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    Half-sour cucumbers, hold the salt

    Half-sour cucumbers, hold the salt

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    Copyright 2008-2015Slow Food Fast. All writing and images on this blog unless otherwise attributed or set in quotes are the sole property of Slow Food Fast. Please contact DebbieN via the comments form for permissions before reprinting or reproducing any of the material on this blog.

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    SlowFoodFast sometimes addresses general public health topics related to nutrition, heart disease, blood pressure, and diabetes. Because this is a blog with a personal point of view, my health and food politics entries often include my opinions on the trends I see, and I try to be as blatant as possible about that. None of these articles should be construed as specific medical advice for an individual case. I do try to keep to findings from well-vetted research sources and large, well-controlled studies, and I try not to sensationalize the science (though if they actually come up with a real cure for Type I diabetes in the next couple of years, I'm gonna be dancing in the streets with a hat that would put Carmen Miranda to shame. Consider yourself warned).

Cooking (and other important) Resolutions

(Of course)–I couldn’t leave 2010 on such a bitter note as the one in my last post, even though I think bitterness is a good, energizing, creative thing. Or as the great Eric Burdon once–or actually, quite any number of times–told an interviewer about his ordeal with getting paid for House of the Rising Sun, “I’m not bi’eh. I’m bi’ehsweet.” I have a thing for Burdon’s early stuff–voice like a hammer, great blues timing, pure nerve with a sense of humor, and clearly, a good appetite.

So I wish you all a Happy New Year, good eating, good cooking, good reading and good company, and thank everyone who’s visited and especially those who have taken the time to subscribe to Slow Food Fast. For myself, I’ve come up with about 11 new resolutions for 2011 (but as usual for me, it may will definitely run longer, since I’m terrible about following directions, even my own, whether cooking or resolving):

1. Learn the Dirty Dozen a little better and plan the weekly budget (see #3) to include buying these vegetables and fruits organic only. (I’ve got celery, potatoes, pears and strawberries down so far, but I know there’s gotta be at least 8 more, right?) Find places to buy them cheaper than Whole Foods.

1a. Learn to garden? Umm. Learn to schnorr backyard fruit from friends? More likely, ain’t it? Ok, ok, make more friends, schnorr backyard fruit and veg. And rosemary, which some people grow as a hedge here in Pasadena. Envy, envy, envy–turn it to a good purpose and offer to take some of the excess off their hands.

1b. Exercise basic civility towards other people’s food choices–your eat local is my eat kosher is his eat organic is her eat affordably. Everyone’s got different priorities, and you don’t know who is eating a particular way because they feel like it and who really needs to so they don’t end up in the hospital. Food shouldn’t be too huge a source of personal arguments. I mean, really, people, save some energy for the real issue–dark or milk chocolate?

2. Get the weekly food budget back down under $100 a week (holidays take it outta me). Make a list and (I cannot believe I’m saying this) check it twice. With a calculator. Include toilet paper and napkins and so on.

3. Use all the vegetables I buy sometime in the same week I buy them. This goes triple for any herbs. No brown broccoli (not usually a big problem in my house, actually) or rubbery carrots (didn’t mean to confess that). And NO cilantro or fresh dill left until it turns slimy while I dither over what to use it in… when in doubt, make soup (see #4), or with herbs, wash and freeze in baggies.

4. Make one big batch of soup each week (see #3 if necessary for motivation) and eat it.

5. Make one pound of beans each week and eat it in fabulously creative ways, or at least edible ones. Eat them as a substitute for, not addition to, fish or meat at least one dinner per week.

6. I’m stumped. Maybe I should make each of the previous resolutions count twice? Naaah. Put on some blues and think again.

The real #6: Eat vegetables at breakfast, Israeli-style.

7. Wash fewer dishes–make my kid do them! (oh, yeah, I’m rollin’ now!)

8. Reduce my dependence on oil–starting by using cocoa powder instead of a full-cocoa-butter chocolate fix…damn those holiday gift boxes. Hate See’s, hate it with a passion (unfortunately, not really)…

9. In the same vein–cut down to half-caf this week, decaf in two or three weeks. Start today. Too much hoppin’ around after midnight (or maybe just too much listening to Eric Burdon on YouTube–wait. Is there such a thing as too much, at least of his early stuff?).

