Ohio: Vote No on Issue 2

November 01, 2009

Issue 2 would create an amendment to the state constitution, instituting a board with the legal authority to set and enforce the care of livestock throughout the state. Vote no. It's apparently a move to preempt national animal-rights groups from demanding changes in farm facilities that would cost big ag money and put smaller farmers out of business. A constitutional amendment is not the way to do this, especially given the vague wording on who would be on this board and how they would get there. My thoughts are these:

Issue 2

This is a really tricky issue with dangers on both sides. I'm truly skeptical of everything big agricultural interests do. If Issue 2 passes, this new board could basically say that the hundreds of CAFO's in Ohio are just dandy, carry on. They could also tell small farmers that it is illegal to pasture raise your animals due to safety concerns. Also, the ads urging voters to vote yes are downright creepy in their opacity. Without saying at all what the issue is about, they present bucolic images of small farm families with the message that a yes vote is a vote for safe wholesome food. As if anyone would vote for unsafe, nasty food. The deceptive, arguably dishonest, nature of the ad is, in itself, enough for me to distrust the interests pushing this issue.

On the other hand if the board were truly representative of all the voices out there, both big and little ag, as well as farmers concerned about good animal husbandry and animal care experts, it could be a good thing. I spoke yesterday with a fierce small-farm advocate who's referred to at the capitol by big ag as "the raw milk lady" who is for Issue 2. Acknowledging that the issue presented two difficult extremes, she seems to want to fight for what's right within the system, and she's also concerned that outside interests such as animal-rights groups may make good food too expensive for low-income families, which is and should be a primary goal—making good, humanely raised food available to everyone.

Such food must be founded on a good economic model if it is to succeed. While I don't want animal rights groups forcing any Ohio farmers out of business (business that will simply go elsewhere and do the same thing), I don't believe a constitutional amendment setting up some vaguely-worded board to create legal standards for animal husbandry in Ohio is a step forward; and it may well be a bad step backward.  Read the Tom Suddes opinion piece below for a more black-and-white, Big-Ag-is-evil take on the subject. And keep paying attention to where your food comes from.

 Download Issue 2 itself.

 Download Issue2factsheet on the legal issues.

Here is a link to Thomas Suddes strongly worded opinion in The Plain Dealer.

Recent Comments
06:00:43 PM by acide folique: It is really very bad amendment to the constitution that will definitely make the smaller farmers in Jeopardy.I hope people from state Ohio will take ...
12 Responses

Question to Chefs and Cooks:
Favorite Uncommon Tools

October 29, 2009

Corn shucker #2
Photo by Donna

A few weeks ago I ran a post on baked buttered corn, a popular dish that requires three-quarters of the corn to be more or less juiced. I use the above corn cutter, costs about ten bucks.  It only does one thing, and that one thing, I can do with a knife or a knife and a blender, I resist letting any unitasker into my kitchen, and yet, I love this corn cutter. It's really easy to use and the result is perfect for what I want in my baked corn.  I'd buy another if someone borrowed this one and never gave it back.  But it made me curious.

A while back I went on a brief I-use-my-egg-separators-to-bake-pies rant, about useless kitchen gadgets.

What are some of your UNUSUAL favorite tools or gadgets.  Not the obvious tools like a good knife or a spoon, but the more uncommon of your cherished tools, unitaskers or not.  And why?  For instance, I know Cory cherishes his mini offset spatual, Michael Symon never wants to be without his plastic bench scraper, Keller wants a very specific pepper grinder (one with a fine grind).  Would love to know specific brands and where to find if it's unusual or difficult to find.

And especially would like to know store-bought gadgets like the above corn cutter that are actually useful.

If you don't have one, I would imagine that's a good sign!

Update 10/30: Thanks everyone for the awesome comments and ideas.  For some reason, Typepad took away the box where you can leave a comment.  I'm trying to figure this out. Comment should be open.  Sorry for the annoyance!

Update, mere moments later: The perp has returned the comment box! Comments welcome!

