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  • Guacamole


    Tis’ the night before Cinco De Mayo, and through the States, tomatoes, peppers, avocados, and cilantro are been beaten into a unrecognizable pulp, to be served as guacamole..

    From Wikipedia:

    Guacamole, sometimes informally referred to as “guac” in North America, is an avocado-based dip or salad first created by the Aztecs in what is now Mexico. In addition to its use in modern Mexican cuisine, it has also become part of American cuisine as a dip, condiment and salad ingredient.

    And there is the first time I can remember, that I venomently disagree, with the Wikipedia Community.

    Guacamole, is NOT a dip, Guacamole IS a salad.

    But like almost all things “Americanized”, the concept has been abused and misused to the point of no longer being recognizable as the original product. Made with chunks of avocado, minced onion, finely diced tomatoes, and just enough Jalapeño or Serrano pepper to add a spice kick. No mayonnaise, no sour cream, no stick blender and for god’s sake, no mariachi bands.

    Guasacaca is a smooth green sauce, from Venezuela, made with avocados and vinegar, with a much stronger flavor and spice kick .. (But that is another post)

  • Meatless Monday – Fried Okra

    fokra

    In keeping with my home cooking, comfort food bend of mind, another favorite dish from you youth. Some people just rebel at the thought, but young orka, rolled in corn meal, and allowed to firm up, then deep fried is a sweet taste treat of a side dish.

    Background
    The name okra is most often used in the United States, with a variant pronunciation, English Caribbean okro. The word okra is of West African origin and is cognate with ọkwurụ in the Igbo language spoken in Nigeria. Okra is often known as “lady’s fingers” outside of the United States. In various Bantu languages, okra is called kingombo or a variant thereof, and this is the origin of its name in Portuguese (quiabo), Spanish (quimbombó or guigambó), Dutch and French, and also possibly of the name “gumbo”, used in parts of the United States and English-speaking Caribbean for either the vegetable or a stew based on it. In India and Pakistan, and often in the United Kingdom, it is called by its Hindi/Urdu name, bhindi, bhendi, bendai or “bhinda”. In Tamilnadu ,India it is called as Vendaikai.

    The products of the plant are mucilaginous, resulting in the characteristic “goo” or slime when the seed pods are cooked; the mucilage contains a usable form of soluble fiber. Some people cook okra this way, others prefer to minimize sliminess; keeping the pods intact, and brief cooking, for example stir-frying, help to achieve this. Cooking with acidic ingredients such as a few drops of lemon juice, tomatoes, or vinegar may help. Alternatively, the pods can be sliced thinly and cooked for a long time so the mucilage dissolves, as in gumbo. The cooked leaves can also be used as a powerful soup thickener. The immature pods may also be pickled.

    Okra is richer in potassium than bananas and has nearly twice as much calcium gram for gram as milk. 100g supplies a third of the recommended daily intake of magnesium (needed for energy release and healthy nerves) and more than 10 per cent of the RDA for iron. Okra is also a source of fiber – stir-fried okra contains much fiber as whole wheat bread. In addition it is quite a good source of vitamin C and the antioxidant betacarotene, which has a range of benefits, including protection against cancer and heart disease by helping to neutralise free radicals.

    Okra is one of those “binary foods” where people seem to hate it or love it, just like mushrooms, seaweed, and tofu. The hate is usually because of the gooey slime that coats the okra, but that is not a preordained fate

    Okra becomes slimy when cooked with a moist method—in a stew, curry, gumbo (in all these the sliminess helps to thicken the overall dish), or a steamer basket. Stir-frying or sauteing in hot oil, in contrast, keeps the slime within the okra pieces, or perhaps causes the moisture in the mucilage to evaporate, thus improving the pods’ texture.

    There are cooking techniques tol prevent your okra dish from being slimed. Indian food has many techniques of okra preparation, and I have three recommendations from my Indian friends.

    1. Trim just the very tip and the end of the okra and pan fry the whole okra pods until tender.
    2. Trim and round the pods then saute with onions and spices
    3. Trim SMALL okra pods, dredge in spices and corn meal / flour, and deep fry

    Note : After you wash the okra pods, wipe them dry with a paper towel. Controlling moisture is the key to controlling the slime.

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  • Meatless Monday – Fried Yellow Squash

    Again a dish from my youth. Fresh from the garden squash, (yellow, summer, crook-neck, or zucchini), sliced thin, tossed in seasoned corn meal and quick fried, usually served hot. (actually, we just stood around the stove grabbing pieces off the plate as they came out for the frying pan.)

    Background
    Squashes generally refer to four species of the genus Cucurbita native to Mexico and Central America, natively grown in parts of North America, Europe, India, and Australia. In North America, squash is loosely grouped into summer squash or winter squash, as well as autumn squash depending on whether they are harvested as immature vegetables (summer squash) or mature vegetables (autumn squash or winter squash). Well known types of squash include the pumpkin and zucchini.

    When used for food, squash are usually picked when under 8in/20cm in length and the seeds are soft and immature. Mature squash can be as much as three feet long, but are often fibrous and not appetizing to eat. Squash with the flowers attached are a sign of a truly fresh and immature fruit, and are especially sought by many people.

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  • Meatless Monday – Breakfast Fry

    It’s coolish/ warminsh / coldish / hotish, in short mid spring, I am quite busy, and have a yen for some comfort food. The original comfort food was the potato, crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside. But I want a bit more flavor and texture…

    Maybe I’ll par-boil some potatoes, slice or quarter them, and fry them up in my heavy cast iron skillet, maybe adding some cheese and a Jalapeño, along with some spices to kick up the flavor a notch.

