Monday, August 29, 2011

Slow Food USA's Take 5 Challenge! and a Recipe, too!

Recently in the news there has been a lot of discussion about the affordability of good, healthy food. Articles have reported that fruits and vegetables are too expensive, while others have suggest it is the unavailability of vegetables in the abounding food deserts of the USA and how it is advertised that cause quality produce and food to be expensive. Local, healthy food should be available to everyone, and it shouldn't have to come with a high ticket price. Slow Food USA has come up with a challenge for us to eat a meal on September 17th, 2011 of entirely slow, local foods at the cost of $5 per person (the cost of an average "fast-food" value meal). Across the nation people will be hosting dinners, attending dinners, exchanging ideas, recipes, sources and "mmms." Slow Food recognizes that $5 for a meal is not exactly inexpensive for many people, but the challenge is to show that for the same price of a McDonalds quarter pounder meal (or less) you can have a nutritious, delicious and local meal shared with friends. Will you be Taking the $5 Challenge? 

On September 17th I will be! I have yet to decide exactly how I will celebrate my meal, but hopefully it will be something to share with friends. Since I heard about it I've been brainstorming possible menus, venues, sources and dinner guests. To get us all rolling in the right direction here is a recipe for Eggs in a Nest of Zucchini (inspired by the recipe in Animal Vegetable Miracle) which I made for less than half of $5! This recipe would also make for a great Meatless Monday staple. And as we all know, cutting meat out of our diet one or more times a week is good for our bodies, our planet and our wallets as well! 

After the recipe you will also find some sources for ingredients and information in New York City and the Albany, NY area.


Eggs in a Nest of Zucchini
Serves 1 (may be multiplied)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Follow Fridays: #Friends #Foodies

One of the many nice things about being part of the culinary blogosphere is that you are never without friends, and most often never without friends who were there long before you got involved in talking about food 24/7. I am fortunate to have a combination of very old, dear friends and new found friends who are food lovers that I can always count on.

Enjoy following their adventures in eating, cooking, and pastry school! My Follow Friday (#FF) picks for #Friends and #Foodies:

@M_Sweettreats - Marliese is my oldest friend on this list. We grew up around the corner from one another and when I was little I even had a separate birthday party (one of three) every year for her and her sisters - the "Engel Party." Now that we're grown women she is still a close friend and is doing marvelous things in the baking department. She has a budding baking business: Marliese's Sweet Treats. She chronicles the wonderful desserts she makes and eats in her blog. Most recently she began the pastry course at the French Culinary Institute! Be sure to follow her on Twitter as she juggles pastry school and a full-time job with finesse and sweetness.

@twelvefortyfour - Lexie (or Alexandra as she is known at school) is a new, but very dear friend. I was introduced to her by my friend Kyle when she moved to NYC. She too is a student at the FCI but is at the tail end of her pastry program there. Her blog Belle Nana Sans Banane explores what it means to be a pastry student and is also a great resource of  technical pastry/culinary terms. Over the past year I have happily accepted treats she has made in class- I never encountered a pastry I didn't like! But my favorite was the Linzer Torte she shared with me, mmm. Follow her tweets for what it is like to be a busy culinary student and what happens after graduation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eating for Beginners Giveaway WINNERS!

It's taking me longer than normal to adjust to being back from vacation. Seems while I was whiling away on the beaches of Cape Cod fall started sweeping into NYC with cooler temps, those tree-rustling breezes and a desire for hot coffee over iced in the morning. The onset of autumn is a great time to start reading Melanie Rehak's Eating for Beginners, and fortunately two of you will receive it just in time to do so. As back-to-school scents, sights and sounds fill the air, you will be joining Rehak on her journey to educate herself on where our food comes from and how to prepare it responsibly. I hope you enjoy reading her prose and adventures through eating as much as I have. 

The winners:

The random winner, whom I selected by using a random number generator to select a number from the list of 10 entries is Amy

         I didn't even try Creamed Spinach until 3 years ago and now it's a favorite - always    
         looking for new ways to make veggies! I love serving it with a great piece of meat and 
         it's the first thing I help my friends make when they say they don't know how to cook!

The favorite winner was not easy to select. You all gave creative and interesting suggestions for how to serve this. Ultimately I had to go with the entry that made me most hungry when looking over the responses. This entry came via email from Chef Dante:  

         I do a very fragrant pork belly with nutmeg, vanilla and other sweet spices. Braise it    
        out, slice it and sear it crispy. It would be excellent with this spinach. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Follow Fridays: #FoodJobs

Food jobs are near and dear to my heart, as I hope to have one of my own someday soon. I started blogging in part to get my passion for food out of my head and into words but also as a means of creating a reference point when applying to food jobs, a field I have no formal training in. Luckily, there are some really great resources for people who want to make a living from their love of food. Here are some of those resources who keep up excellent Twitter accounts and who I always give a special Follow Friday (#FF) to with other hashtags like: #PostYourJobs #Jobs #FoodJobsforAll. 

@GoodFoodJobs - The account I always list first in this category is Good Food Jobs. There is not enough I can say about what a great resource Taylor Cocalis and Dorothy Neagle have created. The site is a job listing board, a way to find out what sort of businesses are up and coming, and a wonderful blog (The Gastrognomes) that interviews one amazing person after the next. The Gastrognomes blog is my favorite part of their site. The best question they always ask their interviewees is: "What advice do you have for others in search of a good food job?" The answers to these always make me think of something new and give me a boost when I feel like my job search is becoming futile. If you are an employer with a good food business, please post your jobs here! It is the best place to post if you want to hire people who are truly passionate about food and want work that satisfies the need to express that passion daily. Job seekers: keep applying! Sign up for their newsletter to get job listings and the blog post of the week in your inbox every Tuesday morning.

