Saturday, November 15, 2008

Who'll cook for the Obamas?

The changing of the guard at the White House may include the chef -- but not necessarily.

Cristeta Comerford, 45, a naturalized citizen originally from the Philippines, is the first female executive chef in the White House. Comerford, who started her career in the United States at the Sheraton near Chicago's O'Hare Airport, had worked in the White House kitchen for 10 years before being named to the post in August 2005. At the time of the appointment, Bonnie Moore, a former assistant chef at the Inn at Little Washington who is president of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, a national group that had urged Mrs. Bush to name a woman, said naming Comerford to the position "sends a message around the world. Women make up more than 50 percent of food service workers, but hold less than 4 percent of the top jobs. And this is the top job."

Usually, the chefs are not replaced just because of a change in the Oval Office. The first White House executive chef, Rene Verdon, was brought in by the Kennedys to class up the fare; he was promptly fired by Johnson because he wouldn't provide the new president's Texas favorites.

Although the Obamas ate plenty of fried stuff and pizza on the campaign trail, that's not their favored mode of eating.

"Apparently he is not into carbs," said Denver chef Daniel Young, who cooked for Obama at the Democratic National Convention. "I made lots of fresh, healthy foods."

Young was mentioned in a New York Daily News earlier this week as a possible pick for White House chef. Although Rick Bayless and Charlie Trotter have been mentioned as possible White House chefs, I’d lay money that it won’t be someone with an existing restaurant empire. Young or Art Smith, who has cooked for Oprah Winfrey, would be more likely -- although an up-and-coming chef, one who is a great cook and versatile menu planner who may not have yet made it onto the public radar, would get my vote. 

And don’t count out Comerford; why kick out a youngish, minority woman for a older white guy? Change? Maybe not the best policy in this case.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The ol' recipe file, updated

If you haven't checked out the Washington Post's recipe database, you're missing a really good source for searching out recipes by ingredient or cuisine, by preparation time, or whether they are kid-friendly. Many of the recipes have been tested by home cooks, and all have a nutrition facts box, just like the one on prepared foods in the grocery store. 

After plugging in "tuna," I found a delicious Basque stew that took about a half hour to prepare from items I already had on hand, and it was quite enjoyable.  

To test it out for yourself, go to

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fun with turkey

I don't think this guy used a turkey for this experiment (if you know where one can get a 2-pound turkey, please shoot me an e-mail), but I thought it was pretty ingenious even it was a fryer. 

On another note, I'm going to cook at least one of the fresh turkeys for our church dinner (which happens the night before the big day) without any salt. I've never done one without salt and I haven't seen a recipe that doesn't use salt at all, but since there are a number of folks I know who shouldn't be eating salt, I'm going to give it a try.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Red, white and Prop 2

One of the propositions that passed in California last week was Prop 2, which creates a new state statute that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. Having spent every summer of my life on my grandparents' farm in Wisconsin, I can see clearly the benefits of the proposition. Not only does it benefit animals while they're living, it makes them taste better when they're butchered. (Apologies to my vegan friends, but I still like meat and I have no illusions about its origins.)

And according to the magazine Mother Earth News, giving chickens room to roam may make us healthier, too:

The results from Mother Earth News’ latest round of pastured egg nutrient tests are beginning to come in. So far, pastured egg producers are kicking the commercial industry’s butt — woo hoo, go free range! We’ve invested a lot of time and energy over the last few years in researching the differences between the meat and eggs coming out of the commercial industry and those produced by conscientious farmers who let their animals graze on fresh pastures. In the past, we’ve found that eggs from hens raised on pasture, as compared to those commercially raised factory farm eggs, contain:
  • 1⁄4 less saturated fat
  • 2⁄3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene
Now we’re looking at vitamin D, which many of us do not get enough of because we don’t spend any time outdoors, and even when we do we use sunscreen that blocks vitamin D production. Eggs are one of the few food sources of naturally occurring vitamin D, and we wondered if true free-range eggs might be higher in this important vitamin, too. Our latest tests show that pastured eggs have anywhere between 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D as typical supermarket eggs.