Now and then a food magazine contains a recipe that becomes a standard my kitchen. Even more rarely, a single issue will contain two standards. The May/June 1998 issue of Saveur was one of those rarities, with two recipes that I have made many, many times and consider critical parts of my cooking repertoire.
The first is clafoutis;, a dessert of fruit embedded in a custard, a dessert I make a few times during the cherry and apricot season in the spring. Although it can be adapted to fall fruit like apples and pears, I haven’t tried those variations. The second is torta verde, a savory pie from the Liguria region of Italy. In this torta, a thin olive oil crust holds a mixture of Swiss chard, feta cheese, onion, potato and eggs. I probably make it once a month, all year round, especially before long domestic flights because it is superbly portable and has robust flavors that stand up to taste-killing aircraft cabins.
For a little while, I was collecting articles about Insects as Food. I thought it would be fun to feed them into a word cloud generator, so I piled the articles into a giant text file, made some small adjustments and pasted the text into one of the free on-line cloud generators. Initially, I used WordItOut because it was user friendly and allowed a good amount of creative control. For the 2018 update, I switched to Tableau Public after learning from Clearly and Simply how to make Word Clouds in Tableau.
The word cloud shown below was built using text from 33 articles (over 27,000 words) from a variety of mass-media sources like magazine articles, newspaper articles, blog posts at media websites, and trade publications. They aren’t a random sample of news coverage and are probably somewhat cricket heavy. Before submitting the text, I edited the source material to remove plurals from certain top-ranked words (e.g., crickets -> cricket, insects -> insect, etc.) and also removed many common words (the, and, him, her, etc.).
Countless initiatives have been launched to fight food waste. Traditionally, these have been non-profit, volunteer-driven efforts like San Francisco’s Food Runners (which collects prepared food from restaurants or events for distribution to the needy) or food banks (which might collect surplus food from manufacturers or groceries). Recently, bunches of for-profit companies have been wading into the field, hoping that their efforts to decrease food waste might lead to increases in profits.
A few months ago, the Meetup.com group Food Innovation Circle set up a panel discussion on food waste reduction as a business opportunity. Representatives from three San Francisco-area companies told their stories and answered questions:
Renewal Mill – this company’s goal is to convert byproducts into useful ingredients. The presenter was Claire Schlemme, Co-founder, CEO.
Regrained; – their focus is giving new life to the ‘spent grain’ leftover from beer making. The presenter was Philip Saneski, Vice President of Product.
Imperfect Produce – a produce delivery service that specializes in fruits and vegetables that don’t meet industry standards because they are too small, misshapen, or lightly bruised. The presenter was Dylan Bondy, head of outreach.
It was fascinating to hear how these companies were working to reduce food waste and establish sustainable businesses. Below I’ll share an overview of each company’s based on the event and a little bit of research.
In early 2015, I started recording the retail price of 100% pure cricket powder at a handful of on-line stores (shipping costs were not considered). The results of these surveys are shown in the chart below (from my collection of charts at Tableau Public).
As a follow-up to my post about achiote (annatto seeds), this post shows a way to use them in your kitchen to make a spicy rice and vegetable dish that can be a centerpiece of a vegetarian meal. Achiote has an interesting flavor that’s hard to define — it’s a great change of pace from the typical Mexican flavors that we encounter.
The recipe, which is adapted from a non-vegetarian one in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen, has four basic steps: making an achiote paste, preparing vegetables, cooking the rice, and adding the vegetables at the end.
The paste in this recipe is similar to the small blocks of “Achiote Paste” sold in Mexican grocery stores, blocks of spice that could be loaded with artificial colors, preservatives and who knows what. If you’re OK with the additional ingredients or have found a brand that is all natural, you could use part of that spice block to replace the homemade paste in this recipe, but that would reduce the brightness of the flavors.
Berkeley Bowl Marketplace in Berkeley, California is justly famous for its vast array of produce and their avocado selection is no exception. They sometimes sell five or more different sizes — I have seen pee wee, small, medium, large and extra large. Of course, each size has a different price and they are always sold by the piece, never by weight.
Seeing the array of avocados, I wonder: 1) does the edible fraction depend on the size of the avocado? and 2) what are the relative costs of the different sizes? To answer these questions, I bought almost 20 avocados of various sizes and weighed them with and without skin and pit.
My plastic container bin used to be loaded with 1-quart yogurt containers, and I felt packaging guilt whenever buying a new tub, even when it was local and organic.
I knew that it wasn’t too hard to make yogurt at home — I had mental images of electric yogurt makers from the 1970s — but a “coincidence of information” (i.e., a series of web articles) showed me that I didn’t need an electric device or any fancy equipment.
Homemade yogurt is not as easy as grabbing a tub at the market, but there is something satisfying about doing it yourself, and it’s a chance to reduce your use of plastic.
Warm, Heat, Cool, Mix, Wait
Making yogurt at home is relatively easy but requires some organization and time. The process can be summarized as warm, heat, cool, mix and wait.
Many of us have old recipes that we love to cook — perhaps they have been passed down through the generations on index cards, or are from old community cookbooks with frayed corners and well-worn covers. But few are as old as this post’s recipe for carrots simmered with cumin, mint and vinegar.
This recipe is really old: it’s derived from a book written more than 1,700 years ago, during (or before) the days of Caesar, Augustus, and Tiberius.
In fact, it was the recipe’s age that first attracted my attention as I was browsing through Deborah Madison’s The Savory Way. I’m not usually a big fan of carrots, but after I tried it once, it was on its way to becoming one of my kitchen standards. The background of cumin and mint, a hint of sourness from vinegar, and the sweetness of the carrots meld into something delicious. And knowing that it might have been enjoyed by Caesar, Cicero, Augustus, Livia, and other Romans makes it even more exciting.
These days, kale’s most iconic role is in kale salad — one of this era’s hottest salad trends (though they were also making kale salads 100 years ago). Massaged with salt, dressed with a sharp dressing, tossed with all manner of vegetables, nuts, and other tasty items, it is often delicious and nearly always healthy (kale might even be a superfood).
But on a chilly autumn or winter night, you want something warming, something hearty and nourishing. Something like a bowl of soup. Something like a soup with kale, beans, a touch of warm spices, and perhaps some toasted bread at the bottom of the bowl.
Olives were on my mind after a visits to an olive grove and olive oil processing facility. Not surprisingly, I found a handful of advertisements and ephemera, but the real gems were Vincent Van Gogh’s olive tree paintings from 1889. Join me below to learn more about this series of paintings.