Sunday, May 31, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
With rhubarb in season, all I could think of was baking. Yes, it does require turning the oven on (and if you have a small NYC apartment and no AC, I feel your pain), but some things are worth the effort. Or the (minimal) pain involved. The best sweet and tart flavors of current Greenmarket offerings balance each other out in this simple dessert. I'm not a fan of dumping tons of sugar into my desserts, so I stuck with a meager amount of brown sugar for my topping, and used agave nectar in the filling. I started making the filling as I would a compote- with a finicky oven, I thought it would be best to soften the rhubarb slightly before baking it, but if your oven is less temperamental than mine, you can just skip this step and bake as you would a normal crisp.
* 2 lbs. rhubarb, stalks washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
* 2 apples, cored and diced
* 2 tbsp. agave nectar
* 2 tbsp. water
* 1 cup all purpose flour
* 1/2 cup rolled oats
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
* 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
* 1/4 cup softened butter or Earth Balance
1) For the crisp topping: combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your hands, crumble the mixture into pea sized pieces. Set aside.
2) For the filling: In a heavy saucepan, mix the rhubarb, agave nectar, and water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, or until ingredients have thickened slightly, and rhubarb is just softened. Remove from heat, and stir in diced apple.
3) Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease a baking dish or pie plate. Pour the apple-rhubarb mixture into the prepared dish, spreading evenly across dish. Lightly sprinkle the crisp topping over the fruit mixture. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until topping has browned.
Allow several minutes to cool, and serve with some vanilla tofutti!
Who's the idiot that equated the beach with greasy, fried crap? I'd like to douse him/her in a vat of frying oil. If you're going to be relaxing in the hot sand, donning a bikini, shorts, or whatever you might be wearing, wouldn't you want to eat something light and refreshing instead of heart-attack-waiting-to-happen burgers, fries, and hot dogs? Even the veggie burgers are oily and nasty. Bleh.
In my most recent weekend getaway to a quiet Cape May (which, considering it was Memorial Day weekend, surprised me!), I refused to be confined to the greasy veggie burgers, fries, and pizza that many of the Beach Avenue restos offered as vegetarian options. Though you might have to venture beyond your beach hotel, I'm posting a short list of some Cape May places worth visiting:
Bella Vida Garden Cafe- 406 N. Broadway- with outdoor seating and a casual vibe, Bella Vida offers more than fresh salads, assorted appetizers, and the usual veggie burger/portobello sandwiches. You'll find a tempeh rueben, coconut curry vegetable platter, and a house Island specialty of black beans & rice topped with a sweet mango salsa and shredded coconut.
Mad Batter- 19 Jackson Street- we stopped here for brunch on Sunday, and the wait was worth it! I indulged in a delicious Orange-Almond French toast and my honey quickly devoured his oatmeal pancakes. Rustic pizza, a variety of salads, a portobello-eggplant sandwich, babaghanoush, and a vegetable wellington are also served up with a side of live music and art exhibits at this fun cafe.
George's Place- 301 Beach Avenue- We surely would've gone to this little Greek restaurant across the street from the beach, if we could only get in! I'm mentioning this place anyway. A good sign of good food, George's is always packed, so be sure to call at 5pm daily when dinner reservations open. Come by for the usual delish Greek fare like Greek salads, dolmades, saganaki, and more.
Ah well, you work with what you got. If you happen to be in Cape May anytime from May 31st through June 7th, check out their Cape May Restaurant Week.
Friday, May 22, 2009
I had an amazing version of this northern Italian dish at Lupa (one of the few but absolutely amazing veg friendly dishes on their menu), and though I can't recreate the experience, I'm sharing my version with you. It's a satisfying meal that you can easily make when you get home from work. Because there are so few ingredients, be sure to use the freshest you can find. Always simple, always yummy!
* 1/2 lb. of whole wheat linguine
* 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
* 1 tbsp. butter
* 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
* 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
* pinch of salt
1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about ten to 13 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water.
2) Add drained pasta into a large serving bowl and toss with butter. Add the cheese, black pepper, salt, and cooking water. Toss until pasta is well coated. Serve hot and garnish with parsley if desired.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Yes, consumers need to be aware of what they are consuming. That goes without saying. But for a producer to not stand behind what they're producing is just bad business. I think the government shouldn't just step up safety inspections; it should also heavily fine companies that skip out on the necessary steps to make food safe. From the article:
"A ConAgra consumer hotline operator said the claims by microwave-oven manufacturers about their wattage power could not be trusted, and that any pies not heated enough should not be eaten. “We definitely want it to reach that 165-degree temperature,” she said. “It’s a safety issue.”
