The VB6 Cocktail Party

mojitoMy last newsletter offered tips on maintaining VB6 during backyard grilling season. With the Fourth of July coming up, VB6ers face yet another test of willpower: summer cocktail parties.

Maybe it’s the heat or the fact that when the weather gets nice, all we want is to kick back and have fun, but for many of us, alcohol consumption increases during the summer.

Of course, drinking makes us lose our inhibitions, which can result in eating foods we might otherwise avoid. That said, here are some tips for navigating a cocktail party—in the summer or anytime.

Crudités: Home base. Try dipping only every fifth piece or so.

Passed hors d’oeuvres: Let one platter of each go by before deciding what’s best.

Meatballs: Can you stop at one? If not, veer toward the cocktail shrimp instead.

Cheese tray: There’s fruit nearby, yes? Make this dessert.

Cocktails: If you want a drink, go ahead, but alternate each alcoholic glass with one of sparkling water.

Posted in Newsletter

Let’s Not Braise the Planet

According to a report released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last month, we are not running out of fossil fuels anytime soon. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution we’ve used around 1.2 trillion barrels of oil; the report estimates that with current technology we can produce roughly five times that much. With future technologies, it may well be that the suffering sky is the limit.

This reduces the issue of conversion to clean energy to one of ethics and intent. Our ability to turn around the rate of carbon emissions and slow the engine that can conflagrate the world is certain. But do we have the will?

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Recipes, Slow Food

My VB6 Pantry Essentials on Food52

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This week, I‘m is serving as a Guest Editor at Food52. I chose a Wildcard winner, answered questions, and have been sharing recipes from my new Cooking Basics app.

Today, I outline the five pantry staples that are essential to go Vegan Before 6.

Read the list of pantry essentials, here.

Photo by James Ransom

Posted in Produce

Meaty and Mighty

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 9.08.11 AMEggplant is often called “meaty,” by which we mean what, exactly? Substantial? Versatile? Flavorful?

All of the above, for sure (as well as tough and chewy on occasion; not necessarily a bad thing). But the comparison is no more fair to the aubergine than it would be to call a piece of beef “eggplanty.”

Eggplant stands alone, a vegetable like no other. Actually, because eggplant is a fruit, like the tomato, to which it’s closely related, it’s safer to label it a food like no other, beloved and appreciated worldwide and deserving of respect, not as a meat substitute but as a treasure in itself.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Indian, Italian, Japanese

The True Deservers of a Food Prize

If Secretary of State John Kerry’s G.M.O.-boosting speechannouncing the World Food Prize at the State Department last week is any indication of his ability to parse complicated issues, he might be better off windsurfing. Because Kerry appears to have bought into the big ag-driven myth that only by relying on genetic engineering will we be able to feed the nine billion citizens of our planet by 2050. And he enthusiastically endorsed granting this mockery of a prize to three biotech engineers, including Robert Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto and a pioneer of genetic engineering in agriculture.

Never mind that Monsanto is a sponsor of the prize (and that the list of other backers reads like a who’s who of big ag and big food), or that we never get to know the names of either the nominees or the nominators. [1] Never mind that we’re not feeding the seven billion now, or that we’re sickening a billion of those with a never-before-seen form of malnourishment. Never mind that we already grow enough food to feed not only everyone on the planet but everyone who’s going to be born in the next 30 or 40 years. And never mind that, despite the hype, there’s scant evidence that the involvement of genetic engineering in agriculture has done much to boost yields, reduce the use of chemicals or improve the food supply.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Dozen Simple Ways to Serve the Perfect Scallop

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 9.17.27 AMCreamy, sweet, briny and meaty at the same time, scallops are the most user-friendly of mollusks, and the recipes here won’t unnecessarily complicate things. Half call for grilling, the remainder leave the scallops raw.

Much more difficult than cooking scallops is buying scallops. As with most seafood these days, unless you’re on the boat yourself — or have a trustworthy source — it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting. Because scallops are often soaked in a phosphate solution that plumps them up with water (therefore making added water part of the selling price), it’s important to look for scallops that are labeled “dry” or “dry-packed.” A waterlogged scallop doesn’t sear well, and a phosphate-marinated scallop may taste like soap, especially when it’s raw, so make sure to ask for dry.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Seafood

With the Grain

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Grains bring different characters to different seasons. When it’s cold, they’re mostly porridge, or beds for stews and stir-fries. But as spring turns to summer, it’s time to think about grains in salads. And these salads make for a terrific transition to the time, which will be here soon enough, when you wish you didn’t have to use the stove at all.

Grain salad is more of a concept than a “dish” — there are virtually infinite variations. But the current season could not be more ideal, replete with late-spring and early-summer vegetables that require only chopping, slicing or grating. All that you’ll need to cook are the grains, which neither demand very much of your attention nor heat up very much of your kitchen.

Read the rest of this article, here.

 

Posted in Recipes

Giving up Tuna? Breathing Is Next

If you’re like most people (including me, up until a month or two ago), you know that tuna and other top-of-the-food-chain fish contain unsafe levels of mercury and that childbirth-age women and nursing mothers, especially, are warned off these fish. What you don’t know, probably (I didn’t), is the mercury’s source, or how it gets in these fish.

Turns out that about three-quarters of it comes from coal-burning power plants; it dissolves in water, where micro-organisms convert it to methylmercury, a bio-available and highly toxic form that builds up in fish. The longer a fish lives, the more mercury builds in its flesh.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Food Politics

Welfare for the Wealthy

The critically important Farm Bill [1] is impenetrably arcane, yet as it worms its way through Congress, Americans who care about justice, health or the environment can parse enough of it to become outraged.

The legislation costs around $100 billion annually, determining policies on matters that are strikingly diverse. Because it affects foreign trade and aid, agricultural and nutritional research, and much more, it has global implications.

The Farm Bill finances food stamps (officially SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and the subsidies that allow industrial ag and monoculture — the “spray and pray” style of farming — to maintain their grip on the food “system.”

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Food Politics