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2012

Free Acupuncture: May 1st @Turning Point Acupuncture

May First, also known as May Day, is celebrated in many ways around the world. Growing up in a Roman Catholic community on Guam, I first knew May Day as a commemoration of the purity of Mary, the mother of Jesus, where she is celebrated with song and flowers. When we moved to Europe, we joined local communities in May Day festivities usually involving dances and copious amounts of food and drink around the village Maypole, or Maibaum.

But in almost every part of the world, May Day is recognized as a day celebrating the resilience of working class women and men as International Workers' Day. In keeping with that tradition and with the ethic of community acupuncture to provide affordable care for all people, Jessica Feltz at The Turning Point Acupuncture here in Frederick, MD will join the network of community acupuncture clinics around the U.S. and the world offering FREE ACUPUNCTURE open to everyone on Tuesday, May 1, 2012.

To accommodate as many people as possible, Ms. Feltz is offering both morning and afternoon/evening appointments throughout the day (usually the clinic is only open in the afternoon/evenings on Tuesdays). If you don't live in our neck of the woods, please check out the POCA website to find a community acupuncture clinic near you and see if they will be participating too! If you've been on the fence about trying acupuncture, this is your best chance to give it a shot…. or needle (smile).

The sessions are free on May Day, but you must call ahead to reserve your recliner! Here are the details for The Turning Point Acupuncture's May 1st event:


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It's the Annual May Day Event
at The Turning Point Acupuncture

Who:    EVERYONE is invited!

What:   FREE acupuncture for EVERYBODY

When:  Tuesday, May 1st
            9:00 am - 1:00 pm AND 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Where: 

The Turning Point: A Community Acupuncture Center
243 W Patrick Street, Frederick, MD 21701

Why:    In celebration of International Workers' Day

How:     APPOINTMENTS ONLY! 
            Save your seat, call 240-405-7878


 

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Roasted Stuffed Tomatoes

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I know winter is the worst season for buying tomatoes. Living in Maryland, we know for certain they're not local or flavorful this time of year — too often they're firm to the point of being hard though they look pretty enough.

But there is a way to "make lemonade" from these lemons of a tomato, to use their flaw (hardness) as a strength by putting them to work as edible containers for a flavorful filling; and to concentrate and sweeten what small flavor they might have by roasting. The result is an inexpensive and utterly delicious meal for a family of four. When tomatoes go on sale for around $1.99/lb. this time of year, this meal comes together for about $5 (and that's using organic ground beef, even less if using regular ground beef) since you only use a half-pound of meat.

Since the ground beef we use is pre-packaged in 1 pound packages (from Costco), I usually brown the whole pound, and freeze or refrigerate half the cooked meat for another meal. Pre-cooked ground meat is a great freezer staple to make quick work of weekday meal planning. Throw it into a pasta sauce with olives or mushrooms for a quick bolognese, mix it with tofu and peas in a chili garlic sauce for 30-minute Spicy Mapo Tofu over rice, or scramble with eggs and your favorite greens (we love watercress or spinach) and fry as a fritatta. But I digress...

First the ground beef is browned with aromatics (onions and garlic) and herbs. Next the pan is deglazed with broth or water which is then added to the roasting pan, so maximum flavor is extracted from a mere half-pound of ground beef! When the beef is mixed with cooked rice and dried fruit, you have a versatile filling that is equally good stuffed in chayote squash, zucchini, and eggplants as in tomatoes. Whichever veg you use, be sure to have lots of bread to sop up the tasty sauce!

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ROASTED STUFFED TOMATOES

For the tomato shells:
8 medium tomatoes

Cut off top ¼ of each tomato and keep aside. Line a large plate with paper towels.

With a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds and insides of the tomatoes. Place each tomato upside down on the paper towels to drain. Chop up the tomato innards and keep for the sauce.

For Filling:
2 TBL olive oil
½ medium onion, finely diced
3-6 cloves garlic
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
¼ -½ cup raisins or currants
4 cups cooked cold rice

To Roast:
1 cup broth or water
3 TBL olive oil



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Serendipity, and a Sourdough Kalamata Bread

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Last Saturday we woke up to an expected high temperature of 60F degrees and sunny, blue skies. So we decided to take advantage of the unseasonable weather, put the home renovations on hold, and headed out for a walk and picnic lunch. Fortunately, I had been forced to bake a sourdough bread the night before, so we threw half a loaf together with some cheeses, cold cuts, and roasted tomatoes and headed for the Trail. That's the Appalachian Trail, by the way, which is about a 10 minute drive from our house. This was our picnic view from the base of the original Washington Monument (did you know there was more than one?!) on South Mountain, which straddles Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland, and over which the Appalachian Trail traverses. The town of Boonsboro lies just beyond the treeline, and in the distance are hills in Pennsylvania (to the right) and West Virginia (to the left).


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And this is the view of our serendipitous picnic.

