Sunday, June 29, 2008

What the World Eats

My friend Craig sent me these links to a series done by Time/CNN. Family portraits where in addition to the family you get a spread of what they eat with the added information of how much they pay for what they eat. Fascinating.

All the Western family's eat mostly packaged food; soda pop, frozen pizza, potato chips, etc. It's not until you get to very poor third world families that all the food is actually food: grains veggies and maybe a little bit of protein. It would seem the privilege of living in the first world is the ability to buy plastic containers filled with chemicals you can't pronounce mixed up with corn syrup and hydrogenated fat, God we are so lucky!

It's ironic to me how the supposedly advanced West has it so wrong. It's why for the first time ever in the history of the world in America you have poor people who are obese and undernourished.

http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1626519,00.html

http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1645016,00.html

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cherry Focaccia

I made a variation on a recipe from the River Cafe Cookbook Green for this lovely cherry focaccia which strikes me as a perfect picnic food, especially now cherries are in season at the market! I used a whole grain flour which gave it a dense nuttiness but I think in this instance it probably would work better with the intended unbleached all purpose flour. Try it yourself and let me know.

Add 1 t dried yeast to a bowl and pour in 1-1/2 cups warm water.
Let rest for 5 minutes. Gradually add in 4 cups all purpose flour.
The dough will be soft. Slowly incorporate 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt.
Knead on a floured work surface for about 5 minutes. Return to bowl, cover with a cloth for an hour to let it rise.

Pit 2lbs of cherries.

When the dough has risen, roll it out on a lightly oiled pizza pan. Sprinkle the cherries over the dough and let it rise, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes.

Preheat the over to 350.

Sprinkle a 1/4c (or more to taste) of sugar over the Cherries and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until brown.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Market Watch June 23rd


Strawberries are here! As are cherries, blueberries, raspberries, shell peas, sugar snap peas and lots and lots of leafy greens. Here's some pictures to inspire and hopefully motivate you to drop by your local farmers market and shop! The best berries are by a farm called Berried Treasures.





Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Cost of Organic

Mega grocery stores are ubiquitous both here in New York and everywhere in North America. Marion Nestle does a wonderful job of deconstructing them in her book: What to Eat.

The thing I notice is that these big chains like Gristedes or Fine Fare (I call it Ghetto Groceries) to name just two, so over-price their insignificant organic food selection that the people who only shop there will never buy organic because it's twice as much if not more then conventional.

And if you say to people why don't you shop at your local Whole Foods they will go on about how expensive it is (at least a lot of people I talk to seem to feel this way). Well, here's some news, the Whole Foods generic organic brand is a bargain. Here's two examples: Olive Oil at Whole Foods - I can get a liter bottle of extra virgin for $7 - the same amount of an equivalent olive oil at Fine Fare on Clinton street on the Lower East Side is $12.

Below a picture of my favorite jam made by what I think is one of the best organic brands around Bionatura. At Gristedes it's $7!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


At Whole Foods this week it's $3. Usually it sells for around $3.49 - $3.69


Is Gristedes just greedy or do they really want to discourage people from buying organic because producers of corn syrup rich inferior brands are paying them graft to keep the good stuff out of reach of the average consumer? My solution, as always, make your own jam when the fruit is in season at the market or buy jam at the market or go to Whole Foods and buy this delicious Italian Jam. And as it turns out food from Europe comes to us via boat food from California comes by plane so the carbon foot print of the Italian jam is actually better then the Californian equivalent.

Change is possible: stop shopping at mega grocery store chains that don't prioritize: local and organic. If your grocery store doesn't tell you where each fruit or vegetable comes from you need to not shop there. Or even better start a letter writing campaign confronting them with their under handed practices and let them know you plan to shop elsewhere if they don't get there act together.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Jane's Birthday Dinner

To start:

Roasted Pecans with Indian spices

A selection of fresh local radishes with Maldon salt and butter

A selection of local cheese from Saxelby Cheese Shop:
Berkshire Blue, Kunik, Ascutney

Homemade Pickled Ramps

Multi grain baguette, sliced and toasted with olive oil

Intermezzo:

Marinated Sardine Fillets
fresh herbs, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.
(great on the toast slices)

Main:

Morel Mushroom Risotto with brown rice

Fresh Shell Peas with butter

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Wild Field Greens with a lemon vinaigrette

Dessert:

Individual deep fried Rhubarb & Strawberry Pies
powdered with Cinnamon sugar
served with homemade Strawberry Ice Cream
on a puddle of Spicy Strawberry Sauce topped with
unsweetened Whipped Cream

We started off the evening with an amazing bottle of Cava that Debby brought called:
L'hereu de Raventos i Blanc

Then switched to red wine.






Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

The sugar snap peas at the Union Square market are the best in memory. Many vendors are selling them, I bought a pound for $3 from Mignorelli Farm's, they aren't organic but they are from Tivoli NY and have a very large selection of vegetables. They also had Shell Peas and lots of greens! Also Keith's Farms one of my favorite places at the market has spring racombole garlic that are divine, fried in some butter and olive oil with pasta. Maybe some arugula and Parmesan.

Debby and Craig were over for leftovers and I wanted to make something crunchy and fresh to go with the left over pasta casserole so...

Trim your sugar snap peas. Bring a pot of water to boil, add a pinch of salt to the water and throw in the peas. This is a very quick process, the peas turn a darker shade of green, takes
about 1 minute, remove peas immediately plunging them into a bowl filled with ice water.

When they are cool, drain them, pat them dry, then take fresh lemon juice (about one lemon), a handful of mint leaves, ground cumin (2 tsp'ish), salt and ground black pepper toss it altogether, season to taste and eat.



Bourdain visits Ferran Adria's Research Lab

A really good glimpse into the actual process that Ferran and his crew go through to develop their food. Mind boggling.

I really want to taste mango caviar now!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood

Sardines With Your Bagel?

