Friday, March 12, 2010

Are you worth your weight in salt?

Now, they’re going too far.

What is happening to our freedom? Smoking bans, oil and fat bans, foie gras bans, snack food bans, soda bans (to name a few) and now a salt ban. Lawmakers are telling us what we can and can’t put in mouths. Yet, they will not bring the FDA out of the Dark Ages. They will not make the commitment to make our produce, meat, seafood, and poultry safe but they will dictate what we should and should not eat. They will not put pressure on “food manufacturers” (who process food so much that it is completly different from its natural state) relying on large amounts of chemicals and sodium (that’s right, salt) to make their products shelve stable as well as edible. They will not put the burden on companies who process salt and add more sodium (and chemicals) to natural salt but they are trying to deprive chefs of a crucial ingredient.

Here’s what scientists have found:

An eight-year study of a New York City hypertensive population stratified for sodium intake levels found those on low-salt diets had more than four times as many heart attacks as those on normal-sodium diets – the exact opposite of what the “salt hypothesis” would have predicted. (1995)

A ten-year follow-up study to the huge Scottish Heart Health Study found no improved health outcomes for those on low-salt diets. (1997)

An analysis of the health outcomes, over a twenty year period, from those in the massive US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES I) documented a 20% greater incidence of heart attacks among those on low-salt diets compared to normal-salt diets (1998)

A health outcomes study in Finland, reported to the American Heart Association that no health benefits could be identified and concluded “…our results do not support the recommendations for entire populations to reduce dietary sodium intake to prevent coronary heart disease.” (1998)

A Finnish study reported an increase in cardiovascular events for obese men (but not women or normal-weight individuals of either gender) – the article, however, failed to adjust for potassium intake levels which many researchers consider a key associated variable. (2001)

In September of 2002, the latest and highest-quality meta-analysis of clinical trials was published in the British Medical Journal confirming earlier meta-analyses' conclusions that significant salt reduction would lead to very small blood pressure changes in sensitive populations and no health benefits. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has also reviewed the evidence and concluded:
"There is insufficient evidence that, for the general population, reducing dietary sodium intake or increasing dietary intake of iron, beta-carotene, or other antioxidants results in improved health outcomes." (2002)

America’s pre-eminent scientific journal, Science, published by the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science, investigated the source of this confusion. The report in Science won author Gary Taubes the Science in Society Award from the National Association of Science Writers. He concluded:
“After interviews with some 80 researchers, clinicians, and administrators around the world, it is safe to say that if ever there were a controversy over the interpretation of scientific data, this is it….After decades of intensive research, the apparent benefits of avoiding salt have only diminished. This suggests that either the true benefit has now been revealed and is indeed small or that it is non-existent and researchers believing they have detected such benefits have been deluded by the confounding of other variables.”

So, is it because people can’t control themselves that we have to cook (and eat) inferior, poorly seasoned food?

You decide. I already have.

For more information, you can look up: The Cochrane Collaboration, Oxford University (UK) Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, the Health Information Research Unit (McMaster University), or the Canadian Centres for Health Evidence.

You can also visit the following websites:

To order a soon to be released book on all things salt, check out:

"Let's drink to the salt of the Earth" - M. Jagger/K. Richards

Friday, November 20, 2009

Something to think about this Thanksgiving

I know we all have been cutting back and tightening belts this year. However, if you can see your way clear, please consider helping some of those much less fortunate. We have all been seeing things lately that we never thought we'd see in our country but these numbers are staggering. So, if your table is as abundant as ours, please consider at least donating some of your leftovers to those who really need it.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shrimp alla Venezia

Shrimp alla Venezia
(serves 8 as an appetizer)

24 large shrimp
2-4 T olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh thyme, chopped
½ t crushed red pepper
1 cup white wine
4 T butter
Salt to taste

In sauté pan, heat 2 T oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot add shrimp and cook, stirring, about 4 minutes until pink. If your pan is not large enough to fit all the shrimp comfortably, you may need to repeat this step. When shrimp are just cooked, remove with slotted spoon and reserve.
Returning to pan, add garlic, thyme and crushed red pepper. Cook until fragrant and garlic is golden. Deglaze with white wine and reduce by half. Stir in butter a tablespoon at a time.
Return shrimp to pan, season with salt, and stir to coat. Divide shrimp and sauce evenly onto individual plates.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

RIP Gourmet Magazine

It is a sad day in the Food Universe. Many hearts have been broken with the news that the Granddaddy of all cooking magazines is no more. The horrid economy and digital media have claimed another victim. Gourmet magazine was the first U.S. magazine dedicated solely to food and wine. It brought fine dining, upscale cocktails, and wine appreciation into the homes of millions of Americans for almost 70 years. Now, it has gone the way of Merrill Lynch, Pontiac's Firebird, and 45s.

While it is true that Gourmet had difficulty keeping up with the times, its demise leaves a great void in the Food Universe. Gourmet magazine did as much for the home cook as Julia. It did as much for chefs as Emeril and as much for restaurants as Zagat's. Not only did this magazine shape food writing and photography as we know it, it also helped thousands of cookbooks get published. It also created career fields in food styling and recipe testing.

Gourmet taught, mentored, inspired, and entertained. It reminded Americans how far we've come in terms of eating, drinking, entertaining, and vacationing. But, alas, nevermore.

To read the full story on Gourmet's closing, please go to:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Sushi Primer

I've been getting a lot of questions lately about sushi. Most of which have revolved around the terminology and how some of the condiments should be used. So, let's start with a few definitions.

Sushi refers to anything that is served over vinegar rice (rice seasoned with rice wine vinegar). It has nothing to do with raw fish. If vegetables, cooked meat, cooked seafood, and/or cooked eggs are served over cooked vinegar rice, it is still sushi.

