Saturday, April 12, 2014

Five Ingredient Avocado Chicken Salad



This post originally appeared at FoodRiot.com.

More and more of us are coming out as mayonnaise-phobes these days, and it feels good to know I'm not in as much of a minority as I once thought. It feels even better to know that the things for which I once thought I had to suck it up and use mayonnaise; your chicken salad, you deviled eggs, that kind of thing, have an important ally in the avocado. I've only recently embraced the avocado and its myriad delicious uses, but it seems like I find a new one each week. This time I discovered easy-as-pie-and-almost-as-tasty Avocado Chicken Salad:

Ingredients:

1. The leftover meat from last night's roast chicken, removed from the carcass and cut into small cubes
2. 1-2 avocados, the riper the better
3. A tablespoon on lemon juice
4. 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
5. Your favorite sandwich bread

Directions:

1. Slice up your avocado into a bowl. Remember how?
2. Add your lemon juice, because the oily umami-ness of the avocado will really benefit from a bite of acid. Give everything a good stir. If the avocado is a little firmer than you'd like, and not mixing well, toss everything into a food processor, stand mixer, or whatever you have, and beat for about 30 seconds to get your mixture nice and creamy, adding a little oil if necessary, and scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.
3. Stick your bread in the toaster so that it will be ready when the chicken salad is.
4. Stir in the dried cranberries and chicken meat by hand until well blended. Give it a taste and add some salt, pepper, and/or your favorite spice or dried herb.
5. Spread it on your toast, try to move past the fact that it's green, and enjoy!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Farmed and Dangerous Recap: Episode 4: Ends Meat

Ending the season on a cliffhanger when you don't know whether the show will get renewed? Not cool, Chipotle. It's like you're admitting that no one really cares whether your plot lines get resolved or not.

By my fourth episode of Farmed and Dangerous, I knew not to expect too much, but the writers really outdid themselves this time in the underwhelming department. The finale (season finale? series finale? even that seems unclear) failed to tie up any loose ends. For instance, that guy who kept spying on Chip and Sofia never really revealed himself, it was just implied that he worked for...whatsisname. Her boyfriend. Or fiance. Or ex-boyfriend. Or whatever he is. I remember at some point he told his enormous-cowboy-hat-wearing father that they were getting married, because it prompted his dad to observe that he was "finally buying the cow," bringing the livestock themed suggestive joke count to somewhere around 10.

I guess they kind of resolved the Petro Pellet arc, saying that it was just a red herring the whole time to distract the media from Oleyum, (Get it?) a new brand of human food made out of oil. But then that led right into more unresolved issues of its own, notably the super weird final shot of the

(season? series?)

in which a random new character is eating Oleyum brand junk food too close to a cell phone and the credits roll just before he (probably) explodes just like the cow in the first episode.

And then there's, of course, the Will They End Up Together plot. It seems as though Sofia is leaning toward accepting Chip's job offer (wait, what? That's going to get complicated, no?) as she not only decided to break up with Zach, (That's his name! Zach!) but also completely changed her style of dress. She's now less Lydia Rodarte Quayle and more Lori Grimes. (Always change your look when you change your boyfriend, ladies. Men who get free thinkers don't buy the cow...or something.)

So that's it for Farmed and Dangerous. For now at least. What do you think? Was it a complete waste of time? Did you actually like it? Did you think it was a step towards starting an important conversation? Will we see more shows like this in the future? Does Chipotle really have good intentions or is it all just more greenwashing to make a buck? And, most importantly, what show should I recap next?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Farmed and Dangerous Recap: Episode 3: Raising the Steaks

What is with the slightly off pop culture references on this show? In episode 3, "Raising the Steaks," (Get it?) Chip tries to tell Sophia that her father has his priorities backwards by saying that he "watches The Matrix and roots for the machines." Is anyone watching The Matrix at all these days? I mean, I love the '90's, but come on.

I should cut poor Chip a break, though. He's not himself today. His mind is on a particularly sad chapter in his Backstory. "Backstory," (as the writers clearly learned just minutes before the actors showed up to rehearse this episode,) explains how characters ended up where they are, and why they behave the way they do. Sometimes, revealing a key detail in one character's Backstory can influence how another character sees him or her. For example, Sophia's hard candy shell starts to crack when she learns that Chip's father tragically died from complications after being attacked by a boar.

And that Chip is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne
photo credit
When Chip's dad was running the show, their family farm was not an organic one, you see, and the animals were pumped full of antibiotics, so that when his wound got infected there was no way to treat it, since the boar germs had become antibiotic resistant. (Wait, can that really happen?) And that's why Chip is now a rogue sustainable farmer who doesn't over-medicate his livestock. Because inheriting a business and then immediately restructuring everything about it while continuing to make a profit is apparently a lot easier than the lady with the chickens from Food, Inc. made it look.

Sophia shows her empathy for Chip's daddy issues by eating a tomato right off the vine, and conceding that it tastes better than the ones from the supermarket.

And then we go to commercial.

