For The Love of Food

by | Oct 30, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Lots of great food and health science this week in my top 10, along with the death of the evil Smart Choices food labeling campaign (woohoo!). Also be sure to check out the wonderful Anti-Fast Food article from Zen Habits. And what week would be complete without a lame celebrity gaffe endorsed by the always misguided Diets In Review? Oh right, any week.

Happy reading :)

I’m still collecting votes for the People’s HealthBlogger Award by Wellsphere and would greatly appreciate your support. Wellsphere is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in healthy living. To vote for me you have to create an account with them, but you can delete it when you’re done (I have yet to get any spam from them). I’m really terrible at asking people for things, but hope you can find a minute to show your support. Much thanks to those who have already voted.


I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

For The Love of Food

You read anything awesome this week?

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Farmers Market Update: Grand Lake Oakland

by | Oct 25, 2009
Tomatoes

Tomatoes

I’m delighted to introduce you to Stephanie Stiavetti who agreed to step in and cover the Grand Lake farmers market in Oakland while I was away this week.

Stephanie Stiavetti is a Bay Area freelance food and nutrition writer. Besides writing for magazines and radio, she also blogs about living a healthy gourmet (and gluten-free!) lifestyle at Wasabimon.com. Her top priority in life is eating well in every sense of the word and making sure people know that eating healthy can be a delicious endeavor.

You can also follow her on Twitter under the name @sstiavetti.

Thanks so much Stephanie!

Farmers Market Update: Grand Lake Oakland

Hello everyone!

This is Stephanie from Wasabimon, and I’m excited to be guest posting today on Summer Tomato. Darya’s asked me to take care of the weekly Farmers Market Update while she’s in Vegas, and since I live in the East Bay, today you’ll be getting a tour of Oakland’s Grand Lake Farmers Market.

For those not in the know, Oakland has a thriving farmers market community. With over ten markets throughout the week, East Bay residents have a lot of opportunities to buy organic, locally grown produce. Here’s just a sampling of what you can find at the Grand Lake market, which happens every Saturday from 9am – 2pm year round.

I love the colors of the market this time of year. So many bright colors as summer comes to a close! First I picked up a few of my obligatory (though no less lovely) squash and peppers from Capay Farms:

Peppers

Peppers

Squash

Squash

Right across the way was Rodriguez Farms, who have some of the best potatoes and strawberries around – and who doesn’t love the fact that we can get local strawberries this time of year? Yay California!

Strawberries

Strawberries

Potatoes

Potatoes

Next up were the gorgeous radishes and carrots at Ledesma Family Farms. There is always so much color in this booth and I need to wear sunglasses when I go inside:

Radishes

Radishes

Carrots

Carrots

After wandering around a little bit (and indulging in some kettle corn, my favorite treat), I hit the jackpot at Toscano and Sons. They have the sweetest cherry tomatoes ever! They make such a perfect addition to salads, and I can never resist them.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Toscano also had baby shallots and young leeks, which are just about my favorite things ever. I’m such an allium nut – I don’t cook with them all the time, but I love how there are so many different levels of flavor within the onion family:

Leeks

Leeks

Baby Shallots

Baby Shallots

Happy Boy Farms was full of lovely winter and summer squash, and as usual their herb table was full of the freshest, most fragrant greenery. Their heirloom tomatoes were off-the-charts colorful, though I had to resist the urge to buy any since I already have some at home. Happy Boy also has my favorite salad mix, with edible flowers mixed in with the rest of the greens. I mean, how could you resist this beautiful display?

Salad Greens

Salad Greens

I also discovered something new at the farmers market this week. I’ve seen jujubes before but hadn’t ever stopped to inspect further. These little Chinese dates are really good and I highly recommend you grab a handful if you ever see them!

Jujubees

Jujubees

Then how could I not stop and smell the roses at Western Sun Floral?