One of the truths of caring for a sourdough starter is that it does force you to innovate. With regular feedings, you end up with use-it-lose-it-or-give-it-away sourdough every 4-5 days. This is where I was last Friday, while in the midst of home projects that did not allow for the careful timing of no-knead sourdough bread or for testing the bookmarked and drool-stained new recipes for sourdough pancakes or crumpets.

What I wanted was something relatively quick and a recipe I was already knew — so I adapted the method for the sourdough multi-grain loaf and substituted all bread flour and kalamata olives. Without too much thought or planning — Voila! a nice olive bread just waiting for an occasion.

We liked this bread so much that I will probably make another loaf this week when it's time to feed the starter again. A subtle tang from the sourdough, and plenty of savoriness from the tapenade, olives and olive oil — this bread is an olive-lover's dream. Alone with cheeses and/or cold cuts, or to sop up a savory stew or soup, this is a loaf that will turn any occasion into an event!

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By the way, here's what the first Monument dedicated to our first president looks like — it was erected by the townsfolk of nearby Boonsboro in 1827, and is just a couple hundred feet off the Appalachian Trail. We actually didn't think about it on Saturday, but last weekend was Presidents' Day weekend, commemorating the birthdays of our first president, George Washington, as well as our sixteenth, Abraham Lincoln.

Bake some bread — you'll be prepared for anything! (Yes, we're talking to YOU!)


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SOURDOUGH KALAMATA OLIVE LOAF
Makes one 2½-lb. loaf

Before you begin, you will need a sourdough starter. If you choose to make a starter from scratch, it may take 7-10 days before it is ready to use so plan ahead. If you already have a starter, this is a good way to use even a groggy starter or some you are ready to cast off. The sourdough lends more flavor than leavening since active dry yeast is also included.


½ cup sourdough starter
½ cup lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TBL olive oil
3 TBL olive tapenade (optional, but highly recommended)
(if using, taste for saltiness and decide whether to include sea salt with dry ingredients)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together well.

250g bread, aka strong, flour (Typ 500)
½ tsp sea salt (optional, may not need if using tapenade)
2 tsp vital wheat gluten

In a separate bowl, mix well to combine, and add to sourdough. Attach dough hook, and knead for 7-9 minutes. Or knead by hand for 10-12 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, the dough may become stickier as you knead so sprinkle board and top of dough with more flour if it becomes unworkable. By the end of the kneading time, I did find the dough a little tacky but not clinging to my fingers.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic, or a shower cap. Set in warm, draft-free place for first rise, about 2 hours, or until about double in size.

To finish:
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, about 100g

Punch down the dough and gently knead to stretch. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Gently flatten dough into a large rectangle. Add half the olives, fold dough over and flatten out again. Add remaining olives and fold dough over. Gently knead to distribute olives.

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Shape dough into a round, or your favorite shape. Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet. Place dough on baking sheet and cover (I used an overturned bowl — the one the dough rose in earlier, or just plastic film).

Allow dough to proof, about 2 hours, or until you can press the dough and the imprint does not immediately spring back.

About 15 minutes before the dough will be ready, pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Remove cover, and score dough, if desired. Bake on middle rack of oven for 40-50 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190F/88C, or the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles.

Remove from oven and brush with olive oil. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Enjoy!


More sourdough bread recipes:
No-Knead Sourdough Boule
Sourdough Multi-grain Bread
New York-style Light Rye
Raisin Rye







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BMB: Sourdough Multi-grain Bread

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After a long hiatus, I'm finally baking bread again. This is actually the second loaf of the new baking "season" — a Sourdough Multi-grain Bread adapted from a recipe on the King Arthur flour website. This is an easy sourdough recipe since it does not rely on the starter for leavening; in fact, it has as much yeast as a typical bread dough. Instead, the sourdough gives this bread a tang and chewy texture like an artisan loaf, but has the quick rising time (2 hours) and softness of a good sandwich loaf. Best of all worlds, really.

This is a great way for sourdough starter "guardians" to make use of that excess sourdough you find yourself with when it's time to feed the starter. You can use that "unfed" starter in this recipe because you'll also be using yeast to give the bread its rise.

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I've adapted the King Arthur (KA) recipe by substituting two ingredients that are proprietary KA blends with more readily available ingredients. First, I used vital wheat gluten (VWG) instead of KA Whole-Grain Bread Improver. Vital wheat gluten is available in either the baking aisle or natural foods section of many supermarkets, and in bulk in many natural food stores and co-ops. It helps homemade breads retain moisture, and improves their rise. Second, I made up my own blend of grains and seeds in place of the KA Harvest Grains Blend. I started with a multi-grain hot cereal blend that has whole-grain rolled rye, barley, oats and wheat (available at Trader Joe's) and threw in flaxseed, black and white sesame seeds, cracked mahlab seeds (a type of cherry seed from the Mediterranean, available at Penzey's Spice and in Middle East groceries), and white poppy seeds (we didn't have black poppy seeds).

