This category shall address the standard offerings of a Greek/Turkish/Middle Eastern-Levantine/N.African sort of eatery (The provençal/mediterranean region of France shall be treated elsewhere). I don't claim to have covered all subregions, but I do think there's enough information here to assist you with most menus.
By now you are growing accustomed to approach any cuisine with the question, "What are its staple grains(s) and fat(s)?" In the Mediterranean region, we B's are blessed: Yes, we must stay away from most standard meze/appetizer platters (tabbouleh, falafel, baba ghanoush, tahini sauce/dressing, tomato salads), but a choice of beneficials-only meals is usually a possibility.
Grains: Rice is abundantly available. In the Western Mediterranean, a form of semolina called "couscous" is a specialty (not to be confused with "bulghur", which is an Eastern Mediterranean cracked wheat product, to be avoided). In the Eastern Mediterranean, pita bread is often served. Some restaurants offer Whole Wheat Pita, in addition to the white flour kind: Stick with the latter, if you're a wheat eater: Some B's avoid wheat, too, especially if overweight. ("Too much weight? Too much wheat!")
Fat: Ah, the Mediterranean: Home of the golden green elixir so dear to B's. We're on home turf now, when it comes to oils; don't worry about sautéed dishes here, where Olive Oil reigns.
Protein: Lamb, goat, mutton, sardines, mackerel, other fishes.
Dairy: Yogurt (in tsatsiki, etc.)( and called "labnah" in the Levant), Feta (in greek salad, spanakopita, etc.), cottage cheese
Oil: Olive Oil
Vegetables: Eggplant, Bell Peppers, Hot Pepper sauce (harissa), Carrots, Parsley.
Protein: Beef, Fishes (?carp roe? "Taramasalata")
Grain: Rice, couscous (semolina), white pita bread
Nuts/Seeds: Walnuts, almonds
Vegetables: Salads, spinach, onions, cucumbers, fennel, green beans, garlic, zucchini, herbs (thyme, oregano, marjoram, mint, etc.)
Fruits: Orange, lemon, figs, quince, dates, apricots
Beverages: Mint tea, wine, coffee, tea
Protein: Chicken/pigeon (and chicken broth in Avgolemono Soup, for example), Anchovy
Grain: Bulghur ("tabbouleh")
Beans/legumes: Chick peas ("Hummous", "Falafel", "Baba Ghanoush"); Lentils (watch out: sometimes mixed with rice in a "pilaf": Ask for Plain Rice)
Nuts/Seeds: Pistachio ("Baklava"), Pine nuts (sometimes hiding in a "Pilaf"); Poppy seeds, Sesame seeds ("Tahini" sauce/dressing, "halvah" dessert")
Ajvar (Balkan eggplant/pepper spread/relish)
Skordalia (garlic dip served with fried eggplant)
Lamb! Shish-kabob: Broiled, grilled. And if you can watch for hidden tomato and/or olives in a sauce, a Lamb Tagine! mmmm
Fishes: in a "charmoula" herb sauce, with plain rice and grilled eggplant
Spanakopita (filo appetizer stuffed with spinach and feta)
TsaTsiki: Yogurt/cucumber/parsley appetizer
Eggplant salad or grilled (NOT "baba ghanoush", which usually has a chick pea base)
Stuffed Grape Leaves (rice stuffing)
"Greek Salad" with no tomatoes or olives (Ask for lettuce, peppers, cucumber, onions and a chunk of feta cheese: A simple pleasure)
Baklava dessert if Walnuts are the only nut used
Bee Healthy, B's.
I was going to present, simply, "Deli", but the term encompasses any number of cuisines in different regions, especially both Jewish (sometimes "Kosher") and the more generic sandwich bar.
Here we B's have loads of choices, but there's good news and there's bad news, staple-wise.
Staples: Bad News:
1. Grains: You'll find rye flour in your favorite breads for those famous sandwiches, and both buckwheat and barley could make their appearances. Just say No.
