photo by Dave KochI have never been a fan of red wine vinegar, and simply because they always seem watered down.  The gold standard brand, Regina, is often all you can find at the store - and although it does the trick, it is lacking both depth and character.  There are spectacular balsamic vinegars out there and most people have tasted them before.  Why then, is red wine vinegar so often ignored?

A friend of mine recently started making his own vinegar with a mother he purchased at our local homebrew supply store, San Francisco Brewcraft.  They are wealth of information by the way on any and everything fermented: beer, wine, and vinegar.  My friend's vinegar mother regenerated and he gave my two discs of mother.

For my wine selection, I wanted to go with something deep, dark, and tannic; the antithesis of your typical store-bought red wine vinegar.  I chose a superbly rich Petite Syrah (which is also called Durif).  It looked like black ink.  I bought a glass jar at The Container Store and removed the wire and lid.  I poured in the wine, added the mother, secured a coffee filter with a rubber band, placed it in the cupboard, and began the waiting process.

Tasting it every few weeks allowed me to follow its progress.  At 6 weeks, the wine-y flavors had definitely moved aside and the distinct pungency of vinegar took over.  After three months, it was strong enough to take your breath away... literally.  It was so potent at this point, taking a sip could asphyxiate you.  It was delicious.


photo by Dave Koch

I found a nice little retro glass salad dressing container and diluted it 1:1 with water.  At this strength, the acidity mimicked what I was used to, but my creation was a heck of a lot more flavorful.  With this in my armamentarium, my Perfect Vinaigrette is complete.  It is tangy, earthy, salty, and nutty.  It enhances the vegetable's flavor without overpowering them.


Perfect Vinaigrette: 

  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the grassier the better
  • 3-4 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar, homemade is best!
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Mustard, I prefer Dijon
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Brewer's Yeast, I like TwinLab
  • Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

Whisk everything together or put into a mason-type jar and shake well.  Taste before adding salt as brewer's yeast is naturally salty (and nutty, and delicious).  You can adjust the oil to vinegar ratio to you liking.  I like mine with a lot of black pepper.  

Toss over salad and enjoy! 

Authordavid koch
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photo by youcansleepwhenyouredead

I've been reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and to say the book is excelent would be to describe the Golden Gate Bridge "nice."  It is a true manifesto and a call to action.  Although much of the research he details in the book is still in progress - and often controvercial, it opens your eyes to contemporary theories in nutritionism.

Some of these theories revolve around omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids; both of which are unsaturated.  What has been known for a long time in the scientific comminity is just beginning to gain press, that "not all fats are created equal."  The American Heart Association even has a page on their website for children called Meet the Fats, going into the differences between Trans, Saturated, Poly- and Mono- unsaturated.

The media have made popular the evidence that omega-3's may have a link to possibly limit the risk of heart disease.  People have been supplementing omega-3's in their diet (usually in the form of fish oil) for many years and more recently, it seems that flax seed is getting put into practically everything.

What Pollan and much of the researchers he cites are starting to divulge is the idea that omega-3 suppliments alone may not account for improved cardiovascular health.  There is evidence to suggest that what is more important than an increase in omega-3 is a proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (called n-6 and n-3 for short).  This ideal ratio of n-6 to n-3 is hypothesized to be between 1:1 and 4:1.

What makes this difficult is that the typical American diet is overwhelmed with government subsidized corn and soy.  The oils of which carry n-6 to n-3 ratios of 46:1 and 7:1 respectively.  What's even more alarming Pollan states that, "Nine percent of the calories in the American diet today come from a single omega-6 fatty acid: linoleic acid, most of it from soybean oil" (In Defense of Food page 131) 

That's a profound thought.  Consider this, if true, of all the compounds humans can consume, digest, and extract energy from... 9% of the energy in the typical American diet comes from this single molecule.  We are omnivorous and benefit from a varied diet.


Linoleic acid


According to the Omega-3 wiki, "Typical Western diets provide ratios of between 10:1 and 30:1" and they list the ratios of n-6 to n-3 of some common cooking oils:

  • Corn 46:1
  • Soybean 7:1
  • Olive between 3:1 and  13:1
  • Canola 2:1
  • Sunflower (no n−3)
  • Grapeseed (almost no n−3)
  • Cottonseed (almost no n−3)
  • Peanut (no n−3)
  • Flax 1:3

They continue:

It should be noted that olive, peanut and canola oils consist of approximately 80%  monounsaturated fatty acids, (i.e. neither n−6 nor n−3) meaning that they contain relatively small amounts of n−3 and n−6 fatty acids. Consequently, the n−6 to n−3 ratios for these oils (i.e. olive, canola and peanut oils) are not as significant as they are for corn, soybean and sunflower oils.

What compounds our consumption of omega-6's is that livestock and poultry feed in this country is largely made up of corn and soy as well.  A project completed at Cal State Chico showed that grain-fed beef had a ratio of 4:1 (n-6 to n-3) vs. grass fed beef which was about 2:1.  Ergo, there are even more n-6's making their way into our diets than one might be natural because they are coming from not only plant but animal sources.  

