Crisp Tofu with Asian Greens and Peanut Sauce

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By Alaina Sullivan

The combination of quick-fried tofu, sautéed greens and Thai-inspired peanut sauce brings a ton of texture and flavor to the plate. For the greens I used baby bok choy, though Chinese broccoli, tatsoi, or Napa cabbage, alone or in combination, would work just as well. The tofu (which you want to be as dry as possible) is pan-fried, which browns its exterior while the inside stays warm and soft. The peanut sauce is thick and rich, with tangy notes of soy sauce and lime. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Crisp Tofu and Asian Greens with Peanut Sauce

Slice firm tofu into strips or cubes and pat dry; roughly chop a bunch of the greens. Pan-fry the tofu in some vegetable oil until it browns on all sides, about four minutes; remove tofu from pan and pour off all but a little of the oil. Add the greens and pinch or two of red chile flakes, and continue cooking until the vegetables turn dark green, about three minutes. Mix together a half cup of peanut butter, a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce, and fresh lime juice to taste; add a bit of water if necessary to get a nice consistency. Add the sauce to the pan along with the reserved tofu and toss to coat. (You may not need to use all of the sauce, depending on how much greens/tofu you have). Garnish with crushed peanuts and serve.

Posted in Chinese, Recipes

Regulating Our Sugar Habit

When Ronda Storms, a Republican state senator in Florida, is accused of nanny-state-ism for her efforts on behalf of a sane diet, it’s worth noting. When she introduced a bill to prevent people in Florida from spending food stamps on unhealthy items like candy, chips and soda, she broke ranks: few of her party have taken on Big Food. And as someone who has called for the defunding of an educational Planned Parenthood program and banning library book displays supporting Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, she is hardly in her party’s left wing. Not surprisingly, she’s faced criticism from every corner: Democrats think she’s attacking poor people, and Republicans seeMichelle Obama. Soon after Storms proposed the bill, she told me, “Coca-Cola and Kraft were in my office” hating it.

Yet she makes sense. “It’s just bad public policy to allow unfettered access to all kinds of food,” she told me over the phone. “Why should we cut all of these programs and continue to pay for people to use food stamps to buy potato chips, Oreos and Mountain Dew? The goal is to feed good food to hungry people.”

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Food Politics

Don’t Blame the Potato for Pringles

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Last week, Procter & Gamble sold its Pringles brand to Kellogg, for $2.7 billion.

In the scheme of things, this is not big news: a famous brand goes from one corporation to another. Happens all the time. Affects us barely, if at all; you’ll still never be more than a hundred yards from the all-too-familiar red Pringles canister, which, it’s said, made its designer so proud that he had his ashes packed into one after his death.

But the sale inspired some observations about the nature of  “food.” Let’s start with a fantasy: suppose P.&G., in a fit of charity, decided that Pringles was, as we all know to be true, a brand that everyone in the world — with the possible exception of P.&G. shareholders and a few employees — would be better off without. I mean, I like Pringles as much as the next guy, but they’re not really “food,” or — to be more accurate — they’re not “real” “food”[1] and I certainly know that I’d be better off without them.

Here’s a short list of other things that $2.7 billion could buy [2]. For that money, you could feed 75 million children for a year, or fund Unicef’s child-assistance operations for two years. You could pay cash for NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover mission ($2.5 billion), and have still be able to foot half the cost of the president’s proposed strengthening of oversight of offshore oil and gas operations, which would save money in the long run. Or you could hire more than 60,000 teachers. Stuff like that.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Food Politics

Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

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By Alaina Sullivan

There’s no better way to celebrate Mardi Gras than with a Po’ Boy (a beer-battered one at that.) Not only does beer give the shrimp great flavor, but it is scientifically proven to make superior batter. As soon as the beer-battered shrimp hit the pan, CO2 bubbles begin to dance and foam up around the shrimp. A panko dredging assists the process, and, as a result, the shrimp are left trapped in a flavorful and lacy-light crust. Pile them high on bread with mayo, lettuce, and tomato, and you’ll have a happy Fat Tuesday indeed. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Beer Batter Shrimp Po’ Boy

Heat oil for frying. In a bowl, mix together one can of beer; one and one-half cups cornmeal (or panko) and pinches of salt, pepper; and paprika. Dip shrimp into batter and fry in batches until golden, about three minutes (flip once). Serve on split crusty Italian or French loaves with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise; lemon juice and hot sauce are also great here.

