Know Your GMO’s

No-GMO.crop

The GMO controversy is back in the news and now it’s about labeling and not about how to eliminate them from our food.  Opponents are pushing for clearer labeling on food that has been Genetically Modified and the giant food corporations are fighting to keep the information a secret.

When it comes to food, I’m in favor of removing the government from the role of the parent and placing the responsibility back into the hands and mouths of the consumer.  When the information is being withheld from the consumer, they can’t make an educated decision about what food they choose to eat.  If you knew that your food was being created in a lab versus growing on a farm, then you might make different choices.  Big corporations have a lot at stake here, as in money, so they’d rather not have the labeling rules enforced on their products and continue to keep the public in the dark.

This battle will continue, especially with the growing number of GMO’s entering into our foods, but we need to have compete transparency.  We’ll save the debate of whether GMO’s should even exist in our food for another time, but for now, consumers have the right to know everything about what’s in their food so they can make their own decisions.

In Search Of The Hottest Chile Pepper

pepperplate

It’s fresh chile pepper season and that got me wondering, “what is the hottest chile in the world?”  According to Wikipedia that would be the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chile pepper that can reach levels of over 2 million on the Scoville Scale.  I’m not sure how that measures on the pain scale but I prefer to taste my food rather than feel my food.

There are thousands of different varieties of chile peppers ranging in heat from zero to extreme and everywhere in-between.  Peppers can have many different flavor characteristics including sweet, smoky, fruity, vegetal, grassy, peppery and spicy.

Mild sweet peppers are great in salads, raw salsas, crudités, and used as a vessel for stuffing. If you want to use a hot chile in a raw application to bring out the best characteristics then try a fruit salsa to help tame the heat.  Longer cooking times will also cut the heat and bring out more of the flavors and add richness to sauces, jams, chutneys, soups and stews.

I was unsuccessful in my search for the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chile but here are some of the most accessible chile peppers I have found recently:

yellow.pepper

Yellow Bell Pepper

Sweet, fruity, raw, roast, grill, sauté, stuff, crudités, salads

Scoville – 0

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redbell.pepper

Red Bell Pepper

Sweet, fruity, raw, roast, grill, sauté, stuff, crudités, salads

Scoville – 0

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purple.pepper

Purple Bell Pepper

Slightly bitter, Vegetal, fruity, raw, roast, grill, sauté, stuff, crudités, salads

Scoville –  0

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jimmynardello.pepper

Jimmy Nardello Pepper

Sweet, fruity, raw, roast, grill, sauté, crudités, salads

Scoville – 0

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gypsy.pepper

Gypsy Peppers

Sweet, fruity, raw, roast, grill, sauté, stuff, crudités, salads

Scoville – 0

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shishito.chile

 Shishito Peppers

Fruity, slight heat, raw, roast, fry, sauté,  salsa, salad

Scoville – 100- 1000

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santafe.chile

Santa Fe Chile

Fruity, slight heat, raw, roast, fry, sauté,  salsa, salad

Scoville – 500- 700

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anaheim.chile

Anaheim

Mild, slight heat, roast, sauté,  salsa,

Scoville – 500- 2500

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padron.chile

Padron

Grassy, slight heat, peppery, flavorful, roast, deep fry, sauté,  salsa

Scoville – 500- 2500

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poblano.chile

Poblano

Fruity, slight heat, smoky, roast, fry, sauté, grill, salsa, salad, sauce

Scoville – 1000- 2000

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jalapeno.chile

Jalapeño

Little heat, peppery, roast, deep fry, sauté, grill, stuff, salsa, sauce

Scoville – 2500- 5000

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fresno.chile

Fresno

Smoky, good heat, roast, grill, sauté, salsa, sauce, stew

Scoville – 2500- 8000

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hungarianwax.chile

Hungarian Wax

Fruity, waxy, hot, roast, grill, sauté, salsa, stew

Scoville – 5000- 10,000

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serrano.chile

Serrano

Acidic, hot, spicy, roast, fry, sauté,  salsa, stew

Scoville – 15,000- 30,000

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manzano.chile

Manzano

Fleshy, dense, hot, fruity, grill, roast, smoke,  salsa, stew

Scoville – 15,000- 50,000

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thai.chile

Thai Chile

Firm, very hot, roast, stir- fry, salsa, soup, stew

Scoville – 50,000- 100,000

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habanero

Habañero

Fruity, flavorful, very hot, roast, grill, smoke, salsa

Scoville – 100,000- 350,000

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Shark Fin Soup On Ice

sharkfin1

Starting July 1, 2014, New York will be joining other states when it bans the sale of shark fins, that according to the AP.  This follows similar bans that are already in affect in some west coast states including California.  The illegal practice of “finning”, when the shark has its fins brutally sliced off before being thrown back into the water to die, is a cruel practice and has pushed the shark population to an all time low.

