Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 16, 2013

Awesome Poached Salmon

Yes, this poached salmon is that good. Yes, the sauce which goes with it is too. Yes, anyone can make this successfully. And given what you’re paying for a nice, thick slab of salmon, you may as well get all the bang for your buck you can.

This recipe is quick. The expensive ingredient is the salmon. The rest of it is classic, doable in less than twenty minutes (!), and so delicious. Buckle your seat-belts, ’cause it’s the law. The poached salmon is so simple you could do it on a train, in a box, with a fox….

Awesome Poached Salmon

For the court bouillon (trans: quick stock):

1 large onion, peeled and quartered

2 stalks of celery, scrubbed and broken into two or three pieces

2 carrots, scrubbed and broken into two or three pieces, and halved longwise (take the tops off if they look at all manky)

1 large, or 2 small, leeks, split, washed well and cut into thirds crosswise

2 bay leaves

1 handful of parsley, stems too

1 cup of fish, veggie or chicken stock

1 cup of dry white wine, can be sparkling or rosé

1 oz, 30 ml, 2 TBSP soy sauce

For the salmon:

1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs, 560 g to 675 g, thick salmon steak–make sure all the bones are out

For the sauce:

all the remaining court bouillon

1/2 – 3/4 lemon

the white part of the leek from above, after cooking

1 rounded TBSP, 20 ml, prepared mustard– I like Dijon, but use what you’ve got

3 oz, 90 ml, or so, extra virgin olive oil

pepper to taste

In a large stainless steel frying or sauté pan with a heavy bottom, put all the court bouillon ingredients. Bring them to a boil over medium high heat. Lay your salmon steak on the veggies. Slap a lid, a cookie sheet or a length of aluminum foil over the pan and turn the heat to medium low. Let the salmon cook about 12 minutes. If your steak is thinner, or you like it pink in the middle it could take less time. If your steak is very thick, or you have a thing about parasites, then you might cook it longer. When the salmon is done to your liking, pull it out and set it by to cool (or if you want it hot, throw it into an oven on your lowest setting)

Fish out all the veggies, save the leeks–the parts which were white and pale green, discard the rest. Crank the heat way up and reduce your court bouillon to 2/3 cup or 150 ml–approximately. While the court bouillon reduces, throw the leek you saved into the bowl of a food processor. Add the mustard and lemon juice and let ‘er rip until you’ve got a smooth product. Pour in the court bouillon reduction when it’s ready.

Slowly to start, drip the olive oil in drop by drop. Quickly increase to a thin trickle. Make the trickle a thread. Use up the oil, and check the seasoning. Does it need pepper? Another drop of lemon juice? A shot of hot sauce (’cause you are who you are)? Do it. And serve immediately with sauce on the side.

I like this with a baked potato (which has to start the second you think the word ‘dinner’) and steamed broccoli which will cook nicely well after you have the salmon going in the pan.

Posted by: A Part of the Solution | December 12, 2013

Cocoa Powder Chocolate Sauce

I don’t have baking chocolate in the house. I use it if I have it, so it just isn’t a pantry item. And this strategy keeps my consumption of chocolate goods to a relative minimum. I do keep cocoa powder in my pantry. It goes into mole, caponata and my frijoles negros. Plus, then there’s always a little ‘back-up’ chocolate should the occasion arise.

It arose this evening. I ran to the interweb and dialed up cocoa powder based chocolate sauce. The recipe I worked from had most, but not all the components I needed. It also made an unlikely near quart. Cutting the recipe in half produced a manageable volume of finished product. It is perfectly fast, and utterly delicious–and I’ve tweaked it just so.

If you should find yourself hosting a community-wide ice cream social, just multiply this little beauty up, up, up.

Cocoa Powder Chocolate Sauce

1/3 cup, 1 oz, unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup + 1 TBSP, 7.5 oz, sugar, vanilla or orange sugar works extra specially here

1 tsp cornstarch

1 pinch salt

3/4 cup milk, or nut milk, or coconut milk, or soy milk, divided

1 TBSP, .5 oz, unsalted butter (optional)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a small sauce pan. Add 1/4 cup of the milk, and whisk thoroughly until you have a smooth paste. Whisk in the rest of the milk until the ingredients are uniformly combined.

Over medium heat with a wooden spoon or high heat spatula, stir the sauce thoroughly (neglecting no part of the bottom or sides) but gently as it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir for another five minutes as the sauce gently boils.

Off the heat, stir in the butter. Lastly stir in the extract. Cooled and stored in a lidded container, this will last two weeks in your fridge. You wish.

Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 27, 2013

Beard’s Sour Cream Bread

What I love most about James Beard’s bread recipes is their ineluctable simplicity. Some of the sour cream bread recipes I found on-line wanted an egg. Some wanted an egg and butter too. Not that I didn’t have an egg on hand, but I know for a fact only a very few breads need an egg to get where they’re going. And I wasn’t looking for crypto-challah.

