Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beans are your friends

Dear Readers,

I cannot begin to tell you the amount of e mail I got about my proposing a week without meat. There is a page on Facebook...

as well as e mail chains being sent around to promote this. I have heard from Peta and other organizations who want to formalize the events.

People are asking for shopping lists, what the rules are, can they eat fish etc. etc. etc.

Let me tell you what this is about for me, and if you participate what I hope it will be about for you.

Consciousness. Grocery store meat is factory farmed in ways that are not good for animals or the people that consume them. By giving it up you become conscious of what you are eating, you put aside meal crutches and pay attention to what you are consuming. Think about how hard the farmers work, meet them at the markets and find out about the food you eat.

When I was in Istanbul I arrived during Ramadan. During this period Muslims do not eat until Sunset. Not being Muslim I had breakfast in my my apartment and discreetly carried some water in a backpack but skipped lunch and broke fast with my Turkish brothers at sunset. The enormous appreciation for the food and the complete awareness of where it came from right down to thanking the lamb for giving us his life so that we may sustain ours had an impact. After 11 hours of not eating, I appreciated and thought about every bite. What goes into growing lentils, lemons, beans? How many people worked along the way to make our feasting possible?

As we broke the bread I appreciated the bread makers who had worked all day long near hot ovens without even a sip of water.

Forget the Boca Burgers, and don't worry about meat substitutes. If you are participating, don't think about what you are not eating. Appreciate what you are eating. I will beginning tomorrow share a daily diary, including recipes, preps, calorie content and nutrition breakdown. Don't worry, I will get enough protein.

And now to beans. I love them. I have loved beans ever since I was a child in New Orleans and had my first Red Beans and Rice. They are creamy, dense, fibrous, nutritious and easy to cook.

Haul out your crock pot.

Put a touch of oil in the bottom and toss in two large chopped onions and some garlic. Turn it on high. Go get ready for work. Now that you are out of the shower you can smell the onion. Toss in a pound of beans, red, black, white, pink, any color you like, and 8 cups water, give it several good doses of salt turn to low and put the lid back on. Go to work, school wherever you go.

Come home to a pot of melting tender beans.

I happen to love them hot from the pot folded in a tortilla with a bit of cheese and some raw sweet onion and cilantro.

I set some aside for a cold salad with corn and tomato, the rest I tend to have in the morning with melted cheese and a poached egg.

A humble pot of beans is as sustaining as the most expensive filet and you can't put a filet into a crock pot and walk away from it....unless you are into cremation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A week without grocery store meat! Can we do it?

In America, the cow is on trial. The charges include dietary wrongdoing, pollution and misuse of natural resources. - Molly O' Neil.

As a BIG fan of the vegetables I tend to buy meat very carefully. I know better than to trust retailers like Whole Foods because when they say grass fed they mean grain finished feedlot beef. In other words they lie and are trying to change the definition of grass to include corn. I kid you not. They are not about high quality, but high profit.

How about August 1 to 7? Show the makers of factory meats that the consumers have power and buy NO GROCERY STORE MEAT. Not a can of tuna, not a pound of bacon, or some ground chicken or whatever your food crutches are, and instead put that significant chunk of change towards local produce. Go to the farmer's markets, they will have an abundance of great food that will make you seriously happy. If you eat meat, make sure it is REAL meat, not factory meat.

One delicious option...Cucumber tomato salad.

1 medium cucumber cubed
2 medium tomatoes cubed
2 oz feta crumbled (Bulgarian Feta is best)
A little salt and pepper
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar

Chop, toss, hit with a little cider vinegar and a drizzle of oil. Salt and pepper to taste. It is that simple and a crisp fresh salad that will make you forget burgers for a few days.

Summer Vegetable Dressing
has a tang of fresh ginger and can be used on salad and as a veg dipping sauce. I love it with lightly steamed green beans.

Spinach is a great summer veg and Farmer's markets of then have a great source. Many farmers replant a few times so there are always tender leaves.

Dave's Patty pan prep is one of the most widely read and shared recipes from my site ever. Dave is now famous and I would tell you more about him but we have never met. The prep is also great for eggplant or most any vegetable.

Green Beans Franca
is another post that got more readers in one day than any other. It does contain bacon, and IF you have a natural bacon source go ahead. Otherwise cut the bacon or eat it on July 31.

The Goat Cheese and Leek pasta sauce is one of my personal favorites. If you start to crave that meat, make this and it's goodness will wash away cravings.

This wonderful vegetable pesto named after Joy Behar was linked to ABC's website for a bit. Talk about e mail. View devotees are very into sending e mail. I think I got close to 500 about this recipe. Make without the pancetta and shrimp, Pesto does not need it and Joy will forgive you for modifying the recipe. The reason I share this again is that you can do it with many dishes...just take the meat out and if it has enough of a flavor profile, you will be very happy.

This drunken pasta is awesome and can just as easily be made with green beans as eggs.

And for those of you who have summer gardens....Raw "pasta", I know you have enough veg to make it.

And when you finally feel vegged out...Mac and Cheese.

Send the factory farmers who try to fill out bodies with chemicals and antibiotics a message, just say NO! Give it a week, and tell me if you haven't lost 3 pounds?

