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Archive for May, 2010

In Safe Food, Marion Nestle continues to examine the ways in which the food industry contintues to avoid taking responsiblity for the quality of the food that they sell to consumers. 

Nestle’s main argument is that the food industry uses science as a means of deflecting the criticisms of their procedures.  Instead of responding to the social and political criticisms of some of their techniques (their refusal to screen for pathogens, for example), food producers use science to convince the public that their practices are safe.  By doing so, food producers deny that the decisions they make are based on potential profit, rather than on public safety.  

Marion Nestle is not really the same kind of author as Micheal Pollen or Eric Schlosser.  She writes from the position of an insider, rather than as a consumer.  Nestle has spent most of her career working with (or in some cases working for) the agencies and companies that she writes about here.  Rather than looking at the end product, Nestle examines the ways in which the law fails to provide adequate support for the production of safe food. 

At the same time, she examines the ways in which food producers do their best to block new legislation that may affect their methods and sales.  There are relatively simple methods that food producers could adapt to help to reduce the outbreaks of many food-bourne illnesses.  However, food producers are incredibly reluctant to do so, because they do not want their products to be perceived as inherently un-safe.  Their primary purpose is to safeguard their profits.

I enjoy reading Nestle looks at the food industry from the opposite end of the spectrum.  She takes a look at the ways in which industry uses existing law and government connections to maintain the status quo, rather than the specific products produced that cause ill-health.  As an insider, Nestle is able to give real insight into the hows and whys of food production and government legislation surrounding food production.  I recommend this book (and any other book by Nestle) to anyone who is interested in thinking about the ways in which legislation fails to protect the public from contaminated food.

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This is, without exception, my favourite dish of all time.I love this dish for more reasons than I can count.  When I was in India, I ate it absolutely every single day for dinner.  I’d sit down at whatever restaurant I was at, thoughtfully look at the menu, and then order the palak paneer with a side of naan.  This went on for over a month, mind you. 

So, yes, I love it.  It is the perfect combination of spicy, savoury, and healthy.  Every time I eat palak paneer I am 100% satisfied. 

You have more than likely experienced this dish at Indian restaurants around town.  Compared to my version, the stuff you find in restaurants here is like some watered-down version of the truth. 

To be perfectly honest, I cannot vouch for this recipe’s authenticity in any way; it’s really an amalgam of recipes and preferences that I’ve just accumulated over the years.  But I can tell you that it’s about a million times better than any Palak Paneer I’ve had in any Indian restaurant here, ever. 

There are just massive amounts of ginger and garlic in this recipe.  They are cooked only very briefly, so they maintain the majority of their health benefits.  Both are exceedingly good for your overall health, and a staple in Chinese medicine for a number of ailments.  Both garlic and ginger have more uses than I can recount here.  In general however, ginger is used to soothe the digestive tract, while garlic is used to support the immune system.

The more exotic items in this recipe (paneer, garam masala, ghee) can all be easily found at any Indian grocery.  Nowadays, some can even be found at your local Loblaws or similar mega-store.  Do your best to find the freshest possible spices.

If you’re not too keen on too much heat in your dish, simply cut down on the number of jalepenos.  If you still find the dish is too spicy, simply eat it with extra naan or rice.  To be honest, this is a rather spicy version, so you might want to take it a bit easy, in the beginning.

 

 

Palak Paneer

2  inches fresh ginger, roughly chopped

1 head of garlic, approximately 8 – 10 cloves, roughly chopped

2 – 3 jalapenos, seeds removed, chopped

¼ cup + ½ cup water

12oz (3/4 of a lb.) Spinach, or other green of choice such as Mustard Greens

1-2 tblsp ghee or oil of choice for frying

½ tsp salt

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped or grated

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp garam masala

1/4  tsp cayenne

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 package Paneer (approximately 450g) cut into ¼ inch cubes – paneer can be found at just about any Indian Grocery.  (You can also make your own, if you are feeling particularly ambitious).

