where you might be able to improve. And be kind to yourself. Don’t fret over little things, because gradually, the more you work on making yourself happy, the other things fall into place.

Magic Mix Juicery
102 Fulton St. (@ William St.)

New York, NY 10038
646 454-0680

photo

Images by Laura Mordas-Schenkein

Finnish Fare: Nordic Breads

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What did Vikings eat? We got a hearty taste at Union Square Greenmarket, from Nordic Breads.

Some are small and circular like fluffed naan; others are flattened and hollow, like giant, compressed bagels. But all of Nordic’s “Finnish Ruis Bread” deep russet loaves bear the same label: “Discover the power of rye!” With four times the soluble fiber of whole wheat, a high antioxidant concentration, and low gluten content, this whole-grain bread is a mighty one.

Called ruis, the soft bread is grainy and complex, almost like an extremely hoppy beer; its boldness tempered by the sweetness of its signature sourdough starter. To obtain that revered ingredient, called juuri, Nordic Breads taps into its Finnish ancestry: the original starter was imported from abroad (and continues to be fed stateside). The recipe for the authentic sourdough leavener remains secret and mysterious, passed down from generation to generation through a rigid preservation process. And while the juuri hails from across the Atlantic, the organic rye is local, grown right here in the Finger Lake region of New York.

To make a Scandinavian-style sandwich:

Pile bread high (sliced or cut into bite-sized squares) with smoked salmon, cucumber slices, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Finish with a sprig of fresh dill.

Find Nordic Breads at the Union Square, Stuyvesant Town, and New Amsterdam Greenmarkets; and various specialty stores in New York.

On Our Radar: Creative Juice Café

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With flu season in effect, and celebrities touting the power of juicing, you may be asking, “Should I try a juice fast?” But at Clean Plates, we think a better way to power up is to add organic, fresh juices to your diet (it may even help to stop a food sensitivity cycle).

That’s why we’re excited about the freshly opened Creative Juice Café.  Inside the 50th and 76th Street Equinox locations, the new café is helping gym-goers supplement their diets with innovative concoctions that can cleanse your system while you continue a healthy diet. Co-created by Equinox and NYC restaurateur and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny Meyer, the café offers high-nutrient, cold-pressed, organic juices in addition to smoothies, baked goods, and sandwiches.

Quiet_The_Riot_19Expect unusual produce combos, and most of the juices on the menu—designed by chef Michael Romano and New York nutrition specialist and Equinox health advisory board member Dr. Jeffrey Morrison—contain no more than 200 calories.

Dr. Morrison offers these five powerful ingredients for DIY juicing:

  1. For belly and body aches, pineapple is high in bromelain, an enzyme that helps with digestion and also inflammation. “So this is a useful ingredient for people with stubborn, achy joints.”
  2. For trimming your waistline, jicama is “a root vegetable with surprisingly low calories and high in fiber and an non-digestible sugar called inulin; inulin tastes sweet, but has very few calories, which makes it a great addition to a shake for people looking to lose weight.”
  3. For a hangover, young ginger is a root with a spicy flavor. “It’s a great aid for digestion and anti-nausea. Think of adding ginger if you’ve had too much to eat or drink the night before.”
  4. For post-workout pain, try jalapeño (with only a few seeds). “[The] seeds are high in a nutrient called capsaicin, which is an amazing anti-inflammatory. So this is great for people with muscle or joint achiness.”
  5. For muscle cramps, parsley is high in potassium. “This is a great ingredient to add if you suffer from muscle cramps.”

Equinox
633 Broadway at 50th St.; 212 541-7000
1429 2nd Ave. at 74th St.; 212 249-3917

“On Our Radar” features restaurants that might meet Clean Plates standards, but haven’t yet been thoroughly vetted and reviewed. For a directory of reviewed restaurants, see our Restaurant Finder.

Nossa Mesa: Louro’s Monday Night Supper Club

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Captivating diners with an air of secrecy, supper clubs—pop-up dining experiences for those in the know—are setting up more tables, and getting more public, every night. The latest is Chef David Santos’ Nossa Mesa (“our table”), a BYOB Monday night event at his West Village restaurant, Louro.

