Life On A Container Ship; Irradiated Vegetables; The Theory of Randomness
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Rob Long spent three weeks on a container ship. What did he eat? Temple Grandin makes the lives of cattle better the day they get to the slaughterhouse. Why does it matter? Moraccan Mourad Lalou says couscous made at home is much better than couscous from a box. Bill Freese tells us why we need to worry about the FDA’s recent approval of irradiation of lettuce and spinach. The only pattern in life is randomness according to scientist Lenoard Mlodinow. And Jonathan Gold goes to the Chili King in Monterey Park. Nigerian dwarf goats make loving pets says Gianaclis Caldwell, plus they have very high butterfat. Laura Avery meets DJ Olsen at the market to hear about a perfect pork chop, and how to start a garden.
The Market Report ()
JD Olsen of Lou Wine Bar makes smoked pork chops from Niman Ranch's porterhouse pork chops. To make lean pork taste great JD recommends brining the pork, from 24 hours to up to 3 days. He seasons the brine (see below) with juniper berries, pepper and bay leaves. You can find Niman Ranch pork chops at Whole Foods. While JD puts them in a simple smoker with hickory chips and smokes them on low heat, for three hours, he says the smoking is not necessary since brined chops are delicious however they're cooked.
- 1 gal filtered water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon crushed juniper berries
- 1 Tablespoon crushed whole coriander seeds
- 2 chiles de arbol
- 6 fresh bay leaves
Place ingredients in an 8-quart container and whisk briskly until both salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add pork chops and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours, or up to three days. Remove pork from brine, thoroughly rinse and pat dry. At this point the chops are ready to be smoked, but can be cooked immediately. Rub chops with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Pan roast or grill 3-4 minutes per side. Brined chops keep up to four days. Smoking adds another two days to shelf life.
- 6 medium-size russet potatoes
- 1 large egg, whisked together
- 1 tsp Herbes de Provence
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- up to 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups kosher salt for roasting potatoes
Pour enough kosher salt on a sheet pan to make an 1/8" deep bed for the potatoes to rest on. Bake the potatoes at 350° until easily pierced with a knife (45-60 minutes). Let potatoes cool to room temperature. Remove flesh from potatoes -- discard the skins -- and press flesh through a food mill or potato ricer, onto a parchment-covered half-sheet tray. Spread the potatoes into an even layer and bake until slightly dried, 5-7 minutes.
Dust the top of a work table with a little flour. Turn the dried potatoes out onto the flour and form into a rough ball. Dust potatoes with a little flour, salt and Herbes de Provence. Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand, creating a depression in the center of the potatoes. Pour the egg into the depression and fold the potato over it again and again, dusting the mixture with a little flour as you go, until the egg, herbs and flour are well incorporated. Re-form the potato back into a ball and divide evenly into four parts. Scrape the work surface to remove any sticking potato bits. Re-dust the surface with a little flour. Using the palms and edges of your hands, roll each quarter of the potato mixture into a long, thin, even rope (12-18" in length). Using a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut across the ropes at 3/4" to 1" intervals.
Place a single gnocchi on the back of an overturned fork. Make a small depression in the gnocchi with your finger, pressing it slightly into the tines of the fork. Then, exerting a little pressure, roll the gnocchi down the length of the fork tines. If done correctly, there will be a row ridges around most of the gnocchi, with a tight little seam on one side. Gnocchi can be frozen at this point, tightly covered, for up to one month. To use, heat a little olive oil in a sauté pan, add the desired number of gnocchi directly from the freezer. Sauté, rolling them so all sides get browned, until golden, about 3 minutes. They can be further crisped by placing in a 500° oven for 1-2 minutes.
- 1/2 lb mixed wild mushrooms (chanterelles, hedgehogs, black trumpet)
- 1 Tablespoon chopped shallots
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Pinch of chopped fresh rosemary and thyme
- 1/4 cup filtered water
- 2 Tablespoons pork demi glace (or chicken stock)
- 3-4 leaves of green, curly mustard (depending on size), stem removed, torn into shards
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper
Tear the mushrooms into halves and quarters, carefully inspecting them for small leaves, pine needles, etc. Give the mushrooms a quick rinse under cold water to rinse away any dirt or detritus. Place them on a dry towel until ready to use. Heat a sauté pan over high heat for one minute. Add olive oil. Wait 10 seconds and add shallots. When shallots begin to sizzle, add rosemary, thyme, mushrooms and a good pinch of salt. Toss mushrooms until well covered with olive oil. Immediately add filtered water, allowing the mushrooms to boil for a minute until they release some of their juices, and the sauce has reduced a bit. Add butter, constantly swirling the pan until butter has completely emulsified into the sauce. Add the mustard greens, tossing until they are wilted, about 30 seconds.
