Farmer’s Market Carrots

You think that you know about carrots. Orange, ordinary, good for roasting, cartoon rabbits like them. I thought I knew about carrots, too. Portable, nutritious, packed with nutrients – they’re pretty good for snacking.

I picked up the sweet babies shown below at the downtown farmer’s market. That’s when I really learned about carrots. These precious things are instantly recognizable as way better than the usual. The outsides are bright, fresh, and clean, like they were just pulled from the garden. Shiny and alive, they make you realize how good a carrot can be. And the taste is sweeter, crisper, and less sharp than a store-brought carrot. If you think you don’t like carrots, these might change your mind.

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Thai sandwich

I decided to visit my old friend gluten to see how my body would handle it after a year of being gluten free. So far, mixed but encouraging results. One benefit is that I get to eat a classic French baguette. It looks beautiful, smells beautiful, and feels beautiful. When toasted, it becomes something even more magical. Crusty, aromatic, warm, and golden, the baguette is an icon of the French culture. Baguettes are ubiquitous in South Louisiana, where I grew up, and where they were slathered with not-so-healthy, but delicious, mayo, cabbage, and fried shrimp.

I decided to cobble together a Thai-inspired sandwich on a baguette, which was introduced to Thailand by the French. This sandwich, a take off the Thai banh mi, included:

  • peanut butter
  • fish sauce
  • carrot
  • kale (not traditional, but I wanted something to replace the typical meat filling)
  • cilantro
  • green onion
  • sriracha sauce

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Microplane Grater

The Microplane grater has been a frequently used instrument in my culinary toolbox. It handles citrus rind and ginger amazingly well, both of which appeal to me greatly as flavor boosters. I used Mr. Grater with fine results tonight, creating a bold dish of zesty rice and chard. I prefer my flavors to be bold – I don’t tread gingerly when it comes to taste — it grates on me when the aroma and flavor of food is hidden. Don’t hold back the flavors! (various puns, intended and not)

Ginger is notoriously difficult to process with just a knife. It’s a stringy, dense root that challenges the intrepid chef with it’s convoluted folds and narrow form. The first challenge is the thin, not-quite-papery skin which you must pare away without losing too much of the life-giving ginger. Then you have to transform the ginger into small pieces and/or a paste. This is because ginger is incredibly potent and large pieces have been known to make eyes water, although it’s a really magical and delicious kind of eye watering.

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Iron

You probably know that iron is a required nutrient in your diet. But why? And are you getting enough? Where can you get it? Don’t you need to eat lots of meat to get enough iron?

Role of Iron in the Body

Iron is used by each cell in your body for metabolic processes required for life. It also helps transport oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body because of it’s presence in hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is part of red blood cells. Deficiency can result in fatigue, weakened immunity, and in infants can result in developmental problems.

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Black Soybean Salad

Another great recipe from Big Vegan, this time a black soybean salad with dulse and carrots.

Dulse

Dulse is a sea vegetable, some might call it a “seaweed.” It has an aroma of the sea, which I find pleasing. In this case, it was packaged in flakes which are then soaked and then squeezed before use. According to wikipedia (1), it’s rich in vitamins, protein, and other elements. It is said to be commonly used in Northern Atlantic regions such as Ireland and the Northeastern USA. Sea vegetables are a key part of a macrobiotic diet, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post. More than you ever wanted to know about sea vegetables is available on the Whole Foods website.

Below: Dulse flakes.

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Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?

“Gluten-free” is a phrase discussed widely these days. It’s on products, in restaurants, in the news, and at the water cooler. Parents bandy concerns about gluten about like it’s the next attention deficit disorder (ADD), or that it may cause ADD. Other people, especially the types who think ADD itself is bunk, consider “gluten” to be an over-used, worn out buzzword.

Below: This blog is brought to you by gluten free bagels.

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What Gluten Isn’t

Gluten isn’t a fad. It’s not a weight loss plan. It’s not a performance enhancement strategy. You might lose weight if you stop eating gluten, and you might feel better, but not because gluten is universally bad for you.

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Tofu Manufacture

I spent a couple of hours researching the manufacture of tofu. I like bullets, so here’s the process. Some endnotes are given for those interested.

