Monday, October 24, 2011

Food Day 2011

This is not a political blog, but our food choices are inevitably steeped in politics. Farm subsidies, animal welfare, food insecurity -- these are only a smattering of the issues that surround the food we eat.

Today is Food Day, an effort by the Center for Science in the Public Interest to bring a host of food-related issues to the forefront of American consciousness. The CSPI has been controversial over the years -- remember those scolding reports about Chinese and Italian restaurant meals? -- but here is something I think we, as food-blog readers, can agree on:

We generally spend more time thinking about what we’re going to cook than about how that food is produced. And if we are wondering about where our next meal is coming from, our conversation probably involves restaurant picks, not soup kitchens.

Today, as you sit down to eat, remember to add a dash of awareness to your dinner. Bon appetit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Week 18: Green Tomato Curry

Eighteen weeks is a long time – just over a third of a year.  We’ve gone from peas to pumpkins, from strawberries to winter squash.

I think I’m going to miss the tomatoes most of all.

I rhapsodized about ripe tomatoes earlier this season. This time of year, it’s about the green ones. Fully grown, unripe tomatoes are firmer and more acidic than their red counterparts, although they mellow with cooking. They are commonly breaded and fried, but you can also slow-roast them, pickle them, or turn them into relish or chutney. They work in all sorts of stews and show up in Indian dishes. The recipe below makes a mild curry that takes on a deep yellow color from turmeric.

Before we get to the recipe, a little reminder: Now that the CSA season has ended, I'll be posting less frequently. But I'm always cooking, so expect some seasonal recipes for the fall and winter. (Subscribe to the blog and you won't miss any posts.)

Green Tomato Curry
(Adapted from Cooking Light. Serve with basmati rice, quinoa, or a flat bread like naan. Serves 2-3 as a main dish or 4 as a side.)

1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
2 cups green tomato, diced (about 1 large tomato)
2 cups diced, peeled russet potato
2 cups cauliflower, in small florets
1.5 cups water

Mix the ground spices together in a small bowl and set aside. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook for 1 minute; the seeds may sputter and pop, so have a lid or splatter guard handy. Add the tomato, potato, cauliflower, and spices, and stir until blended. Add the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the skillet, and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Uncover the skillet and cook about 5 minutes more or until most of the liquid evaporates. Serve hot.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Week 17: The Apple Cake of Many Names

I suppose it doesn’t look much like a slice of birthday cake. No layers; no frosting. But since my birthday fell on the eve of Rosh Hashanah this year, I went with something holiday appropriate. (And if eating sweet foods can ensure a sweet year, my family is surely covered.)

I’m not sure what to call this cake. Sometimes it’s known as a Jewish apple cake -- “Jewish,” presumably, because it’s dairy free and therefore a dessert suitable for meat-containing meals. Apparently it’s also a “Philadelphia-style apple cake,” as explained in this 2006 article from the Philadelphia City Paper. I grew up in Philly, but I had no idea that this kind of cake is something of a regional specialty. (I didn’t visit enough bake shops, I guess.) The cake might also be called a “German apple cake” or “Any Country in Eastern Europe apple cake”; it’s standard fare from that part of the globe.

Whatever you call this cake, the key thing is that it’s an oil-based cake -- moist, sweet, and on the dense side. Cut it into sixteenths and no one will feel slighted by the size of the piece.

The Apple Cake of Many Names
(From Relish magazine, with trivial changes)

6 cups peeled, sliced apples (About 3 apples. Granny Smith recommended, but use whatever is local and seasonal)
4 tsp cinnamon mixed with 5 Tbsp granulated sugar
1.5 cups additional granulated sugar
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup orange juice
2.5 tsp vanilla extract
Extra oil, sugar, and flour for preparing pan

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease a 10-inch Bundt pan or tube pan, then sugar and flour the pan.

Combine the sliced apples with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with brown sugar and the remaining granulated sugar. Add in the canola oil, orange juice, and vanilla, and beat well. Gradually stir in the flour mixture and blend well.

Pour one-third of the batter into the prepared pan, and top with half of the apple slices. Make a second layer of batter and fruit in the same manner, then top with the last third of batter, making sure the apples are covered.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until the top turns golden and a knife inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Very nice served with a glass of hot tea at the end of a big meal.