VENTING ON VACCINES

Disclaimer #1:  This is not a food-related post

Disclaimer #2: I am taking my gloves off

Few things upset me more than the disturbing movement to stop vaccinating babies and kids. For a while now I’ve been debating whether I should write about it. Having watched an episode of Frontline the other day that dealt with the subject, and almost succumbing to cardiac arrest while screaming at the screen, I decided I cannot stay silent any longer. First of all, let me get this straight out up front: I have a doctoral degree in Biochemistry, three years post-doctoral experience in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford, and I taught Microbiology to Medical students in Brazil at Universidade de Sao Paulo. I also worked for about 10 years on basic research into the biotechnology of vaccines.   I’m not bragging, but I am stating my experience, that hopefully will convince you to read what I want to say,  especially if you are part of the non-vaccination crowd.  And, by the way, if you are part of this group YOU ARE WRONG. There is no equivocation or debate on this point: the truth is not subject to a democratic process.  It’s not a matter of opinion, personal choice or civil liberties. It’s a matter of what is right versus what is wrong. What is responsible versus what is reckless.  The anti-vaccine position cannot be intellectually or ethically justified, and it is morally wrong.  When the health of children is at stake, then morality becomes an issue.

I don’t criticize anyone for ignorance of a topic (and this is a complicated topic), but a parent doesn’t have the right to put the lives of their, or anyone else’s children at risk because of their ignorance.  If you are anti-vaccine, then you are ignoring over 100 years of research on immunology and microbiology.   I am not going to mince words here, because this is a subject that is too serious to mince words:  the anti-vaccine movement is socially irresponsible.  Anti-vaccine advocates deny both the mortal risk of bacterial or viral infections, and by their actions they potentially commit a crime: the crime of resurrecting horrible diseases that would otherwise, and should otherwise,  stay as nightmares of the past.

measles-cases-616px

Measles cases from 2001 through 2015: from this source

 

If you watch the Frontline episode you’ll become acquainted with a young mother from Ashland, OR, who is clueless about microbiology and immunology.  This woman, who has a doctorate in English, was so mistaken in her arguments that it shocked me that the producers devoted more than a few minutes to her reasoning. I will use her “arguments” to highlight the crucial points of this discussion.  I’m quoting from memory, because I can’t bring myself to watch the show again, but even if the words are not exactly what she said, I  preserved the gist.  You can trust me on that point, and you can watch the show if you’d like to double check it.

“Why are we vaccinating kids today with so many vaccines, when previous generations had fewer vaccines and they were ok?” Oh, dear…  I could answer that with three simple words: BECAUSE WE CAN. Because more vaccines became available over the past two generations.  Because we should immunize with even more vaccines as they become available. Because no one born in this country after the 80’s should risk contracting measles. Or mumps. No one born after the 60’s should contract poliomyelitis, or tetanus, or diptheria, or bacterial meningitis.  Or any other infectious disease for which a vaccine is available.

“Why would I vaccinate my young girl against a sexually transmitted disease (Human Papilloma Virus, HPV) when obviously she’s not sexually active and won’t be for many years?” Oh, dear…  If you bothered to study Immunology 101, a subject that you are so quick to misrepresent, you would learn that immunity begins during the first encounter with a pathogen (or its selected components), but must be reinforced (boosted) by subsequent encounters, which explains why some vaccines are repeated over   months or years. It’s all part of generating special cells called “memory B-cells” that stay in the bloodstream in very low numbers, awaiting another encounter with the specific pathogen (or in this case a small part of the pathogen, loosely defined as an “antigen”) to show up. Once in contact with the pathogen again, memory B cells  proliferate and generate a huge quantity of neutralizing antibodies that will prevent you from becoming sick.  Another, more complex “arm” of the immune response, “cellular immunity,” also plays a role in protection against infection, but let’s not get too technical.  Different vaccines promote immunity for different amounts of time, and require different doses and boosting schedules. In the case of the HPV vaccine,  preteens develop a stronger response than teens and young adults, and for HPV vaccines to take effect they must be given prior to exposure to the virus.  That’s why doctors recommend vaccinating young kids, as early as 9 years-old.  They do not imply that your daughter could be having sex at age 9. It’s all about optimization of immunity.  And let’s not forget that infections with HPV lead to higher rates of cervical and ovarian cancer later in life, so the vaccine has a purpose and  a positive effect on human health.

