Sunday, January 31, 2010

Totally Gratuitous, But Funny

Target Goes Wild

Just wanted to give a thumbs up to Target for actually caring enough about the environment and sustainability for ditching farmed salmon and only selling wild caught Alaskan salmon: fresh, frozen and smoked.

In theory this is a great move, it will make wild Salmon cheaper and more accessible to more people, but I wonder is there enough wild salmon to supply the demand? We'll see...

This Is Our Moment: Act Now


Kalustyan's, the ne plus ultra of Indian and International grocery stores, has just gotten bigger! I stopped in the other day and was overjoyed to see they have expanded into the store adjacent. So if you haven't been in a while you need to go check out the new, larger space and then have a bite to eat at the wonderful newcomer on the street Dhaba.

City Bakery's Hot Chocolate Festival

The night of knitting is a new addition this year. I guess if you go and sit n' knit you will drink more hot chocolate? Anyway it's always a lot of fun so be sure to stop in for your hot chocolate fix.

This year they have an interactive web site so you can check daily what flavor will be featured.

They also have cold hot chocolate (which I think is really funny). Also if you want to cut the richness of this decadent delight have them throw in a shot of espresso. This is real hot chocolate made from melted chocolate and I think a cream/milk combo. It's super rich. My 2 cents is to start off with a small and work your way up.

City Bakery also has a wonderful selection of savory food too!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Big Bad Beef

This is from a site that is new to me called that discusses sustainable alternatives to beef. The article is called "Seitan: The Other Green Meat."

I've had seitan many times and like it, for the most part, though I would just as soon cook with cheese (which I guess isn't always the healthiest alternative), beans and vegetables. Fake meat always has struck me as too processed and, conceptually, for me, a challenge. This article makes me rethink my preconceived ideas about it. Here's some highlights, but definitely click on the link and read the piece in it's entirety:

Beef is not what’s for dinner if you are serving 6 billion people, much less so if you are serving 9 billion (where population is expected to level off, around 2050). Current meat production puts meat on the dinner table for far fewer than 6 billion people every night, as most people can’t afford it. Meat alone is responsible for about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The land required to grow the feed and graze those animals that are allowed to graze, the water used at every stage of the process, and the complications of hormones and antibiotics all make the kind of industrial meat production required to feed billions of omnivores one of the biggest threats to the global environment. Scale that up to meet current or future demand and you have a crisis.

We really should have started eating less meat years ago, but in the 20 years until 2002 (the most recent year the data is available from the World Resources Institute) meat consumption has grown in every region of the world except in Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, where it has essentially remained stable (and in Africa very low). The Americas, with the United States, Canada, and Argentina in the lead, are the biggest meat eaters. The Europeans aren’t far behind. As countries get richer, they eat more meat, because it tastes good, and because they can. And some very big countries are getting richer right now, so the trend is clearly upwards.

The author then goes on to discuss what it would take for local organic meat to "take over" the dinner table and, well, it doesn't seem likely any time soon, so this leads into a discussion of meat substitutes. The bottom line is that unless something drastic happens to change the way we make meat in factories and eat meat as if it was some sort of God given right things aren't going to change any time soon.

Would you like the prime rib or the seitan Salisbury Steak? To most people in the wealthy nations of the world that isn't even a question.

Tonda Pizza

Tonda Pizza is my new close to home go to place for a reasonably priced dinner out. It's a short walk to 4th and B from our place and unlike so many other pizza joints whose food I enjoy the room at Tonda is the perfect combination of sleek design and eclectic comfort. It gives you that feeling of eating out somewhere nice without having to spend mega bucks.

last night I went there solo as Neil is in Palm Springs feeling trapped by it's suburban car culture in the desert and unseasonably cold weather (I'm encouraging him to flee to San Francisco).

The menu at Tonda has a diverse selection of pizzas, and they offer a wonderful whole wheat crust option. They don't have a "make your own" option, but have in the few times I have asked been more than willing to make changes.

I'd come from yoga last night and was heading home to re-heat some lentil stew and make some sour dough rye bread toast. I wasn't planning on going out, but I had walked from Union Square and was freezing and all of a sudden lo and behold there was Tonda across the street beckoning me in. I yielded to temptation. They were showing black and white Boris Karloff movies on the back wall so I sat on the banquette facing it so I could watch it while I sipped my Sangiovese and awaited my food.

Which really brings me to the reason for this posting as I've already mentioned Tonda here before. Last night I wanted a plate o' food, not a generous sized personal pizza. I need to lose some winter weight and have been very good since coming back from Toronto about eating better and doing a ton of yoga. So I say to the waitress:

"I have a stupid question which I already am pretty sure I know the answer to, but here goes any way...your Roast Chicken (which appears on the menu just like that unadorned by any further adjectives or description) is it locally raised or free range or...."

Obviously I was desperate to have some roast chicken. It was the meal I was craving, but I was prepared not to order it if it was factory meat, which is exactly what I was expecting it to be. The waitress, much to my surprise said:

"You know I'm not sure and I should know, it used to be free range let me go ask".

So already she gets full points for being curious and helpful. After a few minutes she comes back to the table and tells me the chicken is free range and organic. Great! I order it.

When the plate arrives it is a generous portion of tasty smashed potatoes, with some broccoli rabe on the side with two leg/thigh sections piled on top. I ate it all up. My minor qualms were that the greens were a bit over salted for me and chicken was kind of dry. The crispy, unctuous skin mitigated this, but it got me wondering. When I make chicken at home I find that one of the joys of cooking organic chicken is that it is never dry. Particularly the legs which tend to be a darker, richer meat. The leg and thigh of this chicken tasted more like breast meat to me. My point is that because the word "organic" didn't appear on the menu or even the name of the farm that they get their poultry from I started to doubt the authenticity of this chicken. How do I really know it is organic? How do I know that the waitress or the cook didn't just say to themselves:

"Oh he'll never know the difference

Well it's a lesson for me because I learned last night that if you have to ask there is a reason, and usually the reason is because it's just another tortured, antibiotic soaked, caged, bird.

