I have spent two and a half years with the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, including some time in Kuwait and a short time in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I discovered a few things. One is that their food is excellent. But, more importantly, is the ignorance most Americans have about Muslims. Americans tend to hate them all and lump them into the same radical category. But, despite some radicals, who are in the minority, most of the folks I met and interacted with, including the Afghans who happily shared their food with me, are good people who just want to live their lives without interference. I can identify with that. So, if we are going to hate them all, we really should have a basis for that. Sure, the religion is alien to most of us, but then, the same could be said of their understanding of our ways.
While I actually had access to TV in Kuwait, I watched some Huda TV, an English Islam education station out of Egypt. The also have a website dedicated to Islamic education and it is worth checking out if you want to hear the other side of the story, so to speak.
Huda TV has now launched Huda Academy. Huda Academy is an Islamic Studies website where you will find free courses as well as certificate courses all recorded in high quality format. I don’t think it is anything like it on the internet. You be the judge.
Here is the link for Islamic Studies in English offered at Huda Academy.
I haven’t made lasagna in a long time and this is the simplest and best lasagna I’ve ever made. I couldn’t get enough. For eighteen months, the only lasagna I was exposed to was the frozen crap (ala Stouffers, but worse) at military mess halls in Iraq and Afghanistan. I rarely had it.But, what I made really had an impact. I was thinking that I loved it so much because I just hadn’t had good lasagna in so long. But, I confirmed with others that this batch was exceptional. I was happy that my taste buds were on target and had not been destroyed by Army food.
In any case, this is probably the simplest and easiest lasagna I’ve ever made. No herbs, no spices. The only salt, outside of the cheese used, was the salt I put in the water to boil the noodles. Without further ado, here is the recipe:
- 1/2 lb ground beef (I use 85/15)
- 1 tablespoon or less of olive oil
- 3 cups tomato sauce
- 1 lb package lasagna noodles
- 1 lb ricotta cheese (don’t use cottage cheese)
- 1 lb mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Cook noodles in a large pot of salted water. Strain in a colander when done.
Add a small amount of olive oil to a cast iron frying pan and add the ground beef. Brown and pour off excess fat. Add the three cups of tomato sauce and simmer very gently.
Once the noodles and sauce are ready, assemble the lasagna in a baking dish, ideally one that the noodles fit in neatly. Spread a very thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Place a layer of noodles. Then place and smooth dollops of ricotta on top of the noodles, followed by a layer of thinly sliced mozzarella. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese and add a thin layer of sauce, then another layer of noodles. Repeat until the dish is filled. The top layer must have noodles, a thin layer of sauce, and the remaining Parmesan cheese. This keeps the noodles on top moist and adds to the flavor.
Cook for 45 minutes, remove from oven and let sit around 15 minutes. Then, enjoy.
From me: Please take action, we are up against the combined onslaught of huge corporations and federal agencies, like USDA and FDA, that care nothing for the wishes of the citizens or their health.
Democracy is like a muscle, either use it or lose it!
Thanks for creating food democracy!
Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team
Tags: Al Franken, FDA, GE, genetically engineered crop, genetically engineered food, genetically modified organism, genetically modified organisms, GMO, Monsanto, Monsanto Protection Act, Obama, USDA, veto
I have been extremely busy lately, including learning pottery techinique, putting in an offer on a small farm, and trying to get our house ready to sell. So, the blog posts have suffered. Hopefully, that will improve soon. This blogs gets an incredible number of page views and I thank all of you who read it.
Anyway, as I have mentioned before, I am an anthropologist and among my main interests is Greek and Roman culture. One of my motives for learning pottery is to discover how the ancient Greeks made their beautiful ceramics and try and reproduce it in this day and age. Today, I completed my first kylix. It is done and drying now, not yet fired or decorated. It will take at least two more steps to complete, one a bisque firing to get it ready for glazing. I will then attempt some simple decorations in the glazing process, but I am not quite ready for the detailed paintings of the ancient Greeks. Mine was done in porcelain. The Greeks used different clays
A kylix is essentially a wine cup that has a broad and shallow bowl, two handles, and often a base. Here are pics of one simple kylix
from around 500 BC and my “greenware” version that is as yet unfinished. I can’t wait t get it finished and have a libation. of course pouring out the first draught for the gods before drinking the wine myself.
Five Maudies – Highly Recommended
My brother-in-law and his wife, Anastasia, introduced me to this unbelievably wonderful restaurant in downtown Durham, North Carolina. I was passing through on my way to Washington, DC.
Mateo is a fairly new restaurant and it was packed on a Sunday evening. Reservations are a must any night of the week. It didn’t take long for this place to become a Durham hot spot.
