Pan Drippings in the Dressing

Chicken Salad Photo

Photo by Kerri Conan

The roast chicken carcass sat in a covered casserole with a wee jar of leftover pan sauce balanced on top, lest the two ever be separated in the fridge. With a 50/50 fat-to-sauce ratio you could easily see re-purposing the meat into a stir-fry or pasta. Only I wanted to make chicken salad and there was no way I was wasting this stuff. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Foraging for Dinner

Milkweed

Photos by Mark Bittman

These are unopened milkweed flowers; I began to eat them while first learning how to forage in central Vermont in the 70s. (How’d I learn? Euell Gibbons , of course.) The season is very short—just a couple of days for each plant, spread out over a period of maybe a week or two in any given location—so you have to be lucky to find them. Once the buds start to open up, they’re done. But when they’re tight and broccoli-like, as these are, they’re sweet, and cook instantly. I parboil them for a minute or two before incorporating them into other things. (Sometimes, I’m lucky enough to gather a big mess, and then I parboil them and toss them with vinaigrette or melted butter.) Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce, Slow Food

Potato Tacos

Potato Taco

Photo by Emily Stephenson

I bought some adorable tiny potatoes and mini zucchini this week and my mind immediately went not to showcasing their tiny cuteness but to how I could transform them into that day’s lunch (I was hungry when I went shopping).

I have a hard time with lunch. The ideal lunch dish to me has multiple components (i.e., is fun to eat) but requires no more than an hour of prep and is something I will be happy to eat several days in a row, if not the whole week. With my mini vegetables in hand, my thoughts when to tacos. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

An Afternoon of Apples

Photo by Pam Hoenig

It started with applesauce. Could I make a batch from apples cooked on the grill? Maybe the idea was too forced. Or maybe the results would be amazing. Easy enough to try, right? I cored and sliced an apple into rings, and put them on the grill. They were soft and tasty in five minutes. But do the apples need to be cut first? Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Produce

The Fruit That Eats Like Meat

Photo by Emily Stephenson

One new-to-me ingredient I kept seeing mention of in my vegan recipe research was jackfruit, and the young, unripe fruit tastes just like pulled pork when simmered in barbecue sauce. The fresh, ripe fruit can grow to up to 100 pounds and is incredibly sweet, with a smell not unlike durian. The now popular ‘meat substitute’ version is the unripe, not yet sweet fruit that has been preserved in brine. I finally had some time this weekend, tracked down cans at a Vietnamese grocer, and tried it for myself.

Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

A Better Than Good Egg

A Better-Than-Good Egg Cropped

Photo by Kerri Conan

Mark made me and another colleague toasted homemade bread and fried eggs the other day. I was lucky enough to meet the hen responsible—one of two yard birds that linger by the kitchen door waiting for handouts—and even luckier to watch Mark cook it. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

What Happens When You Forget About Eggplant

By Mark Bittman

I do love eggplant, in just about all forms, the possible exception being badly executed eggplant Parmesan (see an example below, from when I took my mother out for lunch a couple of weeks ago).

Eggplant done poorly

Photos by Mark Bittman

Someday I’ll discuss “real” eggplant P., but for now I want to talk about how mistakes may lead to discoveries. Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes

The Changing Face of California Agriculture

This is the ninth episode of “California Matters,” a series of videos about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating that I produced in collaboration with the Global Food Initiative at the University of California.

Jennifer Sowerwine’s work at the University of California, Berkeley, centers on bringing largely unrepresented voices to the table for discussions around food security and food systems change. Much of her time is spent working with Hmong and Mien farmers in California’s Central Valley, some of whom I visited a couple of years ago for a story I wrote about that area in The Sunday Magazine.

Many of these farmers, or their families, came to California from Southeast Asia, usually Laos, mainly as political refugees in the ’70s and ’80s. Sowerwine looks at how they got into small-scale farming, how they find and keep land, how they make farming economically viable, and how they’re adapting and changing their practices to meet new challenges. In looking at these things — along with labor and crop diversity — she’s found that these farmers have had little access to government resources.

Read the rest of this article here.

A Watchful Eye on Farm Families’ Health

This is the eighth episode of “California Matters,” a series of videos about sustainable agriculture and healthy eating that I produced in collaboration with the Global Food Initiative at the University of California.

C.H.A.M.A.C.O.S. stands for the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, and also means “kids”in Mexican Spanish. It’s the name given by Brenda Eskenazi, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, for a group studying the effects of exposure to agriculture chemicals on children born in Salinas Valley between 2000 and 2002. The longitudinal study has followed more than half of the research population since birth.

Eskenazi and her team have focused primarily on three aspects of health that may be affected by these exposures: neurobehavioral development, which, if disrupted, can affect a child’s I.Q.; respiratory health; and growth, including weight and metabolism. This population sees higher rates of exposure to organophosphate chemicals, which are found in pesticides, than the general population, so there are possible implications of this study for farmworker communities and Californians at large.

Read the rest of this article here.

The Roots of Organic Farming

Visiting the farm at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was a personal high point of this series, though I couldn’t say exactly why. It could well have been because there’s an experimental blueberry plot there, and when I went in the spring, it was raining, and the green leaves were sparkling and the wet berries were offset perfectly, and here was this glistening working farm on an otherwise more-or-less normal college campus, which just happened to be on a hill above the Pacific.

Or it could have been because the Santa Cruz campus has a series of beautiful, renowned, well-run gardens and farms, unlike on any other campus in the country.

Read the rest of this article here.