To serve, place the wilted mustard greens in the center of the plate. Surround with gnocchi. Lay the pork chop atop the greens. Spoon mushrooms atop the chop, sauce around the plate and chop. Garnish with a grind of pepper.
Start your own garden:
After a light rain is a good time to start a garden, according to Logan Williams of Hayground Organic Gardening. Any pot with two feet of soil can support a tomato plant any many other plants. The main thing is to get your soil in order. Hayground recommends EB Stone Organics that you can get at Armstrong's. The Williams' were given a cutting from a mint plant that Bob Marley grew on his porch and made tea from. They are selling it at the market. Hayground sells over 300 tomato plants as well as mint, basil and all other ground cover plants. You can reach them at 323-216-0379 or find them at the downtown Santa Monica Farmers' Markets (Wednesday and Saturday) as well as the Sunday Hollywood market.
Three Weeks on a Container Ship ()
Rob Long is a writer and producer living in Hollywood. He recently spent three weeks on the Hanjin Miami, a container ship sailing from Seattle to Asia. Rob was surprised by the lack of fresh fish aboard the ship. Instead, he and the German officers ate roast pork prepared by the mostly Filipino crew.
Rob's weekly commentary, Martini Shot, airs Wednesdays at 6:44 on KCRW.
- Rob Long: Host of Martini Shot
Animals Make Us Human ()
Dr. Temple Grandin is the author, with Catherine Johnson, of Animals Make Us Human: Creating The Best Life for Animals. A Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and designer of livestock handling facilities, Dr. Grandin is autistic and she describes herself as a visual thinker. Much of her work is devoted to promoting humane methods of handling livestock through teaching and through improving slaughterhouses. For example, her designs for curved cattle corrals reduce stress on cattle as they are herded to slaughter. Dr. Grandin believes that stress levels in animals have a direct impact on meat quality
Homemade Couscous ()
Mourad Lahlou is the chef at Aziza in San Francisco, where he and his staff make fresh couscous every day.
Couscous is a Moroccan dish made by rolling semolina granules into small pellets. Unlike pasta, couscous must be steamed rather than boiled. Handmade couscous can take as much as five hours to cook.
Roasted Root Vegetable Couscous, Braised Beef Cheeks, Chickpeas, Golden Raisins, and Harissa
Yields: 4 servings
3¼ cups unsalted vegetable stock
6 strands Spanish saffron
1½ tsps salt
2 cups coarse organic semolina
2 cups regular or fine organic semolina flour
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
6 sprigs Italian parsley
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons butter
Braised Beef Cheeks with Root Vegetables:
8 saffron threads
7 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 beef cheeks, trimmed of excess fat
2½ tsps salt
1¼ tsps black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ tsp cumin seeds, roasted and crushed
½ tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups red wine
5 tsps fresh jalapeño chili, finely chopped and seeded
1 can whole tomatoes including juice, chopped (3 cups)
¼ lb whole baby carrots, peeled
¼ lb whole baby turnips, peeled
¼ lb whole baby rutabaga, peeled
8 Cipollini onions, peeled
8 baby fennel bulbs, stemmed
For the Saffron Infusion:
Bring ½ cup of vegetable stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Heat a dry 7-inch skillet over low heat and toast saffron strands for 1 minute, then transfer to a small bowl and crumble. Combine saffron and salt with the warm vegetable stock and mix well. Cover tightly and let steep for 30 minutes, then strain the infusion and discard the saffron threads. Mix the infusion with the remaining cold stock and set aside.
For the Couscous:
Place the coarse semolina in a large earthenware dish (“ghassriya”). Sprinkle ¼ cup of saffron infusion over the semolina while moving the palm and fingers of one hand in circular motion to create tiny granules. Once the granules begin to develop, dust the semolina flour over the granules and sprinkle ½ cup of the saffron infusion alternately on the granules while still moving hand in circular motion. Continue with this process until small couscous beads develop. Use a sieve or strainer (“ghourbal”) to separate the couscous from the excess flour and uneven beads. Keep the couscous and discard the flour.
