Superfoods TM_IN_TURM_FI_006

It could easily be mistaken for a knob of ginger, or maybe even a bug. Inside, it exudes an orange hue brighter than any carrot. Its aromas are so pungent that they linger in your kitchen well after it’s gone. It stains everything it comes in contact with. And it’s quickly becoming the next golden ingredient.

Turmeric, a rhizome best known in its orange-yellow powdered form, has lately been breaking away from its secondary role as a component of curry powder and making a solo debut. It has long been valued as a coloring agent, but turmeric can do more than turn food yellow.

Yes, turmeric is one of those so-called “superfoods,” packed full of an abundance of attractive nutrients and health benefits. The superstar of spices, turmeric has been used in holistic healing to reduce symptoms of arthritis and aid digestive relief for years. Its powerful active ingredient, curcumin, has proven effective as an antioxidant, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties as well.

Still, even in all of its golden dietary glory, turmeric doesn’t get much attention in the American kitchen. Rarely does it make its way onto our plates. Occasionally, the raw root is used to make a cold-pressed cleansing juice or the powdered spice is sprinkled on top of eggs. Beyond that and traditional Indian dishes, not many American home cooks have any idea what to do with it. MORE

Viva La Vegan

Snap Crackle Pike

A father's obsession becomes a daughter's interpretation

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Sometimes, I swear, all my dad wants is for me to like fish.

The man is a fishing maniac. He subscribes to New Jersey Fisherman magazine and keeps the pages dog-eared. His station wagon always carries his rod and tackle box just in case a spare moment arrives; because of this his vehicle always emulates a strong fishy smell. He loves everything about fish: watching them, catching them, gutting them, cooking them, eating them, trying to get inside their tiny fishy brains. As an professional artist, he even loves drawing them, and fish play a central role in many of his stained-glass window designs. Each Thanksgiving, Dad goes out to cast in the morning, hoping to catch a fresh spread for our table. Even if nothing bites, he’ll pick up some fish from the store to make his annual bouillabaisse. We can always tell though, the years when the additions to the stew are his own. He doles out bowls of thick red stew with special care, encouraging us all to marvel with him at the freshness, and regaling us with the details of exactly how he reeled it in. His pride is palpable.

When I became a vegetarian, my dad was confused. I explained to him what it means, but he still had questions. “You can still eat fish, right?” he implored, and I shook my head, reminding him that I’ve never liked the stuff to begin with. To this he replied, “You never really gave it a chance. Now you can’t even try it.” I’ve been meat-free for almost three years, and a vegan now for almost a year, and still my dad asks. He always asks if I want a piece of fish. MORE

Cooking

A Chesapeake Classic

True Marylanders don't settle for store-bought crab cakes

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As a third generation Marylander, I spent many summer days of my childhood hiding under the picnic table watching my parents and brothers — from an up-wind safe odor-free distance — as they enthusiastically did their crab picking and eating. Even at an early age I knew that I was missing out on an important part of being a true Marylander, and an important family gathering. But I also knew what my family was doing when they picked crabs, and it wasn’t appealing.

My family ate every part of the crab except, of course, the grey lungs (or “devils-fingers” in Maryland jargon), which not only taste terrible but could leave you with a nasty stomachache. After discarding the lungs and sucking down as much crab meat as they could find, they even ate the kinky yellow guts and the mysterious bitter golden crab mustard that many Marylanders refuse to touch. How much nicer it was, I thought, to eat something ripped apart from itself before it reached your table. MORE

DIY TM_DY_SMOKED_FI_001

We shove plenty of foods in our face holes without thinking much about them. What’s in a Twinkie? How was the slurry that becomes a McDonald’s chicken nugget actually formed? What the hell combination of black magic and ingredients is needed to make Mountain Dew Code Red? When we decide to consume foods and drinks like these, we know we’re heading into a bit of a mystery; there are ingredients and processes involved that we will never truly understand. So it goes.
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Forgotten Foods TM_FF_ANCHOV_FI_001

There is a category of foods for adults that I call “stink foods.” These are the foods that people appreciate after they’ve eschewed the plain pasta of their picky eater days and developed a more mature palate. I’m talking about foods like eye-watering onions; soft, blue-veined cheese; and pungent garlic.

Or tiny, oil-packed, smelly little fish. Like the oh-so-humble anchovy.
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DIY TM_XX_OLDBAY_FI_001

Do not try to make your own Old Bay.

I’m serious. Don’t even bother.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to whip up your own crab seasoning or make your own Cajun spice. Sprinkle these mixes liberally everywhere you would use Old Bay — seafood, corn on the cob, french fries, wherever. But when you do this, start with the intention of making something different from Old Bay. Trying to beat Old Bay is a losing proposition. There are many reasons why. Here are the top three: MORE

Issues

Fishing for the Truth

In light of widespread fraud, activists seek honest labeling

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Looking over a typical day’s selection at the fishmonger, you might notice that the light pink flesh of a fluke, $12 per pound, looks remarkably like that of the pricier sole, at $16 per pound, right beside it. In fact, the two fillets could be swapped for each other and no one would know the difference. Unfortunately, this kind of seafood fraud happens much more often than you probably think.

