Posts Tagged ‘antioxidants’

Orange Peel in the Thrifty Kitchen

I’m  an almost-diabetic who uses low-carb food intake to maintain my excellent blood sugar, so citrus juice, which is a pretty concentrated belt of sugar, is mostly out of my diet.  I also love oranges and orange flavored things, and don’t like artificial flavors. So for a while I have been following with interest the analyses showing very high antioxidant activity in citrus peel and wondering how to incorporate it into my diet, and recently I got a chance to test this when I came across a bonanza of 20 large organic navel oranges that could not be sold because they had soft spots. I could have made orange-cello liqueur, but wanted something I could drink with lunch.  So I washed the oranges carefully, cut out the soft spots, cut them into chunks, and puréed  them in batches in my blender with only enough water to keep the purée  moving.  Each batch was blended at the highest speed for over a minute, to make sure it was completely liquefied.  I have a Vitamix, and I don’t really know how well this would work with other blenders, but probably well enough.

Please note that the oranges I was using were seedless. If you try this with seeded oranges, the seeds have to be carefully removed because they are intensely bitter, and this technique will not work at all with lemons because their inner white pith is so bitter.  I haven’t experimented with other citrus. I would say that tasting a little slice of the white pith might be a good test. If it’s very bitter, it might not work to use it this way. I think that blood oranges would work well, and I plan to try as soon as they come into season. Also, organic really matters when you are using the peel.

You end up with a thick smooth purée  that is only very slightly sweet, has a hint of bitterness, and is loaded with orange flavor and all the nutritional value than oranges have to offer. I use two or three tablespoons in a water glass, fill it with sparkling water, and sweeten with stevia sweetener. When you get near the bottom of the glass, be sure to swirl it around and drink up all the particles that settle to the bottom. Overall I’m probably taking in about a tablespoon of pure orange juice per glass, so the carb content is not high enough to worry me. I have also added it to a low-carb coffee cake with good results. Because of the intense flavor that the peel adds, you don’t need much.

Orange trees are strikingly beautiful, and if you live in the citrus zone they are great edible landscaping material.

If you do a web search on citrus peel you will find articles suggesting that there are few diseases it won’t prevent or cure. Let’s not get carried away. The antioxidants that it contains, including  naringinen, hesperadin, and rutin, have some interesting anti-inflammatory activities, and there is no documented evidence that ingesting some amount of citrus peel and pith is harmful. It’s also a superb natural source of vitamin C, which can be a bit short in a ketogenic diet. It makes thrifty use of something ordinarily discarded, and it tastes good, adding strong flavor and a touch of bitterness that makes an adult drink out of a fruit that can otherwise be too sweet to enjoy very much of. You can read about its various possible benefits at the links below, including the interesting demographic information from the REGARDS study that higher levels of citrus consumption correlated with lower levels of ischemic stroke. Make of that what you will.

 

REGARDS study analysis indicating possible inverse relationship between citrus consumption and ischemic stroke:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5086785/

A survey of antioxidants and anti inflammatory activities in citrus peel:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27719891

An animal study showing inhibitory effects on human prostate cancer tissue grafted into mice:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23673480

An animal study showing effects in reducing neuroinflammation:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26423872

There are other possibilities for eating citrus peel. I came across the following recipe while searching, and haven’t tried it yet, but it does look lovely, doesn’t it? Personally I would roast the fruit-veggie mixture first to soften them more, then the salmon by itself, since I despise overcooked salmon.

http://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/roasted-salmon-oranges-beets-and-carrots

 

Superfruit Sauce

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A couple of years ago I started my low-carb fruit project, aimed at growing maximum antioxidants with minimum carbohydrates.  This summer my plantings started to bear. Here are a few observations:

1. A good Italian plum tree is abundant beyond rational imagination. In season the branches are weighed down with thick ropes of plums and its overblown beauty warms your heart at sight. Make sure you have plans for the fruit. Prune plums are not low-carb at all but have plenty of soluble fiber in a delicious form, so I eat some.

2. Goji berries are my worst garden invader so far. They seem to behave better in other parts of the country, but they love my alkaline desert soil and go wild. Everywhere I look, yards from the parent plant, eager offspring are poking up among the broccoli and muscling aside the beans. The plants are rather thin, though, and don’t block any appreciable amount of sunlight, so I am happy to have them. But if your nature and aesthetic are more meticulous than mine, better plan to use a root barrier. The shoots, gathered when they still snap cleanly, were one of my favorite perennial vegetables this year. The flavor of the fruit is nothing to write home about, but I enjoy them in savory dishes or mixed with other berries.

3. Clove currants, when left on the bush for a couple of weeks after they turn black, are delicious. Eat them before that and you’ll wonder why you wasted space on them.

