Thursday, April 23, 2009

Recipe File: Quinoa Paella with Chicken and Chorizo

In Whole Grains for Busy People, Lorna Sass gives you a crash course on the plethora of easy-to-make, tasty-to-eat grains that are readily available, and then goes a step further by sharing 125 tempting recipes that focus exclusively on the grains and how to bring out their maximum flavor. Want to incorporate some whole grains into your dinner tonight? Try this recipe.

* 1 pound boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

* 1 tablespoon olive oil

* 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika or other paprika

* ½ teaspoon granulated garlic

* ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

* 3½ cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed

* 1 tablespoon tomato paste

* 2 cups quinoa

* ½ cup finely chopped dry-cured chorizo

* 1 cup frozen peas

* ½ cup thin strips roasted red bell pepper, preferably fire-roasted

* 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a heavy 3-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat.

Brown the chicken pieces, using tongs to turn, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Turn off the heat and let the pan cool for a minute. Stir the paprika, garlic, and red pepper flakes into the hot oil in the pot.

Stir the broth into the pot, taking care to scrape up any browned bits sticking to the bottom. Blend in the tomato paste, and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the quinoa and chorizo. Cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 12 minutes.

Add salt to taste. Stir in the chicken. Cover and cook over low heat until the quinoa is done—it should have no opaque white dot in the center—and the chicken is cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. If the mixture seems dry and the chicken or quinoa is not thoroughly cooked, stir in a little more broth or some water, cover, and cook a few minutes longer.

Stir in the peas and roasted red pepper. Cover and let sit for 1 minute. Stir in the parsley just before serving.

Other ideas:

* Use cooked chicken or turkey; skip the browning step and simply stir it in for the last few minutes of cooking.

* Add 6 ounces peeled, medium shrimp; stir them in for the last few minutes of cooking.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Alfajores from Lake Grove, New York

A favored treat in South America, alfajores (pronounced AL-FA-HO-RES), are two round sweet and buttery biscuits joined together with delicious "dulce de leche" (a caramel-like spread) and covered with powdered sugar.

Rarely available in the U.S., alfajores are now available direct from Nelly's Alfajores in Lake Grove, New York. Visit their Booth in our Baked Goods section to purchase alfajores in stacks of Stack of 14, 20, 26, or in a gift tin holding 16.

Founded by Nelly Valverde, a native Peruvian, Nelly's Alfajores also offers chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. Look for links to Alfajores on the Cookies page as well as the Buy Direct Directory.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Weight: The Best in Toilet Paper

A Consumer Reports test of toilet papers wipes away some misconceptions about the cost of strength and softness.

While Quilted Northern Ultra Plush ($0.29 per 100 sheets) topped the tests in both categories, store brands like Costco’s Kirkland Signature and Wal-mart’s White Cloud were almost as good for about half the price.

Cottonelle Ultra ($0.37 per 100 sheets) and Scott Extra Soft ($0.13 per 100 sheets) also ranked high in the strength and softness tests.

Scott 1000 ($0.06 per 100 sheets) delivered the most sheets for the lowest price, but the individual sheets were thinner than most other brands tested.

Consumer Reports tested three recycled papers -- Marcal 1000, Marcal Sunrise, Seventh Generation rolls -- and found them favorably strong but lacking in softness.

The complete report on toilet paper is available in the May issue of Consumer Reports, on newsstands and online at

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Weight: Recalls

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Husbandry: Feeding Cull Cows Can Pay Off

After deciding which cows to cull from a herd, feeding them for a couple months before sending them off to market can be profitable.

Researchers at Kansas State University have found that by putting cows on concentrated feed for 70 to 90 days before sending them to market producers can add enough value to the animal to make it worthwhile, depending on the price of feed and the market for cows.

“This practice is not real prevalent,” said Michael Dikeman, meat scientist with K-State Research and Extension. “That’s why we think that there may be some lost opportunities out there.”

Dikeman, along with meat science specialist John Unruh, coordinated the efforts of research teams that included beef cattle specialist John Jaeger, meat science graduate students, and other faculty members.

Cows in one study netted nearly $172 per head, after considering purchase price, feed, supplements, trucking, check-off and yardage costs. The value of the cull cows was increased from $54.50 per 100 pounds to $77.00 per 100 pounds. The cost of gain averaged $80 per 100 pounds.”

Two studies were conducted at K-State’s Western Kansas Agricultural Research Center at Hays. In the first, 60 cows were split into equal number groups, each with different feeding scenarios for 70 days:
  • Grass only;
  • Concentrate diet;
  • Implanted with Revalor-200® plus a concentrate diet;
  • Concentrate diet plus feed additive Zilmax® (beta-agonist designed to improve ADG, feed efficiency, and muscling);
  • Implanted with Revalor-200®, fed concentrate diet, and fed Zilmax® the last 30 days (with three-day withdrawal period).

