Monday, November 28, 2011

Meatless Monday: 11.28.11

Meatless Monday? I confess, not for me and mine today. We cooked a small turkey on Thanksgiving Day this year. Two guests helped us eat about half of it. We were out of town for two of the next three days. The remains of the feast are in the fridge.

A large part of the mission behind ontheroadtogreenness is to share tips for wasting less while still living well.

I certainly don’t want to waste this turkey, so today I’m turning the carcass and all the meat still clinging to its bones into turkey soup, just as my parents taught me. All non-vegetarians or vegans, read on for the recipe.
OTRTG Turkey Soup
  • Place the turkey carcass into a large pot. You may need to break it into pieces. [Try to save the y-shaped bone, or furculum, in the breast so you can wish on it once it is brittle and dry.]
  • Add cold water to cover.
  • Add several peeled carrots, several stalks of celery with leaves, and a large onion stuck with two cloves.
  • Heat to boiling over medium flame.
  • After a minute or so, skim off and discard the scum which has risen to the surface.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary, a teaspoon of dried thyme, 8 black peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a few sprigs of fresh parsley.
  • Lower heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the turkey meat begins to fall off the bones.
  • Lift the carcass onto a plate. 
  • Place a colander over a clean pot. Pour the remaining contents of the soup pot through the colander into the new pot.
  • The next couple of steps are a bit messy. Pick as much meat off the bones as you can. Add back to the strained stock. 
  • Next, sort through everything remaining in the colander. Chop the carrots and celery, as well as the onion if you wish, and add to the stock along with any bits of meat you find. Be sure to remove the small bones and bay leaf; try to remove the cloves and peppercorns. 
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Add some frozen peas and cook just until tender.
  • In a third pot, prepare a box of small pasta (such as tubetti or elbows) according to the directions for al dente.
  • Serve the turkey soup over the pasta in individual large bowls, and top with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
  • A crisp baguette is a good side for this dish.

For me, this is the best part of the Thanksgiving feast, except of course, for the pie.

Enjoy your soup, and please come back next week for the return of Meatless, Meatless Monday.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday 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, November 21, 2011

Meatless Monday: As American As Pumpkin Pie

Once you learn the history of pumpkin pie in America, you may come to wonder, as I do, just why we don’t use “pumpkin” rather than “apple” in the phrase “as American as apple pie.” Pumpkins are indigenous to the New World and were clearly part of the first Thanksgiving feast declared by Gov. William Bradford and held in Plymouth Colony in 1621. Apples, on the other hand, came from the Old World; the Pilgrims planted apple trees soon after they arrived, but only the crabapple was native to North America.

The Pilgrims were probably not familiar with the pumpkin when they landed on the shores of what is now Massachusetts in the 1600s. But they soon learned of the many ways the Native Americans put the pumpkin to good use, including roasting of long strips of pumpkin on the open fire for eating, and drying strips of pumpkin for weaving into mats. Early on the colonists recognized the value of this fruit. Edward Johnson of Boston wrote in 1630,“Let no man make a jest at Pumpkins, for with this fruit the Lord was pleased to feed his people to their good content, till Corne and Cattell were increased."

They would soon invent uses of their own, such as stewed pumpkin. Pumpkin pie most likely evolved from the colonial custom of slicing off the pumpkin top, removing the seeds, filling the insides with milk, spices, and honey, and then baking the pumpkin in hot ashes. There was neither pie crust nor bread at these early celebrations; the first wheat harvest and flour were years away.

Thanksgiving became an American tradition. George Washington formally declared the day a national holiday in 1789. By the early 1800s, pumpkin pie (or at least a cousin to what we know as pumpkin pie) played a starring role in the day’s menu. Pumpkin pie had by now become a custard of pureed pumpkin, “rich milk,” eggs, and spices, baked in one crust until the filling had set. 

