“The biggest mistake people make is pushing the burger around because they want to look like a grill master,” Jeff Weinstein, burger master
I love this time of year when blue is the predominant color of the sky and the air in the evening is filled with the smoky, fragrant, scent of dinner on the grill. I often stop and breathe in deeply and imagine what is going to be for dinner next door. I always seem to imagine burgers for some reason.
Everybody loves a burger. But despite America’s best intentions, creating the perfect burger is hard to do, most of the time we manage to get a dry, crumbling, hockey puck of a thing that sticks to the roof of our mouth. So what are the secrets of a perfect burger? Once again, I have sacrificed myself and my loved ones to find this very answer for you. Here are some tips for burger mania on the summer grill;
On the Meat; Buy good meat, the cheaper the meat the less flavor and health involved. We like to mix our ground meats and do 50/50 venison/pork or lamb, lean beef/pork or lamb. A rule to remember is that the fat carries the flavor so you want to make sure and have that in the burger for taste and juiciness. There are many local meat farmers that at our famer’s market and their meats are far superior to any store bought meat. (And you are supporting our local farmers! Win win)
On forming the patties; Chill your meat in the freezer for 10 minutes before handling and wash your hands in cold water before forming the burgers. This keeps bacteria down and helps reduce the stress to the burger so it won’t be tough after cooking. You want to handle the meat quickly and gently when forming the patties. Resist the urge to squash your burgers, it doesn’t work out well for either one of you. Form your patties about 3/4-1 inch thick and make a dimple in the middle of the burger about a 1/4 inch deep and 1 to 2 inch in diameter. This dimple helps the burger cook evenly and reduce shrinkage. It will flatten out perfectly when cooking. Brush them with a little olive oil on both sides, season with salt and pepper (if they are already seasoned) and then put the burgers back in the freezer for 5 minutes before grilling to firm them up.
On grilling them; Grill burgers hot. A high constant heat is the key to a perfectly cooked burger. Make sure to have your grill hot before laying the burgers on it. Do not fiddle with or squish the burgers once you’ve got them on your hot grill. I know it’s hard but you can do it! Burger masters only flip the burgers once, so try to keep that in mind when cooking these gems. You’ll know if you have the right sear on the burger if they come right off without sticking when you go to flip it. If it sticks you either haven’t got your grill hot enough or you haven’t let it sear long enough. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your burger. If you want those groovy crisscross patterns on the burger, just do a half of turn after they have cooked for 3 minutes or so, then after flipping them, doing the half turn again before they are done.
After the grill; Take them off the grill and let them set for a few minutes, batting off the offending intruders who wish to jump in. This allows the juices to redistribute into the burgers. Serve the burgers with high quality toppers like homemade BBQ sauce, mayo and ketchup. I also like to marinate red onions, which are a cinch, and serve with them, along with interesting cheeses like blue cheese or feta. Believe me this really turns a regular burger into a party in your mouth. I do not use buns, but if you do, choose ones that don’t dominate the flavor of the burger and toast them on the grill after the burgers are done.
Here is my latest favorite burger that I cannot get enough of. They are easy enough for a weeknight and delicious enough for a weekend barbeque. This recipe comes out of my new favorite cookbook that I highly recommend, “Dishing up Oregon” by Ashley Gartland. Beware, when these burgers are grilling the neighbors might not just sniff but come to dinner!
Herbed Beef and Lamb Burgers
The lamb can be substituted with ground pork if you like but it’s just not the same.
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 cup of fresh parsley
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro
1/2 cup of fresh oregano
2 medium shallots roughly chopped
OR 1/2 red onion roughly chopped (About 1/2 cup)
2-3 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of allspice
1 pound of ground lamb
1 pound of ground lean beef or venison
1 teaspoon of flaked or kosher salt
1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
1/2 cup of mayo, preferably homemade
8 tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese, optional
In your handy dandy blender or food processor, blend the herbs, shallots, garlic and lemon juice until everything is a fine mess. Dump 3/4 of that herby mess into a large bowl with the ground meats and mix in the spices, salt and pepper, egg and herb blend with your hands (hopefully clean) until just mixed. Don’t overmix or you will get tough burgers. Form the burgers into 8 patties about an inch thick and with a dimple in the middle of them about 1/4 inch deep and a couple inches wide to prevent shrinkage. Brush or spray the burgers with a bit of olive oil on the top side, season with salt and pepper and set in the freezer while your grill heats up. Add the remaining herb mixture with the mayo, stir well and set in the fridge till later.
