August 31, 2010

Cuisinart Green Gourmet Cookware

Thanks to our friends at Cuisinart, I am happy to announce that I now possess a 12" fry pan that is part of the Cuisinart Green Gourmet eco-friendly, non-stick cookware line.  When it comes to oil-free cooking, I will be putting this one to the test and reporting back.

For a quick summary about the pan, click here.

Stay tuned for the results...

August 29, 2010

What's wrong with extra virgin olive oil?

This was a question posed by a reader on a previous post and I thought the question was so important that it bears its own post.  So here goes...

Extra virgin olive oil falls into the category of processed oils.  It is pure fat, including saturated fat and any nutrients that it once had while in an olive have been removed.  So, there is no nutritional value in it.

But isn't fat necessary in your diet?

Absolutely.  Fat is necessary.  According to Dr. Dean Ornish, the body requires about 5% of your dietary calories to come from fat for effective body functioning.

So why not throw on some olive oil?

Because the average American has about 35-40% of their calories coming from fat.  Wow!  That's 35% more than your body requires.  In addition, your body is very efficient at turning fat in your diet into stored fat on your butt.  Your body does not see fat as food!  Your body sees fat as emergency store and puts it away for a time when food is scarce.  Wonder why America is obese?  Check the fat content on packaged foods.

On any label, take the Calories from Fat and divide it by the total Calories.  On this label, Calories from Fat are 120.  Total Calories are 280.  120/280 = .43

That means this food is 43% fat by calories.  In short, put it back.  Go find the food without a nutrition label.  Where's that?  The produce section!

Let's look at a few vegetables and fruits:

Broccoli - 10% fat by calories
Kale - 11% fat by calories
Spinach - 14% fat by calories
Tomato - 7% fat by calories  
Apple - 3% fat by calories
Whole wheat - 4% fat by calories

You can see that Mother Nature provides plenty of fat for our bodies when the foods are in their natural state.  By cutting out processed oils and eating foods the way nature intended (raw or cooked), we provide our bodies the nutrient dense foods they want.

Most people who eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet with no added oils end up with a fat intake somewhere between 10 - 20%, which is great for your body and your health.  If your fat intake is above that, the average person will begin to see health issues creep in slowly.

So, if you want to include "healthy" fats in your diet, leave the bottles of oil behind.  Instead, add a few natural foods that contain oils like walnuts or flax seeds or avocados or olives.  A little planning goes a long way and you'll never have to buy a crazy expensive bottle of EVOO again.

August 26, 2010

What's Cooking Today at Le Chateau Soleil?

Whole wheat bread with my signature "S" scoring for Le Chateau Soleil.

"S" scoring from a side view.

For those who aren't familiar, scoring is cuts or slashes made into bread dough before baking.  The scoring provides a weak spot in the dough that allows the dough to "spring" or rise in the oven when it bakes.  You may have noticed on your bread at home that it will occasionally tear in places, likely near the base of the loaf.  This is because when you do not provide a weak spot for the dough to expand, it chooses whatever spot it wants, whether it is pretty or not.  Some bakers just make an "x" in their dough.  Others can be very artistic.  

I will be playing a lot with artistic scoring in the coming months.  Should be fun!  

Books and products I recommend...

Le Chateau Soleil is happy to announce that I will be reviewing and recommending products that support us along our adventures in low-fat, plant-based gourmet cuisine.

We now have a sidebar with books and products I recommend.  Please know, these are not just random books from Amazon.  I carefully choose every product and book for this site.  If you click through from our site and purchase any of the items, a small amount will be donated to Le Chateau Soleil to continue the work I do.

In the near future, I will be doing a full review of eco-friendly nonstick cookware.  Keep an eye out for that too!

August 24, 2010

Coffee Roasting Basics

People always ask me about coffee roasting in my adobe oven.  Here is a great primer video on the stages of coffee roasting.

