“Variety is the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavor.”
– William Cowper, “The Task” (1785)
Adventure, novelty, spice. When is the last time you had some?
This post is for people looking for food adventure.
The foods below are for the open minded, the well-travelled, the brave.
Or, maybe if you are all those things, you’ll think my list is super boring :}
These foods are for people who like trying new things, new flavours and textures. People who want to eat something NEW, to EXPAND THEIR PALATES and their food repertoire, and get healthy doing it.
Unless you make a point of trying new things, often times, things get stale. (Or, maybe it’s just me, come to think of it, now that I know I have ADHD, that would make sense…).
Now, in terms of openness, I am not always at the front of the pack.
There are a growing number of people in my social circle who are opening up their relationships lately, but that is not my thing. If polyamory works for you, great! I am most definitely a monogamist – very “vanilla”, so to speak. I am much more open to introducing new players in the kitchen than in the bedroom.
I guess i am much more open to sticking new foods in my mouth.
I have tried many foods, ranging from Armadillo to Za’atar.
10 years ago, I even had the pleasure of hosting Andrew Zimmern and joining him for a meal of roast iguana and maggot cheese on an episode of Bizarre Foods, when he came to Nicaragua.
The world is full of flavour.
Even in primary school I enjoyed a range of foods from sour Ukrainian borscht with little beans, creamy avocado ice cream, curried Cantonese chicken feet, sweet saffron-infused Portuguese pastries stuffed with halibut and almonds, and Japanese okonomiyaki with salty bonito flakes.
Luckily, there is no need to travel to exotic locations to get your thrill.
Even introverted homebodies can get adventure by trying new foods – from the comfort of home :}.
For many, the last few months have felt like survival mode … hopefully, eve with fewer grocery trips, your food has not been a doldrum of dietary boringness since March.
But – why not try something a little unexpected and fun with your meals?
An edible experiment.
9 Healthy New Foods you should try
Ok, the foods in this first category are admittedly easy and safe for most people. Let’s get started here.
3 Antioxidant-packed foods to try:
– Although sometimes called fermented garlic, it is not actually fermented. Black garlic is regular garlic that has being transformed by time and heat (via a Maillard reaction). The flavour is reminiscent of the way the garlic tastes after being slow roasted, when the sugars inside caramelize, and the sharpness is gone, but it has a dark garlic finish and an amazing, condensed, sweet umami flavour, different from roasted garlic. You may need to dig around a bit to find it, or try making your own. Often a big batch of several garlic heads are made at once.
It is made by low slow heat cooking the whole heads/bulbs for up to 8 weeks. The result is something completely new that no longer contains the same allicin content. This means that it is not as good for combating bacteria in the gut, but it may be even better for heart health as the antioxidants are condensed.
This garlic has papery soft skin covering the sweetest, darkest garlic you can imagine. The cloves have a slightly rubbery texture, but is more of a spreadable fig jam-like consistency than a chewy or tough one. Black garlic has its roots in Asia, where the line between food and medicine is mutable.
While it is used in cuisine, I consider it part medicine, part food. Cure-all anecdotes from the women I know who make it abound. I would add it like a stock cube to broth or congee, use it in compound butter, tapenade or sauces, take as medicine when sick, and include it sparingly on tapas, cheese or charcuterie boards. (I think it would be amazing with strawberries and cashew cream on herb bread). Go slow to avoid heartburn and gas, and as it is very energizing, I do not recommend taking too much late in the day.
– Most people have actually eaten pomelo before, but then they don’t eat it again, not because it is bad, but they just sort of forget it.
And that is too bad, because it is a good source of naringin and naringenin, flavonoids found to display strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities.
Several lines of investigation suggest that naringin supplementation is beneficial for the treatment of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome. Plus, even though these fruits are enormous, like oversized grapefruit, their thick pith layer makes them very forgiving to being in a shopping bag with jars, or a backpack with books, unlike other fruit that requires careful packing. You can also make a citrus salad with it!
– Pomegranate is everywhere.
You can get the whole fruit, you can get the juice, and in some places, pomegranate syrup or molasses. You can also find the arils (the fancy name for seeds) all ready to eat, for those with more money than patience, who would rather die than be bothered getting them out of the fruit. Now, some companies are even coming out with juice with pulp, a lovely addition.
However, while many people drink “pomegranate juice” that is really mostly apple juice, most people still do not consume much of these products unless they are Persian, Lebanese or Turkish. And that is a shame, since they are so good for you.
I would like to show how easy it is to get the seeds out of the pith – watch my video here, then throw them in a salad. Also, pomegranate molasses is amazing anywhere that balsamic reduction or cherry syrup is used, and is irreplaceable in the vinaigrette that dresses a Fattoush salad. I challenge you to make your own by cooking down pure pomegranate juice – no need to add sugar or lemon juice!
2 New Fermented Foods for Gut Health
– Yes, kombucha is everywhere, including your local 7-11, and well-loved even by picky children, but kombucha SCOBYs and kombucha vinegar are not often consumed. However, if you like to ferment, and already make kombucha at home, you may have noticed that you are quickly overflowing with SCOBYs and end up with more kombucha than you want to drink.
I do not recommend eating the SCOBYs as-is – eating them raw they are like firm and slimy pockets made of tough rubber, full of sour liquid (do not ask me how I know). It is possible, however, to turn the strange-looking kombucha SCOBYs overcrowding your SCOBY hotel into vegan jerky, a chewy sweet and sour candy, or as a probiotic smoothie booster.
