29 April 2007

Wheat gluten; Seitan

With all the news recently on wheat gluten (unfortunately, the tainted kind, in pet foods), you may wonder exactly what it is, or where it is in your food. Sometimes it takes bad news to thrust something in the spotlight to make one aware of a common food prodcuct. Here is some basic information on the ingredient form Wikipedia:

"Wheat gluten - also called seitan (pronounced SAY-tahn), wheat meat, wheat-meat, wheatmeat, gluten meat, or simply gluten - is a foodstuff made from the gluten of wheat. It is made by washing dough made from wheat flour in water until the starch is rinsed away, leaving only the gluten, which can then be cooked and processed in various ways.

Wheat gluten, although not as well known, is an alternative to soy-based meat substitutes such as tofu; some types may taste even more like meat than tofu due to their chewy and/or stringy texture. It is often used in place of meat in Asian, vegetarian, Buddhist, and macrobiotic cuisines.

Wheat gluten is most popular in China, where it was first developed, as well as in the cuisines of other East and Southeast Asian nations. In Asia, it is commonly found on the menus of restaurants catering primarily to Buddhist customers who do not eat meat, but who nonetheless enjoy eating meatless versions of meat dishes.

Because it was first popularized in western nations during the second half of the 20th century through its promotion by proponents of the macrobiotic diet, seitan (the name by which it is known in macrobiotic circles) is also the name by which wheat gluten is best known in most English-speaking nations. In the West, prepared wheat gluten is generally available only in Asian markets and health food stores (although gluten flour is commonly available in supermarkets).

Wheat gluten is also sometimes used in pet foods. Wheat gluten from China adulterated by melamine has been blamed as the cause of a widespread recall of pet food in March of 2007...

...Seitan, a neologism of Japanese origin, is the name used to refer to wheat gluten in the macrobiotic system of cooking and health, as formulated by the Japanese-born philosopher George Ohsawa (1893–1966). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is said to have been coined by Ohsawa in the early 1960s, but its etymology is uncertain, with the most likely explanation being that it is derived from the Japanese sei- ("to be", "to become"), or -sei ("of the nature of," "made of," e.g. in shokubutsu-sei, "made of vegetable") + tan-, as in tanpaku(shitsu) ("protein").

As prepared in macrobiotic practice, seitan consists of powdered wheat gluten, which is extracted from whole wheat flour by washing the flour and rinsing away the starch. The gluten powder (also called vital wheat gluten or gluten flour) is then mixed with just enough water to form a stiff paste, which is then kneaded in order to produce a firm, stringy texture. The dough is then cut into pieces and cooked via steaming, boiling, frying, or other methods. While seitan is itself rather flavorless, it holds a marinade very well and is usually simmered in a dashi (broth) made from soy sauce, kombu, ginger, and sometimes also sesame oil...

...Since the mid-20th century, wheat gluten (generally known by its macrobiotic name, seitan) has been increasingly adopted by vegetarians in western nations as a realistic meat substitute, particularly by vegetarians who previously ate meat and miss its taste and/or texture.

It is sold in block, strip and shaped forms in North America, where it is very difficult to find outside of Asian food markets, health food stores and cooperatives. Some companies also sell powdered gluten (marketed under the names "vital wheat gluten" or "gluten flour"), for those who wish to make their own gluten from scratch. Wheat gluten is also used by bakers to increase the chewyness of breads. The block form is most prevalent and is often flavored with shiitake or portabello mushrooms, fresh cilantro or onion, or barbecue sauce, or packed in a vegetable-based broth. In strip form, it is usually packed to be eaten right out of the package as a high-protein snack. Shaped seitan products, in the form of "ribs" and patties, are usually flavored with barbecue, teriyaki or other savory sauces.

In North America, there is an imitation turkey (called "Tofurky") made of seitan which is marketed around the Thanksgiving holiday, providing an alternative for vegetarians who choose not to eat the traditional holiday centerpiece. Wheat gluten is also used by The African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, a vegan African American religious sect which operates a chain of restaurants called Soul Vegetarian, to produce a vegetarian sandwich called the Garvey Burger."

23 April 2007

The Worlds Healthiest Foods Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating

I like to report on many new publications related to food, cooking and nutrition. And every once in a while I have the opportunity to enthusiastically recommend one.

