April 1, 2014

Cheddar Egg Souffle

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This Spring’s featured ingredients is the incredible edible Egg.

Eggs are produced by most birds, reptiles, insects, mollusks, fish, and monotremes like the platypus.  Eggs laid out of water are surrounded by a protective shell.  If an egg is fertilized, an animal embryo grows within the egg white, and is nourished by the yolk.  Tiny pores in bird eggshells allow the embryo to breath.  When developed the baby hatches, emerging from the egg.  Commercial eggs we eat are mainly unfertilized.

Most eggs are oval shaped.  While still inside the mother, the egg shell is still malleable.  As her oviduct muscles contract behind the egg to push it forward, a pointy end develops in the back.  Cliff dwelling birds often have highly conical eggs, while eggs from birds nesting in holes are nearly spherical.  This trait is believed to have developed through natural selection.  One of the most unique appearing eggs is the bullhead shark’s, which is shaped like a cork-screw.

The largest egg is from the ostrich, which can weight up to 3 pounds (~1.4 kg).  The tiny bee hummingbird produces the smallest egg at half a gram, weighing less than a paper clip!

Eggs naturally come in a variety of colors including white, yellow, brown, pink, green, blue and speckled.

Many animals enjoy eating delicious eggs, including foxes, racoons, weasels, sea otters, seagulls, ravens, snakes, and humans.

Humans mainly eat chicken eggs.  Duck, quail and fish eggs are also commonly eaten.  Eggs can be enjoyed poached, boiled, fried, pickled, salted, fermented and raw.  Unpasteurized raw eggs are not recommended by the USDA for the immunocompromised, including children, pregnant women and elderly due to the risk of salmonella bacteria poisoning.  As an egg ages, an air bubble between the egg white and the shell grows larger.  A “bad egg” will float in a bowl of water.

In Chinese cuisine, fermented “century eggs” are made by coating raw eggs in a clay mixture and allowing them to cure for several weeks.  The yolk turns green and whites brown with an ammonia smell, and jelly texture.

Eggs are part of cultural traditions around the world, especially during the spring equinox.  Eggs generally represent fertility and new life.

In old Germanic culture, the pagan goddess of the dawn Eostre is the namesake of the festival Easter.  Few texts remain with little detail regarding the original pagan practices celebrating Eostre, though it is believed that during April, feasts were held in her honor, later replaced by the Christian Paschal month celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.  Scholars have suggested that Eostre’s way was lit by hares, the origin of the Easter bunny.  1, 2

The Easter bunny is said to have arrived in the United States with German immigrants in the 18th century.  Children were told only good girls and boys would receive colored eggs in the nests they made in their caps and bonnets on Easter morning.

German immigrants also carried their Easter celebration with them to Sweden.  The Swedish word for Easter bunny, Påskharen, sounds very similar to that for the Easter wizard, Påskkarlen.   The Easter wizard is said to have been more conducive to the pagan traditions of Sweden, where today children still dress as witches for Easter.

In Catholic traditions, eggs (and meat) were forbidden foods during Lent, a time of repentance, reflection and self-denial, held for the 40 days before Easter.  Scholars believe that the tradition of painting and decorating hard-boiled eggs for eating on Easter celebrated the end of Lent, and Christ’s resurrection.  3

The tradition of the dancing egg is held during the feast of Corpus Christi in Spain.  An empty egg is balanced atop the jet of water of a fountain, which turns without falling.  4

Easter egg rolling is a traditional game played with eggs at Easter.  The White House holds an annual egg roll race, children pushing a decorated hard-boiled egg across the lawn with a long-handles spoon, promoting physical activity.  The event also features live music, book readings, cooking stations, sports courts, and exhibits of decorated eggs.  5

The Middle Eastern spring equinox New Year celebration Norouz is enjoyed by peoples of many different ethnicities and faiths.  The tradition originated in Persia and was carried with its immigrants to surrounding countries.  During Norouz, each family member decorates a hard-boiled egg and sets them together in a bowl.  A Haft Chin table is set with seven items: a mirror (symbolizing the sky), an apple (earth), candles (fire), rose water (water), sprouted wheat (plants), goldfish (animals), and the painted eggs (humans & fertility).

In China, Red Egg and Ginger Baby Banquets are held to celebrate a baby’s one month birthday.  Traditionally, some parents would send red hard-boiled eggs, barbequed pork, sweet buns, and pickled red ginger to show their appreciation to those who had given gifts to the newborn.  Today, banquets are usually held in local Chinese restaurants for family and friends.  The infant wears a gold coin or bracelet and may have red envelopes, symbolizing prosperity, pinned to their clothes at the celebration.  In the center of each table are a plate of red eggs and another of red ginger.  In Chinese culture, the color red is lucky, and represents happiness and good luck.  6

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), egg yolks are used in herbal decoctions to nourish yin, treating insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and seizures.

Vaccines for infectious diseases are commonly produced in fertile chicken eggs.  Diseases for which vaccines have been produced in chicken eggs include influenza, chicken pox, yellow fever, and Rocky mountain spotted fever.

Eggs have numerous scientific properties, utilized in the kitchen.  Heating an egg causes the individual bundled proteins to bump into one another, unfurling, and rebonding to each other.  This interconnected matrix of proteins is what gives cooked eggs strength, with an increasingly rubbery texture.

Beating a raw egg white incorporates air into the water and protein solution, unfurling the proteins and creating the matrix that holds the air bubbles within.  Heat expands the air bubbles (as when baking a souffle) and then causes the matrix to harden so it does not collapse.

Egg yolks can be used to create an emulsion.  Yolks contain amino acid and phospholipid (i.e. lecithin) strands that have one end that bonds to oil and the other to water.  Oil and water alone don’t mix, but with the addition of an egg yolk, they are held together in an emulsion.  7

Pastured (left) vs Conventional Egg (right)

Like many foods, eggs have gone from being called a “super food” to “junk food,” being linked to heart disease.  This hypothesis grew out of eggs’ high cholesterol content.  Recent research, however, indicates dietary cholesterol is not the root cause of heart disease.  Consuming excessive amounts of protein without sufficient folate from plant-based foods, as well as highly refined oils and transfats, may be more directly related.

Eggs whites are high in complete protein, and yolks high in choline and vitamins A, D & E.  Pastured, free-range egg yolks can be higher in these nutrients, contain heart healthy omega 3s, signified by their darker, orange color.  Pastured eggs are commonly available at farmers markets, and in local health food stores.  When we eat a balanced diet based on the Healthy Plate Model, including eggs in moderation, high in vegetables & fruit, it believed to have a cardio-protective effect.

