July 23, 2012

Vinegars - What you don't know could hurt you

We all know how effective white distilled vinegar is to the cleaning of and in the disinfection to every household surface as well as in the washing machine, but are you also aware of its medicinal properties?

Vinegar increases insulin sensitivity, perhaps acting similarly to Metformin.
Now studies have found that vinegar at bedtime reduces fasting blood glucose in the morning, indicating that vinegar might promote insulin production.

Type 2 Diabetes is mostly found in people who are insulin resistant, thus making our bodies work harder to produce more insulin to break down the carbohydrates before they are converted to sugar.

Pretty amazing that a simple chemical like vinegar (acetic acid) could have the benefits of three different classes of diabetes drugs, and all for two cents a dose! It’s likely good for both Type 2 and Type 1, especially for lowering postprandial glucose. And postprandial glucose levels account for 30% to 70% of A1C values. Vinegar has got to be the most cost-effective medicine in history, but most people with diabetes still aren’t taking it.

How can vinegar be so powerful? I think it has to do with our ancestral diet. We used to eat carbohydrate in highly complex forms that took a long time to break down in the intestines. Vinegar may be a signal to our bodies to produce insulin and not resist it. Today’s highly refined carbohydrates are absorbed long before they start breaking down. Our bodies don’t get the ancestral signals that carbohydrates are coming, so they’re not ready for them. Drinking a bit of vinegar might trigger the hormones and transmitters that are now missing the boat.

This theory might be nonsense, but the benefits of vinegar are proven reality.

No, you don't have to drink vinegar before eating a high carbohydrate meal, but you can include vinegar for consumption at that meal.

I love vinegar, I always have. I am one of those people that adore tart and sour characteristics in food and have been known to ambush my family when it was my turn to make the salad dressing.

Back to the food.......

Ways to incorporate vinegars into your diet.

#1 - Salads
A no-brainer there

#2 - Dipping sauces
Asian choices are many

#3 - Vegetables
Just like lemon, it wakes up boring vegetables and works wonders on canned

#4 - Cold Sauces and Salsas
Think pickled vegetables (Salsa Verde, Salsa Cruda, etc) and mignonette

#5 - Bread Spreads
Think pickled vegetables (yes, again), mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup

#6 - Glazes
Think Chicken Milanese, Caprese Salad, Strawberries

#7 - Moisture Filler
Patties, Meatloaf, Fritters...surprised? It works.

#8 - Tenderizer
Marinades and mops

#9 - Flavor Boosters
Butters, Braises & Chutneys

#10 - Desserts
Did you know that strawberries with balsamic vinegar is the most underrated dessert of all time?

When you reduce vinegars, especially balsamic ones, they become naturally sweet. They actually turn into a sweet and sour sauce all by themselves but by adding spices and herbs to these reductions, you can create what no one expects, a sauce that is packed with flavor and is a powerhouse of good things for your body.

I would love to hear how you use vinegar in your everyday cooking.

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July 21, 2012

Lime, Honey and Sumac Butter Sauce

There is always a food bailiwick that I just can't master consistently. Grilled corn on the cob is mine.

Either it's not done enough, it's over grilled and spotty or it's just plain dried out. I have no patience to stand at a grill and babysit, there just has to be a better way to speed up the process.

Yes, I have tried grilling them in the husks. Sometimes it's perfect, other times not.
I have tried slathering them in lots of butter only to have the butter drip into the coals and cause a flare up. Not good.

Tonight I tried a technique I haven't used in some time and I think I finally will have that perfect grilled cob.

I took the husks off just before cooking and rubbed a lime butter into every crevice. I wrapped each cob in wax paper and nuked them for 4 minutes and let them sit till they cooled down.
I unwrapped each cob and then placed them on the grill just as I moved the chicken off the coals for indirect grilling.
The cobs grilled to perfection and I saved extra lime butter to reapply for a fresh burst of flavor before eating. I added some sumac for extra zing!

