Vietnamese Food to Go

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As I said last week, my intention was to go back to Turtle Towers the next morning for another bowl of pho; that happened. This time I ordered chicken. (It was certainly not going to be a vegan-before-six day; my travel days rarely are.) The broth was deeply soothing, the noodles silken, the chicken itself not overcooked. And I wisely ordered a “small” this time.

Then I headed across the street to Saigon Sandwiches (560 Larkin). I was after a few bánh mi, and I got them. They were good, though I’ve had better. (Sorry. I’d like to be raving, but if you rave about everything the truth loses impact. And they were a helluva lot better than the junk they were serving on the plane. Sheesh.)

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Posted in Vietnamese

Politics of the Plate

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By Barry Estabrook

Organic Economic Indicators

Looking for tangible signs that the recession is loosening its grip? Last week, major organic food producers, wholesalers, and retailers—who had taken hits during the meltdown as consumers lost their appetites for their pricey fare—announced heartening financial news.

A rundown:

United Natural Foods, Inc., a wholesaler of natural and organic foods, saw its share price hit its highest level in more than three years.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. reported that its earnings were the best “in several years” as sales for the quarter came in at more than twice what they were during the same period last year. Its stock is trading at nearly five times the 2008 low. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics, Produce

Abundance in Berlin

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By Laura Virginia Anderson

There is an open-air Turkish market every Tuesday and Friday just across the canal from my apartment in Berlin. Today I went there, with 12 euros in my pocket. I came home with two small loaves of whole grain-sunflower seed bread, five organic bananas, three organic apples, six organic eggs, two fat bunches of radishes, a bundle of white asparagus, two kohlrabi, and 16 euro-cents.

It’s not my intention to gloat, nor do I expect anyone to be particularly surprised by this bargain bounty—Berlin’s low cost of living is hardly a well-kept secret. But I’m still in that dreamy, delirious first phase of being an American in Europe, when every discovery feels like a miracle.

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Posted in Produce

This #$!% Has Got to Stop: Part Two

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[Ideas welcome, and we will credit you: mark@markbittman.com]

Hard to believe: McCormick, who’s brought us spices since its inception in the late 19th century (though I suspect the quality was considerably higher then) has a new bad idea: Recipe Inspirations.

What is this? A recipe card with a not-especially-great-sounding recipe – like Shrimp Pasta Primavera – with ¼ ounce of spices, pre-measured and bubble-packed individually, so that you can be “inspired” to cook dinner, and not bother to buy or store or measure spices. For a mere two bucks. Of course, you probably have at least three of these spices already – in this case garlic, onion, and black pepper – and you can buy what’s probably a year’s supply of higher quality versions of the other two for less than four dollars at someplace like Penzey’s. Or a supermarket.

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Posted in Spices

Mac and Cheese, Tainted

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By Edward Schneider

There were mousseron mushrooms where I was shopping the other day, and in very good condition, too. The plan had been to make macaroni and cheese for a few friends (and, unbeknownst to them, to clear our fridge of odd scraps of cheese that had been hanging around a little too long), and these pretty, tiny, flavorful mushrooms furthered that plan very neatly.

You probably don’t need me to tell you how to make macaroni and cheese. For this one, though, I’ll tell you that I cooked the whole mousserons right in the béchamel sauce base, along with some chopped speck (smoked dry-cured ham, Italian in this case), then proceeded as usual. Continue reading

Posted in Recipes

Sunday Supper: Meat-y Paella

[This week I wrote about peas (and offered up some recipes) in my column Kitchen Daily. My feeling, in general, is that frozen peas work just fine in many applications, and throughout most of the year, so there’s no reason to get hung up (or feel guilty) about using them. Of course if there’s any time you’re going to use fresh peas, this is it (as long as you don’t mind shelling them). That’s especially true if you’re going to serve them solo, but, really, for a paella? I almost always use frozen and neither I nor (I think) anyone else knows the difference.]

Meat-y Paealla

Makes 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

[Adapted from How to Cook Everything]

Far from a major production, basic paella is a simple combination of rice and other good stuff; terrific Sunday night dish and a staple in coastal Spain for centuries.

3 1/2 cups any stock or water

Pinch saffron threads

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 medium onion, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces Spanish chorizo or other cooked or smoked sausage

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1/2 dry white wine

1/2 cup tomato puree

2 cups short- or medium-grain rice, preferably paella rice or Arborio

1 cup peas (frozen are fine)

1 cup peeled shrimp (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Warm the stock with the saffron in a small saucepan. Put the oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the chicken until deeply browned on both sides, then add the onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the chorizo, paprika, wine, and tomato purée; bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice, scattering it in the pan as evenly as possible, cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s shiny, another minute or two. Carefully add the warm stock  and peas and stir until just combined, then tuck the shrimp into the top before putting in the oven.

3. Put the pan in the oven and bake, undisturbed, for 15 or 20 minutes. Check to see if the rice is dry and just tender. If not, return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes. If the rice looks too dry at this point, but still isn’t quite done, add a small amount of stock or water. When the rice is ready, turn off the oven and let it sit for at least 5 and up to 15 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with parsley. If you like, put the pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

Posted in Recipes, Spanish

Mint Juleps, the Wrong Way

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By Kerri Conan

I spent most of Derby Day in the herb garden under the wide brim of my manky sun-block hat, transplanting seedlings into containers. Our first year in the house, we made the mistake of putting peppermint in a worn out wooden barrel. By the end of the season sprigs and roots had bust out the seams and now, more than a decade later, we have a nice little mint patch alongside the deck.

As I wrapped up the day’s work my husband Sean mixed up the first mint juleps of the season—in honor of the race of course, and to celebrate that the herb has somehow managed to be pleasantly prolific without taking over the whole property. There’s a lot to be said for wrong turns. Continue reading

Posted in Cocktails

Eating Pho, Thinking Banh Mi

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Today I leave San Francisco. The eating has been terrific, though I’m well aware that flying out of New York, hitting the ground with a list of restaurants, a few selected targets, and a crowd of people I want to see is not exactly “daily life.” What if I approached New York this way? Might be interesting, though I’d never get any cooking done. (And I’d turn into Sam Sifton.)

In any case, I’m staying in the Tenderloin – generally accepted to be the least attractive of the core neighborhoods. But it does have one very strong advantage: there are more Vietnamese restaurants per block than anywhere I’ve ever been except Vietnam.   Continue reading

Posted in Vietnamese

iApp Winners Announced

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We got twenty-two (really good) comments about technology and cooking; these are our five faves. If the winners would kindly email their email addresses to mark@markbittman.com we’ll get you links for your free app right away.

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Posted in Events

Coming Home to Roost

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By Cathy Erway

A little over a year ago I stood amidst a swarm of chickens at Queens County Farm Museum. They were attracted to my brass boot buckles, so I was told, and I was frankly a little frightened by them. Until then, the only time I had encountered chickens that closely they’d been on my plate. As they pecked relentlessly at my feet, a bobbing whirlpool of auburn, those Rhode Island Reds taught me my first lesson about the social science of chickens: the flashiest are often at the bottom of the pecking order.

This year, on Mother’s Day, I became a part-time mom to a small flock of heritage breed hens. There are four in total, and they were raised at a farm in upstate New York from chicks to the roughly one and one-and-a-half-year-olds they are now. One lays pastel blue-green eggs, one has iridescent black plumage. The flashiest one, a Silver Spangled hen named Yoko, seems to have found herself at the bottom of the pecking order, the poor dear. But there’s plenty more drama to play out, which I just can’t wait to see.   Continue reading

Posted in Farming