The word “Lox”, which means cured smoked salmon, conjures up images of bagel, cream cheese, and smoked salmon to most Americans.
Salmon cream cheese should be a good idea, right? Smoked salmon cream cheese from a popular brand, named after the city of brotherly love, was disappointing. It just didn’t seemed like enough smoked salmon and looked off.
I found these differences after scanning through the ingredient list between their smoked salmon cream cheese and regular cream cheese. Although smoked salmon was the third most abundant ingredient, fourth and fifth, were milk products. Regular cream cheese has only whey as extra milk ingredient, albeit we don’t know exact percentages.
Salmon flavor is enhanced by monosodium glutamate, sugar, natural smoke flavor and preserved by sodium nitrite. The reddish salmon color is given by oleoresin paprika (Color) and Rd 40.
These are differences are even sharply differentiated in table below, where items found in salmon are in red. The salmon cream cheese had twice as much ingredient as regular cream cheese from same manufacturer.
* the number inside parenthesis are the order on the list of ingredients.
It doesn’t mean that I give up my lox cream cheese dream if they don’t make a decent smoked salmon cream cheese. It’s really simple to make, skip extra ingredients and just add smoked salmon to cream cheese.
Gently fold cream cheese to salmon. To soften cream cheese, make sure to keep it at the room temperature for at least ½ hour.
Eat lox cream cheese with furikake bagels. It’s good even with burnt ones.
Posted in: Cooking - Food Science | Tags: Salmon cream cheese, Smoked salmon cream cheese
“All wines are not created equal neither are the wine tasters”
A new study suggests that wine experts may have superior sense of taste — meaning the expert’s recommendations based on their acute tasting abilities are irrelevant to average wine drinkers who cannot discern subtle taste differences. The study was published by scientists John Hayes and Gary J. Pickering in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture.
Scientists measured response to bitterness by tasting odorless chemical 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP). People with an acute tasting aptitude perceive PROP extremely bitter while majority with a normal tasting abilities find it slightly bitter or even tasteless. Previous studies have shown that genetic factors may explain the acute tasting abilities.
Most expert wine tasters found PROP more bitter. Thus, biologically speaking, most wine experts are more sensitive to taste than an average consumer. The different tasting ability of wine experts may mean that experts’ recommendations may be too subtle to detect for the majority of wine drinkers.
This begs the question that if the experts taste wine differently than average people, should an average people be following their suggestions? Does spending extra few dollars justified, if we cannot even taste the difference?
On a side note, people who taste PROP more bitter also report tasting some beers, scotch, and red wines more bitter. These acute tasters rate caffeine more bitter than the non-taster. One benefit of these supertasting abilities is that young people consume less beer during their first year of (underage) drinking.
John E. Hayes and Gary J. Pickering, “Wine Expertise Predicts Taste Phenotype” American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, Volume 63, No. 1, Page 80-84
Agnes Ly and Adam Drewnowski, “PROP (6-n-Propylthiouracil) Tasting and Sensory Responses to Caffeine, Sucrose, Neohesperidin Dihydrochalcone and Chocolate”, Chemical Senses, Volume 26, Issue 1, Page 41-47
Posted in: Food Science |
Animal proteins (read beef steaks) were believed to be the best diet for athletes in the past. Nowadays, plant-based carbohydrates (read bowl of pasta) are default diet of any marathon runners.
History of carb-loading
The winner of both of those Boston marathon was Clarence DeMar, who won Boston marathon seven times. We don’t know if DeMar participated in previously mentioned medical studies done in the Boston Marathon. However, he is widely believed to be one of the first runners, who unwittingly practiced carb-loading diet that included a dozen oranges,¼ pound of pine nuts, and 1 pound of caramels.
According to the International Olympic Committee, optimal level of recommended carbohydrates for an athlete is ¾ to 1 pound everyday per 100 lb of body weight. A high carbohydrate diet usually means more than two-third of energy for body are obtained from carbohydrates.
