Category Archives: Winter

A Brussels Sprouts Primer

Hurry, quick!  If you love Brussels Sprouts get them now before they leave the store.  In the US, fresh runs from about June to January.  But DID YOU KNOW…they get their name from where they were originally mass cultivate – Brussels Belgium?  They’ve been widely enjoyed since the 1500’s over there…but just in the 20th century did they gain in popularity in the US.  Mostly from California, you can get them frozen all year round, but fresh is best.

LOADED with good stuff our bodies need, BS (you know what that means right? and it’s so fitting since they can smell like a fart if you overcook them 🙂 ) are a super food.  Coming from the cruciferous veggie category, they contain the metals and micronutrients we need along with loads of Vitamins A, C, K, and B6, not to mention folic acid and fiber.

Lula’s BS recipes include but are not limited to Roasted (simple and our favorite),  Dijon Garlic, and a magnificent festive Fennel & Pomegranate Salad.  Relax…they won’t make YOU smell like a fart!

Subtly Cinnamon

Sweet Potato-Bourbon Shortbread w.Maple Pecan Streusel

EVERYBODY knows about cinnamon, right?!?  I guess you know that there are two types of cinnamon – both are the bark of trees.   There is the Cassia tree, and there is the Ceylon tree.

Volatile oils give cinnamon its strength.  Ceylon Cinnamon has the lowest volatile oil content (1-2%) and is the preferred cinnamon in Europe and Mexico.  In my opinion, it has more complexity and finesse than Cassia Cinnamon, which is much more in your “face” with volatile oils ranging from 3-7% depending on its originating terroir.    Lula’s Sweet Potato-Bourbon Shortbread with Maple Pecan Streusal, among many other desserts AND savory dishes, contains Ceylon Cinnamon, and sometimes you don’t even know!!

Korintje Cinnamon from Indonesia is the flavor most recognized by American palates as it is the most readily available in our supermarkets.  For fun, seek out China Tung Hing Cassia Cinnamon – you’ll notice it has a bigger “bite” in recipes, and a subtly different flavor from what you’re used to.

What you might NOT be familiar with, are Cassia BUDS.  They are precious and hard to find – resembling a clove in appearance, though perfect and pink.  Obviously, they are the bud of a cassia tree before it flowers – can you imagine the flavor of flowering cinnamon?!?  These buds are prized, and laid in the sun to dry.  They are used in pickling recipes, meat marinades and yummy warm holiday drinks.  Happy Hunting – and if you find some let Lula know!!  For more info like this you can get weekly click HERE!

Cloves – From Cigarettes to Spice Cake!

Lula’s Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash

OK folks, back to “winter” spices…though the clove is also a fantastic home remedy for toothaches all year long…did you know dentists used to prescribe sucking on a whole clove to alleviate toothaches?  Oil of clove is a numbing agent.  Cloves are also extremely popular in cigarettes … but DON’T!! 🙂  You can get cloves ground ( a little dab’ll do ya – enough clove in your spice cake and you’ll FEEL the numbing!!), or you can get cloves whole.

This is another spice that you could be put to death for in the mid 1600’s – planting OR trading cloves was a capital offense, and cloves are also a critical ingredient in French cuisine – you can’t make a stock without studding a whole onion with cloves and throwing it in!!

Here’s the most fun fact of all … back in the day when people didn’t bathe very often and STANK, cloves were a favorite ingredient in pomander balls (the usually metal balls with holes that one stuffed with aromatics and hung from their belt (men) or dangled from their wrist (women) to hide the ODOR…  ahhh… the things you learn when armchair traveling with Lula…for more tips, tidbits and fun on a weekly basis you can sign up HERE.

 

HOW MANY SPICES ARE IN ALLSPICE?

Just one! Allspice is the dried berry of a tree that grows all over the tropical Americas – called Pimenta Dioica. The berry is historically called allspice because it tastes like a combination of several spices, especially cloves. Clove can be a VERY strong spice both in aroma and taste (oil of clove is used as a numbing agent).   So when you want a hint of clove with a complex flavor, try allspice!!

