Category Archives: Food

Cooking

I love to cook. I love the ingredients, the flavors, the smells, the history, and the tastes. I spread my ingredients out and chop and prep running several dishes at a time until I have a meal or several meals ready. My goals are to have good food within a certain flavor profile for as many servings as I need and to have no ingredient waste if possible. I try to prepare lunch for several days and take the remainders for my meal that evening I prepare them. I want colors and flavors textures and scents. Food starts when you smell it and see it and the richness of the flavor is increased by the richness of the colors, scents, and texture. Some things I love the flavor of do have troublesome smells or textures but they are worth it.
I really learned to cook here in Hawaii the first time I lived here. Obviously, since I was in my 30s I did cook prior to that. But food wasn’t the same kind of interest. There were times I worked hard to prepare and learn complicated dishes and meals but I didn’t’ really understand them. I didn’t understand flavor profiles, cultural distinctions, the historical and cultural reasons certain dishes are what they are, why some substitutions work one place and not another. I loved good food but had not yet developed the love of ingredients, history, cooking, and the rich value of food and sharing food.
After I moved back to the mainland I had a really hard time adapting to what was available in stores. They are the usual things to people there and to many of the dishes I ate but not to how I learned to relate to food. Since I have returned here I find myself once again enjoying my time picking vegetables in China town or visiting the various stores I love to find ingredients at. I am coming back in to the pleasure of just cooking something because I want to not just so I can feed my family. I don’t come home too tired to think about cooking or to a kitchen I am unwilling to cook in. The kitchen here is small but clean and decently stocked with pans and needs.
Now I buy a few ingredients and spread them out to prep. I can take a couple vegetables, a protein (today it was tofu and mushrooms), a base like starch or purple sweet potatoes or kamut, and whatever I happen to have in my cabinet for spicing and flavor extras to create a series of different dishes for the week. Each is put into it’s container and sealed for the freezer and a bit is put on my plate for dinner. I spent $7 today and made dinner and 4 lunches by adding rice I made while I ate lunch and some spices from my cabinet.
I love that feeling when I finish eating something really good and know I have several meals ready for lunch in the freezer and when I look back to check the kitchen it is clean and ready for the next person with no sign I have been in there. I had only a few vegetable tips to discard and I could use those for broth if I had a way to store them.

Last week my flavors were mostly Italian leaning and this week they are more Thai or like those you see in Buddha bowl recipes. The week before I made each one different (to be able to do that with the same few ingredients pleases me.) Sometimes I have an ingredient I don’t know the name of because all the signs were in Chinese. I have used some of them many times and am familiar with them even if I don’t know what to call them. Others are new and that is always fun. I have learned usually to tell how to substitute or how to cook/prep something new by examining it.
I love food and cooking. Good food is calming and pleasant to enjoy. The ingredients have a history and a story. They are connected to cultures, people, and history of our lives. These foods rose out of cultures and impacted the changes in cultures. Food are the foundation of sharing and communication in many situations. They can be a way to connect or smooth interactions. Food is important and it is a foundation of society.
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Flu Shots and Food

Well, today I feel like doing something different. They are doing Flu shots at work this week and I have to be careful of my diet and stress to prevent getting sick during these times in my experience. As such, I have been working on ingredients and recipes to send my husband since he has to do this week’s shopping. I thought I would share some of that process and thinking and maybe a couple total recipes. Usually, I work of a concept or culture not a specific recipe so it can adjust to what I have and my time/tools available. – this may be a bit long with the lists and recipes.

from healthnutrix.com
from healthnutrix.com
Resistance tea from sunshineandthekiltedchris.blogspot.com
Resistance tea from sunshineandthekiltedchris.blogspot.com

First, let’s look at the basic ideas I am considering:

Immune system and flavor family – that is where this started

I need foods that boost my immune system and I need cultures that fit the ingredients I have or need.

Dealing with flu, cold, and similar things the first things that come up on food lists are the following, among others.

From Healthy Living
From Healthy Living
  • Mushrooms – usually the stronger flavor dark ones like shiitake, minaki, and reichi.
  • Ginger – fresh is recommended not dried, there are pastes available also
  • Garlic – again fresh is best, dried doesn’t really work for this
  • Carrots – the finer you chop them the faster they cook – this is something my mother taught me cook food faster to keep more in it when working on immunity. Slower if in liquid you are going to eat like soup.
  • Egg yolk – I usually use the whole egg – personal preference
  • Lemongrass – useful in everything from drinks to dinner, desert to breakfast
  • Yogurt – unsweetened Greek is best
  • Chicken
  • Fish – they usually recommend salmon but most would work for this
  • Cinnamon – interesting
  • Dark greens like kale or beetOld worn and scratched cutting board. Perfect background or texture.
  • Red peppers – the hot ones
  • Red onion – sometimes I see green onion
  • Tomatoes – especially vine

 

Ok, so that is the basic list we start with and we have to add a few things I know I have at home or want because it is in best season at the farmer’s market. There is more but these are specifics I want to use.

