Getting to the Root of the Matter

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By Edward Schneider

Saturday’s quick scoot through the Union Square Greenmarket – Jackie and I were in haste to beat the afternoon thunderstorms that never came – yielded a pint of half-and-half and three bunches: tiny turnips, elongated white radishes and the skinniest little red scallions you can imagine. It was tempting to shred or paper-thin-slice the turnips and radishes (closely related botanically, incidentally) and make them into some kind of salad, but I’d faced down a salad the night before and was still unsettled by the encounter. 

So I cut the scallions into one-and-a-half-inch lengths, stir fried them in peanut oil (I’d have used ginger too if I hadn’t made it all into lemon-ginger syrup the day before) and turned them into fried rice, adding a couple of scrambled eggs seasoned with salt, white pepper and sesame oil. Great rice: there’s nothing like salty, slightly caramelized members of the onion family in fried rice.  Continue reading

Posted in Produce

Bitty’s Book Review: Is Meat for Pussies?

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[I stopped writing book reviews ten years ago, when I angered Marion Cunningham, who I believed to be a flawed goddess who wrote a very flawed book; it’s hard to be honest without angering people. And there’s another intrinsic problem: about half my friends write books, so it’s sometimes tough to be objective. Still; there’s no better way for me to understand the world of food books than to write about it, and I’m starting here. [Why with this book is a good question, but the answer is simply that I found it intriguing.] – mb)

I came to Meat Is for Pussies (John Joseph, Crush Books, $19.50) prejudiced in its favor. I think we eat too much meat; I like in-your-face writing; I think Big Food has too much power; I think our diet needs to change.

Yet do we need a “how-to guide for dudes who want to get fit, kick ass and take names”? What does “take names mean, anyway?” What about chicks, or whatever you call the counterpart of dudes?

Clearly, I’m not the target audience: I’m way too old, I’m not from Brooklyn, and I don’t really know who John Joseph is. But the science here is non-existent, there’s little or no consistency, and it reads like a not-very-well-grounded 200 page rant. Much of it is a well-deserved diatribe against processed foods (in fact there is a section advocating a mostly raw diet), yet there’s a recipe that calls for WestSoy Seitan (brand names abound, by the way), San-J Sweet & Tangy Sauce, Daiya Vegan Gourmet cheddar cheese, and Tofutti Sour Supreme. Who is going to be convinced to change their diet by that? And has Joseph ever read the label of Earth Balance butter substitute, Ener-G Egg Replacer, or Gardein Chick-n Strips, all of which he recommends? How does he define “processed,” one wonders? Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics

Sunday Supper: Grilled Beef Salad with Mint

Starting this month I have a new column in Parents magazine – called Simple Suppers. The idea is to give really fast recipes to help busy families (or anyone really) get good, healthy meals on the table quickly; check it out here. Or you can start with this old favorite of mine–Grilled Beef Salad with Mint–from How to Cook Everything.

Grilled Beef Salad with Mint

Makes 3 to 4 servings

Time: 25 minutes

A simple, bright, and light salad with tons of flavor. One of the best possible lunch dishes. Other protein you can use: chicken, pork, shrimp.

12 ounces beef tenderloin or sirloin

4 cups torn Boston or romaine lettuce leaves, mesclun, or any salad greens mixture

1 cup torn fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded if necessary (see page XXX) and diced

Juice of 2 limes

1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce) or soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1. Heat a charcoal or gas grill or a broiler to medium-high; the rack should be about 4 inches from the heat source. Grill or broil the beef until medium-rare, about 5 to 10 minutes; set it aside to cool.

2. Toss the lettuce with the mint, onion, and cucumber. Combine all remaining ingredients with 1 tablespoon of water—the mixture will be thin—and toss the greens with this dressing. Transfer the greens to a platter, reserving the dressing.

3. Thinly slice the beef, reserving its juice; combine the juice with the remaining dressing. Lay the slices of beef over the salad, drizzle the dressing over all, and serve.

Posted in American, Recipes

For Perfect Peas: Shock and Thaw

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By Kerri Conan 

Pardon the circular logic, but peas are perfected by cooking perfectly. Of course you can eat them raw, but why would you? Their flavor, color, texture, and digestibility are all improved by heating. Either that, or ruined by it. 

Over the decade that my husband Sean and I have been growing—and cooking—peas in our Kansas garden, we’ve tried at least a dozen different ways to perfect them for both immediate and future eating. Our experiments with assorted varieties of snow and snap peas have resulted in clunkers and epiphanies. I’ll spare you the suspense and spill the hardly surprising technique that works best: shocking. 

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Posted in Produce

A Dangerous Disappearing Act

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by Daniel Meyer

Every Friday I sell pork in the Union Square greenmarket (Manhattan) for Flying Pigs Farm. Flying Pigs, as I have come to learn over the past two years, is an extraordinary farm. Their meat, pasture raised, rare heritage breed pigs, seems second to none, but strangely enough, the pork isn’t nearly the best thing that comes out of their farm. The owners of Flying Pigs, Mike Yezzi and Jen Small, are working tirelessly to prevent the loss of productive farmland to development in their native Washington County, in the whole of New York State, and beyond. The American Farmland Trust, Jen’s employer, notes that a farm is lost to development in New York every three days. Mike and Jen know how urgent their project is, and they are dead set on getting others to realize the same.

