Friday, June 18, 2010

The High Art Of The Pack Lunch

Description: a bed of rice flavoured with turmeric, and then layered on onions, red peppers, shrimp and mint.

The cooking part went a bit like this: I used a heavy 20 cm steel skillet with a lid and applied the highest heat with everything being cooked in safflower oil and ground black pepper. The pretty much diced onion was sauteed until the edges browned, then I added the chopped red pepper, cooking until the oil was tinged red. A
s I watched the red tinge spread, I was hoping to benefit from the antioxidant activity of the phenolics and flavonoids upon consumption. 

The shrimp went in last, cooked until they looked cooked but not overcooked with all that accompanying loss of fulsomeness. I occasionally used the lid to seal in the heat and moisture, keep those shrimp plump. After I scattered this mix on top of the rice, I momentarily cooked the mint in the same skillet.

And of course, I read something appropriate with the lunch,

"Oxygen species scavenger activities and phenolic contents of four West African plants"
Kouakou-Siransya et al, Food Chemistry, Volume 118, Issue 2, 15 January 2010, Pages 430-435


In West Africa, Alchornea cordifolia, Baphia nitida, Cassia occidentalis and Boerhavia diffusa leaves are used in food and drinks, as well as in traditional medicine, to treat rheumatic ailments which incur oxidative stress. First, these plants were evaluated for their antioxidant properties through a scavenger effect on reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as hydrogen peroxide and hypochlorous acid. All of them showed dose-dependent antioxidant activity. The values obtained were comparable to those of antioxidant pharmacological substances: N-acetylcysteine and Mesna. Second, rates of total phenolic, flavonoid and proanthocyanidin contents were evaluated. The highest rates were to be found in the most active extracts, indicating that antioxidant activity could be influenced by these phytochemical groups.

The results of our study confirm the traditional use of these plants in inflammatory diseases, and demonstrate that they could contribute, through their phenolic contents, to attenuating tissue damage due to ROS. These plants can also be beneficial for health as a source of antioxidants when they are included in food and drinks.

Keywords: Antioxidant; Phenolics; Flavonoids; ROS; Alchornea cordifolia; Baphia nitida; Cassia occidentalis; Boerhavia diffusa


P.s. Red pepper, mint, dill, cilantro, basil and a visible red tinge to the oil,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stellar Food

Oh dear, oh dear, walk on by. The banks of the Hudson (Latitude, Longitude: 40.831486, -73.951714) lie about 400 metres west of this watering hole. Continuing west and high, high in the sky, moves the recently new Moon, just above the Moon walks Gemini, with Mars high on their right, and below the Moon stands Orion/Osiris; my eyes yearn to travel to that line-of-sight effect, the three star belt, and there is Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse; to the south west lies Sirius, and just a touch north west, Venus skirts the horizon. What a beautiful night. To pause and rest after a long day’s journey. To find food and drink; company and talk. Keep dreaming. I am trying to figure out why the weary are served such a sodium rich and fatty fare. Speaking of the weary, I think folks will always be coming to this corner; it is easy and seductive and fast. I just can’t partake of this grub. Why ruin the heart for five Boneless Fiery Buffalo Wings; all that fat, a nice dollop of cholesterol and a pile on the salt disposition. Forget about the proteins and carbohydrates, they are meaningless in such company.

The Wings will get you 2260mg of sodium; the current recommendation (Rx) is 2400 mg/day. You fasted all day for the sake of sodium, unfortunately most United Staters down 5000mg of sodium that equates to 12,000mg of salt. Try eating 12,000mg of salt from a cute little Japanese bowl presented really sweetly with a bamboo spoon; you will not get far. Keep the seductive corner shop but regulate the fare it slides over the counter. Some are just not going to do it on their own. My heart wants to float with the stars rather then succumb to the pressure. The year 2006 saw 73.5 million, said United Staters, dancing to the tune of high blood pressure not to mention the other accompanying cardiovascular diseases. Look to the stars.

