Probably the first vegetable to be cultivated by man, ancient peas and beans have been found in settlements from the late Stone Age onwards (nearly 8,000 years ago). They are a highly nutritious vegetable, containing essential carbohydrates and proteins, as well as useful supplies of vitamins and minerals. They were particularly valuable to ancient man as they could be dried and stored, which meant that food was available throughout the year.
Garden Peas: These are one of the delights of summer, although they are one of those vegetables that are best when absolutely fresh. Pick your own (if you don’t grow them yourself) is the best way to enjoy peas at their best. There are many varieties of peas, some of which can be eaten whole, including the pod. Peas are one of the few vegetables that taste almost as good when frozen. Because freezing takes place soon after picking, frozen peas often have a higher nutritional content than fresh, and are available all year round.
Mangetouts: These are eaten whole and are valued for their pods, rather than the peas, which never mature. Mangetouts have a delicate, sweet flavor. To prepare, young, freshly picked mangetouts simply need to be topped, tailed, and washed. They should be cooked only briefly to retain their delicate, mild flavor and crisp bite. They can be blanched or stir-fried and are also good served raw in salads.
Petits Pois: These are not, as you might expect, immature peas, but are a dwarf variety. They are wonderfully tender and have a sweet, delicate flavor. Gardeners grow their own, but petits pois are not widely available fresh in the shops as they are mainly grown commercially for canning or for freezing.
Snow Peas/Sugar Peas/Sugar Snap Peas: These have the distinct fresh flavor of raw peas and are plumper and have more “snap” than mangetouts. They are delicious added raw to salads. They are also good steamed or boiled, but should only be cooked for about 1 minute or they will lose their wonderful flavor and texture.
Buying And Storing: Only buy really fresh peas. If they are old they are bound to be disappointing. In top condition, the pods are bright green and lively looking. The more withered the pod, the longer ago they were picked. Use fresh peas as soon a possible.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2017 All Rights Reserved
The Paleo Diet (short for Paleolithic) is fashioned around the eating habits and available foods of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. These ancestors had to nourish themselves with the meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fats available to them in nature. With the benefit of large supermarkets, it’s easy today to mimic these foods in wider variety. Specific recommendations for eating Paleo will vary; however, the main ideas are the same: Reduce the risk of debilitating diseases and optimize health by eating whole, fresh, unprocessed foods and avoid foods that were not available prior to the advent of modern agriculture.
Research studies looking at the Paleo Diet have noted that eating a Paleo Diet for a short term improved the glucose control and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes, compared to eating a diet containing low-fat dairy, moderate salt intake, whole grains, and legumes. Additional research indicates similar results may be possible in people without type 2 diabetes as well. The Paleo diet may result in higher levels of satiety (fullness) throughout the day when compared with a low-fat, low-calorie diet.
Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables and fruits.
Make fresh meat, poultry, fish, and seafood your primary sources calories.
Avoid highly processed meats that contain preservatives, artificial flavors, and sugar, such as some sausages, bacon, deli meats, and smoked fish products.
Consume nuts and seeds.
Use coconut oil, grass-fed butter, olive oil, avocado oil, nut and seed oils, and animal fats, such as goose fat or duck fat, for cooking and eating.
Balance the intake of acid-producing foods (meats, fish, salt, and cheese) with base-producing foods (fruits and vegetables) for optimal health.
Use sea salt to season foods, but try to decrease sodium intake in general.
Consume highly processed packaged foods.
Get heavy handed with the salt shaker.
Eat grains of any kinds. Quinoa, bulgur, rice, wheat, bread, pasta, etc., are all out.
Consume sugar (including honey and maple syrup), sweets, candy, or desserts.
Use artificial sweeteners, such as monk fruit extract, stevia, NutraSweet or Equal (aspartame), Splenda (sucralose), or sugar alcohols, such as xylitol, sorbitol, or maltitol.
Eat legumes, beans, peas, lentils, or soy, or foods make from soybeans.
Use canola or soybean oils or consume hydrogenated oils (trans fats).
