Monthly Archives: March 2016

Shrimp Tacos

shrimp tacos


¼ c. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 T. red onion, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ c. cilantro, diced

1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded and cut in small cubes

¼ head of cabbage, shredded

8 flour tortillas


Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and place in oven preheated to 300 degrees F. In a large skillet, add oil and heat until it just begins to simmer (do not overheat!) Sauté garlic until tender and translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp and toss with wooden spoon until opaque. Remove from heat and toss with cilantro, onions and jalapeno peppers.. To assemble, place cabbage on each tortilla, top with a large tablespoon of shrimp, add mango cubes and serve. Optional garnishes: guacamole, sour cream or plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, Sriracha.  Serves 4.

Week 46: Cilantro and Coriander

coriander plant

Coriander is considered both an herb and a spice since both its leaves and its seeds are used as a seasoning condiment. The Coriander plant is grown as annual which requires well-draining, fertile soil supplemented with warm summer climates to flourish. For leaf coriander, the plant is allowed to reach only about 9 to 15 inches in height. If left to grow further, it may reach about 5-7 feet tall, bears small white or light pink flowers by midsummer, followed by round-oval, numerous, aromatic coriander seeds. Flowering coriander is often planted in a flower or vegetable garden as it repels aphids.


The use of coriander can be traced back to 5,000 BC, making it one of the world’s oldest spices. It is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and has been known in Asian countries for thousands of years. Coriander was cultivated in ancient Egypt and was mentioned in the Old Testament. Ancient Grecians used cilantro essential oil as a component of perfume and the Romans used it to preserve meats and flavor breads. Early physicians, including Hippocrates, used coriander for its medicinal properties, such as an aromatic stimulant.

Culinary Uses


Fresh coriander leaves are used as an herb, and are known as cilantro, or Chinese parsley, and bear a strong resemblance to Italian flat leaf parsley. The leaves are broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems with a citrusy flavor, which is stronger in the stems, so they should be chopped and added to recipes as well. Heat diminishes the flavor, so coriander leaves and stems should be used raw or added to the dish immediately before serving. The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many savory dishes in South Asian foods, Chinese and Thai dishes, Mexican cooking, and in salads in Russia. Chopped coriander leaves are a garnish on Indian dishes such as dal. The Portuguese are the only Europeans who continue to use cilantro as much as they did in the 16th century – combining it with chilies and huacatay (black mint) to produce a distinctive table sauce, and pared with potatoes and fava beans.


The fruit of the coriander plant contains two seeds which, when dried, are the parts that are used as the dried spice. When ripe, the seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges. They have a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage. Coriander seeds are available in whole or ground powder form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavor, aroma and pungency. Coriander is commonly used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine. In Germany and South Africa, the seeds are used while making sausages. In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread. The Zunis of North America have adapted it into their cuisine, mixing the powdered seeds ground with chilies and using it as a condiment with meat, and eating leaves as a salad. Coriander seeds are also used with orange peel to add a citrus character in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers.

Medicinal Uses and Health Benefits

The herb parts (leaves, root, and stem) of the cilantro (coriander) plant have been found to have many antioxidants and essential oils that have been used as analgesics, aphrodisiacs, antispasmodic medicines, deodorants, and digestive aids. Recent research (although done on rats and mice) has shown coriander to control blood sugar and to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Coriander seeds and fresh Cilantro leaves and stems differ in nutritional value. Cilantro leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. Coriander seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, but they do provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.


Norman, Jill. Herbs and Spices: The Cook’s Reference.

Steak au Poivre



2 T. peppercorns, coarsely crushed

4 New York strip steaks

2 T. butter

2 T. olive oil

2 T. brandy

¼ c. beef stock

½ t. Dijon mustard

¼ t. Worcestershire sauce



Sprinkle both sides of steak with crushed peppercorns. Press into steaks using fingers. Add the butter and olive oil to a skillet and brown the steaks on both sides. Steaks will be rare. Cook longer if you want them more done. Transfer to hot serving platter. To the juices in skillet, add remaining ingredients and simmer until thick. Serve over the steaks. Serves 4.


Week 45: What’s the Beef?


There is a greater focus these days on reducing meat intake. But beef remains one of the best sources of protein in our diet. Focusing on lean meat, choosing the right cuts of beef, and buying the best quality available insure that you can enjoy a sizzling steak on the grill or a tender slow-roasted pot roast on occasion. Here’s what you need to know.

