Saturday, September 27, 2008
Browned Butter Sauce
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves
black pepper to taste
Cook butter in small saucepan over medium heat until it is golden brown and has a nutty fragrance, about 4 or 5 minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. Remove pan from heat and add lemon juice. (It is very hot and it will foam, so be careful.) Stir in sage and pepper. Pour over gnudi.
Makes ¼ cup of sauce. Allow 1 to 2 tablespoons per serving.
(C) 2008, Judy Barnes Baker
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I spent a lot of time on this recipe a while back but never published it on my blog. It was luscious, gorgeous, and very easy, so why didn't it make the cut? Because I couldn't figure out a way to do an accurate nutrition count. I decided to post it anyway and see if anyone out there could come up with a solution (other than actually paying to have the final dish analyzed, which would probably cost hundreds of dollars). If you read the recipe, you will see the problem: how to determine how much of the flour actually winds up in the gnudi. Weighing the ingredients and the final product doesn't work because there is no way to tell how much the water content changes. I also tried several flour alternatives, thinking that it would at least be lower in carbs than the original, but nothing worked quite like real semolina.
Gnudi with Browned Butter Sauce
Gnudi means "naked" in Italian (they are also called malfatti which means "badly made," because of their irregular shape). These tender little ricotta dumplings are like ravioli that make their own pasta wrappers. Even an authentic Italian gnudi would have less starch than ravioli, because the pasta covering is a perfect fit with no edges or corners. Perhaps two or three could be served as an appetizer even if a meal-sized portion turns out to be too high in carbs.
8 ounces of fresh, whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/8 cup of heavy cream, more if needed
4 cups total of semolina flour
Place ricotta in a strainer over a bowl and drain for 1 hour. Put the ricotta, salt, and cream in a bowl and mix until smooth. It should be moist but firm; add more cream if needed. It should hold its shape when rolled into a ball.
Spread 3 cups of the semolina evenly on a sheet pan. Place the remaining 1 cup of semolina in an even layer in an 8- x 4-inch container with a lid or use a loaf pan and plastic wrap.
Using a measuring spoon, scoop out 1-teaspoon-sized portions of the cheese mixture and place on a sheet pan. Roll gently until lightly coated. Roll between your hands to shape into round balls. Place balls in the container, making sure that they do not touch. Pour the semolina left on the sheet pan over the balls to cover. Seal the container and refrigerate for 48 hours.
Remove the gnudi from the container and place on another pan. Refrigerate, uncovered, for one or two more days.
Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer. Cook the gnudi for 2 to 3 minutes, or just until warm in the middle. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel-lined plate. (Cook one as a test; wait another day if it disintegrates in the water.) Top with grated Parmesan and serve with Browned Butter Sauce, or use any pasta sauce.
Makes about 30 gnudi.
Tip: Semolina is a coarse-grained, yellow-colored, wheat flour. You may find it in the bulk bins so you can buy only as much as you need.
This recipe is based on one developed by Scott Staples of Restaurant Zoë in Seattle.
Next: Browned Butter Sauce
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
The last IACP newsletter announced that Jennifer’s new book, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes, was due out this month. I fired off an e-mail to her to find out when it would be out (Sept 1) and asked for a picture to post on my blog. She sent me a pdf but warned that she uses sugar and carbs in some of her recipes, which I already knew from looking at her blog and reading the information on her Amazon page. Never mind; she champions the healthful qualities of fat, and I’m convinced that if we had never abandoned good, natural fat, we in the US could probably still eat sugar too. (Jennifer grew up in Australia and now lives in Toronto.)
She said, “It took a long time for publishers to talk to me.” (And she’s an award-winning author!) “The opening chapter is all about the importance of animal fat in our diet and why in the last 30 years we have been (wrongly) convinced to cut it out....It gives us energy. It boosts the immune system and some fats have antimicrobial properties. Others can lower bad cholesterol. There are vitamins that are only fat-soluble. Your brain is mainly made of fat and cholesterol, as are the membranes of your cells. It helps you digest protein, which is why you should eat chicken with crispy skin or well-marbled steak." She points out that we have been eating animal fats for thousands and thousands of years. If it had been that bad for us we probably would not be here.
