Monday, January 02, 2006

Three Salads and Dressings

Recipes:

1. Tossed Lasagne Bits Salad w/ Lemon Zest, Olive Oil, and Parmesan Cheese

  • Diet Direction: Cleansing
  • % Calories from Fat = 12%
  • % Calories from Carbohydrates = 75%
  • % Calories from Protein = 13%

2. Composed Butter Lettuce & Arugula Salad with Satsuma Segments and Tomato-Sage Chutney & Yogurt Dressing

  • Diet Direction: Balancing
  • % Calories from Fat = 32%
  • % Calories from Carbohydrates = 56%
  • % Calories from Protein = 11%

3. Warmed Spinach and Escarole Salad w/Shallot, White Wine, and Dill Dressing

  • Diet Direction: Higher-Fat/Lower-Protein Building
  • % Calories from Fat = 62%
  • % Calories from Carbohydrates = 18%
  • % Calories from Protein = 20%

4. EXTRA: Garbanzo Bean Salad w/Onions, Oregano and No-Chicken Broth

  • Diet Direction: Cleansing
  • % Calories from Fat = 19%
  • % Calories from Carbohydrates = 65%
  • % Calories from Protein = 16%


The Experience:

Recipe #1: Tossed Salad
Well if there was ever an excuse for the “accidental salad” this has to be it. This salad “emerged” after I boiled too many lasagna noodles for a freshly-made lasagna dish I was working on. Not wanting to throw the extra noodles away I wondered how I could make use of them. I also had some fresh olive oil I had just bought that was very flavorful. So I decided then to make a tossed pasta salad, using the lasagna noodles cut up into small ½” bits, along with some olive oil, fresh oregano, parmesan reggiano, and some lemon zest for a little spunk. Initially, it tasted a little bitter (because of the oregano and parmesan I thought). So I added a little rapadura, and this seemed to even the flavour out. I served it more like an “amise bouche”, on small plates. It went off extremely well! This recipe is a definite “keeper”!

Recipe #2: Composed Salad

We recently had a salad in class with orange segments, so I felt that I had to do something with oranges. I looked for the freshest greens in Whole Foods and found some beautiful butter lettuce and “muddied” Arugula – perfect! Satsuma oranges were also fresh, so that took care of my orange fetish-of-the-week. Lastly, I had made lasagna and had all this tomato peel and seeds available to me – so presto, a chutney was born.

"Composing" a Composed Salad
(Chef Patañjali "in-the-works")


But to make things interesting, I decided to use more “western” herbs, and settled for Sage. The Tomato-Sage chutney turned out well, and had a very unique flavor, unlike any other chutney I had made before. But I wanted to drizzle the dressing on the composed salad, so I mixed the chutney with some yogurt to create a spicy-creamy combination. I layered the salad greens, placed the Satsuma segments on top, and drizzled over it with the dressing just before serving. People raved at the combination of spice (chutney), bitterness (arugula), and butter lettuce. It really was both fun to make and very delicious. Also a definite “keeper” for my recipe book.

Recipe #3: Warmed Salad

I use one rule of thumb, not only when I make salads, but also in general, when I go shopping for ingredients. Whatever is the freshest, I just buy it, and make use of it in something. This was true with the spinach at Rainbow Co-Op the other day. The spinach was extraordinarily green and fresh, and so it became the focal point of my warmed salad. I used some leftover escarole as a base, and massaged-in some olive oil and set aside. This was something we did with kale some time ago, and I wondered how it would work with escarole. I also wanted to make use of some dill, as my wife, Jasmin, had said that it was one of those herbs she really liked. With shallots and butter in hand, I created a sauté and reduced it with some leftover white wine. The dill blended marvelously with the wine-reduced shallots. Blending it with yogurt created a beautiful creamy dressing sensation. This salad was also a composed one.


Warmed Spinach and Escarole Salad
w/Shallot, White Wine, and Dill Dressing


The escarole served as the base. I warmed some spinach leaves in a frypan (no oil, just some heat) and placed them on top of each plate of escarole leaves. The dressing followed on top. I finished it off with some grated mozzarella cheese. Somehow, this was truly one of the best salads I had created. There was complete silence at the table as people consumed. This one surely has some great potential!


Recipe #4 (EXTRA): Warmed Garbanzo Bean Salad

I wanted to use garbanzo beans as a starter so I decided to make a warmed salad with garbanzo beans and oregano. To bring out the flavour of the beans, I added sautéed onions, white wine, and completed it with a no-chicken broth reduction. The use of fresh oregano in the final stages provided an amazing aroma to the dish. I used goat cheese as an optional garnish at the end. I really liked the texture of the goat cheese with the garbanzo beans. However, goat cheese can sometimes tend to be overpowering. In future, I might try another cheese that has a similar consistency to goat cheese, but doesn’t have the same flavour. I wonder how mild ricotta cheese would be? Mmmm. I like it already!




