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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Quince

Quince:

About:

Quince, (kwins) Cydonia oblonga, is the sole member of the genus Cydonia in the family Rosaceae (which contains apples and pears, among other fruits.).  It is a small deciduous tree that bears a pome fruit.  The quince is similar in appearance to the pear, and golden yellow when mature.   The fruit is knobby and ugly with an irregular shape and often a gray fuzz.  Once the quince is cooked, it is soft and tender and yields a nice syrup from the cooking process.
Throughout history the cooked fruit has been used as food, but the tree is also grown for its attractive pale pink blossom, and other ornamental qualities.  Although Genesis does not name the specific fruit that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, some texts suggest it may have been a quince.  
Quince used to be more popular than it is today.

Uses:

Most varieties of quince are too hard, astringent, and sour to eat raw.  High in pectin, they are used to make jam, jelly, and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked, or stewed.  The immature fruit is green with dense grey white pubescence, most of which rubs off before maturity in late autumn when the fruit changes color to yellow with hard strongly perfumes flesh.  Pectin levels diminish as the fruit ripens.  The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time.  Their very strong perfume means they can be added in small quantities to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavor.  Adding a diced quince to apple sauce  will enhance the flavor of the apple sauce.   The term "marmalade", originally meaning a quince jam, derives from "marmelo", the Portuguese word for the fruit.


History:

For over 4000 years quince trees have been grown in Asia and the Mediterranean.  Quince are also known as "Pear of Cydonia".  Quince is thought to be the "Golden Apple" of Greek  mythology.  The quince tree is native to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Pakistan, Kashmir, and Afghanistan.  The quince is native to rocky slopes and woodland margins in South-west Asia, Turkey, and , Iran, although it can be grown successfully at latitudes as far north as Scotland.  

Health Benefits:

The phytochemistry of quince is under study for several possible medical uses.  The Indo-Pakistan quince seeds are used by herbalists for mucous, rashes, and ulcerations.  A gel prepared from the seeds soaked in water is used for throat and vocal chord inflammation, as well as skin rashes and allergies.

Season:

Quince are available September through January.  They can be hard to find.   

Selecting and Storing:

Choose quince that are large, firm, and yellow with little or no green.  Handle carefully as they bruise easily.   Once at home wrap in a plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

 Simple but Good:



Quince Compote:

4 quinces
1/2 cup water
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 stick of cinnamon

Wash peel, and core quinces.  Remove all seeds.  Cut the flesh into cubes.  In a medium sized saucepan combine water, quinces, sugar, and ginger. 
Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, or until tender. 
After cooking add cinnamon stick and refrigerate until cool.  
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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kiwifruit Revisited

Kiwifruit Revisited:

About:

The kiwifruit or Chinese gooseberry is the edible berry of a woody vine in the genus Actinidia, The kiwifruit is oval in shape about the size of a hen's egg with fibrous dull green-brown skin and bright green or golden flesh with rows of tiny black edible seeds.  The most common variety of kiwifruit sold in the U.S. is the "Hayward" which was developed in New Zealand around 1924.  The taste resembles a combination of banana, strawberry, and pineapple.

History:

The kiwifruit is a native of southern China where it was grown over 700 years ago.  It was formerly known as the Chinese gooseberry.   In about 1962 when the fruit was making its U.S. debut it was suggested that more might be sold if the name was changed to that of the flightless New Zealand bird whose fuzzy brown coat resembled the kiwifruit skin.  The rest, as they say, is history.

My Story:

In my early years in the produce business kiwifruit were not popular in the U.S.  I first remember kiwifruit during my supermarket days.  They were new and exotic with their fuzzy brown-green skin.  Back then as now they came in a flat box with each kiwifruit it its own little  pocket. 

Nutrition and Health Benefits:

The kiwifruit is a excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. It is a very good source of fiber and copper.  It is a good source of vitamin E, potassium, folate and manganese.  The kiwifruit has a low glycemic index and also provides zinc  which promotes healthy skin, hair, teeth, and nails.  Kiwifruit
is an excellent source of  antioxidants which are important in reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.   Eating just a couple of kiwis each day may significantly reduce the risk of blood clots and the amount of triglycerides in our blood.

Season:

California grown kiwis are available November through May. New Zealand kiwis are available June through October making kiwis available year round

Selecting and Storing:

Select kiwis that give to gentle pressure from the thumb and forefinger.  They are the sweetest.  To hasten the ripening process put your kiwis in a paper back with an apple or banana.  A ripe kiwi will stay in your fruit bowl at room temperature for several days.  In the refrigerator it will keep as long as four weeks. 

