In Pictures: Home-cooked One-plate Breakfasts

Bobby Flay’s Perfect Beef Chili

Kate Krader wrote . . . . . .

Some dishes, such as massive seafood towers crowned with elaborate shellfish and seven-tiered weddings cakes, are best left to the professionals.

Chili is not one of those. Superior versions can come from anywhere, whether on the back of a five-alarm-chili kit or an uncle’s award-winning recipe jotted down on an envelope. It doesn’t benefit from fancy ingredients—in fact, it’s antithetical to try sourcing expensive aji charapita peppers ($25,000 per kilo) to make a pot of chili.

There is a professional chef who knows the secrets of a good chili: Bobby Flay. The chef/owner of Gato in New York and the star of Food Network shows like Worst Cooks in America, has been making chili most of his life. “I know it well,” Flay wrote in an email. “I’ve been cooking Southwestern food for over 30 years.”

The recipe he shared with us is stocked with chunks of tender beef and flavored with a rich sauce spiked with tomato, multiple chiles, and maple syrup, a surprise ingredient that adds a dark sweetness to the dish. After you inject some elbow grease at the beginning to chop the ingredients, it’s an easy dish to keep an eye on over the course of a couple of hours, though Flay prepares it only on special occasions. “I make it a couple times a year, on a big game day,” he confided.

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The Recipe

Ultimate Beef and Black Bean Chili


Serves 4 to 6 people

3 tbsp canola oil
2-1/4 lb beef chuck, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, excess fat discarded
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 serrano chile, seeded finely diced
1/4 cup favorite chili powder (or 3 tbsp ancho chili powder plus 1 tbsp pasilla chili powder and 1 tbsp ground cumin)
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 qt chicken stock or canned low sodium broth
1 (16-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp chipotle pepper puree (from a can of chipotles)
3 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 lime
Sour cream, ground cumin and cilantro leaves, for serving
Boiled rice, for serving

Heat the oil in a large casserole over high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper; add half of the meat to the pan in an even layer and sauté over high heat until browned all over. Transfer the meat to a plate. Repeat with the remaining meat; add more oil to the pot, if necessary.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until soft. Add the garlic and serrano chile, and stir for 1 minute. Add the chili powder and cinnamon, season with salt and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and cook until reduced by half.

Return the beef to the pot, add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and maple syrup, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low, partially cover the pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef is tender, about 1 1/4 hours; occasionally skim off any fat.

Add the beans and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the sour cream with a few large pinches of cumin and season with salt and pepper. Season the chili with salt and pepper and add the juice from the lime. Ladle the chili into bowls on top of rice, garnish with cilantro, and serve with a dollop of cumin sour cream.

Video: Pork Bone Broth for Japanese Ramen (豚骨ラーメンスープ)

Watch video at You Tube (1:49 minutes) . . . . .

Organic Farming Matters – Just not in the Way You Think

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Verena Seufert and Navin Ramankutty wrote . . . . . . .

Is organic agriculture the solution to our global food system challenges? That’s been the premise and promise of the organic movement since its origins in the 1920s: farming that’s healthy, ecological, and socially just.

Many people – from consumers and farmers to scientists and international organisations – believe that organic agriculture can produce enough nutritious food to feed the world without destroying the environment, while being more resilient to climate change and improving the livelihoods of farmers.

But as with many important issues of our time, there are more passionate opinions about organic agriculture than there is scientific evidence to support them. And there’s nothing black or white about organic agriculture.

For a paper published today in the journal Science Advances, we systematically and rigorously evaluated the performance of organic versus conventional agriculture on three key fronts – environmental impact, producer and consumer benefits. As much as possible, we based our review on previous quantitative synthesis of the scientific literature – so-called meta-analyses. We also examined whether those studies agree or disagree in their verdicts.

We discovered that organic farming does matter – just not in the way most people think.

Environmental impacts

Compared to a neighbouring conventional farm, an organic farm at first appears to be better for the environment. But that’s not the whole story. Here’s how it breaks down.

What’s good: Organic farms provide higher biodiversity, hosting more bees, birds and butterflies. They also have higher soil and water quality and emit fewer greenhouse gases.

What’s not-so-good: Organic farming typically yields less product – about 19-25% less. Once we account for that efficiency difference and examine environmental performance per amount of food produced, the organic advantage becomes less certain (few studies have examined this question). Indeed, on some variables, such as water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, organic farms may perform worse than conventional farms, because lower yields per hectare can translate into more environmentally damaging land-clearing.