Shark fins are used for making “Shark Fin Soup” and can fetch hundreds of dollars per pound.  The controversy of the ban is mostly between the environmental groups that want the inhumane practice of finning stopped and the Asian American community who want to continue to serve this traditional soup at ceremonial events such as weddings and banquets. Curious diners have also helped to push up the demand and cost of this $60 a portion delicacy, whetting the appetite for restaurants to put the soup on the menu.

It is unfortunate when greed enters into our food chain. I have a great deal of respect for tradition when it comes to food but I also believe it’s important to honor this ban.  The public needs to start by not ordering shark’s fin soup to curtail its demand, and the laws need to be stricter to punish the poachers who are torturing the sharks.  If we want to lessen the government on our plates then we need to be more responsible with what we  choose to eat and put a higher priority on where we source our food.

Here is a great article on how Asian American chef Corey Lee of Benu created a Faux Shark’s- Fin soup.

Molecular Gastronomy: Is It A Trend?

Vacuum Sealed Bags Ready For Sous Vide

Molecular gastronomy has its fans and its skeptics and those who have said “the expansion and influence of that avant garde cuisine has been next to zero”.  I disagree as a chef and as a diner. I’m glad to see the new breed of chefs coming onto the scene with alternative resources to help them create food at a higher level and the new audience of diners that want to experiment with a new dining experience.

There have been a number of restaurants opening their doors lately that specialize in “avant garde cuisine”.  Ever since the now closed El Bulli in Spain brought this style of cooking to our attention, restaurants such as WD-50 in New York, Coi in San Francisco, Alinea in Chicago, The Fat Duck in England, to name a few, have entertained us with molecular gastronomy exclusively.  But is this just a trend?

Chefs welcome any new tools available to them that’ll help with the process of creating great food in their kitchens.  Great new additions have been the Microplane for grating cheese to the consistency of fresh snow, powerful blenders for making silky soup, a PacoJet for that “on the fly” ice cream, and now the Sous Vide machine that cooks meat as soft as butter.  There are many restaurants that don’t specialize in molecular gastronomy but will use the tools and techniques in their kitchens with the single intention of improving the end result of a dish, and not worrying about what the diner thinks of the cooking process.

Right now it’s trendy to incorporate molecular gastronomy into the cooking process, so you might see a special on the menu that reads: “Sous Vide Halibut With Shelling Beans and Chanterelle Foam”.  But if you were to strip the words “Sous Vide” and “Foam” from the title and present the same dish as “Halibut With Shelling Beans and Chanterelle”, you would enjoy that same dish and you’d be unaware you were in the presence of molecular gastronomy.

Molecular gastronomy may be a trend at the moment but the tools and techniques that come along with that trend will stay with us and find a comfortable home in most modern kitchens right next to the microplane and blender.

Aside

Fond Farewell

Image

Choosing to use a nonstick pan for searing foods will give you the benefit of an easier clean up in the kitchen, but is that worth the expense of losing quality of the finished dish?  In my kitchen I only have one nonstick pan and it is reserved for making crepes and egg dishes such as a frittata.

The choice to use a regular sauté pan over a nonstick pan is the first step in the process of getting a good fond.  The fond, for those who don’t know or may have forgotten, is the nice crispy bits that are left behind and stuck to the bottom of the pan after searing a piece of meat or when sautéing vegetables.  The importance of the fond is that it will greatly enhance the flavor of a dish and deepen the richness of a sauce.

During the cooking process the caramelization that happens in the pan when searing or sautéing creates that invaluable ingredient that can’t be substituted.  On the negative side of wanting to use this wonderfully smokey, sweet, crispy and natural ingredient for a dish is that you won’t be able to just simply grab it off the shelf when you need to use it, but then on the positive side, you don’t need to worry about your food costs rising.

So if the fond isn’t a necessary component of the dish, than by all means go ahead and use a non-stick pan.  If you want that extra flavor for a dish, all you need to do is just turn the burner on to high heat, sear, caramelize, deglaze, scrape and there you have it, a natural ingredient from the remnants of the sautéd meats or vegetables. With the fond going back into the dish and not stuck to the bottom you will also eliminate the step of having to scrub the pan.