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Not Really Pasta

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HistoricFoodie View Drop Down
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    Posted: 08 December 2013 at 09:39

I rarely go to doctors. Last time I had a physical was at least 15 years ago. But I was suffering with something in my hips and it got to be too much. So I broke down and made an appointment.

Naturally, he wanted to start a series of basic tests. I won’t bore you with the details, except to point out my triglycerides were at 510. That’s not a typo; you start saying that, “five hundred and….”

It stands to reason. I practically live on starches, and the body can only utilize so much of them. The doctor suggested, rather emphatically, that I cut back.

I learned long ago that when it comes to vices it’s easier to stop totally rather than reduce to some arbitrary level. Now it’s impossible to do that completely, as there is some starch in practically everything. But a couple of grams from, say, radishes, is exponentially better than a couple of cups of mashed potatoes. Or, to put a point on it, pasta.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways of making faux noodles using vegetables. For instance, I’ve often made Morimoto’s Daikon Fettuccine, in which long, narrow strips of daikon pose as pasta. Morimoto cooks them in a fresh tomato sauce, and it’s hard to tell from the true gelt.

Now then, if your name is Masahoru Morimoto, you use an 18” knife and cut paper-thin ribbons of daikon for that dish. If that’s not your name, you use a vegetable peeler to cut the ribbons, or, perhaps, a mandolin.

Building on that, I figured there were other ways of using daikon as a faux pasta. What I’ve done is use the small julienne blade on my mandolin to produce noodle-like strips. These as soaked in cold salt water for about half an hour, then steamed to the al dente point. From then on, just about any pasta sauce works.

Most recently, for instance, I made “linguini” in clam sauce, using those strips.

I had a vague recollection of using other veggies in lieu of pasta, so spent some time going through my recipe cards. Sure enough, there’s a recipe for

Zucchini Pappardelle with Tomatoes & Feta

3 tbls olive oil
2 tbls lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp grated lemon zest
Salt & pepper
2 lb zucchini
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp coarsely chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp coarsely chopped rosemary
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
6 oz feta, cut in small dice
3 oz pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

Preheat broiler. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons of the oil with the lemon juice, mustard, honey, and lemon zest. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

Slice the zucchini lengthwise into 1/8th inch thick “pappardelle.”

In a small bowl combine the garlic with the thyme, rosemary, red pepper, and remaining oil. Spread the zucchini slices on a large, rimmed baking sheet and brush with the herbed oil. Broil about 3 minutes, or until the slices are browned on top.

Spread the halved cherry tomatoes on another baking sheet and broil about a minute or until lightly browned on top.

Add the tomatoes to the zucchini and drizzle with the mustard dressing. Toss vegetables well and transfer to plates. Top with the feta and olives and serve.

This recipe comes from the “Food & Wine Annual Cookbook” from 2005, which gives you an idea about how long this sort of thing has been going on.

Winter squashes are another veggie that can be converted into faux noodles. To be sure, because of their sugar content, they are a bit higher in carbs. But not excessively so. Particularly if you watch portion sizes.

One of my favorite seafood salads comes from Helene Kennan, in the book “Yum.” Part of it consists of a butternut squash slaw, which goes with a great many dishes:

1 medium to large butternut squash
3 blood oranges
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup avocado or extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup basil in chiffonade

Bring 3 cups water to boil. Peel, seed and grate the butternut squash into long, thin strips. Blanch the squash in boiling water 1 minutes. Drain, squeeze out additional water, and spread out on a sheet pan to cool.

Cut 2 of the oranges into supremes, catching any juice that runs out in a separate bowl. Juice the third orange, and combine the juices.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the white balsamic, blood orange juice, and oil. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and pepper. Reserve ¼ cup of the dressing. Toss the squash with the remaining dressing and let sit at least 20 minutes for the flavor to meld.

Toss in the blood orange segments, basil, and remaining dressing.

I’ll be doing a lot more searching and experimenting, both to make my doctor happy, and because these are all delicious in their own right. But I wanted to share my findings so far.
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gonefishin View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 December 2013 at 14:15
   Hi Brook!

   500+ is an incredibly high triglyceride number...but I have no doubt you'll get it under control.  You bring up a lot of good, interesting ideas to substitute for pasta.  I'll certainly have to revisit this post from time to time in the future.  

   Another idea you can use is various gelification methods...one you may not be thinking of is agar-agar.  Here is a link to an arugula agar-agar recipe and a tomato tomato agar-agar recipe.  You can extrude the pasta with a syringe and silicon tubes...or simply squirting it from a squeeze bottle  You can also line a cookie sheet with a nonstick pad, or parchment paper, cling wrap...and pour the agar-agar mixture of your choice in the bottom...forming a thin film.  Once set you can cut it like linguine, or other flat noodle. You may also want to use them for ravioli...filling them with whatever it is that you want.

   Let us know what other ideas you come up with  
Enjoy The Food!
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HistoricFoodie View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 December 2013 at 19:28
Thanks for the links, Dan.

I guess there's no hope for it; I'm gonna have to start learning those techniques.

Nothing like being led, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

Is there a book or two you recommend on basic molecular gastronomy?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 December 2013 at 09:13
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

Thanks for the links, Dan.

I guess there's no hope for it; I'm gonna have to start learning those techniques.

Nothing like being led, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

Is there a book or two you recommend on basic molecular gastronomy?

   I'm not sure Brook.  I've been highly recommended to get the set Modernist Cuisine, but that's way way way too much money!  I usually just scour the internet for recipes or videos...I just don't have any good recommendations for books on gastronomy right now???
Enjoy The Food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 December 2013 at 22:28
   Thickening alternatives which have good results...

   Xanthan Gum <---- a guide to xanthan gum

   Brook, you may find the link useful


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 December 2013 at 01:36
I use xanthan gum for quite a few different things....I really like what it does for a homemade salad dressing.
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 December 2013 at 10:11
At the risk of offending folks (and this will offend many people) with such an unpopular and "radical" approach to controlling something as dangerous as metabolic syndrome, I would suggest you at least consider a low (or even no oil added) fat plant based diet teeming with vegetables, dark leafy greens, ground flaxseed, amla, beans etc. 

Congratulations. Your posted recipes show you have already taken the first step. 

Starches as a group are not likely the offenders. White flour pastas, white bread(s) etc., are a different story.  These are simple carbs the body easily changes into sugar.  You may as well be eating sugar directly out of the bowl. 

A diet high in simple carbs, sugar, fats, salt (processed foods), and animal fats/proteins is asking for trouble.  Diseases of the affluent are lifestyle diseases that need never exist.  Proper diet & exercise go far.

Ask your doctor 
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