This shift in our entire ecosystem from one based on leaves to one that is based on seeds (corn, soy, olive, peanut, etc.) is pivotal in Pollan's manifest.  It tipped the ratios of fatty acids far towards the omega-6 side, but he also states it, "helps account for the flood of refined carbohydrates in the modern diet and the draught of so many micronutrients and the surfeit of total calories."

Joseph Hibbeln, a prominent researcher at the National Institute of Health, has done extensive research on how these compounds effect our health - and specifically our mental health.  He believes that much of our society's reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are to quell the effects of too much omega-6 fatty acids in our diet.

In April 2006, Hibbeln (et al) published an article called Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in neurodevelopment, aggression and autonomic dysregulation: Opportunities for intervention - concluding the Summary with, "Ensuring optimal intakes of omega-3 fatty acids during early development and adulthood shows considerable promise in preventing aggression and hostility."

In December 2006, Hibbeln (et al) published another article called Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry.  They suggest, "EPA and DHA [two specific omega-3 fatty acids] appear to have negligible risks and some potential benefit in major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder..."

From In Defense of Food, Pollan quotes Hibbeln:

"The increases in world [omega-6] consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression, and cardiovascular mortality."

...I feel like eating a bowl of oatmeal now.

Authordavid koch
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 photo by jeff dlouhy


The Ig Nobel Prizes are a parody of the Nobel Prizes - awarded each year by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research.  They began in 1991 as a way to draw attention to projects "that cannot, or should not, be reproduced."  It is a humorous event each October on Harvard's campus and the awards are handed out by genuine Nobel Laureates.

I went through the list of past winners and culled out the food related awards.  If I put my mind to it, maybe I could win an Ig Nobel Prize too:


NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK,  for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.


CHEMISTRY: Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin -- vanilla fragrance and flavoring -- from cow dung.
PRESS NOTE: Toscanini's Ice Cream, the finest ice cream shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, created a new ice cream flavor in honor of Mayu Yamamoto, and introduced it at the Ig Nobel ceremony. The flavor is called "Yum-a-Moto Vanilla Twist." 

NUTRITION: Brian Wansink of Cornell University (from our article Is The 'Joy of Cooking' Fattening Us Up?), for exploring the seemingly boundless appetites of human beings, by feeding them with a self-refilling, bottomless bowl of soup.



NUTRITION: Wasmia Al-Houty of Kuwait University and Faten Al-Mussalam of the Kuwait Environment Public Authority, for showing that dung beetles are finicky eaters.

PHYSICS: Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, in Paris, for their insights into why, when you bend dry spaghetti, it often breaks into more than two pieces.

CHEMISTRY: Antonio Mulet, José Javier Benedito and José Bon of the University of Valencia, Spain, and Carmen Rosselló of the University of Illes Balears, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain,  for their study "Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature."

BIOLOGY: Bart Knols and Ruurd de Jong of Wageningen Agricultural University for showing that the female malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae is attracted equally to the smell of limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.


CHEMISTRY: Edward Cussler of the University of Minnesota and Brian Gettelfinger of the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, for conducting a careful experiment to settle the longstanding scientific question: can people swim faster in syrup or in water?

NUTRITION: Dr. Yoshiro Nakamats of Tokyo, Japan, for photographing and retrospectively analyzing every meal he has consumed during a period of 34 years (and counting).



Jillian Clarke of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, and then Howard University, for investigating the scientific validity of the Five-Second Rule about whether it's safe to eat food that's been dropped on the floor.



Jack Harvey, John Culvenor, Warren Payne, Steve Cowley, Michael Lawrance, David Stuart, and Robyn Williams of Australia, for their irresistible report "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces."

C.W. Moeliker, of Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam, the Netherlands, for documenting the first scientifically recorded case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck.



Arnd Leike of the University of Munich, for demonstrating that beer froth obeys the mathematical Law of Exponential Decay. 


Peter Barss of McGill University,
for his impactful medical report "Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts." 

Buck Weimer of Pueblo, Colorado for inventing Under-Ease, airtight underwear with a replaceable charcoal filter that removes bad-smelling gases before they escape.


Jasmuheen (formerly known as Ellen Greve) of Australia, first lady of Breatharianism, for her book "Living on Light,"
which explains that although some people do eat food, they don't ever really need to.


e Penfold, of York University in Toronto, for doing his PhD thesis on the sociology of Canadian donut shops.

Dr. Len Fisher of Bath, England and Sydney, Australia for calculating the optimal way to dunk a biscuit.
Professor Jean-Marc Vanden-Broeck of the University of East Anglia, England, and Belgium, for calculating how to make a teapot spout that does not drip.

The British Standards Institution for its six-page specification (BS-6008) of the proper way to make a cup of tea.

Dr. Paul Bosland, director of The Chile Pepper Institute, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico, for breeding a spiceless jalapeno chile pepper.


Peter Fong of Gettysburg College
, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for contributing to the happiness of clams by giving them Prozac.


T. Yagyu and his colleagues from th
e University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, from Kansai Medical University in Osaka, Japan, and from Neuroscience Technology Research in Prague, Czech Republic, for measuring people's brainwave patterns while they chewed different flavors of gum.

Bernard Vonnegut of the State University of Albany, for his revealing report, "Chicken Plucking as Measure of Tornado Wind Speed."


