jump to navigation

Love your lima beans. August 19, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. When I first moved North from my native Nashville, I discovered that most of my friends and colleagues hated lima beans. I was dumbfounded. How could anyone hate lima beans?! I found out soon enough when I ordered them in a restaurant and was served mushy, slimy “baby” lima beans, also the sort that I’d found in the local groceries’ freezer sections.

These nasty, slippery, tiny things bore no resemblance whatever to the big, plump, meaty butterbeans I’d grown up with, so delicious boiled and served with butter, salt, and pepper, as a side with mashed or new or baked sweet potatoes or baked potatoes or corn on the cob. (The limas were also often boiled, then sauteed in butter for a minute or two with corn just cut from the ears). Fried chicken and meaty slices of beefsteak tomato were popular accompaniments.

To this day, I don’t know if butterbeans got their name because they were invariably cooked with butter or if their taste and texture simply struck someone as buttery. But I did notice something here in scenic PA: The local Pennsylvania Dutch, including the Amish and Mennonites, weren’t buying those awful baby limas. Nor did they seem to eat lima beans fresh. Instead, they were making baked beans out of big, meaty dried limas. But when they were in season, which is now, they’d sell big, meaty limas in the pod at their farm stands or shell and sell them ready to cook.

If your farmers’ market sells big, plump lima beans in the pod or out, here’s what to keep in mind: Shelling limas is a pain. That’s because the pods are big and thick, and there are typically only two or three limas in each pod, so it takes a lot of work to get enough to eat, and you’re left with a giant mound of empty, somewhat hairy pods. (Hint: You can compost them.) That’s why, if you buy them pre-shelled, they cost so much more. You’ll be saving a lot of work and getting a lot more limas, but there’s a catch here, too: Once they’re shelled, they don’t keep too well, so you need to cook them soon or they’ll get mushy and slimy and you’ll have to compost them. I prefer to shell them just before cooking them, but there are only two of us. If you’re cooking for a family, I’d suggest buying a bag of shelled limas and saving yourself some prep time.

If you’re cooking fresh limas, boiling is definitely the way to go, and they’ll take more time than, say, green and yellow wax beans, summer squash, asparagus, or broccoli, but less time than new potatoes. When I cook fresh limas to go with corn on the cob, I’ll bring a covered pot of water to a boil for the corn. If I were going to cook green and yellow wax beans to go with the corn, I’d prep the beans, put them in a pot, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil once I saw that the corn water was boiling. (Fresh corn on the cob takes just enough time to heat through, so you want everything else to be pretty much ready to serve before you put it in the pot.) For limas, however, I’ll put them in water and heat them the moment I start heating the water for corn. And I won’t add the corn to the boiling water until I’m sure the limas are done, when they’ve turned pale green and are tender and delicious, not hard or slimy (at which point I’ll turn them off, since I know they’ll stay hot in the water until the corn is ready).

What about frozen and canned lima beans? I’ve noticed that some of the more local brands occasionally offer frozen limas rather than the ubiquitous “baby limas.” They may not be quite as big and succulent as butterbeans, but at least they’re not tiny and slippery. If I’m craving fresh limas in the off-season, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for them. And yes, you can get big, meaty limas in cans, but they’re white, not green. I use them mixed with other canned beans in my chili; they add body and contrast, and are just great with several colors of kidney beans. I certainly wouldn’t attempt to heat them up straight out of the can on their own, though. Yecchhh!!!

What about those Mennonite baked beans? Well, they all have bacon or ham in them, even the grocery-store versions, just like most baked beans, so given that I’m a vegetarian, I’ve never tried them. (Not to mention that they involve the endless time involved rehydrating and cooking dried beans.) But they sure look good! When we want baked beans, we turn to Bush’s Grillin’ Beans, which have a variety of flavors that are vegetarian, but taste so rich and good, you’d never—and I NEVER say this—miss the meat. Paired with cornbread and coleslaw, or corn-on-the-cob and a classic wedge salad, or creamy pasta and a crunchy tossed salad, they’re heaven. And nobody’s slapping your hand if you want to have them with fried chicken or burgers or barbecue or whatever. And many of the Bush’s Grillin’ beans varieties do have meat.

So choose what you enjoy! But please, don’t ignore fresh lima beans, the big, thick, meaty ones we in the South know as butterbeans. If all you know are tiny, slimy, slippery limas, these will be a revelation.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Perfect peach crisp, plus salad. August 17, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. It’s peach season here in scenic PA. Our friend Rudy just gave us a whole bag of fresh-picked peaches. Thing is, ripe peaches aren’t great keepers. Like heirloom tomatoes, you’d better eat them in a couple of days or else. And there are only two of us. What to do?