Consume dairy, with the exception of fermented dairy or raw milk cheese on occasion.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2016 All Rights Reserved
Capture springtime on the plate with fresh ravioli enveloping a purée of sweet English peas that is bolstered with a touch of cheese and herbs. Simmer these ravioli for just a few minutes, drain (but not too thoroughly) and add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the pan. Once the butter melts, return the ravioli to the pan, add a bright toss of lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Some grated Parmesan and slivers of fresh mint or a handful of pea shoots are worthy embellishments.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen All Rights Reserved
There are several types of fresh peas, all of which are available nearly year round these days, but they are at their peak during the spring and early summer months. Like corn, the natural sugar in peas converts quickly to starch, so make sure to buy peas fresh, store them in the refrigerator, and use them within a day or two.
English shell peas are the familiar round green pea. Frozen tiny tender green peas, while enjoyable and convenient throughout the winter months, bear little resemblance to the texture and bright flavor of fresh peas. The springtime ritual of shelling peas is just as satisfying as shucking summer corn, and their flavor and texture are worth every minute.
When shopping for English peas, look for bright green smooth, succulent pods filled with evenly plump, round seeds. The freshness of the pods is an indication of the freshness of the peas. For the most reliable test, pop open a pod and taste a pea. Fresh peas should taste sweet and grassy. A pound of English shell peas in their pods yields about 2 cups of shelled peas, which translates into 2 to 3 servings.
Both sugar snaps and snow peas are edible pod peas. There is no shelling required. As their name implies, sugar snaps are delightfully sweet. Sugar snaps are delicious raw, but their flavor is enhanced with a brief cooking. As with all other peas, look for bright, smooth, succulent, tender green pods with fresh looking stems.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen
There are those foods that can be rather difficult to figure out how to eat without looking like you were born in a cave. Here are some useful tips for properly eating perplexing foodstuffs.
Pluck off artichoke leaves and scrape the tender part (not the prickly point) between your teeth (preferably after dipping in melted butter). Work your way to the delicate inner leaves, and then use a knife to cut off the remaining small leaves and feathery innards. Cut the artichoke “heart” into bite-sized pieces and eat with a fork.
Eat asparagus with your fingers if served raw as crudités. Eat with a fork and knife if served with dinner.
Break bread into bite-sized pieces, and butter it or dip it into olive oil just one piece at a time.
Eat entire crab, including shell, either in sandwich form or using a fork and knife. Remove inedible pieces from your mouth with a fork.
Place meats, vegetables, and other fillings on a flat tortilla. Roll up and use your fingers to eat fajitas from one end.
Spear bread, vegetables, or fruit with a fondue spear and dip into cheese or sauce. Remove food from spear using a dinner fork, and eat from a plate. DO NOT double dip. Spear uncooked meat cubes and place spear into fondue broth or sauce. When cooked, transfer meat to a plate using a dinner fork and cut into smaller pieces to eat.
Wear a lobster bib to avoid fishy splatters, Crack shells with shellfish crackers and extract meat with a small fork or pick. Cut larger pieces with a knife, and eat with a fork after dipping in melted butter. Clean your hands by dipping fingers into finger bowls, and use lemon (if provided) to cut extra grease. Dry your hands with your napkin.
Use a knife to push peas onto a fork. Do not mash peas before eating, or eat peas from a knife.
Use a small fork to extract mussels, clams, or oysters from the half-shell. Season with fresh lemon or cocktail sauce. In informal settings, you may quietly slurp shellfish from shells.
Using a soup spoon, spoon soup away from your body and then quietly sip from side of spoon. Tilt bowl away from you to spoon up remaining drops.
Twirl pasta with fork tines into bite-sized portions, and allow any dangling pieces to fall back onto your fork. You may also rest fork tines against the bowl of a spoon while you twirl pasta.