  • Who: Santos has honed his craft in restaurant kitchens (Per Se, 5 & Diamond, Hotel Griffou), as well as that of his Roosevelt Island apartment—where he hosted supper club Um Segredo—and at the nearby piers, where he ran a fish shack this past summer.
  • What: Portuguese for “bay leaf” (you can read the touching story behind the name here), Louro is the realization of Santos’ dream to create a space where homespun flavors, quality ingredients and good value reign. With sustainable, nearly all-organic sourcing, Louro is as locally driven as it is worldly and eclectic (think: salmon tartar with coconut yuzu broth, dourade with pickled bananas and saffon, and roasted pumpkin with mizuna, pepitas and huckleberry vinaigrette).
  • Why: With frequent guest chefs, each week’s menu centers on a distinct theme. Recent themes: Black and White Truffles, Ocean’s Bounty, Elvis’s Birthday, Whole Hog butcher’s dinner, Portuguese Winter. Upcoming: Some Like It Hot and Vegtastic.
  • More love: For those looking for a out-of-the-ordinary Valentine’s date, Santos will be cooking for hungry couples and Beatles fans: each course of the tasting menu will be inspired by a Beatles love song, to the tune of oysters with bergamot granita, Maine peekytoe crab with Thai curry aioli, and raviolo with homemade ricotta, egg yolk and truffle butter.

Sounds like our table, indeed.

Louro (Nossa Mesa)
142 West 10th St. (bet. Greenwich Ave. & Waverly Pl.)
212 206-0606
Call or email nossamesa@louronyc.com for Nossa Mesa reservations.

Image courtesy of Um Segredo

Going (Modern) Paleo with Hu Kitchen’s Jordan Brown

Hu Kitchen

Whether you call it “Stone Age,” “Primal,” or “Paleo,” there’s a dietary plan that says everything JORDANyou need is what was readily available in nature—before the discovery of grains, dairy, and legumes. At Manhattan’s Paleo-inspired Hu Kitchen, owner Jordan Brown calls it ”getting back to human.” We talked to him about his old, old school diet…with a twist.

Q. Isn’t the Paleo diet very meat-heavy?

A. A common misconception is that anybody who decides to go grain-, dairy-, legume- free spends their days eating raw organ meat and foraging wild mushrooms. I am all for that lifestyle—it is perfectly healthy given the removal of all toxins, et cetera. Nonetheless, there is no one “human diet.” Depending on geographic location, prehistoric humans were eating an array of things.

Q. Not everything on Hu’s menu was in the Stone Age person’s diet. What are some of the tweaks you’ve made, and why?

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A. At Hu, we cater to all ways of eating that get us back to human—a more natural way of eating. We’re big proponents of Michael Pollan’s maxim, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” We do serve very limited grains, such as brown rice and amaranth, but you will never find gluten in any of our food. Our goal is to change the way modern humans eat; maximizing high-quality vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, animal protein and fat from animals fed their natural diet.

Q. We’re guessing that real-life hunting and gathering isn’t part of your repertoire. Where do you “forage”?

A. Our chefs take trips to local markets and are always on the lookout for new sources of the highest possible quality. Our ingredients change daily, because high-quality food isn’t reliably available in the same kind of way that mass produced food is. That said, we also source from some big suppliers because they have fantastic products that are consistent with our ideals.

Q. A lot of health “fad” diets are anti-fat. How do Paleolithic cooking techniques differ?

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A. We totally reject the focus on avoiding fats. In our opinion, it is the onslaught of whole and refined grains, sugars, poor quality dairy and animal protein, and laboratory fats that are the true problem. At Hu, we love good fats. We cook with olive oil, organic coconut oil, and also use grass-fed butter in a few baked goods. The key is to make sure that the animals we eat also ate [as nature intended].

Q. When did you go Paleo?

A. I randomly stumbled upon The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. I did three weeks of dietary self-experimentation based on its principles, and that was that. My skin started glowing, my energy levels reached new heights, I exercised less with better results, and my mood was great.

Q. For someone who’s brand new to Paleo, which dishes would you recommend?

A. Cauliflower purée, our take on mashed potatoes. “Mashbar,” our take on a

sundae/yogurt bar. The only dairy is a bit of grass-fed butter in the cookies. We mix fruits, nuts, seeds, non-dairy puddings and creams, and no refined sugars. Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders, our take on the classic, fried delicacies. These are roasted. No grains or gluten, of course. And muffins, made with coconut flour. Compare that to a grain-based muffin that will have you craving another one an hour later.

Q. Why do you believe omnivores need this diet, especially in this day and age?

A. At Hu, our main goal is to take the anxiety out of eating well. Now that we have unlocked the ability to manufacture foods rich in sugar and refined-grains, we have essentially become children who have found the bottomless cookie jar. The results are becoming quite obvious: premature aging, obesity, diabetes, and myriad other lifestyle diseases. “Get back to human” is really about getting back to a pre-neurotic relationship with our food. We think we are on our way to achieving that.

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Hu Kitchen
78 5th Ave. ( bet. 13th & 14th St.)

Mon-Fri: 7am-10pm  Sat: 8am-10pm  Sun: 9am-10pm
212 510-8919