Posts Tagged ‘alkalize’

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Balancing it out. (ALKALIZING BROTH)

April 19, 2013

broth_quarts

Remember the science lesson about acids and bases in the form of a number line? Seven is neutral, like water, right in the middle of both states. Anything over 7 is a base (alkaline) and anything under is acidic. Our blood, which our body maintains at a pH of 7.35-7.45, is therefore slightly alkaline. The thing is, many of the foods we eat are acid-causing, even some pretty healthy ones.

Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, most grains and legumes in excess and without balancing are not the only things that have the power to make us acidic. Some of our experiences like stress, lack of activity and poor diet choices in general can also be culprits of this undesirable condition. And though we need both acid and alkaline to be in balance, when too much acid is present, the body works overtime to keep the blood in its proper state. Foods that are alkaline*, most fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, seaweed, miso, olive oil, for example, are not only important for daily functions, but when ingested regularly will more readily balance out the less than perfect moments in our lives.

All that to say, hey! eat your veggies!

Lately I have been making extra effort to do just that by keeping the fridge stocked with beautiful organic produce and cooking lots of healthy dinners. Also trying to keep my fridge from being a graveyard of dead leftovers or, even worse, perfectly good uncooked stuff going to seed. One of the ways I like to stretch my organic grocery bucks to the fullest is by making stock. All of the lovely and delicately aromatic things that make for a good, clear stock (carrot, celery, onion, leek, fennel, thyme) go into freezer bags until I have stockpiled enough to be dumped into a big pot with some water, simmered until a lightly golden stock is born.

A few months ago, while doing a cleanse, I learned about alkalizing vegetable broth. It broke every classic culinary rule for stock-making which advises no leafy greens, no cabbage, no squash, no root vegetables, no radish. Each one of these things said to make the stock cloudy, sulfuric, bitter, etc. but the recipe included all of these things. The product was delicious, had none of the qualities Escoffier warned about. Now I am happily breaking the rules and adding all of this stuff to the freezer bag to create broths that can double as alkalizing tonic. The broth is dark and rich and can stand alone warmed  with a little extra sea salt (also alkalizing). The recommendation is to drink it several times daily. That is a great theory and I enjoyed it when I was eating strictly, but I am more often using the stuff in soups, stews, curries and risotto in lieu of more boring stocks, giving a nutritional boost and extra flavor.

ALKALIZING BROTH

You can really be creative with the vegetables you put in there, this is just a guideline:

1 onion, quartered

(plus shallot, onion, leek or scallion trimmings)

3 carrots

3 celery stalks

2 fennel tops

4 cloves garlic

2 cups green leafy vegetables (kale, chard, collard, beet greens, etc.)

1/4 head of cabbage + the core

peels, trimmings (no seeds) of one (organic) butternut squash

1 sweet potato, large dice

1/2 cup seaweed (I like kombu)

2 cups mushroom stems (or 1 cup dried mushrooms)

1/2 bunch of parsley or cilantro stems with or without leaves

1 cup of radish (with or without tops) -optional

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

4-5 quarts of water (enough to cover all of the ingredients by a few inches)

  • Place all ingredients in a large pot.
  • Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  • Immediately turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook about 1.5 hours.
  • Strain out the vegetables and save the stock in containers.
  • Freeze what you are not using. Defrost as needed.

stock_bag

Scrap bag! Red cabbage, mushroom, leek, scallion, celery, sometimes chicken bones too.

In culinary school after  pastry classes when we were ingesting sugar all day long, we were told to go home and alkalize with a hot miso soup. Yea! I give it to my kid too, after parties and stuff.

*A proper alkalizing food chart lives here. These sistas are serious!

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Elaborations. (VEGGIE DASHI)

February 22, 2011

Here is an example of a dashi that has been taken to the next level, integrating the principles of a vegetable stock and therefore upping its taste and nutritional value. In addition to kombu and water, there are fresh mushroom stems, scallion, carrot, dried shiitake, celery, garlic cloves, some herb stems, etc. The large pot shown in this picture will make several quarts, which can be frozen for later convenience. There are no real proportions for the stock, just fill the pot with as many good-quality scrap ingredients as you can (famous culinary school line: the stock pot is not a garbage can!) and add some cold water to cover the solids by about two inches. Bring it to a boil and simmer for about a half hour or up to an hour and strain. Waste nothing! Use it in any recipe that calls for stock or broth.

