A Christmas Favorite – Brittle

December 13, 2013 at 10:21 AM | Posted in dessert | 1 Comment
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Golden peanut brittle cracked on a serving dish

Golden peanut brittle cracked on a serving dish

Brittle, is a type of confection, consisting of flat broken pieces of hard sugar candy embedded with nuts such as pecans, almonds, or peanuts. It has many variations around the world, such as pasteli in Greece, croquant in France and Chikki in India. In parts of the Middle East, brittle is made with pistachios, while many Asian countries use sesame seeds and peanuts. Peanut brittle is the most popular brittle recipe in the US. The term brittle first appears in print in 1892, though the candy itself has been around for much longer.

 
Traditionally, a mixture of sugar and water is heated to the hard crack stage corresponding to a temperature of approximately 300 °F (149 °C), although some recipes also call for ingredients such as corn syrup and salt in the first step. Nuts are mixed with the caramelized sugar. At this point spices, leavening agents, and often peanut butter or butter are added. The hot candy is poured out onto a flat surface for cooling, traditionally a granite or marble slab. The hot candy may be troweled to uniform thickness. When the brittle cools, it is broken into pieces.

Fall Harvest: Pomegranates

October 12, 2013 at 8:15 AM | Posted in fruits, vegetables | 2 Comments
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Pomegranates only ripen in warmer climates. They are in season starting in October and are usually available fresh through December.

 

A pomegranate fruit

A pomegranate fruit

The pomegranate /ˈpɒmɨɡrænɨt/, botanical name Punica granatum, is a fruit-bearing deciduous shrub or small tree growing between 5–8 meters (16–26 ft) tall.
The pomegranate is widely considered to have originated in the vicinity of Iran and has been cultivated since ancient times. Today, it is widely cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region of southern Europe, the Middle East and Caucasus region, northern Africa and tropical Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and the drier parts of southeast Asia. Introduced into Latin America and California by Spanish settlers in 1769, pomegranate is also cultivated in parts of California and Arizona.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the fruit is typically in season from September to February. In the Southern Hemisphere, the pomegranate is in season from March to May.
The pomegranate has been mentioned in many ancient texts, notably in Babylonian texts, the Book of Exodus, the Homeric Hymns and the Quran. In recent years, it has become more common in the commercial markets of North America and the Western Hemisphere.
Pomegranates are used in cooking, baking, juices, smoothies and alcoholic beverages, such as martinis and wine.

 

 

The Punica granatum leaves are opposite or sub-opposite, glossy, narrow oblong, entire, 3–7 cm long and 2 cm broad. The flowers are bright red, 3 cm in diameter, with four to five petals (often more on cultivated plants). Some fruitless varieties are grown for the flowers alone. The edible fruit is a berry and is between a lemon and a grapefruit in size, 5–12 cm in diameter with a rounded hexagonal shape, and has thick reddish skin. The exact number of seeds in a pomegranate can vary from 200 to about 1400 seeds, contrary to some beliefs that all pomegranates have exactly the same number of seeds. Each seed has a surrounding water-laden pulp—the edible aril—ranging in color from white to deep red or purple. The seeds are embedded in a white, spongy, astringent membrane.

 

 

Pomegranate in cross section

Pomegranate in cross section

After the pomegranate is opened by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open, the arils (seed casings) are separated from the peel and internal white pulp membranes. Separating the red arils is easier in a bowl of water because the arils sink and the inedible pulp floats. Freezing the entire fruit also makes it easier to separate. Another very effective way of quickly harvesting the arils is to cut the pomegranate in half, score each half of the exterior rind four to six times, hold the pomegranate half over a bowl and smack the rind with a large spoon. The arils should eject from the pomegranate directly into the bowl, leaving only a dozen or more deeply embedded arils to remove.
The entire seed is consumed raw, though the watery, tasty aril is the desired part. The taste differs depending on the subspecies of pomegranate and its ripeness.

The entire seed is consumed raw, though the watery, tasty aril is the desired part. The taste differs depending on the subspecies of pomegranate and its ripeness. The pomegranate juice can be very sweet or sour, but most fruits are moderate in taste, with sour notes from the acidic tannins contained in the aril juice. Pomegranate juice has long been a popular drink in Armenian, Persian and Indian cuisine, and began to be widely distributed in the United States and Canada in 2002.
Grenadine syrup is thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice and is used in cocktail mixing. Before tomatoes (a New World fruit) arrived in the Middle East, grenadine was widely used in many Iranian foods, and is still found in traditional recipes such as fesenjān, a thick sauce made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts, usually spooned over duck or other poultry and rice, and in ash-e anar (pomegranate soup).

Wild pomegranate seeds are used as a spice known as anardana (from Persian: anar + dana, pomegranate + seed), most notably in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, but also as a substitute for pomegranate syrup in Persian cuisine. Dried whole arils can often be obtained in ethnic Indian subcontinent markets. These seeds are separated from the flesh, dried for 10–15 days and used as an acidic agent for chutney and curry preparation. Ground anardana is also used, which results in a deeper flavoring in dishes and prevents the seeds from getting stuck in teeth. Seeds of the wild pomegranate variety known as daru from the Himalayas are regarded as quality sources for this spice.
Dried pomegranate arils, found in some natural specialty food markets, still contain the seed and residual aril water, maintaining a natural sweet and tart flavor. Dried arils can be used in several culinary applications, such as trail mix, granola bars, or as a topping for salad, yogurt, or ice cream. Chocolate covered arils may be added to desserts and baked items.
In the Caucasus, pomegranate is used mainly as juice. In Azerbaijan, a sauce from pomegranate juice (narsharab) is usually served with fish or tika kabab. In Turkey, pomegranate sauce (Turkish: nar ekşisi) is used as a salad dressing, to marinate meat, or simply to drink straight. Pomegranate seeds are also used in salads and sometimes as garnish for desserts such as güllaç. Pomegranate syrup or molasses is used in muhammara, a roasted red pepper, walnut, and garlic spread popular in Syria and Turkey.
In Greece, pomegranate (Greek: ρόδι, rodi) is used in many recipes, including kollivozoumi, a creamy broth made from boiled wheat, pomegranates and raisins, legume salad with wheat and pomegranate, traditional Middle Eastern lamb kebabs with pomegranate glaze, pomegranate eggplant relish, and avocado-pomegranate dip. Pomegranate is also made into a liqueur, and as a popular fruit confectionery used as ice cream topping, mixed with yogurt, or spread as jam on toast. In Cyprus and Greece, and among the Greek Orthodox Diaspora, ρόδι (Greek for pomegranate) is used to make koliva, a mixture of wheat, pomegranate seeds, sugar, almonds and other seeds served at memorial services.
In Mexico, they are commonly used to adorn the traditional dish chiles en nogada, representing the red of the Mexican flag in the dish which evokes the green (poblano pepper), white (nogada sauce) and red (pomegranate arils) tricolor.

