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Fad diets are “out” and healthy eating is “in”…

After overhearing a “fitness trainer” tell a client with kidney disease to consume a raw juice and protein shake diet filled with almost every substance on their “eat in moderation or do not eat” list, because it “will change your life”…I felt compelled to write a commentary on fads and extreme diets.  Extreme low-fat, no carb diets, paleo-diets and 100% raw food diets are just diet trends like neon colors and hot pants in the fashion world.  Moderation and variety keep you healthy, not colonics, extreme diets or weird diet regimes that have participants exclude broccoli, bananas or chocolate.

Extreme diets only benefit individuals with specific medical conditions in the long-term.  The most adamant followers of the latest diet trends soon jump into the next best thing in health and nutrition.  Short-term gain in your weight loss goals or a placebo induced mental boost that will fade with time are not worth “fitting in” with your health nut friends.  When people are new to healthy eating, like any other positive change, they want to share it with others, even if it means suggesting nutrition, exercise and lifestyles that may be harmful to someone else.  I am also not saying it is a good idea to obtain all your advice about nutrition from your doctor ( avg. 1 unit of training in medical school) or a nutritionist.  [ I have spoke with some doctors and nutritionist (with doctorates) who adamantly believe that you will suffer from severe nutrient deficiencies if you don’t consume red meat on a daily basis or that you will shorten your lifespan by eating a vegetarian diet].  You should do your own research on the newest diet crazes and ignore the hype.  Click on the hyperlink to the article cited in the next blurb you read about a supplement or food to omit from your diet.  Who sponsored the study?  What is the source–a new business owner promoting the “diet”, a science journal, a national health study or a trusted doctor, nutritionist or herbalist without any personal gain in the endorsement?

Check out the new study by Purdue University on absorption fat-soluble carotenoids – compounds such as lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin.  Low-fat and fat-free dressings prevent your body from benefiting from all of the nutrients in your meal and will also leave you craving food later, thus causing you to consume more calories in your overall diet.   Quality over quantity is a good mantra to follow in your goal toward good health and nutrition.

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Happy National Tequila Day….time for a Margarita.

Picture of the best Margarita… or what’s left of it. Forgot to take a photo before drinking it.

What did you do yesterday on National Tequila Day?  Okay, so we all know this is a holiday created by corporations to sell liquor and not an actual holiday…so what, have fun and drink a little.

I really enjoy a good Tequila.  I love the taste and it is one of the few hard alcohols I can drink straight without coughing or feeling like I am drowning.  My favorite way to drink Tequila is in a classic Margarita on the rocks; not the dayglow, green crap made with a Margarita mix, sweet and sour, or toxic sludge that looks like something out of Springfileld’s nuclear power plant on the Simpson’s.  I like my Margaritas with freshly squeezed lime juice, Triple Sec and high quality Tequila– and a little orange blossom honey if I’m in the mood for a sweeter version.

Mezcal makes a great substitute for a stronger flavored drink.

Some people like to add agave syrup, but I think it overpowers the more delicate notes in a good quality Tequila and is too syrupy.  Also, agave is a good gimmick to sell your product and make health food trendoids buy it—“OMG,  two products made from the agave plant are in my drink!”.  Try a good quality honey instead,  it will add to the subtle notes of the Tequila and the balance out the sour flavors, not mask them.

Here is my recipe for the best sweetened classic Margarita—you can also leave out the honey for an old-style version.

2 oz  Top Shelf or better quality Tequila or Mezcal
1 oz  Triple Sec (Cointreau is the best, but if you have good quality Tequila, any top shelf orange liquore will do.)
1-2 T Fresh squeezed lime juice
1-2 T Orange Blossom Honey (use good quality, local honey—the type of honey really does make a difference)

Coarse sea salt for the rim.

Pour the Tequila, Triple Sec and freshly squeezed lime juice (Don’t use the bottled stuff!) into your mixing container.  Add honey and let it sit for a few minutes before mixing.  This will make it easier to mix and dissolve the honey.

Rub rim of the serving glass with lime, dip in salt and add a few ice cubes.

Pour, garnish with lime and enjoy!  Simple, natural and additive free.

And yes, I purposely leave off the Oxford commas on non-academic writing, unless it is necessary for clarification.  It looks cleaner and more modern.  My blog, my choice, my body of writing.

