Monday, November 30, 2009

Great Fall Weather = Longer Growing Season

It's almost December in the northeast, but the mild weather has been a boon to cool-weather vegetables:


Friday, November 27, 2009

For Thanksgiving: Ginger-Apricot Chutney

One of the items I made for Thanksgiving was a ginger-apricot chutney. The idea came from New York Times food writer Mark Bittman's great article offering 101 recipes for the day, all of which can be made in advance. (I know this does nothing for you today.)

This recipe (and most on the list) are fine examples of how easy it can be to cook. Also, when looking for inspiration, make what you like. The chutney's ingredients caught my attention, and, in true Delicious Truth fashion, Bittman's ideas were in sentences, not traditional recipe form:

"Put dried apricots in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Add lemon juice, minced fresh chili, grated ginger, a couple of cloves and a pinch of cayenne. Cook until thick."

Yes, it was that easy.

Measurements? Completely by feel, but don't be intimidated; a little too much lemon juice or ginger won't be the end of the world. Substituting comparable ingredients is fine as well. I didn't have fresh chili, so I used some dried pepper flakes.

The chutney was delicious, and it went especially well with Bobolink Dairy's cheddar cheese.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Don't eat too much. The Delicious Truth will return tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Are Our Children Being Fed?

Back in January, I wrote a three-part blog on the dangers of General Mills Yoplait Trix “yogurt.”

Just yesterday, a reader commented on the first of the posts, which described the overwhelmingly
synthetic contents of the product.

Elaine's comment:

“I just wanted to add that my son is in a program for children with behavioral issues. I found out that for "breakfast" there yesterday he ate cocoa puffs with chocolate milk and a side of trix yogurt. For some reason I am expected to think this is Okay, that they are even doing me a favor by feeding him 'breakfast' at school but I am furious and I'm sure I will find my complaints fall on deaf ears.”
Wow. Elaine, I feel for you.

My first word of advice is to complain and complain some more. Make yourself heard and try to get other parents involved; I doubt you are the only mother or father with these concerns. If you don’t speak up, the program will not think anything is wrong with what it is feeding the children.


Second, point the program’s leaders to the Feingold Association, a non-profit organization which raises awareness of the potential role of foods and synthetic additives in behavioral, learning and health problems.

Third, have them read The McCann Study (2007), which linked synthetic additives in food to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Feeding behaviorally-challenged kids foodstuffs that trigger some of the very behavioral issues they suffer from seems highly counterintuitive.

Elaine, be strong and make your voice heard! (Let me know if you need contact information for people who can help you in your fight.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Caution: Variables Influence Cooking Times

When I am giving cooking lessons, people often ask me, "How long do I have to cook [pick a food] for?"

The answer isn't set in stone and depends on several variables, including size of the food item and strength of the heat being used. Also, believe it or not, ovens and stoves are not perfectly calibrated to the desired temperature. Your 350 degree oven could achieve a temperature of 360 degrees, while your neighbor's 350 degree oven may only reach 340 degrees.


Witness what happened to me when I cooked quinoa on a stove I wasn't accustomed to:


video

Monday, November 23, 2009

The End of Green & Black's Dark Chocolate?

We’ve all had it happen: a favorite product stops being made, whether it be a tennis racket, TV show or pantyhose (not mine).

Hopefully, the same fate won’t happen to my favorite chocolate, Green & Black’s Organic 85% dark chocolate. Cadbury—the owner of Green & Black’s—is unfortunately the subject of hostile takeover attempts by Kraft.

It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only person who is scared for his chocolate future. Click here to read an amusing (but potentially disheartening) account of what may lie ahead for Green & Black’s lovers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Do "FD&C" and "D&C" Mean on Food and Drug Labels?

In my post on Tuesday about artificial colorings in drugs (over-the-counter and prescription) I forgot to mention an important fact about these synthetic, petroleum-derived(!) dyes.

If you read drug labels closely, you’ll see that the artificial colors are often preceded with “FD&C” or “D&C.” On food labels, the dyes are sometimes preceded by “FD&C.” I would guess most of us don’t know what these two codes mean.

“FD&C” means that the colorants have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in food, drugs and cosmetics. “D&C” signifies the colors can be used in drugs and cosmetics, but not food.

Am I the only one who thinks this defies logic?

Jane Hersey, the director of the Feingold Association (which works to alert people of the dangers of artificial colors and other synthetic additives) summed up the irony in an e-mail she wrote to me on Wednesday:

“Disturbing is the fact that medicines are permitted to use dyes that have been banned from use in foods. If they're too harmful to eat, how can they be safe to give to a sick child?”

