Monday, October 20, 2014

Meatless Monday: The Joy and Benefits of Cooking at Home

Food writer Mark Bittman makes a strong case that cooking and eating at home is good for you and for your family. In the “How to Eat Now” issue of Time,  Bittman wrote, “…not cooking is a big mistake—and it’s one that’s costing us money, good times, control, serenity, and, yes, vastly better health.”  

In his newest cookbook, How to Cook Everything Fast, he demonstrates how easy meal preparation can be if you are organized and do a bit of planning ahead. This latest addition to the How to Cook Everything series is full of hints on how to stock your kitchen, menus, preparation tips, and suggestions for making the most of your time. Even though I’ve been cooking at home for most of my life, I suspect I can learn a few tricks from this volume.

In the spirit of illustrating just how simple it is to cook at home, I thought I’d share a favorite cornbread recipe from The Moosewood Cookbookwritten by Mollie Katzen in 1977. 

You will need a few simple ingredients and an 8” or 9” square metal pan or ovenproof glass dish or a cast iron skillet (my pan of choice) for baking.


Delicious Corn Bread

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup buttermilk* (OR 4 Tbsp. dry powdered buttermilk and one cup of water)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal** 
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbs. melted butter


Method
  • Preheat oven to 425° (400° if using a glass pan)
  • Butter your baking pan well.
  • Beat together egg, buttermilk (or water), and honey.
  • Mix all dry ingredients together.
  • Combine all ingredients, including melted butter, and mix well.
  • Spread into buttered pan. 
  • Bake for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Test for doneness at 18 minutes. The tester (or sharp knife) should come out clean when inserted into the center of the pan. When the bread pulls away from the side of the pan that is a good indication that it is about done. You want the bread fully baked, but not dry.


*If you are doubtful that you will use up the remainder of the liquid buttermilk before it goes bad, try powdered buttermilk instead. Powdered buttermilk stores for months (the site claims years) when refrigerated, and there are clear instructions for its use printed on the container. Mix the powder with the dry ingredients and add water when prompted to add the liquid buttermilk.

**Bob’s Red Mill has a Non GMO variety if this matters to you.

My favorite cornbread pan — empty!
Cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to chili or stew and is great with butter and jam for breakfast. It reheats well if there are leftovers. Once you’ve made your own there will be no going back to the store-brought variety. 

Here’s to home cooking! 

Happy Meatless Monday. Good health to you, and to the planet.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meatless Monday: Musings on the "Great Exchange"

Columbus Day was once a big deal. First designated a holiday in Colorado over one hundred years ago in recognition of the dreams and contributions of the state’s hard-working Italian immigrants, Columbus Day was at one time an official holiday in 35 states. Now it is observed in just 23. In a growing number of places celebrations now honor indigenous people rather than the European explorer most associated with making first contact with the New World: Native American Day (South Dakota), Discoverers’ Day (Hawaii) and Indigenous People’s Day (Seattle and Minneapolis). 

Whatever your take on this “holiday,” it is interesting to reflect upon how much the world changed as a result of the “Age of Exploration.” The Mariners’ Museum terms the interaction of the Old World with the New “The Great Exchange: The Global Exchange of Cultures, Plants, Animals, and Disease.” 

The Museum has prepared a set of study guides to illustrate these changes. Click here to view a list of plants, their origins, how they came to be where they are today, and some of the societal changes unleashed by their successful propagation. 

Old World crops introduced to the Americas include sugar, cotton, bananas, and citrus. Some of the New World crops that were brought back to the Old World are cocoa, the tomato, the potato, and tobacco. 

Can you imagine Italian cuisine without the tomato, or Ireland without the potato? Or Florida and California without oranges and lemons? Or how different the history of the U.S. would have been if cotton had never been introduced to the South? 

If you have time, check out this link about the exchange of animals, and this one about the exchange of diseases. 

Its origins are centuries old, but as we all well know from today’s headlines, the Great Exchange continues to this day. Something to consider on this unique holiday. 

Come back next week for a baked good anyone can make.

Happy Meatless Monday. Good health to you, and to the planet.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Monday, October 6, 2014

Meatless Monday: The Last Tomatoes of Summer

Fall has arrived in the Northeast, with shorter, cooler (for the most part) days, and decidedly chilly nights. The tomato season is about over in my area, but here are a pair of recipes for those of you who have tomatoes waiting to be used or who live where tomatoes are still being harvested.  

A couple of weeks ago I turned to some favorite cookbooks for inspiration on what to do with a second basket of plum tomatoes I had purchased. [Click here and here for what I did with the first one.] Both recipes were a great success. I meant to share them earlier, but life got in the way… Apologies to those of you who will have to wait until next year to try them.

The first recipe came from Mary Ann Esposito’s classic cookbook Ciao Italia: Bringing Italy Home.

Salsa di Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce) 

That's a lotta sauce!

Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups (about 8 medium) plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Method
  • In a saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Sauté the garlic until soft.
  • Add the tomatoes, oregano, and salt.
  • Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, until slightly thickened. 

For a smoother sauce, puree the tomatoes in a food processor or with an immersion blender before adding to the saucepan.

This recipe is easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled. I did the latter and put four quarts in the freezer, ready to pull out when the days are short and gray.

The second recipe came from a not so obvious source: Cape Cod Table, by Susie Cushner.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes 


Ingredients
  • 5 pounds of plum tomatoes, rinsed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 4 large springs fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dry thyme leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar [I used balsamic with a delicious result.]
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt

Method
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F, with the rack in the upper third of the oven, but not the highest position.
  • Place the thyme in the bottom of the roasting pan.
  • Spread the tomatoes over the thyme, in one layer if possible.
  • Drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with the vinegar and salt.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the tomatoes have browned (unevenly) and given up their juices and the juices have reduced and become slightly thickened and syrupy.
  • Allow the tomatoes to cool in the pan.
  • Remove the thyme sprigs if used.

Use the tomatoes immediately or store them in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

This recipe can easily be doubled, as long as you have a roasting pan large enough.

At Susie’s suggestion, I froze most of mine in heavy ziplock bags for winter use. 

Before I close, here is a special Meatless Monday bonus. 

Earthbound Farms and Meatless Monday have released an e-cookbook featuring meatless breakfast recipes that can be eaten for any meal. Click here for the link 

Happy Meatless Monday. Good health to you. Have a great week.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”