… about the mysteries of food, cooking and healthy nutrition, here are a few discoveries I have made while sleuthing through the offerings found in kitchens, markets and restaurants.
Did you know that taking a whiff of the mighty rosemary plant with its powerful essential oils, has been found to boost memory (particularly for tweaking important dates and appointments)? Shakespeare knew of the herb’s fine properties when Ophelia in “Hamlet” commented: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance: pray you, love, remember.” So jot down fresh rosemary on your shopping list. Don’t forget.
Did you know that snacking on oranges (Vitamin C powerhouses), or peanut butter (a load of magnesium), and chowing down on brown rice (B6 bombshell), and salmon (a dose of coenzyme Q10) have been found to put the skids on migraines and other pesky headaches?
Did you know that eating strawberries, or better yet, brushing your teeth with the mashed beauties will whiten your pearls naturally?
Did you know that selling foie gras has been banned in California since July 2012 thanks to the lobbying of animal rights groups claiming that the act of gavage (force-feeding geese and ducks to swell their livers) represents animal cruelty? So restaurateurs have been giving away the delicacy to patrons to get around the ban. (I would also ban it since the livers from non-organically raised livestock not only contain a mother lode of cholesterol, but are also toxic). No choking matter.
Did you know that in France ketchup is considered a blasphemous condiment that threatens the culinary culture by masking natural flavors of traditional French dishes? The French government has banned ketchup in elementary schools. Vive la France!
Did you know that the tart and tangy rhubarb (with toxic leaves), belongs to the buckwheat family, botanically making it a veggie not a fruit?
Did you know that SPAM, the nerd on the food chain, whose acronym “SPICY HAM” was introduced in 1937 by Hormel Foods Corporation, and has now become au courant in a bevy of dishes by top chefs throughout the land? SPAM does sushi, eggs Benedict, risottos, frittatas, lasagnas, pizzas and fried rice. Over 7 billion cans have sold since it hit the market 76 years ago.
Did you know that a small maritime fishing town in Nova Scotia, Canada boasts the world’s largest lobster on record, toppling the scales at 44 pounds? Since it takes 5 to 7 years for a lobster to reach one pound, the typical market size, you do the math on this monster Methuselah of crustaceans.
Did you know that the nectarine belongs to the same species as the peach, and is not a crossbreed of a peach and a plum? The glabrous nectarine is the product of a recessive gene, while the fuzzy allele--the peach represents the dominant version.
Did you know that cherries contain melatonin that has been found to stabilize the body’s circadian sleep patterns and alleviate jet lag and other sleeping disorders? They’re like nature’s ZzzQuil.
Did you know that you could slowdown the ripening of a banana by simply refrigerating it? Although the peel will brown within hours, the inside will remain firm just like an unripe one.
Finally, did you know that Frank Nicholas Meyer, employed by the United States Department of Agriculture to conduct horticultural expeditions in Asia, was allegedly murdered during one such expedition when he was pushed overboard into the Yangtze River? But Meyer achieved immortality through the beautiful citrus he bequeathed to us that bears his name.
Did you know that you could bake a knock-your-socks-off shortbread cookie by combining savory rosemary with tangy Meyer lemon zest? Here goes.
Meyer Lemon Rosemary Shortbread Cookies
1 cup white sugar
3/4 pound sweet or unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 1/2 cups of unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon each of almond and vanilla extracts
Zest from one Meyer lemon
1 teaspoon of fresh crushed rosemary
Dash of sea salt
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl combine flour, salt and rosemary. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the extracts, lemon zest and flour mixture, and blend on low until a dough forms. Shape into a ball, wrap with waxed paper and refrigerate for one hour.
On a floured board roll out the dough 1/2 inch thick, and cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters (squares, hearts, circles). Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden along the edges. Let cool.
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