Veggie-Laden Drunken Noodles

I consulted Asian cooking author and expert Nancie McDermott on how best to cook rice noodles for this recipe. She gave me two paradigm-shifting tips to keep them from sticking: 1) lower the heat and 2) add water to the pan. “Rice noodles in particular are prone to stick and burn,” Nancie says, “so they can use the coddling-along heat level rather than the fiery furnace.” Adding a bit of water if they start to stick also helps them soften and cook. Thanks, Nancie … my drunken noodles have never looked better! You can find Nancie’s Quick & Easy Thai in our Amazon Market here (also check out her Quick & Easy Vietnamese, and Quick & Easy Chinese … in all three books the recipes are true to their word—quick and easy—but Nancie knows her stuff, too. She’s spent extensive time living in and studying all three countries, so the flavors are true to the cuisine).


GE Salmon in Front of FDA

Today was the first day of hearings for a new ‘brand’ (AquAdvantage) of genetically-modified salmon that grow twice as fast as normal salmon. The company, AquaBounty, is presenting in front of the FDA today (the Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee) and tomorrow (the Food Advisory Committee) to argue its case and, so far, the FDA seems on board. In response to people’s concern for food and environmental safety, the FDA responded with the resoundingly confident statement that “the fish shouldn’t cause any allergies not found in conventional salmon and that there is little chance they could escape.” (from this article on AP by Mary Clare Jalonick)


First of all, what makes this fish genetically different from its natural cousins is that a growth hormone has been added to its gene structure, along with another gene that acts as a trigger to keep it active all year long. Given that this structure is unprecedented in nature, I’m curious to know what gives FDA officials the confidence to say that the added genes won’t have any effect on humans. And much of the evidence supporting the argument that there is no biological difference is supplied by AquaBounty, the very company that stands to profit from an FDA Yes.

Second, it seems a bit naive to say that there is little chance they could escape–despite the company’s assurances otherwise. True, most farmed fish aren’t cultivated in Prince Edwards Island and then shipped to the Panamanian highlands for “grow out.” (one of the fail-safes, by the way, is the use of chlorine to kill any possible escapees … not exactly friendly on the environment) But we’ve heard assurances before. Escapees from fish farms are a well-documented hazard of open water aquaculture. In one Canadian study, juvenile escapees were found in 75% of the streams surrounding the fish farm.

Third, these closing statements by AquaBounty’s CEO Ron Stotish just tick me off:

  • “Stotish says the fish would be bred in better conditions than many of the world’s farmed salmon, and could be located closer to population centers to help feed more people.” Stotish is clearly ‘feeding’ on the concern that global consumption of seafood is rising. That’s true, and it’s true that aquaculture will likely play a large part in feeding that demand (click here to read our piece on Farm Fresh Fish). But there are many other species that make more responsible choices for aquaculture; sorry, Mr. Stotish, we don’t need your salmon to feed the world.
  • “The company has also said the increase in engineered salmon production could help relieve endangered wild salmon populations.” Here’s a better solution … experiment with other sustainably wild-caught species (like black cod), and explore a variety of seafood that’s responsibly farm-raised (like barramundi, clams, mussels and arctic char).
  • “The company is also arguing that the fish do not need to be labeled as genetically engineered. Stotish said, ‘The label could even be misleading because it implies a difference that doesn’t exist.‘” I don’t know about you … but no matter what the FDA says, I don’t want my family being test subjects to see if an unnatural, overactive growth hormone in a food will affect our bodies. And I certainly think it’s my right to make that choice.

Here’s my question for the FDA … why? Why are you so eager to say yes to a company who has everything to gain by that yes, and so hesitant to say no to protect the public you’re charged to serve? Even if the risk is minimal, isn’t that too much given that we the people have nothing to gain and everything to lose? After all, you received 29,000 responses to the draft, the vast majority of which were against genetic engineering of our food.