Well, there are plenty of ways to eat ripe peaches. Salads are one of my favorites. You can toss peach chunks, blueberries, diced red onion, and slivered almonds on a bed of arugula, add some extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon or lime juice, and some salt and fresh-cracked pepper, and enjoy a luscious salad. Or mix things up by subbing avocado and pistachios for the blueberries and almonds. Fresh mint leaves pair perfectly with peaches on a bed of Bibb lettuce with crumbled blue, gorgonzola, or feta cheese. Or make a cocktail in your salad bowl with Bibb or Boston lettuce, peaches, raspberries, crumbled pecans, and an olive oil and champagne vinegar dressing.

But when gifted with an abundance of ripe peaches, one of the most delicious ways to use them all is to make a peach crisp. Sure, save a few for eating fresh and adding to salads. But crisps are so luscious, flavorful, and easy to make, it would be a shame if you didn’t at least try one. Unlike pies and cobblers, crisps don’t require a pie crust, so you need no technical piecrust-rolling skills, no ability to create a piecrust lattice on top, no horrendously messy counter.

Here’s all it takes to make the best fruit dessert since fresh blueberry tart:

For the filling:

Butter a round 8-inch glass cake pan and add a touch of water to the bottom. Slice enough fresh yellow peaches into chunks or slices to fill at least 2/3 of the pan. If you wish, add blueberries, red raspberries, or pitted sour cherries on top. (We like the rich gold of the peaches with the blue and red of blueberries and red raspberries or sour cherries, but any one of the three makes a lovely add-in, as do, improbably, seedless green grapes.) Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon or cardamom over the fruit.

For the topping:

Combine 2/3 cup unbleached flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 stick butter softened at room temperature. Work the butter in with your fingers to make panko-like crumbs. Next, work in 1/2 to 2/3 cup rolled oats and spread the mixture over the fruit in your glass pan.

To make:

Bake at 350 degrees F. for an hour, covering the top with aluminum foil for the first half-hour, until the fruit is cooked and bubbly and the topping is crisp. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or dished up in bowls with cream poured over the crisp. Yum!!!

‘Til next time,

Silence

Welcome, rose petal jam. August 15, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. Growing up, I developed a strong aversion to flower-flavored food. I think it was because my grandmother loved violet pastilles. You’d come into her apartment, and there was a dish of luscious-looking little purple candies. Grape! Currant! Yum!!! But then you’d put one in your mouth, and it tasted just like perfume. You were eating perfume. Gack!!!

Now mind you, we all learned to make an exception for vitamin-C-rich rose hip jam and rose hip tea, even for vitamin C tablets that contained rose hips. But rose hips (the bright orange-red fruits of the rose bush) didn’t smell or taste like roses. I continued to avoid all edible flowers and foods made from them, with the exception of hibiscus flowers, which give their bright red color to Red Zinger and other herb teas and don’t add a floral taste.

However, I was finally forced to reevaluate my floral-food aversion, thanks to Nashville’s wonderful Turkish restaurant Anatolia. Though our friend Ben and I now live in scenic PA, we grew up in Nashville. And when we return to visit family and friends, a trip to Anatolia is a must. The menu is fantastic (check it out online), the atmosphere is gorgeous, and the people are amazingly kind and helpful, from the owners to the servers.

I love Middle Eastern and Greek food, so a trip to Anatolia is always paradise to me. As is always the case in these restaurants, I never make it to the entrees, good as they sound. Instead, I have an assortment of appetizers and a salad and I’m done. At Anatolia, my favorite appetizer is made of filo (the Turkish spelling) sheets wrapped cigar-style around Turkish feta and fresh parsley. These yummy “cigars” are served hot with luscious rose-petal jam, which is not exactly “jam” in our sense of the word but more of a delicious rose-petal honey, more liquid.

The combination of the sweet, aromatic rose jam and the pungent, salty feta, plus the crispy filo sheets, is simply heaven. And by a perfect twist of fate, Anatolia sells two brands of rose-petal jam. I finally broke down and bought one (Penguen [sic] brand), even though I knew I would probably never make those delicious filo-and-feta “cigars” to dip in it.

