Italian-style Pork Belly Casserole

Ingredients

100 g pork belly slices
1 onion
1/4 cabbage
1/2 carrot
1 tomato
1/2 cup chicken broth
shredded cheese of your choice
salt and pepper

Method

  1. Cut long pork slices into smaller pieces.
  2. Cut onion in half and then cut into thin slices.
  3. Cut cabbage into chunks.
  4. Cut carrot into slices.
  5. Remove stem of tomato and cut into dices.
  6. Layer in sequence onion, cabbage, carrot and tomato in a heat-proof casserole. Place pork on top.
  7. Add broth and cook, covered, over low-medium heat for 5 minutes.
  8. Add salt, pepper and shredded cheese. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Source: Japanese magazine

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In Pictures: Foods of Mexican Restaurants in America

The Sea Cucumber Genome Points to Genes for Tissue Regeneration

A new high-definition genome sequence of the sea cucumber provides molecular insights into its ability to regenerate, according to a new study publishing 12 October in the open access journal PLOS Biology by Xiaojun Zhang, Lina Sun, Hongsheng Yang and Jianhai Xiang, of the Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and colleagues. The genome sequence also helps explain why the sea cucumber has such a radically different skeletal structure from other members of the echinoderm phylum, and may be useful for understanding evolution of the animal kingdom.

Sea cucumbers form one class of the echinoderms, a phylum that also includes sea urchins and sea stars (“star fish”). Echinoderms and chordates (a closely related phylum that includes humans) share a feature that distinguishes them from most other animals: they are so-called deuterostomes, in which the anus, rather than the mouth, forms first in development. Sea cucumbers are unique among echinoderms in not having a hardened calcium exoskeleton, and in their capacity to regenerate damaged or lost body parts and viscera to a much greater extent than sea urchins or sea stars.

To explore the genetic underpinnings of these features, and to better understand the evolution of the deuterostomes, the authors performed high-definition genomic sequencing of the sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus (also known as the Japanese sea cucumber), covering about 92% of its estimated 880 megabases of DNA, including more than 30,000 genes.

By comparing the genome of A. japonicus with that of other organisms, the authors found evidence that the echinoderms diverged from hemichordates (a small group of marine deuterostomes that includes the acorn worms) about 533 million years ago and the sea cucumbers split off from other the echinoderm classes about 479 million years ago. The authors showed that while the sea urchin genome includes 31 genes for biomineralization, critical for forming a calcified skeleton, the sea cucumber has only seven such genes. They also found that the sea cucumber expressed these biomineralization genes at much lower levels throughout development, likely accounting for their softer bodies compared to sea urchins.

As a strategy to scare off predators, sea cucumbers can expel their viscera, which they can then regenerate within several weeks. The authors found a group of duplicated genes, called PSP94-like genes, that were specifically expressed in the regenerating intestines of the sea cucumber, which had no corresponding genes in other echinoderms, suggesting that these genes may be crucial to the animals’ ability to quickly regrow their viscera. A second group of genes, called fibrinogen-related proteins, were also duplicated and highly expressed during regeneration, indicating they likely contribute to this ability as well.

“The sea cucumber is a particularly promising model animal for regenerative medicine,” said Xiang, and the availability of its genome should aid efforts to study the biology of regeneration and determine if echinoderm regrowth can offer insights that can be applied to human medicine. “Our findings should also facilitate the understanding of the requirements for sustainable utilization and effective breeding of echinoderms, in support of the high-value sea cucumber industry,” which includes its use as a source of food and traditional Chinese medicine.

Source: Science Daily


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The sea cucumber genome provides insights into morphological evolution and visceral regeneration . . . . .

Men Develop Irregular Heartbeat Earlier Than Women; Extra Weight a Factor

Men develop a type of irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation, about a decade earlier than women on average, and being overweight is a major risk factor, according to a large new study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, quiver instead of beat to move blood effectively. Untreated atrial fibrillation increases the risk of heart-related death and is linked to a five times increased risk of stroke. In the new research, having the condition more than tripled a person’s risk of dying.

“It’s crucial to better understand modifiable risk factors of atrial fibrillation,” said study author Christina Magnussen, M.D., a medical specialist in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at the University Heart Center in Hamburg, Germany. “If prevention strategies succeed in targeting these risk factors, we expect a noticeable decline in new-onset atrial fibrillation.”

This would lead to less illness, fewer deaths and lower health-related costs, she said.

Researchers reviewed records of 79,793 people (aged 24 to 97) in four community-based studies in Europe. The participants did not have atrial fibrillation at the outset. Later assessments of their health — with a median follow-up period of 12.6 to a maximum of 28.2 years — showed that 4.4 percent of the women and 6.4 percent of the men had been diagnosed with the condition.

Researchers noted atrial fibrillation:

  • diagnosis rates jumped when men were 50 or older and women were 60 or older;
  • developed in about 24 percent of both men and women by age 90;
  • onset was tied to higher blood levels of C-reactive protein (inflammation marker) in men; and
  • new atrial fibrillation cases increased more in men than women with increases in body mass index (BMI): 31 percent in men and 18 percent in women.

“We advise weight reduction for both men and women,” Magnussen said. “As elevated body mass index seems to be more detrimental for men, weight control seems to be essential, particularly in overweight and obese men.”

Researchers were surprised to find that higher total cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, lowered risk for developing atrial fibrillation, especially in women, although exactly why is not clear.

