Saturday, July 25, 2009

the organic salon: a review (and $20 coupon giveaway!)

I'll begin by confiding that I'm a Horst Rechelbacher admirer. As a Minnesotan, I derive a great sense of pride from knowing how fortunate we are to have such a visionary in our midst (technically, Horst lives across the St. Croix river, in Osceola, WI, but his businesses are located in MN). Furthermore, Aveda Corporate headquarters is located in Circle Pines, the suburb of my youth. If you're not too familiar with Horst or his endeavors, I recommend reading his Wikipedia entry. After selling Aveda to Estee Lauder in 1997 for an estimated $300 million, Horst focused more intensely on the fledgling Intelligent Nutrients (IN) brand, through which Horst has developed a complete line of organic health and beauty products, and more recently, a full service salon run out of the IN flagship store on Hennepin Avenue in NE Minneapolis.

Intelligent Nutrients products are truly awesome. If you like the Aveda line, but are seeking products that contain only natural plant/mineral ingredients (akin to Dr. Haushka), you will love IN (Aveda products do contain a number of harmful compounds, despite the earthy ethos of the their brand). But enough about the products, as this post is dedicated to the new salon, dubbed Intelligent Hair and Skin, which Horst claims is "the first ever USDA certified organic salon."

At this point you might ask: "So why should I care about an organic salon? I'm not going to eat the pomade." It is precisely that attitude which Horst hopes to transform. His new mantra: “What we put on our bodies should be as safe and nutritious as what goes into our bodies,” is not necessarily a new concept, but in true form, he is pushing it further into the mainstream.

If you signed up for IN email promotions earlier this year, you would have received a coupon for 30% off all of services (color, highlights, hair treatments and facial waxing) and a 20% discount on all salon products. A men's haircut starts at about $35, which is only a five dollars more than I currently pay, so this discount was clearly a deal for me.

Overall, the experience was great, easily worth more than the $35 sticker price. Upon being greeted at the door, I was offered a small glass of orange juice mixed with IN's Intellimune Oil - quite refreshing and exotic. My stylist, Catherine, appeared soon thereafter, and she led me into the small salon space, which is in the same room as the store. I'll admit, I've never had a facial treatment before (nor have I sought one), but a "mini" facial/massage is included with a haircut. Over the course of at least 15 minutes, the stylist massaged my head, and used several aromatic products to endow my mug with a "soft glow." Never again will I poke fun at such activities.

The massage/facial really was enjoyable, and left me feeling slightly euphoric upon sitting down for the haircut portion of the experience. Catherine proved adept at cutting hair quickly and stylishly. I didn't schedule the appointment with the intention of adopting a radically new style, the visit was more of a trim, but it was a great cut nonetheless. No gimmicks or overly earnest suggestions, just a quiet, relaxing haircut.

In writing this, I'm not trying to tell you that IN is the only place to get a great haircut - there are quite a few places where one can do that - rather, it is an experience that recognizes the many facets of wellness and well-being, such as the products with which one chooses to slather their hair or skin. These things do matter, and IN is a wonderful, locally-grown place to learn more about them.

And the giveaway? If you get a haircut at the salon, they'll give you several $20-off coupons to pass along to people you know. I have three of them left, which I'll mail to the first three readers who write a thoughtful comment below. The only requirement is that you live in MN/WI, or plan to visit Minneapolis sometime soon.

Friday, July 24, 2009

1 chicken = 4 meals - part 3

By now the vivid memories of grilling your chicken have faded. Your kids loved the chicken salad sandwiches, and you enjoyed a cool, simple green salad with chicken. Yet your work with this chicken is not quite complete. More flavor awaits in the picked over carcass that is chillaxin' in your freezer.

Homemade chicken stock is a lot less work than most people think. The ingredients are pantry staples and during summer months, the only challenge is keeping your house from heating up like a kiln. My home has very poor air conditioning, so I tend to make huge batches of stock in fall/winter/spring and freeze it for use throughout the year. If that's your preference, keep a large ziplock bag your freezer to collect chicken carcasses over several months.

