food for thought
full share: swiss chard, mustard greens, sweet potatoes, lettuce heads, Belgian endive, chioggia beets, fennel, cauliflower
partial: swiss chard, sweet potatoes, lettuce heads, cauliflower
It’s not too late to sign up for a Beef Share! Just shoot me an email and we can add it to your contract. As in the past, it’s $100 for about 16 pounds of beef, mixed cuts. It will come all at once frozen on March 28. Sign up now – there are limited shares available!
Slow Food meeting: Tuesday, March 20
Ariel Ruben will present a slideshow of her 2010 trip to Terra Madre, the annual Slow Food conference in Italy. Hosted dinner (donations requested) with dessert potluck.
Prescott Farmers Market: opens May 12!
veg of the week
Belgian endive: Cichorium intybus
The pale leaves of the chicory root, Belgian endive is known as “white gold” as it becomes increasingly common in popular cuisine. It is grown underground or indoors to avoid photosynthesis (sunlight turning the leaves green). This technique was accidentally discovered in Belgium in the 1830’s, when a farmer saved his chicory roots in his cellar (intending to dry and roast them for a hot drink), only to find that they had sprouted pale, crunchy moist leaves.
Uses: Belgian endive can be steamed, boiled, roasted (brush with olive oil and roast for 20-30 min, flipping once), eaten raw, stuffed with tuna or chicken salad, or dipped in hummus or other dip.
Nutrition: They are very low in calories, contain no fat, cholesterol or sodium, and are a good source of folate.
To store: Put in a damp paper towel then into a plastic bag. Store in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer and eat within a week.
It’s not uncommon to be told to eat less sodium – in fact, about 90% of Americans have a diet that contains too much sodium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US dietary guidelines recommend 2300 mg (about 1 teaspoon) of sodium each day, but the average American consumes 3300 mg, costing us billions of dollars a year in healthcare costs.
Of course, sodium is necessary for body function. It helps maintain water and mineral balances, and blood volume. But too much sodium leads to high blood pressure, a major cause of heart disease and stroke. As with everything – moderation! Salt and sodium are not the same thing (salt contains sodium and chloride), but salt is the source of the majority of our sodium intake, so they are often used indiscriminately.
The CDC has identified the top ten food categories that contribute most (over 40%) to our sodium intake:
- snacks: popcorn, chips, pretzels
- mixed meat dishes, such as meatloaf
- pasta dishes, especially when topped with cheese and sauce
- cheese, a major source of sodium
- sandwiches, especially those with processed meat and cheese toppings
- soup, though sodium levels vary considerably between different brands
- fresh and processed poultry
- pizza – again, it’s the cheese and processed meat
- cold cuts and cured meats
- breads and rolls – #1 according to the CDC, accounting for twice as much sodium as snacks! This doesn’t mean that bread contains higher sodium than other foods (like snack foods), but they’re ranked #1 because Americans tend to each so much of them.
Sodium content depends on ingredients and preparation technique, such as salt content and curing. Sodium occurs naturally in meats, nuts, grains and dairy. Processed and restaurant foods have a tendency to contain high amounts of salt because they lack other flavorful (more expensive) ingredients, such as herbs and spices, and because salt helps increase shelf life.
So what can you do? Most people don’t need to worry about not getting enough sodium because it occurs naturally in so many foods – in their natural state. But most of us could benefit from reducing our intake of foods with added salt.
- Cooking. Introduce new flavors: use herbs, garlic and other spices to flavor meals without the extra sodium. Reduce the salt in recipes, adding it by taste rather than what it calls for. Learn to listen to your tastebuds (though they may need some training!)
- Shopping. Read nutrition labels, looking for salt and sodium. Most prepared foods are high in sodium. Choose low-sodium options – or better yet, make your own so you add only as much as you want! “Low-fat” or “fat-free” foods are often higher in sodium because it’s a flavor enhancer (making up for the missing lingering tastes that fat causes). Most canned meats and vegetables contain salt as a preservative. Eat fresh meats and vegetables, or rinse them before eating. Olives, pickles, and processed and canned meats are soaked in salt by their very nature. Watch your intake.
- Fast food. Avoid it (for more than just the high sodium!) Many fast food meals contain more than the recommended daily allowance for sodium! But if you must, pay attention to sodium levels and to portion sizes.
sweet potato and bacon in endive cups
adapted from yumsugar.com
- 3 slices bacon, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1-1/2 cups)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 T thinly sliced fresh chives
- 4 small heads Belgian endive
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
Cook the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until it has rendered some of its fat, about 3 minutes.
Add the sweet potato and 1/4 t. each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the sweet potato is tender and the bacon starts to crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in 2 T. of the chives and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for a couple of minutes.
Slice the bottom 1/2 inch off the endives so some of the outer leaves break free. Cut another 1/2 inch off and break some more leaves free. Keep going until all the larger leaves are free. Save the inner smaller leaves for a salad.
Set the endive leaves on a large platter. Spoon the sweet potato mixture near the base of the leaves. Top each with a dollop of the creme fraiche and then sprinkle with the remaining chives. Serve immediately or let sit for up to 20 minutes before serving.
cauliflower, fennel, and white bean salad
adapted from epicurious.com
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 long sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 small head of cauliflower
- 1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
- 1 fennel bulb
- Handful fresh chives
- Handful fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan. Cut or pull thyme leaves from stem, and cook thyme leaves in the hot olive oil just for a few moments, or until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
Zest the lemon and set aside the zest. Juice the lemon and whisk the juice and vinegar together.
Chop or shred the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Drain and rinse the beans. Thinly chop the fennel bulb using a mandoline or a chef’s knife. Mince the chives and parsley. Combine cauliflower, beans, fennel, chives, parsley, and thyme oil in a large bowl and toss. Mix in cheese. Add lemon juice mixture and toss to coat. Season salad to taste with salt and black pepper.
cream of belgian endive soup
adapted from frenchfood.about.com
- 5 small Belgian endive, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup chopped white onion (1 medium)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped
- 2 T butter
- 5-6 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup cream or half-and-half
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/4 t ground black pepper
In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the Belgian endive, onions, and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and then cover and reduce the heat to the low-medium setting. Simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Process the soup, in batches, in a blender until smooth. Add the cream, salt, and pepper to the soup, stir, and heat through.