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Monday, September 4, 2017

La Voix Off

The following article appeared in The Guardian US Edition on 04 Sep 2017. I have also copied the content below in case the link is only temporary.

Is there such a thing as sugar addiction?

Oh, just the three then …
 Oh, just the three then … Photograph: Tetra Images/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

It comes in a white, crystalline form and gives us a pleasurable high – but refined sugar is as habit-forming as cocaine or nicotine, according to a review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Animal studies show that sugar is the drug of choice for lab rats which, when given a choice of levers to pull, will switch from cocaine to sucrose in the twitch of a tail.
In evolutionary terms, we worked for our sugar fix by eating honey and ripe fruit. We then stored any surplus energy as fat for the lean times when bison were scarce. Now that sugar is available as highly concentrated sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup – both stripped of nutritional value (minerals and vitamins are lost in the refining process) – we’re hooked.
Sugar makes us obese, can promote the development of type 2 diabetes, raises our blood pressure and give us fatty livers. But it also alters our mood, making us feel rewarded and euphoric.

The solution

The lead author of the review, James DiNicolantonio at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, says that, unlike salt, sugar has no “aversion signal”. “Salt taste receptors will ‘flip’ when you’ve had too much, but this doesn’t happen with sugar – so we have a built-in safety mechanism that protects us from overconsuming salt but not sugar,” he says. “People can eat an entire bag of cookies or endless bars of chocolate and still want more.”

Whether refined sugar is technically addictive or not has long been debated. What isn’t in doubt is that we eat too much of it. And we should forget the notion of moderation – any refined sugar is excessive. In the US, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine says: “The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed.”
DiNicolantonio argues that refined sugars can produce bingeing and cravings – indicative of an addictive substance. And then there’s withdrawal. He says: “Withdrawal symptoms from sugar come from dopamine deficiency in the brain. This may lead to symptoms such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and it may even create a similar state in the brain as found in patients with depression.”
There is some evidence of genetic differences in our response to sugar because we all perceive sweetness differently. But, overall, the review says, refined sugar gives us one of the most intense sensory pleasures of modern life. Which is worrying for many reasons.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Asean Arugula au Pear

The Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 80 ml (or ⅓ cup) of rice vinegar
  • 22 ml (or 1½ tablespoons) of sherry
  • stevia equivalent of  35 g (or 2 tablespoons) of sugar
  • 12 g (or 1½ teaspoons) of salt
  • 5 g (or 1½ teaspoons) of ground white pepper
  • 60 ml (or ¼ cup) of toasted sesame oil
  • 180 ml (or ¾ cup) of grapeseed oil

  • 30 g (or  ¼ cup) of pecans
  • 1 bunch of arugula, weighing approximately 115 g (or 4 oz)
  • 1 Asian pear, weighing approximately 225 g (or 8 oz)
  • 55 g (or 2 oz) of blue cheese

    The Method:

    Salad Dressing
    1. Place the rice vinegar, the sherry, the stevia, and the salt into a cruet or similar vessel.
    2. Swirl to dissolve the salt.
    3. Add the pepper and swirl again to distribute it evenly.
    4. Add the sesame oil and the grapeseed oil.
    5. Shake the cruet vigorously to form an emulsion.
    Salad Assembly
    1. Toast the pecans in an oven at 175°C (or 350°F) for 5 minutes. Allow them to cool.
    2. Wash and trim the arugula and place it in a bowl sufficiently large to toss it in.
    3. Wash the pear, core it, and slice it into thin wedges.
    4. Toss the arugula and pear with a little of the salad dressing, to taste. (The remainder can be stored in the refrigerator and used for more or different salads.)
    5. Crumble the blue cheese and sprinkle it over the arugula and pear.
    6. Finally, sprinkle the pecans over the salad.
      Asean Arugula au Pear complements Sichuan spiced rack of lamb

    Sunday, August 13, 2017

    Going Bananas for Bread

    The Ingredients:

    • 70 g (or ¾ cup) of pure almond flour
    • 25 g (or ¼ cup) of pure coconut flour
    • 3 g (or ½ teaspoon) of salt
    • 3.5 g (or ¾ teaspoon) of baking soda
    • 60 g (or ½ cup) of walnut pieces
    • 45 g (or ¼ cup) of dried blueberries
    • 45 g (or 3 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
    • 4 eggs (3 whole eggs and 1 egg white)
    • 7 ml (or ½ tablespoon) of vanilla
    • stevia equivalent of  42 g (or 3 tablespoons) of sugar
    • 350 g (or 12 oz) of ripe bananas