American poet John Greenleaf Whittier was so fond of pumpkin pie that he composed a long poem extolling its virtues. Here is an excerpt from The Pumpkin (1850):

… Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West, 
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest … 

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye? 
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie? …

… Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better 
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter! 
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine, 
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine! 
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express, 
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less, 
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below, 
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow, 
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky 
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie! 

In his encyclopedic tome American Cookery, published in 1972, James Beard prefaced his classic recipe for pumpkin pie with these words: “In the eighteenth century this, like all one-crust pies, was called a pudding. Yankees preferred the recipe made with pumpkin, while Southerners preferred sweet potatoes. Spices were not included until clipper ships made them a more common commodity, and molasses or sorghum was used as part or all of the sweetening.” Beard's modern recipe offers a variation, the use of evaporated milk as an alternative to light cream. This substitution was not yet an option in the 1926 when the Springvale National Bank in Maine published its complimentary pamphlet What to Cook and How to Cook It, which contained three recipes for pumpkin pie, all using fresh milk.

Recipe tinkering did not end with the use of evaporated milk. The most recent tweaking of the recipe came about with the need to provide a vegan option. The most common solution involves the substitution of silken tofu for the cream and the eggs. 

For more pumpkin facts, please pay a visit to my blog post on the pumpkin from late October last year.

And for the back-story on how Thanksgiving came to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, check out this link.

One great thing about pumpkin pie is that it has just one crust, so it’s a little harder to eat too much. So enjoy a slice of a time-honored tradition. Just go easy on the whipped cream! Have fun, and have a great holiday!

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday 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, November 14, 2011

Meatless Monday: The Challenges of an Indigenous Feast

With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, I’m sure many of you have started to plan your holiday menu. But have you ever stopped to consider how restricted your menu would be if you decided to use only the ingredients available to the Pilgrims and the Native Americans on that very first Thanksgiving Day?

Professor Devon A. Mihesuah, an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, oversees the American Indian Health and Diet Project (AIHDP) at the University of Kansas, a project “devoted to recovering the health of indigenous peoples.” As part of her work, she has compliled a detailed list of foods indigenous (native) to the Western Hemisphere (AKA the New World).

Upon perusing this list, you will soon learn that while turkey with cranberries could indeed be a menu possibility, there could be no butter for basting, no sugar to sweeten the berries, no flour for bread (for stuffing) or pie crust, and no apples for pie filling. You may also note the absence of the cow, the pig, and the chicken, as well as the presence of a number of things such as milkweed and mink that most of us no longer regard as food. Many of the foods on this list, including potatoes, squash and tomatoes, traveled from south to north over the course of many years. This list covers a broad geographic area; not all the items were available in what is now Massachusetts on that day in 1620. Click on any of the orange-colored items to learn more about them.

Through links at the side of the same page,you can find foods indigenous to smaller geographic areas and and the Choctaw tribe [there is however, no link for the eastern seaboard].

Dr. Martin Reinhardt, Anishinaabe Ojibway and Assistant Professor of Native American Studies, has been laying the groundwork for an ambitious challenge, the Decolonizing Diet Project (DDP). Beginning in March of 2012, along with a cohort of students and colleagues, Reinhardt will eat only pre-contact, indigenous Anishinaabe Ojibway foods for one yearTo honor Reinhardt’s work, Professor Devon Mihesuah of the AIHDP recently posed a mini-challenge — A Week of Eating Indigenous Food, which ran from October 31 through November 6 — and blogged about her experiences.  Dr. Reinhardt accepted the challenge and described his experience on the DDP site

If going indigenous proves too big a challenge [it is for me] and you decide to stick with a more modern menu, a good source for inspiration is the recipes posted by Slow Food USA.  Or check out Slow Food’s US Ark of Taste, a catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction. By promoting and eating these products, such as heritage turkeys, you can help to ensure they remain in production and on our plates. 

If you have never cooked but want to give it a try for the holiday, my advice is to start with something small. Cranberry sauce is pretty simple. You can follow the recipe printed on a bag of cranberries (which you can find in the fresh produce section), or check out this site for some more ideas. 

