Chop Suey’s Comeback

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If you walk in the east side of the recently renovated Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles, you are confronted by the snaking lines at the trendy Eggslut, which sells, as far as I can tell, glorified Egg McMuffins. If you enter on the west side of the blockwide building, however, you come across a time capsule: China Café, a lunch counter that serves Chinese-American food — egg fu yeung (a.k.a. egg foo yong), chow mein, chop suey and other old-fashioned former standards — to a clientele of mostly Latinos and hipsters.

China Café opened in the basement of Grand Central Market in 1959, and moved upstairs sometime later. (The best guess seems to be the early ’70s.) The menu hasn’t changed much over the decades, making it an island of Chinese-American food in the 4,000-square-mile sea of Los Angeles County, home to what is probably the continent’s widest variety of authentic regional Chinese food.

Posted in American, Chinese, Produce, Recipes

“California Matters,” My New Web Series

Here’s the first episode of “California Matters,” a 10-part webseries I developed with the Berkeley Food Institute. To do it, I ranged throughout the state, talking to people about issues in food, from labor rights to pesticide exposure, the history of Chinese-American cooking, ocean acidification, and more. This first one — in which I roam the streets of Oakland with Berkeley professors Tom Carlson and Philip Stark — is about urban foraging and wild edibles: weeds.

Food-wise (and otherwise), what happens in California affects everyone in America (get it? California Matters), so I’m excited to share the series, and looking forward to telling more of these stories. Here’s a conversation I had recently about how and why we made the series, plus a couple podcasts for more info. Stay tuned, and click here to subscribe.

HTCE Fast: Skillet Fruit Crisp

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The essence of a crisp — sweet, tender fruit and a crunchy buttery topping — done quickly on the stovetop. Soft fruit cooks faster, but you can use firm fruit like apples: Just sauté them a bit longer, but it won’t take much more time.

Skillet Fruit Crisp

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
2 pounds peaches, bananas, berries, or any combination
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
1 lemon
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

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Posted in American, Baking, Mark Bittman Books, Produce, Recipes

Grow-Your-Own: June on #BittmanTopics

Whether you’re cooking it, eating it, growing it, or reading about it, food brings people together. Welcome to #BittmanTopics: a place where we can all share ideas about a different food-related topic each month. In case you missed the first installment, here’s how it works, and here’s what we talked about in April and May.

Summer is the easiest time of year to eat locally, especially if you garden. This month on #BittmanTopics, I want to hear about your local food scene—from gardening and foraging to preservation or raising animals—whether you produce food yourself or know or live near others who do.

A front yard garden in Orlando, FL. Photo by Todd Anderson for the New York Times.

A front yard garden in Orlando, FL. Photo by Todd Anderson for the New York Times.

Even little things count. You don’t need much of a green thumb to keep a pot of herbs alive. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the folks—and there are more and more of them—who build raised gardens or keep chickens and bees. (I got my start somewhere in between, with some tomato plants in a 6-inch strip of dirt.)

We can discuss all of this in a tweetchat I’m hosting on June 10 at 3:00 ET (noon PT) in conjunction with the launch of California Matters, my web series produced by the University of California and Berkeley Food Institute. It premieres on June 8, and the first episode is all about foraging. Follow along with #BittmanTopics and come with questions.

Foraged morels. Photo by Rikki Snyder for the New York Times.

Foraged morels. Photo by Rikki Snyder for the New York Times.

How and what do you raise? What techniques have you found particularly successful? Why do you garden (or forage, raise animals, keep bees…)? Got any ideas for making the most of bumper crops? Do you have family, friends, or neighbors who share their bounty? Stay in touch this month—on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and in the comments below—and I’ll feature my favorites back here in a few weeks.

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Posted in Bittman Topics, Farming, Food Politics, Produce, Recipes

Morels and Peas Are Pasta’s Springtime Companions

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When it comes to so-called luxury ingredients, wild mushrooms are among the most accessible, for a couple of reasons. One, if you have the energy and a guide and the right location, you can forage for them. O.K., very few of us are going to do that. Alternatively, you buy them, and in those places where the foraging is local the price isn’t at all outrageous, especially because a little can go a long way.

