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Friday, August 28, 2015

Garlic

Garlic:

About:

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a species in the onion genus. Its close relatives include onion, shallots, leeks,  and chives.  Garlic is the most pungent member of the onion family.  The garlic bulb is made up of 8 - 12 sections or cloves.  Garlic is grown globally, but China is by far the largest producer of garlic  at 81% of the world's output. 
Garlic is a fundamental component in many or most dishes of various regions, including eastern Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, eastern Asia, the Middle East, northern Africa, southern Europe, and parts of South and Central America.  
Garlic is available fresh, dried, and powered.  It is know many many as "the stinking rose".   Elephant garlic is a big variety that can reach a bulb size of up to a pound.

History:

Garlic is believed to be a native of central Asia and is the oldest member of the Allium family.  It has been in use for over 7000 years. It was known to ancient Egyptians.  In the Dark Ages people believed a garland of garlic would ward off evil spirits and the plague.  Garlic has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. 

Uses:

Aromatic garlic is used to season meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, breads, marinades, sauces, and pasta - just about everything except desserts.  Over the years garlic has been prescribed for everything from athlete's foot to baldness.

Nutrition:

Garlic is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin B6.  It is a very good source of vitamin C and copper.  Garlic is a good source of selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and calcium.

Health Benefits:

Research ha shown that garlic clearly lowers our blood triglycerides and total cholesterol., even though this reduction can be moderate (5 - 15%).  Garlic's sulphur containing compounds help protect against oxidative stress and unwanted inflammation.  
A 2013 meta-analysis concluded that garlic preparations may effectively lower total cholesterol by 11 - 23 mg/dl and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 3 - 15 mg/dl in adults with high cholesterol, if taken for longer than 2 months.  The same analysis found that garlic had a marginally positive effect on HDL (good) cholesterol, and that garlic preparations were generally tolerated with very few side effects.  
There is insufficient clinical research to confirm that garlic supplements may prevent the common cold.  
Whole garlic is a common flavoring in food some scientists have suggested may have a role as an additive to prevent food poisoning.  There is some evidence fresh garlic , but not aged garlic, can kill certain bacteria such as E coli, anti-biotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella entiriditis in the laboratory.

Season:

Garlic is available year round, fresh, dried, or powdered.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose garlic as you would onions.  The bulbs should be fat and very firm with no spongy areas and no green sprouts.  Sprouts indicate the bulb has been in storage for too long.  Store in a cool, dry, well ventilated place for a month.  Avoid refrigeration or plastic wrap.  Dampness quickly deteriorates the bulbs.

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


Simple but Good:


    Mediterranean Dressing:

3 TBS extra virgin olive oil 
1 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place all ingredients into a bowl and give a quick wisk. 

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Portobello Mushrooms:

Portobello Mushrooms:

About:

The Portobello mushroom (Agaricus bisporis) is native to the grasslands of Europe and North America.  It has two color states when immature - white and brown - both of which have various names.  When mature it is known as the Portobello mushroom.  When immature and white, it may be known as the common mushroom, button mushroom, white mushroom, and table mushroom. When immature and brown it may be known as Swiss brown mushroom, Roman brown mushroom, Italian mushroom, cremini, or crimini mushroom.
Portobello mushrooms are considered the grown up brother of the crimini mushroom.  They have a longer growing cycle and produce a mushroom with a substantial texture and a deep meaty flavor. 

History: 

The earliest description of the commercial cultivation of Agarius bisporus was made by the French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort in 1707.  Today's commercial variety of the common mushroom originally was a light brown color.  Agaricus bisporus is now cultivated in at least 70 countries throughout the world.  

My Story:

My introduction to the Portobello mushroom was when I was working in the supermarket.  We sold them packaged, but also loose.  Many times we would  get the Portobellos and some of them would be broken.  Sometimes I would package up a few of the damaged ones and buy them at a reduced price.  Full price was a little rich for me at that time.   My favorite way to fix them was to turn them into a vegetarian burger.  There's a recipe below. 

Uses:

Portobellos can be grilled, roasted, or sauteed.  

Basic Grilled:  Brush mushroom, on both sides with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill 5 -6 minutes on each side.

Oven Roast:  Brush Portobellos with oil.  Place on a baking sheet cap sides up.  Roast in pre-heated 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Saute': In a skillet cook sliced chopped or whole mushrooms in a little oil or butter over medium high heat stirring or turning until tender, about 5 - 6 minutes. 

Long thin slices are a delicious addition to a stir-fry.  The mushrooms can also be breaded and deep fried. 