However, I had some thoughts about what I could find ready-made to eat with my Penguen jam. I know you’re familiar with the Greek appetizers called spanakopita, phyllo pockets stuffed with cooked spinach, feta, dill, and so on. But do you know tyropita, another Greek appetizer of phyllo-stuffed triangles with feta, mint, and dill? I wouldn’t want to dip something with spinach in it into a rose jam, but the phyllo-feta triangles might be luscious. I haven’t tried these, but dipping veggie spring rolls, or even egg rolls, or samosas into rose jam might be delicious, and you can find all three in your grocery freezer aisle.

Dessert is always an option, too. Summer is fresh fruit and fruit-pie season. Imagine a peach or fresh apricot pie or tart glazed with rose-petal jam, served with real whipped cream or Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream. Yum!!!

If you use rose petal jam, please tell us how. Thank you!

‘Til next time,

Silence

How to store sweet onions. August 10, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I love sweet onions, especially the mild, delicious Vidalias. (We don’t get Walla Walla and Texas 1015 Supersweet here in our part of scenic PA, so when Vidalias go out of season, I end up buying generic “sweet onions.”) After years of sobbing through my contact lenses while cutting sulfurous onions, discovering sweet onions was practically life-altering. I no longer wear contact lenses (thank you, laser surgery), but sweet onions are still the only ones I’ll cook with.

So, what’s the best way to store them? You can, of course, buy just one or two at a time, but I use one or two a day, so I like to buy them by the bag. With all their healthful properties, my motto is “an onion a day keeps the doctor away!” (And unlike pungent onions, if you eat sweet onions, you won’t keep everyone else away.) What would cooking be without that luscious onion flavor in omelets and home fries, soups and stews, spaghetti sauce and pizza, refried beans and fajitas, curries and mushroom dishes, or roasted or grilled with other veggies to total caramelized deliciousness? I can hardly imagine a meal without onions.

But here’s the thing: Unlike those pungent onions, sweet onions are high in water, so they bruise easily, which can lead to mold and rot. You must handle and store them with care, and inspect them often, using those that start shriveling or softening or showing signs of mold first. Even so, I would never recommend storing any onions in the refrigerator, with one exception: the sweet onion Candy. Candy is so full of water that it bleeds milky sap when you cut it, and around here, anyway, it’s always sold without its skin. If your farmers’ market or farm stand sells Candy onions, and you want to use them, refrigerate them in the vegetable crisper drawer and use them as soon as you can. I bought them for a couple of years when they first began appearing at farm markets around here, and they’re certainly good, but they were just too messy for me, and took up precious refrigerator space that other vegetables were clamoring for. Sorry, Candy!

Of course, if you end up using only part of a sweet onion (gasp, why would you do that?), you should store the rest in a zipper-lock bag in the crisper drawer and plan to use the rest within a day or two. (Maybe your fridge is roomier than mine or your crisper drawers are emptier, but I think those trendy onion-shaped onion storers just take up too much room. With sweet onions, I’ve never had the onion flavor migrate out of the plastic bag.)

Otherwise, I’d store my Vidalia or Walla Walla or whatever sweet onions with my garlic, shallots, and the like, out in the open where they can get some air and avoid refrigerator condensation. I store mine in a huge stainless steel bowl, oldest on top, and check them every day. Given how fast I use them, this works fine for me. Checking our good friend Google, I saw that there were several other recommended storage methods. One is the good old technique of storing them in the legs of sheer pantyhose, knotting the hose between each onion, then hanging them in a cool, dark place like a basement. (Not, mind you, a cool, damp place like the basement of my family home.) When you need an onion, you simply cut off the pantyhose above the next knot. Another tip was to spread them out on screens so they weren’t touching, and store the screens in a cool, dark place. A root cellar is great for this if you have one.

I don’t have a root cellar (sob), or a basement, or a cool, dark place. Nor am I trying to store a 50-pound bag of sweet onions. For me, the bowl works fine. But I still had a question: Would sweet onions store better if they were placed in the bowl (or any storage situation) with their root sides down and their stem sides up? Might this add to their longevity? Or might storing them root-ends up be the answer?

Sadly, Google offered no advice. I’ve decided to try an experiment, putting the latest batch all stem-ends up, and see if I notice a reduction in spoilage or extension of longevity. If not, I’ll try them stem-side down. Has anyone found the fountain of youth for sweet onions? If so, please share it with us.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Simple salsa. August 8, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. Someone came onto our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, yesterday and asked for a recipe for salsa. I was surprised—doesn’t everybody know how to make salsa?—but given all the bells and whistles that have happened to the basic recipe, maybe people are intimidated.

