The Green Kitchen

Mostly green--and entirely vegetarian--cooking in a mostly green--and entirely awesome--kitchen in Brooklyn.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Reason #537,307,738 to buy local

"My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables)" over at the NY Times should be required reading for anyone who, oh I don't know, EATS FOOD IN THIS COUNTRY. Not only does it suck that huge farms are able to force small farmers out of business, but it's *dangerous* to leave your food supply in the hands of so few. It's bad for prices, it's bad for the environment (both because of the pollution that must be generated to distribute this food all over the country and because large farms MUST use techniques that are damaging to the environment, even if they are "organic") and it's risky as hell. What if disaster strikes one of these farms and they lose most of their crops one year from weather or disease? As global warming continues to affect us, freak weather patterns and bug attacks will only happen more frequently. Yes, these potential disasters are all fairly unlikely. But if something happens just once, the consequences could be devastating, especially for those who are already struggling to afford enough food to eat.

For information on how organic doesn't necessarily mean what you think it does, I highly recommend this long but interesting and informative blurb from Michael Pollan. It may sound rather familiar to those who have read Omnivore's Dilemma.

In other news, I made mayonnaise and 50% whole wheat bread yesterday. And on Friday, I spent $20 on fruit - $16 of that was for just three cherimoyas, but man was I glad to see them. January - March is imported cherimoya season, and I was beginning to worry that I wouldn't find any this year.

Food budget? What's that?

clearing the cobwebs

I'm feeling ambitious and completely food obsessed at the moment, so I've decided to attempt to revive this poor, neglected blog.

Recipes and food photos will (hopefully) be coming soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share some thoughts on food and poverty. This is a key issue in my new job (which involves organizing a new CSA in a mixed-income neighborhood), but as someone who has been concerned about both poverty and the effects of industrial agriculture/processed food/conventional meat production for a long time, it's a problem I think about a lot. Is it fair to advocate that everyone, regardless of income, should be spending more for organic/local food? Everyone suffers the public health and environmental consequences equally, so low-income families stand to benefit from eating better food, too.

And the thing is, if you have time to cook at home and plan your meals carefully (I do recognize that cooking at home regularly is difficult if not impossible for some) it is entirely possible to eat quality food on a tight budget - see Rebecca Blood's amazing experiment as proof.

Also, more and more communities are starting up programs like the one I am working on - we will be accepting food stamps as payment for CSA shares and will be fundraising as much money as possible to support subsidized shares for families that are truly in need.

What brought this all to my mind today, though, was a post on Mark Bittman's blog, Bitten, discussing a recent London Times article in which the British chef Delia Smith argued that chefs should stick to food and stay out of politics. Smith recently published a cookbook aimed at lower income cooks with recipes full of things like frozen mashed potatoes and canned mincemeat. Bittman comments that he fails to see why using the worst possible ingredients is necessary (are fresh potatoes so much more expensive than frozen ones? If anything, they are probably cheaper because they are unprocessed) and wonders why other cheap, whole foods like dried beans didn't figure into her recipes more frequently.

My favorite part of the entry, however, is a comment left by a reader that beautifully skewers Smith's apolitical stance. This could apply to a variety of disciplines beyond cooking and is highly worth a read.

Friday, August 03, 2007

oil & water

"In Praise of Tap Water," a recent editorial in the NY Times, just reminded me that I've been meaning to write a post about tap v. bottled water for some time now. In a nutshell: you should stop buying bottled water. Or at least avoid it as much as humanly possible. Why?

- It takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to make all those plastic bottles (and that's for the U.S. alone).

- When the fossil fuels burned during shipping are taken into consideration, consuming a one-liter bottle of water means consuming one liter of oil. (stats at Treehugger)

- Only 23% of those bottles are recycled, meaning that billions of these things are turning up in landfills and slowly degrading into toxic plastic dust that contaminates our soil and waterways.

- IT'S A WASTE OF YOUR MONEY!!!! Tap water is safe, clean, and does not cost $1.50 per glass. If you don't like the way yours tastes, a simple filter will fix that.

Instead, why not get into the habit of filling up a bottle from your tap at home before you leave for the day? You can follow No Impact Man's example and reuse a glass bottle or pick up a Nalgene if you want to be trendy.

If you need a visual to help convince you to ditch the bottled water habit, check this out. The photo was created by a blogger at Acterra and quite literally shows you how much oil it took to ship each bottle of water from its source to the author in San Francisco. Uh, yuck. (Originally found here.)

