Ribs, 3 Ways

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You cannot argue that ribs are seasonal. If you’re a fan, you want them as badly in January as you do right now. In fact, regardless of when “now” is, it’s as good a time to be cooking ribs as any, because ribs are equally good when prepared using almost any method of cooking. If there is a revelation to be found here, it is in the lightest and probably easiest recipe: ribs braised with anchovies and white wine — a dish in which the ribs can be eaten neatly, with knife and fork (and the sauce used to dress pasta or rice, or as a bread-soaker).

But there is a range of options. The standard, most straightforward method is two-step grilling with little more than salt and pepper — I offer more elaborate, though hardly difficult, variations. The most complicated recipe, which uses two cooking methods, is also by far the most time-consuming, but could be the most rewarding, at least for classicists. You smoke the ribs over indirect heat with sage and ginger (or other spices; see the variations). This can be done in advance, and it can be done simultaneously with direct-grilling something else, or even as the heat is dying down from a big fire.

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here

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Save our Children!

1. Lunch

Allow me this generalization: Healthy food initiatives threaten profits and are therefore fought or deflected or co-opted at all costs by the producers of hyperprocessed food. This is true even when those costs include producing an increasingly sick population — and a disproportionate number of defenseless children — and an ever-growing portion of our budget spent on paying for diet-related illness. Big Food will continue to pursue profit at the expense of health as long as we let them.

And the relatively honest members of the political right will say that it’s not enough to prevent new legislation; their goal is to roll back or damage existing laws or programs that benefit people.

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Posted in Food Politics

Food News from Around the World and Beyond

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I suppose we count this as progress: A Florida elementary school has agreed to stop its longstanding policy of giving kids Mountain Dew as brain fuel before the state’s most important standardized test.

Taco Bell is launching U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom, which will feature a menu of 10 “premium” tacos.

Your web browser is on its way to becoming a Walmart.

A new study suggests that climate change is to blame for the polar vortex, which gave us an extremely dry, warm winter on the West Coast. The melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet is likely unstoppable. The Obama administration released a study demonstrating that the effects of human-induced climate changeare already being felt in every corner of the United States, which was preceded by a boast the day before about record levels of carbon-fuel production. Huh?

Get the rest of the news here

Posted in Food Politics

An Inconvenient Truth About our Food

“Fed Up” is probably the most important movie to be made since “An Inconvenient Truth,” to which it’s related in a couple of ways.

One of its producers is Laurie David, who also produced “An Inconvenient Truth.” Climate change, diet and agriculture are inexorably intertwined; we can’t tackle climate change without changing industrial agriculture, and we can’t change industrial agriculture without tackling diet.

Like “An Inconvenient Truth,” too, “Fed Up” can be seen as propaganda. (As can “Farmland,” the beautifully shot movie that looks and feels like a Chevy commercial and seems to take as its underlying premise that most Americans mistrust, even hate, farmers. It’s more than a little defensive.)

“Fed Up” says: “Here is a problem, a problem that vested interests have no interest in solving, and a problem that must be dealt with if we’re interested in our survival. It’s something worth fighting about.”

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Posted in Food Politics

Chicken Parts, 12 Ways

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If you give a cook a whole chicken, chances are he’ll roast it, because for all its wonderful attributes, a whole bird just isn’t that versatile. Other than sticking it in the oven or plunging it into a pot of liquid, there are not a lot of obvious ways to cook it.

Cut that chicken into parts, however, and the possibilities open up, easily enabling techniques like braising, sautéing and grilling. And while you have to work pretty hard to get a whole chicken with crisp skin, by using parts, you can achieve that result easily and consistently. It’s worth noting, too, that unlike the ubiquitous boneless (and skinless!) breast, bone-in parts retain their moisture during cooking.

Read the rest of this article and get the recipes here

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Leave “Organic” Out of It

The ever-increasing number of people working to improve the growing, processing, transporting, marketing, distributing and eating of food must think through our messages more thoroughly and get them across more clearly. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I can say that a couple of buzzwords represent issues that are far more nuanced than we often make them appear. These are “organic” and “G.M.O.’s” (genetically modified organisms).

I think we — forward-thinking media, progressives in general, activist farmers, think-tank types, nonprofiteers, everyone who’s battling to create a better food system — often send the wrong message on both of these. If we understand and explain them better it’ll be more difficult for us to be discredited (or, worse, dismissed out of hand), and we’ll have more success moving intelligent comments on these important issues into the mainstream.

