Monday, June 2, 2008

Eat. Real. Food.

Estimated percentage of the 143 million tons of US beef recalled in February that had already been eaten: 50 million tons*
(*Harpers Index June 2008)

It's very clear that we cannot expect our government or regulatory agencies to protect us from food that is hazardous to our health. It’s a well know fact at this point that large corporations have been creating “food products” for the better part of the last century and that these non-foods (fast food, frozen dinners, anything packaged or processed, a plethora of colored and corn syrup sweetened beverages, etc) is bad for us (check out the video at the end of this post for a great talk by the NY Times food writer and cook Mark Bittman.)

I’m not against eating meat as long as I know where the meat comes from. I am, however, against eating as much meat as we do and think we need to really drastically change the way we think about the food on our table, not only what kind of food but in what portion and in what ratios. My starting this blog is a way for me to try and figure out how you can live in a city (I live on the Lower East Side in Manhattan) and be able to eat in a manner that is environmentally sound, good tasting and good for you without going crazy trying to find it.

My sub-heading "Eat. Real. Food" is often used these days in some form or another, it’s become the mantra of foodies the world over. Some will wonder just exactly why their chicken McNuggets don’t qualify. But then again some people are just willfully stupid. "Change is hard! Really why should I bother?" Diabetes, obesity, cancer, heart disease and lack of universal health care would all seem to me to be good reasons to bother. But, hey, that’s just me and I am still a minority in this country when it comes to healthy eating and farming.

First of all, as I see it, change isn’t an option; we have to change or the very existence of our planet is at risk. Stopping the eating industrial meat would be a huge first step. Don’t order moo shoo pork to go from the local Chinese unless you know where that pork came from, where it grew up, how it was treated, what it was fed and how it was slaughtered. That is my day 1 challenge to you. If we collectively stopped eating this meat then we could significantly help reduce green house gas emissions, a far greater amount of which are caused by factory farmed beef then they are by cars (see video above).

You want to eat cow? Go to your local farmers market and buy a whole cow or split it with some friends and freeze it (or a pig or a bison or a deer or a sheep…). Become friends with your farmer, go visit, see how the animals are treated, how they live and feel good knowing you are doing the right thing not only for your health, but for the whole planet. We do have options and local family farmers are all over this country, increasingly bringing their food directly to those of us who live in urban centers, and they desperately need our support. If you don’t have a local farmers market go online and see who is farming in your region. I’ll try and post as many links as possible here in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, I will try to help by sharing my daily and weekly routines for shopping for in season, well grown (at least organically), local produce and share with you my ideas about how to maximize your use of this moment’s bounty with simple recipes.

To start here is a recipe I’ve developed that if you live in the North East United States should come just in time for spring Asparagus.

I can’t make any promises but I am going to try and do this every day.

Thanks for stopping by. More tomorrow.

Asparagus Brown Rice Risotto

As a type 1 diabetic (insulin dependent)I am always looking for ways to add fat and fiber to what I eat as it slows down the way sugar is introduced into your system. I was very happy to discover that short grain brown rice makes a very tasty risotto! Don’t worry: it’s not at all heavy and chewy and bland - to my taste it's almost almost the same as making it with traditional Risotto rice. I like Lundberg rice
(Although one has to question why margarine is offered as an option on one of their back panel recipes, mmmmmm not good. But the rice is, so here we go….)

Trim the ends and woody bits of
1lb of fresh spring green asparagus.
Chop off the tips and reserve. Cut the stalks into bite size bits and reserve.

2 cups of the 8 cups of vegetable broth that you will be using over a medium heat in a small saucepan. When the broth is barely boiling add the Asparagus tips and cook for just a minute until they have turned bright green but still have lots of crunch. Remove. Repeat with the stalks cooking for a minute or too longer. Remove. Pour the broth in which you’ve just cooked the asparagus into a blender or food processor and add the cooked stalks, processe so that the stalks are chopped up but not pureed. Reserve.

chop 6-8 Ramps or spring onions. Add 2 T butter and 2 T olive oil to your risotto pan and heat until the butter has melted. Add the Ramps and cook 4-6 minutes until translucent, then add 3-4 cloves of garlic that have also been finely chopped, cook for another 1-2 minutes until aromatic and well integrated. Add:

2 crushed hot red pepper and 2 t of salt (Kosher salt is what I use. If you use a different kind use less and salt up as need be). Stir well and then add 1-½ cups of short grain organic brown rice. Incorporate the aromatics with the rice for several minutes, then add ½ cup dry white Vermouth. Cook at medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the alcohol has burned off and the mixture has become “dry” again. Incorporate the vegetable broth a ladle at a time, waiting after each addition until the fluid has been incorporated and the rice has gotten “thicker”.

This can take longer with brown rice; I find it usually takes somewhere between 45-60 minutes. When you have finished with the 6 cups of reserved broth add the remaining
2 cups with the chopped asparagus stalks and broth – also a ladle full at a time. Once you have incorporated the “stalk broth” add 1 cup of white wine (½ cup at a time).

Finely grate
2 cups of Parmesan cheese and add it to the risotto along with the grated rind of one organic lemon and a handful of mint leaves (about a half cup but use as many or as few as you like). Remember to taste all the way through the process to make sure the rice has not over cooked. Risotto should be thick and soupy.

Season with salt and freshly grated black pepper and extra grated Parmesan cheese.

Goes great with a simple Sorrel Salad with fresh herbs and basic olive oil and sherry vinaigrette. Enjoy!

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