In 2007, the U.S.D.A.’s inspection of the ConAgra plant in Missouri found records that showed some of ConAgra’s own testing of its directions failed to achieve “an adequate lethality” in several products, including its Chicken Fried Beef Steak dinner. Even 18 minutes in a large conventional oven brought the pudding in a Kid Cuisine Chicken Breast Nuggets meal to only 142 degrees, the federal agency found."
Big Food needs to go down.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
I usually find that the energy spent to create a mod and sexy atmosphere at many restaurants should be better spent on its food; though this was also the case at Mint, once you got past the creative cocktail menu, low blue lighting and modern furniture in the lounge, they still served up some solid vegetarian options.
The tamarind chutney in the bhel poori we started with was a bit on the salty side, but satisfying nonetheless. The roti at our table was presented in little triangles, like pita triangles in a Turkish restaurant- which wouldn't seem odd if there weren't only about 10 triangles. At least when you get a loaf of roti downtown, you get way more than your $3 worth. For an entree, I chose the Diwan-e-Handi- with mixed veggies, eggplant, paneer, and spinach curry, I felt like I'd sampled most of the vegetable entrees all at once! All the flavors came together in the creamy sauce, and the dish had a slight spicy bite to it. All in all, it was good, and left no room for dessert that night!
You might argue that there are better Indian restaurants in Midtown- and you wouldn't be wrong. But if you're looking to take a vegetarian date for cocktails and Indian appetizers north of 6th Street, embrace the mod and sexy look- because East 6th Street doesn't whisper "come back to my place" after dinner.
Mint, 150 E. 50th Street, between 3rd and Lexington Avenues, 212-644-8888
Friday, May 15, 2009
Saturday, May 16th
Taste of Tribeca, 11:30am to 3pm on Duane & Greenwich Streets. A $45 ticket gives you a taste of some of Tribeca's top restos like Bouley, Chanterelle, and Blaue Gans. Hypothetically, there's usually something veg-friendly at these places, so it might be worth checking out!
Ninth Avenue International Food Festival, 9:30am to 6:30pm on 9th Ave between 37th and 57th Streets on Saturday and Sunday the 17th. Worth checking out even more so- you can't go wrong with a street fair of this size, much less the vegetarian selections offered up in Italian, Greek, Thai, Mexican, Moroccan, and Ethiopian cuisines.
Sunday, May 17th
2nd Annual Veggie Pride Parade- 11am lineup in the Olde Meat District, at the intersection of Gansevoort, Greenwich, and Little West 12th Street; parade marches to Union Square North for a rally and expo featuring vegan performer Cheryl Hill, keynote speaker Dada J.P. Vaswani, head of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, Queens City Councilman Tony Avella, and founding director of the Viva Veggie Society, Pamela Rice. You're a loud and proud vegetarian/vegan, now go show it!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
That being said, if you've eaten Indian food, you already know about this dish. Dal is a basic lentil dish with a tomato base- it's hearty, and has a protein boost! Instead of the traditional basmati rice accompaniment, I've used quinoa instead, and cooked it with a teaspoon of turmeric for some extra color. Some people fuss over what spices to mix in- I keep it simple and add hot curry powder (you can use mild if you can't take the heat!) and garam masala- it's a wonderful blend of spices like cardamom, cloves, black cumin, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, ginger, and bay leaves. If that doesn't incorporate most of the fantastic flavors of Indian food, I don't know what does!
* 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 small onion, finely diced
* 5 large tomatoes on the vine, diced
* 1 can red lentils, drained and rinsed
* 2 tsp. hot curry powder
* 2 tsp. turmeric
* 1 tbsp garam masala
* 1 cup quinoa
1) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic and a pinch of hot curry powder; cook for about 5 minutes, or just before onions start to caramelize.
2) Add the diced tomatoes to the pan; stir together with the spices. Cook over medium-low heat for approximately 20 to 30 minutes, or until the mix is more sauce-like in consistency.
3) While sauce is cooking, rinse quinoa in a strainer with cold water to remove bitter-tasting saponins on the outside- though the quinoa you'll find in your supermarket has probably already been processed to remove the saponins, you'll want to give these a rinse just in case. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil; add quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook quinoa for about 15 minutes, or until water has been absorbed and quinoa is softened; remove from heat. If using, place a teaspoon of turmeric in the quinoa for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
4) Once the sauce is ready, stir lentils into the sauce. Cook for an additional ten minutes; lentil-tomato mixture should be thick. Serve hot over quinoa.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Food Econ 101
Paul Roberts, the author of The End of Food, dishes on the food system
You might expect the author of The End of Oil and The End of Food to be gloomy and dry, but at a recent appearance in San Francisco (which you can listen to here), Paul Roberts was so candid and engaging that we wanted to hear more. While Roberts covered a lot of interesting details in his lecture—such as how the frenzy for McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets in the ’80s led to the breeding of freakishly giant-breasted chickens—we were most interested in the basics of food economics. CHOW spoke to Roberts about why our food system is breaking down and (despite his bleak book title) how to fix it.