The Worlds Healthiest Foods Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating, by George Mateljan, is a recently published food/nutrition/menu/recipe cookbook that should be included in every professional and amateur's gastronomic library. A rather large volume at 800+ pages, it is packed with essential information on numerous foods and ingredients, including nutritional charts, menus for weight loss, storage and cooking recommendations, the kinds of cookware you should and should not use, and much more. With plenty of photographs, and written in a straightforward, easy-to-read style, George Mateljan has produced a book that should be a prominent reference source for everyone interested in healthy eating.

From the publisher:

"The World's Healthiest Foods Essential Guide to the Healthiest Way of Eating contains over 500 new recipes and tips to help prepare meals in a minimal amount of time without compromising taste. Most of the recipes take 7 minutes or less to prepare. In addition you will find George's "Healthiest Way of Eating" Plan, which contains two months worth of menus, a healthy shopping list, a guide to help buy the safest fish and shellfish, ways to lose weight with the "Healthiest Way of Eating" and much more."

The Worlds Healthiest Foods Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating
by George Mateljan
Paperback, 880pp
ISBN: 0976918544
Publisher: GMF Publishing

Available online from Barnes and Noble.

17 April 2007

Pumpkin seeds Pepitas

Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, they're a good, tasty snack, and nutritious as well, containing essential minerals and omegas. And evidence is mounting that they may benefit the prostate health in men: ..."The carotenoids found in pumpkin seeds, and the omega-3 fats found in pumpkin seeds are also being studied for their potential prostate benefits. Men with higher amounts of carotenoids in their diet have less risk for BPH; this is the connection that has led to an interest in pumpkin seed carotenoids..." says whfoods.org.

Besides having them as a great snack, try adding pumpkin seeds to any muffin recipe, or to oatmeal for a crunchy addition. Some good pumpkin bars are also available, such as "Organic Granola, Flax Plus, Pumpkin Bars" from Nature's Path (available at The Vitamin Shoppe). A little more information on the seed from Wikipedia:

"The hulled or semi-hulled seeds of pumpkins can be roasted and eaten as a snack, similar to the sunflower seed. Pumpkin seeds can be prepared for eating by first separating them from the orange pumpkin flesh, then coating them in a generally salty sauce (Worcestershire sauce, for example), after which the seeds are distributed upon a baking sheet, and then cooked in an oven at a relatively low temperature for a long period of time.

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of iron, zinc, essential fatty acids, potassium, and magnesium. Pumpkin seeds may also promote prostate health since components in pumpkin seed oil appears to interrupt the triggering of prostate cell multiplication by testosterone and DHT. Removing the white hull of the pumpkin seed reveals an edible, green-colored seed inside that is commonly referred to as a pepita in North and South America."


Pumpkin seeds, in bulk or packaged, are available in health food store, or online at Suttons Bay Trading Co., and ShopNatural.

14 April 2007

Dietary Guidelines

If you are seriously interested in health and nutrition, and have not yet visited MyPyramid.gov, you should take a few moments to visit the site. It offers:

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, gives science-based advice on food and physical activity choices for health.

What is a "Healthy Diet"?
The Dietary Guidelines describe a healthy diet as one that

* Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products;
* Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts; and
* Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

The recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines and in MyPyramid are for the general public over 2 years of age. MyPyramid is not a therapeutic diet for any specific health condition. Individuals with a chronic health condition should consult with a health care provider to determine what dietary pattern is appropriate for them.

Development of Authoritative Statements: The content of this website is not appropriate for use in the development of authoritative statements, as provided for in the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act. This content has been developed based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, which has the potential to provide authoritative statements. Only statements included in the Executive Summary and Key Recommendations boxes of the Dietary Guidelines can be used for identification of authoritative statements.


09 April 2007

Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Cookbook

Short and sweet: Just published! Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Cookbook:

"A classic."—Irene Sax.

"Bravo!"—Florence Fabricant.

"Delightfully bright and charming."—The New York Times.

"This is the book that changed the way America cooks."—Barbara Kafka.

"The classic standard."—Danny Meyer.

"To my generation what Joy of Cooking was to my mother’s."—Tom Valenti.

"Smashing."—Michel Richard.

" Enormous."—Marion Cunningham.

"Ahead of its time."—Todd English.

"Bravo Sheila and Julee!"—Daniel Boulud.

"Wholly satisfying."—Mimi Sheraton.

"Revolutionary!"—Steven Raichlen.

"Charming to look at, cozy to cook with." — Gael Greene.

"Long live The Silver Palate Cookbook."—Giuliano Bugialli.