Uses:

The bright green color  of the kiwi looks great when combined with other fruits in a salad.  Pureed kiwi is good drizzled over strawberries or raspberries.  It's great on ice cream.   Kiwi can also be used as a tenderizer on meats.  Just place slices of kiwi or peels with some flesh directly on meat and let tenderize for 30 minutes for each inch of meat thickness.
Although most people prefer to peel the kiwi, it is not necessary.  The skin is edible.  Just give it a wash.  You can rub it a little to reduce the fuzz.   The skin does not have a bitter taste and is good for holding the fruit together for eating out of hand.  If you prefer to peel, just cut off the two ends and use a sharp paring knife to remove the skin.



So...... Eat up!   Enjoy!  I'll show you how. 

Enjoying Kiwifruit:

  • Eat  kiwi as is:  Use a paring knife to peel and slice.
  • Add kiwifruit to a tossed green salad.
  • Served sliced kiwifruit and strawberries topped with yogurt.
  • Mix sliced kiwifruit, orange, and pineapple together to make a chutney that can be served with chicken or fish.
  • Blend kiwifruit and cantaloupe in a fruit processor to make a chilled soup.  For a creamy soup blend in yogurt.
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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Horseradish


Horseradish:

About:

Horseradish (Amoracia rusticana) is a perennial plant of the Brassicaceae family along with mustard, wasabi, broccoli, and cabbage.  It has a strong, hot, and sharp flavor.   The plant is probably native to southeastern Europe amd western Asia.  It ios now popular around the world.  
Intact horseradish has hardly any aroma .  When it is cut or grated, however, enzymes from the now broken plant cells break down sinigrin, a glucosinolate, to produce mustard oil which irritates the mucous membranes of the sinuses and eyes.

Uses:

Horseradish or "prepared horseradish" usually refers to the grated root mixed with vinegar.  Prepared horseradish is white to creamy beige in color.  I(t will keep for months refrigerated but eventually will darken indicating it is loosing flavor and should be replaced.  "Horseradish sauce" refers to grated horseradish combined with mayonnaise or salad dressing.  In the U.K. prepared horseradish is usually served with roast beef but can be used in other dishes including sandwiches or salads.  Grating horseradish crushes the cells of the root, releasing the volatile oils ( isocyanates) which give horseradish its heat.  Adding vinegar stops this enzymatic reaction.  The longer you wait to add the vinegar the hotter the horseradish will be.

History:

Horseradish has been cultivated since antiquity.  According to Greek mythology the Delphic Oracle told Apollo that the horseradish was worth its weight in gold.  Horseradish was known in Egypt in 1500 B.C.  Cato discusses the plant in his treatises on agriculture and a mural in Pompeii shows the plant.


Health Benefits:

Compounds in horseradish have been widely studied for health benefits.  Horseradish contains volatile oils, notably mustard oil which has anti-bacterial properties.  Fresh, the plant contains quantities of vitamin C.  The enzyme horseradish peroxidase found in the plant is used extensively in molecular biology and biochemistry.   The glucosinolates in horseradish have the potential to increased human resistance to cancer and environmental toxins.  They have powerful  antioxidant properties and can be used to relieve sinus and respiratory distress (half teaspoon in the morning and afternoon).  Glucinolates also act as natural antibiotics against different types of infections because of their known toxicity to specific bacteria and fungi., as well as their ability to increase blood flow to the infected area and more rapidly remove waste products from that region of the body. 

Relation to Wasabi:

The Japanese condiment wasabi , although traditionally prepared from the wasabi plant is now usually made with horseradish due to the scarcity of the wasabi plant.

Season:

Horseradish is available year round.  Fresh horseradish is sometimes hard to find  because prepared horseradish has become so common.  Prepared horseradish is found in jars in the dairy section of your local market.  The fresh horseradish is often individually packaged.   Fresh horseradish is most abundant  during the spring and again in the late fall.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose horseradish that is very hard, not limp and with no signs of withering or soft spots.  
Wrap horseradish in a damp paper towel and place in a paper bag.  Refrigerate in the crisper section of your refrigerator, where it will keep for several weeks.   Do not store horseradish in plastic bags to avoid condensation which will lead to rot.  


