NGKG Chef Q & A

Well, I have made an effort to encourage questions, ‘cause I really do want them, so I sure am not gonna pass any up!

PLEASE DO ask questions, comments, offer suggestions, etc! At the bottom of each post in the blog, you’ll see a little bar that separates the post from the last one; kinda in the middle of that there’s a little line that reads ‘comments’; just click on that to ask a question, make a point or comment, etc: A new window will pop up and you can enter your question there. It may ask if you want to follow the blog and the answer is, of course you do! Following the blog means you get notified when new posts are up, etc.

You can also email me; ebena at sbcglobal dot net, (Do that up in typical email format; I just spelled it out here to avoid spam mail…) OK, so down the river!

Got an email that reads “I keep seeing you use the term “Non-reactive pan” or bowl. What exactly does that mean and why do I care?”

That’s a great question, (And a great reminder not to throw cook-speak around too much, Eben!)

A non-reactive bowl or pan is simply one made of stuff that food won’t react with chemically: Aluminum, copper, brass, cast iron, and plastic should all be considered potentially reactive. At issue isn’t the pan or bowl itself so much as it is what you’re putting inside of them: When cooking with high acid foods, like citrus, tomatoes, vinegar and the like, those foods can react with pans and bowls and leave an off taste in your mouth. There is also some discussion to the effect that aluminum, non-stick, and plastic containers can in fact present health hazards simply by their use, so let’s take a look at that stuff.

When high acid foods are cooked in aluminum, certain aluminum salts can form, and there is some evidence that these salts can lead to dementia and impaired vision; in any case, we don’t want to be ingesting them if we can avoid it, right?

Likewise, food wrapped in plastic or placed in plastic containers has potential problems. Fatty foods like meat and cheese can promote the leaching of diethylhexyl adipate from such films and containers; you may have gotten an email to that effect from a well meaning friend. While the FDA claims that the amount of this chemical we’re exposed to is within safe parameters, I say unto you again, is this really something we want in our food and bodies?
Long and drawn out answer; no.

Quick and dirty nonstick Q & A; is nonstick OK for the kitchen? Answer; if you’re really getting health and environment conscious, no. The most commonly used non stick coating is PTFE, the exact same stuff you find in plumber’s tape; do we really wanna eat that? No. The stuff is applied as fluorocarbon layers to pans; remember the ozone layer? Heating nonstick pans can breakdown flouropolymers into such wonderful things as:
Triflouroacetate, (Harms plants and takes decades to break down)
Polyflourocarboxylic acids, (Removed from Scotchguard ‘cause it’s bad for us).
CFCs, (Ozone layer again).

‘Nuff said? Yeah, I think so…
Do yourself and your world a favor and stick to stainless steel and cast iron cookware, glass and stainless bowls, and glass storage containers. Your body and the environment will thank you, big time!

OK, next question:
“I love the blog, but I can cook too! Can I submit recipes and suggestions?”

Answer: YES, and please do! Sharing and learning is what this is all about! We ain’t the end all to be all of food, just one resource among many, so bring it on!

Massive Cuke Attack!

Hey, y’all;

Got great feedback from the Storology post, including this one:
“Eben,
This is John from King Gardens. Thanks for storology 101–good info for folks who are used to veggies lasting like Twinkies because of preservative sprays. Now that you’ve established yourself as an authority, any suggestions on what to do with the wheel borrow load of cucumbers I just picked?? Would send you a picture if I could figure out how to attach it. Some of them are destined for our CSA dinner tomorrow night. Our subscribers will get a full array of veggies, plus pesto cheese cake, Christy’s bread, and possible a beverage or two. Will definitely schedule around your availability next year! Thanks much for doing this blog!
John”

Well, shoot, BIG thanks, first and foremost, John; it is my pleasure, believe me! And it would be a gas to do some live stuff next year, count on us bein’ there, for sure!

OK, well, THE number one way to preserve Cukes is… Pickles of course! If you can do pickles, you MUST do ’em, ’cause we all know there’s nothin’ better. In fact, pickin’ my tiny brain, I cannot think of any other long-term preservation scheme other/better than pickles, so… Pickles it IS!! I don’t know about y’all, but we LOVE ’em; our fridge always contains 4 or 5 varieties and often more; garlic dills, sweet, sweet & sour, hot, etc, etc – So I say if you’re blessed with the best rough stock there is, make ’em happen!!