Heat your grill to medium high heat or if you are using charcoal, get your coals red hot. (You should probably do that charcoal thing before you form the patties) Grill your burgers, turning once until medium done, about 4-5 minutes per side. Sprinkle the burgers with 1 tablespoon of the feta cheese right after taking them off the grill and let them set 2-3 minutes before serving. Serve with the herbed mayo, thinly sliced red onions, tomatoes, arugula (Mixed greens work well too) and toasted buns if you choose. Cheers!
The fourth of July is the kickoff of ice cream season to me. Our summer finally arrives and the fireworks begin, literally and figuratively. I think that ice cream is a very fitting way to celebrate being American as it has become an all-American dessert. People in the US consume more ice cream than any other nation, to the tune of 35 pints per person, per year.
American’s, having a sharp eye for a buck, have capitalized on this fact and specialty ice cream stores have popped up across the country like firecrackers. Now I’m not just talking Baskin & Robins ice cream type stores, I’m talking hipster, privately owned and run ice cream shops that make all their own ice creams with flavors that blow your taste buds. There are many in Portland such as “Salt and Straw”, “Ruby Jewel” and “Cloud City”. Some of the flavors that you see in these places are dark chocolate with salted caramel ribbons, pear and blue cheese, or strawberry balsamic with black pepper.
I was inspired by all this greatness recently and decided to start making our own ice creams. Especially when I read the label on our beloved Tillamook Ice cream a few months back. (Heavy sigh) Sometimes I hate to read labels because once I know the truth there is no going back. That is exactly what happened with Tillamook ice cream. (Stop reading here if you want to stay in the dark.)
Did you know it contains wood pulp, MSG and trans fats along with questionable chemicals? The wood pulp is hiding under the names, microcrystalline cellulose and cellulose gum. The MSG, in the carrageenan and the trans fats in the mono- and diglycerides. The chemicals are in the vanillin, which is a fake vanilla extract made from the wastes of the paper/wood pulp industries. Sad huh?
None-the less, that information spurred me onto cranking out ice cream here at home. I realized that making ice cream is so easy! And cheap! It is basically like whizzing up a smoothie, chilling it for a bit, then sticking it in the ice cream maker for a half hour. Easy, peasy, one two threesy. Anyone can do it.
If you do not have an ice cream maker and you love ice cream, I highly recommend you purchasing one. The ice cream maker that is very effective and a favored among my foodie friends is the Cuisinart ICE-20, that makes about 1.5 quarts at a time. It only costs about $60 and is a little trooper. I keep my freezer bowl in the freezer at all times so it is always frozen and ready to go.
This recipe I am sharing is a good overall fruity ice cream recipe. Just substitute any fruit in the place of the blueberries and ta daa! I sometimes scrape the vanilla seeds out of a vanilla pod to use in this recipe, it adds a nice dimension to the ice cream. Also experiment with the fat content you want. This recipe has the perfect amount for my tastes but maybe you want less? Use more milk. Want more? Use more cream. Feel free to play with the recipe and add your own special sparks to it. Creativity is king in ice cream and America.
Red, White and Blueberry ice cream sundaes
Make both the ice cream and the raspberry syrup the day before and the assembly the next day is a snap. Make sure and at least start the ice cream the day before so it has time to “temper” or chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours. I have a dairy free rendition of this on my blog at Cavewomancafe.wordpress .com.
Blueberry Ice cream
Makes 1.5 quarts
1.5 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 to 2/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract (the real stuff)
The zest and juice of one lemon
Put the blueberries and the milk in a blender and whiz it up until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend some more till well pureed. Place in a freezer safe container and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours. When you are ready to make the fun, place in the ice cream maker you have and follow the instructions for your model. I process mine for about a half hour till the ice cream is getting pretty thick and the machine is beginning to sound like it is working. Then I scoop it out into a freezer safe container and stick it in the freezer to harden a bit, about 2-4 hours or longer, then serve.