It makes no sense in this environment of heightened concern over the environmental and health impact of food that an East Village restaurant would not want to boast about the provenance of its poultry.

If you could sell more chicken by saying it's local, farm raised or organic (or all three) why wouldn't you? Why keep it a secret?

By all means check this place out, but if you want my two cents worth until they start stating in print where their meat comes from stick to the pizza.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

Michael Pollan on Oprah

I know I'm preaching to the choir and you've already heard what Mr. Pollan has to say on how to eat, but just in case you are only now tuning he is one more time!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Octopus Vivisection

I've been aware for a while now how smart octopus are and even though I think they are delicious, I have stopped eating them.

So the other day I got this email from Tasting Table:

Wed. 27 Jan '10

Night of the Living Sushi
Straight-from-the-tank fish at Sushi Uo

Tasting Table

Photo: Julie Qiu

At 23 years old, chef David Bouhadana may seem too young to be an ambassador for traditional Japanese sushi.

But don't let his youthfulness fool you: At Sushi Uo--a hidden LES den that he opened last fall--Bouhadana has embraced a nearly abandoned technique with artistic flair: serving live sashimi.

The show happens every Tuesday night, when Bouhadana replicates ikizukuri ("prepared alive"), a ceremonious procedure in which a fish is stunned, sliced and served with its heart still beating.

Bouhadana begins the process by making graceful slits along the fish's flesh before picking it up and slamming it down on the cutting board, where it curls and seizes, rendering it firm to the bite--in some cases, almost crunchy.

Hands this capable deserve your trust: Take his recommendation of the silky abalone, snappy penn shell and lightly sweet surf clam, all arriving artfully arranged on a platter ($25 to $35, depending on market price). And don't be alarmed by the octopus tentacle twitching on your plate: It's just one of its three hearts still beating--which is to say, it's alive and kicking.

I can't read that last line "don't be alarmed by the octopus tentacle twitching" without thinking: here is an creature with advanced intelligence how is this OK? If we were to switch out the word octopus and replace it with 3 year old child or beloved smart family dog Fido how would we feel then? And how, I ask in all seriousness is it different? Octopus have a nervous system and consciousness just like your 3 year old and your family pet.

I'm often struck by how grossed out people are when I tell them I've visited Vietnam, one of the first questions I am inevitably asked is: "did you eat dog?" like the minute you get off the plane you immediate go all native and start have unnatural urges, obviously in our culture the eating of Fido is very disturbing, but why? Well, as far as I can tell it's because dogs are cute and we have a relationship to them, octopus are ugly (to us) and we have no relationship to them other then on our plate, so it's OK to torture and eat them? And yeah I guess what this email describes to me is torture (specifically about the octopus - fish and abalone are a different story).

Sure I eat meat on occasion but I trust given my very fussy standards about what meat I eat that the animal it came from had a good life and was humanely slaughtered. And chickens are dumb.

Somehow I don't want to lose my humanity so I can say to my friends:

"Oh you'll never believe how fresh the sushi is at this place!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ted Haggart is Completely Heterosexual

I just saw this for the first time, it made me laugh and I love a good lampoon, so I wanted to share, I found this at one of my favorite blogs JoeMyGod.

Tamale Pie:Video and Recipe

After watching this video several times I wasn't sure I wanted to post it, let's just say the camera adds 15 pounds and leave it at that, OK?

Tamale Pie Recipe

I thought this turned out great, although there is some tinkering I'd like to do so check back here in the coming weeks and months to see if I have added or changed anything. This is just like lasagna or stews it really needs to be made the day before, and then reheated. Take the pie out of the fridge and let it come to room temp before you reheat it in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes, if it starts to get too brown around the edges you can always cover it with tin foil. Also don't brown the cheese under the broiler first time around like I did in this video, it's better to do that just before serving.

Char under the broiler 4 good size Poblano peppers, when they are blistered on all sides place them in a paper bag, fold over the top and let them cool for about 15 minutes. Remove from bag and peel, de-stem and seed the Poblano then roughly chop, place in a small bowl to be added later to the corn mixture. Yes this is a pain in the neck, but they give the dish a wonderful flavor.

Squash Puree:

Turn the oven to 450F and roast a large butternut squash 2-3 pounds (really any squash or even sweet potatoes would work). You can start this once the Poblano are out from under the broiler.

To roast the squash slice it in half horizontally, remove the seeds, and place flesh side down on a cookie sheet filed with an inch of water, cover loosely with tin foil (always see if you can find recycled tin foil) and cook until soft - about 45 minutes. When a fork easily pierces the squash take it out of the oven remove the foil and remove the squash from the pan to cool on a plate.

Reduce the oven temperature to 375F.

When the squash is cool enough to handle scoop out the flesh into the bowl of a food processor.

Add 2 T melted butter and puree, add salt and pepper to taste. You should have about 4 cups of silky puree.

Corn and Black Beans:

In a large skillet pour 3 T olive oil and heat until hot but not smoking over a medium high heat then add 3 cups sweet white organic corn, stirring often for about 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 1/2 cups black beans (soaked and cooked until soft if starting with dry or a 15 ounce can drained and rinsed), 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes, well drained, reserve the juice from the tomatoes, 2 teaspoons cumin powder, 2 teaspoons dried oregano cook for two minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add:

1/2 cup cilantro roughly chopped, 4 scallions roughly chopped, prepared chopped Poblanos, salt and black pepper to taste.

Corn Tamale/Polenta:

In a large pot boil 5 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of salt.

