Monday, January 1, 2018

Electric Pressure Cooker cooking...

Happy New Year!

In a year where some might say that the sacred has become profane, but everyone would clearly agree that 'we live in interesting times, I hope that the next year is less of a roller coaster ride (yea, right...). Lotsa stuff to talk about at dinner parties...and lotsa reasons to break the bread with folks that might not have the same feelings about things that you do...

I've used a pressure cooker for the past 30 years. It all started when I had to carry my fuel up to Dhee Sar, the uninhabited  very high alpine meadow where I studied marmots for my dissertation research in Pakistan in the late '80s and early '90s. However, learning to cook non-professional Pakistani cuisine (think the unit of measurement for spice is cups rather than tablespoons!) was always delicious but often resulted in rice burned in the bottom of the pot (OK, I never read a recipe so cut me some slack...). Thus, it is with GREAT pleasure that I can announce that I've just gotten an electric pressure cooker (I'm not getting paid for this, but it's an Instant Pot). Pretty cool.

Electric pressure cookers are incredibly efficient...they not only save oven/stove time, but they also save water--realize that you only have one pot to clean!  I'm experimenting with a variety of recipes now. The first thing I made was modified from a quiche recipe (I played around with this great veggie quiche recipe). Delicious! In less than an hour and without having to fire up the oven or add fat to the kitchen top,I pressure steamed a delicious family brunch.

There are tonnes of bean recipes to explore and I'm really excited to play around with some 5-minute rice and fish recipes -- I'm going to use tilapia (some of them start with frozen fish--go figure!--no excuse to not cook a fresh meal anymore...).

The great thing about the electric pressure cooker is that it's all science because it regulates the temperature and pressure in ways you can't as easily do with a pressure cooker on a stove or, as I cut my teeth on, on a kerosene burner or a yak-dung fire.

Stay tuned...but I'm playing around with a number of interesting sites with recipes that include: Amy & Jackyforkly, Health Starts in the Kitchen, and more...they're easy to find...just google around.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Environmental impact of dogs and cats...

"US cats and dogs cause 25-30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in this country. The nation's 163 million cats and dogs eat as much food as all the people in France. People should keep their pets -- and keep feeding them meat -- but there may be steps pet owners can take to reduce their environmental impact, says a researcher." 


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

New OpEd on surviving in a post-truth world

I just had an OpEd published on Project Syndicate on Surviving in a Post-Truth World.  The main point worth discussing over dinner and drinks is what is truth and how would we identify it. If we agree that there are better and worse ways to seek it, shouldn't we lobby our politicians to follow those paths?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Smaženice--Czech scrambled mushrooms

I've got a colleague visiting from the Czech Republic who saw some portobello mushrooms in the fridge and offered to make a Czech speciality. First, however, I had to buy caraway seeds (a major part of the cuisine). And, I have to say, I'm quite glad that I did. I've used caraway seeds in pickling before but the flavor they added to the potatoes and mushrooms was both delicate and exciting!

Here's Pavel Linhart's recipe for Smaženice:

100 g of butter, oil, or pork fat (for frying).

1 large onion, diced.

500 g of mushrooms (bolets, champignons, etc.), cut into 1-2cm cubes.

2-4 eggs, depending on mushrooms; it should be a dish mainly from mushrooms (e.g., 2-4 eggs / 500g of mushrooms)

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper

1 tsp to 1 Tbs caraway seeds (to taste--Pavel advises "it is hard to overdose caraway seed, do not hold back!'")

In a frying pan, warm the butter, oil, or pork fat and fry the onion until it's soft and glassy. Add the mushrooms, caraway seeds, salt and pepper.  Cover with a lid, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are well cooked (10-20 min). Mushrooms will release water when cooked but if it is not enough and the mushrooms begin to stick to the pan, add a little water. When mushrooms are cooked add whisked eggs and stir constantly until they harden up. 

Serve with bread or garlic bread, or with potatoes boiled in salty water with 1 Tbs of caraway seeds.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Not all vegetarian and vegan diets are similarly low impact

A fascinating paper was just published in Scientific Reports that followed a number of individuals who adopted different diets (omnivore, vegetarian, vegan). While we are all told that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet should have a lower carbon footprint and use less water, there was remarkable variation between individuals.  Read and share the article and discuss diet choices at your next dinner party.

John Holdren on Scientific Evidence

Former Obama administration science advisor John Holdren has written an excellent OpEd in the Boston Globe about the process by which we evaluate the evidence about man-made climate change.

Rather than questioning the evidence (which scientists constantly do and which leads to a better current understanding), discuss at your next dinner party the 'discount rate'.  In other words, accept the scientific consensus and discuss who should pay and when.

Is it ethical for us to suffer now for future generations?

Is it ethical for us to not suffer now for future generations?

How much change in our current behavior is acceptable to support future generations?

And, what changes do you personally feel comfortable implementing.

If you want realistic scenarios of sea level rise in the US, have a look at this scary simulator published in Wired. Predictions like this explain why the US military views climate change an existential threat to our national security.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

New documentary about GMOs

From a LA Times review of Food Evolution, a new documentary about GMOs:

"But finally the film is more troubled by the erosion of trust in science and by anti-GMO activists like Zen Honeycutt who says on camera that she trusts personal experiences of mothers more than the conclusions of scientists. As writer Lynas says, "If you throw science out, there is nothing."

Though it ultimately sides with the pro-GMO camp, "Food Evolution" makes some fascinating points about human behavior along the way, about how we don't make decisions based on facts as often as we think we do. This documentary may not change your mind, but it will make you consider what caused you to decide in the first place."

I'm putting the film on my must-see list.