This dough is not only quick, easy and satisfying to make, it bakes up wonderfully light. I say that even given I used nearly half whole wheat flour to bring that wheaty, earthy taste right up. This bread also makes just wonderful rolls. Easy to make ahead, and easy to reheat in a damp paper bag in medium oven. The fat from the sour cream keeps this bread fresh for longer than it will be around to get eaten.

If you have yogurt, but not sour cream, substitute two tablespoons of melted, slightly cooled butter or other fat for an equal amount of the yogurt. The bread’s tang will be a little stronger, but the texture and keeping qualities of the bread will stay true.

Beard’s Sour Cream Bread

2 1/2 Tablespoons of sugar

1 package dry yeast, about 2 1/2 teaspoons

1/4 cup, 2 oz, fairly warm water (it should feel hot when you splash a drop on your wrist)

2 cups sour cream, at room temperature

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

4 1/2 to 5 cups, 22.5 to 25 oz, unbleached white flour, you can easily replace 2 cups of the flour with whole wheat

Pour the sugar and yeast into the warm water and allow them to sit together for about five minutes, you’re looking for a creamy, foamy mass to start. Stir well in the sour cream, salt and soda. Now add half the flour and stir hard with a wooden spoon, or the paddle attachment of your stand mixer set to medium low, for 2-4 minutes (use the longer time if you’re working by hand). Add the rest of the flour and knead it into the shaggy mass–or use the dough hook for your stand mixer. Knead for five to eight minutes. You want the dough to be smooth and springy when you’re done kneading.

Oil the dough and set it in a clean covered bowl to rise somewhere draft-free. Let the dough double, about one to one and a half hours. If you used whole wheat flour, you’ll want to punch down the dough and let it have a second rise, which won’t take longer than an hour.

Split the dough into two even balls. Tuck the dough under on itself, until it is firm and place the formed loaves seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment, or lightly oiled. If you want rolls, pinch off a piece of dough the size of a golf ball and as above, tuck the dough under on itself and set each roll on a prepared pan with an inch of space all around it. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover your loaves/rolls lightly with a clean tea towel and allow the bread to rise for 45 minutes.

If you chose to make loaves, lightly slash a cross into the top of your risen dough no more than a quarter inch deep with a very sharp knife. You may also use a single slash for the rolls if you like, though this is not strictly necessary (they do look nice when baked this way). Let the loaves bake for 30-35 minutes. Rolls will only take about 20-25 minutes. The bread should be deep golden (if you used all white flour) or a rich brown if you cut the dough with whole wheat. The loaves will sound hollow if tapped on the bottom in the middle.

Let your bread cool for two hours on a wire rack, then dig in!

Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 22, 2013

Raspberry Ginger Coulis

As you read, you’ll find my raspberry ginger coulis is no such thing.  Strictly speaking, a ‘coulis’ is a liquid as close to its original fruit or vegetable nature as possible, ie raw or nearly. This sauce is cooked, twice, and thickened; therefore my coulis is no coulis. But I like the way raspberry ginger coulis sounds. And I love how fresh the sauce tastes. And I’ve just always called it a coulis since I started putting it together long, long years ago.

Good things to do with raspberry ginger coulis: pour it over waffles or pancakes; pour it over ice cream; pour it over pound cake and ice cream, or angel-food cake (with or without ice cream); thicken it more and use it as a filling for gingersnap sandwich cookies, or homemade mini poptarts or layer cake (orange or chocolate would be the perfect foils here). So head to the freezer section and grab your raspberries. This coulis will keep ten days (as far as we can reckon without ever having had it on hand that long…).

Check it out, this is vegan and gluten-free–so  invite everyone over to enjoy some. You’ll find alternate fruit coulis selections below the template recipe.

Raspberry Ginger Coulis

makes about 2 cups

2 bags, 24 oz, frozen raspberries, because they’re less expensive and available year-round

2 inches, 5 cm, ginger root, sliced very thinly or chopped fine–but not micro-planed

1/2 cup, 4 oz, water

zest of 1/3 an orange, pared thinly from the fruit–don’t use the micro-plane this time or the zest will steep too long in the coulis and overpower the finished product (ask me how I know)

juice of 1 orange

2/3 cup, 5 oz, sugar

pinch of salt

1 TBSP cornstarch dissolved to a fine slurry in 2 TBSP water (for sauce, for filling, us 2 TBSP cornstarch)

2 TBSP Grand Marnier, or other orange liqueur [optional]

1 TBSP unsalted butter [optional]

In a two or three quart heavy-bottomed sauce pan, bring the first seven ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally. Allow to boil briskly, without foaming over on a medium flame, until the raspberries are completely broken down. Remove from the heat. If you have a food mill, using the plate with the smallest holes, push the hot fruit mass through until only a small, compact wad of seeds are left. Without a food mill, you will need a good sieve, a wooden spoon, and a commitment to your upper-body workout. Push the fruit mass manually through the sieve-working longer than you think you should have to to get all your lovely raspberry glop fully separated from the seeds.

