Mushrooms: The King of Fungi
Although most people treat mushrooms as vegetables, they are part of the fungi family, which means they don’t need soil or light to grow. Mushrooms, unlike fruits and vegetables, do not contain chlorophyll and so they do not photosynthesize. Mushrooms are just one of the many species of fungi that exist; however, because there are so many different species, they have been given their own kingdom: the Kingdom of Fungi.
The History of Mushrooms
Although undocumented, there is a good chance that mushrooms have been eaten for as long as there are people inhabiting the Earth. Before mushrooms were cultivated, they grew wild, and our ancestors ate mushrooms that they found in fields and forests. Historians have seen wild mushrooms on the menus of the Romans, Aztecs, and Egyptians, who considered mushrooms to be the “food of the Gods.”
The shift from edible wild mushrooms to cultivated mushrooms began in the middle of the seventeenth century, when a French melon grower accidentally poured water, used to wash wild mushrooms, over some melons discarded in a field. He soon noticed that many mushrooms sprouted in the spot, launching the era of cultivated mushrooms. The mushroom was named the “champignon de Paris,” which has since become the most common and versatile mushroom in the world.
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.
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.
Pulled Beef is the Current “Thing”
In restaurants and barbecue joints everywhere, pulled beef is having its moment. Also known as shredded beef, pulled beef is essentially slow-cooked meat, prepared over time in a mouth-watering sauce, which is then shredded into stringy deliciousness. Having pulled beef on hand means never having to wonder about tonight’s menu or how to feed a hungry crowd.
About Pulled Beef
Commonly referred to as shredded beef or pulled beef, this method of preparation involves slow and lengthy cooking of beef cuts to create individual strands of tender meat for various food dishes. A traditional way to prepare shredded beef is to cook the chuck or brisket cut of beef for a long period of time in a slow cooker or an oven in order to tenderize the meat and allow it to fall apart into narrow pieces of meat. After being cooked, the meat is then often mixed with seasoned sauces to be served on sandwich buns, in tacos or in burritos, over hummus, on a slider, or alone, as a main dish of tenderized beef.
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.
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.