For The Love Of Food

by | May 27, 2011

For The Love of Food

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

This week I found a surprisingly in depth and thoughtful piece on genetically modified foods, an even more impressive food commitment by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and a few good signs that the politics of food labels are headed in the right direction—truth.

Also, for you geeks my thesis work is finally published. Here’s the deets.

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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Holiday Gift Ideas For Healthy Foodies

by | Dec 6, 2010

Photo by Jenah Crump Photography

Foodies are fun to shop for, it’s so easy to make us happy.

Offer me an evening of tasty food? I’m psyched. Get me something to cook you delicious food? I’m just as psyched. It’s win win.

Shopping for a foodie who wants to be healthy is just as easy. We’re not about deprivation, so we’re mostly talking about education materials and gym accessories. And of course, more cooking supplies.

This is my list of top healthy foodie gift ideas for 2010. Some are new, and some are old standbys that never go out of style. I tried to cover a variety of price points, I hope you enjoy.

Holiday Gift Ideas For Healthy Foodies

1. Foodzie tasting box, 3-month subscription ($55)

In my opinion, this is the coolest foodie gift idea I’ve seen in years. If you aren’t familiar with Foodzie, it’s an online marketplace for the best artisan food producers. The only problem with Foodzie is that they have so much delicious sounding foods all the time that making up your mind can sometimes be impossible. This solves the problem by sending you a few samples each month, giving you a little taste of everything. If you find something you love, you know where to find more. If an item doesn’t float your boat, no big loss it was only a sample anyway. It’s the best of both worlds.

US shipments only.

2. iPod Nano ($139)

To be honest I was never an Apple fan until they released the iPod Mini. Not that I had anything against the regular iPod, but the only situation I could imagine wanting all my music on the go was at the gym. Regular iPods were still too big, but the Mini changed everything. I’ve had almost every generation Mini and Nano since the original. They’ve all been good but none compare to the current Nano, which is by far the best compact MP3 player I’ve ever used. It’s small, useful and affordable. The perfect gift.

3. The 4-Hour Body, by Tim Ferriss book ($14.51)

I’ve been fortunate enough to get an early copy of Tim Ferriss’ latest masterpiece, The 4-Hour Body. His first book, The 4-Hour Work Week changed my life by helping me build a food and health writing career while simultaneously completing a PhD in neuroscience. His second book explores the art of bodyhacking. It’s both fascinating and informative. And ladies, I highly recommend getting a copy of this for your man ;) ;)

4. Fagor pressure cooker, ($69.99)

My pressure cooker was my first piece of cooking equipment that really changed what I thought possible. I never had much of an opinion about beans so always bought canned ones if I needed them. But when I discovered the huge difference in taste and texture I got from dried (especially heirloom) beans, I knew I was on to something. The only problem was that beans take forever to cook… unless you have a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker can seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually really simple and was a huge help in building my current healthstyle. This same pressure cooker was $120 last year, so this is a great deal!

5. Crock-Pot Touch Screen slow cooker, ($77.68)

I actually don’t have much experience with slow cookers, but that’s all about to change. After a lot of researching to figure out the best brand, we just settled on getting this Crock-Pot brand slow cooker. I’m really excited about the idea of throwing a meal together in the morning and having it ready when I get home from work. A perfect gift for the start of winter, and another item where the price point used to be $120.

6. Kindle e-reader, ($139)

This isn’t technically a foodie gift, but continuing education (books) is a key component in health and longevity. After getting the latest Kindle, it has been really hard for me to justify going back to reading paper books. It’s even hard to justify the iPad. The newest Kindle is beautiful, lightweight and the only device I’ve seen comprable to a paperback book. The iPad is cool for lots of reasons (Angry Birds anyone?), but it’s much heavier and more distracting if reading is truly your goal. Also, when you wear polarizing sunglasses you cannot see the iPad screen in the vertical orientation. That’s annoying because I love reading outside. And iPads start at $500.

If you want 3G (recommended), the price point is still only $189 for the Kindle. I used mine to download some sci-fi while on the beach in Hawaii. The future is now!

7. In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart, by Alice Waters cookbook ($18.48)

What I like about this cookbook is it doesn’t just teach you recipes, it teaches you to riff in the kitchen. By giving you the basic techniques to do simple things, you learn to develop that sense for what needs to be done next to make a dish great. You’ll finally be able to understand your grandmother’s recipes that call for a pinch of this and a dash of that.

8. Riedel wine glasses, ($37.45)

Fancy wine glasses used to be something you give at a wedding, but how often do those ugly crystal goblets really come out of the cupboard? All the cool kids are using Riedel glasses now, and if you’re anything like me you want to start your collection as soon as possible. This is a great starter kit for the blossoming foodie off at college. Riedel makes glasses for every grape varietal, but this set gives you glasses to cover your basic reds and whites.