As with the other posts in this series, the goal is to create something delicious out of very few ingredients. In this case, squeezing several meals out of one chicken. Rather than give you a soup recipe, I'm posting my favorite risotto recipe, which is truly memorable with the addition of homemade chicken stock.

Homemade Chicken Stock
This recipe appears, almost verbatim, in Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook (the best Italian cookbook I've encountered). It yields approximately 8 cups of stock.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • bones, wings, and scraps from 2-3 whole chickens (you could cut this recipe in half if you only have parts from one chicken)
  • 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bunch parsley stems
  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the chicken parts and brown all over, turning frequently. Transfer the chicken parts to a platter and reserve.
  2. Add the carrots, onions, and celery and cook until softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and add the water, tomato paste, peppercorns, and parsley, and stir to dislodge the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook at a low simmer for 2 hours, or until reduced by half, occasionally skimming the fat.
  3. Remove from the heat and strain into a large bowl, pressing on the solids with the bottom of a ladle to extract all the liquid. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate. For longer term storage, pour cooled stock into 1 quart freezer bags. Layer the bags on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer.

Classic Risotto
This recipe is also the work of Mario Batali. There are thousands of risotto recipes you could try, but why waste your time - this one is the best. Serve it with a salad for a light meal, as a smaller first course, or as a creamy bed of starchiness for a fine cut of meat. By the way, this recipe concludes our epic journey into the frugality and allure of whole-chicken cookery. I hope you enjoyed it. And if you've made any of these dishes, please post a comment!

*One recipe will yield about 4 main course portions or 6 first course portions

  • 8 cups chicken stock, heated until hot
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (something you would drink - pinot grigio works well)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or a high quality domestic equivalent, if you're a disciplined locavore)
  • optional: 1 teaspoon saffron threads (for authentic risotto milanese)
  1. If using saffron, add it to the hot stock and stir to infuse.
  2. In a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the wine, then add a large ladleful of the stock and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Continue stirring and adding the stock a ladleful at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed each time before adding more, until the rice is tender and creamy yet still a little al dente, about 20 minutes (you may have a little stock left over).
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmagiano until well mixed. Divide risotto among four warmed plates, and serve with additional Parmagiano.
Photo credit: JaseMan on flickr

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

1 chicken = 4 meals - part two

So let's say you've just finished eating a whole grilled chicken. Basking in the glow of your satiated friends, and a couple bottles of Portuguese Alentejo red, don't forget that your work with this chicken is not yet complete. Rather than throw that gnarly-looking carcass in the garbage, wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator for use in one of the following two recipes. Even though you've removed the breasts and legs, that carcass contains a lot of small, tasty morsels of chicken that work perfectly in other dishes. The wings work particularly well for this, if you didn't eat them when the chicken was grilled.

There are certainly more than two ways to incorporate leftover chicken into another meal, but these two recipes are my favorites, are very easy to make (they use kitchen staples), and really showcase the great flavor of grilled chicken.

It requires a bit of time and patience to scrape every bit of chicken from the bones, but it's well worth the effort. Using your perfectly clean hands, pull every visible piece of meat off of the carcass and wing bones. As you pick it clean, make sure you do not include any cartilage, bone fragments, or other tough bits, as they are quite offensive in the mouth. Reserve the stripped carcass and any loose bones. Meal #4 in this series is a risotto made with homemade chicken stock, so unless you're going to use them immediately, put the bones in a freezer bag and save for a rainy day.

Meal #2: Chicken Salad Sandwiches
The individual amounts of each ingredient varies widely, depending on how much chicken you have. Fortunately, it's easy to make these according to your tastes, so combine ingredients incrementally, to make sure it has the right flavors and consistency.


  • leftover grilled chicken, chopped into small pieces
  • high quality mayonnaise (if you don't make your own, try Mrs. Clarks, from Iowa)
  • minced onion or scallions
  • Dijon-style mustard
  • fresh herbs (basil, thyme, parsley, etc.)
  • anything else you like (walnuts, anchovies, olives, capers, cornichons, etc.)
  • salt and pepper
  • lettuce leaves
  • bread slices
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix lightly to combine. Be careful not to add too much mayo and mustard too soon, as it will overpower the chicken. The result should be lightly dressed, yet stick together in a spoon.