Is carbohydrate an essential nutrient?
“The essential nutrients for humans are water, essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine), essential fatty acids (linoleic and α-linolenic acids), vitamins (ascorbic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B-12), minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron), trace minerals (zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, and chromium), electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride), ultra-trace minerals, and source of energy (carbohydrate, fat, or protein).”
In theory, carbohydrate consumption is not required by humans. However, in its absence fats are broken down to supply energy into glycerol (instead of glycogen) and ketone bodies as source of energy for the central nervous system. This results in ketosis, often detected as volatile fruity smelling acetones in the breath and urine. Prolonged ketosis may lead to ketoacidosis, where body accumulates keto-acids leading to acidification blood (which is not healthy). Ketosis can be prevented by a daily intake of at least 2 ounces for adult. However, practically the minimal carb intake is recommended at ⅓ lb per day. Beside bread, pasta and rice, carbohydrate-rich foods include in fruits, sweets, beans, potatoes, etc.
Why carb-loading works?
For the prolonged physical activities (marathon), the mechanism behind performance improvement is probably due to the maintenance of blood sugar levels by carbohydrate oxidation. The mechanism behind the carbohydrate intake and performance enhancement during high intensity exercise (sprint run) is unclear.5
Initially, low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia) were suspect as cause of development of fatigue. However in 1980s, researchers could not clearly link hypoglycemia with fatigue. Nevertheless, benefits of carb-loading on endurance were consistently demonstrated.
How should athletes carb-load?
The combinations of easily absorbed form of carbohydrate in intestine, such as glucose and fructose, are shown to be the most effective form of “carb-loading”. The extra carb should give adequate energy during the exercise without being burden to the stomach – the type of carb doesn’t matter much. The most importantly, athletes should carb-load on their favorite pre-competition carbohydrate meal, be it their grandma’s homemade pasta or bowl of rice that remind them of home.
Posted in: Food Science | Tags: carb-loading, carbo-loading, carbohydrate and exercise, carbohydrate vs protein, carbohydrate-loading, exercise and blood sugar, exercise and carbohydrates, marathon and carbohydrate, marathon and carbs, marathon and pasta
I am afraid of avocados turning into brown mush. I love guacamole but don’t dare to make it for everyday use because, unless you eat it all, it soon turns into bad, unappetizing brownish chunks.
Avocadoes rapidly brown after they are cut open because their cells become exposed to air. The oxygen in air reacts with the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and forms brown pigmentation called melanoidin. The avocado animation shows browning of an avocado from right after it is cut open to 300 minutes (5 hours) later.
This polyphenol oxidase reaction often causes other produce, such as apples and potatoes, to brown. Often, polyphenol oxidase browning is desirable. Who doesn’t love the deep brown color of raisins, tea or coffee – all due to polyphenol oxidase browning.
But, we do hate unappetizing brownish-green guacamole. People suggest many ways to prevent or slow down guacamole browning. One of my friend’s family members advocates putting avocado pits into the guacamole, while others suggest adding lime or lemon juice. Some folks swear by adding oils to prevent browning while others swear by wrapping it tightly (preventing oxygen). One of the most straight forward ways of reducing enzymatic browning is to apply heat (aka cooking) to denature polyphenol oxidase. However, cooking may lead to unfavorable texture and taste changes.
Being curious, I decided to perform a mini experiment on avocado/guacamole browning.
Pit Inside the Guacamole
According to my many Mexican American friends, putting the avocado pit inside guacamole is an age old tradition that is believed to reduce the browning of avocados. In our experiments, putting the pit in mashed avocados didn’t have any effect on its browning. On a side note, those small slippery avocado pits are big choking hazards.
Adding Lemon or Lime Juice
Covering Avocados with Plastic Wrap
During my first experiment, I forgot to put the guacamole designated for the refrigerator inside of it. I conducted the experiment again with a different batch of avocados. This resulted in a different time scale for browning of the avocado, but the ultimate before and after result remains the same.
