Myra's Kitchen Blog  

A Comparison of Soaked and Dehydrated and Toasted Nuts
Sunday, April 14, 2013

Soaking nuts serves to inactivate the phytates and enzyme inhibitors that make the minerals in them (zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium) difficult to absorb.

You can drain the nuts and leave them in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  This is good if you wish to make nut milks, or if you don’t have time to dry them out immediately. If you want to have delicious nuts to munch on or add to your recipes, however, you need to dehydrate or toast them. There are a number of ways to do this, and it’s a matter of preference as to which ones suit your taste best.

Yesterday, I compared the times and tastes of nuts that had been soaked then dried at 3 different temperatures. I did this for almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. I soaked them all over night–with the exception of the cashews, which got a four hour soak. It’s not good to soak cashews over seven hours: the texture changes for the worse. I drained the cashews, refrigerated them, and dried them with the other nuts. I included 1 tablespoon celtic salt in the the soaking water for each pound of nuts.

The three comparisons included: a dehydrator at 115˚, an oven at 200˚, and an oven at 300˚.

The nuts at 200 degrees took 3 hours for a beautiful light toast with delicious flavor.

The nuts at 300 degrees should have come out at about 45 minutes. I left them in an hour; and while tasty, they were slightly over-toasted.

The dehydrated nuts took about six hours.

In a previous post I had listed the minimum times for soaking nuts. Nonetheless, I find it’s easiest to simply soak most of the nuts for about the same amount of time, about six hours.  To repeat, cashews should not go longer than seven. Almonds need a minimum of six hours, but they are even better soaked longer.

Here are the different nuts at different degrees of toasted. They range from light (dehydrator) to darkest (300 degree oven)._MG_0694 _MG_0693 _MG_0695 _MG_0692

My conclusion is that for eating nuts out-of-hand I prefer those toasted at the higher temperature. For a neutral nut that will later be used in cooking or baking, I would go with the lower temperature  oven or the dehydrator.

These delicious nuts stay fresh at room temperature for minimum of a month. Once exception is walnuts, which should be refrigerated. For super oily nuts like pine nuts, store them in the refrigerator or freezer. No need to toast them first.

If this is too much for you, there is always Wilderness Family Naturals, which promptly delivers to your door already soaked and dehydrated nuts.

 

 

My Favorite Winter Salad
Monday, January 21, 2013

After a season of holiday indulgence and too many meals out, it’s time to begin the new year with a little lighter fare. I’m busy with obligations, but I don’t want to skimp on good food. So I turn to my favorite nourishing winter salads that I can make in minutes. This hearty winter salad that I show on the video consists of arugula, oranges, fennel, and sardines, with a complement of olives, walnuts and feta cheese. It’s composed in such a way that I don’t even need a separate dressing.

Sweet, Salty, Crunchy, Juicy

My Favorite Winter Salad

I start with a nest of baby arugula, or watercress, or mesclun greens. In the video, I use arugula with some farmer’s market pea shoots mixed in. I next add an orange that is cut into segments known as supremes. I cut the orange over a bowl to make sure to catch the juices that will become part of the dressing. I sprinkle the greens and orange with salt and then add a layer of paper-thin sliced fennel, which is arguably the most appealing way to eat raw fennel. Using the mandolin is the easiest way to get such slices. Next, I sprinkle in some black olives—a flavorful variety such as kalamata or nicoise—followed by a handful of walnuts. I then crumble my favorite feta cheese, a sheep’s milk feta, over the salad.  Finally, I crown the salad with sardines. I use sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil, so that the oil from the tin of the sardines becomes part of the dressing, mixing with the juice of the oranges. Every bite is exciting—a medley of sweet, salty, juicy, and crunchy. Moreover, this salad is a nutritional winner, packed with a range of nutrients, from omega 3’s to vitamins C and E, and loaded with phytochemicals and minerals as well.

You can pack this salad to take on the go.  Layer the greens with the fennel, olives, walnuts, and feta. Put the juicy orange slices in a separate container. Salt the salad, add the oranges, and top with the sardines right before eating.

 

Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Shallots and Sage
Thursday, November 22, 2012

Nothing screams autumn like butternut squash soup. The version shown in the video, from The Healthy Hedonist, is simple to prepare, yet velvety and delicious-tasting. I start with a 2 ½ to 3-pound butternut squash, slice it open down the middle, place it in a 375˚ oven and bake until it’s tender, about 45 minutes.  With a soup as simple as this one, roasting the squash first to heighten its flavor is of the utmost importance. I then remove it from the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, and scoop out and discard the seeds. The seeds come out so much more easily after the squash is cooked. I then scoop out the flesh and set it aside.

