So many thoughts after today’s column, in which I wrote about the Keystone XL pipeline. If it’s approved by President Obama, it would carry diluted bitumen — acidic crude oil — 1,700 miles from the tar sands in Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Times has already come out against the pipeline, citing the risk of spills, spikes in greenhouse gas emissions and massive destruction of Canada’s boreal forest. Proponents cite job creation and “oil security.”
Oil security suggests that by getting more oil from our peaceful upstairs neighbors and less from our suppliers in the Middle East — sometimes seen as volatile or even hostile, though the supply has been steady — our national security is enhanced. We’re only “safe” if we can reliably obtain all of the oil we “need.”
This is an infuriatingly shortsighted and self-destructive position. This is the behavior of addiction, and the only people who can justifiably — though still incorrectly — argue otherwise are those who truly believe that the oil that gives us such comfort now won’t be causing catastrophic harm later. As far as I know, President Obama isn’t one of those people, but if he doesn’t block the pipeline he will be acting just as ignorantly as if he were. (He thinks this is what voters want?
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By Alaina Sullivan
There comes a time around the end of August when I feel an urgency to take advantage of the produce that, come autumn, will cease to overflow at farmers markets. It is during these dwindling days of summer that I crave the season’s fruits, vegetables and abundant herbs in their pure, unadulterated states. Meet a simple soup that embodies the freshness of summer: pureed zucchini, delicate and light, hosts handfuls of freshly chopped dill—it’s a combination that highlights the strengths of its core ingredients without unnecessary frill.
Though mild in taste, zucchini, especially grated, has a texture well-suited to soup – its natural moistness is further softened by a quick simmer with onion and vegetable broth, and a final puree brings it to a light, pulpy consistency. Dill supplies the flavor – simple, clean and savory – it is a perfect herbal companion to the zucchini. I found the soup most delicious served cold—a cooler temperature emphasizes the freshness of the zucchini and elevates the flavor of the dill.
Though simple in its ingredients and preparation, it is the type of soup that can be infinitely tweaked according to personal taste. A few dollops of Greek yogurt provided an added creaminess in my version, and, as someone who craves a crunch in my pureed vegetable soups, I garnished the bowl with toasted pistachios before diving in. As with most simple recipes, the quality of ingredients is key. When the zucchini and dill are fresh, this soup makes the impending arrival of fall feel more distant with each spoonful. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.
Zucchini and Dill Soup
Add fresh ricotta, sour cream, or yogurt while pureeing, for richness.
Grate a couple of zucchini. Cook a chopped onion in butter until softened, then add the zucchini and stir until softened, five minutes or so. Add vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil; simmer for about five minutes, then puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and lots of fresh chopped dill.
I wasn’t surprised when the administration of George W. Bush sacrificed the environment for corporate profits. But when the same thing happens under a Democratic administration, it’s depressing. With little or no public input, policies that benefit corporations regardless of the consequences continue to be enacted.
No wonder an April 2010 poll from the Pew Research Center found that about only 20 percent of Americans have faith in the government (it’s one thing upon which the left and right and maybe even the center agree). But maybe this is nothing new: as Glenda Farrell, as Genevieve “Gen” Larkin, put it in “Gold Diggers of 1937,” “It’s so hard to be good under the capitalistic system.”
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(Photo: South Dakota Tar Sands Pipeline/Flickr)
Thank you, Anna Lappe, for writing what so many of us non-GMO-Kool-Aid-drinkers have been thinking about Nina Fedoroff’s Times Op-Ed.
When it comes to food safety, the F.D.A. has more than ever to do – but not a lot of resources with which to operate.
The U.S. is becoming a food stamp nation. But we’re still a soda nation, and we’ll stay that way for a little while longer at least: the U.S.D.A. rejected New York’s proposal to ban the use of food stamps for sugar-sweetened beverages. The U.S.D.A. prefers healthy incentives to outright restrictions, but I have to think the U.S.D.A. could be a little more forceful in attempting to reduce soda consumption among food benefit recipients, and everyone else.
More on the most sensible basic way to change our eating habits: A Vienna University of Technology study says if you want to help the environment switching to organic is a lot less productive than just eating less meat. Different story, same ending: Tufts food economist explains why not all food price increases are bad (spoiler alert: they can lead to drastic forms of moderation like. . .gulp. . .eating a little less meat.)
