The Minimalist: Soy-Sauce-Poached Bass


Poaching — cooking in simmering liquid — is a fairly forgiving way to cook fish, since it’s not likely to dry out. (It also virtually eliminates the likelihood of anything sticking to the bottom of the pan, which is often in the back of your mind when you sauté.) I love using this method with striped bass, which has the added bonus of being a local fish, but you can use any firm white fillets or steaks. It’s also a great way to cook mackerel or bluefish, other locals.

As the fish cooks, the soy sauce turns it a beautiful golden brown, almost verging on mahogany. Since the skillet is uncovered, the liquid reduces, intensifying in flavor and becoming thicker and thicker. In the end you want to be left with a kind of glaze that coats the fish and serves as a sauce for the rice that you should definitely eat with it. Use a minimal amount of liquid; if you start out with too much, the fish will cook through before the liquid reduces.

One unexpected treat in this recipe is the scallions. They drink up all the flavor of the poaching liquid and become tender, but they still hold on to a slight crunch. A whole skillet of those served over rice would almost make you not miss the fish.

(Watch the video and get the recipe here.)

Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Chicken with Yogurt and Indian Spices


Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 45 minutes

Sweet, saucy, and warming. Wonderful over rice pilaf, or white or brown basmati rice. For extra flavor, start with whole cumin, coriander, cardamom, and cinnamon and toast and grind them yourself.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Indian, Recipes

The Best Little Tortilla Soup in Texas


The chili harvest of West Texas, southern New Mexico and Chihuahua, Mexico, begins in late summer and lasts through the first hard frost. You can encounter the smell of chilies roasting anywhere, with the frequency and randomness I associate with leaves burning in New England. I didn’t know this until I went to New Mexico, where I’d traveled for the Hatch Chile Festival, an event every native or long-termer politely advised me to avoid. (“Well, it’s a nice drive,” they’d say, and they were right about that.)

But I didn’t need to go to Hatch — the self-proclaimed chili capital of the world — to find these roasted chilies. At many farms, supermarkets, farmers’ markets and street corners in Las Cruces, people buy green chilies by the mesh sack — 8 pounds, or 20, or 40 — and then pay someone with a gas-powered, hand-cranked, lotto-drum-like steel basket to roast them on the spot. The smell is intoxicating, as the peppers tumble around in the roasters, their seeds popping from the intense heat. It takes just a few minutes to roast 20 pounds.

I didn’t just smell these chilies, of course; I ate them. A lot of them. I had chilies stuffed (rellenos-style), pulverized (in salsa) and chopped with pinto beans (inside burritos). All fantastic.

(Read the rest of this article here.)

Posted in Mexican, Travel

3 Sandwiches You Might Want to Eat This Fall


By Alaina Sullivan

Recipes from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express

1) Kale + Prosciutto + Goat Cheese  — Crunchy, leafy, chewy and creamy — the range of textures makes each bite interesting, with the optional roasted red peppers adding a welcome touch of sweetness.

Kale and Prosciutto Sandwich

Roll four leaves of kale and slice them into half-inch ribbons. Cook in olive oil until wilted and softened; season with fresh lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Toast slices of sourdough or other good-quality bread; spread the toasts with goat cheese and a heaping spoonful of kale; top with a slice of prosciutto.

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Posted in Recipes

A Time for Activism


Countercultures and alternative systems can be nurturing, educational, illuminating, inspiring — and these are not small things — but they do not bring about fundamental change. Food co-ops, for example, make a difference, but they won’t much alter the way Big Food operates. Historically, the route to fixing broken systems goes through struggle, confrontation and even revolution.

Those scenarios are spreading because, as Naomi Klein wrote in The Guardian last week, “[E]veryone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control.” The struggle for positive change is being defined by groups as diverse as the revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, the strikers in Greece (“Erase the debt and let the rich pay”), the indignados in Spain, the misled but occasionally well-intentioned members of the Tea Party, and certainly those occupying Wall Street (and, in case you missed it, some 1,500 other places, and growing, as of this writing). Now it’s even being embraced by the Democratic leadership.

