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Food

If you could travel back in time about 8 million years, you'd find a creature in an African tree that was the ancestor of all current apes and humans. And that creature in all likelihood would have spent a big part of its day munching leaves and fruit — pretty much what apes eat now.

The Mediterranean diet has long been a darling of nutrition experts as a proven way to prevent some chronic diseases. Heavy on olive oil, vegetables, fruit, nuts and fish, the diet most recently has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and dying compared with a typical low-fat diet.

A farmer in Oregon has found some genetically engineered wheat growing on his land. It's an unwelcome surprise, because this type of wheat has never been approved for commercial planting.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it's investigating, trying to find out how this wheat got there. The USDA says there's no risk to public health, but wheat exporters are worried about how their customers in Asia and Europe will react.

This week's recipe is a reminder of how savory and delicious a meatless Asian take on mushrooms can be. 

The makers of Smithfield Ham, an icon on America's culinary scene for decades, are selling the publicly traded company to China's Shuanghui International Holdings Limited for about $4.72 billion in cash. The deal also includes an exchange of debt.

The purchase values Smithfield Foods at $7.1 billion — a figure that would make the purchase "the largest Chinese takeover of a U.S. company," according to Bloomberg News.

It's not every day that a 9-year-old girl chastises the CEO of one of the world's biggest fast-food chains.

Yet that's exactly what young Hannah Robertson did Thursday morning at McDonald's annual shareholders meeting in Chicago. When the meeting opened up to questions, Hannah was first up at the mic with a pointed criticism.

"It would be nice if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time," she told McDonald's CEO Don Thompson.

Ouch.

What is the case against Wisconsin farmer Vernon Hershberger really about? It depends on whom you ask.

To hear the prosecution, it's about licensing, not raw milk: Hershberger, a dairy farmer hailing from the town of Loganville, is on trial this week for operating without three licenses. He's also accused of continuing to sell raw milk to members of his private club after he was ordered not to.

If convicted, the father of 10 faces more than a year in jail and more than $10,000 in fines.

Weeknight Kitchen: Rustic White Bean Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

May 22, 2013

This salad has much more than an assortment of flavors and textures. The beans and eggs can be cooked ahead, while the vinaigrette can be made several days in advance, leaving assembly of the salad for the last minute. It's lovely for lunch or as the anchor to dinner. Dress the beans in advance of eating to absorb the flavors of the vinaigrette.

Serves 4 
• 2 cups cooked white beans (navy or cannellini) or canned, rinsed and drained
• 1/2 fennel bulb, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
• 1/2 small sweet onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)

An international group of plant pathologists has solved a historical mystery behind Ireland's Great Famine.

Sure, scientists have known for a while that a funguslike organism called Phytophthora infestans was responsible for the potato blight that plagued Ireland starting in the 1840s. But there are many different strains of the pathogen that cause the disease, and scientists have finally discovered the one that triggered the Great Famine.

Butterscotch is going through something of a revival. So much so, that two Kitchen Window contributors wanted to write about it. Therefore, welcome to the more-than-you-ever-thought-you-needed-to-know-about-butterscotch special coverage. Today is the second in our two-part butterscotch series. Last week's column has more recipes featuring this resurgent flavor.

A controversial petition by the dairy industry to allow milk sweetened with aspartame or other alternative sweeteners to be labeled on the front of the carton simply as MILK is drawing criticism from the nation's leading group of nutritionists.

It takes a lot of chutzpah to reduce one of the most powerful men on Earth to a pile of fruits and vegetables.

Luckily for art lovers, Giuseppe Arcimboldo had nerve to spare.

Arcimboldo created this unorthodox produce portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II back in 1590. By that time, the Italian artist had been painting for the emperor and his powerful Habsburg family for more than 25 years, so presumably, they'd grown used to his visual jokes. (The emperor has "peachy" cheeks and "ears" of corn, get it?)

Back in 2009, Katie Shelly was craving an eggplant Parmesan. Small problem: She'd never made it before. But she remembered that a college roommate used to make it, so she called her up and asked for the recipe.

The friend told her she needed to start with three bowls — one for breadcrumbs, one for egg and one for flour, salt and pepper. "In that moment, it was totally natural for me to just draw the three bowls instead of writing all that out in words," says Shelly, whose day job is as a visual designer.

This recipe was inspired by our local Belgian beer place, which has several different versions of moules frites on the menu: an enamel pot of mussels comes with a cone filled with crispy French fries and a mayonnaise dipping sauce alongside. 

Bringing Back Butterscotch

May 15, 2013

Butterscotch is going through something of a revival. So much so, that two Kitchen Window regular contributors wanted to write about it. Therefore, welcome to the more-than-you-ever-thought-you-needed-to-know-about-butterscotch special coverage. Today is the first in our two-part butterscotch series. Check in next week (May 22) for more recipes featuring this resurgent flavor.

Chris Hadfield: Space Chef In Chief

May 14, 2013

Amid the media phenomenon that is Cmdr. Chris Hadfield, you may have overlooked his turn as the International Space Station's top chef.

Yes, we talk a lot about eating bugs here at The Salt. We know, because some of you have complained about it.