 

Green salad with roast beef, pomegranate vinaigrette, and lemon juice

Green salad with roast beef, pomegranate vinaigrette, and lemon juice

 
In preliminary laboratory research and clinical trials, juice of the pomegranate may be effective in reducing heart disease risk factors, including LDL oxidation, macrophage oxidative status, and foam cell formation. In mice, “oxidation of LDL by peritoneal macrophages was reduced by up to 90% after pomegranate juice consumption…”.
In a limited study of hypertensive patients, consumption of pomegranate juice for two weeks was shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by inhibiting serum angiotensin-converting enzyme. Juice consumption may also inhibit viral infections while pomegranate extracts have antibacterial effects against dental plaque.
Despite limited research data, manufacturers and marketers of pomegranate juice have liberally used evolving research results for product promotion, especially for putative antioxidant health benefits. In February 2010, the FDA issued a Warning Letter to one such manufacturer, POM Wonderful, for using published literature to make illegal claims of unproven antioxidant and anti-disease benefits.

 

 

 

Fall Harvest: Garlic

October 4, 2013 at 8:59 AM | Posted in spices and herbs, vegetables | 1 Comment
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Garlic is another produce item that we forget has a season; fresh garlic is at its plump, sweetest best in late summer and fall.

 

Bulbils

Bulbils

Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. With a history of human use of over 7,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It was known to Ancient Egyptians, and has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

 

 

Allium sativum is a bulbous plant. It grows up to 1.2 m (4 ft) in height. Its hardiness is USDA Zone 8. It produces hermaphrodite flowers. Pollination occurs by bees and other insects.

 

 

Garlic is widely used around the world for its pungent flavor as a seasoning or condiment.
The garlic plant’s bulb is the most commonly used part of the plant. With the exception of the single clove types, garlic bulbs are normally divided into numerous fleshy sections called cloves. Garlic cloves are used for consumption (raw or cooked) or for medicinal purposes. They have a characteristic pungent, spicy flavor that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking.
Other parts of the garlic plant are also edible. The leaves and flowers (bulbils) on the head (spathe) are sometimes eaten. They are milder in flavor than the bulbs, and are most often consumed while immature and still tender. Immature garlic is sometimes pulled, rather like a scallion, and sold as “green garlic”. When green garlic is allowed to grow past the “scallion” stage, but not permitted to fully mature, it may produce a garlic “round”, a bulb like a boiling onion, but not separated into cloves like a mature bulb. Additionally, the immature flower stalks (scapes) of the hardneck and elephant types are sometimes marketed for uses similar to asparagus in stir-fries.
Inedible or rarely eaten parts of the garlic plant include the “skin” and root cluster. The papery, protective layers of “skin” over various parts of the plant are generally discarded during preparation for most culinary uses, though in Korea immature whole heads are sometimes prepared with the tender skins intact. The root cluster attached to the basal plate of the bulb is the only part not typically considered palatable in any form.

String of garlic

String of garlic

Garlic is a fundamental component in many or most dishes of various regions, including eastern Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, northern Africa, southern Europe, and parts of South and Central America. The flavor varies in intensity and aroma with the different cooking methods. It is often paired with onion, tomato, or ginger. The parchment-like skin is much like the skin of an onion, and is typically removed before using in raw or cooked form. An alternative is to cut the top off the bulb, coat the cloves by dribbling olive oil (or other oil-based seasoning) over them, and roast them in an oven. Garlic softens and can be extracted from the cloves by squeezing the (root) end of the bulb, or individually by squeezing one end of the clove. In Korea, heads of garlic are fermented at high temperature; the resulting product, called black garlic, is sweet and syrupy, and is now being sold in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.
Garlic may be applied to different kinds of bread to create a variety of classic dishes, such as garlic bread, garlic toast, bruschetta, crostini and canapé.

 

Garlic being crushed using a garlic press

Garlic being crushed using a garlic press

Oils can be flavored with garlic cloves. These infused oils are used to season all categories of vegetables, meats, breads and pasta.
In some cuisines, the young bulbs are pickled for three to six weeks in a mixture of sugar, salt, and spices. In eastern Europe, the shoots are pickled and eaten as an appetizer.
Lightly smoked garlic is becoming increasingly popular in British and European cuisine. It is particularly prized for stuffing poultry and game, and in soups and stews. In both these cases it is important to utilize the undiscarded skin, as much of the smoke flavor is situated there, rather than in the cloves themselves.
Immature scapes are tender and edible. They are also known as “garlic spears”, “stems”, or “tops”. Scapes generally have a milder taste than the cloves. They are often used in stir frying or braised like asparagus. Garlic leaves are a popular vegetable in many parts of Asia. The leaves are cut, cleaned, and then stir-fried with eggs, meat, or vegetables.
Mixing garlic with egg yolks and olive oil produces aioli. Garlic, oil, and a chunky base produce skordalia. Blending garlic, almond, oil, and soaked bread produces ajoblanco.
Garlic powder has a different taste from fresh garlic. If used as a substitute for fresh garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder is equivalent to one clove of garlic.

 

 

 

Fall Harvest: Figs

October 1, 2013 at 8:00 AM | Posted in fruits | 1 Comment
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Figs have a short second season in late fall (the first harvest comes in summer) just in time for Thanksgiving.

 

Fresh figs cut open showing the flesh and seeds inside

Fresh figs cut open showing the flesh and seeds inside

The common fig (Ficus carica) is a species of  flowering plant in the genus Ficus, from the family Moraceae, known as the common fig (or just the fig), anjeer (Iran, Pakistan), and dumur (Bengali). It is the source of the fruit also called the fig, and as such is an important crop in those areas where it is grown commercially. Native to the Middle East and western Asia, it has been sought out and cultivated by man since ancient times, and is now widely grown throughout the temperate world, both for its fruit and as an ornamental plant.

