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Everything posted by egale

  1. Pam -- I think you make a number of good points. Salt is certainly not poison in appropriate amounts. Without it food is bland. But since you say you've never had a Big Mac (or other junk food I would assume) you might not realize how very salty a lot of junk food or even regular restaurant food really is -- at least here in LA. I think it's important to remember that food and health should not become a religion (or rather a cult). Listening to your body is what's important. If someone can eat high fat meat and dairy on occassion -- or even daily -- and still have cholesterol levels that please you and your doctor, then indulge away lucky you! But as for us, we couldn't. We had to cut out high fat meats and dairy and increase healthy fats (such as nuts, alvocados, and olive oil) as well as make other changes. And the changes were very effective improving our health. People do have different metabolisms. And by the way, I make Thai and Vietnamese dishes all the time and none of them include MSG. The ethnic Thai and Vietnamese restaurants we frequent do not use it either -- I've watched them cook. I think MSG is used more in Chinese food. But anyway, isn't MSG a natural ingredient that's been used for hundreds of years in China and is not harmful in reasonable amounts?
  2. Doc, I'd like to thank you for your post. Excellent information. And I would like to strongly second Haresfur. Healthy food is definitely an acquired taste. When I first changed my diet I thought oatmeal tasted like cardboard. After three days of it I began to like it. Now I love it. My husband used to love butter on vegetables; now he actually PREFERS pesto made with olive oil. He also used to love baked potatoes smothered with sour creme. Now the sour creme is too rich for him and he begs me to make wheat berries flavored with argan oil. Since we changed our diet both my husband and I have found that we don't really care for most restaurant food any more due to its high fat and salt content. We have both come to prefer the "healthy" food we make at home. Now we limit our restaurant outings to Thai and Vietnamese. It is hard to make these changes at first. You have to decide that you are going to eat to live, not live to eat. But once you do, you come to love healthy food as much as you used to love the crappy high fat processed American stuff. Haresfur, you are so right.
  3. Sheena, thanks! By the way, you got a great deal on that book. I just checked on ecookbooks.com and it's listed at $23.09! You sound like a great cook judging from your ability to add things like tumeric and galanga without a recipe to provide guidance with amounts. I have fresh tumeric growing and the last time I "just added some" to a curry I put in too much and the curry got really bitter. The fresh tumeric smelled so magical that I just couldn't stop myself. Lesson learned: don't trust my nose! Thanks again. Ellen
  4. I know exactly what you are talking about. Because of this I buy my chiles at a local Asian market (when I buy them at all). For the last several years I've grown my own. In high summer when it's hot the plants produce hundreds of chiles. (I'm talking about five plants.) I freeze the surplus for use throughout the rest of the year. Chiles freeze really well. Lay them out on a baking sheet and place in the freezer so they freeze individually. Then pop them frozen into a ziploc bag and keep the bag in the freezer. The nurseries in the LA Area sell little chile plants such as Thai Dragon, Serrano, and Cayenne that produce the real thing. If little plants are not available in your area you can order seeds from Evergreen Seeds: Chiles Good luck! I know how frustrating bland chiles can be.
  5. I second the request. Also, do you happen to remember the name of the Southeast Asian cookbook you used for the curry paste?
  6. I never even knew those existed! Thank you Andiesenji!
  7. I usually leave mine at room temp for about 45 days or so. I shake the jar once a day. Then I pour in enough olive oil to cover and refrigerate the jar. I've kept jars for two years like that and they're fine. I do sterilize the jars in boiling water before I put them up, but I'm not sure that's really necessary. Better safe than sorry though. I think Paula Wolfert says they are self stable without refrigeration for a year in her Couscous book, but says to add olive oil and refrigerate after 30 days in her Slow Med Cooking book. I refrigerate. Again, better safe than sorry. I always get some bubbles at the beginning and I think it's just a natural part of the process. And the brine gets really thick in my jars too. When I've used up the lemons in a jar I just throw it out. Usually by that time the metal lid and ring are crummy from the salt and lemon juice. I guess you could wash the jar and reuse it though if you wanted. Most of the recipes say to throw away the pulp and only use the rind. I've always wondered why though. The pulp seems fine to me and I think Paula Wolfert says she uses the pulp too. Anyone have an opinion or information on using the pulp?
  8. I am ashamed to admit that I use Better than Bouillon (the paste in a jar) a lot of the time now rather than making stock. I used to make stock frequently, but my husband got fed up with how time-consuming and labor-intensive it was and I need him to help with the heavy stock pot. So I tried a jar of Better than Bouillon. You know, considering the difference in labor it's pretty darn good! And I don't like lamb. I always substitute beef for lamb, even in ethnic dishes that clearly call for lamb. I'm ashamed, but it's true. And maybe once a year I eat a McDonald's hamburger. I'll go to hell for that I know.
  9. egale

