Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oil, revisited

I am currently reading the book "L.A. Son" by Roy Choi. It's a fascinating read filled with deeply flavorful recipes and enticing pictures to match. Roy grew up near Koreantown within L.A. to Korean immigrants who raised him on classic Korean dishes such as Kimchi, pickled cucumbers and Kung Pao Chicken (at least he features that recipe in the book. What strikes me about traditional Asian food and the food in his book is the lack of dairy and the heavy focus on vegetables. I first encountered this phenomenon when I traveled to China and noticed the vast lack of milk, yogurt and cheeses at the table. In their place tended to be rice, beans, lettuces and meat. I loved it and I still continue to eat in the same fashion today. Additionally, when I read a book on Asian based food, I always come across an ingredient I'm forgetting to use. This time, as I picked up Choi's book, it was sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil. I have grand plans to build of a perfect pantry but have somehow been lazy (or cheap!) in recent days. Sesame oil is there on the top of my list along with peanut oil (another ingredient featured prominently in Choi's book). Oils add numerous flavors to our food and I'd like to experiment with different ones, experiencing how my chicken tastes fried in peanut oil, instead of sauteed in olive. Sesames, especially toasted ones, seem to add an unexpected flavor to many a dish. Here, you can find the recipe.

Sesame seeds serve as a source high in copper and calcium and have even been shown to reduce levels of cholesterol in the body. You can buy them at any food store and can be grouped into my next topic and level on the food pyramid: spices.


Moving up the food pyramid, we have water on the bottom with all it's dark, fluid richness followed by the next level, split between oils and vinegars and herbs. For me, this composes my triumvirate of food basics. You have water at the bottom which flushes out toxins and hydrates you and helps your muscles; overall, aiding your daily functions. Next, there are oils and vinegars, which can be applied internally or externally, using them in dressings or as skin remedies such as moisturizers or dandruff zappers. Finally, on this level, we have herbs. We all have an herb, perhaps one we love most. I was recently perusing an article by +MichelleSlatalla on 4-2-1 soups and many of her recipes used scallions. While perhaps not an herb, it struck me that this may be her favorite element to use for that extra favor. For myself, I believe I'd have to go with rosemary for both its physical and symbolic properties. Known in Latin as "dew of the sea," rosemary is a woody shrub with pungent smelling leaves that can be used to flavor food. It's sharp taste is more noticeable than parsley or basil in my opinion and is especially good on meats. Some traditional varieties include Tuscan Blue and Severn Sea. It's oil can also be used as a remedy for baldness, toothaches and/or muscle pain (between water and rosemary your muscles should be fine ;)). Symbolically however, I enjoy rosemary as a symbol of remembrance. As Shakespeare writes in Act 4 of Hamlet: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember."