Love to cook? Read on for professional tips on building flavor without all the calories!

Posts tagged ‘top recipe’

Burdock… the late, great, mis-understood starch!

Bored with your vegetable choices? If you are a fan of Asian cuisine, you may have eaten something called burdock root and not even realized it. If you’re not a fan of Asian cuisine, you might want to discover this interesting and tasty vegetable. Although it used to be standard fare in western cuisines, burdock is now regularly available only in Asian grocery stores.

Called “Gobo” in Japanese and “u-eong” in Korean, this unattractive stalk is covered with a tough looking brown skin. Actually the tap root of the burdock plant, it can grow up to 3-1/2 feet in length and usually has a diameter of about two inches. Touching the skin, however, reveals that it is amazingly thin and can easily be peeled with a standard potato peeler – and that’s exactly what you should do with it. Peel it and cut it into strips or chop it into ¼” circles. If you are chopping a lot of it, get the pieces into cold water as soon as you can. Like other white root vegetables (the potato for example), it will discolor as it oxidizes. It looks most interesting when it’s cut into circles because the way the fiber is arranged makes it appear like slices of banana.

The best way to cook burdock root is to braise it. Put the pieces in an appropriately sized sauce pan. Make sure you have a lot of surface area and add beef broth just to cover. Then turn the heat on low to medium and simmer it until the pieces are tender. Don’t cover the pan because you want the broth to almost cook away. (Keep an eye on it so that the liquid doesn’t entirely cook away and burn. This will take about 30 minutes.) Then sprinkle it with salt and pepper and it’s ready to eat. The broth will have become a moisturizing sauce so you don’t need to add any butter or oil. In fact, the dish is better without either of them because the natural taste of the root is not disguised. The taste is similar to a sweet carrot, although al dente burdock pieces will also remind you of water chestnuts or artichoke, which is actually a relative. It is absolutely delicious with a beef steak or roast. In Asian restaurants, it is often braised, pickled or shredded and served with Asian sauces.

What to do with leftovers? Add the cooked burdock to a stir fry or re-fried rice. Use it to thicken a soup. Chop it and use it as a steak topping or mix it into a meat salad. It will fit anywhere you might think about adding cooked carrot or celery and will give an interesting twist to your meal.

Burdock is also nutritious. It contains starch, fiber, calcium, amino acids and protein – all packaged together without a ton of calories. In some circles, it is also thought to have great medicinal attributes. It’s possible to find all kinds of scalp treatments and burn creams made using it in health food stores. As well, some people think it is useful for combating toxins in the body and that it has diuretic properties.

The burdock plant can be found growing in the woods. It grows huge leaves that can be very irritating to human skin and it blooms generally in the summer and early Fall. Its purpose in nature? Primarily food for a variety of moths, as well as humans who are adventurous enough to try it.

The burdock bloom is in the form of a purple thistle or burr that spreads its seeds by grabbing on to passers-by for a quick ride to a new place. This, in fact, is exactly what happened to a Swiss man whose name was George de Mestral. In the 1940’s, George was walking in the woods and got a number of burrs on his pants. George was an inventor and curious about everything, so he examined the burr to see what caused it to lock so beautifully onto other surfaces. He saw that the burr was a collection of little hooks and he was actually imitating this quality of the burdock plant when he invented the hook and loop system that changed our lives and became known as Velcro!

Like many mushrooms and other plants that grow in the woods, take care if you decide to pick burdock yourself. A plant called Deadly Nightshade (Belladonna) looks almost exactly like it and is extremely poisonous. You should know what you are doing or you should buy it from someone you trust.

You will always find it in Asian stores. If you’re up for trying something new, have a go at it and report back!

Love Garden Fresh Garlic Scape!

Right now, you can find an extra-ordinary herb in markets that contains a little protein, is high in interest and is rich in calcium and  fiber.  It’s called the garlic scape. You may have seen these long, curly stems at your local market and not known what they were.

Garlic scape can be chopped and added to all kinds of dishes for a delicious garlicky taste that is actually brighter than using the clove of garlic itself. My favorite thing to do with it, though, is to turn it into a pesto. I’ve shown you the basil-garlic pesto in a previous post, but if you make it with the scapes and leave out the basil, you don’t have the issue of the pesto turning brown as it is exposed to the air. In my mind, that is HUGE. Besides, the color is a lovely lime green, which I think your guests will find delightful and interesting. Pesto is a great way to add good nutrition and good fat to a dish instead as an alternative to a greasy sauce. So use the pesto to top a cooked chicken breast or other meat or simply put it out as a flavorful dip with crackers or a fresh, sliced baguette. It’s great with cheese, as a pasta sauce or as a spread on a sandwich or wrap.

Here’s a super pesto recipe from my friend, Joan Donnay of Essence on Main in Clarkston, Michigan:

1 cup garlic scapes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup walnuts
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blen until semi-smooth. That’s it! LOVE this recipe!

The fresh stems of the garlic scape can also be chopped into tiny pieces and mixed into your egg salad. Use those bits also as a bright green garnish for any dish. It especially looks great on tomatoes because of the color contrast. And yes, use the whole stem, just like you would with a garden onion. Pick your own scapes or buy them at market while they are still curling and they won’t be tough. The primary garlic – the one you are used to buying at the store – grows at the base of the stalks. As the scapes shoot out, they form more little garlic heads that you can split and plant again for the next year. As they straighten up, they become tougher and not as delightful to eat. If they get too tough, they are gorgeous in a flower arrangement! Pair it with other herbs and make your arrangement completely edible. So much to do with these pretty, little shoots. The next time you see them at your market, grab a bunch and have some fun!

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: