Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Easy Thai Salmon—Indescribably Lucious

An elegant Thai supper in half an hour? You betcha. Start your jasmine or any white rice now and begin the recipe below. By the time the salmon is ready, the rice will be, too. Lovely served with sliced tomatoes and green garden veggies. As an alternate, you can serve this with coconut rice (it takes a little longer to cook, but it's oh-so-rich--heavenly).
  • 1 pound of fresh salmon
  • Oil for the frying pan

MARINADE
  • 2 tablespoons banana sauce (available at Asian grocery stores) or ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Preparation:

  1. Make the marinade by combining all marinade ingredients together in a resealable plastic bag.
  2. Place the salmon in the bag with the marinade. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil your frying pan and heat to medium.
  4. Cook the salmon (and the marinade) a few minutes on each side.
  5. If the salmon has skin on one side, remove it now (and feed it to your dog--good fish oil to make dog's coat shine).
  6. Place cooked fillets on a plate, dolloping on the last of the marinade (the cilantro will have cooked nicely, and looks lovely on top).

Monday, August 03, 2009

Lose Money, Gain Salt, and Line the Pockets of Crooks—All by Buying Chicken

How would you like to pay more than the actual weight of your fresh chicken at the grocery store? As though someone had leaned on the scale when weighing it. And how would you like a heaping dose of extra salt with that extra-weighted chicken--even before it's seasoned? Well, that is precisely what we are getting, thanks to the unscrupulous and downright fraudulent practice of "chicken plumping."

According to Mr. Max Bernstein, of Common Sense NMS:

What is PLUMPING?: The practice of injecting saltwater, chicken stock, seaweed extract or some combination thereof into chicken to increase its weight and price, meaning that when you buy a package of chicken you can be spending 15% more on SALT WATER. More importantly, a plumped chicken has up to 700% more sodium than a chicken that hasn't been plumped. The result: hundreds of thousands of consumers are ponying up extra cash (about $1.50 per package of chicken) to unwittingly feed themselves and their families a dangerously unhealthy amount of salt. Consumers apparently are quite unaware of this practice, despite being concerned about their sodium intake:
  • Even though 71.3% of consumers try to watch their sodium intake at least some of the time, many consumers are still unaware of some of the fine print in product labels, even for USDA-labeled "100% natural" minimally processed foods.
  • 89% of consumers surveyed did not realize that a serving of some brands' fresh raw chicken could contain more salt per serving than a large order of french fries.
  • Upon learning how much money they could be paying for saltwater, 70% of the consumers felt deceived and 37% felt angry. Once they learned about the common practice, 85.4% of these consumers said they would now read nutrition labels and avoid saltwater-injected chicken.
  • 74.5% of consumers believe fresh chicken labeled as "natural" should contain no additives or preservatives.
  • 82.4% believe that fresh chicken carrying the "natural" label should not be injected with saltwater.
There's a cute video about all this at Chicken Plumping and much more info at SayNoToPlumping.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Bubblicious Comes to Your Home with SodaStream Soda Fountain


Bubblicious

Do you love bubbles? I LUUUUURRVE bubbles. All kinds of bubbles. Bubbles in cappuccino. Bubbles in champagne. Bubbles in a bath or hot tub. Bubbles in soda. But, wait a second—I rarely drink soda, even though I adore those tickly, fizzy bubbles popping lightly in my mouth. Why? Because commercial sodas are, simply put, too sweet. Kiddy sweet. Treacly. Show me a real foodie, and I will show you someone who wouldn’t be caught dead quaffing a standard-issue sickeningly sweet soda pop. But that would all change—when I got my hands on a SodaStream home soda fountain.


Soda came. It sweetened. It conquered.

Back in the 1800s, soda pop first was mass produced and then popularized by English inventor, John Matthews, who then immigrated to the U.S. Around the late 1800s, the right combination of bottles and cork-topped caps made distribution possible. Vending machines dispensing the new soda pop came along in the 1920s. Coca-cola, Pepsi-cola, and Dr. Pepper were among the earliest commercial soda brands, followed soon thereafter by 7-Up, and a bazillion others.


Somewhere between then and now, soda pop became overly commercialized, subverted, and warped. For some reason, the soda-makers decided to make their beverages super-sweet. Coca-Cola, for instance, has 39 grams of sugar—or the equivalent of 10 packets of sugar—in one 12 oz. can of soda. Who would take a cup and a half of tea and add 10 packets of sugar to it? That kind of sweetness level is insane.


Sure, lots of people opt for diet sodas, to skip sugar altogether. But diet sodas contain aspartame—which converts to wood alcohol in the blood, or sucralose—which is akin to chlorine. When you design your own sodas, you can still go the artificial sweetener route—SodaStream makes a line of diet soda flavorings (sweetened with sucralose), but a better way to go might be to mix your own sodas and simply use a smaller amount of sweetener—say, a teaspoon or two per serving.


Dissatisfied foodies have gone on to create more sophisticated sodas, and you can find delectable—and soberly sweetened—bubbly treats, such as Reed’s Ginger Brew and Boylan’s. These soda micro-brewers make their soda the old-fashioned way—soda fountain style—without artificial anything. And now you can, too. The bottom line is that SodaStream empowers you to make your soda the way you like it. You become the mixmaster. The demi-god of the fizz. And with an urge to explore and have fun, well, mixing your own soda fits right in.


