Post #651 Keto and What the Heck Is It?

June 16, 2019 at 11:50 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

So, we’re all growing older every day and as much as I’d like to believe I’m Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, once in a while my body reminds me that I’m not a teenager anymore.  Of course, I also have many helpful friends (they know who they are!) who persistently remind me of my advanced years, as well.  I’m so lucky.  The other day, while at a bookstore, a small locally owned business that we’ve been to before, Partner/Spouse brought up a book he was interested in called Keto Lunches.  His boss who is also a larger man, but much younger than we are, is heavy into Keto and has lost weight at a reasonable rate, and kept it off.  So we got the book with the vague idea of doing keto lunches.

Being me, I can’t let it sit there.  I have to know about what I’m doing so I can make informed decisions.  So, once we got home, I read through the introduction which was very helpful and told me a lot.  The I went to the internet to verify what I’d learned from the book because a book can say anything.  So can the internet, but the various sites all cited the same sources and said the same thing so it all seems reliable.

So, the first thing I discovered is the keto diet, or ketogenic diet, is not a fad diet.  It’s been around for over a century and was first designed to help epileptics.  Since it’s inception, though, it’s slowly and quietly (till recently) gained in popularity due to its effectiveness and results.

The second thing I learned is that keto is not the same thing as paleo.  Briefly, the paleo diet is eating like the cavemen ate in the paleolithic era.  Humans at that time were wanderers, and had to eat pretty much what came along.  Their digestive systems were adapted to that style of diet and could be anything from meats, to nuts, to grass or any other thing they found that didn’t eat them first.  Including bugs.  The modern paleo limits consumption to all natural and no mass produced products.  Milk and dairy were supposedly unknown to the caveman so it’s not eaten on this diet, as well as sugar, alcohol, and coffee (among others.)

Another thing I learned is that the science behind this diet is sound.  It’s been studied for over a hundred years and refined and will do no harm to the body if followed properly.  This is one thing that always worries me about fad diets because they typically say to eliminate one thing completely and watch the weight melt off.  Of course, once that one thing is reintroduced, the weight comes right back.  Keto is an all around diet that includes all the food groups, but in different measures.

The human body needs fuel to operate the same way your car needs fuel.  It gets that fuel by breaking down the foods we eat into glucose to power the engine.  The easiest form of food to break down into glucose is carbohydrates, or starch.  That’s why we like cake so much.  All carbs.  A balanced diet includes about 50% carbs, 25% protein, 24% fruits/vegetables, and 1% fats.  The keto diet switches that up, and for a very good reason.  In keto (and Atkins for a different proportion), the carbs are severely limited, the proteins are scaled back, and dietary fats rule the roost.  About 80% of the keto diet is from dietary fats, 15% is protein, and 5% is carbs.  The reason you can’t eliminate carbs totally is because the body needs some carbohydrates to function properly.

Going back to our engine metaphor, when we fuel the engine with too much carbs, the body will store the extra as fat.  But since there is always a ready supply of carbs coming in, that extra never gets used, and gets added to.  There are ways to reduce the amount of fat we carry.  One of the easiest is to reduce the amount we eat while increasing the amount of activity.  I can attest to that personally.  When I was diagnosed with diabetes early last year, I eliminated soda from my diet completely (and wine, too, sob) and the weight loss was so dramatic that people I worked with for less than six months were commenting on it.  I didn’t change very much else about my diet because we’ve always eaten fairly healthy.

In keto, by eating primarily dietary fats, the body isn’t getting the carbs and has to burn something.  So fat becomes the fuel.  And once the body starts burning the fat rather than the carbs, the fat reserves start to disappear.  There are more calories in fat than in carbs so it disappears slowly, and in a more healthy way.  So, in a keto diet, carbs are the enemy.

How tough is that?  No bread.  No cake.  No donuts.  No chocolate.  No wine.  I’m making myself sad just listing all that.

