This year, Slow Food USA, which defines “slow food” as good for its eaters, its producers and the environment — a definition anyone can get behind — set out to demonstrate that slow food can also be affordable, not only a better alternative to fast food but a less expensive one. The organization issued a $5 Challenge with the inspired rallying cry of “take back the ‘value meal’,” which in most fast food restaurants runs somewhere around five bucks.
Under the leadership of its president, Josh Viertel, Slow Food has moved from a group of rah-rah supporters of artisanal foods to become a determined booster of sustainability and of real food for everyone. Last month it called for people to cook pot luck and community dinners for no more than $5 per person. “We gave ourselves a month to launch the first big public day of action in what we hoped would become an ongoing challenge,” says Viertel. “In those four weeks we hoped to organize 500 people to host meals on Sept. 17. Our dream was to have 20,000 people participate.”
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By Kerri Conan
Perfect for Yukon golds: Turn the oven to 400dg, using the convection roast setting if you’ve got one. Pour a thin film of olive oil into a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Trim about 1 pound of potatoes, remove any icky spots, and cut them in half crosswise. Once the potatoes are in the pan, rub them all over in the oil, and put them cut side down. Roast, brushing with the salted oil every 15 minutes or so, until they release easily, 30 to 60 minutes, depending on their size.
By Freya Bellin
Okra is an underdog of a vegetable, but I’m a full-fledged fan. It has a crunchy exterior, a tender center, and lots of texture from the seeds inside—which is why I chose to go with the okra variation of this recipe. Its season is short-lived here in New York, so I typically jump at the opportunity to cook with it.
This dish cooks in phases (first chicken, then chickpeas, then veggies), but it still has all the benefits of a one-pot meal, as the flavors keep building. As the title of the recipe might lead you to believe, the curried chickpeas were a highlight. I couldn’t resist snacking on them once they were removed from the pan: browned, crispy, spicy, delicious. They make a great snack, with or without the rest of the recipe. The coconut, ginger, and curry seasonings add some classic Indian flavors, and the chiles just the right amount of heat. I don’t think this needs sugar (in fact, I seasoned with more salt at the end) but taste as you go. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
THE “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli …” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”
This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)
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Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 15 minutes
These are a revelation, so far from canned mixed nuts that you may have trouble believing it; and they’re almost no work at all. I suggest relying heavily on pecans or walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and cashews, with a sprinkling of anything else handy. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
2 cups (about 1 pound) mixed unsalted shelled nuts
2 tablespoons peanut oil or melted butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 450°F. Toss the nuts in a bowl with the oil or butter and some salt and pepper. Put on a baking sheet and roast, shaking occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool before serving; they will crisp as they cool.
Spiced Buttered Nuts. Real bar food: Add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of any spice mixture, like chili or curry powder, to the mix. If roasting, toss the nuts with the spice at the beginning. If sautéing, add it to the butter or oil as it heats.
Herbs are so much more than a garnish (just think of them as tiny green vegetables.)
By Alaina Sullivan
Zucchini’s mildness makes it an ideal canvas for more aggressive flavors. Simply sautéing it with minced garlic catapults it from delicate to edgy – the recipe calls loosely for “some minced garlic,” and I added enough to stave off an entire swarm of vampires.
With “fragrant” mentioned twice in the recipe sketch, the smells are reason enough to cook this dish – the twin aromas of sautéing garlic and toasting pistachios wafting up from neighboring pans are incredible. Toasting the nuts is a step worth taking – it releases their natural oils, intensifying both flavor and crunch.
The zucchini is tossed with al dente fusilli, sprinkled with the pistachios, and served with parmesan and lots of black pepper. It’s a pretty perfect pasta to start out the fall. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.
Zucchini and Garlic Fusilli with Pistachios
Boil salted water for the fusilli and cook it; meanwhile, slice two zucchinis into thin disks. Toast a handful of pistachios in a dry pan until just fragrant and turning golden; set aside. Cook some minced garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until fragrant, add the zucchini slices and two tablespoons water, season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft. Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water. Toss the zucchini and garlic mixture with the pasta, adding more olive oil and water if needed; add the toasted nuts and serve with grated Parmesan cheese and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
I wish I’d been in La Jolla a couple of weeks ago to see the green inflatable airship flying overhead with a cartoon mermaid on one side. She was curvy and blonde, with a cigarette in her mouth and a bloody fish impaled on her trident. Around her was text that read, “Chicken of the Sea: Carnage in a Tuna Can.”
Are we looking at another tuna boycott? Many readers will remember 1988, when biologist Sam LaBudde went to work as a cook on a Panamanian tuna boat and secretly shot film that showed dolphins dying in nets and being crushed in winches, as many as 20 for every tuna. The video was shown to a Senate subcommittee and sparked a consumer boycott of canned tuna. Two years later, Starkist — then owned by Heinz — announced it would no longer buy any tuna caught by methods that threatened dolphins. Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea quickly followed suit, and “dolphin-safe tuna” was born. (Strangely enough, the World Trade Organization just ruled against dolphin-safe tuna labels, but that’s another story.)
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Photo: Greenpeace via Flickr
By Freya Bellin
As the days of summer near their end, I think most of us wish we had just one more weekend at the beach, or one more week before schools starts. But, almost as a reward for going back to reality, we do get something wonderful this time of year: tomatoes. And they never disappoint. Plump, juicy, multi-colored, and funny-shaped, early-September tomatoes are a sweet way to say goodbye to summer.
The simpler, the better, when it comes to using ultra-fresh tomatoes in cooking. I love this tomato carpaccio because it sounds so basic, but the flavors come together in a bright, zesty way. I went for the mozzarella variation, which takes a classic combination like tomato and mozzarella and adds a surprise element of peppery arugula, rather than the standard basil. The simple salt, pepper, and olive oil seasoning complements this salad perfectly. Just proof that when you have amazing produce, it speaks for itself. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
By Alaina Sullivan
Bitter meets sweet in this perfectly balanced end-of-summer salad. Fresh endive and watercress lay a crisp foundation for sweet cooked pears and crumbled blue cheese. The pears are browned with shallots and perfumed with maple syrup, yielding a result sweet enough to be served a la mode. Atop a bed of greens the pears steer toward savory, but add the right amount of sweetness to mellow the bitter greens.
Blue cheese hasn’t particularly agreed with my palate in the past, though I must admit, the use of Stilton in this dish has reformed me. Both firmer and milder than some of its substitutes, English Stilton contributes a pungent flavor without being too distracting. It simultaneously acts as the salty foil to the sweet pears while cutting the bitterness of the greens.
Though a cast of strong personalities, each element in the salad is balanced beautifully by its counterpart. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express
Endive and Warm Pear Salad with Stilton
Cut three or four pears into eights; toss them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, along with some salt and pepper. Thinly slice a shallot. Cook the pears and shallot in a skillet over medium-high heat until the pears are browning and the shallot slices are wilted; add a tablespoon of maple syrup during the last 30 seconds or so of cooking. Toss the warm pan mixture, and any remaining juices, in a bowl with endive and watercress (or any other greens you like), along with more olive oil and a bit of sherry vinegar. Garnish with crumbled Stilton and serve.