Friday, June 29, 2007

summer fling

I am so madly in love.... with my CSA. Seriously. I check the pretty new website all the time just to say hello. All I can think about at work is the stash of vegetables in my crisper drawer. I pine for my thursday pick-up all week long and fantasize about the late summer shares of FRESH corn, ripe plums, and tomatoes. Oh, god, the tomatoes. It's early yet, but I think I may have found the One.

I am so, so happy that I joined. There is nothing greater to me than being handed several pounds of organic vegetables grown less than 100 miles away. "HERE," says Farmer Ted. "You hardly ever buy radishes, turnips, or swiss chard from the Food Coop, but by god, you're going to learn to love all of them. And here's some live purple basil and dill that you can plant in old coffee cups and enjoy for years. It's all yours, girl." Fantastic.

Last night I feasted on local cherries and my new favorite, an impossibly simple radish salad. Tonight: a fritata of swiss chard, plum tomatoes (not from the CSA just yet), shallots (ditto), and parmesan cheese. Tomorrow: a stir fry of bok choy, tempeh, and garlic scapes tossed with sesame oil and soy sauce.

Want to come for dinner?

Monday, June 18, 2007

rose-colored dinner

I am such a pushover for foods that are naturally colored in unexpected ways. I always need to get the multi-colored carrots the Coop stocks on occasion. Variegated lemons are irresistible to me. And I find that half the appeal of the Coop's heirloom tomato selection is the amazing variety of colors I can toss into my lunchtime salad. So of course I had to try a package of rosy-red Bhutanese rice.

This rice is only grown in Bhutan, a tiny country in the Himalayas bordered by India and China. Farmers use sustainable, self-sufficient practices out of necessity, as it is difficult to import chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or farm machinery in this mountainous, land-locked nation. Even if this were not the case, red rice grows well without fertilizers and tolerates most common pests, so it is largely unnecessary for farmers to use chemicals on their rice crops.

Red rice is lightly milled, so it retains much of the fiber-rich hull but cooks as quickly as white rice. According to the distributor's packaging, it is "irrigated with 1,000 year old glacier water rich in trace minerals," a fact that leads some to claim that Bhutanese rice is even more nutritious than brown rice because the plants are able to absorb these 1,000 year old minerals as they grow. I was unable to find specific information about the nutritional content of red rice, but comparable whole grains like brown rice are high in many minerals, amino acids, B vitamins, protein, and both soluble and insoluble fiber.*

I was so excited to try this rice that I decided to make two dishes with it: Ema Datshi, a traditional Bhutanese chili and cheese stew, and a Red Rice Risotto served with a strawberry-plum compote and ginger ice cream.

Everything was outrageously delicious. The stew was simple but well-composed and tasty, even on a hot day. Real Bhutanese Ema Datshi is made with cubes of chewy yak's milk cheese, an ingredient that is unavailable in the U.S., so we substituted feta cheese instead. The stew is also supposed to be unbearably spicy, but being rather delicate-tongued ourselves, we chose to de-seed our jalapenos before adding them to the stew.

And the risotto... oh, the risotto. The ginger, vanilla, tangy fruit, and warm, nutty, creamy rice were perfect compliments and truly sang together in this dessert. If you try any of the recipes featured in this series, make it this one!

Ema Datshi


1/2 lb jalapeno chilies, each sliced into four strips
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 1/2 cup of water
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 tomatoes, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb Danish feta cheese, cubed
6 sprigs cilantro

Combine chilies, onion, water, and oil in a pot. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and simmer for 3 more minutes. Add the cheese, mix and simmer for 3 more minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the cilantro, then cover and let stand for a few more minutes before serving over cooked Bhutanese red rice.

Serves 6

Adapted from Margarita's International Recipes

Red Rice Risotto


4 cups cooked Bhutanese Red Rice
2 cups half & half
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped out with a spoon
6 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
4 tablespoons butter
strawberry-plum compote
2 pints ginger ice cream (or vanilla if you would prefer)

Strawberry-Plum Compote

2 pints strawberries, halved
5 - 6 plums, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water

Red Rice Risotto:
Combine the cream, milk, sugar, vanilla seeds, and ginger in a large saucepan over low heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Slowly stir in the rice and return to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Warm the compote in a saucepan and reserve. When the mixture is creamy, not thick, add the butter to the rice, and stir to incorporate. Place the rice into bowls, add a spoonful or two of the compote, and top with a scoop of ice cream.

