For The Love Of Food

by | Apr 29, 2011

For The Love of Food

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

Why you probably don’t need to worry about your love of seafood causing prostate cancer, how health conscious people are tricked by clever packaging, and why I still won’t eat anything from China.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links at Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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8 Inspiring Places To Find Recipe Ideas

by | Apr 27, 2011
Foodie Inspiration

Foodie Inspiration

Healthy eating and cooking for yourself go hand in hand. If you have the resources it is possible to eat healthy while dining out, but restaurants that don’t use processed foods can be difficult to find and tend to be pricey. They also limit you to a handful of different dishes that can become monotonous if you rely on them for most of your meals.

But keeping your healthstyle interesting can be a challenge even if you cook for yourself. Although shopping in season inevitably rotates you through new ingredients over the course of the year, we can still slip into the pattern of making the same dishes over and over again. And while repetition can be easy and comforting, it can also be problematic.

Monotony and boredom are your enemies if you are trying to make healthy eating a way of life; junk food will be extra tempting simply because it’s more interesting than the same boring meal you’ve had 10 times before.

To keep yourself from getting in a cooking rut you must actively seek inspiration for new dishes and flavor combinations. This is true for both kitchen newbies and seasoned chefs, and it gets easier with practice. The more you learn to outsource your creativity and experiment, the better you get at finding meal ideas in your daily life.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. These are some places I often find new ideas, but you are only limited by your imagination.

8 Places To Cook Up Recipe Inspiration

1. Farmers markets

My number one source of inspiration is always the beautiful produce and other goodies I find each week at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. Not only do I often find interesting new ingredients to experiment with, I also find familiar foods that look so fresh and delicious I can’t help but buy them and turn them into something wonderful.

If you are thinking about buying something but do not know how to cook it, ask the vendor for ideas or common preparations. I recommend you get anything that looks new and interesting, since most vegetables are relatively cheap and Google puts a universe of recipes at your fingertips.

2. Restaurants

Most major cities (San Francisco especially) are home to amazingly talented and innovative chefs of all different styles and flavors. Steal their ideas! If you have a memorable meal while out on the town, take mental notes on the flavors and textures that capture its essence. You don’t have to be able to recreate it exactly at home, but you can definitely borrow the concept, simplify it and adapt it to your own skills and needs.

For example, I was recently struck by a dish at a spectacular restaurant that was composed of beets with dill–a flavor combination I had never tried. The dish was technically complicated and I wouldn’t bother attempting to make it the same way, but later that week I did roast some beets and change up my usual recipe to include dill instead of mint (sans chèvre). Turned out fantastic.

3. Food blogs

The number of outstanding food blogs today on the interwebs is staggering, and I love to skim through them looking for wonderful recipe ideas. I can’t even begin to list all my favorite sites here, but I try to highlight at least one mouthwatering recipe each week in For The Love of Food posts.

4. Travel

Nothing inspires enthusiasm for new flavors and recipes like traveling to a different locale. Eating traditional cuisines–the way they are supposed to be made–is one of the most intimate and meaningful ways to engage with a culture. Learn a few of the cuisine’s basic ingredients and cooking techniques and you can bring a tiny bit of your experience home with you. Think of this process as a procedural photograph you can use to remember your trip.

Again, you don’t have to recreate dishes exactly the same way in your own kitchen. Sometimes just a single special ingredient can evoke an entire cultural experience.

5. Friends

We all have that friend who is an amazing cook (love you guys!). Not only does this person sometimes hook you up with delicious treats, chances are your foodie friend also loves to talk about food and cooking. This is a goldmine for new ideas and sometimes even a little help and guidance. Maintain a healthy, food-centric relationship with this person and watch the inspiration roll in.

(Hint: If you don’t have a friend like this come hang out with me on Twitter @summertomato)

6. Books

Cookbooks are wonderful but, to be honest, I rarely use them. The reason is that I’m usually too busy to bother lugging the giant things off the shelf and thumbing through them for something specific. I usually either wing it in the kitchen or search online for what I need.

Literature, however, can be a huge inspiration for me to try out new things in the kitchen. It wasn’t until I read The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie that I really started exploring Indian cooking. The Last Chinese Chef helped me learn to appreciate the depth of Chinese cuisine. And I cannot eat enough Spanish tapas when I’m reading Hemingway.