Recent Comments
09:03:24 AM by benwe: I like to use a Stanley Mud Masher for making mashed/smashed potatoes or other root vegetables. It is extra long at 24 so you cant burn your hands and...
133 Responses

How To Cook Mushrooms

October 26, 2009

Oyster Mushroom
Photo by Donna

Donna got these from the mushroom man at our farmers market because they entranced her. But what to do once she's had her way with them?!

Much depends on the mushroom. Big meaty fat cepes and chanterelles are excellent roasted. The coolest looking mushroom, the morel, likes soft heat and a creamy environment. These are varieties the forager Connie Green calls "act of God mushrooms," mushrooms that appear from out of nowhere, mushrooms that must be stalked.

But for cultivated mushrooms, which is what most of us work with, everyday mushrooms, I always go with really high heat—a smoking hot pan, plenty of neutral oil. Most cultivated mushrooms—the ubiquitous white button, oyster mushrooms (above), shiitakes—don't have a big flavor on their own.  It's up to the cook to elevate that flavor. You do this by browning the mushroom, and you can only accomplish this at a temperature that's so hot, the moisture in the fungus doesn't have time to start falling out.  Once that happens, as soon as water gets into the pan, the temperature drops to 212 degrees and you can't get any more browning. All you get is lots more moisture. Another way to drop the temperature of your pan is to put too many mushrooms in it. The key to really tasty mushrooms is high heat and not crowding the pan.

I salt immediately upon putting them in the pan then add minced shallot . Mushrooms cooked this way can be chilled and reheated gently in butter.  Pepper them and give them a small squeeze of lemon to finish. If you can find good mushrooms like the ones above, simply prepared and served with some crusty baguette, they can be a meal in themselves. They also make a fantastic, sauce-like accompaniment to roasted chicken or veal or asparagus.

Other ways to vary them are to deglaze the pan with some white wine after you've got a nice sear on the mushrooms. A pinch of curry powder can  heighten their flavor—not so much that you can taste the curry, add just enough to intrigue. Add whole cloves of garlic and fresh thyme to the oil just before you saute mushrooms, and they'll pick up these aromatic flavors.  Mushrooms add a depth and savoriness to eggs, vegetables, meat and fish—great on their own when well cooked, and they're a powerful way to add flavors to other foods.

Cooking them well is all it takes. Eric Ripert still remembers the oyster mushrooms when he was a young cook at Robuchon's 3-star Jamin. He had to cook each one individually to get that perfect sear. That's what it takes, that's what makes the difference.

Recent Comments
08:04:28 AM by cartucho r4i: mushrooms are so delicious to eat and its my favorite dish to eat.Your recipe is so good to making an mushroom at our home and so easy....
48 Responses

How To Cure Olives

October 20, 2009

Olive w: Orange Zest
Photo by Donna

When I left the Hudson Valley last month, after shenanigans with Bourdain, I did have enough wits about me to grab a bagful of Chef Pardus's fresh olives to cure myself. I'd never cured olives.  Olives straight off the tree are bitter fruits, so defiantly inedible that one wonders why anyone would think to try to make them edible in the first place. But the transformation from inedible to delectable is an extraordinary one I wanted to attempt.

Neither of us knew the exact type of olive we'd procured but they were big meaty ones, like cerignola, which are my favorite kind. They need to be cured with lye, aka sodium hydroxide, the stuff often used to burn through gunk in drains. I picked some up at the hardware store, 100% Lye, the bottle said. I was told there are probably good reasons why they make a "food grade" lye, so it's a good idea to get this if you want to put your food in lye. I bought some here with the intention of making pretzles. The lye works by drawing out the glucosides that make olives bitter (a little more info on this here).

If you have access to raw green olives, this method works great and results in a fresh clean flavor.  The olives are soaked in a lye solution followed by several days of soaking in fresh water, followed by a brine. I'm sure you could add flavors to the brine as well but I kept mine plain. Be very careful working with the lye.  It's a powerful acid base when the crystals combine with water and will cause bad burns.