Except that’s not really true.  It’s about balance, and what works for you.  Some people have cut down carbs dramatically and lost the weight, then eaten smaller amounts of carbs, and been fine.  Others, have cut down, lost, and gone back to carbs, but in a more measured and healthy manner.  They gained a little weight back, but not in an unhealthy way.  So it really depends on the person and how they manage their own calorie intake.  Just like any diet.  And I’m using diet here as in the total diet, not just a fad regimen.

So what’s allowed to eat on a keto diet?  You’d be surprised.

Eggs are a good thing.  Just be careful about your heart.  Bacon is also a good thing, which is one of the things that draws people to this diet.  I once knew a guy who was on the Atkins diet and would bring two pounds of cooked bacon (just bacon) to work every day and nibble on it all day long.  I never noticed that he lost weight, but he looked happy.  Cheese is good, too.  And butter.

What’s not allowed?  Well, there’s nothing that strictly not allowed, because you need it all.  Just severely limit the amount you eat or drink of it.  So, in the overall scheme of things, in a week of meals, one sandwich is not a killer.  Nor is one six ounce glass of wine.  But limit the carbs as much as you can.  And know where your carbs are coming from.  Vegetables are good for you, right?  But carbs are in veggies like corn, and potatoes, and carrots.  Again, you can have these, but don’t have as much.  If you used to have a whole baked potato, try eating a third or a quarter of one.

So, we’ve got one book, Keto Lunches.

We’ve also got a few more on the way.  Once I’m used to cooking the keto way, I’ll be able to remake my recipes into keto-centric versions.  Luckily, we both like salad, and as long as we leave out the carb heavy veggies, we can have all the salad dressing we want.

Feel free to share this post as you like and send any questions my way.

And as always,

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Post #650 And the Answer Is . . . !

June 12, 2019 at 8:55 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So it’s the 6th anniversary of the blog.  I don’t know if I ever expected it to last this long.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’m happy with every milestone it passes.  So to mark this one, I’ve added a new “feature”.  I’ve long said that any time any of my readers has a question about food or technique to simply ask and I’d do my best to answer as completely as I could.  Someone took me up on that and sent me a series of questions about foods she’s unfamiliar with.

Let me give some background.  I’ve known this person since high school and she’s been a good friend for decades.  She was there at the start of my cooking education and has watched my skill set grow in the subsequent years.  She is not a cook, but that’s mostly due to impatience than anything else.  During recent years, she’s been asking about cooking and following some of the recipes I’ve posted.  She bought one of the cookbooks that is one of my favorite “go to” books, and asked for a list of my favorite recipes from it.  I did, and she read through them, and came back with questions about things she was unfamiliar with.  So, here’s the answers she needs.

What is a tomatillo?

This is a tomatillo:

It’s Spanish for little tomato, and it looks quite a bit like one.  It has a paper-thin husk around it.  The husk is removed and the tomatillo is eaten either cooked or raw depending on the recipe being made.  In my experience, cooked tomatillos are generally roasted then added to whatever is being cooked.  Roasting strengthens and enhances the flavor which is a light citrus tang.  Mostly tomatillos are used in sauces.  Salsa Verde is a tomatillo based salsa the uses tomatillo, green peppers, and cilantro that’s used in Mexican cuisine a lot.  One of my favorite recipes is pork loin stewed in salsa verde and served with rice and tortillas.  It’s not a spicy fruit so it’s easy to add to salads, tacos, or whatever you want.

What is Jicama?

This is jicama.

Jicama

It’s a root vegetable that in my opinion is best eaten raw.  It has the texture of a potato and the flavor of an apple.  It’s crisp and juicy and lightly sweet.  I’ve seen it cooked, deep fried into French fries, but I’ve never tried it.  I’ve thrown it into salads, cut it into strips for dipping in hummus, and cut it for appetizers by itself.  It’s sweet flavor lends itself sharp flavored foods, as well as blander foods.  My favorite way to eat this is to cut it into strips and eat it plain.

What is orzo?

This is orzo.