To that end they began holding “Farm Camp” up at their farm in Shushan, NY last fall. Farm Camp was a chance, explains its website, to “expose the NYC food professional to a broad range of agriculture issues that affect not just how and what we eat but also the future of our food system and rural landscape.”  The four two-day sessions were incredibly successful according to campers and organizers alike, so much so that they quickly sought to secure funding for another session in the spring. The fifth installment of Farm Camp concluded on Monday; this time I was fortunate enough to attend.

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Posted in Farming, Food Politics

Nothing Cools Like a Cuke

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by Cathy Erway 

(I have cooked cucumbers, and Ms. Erway is right: it’s kind of a mistake. – mb) 

Ever cooked a cucumber? Neither have I. I think it would resist heat, in fact, repelling hot droplets of oil like the incandescent aqua suit of Arnold Schwartzenegger’s Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin. I don’t think it would appreciate this blatant disrespect to its most vital asset, nor would its eater. Because no food is as cool as a cucumber.  

How funny, then, that it only grows in considerable heat? My first cucumbers of the season have finally managed to push from the vine, after waiting out the spring in relative silence. As soon as seventy- and eighty-degree days burst onto the scene, elegant white blossoms appeared on the plants. And now, the stubs of what will be summer’s heatwave helpers.  

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Posted in Produce

Garden Space for Gardeners without Space

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by Peter Rothbart 

[When I heard about the Seattle-based We Patch, I immediately asked executive director Peter Rothbart to write up a summary of its history; it’s a great idea, a super project, and one that I hope goes viral. Peter is also an editor at FOUND Magazine and a killer dodgeball player (he says). - mb] 

One afternoon in the spring of 2009, I was biking down Olive street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood when I passed a man standing at the edge of a small traffic island, staring intensely at an unkempt strip of soil. Circling to see what had captured his attention, I noticed how he was dressed: a faded t-shirt, dirt-crusted gloves, and a pair of pruning shears hanging from the back pocket of his raggedy work pants. A split second later, I took in the double-wide tire track that had carved a rut across the island, and the scene snapped into focus like an optical illusion in a M.C. Escher print. 

Such traffic islands, which are ubiquitous in Seattle, are often staked out by local gardeners who have nowhere else to plant. The city encourages the practice, offering maintenance tips and a list of recommended plant varieties on its website. Continue reading

Posted in Farming

An Open Letter to An Unnamed Chef

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We – I and eight friends – are at a beach house in southern Florida; half of the group is European, and for a variety of reasons they wanted to come here. I feel like saying “don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts,” even though I’m not.

Mostly we’re cooking – and I’ll write about that – but there was a funky Caribbean restaurant we wanted to check out last night, only it was closed. By the time we discovered this, it was psychologically if not literally too late to cook, so I was assigned the task of figuring out a nearby place to eat. Through the miracle of Chowhound, Yelp, and other you-be-the-judge sites, I picked what appeared to be an eclectic, trendy new place by a known local chef.

Locals will figure out where I went; I’m trying not to damage a perhaps well-deserved reputation on the basis of one visit to an obviously new and still-wrinkly restaurant. But there were some disturbing trends here, and they’re widespread, not only nationally but globally. (Fortunately they’re not nearly universal. But they’re scary.)

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Posted in Behind The Scenes

Why Whole Foods’ Shoppers Are Thin and Albertsons’ Aren’t

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By Tom Laskawy

A recent University of Washington study showed Seattle-area shoppers at Whole Foods are much less likely to be obese, on average, than shoppers at the less expensive chain Albertsons.

I shrugged when I read this. From what I can tell, the study didn’t control for income: it’s well established that Whole Foods shoppers have higher incomes, which has always been correlated with low obesity rates. Indeed, some public health experts will tell you that we don’t have an obesity epidemic so much as we have a poverty epidemic.

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Posted in Food Politics

Risotto as Sauce

By Edward Schneider

Last year some time, Jackie and I had the most wonderful risotto assembly at our friend Angela Hartnett’s London restaurant Murano: a layer of shredded braised oxtail, sauce and all, topped with a delicate leek risotto. Cottage pie meets Milan, with the creamy risotto acting simultaneously as a second sauce and as an integral element of the dish. (With a bit of imagination, you can see an antecedent in the custom of serving osso buco with saffron-scented risotto.)

I thought of this a while ago, when we were just starting to get tired of the leftovers of a braised pork butt we’d been pecking away at for several days. Also in the refrigerator I had some cooked peppers – sweet red peppers and a poblano – julienned and slowly melted in olive oil until the flavor intensified. As I reheated the pork yet again, I used a half cup of this pepper mixture to start a risotto: not the typical elegant kind, but something gutsier – a kind of in-your-face risotto that is becoming a habit in our house. This one was flavored only with that pepper “sofrito,” white wine and chicken stock, with plenty of black pepper. Continue reading

Posted in Italian