Food-Related Quotes

I wanted to change the by-line of my blog so I spent some time reading a lot of really good, clever, and thought-provoking quotes about cooking, food, and our relationship to food.  I posted some of my favorites here. The first one is the one I ultimately chose.  Enjoy!

  • Food is our common ground, a universal experience. (James Beard)
  • Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture. (Mark Kurlansky)
  • We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink. (Epicurus)
  • When I add a spoon of honey to my tea, I give thanks to a dozen bees for the work of their whole lives. When my finger sweeps the final drop of sweetness from the jar, I know we’ve enjoyed the nectar from over a million flowers. This is what honey is: the souls of flowers, a food to please the gods. Honeyeaters know that to have a joyful heart one must live life like the bees, sipping the sweet nectar from each moment as it blooms. And Life, like the world of honey, has its enchantments and stings. (Ingrid Goff-Maidoff)
  • Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. (Harriet van Horne)
  • A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe. (Thomas Keller)
  • It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it. (Julia Child)

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The Big Waste

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of the Food Network anymore. The quality of their programming, with the exception of perhaps one or two programs (i.e., Chopped, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef), has gone down dramatically over the years, leaving us now with a lot of “competition” programming as well as very few programs offering how to cook quality, healthy meals.

However, this past Sunday night, there was an impressive program on called “The Big Waste,” which was very enjoyable as well as an eye-opener to the problem of food waste in this country. The program was set up as a competition between two teams of two chefs, and the challenge was to make a three course meal for 100 consisting only of foods that were unwanted or deemed unfit to be sold (i.e., food that was heading for the trash or compost pile). I kind of wish that it was less of a competition and more of a documentary, but I still learned a lot from watching it.

The chefs went to different markets, shops, and farms to collect food. They had expected to get scraps of meat or vegetables, but instead they got a lot more than they bargained for. The food industry in the US throws out a LOT of food as waste — to the tune of 27 million tons of edible food being tossed, sometimes for reasons as inconsequential as a bruise or a spot on an otherwise perfect fruit or vegetable. This figure is totally shocking and heart-breaking to hear when you know that hunger is a big problem in this country. Even throughout the world as a whole, one-third of food is wasted — this includes markets, farms, factories, restaurants, and homes.

One of the chefs collected bushels of perfectly good corn that was going to be discarded simply because the wind knocked down the stalks. Another chef collected coolers full of fresh chickens that could not be sold simply because the skin was torn or a leg/wing was broken during the slaughtering process — she was told that American consumers would not consider buying these chickens because they might think that the bird had been sick. (Sidenote: the chicken farm was a small one, where it is too expensive to further break down these chickens and sell them as parts. Larger processing facilities do, in fact, do this.) A third chef collected dozens of fresh eggs from a henhouse because they didn’t conform to a standard size (some were too big and some were tiny) or a standard color (some were blue), but otherwise perfectly good.

The chefs also met a man who calls himself a “freegan” (a new word that I learned), who dumpster-dives for his food. Food establishments often discard food that is in perfectly good condition, many times because it is approaching its “sell by” date or where the packaging has been damaged. Freegans find these foods in the garbage of these establishments, believing that they are keeping edible food from adding to landfills and that can also feed people who might otherwise go hungry.

After watching this, I will be looking at foods, especially fruits and vegetables, from a different perspective now when I go to the market.

It was difficult to swallow some of the facts that were presented. This was such an informative program, however, that I highly recommend watching it when it re-airs again this weekend.


1000 Hits….Wow!

What a way to start the new year!  As of this morning, I have had over 1,000 hits on this site.  Although it’s quite a small number in the macrocosm that is the internet (as well as compared to other blogs), I am so overjoyed!  It’s about 950 more hits than I ever expected to receive.  I also have followers – people who are actually interested in what I have to say and do!

When I first set out and created this site in the spring, I did it as a way to share some of my favorite recipes, to share some new recipes, as well as to write about various topics that I found interesting.  Along the way, I have read and started following other blogs and have also met (virtually-speaking) others who love to cook as well. I have also been inspired to try new foods that I may not have otherwise tried.

Thank you all for your support over the past several months.  Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

(Remember, you can sign up to get automatic email updates whenever I post something new.  Just enter your email address under the “Follow Blog via Email” section to the right of your screen.)

