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.”
The Wonders of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is an ancient spice that is widely used in modern times due to its amazing flavor. Today, cinnamon is one of the world’s most popular spices, sprinkled on lattes; indispensable at Thanksgiving; and awesome on French toast. Much like salt, cinnamon is an ingredient that, while often taken for granted, adds depth of flavor, inviting warmth, and multi-faceted dimension to our food. Cinnamon has a long history and an abundance of uses. Let’s learn more.
The website, Cinnamon Vogue, is a one-stop shop for information about the spice. The site explains that the cinnamon tree is a tropical evergreen, the parts of which can be broken down and used for an assortment of purposes. The bark from the tree can be rolled into sticks that can be used in stick form or ground into cinnamon powder – the most widely used form of cinnamon. The leaves of the cinnamon tree can be steamed and distilled into oil, and the bark can be further broken down into chips (to throw into a fireplace, for instance).
All cinnamon trees – and there are a number of species – are members of the genus Cinnamomum in the Lauraceae family, although not all of the species are grown commercially. Cinnamomum verum is sometimes referred to as “true cinnamon” (more on that controversy later), but most internationally produced cinnamon is called “cassia.” The world’s supply of cinnamon is largely provided by Indonesia and China, which together produce about 75% of the global supply of the spice.
Turmeric: From the Middle East to… Everywhere
Middle Eastern cuisine in general, and Mid-Eastern spices, in particular, are big trends this year, with caterers using exotic tastes to lure trend-savvy clients. Dishes spiced with turmeric are popping up everywhere due to their amazing taste and turmeric’s powerful health benefits. Learn more about turmeric here and start using this increasingly popular spice in more of your dishes.
A prominent member of the ginger family, turmeric has been used in East India and the Middle East for thousands of years, but only lately has it become one of the most popular spices in the world. Turmeric is packed with the powerful medicinal properties of curcumin, which research indicates may have strong anti-inflammatory properties. In ancient times, turmeric was used to treat a wide variety of conditions, such as jaundice, toothaches, bruises, chest pain, and colic.
The name “turmeric” is derived from the Persian word for “saffron,” and the spice provides the intense color of the pricey spice, as well as classic yellow mustard and curry powder. A domesticated plant, with a peppery flavor and a mild kick, turmeric it is grown primarily in India, while Indonesia, the Philippines, and China are also major producers of the spice.
The Great Stone-Fruit War
Peaches and nectarines are, for many, the peak of summer fruit. Sweet, juicy, and delicious, this duo of nature’s bounty – so similar, yet so different – is completely irresistible. Both peaches and nectarines are considered stone fruit —fruit that has a hard, large pit (the stone) surrounded by sweet flesh. Learn more about peaches and nectarines now – moments before they hit the fruit stands.
Peaches vs Nectarines
Nectarines and peaches are basically the same, except for the fuzz, or lack thereof. Contrary to popular belief, nectarines are not a cross between a peach and a plum. Typically, nectarines are smaller and firmer than peaches, but both have either yellow or white flesh on the inside. So while they might look slightly different on the outside, their insides are very much alike. Their genetics are nearly identical as well – aside from a recessive gene in nectarines that gives them their smooth skin, versus the peaches’ fuzzy skin.
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.)
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.