 

 

Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in jam-making. Most commercial production is in dried or otherwise processed forms, since the ripe fruit does not transport well, and once picked does not keep well. The widely produced fig newton or fig roll is a biscuit (cookie) with a filling made from figs.

 

 

Figs are among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber. According to USDA data for the Mission variety, dried figs are richest in fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K, relative to human needs. They have smaller amounts of many other nutrients. Figs have a laxative effect and contain many antioxidants. They are a good source of flavonoids and polyphenols including gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, syringic acid, (+)-catechin, (−)-epicatechin and rutin. In one study, a 40-gram portion of dried figs (two medium size figs) produced a significant increase in plasma antioxidant capacity.

 

 

 

September 29, 2012 30th annual Country Applefest – Lebanon, Ohio

September 26, 2013 at 11:23 AM | Posted in Festivals | Leave a comment
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September 29, 2012 30th annual Country ApplefestLebanon, Ohio
The streets of historic downtown Lebanon will be filled with homemade crafts, great food and entertainment. Enter the apple bake off contest.

 
Historic downtown Lebanon Apple Fest
Lebanon, Ohio

31st Annual Country Applefest

September 28th, 2013 – 10am to 7 pm

FREE Admission, One day only, Rain or Shine.

 

Free shuttle

from 10:00am – 7:30pm!
Park at Sweeney Chrysler Dodge Jeep
518 W. Main St (St. Rt. 63) and be shuttled to the festival area.

 

The streets of downtown Lebanon will be filled with homemade crafts, great food, and entertainment.

We hope to see you there!

 

http://www.countryapplefest.com/

Cheese of the Week – Ackawi

March 9, 2012 at 10:36 PM | Posted in cheese, Food | Leave a comment
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Ackawi

Akkawi cheese ( Akawi, Akawieh, and Ackawi) is a white brine cheese, native to the historical region of Palestine in modern day Israel. It is named after the city of Acre, where it first originated, the Arabic akkawi meaning “from akka”. It is commonly made using cow milk, but can be made with goat or sheep’s milk as well. It is now produced on a large scale in the Middle East, notably in Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus. A soft white cheese, it has a smooth texture and a mild salty taste. Commonly used as a table cheese, it is considered good by itself or paired with fruit.

Country: Middle East
Milk: ewe milk
Texture: hard
Alternate Spellings: akawi, akawieh

Wisconsin Ackawi Cheese Triangles

Ingredients

2 sheets frozen puff pastry,
thawed 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Wisconsin Ackawi cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Makes 32 pieces.

Directions:

*Combine cheese, parsley, onion, egg white and red pepper; set aside.
*On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 sheet pastry into a 12×12 inch square; cut into 16 3×3 inch squares.
*Place 1 tablespoon cheese mixture on each square; fold pastry over each filling, forming a triangle. Seal edges with tines of a fork; place on an ungreased baking sheet.
*Bake at 400° F for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat process with second sheet of puff pastry.
*Serve warm.

Cheese

February 16, 2012 at 10:21 AM | Posted in cheese, diabetes, Food | 3 Comments
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Cheese is a generic term for a diverse group of milk-based food products. Cheese is produced throughout the world in wide-ranging

Swiss Cheese

flavors, textures, and forms.

Cheese consists of proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep. It is produced by coagulation of the milk protein casein. Typically, the milk is acidified and addition of the enzyme rennet causes coagulation. The solids are separated and pressed into final form. Some cheeses have molds on the rind or throughout. Most cheeses melt at cooking temperature.

Hundreds of types of cheese are produced. Their styles, textures and flavors depend on the origin of the milk (including the animal’s diet), whether they have been pasteurized, the butterfat content, the bacteria and mold, the processing, and aging. Herbs, spices, or wood smoke may be used as flavoring agents. The yellow to red color of many cheeses is from adding annatto.

For a few cheeses, the milk is curdled by adding acids such as vinegar or lemon juice. Most cheeses are acidified to a lesser degree by bacteria, which turn milk sugars into lactic acid, then the addition of rennet completes the curdling. Vegetarian alternatives to rennet are available; most are produced by fermentation of the fungus Mucor miehei, but others have been extracted from various species of the Cynara thistle family.

Cheese is valued for its portability, long life, and high content of fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Cheese is more compact and

Cheese on market stand in Basel, Switzerland

has a longer shelf life than milk. Cheesemakers near a dairy region may benefit from fresher, lower-priced milk, and lower shipping costs. The long storage life of some cheese, especially if it is encased in a protective rind, allows selling when markets are favorable.

Cheese is an ancient food whose origins predate recorded history. There is no conclusive evidence indicating where cheesemaking originated, either in Europe, Central Asia or the Middle East, but the practice had spread within Europe prior to Roman times and, according to Pliny the Elder, had become a sophisticated enterprise by the time the Roman Empire came into being.

Proposed dates for the origin of cheesemaking range from around 8000 BCE (when sheep were first domesticated) to around 3000 BCE. The first cheese may have been made by people in the Middle East or by nomadic Turkic tribes in Central Asia. Since animal skins and inflated internal organs have, since ancient times, provided storage vessels for a range of foodstuffs, it is probable that the process of cheese making was discovered accidentally by storing milk in a container made from the stomach of an animal, resulting in the milk being turned to curd and whey by the rennet from the stomach. There is a legend with variations about the discovery of cheese by an Arab trader who used this method of storing milk.

Cheesemaking may have begun independently of this by the pressing and salting of curdled milk to preserve it. Observation that the effect of making milk in an animal stomach gave more solid and better-textured curds, may have led to the deliberate addition of rennet.

The earliest archeological evidence of cheesemaking has been found in Egyptian tomb murals, dating to about 2000 BCE. The earliest cheeses were likely to have been quite sour and salty, similar in texture to rustic cottage cheese or feta, a crumbly, flavorful Greek cheese.

Cheese produced in Europe, where climates are cooler than the Middle East, required less salt for preservation. With less salt and acidity, the cheese became a suitable environment for useful microbes and molds, giving aged cheeses their respective flavors.

