Ferment all the way with Ozuké
One of the foods that I never thought I would fall in love with is pickled vegetables. I had grown up loving deli pickles, but nothing more than that. How was I to know there is such a simple yet beneficial world of food out there -- all things pickled, fermented, cultured and alive! I read about this exciting world of microbes contained in these foods in Dr. Perlmutter's recent book Brain Maker. A must-read or must-listen for anyone who wants to improve their gut health!
I wanted to speak with the people who actually make these foods. Willow and Mara King are the chefs behind Ozuké, one of my favorite brands of fermented vegetables. To think that ingesting living organisms being beneficial for our gut is utterly fascinating! It used to totally freak me out, but now I try and get some form of probiotics into every meal. It has made a significant difference in my digestion, my immunity and so much more.
Q&A with Mara and Willow King of Ozuké
Q: What inspired you to create Ozuké?
A: Ozuké was born out of the kitchen... that fun space where you go with your friends to create deliciousness, make something brand new and share your creations with what invariably ends up being a party.
Q: What does ozuké mean?
A: Ozuké means "the best pickled things" or "honorable pickles" or "from pickles" or even more esoterically... "from cooking without heat".
Q: What's your philosophy on health?
A: Health is your participation in the creation of an inspired life.
Q: How long have you been pickling/fermenting for?
A: Kombucha since the 1990's... I picked up a scoby from a cute french girl and nurtured it in my mountain home at the time. That little scoby became a giant scoby in the back of one of the sushi bars I ran in the 2000's along with smelly pickling experiments all in recycled 5-gallon sushi ginger buckets. In 2009 I was the head chef of a nutritionally sound fine dining establishment and we had my kimchis and probiotic krauts on the menu as well as my kombucha in the bar.
Q: What are some of the benefits to eating cultured foods?
A: Eating cultured foods is good for your digestive health, your immune health, your mental health and is even (through vitamin A and K) supposed to be good for regenerative or skin health.
Q: How much do you consumer regularly? How much should the layman consume?
A: I drink fermented beverages daily and have done for many years. I eat about 1/2 - 1 cup of fermented veggies daily. I eat yogurt quite often and I have recently started playing with fermented grains as well. I often hear that when folks are new to fermented foods there can be a period of adjustment that can be gassy and painful. My recommendation is that if you are brand new to it go slowly... a bite here and there and then build up your tolerance.
Q: What's your favorite thing to pickle and why?
A: I have really enjoyed making fruit ferments the last couple of years... I started with plums making umeboshi and then applied the same logic to cherries. My latest obsession is fermenting grains... idli and dosa batter, injera, sourdough pancakes.
Q: Are there any individuals in the food movement that inspire you?
A: I recently spent a week living at Sandor Katz's Tennessee home and studying fermentation with a group of 10 complete food nerds. It was such heaven! Sandor is an amazing human being through and through. A thought leader, a kickass mover and shaker in the kitchen, patient, accepting, full of humor and sweetness.
I like Mark Bittman's can do approach to food and his commitment to food activism / politics as well.
Q: Is it possible to mess up a culture?
A: It is possible to mess up anything. What's more important is paying attention to how and why. Processes, ritual, attention and an openness to learn are more important. Nature has been teaching us all lessons for ever - having a living thing in your care is a sure fire way to learn and grow.
Q: Why do believe cooking is important?
A: For me cooking is a practice. Like yoga or meditation for some. I get to tune in to flavor, seasons, color, fragrance and texture, to use these things along with technique, time and effort to create, to nurture and to share. If I do this more often than not I know that I am infusing the people that I love the most with my unique and distinctive inspirations. Cooking every darn day is also a political stance. I choose where my food comes from, I support my local farmer, I participate directly with the health of my local food shed, I choose not to buy processed crap. Some days I am tired and I don't feel like cooking... good thing I married a man who also did his time slinging hash, working in bakeries and various restaurants in his youth who is perfectly capable of producing deliciousness and playing his part.
Q: Could you share an easy recipe with us?
A: We call this "Red Rice" at home. It is my daughter's favorite and she will make it by herself (and a huge mess in the kitchen too :P teenagers!) This recipe starts with plain white rice and stains it red with beets. Start with butter melting in a pan. Add a full jar (you heard me!) of our fermented Beets, Dulse & Kale. Sizzle for a bit then add cooked rice.
Stir over medium heat until it is all incorporated. Add finely minced garlic and drizzle with toasted sesame oil. We love to serve this rice with an egg on top and some sprouts or baby kales on the side. You’ll definitely enjoy the bright red pearly grains juxstaposed with a vivid white of eggs and the greens. It’s such an attractive plate and you can always snazz this up with another kind of protein and call it dinner. Make this one time and I promise your family will start harassing you for more and more beets. Enjoy!