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.
Buddha bowls, sometimes referred to as hippie bowls, are hearty – and heart-friendly – all-in-one dishes made of a variety of greens, raw or roasted vegetables, a serving of protein, and a healthy grain like quinoa or brown rice. They are often topped with crunchy nuts or seeds and layered with some kind of sauce or dressing for added flavor and texture. There is plenty of room for improvisation when it comes to Buddha bowls but the basic formula stays pretty much the same. It’s a meal-in-a bowl dish that is filled with vitamins and nutrients, and it has become one of the biggest trends of the year.
Who Launched the Buddha Bowl?
The consensus among Buddha bowl aficionados is that their first mention was in the cookbook, Meatless, a collection of vegetarian recipes published in 2013 by Martha Stewart. In the book, Buddha bowls are described as “plant-based bowls of glory” (and the bowls are still sometimes referred to as glory bowls). As the editor of Meatless says, “With whole grains, plant proteins, and vegetables, this is the ideal vegan one-bowl dish.” In other words, the original Buddha bowl was vegan but the book goes on to explain that the recipe is “… more of a general formula than a hard-and-fast recipe, since you can swap out different ingredients for variety and make use of whatever you have on hand.”
Why Are They Called Buddha Bowls?
The book doesn’t go so far as to label these grain-and-veggie dishes Buddha bowls, so the Epicurious website asked Dan Zigmond and Tara Cottrell, the authors of Buddha’s Diet: The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind, to explain the origin of the name. “Food for Buddha was very low-key,” said Cottrell. Or, as she explained, Buddha didn’t want food to “take over our whole life.” In addition, Buddha did eat from a bowl, which may have led to today’s use of the term. “Buddha woke up before dawn every morning and carried his bowl through the roads or paths wherever he was staying. Local people would place food in the bowl as a donation, and at the end he would eat whatever he had been given.” That, apparently, was the very first (and most authentic) Buddha Bowl: “A big bowl of whatever food the villagers had available and could afford to share.”
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.”
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.
Sustainability: The Sign of the Times for Restaurants
In many ways, the traditional restaurant business model is under attack from all sides. Although new restaurants are opening up every day, overall industry revenues have drastically decreased in the last few years. Parallel industries, like supermarkets and fast-food chains, are offering more health-oriented foods, forcing restaurant owners, as well, to explore original ways to attract customers. Health- and budget-conscious consumers are growing more sophisticated about demanding high-quality, fresh ingredients at low prices. In addition, the environment matters, and restaurant owners can no longer ignore the fact that sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Sustainability: Part of a Restaurant’s Concept
“Sustainability” is the study of how a natural system remains diverse while producing everything it needs to maintain a balance. The goal of sustainability is to prevent the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain ecological stability. Sustainable food takes into account environmental, health, social, and economic concerns, and it consists of eight inter-related principles:
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.
Who isn’t looking to squeeze a few more fruits and vegetables into their diets these days? In fact, the National Restaurant Association featured several health-related topics in its 2016 roundup of the top 20 food trends, including everything from locally grown produce to healthful kids’ meals.
There are many types of sugars and sweeteners out there, and almost every year that number grows. From natural to synthetic, some of our favorite beverages are enjoyed with such sweeteners. Some are considered “bad” while others are considered “healthy,” but they all have their pros and cons. This article aims to put some of the pros and cons into perspective.
The pros: Sugar, both white and brown, are the most widely known and used sweeteners in restaurants. Though they gets a bad rep for being high in calories and a plethora of other health considerations, customers are likely to make sugar their top choice for sweetening drinks.
The cons: Sugar is quite possibly the dieter’s worst enemy. Studies have shown that the more a person chooses to consume fatty, sweet foods, the more he/she craves them. Sweetened beverages have shown a correlation with obesity, due to increased calorie counts in the resulting products. Sugar consumption has been linked with an increase in “bad” cholesterol levels. It is important to note that though these negative considerations are often reflected on white sugar, many other types of sweeteners, whether containing fructose and/or glucose, have the same effects. Despite the connotations associated with white sugar, it continues to be the go-to sweetener.