Not that I’m against bells and whistles, I just don’t want them in my tacos and burritos. To me, a corn and black bean salsa is a salad. I’d serve it over a bed of lettuce and add red onion and a little olive oil and vinegar. Mango salsa would be perfect in dal, the Indian lentil dish. Peach salsa would make a great, surprising topping for vanilla ice cream, or layered with whipped cream in an angelfood or pound cake.

But for Mexican food, I want a straightforward salsa. And for me, that involves dicing a sweet onion (such as Vidalia or WallaWalla) and some paste tomatoes (other kinds are too runny) and a red or orange bell pepper, then mincing a jalapeno and/or adding a splash or so of Tabasco Chipotle Sauce, throwing in a dash of Key lime or lemon juice and salt, adding minced fresh cilantro to taste, the end. Sure, you could add minced garlic and green olives, but I don’t. I love cilantro, so I add lots, but if you hate it, leave it out.

The obvious way to get around all this is to buy fresh salsa from the produce section of your grocery. You’ll get the tomato, onion, bell pepper, and hot pepper. You can choose from mild or hot. If “hot” isn’t hot enough, you can add another jalapeno or splash in your favorite hot sauce until you get it right. No shame! But you have to remember to buy it just before you use it, just as if you were making your own. Fresh salsa, storebought or homemade, doesn’t keep. If you have leftover salsa, tuck it into an omelet or huevos rancheros, or some spaghetti or pizza sauce to spike the flavor. Or put it in one of those seven-layer bean dips. Or just warm up tortilla chips and dip in!

‘Til next time,

Silence

Sandwich spreads gone wild. August 6, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. I was reading an article on the Wall Street Cheat Sheet site this morning about seven great vegetarian sandwiches you could make at home. Given how many steps, ingredients, and dishes they all used, I would never make even one of them at home. I could easily make a great Indian feast or pasta dinner or pretty much anything using less time and effort than a single one of these sandwiches would take. No wonder people would go for the PB&J or BLT or takeout burger or sub or deli option. Geez!

But the article did bring to mind something I don’t often think about: sandwich spreads as condiments. Take hummus, for example. I typically think of hummus as a dip for veggies or as the main ingredient in a pita pocket, with tomato, lettuce and cucumber adding crunch and veggie goodness to the hummus’s protein. But what if, instead, hummus was a spread on a sandwich with plenty of other ingredients? How about white bean hummus smeared on olive oil-brushed grilled buns and topped with roasted sweet onion slices, goat cheese or feta, basil, beefsteak or heirloom tomato slices, and a couple of Romaine leaves?

I love falafel sandwiches, and it’s so easy to make your own. Buy tzatziki sauce (Greek yogurt with onion and cucumber), falafel patties (I like the garlic ones best, but plain are good, too), shredded carrots, and shredded purple cabbage at your local grocery, along with plump, moderate-sized pitas. (Not the authentic thin pitas that shred when you try to open or eat them, they’re best for dipping or rolling at the table.) Heat the falafel patties with a drizzle of olive oil on top to make them crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. Put halved pita pockets on top of the falafel patties for the last few minutes of cooking. Once the pitas are hot and the falafel patties are sizzling, open each pita half, add liberal amounts of tzatziki sauce, shredded cabbage and carrot, stuff in a couple of falafel patties, and enjoy! Oh, yum.

Tzatziki sauce is a great spread for veggie burgers, too, so much more flavorful and healthful than mayo. So, of course, is fresh salsa (pressed and drained), if you’d like some heat on your burger or quesadilla. (Works on real hamburgers, too.) I also like horseradish heat on my sandwiches. A horseradish-mayo spread will really bring a BLT, CLT (the vegetarian version, subbing cheese for bacon), or club sandwich to life. Or try sriracha-mayo or wasabi-mayo.

Pesto? Perfect slathered on both sides of a crusty roll or demi-baguette and heated before being topped with cheese, lettuce, sauteed onion, and tomato, a veggie burger or real burger, a BLT, or a grilled portabello. You can even make your own eggplant parm sandwich by “frying” eggplant slices dipped in beaten egg, then in a mix of breadcrumbs (or panko), salt, pepper, and granulated garlic, then sauteed in olive oil until both sides are golden and crispy and the eggplant is tender. Heat the rolls or baguettes with the pesto, top half with the eggplant, add a dab of marinara sauce or jarred salsa (not fresh this time, too runny), some fresh bufalo mozzarella slices and a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella, and then the top half of the pesto-covered roll or baguette. Yum!!!