Health Benefits

Oregano
Oregano is one of the most beneficial herbs in existence. In addition to having high anti-inflammatory properties, and the ability to stimulate bile production (aiding in digestion), its oils have painkilling properties as powerful as morphine!! Their anti-oxidant powers are well-documented. For example, fresh oregano is known to have antioxidant capabilities that are : “… 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries.” In addition to having anti-bacterial properties that bind to free radicals and cancer-causing toxins in the colon, fresh oregano is also high in fiber. From the looks of it, an “apple a day, might keep the doctor/cancer away”, but an “ounce of oregano, can keep a lifetime of agony away”. I’m stalking up on my oregano right now!

Dill Weed
Surprisingly, dill weed has a healthy dose of calcium, making it a great herb to help treat bone loss. It also protects against free-radical damage and prevents the growth of bad-bacteria. Dill has a long, global history. Its roots go as wide as Russia, Asia, and the Middle East. Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine, used dill in a recipe to clean the mouth of bacteria and germs. Forget listerine, this is one tasty mouthwash!!

Sage
Another wonder herb, used in Europe for over 2000 years (!!), sage, is known to help with many stomach-related ailments, such as indigestion, and lack of appetite. In fact, the German government recognizes the herb as an officially sanctioned stomach remedy! It also protects against oral inflammation, perspiration, rhinitis and sore throats. Like rosemary, sage is also known as an outstanding memory enhancer. Its anti-inflammatory properties also help reduce concentrations of inflammatory molecules, such as leukotriene B4, a key cause of oxygen-related damage to cells. In general, sage is an amazing herb, with phenomenal healing properties.


References

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Mid-Winter Night Puree
Butternut Squash, Carrot, and Red Pepper Puree
w/Coconut Green Apple Cream Drop

The Diet Direction: Balancing Diet (w/Low-Protein and Higher-Fat)

  • % Calories from Fat = 42%
  • % Calories from Carbohydrates = 52%
  • % Calories from Protein = 6%
    (Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A = Lots!!!!!)


Some Background:

Well, I'm almost half-way through culinary school -- hard to believe! We recently had our mid-terms, and it was quite an experience indeed. Think of it as "iron chef" meets "nutrition". Each person arrived on their set mid-term day, and was handed a basket with various categories (appetizer, soup, salad, entree, dessert). You picked a category, and you were then given a brown-bag with three (3) secret ingredients. You were then given about 2 hours to create a healthy recipe using those ingredients. Thankfully, you had access to the "common table" which contained items that you could use (but you had to share with everyone else).

For more suspense, read on for what secret ingredients I received, and what I ended up doing with them ...


The Experience:

Nervous? Just a little. I was more nervous about what category I would get, as opposed to what ingredients. But then again, would I end up with something that I would be “uncomfortable” cooking with, due to my lack of experience? (i.e. chicken, fish.). When I got my ingredients, some people thought “oh dear”, but I was relieved. Even though butternut squash and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship (at times rather contemptuous), she was still a vegetable. I could deal with vegetables. Although, the last time I pureed a butternut squash for a soup, it was a commonly referred to as “complete disaster”. I should have cooked it first – sigh (maybe that’s why I ended up at Bauman?).

Next, I immediately knew that the sour granny smith apple should not be blended with the squash – how would those competing flavours “duke” themselves out in this dish? Shallots – easy. I would use them as a sauté base for the puree (then again, only afterwards, I wondered, what would have roasted shallots as a garnish tasted like? Too powerful maybe?).

So Butternut Squash, Granny Smith Apple, and Shallots were my three “secret” ingredients. I immediately sat down in a corner of the room and put pen-to-paper. I had to plan it out. I knew that if I just “started” I would get lost, and lose focus, and mess something up. I drew a diagram and wrote down each ingredient and added their complimentary one’s to it. I realized quickly that I needed to avoid the repeat of the last time, and something I remember reading in my Bauman text – roasting makes a puree much better! Yes, “cook it before” I thought. I also noted that carrots go well with squash, and so I knew that I needed to add those as well (but that they also don’t roast well). By the time I finished drawing and diagramming (I spent a good 5-10 minutes), I had a plan: Roast the squash in large dices; Roast the red pepper (yum!); and Blanch the carrots. For the sauté, butter, yes, lovely, tasty butter, because it’s really really nutritious and it also tastes good. This puree is going to have some might!