This year, Oceana, an ocean conservation group, began reporting findings from its ongoing seafood labeling investigations. In July, Oceana found that nearly one third of 60 South Florida restaurants had mislabeled their seafood. In Los Angeles, Oceana found 55 percent of seafood had been mislabeled and in Boston, almost half (48 percent) had been mislabeled. Of 76 fish samples collected from 58 restaurants, 76 percent of samples had been mislabeled. When working with the Monterey County Weekly, Oceana also found that 7 out of 19 seafood samples (36 percent) were incorrectly identified. MORE

The Larder TM_TL_BLUFSH_FI_001

When I was very young, my great-aunt had a house in one of the little towns that dots the Jersey shore. Despite living in Southern California, many summers, we’d make the cross-country trek to spend some time with the extended family at Aunt Doris’ shore house.

There would be long days at the beach and in the late afternoon, everyone would regroup at the house for showers and dinner. While my grandmother wasn’t much of a cook, at least once during these gatherings, she’d cook up a bluefish feast, which was one of her few specialties.
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Questionable Tastes TM_PG_MUSCAD_FI_001

Planet of the Grapes is now a series of digital wine guides from award-winning author Jason Wilson and Table Matters. Check out Volume 1: Alternative Reds today at Smart Set Press, and use the code MUSCADET for 50% off.

There are powerful wines and hedonistic wines. There are oaky wines and wines bursting with fruit. There are thrilling wines and profound wines. There are wines with beautifully-designed labels and wines with cute, easy-to-read labels. There are expensive wines and wines you keep in your cellar for decades.

Muscadet is absolutely none of these. MORE

Forgotten Foods TM_FF_LOBSTER_FI_008

I am from New England stock. (I’m tempted to call us “hearty New England stock,” but the truth is that my immediate family skews more to the side of thin, independent, and quiet weirdos. Which is its own New England archetype, I suppose.) But a childhood in New England means that certain things are in my bones: Foliage and crisp apples in the fall, cross-country skiing in the winter, fiddleheads and mud in the spring, and in summer, shell-cracking lobster dinners. To me, lobster isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime rarity or even a particularly high-class food. It’s a treat, certainly, but not the epic, caviar-level foodstuff some people make it out to be.
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Dispatches TM_DI_OYSTR_FI_002

When Denmark realized a few years ago that it had an oyster invasion, it turned the problem into a tourism opportunity, inciting people to gather up the pests and eat them. It wasn’t too difficult: Danes and oyster-eating go way back, at least to the Stone Age, as evidenced by ancient heaps of discarded shells called kjökkenmödding. In 1587, King Frederick II made oyster fishing a royal monopoly—those who broke the law three times risked the death penalty.

For most of their history, Danes ate the Ostrea edulis, a flat species indigenous to Europe that also goes by the name Belon (though this appellation is normally reserved for those that come from an estuary in France). But overfishing, pollution and disease have driven the flat oyster nearly to extinction, so the Pacific oyster, or Crassostrea gigas, is now the type most people eat the world over. Introduced from Asia to the United States in the early 20th century and to France in the 1960s, the Pacific is more resistant to parasites and variations in temperature. However, in some places—including the western coast of Denmark—it has become an invasive species, blanketing the sea floor like beds of concrete. MORE

Cooking TM_NN_NNHOME_FI_001

Raw shrimp, moss foam, pine oil, and unfamiliar herbs. These are the hallmarks of a bigger trend currently sweeping Nordic-inspired restaurants all around the world. As a Dane I tend to ask myself: are these really the only things people should associate with the New Nordic Cuisine?

I say, emphatically, no. In fact, I am on a mission to show the world what New Nordic Cuisine can mean to a home cook. I’ve been teaching cooking classes on the topic for several years, and I’m surrounded daily by the research and development of the New Nordic diet and cuisine at my home university in Copenhagen, where I’m a graduate student in Food Science and Technology. The research underway is mainly focused on the potential nutritional benefits of the New Nordic diet. MORE

Dispatches

My Endangered Dinner

What happens when a cultural appetite clashes with the ecosystem.

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In the Cayman Islands, there’s chicken, and then there’s what the locals refer to as the “other white meat”: endangered sea turtle.

Most vacationers misunderstand and consequently avoid the native dishes on the island that feature turtle, but I wasn’t an ordinary tourist during the trip I took to the Caymans last month. I was returning to a place where I had lived as a young girl, and I longed for the distinct taste of turtle that marked my childhood. When my family lived there, dishes with turtle in them were a regular part of my diet. I ate the meat in stews and soups, as well as in the form of pan-fried steaks. Consuming turtle was the normal thing to do, and I never thought much of it. MORE