Monday, September 20, 2010

Great egg hunt picture

So, the Boston Globe had a great "egg hunt" picture and the Atlantic this time line article about the egg recalls.

Last month the nation wide recall of eggs seemed to bring some level of awareness of just how bad our food system has gotten.

Will it change how we buy things? perhaps for some people.

Will it change how we process our food.... unfortunately, I think not.  According to the Atlantic article, DeCoster the owner of the chicken farm "has done business in Turner, Maine, his hometown, for over 60 years—and has incurred a decades-long list of violations there. DeCoster's history of legal cases in Maine demonstrates that the more recent labor, environmental, and public health offenses are part of a long pattern that continues today, and in several states."

If you have 60 years worth of can you possibly still be allowed to process food?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Three marinades for Flank or Skirt Steaks

I love both Flank and Skirt Steaks.  They are both very economical and tasty cuts of meat and while I use them interchangeably for cooking purposes - they do taste a bit different.  Saveur has a great little piece on "Know Your Cuts" which define the difference between Skirt and Flank.

All of the recipes grill the steaks and I'm lucky in that I have a lovely cast iron grill pan.  But, you can broil it if you don't have a way to grill the steak up.

The first one is from Alton Brown, who I love for introducing me to the science of cooking.  He has this great Skirt Steak recipe that is brilliant for both taste and speed.  Most of the marinades require some time to both tenderize the meat and meld the flavors.  This one said a hour - but I didn't marinade it at all - and it was still very tasty.

Skirt Steak

  • 1/2 cup melted butter - cooled
  • 1/3 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 4 scallions
  • 2 large cloves garlic 
  • 1/4 cup lime juice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 tsp brown sugar or honey (optional)
  • 2 pounds inside skirt steak, cut into 3 equal pieces  
Puree everything (except the meat!) in a blender.  Put the marinade on the meat.  Grill.  Eat. Yum. 

So this is Emeril's recipe for Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce which we had for dinner tonight.  It does need some time to marinade into the meat.  I did a hour - but I do think that Emeril's recommendation for a minimum of 3 hours is true enough.  I did end up changing this quite a bit.

Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 5 large leaves of basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 large shallot or 2 small ones
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red chili pepper
  • skirt steak
In a blender or food processor, put butter, vinegar, lemon, parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper, chili and blend into a nice paste.  Take 1/2 the paste and marinade the steak.   Grill the steak.  Plate and spoon over a bit of the left over paste.  It will melt into the good!

This recipe is from "Earth to the Table" by John Ash and works really well as fajitas.  Since your grilling anyway - pop on some bell peppers and sliced onions... and you are good to go.  Who needs tortillas? :)  I haven't found a great solution to olive oil in cooking for recipes like this which need to be marinated for a long time.  Since the moment you stick this in the fridge the butter, coconut oil or palm oil solidifies.  As soon as I figure out a option... I'll let you all know.

Flank Steak in Lime-Chipotle Sauce

  • 1/2 tablespoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce ( more or less depending upon your heat levels - this is very mild because the BF can't do too hot.)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup hearty red wine (I usually use a Merlot or Rojas ... depending on what had been opened)
  • 1/2 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
  • steak
In a large bowl, mix chipotle, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, wine, and tamari and blend well.  In a zip-lock bag, put in the steak and marinade. Marinade the steak for at least 4 hours but it works best overnight. Once you are ready, cook up the steak. Slice thinly, against the grain.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

GMO Salmon... yup.. that's what we need

Discovery News published a article today about how the FDA is getting ready to approve the sale of genetically modified salmon for consumption.

I don't understand why we keep mucking around with plants and animals with traits that aren't even within the same species/genus.  At least in this case we stuck with another fish. :)    But, do we really need to make fish grow faster?  For what? 

I know I am completely wacko about GMO -- but I don't think anything we have done to date has proven completely beneficial.
  • The corn and soy GMO's created so that they are "Round-up ready" has introduced a new, stronger variant of weeds that are able to withstand Round-up.   
  • In North Dakota, GM canola plants have cross pollinated with wild plants.   see here
  • There are concerns that GMO food can cause/promote food allergies (see here for a list of some of the benefits and concerns from the Human Genome Project).  Either due to allergen genes being placed into a product.  Say peanuts into wheat.  Or, a new allergen being created due to the modification.  Since the US does not require labeling - there is no way to know if a food source is a GMO and/or what has been added.
  • Aside from impacting bio-diversity - we may also be changing the macro environment.  By the cross pollination that is occurring, we cannot say what it is doing to both the wild plant and/or animal life. What are the impacts to wild life such as birds to the new "wild" GM plants found in ND?
  • And do I really trust agri-business to make sure that what they are selling me is real food.  Here is a 2003 article from Seattle PI where they state that "pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche, which manufactures the dyes, provides salmon manufacturers with swatches of pink hues arranged in a fan formation, much like one would find at a paint store. They call it the "SalmoFan." Dye for the selected shade is then added to the salmon's processed food pellets."  This was done to fool customers into thinking that they were buying wild salmon not farmed. 
In our focus to produce as much food as we can - we have with "traditional" (agri-business) farming produced foods that are less nutrient dense than they were before we mucked around them.  And, still the information isn't out there to the average person that only by eating heirloom / organic are they going to be able to get all the nutrients that should be available in a vegetable or fruit.   What are the implications of a GMO product in the food chain to both us and the planet at large?

