Saturday, August 25, 2012

WIld Food Tours In and Around NYC

Today I took a wild foods walking tour of prospect park with Wild Man Steve Brill. It was incredibly interesting.  There are many things in my pantry, whose origin I am completely ignorant of, that grow readily a few blocks away in the park.  (Sumac, burdock, and sassafras)
Also, the plethora of tasty edible plants growing everywhere that we simply don't eat.  
It was an eye-opening, and delicious, experience that I highly recommend.  
If you're interested, you should look him up. 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Does "Organic" Taste Better?

I recently read an article in Lucky Peach magazine about the flavor value of "organic".
We all see the price tag, but are we buying a better product?
The short answer seems to be yes.
Study after study shows that organic produce, particularly leafy stuff, not only tastes better but is healthier.  The basic just of it is that the things (phytochemicals) that a plant produces to protect itself, are that are delicious and are good for us. (part of the idea is that our body had evolved to like the taste of things that are good for us).  And that when you start to treat plant with pesticides and herbicides (et al) the plant ceases to create the things that are healthy and tasty.  Check this out. . .
What do phytochemicals have to do with flavor? Phytochemicals are chemicals created by plants, and especially those that have effects on other creatures. Plants make many of them to defend themselves against microbes and insects: to make themselves unpalatable, counterattack the invaders and limit the damage they cause. Most of the aromas of vegetables, herbs and spices come from defensive chemicals. They may smell pleasant to us, but the plants make them to repel their mortal enemies.
Why should organic produce have higher phytochemical levels? The current theory is that because plants in organic production are unprotected by pesticides and fungicides, they are more stressed by insects and disease microbes than conventional crops, and have to work harder to protect themselves. So it makes sense that organic produce would have more intense flavors. For some reason, taste tests haven’t consistently found this to be the case.  ---This is from this article.
Also, in a particular experiment they distressed basil to test for the optimal level. . .

They soaked basil seeds for 30 minutes in a chitosan solution, then soaked the roots again when they transferred the seedlings to larger pots. After 45 days, they compared the chemical composition of leaves from treated and untreated plants. They found that at the optimum chitosan concentration, the antioxidant activity in treated plants was greater by more than three times. The overall production of aroma compounds was up by nearly 50 percent, and the levels of clove-like and flowery components doubled.  --- Also from this article.

 Neat-o . . .

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Illusion of Choice

Interesting no?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

About Round Steak

Round is a tricky cut, especially for shorter cooking times. I know people use it for "steak" cooking methods, but I've never loved it. It's in the rump of the cow, and so see a lot of work.  Leaving it with nice beefy flavor, but in a cut that is lean and tough. 
Tough is bad for short cooking times because it comes out chewy.  Slicing and pounding does do a little to offset this, but in my opinion, not enough. 
Lean is bad for long cooking methods because it comes out stringy. I don't love this cut in things like stews and chilis because it can be fibrous and you tend to spend a lot of time picking it out of your teeth.  
Some more ideal ways to eat this cut are less traditional, but some of my favorites. It is great in steak tar tare, cut or ground into tiny pieces. It is also yummy when slow braised in a big piece, and then sliced thin once its allowed to cool, and reheated in the braising liquid.  While you might not have this method at your disposal, it would be good cooked at a low temperature with an immersion circulator for a long time and then sliced. (Most know this as "sous vide" - but that term, translating literally to under vacuum, actually infers that you're using a vacuum sealer.  The term "low-temp cooking" is a little more accurate.

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