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  • Changing my wasteful ways

    Eating for a living is a good way to pick up bad habits: When I develop recipes, for instance, I buy whatever perfection I need without ever looking at the price, and if a cake or a ragout or a gratin is not perfect, I have no qualms about scraping it straight into the trash and starting over. But like everyone these days, I've got to change my wasteful ways.

    Not only have imported essentials like Dijon mustard and piquillo peppers gotten scarily pricey as the dollar has gone from weak to staggering. But even staples like flour and rice have edged up toward luxury level, and with the global food supply under siege right now, squandering anything edible feels increasingly hard to justify, either morally or environmentally.

    But how hard will my old habits be to break? The first night I swore I was going into hyper-conservation mode happened to be one when I was cooking dinner for a forgiving friend last spring. I saved all the woody stalks snapped off the bottoms of

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  • Is bottled water good or evil?

    "Would you like bottled or tap water with your meal tonight?" That's the first question servers ask when you sit-down at a restaurant table. Diners love having the choice. But what if you were no longer given the option to select what kind of bottle you want? Well, if the non-profit organization Food Water Watch wins its campaign against the use of bottled water at New York restaurants, then NYC tap water will soon be the only option.

    By launching the Take Back the Tap campaign, FWW is hoping to point out all the social, economic, and environmental problems brought on by the overuse of bottled water. How? They're encouraging approximately 1,000 New York City restaurants to stop selling bottled water.

    Bottle fans may have another option. A newly launched company, GIVE water bottles, helps diners donate funds to one of three causes: children in need, women with breast cancer, and environmental concerns. All you have to do is purchase a blue-, pink- or green-colored water

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  • Top 5 unoaked Chardonnays

    Not all Chardonnay wines are oaky, vanilla, or heavy. These five push fruit to the fore.

    During the 1980s and 1990s, winemakers-especially those from California-went on an oak binge with their Chardonnays, making big, toasty wines by fermenting and aging them in wood barrels. Now, some of them are going back to the bare essentials, making food-friendly and fruity Chardonnays in traditional European concrete vats or modern stainless-steel tanks. The five below hail from around the world.

    Four Vines Santa Barbara County Naked Chardonnay 2006
    (about $13)

    "Temperance, like chastity, is its own punishment," reads the logo of this cheeky Naked Chardonnay producer. Winemaker and owner Chris Tietje, a self-described hedonist, was a Boston chef before going west to man the grape presses of this Paso Robles winery, so he really understands food-friendly offerings. This Chardonnay was made in 100 percent stainless steel and is a slightly sweet, very orange-juicy, wine, which

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  • Cocktail trend of the moment: sangria old and new

    Most summer drinks are quick, easy, and straightforward: beer, gin & tonic, spiked watermelon, you get the idea. Sangria, though popular, is a different kind of beast. Strictly speaking, it is neither wine nor cocktail but a hybrid (technically a punch, though also referred to as a "winetail" by some libation geeks). The recipe has always been purposefully vague, even sloppy: Use what you have. This makes it very adaptable and forgiving. But never simple. Proportion is the name of the game and everyone's palate is different.

    Usually, there's nothing more than cheap red wine, brandy, sugar, chopped fruit, and a little club soda or ginger ale. Bartenders in recent years, however, have rediscovered and reinvented the drink. They're swapping out everything imaginable, losing the brandy, the sugar, and sometimes even the wine.

    New versions of sangria from around the country play with three key elements: the wine, the spices, and the supporting cast of liqueurs.


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  • Sprinkles Get an Upgrade

    I have a mild, somewhat irrational obsession with sprinkles. I'm especially fond of sprinkles on ice cream or gelato, but I also like to add them to cakes, cupcakes, and cookies. The irrational part of my obsession stems from the fact that sprinkles really don't taste like much. Add to this the fact that I almost always insist upon the chocolate ones. (I make the occasional exception for soft vanilla ice cream, which obviously gets rainbow sprinkles.) There's barely a hint of cocoa in those brown bits and yet for me an ice cream cone just isn't complete without a dip in the chocolate sprinkle bucket. I think what I really like is the texture, the mild crunch that sprinkles add to soft frozen treats and creamy frostings.