7. Podcasts and radio

I love Mondays because all my favorite food podcasts are waiting on my iPhone for me to listen to on my commute. Both entertaining and educational, foodie podcasts never fail to inspire me to try new foods and cooking methods. They also make me a better cook by describing tips and techniques I am unfamiliar with.

8. TV

Although I do not watch TV regularly, there was a time when I would catch a periodic episode of Top Chef or other foodie show. What I enjoyed most about these programs was the times they would explain the decision making process that goes into creating a dish. But even if culinary improvisation isn’t in your cards, you can at least borrow their ideas (just like at a restaurant) and make similar meals for yourself at home. The recipes used are often posted online.

You can also get meal ideas from TV dramas and sitcoms. Remember Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi? That’s where I first learned about mulligatawny.

Recipe inspiration can come from anywhere, but if you aren’t looking for it a stroke of genius may pass you by.

Where do you get your inspiration in the kitchen?StumbleUpon.com

Originally published February 24, 2010.

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Farmers Market Update: Cherries, Fava Beans & Lamb Bacon

by | Apr 24, 2011
Artichokes

Artichokes

Huge thanks to my wonderful boyfriend today for stepping up and covering this week’s farmers market while I was home sick. But boy am I sad I missed it.

First Cherries

First Cherries

This week two of my favorite spring treats made their appearance: cherries and fava beans.

Fava Beans

Fava Beans

And though I’ve always known spring is the best time for lamb, I never dreamed of discovering lamb bacon. LAMB BACON! Holy crap is this stuff good.

Lamb Bacon

Lamb Bacon

Since I wasn’t there I don’t have much more to report. Check out the rest of Kevin’s photos below.

Leeks

Leeks

Asian Pears

Asian Pears

Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges

Daikon

Daikon

Strawberries

Strawberries

Green Garlic

Green Garlic

Sugar Cane

Sugar Cane

Ruby Chard

Ruby Chard

Today’s purchases:

Is your spring market open yet?

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Office Hours: Sugar Toxicity + The Latest on Saturated Fat & Heart Disease [video]

by | Apr 22, 2011

For those of you who haven’t been following along with the Tomato Slice newsletter, I recently launched a segment called Office Hours where I make myself available to take any questions subscribers may have.

This week I held a special Office Hours to discuss 2 articles from last week’s For The Love Of Food post:

  1. Is Sugar Toxic? by Gary Taubes
  2. The latest scientific consensus on saturated fat and heart disease

Since I had so many questions on these papers, I recorded the session and posted it above.

If you’d like to know more about the sugar article, I also recommend Dr. Lustig’s YouTube video mentioned in the article, as well as his interview this week on KQED which I’ve included below.

Feel free to leave your thoughts or ask questions in the comments.

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For The Love Of Food

by | Apr 22, 2011

For The Love of Food

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

Disheartening news this week from the Nutrition Diva about the accuracy of nutrition labels; and from the meat industry regarding their nasty anti-biotic resistant bacteria problem. Also, The New York Times has a fantastic series on exercise that is the perfect inspiration for your spring fitness plan.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links at Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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Dairy: Friend or Foe? – Episode #5 – Summer Tomato Live [video]

by | Apr 18, 2011

Thanks to those of you who participated in this episode on the role of dairy in health and weight loss. Show notes are below.

Please note that the date for the probiotics episode (#6) has changed to Monday, April 25 @ 6:30p PST (previously Tuesday, April 26).

April 11, 2011 | Does milk really protect against osteoporosis? Will too much calcium give you prostate cancer? Can you reduce acne if you stop eating dairy? What’s the deal with raw milk?

The answers may surprise you.

Tune in tonight at 6:30pm PST to join our live discussion about the pros and cons of dairy.

Live participation is only available to subscribers of the newsletter Tomato Slice. You can sign up at any time, even during the show, and the password for participation will be emailed to you immediately.

Click here to sign up and get the password

Read this for more information on the show and newsletter

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

Show notes:

There is a huge amount of politics surrounding this science, because of the powerful influence of dairy industries around the world. This makes data difficult to interpret. The following review and its rebuttal regarding the role of milk in type 1 diabetes is a perfect example of what I mean:

Dairy & type 1 diabetes

Dairy and osteoporosis

Dairy and acne

Dairy/calcium and heart disease

Dairy/calcium and prostate cancer

Dairy/calcium and colon cancer

Dairy & breast cancer

Dairy & weight loss (very tough to find studies not funded by dairy industry)

  • Moderate weight loss from dairy (but rarely from intervention studies w/o caloric restriction)
  • Possible mechanisms include:
    • Ca++
    • protein
    • conjugated lineoleic acid (CLA)
    • medium-chain fatty acids
  • My interpretation: dairy not likely to have big impact on body weight

Cheese protects against cancer and heart disease?

