Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Canada Bans PBA - America Drags It's Feet

Tom Philpot over at Grist looks at the news about Environment Canada's recent ban of BPA, labeling it toxic.

I mentioned in my epic posting on canning how biphenol A (BPA) is in the lids of Ball canning jars (it's the red soft ring around the lids that swells and makes the seal).

In Sherri Brooks Vinton's book Put 'Em Up she does mention BPA and gives some ideas about how to minimize exposure when canning:

Always store your jars right side up and allow the proper head space between the top of the food and the lid.

If you do serious canning it might be worth it to invest in a pressure canner so you can buy jars with screw top lids and avoid the situation altogether. If, however, you're like me and only can a few things every summer, I think buying reusable canning lids for the jars you already have is the most economical solution. They are sold in lots of 2 dozen for $18.95 plus shipping, which isn't exactly cheap....but since you can use them again and again it means you won't ever have to buy another Ball jar again!

Next year I am for sure going to buy the Weck jars (pictured above). They just look so cool. I tried to get some in Berlin, but when I found them they were really expensive (almost 7 Euro each!) Here I can order them online and get a far better deal. 12 jars with clamps and lids for about $19 plus shipping.

Ginger Peach Upside Down Cake

For this variation I omitted the 1/4 cup juice and added 2 Tablespoons of chopped crystallized ginger (I like the kind that comes in squares and is soaked in cane sugar syrup. It's usually sold at health food stores or Whole Foods).
And of course I topped each slice with a generous dollop of unsweetened whip cream.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Potato And Rosemary Gnocchi

I wanted to make gnocchi and see how it would fare with a roasted tomato. Every recipe I read said to make them with russet potatoes. I wanted to make them with new potatoes which are freshly dug at this time of the year and, to me, the perfect late Summer potato.

I spoke to a few farmers and they said that new potatoes were fairly starchy and would probably work, so I took the leap and bought some.

The really radical part of this recipe is that I use the skins. OK I should have given you more warning, have you picked yourself up off the floor? I know it's totally insane, right? How could I? The nerve! But you know what? I like potato skins, they contain fiber, vitamins and flavor, they add texture and, besides, why not use them? I think the little red flecks are pretty. So why relegate the peel to the compost bin when you can make good use of it?

New Potato And Rosemary Gnocchi

Chop 2 pounds of new potatoes and boil in well salted water until tender when pierced. Drain and let sit to dry for about 10 minutes.
Work in batches and put the cooled potatoes through a ricer.
In the bowl of a food processor reserve the skins and potato chunks that won't go through the ricer.
In a small sauce pan over medium heat add 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1/3 cup of heavy cream. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until the butter melts, turn off the heat and pour the melt butter and cream into the food processor with the potato skins.

Process until smooth.
Add 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped fresh Rosemary into the riced potatoes along with a generous grating of black pepper, salt, a pinch of cayenne and a 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated Nutmeg. Stir until mixed.
Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan and the cream, butter and potato skin mixture. Stir to incorporate then add 1 lightly beaten large egg and 1 1/2 cups of flour.

You may need to add more flour, since you want the mixture to be moist and workable, but not too soft or wet.
Refrigerate for about 45 minutes.
Roll out the dough onto a well floured surface. I only divided mine into four and found it to be too big. So I'd suggest cutting the dough into 8 pieces.
Roll out the dough into long ropes about 1" around then cut into 1" pieces.
Place the gnocchi pillows onto a parchment.
Preheat the oven to 400F.

If you'd like you can go through and indent each gnocchi with a fork and make them all traditional (I didn't since I flunked the Martha Stewart school of obsessive compulsion, but if you want to, knock yourself out...). I think they look fine like this.

Place a large 1/3 full pot of generously salted water over high heat and bring it to a boil.

Working in batches, gently place the gnocchi in water.

Do not get distracted when doing this! If they over cook they will fall apart and become mashed gnocchi! I speak from experience!

The minute the gnocchi start to float use a slotted spoon and place them into a lightly oiled oven-safe serving container. When you have cooked them all (this recipe makes enough for 8-10 people so I froze half) cover in a generous handful of grated parmesan and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

And here it is with some roasted heirloom tomatoes on top, which will eventually cover your tasty little pillows of potato cheese and rosemary in luscious juice.
These gnocchi would taste great in a rosemary tomato sauce or would be an excellent accompaniment to Osso Buco or rabbit stew.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Smart Mouth

From a sign board outside of a restaurant in Vancouver.

Nigel Slater Does Courgettes

I'm feeling an obsession coming on! I love Mr. Slater, he's so British, smart and earnest. And for our Americans a courgette is a zucchini.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Green Beans, White Miso and Poached Eggs

This is an adaptation of a David Chang Asparagus recipe that I think works perfectly with green beans. Feel free to use any color of bean you want.... green, yellow or purple (even though the purple go green when cooked).