Roses

Roses

And on the way out the door, I stopped by my favorite stand, Marshall’s Farm Honey. Since I avoid refined sweeteners, honey is a mainstay in my kitchen:

Honey

Honey

I had a fabulous time at the Grand Lake Farmers Market today, and I hope you enjoyed my little photo tour. Thanks, Darya, for letting me share!

<3
~Steph

What did you find at your farmers market this week?

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For The Love of Food

by | Oct 23, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

The LA Times has a nice review this week about the benefits (or lack of) of different kinds of milk that is worth reviewing. I’m also a bit surprised to see that there is some real science backing the claim that garlic wards of colds (the vampire claim is still pending). You should also check out Dr. Steve Parker’s self-experiment on the ketogenic Mediterranean diet.

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been nominated for a People’s HealthBlogger Award by Wellsphere! Wellsphere is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in healthy living. To vote for me I think you have to create an account with them, but you can delete it when you’re done (and I have yet to get any spam). I’d really appreciate your support. The guy in 1st right now only has like 50 something votes. We can beat that, right?


I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

For The Love of Food

  • Poring over facts about milk: cow’s, goat’s, soy, almond, rice and hemp <<Very informative article about the pros and cons of various milk products. I get asked about milk a lot, and my usual answer is that the type you choose is mostly about preference. But I would still recommend limiting all milks in general, since too much of any of these comes with associated health problems. Watch the sugar in the vegetarian milks. You should also be aware that calcium probably causes prostate cancer in men. (Los Angeles Times)
  • The Claim: Garlic Can Be Helpful in Warding Off a Cold <<Apparently there is some truth to this claim. I cook with garlic regularly, so maybe I should add this to my reasons that I never get sick. (New York Times)
  • 60 Delicious Detox Dishes <<Beautiful photos and wonderful recipes for post-football detox. You know who (me) is featured ;) (Macheesmo)
  • 10 Simple Freezer Tricks to Save You Time and Money <<Gotta love kitchen tips. Making good use of your freezer is a great way to save time and money. (Lifehacker)
  • A Few Cookies a Day to Keep the Pounds Away? <<B.S. of the week I’ve mentioned the cookie diet in passing before. Are these people serious? Unfortunately, they are. (New York Times)
  • Web Surf to Save Your Aging Brain <<When pressed I always say that my computer habit is probably the least healthy thing I do (I sit here a lot, in case you haven’t noticed). So it’s good to see there’s a chance it may at least be good for my brain. (HealthDay)
  • My Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet <<Dr. Steve Parker is doing an interesting experiment on himself over at the Diabetic Mediterranean Diet Blog. He put on a few pounds intentionally and is now trying to lose weight and improve his health by following a very low-carb ketogenic diet. His daily trials and tribulations are fascinating to me. He seems to be struggling quite a bit, including leg cramps, potential vitamin deficiencies and food cravings. Major props to Steve for doing this to himself for our benefit. As someone who has been through virtually every diet, I can feel his pain. For me cutting out processed carbs (not all carbs) is the perfect balance.
  • Lard Lesson: Why Fat Lubricates Your Appetite <<Some people say saturated fat isn’t bad for you, but I’m not convinced. This is not the first time it has been linked to insulin resistance. (Scientific American)
  • Salsa de Chile de Arbol Recipe <<Looking for something to do with all those extra chilies this season? Look no further than this delicious salsa recipe. (Over The Hill And On A Roll)
  • Nerdy food photos <<These are some of the most awesome nerdy food photos I’ve seen. Can’t decide what I like best, the mitosis cookies or the chromosome gummy worms. (Kevin Van Aelst)

What are you reading?

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Quick Fix: Summer Squash, Peppers & Zürsun Heirloom Beans Recipe

by | Oct 21, 2009
Squash, Peppers and Beans

Squash, Peppers and Beans

A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone from Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans and was immediately intrigued. I’m regularly approached with requests to review (aka endorse) products and my answer is almost always the same,

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

Companies that contact health bloggers like me are usually selling energy bars, supplements or some other kind of “functional food”–the exact same junk I’m always reminding you not to bother with. Not only do I think this stuff is useless, I actually consider it dangerous and contrary to your health goals.

