poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


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Camping at Julia Pfeiffer Burns (aka Best Campsite EVER)

Originally posted on Running Tangents:

This past weekend, a group of 8 of us went camping at Big Sur.  Our friend CR had secured one of two of the most sought-after campsites on the West Coast at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  This campsite, perched above the gorgeous, rocky shores of Big Sur, was a hybrid of car camping and backpacking: it was far enough down the road to be secluded and surrounded by nature (i.e., not rowdy campers or RVs), but also had a few car camping luxuries, such as a fire pit, picnic tables, trash and recycling bins, and pit toilets.  Just a short 0.1 mile steep hike down the hill from the fire road, we were able to bring in enough water, firewood, and camping accessories for the weekend.  (There is already a very informative article about camping at JPB on the internet, so I won’t repeat the details. …

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Food Assurance (Do you know what you’re really eating?)

Greetings from Taiwan!  The main reason for my visit is to see my family, but a major fringe benefit is the food. (For previous posts/photos, see here.)  So you can imagine my dismay when, upon arriving in Taipei last week, my brother-in-law asked, “Have you heard about all of the food problems?”  I responded that I hadn’t, and he told me first about several Taiwanese companies selling olive oil diluted largely with cottonseed oil.  To make the oil look green, they also added copper chlorophyllin, a controlled coloring agent.  The other major story came out last week, when Business Weekly performed an independent test of Taiwanese milk and reported that an alarming amount of drug, hormonal, and chemical residues were found in a majority of Taiwanese milk.  (However, there have also been subsequent charges of defamation/exaggeration against Business Weekly.)  I was shocked, mostly because while I’ve come to expect food quality issues from Chinese products (e.g., here and here), I’ve always had higher expectations from Taiwanese food.

Although I was surprised about the olive oil and milk, I also didn’t think too much about it since I don’t consume a lot of either while in Taipei.  However, it struck a little closer to home yesterday, as my mom told me about a bunch of other recent scares: tapioca flour (used to make all sorts of food, including boba pearls for bubble tea), contaminated flour and starch, and peanuts have all been questionably or unsafely processed.  For the first time in my life, I’m worried more about consuming safe ingredients as opposed to gastrointestinal bacteria or parasites.  It got me thinking about food assurance, a.k.a., do I really know what I’m eating?  Not only is processed food less healthy for you, but it’s becoming more mysterious (and therefore dangerous) where and how it was processed.  My brother-in-law made a good point in our conversation the other night when he said that food in Taiwan is too inexpensive, and forces/incentivizes companies to cut corners where they can.  On the other hand, the olive oil scandal was rooted in taking advantage of consumers in a different way, by selling fake products at a high price point to convince people of the quality of their products.  Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I feel like this is just a harbinger of things to come — not just in Taiwan, but globally.  As we keep expecting to pay less (or the same) for diminishing food supplies that require more energy to produce and export, the more we will see incidents like these.


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The Sandwich of Summer Goodness

I wouldn’t describe myself as a “sandwich person” per se, but once in a blue moon, I’ll have a sandwich that *almost* converts me. (Sorry bread, but noodles will always be my #1 carb of choice.) Last night was one of those experiences — TC found a recipe for Grilled Eggplant and Heirloom Tomato Sandwiches from our CSA’s website. We decided to give it a try, even though we didn’t have a grill. As it turns out, you can also broil eggplant and peppers — hot AND fast!

Sandwich phase I: pre-assembly

Sandwich phase I: pre-assembly. Eggplant, heirloom tomato, basil, and garlic from Full Belly Farms.

This recipe did not disappoint! Both TC and I were blown away by how delicious this combination was. On top of the basic recipe, we added coarsely chopped basil (since that was also in our CSA box) and fresh mozzarella. Another key ingredient: good bread. We chose an Acme ciabatta, which was perfect. One happy coincidence was an open bottle of Yellowtail Shiraz, which paired really well with the sandwich.

Sandwich phase II: post-assembly. (Sandwich phase III: consumption not shown.)

Sandwich phase II: post-assembly. (Sandwich phase III: consumption not shown.)

Not only does this sandwich include the best of summer produce, but it’s also quick and easy — the last thing you want to be doing during the summer is slaving away over the stove, am I right? Anyway, enough talking – here’s the recipe.

Grilled Eggplant and Heirloom Tomato Sandwiches
(adapted from Full Belly Farms)

servings: 4
Ingredients
1 eggplant cut into 1/4-inch slices – This will work fine with any type of eggplant.
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 peppers, roasted or grilled and sliced
1 or 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
8 1/2-inch-thick slices of your favorite sandwich bread

Optional:
- Aioli or mayonnaise to spread on the bread
- fresh mozzarella, sliced
- basil, coarsely chopped

Instructions

1. Preheat the grill or broiler. Brush the olive oil lightly over both sides of the eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Grill or broil the eggplant until tender, 3 or 4 minutes per side. Place in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and half of the minced garlic.

2. Cut the tops off the peppers, slice in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Grill or broil the peppers until tender (about 9 minutes in broiler) and then toss them in a bowl with the remaining vinegar, garlic, and basil (if using).

3. Grill, broil or toast the bread. If you are using aioli or mayonnaise spread it on the bread and then assemble the sandwiches with layers of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and mozzarella (if using).

 

 

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