In the other study, 60 cows were separated into 12 pens, holding five cows each. The cows were four- to nine-year old Angus crossbreds. All were implanted with Revalor-200® (developed to enhance weight gain and feed efficiency). Each was fed a high-energy diet, and assigned one of four treatments:
  • Fed no beta-agonist (feed additives designed to increase feed efficiency and/or stimulate muscle production);
  • Supplemented with Optaflexx™ (beta-agonist) for the last 25 days of feeding;
  • Supplemented with Zilmax® (beta-agonist) for the last 20 days of feeding;
  • Supplemented with Optaflexx™ for 25 days, followed by Zilmax® for last 20 days of feeding.
“One thing about feeding a high concentrate diet is that with cows you can step up the diet to a high concentrate ration one to two weeks more quickly than you can with younger steers and heifers,” Dikeman said. “A cow’s rumen physiology is more mature and can handle higher concentrations of feed more quickly.”

In addition, cows that have been on grass or roughage only diets have yellow fat, which is not acceptable to most beef consumers. Putting cows on feed 70 to 100 days changes a cow’s fat to a white color, resulting in what the industry calls a “white cow.” The muscle takes on a more attractive color that is more typical of grain-fed animals and the marbling fat that the animal puts on makes the meat more tender and juicy.

“What we found across these studies,” Unruh said, “was that implanted-plus-grain and implanted-plus-Zilmax® plus grain should increase total gain, hot carcass weights, dressing percent, ribeye area, and total subprimal weight compared to grass-fed cows.”

The animal scientist warned that producers should be mindful of feed prices and seasonal trends in cow prices. March through August is when cow prices tend to be higher. It's a good idea to avoid those periods in the fall when there are more cows on the market because they didn’t conceive or in the late winter or early spring when a cow may have lost her calf.

Dikeman also cautioned that Zilmax® currently is only approved to feed to steers and heifers in feedlot finishing rations and Intervet, Inc. controls sales to be used only for steers and heifers. Experiments such as the two K-State studies are needed to determine if approval will come for cows. Revalor-200® can be used in any age cattle; Optaflexx™ can be purchased for diets of any age cattle, although the label does not state its use for cows.

The researchers also suggested that producers who intend to feed cull cows before marketing them should make sure they have an interested buyer before going through the process.

Source: Kansas State Research & Extension

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Recipe File: Mediterranean Pashtida

Pashtida is a Hebrew word derived from German (pastete) and Italian (pestette) . It has been used since the Middle Ages for any baked dish based on a batter of eggs and cheese, vegetables, meat, fish, or any combination thereof, with or without a crust. This dish by Uri Scheft of the Lechamim Bakery in Tel Aviv is adapted from "The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey" by Janna Gur (Schocken, $35). Cheese-based pashtidas like this one are a staple of Shavuot.

The Pastry Shell (Crust)

* 350 grams (12 1/2 ounces, 2 1/2 cups) flour
* 1 level teaspoon salt
* 250 grams (9 ounces) chilled butter, cut into pieces
* 70 milliliters (2 1/2 fluid ounces) cold water

The Filling

* 1 eggplant, diced
olive oil for baking
* 1 onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 leek (white part only), sliced thinly
* 3 sweet red peppers
* 1 cup fresh parsley or coriander, chopped
* 500 grams (1 pound 2 ounces) feta cheese, diced
* 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
70 grams (2 1/2 ounces) shelled pumpkin seeds

Sauce Royale

* 750 milliliters (1 1/2 pint, or 3 cups) whipping cream
* 4 eggs
* pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
* 2 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Prepare the pastry shell: Mix the flour and salt in a food processor. Add chilled butter and pulse until the mixture forms crumbs. Add water and pulse only until a ball of smooth dough is formed. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

2. Roll out a thin layer of dough on a well-floured surface and line the quiche pans. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

3. Prepare the filling: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Roast the peppers over an open flame until the skin is charred. Cool in a sealed plastic bag (to make peeling easier). Peel, remove seeds and membranes, and cut into strips.

5. Pour some olive oil over the eggplant and bake for about 20 minutes, until the cubes are light brown and tender. Remove but don’t turn the oven off.

6. Saute the onions and leeks in olive oil until they turn translucent. Remove from the pan and cool.

7. Prepare the Sauce Royale: Combine all the ingredients into a smooth mixture.

8. Assemble and bake: Spread the onion-leek mixture on the pastry shell, lay on the eggplant cubes and pepper strips, sprinkle with parsley or coriander and carefully pour on the sauce. Arrange the cheese cubes and cherry tomatoes and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.

9. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. If the quiche browns too quickly, cover with aluminum foil and remove the foil 5 minutes before taking the quiche out of the oven.

Makes two 10-inch quiche.

Book Stall Review: Mushrooms as Functional Foods

Mushrooms as Functional Foods
by Peter C. Cheung. Wiley-Interscience, 2008.

First introduced in Japan in the mid-1980s, the concept of "functional foods" suggests that foods are more than mere nutrients, but can have potent effects on the bodily functions of people who consume them. There is now worldwide interest in "food bioactives" that promote good health and disease prevention.

