"It IS all about the TASTE"
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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)

  • 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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  • Butter Garlic Noodles with Miso (miso-udon)


    One of the more annoying facts of the lair is the ever changing culinary landscape. I can deal with vegetarian, I can cope with a vegan “no-dairy” lifestyle, (for varying amounts of life), but when one of my loyal critics decides to go “wheat-free” as well, things start to get dicey.. (I believe may basic comment was, “Ok, your dinner is on the bar. And the bottle opener is on the back bar, put away your empties.)”

    So when said “friend” needed a snack, I looked to rice noodles, with a Garlic / Chili / Margarine sauce.

    To complete the insult, my offering was judged to be “lacking”. Many glances at the knife-rack, and considerations of garbage bags, and multiple dumpsters.

    Instead a re-run of the same dish, and a close examination of the refrigerator turned up a Asian staple, that meet all the “dietary requirements”, and would add “Umami”, with out meat or dairy… Such a miracle working culinary swiss knife is miso.

    Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley, and/or soybeans with salt and the fungus kōjikin, the most typical miso being made with soy. The result is a thick paste used for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables or meats, and mixing with dashi soup stock to serve as miso soup called misoshiru, a Japanese culinary staple. High in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, miso played an important nutritional role in feudal Japan. Miso is still widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking, and has been gaining world-wide interest. Miso is typically salty, but its flavor and aroma depend on various factors in the ingredients and fermentation process. There is a wide variety of miso available. Different varieties of miso have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory. The traditional Chinese analogue of miso is known as dòujiàng.

    Mame miso, or “soybean miso” is a darker, more reddish brown. This is not as sweet as some other varieties of miso, but has some astringency and good umami. This miso requires a long maturing term. Mame miso is consumed mostly in Aichi prefecture, part of Gifu prefecture, and part of Mie prefecture.

    And just to make sure my appreciation of his critique of my food as appreciated, I replaced the green chilies with an equal amount of Habenaro.

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  • Spicy Roasted Potatoes


    As spoke prior, my holiday dinner in this weekend, not a big deal I’ve found one of the guest’s tries to keep kosher. In this case, I need to provide dairyless alternatives to some dishes. (Whipped potatoes are just right out, as is the creamed spinach.)

    So looking around, I have some nice russet potatoes, some spices, some herbs, hmmm sounds like Potato Wedges or maybe rounds with a curry / cumin finish. Maybe some form of flavored mayonnaise as a sauce, maybe horseradish to match the prime rib ?

    Potato wedges are a form of french fry. As its name suggests, they are large, often unpeeled wedge shaped chunks of potato that are either baked or fried and seasoned with salt, pepper and spices prior to frying, to give a crispy flavored ‘skin’.

    Potato wedges are popular snack foods in pubs and bars, typically served with condiments such as sour cream, sweet chilli sauce, brown sauce, ketchup, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, ranch dressing and gravy.

    In some regions of the United States, potato wedges are known as jojos which originated in Ohio and is also used in other areas. Jojos are potato wedges fried in the same vat as chicken and usually eaten plain alongside fried chicken, cole slaw, and baked beans.

    On the East Coast they are also called Western Fries, In Germany, Wilde Kartoffeln (wild potatoes).
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  • Stewed Squash


    One of my favorite squash recipes, this works well for those squash that have gotten a bit large for frying. This is prime time for squash and zucchini, they are making last fruit, in abundance. The pity is that soon they will be gone and the only one we will find are shipped in from every increasing distances, meaning ever decreasing levels of freshness.

    Oh well, I suppose we should make the best of this as we can. This recipe is rather simple, but as most “simple” things quite good.

    Note: I make this with butter, but one can also use other fats, (read this as bacon drippings for the porcine lover, olive oil for the health conscious / vegetarian), this is a basic recipe, some will move this to a casserole, cover with panko / butter and brown, others will add tomatoes, others will use zucchini, or mix them into the pot.

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  • Meatless Monday – Chili Sin Carne

    As the Festival of Sukkot arrives, and I have been exchanging greetings with various friends who celebrate this, in one of these exchanges I was asked for a post on “Veggie Chili”.

    Now a bit of research shows …

    Vegetarian chili (also known as chili sin carne, chili without meat, chili non carne, and chili sans carne) acquired wide popularity in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s with the rise of vegetarianism. It is also popular with those on a diet restricting the use of red meat. To make the chili vegetarian, the cook leaves out the meat or replaces it with a meat analogue, such as textured vegetable protein or tofu, or a starchy vegetable, such as potatoes. These chilis nearly always include beans. Variants may contain corn, squash, mushrooms, or beets.

    I am lucky in the fact, that chili refers to a soup, stew, or curry, containing, Guess What…. Chilies!..

    But there is a problem, providing taste, texture, and aroma from a purely vegetable basis, but these are not insurmountable…

    Lets take the basics of chili…

    Chili Basics

    Item Replacement Comment
    Meat Soy Meat / Tofu Finely ground Tofu burger
    Stock Vegetable Stock Make your own
    Spices Spices No Need to Substitute
    Beans Beans Multiple types
    Tomato Tomato No Need to Substitute
    Fat Margarine Corn Oil Solids, Butter (if acceptable)

    Now a vegetarian chili does gains very little from a long simmer, the long cooking time is to help less-than-prime pieces of meat break down and tenderize, the only advantage to cooking for more that enough time to soften the beans is to get the spices to blend and mellow, as well as have come of the beans break down and provide starch to thicken the gravy.

    So how do I make vegetarian chili, it all depends on the vegetarian… Seriously, some vegetarians will not consume milk fat, (aka vegan), so using butter to add fat will not work and other methods (margarine, corn oil solids, etc) must be used.
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