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.

Read the rest of this column here

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Read the rest of this column here

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Why Care about the McCutcheon Decision?

In the food world, change from the ground up is all well and good. We desperately need cooks, gardeners, farmers and teachers. But we also need legislation. The recently passed and almost uniformly abysmal Farm Bill is a lesson in how legislation affects those of us working to change the chaotic so-called food “system.” Pittances were tossed at supporters of local and organic food, fortunes’ worth of agribusiness subsidies were maintained, and much-needed support for the country’s least well-off was slashed.

That’s a Republican-led Congress at work, but when it comes to supporting Big Ag and Big Food, most of the Democratic representatives from states where farm income matters most are not much better: While the majority of Big Ag’s financial support for candidates goes to Republicans, Democrats are close behind. For big-time change on a national scale, we need representatives who put the needs of a sustainable food system and all that goes with it ahead of those of the chemical and processed food manufacturers who are currently running the show.

Read the rest of this column here

Posted in Uncategorized

Spring Stews with Crunchy Crusts

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April is a transitional season, not only for weather but also for cooking. More produce begins to appear at farmers’ markets, and even supermarket asparagus begins to come from places closer than Peru. In most of the country, though, it’s not yet time for hot-weather eating; we still crave more than a light salad.

Light stews with springtime ingredients and satisfying crusts are the perfect dish for this time of year. These are neither the gut-busting braises that we’ve been eating all winter nor the cold soups that we’ll eat in a couple of months, but something in between. The most famous example of this kind of dish, of course, is chicken potpie. The version I offer here is a modern take that celebrates spring with the addition of peas (traditional) and asparagus (less so) and the exclusion of cream.

Read the rest of this article and get the recipes here.

Posted in Recipes

A Cappuccino for Public Safety

In New York, many things are referred to as jokes. The Van Wyck “Expressway,” for example, a coarsely paved road that has been under repair for as long as anyone can remember, is a joke. Compared with those of other world capitals, our mass transit system is a joke. And every now and then we’re reminded that underground is a bewildering mess of pipes, wires and fibers, the stuff that keeps the whole semi-anarchic mess running. That’s a joke, too, one that The Times called “a glaring example of America’s crumbling infrastructure.”

Although black humor is dear to New Yorkers, these are not funny jokes. No one likes the service interruptions and long waits for a train. But when gas pipes explode, as they did in East Harlem last month, killing sleeping innocents, it’s tough to remain stoical. This isn’t the Blitz or 9/11, events on which we could blame an embodiment of malevolence for random deaths of fellow citizens. Deaths like these are largely preventable.

Read the rest of this column here

Posted in Uncategorized

Special Gift with VB6 Cookbook Preorder

Preorder a copy of The VB6 Cookbook at AmazonBarnes and NobleiBookstore, or Indiebound by May 5, submit your proof of purchase in the form below, and receive a bookplate signed by me, plus a voucher code for a free month trial to Eat Your Books, where you can access all 15,217 of my recipes in one place.
 
Plus, share this preorder offer online using #VB6Cookbook and you will be entered to win one of five 15-minute phone consultations with me (we can talk about VB6, or any other food issues you’re interested in).
The VB6 Cookbook is on sale May 6, 2014, everywhere books are sold.
 
PLEASE NOTE: The bookplates will be individually signed but not be personalized (sorry), and will arrive by June 15th.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Years of Living Dangerously

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Posted in Uncategorized