In a bowl add 2 cups of organic corn meal and 2 cups of water and wish until well mixed and not lumpy, the add to the boiling water. Bring the mixture to a boil then turn the heat to medium low and cook, stirring often until thick any where from 10-15 minutes. When nice and thick remove from heat and add 1 cup of sour cream, add salt and pepper to taste (I thought a few finely chopped Jalapeno pepper could be added to this mixture) keep covered.

OK almost time to assemble this mess of things, but lastly grate 1 1/2 cups of both sharp white cheddar and Monterrey jack cheese, mix the cheese together and have them ready in a big bowl.

The thing that I did that in my first attempt of this dish was puree an entire 200g tin of Chiles Chilpotles and spread it over the first layer of the polenta/corn meal mixture. This results in a deep, rich, spicy and fairly hot pie. I love it, but I think it would not be for everyone and that the way to proceed is to puree a tin (I use La Morena) of chipolte and 1 tablespoon at a time mix it into the squash puree, my thinking is 2 T would probably be about right, it would add a little heat and that lovely smoky flavor, but wouldn't send any of your guests to the fridge looking for ice water. Remember you can also serve Tabasco sauce and the pureed Chilpotles as condiment for those spice friends who like things hot!

Now you are ready to assemble it all.

Pour a little less then half of the tamale/polenta mixture into the bottom of the casserole dish you are going to use. I used my favorite big cazuela (approx 14" round and 6" deep) and it worked great - a large rectangular pyrex dish (10 x 13) would work fine. The worst thing that happens is you have to make a smaller left over version or make two in two smaller casseroles.

Let the polenta sit for minute to set, it should be firm enough to be able to easily spread the squash/chipotle mixture over, you might want to do this base polenta layer first before you grate the cheese.

Cover the squash layer with half the cheese then add the corn and black bean mixture.

Spoon the rest of the tamale/polenta mixture over the top and smooth with a spatula (when I made it it poured nicely and was easy to work with, if you feel it has gotten two thick or lumpy just whisk it up with a little more sour cream).

Sprinkle the top layer with about 1/3 cup of the reserved tomato juice enough to create a very thin layer of color on the polenta and finally cover it all with the remaining cheese.

back in the preheat 375 F oven for about 30 minutes the cheese should be melted and brown, if you are making this a day in advance by all means wait and brown the cheese at the last minute on the day you serve it.

This is a healthy, easy (if time consuming dish) gluten free dish. It's a great thing to make on Sunday to have all week long to nosh on - this amount could serve 10 people easily especially when you add a cabbage salad with lime cumin vinaigrette, and a simple dessert (coconut cookies or blood orange sherbet). Or it makes a very impressive one pot dish for a casual dinner party. My friend David brought over a fruity Riesling with a hint of sweet that went perfect with it, but Mexican beer and some sipping mescal would also be a festive option.

My notes:

After all the work you do to make all the layers when you actually get to serving and eating it everything with the exception of the top polenta/cheese layer mixes together. When I make this again, and I will make it again, I would think about trying different presentations.

Use the squash as the base and pour the entire polenta mixture on top, the top layer stayed firm and had an almost corn bread texture that was very nice, the bottom layer just was mush - very tasty mush, but mush none the less.

Pour all of the polenta into a casserole dish, cover it with the tomato juice all of the cheese and bake it for the same 30-40 minutes. Serve it as a baked tamale with cheese" in the dish at the table along with all the fillings in bowls so people can assemble it themselves, and this way all your hard work is on display: a beautiful bowl of chipotle squash puree, a colorful fricassee of corn, black beans and cilantro and a cheesy baked polenta. Add in a salad, condiments (chopped cilantro, chiplote puree, lime wedges, tobasco sauce, sour cream, chopped scallions) and you have one damn impressive spread, as I write this I think a more impressive spread then if you just serve it as a casserole. Let me know how you work it out and leave me a comment about your experience.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jamie Oliver's New Reality TV Show: Can Obese Obstinate Unhealthy Americans Change Their Ways?

Reality TV isn't my thing. This preview made me cringe, but at the heart of it is Jamie Oliver putting up with a lot of abuse trying to get these people in America's most unhealthy town, to see reason, which is this case is to see how what they are eating is killing them.

Apparently, from this preview, even though it's an obvious statement, it's not an easy task. Of course it is reality TV so it's formatted for non-stop histrionics.

I won't be watching, but I admire him for trying

So Cute

Love the E.T fingers...

Sans the Crap


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Raw Love

For months now I've been very excited by this space that has been under construction a few blocks from me at 116 Suffolk street between Delancey and Stanton. It's a cavernous space with light bamboo flooring and art gallery white walls. At the door as you enter and frankly the thing that got me excited are several glass door refrigerators which were in place well before the rest of the space so I thought:

"Wonderful finally someone is going to open up on the Lower East Side a really good organic/health food type grocery store!"

What has finally opened (actually they're still in the process of getting everything together) is the new bigger version of Organic Avenue which has moved from their smaller s[acec on Staton street - the new space has a raw food and juice cafe in addition to all the other housewares, clothes and other cool enviro/organic stuff.

When the first Organic Avenue opened on Stanton street I remember that I went in and had a conversation with a woman (I believe the owner) about silk (I was still running my store LaoLao Handmade and sold a lot of silk textiles) and she explained to me the concept of ahimsa silk(which I'd never heard of) traditionally silk cocoons along with the silk worm inside are thrown into boiling water to loosen the the threads and begin the process of spooling it.

Ahimsa is Sanskrit meaning "not injury" so in the process of making ahimsa silk no boiling water is used you wait until the metamorphosed silk worm emerges as a month and then collect the discard cocoons to then start the process of silk making. Which for commercial silk makers is less then ideal as the chrysalis excretes chemicals to break through the cocoon which I guess breaks the continuous nature of the thread?

Why am I going on a about this? Well because to so well illustrates the back bone philosophy of Organic Avenue and by extension the raw food/vegan communities.