Homemade pimiento cheese? Easy and oh so good. (Type in “pimiento cheese” in our search bar at upper right for the recipe.) But rather than making it into a sandwich by itself, why not spread it as the cheese layer in a sandwich? It’s a fabulous topping for a veggie or ground-beef cheeseburger and lends itself to other toppings like pickles and onions. It’s great in a BLT, CLT, or either with fried green tomatoes. Try it in a Subway-style hoagie or a quesadilla.

A thick spread of egg salad, with lettuce and tomato, can up the ante for pretty much any sandwich, be it chicken or turkey or roast beef. Try a “Cobb salad sandwich” or a “Caesar salad sandwich” or even a “chef’s salad sandwich” or “antipasto sandwich” using egg salad as a base. You’ll have to agree that salad makes a great sandwich!

There are so many more options, but that’s enough for now. I guess I’ll tackle the whole nut-butter issue another day.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Fenugreek: The forgotten spice. August 3, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. I’ve been a fan of fenugreek since grad school. It was during my pre-vegetarian days, I was getting my second Master’s degree, and I was in my first-ever apartment! True, I had no car and had to walk a mile to get groceries, but hey, I could finally cook exactly what I wanted to eat, not what some school cafeteria thought the student population in general wanted to eat.

Admittedly, what I wanted to eat wouldn’t have made it onto most health lists. I never ate (and never eat) breakfast; I’m just not hungry before 10 a.m., and discovered early on that if I ate breakfast, I ate exactly as much for lunch as if I didn’t eat breakfast. Why waste the calories?

But in those grad-school days, what I made myself for lunch, every single day, was a bacon and tomato sandwich. In my part of the South, you wouldn’t dream of adding lettuce to dilute a bacon and tomato sandwich. It had to be made just so: with two slices of white “balloon bread,” lots of Hellman’s mayonnaise, juicy slabs of tomato, tons of salt (and pepper, if desired), and plenty of rich, crispy, crackly bacon. At my parents’, I’d put four slices of bacon on my sandwich; in my apartment, I piled on eight. Yum!!!

That was all I’d eat ’til supper, when I’d bake a skin-on chicken breast with daubs of butter and an herb or spice. Rosemary was a favorite; so were fennel seeds. And so were fenugreek seeds. After an hour at 350 degrees, the chicken was thoroughly cooked, infused with butter and flavor thanks to the herb or spice of the evening, with a luscious, crackly skin. I’d eat my chicken breast with a salad and vegetable, maybe green beans or a baked potato or baked sweet potato or carrots. Simple but so good!

Such was the life of the grad student. After grad school, I became a devout vegetarian, but never lost my taste for fenugreek seeds, which smell and taste of rich caramel with a touch of celery and perhaps just a hint of licorice. (I’ve always loved caramel.) For me, sauteing the whole fenugreek seeds in oil to bring out their rich flavor, or baking them in butter as with the chicken breasts, is the ideal way to cook them. But you can also use ground fenugreek seeds if you’re the type who prefers ground cumin to whole cumin seeds, for example, or mustard powder to whole mustardseeds. It’s really a texture thing.

Whichever you prefer, try fenugreek with curried or roasted carrots, on roasted sweet potatoes, over roasted cauliflower. It’s a great addition to any curry, or sauteed mushroom dish, or simply swirled into hot basmati rice with butter and salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocomare (hot herbed salt). (Try this with plain Greek yogurt for a simple, soul-satisfying meal, or add dal and chutney, and maybe those curried carrots, for a real Indian feast.)

But fond as I’ve been of fenugreek seeds all these years as a mild, caramelizing, warming spice, it never occurred to me that the leaves were also edible. Not until I saw them, conveniently frozen and cubed, in a local Indian grocery. Called methi, the fenugreek leaves are traditionally added to the greens-and-cubed-cheese dishes, saag paneer and palaak paneer. (Paneer is a mild Indian block cheese, sort of like fresh mozzarella or extra-firm tofu or farmer’s cheese, that is cut into cubes for these dishes.) The methi adds the perfect touches of bitterness and flavor to the normally mild greens, like spinach, that form the basis of these dishes.