It’s a pasta that is shaped like rice and can be used in any recipe that calls for rice, except risotto.  Orzo can be added to soup, eaten on its own, or added to other dishes.  It’s pasta, so any pasta dish that calls for a short piece of pasta can be enhanced with orzo.  I’ve also put a small handful of cooked and cooled orzo in salads of just about any kind.  I’ve made chicken salad with a mayonnaise base and added orzo to give a different texture.  Just remember that like rice and other forms of pasta, orzo absorbs the liquid its in to the point where it will fall apart.  I did learn of a new technique for cooking pasta that helps that.  I haven’t tried it so if anyone does before I do, let me know how it goes.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet and sauté some onion.  When the onion is clear, add whatever pasta you’re going to use and stir to coat.  Allow the pasta to cook in the oil until it just starts to get toasty, about five minutes.  Then finish cooking in whatever liquid you’re adding it to.  The oil seals in the starches but allows the pasta to cook completely without absorbing too much liquid.  This sounds like the perfect way to cook orzo so it doesn’t explode in your soup or casserole.

What is escarole?

This is:

It’s a leafy green that can be used in salad mixes.  It has a slightly bitter flavor so it seldom used by itself.  It’s part of the chicory family which gives it its signature lightly bitter flavor.  I’ve seen it used in soups, salads, and sandwiches.  I like the flavor it gives to sandwiches, but I don’t eat a lot of it.  Like any other leafy green vegetable it’s rich in antioxidants.  To get the most nutrition from this veggie, it’s best eaten with either potatoes or white beans.  There are tons of recipes, from nearly every cultural cuisine that pairs escarole with beans in a soup.  I like it when I want something different.

What is falafel?

Here we go:

Falafel is a paste made from ground up chickpeas.  Typically, it’s formed into balls and deep fried.  The paste is made by grinding the chickpeas with herbs and spices and adding an egg for binding together.  They can shaped into whatever shape you like, and can actually be cooked in any way you like.  Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of recipes calling for baked falafel which is likely healthier than deep fried.  Can’t vouch for the flavor though.  Anything deep fried is better.  Mostly, I see falafel in sandwiches like this:

But in many places, it’s a street food and eaten by hand after dipping into a thick sauce.  But I gotta tell you, when you look at that sandwich with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce, I’d eat an old flip flop with all that.  Falafel is so good, and to make it more easily accessible to the average consumer, there are mixes available that you just add water to, and sometimes an egg, to make the basic dough, then you shape and fry.  Some are good and some are not so good.  Just remember, you get what you pay for so go for the quality brands.  Or, if you just want to try it, go to a Middle Eastern restaurant.  They’re going to do it right.

What is tempeh?

It’s this:

Doesn’t look so great does it?  It’s a meat substitute that’s been around for a long time.  It’s one of those things you gotta wonder how it happened.  It looks a little like compressed brains, but it’s actually compress soy beans that have fermented and a special fungus has been added.  After the processing is done, you have a product similar to tofu but with a much firmer and meatier texture, and a ton more nutrition as well as a very stable shelf life.  And like tofu, it can take on the flavor of the things it’s cooked with.  So, if you have some tempeh and some spaghetti sauce, you can turn them into this:

And have a healthier version of spaghetti.  I’ve only had tempeh once, in a sandwich, and it was excellent.  But it takes some work to make, and it takes some time to find a brand you like and trust.  Once that’s done, though, if you’re totally into the whole nuts and grains style of cooking, this is a good meat substitute that won’t let you down.

So!  I hope you’ve learned something from someone else’s questions.  Please feel free to throw more questions my way if you like.  I’ll try to make this a regular feature in the blog, but that’s really up to you folks.  Feel free to share this post as you like.

As always,

Post #649 OMG-OMG-OMG!!

June 9, 2019 at 4:25 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read this blog longer than a month (or five minutes) that I enjoy the odd glass of wine.  I’m not a connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but I know what I like, and I’m not snobbish enough to say no when offered a glass.  I used to turn my nose up at reds; I always thought they were too heavy.  But after many years of sampling and buying, I’ve found a place for red wine in my cabinet.

