Laid-back Risotto

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I don’t know. I look at this story about how hard it is to make risotto, and I think, “Well, either Felicity Cloake – whom I don’t know – is making way too big a deal out of a simple dish, or I have no clue how to make risotto.”

Because as I detail below, risotto is a no-brainer. It’s true that the difference between bad risotto and pretty good risotto is technique, but the technique is not a big deal.

But the two biggest differences between pretty good risotto and great risotto are not technique-y at all. To make great risotto you need really good stock, and a lot of butter.

I’ve made risotto like this hundreds of times – the pix are of one I threw together last week – and I’ve rarely had it as good in restaurants.

Please. Do not let risotto scare you. Continue reading

Posted in Italian

A Tough Week for the Sea

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By Casson Trenor

[Casson Trenor is Greenpeace's point man on getting supermarkets and restaurants to behave themselves when it comes to buying fish. He's also a whale-saver, a recent recipient of TIME Magazine’s “Hero of the Environment” award, the author of Sustainable Sushi: A Guide to Saving the Oceans One Bite at a Time, and a blogger: check out www.sustainablesushi.net. Needless to say, I'm happy he's writing for us. - mb]

It’s a bad time to be an ocean-dweller.

First, we have the overfishing crisis, which continues virtually unabated.  Every day, we yank hundreds of thousands of pounds of life out of the sea, often in strikingly inefficient and destructive ways – bottom trawls rake the floor of the ocean, pulverizing corals and flattening any animals that lack the locomotive capacity to evade them, while pelagic longlines indiscriminately slaughter curious seabirds, turtles, and sharks as collateral damage in our unrelenting quest for seafood.

To make matters worse, President Obama, who was elected in part by an engaged and hopeful environmentalist demographic, has completely turned his back on the oceans and their largest denizens – whales.  His 2008 promise to strengthen the international moratorium on commercial whaling has been completely subsumed by  an insidious new agenda that seeks to dismantle the moratorium, legalize whaling in the Southern Ocean (including Japan’s ongoing hunt for endangered fin, sei, and humpback whales), and create an unspoken tolerance among the world’s governments for this intolerable activity. Continue reading

Posted in Food Politics, Seafood

Food Safety Reform Is A Mess

By Tom Laskawy

[Tom Laskawy blogs on food and the environment at Grist.org, Beyond Green, and now here at markbittman.com. IMHO, he's not only among the best researchers in the field, he's a voice of (non-dogmatic) reason and a fine writer. His work has appeared in the The New York Times Online, Slate, The New Republic and The American Prospect. - mb]

My considered analysis of food safety in the U.S.? It’s an unmitigated disaster.

Salmonella in peanut butter made by a single manufacturer causes deaths, sickness and the recall of thousands of different products from store shelves. Over ten million pounds of beef have been recalled since President Obama took office. Indeed, the ongoing food safety crisis that is industrial ground beef inspired NYT writer Michael Moss to write a piece that won a Pulitzer.

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Posted in Food Politics

The Food System Has Changed Our Vernacular

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By Cathy Erway

[I’m a fan of Cathy Erway, the Brooklyn-based food writer who writes the blog, Not Eating Out in New York and is the author of The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove. She hosts the weekly podcast, Let's Eat In, on Heritage Radio Network, and is the proud watchkeeper of many rooftop plants and some chickens. – mb]

A friend of mine is learning to play piano. As his left hand hesitated on the keys, I shared a quick method of reading the sheet music, recalled from childhood lessons: “All cows eat grass.” From the bottom up, the notes in between the spaces on the bass clef are A-C-E-G. Knowing the phrase, you could talk your way up the staff until you had identified the correct note to hit. Only, it struck me right then how incorrect the acronym has become.

Not all cows eat grass nowadays. More commonly, they eat corn. Cows have not been evolved to digest corn, but it’s become the basic feed of industrial agriculture livestock. And, most of that corn has been genetically modified. 

Continue reading

Posted in Farming

And Now, For the iPhone-Less

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Not everyone has, or even wants, an iPhone. For you, we have the original (actually, the all-new, updated, revised), hard copy, two-kilo, 1044-page bright red, much beloved How to Cook Everything. Right. The Book. Sign up for our newsletter: we’re giving away three copies to randomly selected winners, today. (We print out the new subscribers, paste the page to a wall, and throw darts. Natch.)

