Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Can't Have It All -- OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO!!!

I'm just following instructions.

We went and saw Jay perform a little while ago at Baruch College, thanks to our friends Philip and John who invited us.

He was in John Cameron Mitchell's wonderful movie Short Bus. He's very talented, has a sweet voice, is damn cute and I love that in 2009 there can be a recording artist who doesn't feel the need to be gender neutral and closeted. I also think that it doesn't matter a good song well sung will have universal appeal.

Consider this my digression of the day.

Cheese and Crackers

Our friends Debbie and David came over on Saturday and to start the night out right we open a nice bottle of Tempranillo and had some home made crackers and a selection of fine local cheese from where else? Why Saxelby Cheese of course!

Pasteurized Goats Milk with Jersey cream
Nettle Meadow Farm


Raw Goat and Cows Milk
Seal Cove Farm

Tomme de Brebis
Sheeps's Milk
Hope Farms

Cracker Recipe

I encourage great experimentation with this super easy recipe. Try all sorts of flours and mix and match. For example, add a 1/2 cup of corn meal to 1 1/2 cups bread flour or all purpose. Try different kinds of toppings, just be creative, it's a no fail, easy recipe and so much nicer then store bought. This recipe will make enough for two sheet pans worth.

Pre-heat the oven to 400. Line two cookie sheets with unbleached parchment paper.

In a bowl add 2 cups of flour (bread flour has more protein in it so it will make them crunchier, pastry flour has less protein so it will make them softer and all purpose will make them some where in between, I used all purpose)and 1 t of salt.

Add 8 T butter and incorporate with your fingers until the mixture resembles a course meal. Then gradually stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. The mixture should resemble a pie dough.

Roll out the dough on a lightly flour surface until as thin as you want 1/4" or so. Place the rolled dough on the parchment paper and lightly coat with olive oil. Sprinkle with Malddon salt (or any salt really, Malddon is really salty and comes in nice flakes, but sea salt would work just as well). You can add any variation of toppings, fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme, grated black pepper, sesame, flax or poppy seeds, finely grated Parmesan cheese or, or, or....knock yourself out!
These can be scored with a knife or pastry wheel or pizza wheel or you can just break them up after they are cooked, up to you.

Bake in the over for about 17 minutes or until brown and as crispy as you want. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes before breaking them up and serving them.

Also don't forget that a cheese and crackers course is a great opportunity to serve your home made pickles, relishes and chutney's. Add a bowl of soup and a salad and you have a wonderful, easy meal that will seem far fancier and more complicated that it actually is.

Do as I say not as I do

Please excuse my grumpiness.

I just saw a headline that said Al Gore ignores earth hour. Hold on to your chairs the world is about to end! Al Gore is my hero, and this post has nothing to do with him except it is in the spirit of setting an example that has put me in this state this morning.

last week I wrote about how Mark Bittman had a video/article on ramen made with ketchup. Predictably I wrote about how if you want to use ketchup you should point out the genetically modified nature of high fructose corn syrup. I wrote a comment on his blog and when I checked last night I see that only positive comments are posted on his blog and there is an editors note say that the "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive." Apparently being annoyed is abusive over at the Times, you can only mention any criticism couched in a lovely pillow of Bittman adoration, so the only one comment that mentioned high fructose corn syrup was this one posted by Marya:

But this, this I wouldn’t eat with his mouth. Why in heaven’s name would I want to eat ketchup? Yuk, yuk, yuk. How about reconfiguring the recipe to include a quarter cup of Miso instead? What do you mean you don’t have miso? I’m supposed to have ketchup and you don’t have miso? Get some, it’s tasty good for you and you can use it 25 different ways.

Who was then gently scolded a few posts down by Susanne:

Now, now - no ketchup snobbery please! Miso is great, but it’s an entirely different beastie. Didn’t Reagan make ketchup an official vegetable? Hilarious. Mark did say you could use tomato paste and sugar if you wanted. I have a nice bottle of Muir Glen ketchup (I’m a total no-corn-syrup-please snob) I made this broth the other day and added the step of sauteing a bit of garlic and ginger at the beginning. I also threw in some bean sprouts at the end. Delish!

Maybe I'm just a crotchety, unemployed, middle aged man, maybe I shouldn't even bother with this, but if you are going to write a book telling us what to eat like Mr. Bittman has in his:
Food Matters: A guide to conscious eating then don't turn around and write a recipe extolling the virtues of ketchup and not mention that in Heinz ketchup, the brand leader, when you look at the ingredients it contains not only high fructose corn syrup, but also regular old corn syrup. That's not conscious eating that's eating with your head stuck so far up your ass it's too dark to read the ingredients label eating.

And while I'm on the topic, the New York Times has just had to lease out most of their building
and have laid off hundreds of employees, people are talking about the death of the newspaper, maybe if they encouraged actual debate and freedom of speech in their comments section more people would be inclined to go there and engage them, instead of stifling the first amendment rights of it's readers by preventing comments it doesn't like from being published. It's not like I insulted anyone I just simply asked why he would not make a point of being conscious about what choices you make when buying certain products? Is that unreasonable? Is that abusive? Apparently at the Times it is.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

California Academy of Science

sorry these are so small just a little something to wet your appetite

This is my new all time favorite building. I want to move in. More to the point I want developers (never known for there foresight or compassion) to start making buildings like this in urban centers (NYC please) as living centers not just a place to visit. Imagine if the roof was a farm?