Beef is the meat of domesticated cattle, generally castrated as calves and specifically raised for meat. It is the third most widely consumed meat in the world, accounting for about 25% of meat production worldwide, after pork and poultry at 38% and 30% respectively.

Although cattle have been domesticated for several thousand years, it is unknown exactly when people started raising cattle for their meat. Cattle were widely used as draft animals (oxen) and for milk, and were specifically bred to increase meat yield with the mechanization of farming, or to improve the texture of meat, giving rise to the Murray Grey, Angus, and Wagyū. Cattle have only been in North America since Columbus introduced them in 1493 on his second expedition to the West Indies. The Spanish brought cattle to Florida and Texas in succeeding decades. Texas Longhorns descended from the original Spanish cattle and were raised in the mid-1800s on the open range to meet America’s demand for beef. The Homestead Act of 1862 threatened the open range and cattle ranching began to decline. Today beef cattle are raised and fed using a variety of methods, including feedlots, free range, ranching, and intensive animal farming. In 2014, he largest exporters of beef were Argentina, Brazil and the United States.

How Beef is Graded

The USDA designates eight beef quality grades. The grades are based on two main criteria: the degree of marbling (intramuscular fat) in the beef, and the maturity (estimated age of the animal at slaughter).

Most beef offered for sale in supermarkets in the United States is graded U.S. Choice or Select. U.S. Prime beef is sold to hotels and upscale restaurants, and usually marketed as such.

  • U.S. Prime – Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, about 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime.
  • U.S. Choice – High quality, widely available in foodservice industry and retail markets. Choice carcasses are 53.7% of the fed cattle total. The difference between Choice and Prime is largely due to the fat content in the beef. Prime typically has a higher fat content (more and well distributed intramuscular “marbling”) than Choice.
  • U.S. Select (formerly Good) – lowest grade commonly sold at retail, acceptable quality, but is less juicy and tender due to leanness.
  • U.S. Standard – Lower quality, yet economical, lacking marbling.
  • U.S. Commercial – Low quality, lacking tenderness, produced from older animals.
  • U.S. Utility
  • U.S. Cutter
  • U.S. Canner

Utility, Cutter, and Canner grade are rarely used in foodservice operations and primarily used by processors and canners.

Types of Beef Cuts

After a steer is slaughtered, it is cut into four quarters and then further cut into primal cuts (chuck, brisket, shank, rib, short plate, shaft, loin, sirloin, flank and round), subprimal cuts or is designated for “fabrication.” The cuts of beef that come from well-used muscles tend to have a larger portion of connective tissue and can be tougher than those cuts from areas where the muscles are less used.

Specialty Beef

Certified Angus Beef is a brand created in 1978 to distinguish the highest-quality beef produced from descendants of the black, hornless Angus cattle of Scotland. The meat must meet American Angus Association standards for yield, marbling and age, and be graded as high choice or prime.

Kobe beef is traditionally produced in Kobe, Japan. Wagyu cattle are fed a special diet, which includes beer to stimulate the animal’s appetite during the summer months. The cattle are massages with sake to relieve stress and muscle stiffness in the belief that calm contented cattle produce better-quality meat. The cattle are raised without hormones and the meat is dry-aged for 21 days prior to sale. This special treatment does result in meat that is extraordinarily tender and full-flavored. It is also extremely expensive and can cost as much as $200 per pound. Only about 3,900 head of cattle each year meet the strict standards to be labeled as Kobe beef, and only about 10% of this is exported from Japan. Much of the Kobe beef on restaurant menus is domestic Waygu and does not come from pure Japanese bloodlines.

Halal beef has been certified to have been processed in a prescribed manner in accordance with Muslin dietary laws.

Kosher beef has been certified to have been processed in a prescribed manner in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.

Organic beef is produced without added hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, or other chemicals, though requirements for labeling it organic vary widely.


Raw beef:

Steak tartare is a French dish made from finely chopped or ground (minced) raw meat (often beef). More accurately, it is scraped so as not to let even the slightest of the sinew fat get into the scraped meat. It is often served with onions, capers, seasonings such as fresh ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and sometimes raw egg yolk.

Carpaccio of beef is a thin slice of raw beef dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Often, the beef is partially frozen before slicing to allow very thin slices to be cut.

