October 21, 2010

A Few Hours, Five Minutes

If you've got a few hours to kill and like to cook, you might want to (and I hope to) watch the Harvard lecture series on the science of cooking.

On the other hand, if you like somewhat brooding, but always interesting songs, then take 5 minutes to watch the alternative "video" -- if that's what you want to call it -- of "Terrible Love," a good tune from The National's most recent album.

October 19, 2010

Policy Matters... As In, It's Important

As a run-of-the-mill citizen who cares about the food I eat and with some understanding of and interest in the policies that affect how and what I eat, the Farm Bill has always struck me as this massively important piece of legislation that gets almost no attention outside of the world of those who actively support sustainable farming and those, like many members of Congress, who take pleasure in giving billions in subsidies to huge agribusinesses so they can grow more corn and soybeans and sugarbeets and the like.

For some reason the Farm Bill is only revisited every 5 years, and the sustainable/small farm community fights its little heart out and gets little scraps of improvement here and there, while the supposed true believers in the free-market system and protectors of the mythical "family farm" in Congress continue to prop up the agri-giants who, one would think, don't need the help. "How are we going to ensure Americans can afford to buy food?" they argue. "They're not all East Coast liberal elites who can afford to pay $8 for organic chard!"

Translated into non-politician-ease: "How can we ensure we continue to get big donations from ADM and Monsanto if we don't waste billions in tax payer dollars to ensure Americans can get cases of Orange Crush and Coke for the same price as 4 or 5 apples?"

In any case, the Farm Bill will be rearing its head once again in the next Congress. And some folks want to stop, or at least drastically slow down, the cycle of the overwrought influence of the big boys and their deep pockets on this important piece of legislation. You can read a little about it on Simple, Good, and Tasty, and then you can stay tuned to the effort through Facebook (even for a reluctant FB user like me, this seems like an apt use of this particular form of social media).

Good luck, and may the $8 organic chard be with you.

Pork. Meatballs. Banh Mi.

I may have pimped this before, but it's worth pimping again. This being a recipe for pork meatball banh mi, those delightful Vietnamese sandwiches -- a term that really doesn't do them justice, but neither do "hoagie" or "sub," the connotations of which just can't live up to the glory that is a proper banh mi -- about which I regularly dream and always lust.

This recipe needs no doctoring. But, if you wish, you could easily substitute mint for the basil, which I believe I did when I made these some months ago (taking the extras last night out of the freezer for an amazing weeknight dinner), and could probably use a little less garlic, which I believe I also did.

A fresh, crusty, French-style baguette is very important, as is the fresh cilantro. The labor is well worth the effort.

October 14, 2010

Story... Updated

My recent shot at fiction has been greatly improved, thanks to a good friend, and editor extraordinaire, Grant Martin. Of particular note, he caught a terribly egregious and embarrassing error with regard to some musical history cited in the story. See, all of those hours spent listening to music have their value!

So,  yes, now you have to read the whole thing over again.... Don't make me beg!

October 3, 2010

Some good eats

Made two pretty tasty items this weekend.

First, on Saturday, roasted some hot dogs over a fire and topped them with some quick-pickled cabbage, which included:

  • About 2 cups finely shredded cabbage
  • Half cup of shredded carrot
  • 1 thinly sliced red jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • good pinch of salt
  • tablespoon of sugar
  • Diced avocado

Whisked the last 3 ingredients together 'til sugar was dissolved. Combined the first 3 ingredients together, tossed them with the vinegar mixture, let it sit, covered, in the fridge for about an hour. Topped the hot dogs with a nice portion of the cabbage mixture and some diced avocado.

Next, on Sunday, a sweet potato soup to eat with a roasted chicken from Green Circle Farm.

  • 4-5 cups of peeled, chopped (2-inch chunks) sweet potatoes
  • 1 leek (white and some light green) thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Chicken or vegetable stock, 4 cups
  • 1 teaspoon Garam masala
  • Cayenne pepper, small pinch

Add a swirl or two of olive oil in a pan (big enough to hold the liquid!), add leeks and garlic and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the stock and potatoes to the leeks, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

When potatoes are starting to feel very tender, remove from heat, let cool for about 5 minutes, and in batches, blend until smooth. Return to pot, add Garam masala, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.

This is quite good, but maybe a touch too sweet. Could add some cream, I suppose, but I think that next time I'll add a little minced ginger to the leeks and garlic. Think that sort of floral element might offer better balance and fewer calories! Nevertheless, it's a good, easy soup.

October 1, 2010

Scrapin' Up the Bits...

I love the "digest" thing. Whoever came up with this little blogging feature is a genius. This one will be down and dirty.

Let's start with a well-done article from AOL News on test for different, potentially dangerous strains of E. coli in meat. Who even know AOL was still around? I recommend taking the time to read this.

Even wonder about school lunches in France? Well, me neither, but why is the fact that they take them a bit more seriously than we do here in the good ol' U.S. of A not surprising?

Some doctors putting their time and efforts where their guidance and recommendations should be when it comes to good health and diet/nutrition. How refreshing!

If you don't know and you happen to be in the general downtown vicinity on most days, Pittsburgh now has a food truck that's offering all sorts of goodies. It's called... The Goodie Truck! Franktuary , home of the famed locavore dog, experimented with the food truck idea recently. Hopefully it will catch on in the city.

Speaking of local food, China Millman raves about Spoon, which recently opened in the former home of the Red Room. Looks like we have a location for the next time the wife and I feel like ponying up for a sitter.

Finally, a really interesting article about farm work and who (illegal immigrants or plain ol' Americans) is, and isn't, doing it.