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Delicious Ways to Use Lacto-fermented Foods

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Home made pickles
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You've turned cabbage into kraut, cucumbers into lacto-fermented dill pickles, apples into probiotic chutney...now what?

These super-healthy foods deserve a bigger portion of your plate than just the pickle on the side of your sandwich. But they are strongly flavored, and incorporating them into your daily meals requires a little culinary creativity.

In traditional cultures where fermented foods are ubiquitous at every meal, e.g. the kimchee that is always served with Korean food. Small dishes of them are placed on the table and everyone helps themselves to as much as they want.

But in addition to offering these foods as garnishes and side dishes, in many cultures they are also incorporated into main dishes.

Here are some of my favorite ways to eat lacto-fermented, probiotic foods. Some of them are based on traditional recipes, others are my own invention. I hope they'll inspire you to come up with your own recipes.

Kraut and Apple Slaw

Serves 2, recipe can be multiplied

This is my go-to answer for a quick winter salad. The tanginess of the sauerkraut provides most of the dressing.

1 large, firm apple, peeled and cored
1 cup sauerkraut
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Finely chop the apple. Toss with the other ingredients and serve.

Lacto-fermented Green Bean Soup

Serves 4

This soup is based on a Provencal recipe. The fermented green beans are added only after the soup has finished cooking so as not to kill off all of the healthy Lactobacillus bacteria (the same bacteria that make yogurt so good for you).

Because of this, it is best to make only what you will eat right away - reheating the soup will cook the beans and destroy their probiotic health benefits.

Serve with a good crusty bread for a light but warming winter meal.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 pints chicken or vegetable stock
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 pint lacto-fermented green or wax beans, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the oil over low heat in a medium size pot. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the potatoes and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are fall-apart tender, about 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat. Lightly mash the potatoes into the stock with a potato masher. You're not going for a puree: there should still be small chunks of potato in the finished soup. Add a little more stock or plain water if it seems thicker than you'd like.

Add the green or wax beans. Add black pepper to taste and salt if necessary (with lacto-fermented foods, you may not need additional salt). Serve immediately.

Note: This recipe works beautifully with other lacto-fermented vegetables as well. Just be sure to chop them into fairly small pieces and add them after turning off the heat on the soup.

Any Grain Salad with Fermented Vegetables

Serves 2, recipe can be multiplied

Similar to the Middle Eastern salad tabouleh, this is a great way to make the most of leftover cooked grains.

2 cups cooked rice, barley, quinoa, bulgur, or other grain (you could also use couscous)
1/2 cup any lacto-fermented vegetable, chopped into approximately 1/2-inch pieces (warning: beets will turn your whole salad bright magenta)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh dill or mint, finely chopped OR 1 teaspoon dried
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all of the ingredients together and taste. You can add a little of the brine the vegetables were in if you want a stronger flavor.

Yogurt Salad Dressing

1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or other herbs (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk together the yogurt, oil, vinegar and herbs if using. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Homemade Yogurt Fruit Cups

Serves 1

A homemade version of commercial fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts. This is a great way to use your home-canned fruits and jams. It is also a great quick breakfast or an easy snack to pack with you for a busy day.

1 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons jam OR 1/4 cup chopped canned fruit OR 1/4 cup fermented fruit chutney

Place the jam or fruit in the bottom of a small bowl or container. Spoon the yogurt on top. Eat right away, digging into the fruit at the bottom with each spoonful of yogurt, or fasten a lid and take with you for lunch or a snack.

Instead of Olives and Capers...

If a recipe calls for olives or capers and you have neither on hand, chop any lacto-fermented vegetable into 1/4-inch pieces and use instead. The result wont be identical to using the olives or capers, but will fulfill the same salty, lightly sour role in your recipe.

Instead of Vinegar

The brine lacto-fermented vegetables are in is rich in healthy probiotics, and it has a refreshing, lightly sour flavor. Once you've finished off the veggies in a jar, you can save the brine to use instead of vinegar in salad dressings.

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