Well said, Jane.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Quick and Easy Recipe and Meal Using Turnips

You can pretty much throw anything into a hot pan that’s coated with a little olive oil and end up with a delicious meal. And that’s exactly what I did—off the cuff and in about 15 minutes total—to make lunch yesterday.

I had some turnips (with their completely edible greens) from the farmers’ market in my refrigerator, so I decided to sauté those and put them over whole wheat pasta.

As the water for the pasta was boiling, I washed and cut the turnips into bite-size pieces. In a cast iron pan coated with some olive oil, I let the turnips brown. After adding some sli
ces of garlic to the turnips, I put the pasta into the boiling water.

When the garlic started to turn brown, I turned off the heat and added the turnip greens, which I had
chopped into smaller pieces. There was enough residual heat in the pan to cook the delicate greens. I added some unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper for additional flavor and nutrition.

When the pasta w
as done, I put it in a bowl and topped it with the turnip and greens mixture. I grated some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top, mixed everything together and thoroughly enjoyed my lunch, which took all of 15 minutes to make.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Help Wanted: Coconut Pluckers

Regular readers of this blog know that there is a story behind every food item.

Whether it is beef, chocolate, yogurt or avocado, some sort of growing, nutritional, political or marketing tale can be told.


Some stories are more tangential than others. Witness the article in today’s New York Times about the dwindling number of coconut pluckers in Kerala, a southern state in India.


India’s huge coconut industry depends on the pluckers to climb trees and harvest coconuts by hand. It is a dangerous—but well-paying—job that traditionally was reserved for members of the untouchable caste.

However, times are changing in India:

"The scarcity of coconut pluckers in Kerala illustrates the loosening of the once rigid caste bonds in many parts of India, freeing young people from hereditary jobs.

Unlike northern states, where caste remains a force and education remains out of reach for many, Kerala has a 100 percent literacy rate, and the shackles of caste are looser than ever."
From now on, whenever I teach people how to make a Thai green curry using coconut milk, I’ll think of a coconut plucker scampering up a tree and “slicing the nuts from their stems with a heavy blade he carries tucked into his loincloth.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Artificial Colors in Medicine

As many of you know, I am not a fan of artificial colorings in our food. Earlier this year I wrote a four-part series on these petroleum-based dyes and their effects on our health.

But these colorants are not just in processed food. The next time you are in a drug store or the drug aisle of a supermarket, notice the rainbow of colored over-the-counter pills, tablets and liquids. And I’ll bet that the next prescription the pharmacist fills for you is blue, yellow or green.

These dyes have been linked to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Are we being visually tricked into ingesting harmful toxins? What’s wrong with white?

Thankfully, in some instances, better options exist.

Let’s discuss ibuprofen, a staple of all medicine cabinets. Leading national brands include Motrin and Advil. Basic Motrin is orange, thanks in part to its yellow #6. Flavored versions aimed at children are colored with red, blue and yellow dyes.

A slightly better option is Advil’s basic tablets or caplets. Their color is rust, achieved from synthetic iron oxide (not a dye). However, be aware that the myriad of other Advil products (i.e. Advil PM, Advil PM for Saturdays, Advil PM for Tuesdays in November, Advil Migraine if Your Last Name Starts With “E”) contain artificial colorants.


By far the best option I found was a store brand. The drug store chain CVS sells ibuprofen that is white and clearly labeled “dye-free.” I am not aware of a national brand that offers white ibuprofen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Local Take on Supply and Demand

The demand for grass-fed meat, poultry and dairy products is growing daily; unfortunately, supply sometimes cannot keep up.

It’s not that there aren’t enough small farmers raising quality cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys. Instead, the number (or lack thereof) of slaughterhouses is to blame.

United States Department of Agriculture certification is necessary for slaughterhouses, so operating one isn’t as simple as writing a blog. The red tape involved invariably prevents new, smaller slaughterhouses from opening, which in turn forces the small farmers to spend more time and money travelling to have their products processed into retail-friendly cuts.

Farmers at greenmarkets in New York City tell me about the challenges they face in this realm. For local flavor about the issue, click here to read an article published this summer in The Register-Star, a newspaper in Columbia County, NY.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to Fry Fish Filets

A quick, easy and delicious way to fry thin fish filets:

video

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Argument In Favor of Grass-Fed Foods

Add greenhouse gas issues to the list of reasons (flavor, nutrition, safety, etc.) why we should be eating grass-fed meats and dairy products.

From a New York Times opinion piece two weeks ago:
"To a rancher like me, who raises cattle, goats and turkeys the traditional way (on grass), the studies show only that the prevailing methods of producing meat — that is, crowding animals together in factory farms, storing their waste in giant lagoons and cutting down forests to grow crops to feed them — cause substantial greenhouse gases. It could be, in fact, that a conscientious meat eater may have a more environmentally friendly diet than your average vegetarian."
Are you a conscientious meat eater?