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Posted in Food Politics

Cinco de Mayo, VB6-Style

Tofu Ceviche

In celebration of  Cinco de Mayo (this coming Monday), and the official release of my new book, The VB6 Cookbook (this coming Tuesday), here is a recipe (and here’s another one) for enjoying the holiday VB6-style.

Tofu Ceviche

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes, plus pickling time

Tofu is made a lot like cheese, so it doesn’t require cooking. It does, however, benefit from marinating, and—within limits—the longer the better. There are so many ways to eat this refreshing dish: over greens, brown rice, or grains; with Boston lettuce leaves for wrapping; tossed with whole wheat angel hair; tucked into warm corn tortillas; or of course, all on its own.

Ingredients

1½ pounds firm tofu (1½ blocks)

½ cup cider vinegar or sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoons salt

4 scallions, sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 bunch radishes, sliced or chopped

1 cucumber, sliced or chopped

1 avocado, cubed

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon pepper

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

1. Cut the tofu into small cubes. Put the vinegar, sugar, salt, and 1 cup water in a large bowl. Whisk to combine, then add the scallions, garlic, and tofu; toss gently to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate for as little as 15 minutes or up to 2 days.

2. Drain the tofu mixture, reserving the pickling liquid. Put the tofu mixture in a large bowl and add the radishes, cucumber, and avocado.

3. Toss the ceviche with 2 tablespoons of the reserved liquid, and the olive oil and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more pickling liquid if you like. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.

Variations:

  • Greek-Style Tofu Ceviche: Use red wine vinegar instead of cider. Swap 1 small red onion for the scallions, 2 tomatoes for the radishes, capers or chopped olives for the avocado, and parsley for the cilantro.
  • Vietnamese-Style Tofu Ceviche: Use lime juice instead of the vinegar and add 1 or 2 teaspoons fish sauce (unless you’re being strictly vegan). Try fresh mint or Thai basil instead of the cilantro. Top with crushed peanuts if desired.

More Ideas

Make it even more herbaceous by tossing in fresh basil and mint along with the cilantro.

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Bagels, Lox and Me

On Sunday, I put on my running clothes, went out to the elevator, and pushed the button. In the time it took for my finger to travel from the wall back to my side, I’d decided that it was not a day for a run but for a trip to the market. I slipped a coat over everything and went to the store, where I bought bagels, lox and cream cheese, along with some badly needed staples. I then came home and ate. (While, of course, reading The Sunday Times. Sigh. Sometimes it’s tough to be a cliché.)

The run never happened, and that’s unusual in my recent history; I was a near-paradigm of discipline this winter. And I’m pretty disciplined in my eating, too, at least during the day. But something happened Sunday, a combination, I suspect, of annoying little things that led to a short-lived mental breakdown. The cause isn’t important; it’s the response that most interests me.

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Unsustainable Living: “The Ogallala Road”

A story of land, water, relationships and love, “The Ogallala Road” is the 100-year history of a farming family in Kansas as well as the second of Julene Bair’s memoirs. The first, “One Degree West: Reflections of a Plainsdaughter,” was well received, but this new one is more polished, touching and engaging.

Kansas, specifically western Kansas, is one of the book’s main characters. It is here that Bair witnesses many changes in the period from her birth in 1949 until the turn of the 21st century, a time when the small American family farm and many of its supporting towns were pretty much overwhelmed by industrial agriculture. It was then that farming went, as Bair puts it, from “intense labor that broke men’s and women’s backs to intense pillage and poison that broke the earth’s.”

Read the rest of this review here

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12 Things to Do with Hard-Boiled Eggs

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Now that Easter is over, it’s time to stop thinking about hard-boiled eggs as something to hide and once again start thinking of them as food — and a versatile one at that. Hard-boiled eggs are worthy both as self-contained snacks and as main ingredients in more substantial dishes. The key in either case is cooking them so that the yolks are firm but still creamy rather than chalky, and peeling them without either tearing the egg to shreds or driving yourself mad.

The first part is accomplished easily enough by following the master recipe; I’ve found that nine minutes in hot water yields the perfect consistency for large to extra-large eggs, but if you prefer your yolks on the softer or firmer side, adjust the timing as needed. If you’re going to simmer the eggs in tomato sauce, hard- boil them for only seven and a half minutes, because they’ll continue to cook in the sauce. To minimize the dreaded green color, which comes from not cooling the egg quickly enough, dunk the eggs in an ice bath immediately after cooking — and don’t skimp on the ice.

Read the rest of this article and get the recipes here

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