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!!

Sticky Pasta – It’s a Chemical War

So…how many of you are adding a bit of oil to your boiling water before you add your pasta?  STOP THAT!  IF you have sticky pasta, chances are it’s a PH imbalance in the water you’re using.  The starch and the protein that the heat is releasing are engaging in an age old battle of the PH.  The “basic” properties of your water (as in base vs. acid) are too high.  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering adds a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice or white vinegar to each gallon of water in use and the pasta declares a truce.  Happy Slurping! – Lula

Geriatric Beef (or, the Process of Aging)

Steak Dinner

Ever wonder why the dry aged beef you see on restaurant menus are so much more expensive?  Well, here’s a breakdown…The cow is cut into what are called “Primal Cuts” – the entire rib, or the entire chuck (about 60 percent of a whole cow) the entire loin, etc.  There are 8 primal cuts from a cow, so, a cow averaging about 1300 pounds has really big primal cuts.  Then of course there’s loss of fat and bone when the primal cut is broken down into sub-primal, then retail, cuts.  Primal cuts are usually delivered shrink wrapped “wet” (in their own moisture) and if it’s going to a grocery store they break it down into the cuts they want to sell and shrink wrap it again for immediate consumption (called a wet, or fresh pack).

Then there are the primals that go to higher end restaurants and fancy restaurants.  The restaurants have the option of cutting and serving fresh beef, or aging the beef in its wet pack, where flavor accumulates over time (anywhere from 2-6 weeks) but not much dehydration occurs so they aren’t losing much weight (beef is bought priced per pound remember!). 

Primals that are DRY aged are taken out of their wrapping, and hung for a period of 3-6 weeks at controlled temperatures of 34-38 degrees, and 50-60 percent humidity.  The meat loses up to 20 percent of its moisture while dry aging, and enzymes go to work chewing the muscle fibers, which tenderizes the meat.  The exterior of the meat gets a really deep mahogoany color and has a texture like old leather.  The exterior has to be trimmed away which further reduces the weight about 20-25%.  Dry aged meat tastes gamier, nuttier, and earthier and it feels buttery in the mouth.  This is why it is so prized.  As you can imagine, a primal cut that loses up to 45% of its original weight will certainly be reflected in the price!!!  Make sense?  IF you want to  “get a whiff” of what dry aging is all about you can even do a “scam version” in your own refrigerator.  Just buy steaks already cut (please buy choice or prime!), and put them on a tray uncovered in your fridge (at 38 degrees please) for 2-3 days.  You’ll notice a difference in the flavor and texture.  It’s up to YOU to determine if It’s worth it!