I am giving permission to anyone and everyone to take this idea, copy, share, post, link, and spread the word of the week without meat. Do it on Facebook, twitter, print a few copies and take them to the farmer's market.

The money you save...hmmmm. Maybe you can buy a few things for a food bank. There are a lot of folks having tough times now.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Georgian Royal Estates Mukuzani 2005

When many of us think of Russian wine, we think of those sickly sweet thick reds that to my palate are as detestable as Boone's Farm or Mogen David.

Georgia and Crimea are out to change our image and more and more wines from those regions are hitting the American stores.

I love sophisticated, dry well aged reds. I also love a good fruit bomb, a great Syrah or Malbec is often a bit of both. I found a wonderful spicy fruit bomb that is under 6 a bottle, a price that is happy making. With it's deep purple color and balance on the tongue, it has much more flavor than it's price would indicate.

There are many Mukuzani on the market make sure you pick one that says DRY, even their semi sweet can be pretty syrup-like. I have found the years vary enormously in quality and this particular 2005 is worthy of a case purchase. We are going to be having it with some home made pizza in a few minutes and the two sets of noses and taste buds in my house tonight agree....this is a damn fine 6 buck wine.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A bevy of cucumbers

I got an e mail from a reader who calls himself Greenman, it sounds like he has a green thumb, which is a very good thing. He is facing what many of us with gardens overabundance. There are times when one vegetable will take off more than any others giving us more than we can eat, and share. When one thinks of cucumbers one thinks of salads. Their clean crisp taste is a delight in salad, but one can only eat so many salads.

I went to the Farmer's market early this morning and have been playing in the kitchen and behold the cucumber... a very versatile vegetable.

#1 Cucumber Pea soup

This preparation reeks of fresh summer flavor and is incredibly simple.

In a pan place
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups finely chopped cucumbers
2 cups fresh or frozen peas

Bring to a boil. Turn off heat, let rest for about a minute and then puree in the blender. Adjust seasoning if needed and serve either warm or cold with fresh mint and chive. I was so happy with this simple soup it became my breakfast.

#2 Cucumber Thai noodles
3 cups shredded cucumbers (use a mandolin and make them into long noodle shards or a cheese grater for short ones)
4 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fermented fish sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic paste
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 lime cut into 4
Flax seeds/chopped peanuts/green onions to garnish

Shred the cucumber into long pasta like tendrils and DRAIN for at least an hour in a colander over the sink. It helps to lightly salt and toss the cucumber so that the maximum water comes out.

Take all the sauce ingredients and blend with a whisk or in a food processor. Toss with cucumber and top with the flax, peanuts and onions, divide into 4 servings and give each person a wedge of lime to squeeze over the noodles.

#3 stuffed cucumbers with a Tahini butter

4 cucumbers
1/3 pound ground lamb
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup cooked rice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 small onion chopped
1 tsp cumin
1tsp corriander

1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon tahini

Lop off the top of the cucumbers and scoop out with a spoon. Mix all your stuffing ingredients in a small bowl and pack down into the cucumbers. Place cucumbers into a pan with a touch of water on the bottom and place into an oven set at 375 for 30 to 40 minutes until stuffing is cooked and cucumber is tender.

Melt butter and stir in the tahini, blend with a whisk until it is full integrated and drizzle over your stuffed cucumber. If you have a little greek yogurt in the house, put a blob on each one and serve.

I had all these dishes today and am not sick of cucumbers, in fact I am marinating some for a salad tonight.

Anyone who has an ingredient they have no idea what to do with...when I have the time there is nothing I like better than playing with my food. Write me and I will see what I can do.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pork burgers...Fusion on the Fly parties

One of the types of parties I love to do are Fusion parties.

The host pays for my services but saves on food, the guests act as sous chefs and get a cooking lesson and a meal.

Each guest is asked to bring at least one item. It can be something they see at the Farmer's market and don't know how to prepare or anything else that appeals to them. It has to be an ingredient, not a finished food and no coaching or categories are assigned. They are cautioned to remember that they have to eat what they bring, but beyond that anything goes. I use standard pantry items and possibly additional ingredients provided by the host.

4th of July I did one of these events and the host announced it would be an outdoor cookout on a rooftop with a very nice grill.

So what showed up.

Hot dog buns
A pineapple
5 lbs of onions
A very large pork shoulder
Feta Cheese
Big bag of pre-washed spinach

What would you make?

Fortunately we had pre-made some chips and dips so everyone got a chance to look over the ingredients without starving.

I ran to the kitchen for a food processor and an extension cord and set to grinding the shoulder with a good bit of the fat for flavor. I knew a whole shoulder would never cook quickly enough in time for these good folks to eat. I had someone core the pineapple, and thick slice several onion and the fennel.

For a salad I grilled the fennel, pineapple, and onion, a quick rough chop when they came off the grill they were tossed warm with the spinach and feta and a light vinaigrette. The salad was great and I would happily serve it again.

We took the ground pork and with some salt, pepper, cumin and coriander made nice thick oblong burgers to fit the hot dog buns and topped the burgers with chopped fresh onion and cilantro. They were good. I had a cheesecake I had done ahead for dessert.

I love parties like this, I never know what I am going to make and many times I record and repeat's that good.