So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Ideas for the Horseradish Information Council:

  • At breakfast - add prepared horseradish to scrambled eggs, omelets, and hash browns before cooking
  • For lunch - add prepared horseradish to mayonnaise or salad dressing for sandwiches or to French dressing for salads. 
  • Spike ready made deli items such as cole slaw, baked beans and potato salad with a heaping spoonful of horse radish
  • At dinner - substitute prepared horseradish for butter and salt as a vegetable topping.
  • Add one or two spoon fulls of horseradish to soup, canned or homemade
  • Mash horseradish with potatoes or mix with low fat sour cream for a baked potato topping.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mushrooms Revisited

Mushrooms Revisited:

About:

The term "mushroom" derives from the French "mousseron" in reference to moss.  Mushrooms are a low calorie food usually eaten cooked, raw and as garnish to a meal.  Mushrooms are used extensively in many cuisines, notably Chinese, Korean, European, and Japanese.  They are known as the "meat" of the vegetable world.

History:

Mycophagy, the act of consuming mushrooms dates back to ancient times.  The first reliable evidence of  consumption of mushrooms dates back several hundred years BC in China.  Chinese value mushrooms for medicinal properties as well as food.  Ancient Romans and Greeks used mushrooms for culinary purposes.

My Story:

I first remember eating mushrooms in a restaurant with my grandmother and an aunt.  I didn't know what they were and kept asking, "Is this a mushroom?"  I decided I liked mushrooms and have been eating them ever since.  In the store mushrooms used to come wrapped with blue tissue paper in a small wooden basket with a wire handle.    It was kind of distinctive and I always thought the basket would be good as a picnic basket.

Varieties:

Over 20 species of mushrooms are commerically cultivated.  The six most common are Chanterelle, prized for its fruity aroma; White, the most common and the mildest flavor;  Oyster, velvety trumpet shaped with a peppery taste.  The smallest are the best.  Portobello, up to 6 inches across with a steak-like taste.  Remove the woody stems before eating.  Shitake, meat to dark brown umbrella like caps with a distinctive smoky flavor.  The stems are too tough to eat but can be used for flavoring then discarded.  Cremini, similar to the white but with a firm texture and deeper flavor.  They are immature portobellos.


Poisonous Mushrooms:

A number of mushrooms are poisonous although some resemble certain edible species.  Consuming them could be fatal.   Gathering mushrooms in the wild should only be undertaken by persons knowledgeable in mushroom identification.  Everyone else should obtain their mushrooms from the local supermarket or store.


Psychedelic Mushrooms:

Psilocybin mushrooms possess psychedelic properties.  Commonly called "shrooms", they are openly available in many parts of the world and on the black market in countries that have outlawed their sale.  Psilocybin mushrooms are reported as facilitating profound and life changing insights described as mystical experiences.  They are being studied for their ability to help people suffering from psychological disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Minute amounts have been reported to stop cluster and migraine headaches.

Nutrition:

Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets are commercially grown on mushroom farms.  Dietary mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, and essential minerals selenium, copper, and potassium.  Fat, carbohydrate, and calorie contents are low with absence of vitamin C and sodium.  Mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light contain large amounts of vitamin D2.  There are approximately 20 calories in an ounce of mushrooms.

Health Benefits:

As mentioned mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins including riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid which help to provide energy by breaking do0wn proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.  B vitamins also play an important part in the nervous system. 
Pantothenic acid helps with the production of hormones.  Riboflavin helps maintain healthy red blood cells.  Niacin promotes healthy skin and makes sure the digestive and nervous systems function properly.
Selenium works as an antioxidant to protect the body's cells from damage that might lead to heart disease, some cancers, and other diseases of aging.  It has also been found to be important for the immune system and fertility in men.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose firm unblemished mushrooms with a tight underside.  Keep mushrooms in either plastic or paper bags.  Plastic should have a few holes to allow some air to circulate.  When ready to use, you can rinse dirty mushrooms,  but usually a good wipe with a damp paper towel is best

Uses:

You can bake, broil, fry, grill, puree, saute, steam or just eat raw.  Mushrooms go with just about anything.