2. Fats: Lots of questionable oils: Watch out for shortenings in doughs of breads, cakes, strudels, knishes, pie crusts, and some blintzes, as well as for Chicken Fat in meat/other dishes. This Oil-Issue can cause some scrupulous B's to avoid mayonnaises, in which case one may request that sandwiches not be smeared with it. However, various composed salads are held together with mayo, so I've placed an asterisk (*) beside those offerings for your convenience.
Staples: Good News:
1. Grains: If you're not avoiding wheat for, perhaps, weight control reasons, you may order white, sourdough or egg breads, or bagels. More likely to be appropriate for the shortening-wary: Scones, coffee cakes, crumpets and english muffins, brioches and croissants, popovers, muffins, some pancakes/blintzes using butter.
2. Oils: If it's a Kosher Deli, you will benefit from the long tradition of "Dairy" cuisine. This means that fish and other non-meat dishes will not be using a favorite Jewish oil: Chicken Fat.
Proteins: Fishes: Pike (dominant or exclusive fish in Gefulte fish), Sardines
Dairy: Cottage cheese (served with fresh fruit salad or in Blintzes: Fine if composed/fried in butter). Ricotta may rear its head in those blintzes (and in a certain dessert...).
Beans: Sometimes: Lima beans, in soups or dishes
Vegetables: Eggplant (salad/spread, not to be confused with Mediterranean "Baba Ghanoush", which is "Avoid" and not available in Deli's, usually). Also: Brussels Sprouts may accompany a winter Hot Turkey Platter (wishful thinking?). Cabbage, usually in Slaw*, also in Sauerkraut. Beets, especially in "Borscht", but be careful: Some Borscht contains tomatoes, some is based upon a chicken, rather than a beef or vegetable, stock. There's also a Jewish dish called "Tzimmes", which is composed of long-stewed vegetables: Often includes Carrots, maybe even Sweet Potatoes, as well as raisins/prunes.
Fruits: Fruit salads may contain Grapes and/or Bananas. Also: Bananas may be requested over Blintzes or French Toast.
Condiments: Horseradish (If it's in a creamy spread or sauce, however, it might contain CORN syrup: Read the label), Cranberry Sauce/Relish
Beverages: Green Tea? (Even Lipton and Snapple market it, in one form or another)
Protein: Turkey, Beef (corned beef, pastrami, sliced roast beef, "flanken", tongue, liver, nitrate-free Salami and Frankfurters); If this is a sandwich bar, and you're following Tier One, Ham might be an option; Bacon likewise, as in "Club" sandwich. Neutral Fishes, often in composed salads (and bear in mind these are usually Smoked, which feature you may or may not want to be avoiding. Salmon, Halibut and Sturgeon, though "Beneficial" when NOT smoked, show up here). The above fishes, along with whitefish and herring. Tuna Salad* and Egg salad*. Carp (in some Gefulte Fish recipes)
Omelets/scrambled eggs, in butter only. Hardboiled eggs.
Dairy: Cheeses, incl. Cream cheese (again, present in a favorite Deli dessert...), as well as Swiss, etc. Sour Cream. Butter. Cream.
Grains: Breads and bread stuffing and pudding. Rice and rice pudding.
Beans/Legumes: Split peas (in a Kosher deli, a Split Pea Soup will not contain Ham)
Vegetables: The usual. Also, potatoes (in pancakes, in potato salad*, as well as mashed when served with hot entrée). Pickles. Onion, Lettuce, String Beans, etc.
Fruit: Apple (sauce), raisins and dates, blueberries
Beverages: Coffee and iced; Tea and iced; Herb tea; Beer.
Protein: Chicken, Chicken Fat, Chicken Broth, Chicken Livers. Beef Brisket (usually seared in chicken fat and/or stewed for hours in tomatoes). Ham/Bacon if you're following Tier Two. Lox likewise.
Grain: Buckwheat (Kasha), Rye (bread), Barley (soups etc.) Corn (cornmeal in macaroons, cornstarch in "chiffon" and some other pie fillings).
Vegetables: Tomatoes (watch for hidden in soups and sauces, including brisket soups/sauces, stuffed cabbage, tomato sauces, ketchup, Russian/1000-island dressing)
Spices: Cinnamon (in many pastries)
Nuts/Seeds: Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds.