The Food and Drug Administration is currently embroiled in a surprisingly heated culinary standoff — pitting French cheese-makers (and American cheese-lovers) against regulators, all because of one very small problem: cheese mites.

Cheese mites are microscopic little bugs that live on the surfaces of aged cheeses, munching the microscopic molds that grow there. For many aged cheeses, they're something of an industry nuisance, gently brushed off the cheeses. But for Mimolette, a bright orange French cheese, they're actually encouraged.

My mother didn't plant a great many spring bulbs. But over by the pachysandra patch, there was a single lovely pink tulip, and I kept my eye on it for two weeks before Mother's Day. When that Sunday morning arrived, I rushed out, snipped it and ran inside to where she lay sleeping to present it to her. "Did you pick that outside?" she inquired, her expression shifting from sleepy surprise to something more complicated. I nodded proudly. "Oh ... thank you, sweetie."

The Alabama Legislature has approved a bill making it legal to brew beer at home, a practice that had been forbidden in the state. If Gov. Robert Bentley signs the bill, as is expected, home brewing will soon be legal in all 50 states.

Alabama lawmakers voted on the bill to legalize home brewing months after it was first introduced. And while it met with earlier debate and resistance, the arrival of the legislation — House Bill 9 — for a vote Tuesday night seems to have come to its supporters as a pleasant surprise.

Weeknight Kitchen: Warm Goat Cheese Salad

May 8, 2013

◦One 11- to 12-ounce log fresh goat cheese, cut crosswise into 4 even pieces
◦1/2 cup fine dried bread crumbs
◦1/3 pound thick slice of pancetta, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
◦3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
◦2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
◦1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
◦1 teaspoon finely chopped shallot
◦1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
◦1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
◦2 cups frisée greens, washed, dried, and torn into 1-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bordeauxs and Burgundys haven't changed much since the days when famous wine-lover Thomas Jefferson kept the cellars of his Parisian home well-stocked with both wines.

But now, some worry that the regional rules and traditions that have defined top winemaking regions like Champagne, Burgundy and Chianti for centuries could melt away as climate change takes effect.

It's strange to find a Fried Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich, famous as Elvis Presley's favorite, on a restaurant menu, given its effect on Elvis. It's like finding a store selling an Isadora Duncan commemorative scarf.

Nonetheless, freelance radio producer Melissa LaCasse and I decided to try the one offered by The Breslin in New York, listed as "fried peanut butter & banana sandwich with bourbon & vanilla."

How To Dip Without Breaking The Chip

May 6, 2013

The Mexican army's May 5 victory in 1862's Battle of Puebla is a pretty small holiday in Mexico. But in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo has grown into a kind of Mexican St. Patrick's Day. So this weekend, in honor of that holiday, thousands of Americans will be dipping tortilla chips into guacamole, and when they do they'll have an important decision to make: how best to dip without breaking the chip.

Korean and Southern food may not seem like a natural pair. But now it's one more example of traditions emulsifying in the great American melting pot. Korean-American chef Edward Lee makes that case with his new cookbook Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen.

Fusion cooking comes naturally to Lee: He grew up in an immigrant neighborhood of Brooklyn surrounded by Jamaicans, Indians, Iranians and Jews.

Home grocery delivery sounds like a frill for people too lazy to schlep to the store. But having food delivered can be more environmentally friendly than driving to the store, researchers say.

Having groceries delivered can cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least half, compared to driving to the store, according to a new study. That's because the delivery truck offers the equivalent of a "shared ride" for the food.

Weeknight Kitchen: Roasted Chicken Salad with Apples, Golden Raisins, and Tarragon

May 1, 2013

I must admit something embarrassing. Whenever I think of chicken salad, I think of the recipe for Waldorf salad that a customer keeps screaming at Basil Fawlty: chicken, apples, celery, and walnuts! I have that frantic scene locked in my head. Chicken salad = Fawlty Towers. Except, I went back to see that scene again to write this headnote (and get a little comic relief) and realized there's no chicken in a Waldorf salad. Oops. Well, this one's still great.

3 cups cubed cooked chicken, taken from roasted legs and thighs
2 large green apples, peeled and cubed

Mon Dieu! Fast Food Now Rules In France

Apr 30, 2013

When it comes to culinary matters, France, in many minds, is synonymous with fine dining. So it might surprise you that, for the first time, sales at fast food chains have overtaken those at traditional restaurants in the country that gave us the word gastronomie.

I rarely dress up asparagus; it has such a wonderful flavor that it feels silly to complicate it in any way. But, as the first warm months carry on, cooks and farmers, all eagerly anticipating the next wave of crops, begin to grow a little weary of asparagus. For this dish, I drizzle the grilled spears with a sauce that I made up one day when my wife was desperately hungry and the pickins were slim in the kitchen. We had olive oil, hot sauce, and a little grated Parmesan. I mixed them all together to make a dipping sauce for bread, and she loved it!

Coachella, the massive outdoor music festival that kicks off this weekend in Indio, Calif., has become an "incubator" not just for new bands, but for rising food entrepreneurs, according to a story in the San Jose Mercury News earlier this week.

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