Fat includes recipes such as Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel and Rosemary, Duck Confit, Carnitas, and Butter-Poached Scallops. Stories, lore, quotations, and tips about fat’s place in culinary history and traditional cultures round out what is described as a “plump, juicy, and satisfying read for food lovers.” It contains 35 color pictures, as of course it would, seeing as how the author is herself a professional food stylist.
It’s still a hard sell. She proposed a seminar on animal fats for the 2009 IACP conference, but she says, “surprise, surprise, they didn’t go for it.” Later this month, the venerable CIA (Culinary Institute of America), one of the most respected organizations in the food world, and The Harvard Medical School are jointly sponsoring a conference called “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives.” Both promote a plant-based diet. Harvard's “Eat, Drink and Weigh Less Food Pyramid” features a base of "daily exercise and weight awareness” followed by lots of fruits and vegetables, plant oils and whole grains. Nuts, tofu, legumes, fish, seafood, poultry, and eggs are next, then dairy foods, vitamins, and red wine. At the tippy-top are lean red meats, bread, white flour, desserts, and soft drinks. Apparently, both the culinary and the medical establishments have endorsed Michael Pollan’s now famous conclusion from In Defense of Food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Obviously, as Jennifer told me, “We have a lot of hard work ahead of us.” True, but we are making progress, and emerging science supports those of us who embrace butter, lard, duck fat, bacon, marrowbones, and tallow for the life enhancing substances that they are. Hopefully, I won’t be the lone pariah at the next IACP convention.
(Here’s my rewrite of Michael Pollan’s seven-word slogan: Eat Fat. All you want. Stay healthy.)
Fat can be ordered from Amazon Here: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Appreciation-Misunderstood-Ingredient-Recipes/dp/0771055773/ref=sr_1_2/002-2385511-2323269?ie=UTF8&s=
Jennifer’s blog: http://jennifermclagan.blogspot.com/
© 2008, Judy Barnes Baker
Monday, September 8, 2008
Other studies have found that the spice can lower blood pressure and improve insulin function(2), that it delays stomach emptying and reduces the rise in blood glucose after eating(3), and that it may alleviate diabetic complications by preventing the formation of advanced glycation endproducts, aptly called by the acronym, AGEs, because of the role they play in aging. Dr. Anderson and his team tested all species of cinnamon and numerous commercial brands and reported that all worked in a similar way. They identified the active substances as polyphenolic type-A polymers that may function as antioxidants and be beneficial in the control of glucose intolerance and diabetes(4).
Since the insulin-like properties of cinnamon were discovered, it has become a popular treatment or prophylactic for insulin resistance and diabetes. Many people assume that if a little is good, more is better, but there is a potential danger in taking too much or the wrong kind. Cinnamon contains coumarin, an anti-coagulant and possibly carcinogenic substance that can cause liver inflammation.
The European Food Safety Authority concluded that the TDI (tolerable daily intake) for coumarin is 0.0002 ounces per day for a 130-pound adult, an amount easily exceeded during the Christmas holidays and that as little as three cinnamon cookies could contain enough of the toxin to harm a small child. If the amount is exceeded for a short time only, it may be reversible in a few weeks, but taking supplements made from powdered cinnamon bark regularly may not be such a good idea(5). Courmarin from other sources must also be included in the total. These include some brands of vanilla, especially ones from Mexico, which may contain an extract of tonka beans (Dipteryx odorata), perfumes, herbs such as red clover, sweet woodruff, fenugreek, chamomile, sweet grass, and tarragon, and of course blood-thinning medications such as Coumadin®. Aspirin and NSAIDS could intensify the blood-thinning effect.
[One caveat: the science is not unanimous. For example, a recent meta-analysis of five previous studies concluded that, “Cinnamon does not appear to improve A1C, fasting blood glucose, or lipid parameters in patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes”(6 ). Many people with diabetes test their blood glucose levels frequently and may be able to determine for themselves if it is helpful. Those of us who eat a low-carb diet may not see additional benefits from cinnamon supplementation, since we have already reduced our need for insulin. At any rate, it is doubly important that those who use it are doing so in a way that does no harm.]