Much like those surreal ad spots on AMC that feature actors from Mad Men, commercials on Farmed and Dangerous make viewers think a little harder than usual about the relationship between advertising and entertainment, and where the line is between the two.

At least once during each episode I've seen, there's been a commercial for a Special K bar that's supposed to help you lose weight. Which is something you're supposed to want to do.

And that's where I stop questioning Chipotle's motives and realizing that I know full well what those motives are. They want to set themselves apart from other fast food chains by sourcing healthier and more environmentally responsible ingredients. Everyone's got their thing that sets them apart from the competition. McDonald's has a clown. Wendy's has square hamburgers. Chipotle has the sustainability angle. And if not enough people know that they have the sustainability angle, well, they'll do whatever it takes to get the word out there, even support industrial agriculture.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Farmed and Dangerous Recap: Episode 2: Passing the Buck

I apologize for my last recap. I had been expecting something that took itself a little more seriously, and I wasn't ready to fully embrace the goofy, campy spirit of Farmed and Dangerous. The reason the script and character development have little more depth than they would in a commercial is that Farmed and Dangerous IS a commercial. Kind of. It doesn't quite know what it is, and that's part of the fun. We're at a weird place in the history of media, just like we're at a weird place in the history of food, so I guess it follows that a show like this should take some weird ideas, run with them, and see what happens. The jokes are bad, but if you come at them with the right attitude, they're the kind of jokes that are so bad they're good. I should get off my grass-fed high horse and stop pretending that that isn't exactly the kind of joke I like.

So about Episode 2: "Passing the Buck." First of all, let me explain that the title of this episode refers to the facts that, in the episode, several characters shy away from responsibility by giving it to someone else, a practice commonly knows as "passing the buck," and also that the main character's name is Buck. Get it? You're welcome.

ANYWAY, we find our antagonist, Buck Marshall, still in hot polluted water over the video of the cow exploding from eating Petro Pellets that his little buddy Chip from the Sustainable Family Farm Something Something Association leaked on the internet last week. The video has gone viral, and Chip is asked to come on a Today Show-esque program and publicize the thing even more, much to the chagrin of Buck and his client, Animoil, whose head honcho, by the way, just happens to be Buck's daughter Sophia's boyfriend's father. Because character relationships. And conflict. And intrigue.

The episode culminates, as last week's did, with Chip and Sophia on a pseudo-date, this time upping the ante from hip organic bistro to fancy tequila bar.

Let the record show that I don't buy that Chip hangs out in places like this. I don't buy that Chip can afford places like this. Unless the writers are giving a deliberate nod to the time-honored tradition of sitcom characters living outside their means in the name of wacky antics, the night's bar tab makes me really skeptical of just where Chip's funding come from. Could it be that his organization is just as corrupt as Animoil? PLOT TWIST!

The star-crossed lovers' farm facts drinking game was a perfect example of what I love/hate about this show. Instead of crafting an actual conversation that two people who disagree about these issues might have, the writers just had the characters take turns listing facts. (The rules of the game were drink every time the other person had a good point. There were a lot of empty glasses by the end of the night, which you would think meant that our heroes reached some some sort of philosophical compromise, but I don't think that's what actually happened.) Their little diorama of how land is used made out of beer nuts and cocktail olives was adorable though.

Are we having fun yet? Who do you think that guy constantly lurking in the shadows is? Will Chip and Sophia end up together? Is any of this making you hungry for a Chipotle burrito?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Farmed and Dangerous Recap: Episode 1: Oiling the Food Chain

It may surprise you to learn that a show that ran for exactly four episodes, went straight to Hulu, and is very little more than a commercial for a fast food chain, is terrible.

Then again, it may not.

The show in question is "Farmed and Dangerous," Chipotle's satire of the agriculture industry. Silly me, I actually had high hopes for the series, before I thought it through. What I figured had a shot at being something like a fictionalized Food, Inc., felt more like a painfully extended Public Service Announcement with some awkward and poorly written adult humor thrown in for "plot."

We open on our protagonist, Buck Marshall, played by Ray Wise with the same level of over-the-top cartoon grumpiness that he brings to his role as Robin Scherbatsky, Sr. on How I Met Your Mother. Buck is president of the Industrial Food Image Bureau, which is pretty much a PR firm for big ag. His client, a large scale rancher of some kind, (I meant to watch the episode a second time and get the details right but it's just so bad please don't make me) has genetically engineered cows to the point that they can digest feed made out of  crude oil, and charges Buck's firm with the task of spinning the news to the American people in a way that will make them want to buy more hamburgers. The main selling point on the "Petro-Pellets" is that when the cows are eating oil, it means they're not eating corn anymore. And we all know how the dirty hippy enemies of industrial agriculture love to hate on corn.

Then we meet the people who work for Buck, in a scene where they sit around a meeting table wondering if their boss is giving his secretary "the t-bone," because if there's anything this show loves more than a sex pun, it's a food pun.

