Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Foley Square: Farmers Against Monsanto Rally

Here are some pictures from this mornings rally sponsored by OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) in front of the court house on Foley Square, where oral arguments have started in a case against Monsanto.
Simply put OSGATA and farmers  are trying to prevent Monsanto from harassing them with lawsuits if one of their (Monsanto) seeds has blow over the fence and taken root in a non Monsanto field.  Monsanto seeds are deeply problematic (on many levels but...), especially if you are trying to grow organic and your neighbor has thousands of acres of GMO corn, soy, sugar beets, etc.  Wind, birds and nature in general is not propriety and doesn't understand that Monsanto "owns" nature now.  Basically it's the largest intimidation scheme in the history of the planet to ensure a monopoly for Monsanto: grow our seeds or we will sue you, because we found one plant in your field that is ours,  means you are stealing (untrue and what was Monsanto doing in that farmers field  - trespassing?) doesn't matter how it got there - we don't care we are suing you.
So today we were in Foley square encouraging the justices in the court house to do the right thing by farmers and the planet and put Monsanto in it's place.

Cards were handed out of Monsanto's history.  Highlights include Sacharine, Agent Orange (along with Dow Chemical) and GMO's Damn they sure have been busy!

 The crowd - I'd say maybe 75 people?

Funny I guess farmers don't pose much of a threat we were there for a good half hour before any police showed up.
 Some of the many signs:

The new Frank Gehry apartment building loomed over the proceedings. The 1 percent always get the good views!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Join Me: Rally with Farmers Against Monsanto

On January 31, family farmers will take part in the first phase of a court case filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which can contaminate organic and non-GMO farmers' crops and opens them up to abusive lawsuits. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets.
The judge has agreed to hear oral arguments in this landmark case to decide whether or not this case will move forward. If you'd like to show your support for family farmers and their right to grow food without the threat of fear and intimidation, please RSVP to attend the Citizen's Assembly.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


This is my friend David who I went to Walden with this past Thursday and below is the very beautiful and insanely delicious bowl of Cauliflower soup he had:
Smooth, rich, light intensely flavored Cauliflower soup with brown butter, brioche croutons and fried Sage. I had an almost equally delicious watercress, beet and sunchoke salad and to snack on when we first got our bottle of wine ($29 for a nice red vin du table).  To get us started we shared a home made pretzel served with honey mustard, it wasn't in a traditional pretzel shape but it didn't matter it was delicious!

Walden is the kind of local, corner farm to table bistro that every neighborhood should have.  I loved it so much it made me have fanatises of moving so I could be closer.     
My pictures suck,  I hate using a flash so to get a better view of the place check out their website.
The two mains we had were: Hake served on a ragout of tomatoes and olives which was very flavorful and amazingly only $11!  I had a Cassoulet $16) which was the least successful of all the dishes we had, the beans were perfectly cooked and the Duck rich and unctuous but it was dry, and the generous amount of bread crumbs it was topped with made you cry out for some more rich tomato sauce which is typical in the cassoulet's I have made or eaten before.

For dessert we had home made chocolate chip cookies (4) which are baked while you wait - yummy.
A short walk from the Lorimer L train stop Walden is a CASH ONLY restaurant that is well worth the trip.  The room is simple and comfortable and the service was friendly and attentive.  I can't wait to go back.  They don't take reservations, so we went early but didn't really need to as the place was empty it wasn't until about 8:30 that people started to come in.  They also have a lovely bar which would be a fine place to while away an evening eating small plates and sipping delicious and very reasonably priced wine.

Cookie Monster Panics

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pinto Beans Olla!

It's funny how a simple clay pot can change your life.  After finally finishing seasoning it I could not wait to take it for a spin and makes some beans!
 It's so easy and they really are the best beans I've ever made .

Rinse and pick over 1 lb of Pino beans then pour them into your Olla (or heavy bottomed pot), cover well with hot water (several inches above the bean line) add 2 whole cloves of Garlic, 1 Onion quartered (I used red) and 1 Bay Leaf.  Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer, make sure as the beans cook you keep adding HOT water so they remain soupy.
No need to presoak the beans, add salt and freshly ground black pepper when the beans are done to your likeness.  You need a good teaspoon or more of sea salt and as much pepper as you fancy.  Served here with broan rice, roast chicken and salsa verde!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mysterious Fruit

Fruit....Or is it a vegetable?  It grows on a vine. The Jamaican home care attendent who is taking care of Neil's mom brought it back from her recent trip home and said she didn't know the name of it and that all sorts of scientists were studying it.   I wanted to cut if open, but we were not sure if she wants it back...
Any ideas resourceful readers?