Cheese factory in Holland

Until its modern spread along with European culture, cheese was nearly unheard of in oriental cultures, in the pre-Columbian Americas, and only had limited use in sub-Mediterranean Africa, mainly being widespread and popular only in Europe and areas influenced strongly by its cultures. But with the spread, first of European imperialism, and later of Euro-American culture and food, cheese has gradually become known and increasingly popular worldwide, though still rarely considered a part of local ethnic cuisines outside Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas.

The first factory for the industrial production of cheese opened in Switzerland in 1815, but it was in the United States where large-scale production first found real success. Credit usually goes to Jesse Williams, a dairy farmer from Rome, New York, who in 1851 started making cheese in an assembly-line fashion using the milk from neighboring farms. Within decades hundreds of such dairy associations existed.

The 1860s saw the beginnings of mass-produced rennet, and by the turn of the century scientists were producing pure microbial cultures. Before then, bacteria in cheesemaking had come from the environment or from recycling an earlier batch’s whey; the pure cultures meant a more standardized cheese could be produced.

Factory-made cheese overtook traditional cheesemaking in the World War II era, and factories have been the source of most cheese in America and Europe ever since. Today, Americans buy more processed cheese than “real”, factory-made or not.

A required step in cheesemaking is separating the milk into solid curds and liquid whey. Usually this is done by acidifying (souring) the milk and adding rennet. The acidification can be accomplished directly by the addition of an acid like vinegar in a few cases (paneer, queso fresco), but usually starter bacteria are employed instead. These starter bacteria convert milk sugars into lactic acid. The same bacteria (and the enzymes they produce) also play a large role in the eventual flavor of aged cheeses. Most cheeses are made with starter bacteria from the Lactococci, Lactobacilli, or Streptococci families. Swiss starter cultures also include Propionibacter shermani, which produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles during aging, giving Swiss cheese or Emmental its holes (called eyes”).

Some fresh cheeses are curdled only by acidity, but most cheeses also use rennet. Rennet sets the cheese into a strong and rubbery gel compared to the fragile curds produced by acidic coagulation alone. It also allows curdling at a lower acidity—important because flavor-making bacteria are inhibited in high-acidity environments. In general, softer, smaller, fresher cheeses are curdled with a greater proportion of acid to rennet than harder, larger, longer-aged varieties.

At this point, the cheese has set into a very moist gel. Some soft cheeses are now essentially complete: they are drained, salted, and packaged. For most of the rest, the curd is cut into small cubes. This allows water to drain from the individual pieces of curd.

Some hard cheeses are then heated to temperatures in the range of 35–55 °C (95–131 °F). This forces more whey from the cut curd. It also changes the taste of the finished cheese, affecting both the bacterial culture and the milk chemistry. Cheeses that are heated to the higher temperatures are usually made with thermophilic starter bacteria that survive this step—either Lactobacilli or Streptococci.

Salt has roles in cheese besides adding a salty flavor. It preserves cheese from spoiling, draws moisture from the curd, and firms cheese’s texture in an interaction with its proteins. Some cheeses are salted from the outside with dry salt or brine washes. Most cheeses have the salt mixed directly into the curds.
Cheese factory in Holland

Other techniques influence a cheese’s texture and flavor. Some examples:

Stretching: (Mozzarella, Provolone) The curd is stretched and kneaded in hot water, developing a stringy, fibrous body.
Cheddaring: (Cheddar, other English cheeses) The cut curd is repeatedly piled up, pushing more moisture away. The curd is also mixed (or milled) for a long time, taking the sharp edges off the cut curd pieces and influencing the final product’s texture.
Washing: (Edam, Gouda, Colby) The curd is washed in warm water, lowering its acidity and making for a milder-tasting cheese.

Most cheeses achieve their final shape when the curds are pressed into a mold or form. The harder the cheese, the more pressure is applied. The pressure drives out moisture—the molds are designed to allow water to escape—and unifies the curds into a single solid body.

A newborn cheese is usually salty yet bland in flavor and, for harder varieties, rubbery in texture. These qualities are sometimes enjoyed—cheese curds are eaten on their own—but normally cheeses are left to rest under controlled conditions. This aging period (also called ripening, or, from the French, affinage) lasts from a few days to several years. As a cheese ages, microbes and enzymes transform texture and intensify flavor. This transformation is largely a result of the breakdown of casein proteins and milkfat into a complex mix of amino acids, amines, and fatty acids.

Some cheeses have additional bacteria or molds intentionally introduced before or during aging. In traditional cheesemaking, these microbes might be already present in the aging room; they are simply allowed to settle and grow on the stored cheeses. More often today, prepared cultures are used, giving more consistent results and putting fewer constraints on the environment where the cheese ages. These cheeses include soft ripened cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, blue cheeses such as Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola, and rind-washed cheeses such as Limburger.

There are several types of cheese, with around 500 different varieties recognised by the International Dairy Federation, over 400

Colby Cheese

identified by Walter and Hargrove, over 500 by Burkhalter, and over 1,000 by Sandine and Elliker. The varieties may be grouped or classified into types according to criteria such as length of ageing, texture, methods of making, fat content, animal milk, country or region of origin, etc. – with these criteria either being used singly or in combination, but with no single method being universally used. The method most commonly and traditionally used is based on moisture content, which is then further discriminated by fat content and curing or ripening methods. Some attempts have been made to rationalise the classification of cheese – a scheme was proposed by Pieter Walstra which uses the primary and secondary starter combined with moisture content, and Walter and Hargrove suggested classifying by production methods which produces 18 types, which are then further grouped by moisture content.

At refrigerator temperatures, the fat in a piece of cheese is as hard as unsoftened butter, and its protein structure is stiff as well. Flavor and odor compounds are less easily liberated when cold. For improvements in flavor and texture, it is widely advised that cheeses be allowed to warm up to room temperature before eating. If the cheese is further warmed, to 26–32 °C (79–90 °F), the fats will begin to “sweat out” as they go beyond soft to fully liquid.

Above room temperatures, most hard cheeses melt. Rennet-curdled cheeses have a gel-like protein matrix that is broken down by heat. When enough protein bonds are broken, the cheese itself turns from a solid to a viscous liquid. Soft, high-moisture cheeses will melt at around 55 °C (131 °F), while hard, low-moisture cheeses such as Parmesan remain solid until they reach about 82 °C (180 °F). Acid-set cheeses, including halloumi, paneer, some whey cheeses and many varieties of fresh goat cheese, have a protein structure that remains intact at high temperatures. When cooked, these cheeses just get firmer as water evaporates.

