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goat cheese stuffed zucchini flowers

fresh zucchini flowers, from local markets
1/4  cup creme fraiche
200g goats cheese
chopped chives

If necessary, remove baby zucchini from flower and reserve for another use.  For filling, mix together creme, cheese and chives.  The mixture should have a soft and creamy but still slightly firm texture.

Gently pry open flowers and remove stamen at the base of the flower.  Stuff with cheese mixture, twist tops, slick with olive oil and scatter with rock salt.

 

Zucchini flowers are considered to be a delicacy, so when I saw them for (relatively) cheap at my local market I thought they would be a perfect complement to a goats’ cheese risotto I planned to make.  This particular recipe is based on a NYT article, highlighting the pleasures of zucchini flowers in the raw, since they are often simply battered and fried.

Raw, the taste of the flower was rather mild and delicate.  All in all, these were fun to make and plenty edible, but in the end, I’m not sure they’re really worth the effort.  Still, they sure make for a gorgeous photo.

NYT, I love it when you add veracity to my personal rationalization efforts over bad food/drink consumption habits!  There’s of course the well-known adages regarding a glass of red wine a day (but did you know it was good for your gut?) and a recent article on the life-enlongating effects of caffeine

Today, my favorite editors are debunking the theory that salt is “food public enemy No 1”.   Next up, the benefits of butter?

This NYT article is great on so many levels: pointing out an obvious reason why 1 in 3 Americans are obese and 2 in 3 Americans overweight; highlighting the basic tension / interplay of market capitalism and regulation; and doing it all with math!

Shockingly, Carson Chow, a mathematician, concludes that the rise in obesity in America over the last few decades can be attributed to… increased supply of food.  The mantra certainly holds true in my house:  if you grow it, I will eat it (though I like to think, in moderation).

And if you grow it cheaply, and on a mass scale, economics dictate that I will pay a lower price for it and be able to consume more of it in relative terms.  It’s a common refrain from visitors to Melbourne:  “food is SO expensive here.”  But it’s only because food is so cheap in the U.S., in fact, perhaps TOO cheap.

Sadly, I suspect another key part of the equation missed by Chow is a cultural one — Americans have proved in the last 50 years to be a culture of convenience consumers.  Which unfortunately means that, so long as supply is high, there will be demand. And so long as quick and cheap alternatives are available to maximize not only food consumption but minimize lost opportunity costs for other consumer activities, Americans will seize them.

It makes me nostalgic for a time when my dad would cook 7-days’ worth of meals in advance on the weekend, to freeze until each meal’s day came, so we could enjoy home cooked dinners quickly (and I suspect cheaply) when he got home from a long day at work. (And trust me, we probably BOTH thought we’d never be nostalgic for such things…)  What’s the incentive now, when a parent can just pick up a box-o-food in the same amount of time and at the same cost?

It’s a well-timed article for me, as I’ve been pondering a lot recently about the role of government in a capitalist society and whether there is any hope for effective national legislation in an increasingly gridlocked political system.  I’ve also been cooking, and therefore eating, ALOT (as you can tell from recent posts) with some downtime at work and an increasingly chilly winter descending on Melbourne that sends me straight to the oven for warmth.  (Plus, I havent shared a “random musings” post in a while…)

So what should be the political response to Chow’s mathematical answer?  It seems politically untenable and perhaps callous to suggest as a response that we should (1) remove farm subsidies (i.e., put the squeeze on struggling American farmers in the heartland of U.S.A) or (2) herald an age where food is more expensive, and therefore more financially burdensome to struggling families.  An obesity rate of 1 in 3 people suggests that Americans aren’t just “breaking even” on food, they are gluttonously profiting.  But political rhetoric is hardly that discerning.

Perhaps in the current political climate, cultural change is the best we can hope for… I’ll start one home at a time; my own.  After all, if a corporate lawyer can manage to avoid fast food and cook for her family most nights, I promise, you can too!

Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?  Answer: NO.

This NYT article by Mark Bittman says everything I want to scream from the tops of skyscrapers and church steeples all over America.  Junk food, fast food, processed food is NOT the answer.

It also touches on many themes I resoundly agree with — dispelling the myth that junk food is cheaper than the fruits of the earth and land; the cooking challenge; the need to breakaway from a culture of food consumption based on an 24-hour multi-tasking lifestyle; a call for concerted political and cultural action, a food revolution, if you will.

The cooking dilemma is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for most people struggling to break free from a processed food diet.  I’ll admit that there are nights when I don’t want to undertake the effort of cooking (not to mention cleaning), and I am a self-professed wanna be chef!  It’s takes time and effort to cook, and increasingly Americans are being brought up in an environment where food for purchase is so readily available, they don’t know how to cook!

But there’s a wealth of information out there about cooking.  An abundance of recipe books are available touting easy 20-minute suppers and other simple cooking ideas.  Cooking shows, cooking demonstrations at local shopping malls, magazines, books… Cooking can be easy and accessible, if you just give it a go.

For my part, I am trying to encourage healthy, “at-home” cooking, for those around me—-my office mates.  Last week, I served up 3 kangaroo loins, green beans, garlic bread and a tossed salad for the associates in the office.  It took 20 minutes, and fed 4.  Yesterday, Kelly and I made veggie pizza for lunch.  Using a pre-made pizza base and piling on freshly sliced peppers, onions, and tomato took at total of 5 minutes prep and 15 minutes wait time.  Approximate cost $8.  (Approximate cost for lunch from the laneways of Melbourne, $10-12 each.)

Apart from the cost incentives of personal food prep, there’s a moral aspect to cooking as well.  Working late nights at the office, it made all of us feel better have a “home-cooked” meal, plus we ate together in the boardroom (rather than the normal routine, stuffing our faces from a plastic take-away container in front of our glowing computer screens).  The joys of cooking are shared, and continued, with the joys of eating: communal food consumption.

So I challenge everyone to be honest with themselves.  Test the theory.  Go out and eat an easy meal at a sit-down restaurant, say pasta or roasted chicken.  Then go home, buy the ingredients, and replicate the meal.  See how it stacks up, and follow your taste buds!