  • Fresh black eyed and purple hulled peas (soooo much better than dried)
  • Winter squashes – acorn, pumpkin, and several others are in now – pretty much all interchangeable in recipes
  • Black rice
  • Curry
  • Coconut milk (can use instead of yogurt or milk in many things)
  • Frozen berries
  • Nuts
  • Spices

 

from www.freesurvivalist.com
from http://www.freesurvivalist.com

This leads us to what to do with them and I think Thai is my major focus first but Moroccan, Indian, and Chinese among others may have ideas.

First I modified a Thai soup recipe for a good chicken soup a roommate made me in Hawaii – she was Korean and made some great food for when you were sick. The prep is from a cooking light recipe but I modified the ingredient list to fit my preference and pantry.

My notes are here and by ingredients. I left prep alone you can modify depending on what you have. This is based on a Thai chicken soup recipe. You can add anything you want really, as long as the basic stock is there. This makes enough for a couple days, can use for lunch if you don’t want soup for dinner. Rice or pasta with it or alone all work. Squash would be good with this. A citrus based desert with little sugar recommended.

12 ounces Mushrooms quartered

also from healthy living
also from healthy living

3 lemongrass stalks, bottom two-thirds of tender inner bulbs only, thinly sliced (if not there try lemon zest or something)

4 cloves garlic, chopped (can add if not strong smelling)

1 (4 inch) piece fresh ginger root, chopped (see if we have some, it would be old so would need more)

 4 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth also works but we may have some)

 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

 2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks (any chicken)

from www.10and9.com
from http://www.10and9.com

2 teaspoons red curry paste – I may not have this, I may only have the Indian yellow or green

 3 tablespoons fish sauce – if you can’t get this, juice from a can of tuna would work ok – bit different but ok

 1 lime, juiced – and another 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving

 2 (14 ounce) cans coconut milk

 1 red onion, sliced

 1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (add more to serve fresh with it)

1 fresh jalapeno pepper, sliced into rings – can do another if desired

 

from Real Simple
from Real Simple

PREP

15 mins

COOK

1 hr

READY IN

1 hr 15 mins Directions

Stir lemon grass, garlic, and ginger together in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Strain chicken broth and set aside. Discard lemon grass, garlic, and ginger.

Heat vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat; Stir in chicken; cook and stir for 5 minutes.

Stir in mushrooms and cook for 5 more minutes.

from blog.wellwisdom.com
from blog.wellwisdom.com

Stir in red curry paste, fish sauce, and lime juice until combined. Stir in chicken broth and coconut milk; return to a simmer and cook on low for 15 to 20 minutes.

Skim off any excess oil and fat that rises to the top and discard.

Stir red onion into the chicken mixture; cook and stir until onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add about 1/2 the cilantro.

Serve with plates of cilantro, lime wedges, and fresh sliced jalapenos.

 

 

After that I began to make combos, this is my personal recipe method.

I make a list of ingredients or flavors I want to use and try and then I come up with various ways to combine and cook them.

The following is 2 combo lists based on the previous discussion process.

Combo 1

From Epicurius
From Epicurius

 

  • Fresh Peas – black eyed or purple hull
  • Carrots – cut small or thin
  • Mushrooms – dark
  • Onion – red
  • Cilantro or parsley
  • Ginger – fresh or paste
  • Garlic
  • Chicken or salmon
  • Squash – acorn or pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • Mint
  • Yogurt or coconut milk
  • Coriander
  • Mustard seed
  • Red pepper

 

from www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu
from http://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu

Combo 2

  •  Mushroom
  • Rice
  • Cilantro
  • Garlic
  • Edamame
  • Carrot
  • Egg
  • Onion
  • Shrimp
  • Possible
    • Pork
    • Fresh peas

 

 

So now we have a base of ingredients and a shopping list; what do we do with it?

The nice thing about doing it this way is I can adapt to time and the form I have ingredients in.

from healthnutrix.com
from healthnutrix.com
  • I can bake it using the chicken as the main ingredient
  • I can make lettuce wraps using the greens
  • Stir fry or fried rice is easy with this combo
  • Using a grill is good with either skewers or a basket
  • Soup is easy and doesn’t have to have a main ingredient same as skewers or stir fry
  • One pan dishes are an option or I can use them in small groups in a couple dishes to serve together.
  • I can also use some of them in tea or other drinks for meals.
  • I love soups like pumpkin soups and these are good mixes for that

Taste, Gastronomy, and our Senses

Continuing the study of Gastronomy and still reading Molecular Gastronomy (This, 2002/ 2006), I have been reading the study of taste and of what makes you feel full. This includes analysis of the differences and similarities to humans and animals as well as regional differences.