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This Spring’s featured recipe is for Cheddar Egg Souffle.  My beloved grandmother Omi’s signature dish at Easter, cheese souffle holds nostalgic memories for me of the warm kitchen lit by her smile, bear hugs, and racing through the garden searching for Easter eggs.  As Omi’s recipe was unavailable, I adapted one from the great Alton Brown.  8

A souffle showcases eggs’ numerous scientific properties in one delicious dish.  Rich cheddar cheese and yolk are balanced by the light cloud-like texture of the whipped whites.  Freshly grated Swiss, Gouda, Fontina, Jack or Muenster cheese can be substituted for cheddar.  Diced green chilies, ham, sauteed onions, or minced garlic can be folded in just before baking.

Cheddar Egg Souffle

Preparation Time:  1 hour

Yield:  8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:

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Butter for greasing the ramekins
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups hot milk
4 egg yolks
6 ounces freshly grated sharp cheddar (or favorite cheese)
5 egg whites plus 1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (or fresh lemon juice or vinegar)

Equipment:

Grater
8-10 6-ounce ramekins or small oven-safe dishes
3 small bowls
2 large bowls
2 sauce pans
2 whisks
Rubber spatula
Baking sheet
Spoon
Oven mitts

Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.

2.  Butter the souffle ramekins.  Divide the parmesan between the dishes, and cover their sides.  Place in the freezer while preparing the souffle batter.

3.  Separate eggs into 2 small bowls with 4 egg yolks in one, 5 whites in the other with one Tablespoon water.

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4.  In third small bowl combine the flour, dry mustard, garlic powder, and salt.

5.  In one saucepan, heat the butter. Cook out water, being careful not to burn.

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6. Whisk flour mixture into the butter.  Cook for 2 minutes.
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7.  While heating butter, also heat the milk almost to a boil.  Whisk the hot milk into the butter flour mixture, and turn the heat to high.  Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat.
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8.  Beat the egg yolks to a creamy consistency.  Temper the yolks into the milk mixture, pouring in a thin stream into the milk, constantly whisking. Remove from the heat and add the cheese.  Whisk until incorporated.  Cover.

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9.  In the second large bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until glossy and hold peaks.  Add 1/4 of the whites mixture to the cheese mixture. Continue to add the whites by thirds, folding very gently.
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10.  Place ramekins on a baking sheet.  Divide the souffle batter between the ramekins with spoon, filling to 1/2-inch from the top.

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11.  Bake in the oven ~30 minutes, until golden, puffed, and just set in the center.
12.  Using an oven mitt or towel, transfer the souffle ramekins to individual plates.
Serve immediately with one’s favorite lightly steamed vegetable or a green salad.
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References:

1.  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr/23/easter-pagan-roots

2.  http://www.manygods.org.uk/articles/essays/Eostre.shtml

3.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/02/easter-eggs-history-origin-symbolism-tradition_n_1392054.html

4.  http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/easter-symbols

5.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll

6.  http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2005/12/06/red-egg-and-ginger-baby-banquet

7.  http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/eggs/eggscience.html

8.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/cheese-souffle-recipe.html

January 1, 2014

New Year’s Noodles

Biangbiang Noodles

This Winter’s featured ingredient is Wheat, which we will be using to make delicious hand-pulled New Year’s Biangbiang Noodles.

Wheat is a grain archaeologists believe to have been originally domesticated in the northern Fertile Crescent (modern Turkey) about 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.  Cultivation and repeated harvesting and sowing of the grains of self-pollinating wild grasses led to the creation of domestic strains.  Domesticated wheat strains developed larger grains, and higher protein contents.  1

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Wheat was a key factor enabling the emergence of city-based societies at the start of civilization, such as the Babylonian and Assyrian empires.  It was one of the first crops that could be easily cultivated on a large scale, and stored long term.

Today, wheat is a basic staple food for Europe, West Asia and North Africa.  It is grown on more land area than any other commercial crop, and is second only to rice as the main human food crop.  2

Wheat berries

Whole grain wheat “berries” are composed of the carbohydrate-rich endosperm, oil-rich wheat germ, covered in fiber-rich bran layers.  Micro-nutrients are concentrated in the germ and bran.  White flour is made from just the endosperm.

Wheat Anatomy

Wheat flour or sprouted wheat berries can be used to make pasta, breads, biscuits, cookies, cakes, and cereals.

Wheat is a grain high in the protein gluten.  Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise, keep its shape and giving the final product a chewy texture.  When making noodles, gluten helps the dough stretch into long strands instead of breaking.  An estimated 0.5-1% of people in the US have celiac disease an abnormal immune response to gluten.  3

Noodles

Noodles are made from unleavened flour dough, formed into a variety of shapes.  While long, thin strands are the most common, noodles can also be formed into tubes, waves, helices, shells and other shapes.  Noodles are usually cooked in boiling water.  They are often sauteed or deep-fried, and served with a sauce or in a soup.

At noodle shops, customers customize their bowl of noodles to taste with toppings, often on the table: soy sauce, vinegars, chili sauce, peanuts, eggs, cilantro, mint, pickled vegetables, and bean sprouts.

Making Noodles

Noodles are widely consumed in Asia.  Chinese mian noodles are made from wheat flour.  La-mian is a traditional Chinese long thin noodle made by repeatedly pulling and stretching the dough by hand.  It can take up to a year of practice to master making la-mian noodles.  4

Hand-PullingNoodles

In 2002, archaeologists found an earthenware bowl containing world’s oldest known noodles in Qinghai, China.  The 4,000-year-old long, thin, yellow noodles are said resemble the hand-pulled la-mian noodle.   5

Making Biangbiang Noodles

Biangbiang mian are long, wide, belt-shaped noodles from the Shaanxi province of China.  They are also made by pulling, stretching, and “banging” the dough against the counter, but can be mastered by young and old in minutes.  Their name is said to come from the banging sound they make when hit against the counter while forming the noodles.  They are not intended to be perfectly shaped, but instead free-form with torn edges.  They have a more chewy texture than Italian noodles.   6

During Chinese New Year, this year beginning January 31, long noodles are eaten in all corners of China.  The long noodles represent having a long life.  “Longevity noodles,” also served at birthday parties, are cooked and eaten whole, never cut or broken.  Noodles are commonly eaten by “slurping,” sucking them into the mouth with a loud slurping sound.

Chinese Hand Pulled La Mian Noodles with Danny Yip & Alton Brown

Chinese Hand Pulled Biang Biang Noodles with Danny Bowien & Martha Stewart

This Winter’s Recipe is for New Year’s Biangbiang Noodles.  Our recipe is an adaptation of Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien’s.  Our dish is made with a fresh shrimp (another traditional New Year’s food) and broccoli, for a complete meal in a bowl.  Unfiltered peanut oil is available in most health food stores, and has a roasted peanut flavor.  Liven up your New Year’s Eve or Chinese New Year with a biangbiang noodle pulling party!

