If 2017 was the year of fermented foods, 2018 is turning out to be the year of kombucha. While fermented foods, such as kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh and kefir, are considered gut-friendly and healthful, kombucha can be viewed as the ultimate fermented drink. Read on to discover everything you always wanted to know about kombucha – even if you never heard of it before.
Kombucha is an ancient fermented drink, sometimes referred to as mushroom tea. It has a mushroom color, tan and cloudy, with bits of something… well, weird, floating in it. That’s the “scoby,” and if anything will turn you off to kombucha before you even try it, it’s that. Once you get past the unattractive look of the scoby, you’ll find that kombucha is a sweet and tangy drink with a bit of fizz – a drink that is worth your while getting to know.
Kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented foods have long been part of diets in various parts of the world, but only now are they appearing in the West as the food of the hour. Kombucha is tea that has been fermented from 1 to 3 weeks; it consists of black tea and sugar (from various sources, including cane sugar, fruit or honey) and it is considered to be one of the most effective probiotic drinks out there. It contains an army of bacteria and yeast that are responsible for initiating the fermentation process once it is combined with sugar. The word “kombucha” means “kelp tea” in Japanese, though in Japan itself kombucha is a mild tea (rather than a fizzy, fermented beverage.) Some people call kombucha “booch,” and that’s the term that’s been catching on with those in the know.
All About Avocados
Let’s clear something up right away – contrary to popular belief, the avocado is a fruit. The green color of avocados, and their lack of sweetness, can trick you into thinking they’re vegetables; however, not only is an avocado a fruit, it’s a berry. Call it what you may, however, avocados are incredibly healthy and wonderfully versatile and, if you’re unfamiliar with this amazing fruit, it’s time to be introduced.
History of Avocados
Archaeologists have found evidence of wild-avocado consumption in central Mexico going back almost 10,000 years in central Mexico, and it is believed that people began cultivating avocados about 5,000 years ago. Fifteenth-century Spanish navigator Martin Fernandez De Encisco set out on his quest to discover the “New World,” and came upon a fruit in the port town of Yaharo, Mexico, that, he wrote, “looks like an orange but turns yellowish when it is ready to be eaten.” He went on to explain the wonderful flavor of the fruit, which tastes “like butter” and is “so good and pleasing to the palate.” Later, Spanish historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo discovered the fruit in the northern part of South America. He identified the avocado tree as a variation of a pear tree in Spain and said that the fruit, “is the color and shape of pears, and the rind somewhat thicker, but softer, and in the center of the fruit is a seed like a peeled chestnut.” He goes on to say that between the peel and the pit “is the part which is eaten, and is a paste very similar to butter and … of good taste.”
Neither Encisco nor Oviedo named the fruit, leaving that to explorer Pedro de Cieza de Leon who referred to it as “aguacate” in his mid-16th century writings and said that the fruit was widely used by the people from the Inca civilization. The Spanish conquistadors eventually brought avocados to Europe and sold them to other countries including England. However, the name avocado appeared for the first time in naturalist Sir Hans Sloane’s catalog of Jamaican plants, which was published in 1696. He described the tree and called it, “the avocado or alligator pear-tree, which grows in gardens and fields throughout Jamaica.”
Wonderful, Delicious, Healthy Chocolate
Chocolate is the ultimate comfort food: we reach for it in times of stress, it improves our mood when the going gets rough, and it is downright delicious under any circumstances. Amazingly, after years of getting a bad rap, as unhealthy and high in sugar, chocolate is experiencing a renaissance of sorts and research now shows that high-quality chocolate, in moderation, is actually good for us. That’s a win-win situation for the chocoholics among us – which is pretty much everyone, right?
The History of Chocolate
In “A Brief History of Chocolate,” the Smithsonian Institute Magazine interviews Alexander Leaf, who runs Chocolate Tours of New York. As Leaf says, chocolate is “the best-known food that nobody knows anything about.” Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which was a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. Today, the term “cacao” is usually used to refer to the plant or its beans before processing, while the term “chocolate” refers to anything that is made from the beans.
Chocolate has been around for about 2,000 years, though some experts claim that it may be even older. Recently, anthropologists discovered cacao residue on pottery excavated in Honduras that could date back as far as 1400 B.C.! In pre-modern Latin America, cacao beans were considered so valuable that they were used as currency. And the ancient Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical properties, using it in many rituals related to birth, marriage and death.
The Wondrous Strawberry
As winter morphs into spring, it’s time for everyone’s favorite fruit to hit the marketplace: strawberries. Although strawberries are available in most places all year ‘round, their peak seasons – when they’re at their reddest, juiciest, and most delectable – are spring and summer. Their sweetness and juiciness have earned them a reputation of being nature’s candy, loved by children and adults alike. Whether you like your strawbs straight up, dipped in sugar, or smothered in whipped cream, now is the time to put them on your produce list and bring them home to enjoy.