Anders Barheim and Hogne Sandvik of the University of Bergen, Norway, for their tasty and tasteful repo
rt, "Effect of Ale, Garlic, and Soured Cream on the Appetite of Leeches."

Robert Matthews of Aston University, England, for his studies of Murphy's Law, and especially for demonstrating that toast often falls on the buttered side.

George Goble of Purdue University, for his blistering world record time for igniting a barbeque grill-three seconds, using charcoal and liquid oxygen.


John Martinez of J. Martinez & Company in Atlanta, Georgia, for Luak Coffee, the world's most expensive coffee, which is made from coffee beans ingested and excreted by the luak (aka, the palm civet), a bobcat-like animal native to Indonesia.

D.M.R. Georget, R. Parker, and A.C. Smith, of the Institute of Food Research, Norwich, England, for their rigorous analysis of soggy breakfast cereal, published in the report entitled 'A Study of the Effects of Water Content on the Compaction Behaviour of Breakfast Cereal Flakes."


Ron Popeil, incessant inventor and perpetual pitchman of late night television,
  for redefining the industrial revolution with such devices as the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone, and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler.

The Pepsi-Cola Company of the Phillipines, suppliers of sugary hopes and dreams, for sponsoring a contest to create a millionaire, and then announcing the wrong winning number, thereby inciting and uniting 800,000 riotously expectant winners, and bringing many warring factions together for the first time in their nation's history.

Louis Kervran of France, ardent admirer of alchemy, for his conclusion that the calcium in chickens' eggshells is created by a process of cold fusion.


Ivette Bassa, constructor of colorfulcolloids, for her role in the crowning achievement of twentieth century chemistry, the synthesis of bright blue Jell-O.

The utilizers of Spam, courageous consumers of canned comestib
 les, for 54 years of undiscriminating digestion.


Alan Kligerman, deviser of digestive deliverance, vanquisher of vapor, and inventor of Beano, for his pioneering work with anti- gas liquids that prevent bloat, gassiness, discomfort and


Authordavid koch
CategoriesHumor, Science

It has been determined that a person's ability to detect either of two distinct chemicals phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), and propylthiouracil (PROP) - makes that person a "Supertaster."

I remember taking the test in Junior High School but I couldn't remember my results.  It was science class and we were discussing genetics.  The ability to taste these are the result of having a specific gene.

According to the Wiki:

"The bitter taste receptor gene TAS2R38 has been associated with the ability to taste PROP, and PTC, however it cannot completely explain the supertasting phenomenon.  Most estimates suggest 25% of the population are nontasters, 50% are medium tasters, and 25% are supertasters."

In their Introduction to their book, Genetic Variation in Taste Sensitivity (by John Prescott and Beverly J. Tepper) they tell the story how DuPont chemist A. L. Fox was synthesizing some PTC and some of it flew into the air.  A colleague commented in its bitter taste, which Fox had not noticed.  So it began... research into how genetics effect taste.

It is now pretty clear that Supertasters perceive bitterness (not just PTC and PROP) as much more bitter than the rest of us.  Specifically in foods like broccoli, grapefruit juice, coffee, and dark chocolate.  Also, other non-bitter flavors seem more intense, like alcohol, hot peppers, and ginger (via the NY Times).

When I first heard of Supertasters, I immediately thought I could be one.  I can taste cilantro in what are probably microscopic quantities.  I can taste my wife's face lotion if she takes a sip of my coffee.  I can taste other people's conditioner in the water if they are surfing near me (I know, it's gross).

I had to know.


It didn't take long to find which is selling 2 Supertaster test strips for $4.95.  I ordered a pair.  They arrived within a few days in a little baggie (photo at top) and my wife and I put them on our tongues.  


They were bad, but not appalling.  From the description, I suppose we would be called "medium tasters."  Besides, I love coffee, dark chocolate, grapefruit, hot peppers, and ginger.  I would never make it as a Supertaster, I would be distraught.

More recent information; however, has revealed that being a Supertaster may not only take away the pleasure of many foods - but it might even be deleterious to your health.  It is theorized by a group at Yale Medical that because many of the foods that are aversive to Supertasters are nutrient-rich, they are not taking in as many cancer-fighting compounds.

Their research found a correlation between colon polyps and the ability to taste PROP.  The Abstract concludes with, "In the subset reporting vegetable intake, men who tasted PROP as more bitter consumed fewer vegetables. These preliminary findings suggest that taste genetics may influence colon cancer risk, possibly through intake of vegetables."

Life must be rough for a Supertaster, thank goodness I'm not one of them.

Authordavid koch

This famous quote by French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) may be more pertinent now than it has ever been.  Several recent studies have begun to shed light on the subject of our past and how cooking may have been the single biggest development to help Mankind diverge from apes.

Last year from Wired:

"Some have proposed that it was our high-energy, high-protein and cooked diet that enabled us to fuel our big brains during our evolution," said study co-author Mehmet Somel.

More recently, Richard Wrangham of Harvard University, outlined in a meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) how he believes that it was cooking (and not simply a shift from a plant-based diet to a meat-based diet) that allowed for Homo Erectus to literally feed a larger brain.

I find his logic is sound and it follows like this.  The human brain consumes up to 25% of our caloric intake.  Ergo, it would require the consumption of either 25% more calories OR for us to more completely digest what we've eaten.  He notes three major factors involved with the cooking of food. 