Biangbiang Noodles

New Year’s Biangbiang Noodles

Preparation Time: 1 hour

Yield:  4-8 servings

Biangbiang Noodle Ingredients:

4 cups high-gluten bread flour

1  1/2 cups water

Pinch of salt

Unfiltered peanut oil or toasted sesame oil to coat dough

Noodle Dish Components:

Biangbiang noodles, boiled (above)

1  1/2 pounds shrimp, purchased raw & de-veined, then sauteed

1 bunch broccoli, cut into flowerettes, steamed

Traditional Toppings:

Soy sauce

Seasoned rice vinegar or Chinese black vinegar

Unfiltered peanut oil or toasted sesame oil

Roasted salted peanuts, crushed

Toasted sesame seeds

Cilantro leaves

Green onions, sliced

Garlic, minced

Chili sauce

Equipment:

Knife

Cutting board

Steaming pot

Large bowl

Whisk

Plastic wrap

Knife

Large pot

Colander

Heavy bottomed skillet

Spatula

Instructions:

1.  Choose toppings (above) and place each topping in a small bowl on the dining room table.

2.  Put large pot of salted water on high heat, to begin bringing to boil.  Put steamer pot with water on high heat to boil.

3.  Whisk flour, salt, and water together in bowl until dough starts coming together.

Whisk together noodle ingredients

Gently knead in remaining flour to form a ball of dough.

Noodle dough

Cover dough ball with plastic wrap and let rest for ~10 minutes.

Wrapped noodle dough resting

4.  Turn dough out onto a clean counter top. Knead and roll dough into a “log” about shoulders width.

Roll out noodle dough into a log

Bring ends together and roll back into a log shape. Repeat process until dough is smooth.

Fold noodle dough in half

Roll into a ball.  Let rest for ~15 more minutes.

Roll noodle dough into a ball

5.  Cut dough into 6 equal size pieces.

Cut noodle dough ball into 6 pieces

Flatten each piece into a long rectangle.  Coat both sides of each rectangle with a little oil.

Press dough into a rectangle shape

6.  Holding the dough between the finger and thumb of each hand, start gently stretching the dough to almost shoulder width.  Then, begin slapping the dough “belt” against the clean counter top. The center line of the belt should be slightly thinner than its edges.

Holding each rectangle end, stretch & slap into a long belt

Next, tear the dough down the center, from one end to the other, leaving the joining end intact to form one long noodle.  While pulling the rest of the dough, cover fresh noodles with plastic wrap to prevent from drying.

Tear each belt lengthwise down the center forming one long noodle

7.  Place raw broccoli flowerettes into steamer pot, removing when bright green and tender.  Heat pan on medium-high flame.  Add a little oil.  Saute shrimp until just cooked through.  Remove from heat.

8.  Drop fresh noodles into boiling salted water.  Cook noodles just until they float to the surface and are desired tenderness, ~2 to 3 minutes.  Drain in colander.

Boil noodles until they float to the surface

9.  Place noodles, shrimp, and broccoli in serving bowls, and bring to table.  Add toppings as desired.

Biangbiang Noodles

10.  Enjoy immediately.

Biangbiang Noodles

References:

1.  BS Gill, B Friebe.  “Cytogenetics, phylogeny & evolution of cultivated wheats.”  Food & Agriculture Organization

2.  BC Curtis.  “Wheat in the world.”  Food & Agriculture Organization

3.  RJ Peña.  “Wheat for bread & other foods.”  Food & Agriculture Organization

4.  Julia Moskin.  “The Long Pull of Noodle Making.”  The New York Times

5.  John Roach.  “4,000-year-old noodles found in China.”  National Geographic

6.  J Henderson and Fan Zhen.  “Biangbiang Shaanxi street food.”  China Daily

October 1, 2013

Savoy Cabbage Mu Shu Rolls

Savoy Cabbage Mu Shu Pork

This Fall’s featured ingredient is cabbage.

Cabbage is a member of the Brassicaceae family.  Cabbage, broccoli, collard greens, brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi are believed to all have evolved over thousands of years from the same wild field cabbage.  Selection resulted in varieties having different accentuated characteristics, such as heads for cabbage, leaves for kale and flower buds for broccoli.

Cabbage was most likely domesticated in Europe before 1000BC, and became an affordable staple in European cuisine.  Cabbage spread from Europe into Mesopotamia and Egypt, and later followed trade routes throughout Asia and the Americas.  Sauerkraut, fermented or pickled cabbage, was used by Dutch sailors to prevent scurvy during long ship voyages.  During the 16th century, German gardeners are said to have developed the savoy cabbage, featured in our Fall recipe below.  1

Savoy Cabbage

Cabbages usually range from 1 to 8 pounds, and can be green, purple or white. Some have smooth leaves, while others have a lacy texture, like savoy cabbage.  In 2012, the world record was broken for heaviest cabbage in Palmer, Alaska at 138 pounds.  2

Red Cabbage

China is reported to be the world’s largest producer of cabbage, followed by India.  Russians are estimated to eat the largest amount of cabbage in Europe, on average 44 pounds a year, while Americans eat an average of 9 pounds.

Cabbage is enjoyed in many ways.  Pickling is the said to be the most popular, creating dishes such as German sauerkraut and Korean kimchee.  It is also eaten raw, steamed, sauteed, braised, and stewed.

Cabbage is a good source of vitamins A, C, and fiber.  As a cruciferous vegetable, it also contains glucosinolates, which research indicates reduce the risk of developing cancer, boosting DNA repair in cells and blocking the the growth of cancer cells.  3

Watch Maymo the Dog enjoy some Cabbage

Savoy Cabbage Mu Shu Pork

This Fall’s recipe is for Savoy Cabbage Mu Shu Rolls.

This dish holds a great amount of nostalgia for me, as it was my favorite Chinese dish as a child.  I would eat roll after roll with extra hoisin sauce.  Reflecting now, it was the only time I ate cabbage in significant quantities growing up.

Time Saver:  Substitute bagged pre-sliced cabbage based stir fry mix for vegetables below.

