Agua de Coco….yes please!

My friend from Rio just informed me via the global connectedness of social media, that Unidos da Tijuca are the Samba School Champions of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval!!!  I was fortunate enough to be a part of this electrifying spectacle in 2011 and it was honestly an event in which I could compare to no other.  I’m talking jaw dropping effects and fantastic people watching, did I mention it lasts all night long!
Continue reading “Agua de Coco….yes please!”

tur·mer·ic/ˈtərmərik/

Noun:
  1. A bright yellow aromatic powder obtained from the rhizome of a plant of the ginger family, used for flavoring and coloring in Asian…
  2. The Asian plant (Curcuma longa) from which this rhizome is obtained.

To me, turmeric is defined as:

Noun:
  1. A vibrant curry enhancer.
  2. An anti-inflammatory attacker!

As of late, I’ve been on the prowl for natural anti-inflammatory remedies and found that turmeric is a strong contender.  It’s benefits are slowly beginning to make their presence stateside but in the East the therapeutic prowess of turmeric is ancient news.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and has an aromatic taste, hinting of orange and ginger with a bitter, peppery finish.  The active ingredient is curcumin, responsible for turmeric’s vibrant orangish, yellow hue as well as it’s asset as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and an antiseptic.

Turmeric can help maintain health and wellness in pill form, as a powder or a root.  I like to add turmeric powder to curries and lentils, mustards and relishes.  To increase my daily intake I use turmeric to make a tea.  It’s super simple to make and tastes great hot or cold.
I genuinely enjoy the flavor of turmeric tea and would describe it as flowery, pungent and spicy.  I typically make large batches and store it in the fridge until ready for consumption.  For those who aren’t so keen on pungent spice, I would suggest adding honey for a hint of sweet.

I purchase actual turmeric root or fingers from my local Indian store, and grate it, but powdered form works just as well.  I’ve included two recipes for turmeric tea below.

The first, is the recipe I initially used by Dr. Weil (click the link for more information on the benefits of turmeric)

Turmeric Tea

  • Bring four cups of water to a boil.
  • Add one teaspoon of ground/grated turmeric and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the tea through a fine sieve into a cup, add honey and/or lemon to taste.

Some people like to add a teaspoon of ginger along with the turmeric. While ground versions are more convenient, it’s worthwhile to experiment with freshly grated turmeric for a more vibrant flavor. These distinctive, deep-orange roots are increasingly available in American grocery and natural food stores.

The second is for a creamier version involving coconut or almond milk from Mark’s Daily Apple

Servings: 1 cup of tea

Ingredients:

ingredients 27

  • 8 ounces (1 cup) almond or coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2-inch wide round slice of ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon honey or other sweetener
  • Optional additions: a small pat of butter, cinnamon, cardamom

Instructions:

Gently warm the almond or coconut milk on the stove.

In a mug, combine the remaining ingredients.

Drizzle a teaspoon of the warmed milk into the mug and mix until the liquid is smooth with no lumps. Add the rest of the milk and mix well. You can leave the pieces of ginger in the tea, or strain it out before drinking.

What is a quality dinner?

I recently came across, Intimate Portraits of People Eating at Home: The Dinner in NY Project by Miho Aikawa.

 As a lover of people, food and photography I was interested in this project and I appreciate the thoughts/questions that floated through my mind when I saw it:

Are we connected to our food?  Do we take pleasure in eating?  How much time does one spend eating a meal?  I like eating with others compared to eating solo.  Effect of eating on the go compared to sitting at a table.  Do we value the ‘traditional’ dinner table anymore?  I feel fortunate to be able to eat cultured foods.  

I enjoy the simplicity and hectic-ness, the laughter and loneliness, the familiar and the unknown that weave through these photos.  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and it’s true, these stills capture a culture and reveal many aspects of people’s’ lives.

Aikawa is originally from Japan and currently resides and works as a freelance photographer in NYC.  Check out the artist’s statement and see the project in its entirety on her blog

All photos by Miho Aikawa

Oxtail

Classified as offal oxtail is exactly just that– a tail from an ox.  Nowadays oxtail comes from regular beef cattle and has a resplendent culinary history.  Not an uber-popular piece of meat but it can be found at specialty butchers, ethnic meat counters and gourmet restaurants particularly in European nature.  I was fortunate to have gotten mine from my family’s locally raised grass-fed highland cattle.

It might be safe to assume, if you invited friends over for dinner and proclaimed that the main dish was fresh oxtail– raised eyebrows and turned up noses could ensue. However, you must not shun this illustrious meat!  Oxtail dates back to a time when the entire animal was used for consumption and there was no waste.  A time when people knew where their food came from and how it was grown, nourished and raised.  Oxtail did not rate as high as prime rib but was primarily used in the pots of poorer homes and communities, stretching a small amount of meat served with assorted vegetables and seasonings to comfort many.

I was drawn to oxtail not only because of it’s velvety texture and rich taste but because  of it’s health benefits   I am a runner and am currently experiencing unfortunate bone and joint issues.  I am desperately searching for ways to help me keep doing the things I love, like running.  There are a myriad of supplements and miracle drugs out on the market for joint health and osteoarthritis but with simple and cheap ingredients I can make my own.  Oxtail is a particularly boney cut of meat and bone is an actual living tissue, classifying it as an organ.  It is rich in minerals (glucosamine, chondroiten, magnesium, glycine, phosphorus) marrow and collagen.  These nutrients help form bone cells, connective tissue and collagen all necessary for joint and bone health.

The oxtail is slowly cooked allowing the meat to become tender enough to pull away from the bone.  The long and slow cooking process allows the nutrient dense minerals from the bones and connective tissues seep into the broth.  Because of oxtails’ abundance of collagen the broth becomes rich and thick.  The stew consists of simple ingredients and can be made with veggies you have on hand.

photo by michelle.

I chopped up the following:

Garlic, Onion, Carrot, Celery, Parsnips, Turnips and Russian fingerling potatoes

You start the stew by using a big pot and prepare the following:

Saute the onion and garlic until soft and caramelized.

Then add your heartier veggies first–potatoes and turnips before the carrots and celery

Add about 1/2 cup – 1 cup of red wine and allow to cook off before adding the following:

1 can of Organic Italian crushed tomatoes (they do taste better!)

2 pints of beef broth (store-bought or homemade)

1 can of butter beans or whatever white beans you have on hand

Chopped up pancetta fried until crispy for flavor

Sprig of savory, sprig of thyme and a bay leaf

To season add: crushed black pepper, salt, clove, grated orange peel and paprika

photo by michelle.

The oxtail is butchered into segments and looks like the above photo.

To prepare the oxtail coat a cast iron skillet or saute pan with oil then heat on medium.

Coat the oxtail with flour, shake off the excess and cook until golden brown on all sides.

Transfer the oxtail to the pot of vegetables and allow to simmer at least 3 hours until the meat is tender and pulls easily from the bone (I cook the stew on the stove-top for 1 1/2 hours then transfer it to a slow cooker to simmer on low overnight.)

Once cooked through use tongs to remove the oxtail bones and clean off any meat remaining on the bone then return it to the stew.

After all your efforts enjoy a bowl of hearty, flavorful bone nutrient filled stew!