After you have explored the building don't forget to check out the Penguin Cams!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama Food Blog

In researching the post below I came across this blog Obama Foodorama.

All I can say is some people must have a lot of time on their hands! It is good that people are interested in what is going on in the White House foodwise and that we now have a great resource for satisfying our curiosity about what the Obama's are having for dinner.

Michelle Obama's Victory Garden

This is old news, but I felt it important to make mention and applaud the Obamas for planting a victory garden at the White House. It's hard to believe it's taken so long for a first family to do this. The only time was Eleanor Roosevelt in 1934.

The first article I found today in my search for more information on the garden was from a UK paper the Guardian, which is where I got the above picture. They talk about how Alice Waters tried to get the Clintons to do this. Her response to it finally happening was joyous and she is quoted as saying: "that everyone can grow a garden and have free food."

Sounds good, right? I mean even people without jobs like me can muster up a few bucks for seeds and find a community garden and eat the benefits all Summer long (and longer if you make some pickles or jam or...). But then they include this quote from someone who, until now, I have always greatly respected and whose videos I have highlighted here on this blog, Anthony Bourdain, who had this vile and evil comment to make:

Chef and writer Anthony Bourdain, who penned Kitchen Confidential, caused a stir in January when he said: "We're all in the middle of a recession. Like we're all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic."

Khmer Rouge? He compares Alice Waters wanting poor and working class people to be able to feed themselves to the Khmer Rouge? Wow, that is one of the most extraordinarily, hyperbolic and offensive things I've read in my life. Really offensive.

Here's how I break it down. He's saying organic food and green market food is more expensive. OK, well certainly corporate organic food from California is, but not so much more expensive, and then there is the health aspect to buying organic, it's more nutritious, and the more popular it gets the more competitively priced it gets. On a recent tour of my favorite shops in Chinatown I saw a huge box of organic cherry tomatoes that were a buck a pound, I challenge Mr. Bourdain to find me radioactive, imported, genetically altered tomatoes at a better price.

What is he saying? That poor people should eat high fructose corn syrup because it's cheap? That we should shop for food at 99 cent stores and only eat processed food past it's expiration date? And as for dissing green markets, obviously it's been a long time since he has been to one here in New York City. I have no money and have been unemployed for 9 months, in the peak of Summer if you go to any Green Market in the city at the end of the day most vendors have dollar bags filled with tomatoes, potatoes, onions, zucchini, summer squash, apples and the list goes on and on. Oh and, while we are on it, most vendors at the Green Market accept FOOD STAMPS.


To compare Alice Waters to the Khmer Rouge, a radical Maoist movement in Cambodia from 1975-1979 who killed 1.7 million of it's own people, emptying the urban centers, killing everyone with an education and forcing the rest to farm rice so that they could sell it to the Chinese for arms thereby creating one of the worst famines in history makes my blood boil. I've totally lost my taste for Mr. Bourdain who apparently is not only so starved for attention he will say anything, but also woefully ignorant of history.

Oh and did anyone tell you that Mr. Bourdain is in his own right a millionaire with a TV show and he used to be the chef at Les Halles, a fancy, expensive steak restaurant? Yeah right, how do you spell hypocrite? So you see he's really concerned about feeding poor people. As my mother used to say when she got really angry: "I'm so angry I could spit!"

I'm not sure why spitting is such a perfect physicalization of anger, but I still like the phrase.

OK now to end on a more upbeat note. Thanks Michelle for teaching our children about how food is grown, and setting an example for all parents by teaching the next generation the value of home grown vegetables and fruits and how no matter what the economic situation, we can all have a hand in eating healthier, smarter and more self sufficiently. The perfect thing to do in a recession.

Burger Grease Art

The only real good use for a fast food burger. Poor dog, I hope he didn't get sick.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mark Bittman calls Ketchup a real Ingredient

In today's New York Times Mark Bittman makes a version of Ramen with Ketchup.

The following are my thoughts on this.

OK sure you want to make a cheap, quick, easy recipe with things you have around the house. Maybe it's semantics, but I don't think condiments are "real ingredients", I think they are, um, well, condiments. Real ingredients to me are scallions, which he does use as a last minute garnish, and the noodles. He points out that often there is no egg in the egg noodles it's usually just coloring, wouldn't it maybe be a good idea for him to say: "try and find noodles with real ingredients in them, not just food coloring?"

Or offer an option?

One person in the comments section says she replaces them with soba, which I think is a great idea and they are easy to find in healthy version i.e. organic.

Don't get me wrong I like Mark Bittman I just think he wasn't thinking on this one. Or I am crazy and obsessed, but I see no reason to promote food products that are knowingly bad for you. If, indeed we are having a food revolution as the Times just last week talked about how is it that they are still telling people with authority to use ketchup without saying: "buy the organic one made with cane sugar." I mean how hard can that be? Yet again and again it happens. We get all up everyone's butt about buying local and doing all these other potentially esoteric things yet some thing really simple and basic like encouraging the general public to use a good ingredient like tomato past, which to his credit he mentions in the text of the article, but not in the video. Why he even include the ketchup? Why not just use a real ingredient like tomato paste or a small can of crushed tomatoes? I don't get it, we need to change the way we eat and think about food, not coddle people into think that it's still OK to use the same old bad condiments and expect a different result.