Fill the bottom unit of a couscousière halfway with water and add carrots, onion, celery and parsley, and bring to a boil. Transfer the couscous into the top unit of the couscousiere and fit tightly onto the bottom part. Steam for 20 minutes.
Transfer the steamed couscous into a large mixing bowl and break up lumps with a large wooden spoon or your fingers. Sprinkle with ½ cup of the saffron infusion and rake the grains to keep them separate. Mix in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Gradually add another cup of saffron infusion while raking the couscous. When the couscous has absorbed the entire infusion, repeat the steaming for another 20 minutes. Return the couscous to the mixing bowl and sprinkle with another cup of the saffron infusion while working the couscous grains between your hands to separate. Bring water back to a boil, return the couscous to the couscousière, and steam 25 minutes. Remove the couscous from the steamer and place in a mixing bowl one last time. Fluff and incorporate the butter by gently rubbing couscous between the palms of your hands without applying too much pressure as the couscous beads might adhere to one another. Keep warm until serving.
For the Braised Beef Cheeks with Root Vegetables:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Heat a dry heavy skillet over low heat and toast saffron for 1 minute, then transfer to a small dish and crumble. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 6-quart ovenproof pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While oil is heating, pat beef cheeks dry and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Brown beef in oil, without crowding, on all sides, about 20 minutes total, and transfer with tongs to a bowl. Pour off fat from pot, then add another 2 tablespoons of oil and cook onion and garlic over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and crumbled saffron to the onion mixture and cook briefly. Deglaze with red wine and scrape up any brown bits. Increase heat to high and boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Return cheeks and their juices to the pot and add jalapeño, tomatoes with juice, 1½ teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer, then braise, covered, in middle of oven, about 2 hours. Add root vegetables. Cover and return to the oven for another hour or until cheeks and vegetable are fork tender.
To Assemble and Serve:
Transfer beef cheeks and vegetables with tongs to a platter and cover to keep warm. Boil remaining cooking liquid in skillet over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until it is reduced to a deep, thick sauce, 12-15 minutes. Return cheeks and vegetables to pot; mix and heat through. Adjust seasonings. Place warm couscous in a deep dish, place a large portion of beef cheeks on top, and ladle root vegetables and sauce over the couscous and beef cheeks.
Irradiated Vegetables ()
Some food producers use irradiation in the form of gamma rays, electron beams and X-rays, to kill bacteria and insects. In August, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration began allowing irradiation of fresh produce, specifically spinach and iceberg lettuce. Meat has been irradiated for years. Since the recent salmonella outbreak in peanut products, there has been renewed interest in irradiation as a way to prevent food borne illness.
Bill Freese, science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, says the CFS has determined that irradiation can destroy the vitamin content of foods. It can also create mutagen by-products which can be harmful.
Randomness Explains Everything ()
In The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, Leonard Mlodinow shows just how unreliable polls, grades, sports statistics and wine ratings are. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, wine judges at the California State Fair did not give the same wines identical ratings when tasted multiple times. Mlodinow argues that wine ratings and scores are arbitrary and the results can be explained by theory of randomness.
Mlodinow, who has a PhD in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley, has written scripts for MacGyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Jonathan Gold: Chilli King ()
Pulitzer Prize winning food critic, Jonathan Gold visited Hengyang Chilli King in Monterey Park. Jonathan recommends the cauliflower in "pork oil." (138 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park, (626) 573-9258.)
Read his review of Hengyang Chilli King and see pictures at the L.A. Weekly.
Before being a food writer, Jonathan wrote about music. He was recently featured in a Guest D.J. Project session with KCRW's Garth Trinidad. This self-described classical music geek chose gangsta rap, Elizabethan music and jazz. Check it out and you'll discover that his taste in music is just as eclectic as his taste in food.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats ()
Gianaclis Caldwell and her family raise Nigerian Dwarf Goats at Pholia Farms in Rogue River, Oregon. These goats have a high butterfat content, sometimes as high as 10 percent, which is an ideal quality for making goat cheese.
Find Pholia Farms goat cheese at Rogue Creamery, Artisanal in New York, Pastoral in Chicago and at Steve's Cheese in Portland. You can also order direct from the farm.
Watch the goats live on their streaming video channel.
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