In a clean heavy bottomed pan, bring your raspberry syrup back to a boil. Whisk  in the cornstarch over medium low heat. Switch to gently stirring for the next minutel. Allow the coulis to cook for five minutes until thicker, glossy and very clear–stirring carefully and thoroughly, but not speedily–as you don’t want to ‘break’ the cornstarch.

Off the heat, stir in the liqueur (if using) and the knob of butter (if using).

This is good hot, warm or cold. It stores in the fridge for (an estimated) ten days. If you wish to reheat the  coulis, take care not to boil it, or the cornstarch thickening will break.

Blueberry Lemon Coulis

makes about two and a half cups

2 bags of frozen blueberries

Zest of one lemon, pared in fine strips

Juice of one lemon

1/2 cup, 4 oz, water

1/2 cup, 3.5 oz, sugar

pinch of salt

1 TBSP cornstarch dissolved to a fine slurry in 2 TBSP water (for sauce, for filling, us 2 TBSP cornstarch)

2 TBSP Limoncello, or other lemon liqueur [optional]

1 TBSP unsalted butter [optional]

Proceed as above.

Strawberry Black Pepper Basil Coulis

makes about two and a half cups

2 bags frozen strawberries

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1/2 cup, 4 oz, water

1/2 cup, 3.5 oz, sugar

pinch of salt

12 basil leaves, chiffonade these

1 TBSP cornstarch dissolved to a fine slurry in 2 TBSP water (for sauce, for filling, us 2 TBSP cornstarch)

2 TBSP Benedictine, or other herbal liqueur [optional]

1 TBSP unsalted butter [optional]

Proceed as above. Add the basil leaves just before stirring in the cornstarch slurry. Strain this sauce when you remove it from the heat to leave it clear, but savoring of basil.

Pineapple Jalapeno Coulis

makes about two and a half cups

24 oz fresh pineapple chunks, or the 2 bags of frozen

3 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and ribbed if you want a ‘mild’ finish, the more seed-and-rib you leave in, the hotter your finished product

1/2 cup, 4 oz, water

1/2 cup, 3.5 oz, sugar

pinch of salt

1 TBSP cornstarch dissolved to a fine slurry in 2 TBSP water (for sauce, for filling, us 2 TBSP cornstarch)

2 TBSP dark rum or good tequila [optional]

1 TBSP unsalted butter [optional]

Proceed as above.


Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 19, 2013

Diverse Homemade Poptarts

Poptarts® are nasty to the uninitiated. This is true of the comfort foods of most cultures to those of another: kedgeree, raw herring and onion, tripe soup, Marmite®, peanut butter, cheese, that fermented shark-cartilage thing they eat in Iceland. Unlike most of the a-forenamed items, the poptart, qua poptart, is not fundamentally nasty. Sweet, rich pie crust with a fruit or spice filling, sometimes topped with a simple sugar glaze. And this served warm. What’s not to love?

Well. the crust on a Poptart® tastes like denatured, sweetened cardboard for one thing. And it’s got the texture of a shoebox, granular yet tough. And the filling is so artificial it intimidates the heck out of me. We all know there are things in the ‘frosting’ which don’t bear examination, informed examination, without a Ph.D. in Chemistry.

But I am an American. I have eaten and may yet eat again commercially produced, corporate branded Poptarts®. Or after two nights ago, not. Stop me before I crack the Twinkie® code!

I saw lots of recipes, very French, using all butter and an egg (and sometimes milk–not so French), but I really like the little bit of grainy to flaky which comes from using shortening cut in with the butter. Try this, and I believe you’ll find I’m not wrong.

The vegan crust is below the original, but before the suggested fillings.

Homemade Pop Tarts

For the Dough:

2 c. sifted, 8.5 oz, unbleached flour or white whole wheat

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 stick, 4 oz, unsalted butter, cold from the fridge, cut int0 smallish chunks

3 oz shortening (which you may measure by pouring 5 oz water into a liquid measuring cup and then submerge the shortening until you get a clean 8 oz read. Wipe the shortening dry before adding to the recipe if you don’t have a scale and choose to use this method), cold or at room temperature, cut into larger chunks

1 egg beaten with

2 Tablespoons milk

Stir the flour, sugar and salt together. Using your fingers, two knives or the food processor, break down and rub the fat into the flour mixture until no piece of fat is larger than a small pea. Transfer to a medium bowl if you used the food processor.

