The incredible role our resident bacteria play in our health is becoming more and more illuminated these days. From digestive health, to our immune systems, to our mental health, to our metabolisms, our symbiotic microorganisms are make-or-break actors. The good news is, healthy bacteria can be found in countless delicious fermented foods, from yogurt and sauerkraut, to the miso and kimchi that we will be using today!
In my next couple of posts I will go into some of the amazing research being done into the microbiome, but for now, let’s just enjoy a delicious recipe!
Combine the vinegar and miso in a large mixing bowl, stir until miso is dissolved. Drain and finely chop the kimchi. Add the kimchi and olive oil to the bowl and mix well.
Finely shred the cabbage, enough to equal about 5 cups. Peel the tangerines, cut the segments in half and pull them apart. Finely slice the green onion. Add the cabbage, tangerines, and green onion to the bowl and toss well with the dressing.
Recipe adopted from New Season’s Market.
Kimchi! Make sure to get a raw, fermented version. This one was bubbling when I opened it, a sure sign there is happy bacteria in there! You can also experiment with making your own. Continue reading →
We are right in the heart of the spring season, which means that sweet spring-green sticks of asparagus are in season, and often on sale. This is the perfect time of year to make an easy asparagus soup. All you really need is asparagus, perhaps an onion, some olive oil or butter, and a bit of salt. Just add water, and these ingredients become a flavorful pureed soup that lets you enjoy the full flavor of the asparagus.
This soup base can then be adopted in innumerable ways. The version that I am sharing today is made with sesame seed oil, and is served with gomasio (sesame-salt), hard-boiled egg, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Macaroons have been popping up in the the end caps and special displays of the grocery store lately. This unleavened cookie is traditionally eaten for Passover, just around the corner. Seeing these fluffy little snowballs everywhere got me to craving them. This version is made with three different types of ginger, and is dipped in dark chocolate. Dipping things in chocolate is the best. I used a 70% dark chocolate bar, but you could also use bittersweet chocolate chips, or whatever chocolate you prefer. These are not very sweet, but the chocolate and candied ginger give them just enough sweetness. Macaroons are dairy and wheat free by their nature. They are typically made with egg whites, but it seems like a waste to throw out what is truly the best-tasting and most-nutritious part of the egg (the yolk) so these are made with the whole egg. This gives them a lovely tinge of gold. These are very good served with tea or coffee. Continue reading →
One of my favorite dishes this winter has been roasted delicata squash. It is a comforting dish that is very easy to make. You just slice it up and put it in the oven with some butter and herbs. You don’t even need to peel the squash first. It’s delicious on its own, or you can mix it up with whatever you have on hand. One of the best combinations I happened upon is serving it with hummus and caramelized shallots. Read on for the recipe!
I used sage because there happens to be a sage plant in the backyard that carries on during our mild winters. You could use any kind of herb you prefer, however, or use dried herbs.
I have recently been browsing a wonderful book called The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes From Around the World, by Sandor Ellix Katz. It is a beautifully written book, and Katz’s expertise and passion for the subject are easy to see. One of the things I like about it is the relaxed, exploratory attitude he has towards the subject– for example there are no exact recipes, but rather general descriptions of the processes, with lots of detailed explanations and many possible variations. It is the “art” of fermentation, not the science, and it reflects the amazing variety of fermented foods around the world.
What is fermentation? Katz describes it as “The transformation of food by various bacteria, fungi, and the enzymes they produce.” Some of the most recognizable ones in the US are alchohol, vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, certain cheeses, and salami. One of the primary functions of fermentation is to preserve foods, and another is to increase health benefits.
Fermented foods have been highly valued in traditional cuisines throughout history and in every culture. Fermented foods that still have live bacteria are known as probiotics, and they are very important for our digestive health, immune function, and more. The importance of our microbiomes (the friendly bacteria that live on and in us) is a huge area of research right now, and we are only beginning to understand how very important they are. One amazing fact is that the bacteria cells living in our body outnumber our own cells about 10 to 1. (The bacterial cells are much smaller.)
The health benefits don’t only come from probiotic content, however. The fermentation of foods is essentially their “pre-digestion” by bacteria and fungi. As Katz explains, this breaks down compounds to make them easier for us to digest, and makes minerals and nutrients more available to our bodies. Fermentation can also break down substances that would otherwise be toxic. It can also actually increase the nutrients in foods; for example, it can increase levels of B vitamins and create helpful enzymes and other compounds. Continue reading →
Years ago I had the wonderful experience of going to Kenya on a school trip. One moment that for some reason has always stuck with me is one of our particularly whimsical Kenyan teachers sharing with us a song to the tune of the French nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques”, a.k.a. “Are You Sleeping”. It actually had a little dance that went with it, and went like so:
Lemons and oranges, lemons and oranges
Fruit salad, Fruit salad
I never found out whether this was a common song, or if he had just come up with it himself, but I was intrigued by the combination of fruits and curious to try it. Also the song would always get stuck in my head… so recently, I finally made it, and it is delicious! The mild creaminess of the avocado and papaya is perfectly offset by the citrus, making a salad that has a lot more texture, richness, and contrast than most fruit salads. And of course it’s super easy- just four ingredients to chop up and mix together! You can do whatever proportions seem good to you, but don’t be afraid to use a lot of lemon: the avocado and papaya temper its tartness.
This salad is not only delicious but is also super nutritious… it has lots of potassium, magnesium, copper, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. Papaya has enzymes in it which are known to support digestion. Avocado is full of awesome monounsaturated fats, balancing the sugars in the other fruits. Citrus such as lemon and orange are not only a great source of vitamin C, but also of disease-fighting flavonoids…