If it has a health claim on it, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

But heirloom beans and lentils are not junk food, and I jumped at the opportunity to sample what Zürsun had to offer. A few days later I received a shipment of assorted beans and lentils and have been thoroughly enjoying them ever since.

Heirloom beans are special, and if you’ve never tried them I highly recommend you do. The flavor and texture of high-quality beans does not compare to the cans you get at the grocery store.

To prepare, I soak my beans overnight then cook them 10-12 minutes in the pressure cooker (this is the one I use) with a bouillon cube–preferably beef flavored, but any will do. A big batch of beans can last weeks if you freeze it in 2 or 3 portions.

What has been the most surprising to me is how fantastic I’ve felt since I’ve started eating legumes nearly everyday. Though beans are famous for causing digestive problems, I have not had even the slightest issue with dried heirloom beans. I’ve read that this is probably due to the overnight soak, but I haven’t seen the science to back this claim.

My energy levels have been especially high (even for me!) and the past few weeks have been some of the best times I’ve ever spent in the gym. Oddly, I also weigh less than I have in my adult life (I was so surprised I double checked the calibration on the scale at the gym).

I don’t know if I can attribute all this amazingness to the beans, but I can tell you they have made for some tasty and satisfying meals.

I’m happy :)

My favorite bean so far has been the fawn bean. Zürsun calls these “rice beans,” probably because they are long and slender. Fawn beans are very versatile and I used them in salads, stir fries and on their own.

For me the simplest way to eat beans is to toss them in a pan at the last minute when cooking my usual vegetables. This makes for a simple, delicious, one-pan meal perfect for a busy week night.

In this recipe I used some of the season’s last zephyr squash and some Basque frying peppers. It might have been better with cilantro, but I only had basil so that’s what I used. It turned out delicious.

Summer Squash, Peppers & Zürsun Heirloom Beans

Serves 1 main course or 2 sides. Total time ~15 minutes.

Ingredients:

Zursun Beans & Lentils

Zürsun Beans & Lentils

  • 1 cup cooked Zürsun fawn beans
  • 2 medium zephyr squash or zucchini, cut in half and into 1/2 in. slices
  • 1-2 Basque frying peppers or 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cippolini onion or shallot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Chopped basil or cilantro

Heat a pan on medium flame and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add onions and peppers and cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add squash, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the squash turns bright colored, has stopped sweating and is starting to gently brown on the edges, 4-5 minutes.

When the squash is nearly done, clear space in the center of the pan and add the garlic in a single layer. When it becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds), mix it in with the rest of the vegetables.

Add the beans to the pan and mix. Continue to cook until the beans are heated through. Do not allow the beans to sit long enough to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Toss in herbs and serve immediately.

This dish is great on its own or as an accompaniment to fish or light protein. You can also use also use this same basic recipe to cook any standard vegetables with beans or lentils. I made it one day with beet greens and it was awesome.

Do you ever cook beans together with vegetables?

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Farmers Market Update: SummWinter

by | Oct 18, 2009
Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce

If I were only going to talk about one thing today it would have to be the peppers. What a season we are having! There are so many varieties I’m having trouble deciding what to buy each week.

Saturday I learned that ancho chilies–which I have only had dried–are actually just mature poblano peppers. Poblanos are the big dark green peppers (left in the photo below) that come stuffed with cheese and breaded in egg batter when you order chile relleno. (A good chile relleno might be my favorite Mexican food ever, but only from here. Half my family is Mexican, so I’m a little picky.)

This is the first time I’ve seen red Japanese Shishito peppers as well. They are usually green.

Red Japanese Shishito Peppers

Red Japanese Shishito Peppers

Ancho Chilies

Ancho Chilies

Anyway, I didn’t know you could ever find fresh anchos. For some reason I thought ancho defined some specific preparation of chili like chipotle, which is a smoked jalepeno. But it seems they are a type of pepper unto themselves, but also a version of a pepper I was familiar with. Confusing, I know.