    Drying herb leaves

    I grow holy basil every summer in my garden. It is terrific fresh. In my opinion the green variety is more flavorful than the purple variety. (I've grown both.) Holy basil is not like other basils; it is tougher and requires more cooking time. To answer your question, I dry it by spreading it out on newspapers on my living room floor where the afternoon sun warms the room. I store the dried leaves whole in a glass mason jar in my pantry. Many sources report that whole kaffir lime leaves freeze quite well in ziploc bags with the air squeezed out. I've never tried because I have trees growing and always have a fresh supply. Good luck!
  10. I always chop chicken bones up before I use them to make stock. And I've found it does make a definite difference in the flavor. I learned to do this from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. When making beef stock I always include some marrow bones and half of a calf's foot (which is pure collagen). I learned to do that from Jennifer McLagan's Bones. Come to think of it, she says to chop the chicken bones up too. Isn't arrowroot another name for tapioca?
  11. I wanted to add that I've had exactly the same experience you have: when I make home-made stock with bones it always thickens nicely, and almost to jelly when cooled. But when making a meat-based sauce without flour it doesn't thicken. I think that's why recipes say to use flour. Personally I don't like the flavor flour adds. The tapioca starch is a far better, tastier solution, at least to me.
  12. When I have this problem I use tapioca starch. It has a good flavor and thickens nicely. Just take a tablespoon or two of tapioca starch and mix with some water (or liquid from the pot), stir it in, and wait a few minutes. Problem solved. You can buy tapioca starch really cheap at Asian markets.
  13. Chris, I appreciate this information very much. Like a previous poster, I have been considering a Sumeet Asia Kitchen machine, but I think I might be happier with the Ultra Pride. I am interested mainly in making "curry" pastes. (I like your use of quotes.) Since the Ultra Pride works like a mortar and pestle, not a grinder, I can see that it would produce better, more traditional pastes. For someone interested primarily in paste-making, would you recommend the Ultra Pride over the Sumeeet Asia Kitchen machine?
  14. Oh -- there's one thing I want to add. A low-fat diet is not necessarily the answer, especially if your LDL is not great. You should eat a lot of healthy fats like olive oil and avocados and cut out the "bad" animal fats. I cut out all dairy products -- butter, milk, cheese -- in addition to the other changes I made. Now my LDL is very low and my HDL is very high. Dietary changes DO work. But they go against the grain of an American diet.
  15. I did. About four years ago my cholesterol hit 220. Within three months I got it down to 175, purely through diet. My doctor shook my hand. However, I had been eating a lot of meat. Now I eat a big bowl of oatmeal every morning, a lot of fruits and vegetables, and (mainly) fish and chicken. I want to add, however, that I have never met any one else who reduced their cholesterol through diet. Whenever I met someone who said they had high cholesterol, I would tell them about my experience reducing it through diet. The response always was that their high cholesterol was not amenable to dietary changes. My husband and I would laugh about it and joke that I am apparently a completely unique human being!
  16. Well, two things I am NOT going to plant are parsley and onions. A couple of years ago I planted one -- ONE -- parsley plant. It had terrific parsley leaves for about a week and then it bolted and flowered. I let it. I've had baby parsley plants all over my garden ever since. I also bought a few onion plants once. Onions have beautiful flowers.... I was picking out baby onion plants for about three years. On the other hand, I let the dill grow where ever it wants. It reseeds every year. I have a carefully segregated mint patch that does the same. As to stuff I deliberately plant, I'm limiting it this year to sweet basil, holy basil (in high summer), Vietnamese balm, two or three types of chilies, and sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. I'll fight the deer for the tomatoes (and probably lose). I also have year round thyme, rosemary, oregano, French sorrel, rau ram, cardamon, tumeric, and galanga.
  17. egale