From Organic Avenue's pamphlet:

What's LOVE got to do with it?
In a word - everything. Our cleansing program works by sustaining you with the food of pure LOVE, the nourishment that provides an unmatched Live Organic Vegan Experience

I've written about the raw food movement on here before and my thinking on the topic was decidedly influenced by the work of Harvard professor Richard Wrangham when I read his book Catching Fire (a must read).

The first thing that makes me bristle is the the cost of LOVE (Live, Organic Vegan, Experience)
$350 for a 5-day menu ($325 for members - and the membership thing just makes it sound kind of cult-y to me). Obviously there are a lot of rich people out there in need of LOVE because in addition to their new huge space on the Lower East Side Organic Avenue has also opened up a space in the West Village.

I totally support a primarily vegetarian diet and am all about organic and local (the raw foodies seem less concerned with local from what I can tell - as cashew "cheese" and coconut products seem to play central rolls in vegan/raw food diets).

Juicing seems wasteful and misguided to me, extracting out all the fiber from the vegetables increasing amount of sugar you get which is then introduced into your body more rapidly and without any of the benefit of the fiber. If it takes 6 carrots to make a glass of carrot juice you are getting 6 times the amount of sugar - and none of the fiber - would you sit down and eat 6 carrots? Why not just eat a carrot? Well in part because carrot juice is more like a soda...and the idea that you get so many more vitamins, minerals, etc in a juice is kind of moot - do you really need them? Don't you end up urinating all the extra out? Wouldn't you be better off just eating a salad and saving your self the money on buying a juicing machine or going to some fancy place to get it? Not to mention isn't a salad more filling and satisfying as an eating experience?

Eating like this on occasion is a fine thing, but to eat like this all the time present actual proven health risks, so all the LOVE can actually make you sick, most specifically as Wrangham points out in Catching Fire people who eat an exclusive raw food diet become sterile (among other medical issues) within three months of eating exclusively raw.

Finally, as someone who eats dairy and will on occasion eat local, humanely raised and slaughtered meat it has to be pointed out that these animals that raw foodies are suppose to be loving - like chickens and cows - would quickly go extinct if it were not for humans and our age old symbiotic relationship with them.

The issue, for me, is how are our animals treated and how can we get back to a local farm based food system as there is no question that big AG and factory meat is a bad deal for all involved. So although I have my questions and doubts about vegan and raw food diets I do think it is an inevitable reaction against a system of food production that has indeed made us and the planet sick and needs to be changed. Eating more vegetables is always a good thing and I look forward to going back to Organic Avenue and having lunch there the soups and salads sound intriguing.

Finally, if you have made it this far and you eat a primarily raw or vegan diet I would truly love your input here so please leave a comment!

Everything you ever wanted to know about silk worms and more!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blueberry Ginger Crumble Squares

Here's what I have discovered about my recipes that I post here. They change. So if you see a recipe and think: "Wow I have to make that" and print it out it's always a good idea to check back in a few days or even a week to see if it has changed at all. Last night I made the Kale Salad which I thought turned out really well but I realized when I made it I changed it a bit from the recipe as written so I went back today to edit it and add my observations and variations from having just made it.

I will say I really liked it and am amazed it took me so long to realize how delicious raw kale is.

This Blueberry Ginger Crumble Square recipe was inspired from my trip to Toronto where I was reintroduced to date squares again and then on the day I left went into a coffee shop and they had blueberry squares which got me thinking, the blueberry squares for sale had a very thin layer of blueberries almost like a jam and was heavy on the crumble, I like crumble don't get me wrong, but I really love blueberries and wanted to create something that would work as a treat with a mid afternoon cup of coffee or as a stand alone dessert with whipped cream to top off a meal.

Even though I felt these were successful I want to try making them again because I made them this first time by cooking the blueberries first to make a kind of pie filling. It works fine but I want to see how tossing the sugar, flour, ginger, lemon juice with the frozen berries works .

Also I see this kind of dessert as perfect for frozen berries and am not sure if I had fresh berries I would want to bury them between two layers of rich crumble. The problem arises with how to deal with frozen berries, should they be thawed first and then drained or what? I'll keep you updated with my experimentation but for the time being here is the recipe that I made and know works just dandy.

Blueberry Ginger Crumble Squares

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Line a 10 x 10 square tin with parchment, use 2 pieces in opposite directions to form a cross of sorts, with a good couple of inches over hang. This is optional but makes getting them out of the tin to cut easier and reduces the risk of the first piece falling apart.

In a large heavy bottomed pot add: 8 cups frozen wild organic blueberries, 1/2 cup cane sugar, 3 T all purpose flour, 1T Lemon juice and 1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger, turn the heat to medium high bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer stirring often.

Cook for 8-12 minutes or until the mixture has thickened to the texture of pie filling (frozen berries give off a fair amount of liquid so not to worry that there isn't any added, if you were to do this with fresh berries I would probably not precook it I would just toss all the above ingredients together and place in the uncooked crumble base. Also I did not thaw my berries I use them frozen straight from the freezer).

When the filling has thickened take off the heat and put aside to cool.

Using a standing mixer or by hand combine:

2 cups rolled oats, 2 cups ground walnuts (lightly toasted), 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup cane sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar firmly packed, 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), 4 T cream cheese, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt mix until combined. The dough will be moist and sticky. Divide the dough in half (I find if you wet your hands it makes working with the dough easier). Press half of the dough into the prepared pan.

Pour in the blueberry mixture and crumble the remaining dough on top.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the top has browned.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Life Among the Whales

A Life Among Whales from IndiePix on Vimeo.

