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Ask Carb Diva: Questions & Answers About Food, Recipes, & Cooking, #139

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

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I Had To Start Over

I had the introduction for this week’s article written, and then a gentleman named George Floyd died in Minneapolis, Minnesota. To ignore this fact and events that followed would be tone-deaf, insensitive, and simply wrong.

Floyd was a 46-year old African American, detained by police for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill. Handcuffed and lying face-down on the pavement, he was subdued by officer Derek Chauvin by a knee to the neck. Despite protestations of “I can’t breathe,” he was held down with the full force of that knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Those 526 seconds were recorded on smartphones and the world soon heard his pleas and witnessed his death.

The resulting demonstrations were not confined to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Protests against his death sprang up in more than 100 cities around the world.

Despite the fact that my hometown of Tacoma has the highest proportion of black citizens of any major city in the Pacific Northwest, there the demonstrations were peaceful. An assembly of several hundred marchers remained controlled and non-violent. In the Hilltop area, a historically black neighborhood, dozens of pastors knelt in the rain and prayed. But a riot in a neighboring city to the north (Seattle, Washington) resulted in a confrontation between protestors and police. Storefronts were smashed and looted, dozens of police and government cars were torched, and 27 people were arrested.

We must not allow the actions of rioters to dissuade us from the power of peaceful protest. Hate groups take advantage of the situation, destroying property and hijacking the message. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was no stranger to racial discrimination or the need for protest. The words he spoke 55 years ago still have meaning today:

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.”

The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

May it be so.

Let's Begin With the Topics For Today

If you're an old friend, you already know how this works. But, if this is your first visit, let me introduce you to my kitchen.

Each week I receive questions about food ingredients, cooking or baking terms or methods, requests for recipes, and queries about nutrition. Just about anything food-related has been covered here.

I'm sharing this past week's questions and my responses; it happens every Monday. Want to join in the fun? You can leave your question in the comments below, and next week the answer will be right here. It's that easy.

More Thoughts on the Cinque Terra

Two weeks ago my friend Eric Dierker asked for a recipe for jam made from prickly pear. Just those two words took me back to 2006 when my family and I vacationed in Italy. I wrote about my memories of The Cinque Terra; those paragraphs then prompted Shauna (Bravewarrior) to leave this comment:

"Linda, the memory Eric triggered is so eloquently written. Thank you for sharing this with us. Do you have any photos of the villages, waters, etc.? I'd love for you to write an article about your experience."

Ah, thank you, Shauna. Actually, what I shared is an excerpt from the book I wrote several years ago. You asked, and yes I do have a few more photos that I can share, and additional thoughts about that little piece of paradise known as The Cinque Terra.

The Cinque Terre (5 Lands) is a grouping of five small coastal villages on the west coast of Italy.

  • Monterosso, the northernmost town, is the only one that feels "touristy." If you love the Riviera (beach, boardwalk, luxury hotels), this is the place for you.
  • The other four till hold their old-world charm with narrow crooked streets, bell towers, castellos, fishing boats—and a footpath links all five of them together. Riomaggiore is a village that dates back to the 13th century. It is best known for its vineyards (and the wine that they produce). A footpath, the Via dell'Amore, connects this ancient town to its next neighbor to the south, Manarola.
  • Manarola may be the oldest of the towns in the Cinque Terre. The cornerstone of its church, San Lorenzo, is dated 1338. This is the town of picture postcards with brightly painted stucco houses.
  • Corniglia is the only village of the five that does not have access to the coast. It sits high up on the cliffside, with centuries-old olive trees.
  • And finally, there is Vernazza, my favorite, and the place we called "home" for several days.

Vernazza

Vernazza is described in guidebooks as "a quaint little fishing village," but it's so much more than that. Vernazza is a delight for the eyes, the ears, and the soul.

The first thing you will notice is the colors. The hills are a tapestry of greenery, dotted with ancient olive trees, myrtle, rosemary, and wine-producing grapevines which are still tended by hand on steeply terraced slopes. Homes painted with the colors of butter, lemon, egg yolks, and sunshine cling to the hillside below.

Then, you notice the sounds. We stepped off the train at Vernazza in mid-afternoon...and stepped into another world. There are no cars in Vernazza. No traffic. No horns blaring. Just the pleasant sound of people laughing and talking, merchants bargaining with townsfolk and tourists.

A gentle sloping cobblestone road leads through the center of town, past apartments, storefronts, and the remnants of an ancient castle. Beneath the shadows of those ruins lies a centuries-old harbor. It fills our senses with the briny smell of saltwater and a breakwall encrusted with glistening black mussels. And so we relax, we decompress, and we begin to live.

