Quinoa Cookies!!!

Delicious quinoa cookies from Bon Appetit

By Kate Prengaman

I love Bon Appetite magazine, it’s like porn for foodies. I just look at the pictures, fantasize about making certain dishes or tasting certain recipes, but I rarely put any of these specific fantasies into action. I love to cook, but I’m usually too busy to devote myself to the drool-worthy recipes they suggest. But last month, I saw a recipe that I couldn’t resist, and I finally made them yesterday: Quinoa Cookies!

Continue reading

Fermenting Flour

I started a new sourdough tonight. My last sourdough did not survived the long, hot drive from Vegas to Wisconsin in August. For me , sourdough is like a pet, albeit, a productive, delicious one.  You feed it, it grows, and feeds you in return. Best pet ever, honestly.

I caught my first sourdough back in 2007, when my New Year’s resolution was to bake all of my own bread for a year. Michael Pollan’s description of catching wild yeasts in a bowl of flour and water in the Omnivore’s dilemma really captured my imagination, and I caught my own, with a mixture of unbleached flour and water sitting on my counter. In addition to catching many yeasts out of the air, they also wait on the surface of the flour, for me to provide the perfect environment for them to grow and flourish.  Continue reading

How “good” is garlic?

By Emily Eggleston

Tis the season of new year resolutions. Health supplements, gym memberships, and cross trainers are probably flying off the shelves as I type. Thus it is also the season to be wary of hype, particularly regarding dietary claims. This is the perfect opportunity to bring up my fragrant friend, garlic. There is a wide range of positive health claims associated with eating garlic. People have ventured that garlic might help with everything from controlling acne to fighting cancer. The laundry list of garlic health claims includes: suppressing tumor growth, promoting cardiovascular health, reducing LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and thinning blood. Many garlic advocates mention in one way or another that garlic has a very long history of culinary and medicinal use, seemingly justifying their health claims with the fact that garlic has been eaten for thousands of years. Some garlic promotion can get a bit, er, sensational. For instance one website suggests that garlic is “possibly the number one healing plant known to Man.” Here’s what a few scientists have to say about garlic:

Continue reading

Salted Caramels and Sugar Structures

Caramel cooking, by La Mia Cucina

So, I spent a delightful afternoon celebrating the end of the semester helping my friend Nora make her signature salted caramels, which she gives her lucky family every year for Christmas.  While we watched the sticky sweet solution bubble away, she asked me what happens to the sugar to make caramel sticky and fondant, her other favorite holiday candy,  so smooth?

I knew that we could find the answer in the science of sugar molecule structure, different methods of cooking, stirring, and cooling sugar syrups result in different sugar structures when the candy cools.  Continue reading

So, what do you really mean by virginity?

Olive Oil by Vicci from moonstarsandpaper

I heard something so amazing on Fresh Air the other day that I just couldn’t resist writing about it.  Terry Gross talked to Tom Mueller about his new book, Extra Virginity. Don’t worry, this is a food blog: he wrote about olive oil!

Terry asked him why olive oil was so much more interesting than other vegetable oils, why it was worthy of taste tests, fancy imports, and high prices. Mueller explained for vegetable oils, the oil is extracted from the corn kernel or soy bean, the seeds, Continue reading

Nutmeg’s bright red secret

By Emily Eggleston

Nutmeg is the spice of holiday cheer. And it is one of the most beautiful ingredients in my kitchen.

Photo by Nikita Avvakumov

Slicing into a whole nutmeg reveals the rivers of dark brown winding across a light tan surface. And from that surface pours a watershed of flavor.

Until mid 19th century, the only producer of nutmeg was a small group of Indonesian islands, the Banda Islands. Then the British managed to transplant a few of the lucrative trees to well-suited colonial climates. One of their transplant locations was Granada which is now the second largest producer of nutmeg. Indonesia still reigns the world of nutmeg by supplying 75% of the market and Granada comes in next with 20%. Interestingly, the flag of Granada featured nutmeg for a short time (1967-1974) before they gained independence and crafted a new flag. Keep reading for the secret…

The Tale of Tapioca

Tapioca Pudding by Dobrin Isabela, via Flickr

By Kate Prengaman

Here’s a question: What do tapioca pudding, bubble tea, Brazilian slash and burn agriculture, and subsistence farming in Africa have in common? The simple answer is in botanical latin: Manihot esculenta. Called manioc, cassava, mandioca, yuca, tapioca, and sago, people world-wide eat foods produced from the starchy tubers of the M. esculenta, a member of the botanically diverse Euphorbiaceae, which includes poinsettias. According to the UN, it’s the third most important food in the tropics, after rice and corn. However, it’s also poisonous- two cyanide compounds, linamarin and lotaustralin, require careful processing before the tubers can be eaten.  Continue reading