Cook's Note: Sumac has a tart flavor that is very nice sprinkled on fish, chicken, over salad dressings, rice pilaf, or over raw onions. Try substituting in any dish on which you might squeeze fresh lemon juice. If you enjoy hummus, try topping it with a sprinkling of sumac. It's delightful!

Sumac is considered essential for cooking in much of the Middle East; it served as the tart, acidic element in cooking prior to the introduction of lemons by the Romans. Sumac has a very nice, fruity-tart flavor which is not quite as overpowering as lemon. In addition to their very pleasant flavor, flakes from the berry are a lovely, deep red color which makes a very attractive garnish.

Lime, Honey & Sumac Butter
makes 1/2 cup

* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
* 1 teaspoon honey
* Zest of 1 lime
* 1/4 teaspoon Sumac (I buy mine from Penzy's)
* 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Mix everything together until well incorporated. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.
Refrigerate until ready to use.

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July 19, 2012

Creamy Mushroom and Provolone Sauce

For my first cream based sauce post I chose a favorite ingredient in this family, Provolone cheese. Buy a good one, you use less so it's healthier and has so much more flavor.

You can build a cream sauce in many different ways but the main ingredient will always be a thickening agent. Most use a roux but you could make a slurry or use a starch, like corn, tapioca or rice. If you need to limit your fat intake, blend the flour directly into the dairy without the use of butter/oil.

It is easy to do and creates a lump-free sauce.

Measure out 1 tablespoon flour in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon dairy and whisk quickly. Once you have a cohesive texture, add another tablespoon and whisk, then another and repeat until you get the thickness you are looking for. I like to start with a sauce the consistency of buttermilk.
So why use the flour at all? You don't have to if you use heavy cream, but I prefer to use 2% - whole milk. With the milk you will need to thicken, even with the cheese. We are going for something that flows, not a queso.

Also, the flour helps to stop the dairy from separating or curdling.

I am sorry to go on about all this but this is a blog about sauces, and you need to know all the little tricks (and the science, of course) to create exceptional sauces.

Step 1 - Think about what you are serving this sauce on and what you want it to do.
I am breading thin chicken breasts in panko and serving them over polenta cakes (recipe here).
Bland foods, right. I can get away with a very assertive sauce.

Step 2 - Pick the main flavor ingredient (cheese, an herb, a spice, ethnicity, vegetable, wine or butter)
I had a hunk of good provolone in my fridge, so I picked that.

Step 3 - Next are the flavor components, the ingredients that will round out the main flavor.
I chose fresh sage, mustard and shallots.

Step 4 - Last is the finishing ingredients (olive oil, cilantro, chives, parsley, citrus juices.
I choose chives.

Provolone & Mushroom Sauce
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1 small shallot, minced
* 2 oz good quality dry Provolone cheese
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 4 fresh sage leaves
* 1 1/4 cup milk
* 1/3 cup Marsala Mushrooms (recipe follows)
* salt & pepper

1. Melt the butter and saute the shallot. Season with salt & pepper.
2. Add the flour and whisk to incorporate. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly until it's all mixed in.
3. Add the mushrooms, sage and Dijon and stir.
4. Add in the cheeses and shut off the heat. The residual heat will melt the cheeses.
5. Taste for seasonings and adjust.

Marsala Mushrooms
* 1 tablespoon both butter and olive oil.
* Add as many sliced mushrooms as you need and saute until browned.
* Deglaze with 1/4 cup Marsala (dry sherry will also do) wine.

Remove mushrooms and store in a container in the fridge until ready to use.
I always have plastic bags with 1/2 cup of these mushrooms in my freezer at all times.

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July 15, 2012

Vinaigrette Basting Sauce for Poultry

For my first sauce post, I would like to discuss vinaigrette's.

I have a little saying I like to use....
........a spoonful of vinegar makes the sugar go down.

