Archive for the ‘New Food’ Category
In an Asian market the other day, I found a vegetable that I didn’t recognize. I knew from its appearance that it was a root vegetable, but it was one I’d never seen before. My first thought was, “This is the ugliest vegetable I’ve ever seen.”
It was dark brown, verging on black, gnarly, and hairy. Now, there are similar root vegetables out there that are similarly not of the pretty variety, such as real yams. Those are pretty dark and hairy. But that’s not what this was. Real yams (aka “true” yams or African yams) are white inside. These were purplish. I could see spots of purple in the broken or cut pieces in the bin.
Nor were these purple sweet potatoes, Japanese purple yams, or any other purple root vegetable I’d ever seen.
The problem is that produce in an Asian market is not always labeled—at least not in English. Sometimes the English name is not common, so even native English speakers have never heard of it. So, I was really at a loss.
I bought a piece.
The ugliest vegetable in the world on the outside was a gorgeous mottled purple on the inside. In fact, the color was jewel-like. The flesh had a sticky quality to it, like yuca.
But how to cook it? Since I didn’t know how it’s used in whatever land it originated, I just did the simplest things: boiled it and baked it. Boiling washed out the flavor a bit, as well as the color. (If you look at the photo below, the piece on the far right was boiled.) Roasting rendered them more flavorful but rather dry and mealy.
The verdict? The ugliest vegetable in the world tastes just like a regular white potato but is, in my opinion, less versatile.
If I see them again, I’m going to try making chips out of them. Maybe cutting them very thinly and frying them will make them more palatable.
But I still don’t know what they are. I saw one site that called them African yellow yams, but I’m not convinced that it’s that. If you know what this is, please let me know.
I’m not calling this recipe Sauteed Valor Green Beans because it’s something you should eat as a reward for bravery. The word valor is actually the Indian name for these particular green beans.
I found these beans at Patel supermarket in Jackson Heights. It’s my favorite Indian market and I always find something in there that I’ve never tried. When I saw these beans, I thought they were odd looking. They looked like string beans but with thicker skin. I was curious how they would cook up, so I bought some.
Common sense would say to cook these beans with Indian spices and ingredients. But I decided to cook them a little more European style. So, I sautéed them with some sliced shallots, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (because I didn’t have any fresh garlic). My suspicions were right—the thicker skin meant that they needed longer cooking time and some liquid to keep them from burning. In this case, I used some water and a little bouillon.
After they beans had softened, I uncovered the pan and let the liquid dry up. Then, I veered back toward Indian because I decided to deglaze the pan with a splash of coconut balsamic vinegar. I had picked it up at F. Oliver’s oil shop in Ithaca last summer and I haven’t used it much. (It’s delicious but coconut balsamic does have limited uses. I mean, I’m not going to splash some into my marinara sauce, ya know?) Finally, I mixed in some toasted slivered almonds.
The result was kind of a sweet and sour flavor and the crunch of the almonds really made it texturally satisfying. I can’t say I enjoy them as much as regular green beans because they have a different flavor—kind of earthy, where really green beans are sweet-ish.
So, here’s my recipe for Sauteed Valor Green Beans. Unless you are somewhere near an F. Oliver’s, you probably won’t be able to get Creamy Coconut Balsamic Vinegar, so just use regular balsamic, or omit it altogether.
Sauteed Valor Green Beans
½ lb. valor green beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 or 4 shallots, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
½ cup vegetable broth
¼ cup almond slivers
2 tablespoons coconut or regular balsamic vinegar
Trim off the ends of the green beans, pull off any strings, and slice them open (this might be easier if you cut longer beans in half). Chop the beans into half-inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a medium pan. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté just until they start to brown. Add the string beans and sauté over medium heat about 5 minutes. Add the broth, cover the pan, and cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet. Add the almonds and toast, stirring often, until lightly browned.
Uncover the pan with the beans and continue cooking until liquid had evaporated. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir; when the balsamic has evaporated, toss in the almonds and mix well.
Serve as a side dish or over brown or white basmati rice.
Makes 2 servings.
As I write this blog, Hurricane Sandy is outside pulling early trick-or-treat pranks. The wind is really wicked and is slamming things into my window and it’s really freaking me out. I hope that everyone fares well through this storm. As for me, I’m going to distract myself with food.