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The law of least effort. (DASHI)

January 30, 2011

As in Western cooking, many Asian dishes begin with a type of flavorful stock. One of the most basic is a Japanese stock called dashi.  Like many other culinary conveniences, dashi can also be purchased in a dehydrated form, a bouillon cube, powder or concentrate, but to use it in this way is to forfeit its many health-supportive characteristics. And there is no excuse for that given the simplicity of its preparation. Homemade dashi consists of three ingredients: kombu, bonito flakes and water. That’s it! Of course there are endless things that can be added to the stock to make it more elaborate; dried mushrooms, chilies, ginger, garlic, miso and so on. But, basics first.

Kombu is a type of sea vegetable similar to kelp. It is the backbone of dashi and, like many varieties of seaweed, it is high in iodine, potassium, calcium, vitamins A and C and low in calories. Stored as a dried ingredient it has an indefinite shelf life and can be incorporated into any pot of boiling liquid to release its mineral value. It is also useful placed into a pot with cooking beans because it contains enzymes that help to break down the sugars that infamously cause gas and bloating. After it rehydrates, growing in sea monkey proportions, it can be sliced and added to your preparation. Texturally, it is not the most appealing of all sea vegetables, so if this is already more seaweed than you can handle, it can be strained out and discarded… only you will know.

Bonito, as labeled in Asian cultures, is a type of small tuna. Bonito flake is smoked and dried, then shaved into thin pieces. (Not to be confused with bonito from the Atlantic which is a relative of mackerel.) Another dry ingredient, bonito flakes also have an indefinite shelf life but during the winter when soups are king, you may find yourself purchasing bags of it at the Japanese market* more often than usual.

To make dashi, kombu is boiled in water (1-2 inches of kombu for every 2 cups of water) for 15 minutes. One-half cup of bonito flakes are added to the kombu-water mixture after it is taken off the heat. When the flakes sink to the bottom of the pot, the stock is ready to be strained and used. Vegetarian dashi simply leaves out the bonito, a minimalist creation.

Stock in every culture is just a starting point, taste-wise it is nothing much to speak of until enhanced by other ingredients. A quick and easy way to flavor the dashi is with miso, a paste made from soybeans that have been fermented with a grain, usually rice or barley. Miso can range in flavor from rich and savory (dark) to sweet and mellow (light). It lasts a year or more when stored airtight in the fridge and has immense nutritive value. By adding two tablespoons or so to your freshly made dashi, it will put to shame any powdered instant miso packet you might have had otherwise.

Miso paste should be whisked into the strained dashi just before you are serving. Boiling miso will kill its beneficial enzymes so, if reheating is necessary, do not bring to a full boil. Adding some chopped scallion, wakame (seaweed) and tofu cubes will give you the well-known Japanese restaurant starter but the addition of creative ingredients on the part of you, the chef, like noodles, meat, fish or veggies can turn this simple building block into satisfying meal.

* Japanese Markets in NYC:

Sunrise MartM2MKatagiri

Oftentimes Korean markets will carry above-mentioned items as well as Whole Foods.

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Maangchi + me. (KIMCHI CONTEST/BBQ)

July 9, 2010

It was a balmy day in June that Maangchi (of wildly popular Korean foodblog maangchi.com) held her annual meet-up in Prospect Park. As always, fans of the beautiful video-blogger came from near and far to celebrate with her. This year for the first time in meet-up history, she held a Kimchi Contest. Participants were encouraged to use recipes from her site, especially the popular Easy Kimchi, but were also welcome to submit their finest.

I was one of three judges in the contest and there were plenty of excellent submissions. From mild to fiery, young and crisp to highly fermented and hardcore! Here is a link to her extensive coverage of the event: http://www.maangchi.com/blog/new-york-kimchi-contest-report. The day was sponsored by Hanyang Supermarkets, who provided a classic and impressive K-BBQ buffet as well as Korean foods company, Sempio, who generously gave away lots of products like sesame oil, soy sauce and hot pepper paste to the picnic-ers.

I was happy to be a guest at Maangchi’s day but I am even more happy to be her friend. Great job, Maangchi! It was a great/delicious day in the park.

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Summery sides. (THAI CUCUMBER RELISH)

June 21, 2010

These sweet/tart quick-pickles are a perky little accompaniment to grilled meat or fish, salads, sandwiches or a big ole burger. Wherever you like cucumbers, really. In this version, sweet and spicy notes rule the brine and the salt is minimal. With the chiles removed, I think they would be a hit with kids.

