31 May 2007

Yuppie chow, yuppie chow grow

According to this, buying food labeled "organic" does not mean what it used to. The big US agra-businesses now own most organic brands, and they handle, package, transport, and market it in much the same way conventional food is produced, with the same effect on the environment.

In The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan makes the point that organic asparagus flown from South America on a jet is not the best thing for the planet, and kind of defeats the purpose of eating organic.

I'm sure there's plenty of locally grown organic food around, but I wouldn't look for it at your local Whole Foods.

29 May 2007

Latina Gets Food Network Show

Ingrid Hoffmann, born in Colombia and now living in Miami, has been cooking on Spanish TV for a couple of years. She now has her own English-language show on the Food Network: Simply Delicioso airs on Saturday mornings starting July 14.

Hoffmann's focus is on quick meals. She says "If it takes more than 29 minutes, I'm not interested," beating the much-hated Rachael Ray by a full minute.

Hoffmann is the first Latina to have her own Food Network show.

27 May 2007

Love Charcuterie, Hate Amazon

A couple of weeks ago, I ruined a 10-pound pork shoulder using an Italian sausage recipe I got on the Internet. Yes, there are many bad recipes out there, and this one was bad. I immediately ordered Charcuterie, the Art of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. It's a masterful work. I read the Italian sausage through a couple of time, and found out what I was doing wrong. Everything, from temperature of ingredients to mixing technique. I will try again in a week or so.

Ruhlman Inspired Me is a lovely parody story about the book.

I would have received the book earlier, but I ordered it from Amazon, and their shipping policy to Puerto Rico is nothing short of bizarre. Not only can you not specify  the shipper,  they won't even tell you who it is until after the shipment goes out. Puerto Rico is served by the USPS, as well as FedEx and UPS, but the address changes depending on the shipper. It's a PO Box for USPS, and a physical address for anyone else. Amazon also refuses to ship just about anything but books to Puerto Rico. There is no reason but laziness for this, since I buy kitchen gear from American companies all the time. I still use Amazon for books, because I have little alternative.

20 May 2007

Foodsaver 750

A friend of mine gave me this; she found it much to difficult to use, but as a techno-geek, I love it. I've wanted one for years, but my wife was always against it (she is not happy with many of my technological choices). Foodsaver no longer makes the 750, and that's a shame.

Still, it's great for freezing bananas, fresh bread crumbs, nuts, and anything not too liquid (tomato sauce does not work well). It sucks out all the air (the enemy of all food storage).

17 May 2007

What a Croc!

OK, this is not exactly about food, but since it features one of my heros, Mario Batali, it's close enough.

Mario is now endorsing a new line of Crocs™, the Bistro model, said to be designed for food service industry professionals. Mario, of course, has been wearing his signature-orange Crocs™ for years.

The original Crocs™ model is the Beach (I think this is what Mario has worn up until now) and I have three pair of these in the most fashionable colors:

These shoes are very comfortable on tile-over-concrete floors, which is nearly every floor in Puerto Rico. They are also ideal for harvesting bananas when the ground is muddy. Crocs™ are very popular here.

The new Bisto looks very much like the Beach, but it's $10 more per pair. I'll stick with the Beach.

16 May 2007

Have it Our Way

While Burger King is phasing out trans fats from its NYC and Philadelpha locations, and that's it, at least for now. The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest doesn't think that's enough. The CSPI is suing.

"Some of its meals contain three, four, or five times as much trans fat as is safe to consume in an entire day. I hope that this lawsuit will spur Burger King to quickly eliminate the trans fat and, in the meantime, to warn its customers that it's there."

This is a huge issue in Puerto Rico, where income is generally low, and fast food is considered by many to be a treat. With the availability of so much generally-healthy street food here, it's hard to imagine why anyone would buy this crap, but they do.

15 May 2007


Mark Bittman's review of the Portuguese restaurant Santo appeared in the NYT a couple of days ago.

I really like Mark Bittman, and his book, How to Cook Everything is one of my favorites.

He mentions bacalao several times as a Portuguese dish, but I believe, in fact, he means bacalhau. Bacalao is the Spanish version of the dish, and baccalà the Italian. As an Italian American, I grew up eating baccalà, and as a Puerto Rican resident, I'm very familiar with bacalao (most often served as bacalaitos, cod fritters).

14 May 2007

Guanábana Tea

Whenever I have stomach problems, which fortunately is not often, my mother-in-law make me Guanábana (soursop in English) tea, made by infusing the leaves in hot water. We have several Guanábana trees in our yard, so we have a ready supply of leaves all year long. Tastes awful. Works great.

13 May 2007


Manicotti is made the same way as Stuffed Shells, except the pasta is made as follows:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 eggs
Mix the batter, and let stand for twenty minutes. Ladle about 1/2 cup into a lightly buttered saute pan. Cook until the noodle firms up, flip, and cook for a few more seconds. You do not want the noodles to brown.

Use the cheese filling and assembly steps from the Stuffed Shells recipe.

Stuffed Shells

It's Mother's day, and that means stuffed shells.

I make both meat and cheese stuffed shells. The following amounts are for 3 pounds of shells, half meat and half cheese, and need about 8 cups of tomato sauce.

For the cheese:
  • 3 pounds ricotta
  • 2 pounds mozzarella
  • 1 pound Parmigiano Regiano
  • 3 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate.

For the meat:
  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 pound mozzarella
Cook the meat, onion, and garlic until the meat is brown and the onion is soft. Remove excess fat. Cool, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix.

For both:

  • 8 ounces Parmigiano Regiano to finish

    Assemble the shells:
    1. Cook the shells, half at a time, according to the package directions, then spread them out on a cookie sheet or aluminum foil so they don't stick together.
    2. Cover the bottom of a baking dish (I use disposable aluminum pans) with tomato sauce.
    3. Stuff the shells with a spoon, and add in one layer to the pan.
    4. Cover with more tomato sauce.
    5. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Regiano
    6. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until bubbly.
  • 07 May 2007

    NASCAR Cooks! Mario Helps!

    NASCAR is creating a brand extension for its food-related licensees and sponsors -- NASCAR Cooks! -- that will bring them together as part of a uniform selling platform.

    Dyer [NASCAR's vice president of licensing], anticipates that noted chef Mario Batali, who wrote "Mario Tailgates NASCAR Style," will figure into NASCAR Cooks!.

    First Mario publishes a book about tailgating. Then he endorses a line of Progresso frozen pasta products. What's next for America's best-know Italian chef?

    And do I really need cooking advice from NASCAR?