Here's what I wrote the Times:

In Mark Bittman's video, "Egg Noodles in Soy Broth", he claims to make ramen with "real" ingredients. In reality he uses conventional ketchup and fails to mention that this condiment in it's non-organic version contains high fructose corn syrup which is genetically modified. It's easy to chart the sharp upward trend in obesity and diabetes in this country to Nixon's corn subsidies and the coinciding laboratory discovery of how to make high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup has devastating affects on our health. The impact of genetically modified crops of all kinds have proven to have disastrous effects on our planet. To have the New York Times food guy centering a dish around such a non-food, one that has created an epidemic of obesity, is irresponsible and dangerously misleading.

Fun Happy Cows

A recent study shows that cows who are treated well and given names produce more milk.

Where the Wild Things Are Trailer Teaser March 25 2009

It's hard to remember, but I think I've been waiting for this since I was 10.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Arrest yourself for Aung San Suu Kyi

The US campaign for Burma has set up this really great fund raiser, awareness, education campaign to get people to commit to putting themselves under house arrest for 24 hours. During that time they are asking you to have a party to raise money and awareness about the plight of the Burmese people and their democratically elected Nobel Peace Prize winner leader who has been under house arrest for 13 of the last 19 years.

Watch the video and for more information: uscampaignforburma.org/arrestyourself2009

Just when you thought you'd seen it all

Yes that is bacon, on top off chocolate ganache, on top of a maple cupcake.

This image is courtesy of the Tasting Table newsletter that I get daily, here is their run down on the new national trend of bacon cupcakes:

At Buzz bakery in Alexandria, Virginia, pastry chef Josh Short flavors chocolate cupcakes with applewood-smoked bacon ($2.75). "These are my two favorite flavors, so I'm often looking for a way to combine them; the smokiness of the bacon goes very well with the earthiness of the chocolate cake," he says.

In Boulder, Colorado, Tee & Cakes serves up a maple-flavored cupcake (pictured) topped with chocolate ganache and a hefty pile of chopped bacon ($2.65). And in Chicago, More Cupcakes owner Patty Rothman has gone hog wild with five sweet-savory treats ($4.50 each), including a BLT cupcake topped with ranch-flavored frosting, heirloom tomatoes and microgreens, and a potato cupcake topped with sour-cream frosting, chives and bacon crumbles.

Can't wait for a taste? Chicago's Bleeding Heart Bakery will send you its bacon-and-peanut-butter cupcakes ($3.25 each, plus shipping). We hear they're great with bacon-flavored coffee.

A lot of young, smart, chefs are using free range bacon and all sorts of pork in everything these days. Niman ranch seems to be the most popular for NYC restaurants (my anecdotal take on it). They treat the animals well and produce a very tasty, humanely raised, pork product.

It kind of makes sense after years of only seeing bacon in thin slices vacu-packed in plastic that this new high quality pork is making people rejoice. I love a good thick cut, maple smoked, slice of bacon just as much as everyone else, but I don't feel the need to add it to my salad and my chocolate cake. The thing is, or at least my thing is, why is it we have to go whole hog (yes, I'm the Shecky Greene of food writers) with this new product? Do we really need pork or beef suet or any other animal product in our postre?

Butter and eggs taste great and no one has to die for us to get them. Don't get me wrong I have no problem with eating animals, I just think we need to be responsible in how much we eat. I also think as I have said before that if you are going to kill an animal all of it should be used. So while I have a personal problem with beef suet pastry I commend the butcher/baker who is making use of the whole animal.

My point is that now, in all the trendy, sustainable, organic, local eateries (and many others that don't fit those categories) it seems to me the locavores are over indulging they inner carnivore. And maybe resturants are just giving their customers what they want?

Menus these days don't just leave the meat for the entre, it's in everything. Yesterday I saw a menu that had four vegetable side dishes, two were made with meat in them. And the most austere item on the menu is always the veggie option. Even with fish you have to be careful they haven't stuffed it with lardon.

My point here is pretty simple. It's great that we now have multiple sources of responsibly farmed local meat, but do we need to over indulge ourselves in it? The guidelines for a healthy diet for both people and the planet is that we eat meat maybe 3 - 5 times a week. The farming of cows is a significant contributor to global warming.

So if you choose to put that meat on a cupcake you go for it, but otherwise would you please leave the greens alone so my non-meat eating friends can eat out as well? It really isn't so hard to make tasty food that doesn't have animals in it.

Just because it's available doesn't mean we have to pig out on it! ;-)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bear Pole Dance

Salmon Cakes

When I was a kid my favorite sandwich was salmon salad on whole wheat. I used to put sweet pickle juice and mayonnaise in it. Yummy! As an adult I have recently rediscovered canned wild caught salmon because it's cheap and delicious and, now I find out, is also a very good choice for those of us concerned about what fish are left that are still OK to eat. The fish chart I posted on this blog a couple of weeks ago lists it as a good choice from an environmental point of view. So, in these tough economic times it's great for multiple reasons! The brand above is the one I usually get and it retails for $2.59 at one of my local grocery stores.

In addition to delicious sandwiches, it's great for a baked pasta casserole, but my favorite thing to make with canned wild caught salmon is salmon cakes. These are easy and can be made in advance and fried up when you want. With some homemade, blender, tarragon mayo and a salad this is a fine meal and certainly one you could make to impress your friends. They don't have to know how easy and inexpensive it is!

