May 2, 2006

Galanga flowers

Found these amazing galanga (galingale) flowers in the freezer case of a small, but very tidy, Thai shop in Chinatown on that steep narrow street off Mott Street running into the park. It was Sunday, a lovely spring day, and Max and I went out for a walk, lunch, and a sit in the Chinatown park. Old men gathered under a tree with their finches in bamboo cages, covered in cloth, which they hung from the branches; there were eight such cagees hanging from that tree at one point. The park was recently renovated, with big boulders; it now has a kind of Chinese landscape feel. They sat on those rough stones talking to each other as their finches chirped.

Now, what to do with the galanga flowers. Seems they are to be thawed, thinly sliced, and added to a Thai-style vinaigrette for a glass noodle salad, rojak, and dishes of that kind.

Yam Woon Sen (Thai Glass Noodles Salad)

* 75g glass noodle (tang hoon) -- soaked and drained
* 100g chicken breast meat -- steam-cooked then shredded
* 100g prawns -- shelled and scalded
* 25g shallots -- sliced thinly
* 1 big onion -- sliced thinly
* 2 stalks coriander leaves -- chopped


* 2 tbsp pounded fresh chilli
* 1 galangal flower (bunga kantan) -- sliced thinly
* 2 tbsp lemon juice
* 1 tbsp fish sauce (Nam Pla)
* 1 tsp sugar


* Lettuce leaves
* Mint leaves

MIX cooked prawns and shredded chicken meat in a salad bowl. Add in the glass noodles and the rest of the ingredients. Toss well then dish onto a bed of lettuce leaves. Garnish with mint leaves.

Posted by BKG at 10:30 PM

March 14, 2006

Bible Bar


Posted by BKG at 1:25 AM

February 15, 2006

Crazy about plantains


Just ordered the E-Z Peeler, Tostones E-Z Smasher, and cookbook from Edwin Rodriquez's website Caribbean Food Implements, which includes video demos. Read the story in the NYTimes (2/2/06), complete with video.

An inventor-entrepreneur's adventures in plantains

New York Times News Service

Six years ago I received a call from a man named Edwin Rodriguez, an unemployed janitor. He had invented a plantain peeler and wanted to know if I would like to see it. A few days later Rodriguez's prototype arrived in the mail. It was carved from wood and painted green and lemon yellow like a child's toy - and was otherwise the most phallic cooking tool I'd ever seen. I quickly tucked it into my desk drawer.

But when I tried it out in the privacy of my home kitchen, it worked ingeniously. There was a blade for trimming off the ends of the fruit and cutting seams into the peel without harming the inner plantain. And at one end was a spade-shaped wood piece designed to mimic a thumbnail - the implement that, in the absence of a plantain peeler like Rodriguez's, is normally is used to wedge under the peel and lift it in strips. Peeling a green plantain is not like peeling a banana. The skin sticks, and if you're not careful you can easily split the fruit's flesh; you need a sharp paring knife and good knife skills.

I called Rodriguez to tell him I was impressed by his invention and wanted to write about it.

"Where can you buy it?" I asked.
"Oh, but we don't have a manufacturer," he said. With regret, I explained that it would be hard to write about a product that readers couldn't experience for themselves, and encouraged him to call back once it was in production.

One morning this past October, a man called and exclaimed: "It's Edwin! I have my plantain peeler ready!"

"Um, who?" I said. "And what?"
"Remember? The plantain peeler - I made the plantain peeler!"

Two weeks later I went to East 108th Street to meet the inventor.

Rodriguez, dressed in a blue sweatshirt and a pressed oxford-cloth shirt, met me on the sidewalk of a rundown block; he was relaxed, like someone who is taking it easy after a successful career, not someone on the verge of starting up a company.

He escorted me to his E-Z Peeler office on the second floor of a nearby tenement, where he introduced me to his wife of 37 years, Alba. The immaculate office featured a packing area in the center stacked with the first shipment of 3,400 peelers and a kitchen in the back, where Rodriguez cooks lunch every day for himself and the three people who work with him. "It's too expensive to go out for lunch," he said. More important, as I discovered later, he is an excellent cook.

Without money or connections it had taken Rodriguez, 58, more than 12 years to move his E-Z Peeler from concept to manufacture. The process began in 1990 when Rodriguez, who had grown up in Puerto Rico, was laid off from Public School 117 in East Harlem, where he had been a janitor.

"I said, I have to go do something," he explained. "I thought, I can cook pork." So he built a grill out of an old oil barrel, bought charcoal and, during the warm months, began spit-roasting pigs in an empty lot in East Harlem, selling it to people in the neighborhood. In the winter months, he fiddled with designs for new kitchen tools. (His wife, who works at Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue, paid most of the bills.)

One day, a friend - "a beautiful lady with nice nails" - complained to him that peeling plantains at the restaurant where she worked was ruining her hands. It occurred to him that there was a natural market for a special tool in Hispanic restaurants and homes, where plantains are a pillar of the cuisine.

In 1993, Rodriguez started working on a prototype, carving it by hand from a piece of pine. Eventually he knocked on the first of many doors.

He showed up on the doorstep of El Plastics, a factory in the Bronx that made plastic displays. The engineer in charge took a liking to Rodriguez and decided to help him.

"They gave me time," he said, "and I could go into my little shop and make it better and take it back to them. And finally they say: 'OK, you're ready for a blueprint. No more freebies. You have to pay.' " He had saved a little money, and for $2,700 he got the blueprint.

In 1995, Rodriguez got a patent, and in 1999 he entered the Hammacher Schlemmer Search for Invention contest, in which the E-Z Peeler was a semifinalist.

Rodriguez also subscribed to Inventors' Digest and studied it as if it were the Bible. "It said one product is not enough," Rodriguez recalled. "So I said, 'O.K., a tostonera."

A tostonera is used to flatten once-fried plantain slices before they are fried a second time and become tostones. To get the design just right, he headed to the kitchen, flattening and frying, flattening and frying. And this led to his third product: a cookbook, which, naturally, he wrote and illustrated. The book, "Loco con los Platanos" ("Crazy for Plantains"), is filled with precise recipes and instructional photographs for dishes as varied as chicken and rice, salt cod salad and plantain soup.

One night, while Rodriguez was having a drink at a bar on East 108th Street, the Hammacher Schlemmer sequence ran on the History Channel. He struck up a conversation with the bar's owner, Tito Santiago, who thought so much of his invention that he decided to invest in Rodriguez's fledgling company and become his partner. Together they formed Caribbean Food Implements, which occupies the second floor of the building. Santiago has since closed the bar to make room for a demonstration space for the E-Z Peeler.

When the East Harlem Business Capital Corp. granted Rodriguez a loan of $10,000 (it eventually added $20,000 more), it was time to get the E-Z Peeler manufactured. He was determined to have it made in the United States - "so I could have that label 'Proudly made in the USA'" - but the costs were prohibitive.

Another nonprofit organization, the Senior Core of Retired Executives, put him in touch with a retired factory owner who is an expert on injection molding, the plastic-forming technique needed to manufacture the E-Z Peeler. "He said, 'Listen, take your project to China,' " Rodriguez explained.

