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Seafood: The Good and the Bad

Most of us are aware of the chemicals and polutants found in the flesh of many of the sea foods we are offered at the store.  But do you know that there are still many “super green” fish and shellfish that we should and can be eating?

Green

What do I mean by “Super Green”?  First of all a SG food must be healthy, and sustainable.  “Farming” or raising these food sources must also be good for the environment and not add to the problems we already face with depletion of our natural resources.

 

Good Fish and Shellfish and Why

  • Albacore Tuna that is Troll or Pole Caught in the U.S. or British Columbia – This fish is only SG if it is troll or pole caught because these methods catch fish smaller than 20 lbs which have a lower continent of mercury and are caught in the colder waters of the US or British Columbia making them higher in omega 3.  The hard part is how to determine if the fish you are looking at meets those standards.  Read the labels or look for Blue Eco Label of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). 
  • Mussels and Oysters that are farm raised – These shellfish pack a large amount of omega-3s and oysters are high in iron.  But what makes these SG are that they both feed off the natural nutrients and algae in the water, filtering the water, thus improving water quality.  It is more healthy to eat these shellfish cooked as the raw shellfish, especially from warm waters may contain harmful bacteria.
  •  Pink Shrimp ( wild-caught in Oregon) and Spot Prawns (wild-caught in British Columbia) – Again, look for the MSC-certified  Blue Label sticker.  The U.S. has strict regulations about net caught anything.  The reason being is that nets drag the ocean floors and damage the coral ref which are the habitats of most of the oceans fish.  The best source of shrimp would be from Oregon and the Pacific Northwest where the shrimp are caught in traps  Avoid imported shrimp, farmed or wild net caught.
  • Rainbow Trout (Farmed) – I know it is hard to remember that one farmed fish is bad and another good but again, look for the blue label.  Lake trout are available in some parts of the country but they are very high in contaminants.  Almost all trout you’ll find in stores will be rainbow trout which are raised in freshwater ponds and protected from contaminants being fed a fishmeal diet designed to conserve resources.
  • Salmon (wild-caught in Alaska) – Salmon in Alaska are very well managed.  Their numbers are tracked and monitored to keep from over fishing during a particular season.  Also the natural streams the fish spawn in are checked regularly.  These fish are a great source of omega-3s and have very few contaminants.  Avoid at all costs the farm raised salmon because the pens they are raised in are full of parasites that threaten the entire salmon population, wild and raised.
  • Sardines (Pacific – wild caught) – Here is one you might not have thought of.  Sardines have more omega-3s than salmon or tuna and are high in vitamin D.  They reproduce quickly and therefore are sustainable with the new regulations.

 Fish to Avoid

  • Bluefin Tuna – This fish is threatened.  Because it is still prized for culinary uses it still can sell for over $150,000 per fish.  Bluefins are high in mercury and also carry an EDF health alert. (Environmental Defense Fund)
  • Chilean Sea Bass (also marketed as Patagonian Toothfish) –the sea bass has been prized on menus for years.  That is one of the problems.  These fish can live over 50 years but are very slow to reproduce, thus making them easy to over fish.  There is only one well-managed fishery the is MSC-certified.  Look for the blue sticker.
  • Grouper – These are huge, delicious fish that live to be very old.  Because they live so long they are high in mercury and are also on the EDF health advisory list.
  • Monkfish – this is one of my favorite fish.  It used to be cheap and was marketed as imatation crab and lobster because its texture resembles lobster.  Alas, it too became popular and is now over fished.  Monkfish is making a come back because of strict netting regulation, so look for the MSC label.
  • Orange Roughy – Now here is a fish that, like the grouper, is very long lived but reproduces slowly making it vulnerable to over fishing.  The Roughy can live to be over 100 years old, so it has high levels of mercury and is also on the EDF health advisory list
  • Salmon (Farmed) – as I explained before, the farm raised salmon are raised in pens in the ocean and are tightly packed.  These pens are treated with antibiotics and full of salmon threatening parasites.  Farmed raised salmon are on the EDF list also.
These are all fish that are either over fished are high in contaminates or both.  Go to The MSC certified “fish to eat” page to see pictures and updates on the available seafood.
Tofu – How to Cook With It

The following is what I Think I know about Tofu:

  • It is made from soy beans
  • It comes in 3 textures
  • It has very little flavor of it’s own
  • It is high in protein
  • It isn’t very expensive

Now I’ll do a little research and see just what Tofu really is and how to make a meal out of it.