Salmon Cakes

Drain, remove skin and bones from two cans of salmon, you want about a pound or so of salmon. An average can is 14 ounces, but once you remove everything, I think it's best to have a little more salmon then a little less. Place in bowl and set aside.

Boil two medium/large potatoes (red skinned are my favorite, they tend to be smaller so if you use them it will be more like 3-4) about 1/2 pound, until they are tender, drain the water and put the potatoes back in the pot and cover, shake for about for 20 seconds to make sure the potatoes are thoroughly dried. When cool enough to touch peel and either mash or pass through a ricer. You want the potatoes to have a nice even consistency.

Add 1 T of butter to the potato mixture, grate about 1/4 t of fresh nutmeg or to taste along with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper to taste. Always taste everything all the time as you go along so there are no surprises at the end.

Chop two medium onions and saute in two tablespoons of butter for about 8 minutes, the onions should be translucent but not brown. Place in bowl and let cool.

Chop finely 3/4 cup flat parsley (I prefer flat leaf, but in reality it makes no difference) and 1 or 2 T of fresh dill (I like strong flavors so I use herbs generously, again if you are unsure use one and in the final mixture you feel it needs more add more) place in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl incorporate prepared salmon, potato mixture, sauteed onions and herb mixture, add 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk and mix well. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least an hour. This mixture needs to be chilled otherwise it's too soft to make the cakes with.

When ready to form the cakes, before you take the salmon mixture out of the fridge, set up three bowls. In one, place 2 eggs beaten lightly, in another place about a cup or more of flour (I like whole wheat but all purpose is fine) for dredging and in the third bowl 2 cups of bread crumbs (if you want to be fancy you can use Panko, Japanese bread crumbs).

Take the salmon mixture out of the fridge, use a tablespoon measure and roll each into a ball, the cakes will flatten as you go through the process.

First dredge in flour, then dip in egg, then roll in bread crumbs, place finished cakes on a baking sheet covered in parchment or wax paper (please try and find unbleached waxed or parchment). When finished refrigerate for at least an hour or over night (if leaving them over night be sure to cover them).

To cook them melt in a large heavy skillet (cast iron is my favorite): coat the bottom of the pan generously with olive oil and heat over a medium/high flame. The oil should be hot, but not smoking. Add the cakes to the hot oil, careful not to crowd them. You are really just heating them up and browning them as they are already cooked. Turn after 30-60 seconds when the cakes are golden brown.

Serve with a simple salad and a side of tarragon mayo or tarter sauce. Blender mayo is so easy and so much tastier then store bought: add 1 T of chopped tarragon, 1 T of capers, chopped, and a few chopped gherkins if you have them. Or you can top the cakes with sour cream and salmon roe. Fresh lemon juice and salt works well too.

Easy, cheap and delicious. Living well is the best revenge!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Change we can taste

The day after I wrote about the use of genetically modified corn products (confectioners sugar and corn syrup) in the Caramel Chocolate Tart on the cover of this month's Saveur (a recipe from Marlow & Sons) came this article from the New York Times about how corporate food, in particular beverage makers, are switching back to sugar.

Then today I get up and see in the New York Times this article: Is a Food Revolution Now in Season.

It's not like I want to blow my own horn, but the revolution is brought to you daily on UrbanFoodGuy and has been for a year. Not that I was first or anything like that, but it's nice to know the cacophony of voices from people like me and the thousands of others who post videos on You Tube, blog, sign petitions and generally raise their voices for change we can taste are starting to cohere into a reportable movement.

The corporate elite have for far too long hijacked the abilities of consumers to make clear, conscientious decisions about our own food. They have done this is so many ways, lobbying to prevent the clear labeling of foods that are made with GM ingredients, suing dairies that put labels on their milk products specifically saying that they did not use recombinant growth hormones on their cows, spending millions, if not billions of dollars on lobbyists to guarantee their profits, undermining the health of not only their customers, but the planet upon which they live.

Economists will never agree with what I am about to say, but they probably aren't reading this anyway so I'm not going to worry about it. Food, like medicine, can not and should not be commodified. The idea of constant growth doesn't work in these instances and corporations have proven again and again they are not to be trusted and should not be left unregulated. We are now seeing the devastating effects of deregulation in the financial markets. The rise in use of pesticides, fertilizers, GM seeds etc, came when corporations took over farming and made farmers grow fields upon fields of one crop only: corn, wheat, or soy, oh my!

In all things in life, the planet, on it's very own, has created and encouraged diversity. It is when we go against this that we start having problems. Remember the Irish Potato Famine, anyone? Smaller farms that grow a diverse crop have less problems with pests then huge single crop corporate farms. The fact of the matter is that pesticides and fertilizers (like those made by Monsanto) are at best unnecessary and at worst actively destroy our food production capacities in the long term and our natural ecosystems.

While on the subject of diversity I find it sad that so many people in this country feel it is their mission to make us all the same: heterosexual, white, suburban and preferably Christan. That is not what America is. It's not what the world is. Just looking at the last two hundred years of American history I think it is clear that these forces of intolerance and ignorance have always been wrong. Shouldn't we be happy that the neighbor down the block grows blueberries while we grow pears so we can share and make all of our lives fuller and more interesting? If the people who raised in excess of 60 million dollars to defeat prop 8 (77% came from Mormons) to promote hate, narrow mindedness and intolerance had spent that money on eliminating world hunger, don't you think that would have been a better use of all that money? Or gave it to farmers to diversify their crops or help fund any number of smaller community based agriculture initiatives, or seed to table programs, or..., or..., or... The list goes on. Think of what a positive change for good supporting diversity would have made. Instead they aim at monocultures, not only of crops, but of culture itself. Diversity is nature, it is unnatural to go against it. If one believes in God then one has to believe that God created this planet with that idea in mind, otherwise we would all be living in a MacDonald's commercial.

