Friday, June 29, 2012

Some like it hot and some like it hotter

My recent trip to the Farmer's Market on Findley also included a quick look in the back at the Hispanic  section.  The bonus find was a medium size basket of tomatillos for 3 bucks.  You know tomatillos are those things that look like green tomatoes in a light brown husk.  For the record they are not in the tomato family at all, but are kissing cousins of the gooseberry. ( For the record, I have no idea how or why I retain crap like that.  If it is totally useless info it stays with me forever, but if it is something important like where my keys are hiding it is gone.)  Back to the gooseberry tomato things- I immediately started thinking about salsa verde, and a couple of days after I got home it happened.  I wanted something simple, tasty and something that required no cooking.  I found several recipes and this is a combination of a couple

Tomatillo Salsa

1/2 pound(ish) tomatillos raw cut into chunks
1,2,or3 serrano peppers coarsely chopped (Only you know your personal tolerance for heat.  I am a 2 seeded with the ribs removed pepper gal.  I like heat but I don't like it to stay around more than a minute after the bite is gone. If you are a wimp and like just a tiny bit of heat opt for 1/2 seeded and ribless jalapeno.  Remember the more seeds and pepper ribs the hotter it will be.)
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 small cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Now for the hard part.  Plug in your food processor and put everything in the bowl.  Turn it on and let it pulverize or chunkify it . (That is a word cause I just invented it)   I like mine a little more blended because the ingredients marry each other and nothing stands alone.  If you prefer to have a mix with different notes singing then blend it less.

I served this the first night over fish tacos ( Yum!).  The next day I forgot to eat lunch and was really hungry so I pulled out 6 saltine crackers and sprinkled them with goat cheese crumbles, topped with a drizzle (glob) of the salsa. Last night I put a tad on a hamburger for a little kick. Tonight I wanted just a little something salty so I got some regulation Tostidos and dipped the edges of each in a little of the sauce.  There is just enough left to have as a topping on a Spanish omelet in the morning.

I am going to the market again on Tuesday and hopefully will find a great deal again.  I am going to need a salsa verde fix again next week.  I think I am going to get an ice cube tray and try freezing a batch. I would love to be able to defrost a single cube and taste this summer fresh spicy flavor in the dead of winter

Friday, June 22, 2012

Put Up or Just Be Quiet

Today was one of those days that start out really fun and productive and then never seem to end.  It began with a trip to the Findley Avenue Farmer's Market and ended in the kitchen well after midnight , freezing, feeding the pantry,putting food up, or whatever term you use for preparing the summer's produce for use in the winter.

 Millie and I had a little "venture" ( as her young niece calls it) traipsing through the produce at the market.  OK so we didn't even begin to traipse, at least we were there supporting local farms and farmers with the intent of buying more than we needed for today.  We officially jumped into the "Slow Food Movement" feet first.  We not only bought from local farmers, but we got to talk with them and hear their stories.  When I buy a bell pepper at Publix I have no idea where it came from,  I know the things we bought were from Chilton county, when they were picked and who raised them.

 A lot of people like to buy at the produce stands in various parts of the city ( Andy's and Murphee's in particular).  I have nothing against buying there and go to them weekly, but sometimes I want okra by the basket or a bushel of corn and at their prices it just isn't practical.  I also want my produce to be as fresh as possible before I freeze it, and sometimes the local marts refrigerate it overnight. I want something that spent most of the previous day on the vine.

The prices today were not at good as they will be a little later when the produce starts flooding in, but the things I got were certainly beneath what I would pay elsewhere and the product was better.  A bushel of sweet corn was 15 dollars, but that bushel has over 60 ears.  At Andy's I recently paid 50 cents per ear, so doing the simple math I got these for half of their price.  Millie and I split it so we each had  only 1/2 bushel to process.  I can't speak for Millie, but after shucking all of my corn I only had an inch or so loss off of a couple of ears of corn.   We ate 3 ears for supper, so that leaves 27 processed and resting in my freezer.  While sweet corn is available I will continue to buy it fresh, but sometime this winter when I am dying for some summer goodness, I will slip out an ear  and remember how good it tasted.

