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Posts tagged “food”

Boston Globe: Why food allergy fakers need to stop

Neil Swidey, in the Boston Globe:

I know you want your dietary preferences to be taken seriously, and you think invoking the A-word is a harmless little white lie. But you have no idea how much trouble you’re causing and how much you’re helping to erode hard-won progress for people with genuine allergies and disorders.

In a stunningly short slice of history, we’ve gone from food allergies being met with ignorance or indifference in the restaurant world to their domination of the discussion between server and diner, starting with the greeting and continuing all the way to dessert. The seriousness with which most chefs now take allergies has opened up the restaurant experience to a whole group of people who previously couldn’t risk dining out. That progress should be celebrated.

But it shouldn’t be taken for granted. And we’ve come to a tipping point, thanks to the explosion of faddists and bandwagon-jumpers and attention-seekers who wrap their food dislikes in the packaging of allergy and disease. After witnessing enough diners who make a big fuss about how their bodies can’t tolerate gluten and then proceed to order a beer or dig into their date’s brownie dessert, fatigued chefs and managers are beginning to adopt a less accommodating approach. But the people who may ultimately pay the price for this pushback won’t be the “free-from” fabulists. They’ll be those with serious conditions.

Amen. Beth has celiac disease; we’re lucky to live in the Bay Area, where we can go out to eat from time-to-time and be relatively safe. That said, in the past year, the number of times we’ve had to explain the allergy as “real” as opposed to a preference has ballooned.

Ye Olde Smog Meringue

image from coclimate.com

Nicola Twilley, writing at ediblegeography.com:

After running around New York City in order to source our precursor ingredients (a huge thanks to Kent Kirshenbaum, chemistry professor at NYU and co-founder of the Experimental Cuising Collective), we spent Thursday afternoon and evening in the kitchens of Baz Bagel (excellent bagels, amazing ramp cream cheese, and truly lovely people) assembling the cart, mixing different chemical precursors, and then “baking” them under UV light to form a London peasouper, a 1950s Los Angeles photochemical smog, and a present-day air-quality event in Atlanta.

We chose these three places and times to showcase three of the classic “types” that atmospheric scientists use to characterize smogs: 1950s London was a sulfur- and particulate-heavy fog, whereas 1950s Los Angeles was a photochemical smog created by the reactions between sunlight, NOx, and partially combusted hydrocarbons. Present-day Beijing often experiences London-style atmospheric conditions, whereas Mexico City’s smog is in the Angeleno style.

Meanwhile, at its worst, Atlanta’s atmosphere is similar in composition to that of Los Angeles, but with the addition of biogenic emissions. An estimated ten percent of emissions in Atlanta are from a class of chemicals known as terpenes, from organic sources such as pine trees and decaying green matter. We had also hoped to create a Central Valley smog as well, but time got the better of us.

Each city’s different precursor emissions and weather conditions produce a different kind of smog, with distinct chemical characteristics—and a unique flavour.

Nicola Twilley's The Coldscape

Nicola Twilley, writing at Cabinet Magazine:

More than three-quarters of the food consumed in the United States today is processed, packaged, shipped, stored, and sold under artificial refrigeration. The shiny, humming stainless steel box in your kitchen is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak—a tiny fragment of the vast global network of temperature-controlled storage and distribution warehouses cumulatively capable of hosting uncounted billions of cubic feet of chilled flesh, fish, or fruit. Add to that an equally vast and immeasurable volume of thermally controlled space in the form of shipping containers, wine cellars, floating fish factories, international seed banks, meat-aging lockers, and livestock semen storage, and it becomes clear that the evolving architecture of coldspace is as ubiquitous as it is varied, as essential as it is overlooked.

Fascinating read. Good summary and follow up by Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic. The Center for Land Use Interpretation has an exhibit with Twilley called “PERISHABLE: AN EXPLORATION OF THE REFRIGERATED LANDSCAPE OF AMERICA” featuring many of the places Twilley has visited and including a pretty neat interactive app of some of the key cold-storage sites throughout the US.

And, from January of 2013, listen to a Here and Now story with Twilley about this work.

