Archive for the ‘Is it just food?’ category

Chili Relleno

January 20th, 2012

chiles rellenos

Chili relleno may sound like a foreign and difficult dish to prepare for dinner, but it is really quite straight forward and somewhat simple to make.  There are many variations of this dish ranging from pepper stuffed with garlic and diced pork shoulder to the basic recipe which is just a poblano pepper stuffed with cheese.

In our kitchen back home we tend to twist old recipes around and so our version of the chili relleno is served draped with a bernaise sauce which not only utilizes the egg yolks but also brings a little added tang to the entree.  You take your poblano pepper (and again once you know what you are doing you can use whatever pepper your palate desires) scorch it and sweat it and peel the shiny outer peel off.  Lay the pepper to the side.

The simplest form of chili relleno is to merely dredge the stuffed chili in flour and fry it.  The more popular recipe includes covering the chili in egg batter and then frying it.  At duckspoon.com my dad separates the egg yolks from the whites and then whips the egg whites into a froth.  That foamy egg mix becomes the outer coating of the flour dredged chili which is then tossed into the frying pan.

Chili relleno can be served with any sauce you desire or no sauce at all.  Many variations are served with a spicy tomato sauce.  This can range from a simple marinara sauce with added jalepenos to a basic pico de gallo that will give the chili relleno some bright citrus and spicy hot notes.

Come visit duckspoon.com and watch my dad make his version of chili relleno.  Sure it is a tad lavish to cover it in bernaise sauce…French/Mexican fusion? and it might not be to everyone’s taste.  The basic recipe for the chili relleno is at duckspoon and if you find a recipe that you like better then please load it up and share with us.

Cheers!

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Corn Grits

October 26th, 2011

Grits

The consumption of grits is a long standing tradition of Southern Cuisine.  The culinary ritual of grinding corn  by a stone meal comes to us from the Native Americans and thrives today all over the south and anywhere else that is influenced by regional American cuisine.  Southern food, someone said, is the only uniquely American of foods.

There exists a passionate streak in every southerner when it comes to the proper cooking, holding and consumption of grits.  Every man and woman in the south has at one point or another eaten a bowl full of the milled corn and has an opinion on it.  Salt, butter and time on low heat  suffices for the preparation of this meal.

When people ask me what grits are and their faces remain blank after I have replied  “milled corn” I go on to explain that they are similiar to polenta.  That inevitably receives an “ahh” of recognition and we continue on with the conversation.

Grits at the restaurant come from South Carolina.  I tell folks that Adam polled the confederate states to find out which had the finest product.  South Carolina won.  Every once in a while someone asks us to add cheese to it, and occasionally a variation of cheese grits becomes the bed for some charred, sweat protein appetizer.

The preparation of corn grits is such a fundamental part of our American cuisine and really an extremely economic method of feeding the family that everyone should know how to make them.  It is really quite easy, and if you come check us out at duckspoon.com you can find out how to make corn grits and how to braise a hog shoulder and put yourself a pretty inexpensive but very tasty dinner for the family.

Cheers!

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Is it still meat?

November 20th, 2010

winter pig

The evolution of agricultural science which lifted off in the 1960’s (well, the process may have started in the forties, but didn’t actually receive the sobriquet “Green Revolution” until sometime in the 1960’s) worked increasingly well:  grain production increased signifcantly, yet  “global increase in crop yields per” hectare “across 1961 – 1999 were accompanied by a 97% increase in irrigated acreage and 638 %, 203 %, and 854 % increases in use of nitrogen fertilizer, phosphorus fertilizer, and production of pesticides, respectively.”(B. TRENDS IN ACREAGE AND YIELDS,  Patricia Muir.  Oregon
State 1998)  Oregonstate.com A huge increase in food was not only offset with a growth in population, but also with an historic use of chemicals used to produce that food.

And?  You ask…and I tell you  that the short cuts that science allows, unchecked by humble goals and a careful agenda, will cost more in the long run.  So our land is riddled with dying soil and small farmers are  losing their farms, and, although smaller farms tend to be more efficient per acre, industrial production of food is now the norm due to government intervention. The capitalist virus has its all powerful grip on our food production, and, although capitalism can indeed be contained, we are not supplying the information in terms that the market understands without help.

Along comes Genetically Modified (GM) food crops.  Conservative sources expound the great benefits of GM food.  Yet GM food, even though donated in the beginning, is patented, licensed and owned.  Small farmers are being successfully sued because GM seeds have blown onto their property and they have been accused of theft.  Growing your own food is becoming a less likely phenomenon  in our new world.

What about the Hog! You ask.

