Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fennel-Carrot Salad with Lime Dressing

Fennel is a cool-weather vegetable that doesn't get much respect in America, but it's a mainstay of French and Mediterranean cuisine. In cooking, it most closely resembles crunchy celery, albeit with a more delicate flavor. Its stalks and seeds taste something like licorice. But its health claims may be its strongest appeal. Fennel is loaded with Vitamin C and a powerful antimicrobial needed to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and boost the immune system.



Ingredients

3 medium carrots
2 fennel bulbs
1 jalapeno pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon honey
1 pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup minced parsley or cilantro

Preparation

1. Combine lime juice, cumin, red pepper flakes, sea salt, jalapeno in a bowl or mini-food processor. Add minced jalapeno. Whip or blend. Then add olive oil and blend until well mixed.

2. Shred the carrots and fennel with the grating blade of your food processor or a box grater. Toss together with parsley or cilantro until well mixed.

3. Add lime vinaigrette, toss and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cooking with Fennel:

The fennel bulb, foliage, and seeds of the fennel plant are widely used in many of the culinary traditions of the world. Fennel pollen is the most potent form of fennel, but also the most expensive. Dried fennel seed is an aromatic, anise-flavoured spice, brown or green in colour when fresh, slowly turning a dull grey as the seed ages. For cooking, green seeds are optimal. The leaves are delicately flavoured and similar in shape to those of dill. The bulb is a crisp, hardy vegetable and may be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled or eaten raw.

Fennel seeds are sometimes confused with those of anise, which are similar in taste and appearance, though smaller.

Its health benefits abound.

Like many of its sister herbs, fennel contains a unique combination of phytonutrients—including the flavonoids rutinquercitin, and various kaempferol glycosides—that give it strong antioxidant activity.

The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole—the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer. The volatile oil has also been shown to be able to protect the liver of experimental animals from toxic chemical injury.

In addition to its unusual phytonutrients, fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C which aids in neutralizing free radicals in all aqueous environments of the body and reducing pain and joint deterioration that occurs in conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The vitamin C found in fennel bulb is directly antimicrobial and is also needed for the proper function of the immune system.

As a very good source of fiber, fennel bulb may help to reduce elevated cholesterol levels. And since fiber also removes potentially carcinogenic toxins from the colon, fennel bulb may also be useful in preventing colon cancer. In addition to its fiber, fennel is a very good source of folate, a B vitamin that is necessary to convert a dangerous molecule called homocysteine into other, benign molecules, thus reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke. Fennel is also a very good source of potassium, a mineral that helps lower high blood pressure, another risk factor for stroke and heart attack. In a cup of fennel, you'll receive 10.8% of the daily value for fiber, 5.9% of the DV for folate, and 10.3% of the DV for potassium.

Shrimp Stock

A good shrimp stock is the base for just about any seafood dish you want - gumbo, shrimp etouffee, shrimp creole, shrimp bisque, seafood risotta, paella, you name it. It's simple, easy and a great way to up-cycle parts of vegetables you typically discard, such as celery tops. Freeze in 1-pint containers.



Ingredients

Shrimp shells and heads
1 cup coarsely chopped celery with tops
1 cup coarsely chopped carrot
1 medium coarsely chopped onion
3 Bay leaves
A few coarsely chopped garlic cloves
Fresh or dried thyme
McCormick's crab boil (or a hand full of peppercorns)
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 quarts water

Preparation

1. Place the shrimp shells and heads in a large colander and rinse under cold, running water.

2. Throw all ingredients into a heavy stock pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to simmer for 45 - 60 minutes. Occasionally skim any foam on the surface.

3. Remove the stock from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container; let cool completely. Refrigerate the stock for up to 3 days or freeze in airtight containers for up to 2 months.

Makes 3 quarts.

~Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse.

Wild Caught vs Farm-raised Salmon






Yesterday, the butcher at a Safeway supermarket gave me a great spiel on the merits of the seafood in his case, including factory-farmed salmon.

He was justifiably proud of a recent Greenpeace Green Rating.
Since the CATO project began in 2007, the 20 retailers analyzed within the report have discontinued a total of 67 red list species—over 20% of the total number originally sold. Most of this progress was made in the past two years, which is indicative of a growing trend within the sector to eschew unsustainable seafood products in favor of more responsible and defensible alternatives.

The move to quality, affordability and sustainable seafood is a Big Deal for a national food chain and a step in the right direction for the environment as well as consumers.

According to a Greenpeace press release:
This week Safeway stores in California began stocking a budget-friendly sustainable tuna that provides an alternative to environmentally destructive mainstream options such as Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea.

But sustainable does not equate to healthy, i.e., fish that are free of the many deficits that farming can cause.

As Providence would have it, Marion Nestle, Food Politics, published a letter from anti-fish farming advocates today. It details the many reasons that farm-raised salmon is about the unhealthiest fish in the food case.
The hazards of Norwegian farmed salmon are well documented. A scientific paper in 2004 published in the journal Science revealed cancer-causing contaminants such as dioxins, PCBs, DDT, dieldrin and toxaphene. A 2005 study and another 2006 study both concluded that the consumption of farmed salmon carried an elevated cancer risk. Another 2009 study in the Journal of Cancer Research reported carcinogenis in Norwegian farmed salmon including intestinal tumors and metastases (analogous to that of human colorectal cancer associated with inflammatory bowel disease). In 2011, a scientific study concluded that consumption of Norwegian farmed salmon was linked to diabetes and obesity (no wonder the American Diabetes Association recommends wild not farmed salmon).

While it is specific to Norwegian farmed-salmon, widely distributed by Costco, the overall health hazards prove ubiquitous in this industry.

I chose the wild-caught salmon.

How about you?


Broccoli Rice Gratin

I recently tried a recipe for broccoli rice casserole that was made with evaporated milk and flour to create a cheesy-white sauce. The combination tasted way too much like Velveeta for me. So when I saw wilting broccoli in the vegetable crisper the day before grocery shopping, I decided transform it into my go-to French gratin with ingredients I had on hand. Yum.

Broccoli Rice Casserole


Ingredients

1 cup brown rice (3 cups cooked)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus some to oil the pan
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 large heads broccoli (3 cups of florets)
2 cups shredded cheddar, Gruyere or other cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 large eggs
1 cup half-and-half cream (or milk)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Tony's Creole Seasoning (or salt & pepper) to taste
Healthy sprinkle of dried thyme (2 tablespoons or to taste)

Preparation

1. Cook rice according to package directions and set aside when done.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease casserole or gratin pan with olive oil.

3. Saute' onions and garlic in olive oil until they start to caramelize. When sufficiently tan, remove from heat, combine with rice and season to taste.

4. Clean broccoli, breaking the heads into bite-sized florets. Steam until bright green, but just this side of done. When the tooth is right for you, drain, dress with fresh lemon juice and set aside. (If you want to use the stems, peel and steam these longer; dice before adding to the rice.)

5. Whisk eggs with cream. Fold in the primary cheese - in this case cheddar. Mix with rice, onions. Fold in broccoli.

6. Transfer to greased gratin dish. Top with grated parmesan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes, until the body is bubbly and the top is nicely brown.

Serves 6 or 8.

Way to clean out the refrigerator before Thanksgiving!