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Mayonnaise, Aioli and Rouille

Home Made Mayonnaise – The BEST!

You are in Concarneau, a beautiful fishing village in the Breton part of France, and you are waiting for your frites. But it is not the frites that are taking so much time – the frites vendor is out of mayonnaise, and he is whipping up a fresh batch.

He uses a wire whisk, and starts dropping just tiny tiny drops of olive oil into the egg yolks, adding a little more, a little more, until it becomes a thin stream, and then a thicker stream, but the whisk never stops. The end result? Pure magic. Not quite so solid, but nothing like the mayonnaise we know.

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We all know that mayonnaise substance that comes out of jars we buy at the grocery store. White to pale yellow, taste varying from fairly tasteless to a little vinegar-y. It’s best for helping wash sandwich meat down, but doesn’t really have a lot to recommend it.

French mayonnaise is totally different. It has TASTE! It’s hard to say which tastes better, the hot fresh French frites (fries) or the homemade mayonnaise, but as a combination – oh man, it is unbeatable. It’s fresh, it’s made with the best ingredients. And because it’s olive oil, well the fat calories aren’t quite so unhealthy. Right.

Here is the best news of all – you can have that same great tasting mayonnaise. With the advent of the blender, you don’t even have to separate the eggs from the yolks – the whipping motion of the blades emulsifies the oil and the eggs and acid (and flavorings)

Basic Mayonnaise

2 eggs
2 Tablespoons lemon juice (or vinegar, or balsamic vinegar)
1 Teaspoon prepared mustard (not powder)
1 Teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups olive oil

(The very most important ingredient is the olive oil; use a very good olive oil, one with lots of taste. In my heart, I think French mustard {not French’s} is the best, and Sel de mer – French salt. If you’re going to make good mayonnaise, go all the way. Do it right. And have fun.)

Break eggs into blender container, add the acid (lemon juice or vinegar), mustard and salt. Turn blender on low. Let the blender blend about 30 seconds before adding tiny drops of olive oil. Add drops very slowly, letting the blender do its thing.

Take your time. From tiny drops, let the olive oil stream into the blender container in a tiny thin stream, and then a slightly thicker stream. The secret to success here is always taking it slow and easy, letting the eggs and acid emulsify the oil. About 3/4 way through the process, the mixture will suddenly thicken. Keep adding the olive oil slowly, until it is all incorporated.

At this point the mixture may still be pourable. Homemade mayonnaise is a little runnier than the kind you buy in the store. Pour it into clean jars and store it in the refrigerator immediately – it will thicken up as it refrigerates.

Disaster: It happens, even if you’ve been making mayonnaise for years. The solution is SO simple. Pour the mixture – it will look like salad dressing with pieces in it – into another container and wash the blender container thoroughly, with soapy water. Break another egg into the container – that’s all. Nothing else. Start the blender, and this time, go a little slower. The secret to making this work is going very very slowly, especially at the beginning. Trust me, the process itself is so fast that you can afford to pour slowly. And oh! the results! You are going to be addicted to your own mayonnaise.

Advanced Mayonnaise

Before you go any further, I want you to successfully make mayonnaise three times. You can put it in pretty jars and give it away; people will love it.

Aioli
The French in Provence, particularly in Marseilles, have a dish that I think was created just to eat mayonnaise. It is called “Aioli”, the same name as the name of the mayonnaise sauce served with it. The entire meal is cooked salt cod, and a variety of cooked vegetables, all served with liberal dippings into the aioli sauce.

To make Aioli, you pop four or five (peeled!) cloves of garlic in with the eggs and acid before you start adding the oil. It’s that simple. (Some people add breadcrumbs. I don’t.) Aioli is also good – GREAT – with turkey, on sandwiches, as a dip for vegetables, oh any excuse will do . . . it is SOOOO good.

Most sources say aioli can be kept about two weeks, refrigerated. Mine never lasts that long.

Rouille
Rouille is served atop a big bowl of Bouillabaisse (French fish soup with whole fish pieces). It is a fiery spicy hot mayonnaise.

Start as if for aioli, then add two teaspoons cayenne pepper. If your family likes things hot hot hot, you can add some of the ground red pepper pieces like you find in the spice markets, or you put on pizza slices in Italian restaurants – it gives it a little more texture. You can also add a piece or two of roasted red peppers, for more intense color. Add the pepper BEFORE you start adding the oil.

Again, some people add breadcrumbs. I don’t.

Fixing a Mayonnaise Failure
A very humid day can make mayonnaise problematic. The heavy atmosphere of an impending thunderstorm can make good emulsification impossible. Accidentally adding too much oil or having the eggs too cold can make a mayonnaise curdle. It doesn’t happen often, but don’t despair. It’s fixable. Just start over, with one egg, and slowly, slowly adding that curdled mixture. You will be amazed at how easy this is.

