All Posts By Food Network Kitchen

Sustainability and Solutions

by in View All Posts, May 26th, 2009

I recently attended the Cooking For Solutions conference at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Other people have written in far more detail, but my quick take is that I’m glad to see the sustainability movement growing upwards and outwards — while simultaneously realizing that speaking to the converted gets you nowhere. There are signs (albeit small ones) that we may be on the road to a mainstream tipping point for sustainability awareness.

Katherine Alford, VP, Test Kitchen

Saving Seeds

by in In Season, May 21st, 2009

Sometimes, when I’m overcome with the heady aroma of a 26-pound Thanksgiving turkey cooking in the middle of May (occupational hazard), my mind wanders out the window and into the nearest garden. Today, this daydreaming was made easy by the arrival of the Seed Savers Exchange Catalog. The catalog is a 101-page testament to the work of the Seed Savers Exchange, an organization that works tirelessly to protect, promote and share our country’s valuable farming heritage.

Specifically, they’re dedicated to preserving the thousands of heirloom varieties of flora that date back before the turn of the 20th century. And they’re a close ally of the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, where we will be planting our next Good Food Garden this June as part of their summer-long Edible Gardens exhibit.

Heirloom varieties, much like heritage breed animals (like the Berkshire pig or Bourbon Red turkey), are a window into the history of food, marking a vegetable’s migration, immigration and crosspollination from land to land with their names and stories.

The catalog includes 6,200 kinds of tomatoes, 5,100 varieties of beans, and 2,400 peppers. But it isn’t the sheer numbers that delight me. It reads like an epic storybook whose heroes like Russian Giant (garlic) and Hungarian Heart (tomato) live in utopian harmony with the King of the North (pepper) and Sultan’s Golden (beans). And that’s just the beginning of the Edenic paradise. Seed Savers houses the seeds of flowers in every shape and shade, 200 vintage varieties of grapes and 700 different antique apple varieties.

As they say in the catalog, “not bad for a program that started as a little garden in mid-Missouri.” Not bad at all.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer & Good Food Gardens Spokesperson

Isothiocyanates ahoy!

by in View All Posts, May 20th, 2009

So my pal Robert, last heard from here, rears his way-smarter-than-me head again in the pages of Gourmet, this time about how I commandeered his house, backpack full of Greenmarket rhubarb in tow, to make mustard last weekend. I just want to make clear: at no point during said kitchen commandeering did I use the word “isothiocyanates,” hence the way-smarter-than-me-ness, but hey, at least I know what they are now.

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

Sadly, in our era, we're stuck with the Magic Bullet.

by in View All Posts, May 19th, 2009

Anthropologists and palentologists from the Universities of Bordeaux (of all places) and Witwatersrand have come up with evidence that ancient humans may have used bone tools to make smoothies.

This is fairly heartening; I’ve always felt that there had to be some sort of biological smoothie-compulsion at work here, as I’ve never met a single person who actively enjoys smoothies. [via]

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

You Are What You Eat

by in View All Posts, May 18th, 2009

My boyfriend just sent me this Good Magazine gallery of people’s fridge contents, sorted by occupation, age, and details. We’re most similar to the Journalist/Designer/School Teacher household, since always have fresh produce everywhere, protein, leftovers everywhere (because he eats 24/7), and lots of knick-knacks on the top shelf and the door. The rest of the list is pretty entertaining, especially the connection between jobs and fridges — check out the bartender’s fridge!

Danielle LaRosa, Assistant Culinary Producer

It Came From The Library 9: Of Sustainability and Smarm

by in News, May 15th, 2009

As a cultural phenomenon, backlash generally surfaces at the point when a movement gathers enough force to actually pose a threat to somebody. So it could be taken as a positive sign that an increasingly vociferous backlash is emerging to the sustainability movement these days. This trend first became apparent last year, as some in the food media began to surfeit on locavorism. Now one can discern it in the avalanche of abuse that’s swirled around the sustainability movement’s proxy, Alice Waters, for the last couple months.

To be fair, much recent criticism of Waters is not backlash. It’s coming from fellow travelers whose patience Waters has exhausted. But there’s also an undercurrent of conservatism coursing through much of these Waters wars, an undercurrent most often betrayed in the tenor of the conversation, the ad hominem attacks, the vituperation. Ultimately, one senses that these attacks aren’t really about Alice at all. Or rather, are only about Alice insofar as she can be deployed as an instrument in an ideological battle whose timing is revealingly coincident with the arrival of a new administration and the possibilities for reform that it has opened up. It seems reasonable to expect that the closer the sustainability movement gets to realizing its goals, the more influence it wields, the cozier it gets with the Obama administration, the more desperate and aggressive the backlash that will emerge. Brace yourself, Alice.

Jonathan Milder, Research Librarian

World's Smallest Food Critic: Dragon Chips

by in View All Posts, May 14th, 2009

Who knew if I simply baked kale until it was crispy, then called it “dragon chips,” my kids would gobble it down like potato chips?

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The recipe:
1 bunch fresh kale, cleaned and dried thoroughly
Olive oil spray
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the stems from the kale and tear the leaves into smallish pieces. Make sure that the leaves are really dry. Spread them evenly in 1 layer on 2 baking sheets — depending on the size of your bunch of kale and your baking sheets, you may need to do this in batches. Spritz with olive oil (any vegetable spray works well, too) and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the leaves are crispy but still very green. Flip and cook about 2 minutes more. Remove from oven and serve.