@TheSFJblog - Similar to Good Food Jobs, Sustainable Food Jobs is a blog that has job listings focused even more closely on the sustainability side of things. They often list internships and other non-traditional means of gaining experience in the culinary world. If you are seeking a food job, this should be a site you follow. Since it is a blog you can easily subscribe to the RSS Feed and simply get their job postings the same way you read your favorite blogs. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Follow Fridays: #Activism

This week's Follow Friday (#FF) post is all about my favorite food activists. Thankfully, Twitter has become an important platform for educating the public and creating discussion about the plethora of issues tied to the food we eat. Be it what the latest recall is (all that ground turkey), to how to learn more about the Farm Bill to where young farmers are starting to grow food and provide for this nation-- these are Twitter accounts that will keep you up-to-date on all the moving and shaking in the world of food politics and culinary activism.

@slowfoodusa @slowfoodnyc - Slow Food is a movement that started in Italy and has been going strong in the US since 1986. Their national Twitter account gives relevant information about the latest issues and progress in food politics. They also tweet about ways people are supporting local food and events that are happening. If you love to eat and you believe in the future of local grown, locally sourced food, following @slowfoodusa is a must. I include the @slowfoodnyc account because it is the Twitter handle for my local chapter. 

@marionnestle -The grand dame of Food Politics herself, Marion Nestle is always up to date with what is happening on the political side of food. Her opinion is sought out for most topics about food- from recalls to regulations to information about the farm bill. She is a great resource and anyone who eats should know who she is. If you don't follow her blog, Food Politics, you should be following her on Twitter as she tweets links when she has new posts as well as links to other pertinent news stories. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Creamed Spinach Ravioli and Eating for Beginners Giveaway!

This past October I attended the New York Public Library event The Locavore's Dilemma where I met Melanie Rehak and bought her book "Eating for Beginners." As you may have read in the post about the event, I thoroughly enjoyed reading her book and taking an adventure through the food system with her. Today I am writing about Rehak's book again because I've been given the opportunity to giveaway TWO copies of "Eating for Beginners" that has freshly arrived in paperback form! Her publisher was kind enough to send me two copies to giveaway to you, my readers! I know any of you will relate to Rehak and enjoy her prose and story, as well. The book is also a mini cookbook with one or two recipes after most sections. For the giveaway, I thought it would be a fun idea to make one of her recipes in a wild and crazy way and share it here. 

In autumn I made the tasty, heavily buttered and baconed Brussels sprouts that were a discussion point at the NYPL event and they came out great (page 186). The other recipe that always stood out to me from her book was her "Lucky Dog Creamed Spinach" (page 14, you could say I have a thing for green leafy vegetables slathered in butter). All of the recipes have a fun title like this that usually reflect where the ingredients came from or how the recipe came about. Lucky Dog is a farm that supplies produce to the place Rehak works throughout the book, applewood restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn. As part of Rehak's locavore education, she takes to tracing the ingredients in the restaurant back to their source and learning how they get from farm or sea to table. When she visits Lucky Dog she spends the cold, damp, pre-dawn day picking spinach out in the field. Upon arrival to work at the restaurant the next day, the very same spinach she helped pick had been delivered and ready to be used for the restaurant's dinner service. Rehak makes it into creamed spinach and Lucky Dog Creamed Spinach is born. 

Since there is a half pound of butter in her recipe and I wasn't expecting company- I decided I would quarter her recipe, make it for one and actually created creamed spinach raviolis from it with wonton wrappers I bought the other day. As odd as it sounds, the spinach mixture works really well as a ravioli filling. The bĂ©chamel around the spinach makes for a silky, hearty and flavorful inside to the raviolis. Don't have ricotta on hand? Use this instead! You could also add bits of meat or other vegetables to this. Little bits of bacon would add a meaty pop to each bite. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Follow Fridays: Introduction and #Reading

In my first months of tweeting I learned about #FF which stands for Follow Friday. It’s a way to suggest to your followers who they might enjoy following on Twitter based on the fact that you like how they tweet. If you are starting out on Twitter it is also a great way to get your handle out there and show some appreciation for the people who keep you tweeting. Friday’s hold a special place in my heart thanks to Twitter and it is all because of #FF. Since I still tweet my series of #FF every week, I thought I would explain the people I typically suggest. Also, I wanted to extend the list beyond the 140 character limit to include the accounts I like but don’t always make room for on Fridays. For the next six or seven Fridays I will give you a post on Friday mornings with all the accounts I like in one overall category.

To begin with I always give a list of my favorite writers or sources labeled as #Reading. This list stays pretty consistent but changes depending on what I am reading that week. If the author, magazine or blog I’ve been into lately has a Twitter account I will always include them. So here is how I tend to get things rolling on Friday mornings:

@GaelGreene Gael Greene is a food critic and author best known for her hats and sensual writing that blurs the line between food and sex. When I started tweeting as @culinarylibrari the second season of Top Chef Masters was airing so my love for Gael was just starting to bloom. After I read "Insatiable" this past fall my head was filled with all sorts of naughty ideas thanks to Gael. My appreciation fully bloomed and she has been on every #FF #Reading tweet since their inception.

@ruhlman – Around Christmastime I learned about Michael Ruhlman while watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Holiday Special. I thought to myself—who is this handsome man with great knife skills and even better hair? After Googling him and finding a recipe for homemade English muffins on the first page of his site I knew I wanted to learn more about him. He is the author of a myriad of books about cooking and being a Chef in addition to the handful of books he has co-authored with the heavy hitters like Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert.