September 14, 2009
Big changes are coming to my blog. The most important is the the blog is both changing name and locale. I will now edit and contribute to the (tentatively named) Local Flavor section at Wolverine CuiZine. Don’t be afraid to follow me over: the new blog will be just like the old one, but with more stuff! This summer of blogging has been delicious, and so, without further ado, here is my final retrospective as a soloist:
"The Birth of a Foodie"
Until recently, my typical trip to the grocery store always followed the same basic pattern: walk into Meijer, stroll down every aisle, place the most colorful or convincingly packaged items in my cart, proceed to checkout. Cooking was just as simple: if something fresh is in the fridge, eat it. If not, have a Lean Cuisine. Now there is nothing terribly wrong with taking this approach to food — I was still healthy and was usually well fed — but my habits changed drastically when this summer arrived, and so began my transformation from supermarket victim to farmer’s market junkie.
In April I (mostly) gave up eating meat. I had a dozen reasons, from animal rights to nutrition, from the horrors of factory farming to summertime boredom, but my near-vegetarianism had an unexpected consequence: I was suddenly aware of the food that lay in front of me. “What is in this?” That seemingly simple question upended my conception of food. I began tracing back the foods I ate to their sources. With the help of a few alarming books, I could soon see the path a particular item had taken from natural produce to processed product. How seductive that knowledge can be! I hated the thought of being manipulated by corporate propaganda, and so a small dose of awareness soon rearranged my whole diet. Suddenly food excited me and I wanted to spread my new taste for food, so in June I started a blog.
Blogging was not what I had anticipated. If you are unfamiliar, a blogger trolls the Internet until he or she finds something interesting. The blogger proceeds to post a link to that item to his or her blog, usually accompanied by an inane comment or rant. On rare and momentous occasions the blogger adds some valuable, original content to his or her blog, and these microscopic injections of valuable information keep the blogosphere revolving, however slowly or precipitously. Those were my initial impressions of blogging, but I soon realized that the concept is saved by its shear size. There are so many blogs that a great wealth of information is being created and delivered to audiences that are far more targeted than those of any newspaper. Like Wikipedia, blogs are making information simultaneously more global and more accessible.
Coming back to the issue of food, I have learned a great deal from a few short months of floating around the blogosphere like a culinary Ziggy Stardust. In fact, the topic of my blogging has affected far more than my diet.
Eating is an awesome hobby for more reasons than I could fit in a pastel cornucopia. First, every culture loves its own local cuisine. I challenge you to find a country, except perhaps our own, where the deeply rooted local dishes are not a source of pride. Educated cooks and eaters can make friends in any part of the world because they have that one universal thing in common. If we ever meet aliens and their diets are similar to ours, send the cooks in first. Along with sex, eating is the defining experience of animal life, and humans have gone a step further. With our development of cooking and a thoroughly omnivorous diet, eating has become as creative and entertaining as anything we do (again, right along with sex).
As a kid I was always a huge car buff. I could name every modern supercar and ten statistics to go with it, but I realized after receiving my first paycheck that my Porsche Carrera GT was a long way off. Most of us will not own more than a dozen cars in a lifetime. However, if you eat three meals a day and live for 78 years, you will have consumed 85,410 meals. Unless you plan to become a connoisseur of oxygen, cooking and eating constitute the most spacious hobby imaginable.
Now I’ve always disliked the work ‘foodie.’ It seems elitist, unattainable and somehow associated with French cuisine. After a summer of cooking and eating I have one piece of advice for newborn foodies and it is most eloquently rendered in the movie Ratatouille: don’t be Anton Ego, that closed-minded toad of a food critic. He is the type of eater that gives the term ‘foodie’ its negative connotation. Instead, try to be like Remy, the food-loving rat with an eager stomach and a daring palate. The key to being a likable foodie is to embrace all the food around you. Make a meal out of brown rice and black beans, and simply enjoy their natural flavors (of course a little salsa helps). So, with Joe the Plumber in mind, I propose that foodie be re-ordained as an everyman’s term, a label for anyone and everyone who likes to eat.
September 13, 2009
I’ve been busy lately, but I’m planning to make my first guacamole soon! In the meantime, this might be the most tempting sandwich I have ever seen:
“Tempting Tempeh” Tempeh Ciabatta with Fig Balsamic Marinated Mushrooms and Goat Cheese Pesto
This week I entered a sandwich into the Mezzetta sandwich contest. This slammin’ sandwich was probably one of the best things I’ve made between two slices of bread. If you’re a sandwich lover like me, this is one recipe you don’t want to miss. Also, be sure to check out Mezzetta products!
What You Need:
2 Small Ciabatta Loafs (each loaf is a single serving)
2 Portabella Mushrooms
2/3 Cup Crumbled Goat Cheese
1/2 Tsp MEZZETTA Crushed Garlic
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp MEZZETTA Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus extra for greasing pan
6 oz Sliced Tempeh
1/4 Cup MEZZETTA Deli Sliced Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Strips
1 1/2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Basil
1/4 Cup Fig Balsamic Vinegar (if not available, regular Balsamic Vinegar)
1/2 Cup Fresh Spinach
1. Wash the portabella mushrooms and pat dry. Slice the mushrooms into 1/2” thick slices and set aside. Heat a small skillet on low heat. Add the mushrooms and Fig Balsamic Vinegar to the pan. Allow the mushrooms to cook on low heat until the mushrooms have cooked down, about 5-8 minutes. Turn the mushrooms over half way through so that both sides are coated in the balsamic. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, slice the Tempeh into 1/2” thick slices. Pre-heat a grill pan on low heat. Lightly grease the pan with Mezzetta Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Once the pan is heated, place the tempeh strips on the heated pan. Allow about two minutes on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
3. Then, in a small bowl, combine 2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese, 1 tbsp Mezzetta Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp Mezzetta Crushed Garlic and 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh basil. Using a small hand blender, combine ingredients until it has formed a smooth, creamy consistency.
4. Then, toast the ciabatta loaves in a toasted oven until crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread about half of the goat cheese mixture on each of the ciabatta loaves, be sure to spread the goat cheese pesto on both sides of the inside of the bread. Then, begin to stack the tempeh, fig balsamic marinated mushrooms, Mezzetta roasted sweet bell pepper strips and fresh spinach. Place the top of the ciabatta loaf on top of the spinach, then carefully cut in half to serve.
*Sandwich can be served hot or cold. If planning to serve the sandwich hot, be sure to add the fresh spinach after you’ve heated the sandwich in the panini press or oven.
September 9, 2009
Stop by the Ann Arbor HomeGrown Festival on Saturday for music, food, and festivities. From the festival website:
“The HomeGrown Festival celebrates local food and community and seeks to focus broad mainstream attention on the community-wide benefits (and pleasure!) of eating from our own foodshed. This year’s Festival offers:
- delicious, creative food: sourced from Michigan farms, made by some of our area’s best local chefs
- music from: Billy King, First Flight, Chris Buhalis, Ann Arbor Dub Project
- the Pioneer wine Trail and Michigan beer Garden Tent — new this year!
- Project Grow: heirloom tomato tasting
- chef demos: turning the season’s best produce into delicious meals
- kids’ activities: learn about bees, pressing cider, planting vegetables
- The “made in michigan” store
- culinary theatrix
I’ll be there from 6:30 to 8:30 handing out fliers, so come by and say hello!
September 8, 2009
I have a few roommates that are facing a terrible reality for the first time: they must go to the grocery store or they will die of starvation. (Men of 801, this is for you) I faced the same terrible truth last year, so I have a barrage of tips and tricks for anyone who has never shopped for their own survival.
First, a step-by-step guide to the grocery store process. All grocery stores are pretty much alike, at least in content, so these tips should work any grocery store.
