Monday, May 23, 2011

Food news

Budget vs. health

Sure, it would be nice to be all-organic all the time, but hey, the hubby is planning to ditch his accounting practice in about a year, and who can afford it? So I did a bit of Internet research here, here, and here, and came up with an "organic priorities list," trying to determine which foods really get sprayed with insecticide(s) to within an inch of their lives and which ones aren't quite so bad. Here are some foods that these sites think might be safer if organic:
  • "Starches": Potatoes, rice. Since the organic rice in our local supermarket is all $4 for 2 pounds, we might as well experiment with some different kinds, such as basmati--any organic brown rice will do.
  • Vegetables in general: bell peppers, celery, lettuce, green beans, spinach, and, some say, tomatoes (a good excuse to keep buying Middle Earth Tomato Sauce with Roasted Zucchini and a hechsher from Milano, Italia--scroll up from the end of the comments--yum!)
  • Fruit: Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, bananas, imported grapes (more likely to be sprayed heavily), cherries, strawberries
  • Animal products: Just about all--meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products
  • Miscellaneous: Coffee, baby food
Speaking of strawberries . . .

Bugging out--a Kashrut issue

I decided to follow Miami Al's advice (a year after 'twas given--I'm a slow learner :)):

"Easiest solution for strawberries, cut off the leafy part and some sliver of the flesh... The issues with infestations is in the green part on top, not the berry itself."

The alternative is to soak them for two-three minutes in water mixed with fruit wash (Orthodox Union method--see the comments to the post linked immediately above) or salt, and end up with a soggy, tasteless mess not worth eating. So off I went to our friendly local supermarket for organic strawberries, nipped off the leaves and a bit of the flesh with my handy-dandy new paring knife, scrubbed them under running water with my fingers for about 15 seconds, and enjoyed! Speaking of my new paring knife . . .

I mangled a mango, but I finally got it right (see the comments to this post)

TOTJ Steve

You don't peel a mango. You "fillet" it. Basically, that means you slice off each side, cutting just to the side of the center pit. Each fillet will be about 1/3 the width of the whole fruit. With the cut side facing up, take your paring knife and make several straight cuts in one direction, than more cuts in the perpendicular direction, so that you cut "cubes" into the flesh. Push the skin side "in" and the cubes pop up, then you just slice along the skin to free the cubes. Repeat with the other side, then carefully remove as much flesh as possible from the pit. Yumm.

Yummy, indeed! On my first attempt, I accidentally cut all the way through the skin and had to peel each cube of mango off the skin individually--what a mushy mess. But I got it right on my second attempt, carefully avoiding cutting through the skin, and had a delightful addition to the fruit salad I made for this past Shabbat. Thanks, TOTJ Steve!

And speaking of my new paring knife again . . .

Onion update (for part one, see Crybaby)

The good news:

  • Chick peas taste better when warmed for a few minutes in a pan of onions already browned in olive oil.
  • Cooking the onion (and the beans, for that matter) with fresh ginger--currently as cheap as dirt in our neighborhood--makes the flatulence less malodorous.
The bad news:
  • I wrapped the leftover cut raw onion in plastic wrap and sealed it in a zip-type plastic bag, and it's still making the inside of my refrigerator smell, even with an open box of baking soda right next to it.
  • No amount of fresh ginger seems to make the flatulence disappear. If you'll pardon the indelicate language, I'm tired of being an old fart.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled, written-in-family-friendly-language blog.


Blogger Miami Al said...

For onions, my wife got the "onion savers" at Bed Bath and Beyond... they look goofy, but they work. If you don't have a store like that handy, has them in the marketplace for $5.

Glad to help on the Kashrut side. We inspect for bugs, but we don't go crazy. You're not allowed to intentionally eat a bug. This anti-vegetable crazy that is being pushed for Orthodoxy is sick and twisted and dangerous.

Tue May 24, 10:49:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, thanks for the tip. I'll go case out Bed Bath and Beyond and see whether the local branch carries "onion savers."

I agree about the vegetable craziness. The only thing accomplished by forcing people to go to such lengths to check for bugs is to discourage Orthodox Jews from eating vegetables and fruits. In my opinion, this obsessive-compulsive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive approach to kashrut may result in a less-healthy Orthodox community. Who's going to want to go through such contortions just to eat spinach and strawberries?

Tue May 24, 11:13:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Well, "I'll go case out Bed Bath and Beyond" -- just remember your 20% off coupon, they never expire them. We have a place to collect them so when we go in there, we get 20% off everything. :) Since I run a gourmet kitchen in triplicate, it helps. :)

Well, there is a discussion of caring for baby boomers that spent all their money on Yeshiva and never saved taking place on ProfK's blog.

The OCD approach to vegetables discourages vegetables, it's gross. It also takes the vegetables you do have and zaps them of flavor by over-bringing EVERYTHING. Then, to add back flavor, they coat everything in oil.

