Showing posts from October, 2011

Sriracha Halloween

UPDATE 10/18/12: Visit my new blog post for more details on how to make a Sriracha costume, and for a downloadable black-and-white image of the Sriracha label. 


Happy Halloween!

Our Halloween weekend has been filled with all kinds of adventures, some of which you'll hear more about later this week, but to celebrate the day itself, I wanted to share the costumes we came up with: Sriracha and Chili Garlic Sauce!

These two are the workhorses of our condiment shelf, bringing heat and bright pepper flavor to pretty much everything we eat around here. Sriracha has gotten a lot of love around the web (, in the last few years, but we've been loving it for a long time now, at least since college when our old buddy RC introduced Justin to the wonders of the green-capped sauce (8 years?).

So, what better tribute to that long-lasting love than a Halloween costume? I got the idea from some browsing over at Pinterest, and then scoured the web for images of the l…

Afro-Caribbean Global Meal

Our second Global Meal of the semester took us to Brazil (at least culinarily) to eat and learn about Afro-Caribbean cuisine. Our special guest Scott Barton, a chef and food scholar, flew in from New York City for the event. We were so happy to have him here to share his experience and insight on the way that foods shape culture.

All the beautiful photos below were taken by Kat Cameron. See more of her work at

Pao de queijo:

Salada de Feijao Fradinho:

Moqueca de Peixe:

Doce da Abobora:

Chocolate and Halloween

Ever since I attended a presentation last year about the sustainable and ethical Kallari chocolate, I've been trying to think even more about my chocolate consumption (although I've certainly eaten my [un]fair share of Hershey's and Mars and all the rest, simply because it's so omnipresent).

 photo from
But this Halloween season has brought a wave of articles about chocolate candy that make clear just how detrimental our annual tradition of burying kids in candy can be, not only for these kids' dental and bodily health, but for the health of kids who are making this chocolate, whether in cacao plantations or factories.

Here are just a few of those articles that are worth checking out:

Child Slaves Made Your Halloween Candy. Stop Buying It, from Good Halloween candy is a human rights nightmare, from GristHershey Exchange Student Warnings Were Ignored, from the New York Timesthis article is particul…

World Go Vegan Week

In addition to the Food Day that took place on Monday, this week is also World Go Vegan Week (check out the link for all kinds of great resources).

And at least in Madison, many local restaurants are helping to celebrate by offering special vegan items or discounts.

Here's a selection:

Bunky's Cafe  Will be offering all pizzas with vegan Daiya cheese. Mention World Go Vegan Week (WGVW) to get a free serving of vegan baklava!Glass Nickel Pizza: Will have two special vegan pizzas (Thai Pie with peanut sauce, Daiya vegan cheese, tofu, broccoli, red peppers, onion, and cilantro topped with bean sprouts and chopped peanuts. And Vegan Delight with BBQ sauce, Daiya vegan cheese, broccoli, corn, garlic, pineapple and red onion). You can also substitute vegan cheese on any of their regular pizzas.
Green Owl Cafe: Will be offering $1 off their delicious vegan desserts when you order a sandwich or entree order, if you mention WGVWIan's Pizza:  Will have a special vegan pizza &…

Caretaking with soup and salad

There are days when having someone else prepare a meal for you feels like the kindest gift that can be bestowed.

I recently had one of those days.

And JH came through in a big way, serving up a meal perfectly catered to my desires.

A rich, warm, creamy potato-leek soup, with potatoes and leeks from our CSA box (recipe below):  

A beautiful salad of tomatoes from our garden, CSA greens, Farmer John's Asiago and our favorite tofu croutons (maybe I'll share a method/recipe for those soon!):

And hearty sourdough bread from Batch Bakehouse
I ate not only with the pleasures of taste and texture, but also with the pleasures of feeling loved, understood, and cared for, simply and deliciously.

Simple Potato Leek Soup based on Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
2 T oil (or butter) 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed 3 leeks, washed well and sliced thinly salt and pepper 1 quart vegetable stock 
Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add vegetables …

Food Day

Today, it turns out, is Food Day!

I didn't even know there was such a thing before a few days ago, but now I do, and it's totally the kind of thing I can get behind.

The goals of Food Day, run by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, as stated at
Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness Expand access to food and alleviate hunger Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids Support fair conditions for food and farm workers Pretty rad, right?

There are events happening all over the country. Look yours up here:

In Madison, there are:
Food Day Celebration at Goodman Community Center Food Day Reception and Celebration at Whole FoodsOpportunity to voice your opinion about food at the MMSD Board of Education Open MeetingThe main website has all kinds of interesting …

Celebrating Sukkot

To my string of Jewish holiday food posts (Passover, Yom Kippur), I now get to add Sukkot!

Although Sukkot is a lesser holiday in many observant Jews' books, I've always thought it was pretty great, just because you get to build a little fort, and eat outside with your friends and family for a week. (that is a very non-technical description; see the real rules here).

