Sunday, September 13, 2009

CT: In Sympathy with Omnivore's Everywhere.

Yes, I must be the last person in the Enlightened World to read Micheal Pollen's "The Omnivore's Dilemna."

While reading this book, I've been compulsively reading labels, of course. I challenge anyone not to read a label while reading this book! Here in Canada, though, I have never, ever seen anything with HFCS on it. I don't think our food is free of it, not at all. I just don't think it has to be on the label.

Last night I blasted through the chapters all about the corn in our meat supply while snacking on a sleeve of soda crackers. Of course, I'd read the label when I'd taken out the sleeve. Back upstairs, after I'd eaten them, I read about the whole system of processing corn into food additives. And then I read a little tid-bit about TBHQ. In my crackers, apparently. Yep, there it is on the ingredient list. Apparently it's akin to Butane.

I also found out last night that I was 19 when the chicken nugget was invented. Nineteen! I really hadn't realised how different my childhood had been from my daughter's. It sort of scares me. I'm going to go into a shop which sells Bison tomorrow and see what that's all about. But that's tomorrow. Tonight, I had to get dinner on the table and I didn't feel like feeding us corn-fed meat.

So, in the spirit of whole foods and eating from the pantry, I made a soup from Food Matters, by Mark Bittman. This, by the by, is the recipe book I've been waiting for. It will take me to the next level of learning to cook. Thus far, I have been a slave to recipes. In the past, I've been known not to make a particular dish if I didn't have the exact ingredient called for. And yes, I have run out and bought it when I "had to."

I now repent of my folly.

Bittman is great in that for every recipe he has, he gives the "basic" recipe. Then in either a header or otherwise, he presents add-ons and options. I really had no idea cooking could be this innovative and creative. For example, oatmeal gets both sweet and savoury options. Savoury Oatmeal? Cool.

So, tonight, I decided to make his Fast Mixed Vegetable Soup.
Here's the basic recipe:

3 Tablespoons olive oil, or more.
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped. (I love that! Smashed and chopped. It's what I do!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
6 cups vegetable stock (or water)
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped. (Canned tomatoes are fine...) or 1/4 cup tomato paste
4 to 6 cups quick cooking vegetables, like green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, corn, cooked or canned beans, radishes, zucchini, or summer squash, or dark leafy greens like kale or collards, roughly chopped.
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves.

1. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into a large, deep pot over medium heat. When it's hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Can I just say that one carrot, one celery stalk and one onion is a lot of food? It always astonishes me.

2. Add stock, tomato, remaining vegetables; bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the mixture bubbles enthusiastically.

(This is my broth. I make batches of it from spent roasted chicken carcasses and vegetable peelings scraps. I started doing this a year ago as part of our efforts to live more frugally. I'm about due to make some more--and I've got everything I need already in the freezer plus what I peeled tonight.)

3. Cook, stirring every now and then, until all the vegetables are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil (oops, didn't see that!) and serve.

Then, in the book almost the entire page details various add-ins, from herb and spice substitutions (I used Cumin because I couldn't find the parsley) to adding root veggies and tapanade (whatever that is).

I confess I didn't go as hog wild as I had planned--I forgot to put in the broccoli I thought would be wise to use up tonight and I didn't get any farther with the root veggies other than registering we have butternut squash, sweet potato and beets on hand. Nope, I grabbed some frozen corn and this--ever preoccupied with making a meal with Whole and Complete Amino Acid Chains.

I was also a bit distracted by making what turned out to be my baking powder biscuit hockey pucks. They always turn out like hockey pucks.

I'm giving up, I think, and I'll try making Bittman's Easy Whole Grain Flatbread or something.


drwende said...

You are not the last person to read The Omnivore's Dilemma. I haven't read it and it's not on my list. But it's great that it's provocative and helpful for you!

I can remember when advertising beef as "corn fed" was supposed to be a plus. (I do try to avoid HFCS.)

Does your cookbook mention how to adapt roll-out biscuits to be drop biscuits? I've never had drop biscuits not turn out.

Alana in Canada said...

What's a drop biscuit?

drwende said...

It tastes like a biscuit but is craggy more than flaky. My Pillsbury Family Cookbook says that to convert a roll-out biscuit to a drop biscuit, you add 25% more liquid. Mix up as usual, but don't knead or roll. Just drop the dough from a spoon (or a small ice-cream scoop) onto a greased pan and bake for the usual 12-15 minutes.

scb said...

I just pat my biscuit dough down into about an inch/inch and a half thick blob, then cut out the biscuits. I'd never thought of rolling them. Haven't made them in ages, but I never had a problem with them.

I haven't read that Omnivore book either. So you're not the last of the really great Whangdoodles, after all (or whatever phrase you really used! *grin*)

scb said...

Biscuits -- alternately, instead of cutting them out at all, just gently pat the dough into a round baking dish until it's about an inch and a half thick,then cut through in pie shapes (triangles) and bake. I used to like to do part white flour, part whole wheat flour, and add chopped dried apricot and cinnamon. YUM!

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