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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cauliflower Couscous (Gluten Free!)

Yes, I eat gluten.  Yes, I make efforts to eat less gluten, flour and wheat than I might.  I have seen many people improve their health by eliminating gluten, sometimes because of a true allergy or intolerance, more often because getting off gluten means eliminating a lot of refined and packaged foods and carbs.  But avoiding gluten isn't the only reason to make this super yummy, super simple recipe.  It's an excuse to eat more cauliflower, an extra nutritious member of the crucifer family, linked to cancer and stroke prevention and a myriad of health benefits.  This dish is a nice "starchy" foil for a saucy stew (lamb shanks with green olives in the picture).  Your guests might not even miss the gluten.

Cauliflower Couscous

1 head cauliflower (try purple or orange varieties!)
1 tablespoons butter
1/2 tsp Ras el Hanout (this wonderful spice blend can be found at Oaktown Spice or other spice shops, or substitute curry powder, garam marsala or another savory blend)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup water or stock

Chop the cauliflower coarsely, and place in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.  Process until it crumbles into couscous size grains.  Heat a large skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium heat, and add the butter, allowing it to melt and begin to brown slightly.  Add the couscous and spices plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper and saute for a few minutes.  Add the water or stock to moisten, cover and turn the heat to low, simmering for 5-10 minutes.  Remove the lid and simmer off any remaining liquid and season to taste.  Enjoy!

LAST 2 CLASSES for 2015:  Sat, Nov. 7th  Integrative Nutrition for Winter, a continuing education class for acupuncturists and health professionals, click here for details.
Sun, Nov. 15th "Fermentation 201: Fermented Condiments" hands-on workshop in Berkeley, hosted by the Biofuel Oasis

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Concord Grape Catsup

August brings a glut, in my garden, of Concord grapes, so perfumed and seeded and copious that they must be preserved.  Jam is not popular in my house, so each August I am impelled to try to come up with a use for the globes which ripen all at once and don't keep well like my apples. A couple quarts of shrub (see previous posts) used up some of them this year, but what about the rest of the purple wonders? The Joy of Cooking, my essential kitchen reference,  yielded a recipe for Concord grape pie and for catsup. I made the catsup yesterday, tweaking it into a fermented product, adding probiotics as well as saving the trouble of canning.
       The origin stories of catsup are various, but Sally Fallon says it well in Nourishing Traditions: "Ketchup provides us with an excellent example of a condiment that was formerly fermented and therefore health-promoting but whose benefits were lost with large scale canning methods and a reliance on sugar rather than lactic acid as a preservative" (p. 104).  While the language of origin is debated, accounts of the condiment agree that in original form it was fermented fish sauce, the universal condiment of the ancient world and all cultures near the sea, and that fruit and veggies were later additions.  Catsup is very rich in umami, derived in our familiar tomato version from that fruit and "natural flavor," and its deliciousness derives from that flavor along with a balance of sweet, sour and salty.  No wonder toddlers refer to it as simply "sauce."  My version tweaks the recipe from Joy and is an example of hybrid fermentation, employing both some vinegar to ensure the proper pH and a source of bacteria, plus aging at room temperature, to allow friendly bacteria to replicate and enhance flavor and keeping qualities.  The concept can be applied to many recipes for condiments that rely on vinegar for tartness.  I'll be teaching a class in the art of fermented condiment making in Berkeley in the fall, see the sidebar for details.

Concord Grape Catsup
(adapted from The Joy of Cooking by Romabauer and Becker, 1975 edition)

4 quarts Concord grapes, removed from stems
1/2 cup water

Bring to a boil. Put the softened grapes through a food mill or colander, and add:

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt

Tie in a bag and add to the above:

1/4 cup mixed pickling spices (I used a combo of mustard seed, crumbled Bay leaves, black peppercorns, celery seed and caraway seed)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I think I'll use more next time as I love spicy ketchup)

Simmer and stir until thick, about 2 hours. Allow to cool and stir in:

1 T fermented fish sauce such as Red Boat brand
1/4 cup yogurt or kefir whey, sauerkraut juice or 1 T umeboshi plum vinegar

Pack into clean jars, cover, and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 days.  Refrigerate thereafter, and use within 2 months. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fire Cider Harbingers Spring and Fights Flu

