Three Titans of Taste

As we thaw out from the winter, there are some vegetables that come into season in April and May, that thrive in our delightful and cool Colorado climate. Among those vegetables are three titans of taste; spinach, radishes and asparagus. All three are vitamin and nutrient rich helping to boost healthy lifestyle and overall wellness. Spinach alone is always in the top 10 superfood listings.

Spinach is considered a superfood for many reasons. It has antioxidant and anticancer properties, is rich in protein and vitamins including vitamins A, C and E. Spinach is a great source of vitamin K that plays a critical role in protecting your heart, bone health, and helps your blood to clot properly. Spinach is also one of the best sources of dietary magnesium which is necessary for energy metabolism, maintaining muscle and nerve function, regular heart rhythm, a healthy immune system and maintaining an optimum blood pressure. Many of you may know these health facts already, but did you know some of these odd facts about spinach (courtesy of Wikipedia)? Spinach is a native plant of Persia (modern day Iran), it was most probably brought to Europe in the 12th century and to the U.S. in 1806. In the 1930’s, U.S. growers credited Popeye with a 33% increase in domestic spinach consumption. Medieval artists extracted green pigment from spinach to use as an ink or paint.

Radishes, while not the most popular vegetable on the veggie tray, are not only packed with nutrients, but can add beautiful color to dishes like salad and stir fry. Radishes are a good source of vitamin C. A half cup serving offers about 14% of your recommended daily intake. According to Linus Pauling Institute (focused on vitamins and other essential micronutrients and their role in enhancing health and preventing disease), cruciferous vegetables, like radishes, help purge the body of cancer-causing substances and prevent tumor development. [Read more…]

Foodie Walk Potato Salads

A big thank you to all those who came out for out Picnic Foodie Walk last night. Here are the promised recipes, which were found on Pinterest.

Potato Salad

[Read more…]

The Best Guacamole? Maybe so!

     The Cook trusts that you are having a great summer season and that all of your BBQ and patio parties have been culinary successes. The Tour de France moves into the last week…my how time flies…and one can say that those lads are having a bit of a go at it. Very hard work that! Each rider can use up to 6000 plus calories per day. Just think how many pastries that is per day! Well- pedal on boys, only one more week to go till Paris.

     The Cook has certainly not expended that many calories per day during the last two weeks, although it seems as if the Cook has consumed that many per day with all of the festivities.  One bit specifically comes to mind, a guacamole recipe that peaked the taste buds of the Cook, who is not particularly a guac. fan. This recipe hails from origins at the Boudros Texas Bistro on the San Antonio Riverwalk in Texas, USA. The unique flavour that makes this guacamole stand out comes from the slow roasted peppers and the smoked and roasted Roma tomatoes. The Cook found this guacamole was great as a dip but really shinned as a condiment to chicken and pork. Easy to make! Highly recommended!


Boudros Texas Bistro Guacamole

juice from ¼ orange
juice from ½ lime
1 avocado – seeded and scooped out of skin
1 or 2 smoked, charred, peeled, and dice Roma tomatoes
1 Serrano pepper, roasted, seeded, and finely minced
1 tablespoon medium diced red onion
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste.

      Squeeze juices into a medium bowl. Add the avocado and then coarse chop with a fork or knife. Add the remaining ingredients and fold into the avocado-juice mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. The final product should be coarse in texture. Do not mash or blend. Serve immediately or hold for up to an hour in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container.

      The Cook also had an opportunity to play with a kitchen gadget that moved up to the top spot on the leader board, the Maillot Jaune of kitchen devices in the Cook’s tour – the Vitamix Pro Series blender. We’ll talk much more about this tool in a future article, but for now, the Cook is off to sip some Cote d Ventoux, eat some cheese, and watch the lads give it a bash in today’s stage of the tour.

 Thanks for reading and see you next time.

 The Cupboard Cook

Balsamic Vinegar – Not All Created Equal!

     This last week in June ushers in the Cook’s favorite summer culinary events. In the US, Independence Day is but a week away. In France, the 21 days of  Le Tour de France is about to begin, which always finds the Cook going to or hosting Tour breakfasts with fellow cyclists and friends that just like to eat for free. All are welcome! Mixed in, there is Bastille Day, which for the Cook, means a Tour breakfast in the morning and a Bastille Day celebration dinner in the evening, all in all, about 24 hours of cooking, eating, and merriment. What is your favorite summer culinary event?

