Mushrooms, Mardi Gras and spicing things up

by Terry B on February 18, 2009

A quick round-up of food-related stuff, including a lighter, quicker Red Beans and Rice recipe.

Turns out a healthy dose of spices is good for your health. In the March issue of Bon Appétit, Jack Turner reports on the health and weight loss benefits of spicing up our meals. He writes in “The Spice of Life” that flavor boosters that make dinner taste better also satisfy our hunger faster, so we eat less. And when you cook with plenty of spices, you need less fat to make food taste interesting.

Even more interesting, spices are proving beneficial in “the treatment and cure of a range of illnesses and chronic conditions.” Turmeric has been linked to slowing the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have used ginger to kill ovarian cancer cells. And as Turner tells us, “In clinical trials around the world, spices such as ginger, pepper, cumin, and cinnamon have been credited with helping ailments as diverse as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression, and multiple sclerosis.”

Read the complete informative article here. Then head for the spice cabinet and get cooking.

Vote to let the good times roll—officially

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities on the planet. So I was delighted when I got an email from Zatarain’s the other day about their Motion for Mardi Gras petition drive. The goal of the national drive is to collect 100,000 online signatures asking Congress to proclaim the final day of the annual Carnival [the actual Fat Tuesday] a national holiday. According to a recent survey, nearly seven out of 10 Americans support the idea.

More to the point, it’s a way to focus attention once again on this lovely city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina nearly four years ago and further threatened by governmental inaction, ineptitude and neglect. In addition to organizing the petition drive, Zatarain’s is making a donation of $10,000 to the Rebuild Fund of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Founded in 1889, Zatarain’s has called New Orleans home for 120 years; this donation is part of their continued efforts to give back to the community. Find out more about more about Motion for Mardi Gras and sign the petition here.

The nation’s leading maker of New Orleans–style foods, Zatarain’s expertise in blending spices has built its reputation for delivering authentic New Orleans flavor. Today they make more than 200 products to help families bring the taste of the Big Easy home.

Perhaps no food is more associated with New Orleans than red beans and rice. The hearty dish became a Monday dinner tradition throughout much of Louisiana. Sunday’s leftover hambone flavored the beans—and since Monday’s were also laundry day, the beans could cook slowly, mostly unattended, all day long. Here’s my take on this big-flavored Cajun/Creole classic. I’ve lightened it up with turkey smoked sausage instead of the traditional andouille sausage. And I’ve sped it up with canned beans—no need to presoak or cook them all day. But if I say so myself, there’s flavor to spare in this version. You’ll find my original red beans and rice post and recipe here.

A new source for all things mushroom

And finally, this is apparently my week for receiving delightful emails. I just got word that The Mushroom Council has chosen my Sea Scallops with Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms—last week’s Valentine’s Day offering—as the Recipe of the Week on their newly launched The Mushroom Channel. Almost as cool as that news is discovering The Mushroom Council’s website. The council is composed of fresh market producers and importers of mushrooms and works with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Their site is chock full of information about these fabulous funghi—varieties, nutrition, research, care and handling, recipes… Be sure to check it out. I’m sure you’ll be bookmarking it just like I did.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

altadenahiker February 18, 2009 at 6:08 pm

wow, a plethora of palate pleasing postings. And Pretty pictures. I’m all about red beans and rice.

Terry B February 18, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Thanks, altadenahiker! Yeah, I think it’s time to whip up some red beans and rice. I have the unfortunate habit of forgetting some of my favorite dishes once I’ve posted them here. I need to trawl my own archives more often.

Randi February 20, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Congratulations on your recipe of the week!

Regarding the red beans and rice, I’m the only one at home who likes them. I’m wondering how this would freeze? Then I can make a big batch. I know rice can be a little iffy. Not sure about the beans though.

Terry B February 20, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Thanks, Randi! I’m sure the red beans would freeze just fine. For the rice, just cook up a small batch when you want it—you want the rice to be separate anyway. Or if you cook rice for your family one night, save a little extra and microwave it when you reheat the red beans.

dick February 22, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Interesting writeup on spices. What I find interesting is that when I make a chicken tagine, the spices you mention are all used in that one dish along with prunes, lemons, tomatoes, carrots, celery if I have any, broccoli if I have any, grape tomatoes, olives and 1/4 cup chicken broth. Serve with couscous. Wonderful. It is a takeoff on the classic lemon and olive chicken tagine.

Who knew I was protecting my old self so well and all in one dish. Couple that with my other main cooking cuisines of Italian and Chinese and I am getting so healthy it is disgusting.

Terry B February 22, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Ha! An entertaining comment, Dick, and true. And the tagine sounds spectacular.

dick February 22, 2009 at 10:47 pm

And so easy. Just put it in the pot, set it on the stove as low as possible in the tagine pot, put the top on and let it go. An hour later I sprinkle some parsley and some cilantro on top and put the lit back on for another 20 minutes or so. Then it is all ready. One dish for this and one for the couscous. Highly recommend it.

I got Paula Wolfert’s book and tried some of them which I loved. Then I decided to just branch off and see what happened. I have found that almost anything I would cook in a slow cooker will cook with the tagine and the meat comes out so juicy. Just remember that you need almost no liquid at all. 1/4 cup is about right. 1/2 cup and it overflows.

katrina February 25, 2009 at 2:41 am

Oh, bless you for that red beans recipe! I cooked up plain ole red beans and rice and it was nice, but bland. And about herbs. I once had an herb business and did extensive research on many of them – but, what I was astonished to discover was that herbs suck up nutrients and minerals like nobody’s business – which led me to make several herb vinegars for medicinal use through the winter, in addition to using fresh herbs throughout the year.

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