Have you tried Toona? And we’re not talking about the vegan fish product…

Oniony-Garlicky Herbal Umami

Variety is truly the spice of life, as well as a necessary component to ensure you receive all of the nutrients you need in your diet.  If everyone pledged to try at least one new fruit, vegetable, legume, nut or other food item at least once a week, we could spark a revolution in the American food system.  Our supermarkets would be forced to sell a larger variety of fruits and vegetables, no longer relegating the American meal to a choice of the “20 most common produce items” sold in most markets.  Even the staunchest, habitual, stuck-in-a-rut diner can learn to find variety interesting and maybe even necessary in their daily consumption of comestibles.

For example, before Neri and I met his diet consisted of three main dishes:

  1. “add water to reconstitute” dried vegan chili (from the Kresge Co-Op) with a tortilla bowl topped with cheese; or
  2. a mustard sandwich (mustard, bread and nothing else); or
  3. rice drenched in soy sauce, occasionally with peas (we won’t even mention what a faux pas this is in some Asian cultures)

One or two of these dishes would be his lunch and dinner for an entire week during college.  Not because he couldn’t afford to buy food, but because he was a bachelor who had no idea how to cook.  I, on the other hand, lived on a tight budget, but needed variety.  So I would bake biscuits, make cookies and prepare everything from African peanut stew to miso soup to stretch my dollars and guarantee a variety of tasty meals and treats each week.  Once we started living together, he grew less and less fond of his mustard sandwiches and pickier about what he ate.  If we miss a week at the Farmers’ Market, my husband laments that dinner will not be as interesting and usually he is correct.

Most people have never heard of or even tasted Toona.  I had eaten it in dishes many times before actually discovering what was imparting that wonderful herbal, oniony-garlicy, umami flavor.  Toona aka (Toon or Chinese mahogany)  is harvested from a tree in the Mahogany family, Toona sinensis.  The tender spring leaves and shoots are eaten and used medicinally in China.  Locally, I find Toona at the Farmers’ Market sold by farm specializing in Taiwanese vegetables.  I find the best way to eat Toona and savor its unique flavor is to add it to scrabbled eggs or a simple salad.  There are numerous Chinese recipes that use 4 or more cups of Toon for a sauce or main dish, but at 75¢ or more per branch (which yields 1/4 to 1/2 cup of leaves) I haven’t felt the urge to spend an additional $12 to $20 in cash at the farmers’ market.

Other great ways to savor Toon without blowing your budget :

  • toss about a 1/2 cup of leaves into fried rice (we generally pan fry it in a small amount of  oil)
  • season Chinese and Japanese style cucumber pickles
  • toss into a tofu salad in place of other herbs

Toon is one of the underutilized tree leaves used to season dishes in America (with the obvious cultural exceptions).  The other two are: Murraya koenigii or curry leaves and Citrus hystrix also known as Kaffir or Makrut lime leaves.  [Note that “Kaffir”  the term in common usage for the tree, fruit and leaf, is also a derogatory term in parts of Africa (similar to the “N” word in English-speaking countries).  Although I have tried to avoid using the term “Kaffir,” it is almost impossible find anyone that knows what you are looking for if you use other terms for the plant such as Makrut or Indonesian lime].

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Winter (Summer) Solstice in a Jar: Preserving Lemons

The finished product

As promised, a follow-up to the Mujaddara posting on how to make preserved lemons.  I actually wrote this several months ago, but it has been languishing in my draft box.  The posting is slightly updated, keeping the late winter theme.  I really liked lemons symbolizing the return of the sun and the promise of longer, warmer days to come.  If it seems untimely, try inserting  summer imagery for Winter as you read the article.

Winter Solstice, the day with the fewest hours of daylight, also celebrates the return of the sun.  I thought it was a fitting title since winter is the season for citrus, most notably the bright, sweet, aromatic Meyer lemon.  As the hours of sunlight increase, so do the number and variety of citrus fruits available.  A jar a brightly colored lemons always reminds me of  the bounty of the spring crops that are just around the corner.

Preserving lemons in salt has been done for centuries throughout Asia, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.  Perhaps the most well-known version is the Moroccan-style preserved lemon.  All you need is sea salt, small Meyer lemons and a large, non-reactive, non-corrosive container with a tight fitting lid.

Meyer lemons are closest to the varieties you would find in Morocco, but you can also make a batch with Eureka, Sorrento  or other thicker skinned varieties.  Other varieties may need a few weeks longer to mature into the jelly-like, gooey goodness that is the preserved lemon.  Recently, we identified our lemon tree as a Sorrento…yes, the limoncello lemon.  I am going to experiment by making a batch of preserved lemons with the Sorrentos and some limoncello.

