Monday, July 4, 2016

Food and Cooking

I've written about the foods I can eat, and all the rest I can't, or occasionally try and eliminate if I have adverse reactions with them under the 3 strikes rule. That said, what I've learned is two things about food. Nothing new, just observations living on a limited diet.

First, when it comes to any type of meat, seafood or fish, taste matters the most, especially when you can only cook with a very few spices, mostly salt and some flavor spices, like lemon or orange peel. And the taste of meat becomes important along with who produces and how it's processed.

What I've found is the most flavorful meats are locally produced, usually free range or organically raised. Comparing the different brands of Turkey and Chicken it's not hard to notice most national brands are bland, almost tasteless where spices are necessary to flavor them.

I've found locally, or in some cases regionally, grown and produced turkey and chicken are flavorful on their own and only need a minimum of spices, often just butter and salt for me. And they're often have more texture compared to national brands

I'm sure there are a lot of technical reasons for this, the type (species) of Turkey or Chicken, the chemicals adding during the growth period, and the processing, all of which I only focus on those grown and produced without the chemicals and preferably free range.

Since I don't eat beef, pork - only some types and brands of ham, lamb and other meats I don't have much to say, but I suspect it's much the same. The only ham I eat are Hormel's naturally produced and Hempler's, a northwest regional company, which are also naturally raised and produced.

As for fish, well, it's easy, I live in the Puget Sound where fresh fish is not hard to find at local markets, but even then, you have to read to know if it was previously (recently) frozen or is actually fresh caught, meaning not frozen at sea.

Having fished in the Puget Sound years ago (it's free for any fish but Salmon), I've caught, cooked and eat fish the same day, and there is a big difference with fresh fish. But with Alaskan fish it's often processed and frozen aboard ship and thawed for markets.

This doesn't mean it's old, because it's often quite fresh, and usually still full of flavor, far better than fish frozen and shipped elsewhere. For me, though, I still have to watch what fish I eat. Salmon is often too oily, but it depends on the species, which are available fresh from late summer through winter.

If you haven't eaten Salmon, you do have to distinguish the various species of Salmon as they all have their own taste, texture and oiliness. You'll be surprised by the range if you have the opportunity to buy and cook the different species of fresh Salmon, meaning caught that season and preferably not frozen at sea.

And as a fisheries biologist reminds me, they only eat Salmon caught at sea, before it returns to their origins to spawn. They said it doesn't matter if they caught in the ocean or the Puget Sound, just not once it's in fresh water.

This is because the fish change when exposed to freshwater in the process to spawn and die. This process begins immediately when leaving saltwater into river esturaries and continues through their trip upstream to their spawning grounds. The exception is Steelhead Salmon/Trout which returns to spawn but then goes back to the ocean.

Otherwise, I've found most fish don't have enough flavor by themselves to enjoy. I try them occasionally, but usually realize it's more for the texture and few spices than the fish itself, so I only try it a few times a year when it's fresh in season.

Seafood is a different kettle of fish as they say. I love seafood (lobster, crab and shrimp), but again it depends on the species and where it's caught. For buying the appropriate seafood I use the Monterey Bay Seawatch fish guide for iPhone (app), see their Website.

Great resource you should have on your smartphone to buy the right seafood and fish, and if the seller doesn't identify where it came more on the package, ask them, and if they can't or won't answer, don't buy it.

Anyway, enough about food again and onward to cooking, which is fairly straight forward for me. I have a Breville Smart Oven, which I use a few times a week for almost all my cooking. I only use the oven with the range for occasional baking big items or large amounts, like cookies.

The Breville oven will take large single items easily, such as whole chicken, turkey breasts, etc., and it has multiple settings, such as bake, broil and roast (both upper and lower heating elements). The cool part is you just set the temperature and time, and then just wait.

All my cookware and bakeware are Calphalon. I have over two dozen pieces of their professional grade cookware I bought 25 years ago. I've never regretted throwing out every piece of cookware I had then for this cookware.

It makes a average cook like me better because it can't fail unless I do something stupid. The only exception are two nearly 50 year cast iron skillets, a small 6" skillet and a 10" skillet. They're handy with frying and easy to keep clean and ready.

With that I've learned is how much you can get out of the taste of food with the least spices. Most of the time I use just butter, sometimes olive or coconut oil, and salt, with occasional lemon or orange peel and natural raw sugar, and even less often with some real spices as food experiments, most with fish since most fish don't have strong flavors.

This is where the food is important as cooking brings out the best in the best poultry and fish. This is obvious to real cooks and chefs, but more so to simple cooks like me who lives on a limited diet to know I can enjoy the foods I can eat.

With respect to vegetables, most of the time I steam them in a double boiler. and only occasionally cook them according to recipes, usually broil, saute, etc. in butter or oil. My problem is that I love vegetables but my digestive system doesn't, at least the way it works now, which isn't working right.

I've alway experimented with the foods on my diet to make combination dishes which is where the taste of the meat is most important. An example is turkey salad with coconut and with celery and/or julienne carrots (with maynaise and salt). Simple and great tasting with the right flavorful turkey breast.

Anyway, some wandering thoughts. I think I wander to the kitchen for some turkey salad in a tortilla now.

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