Go straight for the local fruits and vegetables. Local produce will taste better and buying local will save fossil fuels and support your community. For one person, I like to buy half a dozen pieces of fruit or a few pints of berries, three or four different types of vegetables, and a fresh herb or a clove of garlic. It will be more difficult to buy local foods in the winter, but let’s face that when we come to it.
Purchase in moderation. I’ve sung this song before.
Boxed and canned foods:
My advice here is to buy the least processed foods available. Leaving environmental concerns aside, unprocessed foods provide more nutrients and calories (food energy, not a bad thing) for every dollar you spend. Directly or indirectly, you will pay for the labor and energy that went into processing those precooked and packaged foods. Good examples of these wholesome items are grains like rice and rolled oats, all varieties of beans and nuts, and dried fruits and vegetables. If you can buy any of these items in bulk, you’ll save even more.
If you do buy preprocessed foods, go for things that are difficult to make at home (bread, tortillas) or especially tasty and savory items (salsa, pesto, spicy mustard).
These are great to have on hand for emergencies or wintertime eating. Grab whatever looks healthiest and unprocessed. Frozen foods last forever so don’t worry about buying too much.
I admit that I’m addicted to cheese, so I buy a lot. Milk, eggs and yogurt are also staples in my diet — I am far from vegan. The cows and chickens will appreciate you buying grass-fed milk and free-range eggs. Amish cheeses and sheep or goat milk cheeses (like feta) are usually kinder to the ungulates.
Now some miscellaneous tips. I hope they are helpful.
Don’t be afraid of buying fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and sauces that you have never tried. If you come home with an onion, paprika and lima beans, try this google search and you can probably find a recipe for something delicious, or at least unique. Let your taste-buds do a little work. (This, by the way, is exactly how I choose recipes, so I’m not trying to fool you into eating really weird stuff).
Go to the store as often as is reasonable. If you live far from the store and you don’t have a car (this was me last year so I understand), at least try to make it out once a week. The more often you go, the less food will spoil and be wasted. Wasted food is wasted money.
Take a recipe with you every time you go to the store. Try printing out one of these and tossing it in your backpack.
Don’t be afraid to walk or bike to the store. You would be amazed at how much food fits in a backpack. Use those re-usable grocery bags — they can even hang from the handlebars of a bike.
If you have a farmer’s market, take advantage!
More tips from Lifehacker:
September 4, 2009
Try the Zucchini Nut muffin with a Roos Roast espresso. It’s the kind of breakfast that can cure a bad morning.
If you’ve never been, the Food Co-op is on 4th between Ann and Catherine. It’s the closest grocery to campus and the prices are great.
September 3, 2009
These muffins fly dangerously close to the over-fattened dessert fetishism that is clogging all our arteries, that is making all our jeans unwearable, and that is gradually unraveling the fabric of American productivity — like an all-consuming tsunami of french-fry grease and hydrogenated animal fats. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but the point is that these muffins are not healthy. On the other hand, ‘tis the season for cherries and peaches, so bring ‘em on!
I was originally going to make Blueberry Peach Muffins, but blueberry season is gone so I swapped them out for a cup of sweet cherries. Here’s the adapted recipe:
Sweet Cherry and Peach Muffins
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 3 eggs [learn to crack eggs with one hand]
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 cup pitted and diced sweet cherries
- 1 cup peeled and diced fresh peaches
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin tins, or line with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk and 1/2 cup of melted butter until well blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until just blended. Fold in the blueberries and peaches. Fill muffin cups with batter.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Brush muffins with remaining melted butter, and sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture. Cool in the pan over a wire rack.
For a healthier take on Peach and Cherry muffins, try these.
August 31, 2009
Chiles rellenos from the Paupered Chef
These chiles rellenos look like they taste extraordinary. Somebody make them for me, please. I don’t think I can handle a recipe that makes a good chef say:
"Had the process not taken hours, nearly frazzled my nerves, and been fraught with so much failure, I might think about making it again."