A few weeks ago, this season’s first batch of preserved lemons finished maturing and was placed securely in my refrigerator.  Below is a picture of that jar made with Meyers.  [Note: The lemons have been stored in the refrigerator and the lemon juice becomes  a little cloudier].

solstice in a jar

Jar of Meyer Preserved Lemons.

The recipe for the lemons is pretty basic and inspired by recipes from Kitty Morse**:

  • 6-12 organic or non-sprayed lemons (Meyer is preferred, but any lemon will do)
  • 1/2-3/4 c sea salt (coarse or finely ground, must be iodine and additive free)
  • 1 large (quart) Mason jar or Pickl-It jar (with the plug not the airlock)
  • 1 Label for the jar–write the list the ingredients, processing method (fermentation) and date (end of fermentation period)

The mason jar or other container should be thoroughly washed in hot, soapy water or the dishwasher and allowed to air dry. (Some recipes call for sterilization, but I haven’t read any scientific studies on why this is safer in the case of fermentation–but REMEMBER TO ALWAYS sterilize jars that will be water bath processed for less than 10 minutes).

Wash the lemons under running water and dry completely.  Cut the lemon into quarters leaving the bottom 1/4 of the lemon attached (this will make a pocket to stuff with salt and allow for a more appealing presentation in the jar).  Next, pack each lemon with salt, hold quarters together and gently place into the jar—press down lightly to release the juice.  Continue stuffing and packing the lemons into the jar until it is almost filled, leaving enough space so the lemons do not touch the lid).  Now you have two choices to completely submerge all of the lemons in the jar:

  1. Squeeze fresh lemon juice until you have enough to completely cover the lemons, or
  2. Allow the lemons to sit on the counter for 24 hours and see if enough juice is released.  [If not, follow step one.]

Place the jar on your counter or in a sunny window (either way will work): 4-6 weeks (thin-skinned lemons) or 6-8 weeks (thick-skinned lemons).  Shake the contents once or twice a day to evenly distribute the salt and juice.*  Some recipes suggest refrigerating the contents after fermentation, others recommend leaving the jar on the counter.  I usually place my jars in the refrigerator since I don’t use the lemons in a short period of time.  It is a personal preference, so go with the choice that makes you feel comfortable.  Also, if you store the lemons outside the refrigerator, use within 1 year.

FERMENTATION SAFETY: THE PRODUCT SHOULD ALWAYS REMAIN BENEATH THE BRINE

In terms of safety, each year more studies show fermentation to be one of the safest forms of food preservation.  I have not heard about or read any studies or cases of individuals being poisoned by high-salt fermentation products (outside of an individual eating something that was obviously spoiled–foul smelling, moldy or a product not submerged in the brine) .  Most preserved lemons sold commercially are not truly fermented and are processed by pickling and canning.

I use a glass weight to ensure the lemons remain completely submerged during fermentation and storage.  Pickl-It sells glass weights that fit in their jars and will fit in some wide-mouth mason jars.   Pickle Perfect sells weights that fit in  pint and quart jars canning jars.

* If using glass or stone weights, gently shake the jar to avoid cracking the jar or weight.

**If you are not familiar with Kitty or her cookbooks, she is the leading expert on all things Moroccan, especially food.  Kitty’s new book, Mint Tea and Minarets will be out soon.  I recommend following her on her facebook page and her blog, Kitty Morse Moroccan Cuisine.  I was fortunate enough to meet her in-person during our winter vacation.  She was a gracious host, serving us mint tea (of course) and giving us a tour of her Moroccan-style home—including her kitchen.

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Leftover Makeover: White Bean, Quinoa, Carrot Patties with Fennel-Spiced Greens and Garlicky Yogurt

vegetarian beans quinoa yogurt leftovers makeover

A delicious way to use leftover beans and grains.