You can also use the sour kombucha vinegar produced by over-long fermentation into an array of great dressings especially if it started out fruity (as opposed to say, with the aroma of Earl Grey). I am sure we will see more creative recipe ideas for kombucha in future.
– It is a shame that people do not like the smell, texture or taste of this fermented and protein-packed soybean food, since it is hands down the world’s best source of vitamin K2, with 15x more than the best cheeses, like gouda, and 200x more than the average sauerkraut, and vegan to boot.
However, natto is the one food I most often hear described as an “acquired taste”. I am not so much sure you can acquire it – I think you either like it, or you don’t. The slimy texture of natto is what gets many people, although I personally love the webs of fine mozzarella-type strings it makes when I stir it.
However, just because you have not enjoyed it in your rice rolls or straight up with sauces and green onion, as it is often served in Japanese cuisine, does not mean you cannot benefit from it or cook with it. It is possible to mix in into a pot of chilli or other dish with very strong flavours, and get your dose of wrinkle-smoothing, bone-loving vitamin K2. Most comes in styrofoam, but if you decide you love it, here is another food to try making at home.
2 New Omega-3 Foods
Both of these are sources of omega 3 that you can cook with. They taste a little grassy. They do best stored cold, and consumed fresh.
Sacha Inchi Seeds and oil
– Sacha inchi solves the problem of how to get plant based omega 3s in your diet. Most of the time, the seeds do not taste good, as they should be vacuum or refrigerated, but aren’t. If properly stored, however, the seeds taste nice and buttery, and their oil when from a good source has a neutral flavour. To me, it tastes like grass-fed butter, or peanut oil, if the peanuts were green and raw when pressed. These seeds are the size of a flat macadamia or hazelnut, and come in pods shaped like stars, similar to a star anise, but with fewer “arms”. Pressed, they yield a plant based omega oil that supplies an excellent ratio of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and some omega 9, aka monounsaturated, like is found in olive oil. Like good olive oil, the oil is quite stable and rich in phytochemicals, and you can use it for low temperature cooking.
Camelina Seeds and oil
– Camelina seeds have similar properties to sacha inchi, but they are smaller and harder, somewhere between flax and poppy seeds. They are tasty and easy to use, and you could use them anywhere you would use their familiar cousin, the chia seed.
Actually, they are not related at all, since camelina is from the brassica or crucifer family, and is often referred to as false flax. It may be Ukranian or Russian in origin, while chia, which is from the mint family, is from the Americas. However, like flax or chia seed, the texture when soaked can throw people off, especially if they do not like slime, and like flax and chia, the seed yields an oil rich in ALA omega 3. The oil also has an herbaceous, grassy flavour.
2 Plant-Based meat subs to try:
– This one can be PACKED with protein, so it makes a great way for vegans, vegetarians and others to get their daily protein requirements met, simply by replacing the white or brown rice in their Buddha bowl with this dark, thin, chewy alternative. It is also NOT a wheat, soy or grain-based protein. In fact, this food is a grass, not a grain. Unlike true wild rice, which grows in marshes, and unlike regular rice that is grown in Asia or California, most of the “wild” rice we eat now comes from farms in Minnesota.
If you source it well, however, it could be true wild rice, from swamps or from the boreal forest of Ontario, in which case, it could very well be the other list, with the antioxidants, as well! True wild rice can have a swampy smell while cooking, but is loaded with great nutrients and phytochemicals, as well as plant protein.
– A lot of people are a little squeamish about mushrooms. It is a shame, considering their health benefits and the tons of varieties available. These are not packed with protein, yielding only 2-3 grams per cup chopped, so they are not a meat substitute for vegans in the same way that lentils, seitan or tempeh are.
However, this easy to find whole, unprocessed plant food can be used in place of meat extremely well, so I DO recommend it for those who are doing “Meatless Mondays” and that kind of thing. You can simply peel the mushrooms into strips, and sub them into a recipe. Marinate and cook them, and they yield chewy, ‘meaty’, juicy pieces that are a lot like the strips of chicken you might get in a chicken donair or stir fry.
I’ll leave you with a recipe using some of the foods we just fell in love with:
RECIPE: Citrus Salad with pomegranate-omega 3 vinaigrette
- Pomelo, one or two large, peeled and sectioned, wedges can be cut in two
- Camelina seeds if you have
- Lettuce or other greens, washed, dried, broken into pieces
- Radish, Cucumber, Tomato, whatever you like, sliced
- Mint, Parsley, Cilantro, Thai basil, whatever you like
- A couple tablespoonfuls of minced red onion or shallots or green onion, as you prefer
- Sacha inchi oil
- Pomegranate molasses or a sweet fruity kombucha vinegar reduction
- Garlic, 1 clove, minced. Got black garlic? Try that!
Combine last 3 ingredients. You’ll want about 3 times more oil than the next ingredient. Let sit so it is permeated with garlic flavour.
Combine everything else in a bowl, then pour dressing over top.
Now, if you like the idea of regularly trying new foods, why not subscribe to a produce delivery service?
This is a great way to not only get fresh SEASONALLY APPROPRIATE produce right to your door, you may enjoy being kept on your toes, as you get introduced to the occasional turnip or chayote, okra or artichoke, and think – what am I going to do with this? And then you’ll roll up your sleeves and get learning.