Honey Raspberry syrup
3 cups of fresh raspberries
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of honey
1 teaspoon of arrowroot powder dissolved in a wee bit of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Place the raspberries and 1/2 cup water in saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring occasionally, lower the heat to where the mixture is just simmering and cook 5-10 minutes or until berries are soft. Strain berry mixture through a sieve into separate saucepan. I used my new handy dandy food mill. (This step isn’t necessary if you don’t mind seeds in your teeth) Add the honey and arrowroot powder to the mix and bring the syrup to a back to a boil over medium heat while stirring, then remove from the heat, add the vanilla and let cool. You should end up with 1.5 cups.
Lemon Whipped cream
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
3-5 tablespoons of powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Whip the cream with the sugar until medium peaks form, then add the zest and vanilla then stir till just mixed.
Scoop up the blueberry ice cream in a small bowl then drizzle with the raspberry syrup, plop some whipped cream on there, garnish with fresh berries and enjoy the fireworks.
“Perhaps the most overlooked vegetable on the veggie-and-dip platter is the radish.” Edward Lee
The box of luscious, local, organic veggies arrived on the porch a few weeks ago heralding the advent of the “CSA challenge season.” Let me explain for those who haven’t been introduced to CSAs. CSA stands for “community supported agriculture”, which is a subscription service that a farm will present a glorious array of their best veggies, once a week, to subscribers, during the gardening season. We are the lucky recipients of a CSA from R-evolution Gardens lead by the eveready bunny, Ginger Salkowski.
The reason we call it the “CSA challenge” is it is our sworn duty to try and eat all the veggies in that box before the next box arrives. This isn’t an easy venture for just the two of us and sometimes we have to enlist the help of our juicer to finish up the goods before the next wave comes through. It is a sure fire way to push your veggies.
We find ourselves getting very creative with what presents itself in the box. Lately, we have been getting lots of radishes. Okay, I have a confession to make, I don’t love radishes. I don’t hate them, I just find myself never getting creative with them. I grate them up in my salads, use them on tacos, or forget about them. (Fortunately they wait patiently for a long time in the fridge till I remember them.) I guess it is time to get to know this vegetable since they are not going away.
Radishes love to grow in our climate where it is cool all summer and they adore sandy, loamy soil. (Hence why they are a popular item in the CSA) If you have ever grown a radish you will understand why they get their genus name, “Raphanus” which means “quickly appearing”. Radishes can germinate in 3-5 days and reach eat-ability in 2-3 weeks. I always have loved growing them since they are almost like instant gratification. Radishes are a great crop to grow with children because of this.
No one seems to know where the spunky radish pushed up from. There is some speculation that they came from Asia where some wild radishes are still found but who knows. It is known that they were an important food to the Egyptians who used them to feed and pay for their slaves. The Romans loved them so much they made gold ones and offered them up to Apollo. In fact, these little buggers really got around and it is easy to find their sprouts in every culture.
It is a wonderful that radishes have grown into most cultures as they are a good thing in the nutrition department. These fresh roots are high in Vitamin C, fiber, anti-oxidants, electrolytes, minerals and low in calories and carbs. They have an enormous amount of isothiocyanate, which is an anti-oxidant compound that is a warrior against cancer cells and inflammation.
A little known fact about radishes, (at least to me) are that when eaten raw, their peppery taste stimulates the production of saliva and rouses the appetite. Consequently they have been used throughout history as an appetizer to get the party started. In France, they are served first with butter and salt. You swipe the radish across the butter then dip in the salt. I was intrigued by this and had to try it and I must confess it is pretty darn good!
Another interestingly new way to eat radishes is to bake or sauté them. It tames the beast in the root and turns them into a sweet, tender nugget that you would never guess is a radish! This recipe that I am sharing with you today involves sautéing the radishes and they are transformed into something special. Radishes will be particularly easy to get for this recipe as the Manzanita Farmers Market starts up again (Hooray!) on the 14th of June from 5-8pm. There will be many a cool weather loving radish there to be had. See you at the market!
Sautéed tarragon chicken with radishes
I bought my organic chicken breasts at Manzanita Fresh Foods and they were so big I bought two and cut them in half for this recipe.
