Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Harvest

26 August 2012

Greg has been gardening again this summer, and the garden has provided sugar snap peas, garlic, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and melons.  Here is what Greg harvested today:

That melon is huge for a cantaloupe. It’s probably 10 pounds of cucumbers. I think we have already harvested 30 pounds of cucumbers. I will be taking some to school on Tuesday to put in the teacher mailroom to try to get rid of them. We already have a lot in our refrigerator.

With some of the cucumbers and tomatoes I will be making a jar of marinated vegetables. I don’t remember who “pinned” this to “pinterest” but it showed up in somebody’s facebook feed and I followed it to find this recipe. Sounds yummy, and I bet the vinegar will make the tomatoes taste good to me!

I don’t know what Greg has planned for the rest of the tomatoes, but I think we will be eating melon for breakfast and dessert for a while!

Last week I made this tomato pie:

I made a tomato pie last summer but I could not find the recipe. I searched all the cookbooks and the internet. So I had to make this up. It is pretty yummy.

Tomato Pie – serves 2-4 as main dish, more as a side dish

  • 1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade
  • a bunch of plum or Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • a couple of scallions, sliced thinly
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • about 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Pre-heat oven to 425°F. Brush a pie pan lightly with olive oil. Lay the crust in the pie pan, and brush the inside of the crust lightly with olive oil. Combine the tomatoes, basil, scallions, and most of the feta cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add pepper to taste, and mix gently. Add the tomato mixture to the pie pan, folding the edges of the crust over the filling. Sprinkle remaining feta cheese on top. Bake 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden, and feta cheese is browned on the tops. Let sit 10-15 minutes before slicing and eating. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

This pie makes excellent leftovers.

 

As old as me

3 March 2012

The year I was born, my mom mailed in enough “proof of purchase” seals or possibly box tops to receive a dixie cup containing a miniature orange tree.    She gave me the tree some years ago, and I have variously under-watered it to the point of near-death and also cared for it regularly.  It spends half  of each year outdoors and half indoors, and every so often (not annually) it produces fragrant blossoms that sometimes result in tiny, sour fruit.

This past year was one of those years, and the tree came up with a total of 12 little oranges.  My husband asked to be allowed to eat one, and I let him.  He said it was very sour.  Huh.  Well, my mother once incorporated the fruit into a marmalade/jam with blueberries that was pretty yummy, so I thought I ought to try something with the remaining eleven.

Some, I brined like Moroccan preserved lemons:

Sliced mostly through and salted

In a jar, getting juicy

And sometime in the future maybe they will get eaten.  It is an experiment, but if it works for lemons it might work for these things.

The other thing I tried doing was candying.  I was inspired by the idea that one could do this with kumquats, and while these are a little bigger than kumquats it seemed like sugar could only improve their flavor.  So I made syrup and boiled them up and canned them, with a few cloves for fun.  I have no idea how I will use these in the future, but it may involve alcoholic beverages.  Speaking of which, I now have some leftover citrus/clove flavored simple syrup.  Hmmm.

Ready to be boiled

From left to right: candied, leftover syrup, brined.

Perhaps someday I will let you all know how they turned out.

Commonalities

16 August 2011

With the Republican presidential candidates attending the Iowa state fair in preparation for the Iowa straw poll, NPR had to do its obligatory story on “fried food on a stick.”  This year’s gross-out item was deep-fried butter on a stick. Well, in Japan, one needn’t go to the state fair (or rather, whatever the local festival is) to have food on a stick. There are sit-down restaurants devoted to fried food on a stick.  We ate a couple of them, enjoying chicken, pork, mushrooms, quail eggs, tomatoes, bell peppers, small fish, pumpkin (the green Japanese kind), potato, and probably something else I can’t remember. Dip the item into a sauce, or salt, or green sancho pepper (like black pepper but with a tingle and a citrusy flavor), and enjoy!  Then reach for another.

I think this is pork. The dish has wells for different sauces.

As you will see included with almost all Japanese meals, you can see the small dish of pickled vegetable in this photo, and in this case also a dish of cabbage for “cleansing the palate” between fried items.

You don’t have to go to a restaurant for your fried food on a stick, however. When we were in Osaka, the takoyaki that Keiko and I had were served with skewers, not chopsticks.  So I guess you could hold your octopus doughball on the stick and eat it that way.  I think it would have been easier to use chopsticks.

I used a couple skewers to dissect a doughball so you can see the little chunk of octopus.

What if you like food on a stick but are not a fan of deep frying? You can get that too. In Kyoto I passed by a shop with this display out front:

I don't think I could make myself eat one of these.

I have no idea if you are supposed to eat these octopuses as they are, or if maybe you buy a few to take home and fry up fresh for dinner. Or maybe you could do the other deep-frying: tempura.  Greg and I took a cooking lesson with a very nice woman named Emi, in her home in Kyoto.  She taught us to make tempura by combining half an egg (150 ml) and a combined 150 ml of flour and water, mixing it until combined but lumpy, and smearing the mixture by hand over whatever food you want to eat. While in Japan we tried tempura-style food of many different kinds (including nori and flowers and lotus root and pumpkin), but Emi introduced us to Japanese-style wheat gluten.  We were familiar with the seitan-style wheat gluten, but the Japanese style is more like a thick gel.  First, put the wheat gluten on a small stick.  Then coat in tempura batter and deep fry.