I start the soup by adding a splash of extra virgin olive oil to a medium pot. I stir in 1 cup of leeks, 6 cloves of garlic, and 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin, and cook the mix over gentle heat until softened. I next add a couple cups of sliced sweet potatoes, the reserved squash flesh, a cup of apple cider, and 5 cups of water or stock. This is a good place to boost nutrient content and flavor with a homemade chicken or vegetable stock, but the soup is still delicious with water as the primary liquid. Add a teaspoon salt, and cook the soup partially covered at a gentle bubble  for about fifteen minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.

While the soup is simmering, I make the garnish. I slice shallots into thin rings and add them to ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil.  At first, nothing seems like it is happening. Then the oil starts to sizzle, and slowly but surely the shallots start to fry around the edges of the pan. At that point, it’s important to stir continuously for the next three or four minutes, until the shallots are more or less evenly caramelized. At the final stage, some will be darker than others, but they should all have a golden hue. Have a strainer set over a bowl ready and close. When the shallots are colored as evenly as possible, you have to separate them  from the hot oil quickly, to keep them from continuing to cook. About 15 seconds before the shallots are finished I add the sage, just to sizzle them in the oil.  After I strain the oil, I remove the sage from the shallots and chop the leaves into small pieces. The sage, shallots, and oil are now ready lend flair to the soup.

For simplicity’s sake, I blend the soup with a hand-held blender, also known as an immersion blender. I’m careful when using the immersion blender, to immerse it in the liquid before turning it on, as well as to turn it off before lifting the blender from the soup. At this last stage I always taste the soup, to see if it needs an extra dash of salt to pull up the flavors. I sprinkle in a dusting of black pepper as well.

The soup has a delightful aroma and a rich taste. The silky texture is offset with the flourish of caramelized shallots and sage, and a drizzle of shallot oil.

Butternut Squash Soup with Crispy Shallots and Sage

 

 

 

Herbed Pesto
Saturday, August 11, 2012

So many gorgeous herbs are available this time of year that I often get carried away and find myself with a refrigerator drawer full of beautiful choices. One of the ways that I like to have fun with these herbs as well as use up the extra is to make an out-of-the-ordinary pesto. In the demonstration video, I’m starting with a base of toasted pumpkin seeds, about ¾ of a cup. I toast them in a dry heavy-bottomed skillet just until they are plumped, about a minute or so. While I use pumpkin seeds in the video, you can use any nut or seed that you have in your pantry. Some favorites include walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pecans and pistachios. I transfer the lightly toasted seeds to a food processor. I then add 2 cups packed mixed herbs. In this demo I work with a combination of cilantro, basil, chives, and mint. Some other herbs that are delicious for this technique include parsley, dill, watercress, arugula, and sorrel. I add extra virgin olive oil—about 1/3 cup—as well as a couple of tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, a garlic clove, and 1/2 teaspoon of a good mineral-rich salt. I also mix in a teaspoon of light miso—such as mellow white— which gives depth and complexity to the overall flavor. This dairy-free version allows for the greatest flexibility, and is delicious with fish, chicken, pasta, grains, and vegetables. You can always add cheese later if you like. I whirl all of the ingredients in the food processor for a couple of minutes, and that’s it. The pesto is ready to use immediately and it freezes well too. One delicious all-time favorite option, which I show on the video is to dollop some pesto between slices of fresh tomato, top with shaved parmesan, and drizzle with some good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of black pepper and chives. Every mouthful is exciting.

Tomatoes with Herbed Pesto and Parmesan

 

 

Red Cabbage Lacto-Fermented Sauerkraut
Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lately, I’ve been on a lacto-fermenting frenzy, fermenting everything from red cabbage to dill pickles to beet and fruit kvass.

The lactobacilli, which are good bacteria, proliferate in fermented vegetables and fruit. The vegetables and fruit are easier to digest and the vitamin levels are increased as well. The main by-product of lacto-fermentation is lactic acid, which promote the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.

What I like about these fruits and vegetables is that once they’re fermented, they last for a long time in the refrigerator. They’re an instant quick hit of super nutrition. Moreover, they are easy to produce.

Here’s one of my favorites, a red cabbage ferment, that needs only salt to get the whole process of fermentation going. The salt inhibits any bacteria that could putrify the ferment until the lactic acid forms.

I start with a head of finely shredded red cabbage. I add some shredded carrots, a piece of minced ginger, a tablespoon caraway seeds, and two tablespoons Celtic sea salt.

The Ingredients

After stirring everything together, I massage the mix with my hands to help the cabbage release its juices.  There’s no need to add water to the brine when you make a cabbage ferment.. You can pound that cabbage with a mallet or just put a weight on the cabbage ( a bowl with a weight in it works well). and it will start sweating away in no time.

Ready to Jar

I then stuff the mix into a jar (a one quart bell jar is perfect) pressing down to make sure that there’s liquid floating on top. I make sure to have an inch of space at the top. (This is quite important to avoid leaks.) I leave this on my kitchen counter for 3 to 5 days.  With a bell jar, the piece in the middle is hard to press down when the ferment is complete.

