Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mr. Vongerichten Goes to Boston

See today's Globe for my article on the Boston opening of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's 25th restaurant.

His farm-to-table concept, called Market, already exists in three other cities around the world. Which is why I thought it was so funny to write the following line:

"The Boston Market, not to confused with Boston Market..."

My editor disagreed. See the whole thing here:

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cereal + Diabetes = Comedy

I try to do my part in helping the association between sugar and diabetes, but Boston area comic Tom Dunlap has taken it to the next level. I saw a recent set of his at The Comedy Studio and got him to send me the relevant bit. Here's the transcript, so you'll have to do your own comic timing:

These next few jokes are called, "Advertisers don't care about children."

Cookie Crisp Cereal: It's cookies for breakfast! And diabetes.

Kellogg's Corn Pops: Gotta have my type II diabetes.

Frosted Flakes: THEEEYY'RRRRRRRE diabetes.

I think you get the point. It upsets me that advertisers shove sugary cereal down kids throats, and they don't care! They don't care that Raisin Bran is just two scoops of diabetes, you know, they don't care there's some children in hospitals, snap-crackle-lost-a-foot to diabetes. What it comes to is Kix Cereal: It's kid tested...positive for diabetes.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Shortcut to Food

As some loyal readers might know, T&F is in part a musing on how to eat well while working from home. And I think I've finally cracked the code.

The answer: highly seasoned ground meat and noodles. Don't be thrown off the seeming simplicity of the dish. This can be very, very good food.

For instance, dan dan noodles, perhaps the greatest culinary gift the Sichuan province has made to the rest of the world. If you can just look past your school room cafeteria associations -- to stop beating around the bush, that's "beefaroni" -- you'll see the vast potential in this elemental combo.

The version pictured at top includes ground pork from happy, heirloom pigs at nearby Drumlin Farm and mung bean noodles, which looked very cool and just a little scary while resting in a glass bowl.

My inspiration started with dan dan noodles, which is basically soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, Sichuan peppercorn, chili flakes, and something else that restaurants do that I can never replicate at home (and no, it's not MSG, unless they're lying to me). But now I just throw together real meat and complimentary spices and it always works out. The one in the photo, which was the best yet, had a sauteed onion and bell pepper and focused primarily on the interplay of pimenton and cumin. It was so rad.

And you really could make the whole thing in ten minutes. Add more veggies to the meat and you've got a balanced meal, assuming that phrase still means anything. Use non-wheat noodles such as mung bean, rice, or buckwheat and it's that much more interesting.

This really is the fastest, most filling and flavorful lunch (or dinner) I can think of.


Recipe: Not Beefaroni

1 package mung bean noodles (or rice noodles, buckwheat, udon, spaghetti, etc.)
1 lb organic, sustainably raised meat (pork, beef, turkey, beefalo...)
1 onion
sesame oil
soy sauce

1. Boil the noodles until katame ni yuderu. Rinse and toss with oil.

1. Sautee the onion until translucent.

2. Add the meat to the same pan and cook until brown and slightly crispy.

3. Add the soy sauce and spices (such as pimenton and cumin).

4. Add the sesame oil.

5. Top the noodles with the meat.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Reign of Gorditas Continues

Now just because the article isn't still up on the Globe's main food page, it doesn't mean that I'm not still cooking and eating tons of gorditas ala Chole Adams.

In fact, they're the most satisfying vegetarian - vegan, even - meal I can remember eating in a long time if not ever. Must be the starch combo of the beans and cornmeal. Or maybe it's all the fat? Either way, they're one of those perfect, transitional early Fall foods. A hearty base of corn and beans, and an end-of-summer topping of raw tomato, onion, and cilantro.

For the recipe, follow the link from the article, with two additional notes. Your choice of refried beans can really make or break the dish. I recommend taking cooked (canned works) beans and blending with a little water, some sauteed onion, garlic and ***pimenton***. Also, it's a lot easier to just dress the top of the gordita rather than slicing and stuffing it.

If you really want to be like me, you can also garnish with lemon (cucumbers) and lime, as pictured above.


Recipe: Gorditas de Chole

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Not Too Chicken to Eat Chicken of the Woods

I was recently poking around in the woods behind my house (by which I mean my rented apartment) with my dog, and as always, I had one eye out for wild edibles. But unlike most of our forays, this time I returned home with a few pounds of serious food tucked under my arm. As you can see from the photo above, it was a mushroom.