Have fun, and have a great week! 

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday 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.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fishy Friday: Good News for the Menhaden (and all the other fish in the sea)*

There was a very important victory in Boston on Wednesday, one that was lost among all the other headlines — turmoil in Italy, the storm off the western Alaskan Coast, GOP debate blunders… At its November 9th meeting, the menhaden board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted to cut the annual menhaden harvest by 37 percent.  Those of you who read my first Fishy Friday post two weeks ago  will recall that the tiny menhaden, called the “most important fish in the sea,” has been overfished to just 10% of its historic levels. A critical food source for wildlife, birds, dolphins, whales, and fish including striped bass and bluefish, the menhaden plays a vital role in the ecosystem of the Eastern Seaboard. 
The Pew Environmental Group’s well-organized campaign, the Plan to Save the Menhaden, played a major role in this victory. The ASMFC received nearly 92,000 comments on menhaden harvest limits, the vast majority in favor of such instituting such measures. The new harvest limit, which is subject to a vote by the full commission in one year, would take effect in 2013.

“Today’s vote is a welcome step for a fish that hasn’t caught a break since Dwight Eisenhower was president,” said Peter Baker, director of Northeast Fisheries at the Pew Environment Group. “Scientists have warned that having too few menhaden in the water could result in disastrous impacts on the fish and wildlife that eat them.” 

Billions of Atlantic menhaden are currently being hauled in and ground up each year — destined to become fertilizer, pet food, dietary supplements [menhaden are rich in Omega-3], and feed for farm-raised animals and fish. Omega Protein, responsible for taking in 3/4 of the entire East Coast catch — more than 410 million pounds, will clearly not welcome this news.

The Plan to Save the Menhaden was a real eye-opener for me. For a while I had been focused upon “best” and “worst” seafood choices and hadn’t been thinking so much about the other fish in the sea and all the ways they were being used (and abused). But now I’m all fired up.

I’ve just signed on to become a Seafood Watch Advocate through a program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium so chances are pretty good that you’ll be hearing lots more about fish from me.

I’ve also been reading Paul Greenberg’s Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food. I am inspired by Greenberg’s favorable assessment of the farming of barramundi. There’s a large operation in Turner’s Falls, Massachusetts [ironically, the site of the dam which ended the salmon run in the Connecticut River]. I see a future post on barramundi (AKA Asian Sea Bass) as well as a possible campaign to get this sustainable fish into the Elm City Market Co-Op. I guess I should taste some first. Stay tuned…

* and birds and animals, and people, too

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Meatless Monday: Farewell Summer. Hello Winter.

Indian Summer ended abruptly in the Northeast just over a week ago when Alfred dumped record amounts of snow in places less just a short drive from here. We were lucky along the Connecticut shoreline. As the weathermen explained it, the temperature of the water on the Sound was still too warm (in the upper 50s) to allow snow to accumulate along the shore. Right at the water’s edge, all it did was rain. In downtown New Haven we had to shovel a few inches of slush. The significant amounts of heavy wet snow falling on branches still covered with leaves caused numerous downed trees, limbs, and power lines over much of the inland portions of the state. At one point, nearly one million Connecticut residents were without power; as of Sunday night, some 114,000 CL&P customers are still in the dark.

The saddest thing for me was losing my backyard miracle. My two container-grown grape tomato plants, bought at a nursery school fundraiser, had been turning out a bumper crop of tiny, tasty fruits ever since mid-July. I had finally found the perfect thing to grow in my very small, mostly shady yard.

I had been hoping for a few more warm, sunny days so all the fruit on the vine-like branches would ripen. But when the slushy snow began to fall, I rushed out to pick everything over the size of a marble. The branches were sprawling and tangled. There were tomatoes everywhere. I should have worn gloves. Here is my yield. See how many? Monetarily speaking, these two plants paid for themselves many times over, not to mention the pleasure they brought me for so many weeks.