-Gefulte Fish with Horseradish condiment
-Beet Borscht (if tomato- and chicken broth-free)
-Neutral Sandwich on unseeded bread/roll, with lettuce, onion, pickle, mustard, even cole slaw or cranberry relish. "Club Sandwich", if on Tier One
-Reuben, Patty- or Tuna- melt (Not on Rye), with cole slaw/sauerkraut (no Russian/Thousand Island dressing)
-Roast Turkey Dinner, with Baked or mashed potato or, better, yams; cranberry sauce (brussels sprouts?)
-Nitrate-free Beef Frank with Mustard and Sauerkraut
-Brioche or Challah French Toast (say, "No Cinnamon, please")
-Cottage or Ricotta Cheese Blintzes with Bananas (butter-fried)(Ditto re: Cinnamon)
-Eggplant Salad/spread, if tomato-free
- Chef Salad without tomatoes (Tier One can have the ham, or even Bacon in a Cobb Salad, in which Tier Two adherents must request a substitution for this as well as for the Blue Cheese)
-Fruit Salad with Cottage Cheese
-Condiments: Mustard, mayonnaise*, Horseradish (see "Beneficial" above)
-Serious New York Cheesecake.
Live and Be Well.
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This week in the News (Bear with me, youngsters):
As Americans celebrate the promotion of my US district's congresswoman to Speaker of the House, here's a cute response to a line I heard on the News last night:
"...the new Speaker is expected to anounce plans for the make-up of the Congress..."
Reply: "I'm thinking Maybelline's Great Lash Mascara in assorted shades"...
Hyuk hyuk. Nancy will forgive it: With the right inflection, it's a distinctly San Francisco-friendly chuckle!
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My own milestone: One year of blogging here.
Here we shall plunge into the matter of so-called "BBQ", a type of restaurant one comes across in the USA, one posing a particularly knotty problem for B's, for reasons that shall be quite obvious. "Beneficials" are usually very limited, and "Avoids" abound. Use this guide especially if you're dining with others who have their hearts set on BBQ fare, unless you've found one that allows you to order more liberally. Note that sometimes we accidentally stumble upon a "wrong"-cuisine restaurant that makes the perfect broiled beefburger or salmon sandwich!
At most BBQ restaurants, your staple starch is Corn. Cornbread is the usual mopper-up of (tomato/ketchup-based) sauce (and Corn-on-the-cob is the usual "vegetable"). Because the meat supplies its own fat, even if the sauce is tomato-free, that meat has got to be, at the very least, "neutral", which it often is not. The following is the best we B's can do at MOST Barbecue-type eateries. Do order an especially good dessert if you like.
Proteins: Salmon, if available
Vegetables: Cabbage (slaw), carrots
Fruit: Maybe pineapple?
Protein: Beef (only if NOT cooked in tomato-based sauce!), Pork, likewise, and only on Tier One
Veg: Compliant salad and/or vegetable(s)
Beverage: Beer, wine, coffee, tea; Liquor (if Tier One only)
Protein: Chicken; Pork (if on Tier Two)
Veg: Tomato BBQ sauce/ketchup
Grain: Corn (on the cob and in bread)
Broiled or Grilled Burger/Steak/Fish, probably with baked potato (sour cream fine) or steamed rice, and compliant vegetable and/or salad.
Key Lime Pie?
Glad the series is being appreciated; More to come, and Happy 2007.
I will be presenting a series of Blogs treating of restaurant offerings suitable for B secretors, with key questions to ask oneself and one's waiter/chef at each ethnicity of eatery.
First: In all cases, decide in advance whether this is a "special treat"/once-in-a-blue-moon occasion, or a regular occurrence.
Second: Do you follow the Blood Type Diet at Tier One? or the more restricted Tier Two? or otherwise?
Having established these two personal criteria, you'll learn to evaluate a cuisine according to its two major staples: Its grain(s) and its fat(s). These will determine whether you may enjoy bread(s), noodles, and the like, and whether you may order sautéed/fried foods or must stick to grilled/roasted/broiled or steamed dishes.
