How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Roasted Peppers

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By Alaina Sullivan

Aside from color, a roasted bell pepper bears little resemblance to its raw counterpart.  After a stint in the oven, the skin becomes charred and wrinkly, sagging around the flesh it once held so tautly. The molten inside easily sheds its blistered skin – emerging incomparably more succulent and sweet than the raw version. The transformation is magical and delicious, and can easily be achieved in the oven, under the broiler, or over an open flame. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Eat Less Meat. Save the World.

A few weeks ago, in “The Ethicist,” Ariel Kaminer asked readers of this paper’s Magazine to explain why it’s ethical to eat meat. The contest generated around 3,000 submissions, and as a judge I read about 30 of them. (Here are the responses from the winner and the finalists.)

A fascinating discussion. But you need not have a philosophy about meat-eating to understand that we — Americans, that is — need to do less of it. In fact, only if meat were produced at no or little expense to the environment, public health or animal welfare (as, arguably, some of it is), would our decisions about whether to raise and kill animals for food come down to ethics.

The purely pragmatic reasons to eat less meat (and animal products in general) are abundant. And while I’ve addressed them before, I’ll continue until the floods come to Manhattan.

Read the rest of this colum here.

Posted in Vegan

The Puebla International Mole Festival

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Last week I was lucky enough to get to speak at the International Mole Festival in Puebla, Mexico. Why Mexico? My interview with Mexico City food writer Lesley Téllez (copied below and originally posted here) explains a bit about my relationship with Mexico and its food. Also, be sure not to miss Lesley’s recap of the first day of the festival (look at the pictures and you’ll see why I had to go).

Q: When did you first start traveling to Mexico?
A: I don’t know, 30 years ago. But seriously, really seriously, it’s been five years. In the past five years it’s become a priority.

Q: Why?
A: It should’ve been a priority all along. I saw the error of my ways. Look, you can’t go everywhere. It’s important for me to see as many things as I can see, globally. But my early loves were European and Asian cuisine, and I’d say I was first Eurocentric and then I spent a great deal of time in the late 90s/early 2000s traveling in Asia. I don’t have to apologize for this, but I mistakenly put Mexico not at the top of the list. But it’s worked out fine. It’s still here.

Q: What first captured your attention in Mexico in terms of the food?
A: It’s a really interesting question because the first couple of times I came here, I went to the Yucatán. Without being cruel, I would say that it ’s not — the way Yucatecan cuisine is presented to visitors is not the best. Yucatecan cuisine is spectacular in its soul, but it’s very hard to find that. Very hard to find it. Because Yucatecan cuisine is Mayan cuisine, and what’s sold in most restaurants in the Yucatán is not that. But I only learned that recently.

I think what really attracted me was street markets and street food in Mexico City. I have friends who’ve been kind enough to schlep me around and show me, probably starting eight or ten years ago.

And I have been nowhere. Let me say, I know more about Poblano food than about anything else, and I don’t know anything about a lot of them. So I’m totally a real beginner.

Q: Yeah, I was originally surprised to see your name on the list of speakers. I’d seen in some of your columns that you’d visited Mexico, but I didn’t know you had such an affinity that you’d actually come here to talk in Puebla.
A: Well. I’d go talk in Bhutan where I’ve never been, because an opportunity to talk to a big audience is an opportunity to talk to a big audience. You just get there early enough to not be an idiot about the food. And I have to say I’m not an idiot about Poblano food.

Q: You repeated yourself in your talk, when you mentioned innovation in Mexican food. You said twice that Mexican food does not need to be tinkered with. Why?
A: Because it’s really good. I mean that’s an easy answer. How are you going to make this food better? By adding soy sauce? By adding more cheese? By what? By turning it into pizza? If someone’s going to tell me I’m having a mole poblano pizza, that’s nice, but let’s not have that be a symbol of Puebla. What’s going to make it better? GMO corn and mass-produced masa is not going to make it better.

Posted in Mexican, Travel

Remembering Ernest Callenbach

Ernest Callenbach died a few weeks ago, and I felt a tinge of sadness. I first read his semi-utopian novel “Ecotopia” just after it appeared in 1975, when I was living in Somerville, Mass., and working as a cab driver and “editor” of an erratically appearing newspaper. The early- to mid- ’70s, as frivolous and lush as they might appear in hindsight — what with “free love,” cool drugs, cheap living and all — were in some ways not much different from now. We had a pragmatic president[1], an energy crisis and a wrongheaded, meanspirited, decidedly unjust quicksand of a war from which we needed to extricate ourselves.

I had moved from college in Worcester, Mass., back to New York for my junior year in 1969, in a state of depression probably not uncommon for 19-year-olds in those days. Hope seemed impossible; progress, unattainable. During that infamous spring of 1970, “we” — the United States, that is — bombed Cambodia, which somehow seemed even more outrageous than waging an ongoing and undeclared war on Vietnam. National Guard troops shot and killed four students at Kent State and — 10 days later — state and local police killed two students and injured a dozen others at Jackson State. Government atrocities were taken for granted. (Watergate, ultimately, came as no surprise, really.) Like nearly every other student in New York — or so it seemed — I spent my days protesting one thing or another. Change was in the air.[2]

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Slow Food

How to Cook Everything: The Basics: Pork Stir-Fry with Greens

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By Alaina Sullivan

In the time that it takes to wait for take-out, you could already be sinking your chopsticks into this savory stir-fry. Nothing more than pork and greens dressed in a garlicky soy-lime sauce, it is not only weeknight-dinner easy, but also a foundation for any number of variations (each more delicious and more fun than any take-out version). I used red chard here, but any green is fair game (bok choy, spinach, mustard greens, kale and collards are other great options).

The trademark flavors of lime juice and soy sauce create a bright, umami-rich sauce. If you want to give it extra kick, toss in a bit of lime zest and some crushed red pepper flakes. I also added a drizzle of toasted sesame oil (and sesame seeds too) for some nuttiness and extra crunch. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics.

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Posted in Chinese, Recipes