Know Your Ingredient – Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

Description
Lemon Balm is a herbal plant that belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. Its leaves are heart-shaped and deeply veined characterized by a mild lemon scent. It grows up to 150 cm tall. It produces white flowers during summer, which attracts the bees. The flavor of this herbal plant comes from its contents like citronellal, geranial, linalyl acetate and caryophyllene.

Nutrients
Lemon Balm contains phenolic compounds, rosmarinic, protocatechuic acids, caffeic, and flavonoids.

Health Benefits/ Medical Use
This herbal plant has been known to cure cold sores, stomach upset, sleep disorders, and even Alzheimer’s disease. It is also used to cure colic to breastfed babies. It also helps in maintaining a normal blood pressure. The leaves are known to have antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s a good treatment for flu, insomnia, indigestion, depression, and Herpes virus. It also acts a memory booster.

Culinary Use
Lemon Balm has a delicate lemon flavor and has been widely used in making dishes. It is a good garnish to fruit salads and drinks.

Know Your Ingredients – Cinnamon

cinnamon stick powder

Description
Cinnamon is the brownish-reddish inner bark of the cinnamon tree, which when dried, rolls into a tubular form known as a quill. Cinnamon sticks are made from long pieces of bark that are rolled, pressed, and dried. Ground cinnamon is perhaps the most frequently used baking spice. It has a sweet, woody scent in both ground and stick forms.

Nutrients
Per 2 tsp of ground cinnamon, it has 46% manganese, 11% fiber, and 5% calcium.

Health Benefits and Medical Uses
Cinnamon has anti-clotting actions thus preventing the formation of unwanted blood clots. Cinnamon’s ability to lower the release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes also puts it in the category of an “anti-inflammatory” food that can be helpful in lessening inflammation. It has also anti-microbial properties that help stop bacterial growth as well as fungi. It is also known for its impact on blood sugar levels. Cinnamon can help people with Diabetes 2 respond to insulin thus, normalizing their blood sugar levels. Just by smelling its scent, it can boost your brain functioning. In addition to that, it improves colon health and provides protection against heart diseases because of its high calcium and fiber content.

Culinary Uses
Cinnamon is used in cakes, cookies, and desserts throughout the world. It is also used in savoury chicken and lamb dishes from the Middle East. In American cooking, Cinnamon is often paired with apples and used in other fruit and cereal dishes. Stick Cinnamon is used in pickling and for flavoring hot beverages.

Know Your Ingredient – BASIL

Basil

Description
Basil is a key ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. It is a leafy herb from the mint family with a licorice-clove flavor. It is commonly green in color however there are purple varieties like Opal Basil. It’s available all year round but the true harvest in during summer.

Nutrients
Basil is an excellent source of Vitamin K and manganese. It is also a very good source of copper, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Moreover, it has moderate amounts of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.

Health Benefits and Medical Use
Basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. These anti-bacterial properties of basil are associated with its volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene. It has also flavonoids which gives protection at the cellular level.  It has also anti-inflammatory effects and contains nutrients needed for cardiovascular health.

Culinary Use
Basil matches well with cheese, chicken, duck, eggplant, eggs, fish, lamb, liver, olive oil, onions, pasta, pesto, pizza, pork, potatoes, rabbit, salads, shellfish, soups, sweet peppers, tomatoes, veal, vegetables, vinegars, zucchini, and tomato sauce.  Famous recipes are Basil Pesto, Basil Cream Chicken, Tomato and Basil Bruschetta, Tomato Basil Soup, Basil Lemonade, Basil Shrimp, Orzo with Basil and Parmesan, Zucchini Ribbons with Basil Butter, Honey Mustard Basil Salmon, Thai Basil Chicken, etc.

Know Your Cheeses (1)

BRIE

Background

Brie cheese is a soft cheese named after Brie, the French region where it originated. There are a lot of varieties of Brie cheese worldwide. We have plain brie, herbed brie, double and triple brie, and so forth.

Physical Description

It is a soft cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a slight greyish tinge under a white-molded rind. It is pale in color and its flavor depends on its ingredients.

Best Uses

Brie is popularly used in sandwiches, burgers, and pizzas. You may also use it in making tarts or pair it with nachos. You may use it in baked or grilled recipes.


CHEDDAR

Background
This cheese originates from the suburb of Cheddar in Somerset, South West England. It is known to have many caves that support and maintain the temperature and humidity needed for maturing the cheese. In the United States, this is the most commonly used type of cheese.

Physical Description
Cheddar cheese is off-white in color and comparatively a hard type of cheese. “A firm texture that melts in the mouth” describes the physical characteristic of this cheese.

Best Uses
You can use cheddar cheese for breakfast or as an appetizer. Mild cheddars are best used in grilled cheese sandwiches or nachos. On the other hand, macaroni, salads, and sandwiches often use sharper cheddars for flavor.


FETA

Background
This cheese comes from Greece. The word “feta” is a greek word that means “slice”. It is made of cow’s milk or a combination of cow and goat’s milk. Some may contain buffalo milk. Aging time in making this cheese is a minimum of three months.

Physical Description
Feta cheese is slightly coarse in texture. It is commonly produced in blocks. It is white in color and has no or small holes making it compacted and firm.

Best Uses
Feta cheese is used in salads and pastries. It is also used as a table cheese.


MANCHEGO

Background
Manchego is a type of cheese from La Mancha region in Spain. It is made of sheep’s milk that comes from the Manchega breed. The word “manchego” comes from the Spanish term “queso manchego”.

Physical Description
Manchego cheese is firm and compact in texture. It weighs minimum of 0.4kg and maximum of 4.0 kg. It has a maximum height of 12 cm and maximum diameter of 22 cm. It contains air pockets which are unevenly distributed. Its color varies from white to ivory-yellow.

Best Uses
Thinly sliced, Manchego is great to top in salads. It can also be shredded and mixed with mashed potatoes. Another great way to use it is to pair it with jams or spreads on sandwiches.


MOZZARELLA

Background
Mozzarella cheese originates from Italy. It is made from Italian buffalo milk but there’s also an American mozzarella that comes from pasteurized milk.

Physical Description
The semi-soft texture of this cheese makes it well-known. It is commonly white but may vary, sometimes, to light yellow.

Best Uses
It is best used in most types of pizza, pasta dishes, and in some variety of salads, too.