By the way, the picture above is that of a Vasilopita, which is a traditional New Year’s day bread in Greece as well as other parts of Eastern Europe.   Inside contains a hidden coin which is said to give good luck to the person who receives it.  There are different recipes.  However, my favorite is the one I mentioned a few months back.  Click here.

I’m Eating That….?

Yesterday, I had a fun afternoon with my godchild.  She wanted to bake cupcakes, so we did.  Now, normally, I am a “bake from scratch” kind of gal, but due to time contraints and the fact that I was going to be working with a 4 year old, we went to the market and bought a box of Betty Crocker red velvet cake mix and some cream cheese frosting instead.  Now, let me tell you first of all that you really need to be careful with the cake mix because the red coloring stains everything!

However, it’s really the frosting that got me steaming….

Cream cheese frosting is so simple to make…cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, butter, and vanilla.  Now, look at what the frosting that we bought was made of:

I didn’t look at the ingredients until after we frosted the cupcakes.  I don’t know what I expected the ingredients to be, but I suppose I was blissfully ignorant and expected some sort of dairy/sugar concoction.

I do know that I will never buy this stuff again.

In the meantime, here’s my simple recipe for cream cheese frosting.  This is enough to frost a three-layer cake (click here to see my carrot cake recipe).  Halve this recipe and it should be more than adequate to frost a dozen cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 8-ounce packages light cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract (I love vanilla, so I end up being generous here)

Beat all of the ingredients in a bowl until smooth and creamy.

Finally, here’s a pic of our finished cupcake from yesterday.

I Heart Cupcakes

Duking It Out

The other day, Anthony Bourdain had some tough words for some of the various personalities on the Food Network, which IMHO has totally gone downhill in recent years. It used to be a channel full of cooking and “how-to” programming. It’s now full of reality-type programs and there are only handful of decent shows. The Cooking Channel is now what Food Network used to be.

Anyway, Bourdain’s harshest words were directed at Paula Deen. To paraphrase, he called Paula Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America,” explaining that her relationships to food corporations and disregard for healthy foods made her a “threat to cardiovascular systems across the country.”

Her response?

“You know, not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine. My friends and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills . . . It wasn’t that long ago that I was struggling to feed my family, too.”

While his comments may have been a little overblown (I mean, is she really the most dangerous person in America?) I am going to take sides with Bourdain on this one. I’v e seen Paula Deen’s show a few times, and I too, have been disgusted by the way she cooks — slathering butter on everything and cooking with lots of high-fat, highly-processed ingredients. It’s just not appetizing at all. Case in point….on one episode she made a bread pudding using Krispy Kreme doughnuts. On another episode, she made a breakfast sandwich with eggs and sausage sandwiched between two doughnuts. On yet another, macaroni and cheese with bacon and a potato chip topping.

Really, Paula? Is this how “regular families” should be cooking?

If Deen is targeting working-cl ass families as she claims, then perhaps a few recipes with veggies, fresh or frozen, would be nice instead of bacon, pork, burgers, butter, etc., all the time. If someone is on a limited budget, frozen veggies are just as good as, if not better than, fresh and last longer, thereby stretching the food dollar. Or how about some recipes using beans? There are several Southern dishes that call for beans. You can make decent, healthy food on any budget, if you just know how.

Although I don’t know much about Southern cooking, I imagine that Deen’s cooking is not respectful of traditional Southern fare. I also don’t think that her response above is really about people of little means. It’s more like PR shrill, given to her by Smithfield, the world’s largest pork production and processing company, for which she is a spokesperson. Deen doesn’t even address the issue that Bourdain raises. She’s really a bad example of why diabetes, malnutriti on, and obesity are so rampant in America. Deen doesn’t have a culinary background and her success is likely a case of “being in the right place at the right time.”

If you have watched Anthony Bourdain’s travel program “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel, you’ll know that in most cases, he’s not eating at high-end restaurants. He’s eating street food in Vietnam or Thailand. Or he’s eating at a neighborhood joint in Chile. Or he’s eating traditional ethnic cuisines at the home of some of the locals in Italy. He appreciates the humblest of street foods as much as he does the finest cuisines of the world, although he’s never really been about expensive meals and wines.

Anyway, you catch my drift.

Whose side are YOU on?