Home-Cured Olives

Green olives (I used about three cups)

Food grade lye


Determine how much water you'll need to cover the olives in a non-reactive container (glass or Pyrex is best) by an inch or two.  Measure one tablespoon of lye for every quart of water you're using.  Dissolve the lye in the water and pour the water over the olives.  Let them soak for 12 hours (I did mine at room temperature).

Drain the olives and soak again in the same strength lye solution for 12 hours.

Drain and rinse the olives. Soak for three days in fresh water, changing the water twice a day (you'll see a brownish haze in the bowl; I believe this is the tannins leaving the olives).

After the third day make a brine. Pardus prefers a 3% brine, but I found this not salty enough. I'm rebrining with a 5% brine, the strength I pickle foods at. Depending on your preference, make a 3%-5% brine.  That would be 30 grams kosher salt for a 3% brine or 50 grams of salt for a 5% brine per liter of water. Soak the olives in the brine for three days, then store them in the fridge for up to 2 to 3 months.

Recent Comments
10:36:02 AM by Mary Ellen Carter: Does anybody know where to find raw olives? Like about 50 pounds?...
63 Responses

A Survey Asking For Your Help

October 19, 2009

Photo by Donna, Apples at North Union Farmers' Market

UPDATE: THANK YOU FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY RESPONSE!  I'm told I have to conclude the survey otherwise starts charging me for each new survey taken.  I didn't think that would happen at all, let alone happen so quickly.  Thank you for help.  I'm truly grateful! Will ask Twitter to choose the winner of the signed books.

And congrats to Steve Larochelle of Siver Spring, MD, winner of the signed copies.

I'm asking a favor today.  It's fall and fall has gotten busy, happily so.  I hope soon to be making some changes to this site and truly want to know why you click here.  Will you help me and take 90 seconds to click through an 8-question survey?  I'll be grateful for any and all comments.  What do you like about this site, what don't you like, what would you like more of?

I'm also gathering emails for what will be a newsletter. The great majority of you who comment here leave your actual email, which comes to me via typepad. This is great because sometimes I like to respond personally to your comment.  But I don't collect these addresses or do anything with them. A newsletter, offering additional content (no spam, filler or crap, I promise), is email based, and there will be a question on the survey noting this. My ingenious incentive for you to take the survey and leave your email address is to give away to one such person a copy of Michael Symon's new book, Live To Cook, AND Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home, respectively signed by Michael and Thomas to whomever you choose (and by me if you wish—I'm the "with" guy on these two books, and proud to be so).  It's not imperative that you leave an email address if you simply want to answer the questions anonymously.  Either way I'll be grateful. 

Recent Comments
09:05:43 AM by Glucosamine: [...] some successful local news sites out there in recent weeks (and we’ll do more, so please take our survey!), but there is no question that for mo...
34 Responses

Favorite Kitchen Tool: Spoon

October 15, 2009

Spoon #1_6
Photo by Donna

The best tools are the simplest tools.  The above spoon sat around among my stove-side utensils, lonely and forlorn, seldom used.  Just a spoon, after all.  A biggish spoon.  Didn't fit in the silverware drawer, so it hung out with the A-team, the flat edged wooden spoon, the perforated spoon, the slotted spatula.  I believe I was trying to baste a chicken roasting in a cast iron pan, and couldn't get a useful angle in the tight space, so I bent the bowl of the spoon up by about 30 degrees.  Suddenly I heard a choir singing.  I'd hit some kind of golden mean. The entire nature of the spoon transformed.  Suddenly I wanted to use it for all kinds of tasks, from stirring to saucing and, of course, basting, lots of basting, hot seasoned butter over pan-roasting meats.  I've got two of them now, and sometimes, when I'm cooking, I'll reach for one of them and they'll both be in the dishwasher and I'll think "shit"—this large soup spoon does the job like nothing else, and every other choice is a compromise.  Sometimes I just like to look at it.  Look at that line, the curve of the stem to the bowl, there's an elegance to it that somehow is conveyed into the food. That's a damn good tool.  These people who make fetishes of Sub-Zero fridges and 48-inch Viking ranges and sets of copper sautoirs hanging in an unused designer kitchen, I honestly believe if they learned the power of a great spoon, they might actually start to cook. ...Then again maybe it's just me.

