Zuke Alors!

Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 1.27.08 PMNobody complains about too many cucumbers, tomatoes or eggplants. But zucchini, summer’s most underloved vegetable (technically, yes, it’s a fruit), comes in for a lot of grief. It’s so prolific! It’s so cheap! What are we going to do with all of it?

I suppose it’s not just zucchini’s omnipresence but its mild flavor — and indeed, the difficulty of bringing out some of its character — that makes us feel challenged.

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Posted in Uncategorized

A Practical Farmer Who Showed the Way

Dick Thompson was a farmer near Boone, Iowa, whom I kept meaning to visit but did not. That was a mistake; he died on Aug. 17 at 81.

He will be missed, in no small part because he embodied the clear, pragmatic kind of thinking for which Midwestern farmers were once known, before so many became beholden to Big Ag.

Thompson began farming in the 1950s and was anything but beholden. He challenged every assumption and, especially as he matured, never accepted the reigning “wisdom.”

But when he first started working his 300 acres, he was a farmer’s son with degrees from Iowa State University and an enthusiastic member of that first generation of farmers to embrace industrial techniques. He set about modernizing his parents’ farm with a vengeance: “We purchased everything the salesman had to sell,” he said, meaning every line about intensive farming and every chemical it took to support it.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Back to VB6

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Even if September no longer means heading back to school, the transition from summer to fall is a chance for a fresh start. So if you strayed from VB6, or didn’t eat a healthfully as you wanted these last few months, forget about it, turn the page, and start a new year of eating.

Here are some tips to get you (re)started:

Get back into a cooking routine. Many of us default to dining out or takeout during the hot, social summer months. Now it’s time to get back in the kitchen! If you’re having trouble getting restarted, try setting up a menu for each day of the week.

Think in batches. To keep you eating healthy throughout the week, consider making batches of recipes like oatmeal or breakfast pilaf for breakfast, and soups, stews, and stir-fries for lunch and dinner.

Keep fruit, veggies, and nuts handy. Getting from lunch to dinner without a bite is almost always impossible for me. So I keep fruit and vegetables handy in the afternoons, and usually rely on a handful or two of nuts to tide me over.

Posted in Mark Bittman Books

The Key to a Truly Great Chicken Wing

Screen Shot 2013-09-02 at 11.21.45 AMAmericans are a wing-loving people. The Buffalo variety, by most accounts “invented” at the Anchor Bar in, yes, Buffalo, is the official food of our most sacred event of the year: the Super Bowl.

And though we are also a grilling people, wings seldom make the cut for some reason, being passed over for burgers, dogs, steaks, fish and meatier cuts of chicken, even boneless chicken breasts (which make almost no sense to grill, where they routinely dry out). Perhaps we associate wings with frying, or they seem like too much work for the amount of meat that they yield. This is a mistake; the grill is the perfect place for the wing.

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Posted in American

Bring Your Lunch to Work

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 9.00.32 AMThere are few brown-baggers in the building in which I work. This is not because the food in the neighborhood is so great (it isn’t), or because the cafeteria is Google-like (it isn’t), but because many people are either “too busy” or too embarrassed to bring their lunch. Somehow one of our oldest and sanest traditions has become a laughingstock: it’s not hip to bring lunch.

Let’s try to fix that.

As a meal, lunch is undeniably tough; most people say that and I recognize it. But something good happens when you make the default a brown bag.

I am not talking literally about brown bags; you can bring your groovy REI lunchbox, or your authentic Mumbai tiffin carrier (actually, where I work the people who seem to bring their lunch most often are of South Asian origin) or — as I tend to do — your assortment of recycled takeout containers.

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Posted in Recipes

The New Nuclear Craze

There is a new discussion about nuclear energy, prompted by well-founded concerns about carbon emissions and fueled by a pro-nuclear documentary called “Pandora’s Promise.” Add a statement by James E. Hansen — who famously sounded the alarm on climate change — and, of course, industry propaganda, and presto: We Love Nukes.

Before we all become pro-nuclear greens, however, you’ve got to ask three questions: Is nuclear power safe and clean? Is it economical? And are there better alternatives?

No, no and yes. So let’s not swap the pending environmental disaster of climate change for another that may be equally risky.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized

How to Make Jam

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 6.50.51 PMThis is the time of year to make jam. Find the nearest bush or tree, go to a farmers’ market or pray that your local C.S.A. comes through in the next couple of weeks, but get it done.

You might never have considered making jam. You might be wary of it. But this isn’t old-fashioned jam we’re talking about, with Mason jars, canning tongs, pots of steam, near-guaranteed burns, loads of sweat and possibly even tears. This isn’t so much about preserving the harvest (that’s what freezers are for) but about making the kind of jam you keep in your fridge for a week or two. All that is needed is delicious fresh fruit and a half-hour of your time.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Not All Industrial Food Is Evil

I’VE long wondered how producing a decent ingredient, one that you can buy in any supermarket, really happens. Take canned tomatoes, of which I probably use 100 pounds a year. It costs $2 to $3 a pound to buy hard, tasteless, “fresh” plum tomatoes, but only half that for almost two pounds of canned tomatoes that taste much better. How is that possible?

The answer lies in a process that is almost unimaginable in scope without seeing it firsthand. So, fearing the worst — because we all “know” that organic farming is “good” and industrial farming is “bad” — I headed to the Sacramento Valley in California to see a big tomato operation.

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Posted in Uncategorized

It’s Wild-Salmon Season

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Atlantic salmon is an endangered species, but it’s also always in season: we have fish farming to thank for that, if “thank” is the word.

Therefore almost all wild salmon is Pacific. And in flavor, texture and color, the Pacific species of king (or Chinook), sockeye and coho are all superior to any farmed salmon.

Wild salmon is seasonal, and we’re smack in the middle of that season. Unless you live in Alaska or the Northwest, where fresh wild salmon are practically flung onto your doorstep along with the morning paper, these fish remain a rare treat, shipped to markets around the country for a few precious weeks in mid- to late summer.

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Posted in Uncategorized

11 Trillion Reasons

Here’s a good line: “[U]nenlightened farm policy — with its massive subsidies for junk food ingredients — has played a pivotal role in shaping our food system over the past century. But that policy can readily be changed.”

With the possible substitution of the word “might” for “can,” this is pretty much an inarguable statement. It comes from “The $11 Trillion Reward: How Simple Dietary Changes Can Save Money and Lives, and How We Get There,” a report produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists (U.C.S.) to be introduced at the farmers’ market[1] at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital Wednesday.

That’s a big number, $11 trillion, but even if it’s off by 90 percent (it’s difficult to put a value on lives), who’s to scoff at a trillion bucks? In any case, this summary of current research, which contains the argument that even a tiny increase in our consumption of fruits and vegetables would have a powerful impact on health and its costs, agriculture and the economy, is compelling.

Read the rest of this column, here.

Posted in Uncategorized