EPPUR SI MUOVE
(Galileo Galilei, 1663)

“Why do we need to vaccinate against polio? There is no more polio around!”  The expression on her face was one of “I am so clever, see how I gotcha with that?” You know what her remark made me think of? Someone who might have asked 200 years ago: “…is the Earth moving around the sun? Of course it’s  not!  I would feel it moving if it moved. I am so clever, see how I gotcha with that?”  The reason we do not see polio in the US anymore is simple: comprehensive vaccination reduced the number of people who may contract the virus and spread it.  Is a vaccine 100% efficient? No, such vaccines don’t exist because the complexities of each individual immune system may prevent some people from responding to a particular vaccine.  If a small fraction of the population is not protected, it’s usually OK, even when the virus is around, and chances are no one will get sick.  So, if someone comes to New York from Pakistan (where polio is still endemic), bringing with him/her the virus in an airplane,  and walks around in the city for a couple of weeks, it’s likely that no one will contract the disease because the vaccination campaign started in the 1960’s provided solid immunity to almost all New Yorkers.   Now, suppose instead that the person lands in Portland, OR,  and travels to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR, where the percentage of un-vaccinated individuals is much higher. In Ashland a bunch of people (full of good intentions, but clueless about the relationship between immunology and health) are busy waving flags and demanding that their kids be spared from dictatorial, mandatory vaccinations. You will have a much, much higher chance that some innocent un-vaccinated child  will contract polio in Ashland.  And because many kids are not immunized in that community, it could mark the beginning of a polio outbreak.   For heaven’s sake, what would Louis Pasteur say about this if he could   witness it all? At first he would be thrilled to see that the work he started in France with rabies and fowl cholera paid off:  vaccination saved millions of lives, improved the quality of life of people all over the world, and at a very low cost.  But then he’d be shocked, frustrated, and angry to realize the lack of a vaccine against arrogance, stubbornness and social irresponsibility. And, malheureusement, that the internet is an equal-opportunity forum that allows stupid ideas to thrive. Especially if they are fueled by human emotions. More on that later.

“Why is it now a problem to get sick? Disease is a natural thing, people should get sick and allowed to recover.  Vaccines are not natural.”  Oh, dear… This statement almost made me lose it. The sheer absurdity of it, the social irresponsibility, the disconnection with the reality of what such diseases cause to human beings.   The words hurt my ears.  But, that’s what she (and other anti-vaccine folks) advocate. Poliomyelitis causes permanent paralysis in 10 to 20% of the people infected. In the house next to mine in São Paulo lived a couple with two kids.  One of them contracted polio as a young child and was permanently confined to a wheelchair.  I remember seeing him on sunny days being brought by his mom to the balcony so he could sit and watch the street.   One of my husband’s best friends, here in the US in Lansing MI, had polio.  He couldn’t run; he walked with steel leg braces and two steel canes, one in each hand.  He was forever sentenced to watching all the play, sports and games of his friends and classmates.   Some images are hard to forget. But nowadays we don’t see these cases anymore.  Still, you don’t have to see them to be horrified by the prospect of a young child paralyzed for life.  And that is what the statement “let them get sick” can do to someone.  Today, in 2015, measles kills 400 people worldwide per day. It’s a death that affects the un-vaccinated rich and poor alike, the well-fed and the malnourished. I can’t comprehend an intelligent person advocating “let them get sick.”  I am the one who’s sick: sick and tired of people equating “natural” with “good.”  Sure, it a potentially good concept, but also potentially naive, and in the case of the anti-vaccine movement, it’s a potentially deadly concept that borders on criminal.