He has since sold 350 sets of peelers, tostoneras (which can also be used to form plantain slices into cups, for stuffing) and books (which come in either Spanish or English).

The E-Z Peeler is $12.95 at Caribbean Food Implements, 181 East 108th Street (second floor), (212) 348-8181, or at; a set with the tostonera, the book and an E-Z Peeler is $29.95 at Caribbean Food Implements or $34.95 online, including shipping.

Adapted from "Loco con los Platanos" by Edwin Rodriguez (Caribbean Food Implements)

Time: 1 hour
For the ajilimojili sauce:
1 head garlic, peeled and minced
5 Scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and minced
18-ounce can Spanish-style tomato sauce
Juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sazon sin achiote (without annatto) seasoning (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey
Hot sauce (optional)
For the tostones:
4 cups vegetable oil, for frying
3 green plantains
For the shrimp:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, each cut into 4 pieces

1. Prepare ajilimojili sauce: Place garlic, peppers and tomato sauce in a medium sieve set over a bowl, and mash with a spoon or ladle to push them through. Repeat twice more. (Alternatively, use a food processor to mince garlic and peppers, and blend with tomato sauce, but the traditional method provides a better texture.)

2. Transfer to a saucepan over low heat, and mix in the lemon juice, salt, sazon (if using), olive oil, butter and honey. If desired, season with hot sauce to taste. Simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool. Transfer to a sealed glass container, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

3. Prepare tostones: Place oil in a high-rimmed skillet, and heat to 250 degrees. While oil heats, peel and cut plantains into 1-inch medallions. Fry medallions until lightly golden on all sides, 6-8 minutes. Remove from oil, and immediately flatten with a tostonera or a kitchen mallet until about 1/4 inch thick. Increase temperature of oil to 350 degrees, and fry a second time until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with salt to taste; keep warm.

4. Prepare shrimp: Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, and sauti 1 minute. Add shrimp and 1/3 cup ajilimojili sauce. (Reserve remaining sauce for another use.) Mix well, and simmer until shrimp are opaque, 6-8 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve shrimp with warm tostones.

Yield: 4 servings.

Posted by BKG at 7:04 AM

November 25, 2005

Lavender salt

Bought lavendar salt when I was in San Francisco to deliver one of the American Icon lectures to commemorate 350 years of Jewish life in the United States. Had a chance to wander down to the market on the Embarcadero and found this fragant French grey sea salt mixed with fragrant lavender. Delicious. Gave Joelle, one of my all-time favorite cooks, a bottle and here is the email she sent me:

I want to share this story with you. Last Friday, we had friends from Bloomington over for dinner. They are fine palates but don't cook. I served a salad of shredded root vegetables (carrots and celeri root) which I seasoned with white wine vinegar, olive oil, some herbes de Provence and the lavender salt you gave us for Rosh-Ha-Shana. As they were savouring the salad, they kept wondering which spice I had put that has this very unusual and fine flavor. I let them scratch their gustative sense for a while, saying that it was a secret. And after 15 minutes or so, I revealed my secret. So we spoke about you and your passion and savant curiosity for taste.

Posted by BKG at 11:23 AM

October 15, 2005

Sephardic New Year

Thanks to Joelle and Brigitte, New Year this year was Sephardic and that means delicious and interesting. I wrote Brigitte after Rosh Hashanah with Joelle and friends and family:

Now I know something about the seder, the blessings, the multilingual word play, the calf cheeks, the head (cow or if not cow then fish), and the tfina [swiss chard and beef], which was, like everything else, totally delicious. Well, as far as I am concerned, from here on in its Sephardi style Rosh Hashanah. Forget the matzo balls and brisket!
And, I should add the fresh fennel, sliced and dressed in olive oil and lemon juice, which was so fresh and refreshing.

If that was not enough to provoke Sephardic envy, then breaking the Yom Kippur fast at Brigitte's did the trick, especially the artichoke hearts, which were stewed in olive oil and lemon, and the spectacular Iranian crispy rice (basmati rice, spinach, tomatoes, cardamon, and more), which was turned out onto a platter to form a dome. The company was lovely too.

Posted by BKG at 4:39 PM

Winter in the kitchen

While winter is not yet here, the weather has turned. A week of steady rain and cooler temperatures--and school well into its second month and approaching midterm--mark the onset of what winter is for me. The sign above all is the kitchen. A trip to Integral Yoga for sourdough supplies, chiefly rye flour, and staples of our at home diet. That means:

Posted by BKG at 4:01 PM

September 4, 2005

Joelle on purslane

Joelle is a wonderful cook with a lovely repertoire of Algerian Jewish specialities. We both love fresh fava in the pod and cardoon--and purslane! Here is her recent email.

Dear Barbara, I read your entry on purslane on your Forklore site, and enjoyed it very much. I do not remember when I encountered this plant for the first time; it might have been in a recipe mentioned years ago by a Sephardic informant. In the last few years, it has grown wild in our vegetable garden in Bloomington, and I have picked it and used it in salads with other greenery, as in a "mesclun" of sorts. It is very tasty, crunchy and tart. I will use the recipes that you mention in different websites. One farmer merchant sells "pourpier" at the Bloomington farmers' market in the summer, and told us that all she does is pick it as a weed in her garden.

I could not find purslane at the market this week, but I do love it and, oh, that omega-3!

Posted by BKG at 11:34 PM

August 18, 2005


durianvv.jpgDurian, an amazing fruit, is the subject of a piece in this week's Village Voice. Check it out!

For everything you ever wanted to know about durian: Durian Online; Durian Palace; s.v. Durian, Wikipedia.

This stinky fruit is an acquired taste and quite addictive. Everyone has stories about it. You can find durian in Chinatown, usually flown in frozen from Thailand, also in the freezer case and as ice cream, a filling for cookies, or candy flavor.

Posted by BKG at 6:04 AM

August 11, 2005


Purslane.jpgEve asked about purslane (Portulaca oleracea). I use it in salad. Just wash, pinch into manageable lengths the way you would watercress, stems and all. The stems are succulent, tart, and edible, even when thick. You can pickle the stems, a old tradition. Pickled Purslane Stems: 1 cup white vinegar. 2 cups of cold water, ¼ cup salt, ½ teaspoon alum. Place on the bottom of each of two pint jars flower of dill, clove of garlic, and a small red pepper. Pack jars with fat tender purslane stems, not too tight. Fill jars with liquid and seal. Store in a dark place for one month before using. Do not leave for too long. Some recipes call for apple cider vinegar.

Or add purslane to potato salad. The farmer from whom I bought purslane at the Greenmarket said that the Mexican women who pick for him much prefer gathering purslane, which grows wild and is considered a weed, to harvesting the greens he actually plants. He said they love purslane, which they call vergolaga. Add to omelets, cook like you would spinch or watercress, add to soups and stews, or roll up in a tortilla.

I first encountered purslane in Jerusalem at Eucalyptus, famous for its traditional Jerusalem cuisine. The Iraqi chef-owner, Moshe Basson, gathers wild greens and herbs from the hills around the city, precisely the foods that sustained Jerusalemites during times of siege.

Betty Fusssell offers lovely recipes for purslane, which, incidentally, is a powerhouse of nutrients, most famously omega-3. More recipes here.