King Arthur is our default choice for baking flours — we keep KA all-purpose, whole wheat, and bread flours as pantry staples. King Arthur flours are neither bleached nor treated with potassium bromate, a flour enhancer that is a possible carcinogen and has been banned in many countries, including the European Union, Canada, and China. It is allowed in the U.S. because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use in 1958, before it was identified as a carcinogen (particularly linked to breast cancers) in the 1980s. For some reason, the FDA continues to decline to ban potassium bromate, and instead "urges bakers not to use it"… what?! In California products containing bromated flour must carry a warning label! (Source: Wikipedia and Livestrong)

This is the third time I've made this loaf. It is every bit as chewy, soft and scrumptious as described in the original recipe. It is divine completely naked, or dressed in a coat of butter and dab of boysenberry jam. It is a soup's best friend, and is an equally great companion to a plate of cheeses with fruit or chutney. Oh, and yes, it holds a sandwich together with some pizazz, too.

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SOURDOUGH MULTI-GRAIN BREAD
Adapted from baker Clay Miller's recipe on the King Arthur Flour website

1 TBL raw sugar
1 to 1½ cups (132g-150g) all-purpose flour
(start with the smaller amount and add 1 TBL at a time, up to an additional 3 tablespoons)
½ cup instant potato flakes
½ cup (65g) whole wheat flour
1¼ tsp sea salt
4 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional, but helps rise for heavy doughs)
cup blend of seeds and rolled whole grains
(see article above for some suggestions)

Combine all dry ingredients.

cup sourdough starter
cup lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TBL olive oil

Place starter, warm water and yeast in large mixing bowl. Stir to blend. Add dry ingredients and olive oil.

Secure bowl to mixing stand, and attach dough hook. Stir on low speed until dry ingredients are incorporated, then increase speed to medium and knead for 7-10 minutes.

The first two times I made this bread last year, the dough was pretty sticky by the end of the kneading time, even after the full 1½ cups of all-purpose flour was added — this was predicted in the KA recipe, and is okay as long as you can handle the dough with floured hands. But this last time the dough came together as a solid dough with no stickiness at all with only 1 cups flour.

Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rise for 1½ -2 hours. The dough might not double, but it should rise significantly.

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Lightly oil a 9” loaf pan (the original recipe calls for an 8½” x 4½ “ loaf pan, but this is the smallest I have). Punch down the dough and shape it into a loaf to fit your pan. Cover pan with a disposable shower cap, or greased plastic film. (Disposable caps are a genius tip I learned from the original KA recipe — they give the dough plenty of space to rise. You can find multi-packs of these cheap shower caps in dollar stores. They are like the ones you find in hotel toiletries too.)

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Set in a warm room, and allow to rise for 1½ -2 hours, or until the dough is well over 1” over the rim of the pan. A finger pressed into the dough shouldn’t spring back right away and should leave a slight impression. Because this dough will not get a dramatic rise once it’s in the oven (known as “oven-spring”), it’s important to give it a good chance to rise in this final proof.

In the last 20 minutes of the proving time, pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190F/88C. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, you can use the tried-and-true method of pulling the loaf out of the pan and giving it a good knuckle rap on its bottom — if it sounds hollow, the loaf is done; if it sounds like a dull thump, put it back for a few minutes more.

Remove loaf from pan and cool on a wire rack. Let bread cool completely before slicing. Resist the overwhelming temptation to cut this loaf while it’s hot. You get gummy bread slices — I speak from hard-headed experience. This loaf does have a most heavenly aroma, and it’s really, really tempting to just tear into it when it comes out of the oven. I had to leave for a meeting after taking it out and had to bribe T. with a promise that I would bake him a small roll next time if he promised not to cut this loaf while it was still warm.

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Pairs perfectly with a bowl of your favorite soup
(turkey vegetable soup, anyone?)
and/or with some flavorful cheeses. Bon Appetit!



The first bread I made to kick off the new baking season was the No-Knead Sourdough, which is easy but requires a long lead time. A variation on a straight sourdough are these rye breads: NY-style light rye and sweet raisin-rye.









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The Butcher's Turkey Vegetable Soup

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So far this season, we've enjoyed an incredibly mild winter in Frederick County, Maryland — here and there a night of snowfall, maybe freezing rain and ice on a few mornings. On the whole it's been mostly sunny, with temps in the 40s and even 50s throughout December and January. Of course, this is after we had that freak snowstorm in October!

But today the sky is the color of slate, our high will be right at freezing, and it's snowing — not the pretty powder snow we've seen so far this winter, but heavy leaden flakes. And they're blowing horizontally! Winds are gusting about 45mph according to my Weatherbug app, but I think they really must be over 55mph — did I mention the snow is flying horizontally?! OK. So it's snowing, big deal. Punxsutawney Phil did predict 6 more weeks of winter, after all. And if you can't trust a groundhog to predict the weather, who can you trust?