This year, our friends SB and JB organized a little vegetarian Sukkot potluck, but the cold weather kept us indoors.  Not one to let the altered setting keep us from having the sukkah (aka "little fort") ambiance, SB created a beautiful indoor space, complete with decorations and "fruit" hanging from the ceiling:

And, it turns out, we weren't just cheating, but were officially exempt from eating outside in the sukkah, because of the cold weather. I learned this useful information from the wonderful little facts SB had pasted all around the room to help the mostly non-Jewish guests make sens…

More on Garlic Technique

Don't quite know where all my obsession with garlic peeling/chopping is coming from lately, but I saw this video yesterday, in a NYTimes article about Jacques Pepin, and I just had to share:

Something about the ease and fluidity and beauty with which he handles the garlic moved me.

Or maybe the half-formed tears in my eyes were just from the garlic's oils?

Either way. I found this video stunning.  And there are plenty more on the NYTimes website. Check them out:

How to Make an Omelet:

How to Sharpen Knives:

Interview with Jacques Pepin

Occupy Wall Street and Food

With all the actions around the country recently stemming from the original Occupy Wall Street, I've been thinking often about how the big broad complaints "the 99%" are lodging are tied up in the food issues that I find so moving.

The problem is, as much as I love thinking about food, and as much as I fancy myself an intellectual, I have a really hard time grappling with economics and large-scale governmental policy. I know this stuff is at the core of so many of the problems with the way our food industries and food subsidies work, and yet, my mind doesn't easily grasp the core issues.

So, I'm grateful that there are folks like Tom Philpott, food and ag writer at Grist and Mother Jones, out there to bring so many of these important points together.

He's just put out a great article, "Foodies, Get Thee to Occupy Wall Street," with the tagline "Because Big Food makes Big Finance look like amateurs."

In it, he's talking not only to the …


Oh this one!

and this one:

and this last one:

They Draw & Cook

Have you guys seen They Draw and Cook?

It's a blog, and a book, which feature BEAUTIFUL illustrated recipes, like this:

and this:

I've already spent way too much time browsing the site, but I'm inspired to create art and food all at once, so I think it's worth it.

This also makes me want to print some of these, frame them, and hang them up around our kitchen.

Take some time to look around and get inspired.

Which ones are your favorites?!

Grist Post #2

Check out my second Grist post: "Canvolution!"

This one engages with some ideas from my dissertation, so I'd particularly love feedback. Let me know what you think!

P.S. This is also my 200th post here at Dining and Opining! Thanks for being along for the ride...

FH King Video!

I've written before about the awesome FH King Students for Sustainable Agriculture on campus and their Harvest Handouts program, which is one of my favorite parts of Madison summers (read more about that here), but now you can see it all for yourselves!

University Communications has made this colorful little video, with great images from Harvest Handouts, from the FH King Farm, and also from the Slow Food UW Family Dinner Nights:

Lots of people I know and admire are featured in this video, so I especially love it.

Cool, eh?

The Green Owl

I know I've mentioned the Green Owl, Madison's only vegetarian restaurant, on D&O before, but I figured it was about time for a good old-fashioned review.

This last time we headed out there, it was a warm enough day that we were able to sit outside, in their nice outdoor patio, with bird-filled trees nearby. It was lovely, even though I do enjoy their modern and colorful interior decor, with bright green design-y walls, cool lampshades, and cute owl images galore.

We began with an appetizer special, of potstickers in a spicy red sauce. The potstickers were only lightly fried, so they had a nice soft wrapping, with greens inside. These were tasty, but a little on the salty side.

For our entrees, we shared two dishes: the BBQ jackfuit sandwich (that we had in slider form at a Global Food for Thought Meal last semester) and the empanadas picadillo. The former is described on the menu as "the young jackfruit stands in for pulled pork, simmered in our BBQ sauce. Served …

Peeling Garlic

I think that this video has been making the rounds already, but if you haven't seen it, here's how to peel a head of garlic in less than 10 seconds, courtesy of my friend DL. Whoa:

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from on Vimeo.

We tried it with just a few cloves, in a metal bowl with a cookie sheet on top, and that didn't work so well. We then tried a few cloves in a glass jar with a metal lid, and that was better! (though one clove still clung stubbornly to its skin). I guess the whole head really is key.

But let me know how it works for you!

Fasting and Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, took place over the weekend. In keeping with the tradition, Justin and I decided to fast for the day--from sunset of the night before Yom Kippur to sunset on the day itself. 

The experience was interesting, both intellectually and physically, and I thought it would be worth it to write a little more about fasting and about why a secular Jew and her non-Jewish husband would choose to fast on this Jewish holy day.

I fasted on this particular day mostly because Justin wanted to do so, and I wanted to join in solidarity.  His reasons seemed largely based on his interest in having the physical experience of a day without food; Yom Kippur (and the attending break-the-fast dinner we'd been invited to) seemed like a better day than most to have this experience.