Life Among the Whales buy the DVD help Greenpeace

Warm Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

I tried rather unsuccessfully to post a Kale Salad recipe a few days ago, it's what you get when you are too lazy to re-type a PDF file, anyway it was a salad I had eaten and liked, but thought it could use some improvement as there were some aspects to it (cold soft squash) that didn't make me happy. I like the idea of kale salad because Kale is still around at the market and it's hard in January to find a leafy local green that wasn't grown in a green house. The last couple of winters I've been doing a lot of cabbage salads as I can no longer in good conscious buy a plastic tub of expensive salad greens (often from California). Even though I think Satur Farms, a local Long Island farm, does a great job of greenhouse greens, cabbages come packaged in their own leaves and winter over without the help of a heated green house (and when I look at Satur Farms website it would seem they are now growing their Winter greens in Florida. Best stick to cabbage and kale sold from actual local farmers).

Here's my version of Kale Salad let me know what you think.

Kale Salad

Peel and cut into bite size chunks 2 large sweet potatoes (if you feel this is too much toss the extras with some salt and serve on the side - also try get the red fleshed kind if you can they look nicer and I think are a little sweeter) toss with 1 T of olive oil and roast in a preheated oven at 425 F for 55 minutes, flipping at least once so as to brown evenly. They will be crunchy and well browned when done.

To make the vinaigrette in a small bowl whisk together: 1 T honey (optional), 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup olive oil, lots of freshly grated black pepper and sea salt to taste.
Set aside.

Just before the sweet potatoes are ready to come out of the oven in a big bowl toss : 8 cups Kale chopped into a chiffonade (long thin strips) or roughly chopped (use what ever kale is at the market that appeals I like Red Russian or Blue (Lacinato) Kale with 1/2 cup toasted walnuts (lightly tossed in salt) roughly crumbled; pour in the vinaigrette a little at a time you may not want to add all of it or you may want to make more - as always take lots of tastes as you go.

Taste and adjust with more oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper or honey.

Toss the sweet potatoes with salt to taste then lightly incorporate them into the kale mixture

Place the salad onto a serving platter and top with 1 cup freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese, Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano (or some great local cheese).

I shaved mine over the hot potatoes which I piled on top of the greens and thought it made for a very nice presentation. The salad is so hardy it could be a meal with a small bowl of soup.

Serve immediately while the sweet potatoes are still warm. Enjoy.

Words of Truth:On a Toronto Newspaper Vending Machine

Colbert on Coal

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Coal Comfort - Margaret Palmer
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

Trashy Planet

I found this on MNN as part of a slide show article on the 15 most polluted places on the planet - oddly the planet is one of the 15. I love this photo of all the debris floating around our orbit:

Here's what they say:

Earth's orbit

Believe it or not, even space contains copious amounts of pollution. An estimated 4 million pounds of space debris — nuts, bolts, metal and carbon, even whole spacecraft — currently orbit the Earth, threatening satellites, communication and even the lives of our astronauts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kale Is All The Rage

This just in care of Tasting Table a wonderful Kale recipe from one of my favorite new East Village restaurants Northern Spy Food Company .

When I had it in the restaurant the squash was served cold. I have adapted the recipe substituting among other things the squash for sweet potatoes.

Kale Salad

Peel and cut into bite size chunks 2 large sweet potatoes (if you feel this is too much toss the extras with some salt and serve on the side) toss with 1 T of olive oil and roast in a preheated oven at 425 F for 55 minutes, flipping at least once so as to brown evenly. You want them to be crunchy and nicely browned.

To make the vinaigrette in a small bowl whisk together: 1 T honey, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup olive oil, lots of freshly grated black pepper and sea salt to taste. Set aside.

Just before the sweet potatoes are ready to come out of the oven in a big bowl toss : 8 cups Kale finely chopped into a chiffonade (long thin strips) or roughly chopped (use what ever kale is at the market that appeals I like Red Russian or Blue (Lacinato) Kale with 1/2 cup toasted walnuts roughly crumbled and the vinaigrette. Taste and adjust with more oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper or honey.

Toss the sweet potatoes with salt to taste then lightly incorporate them into the kale mixture

Place the salad onto a serving platter and top with 1 cup freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese.

Serve immediately while the sweet potatoes are still warm.

Monday, January 18, 2010

In The Country On The Lake

It's been a whirlwind of activity here with lots of wonderful homemade food. Chestnut, kale, red wine risotto at my brothers, spicy jambalaya and a hearty salad at my friends Sue's place and a last night a delicious local organic chicken stuffed with herbs and served with a big bowl of rosted veggies at Cynthia and Michael's country house that sits over looking the vastness of lake Ontario. I'm back to NYC on Wednesday and will get back to blogging as usual.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Silly, Trashy and Totally Awesome!

I'm not crazy about the National Enquirer presentation in this clip, but its substance is great and another example of how much smarter and more intuitive animals are they we give them credit for. Just the other night I was having a conversation with a friend about octopus the videos of them opening jars of food and using coconut shells for camouflage these are seriously intelligent creatures and as tasty as I find them I really think they are off the menu for me now.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dates Squares: Recipe Re-Think

Photographs by Kim Dirko.
I call them date squares even though in this instance the only pan we had was round.

Date Squares are big here in Toronto and on my first day walking about with my brother David he mentioned how much he really liked them. I hadn't thought about date squares in ages and realized that I also love them, but thought that the version I kept seeing here was a little dry and pale. So I put my thinking cap on and did some research and here is what I came up with. My caveat is that I have only tested these once but I think it's kind of hard to go wrong with so much sugar and butter!

Dates Squares: Recipe Re-Think

Preheat the oven to 350 F

In a sauce pan add: 3 cups pitted dates (whole), 1 1/2 cups water bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add: 2 teaspoon lemon juice , 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir frequently using a wooden spoon to help break down the dates. This should take about 10 minutes, add more water if they have not broken down enough and you feel the mixture is too dry. It should look like a thick fruit pie filling. I like the filling to be mushy with chunks of dates. A lot of recipes call for baking soda I use lemon juice instead to help break down the dates and to give the mixture a citrus note so it's not over whelmingly sweet.