Published: June 9, 2008

Montreal

THE first chinook salmon from Alaska’s Copper River arrived in Seattle last month, for shipment to fish counters throughout the country. With the commercial chinook season in California and most of Oregon canceled for the first time in 160 years, Alaska chinook were going for record prices: $40 a pound for fillet.

There was a time that the thought of a good salmon meal would leave me feeling faint with desire. Just imagining a toasted bagel papered with near-translucent slices of lox, a roll of vinegared rice stuffed with crispy salmon skin or a thick steak of lightly grilled chinook would have me searching for the nearest deli, sushi bar or bistro.

It was an impulse I never hesitated to indulge. Salmon — so low in saturated fats, so high in brain-protective omega-3 fatty acids — was that rarest of commodities: a guilt-free, heart-healthy self-indulgence, and one of the cleanest forms of protein around.

Not any more. Wild Atlantic salmon are commercially extinct, and runs of Pacific salmon south of the Alaska panhandle are experiencing catastrophic collapses. This year, for the sake of the remaining wild salmon on the West Coast, as well as my own health, I’m changing my diet. Whether it’s wild or farmed, I’m swearing off salmon.

It’s not a decision I make lightly. I grew up eating wild salmon. As a boy, I was given my first chunk of maple-smoked salmon at a dude ranch in northern British Columbia by a crusty old lawyer from Tennessee named Lucius Burch (“better than candy,” he cackled — and it was). Wild salmon is my madeleine: it is the taste of my childhood.

Until recently, it was something for which I was willing to pay a premium. But with so many fisheries closed this year, I can no longer afford to splurge on sustainably fished salmon. It’s just too scarce and too expensive.

What happened to the mighty chinook of the Pacific Northwest? Regional fisheries officials have blamed ocean conditions for a temporary decline in the plankton and small fish that juvenile salmon feed on. But most of the problem is man-made.

Spawning salmon need gravel streambeds and cold, fast-running water to lay their eggs. Giant pumps have been piping water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to towns and farms in California’s Central Valley, degrading river habitat and even sucking up young fish before they reach the sea. Farther north, dams on the Snake River have prevented egg-bearing fish from reaching streambeds inland.

Overfishing is also a factor; too many nets have been scooping up too many fish for too long. What’s more, higher water temperatures brought on by global warming prevent the eggs of spawning females from maturing. It’s not surprising that the only consistently healthy salmon runs left are those in the cold waters of Alaska.

The fact that salmon is still available in supermarkets, and is cheaper than it ever was, is no comfort. Ninety percent of the fresh salmon consumed in the United States is from farms, and I have come to believe that the farmed product is not a healthy alternative to wild.

Three Norwegian-owned companies dominate the salmon-farming industry in North America, and their offshore net-cages dot long stretches of the west coast of the Americas. In Chile, overcrowding in these oceanic feedlots led to this year’s epidemic of infectious salmon anemia, a disease that has killed millions of fish and left the flesh of survivors riddled with lesions.

The situation in Canada, which supplies the United States with 40 percent of its farmed salmon, is not much better. In British Columbia, offshore net-cages are breeding grounds for thumbtack-sized parasites called sea lice. In the Broughton Archipelago, a jigsaw of islands off the province’s central coast, wild pink salmon are infested with the crustaceans. Scientists think that the tens of millions of salmon in Broughton’s 27 Norwegian-owned farms are attracting sea lice and passing them on to wild fish, killing them. They say that this infestation could drive Broughton’s pink salmon to extinction by 2011.

To rid salmon of the lice, fish farmers spike their feed with a strong pesticide called emamectin benzoate, which when administered to rats and dogs causes tremors, spinal deterioration and muscle atrophy. The United States Food and Drug Administration, already hard-pressed to inspect imported Asian seafood for antibiotic and fungicide residues, does not test imported salmon for emamectin benzoate. In other words, the farmed salmon in nearly every American supermarket may contain this pesticide, which on land is used to rid diseased trees of pine beetles. It is not a substance I want in my body.

I avoid farmed salmon for other reasons. It takes four pounds of small fish like sardines and anchovies to make a single pound of farmed salmon, a process that deprives humans of precious protein. (Feedmakers have lately increased the proportion of soy in the pellets, which means the fish have even lower levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.) Organic farmed salmon would be a good option, if the term meant something — outside Europe, there is still no credible, widely available eco-label for responsibly raised farmed salmon.

Fish farming is an essential industry, but it must be sustainable. Striped bass, trout, Arctic char and even ocean species like halibut and cod are already being raised in concrete tanks, which prevent the transmission of disease and parasites to wild fish. A few pioneering companies have started raising salmon the same way. Such techniques have to become the industry norm.

In the Atlantic, overfishing, habitat destruction, disease and parasites from farms have left only struggling remnant populations of the ocean’s original salmon stocks. If we don’t want the same thing to happen in the Pacific, we need to give the salmon a break. Legislators could start by calling on companies to remove net-cages from migration routes, dismantling superannuated dams, reducing fishing quotas in rivers and oceans and committing money to habitat restoration. Consumers can help by looking at salmon as an occasional luxury, rather than expecting it as an alternative to chicken or beef in in-flight meals.

If my hankering for salmon gets the better of me, I suppose I could eat wild salmon from Alaska. The state does not permit salmon farms in its coastal waters, and its cold rivers still teem with healthy salmon runs. But as much as I’d enjoy a fresh chinook fillet from the Copper River, at $2.50 an ounce this summer, I just can’t afford it.

So, I’ll wait for next year and hope the West Coast fisheries show signs of recovery. Until then — or until salmon farmers convince me they’ve cleaned up their act — I’ll be eating closer to the bottom of the food chain.

Sardines, it turns out, taste pretty good barbecued.

Taras Grescoe is the author of “Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood.”

The Cost of Food

From todays NY Times:

Yes, We Will Have No Bananas

Published: June 18, 2008

Los Angeles

Jacob MaGraw-Mickelson

ONCE you become accustomed to gas at $4 a gallon, brace yourself for the next shocking retail threshold: bananas reaching $1 a pound. At that price, Americans may stop thinking of bananas as a cheap staple, and then a strategy that has served the big banana companies for more than a century — enabling them to turn an exotic, tropical fruit into an everyday favorite — will begin to unravel.

