Dhaka, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) -For a creative chicken salad, we were inspired by the flavors of Morocco: apricots, lemon and warm spices.
To give our dressing complex flavor, we reached for garam masala, a traditional spice blend of coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper. We also added a little more coriander, honey, and smoked paprika for depth.
Blooming the spices in the microwave deepened their flavors for an even bolder dressing. Chickpeas further echoed the Moroccan theme and lent heartiness, and crisp romaine combined with slightly bitter watercress made the perfect bed of greens for our toppings. Reserving a bit of the dressing to drizzle on just before serving made the flavors pop.
MOROCCAN CHICKEN SALAD WITH APRICOTS AND ALMONDS
Start to finish: 1 hour
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch smoked paprika
1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 tablespoon honey
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped coarse
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 romaine lettuce hearts (12 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces (4 cups) watercress
1/2cup whole almonds, toasted and chopped coarse
Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown chicken well on first side, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip chicken, add 1/2 cup water, and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until chicken registers 160 F, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then slice 1/2 inch thick on bias. Let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, microwave 1 tablespoon oil, garam masala, coriander, and paprika in medium bowl until oil is hot and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk 3 tablespoons lemon juice, honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper into spice mixture. Whisking constantly, drizzle in remaining oil.
In large bowl, combine cooled chicken, chickpeas, apricots, shallot, parsley, and half of dressing and toss to coat. Let mixture sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice into remaining dressing.
Toss romaine, watercress, and almonds together in serving bowl, drizzle remaining dressing over top, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with chicken mixture and serve.
Chongqing, July 16 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Two giant pandas in a zoo in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality gave birth to two pairs of twins on June 23, the zoo said Tuesday.
Female panda Lanxiang, 17, gave birth to a pair of male cubs in the wee hours of June 23, weighing 167 and 115 grams, respectively.
Another female panda, Mangzai, gave birth to a pair of female cubs in the afternoon on the same day, measuring 142 and 160 grams in weight, respectively.
This was the second time that the two giant pandas gave birth to twins, according to the zoo.
Chongqing zoo began to raise giant pandas in the 1960s and began to breed panda cubs in the 1980s.
So far, the zoo has bred 36 giant pandas, including nine pairs of twins and one set of triplets.
Bogotá, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Venezuelans like to jest that their beloved arepas are so widely consumed that babies come out of the womb with the corn flatbreads already in hand.
Now, as millions flee their homeland's turmoil, they are taking Venezuela's most ubiquitous dish with them.
Humble street stalls and sit-down restaurants serving arepas are popping up throughout the streets of Colombia's capital and in cities around the world, where many are finding the white corn flour patties an ideal means for gaining their footing in a foreign nation. Others are exchanging traditional fillings for local flavors in a nod to their adopted countries.
"For us, the arepa represents Venezuela," says Alejandra Castro, who opened an arepa business in Buenos Aires, Argentina over a year ago. "It's our culture, our daily bread. What one misses and longs for the most is an arepa."
The arepa's surge on the world stage comes as its consumption steadily declines back home amid a punishing financial crisis worse than the U.S. Great Depression, leading an estimated 4 million people to flee.
Migrants throughout the world have long brought their culinary traditions with them in something of an antidote for nostalgia. Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro's revolution in the 1960s cooked classics like ropa vieja and picadillo in their small apartments in Miami's Little Havana.
In some cases, traditional recipes are kept more alive abroad than back home.
More often than not, however, migrants slowly fuse the flavors of the country they left behind with the one they now call home. Chinese and Japanese migrants profoundly altered Peruvian cuisine, creating a delicate hybrid with Incan and European influences that has garnered worldwide acclaim. The influence of Lebanese arrivals cooking shawarma in Mexico led to the creation of tacos "al pastor" with spit-roasted pork.
Jeffrey Pilcher, a history professor at the University of Toronto, said migrants are often forced to reconcile a longing for the authentic taste of home with the need to make a living and offer more local flavors.
"So there are all manners of adaptations people make to balance those two, kind of contradicting desires," he said.