Olla Seasoning

An Olla is a traditional Mexican clay pot that is used to make beans in. Wide at the bottom and narrow at the top with a lid these rustic clay pots need to be seasoned before using and are not to be used on electric burners or warmers.

Ever since my first trip to Mexico I have coveted the beautiful clay ware that is used for every day cooking.  It wasn't unti this trip that I found a really good supplier of it in Puerto Vallarta.  I bought two large platters, a jug, a big covered dutch oven type pot and an Olla.  I brought almost all of it back in my carry on luggage.  The Olla was the only thing that got packed in my suitcase.  I worried about it the entire flight.
It's taken a while to get up the nerve to finally start to use my clay ware as I'm afraid it will crack and break the minute it even comes near a flame.  Turns out my fears are unwarranted.  After reading about how to season clay ware I choose to go with Diane Kennedy's method of filling the pot with hot water, placing it over a low flame and adding a head of garlic to the water and letting it slowly evaporate.
The reason there are two heads of garlic in here is because this that she suggests doing this twice, I figured I might as well keep the old garlic from round one in - it might help.  My understanding is that garlic has resin like qualities that help seal the pot.  
This takes FOREVER.  I had to keep turning it off to go out or to go to bed.  If you are an early riser and plan to be at  home all day I would think you might be able to get it done before bed time.  As it was it worked out fine so don't worry about stopping and starting.

After round two finally finished I did something that I had done to my Spanish cazuela which is take a clove of garlic sliced in half and rub the bottom of the pot with it.  I figure you can't be too safe, and these pots are very rustic thin and cheap.  My entire load of clay ware from Mexico cost about 30 dollars.
Still I want to try and make my Olla last as long as I can.

Pinto beans have been weighed and hopefully tomorrow or the next day I will have a recipe for you.

Oh and if you do consider buying some clay wer beware you should never cook anything acidic in them as it leeches lead from the not so high quality interior glaze.  So keep it simple and after you have cooked you beens remove them into another pot if you want to add tomatoes or lime juice or vinegar.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Homemade Apple Jack

After having just posted about apples this latest installment from Kevin TV seems to be a natural follow up.  I know I have been posting a lot of Kevin Kossowan's videos, but I love them, it almost makes me want to move to Edmonton, except for the cold, and a few other things, the fact is after 26 years of living in Manhattan even moving to Brooklyn is conceptual leap that makes me nervous so I'm just really glad Kevin TV exists so I can live vicariously.  His website is amazing and filled with a lot more than videos, I love the aesthetic, the lack of advertising (how does he do it) and the general feel is so great, my favorite food site discovery this year.

Episode 29 - Applejack from Kevin Kossowan on Vimeo.

Golden Russet Apples

A few weeks back I was at the market buying apples: The Winter Fruit.  I had bought two different kinds Crispins and Baldwin - I was about to  eat a Baldwin after paying and the farmer said: Don't eat that one - try this.  And went over and picked up a Golden Russet from a crate that was sitting on a table amongst the dozen or so varieties he was selling.

I'd seen these apples before but never given them much thought, in part because of the way they look, the skin is pear like, think Bosc, and the word Golden made me think that it was some sort of cross between golden delicious and something else.  I am not a big fan of delicious apples and admittedly I like and have always eaten green or red apples - or some variation thereof.

Not wanting to be rude I took the apple and bit into as I walked away thanking the farming for the free apple.  Golden Russets are a revelation!  They have a very distinction flavor and texture and do sort of remind me of Asian pears only sweeter and with a more intense flavor.

So this week when I went to buy apples I hunted down this vendor (Red Jacket Orchards) and bought I bunch of these delicious heirloom fruits.  

Of unclear origins they are thought to have been discovered growing in New York State in the 19th century.  The website orangepippin has a ton more information if you want to have an apple nerd out.

For sure I am going to use these apple for cooking and eating through out the season.   Next time you are at the market look around - these days more and more varieties are available, and these are worth the  effort.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pickled Chili Peppers

Yesterday I wanted to make a quick stir fry so on my way home I stopped at myt local Chinatown produce shop and picked up some Bok Choy, ginger and spring onions.  When I got home I went to the fridge and took out the jar of hot Thai chili peppers I had put up several months ago.  Chopped up two and added them to the onions and ginger in some hot oil.  After a few minutes I added the Bok Choy and light soy and cooked a few more minutes until wilted.  You can ass some chicken cut up and fried to this along with maybe some dark soy sauce or leave it vegetarian and serve over rice.
Chili's grown like a weed so if you have a window sill, roof or back yard grow a few plants, then preserve them and you will have enough to last you the Winter and beyond. Because they are so cheap I always end up buying too many hot pepper leaving them to mold and dry up in the fridge.  This is a perfect anecdote to this problem.