Strictly tapas, at least for dinner, they also serve lunch. They are combining the finest in Spanish tradition with as much local food as possible and a serious nod to Southern cuisine. It is a fusion made in heaven. Everything we had was simply divine. Honestly, I couldn’t find fault with anything.
I am not a big specialty cocktail guy, but the past couple of restaurants I’ve been to with bars have made me realize that, in many cases, a specialty cocktail is like another food course. They are fun to try and introduce new and lovely taste combinations, just like a good food course does. Being a gin and tonic lover, I had one with Cardinal American Dry Gin, an artisanal variety distilled in North Carolina by Southern Artisan Spirits. The drink also had saffron infused Jack Rudy tonic, club soda, and a hint of orange. Jack Rudy is a small batch tonic made in Charleston, South Carolina. All I can say is, WOW, I want Cardinal Gin and Jack Rudy tonic at home.
Now, on to the meal. The food, along the great company of Hugh and Anastasia and a nice bottle of Spanish wine, made this a meal to remember. Each plate was large enough to give each of
us a generous portion. Listing what we tried makes for a nice sample of what Mateo has to offer. Our server, Cady, was excellent, her suggestions for what dishes to try were all spot on. We had:
Pan con Tomate – fresh bread topped with incredibly fresh minced tomato and thin slices of machengo cheese. I couldn’t believe how fresh the tomato was for January. This is such a simple dish, yet so tasty.
Coles de Bruselas – one of my top two dishes, this was a sinfully good combination of Brussels sprouts, Chapel Hill (NC) Creamery farmer’s cheese, migas (traditional Spanish stale bread dish), Bartlett pear slices, pecan vinaigrette, and pickled cranberry. Who thinks this stuff up? What a perfect example of Southern United States and Spanish fusion.
Jamon – a sampling of four Spanish cured ham slices with crostini. We choose Chorizo from Spain, Spanish Serrano aged 18-months, Lomo (from the loin) from Iowa, and Iberico (made from black Iberian pig) from Spain. The chorizo was spicy and the best I’ve ever had. The other three were excellent.
Gambas – North Carolina shrimp, olive oil, garlic, chili, lemon and parsley. Perfectly cooked shrimp combined with some of my favorite tastes.
Queso Frito y Huevo – My hands-down favorite and one of the richest morsels I’ve ever had, this is crispy manchengo cheese, duck egg, and black truffle aïoli. Unbelievable. The best part of a grilled cheese sandwich is always the crispy cheese that leaked out from between the bread and ended up in the pan. Imagine large slices of this. The duck egg and aïoli were so rich and decadent, you couldn’t eat much more than was served.
Rabbit liver pate – this was a special and Anastasia’s favorite, it came with a chutney made of greens, egg, and cranberry and pickled onions. If you like an assertive flavor, you will love this pate.
Mateo also has an excellent wine list of Spanish wines and a huge selection of sherries.
Mateo, like Frog Hollow Tavern, demonstrates how far progressive local food mentalities coupled with creative and expert chefs, have come, especially in the smaller markets. One doesn’t support these restaurants just because they support local and organic food production, but because the food is incredibly good. That is a win-win for everyone. Well, maybe not for agribusiness and franchises.
109 WEST CHAPEL HILL STREET
DURHAM – NORTH CAROLINA
I have seen some trends developing over the past few years and am throwing out my predictions for the state of food in 2013. This mainly applies to the United States because the rest of the developed world and much of the undeveloped world is far more advanced when it comes to food and food production than the US. Unfortunately, the United States is pushing hard to damage the rest of the world’s agricultural production processes for the benefit of the huge agri-business companies who are determined to control agriculture worldwide.
OK, here goes:
1. consumers will continue to learn more about how their food is produced and their demands for change will increase.
2. the unholy alliance between agribusiness, USDA, and the FDA will continue to grow as it fights to discredit legitimate consumer concerns about dangerous, unhealthy, and
environmentally damaging agricultural and food production practices.
3. Conventional food quality will continue to drop.
4. Agribusiness, their USDA/FDA allies, and their bought and paid for Congress, will push new and untested genetically modified plants and animals and step up their campaigns to deny consumers the right to know what is in their food. GMO sweet corn and salmon is on the way this year, folks.
5. Local, organic, and sustainable food production and purchasing will increase in response to all the negatives surrounding conventional production and anger at being denied their right to know what is in their food and how it is produced.