Green Beans, White Miso and Poached Eggs

Fill half of a sauce pan with water and add a splash of white vinegar (about 1 teaspoon). Bring to a slow simmer. Crack open two farm fresh large eggs into two separate bowls.

In another sauce pan over low heat add 1/4 cup White Miso, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add 1/4 cup unsalted butter, stirring until the butter is totally incorporated but not melted, then mix in 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, cover, and set aside, keeping warm until needed.

In a skillet over medium heat add 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. When the butter has melted add one finely chopped clove of garlic, cook while stirring for 1 minute then add 1 pound of trimmed beans, stirring for about 2 minutes or until the green beans turn a bright shade of green. Don't over cook, they should be bendy, but still a little crisp*. Add salt and freshly grated black pepper to taste.

If you are doing Asparagus the garlic becomes optional. Pan fry the trimmed spears until well cooked (Chang suggests 10 minutes, I like mine a little more crunchy, it's up to you, taste as you go along and when they are where you like them, take them off the flame). Salt and pepper to taste.

When you are ready to serve, gently add the eggs one at a time to the simmering water and poach. You want the yolks to be running, so don't over cook, maybe 2 minutes.

On a warmed serving plate spread the Miso mixture then add the sauteed green beans on top.

Top the beans with the 2 poached eggs. I like to break them open with the back of a spoon and spread them roughly over the beans, but it's your aesthetic call. I like how it spreads the eggs over the entire dish.

Sprinkle with a little salt and some grated black pepper and serve promptly.

* check out Nigel Slater's video about beans. He talks about how he likes to cook them.

The Blueberries Are Here!

My good friend Jane's daughter Jenny, her husband Hugh and their children Ruth and Alan have a blueberry farm in Maine. In addition to the BEST ORGANIC fresh Blueberries I've ever come across, Intervale Blueberry Farm also sells: kick-ass homemade Chutney, Fruit Spread, Juice and Frozen Blueberries.

These berries are smaller then the ones I've been seeing at the market, they are totally unprocessed (a lot of commercial berries are grown with pesticides, and then before packing are put through a bleach bath, which removes the healthy bloom on the berry which you get when you order berries from Intervale).

This is a rare treat, blueberries grown to the highest organic standards, using traditional farming methods.

I'm re-posting this video from last year of my delivery of blueberries which I discovered when I got my computer back and have been trying to see what files remain and which ones don't.
I came across this and it made me smile. I am so obviously still figuring out the narrative thing...

Ever since I got my camera I have forsaken videos (which I used to make often) as it is so much easier to take photographs and up load them then it is the videos, anyway all this is to say that I'm going to try and start making them again. I miss them, but first I have re-download the video software...ugh. Don't get me wrong I am so happy to have been able to get my computer fixed and not have to buy a new one, I can't tell you. If you have a laptop (Mac or PC) in need of repair I highly recommend you check out the folks at The Little Laptop Shop they did a great job at a fraction of the cost as that fancy big computer store in Chelsea.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Lighter Side of Dark?

These Brits crack me up.

It's the last line that really is funny.

I find it a little bit odd that when you go to YouTube to watch it there is a content warning that it's not for all ages and you have to sign in to be able to see it? What's that about?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Roasted Heirlooms with Cheese

This is the easiest and most delicious recipe I have come across in, well, maybe forever!
And you have to make it while Heirlooms are still in season. So don't postpone joy!

This was inspired by what Nigel Slater said in the tomato video I posted a while back.


Core two large heirloom tomatoes (or as many as you want; 1 tomato per serving), I used a German Striped and a Brandywine.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Peel one clove of garlic and slice it into 8 slivers (in the picture above I did 4 and thought they were, in the end, too large).

Take 4 garlic spears and insert them into the flesh of the tomato from inside the hollowed out core.

Into the hollowed out core add 1 Tablespoon of fresh herbs (reserving a pinch of herb for the top of the cheese), I used Thyme, but Basil or Rosemary or Oregano or whatever else inspires you would be fine. Then stuff the tomato with about 2 ounces of cheese, I used a local cheese, Kunik which is a mix of goat and cows milk.

Place in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the reserved herb, salt and grated black pepper.

Roast for about 30 minutes, until the seams of the tomatoes are cracking and the cheese is bubbly and melted.

We ate this with bread, but I think it would be great if you were to make a cheesy pasta, Gnocchi comes to mind, maybe just tossing it with more Kunik and a grate of Parmesan so that you create your own sauce as you eat the tomato and mix it all up as you go.

I'm going to try this pasta idea this weekend and will get back to you!

