A Salt and Battery

In response to the Health Department’s new salt reduction initiative, the Times ordered some food from local restaurants and sent it off to a Long Island lab for sodium testing. What they found may not shock you: A Double ShackBurger, fries and a peanut butter shake from Shake Shack contain 1,980 milligrams of sodium. Two slices of Cajun bacon-cheeseburger pizza from Two Boots clock in at 2,240 milligrams. But the saltiest of them all is the corned beef sandwich from Katz’s Deli, which contains 4,490 milligrams of sodium. Considering that the FDA recommends a maximum of 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, “having what she’s having” might just leave you with hypertension.

Fit and Surviving

To say that not working for five months has been easy living is to believe a comfortable facade. I’m sure there’s levels of emotion within the psyche of an unemployed person, but I never looked them up. I’m more analytical so I’ve measured my emotions more by my actions.

I was pissed about my group and products being cut from the core business but not very long as that emotion washed into more personal and family focus for the first few months. As the holiday approached, the interview and hiring cycle stopped and I concentrated my time on that imaginary checklist I never had the opportunity to do. Some of which includes:

    1. Tour unknown parts of New York City
      Read more books
      Upgrade and redesign my websites
      Spend more time with my woman
      Spend more time with friends and seek out new ones
      Learn new skills (both in and out of my core career focus of tech)
      Get my fitness on
      Refocus energy on my hobbies: Photography, Music, Wine and Cooking
  • To a major extent I’ve done all these and it’s really time I get back to work. I’ve been interviewing and pursuing positions of interest with more vigor than when I first moved to NY.

    Interesting thing about having no income, is you learn very quickly how to save money and spend it more appropriately. I’ve been doing a lot of frugal shopping in places where the typical Manhattanite doesn’t. I’ve also found the epicurean and fitness value of making your own soup stocks – which I’ve been doing weekly.

    I have a relationship with all my local purveyors including my butcher. “My guy” is known for many quality meats but I love that I can buy pounds of left over chicken and beef bone on the cheap and freeze them until needed. When I have 6 hours of home time (typical when I work from the home office), I’ll hack up a couple handfuls (to expose the marrow) and roast them in the oven with a little olive oil and salt for 45 min at 375. Toss them in a large stock pot filled with water to within an inch of the top (about 2 gallons in my case). Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to simmer and slow cook while stirring occasional as the pot reduces and creates layers of tasty bone fortified stock. About an hour before it’s done I’ll toss in the rough cut veggies (just ginger and onion for Asian based chicken stocks, and on top I’ll add varying amounts of carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves, and even black pepper depending on the depth of flavor I want to create).

    Cool over night. Skim the fat. Package and freeze for use. Easy.

    With that stock, I’ve made hundreds of dishes for lunch and dinner but especially important this cold winter are the many soup options you can derive from home made chicken stock. The most important reason for this is the health factor. You can control the sodium and quality of ingredients that go into your base and thus improve the quality of food ingested.

    Here’s a Butternut Squash Soup, I adapted with the influential help of Ina Garten:

    Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with West Indian Curry

    * 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    * 3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
    * 3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large)
    * 2 cups chopped Yukon potatoes (3 medium)
    * 2 tablespoons West Indian curry powder
    * 5 pounds butternut squash, peeled with seeds removed (2 large)
    * 2 sweet apples, such as McIntosh, peeled
    * 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    * 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    * 2 to 4 cups home made chicken stock

    Condiments for serving:
    * Scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced diagonally
    * Roasted salted cashews, toasted and chopped

    Preheat the oven to medium/medium high temp (about 400). Roasting the vegetables first concentrates the flavors before the puree of the soup. Rough chop the onions, potatoes, squash and apples into even, 1 inch cubes. Mix up all pieces with the olive oil and half the salt and pepper and spread evenly onto 2 sheet pans.

    Put both trays in the oven and roast for about 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender. Turn the veggies occasionally and rotate the trays top-to-bottom and front-to-back at least once (halfway) through the baking process. Heat the chicken stock to a simmer.

    On this particular day, I didn’t have “West Indian Curry Powder”, and I really had no idea what was in those generic bottles at the grocery store labeled “Curry Power”. A very quick google search turned up this mix for “West Indian Curry Powder” and I had all the ingredients so I created my own.

    When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with the medium blade. (Alternatively, you can place the roasted vegetables in batches in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add some of the chicken stock and coarsely puree.). When all of the vegetables are processed, place them in a large pot and add enough chicken stock to your level of thickness in soup (I used about 3 cups). Add the curry powder gradually to taste (you may not need all 2 tblspns) and the rest of the salt and pepper (also to taste).

    Bowl and serve with suggested condiments for crunch.

    photo365_2010_035

    The thing about interviewing for a new job when you currently are without, is you’re viewed as almost the underdog in the process. Once you get past the paper screening though, it’s all gravy for this professional. I’m getting closer to the goal as certain preferred employers are taking notice. When others are not (and it’s usually the HR gatekeepers, not the hiring managers) I found this song figuratively appropriate for the process and literally appropriate because the band is called Spoon.

    Spoon – Underdog

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    Picture yourself in the living room
    Your pipe and slippers set out for you
    I know you think that it ain’t too far

    But I, I hear the call of a lifetime ring
    Felt the need to get up for it
    Oh, you cut out the middleman
    Get free from the middleman

    You got no time for the messenger
    Got no regard for the thing
    That you don’t understand
    You got no fear of the underdog
    That’s why you will not survive

    Are you Stupid?

    Sodium Chloride, the chemical name for the simple white substance used auspiciously in many religions, ubiquitous in the Northeast during the winter melting sidwalks and accelerating rust on old cars, and one of the oldest seasonings known to man used to preserve and flavor food for all.

    Salt is a primary electrolyte in the human body, however, in excessive amounts can cause some minor to fatal health conditions. Because of the latter, many governments have instituted recommended daily intakes of the substance and some are starting to legislate it’s use. One such administration is Bloomberg’s here in New York City.

    Mayor Bloomberg’s salt reduction initiative which in all accounts seems to be aimed at fast food joints has created quite a buzz especially in this city’s real kitchens; a source of some of the worlds best cuisine.

    In response to the Health Department’s new salt reduction initiative, the NY Times ordered some food from local restaurants and sent it off to a Long Island lab for sodium testing. What they found may not shock you: A Double ShackBurger, fries and a peanut butter shake from Shake Shack contain 1,980 milligrams of sodium. Two slices of Cajun bacon-cheeseburger pizza from Two Boots clock in at 2,240 milligrams. But the saltiest of them all is the corned beef sandwich from Katz’s Deli, which contains 4,490 milligrams of sodium. Considering that the FDA recommends a maximum of 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, “having what she’s having” might just leave you with hypertension

    I’m all for recommendations and encouraging businesses or food producers to be more transparent about all ingredients used in their offerings, but I’m not about to be treated like a kid by a “Nanny State” that feels I’m not old enough or educated enough to eat in moderation. Enforcing a ban or restricting usage limits is absurd and I’m with the chefs, cooks and foodies alike in this hoping this doesn’t get anything more than wishful thinking for the mayor’s team.

    Day 34: Be Stupid?

    I still love The Boy’s old old work back when they were a shite NY punk band playing with Murphy’s Law and Bad Brains (ML opened for the Beastie’s on their “Licensed to ILL” tour). Some Old Bull is still a great album and although there’s better tracks per say and in a rough garage distorted sounding way (“Egg raid on Mojo,” Traffic Cop,” etc.), this still fit my post for both cookery and stupidity.

    Beastie Boys – Cookie Puss

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