What we need are more activists who are interested in food than “food activists.” Whether we’re talking about food, politics, healthcare, housing, the environment, or banking, the big question remains the same: How do we bring about fundamental change?

(Read the rest of this column here.)

(Photo: The Whistling Monkey/Flickr)

Posted in Food Politics

12 Ways to Cook an Apple


When you transform an apple by cooking, you may make it soft, fluffy, chewy, savory, sweet or creamy — the potential is enormous. Yes, an apple loses some juiciness and freshness when you cook it, but as an ingredient it’s just as versatile as a potato. (You probably know that in French the potato is called pomme de terre, or “apple of the earth.”) The surprise from a raw apple comes from the variety and the season, whereas the surprise from a cooked apple comes from what you do with it.

Just as long as you don’t make sauce. The goal here is to offer you some other options.

(Read the rest of this article here.)

Posted in Produce, Recipes

Vietnamese Stir-Fried Sweet Potatoes and Beef


By Freya Bellin

When it comes to potatoes, squash, and root veggies, grating is a wonderful technique: you get all the starchy sweetness of the vegetable, but in a fraction of the time it would take to roast or bake!  In this recipe, the sweet potatoes become tender very quickly in the pan, and make a lovely salad-like bed for the protein of your choice. The little bits that get caramelized and stuck to the bottom of the pan are delicious, like hash browns, so don’t worry if the potatoes are sticking. The lime juice and fish sauce will also help to break that up, plus they add a zingy acidity. Fish sauce is a tricky ingredient if you’re not familiar with it. It’s a bit pungent and often takes center stage among other flavors in a dish. If you’re not sure if you like it, add only a tablespoon or so at a time and see what you think. Or, instead of fish sauce you can use soy sauce, or go even farther afield and use some other seasonings that typically complement sweet potatoes, like paprika or cumin. It will be less Vietnamese, but equally tasty. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Recipes, Vietnamese

Bulgur with Spinach


Makes: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

A good use for leftover spinach if you have it. Other grains you can use: couscous; quinoa, cracked wheat, or millet, cooked until tender in Step 3; precookedwheat berries or hominy.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

About 8 ounces (1 pound before trimming) spinach or chard leaves, well washed

2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, minced

Pinch ground cloves

1 cup medium- or coarse-grind bulgur

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 3/4 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable or water, heated

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Posted in Recipes, Vegan

Flatbread Pizza with Figs, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic


By Alaina Sullivan

There is nothing quite like a fresh fig. It’s delicate and sweet, with dark, chewy skin encasing a pulpy flesh that swims with tiny seeds. Fresh figs are best with simple, bold flavor pairings, and using them as a pizza topping is a genius way to savor the last of the season’s crop. Here, fig crescents are spread across a flatbread crust and baked at high heat until their flesh oozes out, warm and sweet. Dabs of creamy goat cheese melt alongside, the tang a pretty perfect complement to the figs. A splash of balsamic is the final touch. Sometimes only something this simple can be so insanely delicious. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Flatbread Pizza with Figs, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic

Slice a couple of handfuls of figs into quarters. Brush olive oil on lavash or other flatbread and dot generously with goat cheese; spread the figs evenly on top of the cheese. Bake in a 450 degree oven until the cheese melts and the figs soften. Drizzle with a tiny bit of balsamic and serve.  


Posted in Italian, Recipes

Would David Cameron Back a U.K. “Fat Tax?”

Some months ago, when someone smarter than I (I can’t even remember who it was!) suggested that the Fat Tax, the subject of my column today, could get backing from the Right as well as the Left, I scoffed. Now we have the potential of David Cameron, Britain’s decidedly Tory P.M., backing a significant national fat tax in the U.K., according to the Daily Mail. He’ll be attacked for nanny-state-ism by his own members, of course, but Britain’s highest-in-Europe obesity rate (third in the world, after the U.S. and Mexico) and the dangers to the National Health system – the oldest single-payer system in the world and perhaps the largest (depends how you measure) — could make this interesting.

(Originally posted here.)

Posted in Food Politics