4. Goumi berries are very well suited to alkaline soil and tolerate heat well. They smell heavenly when they bloom in May, with a far-reaching honeyed sweetness that is free of the grape Koolaid note that can be overbearing in their close relative the Russian olive.  Again, once they turn red, start tasting every few days, and don’t harvest until they taste good. It’s very worthwhile to buy the expensive named varieties. I didn’t, and my wild-type berries are so tiny that harvesting is very slow and tedious. I’ll be planting some selected varieties next spring.

I had relatively small amounts of all the berry types this spring, so I decided to mix them together and add plums to make a sauce base for producing my own hot sauces and chutneys. Other than stoning the plums, I didn’t do any other prep. I threw roughly equal quantities of the four types of fruit in a stockpot, added good red wine to just cover the fruit, and simmered slowly until the fruits were soft. I think it was about 90 minutes. Then I put the mixture through a food mill to remove any woody seeds that the goumis had contributed and to smoothe and thicken the mixture.

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Add salt to taste. Now you have an antioxidant-rich purée that can go in a number of directions. Cooked down a little further until it thickens up, and sweetened to taste with sugar or your favorite artificial sweetener, it makes a tart local substitute for cranberry sauce. Cooked a bit with sweetener and chopped garlic and ginger, it makes a delicious Asian sauce for garnishing pork, dipping dumplings, or just as a table sauce. Make hot sauce by pureeing a can of chipotles en adobo in the blender and adding to the superfruit base by spoonfuls until you get the heat level that you want. Sweeten or not; I like some sweet with my heat. My favorite use is superfruit chutney: to a cup of base add a couple of teaspoons of mustard seed lightly toasted in a dry skillet, a teaspoon of garam  masala, a small onion and a clove of garlic finely chopped, and a small piece of ginger grated. Crumble in a dried chile or two if you like heat.  Salt a little less than you think is optimal. Simmer together, adding a little water if necessary, until the alliums are cooked and soft. Taste, adjust seasoning and salt, and cool. Serve with nearly anything Indian.

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I froze some superfruit base in cartons to use this winter. It could also be canned, although I would suggest pressure canning for safety.

 

Garlic Leaves

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My patient readers might be wondering by now why I have so damn many posts this year on the uses of green or immature garlic. The reason is simple: last summer I ordered my garlic sets as usual, forgot about it, and a few weeks later placed the same order again. When a LOT of garlic sets arrived in fall I decided to treat this as serendipity and planted them all, and the result is that I have hundreds to thousands of stalks of green garlic right at the moment. Since I have become interested in the health benefits of alliums, especially the green parts, I am thoroughly enjoying experimenting with ways to use them. Right now they are just beginning to send up scapes, and the stalk of the plant is hard and difficult to use well. But when I pull a few plants for the newly bulging bulbs, I find that the leaves are still green, and I decided to try using them as a leafy green vegetable. I washed a bunch of them, cut them in 1 inch sections crosswise, and blanched them in boiling water for two minutes.  This initial blanching seemed to tenderize them a lot, but if you insist, try cooking them without pre-blanching and see how it goes.  Then I slowly roasted in butter with a little salt and rich chicken broth for about 20 minutes, taking care that they did not dry out. I roasted them only because I was also roasting some chicken, and it would be easier to slowly sauté them on the stovetop. Make sure that there is enough broth that no part of the leaves dries out. Kept a little moist, they develop a lovely plush texture. This turned out to be a delicious vegetable, full of flavor but not excessively garlicky. The only thing I’m going to do differently in the future is cut them in shorter sections, about half an inch, since there is a suggestion of fiber in the mouth when cut to the longer length. I did not identify any actual fibers of the nasty kind that stick between the teeth, but I just think the mouthfeel would be better if cut shorter.
I am increasingly delighted to find that every part of the garlic plant is edible, versatile, and delicious, a true nose to tail vegetable with a boatload of health benefits besides. Right now garlic, shallots, onions, and multiplier onions occupy about a third of my total available garden space, and I think this is how it should be and will do the same again next year.
Incidentally, once the emerging scape begins to show at the top of the plant, the stalk is not worth trying to use except as a flavoring for broth, in my opinion. It is just too fibrous and tough. But soon the scapes will be elongating and they are eminently edible when young, so a couple of weeks of patience will provide you with a whole new vegetable.

The Joys of Spring: Goumis

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A few years ago I began a project to grow fruits that offered maximum antioxidants with minimum carbohydrates, in other words fruits very different from the swollen sugar-pops that fill the American grocery store. I had been reading with great interest about Goumi berries because genus Eleagnus thrives in my area with relatively little water. I planted three of them, and over the next two years they got a bit bigger but nothing much happened. Last year, their third year, they grew over 5 feet tall and one produced three tiny berries. Hardly an exciting outcome. But this year they have already earned their place; all three are covered with scads of small discreet blossoms and when the sun hits them, the scent that they throw all over my front yard is indescribable. It has the honeyed spicy sweetness that characterizes Russian olives in bloom, but without the grape Koolaid note. Utterly delicious. They are humming with bees, and I do wonder what Goumi honey would taste like.