My affection for wine started just before I moved from my home town to go to university.  I had no idea what I was doing so usually ordered the house white and was happy with whatever I got.  The angst I went through when trying to buy my own bottle was horrible to behold.

While in college, I was setting up a picnic for me and a couple of friends.  I was the only one who was old enough to drink alcohol, but that didn’t seem to matter to us at the time.  I bought a bottle and I recall it was a either a Chablis blanc or Chenin blanc.  My memory is tipping more towards the latter, so that may have been it.  We were going to a canyon with a stream running through it.  In the desert, anytime you can sit near free running water, it’s an event so the three of us planned the simple menu to the last detail.  When we arrived, I put the bottle in the stream to cool down a little because even I, at the time, knew you never drank white wine at room temperature.  When it was time, I pulled the bottle out and realized, way too late, I had not cork screw.  The only way to open the bottle, short of breaking the neck off which is never a good idea, was to dig the cork out with a knife.  I did, and eventually we all enjoyed sips of the slightly cooler wine.  We all pronounced it good.  I was talking with one of the people on the picnic recently and we both mentioned that picnic.

The Christmas before I left for college, my younger brother bought me a classic, elegant, simple wine set in wood.  It held four wine glasses, a carafe or wine cooler, and had an extension for a cheese board.  It even came with the glasses, carafe, and cooler.  I loved that thing.  I used it all the time (although not on the above mentioned picnic) and became something of a wine expert in my own small world using that set.  Then, one evening after his dinner, my roommate was washing his dishes.  As he was putting something away, it slipped out of his hand, flew across the countertop and very neatly snapped all four glasses.  I couldn’t help it; the ludicrousness of the situation tickled my funny bone and I laughed till I cried.  He felt like hell, but what could we do except pick up the broken glass and move on?

But I kept my eyes open for those wine glasses because they were the perfect size and shape.  They were simple and elegant.  They held six ounces with just a spare half inch.  They were thick bodied and thick stemmed which made them pretty rugged unless you were flinging some heavy at them while they were hanging upside down on a wooden wine stand.  At that time, in the early to mid-eighties, every restaurant was serving white wine in them, but I’d never heard of a restaurant supply store, much less been inside one so finding them out and about was pretty unsuccessful.  But I will admit to not trying too terribly hard, either.

Nearly two decades later, in an antique store in Virginia with Partner/Spouse I found a set of eight, in purple rose color.  I wanted clear, but I bought them all anyway.  And, one by one, watched them disappear to breakage, or fallage, or mishandleage.  So I kept my eyes peeled for them but never saw them again.

But I didn’t let that stop me from drinking wine.  I found other glasses that were fun to use and durable.  IKEA has some that are about the right size, but not exactly, and we have bought dozens of them.  Some we’ve used and some we’ve painted and given away.

And the wine keeps flowing.  Each place we move to we try to find a favorite winery to enjoy a glass while sitting outside.  In Virginia and Maryland it was easy.  In Arizona, not so much.  Here in New England, it’s been a challenge.  We try to buy local as much as possible, but sometimes it’s difficult.  The wine here seems to be sweeter than we like.  We’ve been to various farmer’s markets and expos to try out the various offerings, but haven’t found one we like enough to make a trip to the winery.  Until yesterday.

We went to Stowe.  It’s on the list of cities you must see if you live in this area.  It’s one of the question locals will ask you, “Have you been to Stowe yet?”  So yesterday, we were looking for a farmer’s market that was supposed to be happening in a town called Waterbury.  It wasn’t happening at the time we were there.  Partner/Spouse suggest going to Stowe since we were close.  We had a pleasant drive over a mountain and found reasonable parking.  We went to a B&B for late breakfast (would have been lunch but a bed and breakfast only serves breakfast and it was really good) then wandered into various stores.  And found a local chardonnay!  It was worth trying it out, and it turned out to be very good!