Currently the United States Food and Drug Agency (FDA) does not regulate salt in foods but a report released today and sponsored by the FDA, recommends that there are available human lives to be saved by doing so.  See Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States, released: April 20, 2010,

The report by the Institute of Medicine, which is the health arm of the United States National Academy of Sciences, identifies that “[w]hile numerous stakeholders have initiated voluntary efforts to reduce sodium consumption in the United States during the past 40 years, they have not succeeded. Without major change, hypertension and cardiovascular disease rates will continue to rise, and consumers will pay the price [with their blood and treasure] for inaction.”  In the absence of the Holy Grail, behavioural change, it is time for rigorous regulation of that pile on the salt disposition, nice dollop of cholesterol and all that fat.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Man Falling

I came out of the shop and saw a man, 60ish, lying on the ground, an arranging of fallen limbs, a woman, 60ish, stood to one side watching him, sortofa disapproving demeanor, she just stood watching, waiting, another man, 60ish, was offering help but it was refused, the another man stepped away looking back with some contempt, I asked can I help you, his face showed he was all stressed out, his eyes were hurt, sweat gathered under his eyes, he had the same yellowish brown skin of my Uncle Ted, and the same yellowing to the whites of his eyes, he had sort of fallen to the side while in full stride, his right leg, must have been stepping out in front, his left leg must have been lifting from the ground behind him, he had fallen to his right, his good right arm now raising him up, his walking stick had fallen in front of him, his withered left arm lay at his side, he did not want my help, his right arm failed and his torso started falling towards the ground, I was still and useless, my whole being wanted to step in but I did not know how, I sensed a collision of upsets, pausing in how to preserve another's dignity, someone who did know how to step in, was at the periphery of my vision, he was coming towards us, he was well over 60ish and overweight, wearing a gold plushy hoodie, a look of concern, commitment and know what to do stuff, he stepped through the gawkers, he stepped behind the falling man, talking all the time, and embraced his torso, and raised him up, it was beautiful, I was in a hurry, I had forgotten my wallet, I went back home, got it and then came back, I looked for them, they were gone, I looked for the good Samaritan in the nearby shops, everyone had seemed so local, I wanted to thank him, for the lesson learnt, I re imagined some language I’d use, let me help you, for I suspect if the situation were reversed, you would help me. Tomorrow we start again,

Sunday, May 31, 2009


MAY 14, 2009

Porridge with Fennel

Fennel, that beautiful seed, muted yellow green stripes running from end to end, sensuous lines of ridges and grooves. Hold it vertically and it begins to look like the seductive crescent moon. Breath in, pull the scent deep into your lungs and your head and heart wakes to today's horizon. Down to earth, drop a handful (40ml) of seeds into soymilk ... actually a small cooking pot, say 1 litre, three quarters filled with soymilk (650ml). Add a handful (40ml) of flax/sesame seed mix, make the mix yourself; now pour cracked oats into that pot until the growing little oat mountain (300ml) reaches the surface. Add a dollop (10ml) of honey (the dark stuff of buckwheat origin or that light clover kind; this is all about love, make your choice). Take an old wooden spoon, that feels good in the hand and stir like your life depended on it, which it doesn't. Put a lid on the mixed up brew and stick it in the fridge, at least an overnight stay or maybe longer, our upper limit is 4 days which is just short of it getting out of the pot and biting you. Yes, this is a recipe ... and it should serve four. So take it easy.
It's one of those next mornings, Good Morning, smile, try to touch your toes, just try, bending from the top of the pelvis, rolling your torso down your legs, thinking "one vertebrate at a time", breathing out through the movement, try to get that bum pointing skywards and then rise like an eagle, stand up straight, Tad asana. Step lightly to the kitchen, bring the pot out of the fridge, set it on the lowest heat available, add a cup or so of soymilk, potter around, and wake up more, wake your family, shower. As you get closer to wanting to eat, raise the heat and give the porridge more love, stir.
Where are those blueberries?
Add them,
If you have them.
Taste ... do you like it?