Some cheeses, like raclette, melt smoothly; many tend to become stringy or suffer from a separation of their fats. Many of these can be coaxed into melting smoothly in the presence of acids or starch. Fondue, with wine providing the acidity, is a good example of a smoothly melted cheese dish. Elastic stringiness is a quality that is sometimes enjoyed, in dishes including pizza and Welsh rarebit.

Feta from Greece

Even a melted cheese eventually turns solid again, after enough moisture is cooked off. The saying “you can’t melt cheese twice” (meaning “some things can only be done once”) refers to the fact that oils leach out during the first melting and are gone, leaving the non-meltable solids behind.

As its temperature continues to rise, cheese will brown and eventually burn. Browned, partially burned cheese has a particular distinct flavor of its own and is frequently used in cooking (e.g., sprinkling atop items before baking them).

In general, cheese supplies a great deal of calcium, protein, phosphorus and fat. A 30-gram (1.1 oz) serving of Cheddar cheese contains about 7 grams (0.25 oz) of protein and 200 milligrams of calcium. Nutritionally, cheese is essentially concentrated milk: it takes about 200 grams (7.1 oz) of milk to provide that much protein, and 150 grams (5.3 oz) to equal the calcium.

Cheese is often avoided by those who are lactose intolerant, but ripened cheeses like Cheddar contain only about 5% of the lactose found in whole milk, and aged cheeses contain almost none. Nevertheless, people with severe lactose intolerance should avoid eating dairy cheese. As a natural product, the same kind of cheese may contain different amounts of lactose on different occasions, causing unexpected painful reactions.

A 2009 study at the Curtin University of Technology compared individuals who consumed three servings per day to those who consumed five per day. The researchers concluded that increased consumption resulted in a reduction of abdominal fat, blood pressure and blood sugar.

A little history about Bread

January 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM | Posted in baking, Food | Leave a comment
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Bread is a staple food prepared by cooking a dough of flour and water and often additional ingredients. Doughs are usually baked, but

Various leavened breads

in some cuisines breads are steamed (e.g., mantou), fried (e.g., puri), or baked on an unoiled frying pan (e.g., tortillas). It may be leavened or unleavened (e.g. matzo). Salt, fat and leavening agents such as yeast and baking soda are common ingredients, though bread may contain other ingredients, such as milk, egg, sugar, spice, fruit (such as raisins), vegetables (such as onion), nuts (such as walnuts) or seeds (such as poppy). Referred to colloquially as the “staff of life“, bread has been prepared for at least 30,000 years. The development of leavened bread can probably also be traced to prehistoric times. Sometimes, the word bread refers to a sweetened loaf cake, often containing appealing ingredients like dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts or spices, such as pumpkin bread, banana bread or gingerbread.

Fresh bread is prized for its taste, aroma, quality, appearance and texture. Retaining its freshness is important to keep it appetizing. Bread that has stiffened or dried past its prime is said to be stale. Modern bread is sometimes wrapped in paper or plastic film or stored in a container such as a breadbox to reduce drying. Bread that is kept in warm, moist environments is prone to the growth of mold. Bread kept at low temperatures, in a refrigerator for example, will develop mold growth more slowly than bread kept at room temperature, but will turn stale quickly due to retrogradation.

The soft, inner part of bread is known to bakers and other culinary professionals as the crumb, which is not to be confused with small bits of bread that often fall off, called crumbs. The outer hard portion of bread is called the crust.

Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods. Evidence from 30,000 years ago in Europe revealed starch residue on rocks used for pounding plants. It is possible that during this time, starch extract from the roots of plants, such as cattails and ferns, was spread on a flat rock, placed over a fire and cooked into a primitive form of flatbread. Around 10,000 BC, with the dawn of the Neolithic age and the spread of agriculture, grains became the mainstay of making bread. Yeast spores are ubiquitous, including the surface of cereal grains, so any dough left to rest will become naturally leavened. There were multiple sources of leavening available for early bread. Airborne yeasts could be harnessed by leaving uncooked dough exposed to air for some time before cooking. Pliny the Elder reported that the Gauls and Iberians used the foam skimmed from beer to produce “a lighter kind of bread than other peoples.” Parts of the ancient world that drank wine instead of beer used a paste composed of grape juice and flour that was allowed to begin fermenting, or

White bread (left) and brown bread.

wheat bran steeped in wine, as a source for yeast. The most common source of leavening was to retain a piece of dough from the previous day to use as a form of sourdough starter.

A major advance happened in 1961 with the development of the Chorleywood bread process, which used the intense mechanical working of dough to dramatically reduce the fermentation period and the time taken to produce a loaf. The process, whose high-energy mixing allows for the use of lower protein grain, is now widely used around the world in large factories. As a result, bread can be produced very quickly and at low costs to the manufacturer and the consumer.

Recently, domestic bread machines that automate the process of making bread have become popular.

Bread is the staple food in Europe, European-derived cultures such as the Americas, and the Middle East and North Africa, as opposed to East Asia whose staple is rice. Bread is usually made from a wheat-flour dough that is cultured with yeast, allowed to rise, and finally baked in an oven. Owing to its high levels of gluten (which give the dough sponginess and elasticity), common wheat (also known as bread wheat) is the most common grain used for the preparation of bread, but bread is also made from the flour of other wheat species (including durum, spelt and emmer), rye, barley, maize (corn), and oats, usually, but not always, in combination with wheat flour. Spelt bread (Dinkelbrot) continues to be widely consumed in Germany, and emmer bread was a staple food in ancient Egypt. Canadian bread is known for its heartier consistency due to high protein levels in Canadian flour.

White bread is made from flour containing only the central core of the grain (endosperm).

Brown bread is made with endosperm and 10% bran. It can also refer to white bread with added colouring (often caramel colouring) to make it brown; this is commonly labeled in America as wheat bread (as opposed to whole-wheat bread).

Wholemeal bread contains the whole of the wheat grain (endosperm and bran). It is also referred to as “whole-grain” or “whole-wheat bread”, especially in North America.

Wheat germ bread has added wheat germ for flavoring.

