Politics of the Plate

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by Barry Estabrook

Jim Crow is Alive and Well in California

SB 1121 was hardly a radical-sounding piece of legislation. Among other things, it would have given California’s 700,000 farm workers the right to take one day off out of every seven. Hourly paid agricultural employees would have received overtime pay after eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.

But when the bill landed on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk, he vetoed it, saying that the new provisions would put farmers out of business.

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Posted in Food Politics

A Comfy Bed For Lobsters

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by Daniel Meyer

[Why didn’t I think of this? – mb] 

If you can get fresh lobsters, chances are that you can also get fresh seaweed. A nice fishmonger should be able to order some for you, or an enterprising mother can just wade into the ocean and bring it home in a bucket. This is exactly the project that my mom decided take on for the 4th of July (I’m only writing about this now because I just had some pretty tasteless lobster and it reminded me how good my mom’s was). 

I got a phone call from my mom (Anne) at 8:00 on a Friday morning while I was working at the farmers’ market. She was calling from the Atlantic Ocean, wading just off the coast of Cape Cod, where she was gathering seaweed for cooking lobsters. She brought it home in a plastic trashcan, and kept it soaking in water for a few days until it was time for her to cook 4th of July dinner. 

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Posted in Seafood

Some Questions for You

At a midtown restaurant last week, I ordered corn soup.  

It was pretty good, except for the pieces of plastic in it. These had the texture of drinking straws, or perhaps shattered plastic fork, or even squid quills – thin, not too sharp, not especially dangerous. They wouldn’t have broken a tooth, but they wouldn’t have been pleasant to swallow; they certainly were not pleasant to find in my mouth. There were two of them. In about four, maybe five ounces of soup. Which means there were probably quite a few of them in the pot.  

I handed them to the server: “You might want to show these to the chef,” I said. “They were in the soup.” She barely flinched, then proceeded to ignore us for the rest of the meal. (Quite literally: A runner brought our second courses, and she only asked if we wanted coffee after I’d asked for the check.)  

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Posted in Behind The Scenes

Sunday Supper: Fennel and Orange Salad

This week on the Today Show I didn’t cook anything (none of the dishes involved any heat, which makes them perfect for Summer). Here’s one of the all-time great salads to get you through the dog days. Serve it with some crusty bread and you’ve got a light meal. Adapted from How to Cook Everything.

Fennel and Orange Salad

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 15 minutes

Among the most underrated vegetables, fennel has celery-like crunch and a widely appealing anise flavor. Combined with orange, it really shines.

1 pound fennel (1 large or two small bulbs)

3 small sweet oranges or tangerines

Salt

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, basil, or chervil leaves

1. Trim and core the fennel and cut it into small cubes, 1/4inch or so, or into thin slices (or shave it super thinly on a mandoline).

2. Squeeze the juice from one of the oranges, pour it over the fennel, add salt and lime juice, and let it sit (for up to several hours) while you prepare the other oranges.

3. Peel the remaining oranges and slice into wheels; then slice in half again, removing any pits and tough, fibrous material. Add the oranges and cilantro to the fennel, toss, taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve.

Posted in Behind The Scenes

Cilantro Growers Unite!

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by Kerri Conan 

Maybe all summer long, gentle costal breezes caress the lush foliage on your cilantro plant. Perhaps you’ve never seen the stalk suddenly shoot up a tuft of flowers and spindly leaves, signaling it’s decided to go to seed. If so, congratulations. For the rest of us—who cuss this natural phenomena and the so-called “slow-bolt” varieties it rode in on—the shock of having a carefully cultivated plant rendered useless literally overnight is enough to make you put parsley in your salsa. 

But I say: Embrace the bolt. Grow as much cilantro as the garden will accommodate, savor the leaves for the five minutes they appear in June, and when the flowers bud out, start eating those. When they turn to green seeds, eat those, too. (Their flavor is a perfect blend of the soapy notes from the leaves and the sharp citrus flavors in the seeds; I crush them a bit with the side of a knife then use them the same way I’d use both.) Then at the end of summer, after the plant has been ravaged by heat, insects, disease, and your renaissance appetite, pick through and pluck (or thresh) off the dried, brown coriander seeds to sustain you through winter. 

There. Problem solved. Now who’s with me?

Posted in Farming

Beets Not Radishes

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by Clotilde Hryshko

The picture is of a bunch of Chioggia beets, destined for Rachel and Shale’s house. They are my favorite beet for summertime beets, though not for winter storage. You slice thinly – no peeling! – sauté with garlic, and add a dash of plum vinegar. Serve warm or cold.

But this isn’t about beets, except they made a great picture the day my elder daughter, Marya, was helping me with CSA prep. People seeing them for the first time easily mistake them for radishes – unless they look at the leaves.

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Posted in Produce

The Minimalist Live!

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Behind the scenes: cookware, cameras, and hard-working assistants everywhere you look.

Posted in Behind The Scenes

The Minimalist Live!

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Profiteroles and raw butternut squash salad. (At the Minimalist we don’t always eat dessert last).

Posted in Behind The Scenes

The Minimalist Live!

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Here’s what happens when you joke about cooking with plutonium. . .death by pound cake!

Posted in Behind The Scenes

The Minimalist Live!

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Slicing biscotti (and pretending that I just chipped a tooth). How’s my acting? (probably not as good as the biscotti).

Posted in Behind The Scenes