Extras

  • Processed ice cream contains beaver anal gland?
  • Wikipedia
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    How Healthy Is Deli Meat?

    by | Apr 18, 2011

    Photo by Daryl Marquardt

    People trying to cut calories and refined carbohydrates out of their diet often turn to deli meats as a high protein, low fat alternative. But is this really a good idea?

    While refined carbohydrates increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease, so do processed meats including sausage, bacon and deli meats. It is unlikely to be the fat (or even the saturated fat) in these products that do the damage, since processed meats are consistently shown to be more dangerous than saturated fat alone.

    In fact, what the food manufacturers replace the fat with often ends up being much more risky.

    What’s in them?

    Take a quick look at the ingredients of a Louis Rich turkey variety pack:

    Smoked White Turkey: White Turkey, Water, Salt, Contains less than 2% of Modified Corn Starch, Sodium Lactate, Sugar, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Erythorbate (Made From Sugar), Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Nitrite, Garlic Powder.

    Smoked Turkey Ham: Turkey Thigh Meat, Water, Contains less than 2% of Salt, Sodium Lactate, Sugar, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Erythorbate (Made From Sugar), Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Nitrite, Flavor.

    Turkey Bologna: Turkey Ingredients (Mechanically Separated Turkey, Turkey), Water, Modified Corn Starch, Contains less than 2% of Salt, Sodium Lactate, Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Flavor, Enzyme Modified Skim Milk, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Erythorbate (Made From Sugar), Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Nitrite, Extractives of Paprika.

    Turkey Cotto Salami: Turkey Ingredients (Turkey, Mechanically Separated Turkey), Water, Turkey Hearts, Contains less than 2% of Salt, Sodium Lactate, Sugar, Sodium Phosphates, Spice, Sodium Erythorbate (Made From Sugar), Garlic Powder, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Nitrite, Flavor.

    What exactly is “flavor”? I’ll let you ponder that one.

    These meats are pumped full of starch, sugar, salt, preservatives and other random ingredients. Given the quality of the meat they use (“mechanically separated turkey”?) it’s not hard to understand why. All that added “flavor” is needed to make these products taste like juicy meat again.

    The low fat versions are even worse, containing higher amounts sugar and salt to make up for the lack of natural fat flavor.

    Why is this bad?

    The extra starch and sugar are not good since they are, after all, the processed carbohydrates we want to avoid. However these are still a relatively small contribution to total calories. The bigger issues with processed meats are the added sodium and preservatives.

    Processed meats have been associated with increased risk of several cancers, particularly those of the digestive system. It has been suggested that the presence of nitrates and nitrates used in the preservation methods are a potential cause, however the data remains inconclusive. Confusing the matter further is that vegetables are the primary source of nitrates in the human diet and some have suggested that in this context they may be a beneficial nutrient.

    Heart disease has also been clearly associated with consumption of processed meat, though the reason for the connection is still unknown.

    Then there’s the issue of quality. There are a lot of questionable ingredients in highly-processed deli meats like these from Louis Rich. It is unclear if the health risks are the same whether the meats are cured and preserved with high-quality ingredients (charcuterie vs. standard deli meat) or when the meat is preserved without the use of nitrates and nitrites.

    What to do

    Though it is difficult to point to the exact reason processed meats are dangerous, there is enough evidence associating them with serious health problems to warrant limiting them in your diet. Most of the studies that found associations with processed meats and cancer considered 5 or more servings a week to be a high dose.

    To be on the safe side I recommend limiting your intake of processed meats to less than 4 servings per week.

    For alternative snack ideas check out Healthy Snacking 101.

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    Farmers Market Update: Spring Treasures

    by | Apr 17, 2011
    Purple Spring Onions

    Purple Spring Onions

    I’m not sure I’ve done enough yet this year to illustrate what a truly special season spring can be. In the springtime, everything is new.

    Breathtaking Tulips

    Breathtaking Tulips

    We get the first greens and fresh colors since the final harvest in autumn, but in the spring everything is sweeter and more delicate.

