Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sushi potatoes with herring

I've modified this from Marcus Samuelsson's inventive Aquavit cookbook.  It's an easy and refreshing appetizer that pairs wonderfully with Aalborg's Jubilaeums Akvavit--a coriander and dill flavored akvavit.  Herring can be a sustainable fishery, and potatoes don't quickly spoil and thus waste is minimized.  Any extra potatoes taste great when mashed with these flavors.

2 lbs yellow (ideally Yukon gold) potatoes
5 tsp rice vinegar
4 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp wasabi powder
2 tsp kosher salt
herring, pickled in wine, rinsed before use 
greens from fresh dill or fresh fennel

Wash and cook the potatoes.  Cool and peel.  Mash the potatoes and mix in the rice vinegar, mustard, wasabi and salt.  Mix well.  Form the seasoned potatoes into little sushi sized balls.  Place a piece of herring over the potato ball and garnish with the greens from fresh dill or fennel.  

Serve with a sip of akvavit.  

Angostura bitters and carbonated water

I was tracking down some good aquavit the other day to pair with a potato-herring appetizer I'm making for New Years (see next entry) and found myself in the 'bitters' isle of a really good neighborhood wine/spirits shop.  I'd never purchased bitters before but have been reading a lot about them recently and figured, what the heck, let's try the classic Angostura bitters.

Bitters are aromatic botanicals in an alcohol base.  You only need to use a few dashes.  I'm just starting my exploration of cooking with them, but here's the absolutely most simple recipe you can imagine...just mix with carbonated water (hopefully made with your own machine rather than purchasing bottled water!), ice, and consider adding a squeeze of lime.  Very refreshing.  I've been drinking this all afternoon while cooking!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How we are motivated

Drop the 'e' in emotion and you've got motion.  Add a few letters and you've got motivated.  Any way you look at it, emotions and motivation are closely related. And they should be because they're all about motivating action. 

A few weeks ago I read Drew Westen's "The Political Brain" which argues that the way to people's votes (which in some sense is a way to get people to act) is through their emotions.  Faulting the Democratic Party's logic of fact-based reasoning he writes, in the lead up to the election that got President Obama elected, that elections are won by telling compelling stories that engage people's hearts, not their logical minds.

Transferred to thinking about how we can create a more sustainable future, we need to work even harder to create compelling, emotional images of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I still remember "The Day After"--a post-apocalyptic film about what happens after a nuclear exchange.  Presented on TV during the height of the Cold War, these horrible images seemed to motivate even more people to urge our politicians to shift us from the brink.  I think we need more films like this.  Realistic ones, not those where the Earth freezes over in hours, but ones that engage our senses and force us to think about choices.  Fear motivates us all.

We also need create positive emotions and positive images.  There ARE ways to engineer softer landings and we need to show folks that these ARE possible; if only we work.  But, if Westen is correct, data alone will not be the solution to our problems; vibrant imagery that captures our senses will.

Discussion Questions
What captures your senses?  What sorts of books, films, discussions do you think can help nudge us to a better future?

Mixed nuts

At a holiday party the other night I couldn't keep my hands off these delicious mixed nuts.  Our hostess, Jackie, generously shared her recipe.

2 cups pecans
2 cups walnuts
2 cups almonds
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Mix well together and spread across a baking sheet.  Heat at 350°F for about 30 minutes.  Stir so that they neither stick nor burn.  Consider adding more pepper and salt to taste.  Serve warm or cold.  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lessons from Seasonal Letters...

Ahh, tis the season for seasonal letters.  I really like reading how friends have been doing and I really like learning from what they share.  An old friend included a link to the Nature Conservancy's carbon calculator in her annual letter.  It's good, but I think it must be a bit on the optimistic side because the 'long' flights to meetings I made in the past year didn't completely break our family's carbon budget.  However, it does show you the impacts of your actions and compares them to 'world' and 'US' average carbon consumption.  Check it out and see how you can improve your carbon consumption in this next year!

caprese scallops

The other night we had an interesting app at a restaurant...caprese scallops.  