What to do with the apple? I thought of a garnish. That could have been interesting, but I didn’t want people to taste/bight the “sour” before they had the soup – it’s a winter vegetable (the squash) after all, so some warmth would be nice. What came to my mind was creating opposing textures, and opposing temperatures and complimentary tastes. So my plan was to “drop suspend” the apple in a chilli cream base (all blended together), so that the taster would get the warm slightly-sweet soup (natural) first, and then the cold creamy apple chilli cream next. To bring out the flavour, I decided to chop and roast that as well.

The rest was more or less straightforward: I would combine all the ingredients in the blender and puree. The sauté would be using butter, and include the shallots, and I would pour the puree in and simmer until serving. In the meantime, I would make the “drop suspend” with some lovely crème fraiche or some other dairy-based cream – mixing in some fresh chillies and the green apple – oh yum.

Well, “oh yum”, quickly turned into “oh dear!”. After looking left, right, up, and down, I realized that we had no cream! We had milk, but that would have made it too liquidy, and I didn’t have the time to try and reduce that into a creamy texture, and I didn’t want to use some thickener that would take away from the flavour, and not give me quite the texture. So I was in a bind. How can I create something that wouldn’t go badly with the puree, yet still give me the thick texture that I want? What could possibly be solid at room temperature so that I could accomplish this feat (there comes in my scientific mind – I knew it would be useful some day!). Of course – coconut milk! Coconut solidifies at room temperature (i.e. the oil), so if I could get rid of most of the water, I should be able to get something close to the texture and consistency that I want.

So that’s what I did! While the puree was simmering (and by the way, I also decided to keep it naturally flavoured, for the most part, but did a dry-saute of sea salt, cumin, and coriander seed and put it in the blender to bring out the complimentary flavours a little more), I sautéed some jalapeno chillies and lemongrass in coconut oil, and added in the minced and roasted green apple. I added in the coconut milk and reduced for some time. It got thick, but it was still warm. So I created an ice-bath and speed-chilled the coconut milk concoction until it was a very thick cream (almost solid).

When the puree was ready I bowled the soup. I took a melon scoup and created one tiny ball of “coconut chilli apple cream sensation” and dropped it carefully into the middle. I finished with a garnish of finely chopped cilantro, and a pinch of the dry sauté mixture (just a little).

In the end, I was very pleased with myself. I managed to stick to my original plan, albeit with a replacement strategy for the “drop suspension”, and created what I thought was the perfect thick puree soup for a cold mid-winter.

The one thing I would have changed is using a little less jalapeno in the cream. I used a little more jalapeno than I should have – it had a kick to it. But then, I thought to myself, you can’t have a winter without the “one day” of surprise sunshine – well, it was maybe a lot of sun. This mid-term, mid-winter night puree, was going to nudge you out of those winter blues, that’s for sure!!!


Health Benefits

Coriander Seeds

Most people don’t realize that when coriander seeds are planted in soil, they turn into cilantro. But the seed form of the cilantro has some great medicinal properties that cilantro does not (at least not to the same extent). Known for its aromatic properties in foods, it is used commonly in herbal remedies as an antidote for stomach ailments. It contains enzymes and anti-oxidants that prevent animal fats from going rancid by killing meat-spoiling bacteria and fungi. The same elements also prevent wounds from becoming infected. The Romans, as well as the Indians, used it to treat wounded soldiers. Next time you have a cut, sprinkle some grated coriander seed to prevent it from becoming worse and/or infected!


Butternut Squash

Is one of those vegetables that have an enormous amount of Beta-Carotene and Vitamin A – hence it’s beautiful yellow/orange color! Both beta-carotene and vitamin A contribute to healthy skin, bones, and teeth. It also contains a solid amount of Vitamin C and potassium. Both vitamins give the vegetable anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties when consumed. Recently, it’s also been known as an antidote for asthma, particularly in children.


Granny Smith Apple

Any type of apple is good for you – high in quercetin flavanoids that are known to help reduce heart-disease and certain forms of cancer. They also have a good combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as a good dose of vitamin C and potassium. Certain phytochemicals found in Apples, have been known to reduce tumours in laboratory experiments. What was also amazing that just 100g of apple and skins (one small apple) had the impact of taking 1500 mg of vitamin C capsules. This is highly illustrative of the fact that live, natural foods, can have a greater impact on the body than even natural-chemically produced vitamins. Truly, eating an apple day, can keep even more than the doctor away!!