So why am I whining about the weather? Maybe because the daffodils are beating out the crocuses in blooming this year; maybe because I've been stealth-purchasing seeds for herbs and greens already; maybe because my Pacific Rim roots are yearning for an ocean breeze. Whatever the reason, I'm in serious need of some comfort food. So I pulled open the freezer and found some turkey necks that I stocked up after Thanksgiving. Ah, yes… turkey vegetable soup. Simple, light, and loaded with vegetables. What could be better on a day like today?

I learned about using turkey necks to make soup when I was a student in the 80s (ahem… stop doing math in your head, please) from a kindly butcher at the Safeway supermarket near my school in Santa Clara, California. I was staring at the packaged necks in the display case and wondering to myself what on earth one would use turkey necks for, when the butcher came out to re-stock the meat display and saw me staring. "Soup," he said, reading my mind. "They make the best soup. Lots of bone and a little skin for flavor. And you'd be surprised how much meat is on them if you care to take the meat off the bones. Everybody loves chicken soup, but I think turkey makes the better broth. Do you make soup?" At that point in my life, I had never really made soup from scratch before. So he gave me a quick rundown of the basics of homemade broth, and sent me on my way armed with a pack of turkey necks. I've never looked back.

The biggest difference in the way my broth-making has evolved from the butcher's instructions is that I almost always include ginger in my broths, whether it's turkey, chicken, beef or pork. Ginger not only adds a nice flavor note, but it is a "warm" spice that many traditional medicinal practices (including TCM and Ayurveda) recognize as stimulating — heating the body from the inside out and supporting or even boosting the immune system. Could be just what the doctor orders when the mercury starts to head south...

Thank you, Mr. Butcher, whoever you are, for a lifetime of homemade soups that started with your generous and helpful suggestions that early winter morning in 1987.

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THE BUTCHER'S TURKEY VEGETABLE SOUP
Serves 4-5 people

So many folks are intimidated by the idea of making soup from scratch. No need! Soups are a great way to make hearty and heart-healthy meals from the toughest cuts of meat — or even better, bones! While it does take some time to extract the most flavor from bones and meat for a broth, much of the cooking time can be done on a back burner or even in a slow-cooker while you do other things. Or if you're very clever and set up a slow-cooker before you go to bed, while you're asleep! And while I often chill chicken, pork and beef broths so the fats solidify and are easy to remove, that step isn't necessary for this broth because turkey necks have very little skin and therefore almost no fat.

You'll notice that the soup has few seasonings other than onion and ginger in the broth, and sea salt, black pepper and chervil in the finished soup. Most of the rich flavor comes from the vegetables. Frozen vegetables are fine, but use as many fresh vegetables as you can since they will give the greatest depth and sweetness to the soup. In the soup pictured here, the zucchini, carrots, mushrooms and beans were fresh; the peas and corn were frozen.


Broth:
3-4lbs. (about 1.3-1.8kg) turkey necks
1 large onion, halved and papery skin removed
3-4 fingers of ginger, sliced (to peel or not to peel is up to you)
1-2 bay leaves (optional, the butcher recommended this, but I usually don't use it for turkey broth anymore)

Place turkey necks, onion and ginger in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Add enough cold water to cover the ingredients by an inch. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Once it starts to boil, turn heat down to medium low. As impurities rise and form a frothy scum, skim them off and discard. Once the broth is cleared of impurities, you can cover the pot, turn the heat down to low and attend to other things in the kitchen (prep the veggies for the soup, or maybe bake a loaf of bread) while time works its magic on the broth, about 4-5 hours.

If doing this in a slow-cooker, set the temperature to LOW and just ignore the whole thing for 8 hours.

Strain the broth, setting aside the necks and discarding the onion and ginger pieces. Remove as much meat from the bones as you can. Rough chop the meat and keep aside.

To Finish:
3-4 lbs (about 1.3-1.8kg) of fresh vegetables of your choice
(In the soup pictured here, we used 1lb. of zucchini/courgettes, ½lb. cremini mushrooms, ½lb. green beans, ¼lb. peas, 1lb. carrots and ½lb. corn niblets. If we had any broccoli or potatoes in the house today, I would have added them in too, and less of some of the other vegetables. Other veggies you might use: sweet potatoes, collard greens, kale, butternut squash, leeks, celery, cooked garbanzo or navy beans [any bean, really], parsnips, spinach, whatever vegetables you have on hand)
1 tsp. chervil (my choice),
or ½ tsp. oregano + 1 tsp. basil (the butcher's choice)
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper

Return strained broth and chopped meat to the pot, add vegetables and seasonings, and bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the soup is boiling, turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Taste and correct seasoning.

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Serve hot with slabs of a nice hearty bread like this is sourdough multi-grain (next post).
Nutty cheeses round out the meal — goat Gouda and raw milk Emmentaler from Trader Joe's.


