Saturday, February 7, 2009

Goat cheese - baaa?

If you think you don't like goat cheese, you might if it's done this way:

Take a toasted piece of rustic bread or a bagel, spread goat cheese on it, drizzle it with honey and top with sliced dried figs.

This could also be served with a salad of baby greens, just to give the rabbit food another dimension.

Click on the video for a look at some unusual goats.

Friday, February 6, 2009

True Cajun - hold the tomatoes

As many of you know, my mom, rest her soul, was Cajun through and through. But when she was growing up in the early part of the 20th century, it wasn't anything to be proud of - in fact, she and her brother and sisters did all they could to speak without an accent and learn to cook American. She told me she was the first child in her family who went to school speaking English; she would talk to her parents in English and they would answer her in French. She didn't become truly bilingual until she moved back to Louisiana after my dad retired.

But there were ways to "cook French" in her culture, and one of tenets was that jambalaya, étouffée and gumbo never, EVER, had okra or tomatoes in them. I'm not sure why, but I think it had to do with the breakdown of vegetables during the long cooking times. Vegetables, including tomatoes and okra, were often served separately at dinner.

In recent years, Cajun food has taken on the trappings of many ethnic cuisines: specialized spices, hard-to-acquire meats and seafoods, and esoteric, complicated instructions. I'm here to say that only the spices are required, along with the "holy Trinity" of onion, bell pepper and celery. The cuisine was developed to feed large numbers of people with whatever was on hand. So go with what you have. Just don't add tomatoes.

Lori K's generic jambalaya
Serves 6

4 small bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon gumbo filé (ground sassafras leaves, optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup of diced smoked sausage (andouille, kielbasa or similar) or smokey ham
1 cup raw chicken, pork or seafood
1 onion (about a cup)
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup diced bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups uncooked rice (long grain or converted)
4 cups chicken, seafood or vegetable stock

Thoroughly combine the spices (all the ingredients before the oil) in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat and add the meats (if using seafood, add it with the rice). Cook for 5 minutes, then add the vegetables and the spice mix. Cook until everything is browned, about 10 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pan well, and add the rice. Cook another 5 minutes, then add the broth. Bring to a boil, cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Stir well, remove the bay leaves, and serve. 

Photograph c. 1938 of a Cajun woman hulling rice in Crowley, LA

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Green tea, cancer drug don't mix

Contrary to popular assumptions about the health benefits of green tea, I see in a newsletter that I get from the National Science Foundation  that the widely used supplement renders Velcade, a cancer drug used to treat multiple myeloma and mantle cell lymphoma, completely ineffective in treating cancer. This finding by researchers at the University of Southern California highlights why it's important to consider the properties of EVERYTHING that goes into oneself, not just pharmaceuticals, especially when fighting disease.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Food safety, from the top

Part of the problem with catching tainted food that makes its way into our food system is that the agency that is responsible for most of the inspections of our food, the FDA, uses most of its budget to deal with the safety of the D (drug) in its name, and the other agency who does inspections, a part of the Department of Agriculture, isn't funded nearly as well. It's been suggested that the inspection process be taken out of each agency and combined into a separate agency. (A more in-depth discussion of this problem can be found at Science Progress [click here].)

"I think that the (Food and Drug Administration) has not been able to catch some of these things as quickly as I expect them to catch," Obama said in an interview aired Monday on NBC's "Today" show. "And so we're gonna be doing a complete review of FDA operations."

One of the changes that already has happened:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced Friday final approval of a project to test a results and competency-linked pay-for-performance system that will change the way employees are compensated, rewarded, and recognized.

FSIS is a public health regulatory agency that continually invests in human capital. In order to continue agency success in performing a range of food safety, food defense, and public health regulatory missions over the next decade, FSIS requires an innovative human resources system. The demonstration project will enable FSIS to take a proactive role in finding solutions to all of these challenges in order to attract a diverse and well-qualified applicant pool, and to retain and motivate its current workforce. The final Federal Register notice is available at:

The Public Health Human Resources System (PHHRS) is a pay-for-performance project that will include approximately 2,800 FSIS employees.