The immediate reasons for the price increase are the rising cost of oil and reduced supply caused by floods in Ecuador, the world’s biggest banana exporter. But something larger is going on that will affect prices for years to come.

That bananas have long been the cheapest fruit at the grocery store is astonishing. They’re grown thousands of miles away, they must be transported in cooled containers and even then they survive no more than two weeks after they’re cut off the tree. Apples, in contrast, are typically grown within a few hundred miles of the store and keep for months in a basket out in the garage. Yet apples traditionally have cost at least twice as much per pound as bananas.

Americans eat as many bananas as apples and oranges combined, which is especially amazing when you consider that not so long ago, bananas were virtually unknown here. They became a staple only after the men who in the late 19th century founded the United Fruit Company (today’s Chiquita) figured out how to get bananas to American tables quickly — by clearing rainforest in Latin America, building railroads and communication networks and inventing refrigeration techniques to control ripening. The banana barons also marketed their product in ways that had never occurred to farmers or grocers before, by offering discount coupons, writing jingles and placing bananas in schoolbooks and on picture postcards. They even hired doctors to convince mothers that bananas were good for children.

Once bananas had become widely popular, the companies kept costs low by exercising iron-fisted control over the Latin American countries where the fruit was grown. Workers could not be allowed such basic rights as health care, decent wages or the right to congregate. (In 1929, Colombian troops shot down banana workers and their families who were gathered in a town square after church.) Governments could not be anything but utterly pliable. Over and over, banana companies, aided by the American military, intervened whenever there was a chance that any “banana republic” might end its cooperation. (In 1954, United Fruit helped arrange the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala.) Labor is still cheap in these countries, and growers still resort to heavy-handed tactics.

The final piece of the banana pricing equation is genetics. Unlike apple and orange growers, banana importers sell only a single variety of their fruit, the Cavendish. There are more than 1,000 varieties of bananas — most of them in Africa and Asia — but except for an occasional exotic, the Cavendish is the only banana we see in our markets. It is the only kind that is shipped and eaten everywhere from Beijing to Berlin, Moscow to Minneapolis.

By sticking to this single variety, the banana industry ensures that all the bananas in a shipment ripen at the same rate, creating huge economies of scale. The Cavendish is the fruit equivalent of a fast-food hamburger: efficient to produce, uniform in quality and universally affordable.

But there’s a difference between a banana and a Big Mac: The banana is a living organism. It can get sick, and since bananas all come from the same gene pool, a virulent enough malady could wipe out the world’s commercial banana crop in a matter of years.

This has happened before. Our great-grandparents grew up eating not the Cavendish but the Gros Michel banana, a variety that everyone agreed was tastier. But starting in the early 1900s, banana plantations were invaded by a fungus called Panama disease and vanished one by one. Forest would be cleared for new banana fields, and healthy fruit would grow there for a while, but eventually succumb.

By 1960, the Gros Michel was essentially extinct and the banana industry nearly bankrupt. It was saved at the last minute by the Cavendish, a Chinese variety that had been considered something close to junk: inferior in taste, easy to bruise (and therefore hard to ship) and too small to appeal to consumers. But it did resist the blight.

Over the past decade, however, a new, more virulent strain of Panama disease has begun to spread across the world, and this time the Cavendish is not immune. The fungus is expected to reach Latin America in 5 to 10 years, maybe 20. The big banana companies have been slow to finance efforts to find either a cure for the fungus or a banana that resists it. Nor has enough been done to aid efforts to diversify the world’s banana crop by preserving little-known varieties of the fruit that grow in Africa and Asia.

In recent years, American consumers have begun seeing the benefits — to health, to the economy and to the environment — of buying foods that are grown close to our homes. Getting used to life without bananas will take some adjustment. What other fruit can you slice onto your breakfast cereal?

But bananas have always been an emblem of a long-distance food chain. Perhaps it’s time we recognize bananas for what they are: an exotic fruit that, some day soon, may slip beyond our reach.

Dan Koeppel is the author of “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World.”

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bourdain NYC - Prune and the Spotted Pig

OK I'm on a bit of a roll here with Anthony Bourdain videos but this one is such a classic. A great New York food experience at two truly special restaurants. I always have great food at them.

Last time I ate at the Spotted Pig was with my friend Jane and while we were enjoying our lunch a Towne Car pulls up and out gets Phillipe Starck in what appeared to be very nice lavender silk pijamas. He just stopped in for a quick lunch.

Scott Bryan (who along with Eric Ripert are Bourdain's guests) is one of my favorite chefs.

Scott Bryan used to be the chef at Veritas which is one of my favorite rooms, intimate, elegant yet comfortable. You can get a $23 bottle or a $17,000 bottle and I love that.

Veritas Gregory Pugin is now at the stove. I can't wait to try his food.

Anyway, the video, you'll love it.

Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations, Foie Gras Not Cruel

I love Anthony Bourdain. Here he talks about a very touchy issue and goes to a local (from Manhattan) farm and checks out what the real deal is.

Why Black?

A few people (well my boyfriend Neil) wanted to know why I choose this format for my blog. He has a PC and I have a Mac. The type does look bigger on my Mac. He finds there to be a kind of movement with white letters on a black background that makes it hard to read.

I was told, or read, that white screens take more energy and it is more environmentally responsible and efficient if you use dark colors. I'm new to all this and so just choose a standard format that blogspot offered. I think the black background makes images pop out and I like using fun colors to highlight my ingredients in recipes.

Your comments on this are very welcome. It is, after all, a work in progress.

More Food Styling Pictures


Armando Raphael Moutela took these beautiful pictures.

I cooked an Indian potato casserole that had lots of cooked onions, spices and sour cream.

We played around with spices on beautiful plates with vivid Indian colored backgrounds.

I also made a Coriander chicken dish - l will follow up with the recipes soon.

Indian cooking is the best way I know to make vegetarian food and make it something really special. The depth of flavor, the subtleties of the spices, the wonderful buttery breads and the heat. I also love how long it takes to make Indian food, the process is so much a part of each dish. It's wonderful to have as a family meal (defining family as you see fit) where you get together early and all help peel, chop, grind, fry and drink wine while this labor intensive cuisine comes together. Then when everyone has gone home you realize that you've left overs for a week!

Truly I can't imagine a better way to spend a night, with friends and food, taking time to enjoy what is essential: love and nourishment. Much better then grabbing a slice quickly while on your way to drinks before you see a flick.

It's all about choices. OK enough of me going on, enjoy the pictures and I'll get back to you soon with a big Indian feast.

These are the type of hot pepper I was referring to in the Risotto recipe in my first post. They are called Arbol peppers and are readily available at most grocery stores in Chinatown. So when ever I say crush 2 dried chili peppers this is what I'm talking about. And of course hot pepper flakes work just as well - 1 pepper = approx. 1 t pepper flakes.

And they taste great in this Coriander Chicken dish:


With these potatoes on the side.

Fun with spices.




Local Farms

by Elizabeth Royte

Bobolink Dairy is about 50 miles northwest of New York City in rural Vernon, New Jersey. Owned by Jonathan and Nina White, it produces artisanal grass-fed cheese and wood-fired bread, plus whey-fed pork and suckled veal -- terms of art that make foodies drool. The Whites sell their products at their farm, through a Web site, and at greenmarkets. But like many savvy farmers these days, they also invite the public to visit the dairy. Agritourists can take an hour-long tour for $5, a five-hour cheese-making workshop for $50, or they can just stop by to pick up a few things for dinner. To my husband and me, cheese-making sounded like an excellent family outing. To our 8-year-old daughter, wary of anything that smells of lessons, it sounded like another sort of opportunity: "I want to milk a cow," Lucy said.

That we were visiting a farm for any reason was evidence of the growing movement to support local agriculture. Local is the new organic, goes the current dogma; buying local will save the family farm and benefit the environment too. But there are wrinkles in this movement. Recent studies show that how much energy is spent on the farm (heating greenhouses, for example), and how food travels (by truck or ship or train), can be just as important as how far it travels. And the pressures on small farmers are now so acute that simply buying their products may not be enough to keep them afloat.

Lucy didn't care about any of this, of course. She just liked scratching the poll of Brunhilda, a big brown Ayrshire, while three dirt-streaked women milked cows with vacuum hoses nearby. I looked around the dilapidated barn, and the lack of trim and polish seemed like a good sign. The Whites were too busy caring for cows to paint windowsills, or to get children set up to help with the milking. If they spent their time fussing over aesthetics, there might not be much to sell: Making cheese from grass is hard work. So far, Lucy seemed to be taking everything in stride.

In his tall rubber boots, Jonathan White leaned against a stanchion and offered a primer on the natural history of Bos taurus . The farm, he said, was breeding a short-legged black bull from Kerry, Ireland, with Guernseys, Jerseys, and Ayrshires to produce the Bobolink Black Grazer, "a new breed of cattle for the post-petroleum age." Tough and calm, the cows eat grass and, in the winter, hay. They live outside, which cuts down on illness; they don't know from growth hormone and antibiotics; and, most important, they've never tasted corn.

Cows didn't evolve to digest corn. The grain ferments in their gut, allowing dangerous strains of E. coli to thrive and causing illness that needs to be treated with drugs. Grass-fed cows are happier, and cutting corn from the equation means the Whites don't have to buy something grown and delivered using fossil fuel.

White himself is representative of a new breed, crossing the natural conservatism of those who work the land with the political ideals of a progressive activist. Except that White, 50, wasn't born to either bloodline. His father was a math teacher, his mother an editor. "I was an electrical and mechanical engineer," he said. Food was a hobby until 1993, when the children on a friend's farm decided they didn't like to drink goat's milk; suddenly there was a surplus. "I took the milk and started making cheese," he said. That same year, he gave up his day job. In 2001, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, White formed the Grasslands Cheese Consortium to share his experiences with other small dairy farmers. In 2002 he and his wife began leasing the Bobolink property.

After milking, the cows ambled outside to a creekside pasture, and Lucy and 11 adults -- the sort of people you'd expect to see on a wine tour -- stepped into the creamery. White donned a cap and let the morning's milk flow into a stainless steel vat. "Guess how much this cost?" he asked, referring to the white plastic shovel he was using to stir the milk. "A hundred and fifty dollars," he answered himself. Even Lucy knew that wasn't right, but this shovel was what the health department required. While he stirred, White talked.

Making cheese takes a lot of time, time that can be used to educate visitors about federal farm policy, which has historically subsidized commodity growers but done little for operations like his; about "nouvelle conventional" (White's term for watered-down organic standards); and about the avarice of middlemen who steal from producers and consumers alike. I can't say I didn't expect, or appreciate, this. Thanks to rising environmental awareness, eating has never been more political than it is now. A farmer without an opinion on government regulations and the power of the agricultural lobby is a farmer without a pulse.

After giving us a taste of the raw milk, White stirred in two quarts of whey, the watery stuff that had been separated from the curds during yesterday's cheese-making, raised the heat in the vat, and salted the rinds of four cheeses he'd formed the previous day. He turned a crank to tighten a valve ("that's an $1,800 valve") and stirred in rennet to start the curdling process. "Time to feed the pigs," White said, closing the vat and noting the time and temperature in a logbook. Everyone perked up considerably.

We followed a tractor toting three metal cans of today's whey to a small pasture. Dumping the thin yellow liquid into troughs, White said, "I'm growing prosciutto," and smiled at the jousting of the pink and black piglets.

It was a bucolic scene -- the lowing cows, the slurping pigs, a handful of chickens on the loose. But it had some latent tension. Producing food this way is expensive. At the farmers market, Bobolink's cheeses cost $20 a pound. After watching for more than an hour while White cut curds ("curd knife: $800"), strained them, and poured the slippery cubes into cylindrical molds, I could understand the labor intensity of artisanal cheese making. "But I don't want to feed only the hedge-fund manager," he said. "I want to bring the price down."