Savoy Cabbage Mu Shu Pork

Savoy Cabbage Mu Shu Rolls

Preparation Time:  45 minutes

Yield: 8-10 Rolls

Ingredients:

1/2 head of savoy cabbage, julienned into strips

1/4 head of purple cabbage, julienned

1 basket of mushrooms, julienned

2 carrots, julienned

1 can water chestnuts, rinsed and julienned

1 pound of pork loin or tofu, cut into bite-sized strips

2 eggs, beaten, cooked just until set, cut into bite-sized strips

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

peanut oil for sauteing

3 Tablespoons rice wine or seasoned rice vinegar

soy sauce to taste

hoisen sauce or favorite Asian sauce

8-10 mu shu wrappers, flour tortillas, crepes, butter lettuce leaves, or cabbage leaves

optional: garnish of peanuts, cashews, or toasted sesame seeds

Mu Shu Ingredients

Equipment:

cutting board

knife

grater

fork or whisk

measuring spoons

small pan

wok or large pan

spatula

Instructions:

1.  Julienne vegetables.  Mince garlic.  Grate ginger.

Julienned vegetables

2.  Cut pork or tofu into bite-sized strips.

Julienned Pork

3.  Heat small pan on medium heat.  Add ~2 tsp peanut oil.  Saute pork or tofu until cooked through.

Sauteing Pork

4.  Whisk eggs.  Saute on medium heat in a ~2 tsp peanut oil.  Cut into bite-sized strips.

Egg

5.  Heat wok or large pan on medium heat.  Add 2-3 tablespoons peanut oil.  Saute vegetables until almost tender.  Add cooked pork and egg strips.  Stir in rice wine/vinegar and soy sauce.  Continue to cook until vegetables tender.

Sauteing Vegetables

6.  If using wrappers/tortillas/crepes, heat in pan.  Place warm wrapper/leaf onto plate.  Spoon 1-2 Tablespoons sauce onto wrapper/leaf.  Spoon ~1 cup filling onto wrapper/leaf.  Garnish with optional nuts if desired.  If using wrappers, fold into open-ended “burritos.”  Enjoy immediately.

Savoy Cabbage Mu Shu Pork

References:

1.  Texas A&M University Archive – Cabbage

2.  Guinness Book of World Records – Cabbage

3.  USDA Nutrient Database

July 1, 2013

Banana Frozen Yogurt

 Banana Frozen Yogurt

Summer’s featured ingredient is bananas!

Bananas are a favorite fruit all over the world, not only as a sweet snack, but as a savory food stable, and a slippery source of comedy.

Bananas are believed to have been first domesticated in Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia, possibly as early as 8000 BCE.  Bananas were introduced to the Americas by Portuguese sailors who brought the fruits from West Africa in the 16th century.  The word banana is of West African origin.

Wild bananas are filled with large hard inedible seeds.  Through their domestication, the seeds have become much smaller and edible.  Many fanciful varieties have been developed.  They can have skins that are pink and fuzzy or have green and white stripes, flesh the color of orange sherbet, aromas that are said to be smelled “from the next mountain.”  Some varieties produce bunches of a thousand bananas, each only an inch long, while the rhino horn bananas are believed to be the longest, reaching up to 2 feet in length.  1

The “blue java” aka “ice cream banana” is said to melt in the mouth like ice cream with a vanilla-like flavor.   The “apple banana” has an apple flavor and a thin skin that splits open when the banana is ripe.  The red dacca banana has reddish purple skin and pink flesh with a faint raspberry flavor.  2
In the US, the cultivar primarily available is the Cavendish banana.  It was chosen for its ease of transport and shelf life.  Asian markets however usually have a variety of bananas available.
Banana Tree

The top 4 producers of bananas in the world are commonly India, Uganda, China, and the Philippines.  The top 4 exporters are commonly Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia and the Philippines.

During the ripening process, bananas produce a plant hormone called ethylene, which  stimulates the formation of amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starch into sugar, making the bananas taste sweet.  The green, less ripe bananas contain higher levels of starch.  In the US, man-made ethylene is used to ripen the green bananas, which are easier to transport.  Ethylene also signals the production of pectinase, an enzyme which breaks down the pectin between the cells of the banana, causing the banana to soften as it ripens.

Bananas are eaten many different ways all over the world.  Bananas can be eaten raw, flambéed, deep fried, baked in their skin, or steamed in sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf. They can also be made into jam, chips, or flour.

Backpackers in South Asia often follow the Banana Pancake Trail.  This is the nickname for the many growing routes lined with guesthouses, cafes and restaurants catering to backpackers which serve banana pancakes for breakfast.

Many tropical populations eat green bananas and plantains as a staple starch, which taste similar to potatoes.  They are simmered in stews and curries, fried, baked or mashed.

Banana plant hearts are used much like artichokes.  They are eaten raw, steamed with dips, or cooked in soups, curries and fried foods.

Banana leaves are large, flexible, and waterproof.  In a downpour, they can be used as umbrellas.  In South Asian and Central American countries, they are often used as a wrapping to steam or grill food, or as plates.  In India, leaves are dried and used as packing material and cups.

The banana plant has long been a source of fiber for high quality textiles and paper. In Japan, banana cultivation for fabric dates back to at least the 13th century.  Harvested shoots are boiled in lye, spun into yarn, and then made into table clothes and kimonos.  In Nepal, the trunk is harvested and cut into small pieces, which are softened, bleached, dried, and woven into rugs with a silk-like texture.  3

Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6, soluble fiber, and contain vitamin C, manganese and potassium.  Individuals with a latex allergy may also be allergic to bananas.  4

Watch Greg the Gardener harvest bananas from his garden

Watch a Bananimated Short

Mythbusters: Banana Peel Slip

Charlie Chaplin Film Banana Clips:

“By the Sea”

“Modern Times”

Listen to some banana-themed music while you prepare your yogurt:

Chiquita Banana Song

Banana Boat Song

Apples & Bananas Song

Alternate Production Method 1: Ice Cream Maker  Upside: An ice cream maker eliminates the need to freeze the frozen yogurt base into cubes.  Simply pour blended base into the ice cream maker, and follow its instructions.  Downside:  An ice cream maker eliminates the ability to add swirls of berries or other fruits into the yogurt.

Alternate Production Method 2: Blender  While a Champion juicer produces the optimal frozen yogurt texture, a good blender will also do the trick.  Place frozen yogurt mix cubes (and optional additional frozen fruit chunks) into blender in batches and blend into snowy shavings.  Important: Do not add a liquid, as it will cause the cubes to stick together and prevent efficient blending.  Scoop shaving into serving dish.  Add toppings if desired. Enjoy!

Elvis-style Variation:  While processing the frozen yogurt base cubes through the juicer, periodically add large spoonfuls of peanut butter.  Top frozen yogurt with sliced bananas, more peanut butter, and a drizzle of honey.

Banana Split Variation:  Split 1 peeled banana lengthwise and set in a serving bowl.  Spoon frozen yogurt over banana.  Top with favorite toppings, traditionally chocolate sauce, whipped cream, cherries and nuts.

