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18 Nutrition Habits You Are Probably Neglecting

by | Sep 29, 2015

Purple Artichokes

 

Going to a restaurant with me is not a normal phenomenon. I’m not impressed by comfort foods that most people love like mashed potatoes and mac’n cheese, and I almost always order the “weirdest” thing on the menu––think crudo (aka raw) platters, seaweed tastings and organ meats.

Just last week, for instance, I took my brother Shay to lunch at Mozza in Southern California, and without even asking him ordered the bone marrow appetizer. He looked at me incredulously. “Bone marrow?”

Me: “Yep, don’t worry about it. I always get it. You don’t have to have any if you don’t want.”

To Shay’s credit he tried it and––like 75% of the “weird” stuff I’ve encouraged him to try––he loved it.

So why am I such a freakshow?

Beyond my general disdain for social norms and conformity, my desire to eat at the fringes of the menu and grocery store stems from my desire to get as broad a spectrum of nutrients from my food as possible.

Healthy eating is about more than avoiding flour, sugar and trans fats. It also requires optimizing your nutrient intake of basic vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fats, amino acids, and trace micronutrients science may still be unaware of.

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10 Simple Kitchen Tips You Wish Someone Told You Earlier

by | May 22, 2013

Photo by me and the sysop

For myself and people of my generation, cooking represents the worst kind of irony. Feeding ourselves is our most basic human need, but for some reason no one bothered to tell us how to do it (or even that it was important to learn).

So we grew up, left the house and became dependent on restaurants and instant meals, only to find out 10 years later that this “food” has been killing us slowly.

Now what are we supposed to do?

Learning to cook is important, but can be intimidating if you’ve never done more than boil water, open cans and zap frozen entrees. Navigating the kitchen is much easier if you know a few simple tricks that seasoned chefs take for granted.
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Rain Day: Jai Ho Indian Grocery

by | Feb 20, 2011
Rasam Ingredients

Rasam Ingredients

The rain didn’t let up yesterday, so rather than face the cold wet farmers market I decided to visit the Jai Ho Indian grocery store to pick up some ingredients I can’t find at my normal spots.

Jai Ho was recommended to me by Anjan Mitra, a friend and owner of San Francisco’s premier South Indian restaurant Dosa. I’m a huge fan of Dosa and recently interviewed Anjan for an article about lentils and their health benefits I wrote for Edible SF.

Indian Groceries

Dry Goods

Jai Ho Indian Grocery

Jai Ho Indian Grocery

I’m delighted to report that Anjan was nice enough to share his amazing Rasam “fire broth” recipe for lentil soup, which I’ll publish here at Summer Tomato tomorrow.

Today I want to share some of the ingredients that go into the soup, since they may not be familiar to those of you who don’t have experience cooking Indian food.

Toor Dal

Toor Dal

The soup is based on a type of lentil (“dal” in Hindi) called toor dal, or pigeon peas. Toor dal are medium sized yellow lentils that fall apart easily when cooked through. You should be able to find them at any Indian grocery store.

The recipe also calls for wet tamarind pulp, the kind sold in blocks. The one I got actually had chunks of stems in there, which I had to pick out.

Asafetida

Asafetida

Wet Tamarind

Wet Tamarind

Asafetida is a potent smelling herb that comes in powder form. This was the first time I had worked with it so I had to check Wikipedia to see exactly what it is. Apparently asafetida is also known as “devil’s dung” but, ironically, is a known antiflatulent. How have I never heard of this stuff?

Turmeric

Turmeric

The only other ready ground spice used in the recipe is turmeric, which some research suggests may help in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. You can find ground turmeric at any grocery store.

Dried Chilies

Dried Chilies

As you might expect, the soup calls for several sources of heat. The first are dried red chili peppers. I used my own Thai dragon peppers I dried last summer, but any form of red chili works here.

Whole Black Peppercorns

Whole Black Peppercorns

Some of the heat also comes from a generous portion of black peppercorns, which are ground together with several other spices that form the main flavors of the soup.

Cumin Seeds

Cumin Seeds

The other spices in the mixture are cumin and coriander seeds. Mustard seeds are also called for, though these are added whole and are not ground with the other spices.

Coriander Seeds

Coriander Seeds

One of the hardest to find ingredients for the recipe is fresh curry leaves. The recipe is very explicit that if you cannot find them you should leave them out and under no circumstances substitute ground curry powder. I was able to find fresh leaves at Jai Ho, and their flavor was more subtle than I expected.

