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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Summer Fare

July 19, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, order, almonds, apple, asparagus, bread - multigrain, cabbage - red, cherries, chicken, corn on the cob, crab meat, dill, food - seasonal, freshness, fruit, lamb - braised, lentils, lobster, mandarins, mayonnaise, moderation, mushrooms, mussels, nuts, olive oil, onion, pear, pineapple, salt and pepper, shrimp salad, seasons, sesame seeds, strawberries, summer, Summer Fare, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, walnuts, watermelon

In the summer, we don’t like to eat heavy foods. We have a natural tendency, an innate knowledge, to eat lighter in hot weather. Braised lamb red, cabbage and sweet potatoes is a combination I would not serve now; in the fall, with temperatures down, it will be delicious.

Here is a recipe for a light shrimp salad, easy to make:

• About five to ten cooked shrimps per person. Remove tails and slice the shrimp lengthwise. (Instead of shrimp, cooked lobster, chicken, mussels, crab meat, mushrooms would work).
• Add an onion, finely chopped.
• A can of mandarins or pineapples, or fresh apple or pear (or whatever fruit, you fancy).
• Walnuts or almonds or whatever nuts.
• A bit salt and pepper.
• Fresh or dried dill (or any herb).
• And mayonnaise – as little as possible. I prefer a mayonnaise made with olive oil. You can stretch the mayonnaise with juice from the mandarin can, or with a few drops of olive oil; or both.
• Serve the shrimp salad with corn on the cob, broiled (with sunflower or sesame seeds and olive oil) asparagus, and lentils or a multi-grain bread.
• End the meal with fresh fruit – a watermelon or cherries or strawberries from the field.

This is a good example how I cook: I use what I have at hand and what is fresh and in season and therefore cheap. It never tastes the same twice. And never ever ask me: How much? I am a “feeling” cook, not a measuring one.

This is a Sunday dish. Eating mayonnaise every day is not such a good idea for the waist line – even if it is finger-licking good. By the way, if you have a mixer, you can make your own mayonnaise: Separate eggs into yolks and egg white (use the whites for making meringues later). Beat the yolks until they stiffen a bit. Drop by drop add olive oil – never stop beating, slowly first, then faster. The secret is in never to add too much oil at a time so that the mayonnaise does not curdle. Takes five minutes to make.

Summer fare is about freshness and moderation. Thinking about it: It's the same in the winter. Except that in the summer, the heat helps you with the moderation part - it curbs our appetites.

Seasonal Indulgences

June 4, 2010

Tags: order, food, herbs, aphrodisiac, asparagus, calcium, chrono-biology, copper, detoxification, fiber, Galium odoratum, iron, magnesium, minerals, parsley, phosphorus, potassium, Seasonal Indulgences, seasons, strawberries, sweet woodruff, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc

White asparagus, new potatoes, chopped parsley in melted butter and prosciutto - have you ever tasted the joy of this? I did last week - traveling in Europe. This is asparagus time, and it is eaten plentifully. Followed by strawberries.

In years gone, I have tried asparagus with sauce Béarnaise or sauce Hollandaise, with Wiener Schnitzel or salted herring. I had it as soup or stew. This year, I learned a new asparagus dish: Jam – made with sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), an herb that should only be harvested in May, with a flavor that is indescribably delicious – pure May indeed.

But my point is not the asparagus or the sweet woodruff; the point is that Europeans eat in season. They fantasize all year about asparagus with “young” potatoes – and when the white spears finally shoot out of the soil, there eat them often. Until mid-June (the exact date varies from north to south), when traditionally the last white asparagus is cut to let the plant develop strength for next year. After mid-June … nothing for a whole year.

Medicinally, asparagus flushes the kidney and moves the bowel (fiber!), taking with it toxins that have accumulated over the long winter. Parsley gives vitamin C, depleted after the cold season. And young potatoes round out the composition that delights the taste buds. In medieval times it was thought to be an aphrodisiac – but anything that was growing freshly after the long winter and had a phallic form might have served for the purpose, I guess.

Asparagus contains vitamins A, C, B1, B2, and E and is thought to help regeneration of cells, especially of nerves, vessels, skin and hair. White asparagus is kept white by growing them in deep soil, and they always need peeling of the tough skin (which might be the reason that green asparagus is preferred here – less work). Asparagus is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and copper – all minerals sorely needed for bone strength.

Of course, it is possible to get white asparagus year-round. But Europeans still stick to the ancient clock: Over there, they have a time for everything, and May/June is dedicated to asparagus and strawberries.

We here think nothing of eating the good stuff whenever we feel like it. We don’t think about that the good stuff is made expensive by world-wide travel, and leaves a huge carbon print. Not to mention of the health consequences. Eating the same thing over and over again makes one prone to food allergies, for instance. And the old wisdom of the body is that what is in season is right for the body when it is in season. Not by chance but because we developed over millions of years together with the plants.

Here a small sample of what should be eaten when – and it is not only ancient lore but modern chrono-biology confirms the value of eating in season:
• January: red Beat
• February: celery, celeriac
• March: spinach, stinging nettle
• April: radish, rhubarb
• May: lettuce
• June: cucumber
• July: carrots, black currants, gooseberries, raspberries
• August: tomato, first apples, blueberries, raspberries.
• September: broccoli, cauliflower
• October: leeks
• November: cabbage
• December: rapunzel
(I will add to these!)

We delight in Christmas, and sometimes go over the top with Christmas decorations and gifts and events. Perhaps, if one had something to look forward year-round, would Christmas take its place among many seasonal delights?
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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