A few alternatives: stir-fry the blueberries (grapes are also fun) in olive oil, until the skins just begin to break. Now, add them to the porridge or some other feast. Further variation can be brought in by stir-frying the fennel seeds, bringing in more nuisances on taste.
If the handful method is not quite your thing, the amount descriptions in the narrative are there for you and we have a little table below, but we strongly recommend the joy of measuring by hand and eye:
Soymilk: 650ml
Fennel: 40ml
Flax/Sesame seed mix: 40ml
Cracked Oat Groats: 300ml
Honey: 10ml

Excellent nutritional information can be gleaned at the website:
-Accessed: 14th May 2009-
Grade given to Flaxseed: A-
Good points
No cholesterol
Very low in sodium
Very low in sugar
Very high in dietary fiber
Very high in manganese
High in magnesium
-the site also provides a calorie breakdown and dodgy advertising.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


MARCH 31, 2009

One Tomato, Two Tomatoes, Three Tomatoes, Four

So what is that high art of making a tomato sauce? Dive in; place Super Ripe Tomatoes in a heavy cast iron pan, wok, etc. add olive oil. Cover the pan with a lid or an orphan lid now bereft of a pan. Turn up the heat and cook until said tomatoes crack open.
One can further the disruption of surface, by crushing the tomatoes with a purposeful mallet.
In this instance, we started the cooking process with about 4 lbs of tomatoes, divided it in half after the heating, it seemed a lot to handle; then we went to work with the mallet on half; keeping the other half for that another occasion. That special term: “locally sourced” is a little too tardy for us; the tomatoes were purchased from a wonderful local Dominican bodega, which identified the source as a wholesaler in the South Bronx. The tomatoes had been out in the sun for days and were presented on little Styrofoam trays, wrapped in Clingfilm, a presentation to soften the nearing expiration look of freshness about them. These fit the bill for “Super Ripe Tomatoes,” i.e., red, red and softening to the touch, maybe even dehydrating.
We added, Black Pepper, Oregano, Bay Leaves, and Brown Sugar. Play around with quantities until you find what you like.

We prefer the taste of that Brown Cane Sugar, which is sold in blocks, and one persuades into solution with heat and love. Did not use it here though.
Aging overnight, just builds the taste.
Remember to try and keep the Bay Leaves whole so you can easily take them out prior to serving to humans. Or maybe pieces of Bay Leaves are your thing.
The Black Pepper, Oregano, Bay Leaves, and Brown Sugar can be added to the pan at the point of heating the tomatoes or in any chronological order you wish. The Bay Leaves do not stay whole in the presence of crushing. Get ready to pick your teeth.
Go Linnaeus: Solanum lycopersicum (Tomato)
So, you can do Google searches up the Khyber, you can check out Wikipedia but the only way to get the unequivocal lowdown on the species having the tomato as one of its members, is that wonderful and somewhat wonkish site run by NCBI, Gene Expression Omnibus Dataset Browser, Grrrrrrrr! Could they not have made this site a little more fun?
The tomato is a member of the Solanaceae species; there are six other members:
Pepper (Capsicum annuum); Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum); Nicotiana (Nicotiana benthamiana); Petunia (Petunia x hybrida); Eggplant (Solanum melongena); Potato (Solanum tuberosum)
Did we intuitively know this, maybe ... We loved how the potato (Solanum tuberosum) was described as the "platform organism." All Hail The Potato.
The citation for the reference article is: Rensink et al.Comparative analyses of six solanaceous transcriptomes reveal a high degree of sequence conservation and species-specific transcripts. BMC Genomics 2005 Sep 14; 6:124. PMID: 16162286
They missed out, eggplant, and we are not checking out why.
So Tomato, Pepper, Tobacco …, are related one to another, if only Linnaeus had had access to DNA analysis.
That other beautiful text, The Botanical Garden: Volume II: Perennials and Annuals by Phillips and Rix, attaches the name of Miller to the tomato, as in Lycopersicon Miller, but we can not see any good reason for doing this, for as usual, the English, I mean Scottish, character, is a “Johnny Come Lately” event on the Tomato Scene. Messer Philip Miller, among many fine actions, made the “Chelsea Physic Garden” blossom -“Physic” means health here-, and in 1752 described the tomato as much used in soups in his time. OMG. Our skin did go through the moments of repulsion when we read that Miller developed and sent the first long-strand cotton seeds to the then British colony of Georgia in 1733; oh that need for commerce and profit and slavery. Anyway, our objective, was to firmly keep the tomato connected to Mexico, Peru, Central America, Viva Zapata, Shinning Path and the like; no, let’s stick with Tomatoes.