      The Method:
      1. Grease a loaf pan with oil or butter, and cut a piece of parchment or wax paper to line the bottom.
      2. Turn on the oven and set it to 175°C (or 350°F).
      3. In a medium size bowl, place the almond flour, coconut flour, salt, and baking soda and mix them together thoroughly with a fork.
      4. Chop the walnut pieces into small nuggets approximately 6 mm (or ¼ inch) in diameter.
      5. Add the chopped walnuts and the dried blueberries to the flours and mix them in with a fork until they are coated with flour and evenly distributed.
      6. Melt the butter without boiling it, and set it aside to cool slightly.
      7. In another medium size bowl, place the three eggs and one egg-white, the vanilla, and the stevia.
      8. Whisk the egg mixture just long enough to break the eggs and thoroughly blend the yolks with the whites.
      9.  Peel the bananas and purée them in a food processor or blender, or mash them as finely as possible with a fork.
      10. Add the bananas and melted butter to the egg mixture and blend or whisk until the mixture is homogeneous.
      11. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a fork until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
      12. Pour the batter into the parchment-lined loaf pan and bake it for 40 minutes. (Check whether the loaf is ready by inserting a small skewer into the middle.)  

        The Story:

        The basic proportions for this loaf I copied from a recipe on a web site called comfy belly. However, I changed, adjusted, added and subtracted ingredients to get to the version I am sharing here.

        This loaf does not last long around our household. People start eating it as soon as it has cooled enough to slice.

        Friday, August 11, 2017

        Lemony Chicklet

        The Ingredients (for 5 servings):

        • 10 to 12 chicken drumsticks, weighing approximately 1.3 kg (or 3 lb)
        • 6 to 8 cloves of garlic, weighing approximately 30 g (or 1 oz)
        • 3 g (or ½ teaspoon) of salt
        • 2 lemons
        • 110 ml (or ½ cup) of white wine
        • 30 g (or 2 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
        • 15 g (or 2 tablespoons) of salt-preserved capers
        • 3 g (or 2 teaspoons) of tarragon
        • 30 ml (or 2 tablespoons) of Dijon style mustard
        • cooking grade olive oil 

        The Method:
        1. Rinse the drumsticks and pat them dry.
        2. Peel, then crush or mash the garlic cloves with the salt until the mixture becomes slightly frothy or creamy.
        3. Extract the juice from one of the lemons.
        4. Slice the other lemon finely to yield about 12 slices. Discard the ends of the sliced lemon.
        5. Heat a large skillet to medium-high and add enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.
        6. Place the chicken drumsticks in the skillet and brown them on both sides.
        7. Remove the drumsticks and set them aside.
        8. Turn the heat to medium-low.
        9. Add the wine and lemon juice to the skillet, scraping and stirring to deglaze the pan.
        10. Add the butter, capers, tarragon, and mustard and continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.
        11. Add the lemon slices and stir briefly.
        12. Add the reserved chicken drumsticks and stir to coat them with the sauce.
        13. Place a lid on the skillet and simmer the drumsticks on low heat for 15 minutes.

          Lemony Chicklet

        Thursday, August 3, 2017

        Horse's Neck Salmon

        The Ingredients (for 6 servings):

        • 160 ml (or ⅔ cup) of brandy
        • 15 ml (or 1 tablespoon) of soy sauce
        • 2 g (or 1 teaspoon) of ground ginger
        • 1.5 g (or ½ teaspoon) of finely ground white pepper
        • 1 fillet of salmon (skin on), weighing approximately 900 g (or 2 lb)
        • 1 lemon
        • 45 g (or ¼ cup) of sugar-free sushi ginger
        • 110 g (or 4 oz) of butter
        • cooking grade olive oil
        • 120 ml (or ½ cup) of fluid from the sushi ginger bottle

          The Method:
          1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, add the soy sauce, ground ginger, and white pepper to the brandy and stir to distribute evenly.
          2. Rinse the salmon and place it in a Ziploc bag or similar receptacle.
          3. Pour the brandy mixture over the salmon and close the container.
          4. Marinate the salmon for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
          5. Meanwhile, finely grate the zest off half of the lemon.
          6. Finely chop the sushi ginger.
          7. About 15 minutes before serving the salmon, heat a large skillet over high heat.
          8. Spray or brush the cooking surface lightly with olive oil.
          9. When the oil is smoking, remove the salmon from its marinade (save the marinade for step 14) and place it, skin-side down, in the skillet.
          10. When the skin turns dark and crispy, turn the heat to low, cover the skillet, and continue to cook the salmon to the desired doneness (I prefer medium-rare).
          11. Remove the fish to a serving platter.
          12. Place the butter into the skillet and allow it to melt over low heat.
          13. Add the lemon zest and chopped ginger and stir for 2 minutes.
          14. Add the marinade and ginger juice, and simmer until an emulsion is formed.
          15. Immediately pour the brandy-ginger sauce over the salmon fillet.
            Horse's Neck Salmon with Cauliflower Nuggets and Caraway Cabbagealso in this blog

            The Story:

            I altered an internet recipe for Grilled Salmon with Brandy Marinade, by eliminating ¾ cup of sugar and adding more ginger. The resulting sauce is tangy and actually complements the taste of the salmon more than the sweet sauce would.
            ('Horse's Neck' is the name of a cocktail made from brandy and ginger ale with a twist of lemon.)