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (Please do organic)
Some salt and pepper (preferable fresh cracked pepper and a coarse salt, like Malden’s)
2 tablespoons of butter, divided
2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
2 fat shallots, minced
1/4 cup or so of white wine
1 cup of low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard (preferably homemade)
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon
2 fat bunches of fresh radishes (about 20) trimmed of the greens and halved length wise
Some fresh tarragon sprigs for garnish
Pat your chicken breasts dry with a paper towel then sprinkle with the salt and pepper and get out a nice big skillet to heat up 1 tablespoon of butter and one of the oil over medium high heat. Carefully lay the chicken in the skillet and cook until browned, then flip over and cook till that side is browned and the breast is cooked through, about 10 minutes per side, depending on how fat they are. (Lower the heat to Medium and put a lid on the pan if the pieces are particularly fat and need to cook longer.) Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm while you work some magic.
In the same skillet, add the shallots and cook for a minute or two till they are fragrant and translucent, then add the wine and broth to the skillet and bring to a boil. Whisk in the mustard and tarragon and keep whisking until the sauce begins to thicken and coats the whisk and the amount has been reduced to half, about 10 minutes. Take off the heat and taste the sauce and see if it needs anything then gently roll the chicken around in the sauce and leave them there to wait for those little jewels of radishes.
In another heavy skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and olive oil over medium high heat, and add the radishes. (make sure they are dry or they will splatter!) Sprinkle with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to medium and cook them without stirring until they begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Begin to stir them now and continue to cook until they are crisp tender, 5-6 minutes longer.
Plate the chicken breast up with the sauce on them and then arrange the radishes around and over the chicken. (You could cut the chicken into slices to serve too) Garnish the whole affair with tarragon sprigs and serve with a smile.
“The wheat that is grown today is fundamentally not the wheat our not-so- distant ancestors grew” Bluebird Grains Farm
The world is consuming and being consumed by wheat. Gluten intolerance is on a sharp and dramatic rise with 1 in every 133 people being Celiac, which is severe gluten intolerance and a possible 40% of us being gluten sensitive. This is 4 times more prevalent than just 50 years ago. What’s more is that gluten intolerance comes in many forms and is being linked to many diseases such as neurological disorders, depression, osteoporosis, dementia, organ dysfunctions and a host of other big baddies. The big question on America’s lips is, “Why?”
First let’s talk about what gluten intolerance is. It is not a food allergy, not so simple, it is an auto-immune disorder in your gut, more specifically your small intestine. Basically, your gut doesn’t know what to do with the gluten and decides it is an alien life force and must be eradicated. So this triggers an immune response that damages the microvilli of the small intestines, which are the hair like cells that absorb the nutrition out of our foods for us.
Then the small intestine can no longer absorb the nutrients we desperately need and it gets upset. Very upset. The walls of the intestines get inflamed and soon most people get bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, malnutrition and all sorts of lovely things. Undiagnosed celiac disease can lead to big troubles like anima, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, acid reflux, Corhns disease and a multitude of cancers like esophageal and colon. (Gluten sensitivity can also lead to these same symptoms and diseases.)
So now back the original question, why this sudden rise in gluten intolerance and sensitivity? Well it seems the human’s proclivity of tampering with nature is wound up in this. The wheat that we are eating now to the tune of 146 pounds per person, per year, is not the same wheat of 50 years ago. It has been hybridized into a giant beast, standing 4 feet tall, bursting with gluten and is actually called “Everest”.
Wheat was originally a much different plant, native to only a small region in western Asia and the Ethiopian highlands. It has historically been a small grain, standing 2 feet high with a long narrow shape, high in protein and low in gluten. It had been the grain we ate for the last 7,000 year. Through hybridization the last 50 years, it has been changed in to a larger grain, low in protein and nutrients with twice the chromosomes and gluten.
“Everest” not only differs from our ancient grain genetically but it is also stored and processed in dramatically different ways. The commercial grain industry loves to have a surplus on hand so cereal grains are stored sometimes up to a couple years before it is milled, then stored again for a while. The grain silos where the grains are stowed are magnets for pest and mold infestation. For this reason they are routinely treated with antifungal agents, industrial pesticides and vermin poison. Yummy.