Recent Comments
08:23:09 AM by r4i: Spoon is so useful in our kitchen and any where when we take the food.Its basic need of the kitchen.With out spoon we can not take any thing from the ...
50 Responses

Raw Zucchini Salad (Zucchini Crudo)

October 12, 2009

Pg. 72 New Zucch.

Photo by Donna, from Live to Cook

Yes, you can fry zucchini as fritters and anything fried trumps anything raw, but try this simple salad of raw zucchini with almonds and you'll be amazed by the power of zucchini. Now, when Zucchini is plentiful and inexpensive, is the time to make it.

I first had this salad when we were working on Michael Symon's new book, Live To Cook. What's always impressed me about Michael's cooking is his ingenuity; he delivers powerful flavors and fun dishes with a minimum of fuss yet without sacrificing basic technique.

The key to this salad is pre-salting the zucchini. Cut it on the bias into 1/8th-inch slices, give it the salt and let it sit for 10 minutes. The salt softens it to the point of wilting, but not so much that it's mushy. It retains a distinct bite and fresh zucchini flavor. It's important though not to salt it too early; eventually the zucchini will get mushy. I dress raw zucchini simply, squeezing lemon juice over it and a drizzle of olive oil. I usually combine it with almonds, a perfect flavor pairing and adds an important crunchy component. It's easy to improvise once you've discovered the zucchini's transformation by salt from bland to exquisite.

Below is Michael's recipe from his book (due out in a few weeks!), in which he adds garlic, shallot and dill. When he made the above dish we couldn't stop eating it; it was really satisfyingly filling, with great flavors and textures. I love to cook and spend hours in the kitchen, but this is a perfect example of how vivid fresh delicious dishes without compromise are every bit as good as the dishes that take a long time.

Michael Symon's Zucchini Crudo

2 zucchini (about ¾ pound), thinly sliced
2 yellow summer squash (about 1½ pounds), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 shallot, finely sliced
Grated zest and juice of 3 lemons, or to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄3 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
1⁄3 cup chopped fresh dill

Combine the zucchini and yellow squash in a colander in the sink and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the salt over it. Toss to coat, and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes, no longer. In a large bowl, combine the garlic and shallot, sprinkle with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and whisk in the lemon zest and juice. Whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream, then the almonds and dill. Taste for seasoning and acidity (it should be nicely acidic). Add the zucchini and squash to the dressing, toss, and serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Recent Comments
09:41:25 AM by the a la menthe: Looks so delicious and tasty. I definitely going to try this. Its mouthwatering recipe. Thanks for sharing....
22 Responses

Farmer's Market Haul

October 09, 2009

Farmer's Market Haul #2_2
Photo by Donna

Summer bounty coming to an end but the growers markets here remain vibrant. I'll be out again tomorrow. Last week got all the above and so much more.  Especially love the variety of peppers, fresh limas, and concord grapes. Zucchini is for a salad I'm eager to post about on Monday. And can't over state how lucky I feel to be able to buy hand raised chicken, duck, pork and veal, not pictured here.  But mainly I love the bounty this photograph conveys.

Recent Comments
12:02:29 PM by r4i software: I was hoping to catch an organic farmer there regarding a sustainable agriculture project.The market itself is pretty narrow and not gating so much cu...
20 Responses

Born Round by Frank Bruni

October 07, 2009

9781594202315_BornRound_JKTF_300dpi When I was in the middle of Frank Bruni's Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater, I quipped on Twitter that I thought the only eating disorder I was interested in reading about was vegetarianism. But the fact is, this book, by The New York Times reporter who was for 5 years the paper's restaurant critic, is not about his eating disorder (I don't know if it's right even to call it that).  Even better, it's not about his struggle with his weight and the morbid insecurity he felt about it, though that's how the book is billed.

