UC Food Blog
And with the blossoms come the bees on which so many California crops depend for pollination.
In celebration of this vibrant time of year and the bees and beekeepers who help bring it to life, a special five-course gourmet dinner will be held Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis.
The Mid-Winter Beekeeper’s Feast: A Taste of Mead and Honey is coordinated by the Mondavi Institute’s Honey and Pollination Center as a showcase for local, seasonal foods and a fundraiser for the center.
The dinner, which will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the Sensory Building of the Robert Mondavi Institute, has been designed by UC Davis alumna Ann Evans using her “Davis Farmer’s Market Cookbook” and by Mani Niall, author of numerous cookbooks including “Covered in Honey” and his latest venture, “Sweet!”
Each of the five courses will feature seasonally available foods that are enhanced with varietal honeys, wines and mead. The meal will conclude with a cheese course with fresh honeycomb and a selection of mead. The mead tasting will be guided by Darrell Corti, an international wine judge.
The event will be accompanied by a musical trio and include a silent auction of gift baskets and unique food-, wine- and honey-focused opportunities.
Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Honey and Pollination Center, which coordinates educational and research efforts in support of all aspects of the beekeeping industry.
If you’re interested in joining in this celebration of the bounty of the beehive and beekeepers, visit the events section of the Robert Mondavi Institute website and look for the Mid-Winter Beekeeper’s Feast flyer and registration information, including details for purchasing either single tickets or sponsoring an entire table.
In some parts of the country, eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the New Year. UC Riverside’s Reuben E. Herrington, a culinary manager/catering chef, has delicious recipes for black-eyed peas to share:
1 lb black-eyed peas
4 qts water
1 qt veg stock
.5c diced yellow onions
.5c diced green pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 smoked turkey leg or thigh
1/3 tsp kosher salt
1/3 tsp cracked black pepper
- Soak peas overnight in cold water
- In a large pot sauté onions, peppers, garlic, until translucent
- Drain and add peas to the pot , then add the stock and water and bring to a boil
- Once boiling turn down to a simmer and add the smoked turkey
- Cover and let cook for 3 hours on a medium to low heat
- Once peas are soft add salt and pepper to taste
- Remove smoked turkey and shred the remaining meat from the turkey and add to the peas
- Serve hot with jasmine white rice or cornbread
Traditionally served as a side dish or on New Year’s Day for most southern families, with fried chicken catfish, or smothered pork chops.
Black Eyed-Pea Fritters (Accara) w/ Hot pepper sweet relish
Ingredients for fritters:
1 cup black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, the rinsed and drained
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup raw peanuts
1 tsp thyme, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp water
Salt to taste
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tbsp cornmeal
Oil for frying
- In a food processor, combine the beans, onion, peanuts, thyme, cayenne, vinegar, water and salt and puree until you have a smooth mixture.
- Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for an hour.
- Remove the batter and add the chopped bell pepper and cornmeal and beat with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
- In a saucepan, heat the oil to about 350 degrees. Spoon the batter into the oil, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Fry, stirring around, until the fritters are golden-brown, about 2 minutes.
- Transfer the fritters to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. If you’re not eating them immediately, keep them warm in an oven warmed to 200 degrees.
- Canned black-eyed peas can be used to save time.
Ingredients for hot pepper sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne
Salt to taste
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 habanero chili, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
- In a saucepan, over low heat, warm the oil. Add the onion, cumin, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp salt and saute until the onions start to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and chili and saute another two minutes (Make sure you have your exhaust on because this can cause some serious coughing). Add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, vinegar and water. Mix well and simmer until it starts to thicken, about 5-7 minutes.
- Transfer ingredients to a blender, add pepper if using, and puree to a smooth paste. Add more salt if desired.
Black Eyed-Pea Salad
1 lb black-eyed peas
4 qts water
1 c diced tomatoes
1 c diced red and green peppers
1 c diced red onions
1 c chopped parsley
.5 c white corn
.5 c champagne vinegar
.5 c olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1/3 tsp sugar
- Let peas sock in cold water over night
- The next day cook peas until tender about 1.5 hours
- Drain and let cool
- In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and toss well coating the peas thoroughly.
- Season with salt and pepper and taste to adjust if needed.
- Let sit in the refrigerator until service.
- This will go well with any type of Southern Picnic or BBQ
- Canned black-eyed peas can be used as well to save time.
When I was in elementary school, an upcoming field trip meant we were selling candy bars. Around the holidays, it was not uncommon to have your pick from five dozen cupcakes at the school party. Now that I am in nutrition education, my eyes grow wide when I think back to all of the high-sugar, high-fat foods we brought into the classroom.
With that in mind, I take a lot of pride in the fact that the UC Calfresh Nutrition Education Program in Fresno County is creating healthier school environments.
A healthy school environment includes:
- Nutrition education for students and their parents
- Physical activity
- Healthy lunches
- School wellness policies that support healthy fundraisers and celebrations
- An environment that promotes the benefits of healthy choices
The list can go on and on!
In addition to supporting all of the above, UC CalFresh has been working with school administrators, teachers and food service staff to "brand" the cafeteria and classrooms as healthy spaces. This is accomplished through distributing nutrition corners.
Nutrition corners are essentially the materials to create nutrition bulletin boards in school cafeterias. They are updated regularly with nutrition and physical activity information for students, teachers and parents. Information on seasonal produce, recipes, student work and MyPlate decorate the corners.
Nutrition corners are also posted in classrooms, school libraries, teacher lounges and common areas.