This recipe is also a perfect opportunity to brush up on knife skills. This classic beauty is known as a matchstick. First slice the cucumber into rounds crosswise then slice the rounds lengthwise. The matchstick cut does very nicely by radishes as well.

Once all your veggies are cut up, you have only to dump the brine on them and wait until they are cooled. In thirty minutes the relish is ready to eat and, as an added bonus, it will improve with age. Enjoy.

THAI CUCUMBER RELISH

1 medium sized English cucumber, cut into matchsticks (2-2 1/2 cups)

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into tiny matchsticks

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/3 cup rice vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar)

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup brown or white sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 small dried chiles (optional)

  • In a small sauce pan, mix brine ingredients; vinegar, water, sugar, salt and chiles.
  • Bring brine to a boil and stir to fully dissolve sugar and salt. Remove from flame.
  • Carefully toss cucumber, shallot, ginger, garlic in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
  • Pour slightly cooled brine over and mix gently.
  • Press down on vegetables lightly to cover with brine but don’t worry if it doesn’t cover. Vegetables will soften, let off water and be covered in liquid after sitting a bit.
  • Store in fridge up to one week.
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It s’easy. (HIJIKI AVOCADO SALAD)

July 20, 2009

hijiki_salad
We have lots of enthusiasm for seaweed when wolfing down sushi rolls or slurping miso soup but most people don’t give it much thought outside of a Japanese food context. Too bad! Since it is such an easy product to incorporate into a meal, packed with major health benefits, and there are both overt and covert ways of working with it for those who lack said enthusiasm. Sea vegetables are known to stabilize blood sugar, alkalize the blood and help your body to eliminate heavy metals: led, mercury and aluminum which are toxins from the environment, otherwise tough to get rid of. They also cleanse the lymphatic system which is responsible for the health of all the other systems. Uh-oh, I feel a ‘superfood’ rant coming on… luckily superfoods are one of my favorite things to rant about, especially when this easy aaaaand good for you to eat. Need I say delicious too?

Harvested in many parts of the world, so long as the waters are clean, sea vegetables are an age-old food not only in Asian traditions but in most sea-accessible parts of the world like Scandinavia, the UK, coasts of Australia, New Zealand and South America. In the US, seaweed is hand gathered from the cold, dark waters off the northern east and west coasts. Canada too. Unless you are at one of these sources, you will be very likely to purchase edible seaweed in dried form. It is widely available in health food stores, Asian markets and those really expensive bodegas-turned-gourmet shops in certain parts of Brooklyn… however convenient. Since it is dried, the shelf life is indefinite, which is great because you can keep a package of seaweed as a pantry item and use it when you wish. Varieties such as wakame, kombu, hijiki and arame need only to be rinsed and rehydrated in hot water and they grow like sea monkeys, up to three times the original volume (vegetarian sea monkeys). Others are eaten without rehydration and remain sort of crunchy like nori and dulse.

To subtly incorporate seaweed in a meal, start by adding a two inch piece of kombu to a pot of cooking water for beans, pasta, rice or grains. The nutrients in the seaweed which include vitamins A, B, C, E, and minerals like potassium, protein, fiber and calcium will fortify the water and the good water will be absorbed by the food in the pot. At the end, you can chop and eat the kombu or simply consider your duty done and remove it from the pot and toss it. Carrageen and agar are both sea products that are used as gelatin would be in helping both sweet and savory dishes to thicken and set. Great for panna cotta, puddings, glazes and the like, no one the wiser.

There are better tasting and textured seaweeds for eating straight, try a small handful of wakame or arame in a soup. Thinly sliced nori makes a lovely garnish on salads or soups as well. If you want a large helping, follow the recipe below for a briny hijiki salad coupled with smooth, silky avocado. The key is to marinate overnight in a great vinaigrette with a few crunchy carrots to round it out and sweeten the deal.

HIJIKI AVOCADO SALAD

1/2 cup dried hijiki seaweed
boiling water

1 tablespoon shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper

2 carrots, medium dice
2 avocados

  • Place hijiki in a bowl and pour boiling water over it to generously cover. Let stand 20-30 minutes or until tender. Drain thoroughly.
  • Meanwhile, place dressing ingredients: shallot, vinegar, oil, lemon juice, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper in a lidded jar or container and shake until well combined. Taste for seasoning, adjust.
  • Add chopped carrots to drained seaweed and pour on the vinaigrette. Place in the fridge covered for at least one hour, preferably overnight.
  • When ready to eat, half the avocados (remove seed) and slice the flesh lengthwise into about 5 strips inside the avocado skin, without piercing the skin. Using a spoon, lift out the strips in one scoop as intact as possible and lay them on a plate (4 servings).
  • Mound a heaping spoonful of marinated hijiki salad on top of each sliced avocado half. Pour on a little extra dressing if desired.