OK I know that was a bit of a digression, but if you can't digress on your own blog then where?

I promise something light and silly next - maybe even a recipe!

Caramel Chocolate Tart

Here is my video detailing changes I made in the tart recipe in my post "Monsanto for Dessert" (see two postings down).

The recipe calls for all purpose flour and confectioners sugar in the dough. I replaced the confectioners sugar with organic cane sugar that I made super fine by putting it in a food processor. Instead of the all purpose flour I used pastry flour to make up for the softness of the missing corn starch.

For the caramel I omitted the corn syrup altogether and replaced the white sugar with brown, adding an extra three tablespoons to make up for the missing corn syrup. The results were spectacular. The crust was soft, redolent of dark chocolate, and tasted like a chocolate cookie. The caramel had great texture, was easy to cut, and had a rich, thick caramel, candy flavor.

In the end it makes you wonder why these GM ingredients where in the recipe at all when it was easy to make it without them, with no detectable effect whatsoever on the end result.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Monsanto for dessert

Yesterday I got my last copy of Saveur magazine. My financial situation is so grim that I have started getting rid of anything that isn't essential so all the magazine subscriptions have been 86'd (maybe I'll read them occasionally as a treat at an airport). Magazines are in general a huge waste of natural resources (old growth forests! who needs them?) that it made sense, to me, to just stop the madness.

So when I got my last copy, which had a big sign on it saying LAST COPY! I was sad and opened it up promptly to see what I was going to be missing henceforth. On the cover is a wonderful picture of a luscious chocolate caramel tart, chocolate crust with a gooey caramel filling topped with a layer of chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. I showed the picture to Neil, he looked at and said "we've had that!" Indeed we have, this recipe is from a restaurant I have written about many times, one that I respect greatly for their dedication to sustainable agriculture and local ingredients Marlowe & Sons.

By this point my heart is pounding and I'm all ready to get out my pen and write a grocery list and plan on making this piece of heaven immediately. There on page 102 is my soon to be, most favorite tart to make. Then I look at the ingredients. It starts off good with butter, flour, cocoa...then I see confectioners' sugar. Why don't they say organic or offer a substitution? Commercial confectioners' sugar is made with genetically modified corn starch, unless of course you specify organic or add a little asterisk to it and say at the bottom: "oh hey you might not want to help Monsanto ruin the planet by buying products that contain genetically modified organisms", but then I breath and think "it's just icing sugar, get over yourself."

[A side note on icing sugar is that instead of spending more money on another food "product" you can just put regular organic sugar into a food processor and whizz it about until it's ultra fine, a perfectly fine substitute or you can go out and by one of the many brands of organic confectioners' sugar. Or in the case of this pastry you could indeed just use sugar. The French have used it to great effect for a long time now. Although a very fine baker and friend of mine who owns a very successful business here in NYC, Maury Rubin, uses it in his pastry and he is French trained, but I also know he uses all organic ingredients at City Bakery. Who knows? I'm self taught, I never went to any fancy school to learn how to make fancy pies, maybe the French have discovered icing sugar as the new ne plus ultra of pate sucre.]

The next section "for the caramel": ...1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tbsp light corn syrup..." What?! Did I read that right? Saveur magazine writes a cover article on the RESTAURANTS THAT MATTER, including this beacon of local sustainability, and they publish a recipe with two ingredients brought to you by Monsanto? What is wrong with this picture? If it were in Quick n' Cheap Eats magazine and the recipe was by Paula Dean or Rachael Rae I'd not even mention it, but that's not where it's coming from. It's coming from my favorite food magazine and one of the restaurants I admire most in NYC.

Let me be perfectly clear. Under no circumstances do you ever need to use corn syrup.

In the chocolate pecan pie I make, I substitute dark grade B maple syrup instead of high fructose corn syrup. In this instance you could use any number of things. Off the top of my head, I'd say the fancy grade A light maple syrup or maybe agave syrup or maybe use brown sugar instead of white and just not add anything else? It's just 3 tablespoons. And please don't go on about how the viscosity and sweetness of corn syrup is so unique. Bullshit. It's so sweet because it was made in a fucking lab, OK? It was "developed" in a lab as a cheap substitute for sugar so big corporations like Coca Cola could make more profit. It is sweeter than sugar, it was engineered that way. It's the worst of science and the worst of "products" (I always put "products" in quotes because it is not food). Period, end of discussion. Those are the facts, so why do we ignore them?

The really insidious thing about this is when you buy high fructose corn syrup in a store, as I have had to do for food styling work, it says on the label in big letters "Corn Syrup", but when you look at the ingredients you see the truth: high fructose corn syrup. Of course big food corporations with the help of the previous republican government made it possible for you to not have to state if any of the contents are genetically modified. 65% of American food "products" contain genetically modified substances.

The farming of GM crops wreaks unfathomable havoc on our soil, ecosystems and health. I could list a page of links to medical, scientific, farming and health sites detailing long list of the hazards, both environmental and health, that this kind of agriculture engenders.