Born Round is about a complex life, boy-to-man, son, brother, boyfriend, and reporter, and in that I found it fascinating and thoroughly entertaining. While the issues about eating and weight loss, are dominant in the book, and almost have to be, given the irony of his landing the restaurant critic job, their more important function is as a framework to hang the rest of his story on. It is not an unusual story—middle-class boy with all the advantages, who's conscientious and works hard, succeeds. Indeed, it would be a bore if Bruni weren't such a thoughtful writer and engaging story-teller.

He describes his childhood, his family, growing up in White Plains, summers in Connecticut; working on the student newspaper in college, his route from general reporter and movie critic in Detroit to covering George W. Bush (about whom he wrote a book; and had the author photo heavily worked over to make him look less fat), to Rome Bureau chief, through the experience of reviewing restaurants for The Times as a 5'11" man who once ballooned up to 270 some pounds.

Sure, the struggle with weight, how he'd binge and purge, how he'd rationalize his behavior, and how he got and stayed thin, is just as interesting as all the other stuff. As a writer, I was most interested in his course as a writer.  And I was fascinated by his observations about the way the Italian culture of eating differed from American culture of eating, which comes down to the obvious, but can never be underscored enough, fact that they opt for quality whereas we opt for quantity.

Every now and then I felt that Bruni could veer into the the over-achiever who castigates himself for getting a B+ and not an A.  And I wondered how much more intense body image issues are for a gay man than for a straight man. Sometimes I thought, isn't he just being a little oversensitive here?

But in the end, no.  There is one story that ends with a three-word compliment from a sister-in-law about his appearance that is so expertly set up, and delivered, I nearly teared from the triumph that it truly was.

That's good writing.  And that's why I loved this book.

Oh, and I listened to it (often while exercising!). I'm a memoirs-read-by-the-author junkie, and Bruni's does a terrific reading, highly recommend this version as well as print.  (I got mine free at, via a promotion they're doing with This American Life, the best show on radio, period. What I recommend you do is sign up at audible at, get Bruni's book—you'll be hooked on, but that's ok—then go to and click the "support" button and give them the cost of the book. We don't want them going the way of Gourmet. The show is too damn good.)

Oh, and, please, I was kidding with the vegetarian remark!

Recent Comments
02:34:00 PM by paris221966: Im sure its a great book. Ill have to read it some time. Writing a memoire seems to be easy and popular. Maybe I can become famous by writing mine....
16 Responses

Note to Readers re: RSS Feed

October 06, 2009

In customary knuckle-headed fashion, I would sometimes glance at that little "Subscribe" box below my "About" box and wonder what is that thing.  Seems to be a fairly common fixture on blogs.  Hm.  I think it's been up there for years.  Little did I know that I actually had to activate it! So it's now active if you want to subscribe.

An annoying glitch has appeared, however, that I'm trying to take care of. I encouraged my wife, Donna, who takes the photos for this page, to set up a blog where she could discuss photography with those who were interested.

Unfortunately, her photography posts go out to all the people who subscribe to this food blog's feed. My mom is seriously confused, and so are others no doubt. I try to tell my mom I'm working on the problem, and she responds by asking me why I keep writing about photography.

So: Mom, et al, accept my apologies for cluttering your mailbox and know that I'm working on solving the problem.

Recent Comments
11:24:38 AM by Janine: Youll let us know how to subscribe to Donnas blog once theyre separated, yes? I love her posts....
40 Responses


  • Michael Ruhlman headshot

    I write about many subjects in magazines and newspapers, but mostly in books and mostly about food, chefs, and cooking—issues also covered in this blog.
    More »

    Facebook Twitter


My Books

book highlight

  • Elements of Cooking book cover

    Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

    Buy it now!


Monthly Archives