Jan 31, 2011

Recipe Chain Letter

I received a chain letter the other day. Nothing new about that, but the idea behind this letter was somewhat unusual: if I sent a recipe to the person on top of the list and then forwarded the original email to 20 other people, I would (theoretically) receive 20 recipes in return. And they would be from people all over the world.  I did get some nice recipes in return but few of the recipe-givers told me where they lived.

The recipes were supposed to be quick, easy little things you could whip up in no time. Some were, others weren't. Here are my favorites, which all  happen to be meatless (even tho' I'm not a vegetarian):

Note: This recipe from Kamala Allen is great. Just think of all the toppings you could put on rounds of polenta!

Polenta Snack or Hors d’Oeuvre

  •     Buy a polenta roll at any natural foods store. I like the Basil Polenta.
  •     Unwrap and cut roll into ¼” rounds.
  •     Place rounds on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.
  •     On top of each round place a little pesto or tomato sauce, feta cheese and a fresh basil leaf.
  •     Broil until golden brown.
  •     Remove from oven and let cool.

 This recipe is from Jim M.

Herbed Lentil Loaf

1 lb. dry lentils
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 TB each: salt; soy or Worcestershire sauce; celery seed; sage; thyme
½ tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic
2 medium onions minced
1 cup celery minced
2 cups dry oatmeal
2 TB safflower oil
*4 eggs lightly beaten (note from the Culinary Gadabout: I'm going to use egg substitute)
Tomato sauce

Wash lentils. Simmer about 20 minutes in water, bay leaf, salt, seasonings, and garlic. Add pre-cooked (sautéed until soft) celery and onion to lentil mixture. Simmer mixture 10 more minutes.

Heat oven to 350° and remove mixture from heat. Add oats and oil, and mix. Add eggs.

Lightly oil bottom and sides of loaf pan. Put some tomato paste on bottom of pan, and press in lentil mixture.

Bake 40 minutes. (another CG note: Use remaining tomato sauce, perhaps spicing it up, atop loaf slices).

The following recipe is from Jim Shubin in the San Francisco Bay Area, who has owned a sailboat for many years. Introducing his recipe, Jim says: "On a boat, oftentimes only one pot is used. . ."

Coconut Stir-Fry

Ingredients depend on how many are eating.

  • Sweet onion—chopped
  • Red bell pepper or yellow bell pepper—cut up
  • Brocholli—cut into small pieces
  • 5 cloves garlic—slivered
When about done:
  • Add 1 can coconut milk
  • Add 2 tsp Thai Yellow Curry
Cook til done. Eat.

And finally from Lisa V, who notes that "We like spice so we always double the garlic and red pepper."

Spicy Spinach 

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic minced
1/2 tsp red pepper
2 bags spinach stemmed

Heat oil in medium skillet. Stir in garlic and crushed pepper. Saute. Add spinach, tossing until wilted. Season with salt.

Visit the Culinary Gadabout Store

Jan 27, 2011

Valentine's Day + Love Locks = Napa Valley Wine Train

The always-innovative and always-fun Napa Valley Wine Train is offering something new and different for Valentine's Day 2011. It's officially opening a pedestrian bridge connecting the Wine Train Station with the boarding platform as a Love Lock Bridge. This means that couples can take a simple padlock decorated with their names, initials, or a special date and affix it to the bridge fence. Once the lock is locked, the key can then be discarded into the abyss (or in this case the swale below the bridge) or saved as a keepsake.

According to Wikipedia, love padlocks are “a custom by which sweethearts affix padlocks to a fence…to symbolize their love." Traditionally, bridge railings have been the most common place of affixiation (if such a word exists; I may have made it up). The custom probably originated in China, but is now known around the world.

 Expect elegant dining aboard the Wine Train

If you want to affix love locks with your honey, reserve seats on either the Vista Dome or Gourmet Express. The special Valentine Day trains run from February 11-14 and include chocolate, a glass of sparkling wine, and strolling musicians. The cost: $109 per person for the Gourmet Express Car and $139 for the Vista Dome Car. The Love Train Lunch on February 14 varies from $109 per to $154 per person.