When are we going to wake up? What hope is there if smart, talented people cook and publish recipes calling for the use of ingredients that we know are destroying our planet and making us sick?

So tomorrow I am going to make this tart with real food and will report back.

Oh and in case anybody is still reading and wondering why exactly this makes me upset, recently Neil and I watched Werner Herzog's new documentary Encounters at the End of the World. A must see exploration of life in Antarctica. At one point more then half way through the film Herzog, who narrates, says quite casually that the scientific community seems to agree that there will be another massive extinction event like the one that killed the dinosaurs only next time the species that becomes extinct will be humans. Most agree it will happen sooner then we think.

Go ahead have extra GM high fructose corn syrup in your pie, while you can.

For more information check out:


or watch the video:

Neil sneaks in with a posting! Let's see how long Mark takes to notice I did this.
Its the citation for a research paper by a friend of mine, liver pathologist colleague Beth Brunt, and her collaborative team. It is a nice big, digestible bit of organic scientific research that backs up Mark's concerns about high fructose corn syrup in the diet, i.e. Why Americans (and Everyone Who Eats Like an American, Including Rats) are Fat and Diabetic... Severe Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Dosease with hepatic necroinflammatory changes in mice fed trans fats and a high-fructose corn syrup equivalent.Tetri LH, Basaranoglu M, Brunt EM, Yerian LM, Neuschwander-Tetri BA.in: Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2008; 295: G987-95.
Abstract: "The aims of this study were to determine whether combining features of a western lifestyle in mice with trans fats in a high-fat diet, high-fructose corn syrup in the water, and interventions designed to promote sedentary behavior would cause the hepatic histopathological and metabolic abnormalities that characterize nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Male C57BL/6 mice fed ad libitum high-fat chow containing trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) and relevant amounts of a high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) equivalent for 1-16 wk were compared with mice fed standard chow or mice with trans fats or HFCS omitted. Cage racks were removed from western diet mice to promote sedentary behavior. By 16 wk, trans fat-fed mice became obese and developed severe hepatic steatosis with associated necroinflammatory changes. Plasma alanine aminotransferase levels increased, as did liver TNF-alpha and procollagen mRNA, indicating an inflammatory and profibrogenic response to injury. Glucose intolerance and impaired fasting glucose developed within 2 and 4 wk, respectively. Plasma insulin, resistin, and leptin levels increased in a profile similar to that seen in patients with NASH. The individual components of this diet contributed to the phenotype independently; isocaloric replacement of trans fats with lard established that trans fats played a major role in promoting hepatic steatosis and injury, whereas inclusion of HFCS promoted food consumption, obesity, and impaired insulin sensitivity. Combining risk factors for the metabolic syndrome by feeding mice trans fats and HFCS induced histological features of NASH in the context of a metabolic profile similar to patients with this disease.
Because dietary trans fats promoted liver steatosis and injury, their role in the epidemic of NASH needs further evaluation."

(This is Mark, the reason Neil talks so funny is because he's a doctor.)


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Free Aung San Suu Kyi

Pleas take a moment and go here and sign the petition to free this imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stop the Monsanto Loophole, NOW!

OK this is REALLY IMPORTANT, I am just cutting and pasting this letter so if you want to see all the links go directly to Food Democracy Now's site and you can see everything. I have linked the two links under "online instructions".


If you care about the environment, human health and sustainable and organic farms:

It’s time to act!

Write to the USDA in these final 24 hours for the comment period to close the loopholes regulating genetically-engineered (GE) crops, also referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Tell the USDA that the loopholes regarding GE crops must be closed and to suspend approval of additional GE crops until truly independent, peer-reviewed testing can be performed.

While supporters claim this technology is safe, thorough testing was never completed before GE crops/GMOs were introduced into our food chain. Already more than 60 percent of packaged foods sold in U.S. supermarkets contain genetically-engineered food that American consumers unknowingly eat everyday.

Not only is this a great concern for consumer health, but also for family farmers who must pay exorbitant technology fees for the GE seed, and for the environment and sustainable and organic farmers whose crops can become contaminated due to GE drift.

If you care about food safety, it’s time to make your concern about GE food known! The USDA is accepting public comments on a proposed rule about GE until the close of business March 17th.

Tell the USDA that it must ensure the safety of GE technology for eaters, farmers and the environment!

If you want to learn more about concerns regarding genetically engineered food, watch The Future of Food tonight and this week on DIRECTV Channel 375 and DISH Network Channel 9410. Visit LinkTV for schedule. http://www.linktv.org/programs/future

Please send in your comments now!


If you’d like to see Food Democracy Now! grassroots work continue, please consider donating as little as $10 or $25. We need all your support to be able to create the change that is needed at the USDA.

How to Submit Comments to the USDA:

Include “Docket Number APHIS-2008-0023” at the top of your correspondence or in the subject line of your email.

Online Instructions:

1. Click here to send your comments to the USDA electronically or go to:


The result with Document ID number "APHIS-2008-0023" is the Interim Final Rule for comments on Importation, Interstate Movement, and Release into the Environment of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms

2. Click on the “Add Comment” icon and follow the instructions on the next screen.

Tell USDA to: 1. Withdraw the proposed rule; 2. Release the EIS for public review and comment and to be used as a basis for further rule-making; and 3. Suspend all new GE crop approvals until the above has been satisfactorily completed and unless and until GE crops are proven safe.