Why has food been cheap for so long?
Generally, what we’ve done is we’ve increased the scale that we produce at. Rather than raise corn and pigs and vegetables on the same farm, we’re just gonna raise corn there. And that means that the whole farm can be devoted to corn, all the labor and expertise can be devoted to corn, all the inputs, all the tools you buy, all the machines you buy. So your costs will be much cheaper, so your cost per bushel will be much cheaper. So you have the economies of scale.
Why isn’t that working now?
You fertilize with nitrogen fertilizers and you get great increases in yield, but then you start realizing that you have to fertilize more and more intensively to get the same yield. You keep using pesticides, but now it turns out that you’ve got [several] weed species that resist Roundup, and so you have to come up with a new pesticide, or you have to figure out some new pest management method. We have a food system that was designed at maximum output and low cost, and now many of the efficiencies aren’t so efficient anymore … and that [system] was built for oil at $15 a barrel.
Why don’t you believe that local food systems are going to answer the global food demand?
There’s a limit to how much land area we have to devote to local food production. Land is really expensive when it’s close to cities. And local farms are often smaller, and small farms, as wonderful as they are for some things, don’t have the efficiencies that larger ones have for their economies of scale. So it’s sort of tough to imagine [them] feeding large populations.
So globally, it’s just not realistic?
There are countries that can’t produce enough food for themselves. So we need to ask: How do we make trade more effective and equitable and efficient? I think that there’s a lot of ideology flying around here: Let’s do local, not global; free trade is bad. There’s a lot we have to reverse, but you have to separate the moral argument from the pragmatic argument, and that’s hard to do. People are starting with things like food miles, which is an important start, but I think what’s starting to emerge is this understanding that food miles is too narrow. The argument I use is if I was to take produce from the Salinas Valley, load it into a freight car, and ship it to Seattle near where I live, that would be much more fuel efficient and have a smaller carbon footprint than would taking 50 pickup trucks, loading them up in farms around Seattle, and driving them into the farmers’ market downtown.
What are some of the constraints the food system is dealing with?
Forty percent of the calories that we make worldwide are directly attributable to the availability of cheap, synthetically produced nitrogen fertilizer. You make nitrogen fertilizer from natural gas, and natural gas is a cousin of oil, and that’s getting more expensive. Fertilizer costs have more than tripled in the past year.
And we’ve also got this really aggressive policy on biofuels. We can argue over exactly how much impact biofuels are having on [the] price [of food], but it’s absurd to believe it’s having a negligible impact.
And then there’s water: It takes a lot of water to make grain. You can find alternatives for oil and alternatives for fertilizer, but there is no alternative for water.
The last thing, of course, is climate. We’ve focused mainly on Africa, because that’s where we can already see climate’s impact on food output, but I think we really need to focus on what climate will do [to] the big food powerhouses like the United States. Even conservative climate scenarios show more drought and more flooding like we’re seeing in the Midwest.
Is there anything we can do about it now?
People who deal with food security long term are saying, “OK, this isn’t insurmountable. We’ve had food shortages before, and always we have come through because we’ve come up with new technologies and new business practices.” And the expectation is we’ll keep doing it, and this time we’ll have genetically modified foods to help us; that will be the big silver bullet. But the first step is to recognize it’s bigger and more complex than the challenges we’ve faced in the past, and that it’s far more complex than our current food policy reflects.
What are some of the solutions?
Part of [the solution] will require us making farming a more attractive profession. Farmers are leaving the farm, not because they hate farming, but [because] it’s just too hard [to make a living]. … In many cases, they can’t afford health care, so they need to have an off-farm job. So if you’re looking for these weak links, and you’re looking for ways to strengthen these links, then maybe finding a way to offer affordable health care to farmers would be one of those tipping points. But it’s not romantic; it’s not dramatic like some breakthrough seed.
Do you have any tips for things we can we do in the U.S. to lessen our impact on the food supply?