My local farmer’s market has had parsley root, and if you’ve visited me in the past few weeks, you know that I’ve tried a couple of different ways of using it. I did a roasted root vegetable, which was great. Next I tried a recipe that called for sautéing parsley root with string beans and soy sauce and I can’t say that I liked it very much. Then I made a root vegetable bisque, which despite the odd addition of coconut milk (not typical for bisques), it was absolutely wonderful, and I’m sorry that I didn’t take a picture of it (here’s the link to the recipe). This week, I decided on a really simple, classic technique. Yes, I’m referring to (GASP!) frying.
Frying root vegetables concentrates their sugar and bumps up their sweetness. One of my favorite things that my mother made when I was growing up was fried carrots. Today, of course, we frown on frying, but once in a while, it’s a delicious treat. So, here’s what you do:
1. Peel 2 large parsley roots and slice them into 1/8-inch-thick slices on the diagonal.
2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan.
3. Add the parsley root to the pan and fry over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until nicely browned and tender when pierced with a fork.
4. Remove them to a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
That’s it. Eat them while they’re hot.
Parsley roots look very similar to parsnip, but they are completely different. Parsley root’s color is usually a much starker white than parsnip and is usually squatter and fatter. Both the parsley root and its leaves have a celery-like flavor and make a flavorful addition to any dish that would call for celery. The leaves of the parsley root look the same as “regular” parsley but the two are different types of parsley and are grown slightly differently (the root variety are planted further apart to allow for the growth of the root). And although their flavors are slightly different, the leaves of the root can certainly substitute for standard parsley.
Not as widely used in the U.S., parsley root is a common ingredient in Eastern European and Scandinavian cuisines. As Americans are expanding their palates and embracing unknown “ethnic” ingredients, I’m seeing more and more diverse produce in the markets, which heavenly for cooks everywhere.
I was curious as to how parsley root is most commonly used, so I did a search and downloaded a couple of recipes. In the end, though, I kept it simple. I cut up the parsley root, along with some carrots and onions, tossed it all in olive oil and seasonings, and roasted them.
Roasted vegetables is one of my favorite things in the world to eat, and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a roasted vegetable I didn’t like. Parsley roots were no exception. They were sweet and delicious. The interesting thing is that the entire batch of cooked vegetables had a pronounced celery flavor. At first, I thought it was from the little bit of celery that I’d thrown in (I had a piece of celery left over from a different dish, so I thickly sliced it and threw it in the roasting pan). But then I realized that it wasn’t the celery, it was the parsley root. Very interesting. Anyway, here’s my recipe. It’s easy, simple and just in time for the fall. I chose not to include another other white root vegetables (such as potatoes or parsnips) so that I could easily distinguish the parsley root. If you can’t get parsley root, just use any root vegetables you like.
|Roasted Autumn Vegetables|
- 2 large parsley roots, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ chopped herbs (such as rosemary, parsley, thyme, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Combine the vegetables in a bowl. Add the salt, pepper, and herbs; add the oil and mix. Make sure all the vegetables are coated. Spread them out in a roasting pan and roast about 30 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Stir them occasionally.
Once again, I found myself in Patel Brothers, the big Indian market in Jackson Heights, looking at something I’d never seen or heard of before. This time, it was samo seeds, also known as jungle rice and morio. These seeds are from a wild grass that grows in tropical Asia and are commonly eaten in times of famine. But samo is also eaten during a fasting period called Ekadasee, which occurs twice a month, once when the moon is closest to the earth and once when it’s the farthest. Samo seeds have an earthy flavor and once cooked, looks much like couscous or millet. Uncooked, they could almost pass for white grits.
I found a few recipes for samo seed pulav (pilaf) and this is one version below. I’m going to try a few different other versions, but for now, here’s a recipe for a basic samo seed pilaf, great for a side dish to just about anything.
Samo Seed Pulav
1 cup samo seeds
2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 cup peanuts, skinned
1 chile, minced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced small
Salt to taste
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup minced cilantro
1. Place the samo seeds in a bowl of water and let it soak for about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain, rise, and drain well.
2. Heat the ghee or oil in a wide pan over medium heat; add the cumin seeds and toast for a minute. Add the peanuts and sauté until they are browned. Add the chile and sauté another minute. Add the potatoes and sauté about 3 minutes more, stirring often to prevent sticking.
3. Add the samo seeds and cook, stirring often, to dry it out.
4. Add the salt and 2 cups water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer until water is absorbed and seeds are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Fluff up the grains with a fork, then mix in the lemon juice and cilantro. Serve hot or warm.
I was trolling my local Asian market again and came across something in the produce aisle I’d never seen. Actually, I had seen it before but hadn’t known at the time what it was. This time, they had sign with the name of the product: bamboo. As in the bamboo shoots that you get in Chinese take-out. Of course, I had to buy it.
