Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Food Fight

New York City's Department of Health held a public hearing yesterday in advance of their final decision on whether to ban trans fats from city restaurants. The result was overwhelming support to go ahead with the ban, although a fairly vocal opposition turned out as well.

The hearing drew attention to the fact that many people are not sure what trans fats are or what the ban would entail. Listening to the radio, it seemed many people thought politicians were trying to deprive them of their right to eat french fries or donuts in public.

"The next thing they're going to ban is eggs Benedict," the New York Post quoted Audrey Silk, founder of New York City Clash. "Eliminating choice through coercive behavior is not the American way."

Nonsense... If restaurants actually gave us a choice of what oil to use when preparing our foods, maybe Ms. Silk would have a point.

What the Health Department proposes is that restaurants remove most artificial trans fats from their cooking over an 18-month period. Again, this doesn't mean that greasy burgers will not be on the menu, it only means that restaurants will have to switch to oils, margarines and shortening that have less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

Trans fats are industrially created through a chemical process of hydrogenation. Unlike other fats, trans fats are neither required nor beneficial for health and are, in fact, linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

For more information check out these links:

NYC Health Department proposes phasing out Trans Fat

What is Trans Fat?
The Campaign to Ban Partially Hydrogenated Oils
Foes Sizzling Mad over Trans-Fat 'Ban'

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Palak Gosht

Our first recipe, which comes from Ria Patel in India, is for Palak Gosht, or spicy spinach with meat.

1 kg (2 lbs) of mutton/lamb or chicken
4 onions
1” piece of fresh ginger
6 garlic cloves
4 green chillies
½ cup yoghurt
¼ and then ½ teaspoon cumin powder
200 grams spinach leaves (frozen works fine)
1 bay leaf
1 black cardamom pod
3 cloves
1 teaspoon coriander powder
¼ and then ½ teaspoon cumin powder
3 tomatoes chopped
A pinch of nutmeg

Soak the meat in water.

Grind the ginger, garlic and green chillies. Add the yoghurt and ¼ teaspoon cumin powder to this and blend some more.

Drain the meat and marinate it in the above mixture for at least an hour.

Heat the oil; add the bay leaf, cardamom and cloves. Add onions and fry till brown.

Add the coriander and cumin powder and fry till spices cook.

Add the marinated meat and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes with a little hot water and salt.

Cover the dish and simmer till the tomatoes get soft and the oil separates from the paste.

Add the chopped/frozen spinach at the end and mix in.

Sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg powder over the dish at the very end.

Friday, October 27, 2006

How mucho is too mucho?

From our Denver correspondent

My ruminations on the quesadilla: "Haute cuisine or greasy feast?"

So tell me, at what point did quesadillas gain such panache?

I mean hell, I still remember the days when peanuts and manzanilla olives
reigned supreme.

Those were replaced by Ruffles and onion dip, or maybe Bugles if you were

Next came the chips with salsa. Sure, that made sense since it was pretty
much chip and dip gone ethnic. They called avocado dip "guacamole" and
charged $3/oz for it.

And then we had nachos, a fancy way to serve chip and dip all at once and
charge you an extra $10 for the avocado dip, sour cream and desicated
chicken. We loved it, but it had it's limitations.

Then after a kind of collective apathy, which we filled with top-shelf
margaritas in martini glasses and "tapas," a not-so satisfying Spanish
alternative, came the quesadilla.

The quesadilla, in my esteem, is never sure if it's an appetizer, an entree
or what. I mean, there's no such confusion over ordinary tortilla chips--
chances are they ain't gonna make a meal no matter how high you stack the
sour cream and guac.

But a quesadilla on the other hand, depending on how much of what you put in
that sucker, could easily be a meal. And if you fill it with brie,
fines-herbes fresh shrimp and lobster, well then it becomes elegant, albeit
pretentious, cuisine.

But at the same time is it really a meal? Can a quesadilla ever get over
it's appetizer, fun-time, finger-food, party rep and make its way as an

I'm sure it could be done, but I've never seen one hold down a plate of
beans and rice the way a double-barrel enchilada or foot-long smothered
burrito can.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Scary Foods

With Halloween fast approaching - a time of witches, ghosts and goblins - let's talk about freaky foods. Here are just a few:

Kaleh Pacheh : literally meaning 'head and foot', this dish is made from the heads and feet of sheep or lamb and serves as breakfast throughout parts of the Middle East.

Gearbox Soup: a Malaysian specialty made of cow's bone marrow and knees.

"Pocket" sandwiches: the U.S. army introduced the indestructible sandwich, designed to survive the rough military lifestyle and stay "fresh" for up to three years without dehydration.

White Castle "slyders": small, square, steam-grilled burgers cooked over a bed of dehydrated onions and eaten by the sack.

Head cheese: another frightening use for otherwise undesirable meat parts including pigs and cow's heads, as well as feet, tongues and hearts, this is not actually a cheese at all but a gelatinous sausage (see photo) that's hardly more appealing by it's French name: fromage de tĂȘte.