Since poblanos are often spicy I expected the anchos to be even more so (peppers get hotter with age), but they were actually really sweet with only a hint of spice. I had them in eggs. It was amazing.

I also found a new variety of eggplant today, the como eggplant. These eggplants are small and dark, almost black, and very firm. This is because they have very little water and thus do not require the pre-salt that most eggplants need. They are supposed to be very sweet, creamy and not at all bitter. I couldn’t help but buy a few from Allstar Organics.

…Not sure what to make of this other eggplant I found….

Nixon Eggplant or Tricky Dick?

Nixon Eggplant or Tricky Dick?

Como Eggplants

Como Eggplants

But despite the prevalence of all this beautiful summer produce, the signs of imminent winter are not subtle.

I saw the first early citrus this week, including Meyer lemons (not quite ripe) and sweet limes. If you’ve never had a sweet lime, imagine if you tasted a lime that wasn’t sour at all. Then imagine it tasting a little bit like fake lime flavor. It’s weird. You probably wouldn’t want to eat it like you would any other sweet citrus fruit, but it is fabulous in cocktails. They are certainly worth playing around with.

First Sweet Limes

First Sweet Limes

First Meyer Lemons

First Meyer Lemons

But let’s not jump too fast from summer to winter. Autumn is providing us with spectacular heirloom apples, pears, pomegranates and grapes. And today I found quince!

Quince is a very old fruit that is like a mix between an apple and a pear, except you can’t eat it raw. But bake it in the oven or into some dessert and quince takes on a sublime flavor and creamy consistency almost like jelly. I’m not much of a pastry chef, but I like to cut a quince in half and bake it for dessert now and then.

Quince

Quince

Swaar Dutch Apples

Swaar Dutch Apples

I’m also delighted to announce that the first chocolate persimmons of the year have appeared! They are at Hamada Farms, so go get some while you can. I didn’t buy any today because there was a huge black spider on them (not pictured…she was hiding) and I’m a wimp, but I totally would have. Totally.

Spinach

Spinach

First Chocolate Persimmons

First Chocolate Persimmons

Also notable is that Green Gulch Farm called it quits for the season today, they will return next spring. I bought some spinach to remember them by.

Despite the rain, the dry-farmed early girl tomatoes from Dirty Girl Produce were…wait for it…even better than usual this week. I realize this makes no sense, but I swear.

I was happy to find that I could still get Soul Food eggs from Prather Ranch. I wasn’t sure they would be available after the devastating fire a few weeks ago. Happy to see they are still truckin’ along :)

And last but not least, I couldn’t say no to these beets from Capay Organics. Beets are always a great deal because you get 2 dishes out of a bunch: the roots and the greens.

The broccoli is looking pretty darn good these days too.

Organic Broccoli

Organic Broccoli

Beautiful Beets

Beautiful Beets

Today’s Purchases:

What are you eating?

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For The Love of Food

by | Oct 16, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I had to make some tough cuts again this week, but I really wanted to share some new studies vindicating the benefits of dietary fat. I also love Yoni Freedhoff’s exposé of the crooked dairy industry trying to pretend their products don’t kill you. Added bonus: I included 2 recipes this week–couldn’t choose.

If you’re a food blogger trying to grow your brand on Twitter, I collaborated on a post with Danny Jauregui at Food Bloggers Unite! Reinforce Your Brand and Solidify Your Identity With Twitter

