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    Half-sour cucumbers, hold the salt

    Half-sour cucumbers, hold the salt

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    Copyright 2008-2015Slow Food Fast. All writing and images on this blog unless otherwise attributed or set in quotes are the sole property of Slow Food Fast. Please contact DebbieN via the comments form for permissions before reprinting or reproducing any of the material on this blog.

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    SlowFoodFast sometimes addresses general public health topics related to nutrition, heart disease, blood pressure, and diabetes. Because this is a blog with a personal point of view, my health and food politics entries often include my opinions on the trends I see, and I try to be as blatant as possible about that. None of these articles should be construed as specific medical advice for an individual case. I do try to keep to findings from well-vetted research sources and large, well-controlled studies, and I try not to sensationalize the science (though if they actually come up with a real cure for Type I diabetes in the next couple of years, I'm gonna be dancing in the streets with a hat that would put Carmen Miranda to shame. Consider yourself warned).

Nectarine Sorbet, Light on the Sugar

Nectarine sorbet, ready to freeze

Last summer when I had too many nectarines all at once, and they were starting to go soft in the fridge, I sliced them up and froze them as-is to dig out and gnaw on whenever the temperature got over 100 or so–which it did, often. I did admit it wasn’t a recipe, as such, and that if you really wanted, it might be worth blending them up for a granita or sorbet. But it was too hot to bother, and I didn’t care how silly it looked to stand around with the freezer door open just to grab a wedge and chill myself a bit.

This summer, luckily, I have the same problem–not the nectarines from the big Ralph’s/Kroger supermarket, those are still hard as rocks and have almost no scent most of the time. But the Armenian greengrocers get all the overgrown, just-about-overripe, bee-bitten and split-pit nectarines and peaches, the ones that aren’t perfect, hard and shiny, and that have an insane-making aroma when you pass by.

I always have to grab as many as I can, which is about eight or ten at a time, and hope I can hide them in the fridge just long enough to snag one for myself before my teenager decides they all belong to her and what are we looking at her like that for? Grrr…

Well–I hid them from myself as well this time, buried them under a couple of bags of fresh herbs for a couple of days, and when I relocated them, about seven of them were getting just to the point where I had to do something or else. So I cut them in wedges and froze them, of course. It was a lot–about a quart of cut-up fruit. And after testing out a couple of wedges, I thought, well, what if I try the sorbet thing with the rest of them after all?

frozen nectarine wedges

The only problem with sorbet is that it usually contains a lot more sugar syrup than I think it needs if the fruit is properly ripe. Three-quarters of a cup of sugar (150 grams) for a quart–sometimes just a pint–of sorbet is like drinking whole cups of Concord grape juice. Very spiky for a diabetic kid–or prediabetic adult. With the carb content of whatever fruit you use, it can add up to 35-45 grams of carb per serving. A whole large nectarine by itself has about 25 grams of carb, and at least it’s got fiber.

And the toothaching standard of American commercial dessert sweetness blankets the taste of fresh fruit until it’s not really fresh anymore. It might as well be canned. This is acceptable–just–for blackberries and raspberries, which are pretty sour if you don’t add sugar, and which keep a lot of their flavor cooked, but absolutely horrible for nectarines and peaches.

If you can get nectarines or peaches that actually taste like they came off a tree and not out of a warehouse, you do not want to cook all the wildness and tart freshness out of them (apricots–go for it; they actually improve sometimes with baking). Continue reading

Cannoli that won’t bust the carb count

Cannoli paste my way

This is a story about frugality–of the serendipitous sort.

The other week my daughter was with me at the supermarket (sometimes a mistake, sometimes an inspiration), and asked if we could get a packet of sugar cones to go with a drum of Dreyer’s ice cream. This was a trade-off for forfeiting Baskin-Robbins, whose ice cream is consistently higher in fat and carb than Dreyer’s or Breyer’s.

(Shakespearean aside #1) The B-R nutrition brochure is worth a pretty serious look for calories, fat, carbs, the total picture. You can definitely eat a days’ worth of calories–upward of 1500–in a single sitting if you order one of the fancier items. Skip the soft serve and stick to the single cone, for sure.

Not that we never stop in for a cone, but we never knew what the sugar cones were worth carbwise so Abby was limited to a paper cup or a cake cone. And of course for the price of two modest single cones at B-R, you could buy a 1.5 qt. carton at the store and scoop about 10 servings out of it yourself.

In the supermarket, the box with the sugar cones says 10 grams for Keebler and 11 grams for the Ralph’s (Kroger-affiliated) store brand, which is on sale, and about 50 calories per cone. The sugar cones have surprisingly simple ingredient lists for a processed food–wheat, brown sugar, vegetable oil, oat fiber (Ralph’s version) and a bit of salt (though not much–20 mg/cone) and maybe a little caramel coloring and malt flavoring.

But of course the ice cream tends to run out a bit sooner than the cones. And then what? Here’s where the “frugality” comes into it again (okay, I’m sort of rolling my eyes too, but still.)

I had about half a quart of ricotta left over from manicotti (same idea as for the microwaved stuffed shells, only using a plastic baggie with a corner torn out to pipe the spinach and cheese filling into both sides of the parcooked pasta tubes–worked pretty well actually). And ricotta, even on sale, is kind of expensive if you just let half of it sit in the fridge until it goes bad because there isn’t quite enough for another batch of pasta and you don’t know what else to do with it.

So anyway, the availability of leftover ricotta (I’m too cheap to do it with a brand new carton) plus the leftover cones added up in my head the other night to “Hey! Impromptu cannoli! Right now! And I don’t even have to go back to the store!”

I should probably explain.

The first cannoli I ever had were also the best. The parents of one of my sister’s high school friends ran a tiny Italian deli and specialty shop way out near the airport of our town, and what can I say–it was worth the schlep. In addition to imported pastas and olives and pickled peppers and salami and so on, you could buy a tub of their own fresh cannoli paste and a box of carefully packed pastry tubes so you could assemble the cannoli yourself at home and not risk sogginess or breakage on the way.

The D’Elicios’ cannoli paste contained ricotta, of course, sugar, and something else that I finally pinned down as lemon (and possibly orange) rind. And it was heaven on a spoon. So good I asked my mom to bring a box of their cannoli instead of a birthday cake to my college dorm  for my 18th birthday.

How was I to know that would be the last of the really great cannoli for decades? Continue reading

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