Archive for April, 2012
It was a proud moment for the James Beard Foundation when its president, Susan Ungaro, returned an award she received from the Boy Scouts of America after it was revealed that the Scouts are anti-gay.
The irony here is that James Beard himself was openly gay. Michelangelo Signorile, an outspoken writer of gay issues, wrote this in a blog at HuffPost: “It was especially troubling considering that the legendary chef and cookbook writer James Beard was an openly gay man who was thrown out of Reed College in Portland in 1922 for precisely the same reason: because he was gay.”
I have to say, I’m not sure how Ms. Ungaro didn’t know about this, since the Boy Scouts’ bigotry has been news fodder for years now. My guess is that she did know but didn’t really think out the implications of accepting an award from them. In fact, she stated, “When I accepted the honor, I was focused on supporting the New Jersey chefs and restaurant community.”
Understandable. Sometimes you don’t see the forest for the trees. But it is to her credit that she returned the award. In a note to Signorile, she wrote: “While I support all the poverty and hunger-fighting programs of the Boy Scouts of America, including sending at-risk youth to camp, your report brought to my attention that accepting the Distinguished Citizen Award implied I support their anti-gay policy, which I absolutely do not [...] I have informed the Boy Scouts of America that I am rescinding my acceptance of the award.”
Go Susan for saying no to bigotry! And go Michelangelo for pointing out the (albeit unintentional) trangression!
My real question is, did the Boy Scouts know that James Beard was gay, and, if so, why would they present an award to its president? Hmmm.
I was trolling my local Asian market again and came across something in the produce aisle I’d never seen. Actually, I had seen it before but hadn’t known at the time what it was. This time, they had sign with the name of the product: bamboo. As in the bamboo shoots that you get in Chinese take-out. Of course, I had to buy it.
Now came the big question: How the hell do I prepare this? I read online that you peel away the outer layers, but I think I went a little too far. I figured that it was like an artichoke—you keep peeling until you get to the light green, tender leaves. The thing with bamboo is that you keep peeling and it doesn’t really change. I finally figured that out and stopped peeling. I cut off the tip, sliced off the bottom just a bit, cut it all up and boiled them until I could pierce them with the tip of a knife.
My stir fry was really going to benefit from the addition of fresh bamboo and I was really excited to see how it would taste. As I expected, the fresh bamboo was so good. It had a fresh, mild taste and a firm, slightly crunchy texture, and it was completely superior to the canned varieties most of us are familiar with. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the flavor, though. A little grassy, a little buttery, but very amenable to whatever other flavors you’re cooking with it. The canned version has a washed-out flavor in comparison.
Another thing that struck me about fresh bamboo was that because of the shape of bamboo shoots, you won’t get those perfect little rectangles you get in a can, which gives you a clue as to how much processing they go through.
If you see some in your local Asian market, it’s really worth it to give a try. It’s not cheap—$3.99 per pound where I bought it—but you get a lot from one shoot. Here’s a recipe for what I made. I used a type of mushroom called “beech” mushrooms, which I’d also never heard of before. They were so pretty and snow white, I had to try them. But seeing as how you’re not likely to easily find them, I changed it to shiitakes.
Fresh Bamboo Stir Fry with Soba Noodles
1 1/2 lb fresh bamboo shoot
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1/2 lb bok choy, chopped, stems and leaves separated
2 tbsp shoyu
2 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 lb soba noodles, cooked
1 tbsp minced cilantro for garnish
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cut off the tip (about an inch) and trim the bottom of the bamboo shoot. Peel away a couple of layers. Cut it up into pieces and place in the boiling water. Lower the heat and simmer until tender, but still firm, when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.
2. Heat the sesame oil in a wok or wide skillet. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and saute until they start to turn brown.
3. Add the bok choy stems; stir fry 1 minute. Add the bok choy leaves, shoyu, and toasted sesame seed oil. Cook 1 more minutes.
4. Add cooked soba noodles and toss. If noodles are cold, cook until heated through. Transfer to serving bowls and sprinkle cilantro on top.
Have you noticed how so many well-known, beloved food products remained the same for so many years, then suddenly in the last few years, they sprouted variations? Take the Oreo, for example. For years, it was just chocolate cookies stuffed with white cream. Okay, we’ve had double stuff for quite some time. Then we got chocolate stuff and then mint stuff. But the last few years have seen these Oreo mutations:
golden original (white cookies)
fudge cremes peanut butter
fudge cremes golden
double stuf chocolate
winter red creme
Pizza chains have been going wild over the years, with their cheesy crusts and toppings that have been blessed by Druids or something. But now, Pizza Hut has gone too far. They’ve introduced a new product in the U.K.: hot dog-stuffed crust pizza! And this has apparently been available in Thailand and Japan since 2007. Some things are just wrong.
Oh, when will the madness end?
One of the fun things about being part of the culinary world is going to culinary expos and trade shows. April 1 was the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Culinary Expo in NYC. They called it The Fashion of Food, and it was held, appropriately, in Soho.
I stuffed my face trying all sorts of food, from chocolate to jam to wine to cheese. After 3 hours, I was done. But I got to take home a few samples and some literature. One thing that struck me was that many food companies have set up shop in Brooklyn, bringing production and jobs to the borough, and helping to put it on the map as the new “it” culinary destination.
