Too Hot to Grill? Try the Slow Cooker

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 3.43.23 PMWhen I told a friend that I was working on an article about slow-cooker recipes for summer, she gave me a concerned look and asked if I was in full possession of my faculties. I may not be, but I do know this: In addition to being nearly foolproof, slow cookers don’t heat up your kitchen. They don’t even require you to be in your kitchen — or your house, for that matter — while they do their thing. I’m not saying, “Stop grilling.” But I am saying that when the temperature starts to climb, you might break out the crockpot.

While slow cookers are best known for their meat-braising prowess, they also work wonders on dried beans, rendering them almost impossibly creamy inside while leaving them completely intact. Throw some liquid, seasonings and meat in the bottom, vegetables on top, and you’ll wind up with slow-cooked stews that take advantage of summer ingredients.

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Posted in Recipes, Slow Food

Strolling in Paris, With Menus in Mind

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 11.27.44 AMParis is, of course, a walker’s city. But which direction to take? And to what destinations? With previously unknown (to me, at least) restaurants as my end points, I started at Notre Dame (essentially the center of town; all time allotments below are from there) and headed in different directions for different lengths of time.

After a few attempts, I found myself drawn toward the Marais and the 11th Arrondissement, where I was eating best. When I walked west, I was disappointed. With one exception, I had to walk north (and usually east) in order to find food that thrilled me.

Here, then, are the four winners.

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Posted in Slow Food, Travel

Mark Bittman: Two-thirds Vegan and a Handful of Other

by  for The Huffington Post

Okay, I’m shallow. Nothing excites me more than when someone tosses a new idea for chicken at me that sounds easy, healthy and quick. New ideas for vegetables make we weep — in a good way. Cooking is about much more than throwing stuff in the oven and waiting for dinner to emerge. It’s about lifestyle. Culture. Fun. Creativity. Time.

Mark Bittman makes everything seem not only acccessbile, but easy. He uses ingredients that we actually have, or that are at least available within a few miles of most urban or suburban cooks. Nothing obscure, nothing fussy that you need to order online because it’s simply unavailable in a major metropolis. Bittman understands that many home cooks are distracted, can barely tell the difference between a tablespoon and a teaspoon (if they have the measuring spoons at all), and crave simplicity. At the same time, he knows that we want something new, a twist on what is familiar, but with a flash of Different.

Read the rest of the article here.

Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Slow Food

Slow Food Quickens The Pace: My Interview with Carlo Petrini

AMSTERDAM — It may be that Slow Food’s original focus on taste and the quality of food — on gastronomy — simply seemed too narrow, and therefore elitist. But at least since its “Puebla Declaration[1]in 2007, Slow Food has become a force to be reckoned with, probably the only international organization that integrates concerns about the environment, tradition, labor, health, animal welfare … along with real cooking, taste and pleasure.

Slow Food was founded by Carlo Petrini, who remains its president. He was a food writer when he launched a protest in 1986 against the opening of an enormous McDonald’s branch (more than 400 seats) in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna (better known to Anglophones as the Spanish Steps) — the first McDonald’s in Italy. More than 20 years before the coining of the term “locavore” and “the Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Petrini saw the battle as being against the industrialization of food, and now, a generation later, he was clearly prescient.

Read the rest of this article here.

Posted in Slow Food

Eggs, Chicken Livers, and a Secret Ingredient

When I asked Frank DeCarlo — the chef at Peasant, on Elizabeth Street, and a friend — to show me a big-flavored, funky, simple dish that he loved, he suggested a chicken liver frittata.

My mouth watered. Liver and eggs isn’t a common combination, but it’s one I’ve known and have been fond of; I especially remember a breakfast in Turkey of nothing but those two ingredients a few years ago.

Frank’s version is more complicated than that — though it takes only 10 or so minutes — and even contains what he calls a “secret ingredient.”

Read the rest of this article and watch the video here.

Posted in Slow Food

The Food Movement Takes a Beating

AN election that saw great strides for women, gay men and lesbians and even pot smokers left the nascent food movement scratching its collective head. We’re going to see marijuana legalized before we see a simple change in food labeling that’s favored by more than 90 percent of Americans? Or a tax on soda, a likely contributor to the obesity problem?

Possibly.

Proposition 37, which would have required packagers to label foods containing genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.’s) as such, was on the ballot in California. As recently as two months ago, the vote for labeling appeared to be a shoo-in. But then the opposition spent nearly a million dollars a day — a total of $46 million, or about five times as much as the measure’s backers — not so much chipping away at the lead but demolishing it.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Food Politics, Slow Food

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

Wendell Berry, American Hero

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The sensibility of Wendell Berry, who is sometimes described as a modern day Thoreau but who I’d call the soul of the real food movement, leads people like me on a path to the door of the hillside house he shares with his wife, Tanya, outside of Port Royal, Ky. Everything is as the pilgrim would have it: Wendell (he’s a one-name icon, like Madonna, but probably in that respect only) is kind and welcoming, all smiles.

He quotes Pope (“Consult the genius of the place in all”), Spenser, Milton and Stegner, and answers every question patiently and articulately. He doesn’t patronize. We sit alone, uninterrupted through the morning, for two or three hours. Tanya is at church; when it’s time, he turns on the oven, as she requested before leaving. He seems positively yogic, or maybe it’s just this: How often do I sit in long, quiet conversation? Wendell has this effect.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Slow Food

“The Greatest Living Food Writer”

Colin Spencer, whom Germaine Greer once called “the greatest living food writer,” turns 80 next year, and shows no signs of slowing down. His latest book, “From Microliths to Microwaves,” a history of food in Britain from pre-historic times to the present, is the work of a scholar. (In it he argues, in a way that’s reminiscent of Jared Diamond, that agriculture — or at least agriculture as it’s practiced now — is one of the great tragedies of the human race.)

Yet Spencer’s scholarship is only one of his many achievements. Indeed, he’s as close to a Renaissance man as you can get, an accomplished artist, novelist, analyst, activist, playwright and journalist.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Slow Food

René Redzepi: Prince of Denmark

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Whether Copenhagen’s Noma is the world’s best restaurant doesn’t matter: René Redzepi, its chef, has responded to his well-deserved recognition with the kind of inspiration and energy that guarantee he’ll be around for a while. Redzepi, soon to turn 34, is also a sweet guy running an oddly nonhierarchical kitchen, and talented people from all over the world are flocking to Denmark to work for him.

Meanwhile, well-heeled people from all over the world are flocking to Noma to get a sample of the restaurant’s “new Nordic cuisine.” (“Noma” is a conflation of the Danish words for “Nordic” and “food.”) Much of the food is actually Nordic, though not exclusively so: the pan-seared langoustine with oyster-parsley purée, for example, could be claimed just as legitimately by New Orleans.

Read the rest of this column here

Posted in Slow Food, Travel