I almost forgot the rant!! Seaweed also has anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-boredom (i added that last one) properties. All that info is before even consulting wikipedia, which claims seaweed used in medicine fights tuberculosis, influenza, arthritis and even tumors. I hear it also helps dissolve cysts. It has no fat or calories, and combats sluggishness as it performs a house-cleaning on your insides. The only people who should steer clear of the sea crop are those who have a hyper-thyroid condition because the concentrated iodine content might cause trouble. For the rest of us, it means anti-goiter.

For the ultimate ease, try a seaweed shake… not the kind you drink with a straw, the kind you shake over things. Pictured here is a dulse and garlic shake which adds a great burst of flavor on top of soups, salads, roasted vegetables, stirfrys, popcorn, rice or just about anywhere you need a little seasoning. Other types may also contain sesame seeds, hot pepper flakes, salt, pepper. You can make your own combo with different ground seaweeds and the flavorings of your choice. Store in an airtight jar and shake! Use frequently. Enjoy.

hijiki_2seaweeds

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The dandelion fix. (GREEN SAUTE)

June 19, 2009

dandelion_greens
I am no botanist, but I have recently discovered dandelions to be fascinating creatures. We use the greens plenty in the kitchen for soups, salads or sautes, especially during spring and summer months, but lately I have been using them and craving them more than usual. In nature, they spread like weeds mostly because they are weeds, but also because of their famous, white fluffy head. Each delicate strand contains its own self-produced seed. By wishes or by wind, the fluff parachutes the seeds to the next location, no waiting around for birds or bees, and in an instant… lawns across America are toast.

Dandelion greens on your plate are recognizable by the jagged leaf edge and the tiny bitter burst they give your food. Until now I figured they were as beneficial as any dark, leafy green, but while snooping for info about wild, edible plants, I learned that culinary and medicinal uses for dandelions are thousands of years old and the health-supportive properties are better than great. I think it may be some sort of superfood.

After a typical winter of more eating and less exercise, spring supplies us with lots of fresh produce to restore and revive our bodies. Dandelion, being among the first to arrive, have powerful cleansing properties. An alkalizing food, dandelions help balance out the blood’s PH which is especially important after acidity accumulated during sleepy winter (or all of these rainy days!), or just by eating a regular old American-diet. Let’s face it, we are an acidic bunch. Ideally our blood should be slightly more alkaline than acid, so foods that help this to happen are really important. Miraculous dandelion is known to strengthen organs such as heart, kidney liver, skin and it is high in Vitamins A, C, D and B-complexes, as well as fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium. You’ll also find an arsenal of trace minerals in there, some unique to the dandelion alone. A good botanist could name them for you, I am just a cook.

dandelion_saute

The leaves, the roots and bright, yellow flowers are all valuable parts of the plant. The roots and flowers are often dried (available at health food stores) and used in teas and tinctures.The greens can be purchased fresh at your local market or harvested from a safe source, (not a treated lawn, please!!~ but if your lawn is pesticide-free, go for it). Be sure best to pick them when they are young, before the plant flowers, as older greens are really bitter. Sneaking dandelions into juice or making a honey-laden tea can fool picky eaters into being healthy too. For simplicity’s sake, I like to mix some young, locally grown dandelions in with my favorite salad mix. This is a good way to introduce a new flavor; by mixing it with something familiar to see what it adds. In the saute recipe below, fennel and onions lend their sweetness and a few handfuls of arugula (you can substitute spinach, chard, mustard greens, etc.) help round out the dish. Now go, get alkalized and maybe even alkalize someone you love.

GREEN SAUTE
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 small bulb fennel
1 pound dandelion greens, rinsed
1 tablespoon vinegar
a few handfuls of something else green… arugula

salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and fennel with a pinch of salt and saute until softened and translucent. Put the greens in the skillet, it may seem like alot but they will quickly wilt from the heat and with the help of any water clinging to the leaves (add a splash of water if it seems too dry). Occasionally turn the greens with tongs so they cook evenly, about 7 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, allow to evaporate about one minute and toss the rest of the greens in, they should only take a minute or two to cook and become incorporated with the dandelions. Makes for a good, healthy side dish. Great with eggs too.

dandelion_mess
After.
dandelion_plate
Before.