More soup ideas?
German-style Green & White Beans Soup,
Potato, Leek & Rainbow Chard Soup,
Chicken Soup for the Soul,
Creamy Sweet Corn & Shrimp Soup,
Snert (Dutch Split Pea Soup),
Portuguese Bean Soup (it's really Hawaiian),
Krautsuppe (Orange-scented Sauerkraut Soup)




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Chinkiang Pork Chops: Fit for a Dragon

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It's New Year's again — Yay! And though we might be hard-pressed to find a lion dance or firecrackers in our neck of the woods today, that doesn't mean we won't celebrate the Return of the Dragon this Lunar New Year with a special meal (or two), like these elegantly spiced Chinkiang Pork Chops, from Breath of a Wok, by Grace Young.

I was intrigued by this recipe because it has some rather unusual ingredients — namely, A.1. sauce, ketchup and Tabasco! Not exactly what one expects to see in a Chinese cookbook! Ms. Young attributes this recipe to Chef Henry Hugh of the N.Y. School of Culinary Arts, so that might account for the fusion of Western and Asian flavors. The chops are briefly marinated, then seared in a skillet and finished in a simmering sauce. The nice thing about this recipe is that you could easily sample this rather exotic dish using ingredients you already have in your cupboard! The Chinkiang vinegar, which lends its name to this dish, and Shaoxing rice wine are the only ingredients that would require a special trip to a Chinese or Asian market, but Ms. Young provides appropriate substitutes from Western kitchens that approximate the flavors of the special vinegar and wine.

I really enjoyed these chops, but T. was a bit ambivalent. My notes on the recipe say the sauce reminds me BBQ, so maybe that's why I liked them so much — you know I have a weakness for BBQ'd pork! I would like to try this recipe again, but using pork ribs instead of chops — I love the texture and flavor of the meat closest to the bone, so the more bones the better!

Don't forget, Lunar New Year celebrations extend from the beginning of the new moon, which is today, to the full moon, which is on February 7th! So you have two full weeks to enjoy and count your many blessings for the year.

Happy Lunar New Year — it's the Year of the Dragon!

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CHINKIANG PORK CHOPS
(Method adapted from Breath of a Wok, by Grace Young)
Serves 3-4 persons as part of a multi-course meal

For the Marinade:
1lb/450g of thin-sliced pork chops, about 4 pieces
2 TBL Shao Hsing (also spelled Shaoxing) rice wine, or pale dry sherry
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp sea salt
1 large egg, beaten
½ tsp cornstarch

Lay one chop in the middle of 2 sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. With a mallet, rolling pin or meat pounder, gently but firmly pound the meat to flatten and tenderize. Turn the chop over (I just turn the whole thing, paper/plastic and all), and repeat on other side. Repeat with remaining chops. Author recommends cutting each chop into 3 pieces, keeping the bone in one piece; I didn't do this.

In a shallow bowl or plate, combine the wine/sherry, shoyu, salt, egg and cornstarch. Marinate meat in this mixture for at least 30 minutes.


For the Sauce:
3 TBL Chinkiang vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
3 TBL raw sugar
1 TBL ketchup
½ tsp A.1. Sauce
½ tsp Tabasco brand hot sauce
¼ tsp sea salt

Combine all Sauce ingredients, stir well, and set aside.

To Finish:
¼ cup cornstarch, for dredging
2 TBL peanut or safflower oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced

Pre-heat large skillet over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, remove meat from marinade and pat dry. Dredge in cornstarch, and shake off excess.

Add 1 TBL oil and pan fry meat to brown well on each side, about 1 minute each side. If necessary, do this in batches so the skillet is not over-crowded. Remove to serving platter, as they brown. Turn down heat to medium.

In the same pan, add remaining oil and garlic, and cook until garlic is fragrant. Immediately add the combined Sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn heat down again to medium-low, return pork pieces to the pan and simmer together until the meat is cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.

Serve pork chops with sauce drizzled over, and accompanied with rice and vegetables of your choosing. We had them with Chinese Broccoli with Wolfberries, Fresh Corn and Mushrooms (photo below), which is also adapted from the same cookbook. But go with what makes you happy!

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Here are a few other recipes that you might consider for your Lunar celebration:
Venison Dumplings, Watercress Dumplings,
Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallions,
Lychee Sake Pork Stir-fry,
Choi Sum with Garlic, Five Spices Chicken,
Flash-Cooked Watercress,
Chinese Mustard Green (Gai Choy) with Garlic,
Black Silkie Chicken Broth


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Community Acupuncture: A Revolution in Health Care

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$15 - $35 Acupuncture Treatments
"Providing Affordable Care for the Health of our Community"
(Used with permission of Jessica Feltz, co-producer)


While we're all still thinking about our various New Year's resolutions to get healthier and stay that way, let me share with you something that just might help you keep that promise to yourself. It's one of the best kept secrets in affordable health care in the U.S.: the community acupuncture network.

For T. and I, acupuncture was a godsend when we first tried it during our time in Hawaii. We found tremendous relief from many things, including sore joints, back aches, allergies, menstrual distress, insomnia, and stress, and shared some of those experiences in these pages in 2008. At that time we were receiving acupuncture from a doctor of Oriental Medicine, and our monthly treatments included comprehensive diagnostic interviews before each session and prescriptive herbal tonics to take home. The cost of each session was $55-80, depending on the length of the acupuncture session and the tonics prescribed. We were able to get monthly treatments at these rates. And although our insurance didn't cover acupuncture, we were able to pay out of our Flexible Spending Account (FSA) — in the U.S., it's a special savings account where money is set aside before it is taxed, but can only be used for certain health care related expenses.