  • Wikipedia says “Tofu or bean curd[3] is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks.” – I was almost right.
  • It is available in FAR more than 3 textures or varieties – look here
  • It does have a flavor of its own and it isn’t necessarily pleasant – look here
  • It is very high in protein.  In fact 1/2 cup has 10.1 grams of protein where men should have a daily intake of 56 grams. and that same 1/2 cup only has 94 calories.  Compare that to beef-  100 calories of tofu has 11 grams of protein and 100 calories of beef only has 8.9 grams of protein and the same amount of cheese has only 6.2 grams.  One more thing.  1/2 cup of tofu contains 5 grams of fat where 4 oz of beef contains 15 grams of fat.  And Tofu is cholesterol-free – Info comes from here.
  • I’m finding that a 12.3 oz package of tofu (about 3/4 lb) is about $1.80 and a pound of cheap ground-beef is at least $2.50 per pound making Tofu a little cheaper than beef.
  grilled tofu

What the heck to do with it?

  • You can fry it
  • You can crumble it up into salads and cassaroles
  • You can Stir-fry with it
  • You can melt it like cheese
  • You can even make dessert out of it
  • It will hold a marinade very well
  • Before using it you should press the excess liquid out of it
  Tofu Stir-fry     Tofu Pot pie

Which kind to buy?

  • Buy the firm or extra firm type if you are substituting for meat in a dish
  • Buy the soft or silken type if you are adding it to a drink or dressing
  • Buy flavored tofu if you are looking for a specific flavor, like bacon tofu.

  Various tofu dressings

Look for recipes to follow soon.  I’m curious about this stuff.  Please share your tofu recipes or stories with the Farm – Jughandle

 

 

Sushi and how to make it

Sushi means “sour-tasting”.  At its most common denominator, sushi is cooked short grained sticky rice that has been “vinegared”.  It is also known as shari.  Wikipedia says, “The vinegar produced from fermenting rice breaks down the fish proteins into amino acids. This results in one of the five basic tastes, called umami in Japanese”

Many people think of raw fish when they hear the word sushi.  Actually, there are raw forms of fish in some sushi, but sushi can be anything that contains the vinegared rice- shari.  Some forms of sushi don’t have any fish at all.  Raw or uncooked fish is known as sashimi.  That is another story for another day.  Today we talk about sushi.

Sushi Rice

The only thing common to a sushi dish is the rice.  If you can’t find sushi rice at your local store, any short grained rice will do or you can buy it at the Farm Store here.

You will also need:

To Make The Sushi Rolls:

  • Bamboo sushi Mat – available here
  • Seaweed Nori sheets – available here or here
  • Plastic wrap to cover your mat

For the Vinegar Mix:

Heat and mix the following.  Cool to room temp before mixing into the rice

In every 1 cup of cooked sushi rice mix:

  • 1/3 c Rice vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Without A Rice Cooker

  • Rinse the rice until clear
  • cover the rice in the pot by one inch
  • bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook 20 minutes more – never take the lid off while cooking
  • remove rice to a bowl and cool to room temp
  • Fold in the vinegar mixture gently not to make the rice pasty

With a Rice Cooker – video

 

How To Make A Maki Roll- video

 

How To Make A Tiger Roll – video

 

How To Make A California Roll – video

 

 

Stuffed Jalapeno Pepper Poppers

Stuffed Jalapeno Pepper hors d’ouvres.  These meet all the qualifications of a great hors d’ouvre, starter, or appetizer.  They can be eaten with your hands in one or two small bites, they aren’t too messy and they are very good.  In fact, the spiciness stimulates the appetite.  Don’t worry too much about the heat of the pepper.  Capsaicin, the active chemical that causes the the “fire”, is reduced when cooked.

