Friday, July 29, 2011

Discovering Turkish Orange Eggplant

The other day at the farmers' market I bought a variety of eggplant—Turkish Orange—that I had never seen before. They are a vibrant orange, a little smaller than a tennis ball and hold less water than other eggplants.

Nevia No, the farmer selling them, told me she sliced them thinly (using a mandoline) and made eggplant chips (think potato
chips). I tried the same and the results were, for the most part, good.

The beautiful orange color and pleasant eggplant flavor survived cooking, but a bitter aftertaste was also present. My initial thought is that this was caused by the skin reacting with the olive oil. I'll do some research, but does anyone have any ideas?

Turkish Orange are also good for stuffing; I may try that over the weekend.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Switching to Organic Bananas

At the two supermarkets (Fairway and Whole Foods) where I do most of my food shopping, conventional bananas are $0.79 per pound. Organic bananas—healthier for us, the workers on banana plantations and the environment—are $0.99 per pound.

Considering the average banana weighs about one-third of a pound, an organic banana costs seven cents more than a conventional one
($0.33 versus $0.26).

Assuming a banana-a-day-habit, switching from conventional to organic bananas translates into about $25 per year.

Need more convincing? From BananaLink, an English non-profit that "campaigns for a fair and sustainable banana trade":
"Intensive methods of production are used to maximise productivity creating high quantities of waste and pollution, soil erosion, deforestation and a steady increase in pests and diseases that can only be fought with more harmful pesticides.

"Bananas produced for export consume the largest volume of chemicals of any crop except cotton and the use of over 400 agrochemicals in the banana industry is—literally—fatal for both workers and their environment."
If your budget is tight, considering shrinking portion sizes of other foods to free up the $25. For example, most brand name cereals—many nutritionally deficient—cost about $5 per box. Finding a way to make a box last longer can help facilitate the switch to organic bananas.

Replacing boxed cereals with homemade oatmeal will get you a Mercedes, but that's another story for another day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Two Marketing Ploys, Two Wildly Different Ethos

The big news yesterday in the food world was McDonald's announcement that it is altering its Happy Meals. While many are focusing on the apple slices and smaller portions of French fries, let's remember that this is completely a public relations ploy aimed at protecting the company's bottom line.

Another public relations ploy—albeit one with better intentions—I came across yesterday was Seventh Generation's goal of raising $10,000 for Teach For America, which helps place young teachers in low-income areas.

I saw the promotion attached to a bottle of Seventh Generation laundry detergent, coupled with a coupon and a tie-in to the benefits of using the product: "A back to school wardrobe without optical brighteners? I'm in."

So, while a revamped Happy Meal is still junk our kids don't need, Seventh Generation is actually trying to brighten our lives, without the chemicals. More from the promotion:

"Seventh Generation laundry detergents are tough on back-to-school dirt and stains—and free of optical brighteners, the synthetic chemicals added to detergents to make laundry appear brighter and whiter than it really is. Optical brighteners don't have anything to do with getting things clean, but they can rub off on skin and may even cause a rash when exposed to sunlight. Since they're not necessary, we don't use them in Seventh Generation laundry detergents. That's a clean you can feel good about!"
The battles we fight as consumers are myriad, but know there are better products available; making one change per week makes a difference for the health of our families and society.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Store & Save Bread

Do you find yourself throwing out half a loaf of bread, bagels and English muffins? Freezing will save you money!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kerrygold Butter: Grass-Fed for the World to See

As the public's knowledge about the benefits (and dangers) of our food supply increases, I've noticed food companies changing their products' labeling to highlight selling points that previously went unstated.

The first time I saw this was over a year ago when Eden Foods slapped "BPA FREE Lining" on their cans of beans, responding to the upswing in concern over Bisphenol A. Mind you, Eden had been using cans free off BPA since 1999, but, since 98 percent of the public had never heard of the chemical, there was no need to advertise as such.

