Category Archives: Reviews

Eating better – eating locally and seasonally

A while back, I had posted an article on how insipid our produce has become. As it so happens, I am in the middle of an excellent book by Barbara Kingsolver (the same one who wrote “The Poisonwood Bible”) – “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” which chronicles a year in her family’s life as they try and live off of seasonal produce grown/raised locally. The book is excellent and makes a compelling case for trying to source local produce and eating whatever is in season. After all, do oranges in the middle of winter in Nebraska really make sense? – granted there is summer somewhere and oranges are thriving there but the cost of getting them to you just purely in terms of fossil fuels is prohibitive.What this global agro-industrial complex has done is

  1. Destroyed any kind of a food culture in the US. We basically eat the same things over and over again. There is no seasonal variation for the most part. The same produce is available 365 days a year.
  2. Created a monster of an agricultural business that thrives on creating produce that looks good, transports well, stays for long periods of time but is mostly tasteless. Heirloom varieties are either dead or dying. Read my post on tomatoes here.
  3. Reduced the diversity of what we intake. Most of what we eat now has some form of corn, canola or soy in it, including our livestock (through feed). That by itself is a scary thought.

Anyway, this is something that has bothered me for a while and the wife is of the same opinion. We had started purchasing cage free eggs a while back and can safely say that they do, indeed taste better. So, we are going to go a little further and try and take a shot at eating what is in season. Going forward, I will post recipes that are seasonally relevant. This weekend, we will try and procure produce from a local farmer’s market. I will let you guys know how that goes.

Meanwhile, here is what About.com has to say about what is in season in Spring. Click here.

Let me know if any of this resonates with you or not.

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Lodge Logic Cast Iron Grill Pan – I think I love thee

Veggies grilling happily on a cast iron grill pan

There is a reason cast iron cookware has been the cornerstone of kitchens since the iron age (it would have been harder before then because iron hadn’t been forged yet – :-)). For one thing, it is sturdy. Secondly, it is relatively cheap (that absolutely appeals to the cheap Desi in me). Thirdly, it is versatile. It retains heat very well and as a result can cook foods evenly. I had stayed away from cast iron cookware mostly because it was an unknown and also because growing up I was used to stainless steel and aluminum cookware but not much else. So for the longest time I have been cooking on non-stick and hard anodized aluminum surfaces. I had briefly considered stainless steel but not gone that route because stainless steel requires the use of excessive amounts of grease to ensure that nothing sticks – which I don’t like. In the process of being cooked, I like my food to have stepped through a few puddles of grease, not swum across a river of it.

Then two things happened – we received a gift card to a cooking store (Sur la Table) and I realized that cast iron cookware, if properly seasoned, is virtually non-stick. That meant I could cook with less oil, which is my preferred method anyway. Curiosity piqued, I did some more research and found that cast iron cookware “leaches” or imparts iron to whatever is cooked in it. Added iron in the diet for the kind of food we eat is not necessarily a bad thing. So I went to the store, looked at the fancy French brands – Le Creuset and Staub and then the cheap Desi got the better of me and I got myself a 10 1/4 inch square ribbed grill pan made by Lodge. I figured, I can use this for grilling veggies with nice grill marks as well as for veggie burgers and panini sandwiches. Plus the price couldn’t be beat – it was under $20 with a price match.

So far, I have only grilled veggies and I like it. Unlike an electric panini maker, the veggies remain juicy but have nice grill marks. The pan has also been surprisingly easy to clean up.

Next thing for me to do is to try using a non-ribbed skillet for anything I use a regular frying pan for. I did use the balance of the gift card to get one of these. I will let you know what I find out but I know it will be a fun process.

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A perfect beer? The Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock.

The Ayinger Celebrator

This beer caught my eye at the liquor store. It was marked as having a 100 point score on the “RateBeer” chart. Really? A perfect score? I have to confess that while I am somewhat of a beer snob, I really have no idea of beer ratings (wine ratings are a different matter altogether). However if an establishment puts out a notice declaring a certain beer to be, effectively, perfect, one does notice. The 4-pack was $12.25. The bottles had little plastic goats hanging from their necks. I am not sure if that added to the price. They are nice plastic goats, for sure. The cheap desi in me shuddered at the thought of shelling out just over $3/bottle, however curiousity prevailed and I purchased the beer.

Growing up in India in the 80s, I had very little idea of what good beer can be. The faintly chemical-tasting lagers of the day – Golden Eagle, Kingfisher, Haywards 5000 (that “beer” was barley wine) were all we could get our hands on. And we enjoyed them. Part of the enjoyment, of course, was just related to being college students having free access to alcoholic beverages for the first time in our lives.

In the early 90s (I am dating myself here) work took me to the UK and my friend Keith Jones introduced me to good beer. No, let me rephrase that, to GREAT beer. Now, as many would agree, there are two things that the UK does exceedingly well – beer and cheese. And so it was that my couple of years in London were spent exploring the many different ales that the city’s various establishments had to offer. An altogether pleasant experience. This was the time when American-style lagers were taking over the industry in the UK and the real ale industry felt threatened. The organization, CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) was trying hard to help educate the public and gain some of the market share from the likes of Budweiser and Molson.I am not too sure how the beer drinking tasteshave changed in the UK since that time since the last time I was in London was over 12 years back.

A little note about the Ayinger brewery

Anyway back to the review. I am not really much of a dark beer drinker. However, I do enjoy the occasional glass of Stout or a nice Porter. This beer, as dark beers go is right up there with the best of them. So here are my tasting notes.

Color – Very dark brown.

Carbonation – Mild carbonation with a smallish head.

Taste – Caramelly with a lot of other notes. There is a lot happening here.

Aftertaste/finish – Slightly sweet and very pleasant.

Overall, a very nice beer and one that I would consider if I wanted a dark beer. Would I call it a perfect beer? Probably not. Though a dark beer-drinker might.

Try it if you get a chance.

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