Another interesting fact about “Everest” wheat; when we eat it, it is translated into eating pure sugar by our bodies since it is so low in protein. One will get the same blood sugar levels from eating two slices of whole wheat bread as you would from eating a candy bar! No wonder diabetes is on a dramatic rise. Eating foods made with this wheat poses more health risks than nutrient value. It’s poison and poisoned.
I choose to quit eating all grains and wheat (mostly) 3 years ago due to the ceaseless insistence of my pesky son. (It took him about a year to talk me into trying it!) An interesting metamorphosis happened, my weight is down 30 pounds along with my blood pressure, carvings and the inflammation in my joints, my allergies are gone, and I feel great.
I know it is hard to wrap our heads around the fact that the grains we thought were healthy for us, no longer are. But I’m here as a poster child to prove it. Give up grains, particularly gluten, for a month and you might be completely surprised by what happens. Also I suggest that if you want to still eat wheat, order some organic Emmer grain flour from Bluebird farms that is milled on order.
This dessert is an example that we do not need wheat to make extra-ordinary sweets. This strawberry tart is excellent, if I do say so myself. The Oregon strawberries are just coming into season to enjoy on this. Here’s to health, as always.
Strawberry tart with a dark chocolate almond crust
Dark chocolate tart crust
1 1/4 cups of almond flour
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
2 tablespoons of coconut oil or a high quality oil
2 tablespoons of honey
1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips, melted
Turn on the oven to 350 degrees with a rack right in the middle of the oven. In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt and baking soda and whisk it together till it is blended. In a smaller bowl combine the oil, honey, and melted chocolate. Stir the chocolate mix into the dry mix and stir till everything is well combined. (Here is the fun part) Press the crust into an 11 inch tart pan. (You can use a smaller pan, you’ll just have more curst up the sides) This takes a wee bit of patience and love to get it all in there evenly and pretty. Working with wet fingers really helps.
Pop the crust into the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, until the surface of the crust loses its sheen and starts to look dry. Be careful here, it is easy to overcook this nugget. Take out of the oven and let cool for at least an hour before you fill it up with yumminess.
The filling and assembly
A package of cream cheese, room temp
1/3 cup of honey or more to taste
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
The zest of one lemon
1 pound of fresh organic strawberries, washed, de-stemmed and sliced
Dark chocolate to shave on top (Optional)
Put the whole package of cream cheese in the mixer and blend till smooth and shiny. Add your honey as the mixer is going till it tastes the prefect sweet, then blend in your vanilla, lemon juice and zest. Right before serving, spread the cream cheese filling into the cooled tart shell. Layer your strawberry slices on top of filling in an artful way then shave some dark chocolate on there. Serve immediately to a waiting and appreciative crew. It will all disappear, but if some of it is left, store it in the fridge. Bon appetite!
Spring has flung itself in to a full bird chirping, gotta grow frenzy! I always know I have spring fever when I lay awake in bed and visualize all the things I can make with the spring ingredients bursting out of the ground. “Let’s see, I could make that fabulous salad I’ve been wanting to try with the peas from the garden…” And the list goes on and on. I’m just popping like the spring buds with fresh produce ideas.
I’ll admit it, I’m the queen of salads. They are one of my favorite foods and I love making them in lots of inventive ways and it is where my mind turns when dreaming up ways to use fresh produce. It wasn’t always like this, there was a day when I.simply.hated.salads. Of course it didn’t help that I grew up in the high desert of Idaho and the only salad I ever saw was a wedge of iceberg lettuce with a glug of thousand island dressing dripping down the sides of it. Gag.
Then one day my relationship with salads dramatically changed. I was about 10 and we were at some family shindig and my Aunt Marie brought the most amazing salad I had ever seen. It made its dramatic appearance in a giant clear glass bowl that showed off the fact that it was fabulously layered with bacon, hard boiled eggs, onions, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and fresh green peas. It was topped with cheddar cheese and this gooey delicious salad dressing that was NOT thousand island. I was transfixed.
I loaded up my plate with that brightly colored salad and took a bite. Lights went on and an angel sung on high; my dormant taste buds came alive that day. Who knew veggies could taste so good? I made the momentous decision (particularly for a 10 year old) right then and there that I was going to grow up and love eating and making salads. I was going to be known far and wide as the “salad lady”.