            Monday, July 31, 2017

            A Perfect Pest-O

            The Ingredients (for approximately 490 ml or 2 cups):

            • 110 g (or 4 oz) of basil sprigs
            • 70 g (or 2½ oz) of Italian, or flat-leaf parsley
            • 4 cloves of garlic, weighing approximately 20 g ( or ¾ oz)
            • 3 g (or 1 teaspoon) of salt
            • 1 g (or ½ teaspoon) of freshly ground black pepper
            • 70 g (or ½ cup) of pignolia (pine nuts)
            • 60 g (or ½ cup) of walnuts
            • 240 ml (or 1 cup) of salad grade olive oil
            • 55 g (or 2 oz) of a hard, aged cheese such as Parmigiano (I used Pecorino Romano)

              The Method:
              1. Remove the leaves from the basil stalks and place them into the bottom of a food processor or blender. (Stalks may be saved and used to flavor broth or a casserole.)
              2. Cut the large stems off the parsley,  roughly chop the leaves, and place them on top of the basil.
              3. Peel the garlic cloves and mash or crush them with the salt until they form a paste. Place the paste in the food processor.
              4. Add the pepper, pignolias, and walnuts to the food processor.
              5. Fill a 1-cup measure with the olive oil.
              6. Start the food processor on a medium setting and slowly pour the olive oil in through the feed tube as the herb mixture grinds.
              7. When the oil is all used up open the food processor and add the grated cheese.
              8. Grind again, this time at highest speed, adding additional oil if necessary to produce a spoonable (but not quite pourable) sauce.
              9. Store the pesto in the refrigerator with a tiny layer of salad grade olive oil across the top to prevent oxidation.
              10. To serve with pasta, cook the pasta (I used penne made from lentil flour) according to package instructions, but begin sampling at 5 minutes for doneness.
              11. Drain the pasta and immediately add the desired amount of pesto to freshly boiled and very hot pasta. Stir immediately and continuously until the pesto coats every piece of pasta.
              12. Penne and A Perfect Pest-O with More-Than-a-Mouthful Meatballs,
                also in this blog

                The Story:

                Many years ago I was given an Italian pasta machine and cranked out many a wonderful batch of linguine, spaghetti, and lasagna. As with other kitchen appliances, the instruction manual came with suggestions for recipes. The Pesto Genovese on page 24 was the best I ever tasted, and I never altered anything about the recipe. However, I did black out the suggestion that, if fresh basil was unavailable Italian parsley and a small amount of dried basil could be substituted. No. And now I have my own plants, both sweet basil and Thai basil. When they need to be harvested my thoughts always turn to Pesto Genovese.

                Wednesday, July 26, 2017

                Piele Purple

                The Ingredients (for 8 servings):

                • 1 kg (or 2½ lb) of Okinawan sweet potatoes
                • 350 ml (or 1½ cups) of coconut cream
                • 30 ml (or 2 tablespoons) of fresh lime juice
                • 8 g (or 1½ teaspoons) of salt

                  The Method:
                  1. Brush the skins of the potatoes thoroughly and steam them whole for at least 45 minutes (or the equivalent in a pressure cooker) until they are soft in the middle. (I use a bamboo skewer to pierce the biggest one.)
                  2. With a small paring knife, scrape off the skins of the potatoes.
                  3. Cut the potatoes into thick slices.
                  4. Mash or process the potatoes with the coconut cream, lime juice, and salt until there are no large lumps of potato in the mash.
                  5. If necessary, reheat the piele in the microwave before serving.
                  6. Piele Purple accompanies *PC Stout Corned Beef and Caraway Cabbage, also in this blog
                  7. The Story:

                  The Okinawan sweet potato is not a true potato, but a tuber in the Convolvulaceae family, a taxonomic category that also includes the morning glory. Its origin is in Central America, and it said to have been brought to Hawai'i by the Polynesians. Piele is one of the ways that Hawaiians like to prepare this vegetable. It has a much lower glycemic index than most potatoes and other tubers despite its sweet taste.