One of my favorite things to see was a product called Dinnerware From Fallen Leaves. This line, made by VeraTerra, includes plates, bowls, and utensils made from recycled fallen leaves. I was so taken by this concept. I absolutely love the idea of recycling leaves and putting them to use (instead of burning them) and further depleting our resources with newly processed wood. And what’s more, they’re really attractive. They have that back-to-nature, rustic wood look that many chic kitchenware lines are now making. Take a look at the photos below (photos by VeraTerra).
These products are non-toxic (they’re made from steam, heat, and pressure, and no chemicals), compostable, and deceptively lightweight—they can handle hot foods with no problem. In fact, they can be used in the oven at 350 degrees for up to 45 minutes, or a microwave on high up to 2 minutes. They’re naturally biodegradable within 2 months of composting.
The site has a fun feature: a party calculator: You can choose the kind of party you’re going to have (cocktail party, buffet, sit-down, BBQ, etc.), enter the number of people you’re expecting, and it will suggest what you should purchase. So, under buffet, I put 20 people (not unheard of in my house) and it gave me this:
For this event we recommend 20 – 6 inch plates, 8 inch plates, 10 inch plates, and 8 inch bowls, 30 cups and 30 napkins. For Service we recommend either 5 – 12 inch platters or medium trays.
You can do a store search on the site (there’s a wholesale section for professional use), but Whole Foods carries it, as well as other natural/organic foods markets. You can order online as well. For more information, visit VeraTerra.com.
It was nice meeting new people—others in the culinary industry—at the expo, and I ran into a couple of instructors from NGI. There was a panel of culinary professionals discussing books and blogs, but the acoustics were not very good and I had a difficult time hearing, so I just kept going around visiting different vendors. I was hoping that I’d win a Vitamix blender (I entered in a couple of places) but I didn’t get lucky. Oh, well. I’ll keep it on my wish list for now.
The best part of the whole day for me, however, was the opportunity to place a copy of my cookbook, What, No Meat? Traditional Italian Cooking the Vegetarian Way, directly into the hands of the editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine. He seemed quite interested in it, saying that he eats vegetarian a lot. I’m not holding my breath that anything will come of it, but it was exciting just having that opportunity to talk to him and know that he now owns a copy of my book.
Now that I’m done with school, I hope to be able to afford to join a couple of more associations, including the IACP, and do some traveling to other regions for other conferences/expos. Right now, I’m confined to the NYC area, although I’m hoping to go the International Food Bloggers Conference in Portland, OR, in August. What’s holding me back is the cost factor. It’s $350 for the ticket, but then there’s airfare and hotel to consider, plus food and spending money (conferences never feed you all meals on all days). I just don’t know if I can swing it. But we’ll see what happens. If any of you are attending, let me know.
So, I hope to meet some of you foodies and culinary professionals at these events. Have a great holiday, everyone.
I was recently browsing the Gourmet Garage, a high end market in Greenwich Village, and came across a product I’d never heard of or seen before: Kañiwa. As I often do when I encounter a new product, I bought it. (Although I can’t afford to shop regularly in gourmet markets, I like to browse the aisles because I know that I will usually find something that is not commonly found in most other markets.)
Kañiwa , also spelled cañihua or canihua, is a tiny grain, about the size of a poppy seed. It is a species of goosefoot and is related to quinoa. Like quinoa, it is a whole grain native to the Andean mountains of Peru. Also like quinoa, when cooked, kañiwa seeds have little threads around them. Unlike quinoa, they do not contain saponins, which is the compound that gives quinoa its bitter taste. (If you ever cooked quinoa without rinsing it first, you know what I’m talking about.)
Although kañiwa is new to the U.S., it’s actually an ancient grain and health experts are now saying that kañiwa is the next big “super grain.” Nutritional facts about kañiwa are not yet available from the USDA, but considering that the people of the Andes have sustained themselves for thousands of years in part with kañiwa, it’s safe to say that kañiwa has something going for it. In fact, it’s high in protein (it’s 16% protein) and antioxidants, and also contains fiber, iron, calcium, and zinc. And it’s a gluten-free grain.
How to use Kañiwa
Again, kañiwa does not need to be rinsed. Most sources that I’ve consulted recommend toasting. Because it’s so small, it can be incorporated into many things, but is particularly popular made into a porridge. Kaniwa.org provides this recipe (with my edits):
Basic Kañiwa Porridge:
Cook one cup of kañiwa with two cups of water. Bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed. Just like quinoa, it will sprout little tails when done. Fluff with a fork. Serve the kañiwa with butter and a sweetener, such as maple syrup or Rapadura. This will make about two cups of cooked kañiwa.
Right now, kañiwa is hard to find, although you can order it online. I paid $5 for 12 oz., so it’s not cheap but not over-the-top expensive.
The texture of kañiwa is almost like grits, but firmer and crunchier. It’s quite unique. Below is a recipe that I created. It’s a very simple recipe with simple ingredients. It’s great for a party and it will definitely have people asking, “What is this?” In a good way. Enjoy!
Warm Kañiwa Salad
Makes 6 servings.
1/2 cup kañiwa
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 finely chopped shallots or scallions
1 cup mushrooms (any kind)
2 cups cooked white beans
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 tbsp stone-ground Dijon mustard
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Toast kañiwa in a dry pot, stirring frequently, until it has a nutty aromna, about 2 minutes.
2. Pour in vegetable broth. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer, covered until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet. Add garlic and shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms release liquid and start to brown. Add beans and cook until warmed through. Add this to kañiwa in bowl. Sprinkle in parsley.
4. Make dressing. Whisk all ingredients together until well blended. Pour over kañiwa. Toss to mix well. Adjust seasoning as desired.