It wasn’t easy becoming the “salad lady” especially when one comes from the potato kingdom of Idaho. But I did it. There are two simply rules to use that I have learned in my quest of making knock out salads;
1) Use the freshest of produce possible that is grown close to home. The sooner you eat it after it is picked the more sweet and juicy it is. I’m not just a locavore to be politically correct but I am basically a hedonist, and the flavor is just so much better.
2) The other tip is to make your own salad dressings. There is no comparison in flavor of a homemade dressing to a store bought one. Also every.single. store bought salad dressing that I have read the label on has something bad in the ingredients. No exceptions. It’s remarkable and scary. Just avoid all that and make your own tastier dressings. (It’s easy!)
Don’t be afraid to experiment with this forgiving food. Look up different salad recipes on line and give ‘em a shot. Once again, use produce in season for the best flavor, like this salad I’m sharing with you. It was the one I was dreaming up. You can use all the elements from this salad and use whatever is in season. For example, use one cup of arugula in the salad dressing instead of peas. The goat cheese rounds can turn any plain Jane salad into a special course fit for guests. Just change the herbs to whatever is in season. Enjoy eating spring.
Spring herb salad with goat cheese rounds and green pea vinaigrette
I used oregano, chives, green garlic, rosemary, sage and tarragon from my garden. If you have pea tendrils from a garden, they make a splendid addition to this salad. Also if you can get lemon pressed olive oil, it really shines in this dressing!!
Green pea vinaigrette
This salad dressing is very fibrous and thick. Add more water till you get the consistency that you want. Also if you just want a fiber-free green dressing, strain the fiber out in a mesh strainer. I personally love the rich fiber in it.
1/3 cup of champagne vinegar
OR 1/3 cup of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, hopefully homemade
1 cup of blanched green peas, shelled
OR 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 stalk of green garlic or 1-2 cloves of garlic
A handful of fresh herbs from the garden, minced
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil or lemon pressed olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
1/4- 1/2 of salt, I used Maldon sea salt flakes
Few cranks of black pepper
Add the first five ingredients to the blender and give it a whirl till everything is a nice green color. While the blender is going, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream till all gone. Then slowly add the water till it is the desired consistency. Add the salt and pepper and adjust as your tongue tells you too. Serve with salad.
Goat cheese rounds
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
The zest of one lemon
1 teaspoons of paprika or smoked paprika
2-4 tablespoons of minced fresh herbs
1/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel or other fine salt
11-12 ounce log of goat cheese, sliced into 16 slices
Mix all your spices and zest together in a small bowl and stir them tell well mixed. Take your slices of goat cheese and roll them around in the spice mix till totally encrusted with spring and spices. Place the spiced goat rounds on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment paper and place in the fridge to chill until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before serving.
The salad and assembly
10-12 cups of spring greens
2 carrots shredded
1/2 red onion, minced
6-8 tablespoons of fresh herbs, minced
6-10 radishes, thinly sliced
2 cups of shelled blanched peas
Or 2-3 cups of sugar snap peas, cut into bite sized pieces
Mix all the greens, herbs, carrot and red onion in a large lovely bowl then divide evenly among 4 even more beautiful plates. Add the peas and radishes to the plates. Place 4 spiced goat cheese rounds on each salad plate and serve with the salad dressing on the side for each person to drizzle as much of that green goodness on as they want.
Until recently salt was just salt, you know, old ho hum white table salt, but lately salt has become very very interesting! It comes in lots of colors, textures and flavors almost like Jelly Belly beans. (Well, not quite) Artisan salts add a different and complex element to your dishes that is a revelation! Of course, the French have known about these salts all along and we are just catching up. I guess better late than never.
The French have been making artisan salts since the 9th century. Their crown jewel, “Fleur de Sel” is made off the coast of Brittany in the reveled countryside of Guérande. The master salt farmers, called paludiers, have been farming their salt by hand for centuries. It is considered the fruit of the sea, unrefined, unbleached and of very high quality, it is precious to the French right along with their cheeses and wine. (And bread and mushrooms and fish and…)
When I first heard of this high priced and respected salt a few years back, I had to have some. It arrived in the mail, in a lovely little package, still looking much like, well, salt, except it was flakier. It happened to be summer and I had some home grown tomatoes, so I sliced one up, sprinkled a bit of these luminescent salt flakes on it and oh là là! It was a true revelation to the taste. A simple thing like a fine salt transformed that humble tomato into a symphony in my mouth.