So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Simple but Good:



Stuffed Mushrooms:

1 lb mushrooms (2 - 2 1/2in. diameter)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs, more if needed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp black pepper
olive oil 

Preheat oven to 350  degrees F.
Brush tops of mushrooms with a damp cloth to remove any dirt.  Twist the stems  of the mushrooms to remove from caps. 
Chop the mushroom stems and then saute in a skillet  with 2 TBS olive oil and add onions, garlic, salt and pepper.  After when onions are soft stir in breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Add some more olive oil so mixture is damp.  
Spoon the mixture into the mushroom caps until heaping.  Place the filled mushrooms on a baking pan which has been sprinkled with some olive oil.   Then sprinkle some more olive oil on top of stuffed mushroom.  Place in oven for 15 - 20 minutes


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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chayote Squash

Chayote Squash:

About:

Chayote (Sechium edule) is an edible plant belonging to the gourd family, Curcurbitaceae along with melons, cucumbers, and squash.   Its tendrils, flowers, and roots are all edible.  

History:

Chayote is native to Mexico where it growsa abundantly but has little commerical value.  The main growing regions of chayote are Brazil, Costa Rica, Veracruz, Mexico, and Abkhazia.  Veracruz mainly exports its chayote to the U.S.  Within the U.S. it is cultivated in Florida, California, and Lousiana.  

Uses:

Chayote can be boiled, stuffed, mashed, baked, fried or pickled.  
It can be eaten raw in salads, or stuffed and baked.  Other preparations include mashing, pickling, frying or boiling.  The plain squash tends to be bland and needs aggressive seasoning.   Chayote fruit is used most frequently in cooked form.  When cooked chayote is usually treated like summer squash, lightly cooked to retain its crisp flavor.  The fruit does not need to be peeled to be cooked or fried in slices.  Most people regard it as having a mild flavor by itself.  It is commonly served with seasonings or in a dish with other vegetables and/or flavoring.

Medicinal Uses:

Medicinal uses include a tea made from leaves which is reported to dissolve kidney stones as well as a treatment for arteriosclerosis and hypertension. 

Season:

Chayote squash is available year round, but peak harvest is fall through late spring. 


Selecting and Storing:

Select firm smooth, unwrinkiled chayote with no brown spots.  Old chayote become very wrinkled and become dry and tough.
Chayote will keep refrigerated for many days, but it is best to use as quickly as possible.

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Simple but Good:

Fried Chayote

2 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
2 chayote, pitted and thinly sliced
2 tsp dried or 2 TBS fresh oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat until butter is melted.  Add onions and saute until they are golden but not browned, about 8 - 10 minutes.  Add the chayote and oregano and saute an additional 2 - 3 minutes, until the squash starts to soften.  Lower heat cover and let cook until chayote is tender, an additional 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper before serving.
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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Avocados Revisited

Avocados Revisited:

About:

The avocado is a tree native to Central America classified in the flowering plant family with cinnamon, camphor, and bay laurel.  The avocado is also called the alligator pear.  The avocado is a climacteric fruit like the banana.  This means it matures on the tree, but ripens off the tree.  The fruit is actually a large berry with a single seed.  Generally the avocado is served raw. 
The avocado has a much higher fat content than most other fruits, mostly monosaturated fat.  Consequently,  it is a staple in areas where access to other fatty foods is limited. It is also popular in vegetarian cuisine as a meat substitute.  The most common varieties of avocados are Bacon, Fuerte, Gwen, Hass, Pinkerton, Reed, and Zutano.   The Hass variety is the most common  avocado grown.  It produces fruit all year long and accounts for 80%  of cultivated avocados in the world.   Mexico is the world's largest producer and exporter of avocados.  The main  growing areas for avocados in the U. S. are California and Florida.  Avocados are known for their silky, creamy texture and rich flavor which some describe as "nutty" or "nut like".

History:

The oldest evidence of avocados was found in a cave in Mexico that dates back to around 10000 BC.   Avocados grow  well in warm climates.   It is common knowledge that Mexican and southwestern cooking include a lot of avocados, but they have actually become very popular in the Far East.  The French eat lots of avocados.  Europeans discovered avocados when Cortez arrived in the Americas in the sixteenth century.

My Story:

We did not eat avocados when I was growing up.  My earliest remembrance of an avocado is when in my twenties I was diagnosed with having a bad gall bladder.  The doctor told me to avoid fatty foods and avocados.  That didn't bother me too much,  because I didn't eat avocados anyway.   The reason  for avoiding avocados was of course because of their high fat content.

Nutrition:

The avocado contains 20 essential nutrients. About 75% of the avocados calories come from fat, mostly monosaturated fat.  Avocados are also high in potassium, rich in B vitamins, and also vitamin E and vitamin K.   In one preliminary study a diet high in avocados lowered cholesterol in just 7 days.  Avocados are  a good source of pantothenic acid, dietary fiber, vitamin K, copper, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.


