Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beyond Taste: Why Soaking Wheat Matters

The first time I was offered a crepe that used soaked wheat, I nearly refused. I try to stay clear of wheat -- especially when combined with sweets. However, instead of turning up my nose, something told me to try it (perhaps the fact that it was a pricey cooking class) and I'll always remember my amazement at the taste: lighter than air, decidely different from other crepes – it seemingly melted in my mouth. I was sold.

There are many reasons beyond taste that make soaking wheat overnight well worth the trouble.

Basically, there is phytic acid in the bran or outer covering of all seeds,
nuts and grains. When phytic acid combines with magnesium, calcium, copper, iron
and especially zinc in the intestinal tract, it blocks absorption. That means
reduced nutritional uptake. Overconsumption of refined grains can also lead
to mineral deficiencies and possible bone loss.

In contrast, soaking grains improves protein and starch digestibility
and boosts the bioavailability of minerals. For those who are gluten sensitive, this preparation also often reduces allergic reactions and sensitivities. Everyone, however, can benefit from the additional nutritional absorption and mitigated digestion difficulties.

To prepare soaked flour, simply soak it overnight, preferably in one of the below acid mediums along with the water called for in the recipe.(Cover with a wet towel.) Some also add the oil...but never add the salt or other dry
ingredients. Sally Fallon of Nourishing Traditions recommends putting 2
tablespoons of an acid medium for each 1 cup of grain, along with the water to
soak the grains. Others use 1 tablespoon of the acid medium to 1 cup of water.
You may need to experiment to find the measurement example that works for you and seems best in your recipe.
You can also choose an e acid medium that will be combined with the water according
to your palate and the flavors you wish to bring out in the recipe.

Bellow are some options to choose from for your acid medium.

•Cultured milk
•Lemon juice

While simply using just water also yields a big improvement in nutrition,
adding an acid solution significantly further improves the nutrition and
bioavailability of your recipe. Plus the added benefit of preventing
unfriendly bacteria in the incubating mixture by adding an acid medium.

It's time to bring back this lost culinary art; but if you can't soak – use one of the wonderful sprouted flour preparations available in your organic specialty store.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sweet Strawberry Crepes

Once again, Executive Chef Christopher Albrecht presented yummy recipes, cooking tips, and shined the spotlight on important issues such as 'childhood hunger' when he discussed the surprising resistance to the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization Bill, which focuses on nutrition and wellness, and would increase access to after-school meals for school children.

As part of Princeton Library's summertime 'Princeton Eats' program, the erudite chef who is close to local farm sources, shared a preview of which produce will be most plentiful in local environs this month – including the slightly early appearance beginning in July of peaches, nectarines, and tomatoes.

Many of his cooking tips were creative and very useful:

Instead of cutting into aromatic spices, (lest they release their flavors prematurely) – rather break off a piece, or stalk, and add it 'whole.')

When adding basil, first bunch the leaves together so the stems face the same way – then instead of cutting too hard, gently press down.

The best way to sweat onions is to first finely chop them, then gently saute in equal parts olive oil, until they are clear. (he recommends Spring Onions.)

Look for garlic scapes at local farmers markets and enjoy in summer recipes for delicate, mild garlicky flavor.

Scrumptious Strawberry Crepes:

1 cup flour*
¾ cup milk
¼ cup water
¼ tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Oil
2 eggs

Mix ingredients together with a whisk until there are no lumps. Then let rest in airtight container for 1 hour. Bake 2- 3 minutes on each side.

*(Soak Flour Overnite to improve digestibility of the wheat, first add 2 tbs. lemon juice, and cover. Or substitute fresh sprouted wheat.)

Strawberry Jam

7 cups granulated sugar
8 cups cleaned strawberries
4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
50 pectin powder
a few basil leaves (optional)

Clean the strawberries and reserve half; pulse the rest. Add remaining strawberries, lemon juice and pectin to a thick pan and bring to a boil Add the sugar all at once, and return to a rolling boil for 2minute. Infuse with basil(optional) .

Portion the jam into sterilized, hot cans.
Twist the lid on and submerge in water. Bring to a boil for ten minutes.

Let cool, room temp for six hours. Double check the seal.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Solstice Soup - Ribollita

Farmers markets are now overflowing with spring and summer's early bounty. Recently Exeutive Chef Christopher Albrecht shared recipes, cooking samples and tips with a happy local crowd at the Princeton Public Library. Chef Albrecht oversees several fine Princeton eateries including Eno Terra,dedicated to fine cuisine sourced locally, popular Mediteranee, and Princeton's premiere artisan-bread baking shoppe -- Witherspoon Bread.

The erudite Chef wowed everyone with samples of a wonderful Ribollita. It's a slow cooked, luscious soup...all at once hearty and light, comforting and complex, with memorable depth of flavor.

Depending on your locale, you can substitute any greens now abundant in the NE with cabbage – or any other leafy veggies currently plentiful in your area.

Although the traditional recipe calls for Tuscan white bread – choose sourdough bread to aid digestibility and add nutty flavor. With sourdough bread, complex carbohydrates are already broken down into more digestible simple sugars and protein is broken down into amino acids. The enzymes that develop during proofing are not lost in baking process, also contributing to this bread's easy digestibility.

It’s the fermentation, partly from lactobacillus, that makes eating good
quality sourdough bread an aid to digestion, helping to optimize the functioning of the digestive tract, and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.


Ribollita means reboiled. Traditionally, ribollita is a bread-thickened vegetable soup. There are many variations. You can modify it according to seasonality and locale.

1 cup cannellini beans, uncooked
1 large red onion, sliced
2 carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 potatoes, diced
10 zucchini, diced
1 ½ cup swiss chard, shredded
1 leek
4 garlic scapes
1 tuscan kale shredded
1 mustard green shredded
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 day old stale Tuscan white bread (traditional), or
“ Sourdough bread
Thyme and bay leaf
Basil puree (optional)

1.Soak the beans overnight and then cook over low heat. It will take approximately 1 -1 ½ hours for them to cook.
2.In a pan, gently fry the onion. Add the other vegetables, with the exception of the greens and beans which are added at a later point. When the vegetables have sweated out their juice, add the tomato paste and cook for another 3 minutes. Then cover with hot water and then add all the cabbage,kale and greens. Cover and simmer for an hour over medium heat.
3.Add the cooked beans (some of them whole and some pureed), salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently because the beans tend to stick to the bottom of the pan.
4.Slice the stale bread and, in an earthenware casserole, combine the bread with the soup until the bread is soaked. Let rest for one day.
5.To serve remove the desired quantity from the casserole and reheat it, or “re-boil” it, as the name in Italian suggests. If adding the basil incorporate just before serving.