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

For The Love of Food

  • “Good” dietary fats trim body fat in diabetic women <<It is so strange to me how much nutrition science used to demonize fat since all the data indicates the opposite is true. Fat is awesome, eat more of it. (Reuters Health)
  • Diet-Heart Hypothesis: Another Nail in the Coffin <<More evidence supporting the health benefits of (most) fats, in case you didn’t believe me the first time. (Advanced Mediterranean Diet)
  • Milk prevents colon cancer? <<Maybe, but it also CAUSES prostate cancer and other scary diseases. Blogger Yoni Freedhoff has been on a tirade against the Canadian dairy industry lately and I love it. (Weighty Matters)
  • Sprouted-grain breads: The facts <<B.S. of the week I can’t think of anything more pointless then discussing nutritional differences between sprouted bread, whole grain bread and “regular” bread. Do you know how much bread you’d have to eat for these differences to matter? Way more than is healthy. So who cares? This is nutritionism at its worst. (Los Angeles Times)
  • A Response To C. Kimball <<The Amateur Gourmet penned an eloquent response to Cook’s Illustrated editor Christopher Kimball for calling out food bloggers for the demise of Gourment Magazine. It’s short and worth reading.
  • 15 Ways to Save Time in the Kitchen <<Great tips to make cooking less of a chore from Macheesmo.
  • How Sustainable Is Your Diet Approach? <<This is sustainable in the “can you keep it up” sense, not the “sustainable agriculture” we’d all like to see develop sense. I love JC’s approach to fitness and health. (JCDFitness)
  • Georgian Cilantro Sauce <<I heard about this recipe on The Splendid Table podcast I mentioned earlier this week. It’s from Georgia the country, not the state. It has dried apricots, walnuts, spices, tons of herbs and even more cilantro. If you make it for me I’ll be your best friend forever :)
  • Eat at your desk: Squash and Cauliflower Salad with Salsa Verde <<This seasonal recipe from Savour Fare looks really healthy and delicious.
  • Serious Eats Pumpkin Carving Contest <<I just wanted to show you a picture of pumpkin cannibalism. Unfortunately I can’t publish the photo here because it isn’t released under creative commons. But it sure is cool, huh? (Serious Eats).

What are you reading?

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Top 10 Food and Health Podcasts

by | Oct 14, 2009

podcastFor busy urbanites, audio resources are priceless. Here I’ve ranked the 10 Food and Health podcasts I can’t live without.

The amount of time I spend each day commuting, doing lab work, shopping, cooking, waiting for people and avoiding pointless conversations would be unbearably painful without my trusty headphones. Now instead of wasting all this time, I use it to learn about my favorite things: food and health.

Podcasts are wonderful audio resources, perfect for keeping up on foodie news and finding inspiration for new culinary adventures. (I’m also addicted to audiobooks from Audible.)

Great podcasts are defined by the personality of their host. Foodies are passionate people and the best hosts effortlessly broadcast their love of everything culinary through a medium that transmits neither taste nor smell. Amazing when you think about it.

These podcasts are truly inspiring and always leave me hungry for more.

ST_symbol_25x25 Tip! Set your iTunes settings to play back at 2x speed to cut your listening time in half. Videos only play at standard speed.

Top 10 Food and Health Podcasts

Times listed are at standard play speed

1. KCRW’s Good Food

(1 hour)

KCRW Santa Monica has an amazing weekly podcast exploring all things food. Host Evan Kleiman shares stories and food narratives from around the country, while Pulitzer Prize winning food critic Jonathan Gold explores the vibrant LA food scene. I especially like Laura Avery’s Market Report from the Santa Monica farmers market, a glimpse into what ingredients LA chefs are excited about through the seasons.

2. Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie

(30 minutes video)

Though we were all devastated by the news of Gourmets closing, it hit me extra hard when I thought we might be losing their brilliant podcast as well. Luckily, Diary of a Foodie is scheduled to stay. If you love to travel and explore international cooking you will be instantly hooked on this utterly brilliant glimpse into native cuisines around the globe. But be warned, this podcast is a video and can make short time of your player’s battery.

3. APM: The Splendid Table

(50 minutes)

Lynne Rossetto Kasper is an enchanting radio personality with a seemingly limitless knowledge and appreciation for food. Some of the most fascinating bits of information come from her answering callers’ questions about interesting dishes they’ve discovered or what to do with a special ingredient.