Cue Journey’s “Any Way You Want It”

SodaStream has been around for a while, but is enjoying resurgence in popularity lately, with a redesigned website and some snazzy marketing. Once you have a home soda fountain, it’s easy to understand why: the carbonation units are highly portable: light-weight, cordless, and just easy. The unit I have, the red Fountain Jet, works like a dream and feels like a party. We drink “frizzy” water (the Italians call it frizzante) every night at supper. Sorry, Pellegrino. You’ve gotten our money for many years, but no more. Saving carbon is an environmentally caring choice. No more bottles to recycle, no more lugging back and forth. We now go local. As local as our own kitchen and our own little SodaStream, which is cute, too, by the way, and doesn’t take up much counter space.


How to Be a Soda Mixmaster

The secret is gourmet flavoring syrups. You know, the kind you can get at Cost Plus World Market or in Starbucks. Simply make the sparkling water with your SodaStream, and add in the desired amount of flavoring syrup. Voila! Artisanal soda at your fingertips.

Look for gourmet flavoring syrups that:

· Use pure cane sugar, not artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup

· Do not use artificial colors (some have no colorings, others do—check the ingredients list before buying)

· Use predominantly natural flavorings (some use artificial flavors, such as chocolate or cinnamon, but I am willing to forgive this as long as the other two conditions are satisfied)


Gourmet Flavoring Syrup Makers

Monin Gourmet Flavorings

Dolce Flavored Syrups

Torani—sold at CostPlus World Market

Stirling Gourmet Flavors

Nature’s Flavors Organic Flavor Concentrate—costs more, but nothing artificial ever


Exotic Sodas You Can Make

· Banana

· Pumpkin soda

· Passion fruit

· Peppermint

· Chocolate mint

· Apple

· Asian rose

· White chocolate

· Irish cream

· Marshmallow

· Chipotle pineapple

· Habañero lime soda

· Pistachio


Funky, Original Sodas You Can Create

· Green tea soda

· Peach white tea soda

· Gingerbread (mix cinnamon and ginger)

· Piña colada soda (mix pineapple and coconut)


Now, compound that wild list of potential soda flavors with what you could do in terms of “grown-up drinks,” (this is what we tell our five-year-old to distinguish from the drinks she can taste). Chocolate raspberry martini, anyone?


And oh, yeah, don’t forget soda drinks with a splash of heavy cream. You can make kiddy fountain drinks with a creamy pleasure to them. Think of the fun you can have at your next child’s birthday party? No need to cop out with a giant punch bowl—now you can make custom-tailored kiddy mocktails. And don’t forget about ice cream floats. What joy!


Carolyn’s Ginger Lemon Soda

As a bonus, here’s my original recipe for Ginger Lemon Soda. This will actually make you feel better if you are suffering from the flu. Somehow restorative and at the very least, super-yummy. A truly grown-up refresher that is slightly spicy, although my five-year-old loves it, too.

  • One liter of bubblicious SodaStream sparkling water
  • Agave nectar or maple syrup to taste (three tablespoons tastes about right to me, but adjust to your desired sweetness level)
  • Two teaspoons ginger root juice (grate peeled ginger root and squeeze to get the juice, add more to increase spiciness)
  • One tablespoon lemon juice

Add the three flavorings to the liter of sparkling water, being careful because the soda will bubble up when you add the sweetener. When bubbling has slowed, close the top, and gently rock from side to side to disperse the syrup. Serve over ice with a twist of lemon.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Abuelita, My Favorite Granny


Until I moved to California, where there are a lot of Mexican foods available in the grocery stores, I had never heard of "Abuelita" brand chocolate. And even still, I saw it but didn't know what it was, other than knowing that the word "abuelita" means "granny." I ran across a number of mole recipes that called for Abuelita and still, I didn't go through the effort of finding some and trying it--until last week. I Googled "Mexican grocery store" in my neighborhood, and schlepped over there to get some Abuelita's. The proprietor of the store, an adorable mother-figure, kept calling me "mi hija," or "my daughter," which I found to be delightful (me? her daughter? She was probably only 10 years older than me).

So I bought two packs of Abuelita's and used some for the first time in my chicken mole for the dinner party. Truly, it was a revelation. What suprised me was that it made the mole sweet. Not too sweet, mind you, but pleasantly sweet. And the flavor was gloriously complex.

Just yesterday, I tried Abuelita's for the first time in hot chocolate. Instead of being in powder form, Abuelita's comes in chunks of solid chocolate. The chocolate is premixed with just the right amount of sugar (not too sweet, like most American hot chocolate) and cinnamon. You drop a chunk in your milk, microwave it, and then froth it with a cappuccino machine (or a special milk frothing device, which I don't have). You get the most fabulous hot chocolate on this Earth, with no exaggeration.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

For New Year's? Black-eyed Peas, If You Please


How Much Do You Know About the Humble Black-eyed Pea?
  • Thought to symbolize good luck since references to eating black-eyed peas in the Talmud (where it is called "rubiya"). Took on good luck status in the US after Union soldiers stripped southern fields of all edible crops except for "field peas" and corn.
  • Also known as "cowpeas" or "crowder peas"
  • A common food in the US South
  • Native to Africa, but popular throughout Asia as well
  • Often served with either ham hocks or ham in the South
  • Also known as "Texas Caviar" when made into a salsa
  • A great source of calcium, protein, and fiber
  • Like other legumes, adds nitrogen--thus improving--the soil in which it grows
I've got a nice pot of black-eyed peas in the crock pot now. The trick with beans is not to add any salt--or anything salty--until after the beans are cooked. Then, it's on to Hoppin' John. Here's Emeril Lagasse's Hoppin' John. Since I don't have a ham hock, I'll be using Black Forest ham and ham stock instead of chicken stock. Very hammy, very nice.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large ham hock
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
  • Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
  • 3 cups steamed white rice

Directions

Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.