There are two kinds of cinnamon, but product labels do not usually specify the type. Ceylon, or true cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), is a pale tan color; it is milder, sweeter, and more expensive than cassia. Cassia, or common cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia), is redder, stronger in flavor, and cheaper in price. Most of the cinnamon sold in the US is cassia rather than true cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon sticks are tight rolls of thin layers; cassia sticks are hollow tubes of thicker bark. Here’s a site that has pictures to help with identification: http://www.ceylon-cinnamon.com/Identify-Cinnamon.htm. Cassia cinnamon contains 0.5% coumarin, while Ceylon contains only 0.0004%.
The beneficial compounds in cinnamon are soluble in water. Coumarin is not, so a water extract of cinnamon will not contain any of the hazardous substance. Dr. Anderson recommends that anyone who wants to take more than ¼ to 1 teaspoonful a day should use a water extract rather than powdered cinnamon.
Additional advice from Dr. Anderson was on the Eureka Alert! Website operated by AAAS, the Science Society: “…Eating great quantities of cinnamon straight from the can is not a good idea. Table cinnamon is not water soluble, meaning it can build up in the body with unknown consequences.” Second, powered cinnamon has another limitation. Saliva contains a chemical that negates its effect. Dr. Anderson experienced a 60-point decline in cholesterol only after he switched from sprinkling cinnamon on his cereal to taking it in a capsule. Read the article here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2006-04/foas-cci032206.php.
Cinnamon supplements are widely available but many brands don't give any information about what kind they contain or how it is processed. I have not been able to find one that contains only the water extract at my local stores, however a quick look online turned up several that claim to be 100% water extracted. You may find others. Here are the ones I found:
CinnaBetic II by Wonder Labs. Read about it here:
http://www.wonderlabs.com/itemleft.php?itemnum=HE20&ad=goochoccibcinnwater&gclid=CK_diIir4ZQCFQgWiQodPnb_SQ. It can be ordered here: http://www.outletnutrition.com/ciiicipfexof.html.
Pure Liquid™ Cinnamon Extract by NuNaturals. The Web address is: http://www.nunaturals.com/products/cinnamon.html.
This one says it is based on Dr. Anderson’s research: Doctor’s Best Cinnulin PF® from Integrity Nutraceuticals International. Web address: http://www.drbvitamins.com/nutritionalproducts_summary.asp?id=9. It is not sold from the Website; online sources and retail stores are listed here: http://www.drbvitamins.com/buyhealthsupplements.asp.
Tips for cinnamon use:
True to my Southern roots, I drink iced tea year round, and since I don’t always have room for a pitcher in the refrigerator, I put a cinnamon stick in the pot before adding the hot water. Another plus, if you use a microwave to heat the water, it will heat much faster if you put a stick of cinnamon in the pot first. The sticks can be dried and reused.
In addition to its potential health benefits, cinnamon has a preservative effect, even at levels too low to taste, and it will help keep the tea fresh and mold-free. I also included a small amount in my recipe for bread to retard spoilage.
1. Valerie Reitman, A dash of cinnamon may help, The Los Angeles Times, January 26, 2004.
2. Georgetown University Medical Center study reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2006 (Vol. 25, pp. 144-150), http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=17675769.
3. J. Hlebowicz, G. Darwiche, O. Bjorgell, L.O. Almer, "Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007, Vol. 85, No. 6, Pages 1552-1556.
4. Peng X, Cheng KW, Ma J, Chen B, Ho CT, Lo C, Chen F, Wang M., Cinnamon bark proanthocyanidins as reactive carbonyl scavengers to prevent the formation of advanced glycation endproducts, J Agric Food Chem., 2008, Mar 26;56(6):1907-11. Epub 2008 Feb 20.
5. BFR Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Selected Questions about coumarin in cinnamon and other foods, Updated FAQs, 30 October 2006, http://www.bfr.bund.de/cd/8487.
6. Baker WL, Gutieerrez-Williams G, White CM, Kluger J, Coleman CI, Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose Control and Lipid Parameters, Diabetes Care, 2008 Jan; 31:41-43. Epub 2007 Oct 1.
For more information, go to Pub Med page: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez and type “cinnamon diabetes” in the search bar. You will find about 40 articles, including most of the ones cited here.
Penzys spices sells both cassia and true cinnamon online and through their stores. Here is a link to the Penzys Website: http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/c-SpicesAs_Herbs_and_Seasonings.html?id=p9RbW7MN.
Consult a knowledgeable health practitioner before starting supplementation if you have diabetes or are taking medications.
© 2008, Judy Barnes Baker