Preserved Beef:

Bresaola is an air-dried, salted beef that has been aged about two to three months until it becomes hard and a dark red, almost purple, color. It is lean, has a sweet, musty smell and is tender. It originated in Northern Italy. Bundnerfleisch is a similar product from Switzerland.

Chipped beef is an American industrially produced air-dried beef product, described by one of its manufacturers as being “similar to bresaola, but not as tasty.”

Beef Jerky is dried, salted, smoked beef popular in the United States.

Biltong is a cured, salted, air dried beef popular in South Africa.

Pastrami is often made from beef; raw beef is salted, then partly dried and seasoned with various herbs and spices, and smoked.

Corned beef is a cut of beef cured or pickled in a seasoned brine. The corn in corned beef refers to the grains of coarse salts (known as corns) used to cure it. The term corned beef can denote different styles of brine-cured beef, depending on the region.

Cooked beef:

There are various ways to cook beef. Generally the tougher cuts are braised or stewed. Steaks can be grilled.

When you place a steak on the grill at temperatures of 300 degrees or more, you produce a crust with rich, caramelized flavors that form from the meat’s natural sugars and amino acids. This process is called the Maillard reaction, named for the French physician who, almost a century ago, was the first to investigate similar reactions between proteins and sugars in the human body. At the same time, you don’t want the steak’s interior to go much above 135 degrees (medium rare) because that’s the temperature at which it stays juicy. If you cook the steak more than that, the strands of protein in the muscle fibers contract so much that they squeeze out the juices.

Customs and Traditions

Most Hindus consider killing cattle and eating beef a sin. Bovines have been highly revered as sacred to mankind in Indian culture due to the critical role of cattle, especially cows, as a source of milk, and dairy products. The slaughter of cattle has been likened to matricide in these cultures, due to the fact that the cow provides milk and sustenance for society. Cow’s milk is again used as curd, butter, cheese, milk sweets and a wide range of other items.


Three ounces of lean beef contains 154 calories and 25g of protein which provide all the amino acids the body needs for optimal health to maintain weight and to build and preserve muscle. 

Health Concerns

In 1984, the use of meat and bone meal in cattle feed resulted in the world’s first outbreak of mad cow disease in the United Kingdom.  In 2010, the EU, through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), proposed lifting the restrictions on feeding mammal-based products to cattle. allowing for certain milk, fish, eggs, and plant-fed farm animal products to be used.


Labensky, Sarah and Hause, Allan: On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals.


Oven-Roasted Duck Breast with Port Wine Cherry Sauce

duck breast



4- 8 oz. duck breasts

4 T. olive oil

Port Wine Cherry Sauce

1 can sour cherries, drained

2 T. honey

½ t. cinnamon

½ c. port

2 ¼ t. cornstarch, dissolved in cold water


Preheat the oven to 400oF. With a sharp knife, score the skin side of the duck breasts in a crisscross pattern. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Sear the skin side of the duck breasts until golden and crisp. Remove from skillet and place in baking dish. Roast in oven for 10-15 minutes or until 140o internal temperature.

While duck breasts are cooking in oven, prepare Port Wine Cherry Sauce. Combine cherries, honey, cinnamon and port in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to gentle boil. Add cornstarch and stir until thickened. Remove from heat.

Remove duck breasts from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve drizzled with Port Wine Cherry Sauce. Serves 4.





Week 44: Birds of a Feather


Poultry is an excellent source of lean, low fat protein. Whether you’re barbecuing chicken on the grill, preparing that holiday turkey, or preparing fried chicken for a picnic there are a lot of choices for adding more poultry to your diet. The USDA identifies six categories of poultry (Rock Cornish game hens are a form of chicken).  Here they are:

Chicken – The domestication of poultry took place between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago. This may have originally been as a result of people hatching and rearing young birds from eggs collected from the wild, but later involved keeping the birds permanently in captivity. Domesticated chickens may have been used for cockfighting at first and quail kept for their songs, but soon it was realized how useful it was having a captive-bred source of food.

Today, chicken is the most popular poultry in the world. It is available fresh or frozen in many forms. Although the sex of the bird doesn’t matter, older male birds are generally tough and stringy and are not as flavorful as female birds. The French poulet de Bresse is considered the world’s finest, and is a blue-legged variety raised on a diet of milk products plus sweet corn and other grains near the village of Bresse in southeastern Burgundy. They are only available in the US from specialty food importers at a premium price.

