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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: This week the value of taking the elevator, why (you think) healthy food is less satisfying, and the best oils for cooking

by | Jan 8, 2016
For the Love of Food

For the Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup. It’s good to be back!

I included a few more than 10 links this week because they were good and, well, it’s been forever. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

This week the value of taking the elevator, why (you think) healthy food is less satisfying, and the best oils for cooking.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app I just discovered to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

Want to see all my favorite links? (There’s lots more). Be sure to follow me on Delicious. I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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Foodist Approved: Roasted Parsnip and Cauliflower Hummus

by | Feb 12, 2014
Roasted Parsnip and Cauliflower Hummus

Roasted Parsnip and Cauliflower Hummus

I love making homemade hummus, but I don’t always love the process of soaking and simmering the chickpeas for hours in advance. Plus beans just don’t seem to agree with everyone (if you know what I mean).

So I decided to concoct a bean-free hummus with seasonal roasted vegetables. I chose parsnips and cauliflower to keep the creamy white of traditional hummus, and to lend an earthy, crave-worthy sweetness to this seasonal spread.

This recipe is a 2-for-1. The first step yields an alluring tray of roasted veggies that you’ll want to snack on right out of the oven. That’s fine! Go ahead and relish—just make sure to set aside two and a half cups of them for the hummus. Otherwise the whole batch might get demolished by hungry peeps.

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5 Classic Super Bowl Foods That Are Surprisingly Healthy

by | Jan 28, 2013

Photo by Надя Антонова / Nadja Antonova

Healthy eating is important, but sometimes on special occasions you just don’t want to compromise. Luckily, sometimes you don’t have to.

Some of the most classic Super Bowl foods actually aren’t as bad for you as most people think. Just make sure that real, good-quality ingredients are used in all your recipes and enjoy.

5 Classic Super Bowl Foods That Are Surprisingly Healthy

1. Chili

Beans, tomatoes, onions, spices and grass-fed beef are the things healthy meals are made of—just don’t forget to eat some leafy greens at some point during the day.

Really good chili doesn’t require cheese, but if you can’t live without it just make sure you get real cheddar and not the processed fake stuff. Check the ingredients.

2. Chicken wings

Chicken wings are tasty, and depending on what you put on them they can be healthy as well. What’s important is that you avoid breading and sweet sauces. Traditional Buffalo wings are probably not the best option (they’re breaded and fried), but Chef John’s famous Super Bowl pastrami wings would be perfect.

3. Guacamole

I’d be lying if I said you didn’t have to watch your portions with guacamole—it’s easy to eat a lot and it is very high in calories. But fortunately it is very filling and all the calories are of the healthy variety. The monounsaturated fats in avocados are very effective at raising healthy HDL cholesterol, without negatively impacting other blood measures.

4. Salsa

Of course there can be no talking about Guacamole without mentioning his fiery little sister Salsa. On the health front, you can’t beat the combo of tomatoes, onions, chili, cilantro and lime, and it tastes good on pretty much anything. So go nuts, you can enjoy this one guilt free.

5. Bean dip

Black bean dip is a classic at Super Bowl parties. If you start with dried beans and soak them overnight before cooking and pureeing them for the dip, you can even avoid the digestive issues most people associate with legume consumption. If you’re tired of Mexican flavors (the ingredients are similar to those in salsa and guacamole) try using chickpeas in a Mediterranean-style hummus instead.

What are your favorite Super Bowl recipes?

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The Bitter Truth About Olive Oil

by | Mar 18, 2009
Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

Have you ever had homemade hummus turn out bitter? Have you whipped up your own batch of mayonnaise and found an unpleasant aftertaste? Or are you just confused about why I warned against putting olive oil in a blender for my harissa recipe?

The culprit behind these bizarre phenomena is extra-virgin olive oil, which is very sensitive to mechanical agitation. Upon one reader’s request, I set out to explain the unusual behavior of this common ingredient.

But getting to the bottom of this problem was not easy. The internet is teeming with false assumptions and unfounded hypotheses about why olive oil can become bitter when blended. Most people point their finger at the quality of the oil itself, accusing the chef of using a cheap brand that was bitter before they included it in their recipe. I knew this wasn’t true because it has happened to me several times, and I always use excellent olive oil.

Another common hypothesis is that “heat” caused by the friction of high-speed spinning blades makes the “delicate oils” in the olive oil turn bitter. This explanation makes even less sense, because as most of you know olive oil can be heated in a pan to several hundred degrees and does not burn or turn bitter. There is no way the oil gets hot enough to go rancid after a few seconds in a blender.

The only logical and (mostly) scientific explanation I found for the bitter olive oil phenomenon was from Cook’s Illustrated. I am inclined to trust this source because they essentially run their kitchen like a laboratory, which gives them major credibility points in my book. Also, their reason offers a plausible, mechanical explanation that does not depend upon the quality of the oil itself. I have not seen the data with my own eyes, however, and they do not cite their sources.

According to Cook’s Illustrated, extra-virgin olive oil is the only kind of oil susceptible to becoming bitter. Even pure olive oil can handle blending better than the extra-virgin kind. The reason is because extra-virgin olive oil contains a high percentage of molecular compounds called polyphenols (thought to be cancer-fighters), which are normally coated in fatty acids. Under standard conditions, the fatty acids in the oil prevent polyphenols from dispersing in an aqueous environment. This is because oil and water do not mix.

When these fat molecules are broken into droplets in an emulsion, however, the polyphenols are distributed into the solution and their bitter taste can become apparent. When the emulsion is only lightly blended, the bitterness is not perceptible. But a blender or food processor breaks the droplets down into smaller sizes, increasing polyphenol dispersal. These suspended polyphenols can ruin an otherwise delicious recipe.

The easiest way to avoid this problem is to use either pure olive oil or a different kind of oil altogether, such as canola or safflower oil. Alternatively, if you would like to keep the rich taste of extra-virgin olive oil you can hand whisk your emulsion rather than using a blender. Just be careful not to over work the mixture. You can also start your recipe by blending a small amount of stable oil (e.g. canola), then hand whisking your extra-virgin olive oil in at the end.

Have you ever had problems blending extra-virgin olive oil?
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Easy Potluck Idea: Homemade Hummus

by | Dec 5, 2008
Hummus

Hummus

 

Last night I went to a potluck and I have to admit, I was dreading it a little.

It’s not that I don’t love my friends or cooking for them, but I have been feeling queasy this week (I contracted some nasty food poisoning on my vacation–that’s what I get for not cooking my own meals!) and have not had much energy for anything, especially food.

But I have a food blog. Not only did I have to bring something, it had to be impressive!

I needed something quick, easy and delicious, made mostly from ingredients I have laying around. Hummus was my answer. Hummus is a Middle Eastern style dip made of chickpeas. Remember all that talk about how easy and delicious homemade beans are in the pressure cooker? Well chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are no exception.

Hummus is a perfect potluck contribution because it is easy to make, easy to transport and exotic enough to be impressive. Also, homemade hummus is way better (tasting, but also for you) than anything you can buy at the store… no offense to Trader Joe’s.

You can make the basic recipe with beans, tahini, garlic and spices, but I have added a couple extra ingredients if you want to take your hummus to the next level.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • tahini to taste
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (gourmet paprika or fresh ground sweet chili powder is best)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you’re feeling spunky – optional)
  • pure olive oil or canola oil
  • good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt to taste
  • preserved lemon (optional)
  • parsley (optional)

I always have tahini in my fridge, but if you do not it is fairly easy to find. Tahini is a paste made out of sesame seeds with a consistency similar to natural peanut butter (the oily kind). It has a delicious smokey flavor and I use it to garnish many different dishes.

Olive oil is a key ingredient in this recipe, but it is important to understand that you cannot put extra virgin olive oil into a blender, or it will turn unpleasantly bitter. Use either pure olive oil or canola oil for blending, then add a good extra virgin olive oil on top as a garnish. Your extra virgin olive oil should have a bright green color, not a dull yellow or brown.

You can use canned beans if you are in a pinch, but I don’t recommend it.

Here’s what to do:

Pick over, rinse and soak the dry chickpeas overnight in excess water (they expand quite a bit). The next day rinse them again, put them in a pressure cooker and cook on high until done (mine works in 12 minutes). Once they are cooked, use a slotted spoon to move chickpeas from the liquid into a large bowl. Reserve the liquid. Throw out any chickpea shells that have separated from the bean.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, you can boil the chickpeas until they are soft, about an hour and a half. Add more water if necessary.

While the beans are cooking place whole, unpeeled garlic cloves into a toaster oven and bake at 400 for 3-5 minutes (I like them less cooked). Let them cool a bit then remove the peel, which should come off easily.

Add the garlic to your beans (mince it if you prefer to add it raw), along with 1/2 cup (or whatever) of the liquid they cooked in, 2 tbsp pure olive oil, 1/2 tsp of salt and lemon juice to taste (I use the whole thing).

Also add 2-3 tbsp of tahini (honestly I eyeball it and keep adding tahini until I’m happy with the taste) and the other spices. I recently purchased some amazing New Mexico chili powder from Tierra Vegetables and a few slices of preserved lemon from Boulette’s Larder that added incredible dimension to this already wonderful recipe. I am particularly impressed with the preserved lemon, which contributed a unique, rich lemon flavor unlike anything I have ever tasted.

David Lebovitz claims that making your own preserved lemons is not very difficult if you want to try. Rinse the lemons before adding them to your recipe, I added 5-6 slices.

Blend the ingredients together using a hand blender. If you do not have a hand blender you can use a regular blender or food processor. They work the same but are harder to clean.

Puree the mix until smooth, adding more liquid if necessary. Once the hummus is creamy, taste it with a clean spoon and adjust the salt, lemon and tahini.

When finished, move hummus to a tupper (for potluck) or serving bowl. Use a spoon to make a crater in the center, garnish with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with paprika and chopped parsley. California extra virgin olive oil is the best choice, in my opinion, and Trader Joe’s has a great one that is affordable. In San Francisco, however, I like to use Stonehouse olive oil. They have a store at the Ferry Building.

Serve with warm pita wedges or bread.

Hummus can be modified in a million different ways. It is fantastic with roasted peppers, eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs and different kinds of nuts.

Be creative!

 

What is your favorite hummus recipe?

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