Take off the burner and set aside to cool, taste and adjust with sugar or more lemon juice to your taste.

In a bowl combine: 1 cup ground walnuts or pecans (lightly toasted), 1 cup rolled oats (not instant!), 1/2 cup whole wheat flower, 6 T brown sugar, 2 T white sugar, 12 T unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt using your hands (or a wooden spoon) mix together until incorporated.

It should be quite moist and hold together.

Pat a little more then half the mixture into the bottom of a 9" square pan.

Spoon in the date filling and top with the remaining crumble.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until the top has turned golden brown.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack to room temperature. These are great served slightly warm or chilled with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shopping in Kensington Market

Perola Super Market is a little bit of Mexico right here in Toronto. Actually it's not so little, this good sized store has every thing you need for your next Mexican fest, from fresh cactus nopales to Jarritos soft drinks - try the Tamarindos flavor. Or buy Tamarinds in the pods by the kilo. Along this stretch of Augusta street in Toronto's famed Kensington market are several Mexican food purveyors. They also make make delicious tacos, burritos and tamales to go.

After having just been in Mexico and been overwhelmed by how many Canadians there were in Puerto Vallarta I'm glad to see that when the snow birds have come back home from the beach they can enjoy all the wonderful delicacies of Mexico at home.

4 Life Natural Foods store is a funky organic grocery store that epitomizes the funky aesthetic of Kensington market. Added on to the front of an old house in an almost third word style with a very much inside outside feeling, cement floors and a makeshift feel to the shelving, it has a great selection of local organic seasonal vegetables along with all the basic you need to fill you pantry with , like canned organic tomatoes and a small selection of bulk goods.

I look like some aged hound pointing with it noise to the nearest coffee shop.

And the nearest coffee shop and my favorite this trip is Ideal Coffee. They have two locations one on Ossington street and the original right here in Kensington market. This place reminds me of the original Ninth Street Espresso on 9th and C in the East Village of NYC. Funky in a falling apart hap hazard way with great music, twenty something hipster baristas (who really know what they are doing) and awesome good coffee.

Kensington market is definitely the place I most feel at home at here in Toronto, I love the diverse multi-culti crowd everything from punk rockers with their pit bulls, Rastafarians, hipsters, university students and stoners. My favorite store front is Roach-O-Rama a cafe, head shop who signed proudly states:

serving potheads I forgot

Thanks again to my brother David who took all these pics except the last one of roach-o-rama

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Healthy Butcher

My brother David took these photographs today during our wonderful walk about on Queen Street and West and in Kensington Market. This first series is of an amazing local butcher/grocery store - a place like this should be in every city and town. It really is the best butcher shop of it's kind (local and organic) that I've ever been in. The staff are total pros, informed, friendly and passionate about their business and it's mandate. This is me sleep walking (and I'd already had three cups of coffee!)

Here this is the sign behind the butcher case showing all the locations of all the farms that supply them.

Love this:

And finally some words of wisdom from Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Duck Confit Poutine

I'm in Toronto, it's freezing out and everyone I meet tells me how lucky I am because just before I got here it was really cold. I'm staying at this adorable coach house which my dear old friend's Djanet's sister has fixed up and rents out, it's a ten minute walk from the subway and is a beautiful old neighborhood right close to everything.

Yesterday after my flight Djanet met me here, I was starving so we went around the corner to The Rosedale Diner - which has been here since 1978! Something about longevity in a restaurant that I find endearing. I used to go here way back in the day when I used to live in Toronto. The interior has gone through some changes, but the food is just as good as it always was. Djanet had what was essentially a Bison stew and I had Duck Poutine - wonderful crispy fries covered in shredded duck confit, cheese curds and just a soupcon of gravy, perfection in a bowl. Poutin is normally just cheese curds, fries and gravy, but in looking at their menu I see they do many variations.

It's the perfect food for this type of weather, full of fat and carbohydrates, filling, satisfying and insulating against the cold.

OK I need to get motivated and find me some coffee!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tim Hortons Takes Manhattan

When I was a kid growing up in Hamilton, Ontario Canada we always used to get our donuts and my mom's coffee from Tim Hortons, or as my mother, for some inexplicable reason would call them, horny Tims. As far as I knew Tim Hortons was a small Canadian chain started or at least named after the famous Canadian Hockey player.

The particular doughnut shop that I remember from my early years was on Ottawa street and had more in common with a greasy spoon in an Edward Hopper painting then a slick fast food place - actually it looked like the picture above that I found on their website. Indeed as I read more I see that there very first store was in Hamilton and I had no idea that I took part in Tim Hortons history! The place pictured is the place I used to go to all the time. How weird is that?

Apparently their two most popular early donuts were the Dutchie and the Apple Fritter. Indeed I do remember the apple fritter it was huge and doughy with lots of sugary cinnamon soft cooked apple generously mixed into this wonderful doughy concoction.

All of a sudden Tim Hortons has 6 locations in Manhattan, the one that caught my attention the other day is on Union Square East in the huge two story space that use to house Zen Palate a fairly tasteful Asian vegetarian restaurant that had been there for ages. When they closed the space has laid empty for years, but now Tim Hortons has come to the rescue! Or something like that, actually Tim Hortons is now owned by Wendy's and is on it's way to becoming an international fast food chain, giving Dunkin Donuts a run for their money.

In recent years Neil and I would sometimes stop into Hortons in Toronto and get the maple glazed. I'm sure no maple is harmed or used in the making of this donut.

Nostalgia may have a strong pull, but I have moved on to another donut shop that retains some of it's local, quirkiness and even more importantly uses all organic ingredients. They have 27 locations in Asia and on in DC and are just in the process of opening up one in the Chelsea Hotel. Their donuts are also sold at Commodities on First Avenue.