Wheat gluten before tempura. I don't know why it is green.

After tempura. Note the presentation has changed now that it is ready to eat.

My last food on a stick is not fried.  In Takayama, we went to a tofu restaurant.  Tofu served a lot of different ways, and listed on the menu as “tofu 3 ways”, “tofu 4 ways,” “tofu 5 ways,” and so on.  I think Greg had “tofu 7 ways” or maybe it was 8.  I went for fewer, thinking I wasn’t that hungry (having had a snack not much earlier).  I chose the option that included, you guessed it, tofu on sticks:

Tofu three ways. Plus soup with tofu skins, rice, and pickles (the pink things are pickles).

So much for not being very hungry.  I guess the fewer types of tofu in your order, the larger the portions.

Anyway, since being back in the USA I have stuck to only frozen treats on a stick. I am still finishing off last year’s watermelon-mint ice pops, and I recently made a large batch of fresh ones to take to the pool party on Labor Day.  Just watermelon, mint, lime juice, and sugar.

Lapa Rios

13 July 2010

When we went to Costa Rica, we spent the first 5 nights (after an initial night in San José) at Lapa Rios, an ecolodge in the Osa Peninsula.  To get there, you fly on a 20-passenger plane to Puerto Jimenez, then drive for 45 minutes to an hour over bumpy potholed dirt roads fording several streams.  The ecolodge is situated on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Golfo Dulce, and has a 1,000 acre reserve that they maintain free of development.  There is no phone, no internet, no televisions.  There is electricity, and there is “hot” water provided by solar heaters, there is a pool and indoor plumbing (as much as anything is really indoors at Lapa Rios).

We loved it.

Inside our bungalow

Falling asleep, we listened to the waves of the ocean and the beeping of the tiny red frogs that we never saw, and the chirps of insects.  It was pretty loud, but I had no trouble falling asleep.  We woke early to the sound of howler monkeys and bird squawks.  Breakfast does not start until 7 AM, but there is an option for early morning coffee brought to the bungalow, plus coffee and banana bread are provided at 5:30 at the main lodge, and a cold breakfast can be had at 6 AM if you order it the night before.

The view from the hammock on our bungalow's deck

Every day, a variety of hikes and tours are available to sign up for, with your bungalow number and the number of people in your group.  Most of the tours are limited in how many people may sign up.  In addition, the front desk staff can arrange outside tours through other providers.

We chose the early morning bird walk with Danilo, the medicine walk with Guillermo, the Osa trail hike with Ulises, the night walk with Danilo, and the sustainability tour with Andres.  In addition, we arranged for a dolphin watch on the Golfo Dulce.  The medicine walk and the sustainability tour were the most educational.  The night walk and the early morning bird walk netted the most photos of wildlife.  The Osa trail was where we saw puma tracks, of a small puma.

Guillermo demonstrates burning sap on the medicine walk.

The first evening, we attended a talk about the wild cats of Central America.  Ricardo (the guy who gave the talk) is a researcher (think poop analysis and camera traps) who obviously cares deeply about his work: documenting, studying, and preserving wild cats.  The puma is the second largest of the wild cats in Costa Rica, and its paws have oval pads, which is how Ulises identified the paw prints we found on the Osa trail.  We also saw camera traps along the trail, so it is likely that this small puma was caught on camera.  Maybe we were, too.  The tracks were pretty fresh, but heading in the opposite direction that we were going in.

Interestingly, one of the strategies for preserving the wild cats is to enlist the help of poachers.  The poachers help set up a camera trap, and then are paid $100 for every cat photographed by the camera trap.  Thus, the poachers have incentive to keep the cats alive.  Unfortunately, research grants don’t cover payments to poachers.  Find out more at the project website: www.yaguara.org.

Puma paw print on the Osa trail

The weather in the Osa Peninsula in late June is humid, warm, and prone to afternoon rain.  The day before we arrived at Lapa Rios, they had torrential downpours, and people arriving at the lodge had to swim one of the streams because the car could not ford it safely.  They were met on the other side by another car.  We saw a lot of mud, and it caked our hiking boots and stained our clothes.  We also got very sweaty.  While Lapa Rios itself gets a lovely ocean breeze, the hiking trails in the rain forest do not.  Happily, there is a lovely swimming pool, and all the cool water showers you could possibly want.  We showered several times a day to wash the mud and sweat off.  However, it took forever for anything to dry, whether it was our towels, our clothes, or my hair.  There were some sunny mornings when we could lay our damp things on the deck and things DID get dry, but with all the showering and clothes changing we decided to splurge on laundry service on our last full day at Lapa Rios.