Whole-grain bread can refer to the same as wholemeal bread, or to white bread with added whole grains to increase its fibre content, as in “60% whole-grain bread”.

Roti is a whole-wheat-based bread eaten in South Asia. Chapatti is a larger variant of roti. Naan is a leavened equivalent to these.

Granary bread is made from flaked wheat grains and white or brown flour. The standard malting process is modified to maximise the maltose or sugar content but minimise residual alpha amylase content. Other flavour components are imparted from partial fermentation due to the particular malting process used and to Maillard reactions on flaking and toasting.

Rye bread is made with flour from rye grain of varying levels. It is higher in fiber than many common types of bread and is often darker in color and stronger in flavor. It is popular in Scandinavia, Germany, Finland, the Baltic States, and Russia.

Breads and bread rolls at a bakery

Unleavened bread or matzo, used for the Jewish feast of Passover, does not include yeast, so it does not rise.

Sourdough bread is made with a starter.

Flatbread is often simple, made with flour, water, and salt, and then formed into flattened dough; most are unleavened, made without yeast or sourdough culture, though some are made with yeast.

Hempbread Hemp seeds do not mill into flour because of their high oil content (~30%). Hemp flour is the by-product after pressing the oil and milling the residue. Hemp flour doesn’t rise, and is best mixed with other flours. A 3:1 ratio produces a hearty, heavy, nutritious loaf high in protein and essential fatty acids.

The term quick bread usually refers to a bread chemically leavened, usually with both baking powder and baking soda, and a balance of acidic ingredients and alkaline ingredients. Examples include pancakes and waffles, muffins and carrot cake, Boston brown bread, and zucchini and banana bread.

The proportion of water to flour is the most important measurement in a bread recipe, as it affects texture and crumb the most. Professional bakers use a system of percentages known as baker’s percentage in their recipe formulations. They measure ingredients by weight instead of by volume, because measurement by weight is much more accurate and consistent than measurement by volume, especially for the dry ingredients.

The amount of flour is always stated as 100%, and the amounts of the rest of the ingredients are expressed as a percent of that amount by weight. Common table bread in the U.S. uses about 50% water, resulting in a finely textured, light bread. Most artisan bread formulas contain anywhere from 60 to 75% water. In yeast breads, the higher water percentages result in more CO2 bubbles and a coarser bread crumb. One pound (450 g) of flour will yield a standard loaf of bread or two French loaves.

Calcium propionate is commonly added by commercial bakeries to retard the growth of molds.

Traditional breads in the United States include cornbreads and various quick breads, such as biscuits. Cornbread is made from cornmeal and can differ significantly in taste and texture from region to region. In general, the South prefers white cornmeal with little to no wheat flour or sweeteners added. It is traditionally baked in a cast-iron skillet and ideally has a crunchy outside and moist inside. The North usually prefers yellow cornmeal with sometimes as much as half wheat flour in its composition, as well as sugar, honey, or maple syrup. This results in a bread that is softer and sweeter than its southern counterpart. Homemade wheat breads are made in a rectangular tin similar to those in the United Kingdom. Rolls, made from wheat flour and yeast, are another popular and traditional bread, eaten with the dinner meal. Sourdough biscuits are traditional “cowboy food” in the West. The San Francisco Bay Area is known for its crusty sourdough. Spoon bread, also called batter bread or egg bread, is made of cornmeal with or without added rice and hominy, and is mixed with milk, eggs, shortening and leavening to such a consistency that it must be served from the baking dish with a spoon. This is popular chiefly in the South. Up until the 20th century (and even later in certain regions), any flour other than cornmeal was considered a luxury; this would explain the greater variety in cornbread types compared to that of wheat breads. In terms of commercial manufacture, the most popular bread has been a soft-textured type with a thin crust that is usually made with milk and is slightly sweet; this is the type that is generally sold ready-sliced in packages. It is usually eaten with the crust, but some eaters or preparers may remove the crust due to a personal preference or style of serving, as with finger sandwiches served with afternoon tea. Some of the softest bread, including Wonder Bread, is referred to as “balloon bread”. Though white “sandwich bread” is the most popular, Americans are trending toward more artisanal breads. Different regions of the country feature certain ethnic bread varieties including the French baguette, the Ashkenazi Jewish bagel, scali (an Italian-style bread made in New England), Native American frybread (a product of hardship, developed during the Indian resettlements of the 19th century), and Jewish rye, a bread commonly associated with delicatessen cuisine.

Nut of the Week – Almonds

January 2, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Posted in baking, diabetes, diabetes friendly, Food, fruits, nuts | Leave a comment
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The almond (Prunus dulcis, syn. Prunus amygdalus Batsch., Amygdalus communis L., Amygdalusdulcis Mill.), is a species of tree

Almond tree with ripening fruit.

native to the Middle East and South Asia. Almond is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree. Within the genus Prunus, it is classified with the peach in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated shell (endocarp) surrounding the seed.

The fruit of the almond is not a true nut, but a drupe, consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed (“nut”) inside. Shelling almonds refers to removing the shell to reveal the seed. Almonds are commonly sold shelled (i.e., after the shells are removed), or unshelled (i.e., with the shells still attached). Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water to soften the seedcoat, which is then removed to reveal the white embryo.

The almond is a small deciduous tree, growing 13–33 ft in height, with a trunk of up to 12 in in diameter. The young twigs are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 3–5 inches long, with a serrated margin and 1 in)petiole. The flowers are white or pale pink, 1–2 in diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs before the leaves in early spring.

Almonds begin bearing an economic crop in the third year after planting. Trees reach full bearing after five to six years after planting. The fruit is mature in the autumn, 7–8 months after flowering.

In botanical terms, the almond fruit is not a nut, but a drupe 1–2 in long. The outer covering or exocarp, fleshy in other members of Prunus such as the plum and cherry, is instead a thick leathery grey-green coat (with a downy exterior), called the hull. Inside the hull is a reticulated hard woody shell (like the outside of a peach pit) called the endocarp. Inside the shell is the edible seed, commonly called a nut. Generally, one seed is present, but occasionally there are two.

The almond is a native to the Mediterranean climate region of the Middle East, eastward as far as the Indus. It was spread by humans in ancient times along the shores of the Mediterranean into northern Africa and southern Europe and more recently transported to other parts of the world, notably California, United States.