Luckily the original The Doughnut Plant happens to be down the street from where I live.

(You say Donut I say Doughnut let's call the whole thing off? Apparently both are correct, on Tim Horton's website they use Donut the Doughnut plant does not. I need more coffee.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bacteria Link to Feces In Nearly Half of Fast Food Soda Fountains

Nice, I don't think I really need to comment other then to reiterate that here is yet another reason why fast food isn't the way to go. Read all about it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sour Dough Bread Recipe

OK so I remember when I first started my starter I saw this recipe in The Urban Homesteader book and thought: you've got to be kidding. It's like a major life commitment to just make a few loaves of bread. I was all into the no knead revolution at that point and this just seemed silly.

Many months passed and I took this sour dough bread course at the Brooklyn Kitchen from Nathan Leamy and lo and behold here is this same epic recipe.

What I had discovered in the interim was that sour dough bread needs more attention then the no knead recipe made with commercial yeast. When I tried to make it with sour dough it never really worked. So I have taken one aspect of Jim Leahy's no knead technique, baking the bread in a covered pot, and incorporated it into this classic sour dough bread recipe.

This bread takes two days to make and is best started in the early evening. When I start it in the morning I find it over proofs because inevitably I leave it in the fridge for 20 hours or so and even though the recipe says no longer then 24 my experience suggests that 8 -10 is optimal.

Also, bread makers are very big on weighing everything. In truth I don't find it makes any difference unless you are using a very heavy whole wheat flour, but even then I find this recipe to be fool proof. If it's too dry add more water, too moist add more flour.

Here goes:

Sour Dough Bread

In a big bowl combine:

14 ounces of sour dough starter/about 1 1/3 cups, 2 pounds 2 ounces bread flour/ about 7 cups (if you want to use whole wheat or rye start by adding 8 ounces, I like a very moist whole wheat bread and often use half white half whole wheat, but it's personal so experiment and see what works best for you), 1 pound and 2 ounces cool water/about 2 1/4 cups.

Knead for about 5 minutes (I use my Kitchen Aid, starting off with the paddle and then changing to the dough hook when it starts to come together, I only dough hook knead it for a bout 2-3 minutes - you have to be careful not to over process it).

Cover and let rest 20 minutes.

Add 4 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and knead for 10 minutes by hand or about 5 with a dough hook in your Kitchen Aid.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rest for 3-4 hours, covered.

Deflate dough by dropping it, don't punch it. My experience is that it really doesn't need much deflating.

Divide in two with a dough cutter or sharp knife (don't tear it). Loosely shape, cover and let sit for 20 minutes.

Shape. I place mine in two bowls dusted with flour, but use whatever you have.

Place in Fridge for at least 8-12 hours.

Remove from fridge and let rest 3-5 hours (see I told you it takes forever!)

Preheat the oven with a pizza stone in it to 500F - when the oven has reached it's temperatiure place covered baking dish (I use a clay cazuela, but cast iron, or even pyrex works, it just needs to have a lid and be big enough for the bread).

Heat for 30 minutes (or longer depending on how well timed this is with your dough).

You know the dough is ready when you poke it and it springs back.

Slash the bread with a razor in an X shape or what ever strikes your fancy.

Remove the covered container from the oven, close the oven door quickly take the lid off place the bread in the container, place the lid back on it and place it back int he oven.

Cook for 30 minutes covered.

Remove the lid and cook for another 10-15 minutes - until it has reached the right level of brown-ness for you and when you tap the bottom of the loaf it sounds hollow.

Time consuming - yes, but so worth it. This is the best bread ever.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dolphins: "Non-Human Persons"

Here's a great article from the London Times where scientist declare Dolphins the second most intelligent animals on the planet next to humans more so even then chimps.

From the article:

The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing. Some 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die in this way each year.

Soup, Pizza and Mezcal

I don't want to seem like a school girl with a crush or anything, but I have developed quite the thing for Luke's Lobster spicy crab and sweet potato soup. It's the perfect winter lunch, hearty and thick with a real kick of pepper - $7 for the large, 16 ounce version. If your taste leans towards something more traditional, they have a selection of soups ranging from Lobster Bisque to creamy flounder chowder and they all come with cute little packages of oyster crackers.

Neil and I went to Tonda the other night and really loved it. Originally the space started out as EU, they had liquor license hell and when they finally got one it never really took off. I'm glad to say that this large, sophisticated, but comfortable room gets it just right this time around. We loved our pizzas, the service rocked and best of all they offer a choice of white or whole wheat crust. We both had whole wheat (of course) and it was chewy with a hint of sweetness and really, really tasty. I'm looking forward to returning soon!

After my prediction about how mezcal was going to take the town by storm this year I ran out and visited Mayahuel where I found a funky, rustic speak easy feeling bar with an exhaustive selection of not only mezcal, but tequila.

The bartender was very sweet and gave me a few sample tastes, I ordered the mezcal chihuahua, a dark, Negro Modelo and two two small plates of food: a goat cheese, mushroom, huitlacoche stuffed poblano pepper coated in corn meal and deep fried and black bean/plantain croquette. With tax and tip it came to $52. A bit more then I wanted to spend, but then, shocking, mezcal here is not cheap like it is in Mexico City! They ranged in price from 12ish-30. It was well worth the splurge, and while the food was good the real focus is on drinking. Salute!

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Years Prediction

Ever since going to La Botica in Mexico City I have been thinking about mezcal.

So the other day, while in my favorite wine store September, I asked Jesse if they sold any mezcal. They did, but it was like 60 bucks a bottle (making me regret not having gotten some in Mexico).

He also told me about this restaurant/bar on 6th street that I had passed before, but it has a very small little sign and no indication from the outside what it really is - well it's Mexican and it's stated goal is to introduce people to the finest mezcals and tequilas and some fancy Mexican food in a rustic setting. They want people to appreciate these fine liquors in a way that they have historically not been appreciated. In fact, they had been rather abused and relegated to boozy, spring-break-type, over drinking.

