Save our Children!

1. Lunch

Allow me this generalization: Healthy food initiatives threaten profits and are therefore fought or deflected or co-opted at all costs by the producers of hyperprocessed food. This is true even when those costs include producing an increasingly sick population — and a disproportionate number of defenseless children — and an ever-growing portion of our budget spent on paying for diet-related illness. Big Food will continue to pursue profit at the expense of health as long as we let them.

And the relatively honest members of the political right will say that it’s not enough to prevent new legislation; their goal is to roll back or damage existing laws or programs that benefit people.

Read the rest of this column here

Posted in Food Politics

Yukon Gold Standard

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There are the up-and-coming root vegetables with near-celebrity status — celeriac, parsnips, beets — and then there is the potato. Simultaneously beloved and despised, the potato is our most-grown and most-eaten vegetable and the one that is sometimes seen as a leading villain in the obesity pandemic.

O.K., but chips and fries are not the only ways to eat potatoes. A good potato can be incredibly delicious sautéed in a little garlicky olive oil, simmered in stock, boiled and drizzled with the tiniest amount of butter and a sprinkle of mint or mashed with greens. No one is going to convince me that these preparations are going to make us fat.

And those are just the start. In the something like 10,000 years since the potato was cultivated (it has been in the hands of Europeans and their descendants for only 500), there have been something like 10,000 different ways of cooking it. Here are a mere 12, but at least a few of them are bound to be new to you. All of these recipes are based on about two pounds of potatoes, roughly four medium to large spuds.

Read the rest of this column and get the recipes here.

Posted in Recipes

Roasted, Smashed, Dolloped, Devoured

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There is nothing new or unusual about mashed squash or about mashed vegetables on toast. (What’s new is that the toast is now frequently called crostini, but that’s not exactly revolutionary.) Still, there is such a broad range of foods that can be served on toasted bread that it’s not surprising some of these will come as revelations.

 

This squash-and-toast combination is served by Dan Kluger, the executive chef at ABC Kitchen. Something about it drives me wild: the squash is creamy but chunky, rather than puréed. There is a lot of complex sweetness, but acidity as well, and it’s lean as well as fatty. (It doesn’t take a detective to see the layer of ricotta underneath the squash.)

Put it on a nicely toasted piece of bread and you have a real winner. But it also occurred to me that the mashed squash alone would make a terrific Thanksgiving side dish.

So I asked Dan’s boss, my friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten, to show me how to put it together.

I would not have figured the dish out myself, which made this a rewarding experience. Jean-Georges peeled the squash: almost any winter squash will yield to a sharp knife and some patience, though as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, thin-skinned varieties like delicata are easier to peel or can be left unpeeled entirely. He cut the squash in half, took out the seeds and sliced it into not-quite-random pieces, mostly about 1/4-inch thick. These he roasted with oil until they were tender enough to mash; by that time, a few had blackish, caramelized ends.

To cut to the chase: next, he confited onion slices with both maple syrup and apple cider vinegar. Veteran cooks will immediately get the idea: Cook the onions awhile, until they’re dark and soft, then add the two liquids and continue to cook until they’re jammy. The process could take as long as an hour, depending on the heat, your attentiveness and the water content of the onions. But it isn’t difficult.

At that point, the two preparations are simply mashed together. If you serve them in a bowl at Thanksgiving, you will be serving something on a, er, higher level than mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Otherwise, lightly toast some good bread in olive oil, spread it with a light, fresh cheese and top with the squash. Do not forget the mint; it’s not the same without it.

Watch the video here, and get the recipe here.

Posted in American, Recipes

Don’t Blame the Potato for Pringles

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Last week, Procter & Gamble sold its Pringles brand to Kellogg, for $2.7 billion.

In the scheme of things, this is not big news: a famous brand goes from one corporation to another. Happens all the time. Affects us barely, if at all; you’ll still never be more than a hundred yards from the all-too-familiar red Pringles canister, which, it’s said, made its designer so proud that he had his ashes packed into one after his death.