Health Benefits:

In addition to conventional nutrienets avocados offer a wide range of phytonutrients that are related to their unusual fat quality.   Avocado is believed to provide helth benefits in the area of blood sugar control, insulin regulation, satiety, weight management, and decreasted overall risk o0f unwanted inflammation.

Selecting and Storing:

Select avocados that are slightly soft with no dark sunken spots or cracks.  A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit bowl at room temperature.  Avocados should not be put in the refrigerator until they are ripe.  To peel, cut the avocado lengthwise around the pit and rotate the two halves in opposite directions.   Gently put a spoon under the tip of the pit and it should easily come out.   Once cut,  the avocado's flesh will naturally start to turn brown from exposure to air.  To prevent this natural darkening sprinkle the avocado flesh with lemon juice.  Keep the cut avocado in the refrigerator.

Growing Avocados:

Avocados are usually grown indoors in pits.  To start your own plant remove the pit from an unrefrigerated ripe avocado.  Then stab the pit with 3 or 4 toothpicks about one third of the way up.  The pit should then be placed in a jar or vase with tepid water.  In 4 to 6 weeks the pit should split and yield roots and a sprout.  Once the stem has grown a few inches it should be place in a pot with soil  and watered every few days.  Repot the plant as it outgrows it current pot.


Enjoying Avocados:

To enjoy use chopped avocados as a garnish for black bean soup.   Add avocado to a creamy tofu-based dressing recipe for extra richness and a beautiful color.  Spread ripe avocado on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise.  Mix chopped avocado, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and seasonings for a rich tasting twist on traditional guacamole.

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Simple but Good:



Traditional Guacamole:

3 avocados
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup diced onion
3 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
2 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 pinch cayene pepper (optional)

In a medium bowl mash together the avocados, lime juice, and salt.  Mix in the onion, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic.  Stir in cayene pepper.  For best flavor refrigerate for 1 hour.






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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Diakon Radish


Daikon Radish:

About:

Daikon (Raphanus sativus) is a mild flavored winter radish characterized by fast growing leaves and a long white napiform root.  The name "Daikon" comes from two Japanese words "dai' (meaning large) and "kon" (meaning root).   It is a member of the Brassica family along with cauliflower, Brussel's sprouts, and turnips.   The roots are 2 - 4 inches in diameter and 6 - 20 inches long.  

Uses:

Daikon can be eaten raw in salads or cut into strips or chips for relish trays.  It can be stir-fried, grilled, baked, boiled, or broiled.    Daikon can be used as a radish.  It may be grated for use as a condiment.   In Japanese cuisine many types of pickles are made with daikon.   Daikon is also frequently grated and mixed into ponzu, a soy sauce and citrus juice condiment.   Daikon can be shredded and used in place of cabbage in a slaw.    It can be cubed and roasted with poat roast or roasted vegetables.  You can use daikon as you would carrots, baked, boiled, in stews or soup.  To prepare the daikon peel skin as you would a carrot and cut for whatever style your  recipe calls for.   

History:

 Daikon is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and was brought to China for cultivation around 500 B.C.   Daikon quickly spread throughout Asia, where it was traditionally across the region.  Today it is still grown in China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.  Most recently it is primarily grown in North America in Texas, and California.

My Story:

Daikon is another one of those vegetables that I did not come across until my supermarket days.   It was one of the variety items that did not sell very well,  but we were required to carry by our bosses.  Well, when I learned the name "daikon", it came to me that the name rhymed with the camera brand "Nikon", and I thought of the Paul Simon song "Kodachrome".  One line goes, "I gotta Nikon camera; Love to take a photograph"    Well, it rhymes and has the same number of syllables as, "I gotta "daikon radish".   So, that's what comes into my head every time daikon radish comes up.

Nutrition:

Daikon is considered a super food.  It contains  large amounts of enzymes that aid in fat and starch digestion as well as high levels of vitamin C, Phosphorus, and Potassium.  It contains other phytonutrients that fight cancer.  The extract from the seeds are a powerful immune booster and cancer fighter. Not only is the root eaten, but the leaves also are rich in vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium and iron.

Health Benefits:

Daikon both in food form or extract is a very effective diuretic.  It causes the kidneys to process waste  more effectively , and thus excrete more urine.  This helps to improve kidney function and treat edema.  It helps clean the blood eliminating toxins through the kidneys, liver, and sweat glands.