You’ve heard me talk about all the good food we eat when we visit our Alabama relatives.  Well, that inspired me to ask Brent if I could release his stuffed jalapeno pepper recipe to the world and he graciously said yes.

I’m going to have a separate post for Brent’s recipe, but in this blog I’m going to talk about the different variations and components you can use to create great poppers.

Methods

The Cut-

the peppers can be cut in a varitiey of ways.  I’m going to post some pictures below to show some of those great ideas from top cut, half cut, lengthwise cut, cut and capped, end cut to side sliced.

    

    

 

As you can see, there are also many ways to cook them and many things to stuff them with

Ways to cook –

After market devices like the holders shown in the pictures above allow the peppers to be grilled, baked and broiled.  You can also deep fry the little buggers, breaded or not. If your stuffing is just cheese all you have to do is cook the peppers until the cheese melts or gets crusty.  If you use meat, you should either partially precook the meat or cook the peppers until the meat is done.

Ways to stuff them-

Peppers can be stuffed with hard cheese, soft cheese, rice, sausage, quinoa or a mixture of any of those.  I sometimes cut cheddar cheese into long square pieces just large enough to push up into the bottom of a pepper when the end is cut off.  Brent cuts his peppers in half lengthwise then stuffs each half with a cream cheese mixture and finishes by wrapping them in bacon.

To wrap or not to wrap –

Many people like to add flavor and texture to the peppers by either coating them or wrapping them.  The most popular wrap is with bacon.  The coatings could be egg wash then dredged in  flour and bread crumbs or other things like grated hard cheese and cornmeal.

      

 

 

Precautions

When you are cleaning the peppers, ALWAYS, DID YOU READ THAT, ALWAYS, WEAR GLOVES.  You may not write to thank me if you follow my caution, but you will most definitely think of me if you don’t and then either rub your eyes or use the bathroom.  Don’t laugh, it is hard to explain that your “junk” is on fire and you need help putting it out because when you touch it with your pepper hands, it just gets worse.

 

Look for the recipes I’ll be posting in the near future, or better yet, please send me some of your own.  Thanks again to Brent for his inspiration and great recipe variation – Jughandle

 

 

 

5 Other Blogs on Canning/Pickling

I’ve been reading a lot on pickling and canning the last couple of weeks and I thought you might be interested in a couple of other blogs I found helpful, funny, interesting or all three.

1. Starving off the Land -“My week of pickling dangerously” –  One of my favorite on-going blogs to follow

2. Serious Eats – Garlic Dill Pickles – Great site for recipes of all kinds

 

3. The Smitten Kitchen – bread and butter pickles – A very sophisticated blog on all things food.  Great recipes fantastic pictures

4. Hunter Angler Garderner Cook, Sunchoke Pickles – This blog is everything about living off the land, hunting and fishing.  Great recipes

5. david lebovitz – Moroccan Preserved Lemons – This is probably my favorite blog, I’m not sure why, maybe it is just nicely designed.

Chicken Soup Progressive Recipe (stone soup)

This is going to be fun.  I am going to start out with a “how to make a chicken stock” and you all are going to add ingredients to the soup to make the final recipe. Please

Stock

Start with a very large pot, 12 qts if you have it.  We are going to make a lot of soup to freeze for later.

add 2 gal (8 qts) of filtered water.  If you don’t have a pot that large, fill the one you have about 1/2-2/3 full of water

Add at least 1 whole chicken.  Fryer or a roaster.  I’d pick a roaster because they are larger.

Bring the pot to a boil then reduce to a fast simmer for at least 2 hours.

The chicken should fall off the bone.  Remove chicken from pot and reserve, pulling the bones from the carcass and throwing them away.

Continue to reduce the stock.