Make Sure There's Liquid on Top

The red cabbage doesn’t look so bright in the beginning, but as it ferments it turns a beautiful magenta color. It’s best to transfer this to the refrigerator, where it can last a long time (up to a year) without opening. Once opened, it’s good for about three months.

Ready to Refrigerate

Hot Pink and Delicious

 

Poached Eggs
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Poached eggs not only are suitable for brunch, but with the right accompaniments, make a light and nutritious supper as well. If you keep in mind three basic pointers, poached eggs are not difficult to master. With fresh eggs, the right temperature water, and a little care in adding the eggs, you’ll have beautifully formed creations every time. Watch this demo to see all three key steps.

Poached Eggs

Use the freshest eggs that you can find to keep the proper shape of the white intact. Very fresh eggs—like that kind that you get from your local farmer—cook up perfectly without anything added to the water. If your eggs are not farm-fresh, add a teaspoon salt and a couple of teaspoons vinegar to your pot of simmering water to help coagulate the egg whites.

Have the water ready at a simmer. You don’t want the eggs to be torn apart by agitation, which is what faster boiling water will do. On the other hand, if the water is not hot enough, the eggs will not cook quickly enough and the whites of the eggs will spread. Gentle bubbles in the water are the cue that the temperature is correct.

Break the eggs one at a time into a dish or small plate. Create a little whirlpool by swirling a spatula or spoon in the water. Then drop the eggs— one at a time— into the whirlpool. (You can also slide the eggs in along the sides of the pot.)

Simmer 3 to 5 minutes, until the whites are coagulated but the yolks are still soft.

Remove the eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon or skimmer. Drain very well and serve. You can trim off any ragged edges if you like.

If you want to make a large number of poached eggs but not serve them right away, immediately plunge the cooked ones into cold water.  Reheat briefly in hot water right before serving.

The classic here is eggs benedict, and yes, it is mighty tasty.

Classic Poached Eggs

For a variation, try serving the eggs over a steamed artichoke and smoked salmon in lieu of the English muffin and bacon.

Poached Eggs over Artichokes and Smoked Salmon

One delicious and light way to serve poached eggs is on a bed of wilted spinach and smoked salmon. I make a quick blender sauce of yogurt, avocado, cilantro, a bit of salt and a sprinkle of lime juice and ladle it over the top. It’s delicious and satisfying.

 

 

Cake-in-a-Jar
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Next week I am going to be making about 40 cakes-in-a-jar for a catering job, so I spent some time in the kitchen working out the technical challenges. I’ve been having a blast experimenting. These packed jars are not only adorable, they are delicious as well. My version here has chocolate cake, layers of raspberry or strawberry jam, and a thick layer of ganache.

Ready for the Lid

I’ve been using pint ball jars, which serve two, and are a good size for gifts.  The smaller 1-cup ball jars are perfect for individual servings.

First I coat the jars with spray. I rarely use spray fat, but since I’m about to make over 40 cakes, I’m looking to streamline the process. Plus, I just found a coconut oil spray from Spectrum.

First you Prep the Jars

Next, I spoon a layer of jam on the bottom. I’ve used strawberry and raspberry jam, for the color as well as the flavor. It’s a treat to dig up with a long spoon the cooked jam under the baked cake.

Dollop a Layer of Jam

Use any favorite chocolate cake recipe and fill the containers half full. A cake recipe that makes two layer cakes is perfect for 6 pint-sized jars. I baked the cakes at 350˚ for about 25 minutes. Don’t worry, the jars won’t explode or anything — this is like baking in pyrex. The cakes do take a little less time than when they’re in cake pans, so check on them a little earlier than you might otherwise.

Ready to Bake

The cakes emerge from the oven looking like they’ve risen too high, but they settle a lot after a few minutes.

Fresh out of the Oven

After 10 minutes

I then added a bit more jam around the top dome to fill in the gap (for 6 cakes you will need a 16-ounce jar) as well as a thick layer of ganache on top. (I flavored my ganache with Chambord.) Keep in mind that the weight of the ganache will eventually sink the cake about an inch. That makes the whole cake compress and taste extra fudgey. The whole concoction tastes like a trifle.

Screw on the lid and refrigerate. These are tastiest if you refrigerate them for a couple of hours before eating to let the ganache settle.

Refrigerated Cakes

The cakes stay fresh for at least five days.  Dig a long spoon in and get all of the layers in each bite. (I feel positively naughty eating these, kind of like I’ve been caught eating out of the jar.)

A Spoonful of Decadence

The larger ones are fun to share. Pass the jar around, and dig in. At least it’s not illegal.

 

 

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Photo: Tess Steinkolk

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