Watermelon Porn

This Summer we have had some of the best fruit in recent memory: Nectarines, Peaches, Plums, Cantaloupes and Watermelons all have been exceptionally sweet and flavorful. Apparently all this hot, dry sunny weather is very agreeable to most crops, as the vegetables, especially the Tomatoes also seem better than ever this year.

It's very fashionable these days to make salads with watermelon as a key ingredient, some of them are way over the top, but for me the best way to eat it is chilled from the fridge, slice after dripping slice.

Watermelon is definitely on my last meal on earth list! Of course then there is the sweet meaty cantaloupe...
Farmers tend to sell melons individually this year. A cantaloupe is usually 3 or 4 dollars and a watermelon as pictured above is about 6. The bigger the melon the more expensive it is; my 2 cents is to avoid those melons which are being sold by the pound, as it will end up being far more expensive. And because they are so heavy a lot of farmers don't want to be carrying a bunch home with them after a long day at the market so look for these delicious treats on sale at the end of the day.

El Ray del Sabor: The King of Flavor!

This is the 5th and final food cart finalist for this year (aka The Vendy's). If you are just tuning in I have posted all five in the last 10 days so check them out.

I am going through a Mexico obsession phase (already booked my apartment for Puerto Vallarta in December) so I admit my bias up front, but this is my favorite cart (not based on actually experience of eating at it just from viewing the videos, I have not seen any of these carts in my travels).

Pueblo where Rosa is from is also very famous for it's pottery which is very ornately painted.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

David's 50th Birthday Bash

Yeah I know I'm a little pizza obsessed this summer, but for big parties it just seems easiest and pizza is always a crowd pleaser. The corn dish recipe is what I used in my corn potato casserole, the Gingered Peach Upsidedown Cake is just the usual recipe (minus the 1/4 cup juice - peaches don't need any extra juice) and I added 2 tablespoons of chopped crystallized ginger to the butter and sugar mixture before I layed the peach half into it. Feel free to add more to the batter if you want, in my book you can never have too much crystallized ginger!

I used the same Bluefish pate recipe as I posted last year, although I used 6 ounces cream cheese and 2 ounces Quark this time and I served them with a selection of French, Persian and Onions pickles (the French Pickles really rock!) and some hot out of the oven whole wheat homemade bread.

I'm Pro Goat and I Vote!

Apparently it's illegal to have goats in NYC, but in Berkeley it is fine. Just Foods newsletter was sent out today linking to this Huffington Post article about which cities are goat friendly along with these two really wonderful videos.

Honey I want to move to Oakland! How fun would it be to make urban farmstead goat cheese?

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's Not Just Me

Last Friday I wrote a "foaming at the mouth" post about the stupid NYT op-ed essay Math Lessons For Locavores by Stephen Budiansky.

It did my heart good to see that I wasn't the only person who thought it was a waste of space.

Yesterday I saw on the Huffington Post an article by Kerry Trueman which nicely discusses this exercise in stupid generalizations and deliciously takes Mr. Budiansky's piece apart limb by limb.

And the chorus of voices increases, this just in from Grist.

Nigel Slater: Tomatoes

This is seasonally appropriate and goes to prove my point from the last post about Brits, vegetables and melted cheese.

Enjoy, I'm running out to buy some large tomatoes, fresh herbs and goat cheese!

And The Winner Is

Last week I wrote a post about the Guardian's top 50 cookbooks.

They were being coy and kept us all waiting with baited breath for the top 10, initially only giving us 50-11. I made some guesses about what might be on the top 10 list, and now that I see what they picked I realize that some of my guesses weren't weighty enough. I did get one right: Simon Hopkinson's autobiographical Roast Chicken and other Stories. I should have guessed Nigel Slater whose book Tender my friend Ian who lives in London gave it to me - it's an incredible and exhaustive look at how to cook/make every kind of vegetable imaginable and some not imaginable as you've never heard of them! Slater is a Brit, perhaps not so well known here, but probably Britain's best food writer. The guardian choose his book The Kitchen Diaries which I know have to have!

Elizabeth David (#2), Marcella Hazan (#8), are obviously dead on choices. The folks at the Guardian are trying to cover all bases: Italian, International (Robert Carrier's The Great Dishes of the World - just in case anyone felt left out), Chinese, well specifically Sichuan (Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop), British (obviously here because it is a British publication), Jewish, which I thought an odd choice, but then in reading the blurb about Claudia Roden's seminal work The Book of Jewish Food you realize it's an extensive overview of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking and as the blurb tells us is:

"less a cookbook than a cultural over view of the entire Jewish diaspora, with appropriate recipes attached. It is a mark of just how reliable a piece of scholarship it is that, on publication, it was greeted with almost universal acclaim; a rare achievement for any work wading into the notoriously rancorous Jewish community."

Which struck me as funny the notoriously rancorous Jewish community... here in NYC we would just call it kvetching which somehow, to me, sounds less, er, difficult?