The latest example is Kerrygold's butter. A redesigned logo has added the words "MILK FROM GRASS-FED COWS" to the Irish company's packaging (click on above photo for more detail), highlighting what so many of us are looking for in our meat and dairy products.

(Nationally, Kerrygold butter is available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and costs less than $3 for a half pound at both stores.)

To read more about the many health benefits (antioxidants, beneficial fats, nutrients, etc.) of grass-fed meat and dairy products, click here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Jack LaLanne: Time to Remodel (Our Bodies)

Our monthly dose of Jack LaLanne, the ultimate speaker of the truth.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Battle Against Food Deserts Intensifies

In March I wrote about a woman, Beatriz, who lives in the food desert of the South Bronx yet didn't let that stop her from buying better-quality (and cheaper) food for her family.
"Instead of shopping at her neighborhood’s overpriced and lacking Pioneer supermarket, Beatriz, armed with newfound knowledge and confidence, took her shopping cart and food stamps on the subway and traveled 30 minutes from Mott Haven’s food desert to the Upper West Side’s food embarrassment of riches. (Fairway, Trader Joe’s, West Side Market, Whole Foods and Zabar’s are within a one mile stretch.)"
Realistically, though, not many people are going to make such a trek, exacerbating the cycle of poor nutrition and health (which taxes us all, literally) that exists in our rural and urban areas.

Which is why yesterday's announcement by The Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) that "leading grocery retailers have committed to bring healthy, affordable food to nearly 10 million people over the next five years in the form of new and expanded stores in areas that desperately need them" is so important.

Walgreens may not be known for gourmet food products, but if the company converts or opens "at least 1,000 food oasis stores across the country over the next five years" that sell fruit and vegetables, this benefits society as a whole, especially when we consider that:
"Currently, 23.5 million Americans live in low-income areas that lack stores likely to sell affordable and nutritious foods. Of these 23.5 million, approximately 11.5 million are individuals living in households with incomes at or below the 200% poverty line, and 6.5 million are children."
Click here to read the entire PHA press release.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Must Reading: Mark Bittman's "A Better Sort of Pig"

There's a great piece by Mark Bittman in The New York Times today about high-quality pork production in Iowa and how everything about it—volume, treatment of pigs, flavor—differs tremendously from the large-scale industrial operations that produce most of the (tasteless) meat we eat.

The major issue at play—as is the case with most everything within our modern food supply—is one of quantity versus quality:
"The meat produced by both the Becker Lane and Niman operations is expensive — it costs at least twice as much as conventionally raised pork — and they don’t produce all that much, at least by industrial standards. But if you buy the 'less is more' argument — that is, if we produce, buy and eat less meat we can afford to make that meat higher quality: fewer drugs, better-treated animals and so on. That treatment costs money, but as Becker says, 'Food isn’t just a pile of stuff to be measured by weight and volume, and there’s a reason industrially produced meat is just a little more expensive than garbage.' It’s a quantity versus quality argument."
Click here to read all of "A Better Sort of Pig."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New York Times: "Radiation-Tainted Beef" in Japan’s Markets

Why I figured it wasn't a bad idea to buy two huge bottles of the Japanese soy sauce I use right after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster ravaged Japan this spring:
"Even after explosions rocked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Kuniaki Sato, who raises cattle here about 20 miles from the crippled complex, said he had received no clear warning from the government about the possible dangers of radiation to his herd.

"So six weeks after the accident, on April 23, he shipped 12 of his prized cattle from his farm to market.

"Now Japanese agricultural officials say meat from more than 500 cattle that were likely to have been contaminated with radioactive cesium has made its way to supermarkets and restaurants across Japan in recent weeks. Officials say the cattle ate hay that had been stored outside and exposed to radiation."
Click here to read the rest of "Radiation-Tainted Beef Spreads Through Japan’s Markets" from today's New York Times.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Free Apricots in Krems, Austria!

There are hundreds of apricot trees in and around Krems, Austria, both on private and public property. The below took place on Saturday in a small public park and was much cheaper than buying apricots at the outdoor market a five-minute walk away.