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Banana Frozen Yogurt

Preparation Time (excluding freezing time):  20 minutes

Yield:  8-10 cups

Frozen Yogurt Base Ingredients:

4 ripe bananas, peeled

2 cups milk

12 ounces Greek yogurt

optional: vanilla

optional: pinch salt

Optional Frozen Yogurt Swirl-Ins:

frozen berries or fruit chunks

nut butters

chocolate

Optional Toppings:

banana slices

fruit

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Equipment:

Blender

4-6 Ice cube trays

Freezer bags or containers for yogurt base cubes, and optional frozen fruit swirl-ins.

Champion Juicer (if unavailable, see alternate options above)

Spoon or scoop

Instructions:

1.  Place bananas, milk, yogurt, and optional vanilla & salt in blender.

Banana Frozen Yogurt

2.  Blend until smooth.

Banana Frozen Yogurt

3.  Pour frozen yogurt base into ice cube trays.  Leave a little room, so that when the cubes freeze and expand, they will still fit in the mouth of the juicer.

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4.  Freeze cubes until solid.

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5.  If not immediately making soft serve, place cubes (and optional frozen fruit swirl-ins) in freezer bags or containers to protect from roaming freezer flavors.

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6.  Assemble juicer.  Place large bowl under exit spout.  Remove ingredients from freezer.  Turn juicer on and add several cubes.  Push cubes through blender.

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7.  Add more cubes and periodically handfuls of optional frozen fruit one wishes to “swirl-in.”

Banana Frozen Yogurt

Spoon into bowls, garnished with optional toppings.

Enjoy immediately.

Banana Frozen Yogurt

References:

1.  “We Have No Bananas: Can Scientists Defeat a Devastating Blight?” The New Yorker

2.  California Rare Fruit Growers – Banana Facts

3.  Purdue University New Crop Resource – Banana

4.  USDA Nutrient Database

April 1, 2013

Lentil Samosas

Lentil Samosa

This Spring’s Featured Ingredient is Lentils.

Lentils are part of the legume family, along with beans, peas, and peanuts. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, from yellow to orange-red to green, brown and black.

Archeological evidence shows lentils were eaten over 10,000 years ago.  They are believed to be one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East.

Lens is the Latin name for Lentils, due to their lens shape, like the lenses in our eyes.

Millions of tons of lentils are grown throughout the world every year primarily in Canada, India, Turkey and the United States.  Lentils are a staple comfort food in West and South Asia, as well as the Mediterranean.  1

In India, they are commonly given as an offering to the gods in temples. In Italy, eating lentils on New Year’s Eve traditionally symbolizes hope for a prosperous new year, likely due to their coin-like shape.  In Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ “Cinderella,” her evil stepmother tells Cinderella she will let her go to the ball if she can fish all the lentils out of the ash in the fire place.  2

The National Lentil Festival is held annually in Pullman, Washington August 16-17th.  This Palouse Region of eastern Washington and northern Idaho grows a quarter of the lentils in the United States.  At the Festival one can enjoy a parade, kids’ lentil land, tournaments, farm exhibit, lentil trivia, the crowning of a lentil king & queen, as well as a plethora of foods containing lentils – including lentil pancakes!  3

Lentils contain protein, carbohydrate, iron, B vitamins, folate and fiber.  4

Unlike most of its fellow legumes, lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking, and cook more quickly.  Lentils with husks remain whole with moderate cooking.  Lentils without husks tend to cook down more quickly into a thick purée.

This Spring’s recipe is for Lentil Samosas.  Our recipe is adapted from one by Food Network Chef Aarti Sequeira, called “Mum’s Everyday Red Lentils.”

samosa is a fried or baked triangular pastry with a savory filling.   Popular fillings include lentils, spiced potatoes, peas, ground lamb, ground beef or ground chicken.  Samosas are often accompanied by a sauce called chutney.  They are popular  in South and Central Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Africa.

Many cultures have their own version of the meal one can hold in one’s hand:  American hot pockets, Mexican empanadas, British pastes, Italian calzones, Russian piroshkis, Jewish knishes.  Stuffed with whatever strikes one’s fancy, samosas are an easy meal one can grab on the go.  Make a batch, throw them in the fridge/freezer, and bake them up all week/month long.

Variations:  Our recipe calls for brown lentils, which are still wearing their husks, take longer to cook, and retain their shape during cooking.  For smoother, faster cooking lentils one can substitute a hulled variety of lentil, such as red lentils.  Reduce the water in the lentil recipe to 3 cups, and reduce the cooking time to 30-40 minutes.

Another alternate cooking method to deep-frying is to sauté the samosas in a pan instead of baking them.  Simply brown the samosas in the pan on medium heat on all sides.  This method creates a softer samosa.

Lentil Samosa

Lentil Samosas

Preparation Time:  3 hours

Yield:  18-22 Samosas

Ingredients:

1 batch of Lentil Daal with Spiced Oil (recipes below)
3-4 potatoes, mashed
16 large flour tortillas, cut into 3″ strips
optional: melted butter or oil for brushing assembled samosas before baking

Lentil Samosa Ingredients

Equipment:

large pot with a heavy bottom
spatula
small skillet with lid
baking sheet
knife
cutting board
spoon
hot mitts/gloves, thick long sleeved shirt, ski mask, goggles for spiced oil preparation
optional: pastry brush for brushing samosas with butter/oil before baking

 

Lentil Daal:

2 tablespoons oil/butter
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups water
1 cup brown lentils
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 inch fresh ginger root, peeled & minced
salt to taste, added at end of cooking
1 cup frozen peas & carrots
optional, but recommended: 1 batch of Spiced Oil (recipe below)
optional: 1 serrano chile, seeded & sliced in half for heat

Lentil Daal Instructions:

Saute onions, garlic in butter/oil in heavy bottomed pot until translucent.

Saute onions & garlic in butter/oil.

Add water, lentils, tomatoes, ginger and optional chile and bring to a boil.

Simmer for ~2 hours, stirring occasionally with spatula until lentils are tender, almost falling apart, and water has evaporated off creating a thick texture.  Add water while cooking if lentils are becoming too thick but not yet cooked tender.  Remove optional chile when lentils reach desired heat level.

Cook lentils until tender, beginning to fall apart, & thickened.

Add Spiced Oil (recipe below), and frozen peas & carrots.

Add Spiced Oil and frozen peas & carrots.

Add salt to taste.

Let cool while preparing other ingredients.

Let lentils cool.

 

Spiced Oil (Bagaar):

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika or bafaat powder
1 Tablespoon oil

Spiced Oil Instructions:

Send little ones outside to play for a few minutes to eliminate the risk of being burned by splattering oil.  Put on hot mitts/gloves, a thick shirt with long sleeves, ski mask, and goggles.

In small skillet, over medium-high heat, warm oil.

Add seeds and IMMEDIATELY COVER so as not to get covered in splattering hot oil.

Add spices, stirring while they sizzle and bubble for a moment before pouring into lentils.

Spiced Oil

 

Samosa Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Cut tortillas into 3″ wide strips.