The word tomato comes from a word in the Nahuatl language,tomatl. Nahuatl is a group of related languages, including dialects, of the Nahuan (aka "Aztecan") branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family. The tomato has been identified as originating from the Andean region; that is now post the miscreant Spanish colonization carved up between Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru. (See Sims WL. History of tomato production for industry around the world. Acta Horticulturae (1980) 100: 25–26) We just new a Sims would be covering it.
The time and place of the domestication of the tomato are not clearly known; we find this a little sad because there are so many indicators that it is the Andean region … and salsa. Clear, unequivocal evidence of the domestication –selective breeding- of the tomato in the Andes, casting out those introductions that refer to Columbus, Cortez, as “discoverers” when the reality is that they were ill informed malfeasants is out there.
Wild Solanum species have been shown to have a nice bit of diversity going on. The challenge presented by the diversity of the tomato was engaged in the Andes and followed across the globe. The bottleneck on that journey is well described by Ranc et al, A clarified position for solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme in the evolutionary history of tomatoes (solanaceae) BMC Plant Biol. 2008 Dec 20; 8:130.
The cultivated tomato [] shows a large range of morphological diversity but low genetic diversity compared to other Solanum relatives []. This can be explained by successive bottlenecks:
(i) Domestication associated with isolation of the crop from the Andes (centre of diversity) to Central America,
(ii) Transfer of few cultivars to the Mediterranean basin by conquistadors in the 16th century and
(iii) Modern breeding [].
Cherry tomato, i.e. S. lycopersicum var. cerasiforme (S. l. cerasiforme), is the expected ancestor of the domesticated form. In its native Andean region, wild and feral forms can be found and S. l. cerasiforme is also described as highly invasive []. [] In Coastal Ecuador and Peru, S. pimpinellifolium, genetically close to S. lycopersicum and strictly wild, is found growing in sympatry with tomato landraces and cherry tomato (and also with S. peruvianum and S. hirsutum, two green-fruited species).
From the paper, we interpreted the major bottleneck being that transfer to the Mediterranean basin by conquistadors. Our question is, what interesting wild and locally domesticated tomatoes remain in the Andes, the conquistadors were in too much of a hurry.
Other Notes: You have to love the Bumblebee; pollination of tomatoes is usually by Bumblebees.
What, no mention of Italy, Heirloom Tomatoes, Organic, GM Intervention and other things? Go figure.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