The cookbook I kick myself for not buying when it was on sale at the Strand is David Thompson's Thai Cooking. I ate at his restaurant Nahm in London twice and as someone who has traveled extensively in Thailand I have to give Mr. Thompson his due: the man really knows his way around Thai food!

In the end it's the French who win the top 2 spots, not a surprise, but I was hoping for something a little more, oh I don't know, OK well, yes, surprising.

I suppose that the number 1 book on the list, Richard Olney's The French Menu is written by a Yank is kind of revolutionary and if you think about it kind of a slap in the face to Julia Child who hitherto has always been to go to gal when it comes to Yanks and French cooking.

In the end, as much as I have a problem with the whole list thing, I still can't help but get sucked into it, trying to figure out the justification for why they included one book and not the other. I'm making up my own list in my head (which certainly wouldn't be a top 50 maybe a top 15).

The only book I feel they were way off base not including, in particular as they seem interested in having cook books from all cultures included, which I had guessed (wrongly) would be on the 10 ten list, is Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuni Devi, one of my personal all time favorites and certain the most thorough and encyclopedic Indian cookbooks ever written.

Check out the top 10 and let me know in the comments section what your favorite cookbooks are and which ones you think they missed or where just plain wrong in including.

Here's Nigel Slater from a promo for his book Tender talking about cooking beans, that he's picked fresh from his garden:

Having read a fair amount of cookbooks by Brits I have to say when it comes to vegetables you could reduce their philosophy down to this: everything is better with melted cheese on it.

Certainly a philosophy I can get behind!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Technology Meltdown

I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record and hopefully in a week or so things will be back to normal, but my MacBook died and I am blogging from Neil's ancient Dell which I can't download photo's to and whose keyboard I have yet to figure out the nuances of.

I feel like I went from the modern age to making cave paintings. I bought an iPhone thinking that would help, but it's useless as well; I spent this morning trying to take a picture of a menu and send it to myself but all I got were error messages. Tomorrow I'm off to Fire Island (maybe) and was hoping to be able to do some blogging with my new phone, but so far I can't get blogger to work on it, photos don't upload or send and my message box does nothing but give me error messages about my gmail account password being wrong. So I am off to the apple store to see if one of their supposed geniuses can help me.

The real reason I wanted to post about this is that Urbanfoodguy is having a growth spurt, so to make matters worse (as I am in the midst of a technology meltdown) I'm also going through a period of tremendous productivity where not only do I want to post multiple things a day I am being read by more and more people. We are rapidly approaching the historic landmark of a thousand readers a week. So I will do my best to keep posting in whatever limited way I can until I get my computer back or buy a new one. In order to do that though I may need to throw a fundraising dinner and pass the hat! Leave a comment if you'd want to come over for an Urbanfoodguy cooked local seasonal meal...I feel an idea coming on...

More later..

Brooklyn Grange

The Brooklyn Grange Farm is a nearly 1 acre organic farm on a rooftop in Long Island City, Queens (is Queens the new Brooklyn? Sorry I hate questions like that, but I couldn't help myself). On Sundays the Brooklyn Grange Farm sells their produce in Bushwick at my favorite pizza joint Roberta's (one of the owners of Roberta's is also on the team at the Grange).

Welcome to the new urban reality. And if you want to get involved in other ways than buying produce check out the Grange's website looks like they could use your help!

The Brooklyn Grange: NYC's Biggest Rooftop Farm from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

Funny how it's called the Brooklyn Grange yet it's in Queens? Maybe that's a hipster thing ? ;-)

Neil and I are heading out now for a pizza and beer lunch, I'll give you a full report later.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In the News

I was glad to see a judge revoke the use of Monsanto's Sugar Beets seeds until:

"regulators complete a more thorough review of how the scientifically engineered crops affect other food".

About time.

Then there was a very annoying Op Ed in the Times called: Math Lessons for Locavores

The author makes all these statements, but never backs them up with any facts, like:

"For instance, it is sinful in New York City to buy a tomato grown in a California field because of the energy spent to truck it across the country; it is virtuous to buy one grown in a lavishly heated greenhouse in, say, the Hudson Valley".

Really? Sinful to who? I never buy greenhouse tomatoes, to me one of the points in being a locavore is eating seasonally. Not that I have anything against greenhouses and a lot of farmers now are making plastic covers for there plants that don't require heating, so no fuel is used. Besides on a very basic level one of the other things about eating locally is that you help support the local economy instead of the desertification of California which is now in it's what 4th year of drought. Just where abouts are they getting all the water for all those crops?

It seems to me that if you are going to talk about 'locavores' you need to define the term, not make generalizations based on what best suits your argument.