It tastes very much like the local chardonnay we used to get in Maryland on the peninsula.  I drank about half the bottle yesterday while sitting on the front porch.  We’ve decided that’s our Saturday afternoon thing now.  Sitting on the front porch and listening to music and watching the world go by.  We also took care of chores like laundry and cooking, but it was so relaxing.

Today, we decided to check out another farmer’s market (By the way, if you follow or friend me on FB you’ll get updates when we go to these places.  If you send a friend request, try to let me know so I confirm.)  It was in a town called Winooski which is about 45 minutes away.  I know, stretching that one hour maximum, right?  Gotta love small states.  I still haven’t learned all the local lore etc, but this town seems to be notable for its river of the same name.

The farmer’s market was nice, but small.  There were a few food trucks, and some flowers for sale, a few crafts.  I’m waiting for the tomatoes to show up, but since we’re so far north, and we had such a long winter, it looks like I’ll be waiting for a few more weeks.  My cherry tomato has a ton of blossoms on it so I may have them before too long.  The San Marzano that I had in the topsy turvy started growing UP the side of the hanging planter so I took it out yesterday so it wouldn’t get confused.

However, on the way to this town, we passed a large flea market.  We’ve passed this field several times in our journeys around the state and have been waiting for the flea market to start.  It started a couple of weeks ago, but we haven’t been able to get there until today.  Look what I found!

Yup, those are the wine glasses that I’ve been keeping an eye out for so many years.  And clear ones, too!  And they only cost a dollar apiece.  We bought four.  Partner/Spouse said we should have bought more, but I figured four was enough.

So that’s been our success story for this weekend.  Found good local wine, and found glasses to drink it in.  Life is good.

For breakfast, I try to eat a lot of protein and a little sugar.  PBJs fill the bill, but I don’t like eating peanut butter just before, or while at, work.  Some people don’t like the smell of peanut butter.  So I’ve been eating Atkins bars because they’re low in sugar and high in protein.  But that can get expensive.  So I’m trying an experiment.

I took my regular brownie recipe (search the blog for The Best Brownies Ever) which I’ve written about a couple of times and added a few things.  First, I added a half tsp of powdered ginger to kick up the heat a bit.  Then I added desiccated coconut that I put through the food processor to cut up fine.  I used desiccated so it wouldn’t have any added sugar.  I also added chopped walnuts, toasted sesame seeds, and roasted and salted sunflower seed kernels.  I used to do something similar when I was in college.  My hope is that this will be flavorful enough and protein laden to use as a substitute for Atkins.  If this is successful, I’m going to play around with the flour portion, and I’m thinking about adding granola.  I almost added oats to today’s version, but I wanted to see what just the seeds and nuts would do.

One last piece of business and we’re done.  Wednesday marks the 6th anniversary of this blog, and the 650th post.  When I started, I didn’t imagine it would last this long, or that it would grow and change so much from what I first started doing.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.  Please, feel free to share far and wide.  Holler at me if there’s something you want to know about specifically.

As always,

Post 648 Paddy Cake Paddy Cake

June 2, 2019 at 11:48 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Well, not really cake.  It’s more a reference to how rice is grown in paddies.  Because today’s post is about rice and my long, ongoing obsession with the grain.  I’m always reminded of a meal I had in Cuba at a very nice restaurant.  I had pork chops (which I love!) with veggies and rice.  By the end of the meal I was chasing the last couple of grains of rice around the plate.  It’s almost a game for me, cleaning all the rice off the plate.  As I was concentrating on the rice, one of my colleagues leaned across the table and said, “I’m sure they’ll bring you more rice if you want it, Joe.”  Startled, I looked up and said, “I don’t want more.  I just want all this to be gone.”  They laughed although I’m sure they didn’t understand the OCD that was going on.