Nutrition:

In a 100 gram serving raw white mushrooms provide 22 calories and are an excellent source of the B vitamins, riboflavin, niacin, and panothenic acid,  Fresh mushrooms are also a good source of tahe dietary mineral phosphorus. 

Health Benefits:

Macronutients consist of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.;  Portobellos have a balance of proteins and carbs, and they are low in fat.  Portobellos have a moderately high amount of fiber which helps control cholesterol and blood sugar levels.  It also has a filling effect.  Portobellos have moderate amounts of potassium which is an electrolyte mineral needed for muscle contractions, protein synthesis, nerve function and acid alkaline balance.  They contain phosphorus for bone strength.  They are low in sodium and the B vitamins help with red blood cell formation, energy production, and nervous system function.  

Selecting and Storing:

Select plump, firm, and solid mushrooms.  Avoid limp or dry looking ones.  They should not be shriveled or slippery.  The mushroom should have a nice earthy smell.  Once at home remove the mushrooms from any wrapping and spread them on a tray and cover them with paper toweling.  Don't moisten the toweling or the mushrooms , but place them in the refrigerator in an area that allows tahe air to circulate.  Avoid placing any other items on top of them.  The mushrooms should keep about 5 - 6 days. 

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

Simple but Good:

Portobello Mushroom Burger:

4 Portobello mushroom caps
olive oil
8 ounce jar of sun dried tomatoes in oil
8 ounces of baby spinach
1 red onion sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
salt
mayonnaise
4 hamburger buns

Prepare your grill for high direct heat.
Saute' spinach in 1 TBS olive oil on medium heat with a sprinkle of salt.
Wipe mushrooms with damp paper towel.  Paint the tops of the mushrooms with olive oil.  Brush the onion rounds with oil and place on the grill.  Place the mushroom caps on grill with top side down.  Grill mushroom caps 4 - 5 minutes per side.  Grill the burger buns top side down for about 1/2 - 1 minute until lightly toasted.  
To assemble spread some mayonnaise on each bun.  Put Portobello mushroom cap onm the bottom bun, then layer on the spinach, sun dried tomatoes, and finally some onion. Serve at once.




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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Onions Revisited

Onions Revisited:

About:

The onion (Allium cepa) also known as the bulb onion or common onion is used as a vegetable and enjoyed around the world.  While native to central Asia and the Middle East, it is cultivated  around the world.  Common onions are normally available in three colors: yellow, red, and white.  Yellow onions, also called brown onions, are full-flavored and are the onions of choice for everyday use.  Red onions are a good choice to liven a dish with color.  They are also used for grilling, char-broiling, and roasting.  White onions have a golden color when cooked and a particularly sweet flavor when sautéed. .  White onions are traditionally used in Mexican cooking.  The large mature onion bulb is the most eaten, but also can be eaten in immature stages.  Young plants harvested before bulbing occurs are used as scallions (green onions).  Sulphuric compounds in onions are released when the onion is cut bringing tears to your eyes.  To reduce this effect you can chill the onions beforehand and cut the root end last.  Another strategy is to cut the onions under running water.   Eating parsley helps to reduce onion breath.

History:

  The onion has been in cultivation for at least 7,000 years.   In ancient Greece athletes ate large quantities of onions because it was believed to lighten the balance of the blood.   Roman gladiators were rubbed down with onions to firm up their muscles.  Doctors were known to prescribe onions to facilitate bowel movements and erections., and to relieve headaches, coughs, snakebite and hair loss.   Today the consumption of onions has risen over 70% in the last two decades.   In the U.S. the per capita consumption of onions in 2009 was 20 pounds.

My Story:

One of the first jobs I did in the grocery store was separating the onions from their loose skins.   The onions came loose in fifty pound bags and there were always a lot of loose skins in the bag .  I would dump the bag into a box and then take each onion separately, remove any loose skin,  and put it in another box, so they were ready to go on display.  It always amazed me how dirty my hands would get from dirt and yellow staining.   Many years later one supermarket chain I worked for  insisted that we peel the onion "down to the shine" , so it would look better on display.   They cut that out, though,  when they figured out it was making the onions deteriorate faster.

Uses:

Onions can be baked, boiled, braised, fried, roasted, sautéed, or eaten raw in salads.  They are an integral part of many recipes.   Onions are available fresh, frozen, canned, caramelized, pickled, and chopped.