Posted in American, Seafood

McDonald’s to Phase Out Gestation Crates

There are more than a few improvements McDonald’s could make to better the treatment of its customers and workers, of the animals that provide the meat it sells and of the environment. On Monday, after years of internal and external pressure, the company announced a laudable course of action regarding the sows (female pigs) in their supply chain: McDonald’s is requiring, by May, that its suppliers of pork  provide plans for phasing out gestation crates. Once those plans are delivered, says Bob Langert, the company’s vice president of sustainability, McDonald’s will create a timetable to end the use of gestation crates in its supply chain. “Considering that 90 percent [of the pregnant sows] in the United States are in gestation stalls, this is a huge issue,” he says, and he’s right.

This is important for the animals and for the entire meat-selling industry. Let’s start with the sows: a gestation crate is an individual metal stall so small that the sow cannot turn around; most sows spend not only their pregnancies in crates, but most of their lives. For humans, this would qualify as “cruel and unusual punishment,” and even if you believe that pigs are somehow “inferior,” it’s hard to rationalize gestation crates once you see what they look like. (For the record, defenders of the system suggest that crates prevent sows from fighting in group pens. There’s no space to argue that here, but it’s nonsense.)

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Farming, Food Politics

No Chicken Breast Left Behind

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By Meghan Gourley

Occasionally, we test a recipe that doesn’t make it to print. Here’s one that we loved and thought people should see: chicken breast with cumin and honey. We understand the fear of undercooking chicken, but if you learn how to gauge doneness correctly you will end up with perfectly juicy, moist chicken breast every time. 

About four to six minutes per side is all it takes, depending on the quirks of your oven or grill. You’ll know it’s done when you cut the breast with a knife and clear juices run out. (Or if a meat thermometer registers 155 dgF.)  It’s easy to get distracted by the sizzle of honey and olive oil and the tang of cumin wafting through the air but try to resist. The last thing you want to do is overcook the chicken.

North-African Spiced Chicken Breast

4 chicken breast halves (or 2 whole chicken breasts)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon minced garlic

salt and freshly ground pepper

lemon wedges

fresh parsley

yogurt (optional)

Heat a broiler or grill to medium heat and put the rack 4 inches from the heat source. If you’re broiling, put the chicken in the pan in which you’ll cook it. Combine the olive oil, honey, dry sherry, cumin, garlic, and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Spoon the mixture over both sides of the chicken. Grill or broil chicken breast halves for 4 to 6 minutes per side (a tad longer if you’re cooking two whole breasts), until browned and just cooked through. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with fresh parsley and lemon wedge. Optional: serve with a dollop of yogurt.

Here are 9 more ways to sauté, poach and roast chicken breasts.

 

Posted in Recipes

Americans Cooking More Than We Thought

By Daniel Meyer

Read enough articles about the inequities of the American food system and you are likely to come across something like this: “Lacking sufficient access to real, healthy foods, low- and middle-income Americans rely on inexpensive fast food to feed their families.” (My paraphrase.) It’s a common conjecture that’s neither entirely true nor entirely false, but a survey released yesterday by the anti-childhood hunger organization Share Our Strength gives us reason to believe that low- and middle-income Americans are cooking more than many of us thought.

 

The survey, commissioned by Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program, and conducted by APCO Insight, is called “It’s Dinnertime: A Report on Low-Income Families’ Efforts to Plan, Shop for and Cook Healthy Meals. It polled 1,500 low- and middle-income families from across the United States (low-income was defined as less than 185 percent of the poverty line, or less than $42,000 combined income a year based on family size, and middle-income was defined as between 185 and 250 percent of the poverty line, less than $60,000). Thirty-one percent of the respondent families received SNAP benefits, and a high rate of food insecurity was reported among those surveyed.

The survey clearly wasn’t focused on the poorest Americans, and families at or below the poverty line are likely to follow different patterns, but that doesn’t make the results less encouraging:

Read the rest of this post here.

Posted in Food Politics