Last February 2nd, herbalists celebrated World Fire Cider Making Day.  Fire Cider is an herbal preparation in the European herbal tradition, popularized by herb maven Rosemary Gladstar.  The day was declared because a certain company was attempting to trademark the name, an idea as absurd as trademarking an acupuncture point or yoga posture (which of course some people are trying to do).  These things are part of the collective traditional lore of humanity.  I drank a tablespoon of last year's Fire Cider every day from November through January and avoided getting cold or flu despite many exposures.  A few weeks after I ran out, I got the flu. After couple days in bed and on Green Soup and little else, I was well enough to mix up another batch of the cider.  Not only does it help prevent the invasion of seasonal pathogens, it tastes exciting, stimulates digestion, is super-nutritive and allows you to participate in a centuries-old herbal tradition.  The recipe is not at all exact, but garlic, ginger and chilies are the basis of it, steeped in apple cider vinegar for one month to six months or more.  Below is the version I just mixed up, pictured above:

Fire Cider
Red Peppers
Rose Hips
Meyer Lemon
Lemon Verbena
Apple Cider Vinegar

In a 2 quart Mason jar or similar, coarsely chop and layer the above ingredients, or concoct your own version.  Cover with apple cider, seal the jar, and let steep 1-6 months.  If you are storing for a long time, you may want to protect the inside of the jar lid from being eaten by the vinegar by lining it with wax paper.

Strain, add honey if desired, and enjoy by the tablespoon, mixed with mineral water as a drink, in salad dressing, in a cocktail, or in a soup.

Traditionalists bury it in soil for a summer before opening the jar.

Upcoming Classes: FREE Webinar on "Food and the Pleasure of Eating" with Hawthorn University, Tuesday, Feb. 17th 4-5pm PST.  Register here.

Nutrition Intensive: Seasonal Eating for Earth/Wood, Feb.21 &22, AIMC Berkeley, info here.

See my blog sidebar for my full 2015 calendar.

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year, New Leeks

A new year has rolled in and we are deep in winter, a time to turn inward, consolidate and nourish ourselves down to our roots.  The foods of winter support this process.

A favorite winter food of mine is leeks.  They are a gourmet member of the humble Allium (Onion) family.  This family is so critical to good cuisine, bringing both pungent aromatic flavor and luscious sweetness to our dishes, depending on how you cook them.  And the leek has such a nuanced flavor, once you learn the important trick of how to slice them in half from about 1/2 above the base and open the leaves to wash out the grit that hides where the white and green parts meet.  The white and green each bring nutritional potency to the vegetable, the tender white and pale green parts bringing the aromatic aspect, the green parts a little more fibrous and full of vitamin A, C and antioxidants (which leeks lose quickly when stored, cook them fast once you get home from the market).  I recently learned that it is the green parts of leeks which are particularly prebiotic, that is, rich in fiber that our microbiota thrive on.  I enjoyed a recent article in Eating Well magazine (a fave!) featuring scientist Jeff Leach, who studies the human microbiome and eats one whole leek a day, check it out here.  Yet most recipes call for using only the white and pale green parts of leeks, what a shame, and a waste!  I've found that instead of cooking them separately, I just chop the dark green parts more finely than the whites and cook them altogether.  In Tara Duggan's wonderful new book , Root to Stalk Cooking: the Art of Using the Whole Vegetable, she features recipes using such unsung parts of veggies, most of which I imagine also contain such nutritional bonuses. And I love the idea of using more parts of vegetables, it makes sense to me in the same way that using the whole animal in cooking does.

My number one favorite leek dish is creamed leeks.  Having grown up during the fat-phobic 70's and 80's, I don't have much experience in using cream in veggie dishes.  I adapted this one from another much loved cookbook The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Shannon Hayes,  and I love serving it as a side dish in winter, knowing that my tweaks have increased the pro-and prebiotic impact of the dish and the fat that is used is not only delicious but helps the eater absorb the vitamins in the leeks.  Indulge!

