Thursday, November 22, 2012

Vegetable Kurma

A friend and colleague, Alex Hettena, shared this with me. I've not tried it yet, but it looks too good to hold onto, thus I'm sharing it now.  I'll have to go out and get coconut powder for this one...

100 grams French beans (green beans)
100 grams carrots
100 grams red bell pepper
1 onion chopped
1 inch piece of ginger chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tomato chopped
1 tsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp coconut powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
2 tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp clove powder
½ tsp Garam masala
3 Tbsp oil
½ cup water
50 ml milk cream

1. Peel and chop carrots. Chop beans and bell pepper.
2. Heat oil in pan and add cumin, frying for 1 minute.
3. Add onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook until the onion is brown.
4. Add tomato and coconut powder and fry well.
5. Add turmeric and cook for a few seconds.
6. Add vegetables, red chili powder, coriander, cinnamon, clove, garam masala.
7. Add water. Cover pan and cook on low flame until done (~5 min).
8. Add milk cream and mix over the low flame for a little bit longer.

Note: You could leave out the milk cream to keep it vegan.

Monday, November 12, 2012

squid tube with chili, garlic, basil, star anise, and cinnamon

Here's one of those 'jazz' discoveries that comes from playing around with oldish food.

Some squid tubes have been in the freezer for a bit too long.  So, I experimented with them this evening.  I put about 1/2 cup of olive oil into a large pan, heated it to medium high, and then threw in a head of minced garlic, about 3 Tbs of sambal chili paste, one star anise, and a cinnamon stick. Once the mixture was warm and bubbling, I added 2 large squid tubes cut into rings about 1/8" wide stirred them for a few minutes and then turned down the heat to medium, tossed in about 4 Tbs of dried basil, gave the whole concoction a quick stir, and covered the pot.  I stirred it occasionally and kept the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  As the squid cooked, it provided a bit more liquid.  I kept this on for about 45 min and then removed the spice infused tubes and served them straight.  Not only were they delicious, the entire house smelled great!  I know they'd be good with white rice as well.

I then used the remaining oil and spices to quickly cook some tilapia fillets that I'd cut into 1" chunks.  The flavor wasn't infused as much in the tilapia, but they were good.

Given my emerging realization about issues with all harvested sea food, I'm not sure that this will be  regular item on our menu, but for special occasions...yum.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Revisiting the idea of eating small, herbivorous fishes

In some ways it's obvious: industrial fisheries simply must have an impact on other animals in the ocean given their size and global reach.

I was just reading an article by Ellen Pikitch in The Scientist where she wrote about a study that she was involved in demonstrated that the harvesting of small fish (like sardines) have impacts on sea birds, marine mammals, and other larger predatory fish. The important recommendations from the study included rigorous monitoring of these fisheries and monitoring of their effects on other species that might be influenced by their population status.

What's the lesson for our kitchens?  Well, I'd previously written that we should be specifically eating those small, herbivorous fish because they were sustainably harvested (and have a variety of yummy recipes for them).  If this advice, however, is questioned, perhaps we must be careful about eating too many of them.

Science is a self-correcting process where we have to be open to changing our minds given new evidence.  This might be one of those cases...which, in retrospect, should have been obvious.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why Data Matter

Please see my newest Huffington Post blog on why data matter.  We now have a real need to work together to ensure that policy decisions are based on evidence!  And, we have a lot of work to do after this election to restore civility.  Read the blog and talk about it at your next dinner party!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

some wise words about food choice and climate change

Superstorm Sandy: What if storms like this can be prevented? 
Superstorm Sandy has caused at least 157 human deaths as of midday November 1st.  Its impacts include flooding of lower Manhattan and large swaths of New York City's subway system.  News reports had previously predicted that such events might occur only in 2080, based on a 2011 New York State government report. 
Reporters and scientists are exploring whether climate change might have intensified Superstorm Sandy.  Hurricanes would occur even in the absence of climate change.  But scientists are connecting Sandy's intensity with the same climate disruption that generated record drought in the summer of 2012, which caused "severe pain" among both crop-growers and livestock farmers.  Similarly, scientists are warning that Sandy could yield "life-threatening" results among poultry flocks on the East Coast. 
In fact, while livestock are victims of climate change, they also are largely responsible for it, according to a wide range of sources.  Whatever the role of fossil fuels, at least 20 years and $18 trillion are needed to construct enough renewable energy infrastructure to start reversing climate change –- while one expert group after another say we must start reversing climate change in the next 5 years or it'll be too late. 
So the only pragmatic way left to reverse climate change before it's too late, say World Bank environmental advisor Robert Goodland and his colleague Jeff Anhang, is through large-scale reforestation and regeneration of forest to absorb today's excess atmospheric carbon –- combined with replacing at least 25% of today's livestock products with better alternatives (notably, meat substitutes).  That way, lots of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to livestock would be significantly reduced at the same time as new trees would sequester excess atmospheric carbon. 
Yet many people still think that sustainability in food is achieved by buying "organic" or "grass-fed" meat.  However, grass-fed cows emit up to 400% more methane than do grain-fed cows, and they take up much more land, so they yield much less forest available to absorb atmospheric carbon.  Anyway, most marketing of "grass-fed" beef is a scam — and that's according to a "grass-fed" producer who touts himself as a rare, honest marketer of grass-fed meat.  Yet that producer can't show his buyers any better certification than can his competitors who he says are scammers. 
Indeed, any producer can keep animals on grass all day long –- but then when night falls and it's hard to observe, quickly feed them grain.  There's no practical way to certify that an animal has been 100% grass-fed unless an independent observer would watch each animal 24/7.  But of course it'll never be close to economically possible to do so.  Yet the premium for meat marketed as grass-fed is commonly 200-300%.  So there's an overwhelming incentive for a producer to cheat. 
Meanwhile, some people promote Meat Free Mondays.  Yet since that campaign began in 2003, survey data show a sharp drop in the number of Americans consuming less meat –- even though meat consumption has historically fallen during economic downturns.  Meatless Monday's own website provides a reason for such failure:  its framing of the issue is anachronistic, based on World War I deprivation.  In fact, when people are asked to sacrifice something one day, they often crave it more the next day. 
Indeed, no consumer product is ever successfully marketed by asking consumers to use it just one day a week.  For example, little to no Pepsi-Cola would be sold by prodding consumers to drink it one day a week, conceding that Coca-Cola remains the drink of choice the rest of the week.  It's been suggested that a campaign would do better by being based on the value of products that are better than meat. 
Some people debate whether  Goodland and Anhang's estimate that at least 51% of human-caused greenhouse gas is attributable to livestock may be too high, and prefer to use the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) 18% estimate –- even though the FAO promotes more factory farming, not less, and has partnered with the meat industry to prove it. 

The validity of Goodland and Anhang's conclusion can be grasped simply by considering the estimate by the International Livestock Research Institute –- which normally promotes livestock -– that 45% of land on earth is now used for livestock and feed production.  That so much land is used for livestock and feed production suggests it's correct for Goodland and Anhang to conclude that replacing 25% of today's livestock products with better alternatives would both reduce emissions and allow forest to regenerate on a vast amount of land, which could then absorb excess atmospheric carbon to reduce it to a safe level. This may be the only pragmatic way to reverse climate change in the next 5 years as needed, and avert future superstorms like Hurricane Sandy. 
Therefore, the food industry may be the key player in determining whether climate change is reversed or not.  Consumers have the power to create positive change in the food industry by voting with their forks: by replacing meat and dairy products with meat and dairy alternatives, in particular by choosing more grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables.