Archive for May 2007

Argh, swamped today with other things. But here's some information on the benefits of grass feeding animals. "Animals raised on pasture live very low-stress lives. As a result of their superb nutrition and lack of stress, they are superbly healthy."

Also, there are some interesting comments happening in the If we want to save the animals we must eat them post. When I get a moment, I'll share my thoughts. Feel free to pop in with yours.

Heritage meat statistics

OK, it was a short day looking at heritage and heirloom links, so maybe I'll keep this going tomorrow, since I didn't really have time to dive into veggies at all really, nor enough time to dig into the meat (ha ha ha) of this issue. For those wondering what the big deal is, or why diversity matters, I'll leave you with this information from Sustainable Table:

In the US, a few main breeds dominate the livestock industry:

  • 83 percent of dairy cows are Holsteins, and five main breeds comprise almost all of the dairy herds in the US.
  • 60 percent of beef cattle are of the Angus, Hereford or Simmental breeds.
  • 75 percent of pigs in the US come from only 3 main breeds.
  • Over 60 percent of sheep come from only four breeds, and 40 percent are Suffolk-breed sheep.

More sobering information: "Within the past 15 years, 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide, and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of becoming extinct. In the past five years alone, 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have become extinct."

Modern commercial turkey varieties have also lost much of their natural ability to forage for food, fly, walk normally, and to escape predators. Wikipedia has lots of information about domesticated turkeys.

fountain_prairie_highland_.jpgIf we want to save them, we must eat them! "Just as the Bald Eagle and Panda Bear are on the brink of extinction in the wild, so are numerous varieties of livestock like Bourbon Red turkeys, Red Wattle pigs, Tunis sheep, Barred-Plymouth Rock chickens and Iroquois corn flour...Heritage Foods USA exists to help accomplish this goal by selling foods from small farms to consumers and wholesale accounts." You can buy Six-Spotted Berkshire pork, heritage turkeys, French Dewlap Toulouse Geese, American Kobe Beef, and even bison. It's strange to think that in order to save nearly extinct species we need to eat them, but if there's no market for these varieties, no one will farm them.

Into the meat night of the Bronx

Meatpacking Adam Kuban

Donning a white smock and white paper hat as required by federal law, I followed [chef Adam Perry] Lang inside these hallowed halls of prime and choice beef. My friend Adam heads to the Bronx at 1:30 AM to visit Master Purveyors, a meat distributor at the Hunts Point Cooperative Market. A big burger fan, Adam wanted to see the beef being ground. I love his photos of the steaks being dry-aged. I only wish he talked more about Master Purveyors and what makes their steaks so good.

Asparagus is an excellent source of folic acid and vitamins, and is low in fat, calories and carbohydrates. Though this article from the BBC talks about the virtues of English asparagus, there's lots of information for those of us outside the UK. Includes some tasty recipes to prepare while this member of the lily family (yes!) is in season.

Almost dining at the Waverly Inn

waverly_inn.jpgHow We Almost Ate At Ye Waverly Inn. The Amateur Gourmet and his parents tried to have dinner at the Waverly Inn but there reservation was lost and the host was not accommodating, and well, you have to just read it. The whole tale of the "new" Waverly Inn just saddens me. I used to live down the block from the Inn and went there a few times for dinner. The food was so-so, but the building was fantastic, with cozy fireplaces and a great old bar. I always thought it could be something really special. Then a few years ago, I saw it was for lease, and for about one crazy moment, I fantasized about opening my own restaurant there.

Of course, Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and some partners snapped up the lease and the rest is history. He opened an exclusive supper club for himself and his friends and those in the know. Their town cars block the narrow street. And what was once a nice neighborhood joint is now another "it" spot in Manhattan. And the food isn't even supposedly that good! I haven't been, though I might try at some point, just in the hopes that somehow, it's not as bad as everyone says. That somehow, it's become that neat little cozy local restaurant I always wanted it to be.

How to keep cookies fresh

Cookie Osmosis

After all that perfect chocolate chip cookie baking, what's the use when your batch goes stale in a matter of days? Cookies are great out of the oven, but biting into a hard crumbly mass later in the week is no fun. That's why you need to understand the science of cookie osmosis, or How to Keep Cookies Fresh.

The trick is simple: place a slice of fresh bread in with your cookies a day or two after you've baked them, or whenever you find their texture has deteriorated. The moisture from the fresh bread will migrate to your cookies (through cookie osmosis, see diagram above), rendering them soft and chewable again. It will literally unstaleify them!

Special thanks to my mother-in-law Dee, who passed on this technique to her son, who introduced it to me.

His cattle ration consists of about 17% "candy meal," a blend of chocolate bars and large chunks of chocolate. And that's not all, in this report about livestock producers feeding their animals human food because ethanol is driving up the price of corn. I'd love to read the whole article, but that damn Wall Street Journal is subscription-only.

Up to 10 small cups of green tea a day is fine but studies show that more than that can be harmful. This is important to note if you're taking green-tea-based supplements because they "can contain up to 50 times as much polyphenol as a single cup of tea." Polyphenols are helpful in small doses but in large doses can cause liver and kidney damage. Everything in moderation, as they say.

After much experimentation, I have perfected Wylie Dufresne's, allegedly patented yoghurt noodles. You can make them too if you purchase some transglutaminase online. And then you can have the fun of squeezing noodles into hot broth and watching them form. This would be like the best birthday party dinner for a bunch of kids, wouldn't it? You know, assuming they enjoy eating "a ginger and spring onion broth, with a tian of spring greens, crab, and a chorizo foam." In Manhattan they very well might! [thanks Jason.]

"'Molecular gastronomy' seems more like a theory than a practice. No one is breaking out the microscopes and cooking molecule by molecule." - Francis Lam on Molecular Gastronomy

There are more great quotes over at Josh's newish Food Section Quotables.

Gridskipper's got an annotated offal dining list for NYC. Not many places I frequent though I enjoy offal, but handy nonetheless. [via The Food Section]

carrots.jpgThe baby carrot is a product of frugality and an abhorrence of waste. "Baby carrots are not young carrots, but rather small pieces of carrots that are chopped and whittled down to look like small carrots." A farmer came up with the idea after having to feed large amounts his crop to livestock because their shape wasn't uniform enough for supermarket sale. I prefer carrots from the greenmarket, but you can't beat baby carrots for their convenience. [via Dethroner]

The Food and Drug Administration came up with a plan earlier this year for tough regulations on handling fresh produce according to the Wall Street Journal (which I don't have an account for, so this link is to a CNN story). Apparently Officials of the Department of Health and Human Services "gave the proposal a cold reception." Not sure how this connects to the post below about the F.D.A. not wanting regulations. Anyone have access to the WSJ article?

A recipe for stuffed quahogs, which are large hard-shelled clams. I love clams in all preparations, and this recipe for stuffed ones sounds delicious. Nothing says summer to me more than clams! Well, clams and ice cream, and warm humid weather, and the smell of the ocean, and and and...let's just say clams and leave it at that.

The key to a good hamburger is to grind your own meat. Mark Bittman explains how you can control the quality of the meat this way, and its fat content, two critical factors in making a great burger. And of course he talks about the health concerns of buying ground beef as well. Makes me long for a grill!

Harold McGee will demonstrate the application of the scientific method to classical cooking techniques, ingredients and new technologies in a three-day class at the FCI. Drat! That sounds totally cool and right up my alley. Alas, the mid-July date is no good for me. And also it costs $1,200! I think I'll read McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen again instead.

Confetti Cakes Cookbook for dream cakes

The Confetti Cakes CookbookThe Confetti Cakes Cookbook: Spectacular Cookies, Cakes, and Cupcakes from New York City's Famed Bakery by Elisa Strauss is one of those cookbooks that just astounds. I was not familiar with the bakery or this woman's cakes before, but color me impressed. As someone who's not only worked with fondant but actually made it from scratch (not recommended), my mind was blown by what this woman can do with cake!

The book features recipes for all kinds of cakes and cookies, including amazing stacked wedding cake cookies that look just like little cakes, and a sushi cake that looks just like the real thing. Strauss's ability to make cakes that look like baseball caps, sushi, and handbags is incredible. The book also contains basic information about techniques and ingredients that any baker will find useful, even if they don't undertake a week's worth of baking to create the "Sugar Stiletto and Shoebox Cake."

But perhaps what I like best about this book is the inspiration it provides. I'm not sure I'll ever make her exact cakes, but boy does it make me want to come up with my own crazy concoctions. With all the techniques and tips she provides, I have the confidence to do that. Now I just need a willing victim friend who's looking for a birthday or wedding cake.

Heritage meats are like four-legged versions of the heirloom tomato -- old strains of rare breeds that are being cultivated anew by independent farmers using traditional methods, free of hormones and chemical pesticides. The Food Section's report from a heritage meats discussion back in 2003 at the French Culinary Institute has lots of information about breeds and tasting.

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