If you want to go meatless one or two times a week, or just reduce the amount of meat you eat, or go completely vegetarian in a thoughtful way, then that would be great. Understanding where your food comes from and seeing where you can make local decisions [when] it makes sense, but also understanding that not all local food is equal in terms of its impacts and its benefits. But both of those sort of bespeak a greater understanding of food.
What I think consumers are really hungry for at this point, if you’ll excuse the pun, is an understanding of the economic forces that are shaping things. If you go into a grocery store, everything that’s there represents a business calculation. I think consumers need to begin to unpack and understand those business decisions: Why is that stuff here? You realize that all these decisions have massive consequences on the flavor and quality of our food, on the health impacts, the safety of the food supply, and, I think in the long term what we’re realizing is, on the sustainability of the food system.
So it sounds like you’re saying food can’t fit neatly into the capitalist model?
We definitely need markets and capitalism and free enterprise to do the things we need to do, especially going forward with all the new demands on the system, but we can’t just assume that the market by itself will do the right thing, because it won’t. And figuring out how to guide that market force, and how to manage and how to intrude where we have to, and how to regulate, that’s going to be one of the challenges going forward. And lawmakers won’t mess with it until they feel like consumers care.
How can we send that message?
If we started cooking again. We can’t all be farmers, but we can certainly start cooking again. Cooking is huge. It sounds really corny, but it’s not just about food and personal affirmation and sort of having a soul again, although it is all those things. Cooking was a way that households controlled the way that food came into the system, into the household, and the quality, and the cost. You controlled that by being the cook: You transformed raw ingredients, you planned menus, and you managed a sort of inventory, if you will—your pantry—all of which required us to be totally engaged with food, which we’re not now. If you just cooked, it would be this new signal. The market would say, “Wait a minute, I don’t have enough raw ingredients on the shelves now. I’ve got all this processed food, which suddenly you don’t want.” Not everyone’s going to suddenly start cooking every night, but if you cooked one or two more nights a week than you are cooking, it would be this massive signal that you sent up, and it’s the kind of signal that I think the market really needs to have.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Fun flavor combos make fun, standout appetizers. Sure, you can serve a bowl of chips & salsa at your next party, but to make something that's sweet, savory, bitter, and fresh all at the same time will have your guests talking about your culinary prowess for weeks. Even if you use a recipe off a blog. I opted out of the typical salad component use of an endive, and instead filled the endive leaves with a low-fat goat cheese and some strawberries. Of course you can use veggies, breadcrumbs, herbs or whatever type of filling you like, but I personally loved the variety of flavors in this mix. Try this recipe at your next party and give your guests something else to chatter about over cocktails.
* 4 oz. low fat goat cheese (half an 8 oz. stick)
* about 7 large mint leaves, torn into small pieces
* 4 strawberries, finely diced
* 1 tsp. soy milk or cream
* 1 endive
1) Pull leaves of endive apart and rinse; pat dry with a paper towel, being careful not to tear the leaves, and set aside.
2) In a small bowl, crumble goat cheese into small chunks. Drizzle goat cheese with the soy milk/cream, and microwave for 10 seconds, just to soften cheese. Stir to incorporate chunks together. Add the diced strawberries and the torn mint leaves to the bowl, and mix into the goat cheese.
3) Using about a tablespoon of goat cheese filling, depending on the size of the endive leaf, and spread the filling through the endive, repeating until all the filling is used. Chill until ready to serve.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Vegetarian baseball fans, there's a reason to rejoice. You can actually eat more than a pretzel or french fries at the new Yankee Stadium! Veggie options include pizza, veggie sushi rolls (which, as you can see from the photo, they make while you're there!), and a tofu noodle bowl. Health-wise, I can't vouch for any of these things, but then again, when you've got peanuts and Cracker Jack at a game and you're guzzling beer and hollering from the stands, calorie content worries seem rather superfluous, no?
Monday, May 4, 2009
There was a time when red meat was a luxury for ordinary Americans, or was at least something special: cooking a roast for Sunday dinner, ordering a steak at a restaurant. Not anymore. Meat consumption has more than doubled in the United States in the last 50 years.
Now a new study of more than 500,000 Americans has provided the best evidence yet that our affinity for red meat has exacted a hefty price on our health and limited our longevity.
The study found that, other things being equal, the men and women who consumed the most red and processed meat were likely to die sooner, especially from one of our two leading killers, heart disease and cancer, than people who consumed much smaller amounts of these foods.
Results of the decade-long study were published in the March 23 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine. The study, directed by Rashmi Sinha, a nutritional epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, involved 322,263 men and 223,390 women ages 50 to 71 who participated in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Each participant completed detailed questionnaires about diet and other habits and characteristics, including smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption, education, use of supplements, weight and family history of cancer.