Here are a few of the most recently added corners:
Did I mention students love reading nutrition corners?
A healthy environment that supports nutrition and physical activity is key to the health of the families in the Central Valley. For more information on the way we are creating healthier school environments, visit the UC CalFresh Fresno County blog.
Some are surprised to learn that as recently as 1950, Los Angeles County was the No. 1 agricultural county in the United States, its farms producing an abundance of fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk, honey and much more. Today, Los Angeles residents tend to think of our county of 10 million residents in strictly urban terms, but the most current available statistics from the USDA Census of Agriculture (2007) showed 1,734 farms in L.A. County. Though ornamental plants are now our biggest crop, more than $31 million in vegetable crops came from Los Angeles County farms in 2011, according to the county’s most recent Crop and Livestock Report. The bulk of the vegetables we produce are root crops, which include onions, carrots and potatoes. Most commercial farming takes place in the high desert around Lancaster and Palmdale, and is seldom seen by most of the county’s population. A sprinkling of small urban farms is also cropping up around the county, as documented by UCLA urban planning students in their recent Cultivate Los Angeles study.
But the amount of food produced in Los Angeles County is just a tiny portion of what’s grown in our regional foodshed, defined as a 10-county region within a 200-mile radius of Los Angeles’ urban core. Our foodshed has some of the most productive farmland in the state, encompassing some 23,000 farms. Strawberries and lemons from Ventura County, lettuce and broccoli from Imperial, and milk and almonds from Kern are some of the highest-value farm products in California.
Yet much of what is produced is shipped to far away markets, and does not reach the plates of area residents. Lack of affordable fresh produce is a fact of life in many Los Angeles County neighborhoods, despite their proximity to agricultural bounty.
Looking at the overall foodshed helped the Council to conceptualize a key initiative, the Good Food Purchasing Program, which encourages institutions to buy from small- and medium-sized regional farms, along with meeting other purchasing goals that make healthy food accessible. The City of Los Angeles and LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) were the first two entities to sign on. The impact of LAUSD’s efforts in purchasing regional food were recently profiled in a Los Angeles Times article that highlighted how new local jobs have been created thanks to LAUSD’s buying power. This is one example of how thinking about food regionally, and working collaboratively across sectors, can help create a stronger food system. As the director of LAUSD’s Food Services said, "It's fresher food from farmers we know," when regional food is on the menu. And, it’s good for the local economy, too.
I am a terrible cook. My brother is an excellent cook. One year he told me his turkey was thawing in the bathtub because it was too big for the refrigerator and my enthusiasm for dining at his house began to cool.
“The prevention plan for food safety begins with planning the feast, knowing when a frozen turkey needs to start defrosting in the refrigerator so there is ample time to thaw,” says Connie Schneider, director of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Youth, Families and Communities Statewide Program. “What size turkey will you defrost? Is there enough space to thaw the turkey safely?”
To avoid making diners sick, the traditional fowl should be thawed at temperatures below 40 degrees F. The "Danger Zone," temperatures where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly, is between 40 and 140 degrees F.
“People thaw on the counter, they put their turkeys in the garage to thaw out,” says Schneider, in a “can you believe there are such fools?” tone that warns me that I should not admit to doing this. “They also place dinner leftovers, especially the big turkey, in the garage because of lack of refrigerator space.”
The registered dietitian advises, “When using refrigerator thawing, place the turkey in its original wrapping placed in a pan, which prevents dripping as turkey defrosts.”
A whole turkey weighing 4 to 12 pounds takes 1 to 3 days to thaw in a refrigerator. Heavier turkeys take longer. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking.
If your turkey weighs more than 12 pounds and today is Tuesday and you haven’t begun thawing it, you may have to resort to Plan B for thawing the bird or ordering Chinese food on Thursday.
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website, there are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave oven. Procrastinators will be thawing their birds in cold water or in the microwave. For details on quicker thawing, see the USDA website: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/poultry-preparation/turkey-basics-safe-thawing/ct_index.
Schneider also reminds us to prevent cross-contamination of foods. For example, don’t wash or rinse the turkey before cooking because the rinse water may splash bacteria around the sink, which can then come into contact with other foods and utensils. Another way to prevent cross-contamination is prepping the stuffing ingredients before you handle the raw turkey. Keep the raw turkey and their juices away from other foods. After you prep your raw turkey, wash the cutting board, knife, sink and counter tops with hot, soapy water. Sanitize cutting boards with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently and always after handing raw foods. And for crying out loud (to invoke a phrase my late father used), don’t wipe your dirty hands on a towel that will be used to dry clean dishes later!
Planning is also needed for storing leftover food after the meal, cautions Schneider. “Everyone loves leftovers, but make sure you have adequate refrigeration space.”
She recommends wrapping leftovers in airtight packaging or sealing in storage containers. This helps keep out bacteria while keeping your food moist and preventing your prized family dishes from picking up odors from other foods being stored in the fridge. For faster cooling, break up large amounts of food into smaller containers.
“Toss out any food that has been left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature!” Schneider admonishes. “Don’t allow your turkey to sit out, slice up the leftovers and refrigerate or freeze them right after your meal!”
Delicious leftovers that have been stored in the refrigerator can be enjoyed for 3 to 4 days. If you freeze them, you can eat them 3 or 4 months from now.
This Thanksgiving, I will be thanking God for allowing my family and me to survive our lackadaisical food handling on previous holidays. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!
For more information on food safety, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/keep-food-safe-food-safety-basics/ct_index.