Consumer benefits

The jury’s still out on whether the comsumer is better off, too.

What’s good: For consumers in countries with weak pesticide regulations, like India, organic food reduces pesticide exposure. Organic ingredients also most likely have slightly higher levels of some vitamins and secondary metabolites.

What’s not-so-good: Scientists can’t confirm whether these minor micronutrient differences actually matter for our health. Because the difference in the nutritional value of organic and conventional food is so small, you’d do better just eating an extra apple every day, whether it’s organic or not. Organic food is also more expensive than conventional food at present and therefore inaccessible to poor consumers.

Producer benefits

Organic methods bring certain benefits for farmers, some costs and many unknowns.

What’s good: Organic agriculture is typically more profitable – up to 35% more, according to a meta-analysis of studies across North America, Europe and India – than conventional farming. Organic also provides more rural employment opportunities because organic management is more labour-intensive than conventional practices. For workers, though, the biggest advantage is that organic decreases their exposure to toxic agrochemicals.

What’s not-so-good: We still don’t know whether organic farms pay higher wages or offer better working conditions than conventional farms. Organic farm workers are most likely exploited in similar ways as those tilling the fields on conventional farms.

The takeaway

In short, we cannot determine yet whether organic agriculture could feed the world and reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture while providing decent jobs and giving consumers affordable, nutritious food.

It’s a lot to ask of one industry, and there are still just too many unanswered questions. Some of these questions relate to agriculture, such as whether organic farms can eventually close the yield gap with conventional farms and whether there are enough organic fertilisers to produce all the world’s food organically.

But some questions are also about humanity’s collective future. Can people in the rich world learn to change our diet and reduce food waste to avoid having to increase food production as the global population grows? And are enough people willing to work in agriculture to meet the needs of labour-intensive organic farms?

A more useful question is whether we should continue to eat organic food and expand investment in organic farming. Here the answer is a definitive yes.

Organic agriculture shows significant promises in many areas. We would be foolish not to consider it an important tool in developing more sustainable global agriculture.

Only 1% of agricultural land is organically farmed worldwide. If organic land continues to expand at the same rate that it has over the past decade, it will take another century for all agriculture to be organic.

But organic farming’s influence goes far beyond that 1% acreage. Over the past 50 years, organic farms have provided conventional agriculture with examples of new ways to farm and acted as a testing ground for a different set of management practices, from diversifying crop rotations and composting to using cover crops and conservation tillage. Conventional agriculture has neglected these sustainable practices for too long.

So yes, you should identify and support those organic farms that are doing a great job of producing environmentally friendly, economically viable, and socially just food. Conscientious consumers can also push to improve organic farming where it is not doing so well – for example on yields and worker rights.

As scientists, we must close some of the critical knowledge gaps about this farming system to better understand its achievements and help address its challenges.

But in the meantime, everyone can learn from successful organic farms and help improve the other 99% of agriculture that’s feeding the world today.

Source: The Conversation

Bangkok’s Gaggan Top List of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants

Melissa Cheok wrote . . . . . .

It’s a hat-trick for Bangkok’s Gaggan: The Indian restaurant in Thailand topped the closely watched list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for the third straight year.

Chef Gaggan Anand opened his eponymous restaurant in the Thai capital in 2010. He first won the top spot in 2015, two years after the crowd behind the 50 Best franchise debuted the Asian version of the rankings.

“The first time I thought I was lucky, but last year I really worked hard, and here I am now today,” Anand said by phone, soon after finding out the results. “The only thing I wanted was to create that unique experience for every customer in 2016.”

Anand’s visually creative dishes are described as progressive Indian. The restaurant’s 25-course tasting menu is written only in emoji-like symbols.

This year, Singapore had three restaurants in the top 10, more than any other city, led by Restaurant Andre, which nudged up one notch to second place.

The annual list is compiled based on votes of 300 food writers, critics, chefs and others, who are asked about their best restaurant experience, according to William Reed Business Media, which also publishes the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

The Asia’s top 10:

  1. Gaggan, Thailand
  2. Restaurant Andre, Singapore
  3. Amber, Hong Kong
  4. 8-1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana, Hong Kong
  5. Nahm, Thailand
  6. Narisawa, Japan
  7. Nihonryori Ryugin, Japan
  8. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, China
  9. Odette, Singapore
  10. Burnt Ends, Singapore

Source: Bloomberg