Pertussis_loresBaby suffering from whooping cough – image from Wikimedia 

Now, to the heart of this matter. Why all of a sudden do we witness such a strong pull away from one of THE most beneficial practices in the history of human health, probably matched only by water treatment and antibiotics? It all started with autism and the suspicion that vaccination was responsible for the increase in cases of this horrible illness. To add fuel to the fire, a SINGLE article published in a scientific journal (The Lancet) in 1998 suggested a link between MMR immunization and autism. Many of the most vocal people against vaccination have autistic children, and some state that the onset of the symptoms coincided with their immunization.  One of the “celebrities” who is most aggressive at pushing this agenda is Jenny McCarthy.  I understand she has an autistic boy and and she believes that MMR vaccination caused his illness.  I sympathize with her and his suffering and struggles, as well as those of other parents and children, but that doesn’t make them right. THEY ARE WRONG.  The connection between autism and vaccination was bogus.  It was subsequently extensively studied by many independent groups of scientists in many different countries and laboratories.  Andrew Wakefield, the author of the infamous article connecting vaccination and autism, was rebuked for conflicts of interest,  had his paper retracted and was barred from practicing medicine in the UK.   Can you smell fraud?  The problem is that even in the light of comprehensive scientific evidence to the contrary (summarized here),  disproving ANY connection between vaccination and autism, the anti-vaccine advocates won’t budge. When the articles mounted disconnecting the measles vaccine as a culprit, they changed their focus to its mercury-containing component thimerosal, that was used in the formulation of some of the original MMR vaccines  (current vaccines, BTW do not contain any mercury). When thimerosal was also proven to have nothing to do with autism, they said that the problem was “… too many vaccines are given at the same time.”   The sad reality is this: no amount of scientific evidence is enough to convince those people that their kids did not develop the disease because of vaccination. In fact, in that Frontline episode one father screamed “I don’t give a (expletive) about their data!.” So, instead of accepting that for the time being it is unknown why autism is increasing, and that vaccination has zero impact on it, they follow their gut feelings. From watching the program and reading comments on the internet, I realize that anti-vaccine advocates resist logic and believe instead that scientists are for the most part unethical, and have some hidden financial agenda to hide problems with vaccination.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. Epidemiological studies do not lie:  the numbers are analyzed and correlations made or not made. Anti-vaccine advocates are potentially diverting the focus of scientists from research that may ultimately explain the increases in autism, because they insist like Ms. McCarthy  “we just want them to do the research that is needed.”   In their minds, “research that is needed” are studies that prove a connection they firmly believe in. Otherwise, they will ignore it and fight it. Gut feelings rule.  Fake publications, that are retracted, and the author stripped of his medical license, mean absolutely nothing.   Mr. Wakefield should go to trial because he is indirectly responsible for many preventable illnesses and deaths.

Final words on the importance of vaccination. When you are sick with a bacterial infectious disease, you can take antibiotics to get rid of it. The antibiotic will do good for you, but only you. The beauty of vaccination is that when a person is immunized then others share the benefits,  including individuals that are un-vaccinated. Think about newborns, about those undergoing cancer treatment, or suffering from immuno-suppression of some type. The mechanism behind this side-benefit is called “herd immunity”. When a large enough proportion of individuals in a population becomes immune to an infectious disease (either viral or bacterial), the disease will have difficulty spreading.  In other words, even those non-vaccinated persons get protection by the low probability of encountering the pathogen.  Now, what anti-vaccine advocates seem to think is that their kids don’t need to be vaccinated because other “fools” are doing it, so their kids will be OK by default.  However, herd immunity will not be maintained unless the proportion of immunized people is kept at the target level. This proportion is not hocus-pocus, it’s a carefully calculated number, based on the infectivity of each pathogen. The index used for this calculation is called “Reproductive Number” and reflects the measure of how many people can potentially be infected by a single sick individual. For measles, a highly contagious disease, this number is around 15. Mathematical calculations using the Reproductive Number show that for measles, a level of immunization of around 90 to 95% is required to sustain herd immunity.  Less than that, and the disease will not be kept at bay. You can read more about how the calculations are made by clicking here.

Using predictions of infectivity based on poliovirus, this is what The World Health Organization has to say:  “As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from the last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world”.