Even so, White contends that the cost is an illusion. "In the long run our cheese is cheaper," he said. A full accounting of externalities, White maintained, will eventually make his cheeses more economical for both consumers and the planet, relative to cheeses made from the milk of corn-fed cows: "The price of those cheeses will come up and ours will stay the same." Why? Because only 1.2 cents of each Bobolink dollar is spent on fuel, while 35 cents of the industrial-cheese dollar goes to fuel. Most dairy cows eat corn grown using petroleum-based fertilizers and harvested by diesel-burning machines. The Whites don't buy corn, and they fertilize their hay fields with manure. Most cheese-makers don't produce their own milk: They buy it and haul it from afar, burning even more fossil fuel. They refrigerate their cheese at 35 degrees, while the Whites keep theirs in an underground cave at its natural 55-degree temperature. When White brings his cheese to market, a round trip of 100 miles, he chills it with 12 reusable ice packs.

"After Hurricane Katrina," White said, "I overheard a greenmarket customer asking a farmer if the rising price of fuel would keep him from bringing his produce to market. 'If the price of fuel goes up,' said the farmer, 'I won't have any produce to sell.' "

At lunchtime, we sat under a maple, sampled cheeses, and devoured local strawberries and hot focaccia -- the dough, cheese, and prosciutto had been produced within a hundred feet of where we sat. Then White mentioned, almost in passing, that he was on the hunt for new land: His landlord had decided to sell the farm to a developer. This property would soon sprout McMansions.

But because today's group had put $550 in the Whites' pocket, as did groups nearly every summer weekend, and because we bought cheese in his farm store, White was feeling okay about finding new land. Educational programs like today's, plus a menu of other programs the Whites offer year-round, contribute significantly to the farm's income. "Add in the extended word-of-mouth sales growth, and our education programs are extremely profitable for the whole farm enterprise," he said. "And of course, environmental education is the ultimate political act. If you want to make paradigm-shifting foods, you have to be willing to be an educator."

Certainly the best way to support a local farm is to buy its products. But, White said, "if you bring your children to the farm and enlighten them, the support goes on." He paused, but only for a second. "You vote three times a day. You can vote at the drive-through window or you can vote at the farmers market."

After lunch, a few of us walked through the fields, waded the creek, and went looking for the farm's latest attraction, a two-day-old baby cow. But the mother wasn't in the mood to show off her calf, hidden in the cedars by the stream. That was okay with Lucy, who switched her attention to more gregarious baby cows. She hadn't milked a cow, but stroking the heads of appreciative calves, standing knee-deep in clover, may have been even better.

Get Thee to a Farm!
There are more than 380,000 family-owned farms in the United States, and they're competing with some 70,000 industrial-scale corporate farms. To support family farms, the group LocalHarvest has created the nation's most comprehensive directory of local and organic food growers and vendors. Go to http://www.localharvest.org/, type in your zip code, and get yourself to a family farm this fall.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Food. Work. Revolution.


One of the reasons I thought I would start a blog is because after cooking all my life I'm now trying to make food a career. I was always very reticent about taking something that I've loved so much as an avocation and turning it into work, my fear being that it would take something precious and ruin it by making it mandatory and mundane.

So far I'm pleased to report that isn't the case. I find every food-related job teaches me something new and improves my skills. I just wish there was more work, but that's where the blog comes in. It's pretty clear from the posts here so far that I have an impassioned view on the environment and food and how the two interrelate. I believe strongly that we need to radically change the way we live and eat. Food is not a commodity and corporations who make processed food "product" really only want our money and could care less the impact their products have on our bodies and planet.

It's funny to me how people perceive food and how it fits into their lives, how most of us have been totally co-opted into the idea its OK that we rarely have enough time to make something to eat for ourselves, that the invention of the frozen dinner was a gift from the Almighty, that microwaves are a miracle technology, and that living in a city has to be about alienation from nature.

"I'm so tired when I get home it's all I can do to throw something in the microwave" - a common refrain, no?

Well would we say the same about other necessary bodily functions like sex and bowel movements?

"I was just too tired to defecate – thank GOD for Depends!" Or...

"I told my wife that she had only 2 minutes to get me off because I was just too tired to be bothered procreating."

I don't think so. Maybe you see those as extreme examples but to my mind they aren't.

Sure, in the city we can always go out to eat when we just don't have it in us to cook, but the more you know and care about food the more you will realize, or at least the more I have realized, that very few places make food that I want to eat. Most of my favorite cheap and cheerful places in the East Village and on the Lower East near our apartment buy food that is the cheapest. It's a business and they want to make as much profit as they can and who can blame them? But the result, while often tasty enough, is still “cheap” in the worst ways as well as the best. So if you, like me, are increasingly (and painfully) aware of what goes into creating manufactured food - factory farmed meat, pesticide soaked, genetically altered vegetables, non-food poisons like trans-fats and high fructose corn syrup...you start to wonder if cheap and cheerful is really worth it.

I have started a campaign of questions. All the places I go to or have gone to on a regular basis I have started to ask the waitstaff if the chicken is free range, local, organic. I ask the same about eggs and dairy. Almost without exception I get looked at like I was crazy and they nod their heads "no" or say "I don't know" or "are you kidding?" and I order something vegetarian. Which is a drag because I love my chicken burrito. But I believe that in an aware cultural hub like Manhattan most people are savvy to the idea that they should be eating local and organic as much as they can. But if the option isn't there how can you order it?

The solution isn't to just go to the one or two places that specializes in this kind of healthy eating; the solution is to have a broad based diverse selection of restaurants that are all making an effort – which is so not happening at this point. Sure places like Cafe Orlin (nymag.com/listings/restaurant/cafe-orlin/) use organic eggs and sometimes have an organic chicken dish on special. This is wonderful, but how about dairy? And why is the organic chicken only ever a special?

