Baked Curried Rice with Apples and Coconut


By Freya Bellin

This dish is wonderfully flavorful, blending sweet-tart apples, nutty brown rice, and spicy coconut curry.  As promised, it really is hands-off, and the results are fantastic.  By cooking the dry rice before adding liquid it becomes extra nutty, plus it gets well coated with the curry- and ginger-infused oil.   The coconut milk is subtle but crucial to the creaminess of the dish, and the shredded coconut adds a nice toasty element throughout.  Once mixed in, give the apples some time to soften up—they will cook significantly and taste best when warmed all the way through.  You can certainly play around with variations on this recipe, maybe swapping out the apples for raisins or pineapple, or some combination.  Try topping it with plain Greek yogurt for extra creaminess.

I did some improvising with the cooking technique in this recipe, and instead of using an oven-proof pan, I cooked everything in a large skillet up until it was ready for the oven.  At that point, I transferred it to a small glass Pyrex dish and covered it with aluminum foil.  The dish still came out great, so don’t be deterred if you don’t have the right cookware.  Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Baking, Produce

We Asked Walmart. It Answered.


Last week I wrote about Walmart’s recently announced $1 billion initiative to begin sourcing more produce from local small- and medium-sized farms. (In the U.S. it aims to double the amount of local produce it sells, to 9 percent, by 2015.) I suggested that the company had not been entirely forthcoming about the details of its plan, and consequently posed a handful of questions for the world’s largest retailer.

I wanted to know some basic things: how Walmart defines “local”; whether it intends to pay small farmers full value for their produce; and if the new initiative might end up running any farmers out of business.

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Posted in Food Politics

Pan-Cooked Salmon with Lentils


Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 1 hour

Salmon and green lentils are an excellent combination.  Err on the side of undercooking the lentils. You want them to have an almost nutty texture. Other seafood you can use: trout, shrimp (both of which will cook more quickly, so make the sauce first), or scallops. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in Recipes, Seafood

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