Monday, February 27, 2006

Holy guacamole!

I don't know how much this guacamole boat costs, but I know that it's a deal. It's perfect too. Just enough onion and tomato to add interest but not enough to water down the unctuous avocados.
Even though it wasn't good for the diet, I couldn't resist ordering a torta. They are my favorite and Taqueria Marimar doesn't mess around.
They bake their own rolls and this thing is so big you probably won't want dinner.
I had never had a torta before I went to Mexico but it's no suprise that looking back on my 2 month trip my 2 favorite cities are where I ate the best tortas!
We stayed at a Hotel on the main drag in Guanajuato and didn't get much sleep because of the restaurant on the main floor. Right next door was a sidewalk stand where a guy was making tortas for the never ending line of ravenous torta fans. They came on a small crispy bun and they sliced the pork before your eyes. Pickled jalapenos and thick slabs of avocado crowned the pork. I shouldn't be writing about these with an empty stomach!
Guadalajara had the best market and I seem to remember I stayed in town an extra day so I could wander through one more time and stop at my favorite torta stand. This was our first torta experience and my friend Fiona ordered 2 figuring they were like tacos. Her jaw dropped when they set the 2 heaping sandwiches before her. Luckily I hadn't ordered yet. These came on big soft buns with a scoop of beans, carne al pastor and guacamole. So messy but so worth it. Finding a quality torta in the US is a challenge but if you see it on the menu , it's definitely worth a shot.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Excuse me, would you happen to have any Grey Poupon?

Sam and I have been trying to whittle our waistlines. We try not to snack and often by the time dinner rolls around we are ready to chew each other's arms off. The fridge is uncharacteristically not stuffed to bursting but one thing we do have a lot of is mustard-mustard judging has some benefits.
The other night when the wait for dinner proved to be to much for him, Sam started eating mustard with a spoon. I decided it was time to make soft pretzels. I was short on time so went straight to the internet for a recipe. I blended a few ideas and came up with these:

Hmmm...more like pretzel shaped bagels. What makes a pretzel a pretzel anyway? And how do you get that lovely brown sheen? An egg wash might have helped but we forgot. As a vehicle for mustard, though, they did not disappoint.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Frozen Gold

On a February day like today, with enough snow that not only schools were closed but Sam got to stay home from work, it's nice to have a well stocked freezer. Sungold tomatoes are a favorite summer treat. Sweet like candy, it's always a joy to feed them to a sungold virgin and watch their eyes light up. Lucky for me, I just happened to have a bag in the freezer. They sound like marbles as they hit the pan waiting with hot oil and crushed garlic. In the time it takes to cook pasta, I saute the tomatoes down with salt and a splash of vinegar. While the juice is reducing, I toss some chopped spinach in with the tomatoes. When the pasta is cooked and drained I throw it in the pan with the tomatoes, basil chiffonade, a few grinds of black pepper, french feta and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Summer can wait, it's time to go cross-country skiing.
Pssst! I'm not the only one who loves sungolds.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Winter Fruit Salad

When I was a kid fruit salad meant one thing and only one thing. We'd buy a pineapple. Cut it up and throw it in a big bowl with frozen blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Quick and easy no matter what season it was. Who cared that it all turned into a mushy purple mess. We though it was delicious.
Times have changed. While you still don't want to mess with strawberries in winter, it's now possible to find tasty fresh fruit year round. Last night I had a mix of blood oranges, kiwis, dates and candied kumquats topped with maple yogurt (not pictured).

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Golden Nuggets

Even though I sometimes wish that I was born in the 50's so I could stay at home and cook all day, I hate to clean my house. This winter I'm trying a new tactic. I have friends over once a week which forces me to at least clear off the table and as a reward I get to cook all day. Sounds like a win/win to me. Today Jason came over and I made homemade falafel and pitas.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and delicious they were.

Tahini Sauce- from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman

1/2 c. tahini
1/2 c. yogurt
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

I made mine in the blender because the tahini was a bit chunky. Very thick and tasty.

Falafel- from The Best Recipes in the World

1 3/4 c. dried chickpeas
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. cayenne
1 c. fresh parsley, chopped
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 egg
oil for deep-frying (awww yeah!)

Soak the chickpeas overnight. Strain and combine with the rest of ingredients (except oil) in a food processor and pulse until minced. I don't have a food processor so even though I thought it was a bad idea, I decided to try bashing up the chickpeas in the blender. It worked like a charm. Who knew?
I put the chickpea bits in a bowl and mixed in the the rest of the ingredients by hand. This reminded me of making meatloaf as a kid. It was one of the first things I learned to do in the kitchen. I guess I found the squish of ground beef, eggs and ketchup irresistible. The thought of that now kind of grosses me out.
Heat 2 inches of oil in a wide pot until a small pinch of the chickpea mixture sizzles vigourously in the hot oil. Roll golf ball-sized falafels and fry until golden brown. I recommend cutting one in half and dipping in it in the waiting tahini sauce before popping it in your mouth to check for doneness- cooks privilege.
Serve in warm, homemade pitas (or storebought if you must) with mixed greens, cucumbers, roasted red peppers and big globs of tahini sauce.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

World Wide Mustard Competition

Yes, I am a mustard judge. This was my second year tasting my way through more mustards than I knew existed. I'd like to say I was chosen because of my skills as a supertaster but really I think they take anyone who shows up.
We arrived at the Mustard Museum in Mt. Horeb, WI and after some schmoozing with Barry Levenson, the quirky curator, we decided what kind of mustard we wanted to sample. There are too many entrants for the judges to try them all so Barry had divided them into categories such as sweet/hot, deli, honey, horseradish, garlic, pepper hot, Dijon, and exotic. We all sampled two of these groups and a third if time permitted. I chose sweet/hot, horseradish and garlic. The first surprise as a mustard judge is how bad a lot of the mustards are. Overly sweet and gloppy or pasty with no mustard flavor, what were these people thinking?

I remember some of them from last year and wonder why my constructive criticism was not taken to heart (we're encouraged to give comments because they will be shared with the mustard makers.) Out of the 20-30 in each category, there were only a handful I'd ever want to have in my mouth again. The horseradish mustards were my favorites. I actually bought two of those.
By the end, my palette was reeling but you can bet I'll be back next year.

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I've been dying to jump into the fray of the food blogging world. So here goes...