Season:

Daikon can be found in the market 12 months of the year.  

Selecting and Storing:

Choose daikon that are free of growth cracks, and bruises with firm crisp roots.  Daikon will keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container or plastic bag. 

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Simple but Good:

Daikon, Carrot, and Broccoli Slaw.

8 ounces of daikon
6 ounces baby carrot
6 ounces broccoli stem, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup chopped green onions
1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 1/2 TBS minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 TBS Asian sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce.

Fit food processor with large hole grating disk.  Working with a few pieces at a time , push diakon, carrots, and broccoli through feeding tube.  Transfer to a bowl and add green onions, vinegar, ginger, oil and chili-garlic sauce in a small bowl.  Pour over vegetables and toss to coat.  Season with salt and serve.
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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Pears Revisited

Pears Revisited:

About:

The pear is a member of the rose family of plants.  It is native to coastal and mildly temperate regions from western Europe and north Africa east right across Asia.  The shape of the pear in most species varies from globe-like to the classic pyriform  (pear-shape) of the European pear.   The pear and its close relative, the apple, cannot always  be distinguished by the form of the fruit, some pears look very much like some apples.  One major difference is that the flesh of the pear fruit contains stone cells (also called "grit").

Using Pears:

Pears are consumed fresh, canned, as juice, or dried.  Pears can be stored at room temperature until ripe.  They are ripe when the flesh around the stem gives to gentle pressure.  Green Bartlett pears turn from green to yellow as they  ripen.  Other pears you have to feel.  Once ripened pears should be stored in the refrigerator where they can be kept for 2 to 3 days.

History:

The cultivation of pears in cool temperate climates can be traced to the remotest antiquity.  There is evidence of pears used as a food since prehistoric times.  The pear was cultivated by the Romans who ate the fruit raw or cooked, just like apples.  According to Pear Bureau Northwest about 3000 known varieties are grown worldwide.  In the U.S. only 10 heirloom varieties are widely recognized, Green Bartlett, Red Bartlett, Bosc, Green Anjou, Red Anjou, Comice, Forelle, Seckel, Concord, and Starkrimson.

My Story:

My earliest remembrance of pears is the Seckel pear tree in our neighbor's yard in Brooklyn.   I don't think anyone ate pears from the tree, but there were always pears on the ground that we would throw at one another.  Commercially grown pears are usually wrapped in tissue paper and then placed in a box for shipping.  I  remember in Grandpa's store how they would remove the tissue paper and fold it to make a little mat to display the pears on.  My mom told me that during the great Depression people would save the tissue papers to use as toilet paper.  

Nutrition:

Pears are a good source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, and vitamins.  They are very low in calories.  They contain good quantities of vitamin C.  Pears are a moderate source of anti-oxidant flavonoids, phytonutrients such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin.   The compounds along with vitamins C and A help protect the body from harmful free radicals.  Pears are a good source of minerals such as copper, iron, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. as well as B-complex vitamins such as folates, riboflavin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B6). 


Health Benefits:

Recent studies have shown that the skin of the pear contains at least 3 to 4 times as many phenolic phytonutrients as the flesh.   These phytonutrients include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory flavonoids and potentially anti-cancer phytonutrients like cinnamic acid.  The skin of the pear also contains about half of the pear's fiber.  Pears have been suggested in various traditional medicines in the treatment of colitis, chronic gallbladder disorders, arthritis, and gout. 

Selecting and Storing:

Green pears should be free of blemishes.  Ripe pears are going to show a few scars.  Avoid  bruised or too soft fruit, but don't be afraid to bring home pears that are still green.  Place unripe pears in a bowl or paper bag.  Leave them at room temperature where they will ripen within a few days to a week.  Pears that yield to gentle pressure on the stem end are ripe.  Once ripe pears should be consumed or refrigerated.

So, eat some pears.  Rinse with cool water and pat dry. Eat with the skin on.

Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good:

Pear and Bacon Grilled Cheese:

2 TBS unsalted butter
2 TBS currant or fig jam
2 slices white sandwich bread
2 slices cheddar
2 slices cooked bacon
1/4 small pear, thinly sliced

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Spread the jam on 1 slice of the bread and add the cheese, bacon, and sliced pears, then top with the other piece of bread to form a sandwich.
Cook the sandwich covered until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted (2-3 minutes per side).



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