Would it surprise you to learn that the dish that’s synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish in the U.S. is so rarely eaten in Ireland? In fact the Irish tell us that corned beef and cabbage is not an American dish at all; and, the Irish in Ireland don’t claim it as their own, says Malachi McCormick in Irish Country Cooking.
“[It’s a] New World dish…associated with many awful versions served in bars in the U.S.—washed down with plastic cups of green beer,” he writes.
Many years ago in the early days of rock and roll, Trini Lopez, one of the genre’s first Latin success stories, sang about lemons. Lemons are one of my favorite foods because they remind me of warm weather— something we all crave. Lopez sang “Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.” Lopez was wrong. In fact the juice and the skin of lemons, known as the zest, are delicious to eat. Of course the song was a metaphor and a precautionary tale against falling in love too easily—pretty to see with a lovely scent as well; yet unattainable in the end like the sour lemon.
But lemons in their multivariate attire are excellent to accent seafood and chicken, beans, greens and grains, and to brighten soups, stews and sauces alike. And of course what would summer be for kids and adults without lemonade, lemon drops, lemon cake and those chewy lemon squares. Lemons are tart but they are great combined with some sugar, mint and crushed ice. My favorite pot roast recipe, which is ideal for cold weather, is a sweet and sour braise—with the juice of one or more lemons and your favorite dried fruit, brown sugar, onions, carrots, red wine and water or beef broth.
There’s hardly a dish that doesn’t start with onions, but they also have their own role to play as a vegetable. If you’re not using them with stock or broth, they are special by themselves or in combination with other vegetables. I enjoy eating them caramelized on pizza, sandwiches or with eggs. Shallots are so divine when sautéed till crisp with green beans. Cauliflower. tomatoes in August or minced in salad dressing. Vidalia, Maui and Walla Walla onions are so sweet that you can eat them raw. I prefer them that way. They are almost too sweet to cook. And leeks cleaned carefully after cutting them in half vertically are wonderful braised alone in your favorite stock with a little sea salt and ground black pepper. Julia Child made this dish famous.
But onions can be unpleasant when peeling or chopping them. Wearing glasses or using a sharp knife will mitigate the tear-inducing chemical released into the air. This substance, called allicin combines with the moisture in our eyes to form a weak solution of sulfuric acid. But onions are worth a little pain.
What’s the most popular food in America—perhaps the world? Many would say pizza. Adults who are watching their weight still yen for this satisfying food. Children have no reservations about eating it any time of day or night. It became the fast food standard at my home and I bet for many families running home after work without dinner being ready.
Pizza as we know it has been around for over 100 years, first prepared by the baker Raffaele Esposito of Naples in 1889. And in North America, Gennaro Lombardi opened the first pizzeria in New York City in 1905. Today, the consumption level continues to reflect the popularity of this universal food. Mary Bellis of About.com Guide tells us that Americans eat approximately 350 slices of pizza per second, which is amazing to even imagine. The largest percentage of pizza slices, 36 percent, have pepperoni on them. However, in India pickled ginger, minced mutton, and paneer cheese are the favorite toppings. In Japan, a combination of mayonnaise, potato and bacon, eel and squid are the favorites. Green peas do the trick for Brazil and Russians love red herring pizza.
For some time it has occurred to me that a connection existed between healthy eating and environmental concerns like global warming that leads to warmer ocean temperatures and super storms like Hurricane Sandy.But I couldn’t find a cookbook that tied these issues together in a non-strident fashion that didn’t make me feel guilty. Award-winning New York Times food writer/ Op Ed columnist Mark Bittman meets this need in The Food Matters Cookbook, the follow-up to his books How Food Matters and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
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