cut green chilies, remove the seeds
Moving back to grocery stores, the shiny polished fruits and vegetables, the picture perfect produce, no bug eaten or bug infested veggies, prewashed greens all seemed to make life so much easier. Nature is never perfect and what I was seeing was to the contrary, but I continued buying, cooking and merrily going through life without questioning the merits of perfect food.
sprinkled with salt and ready for toasting
Slowly things started to unravel, continuous news of the obesity epidemic, addiction to fast food, agro big business, cheap China products, food contamination, salmonella poisoning, mercury in fish all gave pause to my blinkered approach to food. Reading essays/books by authors like Michael Pollan, seeing the organic food movement take off, the popularity of farmers market have certainly made me think more about the source of food and how food is made.
after toasting for 10 minutes
Some foods that we grow during the summer we do mostly without during the winter months. These are mostly Indian vegetables which were never fresh or vibrant in the grocery stores to begin with. Examples of these are eggplants, bitter gourds, snake gourds and ridge gourds. These were not that readily available when we first came here and we survived. So I buy them once in a blue moon these days.
toasted for 5 more minutes and chopped
Following Pollan's advice in his book the Omnivore's dilemma I do the grandma test - if the food is something that your grandma would not recognize then don't buy it. I try as much as possible to follow the advice. I don't go crazy and buy exotic foods. I don't stop with what my Indian grandma would buy but I also shift to American, Italian, Spanish and a few cases Chinese grandmas just to cover the vast array of foods available. If I were to stick to just what my grandma would recognize we'd be very unhappy for sure.
dough ready for rising
We are a seafood loving family, every single member relishes seafood dishes but the purchase of seafood is harder than ever. The list of fish to be avoided is large because of metal poisoning, determine if it is farm raised or wild caught is enough to make your eyes glaze over. Add to this the uncertainty of where in the world the fish is coming from we now rarely eat fish. Farm raised fish is no better than and in some cases worse than industrialized poultry or meat. They are raised in toxic effluent waters doused with chemicals. I mostly buy frozen fish or shrimp because the false sense of security the "Made in ..." gives me. The rare instances we can make a trip to the waterfront in DC we buy fresh fish.
baked for 15 minutes and brushed with butter
What has worked for us is to modify our eating habits and eat seasonal produce and be mindful of how food made its way to our plate.
Ruchikacooks asked a very relevant question. She says while vegetables can be organic, poultry can be free range, organic, antibiotic free etc but fish which is to a large extent dependent on the water they live in - can it be truly organic? I had not seriously thought about organic fish because the very few I have seen are way over priced. I know for sure to avoid farm fish grown in China, where dumping antibiotic into waste water and raising fish is a common practice.
Can fish be truly organic?
Unlike a tomato which is deemed organic if it is grown without pesticides and using well defined organic practices or meat raised without antibiotics and certain other defined practices, labeling fish as organic is not a straight forward process.
If a fish is labeled as organic and you pay a high price for it, you are probably kidding yourself. The quality of water if wild caught fish cannot be truly ascertained and if they are farm raised the pollution these waters cause to marine life cannot make them truly organic.
Fish tend to be of different hues, colors and eating habits. If they eat other fish, how can that fish be labeled organic unless the feed fish is also organic.
If that is not making your head spin, the debates by aquaculturists, environmentalists and fishermen will sure make it.
Read this article from New York Times Free or Farmed, When Is a Fish Really Organic?
What about those fish labeled as organic?
A year ago USDA approved organic labels for fish obviously making aquaculture producers very happy, environmentalists very upset and we the consumer paying extra high price and not really knowing what the label means.
The organic standards approved by National Organic Standards Board would allow organic fish farmers to use wild fish as part of their feed mix provided it did not exceed 25 percent of the total and did not come from forage species, such as menhaden, that have declined sharply as the demand for farmed fish has skyrocketed.
Read the article here - 'USDA Panel Approves First Rules For Labeling Farmed Fish 'Organic'.
The guidelines established by the USDA makes it more confusing than clear. The 25% of feed from forage species can be non organic material is troubling say environmentalists because other animals certified as organic require 100% of the feed to be organic.
What is a consumer to do?
Now that I know more about the organic labeling on fish is not worth the premium dollar they command. Moreover the organic labeling just lulls us into a false sense of security. Besides organic labeling there are a few rules that can be followed while buying fish.
Listen to Good Fish, Bad Fish: A Consumer Guide on NPR.
Table source Good for the oceans, good for you
Now on to those spicy buns,
The perfect results for the pav buns gave me the fillip needed to try a variation on them and was born the sundried tomato chili buns. Remember the sundried tomato paratha and sundried spice powder that was made, I still had a few tables spoons still left.
baked and cooling
Detailed instructions here.
Sundried tomato and chili buns
1. 1 3/4 cups bread flour
2. 1 1/2 cups chapati flour
3. 1 1/2 tbsp raw sugar
4. 1 1/2 tbsp butter - melted + 1 tsp butter
5. 1 tsp salt
6. 1 packet active dry yeast - 2 tsp
7. 1 tbsp sundried tomato spice mixture / roughly powdered sundried tomato
8. 5 green thai chilies sliced into rounds and roasted with salt in a toaster oven
9. 1 cup water + 3/4 cup fat free milk
Preparing the dough
1. Mix together the dough and all other ingredients except butter and roughly mix them.
2. Heat the milk and water separately to lukewarm.
3. Add the milk to the flour mixture and work it in.
4. Add the water tbsp by tbsp till the dough is like chapati dough and pliable, should not be loose.
5. Keep kneading the dough till it become smooth.
6. spray oil on top of the dough and cover with a cling wrap also sprayed with oil and let it sit in a warm place to rest. (3-4 hours)
7. Punch it down and make balls of desired size.
Prepare a cookie sheet spread with wax paper sprayed with oil.
8. Roll each ball with wet hands on a cutting board with cupped hands and set it on the cookie sheet in 2 columns with a small gap between each of them. Cover again with the cling wrap.
9. Let it rest for another hour or so.
1. Preheat oven to 375F and let it bake for 15 minutes.
2. Brush with the butter on top and bake for 5 more minutes.