The Secret Farm Bill

The Republican-manufactured budget crisis of this past summer — remember? — resulted in a “solution” that’s hijacking what little representative democratic process we have left. Equally sad is that the so-called supercommittee — charged with creating an outline for reducing the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years — may preclude full discussion of the farm bill.

It’s the farm bill that largely shapes food and agriculture policy, and — though much of it finances good programs — ultimately supports the cynical, profit-at-any-cost food system that drives obesity, astronomical health care costs, ethanol-driven agriculture and more, creating further deficits while punishing the environment.

The farm bill is written every five years. Although the current one doesn’t expire until September, the next one may be all but wrapped up by your first bite of turkey, because the leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees — a group of four, representing Oklahoma, Michigan, Minnesota and Kansas (do you see a pattern here?) — are working feverishly to draw up a proposal in time to submit it to the supercommittee before the Nov. 23 deadline.

Read the rest of this column here.

Advertisements

René Redzepi: Prince of Denmark

Picture_1

Whether Copenhagen’s Noma is the world’s best restaurant doesn’t matter: René Redzepi, its chef, has responded to his well-deserved recognition with the kind of inspiration and energy that guarantee he’ll be around for a while. Redzepi, soon to turn 34, is also a sweet guy running an oddly nonhierarchical kitchen, and talented people from all over the world are flocking to Denmark to work for him.

Meanwhile, well-heeled people from all over the world are flocking to Noma to get a sample of the restaurant’s “new Nordic cuisine.” (“Noma” is a conflation of the Danish words for “Nordic” and “food.”) Much of the food is actually Nordic, though not exclusively so: the pan-seared langoustine with oyster-parsley purée, for example, could be claimed just as legitimately by New Orleans.

Read the rest of this column here

Pumpkin Crème Brûlee

Sullivan_pumpkinbrulee2

By Alaina Sullivan

All it really takes is some mascarpone and a quick whisk to transform pumpkin puree into a rich crème brûlee. Brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and allspice are folded into the smooth mixture, giving it a flavor somewhere in between grandma’s brown sugar sweet potatoes and crustless pumpkin pie.

Dividing the mixture into small ramekins is recommended (this stuff is rich!); then sprinkle each with a thick layer of brown sugar. After a few minutes under the broiler the tops emerge bubbling, with that delicious scent of burnt sugar. If you wait a few minutes, the surface will harden slightly, allowing for the best part of crème brûlee: cracking the crust. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlee

Turn on the broiler and put the rack about four inches from the heat. With an electrix mixer or whisk, beat together a small can of pumpkin, eight ounces mascarpone, and a quarter cup of brown sugar; add a half teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger and a pinch each of allspice and salt. Spread evenly into an ovenproof baking dish or ramekins and sprinkle the top with a thick layer of brown sugar. Broil for a few minutes, until the sugar melts, forming a crust. Serve immediately.

 

Local Food is Not Elitist. It’s American

I’m not a jingoist, but I’d prefer that more of my food came from America. It’d be even better, really, if most of it came from within a few hundred miles of where we live. We’d be more secure and better served, and our land would be better used. And I’d feel prouder, as if we had a food culture rather than a food fetish.

The Farm Bill [PDF], which is currently under negotiation for renewal — and is dangerously close to being pushed through without real debate — needs to address this issue head-on. But by subsidizing commodities, the existing bill (and food policy in general), pushes things in precisely the opposite direction. The vast majority of our farmland grows corn (we’re the world’s largest producer), soy and wheat, and these, along with meat and dairy, make us net exporters of foodstuffs.

Incredibly, however, we are net importers of fruits and vegetables, foods that our land is capable of growing in abundance and once did. Most of our imports are from Mexico, Chile and Canada, but fresh fruits and especially vegetables are shipped here from all over the world, with significant quantities coming from as far away as India, China and Thailand. And those imports are growing.

Read the rest of this column here

Charred, Soy-Marinated Mackerel

Dsc_0826Dsc_0815Dsc_0821

By Daniel Meyer

A good treatment for mackerel: dunk a few fillets in soy sauce, mirin (optional) and a little sesame or peanut oil (some garlic and ginger would be good, too.) Let the mackerel marinate while you heat a grill or broiler, the hotter the better. (For concentrated heat, I’ve started grilling directly over a chimney starter.) Grill or broil the fillets until nicely charred on both the flesh and skin side, and just cooked through, 2 or 3 minutes per side if your heat is really cranked up. Serve over rice with scallions and sesame seeds (kimchi and and an egg yolk are a treat, but by no means necessary.)