Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gotta love those food innovations

Sometimes you find a new product that just gets you really excited.  At least I get really excited about food.  After making lunch today, I got so nostalgic about my old food science related jobs that I went and got a new subscription to one of my favorite food innovation magazines.  What spurred this return to food tech?  Parsley.  Yes, humble parsley.  And dried at that.  Well, not exactly...  Freeze dried.  I remember when freeze drying was something totally new and cool and only used by NASA, the military and hard core mountaineers.  I remember buying really expensive freeze dried astronaut ice cream at OMSI.  It was Neapolitan flavor.  And I remember how cool it was to get a few packs of freeze dried food to pack into the mountains while camping, oh so much lighter than the canned goods we would occasionally bring along.  Then outdoor and sporting goods stores like REI started carrying gourmet freeze dried meals.  Also expensive.  You may have seen Mountain House® freeze dried meals and desserts there.  MREs have come a LONG way from what they used to be thanks to improving techniques in the freeze dry process.  If you ever get a chance to tour a freeze drying facility, it is really cool.  We toured Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc. in Albany, OR while I was getting my degree in food science at OSU.  Then we got to use the OSU pilot plant to make our own freeze dried food.  Of course my team chose ice cream at my urging.  It turned out pretty good too though it flaked into layers.  May have been because the sublimation rate was too slow.  If you aren't familiar with the process, the food in question is frozen and dehydrated in a vacuum.  That's a very basic description.  If you want to learn more, go check out Oregon Freeze Dry's website:  http://www.ofd.com/food/gci/index.html   "Frozen foods retain fresh flavor and nutritional value, but require uniform, low temperature storage conditions. Dehydrated and canned foods are shelf-stable, but high-temperature processing can degrade flavor, texture and nutritional content. Freeze-drying combines the best of these processing methods. It preserves freshness, color and aroma similar to frozen food, while providing the shelf-stable convenience of canned or dehydrated food."  As you can see from my long ramble, this particular food process is one I find interesting and innovative.
So back to the parsley.  Almost.  A few months ago I saw a jar of freeze dried minced garlic in the produce section.  I am always running out of garlic.  Sometimes I will use the jarred minced garlic, but that is canned and has more of a roasted garlic flavor.  It just lacks that nice pungent bite of fresh garlic.  So I thought I'd try this stuff.  It says right on the package:  As close as you can get to fresh.  It was not kidding.  Good stuff.  It's not hot like fresh, but it does have that fresh garlic flavor that canned minced garlic lacks.  So when I saw that there were more spice offerings the next month, I picked up some parsley.  It was brilliant green.  A far cry from that jar of faded greenish brown dried parsley in the pantry at home.  Check it out:

I used the parsley in a nice chowder both in the soup and as garnish.  I may have to try out some of their other spice offerings...

Now this was soup I made a couple days ago and reheated and the parsley in it is still mostly nice and green.  I know it's not the greatest picture, but that parsley on top looks like fresh doesn't it?  In person, it really does.  And it brightened up the chowder nicely too.  This is good soup.  It's also... shhhhhhhh... low carb.  And one of my favorites.  Everyone in the house loves it.  It's like baked potato soup.  I have to fight my toddler for it or give her a bowl of her own.  For the eating program I am using, Metabolism Miracle, this is a neutral or free food.  Here, try it out:

Miracle "Potato-less" Soup

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
2 finely chopped green onions (chopped regular onions work in a pinch)
1-2 cloves minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth (I use enough to just cover however much cauliflower I use - I like a thick chowder)
4 oz light sour cream
4 oz shredded light Cheddar cheese
2 T butter (original calls for ¼ cup and I tend to forget it completely)
1 tsp fresh or freeze dried parsley :)  (My addition for color)
6 strips turkey bacon cooked crisp and chopped (or the equivalent in bacon bits)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
(optional - dash of tabasco - brightens up and adds nice flavor)

Gently boil the cauliflower, onions and garlic in the chicken broth.  After 10 to 15 minutes, check for complete tenderness of the cauliflower.  When cauliflower is tender, puree the soup with a stick blender.  If you don't have one, you can take out the cauliflower and puree it in a blender or food processor, then return it to the broth.  It won't be quite as smooth, but still good.  Add in the sour cream, cheese and butter and mix until smooth.  Add the chopped bacon or bacon bits and stir over medium heat.  Stir in the parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.  You can also add more broth at this point if you like a thinner soup.

Serves 6 (yeah right)

Enjoy!  Really, it's good!

Adapted from Diane Kress The Metabolism Miracle

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