Chili's are very light so the only problem I found with pickling them is that the chilies kept floating on top of the brining solution.   My solution to this was to put a small ramekin on top of them to weigh them down.  Works like a charm.

Stem 4 cups of hot Thai Chili Peppers and put aside in a bowl.

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan add 2 cups of hot water, 1 cup rice vinegar, 3/4 cups of sugar, 4 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt.  Heat over a medium flame until the sugar has dissolved and remove from heat.

In a sterilized jar (or jars I used a quart jar I had, but it doesn't matter) pack the hot peppers and pour over the brine.   Cover and put in the fridge.

Two Fat Ladies Stewed Red Cabbage to go with Christmas Goose

This seemed an appropriate follow up to my thoughts on Paula Dean her food and her recently revealed diabetes.  My friends and UFG readers Chris and Skip posted this on Facebook and I realized that I have never actually seen an episode of the Two Fat Ladies, not sure why it took me so long as they are truly amazing, so British, dry, smart and fun.  Jennifer who is stuffing the goose in the follow up episode sounds to me like a British Bette Davis.

I have a feeling in the coming months we will be seeing much more of these gals here!  Love them.

Oh and please, if you have thoughts on Paula Deen please scroll down and share them in the comments section after my essay about her.  I would love to get a conversation going and also I enjoying hearing from you.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh Paula

photograph from the Food Network website

It doesn't seem like much of a news item, yet Paula Deen's acknowledgement of her diabetes seems to have a life of it's own. The commentary and vitriol just keeps coming from all sides.  Hell, it almost makes the  Republican primaries look tame.

What's interesting to me are the plethora of people coming out against her kind of cooking.  A lot of people are very angry and quite nasty. And some even manage to be both yet funny in their comments on her "revelation."

My favorite mean spirited, yet funny example is this now oft-quoted, imaginary recipe of Paula's for Fruit Salad:

1 lb Skittles, 3 Cups Ranch Dressing.
Mix well and serve at room temperature.

I actually worked for Paula when I did cooking at the Food Network and as it happens one of the things I made for her show was a layer cake (I forget how many layers or what it was called) with tons of cream cheese frosting that was suppose to be garnished with crushed Skittles.  Unfortunately no one in the kitchen could figure out how to actually crush Skittles - they are almost indestructible!  In the food processor they got all gummy - turns out you need to freeze them first with liquid nitrogen.  The cake pictured above is her version of the classic Mexican Tres Leches Cake with the guild the lily over the top garnish of, yes, Skittles.

Surprisingly, I want to say something that is in defense of Paula's cooking.

A lot of which is not to my liking at all.  She uses too many packaged products and not enough ingredients, and she does go over board.  But this is the thing: she has an audience who enjoys watching her show and what she does is a reflection of that audience. Nobody has ever been forced to eat a deep fried twinkie or a donut hamburger, they have done so of their own free will. I'm not saying I think it's good, but in the case of desserts, well they are desserts.  And one can choose to not add the extra candy or other crap that might be in the recipe, you don't have to use Skittles to that cake, really you don't.  The bottom line is that her dessert recipes when they stick to the traditional actually use the basics: butter, sugar, flour and dairy.  Even with those ingredients it's up to the individual making the recipe to buy the quality of butter that they feel they can afford and want. Ditto sugar. Most people are not yet exclusively using organic goods.

So without going into too much of tirade here I think that Ms. Deen is a charismatic business woman who made a name for herself as the over the top southern cook, but in reality all she has been doing is providing entertainment for people who basically already ate like that.  The problem, as I see it, is more about our culture and what foods are actually available depending on your economic status then it is how we were taken down a dark corn syrup alley of temptation by this Southern Temptress.  

I loathe recipes that have brand name products suggested as ingredients, so I just don't make them.  And as someone who writes about food and constantly thinks about food, farming and sustainability I am keenly aware of how many food blogs and websites that are out there that make a point of being virtuous about what they cook and publish on.   It's our choice as to what we choose to make, eat and watch.  