  • Start with dried soybeans
  • Soak for many, many hours
  • Grind beans into a paste
  • Boil the paste with water
  • Strain out the liquid, discarding the solids (okara) (1)
  • Heat the liquid and add a coagulant (commonly, calcium chloride) (2)
  • Strain out the solids, or curds, and discard the liquids (3)
  • Put the solids into a mold
  • Press the solids until a solid, yet soft, block has been formed

Video

Here’s a great little YouTube video on the process:

End Notes

(1) Okara is mostly fiber and some protein. It is used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisine, but mainly for animal consumption.

(2) Calcium chloride adds a significant amount of calcium to tofu, making it a source of calcium comparable to milk. Tofu seems to be not quite as good a source for calcium as milk, but close – about 70% by volume. Manufacturing techniques vary and could raise or decrease that figure. Not all tofu is made with calcium chloride.

(3) These soy curds are rich in protein, with some fat and carbohydrate. Since this is what tofu is made of, tofu is mainly water (84% by weight), protein, fat, and carbohydrate.

More Info

http://www.justhungry.com/2006/03/milking_the_soy.html and http://www.justhungry.com/milking-soy-bean-part-2-tofu

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4393/2

Nog Face Off

I don’t want to give up on finding a decent non-dairy nog, but seeing eggnog in the stores this year brought on a sudden and disappointing feeling. For someone like me who sees the annual arrival of egg nog as a nostalgia-inducing signal of the winter holiday season and all that comes with it, finding a non-dairy nog that tastes delicious would means reconnecting with a part of myself and my past.

I decided to try a few non-dairy nogs with a bit of skepticism that any would be a sufficient stand-in for the dairy version.

Traditional Nog

Traditional nog is made with milk/cream, sugar, egg, a bit of spice (cinnamon and/or nutmeg) and often a liquor of some type. The challenge with vegan nog is to replicate the mouthfeel of creamy cow’s milk/cream and the natural flavor of the cream and egg. Continue reading

Portobello

Mushrooms have been my latest fascination. In prior blog posts, I’ve discussed their nutritional properties while roasting them, and sauteeing them. What are mushrooms, anyway?

The mushroom you can eat and see is the fruiting body of a fungus. The main part of the fungus is the mycelium that you never see. It runs like a thread of cells through the soil and other matter near the surface of the ground. A mycelium can run for miles and some species of fungus can be among the heaviest organisms on earth, once you factor in the weight of the fungal cells stretched out over an area of hundreds of acres.

Fungus is an organism that does not use the process of photosynthesis, this is one reason why fungi are not in the Plant Kingdom – they have their own kingdom in biological nomenclature. Fungi use enzymes to break down the compounds adjacent to them – organic matter such as trees and soil – and break it down for energy. Fungi provide a useful service by breaking down organic matter and helping to recycle its elements back into nature.

Below: A beautiful portobello mushroom. A portobello is another name for a crimini mushroom which has reached over 4″ – 6″ in diameter.

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Below: Shiitake mushrooms. I got these a the Sunset Valley Farmer’s Market and I found them to be a bit dry. Nevertheless, I sauteed them into a nice plate of warm greens.

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Below: The backyard garden collards are being eaten by a species of catepillar. I can understand why – the greens are tender and mild.

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Below: Portabello sandwiches have been a favorite of mine recently. I’ve found there to be variation in the flavor of the mushrooms. Perhaps I’m cooking them too hard, or the cast iron is somehow robbing them of flavor. The capers on this sandwich are one of my favorite condiments. They’re salty, acidic, and speak in the vernacular of the Mediterranean.

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Below: I decided to try a vegan mayonnaise, as it’s a condiment I use on sandwiches fairly often (too often), and I’d like to avoid eating too much egg. I chose this brand of “vegenaise” because it had the fewest ingredients of all of the vegan mayos.

Traditional mayonnaise is basically oil + egg + vinegar/lemon juice (an acid) + spices like garlic and mustard. This vegan mayo seems to use soy protein to help provide the protein properties lost by leaving out the egg.

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(1) http://www.mushroomexpert.com

(2) http://philip-mcintosh.suite101.com/introduction-to-mushrooms-a98013

(3) http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Articles/Produce-638/portobello.aspx