Then, for each Cuisine: Beneficials, Neutrals, and Avoids will be broadly outlined, and, finally, under "Orders" will be listed some sample compliant dishes.
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Restaurant Ordering Guide for Blood Type B
Part 1: MEXICAN CUISINE
Mexican cuisine, wonderful as it is, boasts of several pitfalls for those with blood type B:
First: A staple grain is Corn, found in corn tortillas, corn chips (nachos) and cornmeal (tamales), as well as in corn oil, which brings us to ...
Second: Along with corn oil, Lard is a staple oil in most Mexican restaurants and is equally off-limits for most compliance levels for B. You may be lucky enough to find a Mexican restaurant that features lard-free cuisine. Do ask what is used instead: It might be another off-limits oil, such as safflower or peanut.
Canola is acceptable in extenuating circumstances, being an "avoid" at Tier Two, and to be used "infrequently" otherwise.
Beyond these "Avoid" staples, many more distinctives of Mexican cuisine are off-limits to the compliant B. However, forearmed with the following guidelines, one can find something delicious and nourishing to eat at a good Mexican restaurant.
Protein: Salmon, Halibut, Cod, Mahi Mahi -- other fishes
Veg: Peppers (bell, jalapeno, et al)
Fruit: Watermelon, Banana
Protein: Beef, Fishes, Pork (Tier One only)
Dairy: Eggs, cheeses, sour cream
Grain: Rice, white flour tortillas
Veg: Jicama, onion, lettuce...
Fruit: Lime, orange...
Dessert: Flan custard...
Beverage: Wine/Sangria, Beer, Coffee, Liquor (Tier One only)
Protein: Chicken, Pork (Tier Two), Shellfish
Grain: Corn, cornmeal, corn tortillas, nacho chips, tacos, tamales
Oil: Lard, corn oil, other oils (ask!)
Beans/Legumes: Black beans, pinto beans
Nuts/Seeds: Pumpkin ("pepitas")
Veg: Tomato, olives
Condiments: Tomato salsa, tomato sauces, guacamole
Beverage: Margarita (Tier Two)
Scallop Ceviche (no tomato)
Cheese Omelet with peppers and onions (no tomatoes, no salsa)(ask what oil is used)
Cheese Enchilada (on flour tortilla)(no tomato sauce or guacamole)(ask if oil is used...)
Grilled Steak Quesadilla on flour tortilla
Vegetable Quesadilla on flour tortilla
Grilled Steak or (benef. if possible Fish Fajitas (no beans, tomato, or guacamole) with peppers and onions GRILLED, not sautéed, and with rice that has no tomatoes in it: Ask!
Chile Rellenos (no sauce)
Grilled (not sautéed) Fish or Steak with (tomato-free) rice and/or salad, and STEAMED vegetables
Beer or Wine
Margarita (Tier One only)
Note: I will treat Tomatillos as a Neutral until I'm advised that they carry the same/similar lectins as Tomatoes. If you find out more, contact me, and I will edit the column to reflect that.
Another note: There's a Mexican restaurant here in San Francisco serving salads with goat cheese (!) and jicama, over which one may enjoy grilled steak or fish. Many restaurants aim to please. Keep your ears/eyes open for the gems.
More cuisines to follow, B's: Stay tuned!
Over the summer, I caught episodes of a horrible network TV "reality" cooking show called "Hell's Kitchen". The contestants weren't truly professionals, the contests were usually ridiculous, the host violent and the prize grandiose and inappropriate. Gross, freaky and cruel stunts in the name of cuisine? Pass the remote!
The other night I tuned in to BRAVO's "Top Chef". Talented, creative cooks of some proficiency compete for the Grand Prize of a professionally-outfitted kitchen, $100,000, and other big benefits, as well as for sub-prizes along the way, including a very-limited-edition knife and the placement of one's dish on the menu of a big national chain. As a former chef, I found myself wondering what I'd do, for each contest.
One challenge was a team effort toward presenting specific ethnic cuisines (Team Vietnam vs. Team Korea) at a big trade event in LA. Others were individual: Inventing and executing 3 quarts of an original ice cream flavor for mobs of children at the seashore; creating and serving a comfort food lunch at a stationhouse full of hungry firemen; creating a sushi dish to be judged by one of LA's top Japanese sushi masters --- all under tight time constraints and on budget. Very inspired ideas, I thought.
