Monday, February 23, 2009

Name that tool

When Chuck and I decided to make our own sausages, I thought we had some of the major equipment we would need. I was positive there was a grinder that my Grandmother Helen had used in a box in the closet, along with an antique shoe last and her cast iron apple peeler. When I went to the box however, to my great surprise, it wasn't a grinder. It was instead this mysterious tool. Can you guess what it is?
We knew it was for cutting vegetables. I thought it was probably the hand precursor of a food processor, Chuck thought it was a kraut cutter. It has four barrels with different cutting blades; a grater, one that looked like it would cut ripple slices, a shredder that looked like a series of little mouths with teeth, and one with just a large straight edge.

We decided to make slaw. We had a small head of red cabbage, a stored carrot, and an onion. We could have done it with that, but I gave into the urge and bought an out-of-season and non-local red pepper, and two out-of-season and non-local zucchini.

We experimented with all the different blades. The shredder was perfect for the carrot- the beautiful, fine pieces of carrot that filled the barrel were amazing.
The grater barrel was perfect for the zucchini, and the large flat blade cut the cabbage into lovely chunks. Next time I will try the shredder on the cabbage. We cut the onion and the pepper by hand- we tried the pepper on several blades, but it was too soft and just mushed. And we don't like the taste onions get when they are cut mechanically. Too many cells are crushed and sulpher compounds are released.

The vegetable mixture was gorgeous. We used half of it that night as slaw. I like a sweet, non-creamy slaw so we used a commercial poppy seed dressing and added some crumbled, crispy fried bacon into it. The rest of the vegetable mixture was saved for a stir fry and a lentil soup made later in the week.

We also used the tool to cut sweet potato chips. I love sweet potatoes any way they are prepared, but I hate to try to cut them for fries or chips. This was quick, easy and efficient, and the chips were incredibly thin. Drained on a paper towel after frying, they were practically greaseless. In the photos, the fried chips are on a paper towel

By the way, the shoe last and the apple peeler did not undergo a transformation- they were still a shoe last and an apple peeler.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Miracle Foods: Buckwheat

I love the idea of miracle foods. It warms my heart to think that there are foods out there that will cure my ills, make me slimmer and put money in my pocket. Well, ok, I don't know of any that have claimed to make me richer, but the other two claims are pretty standard in the miracle foods arena.

Right now, whole grains are getting a lot of PR for healthy eating. Everyone is eating oatmeal, whole wheat bread. However there are other foods out there that may be better for you than the usual fare. Buckwheat is one of those. High in flavonoids, it is said to lower cholesterol, while the high manganese content causes blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure. Buckwheat has a low glycemic index, meaning that it does not cause blood sugar to raise sharply after eating, and there is some indication that the relatively high magnesium content helps in managing blood sugar. For more information, check World's Healthiest Food's page on buckwheat

If you have only been exposed to buckwheat pancakes, you may be surprised to find out buckwheat is not a grain, but rather the seed of a plant related to rhubarb. The blossom of the plant is very attractive to bees, and at one time buckwheat honey was widely available.

Other cultures use buckwheat far more extensively than Americans. Kasha, often made of buckwheat groats, or the whole crushed grain, is enjoyed in many Eastern European countries. Japanese soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, and are delicious eaten cold with soy sauce and chopped green onion. Kasha Varnishkas is a traditional Jewish food- made from buckwheat groats and bowtie pasta.

We chose to make a sort of buckwheat latke. We used grated carrot, chopped onion, garlic and the ubiquitous "curry powder" for seasoning. The recipe is at the end of the post.

Chuck is the patty maker at our house- I don't like having my hands in gucky stuff.

He used his new deep fryer.

They fried to a nice color in about 3 minutes.

I ate mine with applesauce and greek yogurt.
Chuck said he would rather have left out the curry powder.

Buckwheat Latkes. Makes 12 hamburger sized patties
4 medium potatoes, grated. (Squeeze the water out of these to make it drier)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cup buckwheat groats, cooked
1 large carrot, grated
4 eggs
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup buckwheat, barley or whole wheat flour (may need more depending on wetness of the mixture.)

Mix all ingredients, in the order given. Mixture should be wet enough to hold together but not drip. Make into hamburger sized patties. Fry until golden brown.

These are good served with apple sauce and greek yogurt or sour cream, or with cheese melted on top.