If You Like Olive Oil

Then don’t use an unsealed spout like the one pictured below on your oil and don’t store the oil near your stove top. After just a couple of weeks, a fresh bottle of oil has gone rancid from constant exposure to the air and possibly the warmth of the stove, developing a bitter taste that makes it completely unusable for salad dressing or any fresh application.

My typical olive oil brand, Napa Valley Naturals, has been including these plastic spouts for free on their olive oil bottles, but I think they’re doing their customers a disservice. I suspect that the spout was more of a factor in the rancidity problem than the stove, but only science could be sure. Experiment time?

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Below: A fresh bottle of olive oil with a nasty one in the background.

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Iron Chef – Natural Epicurean Style

Today we got a double dose of labs – normally each day of class consists of a half-day of lecture/demonstration and a half-day of cooking lab. Wednesday we got two lab sessions – woo!

Lab 1: Tomatoes and Peppers

Tomatoes and/or peppers are elemental foods in multiple cultures: Italian, Mexican, Thai, Korean, etc. Filled with fiber, several vitamins and minerals (notably, vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta-carotene), and antioxidants, peppers and tomatoes are nutritious and delicious. Their color and heat are clues to some of their nutritive properties – antioxidants are often most prevalent in brightly colored vegetables and fruits.

Below: A wide array of shapes and colors were presented in our selection of peppers. At the bottom, habanero peppers and just to the right of that, ghost chiles – the hottest chiles I am aware of. 

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The Beans Cooketh Nicely

Today, we got more nutrition info in our morning lecture, and afternoon cooking lab had us working with the beans we cooked yesterday.

Nutrition Lecture with Radhia Gleis

Today was another lecture with Radhia Gleis, a local nutrition expert with 26 years of experience practicing clinical nutrition from a certified and highly educated, yet non-mainstream perspective. Radhia covered a ton of topics today – protein, fats, genetically modified food, antioxidants…  Some highlights that stuck with me:

  • Certain amino acids are linked to performance of specific body functions (neurotransmitters, blood sugar maintenance, immune responses, muscle development, etc.)
  • Radhia believes that saturated fat is not as bad as commonly thought. She says that saturated fat and cholesterol are not the primary causes of heart disease, but rather inflammation caused by consuming processed food.
  • The ratio of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats can improve or harm health as it varies within your diet. Higher ratios of O3 to O6 (i.e., more flax oil, more omega-3 rich fish, more good oils) are associated with less body inflammation, a major cause of disease. (Read more on fat ratios.) What are good oils? Flax oil is the best. Canola, walnut, and olive oils are not great, but far better than corn oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower oil. Those oils are very high in omega 6 compared to omega 3, and consuming lots of those oils can wreak all kinds of inflammatory havoc in your body. Incidentally, the best oils are also the least stable – they require refrigeration, protection from light, and avoidance of oxygen exposure. This also makes the BEST oils the MOST expensive. So, they aren’t very useful for processed food applications, which must be shelf stable AND cheap. The lesson – minimize consumption of processed foods and good food costs more money.
  • Rancid oils contains lots of free radicals, which are very harmful to the body.

Lab Kitchen

Below: Moroccan chickpea stew – it was quite hearty, with warm cinnamon and creamy chickpeas. 

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Below: We do occasionally pan-fry in the kitchenyum yum!

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Below: Some pan-fried black bean patties I cooked.

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Below: Plating some hummus.

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Below: Chef Alex leads us through our cooking de-briefing discussion.

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Below: A lovely savory bean puree.

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Today’s Dietitian

I’ve been subscribing to Today’s Dietitian for several months and have found an occasional article useful. This month’s magazine, in addition to being delicious, had an article about how low levels of omega-3 fats can result in memory problems. How topical, considering today’s lecture. This month’s issue had a couple of decent-looking recipes, too.

On the back cover, Today’s Dietitian shows its true colors – a full-page color ad for no-calorie, processed dressings and sauces. Ugh!

Remember kids, real food is more than calories. It’s even more than carbs, fats, and protein.

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Broccoli and Carrot Salad

A simpler recipe here – some lightly steamed veggies with a super simple vinaigrette (2 T olive oil + 2 T lemon juice + salt and pepper). This salad offers lots of fiber, tons of outstanding vitamins and minerals, and just enough oil to coat the beans and vegetables.

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Below: A meyer lemon from South Texas. I had to curb my instinct to grab the shinier, brighter, and yellower lemons from more distant lands (somewhere in the “USA”). It doesn’t show in the photo, but this lemon was dull looking and a bit marred with skin defects. Nevertheless, I bought “local”, and enjoyed a lovely lemon flavor. Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either an orange or a mandarin.

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Below: Two minutes of steam brighten up the veggies marvelously without diminishing their crunch. The chickpeas offer their customary firm texture and mild yet wholesome flavor, and the lemon gives just the right amount of acidity. A nice, quick, and very easy side dish.

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