It's absolutely crazy.

For what it's worth, our more "LWMO" crew, for lack of a better term, eat like normal modern upper middle class Americans, organic produce, vegetable heavy meals, etc. Our more "RWMO" friends each more Kugels, unrecognizable vegetables, etc.

It's not all of Orthodoxy. There is definitely an "enough" contingent, just not on the blogosopher.

Tue May 24, 01:03:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Just noticed Rice Pasta, nothing needed.

Almost picked up Thai noodles at Whole Foods, but none had a hashgacha and didn't know if they needed it, now I do.

95% of the processed food in my house is vegan, so a lot is on the list.

Tue May 24, 03:59:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous TOTJ Steve said...

I'm still not sold on the organic hype when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Sprayed or organic, they still need to be washed; so what's the big deal. Recent studies show that washing with a vigorous hand scrubbing is as effective as fruit/veg wash. And keep in mind that if it's organic, they use even more manure to fertilize and treat the soil. So, wash you must! I do understand the interest in non-rbgh dairy products, and even organic dairy products, since I've noticed that cows tend to eat stuff off the ground without washing it first.

Next time you do the mango thing, dice it fine and mix in a bowl with a shake or two of dried basil, a dash of balsamic vinegar or rice wine vinegar (I don't remember if you said you could do those, they are diluted far more than Heinz) mix well and chill for a half hour before eating. Excellent on fish. Or, make a wrap with some sliced cheese, some greens and some mango cubes and you have an outstanding summer lunch.

Tue May 24, 04:18:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, I'll see whether I can unearth any 20%-off coupons for B B & B.

Overcooked vegies--feh. :( Give me some broccoli cooked 'til no-longer-crunchy in the microwave and I'm a happy camper.

I'm delighted to hear that the Left-Wing Modern Orthodox eat a normal diet with lots of fruit and "recognizable" vegetables. They're probably healthier than those who consider kugel the only appropriate "starch" for Shabbat.

I'm a fan of corn-quinoa pasta. Try it, you'll like it.

TOTJ Steve, it's not what's on the surface that's the problem, it's what gets absorbed into the fruit and won't come off in water.

Let me try that mango, basil, and balsamic vinegar topping on this coming Erev Shabbat's fish. (We love eating fish on Erev Shabbat--we don't have to scrub the sink and switch to meat/fleishig/b'sari, and we can have a dairy dessert.) I like that mango wrap idea, too.

Tue May 24, 04:53:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Personally, I think Organic is overrated. I do think that "locally grown" matters. When I get stuff from a local market that buys from local farmers, the taste difference is night and day. Fresh produce tastes delicious without covering it in butter/cheese, not the case with stuff that spent a week on a truck and was picked raw.

More manure and compost is good for the soil. The heavy salt based fertilizers aren't so great for the soil, long term, as it encourages compaction and a salt build up.

My point in bringing up that they ate an organic heavy diet wasn't to suggest that it was better, it was to suggest that they are following the same trends as the rest of America, as opposed to neo-shetle Orthodoxy.

Wed May 25, 08:19:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

You're probably right about locally-grown, rather than picked before ripe and shipped, being better. I really should shop at the local farmer's market more often.

"More manure and compost is good for the soil." They worked for our ancestors for thousands of years. Who needs all those chemicals polluting the ground water?

Wed May 25, 12:34:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Clearly you've never picked up a MiracleGro refill packet and a bag of Black Kow and felt the weight difference... :)

Wed May 25, 08:13:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

One of the disadvantages of living in a small apartment is that we have little room for entertaining. On the other hand, one of the advantages of living in a apartment is that someone else takes care of the landscaping. :)

Wed May 25, 10:29:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, I bought one of those onion storage containers at Bed Bath and Beyond last night. (I regret to inform you that, in NYC, their coupons *do* have expiration dates. :( ) I also bought one of those scoop-style cutting boards that have curved-up edges and a handle. It's certainly easier to get the cut onion into the frying pan from that type of cutting board.

Does anyone have a better cure for flatulence? I'm going through fresh ginger like crazy, but it doesn't seem to stop much, other than the, um, "fragrance."

Thu May 26, 12:38:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

The coupons have expiration dates, but they don't enforce them, they happily scan them... at least down here.

Regarding the scoop cutting board, I love em, have about 5 for during the year, plus a few for Pesach. That's the core of my vegetable prep area, a few decent knives and a scoop board.

Thu May 26, 05:34:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you find an answer to the flatulence issue, please do share it. I have a friend who went vegetarian about 2 years ago, and she said it is STILL an issue.

Thu Jun 16, 01:51:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

If I get lucky enough to find a cure for flatulence, I'll certainly let you know. Then, I should patent it. :)

Sun Jun 19, 07:12:00 AM 2011  

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