The fact that when they do offer it, it's only $12 makes one also ask: if Cafe Orlin can afford to sell a delicious organic chicken dinner for $12, why can't other restaurants? And what if it cost $14 or even $16? If it was offered I believe enough people would order it to make it worthwhile, but it has to be offered.

Take oatmeal for example, what a cheap organic easily accessible grain. Yet how many places offer it for brunch? With some local yogurt and maybe some preserves they made last season when peaches where so sweet and flavorful?

Do we have to wait for some huge catastrophe to happen before we wake up to the reality that each and every one of us can, as individuals, make a difference? If we all were asking our local diners and burrito places why they don't have some local or organic food options on their menus maybe they would start listening, but they can only do this if we all join in this revolution of questions and start sending letters and chatting with managers and waitstaff and making it clear that their patrons want this change and that it would be in their best interest to make a change. The time is now. We can't wait and be complicit in the further destruction of our food and of our planet.

So please, speak up!

Oh and the image at the top of the post has very little to do with the post except it is a picture of a revolution, one that we need to all support and that is to Free Burma. For more information check out: burmaitcantwait.com/burmaitcantwait/

Pictures

Over the last couple of months I have been doing testings with photographers in order to get a food book together to send out to editors for work, I thought I would share some of them with you. These images were taken by Naomi McColloch a young, talented, Korean photographer.

This first image is of a piece of amazing farmstead cheese from my favorite cheesemongers Ann and Benoit at Saxelby cheese in the Essex street market, saxelbycheese.com and essexstreetmarket.com respectively. The chutney is a spicy Indian style mango chutney I made (I love chutney!)



This is one of my favorite ever tarts, it's from a recipe by Francois Payard, it's called Coco Mami and is a simple pineapple and coconut tart that is soooooo delicious!


Home made hazelnut praline ice cream with candied orange peel.

You might be wondering how oranges fit into my "local" philosophy. I will address this at length later but suffice to say there are always exceptions!



Friday, June 13, 2008

Food Safety

From Tom Paine - a great newsletter (tompaine.com) I get sent every day, very worth checking out. Just another example of how criminally irresponsible the Bush administration has been in taking care of the American people. God forbid that the elected government should actually care about something other then getting their friends and themselves rich off the backs of the average person who has been lulled into believing that the food we eat is safe and that the Government and it's agencies are doing the work they need to. What a joke. But I suppose the 228 people who got sick and the one who died aren't laughing very hard.

Behind the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Isaiah J. Poole's picture
CAF STAFF

What we've been calling e. coli conservatism is a major factor in the salmonella outbreak in tomatoes that has led to at least 228 illnesses and one suspected death.

The outbreak took place several months after the Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for policing the produce supply, released its "food protection plan" that was, in the words of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt, "a strategy of prevention, intervention and response to build safety into every step of the food supply chain."

That plan was a response to a series of food-borne illness outbreaks, from tainted dog food to infected spinach, that revealed the weaknesses in the administration's laissez-faire approach to food safety and its chronic starvation of the government agencies that regulate food safety.

But in the eight months since that announcement, we learned Thursday from the Government Accountability Office, the FDA has dragged its feet:

Since FDA’s Food Protection Plan was first released in November 2007, FDA has added few details on the resources and strategies required to implement the plan. FDA plans to spend about $90 million over fiscal years 2008 and 2009 to implement several key actions, such as identifying food vulnerabilities and risk. From the information GAO has obtained on the Food Protection Plan, however, it is unclear what FDA’s overall resource need is for implementing the plan, which could be significant. For example, based on FDA estimates, if FDA were to inspect each of the approximately 65,500 domestic food firms regulated by FDA once, the total cost would be approximately $524 million.

The GAO also noted that of 34 recommendations that the office offered to the FDA to improve its food safety inspection program since 2004, the agency has only implemented seven of them.

The Food Protection Plan is itself a mix of lofty promises and suspect strategies. One element of the plan, for example, would allow the FDA to designate third parties, including private contractors, to inspect food on the FDA's behalf. That is a pander to conservative anti-government orthodoxy; there is no evidence that outsourcing food inspection to private contractors would work better than an effectively managed and adequately funded government program, and there is plenty of reason to suspect that a private contractor would be more susceptible to corruption and less accountable to the public.

All of which suggests that the Bush administration wants to appear as if it is concerned about food safety, but doesn't want government to do the hard work of actually protecting the food supply. To the extent that it does, it does so kicking and screaming in response to political pressure.

Meanwhile, an article on Time magazine's website Thursday notes that a victim of the salmonella-tainted tomatoes was identified as early as April 16, but the FDA did not announce that there was a problem until June 3. The article points to some factors — many salmonella victims may not have reported their symptoms, and to this date no one has actually gotten their hands on a confirmed salmonella-tainted tomato.

Still, the increasingly convoluted food chain that a tomato passes through from the vine it grows on to its place in your meal would seem to argue for a more robust inspection system. But, in fact, from 2001 and 2007, as the number of domestic firms under FDA’s jurisdiction increased from about 51,000 to more than 65,500, the number of firms inspected declined slightly, from 14,721 to 14,566. That reflects the fact that the Bush administration has not given the FDA the resources it needs to do its job.

What's needed is not just more money but a complete overhaul of our Rube Goldberg-system of food safety. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., have introduced legislation intended to simplify the food inspection process. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy organization focusing on issues of food and science, rated their Safe Food Act the most comprehensive “pending food safety legislation.” This bill would:

  • Transfer all food safety activities to a newly created Food Safety Administration; an agency that would replace eight agencies’ food inspection services.
  • Establish a certification system for importers of food to the United States.
  • Create requirements for tracing food and food producing animals from point of origin to retail sale.
  • Provide the Food Safety Administration with tools to enforce administrative detention, condemnation, temporary holds, recalls (of which is currently voluntary for the food industry), civil and criminal penalties for violations of food safety laws, whistleblower protection, and civil actions.

Most importantly, the attack of the killer tomatoes is another opportunity to to put e. coli conservatism on trial and hold its practitioners and true believers on the campaign trail accountable for the casualties of their ideology.