Health Benefits:

Onions are high in vitamin C, B6, folic acid, and are a good source of dietary fiber.   Onions contain phenols and flavonoids that have potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties.  They vary in antioxidant content by variety with shallots having the highest amount and Vidalia the lowest.   Flavonoids in onions tend to be more concentrated in the outer layers of flesh.  Peel off as little as possible of the edible portion.   Most onion varieties are 89% water.

Selecting and Storing:

Choose onions that are clean, well shaped, have no opening at the neck, and feature crisp dry outer skin.  Avoid those that are sprouting or have signs of mold.  Cooking onions and sweet onions are better stored at room temperature.   Cooking onions have a shelf life of 3 - 4 weeks.  For sweet onions it is 1 - 2 weeks.   Sweet onions have a greater water and sugar content that reduces their shelf life.  Sweet onions can be stored in the refrigerator for about a month.  Scallions or green onions should also be refrigerated.  

So...... Don't cry! (Couldn't help it!)     Eat up, Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but good:   

Onion Rings:

Canola oil for frying
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 large yellow onions sliced into thin rounds

Heat oil in a deep frying pan (350 degrees).  Mix together garlic powder, basil, oregano, black pepper, and salt in a small bowl.   Whisk together flour and cornmeal in a medium bowl.  Toss onion rings in flour to coat.  Deep fry onions in two batches until crispy and lightly golden.  Drain on paper towel.  Add a large pinch of spice mix and toss.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Asian Pair

Asian Pear:

About:

Asian Pear (Pyrus Pyrifolia) is a pear tree species native to China, Taiwan, Japan , and Korea.  The tree's edible fruit is known by many names including Asian Pear, Chinese Pear, Korean Pear, Japanese Pear, Japanese Apple Pear, Taiwan Pear and sand pear.  Varieties of Pyrus pyrifolia are grown throughout East Asia, and in other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S.
There are thousands of different known varieties of Asian pear, each varying slightly in shape and color from golden yellow to russeted green, and are often speckled with small brown spots.  Asian pears can also vary in size  the most commonly grown in the U.S. are Japanese varieties which have a round, squat shape similar to an apple.  Asian pears are sold ripe and maintain their crisp texture long after being picked.  

History:

Asian pears have been grown in Japan and China for over 3000 years.  The first documented appearance of the Asian pear in the U.S. was in 1820 in Flushing, New York.

Uses:

The fruit of the Asian Pear is not generally baked in pies or made into jams, because they are high in water content and have a crispy, grainy texture very different from the European varieties.   They are commonly served raw and peeled.  The fruit tends to be quite large and fragrant.   It also has a tendency to bruise easily because of its juiciness, but when carefully wrapped, it can last up to several weeks or more in a cold dry place.  
Due to their high price and large size, Asian pears tend to be served to guests, given as gifts, or eaten together in a family setting.  In cooking ground pears are used in vinegar or soy sauce based sauces as a sweetener instead of sugar.  They are also used when marinating meat, especially beef.   The firm crisp texture of Asian pears make them a pop0ular addition to salads.  Add sliced or cubed pears to green and fruit salads or grate and add to Cole slaw.  Their sweet flavor and juiciness will add moisture and flavor to cakes, pies, muffins, and quick bread.  Saute' slices with cinnamon to serve on top of pork chops.

Health Benefits:

Asian pears are high in fiber, low in calories, and contain a number of micronutrients that are important for blood, bone, and cardiovascular health,  Potassium in Asian pears can help control blood pressure.  The vitamin K is important for bone health and vital to your blood's ability to clot.  Asian pears also contain copper which is essential to the production of energy, red blood cells, and collagen.  Vitamin C is also found in Asian pears in high concentration.  This vitamin is important for the growth and repair of bodily tissue, healing wounds, and repairing and maintaining bones and teeth.  Vitamin C is an antioxidant and so helps remove free radicals from the body to help protect from cancer. 

Selecting and Storing:

Select the most fragrant and unbruised fruit with little to no brown spots.  Ripe Asian pears are hard and do not soften like traditional pears.  Store Asian pears up to one week at room temperature, or up to 3 months in the refrigerator. 

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

Simple but Good:


Crunch Asian Pear and Cabbage Salad

1 small head of cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (About 6 cups)
1 lg. Asian pear, cut into bite size pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 - 4 scallions, thinly sliced
Handful parsley, roughly chopped
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
1 TBS white wine vinegar
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS slivered almonds 
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine cabbage, pear, garlic, scallion, and parsley in a large bowl.  Add lemon juice vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss.  Sprinkle with almonds.

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