Now came the big question: How the hell do I prepare this? I read online that you peel away the outer layers, but I think I went a little too far. I figured that it was like an artichoke—you keep peeling until you get to the light green, tender leaves. The thing with bamboo is that you keep peeling and it doesn’t really change. I finally figured that out and stopped peeling. I cut off the tip, sliced off the bottom just a bit, cut it all up and boiled them until I could pierce them with the tip of a knife.
My stir fry was really going to benefit from the addition of fresh bamboo and I was really excited to see how it would taste. As I expected, the fresh bamboo was so good. It had a fresh, mild taste and a firm, slightly crunchy texture, and it was completely superior to the canned varieties most of us are familiar with. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the flavor, though. A little grassy, a little buttery, but very amenable to whatever other flavors you’re cooking with it. The canned version has a washed-out flavor in comparison.
Another thing that struck me about fresh bamboo was that because of the shape of bamboo shoots, you won’t get those perfect little rectangles you get in a can, which gives you a clue as to how much processing they go through.
If you see some in your local Asian market, it’s really worth it to give a try. It’s not cheap—$3.99 per pound where I bought it—but you get a lot from one shoot. Here’s a recipe for what I made. I used a type of mushroom called “beech” mushrooms, which I’d also never heard of before. They were so pretty and snow white, I had to try them. But seeing as how you’re not likely to easily find them, I changed it to shiitakes.
Fresh Bamboo Stir Fry with Soba Noodles
1 1/2 lb fresh bamboo shoot
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1/4 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1/2 lb bok choy, chopped, stems and leaves separated
2 tbsp shoyu
2 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
1/2 lb soba noodles, cooked
1 tbsp minced cilantro for garnish
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cut off the tip (about an inch) and trim the bottom of the bamboo shoot. Peel away a couple of layers. Cut it up into pieces and place in the boiling water. Lower the heat and simmer until tender, but still firm, when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.
2. Heat the sesame oil in a wok or wide skillet. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and saute until they start to turn brown.
3. Add the bok choy stems; stir fry 1 minute. Add the bok choy leaves, shoyu, and toasted sesame seed oil. Cook 1 more minutes.
4. Add cooked soba noodles and toss. If noodles are cold, cook until heated through. Transfer to serving bowls and sprinkle cilantro on top.
I was recently browsing the Gourmet Garage, a high end market in Greenwich Village, and came across a product I’d never heard of or seen before: Kañiwa. As I often do when I encounter a new product, I bought it. (Although I can’t afford to shop regularly in gourmet markets, I like to browse the aisles because I know that I will usually find something that is not commonly found in most other markets.)
Kañiwa , also spelled cañihua or canihua, is a tiny grain, about the size of a poppy seed. It is a species of goosefoot and is related to quinoa. Like quinoa, it is a whole grain native to the Andean mountains of Peru. Also like quinoa, when cooked, kañiwa seeds have little threads around them. Unlike quinoa, they do not contain saponins, which is the compound that gives quinoa its bitter taste. (If you ever cooked quinoa without rinsing it first, you know what I’m talking about.)
Although kañiwa is new to the U.S., it’s actually an ancient grain and health experts are now saying that kañiwa is the next big “super grain.” Nutritional facts about kañiwa are not yet available from the USDA, but considering that the people of the Andes have sustained themselves for thousands of years in part with kañiwa, it’s safe to say that kañiwa has something going for it. In fact, it’s high in protein (it’s 16% protein) and antioxidants, and also contains fiber, iron, calcium, and zinc. And it’s a gluten-free grain.
How to use Kañiwa
Again, kañiwa does not need to be rinsed. Most sources that I’ve consulted recommend toasting. Because it’s so small, it can be incorporated into many things, but is particularly popular made into a porridge. Kaniwa.org provides this recipe (with my edits):
Basic Kañiwa Porridge:
Cook one cup of kañiwa with two cups of water. Bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed. Just like quinoa, it will sprout little tails when done. Fluff with a fork. Serve the kañiwa with butter and a sweetener, such as maple syrup or Rapadura. This will make about two cups of cooked kañiwa.
Right now, kañiwa is hard to find, although you can order it online. I paid $5 for 12 oz., so it’s not cheap but not over-the-top expensive.
The texture of kañiwa is almost like grits, but firmer and crunchier. It’s quite unique. Below is a recipe that I created. It’s a very simple recipe with simple ingredients. It’s great for a party and it will definitely have people asking, “What is this?” In a good way. Enjoy!
Warm Kañiwa Salad
Makes 6 servings.
