Braised Chard with Chicken and Steel-Cut Oats


By Freya Bellin

I’ve never thought to use oats in a savory dish, so this recipe immediately caught my eye.  The headnote mentions that you can substitute bulgur, which maybe sounds like a more suitable dinner grain, but is actually quite similar to steel-cut oats. I opted for the oats and was pleasantly surprised by how well they fit in as a savory ingredient, with their nutty flavor and chewy texture.  It makes a nice base for the sweet, vinegary sauce.

This one-pot dish comes together pretty quickly once you get it on the stove; separating and chopping the chard was probably the most time-consuming piece of the whole process, although I was happy to make use of both the stems and leaves.  Browning the chicken thighs really deepens the flavor of the dish, which tastes best when eaten hot right away. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Recipes

Walmart Local and Sustainable? Let’s Ask


Last month Walmart announced a $1 billion initiative to source produce from 1 million small and medium farmers, which the behemoth says will increase their income by 10 to 15 percent. Walmart’s plan is to offer their customers more locally raised food as part of their corporate sustainability effort. This news has obviously created quite a buzz among supporters, skeptics, and the mainstream media. (You can tap some of it here, here, here, and here.)

As usual, Walmart has been silent in this discussion. Like every other major corporation, it totally controls the release of info and manages its spin; you see controlled quotes from anonymous spokespeople, or canned interviews, but candor is not happening. But now that we’re living in a de facto corporatocracy, maybe it’s time our rulers were held a bit more accountable, not only to their stockholders but to their customers, and to those affected by their decisions.  

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Posted in Food Politics

Crisp Pan-Fried Potatoes


Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 45 minutes

This technique produces better results than conventional Home Fries, but you need two things: waxy potatoes, because starchy ones will fall apart before they get crisp; and patience.

Other vegetables you can use: beets, rutabagas, parsnips, or carrots, though they won’t get quite as crisp. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Junk Food Taxes: Go Big or Go Home


In Washington (state) there was a small tax on candy and soda, even “bottled water and some processed foods,” which was rolled back by about a 2 to 1 margin Tuesday. Opponents of the tax, who claimed it would “hurt business” in the state (which is running a huge deficit, so business must be hurting already – though Bill Gates is doing fine, thank you very much), outspent the tax’s supporters by 17 to 1, spending more than $16million to beat it down. It would have raised about $100 million a year, not bad except when you consider that the budget shortfall is $4 billion.

For these kinds of taxes to be successful, they’re going to have to be bigger, not smaller, and seen not only as a novel way to raise new revenues (obviously, they’re not an easy way to raise new revenues) but as political acts designed to bring the price of junk food to a level of what it really costs us to produce and eat it. A more politically correct and perhaps more consumer-friendly way to do this would be to tax profits and let the manufacturers raise the prices, but no doubt this would “hurt business” in the state also, and not hurting business is evidently the top priority. At least if you can outspend the less business-friendly voices by 17 to 1.

(Photo Credit: Steve Hopson via Flickr)


Posted in Food Politics

San Fran Happy Meals are Getting Sadder


Some thoughts about the San Francisco proposed ban on toys in Happy Meals unless they meet certain (rather lame, if you ask me) nutritional requirements. It is movement, I suppose, in the right direction, but 35 percent of calories from fat isn’t exactly low, and if the fat comes from eggs or “low-fat” cheese, it’s exempt, so I could envision such a meal easily containing 50 percent of calories from fat. The requirement to contain a half-cup of fruit and three-quarters cup of vegetables sounds better, although I wonder how I feel about paying kids – giving toys is a form of payment, after all – to eat their fruits and veggies. And certainly when my kids were four they would have been capable of grabbing the toy, eating the 50 percent fat items, then wailing about being forced to eat their fruits and vegies.

This is not a great step forward, but nevertheless it is a step in the right direction. I would’ve voted for it, given the option. I wonder why the Mayor says he’s vetoing it? Too tame, I hope.

(Photo Credit: Neato Coolville via Flickr)

Posted in Food Politics, Uncategorized

Dinner with Bittman: Panfried Trout with Bacon and Red Onions

Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Panfried Trout with Bacon and Red Onions

Makes: 2 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Think of this as campfire food, made at home. Other seafood you can use: salmon or any thick fillets or steaks or whole sardines.

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Posted in American, Seafood

This Week’s Minimalist: Profiteroles

Profiteroles are not nearly as hard to make as you might think, and they’re pretty fun too.

Posted in Baking

Dinner with Bittman: Okra Gumbo with Spicy Sausage

Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Okra Gumbo with Spicy Sausage

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About an hour, largely unattended

I love slow-cooked okra, especially with sausage and tomatoes. For the best texture, you’ve got to sear the okra first. But after that, there’s little to do but let the pot bubble away. To serve this New Orleans style, pour a ladleful into a shallow soup bowl and nestle a scoop of plain white rice into the center.

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Posted in American, Seafood, Uncategorized

Garlicky Chard with Olives and Pine Nuts


By Freya Bellin

All too often I come home with a giant bunch of beautiful leafy greens and then wonder what exactly to do with them.  This recipe is a simple, flavorful answer to that question.  All of the ingredients are easy to keep on hand, and it’s also the type of recipe that can be altered to taste or whatever you happen to have in stock, although olives are a great choice.  I used Moroccan oil-cured olives: shriveled, bitter, and very salty.  They’re delicious, but make sure to go very light on any additional salt, if you use any at all.  Particularly useful is learning the braising method used in this recipe.  Leafy greens can fill up a pot or pan really quickly, but when you add liquid, like the red wine here, the leaves wilt much more quickly and are less likely to burn than if simply sautéed. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes, Uncategorized

Spooky Sunday Supper: Winter Squash Curry

Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Winter Squash Curry

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 30 minutes

Peeling and chopping the squash is probably the hardest part of this recipe. All sorts of vegetables work in addition to or instead of squash; use this recipe as a base and improvise from there.

Other vegetables you can use: any winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, any root vegetable, eggplant, cauliflower, mushrooms, okra, peas, any summer squash, or green or wax beans.

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Posted in American, Produce