Replicating Soi Four's Miang Kum at home

Soi Four, a Thai place on College in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, makes a lot of delicious stuff. One of our favorites (and something we order every time we visit) is the Miang Kum, which is described as follows on their menu:

miang kum Fresh cut mustard leaf wrap of roasted coconut, prawns, pomelo, herbs, & sweet palm

It’s awesome. Crunchy, salty, sweet, bitter, and hot. We decided to try to make it home a few days ago, bought the requisite ingredients, and gave it a whirl. It turned out magnificently. A bit of prep work, but nothing exorbitant. Without further ado, here’s the recipe (adapted from justasdelish.com and found via the google-bot).

Mieng Kum
1/3 lb peeled, deveined shrimp
Toasted peanuts, crushed
Mustard leaves, cut or torn into 2” by 2” pieces
1 grapefruit (oro blanco) or 0.5 pomelo, sectioned and chopped
0.25 cup + 1 tablespoon sliced shallots
3-4 green/red thai chilies, sliced into small coins
0.5 cups + 2 tablespoons grated, dried coconut
0.25 cup diced young ginger
0.25 tablespoon finely sliced Galangal
0.5 cups water
0.5 cups palm sugar
0.5 tablespoon fish sauce (red boat!)

Step 0. Roast the coconut over medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Remove from heat when it starts to brown. Separate 2 tablespoons and save for later.

Step 1. In a mortar and pestle, smash the shallots and galangal into a paste.

Step 2. In a small sauce pan, add the 0.5 cups water, 0.5 cups palm sugar, and 0.5 tablespoons of fish sauce. Add the shallot and galangal paste. Heat over medium low heat until reduced to about half the liquid volume. Add the two tablespoons of reserved toasted coconut and remove from heat.

Step 3. Boil or stir-fry your shrimp until cooked. Crudely slice into small pieces.

Step 4. Assemble. Take a 2” by 2” square of mustard leaf. Throw a little piece of shrimp on there. Top with roasted coconut, a piece or two of shallot, a pinch of peanuts, some grapefruit, a single chili coin, and a little ginger. Drip some sauce over the top.

Step 5. Enjoy. Repeat.

Delicatessen with love: Global grammas + their favorite foods

Arianna Rinaldo, introducing Gabriele Galimberti’s photo gallery of grandmothers and their prized recipes:

Appealing to their natural cooking care and their inevitable pride in their best recipe, common factors to all grandmothers in the world, Gabriele persuaded them to do their best in the kitchen. This means moose stake in Alaska and caterpillars in Malawi, delicious, but ferociously hot, ten-spice-curry in India and sharks soup in the Philippines. He has come back with a cookery book of detailed recipes that mix love, photography and travel amongst the many exotic ingredients. Indeed, each for each grandmother he has produced a portrait of the cook, and easy to follow recipe and an image of the extraordinary and at times mouthwatering final dish.

His photos and text are great. I’ve had a similar idea floating around for a short video series of how people cook in households around the world — with a specific focus on how they cook AND what the meal looks like. My colleagues and I tend to focus on the fuel, the stove, and the practices of cooking in rural households — but often don’t pay as much attention to the nourishing final product. The meals carry such cultural and local significance (not to mention deliciousness) — a fact that Galimberti highlights magnificently.

via kottke

Thanksgiving 2012 Menu

Our families descended on the Bay Area last week for Thanksgiving. It was fun madness; our parents meeting for the first time, we coordinated turkey-day logistics, and cooked up a gluten-free storm. The meal itself went well, though, per the norm, we had far too much food.

Click here to see the full menu.

Wired: The Perfect Bagel Is Engineered in California

Bagels from Beauty’s Bagel Shop

In July, Wired released an article entitled “The Perfect Bagel is Engineered in California.” The URL slug includes “bagel-blasphemy.” I tend to agree. That said, the article was enlightening — lots of suggestions for bagels to try in the Bay Area.

The article focuses on Dan Graf, who runs Baron Baking. On making bagels:

“There’s a whole wealth of technology and applied science out there that is not being used in the culinary field,” Graf says.”It’s slowly working its way in… As people start to realize that you don’t need to be rooted as deeply in tradition, that there are other ways of doing things, there will be more people who are trying to kind of push the boundaries of what a specific food product is — that change it and tweak it.”

Graf knows this all too well: He’s competing locally with a raft of fellow bagel insurgents like Beauty’s Bagel Shop (“Montreal style”), Authentic Bagel Co. (a California-New York hybrid), and, perhaps Graf’s most respected competitor, Brooklyn-style Schmendricks. Like Graf and Baron Baking, Schmendricks uses a two-stage fermentation involving a slower “retardation” stage inside the refrigerator. Or at least that’s what Graf believes, based on his well-informed tasting of the competition.

