The Minimalist: Shrimp and Cilantro Shu Mai

It’s official: homemade shu mai are way better than the ones you get in the restaurant.

Posted in Chinese

Pasta with Seared Radicchio, Steak, Balsamic


By Freya Bellin

This dish is full of striking flavor combinations. The red onions really absorb the balsamic vinegar and become ultra sweet, which works nicely to offset the bitter radicchio. Plus, the shades of dark purple are really beautiful. The fresh basil comes through surprisingly strongly here too, both in flavor and color. A half cup may seem like a lot, but it’s a great addition.

Notably, this dish is truly a pasta dish and not a steak dish. There’s only a half pound of meat for four servings, but it’s just enough to make it a filling entree. If you like your steak very rare, 2 minutes on each side should be plenty of cooking time. My steak looked quite rare when sliced, but once it was added back to the pot with the other hot ingredients, it seemed to continue cooking a bit too. When the weather gets warm again (or for those of you who are happy to grab a coat and grill outside in the winter), I bet that the vegetables and meat could be grilled rather than seared for an extra smoky element. As mentioned below, it tastes great at room temperature, and while it works for winter, I’ll be happy to make this again come summer picnic season.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes

Today’s federal programs make you long for the Depression


Check out Daniel Bowman Simon’s fascinating piece about the history of food stamps. The original food stamp program was designed to aid farm recovery: The unemployed would receive $1.50 in stamps for each cash dollar spent, 50 cents of which were specifically designated for purchase of the country’s agricultural surplus. Simon quotes a New York Times article from Sepetember 26, 1939, that lists the available surplus for the month of October:

“The list, effective Oct. 1, includes butter, eggs, raisins, apples, pork lard, dried prunes, onions, except green onions; dry beans, fresh pears, wheat flour and whole wheat flower [sic], and corn meal. Fresh snap beans were designated as surplus for Oct. 1 through Oct. 31.

Raisins, apples, pork lard and snap beans appeared on the list for the first time. Foods which will be removed from the list on Oct 1. include cabbages, fresh peaches, fresh tomatoes, rice, and fresh green peas.”

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Posted in Food Politics

Grilled or Broiled Scallops with Basil Stuffing


Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

One of my all-time favorite recipes. Even though it’s super-easy to split and fill scallops, the results are guaranteed to impress.

Other seafood you can use: shrimp (split lengthwise for stuffing); monkfish cut crosswise into thick medallions. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Is the U.S. One Big Factory Farm?


Food and Water Watch just released this amazing interactive factory farm map of the United States, which is fascinating and terrifying at the same time – I can’t stop clicking through it. Below “the fold” are some eye-opening numbers that come attached to the map. I’ve been doing some digging of my own, but it’s (quite literally) tons of, shall we say, waste to wade through.

Take the map for a spin, and if you find anything interesting, or surpising, or frightening, or hopeful – please post it in the comments section.

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Posted in Farming, Food Politics

Want Healthy Kids? Cut Soda, Not Food Stamps


Last week Raj Patel wrote – intelligently, of course, as he does – that passing the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill must not come down to a choice between feeding children and feeding families. A current version of the bill that has been passed by the Senate plans to fund an improved (healthier) school meal program in part by cutting $2 billion in funding for SNAP –the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program otherwise known as food stamps.

Food stamps, of course, are often the last line of defense for Americans that don’t have consistent access to sufficiently nutritious food (according to the USDA there were over 50 million of them, including more than 17 million children, in 2009). Patel argues that the Government should expand both SNAP and school meal programs, and that robbing a family’s dinner to pay for a child’s lunch is deeply misguided economic and social policy:

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Posted in Food Politics

Polenta Cakes with Garlicky Mushrooms


By Freya Bellin

Polenta can be really fun to work with because of its versatility. You could serve it as a grain with stir-fried vegetables, under an egg, or even as a savory breakfast cereal (think grits). Or, as in the recipe below, there’s also the option to cool it and pan fry or bake it to get more of a solid “cake”. For this recipe, make sure in step 1 to cook down all of the liquid. By the time the polenta comes out of the pot, it should be very thick like a dough and almost resist being spread into a pan. If it’s at all runny, it won’t cool and set properly.

Polenta and mushrooms make a great pair in this dish, both in terms of flavor and texture. Mushrooms get a little chewy when cooked, which is great against the crispy polenta cakes. This mushroom recipe in particular is a great one to have in your back pocket— it’s fast and flavorful and could be served as a vegetable side dish or even inside an omelet with goat cheese. The thyme, garlic, and wine all work beautifully together to make an earthy, very garlicky dish. While this dish involves some forethought because of the cooling process, it requires little active time and comes together easily. If you end up with scraps from cutting up the cooled polenta, you can bake those up too and eat them like fries with ketchup or BBQ sauce. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Italian, Recipes