Given that diver scallops are a good seafood alternative, I'm always looking for new ways to eat them.  This wasn't 'magical' but it was good.  My deconstruction of the recipe was:

Slices of heirloom tomatoes, alternated with freshly pan seared scallops (my recipe is in a previous blog post), warm caramelized onions (I would consider adding caramelized fennel to the onions; recipe in the book), and covered with a drizzle of a balsamic reduction (wine and balsamic vinegar, cooked down to a thick syrup in a saucepan).

I'll play around with this in the future, but it's an idea worth sharing...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The bugs that ate Monsanto

Grist reports that superbugs and superweeds have evolved to combat superfoods...GMOs that would be expected from first (evolutionary) principles.

Read more in this interesting article by Tom Laskawy.

Vegetable oils and deforestation

I just read the following in 3 December New Scientist:

"Growing demand for vegetable oil is destroying tropical forests by driving the expansion of oilseed plantations.  If everyone in Europe and the US cut their daily consumption of the oil by 25 grams--equivilant to one large helping of fries--70 per cent less forest would be lost (Biological Conservation, DOI: 10.1016/j.biocons.2011.10.029)."


Just wait till we're growing more oil to feed our cars!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The news is not so good...

OK, I've been depressed recently.  The failure of Durban and a quite scary article I read in Grist the other week about the Brutal Logic of Climate Change has silenced me...or at least made me want to write recipes.  

I was talking with Charlie the other night, who gave me an appropriate reproach for the tuna recipe!  He jokingly suggested I come up with what I'll call an extinction tasting menu:  Chilean sea bass, swordfish, and tuna.  I might take him up on that...

But seriously, you read the Brutal Logic of Climate Change and not come away depressed.  I think it's in times like this that we need to build even stronger personal and community relations.  It's in times like this that we really need to sit down and roll up our sleeves.  It's in times like this that we really do need to have a dinner party. 

I don't say this trivially.  We all must talk about this brutal logic.  Our society has done nothing to stop the rise of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and there is essentially no foreseeable way to keep the increased global temperature to 2°C.  My, what a slight warmer world you think, but don't forget, the last ice age was *only* 2-3°C cooler!  And, we're going to be much hotter than 2°C.  Where?  We're not sure.  But uncontrollable physical processes are more likely to take off when we exceed say 4-6C.  

In this holiday season, talk about all those things you're not supposed about the societal changes we're going to have to make so that we can all prosper and live rewarding lives.  Share your fears (I have a bucket full of them) and share your hopes (which, David Orr reminds us is a verb that means to roll up your sleeves and get to work!).

Friday, December 9, 2011

And where are our duties?

Two weeks ago Daniel wrote about a costumer who sprayed pepper on the face of other people to be the first to get the products she wanted at a Black Friday sale. As he pointed out, it seems we are losing our civility.

My guess is that many people are giving too much value for their rights at a point in which the rights of others value nothing. “My”, “me”, or “I”, are the favorite words for many of us: “I have to be the first”, “the government needs to work for me”, “I can do what I want”, and so on. I don’t know how American society is structured, but here in Brazil I feel we are experiencing an epidemic of “my things first”. It is deeply sad to see even children behaving this way.

Frans de Waal wrote that if he could be God for a moment, he would give people the gift of empathy, the ability to see the lives of others from the same perspective we see our own. There cannot be cooperation without empathy. We need to understand that our interests are similar to those of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and even enemies.

We are used to having our lives according to the legal system, but certain moral decisions we must take in our daily lives are not regulated by law. So, we should realize that our responsibilities to other people (and to the environment, too) go far beyond law.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The crash of marine fisheries...