Cut tortillas into 3" wide strips.

Place a generous tablespoon of lentil daal, and of mashed potatoes onto the center of the tortilla strip.

Spoon lentils & potatoes onto center of tortilla strip.

Fold tortilla around filling into a triangular shape.

Fold tortilla into a triangular shape around filling.

Fold tortilla around filling into a triangle.

Fold tortilla around filling into a triangle.

Tuck tortilla end into pocket.

Place samosa on baking sheet.  Optional: Brush triangles with melted butter/oil.

Place samosa on baking sheet.

Bake at 400F until golden brown and crisp, 10-20 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool until warm.

Enjoy alone, or dip in chutney.

Lentil Samosa

 

References:

1.  “Lentils” - North Dakota State University Department of Agricultural Economics

2.  “World’s Healthiest Foods: Lentils (India) –  Health Magazine

3.  Lentil Fest!

4.  USDA Nutrient Database

January 1, 2013

Sprouted Wheat French Toast

LisiBread

Happy New Year from the Fun Food Feed!

This Winter’s featured ingredient is Sprouted Wheat Bread.  Sprouted grain breads contain whole grains (a.k.a. kernels or berries) that have been first sprouted, mixed with other ingredients, and then baked into bread.  Whole grain includes the bran, germ and endosperm of the grain, providing more fiber and naturally-occurring vitamins and proteins than refined grains.  Wheat, millet, barley, oat, lentil and soy are often used to make sprouted grain breads. Bread that is made from grains and legumes can provide a complete set of essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein.  1

These multi grain-legume sprouted breads are said to have been first inspired by the passage Ezekiel 4:9 from the Bible: “Take also unto yourself wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make yourself bread of it, according to the number of the days that you shall lie upon your side, three hundred and ninety days shall you eat of it.”  2

A comparison of nutritional analyses shows that sprouted grains contain about 75% the energy (carbohydrates), slightly higher protein and about 40% of the fat when compared to whole grains.   Sprouting grains can produce more antioxidants, including vitamin C, and B vitamins.  3

This quarter’s recipe is for Sprouted Wheat French Toast.  Growing up, french toast was my family’s favorite Saturday morning breakfast.  Our french toast is cut into fingers or nuggets for dipping into our warm Maple Caramel Sauce (recipe below).

Sprouted Wheat French Toast

Sprouted Wheat French Toast

Preparation Time:  20 minutes

Yield:  1-2 servings; 6 French Toast Sticks

Ingredients:

3 slices sprouted wheat bread
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon nutmeg
1/16 teaspoon salt
butter for sautéing

Maple Caramel Sauce

1/3 cup maple syrup
1 Tablespoon butter
Pinch salt

Ingredients

Equipment:

knife
cutting board
baking dish
fork or whisk
measuring spoons
measuring cups
pan
spatula
metal pitcher

Instructions:

1.  Cut bread into “sticks” or “nuggets” (halved sticks).

Cut bread

Cut bread

2.  Mix remaining ingredients in baking dish.

Wet ingredients

Wet ingredients

3.  Soak cut bread in “bath.”

Soak bread

DSCN3734

4.  Bring Maple Caramel Sauce ingredients to a boil in metal pitcher.

DSCN3736

Maple Caramel Sauce

5.  Saute soaked bread over medium heat in pan until browned on both sides.

Saute bread

6.  Serve immediately with warm Maple Caramel Sauce and fresh fruit.

Sprouted Wheat French Toast

1.  Food for Life Ezekiel Bread

2.  King James 2000 Bible (copyright 2003)

3.  “Nutritive Value of Foods, Home and Garden Bulletin No. 72 (HG-72)”. United States Department of Agriculture. 2002. Retrieved 2012-01-12.

October 1, 2012

Fingerling Soup du Gore

This week’s featured ingredient is the Fingerling Potato!
The potato is a starchy tuber from the nightshade family.
The cultivation of potatoes began ~10,000 years ago by Lake Titicaca (modern-day Peru and Bolivia) from wild species.  The potato has since spread around the world and become a staple crop in many countries.  After centuries of selective breeding, there are now over 1000 different types of potatoes.  1

Fingerling potatoes were bred in Europe.

They are “finger-sized” potatoes, that can be red, orange, yellow, purple or white in color.

Fingerlings can be baked, roasted, grilled, steamed, sautéed, boiled, fried or mashed.  Toss whole in a little salted oil and roast on a baking sheet at 400F until browned and fork tender for an easy, delicious snack.  2

Science!  Use your potato as an electrical conductor to power time!  3

Potatoes have gotten a bad rep in the past few years.  Due to the recent demonization of carbohydrates, white-colored foods, and our culture’s love of the deep fat fryer, many now unfortunately view potatoes as a “junk” food.  Let us not forget, carbohydrates are an important food group, and part of a balanced diet.  Indeed, carbohydrates are our brain’s favorite food!  Potatoes have kept countries, like Ireland, alive in times of famine.  Spanish sailors are said to have used potatoes as protection from scurvy due to their vitamin C content.

Potatoes are low in fat and provide (with skin on) vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, phytochemicals, fiber, and trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, folate, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc.  4

This week’s recipe is for Fingerling Soup du Gore.  Fortify one’s family against the sugar blues this All Hallows’ Eve with this horrifyingly hearty soup.  Serve a la carte, as a complete meal, or with cheese toast (recipe below).

Making the soup is half the fun: Take your child to the market and look for “gory” looking ingredients together, then smash and tear them apart like monsters, and throw them into your cauldron.

For an extra “bloody” broth, add optional tomato paste or red food coloring.

 

Fingerling Soup du Gore  

Preparation Time:  1 hour

Yield:  6 – 8 Servings

Ingredients:

olive oil for sautéing
eye balls  (pearl onions, root end cut off) 
flesh  (chicken cut into irregular pieces)
plasma  (chicken broth, big 4 cup box)
blood & gore  (canned stewed tomatoes, torn, with juice)
fingers  (fingerling potatoes)
teeth  (corn kernels) 
brains  (cauliflowerettes) 
kidneys  (canned kidney beans, rinsed) 
flesh  (zucchini, smashed) 
severed toes  (baby carrots, halved) 
finger nails (garlic cloves, sliced)
grubs  (steamed rice, barley, or gnocchi)
Optional: extra blood  (tomato paste or red food coloring)

 

Equipment:

knife
cutting board
cauldron  (large, thick-bottomed pot)
spatula
ladle or large spoon
 

Eyeball Instructions: 

1.  Place pot/pan on stove burner.

2.  Coat the bottom of the pot/pan with a little olive oil.

3.  Arrange the pearl onions, cut side down, in the pot/pan.

4.  Turn on the burner to medium, and saute onions until cut side browned, forming an “iris” on the “eyeballs.”

5.  Set aside.

 

Soup Instructions:

1.  Heat the pot on high medium.

2.  Add a little oil, and brown chicken.

3.  Add broth and rest of ingredients.

4.  Bring to boil. 

5.  Reduce heat and simmer, while whispering incantations, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are fork tender. 