References

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday Celebration - Japanese-Fusion

Menu:


  1. Thai Pumpkin & Cilantro Chutney w/ Pineapple on Rye Crisps (Appetizer)
  2. Tofu Vichysoisse (Soup)
  3. Sake & Pomegranate Juice Marinated Tofu, baked in Nori Wrapper (Main)
  4. Shitake mushrooms reduced in marinade spill-over (Side)

    Extra Prepared Items:
  5. Thanksgiving Raw Canapes (Extra)
  6. Curry Leaf Roti (Extra)
The Diet Direction: Building Diet (Leaning towards)



  • % Calories from Fat = 40%
  • % Calories from Carbohydrates = 37%
  • % Calories from Protein = 24%


The Experience:

I got all excited after our Japanese class to do my first Japanese-style dinner! What I really wanted to do is modify a recipe by renowned Japanese Chef, Masahiro Kurusu (Masterclass in Japanese Cooking. Authored by Emi Kazuko. © 2002 Pavilion Books, UK.), and make-it-my-own by using pomegranate juice around the entree and finishing it with a nori wrap bake (similar to what we did in the Macrobiotics class). Unfortunately, I ran into some problems. Firstly, I didn’t want to use fish. Secondly, the nori-wrap got scrapped, because I did something dumb (which I will tell you about in a second).

So what to do about the fish? Substitute I say! So tofu became the replacement and the rest is history! What I liked about the Masterclass in Japanese Cooking recipe was the use of Sake for marinating the main ingredient. It sounded really interesting, and I wanted to try it. So I combined the proper ingredients from the original recipe into a bowl (including shoyu, mirin, rice vinegar, sea salt), and added my own – pomegranate juice, and black pepper. I figured that the sour-bitter taste of the pomegranate juice would balance out the sweetness from the mirin and sake – and that it did and more! I sliced the tofu into small “bricks” – not too thick – and placed them in a casserole dish and poured the marinade over them. I sealed the dish with some plastic wrap.

While marinating the tofu for a good 45-60 minutes in the fridge, I started preparing the other items. Since I had already made the chutney, I took less time to prepare the appetizer – breaking rye crips into squares first, and sautéing some small tofu squares without oil on a frypan. Each crisp was layered first with the tofu square, then with some chutney, and finished with flaked parmesan cheese, drizzled, and a small “poof” of coconut flakes. Ready to serve with some nice wine! And boy, did everyone love it! I even had to make extra and “sneak-eat” them whilst I prepared them so I could enjoy them too!





Thai Pumpkin & Cilantro Chutney
w/ Pineapple on Rye Crisps

With the appetizer out of the way, the guests feeling somewhat “covered” for the time being, I decided to make the tofu vichyssoise. Now, I will admit, I had heard of “vichyssoise” before but never tried it. For some reason I thought that it is usually made with seafood, but learned quickly that it’s actually potatoes that are the main base. But this recipe called for the use of tofu, and blending it into a smooth paste. I didn’t make too much adjustment to the original recipe, except using a little Braggs Liquid Aminos for some flavour. After some careful balancing, I “bowled” the soups and garnished them genoursly with chopped chives and ceremoniously placed each one in the fridge to chill.


Tofu Vishyssoise

Now, back to the tofu ….

I pulled the marinaded tofu out of the fridge and looked them over. They looked quite good – the tofu changed colour, and started to crack slightly – which meant that it started to absorb some of the marinade more deeply. Cool. Just what I wanted!



Sake & Pomegrante Marinated Tofu


I had some mushrooms staring at me, so I thought that I should make use of them somehow. How about serving the “naked” tofu with them. So I poured some of the marinade out of the casserole dish and placed it in a bowl. I heated some oil and prepared the sliced mushrooms. As they heated up and browned nicely I added the marinade “spill-over” and let it reduce in the mushrooms.

In the meantime, I placed the casserole dish into the oven (which had heated to 425 degrees by this time), open-faced, and let the tofu bake for about 20 minutes or so.

Now, can you see what happened? What happened to the Nori sheets? Well, the nori were still in the fridge, waiting to be removed and wrapped around the tofu. I felt like a Parent who had just left their child all alone in the shopping center (my inner child was clearly overwhelming my “inner nori” at this point!).

Well, by this point, it was too late! I couldn’t take the tofu out in its almost-baked state, and re-wrap the nori, which would have probably “sogged up” at this point and ruined the dish.



