Best of Good Food: War Zone Eating, Climbing Mango Trees
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Foodie Susan Marx shares what life is like living and eating in the IZ or Green Zone. Actress and author Madhur Jaffrey transports us to her childhood in India with ripe fresh mangoes. Steve Ettlinger breaks down the surprising source of preservatives in Twinkies. Mike Randleman is on death watch for inmates’ final meal requests. LA Times writer Russ Parsons hones in on the best kitchen knives. Food writer Georgia Orcutt tells how she dealt with her teenage sons’ ravenous hunger. And what’s fresh in Laura Avery’s weekly Market Report.
The Market Report ()
Laura Avery met with Alvaro Bautista, owner of Bautista Ranch about his fresh, organic Barhi dates. They are in what is called the Khalal stage. They are crunchy and taste like young coconut or sugar cane. They melt in your mouth like honey. When left to dry on the stalk they will dry out into what we're used to seeing dates look like. Bautista also picks other organic dates like Halawi (Alvaro's favorite) which taste like caramel. The Kadrawi date tastes like pure ground sugar and the Medjools are biggest and often considered the best.
David Karp, the Fruit Detective, tells us about Muscats, which are available at local farmers' markets. Both a table and wine grape, Muscats are eaten all over Europe and are known for their flowery rose-water flavor. The Italia, the table grape of Italy, is a big, round, green/golden fruit. It needs to be dead ripe or amber in color to get to full flavor. The Italia accounts for 90% of the grapes grown there. Farmer Harry Nicolas has this grape now. He's also bringing in a Muscat of Alexandria in the next week or so.
The Melissa muscat, an oval shaped green/amber grape, is available now at Scott Farms. It's named for the daughter of one of the men responsible for cultivating this variety who suffered from a debilitating disease. The company Melissa's Produce has since sued them to change the name of the grape due to copyright infringement and now the grape is called the Princess. (*A sad note, the daughter has recently died.)
David Karp can't believe there are no farmers in California growing the famed Muscat of Hamburg, France's favorite table grape. He's going to pay a farmer to grow them for him in order to reintroduce the variety to the farmers markets.
Eating in a War Zone ()
Most of us understand how a good meal at the end of a stressful day can be relaxing and soothing. Imagine how important the concept of "comfort food" would be in a war zone. Susan Marx, who returned from Baghdad early this year , is employed as an aide worker for the US Agency for International Development. While in Iraq, she used food to get through the stress of being dangerously close to the chaos of war. She is currently in Kabul, Afghanistan where she continues her development work.
Climbing the Mango Trees ()
Madhur Jaffrey, one of today's most highly regarded writers on Indian food, gives us an enchanting memoir of her childhood in Delhi in an age and a society that has since disappeared. Madhur Jaffrey's book book is called Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of Childhood in India.
Madhur, whose name means "sweet as honey," grew up in a large family compound. Her grandfather often presided over dinners at which forty or more members of his extended family would savor the wonderfully flavorful dishes that were forever imprinted on Madhur's palate.
Madhur Jaffrey draws on several food memories to tell her story: climbing mango trees in the orchard, armed with a mixture of salt, pepper, ground chilies and roasted cumin; picnicking in the Himalayan foothills on meatballs, stuffed with raisins and mint, and tucked into freshly fried pooris; sampling the heady flavors in the lunch boxes of Muslim friends; sneaking tastes of exotic street fare. But the sweetest ingredient of all comes at the end of the book, where Madhur shares more than thirty family recipes from her childhood.
(From Madhur Jaffrey's Flavours of India)
A delicious warming fruity curry - ideal for supper time.
Preparation time less than 30 mins
Cooking time 30 mins to 1 hour
3 medium ripe mangoes, peeled pit removed and flesh cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1-1 1/2 tsp salt
2 oz jaggery or brown sugar, if needed
11 oz coconut, freshly grated
3-4 fresh hot green chillies, coarsely chopped
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 pint natural yoghurt, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp coconut oil or any other vegetable oil
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
3-4 dried hot red chillies, broken into halves
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
10-12 fresh curry leaves, if available
1. Put the mangoes in a medium-sized pan. Add 9fl oz water. Cover and stew for 8-10 minutes over a medium-low heat. Stir occasionally. Add the turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt. Stir well. (If the mangoes are not sweet enough, add the jaggery or brown sugar to make the dish sweeter.)
2. Meanwhile, put the coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds in to a blender. Add 250ml/9fl oz water and blend to a fine paste.
3. When the mangoes are cooked, mash them to a pulp. Add the coconut paste. Mix. Cover and simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture becomes thick. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Add the yoghurt and heat, stirring, until just warmed through. Do not let the mixture come to the boil. Remove from the heat and put to one side. Check for seasoning.
4. Heat the oil in a small pan over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop (a matter of a few seconds) add the chillies, fenugreek seeds and the curry leaves. Stir and fry for a few seconds until the chillies darken. Quickly add the contents of the small pan to the mangoes. Stir to mix.
Twinkie, Deconstructed ()
Twinkies have an almost endearing reputation of being so full of preservatives that they could stay fresh for a lifetime. While food labels openly detail the ingredients of this popular snack, do you really know the chemical breakdown of those preservatives and raw materials from which they’re derived?
Steve Ettlinger, author of Twinkie, Deconstructed, takes us on his scientific journey to discover the sources of the common, yet mysterious ingredients in processed food –- including some surprising components like natural gas, crude oil, limestone, gypsum and fungi.
Dead Man Eating ()
If you were scheduled to die what would your last meal be? Let us know. Email us at GoodFood@kcrw.com
Best Kitchen Knives ()
Russ Parson, food columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of How to Pick a Peach, reports on his favorite kitchen knives. Whenever possible, it's best to buy a knife in person. The New York City knife store he mentions is Korin Fine Japanese Tableware and Chef's Knives. Russ also recommends Lee Valley Tools' paring knife with a wooden handle and the stainless steel rasp (grater.)
How to Feed a Teenage Boy ()
Georgia Orcutt is a food editor and writer -- and, as her recent book How to Feed a Teenage Boy indicates, she is the mother of two very hungry teenage boys. She edited The Old Farmers' Almanac, wrote Cooking USA, and has been food editor of Yankee magazine.
Georgia recommends keeping teens healthy, with fast, readily available food with balanced nutritional content. Quick tip: put a clear plastic box in the fridge with everything needed to make a sandwich and simply label it "FOOD."
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Du Vin Wine & Spirits: In business for more than two decades at San Vicente in West Hollywood, Du Vin offers more than 10,000 bottles of hand-picked wine, with staff specialists in the wines of France, Italy, Latin America and California.
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