Friday, April 25, 2008

Food of the Week: Onions

With Tears of Joy, We Celebrate the Onion!

350 semi trucks full of this bulbous vegetables are consumed everyday in the United States. 18.3 pounds per person, per year….It seems that everyone is eating their onions! This veggie is everywhere, in our sauté pans, on the grill and even in our tears. This guy is action packed: versatile, healthful and historic!

The onion, a member of the Lily family, (which also includes leeks, chives and garlic) gets its name from the Greek word unio which means “only" or "single” because the plant can only produce one onion at a time. Click here to find out how the bulb is created, this is really cool! There are two classes of onions, spring onions that grow in warm climates and have a sweet taste. Think Vidalia or Walla Walla. The other variety is called "storage" onions, which include yellow, white and red onions. Their strong, pungent flavor comes from their long hibernation in a dry climate post-harvest.

Onions are native to ancient Asia and the Middle East and first popped their heads into the scene five thousand years ago. The Pharaohs used to pay their workers in onions and carry the spiritual veggie into their tombs for an afterlife snack.

Onions are really healthy, but this is the coolest bit: onions actually reduce internal swelling, alleviate allergy pressure, de-congest the chest and minimize asthmatic inflammation. Onions also help eliminate bad bacteria from the body. Mom was right about soup when you have a cold, but now that you’re older, think for yourself! Opt for French Onion!

But the real question remains….Why do onions make us cry? This phenomenon is due to the sulfuric acid in onions. To reduce your weeping, cut the root end last because that’s were the acid is most concentrated.

Eat ‘em!! Here are some easy ideas…..
cottage cheese + dried cranberries+ red onions=sweet and tangy salad bar snack
rice, quinoa or couscous + green onions + pine nuts = a party-worthy side dish

Want to get more creative? Try this: Grilled Red Onions with Balsamic and Rosemary

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bagel Recipe from Cooks Illustrated

This is a great recipe for first time bagel makers. Cooks Illustrated does a beautiful job explaining!

Because bagel dough is much drier and stiffer than bread dough, it takes longer for the ingredients to cohere during mixing. For this same reason, we recommend that you neither double the recipe nor try to knead the dough by hand. Most good natural foods stores carry barley malt syrup. High-gluten flour might be more difficult to find. You can order both the syrup and the flour from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalogue.

4 cups high-gluten flour
2 teaspoons table salt
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup or powder
1.5 teaspoons dry active yeast
1.25 cups water (lukewarm, 80 degrees)
3 tablespoons cornmeal , for dusting baking sheet
1/2 cup topping ingredients (optional), see step 7 for suggestions

Here we go! Let's Get Bagel-ing!
  1. Mix flour, salt, and malt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Add yeast and water; mix at lowest speed until dough looks scrappy, like shreds just beginning to come together, about 4 minutes. Increase to speed 2; continue mixing until dough is cohesive, smooth, and stiff, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Turn dough on to work surface; divide into eight portions, about 4 ounces each. Roll pieces into smooth balls and cover with towel or plastic wrap to rest for 5 minutes, (see picture 1, below)
  3. Form dough balls into dough rings (pictures 2 through 4), place on cornmeal-dusted baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (12 to 18 hours).
  4. About 20 minutes before baking, remove dough rings from refrigerator. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Fill large soup kettle with 3-inch depth of water; bring to rapid boil. To test the proofing of the dough rings, fill large bowl with cool water. Drop dough ring into bowl; it should float immediately to surface (if not, retest every 5 minutes).
  5. Working four at a time, drop dough rings into boiling water, stirring and submerging loops with Chinese skimmer or slotted spoon (picture 5), until very slightly puffed, 30 to 35 seconds. Remove rings from water; transfer to wire rack, bottom side down, to drain.
  6. Transfer boiled rings, rough side down, to parchment paper--lined baking sheet or baking stone. Bake until deep golden brown and crisp, about 14 minutes. Use tongs to transfer to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  7. To Top: Topping ingredients stick to the bagels best when applied to the dough rings just as they come out of the boiling water, while still wet and sticky from boiling, (picture 6).
Steps with Helpful Visual Hints!!
Divide the dough into eight even-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and cover the balls with a towel or a piece of plastic wrap for 5 minutes to rest them.

Form each dough ball into a rope 11 inches long by rolling it under your outstretched palms. Do not taper the ends of the rope.

Overlap the ends of the rope about 1 1/2 inches and pinch the entire overlapped area firmly together. If the ends of the rope do not want to stick together, you can dampen them slightly.

Place the loop of dough around the base of your fingers and, with the overlap under your palm, roll the rope several times, applying firm pressure to seal the seem. The bagel should be roughly the same thickness all the way around.

While boiling the bagels, press them down with the back of a slotted spoon or Chinese skimmer to keep them submerged.

To top the bagels, dunk them into a small bowl of desired topping.

Great Job Everyone! So Yummy!

Monday, April 14, 2008

If I Look Different, It's Because I've Turned into a Bagel

This time of year, with Lacrosse season and never ending brunches, my consumption of these delicious doughy devils rises through the roof! Please pass the cream cheese!

The bagel is an Eastern European creation crafted to honor the Polish King John III Sobieski in 1683 when he defended Vienna from a Turkish invasion. The yeasty dough was shaped into a circle to resemble a stirrup, symbolizing the hero king's favorite pass time. The bagel spread thoughout the jewish community and migrated west to the United States in the early 20th century. The Bagel Bakers Local 338 controlled the recipe and dominated the industry with teamsters-like influence. "My father ran a bakery in Brooklyn, but he never made a bagel because he couldn't get into the union, and they would have broken his legs if he made bagels without being in the union," said Michael Yoss, who owns Royal Bagel in Atlanta.*

Today, we've developed a taste for a soft squish that comes from using steam before baking the bagel instead of the traditional boiling method. Bagels used to have a thick crust and meaty inside, and the old-worlders lament the transformation of a long-time love into nothing more than dinner rolls.

Making bagels is a great way to spend an afternoon. When I rolled out and shaped my first test-bagel, I have to say the result was less than beautiful, but it tasted great!

Here is a recipe from Cooks Illustrated. I trust them implicitly.

*Molly O'Neill, "Bagels Are Now Fast Food, and Purists Do a Slow Boil," New York Times, April 25, 1993.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Costa Rica Part 4: Jugo para su salud!

Sitting on the balcony, wrapped in the warm summer air the jugos tasted great, but little did I know how great they are were for my body. I did a little digging and found some very cool history, great benefits for your tummy and a easy way to stay cool in the heat of the summer.

Historians and linguists have traced the chan plant to pre-Columbian times using just one word--Chianzotzolatole. The terms comes from the Nahuatl culture, a collection of the ancient peoples from Central and South America. I'm no Nahua expert, but the root of the word chia is the chan plant, and as a whole, Chianzotzolatole means Chan Juice! The Nahua used this clear, sweet drink to catch as a sweet respite from the summer sun. Today, the drink is a home remedy for upset tummies, inflammation, and high fever. The seeds themselves can be taken as a dietary supplement for potassium, calcium, vitamin B's, zinc and antioxidants. Both Chan and Linaza provide a easy way to get your daily does of fiber! Additionally, Linaza offers protection to the lining of our intestines! Maybe a little gross to think about, but definately really cool.