More information:

Thanks to Napa Valley Wine Train for the images.

Jan 25, 2011

New Food Labeling System Debuts

U. S. food and beverage manufacturers have teamed up to develop and implement the "Nutrition Keys" Program, a voluntary labeling system. Spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, the Program places helpful nutrition info on the front of packages. Best of all, it's easy to read!

The Nutrition Keys Program was developed in response to a request from First Lady Michelle Obama in March of last year, asking the food industry to develop an easy, front-of-pack labeling system to help busy consumers, especially parents. “We share First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal of solving childhood obesity within a generation,” said Pamela G. Bailey, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.  “Today’s announcement would not have been possible without her leadership."

Nutrition Keys will change the look of most food and beverage products by placing important nutrition information (calories, saturated fat, sodium and total sugars content) on the front of packages. To appeal to busy consumers, the information will be presented in a fact-based, simple and easy-to-use format. The basic icons will inform consumers about how the key nutrients in each product fit into a balanced and healthy diet as part of the federal government’s daily dietary advice. On small food packages with not enough space for the basic icons, one icon may be used. representing calories in a serving of the food (for an example, look at the top photo).

You'll begin to see the Nutrition Keys Program on food/beverage products over the next several months.

The Program has quickly drawn criticism from nutrition experts and others, who point out that foodmakers are trying to preempt the packaging guidelines developed by the Food and Drug Administration. However, those detailed nutrition labels are mandatory, and will remain on packages. I'll doubtless continue studying those detailed labels when making decisions--but for people who never bothered to do so, the new icons may be a step in the right direction.

Jan 12, 2011

Seafood Watch on your Apple device—for free!

Do you know about Seafood Watch? Begun in the late 1990s by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, it’s a program designed to increase consumer awareness about sustainable seafood. Seafood Watch is probably best known for its free wallet-sized “pocket guides," which help consumers make wise seafood selections at the market or in a restaurant. Since 1999 more than 35 million pocket guides have been distributed.

The guides divide seafood into three categories based on the research of Monterey Bay Aquarium Scientists. Fish stock health and, when appropriate, fish farming practices are among the most important criteria used for the categories, which are: Green (Best Choices), Yellow (Good Alternatives), and (Red) Avoid.

I discovered these guides early on; I don’t remember exactly when or where. But I do recall studying that first guide with surprise—it offered the first clue I ever had that seafood is not a limitless resource.

The people at Seafood Watch have done a boffo job of keeping up with technology. When the Internet became viable, it wasn’t long before you could download copies of the guide, print them, and scissor along dotted lines for that neat wallet fit. At some point the guides diversified, going from one general guide to today’s eight versions: six regional guides (West Coast, Southwest, Hawaii, Central US, Southeast, Northeast) along with a National Guide and a Sushi Guide.

And since 2009 owners of iPhones and the iPod Touch have been able to download a free app Seafood Watch guide, so that an updated list can always be at hand. More than half a million have been downloaded thus far to iOs devices.

The Guides have just been updated with recent changes. For example, Atlantic haddock, pollock, summer flounder and some cod stocks have shown enough signs of recovery to be added to the list of Good Alternatives on the Northeast Guide.
    The Culinary Gadabout Recommends

    Fish Forever: The Definitive Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Preparing Healthy, Delicious and Environmentally Sustainable Seafood—Chosen "Cookbook of the Year" by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Author Paul Johnson supplies seafood to celebrated chefs such as Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, and Michael Mina, and in Fish Forever he shares his peerless seafood expertise. Written for people who love seafood but worry about the overfishing of certain species as well as mercury and other contaminants, Fish Forever pinpoints today's least-endangered, least-contaminated, best-tasting fish and shellfish species. Johnson provides in-depth guidance on 70 different fish along with 96 recipes that highlight the outstanding culinary qualities of each. A portion of his royalties go to Save Our Wild Salmon, an organization that works to restore wild salmon runs. Complete with over 60 beautiful color photographs, how-to tips, and fascinating sidebars. Hardcover, 480 pages; $22. Buy Fish Forever: The Definitive Guide to Understanding, Selecting, and Preparing Healthy, Delicious, and Environmentally Sustainable Seafood