Studies of the brain show distinctive response to flavors (glutamate is a separate taste than the 4 basic categories of sweet, salty, bitter, and sour; also unami is really a taste) in people with basic differences such as handedness. The direct connection to language centers and motor activity is one of the more interesting aspects. Another is the sensitivity levels developed regionally of long periods (mostly studied in primates) such as the sensitivity to sweetness. You frequently hear about the impact of smell in taste, the interesting part in this study was that taste with no smell activated the same areas of the brain. This makes me wonder if the impact of smell is affecting flavor because it overrides some of the neurochemical response to the taste. How could we use this?

Another study done on MSG showed the interesting result that the hormonal response meant that the body registered the meal as primarily protein when it was primarily starch. This brings up interesting possibilities, if you are including correct nutrition, in how to impact the desires and satiety of people.  Other flavors, their use and their timing in a meal also impact satiety. One can infer from that knowledge and the method taste molecules function why this is true and how to manipulate the process. “Not all taste molecules act in the same fashion. Whereas hydrogen ions (sour taste) and sodium ions (salt taste) act directly on the channels of taste cell membranes, immediately modifying the electrical potential of the cell by adding their electrical charge to its total charge, compounds of sweet, bitter, and other tastes (licorice, for example) bind to molecules known as receptors—no doubt proteins—that are located in the cell membrane, in contact with the extracellular environment.” (This, 2002/ 2006)

Another example of the all encompassing affect of taste that can be manipulated is the connection to vision. Most often translated as the better it looks the better it will taste, the results of research at Columbia show “the transducin that is specific to the cones and rods of the eye in taste receptor cells.” So apparently there is more to that but in a far more base level than commonly understood.

The use of flavors to heighten or mask other flavors is common in cooking but in gastronomy it reaches a new level. Many modern studies in food, taste, and satiety are examining traditions, understanding, and ingredients from other countries and combining the gastronomy between cultures. This means many of the results are, though refinements of that knowledge, more a drawing of knowledge from other places into regional understanding. We have returned in the field of gastronomy to the Victorian era passion to draw from contact with other civilizations and their results.  The mGluR4 protein in the taste receptors transmits neural not sensory information and could be the first step in signaling satiety which is based not on fullness of the stomach but on signals of nutritional content. This means you should also be able to train a person’s response given time. The impact of flavors on taste varies given the mixes used and the specifics could be quite useful. Also the basic flavors have categories in our taste receptors. Bitter especial shows distinctive receptors and various bitter receptors trigger different areas of the brain. This seems truer in bitter than sweet or salty and could make some interesting experimentation.

Other aspects we shall look into at another time are thermal impact on flavor and taste receptors and the impact of sensation such as pain on receptors, brain, and biochemistry of the body. These are all easily manipulatable and modifiable aspects. Also, these are things that can be used to either trick or train the response of a person or animal. These studies have also led to medical treatments of viral and diabetic neuropathies and of rheumatoid arthritis.

Current results are that gastronomy is a varied science with impacts in many areas in and out of the kitchen and is heavily drawn from the 17th and 18th century works in the field. Steampunk in the kitchen could be a fascinating scientific work as well as very interesting fun.

Steampunk and Gastronomic Explorations

Today we return to Steampunk in the kitchen. I try to keep a copy of all my books on my computer and more and more purchase and get books in that format to use on the phone, tablet, laptop, and wherever I need them. I have been reorganizing thousands of books and categorizing them into easy to find folders. This involves a lot of reading (something which slows the process immensely as I stop to read and get engrossed, as I am now, in a topic). Molecular Gastronomy

Molecular gastronomy is a topic that I have been unsure of based on little actual knowledge for some time. Turns out I have quite a bit of information on the topic. The late 17th and 18th century saw the first accessible research in this field and was when the term shows up apparently. Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s Physiology of Taste (1825) is one source of information from the period. To quote Albert Sonnenfeld in Molecular Gastronomy (This, 2002/ 2006 p. Preface): “The science of food, which Brillat-Savarin called gastronomy, was initiated earlier by chemists in the Age of Enlightenment, the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and belongs to the history of science. The kitchen was a laboratory like any other for famous doctor and pioneering chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. In Germany, Justus von Liebig, working in the Age of Positivism, applied meat extracts to the soups that still bear his name. The test tubes were pots and pans.”

