- Instead of going on a diet, why not acquire a taste for celery? Delicious with peanut butter, also. #fb #
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I just wanted to write about parmesan rinds, briefly. I saw Alton Brown call one out on Iron Chef a while ago, and so wanted to understand more about the writing that goes on them.
I was only able to find out what some parts mean. In the photo above, you can see a few elements:
More about the “Parmigiano” identification: In the EU with regard to food, where something comes from seems to be as important as what it is, if you see what I mean. For example, Parmigiano is only made in Parma. If you use all the same ingredients and processes, but manufacture it somewhere else, it’s not Parmigiano. (“Parmesan” is just the French name, by the way, I don’t think it’s any different).
Check out the Wikipedia article for more details, but lots of products are trademark-protected this way, even if the place isn’t mentioned directly in the name. This includes ouzo (which must be produced in Greece or Cyprus), and Stilton cheese (which must be produced in a few select English counties). Obviously this is also very important for French wines. We have this in the US as well; think of Vidalia onions or Florida orange juice, though I can’t think of any examples of this type of trademark in the US where the place isn’t actually part of the trademarked name.
In general, this regime seems to me to be a combination of (a) legitimate understanding that where a food is produced matters, because of for example the terroir, and (b) protectionism.
This Wikipedia article on “Parmesan cheese”, by the way, has an interesting breakdown of how Parmesan you buy on the store shelves is significantly different, even in process, from actual Parmesan.
The rinds are apparently pretty good in stock, too. One day I will start saving all my vegetable scraps, chicken bones, parmesan rinds, etc. and actually make some stock. I’ve heard this will bring my soups etc. up to a whole new level.
A few weeks ago, I made honey-mustard-glazed salmon. My girlfriend said, “you know what would be good? Salmon marinated in raita.”
For those who don’t know, raita is an extremely refreshing mint/cucumber/yogurt sauce that’s often served with certain types of Indian food. I decided to serve this salmon with some succotash, which doesn’t have a recipe as far as I’m concerned – I usually take a bunch of corn, and sautee it with a little basil, cider vinegar, garlic, onion, and tomato, and a whole bunch of other vegetables ad libitum. I used zucchini, carrots and celery because that’s what I had.
That Wikipedia articles says that succotash is supposed to involve corn and beans as a foundation, I guess this makes sense since that I believe that would make succotash a complete protein.
Can we talk about complete proteins for a second? Wikipedia says that “a complete protein (or whole protein) is a source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of all of the essential amino acids for the dietary needs of humans or other animals.” Typically, this is eggs, meat, dairy, etc. This is also a few very rare grains (e.g. quinoa) or vegetables.
You can also make complete proteins, however, by combining two of (a) a grain, (b) a legume, (c) a nut. This combination “explains” in some way a lot of the basic dishes in many cultures. For example, beans and rice. Or corn tortillas and beans. Or beans and toast (English breakfast). Or hummus (chickpeas and sesame seeds). I find it fascinating that humans appeared to have discovered many of these combinations well before understanding their nutritional basis. Others might find it unsurprising!
Anyway, back to the recipe description. So I made the succotash. To try to make it go with the salmon a bit better, I added a little mint and cumin too. This didn’t taste bad, but it was little strange. I also am not a big cumin fan, so I’ll probably leave that out of the raita next time I make it.
In addition to the succotash and salmon, I also made some more polenta. I am getting hooked on this stuff – really easy to make, and very tasty if you make it with stock. It has one major drawback, which is that when heated it gets very nerflike in texture. You have to spend a lot of time reheating it in a pan, and as far as I can tell also adding some water, to get its original creamy texture back.
Inspired by this episode of Good Eats, I decided to experiment with puff pastry. Puff pastry’s pretty neat. The basic process for making is that you take dough and cover it with a ton of butter. You then fold the dough over so it’s like a butter sandwich.
If you keep folding it over itself, you eventually end with thousands of layers of dough and butter. When you bake it, the water in the butter boils off, causing it to… well, yes. One thing I don’t understand yet is how the layering action helps with this process.
Because it’s essentially impossible to make without industrial equipment, puff pastry is one of the few things I buy readymade these days. It’s in the freezer section. It’s not that expensive, but it allows you to produce some very good-looking and tasty stuff quite easily.
I bought one package of puff pastry and used it to produce 3 sets of tarts – one apple, one pear, and one mushroom, basil and cheese. The apple tart was straight from Good Eats, but the pear and mushroom tarts were my own experiments. Since I don’t like to waste things, I also threw the remaining scraps of dough into the oven as an experiment.
Probably the best result was the mushroom tarts. They turned out like mini-pizzas, with a croissant-like crust. Really good. I brushed the crusts with olive oil to give them a little bit of shine, which sort of worked. Anyway, one day I will actually try making a bona fide pizza this way, and I’m surprised I haven’t encountered this yet.
The apple tarts came out pretty well also. Part of what helps is that apples are really easy to work with. You can slice them really thin, which you need to do for this recipe, but they will not get waterlogged when you put them in a water / lemon juice bath (which is what I usually do to prevent browning). I melted some apricot jam and put this over the top as a glaze, which was easy.
I made some pear tarts as well. Problem number one was that the thin pear slices, after being submerged in water for a couple of hours, essentially disintegrated. This didn’t affect the taste very much, which was fine, but it did make them look… rustic. For this tart, I also experiment with an egg wash glaze, but I went a bit overboard and so the resulting tart was a little like a pear omelette. It wasn’t bad by any means, just not exactly what I wanted.
Oh yeah, as I mentioned above I also threw the pastry scraps in the oven to see what would happen. This works fine – you get little biscuit-like things which I’m sure would be delicious with dinner.