I guess I can’t talk about eating less meat without including this shout out to Bill Clinton, now America’s most famous vegan. (You gotta think he cheats, though, no? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
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The pleasure of eating lobster is intense, and the reward-to-work ratio is unsurpassed, all of which is fun to talk about. What’s not so fun to talk about is lobsters and pain, which is why I’m going to avoid it. All of us lobster eaters do. (If you want a full consideration of the lobster/pain issue — one that resolves absolutely nothing but grapples with it beautifully — read David Foster Wallace’s hilarious essay “Consider the Lobster.”)
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Recipes here. (One day I’ll get the blender to work.)
By Alaina Sullivan
This unique salmon preparation involves a cut of fish that falls somewhere between razor-thin smoked salmon and a robust wild Alaskan filet. I rarely think to slice fresh salmon filets horizontally, but one of the beauties of preparing it this way is the speed of its execution – it can go from pan to plate to palate in a matter of minutes. (Shorter if you skip step two like me). The most time-consuming part was removing the tiny bones from my fresh Coho, but speed bump aside, a swift slice down the middle, a generous seasoning and the fish is ready to go. The cooking, as the name suggests, is over in a flash: a brief touchdown in the hot skillet and the salmon slivers are cooked to perfection with a rosy hint of rareness in the middle.
Though robed in curry powder and delicious on its own, pairing the salmon with a creamy chickpea raita rounds out its Middle Eastern flavors. I rarely pass up an opportunity to use yogurt as a condiment – I love that its subtle tang adapts to sweet or savory, and its creamy texture is an invitation for ingredients to nestle within. It is no stranger to being used as the base of sauces to adorn meat, poultry and fish – the Indian raita being no exception. This cool condiment, spiked with cumin and mustard and textured by chickpeas, minced cucumber and red onion, takes as little time to assemble as the fish. A dash of red pepper gives it the perfect dose of heat to compliment the curry-spiced salmon. I recommend having a warmed pita or naan bread nearby to mop up any sauce that lingers at the end. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: Bittman Takes On America’s Chefs.
FoodCorps, which started last week, is symbolic of just what we need: a national service program that aims to improve nutrition education for children, develop school gardening projects and change what’s being served on school lunch trays.
I’ve been looking forward to this for months, because it’s such an up: 50 new foot soldiers in the war against ignorance in food. The service members, most of them in their 20s, just went to work at 41 sites in 10 states, from Maine to Oregon and Michigan to Mississippi. (FoodCorps concentrates on communities with high rates of childhood obesity or limited access to healthy food, though these days every state has communities like that.)
I’d be even more elated if there were 50 FoodCorps members in each state. Or 5,000 in each, which approaches the number we’re going to need to educate our kids so they can look forward to a lifetime of good health and good eating. But FoodCorps is a model we can use to build upon.
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By Freya Bellin
An old classic like pasta salad could always use a little refreshing. This one channels a traditional Greek salad, and to much success. If you know you like bulgur, I would try doubling it straight off the bat and cutting down on some of the bowties. The texture combination is really great, but it gets lost if you don’t have enough bulgur in the mix. The cooked tomatoes flavor the rest of the dish with a light tomato sauce, and the olives add a nice brininess. You might experiment with smaller tomatoes, halved, in place of the larger wedges. The small ones, like grape or cherry tomatoes, are usually a little sweeter—a nice counterpoint to peppery arugula—and it would cut down the cooking time a bit as well. Be sure to let this sit before serving to allow the arugula to wilt and the flavors to meld. I enjoyed it most at room temperature anyway—perfect for leftovers. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Fish Steamed over Summer Vegetables
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Versatile and foolproof, this recipe provides both fish and side dish in one preparation (it’s a summer main-stay for gardeners). The idea is to give the vegetables (whichever you choose) a head start in a hot skillet, then use that as a bed to steam sturdy fillets, steaks, or whole fish (which might take just a couple minutes longer).
The goal is to let the vegetables soften but not fully cook. That way when you lay on the fish, everything finishes cooking together.
Other seafood you can use here: halibut, salmon, or trout; avoid fish that tend to dry out quickly, like tuna and swordfish. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.