January 2009

Defeating Gluttony and Imitation Designer Handbags
So, I am in this situation where one brother throws his lot in with a Reuben's image of health and the other is running a half marathon, bemoaning a genetic predisposition to a pot belly and being called stick legs by brother, a.k.a., “Reuben's Fat.” Not to mention, that Reuben's Fat is telling us all he, himself, is beautiful and we should buy imitation designer handbags. Is this the new gluttony?
I listen as Ruben’s Fat speaks dodgy science about transfats –“When you cook with olive oil it turns into transfats”- and eats at some deep deep fry joint. The rebels speak in secret, the contra language supported by refereed publications available on PubMed( We wince in frustration as getting along with stubbornness dominates informed talk. And we wonder why Reuben's Fat’s two children are growing round. Facetious.
My 62-year-old heroes, Vittorio and Vittoria, have blown the lid off what to do with a life and adopted a second child. They will help him along the road to hero. He shows up from Ethiopia, 40% below typical body mass for a 4-year-old his height. Is Paul Klee's “Angelus Novus” looking back at this spectrum? Let's talk about childhood obesity, let's go for Part 1: what was that rubbish, on olive oil converting to transfats when heated, imitation designer handbags and the like. Why am I going on about imitation designer handbags, I have nightmares of crushed humans, children, making them. Wake up.
Is there a relationship between being in the river of dodgy information and eating at some deep fry joint? I believe there is; this constant uttering of the just plain wrong is as indicative of things amiss, the error of ways, as is a declining spotted owl population in North American forests is indicative of the collapse of the forest ecosystem.
Transfats are formed during hydrogenation and high temperature heating of oil. The heating of olive oil on a home stove is very unlikely to result in the formation of transfats. Hydrogenation (and oxidization) may occur if the oil is repeatedly exposed to high temperature heating, as in commercial frying dens of mishandling food.
By the way, virgin olive oil and pomace oil are highly monounsaturated oils and consequently somewhat resistant to hydrogenation and oxidation. Raising the temperature of olive oil will cause the alcohols and esters that contribute to the taste and aroma, to evapourate. The alcohols and esters have a relatively lower evapouration point than the other components.
So, let’s not lose touch with Reuben’s Fat; he is in the kitchen Burning Chrome, I mean olive oil. And he has pulled it off, turned olive oil into margarine (high in transfats); I neglected to mention in addition to the heating to 400°C, he induced partial hydrogenation by bubbling hydrogen gas through the hot oil in the presence of a nickel or platinum catalyst. He’s a genius.
I retreat to do a few Vinyasas. Not a chance on the transfat nonsense.
Go eat.
*******Health notes*******
(1) Transfats are found naturally in small quantities in, e.g., dairy products, beef and lamb. Transfats and saturated fats are unhealthy fats because they tend to raise the risk of heart disease.
(2) Blood levels of LDL-cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) are raised and blood levels of HDL-cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) are lowered by transfats. LDL-cholesterol raises the risk of heart disease, whereas HDL-cholesterol protects against heart disease.
(3) Saturated fats also raise blood levels of LDL-cholesterol and to complicate the story raise blood levels of HDL-cholesterol.
(4) In general, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats tend to lower your risk of heart disease; polyunsaturated fats are believed to have a greater effect than monounsaturated fats. On the downside, monounsaturated fats (and unsaturated fats) promote insulin resistance, whereas on the upside, polyunsaturated fats are protective against insulin resistance.[1]
So, make you choice, live happily ever after and walk, run, sometimes sprint.
*******More oil*******
We recommend frying with Safflower oil or Canola oil, two high temperature oils, with a high smoke point – see the below table. The smoke point is the temperature at which oil begins to breakdown (possibly including oxidization and hydrogenation), and usually emitting a nasty smell and filling the air with smoke. It is believed that the process of oxidation results in the production of oxidative compounds (free radicals), which can cause DNA damage; we're talking "carcinogenic potential".[2] So, if you are cooking at a high temperature, cook with high temperature oil. It is sad to see a great olive oil smoke and even sadder to risk damage to your DNA.
The Little But Growing Oil Table
Saturated Fat Content
Monounsaturated Fat Content
Polyunsaturated Fat Content
Smoke Point
Canola oil
238°C /460°F
Olive oil
190°C /375°F
Safflower oil
265°C /509°F
By the way, there is a general lack of consensus on the smoke points of many oils. Note. The formatting of the table on the blog is off, but it will print beautifully.

Canola and Olive oil are high in monounsaturated fats and Safflower is high in polyunsaturated fats. A modified Mediterranean diet, in which polyunsaturated fats were substituted for monounsaturated fats, reduced overall mortality in elderly Europeans by 7%.[3] Consider, doing the same and use, e.g., Safflower Oil.
Kitchen Tip: polyunsaturated fats are more vulnerable to becoming rancid (lipid peroxidation) than monounsaturated fats, but that is not while they are in you, ... that’s out on the shelf and left to collect dust.