When anti-vaccine advocates preach their illogical stance on this issue, they are acting irresponsibly. Some communities of the USA risk paying a huge price for accommodating such requests and making exceptions due to religious beliefs or gut feelings like  “vaccines cause autism.”  If a serious outbreak of measles, polio, or pertussis takes place, what will those folks say in their own defense? Will they finally admit to being wrong? What good will that do for young parents losing their babies? For kids dying or being affected forever?  If you are ready to go to the streets waving flags and acting hysterically against immunization, you better be ready to stand up and say “I helped create this episode of human suffering and debilitation” when a serious outbreak takes place.  And unfortunately, unless firm action is take by those authorities on the correct side of the issue, I’m afraid it will be just a matter of time before we see the ugly face of an outbreak, in cities like Ashland, OR.

 

 

 

 

 

ARE YOU AFRAID OF CELERY ROOT?

If I had to choose a word to define my childhood and even teenage years, fear would be it. To name a few of my fears: darkness, sleeping alone, mirrors, clowns, dolls, sleepovers,  odd numbers (don’t ask), heights, cockroaches. There were many more, but let’s keep it simple, shall we? Glad to report that just as my pickiness to eat, those fears are a thing of the past. Except heights and cockroaches. The former I still try to work on, cockroaches are out of question. I am talking about the tropical kind, with their scary dimensions and uncanny ability to fly across a room. I shiver just to think about them. Growing up, I don’t remember ever seeing  celery root in our home, but being the easily scared self I was,  I bet I would be afraid of it too. It does look like a large potato under the spell of black magic. Something that belongs in the setting of Hansel and Gretel’s tale (which as a matter of fact gave me nightmares for months after reading it as a child).

ingredients
But, don’t let celery root (aka celeriac) looks prevent you from enjoying it. Under that harsh appearance, lies a beautiful white entity, with a flavor vaguely reminiscent of celery, but much more complex.  Yes, it is a bit hard to peel, and if you are not careful a finger or two could be hurt in the process, but keep calm, peel on, and make soup before the weather gets too hot.  Too hot. What a silly statement. Sorry, sometimes I make no sense.

Parsnip&CeleriacSoupCELERIAC AND PARSNIP SOUP WITH TOASTED COCONUT
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium celery rib, diced
1 shallot, minced
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut in chunks
3 to 4 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and cut in chunks
salt and black pepper
dash of nutmeg
4 cups water
lemon juice to taste

Heat the olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate all ingredients. Sautee the shallot with the celery until fragrant and shallots become translucent. Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Add the pieces of parsnips and celeriac, saute for a few minutes, moving them around.

Add water, making sure it cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, cook until parsnips and celeriac pieces are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the veggies with some of the water to a blender or food processor, blend until smooth. You might need to do it in two batches, being careful while processing hot liquids (using a blender keep the lid open and cover the top with a kitchen cloth).  Use only enough water to get the consistency you like.

Return the processed soup to the pan on low heat, adjust consistency with the reserved water if needed. Season with nutmeg, add a squeeze of lemon juice, taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve with coconut flakes (unsweetened) sautéed in olive oil or butter, lightly seasoned with salt, or with any other topping you like.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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This was a delicious soup, the lemon juice at the end does that citric magic I am very fond of. If I had a dollar bill for every time I use lemon juice in my cooking, I’d be rich. You can make this soup a bit more luscious adding a touch of cream if you want, or using chicken stock instead of water, but I often like to keep things simple and let the flavor of the veggies take the spotlight.  I am not quite sure about the nutmeg. I love nutmeg with cauliflower and in bechamel sauce, but I might omit it in this soup next time. Maybe I used too heavy a hand, I thought the flavor was a bit too strong. Anyway, if you make it, go easy with it and taste it.

Before I say goodbye, here is a small collection of recipes to help you lose any residual fear of celery root… just in case you need it  ;-)

SWEET AND SOUR CELERIAC SEPHARDIC STYLE, from Tasty Eats

CELERY ROOT, APPLE AND WALNUT SALAD from Cooking and Traveling in Italy and Beyond

CELERY ROOT LETTUCE WRAPS from The Wimpy Vegetarian

CELERY ROOT REMOULADE, from Kitchen Riffs

FRENCH LENTILS WITH CARAMELIZED CELERY ROOT, from Martha Stewart

POACHED EGGS OVER CELERY ROOT LATKES, from Fresh Start

POTATO AND CELERY ROOT ROSTI, from Martha Stewart

I hope you enjoyed this small tour on celeriac possibilities, and if you are a celeriac virgin, you will give it a try in the near future. Nothing to fear, I promise!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Prime Rib Roast, Mexican Style