    I just bought some ground Vietnamese cinnamon at Costco. It was an impulse buy. I haven't opened the container yet. Anyone know what I should expect?
  18. egale


    Penzeys doesn't seem to sell whole Vietnamese cinnamon, just ground. I need the whole pieces for many Indian and Asian dishes I make. I looked around and www.myspicesage.com sells whole pieces of Vietnamese cinnamon for less than I found other places. I ordered from them but haven't received it yet. In general I prefer to buy spices whole and grind them myself when needed. They stay a lot fresher that way. I invested in a commercial Waring spice grinder for this reason -- it's great and makes the grinding pretty easy. But I use a lot of spices. There is indeed a difference in nutmegs in my experience. It might be due to the freshness of the nutmegs though.
  19. egale


    Thanks for posting that link, Lisa. I've been vaguely unhappy with the cinnamon sticks I've been using. Now I know why. After reading the link you provided and doing a little research, I ordered a pound of whole Vietnamese cinnamon.
  20. I've bought Iranian saffron on line and was very pleased at the quality. Saffron that I've seen for sale in Turkey and Greece was definitely inferior. When cooking with saffron there are two main rules: 1) don't use too much (although it takes a LOT to be too much in my experience) 2) soak the saffron in a warm liquid (water, broth, milk) before adding it I never measure saffron. I just take a generous "pinch" with my fingers. Store saffron in a glass container in a cool dry dark place. If stored properly it should last three years.
  21. After experimentation with two of three different brands of purchased Harissas and making my own Harissa, I settled on ordering it from www.zamourispices.com. Their version is superior, in my opinion, and is worth the money compared to making it myself. If you make it yourself, I can provide some advice though. Choose a recipe that includes both sun-dried tomatoes and cumin. Not all Harissa recipes do. And it's not important to get piri piri chiles specifically, piri piri chiles are just the type commonly available in Aftrica. Other types will do as well. Good luck!
  22. It's really interesting that you bring this up, because I have noticed the very same thing with fresh rosemary. I made a quantity of meatloaf with fresh chopped rosemary and froze portions (my husband loves it). When I defrosted some of the meatloaf it definitely seemed to me that the rosemary fragrance had intensified. It was quite noticeable. It must be something to do with the freezing/defrosting process.
  23. I want to report that I received my 1/4" dice Nemco chopper a while ago and I just used it to chop six pounds of onions. The Nemco chopper is easy to use, doesn't require a lot of force (I'm a small woman), and produces a good consistent dice. It is not difficult to clean except maybe for the pusher, but even the pusher is easily cleaned by running a toothpick down the grooves. So even though the Nemco wasn't cheap, I consider it worth the money. It is well-made and will probably last a lifetime. I am happy.
  24. egale

    Beef Back Ribs

    Dave, I'd like to thank you too. Your advice gives me the confidence I needed to try my ribs low and slow on the Big Green Egg -- using your rub. I've been getting into ancho chiles big time lately anyway. And I didn't know that all sugar burns at 350F! That is valuable knowledge to have. Thanks for the expert advice. Ellen
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