1/2 cup kañiwa
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 finely chopped shallots or scallions
1 cup mushrooms (any kind)
2 cups cooked white beans
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 tbsp stone-ground Dijon mustard
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Toast kañiwa in a dry pot, stirring frequently, until it has a nutty aromna, about 2 minutes.
2. Pour in vegetable broth. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer, covered until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium skillet. Add garlic and shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms release liquid and start to brown. Add beans and cook until warmed through. Add this to kañiwa in bowl. Sprinkle in parsley.
4. Make dressing. Whisk all ingredients together until well blended. Pour over kañiwa. Toss to mix well. Adjust seasoning as desired.
Until recently, I had never seen sorghum grain in my life. I only became familiar with sorghum molasses a couple of years ago, when I encountered it on a trip through the South. But sorghum, as I learned, has been around for a long, long time.
Sorghum has been known by other names, the most common of which are “Guinea corn, “Johnson grass,” and “milo.” “Egyptian millet” and “great millet” have also been used, which is understandable, since the grain does look like millet on steroids. I’ve purchased sorghum flour in my favorite Indian market, Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights, where it’s called marathi.
The oldest documented cultivation of sorghum is dated at 3000 B.C. in Egypt. Sorghum thrives in hot, arid climates, where other crops might fail. That could be the reason why it became such an important crop in the Near and Middle East. The Muslims introduced it to Spain, who then introduced it to France, and from there, it spread out to other parts of Europe. Sorghum is an important crop in Africa, and it is believed that it was introduced into the U.S. by African slaves in the early 17th century. According to Grain.org, sorghum is the third most important cereal crop grown in the U.S. and the fifth most important in the world. The U.S. is now the world’s largest producer and exporter of sorghum.
Sorghum became a particularly popular product in the U.S. South, where sorghum molasses is a common substitute for maple syrup and is spread on biscuits, corn bread, pancakes, and—as I found out in Alabama—THROWED ROLLS.
Aside from food, sorghum is commonly included in animal feed, and it is used in the production of alcoholic beverages, such as maotai and kaoliang in China and beer in the U.S., such as Bard’s and Redbridge by Anheuser-Busch. In southern Africa, sorghum beer is popular and is said to be a traditional beverage of the Zulu people. Also, people in South Africa used sorghum beer to get around the prohibition laws imposed on the black community. And since sorghum is a gluten-free grain, sorghum beer is a great choice for those with gluten sensitivities. (If you’re so inclined, you can brew your own sorghum beer. Here are a set of instructions.)
As far as nutrients go, sorghum is rich in potassium, phosphorus, thiamine, and niacin, has some calcium, and has small amounts of iron and riboflavin.
When cooking with sorghum, it’s best to use “moist” recipes—that is, recipes that call for moist ingredients or a good amount of liquid—because the grains are thick and starchy and if they’re too dry, they can have a pasty mouthfeel and be difficult to swallow. And it’s best to serve sorghum hot (or at least warm) because as it cools, the starchiness becomes prominent.
While sorghum might be easy to find in the South, not so much in the Northeast. However, I did, by chance, find some at an Asian market. I wasn’t looking for it, but there it was and, of course, I had to buy some. I did a little research on the best ways to use sorghum and came up with this recipe. Enjoy!
Sorghum and Kale Saute with Cannellini
1 cup sorghum grain
2 cups vegetable broth
4 cups chopped kale
1 ½ cups cooked cannellini
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp paprika
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
2. Rinse and drain the sorghum. Place in a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot or Dutch oven and stir over medium-low heat until dry and slightly browned.
3. Carefully pour in the vegetable stock and a pinch of salt. Stir and place in the oven; bake until liquid is absorbed and grains are tender, about 40 to 50 minutes. If necessary, add a little more liquid to the pot.
4. Heat oil in a wide pan. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, sprinkle in paprika and red papper flakes and immediately put in the kale. Add salt and pepper and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until kale is wilted and tender (but not mushy. Add the sorghum and beans and mix well. Cook for 5 minutes to blend flavors. Add more liquid if necessary.
5. Check for seasoning and serve hot.
Those of you who have heard of durian have probably also heard of its rep. Its bad rep. Well, bad in some ways, good in others. The flesh of a durian fruit is prized in other parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia, where it is native and people pick and eat them fresh off the plant. Its custardy, yellow flesh is plucked right out of the shell and eaten in hand.
