Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chicken: Let's cry Foul!

Thanks to the intrepid and great food blogger Tom Philpott the secret is out. So we all know how not to play the game of chicken any more. Read my tips.

If you care at all about your own health and the lives of those you love, and you don't want to turn your dinner into Russian roulette--a form of the old game of chicken, you will no longer dare to buy a chicken or a chicken part from anyone but your local farmer or a friend.

It seems all Michelle Obama's noise about healthy eating has been nothing but window dressing to cover up the nefarious acts of her husband's corporate sycophancy. With little notice, Obama's changed the agricultural safety inspection rules to give the four megafirms involved in industrial poultry production in this country even more profits. At our expense of course.

Obama and the vile Vilsack who heads the Department of Agriculture have agreed by law to remove almost all the Federal health and safety inspectors at mega poultry processing plants--down from 4 to 1, and to simultaneously allow the processors to speed up the production line by 1/3. Ergo: more chickens, less safety. More money for Tyson, more bacterial infections for us.

Salmonella threats and feces splattered chicken are already running riot in the big plants, so we can now look forward to them running totally amok, bringing us ever more public health epidemics in 2014 when the new regulations or lack of regulations goes into effect. That's Obamacare in a new light.

There's nothing we can do about this new and revolting corporate handout except this: Don't buy industrially processed chickens. Boycott the big boys. Support your local farmer. The life you save could be your own.

And, hey, local farmers: cluck up and start raising more chickens. Opportunity just knocked. All the folks who aren't vegetarians need your help in this fight!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hanging on thru April

Yes, April is the cruelest month, bringing nothing really new to market just when we're all ready for something new. And this year it has brought only the same old scary news about our continually corrupted industrial food supply. Monsanto has now succeeded in surreptitiously slipping into the critical budget bill a lovely little rider excusing/excluding it from any court rulings against GMOs. And since it has so far succeeded in preventing GMO labeling on supermarket packaging, I'd say we have even MORE reason to shop for all the food we can find at our local farmers' market. Shake the hand that feeds you. Transactions don't get more transparent, accountable and trustworthy than that.

California is of course ahead of the curve. Spring has sprung and its farmer's markets stalls are buried under piles of spring onions, green garlic, nettles, dandelion greens, pea shoots and other fabulous spring tonics like asparagus and rhubarb. These plants with go-go energy that propels them up bravely through thawing ground are just what our bodies need to spring energetically into the new season. 

But there is spring lamb. And fresh batches of chard. So here's a transition from winter to spring dish I've been playing with that uses them both. It's/was a traditional dinner for farmers in Palestine. (Those who lived/live by the sea ate mostly shrimp and fish.) The original recipe I saw, from old women in the Gaza Strip remembering the kitchen tables of free Palestine, called for medium grain rice. Not having that I used Basmati and didn't like the final effect. The next time I tried my precious Sardinian pasta, fregola, tiny toasted dots and it was perfect.  But I realize you don't want to go hunting down a rare ingredient, so I am suggesting barley, farro or a short, starchy paella rice instead. The cooking times will be wildly different. Note that, please. And enjoy.  This is wonderfully aromatic

Lamb, Chickpea and Chard Stew
an adaptation of Palestinian Fogaiyya

Serves 4

1½ -3/4 lb boneless lamb stew meat, lean if you can get it
2 tsp ground allspice
1 lg yellow onion, finely chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil, 1tbsp reserved for the end
1 lg cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods, cracked to release the seeds
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 lg bay leaf
2 tsp salt, divided (1 tsp of coarse sea salt if you have it)
3½ -4 cup water or vegetable broth or combination of the two
½ cup paella rice or barley or Farro
1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 bunch chard, thick stems removed, washed, leaves chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to your taste
6 garlic cloves
½ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Lemon wedges for garnish

Coat the lamb with the allspice.
Cover the bottom of a heavy gauge lidded pot with 2-3 tbsp of olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add onions and sauté 2 minutes to soften. Add the lamb. Sauté until meat is brown, 5-7 minutes.

Add cinnamon, cardamom seeds, cloves, bay leaf,  and nutmeg. Stir to blend.
Add the water/broth (use 4 cups if you plan to use farro), bring to a boil, cover and lower heat. Simmer 90 minutes or until lamb is tender.

If you are using barley, add it to the lamb after one hour of its cooking.

Once the lamb has cooked 90 minutes:

stir in 1 tsp salt, black pepper, chickpeas, farro or paella rice if not using barley.
Raise heat to bring to a boil, then immediately lower to simmer and cook until grain is soft. If you need more liquid, add water. (Rice will need 12 minutes but farro 15-20)

Remove bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Add chopped chard leaves, stirring them in as you go. Continue to simmer.

Mash or mince the garlic cloves with 1 tsp coarse sea salt.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small frying pan and brown the salted garlic, 1-2 minutes. Add to the stew and blend. (This seems to be a Palestinian kitchen custom.)

Remove the stew from the heat. When ready to serve, stir in the lemon juice.  Put a lemon wedge in every bowl.  

Serve with warm pita.
And think: Spring!