My main blog is all about glucose control and nowadays eating for your metabolism is the backbone for many diet food diets and the foods they sell.

Yes, we are talking about NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, eDiets, South Beach and the newest one, Food Lovers Fat Loss.

Did you know you can make homemade food the same way they make theirs for a fraction of the cost, even on a busy night as long as you know the buzz ingredients.

Last night I made Cornell Chicken, a central New York specialty invented by Dr. Robert Baker, a professor at New York's Cornell University. He wanted to create a delicious way to grill smaller chickens, so that the local farms could sell more birds, sell them sooner, and more affordably. It became so popular and easy to prepare, it hit the State Fair circuit and is still sold at the NY State Fair.

While the full recipe with directions is over at Wish Upon A Dish, the sauce is the main focus here and can be used with any cuts of poultry, especially leg quarters, which are always inexpensive.

This sauce is what is commonly known as a vinaigrette with the ratio of oil to vinegar reversed.

The vinegar acts as a tenderizer and is great for the control of glucose in your blood, so not just diabetics benefit from more vinegar in their diet, anyone looking to lower their sugar and jump start their metabolism should think vinegar.

The Italians use vinegars as a finishing condiment to wake up the flavors in vegetables and when cooked become sweet, so its a wonderful way to sweeten food without sugar, honey or agave.

Now tell me, what's not to love about vinegar?

Vinegar Basting Sauce:
* 2 cups cider vinegar
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 1 egg (pasteurized, please or leave it out)
* 3 tablespoons salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

Combine the basting sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until emulsified. Place the poultry in a large zip-top plastic bag and pour in 1/2 cup of the sauce (reserve rest for basting and 3 tablespoons of that for serving). Seal the bag and shake gently to coat the chicken evenly. Refrigerate for 1 hour. After 1 hour the vinegar can make the meat mealy and we don't want that.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, and wipe off excess sauce from the surface. Grill over charcoal, turning and liberally basting with the reserved sauce every 10 minutes after the chicken has cooked 15 minutes, and up to the last 10 minutes, for about an hour, or until meat is cooked through and instant read thermometer reads 165° for white meat and 180° for dark meat.

Note: This recipe makes enough basting sauce for 4-5 whole chickens, and any extra can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

July 14, 2012

Welcome to my new blog

All about sauces, all about flavor, all about the easy and a lot about the healthy.

First, we need to define 'sauce'.

In cooking, a sauce is liquid, creaming or semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning salted. Possibly the oldest sauce recorded is garum, the fish sauce used by the Ancient Romans.

Sauces need a liquid component, but some sauces (for example, pico de gallo salsa or chutney) may contain more solid elements than liquid. Sauces are an essential element in cuisines all over the world.

Sauces may be used for savory dishes or for desserts. They can be prepared and served cold, like mayonnaise, prepared cold but served lukewarm like pesto, or can be cooked like bechamel and served warm or again cooked and served cold like apple sauce. Some sauces are industrial inventions like Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce, or nowadays mostly bought ready-made like soy sauce or ketchup, others still are freshly prepared by the cook. Sauces for salads are called salad dressing. Sauces made by deglazing a pan are called pan sauces.

A cook who specializes in making sauces is a saucier.

While writing for my other blog Wish Upon A Dish I came to realize that people don't make sauces from scratch anymore. Look at all those jars of sauces in the mustard/ketchup aisle.

Answer me these three questions.....does anyone ever remember finishing a bottled sauce before they eventually had to throw it away?

Then there's......How many sauce bottles line your refrigerator door?

and last but not many bottles in your pantry have expired expiration dates?

I am not talking about gravies. Gravies are made using meat or fish (bones, flesh or shells). That, my dears, is a whole 'nother thing.

Marinades are considered sauces if you cook them after marinading is over, to make a pan 'sauce' as well as basting sauces.

Confused yet?

Stick with me and I will make you an expert.