As for me, although I'm not religious, I still find [or try to find] a place in my life for Jewish traditions, especially for those that have to do with food and community. I like that…

On Fermentation

With all the recent talk of the Reedsburg Fermentation Fest and Justin's current adventures in beer brewing (where's that long promised post, JH?!), I got to thinking about how my knowledge of fermentation is actually pretty rudimentary.  I mean, I know that it has something to do with microorganisms changing food in ways we want (as opposed to ways we don't want, as with decomposition), but what do all those different products--yogurt, pickles, beer, wine, cheese, bread--really have in common?

I know enough to know that the best guide to all this is Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz, also known as Sandorkraut, the self-proclaimed "fermentation fetishist." But since I haven't read that book (shame on me!), here's the bits and pieces I've thus far been able to glean from various sources.

Scientifically, the process looks like this:

Some kind of carbohydrate turns into some kind of acid or alcohol (or carbon dioxide, I think). With wine and beer a…

Fermentation Fest

Although writing about it gives me feelings of regret* because I won't be able to go, I should share with all of you that this weekend marks the beginning of the Reedsburg Fermentation Fest. That's right, an entire week-long festival devoted to fermented food and drink!

The website gives this enticing list: "From sourdough bread to home-crafted beer, pickles to soy sauce, chocolate to cheese, compost to silage, the Live Culture Convergence has it all." How I wish I could learn to make them all!

You can see the whole schedule here.

If I were going, I'd totally hit up at least the following events:

The Secret Life of ChocolateSaturday, Oct. 8 , 1 - 3 pmBelieve it or not, chocolate is a fermented food. Learn all about the chocolate fermentation process and taste samples during this especially tasty class led by Gail Ambrosius.Whole Wheat BakingSaturday, Oct. 8 , 2 - 4 pm Learn to bake whole wheat baked goods using locally grown wheat. Plus: information…

The Much-Maligned Okra

Okra is one of those vegetables that is still very much a regional food. If you're from the South or have ever lived there, chances are you've eaten okra. If you're from the North, however, maybe not so much.

My father (though he is originally from Russia--definitely not the South) loved okra and grew rows upon rows of it in the large garden of my childhood home. My brother and I learned young how to twist and snap the pods from their tall stalks with big white flowers.

A recent New York Times piece on okra, Okra Recipes for Health, offered some delicious ideas for incorporating the vegetable into gumbos and stews and salads. The thing is, all of these recipes seem explicitly designed to undermine and mask the natural properties of the vegetable.  It seems that "sliminess" has led many people to think they dislike okra. Comments at the end of the article made statements to this effect: "It's not fair to ditch the vegetable just because you don't kno…

A Place for Junk Food?

On my last road trip, although we managed to avoid fast food restaurants,we didn't manage to avoid all junk food. And, in fact we didn't even try that hard. We made a gas station stop on our way home, and ended up with some barbecue Pringles and some Cheetos Puffs.

As we ate them, a flood of sensations came over me--one part nostalgia at eating these sorts of foods at slumber parties throughout my youth, one part pleasure in those evolutionary roots (or whatever it is) that make us crave fats and salts, one part feeling gross at the build-up of artificial flavors in my mouth, and, yes, one part guilt that this food didn't meet any of my standards for what I put into my body.

In trying to reconcile all these varying feelings, I thought of a picnic earlier this year, where a friend of mine (and a sometimes-reader of this blog) reached for some chips (cheetos, I think) and then looked at me apologetically and said, "I'm sorry, Anna."

That she felt like she need…

Eating On the Road

On our way to eat Thai food in St. Louis (among doing other things) last week, we had a typical discussion in the car about what we should do for lunch. I often like to bring my own snacks for the car, so that we don't have to stop at interstate fast food restaurants, but hadn't brought anything along this time around.

And so there's this quandary,* do we take extra time to drive into a town to find a halfway decent restaurant? Or do we quell our hunger with small snacks until we arrive at our destination? Or do we throw our hands up, and just eat fast food? What do you do? No matter what you choose, it's hard to eat well when on the road.

This time around though, one of our co-travelers, KK, came to the rescue. We stopped at a gas station just as we were trying to choose among our equally unattractive lunch options, and he said, "Or...I did bring about 10 pita sandwiches, which should be enough for everyone, so we could just eat those for lunch?"

He had mad…

Thai Gai Yang

I've written before about how I was first disappointed in Madison's Thai food offerings, upon moving here, because nothing compared to the Thai food of St. Louis, on which my love of the cuisine was founded.

Last weekend, we got to return to the place it all began, Thai Gai Yang Cafe in St. Louis. We were very excited (please excuse my closed eyes):

The signature dish that made Thai Gai Yang a star in our eyes, relative to the other Thai restaurants in the area, was the Yum Mama, listed under the "Salad" portion of the menu, described as "Warm egg noodle, ground chicken or tofu, red onions, green onions and cilantro, mixed with homemade sauce and topped with omelet." It is not only delicious, but lends itself to lots of bad jokes.

- "What are having for lunch?"
- "Yum Mama"
- "Why do you have to go and bring my mom into this?"


They also offer the tomato-y udon noodles, which are so satisfyingly fat and chewy:

And my favor…