This spring I’ve taken advantage of frequent appearances of morels in our markets (contrary to the popular media, it does rain in California some of the time) at about $30 a pound. The price may sound scary, but I buy a quarter-pound at a time. With this $8 worth and another springtime ingredient, I make among the best fast dishes there is: pasta with morels, real peas, Parmesan and butter.

Read the rest of this column and get the recipe here. Photo by Rikki Snyder.

Posted in Produce, Recipes

Looking Back: Grilling on #BittmanTopics

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“The summer grilling season has started! Baby back ribs with tangy BBQ sauce and grilled veggies” -@traceysivak‘s Memorial Day dinner

introduced #BittmanTopics as a way to share ideas about what—and how—we’re eating, and this month, we focused on grilling. Many of you were proud to announce you have year-round cookouts while others in colder climes are just now getting back to the fire. Most of us associate grilling with meat, but throwing some vegetables on the barbecue is actually a great way to practice “less-meatarianism”:—I shared my recipe for Mexican-style corn and you all shared your own favorites here and onFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Below are some things you had to say and eat last month—check back tomorrow for June’s topic.

Grilled wings by my friend and colleague Kerri Conan: "The rub: Equal parts sumac and pimentón, less ground garlic and chili powder, salt and pepper; indirect fire."

Grilled wings by my friend and colleague Kerri Conan: “The rub: Equal parts sumac and pimentón, less ground garlic and chili powder, salt and pepper; indirect fire.”

The question of the month: “Currently raising my own pork, lamb and beef, looking for best all purpose combo grill/smoker – suggestions?” –@vpfarming
One colleague, Daniel Meyer, built his own smoker, which worked well until it burnt to a crisp. We like Webers, Big Green Eggs, and old-school campfires. But I’m eager to hear what you all use.

“My grill never hibernates.” -Kathleen Harold, Facebook

“Hibernate? Nay!! I grill year round. Yet another gift of So Cal life.” -Rachel Wooster Gangsei, Facebook

“Grilling in celebration of spring,” from @cherthollow Farm. That’s goat on the kebabs!

“Grilling in celebration of spring,” from @cherthollow Farm. That’s goat on the kebabs!

“Made Grilled Broccoli With Chipotle Lime Butter for some friends a few weeks back. There was a look of despair on one guests face when I revealed there was not enough for seconds…” -Phil, markbittman.com

“I enjoy grilling Veggies after marinading and rubbing them with Himalayan pink salt, fresh napoletano basil, savory, lemon juice and Fresh lime basil.” -Bonnie Hiniker, Facebook

“Lamb chops coming off the grill.” -@thevillagegravy

“Lamb chops coming off the grill.” -@thevillagegravy

Mexican Grilled Corn + Six Sauces

We’re talking about grilling this month on #BittmanTopics, and Mexican-style grilled corn makes an easy, vegetarian snack or side dish. Lots of ways to sauce it, too—I’ve included six here. What are you grilling? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Fred Conrad

Photo by Fred Conrad

Everyone has an opinion about the best way to grill corn. Some swear you have to soak the ears in the husk before grilling. Some say you should peel back the husk, remove the silk, then butter and season the corn and wrap it back up to grill.

Personally, I love the charred, popcorn-like flavor that corn gets when it’s exposed directly to the flame, so I grill my corn out of the husk and until it’s browned — really browned — in a few places; as it happens, this usually leaves other parts bright yellow. Not only is this super-easy but it results in the kind of flavor I associate with the crunchy street corn of Mexico. Read the rest of this article and get the recipe here.

 6 Sauces for Grilled Corn

  1. Mayonnaise with lime juice, chili powder, salt, and pepper
  2. Olive oil, chopped basil, and Parmesan
  3. Crumbled feta, plain yogurt, lemon juice, oregano and cumin
  4. Mayo, minced garlic, pimentón and parsley
  5. Coconut milk, cilantro, and mint
  6. Simplest: Butter, salt, and black pepper

 

Posted in Bittman Topics, Mexican, Produce, Recipes

HTCE Fast: Recipe-Free Steamed Fish

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Here’s how to make steamed fish without a recipe, with any vegetables you like or have on hand—a foolproof, versatile technique with a built-in side dish.

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Produce, Recipes, Seafood