Beautiful Soup

by in View All Posts, September 11th, 2009

Returned from two weeks in Bogota, Colombia, with mind boggled by a country at once richer (culturally, agriculturally, ecologically) and more immiserated (4.3 million internally displaced persons, approx 10% of the population) than anything I had imagined.

As home to 10% of the world’s biodiversity and encompassing nearly every imaginable ecosystem–from the tropical rainforests, grasslands, alpine forests, deserts, temperate zones and on and on–Colombian cooking draws from a vast larder, and has evolved a fascinating array of distinct regional variations.

During my two weeks I was only able to sample the tiniest fraction of the country’s culinary riches, but I did bring back an insatiable craving for ajiaco santafereño, a soup of which Bogotanos are justly proud, and which must rival the hat and the scarf in providing warmth to the residents of chilly, drizzly Bogota.

Of course, to call ajiaco santafereño a soup is a bit misleading. And to call it a potato soup seems almost disrespectful. Ajiaco comes to the table as a soup, a yellow broth, full of shredded chicken, chunks of potato and corn. But it leaves as the meal itself. Served in black clay bowls, the soup is accompanied by separate bowls of heavy cream, capers and avocado, which are added according to the eater’s preference and which soon bind the soup into a sludgy, filling, and delicious mass.

I imagine it’s well worth attempting at home, but authentic ajiaco santafereño is near impossible to find outside of Colombia, depending as  it does on 3 native potato varieties–good luck finding them–and, crucially, the herb guasca–good luck finding that too–which gives the soup its unique flavor, one that reminds me strongly of artichokes. I imagine one could substitute cilantro for guasca and produce a perfectly delicious soup, but it would be hard to mistake for the real thing.

Jonathan Milder, Research Librarian

Labor Day Eat-Ins

by in View All Posts, September 4th, 2009

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As a longtime member of Slow Food USA, I wanted to let FN Dish readers know about an important event that kicks off on Labor Day. Slow Food is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.

slow food eat in

From the Slow Food folks:

Slow Food USA is organizing a National Day of Action on Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2009. On that day, people in communities across America will gather with their neighbors for Eat-Ins (part potluck, part sit-in) that send a clear message to Congress: It’s time to provide America’s children with real food at school.
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It Came From The Library: What Else We're Reading

by in News, September 4th, 2009

My pal Ben over at The Nation just sent me over their new monster food issue — it’s in-depth and fantastic, and a must-read for anyone interested in where food intersects with politics and the future of both. I’ll let him round up who and what’s in it:

It’s fascinating, smart, and well-written. Have at it.

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

Cold Frame

by in In Season, September 3rd, 2009

This summer, my garden was my saving grace, offering the daily promise of adventures outside despite a busy work schedule. It’s also what inspires my next meal, and what keeps me moving between them. So, at the end of the summer, I’m incredibly reluctant to let the fun end, even though today’s unseasonably cool breeze reminded me that there’s a big chill in my future.

Last winter, my friends in my community garden built a cold frame, and I watched them munch on mustard greens in March while I was still waiting for final frost. Too much hassle, I thought, too much work. But this year, after visiting Sean Conway and his glorious year-round green houses on his set of Cultivating Life, and getting my hands on his how-to guide by the same name, which gives easy steps for building a cold frame, I’m singing a different tune. I’m not going to let cool weather be an excuse for me or my greens to hibernate.

If your wood-working skills are lacking, you can buy a ready-made cold frame here that will keep your green thumb working even with woolen gloves. But if you’re up for a DIY challenge, reclaim some salvaged wood and make your own cold frame with these easy steps.

Here’s to hoping we’re still swapping our harvests for months to come.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens spokesperson

What’s Shooting Now?

by in View All Posts, August 27th, 2009

It’s time for another round of “What’s Shooting Now?” It looks like last time we made the game a little too easy, so the clues are a bit trickier this time. For new players, here’s how to play. We give you clues, and you guess what show is shooting in the Food Network studios. In a few days, we’ll let the cat out of the bag!

THE CLUES

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Late-Season Success

by in In Season, August 27th, 2009

Around here, temperatures creep above 80 degrees well into late September, making it difficult to think about cool weather food like beets and kohlrabi. But since gardeners are always planning ahead, it’s time to start thinking about planting late-harvest crops and returning seed to the soil for yet another round of delicious rewards.

The same wonderful vegetables (like radishes, lettuces and beans) that appreciate spring’s cooler evenings will thrive when planted in late August to early September, keeping your garden in business past pumpkin season. And consider planting hardy cold-weather vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, carrots, beets, turnips, kale, mustards, spinach and Swiss chard, as well as bulbs like garlic and onions, which will survive even longer.

For the most successful fall garden, try to identify the average date of the first hard frost in your area, and count backwards, planting only seeds whose “days until harvest” fall within this time frame. If temperatures drop quickly in your area, consider planting in raised beds and pots, where the ground stays warmer longer, and can be moved inside in the event of an early frost.

But we don’t have to worry about frost just yet, so get out there and keep digging.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens Spokesperson

Catching up with Aida Mollenkamp

by in View All Posts, August 25th, 2009

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Aida Mollenkamp is back with a brand new season of Ask Aida, and she’s made some exciting changes. We caught up with her to hear all about the new style and to find out what viewer question (almost) stumped this gastronomical guru.

FN Dish: The new season just premiered on Saturday. Loved the first episode! Can you give us a little taste of the rest of the season?
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