Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amaranth - a savory side

Amaranth is an itsy-bitsy grain from South America. Like quinoa, another South American favorite, amaranth is high in the essential amino acid lysine, making it higher in protein than other grains. When cooked, amaranth becomes thick and a little gooey with soft and satisfying pops as you chew. It has a mild, nutty flavor and is quite often eaten as a breakfast cereal or porridge. I think amaranth makes a great addition to a decadent meal or on its own as a quick dish or snack. This particular amaranth I served with breaded eggplant rounds, crumbled Bulgarian feta cheese and a chervil salad with lemon vinaigrette. Try serving it with the goodies in season near you!


Group 1: soak for 12 – 24 hours
2 cups Amaranth
2 cups filtered or de-chlorinated water
½ lemon, juiced

Group 2:
2 Tbs. butter
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup filtered or de-chlorinated water
½ lemon, juiced
1 carrot, grated
½ onion, grated
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbs. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt/ to taste

In a bowl or saucepan soak group one at room temperature for 12-24 hours, the longer the better.

In a saucepan on medium heat, sauté grated carrots, garlic, rosemary and 1 tsp. pepper. After 2 -3 minutes add onion and salt and mix well. Once the mixture is hot, add the soaked amaranth (pour off excess water), 1-cup chicken stock and 1-cup water. Bring to a soft boil on medium heat; it should look smooth with rolling bubbles. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring often. The amaranth is done when the excess water and broth has cooked off, slight sticking to the edges of the pan is usually a sign. The amaranth should be thick, but very soft and easy to stir. Add lemon and salt to taste. Serve hot, garnish with rosemary and black pepper.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Word About Bacteria...

What do I mean when I say that an herb is "anti-bacterial?"

There are many, many strains of bacteria and some are stronger than others. Those bacteria and viruses that cause the common cold, flu or stomach virus are often more mild than those that cause more serious, even deadly infections. In general herbs that are referred to as anti-bacterial are effective against a variety of bacteria that may be harmful to the human system. The more bacteria they are effective against the stronger their anti-bacterial powers are, so to speak, and thyme (see Thyme Honey, 2/20) happens to be one of the more powerful. However, this does not mean that they will be effective against all bacteria. I believe that using anti-bacterial herbs as part of a general wellness plan is very effective in eliminating potentially harmful bacterial while allowing those that help our system to flourish and do their job. It is important to remember that while these herbs are effective against bacteria they are not sterile and of course you may sometimes need a more powerful anti-bacterial agent than the common herb. While it is important to be mindful of bacteria, keep in mind that we live in a culture that is very cautious and weary of bacteria. This caution is important, as I mentioned earlier, bacteria can often be very harmful. But bacteria is also a very important part of all of the earth's ecosystems (including the body) and something that we should definitely not be afraid of. In fact the less bacteria we are exposed to the poorer our digestion and the weaker our immunity. I find that different herbs provide different and refreshing levels of "anti-bacterial" cleanliness. In fact the plant world made an anti-bacterial herb for almost every occasion and you will be able to read about many more of them here at Cook'n Thyme in the months to come!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thyme Honey

I thought it only appropriate to begin this blogging journey with a little something about Thyme. Like all culinary herbs, thyme has become a cornerstone of cuisine for good reason. It is a wonderfully diverse plant medicine, the virtues and uses of which I could barely begin to uncover in a single post. In the context of our season I want to share the benefits of thyme as an herb for winter health wellness. Thyme is anti-bacterial. In fact it is one of the most anti-bacterial herbs of the plant kingdom. It has also been tested and proven to have incredible powers as an anti-fungal, attesting to its ability to support the body system by eliminating harmful and unwanted bugs and organisms. It grows easily in a backyard or potted inside and fresh trimmings can be purchased for culinary uses in most grocery stores, natural health food stores and farmer's markets.

I encourage you to try making this thyme honey. It is a tasty treat and will provide you and your family or house mates with good medicine. In addition to keeping the winter bugs away, thyme is also an appetite stimulant! With this in mind, I recommend you keep a jar of home-made thyme honey on the table and have a teaspoonful before meals. This will help you to digest your food, while squashing bacterial and other bugs that may lead to illnesses! This is a simple and yummy way to support your wellness when colds and the flue are rampant during the winter season.

Why Honey?
well, first of all honey tastes great. Raw, unfiltered honey is full of nutrition, is mildly anti-bacterial and soothing to mucus membranes. This makes it a healthy and delicious way to deliver medicine to those who are resistant or to those who enjoy exploring the complexity of their senses.

1 cup raw, unfiltered honey
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves and stems

Start by finely chopping the thyme leaves and stems. If they are dirty you can rub them together between two towels to remove some of the dirt, or you can wash or soak the branches to clean. If you do this make sure that you allow them to completely dry before cutting them for use in this recipe. Any water left on the thyme and added to the honey will make it more likely to spoil.

The next step is to gently heat the honey and thyme together in a double boiler. To make an at-home double boiler, heat several inches of water in a medium saucepan. Place a glass jar, glass pirex measuring cup or other smaller saucepan (that has the honey and thyme added to it) into the saucepan with the warm water. This allows the honey to be heated by an indirect heat source; the heat is more evenly distributed throughout the honey and it will not burn. Let the water steam or lightly simmer, but not boil hard. Heat the honey and thyme uncovered until the honey is a thin liquid. Keep the honey at this texture for an hour or more, then let it to sit as is, uncovered, for 12 to 24 hours. The purpose of leaving the honey uncovered is to avoid condensation the resulting water of which would drip into your honey. However, once the honey has cooled you may cover it to avoid contamination.

Once the honey has "steeped" for the length of time you desire you may strain it with a piece of cheese cloth, or a piece of clean cotton muslin. To strain your honey, heat it to a liquid again in a double boiler and pour it through the cloth into a clean jar. Allow the honey to cool before placing the lid on. Straining your honey is not necessary. I often keep the leaves in with the honey and eat them when I take my daily dose. The bitter compounds that stimulate digestion will be stronger and it adds a nice texture.

Label your honey with the name and date, and store it in a place where you will remember to take it. Remember the old saying, just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down! And I must say, my experience has show me that honey is even better!

Welcome... it's cook'n thyme!

Hello, and welcome to my blog!

As many of you may know, I absolutely love to cook! I love to uncover medicinal and culinary traditions of the past and to create my own from my love and knowledge of foods and herbs. My goal as an herbalist is to help restore and build a culture that values sustainable home food production and embraces food as our primary source of nutrition and medicine. I am continually learning new things and I love to share what I know, that's why I started teaching what I call "herbal cooking classes," out of my home in Oakland. Here on my blog, you can learn right along with me! I will post things I have made a hundred times and things that I just made for the first time that day. This will include herbal teas, treats, condiments, sauces as well as facts, tid bits, techniques and of course recipes for soups, dinners you name it. I hope that this becomes a place where people learn not just how to cook but all the ins and outs of the nutrition and technique behind ancient and contemporary cooking and healing lore....actively building health and tradition one day at a thyme.

Enjoy, be well and stay in touch!