Sake & Pomegranate Juice Marinated Tofu
w/ Shitake Mushrooms Fricasse

In any case, I left my “inner nori” alone (as well as my inner child), and served the tofu in dual-pieces with the shitake marinade (by then the soup was already consumed. Thankfully, they didn’t have to launch a parental strike on me!). But they looked beautiful and I got ravingly positive comments about the outcome. The Vichyssoise was not enjoyed by all – but one person loved it – and he was also very familiar with the dish. The appetizer positively skewed the meal overall.

Thankfully, my inner child survived. Maybe next time, I can help my “inner nori” survive too.


Extras
I had fun making a “raw” dish that people didn’t realize was raw! The Thanksgiving canapés celebrated all that is “fresh” and “wholesome” about thanksgiving. I layered the raw cashew spread (modified) with cheese, shredded celery (to give a 3-dimensional look) and sprinkles of coconut flakes to give the impression of a “building of foods”. I think people had at least as much fun eating it as I had in putting it together!



Thanksgiving Raw Canapes
(Raw Cashew Red Pepper Spread
w/Sheep Cheese, Egg, Shredded Celery,
Roasted Zucchini, Sesame Seeds,
and Coconut Flake Sprinkles)



"Up Close and Personal"
Thanksgiving Raw Canapes


One interesting challenge: I had to transport them to a party, and I was unsure how to make them first, and take them, without them falling apart.

A quick bite (mind the pun!) about the party:
One of my cool colleagues at Oracle, Candace Fender, and her equally-cool husband Miles, invited us to their home for Thanksgiving. It all happened rather unexpectedly. We were just chatting about our plans for the long weekend, and Jasmin and I had just moved into our home - so it was like "let's see, unpacking?". Having no plans, and probably partly-feeling sorry for us, they invited us to their gracious home. We had a great time -- there was way too much good food, and their home was spectacular (and in our favorite neighbourhood in San Francisco -- Casto/Eureka Valley). Of course, I had to offer to bring something..so hence how the Canapes came about.

(OK...that wasn't exactly a "quick bite", but when is good food ever "quick". *8) )

Now back to the canape challenge ...

So I took a lasagna pan, lined it with saran wrap (so the canapés wouldn’t slide), then layered that with parchment (because a saran wrap layer would make it stick), then another layer of saran wrap, canapés, and so on. I did this until I had completed all of the canapés, and sealed the top with aluminum foil. The result: They didn’t break! (Although, some did get a little “soggy” at the bottom, which was interesting. I think the “heat” from the cashews was the culprit!


Raw Thanksgiving Canapes Layered
in Parchment and Saran Wrap
(for Transport)


I also made some curry leaf rotis. Modified from the traditional roti recipe with white and whole wheat flours, the curry leaf gave an amazing flavour that made the rotis items to just munch on – no accompanying curry required!

Roti making process from class:



Step #1: Roll & Cook the Roti





Step #2: Finish by Roasting on Open Flame





Step #3: Rub Ghee and Store
in Towel-lined Container
(to keep moist)


Health Benefits

Pomegranate Juice

Increasingly, pomegrantes are being heralded as the new “antioxidant fire-power”. Recent studies are showing that they contain almost three-times as much disease-fighting potential as green tea or red wine. It is also very high in potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. It has been used in India and Persia in ancient times to treat inflammation, rheumatism, and sore throat symptoms. In ancient Babylonia, it was thought of as the “nectar of resurrection”. Maybe we could coax one or two western world leaders to drink a few pints of this every day – maybe their “resurrection” will be our world’s peace.

Rapadura

Made from raw, organic sugar cane, it’s one of the most un-refined and natural forms of sugar. It can be substituted for wherever refined white sugar is required. Unlike refined sugar, it is high in potassium, calcium, and iron, and possess energy-producing capabilities, without the downsides of refined sugars.

Galangal
Resembling ginger but known to have a sweeter taste, with a sometimes “black pepper” aroma, is considered to be an “aromatic stimulant, carminative and stomachic”. It has been used as an aphrodisiac in Asia and Europe for centuries. It is also known to help with nausea, flatulence, dyspepsia, rheumatism, among other ailments. Like ginger, it also possesses antibacterial qualities and is used for these properties in veterinary and homeopathic medicine. Interestingly, in India it has been used for millennia as a body deodorizer and remedy for halitosis remedy.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Cleansing Sunday Dinner

Menu:

  1. Mixed Heirloom Tomato & Carrot Peel Chutney w/ Braised Tofu on Rice Crackers (Appetizer)
  2. Cauliflower and Garbanzo Bean Flour Kefta in Tomato and Onion Sauce (Main Course)

The Diet Direction: Cleansing

  • % Calories from Fat = 20%
  • % Calories from Carbohydrates = 63%
  • % Calories from Protein = 17%


The Experience:

Learning from last cooking experience, I decided to get an early start this time – and it really paid off well! I arranged to go to the grocery store in the early afternoon and get the shopping experience out of the way. That left me several hours to do a slow and careful “mise en place” preparation. Given that the main dish would require two separate preparations that would need to be combined later on, I started putting together all the kefta ingredients together in a bowl, while getting the sauce going on the stove as well. The idea was, I might as well get the sauce and other items done first and set them aside and warm, increasing the heat just slightly before serving.