I am not a big fan of fried green tomatoes, so I’m giving my dad’s trick of putting green tomatoes in a shoebox with an apple a try. I know it works for larger, nearly mature fruit. The apple gives off ethylene gas as it ripens; the gas also ripens the tomatoes. One of the things that ethylene does is to stop production of chlorophyll, allowing the colors associated with ripe fruit to become unmasked. Ethylene gas is sometimes used to ripen fruit as it travels to market. You can read more here

I hope I can salvage some of my last tastes of Summer. It’s the first day of early darkness, and right now it feels like a long time until my favorite season rolls around again.

Back to Alfred for a second: If any of you were among the unfortunate ones whose trees sustained damage in the recent storm, this link is a fantastic resource for helping you determine if your trees can be saved. 

One more thing relating to my previous post: We got our shopping cart. We used it. And, in case you are wondering, the salvia is still in bloom because we brought it in during the storm and those really cold days. Not ready to say “good-bye.”

Have a great week. And remember that Tuesday is Election Day.

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday 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.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Wait is Over. The Doors Have Opened.

November 2, 2011 was a day to celebrate in downtown New Haven, CT. Many of the owner/members of the long-awaited Elm City Market  took the opportunity to be the first ones in the checkout lines during the course of a full day of pre-opening shopping. At 4:30 pm, the entire community poured into the store for the ribbon cutting and opening night festivities — tastings from local vendors to the tunes of local performers. 

The Elm City Market is a hybrid co-op situated on the ground floor of New Haven (and the region’s) greenest apartment building — 360 State Street, a LEED Platinum certified building powered by electricity generated by a fuel cell, developed by Fairfield CT firm Becker + Becker. As of opening day, the market had 750 owner/members. Elm City Market is a food oasis in a densely populated section of the city which had lacked a grocery store for decades. The market’s opening has created over 100 new jobs for local residents!

Getting a market in this location was no easy task. Being selected as developer for the site was a highly competitive process. One requirement for development of the site was inclusion of a high-end, full-service grocery store; failure to provide such a store within the first three years of the building’s opening would result in a hefty $250,000 fine.  When the likely candidates said the footprint was too small, developer Becker + Becker turned to the successful City Market in Burlington, VT for a model. And now, less than 3 years since the December 19, 2008 groundbreaking, here I stand inside a beautiful new grocery store. 

There were many people to thank at the ribbon-cutting, from Webster Bank which had committed $4 million in funding, to retiring 7th Ward alderwoman Bitsie Clark who has been involved with 360 State Street since the selection of the site developer. Even the USDA’s Rural Business Services had a hand in the project, since the market is stimulating business for local farmers.  

Now, back to the market. As a hybrid, the market features local, natural, organic, along with conventional produce, meat, and groceries. Conventional groceries make up about 15% of the market’s SKUs, but are promised by store manager Mark Regni to be “the cleanest…the best of conventional.” The market carries a number of local items, clearly marked LO, many of which were suggested by co-op members, and the managers promise to stock even more. It is particularly strong on local bread and baked goods. There is a 30 foot hot bar, a salad bar, and a seating area for dining in. The prices seem pretty much in line for high-end products, and the sale prices, particularly in the produce area, very fair. On my tour through the aisles I learned that the frozen green beans come from the USA! 

The market also carries an excellent selection of vitamins and supplements, a wide range of natural toiletries and beauty products, and a good assortment of greeting cards and green living items, perfect for last-minute gifts. Many area residents had been making frequent trips to Orange and Milford to shop for such wares in the two stores which had turned down the developer’s offer to open in New Haven. 

Those days are over for me. I’m about to invest in a new set of wheels. I have my shopping cart picked out. I just have to make a trip in the car to pick it up…

Oh happy day! 

Check it out. You, too, could become an owner/member. No work requirement, just a one-time membership fee. Installment plan available. Details here