Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Science

'Food, Inc.' film looks at corporate impact on what we eat

FoodincFood writers Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation") and Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma") move to the big screen in "Food, Inc.," a film that looks at what's happened to the production of food in the last few decades.

Producer-director Robert Kenner's movie, which had a screening Thursday night at Sony, covers a range of issues, from the effects of corn syrup on health and farming, to the ways animals are raised and killed, food-borne illnesses and the plight of farmers. The filmmakers, as you might guess from this image from the movie, don't like a lot of what they see.

"The idea that you have to write a book to tell people where their food comes from shows how far removed" they are from it, Pollan says in the film.

"Food, Inc." opens in June in 20 cities, Kenner said. It was shown at the Toronto Film Festival. Warning to squeamish meat-eaters: Shots in chicken houses, slaughterhouses and elsewhere could be tough to watch.

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Rocker Dexter Holland's spicy offspring: Gringo Bandito hot sauce

Holland2 Dexter Holland could be described as a Renaissance man.

He's a rock star: His Orange County punk-pop band, the Offspring, has sold 17 million albums in the U.S. He's also designed and patented software for BlackBerry.

He's an experienced pilot who owns three planes. He has a master's degree in molecular biology from USC.

And he's also an up-and-comer in the quirky world of boutique hot sauces.

His indelicately named Mexican-style sauce, Gringo Bandito, is bottled at the brisk pace of 300 gallons a month and is even being sold through Albertsons supermarkets in Southern California and Las Vegas. Read more about Holland's hot sauce.

Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

When the woolly mammoth ran out, early man ate his veggies

Long before early humans in North America grew corn and beans, they were harvesting and cooking the bulbs of lilies, wild onions and other plants, roasting them for days over hot rocks, according to a Texas archaeologist. Read more here.

Thanksgiving countdown: Turkey's healthy pedigree


If you gain a little weight this Thanksgiving, blame it on the stuffing, the corn bread, the mashed potatoes and gravy. Blame it on the pumpkin pie.

Just don't blame it on the turkey. Read all about the science of turkey in today's Health section, and find out why it's so good for you. And here's to your health with some of our favorite turkey and Thanksgiving recipes, including the Soy-Brined Turkey (pictured).

Photo credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

There's more than one way to skin a chestnut


Hank Foresta of Glendora read Food Editor Russ Parsons' story on chestnuts, and kindly passes along some memories -- and a handy tip to keep in mind as Thanksgiving approaches:

I grew up in Boston with roasting chestnuts, so I know firsthand about their delicious flavor and of course how to prepare them. The Italians in our family score the nut only once across the round belly. It is usually a score that is more than halfway across the nut. When it is fully cooked, the outer shield folds in half, exposing the nut. Some nuts, because of their shape, are difficult to open no matter how you cook them. When I was a kid we used the top of a wood stove to cook them, and sometimes my father took the iron grate off and lined up the nuts on an iron ledge so they would get closer to the fire.

I have been experimenting over the years with cooking them. Roasting is obviously the best way. But I also cook them in the microwave oven for about two minutes.The size of the nut and how many I cook determine how long I cook them. I cook six to eight at a time. Two minutes is about just right. If I cook more, I increase the time, but not by much. No one can tell a roasted nut from a microwaved nut.

Please let us know if you have any holiday memories to share, or tips to pass along. And check back Wednesday at noon for a Daily Dish online chat: Russ Parsons will help you with all your Thanksgiving menu planning and questions. And if you have any last-minute turkey emergencies, Times Test Kitchen Manager Noelle Carter will be available for chatting Wednesday, Nov. 26, also at noon, at Daily Dish.

-- Rene Lynch

Photo credit: Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times

Checking out 'The Big Fat Duck Cookbook'

Fatduck_3 Times blog Jacket Copy delves into "The Big Fat Duck Cookbook," published in the U.K. and U.S. this month:

Its price tag -- $250 in the U.S. -- is enough so that most cooks would think twice about turning its pages with a wet or oily hand. It may be part cookbook, part work of art -- which seems apt for a book about the cuisine of the Fat Duck Restaurant.

Read more here.

Notes from the Test Kitchen: Coconut coupe

082608_17542 Ever open the fridge only to feel like you've stumbled upon a science experiment?

If you stopped by the Test Kitchen any time during the last two weeks, you'd find one of our refrigerators stocked with what looked like a bunch of culture samples nestled among the dairy and produce -- except these samples were in martini coupes and glasses, not Petri dishes.

This week's cover story, Soda fountain favorites go uptown by Betty Hallock, features a recipe for Brix@1601 coconut coupe. It's a visually spellbinding dessert: colorful layers of sweet-tart kalamansi (a Southeast Asian citrus) gelee, fresh raspberry marmalade, buttery coconut sables and a quenelle of lime-coconut sorbet are playfully topped with a crisp, delicate coconut meringue.

Maybe not surprisingly, our attempts to adapt this artistic restaurant creation for the home kitchen provided just a few -- albeit tasty -- challenges....

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Pavlov's chile peppers

Cayenne_3We all have our moments of kitchen idiocy, but usually we learn from our mistakes, no?  Well, no.  Yesterday I was happily cooking away, making salsa and pickling some pretty New Mexico and jalapeno chile peppers I found at the market and -- yet again -- I forgot to put on gloves. When my hands started burning, I went online to see if I could find another remedy than those I'd unsuccessfully tried in the past (soap, milk, yogurt). Google, my default source for most things (also, apparently, John McCain's) had a number of threads on the subject.  After catty suggestions to wear gloves next time, many people recommended rinsing the offending hands in bleach.  Strangely, this worked. Not enough to put out the fires completely, but better than the ice baths and bowls of milk I'd been trying. Anybody have any other suggestions (other than gloves and maybe behavior modification), let me know. 

-- Amy Scattergood

Photo of Windrose Farm's cayenne peppers by Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Test Kitchen tips: perfect whipped cream

Galetteslice Homemade whipped cream.  Try it just once, and you'll never look at the prepackaged store brands again.  Nothing beats the flavor or texture, and the method is simple. Purists are right--using a hand whisk is one of the best ways. But here's a secret: The food processor method is the best.

Here are some tips for making perfect whipped cream:

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Test Kitchen tips: calibrating your thermometer

Thermometers1Whether you use it to tell when a roast is done or to make sure that the frying oil heats to just the right temperature, a dial (instant-read) or digital thermometer eliminates part of the guesswork for the cook.  With Donna Deane's Hungarian pepper salad recipe this week (from "Hungarian peppers: a walk on the lighter side," by Donna Deane and Jenn Garbee), a thermometer might come in handy as you make sure that your chicken cooks to (safe) perfection before incorporating it into this colorful salad.

Indispensable as it may be, a thermometer is only as good as its accuracy. Calibration is key. Here are some quick tips to keep your thermometer on target:

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