Having recently encountered a recipe for saag paneer that called for spinach and methi leaves, I eagerly purchased a bag of frozen methi cubes and got to work. I loved that you could just shake out the cubes you needed and reseal the rest. And I loved the flavor and depth they added to my saag paneer, a favorite dish that I love over rice or as part of a real Indian meal. To think that fenugreek would enter my culinary life twice! I urge you to try both seeds and leaves and see what you think. They could become your secret kitchen weapons!

‘Til next time,

Silence

Five must-have hot sauces. July 30, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. It seems like hot sauce has taken over the world. Our friend Ben, Richard Saunders and I see thousands of different hot sauces every September when we attend the annual Bowers Chile Pepper Food Festival in scenic Bowers, PA, where vendors are offering all things chile*, from chile chocolates to salsas to jams and jellies to pickled hot green tomatoes to chile-raspberry soft ice cream. And yes, of course, those hot sauces with the incredibly clever names and packaging (like skull keychains hanging off the bottles), as well as artisanal, small-batch sauces whose creators box and bring them themselves.

Our friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders really goes for the hot stuff, bottles with names like Endorphin Rush and Mad Dog 35 Ghost Pepper. Once he and OFB got into a hot sauce-naming contest, coming up with dozens of memorable names for hot sauces. (My favorite was OFB’s Emergency Room Special.)

But OFB and I prefer sauces that don’t numb your tongue, burn your eyes, and send you to the emergency room. We like sauces that add both flavor and moderate heat while letting the flavor of the food you’re putting the sauce on shine through. With that in mind, here are the five hot sauces I reach for again and again:

Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce. From the famed McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, Louisiana comes my favorite sauce for anything that needs smoky heat. It may sound crazy that the makers of the ubiquitous Tabasco Sauce could make my favorite go-to sauce for refried beans, burritos, tacos, and other Mexican food, but to my taste, Tabasco Chipotle adds so much depth and richness that I can’t imagine making Mexican without it. Or chili, for that matter.

Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce. This may not be the healthiest sauce (it has 70 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, as opposed to 0 calories for Tabasco Chipotle, and it has a lot of sugar, its second ingredient after water), but boy, is it good. The fire is more spicy than mouth-burning, so it’s a great addition to spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and other places where you’d like a little heat and the rich tomato sauce will make sure nobody says “Hey! There’s hot-sweet sauce in here!” But it’s really great with Chinese food. If you’re heating up spring rolls or egg rolls at home, forget the duck sauce: Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce adds spiciness and sweetness, and you don’t have to squeeze out those awful packets. And you can pour out as much as you want! If your eggplant with garlic sauce or veggie lo mein or General Tso’s tofu could use a kick, add a splash or two. Make it your secret ingredient mixed with ketchup on burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, chicken wings, sloppy joes, you name it, not to mention as a dip for French fries and sweet potato fries.

Pickapeppa Sauce. This product of Shooters Hill, Jamaica, has so much flavor that it will make you want to burst out singing your favorite Bob Marley tune every time you add a splash to soup, an omelette, a stew or casserole, the filling for stuffed peppers, a frittata, mac’n’cheese, you name it. No wonder: The ingredients list includes cane vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, onions, raisins, sea salt, ginger, peppers, garlic, cloves, black pepper, thyme, mangoes, and orange peel. Mix some with mayo on your next BLT (or veggie TLC) or burger, or slather the mayo/Pickapeppa on grilled veggie kabobs or grilled corn on the cob. And all for just 5 calories a serving!

Pili Pili Hot Sauce and Marinade. Heading to Africa, we love the Pili Pili Sauce produced in small batches by Alando’s Kitchen in nearby Quakertown, PA. It IS hot, but not mouth-scorching hot, and it’s so good on dishes like samosas, the amazing Kenyan fried potato dish bhajia (so try some on French fries!), on polenta, in chili, and in other bean, grain, and egg dishes, not to mention soups and stews. We haven’t tried other pili pili sauces besides Alando’s (order from http://www.alandoskitchen.com), but I know they’re out there, in stores and online, so make sure you try this delicious flavor for yourself.

Sriracha HOT Chili Sauce. For hot (but not too hot), garlicky goodness, it’s hard to beat sriracha. Fans use it on everything from Asian dishes to scrambled eggs to cheese to salads and sandwiches to Mexican to, well, anything. OFB and I have only had the classic Huy Fong (“rooster”) sriracha sauce, but there are other brands filling store shelves now, so find your favorite. If you love garlic and heat, add some to your next pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce or eggplant parm sauce. Drizzle some on kebabs, add some to sloppy joes, slather some on wings. Or splash it in a Bloody Mary. (That poor woman.) Or tomato juice or V8.