[1] Hu FB, van Dam RM, Liu S: Diet and risk of type II diabetes: the role of types of fat and carbohydrate. Diabetologia 44:805–817, 2001. Summers et al: Substituting dietary saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat changes abdominal fat distribution and improves insulin sensitivity. Diabetologia 45:369–377, 2002. Salmeron et al: Dietary fat intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Am J Clin Nutr 73:1019–1026, 2001. Tapsell et al: Including walnuts in a low-fat/modified-fat diet improves HDL cholesterol–to–total cholesterol ratios in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 27:2777–2783, 2004
[2] Dung CH, Wu SC, Yen GC. Genotoxicity and oxidative stress of the mutagenic compounds formed in fumes of heated soybean oil, sunflower oil and lard. Toxicol In Vitro. 2006 Jun; 20 (4): 439-47. Epub 2005 Oct 10
[3] Trichopoulou et al: Modified Mediterranean diet and survival: EPIC-elderly prospective cohort study. BMJ 330:991, 2005

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 2008

DECEMBER 18, 2008
I love how science and myth resonate; here is a little examplar on the interaction between the eaters and the eaten. Mixed creatures, particularly the "human animal", captured the imagination of storytellers and artists of the ancient world and the modern world from the half-horse-figured centaurs to the Twentieth Century Bat Boy.

I have always been a fan of the more imaginary side of that little phrase: "You are what you eat." Eat a horse, and let your imagination roam. Little did I realize a sea slug eating algae would bring the whole shebang into the real. 

The Agri-Science industry has frequently rolled out the argument that eating genetically manipulated (GM) plants or animals runs no risk of a gene transfer from the eaten to the eater. This is an old model relying on the comfort in the integrity of the (human) body. With respect to integrity, a paradigm shift may be nearing. There will occasionally be a science article that foretells of a shift, the below article is of the necessary caliber.

The original observation is of an algae-eating-mollusc (a sea slug) acquiring a gene(s) of the algae and that said gene(s) being expressed in the said mollusc. This event is known in the art as horizontal gene transfer, it is fairly common in lower organisms, e.g., bacteria, but amongst sophisticated creatures (eukaryotes) like algae and molluscs it is an extraordinarily rare event and gets itself on to the front page of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (November).

Further, the algae-mollusc construction is a step up the genus ladder for horizontal gene transfer, it might even be regarded as a justification to re-examine human eaters and their eaten.

The Article

Rumphoa et al., Horizontal gene transfer of the algal nuclear gene psbO to the photosynthetic sea slug Elysia chlorotica. PNAS November 18, 2008 vol. 105 no. 46 17867-17871


The sea slug Elysia chlorotica acquires plastids by ingestion of its algal food source Vaucheria litorea. Organelles are sequestered in the mollusc's digestive epithelium, where they photosynthesize for months in the absence of algal nucleocytoplasm. This is perplexing because plastid metabolism depends on the nuclear genome for >90% of the needed proteins. Two possible explanations for the persistence of photosynthesis in the sea slug are (i) the ability of V. litorea plastids to retain genetic autonomy and/or (ii) more likely, the mollusc provides the essential plastid proteins. Under the latter scenario, genes supporting photosynthesis have been acquired by the animal via horizontal gene transfer and the encoded proteins are retargeted to the plastid. We sequenced the plastid genome and confirmed that it lacks the full complement of genes required for photosynthesis. In support of the second scenario, we demonstrated that a nuclear gene of oxygenic photosynthesis, psbO, is expressed in the sea slug and has integrated into the germline. The source of psbO in the sea slug is V. litorea because this sequence is identical from the predator and prey genomes. Evidence that the transferred gene has integrated into sea slug nuclear DNA comes from the finding of a highly diverged psbO 3Åå flanking sequence in the algal and mollusc nuclear homologues and gene absence from the mitochondrial genome of E. chlorotica. We demonstrate that foreign organelle retention generates metabolic novelty ("green animals") and is explained by anastomosis of distinct branches of the tree of life driven by predation and horizontal gene transfer.