*If desired, the paneer can be substituted with either tofu or quesa fresco.  As a last resort, ricotta that has been baked for about 40 minutes in a 450°C oven is also a suitable substitute (the ricotta should be firm but not dry). 

Roughly chop the ginger, jalapenos, and garlic cloves.  Once chopped, put them into either a blender or food processor.  Add a ¼ cup of water, and process until all of ingredients have been fully pulverized.

Place the spinach on a large pan on the stove with a few tablespoons of water.  At about medium heat, cook the spinach until it is slightly wilted.  As soon as the majority of the spinach has wilted, remove the pan from the heat.

Using tongs, add the spinach and any water left in the pan to the blender or food processor.  Then add the remaining ½ cup of water.  Pulverize the mixture until it turns into a creamy green sauce.  This should take less than a minute.

In the pan used to steam the spinach, heat the ghee or oil over medium heat.  Add the salt and onions to the pan once the oil has heated.  Sauté the onions until they are translucent, about 5 – 7 minutes.  

Add all of the spices (cumin, garam masala, cayenne, and turmeric) to the pan, combine fully, and cook very briefly (approximately 30 seconds).  Remove the pan from the heat, and add the spinach sauce to the pan.  Mix to combine all of the ingredients. 

Add the paneer, and let the dish sit for 5 -10 minutes before serving.  This dish keeps well in the fridge for over about a week.

*UPDATE – for a creamier effect, add soy milk or cream to the pan at the very end.  The amount you use is up to you, but I’d start with about 1/4 cup.

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Hello, All!

Yes, it’s been a long time.  But in all honesty, my waistline desperately needed (and, quite frankly, still needs) a break from all the baking.  And no, that’s not me in the photo, but it captures my spirit pretty darn well.  Thanks to the internet for giving me access to photos that aren’t mine, and that I have no business looking at.

However, I was having a major chocolate craving today, and quite simply had to do something about it.  And then it came to me: NUTELLA.

This is an awesome recipe, and tastes just like the real stuff, to the best of my recollection.  I’m not going to lie – by the time I was finished making this stuff, I was eating it out of the bowl by the spoonful.  I couldn’t even stop for a second to find something to put it on.  It is awesome, and will definitely satisfy your cravings!

This recipe calls for hazelnut oil.  I would recommend purchasing it, because I can pretty much guarantee that you will be making this again.  Remember that nut oils must be kept in the fridge!  Nut oils are prone to going rancid rather quickly.

Furthermore, hazelnut oil can easily be used in salads, or as a finishing touch on rice salads or stir fries.  However, if you really don’t want to shell out for the oil, substitute with something neutral OR with another nut oil.  For example, I was contemplating substituting with canola oil and a splash of toasted sesame oil, simply because I forgot I had hazelnut oil in the house.

I recommend serving this with something salty (like crackers), because really there’s nothing better than chocolate and salt.  Rice cakes or your favourite bread work just great.

Homemade Nutella

1 ½ cup hazelnuts, skins on

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 – ½ cup agave nectar

1 ½ tblsp vanilla extract

1 ½ tblsp hazelnut oil

¼ – ½ cup milk of choice (I used vanilla flavoured rice milk with great success)

Pinch of salt

Roast hazelnuts in the oven at 350°C for 8 – 10 minutes, until they are very lightly browned.  Keep a close eye on them to make sure they do not burn.  The best way to tell when nuts are finished toasting is to smell them.  Once you can smell a nice nutty odour, they are finished.

Put the hazelnuts in the food processor and blend into about butter.  This should take about 5 – 7 minutes.  Scrape down the sides as necessary.

Add all of the rest of the ingredients except for the milk, and blend fully.  With the agave, start with a third of a cup.  If you want the nutella to be sweeter, you can add in more with the milk at the end.

Add the milk (and more agave, if desired), beginning with a ¼ of a cup.  Add as much milk as you like; the milk is solely for consistency. 

Store nutella in a glass container with a lid or similar covering in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

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