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

THREE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: GLUTEN-FREE & VEGAN RASPBERRY BARS

Last Monday of March, a month that makes me happy for several reasons. I was born in March, Phil and I got married 15 years ago in March, and the month also welcomes the beginning of Spring.  Can you fully grasp the unmeasurable joy associated with it? It means I survived another winter, and here I am, alive and kicking to share with you one more adventure as part of The Secret Recipe Club.   You know, that event that pairs two food bloggers in secret, and then the whole group posts about their chosen dish at exactly the same time. My assignment this month was the blog Without Adornment, hosted by Bean. She has a degree in Chemical Engineering, and her hobbies are cooking/baking, and photography, so of course her blog is a perfect venue to showcase her talent.  I was thrilled by this assignment, because Bean is a very accomplished baker who must make exclusively gluten-free recipes. Those of you who have gluten allergies know how tricky it can be to try and mimic the delicious cookies, breads, pies, and muffins that rely on gluten for perfect texture and taste. Browsing her blog really opened my horizons and the list of goodies I wanted to try was extensive.  To name a few, I was inclined to bake a batch of her White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries,  then almost chose her Gluten-Free Pear Clafoutis, Another amazing option that I will bake soon: Dairy Free Creme Brulée (using coconut milk, how sweet is that?). As usual, savory stuff appeals a lot to me, so I also saved her Vegan Walnut Zucchini Crackers for final consideration. After a little bit of a mental struggle,  I went with her Raspberry Bars, in part because they use quinoa flakes and I had a box sitting in my pantry begging to come out and play.  I could not miss the opportunity…

RasberryBars

GLUTEN FREE VEGAN RASPBERRY SQUARES
(from Without Adornment)

1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup oats
1/2 cup quinoa flakes
3 tbsp. palm sugar
1/2 – 2/3 c. coconut oil
3 cup thawed raspberries, with as much of the liquid drained as you can.
3 – 4 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350F.

Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt. Add oats, quinoa flakes and palm sugar and mix until evenly distributed. Add in unmelted coconut oil. Using your fingers, work the coconut oil into the flour mixture until there are no lumps remaining and the mixture is crumbly.

In a separate bowl, stir together raspberries, honey and spices. Add more sweetener to reach desired sweetness. Press over half of the crumb mixture into a greased 8″ square pan. Scoop the raspberries onto the pressed bar mixture and distribute evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top of the raspberries and pat lightly.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until topping is light brown.

Cool completely before cutting into squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I changed the recipe slightly by using a mixture of raspberries and blueberries, as the price tag on the raspberries was a little high. I don’t think it hurt anything, it just made the color of the filling darker than Bean’s concoction, and also a bit more chunky, as the blueberries retain their shape. The cute box of quinoa flakes was one of those classic impulse buys that I am often a victim of. But I knew the flakes would come in handy, and was glad to be able to use them in this recipe.

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Gluten-free baking is really a huge challenge, because without gluten to provide that nice, elastic structure, baked goods tend to be dry, and much less pleasant to eat. However, using the right mixture of flours and grains, one can get close enough to the “real thing” and these bars are a perfect success story.  I took the squares to the department and did not mention they were gluten-free. Nobody seemed to notice, and they were inhaled in a little over one hour.  I call it a success story indeed.

Bean, I hope you had as much fun with your assignment as I had with mine!  And for those reading my blog, make sure to click on the blue amphibian smiling at you at the very end.  She (or he, who knows?) will take you to a new page showing all the tasty concoctions made by my virtual friends of The Secret Recipe Club.  Enjoy the collection!