  1. Softens food - In one study, two groups of rats were given different diets: soft pellets and hard pellets.  The soft group gained 30% more weight than the hard group after 26 weeks.   
  2. Breaks down starches
  3. Breaks down and denatures proteins

Quoted from Wired:

"Wrangham cited data showing that cooking increases the body's ability to digest starches (as found, for example, in bread, potatoes and bananas). Only about 50 percent of raw starches are digested, compared to 90 percent of cooked ones. The trend, and the numbers, are similar for protein: from 50 to 65 percent digestibility raw to better than 90 percent cooked."

Referencing the same meeting with Wrangham at the AAAS, the Economist states,

"[Cooking] “denatures” protein molecules, so that their amino-acid chains unfold and digestive enzymes can attack them more easily...That makes it easier to digest, so even though the stuff is no more calorific, the body uses fewer calories dealing with it."


I feel compelled to mention too, that cooking food makes it taste a heck of a lot better!  Now get cooking and pass the paprika please...


Authordavid koch
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Malcolm Gladwell is the best-selling author of "The Tipping Point" and "Blink".  In this short lecture from a TED conference he dives into how data gathered by Howard Moskowitz and food companies during the 1980's led them to embrace the diversity of people's tastes and provide more diversity of products.  He uses spaghetti sauce, mustard, and coffee as examples.


Authordavid koch

photo by Kristin Brenemen

Fat Tuesday is right around the corner and I'm hearing more and more about King Cake.  A  friend of mine in college, Lucas, was from New Orleans and my first experience with King Cake was when his mom sent him one all the way to our dorm in California to celebrate.  

I was the lucky guy who found the little plastic baby inside.

Lucas had failed to mention there was a choking hazard buried in there...

Thank God no one was hurt or killed but it got me wondering, has anyone died from King Cake?

I dug and dug through the internet and although I couldn't find anything conclusive - that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.  I did; however, find that Mochi [the squishy marshmallow-like Japanese rice cakes] seem to kill a few elderly people each year during New Years in Japan.  

No way.  Really?  


This Associated Press clipping claims four elderly Tokyo residents died in the first two days of 1996 while choking on Mochi, and that the rice cakes had claimed the lives of five more in the first three days of 1995 as well.

In 2000 - Elderly choke on year end delicacy

In 2001 - 'Mochi' claims three more elderly

In 2007 - Four choke to death on 'mochi'

From the Japan Times, "According to data compiled by the health ministry, 4,407 people died by choking in 2006. By age, about 85 percent were over 65... By type of food, "mochi" pounded rice was the top culprit."  Again, I couldn't find any hard data but I'm starting to think that Mochi kills more people each year than sharks!

Whether it is the baby in the King Cake or a scrumptious ball of delicious yet deadly mochi, if something goes awry - and the Heimlich fails - you can always try the vacuum like this woman successfully did, Daughter uses vacuum cleaner to save dad's life (via Japan Times).

Happy Fat Tuesday!

Authordavid koch

From National Geographic comes The Green Guide; and like the magazine, the website is visually fantastic.  Specifically, their Food Section has topics on how to stay green when Buying, Cooking, and considering food Safety & Storage.  Right now, the Buying section offers up a guide to some of the new-ish labels you may have noticed appearing on your beef's packaging.  

What do they all mean?  Check out their Beef Label Decoder to find out more or click on each of the labels that you see below:


USDA OrganicUSDA Process Verified




Food Alliance Certified


American Grassfed


Certified Humane


Animal Welfare Approved








Authordavid koch

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that some of the commonplace recipes in the ubiquitous Joy of Cooking have seen calorie contents skyrocket from its first publication in 1936 to its 75th Anniversary Edition published in 2006.

From WebMD:

"Wansink and Payne reviewed seven editions of The Joy of Cooking, looking for recipes published in each edition (printed in 1936, 1946, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1997, and 2006).

Only 18 recipes qualified: chicken gumbo, corn chowder, plain omelet, Spanish rice, chicken a la king, goulash, biscuits, blueberry muffins, cornbread, brownies, sugar cookies, rice pudding, tapioca pudding, baked macaroni, waffles, apple pie, chocolate cake, and chili con carne."

17 of the 18 recipes analyzed showed an increase in calories per serving, and the average increase was by a whopping 63%.  The gains were found to be from a variety of reasons in addition to an increase in the size of the portions: extra meat, more butter, more sugar, or adding nuts and raisins.


Who wouldn't want more butter, sugar, and extra nuts and raisins?

In that case, then I agree with Beth Wareham, editor of the 2006 edition and quoted by The LA Times: "It's such a tiny number of recipes. It's really a non-event,"

The authors of the report are Collin Payne, an Assistant Professor of Marketing at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and Brian Wansink, Director of Cornell University's Food Lab.

Authordavid koch
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photo by lombardo_uk

With the global trend of food becoming spicier and spicier, also comes the cultivation of hotter and hotter chilies.  Common household names like the Tabasco, jalapeno, and habanero may be ubiquitous but heat-wise, some new cultivars make even the habanero squirm. 