Click here to read the entire article.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cutting & Cooking Celeriac

On the heels of yesterday's post showing how celeriac grows, here is a video demonstrating how to cut it and one example of how to cook it:

video

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another Fall Vegetable - Celeriac (or Celery Root)

I wrote a post last week about the fall vegetables that are still available at farmers’ markets here in the Northeast United States.

A reader correctly commented that I had forgotten to mention celeriac (a k a celery root), which is slightly baffling considering it is growing in my garden!


Watch the video below to learn more about celeriac.

video

Monday, November 9, 2009

Verlyn Klinkenborg: "Apples, Apples, Apples"

Timing is everything.

On Friday morning, I had two apples for breakfast that I had just bought from Jim Kent. One was a Winter Banana, which I had tasted before, and the other was a Blushing Golden, a new variety for me. Both were mostly yellow and delicious, but their exact colors and flavors were slightly different.


According to www.allaboutapples.com, the Winter Banana is “[g]reen ripening to yellow, cheek overlaid with pinkish-brown. Firm, crisp, juicy flesh with the distinctive aromatic flavor for which it is named,” while the Blushing Golden is “yellow with up to 50% of the fruit surface covered with a dirty orange-pink blush,” and has “yellowish white [flesh] with a subacid flavor and a fermented aftertaste.”


Coincidentally, about an hour later, I opened The New York Times and read a short essay by Verlyn Klinkenborg, one of my favorite writers. Klinkenborg, who focuses on nature and rural topics, discussed apple varieties, using the fruit as a metaphor for our modern food supply:

“For part of our history, culminating around the end of the 19th century, there was something about us — about our appetite, our farms, our economy — that loved diversity in apples. One standard reference, from 1905, lists more than 6,500 distinct varieties.”
Unfortunately, according to Klinkenborg, times have changed:
“Modern agriculture, as well as our carefully created preference for processed over fresh food, has pushed us in the opposite direction, toward uniformity . . . According to one estimate, only 11 varieties make up 90 percent of all the apples sold in this country, and Red Delicious alone counts for nearly half of that.”
Click here to read Klinkenborg’s brief essay.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Last Night's Party - A Benefit for Turn the Corner

I occasionally man a tasting table at charity events. Last night I was at a benefit hosted by the Turn the Corner Foundation, which raises awareness and money for Lyme disease.

Watch below to see what I made.

video

Thursday, November 5, 2009

White House Honey

In addition to planting an organic garden on the White House grounds, Michelle Obama has spearheaded a new food-related effort: the production of honey.

Click here to watch a three-minute audio slide show (from The New York Times website) of White House beekeeper Charlie Brandts in action.

Click here to read the accompanying blog post from the Times political blog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How to Make Potato-Leek Soup

I gave a cooking lesson last night and one of the dishes we made was a potato-leek soup. Both potatoes and leeks are in season here in the Northeast United States.

To make the potato-leek soup, we employed the basic technique used for making other soups (carrot-ginger and split pea) that I’ve previously written about.


We started by sautéing some chopped bacon in a soup pot, stirring often to prevent the bacon from burning. We didn’t need to use any oil, since the bacon gave off plenty of fat. While the bacon cooked, we chopped and washed about two pounds of Yukon gold potatoes and three leeks.


Note: I really dislike writing exact amounts, since I don’t want people to think they can’t make this soup if they have only one pound of potatoes and two leeks. Use whatever you have; the result will be better than anything from a can!


When the bacon started to crisp, we removed it to a bowl. We drained most of the fat and cooked the chopped leeks in the remainder, stirring constantly. When the leeks were soft (10 minutes), we added the potatoes and enough cold water to cover the vegetables by about an inch. We let the vegetables simmer for about 40 minutes, until the potatoes were easily pierced with a sharp knife.


After letting the mixture cool slightly (translation: we were busy making an apple crisp and sautéing a piece of fish), we used a hand-held immersion blender to purée the potatoes and leeks until they were smooth. We seasoned with sea salt, fresh ground pepper and lemon juice, plus used the bacon pieces as garnish.

Delicious.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fall Vegetables and Some Cooking Ideas

Here in the Northeast United States, the growing season for vegetables and fruits is coming to an end.

Some vegetables, though, continue to be harvested. Still available at local farmers’ markets are cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leeks, parsnips, collard greens and some salad greens.

Several ideas for using the above:


• Cauliflower gratin

• Roasted broccoli

• Sautéed Brussels sprouts

Potato-leek soup

• Mashed parsnips

Click here to see what can be found at farmers' markets.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Where Do Baby Carrots Come From?

The ground! Baby carrots are simply carrots that haven’t fully matured. Watch below for more information:

video