Thursday, November 10, 2005

it's pronounced "ah-sigh-EE"

Just a quick pantry plug:

Acai is the Brazilian wonderberry of the world:

In his #1 New York Times best selling book, "The Perricone Promise," Dr. Perricone names Acai the #1 Superfood on the planet. He also calls Acai one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world! Here's why:

ANTIOXIDANTS - Acai has more Antioxidants than blueberries, green tea, and red wine. Everyone needs antioxidants to seek and destroy free radicals in the body. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can cause premature aging, cancer, heart disease, and even Alzheimer's.

OMEGA FATTY ACIDS - Acai contains Omega Essential Fatty Acids EFA's. EFA's are the same healthy fats found in olive oil, flax seed, and fish and are believed to protect the heart, lower cholesterol & blood pressure, improve depression and fight cancer.

ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS - Acai contains a similar protein profile as an egg ... 8 of 9 essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins for strength and endurance.

Acai berry/Acai fruit (Euterpe oleracea)
Also called: Assai palm, euterpe palm, palmito acai, asai, cabbage palm, assaizeiro, pina palm, palmier pinot, jucara.
Parts used: fruit, heart

The acai palm is a tall slender South American (concentrated in Brazil, Guyana, Suriname) palm grown for its fruit as well as for the "cabbage" (the cluster of new leaves more commonly called the "heart of palm"). It prefers swampy areas, and grows quickly. The fronds were (and still are) used for thatching and weaving.

Each acai palm tree produces small deep purple, almost black, fruit (berries) in groups of 3-8 per bunch. The fruit is edible, and its pulp is used in wines, liqueurs, as flavouring, as colourant, and on its own as a juice.

Acai fruit contains essential fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6) plus oleic acid (Omega-9) which are good for lowering Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) levels. Acai berries also contain high levels of calcium, vitamin e and phosporous, high concentrations of polyphenols making it a good antioxidant.

Current (Western) Use Acai fruit is also high in anthocyanin, a phytochemical that is is found in red wine, blueberries, raspberries, and other foods and drinks that come highly recommended for their health benefits. In fact, acai has up to 25 times the anthocyanin found in red wine, and none of the controversy over its effects.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

how to eat a whole head of cabbage

Cabbage isn't a favorite vegetable of mine ...

... but it's really cheap, and as my mother likes to remind me, it's full of a lot of excellent vitamins and such.

I decided to modify a recipe from Jamie Oliver and make Thai Cabbage Packets (instead of Chinese). It's a little similar to making tamales or dumplings, although not nearly as time intensive as tamales.

With a food processor, it becomes pretty simple to make any sort of filling like this one.

Thai Chicken Cabbage Packets

4 chicken thighs skinned boned, and roughly chopped
3 spring onions
1/3 bunch of cilantro
1 garlic clove smashed
2 T fish sauce
1/2 inch of ginger peeled and smashed
1/2 t sesame oil
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chinese Cabbage or
Napa Cabbage

Sriracha sauce mixed with
Fish sauce (the dipping kind, not the cooking kind)

Food processor
Steamer or homemade concocted steamer

In effect, just blitz all the filling ingredients together. Although, unfortunately the foodprocessor can sometimes grind the chicken a little too fine, it doesn't really affect the taste. For a more Chinese taste I would reconstitute some dried black mushrooms, maybe 3-4 mushrooms and mince them in the processor for the filling.

Let the filling marinate for about half an hour in the refrigerator. Then, after thoroughly cleaning the lettuce leaves, use about half of a leaf for each packet. There's no need to make sure they stay wrapped since when you put them in a bamboo steamer, you just butt them up against each other. If you're like me, without a steamer, I just put them in a shallow bowl in a raised big pot. The key is not to let the water flow into where the packets are, and these can be steamed in about one inch of water.

Also, when using the Chinese cabbage, try not to use the strong white vein because that ends up being a little too chewy and awkward.

Steam the packets for at least 8 minutes. Check to see if the thigh meat is cooked through. Jamie Oliver recommends just serving it up in the bamboo steamer, which sounds like a fabulous idea, and put a little sauce container in the middle.

They do come out remarkably pretty and tasty.