Do you ever have the same leftovers on multiple nights?  Maybe you prepared a large pot of beans, brown rice or barley to eat during the week.  Sometimes we make a little too much of a good thing and soon grow weary of eating it.  What is a waste-conscious cook to do?  Although I love eating beans and greens, and can do so for several meals during the week, I often dread eating the same or similar dish too many nights in a row.   I had the remnants of a large pot of navy beans and leftover quinoa sitting my refrigerator, but didn’t want to eat quinoa topped with warm beans.  While rummaging through my refrigerator, I remembered a delicious “meat” loaf I used to make with carrots and tofu…which is the inspiration for these patties.  I chose to bake the patties, but you may also fry the bean patties (lightly dipped in flour) like falafel or pan fry the fully baked patties patties for a different texture.  To complete the meal, I served the patties on a bed of fennel spiced greens with a garlicky yogurt sauce. The flavors of cumin, mint, fennel and sesame seeds in the individual dishes complimented each other and added to the overall umami of the meal.

Carrot Navy Bean Patties

3 cups   Navy beans, drained (may substitute another white bean)

3/4 cup Quinoa

2 eggs

1 T  extra virgin olive oil

1 large carrot grated or shredded

4 cloves of garlic

1 large shallot chopped

2 T sesame seeds

1 T dried parsley

1 tsp cumin

1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp dried mint

fresh pepper/salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Shred carrots in the food processor. Leave carrots in the bowl and switch out to the standard blade.  Adds beans, quinoa, garlic, shallot and spices.  Blend until finely chopped then add olive oil and pulse into mixture until smooth.  Remove mixture into a medium size bowl.  Add beaten egg into mixture until blended.  If mixture is too moist, add bread crumbs or 1 T of flour.

Mixture after beaten egg has been folded in.

Form into small 3″x 1/2″ patties and place on oiled baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes on each side.

Check to see if bottom of patty is fully browned before turning.  Then carefully flip each patties over to cook on the other side. Remove patties from baking sheet and place onto a plate.

leftover makeover carrot beans quinoa

The recipes for the Fennel Spiced Kale and Garlicky Yogurt sauce are below.  You may also use the patties like falafel and serve in a pita or make a “meat” loaf sandwich.

Fennel Spiced Kale

2 bunches of kale (preferably Red Kale), chopped with stems removed.

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 to 2 cloves of garlic

1 tsp freshly ground fennel seeds

1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

1/2 tsp salt

Heat oil on medium heat then add garlic, saute for a few minutes (do not brown).  Add paprika and saute until lightly darkened. Add kale and cover pan with lid.  When kale has wilted, add fennel and salt and toss. Cover and turn heat to low simmering for 5 minutes.  Add extra water or broth if leaves are sticking to pan.

Garlicky Yogurt

2 cups of homemade whole milk yogurt (or any plain yogurt you have in the frig)

1/2 tsp salt

1 minced clove of garlic

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp Meyer lemon juice

Whisk yogurt in a bowl until smooth. Add salt, garlic, oil and lemon juice.  Whisk until thoroughly blended.  Chill for 30 minutes or more.

vegetarian leftovers beans yogurt

Plated carrot navy bean patties with greens and sauce.

Leftover Makeovers: New Weekly Posting Debuting This Week

Cranberry-beans-staple-bulk-food-prepLeftovers don’t have to be stale repeats of your last lunch or dinner.  A few tweaks are all that is necessary to makeover that leftover dish or an entire meal. My favorite twist is to add more vegetables or a different protein combined with complimentary spices from a different cuisine.  Surprisingly little preparation is needed  to create a substantially different dish.  Each week I will be posting a leftover makeover from one of Neri’s meals over the past few weeks.

Rather than lecture about food waste in the United States (which various statistics place at somewhere between 25% to 50% of food in an average American home) I hope to inspire everyone to be more conscientious through creative “reuse” and preparation of food on a weekly basis.

It is easy to take leftovers from a night out or from food prepared at home and create a “new” meal the next day.  I will also discuss preparing foods in bulk, such as beans, quinoa, rice and roasted vegetables, and use them to prepare significantly different meals from the same staple ingredient during the week.

Slow food is possible on a busy schedule with a little preparation and planning.

Homemade Granola — The Perfect Weekday Breakfast

Maple Pecan Granola

I love granola and so does Neri.  We eat it for breakfast with milk, soy milk or yogurt  and on Greek yogurt with fruit and honey for dessert or as a late afternoon snack. There is something much more satisfying about the taste of homemade granola.  The problem with store-bought granola–too many fillers like puffed rice, too few nuts and dried fruit pieces and often, too many artificial ingredients.

Making your own granola is simple, cheaper (generally speaking) and so much healthier for you and the environment. How is this better for you and the environment?