Rock Cornish Game Hen – The Rock Cornish game hen is a cross between the Cornish Game and White Plymouth Rock chicken breeds and is described by the USDA as a “young immature chicken (less than five weeks of age), weighing not more than two pounds ready-to-cook weight.” Thus, it is not a true game bird. A Cornish hen typically commands a higher price per pound than typically sold chickens, despite a shorter growing span of 28 to 30 days, as opposed to 42 or more for regular chicken.

Duck – Duck contains only dark meat and is available whole or as duck breasts, usually frozen. Duck has a high percentage of fat and it is important to render as much fat as possible. Ducks were not mentioned in agricultural texts in Western Europe until about 810 AD, when they began to be mentioned alongside geese and chickens as being used for rental payments made by tenants to landowners. Ducks are farmed mainly for their meat, eggs, and down.

In some countries, geese and ducks are force-fed to produce livers with an exceptionally high fat content for the production of foie gras. Over 75% of world production of this product occurs in France, with lesser industries in Hungary and Bulgaria and a growing production in China. Foie gras is considered a luxury in many parts of the world, but the process of feeding the birds in this way is banned in many countries on animal welfare grounds

Goose – Geese also contains only dark meat and has very fatty skin. It is usually roasted at high temperatures to render or burn off the fat. Domestic geese are larger than their wild counterparts.

Guinea Hen – the domesticated descendant of a game bird with both light and dark meat and a flavor similar to that of a pheasant, it contains very little fat. It must be “barded” or have fat added to it (inserted in cuts in the skin or overlapped with bacon) to make it juicy and tender. Guinea hens eat mainly insects, but also consume grasses and seeds. They will even eat the ticks that carry Lyme disease. They happily roost in trees and give a loud vocal warning of the approach of predators.

Squab (Pigeon) – No, this isn’t the same pigeon you see in the park! Commercially raised, the pigeon has dark, tender meat and very little fat. It is best broiled, sautéed or roasted and also benefits from barding.

Turkey – Pre-Aztec tribes in south-central Mexico first domesticated the turkey around 800 BC. It is the second most popular bird eating in the US and has both light and dark meat. It is generally available year round as frozen whole birds, or fresh as turkey parts, ground or as sausage and bacon. Turkeys are reasonably priced and yield a lot of meat. However, fresh organic, free-range turkeys available during the Thanksgiving season can cost up to $300.

Ratites (Ostrich, Emu and Rhea) – these are flightless birds with small wings and flat breastbones. Their meat is red, even though they are classified as poultry. They generally contain very little fat and are best prepared by broiling, grilling, roasting and pan frying and are served medium rare to medium.

Game Birds

Partridge, pheasant and quail are widely raised on game preserves and farms. Partridge has a stronger flavor than pheasant and the meat tends to be tougher. Pheasant is the most popular game gird and has a mild flavor and tender meat. Quail are very small and are often served whole and stuffed. Quail were depicted in hieroglyphs from 2575 BC.

Commercial Production

Chickens are raised indoors in huge windowless chicken houses that may contain as many as 20,000 birds. They are primarily fed corn and soybean meal, but animal protein, vitamins, minerals and antibiotics are often added to produce quick-growing birds. Consumers are becoming concerned about the residual effects of the added nutrients and chemicals and are opting for organic, free-range chickens which are allowed outside the chicken houses, without antibiotics and fed only a vegetarian diet. Free-range chickens are superior in flavor and quality.


Poultry is graded by the USDA according to overall quality with the grade (USDA A, B or C) on a shield on the product packaging. Nearly all poultry sold in retail outlets is Grade A. Grade B and C are used primarily for processed poultry products.


With the exception of duck breasts and squab, which are often left pink, poultry is always cooked well done. To determine doneness:

  1. When the bird is done, it will have a firm texture, resist pressure and spring back when pressed with a finger.
  2. Temperature – Use an instant-read thermometer. It should read 165o-170oF at the coolest point.
  3. Looseness of joints – When bone-in poultry is done, the leg will begin to move freely in its socket.
  4. Color of the juices – Poultry is done when its juices run clear.

Health Concerns

Poultry is highly perishable and susceptible to contamination by salmonella. Fresh chickens and other small birds should be stored on ice or at 32o-34oF for up to two days. Larger birds can be refrigerated at these temperatures for up to four days. Rinse it under cold running water and then try and clean with disposable paper towels to remove any collected juices prior to cooking.


Labensky, Sarah R., and Hause, Alan M. On Cooking.