A chicken of the woods, aka sulfur shelf mushroom, as I've previously covered here.

Though I am interested in foraging, I am not at all interested in eating a mushroom that might kill me. Luckily the c.o.t.w. is no such mushroom. Known as a "beginner fungi," it has no poisonous counterparts and is ridiculously easy to spot. It's like it wants us to eat it.

And the feeling is mutual.

We made a risotto with little else but the wild fungi for flavor, and also sautéed a few hunks of it in butter and pan drippings from a chicken not of the woods. These were absolutely outstanding.

The sulfur shelf ain't no slimy, watery tasteless white button. It's a wild mushroom, and it tastes like it. The 'shroom is meaty in both texture and flavor, hence the name (I think). In fact I can't recall any other vegetarian foodstuff with a chew so downright steak-like.

Of course the actual chicken pan drippings accentuated the fungi's umami, but it worked with what was already there. As the drippings reduced, the mushroom took on a glaze and the edges began to candy. Little bits of hand-torn fresh rosemary didn't hurt either.

I don't eat every wild edible I find in the woods behind my house, largely because of concerns for the health of the soil. Though the woods are beautiful, they're low and surrounded by suburbia, and I imagine that much of the pesticide from my neighbor's lawns and the oil from our cars all finds its way down there. There's a beautiful elder growing out of the middle of a stream at the nadir, and at present it's full of berries, and I love elderberries, but I don't love lead.

But when I saw the chicken of the woods, I couldn't resist. After all, it wanted me to eat it.

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Late Night

The only thing worse than being woken up at 3am by raccoons scattering your trash is then knocking a glass bowl of compost-ready noodles down the stairs, and then cutting your finger picking up the pieces.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

News Flash: Filet-o-Fish Not Sustainable

I can't say that I'm shocked that the tasteless fish served in anonymous, fried patties by McDonald's, Denny's, and Long John Silvers is not being harvested sustainably:

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Article In Today's Globe

See here for my article and photos in today's Globe.

The subject: great Mexican food very close to Canada. Click on the recipe link to see the second photo. And the recipe.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ceci N'est Pas Une Orange Juice

To round out a brunch I made for visiting family over the weekend, I decided to buy orange juice. When I took a sip, I was surprised how much like orange juice it tasted, given the fact that orange juice isn't really orange juice any more.

I first had this realization thanks to my acupuncturist's blog, which referenced the book Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice. This excerpt from an interview with the author is what made me realize just how different the orange juice on the shelf is from what we think of as orange juice:

"The leading producers of “not from concentrate” (a.k.a. pasteurized) orange juice keep their juice in million-gallon aseptic storage tanks to ensure a year-round supply. Juice stored this way has to be stripped of oxygen, a process known as de-aeration, so it doesn’t oxidize in the tanks. When the juice is stripped of oxygen, it is also stripped of flavour-providing chemicals … If you were to try the juice coming out of the tanks, it would taste like sugar water. Juice companies therefore hire flavour and fragrance companies, the same ones that make popular perfumes and colognes, to fabricate flavour packs to add back to their product to make it taste like orange juice."

And that goes for the stuff they're still allowed to call not from concentrate, or worse, grove-style or whatever the latest, homiest qualifier is (smooshed by grammy and grampy?).

So it was surprising that the orange juice I bought at the grocery store still tasted more or less like what I think orange juice tastes like. Kudos, flavour and fragrance companies.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Nice Try

An anonymous commenter responded to my post on acai, saying only "acai is great food." The comment was then signed with a link to something called "weight loss diet pills."

I don't which the internet is better for: food blogging or hucksterism.

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Lobster Bolognese, Revealed

I'm sure you all think about The Best Thing I've Had All Year as much as I do, but you may not have realized that we received the recipe for it in a comment.

I'm also sure that you all comb through the comments as obsessively as I do, but just in case this one slipped past you, I thought I'd showcase it here. Thanks to Rick Rodgers for sending it along. He wrote:

This recipe was popularized by Alfred Portale at Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC, and is in his first cookbook. You are right--cream, stock, and veggies are the ingredients. I have the recipe in my computer because I worked on the book as the recipe tester and writer.

