45 Minute Turkey, and a Few Other Things

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Busy week: the Times put together a fun complilation of old Minimalist videos all related to Thanksgiving. Tara Parker-Pope (thank you) wrote a Well column about The Food Matters Cookbook, and included some sustainable Thanksgiving dishes; interviews with me appeared on the Parents website and Bygone Bureau (watch for good things by Darryl Campbell), and I did apple turnovers on Today. (Best line: Lauer: “This is kind of labor intensive.” Bittman: “We’ve been working for all of 90 seconds.”)

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Baked Curried Rice with Apples and Coconut

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By Freya Bellin

This dish is wonderfully flavorful, blending sweet-tart apples, nutty brown rice, and spicy coconut curry.  As promised, it really is hands-off, and the results are fantastic.  By cooking the dry rice before adding liquid it becomes extra nutty, plus it gets well coated with the curry- and ginger-infused oil.   The coconut milk is subtle but crucial to the creaminess of the dish, and the shredded coconut adds a nice toasty element throughout.  Once mixed in, give the apples some time to soften up—they will cook significantly and taste best when warmed all the way through.  You can certainly play around with variations on this recipe, maybe swapping out the apples for raisins or pineapple, or some combination.  Try topping it with plain Greek yogurt for extra creaminess.

I did some improvising with the cooking technique in this recipe, and instead of using an oven-proof pan, I cooked everything in a large skillet up until it was ready for the oven.  At that point, I transferred it to a small glass Pyrex dish and covered it with aluminum foil.  The dish still came out great, so don’t be deterred if you don’t have the right cookware.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Baking, Produce

We Asked Walmart. It Answered.

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Last week I wrote about Walmart’s recently announced $1 billion initiative to begin sourcing more produce from local small- and medium-sized farms. (In the U.S. it aims to double the amount of local produce it sells, to 9 percent, by 2015.) I suggested that the company had not been entirely forthcoming about the details of its plan, and consequently posed a handful of questions for the world’s largest retailer.

I wanted to know some basic things: how Walmart defines “local”; whether it intends to pay small farmers full value for their produce; and if the new initiative might end up running any farmers out of business.

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Posted in Food Politics

Pan-Cooked Salmon with Lentils

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 1 hour

Salmon and green lentils are an excellent combination.  Err on the side of undercooking the lentils. You want them to have an almost nutty texture. Other seafood you can use: trout, shrimp (both of which will cook more quickly, so make the sauce first), or scallops. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Braised Chard with Chicken and Steel-Cut Oats

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By Freya Bellin

I’ve never thought to use oats in a savory dish, so this recipe immediately caught my eye.  The headnote mentions that you can substitute bulgur, which maybe sounds like a more suitable dinner grain, but is actually quite similar to steel-cut oats. I opted for the oats and was pleasantly surprised by how well they fit in as a savory ingredient, with their nutty flavor and chewy texture.  It makes a nice base for the sweet, vinegary sauce.

This one-pot dish comes together pretty quickly once you get it on the stove; separating and chopping the chard was probably the most time-consuming piece of the whole process, although I was happy to make use of both the stems and leaves.  Browning the chicken thighs really deepens the flavor of the dish, which tastes best when eaten hot right away. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Recipes

Walmart Local and Sustainable? Let’s Ask

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Last month Walmart announced a $1 billion initiative to source produce from 1 million small and medium farmers, which the behemoth says will increase their income by 10 to 15 percent. Walmart’s plan is to offer their customers more locally raised food as part of their corporate sustainability effort. This news has obviously created quite a buzz among supporters, skeptics, and the mainstream media. (You can tap some of it here, here, here, and here.)

As usual, Walmart has been silent in this discussion. Like every other major corporation, it totally controls the release of info and manages its spin; you see controlled quotes from anonymous spokespeople, or canned interviews, but candor is not happening. But now that we’re living in a de facto corporatocracy, maybe it’s time our rulers were held a bit more accountable, not only to their stockholders but to their customers, and to those affected by their decisions.  

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Posted in Food Politics

Crisp Pan-Fried Potatoes

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Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 45 minutes

This technique produces better results than conventional Home Fries, but you need two things: waxy potatoes, because starchy ones will fall apart before they get crisp; and patience.

Other vegetables you can use: beets, rutabagas, parsnips, or carrots, though they won’t get quite as crisp. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes