Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Thinking about a summer stew of white beans, lacinato kale, and ‘nduja: Recipe considerations

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It seemed as though I was reading about ‘nduja everywhere, so when I saw some in a local market I immediately bought it to try. It’s a soft, spreadable salume, and as the article at the link notes,

‘nduja’s special spreadable texture comes from its meat-to-fat makeup. Dry-cured salumi, like soppressata, typically contain a ratio of roughly three parts lean muscle to one part fat. ‘Nduja inverts that ratio: Its composition is three parts fat for every one part lean muscle.

With such a high fat content, it is very rich indeed — and it also melts if used in cooking, as in a stew, for example.

I also bought some quite handsome spring shallots — they look like spring onions and can be used in much the same way — so I was thinking of how I might use them. I got the idea of making a stew: spring shallots and garlic (I had also picked up some new red Russian garlic) along with beans, greens, and grains — and tomatoes, since Italian is the theme.

The photo above shows the spring shallots and red Russian garlic I’ll be using, along with my Bulat chef’s knife, which I find myself using more and more. It came with a 17º angle, but I redid the edge to 15º and I love using it.

I thought of lacinato kale (or green kale if it looks fresher) and white beans, which with the tomatoes will give me the colors of the Italian flag. For grain I have on hand some cooked unpolished barnyard millet, so a cup of that. Say, two cans of white beans, 1 bunch of lacinato kale, a couple of the spring shallots, cloves from a head of the garlic — maybe two because the heads are small — a few Roma tomatoes, and a chunk of ‘nduja. I did a recipe search for ideas and found this recipe in Serious Eats, a site I trust. I adapted the recipe to be more what I had in mind, and I got this list of ingredients for my version:

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 spring shallots, chopped
• cloves from 1 head of red Russian garlic
• salt
• black pepper
• dried marjoram
• dried basil
• dried spearmint
• 1/2 cup ‘nduja
• 2 18-oz cans white beans, drained and rinsed (that size is common here)
• 1 cup cooked intact whole grain — unpolished millet this time
• 1 quart no-salt-added vegetable broth
• 3-4 Roma tomatoes
• 1 bunch lacinato kale, stems minced (and cooked with shallots), leaves chopped
• juice of 1 lemon

So my plan is to use the Serious Eats recipe as a guide, but replace 1 can of the beans with intact whole grain, use spring shallots instead of the usual shallots, and add tomatoes. I think to the gremolata the recipe includes I’ll add some finely chopped red cabbage to make sure I get all the sulforaphane I can. Sulforaphane is one reason cruciferous vegetables have numerous health benefits.

To obtain the sulforaphane, I’ll first chop the kale right away and let it rest for about 45 minutes before I cook it so that (as explained in this video) the sulforaphane will have time to form. Sulforaphane is not heat sensitive and so withstands cooking, but — and here’s the tricky part — suforaphane is not available in the intact fresh vegetable/greens. What those have instead are the sulforaphane precursor glucoraphanin (also not heat sensitive) and the enzyme myrosinase. It’s the myrosinase that converts glucoraphanin to sulforaphane once the vegetable is chopped (or shredded or run through a food processed or blended or crushed or chewed.

Unfortunately, myrosinase is heat sensitive, so if you chop/shred/process/etc. a cruciferous vegetable and immediately heat it (by cooking it), you destroy the myrosinase before it has a chance to convert the glucoraphanin into sulforaphane, so you get no sulforaphane and thus lose its benefits.

One solution is to chop or shred or or process or crush/massage the cruciferous vegetable or greens to start the conversion reaction that transforms glucoraphanin into suforaphane, and let the reaction run to completion before heating/cooking the vegetable. Once myrosinase has done its job and the sulforaphane’s been made, heat is not a problem because heat doesn’t hurt sulforaphane.

The video includes another way to get the sulforaphane you want without the wait, but I don’t mind waiting. I practice patience.

But if you can wait and must cook immediately, then you can add to the cooked cruciferous vegetables/greens some uncooked cruciferous food that thus still has active myrosinase to carry through the transformation: powdered mustard seeds, horseradish, chopped daikon radish, or fresh (uncooked) shredded red cabbage as a topping. It doesn’t take much (1/2 teaspoon of ground mustard is plenty), and you get the suforaphane transformed with no wait. Note that prepared mustard won’t do it: that has been cooked/heated and so has lost it myrosinase. Mustard powder, though, is simply the result of grinding mustard seeds, so the myrosinase is still active.

Using one of those myrosinase-rich toppings is particularly important if you’re use frozen broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, etc., because immediately before the vegetables are frozen, they are blanched, and that heat destroys the myrosinase in them.

Of course, you can finesse the entire issue by not cooking a cruciferous vegetable (so that it’s never exposed to heat). That’s why I eat red cabbage as a slaw or salad: no wait for the conversion reaction to run to completion. But I often cook broccoli, and when I do, I chop it and let it rest for 45 minutes before steaming it.

And, as you by now must know, I also chop garlic and let it rest, though not so long. For garlic, a 15-minute rest is ample. The reason for the rest is much the same as for cruciferous vegetables. Garlic contains the molecule alliin and the enzyme alliinase, and when garlic is chopped or crushed, the two combine to produce allicin, and it’s allicin that makes garlic able to improve cholesterol profiles, protect against high blood pressure, and improve immunity, according to studies in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis and Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

But, as before, though alliin (the precursor) and allicin (the beneficial substance we want) are both heat stable, the enzyme alliinase is not, and heating destroys it. So chop/mince your garlic and let it sit until alliinase has done its job and is no longer needed.

And, of course, I consider Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen. This recipe checks several categories: ✓beans, ✓greens, ✓cruciferous vegetable, ✓grain, ✓other vegetable, ✓herbs/spices. And I might sprinkle pepitas on a bowl of stew: ✓nuts/seeds.

That’s the sort of thing I consider when I make a recipe: balance of foods and how best to prepare them to gain the nutritional benefit. Tomatoes, for example, are a good source of lycopene, but the lycopene in tomatoes is not available unless the tomatoes are cooked. (Watermelon is an even better source of lycopene, and watermelon’s lycopene is available without cooking. Lycopene is what gives watermelon and tomatoes their red color.)

Today I’ll pick up the beans, kale, and tomatoes (and a watermelon — why not?), and tomorrow I’ll do the cooking. I’m looking forward to it.

Update: Soup has been made. Lessons learned.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2021 at 11:47 am

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