A Farmer’s Trick for Making Zucchini Taste Great

Maddie Oatman wrote . . . . . . . . .

I can take little credit for the vegetable garden that has sprung up in our backyard this year, but I sure am enjoying it. My husband (the gardener) and I were admiring its rows of perky kale leaves and stick-straight chives over the weekend. So far, he explained, he’s focusing on growing greens and herbs, plus an ambitious experiment to try and coax tomatoes from this foggy corner of San Francisco.

“No zucchini?” I wondered, thinking back to harvesting the vegetable from my parent’s garden when I was a kid. “Nah,” he replied, “no one really likes zucchini.”

I couldn’t argue with that. Aside from occasionally indulging in the sweet comfort of zucchini bread or a rare fried squash blossom, I generally avoid the bland and starchy vegetable. So do many other people: “When you cook an overly mature zucchini, the watery flesh breaks up around the pulpy seeds, which you eat mainly so no one can plant them and start the odious cycle all over again,” writes NPR’s T. Susan Chang. Bon Appetit’s food director Carla Lalli Music likens the vegetable to “a wet bath mat.” Ouch.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not according to Abra Berens, a former farmer and the author of a buzzy new cookbook called Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables. Berens, who ran Bare Knuckle Farm in Michigan for eight years and is now the chef at Granor Farm, joined us on our latest episode of Bite:

Because the vegetable has such a mellow flavor, Berens likes to grill or panfry slices of zucchini or summer squash, and then cool them in a very acidic vinaigrette, a technique from Spanish cuisine called escabeche. As the ingredient cools, it soaks in flavors, “sort of like when you get a steam, your pores all open up,” she explains, “that’s what the zucchini’s doing—getting a spa treatment.” She describes the resulting taste as consistent, bright, and “lightly pickley.”

The technique offers a simple solution for what to do with that bunch of raw squash that shows up at your next summer barbecue. “It seems to me that most grilled meats have a sauce on them,” Berens points out, “but we don’t treat vegetables with the same respect.”

Source: Mother Jones

Advertisements

Peanut and Tofu Cutlets

Ingredients

1/2 cup brown rice
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1-3/4 cups peanuts
9 oz firm tofu, drained and crumbled
small bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro) or parsley, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil, for shallow frying

Method

  1. Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet until tender, then drain.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy frying pan and cook the onion and garlic over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until softened and golden.
  3. Spread out the peanuts on a baking sheet and toast under a preheated grill (broiler) for a few minutes, until browned.
  4. Place the toasted peanuts, onion, garlic, rice, tofu, coriander or parsley, if using, and soy sauce in a blender or food processor. Process until the mixture forms a thick paste. If it is too thick, add a little water.
  5. Divide the paste into eight equal mounds and form each mound into a cutlet shape or square.
  6. Heat the olive oil for shallow frying in a large, heavy frying pan. Add the cutlets, in two batches if necessary, and cook them for about 5-10 minutes on each side, until they turn golden and are heated through.
  7. Remove the cooked cutlets from the pan with a metal spatula and drain on kitchen paper. Keep them warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining cutlets. Serve immediately with green vegetables or a crisp salad and salsa.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Vegan Cooking

In Pictures: Food of Nishi Azabu (倭 西麻布) in Tokyo, Japan

Creative Cuisine

The Restaurant

Would You Eat Genetically Modified Food if You Understood the Science Behind It?

Jonathon McPhetres, a newly minted PhD in psychology from the University of Rochester, admits he’s “personally amazed” what we can do with genes, specifically genetically modified food — such as saving papayas from extinction.

“We can makes crops better, more resilient, and more profitable and easier for farmers to grow, so that we can provide more crops around the world,” he says.

Yet the practice of altering foods genetically, through the introduction of a gene from a different organism, has courted controversy right from the get-go. While genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are considered safe by an overwhelming majority of scientists, including the National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association, only about one third of consumers share that view.

One reason for the divide is that critics of genetically modified food have been vocal, often decrying it as “unnatural” or “Frankenfood” — in stark contrast to a 2016 review of published research that found no convincing evidence for negative health or environmental effects of GM foods.

A team of psychologists and biologists from the University of Rochester, the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Cardiff University in Wales, set out to discover if the schism could be overcome; that is, to see if consumers’ attitudes would change if the public understood the underlying science better.

The short answer is “yes.” The team’s findings were recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

“Political orientation and demographics inform attitudes and we can’t change those,” says McPhetres, the study’s lead author. “But we can teach people about the science behind GMOs, and that seems to be effective in allowing people to make more informed decisions about the products that they use or avoid.”