The problem with durian is that it stinks. I mean really stinks. Hotels in Asia post signs forbidding guests from bringing in durian. I read a story once about a traveler who had gone to Malaysia and attempted to bring a durian aboard a plane to take it home with him. He and his durian were kicked off the plane and he was reprimanded. And it wasn’t even in the main passenger cabin—he had packed it and it was stored in the fuselage. That’s how strong the odor of a durian is.
What does it smell like? The best way I can describe the smell is dirty baby diapers that have been sitting in the pail too long. Seriously. The stuff stinks.
I’d always been curious about durian but was afraid to buy it because of its purported strong smell. I didn’t want to stink up my house. And because they are an imported tropical fruit, they’re also expensive and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that I might dislike.
Then, one day, my friend Elaine at work, who is from Malaysia, brought in a durian. It had been her mission for some time to introduce me to it and she finally got the chance. After work, we went outside and sat on a bench on the property of my job. As soon as she opened the bag, I smelled the baby poop. I was not deterred. Using a pair of scissors, she prodded open the hard, bumpy shell to reveal the kidney-shaped flesh. It looks firm, but when you touch it, it is soft and viscous, like thick yogurt that is separating. I scooped some with my finger and tasted it. I let it linger in my mouth so that I could get a good sense of its flavor. The first thing I tasted was banana with a faint pineapple undertone. After swallowing, the lingering flavor was garlicky/oniony. And the more I tasted, the more I began picking up notes of coffee and mocha. I don’t know why a stinky fruit that is banned from hotels and airplanes should taste like coffee and mocha, but there it was.
(Unfortunately, Elaine also brought vacuum-sealed durian fruit into the office and it strangely gave off an odor that resembled petroleum gas. More than one person came running through the area asking if there was a gas leak.)
So, that was my first durian experience. I don’t know that I will ever seek it out, but I love trying new foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and so I was happy to give it a go. If you’re brave or adventurous and would like to give durian a try, you will generally find it whole in the freezer case in Asian markets, and it’s often wrapped in a mesh bag. You can also find the flesh frozen. If you can get past the smell, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I suggest, though, that if you’re going to be around people afterward, chew on some parsley or pop a few Tic Tacs. The recipe below is courtesy of IncredibleSmoothies.com. Let me know what you think.
Lemon-Ginger Durian Smoothie
- 1 cup durian
- 1 whole banana, peeled
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 4-6 ounces of water
Add all ingredients and then blend on high until creamy and thoroughly mixed. Add additional lemon and/or ginger to taste, if desired.
I was visiting a friend in Alabama this weekend and the Alabama National Fair was just getting underway. (Not the State Fair—that, apparently, is a different thing). Anyway, my friend and I went and our one goal was to check out a new dish we’d heard about, the most heinous of culinary concoctions: the donut burger.
What is a donut burger? you might ask. It is a beef burger with bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion sandwiched between a split, glazed Krispy Kreme donut. I kid you not. The inventor of this monstrosity clearly was not taking into consideration the national obesity epidemic.
Seriously, this burger clocks in at 1,500 calories. The average person who engages in moderate activity should be consuming approximately 2,000 calories per day. This thing uses up three quarters of your daily calories, and with the best possible elements!
So, that’s the health aspect. Let’s talk about the culinary aspect of it. It’s a sugary glazed donut on beef, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Um, I’m sorry but I just don’t get the appeal. But then I also don’t get the appeal of pineapple on pizza, bacon in ice cream, or cumin in candy. Maybe it’s just me but one does not go with the other.
This abomination was supposedly invented by a bar owner in Decatur, Georgia, who ran out of buns for his burgers and grabbed some donuts to sandwich the meat patties in. Now, some of the best culinary inventions happened by chance. Take, for example, the ice cream cone: For that wonderful summer treat, we have some quick-thinking vendors at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. According to legend, an ice cream vendor ran out of cups and took waffles from a waffle vendor, rolled them up, and put his ice cream in them, thus creating a permanent fixture in the culinary landscape. Another example would be the ice cream soda, invented in 1874 by Robert M. Green, who ran out of ice for his sodas at his eatery and started using ice cream, hoping it would go unnoticed, and instead created a much-loved American beverage.
Somehow, I don’t think this accidental gastronomic creation known as the donut burger was quite as serendipitous as those others. Or as appetizing. Some things were meant to be; some things should never be.
What cracks me up is that the concession sign at the fair boasted: “Fresh, Never Frozen.” As if this was supposed to make me want to eat it. “Oh, wow, it’s fresh, not frozen! Well, then, it must be of the finest quality and good for you, too!”
Right. And next I’ll head out to Wisconsin where I hear they have chocolate-covered bacon on a stick.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.