    Bloomsdale Spinach

    Bloomsdale Spinach

    We don’t just have garlic, we have the sweeter and more subtle green garlic. Carrots, while large and husky in the winter are small and tender in the spring. These baby carrots taste nothing like the fake, flavorless “baby carrots” that come in big bags at the supermarket. These carrots are special.

    Real Baby Carrots

    Real Baby Carrots

    Swiss and rainbow chard are better right now then they are at any other time of year. They’re so beautiful it’s hard to not bring extra home to put into a vase.

    Rainbow Chard

    Rainbow Chard

    Artichokes and asparagus are also peaking right now. I was so overwhelmed by the sweet, earthy smell of artichokes when I walked up to the farm stand that I forgot to actually take a photo of the beautiful vegetables (there are plenty from previous weeks if you want a peek).

    Though most people don’t think about eggs as a seasonal product, they are. Chickens don’t lay as many eggs when it’s cold. Plus, pastured grass is lush and filled with plump, tasty bugs once spring arrives. We got some pullet eggs this morning from Eatwell Farm. We had asked for the extra-large eggs, but apparently they sold out before the market even opened this morning. They’re that good.

    Pasture Raised Eggs

    Pasture Raised Eggs

    For farmers market noobies, one of the most impressive things you can introduce them to is Meyer lemons. Lemons are sour and their peels are bitter, right? Not Meyers. While they aren’t exactly sweet, their acid is not harsh. And their peels are so thin and tender you can eat them raw. Meyer lemons are divine.

    Perfect Meyer Lemons

    Perfect Meyer Lemons

    But one of the best aspects of spring is the hints of summer that sneak in from week to week. Now we have strawberries, and they’re actually getting good.

    Endless Strawberries

    Endless Strawberries

    We also have some early tomatoes and ripe, creamy avocados, two of my absolute favorite summer ingredients.

    Haas Avocados

    Haas Avocados

    As a last throwback to winter I plan to make a soup with one of these celery roots later this week.

    Celery Root

    Celery Root

    Today’s purchases:

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    For The Love Of Food

    by | Apr 15, 2011

    For The Love of Food

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

    This is probably the best week of the year so far for food and health writing. Taubes’ provocative piece on sugar and its possible role in cancer is a must read. Also check out the latest consensus on saturated fat, the power of exercise, and the lovely ingredient found in processed ice creams.

    Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links at Twitter (@summertomato) and the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

    Links of the week

    What inspired you this week?

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    Farmers Market Update: Peas and Carrots

    by | Apr 10, 2011
    Beautiful Carrots

    Beautiful Carrots

    If you ever wondered why Forrest Gump thought peas and carrots went so well together, it must have been because he loves springtime.

    Sugar Snap Peas

    Sugar Snap Peas

    The reason we think most foods go together, in fact, is because they tend to be in season around the same time and traditional recipes put them together.

    Cute Asparagus

    Cute Asparagus

    But it turns out lot of things go well with carrots. Their sweetness and crunch is a wonderful contrast to many of my favorite spring treats, like spinach, asparagus and collards.

    Collards, Potatoes & Asparagus

    Collards, Potatoes & Asparagus

    As I mentioned last week, chard is fantastic right now as well. These red and white Swiss chard bunches were so bright I actually had to turn down the saturation in Photoshop, which most photogs know is almost never done on food photos. The pink was just blinding.

    Beautiful Chard

    Beautiful Chard

    It’s also a great time to get beets, fennel, lettuces, artichokes, herbs and other vegetables.

    Red Beets

    Red Beets

    Hearts of Romaine

    Hearts of Romaine

    Spring Artichokes

    Spring Artichokes

    Not always associated with spring, but a seasonal treat nonetheless are fresh walnuts and mushrooms.

    Walnuts In Shell

    Walnuts In Shell

    Trumpet Mushrooms

    Trumpet Mushrooms

    I’m still waiting for the spring fruits to appear. Though a few strawberries have popped up here and there, they haven’t looked good enough to buy yet. So while I’m waiting, we’re still eating up the delicious oranges, mandarins, pomelo and tangelos while we can.

    Golden Nuggets

    Golden Nuggets

    Finally, if you’re into lilacs (the best smelling flowers ever), this is the most lovely season I’ve seen in years.

    Lilacs

    Lilacs

    Today’s purchases:

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