Is Ms. Deen an opportunist?  She is now plugging her son's cooking healthy  show (aptly named Not My Mama's Meals) ) and has teamed up with a pharmaceutical company to pitch a diabetes drug?  What do you think?

If she were Newt Gingrich she would be lauded for admitting the error of her ways and doing the right thing now she's realized how wicked she once for making Paula's Double Chocolate Ooey Gooey Butter Cake Ice Cream 

At the end of the day The Food Network is interested in ratings, which is why most of what they produce is reality TV.  The fact is we live in a time when more people watch more cooking shows then ever before and cook less than ever before.  People aren't watching these shows so that they can be inspired to cook, they are watching them for entertainment.

So when Anthony Bourdain tweets about Paula's diabetes ("Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later") you have to take into consideration that he called Alice Waters a bit too Khmer Rouge for his liking for her instance on healthy, traceable, sustainable food.

So you're either too healthy or too unhealthy in Mr. Bourdain's world unless of course you are Mr, Bourdain who apparently is perfect. Although, let's recall that as a chef Mr. Bourdain's claim to fame was making steak and french fries - not my idea of health food - even though I love to eat them, on occasion. I don't want to eat most of Ms. Deen's food, but on occasion to eat something as a treat if that was your thing, why not?   For me it keeps coming back to personal choice, she exists because there is a market for her and her food, as much as that pains me, but it's reality.  Just like there is a market for Anthony Bourdains' acerbic wit and arrogance, which I often love to watch.

The bottom line is, well the bottom line.  Food TV is about entertainment, it's not about food.  If you
are really interested in food you'll spend more time doing things like going to farmers markets in all seasons and being inspired by what is available.  Joining a CSA or reading cook books and making dinner parties instead of ordering and watching people on TV make food.  To be that is really whats at issue here, Paula Deen is just another cook wanting to suck on the corporate teet.  Tons of chefs do it, suggestion brand name products in recipes to ensure advertising dollars.  

If you are looking for healthy inspiration your first big mistake is to be looking for on a corporate TV channel. Those days ended with Julia Child.


just after I wrote this I noticed Frank Bruni's article in the NYT  - check it out.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Top Hops

Orchard Street South of Delancey has become one of the most interesting couple of blocks on the lower east side.  Just this week self proclaimed beer advocates  Top Hops have opened up a retail shop/bar at 94 Orchard.

It's a cavernous space with a open area and very bright lights as you walk in, the middle section is the bar/tasting are and in the back many, many fridges filled with every possible kid of beer imaginable.
They still seem to be working on their lighting as the beer fridges where under lit and the bar area so bright you could do an autopsy.  Given they have only been open 4 days I'm sure they are still figuring things out.  Certainly this is hands down the most serious beer place on the Lower East Side.

Turn Your Mason Jars Into Travel Mugs

Such a simple clever idea.  Cuppow has created a sip lid that be used with a Mason jar. So when you aren't canning you have yet another wonderful use for all your old canning jars!  Perfect.

CUPPOW! from Paper Fortress on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We Have A Right To Know

Great new video by Robert Kenner (Food Inc).

Watch it then spread the word here.

Ox Tail Stew

This is a continuation of the video called Kill Floor which I post a few days back.  Kevin points out what a tremendous amount of stuff is left for garbage because so consumers aren't interested in the less known parts of the cow like Ox tail, beef cheeks (which actually are both big in NYC) as well as tripe and organs. I think NYC is not typical, we have to many creative chefs to let any of this go to waste!

Episode 28 - Bin Food from Kevin Kossowan on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA in a Nutshell

for more click HERE

Imagine A World Without Free Knowledge

or free recipes for that matter.

Here's how you can help stop internet censorship

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Flan Impossible!

So I have been a little obsessed with this Flan Impossible since I saw the recipe.  It turned out great, but I have some reservations about the use of condensed milk and sweetened condensed milk in the flan part.  Couldn't I use cream and sugar?  So look for my version in the coming weeks.

The recipe calls for the milk/egg mixture to be blended but I used a whisk and it was fine.
The cajeta is supposed to be spread on the sides and bottom of the pan which is buttered mine kept sliding off the side and into the bottom so when you add the chocolate batter it was basically sitting in a puddle of Cajeta - it all worked fine.
 The cake is supposed to be loosely covered in foil.  I tried but..
 Some of it stuck to the cake.  I'm not sure it's needed but if you use it be careful, although in the end the cake worked out fine.
 This is a great fairly easy cake that will wow your friends.

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