I also found a basket of okra for 15 dollars.  I know it sounds like a lot of money for a basket of okra and it is, but it is a little early for okra.  I paid a premium for something we love.  After fixing a mess ( I do love Southern vernacular)  for supper, I processed and froze 3 bags for winter time oven fried okra.  There was also enough for 2 small bags  for boiling.  Only one of us eats the  vile slimy disgusting boiled stuff, but I am not naming names.  The best way I have found for freezing okra is to cut it like you are going to fry it, coat it in cornmeal , put it on a cookie sheet and pop it in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  Take it out and bag it in freezer bags.  I know I am supposed to put the bag on ice to cool it but I never do.  I have a marble slab that I toss it on and it cools quickly that way.

I have the ultimate pan for okra in the oven.  During Christmas when most women are asking for baubles and gems and furs and beautiful people stuff,  I was asking for a stainless steel cookie sheet.  I actually asked my parents, and after opening gifts they had to tell me there was no such thing as a stainless cookie sheet but they bought the next best thing.  It is a huge odd shaped jelly rollish pan, but way to big for a jelly roll, with a tiny waffle design stamped in the bottom.  It is  weird pan and I only use it for oven fried okra, but it is perfect for it.  ( I should have expected an odd item from the folks.  When I was in college I asked them for a styrofoam ice bucket.  My dorm had crunchy ice in the cafeteria and if you had an ice bucket you could fill it up after dinner was served.  Who would not want to eat crunchy ice through the night?  I only asked for styrofoam because I wanted something inexpensive, not because I had a thing for the material.  Long story short, Christmas morning imagine my surprise when I opened, not an ice bucket, but a foam minnow bucket. Close but no cigars!

We found bargain peaches today, $6.00 for an overfull basket of ready right this second peaches.  The minute I got home I had to start processing them.  They were actually a tad ripe for slicing and freezing, so I sliced them and let them take a lemon juice bath.  Then they were smushed a little with a spoon, sugared and, discounting enough for a  dessert cobbler , there are 6 future cobbler packs in the freezer.  While I was peeling all of the little lovelies, I noticed they were creating this  beautiful puddle of juice. ( I am so glad I slice over a bowl and not  the sink)  Hmmmm, with all of the juice and the peels I thought why not make a little jelly.  Then I found 4 peaches that were too ripe to even slice.  I put the peels, juice, a little water and the ultra ripe peaches in a pot and let it simmer until the fruit was cooked and  all the color and juice had cooked from the peels.  After straining and sugaring the juice, I put it along with the very cooked peaches a large pot on  low heat.  I mashed the peach pulp with a potato masher and stirred everything together, then forgot about it.  I am not sure how it happened, but somehow or another I managed to remember it was cooking about the time I had this perfect caramel peach preserves.  Evidently I smelled it before the sugar burned just in time to salvage it.  If anyone asks I am going to swear I did it on purpose .  For the record it is a tad thick but delicious.  I now have one pint in the freezer and the other in the fridge ready for toast tomorrow,

Caramel Peach Preserves

Save the peels and peach juices from peeling a  basket of peaches.  ( If you ere not freezing peaches you could make a peel container in the freezer and just add  to it every time you had a peach.  When you have a boatload of them continue with the recipe.

Cook the peels and peach juices  in enough water to equal about 3 cups.  When all the color has cooked out of the peels strain the liquid and return it to the pot.  Add the flesh of about 4 peaches and cook until the fruit is mushy.  Mash it with a potato masher and add 2 cups of sugar and about 1/2 more cup of water.  Cook on heat  low until the mixture is thick.  This is where the caramel part gets tricky.  Check it every 5 minutes and pay attention to the smell.  When you smell a faint caramel smell remove from the heat and ladle into canning jars.  There is a fine line between caramel and burned sugar so pay attention to you nose.  Like I said before it was just sheer luck I thought about it before it burned.  Don't be like me!