I don't yet know who won the Grand Prize. But a 44 year old caterer named Betty won two of the subprizes (the knife and the menu spot), and an executive chef named Cliff won two rounds as well. Personality-wise, Betty reminded me somewhat of myself: Personably interacting with diners and competitors as well as, good-humoredly, judges.
The challenges a chef faces, I was reminded, are complex and rigorous, demanding a very well integrated, supple p-e-r-s-o-n-a-l-i-t-y. Chefs with massive egos abound and are legendary, but they fail, in the clutch, without staffs willing to cover - often thanklessly - for the wide gaps in their inflated psyches. Cooking may itself be an art, but chef'ing is much moreso: The curtain goes up, hungry and demanding customers order and wait, staff rallies (or not), and the show must go on. During every shift, things "go wrong": Accidents happen, equipment breaks down, a baker doesn't show up, a waiter quits, the soup boils over, pasta sticks, plates get cold, tempers flare, and/or the weak crack. All the while, the front of the house must remain serene, receiving no overflow of kitchen mayhem.
"Top Chef"s contestant, Betty, reprimands a whining competitor who is not rising to the challenge of his brief time remaining, "OK! Forget the broken deep-fryer!" Move on! Fix your problem!": Good advice she was forced to implement herself when her griddle failed as she was preparing grilled cheese sandwiches; she quickly hauled out several frying pans and lit the stove (and won the round!).
I was reminded of the circumstances of my own promotion to full Dinner Chef. I was working under a volatile chef named Arthur when, on a Saturday night, a vegetable special ran out very early due to Arthur's miscalculation/misapportionment. He had no backup, and was ranting and panicking while plates were backing up and customers waiting. I'd quietly told the manager I could be ready to present a new vegetable in 5 to 8 minutes. Arthur didn't like our whispering and hurled a cleaver past me into a wall. The manager glared at me: "Can you do it? Do it". There was no time to emote about the heavy cleaver that had just audibly whizzed by my head. Asking a dishwasher to fill a prep sink with cold water, I ran out to our walk-in, lugged in a couple of flats of zucchini and fired up the sauté pans, dumping surplus chopped onion and celery in with the butter while my trusty dishwasher friend wiped down those zucchies for me. I sliced, lightly sautéed, herbed, seasoned, and co-presented the new vegetable with fresh rounds of main course special, and they flew out the swinging door -- No applause; just unsuspecting and contented customers, and just another night in the kitchen.
This type of scenario (sans knife-throwing) is acutally typical. Ingenuity, teamwork and technical know-how must be constantly and often unexpectedly summoned toward fixing, repairing, covering, reconnoitering, compensating, assisting, and - yes - pleasing - all with a smile (and, in my case, always a song in my head). The setting, varying from restaurant to restaurant, can be one of extremely high pressure and hazard. It takes a very strong individual and streamlined team-dynamics (and excellent hiring choices!) to pull it off night after night after night.
It was, indeed, to character flaws that some of "Top Chef"s disqualified contestants succumbed. One blew it during the Shopping phase, compromising his entire team's performance by effectively stealing a flat of lichee nuts from the market. Another sent out plates full of oversalted dishes, because she didn't want to send out NOTHING, and thus insulted the diners. Neither of these two was thinking clearly under time constraints. When their judgment snapped, their underlying ignorance of crucial aspects of the job was revealed, along with the lack of a solid professionalism undergirding whatever technical wizardry or artistry they might exhibit. (Pure and simple creativity are fine in one's own home setting: Honey and Junior won't walk out and give you bad press if the potatoes are too dry, nor will the place close down if the service is consistently slow.)
Betty, like me, understood and deftly navigated the energetics and dynamics of chef'ing, from concept through shopping, prepping, and executing, to presentation, flowing like a river over the rocks.
As for me, I was told by the manager, at the end of the Night of the Flying Cleaver, "I'm authorized to give you your own kitchen. Start tomorrow?"