I wanted to make kefta balls, but I didn’t want to use anything too heavy. So the sauce became the heavier part of the dish, and the keftas light and moist. I had some challenges getting the right consistency, but after some careful trial and error, and adding water slowly (that was the trick!), I got the consistency I wanted.

After preparing the sauce and chutney and setting it aside, I started putting the appetizer together. After that was plated, I went ahead and served that right away. The guests got to munch on something while I worked on the main dish.




Mixed Heirloom Tomato & Carrot Peel Chutney
w/ Braised Tofu on Rice Crackers




Often, I will get everything done and serve, but that means people have to wait, and sometimes feel hungry. This way, I make sure they’re not restless, and while they are milling about and munching, I get to escape and finish off the main item.

The keftas turned out very well. It was interesting that the sauce was not that well received – I actually thought it was good. But the feedback was they thought it was not the right kind of sauce or thickness for this dish.


Cauliflower and Garbanzo Bean Flour Kefta



Keftas in Tomato & Onion Sauce




Plated and Garnished w/
Cilantro & Dried Coconut Flakes


So it looks like I will have to experiment with another type of sauce, something lighter perhaps? Something with less spice? Maybe next time I will get the right balance for this dish!


Health Benefits

Asafoetida

The root of the word asafoetida, “asa” comes from the Persian “aza” which stands for “resin”. It is the sap or “resin” from the root of a giant fennel that dates back to before the 4th Century BC, when Alexander the Great was to have carried this westward to Rome. It carries a “vile odour” that has garnered English names such as “Devil’s Dung”, and “Devil’s Durt”.


Plated and Garnished w/
Cilantro & Dried Coconut Flakes


But in reality, it has some rather interesting and useful properties. For example, used primarily in South Indian vegetarian food, it reduces flatulence caused by beans and spicy foods, and overall, aids in the easy digestion of most foods. It is also known as one of the world’s best natural insect repellants --- mixed with garlic, it will repel mosquitoes, gnats, and most other insects without fail. During the Mughal era in India, it was used to improve singing voices – court singers were known to have eaten one spoonful with butter while practicing for their royal patrons on the banks of the Yamuna river! It serves as a critical release vehicle for rich flavours in South Indian food, acting as an enzyme for most ingredients that are mixed with it after a sauté process. It’s taste, although reviled, has magical qualities that have made it a staple of ancient Ayurvedic medicines for millennia! Clearly, sometimes taste is not the best indicator of quality or utility!


Cauliflower

This cruciferous vegetable in its most common form is white in colour – the large green leaves prevent it from getting any chlorophyll, which in this particular case is a good thing, because if it does, it doesn’t taste very good. It is high in Vitamin C and has a good source of Vitamin K.
Research has shown that eating Cauliflower, along with sibling vegetables cabbage, brocooli, mustard greens, etc., can prevent cancer of the colon, stomach, and possibly the breast. The high-levels of indoles are the positive culprit here! Eating these vegetables over time can also significantly reduce bladder and prostate cancers. Mark Twain summed it up when he said about cauliflower: “Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education”.


Arugula


Arugula is actually a cruciferous vegetable as well (surprise!), and it contains large amounts of folate and calcium. In fact, it contains more than eight times as much calcium as iceberg lettuce (which is odd for a salad green). The dark green colour and bitter-tasting flavour come from the high levels of beta-carotene and Vitamin C (no other salad green has much Vitamin C as does arugula).
An interesting historical anecdote about Arugula --- the Romans treasured it for its apparent aphrodisiac properties, and used it in such concoctions as early as the 1 century AD! A typical Roman meal apparently contained a salad made from greens, Arugola (Arugula), romaine lettuce, chicory, mallow and lavender, with some seasoning. Those Romans, I tell you.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Spicy & Hearty Sunday Meal

Menu:

  1. Avocado & Tomato Chutney on Rice Crackers (Appetizer)
  2. Nutty, Wild Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Main Course)

The Experience:
This week’s Sunday dinner was a rushed affair, and unfortunately, I think it came across in the cooking. I was originally planning to host the dinner out our current home, where I have access to my ingredients, pots, pans, etc. But at the last minute, the venue moved to our friend’s home in Menlo Park, and I was thrust into the spotlight of a personal chef in-waiting – oh boy!
I managed to remember “most” of my ingredients and working items – but not everything. I forgot the capers for the wild rice pilaf, so it had to be purged from the menu. I forgot to pick up leeks, so I improvised and used part of an onion instead. In the end, it worked out OK, but I was not in my element and it showed.