    Home fries, house fries, or cottage fries are a type of basic potato dish made by pan or skillet frying diced, chunked, wedged or sliced potatoes (sometimes unpeeled) that have been par-cooked by boiling, baking, steaming, or microwaving.

    While it is possible to make “home fries” without par-cooking the potatoes, these are technically raw fries. The texture will be more chewy, and the longer cooking time increases the likelihood of burning the potato pieces. Home fries are also made, as the name suggests, as a simple homemade potato dish and can be prepared even by people with modest cooking skills as a meal or a snack.

    The frying is typically done in vegetable oil or butter. Other ingredients may be added. If chopped onions and bell peppers are added to diced potatoes it creates a dish referred to as Potatoes O’Brien. If sliced potatoes and sliced onions are sautéed together with seasonings it can create a dish referred to as Lyonnaise potatoes.

    The consistency depends on the type of potato used. Although various types of white potatoes are the most popular base, sometimes waxy (usually red-skinned) or sweet potatoes are used.

    In the United States, home fries are popular as a breakfast dish and are sometimes served in place of hash browns. Home fries may be served with a condiment such as ketchup or maple syrup.

    Patatas bravas or papas bravas is a dish of the cuisine of Spain, often served as a tapa in bars. It typically consists of white potatoes that have been cut into 2 centimeter irregular shapes and then fried in oil and served warm with a spicy tomato sauce. This dish is commonly served in restaurants and bars throughout Spain, where it is traditionally accompanied by a shot of orujo or a glass of wine.

    The potatoes are boiled in brine for several minutes to tenderize them. They are then rubbed dry and fried in oil in a manner similar to the preparation of potato chips.

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  • Lettuce and Bacon

    bs-salad

    It is spring and the first heads of lettuce are coming in, I so must have a dish from my youth. I can not count the number of nights dinner was thick strips of bacon, fried, with a salad of lettuce and onion, or spinach greens wilted with a hot bacon and vinegar dressing, served with a big wedge of corn bread and butter.

    One can “class” this up and use spinach greens with a “Hot Bacon Dressing”, but I’ll always think of this as wilted lettuce.

    These are the things that memories are made of, (some times, you wish to go back for just one more meal)

    Background
    As said before

    Bacon is a cut of meat taken from the sides, belly, or back of a pig, then cured, and smoked. Meat from other animals, such as beef, lamb, chicken, goat, or turkey, may also be cut, cured, or otherwise prepared to resemble bacon. Bacon may be eaten fried, baked, or grilled, or used as a minor ingredient to flavor dishes.

    Sarah Hepola, on Salon.com, suggests that eating bacon in the modern, health-conscious world is an act of rebellion: “Loving bacon is like shoving a middle finger in the face of all that is healthy and holy while an unfiltered cigarette smolders between your lips.

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  • Preserved Lemons

    I have started playing with a fusion diet of Mediterranean, Mid-Eastern, and Far Eastern cuisines. Heavy on Rice, Noodles, Breads, Pastas, fuits, veggies, nuts, beans, olive / sesame oil, and very light on red meat. A fair amount of fish, lighter on poultry. This does not mean I will run screaming at the sight of a a steak, (or at least run screaming AWAY..)

    One item that keeps popping up is preserved lemons, used in all kinds of dishes around the Mediterranean, it really should be called preserved lemon peel, as that is the component most used.

    From Wikipedia:

    Preserved lemon or lemon pickle is a condiment that is common in Indian and North African cuisine. It is also known as “country lemon” and leems. Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of water, lemon juice, and salt; occasionally spices are included as well. The pickle is allowed to ferment at room temperature for weeks or months before it is used. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (zest and pith together) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.

    Pieces of pickled lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness. They may then be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish. The rind may be used with or without the pulp.

    Preserved lemon is the key ingredient in many Moroccan dishes such as tagines. In Cambodian cuisine, it is used in dishes such as Ngam nguv, a chicken soup with whole preserved lemons. They are often combined in various ways with olives, artichokes, seafood, veal, chicken, and rice. Lemon Pickle is a standard accompaniment to curd rice, which is often the last course in South Indian Cuisine.

    The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used. The flavor also combines well with horseradish, as in American-style cocktail sauce.

    In Ayurvedic cuisine, lemon pickle is a home remedy for stomach disorders, and its value is said to increase as it matures. In East African folk medicine, lemon pickle is given for excessive growth of the spleen.

    From a VERY OLD COOKBOOK (Elizabeth Raffald (1786). The experienced English housekeeper )

    They should be small, and with thick rinds: rub them with a piece of flannel; then slit them half down in four quarters, but not through to the pulp; fill the slits with salt hard pressed in, set them upright in a pan for four or five days, until the salt melts; turn them thrice a day in their own liquor, until tender; make enough pickle to cover them, of rape-vinegar, the brine of the lemons, Jamaica pepper, and ginger; boil and skim it; when cold, put it to the lemons, with two ounces of mustard-seed, and two cloves of garlic to six lemons. When the lemons are used, the pickle will be useful in fish or other sauces.

    Note: When I speak of “Fresh” dried spices, I am stalking about items recently acquired, not sitting on a back shelf for a year. This should yield about a quart, so having a sterilized quart jar and lid is necessary. As a point, it is easier to manipulate the lemons in a wide mouth jar.

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