Now here’s the Silver Anniversary edition, with a feast of 100 full-color photographs throughout and a vibrant new cover. This edition is the perfect gift to replace the millions of bedraggled copies in kitchens across America, and will introduce its timeless pleasures to a new generation of cooks.

Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Cookbook
Julee Rosso, Sheila Lukins, Michael McLaughlin, Susan Goldman (Photographer)
Hardcover - 480 pages
Published: March 2007
Color Photographs
ISBN: 0761145982
Workman Publishing Co.

Available online at Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.


Taramosalata, a mainstay in Greek restaurants, is a delightful Greek fish roe spread and dip. It is light, slightly fishy, and is wonderful surrounded by salad greens, ripe tomatoes and Greek olives as a light meal, or as a spread on crackers or pita, or as a dip for raw vegetables. Wikipedia explains how it is made:

"Taramosalata (Greek) or Tarama (Turkish) is a Greek and Turkish meze. It is traditionally made from tarama, the salted and cured roe of the carp, though blends based on other forms of fish roe, particularly cod, have become more common.

The roe is mixed with lemon juice, onions, garlic, and olive oil. Bread crumbs, milk, cream, mashed potato and even gelatine are sometimes added.

The colour can vary from orange to pink, depending on the type of roe used. Mass-produced taramosalata can often be a bright pink colour due to the addition of food colouring.

It is usually eaten as a dip, with bread or raw vegetables.

It can be spelled either "taramasalata" or "taramosalata" interchangably, though the former is usually found in restaurants and supermarkets."


Taramosalata is available online at Greek Internet Market.


Photo: Thomas Fuller/The International Herald Tribune

I've been seeing stories about the Asian durian for years. And hoping one day to come across some (one will do), to taste (and smell) this mysterious (to me), incredible edible (the mangosteen is a close second I've yet to try). Yet another article in the New York Times, "Fans Sour on Sweeter Version of Asia’s Smelliest Fruit", by Thomas Fuller, has revived my gastronomic curiosity. Wikipedia fills in the basics on the "fruit":

"The durian is the fruit of trees of the genus Durio belonging to the Malvaceae, a large family which includes hibiscus, okra and cotton. Widely known and revered in Southeast Asia as the 'King of Fruits', the fruit is distinctive for its large size, unique odour, and a formidable thorn-covered husk. Its name comes from the Malay word duri (thorn) together with Malay suffix that is -an (for building a noun in Malay), meaning 'thorny fruit'.

There are 30 recognised Durio species, all native to Southeast Asia and at least nine of which produce edible fruit. Durio zibethinus is the only species available in the international market; other species are sold in their local region.

The fruit can grow up to 30 centimetres (12 in) long and 15 centimetres (6 in) in diameter,and typically weighs one to three kilograms (2 to 7 lbs). Its shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown and its flesh pale-yellow to red, depending on species. The hard outer husk is covered with sharp, prickly thorns, while the edible custard-like flesh within emits the strong, distinctive odour, which is regarded as either fragrant or overpowering and offensive...

...Flavour and odour

Writing in 1856, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace provides a much-quoted description of the flavour of the durian:
'A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy.'

Wallace cautions that 'the smell of the ripe fruit is certainly at first disagreeable'; more recent descriptions by westerners can be more graphic. Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says:
' ... its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia.'...

...Ripeness and selection

According to Larousse Gastronomique, the durian fruit is ready to eat when its husk begins to crack.[21] However, the ideal stage of ripeness to be enjoyed varies from region to region in Southeast Asia and also by species. Some species grow so tall, they can only be collected once they have fallen to the ground, whereas most cultivars of D. zibethinus (such as Mon Thong) are nearly always cut from the tree and allowed to ripen while waiting to be sold. Some people in southern Thailand prefer their durians relatively young, when the clusters of fruit within the shell are still crisp in texture and mild in flavour. In northern Thailand, the preference is for the fruit to be as soft and pungent in aroma as possible. In Malaysia and Singapore, most consumers also prefer the fruit to be quite ripe and may even risk allowing the fruit to continue ripening after its husk has already cracked open on its own. In this state, the flesh becomes richly creamy, slightly alcoholic, the aroma pronounced and the flavour highly complex.