6. Agribusiness will continue full-tilt boogie to try to monopolize world-wide seed production and discourage farmers from saving seed and being self-sufficient
We did a traditional English Christmas dinner this year. There weren’t a lot of people, so we went with a simple menu:
- Standing rib roast, four bones, wonderfully handled by brother-in-law Hugh
- Yorkshire pudding that I made
- Roasted root vegetables that I did
- English peas with butter that I did, very simple
- Lovely jus done by Hugh
Here is the recipe for Yorkshire pudding. This in an old, traditional, and very simple recipe. There are only two crucial things that make this work. One is a super creamy and smooth batter, the other is plenty of drippings from the roast. The Yorkshire pudding is put in the oven as soon as the roast is removed to rest and drippings are collected. This recipe is best for four people and a two bone roast. Double it for the four bone roast and more people.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 pint (2 cups) milk (I use whole milk)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (fine sea salt)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
As soon as roast is removed, set oven to 450 degrees F.
Drain off all drippings from roast into a 7″ x 11″ baking pan. Note that the jus was made by Hugh from pan scrapings and a stock and red wine reduction and it was unbelievably good. All the liquid drippings were used in the Yorkshire pudding.
I make this one a bit differently than standard recipes. First thoroughly whisk the eggs and milk in a large bowl. Add salt to egg milk mixture and whisk for about another minute. Slowly add flour to the bowl while whisking. Whisk until very smooth, no flour lumps, etc. I have whisked for ten minutes or more until the batter is velvety smooth. This is a thin batter.
Try and ensure the baking pan with the drippings is level, evenly distributing the drippings. I do not measure the drippings, I don’t care, the more the better. Pour batter over drippings. Place in the 450 degree F oven for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees F for 10 – 20 minutes, depending on how the oven heats. Check after 10 minutes. It may be done in a hot oven in 10 minutes, normally it is at least 15. But, take it out as soon as it is done. Note that the edges along the pan walls puff up higher than the interior. The pudding consistency is also determined by high much drippings there are and its distribution in the pan. This pudding will always be uneven, with puffy areas and yummy thin and chewy parts.
I love yogurt, plain yogurt, not the sickly sweet kinds with fruit or flavored. I love a little tang and the purity of freshly made yogurt and the Greek yogurt in the grocery store can be very nice tasting, although you have to be careful to avoid milk from cows that have been given growth hormone.
I have used goat milk bought at the grocery store and lately have been using whole cow’s milk from local cows that is non-homogenized and low pasteurized (and no growth hormone). You don’t need a yogurt maker, but they are inexpensive and super easy to use. Here is a basic recipe. Some recipes use dried milk to thicken the yogurt, but I find that I don’t need that with the whole cow’s milk I am using.
Yogurt using the quart Salton yogurt maker
1 quart of milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Plug in the Salton yogurt maker.
Put the milk in a pot and heat to just under boiling. I use a medium-high heat and stir often to avoid scorched milk in the pot bottom. Use a thermometer periodically held slightly above the bottom of the pot and bring the temperature up to around 180-190 degrees F.
Remove from heat and allow milk to cool down to around 100-110 degrees F. Remove any skin that has formed on the milk. Add the 1/4 – 1/2 cup of plain yogurt as a starter and gently stir into the milk. This can be plain yogurt from the grocery store or yogurt from your last batch.
Pour the milk into the Salton inner container, put on the lid and place in the yogurt maker. Place the second lid on the maker and leave for 10 hours. Remove from the maker and put in the fridge. This recipe results in a thick, Greek style yogurt with no need to further strain or thicken it. Enjoy.
With all the issues surrounding the economy and looming fiscal cliff, people aren’t paying attention to everything going on in Congress. Monsanto and the other GMO producing and pushing companies have suceeded is slipping disastrous riders into pending legislation. The goal is to make it impossible for GMO seeds and crops to be proven safe before they are approved for use. And, of course, help these companies control the seed market and make more money at the expense of consumers. Food Democracy Now! has just put out the following call to action. Please take some time to make the call to your Congressman or woman if you value the quality of your food even a little.
There’s a lot of attention lately given to the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ or the ‘biotech riders’ to the Farm Bill – riders that protect the biotech industry interests while putting our food supply, environment and democracy at risk. Now, with the “fiscal cliff” looming, Monsanto and biotech industry lobbyists have set their sites on the new spending time currently being debated in Congress and are desperately working behind the scenes to make it easier for their GMO crops to be approved. If these riders are not removed from the bill before voting, likely by the end of the year, Monsanto will gain a free pass for future GMO crop approvals.