You can even roast coffee in a simple hot air popcorn popper.  Does coffee really taste better if you roast it at home?  Imagine the difference in taste between a grocery store tomato and one that just came out of your garden.  You bet it tastes better.

Want to try roasting on your own?  Go to Sweet Maria's.  They sell some of the best green coffee in the world anywhere from $5 to $7 per pound.  It can't be beat.


August 19, 2010

Eat colors!

I had to share this photo of Japanese sweet potatoes from my garden.  The vibrant purple color was unbelievable.  Every ad you hear for food these days talks about antioxidants and how they help prevent cancer.  Interestingly, antioxidants in foods express themselves as colors.  Each one has a different, yet very positive effect on your body and your health.  It is also no coincidence that if you Google "highest antioxidant foods" that every list you find will be 100% fruits and vegetables.

If you wonder about the connection between the consumption of animal protein and cancer, check out the China Study.  It will change the way you think about food and its connection to your health.

So, when planning your gourmet meals, look for the brightest and widest array of colors to pile on your plate.  It is not only visually appealing, it's great for your body too.

August 18, 2010

What's Cooking Today At Le Chateau Soleil?

Whole wheat and semolina sourdough bread with rye mash

Let's talk bread.  I'm experimenting with a new bread technique that even the most experienced bread bakers may not know about.  It's the technique of sprouting and mashing grains.  What does that mean?  Here's a quick rundown for you.

Grains are packed full of complex carbohydrates or starch.  These are long chains of sugar molecules that will fuel the growth of the plant when you add water.  When a plant sprouts, the enzymes in the plant are activated and convert that starch into sugar for the plant.

If you sprout grains and then grind them up with water and cook them at about 150 degrees F, that is literally "the sweet spot" for the enzymes to covert starches to sugars.  What you get is a complex and sweet slurry or "mash" made from whole grains that you can use to make bread.  Beer brewers have figured this out too.  They call it "wort."  They add yeast to the slurry which eats the sugars and converts it into alcohol.  

In bread baking, what the mash produces is a sweeter, more complex tasting bread with a more moist crumb.  It is really quite amazing to be able to produce a sweet moist bread with nothing but grain, water and salt.  I do have to give credit here to Peter Reinhart and his Whole Grain Baking book.  He has a couple of outstanding mash bread recipes that use flour or spent grains rather than sprouted grains.  He's definitely onto something when it comes to using mash for maximum flavor development in bread, which I why I am pursing this technique further.  

These breads were baked in the adobe oven in the background.

So, here's my contribution.  I use whole rye grain.  Rye sprouts the fastest and has the greatest amount of enzymes producing the sweetest mash. 

2 C whole rye berries

Soak them in a bowl of cool water overnight.  In the morning, pour off all the water and place the berries in a colander or spouting tray so the berries are moist but not in standing water.  Cover the colander with a cloth or plastic.  Every 6-8 hours, stir the berries and rinse them with water so they don't start to grow weird stuff.  There should be no "off" smells from this process.  If you smell anything putrid, throw it away and start again.  In 24-36 hours, your rye should have sprouts 75-100% the length of the rye berries.

Once sprouted, dump all the berries in a food processor and let it run until the berries are all chopped into a lumpy paste.  Put the paste in a pot and add 4 C of 165 degree water.  Stir and cover.  Then place in a 150 degree oven for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, you will have your sweet mash.  Let it cool and put it in the fridge.  

I use this slurry to replace all the water in my bread recipes.  

But Dave!  How much do you use?  Is it a one-to-one ratio?  Post a recipe!  Give me something to work with here.  Can I use this in my bread machine?  

First, let me say that God gave you two bread machines.  Your left hand and your right hand.  No commercial machine can replace a baker's hands when it comes to knowing if you need more or less liquid in your dough.  For a good primer, check out my post on dough.  