Due to its design, the study could not shed light on pathophysiological factors causing sex differences in atrial fibrillation risk. The authors also note that atrial fibrillation might have been underdiagnosed at the study’s start and later records may not reflect all cases. Strengths of the research include that it studied the condition in the general population and noted how individuals fared over long periods.

Since study participants were from both northern and southern Europe, the findings will probably apply to other Caucasian populations but cannot be generalized to other groups, Magnussen said. However, since BMI in the study was such a strong risk factor for atrial fibrillation, it is likely to also be impactful in other groups, she added.

According to American Heart Association statistics, between 2.7 and 6 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation, and more than 12 million are expected to have the condition in 2030. Risk factors include body mass index, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption, previous heart attack or stroke and presence of heart disease.

Source: American Heart Association


Today’s Comic

The Easy to Make Ultra-rich Tomato Sauce from A Michelin-starred Chef Works with Any Pasta

Kate Krader wrote . . . . .

Missy Robbins is New York’s reigning queen of pasta.

She presides over the kitchen at Lilia in Brooklyn, a place that’s become an obsession with a huge swath of the city, including Trumps and multiple Goldman Sachs executives. One of its best-sellers is rigatoni diavola with San Marzanos (tomatoes), chiles, oregano, and pecorino.

It’s based on a recipe Robbins only recently mastered: a luxurious tomato sauce, rich with oil and loaded with sweet caramelized garlic and a hit of heat.

For a long time, Robbins didn’t even serve tomato sauce. It wasn’t on the menu when she cooked at Spiaggia in Chicago (where she was a favorite of the Obamas)—the upscale Northern Italian restaurant didn’t serve red sauces. Nor was it offered at A Voce in New York, where she won Michelin stars. It wasn’t until Robbins took a few years off to get a respite from the intensity of restaurant life that she began perfecting tomato sauces in her home kitchen. When she opened Lilia, in early 2016, one of the first dishes on the menu was the rigatoni in spicy tomato sauce.

“This is one of the most satisfying sauces to make,” she continues. “Everyone loves it because it has that extra hit of flavor from the toasty garlic. If you’re having a dinner party, there’s no one that will not be thrilled with it.” It’s also one of the most versatile sauces to make, she asserts, ticking off the options: “You can make it spicier. You can make it into a fake Bolognese by adding browned meat. You can make it heartier vegetarian with mushrooms.” It also goes with almost any pasta, though Robbins favors it with shorter shapes such as rigatoni, ziti, and radiatore.

It also improves on classic tomato sauces by featuring sumptuous pieces of tender garlic that are first cooked in a generous olive oil bath, which simultaneously tenderizes the garlic and flavors the oil before the tomatoes are added. In most tomato sauces the garlic is finely chopped; if it’s not, it’s discarded. Robbins believes in the allure of garlic that’s tender and sweet and perfumes the sauce. “Why throw out the garlic? Why not celebrate it?” she asks. And for those who plan ahead, the sauce can be frozen for as long as six weeks. If you don’t want to count out all those garlic cloves one by one, she says, just use “what would normally be an outrageous amount of garlic, and you should be covered.”

Asked if she would ever sub in a jarred sauce in an emergency—after all, there are several good options out now, like Rao’s—Robbins laughs. “I never, ever buy jarred tomato sauce. Why would you, when you can make something so satisfying so quickly. You instantly become an Italian grandma when you make this luscious sauce. There’s nothing that compares to it.”

Cooking cloves whole, and slowly, is definitely not conventional. In Italy, cooks frequently remove the garlic after sweating it, so it’s not physically in the sauce. The version below celebrates the garlic. But don’t worry: The olive oil poaching softens the stinky edge, so the next day, your breath won’t betray that.


40-Minute, 20-Garlic Clove Tomato Sauce With Pasta

This recipe is adapted from Missy Robbins’s new cookbook, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner … Life: Recipes and Adventures from My Home Kitchen. It’s good for just about any shape of pasta you can find.

Serves four, plus leftover sauce.

Ingredients

2/3 cup olive oil
20 garlic cloves (about 1-1/2 heads of garlic), peeled (see tip below)
Two 28-oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp crushed red chile flakes
2 basil sprigs
Kosher salt
1 lb dried pasta (Robbins prefers short shapes, like rigatoni)

Methods

In a large, heavy saucepan, warm the olive oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic cloves, and gently simmer until softened and just beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the canned tomatoes in a colander. Transfer the tomatoes and any purée in the colander into a food processor and pulse two or three times until the tomatoes are very roughly chopped. (Tester’s note: If you like using your hands, squeeze the tomatoes to break them up into large chunks.)

Using a fork or the back of a spoon, crush half the garlic cloves in the oil; leave the remaining cloves whole. Add the tomatoes, fennel, and chile flakes to the saucepan and simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the basil, season well with salt, and simmer for about five more minutes, until the sauce is richly flavored.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain, reserving some of the pasta cooking liquid. Cook the pasta in about 2 cups of the sauce, basting the pasta, until al dente; add a little pasta cooking water if necessary. Refrigerate or freeze the remaining sauce for another use.

Garlic tip: To quickly peel garlic, put the separated cloves in a large bowl. Invert another large bowl on top and shake hard for several seconds. This will release the skins from the cloves. Discard the skins.

Source: Bloomberg