Our wee little fig tree, that our neighbor gave us when we moved in 3 years ago, is taller than me now. Cycle of life goes on.
Eastern black walnut or American walnut, looks like darker version of walnut and that is where the similarity ends. These smell like forest floor after rain – earthy and spicy with a hint of blue cheese. Wild Black Walnuts are hand-foraged every fall in the Midwest and East-Central United States. Our neighborhood farmer’s market, Sigona’s, carries them in fall.
They did not feel right in the breakfast cereal. They were intriguing in the pecan/walnut tart. But they blossomed in a walnut pesto. Nowadays, recipes often define pesto as a combination of any herb and any nut. Walnuts, due to their strong flavor, pair well with parsley. Just replace some or all of the regular walnuts with black ones. It will elevate the commonplace “pasta with pesto” dish to a memorable one. And if you particularly wish to pat yourself on the back, combine with a robust wine like zinfandel.
Puffed lotus seed have been part of Indian snack scene for as long as I can recall.I recently found this product at neighborhood market, Sigona’s. They are made here, right in Palo Alto! These have a little clarified butter, a touch of salt and a hint of heat. The entire 1 oz content is 130 calories. They are more substantial than rice puffs, very unlike popcorn, mostly crunchy and a little chewy. Closest in texture is perhaps pork rind Chicharrón. They do not appear to have a strong taste of their own, essentially picking up the added flavors. You can get these puffed and unflavored lotus seeds in Indian grocery stores but they often smell rancid. If you can find good quality unflavored version, then just toss them in hot butter, salt and perhaps some pepper, chili powder or lime. Enjoy with chai or beer.
At a recent microbiome conference, I learned something that has changed my diet around. Scientists have known for a while now that there is a close link between gut bacteria and our diet. And by not eating certain food groups, i.e., reducing the variety of food in our diet, we make the gut microbiome ecosystem worse. When we go gluten free or low FODMAP diet, we also take out whole wheat from our diet which can potentially lead to significant reduction in variety of food consumed. So if one can re-introduce whole wheat back in the diet, without increasing gluten content, it might make the microbiome in our guts fitter.
Oh, who am I kidding. I want a good gluten free bread to go with my soft boiled eggs in the morning and I am sick of paying $6.99 for a loaf a bread.
Looking through Monash University’s gluten analysis, I had further learned that spelt has less gluten that modern wheat. And sourdough bread made with spelt is nearly gluten free. This got me thinking – while sourdough is not something I wanted to invest time and energy in, what if I could make raised loaf with sprouted wheat? I had also accidentally tumbled on a sprouted spelt flour from the excellent One Degree Organics folks (God bless them!). And in my other experimentation, I had found that sprouting made it easier to digest legumes. So, putting two plus two together, I hypothesized that if I could make a loaf from sprouted spelt, I would have a happier gut.
Easier hypothesized than done, the real challenge is in the art of making bread from whole wheat. I consider Acme’s whole wheat bread to be the standard of bread making. And I had tried Bittman’s no knead recipe and failed every time – the bread would turn out wet inside. Some further research into no knead bread, led to this smithsonian article that stirred a new hope. Just one bake later, I knew I had tumbled on the right recipe.
Since then I have made this bread recipe a few times. The bread turns our airy, it is chewy and moist without being wet, and most definitely not dry or crumbly. And it is significantly better than my current commercial favorite, Whole Foods prairie bread. And best of all, my stomach is happy. And my soft boiled eggs have a perfect companion.
With my one degree organics sprouted spelt flour, I use 16 oz flour, 16 oz water, 2tsp salt, a tiny pinch of fast raising yeast (1/8th tsp), and I let the mixture rise overnight. So far, I have tried making loaf. I follow the temperature to the tee – 520F for 15 minutes, lowering to 470F for 20 and final 15 minutes with oven slighted open (at 470F).
There is a problem to be solved still. The dough is so wet that it is unclear how to make slits on top. The bread is splitting along the side in this case.
Addendum: Every gut is special. Please experiment with the amount you can handle. I have a very sensitive gut and it is perfectly happy with 1/8th slice of loaf made with 16 oz flour.
Every time mother visits from India, I turn her skills to experimentation of some sort. Current ongoing one is on home made gluten free flours that are perfect for desi style rotis and parathas. I am frankly sick and tired of what you get off the shelf for gluten free flours, they are too starchy and too white.
Here are a few combinations that have worked i.e. they deliver healthy balance of proteins and fibers, result in decent binding and tastes good. These blends don’t necessarily look pretty…and need a little oil….and Bob’s Mills flours are definitely not cheap….and if you are gluten sensitive, you have probably accepted that life is collection of compromises.
La Viga is a Latin American eatery, somewhat setback from the heart of Redwood City downtown. In case you didn’t know Redwood City (RWC), it is the city with “Climate Best by Government Test”. As a Bay Area resident, I can attest to the fact that it is one of the prettier of San Francisco Bay Area cities but I am still questioning the climate after an year of living in this city. Normally, if you are craving tasty tacos you will be eating at one of the many taquerias along the Middlefield where the best tacos in Bay Area are to be found. But if you want a nice sit down place (shared tables) with a more vibrant ambiance, La Viga it is.
If I had to pick a favourite, it had to be the Oysters on the Half Shell (I am partial to taste of sea) and Pulpos Salteodos. Latter reminded me of Nikkei cuisine from Barcelona’s Pakta.