But the sale inspired some observations about the nature of  “food.” Let’s start with a fantasy: suppose P.&G., in a fit of charity, decided that Pringles was, as we all know to be true, a brand that everyone in the world — with the possible exception of P.&G. shareholders and a few employees — would be better off without. I mean, I like Pringles as much as the next guy, but they’re not really “food,” or — to be more accurate — they’re not “real” “food”[1] and I certainly know that I’d be better off without them.

Here’s a short list of other things that $2.7 billion could buy [2]. For that money, you could feed 75 million children for a year, or fund Unicef’s child-assistance operations for two years. You could pay cash for NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover mission ($2.5 billion), and have still be able to foot half the cost of the president’s proposed strengthening of oversight of offshore oil and gas operations, which would save money in the long run. Or you could hire more than 60,000 teachers. Stuff like that.

Read the rest of this column here.

Posted in Food Politics

Vietnamese Stir-Fried Sweet Potatoes and Beef

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By Freya Bellin

When it comes to potatoes, squash, and root veggies, grating is a wonderful technique: you get all the starchy sweetness of the vegetable, but in a fraction of the time it would take to roast or bake!  In this recipe, the sweet potatoes become tender very quickly in the pan, and make a lovely salad-like bed for the protein of your choice. The little bits that get caramelized and stuck to the bottom of the pan are delicious, like hash browns, so don’t worry if the potatoes are sticking. The lime juice and fish sauce will also help to break that up, plus they add a zingy acidity. Fish sauce is a tricky ingredient if you’re not familiar with it. It’s a bit pungent and often takes center stage among other flavors in a dish. If you’re not sure if you like it, add only a tablespoon or so at a time and see what you think. Or, instead of fish sauce you can use soy sauce, or go even farther afield and use some other seasonings that typically complement sweet potatoes, like paprika or cumin. It will be less Vietnamese, but equally tasty. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Recipes, Vietnamese

Root Vegetable Stir-Fry

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By Alaina Sullivan

Roots are the gemstones of the vegetable clan. Unearthed from the soil they appear knobby and inedible, but pare away the tough exterior and you’ll uncover valuable flesh.

Grating transforms the roots from dense to delicate and readies them for a quick skillet stir-fry. Celeriac flesh shreds easily; sweet potato takes a little more elbow grease. With the beets, I opted to thinly slice rather than shred them to change up the texture a bit. I worked in three batches so that every ingredient would have a cheek against the hot skillet. As the beets cooked to an al dente tender-crisp, the shredded potatoes and celeriac became browned and soft.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

Basted Potato Halves

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By Kerri Conan

Perfect for Yukon golds: Turn the oven to 400dg, using the convection roast setting if you’ve got one. Pour a thin film of olive oil into a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Trim about 1 pound of potatoes, remove any icky spots, and cut them in half crosswise. Once the potatoes are in the pan, rub them all over in the oil, and put them cut side down. Roast, brushing with the salted oil every 15 minutes or so, until they release easily, 30 to 60 minutes, depending on their size.

 

Posted in Produce, Recipes

Smashed Potato Salad with Escarole

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By Freya Bellin

In this dish, ultimate comfort food meets veggies, and they get along pretty well. Mashed potatoes are classically very buttery, but this version doesn’t suffer at all in the absence of milk or butter. The olive oil flavors the potatoes nicely, and although you don’t want to over-smash the potatoes in this dish, I was able to achieve a really creamy consistency, dairy-free. The greens add color and make the salad a little lighter, while the lemon offers a bright, springy, and zesty touch. The citrus is lovely but quite pervasive, so I would start with half a lemon’s worth of juice and add more to taste. I tossed in some salt and lots of extra black pepper at the end, which helped cut the lemon if you find it’s too strong. For those who like spice, try sprinkling red pepper flakes or cayenne on top. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

The Best (and Simplest) Potato Salad

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Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes, plus time to cool

To me, the best and simplest potato salad is made of just-boiled potatoes dressed in a freshly made vinaigrette. If you’re in a hurry, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl, then just add the potatoes. Parsley and chopped onion are easy, flavorful additions.  Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

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Posted in American, Recipes

Crisp Pan-Fried Potatoes

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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