Extract clam from shell using a small fork, and use a fork and knife to remove inedible neck. In informal settings, it is permissible to use fingers.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen
Constitution Week – Foods of Our Forefathers Part II
The standard grains included wheat, barley, oats and rye. Finely ground wheat flour, “boulted” or sieved through a fine cloth, was used to make white bread for the rich early in the fifteenth century. Most of the gentry ate what we would call cracked or whole wheat bread. The poor ate bread of coarse-ground wheat flour mixed with oats, ground peas or lentils.
During the ocean crossing to the New World, immigrants subsisted on an even more monotonous diet for weeks. The Mayflower provisions were typical – brown biscuits and hard white crackers, oatmeal, and black-eyed peas, plus bacon, dried salted codfish and smoked herring for animal protein. The only vegetables on the trip were parsnips, turnips, onions and cabbages. Beer was the beverage.
As pilgrims set foot on their new homeland, they hardly knew what to expect. Each brought a stock of basic foods to get them through the first year, as well as a variety of basic utensils and kitchen tools. Also included were the essential accompaniments for whatever they found or could raise when they arrived – a bushel of coarse salt, 2 gallons of vinegar, a gallon of “oyle” and a gallon of aquavite.
Nothing they had been told, however, prepared them for the staggering variety of totally unfamiliar plants that were being used as food by the Indians – corn, sweet potatoes, peppers, pumpkins, squash, sunflower seeds and cranberries were examples. In addition to the strange food, there were strange ways of cooking. In Europe, meat was boiled; the Indians, lacking iron pots, roasted theirs on a spit over a fire. The Indians also had a long, slow cooking process that yielded what we now call Boston baked beans, and they used a fire-heated, rock-lined pit for what we would now call a clam-bake. Where the pilgrims were accustomed to raised wheat bread, the Indians introduced them to corn based spoon bread. Corn also provided hominy, used as a vegetable, and later, of course, as grits. For sweetening, the Indians used maple syrup and honey, as sugar was unknown.
Although many of the food the Pilgrims and other colonists found were totally strange, others had travelled the route before them. The Spanish had brought pigs, which thrived especially in areas where peanuts grew. Peaches and oranges were also native which spread throughout climatically suitable areas in a short time.
Even the white potato was an early migrant to the New World, following a zig-zag route, from its original home in Peru to Spain in 1520, from Spain to Florida forty years later, from Florida to England in 1565, always being treated as a culinary curiosity. By the 1600’s they had become a popular food staple in Ireland, and were carried by Colonists both to New England and Virginia, where they quickly established themselves. There they served as a valuable source of vitamin C, protein and trace minerals, in addition to the starch.
Potatoes, incidentally were significant in another, later migration to America: the climate in Ireland proved so amenable to their culture, and their nutrient content was so high, that many poor Irish farmers grew only potatoes on their small farms. In fact, as fathers subdivided farms for their sons, many found themselves supporting whole families on the potatoes grown on less than an acre of ground, while the family itself lived in a roofed-over ditch. When blight struck in 1845, the sole food source of millions of people literally withered away before their eyes. A half-million of the 8 1/2 million population died of starvation or disease, and 1 1/2 million emigrated to England or America – following the “Irish potatoe.”
Spices were in short supply in America’s earliest days. The English pretty well monopolized the trade with the New World. Within a few years, however, settlers had planted the seeds they had brought or imported, and most had adapted to the climate and were flourishing in orderly rows and patterns in kitchen gardens all along the Atlantic Coast. There were a few – ginger, pepper, cloves, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice – that simply couldn’t cope with the weather or soil – and were scarce. Olive oil, lime juice, prunes and saffron were available, but only at high prices.
To Be Continued…
Have you ever come home from the market after purchasing fruit to find that you spent money for nothing? I have plenty of times and it ticks me off every time. Here are some Fruit Essentials that may help you have more fruit shopping success.