From Wikipedia: "The "heat" of chili peppers is measured in Scoville units (SHU), which is the amount of times a chilli extract must be diluted in water in order for it to lose its heat. Bell peppers rank at 0 SHU, New Mexico green chilies at about 1,500 SHU, jalapeños at 3,000–6,000 SHU, and habaneros at 300,000 SHU."

Until recently, the hottest pepper recognized (by the Guiness Book or Records, no less) was the Naga Jolokia, coming in at over 1,000,000 SHU.  This is incomprehensibly hot.  To put this in perspective, pepper spray is 2,000,000 SHU. 

Enter the Dorset Naga.  Developed by a mail order chili pepper grow house in the UK called Peppers by Post, the preliminary findings from labs testing the heat of the Dorset Naga is astounding.  Some have rated it as high as 1.6m SHU.  That's more than 5 times hotter than the habanero and approaching levels which are used as non-lethal weapons.

In a great article about chilies in The Economist titled "Global Warming", they quote the owner of Peppers by Post Michael Michaud,  “I sent the powder to a couple of labs. They didn’t believe the reading. They thought they had made a mistake.”

There are several videos online of people trying to eat the Dorset Naga.  Check them out, some are hilarious.

Authordavid koch
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Sometimes you are working on a dish and you catch yourself tasting it over and over again, searching for that je ne sais qua - you think it needs something but you just can't figure out what.  It is usually part of the foundation that is off; maybe salt, maybe acid or pepper.  

Other times it is depth you are looking to add, or possibly the fifth taste, umami.  From the kitchn comes these Eight Ways to Build Flavor.  They are worth repeating and we've added some of our own too.  You can't have enough tricks for bringing out flavor in your repertoire.

1. Searing the Meat - When cooking meat, taking time to sear the outside will add a heavenly depth of flavor to your final dish.

2. Deglazing the Pan - That dark layer at the bottom of your pan might look like burned food, but it's actually caramelized bits from everything you've been cooking. Once they've been deglazed, these bits melt into the background and form a savory flavor base in your dish.

3. Caramelizing the Onions - Like searing and deglazing, caramelizing onions and other vegetables by cooking them slowly gives your dish depth and adds interesting smoky and nutty flavors to your dish.

4. Toasting the Spices - This brings out the natural oils in the spices and boosts their aroma in the final dish. It's most effective to toast whole spices and then grind them.

5. Reducing the Sauce - Reducing concentrates all the flavors in a sauce. High, middle, and low notes become heightened, which enhances the overall taste of the sauce.

6. Salting to Taste - Salt reduces our perception of bitterness in dishes. If you've already added all the salt called for in the recipe, try adding a half teaspoon of salt or more and then see if you notice a difference.

7. Adding acidic and spicy ingredients - These also accentuate the high notes. If you've already added salt and you still think your dish needs "a little something," try adding a squeeze of lemon, a splash of vinegar, or a few shakes of Tabasco sauce.

8. Adding a splash of wine - Similar to adding an acidic ingredient, a splash of red or white wine can brighten the flavors in your dish.


We came up with Our Own 8 Ways to Build Flavor:

1.  When you season with salt and pepper, season each layer - When you start with the onions, season.  When you add the carrots, season again.  When you add the potatoes, season again.  

2.  Bacon - This adds a layer of smokiness and saltiness along with pure unadultered porky goodness.  Few dishes do not improve with the addition of bacon.

3.  Zest - The zest of citrus adds a piquant quality without actually adding acid.  Think outside lemon and lime too; a little orange or grapefruit zest can go a long way.

4.  Soy Sauce - this is a shortcut to bringing umami to the party, just keep in mind that soy sauce is also quite salty.  Soy sauce has almost the same sodium content of kosher salt by volume.  So that you don't over do it, add a touch in the beginning.  Low sodium soy sauce has on average 1/3rd less.

5.  Bouillon - We especially like the "Better than Bouillon" brand.  Keep in mind that every teaspoon adds another 250mg of sodium (or about 1/5th a teaspoon of kosher salt).  I often make vegetable soup just by sauteeing veggies, and throwing them in a pot with some bouillon.  Magnifique!

6.  Paprika - Along the flavor profile of black pepper, paprika adds a spicy, an earthy component; and if you use a smoked paprika, a smoky component too.  It also adds a bright ruddy color too which, keep in mind, may not go well with some dishes like a cream sauce. 

7.  Herbs - Adding fresh herbs right at the end of cooking or as a garnish brings bright notes and a blast of color.  Surprisingly enough, flat leafed parsley can be added to almost anything.

8. Chocolate - The cacao brings to the table an earthiness that adds a richness to savory flavor that, when used in moderation, most people cannot recognize but find delicious.  It is my secret ingredient in many of my stews and my chili; shh, don't tell anyone.

What other ways do you build flavor in your cooking?

Authordavid koch

photo by zoyachubby

There has been a wafting smell reminiscent of maple syrup in the Big Apple lately - causing bioterrorism concerns for many.  The occurrence has happened as far back in recent memory as October 2005, the NY Times reports, and it has been so potent as to have sparked a press conference by Mayor Bloomberg (via Gothamist).  Bloomberg states, “It wasn’t exactly akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, but a smell over a very large area.”  How perspicuous.