As for math I'd like to know how energy efficient it is to be dedicating so much land to mono cultures that are destroying our topsoil and creating a huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico (from agricultural chemical run off), doesn't exactly seem like a good use of resources to me. He actually doesn't bother to look at the type of agriculture at all or the varied kinds of costs this kind of corporate imported farming incur. Like the cost of planting GMO seeds and dumping a billion pounds of pesticides on our soil yearly. I guess you could call them inconvenient costs as they don't factor into this essay.

If you read it let me know what you think I'd love to hear your comments.

Oh and can I just say how much I HATE PC's on my Mac I could have provided a nice picture for you but on this computer you can't click and drag so I have no idea how to get a sugar beet picture to upload into this posting. So instead here is a link to an article about gmo sugar.

Sorry to be so grumpy.

MacBook RIP

My computer died today.

I took it into the repair shop, shrugged and said to the guy:

"Well I guess 4 years is all you can expect."

He surprised me and said:

"5, they should last 5 years.'

This Mac has been the bad seed of laptops from day 1. I had to replace the hard drive TWICE in the first year of ownership.

Makes me wonder why I still am so slavishly devoted to them? I'm typing this on Neil's Dell and I hate it, it's like I have to learn a new language with a weird alphabet, nothing makes sense, even the keyboard behaves oddly.

It's going to take until next Tuesday or Wednesday before I'll get the diagnosis. Something tells me it's not going to be good...to make matters more complicated I am in theory going to the island of bad reception on Sunday or Monday (Fire Island) for 5 days or so.

Not sure how I will be able to afford a new laptop, but in the mean time I am off to get an iPhone!

Please bear with me as I figure out my options. I'm sure after the mourning period is over I'll come up with some clever idea.

Over the next week my posting may be dodgy, but have no fear...... I'm just temporarily technologically challenged.

The King Of Falafel

Here is the 4th of 5 Vendy nominated food truck videos: The King Of Falafel

Great music on his site!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Chocolate Pudding Cake with a Peanut Butter Twist

My Grandmother used to make the classic version of this dessert for me when I was a little boy.

Over the years I've played around with it, trying many different variations: low fat milk instead of water, coffee instead of water, adding cinnamon and hot pepper, and so on....this is my latest and I think my favorite variation: Peanut Butter Swirl.

By adding 4 tablespoons of creamy organic peanut butter into the batter you get a gooey baked Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in cake form made with really good ingredients!

Just be sure you use organic peanut butter none of that stuff with high fructose Corn Syrup or dubious hydrogenated tropical oils. No need to destroy the rain forest, become obese, get diabetes and support Monsanto just because you want a little peanut butter in your chocolate pudding cake.

Whole Foods sells a reasonably price peanut butter and they offer an unsweetened version which I highly recommend.

Try it, you'll like it.

Chocolate Pudding Cake with a Peanut Butter Twist

First preheat the oven to 325 F and butter an 8" square pan (I used my clay dish it's 8 x 11 and worked just fine, I just cook it a little less).
In a bowl add 3/4 cups brewed coffee (I used left over from that morning) with 3/4 cups hot water (you can use all water if you want, I have a friend who is very coffee phobic and even though I don't think you actually can taste the coffee in this dish, he could). Put aside.

In another bowl add 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/3 cup brown sugar tightly packed and 1/3 cup cane sugar and mix together into a fine powder. Put aside

Add 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped) and 1/3 cup cocoa in a bowl and place over a barely simmering pot of water, stirring until completely melted and mixed together. Remove from heat and set aside.
Mix together 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 3/4 cup of all purpose flour.

In a large bowl (I know, this is a bowl heavy recipe) whisk 2/3 cups cane sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1/3 cup whole milk (or half and half) and 1 Tablespoon of amber rum, scotch or Vanilla.

Add chocolate mixture and whisk until it is well incorporated then add the flour mixture. Mix until just blended. Spoon out into buttered pan.

Now here's the fun part: spoon 4 tablespoons of creamy organic unsweetened Peanut Butter into each corner of the batter and swirl around (I used a butter knife).
Then sprinkle with the cocoa sugar mixture.
And finally, cover with the water/coffee mixture.
Pop in the oven and cook for 35-45 minutes. Check on it at the 35 minute point, this is one of those cakes that the more you cook it the less pudding on the bottom you will have. Up to you, but I like it to be half and half pudding and cake so I usually take it out of the oven at the 35 minute point. See how it's looking, if it's still really wobbly give it more time.
Add some unsweetened whipped cream and dig in! And if you did use rum or scotch offer your guest a sip on the side, it can only enhance the experience. ;-)

Stephen Colbert on Meat

It amazes me why people like this guy from the American Meat Institute would want to go on The Colbert Report and be made fun of so ruthlessly?

