Tuesday, August 24, 2010

fermented: carrots, and fruit-scrap vinegars

I hadn't fermented any veggies in a while. Inspired by my roommie, Austin, who was fermenting something nearly every time he went to the farmers' market there for a while (!), I did a veggie ferment in brine. This kind of ferment is so easy, because you don't even have to do any chopping. Simply fill the jar with whole veggies, then top off with seasalted water. For the half-gallon jar I filled, I used between 2-3 tablespoons of seasalt. More for hot weather, less for cold. My mix was mainly tiny carrots, with whole cloves of garlic, grated as well as sliced ginger, and then a large handful of sea veggies (they were called "sea crunchies", but were no longer crunchy, so I added them in; I don't know their official name. I love seaweeds and they are soooo nutrient-dense. A bonus. I covered the jar with a cloth and secured it with a tie to keep out bugs. It sat in a cool room (which would be any room in our house this "summer"!) for over a month. A thick, smelly, furry layer of mold developed on top that would have deterred a novice. I, being a seasoned veggie fermenter at this point ;-), pulled this layer off with a spoon very easily. Underneath, the garlicky brine smelled appetizing. A layer of carrots at the top was off-color and mushy. Below that, the carrots were crisp and pleasantly flavorful. The overarching flavor of this ferment is garlic, with not even a hint of ginger! Oh, well.

"Garlicky Sea Carrots" in pint and quart jars, ready to eat

A ferment I have been looking forward to all year is fruit-scrap vinegar ~ the recipe for which I read in Wild Fermentation (one of my favorite books of all time). I discovered it last year when we were gifted FIVE WHOLE GALLONS of tasty cherries, and I didn't want to waste a single one! It's so easy, and it utilizes bruised fruits, and pits. So it's a delicious way to savor every morsel of the ripe, luscious summer fruit bounty! This year the only thing I did with our backyard plums is make vinegar with them. The last two years I tried to make jam, ended up using way too much sugar to balance their bitter tang, and ended up not eating it because we just don't eat sweet stuff. So = a waste. This season I gathered a large mixing bowl of fruit off the ground, after the squirrels and birds had had their fill, and made vinegar. We all win! : )
I also bought a huge bag of nectarine "seconds" at our favorite nectarine vendor ~ Kashiwase Farms (We are so spoiled by nectarines around here!!! They are sweeter than candy, before they even get soft. Incredible!). I sliced up all the fruits to eat out of hand, while piling a mixing bowl high with the bruised pieces and pits. Then I made vinegar. Have I mentioned I love how easy fermenting can be? Well, all you need to do to make phenomenally flavorful, gift-worthy "gourmet" vinegar is to dissolve 1/4 cup sugar (I use organic Sucanat/Rapadura, which is dehydrated cane juice) per quart of filtered water and cover the fruit ~ any organic fruit scraps will do. Cover it with a secured napkin to keep away the fruit flies that will be tempted and pesterful. Give it a nudge to stir it up occasionally. Let it sit for a week or more, until the liquid gets thick with color. Then strain out the solids and let it turn for a few weeks. First it will smell sweet, then like alcohol, then like vinegar. This is an aerobic process, so a wide-mouth vessel is best ~ for big batches I like to use pyrex mixing bowls, or wide-mouth canning jars for smaller ones. It's also important to use glass because of the acidity of the vinegar (as opposed to metal). Once it smells and tastes sufficiently vinegar-y, pour it into the attractive vessels of your choice and enjoy any way you would a tasty sweet vinegar.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mercola on the Cholesterol Myth

A tidbit on nutrition and health.

I'm excited that this "news" is making it to the mainstream. I really believe that slowly our cultural tide is turning back to Real Food.


(my side note: if you manage to get to the bottom of this article, he recommends eating by a "nutritional type". I haven't researched his basis for this, though I think it makes a LOT of sense to eat according to your ethnic heritage, ie, what your ancestors evolved eating because of where they lived.. So, though I agree with him on most of his suggestions, I can't vouch for his "nutritional types" theory.)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Summer Veggie Lovin': Fresh Salsas