Jill Novatt, Executive Culinary Producer

When Food Blogs Attack!

by in View All Posts, May 13th, 2009

I just tried to access a blog review of vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy, and had it blocked by FN’s web monitoring for adult content.* I mean, I’ve heard this was a decadent take on vegetarian food, but really, that decadent? Now I’m going to have to investigate.

*Yes, the name of the blog is “Goodies First,” but I’m pretty sure said goodies refer to dessert, not, like, Ciara. Besides, the firewall was totally ok with “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant,” so I have to suspect something nefarious afoot.  If I mysteriously disappear from the stewardship of the blog, you’ll all know why.

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

Restaurants and the Recession

by in View All Posts, May 11th, 2009

Reading this piece in New York magazine, I came upon a telling reference to restaurants and the recession:

Even the city’s most upscale restaurants have been humbled. “When the economy goes sour,” says Danny Meyer, the impresario behind Union Square Café, Eleven Madison Park, and Shake Shack, among others, “there are three different kinds of restaurants that do well: the smaller-scale neighborhood restaurants that don’t ask much of you; those that have banked enormous goodwill by offering great value during the boom; and those with proven records of excellence, a sure thing.” I point out to him that two out of three of those types fall into the unpretentious category. “Well, yeah,” he says. “People aren’t going to want to go where they aren’t being hugged.”

And so Molly’s Shebeen, a Third Avenue pub with sawdust on the floor and a bow-tied Irish barkeep, is still doing a brisk business; Cru, which refers to its wine selection as its “wine program,” seems totally dead.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition. In my ideal world there’d be room for both Cru and Molly’s — and, for a brief period around 2004-2005, there was, at least for me. When I worked at Wine & Spirits, I used to love Cru — my colleagues and I would scour the wine list for values ahead of time, and we’d always end up with spectacular meals with interesting wine. Molly’s, meanwhile, is my neighborhood bar and the home of what I consider to be the best burger in Manhattan. There’s no reason why those two can’t coexist in my heart, right?

But at some point a couple of years ago, Cru turned into the kind of place where the waiter found it necessary to admonish me not to steal the silverware (I’m really not that shady-looking, I promise, and besides, I have those knives at home anyway — and yes, before you ask, I did pay for them). And then I broke my ankle, and spent 4 months essentially housebound and on crutches, and Molly’s, despite the slippery-sawdust floors, perpetual-packedness, and spilled-beer potential, welcomed me with open arms for my weekly leaving-the-house excursion. (And Molly’s doesn’t know where I work, but Cru, I’m pretty sure, does, or at least did at one point.)

Should there be room in the food world for both? Of course. But I know where I’m still going to go when times are tight.

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

It Came From The Library 8: Crave Man

by in News, May 8th, 2009

Why does a chocolate chip cookie—or vanilla milkshake or cheeseburger, etc—have such power over us? Why are they so hard to resist? David Kessler, a Harvard-trained doctor, lawyer, medical school dean, former FDA commissioner and scourge of the tobacco industry, spent years pursuing an answer. The results of his search, ‘The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite,’ hit bookstores last week.

Kessler’s key insight, as he sums it up: “Much of the scientific research around overeating has been physiology — what’s going on in our body. The real question is what’s going on in our brain.”

His theory in its most simplified form is that salt, sugar, and fat work synergistically in foods to stimulate the brain to crave more salt, sugar, and fat. Instead of satisfying hunger, they alter the brain’s chemistry in a way that stimulates hunger. There’s a growing body of research that backs this up.

None of this is really news to the food industry, which Kessler found has long manipulated this neurological response, designing foods to induce people to eat more than they should — or even want. This is the dark side of Kessler’s story, and the one with far-ranging implications for policymakers.

Kessler does not shy away from a challenge. The man’s a formidable muckraker/public health advocate, and one can be sure ‘The End of Overeating’ has caught the food industry’s attention by laying the groundwork for major regulatory action/legislation.

But if overeating is to end, it will require much more than a little re-zoning and nutrition labeling here and there. Kessler envisions nothing short of a wholesale rewiring of the brain’s relation to food. As he puts it: “What’s needed is a perceptual shift…We did this with cigarettes…It used to be sexy and glamorous but now people look at it and say, ‘That’s not my friend, that’s not something I want.’ We need to make a cognitive shift as a country and change the way we look at food.”

This, of course, begs the question: what tools from the tobacco wars are actually transferable to the food industry battle? And just how was this perceptual/cognitive shift achieved with cigarettes? When you start comparing, the former looks like a cakewalk: with tobacco it was so easy (relatively) to finger a culprit, identify conspiracy, connect cause to devastating effect. Not so for fat/sugar/salt. The former is after all a drug (even before a consensus emerged, it was widely understood to be, at the very least, not not a drug); the latter is food, sustenance, albeit a very poor form of it. Cheap too: you’ve got a whole class thing going on that was probably there in the tobacco wars, but certainly not as explicitly-stated.

Jonathan Milder, Research Librarian