Did you know that many plants that are botanically fruits are not sweet? We think of them as vegetables or non-fruits. Avocados, beans, coconuts, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, green peppers, okra, peas, pumpkins, sugar peas, string beans and tomatoes all fall in the fruit category. Some cookbooks make a distinction between fruit, vegetables and fruit vegetables. Fruit vegetables are foods that are botanically fruits, but are most often prepared and served like vegetables. These fruits are considered fruit vegetables: Aubergine, autumn squash, avocado, bitter melon, cantaloupe, chayote, chile, courgette, cucumber, eggplant, gherkin, green bean, green sweet pepper, hot pepper, marrow, muskmelon, okra, olive, pumpkin, red sweet pepper, seedless cucumber, squash, sweet pepper, tomatillo, tomato, watermelon, wax gourd, yellow sweet pepper and zucchini.
Pectin is a substance contained in some fruit which is used for making jams and jellies thicker. High pectin fruits are apples, cranberries, currants, lemons, oranges, plums and quinces. Low pectin fruits are bananas, cherries, grapes, mangos, peaches, pineapples and strawberries.
Low pectin fruits seem to discolor quicker than high pectin fruits ( bananas and eggplants). Lemon juice or vinegar slows the discoloring process. Other fruits and vegetables that discolor quickly are avocados, cauliflower, celery, cherries, figs, Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms, nectarines, parsnips, peaches, pears, potatoes, rutabaga and yams.
Bruising: When a fruit is bruised the cell walls break down and discoloration begins. The process can be slowed down by refrigeration.
Cleaning: It is important to clean our fruit and vegetables. Rinse fruit in cold running water and scrub as needed before cooking or eating. Soaking fruit in water for more than a few minutes can leach out water soluble vitamins.
Peeling: The fruit skin usually contains a lot of important nutrients, but if you need to peel a thick-skinned fruit cut a small amount of the peel from the top and bottom. Then on a cutting board cut off the peel in strips from top to bottom. A good way to peel thin skinned fruit is to place the fruit in a bowl with boiling water and let stand for about 1 minute. Remove and cool in an ice water bath. You could also spear the fruit with a fork and hold over a gas flame until the skin cracks OR quarter the fruit and peel with a sharp paring knife or potato peeler.
Wax: Oh those beautiful waxed apples that wink at us at the market. They are beautiful because they are waxed. I don’t know about you, but I would rather not eat wax. Wax can be removed from the surface of fruits by washing them with a mild dishwashing soap and then thoroughly rinsing them. This will remove most of the wax, but probably not all of it.
Purchasing Ripe: Purchase these fruits fully ripe: Berries, cherries, citrus, grapes and watermelon. All of the fruits in this list, except berries, can be refrigerated without losing flavor.
Purchasing Not-So-Ripe: Apricots, figs, melons, nectarines, peaches and plums develop more complex flavors after picking. Store these fruits at room temperature until they are as ripe as you would like them.
Refrigeration: You can refrigerate apples,ripe mangos and ripe pears as soon as you get them. Do not refrigerat bananas.
Seasonal Fruit: Winter is the season for citrus. Fall is the season for apples and pears. Late spring is the season for strawberries and pineapples. Summer is perfect for blueberries, melons, peaches and plums.
Washing: Dry fruit with paper towels or kitchen towels and then use a blow dryer on the cool setting to completely dry fruit.
Squeezing: A microwave can be used to get more juice from citrus fruits. Microwave citrus fruits for about 20 seconds before squeezing the fruit for juice.
“Food, one assumes, provides nourishment; but Americans eat it fully aware that small amounts of poison have been added to improve its appearance and delay its putrefaction.” – John Cage
There has been quite a bit of controversy these days about eating organic. Recent studies state that it really doesn’t matter if you eat organic foods or not. When something is labeled organic, it usually means that a farm has not used pesticides and has taken considerable care to avoid any cross-contamination. Producing organic food undoubtedly costs more money which is passed on to the consumer. Buying organic tends to be quite a bit more expensive than buying non-organic.
Honestly, I don’t care what the studies are saying about eating organic versus eating non-organic. I would rather not put pesticides into my body as well as wanting to support farmers and food companies that are not using pesticides. I love going to farmers’ markets during the spring, summer and fall and when I am shopping in the grocery store I am willing to pay a bit more for organic food.
If you have decided not to buy organic here is a list of foods that have found to be the most and least contaminated.