Posted by BKG at 8:38 AM

August 9, 2005

Black salt

blac_SALT-enhanced.jpgBlack salt, also known as saindhav, kala namak, or sanchal, is harvested on land, around volcanoes, though some say it was formed by ancient seas that dried up. It is harvested in Central India though I have found a Pakistani company that sells this salt. It starts out black but turns pink when it is crushed. It is the essential sulfurous ingredient in Chat Masala, along with other ingredients (ajwain, fennel, asafoetida) prized for their ayuredic properties, particulary as digestives.

An absolutely fascinating ingredient. I bought it months ago, after finding it in a recipe I can no longer find, but thinking it just might come in handy. As I was looking for bean salads, I discovered the world of chat and within that world a mini-universe of chat masala.

Found some interesting historical information in a translation of "The Hou Hanshu, the official history of the Later (or ‘Eastern’) Han Dynasty (25-221 CE), [which] was compiled by Fan Ye, who died in 445 CE." This document notes that black salt was found in the kingdom of Tianzhu (Northwestern) India:

heiyan 黑鹽 [hei-yen] = literally: “black salt.” “Black salt,” or vida, is still used in Indian cooking today. It is first mentioned in the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata where it was prohibited from being used in ceremonies for the ancestors. Charaka, who is said to have been the personal physician of the Kushan Emperor Kanishka, and is famous as the “father of Indian medicine,” included it in his list of five types of salt – Achaya (1994), pp. 37, 86.

Black salt is produced by fusing rock salt with Indian Gooseberry, the astringent fruit of an Indian tree Phyllanthus emblica, which is also used for tanning and making inks. It is employed in Indian medicine as a tonic, aperient or laxative. Monier-Williams (1899), p. 962.

Also of interest is the information kindly sent to me as a personal communication by John Moffett, Librarian, East Asian History of Science Library, Needham Research Institute, on 7th September 1999:

“I have not been able to find hei yan in modern Chinese herbals, but here is what I have got. As usual, Laufer’s Sino-Iranica is the most informative (Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, Publication 201, 1919), p. 511:

“The Pei hu lu distinguishes red, purple, black, blue, and yellow salts.... Black salt (hei yen) was a product of the country Ts’ao (Jaguda) north of the Ts’un lin [Sui shu, ch. 83 p.8]. It is likewise attributed to Southern India [Tang Shu, Cj. 221 A, p. 10b]. These coloured salts may have been impure salt of minerals of a different origin.”

The Han yu da ci dian, vol. 11 p. 1341 merely says it is a “salt used in medicine,” and quotes the Li Xiaobo zhuan in the Bei Shi, “... black salt treats abdominal distention and fullness of qi....” It does not look as if anyone has otherwise identified it as a specific mineral...”

And, finally, the inclusion of “black salt” as a tribute item:

“Black Salt” came as tribute in the joint mission of Turgäch, Chāch, Kish, Māimargh, and Kapiśa in 746 (along with “red salt”), and in 751 and 753 also came from Khwārizm, south of the Oxus .... The identity of this substance is not known.” Schafer (1963), p. 217.

In addition to its virtues as a tasty ingredient and digestive, it "is a common ingredient in jinx-removing spells. One common spell calls for sprinkling black salt on the property line separating you from an irritating neighbor." Here is a nice drink.

Jal Jeera — Indian cumin lemonade

3 cups of ice water
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mint leave paste
2 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon kala namak
pinch of sugar

optional spices:
½ teaspoon cilantro (coriander) paste
½ teaspoon dry mango powder (amchur)

Mix well and served chilled with ice and garnished with mint leaves.

On black salt as an ingredient in Chat Masala, see earlier entry on the Chatpati Channa Chaat served at today's studio lunch.

Posted by BKG at 3:04 PM

August 5, 2005

Max is back

Max is back! After five weeks in New Zealand and Australia. I headed off to the Greenmarket this morning at 7:00 am. Suprised that some stands were not up and running by as late as 8:15. But did manage to get glorious corn, which I knew Max would love, and fabulous tomatoes, the first apples of the season, perfect apricots, and some plums. Grilled eggplant and green peppers and chopped them up to make a nice spread. Boiled flat green beans and tossed them with my salted lemons, capers, and parsley.

Lots of greens: purslane, arugula, two kinds of lettuce, flat leaf parsley and dill. Will get chives and scallions. Otherwise, I'm set with carrots, radishes, cucumber, and summer squash. Oh, need potatoes and onions. Ate my down to the bare shelves of the fridge, so was pretty much out of everything.

Will make chłodnik and take it to Mark and Greta on Thursday.

Posted by BKG at 8:56 PM

July 19, 2005


Wankowicz_-_Mickiewicz_small.jpgHave not blogged in a while. Too hot to bake sourdough bread. Besides Max is in New Zealand and his team is not here for lunches. No way I could consume all 7 lbs of my mammoth loaf myself. More important, I have been ensconsed in my cave, with only a ceiling fan to mitigate the heat, with an unwavering focus on completing They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland before the Holocaust. Sent it off yesterday and celebrated with a long nap. It's been a diet of blueberries and yogurt, with the odd plum, peach, or nectarine, an occasional package of wakame instant soup, a salad a few weeks ago, crackers and peanut butter (until the peanut butter ran out), and the occasional take-out order of vegetable dumplings from my favorite hole in the wall on Eldridge Street.

Dinner with Mark and Greta last week and their friend Klaude. Delicious pickled lox, scrumptious red caviar, with thinly sliced French country bread and sweet butter, grilled tuna, salads, apple strudel and Mark's favorite, blood orange sorbet. Highlight was the borsht, well, not the borsht we ate, which was excellent (courtesy of Zabar's), but the borsht conversation. First, there was the essence of borsht (30 lbs of beets, plus much else), which takes days to make and results in a clear liquid of extraordinary flavor and intensity. Klaude ate this borsht in Zakopane and extracted the recipe from the chef. Second, after I described my chłodnik, which I make with raw beet juice, or, if I am ambitious, with my own rosl, the liquid from fermented beets, there followed a wonderful conversation about chłodnik in Pan Tadeusz by the Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz. I vowed then and there to finally read this book and to convene my Polish colleagues for a Pan Tadeusz chłodnik accompanied by a chłodnik reading in Polish and English from the book. And, as I was writing these words, Mark emailed to say he bought a copy of Pan Tadeusz for me and that it was in the mail!

Mężczyznom dano wódkę; za czym wszyscy siedli
I chłodnik zabielany milcząc żwawo jedli.

Po chłodniku szły raki, kurczęta, szparagi,
W towarzystwie kielichów węgrzyna, malagi;
Jedzą, piją, a milczą wszyscy. Nigdy pono
Od czasu jako mury zamku podźwigniono,
Który uraczał hojnie tylu szlachty bratów,
Tyle wesołych słyszał i odbił wiwatów,
Nie pamiętano takiej posępnej wieczerzy;
Tylko pukanie korków i brzęki talerzy
Odbijała zamkowa sień wielka i pusta:
Rzekłbyś, iż zły duch gościom zasznurował usta.

This quintessential summer soup is made from beets, beet greens, sour milk (in the absence of which, use buttermilk, kefir, or yogurt--some use sour cream), radish, cucumber, pickles, lemon, hard boiled egg, dill, chives, and, for a fancy version (not for me) veal or shrimp. I sometimes serve mine with a hot boiled potato on the side.

Chłodnik #1
Chłodnik #2
Chłodnik #3

Chłodnik #4: Alice B. Toklas (I will leave out the veal and shrimp, will cut the eggs in half, and use buttermilk rather than sour cream. Nice with a big boiled potato.)

2 ounces lean veal cut in small pieces cooked in water to cover.
2 ounces beets cooked until tender and crushed through a sieve. Keep the water in which they were cooked.
1 teaspoon chives cut in very small lengths.
1 teaspoon powdered dill.
10 prawns, can be replaced by 16 large shrimps.
1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper
1 cucumber peeled, seeds removed and very thinly sliced.
2 cups sour heavy cream.
6 hard-boiled eggs sliced.

Add the cucumber to the beets and the water in which they were cooked, then the veal and its juice. Stir in the sour cream gradually, add the dill, salt and pepper, the chives, the prawns or the shrimps,. Add the eggs carefully. Serve ice-cold.

Chłodnik #5

1 kg. uncooked beetroots
1 lemon
1 leaf of bayleaf
About 1 lt. of thick smooth yogurt
250 ml. of sourcream
2-3 cucumbers(small variety with no seeds) or 1 large one
Chives or 1 small bunch of spring onion
Handfull of dill
1 egg /person
A little bit of ham....or tiny crabs or prawns for special occasions
If you like you can add some radish (if it's in season)
Pepper & salt

First you peel and coarsely grate the beetroots and bring them to the boil with a cup of water. Simmer and add the bayleaf, P&S coarsely ground and the juice of 1 lemon to keep that beautiful red colour. Take this juice off the heat when the beetroot is cooked but just still slightly crunchy. You can make this juice earlier (a day in advance) and keep it in the fridge for the best effect. You can also add the cucumbers, coarsely grated, to this base before you put it in the fridge. but take out the bayleaf.

When you want to serve add the yoghurt, sour cream, finely chopped spring onion and dill, the ham and eventually the radish. The result should be a very pink, quiet unappetising but delicious substance.
Season to flavour and garnish with hardboiled eggs and dill.

Posted by BKG at 12:51 PM

May 18, 2005


psyllium-seeds.jpgI was looking for gluten-free flour--substitutes for wheat flour--so I could bake desserts that Jeffrey could eat. I ran across recipes that called for mixtures of starch or flour derived from tapioca, rice, corn, and potato, plus a gum of some kind (also recommended as an egg substitute)--xanthan, guar gum, flax, psyllium. So, with these items on my shopping list, I was at Integral Yoga and found the pysllium, but forgot what it was for. Once home, I started looking around for information and discovered that psyllium, the active ingredient in Metamucil, is a gentle bulk softener, in a word, a laxative. Here is a report on a celebrity bowel: "Due to the concerns about regular bowel function while in space, John Glenn and a fellow astronaut took a commercial psyllium product, Metamucil, with them on their nine-day flight aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998."

How does it work? "Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative and is high in both fiber and mucilage. Psyllium seeds contain 10–30% mucilage. The laxative properties of psyllium are due to the swelling of the husk when it comes in contact with water. This forms a gelatinous mass that keeps feces hydrated and soft, provided it is taken with sufficient water. The resulting bulk stimulates a reflex contraction of the walls of the bowel, followed by emptying."

Psyllium has the highest ratio of soluable fibre of any food, or so it is claimed: "Every 100 grams of psyllium provides 71 grams of soluble fiber; a similar amount of oat bran would contain only 5 grams of soluble fiber." Psyllium is supposed to help lower cholesterol. But, its capacity to absorb water and to bulk up to many times its size also makes it dangerous if you do not drink lots of water too. Otherwise, there is the risk of bowel obstruction or even choking!

India is the biggest producer of psyllium. And, there is a Thai drink, falooda, which has these tiny seeds floating around--turns out the drink contains basil seeds and psyllium. Well, I bought almost a pound of psyllium! Now, I have to figure out the best way to use it--safely!

Posted by BKG at 1:34 PM


hemp2.jpgFirst time at Integral Yoga (after many years) I saw hemp seeds--marketed as hemp nuts, as they are not actually seeds, from what I understand--and could not figure out how to use them. They are the new megafood, high protein with all the essential amino acids. Hemp is usually bird food, but once the hard husk is removed hemp is good for humans too. Interesting discussion of whether you can pass the urine test after eating this stuff. Turns out hemp activism is about more than smoking dope. Hemp is versatile and could put cotton out of business, so the cotton industry has been fighting it, or so the cashier says. She makes hemp seed milk in the blender--just hemp and water--or she eats it like nuts, straight. I make a nut/seed mixture (flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, almonds, cashews) that we toss into salad or over hot cereal in the morning. I've now added hemp!

Posted by BKG at 10:27 AM

March 27, 2005

Rose Levy Beranbaum

rose.jpg Listen to Rose "think like a cake" and warble like a cardinal in her Manhattan apartment. The kitchen has spilled over into the living room and the guestroom is no more. Here she is on WNYC's The Next Big Thing.

Rose is a fastidious bread and cake baker and wonderfully obsessed perfectionist. She is the one who turned me on to weighing ingredients and recommended Tanita scales. I bought the Tanita KD-200-210 portable scale (70oz x 0.1oz / 2000g x 2g).

Posted by BKG at 3:09 PM


Shelly, who arrived very fit, sang the praises of the GI Diet, recommended by his doctor, and I immediately ordered the book, Rick Gallop's Living the GI Diet. That is more or less how we eat in any case, but a few refinements won't hurt and I am curious. The positive effects of whole grains (and a high fibre diet more generally) have been overlooked in the current low-carb mania.

According to a recent study, "Fiber may decrease energy intake and induce weight loss by inducing satiety and reducing postprandial glucose concentrations. Moreover, because of their high fiber and water content, whole-grain foods contain fewer calories gram-for-gram than does an isovolemic amount of corresponding refined-grain food. Dietary fiber generally has been inversely associated with body weight and body fat. In the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study, fiber was inversely associated with BMI at all levels of fat intake, and it predicted insulin concentrations and 10-y weight gain."

Food for the week:

Posted by BKG at 12:41 PM

March 8, 2005

Live salad

Gave Jeffrey a little green plastic mesh lid and organic mung beans last week, which we picked up at Integral Yoga, on our way to the Perry Street Theater to see Gareth Armstrong's excellent Shylock. Just got a report: he successfully sprouted them, stopping when a tiny sprout appeared, Indian style, and made Live Salad, to Stuart's delight!

Posted by BKG at 10:04 AM

March 1, 2005


rooibus_t.jpgFirst had rooibos tea when I was in Capetown. It was apparently "discovered" in 1904 by one Benjamin Ginsberg, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, who saw the Khoisan people (popularly known as the Bushman) making tea from a wild bush that grows in the Cedarberg Mountains. The color is identical to orange pecoe and the tea is delicious and supposed to be very healthy. It is my current favorite. This brand is from English Tea Store. Here is the story:

"Technically, Rooibos is not a true tea. It comes from the plant Aspalathus Linearis, rather than the Camellia plants that produce traditional teas. The name Rooibos comes from the African slang for the Dutch words for 'red bush'.