Greenhouse Gases from Food

This is an article from The American Prospect that I thought was very interesting. Here's the link:


www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=06&year=2008&base_name=its_the_food_stupid

Below is the article that I cut and paste.

IT'S THE FOOD, STUPID.

foodmiles.jpgThere's been a lot of talk lately about the carbon footprint of shipped food. And with good reason. The average American household burns through about 8.1 metric tons of greenhouse gases as a result of food consumption. By contrast, if your house has a car that gets 25 mpg and you drive 12,000 miles a year, that produces 4.4 metric tons of greenhouse gases.

The line, then, is that the prudent environmentalist will eat local in order to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Intuitively, that makes a lot of sense. Bananas shipped from Brazil can't be good for the environment. But two Carnegie Mellon researchers recently broke down the carbon footprint of foods, and their findings were a bit surprising. 83 percent of emissions came from the growth and production of the food itself. Only 11 percent came from transportation, and even then, only 4 percent came from the transportation between grower and seller (which is the part that eating local helps cut). Additionally, food shipped from far off may be better for the environment than food shipped within the country -- ocean travel is much more efficient than trucking.

As Brad Plumer writes, the striking takeaway is that "on average, replacing just 21 percent of the red meat in the 'typical' diet with fish or chicken does as much, emissions-wise, as buying everything in that same diet locally." That's not, of course, an argument against eating locally. Taste, farming practices, sustainability, and much else point towards local consumption. But buying locally raised meats doesn't get you off the environmental hook. If you're worried about global warming, changing what you eat is far more important than monitoring where it's produced.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Radish Salad and Toronto

I've been away in Toronto. So sorry that there has been a week bereft of posts, I will try to make up for that in the coming days. Toronto has some wonderful food, but "organic" and "local" still seem to be the phrases of more upscale eateries. I was also surprised that within the city bike paths where not to be seen, and they also seem to be lagging behind on the bring your own bag and let's stop with the plastic already...just my off the cuff observations lots more later - I'm having a dinner party and need to go cook.

Radishes! Are fab and in season right now. Here's a super simple recipe that I got from the wonderful folks who publish Diner Journal (Diner and Marlowe and Sons are two sister restaurants in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that are very much worth the trip to check out):

Cut up a few bunches (2 ish) of local radishes (use a variety of types if they are available) rinse in cold water and cut off the tops, trim and cut into quarters (smaller ones just keep whole). Arrange on what ever you want to serve them in - low flat European style soup bowl works nicely. Sprinkle with a generous amount of local, goat milk feta (about 1/2 a cup) drizzle some really good olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, ground black pepper and sea salt (Maldon) then tear up a handful of mint leaves and incorporate at the last minute. Simple and wonderful.





Thursday, June 5, 2008

Michael Pollan TED talk

I love the TED site (ted.com), so many interesting talks on a vast array of topics. Here is my hero Michael Pollan talking about farming and food.



The Politics of Food Part 2

The article below is from today's NY Times. The Bush administration sends representatives to defend Monsanto and further promote the idea that biofuels are the future when it is already clear that they are too costly to produce. Sometimes I think Monsanto owns this administration. Wouldn't it be wonderful if an organic heirloom seed company had that much power and sway? OK well a boy can dream...sad to think people are starving while these idiots ponder profits.


The Politics of Food

Leaders Speak of Their Own Issues at a Conference Addressing Food Shortages

Published: June 5, 2008

ROME — It was supposed to be an emergency conference on food shortages, climate change and energy. At the opening ceremony, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, noted that there were nearly one billion people short of food, and he called upon countries gathered here to act with “a sense of purpose and mission.”

A worker in Brazil cutting sugar cane, which the country uses to make ethanol. Competition between the United States and Brazil on ethanol was a point of contention at a conference on food.

But when the microphone was turned on for the powerful politicians who had flown in from all over the world, they spoke mostly about economic issues in their own countries and political priorities.

The United States’ agriculture secretary, Ed Schafer, talked about the benefits of biofuels and genetically modified crops. Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, spoke for half an hour about how Brazilian biofuels were superior to American ones. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, talked about the need to inject religion into food politics.

Everyone complained about other people’s protectionism — and defended their own.

Food experts on Wednesday, as well as many representatives from poor countries, wondered whether these divided forces could add up to any kind of solution to a global conundrum: how to feed one billion hungry people.

“What is the common denominator here? It is a food crisis,” said Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Congo Republic. “That is the immediate problem for us.”

A “green revolution” about three decades ago brought vastly increased output to agriculture in much of the world, with improved agricultural techniques and fertilizers. But it did little to improve agriculture in some of the poorest parts of the world, particularly Africa, where harvests have remained stagnant under the pressures of neglect, political unrest and, now, climate change.

But in the industrialized world, farming became more of a regulated business. Farm entitlements became so entrenched that repeated efforts at reform, even in the face of soaring crop prices, have fallen flat, as evidenced by the inability to reach agreement on farming disputes at the World Trade Organization.

Against this backdrop, the food emergency has done little to prompt a consensus on a new approach that might make the world agricultural system more responsive to global food demand. There has been plenty of argument since the conference opened Tuesday over whether shortages and high prices were caused by the rush to biofuels, protective tariffs, the soaring price of oil, distorting subsidies or a market failure. But the issues appear too complex, and too heavily freighted with politics, to be addressed soon.

Robert B. Zoellick, president of the World Bank, said money was crucial to solving the short-term need for food aid to feed the world’s hungry. But he said preventing food crises would require more difficult policy changes.

In the meantime, many representatives from poorer countries expressed frustration at the tenor of the meeting. “We believe the problem is much more political than everything else,” said Walter Poveda Ricaurte, agriculture minister of Ecuador. “We have to differentiate between the countries who are really affected by the food crisis and those who are seeing it as an economic opportunity.”

He said that when food prices were low, in recent decades, Ecuador had stopped producing its own wheat, corn and soy — favoring cheap imports instead. Now that prices of these commodities have doubled in the past year, the country can no longer afford them, he said.