10. Shop my neighborhood greengrocer’s first instead of the big box market. Buy and try a small amount of one new Silk Road ingredient each month (red pepper paste? knoug resin? green almonds? sea buckthorn nectar?)

11. Get a few new implements as long as they have a real multifarious use and a small kitchen footprint: stick blender? I hear it calling my name. Pasta machine? not so much–the box instructions say not to immerse in water. How are you supposed to wash it then? (see #7)

12. Make bread at home again.

13. Revamp a classic every so often, preferably with the intelligent use of a microwave to help speed things up where it will actually help. Like choux paste (at least for heating the liquid ingredients before adding the flour and eggs–that’s actually been done before, and not by me) or pretty-good fake-smoked whitefish salad (which is mine, see the end of this post).

14. (because I really, really can’t count)–buy spices in bulk (see #10) and a. use them abundantly b. split them and share with friends c. make up some classic spice blends and ship a batch of each, along with bare-minimum stir-and-eat instructions, to my favorite (and only) sister, who works way too hard to have to shop or cook something complicated.

15. Figure out a good way to cook tougher grains, like barley or brown rice, quickly, or at least quickly when I want to serve them. They taste better but I just hate waiting for them to cook, and the microwave isn’t enough. Look into the overnight soak thing.

16. Eat more raw vegetables. Not everything needs to be cooked.

And finally–

17. Donate at least 1 high-nutrition pantry food item per week to my local Food Bank. Maybe two–it’s been a hard year on everyone.

– – – – – – –

Fake-smoked whitefish salad (for brunch, on toasted bagels etc.)

I’m horribly impatient–personally, I think that’s a good thing. I can’t be bothered to schlep all the way out to the San Fernando Valley for genuine smoked whitefish fillets just for breakfast. I do love whitefish salad, but I’ve always wished the usual deli stuff were a lot less greasy. And salty. And a lot more available where I live.

Here I’ve substituted plain nonfat yogurt for the standard sour cream and mayonnaise and I’m using fresh or fresh-frozen white fish, not too expensive, and not smoke-cured. Doubtless a bit of liquid hickory smoke is a huge cheat, but the salad comes out tasting pretty good, costs a lot less than the fancy smoked fillets, is considerably less disastrous on the waistline–way to start the New Year!–and takes only 5 minutes. All that brings it into the realm of something you can do weekly or so if you feel like it. Take liberties–you could of course up the richness with Greek-style yogurt, 2%, full-fat, sour cream, or labaneh, or a combination if you feel like it or that’s what’s in your fridge. (Just not strawberry-banana yogurt, ok? Please?)

  • 1-2 frozen tilapia fillets (or other bland white fish), about 2/3-1 lb., rinsed
  • good-sized soupspoon kind of dollop of plain yogurt, sour cream, or labaneh
  • 1 small-to-medium clove garlic, minced, grated or mashed
  • 1/8 or so medium onion grated on the small holes of the grater to juice it
  • 1/2-1 capful liquid smoke–be sparing, taste with the smaller amount first
  • small squeeze of lemon
  • pinch or two of salt, just to taste
  • sprig or sprinkle of dill, optional, for garnish

Lay the frozen rinsed fish fillets in a single layer on a heavy microwaveable dinner plate with another plate inverted on top to cover. Microwave on HIGH 2-3 minutes or so, until cooked through and flaking with a fork but still moist (check at 2 minutes, go by 30-second intervals after that, keeping the fish covered). Scoop the cooked fish into a bowl or a food processor, your choice. Blend in the yogurt, garlic and onion either with a fork or in a food processor until the fish has the texture of tuna salad or is blended in to your liking. Because this fish isn’t pre-smoked, I’d recommend blending it to a fairly uniform paste rather than leaving chunks. Add the smaller amounts of liquid smoke, lemon juice and a pinch or so of salt, blend again, taste and adjust flavoring. Garnish only if you want to. Serve chilled with good sourdough or toasted bagels, sliced ripe tomatoes, very thinly sliced red onion, etc…

– – – – – – –

The vuvuzelas are already honking all over my street–just down the block from a prime Rose Parade viewpoint. Can’t believe I’ve got to get up and out by 9 a.m. tomorrow…Happy New Year!

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