The Rooibos plant is a small shrubby bush that only grows in South Africa. The bush grows anywhere from 1/2 to 1 metre in height, with very thin, needle-like leaves. The leaves are green, but turn the characteristic red after fermentation.

The Rooibos seeds are precious, because the plants produce few of them. The seeds also pop out of the fruits as soon as they are ripe, making harvest difficult. Many farmers still raid anthills looking for Rooibos seeds.

It is a rather delicate plant, and the cultivation has not changed much over the years. The plants thrive best when left along in their natural soil. The farming of Rooibos has always been very close to nature and remains so today.

The locals have known that Rooibos can be used to make a delicious beverage for a very long time, but it was only 'discovered' in 1904 by a Russian immigrant named Benjamin Ginsberg. He was a settler in the area and thought that the tea was so enjoyable that it should be available to people everywhere. He was the first to market Rooibos tea."

Here is the full story.

"More than 300 years ago, indigenous inhabitants of the mountainous regions of South Africa’s Western Cape were the first to collect wild rooibos and use it to make tea. These people discovered that they could brew a sweet, tasty tea from rooibos leaves and stems that they cut, bruised with wooden hammers, fermented in heaps, and then sun-dried. Botanists first recorded rooibos plants in 1772 when they were introduced to the tea by the Khoi people.

Rooibos became a cultivated crop by the early 1930s, has been grown commercially since World War II, and now is exported to countries worldwide, including Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, England, Malaysia, South Korea, Poland, China, and the United States...

The harvested rooibos is processed two different ways, producing two types of tea. The green leaves and stems are either bruised and fermented or immediately dried to prevent oxidation. The traditional fermented tea is processed today in much the same way as the indigenous people processed it hundreds of years ago, including the sun-drying step, but the tools are more sophisticated now.

The fermented type is called red tea because fermentation turns the leaves and the resulting tea a rich orange/red color; this distinctive color led to the Afrikaans name rooibos, which means "red bush." The unfermented type, often called green rooibos, contains higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants because fermented rooibos loses some antioxidants during the fermentation process. The unfermented type was developed to maximize antioxidant levels in response to recent interest in the health benefits associated with the antioxidants found in C. sinensis teas. Unfermented rooibos tea is a tan/yellow color rather than the rich reddish color of fermented rooibos."

Posted by BKG at 11:04 PM

On the cooking agenda

* marmalade, with citrus from Urban Organic
* mango chutney
* pickled onions
* pickled beets
* garam masala
* seitan steaks
* yogurt

The first four are for Max.

Posted by BKG at 10:46 AM

February 24, 2005


Beans! This week the ones I have on the go are:

* mung beans, barely sprouted, Indian style, for salads
* black eye peas, with onion, chili, turmeric, garam masala, fresh green chili, ginger, garlic, potatoes diced small, and chopped Chinese garlic chives thrown in at the end
* black eye peas, sprouted, and then sauteed with garlic (Jaffrey's World Vegetarian)
* black soy beans, simmered till very little water is left, add tamari or shoyu and simmer until beans are glazed and pot is dry
* aduki beans, stir fried with Chinese mushrooms, garlic, and green pepper (Jaffrey's World Vegetarian)
* channa dal, with Indian spices and tomatoes and fresh coriander

It's been a big bean week!

Posted by BKG at 10:32 AM

Stolen salad

Beautiful winter salad, thinly sliced brussel sprouts. So simple. Dressed with lemon and olive oil, with a nice sharp white cheese.

Posted by BKG at 9:03 AM

February 21, 2005

Presidents Day

Lunch today for Max's staff was brown rice, carrot poriyal, which was divine, and chana dal, plus salad. The sourdough is wrapped in a linen towel so the crumb has time to form. Will slice it tomorrow and see how I did this time. Still have a ways to go to get it right. Anthony made a small adjustment to the proofing box--cardboard covered with tin foil, with a hole in the middle, through which the light socket passes, so it does not fall into the box. Max is happy with the stewed apples that I made from the ones he brought home from the Greenmarket. Beautiful big aromatic apples, with the skins on.

Posted by BKG at 11:41 PM

February 20, 2005

Mission fig compote

DSCN9008.jpg_t-1Lovely little black shrivelled mission figs! How's this for a "fig fact"? "Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are drupes, or the real fruit. Figs are the only fruit to fully ripen and semi-dry on the tree." Or, a little mission fig history from the California Fig Advisory Board:

"Figs were brought to California by the Spanish missionary fathers who first planted them at the San Diego Mission in 1759. Fig trees were then planted at each succeeding mission, going North through California. The Mission fig, California’s leading black fig, takes its name from this history. The popular Calimyrna fig, golden brown in color, is the Smyrna variety that was brought to California’s San Joaquin Valley from Turkey in 1882, and was renamed Calimyrna in honor of its new homeland. However, the story of figs in California is relatively short in comparison to the history of figs throughout the world."

Bought a pound of organic mission figs, rinsed them, and placed them in a pot, with just enough water to cover and a few slices of fresh ginger and the whole peel of half a previously squeezed organic lemon. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to a low simmer, and watch for figs to swell. Add a little more water if needed. Don't let them explode. They should just swell and soften--like testicles, if I say so myself (no wonder "fig" is the name of an obscene gesture). Let cool. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. If the liquid does not cover the figs, invert the container and after a few hours, set upright again. They are even better the next day. Excellent with hot cereal or yogurt.

Posted by BKG at 3:38 PM

February 19, 2005

Food for the week

Top of the list is sourdough bread. Getting the starter going. Will assemble the insulation box. Otherwise:

* brown rice
* black soy beans, simmered with soy sauce
* spinach and other greens
* salad
* eggplant adobo
* bitter melon poriyal (I'm the only one who likes it)
* black eye peas
* roasted beets and carrots
* carrot kootu
* chana dal

Posted by BKG at 11:00 PM

Integral Yoga Natural Foods

Heading off for Integral Yoga Natural Foods in the West Village. They sell rye flour in bulk and I am eager to get the rye sourdough going again. Will stop by the lighting store to buy the parts for the insulation box I am making our of a styrofoam chilly bin, as a cooler is known in New Zealand. Will see what other flours and grains they have.

Posted by BKG at 4:12 PM

January 6, 2005

Red Bean Chili and TVP

Soak 2 cups of red chili beans over night. Drain, rinse, place in a pot and just cover with cold water. Gently simmer until tender. Saute 2 onions, 5 garlic cloves, 2 stalks of celery, and 1 green pepper all chopped. Add 2 tbsp chili powder (or more, to taste) to the sauteed vegetables and cook a little more. Add the vegetables to the beans, together with a tin of chopped tomatoes. I like the ones that have been fire roasted because they add a slightly smokey flavor, as do the chipotles. Barely cover 2 cups of dry TVP with water to rehydrate. After 5 minutes, add the rehydrated TVP, 2 bay leaves, and 1-3 chipotle chiles to the beans. Cover and stew the chili gently until the beans are nice and soft. Add salt to taste. Continue to simmer to let the flavors meld. Even better the next day. Serve with brown rice. Chopped cilantro is a nice touch.
There are many recipes for chili powder and for chili. Here is mine:
I used a variety of dried chile peppers (ancho and several kinds of New Mexico ones that Lorie gave me). I toasted them with cumin, paprika, and oregano in a cast iron skillet. After the mixture cooled, I ground it to a fine power in a coffee mill reserved for the purpose. I added three smoky chipotles whole to the pot of chili and once the chipotles softened, I tasted the chili for heat. If hot enough, I removed the chipotles. If not hot enough, I mashed them up and returned them to the pot.