Each Avocado is Unique
Fresh Homemade Guacamole
The store bought guacamole is preserved by high pressure vacuum packaging, and by adding a lot of preservatives to add to shelf life. Many filler ingredients, such as oils and starch are added to reduce cost. In 2006, a Californian sued Kraft food because their guacamole had less than 2 percent avocados and instead was filled with food starch, oils, and food coloring. An example of a refrigerated guacamole on sale in a grocery store shows that this commercial guacamole has no less than 36 ingredients, avocado being the 18th item on the list.
How to reduce browning of guacamole?
Posted in: Food Science | Tags: avoid brown guacamole, avoid browning avocado, browning of avocados, browning of guacamole, commercial guacamole ingredients, enzymatic browning of avocados, enzymatic browning of guacamole, guacamole browning and lemon, guacamole browning and lime, guacamole browning and oil, guacamole browning and salt, limit browning of guacamole, pit and guacamole browning, polyphenol oxidase and avocados, polyphenol oxidase and guacamole, reduce browning of guacamole, refrigerating guacamole, salt and guacamole, store guacamole ingredients
I always regret buying bananas after a few days because often they overripe into mushy and soft mass. Taste and texture of bananas are directly related to its ripeness, so the best way to enjoy bananas is at their peak. During ripening, starch in a firm astringent tasting green banana converts into sugars to give sweet and creamy fruit we all love. Yellow bananas with a few brown spots with soft (but not mushy) texture are in peak of their flavor.
Accumulated reserve stored starch, which is about one fourth of weight of a fresh unripe banana, is completely converted into soluble sugars during ripening. Initially, the sweetness in a ripe banana is given by sucrose, which is the table sugar. Later in an overripe banana, 12 carbon sucrose is broken down into two 6-carbon hexose sugars, such as fructose, which is relatively sweeter than sucrose – hence increased sweetness in overripe banana.
Bananas like other fruits (e.g. tomato, avocado, apple) produce high enough ethylene gas to increase the fruit ripening. Thus, often those fruits are placed in paper bag to hasten ripening by confining ethylene within the bag. So, the traditional way of hanging banana sounds very logical. It allows maximum dissipation of ethylene gas to the air, allowing the longest shelf life without use of any modern technology.
Naturally, I had to buy a banana hanger. After much search, I found one at the Container Store in my neighborhood. However, being curious, I ran a simple experiment. I took two bananas from the same bunch and stored in four different ways;
hanging in the new banana hanger
Here are the pictures of bananas after 72 hours of storage.
Hanging bananas indeed resulted in the balanced ripening. The bananas stored on countertop produced one sided mushy bananas. The bananas inside the plastic bag had fewer brown spots (maybe due to lack of oxygen) but tasted sweetest and were mushiest. Once bananas are stored in temperature lower than 10°C or 50°F, the rate of respiration decreases, which slows down the ripening process. However, chilling bananas also results in discoloration of peel.
So, how to store bananas? My recommendation is use a (banana) hanger to ripen bananas. After perfect ripening point to your culinary preference, enjoy the nature’s gift. If you don’t mind the peel discoloration, transfer remaining bananas inside a refrigerator to increase its shelf life by few days. If you are in for even longer haul, peel banana and freeze them. The frozen ones go well with any smoothies. Make sure to individually freeze bananas and refreeze them in freezer burn proof Ziploc bag. For sure, now, I won’t be hesitant to buy bananas.
PS. I wrote according to your “culinary preference” because, depending on your personal preference or type of food, you may want different ripeness. For example, you may want super-ripe bananas for banana bread but may prefer less sweet ones when you snack or even with different ripeness when you are mixing them with your morning cereal.
Posted in: Food Science | Tags: banana and ethylene gas, banana ripening, best way to store banana, how banana ripe, sucrose and fructose in banana