Strawberry-Plum Compote:
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and place over low heat, bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, check the sweetness adding more sugar if necessary. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Serves 8

Adapted from

Bhutanese Rice Elsewhere on the web:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Fun with Root Vegetables

It’s not that I’ve never tried any of the more exotic offerings of the Food Coop’s produce aisle. I snatch up cherimoyas and gai lan whenever they’re available, and have sampled crazy things like black sapotes and monster fruits many times. But somehow I failed to pick up a daikon once in my four years of coop membership—until now.

Daikon is a radish with Chinese origins and is an important part of many Asian cuisines. Outside of the Coop you’ve probably seen it grated and served as a garnish, mixed in tempura sauce, or pickled. It is also often made into kimchi along with cabbage, or as a substitute for it.

Serious daikon aficionados (they exist, surely?) might visit Tano, Japan, the world capital of daikon pickling. Following each harvest, hundreds of daikon drying racks (each one as long as 150 feet) spring up across the town to prepare the radishes for processing. Daikon are typically dried in the open air for 10 days, as the withered roots tend to produce a sweeter pickle. Sadly, Tano does not seem to host its own daikon festival, but such festivals do occur in Tokyo and Honolulu.

If you purchase daikon from the Coop, you should not accept the check-out worker’s polite request to remove the green leafy top, as I did, even if this makes it easier to get the radishes on the scale. Not only are these leaves apparently edible and delicious, but they are also chock full of vitamin C, calcium and iron.* The root itself contains 34% of your RDA supply of vitamin C, enzymes thought to aid in digestion, and only 18 calories per three ounce serving.*

Because this was my first daikon cooking experience, I chose a simple recipe that would allow its flavor to shine through—a salad with watercress, bell pepper, and a white wine vinaigrette.

This cruciferous voyage of discovery led me to an important realization: I do not like watercress. At all. I can appreciate bitter greens, but the powerful astringency of those tender little leaves proved to be way too much for me. If you’re not a watercress fan either, you could make this salad with arugula or baby spinach instead and it would taste just dandy.

Watercress, Bell Pepper, and Daikon Radish Salad


2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/8 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium daikon radish (about 1/4 lb), peeled and sliced into julienne strips
1 bunch watercress, rinsed, coarse stems removed
1 red bell pepper, sliced into julienne strips

Whisk together the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Drizzle in the oil, whisking, until the dressing has emulsified. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well.

Note: Daikon has a natural bitterness. If you wish to reduce its pungency, you can soak the sliced daikon in cold water for up to 30 minutes before tossing it into the salad.

Serves 4

Adapted from

Daikon elsewhere on the web:

Cuddly anthropomorphic daikon
Great photo of daikon drying racks in Tano
Daikon pickle recipe

Saturday, November 25, 2006

giving thanks for tasty veggies

Hope you all had a lovely holiday and that you're recovering from your food comas (tofu-based, of course) nicely. The new recipe I tried out this year was Martha's recipe for yuppie-style green bean caserole. Look how pretty!

The only part I wasn't so thrilled about was the making your own french onion rings for the top part. A nice idea in theory, but the result didn't seem worth the effort. Or maybe I was just annoyed because dinner was on the table and I was still frying stupid onion rings in the kitchen.

But! The casserole itself was great and an interesting departure from my other favorite souped-up (because it's canned-soup-free) version of the classic green bean casserole, which I'll post about later when I get around to making it.

Later this week you can look forward to a post in which I'll jump on the food blog bandwagon and try my hand at knead-free bread. My potluck guests will be so lucky.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Eh, Fuhgeddaboudit

Hillarious article over at the NY Times about the new "Brooklyn Style Pizza" from Dominoes, the ad campaign for which irks me to no end. The gall it takes to claim that a pizza company as craptastic as Dominoes could imitate the heavenly deliciousness of Totonno's or Grimaldi's is amazing to me.

My favorite quote is courtesy our Borough Prez:

"It’s a multinational right-wing company, mass marketing the Brooklyn attitude with obsolete ethnic stereotypes, not to mention flimsy crusts," he said through a spokesman.

Mr. Markowitz has yet to taste the Domino’s pizza. But that didn’t stop him from offering an opinion: “To our sophisticated palates, Domino’s is about as Brooklyn as Sara Lee Cheesecake is Junior’s.”

I love the dig about the crust thrown in there. Crust is really key.

And one more disturbing revelation from the article-- if you still needed a reason to avoid Domino's, here it is:

The right-wing reference is to Domino’s founder, Thomas S. Monaghan, who sold the company in 1998. He has supported the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue and earlier this year announced his intention to build a town called Ave Maria in Florida based on strict Roman Catholic principles.

Eewwww. Very against our principles here at the Green Kitchen.