This is because we recently found out that Monsanto lobbyists have succeeded in slipping Section 733, currently included in the Fiscal Year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations, into the latest omnibus appropriations spending bill that Congress must pass in the final days of the lame duck session. We must stop this back door tactic and tell our Congressional leaders that we want them to stand up for the best interests of the People and stop protecting Biotech Bullies.
This is an outrage and a sign of how desperate and maliscious Monsanto and the biotech industry really are.
Today we need you to make a call to your Representative and ask that they support a “Dear Colleague” letter from Congressman DeFazio (D-OR) to request that this “biotech rider” be dropped from any Omnibus Spending Bill.
According to reports from Congress:
the “biotech rider” would “weaken the ability of the [USDA] and the judicial branch to protect our nation’s agriculture sector.”
As Food Democracy Now! reported earlier, Section 733 is specifically intended to:
- Prohibit federal courts from imposing reasonable restrictions when a GE crop approval is deemed unlawful and potentially hazardous;
- Eliminate the critical roles of our most import environmental laws;
- Remove federal agency discretion over GE crop approvals; and
- Establish a backdoor approval mechanism for unlawfully approved GE crops
We need your help today to help stop the latest outrage from Monsanto and the biotech industry from undermining our basic democratic rights and slipping new GMO crops into our food system without proper testing and oversite.
We already know that conventionally produced foods are worse than those produced sustainably although USDA and their agribusiness masters tell us otherwise everyday and even get laws enacted to keep consumers from knowing just how bad the food they buy really are.
Regarding beef, we already knew that hamburger contains “pink slime” (see Are Americans finally waking up to how bad their food supply is?) and many cuts of beef are injected with dubious solutions that add weight to the meat without providing any benefit other than allowing meat producers to make more money. With poultry, we already know how much fecal matter is allowable in what you buy in the grocery store.
Now, thanks to an investigation by the Kansas City Star, we have learned some more super scary things about beef. Luckily for me, since I got back from Iraq, I have not bought grocery store meats other than lamb, opting to spend a bit more and get quality locally produced grass fed and humanely slaughtered beef, pork, and chicken.
Here is the bottom line on the beef investigation. Prepare to be disgusted and you have USDA to thank for this. According to a Huffington Post article there is a food safety myth in the United States,
The beef industry was a mess, led to awful practices by the profit motives of a few major processing companies, until investigative journalist Upton Sinclair exposed many of the atrocities of the packing plants in his 1906 novel “The Jungle,” which spurred the establishment of federal meat inspections, improving safety forever. Today, beef and other meat sold in the U.S. is safer than ever.
The reality is far different. Some of the Kansas City Star findings include (full article here),
Federal inspection records obtained by The Star under the federal Freedom of Information Act include hundreds of references to fecal contamination problems over the last two years at four of the largest beef slaughter plants in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. For example, at one of Tyson’s beef plants, inspectors noted: “massive fecal contamination; multiple carcasses with varying degrees of fecal contamination; periods of very significant fecal, ingesta and abscess contamination.”
Another federal inspector at Tyson found “a piece of trimmed fat approximately 14 inches long with feces the length of it,” and another noted, “fecal contamination …was so great…couldn’t keep up.”
More from the Huff Post article,
One thing that isn’t helping matters is the increasing use in the beef industry of mechanical tenderizing techniques, which use automated blades and pounders to tenderize tough beef — and drive E. coli away from the surface, where it’s most likely to be killed by cooking, and toward the center of a cut of meat.
The Star’s reporters also discovered that most cattle are fed a veritable cocktail of drugs designed to increase the efficiency of beef plants, at the possible cost of human health. About 90 percent of the cattle at major facilities are fed beta blockers that make them grow faster, but pose risks to human cardiovascular health. And the overwhelming majority of cows at large plants are given antibiotics that help them put on weight faster, but may also contribute to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.
And, you may wonder, why isn’t USDA doing anything about this? That is simple. USDA is owned by agribusiness. 30% of the $71 million that land grant colleges in beef-producing states spent on beef related research was provided by beef producing companies. You think USDA researchers are going to do honest research with this cash cow?
Dream on and don’t buy conventionally produced beef. That is the moral of this story.
To add insult to injury, what is described here is perfectly legal and considered safe food by USDA, yet there are laws in almost every state that forbid a farmer from butchering his own animals and selling to consumers. He has to have an approved facility, something that is outrageously expensive and can be afforded only by the biggest producers. Yet, the crap we get in our groceries (pun intended) all come from approved meat processing facilities, blessed by USDA and FDA, who care nothing for actual food safety. The meat processors only care about profits. My advice is to do whatever it takes to buy locally from your area farmers regardless of USDA approved facilities or not. Those approvals mean absolutely nothing and may mean you are actually in danger.