The sticky mud of the Osa Peninsula

As I said, they have a lovely swimming pool.  It has a salt water chlorination system and we found it very relaxing.  An added benefit–show up at the pool and start swimming, and shortly a staff member will come and ask you if you would like a drink.  Pool towels are provided in a cabinet, Brazilian recycled-plastic lounge chairs surround the pool, and bats reside in the poolside shelter.  I remember the times I stayed at hotels with my parents, when I was a kid.  I always wanted to swim in the pool.  As an adult, I generally don’t care about such things.  But I was very glad of the Lapa Rios pool.  It was the perfect place to cool off after a hike, when the cool shower in the bungalow just wasn’t enough.

All this writing and I haven’t even gotten to the food.  The food at Lapa Rios is wonderful, and happily they have half portions available so you can manage to eat all the way to dessert!

Breakfast can be simple fruit, or yogurt and granola, or local fare like pupusas or corn cakes or the breakfast version of casado.  There is always coffee (we take ours con leche, with milk) and juice (I preferred blackberry while Greg usually chose mango).  At lunch, a juice of the day and a chip of the day are featured for tasting.  Lunch offerings include a soup of the day (with chips), plus an entree and dessert if wanted.  Entrees include salads and sandwiches (with chips) in addition to casado, fried rice, tortillas, or pasta.  I love chips.  I like potato chips, plantain chips, taro chips, yuca chips, whatever kind of chips that are offered, I love them.

At breakfast, it is also time to order the dinner entree.  This is because if they know what you are having for dinner, they know what to order from Puerto Jimenez, from the local farms, etc, and they don’t have so much waste.  It is a good system.  Generally there are two soup or appetizer options and three entree options, plus two dessert options.  One entree is always vegetarian, so Greg’s choice was easy.  You arrive at dinner and find a candle-lit table with the right number of place settings, and your server arrives to ask if you would like a drink from the bar.  A small appetizer is provided, and the bread of the day.  Then, the server knowing already what you ordered, your soup arrives.  Similarly, your entree.  It was hard to have room for dessert, but we made an effort for coconut-chocolate pudding!  One layer of chocolate pudding, one layer of coconut pudding, garnished with dark chocolate shavings.  YUM.

Lapa Rios was definitely an awesome place to spend a chunk of our vacation!

La comida tipica de los Ticos

7 July 2010

We recently returned from a ten-day vacation in Costa Rica, having had a fabulous time.  While future blog posts will detail our adventures, this one is about the typical foods of the “Ticos,” which is what Costa Ricans call themselves.

Refreshing blackberry and cas juice punch

Cas fruits

First of all, they have lots of fruit available in Costa Rica.  It is sold in markets and by the side of the road, and is eaten plain or made into juice in a blender (often thinned out with water).  We had coconut water, blackberry juice, mango juice, tamarind (don’t drink too much, it is a laxative), cas, and guanabana.  Also, a typical juice is mixed carrot juice and orange juice – a delicious combination!

Guanabana drink

On our drive from San José to Monteverde, our guide asked our driver to stop at a crate of mangoes at the end of a driveway.  Our guide, Marco AKA “Tex,” bought some green mangoes from the woman who came out of her house once we’d stopped.  He peeled them with his knife and sliced them up, distributing them to us.  Green mangoes don’t taste like ripe ones, but they don’t taste bad.  A little sour and peppery.  Then the woman sent her son back to the house for some salt, and we tried the green mango slices dipped in salt.  This is a common way of enjoying them, and it was very good!  I can see the appeal of green mango pickles, which were described to us a few weeks ago by a woman we met at the science party.

Guanabana fruit - maybe 30 cm tall?

For breakfast and lunch, Ticos often include rice and beans in their meal.  The rice and beans are often accompanied by avocado, soft cheese, and fried plantain.  If it is breakfast, there will be eggs.  If it is lunch, there will be a piece of meat, chicken, or fish, plus a side salad often made with cabbage.  The lunch meal is called “casado” which means “married.”  We enjoyed this meal as breakfast several times each and lunch several times each, with my vegetarian husband substituting eggs or fried cheese for the meat at lunchtime.

Casado con pescado (with fish). The dark thing in the center is the fried plantain, with skin on.

The casado is always accompanied by Salsa Lizano, a condiment made in Costa Rica of  vegetables, salt, spices, and sugar.  It is tangy and very good on rice and beans, eggs, chicken, and other common foods.  We made sure to bring a bottle back with us.  It is possible to buy Salsa Lizano on Amazon.com, but it is pretty expensive for a bottle of sauce.

Casado con pollo (with chicken), after adding Salsa Lizano and taking a couple bites. The plantains are under the chicken.

On the second day of our trip, my lunch was accompanied by a lemony slaw of cabbage and tomatoes.  Unfortunately, I could not buy a recipe book at the hotel, but I found a similar recipe online and adapted it.  The lemon juice “cooks” the tomatoes (like it does the fish in a ceviche, which they also serve in Costa Rica) and they taste good to me, unlike raw tomatoes usually do.

This is my homemade casado con vegetales (with vegetables) that I made for our first dinner at home.  I fried fresh potatoes instead of plantains, and the cabbage-tomato slaw I made did not fit on the plate.