Allspice is traditionally used in stuff like fruitcakes and plum puddings; Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses allspice in many savory applications as well as sweet. If you have a favorite use of allspice, let us know at http://lulasforlunch.com/blog .

 

MAD for Mace!

OK, week two of “fall/winter” spices…I’m going to continue where I left off and discuss MACE – which is simply the thin, apricot colored, lacy outer layer of the nutmeg seed.  Since there’s not as much of it, it has always been way more expensive.  It resembles nutmeg in scent and flavor but is more delicate.   Once again, this spice can be used in a variety of savory recipes as well as sweet.

At the height of its popularity the Dutch ruled the spice trade, and one year (1770) production exceeded demand by a year’s supply and the whole lot was BURNED – making Amsterdam the best scented city of all time!  Fun Fact:  Most American hot dog manufactures include mace in their recipe!!  And NOW Lula is going to give away a closely guarded secret..put a dash in your BBQ sauces (think my Kentucky Black Bourbon…) YUUUUUuuuuuuuuuuuum.  Hit here for more tips and tricks!  With love, Lula

Some Lent Learnin’

Entree Curried TilapiaLula’s Curried Tilapia

So, for lots of us (and the grocery stores) fish is in store for the next few weeks – and I want to give you a helpful tip to keep your at home fish from being tough and dry.

Fish (any kind) contains ALOT of water and has a very loose protein structure that makes cooking fish a delicate process.  You just don’t want to over cook fish, because fish, more than any other protein, has dramatic “carry-over” cooking.

What is carry over cooking?  Well…you follow instructions when roasting meet to “let it rest” to re-absorb juices, right?  Well, it’s also finishing the cooking process right there on the counter.  That’s why most cookbooks/instructions tell you that medium rare is 130 degress…but they tell you to pull your meat from the heat at 125 degrees.

Same for fish, and funnily enough, when you cook your fish at a higher temperature, the carry over cooking is much more dramatic (ex. salmon at 250 degrees reaching a 125 temp will raise another 7 or so degrees sitting on the counter for 5 minutes, but salmon cooked at 450 degrees to 125 will raise another 27 degrees after 5 minutes!!  SO…..UNDERCOOK your fish at a LOW temperature and let it rest just like you do meat, and you’ll have moist, flaky, perfectly done fish!!  You’re welcome.  -Lula

Some Lentil Learnin’

10,000 years and counting…they must be good, right?  And they’re an absolute POWERHOUSE of nutrition!  Lentils contain the highest protein content of any vegetable other than soybeans (negligably higher)…fat free…cholesterol free…higher in folate than any other non-fortified food…and a really good source of iron (make sure you eat the lentils with Vitamin C foods so you get maximum absorbtion of the iron: tomatoes, green bell peppers, etc).

Simmer (bubbles JUST breaking the surface – I call it “smiling”) your lentils without salt – as salt toughens the skin.  Add the salt at the end to taste.  One part lentils to 3 parts liquid is a good place to start if you want maximum absorption.  The Red Chief tends to be my favorite, as it gets mushy and I like to puree it for a “fine” soup, but beware, they turn yellow, they are not red after they’re cooked!  Golden Lentils cook more quickly if you’re short on time.  French green lentils (Lentille du Puy) contain less starch so they’re firmer when they’re  cooked.  Brown lentils are cheap and easy to find.  They take alot longer to cook though – around 45 minutes because they have tougher skins.  These days, though, you can find multiple varieties of lentils in almost any grocery store!!

Sweet Potato or Yam, Ma’am?