9. Breville automatic tea maker, ($249.95)

One of my missions in 2010 was to cut back on caffeine, and tea was my solution. Being the foodie that I am bagged tea wasn’t an exciting enough option to get me to switch from my beloved Blue Bottle Coffee, but loose tea was really intimidating given the need to vary water temperature, steep time etc. This automatic tea maker was the answer to my problems, and I can now make any tea with just two button presses. Oh yeah, and it works with an awesome magnet system that feels like it’s right out of a sci-fi novel. Highly recommended!

10. Bradley electric smoker ($304.95)

I’ll admit, smoking isn’t the healthiest way to prepare food. But it sure is tasty! And I figure that if I’m going to be eating bacon, making it myself is certainly the way to go. I was trying to decide between recommending this and the sous vide. And though sous vide makes some of the finest food in the world, it does require a bit of expertise (and costs a lot more). This smoker on the other hand is simple and straightforward, and we haven’t messed up a single dish yet.

11. Labradoodle Toaster

The gift that keeps on giving. This puppy has sealed the deal on 2010 being the best year of my life.

Toaster

(but you shouldn’t eat him)

Have you received a fantastic foodie gift? Share below!

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How To Overcome Your Fear of Cooking

by | Jun 2, 2010
Moroccan Stew

Moroccan Stew

The biggest obstacle in trying to eat healthy is often the cooking process itself.

Our “convenience generation” grew up expecting our meals to come wrapped in plastic, and for the most part our parents were willing accomplices in the move away from real food.

When we are hungry we go to a restaurant or stay home and zap something in the microwave. Fast food is no longer a special occasion adventure to share with the family (I got to go to McDonald’s for my 10th birthday), it is now a part of our daily lives. Occasionally we might bake a pre-made lasagna or boil some water and mix it with powdered cheese, but we all know that’s not cooking. We’ve never really learned to cook.

Worsening the situation is the fact that we are left to fend for ourselves much longer than previous generations. Marriage and family are being postponed later and later for the sake of education and career, so there is no real incentive for us to create real, structured meals. We go off to college, eat horribly (I’m pretty sure I ate out every single meal for 4 years straight), then move on to our jobs or graduate studies with the same bad habits. If we’re lucky over the years we learn to spend a little more money and get slightly better fare, but in the end it is usually the same low-quality food.

This is a recipe for disaster.

As I explain in my free guide How to get started eating healthy, food prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients is the easiest, tastiest and most effective way to improve your health and body weight. You can’t expect to have good health if you continue eating processed convenience foods, no matter how much you try to skew your intake of macronutrients to reflect the latest diet trend.

I write frequently about the benefits of shopping at farmers markets, but for most people I talk to cooking is the ultimate barrier to healthy eating. Kitchens scare us (they certainly used to scare me), and farmers markets can be intimidating if you do not know your way around.

(Read: Top 10 Mistakes Made By Farmers Market Noobz)

There are many approaches to cooking, but certainly a degree of creativity and sense of adventure are required if you are going to experiment with seasonal vegetables. If you see something interesting at the farmers market but don’t believe you can cook it, you probably aren’t going to buy it. But you should.

Being comfortable in the kitchen is the key to making this whole process work, but you do not have to be a superchef with fancy knives to prepare a wonderful meal. You just need a few basic tools, a few basic techniques and some good, fresh ingredients.

If I could I would use these next paragraphs to outline the basics of cooking, but since I’m really not a chef I probably wouldn’t do a very good job of it.

Luckily, Mark Bittman (@Bittman) and Alice Waters (@chezpanisse) have already done this for us. Bittman offers his definitive guide to basic cooking, How To Cook Everything and its arguably more useful companion, How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Waters argues that the best recipes are the ones we learn by heart, and explains how it’s done in her books In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart and The Art Of Simple Food.

These renowned chefs do an incredible job of breaking the cooking process down into its elements, starting with the equipment you need (not much) and very basic cooking techniques. They explain how to create simple recipes, but offers dozens of variations on each one, essentially teaching how to make yourself into an innovative, creative cook.

In other words, these books can teach you how to cook from the farmers market. Eureka!

There are an infinite number of ways to learn to cook, but you can’t go wrong by learning from the best.

For an electronic option, Drew Kime of How To Cook Like Your Grandmother put together a fantastic step-by-step guide of basic cooking techniques in layman’s language. I’ve read through it and it is absolutely awesome. Definitely check it out if cookbooks intimidate you. This one won’t.

What are your favorite guides for simple cooking?

Article was originally published June 17, 2009. It has since been updated.

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Farmers Market Update: Clouds

by | Jan 24, 2009


You know what’s great about gloomy weather? I get the farmers market all to myself! No crowds to shove through, no one grabbing lemons out of my pics before I can snap them.

Cold weather days when the tourists decide to stay indoors are the best days to take pictures and make friends at the market.

Oddly enough I ran into Alice Waters today at the Ferry Building–you know, Pol Pot herself. I didn’t take her picture or interrupt her activities; she seemed the be enjoying the anonymity as much as I was so I left her to herself. She was hanging out at Boulettes Larder, probably planning something amazing as always.

