There’s nothing new about couscous with tomatoes and, perhaps, herbs, served either cold as a salad or hot as a side dish. So I was a little surprised at my delight when I had a particularly delicious version the other day. I guess I was surprised mainly because this was at a private club in London, one of those leather-bound places that began to admit women as members only ten minutes (or fifteen years) ago. Clubs like this aren’t supposed to serve decent food, only excellent booze, including ancient Bordeaux at less-than-liquor-store prices. I won’t mention its name, because if I do a notice will appear on the bulletin board, beginning “Members are reminded….” Not that I’m a member, but one must play the game.
Crisp Noodle Cake with Stir-Fried Greens and Shrimp
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes
A noodle cake makes a fantastic side dish, snack, or base for a stir-fry, where it soaks up all of the savory juices. You don’t need much else to call this a meal, though a beer alongside wouldn’t hurt.
11/2 pounds bok choy, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), tatsoi, or other Asian green
8 ounces any rice, buckwheat (soba), or wheat noodle, preferably whole grain
3 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 fresh hot chile (like jalapeño or Thai), seeded and minced, or to taste
8 ounces shrimp, peeled
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped peanuts, optional
1. Cut the leaves from the stems of the bok choy. Trim the stems and cut them into 1-inch pieces; cut the leaves into bite-size pieces or ribbons. Rinse everything well.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the noodles until tender but not mushy. Check them frequently: The time will vary from a minute or 2 for thin rice noodles, to 5 minutes for soba, or up to 12 minutes for wide brown rice noodles. Drain them and rinse with cold water. Toss the noodles with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil.
3. Put 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the noodles and press down a bit. Cook, pressing down occasionally, until brown and crisp on the bottom (adjust the heat so the noodles brown but do not burn). Carefully put a large dish over the skillet and flip it to turn out the cake. Add a little more oil to the pan, swirl it around, and gently slide the cake off the plate and back into the skillet, uncooked side down, all in one piece. Brown the other side, then slide it onto a platter. (At this point you can cut the cake into 4 wedges, or wait and roughly break it apart after topping.)
4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add the ginger, garlic, and chile and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bok choy stems, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stems just lose their crunch, about 3 minutes.
5. Add the shrimp to the pan along with the bok choy leaves, scallions, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and 1/2 cup water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates and the stems are very tender, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more soy sauce if necessary. Serve the stir-fry over the noodle cake, topped with pea- nuts if you like.
I’ve been eating like Food Matters – the title of The Food Matters Cookbook‘s predecessor – for more than three years. During that period I’ve met scores of people – and heard about hundreds of others – who’ve either come to similar diets on their own (it’s not that complicated, after all) or read Food Matters and been inspired by it to change their diets.
The result of my own and just about everyone else’s experiences (as well as most of the research studies that have been published in recent years), have confirmed the conclusion I reached in the first place: If you swap the basic proportions in your diet—increasing unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains—you’ll wind up losing weight and improving your overall health while also improving more difficult-to-measure situations like global warming, the environment in general, and animal welfare.
By some calculations, at least 80 percent of the calories most Americans eat come from food that is either animal based or highly processed. That leaves less than 20 percent that come from what we used to call natural or whole foods –meaning fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. We consume 200 pounds of meat per year (that’s about 8 ounces a day, twice the global average), 237 pounds of dairy, and 32 pounds of eggs. That’s more than 469 pounds of animal products per capita, over a pound a day.
Your food processor is the king of the kitchen. If you’re letting it collect dust under the counter read this column immediately. No joke, it can change the way you cook.
There are many kinds of eggplants in Asia and the egg-shaped Indian variety is particularly wonderful. It peaks during hot months and as the season winds down, I make this terrific Indian recipe, which I learned from Ruta Kahate’s 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. You’ll find the Indian eggplants at South Asian markets as well as at some farmer’s markets where they’ll be sold by Asian farmers. In California where I live, Hmong farmers are my summer time go-to source for eggplants. They have a medium-thick skin and creamy flesh, and are much smaller than the regular globe variety. You can certainly grill them, but better yet, stuff them with a rich mixture of ground peanuts and sesame seeds and let them get kind of crusty. Serve warm or cold.