The bush seldom tops six feet, and unlike their relatives the Russian olives and autumn olives, they are thornless.  They are nitrogen fixers and tolerate my poor alkaline soil, and are not demanding about water. I soak mine every two or three weeks and ignore them the rest of the time. They are not dangerously invasive like their cousins. I hope that later in the year I’ll be reporting on fruit production and quality. The berries have a high lycopene content and the seeds inside contain a quantity of omega-3 fatty acids.  But even if I had no interest in the fruit, they would be the stars of my early spring yard. Sometimes my message is a simple one: grow this plant, you’ll like it.

Low Carb Colcannon

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A few decades ago when I owned a sheep farm, I grew a lot of potatoes and made a lot of colcannon in the winter. This old Irish dish combines smashed boiled potatoes with milk and cream, and incorporates other vegetables according to your fancy. Onion and cabbage are traditional favorites, herbs and greens are common, and others are possible.

These days I want low-carb vegetable dishes, but I still want my easy accommodating colcannon and I have a ton of green garlic and green onions around, so I started there. I write a lot about green garlic and green onions because they are so easy to grow and have available for earliest spring, so chock-full of allacin and various antioxidants, and so very tasty. If you grow no other vegetable, put some small organic onions and at least a few dozen garlic cloves in among your ornamentals in fall (as long as you don’t use pesticides,) and next spring you will have these sweet and delicious vegetables to work with.

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I started with six big green onions, a dozen stalks of green garlic, a head of cauliflower, half a head of cabbage, and butter and cream.

First, cut the florets off the cauliflower and put them in the steamer for half an hour. They need that much steaming time to be soft and smashable. I use my old couscousierre to steam veggies because I like to look at it, and incidental pleasures are half the fun of cooking.

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Wash the green alliums and trim off any yellowing or dry-looking leaf tips. On a large cutting board, slice the washed and trimmed green onions and green garlic into quarter inch cross-section slices.

imageHeat a large skillet over medium heat, put in about 3 tablespoons of good butter, and sauté the greens over medium heat, adding some salt and stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked, soft, and sweet. Meanwhile, slice the cabbage into very fine slices, discarding any thick ribby pieces. When the green alliums are cooked, scrape them into a bowl, return the skillet to the heat, add another good-sized knob of butter, and put in the cabbage shreds. Cook them over medium heat with some salt, stirring frequently, until very thoroughly cooked and sweet. This takes a while, and you need to keep an eye on the time and open your steamer when the cauliflower has cooked for 30 minutes.

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When the cabbage is cooked, put in the steamed florets and start smashing them with the back of a big wooden spoon. When thoroughly smashed, add half a cup of heavy cream and the cooked green garlic and taste the mixture for salt, correcting to taste. Cook over low heat for another half hour, stirring occasionally, to let the flavors amalgamate. Stir in a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and serve.

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This is the fun part. Serving possibilities are endless. I pan fried some lardons of mild bacon to top it off and put a small steak on the side. It’s so filling that I didn’t eat more than a bite or two of the steak, so now I have leftover steak to plan another meal around.

Unlike potato colcannon, which can get gummy if reheated, the cauliflower version is even better when left over. You can top it with sautéed greens, or a fried or poached egg, or both. A bit of mild cheese could be grated in or gratineed on top, or this could accompany a roasted chicken. It is a wonderful basis for meals in mixed omnivorous-vegetarian crowds, because the vegetarians will find it satisfying on its own or with an egg and the omnivores can have meat on top or alongside and will probably not eat much meat because it isn’t needed.

I do think it’s wise to respect the essentially sweet and delicate nature of this dish, and keep seasoning simple. If you take your time with the sautéing, and use butter, the cabbage and green alliums develop wonderful depth of flavor. Heavy cream is essential in my opinion, and it has a lovely sweet flavor of its own. I also think a key step is to add some salt during the sautéing process so that it cooks into the vegetables well. Just not too much. This all takes some time, about an hour from bringing the green alliums in from the garden to finished colcannon, so there is no point in making smaller quantities. It will get eaten.

 

 

 

Early Harvest: Green Garlic

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Other than herbs and alfalfa tips for my chickens, green garlic is always the first thing that I harvest from the garden.  In my climate, which is more or less USDA zone seven, I plant in October and nearly always harvest green garlic the first week of March.  The part of the garlic patch that I plan to harvest green is planted very closely, about 2 inches apart each way, which is plenty  of room for this purpose.  Every year I plant more. It is really good stuff. For a long time I thought that it might not really be worth the trouble, because I was harvesting and eating only the white stem and incipient bulb and composting the greens.  Duh. The greens are the best part, as well as being full of allacin and other antioxidants, and any part that is bright green rather than yellow or brown can be used. You can grow a useful amount in a few square feet if your soil is rich, and it is harvested and out of the way in time to plant something else for the summer.

