Black is the New Black

My Mom was known for wearing a lot of black and she could have coined the word fashionista. She had hot pants, gogo boots, and an assortment of wigs for every look. Through my Mom, black became the symbol of everything chic, classic and timeless. Can you guess the predominant colour in my wardrobe? Yup. And I married a man who also has a love affair with black.  My affinity for black has transferred over to my taste buds.

How many of you can say that one of your favourite desserts is a bowl of black goo?  And I mean black, like shoe polish black, Aretha Franklin music black, sleeping in a tent miles away from the city, black. One of my fondest childhood memories of family dim sum in Hong Kong was the cart with the big cauldron of the deepest, darkest, blacker than all the hair on our heads, black. It is called Tsee Mah Woo, literally black sesame paste. “Woo” is Cantonese for any dessert made of nuts or seeds that are ground up, then cooked with water and sugar; it is a cross between a soup and a paste. It’s not the most visually appealing dessert, but in those days the look of food was pretty irrelevant next to taste. It basically looked like a bowl of hot black tar. Traditionally, almonds, walnuts or peanuts could also be made into a “Woo”. To this day, the memory of seeing the dim sum cart lady pushing that cauldron makes me feel like a 5 year old again, without a care in the world except how to get my brother to share his Batman toy’s with me. This dessert is like a hug for your taste buds. You can still have it at places that serve dim sum, and {Kale} and I always order it if it’s available.

{Kale}’s Mom used to make black sesame “Woo”. She would even grind the sesame seeds herself, using an old fashioned stone grinder. {Kale}’s Mom would fit right in with the Paleo lifestyle! Apparently it was quite the process, grinding it so fine to a smooth silky texture without any graininess. Well, I have made it myself successfully with a Vitamix, which replaces the stone grinder quite nicely.

Black Sesame Kake2Kale

What is the difference between white and black sesame seeds?  Well, black seeds still have the protective hull intact, while the white seeds have had the hulls removed.  White seeds are usually used for food preparations (ie. tahini paste) and the black seeds are usually pressed into oil.  Because the hull has been removed, the white seeds are less nutritious as the black.  It’s like comparing white bread with whole grain bread.

My grandmother would always tell me that eating black sesame will keep my hair from turning grey. She isn’t the only one who says this and is a common belief amongst the Chinese. But is there evidence for this? In my readings, I only came across one person who claims to have turned some of her graying hair to black after eating black sesame seeds for a year. In any case, black sesame seeds is a superfood as they are rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, protein and vitamin E.  In Chinese medicine these seeds support the kidney and liver meridians (pathways). The adrenal glands sit right above the kidneys, so by nourishing them you also do the same for the adrenals. These glands secrete hormones (ie. estrogen, testosterone and cortisol), and its main function is in helping your body react to stress. Over time our adrenal glands may become over taxed, and greying hair can be a sign of this. If black sesame seeds can help with my adrenals and perhaps darken some of my just-starting-to-grey hair, then bring it on. To read more about adrenal fatigue go to adrenalfatigue.org.

{Kale} challenged me to come up with a recipe for black sesame because it is rare to see it served anywhere apart from Tsee Mah Woo at dim sum.  So I came up with two – i) a green soup and ii) banana brulee.  Salads do not cut it for me now that the temperature has dropped and I don’t feel like eating stir fries; therefore, a soup with green veggies topped off with black sesame pesto seemed like a good idea.  And, I love a caramelized banana as a base for dessert and my fun recipe version is included below.

Other Superfoods in the two recipes are:

leek – Contains vitamins A,K, and B, also kaempferol, a phytochemical that may lower risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
onion – Contains a high amount of quercetin, which is an anti-histamine and helps to combat allergies.
watercress – Has high amounts of vitamins C and A.  It also has strong detoxing properties, especially targetting heavy metals.
avocado – Besides being a good source of vitamins C, B’s, E and K, it is also a rich source of monosaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol.
banana – Contains Vitamin C, fibre, and a significant amount of potassium. High potassium intakes are also associated with a reduced risk of stroke, protection against loss of muscle mass, preservation of bone mineral density and reduction in the formation of kidney stones.

Black Sesame pesto leek soup 3 Kake2Kale

Green with a touch of Black Soup serves 6
Ingredients:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 leek
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 medium potatoes (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 large handful of watercress

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a large pot at medium high heat then add onion and leek.  Sauté for 5 minutes until softened, then add the stock and potatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes can be broken up with a fork.
  • Add the avocado and watercress to the pot and then puree with a blender.
  • After pouring the soup into bowls put a dollop of the black pesto on top.