  1. Fewer boxes and bags to toss in the trash.
  2. Increases your daily consumption of whole foods–no fillers in the homemade version.
  3. Decreases your intake of artificial ingredients and by-product made from soy, corn and other non-food crops that giant corporations produce in excess, making it is in their best interest to promote and encourage the consumption of large quantities of low quality, junk food.

Off the soap-box and into the kitchen…My standard granola recipe was inspired by recipes from Molly Katzen and Martha Stewart.  Cookbooks are a great source of inspiration or an excellent resource to find basic proportions for a specific dish to ensure a more successful recipe born of your own creativity.  This granola is not too sweet, but extremely flavorful.  After making the initial recipe, try experimenting with different rolled grains, nuts, seeds, oils, liquid sweeteners and flavorings.

Homemade granola also makes a great ice cream topping, a quick fruit crisp topping with addition of flour, sweetener and butter or a base for a homemade trail mix.

I use a clay or stoneware dish (Emile Henry or Le Creuset are my favorites) approximately 9 x 12 or larger baker instead of a baking sheet.  You can use rimmed baking sheet, but you will need to watch the granola more carefully to avoid burning the nuts and smaller ingredients.

A clay or other stoneware dish will slowly and more evenly toast the granola than a metal baking sheet.  Set your timer for 5- 10 minute increments to check batch for browning and to toss the grains.  Once you know how your oven works with the recipe you may be able to set the timer for 15 minutes for the first round and then every 10 minutes.

Good luck and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Maple Pecan Granola

  • 3 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut
  • ¼ tsp white sesame seeds (raw not toasted)
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 6 tsp walnut or other nut oil
  • 6 T pure maple syrup
  • 1-2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven 325℉.

2. Using a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and gently toss together until dry ingredients are thoroughly coated.

3. Spread mixture evenly in a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet.

4. Bake until golden brown. Total time is approximately 20-40 minutes, depending on your oven. For your first batch check every 10 -15 minutes when using the baking dish and every 5-10 minutes with the baking sheet.**

5. After the first 10-15 minutes, toss the grain and spread out evenly as well as rotating the pan to ensure even cooking. Check and toss as necessary. Average time to cook- 30 minutes.

6. Remove when golden brown. Cool completely and store in an air tight container at room temperature.  Will keep up to 2 weeks.

**After gauging your oven’s cooking time you may increase the amount of time between checking the granola.

Laguna Hills Farmers Market–April 23, 2010

After leaving late and realizing I only had 10 dollars in cash for the market, I finally made it to my Friday morning destination.  This week’s bounty–arugula, red and yellow onions, mesclun, garlic, rapini, cilantro, lemons, kumquats, Asian pears, sugar snap peas, fava beans, avocados and Chinese eggplants. I always hit my 4 favorite vendors first and then look for items they don’t carry elsewhere.  Unfortunately, one of my favorite bakeries in OC, Bread Gallery in San Clemente, does not have a stall at this market. [Gunther and his wife Dawn make some of the best bread]

The amount of  produce at Ha Orchards is slowly shrinking as production slows on the apple and Asian pear trees.  Ha is my favorite purveyor of apples, pears and related jams–growing rare Asian varieties of apples as well as standards such as Fiji and Gala–and not the sand-textured ones available commercially, but red and yellow orbs of juicy, crunchy goodness.

Once you shop at the Farmers Market and grow your own vegetables, the produce at the grocery stores will no longer taste fresh. Even Whole Foods, which has some of the best grocery store produce in OC,  is still “less-than” the produce straight from the farm.

The only thing left to do is to decide what to make with my fresh produce!

Sugar Snap Peas are great fresh and raw.  My favorite recipes for cooked sugar snap peas is simple, easy and delicious.

1/2- 3/4  pound of fresh sugar snap peas

1 T of Meyer Lemon Juice-freshly squeezed

2 T of Extra Virgin Olive Oil-a good bottle from a single olive variety

3 cloves of fresh garlic

Salt/Pepper to taste

1. Whisk together Meyer Lemon juice, EV Olive oil and salt and pepper.  Add finely chopped cloves of garlic. Let stand while cooking peas.

2. Steam or Parboil peas until barely cooked. ( bright green color -2-5 minutes depending on technique)

3. Strain peas and rinse with cold water.

4. Add to dressing, toss and serve.

5. Peas taste great eaten right away, after sitting for a few hours, or heated gently as leftovers.

BONUS RECIPE

Increase the Meyer Lemon juice to 2 T and the EV Olive Oil to 3 T.  Make 2 to 3 servings of pasta and toss with peas and dressing.  Add freshly grated Pecorino or Reggiano cheese.