As for fresh stuff for the CSA dinner, consider the following:

Cucumber/Tomato/Basil salad: 1 to 1 to 1/2, w/ balsamic vinaigrette.
Cucumber Salad: Just cukes, onions, a little parsley or cilantro, oil & vinegar.
Fresh Cuke Pico: Add tomatoes, onions, peppers, chiles and…
Cuke-Mango Salsa: 3 to 1 Mango to Cuke, add jalapeno, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper…
Cuke salad: 5 parts cukes, 1 part onion and bell peppers, salt, pepper, olive oil & vinegar to taste.

Bet some or all of those would float yer boats, eh?

CHEERS!!

Urb

Storology 101

It has been brought to the Chef’s attention that some of y’all might like a few words on care and storage of produce and herbs and such; here goes…

Ok, first and foremost, as you should know, your veggies from The Neighborhood and King’s gardens comes to you without pesticides or herbicides on them; that said, all you really need to do upon receiving them is a quick rinse and inspection for bugs and dirt. The best way to wash veggies is The Restaurant Way; fill a sink with cool water and dunk stuff while agitating gently; this allows dirt and such to fall to the bottom, leaving your goodies nice and clean. Lift your bounty out of the water and dry gently on cloth or paper towels.

Most nice, fresh veggies really don’t care for the fridge, truth be told: Hardier stuff and the most delicate will do fine there; carrots, celery, lettuce and such, but onions and tomatoes and potatoes don’t really like it there and will suffer in relatively short order. It is always best policy, when getting beautiful fresh produce like you are, to use as much as possible right away, and properly store or preserve anything left over. With produce, we’re generally talking about drying and canning as best storage process; if you’re gonna get great stuff, why not make it available all year ’round, right? Face it, our not-too-distant ancestors spent a lot of time canning and preserving, and we’d all do well to learn from that. If you’re getting this wonderful stuff, you obviously enjoy great food, so if you don’t have the ability to can and dry properly, get it and use it; you’ll thank yourself profusely come January or so…

Herbs will store best if left dry, so don’t wash those until you’re ready to use them. Most herbs will do well in about 40 to 45 degrees; if you are blessed with a cool cellar or basement, take advantage of that; if not, and your fridge has a decent crisper, then store your herbs in a clean container, (We use glass, to avoid excess plastic and for taste). Herbs stored thus should be fine for about a week or so; any longer than that and taste and appearance are gonna suffer!

At all cost, avoid cold spots in your fridge if you store this way! Some of our fave herbs, such as basil, (And lemon verbena), don’t like cold at all and will turn black below 40 degrees! The hardier varieties, like parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, (Hey, there might just be a song there…), will do fine for a couple weeks, but again, the more delicate ones will definitely not do so well.

Herbs kept dry don’t really need to vent, and will do great in airtight conditions; if yours are wet, then the special veggie bags or containers with air valves will do best. I know some folks like the wrap-it-in-wet-paper-towel concept, but truth be told, it will rob flavor and invite spoilage. Since Monica and I are blessed with fresh herbs out back almost year ‘round, we do use the stand ‘em up in a glass container of water method, and you can too, but only if you’re sure you’re gonna use those guys within two or three days; much more than that and things will get funky, even if you change the water.

Of course for long-term, (AKA over winter) storage, nothing beats drying of herbs and even your favorite produce. Home driers are cheap and do a decent job, and will allow you to enjoy your favorites right through the Dark Ages. As a for instance, we use some of our chiles that are coming ripe now, and dry some for later – The drying process makes your house smell great too! Store dried herbs in air tight glass containers for best results and do not chill or freeze; they’ll be happier at room temp in a nice clean jar. Try drying onions, cilantro, and tomatoes as well as peppers and chiles; they’re a real treat later on! All your herbs can be dried easily; field strip your stuff down the to the form you want for use, (i.e., remove Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Cilantro or Mint leaves from stems, check them for bugs and dirt, and then go ahead and dry ‘em up.

Nothing in the world beats fresh herbs for great cooking, but in the dead of winter, believe you me; the difference between herbs you’ve chosen and preserved yourself and the crap that comes on a grocery store shelf is night and day – You’ll be super happy with the results, and you’ll get that nice little flash of memory back to the summer days when you made it all happen, too!