Well.  The hog has gone the way of the eggplant, of corn, of wheat: pork will soon be produced in petri dishes.  Dutch scientists are taking stem cells from a hog and making pork.  This meat posesses the consistency of a scallop and is deficient in protein, yet  could be used as “processed meat in sausages and hamburgers”  (Maria Cheng, The Associated Press, January 15, 2010.) Physorg.com

Potentially we could feed protein to millions of the hungry.  Yet…should we? Indeed, hunger  is surpassed by obesity in our new age.   More hungry people exist today as a percentage of the population than before the Green Revolution.

What do you think of ultimate processed meat?  Do you think it safe without testing it?  Should we feed the hungry with this untested meat.  Is it still meat?

Are restaurants changing?

July 22nd, 2010

The restaurant paradigm has shifted since the current economic miasma took effect in September 2008. Restaurants have had to adapt or go out of business.  Many restaurants are going out of business.

Previously successful brand statements have seen significant losses and have turned to revamping their identity.  The New York Times recently noted that “even restaurants that say they are doing fine…” have started adding “value meals with phrases that evoke the Great Depression.”  Yet folks are still eating.

The lowest quintile of households spent 37.3% of household income on food while the highest only spent 6.6% (ERS.usda.gov).  Married couples are still spending 40% of that dining out.  But where are they going?

Somewhere between man’s fight or flight response lies an oasis.  From the firstboulangerie in Paris in 1792 people have sought out restaurants for gustatory meditation.  For peace, for a moment outside the “real” world, to allow the body to enjoy the fruits of the earth.

People are going to restaurants that make them feel good, and have a high perceived value for the plate.  There is always going to be the need for the human animal to spend a little social time away from home.

In times of worry folks will go where their money is well earned and where the tradition of celebrating the bounty of the earth is kept alive by folks who understand that a restaurant is not merely a business.

A bona fide steak: Beef at The Country Cat

May 28th, 2010

What do you look for in a steak?  Price? Hearty flavor?  Quality of life for the cattle  and a humane slaughter?  A healthy feed profile?  Eating isn’t simple anymore, and eating meat isn’t what it used to be.

In a world inundated with corn fed, chemically dependant cattle, it is difficult to get a good steak anymore.  Have we forgotten what good steak tastes like? Good beef tastes like the earth.  Like integrity.

The first real boss I had taught me about integerity.  Chef Willie Matson sat me down and explained  that a job accomplished with attention and focus was a job well done, even the humble washing of dishes.  Living life with full attention and focus is all one can really  endeavor  to do.

From the farm to your plate takes integrity: cattle raised with respect and fed healthy food; slaughtered quickly and humanely;  fabricated by your local butcher or chef.   That attention to detail is beginning to happen all around the country.   Attention to detail from Adam Sappington at The Country Cat

Cattle raised on industrial feedlots  ingest a steady diet of anti-biotics  to combat the destructive effects of a corn diet.  Certainly pasture raised beef lead a healthier, stress free life without anti-biotics, and the meat is healthier, but a partial grain diet does not necessarily degrade the health of the cattle.  In fact, the addition of grain to the diet can heighten the quality of the meat from a consumer’s point of view.  Adam’s palate for beef

The important component is the respect being given each animal.  That respect extends not only to the animal during the raising period, but also to the slaugther, fabrication, and the presentation to the end consumer…the public.  Respect the Customer and the Cattle

Grass fed, healthy cattle can be found.  Even grain fed, healthy cattle can be found.  Quality meat, raised, slaughtered and fabricated with integrity is out there.   Eatwild.com

The customer has to ask for it.  Put the onus on the butcher.  Ask the restaurant staff where the beef is from.  Find out whether you can purchase quality meat direct from the ranchers in your area.  In Portland pdxmeat.com

Integrity is beginning to be a valued commodity.  How do you like your steak?

Is it Pork without the Hog?

May 6th, 2010

The hog has gone the way of the eggplant, of corn, of wheat: pork will soon be produced by white cloaked scientists in laboratorys far away.  Dutch scientists are transforming the stem cells from a hog into edible pork.  This meat posesses the consistency of a scallop and is deficient in protein, yet  could be used as “processed meat in sausages and hamburgers”  (Maria Cheng,  Scientists turn stem cells into pork.  The Associated Press, January 15, 2010.) Physorg.com

Potentially we could feed protein to millions of the hungry.   Pork created in the factory would not need the vast amount of land used to raise  and feed the hogs.  This new meat production may well even be cheaper.

Yet…should we?

We don’t even have sufficient information about the effects of genetically modified food crops. Scientists are blocked from seriously investigating because  of “the threat of litigation…they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects.” (The Editors, Scientific American Magazine, August 2009). Scientific American We are increasing the reach of technology as it is applied to food.  Theororeticllaty our entire diet could soon be processed.