    So, why am I blabbering on about sprinkles? It's simple. I recently tasted the most sublime sprinkles: Pierre Marcolini's fondant chocolate vermicelles. Vermicelle is the fancy French word for sprinkles and trust me, Pierre Marcolini's creation deserves the name

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  • Boosting flavor and nutrition with fresh herbs

    "I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around."-James Beard

    Things may not be quite so desperate for the everyday cook, but Beard has a point. Joining parsley, chives, and chervil in the traditional French seasoning known as fines herbs, sweet and delicate tarragon is also a popular complement on its own in chicken, fish, and egg dishes. It is even said to provide temporary relief from pain.

    But let's not stop at tarragon. Other herbs have powerful antioxidant properties (with oregano, dill, thyme, rosemary, and sage among the most potent). They've been used for centuries to ward off disease (and evil). And for those of us on a perpetual path to better eating, herbs represent a natural way to add nonfat flavor. Trying to cut down on salt? Seeking new ways to boost the flavor of a sauce or dress up a salad? Look no farther than your own windowsill.

    Recipe Tips:

    Final Flourish
    Add clean fresh herbs at

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  • It's curry time!

    After speaking with cookbook author Raghavan Iyer about curries, I decided to try one of his recipes. This would be my first time cooking anything Indian so I randomly chose Scalloped Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Chiles which can be found in the "Contemporary Curries" chapter of 660 Curries. (By random, I mean I thought this would be a relatively easy curry to make since there weren't very many steps involved with the recipe. And I do like potatoes.)

    To see if I was right about the level of difficulty, and how I fared with my attempt at Indian cooking, read on.

    The curry recipe doesn't call for many ingredients and putting everything together isn't very difficult. The part that got me, though, was the sub-recipe: Balchao masala. The masala calls for a lot of different spices, many of which I did not have. Thank goodness for my friend Devi who has a massive collection of herbs and spices because it was in her kitchen that I made the masala.

    Here are most of the

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  • Argentinean beef versus American beef

    Like most visitors to Argentina, when I was there, I ate a lot of steak-way more than I normally consume, in fact. Beef eating is a bit like a national sport in Argentina. According to the Washington Post, Argentina boasts the highest beef consumption in the world: 140 pounds a year per person, which is about 50 percent more than the average American eats. When you're devouring all this meat you can't help but start to think about it, and I found myself wondering how Argentinean beef compares to American beef. As far as I can tell, there are three major differences: what the cows eat; how long the meat is aged; and how it is cooked.

    Unlike here, Argentina 's beef predominantly comes from grass-fed cows (grass-fed beef is available in the U.S., but grain-fed beef is more common). Folks can debate the flavor and texture of grass-fed and grain-fed beef, but it's difficult to dispute the health benefits of choosing the former-for more specifics, check out a post on the topic from

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  • Healthy recipes with a seaside state of mind

    If you're like us, you spend a lot of time dreaming of the beaches of Cozumel or Cape Cod, where you'll while away the afternoons with your toes in the sand and a tropical drink at your side. But even those of us stuck at home can still get into vacation mode by slowing down to enjoy the lazy days of summer-and sampling the world's best beach food. From grilled fish tostadas to slimmed-down banana splits, our recipe collection will send you to the seaside, even if you're just picnicking by the pool.

    Summer should always be a break from routine, but there's no need to stop eating well. While those people on the next beach blanket are gorging on greasy French fries and double-chocolate shakes, you can indulge in refreshing ceviche, a tropical shake (make it even healthier by swapping the whole milk in the recipe for skim and omitting or cutting back on the sugar), or an easy, low-cal paella that'll transport you and your guests to Barcelona. Longing for a lobster roll? Shellfish

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  • Jesus toast and Allah meat: a rundown of "godly" food sightings

    A diner at a restaurant in northern Nigeria has discovered a piece of beef with the name of Allah on it, followed by the discovery of three more pieces of similarly "godly" meat in the kitchen. Now thousands are flocking to the eatery. A local says the fact that there were four pieces of meat, not just one, defies scientific explanation.

    Of course, it's just the latest in a long series of sightings of religious figures and words in food or food-related items, something most experts ascribe to pareidolia, where people find significance in random or natural phenomena (think bunnies in clouds and Satanic messages in Beatles songs played backwards).

    Let's take a trip through the past and revisit some of the more significant incidences of Jesus, the Virgin Mary or Allah deciding to pop up somewhere in people's lunches.

    The Jesus Tortilla: A Lake Arthur, N.M., is making burritos when she sees the face of Jesus Christ in a tortilla. She builds a shrine to the tortilla,

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