After that I begin to search the world over for interesting salts and ended up in our own front yard. Portland happens to contain, “The Meadow” which is a nationally recognized Artisan salt store. (Not to mention fine chocolate store too! He he) Well, that was way easier than a trip to France and it was right down the street from my daughter’s house. Off I went and saw more salt than I ever imagined, all colors of the rainbow.
There is black volcanic salt, red Hawaiian sea salt, Sel de Gris, (gray salt from France), Himalayan pink salt, bamboo leaf green salt, brown chocolate fleur de sel, alder smoked salt, light yellow “fleur de hell” (made from the world’s hottest ghost pepper) and the lovely purple pinot noir salt. Like an obsessive compulsive Labrador, I tried as many as I could, and brought a bunch home too. After lots and lots of experiments, I have condensed this very curious and tasty culinary world down to some simple tips.
First off Fleur de sel goes on everything and makes it much better. So if you want to start with the cream de la cream, it won’t fail you. A nice and cheap substitution for it is Maldon sea salt flakes, which is an excellent salt to have in the cupboard for general use. (A French person would faint here) All the chefs are into the Maldon flaked salt or kosher salt right now.
Second off, experiment for yourself. You cannot ruin any dish with a fine salt, only add to it. (As long as you don’t overdo it.) I have found that the coarser salts, like the Hawaiian red salt, are amazing in dishes like soups, where “finishing salts” like the smoked salts are best sprinkled on a dish right before serving. Do yourself a grand favor and go and poke about “The Meadow” in Portland or order one of their starter kits on line to try their different and delicious salts. A great blog to read more on all types of salt that is written by the owner of “The Meadow”, Mark Bitterman is here. A whole new world is waiting for you!
This recipe for crispy sweet potato fries that I am sharing with you it an excellent medium to dispense any fine salt for tasting. I am so thrilled to finally find a way to have crunchy sweet potato fries without the deep fat fryer. The hubby and I couldn’t stop eating them when they got out of the oven. (Dipped in my homemade mayo, of course) Bon Appétit!
Crispy sweet potato oven fries
2 large sweet potatoes with red flesh
2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot powder (for gluten and grain free)
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of any fine salt, flaked or fine but not coarse
Sprinkle of paprika or cayenne, if you dare
Cut up those beautiful beta carotene rich sweet potatoes into a reasonable French fry shape, trying your best to make them around the same size, no thicker than a 1/2 inch. Soak them in water for at least one hour, preferably for more like 3-4 hours. Drain them in a colander and allow them to dry for a bit where they are almost dry but still a wee bit wet.
While they are drying, turn on your oven to 450 degrees and prepare two baking sheets with a little olive oil spread on them in a thin layer. Then take your 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot powder and place in a large plastic bag, like a produce bag. Drop all of your fries in there and blow a little air in there, twist the bag shut and shake well till all the fries are coated evenly.
Spread the fries out on the prepared baking sheets and drizzle with the olive oil and roll the fries around till they are evenly coated. (I cheated and used olive oil spray to coat them) Make sure the fries are not touching or they will be your normal soggy sweet potato fries and not crispy at all. Sprinkle with the salt and spices of your choice and pop in the oven to bake for 15 minutes. Once they are getting brown, flip them over and bake for another 10-15 minutes till perfectly crispy and you are drooling. May I suggest serving them with homemade garlic mayo with a touch of hot sauce and extra salt in a wee bowl for people’s sprinkling pleasure.
“I started researching what [MSG] did to the brain and I was absolutely astounded by what I found,” Dr. Russell Blaylock
What does MSG, monosodium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, yeast extract, gelatin, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, modified yeast extract, yeast food, yeast nutrient, whey protein, whey protein concentrate, “anything” proteins, (such as hydrolyzed protein, textured protein, soy protein) malt flavoring, and natural flavorings (including chicken, beef, vegetable) all have in common? They are all MSG when listed on the ingredient label.