Meal #3: Green Salad with Chicken
This is a great all purpose salad recipe, that can serve as the basis for many composed dinner salads, including the reknowned salade nicoise.

  • leftover chicken, chopped into small pieces
  • fresh field greens or lettuces
  • parmesan shavings (use a vegetable peeler)
  • walnuts
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  1. Make the vinegrette dressing. The exact proportion of vinegar to oil varies according to the type of vinegar used, and your own palate, but a general rule is 2 parts vinegar to 1 part oil. Smash the garlic clove with your hand or a chef's knife and place in a small cup/bowl. Add a small amount of red wine vinegar and set aside for 15-30 minutes. Then add 1 teaspoon mustard and whisk vigorously. Then slowly drizzle olive oil into vinegar (while whisking quickly) until desired consistence/taste is achieved. Set aside. (Note: you may need to increase the amounts if you're planning to server this salad to more than just a few people).
  2. Dress the salad. Tear greens into small pieces and place into a large salad bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the greens and toss with salad tongs. Taste some of salad to determine how much more dressing you'll need. An overdressed salad can be soggy and overly acidic, so it helps to add the dressing in two rounds.
  3. Pile the dressed greens on plates, and top with chicken, nuts, and parmesan shavings. Grind some pepper and sea salt over the finished salad. Serve with some big hunks of crusty bread for a filling weeknight meal or leisurely weekend lunch.
These recipes are a gateway to stress-free, simple meals that hardly require a recipe or a lot of time. Make them once and you can throw this blog post away forever (but forward it to a friend first). These meals emphasize my approach to cooking for a busy family (mine) - repurposing the leftovers from previous meals by simply adding a few quality ingredients found in most kitchens. The trick is to buy the best ingredients you can afford, as such simple meals will not hide the blandness of industrial chicken or junky vinegar.

Photo credit: protohiro on flickr

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1 chicken = 4 meals - part one

For centuries, rural cooks have recognized the utility, versatility, and caloric value of eating the whole chicken. While it may seem convenient to buy packaged chicken parts (thighs, breasts, etc.) individually, purchasing a whole chicken is far more economical, and can save you valuable time by serving as the basis for several meals. The economics are quite simple: boneless, free range chicken breasts can run $7-$8 per pound at a co-op or grocery store, but a whole chicken may cost as little as $3 per pound from the same producer, and farmers' market vendors in your area may be selling chickens for even less. If you pay $12 for a 4 pound chicken, you get breasts, legs/thighs, wings, and a carcass for making stock (for only $4 more than just buying the breasts). As an added benefit, whole chickens are "handled" less by the processor, which likely means a lower risk of contamination, and you know all of the parts are from the same healthy-looking bird.

Separating a chicken at home is quite easy, and after you do it a few times it will be second nature. Many food writers have written about how to squeeze several meals out of one chicken, but given the number of tight pocketbooks out there, it seems appropriate to provide another variation on the theme. Here we go.

Meal #1: whole grilled chicken
July in Minnesota is hot, so in the summer I recommend grilling your whole chicken to capitalize on warm sunshine, and keep the heat out of your kitchen. My favorite grilled chicken recipe is "alla diavola," a simple Italian version with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes. I posted this recipe back in June of 2007, but I've pasted it below because I love it that much. Make it! During cooler seasons, meal #1 could be a simple roast chicken, or even a rotisserie chicken purchased from a quality take out place. The recipe below serves 4 people, but will leave little chicken leftover for meal #2. If you have a larger grill, it is possible to prepare 2 chickens, so that is a possibility if you have company or a larger family, and still want leftovers. After eating your grilled chicken, reserve the carcass and any remaining pieces to use in meal #2, which I'll write about in the next post.

*Note: this is an easy recipe to make, but since you have to brine the chicken, I recommend making it for an early weekend dinner. You could skip the brine with good results, but the brine adds another level of juiciness that is worth the extra step.

