Just when I didn’t think it was possible for Mark Bittman (refered to as Boyfriend Bittman in my house, even by my boyfriend) to get anymore fantastic than he already is he does. Bittman essentially led the charge in encouraging, if not reintroducing home cooking to a generation of cooks by dedicating his work to creating recipes that are healthy and easy to make in the home. On top of his fabulous cookbooks he also wrote The Minimalist for the New York Times for ten years. The column has finally come to an end and Mark Bittman has chosen to refocus his efforts in a op-ed weekly column centering on sustainability, nutrition, regulation and policy as well as the continued effort of getting people back into the kitchen called the Opinionator. In his first column he lays out a plan of attack, a food manifesto if you will, the most interesting of which is a Civilian Cooking Corps. Jaime Oliver took a step in this direction when he left a cooking teaching center behind in Huntington WV, after the first season of Food Revolution came to an end. Reportedly, the kitchen is booked several months in advance. The idea of a food corps supported by teaching kitchens and ideally farms is surely the most sensible way to help people reconnect to actual food. All of this is of particular interest to me because I have just begun a project teaching a non cooking(as in eats out every meal,) mid thirties friend to cook starting with the basics which includes teaching him how to shop at farmer’s markets and the like. Those posts will be coming soon.
In the not so good food news, total understatement, I should say in terrible food news, the useless and toothless USDA approved Monsanto GM alfalfa. This move imperils the entire organic dairy industry. Would it were that I were exaggerating. On the upside Stonyfield Farms, Whole Foods and Organic Valley have not thrown in the towel and are still battling the decision. In an article posted on Huffington Post Green, Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield said this:
Let me first state the obvious — leaving aside the fact that USDA’s own organic standards do not allow the use of genetically engineered crops, Stonyfield is absolutely and utterly opposed to the deregulation of GE crops. We believe that these crops are resulting in significantly higher uses of toxic herbicides and water, creating a new generation of costly “super” weeds, pose severe and irreversible threats to biodiversity and seed stocks, do not live up to the superior yield claims of their patent holders and are unaffordable for small family farmers in the US and around the world. We believe that organic farming methods are proving through objective, scientific validation to offer far better solutions. We also believe that unrestricted deregulation of GE crops unfairly limits farmer and consumer choice.
He goes on to talk about how lobbyists have spent over half a billion dollars trying to push this through. Let us pause for one second, half a billion dollars. When I think about all that could have been done for food, farming, cooking and hunger in this country, not to mention the world with this money I see a lot of red which may sound naïve and tree huggerish it is also exactly the point.
Though I am sure that the science involved in bioengineering meat to be grown in vats for consumption is actually exciting and cutting edge, and even may be present in an inevitable future, the idea of actually eating ‘in vitro’ or ‘cultured’ meat makes Oprah and her staff’s decision to go vegan for a week seem like not only a fantastic idea but an absolutely necessary one.
Finally, my favorite recipe of the moment, meaning one that I have been making a lot, probably due to the inclement weather is the quick, simple, delicious and satisfying Sesame Oven Fried Chicken with Soy Dipping Sauce, ala Boyfriend Bittman. Though this recipe does call for an entire chicken I just adjust the amount of crumbs and sesame seeds for whatever chicken parts I have on hand. To make this ‘fried’ chicken even more low fat, remove the skin.
1 cup buttermilk (or sub in one lightly beaten egg, which is what I usually do)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (or whatever you have on hand)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup sesame seeds
A neutral nut oil to coat the pan, grapseed, sunflower, corn
Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix the buttermilk (or egg), paprika, cayenne and salt in a large bowl. Add in chicken parts coating them and let sit soaking for 10 minutes. Mix the bread crumbs, and sesame seeds on a large plate set aside. Rub down a baking sheet with the oil.
While the chicken is soaking make the dipping sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
As a side note I use just these four ingredients often as a salad dressing.
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup minced scallions
Another side note: If you have the Ginger Scallion Sauce in your fridge, which I often do, just add to tablespoons of that mixture to the soy, vinegar, sesame oil and sugar.
Remove the chicken parts from the soak and coat each piece in the panko and sesame seed mixture, then place on the oiled baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes for chicken with bone in, if you are using boneless thighs or breasts then the cooking time will be closer to 20-25 minutes