Venezuelans in Bogotá are now serving up arepas with Colombian flavors like local chorizo and red beans. In Lima, they are stuffing the patties with lomo saltado, a Peruvian marinated, stir-fried beef. And in Argentina, one business adds in a dash of chimichurri sauce.
Migrant Edgar Rodríguez became one of the earliest ambassadors of the food when he fled to Spain over a decade ago and opened up an arepa restaurant. He now has several fusion items on the menu including Spanish staples like serrano ham.
"As they say in Venezuela, 'The arepa can withstand anything," he said.
The story of the arepa begins before the arrival of Spanish colonizers, when indigenous chefs in Colombia and Venezuela ground white corn into round patties and baked them on clay griddles. Today, Colombian arepas are relatively wide and flat, while the Venezuelan ones are smaller, fuller and stuffed with fillings in the same style as pita bread. In both countries, they are a dietary staple.
When Venezuela was one of Latin America's most prosperous countries, the poor and the wealthy would typically eat two or three arepas a day. In the 1990s, the country's production of white corn flour rose to 800,000 tons a year, said Carlos Paparoni, an opposition lawmaker who tracks the country's agrarian crisis. But last year, production dipped to a paltry 140,000 tons, he said.
Empresas Polar, Venezuela's largest private food supplier, said in its most recent financial report that it received just over half of the required amount of raw corn product needed to maintain production levels of its gold standard corn flour.
The government itself provides boxes of subsidized food which now include Mexican corn flour used for tortillas that tends to result in unrecognizable arepas.
Venezuelans apt to find humor even amid crisis have taken to social media to share sometimes comical creations with the Mexican flour.
One woman tried making tacos filled with Venezuelan favorites like black beans and plantains and ended up with a plate of beige-colored tortillas with crispy edges and a rubbery consistency. Another person made a lackluster cake.
More recently, the so-called CLAP boxes to Venezuela's poor came with actual kernels of corn instead of corn flour, sparking a wave of outrage.
"The regime wants us to sit back and watch the destruction of our country with popcorn," one angry recipient opined on Twitter.
The first migrants to flee the Venezuela's shortages found it hard to track down white corn flour in distant lands like Spain and Argentina. But these days, new arepa restaurants abroad are opening monthly and shipping in pallets of Venezuelan ingredients, often produced in the U.S. and other countries.
"It's the unexpected and even 'tasty' culinary counterpart of a humanitarian tragedy," Venezuelan journalist Vanessa Rolfini wrote recently.
Not everyone, however, is finding their new takes on the arepa to be easily accepted.
Jorge Udelman tried putting Mexican ingredients like cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted pork, in arepas. Customers said they liked his food but already had restaurants they'd going to for decades to get traditional flavors.
"I can't compete with three generations of a family making the same recipes," he said. "It's not in my DNA."
Today, he sticks to traditional Venezuelan recipes at his arepa restaurant in Mexico City.
Such experiences are somewhat reflective of the hurdles that Venezuelans are encountering as they try to integrate into new cultures.
"There is certainly no guarantee that the acceptance of the food is going to lead to positive feelings around the migrants themselves," Pilcher said.
But Gerson Briceño is one of the migrant success stories.
The former head of a publicity company in Venezuela fled to Colombia after his wife and young daughter were briefly kidnapped at gunpoint. He first started a cellphone business, but opened an arepa stand outside a mall in December 2017 when he found himself wanting to pay tribute to his cherished homeland.
Today, Arepas Café has eight locations around Bogotá.
"I always missed the flavor of home," he said.
He said he takes pride in seeing Colombians become repeat customers and order classics like the reina pepiada with chicken salad and avocado. But he's also created two new arepas filled with Colombian flavors. One is stuffed with cheese and sausage, while the other features most of the ingredients in a typical bandeja paisa, a dish common in Medellin that includes an egg, red beans, steak, crispy fried pork skin and a plantain.
Colombia Martha Patricia Chaparro and her daughter recently gave it a try, marveling at the unorthodox invention.
"I don't think it would have ever occurred to us," she said, "to put a bandeja paisa in an arepa!"