Recipe: Fettuccine with Lobster Bolognese
makes 4 to 6 main course servings

Lobster Bolognese Sauce:

l/4 cup distilled white vinegar
3 (l to l l/4 pounds) live lobsters
2 tablespoons olive oil
l medium onion, chopped
l/2 cup chopped carrot (about l/2 medium carrot)
l/3 cup chopped celery (about l/2 small celery rib)
4 garlic cloves, sliced
5 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
5 sprigs tarragon
5 sprigs basil
l dried bay leaf
3 tablespoons tomato paste
l/4 cup Cognac or brandy
l/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups white chicken stock, or as needed
1 cup heavy cream
Coarse salt and cayenne pepper

Bring a large stockpot of 10 quarts salted water and the vinegar to a boil over high heat. In batches, if necessary, add the lobsters and cover. Cook for 5 minutes. (The lobsters will only be partially cooked.)

Drain the lobsters, place in a bowl, and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Working over a bowl to catch the juices, twist the lobster bodies away from the tails; reserve the bodies. Saving as much of the juices as possible while working, crack the lobster tails and claws. Remove the meat and cut into 3/4-inch dice. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Coarsely chop the lobster shells.

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and parsley sprigs and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about l0 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the lobster shells and bodies and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the cognac and reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and reduce by half, about 3 minutes. Add the reserved juices and enough stock to barely cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until well-flavored, about 45 minutes.

Strain into a large bowl, pressing hard on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible, then discard the solids. (If making in advance, cool, cover, and refrigerate.)

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil over high heat and reduce to l cup, about 30 minutes. Add the cream, return to a boil, and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Taste and season carefully with salt and cayenne pepper.


l pound fresh fettuccine
l tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
l0 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
Sprigs of chervil for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the fettuccine and cook until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

If necessary, reheat the lobster sauce over low heat. Add the lobster meat and cook just to heat the lobster meat through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley, tarragon, and basil. Add the warm lobster sauce to the pasta and toss well.

Serve in warmed pasta bowls, garnishing each serving with the chervil leaves.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

To Eat Wheat?

You can imagine a well sculpted, deeply researched New York Times piece about the increasing numbers of those who cannot (or just think they cannot) tolerate wheat, but this isn't it. This is a baseless morning blog post.

As I've said before, when it comes to the burgeoning realm of food sensitivities, I'm torn. There's my inner Michael Ruhlman, who thinks people who don't eat everything are sissies. Then's there's the inhaler that I stopped using once I stopped using dairy.

Wheat, or gluten, is by far the fastest growing intolerant food. I'm shocked by the sheer volume of people who are giving it up. Often these tales of abstinence are accompanied by miraculous recoveries. Suddenly that chronic back pain you've had for years just disappears, all because you switched to quinoa pasta like that pictured above (with bacon, escarole, garlic and chili flakes).

Sounds fishy, doesn't it? And yet I have my own health success story with cutting out dairy, so I'm left wondering if perhaps it isn't the wheat itself that's to blame. Why would one of the oldest crops known to humanity suddenly turn on us?

Probably because we turned on it. I'm no farmer, but I know we don't grow wheat like we used to. Perhaps we've done to wheat what cell phones did to good old to human interaction.

I don't know if it's the pesticide, genetic modification, over-processing or... well, it's probably some combination of those.

Do I eat wheat? All the time. We all do, and the number of those who cannot is vastly outnumbered by those who can. And I wouldn't be surprised if those who think they can't eat wheat could eat some kinds of wheat, perhaps an heirloom variety not processed into white bread. But to be perfectly honest, I now eat less of it and feel better.

Recipe: Quinoa-Corn Pasta With Escarole

Ingredients: just look at the directions. The ingredients are in there.

1. Boil pasta.

2. Sautee diced bacon and chili flakes. When the bacon is crisp, add escarole and garlic.

3. Toss the pasta with the escarole, bacon, spices, and one dipper of the pasta water.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I just made a curious discovery that I feel obliged to share. If you google image search the word "food," this is what you get:

The irony is that many of us do not consider to above to be food, but rather what Michael Pollan famously called food-like substances. In other words, corn manipulated beyond recognition.

Pollan also suggests that we not eat anything our great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. That excludes pretty much everything in the image above. Then again, great-grandma didn't know what google was either.

Which begs the question: was great-grandma better off? Hard to say, though she was certainly better at not getting obese and diabetic.

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