The appetizer came off to a great start. I prepared the chutney as I usually do, creating an appropriate mise en place of my ingredients first, and then combining them like a jubilant magician, hands waving and all. The good thing is, I didn’t forget the order, and remembered to bring the, oh so important, fenugreek seeds. Without that the chutney would have been quite flavorless!In the end the appetizer turned out OK, and seemed to overwhelmingly taste better on rice crackers than with wheat wafers (a healthier organic option to the “triscuit”).

Here are some comments from the diner’s themselves:

  • “..too spicy for me, and not a fan of nori . But a lovely texture, especially on the rice cracker”, AR
  • “I would have liked tomato and avocado to make more of an appearance. I wasn’t crazy about the nori on this dish.”, JK
  • “Didn’t like the nori. It was better on rice crackers, most definitely!”, MH


I removed the Nori, and tried serving it just with the chutney and toasted almond flakes, and presto!, people loved it! Funny how such a small thing can change an entire dish (note to self: leave out the nori, or try something milder next time, like dulse!). People complained at first, but actually, the ended up finishing every single one of them, so I think they were more influenced by the nori than anything else. I thought the avocado and tomato combination was absolutely splendid!

The main course was created by modifying a recipe from class that I liked – the wild rice pilaf with orange zest and hazelnuts – yum! I added some spice to this dish to perk it up a little, and I think it wasn’t too bad. The rice came out a little mushier than I wanted so I think I need to use less water next time. It was hard to make this for more people – I couldn’t estimate how much rice I needed because it was so dense. I probably could have made less rice as well.
I experimented with blanching the cabbage leaves, and I was surprised at how well it came out! They rolled perfectly, and kept form. When I baked them, they crisped on the outside edges, and curled up a little, to give a nice effect. It served a sizeable amount, and provided a hearty complement to the entire meal.


I liked the wild rice, and people commented on the wonderful flavour from the orange zest. But something wasn’t completely right for me in this dish. It needed some more spunk, some key flavour that seemed missing. I will have to try this dish again, and see what I can do to give it some more depth. Maybe the avocado and tomato chutney on top of the cabbage leaves would work – or maybe not (it might be too spicy).

Health Benefits

Fenugreek Seeds
This is an important ingredient in chutney, no only because it provides a great flavour when sautéed in the initial preparation stages, but also because of it’s interesting health benefits.


Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek seeds are high in iron and fiber for such a small ingredient. They also contain nearly every single of the 21 common amino acids required by the human body to function normally. An interesting point about fenugreek is that it can increase the production of breast milk in women, so it is highly recommended for pregnant women (although some can have allergies to it as well, so one should check with their physician to be sure).


Curry Leaf
The curry leaf (marruaya koenigii) is used in south Indian cooking as commonly as olives are used in Italy. They are extremely flavorful and have wonderful health benefits.


Curry Leaf (Murraya koenigii)

The most interesting of them is that it apparently is known to have hypoglycemic properties, thereby helping to lower blood pressure. In ayurvedic medicine, curry leaf is used to cure ailments such as piles, leucoderma, blood disorders, and allaying body heat.


Avocado
Avocados are high in saturated fat, but are even higher in fiber. In general they are highly nutritious and I think it has the dual-property of being both tasty and pleasant to look at in a meal. They also provide an extremely sizeable amount of folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin K, and Pantothenic acid. They are also high in minerals, particularly Potassium, Copper, Manganese, Magnesium, and zinc. 1 cup of pureed avocado provides 63% of one’s daily fiber needs.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Diet Direction Meal

My first Culinary Arts assignment was to create recipes for one chosen full meal: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The important thing was that the meal should be tailored towards one of 5 main diet directions (the last two are really one's you probably want to avoid): Cleansing, Balancing, Building, Clogging, and Irritaing. I thought about doing the irritating diet, but when my cousin decided he needed to drive back to San Diego and would miss the meal entirely, I decided to "sans" it, since it would no longer be any fun. *8)

Instead, I chose mainly a building meal (high protein, high fat, low-carb) with some balancing elements in it as well (balance of proteins, carbs,and fats).

