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

Fear of Almonds

I can’t tell you how many times in the last month someone has come up to me and said something like, “Do you think I should stop eating almonds?” or “I really miss almond butter, but I just can’t bring myself to buy it anymore.”

It’s typical: We focus on a minuscule part (almonds) of a huge problem (water use in California) and see it as the key to fixing everything: If only we stopped eating almonds, the drought would end! (If only we stopped eating “carbs,” we wouldn’t be overweight.) But there are parts of the state where growing almonds makes sense. Using dry farming techniques that take advantage of residual moisture in the soil and rainfall, there is some ideal almond country in California.

Posted in Food Politics

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

HTCE Fast: Broiled Ziti

All the flavors of a classic baked ziti, but more bubbly crust and way less time. Crowd-pleasers don’t come much easier than this.

Salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking sheet
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Pepper
1 pound ziti
1 pound mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh
4 ounces Parmesan cheese (1 cup grated)

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Posted in American, Italian, Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

Can We Finally Treat Food Workers Fairly?

Two pieces of seemingly unrelated news last week show just how deficient our values are when it comes to the treatment of the lowest paid workers in our economy, the largest portion of whom are employed in the food chain.

First, Los Angeles followed Seattle and San Francisco in setting its minimum wage at $15 per hour. With New York looking as if it might join the club, $15 could become the new, de facto $7.25, the current federal minimum hourly wage. (As I’ve mentioned before, many tipped workers make even less than that.) A couple of days later, Walmart, among the worst offenders in the realm of labor abuse, announced that it would push its suppliers for improvements in … animal welfare.

If Walmart’s new rules are enforced, they’d be stricter and more humane than any set by federal agencies. But the standards are voluntary, vague and without a deadline; and the company has a history of not following through on its promises.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Food Politics

Every Last Bit

Photo by Grant Cornett

Photo by Grant Cornett

“What’s this?” I asked on my first visit to Seki, an unassuming izakaya — a Japanese bar with food — in a quiet corner of Washington. The menu was typically simple, listing sashimi, fried octopus, grilled eel, tempura, pickles, skewered chicken hearts and monkfish livers. And something I’d never seen before: ara yaki.

“Oh,” said Cizuka Seki, who runs the restaurant with her father, Hiroshi, a short, stout, gruff but pleasant man who trained in washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine, in Tokyo. “We roast fish scraps, the leftovers from butchering the best fish.”

“And you serve it with . . . ?”

“Nothing.”

Read the rest of this column and get the recipe here.

Posted in Japanese, Recipes, Seafood

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