A Few Strawberry Facts
Strawberries are members of the Rosaceae family, and they are known botanically as Fragaria ananassa. Technically and botanically speaking, strawberries, like raspberries, aren’t really berries. While true berries stem from one flower with one ovary and typically have several seeds, strawberries are derived from a single flower with more than one ovary, making them what is known as an “aggregate” fruit, fruits that develop from multiple ovaries of a single fruit.
Real berries have seeds on the inside of the fruit, while a strawberry wears its seeds on its exterior. (The definition of a berry as something produced from one flower with one ovary containing seeds on the inside means that some of the lesser known berries are bananas, pumpkins, avocadoes, tomatoes, watermelons, and kiwis… strange but true.)
Dates: Sweet and Luscious Fruit
Dates – the dried yet succulent morsels of amber-brown deliciousness that, at the same time, are healthy and satisfy our craving for sweetness – are the fruit of a tree known as the date palm. Dates are among the oldest cultivated fruits in the world, first thriving in the Middle East and now grown all over the globe. There are over 2,000 varieties of dates, but the medjool date is the most common type of dates grown in the United States.
The name “date” is derived from the Greek word daktylos, which means finger, probably because dates are more or less shaped like the fingers of the hand. In the Middle East and Northern Africa, dates have been grown for thousands of years as a profitable agricultural product. (The date palm is the national symbol of both Israel and Saudi Arabia.) Date palms are found in abundance in the desert (one of the few crops that grow in such arid, hot, and challenging conditions) and many parts of the Middle East would be uninhabitable were it not for this type of tree.
Lemons are the Perfect Addition to a Summer Menu
As temperatures rise and the novelty of the summer heat starts to wear off, the search for lighter foods becomes all consuming. Cold soups and salads are summer staples but, for me, if a dish isn’t lemony, it isn’t summery. From lemonade to lemon meringue pie, from lemon-based salad dressing to lemon-flavored Italian ices, the tart, unique, refreshing taste of lemons is synonymous with summer, and a cooking prerequisite for the hot summer months.
Different Types of Raw Fish
Raw fish is all the rage right now, but in order to find a method in the madness we need to set things straight. What we’re talking about is raw or marinated fish dishes, with a variety of names that only the most dedicated foodie will easily differentiate between. Whereas raw fish dishes have been popular for a while on the West Coast, they are now creeping inland due to the never-ending search for new and unusual foods and because of the many plusses of eating raw fish, primarily the unique taste.
Raw Fish Should Come with Precautions
Before you eat raw fish – and certainly before you prepare it on your own – check out the guidelines for whether raw fish is safe to eat set forth by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Opting for high quality should be the number-one rule. (…Read More…)
The Amazing Chickpea
You may not realize it – certainly not just by looking at it – but the little chickpea (also known as the garbanzo bean) is pretty amazing. This legume has been around for hundreds of years, devoured through the ages for its health benefits and high nutrition level. Chickpeas are a mighty source of protein, favored in particular by vegans and eaten in great quantities around the world. The chickpea is loaded with dietary fiber – your colon will thank you; the equivalent of one cup of cooked chickpeas offers half the recommended amount of daily fiber.
America is a melting pot made up of people with many different tastes and preferences. Have you ever stopped to question what tops the list of favorite foods in this country? Well, you no longer have to wonder.
According to research commissioned by Davidson’s Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs as reported by the Daily Mail, one food comes out the clear victor in the roundup of all-time favorite American foods: Steak. Let’s take a closer look at this meaty meal, along with highlighting some tips for grilling the most tender, flavorful steaks. (…Read More…)
Pepper, together with salt, makes up the most basic of spices, included in almost every type of cuisine. Almost every savory recipe calls for salt and pepper to taste, without specifying exact amounts, because they are so basic and necessary in flavoring, that most home and professional cooks are able to eyeball the necessary amount which will make the dish come out perfect according to their taste preferences. Pepper has some health benefits as well. It has antimicrobial properties, possibly helping prevent infection, and is also thought to help in the digestive process. Pepper contains some key vitamins and minerals, and may have some therapeutic properties against pain, cancer, bronchitis, and malaria. Like most spices, for food it should be used in appropriately small amounts. An overload of pepper can make dishes inedible and may have negative side effects for the diner. If plain old ground black pepper isn’t exciting enough for you, many other types of pepper exist. Below is a guide to some of the common types of peppercorns available.
Black pepper is the most commonly used type of pepper in the United States. It has a spicy taste, and is often made available in shakers, alongside salt, on restaurant tables. You would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant kitchen without black pepper handy and used in dishes, and for good reason, since its taste can enhance pretty much any dish when used in small amounts (like salt). Black pepper is a dried form of not yet ripened, and therefore green peppercorns, sometimes boiled briefly before the drying process to help the darkening process during the drying. The slow-drying process allows enzymes within the pepper to darken its color. Purchasing it in the form of peppercorns, and grinding it close to the time it will be used, will help it keep its flavor longer compared to the pre-ground form. Peppercorns are also the chosen option for flavoring clear stocks and soups, since it can be strained out after cooking. If a restaurant was to choose only one type of pepper to keep on hand, black pepper would be it.