If this irks you as much as it (obviously) irks me, you can take action here on Food and Water Watch. If you’d like to make your voice heard here on NOURISH Evolution, join the conversation in Eco Bites here.

Grilled Salmon with Stone Fruit Salsa

I developed this grilled salmon recipe when I got home from Cordova, Alaska bearing a few pounds of Copper River salmon. A simple salsa made with summer’s stone fruits is the perfect accompaniment.


Get a New Grain: Bulgur

I’m always looking for quick-cooking whole grains I can whip on even the busiest evenings. In that regard, bulgur has become my new best friend. You’d be hard-pressed to find a whole grain that cooks up faster (though quinoa comes close).

bulgur-wheat-whole-grainBulgur is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine and a standby in Greek fare, too. You could think of it as the grandchild of wheat berries and the child of cracked wheat. Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels. Cracked wheat is nothing more than wheat berries broken into smaller fragments that cook a bit more quickly.

But just as each generation should improve on the previous one, bulgur speeds things up even more. It’s made from wheat berries that have been steamed, dried and crushed. The result: a whole grain that looks similar to steel-cut oats but cooks in as little as 10 minutes. That’s why some refer to it as “Middle Eastern pasta.”

What It Tastes Like: Bulgur can be made from durum, hard red, hard white or soft white wheat. The stuff made from durum and white wheat varieties has a golden hue with mild nutty flavor and tender yet chewy texture. Bulgur made with hard red wheat is a tawnier shade and has a heartier consistency and more assertive taste with slightly bitter undertones.

How to Cook It: Bulgur is available in grinds from fine to extra-coarse. The finer the grind, the faster the it cooks. Fine- and medium-grain are what you’ll find most commonly. Prepare fine- or medium-grain bulgur the way you would couscous: bring liquid (water or stock) to a boil, add the bulgur, cover, remove from the heat and let it stand 10-20 minutes. This allows the grains to steam and get tender but not mushy. Many cooks use 2 parts liquid to 1 part bulgur. At , we prefer a 1:1 ratio for cooking fine and medium grains, which creates delightfully fluffy results. For coarser grains, bring liquid to a boil, add the bulgur, cover, reduce the heat and simmer 20-25 minutes or until it’s tender; drain any excess liquid. One cup of uncooked grains yields about 3 cups cooked bulgur.

How to Use It: Bulgur is a great speedy side dish that you can dress up with chopped herbs, vegetables, nuts, dried fruit or whatever else takes your fancy. It’s the basis for the traditional Middle Eastern herb-flecked grain salad, tabbouleh (Greek cuisine has its own version). Middle Eastern cooks also combine it with ground meat for kibbeh (try our version in Spiced Lamb and Bulgur Sliders). You can cook it risotto style, too, and enjoy it for breakfast, which I discovered after accidentally grabbing an unmarked container of bulgur that I thought was steel-cut oats. (It was a happy mistake, since the bulgur cooked much faster.) It’s also a surprisingly good fit with desserts like our Plum Parfaits with Bulgur and Vanilla Yogurt.

Additional Notes: You’ll find bulgur in packages (either near the flour or with other whole grains) at supermarkets and in bulk bins at health-food stores.

Along with convenience, bulgur has some serious nutritional cred. A 3/4-cup portion (the serving size in our lamb tagine recipe here) has 113 calories, a whopping 6 grams of fiber and 4.5 grams of protein. It also offers more than 40% of your daily need for manganese, a  humble trace element that helps regulate your metabolism and build bone. That makes bulgur one mighty little grain!

Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemon, Dates and Bulgur

North Africa meets the Middle East in this Moroccan-inspired lamb tagine. Ras-al-hanout (translation: “head of the shop”) is a fragrant Moroccan spice blend of cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, coriander, ginger, cayenne, cloves and allspice. You can find it, along with preserved lemons, at gourmet stores, Middle Eastern markets and some large gourmet supermarkets (I found both at Whole Foods). In this dish, whole-grain bulgur stands in for traditional couscous.

lamb-tagine-bulgur1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lamb stew meat or shoulder roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ras-al-hanout
1 cup water
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives
1/4 cup chopped preserved lemon
1/4 cup chopped pitted dried dates
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup fine- or medium-grain bulgur
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add oil to pan. Generously season lamb with salt and pepper. Add half of lamb to pan, and cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove lamb from pan. Repeat with remaining lamb.

Add onion to pan, and saute 2 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, ras al hanout, salt and pepper; saute 30 seconds or until fragrant. Return lamb to pan. Add water and oregano. Cover, place in the oven, and bake 1 hour. Add chickpeas, olives, preserved lemon and dates. Cover, and bake an additional 30 minutes or until lamb is fork-tender. If the lamb needs more time, put it back in the oven for 15 minutes or until it’s fall-apart tender.

While the lamb cooks, bring chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add bulgur. Cover, remove from heat, and let it stand for 10-20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide bulgur evenly among 4 plates. Top evenly with lamb mixture. Sprinkle evenly with parsley and cilantro.

Serves 4

Win a free copy of “Putting Food By”!

Win a free copy of the new 5th edition of “Putting Food By”!

What’s old is new again, and preserving food is chic these days. But like other old-school skills, many of us need a refresher (or even someone to show us the basics from the very beginning). Putting Food By by Ruth Hertzberg, Janet Greene and Beatrice Vaughn (Plume) was first published 30 years ago and has become the classic go-to manual for home canners.

Putting Food By covers all kinds of preserving techniques: canning, freezing, salting, smoking, drying and root cellaring. And preserving isn’t just for veggies and fruits–the authors tell you how to save meat and seafood, too. This newly updated edition, just published last spring, covers the latest info on equipment, safety, ingredients and resources.

So if you want to save your end-of-summer bumper crop of tomatoes or bell peppers or whatever, you’ll want this book. You’re great-grandma would be so proud!

But, friends, you have to play to win this home-kitchen classic.

So here’s the deal. Leave a comment here to be entered to win (important: be sure you’re signed in to NOURISH Evolution so we can find you … or sign up, if you haven’t alreadyonly NOURISH Evolution members are eligible to win).

Lia will announce the winner in next Friday’s Friday Digest!

Good luck!

Chicken Stir-Fry with Sugar Snap Peas & Sticky Sweet Sauce

If sugar snap peas aren’t in season, green beans or broccoli will sub just fine in this easy chicken stir-fry. Be sure to leave enough room in the pan to let the chicken sear … this dish is all about layering flavors.


Embrace a Not-So-Flat Belly

I don’t know about you all, but I am bombarded by ‘flat belly’ ads. On Facebook, online, in magazines. Honestly, enough already. There’s nothing wrong with a sound approach to eating that amps up healthy whole grains and monounsaturated fats, like some of the diets do. But there is something wrong with trying to fit into an image that’s just not yours and pitting yourself against your body in the process.

A few years ago, I was struggling with fibromyalgia—I was always exhausted, always sore and always way too lethargic to go to the gym. I hated my body. But then I realized that I couldn’t change what my body was; I could only change how I treated it. So when I’d catch myself berating my butt or lamenting my tummy I’d try to shift focus onto the great things my body could do that I simply took for granted.

Eventually, my fitness goals morphed from “work out at the gym five times a week” to things like “able to garden without getting sore” and “able to walk as far as I want to.” I also began to eat differently. These shifts may sound subtle, but the impact was profound both internally and externally. Food became not a diet to fight with and fail at, but a means of nourishing myself; fitness turned from a to-do on an overcrowded list to a walk with a friend; and my body became not a thing to be loathed, but the way the world perceived me.

And I’ll tell you what, I’ve never felt as comfortable in my skin . . . despite the fact that I don’t have a six-pack belly.