So below is what I created for a Sunday Comfort Dinner.

The Appetizer:

Tofu, Yogurt, Natto Dip w/Ume Vinegar,
Tamari, Olive Oil & Cilantro
served with Whole Wheat Pita Slices.


The Main Course (2 Parts):

Channa Curry w/Dulse, Tomato, Zucchini in Sambar Masala (I)
served on Quinoa w/Black Sesame & Sea Salt (II).


The appetizer was meant to be an intro to the main dish -- like a "building" foundation. The tofu provided some heartiness and protein, and the fresh yogurt softened it somewhat. It actually tasted a little like cottage cheese! The whole wheat pieces provided some carbs which balanced this dish out a little.

Cilantro Garnish for the Appetizer

The main course was an experiment on a channa dish that I have always made as a hearty, high-protein kind of food. But the real surprise was what the dulse did to it! It tasted even better the next day after the dulse and channa intermingled with one another over night. The result was spectacular the next day! (And that was straight from Jasmin's mouth --- not mine!).

Main Course topped w/Dry Pan-Roasted
Pumpkin Seeds & Sliced Almonds
Garnished with Cilantro

Well, this is my first posting concering the food that I have prepared over the last few days. It's exciting to be on this awesome food journey -- I'm so pumped!!

Tomato Chutney Sandwich with Tofu,
Green Pepper, Dulse on Toasted Flax Seed Bread

It started with a surprise visit by my cousin, Srikanth, who now lives in San Diego (Qualcomm geek). In his honour, I decided to make a scrumptuous tomato chutney sandwich with remnants of a sun gold cherry tomato soup we made in class (the pulp left over from using a chinoise to press-puree the tomatoes that were cooked in miso, amongst other things!).

I created this cool sandwich with tomato chutney, tofu, green pepper, and dulse (seaweed) on flax seed bread. It actually turned out better than I thought, and I personally loved the mixture of textures it created as it melted in your mouth:

Dulse added some unique flavour to the dish.



Curry Leaf Garnish

The curry leaf acted like a small "amuse bouche" just before biting into the sandwich. I encouraged my cousin to bite into it first before consuming the meal.



Yum!

I need to work on the presentation. Especially when you toast bread it crumbles all over the plate. But then again, it was for my cousin, and I don't think he noticed. Anyways...let's see what he says about the food, more importantly!

We finished the sandwich off with a cold glass of soybean milk, which helped to soften the impact of the spice in the tomato chutney.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

taste-dance, as usual with patanjali. eye-pleasure.

appetizer, a bacony tofu veggie dip with torn toasted whole wheat pita. delicious.

main course, spicy mix of mushrooms, tomatoes, chickpeas, zucchini, topped with perfectly roasted almond slivers and pumpkin seeds, on top of quinoa cooked with black sesame seeds which turned them blackish. perfect save for the quinoa was too wet. but when it sat, second course was heavenly.

I didn't like the food but it was very nicely made. I didnt like the foodcause I don't like baked nuts and it was pretty spicy. The dessert was great though.

Jaron

The appetizer was light and refreshing. It was substantial enough to be satisfying, yet leaving space for the main course.

Main course: yummy. A few suggestions to balance the textures and tastes: the button mushrooms have a subtle aroma which was "drowned" by the chickpeas and the spices. If the slices were bigger their presence would be more noticeable. Maybe one or two more tomatoes because they added some juicy sourness. The dulse was a bold break with convention: very successful, though! Just the right amount. Looking forward to more culinary adventures.

Monika

Well, I was just minding my own business, when all of a sudden, several humans appeared out of no where! I mean --- what were they thinking?

My name is Ren-Ren, and I am severely perturbed:

All I can say is, my Daddy was up to something as usual. I was not amused. But then, after he fed me some of that wonderful tartare, I was smitten with love and joy that I seemed to have forgotten all about the prior incident. In any case, I have several sources that will keep me abreast of any covert operations that might inflict some risk to my hunger pangs. Next time, I will introduce you to Agent Max, and Agent Larry --- two compatriots whose loyalty is unquestionable.

And oh -- the food smelt good. That's all I have to say for now.

Bye Bye,

Ren-Ren

Nuts!Nuts! Nuts! loved the nuts. roasted to purrrrrrrrrrfection.

The main was delightful. Base needed to stand up to the curry.a more delicate preparation of the masala would have been interesting.

Chickpeas stole the show. a shared stage for the mushrooms and tomatoes would have been ideal.

The dip was floral and bouncy. The plum wine inegar lifted the starter.

Nice.

love.
Piglet a.k.a. jasminder