Even your first time, when you are nervous, it won’t take an hour, start to finish. By the time you’ve done it a time or two, it won’t take half an hour, from getting out the blender to putting the jars of fresh, delicious homemade mayonnaise into the refrigerator. And you will be ridiculously proud of yourself.

There are no preservatives, no added chemicals. I don’t know how long it will last, kept refrigerated – it just doesn’t last long enough to become an issue. C’mon. I dare you. Give it a try.

(Ooops – I just remembered, there is danger to some people from the use of raw eggs. Making mayonnaise with raw eggs isn’t right for everyone. You could get really sick.)

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January 22, 2007 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, Diet / Weight Loss, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Experiment, Health Issues, Recipes | 9 Comments

Cosmetic Danger: Repeated Usage

Women are always looking for cosmetic magic – I call it “Hope in a Bottle”. We are promised wrinkle-free skin, wonderful large lucious lips that never lose their color, potions that will make blemishes disappear, and fragrances that will get our man. Right.

Just before leaving Seattle, I hit the Lancome center at the local Nordstroms and stocked up. The dear woman there always gives me some little sample sizes to use on my long flights. I was telling my good friend about picking up some “hope in a bottle” and she said “oh, that sounds like something I need to try! Where do you get it?” We had a good laugh about that.

In the AOL section on Money and Finance today is a report about chemicals in your cosmetics. What shocked me is that the US uses many chemicals that the European Union has banned in their cosmetics. The article tells about how loosely the US is monitoring chemical additives in cosmetics – nail polishes, skin cremes, deodorants – chemicals that we are putting on our bodies every day, and no one knows the consequences of long term usage.

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The report is from Consumer Reports.org, a highly regarded watchdog of American consumer products. Their magazine reports monthly on cars, appliances, drugs, children’s toys, and deceptive packaging.

What You Should Know About Chemicals in Your Cosmetics

You slather, spray, and paint them on and rub them in. Cosmetics are so much a part of your daily regimen that you probably never think twice about them. If they’re on store shelves, it seems reasonable to figure that they’re safe to use, despite those unpronounceable ingredient lists.

But at least some of what’s in your cosmetics might not be so good for you. One example is the family of chemicals known as phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates), which may be linked to developmental and reproductive health risks. The industry says phthalates are safe, but some companies have dropped them in response to public concern. Essie, OPI, and Sally Hansen, for example, are removing dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which is used to prevent chipping, from nail polishes. Other big-name brands that have reformulated products to remove some phthalates include Avon, Cover Girl, Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Max Factor, Orly, and Revlon.

Take a Whiff of This

If you’re trying to cut back on phthalates, however, sticking with these brands may not make much of a difference. You’ll find phthalates in too many other personal-care products, including body lotions, hair sprays, perfumes, and deodorants. The chemicals are used to help fragrances linger and take the stiffness out of hair spray, among other reasons. They’re also in detergents, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, and plastic toys. And they have turned up in our bodies.

Although phthalates show up in so many places, they’re often absent from labels because disclosure is not always required. That’s the case with fragrances. We tested eight fragrances and although none of the products included phthalates in its ingredient list, they all contained the chemicals. Some were made by companies that specifically told us their products were free of phthalates, and two even say as much on their Web sites.

Getting your nails done or spritzing on your favorite perfume obviously isn’t going to kill you. But the health effects of regular long-term exposure, even to small amounts, are still unknown.

Makeup wakeup call

Phthalates, a family of chemicals used in cosmetics, may pose significant health risks but:

· They’re found in perfumes, nail polishes, and other products we use every day.

· Scientists say they’re found in our bodies as well.

· In many cases, they’re not listed on labels, so they can be difficult to avoid.

· Some manufacturers are removing them from their products, but the FDA has not restricted their use.

Companies that have eliminated phthalates are no doubt getting the message that people are paying more attention to ingredients. But public concern isn’t the only factor driving the reformulations. Another reason is a European ban. Although the U.S. has outlawed just eight cosmetic ingredients, the European Union has banned more than 1,000. (emphasis mine) For companies that make cosmetics, complying with E.U. rules makes good business sense. It’s more efficient to sell the same product worldwide. It’s also good PR. About 380 U.S. companies have publicly pledged their allegiance to cosmetic safety by signing the Compact for Global Production of Safe Health & Beauty Products, under which they voluntarily pledged to reformulate globally to meet E.U. standards.

The reformulation trend is likely to gain further momentum from the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005, which took effect only this year. Manufacturers that sell over $1 million a year in personal-care products in the state must report any products containing a chemical that is either a carcinogen or a reproductive or developmental toxic agent. Among those that must be disclosed are the phthalates DBP and di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). California plans make this information public, possibly on the Web, so some companies may choose to remove rather than report the ingredients.