Today was also a “field trip” day at the market. I brought along my friends Adam and Emily to show them around, one of whom had never been to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market before. Though it is common for your first market trip to be a life changing experience, not having the huge crowds made our explorations that much more rewarding.

Another thing that made today particularly special is that for the first time in a while, Dirty Girl Produce had a big basket of baby savoy cabbages on display, the very same cabbages that inspired the birth of this blog. How quaint my blog was back then, just like these cute little cabbages. Awwwww.

I bought something called a Bears lime today at Happy Quail Farms. They couldn’t tell me much about what makes these limes special besides them having no seeds. My faithful internet wasn’t much help either. I’m beginning to think maybe this is a hybrid plant created at UC Berkeley….

(Oh wait, I think it is just a Persian lime with a misspelled name. These are probably Bearss limes, even though they are yellow. That just means they are riper.)

I purchased the rest of my citrus at Hamada Farms, because all the stuff I bought last week was out of this world.

Finally, I am really excited to report that Tierra Vegetables has an outstanding assortment of dried chilies and today I found a mixture to make harissa (I found a molé mix too). Harissa is one of my favorite things about Moroccan food, but it is not particularly easy to make from scratch nor is it readily available in grocery stores. I have been craving a Moroccan tagine from my favorite soup book, but have not made it because I was missing harissa. Now I have it!

As you can tell, it was an exciting day for me. I hope your day is just as full of discoveries!

Purchases:

  • Baby savoy cabbages (Dirty Girl Produce)
  • Dino kale (Iacopi Farms)
  • Romanesco (Eatwell Farms)
  • Daikon (Chue’s Farm)
  • Kiwi (Four Sisters Farm)
  • Melo gold (Hamada Farms)
  • Chandler pomelo (Hamada Farms)
  • Blood oranges (Hamada Farms)
  • Navel oranges (Hamada Farms)
  • Satsuma mandarins (Hamada Farms)
  • Clementines (Hamada Farms)
  • Bearss lime (Happy Quail Farms)
  • Harissa spice mix (Tierra Vegetables)
  • Soul Food eggs (Prather Ranch)
  • Pain Epi loaf (Acme Bread Co.)

Anything good at your market today?

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Anthony Bourdain Takes A Shot At Alice Waters

by | Jan 23, 2009

On Monday, January 19, the dcist printed an interview with celebrity chef and star of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain. When asked if he had any advice about food, Bourdain took the opportunity to point out that Alice Waters “annoys the living s***” out of him.

Really? Thanks, Tony, great advice.

Here is the excerpt (here is the link):

Any advice about food?

I’ll tell you. Alice Waters annoys the living s*** out of me. We’re all in the middle of a recession, like we’re all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There’s something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic. I mean I’m not crazy about our obsession with corn or ethanol and all that, but I’m a little uncomfortable with legislating good eating habits. I’m suspicious of orthodoxy, the kind of orthodoxy when it comes to what you put in your mouth. I’m a little reluctant to admit that maybe Americans are too stupid to figure out that the food we’re eating is killing us. But I don’t know if it’s time to send out special squads to close all the McDonald’s. My libertarian side is at odds with my revulsion at what we as a country have done to ourselves physically with what we’ve chosen to eat and our fast food culture. I’m really divided on that issue. It’d be great if he [Obama] served better food at the White House than what I suspect the Bushies were serving. It’s gotta be better than Nixon. He liked starting up a roaring fire, turning up the air conditioning, and eating a bowl of cottage cheese with ketchup. Anything above that is a good thing. He’s from Chicago, so he knows what good food is.

I’m not sure where to start.

Clearly Bourdain understands neither the goals nor the motives of Waters’ political activities. No one is trying to legislate good eating habits. Well, maybe someone is, but it isn’t Alice.

Waters is one of a growing number of activists that recognize the government already has too big a hand in governing what we eat, specifically through controlling what is available. Currently the federal government (i.e. tax payers) subsidize the mass production of food and products known to cause heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.

Decentralizing our food supply means putting our food production back into the hands of people who grow real food rather than high-fructose corn syrup and trans fat. Why this is “unrealistic” is beyond me.

His economic argument–as if Bourdain knows anything about being poor–is equally infuriating:

“We’re all in the middle of a recession, like we’re all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market.”

It is a common misconception that eating fresh, seasonal food is prohibitively expensive. This is simply not true. Sure the produce at Whole Foods is pricey (you pay for what you get), but their dry goods are inexpensive and of high quality.

You know what’s expensive? Brasserie Les Halles.

Farmers markets are becoming more prevalent every year and local, seasonal produce is some of the highest value food you can buy. Cooking at home is far more cost effective (in price, long-term health and often time) than eating out.

Once again, thanks for the advice Tony.

Does Alice Waters annoy the s*** out of you too?

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