I love it when Stephen starts to gnaw on the Flintstone size Turkey leg, while the "poop" question made me laugh and feel vaguely uncomfortable all at the same time.
Better Know a Lobby - American Meat Institute
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

This Week From Harpers

A motorist in upstate New York was arrested during a traffic stop when police discovered a cat locked in his trunk, "marinating" in pepper, salt, and oil. The driver explained that Navarro, the cat, had been "mean" to him, and was "possessive, greedy, and wasteful."

The U.S. beef industry was testing methods of cloning dead cows from ideal cuts of meat and mating those clones with natural cows to create the ultimate beef-producing livestock. "We identify carcasses that have certain carcass characteristics that we want," explained Brady Hicks of the agribusiness firm J. R. Simplot. "Through cloning we can resurrect that animal."

The Bistro Truck

Here is the third video of 5 (look back at earlier posts for the first 2) finalists for the Vendy Awards. Two more to go!

I have to say of all the 5 finalists I don't think I have ever bumped into one on the street, but now that I know about them I can keep an eye out or more to the point I can look at there respective websites and find out where they are going to be parked as all of them look like they are serving really tasty well priced grub!

Here is the Bistro Truck:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scarred For Life

Last Friday I made Pretzels and Laugenbrötchen (pretzel buns) which were really good (if I do say so myself) but the classic process of making these involves dipping the uncooked, shaped dough into a lye bath, then placing it back on your baking sheet before putting it in the oven.

Look what it did!

If I made these regularly would it burn through my pan? Probably not because somehow baking them renders the lye harmless, but still it's very weird to cook with something so caustic it can take the shine off your sheet pan!

Crude Sacrifices

My friend Philip sent me this uber grim look at the tar sands in Alberta. Alberta, for those of you who have never been, is the Texas of Canada. Alberta has a lot of oil like Texas, but it also has something unique - tar sands. Which when I was growing up in Canada where useless because they still had not figured out how to separate the sand from the oil. Guess what? They figured it out and it's not a good thing... well at least not for people. It's dandy for the oil companies bottom line however. Damn those pesky people always getting in the way of profit!

Take a deep breath at give the trailer a look see.

Here is the link to the site and a synopsis:

Crude Sacrifice takes an in-depth look at how a northern community is treated by Canada and the province of Alberta as it relates to our government’s involvement with multi-national oil companies in exploiting and promoting Canada’s rich Tar Sands.

This Just in From The Guardian...

Tojo, Indonesia: A villager walks through a burnt forest after a slash and burn practice to open the land for agriculture. Photograph: Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters

In the last 6 months I've started to post more and more video from the British paper the Guardian. I think at this point it's my favorite news source. Anyway, this week they had two very different articles that I think are of note and you might want to check out.

The first one is a report about the UN biodiverstiy chef Ahmed Djoghlaf (who knew they had one?) who warns that:

nations risk economic collapse and loss of culture if it does not protect the natural world

Probably not a big shock to most of the readers here, but still very interesting stuff with a good audio narrative.

The second article is a little more fun. It's there list of the top 50 cookbooks of all time, with the top 10 missing (tricky buggers) which they are withholding from us until Sunday (to be continued).

I was particularly pleased that two of my favorite cookbooks make the top 50. At number 17 is David Tanis's brilliantly simple book A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes.

Number 11 (my lucky number!) is Alice Waters first cookbook: Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook.

Now we all have to be on tenterhooks until Sunday!

I think in the top 10 should be The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Marion Cunningham, Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi and The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters.

They also have to choose at least one British cookbook, I'm not so well versed, but maybe Roast Chicken and Other Stories or The Riverford Farm Cookbook?

It's like the Oscars of cookbooks!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fresh Direct

Over the last couple of months things here at Urbanfoodguy have been gearing up. Not only have the number of visitors nearly doubled, but I've started to get all sorts of fancy ass PR people sending me press releases and asking me to talk about their products.

One of the more interesting ones, to me, is Fresh Direct, which for those of you who don't live in NYC is an online food delivery service. You can do all your shopping online and then they deliver it to your door. I can't personally think of a more alienating or unappealing food shopping experience, yet I know lots of people who swear by them. I think if you are elderly or disable it is an amazing service to have available. My gripe with them isn't what they sell, it's what I see as an excessive and wasteful use of fuel in delivering it to you.

My environmental issues aside, it is a local business founded by the people behind the wonderful Fairway Market on the Upper West Side and the main topic of this particular press release was to get the word out that Fresh Direct has teamed up with local farmers and is now offering more locally sourced food.

Newly available on the site are local peaches, apricot and plums from Red Jacket Orchards, Breezy Hill’s handmade fruit pies, bi-color corn, cranberry beans and yellow beans, eggplant, tomatoes, Satur Farms herbs, local kirby cucumbers, baby fennel, candy striped beets and so much more.