Previous research has shown that more than half of Americans know very little or nothing at all about GM foods.

In a series of studies, the team discovered that people’s existing knowledge about GM food is the greatest determining factor of their attitudes towards the food — overriding all other tested factors. In fact, existing GM knowledge was more than 19 times higher as a determinant — compared to the influence of demographic factors such as a person’s education, socioeconomic status, race, age, and gender.

The team replicated the US findings in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, where opposition to modified food has tended to be higher than in the United States, and where GM food is highly regulated in response to consumer concerns.

In one study, using a representative US sample, participants responded on a scale of 1 (don’t care if foods have been genetically modified), 2 (willing to eat, but prefer unmodified foods), to 3 (will not eat genetically modified foods). Next, the team asked 11 general science knowledge questions — such as whether the universe began with a huge explosion, antibiotics kill viruses as well as bacteria, electrons are smaller than atoms, and how long it takes for the earth to orbit the sun. In study 2, participants took an additional quiz about their knowledge about the science, methods, and benefits of GM foods and procedures.

The team found that specific knowledge about GM foods and procedures is independent from a person’s general science knowledge — making the first (GM knowledge) a nearly twice as strong predictor of GM attitudes.

Genetically modified food: A guide to overcoming skepticism

The researchers followed up by conducting a five-week longitudinal study with 231 undergraduates in the US to test, first, if a lack of knowledge about GM foods could be overcome by teaching participants the basic science behind GM technology, and second, if greater knowledge would alter attitudes. McPhetres worked with Rochester colleague Jennifer Brisson, an associate biology professor, who vetted the students’ learning materials.

The team discovered that learning the underlying science led to more positive attitudes towards genetically modified foods, a greater willingness to eat them, and a lowered perception of GM foods as risky.

Their findings, argues the team, lend direct support for the deficit model of science attitudes, which — in broad terms — holds that the public’s skepticism towards science and technology is largely due to a lack of understanding, or absence of pertinent information.

The team’s online modules avoid confrontational approaches “which threaten preexisting beliefs and convictions,” suggesting a relatively simple guide for how to overcome skepticism about GM foods: focus on the actual underlying science not the message.

For McPhetres, the studies tie neatly into his larger research focus on people’s basic science knowledge and general interest in science — and how to improve both.

Knowledge and appreciation of science — “that’s the kind of information that people need to make informed decisions about products they use, and the food they eat,” say McPhetres who’s now heading to Canada for a joint post-doctoral appointment between the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Source: Science Daily

Study: Cholesterol in Eggs Tied to Cardiac Disease, Death

The risk of heart disease and death increases with the number of eggs an individual consumes, according to a UMass Lowell nutrition expert who has studied the issue.

Research that tracked the diets, health and lifestyle habits of nearly 30,000 adults across the country for as long as 31 years has found that cholesterol in eggs, when consumed in large quantities, is associated with ill health effects, according to Katherine Tucker, a biomedical and nutritional sciences professor in UMass Lowell’s Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences, who co-authored the analysis. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study results come as egg consumption in the country continues to rise. In 2017, people ate an average of 279 eggs per year, compared with 254 eggs in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans do not offer advice on the number of eggs individuals should eat each day. The guidelines, which are updated every five years, do not include this because nutrition experts had begun to believe saturated fats were the driving factor behind high cholesterol levels, rather than eggs, according to Tucker. However, prior to 2015, the guidelines did recommend individuals consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day, she said.

One large egg contains nearly 200 milligrams of cholesterol, roughly the same amount as an 8-ounce steak, according to the USDA. Other foods that contain high levels of cholesterol include processed meats, cheese and high-fat dairy products.

While the new research does not offer specific recommendations on egg or cholesterol consumption, it found that each additional 300 milligrams of cholesterol consumed beyond a baseline of 300 milligrams per day was associated with a 17 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease and an 18 percent higher risk of death.

Eating several eggs a week “is reasonable,” said Tucker, who noted they include nutrients beneficial to eye and bone health. “But I recommend people avoid eating three-egg omelets every day. Nutrition is all about moderation and balance.”

Research results also determined that study participants’ exercise regimen and overall diet quality, including the amount and type of fat they consumed, did not change the link between cholesterol in one’s diet and risk of cardiovascular disease and death.

“This is a strong study because the modeling adjusted for factors such as the quality of the diet,” Tucker said. “Even for people on healthy diets, the harmful effect of higher intake of eggs and cholesterol was consistent.”

Source: EurekAlert!


Today’s Comic