Score One for the Oceans

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By Casson Trenor

In the embattled world of seafood, it’s nice to see positive change in a major public venue. As heartwarming as it is to hear from someone who has pledged to stop eating unagi, it feels even better when a sushi restaurant – or even better, an entire seafood distributor – drops it altogether in the name of environmental preservation.

So I’m thrilled to see a spark of light appear in the otherwise relentlessly dismal saga of the bluefin tuna.

No doubt you’re familiar with Food Network’s Iron Chef America, a culinary contest wherein a visiting chef races against time to prepare an assortment of gastronomic delights for a panel of judges. At the same time, one of the resident masters – a star-spangled group known as the Iron Chefs – embarks on the same task in an effort to defend his or her title against the upstart challenger. The dishes are linked by the requirement that they must all involve the day’s secret ingredient, which is revealed only moments before the contest, which takes place in a regal arena known as Kitchen Stadium, begins. The chefs are allotted one hour to prepare their items and are judged on the relative merits of their menus. The chef whose culinary tour de force is deemed to “reign supreme” by the panel is the winner. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics, Seafood

About “Better” Supermarkets

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Tony Naylor, from the Guardian, writes here about rethinking his relationship to Waitrose, the UK’s principled (and generally upscale) supermarket chain that puts Whole Foods to shame.

We should unquestionably support good supermarkets, but we should also be pushing them to:

-          carry sustainable seafood exclusively

-          carry ethically raised meat and poultry whenever possible

-          carry organic and/or local fruits and vegetables whenever possible

-          buy from suppliers who themselves have a conscience whenever possible

-          pay their own staff a living wage, with benefits

-          think about their energy usage, their waste, their community service

And so on. All of which will, yes, make food more expensive. It has to: crap is cheaper than real food, and treating your employees like indentured servants or worse saves employers (and consumers) money, as does treating the environment as a dumping ground and the oceans as if they were inexhaustible. Reversing these policies will raise food costs. (Though there is an argument that reducing food waste will allow us to raise quality while raising prices less.) Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Meat Politics and the CAFO: An Interview with Daniel Imhoff

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By Paula Crossfield of Civil Eats

[I can’t help but notice in this fascinating interview by Paula, Daniel Imhoff describes himself as a “less-meatarian” – a word-phrase I coined. Maybe it’s starting to gain traction. – mb]

A Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, is an Environmental Protection Agency designation for a farming facility that keeps numerous animals raised for food in close confinement, with the potential to pollute. These facilities often produce extreme amounts of waste, which ends up in toxic lagoons, sprayed on the land, and eventually in the watershed; require the use of high doses of antibiotics, thereby adding to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria; and are exempt from most animal cruelty laws. I spoke with Daniel Imhoff, editor of The CAFO Reader – a new book featuring essays by farmers Wendell Berry, Becky Weed, and Fred Kirschenmann, religious conservative Matthew Scully, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, and journalist Michael Pollan, among many others – about recent legislation and the future of the CAFO. 

Our last interview was before Obama was elected. How do you feel now that there is Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, and a Secretary of Agriculture that is actually discussing making changes in agriculture?  Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Sunday Supper: Sweet Couscous

I know, it’s not a supper, but somehow a simple, light dessert just seems to fit the bill this week. Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Sweet Couscous with Pistachios

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 15 minutes

A quick, simple,  fat- free dessert that really can’t go wrong; the couscous is cooked the same way you make it for dinner, but with some sugar in the water. You can dress it up even more by using warm milk or cream. And you can vary the seasonings any way you like, from the traditional  cinnamon- nutmeg combination to ground chiles or fresh ginger.

Cooking the couscous in juice is great way to add loads of flavor and sweetness without adding more sugar.

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup regular or whole wheat couscous

2 teaspoons grated or finely minced lemon or orange zest

1 cup chopped unsalted pistachios

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 or 2 teaspoons rose water (optional)

1. Put 1 1/2 cups water and the sugar in a pot and bring to a boil; add the couscous, zest, pistachios, and cardamom; cover and continue to cook for a minute, then turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

2. Fluff the couscous with a fork and sprinkle on the rose water if you’re using it. Serve warm or room temperature with a sauce (see headnote) or some milk or cream drizzled over the top.