It's ironic that I developed a recipe for ahi/big eye tuna the other day.  Today I read about a University of British Colombia study that talks about how Norther hemispheric marine fisheries that have been actively managed have suffered a 90% decline in the past 60 years! I wonder what the ahi/big-eye recipe tastes like when cooked with tilapia?  Something I'll likely try in the future!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ahi with a panko wasabi crust served with coconut jasmine rice

Eating most populations of tuna isn't so sustainable.  Fisheries vary in their population status and harvest methods vary in their direct and indirect impacts (see, for instance NOAA's site).  According to NOAA and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Atlantic pole-caught ahi/big-eye is the fish to look for but most of the ahi/big-eye sold in the US comes from Pacific fisheries, which, if harvested incorrectly (sein nets) isn't sustainable.  Yet, you can't always believe what you read:  thus, an additional problem is knowing, with any certainty, whether or not the labeling is accurate (much is not, as I've written before).  Finally, tuna, particularly ahi/big-eye is high in mercury:  eat at your own risk. 

So, it was with some irony that Janice and I independently looked at some fresh ahi and thought we should get some, particularly since we've not cooked it in years and even try to not to eat it in sushi.  Thus, I wanted to make something new (for me). It turned out pretty well and is festive.  If you know you've got pole-caught, Atlantic ahi/big-eye, enjoy!  Otherwise, consider passing on it.  Either way, eat tuna modestly.

3/4 cup mayonaise
1 Tbs wasabi powder
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1.25 lbs ahi/big-eye 1" thick tuna steaks (cut into 3 pieces)
black sesame seeds

Mix the mayonaise and wasabi together well, drag the tuna steaks through it, and then pat them onto a plate filled with pakno to create a nice crust on all sides.  Put the well-breaded steaks into a baking dish (I used a metal baking pan with a silicon mat).  Bake at 350°F for 15-20 min (typically you cook about 15 min per inch).

Drizzling sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp wasabi

Mix together, heat in microwave for 30 sec and ensure that it's fully mixed.  Serve with tuna. The wasabi-mayo would also be a good sauce...consider putting some soy in that.

1 1/2 cup jasmine rice
1 small can (5.6 oz) coconut milk

Cook in a rice cooker with appropriate amount of water mixed with the full can of coconut milk.  Serve sprinkled with seaweed seasoning.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Kale, garlic, and Creole seasoning...

A friend brought over some home-grown kale the other week.  We didn't get to cook it that night, but for a pot luck a few days later, and inspired by a recent meal we had, I decided to make it with potatoes.  I cooked my normal pan fried potatoes with Zatarain's Creole seasoning and was considering mixing the kale with it at the end. However, I needed to make it separately. I tried to keep a similar flavor profile and discovered that the kale, alone, was delicious.  It was delicious served separately.

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
1 bunch kale, chopped
Zatarain's Creole seasoning (to taste)

Into a hot wok place the oil and garlic and cook for a minute or so.  Add the kale and toss until it starts to wilt.  Season liberally with the Zatarin's seasoning and serve wilted. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mussels with sun dried tomatoes and sake

Some of my best recipes are made from necessity (read:  we're out of food, what can we salvage from the freezer and fridge!).  Here's one we made tonight that turned out pretty well.  

1/2 stick butter (4 Tbs)
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (cut into thin slices)
2 Tbs capers (strained and rinsed)
1 lb of mussels (I used frozen, pre-shelled ones that I thawed in cool water)
1 bottle (300 ml) dry sake
1/2 cup chopped Parmigiano-Reggiano
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Saute the garlic in the butter over medium-high heat until the butter melts and begins to bubble.  Add the tomatoes, capers and mussels and mix; saute for a few minutes.  Add the sake, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook for about about 5-10 min.  Add the cheese and cook for 5 more min until it is well integrated and the entire mixture is a luscious orange.  Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over the sauce, mix and serve over spaghetti.

I find that the sake adds a delicate flavor different from the Chardonay that I usually cook mussels in.  Yum. Enjoy.  Mussels can be sustainably grown and by eating them, we're supporting efforts to control water pollution.