Calamari-Eggplant Salad

A while back, I had said that the best way to enjoy seafood was in its simplest form, without a lot of fuss — in other words, no frying, no extra sauces, no “crusts”.  Why mess with the beautiful flavor of fresh seafood?  Grilling, broiling and steaming, at least for me, are the way to go.  I like to take advantage of some of the world’s best seafood from right in our backyard .

This was my dinner tonight.  It’s a revised version of a dish that I had in Athens a few years ago.  The original was made with octopus.  While I am not a huge fan of the chewy texture of octopus (believe me, I have tried many, many times to like it), fresh calamari is a nice alternative. 

Serve with nice, fresh crusty bread.

Fresh, cleaned whole calamari. Check out these bad boys!

 

Calamari and Eggplant Salad

(serves 2)

  • 1/2 lb fresh calamari/squid, cleaned
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 wine glass of wine
  • 2 small to medium sized eggplants
  • 1 medium size tomato, seeds removed and chopped into cubes
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • dried mint
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic or wine vinegar
  • salt, fresh pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of dried oregano
 
Eggplants:  Roast the eggplants in a 400 degree oven until cooked through, about 45 minutes.  They will become soft and mushy and charred. Let cool, peel the skin off of the eggplants and “rough chop” the pulp and place in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
 
Calamari: Bring a medium-sized saucepan of heavily salted water and one bay leaf to a boil.  Add the wine. Place the calamari (whole) into the water and poach until it is tender.
 
Chop the calamari and add to the eggplant mixture.  Mix all of the ingredients, adjust the seasonings if needed and enjoy.
 
(DP note: if you wish to use octopus instead, place the octopus and bay leaf in a saucepan on low heat to cook until it becomes very tender.  No liquid is required as the octopus will release its own liquid as it cooks. As soon as it is steamed and tender, increase the heat to high and add the wine, cooking for another 4-5 minutes.  Chop then add to the eggplant mixture.)
 

The finished dish

 

A Few Tips…..

I hope you enjoy the recipes that I will be posting here.  All of them have been tried and tested by me, so I won’t be posting something that I am not sure about.

However, before I begin, I thought it might be helpful to post a few tips to make things easy.

1.  Before you begin, read through the entire recipe.  This way you won’t encounter any surprises along the way.

2.  Try to lay out and have all of your ingredients and tools ready to go (i.e., your “mise en place”).  This means prepping all of your ingredients (wash, cut, etc.), preheating your oven, laying out all of your utensils and equipment.  This will allow you to cook without having to stop every so often to put things together.  Setting up a mise en place is especially desirable in baking, where sometimes the recipes are under time-constraints.

3.  Buy a good knife and make sure you sharpen it often.  This is the most important item on this list.  A dull knife makes cutting and chopping very difficult and tears into the food, rather than slicing into it.  A dull knife also increases the amount of pressure you have to apply in order to cut  Click here to learn how to select a good chef’s knife.

4.  Buy an oven thermometer.  This will help you more accurately determine if something is cooked through, rather than relying on eyesight.  I prefer the digital ones, as I think they’re more accurate.  You don’t have to splurge on anything fancy.  I have a digital one that I picked up at the Christmas Tree Shop about ten years ago and it has served me well.

5.  Try to clean up a little as you go along….it’ll make the final task of cleaning easier.  It doesn’t matter whether you spend 10 minutes in front of the oven, or an hour — trust me, you’ll be happier in the end.

There you go….with these simple tips, following the recipes should go smoothly!

Happy Cooking!

By Diana Posted in Misc

Welcome

Welcome to my attempt at creating a food-related blog and recipe database.   I recently decided to take a break from the corporate world, and one of the things I planned to do with this newly-found gift of time was to create this site. 

As you may know, I am passionate about cooking and am always trying new recipes and cuisine.  I especially love making dishes from many different ethnic backgrounds.  I have so many great recipes for good food and it is here that I will post my favorites.

I hope you will find this site enjoyable and even try out some of the recipes.  I won’t post anything that I have not myself made.

In addition to recipes, I’ll occasionally offer my thoughts on anything that inspires me…and sometimes it might not be food-related.  I don’t propose to write about anything earth-shattering – just about topics and recipes that I enjoy.

I welcome your comments and feedback — also, feel free to leave suggestions on how I might be able to improve the blog.

Di

By Diana Posted in Misc