15 minutes on…?

Again, let’s see what emerges in 15 minutes of writing.

10:55 p.m.

Today, I had the pleasure of talking with a woman doing interesting work with international ag. (We were going to and from a triathlon, but more on that and the food of sport later). She is working to negotiate fair and sustainable agricultural practices overseas, particularly in Brazil. The problem she faces is the good old invisible hand.

Companies that buy and sell commodity goods (think soy and palm oil) want the cheapest prices possible. Yet the cheapest prices are often reaped from the backs of exploited workers, and grown from environmentally damaging practices (monoculture, clear-cutting). So some negotiation needs to happen. This work  brings her face-to-face with ADM and Cargill execs who simply don’t see a sound financial case for higher wages or green practices–never mind that these practices are dictated by law.

So this triathlete/negotiator’s approach is to address the companies. But of course they’re not the only ones involved! There are whole countries (China, India) full of middle men happy to buy the cheap goods with no questions asked. So where does one start? How does an international body enforce this law-abiding and do-gooding? Continue reading




It’s 10:32 p.m. EST. What can I write about food in 15 minutes?

Let’s see.

Today, I spent a couple of hours in the garden. As the light waned and we relied increasingly on the glow of a remote street lamp, we weeded and transplanted. The plot never fails to serve up metaphors. Today, a poignant one came care of some dandelion roots. These sneaky things had lodged themselves under the soil, snaking out beneath the surface of the arugula patch. No leaves whispered their secret. Not even a sprout hinted at their proliferation. Yet all the while these roots grew.

What are these things? Continue reading

Strawberries no bigger than a knuckle

Russ Parsons, author of  How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table, was on American Public Media’s “The Splendid Table” this week talking about strawberries.

A few fun facts he shared:

  • Go tiny when you choose strawberries. No bigger than a knuckle is best if you want maximum sweetness and flavor.
  • The best strawberries are not fit for shipping. They’re too fragile! This means you’d better buy local, or you’re getting something bred to last–not to taste good.
  • You can “cook” fresh berries into sauce simply by adding sugar. They’re so delicate that all it takes is the compounds in table sugar to break them down. (The same way the fresh fish in ceviche cooks in lime juice).
  • Strawberries taste really good in this recipe (I have yet to try it, but it looks delightful and gets points for creativity!)

Listen to the whole interview at SplendidTable.org. Scroll down to the links to this week’s show.

For my own contibution, I will point you toward Bon Appetit magazine’s Strawberry Tiramisu. A great no-bake recipe for your sweltering summer kitchen.

Hello Examiner

IMG_0644A little “hiya” to weekday farmers markets and “howdy” to the Rosslyn Farmers Market launched my part-time career as Examiner.com’s DC farmers market examiner. Might a greeting to the new Anacostia Farmers Market be up next? Or coverage of Penny Karas’s demo on making Hello Cupcake-style strawberry cupcakes at the Dupont Circle market?

Stay tuned to my page to find out. You can subscribe, too!

Organic agriculture, James Beard Awards, sourdough, and a new “examiner”

What a week!

On Monday, May 4, sustainable foodies triumphed at the 2009 James Beard Awards. Among the winners of these Oscars of the gourmet world are Michael Pollan (for his “eaters’ manifesto” In Defense of Food) and Dan Barber (for his chefing, which gives a whole new meaning to local ingredients).

Then organic farming got a $50 million boost as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (a.k.a. EQIP). The USDA will use these funds to support certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic practices.

Next came a more personally positive story when a Hopkins writing classmate published a wonderful tale of fermentation and family in the Post.

In another YaD-level bit of news, this blog writer got set up as the DC farmers market examiner for (you guessed it) examiner.com–not the newspaper, but an online publication with all kinds of useful, insider information… and completely useless procrastination reading (you’ll have to be the judge of where my info falls) . More on my farmers market scooping soon.

Rainy day at the farmers’ market

Transplants2Farmers market on a rainy daywet apples

Sunday’s rain started early, and by 10 a.m., there was little doubt: this was a dismal day for outdoor activities. Yet the farmers still showed up at the farmers’ market in Takoma Park, and shoppers made it worth their while. The market on Carroll Ave. has become essential for many of us, it seems, and we’re determined to buy.

For me, it was surely worth it. I got all my important staples for the coming week (bread, greens, potatoes, apples, cider, free-range blue eggs), along with a few fun extras like garlic greens and peppercress. Luckily, aside from a soggy egg carton, everything made it home safe.

Now I have my bounty, and the knowledge that I did my small part to support local foods and sustainable growing practices. Viva la famers’ market!

Smokey Black Bean Dip

black bean dip ingredients

One party-goer thought it was bacon that made it so tasty. I sensed a smoked salmon flavor. Others just said it was good. So it seems the Smokey Black Bean Dip (incidentally, completely vegan) was a hit.

I was surprised because, out of a mixture of laziness and arrogance, I hadn’t looked up a recipe before I started making this dish. I rarely look up recipes. Sometimes (okay, often), I don’t like the improvised result, and the dish requires so many tastings, minutes of deliberation, and adjustments, that I could have pored over a dozen tried-and-true recipes by the time I get it up to par.

Luckily, in the case of this dip, everything worked out. The dish didn’t even require much tasting! I admit I did peek at The Joy of Cooking, though, and added the lemon juice because of a black bean and salsa dip I saw.

Give it a try, and see if you can sense the bacon/lox flavor. It’s worth it just to experience that odd pairing of nuances. Continue reading