Friday, April 30, 2010

Leslie Buck, Designer of New York Coffee Cup, Dies

I don’t drink coffee, but being a New Yawker, I can identify with the Anthora, the coffee cup to the right. Leslie Buck, the man who designed the cup, just died.

Click here to read his obituary, which includes the history of the cup, including this gem:
"Though the Anthora no longer dominates the urban landscape as it once did, it can still be found at diners, delis and food carts citywide, a squat, stalwart island in a sea of tall, grande and venti."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Plants in an Early Stage (As Seedlings)

We all have seen vegetables and flowers in their mature form. To help understand the growing process, here are photos of seedlings of three plants a week after emerging from the ground.

All are about an inch tall and wide, and will take 45 to 70 days to reach maturity. From top to bottom: sunflower, red mizuna (an Asian green) and spinach. (Click on photos for more detail.)


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Modern Western Diet Strikes Again

Click here for proof that the modern Western diet is an equal-opportunity health destroyer.

(Granted, marrying your first cousin may not help either.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Existential Musings From a Bewildered Gardener

This is the seventh year that I am growing vegetables in my garden, but the process still fascinates me.

To think that these radish seeds . . .

grow into these seedlings . . .

after five to seven days (if the weather cooperates)
is mind-boggling.

Despite knowing the science behind it, I'm still at a loss for deeper understanding.

And my amazement will grow when, in three to four weeks, I'll pull mature radishes with edible greens from the ground.

Did I mention that no pesticides were used in the writing of this post?

Did I mention how much healthier and knowledgeable I think we would be as a society if our kids experienced the growing process?

Monday, April 26, 2010

New York Times: "Stealth Salt in the Pantry"

Need another reason to start cooking a little more?

The amount of salt in packaged foods—including items you wouldn’t think high in sodium—is leading to “perhaps 100,000 premature deaths a year from sodium overload in the American diet” according to The New York Times, which was citing a government-commissioned report.

Here's the graphic (click on it to see detail) which accompanied yesterday’s Times article:
The graphic reminded me of a friend who used to eat Perdue Short Cuts chicken products for dinner almost nightly. He was sold on the product because of the package’s marketing claims and the fact it came fully cooked. However, he would wake up in the middle of the night completely parched and would have to drink several glasses of water to stabilize his system.

After we realized dinner was causing his dehydration, I taught him how to sauté a real chicken breast. The time differential between heating up the processed, salt-laden, chicken-like product and cooking an actual piece of chicken was about five minutes, a small price to pay for uninterrupted sleep and better health.

Remember, not all types of salt are bad. Click here to read more about the benefits of unrefined sea salt.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

After Months of Citrus, I Want Berries!

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, I usually stick to a seasonal eating schedule. This entails eating a food item for about two or three months and not tasting it again until its harvest time returns the following year.

Since the middle of the winter, I’ve been eating oranges and grapefruits. I am officially tired of eating said oranges and grapefruits. In addition, their flavor wanes as their growing season comes to a close.

While shopping yesterday, I had a huge urge for berries or cherries, which won’t be harvested domestically for several weeks. (Literature I’ve read about the spraying of pesticides and other chemicals in Central and South America has dissuaded me from eating fruits and vegetables from there.)

To satisfy my craving I bought a bag of frozen organic blueberries. However, this wasn’t a blind purchase; I made sure to check where the blueberries were grown (United States).

The raspberries, strawberries and cherries, on the other hand, were grown in South America. Organic monitoring in foreign countries is usually left to third parties, an arrangement with which I am not 100 percent comfortable.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Junk Food Advertising on TV

Jane Brody’s Person Health column in yesterday’s New York Times discussed the relationship between children’s television viewing and their eating habits.

Would kids be screaming for a junk food item if they didn’t see it pitched on TV? Granted, sensitive parenting issues are at play here (i.e. allowing kids to watch television, saying “no” to junk food requests), but the numbers are thought-provoking. According to Brody,

"In a study released in March 2007, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation noted that children ages 2 to 7 see an average of 12 televised food ads a day, or 4,400 a year, and children 8 to 12 see an average of 21 a day—more than 7,600 a year. For teenagers, the numbers are 17 a day, or more than 6,000 a year. Fully half of all ad time on children’s shows is for food, the foundation reported."
The result?
"[S]everal studies have demonstrated that television ads do indeed have an effect—and not a good effect—on what children eat, and how much. In one study of 548 students at five public schools near Boston, published in 2006 in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, researchers found that for each additional hour of television viewing, the children consumed an additional 167 calories, especially the calorie-dense, low-nutrient foods frequently advertised on television."
Click here to read Brody’s full article, which also indicts brand placement in movies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another Easy Filling for Empanadas

While I was goofing around in the kitchen the other day I created another filling to use with the olive oil-based empanada dough I highlighted last week.

The filling was a mixture of chopped and sautéed broccoli and purple kale, chopped roasted red and yellow peppers, diced mozzarella, unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

The mixture can also be used as a pasta sauce or topping for quinoa or brown rice.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Dangers of Giving Antibiotics to Livestock

As my cooking students and regular readers of The Delicious Truth know, I encourage people to avoid eating meat and dairy products that come from animals administered antibiotics.