From here, it's all downhill like eroding topsoil. We meet Buck's daughter Sophia, who is sent out by her father/boss to track down family farm activist Chip Randolf, and get him to stop giving Buck's client bad press all over this new thing the kids call the internet. (If there's anything this show loves more than a sex pun combined with a food pun, it's a joke about the internet. Unless I missed the part where it's supposed to be set in 1998, these jokes Just. Don't. Work.) Chip refuses, but somehow falls immediately in love with Sophia's arrogance and big city fashion sense, thus entangling all the characters together so that they can wittily spar at each other for three more episodes.

Have you been watching Farmed and Dangerous? If so, do you think I'm being too hard on it? And if not...come on. It'll be fun. Whaddaya say?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Popchips, Workbar, Kitchen Surfing, and a Recipe, Too


It had been quite awhile since I'd been able to make it to a Blog and Tweet Boston event, but when I heard that Jen and Kerrie were setting one up with Kitchen Surfing, I new I couldn't miss it. If you haven't heard about Kitchen Surfing, it's a service available in six cities (so far) that lets you pick out a chef to come to your house and cater your dinner party.

If sampling what some of Kitchen Surfing's chefs had to offer wasn't reason enough to show up, the venue certainly was. Our host for the evening was Workbar, a shared coworking space in Cambridge where you can rent a desk or office (and apparently attend the occasional event.). As someone whose dream it is to one day work from home, I've always wanted top stop into Workbar and see what it was all about. Dinner was served on the first level, which had been cleared out, but afterwards a few of a us got a tour of a different floor, where some night owls were still hard at work.









Where was I? Right. Dinner. This particular event was also sponsored by Popchips, a relatively new brand of potato and tortilla chips that are popped rather than fried, so they have less oil, plenty of flavor, and a unique, almost rice cakeish texture. The three participating chefs from Kitchen Surfing were tasked with serving some fifty or so attendees a dish they had made using Popchips in some way.


Chef Jitti Chaithiraphant serves Corn & Cheddar Popchips Soup

Chef Jen Rogers pours a Bloody Mary shot to go with her Popchips Chicken & Waffle

Chefs Mark O'Leary and Justin Hackett talk about their Vietnamese Bahn Mi Sandwich
After sampling some truly professional recipes that you'd never know were made from a packaged snack food, we guests were faced with the alarming challenge of creating our own recipe with Popchips. Competitively, no less. Mine is below. If you think it looks any good, please stop by the Blog and Tweet Boston website to vote for it. The winner gets a Kitchen Surfing gift certificate!

Original Flavor Popchips and Root Vegetable Salsa Fresca


Ingredients:

1/2 large red onion
4 carrots
6 radishes
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste



Directions

1. Dice up all your vegetables into about 1/4" cubes (teenier on the garlic, natch)
2. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. For optimal flavor, refrigerate overnight before dipping your Popchips.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

On Eating Foods at the Wrong Time of Day

This post originally appeared at FoodRiot.com.

The Standard American Diet has very clearly marked out the lines between Breakfast Foods and Lunch and Dinner Foods. And I'm OK with that. I'd never dream of eating salad before noon. It's unappetizing, but also somehow sacrilegious. Salad is a Lunch and Dinner Food. Not a Breakfast Food.

Part of what makes brunch so decadent, so only-on-the-weekends, so...intimate...is the way it breaks down barriers between meal categories.

When else do we eat foods at taboo times of the day? Once in awhile Breakfast will make a cameo appearance when it doesn't belong. I remember in college they tried hard to appease the undergrads' young, adventurous desires in a controlled setting by serving Breakfast for Dinner at the cafeteria once a month. But that wasn't enough for us. we'd make midnight trips to IHOP every chance we got, just for a taste of the forbidden.

I've grown out of all that, though, which is why I was pretty shaken the first time I saw a recipe for Breakfast Quinoa. Now, quinoa is a Lunch and Dinner Food. You can put it in salads, or use it as a base for stir fries, pretty much anything you can do with rice, which is also very much a Lunch and Dinner Food. Just so we're clear.

Once I got up up off the fainting couch and put the smelling salts away I figured, if I saw it on the internet, it must be true, and as long as I adhere to the recipe, well, maybe in just this one very special instance with a very special recipe, quinoa can be Breakfast Food.

But then I found another breakfast quinoa recipe. And another. And then, I found a recipe expecting me to throw some fruit and cinnamon on brown rice and call that Breakfast!

Somebody find a measuring tape that uses cubits and start building an ark, because clearly the end is near. I mean, rice? For breakfast? Can you imagine?





Huh. OK. I might have to rethink some things here.

Is the only difference between Part of This Complete Breakfast and Crazy Hippy Vegan Healthfood Balderdash just that one comes in a box with cartoon characters on it? And if that's true then...

Is it possible that even if you don't make it to McDonald's before 11:00 you can still put a fried egg on an English muffin?

Was I too quick to dismiss Mark Bittman's heretical ideas about spreading vegetable puree on toast?

And, most importantly, in a world where it's OK to eat anything you want at any time of the day, what new recipes are out there waiting to be discovered?