Maki are the rolls that most people envision when they think of sushi. To make Maki, a wrapper (nori or seaweed paper, thinly sliced vegetables or fish, etc) is spread with vinegar rice, topped with certain fillings (tuna, avocado, crab, cucumber, salmon, etc) depending on the type of roll, then rolled into a cylinder, sliced into coins, and served.

Temaki are very similar to Maki. They only differ in that Temaki are rolled into a cone shape and are meant to be eaten by hand (kind of like a wrap sandwich).

Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish. It can be served as is with various sauces and just called Sashimi or served on top of an oval rice patty (un-vinegared), in which case it would be called Sashimi Nigiri. If the Sashimi is served over vinegar rice, it is Sashimi Sushi.

Traditional condiments are soy sauce, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger. The soy and wasabi are meant to be compliments. Soaking your "sushi" in soy sauce is considered bad form and will probably tick off the sushi chef if he catches you. Wasabi is a spicy Japanese horseradish that is turned into a paste to add a little kick. Use it sparingly. If you are not use to it, a very small amount is enough to clean out your sinuses and give you a headache for the night. The pickled ginger is to refresh the palate in between bites. It is especially useful if you are sampling a few different varieties.

You now know how to order and what to expect at a Sushi Restaurant. You also know how to properly use your condiments. You are a Sushi neophyte no more!

P.S. Japanese custom is to drink your Sake before dinner not after or during.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ban the Ice Cream Man? Are you kidding me?

Rant Alert #1

I recently read an article in the New York Times pertaining to food but not in the way you'd expect from this blog.

It's about "irate" parents who are trying to put an end to that long standing Summer tradition, the ice cream truck.

Read the full story here:

This issue begs me to ask:
Who among us did not have that "typical Pavlovian response" to those wonderful, awful jingles coming from the trucks of the heroes of Summer?
Who among us didn't have a parent who said "No" much more often than "Yes" when these trucks came around?
Who among us had someone to "coach" our parents to say "No"?
Who among us were traumatized from these "predatory" villains and their plan to dominate the world by driving Mothers crazy with nap less, tantrum throwing children?

As a parent of two and a lifelong fan of The Ice Cream Man, I say, parents who were children in the 70s and 80s should grow up. Being a parent isn't easy. No one said it was. Parents have a duty to say "No" to their children. It keeps them from getting hurt, hurting others, and being spoiled. If you can't deal with your toddler's ice cream problem, how will you handle drugs, alcohol, and sex in their teen and pre teen years?

Oh, I almost forgot. If you park your stroller and a diesel truck pulls up in front of you, unlock the safety breaks and roll to different spot. Don't blame the truck.

Long live the Ice Cream Man!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Grilling Tips

With Labor Day rapidly approaching, the traditional "Grilling Season" is nearing its end. Here are a few grilling tips to make the most of the waning season.

1. Keep It Hot. Preheat your grill, otherwise food will stick. When your grill is ready, you will be able to hold your hand five inches above the grate for two seconds if the fire is “hot” and three to four seconds if the fire is “medium-hot.”

2. Grill Safely. Don’t grill in an enclosed area and be sure your grill is on stable ground before firing it up.
Use baking soda to control a grease fire, not water. Have a fire extinguisher, bucket of sand, or garden hose on hand.

3. Have Everything Nearby. The culinary term is mise en place. Have everything you'll need close at hand before you start cooking. You don't want your food to burn by the time you run back inside the house to find what you need.

4. Keep It Clean. Make sure there is no left over debris on your grates. It will make your food stick as well as give it an off, burnt, or flinty flavor.

5. Oil. Make sure you oil either the immediate cooking surface or the food before cooking. This helps keep your food from sticking and makes it easier to clean up later.

6. Decide If You Need a Single-Level or Dual-Level Fire. A single-level fire heats the grill evenly, either with all the gas burners on the same setting, or with the charcoal equally spread out. This method is used for cooking things fast. A dual-level fire (also called indirect grilling) has most if not all, of the charcoal banked to one side, or the burners on a gas grill adjusted to high on one side and the others turned off or set to low. This method allows you to sear your food on the hot side then let it finish cooking on the low side so it cooks evenly and doesn't burn.

7. Leave an Unheated Space on the Grill. Even if you’re cooking over a single-level fire, leave a small space unheated so that you have somewhere to move food if you have a flare-up or if something is cooking too fast.

8. Decide If You Want Your Lid Up or Down. Remember that a closed lid traps moist heat and smoke. So, what you're cooking will determine the position of your lid.

9. Sauce Later. Saucing too soon is a common mistake. If you brush your food with sauce at the beginning of cooking, chances are you will burn it. Wait until the last few minutes to apply your sauce and you’ll get a nice glaze instead of a black, charred mess.

10. Don’t Forget Food Safety. Check for proper doneness with an instant-read thermometer and use separate plates for cooked and raw foods. If you want to use a marinade as a sauce, either reserve some that hasn’t come in contact with raw foods, or boil it first to destroy any bacteria.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Individual Chocolate Cakes

Individual Warm Chocolate Cakes
(makes 12)

12 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 ½ sticks butter, plus more to grease
cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra to garnish
1 cup flour
6 whole eggs
6 egg yolks

Pre heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease molds and coat with cocoa.
Melt chocolate and butter. Stir until completely smooth.
Add sugar and flour. Mix well. Whisk in whole eggs and yolks until well blended. Divide evenly among prepared molds.

Bake approximately 15 minutes or until firm around edges but soft in center. Let rest 1-2 minutes. Run a paring knife around cakes to loosen. Carefully invert onto individual plates. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.