Investigators followed the scent to a  fragrance company in New Jersey called Frutarom who the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog suspects may be using fenugreek to refine a substitute for maple syrup flavor.  I only know fenugreek from Indian Cuisine, but what immediately strikes me is that fenugreek is the only spice in our cupboard that requires extra sequestering.  

Our fenugreek is not only a sealed zip-top bag, but that bag needs to be placed inside a Tupperware also in order to keep it from scenting everything in the cupboard "curry."  I suppose if there is one spice that could cross the Hudson, frighten the pants off of tens of thousands of citizens of New York City and make them think they were under attack... it would have to be fenugreek. 


Authordavid koch
CategoriesHumor, Science

Ital Cuisine photo by svacher

Today, February 6th, is Bob Marley's birthday and it would have been his 64th.  I thought today would be appropriate to investigate Rastafarian Cuisine, also known as Ital (from vital).  The Ital diet adheres to Biblical guidelines, mostly GenesisDeuteronomy, and especially Leviticus.  Ital dietary guidlines are, like anything else, open to many different interpretations.  

At it's core, Rastafarian diets are essentially composed of foods that are fresh and natural; avoiding chemicals, additives, coloring, flavoring, and preservatives.  Most Rastafarians also do not consume coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, or even Western medicines.  

Herbs, however, are GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe: an FDA term).  Many Rastafarians are vegetarian, but those who do not abstain from all meat generally avoid pork, shellfish, and often red meat.  Those who do eat fish, generally avoid fish more than 12 inches long.

Most also take measures to avoid consuming metal.  In order to avoid metal, some Rastafarians avoid cooking and serving food in metal vessels, and some even avoid metal eating utensils.  For the same reason, some also avoid foods that have been canned.  

Many avoid preparing food with salt and/or oil.  What's left you ask?  The bulk of their diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  I found this recipe on



  • 1lb 8ozs to 1lb 14ozs sweet potato (I used 1lb 14ozs in this Pudding)
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 to 1 ¼4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups soaked raisins (I have mine soaked in Sherry for over 5 years now. I top it off with more Raisins, Prunes and Sherry every time it gets too low in the bottle.)
  • ½ - 1 cup flour (More or less flour will make it firmer or less so I used half a cup)
  • 5ozs Beet Root or Carrots (optional)


  1. Puree sweet potato and coconut milk in blender
  2. Pour mixture into a bowl
  3. Dice beet root
  4. Add all the ingredients to the bowl. Mix and pour into a well greased 8" or 10" round tin
    (vegetable shortening to grease the tin)
  5. Bake at 350F for 1 ½ hours then 300F for 25 mins
  6. Remove from the oven immediately.
  7. Best eaten the next day or at least 5 hours after cooking.
  • The pudding sets as it cools.

    And this book, specifically on Rastafarian Cuisine.


    Authordavid koch
    2 CommentsPost a comment

    photo by southerntabitha

    I found this article from the San Francisco Chronicle's website, (via and it so funny it is worth repeating.  SF Gate columnist Mark Morford discovered an evangelist named Jim Rutz from Megashift Ministries who is proclaiming that because soy contains estrogen-like compounds (isoflavones), it is turning society gay.

    Jim Rutz claims:

    "Research is now showing that when you feed your baby soy formula, you're giving him or her the equivalent of five birth control pills a day. A baby's endocrine system just can't cope with that kind of massive assault, so some damage is inevitable. At the extreme, the damage can be fatal.  Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality.

    The danger zone is the first three months of both pregnancy and infancy, when male physiology and brain circuitry are still developing. In other words, a girl-chasing, football-playing college boy won't go gay even if he becomes a vegetarian or snacks all day on soy energy bars. (He might develop thyroid or other health problems or lose most of his libido, though.)"


    This increase in gay must because of the dramatic increase in the sale of soy products.


    From the FDA's website:

    "The problem, researchers say, is that isoflavones are phytoestrogens, a weak form of estrogen that could have a drug-like effect in the body. This may be pronounced in postmenopausal women, and some studies suggest that high isoflavone levels might increase the risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

    Research data, however, are far from conclusive, and some studies show just the opposite--that under some conditions, soy may help preventbreast cancer. It is this scientific conundrum, where evidence simultaneously points to benefits and possible risks, that is causing some researchers to urge caution."

    It sounds like Jim's claims are a big helping of crazy with a dash of pseudo-science just to throw off the sent of paranoid schizophrenia.

    Check out Mark's article where he goes "nuts" on Jim (soy nuts, anyone?).  It's hilarious.  Mark rants:

    "It is no secret, after all, that the consumption of excess Girl Scout cookies -- particularly Caramel deLites -- will make you a butch lesbian. It has also been reported in lesser-known scientific journals that eating lots of organic baby greens means you want to subscribe to the New Yorker and drive a Prius and get your genitals pierced, often at the same time.

    Stay in school, kids. Stay in school and for Christ's sake please learn something lest you end up like Jim, what with his trembling hands and his spasming colon and his violent nightmares featuring giant tofu robots leading perky armies of sashaying soy-fed children, marching into his yard wielding soy lattes and Barbra Streisand records and waving gay-marriage petitions like victory flags. Shudder."