ONE YEAR AGO: Lasserre, a French Classic

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

THREE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

SPINACH AND MUSHROOM STUFFED PORK TENDERLOIN

The pi day last week made me realize that for a blog that is almost 6 years old, I have very few pies to share. Not the type of stuff we make that often, and of course, it reflects on their limited presence in the site. On the opposite side of the spectrum we have pork tenderloin, by far one of the types of meat I make the most. This version is a little more dressed-up than usual, and perfect for a weekend dinner. The recipe comes from Fine Cooking magazine, and for those who care to know nutritional details, it is Paleo-friendly (if you omit the cream sauce) and low-carb. It is also elegant, and flavorful, which is what really matters ;-)

StuffedPorkTenderloinSPINACH AND MUSHROOM STUFFED PORK TENDERLOIN
(slightly modified from Fine Cooking)

5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3-1/2 oz. cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained and diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. baby spinach (5 lightly packed cups)
1 large pork tenderloin (about 1-1/4 lb.)
zest of one large lemon
2 tsp of lemon juice
1 large shallot, finely diced
3/4 cup low-salt canned chicken broth
2-1/2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. heavy cream

Set a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a heavy, ovenproof 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until browned and tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, sprinkle with salt, and cook, tossing well with tongs, until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a colander and set the skillet aside.

Butterfly the tenderloin by making a horizontal slice lengthwise through the meat almost all the way to the other side. Open the meat flat, like a book. Cover with plastic wrap, and using a meat mallet, a small, heavy skillet, or the heel of your hand, lightly pound the pork so that it’s 1/4 inch thick. Rub the pork all over with 1 Tbs. of the oil, the lemon juice, and sprinkle all over the zest of the lemon and about 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper.

Squeeze any excess liquid from the spinach and mushrooms. Spread over the pork, leaving bare a 2-inch border along one long edge. Starting with the long side that’s covered with filling, roll the stuffed tenderloin toward the bare-border side so that it forms a cylinder, and tie it with kitchen twine.

Wipe the skillet clean if necessary. Heat the remaining 2 Tbs. oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Sear the pork on all three non-seam sides until well browned, about 6 minutes total. Flip onto the seam side, then transfer the skillet to the oven. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast registers 140ºF, 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a clean cutting board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, return the skillet to the stove over medium-high heat (be careful; the skillet’s handle will be hot). Add the shallots, season with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until the shallots soften and brown, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, sherry vinegar, and simmer briskly until the mixture reduces by a bit more than half, about 4 minutes. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the pork into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve with the sauce.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: The only problem when cooking pork tenderloin is the delicate nature of this meat, and its tendency to dry during roasting because it has such low-fat content. By filling it with the sautéed mixture of veggies, you won’t run such risk.  I prepared the filling, rolled the meat, wrapped it in plastic and left it in the fridge for several hours, then finished it all up for our dinner on a Saturday evening, back in January.

You can serve it with any type of starchy side you’d like, pasta, rice, mashed root veggies, but in this particular dinner I went with a much lighter option, and enjoyed it with a side of grated carrots lightly seasoned with lemon juice & olive oil.  I like to keep it in the fridge for an hour or so, then add salt and pepper right before serving. It is amazing what a touch of lemon juice can do to grated carrots.  I first read about it on Leite’s Culinaria, after a tip from our friend Cindy. Try it sometime, nothing could be simpler, but you’ll find yourself making it again and again.

served11

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Crispy Chickpea and Caper Spaghetti

TWO YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung!

THREE YEARS AGO: Chickpea and Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Double Asparagus Delight

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

FOCACCIA WITH CHILE AND COTIJA CHEESE

A while ago – June 2013, to be precise – I made a type of Italy-meets-Mexico-focaccia using a sauce with tomatillos. It turned out so tasty that I wanted to re-visit the same type of fusion cuisine again. It took me a while, but here is my second take on the subject.  I used my default recipe for the dough, topped with a mixture of olive oil, avocado oil, New Mexico chiles, and Cotija cheese. Some sun-dried tomatoes for a bit of concentrated sweetness, and voilà…

IMG_6521FOCACCIA WITH CHILE AND COTIJA CHEESE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 recipe of focaccia dough
Green New Mexico chiles, thinly sliced
Cotija cheese, crumbled (you can use feta, or even Mozzarella)
sun-dried tomatoes
olive oil
avocado oil
salt & pepper

Open the dough on a well-oiled baking dish, stretching with your hands, and making plenty of dimples all over its surface.

Add a good coating of olive and avocado oil, mixed about 50:50. Distribute the slices of chile, cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes all over the dough.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bake as directed in the original foccacia post.