The wild form of domesticated almond grows in parts of the Levant; almonds must first have been taken into cultivation in this region. The fruit of the wild forms contains the glycoside amygdalin, “which becomes transformed into deadly prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) after crushing, chewing, or any other injury to the seed.”

However, domesticated almonds are not toxic; Jared Diamond argues that a common genetic mutation causes an absence of glycoside amygdalin, and this mutant was grown by early farmers, “at first unintentionally in the garbage heaps, and later intentionally in their orchards”. Zohary and Hopf believe that almonds were one of the earliest domesticated fruit trees due to “the ability of the grower to raise attractive almonds from seed. Thus, in spite of the fact that this plant does not lend itself to propagation from suckers or from cuttings, it could have been domesticated even before the introduction of grafting”. Domesticated almonds appear in the Early Bronze Age (3000–2000 BC) of the Near East, or possibly a little earlier. A well-known archaeological example of the almond is the fruit found in Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC), probably imported from the Levant. Of the European countries that the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh reported as cultivating almonds, Germany is the northernmost, though the domesticated form can be found as far north as Iceland.

While the almond is often eaten on its own, raw or toasted, it is also a component of various dishes. Almonds are available in many

Smoked and salted 'Marcona' almonds

forms, such as whole, sliced (flaked, slivered), and as almond butter, almond milk and almond oil. These variations can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

Along with other nuts, sweet almonds can be sprinkled over desserts, particularly ice cream based dishes. Sweet almonds are used in marzipan, nougat, many pastries (including jesuites), cookies (including French macarons, macaroons), and cakes (including financiers), noghl and other sweets and desserts. They are also used to make almond butter, a spread similar to peanut butter, popular with peanut allergy sufferers and for its less salty taste. The young, developing fruit of the almond tree can be eaten whole (“green almonds”) when they are still green and fleshy on the outside and the inner shell has not yet hardened. The fruit is somewhat sour, but is a popular snack in parts of the Middle East, eaten dipped in salt to balance the sour taste. Available only from mid April to mid June (northern hemisphere), pickling or brining extends the fruit’s shelf life.

In China, almonds are used in a popular dessert where they are mixed with milk and then served hot.

In Greece, ground blanched almonds are used as the base material in a great variety of desserts, usually called amygdalota. Because of their white colour, most are traditionally considered “wedding sweets” and are served at wedding banquets. In addition, a soft drink known as soumada is made from almonds in various regions.

In Iran, green almonds are dipped in sea salt and eaten as snacks on street markets; they are called Chaqalu bâdom.

In Italy, the bitter almonds from apricots are the base for amaretti (almond macaroons), a common dessert. Traditionally, a low percentage of bitter almonds (10-20%) is added to the ingredients, which gives the cookies their bitter taste (commercially, apricot kernels are used as a substitute for bitter almonds). Almonds are also a common choice as the nuts to include in torrone. In Puglia and Sicily, “pasta di mandorle” (almond paste) is used to make small soft cakes, often decorated with jam, pistacchio or chocolate.

In Morocco, almonds in the form of sweet almond paste are the main ingredient in pastry fillings, and several other desserts. Fried blanched whole almonds are also used to decorate sweet tajines such as lamb with prunes. A drink made from almonds mixed with milk is served in important ceremonies such as weddings and can also be ordered in some cafes. Southwestern Berber regions of Essaouira and Souss are also known for “Amlou” a spread made of almond paste, argan oil, and honey. Almond paste is also mixed with toasted flour and among others, honey, olive oil or butter, anise, fennel, sesame seeds, and cinnamon to make “Sellou” (also called “Zamita” in Meknes or “Slilou” in Marrakech), a sweet snack known for its long shelf life and high nutritive value.

In India, almonds are the base ingredients of pasanda-style curries. Badam halva is a sweet made from almonds with added coloring. Almond flakes are added to many sweets (such as sohan barfi), and are usually visible sticking to the outer surface.

In Pakistan, almonds are the base ingredients of many food items. Meat dishes containing almonds include pasanda-style or Mughalai curries. Badam halva is a sweet made from almonds with added coloring. Almond flakes are added to many sweets (such as sohan barfi), and are usually visible sticking to the outer surface. Almonds form the base of various drinks which are supposed to have cooling properties. Almond sherbet or ‘Sherbet-e-Badaam’ in Urdu, is a popular summer drink. Almonds are also sold as a snack with added salt.

Almonds can be processed into a milk substitute called almond milk; the nut’s soft texture, mild flavor, and light coloring (when skinned) make for an efficient analog to dairy, and a soy-free choice for lactose intolerant people and vegans. Raw, blanched, and lightly toasted almonds work well for different production techniques, some of which are similar to that of soymilk and some of which use no heat, resulting in “raw milk”.

The ‘Marcona’ almond cultivar is recognizably different from other almonds, and is marketed by name. The kernel is short, round, relatively sweet and delicate in texture. It has been grown in Spain for a long time and its origin is unknown; the tree is very productive, the shell of the nut very hard. ‘Marcona’ almonds are traditionally served after being lightly fried in oil, and are used by Spanish chefs to prepare a dessert called turrón.

The sweet almond contains about 26% carbohydrates (12% dietary fiber, 6.3% sugars, 0.7% starch and the rest miscellaneous carbohydrates), and may therefore be made into flour for cakes and cookies (biscuits) for low-carbohydrate diets. A standard serving of almond flour, 1 cup, contains 20 grams of carbohydrates, of which 10 g is dietary fiber, for a net of 10 g of carbohydrate per cup. This makes almond flour very desirable for use in cake and bread recipes by people on carbohydrate-restricted diets.

Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, containing 26 mg per 100 g.  They are also rich in dietary fiber, B vitamins, essential minerals and monounsaturated fat (see nutrient table), one of the two “good” fats which potentially may lower LDL cholesterol. Typical of nuts and seeds, almonds also contain phytosterols, associated with cholesterol-lowering properties.

Potential health benefits, which have not been scientifically validated, include improved complexion and possibly a lower risk of cancer. Preliminary research associates consumption of almonds with elevating blood levels of high density lipoproteins and lowering low density lipoproteins. A preliminary trial showed that, in spite of the high fat content of almonds, using them in the daily diet might

Unshelled (left) and shelled (right) almonds

lower several factors associated with heart disease, including cholesterol and blood lipids.