Functional foods from plants (oats, soy, flaxseed, broccoli, tomatoes, red wine, garlic) and animal sources (fish, dairy) have received considerable attention. Only recently have mushrooms become recognized for their anticancer, antiviral, immunopotentiating and hypocholesterolemic potential.

"Recently, many studies have found that edible mushrooms possess potent antioxidants," editor Peter Cheung points out. "Results indicate that mushrooms can be used as a potential dietary source of phenolic antioxidants to enrich the endogenous antioxidant status of the human body."

In six topical chapters, this comprehensive volume documents the nutritional value and health benefits of eating mushrooms, examines current methods of mushroom cultivation, and takes a careful look at the scientific evidence for anti-tumor actions in mushroom polysaccharides.

A useful reference for students, scientists, health care professionals, and food therapists, the book covers current trends in mushroom cultivation and research, including truffles, morels, and newly cultivated varieties.

A final chapter details regulatory issues regarding the use of mushrooms as functional foods and dietary supplements.

The Book Stall
Buy Direct: Mushrooms

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bites: Mushrooms Tops in Antioxidants

Penn State food scientists have found that mushrooms are a better natural source of the antioxidant ergothioneine than either of the two dietary sources previously believed to be best.

The researchers found that white button mushrooms, the most commonly consumed kind in the U.S., have about 12 times more of the antioxidant than wheat germ and 4 times more than chicken liver, the previous top-rated ergothioneine sources based on available data.

Numerous studies have shown that consuming fruits and vegetables which are high in antioxidants may reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. Ergothioneine, a unique metabolite produced by fungi, has been shown to have strong antioxidant properties and to provide cellular protection within the human body.

The Penn State researchers found that among the most commonly consumed mushrooms, portabellas and criminis have the most ergothioneine, followed closely by the white buttons. A standard 3-ounce USDA serving of these mushrooms, about the amount you'd put on a cheese steak or mushroom-topped burger, supplies up to 5 milligrams.

Exotic mushrooms have even more ergothioneine. The same standard serving size of shiitake, oyster, king oyster or maitake (hen of the woods) can contain up to 13mg in a 3-ounce serving or about 40 times as much as wheat germ.

The levels of ergothioneine do not decrease when the mushrooms are cooked, according to Joy Dubost, who led the Penn State study.

Source: Penn State

Farm Kitchen: Flame-Roasting Eggplants

Adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur (Schocken, 2008)

Roasting eggplants on an open flame can be messy, but is definitely worth the effort, as the smoky aroma adds immensely to the taste.

First, line your stovetop with aluminum foil.

Place a whole eggplant (or more than one if you are confident) on a rack over the open flame and roast, turning occasionally, until the skin is scorched and blackened, and the flesh feels soft when pierced with a wooden skewer or a fork.

The eggplant can also be broiled in the oven, or grilled on a charcoal barbecue.

Cool slightly (to aoid burning your hands) and peel, carefully removing every last bit of scorched skin, or cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a wooden spoon.

Ideally, roasted eggplant should be served shortly after roasting, and seasoned while still warm to ensure optimal absorption of every spicy nuance. But if you need to store it for later, drain the roasted flesh of excess liquid, cover with oil and refrigerate.

Season before serving.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Book Stall Review: The Book of New Israeli Food

The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey
by Janna Gur. Schocken, 2008.

Emerging from the remains of old Diaspora communities, Israel's new gastronomic culture is infused with history and alive with the fresh expressions of contemporary chefs.

This impressive oversize volume presents enticing foods and dishes, brilliantly illustrated with photographs by Eilon Paz and described in rich detail by the author. Gur's engaging text covers the basics of Israeli cuisine, from breakfast and breads to olive oil, cheese and wine. A back-of-the-book chapter on Special Ingredients covers many foodstuffs common to the Israeli larder.

The five main chapters present recipes that pertain to Salads etc. (Meze, Hummus, Tahini), The Street and the Market (Bourekas, Malabi, Bagels, Falafel), Simple Pleasures (Soups, Fish, Ptitim, Grill (Pargiyot, Kebab), Shabbat (Challah, Hamin, Chicken Soup), and Holidays (Passover, Shavout, Ramadan).

Culinary sidebars are included with instructions for flame-roasting eggplants, background information on gvina levana and gefilte fish and open-air markets.

The recipes are interesting without being complex, accessible to most home chefs with access to a good market, specialty foods store or online sources. The recipes are conveniently indexed both by main ingredients and alphabetically by title.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Open Air: Scappoose Farmers' Market

The Scappoose Farmers' Market in Scappoose, Oregon will will open May 16th for its 2009 season.

Regularlay held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays through September, the market will have extended hours during a Classic Auto & Truck Show on August 15th, and the famous Scappoose Sauerkraut Festival on September 19th.

Scappoose Farmers' Market

Oregon Farmers Markets Directory