The differing preferences regarding ripeness among different consumers makes it hard to issue general statements about choosing a "good" durian. A durian that falls off the tree continues to ripen for two to four days, but after five or six days most would consider it overripe and unpalatable. The usual advice for a durian consumer choosing a whole fruit in the market is to examine the quality of the stem or stalk, which loses moisture as it ages: a big, solid stem is a sign of freshness. Reportedly, unscrupulous merchants wrap, paint, or remove the stalks altogether. Another frequent piece of advice is to shake the fruit and listen for the sound of the seeds moving within, indicating that the durian is very ripe, and the pulp has dried out somewhat...


Durian fruit is used to flavour a wide variety of sweet edibles such as traditional Malay candy, ice kachang, dodol, rose biscuits, and, with a touch of modern innovation, ice cream, milkshakes, mooncakes, Yule logs and cappuccino. Pulut Durian is glutinous rice steamed with coconut milk and served with ripened durian. In Sabah, red durian is fried with onions and chilli and served as a side dish.Red-fleshed durian is traditionally added to sajur, an Indonesian soup made from fresh water fish. Tempoyak refers to fermented durian, usually made from lower quality durian that is unsuitable for direct consumption. Tempoyak can be eaten either cooked or uncooked, is normally eaten with rice, and can also be used for making curry. Sambal Tempoyak is a Sumatran dish made from the fermented durian fruit, coconut milk, and a collection of spicy ingredients known as sambal.

In Thailand, blocks of durian paste are sold in the markets, though much of the paste is adulterated with pumpkin.Unripe durians may be cooked as vegetable, except in the Philippines, where all uses are sweet rather than savoury. Malaysians make both sugared and salted preserves from durian. When durian is minced with salt, onions and vinegar, it is called boder. The durian seeds, which are the size of chestnuts, can be eaten whether they are boiled, roasted or fried in coconut oil, with a texture that is similar to taro or yam, but stickier. In Java, the seeds are sliced thin and cooked with sugar as a confectionery. Uncooked durian seeds are toxic due to cyclopropene fatty acids and should not be ingested.Young leaves and shoots of the durian are occasionally cooked as greens. Sometimes the ash of the burned rind is added to special cakes.The petals of durian flowers are eaten in the Batak provinces of Indonesia, while in the Moluccas islands the husk of the durian fruit is used as fuel to smoke fish. The nectar and pollen of the durian flower that honeybees collect is an important honey source, but the characteristics of the honey are unknown...

...Nutritional and medicinal

Durian (Durio zibethinus)
Nutritional value per 100 g
Energy 150 kcal 620 kJ
Carbohydrates 27.09 g
- Dietary fiber 3.8 g
Fat 5.33 g
Protein 1.47 g
Water 65g
Vitamin C 19.7 mg 33%
Potassium 436 mg 9%
Nutrient values are for edible portion, raw or frozen.
Refuse: 68% (Shell and seeds)
Source: USDA Nutrient database
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.

Durian fruit contains a high amount of sugar, vitamin C and potassium, and is a good source of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.It is recommended as a good source of raw fats by several raw food advocates,while others classify it as a high-glycemic or high-fat food, recommending to minimise its consumption."

Well, I can still hardly wait to lay my hands (and knife) on one.

03 April 2007

Pork & Sons

Just published in English, Pork & Sons by Stephane Reynaud, is the bestselling French cookbook and winner of the 2005-06 Grand Prix de la Gastronomie Francaise. More information from Jessica's Biscuit:

"Pork & Sons by Stephane Reynaud is the quintessential pig cookbook, featuring 150 simple and delicious rustic pork recipes such as pork with dates and dried apricots, warm sausage and Puy lentil salad, tagliatelle with lardon, choucroute, even the ultimate bacon club sandwich. And Reynaud should know. Not only is he co-owner of the acclaimed restaurant Villa 9 Trois in Montreuil (just outside of Paris), he also comes from a long line of generations of butchers and farmers in the Ardeche, just southwest of Grenoble.

In his authentic and intensely personal cookbook, Reynaud presents us with a multitude of ideas on how to cook fine and succulent pork, while inviting us to share his family's age-old passion for the pig and to celebrate the long delicious history between man and swine. This affectionate tribute includes enticing photographs of each dish, and between each chapter there are photographs of the region, the faces of the region and of their daily work, as well as hand-drawn illustrations of the pig itself in many hilarious poses.

Pork & Sons
by Stephane Reynaud
Hardcover - 386 pages
Published: March 2007
Color Photographs
ISBN: 0714847615
Phaidon Press Inc

Pork & Sons is available online from Jessica's Biscuit.