Tuesday, December 22, 2009

We're all in this together

An article in the New York Times makes clear the inter-relatedness of all life on earth.

Menhaden, a species of fish that was once as common as the passenger pigeon, are the linchpin of aquatic life. But they are being overfished to extinction, and one company, Omega Protein of Houston, is largely responsible.

Who owns the menhaden? And does Omega Protein have the right to fish them to extinction in federal waters?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cornbread, Part 2 of 2

Vegan bakers struggle to find something — anything — that has the magical binding property of eggs. Flour, a sweetener (such as sugar), and a leaving agent (such as baking powder) are the basic ingredients of any baked good, but these substances are meaningless granules until a binder, and the heat of an oven, orchestrates them into something nutritious and delectable.

Ingenious vegans have discovered many binding agents, including bananas, cornstarch, arrowroot powder and others. You can also buy your binder in a box — Ener-G Egg Replacer is one common brand.

This recipe uses a homemade binding agent, ground flax seed, boiled in a few tablespoons of water. It actually works pretty well and, interestingly, the flax seed acquires the sticky, shiny texture of an egg.

I use a coffee grinder to pulverize the flax seed. When you prepare flax seed for this recipe, grind it very fine. The cornbread will still have flecks of brown, which you may or may not like. This is a savory, crumbly, somewhat dry cornbread, very different from the recipe I posted earlier.


2 Tbsp. ground flax seed
6 Tbsp. water
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C cornmeal
1/4 C sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. table salt
1 C soy milk
1/4 C canola oil

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 8-inch-square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the ground flax seed, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the ground flax seed in the water for 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well-combined.

4. Add the ground flax seed mixture, soy milk, and canola oil to the flour mixture. Beat just until smooth (do not overbeat.)

5. Turn into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

6. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes; invert cornbread onto wire rack, then turn right side up and continue to cool until warm, about 10 minutes longer. Cut into pieces and serve.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cornbread, Part 1 of 2

Cornbread is one of those dishes that is more than a dish. It's a childhood memory, a mother-daughter experience, a connection to ancestors who were dead before you were born.

There are northern cornbreads and southern cornbreads, sweet cornbreads and savory. But most cornbreads are anything but vegan. They contain milk, butter, or eggs. Some recipes tell you to grease the pan with bacon fat.

Here is a wonderful, and vegan, cornbread recipe from Great Sage Restaurant (www.great-sage.com) in Clarksville, Maryland.


Skillet Cornbread
Serves 8

1 1/2 cups of soy milk
2 tsp lemon juice
1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
a cup cornmeal
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup corn kernels (1 ear corn produces 1 cup corn kernels)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
optional: 2 minced jalapeno peppers

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly oil a 10" iron skillet or 9x9 metal pan and line with parchment paper. Place in oven to warm.

Mix the soy milk and lemon juice to make "buttermilk."

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking power and salt in a large bowl. If you wish, add the jalapeno peppers.

In a food processor or blender, puree the corn kernels, then add the oil and syrup and process until well-blended.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. (It will be a little rough.)

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until brown.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Up From Slavery, or Michael Vick's Dogs

April 25, 2007, was Emancipation Day for the 51 dogs at Michael Vick's notorious Bad Newz Kennels. In its December 29, 2008, Sports Illustrated summarized their lives since then.

The article is well worth reading in its entirety, but the most illuminating (and encouraging) fact is this: of the 51 dogs taken, 14 are in permanent homes, 33 in foster care, and only four are deceased. Of those four, two died while in shelter care, one was euthanized for medical reasons, and one -- just ONE -- was destroyed because it was too violent.

Not bad for a breed once demonized as inherently violent and banned in Prince George's County, Maryland.

The lesson is clear: abuse from people can make dogs bad. But almost every dog -- even those most abused -- can be rehabilitated.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Re-Educating Your Palate

People sometimes ask me if I miss the taste of meat.

The short answer is no. I've been a vegetarian for over 30 years. I couldn't deny myself meat for that long if I craved it.

But it is also true that I once ate fried chicken with gusto. It's just that, over the years, I have re-educated my palate. I don't crave tastes I once enjoyed.

Neal D. Barnard, the physician who founded the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, described this concept on a book tour some years ago. He claimed that re-educating your palate can take as little as 30 days.

Dr. Barnard gave the example of switching from whole milk to skim milk, a dietary adjustment many have made. Was it hard at first? he asked ("very" was the answer). But, he pointed out, if you stuck with skim for 30 days, and then tried whole milk again, what did you think?

A woman in the audience gave the answer for all of us: "It was like drinking cream. Switching back to whole milk would have been as painful as switching to skim was in the first place."

Lesson learned: It is possible to re-educate your palate. It may take longer than 30 days, though this number appears often in book titles. But whatever the exact number of days -- 21, 30, 45 -- the point is that cravings disappear in time.

Of course, some cravings will persist longer than others, depending on your commitment, amount of exposure, and other factors. For me, giving up meat, fish, and poultry was easy. Milk, eggs, and cheese were harder. And chocolate? Did I hear someone say I should give up chocolate? Uh...no. I have to draw the line some place.

Next: Michael Vick's Dogs