That’s it: My five must-have hot sauces. There are plenty of others, many of them are superb, and there are plenty of other ways to use them. But if I had to settle for just five, these would be the “fabulous five.” They’re flavorful, they’re affordable, and they’re available. Not to mention distinctive and adaptable.

‘Til next time,

Silence

* Wondering why some things are called chile, some chili, and some chilli? Chile is the name of the fresh hot pepper in the Americas. Chili is the name of the bean, meat, or meat-and-bean stew made with lots of hot chiles. And chilli is the way the chile (fresh or dried) is referred to in Anglo-Asian cultures. But we’re all talking about the same hot pepper pods.

Paleo, shmaleo. July 23, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. Yesterday, our friend Ben and I were grocery shopping. I’m always interested in checking out what my fellow shoppers are buying while I’m waiting (and waiting) in the checkout line; it beats the hell out of staring at those magazine covers about the Kardashians or “guess who this fat actress is.” Ugh!

Most of the time, I’m demoralized to see that the entire order consists of bags of chips and pretzels, sodas, gallons of ice cream, doughnuts, sliced lunch meat, a loaf of white “balloon bread,” and the like, with some sugary cereals and a jug of milk added to up the “healthy” contingent and the requisite dozen cans of cat or dog food. Maybe a few bananas and some orange juice. Basically a recipe for diabetes, obesity and heart disease. I’d never give my own pets canned food, but it’s probably better for them than all that fatty, sugary, chemically laden, nutritionless glop is for their loving owners.

Yesterday, however, the woman in line behind me had a quite different shopping agenda. I stared wide-eyed as she pulled gigantic package after package of meat from her cart: the biggest package of salmon I’d ever seen, a huge pack of organic shrimp, and huge pack of organic ground meat (turkey? it looked a little pale for beef). On and on it went, until the conveyor belt behind me looked like a slaughterhouse. Yet she had obviously gone to great effort to pick only the healthiest meats, and to seek out organic meats at that. Then, she extracted the only non-meat item from her cart: a skimpy bag of frozen, steam-in-bag mixed vegetables.

Gack! This time of year, the produce aisles are overflowing with beautiful, seasonal fresh vegetables and fruits. Our own shopping bags were bursting with them. Why on earth would a person who’d taken so much care to buy healthy meats and avoid all processed foods, much less junk foods, get a tiny bag of frozen mixed veggies when all earth’s bounty lay before her?

I was mumbling about this to poor OFB all the way home from the store. I just couldn’t understand it. I kept thinking she must be planning a cookout. But why would someone serve up a tiny bag of disgusting steamed mixed frozen veggies to their guests when they could grill corn on the cob and endless other grill-friendly veggies, scoop up some homemade guacamole, salsa and tortilla chips, offer big sides of homemade coleslaw and/or Caprese salad?

Then, finally, the lightbulb went on. We weren’t talking about a party here. We were talking about a woman on the Paleo diet. If anyone still doesn’t know, the Paleo diet is supposed to reconstruct what our ancestors ate back in the hunter/gatherer days, which in essence was damned little. They trapped, hooked, and shot what they could; they foraged for wild grains, berries and fruits, honey, roots, herbs, nuts, and shoots, and doubtless worms and insects and anything else they could find. Our pre-agricultural ancestors were opportunists, foraging for what they could find, the perfect definition of omnivores.

And yes, they were thin, the reason people embrace the Paleo diet today. They weren’t thin because they wanted to be, of course; they were thin because it was so hard to find food and to consume enough calories to offset the time it took to find them. They were starving most of the time. This put their body in ketosis, kidney failure, the exact same method all the meat-based diets like Atkins use to cause their clients to start burning their own muscle to lose weight. (Yes, I said muscle; they only burn fat once the muscle is exhausted.)

If our Paleolithic ancestors could have been fat and happy, never worrying about where their next meal was coming from, getting all the delicious fat, sugar and alcohol they could manage, there’s no doubt that they would have enthusiastically supported grain-based agriculture as their descendents who managed to stumble upon grain-raising as a way to ensure a supply of beer and in the process discovered breadmaking and prosperity. “Thin” was not an attractive quality in a perpetually starving population that were lucky to make it to their 20s, much less 30s. It was agriculture, a stable food-producing system that allowed us to grow crops and livestock in place rather than hunt and gather them, that gave us longevity. Not to mention civilization.

