In 1999, a company named Breakaway Foods created a line of products called IncrEdibles. Packaged in tubes with sticks at the bottom, the IncrEdibles family consisted of savory, meal-replacing treats that could be heated in the microwave and then pushed from the tube and straight into one’s mouth. No utensils were required; all you needed was a food hole in your face ready to receive such appetizing tube products as Macaroni & Cheese, Chili Mac, and Scrambled Eggs with Cheese and Sausage. The IncrEdibles press release also used the phrase “push n’ eat” [sic]. Apparently if you don’t have time to eat food with a fork, you don’t have time to say the letter “i” either.
It’s January, which means that all across America, people are resolving to eat better. And that means that they’re also resolving to smugly tell you about it. But the next time your newly gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free co-worker insists that you need to jump on the kale-acai smoothie express, just be thankful that this isn’t the turn of the century. Because back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, diet adherents really knew how to twist the guilt knife.
Most people, vegans or otherwise, know chickpeas for their role in Middle Eastern cuisine; the ever-popular hummus is the classic example of a chickpea-based dish. One of the last places one might expect to encounter a flatbread composed of chickpea flour is Nice, in the southeast of France.
Yet that’s where socca, a pancake-like unleavened flatbread made almost exclusively of chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil, originates. Socca is a staple street food in the city of Nice and in the surrounding region. It is generally made quickly, using large cast-iron skillets in an open oven and is served in roughly chopped pieces, dripping with olive oil, with nothing but a generous dash of black pepper as accompaniment.
Such a plain, unglamorous dish may seem unappealing to some, but socca’s modesty intrigued me. What could it be about a simple preparation of flour and water that would purportedly make people devour entire pans of the stuff within minutes? I intended to find out. MORE
As a vegan, I try not to get preachy about my diet. But a certain common exchange makes it hard to hold my tongue.
“A vegan?” someone will ask, scrunching up his nose. “So what do you eat, then? Salad,” the S word uttered with distain.
The truth is that salad gets a pretty bum wrap. And sadly in many instances, its poor reputation is somewhat deserved. Look at any mid-range chain restaurant menu, and you’ll see that most of the dishes in the “Salad” category are just strips of chicken, beef, or fish sitting on an underwhelming pile of lettuce, shaved carrots, and flavorless cherry tomatoes.
In salad’s role as a health food, it receives even less respect. The typical mound of iceberg lettuce topped fat-free Italian dressing may be low in calories, but it fails to satisfy most people, including myself.
If only more people knew how to make a great salad, it wouldn’t have this bad reputation. These are my basic rules for pulling together a hearty, healthy, delicious salad: MORE
If a couple weeks ago you earnestly pledged yourself to some New Year’s resolution, I’m a little annoyed at you. This is for several reasons.
One, chances are, your resolution involves getting in shape. Not to discourage in-shape-itude here, but the thing is, when all of you, the Resolved, suddenly descend on the gym on January 2nd in your new white sneakers, you take up all the good treadmills before I get there. Then, I get stuck on the old one that squeaks, behind the guy whose butt is exposed, plumber-like, atop his ill-fitting basketball shorts. Yes, this only lasts about a month before you let your memberships languish, but still. Not cool, guys.
Two, resolutions as we know them set us up for disappointment. If your resolution is to abstain from dessert, then the instant you cave and eat an Oreo sometime in February, you feel like a loser and go back to your old ways, inhaling whole sleeves wood-chipper style. And so I’m annoyed at you for depriving yourself of the chance to genuinely improve your relationship with dessert.
So, instead of convincing ourselves we can swear off sweets for good, let’s spend 2013 enjoying a better kind of sweet. The kind the planet invented all by itself.
Over here in the elitist foodie bubble, there’s now talk of the “stem to root” trend in vegetable cooking. The phrase refers to the impulse to minimize waste by using all parts of the plant. It’s a close cousin of the “snout to tail” movement that brought crispy pig’s tails and pickled lamb’s tongues to upscale restaurant menus. I appreciate conservation, but how visionary can it be if for the last two decades busy dieters and soccer moms have unknowingly been stem-to-root trailblazers, buying veggie scraps that were previously used as animal feed thanks to one of the oldest broccoli packers in America?
Sometimes we culinary trendsetters can pick up a trick from everybody else. MORE
The arrival of the New Year means that it’s time for clean slates and refreshed habits. I always look forward to January as a chance to reset and start being a little more intentional about how I spend my time and what I eat. For me, this means getting a little more sleep and reintroducing vegetables and whole grains into my kitchen. (I have a bad habit of losing all restraint during the holiday season.)
In past years, redoubling my whole grain efforts has mostly meant that I eat a lot of sautes with brown rice, pots of vegetable soup with barley, and slabs of salmon over quinoa. While moderately healthy, tasty, and filling, these meals aren’t particularly inspired or exciting.
This year is different, thanks to Liana Krissoff’s new book, Whole Grains for a New Generation. As follow-up to her book Canning for a New Generation, this volume contains whole grain recipes for every meal of the day. It’s one of those books that made me want to leap up and start cooking. So far, I’ve made four recipes from it and I have at least another 20 earmarked for the very near future. MORE
Let me be explicit about the conflict that informs my “Conflicted Kitchen” column here: I love food – making it and thinking about it and reading about it and eating it – but I hate gaining weight.
They say the average person gains 3 to 7 seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. One holiday season, I managed to put on 17 pounds in 21 days. This feat is easier than you might think. That year, there were cookie binges so intense that I ate every available Christmas cookie my mother had baked for the family and went on to pillage the neatly ribboned gift bags of treats she made for other people. MORE
As a cheerleader for home cooking, I try to avoid take out and delivery meals. But recently, when I was overcome with a craving for Thai food, I placed an order for pickup at my local curry spot. I tasked my husband with picking up dinner on his way home from work. The experience reminded me of all the things I hate about take out—the food wasn’t ready on time, it was cold and not as vibrantly flavored as I wanted. The spring rolls were greasy and excessively high in calories. The spice level was meek. And the price tag was high.
I decided the time had come for me to conquer Thai curries from scratch. MORE
In many households, a Sunday roast is a weekly tradition. Whether it’s a simple roast chicken or a brawny pork shoulder, the meal brings everyone to the table and provides welcome, convenient leftovers for days.
But the Sunday roast shouldn’t be restricted to the carnivores among us. Vegetables are equally good roasted. Just as with meat, the oven’s dry heat caramelizes the exterior, drawing out natural sugars. Even unpopular plants like Brussels sprouts lose their slightly bitter, vegetable edge as they become sweet and tender in a roasting pan.
Recently, I’ve been focusing my own weekend roasting on local heads of cauliflower and broccoli. Butternut squash, beets, carrots, parsnips and leeks are all good seasonal choices as well. MORE
Anyone who is even remotely concerned about healthy eating or weight control has considered the carbohydrate. It’s clear to me from my own eating and weight patterns that starchy, floury foods contribute to weight gain, if only because they tend to make it all too easy to overeat. Unfortunately, they also contribute immeasurably to the pleasure in many a meal.
There’s the extreme approach of cutting them entirely. We all know at least one person who lives on romaine heart spears and hard-boiled eggs. I’ve tried this for hours at a stretch only to have my resolve broken by the aroma of just-baked pizza or the sad prospect of a burger minus the bun. MORE