Mine is a very dark ruby color, but whatever variety of peach I bought had a very rosy skin.  I would imagine the color would depend on the color of the peach skin.

Now I need someone who likes to clean to undo the mess I have made!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Concerts and Banquets and Grads, Oh my!

Seems like just a few days since I sat here and posted whatever it was that I posted, but I know looking at the date it has been more than a little while.  Son3 just graduated from high school and April and May flew by at warp speed.  It felt like we moved from one event to another with little time in between to do much more than wash clothes for the next day.  I know that in September I will be sad to have so much unstructured time on my hands, but for now we are glad the madness is over and our life is a dull roar.

Yesterday The Hub walked in  from the office with a cooler full of fresh snapper.  Thanks to his boss' successful fishing trip and the fact that snapper season just opened, we have enough for several meals.  We had just eaten the last of the tuna from his trip in the spring, so this was such a pleasant surprise.  His generosity is always so appreciated.

I had supper planned prior to finding out we had all the delicious fish, so we had it tonight.  Since it is the softball finals we knew we wanted something we could eat quickly, but how can you do that to fish that were swimming just 2 days ago?  Then inspiration hit and we came up with the only thing you can do when you need portability and tacos, but not some usual grill the fish and toss it on a hard shell type thing.  Looking through about a dozen recipe sites I found this recipe for grilled Mexican Snapper and thought it might be decent ( OK, more then decent- my mouth was watering when I read the recipe) as the protein filling.

 Red Snapper Yucatan Style

1 lb. skin on snapper filets
juice of 1 lime
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 dried cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
2 tablespoons achiote* seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon dried oregano ( Mexican oregano if available)
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons canola oil

Before starting anything toast the whole seeds in a non stick pan over medium heat until the seeds give up their fragrance. ( About 3 minutes and you will truly be able to smell the heated oil in the seeds .  I had a dried cayenne so I added it to the pan for about 2 minutes to toast it also)  Either crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle or grind them in a spice grinder ( Or just be like me and just use the coffee grinder.  After you finish grinding the spices put a piece of toast in the coffee grinder and grind away.  The spice oils will stick to the bread crumbs and you can just wipe the insides with a couple of paper towels.)

Mix all the rest of the seasonings in a small bowl and stir in the ground seeds to combine well

Put the fish filets in a large plastic bag.  Add the lemon and lime juice and mush it around all the surfaces of the fish.  Add the oil to the spice mixture and rub it on the filets.  If yours has skin on it you only need to put it on the cut surface.  Mine were skinless when I got them so I put it on each surface.  Seal the bag and let it sit in the fridge from 2-4 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium and OIL it both prior to the preheat and again right before the fish goes on it.  Just before putting the fish on the grill either turn the heat down or move the charcoal so there is no direct source of heat right beneath the fish.  OIl the skin side of the fish and put it on the grill for 10-12 minutes.  Do not turn because the snapper will break and disappear  through the grate right in front of your eyes.  I cooked mine inside on a non-stick griddle.  It only took about 4 minutes to cook them since I was able to flip them. ( Does sliding them onto a plate then inverting the griddle over the plate count as flipping?)

Remove from the heat and let it rest on the plate for about a minute.  Meanwhile wipe the griddle clean and warm the tortillas while the fish rests.  Put a light coating of Taco Bell Green Sauce on each tortilla.  Then add fish, lettuce. tomato chunks, onions, cilantro and lime juice.  Sadly we didn't have any cilantro but it would have been delicious.

Easy, easy, easy way to have your fish and really enjoy it!

Will try to be better about posting but guarantee nothing since we are having an unstructured summer!


* Anchiote seeds are also sold as annatto seed.  Believe it or not, I actually had those in my spice cabinet.  If you don't, you can find them in Mexican markets or Penzy's in Homewood