      For the Cook, summer menus are the easiest to plan. It is a season with abundant fruits and berries, fresh vegetables and herbs, and a choice of hot and cold preparations. The Cook does not find cold potato salad particularly inviting when it is snowing and minus 10 C outside. But in the summer, it is a standout and what BBQ can be considered complete without potato salad in one form or another as an offering.

     The Cook keeps the summer meals on the lighter side. This is the season to experiment with sandwiches and protein enhanced salads. A favorite sandwich of the Cook’s is so simple: fresh baked beer bread, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (balsamic vinegar), tomato slices, and fresh basil, paired with a Spumante Brut, and good to go. Follow this with a fresh fruit medley tossed with a touch of Cointreau and fresh mint; very light and refreshing – just a perfect finale.

Speaking of Balsamic! 

     Balsamic vinegar has been produced in the Italian provinces of Modena and Reggio for about one thousand years but was only known to the local population and to Europe’s royalty. In early times, Balsamic, derives its name from balm (curative) and was considered a medicinal, an early day snake oil, as it was claimed as the cure for any ailment. Not until the last 25 to 30 years, has the artisanal balsamic vinegars been sold to the market place. Now, balsamic vinegar is the top selling vinegar, especially in the United States, where it accounts for some 40 percent of all grocery vinegar sales. Balsamic vinegars are produced in numerous countries but none have been judged to compare with the quality and taste of those that are produced in Modena and Reggio. These are considered as fine liqueurs.

Why can one pay 2 dollars versus 200 dollars for a bottle of balsamic vinegar?

 Balsamic Vinegar: Not All Created Equal!

      Here is where the price difference comes into play and it relates to how the vinegars are produced; one named Artisan and the other named Commercial. True Italian artisanal balsamic vinegars must meet criteria for certification within the Modena, Reggio Emila, and Spilamberto balsamic consortiums, and will have a label affixed to the bottle showing that certification. The bottles will each have their own distinctive shape as well. Expect to pay a premium for these balsamic vinegars. For certification, these vinegars must be aged for, at the least, 12 years and not contain any wine vinegar or caramel. Artisan crafted balsamic involves a long process of decanting in numerous stages and in different wooden casks, very similar to the production of fine ports. Only boiled down grape must is used. The Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes are the primary varieties used. Artisanal balsamic vinegars made outside of the Modena and Reggio Emila districts may not have any production requirements nor testing, so the quality may be variable; could be good- could be not so good!

      Commercial balsamic vinegars are the most common vinegars found in the mass distribution system. These tend to be more acidic and less complex in flavor than their artisanal brothers. Commercial balsamics typically are made in large quantities and can be produced in a matter of days. Many will be produced by combining wine vinegars, caramel, and some grape must together and have no young balsamic at all. The better quality commercial vinegars will use some young balsamic as a part of the blend. Some may even be aged for 2 to 8 years but the bottom line is there are no regulations governing the commercial production of balsamic vinegar so it is a buyer beware purchase.

                                             The Cook’s recommendations:

     *Buy a bottle of certified balsamic and use that fresh only and in small quantities. Do not use to cook with! These balsamic vinegars will have incredible flavor, so a small amount goes along way. Drizzle a small amount on grilled poultry, seafood, and meats; on fresh fruit; on fruit tarts, and on cheeses or sip a bit as a liqueur. Store in a dark cool place.

Cavalli Gold Seal – 25 year
Manicardi – 12 or 18 year

      *Buy a bottle of good quality commercially produced balsamic for additions into dishes, reductions, marinades, vinaigrettes, and glazes.

Lucini Gran Riserva
Monari Federzoni
Manicardi – 6 year

See ya next time and Happy 4th, and enjoy the Tour my cycling friends!

The Cook

Ready for an Oil change – Cooking Oils That is!

Ready for an oil change?

You may have missed the Cook in recent weeks. The Cook’s computer suffered a drive crash. The Cook is not sure if that refers to a drive shaft, drive train, drive- thru or what. Remember, the Cook is not a techno. The Cook has a rotary dial phone and prefers the Remington 1919. No, that is not a weapon, although if one was to drop it out the fourth floor window, it could do some serious damage to any target below. It is a trusty old [Read more…]