When it comes to school lunches, America is the third world

Brazil’s presidency appears likely to be headed for a runoff. But this NPR story has me wondering why a country that many Americans consider “third world” can do so much more in the world of school lunches than we can.

When I first heard that kids got rice and beans every day, I thought “That’s progress right there.” Because from a nutritional standpoint, rice and beans would be preferable to most U.S. school lunches, which are now being seriously discussed as contributors to obesity, or at the very least as a failure when it comes to countering it. Not surprisingly, when you look at them.

Yet according to the NPR piece, Brazil has mandated that 30 percent of the food for school lunches be purchased from local farmers, which has not only help stablize the farmers’ income but improve the kids’ diets. Now the rice and beans are augmented by fresh vegetables and local meat. Are you telling me we can’t manage to do this here? It’s a matter of politics and will.

Posted in Food Politics

Less-Meat Mondays: Cannellini with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

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By Freya Bellin

With the end of summer we must grudgingly say goodbye to peaches and berries, but I happen to love fall produce.  One of my favorites, the Brussels sprout, is a kind of vegetable underdog.  Over the past few years it seems to have made the transition from rejected to revered, and I love finding recipes that would bring even the most hesitant of sprout-eaters onto the bandwagon.  This is one of those recipes.  The sausage (I used an Italian chicken sausage) and red pepper flakes add nice heat to the dish, and shaved Brussels sprouts make it light and salad-like. This is essentially a meal on its own, but I bet it would taste great over polenta or farro.  I opted to serve it in a bowl with a big hunk of onion and olive focaccia to help soak up the juices.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Cannellini with Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Sausage

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes with cooked or canned beans

Cannellini beans with garlic and sausage are admittedly hard to beat (there’s a reason you see it everywhere). But shredded Brussels sprouts are a welcome addition to this classic combination; if there are still Brussels sprout haters out there, this will convert them. Serve this dish, with its beautifully flavored pan juices, over cooked grains like farro, bulgur, or cracked wheat, or a couple of thick slices of toasted bread.

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Red chile flakes, to taste

Salt and black pepper

1 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded in a food processor or roughly chopped

1⁄2 cup white wine or water

2 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained

1. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, crumble the sausage into the pan and cook, stirring occasionally to break the meat into relatively small bits, until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chile flakes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for another minute or so.

2. Add the Brussels sprouts and wine to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the sprouts are tender but still a bit crunchy, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are heated through, just a minute or 2. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve.

 

Posted in Italian, Recipes

The Food Matters Cookbook Chronicles: Minneapolis

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I spoke at the Healthy Food Summit in Minneapolis Thursday and Friday, to mostly large, hyper-friendly, and ever-thoughtful crowds. My hosts Mindy Kurzer and Tim Kenny did a terrific job of organizing the packed two-day affair, and made me feel completely at home. Dinner Thursday was cooked by the talented and wonderful local chef Lucia Watson and her crew; Lucia also introduced me that night, so nicely I blushed.

Tim is director of education at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, a spectacular 1000-plus acre operation about half an hour from downtown Minny. He does fantastic work teaching kids the value of gardening, about which he is passionate.

And how about these cucurbits?

Now: Off to Philly, DC, Miami, and St. Louie.

Posted in Behind The Scenes, Travel

Sunday Supper: Stir-Fried Beef with Onions and Ginger

Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything.

Stir-Fried Beef with Onions and Ginger

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes, plus time to freeze the beef

Onions, beef, and ginger are an almost holy combination; the synthesis is simply delicious. Other cuts and meats you can use: pork, preferably from the shoulder or leg (fresh ham); lamb, preferably from the shoulder or leg; boneless chicken; shrimp.

3 /4to 1 pound flank or sirloin steak or other tender beef cut

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

2 large or 3 medium onions, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced or grated

fresh ginger

1 /2cup beef or chicken stock, or water

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce or soy sauce

1. Slice the beef as thinly as you can, across the grain. It’s easier if you freeze it for 15 to 30 minutes first. Cut the slices into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Heat a large skillet over high heat until it smokes, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and the onions. Stir immediately, then stir every 30 seconds or so until the onions soften and begin to char slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the onions with salt and pepper, then remove them; keep the heat high.

3. Add the remaining oil to the pan, then the garlic and 1 tablespoon of the ginger; stir and immediately add the beef. Stir immediately, then stir every 20 seconds or so until it loses its color, just a minute or two longer; stir in the onions. Add the stock, hoisin, and remaining teaspoon of ginger; let some of the liquid bubble away and serve immediately, over rice.

 

Posted in Chinese, Recipes

Dinner with Bittman: Pasta Frittata

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Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything.

Pasta Frittata

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 40 minutes, including cooking the pasta

This is a perfect way to use leftover pasta, instantly lovable and easily varied; add whatever fresh herbs you like or use grains, bread, or potatoes instead of pasta (see the variations). And you don’t even have to use long pasta; try this with rigatoni for more chew.

