Archive for April 2007

Looks like mangoes have been reunited with sticks. To translate: the mango on a stick vendor is back on her corner at 14th Street and University. I've walked by a million times but never gotten one, which is odd given my love of mangoes. This just might be the year to try one out! These mango flowers, as I call them, were always for sale in the streets in Mexico when I lived there. But that was before I loved mangoes.


I realized recently that two years ago this month, I was in Paris. So I was looking back through my Flickr photo collection of my April in Paris and longing for the food I ate. Moules Frites (mussels and french fries) is one of my favorite things in the whole world, whether in France or in the US. I think I'd like a neon "Moules Frites" sign in my house, just like the one in the above photo.

The dangers of polyethylene plastic


After learning last week that boiling freezer bags is not recommended, I decided to do a little more research about polyethylene plastic, the main "ingredient" in plastic bags. Low density polyethylene is used not just for freezer bags, but also for vacuum sealing bags (like FoodSaver). So I suspect that whatever type of plastic bags professional chefs are using for their sous vide, they are likely made of polyethylene.

And as it turns out, polyethylene melts. Above 115°C, the polymer changes from a clear solid to a relatively low-viscosity melt. It's hard to figure out the exact melting point for plastic bags because there are many different types of polyethylene (high density, low density, linear low density, etc.) but all seem to melt around the boiling point of water (100°C, 212°F), and some below it.

Even if you think your food will cook well below the melting point, there's still the issue of transference: molecules of the chemicals in the plastic can leach into the food or beverage. These chemicals are added to the plastic during the manufacturing process and some studies have shown they can find their ways into our bodies, especially when heated. So not only is sous vide potentially bad (either the poor man's version or the rich man's), but reheating that lasagna in the Tupperware isn't so great either.

Where does that leave us? Laying off all kinds of sous vide preparations, and migrating home storage containers from plastic to glass, or another inert material. Or just hoping that a little plastic does the body good.

Changing foie gras production

Producers in the United States and Europe have been trying to find ways to make foie gras that will overcome the objections of those who see their work as an act of cruelty. The New York Times looks at alternatives to force-feeding geese and ducks to make foie gras, including an approach that simply allows the animals as much food as they want prior to their migratory season. Alas, the self-gorging technique doesn't seem to yield the same results as force-feeding the animals.

By changing their approach to product, aren't producers acknowledging that force-feeding is inhumane? And isn't that the crux of the issue, whether the animals suffer during the process? One side says they do, the other says they don't. If producers are changing how they make foie gras, it seems like they're saying the "animals suffer" argument is correct. And that doesn't bode well for the future of foie gras.

Menu Pages launched blogs awhile back, and ever since I've had my eye on their Menu Pages Boston blog. Enough time has now passed that I can safely say it's a good read for Bostonians interested in local food happenings. I've been reading it to stay plugged in to my hometown's culinary culture, and would find it really useful if I actually lived there.

Chocolate chip cookiesSeveral folks have emailed, wondering what's happening with my Best chocolate chip cookie search. It's been a month since I asked for recipes, so you could assume I've made quite a bit of progress. Or at least made one of the recipes. But the truth is, I haven't made a single batch of cookies yet! I know I know, at this rate it will take me close to two years to try all the recipes submitted by readers. But I'm on top of it now, and have been organizing the recipes for tasting. I'll post more about it in the next couple days, and will kick off the testing in earnest. Really. I promise! :)

FDA Was Aware of Dangers To Food. The recent spinach and peanut butter e. coli outbreaks, and the pet food contamination, have led the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee to hold a hearing on food safety. "Congressional critics and consumer advocates said both episodes show that the agency is incapable of adequately protecting the safety of the food supply." [via The Ethicurean]

saucisson.gifI've always found graphics of animals that are explicitly related to their consumption both disturbing and amusing (e.g. this post from last fall of a cow explaining cuts of beef), so I was totally psyched to find the blog Suicide Food. "Suicide Food is any depiction of animals that act as though they wish to be consumed. Suicide Food actively participates in or celebrates its own demise." Just like this French poster you can see here of a pig slicing himself into delicious saucisson, or sausage. The site has lots of great graphics of cows happily being sliced into steaks and pigs slathering themselves in BBQ sauce. [via The Ethicurean]

Waterfall of chocolateThe FDA is considering a change to the definition of 'chocolate.' "Their plan is to change the basic formula of chocolate in order to use vegetable fat substitutes in place of cocoa butter, and to use milk substitutes in the place of nutritionally superior milk." The result? A crappier product that can be labeled 'chocolate.' You can fight the change in the chocolate standard by sharing your comments with the FDA until April 25. [thanks Shannon!]

Any day now, the ramps will be arriving at the Union Square Greenmarket. And when they do, I will be going on a ramp binge.

Update: Looks like ramps arrived on Saturday. Doh! I should have gone over to see, but was going other things. Wednesday I'll check for sure. [via Gothamist]

Playing catch up

I've been so busy doing stuff over at Serious Eats that I've been completely neglecting this site. I've built up a bunch of links I've been meaning to post though, so I'm going to just give them all to you in one big lump, since who knows when I'll have time to write properly about them or mete them out. Some are probably so old you've already seen them, but oh well. That's what I get for letting things sit around I suppose.