MMMMMMMMmmmm…fresh, yummy spring in a bowl.

Travel the world through your spice rack.

Ever since I was a child I have been eating my way through the culinary spectrum. Even at the tender age 6, I would eat any vegetable and would try anything that was new and interesting.  Jelly fish, caviar, lobster, venison and even broccoli were devoured and savored. Even now, as a vegetarian of over 20 years, I still find new and interesting things to eat.

 The jewel of my pantry is my spice rack. It contains everything I need to travel to India on one night and to Spain on the next.  There are four staples in my pantry that I am constantly using to enhance my meals. Sumac, Pimenton (Smoked Paprika), Saffron and Hungarian Paprika. I believe that everyone should have these four versatile spices in their pantry.

SUMAC is the bright purple-red berry found on the Rhus coriaria, a bush, that grows wild in the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Unlike its toxic cousins, poison sumac and poison ivy, the berry of this rhus plant can be dried and crushed into an edible souring agent. Try it in place of lemon juice, vinegar or other sour flavors in soups, salads, dressings or dry rubs. In the United States this spice is often sprinkled on a Fattoush salad or used as an accent on yogurt or hummus. Persian, Lebanese and Arab restaurants often have a container of sumac sitting along side the salt and pepper shakers. Sumac is great sprinkled on a cucumber salad or to brighten a bowl of canned soup. Try a little with your next meal and experience the versatility of this amazing little berry.

PIMENTON DE LA VERA, a smoked paprika popular in Spanish cooking, is one of the most underrated spices. Recently, this spice has been in the spotlight due to recent interest in food magazines and television. I have been cooking with Pimenton for years. Until the last few years, it was only available in ethnic grocery stores and on-line. This rich, aromatic powder is made from the beautiful pimiento. The pepper is smoked with oak, dried and then ground into a fine powder. This spice like Champagne in France or a regional olive oils in Italy has a PDO or protected designation of origin known as Denominacion de Origen in Spain. This means that only designated growers and spice producers can use this term for their smoked paprika. There are three main types of pimenton: dulce, agriducle and picante (sweet, bittersweet and hot). The hot variety does not have the heat of chilies, but adds a depth of flavor to your dish. Pimenton enhances everything including pan-fried perogies, tofu cutlets, grits, soups and bean dishes. Pimenton is also used to flavor Spanish chorizo and other meat dishes. If you like deep, smoky flavors, you will love pimenton whether it is sweet, bittersweet or hot.

SAFFRON, the world’s most expensive spice is also one of the culinary world’s most distinctive flavors. This red-orange jewel imparts an earthy but honey-like flavor to many popular dishes around the world. Imagine risotto Milanese, shirin polo, paella, bouillabaisse, or saffron buns without the flavor of this aromatic stigma. Saffron is made from the stigmas of a purple crocus. Today Kashmir and Spain are top producers of saffron, producing the highest quality and most sought after product. Each pound of dried saffron is made from between 200 to 250 thousand hand-picked stigmas or close to one hundred thousand flowers. Saffron gives each dish a delicate golden yellow color and flavor. Saffron should be used as the main flavor in any dish that also uses warm or hot milk, water or broth. If you feel like a culinary treat, purchase some high quality saffron and prepare a dish featuring this fragrant, intoxicating spice.

HUNGARIAN PAPRIKA is made from capsicum annuum, a shrub from the nightshade family that produces this wonderful pod. Hungarian paprika is considered the superior paprika. It has a sweet complex flavor that does more than accent your deviled eggs. It can be used in many of the same dishes as pimenton de la vera, but without the smoky flavor. It is a staple in Hungarian cooking and is used to flavor meats, goulash, sour cream sauces and salads. If you like the color of the common supermarket paprika, but long for more flavor this is your spice. The flavor is much sweeter than ground chili peppers and without the heat. Hungarian paprika is also sold in a hot variety and has more heat than the picante version of pimenton de la vera. There are more than two varieties of Hungarian paprika but the medium bodied version and hot are the most widely available in U.S. supermarkets. Hungarian paprika will add a whole new dimension to your cooking and your taste buds.

Now that you know more about these great spices, go out and try one or all of them. Don’t be afraid of adding more spice to your life.

*The program did not allow for accent marks and so they have been deleted to allow publication.

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