Monday, February 23, 2009

Michael Pollan on NPR

I heard this Terry Gross interview with Michael Pollan replayed recently on NPR. This is certainly not a breaking news event, but I thought I would share the link with any foodies and/or proactive consumers out there reading my blog. The inverview discusses problems with our nation's food system and some positive ideas for reform. In the long run, I believe that food policy reform can and will have a positive impact on public health.

In general, I find MP's ideas to be progressive and innovative. His journalism on food policy makes a lot of sense to me and I enjoy reading his work. I do understand that his view represents one side of a story and I have seen comments from some farmers that don't think his ideas are realistic. WELL, I have also seen writing from other farmers who do think that change is reasonable, responsible and realistic. Change is difficult, people often seem to fear it. Especially when lots of money is involved.

Other writers to take a look at are Marion Nestle and Joel Salatin, both of which I stumbled upon in my college library in recent years. Salatin of course is also written about in MP's book The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thrice eaten bread.

Typically the only bread I make falls in the quick bread category. Baguettes are cheap and readily accessible. Also, I tend to have a fall back of sliced grocery store loaf on the counter which, for me, is certainly the most convenient bread for a spontaneous piece of toast, PB&J, or a quick grilled cheese.

I have only made real bread once or twice and I also have recorded one attempt (hey, it was pretty good) at brioche. Bread making is really enjoyable for me--the kneading is somewhat therapeutic and fresh bread really repays you for your time and effort. With minimal ingredients, a home baked loaf can be used in a variety of ways after initial consumption and staling...

My most recent baguette experience had its ups and downs. On the upside, the flavor was great because I allowed it to rise slowly in the refrigerator for almost two days. On the downside, I am far from confident on my technique and I accidentally over-baked my two short baguettes, so they were a bit too crunchy and dry.
One issue may have been that I threw some whole wheat flour into the mix, but I enjoyed the flavor despite my bread's less than perfect texture. I believe whole wheat flour absorbs moisture differently than AP or bread flour.

The bread did stale quickly (it was quite crunchy from the start). But, the point is that I still got to use it for three different applications. First, I enjoyed the warm bread with some good Spanish olive oil. This was the perfect way to satiate hunger after filling my apartment with a wonderfully yeasty baking aroma.

Later, I would chop the stale bread into small cubes. At this point, the cubes could have been seasoned and baked off for croutons or bread crumbs. But, seeing how I had some left over half & half, a couple of eggs, some shredded coconut, and a few remaining butterscotch chips--why wouldn't I make some bread pudding?
So, I essentially mixed all of the sweet treats in my kitchen into a ceramic baking vessel and baked in the oven until the liquid had set up and the top had melted/browned. This turned out to be a delightful treat; one which I ate too much of, too late at night :-o

Even later, I had a few of those stale bread cubes reserved to add into a salad. I figured they could be doused in olive oil and a bit of sherry vinegar and they would accompany some greens, beans, or perhaps some tuna fish for a Mediterranean-esque panzanella.

Hopefully my future holds some more adventures in bread baking!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kale for the cold

I'm not very familiar with kale, but I often hear or read of its nutritional value and I see bushels of it in the greens section at the market. I'm sure I've experienced some kale as a tacky garnish and have probably eaten some in a few nondescript meals. Since it is cheap, nutritious and I had never cooked with it before, I decided to buy some for a soup.

More ruffled in appearance than its flat leafed neighbor, the collard green, kale boasts a relatively high amount of calcium, fiber, vitamins, other minerals and yummy plant compounds. The cabbage family is quite versatile. I was reminded of an article that I once read in Eating Well magazine, which touted the slogan "All hail kale!"

So, the soup was quick, cheap and most importantly: warm for winter. I simply sweat out some diced onions and garlic in a little olive oil and salt. Next, the addition of some diced, left over, hot sopressata from Arthur Ave in NYC. I lowered the heat, deglazed the pot a bit with some chicken broth and added a bit of water as well. After rinsing the kale and roughly chopping it, I threw it in the mix. When chopping the kale, I took the time to remove some of the stems, especially the larger ones, as I suspected that they may contribute some unwanted bitterness. As the soup simmered and the kale quickly wilted, I seasoned with a bit more salt, pepper, and a bit of oregano.

Nothing fancy, but soup often tastes good in winter and I enjoyed getting rid of my left over cured meat. Try something with some kale yourself! We also enjoyed the soup with some home made popovers; not exactly crusty bread, but a out of the usual treat for us. I love the eggy flavor of a warm popover.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Budget lunches: don't forget egg salad

I have truly been trying to budget wisely at the grocery store this year. I peruse the aisles for the best deals and I have been preparing recipes that easily double as dinner and the next day's lunch. Meatloaf, rice and beans, a soup or two.

One item I like to make specifically for lunch time is a simple egg salad. I feel like the ingredients are typical for most kitchens--a couple of common condiments, spices, eggs and hopefully some bread to make a nice sandwich. I boil six eggs at a time. I cover the eggs in water, put the covered pan on the heat and I occupy myself in the other room until I hear the pan start to shake. The clattering top indicates a rolling boil, at which point I turn the heat off and let the eggs sit for at least 15 minutes [I never time it...I usually just forget about the project for a little while]. Then I rinse with cool water, crack, peel and put the eggs in a mixing bowl.

Commence salad creation: Break up the eggs, either with clean hands, a fork & knife, or some other handy tool. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika--or whatever you think will taste good. Douse with a generous helping of your mustard of choice. Mix. Little by little, add a bit of mayo and mix and mash the mixture making sure to crush the yellow yolks. Add a sufficient amount of mayo for good taste and moist texture--but don't go overboard! I don't measure. This is a cook's discretion. With mayo I figure you can always add more, but you can't take it out; so add in small increments.

I store my egg salad in a tight fitting, deep plastic container (deep as opposed to wide to minimize surface area). Make a quick sandwich of egg salad and a bit of lettuce on some whole grain bread (fiber is good for you!). This is a pretty nutritious lunch, quick to make, inexpensive and easy to take with you! Oh yes, and quite tasty in my opinion.