4. Nutrition Diva

(5-10 minutes)

I have yet to find a nutrition expert on the internet I trust more than Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva. This quick and informative podcast is a fun and convenient supplement to her spectacular Nutrition Data blog.

5. The Restaurant Guys

(40 minutes)

Smart and irreverent, Mark Pascal and Francis Schott, tackle food issues big and small. The New Jersey based radio team has been described as “Car Talk for food.”

6. Munchcast

(30-60 minutes)

Though far from healthy, this junk food based podcast with San Francisco radio personality Cammy Blackstone and geek foodie Leo Laporte is both hilarious and informative, and definitely worth working into your listening schedule. Haven’t you ever wondered who invented the Jello shot?

7. The Minimalist

(3-5 minutes video)

I love Mark Bittman (New York Times) for many reasons, not the least of which is his ability to bridge the gap between culinary decadence and mostly-healthy delicacies. These short videos are perfect mini cooking lessons for urbanites on the go.

8. NPR: Food Podcast

(5-40 minutes)

National Public Radio has a knack for putting together quality radio shows, and NPR Food is no exception. Food stories from around the nation are interesting, informative and inspiring.

9. Epicurious

(3 minutes video)

Guest chefs and mixologists share their quick lessons on how to cook, shop, mix drinks and live like a foodie.

10. NPR: Your Health

(15-30 minutes)

Not exclusively food-related, but filled with useful health news and information.

What food and health podcasts do you love?

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Farmers Market Update: Early Autumn

by | Oct 11, 2009
Mini Pumpkins

Mini Pumpkins

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the seasons change. Just last week there were figs everywhere, but I couldn’t find any today. Instead there were piles and piles of persimmons, a sharp contrast to the one sad looking crop from last week.

But you can’t say I didn’t warn you about this. Summer is ending and autumn is in full swing. How often do you get to see oranges sitting next to nectarines? Not very often, I can assure you.

Early Fuyu Persimmons

Early Fuyu Persimmons

Oranges and Nectarines

Oranges and Nectarines

The main attractions right now at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market are winter squash, peppers, pomegranates and grapes. You can also find nice rainbow chard, apples, pears, green beans, melons, eggplant and tomatoes. The first crop of walnuts and almonds have arrived, and the stinging nettles at Star Route looked pretty good (if you’re into that sorta thing).

Stinging Nettles

Stinging Nettles

Walnuts

Walnuts

I definitely learned a few new things while shopping today:

Apparently these Spitzenburg apples were Thomas Jefferson’s personal favorite. (say wha?)

Spitzenburg Apples

Spitzenburg Apples

Kabocha squash–my favorite as of last year–comes in both orange and green (I only knew about the green ones).

Orange & Green Kabocha Squash

Orange & Green Kabocha Squash

I also stumbled upon these funky looking jelly melons at Lucero Organic Farms. I had never seen these at the market before, so naturally I bought one. Also called “horned melon” and “blowfish fruit” I would have guessed these were native to Southeast Asia, but Wikipedia says they’re African. The sign up at Lucero claims they might be a good diet food too, whatever that means. If the one I got is any good I might get some more next week.

Jelly Melon

Jelly Melon

Following up from last week, I bought myself some of the sweet pepper chips from Happy Quail Farms, which were just too good to resist. And to spice things up I snagged two Scotch bonnet peppers from Tierra Vegetables. I think I’ll have to bring home a pair of nitrile gloves from the lab to handle these things, but hopefully I can turn them into something delicious.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Pepper Chips

Pepper Chips

And finally, I think I might have found my Halloween costume ;)

Today’s Purchases:

Fig Leaves

Fig Leaves

What are you eating?

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For The Love of Food

by | Oct 9, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I had a hard time narrowing down articles this week with the New York Times Magazine Food Issue so full of deliciousness. Meat and food safety seem to be on everyone’s mind, and that’s a good thing. Definitely read up if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Also, Michael Pollan’s rules to eat by is worth flipping through, and a new chapter of Good Calories, Bad Calories has been unveiled.

