Did You Read It Last Week?

wheat, farming, genetic modification, genetically modified Heard of the cronut? If not, give it a few days. According to The Observer, the hyper-speed tempo of modern-day food blogs sure can draw a lot of attention to new restaurants and trends, but not necessarily for the long-run and not necessarily for the better.

Is up always the way of the future? For farming, at least according to this NPR story.

Once again, Mark Bittman takes on the meat we eat, this time with an eye for the economics of what, how, and why we buy, and sixteen meals with smaller portions of meat. Do the same with a broccolini stir fry with beef and pasta with tuna.

broccolini, my plate, michelle obama, marcus samuelsson, mark bittman

In some disturbing news, federal officials have found unapproved, genetically-modified wheat growing in Oregon. While it is entirely safe to eat, the find may hurt American wheat exporters.

Because who doesn’t need a little help keeping the kitchen clean?

Capturing another beautiful New York immigrant story, filmmaker Michael Levine documents the history of the Streit’s Matzo Factory and five generations of the family who owns it.

 

Tofu for Dinner - Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski

When I was in the seventh grade it was my greatest pleasure to displease my superiors, whether they be my mom, my teachers, or the security guards at the mall, I reveled in infuriating them all.  I had a partner on this mission named Priscilla.  We would sit together at lunch, munching on tater tots and brainstorming about what to do next.  On one of these occasions, on Ash Wednesday to be exact, we devised the perfect plan.  Hit by a sudden wave of devotion, we decided to practice Lent this year - the first time ever for the two of us non-Catholics - by making two very big sacrifices.  I would give up eating meat and Priscilla would give up brushing her teeth.  What that meant for me as a seventh grader was that my mom, the cook, would have to learn a whole new repertoire of recipes suited for a vegetarian and then make two different diners every night, one for me and one for her.  What this meant for Priscilla was, well - yuck!  Her mom would not be happy.

I broke the news of my newfound piety to my mother that night when she picked me up from volleyball practice, "Mom, as you know it's Lent."  "It is?" she asked.  "Yes," I replied, "and I'm giving up meat for God.  We will have to go food shopping and we might even have to buy some new pots and pans."  "OK, we'll just stop at the Super Fresh; it's on the way."  She didn't seem mad at all.  Why wasn't my plan working?  At the store she picked up a single filet mignon from the meat counter and a package of watery tofu from the refrigerated section.  That's what I'll be eating?  Clearly I had not thought this through.

That night my mom made dinner just as usual, with one small addition.  After everything else was done she sliced a chunk of wet tofu off the block and slid it into a pan with some bar-b-q sauce.  After the tofu warmed up she put it on my plate with the scalloped potatoes and the haricot verts where the filet would have been.  For the next few nights I ate the exact same tofu preparation while the sides and her protein changed.  She had got me; this joke was on me.

Needless to say, Priscilla's plan backfired even worse.  No one noticed that she hadn't brushed her teeth in two days except her - and she didn't like it one bit - so she gave in and brushed them on day three.

My new-found vegetarianism, however, lasted for many years.  I eventually took it upon myself to search out more interesting and flavorful tofu preparations.  For a few years there was a vegan cheese steak restaurant in Philly that really satisfied the meat craving.  After that closed I discovered a few brands of meatless crumbles that make a great vegan meat sauce.  And then there's deep fried tofu with Thai peanut sauce.  And spicy tofu stir-fry with bok choy, spinach tofu quiche, Japanese agegashi tofu, and tofu ravioli.  The list goes on.  And the tofu itself comes in a good number of varieties.  Extra firm tofu is my favorite to cook with.  What are your favorite tofu dishes?

Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski- Kangaroo for Dinner?

A friend recently told me that there are two restaurants in New York City that serve kangaroo.  "I really want to try it," she said.  "I wonder what impact that meal will have on the environment," I replied.  She brushed off the comment and told me more about the one restaurant that she planned on trying the kangaroo at.  Though I didn't stop thinking about what I had said.  Here was my train of thought.  Assuming that the kangaroo meat was shipped to New York from Australia, that's a ten thousand mile refrigerated journey.  Most of the beef in this country comes from Texas which is about fifteen hundred miles from New York.  So, on a journey that is about seven times as long, is the carbon footprint of the kangaroo about seven times as large as the footprint of the cow from Texas?  I'm not sure. But here is something that I am sure of.  The environmental benefits of cutting meat out of your diet - even if for only one day - are clear cut.  The production of your meatless meals will leave less of a carbon footprint and consume less water and fossil fuel than would the production of a standard meat meal.  Now try comparing that to a kangaroo meal!