That’s what it really is, for me.  Most of the time, there’s a small mound of rice left on my plate because if I eat anymore, I’ll explode.  And what’s left usually goes to the dog, unless I’m at a restaurant.  It does make me think a lot about rice.  I can talk for several minutes about the various types of rice and the relative merits of each one.  I get a great deal of amusement from the looks of bewilderment on peoples’ faces when I’m done.  If they let me get to the end.  So a short course in rice for my friends and fans.

First, you should understand that rice is a grain in the same manner as wheat.  It follows the same structure with the husk, the chaff, and the kernel.  It can be ground to powder and used as a flour in baking.  There are different varieties which all have different properties and taste.  Different kinds of rice are used in different kinds of dishes; and different processing methods will yield different qualities for different rices.  I’m not going to go into a great amount of detail, but you will understand why rice aficionados will buy one kind of rice over another.

First of all, let’s talk about white rice versus brown rice.  Brown rice is just white rice with the chaff left on.  The chaff is basically the bran, the outer covering of the rice kernel.  The same thing can be done with wheat and brown bread is the result.  It’s also called whole wheat.  In rice, it’s called brown rice.  Unless you’re in a restaurant.  If you order brown rice in a restaurant, 90% of the time it’s white rice that’s had soy sauce added to it to give it the brown look.  Is real brown rice healthier than white rice?  Yes and no.  It doesn’t have any more nutrients than white rice, but it does have important roughage, and a small amount of protein which both aid in digestion, and is important for diabetics.  Choose real brown rice when you can.

Second, let’s talk about “fast” rice versus “slow” rice.  This refers to the amount of time to cook it.  Fast rice is the kind of rice that can be cooked in a few minutes, whether it’s white or brown.  Fast rice usually has been parboiled then dried.  What this means is that it’s been partially cooked either with steam or pressure.  Then it’s dried and chemical stabilizers are added.  Once it reaches our homes, all we have to do it boil it in a bag, or add it to hot water to set for a few minutes, or microwave it for a few seconds.  The trouble with parboiling is that the nutrients are usually gone, and the only thing left is starch, which can be fattening.  I had a roommate a few decades ago whose lunch every single day was a cup of Minute Rice and a can of water-packed tuna.  He never understood why he couldn’t lose weight and blamed my cooking.  I never could convince him that he needed to look at his lunch more closely.  Slow cooked rice take anywhere from 20-45 minutes, leave all the nutrients in the rice, but also leave all the starches.  The primary drawback of slow cooked rice is the amount of time it takes to cook.  When you have 30 minutes for lunch, cooking rice for 20 of them isn’t always conducive to a good meal.  But rice can be reheated quite easily in the microwave so win-win.  Or if you’re like me and have developed a taste for cold foods, take yesterday’s rice dish and eat it straight from the fridge.  I think it’s good.

The varieties of rice fall into four basic categories, all have to do with shape.  It’s mostly the length that comes into play, but width factors in a little too.  It’s the length that impacts the kernel’s ability to absorb fluid which is what cooks the rice.  There is short grain, medium grain, long grain, and wild rice.  Before I talk about the first three, let me just say that wild rice is a misnomer.  Wild rice isn’t rice at all.  It’s a mix of wild grains and seeds that are harvested in a similar manner as rice.  Most commercial brands of wild rice add some white rice into the mix to give the appearance of rice, but that’s not how it’s gathered.  I like wild rice for its flavors and textures, but it’s staying out of today’s discussion.

Rice is basically a grain that absorbs hot liquids during the cooking process, whether that liquid is water, stock, broth, beer, or wine.  Because of its bland, flavorless quality, rice tends to take on the flavor of the liquid it’s cooked in.  It’s become a way to stretch the food budget while maintaining the flavorful qualities of the foods on the table.  So, you have just a little bit of beef?  Make a good beef soup and throw in some rice.  The rice will expand and create a greater quantity of beef flavored soup.  One thing I’ve noted is that if all the liquid is absorbed, if you add more water, the water becomes flavored with whatever the rice is.  Kind of cool.  But you have to be careful not overcook rice or it will “explode”.  If it absorbs too much liquid it will burst and eventually become mush.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the outcome you’re looking for.  Think rice pudding.