Fresh Curry Leaves

Fresh Curry Leaves

And of course, don’t forget your garlic.

Garlic

Garlic

Stay tuned tomorrow for Dosa’s rasam recipe.

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How To Get Started Eating Healthy: Stock Your Freezer

by | Apr 15, 2009
Rice Balls

Rice Balls

There are many places you can turn when you’re feeling lazy or are too busy to cook a fresh meal, but instead of reaching for the take-out menu I prefer to turn to my freezer. For one thing, even the taqueria directly downstairs from my apartment cannot whip up something as quickly as I can. And their grilled veggie burrito (not to mention the carne asada burrito!) is substantially more expensive than anything I would make–I’m sure you can guess which is healthier too.

(This post is part four of the series How To Get Started Eating Healthy. Part one is Stock Your Pantry, part two is Essential Groceries and part three is Seasonal Shopping.)

Your freezer is an invaluable resource for storing foods that are best made in large batches. Frozen fruits and vegetables from the grocery store can also come in handy when you are in a pinch. Below is my personal list of freezer essentials, but please add your own in the comments and tell us how you use them:

  • Frozen rice balls The single most essential item in my freezer is my giant bag of frozen brown rice balls. When I first explained the best way to make rice, I mentioned that I prefer to make a large batch and freeze it in individual servings. This is a trick I learned from a former housemate that always cooked traditional Japanese food (thanks Kiyoshi!). He used white rice, but I think this method is even more valuable for whole, intact grains since they are not particularly easy to integrate into your meals unless you make them yourself. Whole grains take quite a while to cook, but if you make a lot and freeze them you only need to cook grains occasionally. In addition to rice, you can also freeze other grains like barley and steel cut oatmeal.
  • Cooked legumes To know me is to know that I love beans and lentils. Legumes are some of the healthiest food you can eat, and are among the best sources of protein on the planet. The only problem is they can take a long time to cook. Lentils cook pretty quickly (~20 minutes), but I like to make beans in large batches in the pressure cooker and freeze the rest in 1-2 tupperware containers that I thaw at my leisure. Lentils can be frozen as well.
  • Green legumes In addition to beans I have cooked myself, I also keep a stock of shelled, frozen soy beans and petite green peas in the freezer. These cook in just a few minutes and are delicious tossed with nuts, garlic and fresh herbs. My recipe needs some serious updating, but if you want an example of what I mean check out my Edamame and Peas Quick Fix.
  • Frozen fruit I always have a few bags of frozen wild organic blueberries for the days I run out of fresh fruit for my cereal. They thaw pretty fast (sometimes I put them in the microwave for 30 seconds) and are pretty tasty. They are great in oatmeal and pancakes as well.
  • Walnuts I keep my walnuts in the freezer to prevent the unstable omega-3 fatty acids from going rancid. Other nuts likely store well in the freezer too but tend to be more stable at room temperature than walnuts, which are particularly high in omega-3s.
  • Soups I love soup and cook it often. If you have ever browsed through James Peterson’s book Splendid Soups, you know why. The problem with soup is there is only one of me and the recipes tend to serve at least 4 people. Unless you want to eat the same thing all week long, freezing your left overs is your best bet. An added bonus is that you end up with a freezer filled with your favorite creations that can be eaten on lazy days.
  • Bread I do not eat bread often, but love to have it in the house just in case. But I never buy regular, sliced grocery store bread that is full of preservatives, dough conditioners and other bizarre ingredients that belong in the lab. Instead, I like to go to my local bakery (Acme or Tartine), get a fresh loaf, cut it up into single servings and freeze it in gallon freezer bags. You would be shocked at how nicely frozen bread reheats in an oven set to 325. Alternatively you can take it out a day early and thaw it in the fridge.
  • Meat Most of you already know that meat stores well in the freezer, but you can also store scraps and bones to make your own stock. Conveniently, you can also freeze your homemade stock.
  • Sauces During the summertime my local markets are practically giving away basil. It is such a wonderful herb, I cannot help making big batches of pesto all season. Leftover sauces can be frozen and taken out in winter when your favorite flavors are harder to find.
  • Spices I have recently started grinding my own spices, but like many things it is easier to do it in large batches. Extra spices store well in sealed containers in the freezer.

Your freezer is a great resource and I encourage you to be creative. It can make healthy eating much easier by giving you quick access to healthy foods, and also spares you from monotony when you cook in large batches.

How else can your freezer help you eat healthy?

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