    Authordavid koch
    6 CommentsPost a comment

    "My (little) garden" - photo by Erin Collins

    I'm not a health food nut, but I do enjoy some foods many consider should be reserved for Hare Krishna feasts and rabbits.  One of these delicious delicacies is sprouts.  I love 'em.  One really simple and delicious sandwich I make is just sprouts, honey, and peanut (or almond) butter.  Mmm.  

    There is plenty of new age hullabaloo about the benefits of eating sprouts and eating raw in general.  It is true that most enzymes are denatured, ergo useless, at temperatures above around 140 degrees Farenheit.  

    Enzymes are, on the other hand, also denatured by pH extremes like the acid in your stomach so... what's the point?  Most of what I found on the internet is ranges between the wacky and the outright delirious, but there are some good articles especially on making your own sprouts at home.

    I was reading (a website for frugal living) and they had this article on making your own sprouts.  It sounds really easy.  I want to experiment with sprouting different things, I'll bet they each have some different nuance.  

    Then I also found from there is a whole plethora of spout-it-yourself information in their article here.  Not only do they discuss the basics, but they go into different methods of sprouting, and have a nearly exhaustive list of specifics for each type of grain.  

    This list includes: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, wheat, almonds, cabbage, fenugreek, flax, psyllium, chia, mustard, pumpkin, radish, sesame, sunflower, alfalfa, clover, garbanzo, beans (including: Anasazi, Black, Fava, Kidney, Lima, Navy, Pinto, and Soy), lentils, Mung beans, peanuts and peas.

    I'm not alone with my sprout sandwiches.  Here are a few more that I found:


    From -  their Alternative Sprouts Sandwich

    From - thier Easy Tomato and Sprout Sandwich (at the bottom of the page)


    And from here is a really good looking recipe for what they call  Project 009: Avocado And Sprouts Sandwich

    - Dave Koch

    Authordavid koch

    Explosinve Orange - photo by noisen8r

    From the comedy magazine (now web-only), Cracked, comes a hilarious take on "7 Retarded Food Myths the Internet Thinks Are True."  I have heard most of them, in some way, shape, or form; however, I thought MSG burns your stomach lining, not your brain.  I also never knew how bad water was for you after eating.  How I've for lived this long - we'll never know.

    My own high school Physics teacher (Mr. Brundin?) had a story about HIS college Biochemistry professor keeping an unwrapped Twinkie on hand to make the class guess how old it is.  If I remember correctly, it was more than 20 years old.  Although it is all hearsay, I don't think I ate a Twinkie for at least the next ten years.

    This Twinkie story pre-dates the internet and I'm sure all of these rumors existed by word of mouth well before Netscape Navigator existed.  Nevertheless, at the time I had now way of "fact-checking" on the web (oxymoron?) to confirm or deny the truth behind Mr. Brundin's story.  So here are Cracked's Top 7:


    #7 - Coca-Cola Will Melt Your Stomach

    #6 - Red Bull Gives You Wings, and By Wings, We Mean a Brain Tumor

    #5 - MSG Burns Your Brain Cells

    #4 - Cold Water After a Meal will Give You Cancer... Or a Heart Attack...

    #3 - Twinkies Are Not Real Food, They Last Forever

    #2 - Margarine is Actually Plastic

    #1 - Canola Oil is RAPE OIL


    Read the article here for their Facts for each one and commentary from their readers.

    - Dave Koch

    Authordavid koch
    CategoriesHumor, Science

    Coconut - photo by anitasarkeesian

    There's been a ton of hype about Coconut Oil in the health food news lately and I went digging to see what I could find.  What started this article was a friendly argument with my sister in-law last April.  I knew that Coconut Oil wasn't as bad as the press has made it out to be.  But at the time, I couldn't tell her why...

    Remember the movie theater popcorn "butter" backlash?  coconut oil was implicated and I remember signs saying "No Coconut Oil used here" after the showdown.  As far back as 1994, the LA Times among others reported that, "A medium-sized "buttered" popcorn at a typical theater contains "more fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac-with-fries lunch and a steak dinner with all the trimmings combined," article found here.

    Two days after the dialectic with my sister in law, I went to Chicago for the 10th Annual Spring Fancy Food Show.  There, I met a representative for Coast Coconut Farms who convinced me to eat a teaspoon of their "Extra Virgin."  Because the melting point is 74 degrees Fahrenheit, he handed me a spoonful of a pure white solid but it instantly melted in my mouth.  It was delicious.  The other surprise was that it didn't coat my mouth like butter, shortening, or an animal fat would have.  

    I was intrigued.  I told him about the discussion I had just days prior and he filled me in on two commonly overlooked health benefits of coconut oil.  

    1. Although coconut oil is mostly saturated, the fatty acids are of small and medium length fatty acid chains, making up medium chain triglycerides.  Which are good for you, read about them here.
    2. Coconut oil is one of the best sources of lauric acid (44-45% of its total makeup)  - which is believed to not only have antimicrobial/antiviral properties but may naturally raise the metabolism. 

    Small chain fatty acids (SCFA) contain less than 8 carbon atoms.  Medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) contain 8-14 carbon atoms.  Large chain fatty acids (LCFA) contain more than 14.  

    Coconut oil may be mostly saturated fat (90%); however, it is mostly made up of SCFA's and MCFA's.  Almost 70% by volume via  As long as you are consuming unrefined, non-hydrogenated, and non-fractionated coconut oil, you are consuming a natural and healthy product.