During the decade, 47,976 men and 23,276 women died, and the researchers kept track of the timing and reasons for each death. Red meat consumption ranged from a low of less than an ounce a day, on average, to a high of four ounces a day, and processed meat consumption ranged from at most once a week to an average of one and a half ounces a day.
The increase in mortality risk tied to the higher levels of meat consumption was described as “modest,” ranging from about 20 percent to nearly 40 percent. But the number of excess deaths that could be attributed to high meat consumption is quite large given the size of the American population.
Extrapolated to all Americans in the age group studied, the new findings suggest that over the course of a decade, the deaths of one million men and perhaps half a million women could be prevented just by eating less red and processed meats, according to estimates prepared by Dr. Barry Popkin, who wrote an editorial accompanying the report.
To prevent premature deaths related to red and processed meats, Dr. Popkin suggested in an interview that people should eat a hamburger only once or twice a week instead of every day, a small steak once a week instead of every other day, and a hot dog every month and a half instead of once a week.
In place of red meat, nonvegetarians might consider poultry and fish. In the study, the largest consumers of “white” meat from poultry and fish had a slight survival advantage. Likewise, those who ate the most fruits and vegetables also tended to live longer.
Anyone who worries about global well-being has yet another reason to consume less red meat. Dr. Popkin, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, said that a reduced dependence on livestock for food could help to save the planet from the ravaging effects of environmental pollution, global warming and the depletion of potable water.
“In the United States,” Dr. Popkin wrote, “livestock production accounts for 55 percent of the erosion process, 37 percent of pesticides applied, 50 percent of antibiotics consumed, and a third of total discharge of nitrogen and phosphorus to surface water.”
Finding a Culprit
A question that arises from observational studies like this one is whether meat is in fact a hazard or whether other factors associated with meat-eating are the real culprits in raising death rates. The subjects in the study who ate the most red meat had other less-than-healthful habits. They were more likely to smoke, weigh more for their height, and consume more calories and more total fat and saturated fat. They also ate less fruits, vegetables and fiber; took fewer vitamin supplements; and were less physically active.
But in analyzing mortality data in relation to meat consumption, the cancer institute researchers carefully controlled for all these and many other factors that could influence death rates. The study data have not yet been analyzed to determine what, if any, life-saving benefits might come from eating more protein from vegetable sources like beans or a completely vegetarian diet.
The results mirror those of several other studies in recent years that have linked a high-meat diet to life-threatening health problems. The earliest studies highlighted the connection between the saturated fats in red meats to higher blood levels of artery-damaging cholesterol and subsequent heart disease, which prompted many people to eat leaner meats and more skinless poultry and fish. Along with other dietary changes, like consuming less dairy fat, this resulted in a nationwide drop in average serum cholesterol levels and contributed to a reduction in coronary death rates.
Elevated blood pressure, another coronary risk factor, has also been shown to be associated with eating more red and processed meat, Dr. Sinha and colleagues reported.
Poultry and fish contain less saturated fat than red meat, and fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked in several large studies to heart benefits. For example, men who consume two servings of fatty fish a week were found to have a 50 percent lower risk of cardiac deaths, and in the Nurses’ Health Study of 84,688 women, those who ate fish and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids at least once a week cut their coronary risk by more than 20 percent.
Ties to Cancer
Choosing protein from sources other than meat has also been linked to lower rates of cancer. When meat is cooked, especially grilled or broiled at high temperatures, carcinogens can form on the surface of the meat. And processed meats like sausages, salami and bologna usually contain nitrosamines, although there are products now available that are free of these carcinogens.
Data from one million participants in the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer and Nutrition trial found that those who ate the least fish had a 40 percent greater risk of developing colon cancer than those who ate more than 1.75 ounces of fish a day. Likewise, while a diet high in red meat was linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer in the large Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, among the 35,534 men in the study, those who consumed at least three servings of fish a week had half the risk of advanced prostate cancer compared with men who rarely ate fish.
Another study, which randomly assigned more than 19,500 women to a low-fat diet, found after eight years a 40 percent reduced risk of ovarian cancer among them, when compared with 29,000 women who ate their regular diets.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Just a short post on another option for any leftover tofu ricotta that I posted the week before. I decided to incorporate it into another comfort food- orzo! Most people will cook orzo in soup, but I decided to cook orzo on its own in two cups of vegetable broth, and then I tossed in some tomatoes, basil, and the remaining tofu ricotta. A yummy lunch that'll keep you going for the rest of the work day!