Stir the egg and milk mixture into the fat-and-flour mixture. Knead briefly as the mixture begins to cohere to form a single mass. You may wrap and chill, or freeze the dough at this point. If so, let a frozen dough defrost overnight in the fridge. Allow a cold dough half an hour to come down to room  temperature before rolling out.

On a lightly floured pastry board, work bench or counter, roll half the dough thinly and evenly, less than 1/8th inch or 3mm. Try, of course, to make and keep a nice rectilinear shape for cutting characteristic pop tart shapes. With a ruler or tape measure, square off the dough and cut full-sized pop tarts at 3″ X 4″ (7.5 cm X 10 cm) or minis at 2 1/4″ X 3″ (5.5 cm X 7.5 cm). Use a sharp knife or a pizza wheel to cut the dough. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Match similar ‘bottoms’ to slightly larger ‘tops’. You should have 18 pieces for 9 full sized pop tarts, or about 30 pieces for 15 mini pop tarts.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread a generous tablespoon of filling on full-sized pop tart bottoms. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling on the minis. Leave a clear centimeter around the edge of tart. Dip your finger in a little water, and dampen the lower tart crusts around the edge thoroughly. Place the top crust, and seal with the tines of a fork. Gently set the filled tarts on the prepared cookie sheet.

When the pan is filled, prick the top crust of the tarts all over to prevent their rising as they bake. Bake these for 20-25 minutes until nicely browned at the corners and more golden on top. Let them cool completely on a wire rack. Frost before serving if desired. Reheat briefly in a toaster oven or the oven if desired.

Fillings and frosting suggestions are given below the vegan and whole wheat crust versions.

Whole Wheat Crust

Use 8.25 oz whole wheat pastry flour, or 2 cups sifted whole wheat pastry flour less two tablespoons.

Proceed as above.

Vegan Pop Tart Crust

Substitute Earth Balance for the butter.

Substitute 1 1/2 Tablespoons flax seed meal processed in a mini-blender with 2 1/2 Tablespoons of water until thick and foamy for the egg.

Substitute coconut or almond milk for the dairy, or your preferred alternative milk product may be used.

Proceed as above.

Pop Tart Fillings and Frostings

Simple Fruit Fillings:

3/4 cup seedless jam

1 Tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot mixed with 1 Tablespoon of water into a smooth slurry

a pinch of salt

Stir the cornstarch into the jam, heat until bubbling and allow to cook over medium heat, stirring, for 5-8 minutes. Allow the filling to cool before spreading on the tarts.

Raspberry Jam with Ginger Frosting (squeeze the juice from 1 inch of grated ginger over 1 cup sifted confectioners sugar. Thin slightly with 2-4 teaspoons of water to a thickish, spreadable consistency)

Blueberry Jam with Lemon Frosting (as above with fresh lemon juice)

Strawberry Jam with Balsamic Vinegar Frosting (use 1 teaspoon Balsamic and thin the rest of the way with water)

Apple Butter with Maple Frosting (use 2 teaspoons of maple syrup and thin with another one or two teaspoons of water)

Fruit ‘n’ Nuts Pop Tarts

For the filling:

1/2 cup toasted nuts

1/3 cup dried fruit

2 Tablespoons honey, maple syrup, golden syrup or Organic corn syrup

Process these ingredients in a food processor to a chunky paste.

Hazelnuts and Tart Dried Cherries with Honey

Pecans with Dried Apples and Maple Syrup

Almonds and Figs with golden syrup

Walnuts with Raisins and Maple Syrup

The possibilities are endless, and the texture bump from pleasant pastry is indescribable. Go find out for yourself.

Posted by: A Part of the Solution | November 8, 2013

Homemade English Muffins

The inspiration for this recipe for homemade English muffins comes from Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery. Her tour de force on the history, components and applications of the bread baking tradition in Great Britain is a scholarly tome. But the recipes work, and the American measurements in the revised edition make it possible for those of us who are Colonial Cousins to enjoy the fruit of her labor as she intended.

Where Ms. David has a choice in historical records, her interpretations veer toward the austere. I made the English muffins as the recipe directed the first time. Consensus decreed the homemade finished product was ‘nothing special’. I tweaked the recipe to meet my less austere sensibilities after surveying her historical samplings carefully. The homemade English muffins below are indeed something special.

Adjustments for a homemade wholewheat English muffin are given below the main recipe.

Homemade Sour Cream English Muffins

3 cups + 3 Tablespoons, 16 oz, unbleached flour

7 oz water

1 cup, 8 fluid oz, sour cream–you could substitute full-fat yogurt, but not Greek yogurt for preference

1 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp dry yeast

1 Tablespoon salt


Put the flour in a heat-proof bowl and set it in the oven. Turn the oven on to 200°F and set a timer for ten minutes. Stir the flour once or twice as it warms. In a small saucepan, gently heat the water and sour cream stirred together. When the liquids are ‘blood warm’–100°F or so, stir in the sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top, removing the saucepan from the heat. Let the yeast cream for about ten minutes.