If these fish get accidental released into the wild -what will it do to our wild salmon populations?  And, do I really believe that there won't be a accidental release? From this 1997 report ... "Escapes of Farmed Salmon from Pens: Just this year, 300,000 Atlantic salmon were released into Puget Sound when their pens were accidentally ripped open. In Norway, where as many as 1.3 million salmon escape from farms each year, one third of the salmon spawning in coastal rivers are not wild, but escaped salmon. ..."   1/3rd of the salmon spawning in 1997 were not wild! What does that make the numbers now??

Per the Monterey Bay Aquarium... farmed salmon is on the do not buy list because of accidental releases, parasites and diseases being transferred to wild salmon, waste being directly released into the oceans...etc. And yet... we want to add to this by putting GM fish into the mix.

It makes me so angry that we are so short sighted. :(

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pork Braised in Cream

I have discovered that pork braised in milk / cream is incredibly tasty. May not be the best looking meal - but OMG so yummy.

I had grown up eating pork which is tenderized using vinegar and is also tasty but there is a acidity to it that sometimes I'm not in the mood for.   But with milk, the meat is tender and no acidity. A win/win.

So, here is one of the recipes I have for pork braised in milk/cream.  Since it's the one in the picture... it seemed like a good choice. no? :P

Pork Chops Braised in Tomato Cream with Mushrooms

  • 2 pork chops 
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped (canned are fine, Roma or caprese) 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 1/4 cup porcini (which I didn't have so I used fresh Shiitake) 
  • 1/2 cup button mushrooms (or baby portabella)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt
  • pepper
In a nice sized pan, melt the butter and brown the pork chops.   Once the chops have a nice brown to them,  add the white wine to deglaze the pan.  Let the wine simmer for a minute or so, add the tomatoes, cream, porcini mushrooms, salt and pepper.    Simmer, covered (with a slight gap to let the steam out) for 45 minutes.  Turn the chops a few times during the 45 minutes. 

About 10 minutes before your timer goes off for the chops, saute the button mushrooms in a pan with some butter.  Check the chops, they should be tender.  If so, add the sauteed mushrooms to the pan and simmer uncovered for 5-7 minutes so that the flavors meld.  If the meat isn't tender, continue to braise until ready.  Check on salt and pepper.  Serve.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grilled Salmon with Basil Cream sauce and mixed colored beans

I was working late today and seafood is always so quick and easy.   So it was the quick wander through my favorite cookbooks to see what I wanted to make and I found a odd recipe using basil with salmon.  I've had parsley and cilantro with Salmon.  But, I do not recall ever seeing a Basil and Salmon recipe.  And, well, my garden Basil is quite full... with the idea that I will make pesto soon.

So, this is a fairly easy recipe - since I didn't have everything the original called for... I did end up adapting it to meet my pantry's offerings.  I made many substitutions and so can only give you what I made which turned out quite well.

If you want the original it's in From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine. The actual title is "Grilled Salmon with Roasted White Corn Salsa and Warm Basil Cream" but we didn't have the Corn Salsa as we don't eat grains.

Salmon with Basil Cream Sauce

  • 2 6oz pieces of Salmon 
  • 2 - 3 tablespoon ghee or butter, melted but not hot - since you are going to be using it for the marinade and you don't want to cook the fish before hand
  • dried parsley (mostly because that is all I had - but if you have fresh that would be good too)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • handful of basil leaves, chiffonade or roughly chopped (depending on how fancy you want to get)
  • 1/8 tablespoon (eyeball it) of chopped green onion (whites only) or shallots
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white wine (dry)
  • 1/4 cup water (if you have stock even better but ours was all frozen)
  • 1/8 cup chopped Roma tomato (optional)
Put 1 tablespoon of ghee/butter, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl or zip lock bag. Mix and then add the salmon.  Leave to marinade for a bit - 20 min or so.   In the mean time, chop up your other ingredients.  Prep your grill pan or outdoor grill so that it is nice and hot.  Put the Salmon to cook - depending on thickness from 4 -8 min each side.  I usually do only do the side with the skin on it so that the other side doesn't get stuck to my grill pan and place a lid on them so that the heat cooks the Salmon all the way through.

While the Salmon is cooking. Pull out a fry pan and on medium heat put the remaining ghee/butter in the pan. Once hot, add onion and garlic and brown it lightly.  Add white white (carefully! I usually lower the heat to nothing so that I don't accidentally start up a fire. ).  Bring up the heat to medium, add water/stock and simmer until it is 1/2 of the volume. Add basil and let it wilt a bit.  Add cream and lower heat so that the cream doesn't burn.  Mix for a bit until the basil has flavored the cream - say 2 - 5 min.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.   If you decided to put the tomato in, you would do so now.  Since you don't really want the tomato cooked - but warmed with the cream sauce.

Plate the Salmon, put sauce on top and your good to go. 

Now if you want to make the beans.... it is so easy! They are just steamed and tossed in some butter/ghee with onions and garlic.


Beans in butter

  • beans - green, wax, purple - whatever looks lovely at market 
  • 3-4 tablespoons ghee or butter 
  • water to steam the beans 
  • finely chopped green onion or shallots or regular onion (if you used the white for the salmon, you can use up the tops easily enough) 
  • 1 clove garlic - finely chopped 

Steam the beans until they are cooked to desired consistency. Set aside. Heat ghee/butter in a pan and once hot add onions and garlic. Cook until lightly brown. Add the beans and give it a quick stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Done! So easy, breezy and yummy!