Almonds contain polyphenols in their skins analogous to those of certain fruits and vegetables.

Almonds may cause allergy or intolerance. Cross-reactivity is common with peach allergens (lipid transfer proteins) and tree nut allergens. Symptoms range from local symptoms (e.g., oral allergy syndrome, contact urticaria) to systemic symptoms including anaphylaxis (e.g., urticaria, angioedema, gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms).

National Dish of the Week – Turkey

October 20, 2011 at 12:20 PM | Posted in baking, Food | Leave a comment
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Turkish cuisine (Turkish: Türk mutfağı) is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. Turkish cuisine has in turn influenced those and other neighbouring cuisines,

Imam Bayildi with Borek

including that of western Europe. The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt), creating a vast array of specialities- many with strong regional associations.

Turkish cuisine varies across the country. The cooking of Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, and rest of the Aegean region inherits many elements of Ottoman court cuisine, with a lighter use of spices, a preference for rice over bulgur, and a wider use of seafoods. The cuisine of the Black Sea Region uses fish extensively, especially the Black Sea anchovy (hamsi), has been influenced by Balkan and Slavic cuisine, and includes maize dishes. The cuisine of the southeast—Urfa, Gaziantep and Adana—is famous for its kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts such as baklava, kadayıf and künefe (kanafeh).

Especially in the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees grow abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking. The cuisines of the Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean regions are rich in vegetables, herbs, and fish. Central Anatolia is famous specialties, such as keşkek (kashkak), mantı (especially from Kayseri) and gözleme.

A specialty’s name sometimes includes that of a city or region, either in or outside of Turkey, and may refer to the specific technique or ingredients used in that area. For example, the difference between urfa kebab and adana kebab is the thickness of the skewer and the amount of hot pepper that kebab contains. Urfa kebab is less spicy and thicker than adana kebab.

Homemade food is a must for Turkish people. Although the newly introduced way of life pushes the new generation to eat out, Turkish people generally prefer to eat at home. A typical meal starts with soup (in the winter), followed by a dish made with vegetables or legumes boiled in a pot (typically with meat or minced meat), then rice or bulgur (crushed wheat) pilaf in addition of a salad or cacık (made from diluted yogurt and minced cucumbers). Another typical meal is dried beans cooked with meat or pastırma mixed or eaten with rice pilaf and cacık.

Although fast food is gaining popularity and many major foreign fast food chains have opened all over Turkey, Turkish people still rely primarily on the rich and extensive dishes of the Turkish cuisine. In addition, some traditional Turkish foods, especially köfte, döner, kokoreç, börek and gözleme are often served as fast food in Turkey. Eating out has always been common in large commercial cities. Esnaf lokantası (meaning restaurants for shopkeepers and tradesmen) are widespread, serving traditional Turkish home cooking at affordable prices.

Frequently used ingredients in Turkish specialities include: lamb, beef, chicken, fish, eggplants, green peppers, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, and tomatoes. Nuts, especially pistachios, chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, together with spices, have a special place in Turkish cuisine. Preferred spices and herbs include parsley, cumin, black pepper, paprika, mint, oregano, pul biber (red pepper), and thyme.

In the Ottoman cuisine, fruit frequently accompanied meat as a side dish. Plums, apricots, dates, apples, grapes, and figs are the most frequently used fruits (either fresh or dried) in Turkish cuisine. For example, komposto (compote) or hoşaf (from Persian khosh âb, literally meaning “nice water”) are among the main side dishes to meat or pilav. Dolma and pilaf usually contain currants or raisins. Etli yaprak sarma (vine leaves stuffed with meat and rice) used to be cooked with sour plums in Ottoman cuisine.

Eggplant (Turkish: patlıcan) has a special place in the Turkish cuisine. It is combined with minced meat in karnıyarık. As a speciality of eastern Turkey, there are patlıcan kebabs, such as Tokat Kebab, a specialty of Tokat province, and Antep’s eggplant kebab. In a large number of mezes, side-dishes, and main courses -such as şakşuka, patlıcan salatası (“eggplant salad”, an eggplant purée/dip), patlıcan dolma (“filled eggplant”), hünkâr beğendi (eggplant purée prepared with cheese and traditionally served with lamb stew), imam bayildi, and musakka- eggplant is the major element. In Antalya province it is used for making eggplant jam (“patlıcan reçeli”) .

In some regions, meat, which was mostly eaten only at wedding ceremonies or during the Kurban Bayramı(Eid ul-Adha) as etli pilav (pilaf with meat), has become part of the daily diet since the introduction of industrial production. Veal, formerly shunned, is now

Kokoreç cooking on a spit

widely consumed. The main use of meat in cooking remains the combination of ground meat and vegetable, with names such as kıymalı fasulye (bean with ground meat) or kıymalı ıspanak (spinach with ground meat, which is almost always served with yogurt). Alternatively, in coastal towns, cheap fish such as sardines (sardalya) or hamsi (anchovies) are widely available, as well as many others with seasonal availability. Poultry consumption, almost exclusively of chicken and eggs, is common. Milk-fed lambs, once the most popular source of meat in Turkey, comprise a small part of contemporary consumption. Kuzu çevirme, cooking milk-fed lamb on a spit, once an important ceremony, is rarely seen. Because it is a predominantly Islamic country, pork plays no role in Turkish cuisine.

Yoghurt is an important element in Turkish cuisine. In fact, the English word yoghurt or yogurt derives from the Turkish word yoğurt. Yoghurt can accompany almost all meat dishes (kebabs, köfte), vegetable dishes (especially fried eggplant, courgette, spinach with minced meat etc.), meze and a speciality called mantı (folded triangles of dough containing minced meat). In villages, yoghurt is regularly eaten with rice or bread. A thicker, higher-fat variety, süzme yoğurt or “strained yoghurt”, is made by straining the yoghurt curds from the whey. One of the most common Turkish drinks, ayran, is made from yoghurt. Also, yoghurt is often used in the preparation of cakes, some soups and pastries.

Turkey produces many varieties of cheese, mostly from sheep’s milk. In general, these cheeses are not long matured, with a comparatively low fat content. The production of many kinds of cheese is local to particular regions.

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