Posted by BKG at 11:25 AM

Let's hear it for TVP

TVP, textured vegetable protein. How blunt and unpoetic. Extruded straight to the plate. Laboratory talk. White coats, stainless steel machines, and soybeans. I'm not a big fan of fake anything, least of all fake meat, which always strikes me as a deprivation approach to vegetarian eating. Why think of the glory of an all vegetable cuisine as meatless? By what it lacks from a non-vegetarian perspective? Then again, if there is to be no meat that means not even fake meat. No nostalgia for what is not there! That said, I never cease to be amazed at the sheer ingenuity, even wit, of mock foods, but only if they are made of natural ingredients--I detest the mock dairy products endemic to modern kosher cuisine and consider the non-dairy creamers white axel grease, a toxic transfatty superfluity. I sympathize with those who say that even faking treyf is not such a good idea and with vegetarians like Shawna who are equally opposed to faking meat. But, I do have to admit that the versatility of the soy bean, not only as a food but also an industrial product (and the way the line sometimes blurs) is astonishing, to mention only hydraulic fluids, animal care, candles, crayons, diesel additives, paint strippers, furniture, and building products. All of which is leading up to my rediscovery of TVP. When I had a bowl of vegetarian chili a few weeks back--I was teaching and needed a quick hot bite on a cold winter's day--I detected nice little chewy bits of TVP in the spicy mix. Tasty, I thought. But TVP is not so easy to find around town. Commodities on First Avenue at around 10th Street had it and I whipped up a beautiful pot of spicy chili.

Posted by BKG at 11:02 AM


For weeks I've been thinking about daikon, ever since reading Madhur Jaffrey's recipe--and her note about how much she likes daikon prepared in a particular way--in her World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the Globe. For the best price, check Basically, for each pound of daikon (peeled, roll cut into 2" pieces), you need 2 scallions (1.5" slices including white part, which needs to be sliced again in the length) and 2 slices of ginger, sauteed for 30 seconds in a little oil. Add the daikon, 2 tbsp soy sauce (be sure it is brewed, I prefer organic), 1 tsp sugar, and 3/4 c water. Bring to boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a little sesame oil and cilantro. Or, forget the foie gras and sprouts and here is a very nice, if fancier, version for Edamame Dumplings, Five-Spice Broth, and Braised Daikon from Ming Tsai (1999), which I have modified to eliminate meat and butter:
canola oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 slices ginger
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1/2 teaspoon toasted whole Szechwan peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon toasted whole cloves
1 teaspoon toasted whole fennel seeds
Salt and pepper
6 cups water or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 daikon, peeled and cut into 8 (1-inch) disks
Fleur de sel and coarse cracked black pepper
Edamame Dumplings, recipe follows
Edamames, for garnish
In a saucepan coated lightly with oil, sweat the onions and ginger until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the spices and season. Add the water or vegetable stock and bring to simmer. Add soy sauce and daikon and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, reducing the mixture by 20 percent. Check for seasoning, and strain out the spices, keeping the broth. Place the daikon into the strained broth. Keep hot. In a large, heated pasta bowl, place 1 braised daikon piece. Ladle the broth around the daikon, and add 3 Edamame Dumplings. Garnish with edamames.

Edamame Dumplings:
2 cups edamames, reserve 1/4 cup, for garnish
1 cup tightly packed spinach leaves
2 tablespoons chopped chives or scallions
Salt and black pepper
1 package thin, square wonton skins
In a pot of salted water, boil the edamames until soft, about 15 minutes. During the last 2 minutes, add the spinach, to wilt.
Strain well and add to a food processor. Puree until smooth. Add chives or scallions and season.
To make the dumplings, lay out 4 wonton skins at a time, and spoon about 1/2 tablespoon of mousse on each. Moisten the edges and fold in half to form a triangle. Fold left tip of triangle underneath to attach to right tip (like a tortellini). Repeat and make 24 dumplings total. Reserve in the refrigerator.
In a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water, add dumplings and cook for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

Posted by BKG at 10:28 AM

What I like about Urban Organic

Each Wednesday at about 7:30 pm, a box of fresh organic produce arrives from Urban Organic. No plastic bags, no fanfare, just a jumbled heap of produce plus one sheet with tips and recipes and reasons to eat more produce and why organic. What I like is that I get whatever they give. I could pick and choose a little, but except for a standing order not to include bananas, I stick with the box of the week, sometimes adding parsley or celery. This week I got spinach with muddy roots. The greens--lettuce, chard, kale, collards, dandelion, depending on the week--are generally sparkling fresh. There may be a squash or sweet potatoes, bosch pears, a few apples, maybe some kiwi fruit, and one or another kind of citrus, but always carrots and potatoes. I don't go shopping--I would have to go pretty far afield for organic produce or pay a premium for lesser quality--and once the box arrives I am committed to cooking it up. That means a better diet all round and less inclination to eat out, whether because I never got round to cooking or shopping or boredom with what's in the fridge. I like the small quantities, the variety, and arbitrariness--the roulette--of it all. I do supplement the box with a few choice items from Chinatown such as watercress and daikon this week. More on daikon momentarily.

Posted by BKG at 10:12 AM

October 23, 2004

Home delivery

Experimenting with Fresh Direct and Urban Organic. This is an effort to get good quality organic produce at a reasonable price and on a regular basis. I hate our local Met supermarket. Morton Williams too. And, between finding the time to shop and then shlepping everything home--and the exorbitant prices--I thought it time to try alternatives. My favorite is still the 4th Street Food Coop, a blast from the past. Oh, did I mention Whole Foods? Another one of my pet peeves. Just too precious--and expensive. Marion says they are doing a good job. So we shall see. Fresh Direct delivers tomorrow and Urban Organic on Wednesday.

Posted by BKG at 2:17 PM | Comments (1)

October 22, 2004

Berries, walnuts, and oats

Definitely believe in the whole foods approach, rather than vitamin pills, nutritional supplements, nutriceuticals, and special diets. That said, looking for ways to address our specific health issues, I'm finding the basics of a tailored diet in berries (blackberries), walnuts, oats, soy, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Fish too, but I worry about the pollutants. So, a vegetarian even vegan approach, especially a truly whole grain diet, would be best. At home, that is the way I cook and what I truly love best, but outside, it is restrictive. Tantamount to being condemned to boring food with few if any choices and in quarantine in so many dining situations, a few of them divine.