Since leaving Hawaii 3½ years ago, we had gone without acupuncture until last September when we met Ms. Jessica Feltz, L.Ac. at an outdoor festival in downtown Frederick. She was offering free acupuncture treatments on-site at the festival as well as coupons for free introductory treatments at her clinic, Turning Point Acupuncture, where she offers treatment on a sliding scale of $15-35. I'll be honest, when I first heard Jessica say this, I looked at her a little sideways. As a former consumer fraud prosecutor, I had seen a fair share of "too good to be true" deals in my time, and skepticism was my armor. I asked her how on Earth she could charge so little when many acupuncture clinics in our area started their fee schedule almost twice her highest fee! She explained the community acupuncture concept this way: treatment is offered in a group setting, with clients resting in recliners arranged in an open room so the practitioner can treat multiple people (at her clinic, Jessica can treat 10 people at once) in the same hour in which other practitioners might treat 1 or 2 clients. She went on to say that this setting was closer in style to how acupuncture is offered in its traditional culture — that is, it's not reserved only for those who could afford costly treatments but is available to everyone as needed.

Yes, in the community room setting you can see the other clients in the room with you, but there is no need to undress or otherwise expose any part of the body except the legs up to the knees and the arms up to the elbows. The community room at Turning Point Acupuncture is an inviting place, full of natural light, and the ambient sounds of trickling water and meditative music. Jessica herself is a warm and calming presence — with a gentle touch and a caring ear, she creates a sense that your concerns and needs will be addressed during your time together. After my first visit, I was a convert to the community acupuncture model, and relieved I could afford the weekly treatments I needed for the symptoms that had relapsed during my long drought without acupuncture. I've also found I actually prefer the community setting to the private one (1 client per room) because often I sense a palpable energy in the community room that I find very healing in itself. During one visit early on, I was alone in the community room for the first 30 minutes or so, and it wasn't until another client had settled into his/her treatment that I noticed I reached the deepest part of my own relaxation. I've been able to use that experience as a touchstone against which to gauge how quickly I reach deep relaxation alone or when sharing Qi (chi) with others nearby!

Probably the most amazing thing about the community acupuncture concept is that each client decides how much s/he can afford on the scale of $15-35 per treatment. There is no income test at The Turning Point, or any of the other 120+ clinics in the community acupuncture network (CAN) in 34 U.S. states. During your first visit, your practitioner will discuss how often s/he think you should receive treatments (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.). The emphasis at Turning Point and CAN clinics is on clients — that they receive the treatments they need for their well-being and can afford to come as often as their practitioner recommends. It's quite an incredible model when compared to our prevailing health insurance system, which repeatedly demonstrates that it's driven primarily by profit and not by the patient's best interest. In fact, the CAN model has even found space to grow in places with universal health care — you can find clinics using the CAN model in Canada as well.

If you would like to learn more about the history of community acupuncture clinics and the impact they have on their communities, come to the Mid-Atlantic cinematic debut of a documentary about the movement, "Community Acupuncture - The Calmest Revolution Ever Staged," here in Frederick next Monday, January 30, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the MDL Holiday Cinemas. For tickets and information, call Turning Point Acupuncture at (240) 405-7878, or click here. The film's co-producer and local practitioner Jessica Feltz will be on hand to introduce the documentary and will open the floor to questions about acupuncture and the community acupuncture model after the screening. Tickets are just $10 per person, and Jessica will honor each ticket at her clinic for one acupuncture session in the weeks following the documentary's premiere! If you've always been curious about acupuncture but been shy about taking that next step, this screening offers a unique way to learn more, meet a local practitioner (and probably many of her happy clients), AND get a full acupuncture treatment (later in the week, not that night) for one very low price!

If you can't make it for the movie screening but are still curious about community acupuncture, this YouTube video features several CAN practitioners, including Ms. Feltz, and real clients from CAN clinics describing their experiences with community acupuncture. In their own words, including Spanish and ASL, clients describe what ailments brought them to the clinics and the relief they have received through treatments. It also gives you a peek at what community rooms in real clinics look like before you come!




The community acupuncture network bills itself as the "calmest revolution," but it's also been one of the quietest, — except maybe for the occasional client who is so relaxed during treatment that s/he falls asleep and starts snoring (yes, there are "shes" too)! Not one person I've talked to about community acupuncture had ever heard of it before, and that has got to change! I've done my best to introduce family and friends to community acupuncture here in Frederick and near where they live. Now I'm telling you, and hoping you will check it out and spread the love to your friends and kin, too.

Come join the Recliner Revolution!