One of my favorite events at our rural county’s annual agricultural fair is when the youthful 4-H club members show their prized cattle. Well-scrubbed teenagers clad in white shoes, white pants, and white shirts proudly lead their well-groomed bovines into the arena where they are judged and ribbons awarded. You almost expect to see a pipe-puffing Normal Rockwell peering from behind his easel on the sidelines.
I don’t think I would have gotten the same warm, nostalgic feeling at Iowa State Fair a few weeks ago. Tyler Faber, age 17, took home the blue ribbon in the “Big Steer” category for a 1,320-pound behemoth named Doc. The beefy steer, it turned out, was a clone.
By Sally Sampson
Theo hates tofu.
This shouldn’t surprise me, since Theo is nine. And like a lot of kids who didn’t grow up in Asian, vegan, vegetarian or hippy households, Theo, who is an otherwise adventurous, sophisticated eater, considers tofu a foreign, even a suspicious, food.
Normally, I wouldn’t give this much thought. But that day, the “tofu problem” was a stumbling block, since I’d recruited Theo and eight other children to shoot the cooking sequences for issue two of ChopChop, a non-profit kids’ cooking magazine I’ve just launched with a few friends with the mission of encouraging nutritional literacy. The shoot was well underway: my friend Sue’s house had been taken over by ChopChop staff, racks of colorful clothing, boxes of sneakers, piles of socks, crates and crates of tableware, cookware and props and shopping bags (recycled, of course) brimming with fresh ingredients.
Make this while the corn and tomatoes are still at their peak (and they’re both pretty close). Serve with simply grilled or broiled meat, poultry, or fish, or just with some dressed greens and crusty bread. Adapted from How to Cook Everything.
Pan-Roasted Corn with Cherry Tomatoes
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
At some point in the summer, you may get sick of plain corn on the cob or even grilled corn; here’s the recipe to turn to then. Its fast, it’s easy, and it’s completely different; when browned like this, corn takes on a brand-new flavor. Other vegetables you can use in this recipe: shell peas.
6 ears fresh corn, shucked
1 tablespoon neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced shallot or white or red onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh tarragon leaves for garnish
1. Use a knife to strip the kernels from the corn. It’s easiest if you stand the corn up in a shallow bowl and just cut down the length of each ear as many times as is necessary; you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
2. Put the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When hot, add the corn, tomatoes, and shallot; let sit for a moment. As the corn browns, shake the pan to distribute it so each kernel is deeply browned on at least one surface.
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then stir in the tarragon; serve hot or at room temperature.
By Kerri Conan
Umpteen years ago my girlfriends and I ran with a bunch of guys in San Francisco we called “The O’s.” Nando. Carlo. Enzo. Veniero. Claudio. Paulo. Antonio. You get the drift.
The O’s weren’t Italian-Americans; they were fellows who visited from Italy and stayed for a while. We met them while waiting tables, and we shared the common language of food and fun. On our days off we rode up to Napa on their motorcycles to taste wine or eat oysters at Tomales Bay. We’d pack a picnic and rent boats at San Pablo reservoir to swim and sunbathe. On foggy days we gathered at one of their flats and they would cook for us. The O’s turned me on to proscuitto and melon.
by Cathy Erway
What a luxurious working-day lunch. It’s casual and uncomplicated to make — an open-faced sandwich — but on top of this bread lies slices of home-cured wild-caught red Alaska salmon surrounded by jewels from the garden. Funny to think that cured salmon (not smoked, but similar in texture and taste, sans smokiness) was once a common luncheon meat for the working man before it became a delicacy. It’s produced through a quick and easy process of rubbing salt, sugar and other seasonings into the fish, and letting it draw out moisture over a couple days. So, fishermen of Scandinavia, or Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, would use this method to make their fresh catches keep longer over time. Overfishing led to the rarity of this fish and now most salmon is farmed (and, to the connoisseur, tastes nothing like its wild brethren). Now, wild-caught salmon from the only sustainable fishery left in the world, Alaska, commands more than tenderloin on the market. So how did I get my hands on this stuff, and why am I sharing it with everyone for lunch? I caught wind of a wild-caught Alaskan salmon CSA, and signed up as soon as I could.