Creamed Leeks

2 tablespoons butter
2 large leeks, white parts cut into 1/2" strips and green parts into 1/4" strips
1/3 cup creme fraiche (recipe here), or heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium low heat.  Add the leeks, and saute until tender, about 7 minutes.  Add the creme fraiche, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Did you know you can make creme fraiche into the most wonderful butter you've ever tasted, and make true buttermilk at the same time to boot?  These and other dairy fermenting secrets will be revealed in my upcoming Ferment Dairy class with the Biofuel Oasis on March 8th, see this link to register.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Demystifying Shrubs

     Raising a glass of something sweet, tart and bubbly seems to be a basic human urge.  But the modern form of this refreshing beverage, soda, is quite harmful to health.  For most of human history, people have been making and enjoying various fermented beverages, with or without alcohol, which have had health benefits derived from the live bacteria and lactic or other acids produced through natural fermentation.  The fermentation revival has brought kombucha, kefir, kvass, sauerkraut juice and the like back to the table, and one of my new favorites, shrub, or drinking vinegar, which all give a boost to digestive power as well as pleasing the palate.  
     Turns out most people who suffer from occasional indigestion, heartburn and the like actually suffer from too little, not too much stomach acid, and drinking live vinegar or sour tonic beverages before or with a meal helps a lot.  It will certainly help with sparking the digestion so you don't suffer too much from the rich food of the upcoming holidays.  I learned a lot about shrubs and got inspired recently checking out Michael Dietsch's new book Shrub: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, check out his blog hereSalud!

Fruit and Herb Shrub
Preserving the harvest in vinegar is a time honored technique, and shrubs, originating in Persia and popular in colonial America, enjoyed a  heyday during Prohibition as a non-alcoholic libation.  They are now making a comeback among foodies and cocktailians (with or without alcohol added).  Flavored vinegar can also be used in salad dressings to add more flavor complexity and herbal benefits.  Drinking vinegar before meals is a great way to stimulate appetite, improve digestion, augment stomach acid and it can relieve liver qi stagnation, lifting the spirits. Using raw local honey instead of sugar and a raw vinegar such as apple cider, plus avoiding cooking the fruit as in many recipes, will all maximize the enzyme content of your drink, making the most healthful version.
Makes about 1 ½ quarts.

4 cups coarsely chopped fruit, such as berries, grapes, stone fruit, etc.
2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, rose geranium, basil, etc.
4-6 cups raw apple cider, rice, white wine or other mild vinegar
1-3 cups raw honey or sugar, to taste
Combine the first three ingredients in a 2 qt. Mason jar or similar and allow to infuse for 2-6 weeks.  Strain and add sweetener to get a taste that suits you.  Enjoy.  If you are using the shrub as a drink, dilute with 4-5 parts water or mineral water per part shrub, garnishing with sliced fresh fruit or herbs.

Combos to try: strawberries, basil and rose geranium, fig, black pepper and lemon, concord grape, peach, rose hip and rosemary, etc.

UPCOMING CLASS: This Saturday, Nov. 8th  I'll be teaching a day-long nutrition class in Berkeley, focusing on cooking and eating for the winter season and strengthening the kidneys.  It is suitable for acupuncturists (6 CEUs), students and those with some background and a passion for nutrition.  Follow this link to register.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sultry Summer Salad: Nasturtium Fatoush

When the weather turns hot and moist as summer ripens to late summer, appetite a bit dampened by heat, I think of cooking the sensual cuisines of the Mediterranean, particularly the eastern Mediterranean, with the skillful use of spices there that spark the palate.  When the lettuce bolts and turns too bitter in the garden, simple salads of cucumber, tomato and fresh herbs take their place, and these travel well to the lazy picnics of the summertime.  On the days when I feel a little more ambitious in the kitchen, I’ve been making a special version of Fatoush, which is the Arabic version of the ubiquitous bread salad that thrifty cooks make across the region.  
I adapted this recipe from the fabulous Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun, a delightful cookbook organized not by dish or season but by groupings of spices, in this case parsley, mint, dill and sweet basil which are so abundant in August.  I’ve replaced the greens (traditionally romaine) with nasturtium leaves and flowers here, but you can also use the radish leaves if they are young and tender, arugula, purslane, dandelion greens or another perky, leafy green.  This dish contains many foods which are known to protect and nourish the heart by Chinese and Western medicine: tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, peppers, radishes, the fresh herbs, the nasturtium flowers…and the joy you feel on seeing and eating it will certainly lighten your heart too.  Make it a full lunch by adding cooked garbanzo beans and garnishing with feta.   Serves 4-6.