    By contrast, olive oil is mostly made up of Oleic acid, a monounsaturated LCFA (55-83%) and Palmitic acid, a saturated LCFA (7-20%).  Even though it is mostly LCFA's, we all know how much the health benefits of olive oil are touted by the western medical world.

     I have since bought some and use it often.  Spreading it on toast, frying with it [especially eggs, yum!], and although I have not baked with it yet, they say it can be substituted ounce for ounce with shortening.  This is a great tip if you are looking to remove trans-fats from you pie crusts or biscuits.

    Give it a chance, I personally like Nutiva Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil 54oz.


    Authordavid koch

    What's on your stethescope? - photo by pixel bunny

    From WebMD, the ever-increasingly-popular, online resource, for-all-that-ails-you, comes an interesting article about food trends in 2008.  No surprise, it all revolves around eating healthy.  

    • Food Trend No. 1: Eco-Friendly Foods
      • "Captain Planet called, he's wondering happened to The Planeteers..."
    • Food Trend No. 2: Local, Natural, and Fresh Foods
      • Organic asparagus from Chile? Or, local asparagus... that have been sprayed?  Hmm, so many choices these days.
    • Food Trend No. 3: Concern About Food Safety
    • Food Trend No. 4: Higher Prices
      • Keith Collins, former chief economist for the Department of Agriculture, estimates that biofuels have caused 23 to 35 percent of the increases in food costs. (from
    • Food Trend No. 5: Prebiotics and Probiotics
      • So don't forget to eat your yogurt and drink your kombucha or one day you may need a fecal transplant!
    • Food Trend No. 6: Whole Grains
    • Food Trend No. 7: Simple Ingredients and Clearer Labels
      • Clear Labels?  Grams of fat?  Americans don't know the metric system! It's no wonder we're fat!  Why is food the only thing for which we use grams?
    • Food Trend No. 8: Emphasis on Lowering Salt
      • From, "But the salt industry says that with the exception of a minority of patients with high blood pressure, there is no clear proof..."
    • Food Trend No. 9: Alternative Sweeteners
      • Isn't it funny how Sweet 'N Low in the US is made from saccharin (which is banned in Canada) and Sweet 'N Low in Canada contains cyclamate (which is banned in the US). - from 
    • Food Trend No. 10: Bottled Water Backlash
      • From, "In 2006, Americans drank about 167 bottles of water each but only recycled an average of 23 percent. That leaves 38 billion water bottles in landfills."

    I hope soon that our society will begin to look beyond a minimalist approach to health; beyond just calories, grams of fat, proteins, carbs, and the % of RDA of vitimins A-E.  

    There is so much more.  Polyphenols,  flavonoids (or bioflavonoids), resveratrol, peptides!  We are only starting to discover these because we had blinders on.

    Take an apple for example, the FDA labels it as having potassium, fiber, sugar, 2% of Iron, 2% of Vitamin A, 8% of Vitamin C.  Pretty meager really.  

    The breakfast cereal Lucky Charms chimes in with far more vitamins.  Recent studies have finally isolated folic acid, quercetin, flavonoids, phytonutrients, and  procyanidin are all contained within apples (these are good things).

    We have known all along about what, "an apple a day" will do for you.  We're just begining to learn why.


    Authordavid koch

    Homebrew beer fermenting in carboy - photo by geoffeg

    I've been brewing my own beer at home for 14 years now and although it is easy... it does require some specialized equipment and quite a bit of homework.  I could have never done it without Charlie Papazian's The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing - AKA "The Bible" for novice and experienced homebrewers alike.  Basically, anyone who enjoys making their own suds.  You can brew as basic or as complex of beer as you like to.  

    I have gone as far as making "Mocha Stout"  by adding cacao powder and espresso to a stout.  "Chile Lime Pulque" which was brewed using Agave malt extract (instead of barley malt extract), adding lime, and then dropping a chile into every bottle.  Spicy spicy stuff.  "Kava Kava Cranberry Mint" started as an American Ale with Kava Kava, cranberry, and you guessed it... mint.  Go nuts.

    After you are all set up and prepped, it takes about 4 hours to make 5 gallons.  I'm already including extra time in there for clean up too, which can get a little messy.  That's enough beer to fill (53) 12-ounce bottles, or if you're lazy like me, (21) 22-ounce bottles and some change.  

    There is really only a 2 hour commitment (at minimum) to cook the wort [which is pronounced WERT], 10 days or so in the fermenter, and about 2 hours to bottle.  Two more weeks to ferment in the bottle and you're ready to drink it!

    Recently I discovered MR.BEER , and at first I doubted the efficacy of brewing without 5 gallon buckets, a carboy, an air lock, and all those tubes that my wife adores when I hang them all over the kitchen to dry!  But then I saw this video of Garrett Oliver demonstrating it on YouTube.  He's the Brewmaster of The Brooklyn Brewery, and the author of The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food.  So in my game, he's legit!

    This is not going to replace the bucket method and grain pushers the world over don't have to worr.  But what I like about ths system  is that someone can TRY homebrewing without much investment; in their time or money.  They offer a pretty large selection try experiment with different styles and the starter kits are only $40 here.



    Authordavid koch
    CategoriesDrinks, Science