Black Pesto
Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup black sesame seeds
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • A handful of Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 T. applesauce or finely chopped apple
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Puree black sesame with olive oil and parsley, then add the rest of the ingredients and continuing pureeing until mixture is smooth.

Black Sesame pesto leek soup 2 Kake2Kale

Banana Brulee serves 1

  • 1 banana
  • sugar (enough to sprinkle)
  • 1 T. almond
  • 1 T. black sesame seeds

Directions:

  • Cut a banana into two halves, dip in sugar.
  • Broil for about 5 minutes (keeping an eye on it), until sugar caramelizes.  Or alternately use a mini torch to brulee the banana.
  • Then spread with almond butter and sprinkle black sesame seeds over the almond butter.

Black Sesame Banana 2 Kake2Kale

I’ve wanted to get a mini torch for quite some time and making this dessert was a good excuse to get one.  For those who want one, note that you’ll also have to get a butane refill.  The torch does not include butane.  Tip: do not get butane for lighters as the nozzle is too small.  I found this out during the photo shoot and had to run out to get the proper refill.

Black Sesame Banana 3 Kake2Kale

There are many ways to incorporate black sesame seeds into your diet besides what I’ve done here in this post.  I encourage you to add them to your smoothies, oatmeal, cookies, or as a coating for salmon as Natalie (The Peaceful Paleo) had done in the previous post.

Black Sesame Banana 1 Kake2Kale

Get your adrenal glands acquainted with this power packed seed!

Eat well, live great! {Kake}

Our Ramen-tic Lunch

I admit it, I have had my love affair with instant noodles, especially when I lived in Hong Kong.  For a period of time it was my breakfast, lunch and dinner.  But my favourite way was to add corn to it while it was cooking, and then break an egg into it at the last minute.  Just before my first bite, I would put a couple of drops of Maggi sauce (it’s like soy sauce but isn’t) into the yolk and then swirl the yolk throughout the noodles.  Mmmm….

{Kale} and I went to an outstanding ramen shop on the outskirts of Vancouver’s Chinatown, called Harvest Community Foods in the Chinatown-Strathcona area.  It is on the same street and several doors down from the Jimi Hendrix Shrine.  Because the food is made with locally sourced ingredients, they charge a little more than average, and the bowls are not the size of a baby wash tub, which I like, because we all need to be conscious of portion control.   I have been there a couple of times and thought {Kale} would like it and she did.  It is a humble place that is part noodle shop, part grocery store.

I was glad to see Hokuto in the kitchen, because he had made my husband and I good bowls of noodles before and so I knew {Kale} would be in for a treat for sure.  He did not disappoint.  {Kale} ordered the Ramen with pork shoulder, candied bacon, egg and radish and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The highlight for both of us was their egg, they soft boil it and then marinate it in a secret sauce.  The yolk is still slightly runny and it has this wonderful deep soy gingery flavor.

Not being a huge fan of udon, I asked to substitute the ramen for the Udon with Sake Kazu Chicken, with watercress and shitake, plus a side of the oh –so-yummy egg.  The ramen was cooked perfectly, still slightly chewy and springy, the broth was savoury without being overly salty.  While devouring our noodles {Kale} and I recalled the old Japanese movie called “Tanpopo” about a couple who were in search of the best ramen in Japan.  It is definitely a must-see for those who are foodies, there is even a few scenes that may be scandalously close to being literally food porn, without crossing the line.

Here are the superfoods in our lunch:

Egg:  Nature’s near perfect food. Contains a wide range of vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, choline, B12, as well as protein, lutein and zea-xanthin.
Radish:  Good source of vitamins A, C and E. Great for digestion
Watercress:  High amount of vitamin C and A. Has strong detoxing properties, good for detoxing heavy metals.
Shitake mushroom:  Rich in vitamins, minerals and polyphenols they also activate the immune system, have strong anti-tumor properties and prepare white blood cells to be ready to fight off disease.

If you are a Jimi Hendrix fan then check out this link about his Vancouver shrine.

Harvest Community Foods Kake2kale

This is not a recipe per se, but an idea for a Quick Ramen salad.

  • Cook Ramen according to instructions on the package (use the flavor packet if you want the taste).  You can toss in any superfood veggie you like in with the noodles while it is cooking ie. Chopped carrots, beets, squash.  Then drain and chill for about an hour.
  • Once chilled you may add about 2 Tablespoons of *mayonnaise to the noodles and any sort of protein ie. cooked turkey, tuna, shrimp, chickpeas, etc.  you get the idea.  You could also add fresh herbs and more veggies that can be eaten raw ie. celery, bell peppers.

*May also use sesame oil and grapeseed oil and a splash of rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce, instead of mayo.

Eat healthy, live great! – {Kake}

Harvest Community Foods 2 Kake2kale