             1 ½ tablespoons sherry or wine vinegar
            1 teaspoon umeboshi plum vinegar
            ½ tsp chopped preserved citrus peel or zest and juice of 1 lemon
            1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
            1/3 cup olive oil or a mixture of olive and walnut oil
            2 large heirloom or 24 cherry tomatoes
            1 English or 2 Lebanese or 4 Persian cucumbers
            1 red bell or 2 gypsy peppers
            4 radishes
            2 tablespoons sliced green onion or chives
            ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
            2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
            2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
            1 cup nasturtium leaves and flowers, loosely packed or other greens
            2 cups toasted pita chips*
            2 teaspoons sumac (this tart purple spice can be found in Middle Eastern markets
            or a good spice shop)

Make the vinaigrette by combining the vinegars, preserved lemon, mustard and olive oil in small jar and shaking until emulsified. 
Chop the tomatoes into cubes or split the cherry tomatoes if they are large, and place them in a large salad bowl.  Dice the cucumbers and peppers, and split the radishes in half if they are large, and add to the bowl along with the rest of the vegetables. 
About 10 minutes before you serve the salad, add the salad dressing and pita chips, toss to combine, and finish with salt and pepper as needed.  Garnish with sumac and serve.

*Make pita chips by tossing 2 large leftover pitas, torn into 1 ½” squares, with ¼ cup olive oil and spreading in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees until crispy and golden, about 8 minutes.  

Fall Classes: Check out my updated calendar for the remainder of 2014.  Introduction to Fermentation is happening at 18 Reasons Sept. 8th, followed by Fall Fermentation on Sept. 29th.   September 28 and November 8th are my in-depth nutrition and cooking classes for fall and winter, for licensed acupuncturists, students and interested lay people, at AIMC Berkeley, where I'll also be co-teaching Introduction to Oriental Medicine this fall with Dennis von Elgg, L.Ac.on Wednesday nights in October and November.  Details coming soon on the AIMC site.  Nov. 2nd I'll be doing Ferment the Fall Harvest with the Biofuel Oasis, where I'll be teaching vinegar for the first time, along with kimchi, kraut and more.  And later that same day, join me for Seeking Peak Eating: A Workshop on Food and Pleasure at Manzanita Wellness from 2-4pm.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sweet Summer and Sweet Corn

After six years and countless hours, I'm very pleased to announce that I have completed my doctorate in nutrition!  I successfully defended my dissertation on peak eating experiences last Friday and have been awarded a Doctorate of Science (D.Sc.) from the wonderful Hawthorn University.  It's been an incredible journey and I'm looking forward to tasting life beyond graduate school.  I'll be making a batch of my beloved Cherry Soup as part of the celebrations.

Two tidbits to follow: another segment of my dissertation, examining the perceived conflict between health and pleasure, and a favorite summer recipe, Red Lentil Dal with Sweet Corn, from Real Food All Year. This version has a correction (the sweet corn didn't actually appear in the recipe, ha!).  This a dish I've been enjoying lately which is particularly suited to summertime, and a great thing to cook up on Sunday night and enjoy, varied by different condiments, throughout a busy week.

Red Lentil Dal with Sweet Corn
In Chinese medicine, red lentils are classified as having a slightly bitter taste, which makes them particularly beneficial to the heart, the organ most important to nourish in the summertime. Dal, a dish of simmered and spiced legumes, is a staple food in India and Nepal, and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is also traditionally used as the basis of a seasonal fast at the beginning of summer. This recipe can be easily varied by the addition of almost any seasonal vegetable. A bunch of chopped arugula, stirred in the last few minutes of cooking, is particularly tasty.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

6 cups water
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
One 6-inch strip kombu (see Note)
1 tablespoon olive oil or ghee
1 onion, diced small
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon curry powder or a mixture of 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric
2 carrots, scrubbed but not peeled and cut in 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 cup sweet corn kernels, sliced off the cob
3 celery stalks, diced
One 1-inch piece unpeeled gingerroot, and grated (about 3 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
Sea salt
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Put the water in a large pot and add the lentils; soak overnight if possible. Do not drain, but bring lentils in their soaking water to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Add the kombu to the pot, cover, and turn the heat down low.
While the lentils are simmering, heat the oil in a skillet; add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until it begins to turn translucent. Add the mustard seeds and curry powder, and stir occasionally until the spices give off their fragrance, about 60 seconds. Add the carrots, corn kernels and celery and continue to cook a few minutes more, until they begin to brown around the edges. Scrape the vegetables and spices into the pot with the lentils, cover, and simmer until the lentils are soft and creamy, 10 to 30 minutes more, depending on the age of the lentils.
Take the grated ginger in your hand and squeeze the juice into the pot, or force it through a fine mesh sieve to extract the juice and add to the pot. Add lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Note: Kombu is a type of seaweed that helps beans cook more quickly and makes them more flavorful and digestible. You can purchase it packaged or in bulk at health and natural food store.