(By the way, father and son are Albanian, not Russian.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Another Reason to Stop Spraying Our Lawns and Trees

At what point will we collectively realize that applying pesticides on our lawns and trees does a lot more harm than good? The latest example is the damage done to thousands of trees sprayed with a supposedly "safer" spray (made by our friends at DuPont):
"A recently approved herbicide called Imprelis, widely used by landscapers because it was thought to be environmentally friendly, has emerged as the leading suspect in the deaths of thousands of Norway spruces, eastern white pines and other trees on lawns and golf courses across the country."
Click here to read the entire article, which appears in today's New York Times.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Scene at Stary Kleparz in Krakow, Poland

Stary Kleparz is a centuries-old market in Krakow, Poland. Here was the scene at one fruit seller's stand yesterday morning as she doled out wild blueberries and small plums:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Melktaler's Delicious Schaf-Joghurt

I just downed some delicious organic ("bio") Austrian sheep's milk yogurt that I bought at the Nachsmarkt last Saturday.

It was much creamier than my favorite cow's milk yogurts (Seven Stars Farm and Maple Hill Creamery) and didn't have the sour bite that many people don't like.

was almost a happy medium between the tanginess of traditional yogurt and the cloying sweetness of mass-produced, candied yogurts.

Any ideas for how to market Melktaler's Schaf-Joghurt in the States?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dinner at Zimmermann, a Traditional Austrian Heurigen

After one too many institutional meals during the past week, I was lucky to break away and eat at Zimmermann, a traditional Austrian heurigen (imagine a beer garden, but with wine) located in a beautiful district on the outskirts of Vienna.

According to a friend who grew up in Vienna,
"heurigen" means "of this year."

He explained that, traditionally, these establishments produced their own wine and were only allowed to serve wine from the current year; when they ran out they would close. Over time they've become more commercial and stay open all year. The main drink is a “spritzer,” usually made of gruner veltliner.

I ordered a
special, the mangalitzabratwurst mit sauerkraut und rösti. I knew I was getting some sort of sausage with sauerkraut and roasted potatoes, but I had no idea the sausage was going to be flecked with rosemary and hints of garlic. It was also the juiciest sausage I've even eaten (as evidenced by the spots on my shirt).

The sauerkraut was mild with a hint of sweetness and the potatoes were crisped nicely. The mu-stard was much more plain than sharp, but it provided a nice counter to the flavorful sausage.

I think the before and after photos tell the whole story.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Great Cheese at Vienna's Naschmarkt

I've been on a cultural mission in Vienna, Austria for the past week and I've had some time to do some exploring.

On Saturday I visited the Naschmarkt, Vienna's most popular market. It's full of permanent stalls selling meat, fish, cheese, fruits, vegetables and prepared foods.

There are also some organic ("bio") farmers and artisanal producers who set up stands one or two days per week. I was lucky to come across Stephan (right, above) and Alex, who sell a variety of great cheeses. Most are made from raw, whole milk from grass-fed cows and the several I tried were superb.

I bought two; one was Vollfettbergkäse (literally, "whole fat mountain cheese") from the Austrian Alps and the other was Cirone, from milk from cows living at high altitudes near Bern, Switzerland. I also bought some raw milk butter, which is extremely difficult to find in the United States.

The three of us had a conversation about food in both Europe and the United States, spurred on by Stephan's asking if I had heard of Michael Pollan and Alice W
aters. I doubt Stephan knew what he was in for!

Stephan is a member of Slow Food Vienna and also sells his cheese online at
Unfortunately, I don't think there's delivery to the States.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Obfuscation to the Nth Degree

The lengths that the big food companies will go to to protect their business interests sometimes baffles the mind. Click here to read about attempts to keep the truths about commercial feedlots buried.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Blueberry Week Continues: How to Make a Blueberry Crisp

A third recipe I made using my bevy of blueberries was a blueberry crisp.

Just like the jam and sorbet I discussed earlier this week, this easy recipe can work with a variety of fruits
(i.e. berries, peaches, plums, apricots, apples, pears) as they come to market over the course of the summer and fall.