1/4 pound spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, or other long pasta or about 1/2 pound cooked pasta

Salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or extra virgin olive oil

5 eggs

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped parsley or fresh basil leaves (optional)

1. If you’re using dried pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta until barely tender, somewhat short of where you would normally cook it. Drain and immediately toss it in a wide bowl with half the butter or oil. Cool it a bit.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the remaining butter or oil in a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

3. Beat the eggs with some salt and pepper in a large bowl, then stir in the pasta with half of the Parmesan and the herb if you’re using it. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and immediately turn the heat down to medium-low. Use a spoon if necessary to even out the top of the frittata. Cook, undisturbed, until the mixture firms up on the bottom, 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer to the oven. Bake until the top is just cooked, about 10 minutes more. Remove and serve hot or at room temperature with the remaining Parmesan.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes

Dinner with Bittman: Pan-Roasted Swordfish with Gingered Pea Puree

Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything.

Pan-Roasted Swordfish with Gingered Pea Puree

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Mint and peas are a springtime cliché, and you can go that route here, but I think ginger is a more interesting counterpoint. Pan roasting begins with searing the steaks on the stovetop, then transferring them to the oven. 

Other seafood you can use: salmon, tuna, or halibut (steaks or fillets).

2 cups fresh or frozen peas

Salt 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped pancetta, guanciale, or bacon (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper

About 1 1/2 pounds swordfish steaks

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons butter

1. Heat the oven to 500°F. Cook the peas in boiling salted water until tender, just a couple of minutes. Drain them, then plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well while you cook the fish.

2. Put the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. If you’re using the pancetta, add it now and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has rendered some of its fat. Raise the heat to high and add the fish; sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Cook until browned on one side, 3 to 5 minutes, then turn and transfer to the oven.

3. Mash the peas—you can use a potato masher, an immersion blender (add a tiny bit of cream or water if necessary), or a food processor—along with the ginger. Reheat with the butter, adding some salt and pepper if necessary.

4. When the fish is done—after 5 to 10 minutes of roasting (a thin-bladed knife will meet little resistance when inserted into the center)—transfer it to a plate, along with the pan juices. Spoon a bit of the pea purée onto each of 4 plates and top with a piece of the fish. Serve immediately.

 

Posted in Recipes, Seafood

The Food Matters Cookbook Chronicles: Rocky Mountain Seitan

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I love Denver. First and foremost, a guy called me a “swell fellah.” You think that EVER happens in New York? No. “Good guy” maybe, but that’s not the same thing.

Denver is a tad generic, but the people are – as they are most everywhere in the West – from all over the place, generally friendly, and generally genuine. The weather is spectacular, or it has been whenever I’ve been here. The airport is essentially in Nebraska, but you can drive really fast so it only takes two hours to get into town. (This is an exaggeration but anyone who has flown in knows it can feel that way.) It takes an hour to get from curbside to the gate, too; this is the biggest airport in the country.

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Posted in Travel

HTCE Essentials App is Free

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The How to Cook Everything Essentials app is now available for free on iTunes. It includes over 100, well, essential recipes from the book, as well as some of the snazzy features that come with the full version. If you like Essentials, you can easily upgrade to the complete HTCE app (the entire book for $4.99).

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Dinner with Bittman: Bean and Potato Gratin

Recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything.

Bean and Potato Gratin

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 1 1/2 hours with cooked beans, largely unattended

This dish is based on boulangerie potatoes, a French classic that was traditionally baked at the local baker’s until the potatoes became meltingly soft and the stock reduced to a rich glaze. With beans, it could easily be a main course or remain a side dish.

Other beans you can use: pink or red beans.

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

3 cups cooked or canned white beans, drained but still moist

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 medium starchy or all-purpose potatoes, peeled

1 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock or water

3 tablespoons butter

1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Stir a tablespoon of the thyme into the beans, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Spread the beans into the bottom of a large baking dish and set aside.

2. Halve the potatoes lengthwise and slice thinly into half-circles. Lay the potatoes in overlapping rows to cover the beans. Pour the stock over the top, dot with pieces of butter, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the remaining thyme.

3. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is browned and glazed, another 45 minutes or so. Serve immediately or let rest for up to an hour and serve at room temperature.

 

 

 

Posted in Italian, Recipes

The Food Matters Cookbook Chronicles: Pittsburgh

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Your reporter writes from a plane flying from Pittsburgh to Denver.

Last night I had the rare but not unprecedented privilege of having someone else cook my food for me. Not only for me, but for 60 of my closest friends, or at least 60 of my closest friends in Pittsburgh. And it was not only “someone” cooking the food, but my (actual) friend Andrew Morrison, who was the opening chef at Habitat, the topnotch restaurant in Pittsburgh’s new Fairmont hotel.

Andrew’s fairly straightforward but beautiful interpretations of some of the dishes from The Food Matters Cookbook reinforced my feeling that he’s not only ultra-competent but creative enough to have a brilliant future. Pittsburgh is lucky to have him and, from what I could tell in the few hours I was there, it’s a good place to be.

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Posted in Behind The Scenes, Travel