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Wild Fermentation: Homemade Sauerkraut

If you're a regular reader here, you've seen my husband T. take a culinary turn a few times, most recently with those elegant crepes that we filled with homemade lemon curd and fresh blueberries. Often when T. steps into the culinary spotlight it involves a cool tool he covets — a professional crepe pan, for instance, or in this case an antique cabbage shredder that he has restored.

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Shortly before we left Germany, T. spent a day with his colleague, Lamont (an American), who was famous for his homemade Sauerkraut in a land where Sauerkraut was quite ubiquitous. Not only was the kraut homemade, Lamont shredded the cabbage by hand using an antique shredder he had found in a flea market and restored to working condition (the Krautmeister and his shredder in photo at right). Their kraut-making day started shortly after dawn, as Lamont insisted on getting the freshest available cabbage from a farmers' market near Heidelberg, a 50-mile journey. (The fresher the cabbage, the higher its water content — an important factor in how much natural brine the cabbage will produce.)

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Once they had secured two 30-gallon bags full of cabbage, they returned to Lamont's house for T's apprenticeship. Between the two of them, they shredded, salted and tamped enough cabbage to fill 4 large crocks with salted cabbage (photo, left). A common misperception is that Sauerkraut is made with vinegar; probably because it's so sour. Actually, Sauerkraut is made with only cabbage and non-iodized salt (the iodine in iodized salt interferes with the fermentation process), such as sea salt or kosher salt. After a short time, the cabbage will exude water, which mixes with the salt to create a natural brine that covers the cabbage. The brine creates an environment in which the cabbage can ferment safely.

Lamont generously gifted us with one of those crocks full of Sauerkraut-in-waiting, and coached T. on its maintenance. We patiently watched over our crock, taking care to check the kraut for surface "bloom" — an unsightly but mostly benign bacteria that can grow on the brine surface that should be removed — and keeping the well around the lid filled with clean water to create an air-tight seal. After the requisite 10-week fermentation period, it was quite a treat to eat fresh hand-made and homemade Sauerkraut! T. could not wait to try it again on his own. But just as he was planning to search for his own shredder, we learned we had one month to prepare for a move to Hawaii!

Now, three moves and six years later, we have found ourselves in a part of the U.S. that was settled by German immigrants — an area in which T. might finally find an antique cabbage shredder. For over a year, we scoured antique shops and flea markets in search of a functional shredder. Many of the antique shredders we saw were rendered unusable by paint, glue, or other decorative touches. He finally found one that was merely rusty, as well as a wooden tamper for pressing the cabbage in the crock. After disassembling the whole shredder, removing all the rust, sharpening the blades, and cleaning and finishing the wood with a food-grade oil, he was ready for his first batch of Sauerkraut.

For directions and safety guidelines for making Sauerkraut, he used several sources on the Web. Check out Wild Fermentation, Wedliny Domowe (a Polish culinary how-to site), and the Sauerkraut forum on The Garden Web for detailed information if you are inspired to try this at home.

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T. insisted on doing this the old-fashioned (= hard) way, but you can absolutely
shred the cabbage with a modern mandoline or even a food processor.

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Sea salt was mixed in as each cabbage was shredded
(any iodine-free salt will do).

It took 15 heads of cabbage to fill the crock! He used cabbage grown in
nearby Sharpsburg — locally grown produce will be freshest and
will have the highest water content to make a natural brine.

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The salted cabbage was tamped down in the crock.

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To keep the cabbage weighted so it stayed submerged,T. used bags of brine.
The brine was a precaution; if the bags accidentally broke, the salt water
would not interfere with fermentation.

This crock has a well around the lid that is filled with water to create a tight seal to keep out pathogens.
You have to check the lid every day or two to make sure the water hasn't evaporated.
Sometimes you can hear the crock "burping" when gas escapes from under the lid and through the water!

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After 4 weeks: starting to ferment, but still crisp green — a cabbage/kraut hybrid.
T. was already sampling the kraut as a salad at this point.

T. enjoys Sauerkraut as a side dish, uncooked and ungarnished — which is the best way to gain the full benefit of fermented food. Sauerkraut is high in fiber and Vitamins C and K, and is a good source of lactic acid bacteria which contribute to a healthy digestive tract and immune system. To get the latter benefits, though, you should eat Sauerkraut raw and seek out brands that are unpasteurized. Or make it yourself, of course! But if you plan to cook the Sauerkraut, a pasteurized brand that is naturally fermented and packed in plastic or glass works fine.

Most of this first batch was given away to T's colleagues, who were intrigued with the whole idea of homemade kraut and wanted to taste for themselves. We did enjoy Apfelsauerkraut (recipe below) with turkey keilbasa a couple of times, but I was shocked to learn yesterday that the first crock of Sauerkraut is already history! So this can only mean one thing — a second batch is being planned, this time with other vegetables (carrots? Brussel sprouts? cauliflower?) thrown in as well. Of course, it will be at least a couple of months before another batch will be ready. Oh well, we still have kimchi when we need a fermented cabbage fix!