Summer is such a fun and easy time to prepare meals. All the bright, colorful produce demands to be eaten immediately, without much work at all. I have been loving salads. Some days I have some form of salad with breakfast, lunch, and dinner! And lately I have been mixing up what I call "salsas" for a fun salad concoction. I chop up veggies, add some olive oil and (usually red wine) vinegar or citrus (lemon or lime) juice, seasalt, toss them together, and then put them on top of a bed of good lettuce (my favorite is Little Gem from Blue Heron Farm!). Another way I've served these salsas is mixed with a pasta (Tinkyada rice pasta), or grain ~ such as brown rice or quinoa, or a combination! It also works on top of scrambled eggs. I love fresh veggies for breakfast (this morning I sauteed a handful of chopped dandelion greens with sliced garlic, added that to eggs, then topped it with leftover salsa ~ so good).
cherry tomato, Armenian cucumber, snipped basil, and red pepper flakes
Here's a list of ingredients from concoctions I've made just in the past few days:
Barely-cooked corn fresh from the cob
Cherry tomatoes sliced in half (this is my favorite way to eat tomatoes right now
~ neat and easy)
A beefy heirloom tomato, diced
fresh-pressed garlic (I put this is almost everything)
basil leaves snipped with scissors
cilantro snipped with scissors
fresh oregano, minced
Armenian cucumber, sliced into rounds, then quartered
young (small) yellow squash or zucchini, sliced into rounds and quartered
Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
green beans, sauteed
avocado, diced

Sample Combinations:
Barely-cooked corn fresh from the cob
Cherry tomatoes sliced in half
basil leaves snipped with scissors
red wine vinegar

Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Armenian cucumber, sliced into rounds, then quartered
fresh oregano, minced
balsamic vinegar

Barely-cooked corn fresh from the cob
Cherry tomatoes sliced in half
avocado, diced
cilantro snipped with scissors
lime juice

young (small) yellow squash or zucchini, sliced into rounds and quartered
A beefy heirloom tomato, diced
green beans, sauteed
fresh-pressed garlic

A later edition:
Ooo!! A new combination!
diced ripe cantaloupe (yuuuummm!)
Armenian cucumber rounds, quartered
snipped basil
olive oil and seasalt
crumbled feta

Coconut-Oat-Seed Crackers

Yay! I made a granola recipe recently that called for soaking rolled oats with yogurt for a couple nights. When I worked with what ended up being oat dough, it reminded me of one of my favorite natural foods store treats ~ dehydrated crackers. You can find them in the raw foods section, made from sprouted grains and nuts, sometimes sauerkraut and veggies and spices. They can be sweet ~ with raisins, banana or dates, or (my favorite) savory. But they're expensive. And so easy to make at home! I don't have a dehydrator, so the ones I make aren't raw. I bake them on parchment-lined baking stones in the oven on the lowest setting possible.

I tried to add as much nourishment as I could to them while still keeping them yummy (what's the point of making something nutritious if nobody eats it!) ~ seaweeds for minerals, flax seeds, lots of coconut flakes, and good fats ~ coconut oil, red palm oil (makes the crackers a lovely turmeric color), and butter. With all the fats, they are not greasy to the touch, have a satisfying crispness, and a fun cheesy taste. Everyone in the house loves them. Score!
I have tried two batches, and the second batch has a great texture and flavor. I didn't write down the amounts as I went because I was just winging it in experimental mode. But I'll try to recount what went into them.

In a large pyrex mixing bowl with filtered water, seasalt and yogurt whey, I soaked for two days:
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup flax seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup raw almonds
Flax seeds, once wet, create a gel that acts very similarly to egg white, and, interestingly, has the same hold-things-together property as egg white! Convenient. : )
I drained these, and blended them well in a food processor (the flax seeds remained whole).
I added:

probably 1/3 cup dulse flakes
1/2 cup sesame seeds, ground in coffee grinder
2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes, ground in coffee grinder
2 + tsp seasalt
1 tsp kelp powder (I wanted them to be very nourishing, but not fishy tasting)
a splash of organic tamari soy sauce
about 1/2 cup plain whole yogurt
Melted and added:
1 tbsp red palm oil
2-3 tbsp coconut oil
up to a stick of butter

The consistency of the dough before I spread it was of a very workable bread dough ~ not hard to spread. I tried to spread it consistently and square off the edges so that it would bake uniformly, about..1/3 inch thick.
When the dough had baked long enough to evaporate a lot of the liquid ~ maybe an hour? ~ I scored it with a knife, in inch-plus sections, to make breaking it easier when the crackers were done. I let them get firm, but not browned, then turned the oven off and let it cool before taking them out and breaking them apart. If they sit out in the humidity they soften back up even in a matter of hours. You can just crisp them again in the oven. Or not; they're fine soft, too.