Posted by BKG at 1:26 PM

October 10, 2004

Pomegranate molasses

pomegranates2.jpg Ilana asked about the difference between pomegranate molasses and pomegranate syrup. The molasses, which you can make yourself, is basically the juice boiled down until it is thick and dark. Pomegranates can vary considerably in flavor, sweetness, and tartness, depending on where they are grown, so it might be necessary to add sugar and possibly lemon. Brands of pomegranate molasses vary. Some are too sweet for my taste or a little thin. The best selection in New York is at Kalustyan's, which has syrups and pastes made not only from pomegranates, but also from grapes, mulberries, and other fruits. Pomegranate molasses ("called nasrahab in Georgian and dibs rumman in Arabic") is used in Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey--basically wherever pomegranates have a long history. My favorites are the Lebanese ones and especially Cortas. I find the Iranian ones too sweet.

Pomegranate syrup is a thinner version of the molasses. So is grenadine. Added water and red food coloring make grenadine clear and bright red. Think Shirley Temples. These days you are lucky if there is any pomegranate in grenadine, which is just "flavored" syrup and mainly chemical.

Here is a glorious recipe for Persian greens, with pomegranate molasses, another two for a walnut pomegranate spread, and a fourth for Syrian lentils. For source, click on the name of the recipe.

Sweet and Sour Greens with Quince and Pomegranate

1 pound assorted bitter greens, including collards, mustard greens, kale, etc.
1 tbs fruity olive oil
2 tsp finely chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
1 large ripe quince, peeled, cored, quartered

The cooking syrup for the quince:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
water to cover the quince in the saucepan
1 large cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
6 whole cloves

The sauce for the greens:
1/4 cup pomegranate concentrate (also known as pomegranate molasses)
3 Tbs white wine vinegar

The garnish:
Olive oil
1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into thin julienne

1. Wash the greens well. Remove woody stems, where necessary. Pile the leaves of each kind separately. Roll them into compact cylinders and slice crosswise into thin shreds. Set aside.

2. Make the cooking syrup for the quince by combining the sugar, water, and spices in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the quince, reduce to a simmer, and cook over low heat, for about 12-15 minutes, or until the quince is tender but not mushy. (Quince is actually quite forgiving of overcooking.) When done, remove the quince, cut into � inch cubes, and mound in the center of a heated serving platter. Keep warm, covered, in a 200 degree oven. Sieve the syrup, discarding the solids, and set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet until hot. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and shallots. Cook stirring constantly for about 2 minutes or until they are tender, but not browned. Add the greens, and cook stirring until they are just wilted but bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove the platter from the oven and arrange the greens over the quince.

4. Add the pomegranate concentrate and the vinegar to the quince syrup and boil until the liquid lightly coats a spoon. In a small saute pan coated with a film of oil, stir-fry the pepper just until slightly wilted. Pour the sauce over the greens and garnish with the red pepper shreds.

Middle Eastern Walnut and Pomegranate Spread or Muhammara, from Grand Central Baking Company.
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup walnut pieces
1 red bell pepper, roasted., peeled and seeded (may used canned prepared peppers)
1/4 cup chopped Italian leaf parsley
1 clove of garlic
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tps freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Put the walnuts in the food processor. Cut the flesh into chunks and put in processor with the nuts. Add remaining ingredients and process until a spreadable consistency. (It will not be completely smooth)
Refrigerate and serve chilled or at room temperature as a spread for crostini, flat bread or slices of fresh baguette.

Paula Wolfert's Mouhamara
Makes about 3 cups

2 1/2 lb red bell peppers
1 small hot chili, such as Fresno or hot Hungarian, or substitute Turkish red pepper paste to taste
1 1/2 cups (about 6 oz.) walnuts, coarsely ground
1/2 cup wheat crackers, crumbled
1 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb pomegranate molasses or more to taste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tb olive oil

Garnish: 2 tsp toasted pine nuts, drizzle of olive oil, good pinch of ground cumin. For best results, make the recipe at least one day in advance. Roast the red bell peppers and the chili either over coals or a gas burner or under an electric broiler, turning frequently until blackened and blistered all over, about 12 minutes. Place in a covered bowl to steam 10 minutes (this loosens the skin). Rub off the skins, membranes, and seeds. Spread the bell peppers, smooth side up, on a paper towel and let drain 10 minutes.

In a food processor, grind the walnuts, crackers, lemon juice, molasses, cumin, salt, and sugar until smooth. Add the bell peppers; process until pureed and creamy. With the machine on, add the oil in a thin stream. Add the chili to taste. (If the paste is too thick, thin with 1-2 Tb water.) Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to mellow. When ready to serve transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle the pine nuts and cumin on top and drizzle with oil.

Adas bi' l-Hamid (Syria): Lentils with Lemon
From: Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean, from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More Than 500 Recipes, by Clifford A. Wright (William Morrow & Co., 1999).

The appearance of pomegranate molasses in the cooked vegetable dishes of Syria usually indicates that the dish is influenced by an Aleppine cook. Syria has long been famous for its pomegranates and Aleppo for its cuisine. The great Umayyad dynasty in Syria in the eighth century was noted for its agricultural achievements as much as its military ones. A branch of the Umayyad dynasty was found in Spain, too. The Spanish Umayyad caliph Abd-ar-Rabman I (756-788), perhaps the greatest Arab general who ever lived, defeating in turn his Abbasid enemies in Iraq as well as Charlemagne, sent one of his agents to Syria to bring back an exquisite new pomegranate called the safari, which he planted in the garden park surrounding his palace of al-Rusafa outside of Cordoba.

The combination of pomegranate, garlic, and fresh coriander is a Syrian favorite in this recipe given to me by Nadia Koudmani, a Palestinian living in Damascus. It is one of my favorite lentil recipes, yet no one in Syria could tell me why it is called "with lemon" rather than "with chard," with "garlic and coriander," or "with pomegranate," the other important flavors in the dish.
The garlic should be mashed in a mortar with a pestle � the food processor will not work. Some people find this to be a very garlicky recipe, but it is an authentic recipe and I happen to like it this way, though you can feel free to cut the garlic in half if you must.

1-1/2 cups dried green or brown lentils,
picked over and rinsed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil,
plus extra for drizzling
5 large Swiss chard leaves, washed well,
stems removed, and sliced into thin strips crosswise
2 tablespoons mashed garlic
(about 8 large garlic cloves)
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
(cilantro, leaves from 1 to 2 bunches)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the lentils until tender, 20 to 45 minutes, check often because the cooking time varies depending on the age of the lentils. Drain and set aside.

2. In a medium-size nonreactive skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the Swiss chard until it wilts, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and drain off any liquid. Set aside.

3. In the same skillet, beat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and coriander and cook until sizzling, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium, add the Swiss chard, drained lentils, and water, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses and continue cooking until the lentils look mushy, about another 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle a small amount of olive oil over it before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Posted by BKG at 9:30 PM

October 6, 2004

Chinese broccoli

Woke up this morning, a deliciously crisp October day, with thoughts of Chinese broccoli, quickly sauteed with lots of garlic. Or, with mustard oil, turmeric, and chile, Madhur Jaffrey style.