Stir the salt into the warmed flour. Now add the liquids. This dough is nearly a batter, so stir it hard until it becomes smooth and elastic, about five minutes by hand or three with a dough hook in your stand mixer. Cover the bowl and set it in a draft-free corner to rise for an hour.

Line a large cookie sheet with wax paper or kitchen parchment. Sprinkle cornmeal on the prepared pan, heavily. Tuck the risen dough down in the bowl with a wooden spoon. Put a cup of water into a small bowl, dip your fingers in this and shake off the excess. Keep your fingers damp to prevent the dough from sticking as you form the muffins.

Pinch off a piece of the English muffin dough, larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball. Tuck the dough into a ball. Set it on the prepared cookie sheet and press the top flat. The dough should be a fat half inch, 1.5 cm, thick. Leave room between the muffins for them to expand as they rise. Cover the sheet when it’s full, trying to keep the plastic wrap or tea towel from settling on the rising dough. They won’t double in size, but will become puffier in about 30-40 minutes.

Take a dry, heavy bottomed frying pan or griddle, and heat it over medium low. Using a spatula, gently slide the English muffins into the dry pan, again leaving room around each for it to expand as it cooks, cornmeal side down. Put a lid or a sheet of aluminum foil, or a large cookie sheet over the pan. Set the timer for 8 minutes. Check the undersides of your muffins at 8 minutes to see if they’ve taken their characteristic light, biscuity color. Give them another two minutes if you want them more colored.

Flip the muffins, put the ‘lid’ back over your pan and give them another 8-10 minutes. Set the batch of muffins to cool on a rack for at least ten minutes, and start the next batch of English muffins if they didn’t all fit in the first round. You may need to bring the flame down under the second batch of muffins and/or reduce their cooking time–monitor them carefully.

These keep at room temperature for several days, and are happy as clams in the freezer (properly wrapped) for a month or more. Don’t cut your muffins in half with a knife. Insert the tines of a fork all the way around their equators to split them, and finish by pulling apart. Now you’re ready to toast your homemade English muffin and have your way with it.

Homemade Wholewheat Sour Cream English Muffins

Substitute 3 cups, 15 oz, wholewheat flour for the unbleached flour.

After the first rising, for which allow 1 1/2 hours, set the covered dough in the fridge to rise for six hours, or overnight. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to temperature for an hour before proceeding to form and raise the English muffins as directed above.

Posted by: A Part of the Solution | September 3, 2013

Aside from the Poisons, What’s wrong with GMOs?

Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, are NOT traditional hybrids. Farmers and agri-scientists create hybrids by breeding like plants or animals together. They select for specific traits until the desired qualities express reliably from generation to generation. GMOs carry genetic material from disparate domains of the family of life. Without lab invention and intervention, the genes in question could never combine. Remember cold-water fish genes inserted into hot-house tomatoes grown to be shipped long-distance?

GMOs in the United States, where nearly all the seed patents and their holding corporations originate, have little regulatory oversight. Laws regarding GMOs, as proposed by the companies producing them through their lobbying branches, leave safety and health testing up to the corporation which develops the patent. This policy works effectively like asking the tobacco industry to produce safety and health recommendations regarding the consumption of tobacco.

I watched in fascination as a famous smart guy grilled a young teen in debate on Fox ‘News’ regarding her highly publicized campaign to require products containing GMO derived ingredients labeled to provide consumers with enough information to make informed choices regarding the consumption of these under-tested, internationally outlawed ‘foods’. The famous smart guy, let’s call him Kevin O’Leary, contends that GMO seed stock guarantees greater food yield and could end world hunger if broadly applied.

Mr. O’Leary may never have seen Round-Up Ready® corn growing. I lived on a farm surrounded by this corn. I saw it planted, fertilized, sprayed, and harvested. It took me two seasons to identify the real problem with Monsanto’s corn.

Walking my dog in August, we skirted the edge of a corn field. Suddenly, the ears of corn came into focus for me. Well, the ear of corn came into focus. These plants are designed to be sterile, so the seeds can’t be saved at the end of each season. This type of corn is functionally a clone. Every stalk is exactly like every other stalk. And their yield is also identical.

I grew up traveling through the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the way to my grandmother’s house most weekends. The Eastern Shore grows corn, soybeans and chickens to the exclusion of nearly anything else. In August and September, we drove between eight foot seas of corn, with seven to ten ripening ears on every stalk.  Round Up Ready® corn produces exactly (and I wish I were exaggerating, but you can go and look for yourself–anywhere the stuff is growing) one ear of corn per stalk.