They have even gone so far as to offer a 20% discount to readers of Urbanfoodguy by using this link* (Please read the limited time offer legal blah blah at the bottom of the post).

Personally I think you should go to the farmers market, the walk is good for you and Union Square in particular is close to almost every subway. Not to mention this gives you an opportunity to support a large number of farmers not just the larger ones who are able to sell to the corporation like Fresh Direct. I understand that for many that is not a reasonable suggestion, so I'm happy to see that Fresh Direct continues to maintain a commitment to locally sourced food and the farmers that grow and/or raise it and that this site has enough of a readership they saw it worthwhile to write me and to offer my readers a discount.

And while we are on the topic of readers - tell your friends and become a follower!

Thanks now back to our regularly scheduled programing ;-)

* Limited time offer. Expires August 31, 2010. May not be combined with any other offer. All standard terms and conditions apply. Limit one use per customer/account. Residential orders only. Void where prohibited. Offer is non-transferable.

NYC Water

Way back in April of 2009 I wrote on this here blog thingy a post called Plastic Haters Unite
which was about the problem of plastic water bottles and also a call to arms to write or call the City and tell them to install more water fountains so people wouldn't have to buy bottled water.

I actually did write the city, but was certain that it was a waste of time (I can be such a Debbie Downer sometimes). So it was with great curiosity and wonder that I noticed last week at the market this weird looked large sink that had several faucets and a couple of drinking fountains attached to it. Surrounding this oasis were many volunteers handing out water drop shaped stickers that say: NYC WATER Brought to you by NYC environmental protection. With a web site address nyctapwater.org

I can't really take any credit for this new campaign the city has undertaken to ween people off their plastic water bottle habit, but I sure was happy to see it happening! It's also important that people know how safe, tasty and good our tap water is. There is no need for plastic water bottles, except the need of large corporations like Coca Cola to make a profit off of something that up until 30 years ago most people drank for free from, yes you guessed right, water fountains.

Here's the video from the NYC Tap Water project people and below it just for fun I'm re-posting The Story of Bottled Water video.

Real Venezuelan Food Made By Venezuelans!

I'm going to highlight all of the finalist in the Vendy's this year, here is the second of 5:
Patacon Pisao

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I forgot to take pictures when these were fresh out of the oven, so they look a little soggy here, nonetheless I wanted to share with you my first ever attempt at cooking with lye, the key ingredient in giving pretzels and pretzel buns their unique, chewy, delicious, brown skin.

It's hard to tell, but the ones on the left are the pretzels. I didn't roll out the dough into a long enough rope so after they had sat for a bit the nice pretzel shape closed over and they came out of the oven looking like pretzels that have over-eaten. No matter as they were supper yummy. Yes, super yummy! I topped some of them with salt and some with a salt caraway mixture.

It's very scary using lye; I wore an old chef's jacket, long pants, socks, real shoes (as opposed to my usual flip flops) and my reading glasses (they say goggles!). It's like you're doing some dangerous experiment in a sci-fi movie. Luckily the lye didn't burn through my counter top or spill and horribly disfigure me.

It did however take the nice sheen off my cookie sheets. You have to wonder how something so caustic can be rendered so harmless and delicious.

I remember the first time Maury Rubin told me about how he came to making his genius pretzel croissants and it all sounded so dangerous and unnatural.

Anyway, I'm proof that you can use lye and survive and that the results are truly spectacular! I will make them again. And of course because I was distracted I forgot to take pictures because I made the pretzels exclusively to have with my Obatzda! Which I made with a local Camembert cheese (1/2 pound and 3-4 T butter, 1/2 teaspoon of smoked Paprika and 1/2 teaspoon of sweet Paprika mixed all up in my Kitchen Aid!) I served it with chopped pickled onions and spears of French Breakfast Radishes.

I used the Pretzel recipe from Zingerman's as published in the NYT.

And as a side note, I cubed some left over stale pretzel buns, tossed them with garlic oil and toasted them in the oven and they made awesome croutons for tonight's Cesar salad!

French Pickles

My canning frenzy continues! One of my all time favorite pickles in the world is the sour little French Cornichon. Somehow these little sour wonders became Gherkins (not to be mistaken with gurkhas - thank you Joanna Lumley!) in America which are sweet and bear little to no resemblance to their French forefathers.

I never thought of making French Pickles as they are called in Chris Bryant's recipe in Ashley English's book Canning and Preserving because I'd never seen the traditional itsy bitsy little Kirby's required. Turns out (duh) that any Kirby can be imbued with the wonderful Tarragon sourness of a Cornichon, and Chris's recipe gave me the courage to go ahead and try to make a batch myself. Size be damned! This is American God Damn it: everything is bigger here!

These pickles are brined in salt water for 2 days before adding the vinegar and canning them.

