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Monthly Archives: November 2017

Superfood, Yuca

Yuca is a perennial plant that is found in tropical climates. In Africa, Asia, and South America, it has been used as a major food source. Indigenous people use it along with other high-starch foods like yams, taro, plantains, and potatoes. While it is still not well known outside of the tropics, it accounts for about 30% of the world production of roots. Recently popular in the Americas is tapioca. Grinding the yuca root into small powder balls forms tapioca balls- enjoyed in boba teas and various drinks.

To clarify some dispute, YUCA and YUCCA are two very different plants. Yuca, is the root while Yucca is a scrub.

Why the sudden interest?

As the world continues to connect more and more, people are able to enjoy the benefits of fruits and vegetables that were once out of reach. Not long ago, if you were not born in the tropics, yuca would have been virtually intangible. But now, people all over the world can reap the benefits.

The general population also has access to endless amounts of new information. So with that comes new opportunities to incorporate in daily life. Previously you would have walked into a grocery store, unable to decipher what this long brown root was. Now with a quick Google search the information is there for you disposal. Recipes for this root are endless. The endless recipes allow you to experiment and diversify your diet.

The Energy it Provides is Incredible!

In Peru, South America we visited a local family. They were simply the most welcoming, humble, and hardworking family I’d ever encountered. In many cultures around the world it is very common for large families to live together. In one home you may have your mother, father, grandparents, great-grandparents, children and grandchildren. It is very common to take in family members and live as one large family unit. What we saw in this family was that everyone was extraordinarily hard working. Even the great-grandparents would pitch in to help around the house. While the activity they partook in was more limited than those of the younger generations, it was incredible to see the how agile and energized these men and women were.

I remember asking one day how they found the energy to work so hard at their age.

With a smile the older lady said, “comer bien.”

That was it, a simple explanation. “Comer bien” translates to “eat well.” These families eat fresh and powerful superfoods everyday. The yuca root is only a supplement to the other superfoods Peruvians have been enjoying for centuries.

How is it that this simple answer: comer bien, could lead to a long-lasting and healthy life.

I thought back to the United States where much of our older generation are forced to reside in Nursing Homes, or never make it to be a great-grandparent. These older generations thrive in Peru and are well respected. Their persistent activity and nutritious diets help them excel in life.

Buffalo Mozzarella

The cheese is soft with a rubbery texture, has mild flavor and is known to be rich in proteins, calcium, mineral salts, iron and vitamins. The cheese is liked by chefs for its versatility in the kitchen and for its special characteristics that make it a perfect ingredient for Mediterranean dishes like pizza, pasta and the Caprese salad.

Mozzarella is the diminutive form of the verb ‘mozzare’, which means ‘to cut off’ derived from the Neapolitan dialect spoken in Campania in southern Italy. It refers to the process of making mozzarella, as the large mass of curd is cut up by hand, into smaller sizes.

The buffalo mozzarella from Italy sold as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is protected under the European Union Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status and may only be produced in select locations in the regions of Campania, Lazio, Apulia and Molise.

The origin of the buffalo mozzarella is said to be the Campania region where it has been produced in the provinces of Caserta and Salerno for many centuries.

The history of the buffalo mozzarella in Campania dates back to the 13th century when the dairy farmers in the region are said to have started making the mozzarella cheese from buffalo milk, mainly for local consumption, which at that time was regarded as a cheaper alternative to cow or goat’s milk cheese.

The history of the water buffalo in Italy is important to consider as it is closely tied to the buffalo mozzarella cheese.

The water buffalo originated in Asia and is known to have been domesticated in the Indus Valley and Mesopotamia civilizations between 2000 BC and 3000 BC.

According to the Consorzio per la Tutela del Formaggio Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, it was the Arabs who introduced the water buffalo to Sicily, during their conquest of Sicily which began in 827. The Normans later introduced the water buffalo to Campania and other parts of southern Italy.

Eat Spaghetti Without Making A Mess

Nowadays there is a certain degree of snobbery about this method. Today those in the know prefer to use just a fork alone and deride those who use the spoon as well.

