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By Laura Stec

Ingredients to Watch For in 2016

Uploaded: Dec 28, 2015

The Top Ten and Best of lists hit the papers this week, as we prepare for the arrival of 2016. Yesterday's Associated Press list made me smile because the six things listed all have base in macrobiotics, a topic we've Food Partied! on in the past:

Michio Kushi and One Peaceful World

Like Horse Penis

Little fish
anchovy, sardine, bonito, niboshi...
kombu, dulse, hiziki, nori...
Complex carbohydrate sweeteners
brown rice syrup, barley malt, apple cider syrup, date sugar...
Umeboshi plums
teff, triticale, buckwheat, millet, kamut, freekah....
red lentil, lupini, fava, azuki...

The first two ingredients, little fish and seaweed, are gaining notoriety in part because of their contribution to umami, considered the Japanese fifth taste (savory) in addition to the old classics: sweet, sour, salty and bitter (plus pungent if you like). They are also becoming popular as our Top of the Seafood Chain Diet is examined more closely. We don’t eat the lions, tigers or bears, so it’s notable to acknowledge we eat mostly the kings and queens of the sea, and how devastating this must be to the health of our oceans.

Growing weary of high fructose corn syrup, the nation also appears to be turning to alternate sweeteners distilled from fruits, grains and other plants such as apple, barley and agave. As you see more in stores, remember a sugar is a sugar, no matter what form it comes in. Always eat in moderation.

Umeboshi plums are considered the macrobiotic antibiotic, guaranteed to aid what ails you.

At Vega Macrobiotic Center, a cooking school I trained at in the 90’s, we were taught they are the “least sweet fruit,” and pickled them instead with a bit of shiso herb for a dark red color. For years I have taught ume is one of the “best kept culinary secrets,” offering a rich, unique flavor whether used as a whole plum, a paste, or a vinegar made from the plum. At Vega we added the whole plum to a delicious morning twig/bancha tea, accompanied by a little soy sauce and kudzu (a thickener and stomach soother). We also mixed the plums with tahini for a flavor-packed salad dressing, or spread the plum paste on corn-on-the-cob in place of butter. Cornellia even used to tape plums to the sides of students foreheads to prevent car sickness on the long and winding road up to macrobiotic summer camp in the Tahoe Forest. God bless her home remedy soul. It worked!

One of the best, fastest lessons I can share about whole grains comes from my book, Cool Cuisine – Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming. Most of us only cook grains by steeping or boiling – one part grain to two parts liquid. But did you know you can bake grains, pop some like popcorn, or boil like pasta? Or if you toast a raw grain in a dry skillet before cooking it deepens the flavor profile? Different applications yield different results. As you experiment with new grains, consider new cooking methods too. Your 2016 homework is to match new grains with the cooking style you most prefer.

Maybe that, and the effort to actually look into the eyes of the person you’ll be toasting this holiday, are the New Years resolutions you’ve been looking for?

Wishing you many great Food Parties! in 2016.

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