Guinea pig nation

Despite the laws, pacts, and reformulations, questions about safety remain. Cosmetic industry critics argue that the Food and Drug Administration has not told companies what “safe” means, leaving them to make their own decisions. In fact, with cosmetics, the government generally takes action only after safety issues crop up.

Take the case of Rio hair relaxers. In December 1994, the FDA warned against two products sold through infomercials after consumers complained about hair loss, scalp irritation, and hair turning green. Rio announced that it would stop sales but there were reports that it continued to take orders. The California Department of Health then stepped in to halt sales and in January 1995, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles filed a seizure action. By then, the FDA had received more than 3,000 complaints. Rio later reformulated and renamed its products.

The Rio case illustrates how holes in the government’s cosmetic regulatory system can hurt consumers. The industry essentially regulates itself. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel, made up of physicians and toxicologists and funded by the industry’s leading trade group–the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA)–assesses ingredient safety. Another industry group reviews fragrances and helps create safety standards. But manufacturers aren’t obligated to do anything with this information.

“We’re working on the honor system when it comes to cosmetics safety,” says Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a research and advocacy group. “In the absence of federal standards, we have a huge range of safety in the products we buy every day.”

The FDA has made efforts to improve its ability to spot problems and issue warnings. The agency now has a computerized database, called CAERS, that collects reports of problems such as allergic reactions. Complaints can be sent via the FDA Web site or by calling a district office. But Amy Newburger, a dermatologist at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City and a former member of the FDA’s General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel, says her experiences make her wonder about the system’s effectiveness. In one case, she filed a report by phone and on the CAERS system after she and several of her patients got a rash with blisters after using an anti-aging treatment. It wasn’t until a year later, in November 2006, that the FDA sent an e-mail asking her to complete some forms, she says. The FDA responds that it doesn’t provide information or feedback to people who file complaints. It simply routes them to the appropriate office for evaluation. The FDA says it may also send reports to companies.

So what are the risks?

Scientists know very little about how repeated exposure to small amounts of phthalates in cosmetics may affect your health, if at all. But some studies suggest that the chemicals are present in our bodies.

In 2005, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that it had found breakdown chemicals from two of the most common cosmetic phthalates in almost every member of a group of 2,782 people it examined. A separate study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) in 2005 showed that men who used the most personal-care products, such as after-shave and cologne, had the highest urinary levels of a breakdown product of diethyl phthalate (DEP).

In rodent studies, phthalates have caused testicular injury, liver injury, and liver cancer. We found no such clear hazards in human research. But we did find studies suggesting that phthalates may be associated with other health issues, including the following four examples from one source alone, EHP, which is a leading journal published by the National Institutes of Health. In 2000, EHP published a small study that said elevated blood levels of phthalates were associated with premature breast development in young girls. Another report in 2003 found that men with higher concentrations of two phthalate breakdown products in their urine were more likely to have a low sperm count or low sperm motility. A study published in 2005 said women with higher levels of four phthalate compounds in their urine during pregnancy were likelier to give birth to boys with smaller scrotums. And a 2006 report cited low testosterone levels in male newborns exposed to higher levels of phthalates in breast milk.

Experts in the industry and the government are aware of such reports but say there is no cause for alarm. The FDA, for instance, concluded after a thorough review of the literature that “it’s not clear what effect, if any, phthalates have on health.” And the CTFA, the industry trade group, notes that government and scientific bodies in the U.S. and Canada have examined phthalates without restricting their use in cosmetics. After the 2005 report linking phthalate exposure to smaller scrotum size, in particular, the trade group said, “The sensational and alarming conclusions being drawn from this single study are completely speculative and scientifically unwarranted.”

Even companies that have dropped phthalates from products say they are safe. “This policy is driven by a wish to allay public concern and does not reflect concern with the safe use of the ingredients,” Avon said after announcing that it would cut DBP from its product line. John Bailey, the CTFA’s executive vice president for science, says ingredients like DBP in nail polish are simply not a hazard in such small amounts.

On the other side are some environmental and public-health advocates who say possible carcinogens and reproductive toxins do not belong in cosmetics, no matter how small the amount. “We take issue with the idea that a little bit of poison doesn’t matter, because safer alternatives are available,” says Stacy Malkan, communications director of Health Care Without Harm. “Companies should be making the safest products possible, instead of trying to convince us that a little bit of toxic chemicals are OK.” While the scientific jury is still out, we at ShopSmart believe it makes sense to reduce your exposure to phthalates, especially if you’re nursing, pregnant, or trying to become pregnant.

January 22, 2007 Posted by | Customer Service, Health Issues, Hygiene, Lies, News, Shopping, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 4 Comments