Summer Tomato reader and famous dead head, David Gans, sent me his CD this week titled The Ones That Look The Weirdest Taste The Best. Vegetables of course! Track 6 is about a trip to the farmers market near his home. You can also check out his photos of odd looking vegetables on Flickr. I love this CD and David kind of reminds me of my rockstar hippie dad, which  makes me smile. Thanks David!

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

For The Love of Food

What are you reading?

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Picky Eaters vs Food Snobs

by | Oct 6, 2009
By _Max-B

By _Max-B

Hopefully I sold you on why it’s better to be an adventurous eater than a picky eater, but that doesn’t mean you should eat everything that’s put in front of you.

In fact, you should always question what you eat and never accept food blindly. Learning how to choose good food is one of the most important skills you need to successfully navigate the nutritional minefield we live in.

But how do you learn to be judiciously discriminating without being annoyingly picky? And how do you avoid stepping over the boundary into food snob territory?

Ultimately you need to determine your personal values and define your own healthstyle. Here I’ve outlined a few guiding principles I use to make these decisions every day.

Food Origins

The first step is developing an appreciation for where your food comes from.

Whole foods vs Processed foods

The first great divide in the modern food world is between whole foods and processed foods. Whole foods are those that have not been substantially changed by industrial processes and still look fairly similar to how they are found in nature. Processed foods are those that have been broken down by commercial methods then reassembled into “edible food-like products,” to quote Michael Pollan from In Defense of Food.

For unknown reasons the act of processing foods strips them of their magical powers (pretty scientific, eh?). We’ve learned from dozens of clinical trials on nutrient supplements that removing molecules from the context of whole foods almost always prevents them from doing their job properly.

Thus it seems that natural foods–as far as our bodies are concerned–are equal to more than the sum of their parts, and it is unlikely we will understand all the science behind this for at least several decades.

Luckily we do not need to know the mechanisms of nutrition to make healthy food choices.

The single most consistent finding in the field of nutrition is that whole foods are better for you than processed foods.

Independent food vs Industrial food

The second great divide is between independent food producers and industrial farming and agriculture. A huge misconception among eaters is that all produce and farm products are created equal. But anyone who has shopped at a farmers market knows this is not true for produce, meat or any other farm product.

Not only does produce grown in (or animals raised on) healthy, fertile soil taste orders of magnitude better than anything grown in depleted industrial soil, but it will also have more nutrients, be better for the environment and create a more healthy food culture.

No matter how you slice it, farm fresh food is better.

I will even  make the case that the distinction between independent and industrial food is more important than the difference between organic and conventional. While I support organics in general (especially compared to conventional industrial ag), some of my favorite farms are not certified organic, yet their growing practices far exceed certification requirements.

I know these farmers personally, and their food speaks for itself.

There is a world of difference between rejecting food for what it is and rejecting food because of its quality. My personal opinion is that any whole food that isn’t grown industrially is probably worth trying and liking.

Culinary Talent

Also important in appreciating valuable food is recognizing culinary talent.

The prospect of experiencing an artist’s work is usually enough to get me to try a food, even if it is not the healthiest thing on earth.

As I explained above I rarely find reason to eat processed foods, and that means pretty much anything made with sugar or flour. Most of the time it just isn’t worth it.

But sometimes it is.

Sometimes pastry chefs, bakers and pizza makers can transform simple ingredients into such amazing creations that you’d be foolish to turn them down. I watch my portions when I eat these foods, but generally think life is too short to miss such opportunities.

But proceed with caution. The quest for superior culinary talent is a slippery slope to food snobbery. You don’t want to be that guy who turns down birthday cake unless it is make by Elizabeth Prueitt. Nobody likes that guy.

But of course, where you draw the line is up to you.

Finding Value

For me the value of food is defined by the quality of the ingredients, the talent of the chef and the nature of the occasion.

The purpose of eating should always be to make your life better in some way: may it bring you good health, sensual pleasure or stronger personal relationships.

I think it’s best when it does all of the above.

What kind of eater are you?

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