Tis the season…and Oh, the drama! Which is it? They are NOT related and another fun fact, the sweet potato isn’t even related to the potato! First, let’s scientifically (but not TOO scientifically) differentiate:

Sweet Potato:    Originated in Central/South America.  A relative in the Morning Glory family.  Skin a plethora of colors.  Flesh a plethora of colors – the lighter the starchier.   The bad news is…you can never tell the color of the flesh until after you buy them!

Yam:        Originated (and 95% still comes from) Africa/Asia.  A member of the Lily family.   Mostly soft fleshed.  Can grow to over 100 pounds!  Sweet Potatoes are frequently mislabeled in the US because African Americans called them Yams as they resembled them.  Yams are hard to get in the US.  You’d have to go to an international market.  You WILL see sweet potatoes labeled as yams in grocery stores.  But if you look closely, they are also labeled sweet potatoes, because it’s the law.  A wonderful use of sweet potatoes, on the menu now at Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering is our Roasted Sweet Potato Salad! You can order as a side with your lunch or entree at www.lulasforlunch.com  Yummy Yummy!!

Food Is Political, Whether We Like It Or Not!!!

Here we are, in the depths of winter. We’ve endured seemingly endless days of gray. We’ve seesawed between cold snaps and unseasonable warm spells–bearing witness to a changing climate. We’ve felt helpless in the face of senseless acts of violence, outraged by the racism that has reared its ugly head, and frustrated with pervasive political impotence. But there are rays of hope–young people speaking out against gun violence, #metoo moments and #blacklivesmatter, to name a few. And there are reasons not to fill with despair, namely, that it ruins our appetite for change.  At the beginning of WWII, Camus wrote “The Almond Trees,” named for trees that would blossom suddenly one February night. He writes:

The task is endless, it’s true.​ But we are here to pursue it. I do not have enough faith in reason to subscribe to a belief in progress, or to any philosophy of history. I do believe at least that a man’s awareness of his destiny has never ceased to advance. We have not overcome our condition, and yet we know it better. We know that we live in contradiction, but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it. Our task as men is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks men take a long time to accomplish, that’s all. Let us know our aims then, holding fast to the mind, even if force puts on a thoughtful or a comfortable face in order to seduce us. The first thing is not to despair. Let us not listen too much to those who proclaim that the world is at an end. Civilizations do not die so easily, and even if our world were to collapse, it would not have been the first. It is indeed true that we live in tragic times. But too many people confuse tragedy with despair. “Tragedy,” Lawrence said, “ought to be a great kick at misery.” This is a healthy and immediately applicable thought. There are many things today deserving such a kick.

I know. You’re probably thinking this is a little heavy for a frivolous food blog. And, of course, it’s true. But it’s also true that food is political, whether we like it or not. How it’s grown and processed, by whom and under what conditions, who has access to what, and who goes hungry. It’s said that food is the one thing that unites us all. It has the ability to bridge barriers, nurture community, and, in the words of cook and author Julia Turshen, to “feed the resistance.” I don’t have any answers here, I can’t promise any magical food cures. Instead, I have for you a simple recipe that I hope will brighten your day with a burst of citrus in the midst of winter and offer a small reminder that life can be sweet and shared with love.

Gratefully reprinted from Green Gourmette.

Scent and Memory – a Powerful Combination!

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash
Pumpkin Spice Cake with Orange-Creme Ganash

As you smell a fresh pine tree, cookies baking, bayberry or orange, do flashes of past Christmas holidays come flooding through your mind?  This very aromatic season is an easy way to describe the phenomenon of scent and memory.

The process of smelling is a thing of beauty.  Smell is a chemical sense detected by sensory cells called chemoreceptors in the nose that detect smell and pass on electrical impulses to the brain.  The brain then interprets patterns in electrical activity as specific odors and olfactory sensation becomes perception – we recognize this as smell.  The only other chemical system that can quickly identify, make sense of and memorize new molecules is the immune system (Sarah Dowdy, How Stuff Works).

Gratefully reprinted with permission from my good friend Pat Faust, Gerontologist – and her blog “My Boomer Brain”