The first day you douse your prepped Kirby's and some garlic in hot water and let them sit uncovered over night. In the morning your entire apartment is redolent of cucumber, it's like living in a bottle of Kiehl's face cream.

On the second day you add pearl onions. I added both white and purple and added about a cup more then the recipe called for (I see some Gibsons in my future!).
Then you add 1/3 of a cup of canning salt, cover and let sit over night. Repeat the next night then you are ready to add the vinegar, spices and Tarragon branch and get canning.

2 of my 8 jars did not process properly, the lids are suppose to create a vacuum and suck in the little middle part of the lid, for some reason 2 of mine didn't. If this happens to you the best thing to do is just put them in the fridge and eat them over the next couple of weeks. Don't try and process them again, it's a lot of bother and you risk limp un-crunchy pickles (yuck).

Next up Nectarine Chutney!

For this and more recipes pick up a copy of Ashley English's Canning and Preserving.

Leftovers:Succotash and Smashed Potato Casserole with Cheddar Cheese

You'd think after having a big dinner party on Friday I'd take Saturday off! Nope. Several friends converged Saturday night and although they weren't expecting dinner I wanted to serve something up and had lots of left overs so here is what I did.

Left Over Succotash and Smashed Potato Casserole with Cheddar Cheese

This is going to be fairly free form, given it's based on left overs. You can make substitutions and vary anything you want at will; this is the outline based on what I had in my fridge. Although I will say that even though it was a left over creation, I would definitely make this as a "from scratch" dish since it was so successful.

Fill a large pot with water and add several teaspoons of salt. Chop 8 new red skin potatoes place in water, bring to boil and cook until tender, strain, add 4 Tablespoons of butter, smash with a potato masher season with salt and pepper, cover and set aside for later.

While you are waiting for the potatoes to cook... Peel and shuck 8 cobs of corn, trim and roughly chop one large yellow summer squash and one green (zucchini), trim and chop into bite size pieces about 1/2 pound of beans (green, yellow, purple or a selection of all three), finely chop 1 large sweet onion, smash and finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic.

In a large skillet or pot (that has a lid) over a medium flame add 1/3 cup olive oil when hot add the onions, stir for two minutes then add the garlic, cook for a minute and then add all the veg, cover with a lid and cook over medium heat until tender (8-12 minutes, better to err on the side or crunchy). Season with salt pepper and the juice of one lime. Add more butter if you want it to be richer. Optionally you could add in 1 or 2 seeded jalapeno peppers and cook with the onions if you wanted it to be spicy, also you could finish it off with chopped fresh cilantro. My 2 cents is that right now with everything in season it's nice to just revel in the fresh true flavors of the ingredients and not get caught up in making the dish too complicated or busy.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Grate 2 cups of extra sharp white cheddar cheese.

Butter your favorite casserole dish (mine is a Spanish clay dish that measures 8x 11) and add the smashed potatoes in a layer, then, using a slotted spoon (you don't want the juice from the veggies or you'll have soggy casserole and no one is a fan of soggy casserole) make a layer of succotash. Top with grated Cheddar and bake for about 30 minutes, the cheese should be brown around the edges. If you are making this with actual left overs from the fridge make sure it's warmed through (OK this may not meet the Martha Stewart seal of approval but often if I am worried about this I just stick my finger in it to taste the temperature). Serve with Tabasco sauce and garnish with chopped cilantro if you have some laying about... otherwise just dig in!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Vendy Awards

It's that time of year again the Vendy's are back! This is the award for the best food cart/truck in NYC.
This year they are doing little videos highlighting each contestants.

First up is the Schnitzel truck, which I personally haven't come across but it sure does look popular. This guy is a real character.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Cupcake Lover

Rushing down Broadway I saw this:
And just had to stop ;-)

Good News

It's nice to see that all the ranting and raving that I and so many other people have been doing over the years is starting to have concrete results. The New York Times reports that:

WEST MANSFIELD, Ohio — Concessions by farmers in this state to sharply restrict the close confinement of hens, hogs and veal calves are the latest sign that so-called factory farming — a staple of modern agriculture that is seen by critics as inhumane and a threat to the environment and health — is on the verge of significant change.

It's a good article worth the read. By no means is the battle over to end the heinously inhuman and environmentally catastrophic practice of "factory farming" of animals, but it is good to see that slowly, much needed change is starting to happen.

Plane Travel

I love to fly. I don't always love the people who fly next to me. It never ceases to amaze me how...... what's the word? It's more than rude and not quite insane... fucked up? People are when they get on a plane. Or maybe they were like that before they boarded? Regardless of what you call them, we all know who I'm talking about.

Here is Stephen Colbert on Jet Blue flight attendant Stephen Slater, who finally had enough.

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