Most of all, Vernazza is about putting aside the frantic pace, inhaling deeply, and taking life at a slower pace. Within 10 minutes of our arrival, we were at Trattoria Gianni. Whitewashed steps led to the room we had rented for the weekend. We hastily unpacked, and then descended the steps past the castle to the plaza.

One hundred feet away was the sand, the breakwater, and a view of the sea, which becomes the ocean, and becomes forever.

Vernazza sunset

Vernazza sunset

Help Me Learn to Love Brussels Sprouts

This question came from our dear Vocal Coach, Audrey Hunt.

"Okay, lovely Linda, here's something for your bag of questions: You will never hear me say "Pass the Brussel Sprouts." But I'm thinking if I had a recipe that tickled my tongue and pleased my pallet I could endure these now and then. No meat, please. Love what you do and how you do it."

Dear Audrey, I've called Brussels sprouts the Rodney Dangerfield of vegetables; they "don't get no" respect.

Most people who say that hate Brussels sprouts (or cabbage) complain about the awful smell. I can remember walking home from school, and I'm sure that one block away I knew if my mom was boiling cabbage.

And this is why—Brussels sprouts (and all other members of the cabbage family) contain sulfur compounds called isothiocyanates. When boiled, these compounds break down into several other simpler compounds—and one of those is sulfur dioxide—the same aromatic that provides the smell of the Yellowstone geysers, natural gas, and (our favorite) rotten eggs.

The longer members of the cabbage family are subjected to that heat, the stinkier they become. And there, my friends is the solution. The sprouts are not the problem—it's the cook (or to put it more gently, the cooking method). We can fix this.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

In this recipe, the heat of the oven caramelizes the sugars in the sprouts and renders them sweet and savory.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, bottoms sliced off and the first outer leaves removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Slice the sprouts in half vertically (from top to bottom).
  3. Place in a bowl and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  4. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until crisp and golden on the outside and tender inside (use the tip of a sharp knife to test).

Crispy Brussels Sprouts Chips

I recently did an internet search on "how to make vegetable chips at home" and received 23,700 results. The original vegetable chip of choice (the potato) has been replaced by carrots, zucchini, yams, beets, and even kale. Why not Brussels sprouts?

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
  • sea salt for seasoning

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Peel or slice the outer leaves from the sprouts. Yes, this requires a bit of patience, but it is actually something you can do while watching TV. Just keep rotating that sprout until you get down to the ridiculously small leaves.
  3. Place the leaves in a large bowl; drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  4. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast in preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until browned and crispy. Watch closely—they burn easily.
  5. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Are All Bamboo Shoots Edible?

"I have two types of bamboo growing on our farm. Are all bamboos suitable for harvesting bamboo shoots? I am willing to try them but just don't want to poison myself. Also, both of mine are 'clumpers, not runners' if that helps."

Cooked bamboo shoots

Cooked bamboo shoots

Mary, I love bamboo shoots but I never thought of gathering my own; the only way I harvest bamboo is from a small aluminum can (which I find in between the bean sprouts and baby corn) in the Asian foods section of my grocery store.

According to ModernFarmer.com, all bamboo is "potentially" edible. Some are tastier than others, some are bitter and/or tough and require aggressive cooking to make them even mildly palatable. Based on that description I don't think you'll poison yourself with whatever is growing on your farm, but it might not be as tasty as you had hoped.

Modern Farmer goes on to explain that:

  • All bamboo should be cooked before eating (never eat it raw).
  • Bamboo doesn't require fertilization, but giving it a dose once in a while will encourage new, fresh shoots.
  • Don't fertilize with manure.
  • Unfortunately (for you) the best-tasting bamboos are the ones that are runners, not clumpers.
  • Harvest with the help of a sharp space.
  • Don't remove more than 30 percent in one year.
  • Remove the dark outer "peel" until you reveal the white flesh inside.
  • After harvesting and peeling, keep on a damp paper towel in a bag in the refrigerator to keep them fresh.
  • Cook as soon as possible; with prolonged storage they become bitter.
  • Slice and boil for 10 minutes; after that, if they are still tough and/or bitter, change the water and boil another 10 minutes.

Sources:

In the Nutritional Battle of Faux Bacon, Which One is the Winner?

"I have a recipe for banana skin bacon. Yes. Banana skins. You scrape off the extra white stuff from over-ripe banana skins, dip them in liquid smoke, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, and some other seasonings and then bake them for about 4 minutes at 400 degrees. They are amazingly crunchy and flavorful. The question is: is there any nutritional value in banana skins? Is it like eating rice paper? Nothing really there? I have a recipe for rice paper bacon too and I like it but thought maybe the banana skins had more nutritional value, only I can't find any info on it. Do you think you could? Just wondering."