Washington, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Medicare says it's moving toward potentially covering acupuncture for chronic low back pain as an alternative to opioid painkillers that can become addictive.
The agency announced its initial decision Monday. For now, access will be limited to seniors signed up in government-approved clinical studies. Medicare says more evidence is needed before broad approval can be considered.
A cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is believed to be thousands of years old. Trained practitioners insert thin needles at predetermined trigger points in the body to relieve pain and treat various conditions.
Acupuncture has gained acceptance in the U.S., but insurance coverage remains limited and patients generally pay for it themselves.
Many clinicians in Western nations remain skeptical of acupuncture, but the National Institutes of Health says research shows some pain-management benefits.
Los Angeles, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Scientists are closing in on a long-sought goal — a blood test to screen people for possible signs of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
On Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, half a dozen research groups gave new results on various experimental tests, including one that seems 88% accurate at indicating Alzheimer's risk.
Doctors are hoping for something to use during routine exams, where most dementia symptoms are evaluated, to gauge who needs more extensive testing. Current tools such as brain scans and spinal fluid tests are too expensive or impractical for regular check-ups.
"We need something quicker and dirtier. It doesn't have to be perfect" to be useful for screening, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer's Association's chief science officer.
Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, called the new results "very promising" and said blood tests soon will be used to choose and monitor people for federally funded studies, though it will take a little longer to establish their value in routine medical care.
"In the past year we've seen a dramatic acceleration in progress" on these tests, he said. "This has happened at a pace that is far faster than any of us would have expected."
It can't come too soon for patients like Tom Doyle, a 66-year-old former university professor from Chicago who has had two spinal fluid tests since developing memory problems four years ago. First he was told he didn't have Alzheimer's, then that he did. He ultimately was diagnosed with different problems — Lewy body dementia with Parkinson's.
"They probably could have diagnosed me years ago accurately if they had had a blood test," said Doyle, who represents patients on the Alzheimer's Association's board.
About 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer's is the most common form. There is no cure; current medicines just temporarily ease symptoms. Dozens of hoped-for treatments have failed. Doctors think studies may have enrolled people after too much brain damage had occurred and included too many people with problems other than Alzheimer's.
A blood test — rather than subjective estimates of thinking skills — could get the right people into studies sooner.
One of the experimental blood tests measures abnormal versions of the protein that forms the plaques in the brain that are the hallmark of Alzheimer's. Last year, Japanese researchers published a study of it and on Monday they gave results from validation testing on 201 people with Alzheimer's, other types of dementia, mild impairment or no symptoms.
The blood test results closely matched those from the top tests used now — three types of brain scans and a mental assessment exam, said Dr. Akinori Nakamura of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu, Japan. The test correctly identified 92% of people who had Alzheimer's and correctly ruled out 85% who did not have it, for an overall accuracy of 88%.
Shimadzu Corp. has rights to the test and is working to commercialize it, Nakamura said.
Another experimental test looks at neurofilament light, a protein that's a marker of nerve damage. Abdul Hye of King's College London gave results of a study comparing blood levels of it in 2,300 people with various neurological conditions — Alzheimer's, other dementias, Parkinson's, depression, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease — plus healthy folks for comparison.
Levels were significantly higher in eight conditions, and only 2% of healthy folks were above a threshold they set for raising concern. The test doesn't reveal which disorder someone has, but it may help rule one out when symptoms may be psychological or due to other problems.
Later at the conference, Dr. Randall Bateman of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis will give new results on a blood test he helped develop that the university has patented and licensed to C2N Diagnostics, a company he co-founded. Like the Japanese test, it measures the abnormal Alzheimer protein, and the new results will show how well the test reflects what brain scans show on nearly 500 people.
"Everyone's finding the same thing ... the results are remarkably similar across countries, across techniques," said Bateman, whose work is supported by the U.S. government and the Alzheimer's Association. He estimates a screening test could be as close as three years away.
What good will that do without a cure?
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last year found that most Americans would want to know if they carried a gene tied to a disease even if it was incurable.
"What people want most of all is a diagnosis" if they're having symptoms, said Jonathan Schott of University College London. "What we don't like is not knowing what's going on."