Chocolate ginger sphericals howtocookthat.com
Chocolate ginger sphericals
howtocookthat.com

First, some definitions of Gastronomy (from Debevoises intro):

Brillat-Savarin called himself “le professeur.” Defining gastronomy as the intelligent knowledge of whatever concerns nourishment, the gourmet professor initiates his readers into a veritable eighteenth-century encyclopedia of natural history, physics, chemistry, cookery, business, and political economy.

Hervé This, our new millennium initiator, is more rigorously focused: Molecular gastronomy deals with culinary transformations and the sensory phenomena associated with eating. As a guide he achieves exemplary clarity for the nonscientist reader, and he is consistently entertaining.

Brillat-Savarin’s classic definition of gastronomy in the Physiology of Taste (1825)… (My formatting):

Gastronomy is the intelligent knowledge of whatever concerns man’s nourishment. Its purpose is to watch over his conservation by suggesting the best possible sustenance for him. It arrives at this goal by directing, according to certain principles, all men who hunt, supply, or prepare whatever can be made into food… .

Gastronomy is a part of:

  • Natural history, by its classification of alimentary substances;
  • Physics, because of the examination of the composition and quality of these substances;
  • Chemistry, by the various analyses and catalyses to which it subjects them;
  • Cookery, because of the art of adapting dishes and making them pleasant to the taste;
  • Business, by the seeking out of methods of buying as cheaply as possible what is needed, and of selling most advantageously what can be produced for sale;
  • Finally, political economy, because of the sources of revenue which gastronomy creates and the means of exchange which it establishes between nations.
An example from the Wine industry at winefolly.com
An example from the Wine industry at winefolly.com

All of this eliminates many of the faddish groups and chefs from the gastronomy roles but gives a new understanding of some other chef and bartender works. Living in Las Vegas I was not far from the well known Steampunk lounge there and saw a great deal of the concoctions and interests of the owner that changed my interest in the different terms and their application (we are not looking at the drink related field here). In his analysis of the difference between science and technology he arrives at the first difference in cooking and gastronomy being purpose: gastronomy is for knowledge, cooking is production of goods. Another difference is that gastronomy is science, chemistry and analysis. Cooking is technology, including experimentation, observation, and knowledge but not the same at all. His examples of the connections in the 17 and 1800s between scientific advancement and study of food are worth reading.

Some of the results and studies from that period have to be updated based on new technology and understanding but the foundation is solidly in that period. One must wonder was it science or necessity that brought about the development of many types of foods and uses of many ingredients that would be strange to eat if not commonly recognized as good food. Cookbooks are interesting but serve a gastronomist only in showing methods, ingredients, and apparent affects.

image from gastonomyatbu.com
image from gastonomyatbu.com

An analysis of them can show regional developments and indirectly reveal the reason varies processes are used and how they developed historically. This can direct you in your experimentation and study and can be fascinating information itself. As an example from my own reading, look at China: Only recently are ovens in use anywhere but the town baker if they had one, thus all the things we would bake are there pan steamed, fried, or cooked in some other method. This changes ingredients, ratios, results, and taste preferences that develop. By the same token if you look in a very cold mountainous region the ingredients are things that grow cold, can be stored, or are very seasonal. Compared to tropical regions where recipes tend to use readily available, fresh ingredients with less concern for storage. We know now that Brillat-Savarin was wrong in his analysis of the process of heat on the water in meat (it expands not compresses), however, his work is important to the fields of cooking and gastronomy. Advancement and understanding do not come without experimentation and study. If you begin research (as many do) knowing your goal and your fact you are proving – then it is not science, it is not research. The difference in that time was that most of these people were seeking understanding and knowledge – they were experimenting to find the fact or understand the apparent result. For us Steampunk followers, knowledge is the beauty; you study to see what happens not to duplicate someone else’s work. We want to know what happens and why. Understanding the history and uses helps this, so cooking and cookbooks are tools in gastronomy as are all the methods of science and lab work.

eating objects - tuvie.com (one of several home gastronomic kits I saw)
eating objects – tuvie.com
(one of several home gastronomic kits I saw)

Works Cited

This, Hervé. 2002/ 2006. Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor. [ed.] Albert Sonnenfeld. [trans.] M. B. Debevoise. New York : Columbia University Press, 2002/ 2006. excerpts from The Physiology of Taste by Jean Brillat-Savarin, translated by M. F. K. Fisher, copyright 1949 by the George Macy Companies,. isbn 0 -231-13312-x.

The following page struck me as although interesting and gastronomic directed, very much a result of the fad seen today:

What is Molecular Gastronomy?