Second, yes, I will post a recipe someday soon.  What's most important here is the technique.  You can adapt this and use it with any bread recipe.  If you play around with bread baking, you should be able to use this in a recipe without too much trouble.  Your dough will be slightly stickier than usual, so you'll want to look and feel more for the usual density and shape of your dough rather than the tackiness or feel of the outside of the dough.

Feel free to post questions if you have them.  


August 17, 2010

Recipe: Lemon Salad Dressing

When eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet with no added oils, salad dressing at home becomes more of a challenge.  Here is a recipe that is deceptively simple but so good.

This recipe fits a lunch-sized salad for one.

Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 t cumin seeds
salt and pepper to taste

That's it.  I eat this all the time.  I usually chop my salad into smaller pieces, squeeze the lemon, add the spices and toss.  Throw in the other half of lemon if you really like it lemony.

Everyone I have served this to has said something like, "Wow.  What's in the salad dressing?"  No fat.  All natural.  Gotta love it...

August 9, 2010

Recipe: Tempeh Italian Sausage

Since I now have a functioning adobe oven, pizza has been on the menu quite a bit at my house.  Many friends rave about my tempeh sausage.  It is very easy, so I thought I would share the recipe so others could enjoy it too.

Tempeh Sausage

8 oz. soy tempeh (unflavored)
3/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 t dry basil
1 t dry oregano
1/2 t dry rosemary
1/2 t anise seed
1/2 t red pepper flakes (optional)

Crumble the tempeh into small chunks or individual beans.  Add salt, pepper, basil, oregano, rosemary, anise and red pepper.  Mix with hands until tempeh is evenly coated with spices.

Use this as a kind of sausage on any pizza or italian dish.  It is a great addition.  Enjoy!

August 5, 2010

Cooking Basics: Salsa

This is one of the easy ones that can turn you into a gourmet chef in no time.  Here's a basic primer on salsa that can enhance any dish.

I am going to assume that everyone has tasted a basic, old tomato-based salsa.  Take your pick of grocery store brands.  Here is the essence of it:

1/2 medium-size yellow onion  
2 cloves of garlic
1 t salt
juice of one lime
1/4 C of chopped fresh cilantro

3 medium-size tomatoes (base ingredient)
1 jalepeno (heat ingredient)

Toss it all in a food processor and pulse a few times.  Voila!  Fresh salsa, just like on the infomercial.  Here's where it gets fun.  This can be the basis of any salsa.

Salsa Base
1/2 medium-size yellow onion  

2 cloves of garlic
1 t salt
juice of one lime
1/4 C of chopped fresh cilantro

The rest is a base ingredient (like tomato) and some kind of heat (like jalepeno).  Replace tomato with avocado and you get guacamole.  Instead of tomato, try mango for mango salsa.  Any kind of fruit or mix of fruits can work.  Try pear and pomegranate.  Try pineapple or papaya or peach.  Anything can be a base.  Even carrots or beets or mushrooms.    

Then you can play around with the heat.  Instead of a jalepeno, the smoked variety is chipotle which can add a great flavor and heat.  Think of other hot stuff like black pepper, fresh ginger or wasabi.  Anything strong to wake up your guests.  

Another piece to play with is the lime juice.  Any citrus will work.  Lemon juice and orange juice work too.  

You can also play around with the onions.  Sweet Vidalia onions or red onions impart different flavors than yellow onions.  Try green onions too.  They will all work.  

For a fun meal, multiply the Salsa Base recipe by four or six.  The change the base ingredient and heat ingredient to make four to six different salsas at the same meal. 

These are all for fresh salsas.  I'm not a big fan of cooked salsas, but I'm all for cooking certain ingredients.  If you have a smoker at home, try smoking tomatoes or mushrooms and adding those to the base of fresh ingredients.  Play with colors too.  Carrots, jicama, pomegranate, etc.  

The more colorful your salsa, the more appetizing it will be.  Have fun!  Salsa is one of the great playgrounds of cooking as long as you know the basics.