And if you have already made the choice to go meatless on Mondays then I invite you to take it a step further.  Try only eating local fruits and vegetables at your Monday meals.  What you find at the farmer's market is always local and if you do a little research you can find out what is locally produced and sold at your grocery store as well.  It's a practice that is good for the environment and for your peace of mind as well.

Eggplant - Meatless Monday with Katie Cizewski

I have heard a few vegetarian friends say that growing up they never ate eggplant, that they didn't like it, though they may not have given it a fair chance. But then, after becoming vegetarians or vegans - and growing up some - they gave eggplant another chance and were amazed to find out that eggplant is really good. Then, once the dynamic fruit was on their radar, they started to notice just how often it shows up in cuisine from all around the world. My point is: that eggplant is a great substitute for meat, especially in the cold months ahead when you may want to eat something a little heartier. Here are some of the ways that eggplant can be prepared and the cultures that inspired or created these dishes. The first, and my favorite, is thin sliced eggplant that has been breaded and fried. This preparation is typical in Italian food and tastes great on top of penne pomodoro with a generous helping of ricotta salata. Another favorite of mine is eggplant cooked in olive oil with ginger and soy sauce. Serve this over short grain brown rice and you've got the Chow Fun specialty - Chinese Eggplant - minus a few of the calories. Ratatouille is a traditional French dish much like a vegetable stew composed of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, and of course, eggplant. And then there are countless traditional Indian preparations of eggplant - not surprising as eggplant is native to India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. One of the more popular Indian preparations of eggplant is Baingan Bharta - or eggplant curry - this one is spicy and creamy.

And that is just the beginning; the list of unique eggplant dishes goes on. Maybe you'd like to add one of your favorites in the comments section below?

Meatless Monday - Vegan Dessert Recipe with Katie Cizewski

Going meatless on Monday is a great way to help the environment while staying happy and healthy. But maybe you'd like to take the Meatless Monday movement a step farther. If so, have you ever tried going vegan? I was a vegan for a couple of years back in high school and I loved it - all except for two minor issues, those issues being pizza and dessert. Vegans don't eat animals or animal by-products. That means no meat, no milk, no eggs, no honey, and no gelatin to name the biggest offenders. What that translated to for me was no greasy New York pizza and no pastries, puddings, cakes, or ice creams. While I still have not discovered a good substitute for pizza - you just can't get that greasy goodness with soy cheese - I have found a great deal of vegan desserts that not only replace their non-vegan counterparts but some even surpass them in flavor and texture. And thank goodness because no one need go without dessert! There is a wide variety of delicious vegan desserts out there from soy ice cream to boutique vegan cupcakes. But what if you feel like something special, something homemade? Ever since I was a little kid I loved to eat tapioca pudding - but aside from the tapioca pearls that's all dairy and usually gelatin. Then I discovered agar-agar, the plant based substitute for gelatin, add almond milk and a little creativity to that and voila! - Vegan Tapioca and Mango Parfait. Here is the recipe:

For the Vegan Tapioca Pudding

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups almond milk

2/3 cup sugar

2 cups water

1 cup large pearl tapioca

Method:

Boil the water and add the tapioca.

Reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Bring the almond milk and the vanilla to a boil and then add to the tapioca.

Let simmer for about an hour, or until a little thicker than egg whites.

Stir frequently.

Remove from heat.

Chill until more solid.

For the Vegan Mango Pudding

Ingredients:

6 grams agar-agar powder

250 milliliters water

30 grams sugar, or to taste

250 milliliters fresh soy milk or coconut milk

300 grams fresh mango puree

Yellow food coloring (optional)

Method: 1. Dissolve the agar-agar powder in 250 milliliters of water in a pot. Add the sugar and bring to a boil.

2. Remove pot from heat, stir in the soy milk, mango puree and mix well.

3. Pour the mango pudding mixture into the mold and leave to cool before refrigerating until chilled. 4. Serve chilled.

For the Caramelized Almonds

Ingredients:

sliced almonds

sugar and water

Method:

Put the sugar and water in a pot over a flame to make a light caramel.

Add the almonds and stir until a medium caramel.

Pour out onto a silpat or a non-stick surface to cool.

Break apart when cool and hard.

Yes, it is a multi-step dessert but all that preparation is worth it when the flavors and textures combine in your mouth. So why not give veganism a try this Monday? With the right ingredients it's as easy as pie. Stay tuned for more vegan recipes in the coming weeks.

And a special thank you goes to Debbie who requested vegan recipes for her new husband (congratulations!) - the world needs more vegans!