The conference has raised money for emergency relief. The Islamic Development Bank pledged $1.5 million on Wednesday. Mr. Ban estimated that $15 billion to $20 billion was needed to help resolve the food crisis.

But there was little sign that the economic and political disputes that often took center stage here resulted in new compromises.

Mr. da Silva attacked the “absurdly protectionist farm policies in rich countries,” a clear reference to the United States, which protects its own corn ethanol from competition with Brazilian ethanol, made from sugar cane.

American delegates attacked barriers to trade in poorer countries as well as in the European Union. China, which has not invested heavily in biofuels, said that “grain-based biofuels has driven up grain utilization and has potential to trigger more far reaching problems.”

Officials at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which sponsored the meeting, were sanguine about the results. “Sometimes I think the discussion is not focused on the need of countries and poor people,” said José Maria Sumpsi, assistant director general of the organization. “But you have to take into account that you are hearing the positions of the governments — defending their political views — which is different from whether they will fund immediate action.”

The conference was preparing to issue its concluding statement on Thursday, and delegates said the wording of the section on biofuels was a point of contention. The United States said only 2 to 3 percent of the global increase in food prices was attributable to competition from biofuels. But other countries put the figure far higher.

A draft copy of the resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, calls for urgent action to address the problems associated with higher food prices, for increased food production, fewer trade restrictions and increased research in agriculture. It also calls for more research on biofuels, sidestepping what has become the most contentious issue of the conference.

“I doubt there will be a positive agreement on biofuels” from the conference, said Mr. Schafer, the American agriculture secretary, though he indicated that some “acceptable” language would be in the meeting’s final document.

There has also been only limited discussion about developing a new kind of aid program that most experts agree is needed: one that invests in developing agriculture in poor countries and that spends less money in shipping food halfway around the world to feed hungry people.

“The era of food aid is over — there is no more sending food from America to Africa,” Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary general, said in an interview. Instead, he said, donors need to do more to improve agricultural practices in Africa and Asia, with donations of tools, fertilizers, seeds, silos and knowledge.

Officials from many major donor countries said they had been rethinking food aid policies — if only because food prices were now so high and transport was becoming increasingly costly.

Henrietta H. Fore, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, said that transport costs were now soaking up 50 percent of its food aid money, and that the rising prices of commodities like oil were “eating away at our purchasing power.”

In the past, the program was heavily weighted toward sending food abroad, and it required that its aid be purchased in the United States and shipped on American vessels.

She said that in a bill now before Congress, 25 percent of food in a new $350 million aid package could be purchased overseas. But that has not been approved yet.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Posh Nosh - Comfort Food (Episode 8)

so funny...

New York Green Market Watch

At the moment there are several vendors still selling last Autumn’s apples (Mutsu and Winesap winter best), but I’ve overdosed on apples after a long winter of them. I saw strawberries from a farmer from South Jersey about a week or so ago but this Saturday there were none. The best seasonal food so far is rhubarb, ramps, asparagus and some spring garlic (Keith’s organics has baby racombole – so sweet and tasty, lovely in a simple stir fry or in a risotto or instead of scallions in scallion pancakes!) Nettles and a few other early leafy greens are to be seen but I think in the next few weeks we should see a real explosion at the market. Once I get a new camera I promise lots more pictures.

I love sour and there is almost no better sour fruit in my mind then rhubarb (sour cherries being my most favorite). So who needs strawberries anyway? Rhubarb seems to always be playing second fiddle to strawberries and I think it’s time to let rhubarb bask in its own singular glory. At the same time that you are shopping for asparagus to make your risotto from yesterdays post you might as well pick up some rhubarb for dessert.

Rhubarb Crumble

Chop 4 cups of rhubarb into roughly 1” sections, add 3/4 c-1 ½ cups sugar* -(I like it sour so I use less, but this is a good range – try a cup and then vary it as you see fit) and 2 T unbleached all purpose flour and toss it together until the rhubarb is well coated, put into whatever baking dish you want to use (it should be able to accommodate 2 quarts). Place 1 cup walnuts (or pecans or even almonds in a pinch) in a food processor and process until it is ground but still has a few chunks of nut to give it texture. Add 1-cup whole-wheat flour, 8 T raw cane sugar (like Demarrara or 6 T brown sugar and 2 T white sugar), 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t salt and mix, using your hands incorporate 12 T unsalted butter a few tablespoons at a time. This mixture is very moist. Spread it over the rhubarb and bake in the middle of a 375° oven for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling and thick around the sides. I love to serve this with unsweetened whipped cream or with a few tablespoons of crème fraiche – go ahead and add some sugar if you like it sweeter and, depending on how sour the crumble, this might be a good tack for those at your table who prefer their crumble sweeter.

*From an urban local/organic guy who wants to maximize the amount of farmer grown produce, I would be inclined as a New Yorker to want to make this dish with maple sugar and maple syrup – but that would produce a much more expensive dish. As an experiment this weekend I will buy local maple sugar and syrup and make this dish again and see how much more expensive it will be. For now I use cane sugar, trying to avoid the stuff from Florida, which, from what I understand, is a bad place to grow sugar cane and the result is that even though it’s labeled “organic” (under the Bush administration this term and the USDA’s logo on a product don’t mean as much as they used to), I still have concerns about the methods of farming used and the impact on the environment.
Brown sugar as much as I love it seems to be a pretty stupid idea. Let’s take refined, bleached, processed sugar and then add back the good stuff we stripped away. Why not just forgo brown sugar and refined sugar all together and use raw, organic, unprocessed, sugar? The result can some times be more rustic, but it’s never failed me and if you want a finer texture pulse it a few times in the food processor – this way you can have one bag of sugar that serves two purposes. Also, buy local butter. A good resource in Manhattan is Saxelbycheese.com. Ann and Benoit are dairy geniuses and have a wonderful selection of local cheeses, not to mention cream, milk, eggs and yes, butter!

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 www.lundberg.com
(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.

Heat
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.

finely
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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