A recent study by the Rand Corporation concerning the contents of chain restaurant menus was reported online in the Public Health Nutrition Journal. It showed that 96% of the restaurants failed to meet the recommendations for the combination of calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At first glance, this study looks inconclusive. This may be that there are just so many things wrong with the concept of chain restaurants that it is difficult to narrow the problems into a coherent thesis. Regardless, this is another indicator of what a sorry state our food system is in.
Eating in restaurants is challenging enough, my recommendation is to stay away from all chain restaurants. Further, I suggest that the smaller the restaurant the better. I want to be able to look the person in the eye that selected and purchased the food. I also suggest the smaller the menu the better. In order to keep the ingredients on hand for a large menu there will have to be a limit to the amount of fresh food being served.
People used to feel obliged to indulge in every course. The economy has changed that; maybe the only good news about our recession. My wife and I have a few techniques to keep the calories and bill in check. We often split either an appetizer or a main course, rarely have dessert and have a pretty good handle on the wine lists, often opting for a wine by the glass. If we are going to a very expensive restaurant, we usually know what we want and discuss it before we get there. Sushi is the perfect example. We plan what we are going to order and then aren’t shocked by the check. It’s so easy to order one of everything. We also go to nice restaurants and sit at the bar. This way we are usually guaranteed a seat, don’t feel bad about just ordering appetizers and can still enjoy the tastes of the chef without putting his kids through college. This is something that I also recommend for anyone dining alone.
You are unlikely to find this dish on a restaurant menu. It’s another addition to this weekend’s picnic. If you have any connections to the Swedish emigrants to this country – if you are from Minnesota, Kansas, etc – you are probably familiar with the little cardamom seed in it’s impenetrable little pod. The flavor is unique and adds an amazing zip to an ordinary, albeit homemade, vanilla ice cream.
Removing the seeds from the pod can be a challenge. We boiled them in water for a minute or two which helped soften them enough to ply them apart. Next, you need to crush or grind them. The best tool for this is a mortar and pestle (or as my blonde wife would say: “A mortar and pistol” – I thought that was a bit dangerous) but a spice grinder will also work. Yes, you can buy cardamom already ground, but it is a different animal. Get the pods if at all possible.
- Seeds from 3-4 Cardamom Pods, seeds removed and ground
- 2/3 Cup Sugar
- 2 Large Eggs
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 2/3 Cup Milk
- 1 Cup Heavy Cream
- 2 Teaspoons Vanilla
- Mortar and Pestle or Spice Grinder
- Mixing Bowl
- Ice Cream Maker
- In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs into the sugar by hand.
- Whisk in flour and salt.
- In a sauce pan, bring milk to a simmer.
- Slowly beat the milk into the egg mixture, being careful not to scramble the eggs.
- Add the ground cardamom.
- Add mixture back to the pan and stir until it thickens slightly.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
- Pour into clean bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to make the ice cream. You can do this ahead of time.
- Once cool, stir in cream and vanilla.
- Add mixture to ice cream maker and let it do its thing.
- I like it directly from the maker but alternatively, scoop the ice cream into a sealable container and freeze for an hour or so before serving.