Chicken and Brine:

  • 2 medium garlic heads
  • 3 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds), butterflied and pounded (see below)
Garlic-Pepper Oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 4 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • vegetable oil for grill grate
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for garnish
Use kitchen shears to cut through bones on either side of backbone (see picture in this sequence), then remove and discard backbone. Flip chicken over and use heel of your hand to flatten breastbone. Cover chicken with paper towels to protect skin, then pound flat using meat pounder or rubber mallet.

*Note: This may seem tedious the first time you do it, but you'll get much quicker after making this recipe a few times.

Combine garlic heads, bay leaves, and salt in gallon-size zipper lock bag; press out air and seal bag. Using rubber mallet or meat pounder, pound mixture until garlic cloves are crushed; transfer mixture to large container or stockpot and stir in 2 quarts cold water until salt is dissolved. Immerse chicken in brine and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 2 hours.

While chicken is brining, heat garlic, black pepper, pepper flakes, and oil in small saucepan over medium heat until garlic is fragrant and sizzling and mixture registers about 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 40 minutes. Measure 2 tablespoons garlic-pepper oil into 2 small bowls and set aside.

Remove chicken from brine and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Loosen the skin around the breast and thighs. Apply two tablespoons of the pepper oil underneath the loosened skin.

Ignite about 6 quarts (1 large chimney, or about 6 pounds) charcoal briquettes and burn until covered with thin coating of light gray ash, about 20 minutes. Empty coals into grill and bank half of coals on either side of grill, leaving midsection of grill free of coals. Position grill grate over coals, cover grill, and heat grate until hot, about 5 minutes; scrape grate clean with grill brush. Lightly dip small wad paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe grill grate. Position chicken skin-side down on grill grate over area with no coals; cover grill and fully open lid vents.

Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 170 to 175 degrees, 30 to 45 minutes. Transfer chicken to cutting board; let rest 10 minutes. Carve chicken into four pieces, drizzle with remaining pepper oil and garnish with lemon wedges.

*Serve with a bold, spicy red wine, such as those coming from Portugal at the moment (watch this for ideas).
*For a quick side, place some fresh vegetables over the coal banks on each side of the grill during last 10 minutes of cooking.

*This recipe appeared in its entirety in the July/August 2003 issue of Cooks Illustrated

Photo credit: Machine is Organic on flickr

Thursday, July 2, 2009

are you eating muesli, the ultimate summer breakfast?

My wife found a delicious recipe for meusli, a euro-type breakfast, in a cookbook you may not know about. Feeding the Whole Family: Cooking with Whole Foods, by Cynthia Lair, is a very accessible collection of recipes emphasizing simple meals with healthful, seasonal ingredients (parents may remember Cynthia as a food writer/editor for Mothering Magazine). Don't confuse muesli with Mueslix, the dorky brand of Kellogg's cereal from the 80s. Real muesli is a simple breakfast of rolled oats (or other grains) and any combination of nuts and dried/fresh fruit. It's basically granola that hasn't been toasted. There are two styles: dry and soaked. In the dry version, muesli is eaten as is, with milk or yogurt. In the soaked version, the muesli is first allowed to sit in hot water or juice for a few hours or even overnight. Both are delicious, but we were intrigued by the soaked version as it produces a filling breakfast that can stand in for oatmeal in the summer. Despite the use of boiling water in the recipe below, the texture of soaked muesli is not the same as oatmeal. Give it a try this summer. It will keep your mornings sane and your kitchen cool.

Orange Hazelnut Muesli

Prep time: 10 minutes (excluding overnight soaking)


  • 2 cups rolled oats or rolled barley (or some of both)
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Optional toppings: sliced fruit, berries, raisins, plain yogurt w/ honey

Place oats, hazelnuts, raisins, cinnamon, and sea salt in mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over mixture and stir. Add orange juice to mixture and stir again. Cover bowl with plate or cloth and allow moisture to soften grains 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Top apple, pear, berries, and/or yogurt.

*Makes 4 servings