Cut in slices and serve.

ENJOY!

I am not offering a printable version, since the main recipe for the dough is from a previous post. The toppings don’t really need any type of precise measurement, so add as much or as little of each component you feel like. Black olives could be wonderful too, by the way…

prebaked
For the chiles, I used the brand featured in this post, a gift from our friends V & K. They have amazing flavor, and of course go very well with Cotija cheese, one of those matches made in heaven.  Like V & K.

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

The focaccia squares freeze well, I like to wrap 3 to 4 squares in small packages and enjoy them for weeks. Simply remove from the freezer 30 minutes before your meal, and heat them in a low oven until warm and fragrant.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

ONE YEAR AGO: Crispy Chickpea and Caper Spaghetti 

TWO YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane

THREE YEARS AGO: Crispy Herb-Crusted Halibut

FOUR YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Bonjour!

THE PIE OF THE CENTURY

The number π (pi) is the ratio between the circle’s circumference and its diameter, a value approximated as 3.14159. March 14th, 2015 becomes the closest match to the value of pi so lots of people will be making and/or enjoying some type of pie to celebrate a special day that only happens every 100 years! In my humble opinion, the real day should be celebrated in 2016, as if you were to approximate the value of pi to four decimal points, 3.14159 would turn into 3.1416. But, who am I to swim against such a strong current? I rather join the fun. And maybe have a pi encore next year ;-)

We will be enjoying a Cherry Pie made by special friends… sorry, no recipe.

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But to compensate for the lack of recipe, I am sharing a few pies of my past…
ENJOY!

baked1

Carriage House Walnut Apple Pie

pieces

Italian Easter Pie

slicePumpkin Pie

4thofjulypieA Pie for the 4th of July

baked1-2Asparagus Quiche
(
maybe a stretch on the pie concept, but too delicious to pass)

HAVE A WONDERFUL PI DAY!

SILKY RUTABAGA PUREE

Many years ago (pre-blogging life) I had an encounter with jicama that left me traumatized.  I sliced it very thin and ate it the way Marcela often recommends it, as a refreshing, light alternative to corn tortillas.  I intensely disliked it, but through a convoluted set of events, a few days later realized that jicama that was not.  I had bought, sliced, and endured a rutabaga. Big oops moment!  I stayed away from both veggies for quite a long time, but finally made peace with them. Jicama does a reasonable job as tortilla-wannabe, and as far as rutabaga goes, it kills me that I took so long to finally cook it. I fell in love with this mashed version at the first spoonful. Creamy, smooth, with a unique flavor, perfect to showcase some Boeuf Bourguignon… or any other type of beef stew that might be calling your name.  Truth is, if you cannot make winter disappear by snapping your fingers, the alternative is to fight it with comfort food. Like this root veggie puree with a touch of coconut milk.  You will love it, I promise!

RutabagaPuree
SILKY RUTABAGA PUREE
(slightly modified from A Calculated Whisk)

3 medium rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large yam, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup coconut milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dash of nutmeg

Place the rutabaga and yam chunks in a saucepan with the salt and water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the veggies are very tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Place the rutabaga, yam, olive oil, coconut milk. salt, and pepper in a food processor and process until smooth, add the nutmeg and process briefly. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If needed, adjust consistency with some of the reserved cooking liquid.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

served

Comments: This meal was perfect for a snowy Saturday evening.  I cooked the beef stew low and slow for over 4 hours, it was luscious, the red wine mellowed down by the long gentle simmer in the oven.  The rutabaga puree, perhaps an unusual side dish for Bourguignon,  was quite a nice match not only in taste and texture, but also in its color, bright golden.  When we sat down to enjoy our dinner, Phil took a first bite and immediately decided it was worthy of a special bottle of wine, one we bought in France many years ago. That was a great move…  Almost made me forget the snow outside. Almost.

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Life is good!

ONE YEAR AGO: Bon Bon Chicken: Light and Spectacular!

TWO YEARS AGO: Seafood Extravaganza Pasta

THREE YEARS AGO: A Pearfect Drink

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

FIVE YEARS AGO: Paris, Je t’aime