Posted by BKG at 8:53 AM

October 5, 2004

Dean & Deluca

Pomegranate.jpgChecked out Dean & Deluca on my way home from NYU tonight, after Pilates. For research purposes only--and a bottle of Lebanese pomegranate molasses. At $4.00, it is only 50 cents more than in the Indian shops, but wait! You can buy the same thing online, not including postage, for $12.95!
Outrageous prices. Dean & Deluca charging $2.00 a pound for squash, the very seasonal local varieties that are $2.00 each at the Greenmarket, weighing in at 4-6 pounds. To think that Chinatown is just a few blocks away and the best value in town. At Dean & Deluca, a tiny--and I mean tiny--jar of currant jelly from some effete French company was $30.00. Decadence of the first order. End of the day, so the prepared food was wilted and tired, but I always pick up a good idea or two. This time, a wild rice salad, with thinly sliced fresh shitake mushrooms, roasted pinenuts, and chopped flat parsley, and another salad of green limas (I'll substitute edamame), corn kernels, diced red peppers, diced red onions. Promising.

Posted by BKG at 8:46 PM | Comments (2)

September 4, 2004

Breath of a Wok

0743238273.jpg A wonderful new book by my dear friend Grace Young. "I think of wok hay as the breath of a wokwhen a wok breathes energy into a stir-fry, giving foods a unique concentrated flavor and aroma. Of course, the Cantonese definition of wok hay varies from cook to cook. Many chefs will immediately talk about controlling the fo hao, fire power, for only the correct intense heat combined with a short cooking time elicits the heung mei, the fragrant aroma that characterizes wok hay. Chinese cooking authority Ken Hom adds that 'a well-seasoned carbon-steel wok is also essential for creating wok haythe blacker the pan the more intense the wok hay flavor.'" Read a few pages. The exhibition opens at NYU's Asia/Pacific/America Gallery (269 Mercer Street, 6th Floor, or call 212.992.9653) September 13, the book launch is October 2, and there are related events on November 4 and 5. I'll be in San Francisco in December and will go to Grace's favorite wok shop. I'm ordering rice cookers for Elaine and Shawna and a wok for myself. I'll get ones for them and for Lisa when they are ready.
Best price on the book: Jessica's Biscuit 40% discount, free shipping, no tax. Hardcover: $21.00 (regular $35.00). This must mean a paperback is in the offing.

Posted by BKG at 9:30 AM

Glycemic index

Max is hypoglycemic and I want steady energy so I've been exploring the glycemic index. We eat hot breakfast cereal, usually oats, and it turns out that slow- cooking steel-cut oats are better than rolled oats and way better than very rolled (quick-cooking) oats, because the body works harder to digest them and they are digested more slowly. In other words, the glycemic index takes into account not only the food proper, but also how it is processed and digested. I buy organic steel-cut oats from the 4th Street Food Co-op. It's cheap at about 70 cents a pound.

Here is the scoop:
"Steel-Cut Oats are whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) which have been cut into only two or three pieces. They are golden in colour and resemble mini rice particles. How are they different from Rolled Oats? Rolled oats are flake oats that have been steamed, rolled, re-steamed and toasted. Due to all of this additional processing they have lost some of their natural taste, goodness and texture. What makes Steel-cut Oats so special? Grains are essential to a healthy lifestyle and form the foundation of the food pyramid. Steel-cut oats are inherently full of nutritional value and are high in B-Vitamins, calcium, protein and fiber while low in salt and unsaturated fat. One cup of steel-cut oatmeal contains more fiber than a bran muffin and twice as much fibre as Cream of Wheat." McCann's Irish Oatmeal (Steel Cut Oats)
They are also known as: "steel-cut oats = Irish oats = Scotch oats = pinhead oats = coarse-cut oats = steel-cut oatmeal = Irish oatmeal = Scotch oatmeal = pinhead oatmeal = coarse-cut oatmeal = porridge oats = porridge oatmeal." The Cook's Thesaurus
This morning, for the first time, I made steel cut oats in the rice cooker, using the porridge setting. Soak the oats overnight in the cooker. Set it for when you want breakfast. Perfect!

Posted by BKG at 8:58 AM



My most recent big discovery is gaba rice. Gaba stands for Gamma Aminobutyric Acid, which is released when brown rice is germinated. Here's the story:
"GBR [germinated brown rice] is rice, which has been soaked in 32 degree centrigrade water for up to a day, and will have a germ approximately 1mm long. During the process of germination, saccharification softens the endosperm, and dormant enzymes are activated, which increase the amount of digestible vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc." The Pioneer of Germinated Brown Rice, Domer Inc.

"During the process of being germinated, nutrients in the brown rice change drastically. Various types of analyses on germinated brown rice have been conducted in Japan. Those major nutrients that increase in content in the GBR are γ-amirobutyric acid (GABA), dietary fiber, inositols, ferulic acid, phytic acid, tocotrienols, magnesium, potassium, zinc, γ-oryzanol, and prolylendopeptidase inhibitor (Kayahara and Tukahara, 2000). Kayahara and Tsukahara indicate that volume of nutrients contained in GBR relative to milled rice are 10 times for GABA, nearly 4 times for dietary fiber, vitamin E, niacine and lysine, and about 3 times for vitamin B1 and B6, and Magnesium (Fig. 1). Accordingly, they conclude that continuous intake of GBR is good for accelerating metabolism of brain, preventing headache, relieving constipation, preventing cancer of colon, regulating blood sugar level, preventing heart disease, lowering blood pressure as well as preventing Alzheimers disease." FAO Rice Conference 2004
Turns out that soaking grains, beans, pulses, and seeds increases their nutritional value, especially if they are allowed to germinate. The many cookbooks that recommend soaking strictly as a way of speeding up the cooking time--and, by pouring off the soaking water, making beans less gassy--miss the big point, namely, how soaking and specifically germination/sprouting improves the nutritional value. And, that includes, a better glycemic index.
So, now, with all grains and beans, I'm soaking and germinating and that includes hot breakfast cereals.

Posted by BKG at 7:55 AM

Korean festive rice

royalcusine_09.jpg In my quest to understand my intelligent rice cooker and use it to the full, I dropped by one of my favorite vegan buffets, Temple in the Village (74 W. 3rd Street at La Guardia/Thompson, 212-475-5670), to check out their seven-grain rice, which they make in a rice cooker. Turns out this is a Korean festive rice, part of Korean royal cuisine, and it is wonderful. Five Grain Sura: "Boiled rice with five grains is made by mixing non-glutinous rice, glutinous rice, glutinous millet, beans, and red [aduki] beans. It is eaten on the 15th of January together with stale [dried and rehydrated wild] greens."
Basically, it is a mixture, in various proportions of some combination of the following: brown rice, brown glutinous rice, millet, aduki beans, black soy beans, white soy beans, barley, and sea salt. I use organic whole grains: unhulled barley, unhulled millet. Soak everything separately. Best of all, try to get the grains to start germinating. Then, into the rice cooker. The luxury version of this mix includes jujubes (Chinese red dates--watch out for the little hard pits or use pitted ones to be safe), soaked dried chestnuts, and/or pine nuts.
Try the variations and use brown rice or brown glutinous rice or a combination instead of white rice: O Kok (5-grain rice); Pat Baap (traditional red [aduki] beans and rice); Bam Baap (chestnut rice).

Posted by BKG at 7:54 AM