6.  Serve warm a la carte, as a complete meal, or with cheese toast (recipe below).

 

Cheese Toast Instructions:

Place slices of cheese on slices of bread.

Broil on baking sheet, until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

References:

1.  Potato Goodness

2.  Strohauer Farms  

3.  Potato Clock Video  

4.  USDA Nutrient Database

Happy Birthday to The Fun Food Feed!

This entry marks one year since the launching of the Fun Food Feed!  It has been a wonderful experience creating each entry, learning more about food, and eating the spoils.  For its second year, the Fun Food Feed schedule will move from biweekly to quarterly.  Thank you to all subscribers for your support.  Here’s to the years to come!

September 15, 2012

Baked Chicken Nuggets

This week’s ingredient is the world’s favorite fowl: Chicken.  Eaten in almost every culture, this versatile bird is as contemporary as it is traditional.  Raising chickens has become increasingly popular in recent years among city dwellers for meat, eggs, pest control, and as beloved pets.

Chickens are believed to have been originally domesticated in Southeast Asia.  From there, they were initially transported to other parts of the world, not for food, but for cock fighting.  In Greek fables, even lions were afraid of roosters.

Chickens are sociable birds whose communities are based on a hierarchy or gruesome “pecking order” where “whipping birds” are chosen by the flock to peck mercilessly.  Dominant birds have priority for food and nesting locations.  Despite this instinctual practice, chickens are also prized for their courtesy.  When a rooster finds food, he often invites other chickens to join him by clucking, and holding up the food in his beak and dropping it before them.  Hens may also demonstrate this behavior with their chicks.  When courting a hen, a rooster may perform a “circle dance,” around the hen he fancies.

Chickens are omnivores.  In the wild, they often eat grass, and scratch at the soil in search of seeds, grain, insects and even larger animals such as lizards or young mice.

Hens are instinctually compelled to lay their eggs in the same location, or where other eggs are present.  Some farmers use this to their advantage by placing faux eggs (or golf balls) in their hen houses.  Sometimes, two hens will decide they both want the same nest and share it.  If the nest is a small one, one may lay its eggs while perched atop the other.

Chickens have been considered a sacred animal in many cultures.  The Romans are said to have used chickens as oracles, interpreting their flying and feeding patterns before battle.  Others have used them for sacrifice or vessels for evil.  The Jewish religious text, the Talmud speaks of learning courtesy toward one’s partner from the rooster:  “Had the Torah not been given to us, we would have learned modesty from cats, honest toil from ants, chastity from doves and gallantry from cocks.“ 1, 2

Chickens may live for five to ten years, depending on their breed.  Guiness World Records proclaimed an Old English Game hen named Matilda to be the World’s Oldest Living Chicken in 2004.  She was named after “Waltzing Matilda,” an Australian folk song due to her penchant for stepping side to side, appearing to “waltz.”  Near the end of her life, she performed in a magical act with her two caretakers.  She lived to a ripe old age of 16 years.  3

Chickens farmed for meat are called broiler chickens.  These chickens typically take less than 6 weeks to reach slaughter size. A free range or organic meat chicken will usually be slaughtered between 8-14 weeks of age.  4

For the ethically minded, purchasing chicken meat can be controversial.  So many choices to consider: Organic, free-range, pastured, local, home-grown, conventional (or textured vegetable protein).  Which was the “happiest” chicken?  Which is the most ecologically friendly?  Which is healthiest for us and our families?

Here are some links & articles to learn more about chicken farming practices:

USDA:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Organic Farming

U.S. Department of Agriculture; “Animal Raising Claims in the Labeling of Meat and Poultry Products”; October 2008

U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service: U.S. Certified Organic Farmland Acreage, Livestock Numbers, and Farm Operations

FAO:

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Animal Welfare and the Intensification of Animal Production

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Producing and Marketing Quality Organic Products: Opportunities and Challenges; October 1999

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Food Quality and Safety

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Approaches to Promoting Animal Welfare

Home-grown:

Judge John Hodgman Podcast Episode 68: The Cluck Stops Here

Slow Foods USA

Backyard Chickens

Articles:

Rachel Steffan.  “The Difference Between Organic & Free-Range Chicken.”  National Geographic.

Martin Hickman. “The true cost of cheap chicken.”  The Independent.

This week’s recipe is for Baked Chicken Nuggets.  Our nuggets are battered with corn flake crumbs. Cornflakes are low fat, crispy, golden, and inexpensive.   Many baked nugget recipes call for seasoned bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs, which are deep fried.  Our guilt-free crispy nuggets have all the flavor without the added fat.

Recommendation:

For extra juicy, flavorful chicken nuggets, marinate the chicken pieces in a brine overnight made from 1 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 2 cups of warm water.  Rinse and dry chicken before using.

Variations:

Use cookie cutters to cut the raw chicken into shapes before battering and baking.

Use large pieces of chicken for crispy chicken sandwiches.

Slice large chicken pieces into strips and serve with sticky rice and katsu sauce for Japanese chicken katsu.

Top nuggets with marinara sauce and mozzarella, and bake for an easy Italian entree.

For an entree salad, top with coarsely chopped nuggets.

Toss nuggets in sauce for boneless hot wings.

Baked Chicken Nuggets

Preparation Time:  45 minutes

Yield:  8-10 nuggets

Ingredients:

3/4 pound chicken, cut into 1.5″ x 1″ x 0.5″ pieces
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Optional: 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 egg, whisked
1 Tablespoon milk
1 cup corn flake crumbs
oil for baking sheet

Equipment:

1 medium bowl for chicken
3 small bowls for flour, egg wash & crumbs
baking sheet
spatula

Instructions:

1.  Place chicken in medium bowl.

Mix flour, salt, pepper, and optional seasonings in small bowl.

Mix egg and milk together in a second small bowl.

Place corn flake crumbs in a third small bowl.