The amount of liquid rice will take in depends on the length of the grain, and to a lesser extent the shape.  A shorter, flatter grain will take in less liquid than a longer, rounder grain.  A shorter, rounder grain will take on the same or more liquid than a longer, flatter grain.  So short grain cooks faster than medium grain which cooks faster than long grain.  However, because of the amount of liquid absorbed by each, long grains have more flavor than shorter grains.

There are many different methods for cooking rice with each part of the world having their own.  I’ve fried rice; I’ve boiled rice; I’ve steamed rice; I’ve baked rice.  About the only thing I haven’t done is smoke rice.  Not sure it can be done.  My basic way is toasting in oil before adding broth to steam.  It imparts a nutty flavor that I like.

There’s one type of rice that I wanted to highlight because it’s unique and versatile.  Arborio rice is a short, plump grain that takes on an enormous amount of liquid.  With proper cooking, it also creates a delicious, creamy sauce.  It tends to be a laborious process to get it right, but it’s certainly worth it.  We tried a new recipe from Lidia Bastianich, our favorite Italian chef on television.

Garlic Risotto –

  • 2 full heads of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 medium onion chopped to medium pieces
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 7 cups chicken stock, home made if possible
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • cut cilantro for garnish

Over medium heat, bring the chicken stock to a simmer, then reduce heat to keep it simmering but not boiling.  Puree the garlic in the white wine in a blender or food processor making sure all the garlic is chopped finely.  Heat the oil to shimmering in a large skillet over medium heat and add onion.  Cooking onion until starting to turn clear, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic/wine puree and stir, cooking about two minutes.  Add the rice and stir to coat thoroughly.  Cook about 2 minutes still stirring until all liquid is absorbed.  Increase heat to medium-high and add two cups of chicken stock.  Cook, stirring all the while, until liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding two cups of liquid at a time and stirring till absorbed until all chicken stock is absorbed.  This will take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes.  A creamy sauce will develop.

Once all the chicken stock has been absorbed, remove pan from heat.  Add the butter and stir to incorporate.  Add the cheese and stir until melted and incorporated.  Taste and add salt to taste.  Spoon into bowls and top with cilantro.

I also added fried mushrooms and grilled chicken to mine.  I also added a tablespoon of lemon juice to the chicken stock to give it an acidic kick.

Risotto can be made with tons of different flavors and textures.  Once you get the hang of the stirring process, you’re limited only by your imagination.  One key to it is making certain the liquid additions are steaming hot, but not boiling.  Don’t add cold liquids as they won’t be absorbed as readily and the outcome will be sticky rather than creamy.

So, there’s rice and a new recipe.  What kinds of rice do you eat?  Let us all know and if you have any questions, let me know.  I’ll do my best to answer them.  Feel free to share the post as you choose to.

As always,

 

Post #647 Fresh From The Ground

May 29, 2019 at 5:37 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’ve read many books on survival skills, and I’ve taken many classes on the same subject.  I’ve even spent time in the forest (supervised, of course) using those same survival skills.  I’ve got one friend who often commented during hikes that going into the wilds with me was more a trip to the grocery store than a hike.  I’ll never forget one Spring hike with my ex-wife and the look on her face when I reached out to pine tree with new growth at the end of its branches and pinched one off and ate it.  I’d read they were good; I wanted to try it; it was good.  She thought I was crazy.

I was walking the dog the other day and I noticed in one area of the path there were a couple of hostas growing lushly through the other plants.  Normally, you don’t see them outside of garden beds.  My mind went to a friend who grows them and a discussion we had a few years ago about how the new shoots were supposed to be edible.  He hadn’t tried it yet, and I never had them growing anywhere near me so I never had, either.  No idea what they taste like, but they’re supposed to be a delicacy.  I was sorry I didn’t notice these guys on the path before so I could have tried them.

But it set my brain to thinking for a few minutes about things you can eat in the wilderness.