Suppose a farmer plants about 21,000 seeds of corn per acre. Let’s imagine a modern hybrid, with resistance to a couple of fungi and bugs, though developed the old-fashioned way. Let’s suppose this corn doesn’t have the yield of the stuff I saw growing up. Let’s suppose it produces only three to seven ears of corn per stalk. Let’s call the average at the low end, only four ears per stalk. What percentage of the field would need to come to harvest to out-produce a Monsanto field? N.B., we’re not considering hail, flooding and drought–all of which are just as damaging to the Monsanto product as to the traditional hybrid.

Did you calculate twenty-six percent of the hybrid? Give yourself a pat on the back if you did. And this is with the assumption that every. single. Monsanto. seed. came up and was viable at harvest. You bet I gave Big Ag the benefit of the doubt on this point.

As it turns out, lower yield is a constant with all GMOs. How are we meant to increase world food yield with plants which produce less per acre (75% less) than their non-mutant cousins? Especially as the cost of the low yield plants is sky high compared to seeds from standard hybrids.

But what if the bug or the fungus arrives? What if 30% of the hybrid field is lost? What if 50% of the crop is destroyed? You’ll only have 100% more product at harvest, rather than 300% more in a best-case-scenario. Even if three quarters of the hybrid crop dies off before harvest, so the final yield is the equivalent (though the Monsanto ears looked small as well as singular), the farmer still comes out ahead since s/he doesn’t have to purchase seed stock next spring, or heavy fertilizers and pesticides this year.

With a Monsanto product, one buys the seed itself every year. Then it requires extensive fertilizers. Next it needs expensive pesticides, applied repeatedly. These products are neither lower in cost nor higher in yield. How do those two factors assist agriculture output in emerging economies? Knowing for a fact one’s nation may anticipate a maximum harvest of up to 24% of the former food volume it used to produce on the same arable land surface doesn’t, on the face of it, sound like a solution to hunger and malnutrition.

Goodness, I’m certainly not as clever or famous as the folks on Fox ‘News’. But it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to do the math here. And all of this is aside from the growing number of studies regarding the health concerns inherent in long-term ingestion of a GMO centered diet.

Posted by: A Part of the Solution | August 23, 2013

For the Trooper

The trooper assigned to the case against me and a good friend is not the trooper originally assigned to our case. He was thrown from his SUV in an accident and very gravely injured. This created some delay in the gathering of evidence against us.

Our new trooper, we’ll call her Trooper Stacey Sidecar, called me almost a month after the incident to collect my information. Naively, I answered all of her questions honestly and without counsel. This will probably make the case against me much tougher in lots of different ways.

Trooper Sidecar emphasized her commitment to the law, and the impartiality thereof. This would be more true if women were the equals of men in the eyes of the law. For instance, men who kill former or current domestic partners serve about four years in jail if convicted. Women incarcerated for the same crime serve about fifteen years on average. Just sayin’.

But at the pre-trial hearing only a day or two ago, we first had a visual on Trooper Sidecar. She’s young, petite, and brunette. Her sidearm looked lots bigger on her belt than it did on her male counterparts in the magistrate’s office.

After the hearing, my ‘co-conspirator’ and I drove home together with a friend who’d driven us up. My co-conspirator, like myself, is a woman. Our driver is male and a contemporary in years.

His comment, regarding Trooper Sidecar, was that she was the only woman at her State Police Station, and must have liked all the attention she received in her well-filled out uniform. He stated that she clearly enjoyed being the only female and knew how good she looked with that big gun strapped to her waist–and acted like it in the room where the hearing was conducted, as well as at the station.

I reeled in horror. Trooper Sidecar was filing the warrants for my arrest–conspiracy and receiving stolen goods, as we rode home. I knew this because she’d said so at the close of the pre-trial hearing for my friend who committed the ‘misdemeanor I theft’ on which the charges against me are predicated.

I neither cheered our driver’s assessment, nor did I keep my mouth shut. Women in uniforms (save nursing, I suppose) serve in a minority situation. A woman who chooses to enlist in the military or join the law enforcement branches at any level is a citizen dedicated to upholding the law and freedoms we all enjoy. But our driver assumed she was, essentially, a form of sex-worker or narcissist. He clearly believed she chose the work in order to titillate and excite the men with whom she worked.

Here is the Code of Honor for the force in which she serves:

I am a State Trooper, a soldier of the law.

To me is entrusted the honor of the force

I must serve honestly, faithfully, and if need be, lay down my life as others have done before me, rather than swerve from the path of duty.

It is my duty to obey the law and to enforce it without any consideration of class, color, creed or condition.

It is also my duty to be of service to anyone who may be in danger or distress, and at all times so conduct myself that the honor of the force may be upheld.