 

Posted in Mark Bittman Books

Today’s Minimalist: Sushi at Home Sans Fish

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My Times piece on making your own sushi – without seafood – is right here. But here’s the exclusive look at my deformed sushi, and I can tell you that two of us ate about twice the amount you see on the large platter here. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It matters what it tastes like. And with good nori, umeboshi, tofu, and some other traditional Japanese ingredients like prosciutto, roasted red peppers, and chopped cooked chard… it was quite a feast.

Posted in Behind The Scenes

On a Dare: Ramp Pizza

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By Edward Schneider

[Ed Schneider is a friend of mine, a contributor to the Times and the Washington Post, and among the best home cooks I’ve ever known. I love him, even if he does write about ramps. I remain unconvinced, but I'm going to try it - next spring. – mb]

I happen to agree with New York’s Newspaper of Record that Motorino’s is the best pizza in New York. I haven’t actually been to many of its competitors, but, since for Jackie and me pizza is a meal rather than a hobby, I’m happy to accept that as fact. Anyway, it is wonderful pizza.

Right at the very beginning of spring, however, they served a ramp pizza that we didn’t much like. For one thing, the chopped ramps were chewy and harsh-tasting, and for another it was a tomato-sauce-based pie, which I thought was a bad idea – I rarely like greens cooked with tomato, though I’m more open to the concept than I used to be. When I told Mark about this, he dared me (his word) to devise a ramp pizza that wasn’t a bad idea. I’m not one to rise to a dare merely to save face: I’ll do it only if I’m confident I can actually perform the stunt in question.

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Posted in Italian, Produce

Win the New How To Cook Everything iApp

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We’re giving away five of the new (best-selling and widely praised) How to Cook Everything iApps today. Just sign up for our newsletter (over there, to the left) and you’ll be entered in our (random) drawing. And check back tomorrow, and later in the week – we’ll be giving away more stuff soon.

Posted in Mark Bittman Books

Introducing the Food Corps

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By Paula Crossfield

[Paula Crossfield is a founding editor of Civil Eats, a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, a contributing producer at WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show, and an avid cook and urban gardener. (I’ve seen her rooftop garden, and it’s amazing.) Follow her on Twitter.]

With one in three children (and one in two children of color) overweight or obese in this country, the health of America’s kids is under the microscope and, for the first time in our history, children born now will not live as long as their parents. Michelle Obama has launched her Let’s Move campaign and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution brought the school cafeteria to television. But as Oliver’s program showed, one of the biggest barriers to changing kids’ eating is a lack of  labor and expertise.

Continue reading

Posted in Farming

Eating with My Mother

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By John Thorne

[John Thorne and his wife, Matt, live in Northampton MA, where they cook in an apartment kitchen. They are perhaps best known for their irregularly published food newsetter,  Simple Cooking , which has been chugging along now for thirty years(!). Their books include Outlaw CookSerious PigPot On The Fire, and most recently Mouth Wide Open.  It is perhaps worth noting that I idolize Mr. Thorne, have for as long as he and Matt have produced Simple Cooking, and am ecstatic to see his posts on markbittman.com. When you read this piece you’ll see why.– mb]

After my father died, I used to go to Maine twice a year for a week-long visit with my mother, first at the family home in Searsmont and then at a retirement community in Belfast. There, she was required to eat supper at the community dining hall a certain number of days a month. But she didn’t really enjoy that, and not because of the quality of the food (although she complained about that, too). She liked to move through the day at her own rhythm, which meant lunch was often eaten around three in the afternoon, and she wasn’t in the mood to walk down to the dining hall two hours later. She’d much rather eat supper at her own place … around eight in the evening.

This was the case even though by then various frailties had reduced her cooking to preparing some vegetables to accompany the night’s frozen dinner. Of course, I tried to get her to let me cook for her. She did allow this but showed no enthusiasm for my doing so, despite the fact that she often seemed to enjoy what I made. Finally, I got the hint. I gave up, and she and I would settle down in front of the television, each with our own frozen dinner (or, in my case, two frozen dinners — and I usually hedged my bet by having two different kinds). Continue reading

Posted in Behind The Scenes