First thing that comes to mind is berries.  I love berries.  I love walking along a path in the woods and grabbing a handful.  On one survival weekend, an instructor cautioned me to only eat things I recognized and knew to be safe.  My reply: Duh!

Some of the more exotic are bugs.  I’ve eaten far more than my fair share of bugs in my lifetime, but only regretted eating two.  Two deep fried crickets given to me by my hosts in Laos which I didn’t believe I could reasonably turn down.  I don’t recommend them.

But another bug that’s prevalent in my areas I’ve lived is the cicada.  Depending on the variety, they appear every 4, or 7, or 15, or 20 years.  And they appear by the thousands.  They lay their eggs underground and appear when they’ve reached maturity.  When they first come out of the ground is when they are most edible.  Bears, deer, even dogs find them to be a treat.  When they emerge from the ground, they’re emerald green with orange eyes and I’m told they taste like asparagus.  I don’t think I could eat more than one.  Even with hollandaise sauce.

When I was a kid in upperstate New York, the pack of us would wander through the woods like little savages and lay waste to any berries or wild veggies we found.  That’s where I discovered wild rhubarb, huckleberry trees, wild asparagus, apples, grapes, and the like.  Never a mushroom, though.  We all knew wild mushrooms would kill you.  Even cans of mushroom soup were suspect.

One thing I’ve wanted to try for years, but was never in a place where they grew, is fiddleheads.  I’ve been reading about them all my life, and in all the survival guides they’re talked about like they’re going to be the thing to save your life if you’re lost in the woods.  But only for three or four weeks in the spring because if you leave them too late, and they mature, they lose their delectability, and some varieties may even be harmful.

This is what the most common variety looks like in full growth:

And this is the part you eat:

You can see that the only time to eat them is when they first poke their heads above ground, before they uncurl into their fronds.  Like any fern, they grow fast, so the curled fronds are only available for a short time.  I have since learned that you can prep them by blanching and shocking, and either freeze them or pickle them.  Either way sounds nice to me.

Eating fiddleheads was a “something I want to do someday”, but not a driving force in my life.  Like I said, I seldom lived where they were available, and during those times when I did, it wasn’t a priority.  So imagine my delight when I was walking into the hospital for my interview and there they were, several dozen growing along the walkway.  I was sorely tempted to pick one but held off.

Then, a couple of days later, we were driving passed our current favorite diner and saw a sign “Fiddleheads Available”.   I commented that I’d always wanted to try them.  So, the next time we decided to eat out, we went there.

I had the fish and chips, and he had steak tips in teriyaki.  I told the waitress to please bring me some fiddleheads because I’d never had them before but always wanted to try them.  She got into the spirit of the thing so when she said my plate down, she set a separate bowl of fiddleheads down with a flourish and a “Ta dah!”

They were prepared simply, steamed then salted lightly.  She explained that most people liked to let a little butter melt over them, so I did.  They tasted like a wonderfully crunchy grass.  Not so much like asparagus as I’d suspected they might.  Halfway through the meal, she came back to see how I’d like them and wanted to know I wanted more.

For a couple of weeks, they were everywhere; in the markets, in the convenience stores, in the roadside stands.  I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them at the dry cleaners.

So, I’ll be prepared for next year.  I’ve already found an interesting recipe that could actually work for any fresh crunchy veggie:

Fiddlehead Ferns

  • 2 cups fiddleheads, cleaned
  • vegetable spray or 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 medium onion, medium chop
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup crushed nuts of choice

Steam cleaned fiddleheads for five minutes, then rinse under cold water.  Spray skillet or use oil and heat until shimmering.  Add onions and cook for about five minutes until they start to go translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for another two minutes.  Add the nuts and shake to coat, then add the fiddleheads.  Stir and shake and sauté for five minutes until heated through.  Add lemon juice and mix and serve.

So, what dish have you waited a whole lifetime to try?  Tell us about it.  Feel free to share this post with anyone you like.

As always,

 

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