The restaurant is called Mayahuel and I'm going there tonight!

I predict that 2010 is the year of mezcal! And as I was thinking about writing this post, what do I see plastered all over a store front under construction on Orchard street? An illustration of an agave plant with the word mezcal written all over it.

The invasion has started. Cheers!

Red Curry Paste

A while back I posted a menu which included a squash soup with coconut milk and red curry paste. Skip and Chris, who are readers, here asked for the recipe. I responded in a comment, but ever since have been meaning to actually post the recipe. Here it is.

Depending on how much you use of this amazing and versatile paste it will keep in the fridge forever.

Some tips on using it:
1. You need to fry it for a minute in a tablespoon or so of hot oil first before you add anything else to it (like coconut milk or squash puree, etc.) If you want to be "authentic", use peanut oil, but for goodness sake search out and spend the money on organic (you've already heard my rant about the very questionable farming methods used to grow peanuts in this country and how they are a rotation crop with cotton, the most heavily pesticide sprayed crop.)

These days palm oil or soy oil are ubiquitous for frying, both of these are seriously problematic from both an environmental and health point of view. For what it's worth I tend to use organic canola oil for most things as it's easier to find and tends to be a little cheaper then peanut oil.

2. Saltiness. You'd think that anything with anchovies and salt in it would already be salty enough, but this is a perfect example of where things that are salty are all salty in a different way. Sea salt, soy sauce, and fish sauce are all important additions to whatever dish you are making - peanut sauce, sweet potato and squash soup, stir fries, red curry duck, etc. In Thailand, in a traditional food stall or restaurant, you would always have on the table: hot peppers in fish sauce, plain fish sauce, sugar, dried ground hot peppers and vinegar and then, additionally, depending on what you ordered, fresh herbs.

All this to simply say just because you are adding a spice paste don't think it in and of itself will be enough. The key ingredient so often to most Thai cooking is the final squeeze of lime juice at the very end.

3. Finally, I substitute anchovies (I buy salted, but packed in oil ones work just as well) instead of shrimp paste. I do this for two reasons. Firstly, commercial farming of shrimps can be devastating to the environment with rich, lush mangrove swamps - wonderfully diverse ecosystems - turned into deserts and then abandoned by commercial shrimp farms. The problem with a product like shrimp paste is that you have no way of really knowing where the shrimp in it come from or how they were caught or farmed. Secondly my bf is Jewish, so shrimp aren't so big in our household.

This recipe is based on the one in Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid seminal book: "Hot Sour Salty Sweet"

Krung Gaeng Deng: Red Curry Paste

In dealing with hot peppers of any kind I highly reccomend you use latex or rubber gloves when handling them!

De-seed and stem about 1 1/2 cups of dried Thai red chiles (this is tedious work as the seeds often are not so willing to leave their home, my 2 cents worth is not to get to hung up on removing every seed, just be aware that the seeds will make your paste hotter).

Place the prepared chiles in a bowl and cover with hot water, place a plate on top to make sure they are submerged and leave sit for 30 minutes.

In a cast iron skillet over medium high heat add 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1/8 teaspoon black peppercorns. When the mixture become aromatic and the coriander and cumin seeds have started to change color remove from the heat and place either in a spice grinder (a cleaned out coffee grinder is what I use) or a mortar and pestle. Grind to a fine powder.

If you have a mortar and pestle it takes longer, but I find there is something very gratifying about grinding warmed spices in it.

Trim and mince 2-3 stalks of lemongrass (you really need to be ruthless here you want to take off all the outer dried leaves and just work with the softest inner leaves, in the markets of NYC you can now find local lemon grass in late August and September).

Roughly chop 1 Tablespoon of coriander root (all fresh coriander/cilantro bought from an Asian food store will still have the roots on usually this is not something you can find at the local Safeway).

Trim, peel and roughly chop 1/4 cup of garlic and shallots.

Trim, peel and roughly chop 1/4 cup of galangal (this is a gnarly rhizome related to ginger, but it is not something you can substitute with ginger even though some recipes say you can. It is one of the things that give this a true authentic Thai flavor, it is available frozen in Asian food markets and in New York is sometimes found fresh at Bangkok Center Grocery, Commodities or even Whole Foods).

Ditto goes for 1 teaspoon of wild lime zest you can substitute regular lime, but it isn't the same. These limes are often called Kaffir limes, but this is no longer acceptable as kaffir actually is a racist term so more and more people are referring to them as wild limes.

Drain the hot peppers reserving the liquid.

In a food processor or a blender (a blender will give you a finer paste, but I like the more country style effect I get with my food processor) add the prepared: lemongrass, galangal, coriander root, garlic and shallots and wild lime zest and process until a paste. Then add the dried spices, peppers, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 2-3 teaspoons of chopped anchovies (or 11/2 teaspoons of shrimp paste) and process, adding the reserved pepper water to blend into a paste.

You can do this all in a mortar in which case you want start with the lemongrass, galangal and coriander root, when they have been broken down then add the garlic and shallots, pounding again until they are all incorporated and form a paste then add the peppers, pounding and grinding again until all the ingredients are incorporated (adding liquid as is needed) then add the remaining ingredients and work into a paste. This can take a very long time and requires a large mortar, but if you are up for it and looking for a very authentic paste this is how it has been done historically in Thailand.

Place the paste in a sealed jar in the fridge. It sounds like a challenge assembling and processing all the ingredients, but it is so worth it and really makes a huge taste difference to canned. Also, as always this is a guideline feel free to add more or less of what ever. I'm inclined to use more cumin seeds and anchovies, but it's up to you and as you use it don't forget you can adjust it on a dish to dish basis.


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