 

Posted in Middle Eastern, Recipes

Rolling the Dice with Potluck

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By Kerri Conan 

Groupcook isn’t for everyone, but me, I’m a potluck gamer. And now, as folks eager to show off dig deep into their gardens and larders, the odds of finding something interesting around a summertime Kansas buffet table are better than even. 

These bring-a-dish throw-downs provide a chance for folks to strut their best stuff, but I wouldn’t call them competitive. Instead they create a community table, with a rare glimpse into other people’s kitchens, and an opportunity to bulk up your recipe box. I also appreciate potlucks for the chance to pop food you never make yourself into your pie hole every now and then. 

Continue reading

Posted in Slow Food

With Pesto, In Season Is Best

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A recent piece of mine from Diner’s Journal that seems worthy of repeating. -mb

I look forward each year to that first batch of pesto, which is something I honestly believe cannot be made with the insipid basil of winter, no matter where it comes from. Great basil cannot be grown in a greenhouse, and cannot be grown out of season. In this, it’s like the tomato. (The so-called vine-ripened tomatoes invented in Holland may be redder than the orange plastic-wrapped specimens of my youth, but they don’t taste any better.)

Which brings me to the story of Pra. I once was on assignment to write about pesto, and traveled to Genoa, Italy. (Actually, it’s not quite as glamorous as that: I once was in Genoa, and persuaded an editor to let me write about pesto.) And I went to some typical Genovese restaurant, and was shown how to make pesto in a mortar and pestle; frankly, it was good if not great (and as for the necessity for a mortar and pestle, feh — it’s about the basil, not about the technique). Continue reading

Posted in Produce

Stir-Fried Squid (But Not That Much) and Basil

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The interesting thing about this squid stir-fry was how much squid I used: two of ‘em, for two people, and although they were big-ish, the total weight was about a quarter-pound, and the dish fed two of us more than satisfactorily.  

I cooked a big onion, a couple of stalks of celery, and some garlic and ginger in peanut oil until they were tender. I took ‘em out, threw in cut up squid, and cooked for about a minute. I put the vegies back in, along with the basil you see here and, a minute later, a couple of tablespoons  of peanuts, then a couple of tablespoons of water and soy sauce. Tiny bit of sesame oil. That was it, and over rice – we were happy.

Posted in Chinese, Seafood

Fracking Cattle

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by Ulla Kjarval

[Ulla Kjarval is a photographer, food blogger and grass-fed beef advocate who blogs at Goldilocks Finds Manhattan. Her family operates Spring Lake Farm in Delaware County, New York -mb.]

The battle over gas drilling has made its way to upstate New York and many farmers, especially those that rely on grasslands, are alarmed at the possible impact fracking – the relatively new technology for gas drilling – could have on their livelihoods. Dick Cheney’s 2005 Energy Policy Act, with its “Halliburton Exemption” significantly deregulated fracking, making it exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clear Air Act. Alarmingly if not surprisingly, the dismantling of these most basic safeguards to protect us from pollution seems to have not caused our lawmakers any concern.

Fracking allows drillers to tap gas reserves deep in the ground. To do so they rely on a high pressure mix of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals pumped into the ground to collapse and crack into horizontal deposits trapped in rock. Sadly, in areas where fracking has already happened there has been widespread pollution and ruined drinking water.

Continue reading

Posted in Farming, Food Politics

Scraped, not Peeled

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By Edward Schneider  

I used to take the Elizabeth David-era recipe instruction “Scrape your carrots” as a quaintness dating from before the invention of the vegetable peeler. 

Then, a decade or so ago, I was introduced to the tiny, flavorful early carrots sold by Manhattan farmers’ market vendors such as Paffenroth Vegetable Gardens, of Orange County, New York (not for a moment to be confounded with the fraudulent “baby carrots” carved out of superannuated storage roots and sold in supermarkets). Taking a peeler to these would leave you with a matchstick, albeit a delicious one. So Jackie and I – mainly Jackie, who is more patient with these painstaking tasks – have adopted the old practice of using a paring knife to scrape off the root hairs and a bit of the outer surface, at least for these early summer treats.  

We had dinner guests the other night and served them such carrots, meticulously processed by Jackie, and you know what? They noticed.

Posted in Produce