Denise, about a year ago recipes for "pulled pork" made from banana peel were flying around the internet—everyone had their own best idea. I haven't tried them because I'm not a huge fan of pulled pork. But bacon? Hey, now you're talking. I might actually give this a go.

To answer your question I found two similar recipes for bacon (or what my daughter calls fake-in); one uses banana peels (but pan-fries them instead of baking them in the oven), and the other uses rice paper. Here's how they compare nutritionally.

 Banana Peel BaconRice Paper Bacon

Carbohydrates

2 grams

7 grams

Fat

1 gram

7 grams

Sodium

377 mg

473 mg

Potassium

19 mg

5 mg

Sugars

1 gram

2 grams

Vitamin A

60 IU

0

Calcium

4 mg

0

Iron

0.2 mg

0

We're Organized

Did you know that there is a Table of Contents for this series? I have created an article that provides a detailed listing of each question I've received. It's broken down by category, and within each category, the questions are listed alphabetically. Each question is actually a hotlink back to the original post.

Here's a link to that Table of Contents.

I have also cataloged all of my personal recipes that I have shared with you in this weekly Q&A series and in all of my other articles as well. The link to that Index is here. There are hotlinks to each recipe and this will be updated as new recipes are shared.

My "Mews"

My "Mews"

Let's do this again next week. If you have questions about foods, cooking techniques, or nutrition you can ask them here. If you are in search of an old recipe or need ideas on how to improve an existing one I can help you. If you want to learn more, let's do it together. Present your questions, your ideas, your comments below. Or, you can write to me personally at this email address: lindalum52@gmail.com.

And, I promise that there will always be at least one photo of a kitty in every Monday post.

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 02, 2020:

Denise, it's what I do. This is a lot more fun than being a budget analyst for the Federal Govt.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on June 02, 2020:

Well, thanks for the info on banana peels. Your resources are amazing. I really appreciated your opening. I'm glad there are a few good people who refuse to overlook wrongs done to our fellow man! Too many want to explain it all away or overlook it and get on with their business.

Blessings,

Denise

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on June 02, 2020:

Linda - Welcome, and I'm very much looking forward to #140! You be safe as well.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 02, 2020:

Greg I'm so happy that you came back. I've been here for almost 9 years and so if you're in quarantine (and bored) you'll have lots to choose from. I've almost 500 food-related articles.

In a pinch (or a fit of laziness--wait, is that an oxymoron?) I've also roasted Brussels sprouts on the stovetop. Your method sounds perfect.

Have a wonderful (and safe) week. #140 is already about 75% complete and it's a doozy.

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on June 02, 2020:

Linda - I love cats; we have two who are busy, busy, busy, and love having us home full-time these days.

My bride and I definitely want to try the banana peel bacon, crossing fingers it will be palatable.

Finally, we love love (not a typo) the roasted Brussels sprouts. I also sometimes cook them in light olive oil in a fry pan on the stove. Single layer, little salt, little pepper. Not too long, not too short. Al dente is our favorite way.

I am excited to dig into your other works here and see what we might find.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 02, 2020:

Mary, there is a science to potatoes; although some things might sound good in theory, they don't always pan out (pun intended). I share the potato problem next week.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 02, 2020:

Linda on the shoots -- most certainly all three. Grandma Tam says they add chewy and lots of good fiber -- seems to me on the plane with celery. I had no idea I was also eating bamboo leaves.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on June 01, 2020:

Hi Linda,

Thanks for answering my bamboo question and those links.

I've had more than my fair share of soggy brussel sprouts during my time in the UK. I hated them but knew there must be a better way so thanks for those ideas.

Bacon from banana skins and rice paper! All I can say is, 2020 keeps getting stranger and stranger.

I have a question for you regarding potatoes. Is there any reason why people don't grate potatoes instead of cubing them for mashed potatoes? They would cook faster. My last lot of mashed potatoes were rather lumpy, and I put this down to my impatience in waiting for them to cook.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 01, 2020:

Eric, I really like the taste and texture of plantains (I've never been a big fan of bananas), but they are so danged expensive here.

. . . I'll just stick with my bacon bits, thanks.

So, does your wife buy bamboo shoots in the can, or do you have a local Asian market that sells them fresh, or do you have a cluster in your yard (or a neighbor willing to share)?

Sadness about baseball, or the lack thereof. Some of my sweetest memories of me and my Daddy were going to the minor league baseball games in our town (this was before the Seattle Mariners).

Terror = terrorist. The sad part is that those who are creating the terror are not a part of the protest, and certainly are the antithesis of the solution. They are opportunistic thugs and, now that we are all wearing masks, they'll never be found.

Some part of life just stink!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 01, 2020:

“I'm not a body with a soul, I'm a soul that has a visible part called the body.” - Paul Coelho.

manatita44 from london on June 01, 2020:

The mind is extremely developed! It has been a success and a burden. We took God out of the schools ... used an aggressive campaign to encourage humans to believe in a God called El Dorado. The result is death, for where our treasure is, there will be our Heart also. Who will feed the soul?

There in lies the problem. We are souls and made in God's own image. We are not bodies.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 01, 2020:

Manatita, the sadness I feel is recognizing that so many years, decades, have gone by since his passing, and STILL we have made almost no progress. There are no longer separate drinking fountains, and you may sit anywhere on the bus, but honestly those are baby steps.

I will never know what it feels like to be a person of color. I have never been denied a job, followed by a shopkeeper, stopped by the police because I was in the "wrong" neighborhood, or witnessed someone crossing to the other side of the street to avoid me. And that's just the short list of the sadness here in the United States.

We are all made by the same loving God; we all have the same flesh and bones and blood. My heart aches. Yes, I pray.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 01, 2020:

Here is the food oultlay. We have Brussel sprouts a couple times a month. I like them steamed with a good helping of lemon. My wife makes a soy and fish sauce with Cayenne for them.

Plantains are used around here for a bacon notion - but we don't try faking it. It is just fat fried Plantain skin.

The best immitation bacon comes in bits. Made out or earthworms.

You wrote so I asked our chef -- she uses them several times a week - bamboo shoots. They are in her Sea style pickled ginger and garlic "sauce".

So from around here you knocked the ball out of the park - like when they used to play baseball :-(

They just laid down a curfew on my community. Bummer - but does not change our cloistered life. So sad. I looked up the word terror. Someone is causing it. This is no accident.

manatita44 from london on June 01, 2020:

I have no problem with Brussel sprouts, not even smell! I wash them and either cook them with a few vegetables and add to a gravy-style soup, or I cut them in half and cook them with soup. Quite nice!

What can I say about the state of life these days? Luther was a visionary and I almost named him today with a few more. Let us pray.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 01, 2020:

Thank you for your kind words Greg. I look forward to your comments

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on June 01, 2020:

Linda - I'm going to visit the recipes and questions later. I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your thoughts and MLK's words relating to the elephant on the planet right now. I am grateful to live where all demonstrations to date have been peaceful. Too, I am hopeful that peaceful protestations will prevail in the form of lasting change for the better.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 01, 2020:

Eric, I think you've summed it up pretty well. I look forward to the expanded version.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 01, 2020:

Let me see if I have this right; In one article we have a trip through Italy, Brussels sprouts, banana fakin and bamboo shoots to eat? Of course this does not include prayers and social commentary.

Impossible to digest in one sitting. I will be back :-)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 01, 2020:

Shauna, nothing really tastes like bacon except for real bacon, but with the smoked paprika and other goodies if you close your eyes you can almost convince yourself. Nothing has the fatty taste or mouth feel of real bacon.

As for bamboo shoots, I use them in Asian stir fries. I don't know of any other way to eat them, but I'll look into it for you.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 01, 2020:

Linda, thank you for sharing your trip to Italy with us. I love the colors of Vernazza. From the landscape to the architecture to the sunsets, I can see why it was your favorite. The fact that there's no traffic is a huge bonus.

Interesting comparison of banana bacon to rice paper bacon. Do either of them really taste like bacon?

Then there's bamboo shoots. I've never eaten them. I have bamboo growing on my property. It's a very aggressive grower. Not only are they tall, but they seed themselves all over the place. I often have to pull new shoots from the middle of my front yard. They certainly don't subject themselves to boundaries, that's for sure! Anyway, how do you eat them? Side dish? Part of a main?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 01, 2020:

Bill, I don't know what makes Tacoma different, but I'm thankful for that difference. My younger daughter will soon be moving there. Let's pray for a better week my friend.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 01, 2020:

I know Pamela, One would think in all these years we would have made progress. There is STILL so much hatred and distrust. It hurts my heart.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on June 01, 2020:

Flourish, doing this series has taught me a lot, most notably that "you never know what someone will ask." Just when I think I've seen/heard it all, I get a question about banana peel bacon.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 01, 2020:

I was just mentioning that to Bev last night, that I don't remember rioting in Tacoma, which strikes me as strange considering the latest events. Good for Tacoma. The anarchists must not be allowed to drown out the message.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 01, 2020:

I told someone I was talking to that I a wish we had Dr. Martin Luther King to maybe stop this violence. First we had the pandemic, now we have violence in many cities. It is heartbreaking and the way George Floyd was killed is also heartbreaking.

You had some interesting questions. I grew up eating brussel sprouts and I still like them. The recipe sounds like a good way to cook them. This is another good article.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 31, 2020:

That banana peel bacon question and answer is about the most interesting thing I’ve seen in a long, long time. Intriguing too! Thank you!