It might be worth remembering that next time you contemplate a Paleo diet, or raw food diet, or juice cleanse, or any extreme diet. Humans were never designed to be on diets, they were designed to enjoy a diverse diet of foods prepared in a diverse manner of ways, and to enjoy foods in moderation but not in deprivation. Anorexia was never considered to be attractive, just heartbreaking, the outward manifestation of an inner mental sickness. Eating whole rather than processed foods, prepared in delicious recipes and showcasing seasonal variety, will keep us fit, not fat. Let’s go for it.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Addictive, easy, produce-rich pasta. July 16, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Silence Dogood here. Here at Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the precise middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, produce season is in full swing. Green and yellow wax beans are ripening faster than we can pick them; our basil, thyme, sage, parsley, rosemary, cilantro, and oregano are exploding. The farmers’ markets are full of fresh corn. Our own hot and bell peppers and tomatoes are coming on strong, and we have high hopes for our tomatillos and sweet potatoes. Snap peas, garden peas, and lima beans are available at every grocery, along with yellow summer squash, broccoli, kale, and spinach.

And that’s just scratching the surface. But it’s plenty to start with when planning a luscious summer pasta dish. Here are some tips for taking your summer pastas over the top:

* Use long pasta. I like spaghetti or fettucine, rather than the penne, shells, or elbows I enjoy with other dishes. The longer pasta just seems to go better with the veggies and sauce. And skip the flavored pasta to let the delicate flavor of the fresh veggies and herbs shine. The exception is artichoke pasta (such as DeBole’s), which adds protein thanks to its Jerusalem artichoke component without distorting the flavor.

* Blanch these veggies. Rather than tossing some veggies raw into your pasta, blanch them to get the perfect degree of tenderness. Dunk broccoli florets, chopped green and yellow wax beans, yellow summer squash slices or dice, and shredded carrots in boiling water briefly to soften them before adding them to a pasta dish.

* Saute the savories (plus). Saute diced sweet onion, minced garlic, mushrooms, and frozen white shoepeg corn kernels or fresh corn cut off the cob in butter, extra-virgin olive oil, or a mix of the two before adding them to the pasta. Ditto for the fresh herbs and greens like chopped kale or baby spinach. In fact, it’s far better to stir the pasta into them immediately before serving.

* Chop the fresh and canned stuff. Dice fresh red, orange, and/or yellow bell pepper. Don’t cook it at all, just spoon it in before serving. There’s no need to cook olives, pickles, or artichoke hearts if you’re planning to add them, or fragile herbs like cilantro or green onions (scallions). Just chop everything up and add at the last moment. But don’t forget that the oil from canned or jarred treats like artichoke hearts can enrich the pasta.

* Now for the sauce. When the pasta’s al dente and the veggies, herbs and etc. are ready, it’s time to make sauce. Drain the pasta; if you’ve sauteed veggies, you already have the base for a sauce. If you haven’t, it’s time to add olive oil, butter, or a mix, folding in the pasta and steamed veggies, with fresh-cracked pepper, salt (we like RealSalt, sea salt, Himalayan salt, or Trocomare), and the finish.

* Finishing touches. To make the sauce that you want, you’ll need to add something to your base. For a sauce that lets you see all the ingredients and tastes light and luscious, add dry white wine. For a rich sauce, add cream. For a creamy sauce that’s not quite as rich, add plain Greek yogurt. For a sauce that adds a surprising depth of flavor, add your favorite salad dressing: vinaigrette (not balsamic in this case), ranch, blue cheese, Caesar, green goddess. (Just make sure the dressing isn’t sweetened.) If you need a touch of heat, the finest-shredded jalapeno or a dash or two of chipotle pepper sauce would do the trick, but remember, this is pasta, so use a very light hand.

* Don’t forget cheese. Adding fresh bufalo mozzarella, or the shredded cheese of your choice (mozzarella, white Cheddar, Italian mix, Mexican mix, Parmesan, whatever), is a great way to bump up your pasta’s flavor and oomph.

This is pasta, not salad, so I would say no citrus, no fruit, no nuts, no seeds, much as I love them on salad. In fact, they’d be great on a salad that accompanied one of these pasta dishes. And again, let me just note that citrus and melon make luscious, low-cal desserts that are perfect after a summer pasta dish.

Yum! Now I’m hungry.

‘Til next time,

Silence

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 171 other followers