Yes, it is true, MSG is in almost every processed food you eat hidden under other names. There are over 50 different names for MSG that all sound like nummy ingredients but in truth are all the same thing. The list above is items that have over 78% MSG in them but they add a wee bit of something else and call it that.
Then there is the list of over 100 names of ingredients that are 50% or more of MSG. Those include nutritious sounding things like milk powder, dry milk solids, citric acid, caramel coloring or flavoring, bouillon, broth, stock, carrageenan and lecithin. Crazy huh? So the questions are why are they adding MSG to our foods and what sort of impact does that have on us?
MSG is universally thought of as a “flavor enhancer” invented in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese man who identified the natural flavor enhancing substance of seaweed. He and a partner soon learn to chemically create this flavor and sell it on a mass scale. After WWII it became popular in the US, due to the fact that the Japanese soldier rations tasted much better due to the addition of MSG. Soon it began to infiltrate processed foods. The FDA grandfathered it in as a “safe food” around 1958 but it has NEVER been tested to this day by the FDA for safety. Never.
On top of that, the process for which was used to make MSG was radically changed in 1957 to a more efficient process that took it to new chemical heights. Soon after that was when “The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” started to show up which included symptoms such as headaches, migraines, numbness, tingling in extremities, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat and tightness of chest for over 2 hours after ingesting of MSG. When this was brought to the FDA’s attention it was promptly shrugged off.
Since then the evidence has mounted that even the FDA has acknowledged, MSG is a very real danger to our health. Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon and author of “Excitotoxins; The taste that kills” explains that MSG is a excitotoxin which means it over excites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing the brain damage to varying degrees and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gerhrig’s disease. It is especially dangerous to young, forming brains where it can cause permanent damage. (And it is present in all infant formulas) It also been linked to many other health issues such as obesity, eye damage, depression, asthma and epilepsy.
Now the big question, why is it still in our foods?? Very simply put, greed. It was discovered that when MSG was used on lab rats they got fat. I mean really fat. It turns out the chemical is an appetite stimulant. A light went off in the food industry, add more MSG to processed food and people won’t be able to stop eating them. It is the same principal that the tobacco industry uses when it adds more nicotine to the cigarettes, it hooks people. But since MSG has such a bad name, the food industry has come up with clever ways to hide it.
Now go back and read that list again, learn it, be informed. You are the only one that can control what you buy and what goes in your mouth. One of the foods that always always has MSG in it is mayonnaise. Mayo also contains low quality oils and calcium disodium EDTA, which is a preservative made from formaldehyde. Processed mayo was a beloved ingredient in our fridge till last summer when I decided we were not going to eat it anymore. I decided to start making our own and have never turned back. It is not that difficult and tastes so wonderful! I encourage you to take your health in your hands and make your own mayo.
Homemade Mayo, your way
Making mayo is a magical thing; you just have to remember a few things. First of all make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature or you will have ”broken” mayo, which is a slurry of egg and mayo, yucky. Second, pour the oil into the running blender as SLOW as possible, or once again, it will break. But in truth, it is very easy if you follow the rules. Do not use extra virgin olive oil here, it turns the mayo green and tastes funny.
1 large egg at room temperature
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice, at room temp
1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard powder
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1 and 1/4 cup of light tasting organic olive oil
1 tablespoon of a fresh herb such as parsley, rosemary, basil, sage or tarragon
2-3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
Or whatever spice catches your fancy
Break out the blender and crack the egg in there, add the lemon juice, mustard powder, salt and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. (Add the garlic, herbs or other spices here as well.) Put the lid on the blender then blend on mediumish speed until the ingredients are combined. Now for the exciting part, take off the middle of the lid of the blender and with the blender still going, start drizzling the remaining 1 cup of olive oil into the blender very very slowly. I mean pour in a tiny little trickle. Breathe, lower your shoulder blades, relax. This is a process.
Soon your will hear the blender begin to change in tone, this is when the magic begins and the emulsification starts. Do not lose your nerve and consider dumping the rest in! Continue to drizzle the oil in slowly till the mixture is this lovely creamy mayo and all the oil is distributed. Store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to two weeks. (I mark on the jar when I made it since I never remember otherwise) Enjoy this wondrous food with all wholesome ingredients.