Had a delicious bagel sandwich this morning at Beauty’s Bagels in Oakland (and bought six to eat for the rest of the week). Best bagel I’ve had in the Bay Area. Can’t speak to the others, but the bar has been set.

Fresh Polenta - Smoked Soy, Sweet Pepper, Fried Ginger, Shichimi Togarashi


Another largely improvised recipe, based entirely on what was on hand. Had a couple cobs of corn, a red pepper, and ginger - all retrieved from a recent outing to the Temescal Farmer's Market. The smoked soy is a treasured present from Dr. Kvasnovsky.

The idea was somewhat inspired by a bevy of dishes I've seen of late -- corn grits, cheddar, fried pork belly, some greens, an egg. I wanted to do a riff on that, but using fresh corn (based on good experiences with a recipe similar to this one). I knew I didn't want to use pork belly or bacon -- but also wanted to get some of that smokiness in there. Figured the use- sparingly-super-soy would do the trick... and give the whole dish an umami kick that would play off the sweetness of the corn. The red pepper was thrown in to mix up the textures, sweeten things, and add some color contrast.

I also wanted some other goodness to throw in the mix (slash eat before it rotted in the fridge). I sauteed up some lettuce with almonds and sriracha and made some quick blackened tofu.

Recipe: Mixed Greens, Orange, Spring Onions, & Red Pepper Salad



The title more or less says it all -- just stuff from the fridge and a bit of improvisation. Came together nicely, with the peppers playing off the slightly sour and rather sweet oranges well. The onions and arugula added just a little bite to round it all out.

Recipe: Julienned Thai-style Zucchini Salad


zucchini! not noodles.

Mandolin! Finger cut-oo! Chop chop slice slice!

This one was inspired by something else, but I can't remember what -- I've got a backlog of posts here. But the pictures came out nicely, and more importantly the salad was delicious.

Momofuku Fried Chicken

Yes, this is a post about fried chicken.

Yes, it is expensive fried chicken.

Yes, it was delicious and totally worth it.

After a long Campus MovieFest Northern Regional Grand Finale, we slept a little and then descended on Momofuku Noodle Bar for their fried chicken dinner, which includes “two whole fried chickens, one southern style and one korean style - mu shu pancakes, bibb lettuce, four sauces and an assortment of seasonal vegetables.”

Sounded good. Had no idea how much of a treat it would be.

We kicked off the meal with a smattering of a la carte plates, including grilled asparagus salad (bearnaise, frisee, trout roe); fingerling potatoes (poached egg, scallions); sauteed bok choy (delicious, umami-laden pork broth; chili flakes); and grilled ramps (my favorite, with pickled chili, crispy fried shallots). The kitchen gave us a plate of three tamales, each different — two with pork, one with cheese and vegetables. All amazing flavor combinations.

I was particularly fond of the grilled ramps, which were garlicky, sharp, slightly green and wholly delicious. The addition of the trout roe to the asparagus was surprising and amazing, as well. Made for a beautiful presentation and a shocking flavor — the briny roe played off the bearnaise magically.

Then the chickens rolled out. I had no idea what to expect. We received a huge platter half full of “Korean-style” fried chicken (above), fried and slathered in a sweet, spicy bibim sauce — and then fried again. The other half of the platter was Southern-style — buttermilk batter and old bay. UNBELIEVABLE! I’m shocked to say it, but I preferred the southern-style — the batter was perfect and flavorful, thick, crispy and delicious. The platter of herbs and veggies included carrots, radishes, shiso, bibb lettuce, and basil. Four sauces came out, as well — hoison, bibim, ginger-scallion, and some sort of jalapeno garlic. All were great; the table seemed most partial towards the jalapeno garlic.

We ate. And we ate. And then we ate some more. Somewhere along the way, the kitchen blessed us with additional pancakes and a plate of glutinous rice flour formed into cylinders, fried, and coated with bibim. They were delicious and texturally amazing - the outside were crunchy, crispy, sweet and spicy; the insides were gooey-chewy-weird awesomeness. Good. We did pretty well, knocking out about 2/3 of the platter and almost all the sides.

All before 7p.

I can’t remember a meal that so well met and surpassed the anticipation surrounding it. I’ve blabbered on above mainly about the food, but it was that magical combination of the great eats and a large table full of old friends that killed it. It was such a treat to dine with you peeps.