In the picture above you see a stalk of green elephant garlic, which is really a leek relative rather than a true garlic.  It is typically a foot or more tall and an inch or so in diameter at the green stage.   It has a slightly different flavor from true green garlic but is equally delicious.  I once bought green garlic at a farmer’s market that was bitter, but I have never tasted any other that was bitter. It may have had to do with growing conditions or variety. I have heard of people chopping garlic leaves into salads as a seasoning, but personally I don’t care for the taste raw and only use them cooked.

With all green garlic, I trim the roots and leaf tips and wash, then line them up and cut them in cross-section into slices about a quarter inch thick.  I sauté  in either butter or olive oil, whichever will suit the rest of the meal, slowly until the greens are tender. A little salt is thrown in along the way. They become soft and sweet and delicious, and I enjoy eating them as a vegetable on their own.  They also go very nicely into all kinds of other vegetable dishes.  If you are a carb eater, they would be delicious with fresh handmade egg pasta, butter, and a discreet amount of Parmesan, or tossed with new potatoes and butter. I love them in mixtures of cooked greens, too, and they are a lovely complement for fried eggs.  I plan to make a cream of green garlic soup  at some point this spring.  A few stalks sautéed in your smallest skillet while you are cooking other things also make a very nice cook’s treat  to eat standing in the kitchen, as a sort of tapa for one. After all, the laborer is worthy of her hire.

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Like all the rest of us, green garlic will lose its youthful bloom sooner rather than later.  When the bulb is swelling and the leaf tips are turning progressively more yellow, it is past the point of being worthwhile to eat green.  In its brief season I harvest 10 or 12 stalks whenever I have some free time, clean and sauté them, and have them waiting in the refrigerator.  If I haven’t use them within a day or two, I vacuum seal them into neat little packets and keep them in the freezer to go in summer dishes.

A Carrot of a Different Color

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I like carrots in general, and this year I’m especially enamoured of the carrot variety named Deep Purple. As you see above, it is not a wimpy purple-blushed orange carrot. It is a startling deep indigo-violet right to the core. It is packed with anthocyanins, which can only do us good, and the flavor is a bit less sweet than many modern hybrids, which suits my preferences. I like carrots, not candy bars.

If you are accustomed to boiling carrots you will need to rethink your strategy, because the rich anthocyanin content in this one makes it bleed on the plate like boiled beets. This is not attractive, and I am no fan of boiled vegetables anyway, so a cooking method that keeps its juices inside where they belong makes sense.

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I am cooking a lot of carrot steaks lately and this is a great method for quick vegetable accompaniments that requires no forethought. The prep is quick. Catch your carrots, scrub them thoroughly, cut off the tops and bottoms, and cut the body of the carrot lengthwise into “steaks” of the thickness that you prefer. I like 1/4″ because I like them to cook quickly and get a little cooked clear to the center. I cook all the odd-shaped side slices because they are all delicious; the tapering parts get a little gooey and caramelized, which adds depth and savor. I salt the slices lightly, rub them with good olive oil, and add any seasoning that I might want. In the case shown here they were to accompany blackened fish chunks and so I dusted them lightly with blackening spices.

After you cook your entree, or in a separate nonstick skillet, heat the pan over medium-high heat and lay in the carrot slices, not letting them touch each other. Let them cook at a brisk sizzle until the underside looks cooked and is deep brown in spots, flip, and repeat. Serve and eat.

Incidentally, when I say “nonstick skillet,” these days I mean seasoned cast iron. The newer ceramic-lined nonstick skillets might be safer than the older ones, but their nonstick qualities rapidly break down if used over high heat and they are not considered safe for use under these circumstances. I also dislike the mushy not-really-a-crust that is produced over lower heat, and only fairly high heat will produce a true sear. So cast iron it is. Keeping a skillet seasoned takes a little extra work but not much. The Maillard browning reaction is the cook’s friend for deepening flavor and it happens happily in hot cast iron.  The meaty tang that browning produces makes carrot steaks an ideal vegetable entree.

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The same general method can be applied to purple carrot quarters as shown in the steaming plateful above. In this case I cooked them over lower heat for a longer time with no seasonings but salt and olive oil, and added thyme butter just before serving.

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Grilling is another great way to cook purple carrots. The ones shown above are a purple-blushed variety that I grew before I discovered Deep Purple, seasoned with garlic and ginger midway through grilling so that the garlic doesn’t burn and topped with chopped turmeric leaves to accompany a dish of southeast Asian grilled shrimp.

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