To make the fruit filling, I started by buttering an 8-inch square oven-proof glass dish. I then added enough blueberries (between one and two pints) to fill the dish. I squeezed in the juice of half a lemon, plus added 1 tablespoon of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. I mixed everything together.

For the toppin
g, I mixed 1 cup white whole wheat flour, ½ cup white sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 cup oats and ½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt in a bowl. I then added 1 stick of slightly softened Smjör butter cut into smaller cubes.

Next cam
e the only possibly difficult part: combining the butter and dry ingredients into a streusel-like topping. I used my fingertips to clump together the two until no dry ingredients were still powdery. The butter and dry ingredients were now one, stuck together in a moist mixture.

I spread this mixture evenly over the filling and baked the crisp in a 375 degree oven until the fruit started to bubble and the topping turned golden brown (about 40 minutes). I like it a little cold, but feel free to serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Make Blueberry Sorbet (In a Food Processor)

Another product I made from the mass of organic blueberries I bought on sale at Whole Foods was blueberry sorbet.

I rinsed and dried 12 ounces of blueberries and froze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. I put the berries in a food processor and pulsed until the berries were the size of small pebbles.

I then mixed ¼ cup of cold water with ¼ cup of organic raw cane sugar. When the sugar was dissolved, I poured the mixture into the food processor, with the blade running. The consistency became smoother, but it was still a little chunky. A little more water helped smooth it out nicely.

I put the mixture into a glass container and froze it until it was hard, about two hours.

Try the same recipe with bagged frozen fruit, including strawberries, mango, pineapple and raspberries.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blueberry Week Starts! How to Make Blueberry Jam

Whole Foods recently had a great sale on pints of organic blueberries ($2 instead of the usual $5), so I wasn't bashful and bought six pints. If you like blueberries, you are in luck, since I'll share the recipes and instructions for what I made during the rest of this week. (If you don't like them, feel free to substitute other berries.)

By the way, there was an interesting article in The New York Times about the organic blueberry business in New Jersey, which produces some of the country's best blueberries. Click here to read "Organic Blueberries Don't Come Easily."

One of the things I made was blueberry jam. Making jam is one of those "I can't believe it's that easy" recipes.

All I did was measure out some blueberries (about three cups) and half that amount of organic raw cane sugar. I put the berries and sugar into a pot, added lemon juice from half a lemon and about two tablespoons of water.

I stirred once to combine everything and turned the heat to medium high. I stirred occasionally; it took about 20 minutes for the blueberries to start to break apart and another 20 minutes for the mixture to start to thicken.

At this point, I turned off the heat, let the mixture cool slightly and transferred it to a glass jar. The jam was going to thicken further, so it was much easier to have this happen in the storage container, rather than trying to transfer it from the pot.

The jam was delicious (if I may say so myself) and I ate it plain, mixed into yogurt and, of course, as part of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy July 4th!

Happy July 4th! Not to ruin everyone's grilling today, but . . . "What’s Inside The Bun?"

Friday, July 1, 2011

Light Mayonnaise Strikes Again

It happened again the other day.

While discussing our society's unfortunate shift from whole foods to chemical concoctions marketed as low-fat and light (I used light mayonnaise as a particularly egregious example), a client mentioned that a nutritionist he was seeing had advocated light mayonnaise to help cut fat and calorie intake.


"Did the nutritionist talk about the soybean oil and modified corn starch in the light mayonnaise?" I asked.


Many people believe that this line of thinking (avoid fat and calories) without concern for the genesis and health ramifications of actual ingredients has made us sick. Our bodies do not know how to read these processed and synthetic foods, sending our system haywire.

I'm not sure our nation's low-fat experiment (yes, experiment) of the past 35 years has done us much service. So much of what we now take as gospel is dubious, at best. According to Gary Taubes in "Good Calories, Bad Calories," debatable scientific theories based on little or no evidence have morphed into governmental policy,
thanks to a host of factors.