To find out why (from someone other than yours truly), click here to read an op-ed piece from yesterday’s New York Times, written by Donald Kennedy, a former commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Here is one essential part of Kennedy’s essay:
"More than 30 years ago, when I was commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration, we proposed eliminating the use of penicillin and two other antibiotics to promote growth in animals raised for food. When agribusiness interests persuaded Congress not to approve that regulation, we saw firsthand how strong politics can trump wise policy and good science. Even back then, this nontherapeutic use of antibiotics was being linked to the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that infect humans."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Our Green Lawns Aren't So Innocent (and Probably Toxic)

While mailing my taxes the other day, I was met by the unfortunate sign on the right, planted on the post office’s lawn. It reminded me of an article ("Turf War") Elizabeth Kolbert wrote two years ago in The New Yorker about America’s love affair with perfectly manicured lawns.

Below is an excerpt from "Turf War." Click here to read the entire article.
Remember, these are the lawns, school playgrounds and Little League fields our kids play on.
As Paul Robbins reports in “Lawn People” (2007), the first pesticide popularly spread on lawns was lead arsenate, which tended to leave behind both lead and arsenic contamination. Next in line were DDT and chlordane. Once they were shown to be toxic, pesticides like diazinon and chlorpyrifos—both of which affect the nervous system—took their place. Diazinon and chlorpyrifos, too, were eventually revealed to be hazardous. (Diazinon came under scrutiny after birds started dropping dead around a recently sprayed golf course.) The insecticide carbaryl, which is marketed under the trade name Sevin, is still broadly applied to lawns. A likely human carcinogen, it has been shown to cause developmental damage in lab animals, and is toxic to—among many other organisms—tadpoles, salamanders, and honeybees. In “American Green” (2006), Ted Steinberg, a professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, compares the lawn to “a nationwide chemical experiment with homeowners as the guinea pigs.”

Meanwhile, the risks of the chemical lawn are not confined to the people who own the lawns, or to the creatures that try to live in them. Rain and irrigation carry synthetic fertilizers into streams and lakes, where the excess nutrients contribute to algae blooms that, in turn, produce aquatic “dead zones.” Manhattanites may not keep lawns, but they drink the chemicals that run off them. A 2002 report found traces of thirty-seven pesticides in streams feeding into the Croton River Watershed. A few years ago, Toronto banned the use of virtually all lawn pesticides and herbicides, including 2,4-D [a major ingredient in Agent Orange] and carbaryl, on the ground that they pose a health risk, especially to children.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Journalist Wins Pulitzer for Exposing Food System Flaws

Congratulations to Michael Moss, the New York Times reporter who just won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. Moss wrote several articles last fall—many discussed here—about contaminated meat within our food system.

For those who haven’t read Moss’s work, try to carve out (pun intended) some time for “The Burger That Shattered Her Life.” According to The Times, “the day after Mr. Moss's article ran, Tom Vilsak, the Agriculture Secretary, said ‘the story we learned about over the weekend is unacceptable and tragic,’ and he launched a review of all department meat safety procedures.”

Other articles to be read include “E. Coli Outbreak Traced to Company That Halted Testing of Ground Beef Trimmings” and “Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned.”

Moss’s Pulitzer will only bring more attention to his articles and the subject matter. Hopefully our political leaders will act to limit the damage being done by the big food companies to our society.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How to Construct Empanadas

Making an olive oil-based dough to use for empanadas takes about 10 minutes of work and an hour of letting the dough rest in the refrigerator.

Follows is the recipe for the dough (courtesy of Food & Wine magazine). Below the recipe is a video demonstrating how to prepare the empanadas.

EMPANADA DOUGH (Makes about 12 6-inch pies)

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

¾ tsp. kosher or unrefined sea salt

¾ cup water

¼ cup olive oil, plus more for cooking

1 Tbs. red wine, white wine or apple cider vinegar

1. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, olive oil and vinegar. Mix until the dough comes together; it will be sticky.

2. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth and no longer tacky (about 8 minutes), using a pastry scraper to free it from the work surface, if necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 1 hour.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An Easy Recipe Using Grass-fed Ground Beef

A simple mixture of grass-fed ground beef (from U.S. Wellness Meats), sautéed onions and parsley can be used as a filling for empanadas or as a "sauce" for pasta.

Check back tomorrow to learn how to make the empanadas.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Say ‘No’ to Genetically Engineered Crops in Foreign Aid

Here's the latest e-mail alert I received from the Pesticide Action Network, which works to protect us from highly hazardous pesticides. Click here to let your senators know how you feel.
Despite a mountain of evidence that genetically engineered (GE) crops have failed to deliver, a new multi-billion dollar aid bill directs taxpayer dollars towards more GE research. As written, the Senate bill is a stealth giveaway to corporations like Monsanto in the name of feeding the world's poor.

Tell your Senator to oppose the Global Food Security Act until the GE clause is removed!

The Global Food Security Act (SB 384) is the biggest U.S. agricultural aid initiative in more than half a century. The bill mandates that U.S. taxpayer dollars support research on genetically engineered crops. No other specific technologies are even mentioned.