I have a hard time believing someone who has chosen such a dangerous, difficult and demanding line of work would overtly or secretly be more concerned about the hormonal effect s/he might have on co-workers than carrying out his/her duties to the best of his/her capacity.

I imagine, as the only woman stationed in her barracks, her job is more difficult and dangerous than that of her fellow officers. I have never heard speculation regarding the self-awareness of ‘sexiness’ in the line-of-duty directed at an officer with an XY chromosomal assortment. Whereas, no woman and few men reading this post imagines Trooper Sidecar to have trained in the academy and served for seven years without gamy speculation, catcalling, ‘teasing’, taunting and hazing solely on account of her minority status.

It is very likely, as she still serves in law enforcement, she never reported any of her fellow cadets or troopers–regardless of the severity of the harassment to which she has been, or still is, subjected. Really, I found the trooper dispassionate, level-headed and committed to the ideals which she has sworn to uphold (see the code above, which all troopers memorize).

I don’t believe Trooper Stacey Sidecar really wanted to be a stripper when she grew up. Nor does her physical fitness, or the cut of her uniform, entitle anyone to assume she is an exhibitionist. Neither is the disparity in proportion between herself and her official sidearm a license for lasciviousness.

Shortly after I graduated from university, I worked in construction. Because of my experience with tools and detail-work, I received the skilled tasks assigned to our crew: drywall hanging, taping and finishing; painting; tiling; sill-work and coving. This outraged my largely-fit-for-demolitions-only co-workers–who were also male. I left the job on the strength of their expressed rage. Like Mark Slackmeyer*, I got fed-up with getting beat-up. I know first-hand the difficulties of being a minority worker in a work environment dominated by a hostile majority. I know how much harder Trooper Sidecar has to work to do the same job as her barracks-mates, let alone a better and more thorough job with a stainless record.

My hat is off to the diligent trooper attempting (though only from her dedication to the ‘impartiality’ of the law) to help ruin my life, destroy my sense of personal safety and abrogate my right to the property which is, and has been, mine. I understand her commitment to her ideals–and that they may be strengthened by a family tradition, a formative incident in childhood, or a purely philosophical bias.

Maybe she’s just got an innate talent for her chosen profession and is expressing it to the best of her ability. If she were male, that would be the initial assumption on the part of most people learning of her calling, or seeing her in uniform for the first time. One day, though not in my lifetime, women in uniform may achieve the benefit of being perceived as serving because it’s their vocation and their choice.

And not because of how the uniform fits.

*A long-running character in Doonesbury who worked in construction after college.

Posted by: A Part of the Solution | July 26, 2013

Black-Eyed Peas Salad

Once again, I am indebted to Gail Naftalin for this go-to summer salad. I always cook the full pound of black-eyed peas. During the week, I have a filling, nutritious and tasty snack or meal holding in the fridge for busy days. This recipe for black-eyed peas salad is gluten-free. This recipe for black-eyed peas salad is vegan. This recipe for black-eyed peas salad is super-delicious and totally refreshing.

If you cook the whole pound of black-eyed peas, you’ll have ten or eleven finished cups of salad. Add whatever veggies are handiest in your fridge or garden. If you use zucchini or cucumbers, be sure to seed them. If the cucumber is waxed or not-Organic, peel it before splitting, seeding and chopping. Use red cabbage slivers in the salad, or tiny broccoli or cauliflower florets, but remember they’ll become sulfurous within a day or two, which doesn’t indicate spoilage, but does make the black-eyed peas salad smell off. Take home message: if you’re using brassica family vegetables, consume the salad within a day or two.

Black-Eyed Peas Summer Salad

To cook the black-eyed peas:

1 lb of dried black-eyed peas, picked through for stones and rinsed

1 whole onion, peeled and stuck with 3 whole cloves (cloves optional, but they’re worth keeping around to add their subtle joy to your home-cooked beans)

1 carrot, broken into three or four pieces

2 stalks of celery, with leaves if possible, broken into three or four pieces each

1 whole bay leaf


For the dressing:

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons prepared Dijon-style mustard (or something grainy and appealing if that’s your preference)

1 1/2 tablespoons of ketchup, or tomato paste

1 1/2 tablespoons of while or red miso OR the same amount of tamari, soy sauce, or aminos

2 teaspoons Sri-Ra-Cha sauce, or to taste (optional if you don’t want any spiciness in the salad, of course)

2 teaspoons herbs de Provence herb blend, or any dried flavorful herb blend you have on hand OR two to three tablespoons of mixed fresh herbs, well minced

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 clove of garlic, peeled and mashed with 1/2 teaspoon of salt

5-6 oz extra virgin olive oil

For the salad vegetables:

2-3 carrots, scraped and chopped into thin half-moons

1 large stalk of celery, with leaves if possible, sliced finely

2-3 jalapenos, or other medium heat peppers, or 1 bell pepper, seeded and sliced finely