If you're in an especially adventurous mood, you might want to try this unusual and utterly delicious tomato-based soup laced with orange: Krautsuppe mit Krabben, Sauerkraut Soup with Shrimp. If you enjoy the Korean kimchi soup, Jigae, you might like this German take on a fermented cabbage soup.

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APFELSAUERKRAUT
(APPLE SAUERKRAUT FOR SAUSAGE OR PORK CHOPS)
Serves 4 persons

This recipe has won converts from sworn Sauerkraut-haters — the addition of apples and apple cider mellows the sourness of the kraut without erasing its characteristic flavor. Feel free to substitute apple juice, beer, dry white wine or chicken broth for the hard cider too.

Make this without any meats, to serve as a side dish with ham or salmon, or mix in with egg noodles for a non-meat meal.

4oz bacon or salt pork, diced (optional)
2 TBL light olive oil
1-2 tsp. caraway seeds
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2-3 large, firm cooking apples, such as Cox-Pippin or Granny Smith
(about 1.5 lbs/750g), cored and sliced into 16-20 pieces
2 lbs/ 1kg fresh sauerkraut
1 cup hard apple cider

2 lbs sausage or wurst, or 4 pork loin chops, browned well (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Place oil and bacon, if using, in oven-proof skillet large enough to hold sauerkraut and sausages/pork chops. Over medium high heat, render fat from bacon, if using, about 5 minutes. Remove browned bacon pieces from skillet.

Turn heat down to medium, add caraway seeds and stir until the seeds are fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sliced onions, and stir through, then cook slowly until onions just start to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add sauerkraut and sliced apples, and stir through. Add pre-browned sausage or chops to top of sauerkraut. Pour cider around sauerkraut, and cover skillet with lid. Place in pre-heated oven for 25-40 minutes, or until meat is cooked through (sausage will cook faster than pork chops).

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Apfelsauerkraut with turkey kielbasa and purchased
Kartoffelknoedel (Bavarian-style potato dumpling)







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Food as Medicine: Black Silkie Chicken Broth

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If one of your New Year's resolutions is to eat healthier this year or to try new and exotic foods, here's a bird that might help you satisfy either or both resolutions!

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This grey/black-skinned chicken is called a Black Silkie. Its feathers are said to be more like fur than feather — it does look like a fowl version of a terrier, doesn't it? (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Shull, who raises Black Silkies and other interesting critters at Moonlight Valley Farms, Pennsylvania)

Available fresh or frozen in well-stocked Chinese groceries, the Black Silkie is prized for its distinctive flavor, and its elegant broth is purported to have restorative qualities. Even its flesh is dark grey laced with black streaks, and is supposed to be very stringy and gamey — most soup recipes recommend discarding the entire carcass and drinking only the broth. Since it often costs almost twice as much as other soup hens, I've hesitated experimenting with this chicken. But on a visit to our area's newest Chinese supermarket on New Year's Day, the moment felt propitious and warranted an adventurous purchase.

Once home, a search on the interwebs for soup recipes, yielded a few ingredients common to most: ginseng root, jujubes and dried Chinese yam (Dioscorea opposita). The ginseng and jujubes were easy enough to find without having to trek back 40 miles to the nearest Chinese grocer. But the Chinese yam — which I knew to be as thin-slices of a dried white tuber used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tonics — was not readily available in the Korean markets that were closer to home. As I searched again for recipes, I came across one from a TCM college that used cubes of fresh Chinese yam, also called shan yao. A cross search of "shan yao" yielded a surprising result: I knew this yam! But I knew it by its Japanese name, yamaimo (literally, "mountain yam/potato"). Hurray! I could find all the ingredients at the Korean market (a mere 22 miles away).
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In addition to the core ingredients of ginseng, jujubes and Chinese yam, the final "recipe" I concocted also included a couple of ingredients that appeared in a few soup recipes, and that we happened to have on hand: ginger and wolfberries. Everything went into a pot with enough water to cover and cooked together for about 5 hours. We really wanted to taste the chicken so I opted to leave out any other flavoring agents, such as rice wine or orange peel.

After straining out all the solids, we were left with a very dark and slightly unctuous broth. It was surprisingly mild, given its deep color, and light on the palate. And it definitely did not "taste like chicken." The broth was uniquely meaty-tasting — in the same way a mushroom broth can be described as "meaty" — but I really couldn't tell you what kind of meat it tasted like. Most importantly, the broth was incredibly warming, leaving a spreading sensation of warmth in the chest and abdomen long after the soup was finished. I understand why this soup is prescribed as a "pick-me-up" for women recovering from child birth and for anyone feeling under the weather.

We did sample some of the breast meat from the Black Silkie, and did find it as stringy as promised, but not really gamey. To be honest, it did not have much flavor at all, and we can only guess that it had lent all its soulful flavor to the broth.

As a first course, the broth provided a pleasing and unique start to our multi-course meal which included homemade char siu pork and Chinese broccoli with fresh baby corn and black mushrooms. An auspicious start to what we hope is a healthy and happy new year.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

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