By including a federal mandate that GE crop research and development be funded by U.S. taxpayers, we are writing a check to Monsanto and other industry giants. Monsanto has been lobbying actively for the bill's passage. No wonder. The law directs $7.7 billion to agricultural research and development, and Monsanto has a clear interest in how this money is spent.

"At the end of the day, GE crops don't have much to offer farmers in the developing world," notes PAN senior scientist Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman. "Recent UN reports point to agroecological farming for more promising solutions to world hunger."

Scientists who have examined the evidence around the globe agree: GE crops are not the answer to world hunger. Tell you senator: No GE crops in foreign aid.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How to Make Ceviche

Heat isn’t the only way to cook food.

The other night I made a ceviche, which relies on acid to “cook” raw fish, the dish’s main ingredient.

Ceviche can be completed in about 15 minutes and is best made with a fresh, firm fish.

For two large appetizer portions, I cut a half pound tilefish filet into one-inch chunks and soaked the fish in the acidic juice of one lemon and one lime. I added one chopped scallion, several slices of jalapeño pepper, some salt and pepper and let the fish marinate for about 10 minutes.

The color of the fish changed from opaque to white as the acid altered the structure of the fish’s proteins.

In addition to firm white fish, try this with shrimp and scallops.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

More on Pinnacle Foods' Aunt Jemima Confetti Pancakes

Two weeks ago I wrote about Aunt Jemima frozen confetti pancakes, which are constructed by Pinnacle Foods.

Unfortunately I did not do my research and made vague statements about nutritional claims on the product’s package, eliciting this comment from Anonymous:
"If someone works for a food company you know that you MUST follow the FDA regulations. 'Good Source' is a valid regulation and this product DOES NOT contain preservatives. Shame on you 'Chef Bob' for writing such a ridiculous blog. Ever hear of personal responsibility? You don't have to eat this food everyday [sic]."
I’ll tackle both the knowledge of food company employees and personal responsibility in other posts this week, but today is about the intricacies of food labeling.

F.D.A. regulations strictly regulate what can and can’t be written. For example, “good source” is not a subjective phrase, as I incorrectly suggested. From the guidance page of the F.D.A. website (RDI = reference daily intake, DRV = daily reference value, DV = daily value):
"A 'good source' claim may be made when a food contains 10-19% of the RDI or DRV (both declared on the label as the DV). A 'high' claim may be made when a food contains at least 20% of the DV."
Thus, Pinnacle’s claim that its frozen confetti pancakes are a “good source of 6 vitamins and minerals” is within bounds, since phosphorous, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron and sodium exceed 10 percent.

But the labeling seems one-sided. Shouldn’t the F.D.A. also be forcing the processed food companies to place warning labels on junk food, similar to tobacco products? Under the current system we are told what is (seemingly) healthy without any information about the dangers of other ingredients.

Would Pinnacle sell as many confetti pancakes if the hazards of artificial colors, hydrogenated oils and bleached flours were spelled out on the box? Would parents stop to consider the ramifications of their purchasing decisions?

Hesitantly, I spent $3.49 to see this product in person. The photo above is of a pancake’s interior (neon “confetti” exposed!), next to a carrot and red pepper. Make sure to be wearing sunglasses when you click to enlarge it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Warren Bleir's Tilefish Campaign

At the urging of Warren Bleir, who sells fish at farmers’ markets in Manhattan several days per week, I bought some tilefish filets this weekend.

Haven’t heard of tilefish? Bleir is trying to change that as he works to shift his customers from cod to tilefish.

“Tilefish is highly underappreciated in New York City,” Bleir said. “It’s sweet, firm and versatile for cooking.”

(I used my tilefish to make a ceviche; check back later this week for instructions.)

Bleir, based in Hampton Bays on Long Island, estimated that about 75 percent of the tilefish caught by American fishermen gets exported. Montauk, at Long Island’s eastern tip, is one of the largest tilefish ports in the world.

Bleir would rather sell his catch locally, though, especially as the weather warms.

“Cod is great during the winter,” he said, “but during the summer they swim to deeper waters further from the dock.”

Bleir and the American Seafood Company can be found at farmers’ markets at Columbia University (115th & Broadway) on Thursdays, Tucker Square (66th & Broadway) on Saturdays and the Museum of Natural History (77th & Columbus) on Sundays. In June, Bleir will also be at Upper East Side markets on Saturdays and Sundays.

Friday, April 2, 2010

President Uses Recess Appointment to Install Islam Siddiqui

I could kind of, sort of live with the other stuff, but President Obama’s recess appointment earlier this week of Islam Siddiqui as the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative really upset me.

According to the Pesticide Action Network’s press release following the president’s end-run around the Senate, “Siddiqui is a former pesticide lobbyist and vice president of regulatory affairs for CropLife America, a lobbying group representing the interests of pesticide and biotech corporations.”

Not surprisingly, Siddiqui’s allegiances seem to lie more with agribusiness than the public.

Click here to read PAN’s full press release.

Click here to read Barry Estabrook’s stinging article (on The Atlantic’s website) about Siddiqui’s appointment.