The reason for the change in spaghetti eating etiquette is that the wide bowls that are now commonly used were once a rarity in both restaurants and homes outside Italy. Pasta was frequently served on a flat plate which made the spoon essential for spaghetti.

With a bowl there is no need for a spoon. You can wind the pasta against the edge of the bowl.

The idea is to use the edge of the bowl to allow you to twirl the spaghetti around your fork. That’s fine if your pasta is served on a bowl rather than a plate.

Even so it takes some practice. The key thing is not to get too much spaghetti on your fork in one go. Just a few strands are enough.

Twirl your fork around until the whole length of the spaghetti is gathered up, then bring it up to your mouth. If you notice that there is too much spaghetti on your fork or the ends are dangling then lower your fork and start again.

You will only get into a mess with spaghetti if you leave those ends dangling. If you try to suck them up like the dogs in The Lady and the Tramp you will splatter sauce all over yourself. Oriental noodles are made to slurp and are served in a bowl that you can pick up for that reason, spaghetti is not.

In Italy spaghetti used to be sold in metre lengths. It was kept in a drawer and the shopkeeper would break it in two so that it could be carried home more easily. Today in Italy, spaghetti is sold in shorter lengths as it is everywhere in the world so there is no need to break it up before cooking.

If spaghetti is cooked correctly it should wrap around your fork easily. If it is overcooked it is more likely to slide off the fork or refuse to stay wrapped around it. This is why spaghetti is often difficult to eat when it is served outside Italy.

So spaghetti should be eaten with a fork. However, a spoon may be provided even in Italy. This is not like the fork that is provided in Oriental restaurants a concession to foreign ineptitude. The spoon is to allow you to toss the spaghetti in its sauce and to scoop up every last drop of that sauce.

Opinions differ on whether it is correct to use bread to mop up the sauce. Some authorities regard serving bread as a feature of impoverished households, others accept that today it is normal in restaurants. When the bread if a good quality ciabatta or focaccia it would be shame to pass up the opportunity of enjoying it with the sauce in the name of out moded etiquette.

About Bowl of Cherries

While many of us associate cherry blossoms with Japan, interestingly, most of those beautiful blossoms do not turn into fruit. Edible cherry producing trees were brought from the West in the late 1800s (think what they were missing all those centuries). However, Japan does not value the fruit as we do, and pies are definitely not on most menus.

In America, because of their beautiful blossoms, cherry trees were planted by settlers up and down the Northeast coast. Early Dutch and French immigrants planted thousands in the NY city area as well as points west, in what is now Michigan. When George Washington purportedly chopped down a cherry tree, he just might have started the ball rolling.

There are basically two types–sweet and sour. They have a relatively short growing season and are not particularly hearty trees. The U.S. is the second largest producer of cherries at 300,000 tons annually, after top producer, Turkey, which weighs in with 460,000 tons. Northwest and Midwest states grow the bulk of cherries, Traverse City, Michigan reigns as the cherry capital of the world and holds a huge festival annually. Known for their sour cherries, they feature the world’s largest cherry pie each year (bring your own vanilla ice cream). The wood of cherry trees is a popular type for furniture in the U.S.

French chefs have given their seal of approval (what more validation do you need?) and use cherries as a sauce for roast duck, flaming desserts (jubilee), crepe fillings and a popular tart called clafoutis. Americans love their pies, and although cherry takes a back seat to timeless apple, it still ranks in the top 5. And we enjoy them in more ways than one:

  • cherry cobbler
  • garnish for whipped cream
  • include in cocktails
  • flaming cherries jubilee
  • New York cherry ice cream
  • cherry jam
  • cherry sauce
  • snacking fresh or dried
  • duck with cherry sauce
  • cherry cola
  • cherry compote
  • cherry turnovers
  • fruit dumplings
  • chocolate covered candy
  • wine and liqueur

Not only are cherries great for cooking and eating, but they tout health benefits as well, including anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, reduce risk of gout, promote better sleep, lower uric acid, all proven by studies at Mayo Clinic and numerous others. Although the season is short, they are readily available year-round in frozen and canned forms, and some groceries and health food markets sell juice and dried cherries.