2.  Dip piece of chicken in seasoned flour, shaking off excess flour.

3.  Dip floured chicken piece in egg wash.

4.  Dip washed chicken piece in corn flake crumbs.

5.  Arrange nuggets on lightly oiled baking sheet, leaving space around each nugget for optimal crisping.

6.  Bake 15-20 minutes in preheated 400F oven, until cooked through but still juicy.

7.  Serve warm with favorite dipping sauce.

 

September 1, 2012

Chickpea Falafel

This week’s featured food is the Chickpea, also known as the Garbanzo Bean.
The chickpea is a legume, or bean.
Its name is derived from the Latin word for chickpea, cicer.
Chickpeas are one of the earliest cultivated legumes: 7,500-year-old remains are reported to have been found in the Middle East, where they are enjoyed as a staple food.  1
There are many ways to eat chickpeas.  They can be consumed raw when young, soaked and boiled, or ground into a flour.  During World War 1, they were grown in some parts of Germany, roasted, and brewed like coffee.   Some varieties of chickpeas can even be popped and eaten like popcorn.  They are used whole in salads, ground into crispy falafel, soft tofu, or flatbread, used to batter fried foods, or roasted and candied.  2
Chickpeas are a source of zinc, folate, phosphorus, fiber, protein, and carbohydrate.  3, 4
This week’s recipe is for Falafel.  This mediterranean favorite is a great way to enjoy legumes as a finger food.  They are a complete meal in themselves, containing protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables.  Traditionally dipped in tahini sauce or tzatziki yogurt sauce, ranch/caesar dressing and even ketchup are also options.
Variations – Falafel Wrap:  Warm medium sized flour tortilla in skillet.  Line several falafel in the center of the tortilla, and top with julienned cucumber, tomato, lettuce, and favorite sauce/dressing.  Wrap as one would a burrito.  Serve warm.  Veggie Burger:  Make the patties a bit bigger, fry in a skillet, and serve in a bun.  Latin-style: Substitute black beans, cilantro,  and chili powder.

Falafel

Preparation Time:  45 minutes

Yield:  ~20 falafel

Ingredients:
1 – 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1 Tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
2 Tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional:  1/4 cup onion, minced
Optional:  2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons white flour (or 2 Tablespoons whole grain flour)
olive oil for hands & baking sheet
favorite dipping sauce
Optional:  vegetables for dipping

Equipment:
food processor or a bowl & fork
measuring cups
measuring spoons
plastic scraper
baking sheet

Instructions:
1.  Place ingredients in processor / bowl, except for flour, olive oil, and dipping sauce.

2.  Blend together ingredients until paste consistency, scraping processor sides with scraper if needed.

3.  Add flour, and pulse / stir until incorporated.

4.  Form “dough” into ~1″ balls with oiled hands.  Place on lightly oiled baking sheet.

5.  Bake ~20 minutes in preheated 400F oven, flipping once when sheet side is golden brown.

6.  Serve warm with favorite dipping sauce & vegetables.

References:
1.  Zohary, Daniel and Hopf, Maria, Domestication of Plants in the Old World (3rd edition), Oxford University Press, 2000, p 110.
http://mansfeld.ipk-gatersleben.de/pls/htmldb_pgrc/f?p=185:46:1125071578949601::NO::module,mf_use,source,taxid,akzname:mf,,volksnam,30808,Cicer%20arietinum%20subsp.%20arietinum
3.  Pittaway, JK; Robertson, IK; Ball, MJ (2008). “Chickpeas may influence fatty acid and fiber intake in an ad libitum diet, leading to small improvements in serum lipid profile and glycemic control.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 108 (6): 1009–13.
August 15, 2012

Raw Date Cookies

This week’s featured ingredient is nature’s gummy vitamin:  Barhi Dates!

Dates are believed to have originated in the Middle East.

They have been a traditional staple food in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, the Sudan, Arabia and Iran.   In Islamic culture, dates and yogurt or milk are traditionally the first foods consumed for Iftar after the sun has set during Ramadan.  1
Today they are also cultivated in the deserts of the US, including Indio, California,  just an hour’s drive from my home in Joshua Tree!
In the Sahih Bukhari, Muhammad is quoted as saying, “He who eats seven dates every morning, will not be affected by poison or magic on the day he eats them.”   2
Its name comes from the Ancient Greek word for fingerdáktulos, because of the fruit’s elongated shape.
There are three main groups of dates: soft (e.g. ‘Barhi’, ‘Halawy’, ‘Khadrawy’, ‘Medjool’), semi-dry (e.g. ‘Dayri’, ‘Deglet Noor’, ‘Zahdi’), and dry (e.g. ‘Thoory’).
Dates ripen in four stageskimri (unripe), khalal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), tamr (ripe, sun-dried).
Barhi dates have a soft, almost caramel-like texture and flavor, especially in the rutab stage.  They are one of the few varieties that are also enjoyed in the halal stage, when they are yellow and crunchy, and taste like a cross between a persimmon and an apple.  They ripen during the Summer (see photos below).
Dates are used in a variety of ways around the world.  They are pitted and stuffed with fillings such as nuts, candied orange peel, marzipan or cream cheese.  Dates are also used in puddings, cakes, milk shakes, and savory dishes.  Dates can be processed into syrups, powders or “sugars,” and more recently sparkling date juice.
The fruit and its syrup are claimed to have many medicinal qualities, including easing tummy troubles, and soothing a sore throat.  3
Dates provide a wide range of essential nutrients, such as potassium, boron, cobalt, copper, fluorine, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc, as well as sugars and fiber.  4

A Visit to Shields’ Date Garden

Indio, California, home of the National Date Festival, is just an hour  from my home in Joshua Tree.  Barhi dates are now in season, so my husband, Patrick and I jumped in the car and drove down to Shields’ Date Garden to enjoy the harvest.
Floyd and Bess Shields came to the California desert in 1924 and started Shields Date Garden, a date grove with a gift shop, cafe, and “theater” showing a film about date cultivation and nutrition.  5
The Shields’ Date Tree Grove (note the ladders hanging from the trunks):
So many dates to sample!
The three delicious stages of Barhi dates:
Patrick tastes a Yellow Barhi:
This week’s recipe is for Raw Date Cookies.  Kids love making and eating these wholesome cookies.  Barhi dates have a distinctive caramel flavor, and smooth texture.  See Reference section below for mail order suppliers.  Or, just substitute another more widely available delicious soft date: Medjools.  One can substitute one’s favorite nut butter and sweet spice as well.
Variation: Enrobe cookies in melted chocolate or ganache.

Raw Date Cookies

Preparation Time:  15 minutes

Yield:  25-30 cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup oat bran or quick oats, plus a little extra for “dusting”
1 cup almond butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
1/2-3/4 cup barhi dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
toppings, such as nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate
Equipment:
bowl
measuring cups
measuring spoons
spoon or hands

Instructions:
1.  Stir together oat bran, almond butter, cinnamon, and salt.

2.  Stir in date chunks, leaving chunks of date in the dough.
3.  Form into bite-sized balls.
4.  Roll balls in a little oat bran.
5.  Decorate with favorite toppings, or enrobe in melted chocolate.  Enjoy!
Cookies can be stored in the refrigerator/freezer in air-tight container for up to 2 months.
References:
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