Sunday, October 02, 2011

Random Updates and Notes

Burdock ‘eviction’:  After just over 3 months since I moved some burdock seedlings into their towers, it is time to start evicting them.  In recent days, the leaves on one of them have faded away, so that was the one I pulled first.  It wasn’t easy, as the root turned out to be 17 inches long.  This particular root will be simmered in sake tonight and served as a side dish (recipe from Chez Panisse alumna Victoria Wise in The Vegetarian Table:  Japan).  I don’t have plans yet for the other six roots beyond a recipe in Elizabeth Andoh’s Kansha that pairs the root with shirataki noodles.

 
Insects as FoodOne of my favorite posts in the Mental Masala archive is an exploration of why Americans and Europeans refuse to eat insects even though most of the rest of the world does. Although not favored for dining, it seems that insect eating (entomophagy) is an attractive subject for editors, journalists, and bloggers, so articles are fairly frequent.  For example, an article in the August 15th New Yorker by Dana Goodyear was entertaining and informative, if a bit superficial – nothing, for example, about the logistics of raising insects as food or how they would be processed.  Other recent insect news has been more event driven.  SF Weekly reported that La Oaxaqueña Bakery & Restaurant in San Francisco that was serving chapulines (grasshoppers) received a demand from the health department demanding that they cease offering the food until they can find a domestic source or FDA-approved vendor in Mexico.  Inside Scoop SF had an announcement about a chance to legally eat insects in the Bay Area, an upcoming dinner called “Edible Insects & Other Rare Delicacies: An Insect and Mezcal Pairing Dinner Presented by Monica Martinez of Don Bugito.”  It takes place October 27 at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito.  

Chez Panisse 40th Birthday:   Over the last few weeks in the Bay Area, especially San Francisco and the East Bay, it was all Chez Panisse, all the time. You couldn't swing a bunch of heirloom cardoons on the internet or at the newspaper stand without hitting something related to the 40th birthday. There were remembrances, commentaries about the restaurant's impacts, new book releases, and much more. Someone with a lot of patience at the Berkeleyside blog posted a roundup of some of the coverage with an extensive list of links during the main buzz of activity. Forum on KQED radio had a program commemorating the event that began with an interview with Alice Waters (severely marred by a low-quality phone connection), and then went into a discussion with Charlie Hallowell (ex-Chez Panisse, now chef and owner of Pizzaiolo and Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland), Russell Moore (ex-Chez Panisse, now chef and owner of Camino in Oakland) and Michael Bauer (executive food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The San Francisco Chronicle).  During the conversation, Hallowell raised a great point that bears sharing: although Alice Waters didn't set up multiple outposts of Chez Panisse around the country and world like many star chefs do, she has been indirectly franchising her vision.  Many people have worked at Chez Panisse and then left to start other restaurants (this Family Tree from Eater SF gives a sense of the impact, as does an article by Tracey Taylor that was published in the Financial Times) or to write books (including Deborah Madison, Victoria Wise and David Lebovitz), thereby spreading the gospel of Chez Panisse far better than outposts in New York and Las Vegas could.
 
Okara sighting: Back in December, I wrote about okara, a fibrous by-product of the soy milk-making process.  I mentioned that Hodo Soy Beanery gives or sells their okara to local livestock operations, but didn’t give any specifics.  A recent newsletter from CUESA closes that loop with a note that a local operation called Magruder Ranch is using okara:  "The pigs can’t survive on forage alone, and Magruder Ranch has found several sources for local feed. About half of their diet is okara, a byproduct of tofu making, which the ranch picks up from Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland on the return trip from the slaughterhouse." Incidentally, Magruder Ranch raised the pig that provided the skin used to make edible shoes for one of the Chez Panisse celebrations (for the story behind the edible shoes, take a look at the same photo in my Flickr account).



Water works:  A few years ago, after taking a trip to Singapore and Indonesia, I wrote a post about why I would not be buying any carbon offsets. Instead, I pledged to make donations to action groups like 350.org and a group that works on clean water issues (Indonesia has relatively poor clean water infrastructure). Since that post, I have made donations to the UNICEF Tap Project and charity: water, two organizations that work around the world to help people get access to clean and safe water. If there are other groups that are doing great work on clean water, please let me know in the comments.

Soy history: I recently finished Sam Fromartz's Organic, Inc., an engaging book that should be read by anyone who wants to understand where the organic foods industry came from.  Fromartz digs into many important subjects like organic strawberry production (touched on by me at the Ethicurean), how salad mix went from Alice Waters' dream to take over the nation's salad bowls, and much more.  In the middle of the book, he gives a thorough history of the natural foods industry's relationship with soy, including the rise of White Wave soy products, how Silk soy milk made it big, and much more.

A ‘killer app recipe’:  That’s what David Lebovitz calls his recipe for candied peanuts, and I agree. They are delicious, addictive, fairly easy to make, and travel well, which makes them a great office or urban wandering snack.  I have been using Trader Joe’s roasted and unsalted peanuts, and adapting the recipe by heating the water/sugar alone until it starts to lightly color, then adding the peanuts.  This, in theory, will keep the already roasted peanuts from getting too dark. I have been adding a tablespoon of honey near the end of the process, then cooking for a few minutes longer to let any water evaporate.