1.  (jughandle would add) Salt and pepper to taste

2. (Darlene would add) 2 carrots, 2 celery and  1 onion, diced then sauteed in olive oil before adding.  This is known as a  mirepoix of veggies.

 

3. (Mittie would like to add) fresh thyme & tarragon. If you have a herb garden pick a few stems and strip the leaves into the liquid.  If you don’t like stuff floating around in your soup (I really don’t know why), you can do a bouquet garnie which is just a fancy name for wrapping your herbs in a piece of cheese cloth so it can be removed later.

 

4. Thank you Mittie, it is smelling good now.

5. What we should do now is to remove all the solids from the broth

  • first cool the broth to room temp or cool enough to handle
  • then strain out the solids with a strainer or cheese cloth
  • put the strained broth into a large bowl or pot and put into the refrigerator
  • the next morning the chicken fat will be solid on the surface
  • skim or ladle off the fat.
  • You now have a great chicken stock/broth to use in the following recipes
  • you can also freeze in plastic bags or bowls for later use

6. Darlene wants to make a Tortilla soup from the chicken stock. (please click on the link for the recipe)

7. Jughandle wants to make Italian Wedding Soup (please click on the link for the recipe)

 

 

How to Make Your own Pasta

There are few things more satisfying than to make your own pasta.  It is delicious, inexpensive, healthy (no additives) and looks like you went to a hell of a lot of trouble for your guests.  (but it is easy).  I’ve been making my own pasta and teaching others for close to 40 years.  The following video by Jamie Oliver is a good example of how easy and fast it is to make your own pasta.  You can even dry and freeze your fresh pasta for even quicker meals later.

Jamie Oliver

 

 

Recipe

The recipe I’m about to give you is different than Jamie’s but I’ve had good results over the years with it.

1 cup of all-purpose or whole wheat or semolina flour

1 T olive oil

1 1/8 tsp salt

1 whole egg

1/2 c water (only use as much of it as necessary)

This is enough for 2 normal servings.  For a dinner of two couples I would make at least 3 of these.  If you have leftovers, freeze them or refrigerate and use them tomorrow.

Method

Just as in Jamie’s video, I’d mix the dough in a food processor.  Put all of the ingredients in the processor except the water.

Turn on the processor and as it turns into a grainy texture, drizzle, very slowly, water in through the feed port.  Stop adding water just as the dough starts to ball up.  Continue to process for another 10 seconds until the dough sticks to the blade in a ball and spins around the processor.  Remove and rest the pasta ball under a clean towel for 5 minutes, or while you make the other servings you require.

By hand

To continue by hand, knead the dough  for 5 minutes or until it is elastic without cellulite like bumps in it.  Dust the rolling surface with flour and roll out your pasta into long thin sheets about a 1/16 of an inch thick.  Then dust the sheets again with flour and roll the sheets into loose rolls to slice with a knife to the thickness of pasta desired.

By Machine 

Using a pasta machine is by far the best way to make pasta.  You can find machines everywhere and for all prices.  My machine is a Pasta Queen and has 8 settings, allowing me to make very thin pasta.  Some machines are expense, electric machines that do almost everything for you.  You can get a decent machine for under $40.00

Knead the pasta on the thickess setting until it is smooth.  Then lower the setting one pass at a time until you reach the desired thickness.  Then turn the handle around to the cutting side and cut into noodles.
                                             

Cooking Fresh Pasta

Cooking fresh pasta couldn’t be easier or quicker.  Bring a large pot of water and 3 T of salt to a boil.  When you reach a rolling boil add your fresh pasta.  You’ll need to have your colander ready in the sink because the cooking should only take 45 to 90 seconds.  After the noodles are done transfer them into the colander and briefly run cold water on them to stop the cooking.  After draining the pasta, place the colander, pasta and all on top of or in the still warm (but not on) pot.  Stir in a little butter or olive oil.  Season and serve.

 

I hope you try this pasta making thing.  You can have fun with your guests or kids – jughandle