Kitchen and Diet Basics

Outline

  1. General Principles and Organization
  2. Example of Whole Cereal: Rice With Herbs
  3. Examples With Pumpkin Likes (Winter Vegetables)
  4. How to Cook Tomatoes
  5. When to Add Salt?
  6. Carrots "Façon Vichy"
  7. Cooking Fresh Spinach
  8. Using a Pressure Cooker
  9. Mincing/Slicing onions

1. General Principles and Organization

1. a. Raw Foods Cooking

I will not attempt here to provide comprehensive cooking ideas for a balanced diet, as those will generally depend on the location and condition of the people who cook. For instance, it is probable that, by using only the recipes I give here, you would lack calcium intakes. Moreover, I never do exactly the same twice, so I will not give any specific quantities. No ingredient is mandatory in the recipes, and anyone could remove or add ingredients to match convenience and taste. I often cook large pans on week-ends and store it in the fridge for the week.

The idea is to give general notions about how to proceed to practically follow the diet principles of the mediterranean diet using mainly raw foods, both for health reasons, for body fat control, and for environmental reasons. One of the advantage of using raw foods is, beyond the lower environmental impact of the food itself and its packaging, the possibility of recycling conveniently the waste products.

a) Trash Cans for Recycling
b) Example of Culinary Herbs
growing naturally around my house

Figure 1. (a) Trash Cans Organization for recycling. (b) Growing culinary herbs.

1. b. Starchy Foods and Pulses

Among the staple I use are Starchy Vegetables and Legumes (Pulses). I can use them either raw or in the form of pasta or Semolina. Things to remember in the Mediterranean diet:

  1. The starchy foods come mostly from whole cereals (including rice) or whole grain such as Buckwheat (which is not a cereal). Very little potato (if any).
  2. The starchy foods do not constitute the bulk of the diet, and they regulate the calories intakes. The bulk of the diet comes from vegetables.
  3. Beans and lentils combined with whole cereals can help bring the complete profile of proteins acids when having no meat/eggs in the diet.

Figure 2. Examples of Foods Made From Starchy Vegetables and Legumes (Pulses) Which I Use.

Figure 3. Some dried beans and peas must be soaked before use or cooked for a long time with enough water.

2. Example of Whole Cereal: Rice With Herbs

The whole rice is cooked with just enough water for it to absorb. In my case it was 3 times as much water as rice (in volume). The recipe is near-east style with cardamon. I put just a little salt.

In case I use Bouillon cube, which is ready made, I use organic, salt-free, vegetables-only Bouillon cube. In the example below, I use some herbs and no Bouillon cube. I use some salt with added iodine because it can prevent some health problems.


Figure 4. The whole rice is cooked with just enough water for it to absorb.

See other ideas to make rice tasty with little salt, see the Rice With Aniseed and Nutmeg and the Rice With Oriental Spices

3. Examples With Pumpkin Likes (Winter Vegetables)

We present here an elementary recipe for steamed Pumpkin Likes with Fried Eggs

I used a pressure cooker about 15 min. I added grated parmeggiano, in which case, I don't add any salt, because it's already in the cheese.


Figure 5. Put some cooked rice, steamed cooked butternut.

For an intermediate recipe with pumpkin like vegetable, see the Cheese-topped with Chicken

4. How to Cook Tomatoes

The raw tomatoes will make water when they are cooked. There are two ways to solve this problem:

  • Cook long enough (here 90 minutes) on moderate heat without cover for the water to evaporate; See an example of this with the Dried Beans with Tomato.
  • Add a water absorbing ingredient such as lentils, pasta, semolina or rice. See an example of this with the Tomatoes, Fonio and Lentils .

There is a third way (which I don't practise) which is to cook the tomatoes very fast on very high heat. This is a typical practise for cooking tomatoes chinese-style with a wok.

5. When to Add Salt?

When you add some salt, the foods (be they meat, fresh vegetables...) will let out some water through osmosis (a process known in biology as Plasmolysis).

For that reason, I generally add the salt at the end of the cooking process, except some special cases (such as the rice which is a dry food and cooked in water anyway). Adding the salt right before the end is generally very important when cooking meat (e.g. frying or roasting), which otherwise will taste like boiled.

6. Carrots "Façon Vichy"

Carrots "Façon Vichy" are fried and slightly caramelized using the natural sugars which are naturally contained in raw fresh carrots. After peeling and cutting, the frying comes in two phases: the active phase (about 15 min) and the passive phase (about 45 min):

  1. Active phase: Get the pieces of carrots roasted on all sides by letting them on high heat and turning them. In between turning the slices of carrots, the ones on the bottom must have the time to caramelize (about 90 seconds to 2 min).
  2. Passive phase: Leave the carrots covered on very low heat until you're satisfied with the consistance

Figure 6. Overview of the core preparation of carrots "Façon Vichy".

See an example of use in an intermediate level recipe with the Chicken with Blue Cheese, Carrots and Spinach.

Note that there is an easy way to cook carrots to make mashed carrots in the pressure cooker (about 15 min).

7. Cooking Fresh Spinach

Spinach can be harvested for a good part of the year in my neighbourhood. Rinse the spinach with plain water, carefully removing earth traces, and boil them for 10 minutes. Note the re-usable plastic food container which is left to dry off for re-use after swift rinsing.


Figure 7. Rinsing and cooking fresh spinach".

Tip: The spinach will shrink a lot as they are in boiling water, resulting in a small volume. If you appear to have too much spinach or want to use less water, put the spinach in the water already boiling, and they will shrink as soon as dipped so you can put more spinach.

See an example of use in an intermediate level recipe with the Chicken with Blue Cheese, Carrots and Spinach

8. Using a Pressure Cooker

A pressure cooker allows to steam vegetables with a number of advantages:

The use of a pressure cooker works as follows:

  • The cooker is provided with a basket, which can be elevated by a few centimetres from the bootom of the cooker. This allows to have the vegetables steamed while above the water level, avoiding watery vegetables;
  • A rubber joint allows to seal the cooker to prevent the pressure from leaking. When there is a chronic leak of steam, a good manufacturer should allow you to find a new joint for replacement. A pressure outlet allows to keep the internal pressure of the cooker within limits. The best is when heating is adjusted so as to reduce the steam coming out through the outlet.
  1. Put some water beneath the level of the basket
  2. Place the vegetables in the basket (up to the top of the cooker)
  3. Heat until adequate pressure is obtained (see the instructions manual for your cooker)
  4. Measure cooking time from the moment the required pressure is atained
  5. Remove from the stove heat and gently let the steam out through the outlet

Figure 8. Slicing onions and letting them brown in a frying pan.

Tips:

  • If you release the steam too fast at the end, the cooked vegetables will impose and splash against the cookers' internal faces
  • Manufacturers provide very details cooking time for each kind of vegetable. Just forget and put all the vegetables together. For most of them, between 15 and 20 mintues should be OK.

9. Mincing/Slicing onions

Minced and browned onions help make dishes very tasty, using only healthy vegetable oil (such as olive oil) and vegetables (onions). This can be used in a broad variety of dishes. See an example of use in an intermediate recipe in the Dried Beans with Tomato .

9. a. Coarsely Minced Onions

The coarsely minced onions are cut cut into more or less big pieces. The slice of the pieces can vary with the recipe; it is however recommended to use homogeneous pieces sizes for a given dish, so that all of them can be cook the same way and the same time.

Then you fry the onions untill they brown on moderate heat. Watch the onions carfully as they are liable to burn black, which doesn't tast so good. You can stop the process when the onions are still blond colored, or after they turn darker brown. The former will be slightly stronger in taste.


Figure 9. Slicing onions and letting them brown in a frying pan.

9. b. Finely Minced Onions

Mincing onions finely, which can also be called sclicing the oinions, consists in cutting the onions into thin slices, generally after cuttin the onion into two halves.

Then you fry the onions untill they brown on moderate heat. Watch the onions carfully as they are liable to burn black, which doesn't tast so good. You can stop the process when the onions are still blond colored, or after they turn darker brown. The former will be slightly stronger in taste.


Figure 10. Slicing onions and letting them brown in a frying pan.