More hungry people exist today as a percentage of the population than before the Green Revolution. (Craig Sams. The Little Food Book.  Disinformation, 2004)  The increase in nitrogen based pesticides and fertilizers has increased the amount of food being prized from the ground. Yet obesity has surpassed hunger.   (Health Experts: Obesity Pandemic Looms. The Associated Press.  Sept. 3, 2006) MSNBC The dearth of food is not the reason people are hungry: poverty is the root cause of hunger.   People losing their land and becoming unable to feed themselves is another facet of this issue.

The medical system is now just beginning to feel the impact that food related disease is having on the populace.  The hospitals and medical facilities are still reeling from this onslaught of food related diseases.

Is the food we are eating killing us?

While the idea of food made cheaply (as far as indirect costs to the environment, land use, etc…) seems a tempting way to feed the hungry, it may very well have negative side effects on the human constitution.  The actual costs of  industrial food production have not  suitably been evaluated.  Whether it is our inability to control the Industrial Food System or our inpatience as a culture, much of our nation is hurtling  toward a society composed of the hungry and  the obese.

Every meal counts.  More importantly, every dollar spent on those meals counts.  In a political system where nothing seems to get done and hope can sometimes be far away, make every dollar count.

Is it still Meat?

April 21st, 2010

The evolution of agricultural science which lifted off in the 1960’s (well, the process may have started in the forties, but didn’t actually receive the sobriquet “Green Revolution” until sometime in the 1960’s) worked famously: grain production increased signifcantly, yet  “global increase in crop yields per” hectare “across 1961 – 1999 were accompanied by a 97% increase in irrigated acreage and 638 %, 203 %,and 854 % increases in use of nitrogen fertilizer, phosphorus fertilizer, and production of pesticides, respectively.”(B. TRENDS IN ACREAGE AND YIELDS,  Patricia Muir.  Oregon State 1998) Oregonstate.com One must look at both sides of the coin to see the whole truth.

A huge increase in food was not only offset with a growth in population, but also with a historic use of chemicals used to produce that food.  Those fertilizers can be directly traced  to the meat on the BBQ.  There hasn’t been sufficient testing to understand the influence those trace chemicals may have for human consumption and no testing on the effects of Genetically Modified Food.  Yet we are consuming those meats in historic numbers…we are perhaps supplying the medical field with a vast and growing base of lifelong customers.  Petroleum > corn > lifestock > humans.  Although this is the current dominant paradigm it is not the only and certainly not the healthiest.

We are fortunate that  CSA  programs for meat (Local Harvest) exist.  The more support we can give these folks, the more successful these ventures will be  the greater the chance to alter the current food paradigm.  It’s tough to pay that extra money, but its just the straight costs up front, not the hidden costs of industrial food that may lead to disease and an unfulfilling existence.

Monsanto gets a kick in the eggplant

March 8th, 2010

Picture 1

Recently hundreds of  of farmers in India met outisde the auditorium of Bangalore University.  They waved placards and chanted praises for the new, genetically modified aubergine.  This was the final public consultation on whether the genetically altered eggplant known as BT Brinjal would be allowed access to India.  BT Brinjal is the result of a partnership between an Indian hybrid seed company and Monsanto, the giant biotech multi-national.

Environment Minister Jairam Maresh not only placed a moratorium on the implementation of BT Brinjal in India, he also ripped the propaganda curtains down: he knew that these “farmers” were really landless laborers, devoid of aubergine farming experience,  bussed in by unnamed companies.  It is obvious that Monsanto will stop at no lengths to accomplish it’s goals of world domination.(http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15498385)

While citizens of the United States may have become calloused and unnerved by the duplicitous behaviour of the USDA and the EPA, the Environment Minister of India drew a line in the sand, “It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary, principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release,” until scientific tests can guarantee the safety of the product, said Ramesh. (http://rawstory.com/2010/02/india-refuses-genetically-modified-crops-citing-inadequate-science/).  It seems the Indians are not yet in thrall to the industrialized food cabal.

Supporters suggest that research  shows that the use of BT Brinjal would reduce the amount of crop destruction from pests by 50% and the use of pesticides by 85%. (http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15498385)  This would indeed  suggest that the Indians adopt this new wonder crop.  Yet, there is always a truth behind the propaganda unfurled by such huge companies.

There exists a hope that a second, genetically induced  “green revolution” may help feed the people of India.  Saline soil is a component of this and “saline soil is caused by nitrates and over-irrigation, two essentials of the Green Revolution.” (The Little Food Book, Craig Sams, Alastair Sawday 2004).  Earth that is fertilized with nitrates require more and more fertilizer until the bio-diviersity has been purged  and the lands become barren.  These fact only come in retrospect: no independent research has been allowed on Genetically Modified Organisms.

“Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects.” (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research)

The hungry of India do not need their land despoiled by petroleum products; they do not need their farmers enslaved by giant multinationals like Monsanto whose  only concern is the bottom line.  In The Hindu, Dr. V.S. Vijayan, Chair of the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, said that the decision “forestalled the surrender of the country’s food security to multinational companies, such as Monsanto and Mahyco.” (http://www.panna.org/resources/panups/panup_20100212#6)

Someday, perhaps, the US appointees to the USDA and the EPA will behave with such  integrity and stand firm against the corruption of the food chain by big business.  I would not suggest that you hold your breath.

The future of fish

February 9th, 2010

A guest came into the restaurant tonight and started asking questions.  While you are on stage (behind the bar) you receive questions from every angle, and concerning every facet of the business.  And quite rightly, since people ought to be aware of what they are eating and how it is served and even the basic philosophy of the restaurant.

Granted some questions are quite farcical and evoke gales of laughter back in the kitchen when we are all rehashing the evenings service.  But these were good questions.

“How can it be a steelhead if it is a farm raised fish and doesn’t go out to sea?”

“What’s the difference between a farm raised steelhead and a wild steelhead?”

“What’s the difference between a salmon and a steelhead if they are both farmed?”

I explain that the steelhead  are trout raised in pens in the Puget Sound off Tacoma, and I explain why we have chosen, as a restaurant, to purchase our selection of farm raised fish from these purveyors.

The oceans are growing incresaingly unhealthy with large islands of garbage and huge areas without botanical life, or “dead spots”.  Sure, farms exist that merely pump out the fish with the lowest cost to the farmer.  Farms are even now teaching fish how to eat corn since corn is subsidized by the government and the cost is below the cost of production.  But not all farmers have lost the integrity of the product, nor have all farmers suffered the wrath of the giant corporations and have been driven out of business by Monsanto, or ADM, et al.

Here in the Northwest restaurants still have the choice to buy local, and to find farmers who understand and embrace the obligation to provide only good, healthy food to the customers who consume it.  The word Farm has not yet  been completely devoured by the industrial farming business.  Not yet.  With hope and consciousness perhaps we can prevent the absorption of farming by big business.

Where’s your beef from?

November 11th, 2009

How many people could answer that question?  I don’t mean which supermarket, but rather from which ranch and from which slaughterhouse.  Follow that question a bit farther and ask about the conditions on that ranch.  Are anti-biotics used? Are chicken remains ground up and sprinkled into the grain to provide more protein? How many cattle pass through the slaughterhouse every day?  The food safety system of this country has been bankrupt for quite some time.  200 people die every year in the United States from E. coli (Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser).  The relationship between big business and the U.S. Department of Agriculture ensures that this number will not decrease unless there is a cultural shift in how we approach the animals we eat.

Stephanie Smith of Minnesota came home one Sunday for a home cooked hamburger at her parent’s house.  Weeks of cramping, diarrhea, and eventually 9 weeks of coma left her paralyzed from the waist down for life.  From a hamburger labeled “America’s chef’s selection Angus beef patties.”  The hamburger patties that she ate that day came were ground up in Wisconsin, and garnered from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas, South Dakota, and Uruguay. (The New York Times, Oct. 3, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html?_r=2) None of those scraps had been tested for E. coli because the FDA allows hamburger grinders to create their own safety procedures.  Even though Cargill, the food giant that made those patties, had been breaking it’s own safety procedures months before those patties were made, they were allowed to release their products into the public because Cargill had promised to increase its safety requirements. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HA8iyzYnXuc

At the Country Cat in Portland, Oregon, Adam Sappington breaks down a side of beef every couple weeks and grinds the burgers himself.  He has visited Sweet Briar Farms in Junction City and has made sure that the beef he serves is grass-fed, raised without anti-biotics, and slaughtered humanely.  All of this is hard work, but worth it because of the piece of mind that accomplishing a job with integrity imbues.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1Wo4O2iepI)

On November 4th Adam broke down a side of beef at the Livestock venture.  Livestock is the new shift away from the production of mass food and enormous slaughterhouses. In their words it is “an urban conversation designed to explore the literary and literal aspects of killing our dinner.”  This is an attempt to create a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program that extends not only to the farmers of Oregon, but also to the ranchers. Farmers, and soon ranchers, will be encouraged to grow their produce and raise their livestock in a way that puts health and food safety first.  People should be confident that the food they eat is being raised correctly, and slaughtered humanely.  Perhaps this movement will someday spread to the rest of the nation.