SAMPLE LETTER (Please cut and paste)

To whom it may concern,
Docket No. APHIS-2008-0023
Regulatory Analysis and Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Re: Docket No. APHIS-2008-0023, Importation, Interstate Movement, and Release into the Environment of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms.

I am very concerned about the risks posed by genetically engineered crops. They threaten human health, family farmers, and the environment. I urge USDA to withdraw the proposed rule, publish the Environmental Impact Statement for public review and comment, and suspend all new GE crop approvals in the interim.

After USDA releases the EIS, a comment period of at least 90 days is needed so the public has the opportunity to fully participate in a transparent process on this important issue. This will not only aid in the development of the final EIS but also in the drafting of a new proposed rule. The current proposed rule does little to close the loopholes in the regulations the rule is designed to replace and it creates more gaps than it fills.


Volunteering, the new work?

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
Eryka Teisch is job-hunting but volunteering 20 hours a week.

This is the kitchen I volunteer in every week at God's Love We Deliver.
The Times has an article in today's paper talking about the increase in volunteering. It made me feel bad I don't do more. It's going on 10 months now and I have to say being unemployed is the hardest thing I've ever experienced. This is why places like God's Love are so important now, they help people like me focus and feel like we are doing something worthwhile at the same time giving you a reason to leave the house.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Parchement Baked Striped Bass

That was much easier then I thought! Here is a slide show of the baked striped bass I made and that my friend and very talented photographer quintonjonesphotography.com took.

For some strange reason Picasa the program that I made the slide show in asks for your nick name, so it has an annoying little thing at the start saying photo's by Nick Guest - which is deceiving on two levels, one I'm not nick guest it's just the name of a character form a book I like and I didn't take the pictures in this case I just spent some time on a Sunday afternoon to put together the slide show.


Whole Foods Shame on you

As I had thought, the chart below is from my latest Greenpeace newsletter this is the second reputable environmental organization that is just saying NO to Atlantic Cod, which is now on sale at your local Whole Foods. I don't mean to pick on Whole Foods, but my feeling is don't tell me you're concerned about sustainability etc., and then turn around and sell a seriously over fished species like Atlantic Cod, a fish that has been on and off endangered species list since the 1990's both in Canada and the US.

The Greenpeace article is mostly about Tuna, check out the site they have some neat visuals and interesting information about canned Tuna. If you are a big Tuna eater I would encourage you to at least be aware that you do not under any circumstance eat Blue Fin Tuna, and if you are in a restaurant where they serve it please complain to the management and demand, yes demand, that they not sell it any more.

For some reason all of my journals and newsletters this month are focused on the oceans and the devastation we are wreaking on them. Earth Island Institute is a wonderful organization that Neil and I have supported for many years, they publish a quarterly magazine called Earth Island Journal that you can buy at good magazine stores or if you donate you get it a years subscription as part of your donation (I'm not sure what the minimum donation is to get the magazine, I'm sure it's not much and it's very worthwhile). This issue is not yet online so I highly recommend going out and buying the latest oceans issue and read the article about the jellyfish. Very scary stuff, basically if we keep destroying the top of the food chain in the oceans we maybe left with nothing but huge blooms of jelly fish, that is if the oceans don't acidify and dye outright killing everything. Yet another lovely consequence of global warming. Can you believe that there are people out there who still deny that global warming exists? Rhetorical question, hell there are still people out there who deny the holocaust the difference here is that global warming is happening now and if we don't act quickly there won't be any people alive on the planet to deny it any more. How upbeat of me.

Atlantic Cod

Atlantic cod or scrod

Gadus morhua

Most people associate Atlantic cod as the white fish found in popular fish and chips meals. Atlantic cod, a groundfish that hovers at the seafloor, grows fast and breeds at an early age. Many Atlantic cod stocks plummeted in the 1990s due to overfishing, and rebuilding efforts have not yet succeeded.

Atlantic Cod

Where they live

Atlantic cod live along the seafloor on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean. They can be found in Canadian and United States waters from Greenland to North Carolina, and along the coasts of Europe.

How they're caught

The primary fishing method for Atlantic cod is bottom trawling which involves dragging large nets across the seafloor. Fishermen also use gill nets, longlines, and hook and line to catch Atlantic cod. Atlantic cod are also targeted by pirate fisheries.

Causes for concern

  • Stock Status
    Atlantic cod are overfished in U.S. waters and seriously depleted in Canadian waters. Despite strict management in the U.S. and Canada, cod stocks in these waters remain overfished and some Canadian populations are listed as endangered. Most populations in the northeastern Atlantic are also in poor condition.
  • Destructive Fishing Methods
    Bottom trawling is the most common method used to catch Atlantic cod. Bottom trawling damages the seafloor, impacting marine habitats that are important to the survival of groundfish and other species. Bottom trawling is also indiscriminate and incidentally catches other fish and marine animals that are dumped overboard as bycatch.
  • Habitat Impacts
    Severe depletion of cod has led to observed change in the food web in Eastern Canadian waters where other animals have moved into the niche that cod had previously filled.
  • Poor Fishery Management
    U.S. and Canadian fisheries managers have closely studied population levels and implemented several regulations but were unable to prevent the extreme decline of cod stocks. Poor management continues to threaten the Atlantic cod's recovery.
  • Pirate Fishing
    Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing of cod in closed areas in the north eastern Atlantic are ongoing problems and contribute to declining stocks.
  • Fishing Communities Impacts
    Coastal communities have lost thousands of jobs and billions of dollars as a result of the decline in Atlantic cod.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Photo's from my food styling shoot

A couple of days ago I mentioned that I had spent this past Saturday doing a food shoot/testing with this very talent young photographer QuintonJonesphotography.com here are some of the images and I'm going to work on trying to learn how to make a slide show movie thingy from them that I will share once I can figure it out.