The pros: Though there is a conception that honey is healthier than sugar, it actually has more calories. However, since it is sweeter than sugar, less of it is usually used in drinks and recipes, which can lead to a lower overall calorie count. Additionally, many appreciate its “spiced” taste when compared to sugar.
The cons: In addition to its high calorie count, honey may contain a significant amount of pesticides. A 2010 study found that 98% of apiary-extracted bees’ wax contained pesticides. This is probably due to the concentration of the pesticides on the plants from which bees extract nectar. Another factor to take into consideration is young children. Parents are usually instructed to refrain from giving their babies honey, until they pass one year of age. Therefore, in a family-friendly venue, honey may not be the best choice of sweetener.
Food safety and sanitation is a major concern effecting the developing world and first-world countries alike. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012 there were 831 foodborne disease outbreaks, leading to 14,972 illnesses and 23 deaths in the United States. Restaurants were the most commonly reported location of food preparation. Due to the many risks involved in food preparation, food businesses should be wary in maintaining high levels of sanitation and quality in their venue. Restaurant health inspections are an excellent reason to stay up to sanitation standards, but for those who need extra motivation, these CDC findings show the significance of the sanitation problem.
Safety is another constant concern in the kitchen, with fires hazards being one of the most pressing worries. Having properly functioning equipment and employees that are trained to use the equipment properly is the major step to ensuring safety in the kitchen. Though much of a restaurant’s hygiene is a result of employee practices and kitchen cleanliness, the foodservice equipment can also have a defining effect. Foodservice equipment also molds the abilities of a restaurant to serve their customers, and accounts for the carbon footprint of the venue. As a way to organize these concerns, various organizations offer certifications for foodservice equipment which meets regional, national, and international standards in these fields. Such organizations offer certifications on products based on evaluations, testing, inspection of the manufacturing facility, and test results analysis, providing a safety net for food businesses concerned with the quality of their equipment. Though most restaurants don’t deal with the certification process, by knowing what each certification means foodservice venues can make educated purchasing decisions.
American National Standards Institute
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) oversees the creation of standards: norms and guidelines that apply to specific devices, materials, and processes in various business sectors, as well as broader initiatives such as quality and environmental management. The standards aim to encourage international business as well as the quality of life of local citizens, through publishing guidelines for maintaining a certain level of quality throughout many different business sectors. Though ANSI doesn’t quite fit into our list of certification organizations, it is an important player in the process of defining the concerns and measures that must be addressed in food safety, sanitation, environment, and equipment performance. The standards they promulgate shape the certification requirements of most of the certification organizations described below. (…Read More…)
In June, 2014, a California law was repealed which would have required restaurant kitchen employees to use gloves at all times during food preparation. The law was motivated by sanitary concerns, but there are many other reasons to use disposable gloves in food businesses as well. Disposable gloves enable employees to handle foods with high bacterial counts without contaminating the next dish they touch. They can also prevent strong smells, such as garlic, from sticking to employees’ hands and influencing the flavor of other dishes. As a result, they enable employees to handle different foods without washing their hands as often as would be required without gloves, preventing drying out and cracking of the skin. Additionally, gloves provide a layer of protection, preventing employees with allergies to certain foods from having an allergic reaction when handling that food. The reasons for using disposable gloves are almost as vast as the materials in which disposable gloves are available. Many different material options are available, each with a set of pros and cons. Having a few options on hand is usually the most convenient solution for food service venues.
Different materials have different permeability. The protection and comfort a certain material offers will determine the options for use of disposable gloves made with that material. Gloves with low permeability can be used when working with possible contaminants and cleaning products which may be damaging to the skin, since they offer a high level of protection. On the other hand, gloves with higher permeability will be adequate for food preparation, where the main concerns are cleanliness and odors. It is important to note that most disposable and non-disposable gloves should not be used when working with fire or ovens. Melted gloves will stick to skin increasing the severity of burns.
Latex gloves are one of the least expensive and most versatile options available in disposable gloves. They are also probably the most popular. Latex is effective in protecting against most chemicals typically used in kitchens, as well as preventing food odors and bacteria from being transferred from surface to surface through contact. (Of course, prevention of odors and cross-contamination will only be efficient if the employee switches pairs of gloves when moving on to work on a different dish or (…Read More…)