3 green onions or scallions or shallots, peeled and sliced finely (use the green parts as well if using green onions)

OPTIONAL salad veggies:

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced finely

1or 2 zucchini (depending on their size), peeled or scrubbed well, seeded and sliced finely

1/4 small red cabbage, sliced finely

1 head of broccoli, broken into small florets

In a four or five quart pot, put the black-eyed peas and the onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf. Cover the peas with water and add salt–which helps to soften the outer hulls on the black-eyed peas. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a seethe where you can see things moving under the surface with only a bubble or two on the surface. Skim the scum from the peas occasionally during the first thirty minutes as they cook. Allow the peas to cook through. If they’re fairly fresh, this may take only one hour. If not, they may take two hours or more. Mainly, you want them to be soft enough to squish between your tongue and your palate. Drain the black-eyed peas in a large colander.

In a blender or food processor, place all the ingredients for the dressing except the oil. Let the machine run until everything is well incorporated. With the machine running, add the oil a drop at a time for a minute. Increase the flow to a broken thread. After another minute, let the flow of oil increase to a thin, steady stream. Taste the dressing after you’ve added five ounces of the oil. Is it very sharp? Add more oil. Is it bland? Add another pinch of salt, miso or a few drops of soy or aminos. Is it bitter? Add another teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar.

Pick the cooking veggies from the black-eyed peas and put them in your compost bucket. In a large bowl, toss the still-warm black-eyed peas with the dressing. Allow the peas to cool thoroughly, tossing occasionally, before adding the salad vegetables. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least two hours.



Posted by: A Part of the Solution | June 15, 2013

Massaged Kale

From zone five on down, there’s a weird gap in the availability of locally grown lettuce. Lettuce hates the heat, and takes a break from June or July right through until September. Which leaves a locavore wondering what’s to eat for the green part of the meal. Sure there’s spinach and chard, and anything with a green cabbage in it, and beans of course. But there’s just no lettuce. Not local lettuce, unless someone’s got a serious shade-bed going–and they’re probably keeping their precious lettuces to themselves.

And then there’s kale. Kale is a trooper in the garden. Kale grows in zone 5B on down year round. We used to pull the old year’s kale only when the new seed starts were ready to go into the ground. Kale comes in flavor and textural varieties, too. There’s rich, dark Lacinato (sometimes called dinosaur kale). You can find Red Russian Cut-leaf kale, green curly kale, regular green kale, baby kale. You name it, and kale does something amusing with it. I grew rainbow kale one year. It wasn’t as bright as the Rainbow Chard, but the variations did make for a tastier pot of greens.

And therein lies the rub. Most of us cook our kale respectfully, for hours. In the summertime, though, you can’t dare me to turn the oven on, nor use the stove top for a long cooking process. It’s not a bet I’ll take. Still, the kale comes in right through the season, albeit a little slower during the hottest and the coldest months. Which brings me to massaged kale.

It’s tender and digestible. It’s as yummy as it is nutritious. It’s easy-peasy to make. And there’s no heat involved in the process at all. Be prepared to get up close and personal with your salad, or use the ‘enclosed’ massage method for a tidier experience, though no less tasty.

Massaged Kale

2 bunches kale, any kind, stripped of stems, washed well and torn into pieces

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons tamari or Bragg’s Aminos

6 garlic scapes, seared in a dry pan (super-seasonal, but worth tracking them down in mid June through mid July)


4 cloves garlic mashed with 1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

salt and pepper to taste

(hot sauce to taste, optional)

(2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional)

4 oz, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or fresh nut oil

While the kale drains and dries, make the dressing. In the jar of a blender or bowl of a food processor, put everything except the oil for dressing. Give the business a good whirl, at least 30 seconds to a minute. With the motor running, add the oil drop by drop for a minute. Increase the oil to a thin stream. After 30 seconds, a steady stream. Let the machine continue running for a half a minute after you finish adding all the oil. Taste to correct the seasoning. It should be on the acidic side to compliment the richness of the kale.

In a very big bowl, or a large plastic bag, put all the kale. Add the dressing. Roll your sleeves well up, say past the elbow. Work the dressing into all the kale with your hands. Once the dressing covers each piece of kale entirely, you can get down to squeezing and massaging the dressing into the kale. Work the kale up from the bottom of your bag or bowl where the dressing goes. Do this for a couple of minutes. Set the kale aside at room temperature for an hour to let it complete its fatiguing.

If this sounds messier than you like to get in the kitchen, and your household is deficient of eight year olds, you may put the kale and dressing into a large plastic bag with a seal or a tight twist tie. Massage it through the plastic, if you must. Let it rest as does the kale above.

Serve plenty to acclaim.

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