April 2015

Welcome, Spring: Lemony artichoke chicken salad with carrots

chicken salad

As usual around this time of year, I find myself in a bit of a food rut. It feels like we should be eating local fresh asparagus and ripe sweet strawberries, but our finicky Minnesota climate just can’t decide if it wants to launch into full-on spring or not. 


So, I wait patiently for these beautiful gems to show up at the farmers market, because nothing comes close to tasting as good. In the meantime, lighter fare is slowly creeping into my subconscious, and I find myself using my Dutch oven less and less.


Back in my college days (many years ago), I worked as a caterer. I really enjoyed working the events and learning about different foods. One of my favorite dishes we did was one that is similar to the salad I’m sharing today, commonly known to us then as the “president’s salad”, because it was the president of the university’s favorite salad and he always requested it for his catered functions. It was delicious.


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Earth Day Every Day: Thoughts on seeds and farming


Just in time for Earth Day, farmers have spring fever! All the good things about being a farmer are happening right now: planting, growing, the smell of soil, birdsongs, longer days, and muscles flexing after winter rest. The maddening, exhausting and difficult things about farming are dim memories from past years and small clouds on this season’s distant horizon. 


So, while we enjoy the warmth of the greenhouse and plow through routine tasks like potting-on and thinning, our minds have plenty of time to ponder. Good time to speculate on the future of our niche in food production.


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Vino 101: Wine frauds and scandals, part deux

red bicyclette

In the last Vino 101 post we looked at adulteration, a crude type of wine fraud that is relatively easy to catch. But there is a more subtle and complex kind of fraud, in which the integrity of a prestigious wine is compromised. 


If you’ve been to Canal Street in New York, or Tijuana, or pretty much anywhere in China, you’ve seen cheaply made fakes of big-name brands like Fendi and Gucci. Famous wine names like Burgundy and Champagne are essentially brands too — names that, over time, have developed an identifiable style and a reputation for high quality that commands a premium price — and those brands’ reputation rests on producers collectively adopting and enforcing minimum quality and typicity standards. 


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Pucker Up: Learning to love sour food


Like bitter flavors, sourness is nature’s way of waving a red flag over a substance that is unripe, spoiled, or otherwise inedible. But for those of us who don’t mind a bit of tartness, this warning signal may actually be the first sign of some healthy benefits.


We can taste sourness thanks to receptors on our tastebuds that detect hydrogen ions from organic acids found in certain foods. Many of these acids occur naturally and are part of a food’s flavor profile, such as citric in lemons, tartaric in tamarinds, and oxalic in leafy greens. 


Unripe fruits are particularly sour before becoming sweeter, since their acids are eventually broken down during the ripening process and their acerbic taste replaced by natural sugars. Other acids in foods are due to additives like acetic acid (used to make vinegar) or as a result of fermentation, which produces lactic acid in pickled produce like sauerkraut and cultured dairy such as yogurt.

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