Organic crime in Bay Ridge looks at smuggling raw milk in Brooklyn, NY.

It doesn’t add up: math in the era of trans fat labeling. When zero doesn't mean zero.

Restoration on the Half Shell opines about oyster farming in the Mid-Atlantic states.

Was He the Eggman? A look at the history of eggs Benedict.

Jamba Juice may or may not have milk in their non-dairy mix. They also may or may not have a non-dairy mix at all.

The Red-Meat Miracle, and Other Tales From the Butcher Case. Harold McGee looks at why red meat is red, and how carbon monoxide can make older meat and fish look "fresh."

Cruelty-Free Carnivorism links and trend over at Buzzfeed. Assuage your conscience and fill your belly!

Bovine growth hormone: human food safety evaluation. An abstract from a Science article in 1990 stating "recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) in dairy cattle presents no increased health risk to consumers."

And finally, The New Rules of Food. "Basic knowledge of where food comes from and how it is produced is lost on many Americans today. How differently would we eat if we got to know our food better?"

Gah, that's a lot of stuff I should have been posting! Hopefully I'll be more on top of things beginning next week. In the meantime, enjoy!

Because people use to go to sleep around sundown, the biggest meal of the day once centered around noon. As candles and lamps became more common, mealtime shifted. By the 1800s, the upper class would have supper at 2 AM and stay up until dawn. Who knew the history of mealtime could be so interesting? [thanks Jason]

The recent dog and cat food scare has people cooking food for their pets at home because of safety concerns. I totally understand this desire, as a cat owner, but I don't have the time. I'm relieved I've been using Wellness Cat Food for my kitty for several years now. Wellness products haven't been affected by the recall because they don't use wheat gluten. If you're concerned about your pet's food, and don't have time to cook for them, check out Wellness. The wet cat food doesn't even smell gross! And that's saying something.

It's National Peanut Butter & Jelly day, which means we're celebrating over at Serious Eats. I wrote an article, J: Jams, Jellies (and Preserves and Conserves), all about the difference between the many type of "jams" and how they're made.


Meatpaper is a new magazine, it's "a print magazine of art and ideas about meat. We like metaphors more than marinating tips. We are your journal of meat culture." One of the editors, Sasha, attended high school with me, but until now I was not aware of her meat love! I'm looking forward to seeing the first issue, it sounds intriguing.

Is Mario Batali selling out?

mario_batali.jpgMario Batali has sold out is and is using his name to move frozen dinners for General Mills, according to an article on Grist. The author wishes Batali would bring his "talent and fame to bear on the great food issue of our time: the environmental, social, and public-health ruin served up as a matter of course by our industrial food system." Well sure, I'd like to see that from a lot of our leading food personalities, but we all don't believe in the same causes.

From what I've heard, Batali actually worked long and hard to make sure these dinners were tasty and good-quality. They won't be cheap, something around $10 or so to feed four people. So clearly they're a step up from Stouffer's. Plus, if you're going to call Batali a sell-out, wouldn't you have done so after that NASCAR cookbook?

Regarding the poor man's sous-vide post from yesterday, it looks like boiling Ziploc bags is not recommended. From a consumer specialist at S.C. Johnson & Son (makers of Ziploc), "Ziploc bags are not designed or approved to withstand the extreme heat of boiling and therefore, using Ziploc bags to make any recipe that requires the bag to be boiled is not recommended." The plastic can melt at the temperature, and who wants to eat food merged with plastic?

Of course, if I'd read the recipes more closely, I'd have realized the salmon I was keen to try out doesn't even call for the faux sous vide prep, and is just slow cooked in the oven. The only recipe that calls for the use of freezer bag is the slow-poached shrimp, and that only wants water brought "to 150 degrees, just below a simmer." So you might be ok if you keep the temperature low, but consider yourself warned. [thanks Allan!]

NYC Trend Alert: high-end late night dining! Tribeca Vietnamese restaurant Mai House recently announced they'll be serving a late night menu "28 terrific plates, all priced at $10 or less from 10 PM on." Remember, Momofuku Ssäm Bar started out with a late night menu after 10 PM, which they then began serving at 6 PM because their early night menu wasn't nearly as delicious. So it looks like options for fancy late night dining in New York are increasing. Of course, there have always been options for non-fancy late night dining. And sometimes, nothing tastes better at midnight than a grilled cheese, if you ask me.


Beautiful looking white chocolate cheesecake from Flickr user Sashertootie, recipe included.

cow_grazing.jpgDairy farmers go organic before upcoming rule change. Current regulations allow dairy farmers to feed their cows 80% organic feed during most of the transition year to organic. With an upcoming change to the rules (requiring 100% organic feed during transition), many farmers are now making the switch to organic. But don't expect organic dairy prices to drop any time soon. There's been more demand than supply for organic dairy for a while now, and the market will quickly absorb all the new milk. I just hope it means more access to fresh organic local milk for people, and less reliance on the ultra-pasteurized stuff.

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