Monthly Archives: January 2014

Cinnamon

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is the second most used spice in the world, next to pepper.  Its first earliest recorded use was in China around 2500 BC.  It is found in the powder, chunk, and stick varieties.  Cinnamon is harvested during the rainy season, and then dried in the sun.  Today, there are approximately 100 species of cinnamon.        

            Cinnamon is the dried bark from the tropical evergreen tree Cinnamomum zeylanicum, commonly referred to as ceylon.  It is found in Sri Lanka, India, the Seychelles, Madagascar, Brazil, and the Caribbean.  It is the true cinnamon.    It is characterized by complex flavors, and citrusy overtones.  It became very popular for medicinal uses, so prices sky rocketed. 

            Instead, bark from a similar evergreen tree, C. cassia, replaced it.  It is also referred to as Korinth cinnamon.  There are three different varieties of Cassian cinnamon:  Chinese cassia has a stronger, sweet, spicy flavor; Indonesian cassia is spicy and bitter; Vietnamese cassia is light and sweet, and is very intense, so only 2/3 if what’s needed should be used.

            All these cinnamons share a common chemical compound, cinamaldhyde, which is its essential oil.  The oils from all species are slightly different from each other.  Powder and chunk varieties of cinnamon come from the lower bark of the tree, and the stick varieties come from the bark of the upper branches.  Cinnamon oil comes from the pods of the tree.

            Cinnamon has an affinity for sweets, lamb, and spicy dishes.

SPICE, CINAMMON, CELYON

Celyon Cinnamon

SPICE, CINNAMON, CASSIS

SPICE, CINNAMON

Cassis Cinnamon

cA baby cinnamon tree

© 2014 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

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Eggplant

Eggplant

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The eggplant, otherwise known as aubergine, is a fruit characterized by its shape and color.  It ranges in color from creamy white to deep purple to black.   Asian eggplants are round or long and thin.  They are softer than Western eggplant and the flesh is tender and slightly sweet.  It is commonly used in stir fries.  Western eggplant has a plump pear shape.  Eggplants are a member of the nightshade family.  Plants in the nightshade family are entirely poisonous except for the fruit, and only the fruit.

Eggplants have been cultivated in China since approximately 500 B.C.  The Arabs and Persians brought the eggplant to Africa.  In the Middle Ages, eggplant was a common food.  Today, it is cultivated mainly in China, Turkey, Japan, Egypt, and Italy.

Eggplants have dense, khaki colored flesh, with spongy, small edible brown seeds.  The flavor is bland, but distinct, and usually absorbs other flavors.  The plant grows to approximately 3 feet high, and produces purple-blue flowers.

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The fruit ranges in length from 2 to 12 inches, and bruises easily.  The skin of the eggplant is edible, though some people prefer it to come off.  Sometimes the flesh has a very bitter flavor.  Sliced eggplant ma be salted and left to drain for 30 minutes to remove the moisture and the bitterness.  The flesh may also discolor when oxidizing.

Eggplant is common today in Mediterranean and East Indian cuisines.  It has an affinity for garlic, anchovies, olives, roasted peppers, basil, tomatoes, chili peppers, and lamb.  A common dish made with eggplant is ratatouille.  When purchasing an eggplant, the skin should be blemished, and un- wrinkled.  Eggplant is available all year round, with the peak season during the late summer.

Eggplant’s Affinities

  • aioli
  • anchovies
  • bacon
  • basil
  • béchamel sauce
  • bread crumbs
  • capers
  • cheese, esp. got, Gruyére, Mozzarella, Parmesan, and Ricotta
  • chervil
  • cream
  • cumin
  • garlic
  • ham
  • lamb
  • lemon
  • mint
  • mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • olives
  • onions
  • oregano
  • paprika
  • parsley
  • peppers, esp. green
  • pesto
  • pignoli
  • rice
  • rosemary
  • salt
  • shallots
  • shrimp
  • soy
  • tarragon
  • thyme
  • tomatoes
  • vinegar, esp. balsamic
  • walnuts
  • yogurt
  • zucchini

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American Eggplant

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Asian Eggplant

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Indian Eggplant

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Orion Eggplant

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Tango Eggplant

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Thai Eggplant

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Tiger Stripped Eggplant

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White Eggplant

© 2014 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.

Please contact me if you wish to receive “Food For Thought” in your mailbox.

Sweet Sop

Sweet Sop

The Sweet Sop, (Annona Squamosa), is a member of the Annona family.  Other members of the Annona family include the soursop, cherimoya, atemoya, and the custard apple.  Sometimes the sweet sop is called a sugar apple.

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         Sweet sops grow on a tree that ranges from 10-20 feet in height.  Originally form South America, it is now found in many tropical areas.   The tree has thin, oblong leaves, with greenish-yellow flowers.  The bark and leaves contain annonaime- and alkaloid.

Sweet sops range in shape from heart shaped, round, ovate, and conical.  They are usually 2 to 4 inches in diameter.  The flesh of a sweet sop is almost custard like, arranged in loosely cohering segments, and white to creamy white in color.  The flesh is sweet and juicy and sticky.   It is never cooked.  When eaten, it is usually eaten as is, and the seeds are then spit out.  It is important that the seeds are spit out, as they are acidic and poisonous.  The skin is thick and yellowish-green in color.  The riper it gets, the blacker the rind gets.  The skin gets crispy and crunch with the sugar content, and can also be eaten.

Sweet sops, have a long shelf life, sometimes up to 3 to 4 years.   They come into season in during mid summer, and are in season to mid fall.

 

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© 2014 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger       All rights reserved

Please contact me for permission to use or reference this work.