Cranberry Upside down Cake

My mill ground local wheat bread


The one in the back in called Fuzzy Wheel

See the steam? Nice Thai silk...

Striped bass roasted with herbs, lemon, and onion in parchment

Same fish, filleted served with a herb lemon sauce

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I feel like this all the time

AirTraffic Worldwide

When I'm not obsessing about food I am a total travel nerd, with a keen interest in planes, go figure. Anyway this is off topic, but I had to share, isn't this scary? It's a simulation of worldwide air traffic over a 24 hour period.

Green Depot

I noticed a few months ago a big sign announcing a new store on the Bowery called the Green Depot, it immediately caught my interest and today when I was walking up the Bowery on my way to Whole Foods I saw that it was open so I went in, and it's AMAZING!

The Green Depot is in an old building on the Bowery, in the main front shopping area they've exposed an old iron support bean and printed on it the history of the building and the Bowery.

The guy who was manning the place was very helpful, they have been around for a while primarily as a wholesaler of green building materials, so the store is filled with a vast selection of flooring, counter tops, cupboards, rugs, paint and much more. One of my favorite things is all the liquid cleaning supplies that are for sale bulk so you can either buy a container from them or bring your own and they charge per ounce and it's cheap.

Definitely worth a trip to the Bowery to check out or incorporate it into your next visit to the New Museum's fab new Bowery digs.

Bacon Donuts and other stuff

Just to continue the pork obsessed theme going, when I came across this picture I did find it funny. Maybe it needs some cheddar cheese dipping sauce?

I feel like I've been absent here for too long. Saturday I did a day long shoot with this wonder photographer Quinton Jones who I'd met almost a year ago on a food shoot I was assisting on. We finally managed to make a date and it was really exciting and exhausting. It was here in our apartment so I did all the prop styling grocery shopping and of course the cooking. It was good to do something focused like that again, it's been so long since I've had any work. Anyway, when Quinton and I got together before the testing we talked about what we wanted it to be about, and we both agreed on an honest aesthetic that showed the process from raw fish to plated fillet. It will be exciting to see the results and of course I will share them here.

My friend Craig sent me an article on the same day we were doing the shoot, from Mother Jones magazine. If anyone reads this and wants to share with me their thoughts I'd really appreciate it. First of all the title, Spoiled:Organic and Local is so 2008. The whole thing strikes me as unnecessarily dismissive of the organic and local movements and it suggests that we need to belly up to the bar and order ourselves an ice big glass of compromise. Yes we all understand that corporate agriculture isn't going to change over night, we also understand that our meat and cheese heavy diets are more carbon emitting then the form of transport the carcasses come to market in. Nothing is ever easy, nor is it black and white, yes we have to cop to the idea that food crops are a commodity a multimillion, if not billion dollar industry. Certainly I felt chided, it made me uncomfortable after I read it, the dashing of the idealists dream? Or just a reality check? Read it and tell me what you think.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Potato Biscuits

I've been making this recipe a lot lately, these little white biscuits are so moist and easy and delicious, I double the amount and freeze the extras. Although, in truth, in our house there are never any extras! This weekend I'm going to experiment with slipping large chunks of bittersweet chocolate into them.

Mix 1/2 cup hot whole milk, 2 T butter, 2 T sugar, 1/2 cup mashed potatoes (make sure they are very smooth and still warm) 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup of all purpose flour in a bowl and cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl stir 1 package yeast into 1/4 cup warm water and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add the yeast mixture into the first mixture and mix well. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.

Add 3 cups of flour to the mixture until it is well incorporated, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (about an hour or so).

Turn out onto a well floured surface, pat the dough down to about 1/4-1/2 inch thickness. Cut into rounds or squares and place an inch apart on a parchment paper covered baking sheet (or just coat the sheet with butter). Once finished cover again and let rise until almost double (another 45 minutes or so).

Preheat the oven to 425F and bake for 15 minutes.

You could also not cut the dough at all and just place is directly onto a baking sheet, spread it out to cover the sheet and then take a pizza roller or knife and divide it up into squares as you see fit.

I'll let you know how the chocolate ones turns out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dinner in an 18th c Farm house in Queens!

GradyWood is thrilled to be participating in a very special benefit
dinner at the Queens County Farm Museum! We will be serving a 5-course
dinner in the 18th century farmhouse, featuring pasture-raised rabbit from farmer
Julie Engel. Queens County Farm Museum farmer Michael Grady Robertson will
provide pork, eggs, and vegetables all produced onsite. NY State wines will be poured throughout the evening; the event is sponsored by Slow Food NYC.

Guests are invited to arrive early to tour the farm and attend a free field
workshop with farmer Julie Engel on pasture raising rabbits, and then
settle into our cozy supper amongst the many farmhouse fireplaces.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Workshop at 5:00
Dinner at 7:00
5 courses including wine
$95 per person, $85 for Slow Food members, all proceeds to benefit Queens Farm
Tickets available here.

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