From Peak Eating Experiences: Investigating Relationships of Gustatory Pleasure and Health

 A  National Eating Disorder

The American people are experiencing unprecedented rates of disease today which are thought to be related to their diets.  In a telling cross-cultural study on attitudes toward food and eating, Paul Rozin observed: “given the much greater health orientation, worry about weight, concern and diet modification [such as choosing reduced-fat and –sodium foods] in the Americans, it is sobering that Americans consider themselves much lower in their own sense of being healthy eaters” than the French, Belgians and Japanese (P. Rozin, et al., 1999, p.174).  Contrasting the pleasure orientation of French and Belgian eaters with the health focus of the Americans, Rozin suggests that the “epidemic of food worrying” here rather than our “healthier” lower fat diets may account for our higher rates of heart disease. 
Rozin also found that that “1/3 of a sample of Americans seek a totally fat-free (and hence, actually fatal) diet” (P. Rozin,  Bauer & Cantanse, 2003, p.132).   Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health has written: “the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended public health consequences,” such as increasing rates of diabetes and obesity (Hu, Manson, & Willett, 2001, p.5). The decades-long admonition to avoid, limit and distrust an essential nutrient, fat, which has profound ties to both pleasure and satiety (Linden, 2011) is one example of an erroneous anti-pleasure idea which has profoundly shaped the prevailing American anxiety about food.
Viewing food “as much a poison as a nutrient, and eating almost as dangerous as not eating” (P. Rozin, et al., 1999, p. 164) might be connected to the observed increase in the national waistline, as well.  Dieting, a conscious effort to restrict the amount and type of food eaten bound to induce feelings of deprivation, has been consistently shown to promote both disordered eating and weight gain (Glassner, 2007; Tribole & Resch, 2003).  Bacon (2008a) observes that Americans “believe that healthy eating entails ‘watching our diets’ and fighting our desires…[this] is experienced as normal and appropriate by most people, and encouraged by health professionals—even though almost all dieters fail to reap the rewards that dieting is said to provide” (p.20).  Is it possible that the prevailing health versus pleasure dichotomy contributes to not only disordered eating but also stress, disease and obesity? Should nutritionists be teaching people to make peace with, or even to maximize, gustatory pleasure to promote both health and happiness?  If so, how might this be accomplished?
A provocative set of experiments conducted in the 1970s suggest that our enjoyment of food influences its nutritional impact.  Groups of Thai and Swedish women were served Thai and Swedish meals of known iron content, and each group both enjoyed, and absorbed more iron from, the meal of their own cultural heritage.  Iron absorption of the preferred meals was reduced by 70% when they were served pureed into an unpalatable paste (Hallberg, 1977). Another study found a 100% reduction in mineral absorption from a mineral drink when subjects were subjected to stressful conditions (two people talking simultaneously into each of their ears) while drinking it, compared to complete absorption when it was consumed in a relaxed state (Barclay, 1987). 
The antagonism between pleasure and health has deep roots in Western culture and has been traced from the Greek philosophers, through the development of Christianity (Coveney, 2006), to the ideology of the Puritan founders of this country (Kilwein, 1989).  It has influenced the evolution of the disciplines of both public health and nutrition, and profoundly shaped government policies and discourse around food (Warburton & Sherwood, 1996).  In his 1996 anthology examining The Functions of Pleasure, psychologist David Warburton opines: “in our society, health educators have become the new high priests of pleasure control with epidemiologists as their oracles,” (Warburton & Sherwood, 1996, p.9). The priest metaphor is echoed by Michael Pollan in his discussion of the dominant paradigm governing modern nutrition science.   Nutritionism holds that:
The key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient… [which is] invisible and slightly mysterious, [therefore] it falls to the scientists (and to the journalists through whom the scientists reach the public) to explain the hidden reality of foods to us.  In form this is a quasi-religious idea, suggesting that the visible world is not the one that really matters, which implies the need for a priesthood. (Pollan, 2008, p.28)