Guru Rabbit

Turn a new leaf (and EAT it)

Sea Monsters March 16, 2013

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In the depths of the Pacific ocean…

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There live horrifying, many-tentacled creatures

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That are just chock-full of iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc

and vitamins A, B, C, E, and K!  And fiber!

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I feel like seaweed is rather underrated, just because of its odd appearance, and the fact that it is indeed called “sea-weed“.  I think they should be called “sea-greens“.  Because nutritionally, eating seaweed is very much like eating greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale, chard, collards, turnip and mustard greens.  And depending on the type of seaweed, it can often be cooked like our better-known western greens.  Soups, salads, stir-fried or sauteed, mixed with grains, beans, and other proteins…

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Such as a multi-grain tempeh.

I’ve tried a few different types of seaweed– kombu, kelp, dulse, hijiki, laver, and of course, nori, the type that is used for sushi rolling.  When it comes to preparing seaweed at home, wakame– what you see in my photos here– is my favorite so far.  It’s got a mild flavor and melds well with different condiments and spices.  And at least with the packages I’ve found, it’s hardly salty at all.  I don’t feel like I’m eating the ocean when I eat wakame.  Many seaweeds need to be boiled, rinsed, boiled again, rinsed again…  With this stuff, I just rehydrate with cool water, and drain.  Bam.  I also like that a small amount when dried yields quite a bit once rehydrated and ready to eat.  So a few bucks for a big package means a long-lasting source of a nutritious vegetable.  Rather convenient in case of emergency budgeting, or the wrath of a hurricane.

Simple Tempeh & Wakame

Ingredients:

a handful of dried wakame (you may need scissors to cut off the desired amount from the rest of the package)

1 8-oz package of tempeh*

2 Tbsp sesame oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 an onion, thinly sliced

about 1/4 cup rice wine (or any white cooking wine)

2-3 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari

2-3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

Optional: Schichimi spice blend, or a dash of cayenne and ginger

*You can also use extra firm tofu, and/or a cup or two of some cooked grain or noodles

1) In a large bowl, cover the wakame with cool water and let sit for 5-6 minutes, or until soft.  Drain, and chop into bite-size pieces.  Slice the tempeh into bite-size pieces as well.  Set aside.

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2) In a large pan or wok, heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and onion, and lower the heat to medium.  When the onion begins to soften and caramelize a bit, add the wakame and tempeh.  Cook for a few minutes, until the tempeh starts to brown.

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3) Add the wine, and allow that to simmer to a reduction.  Then add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and spices if using.  Taste and adjust.  If the soy sauce is too strong, add more rice vinegar.  If the flavor is dull, add more soy sauce, extra spices, or some salt and pepper.

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And people think I don’t eat seafood anymore… :p

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No Mercy for the Cha-Cha February 19, 2013

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info,Recipes — rabbit @ 11:11 am
Tags: , , , ,

            2013-02-17 19.04.39    Hey everyone.

This is Cha-Cha the Chayote.

Hello, Cha-Cha.

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Good-bye, Cha-Cha.

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I know.  You barely knew Cha-Cha.

You didn’t get to hear about Cha-Cha’s relatives, such as the squash, cucumber, and melon.  You didn’t get to hear about Cha-Cha’s Central American origins, and popularity around the world– Brazil, India, Thailand, The Philippines, Taiwan, Australia, Louisiana…  Damn, Cha-Cha, you got around.  Not surprised, I guess, you’re pretty tasty.  Mildly sweet and pleasant.  Crisp when raw, tender when cooked.  And you pair so well with so many flavors!

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Let’s do Cha-Cha some justice.

Add some garlic, onion, carrot.

And we got some coconut and cilantro waiting by…

Coconut, Cilantro, and Chayote Medley

Ingredients:

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 medium chayote, cut in into bite-size chunks

1 medium carrot, sliced into coins

1/2 cup cooked garbanzos

2-3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

juice of 1 lime

a few dashes each of cumin and cinnamon

2-3 Tbsp shredded, unsweetened coconut

a couple handfuls of cilantro leaves

salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion.  Once the onion begins to soften, add the chayote and carrot.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chayote and carrot have started to char and become tender.

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2) Add the garbanzos and pumpkin seeds, and cook for a couple minutes more.  Add the lime juice, then the cumin and cinnamon, and stir.  Finally, add the coconut and cilantro, salt and pepper.

Serve alongside some rice, Asian flatbread such as naan or roti, or with some tortilla chips and salsa.  If you chop the chayote and carrots smaller, this would also be a great taco filling.

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I can see a lot of you thinking how weird this dish is.

Okay, maybe it is…  But it’s delicious.

It draws inspiration from Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisine.

It’s hearty, kinda sweet, kinda smokey, a little tangy.

Trust me.  Trust in Cha-Cha.

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Never Too Late November 4, 2012

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info,Recipes — rabbit @ 4:58 pm
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Ideally, I would’ve posted this two or three days ago, when the timing was more appropriate.  But y’know, stuff gets in the way.  I’m sure he won’t mind…

So I realized the cusp of October and November will from now on be particularly special.  Dad’s birthday is October 31st (Halloween!).  And the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) takes place November 1st and 2nd.  (Um, duh, Dad was Mexican.)

Among a bazillion other things (including but not limited to: how to drive, how to get achieve a good credit score, how to give an obviously homeless person something to eat, how to break someone’s nose should they attempt to molest me, etc.), Dad taught me how to make tamales.

It starts with love.  Like the immediate love one feels for a rescue puppy…

Okay, sort of.  And no, that’s not my puppy…  But for reals, it starts with a very finely ground cornmeal known as masa.  And traditionally, it is mixed with some kind of soup broth and… LARD.  Ugh.  Well, I don’t really mean that.  When it comes to old-time standards, one would raise a happy pig, kill it (hopefully as quickly as possible), and use all parts of its body– meat, organs, fat,and bones.  Food chain ethics, y’ know?  That ain’t the case today :(

But I find non-hydrogenated palm shortening works.  Try Spectrum.  Or if you have an ethical source of lard…?  I dunno, I eat lettuce for lunch, I’m not really the person to ask about this…

Anywho.  Then the masa dough gets spread into soaked corn husks, and filled.

I filled the masa dough with roasted butternut squash and Mexican farmer’s cheese.

(In the last couple of years, Dad would frequently buy buy butternut squash for his rabbit girl.)

Then you wrap it up so the dough seals itself around the filling:

And tie it up, and steam it up.

Tequila shot, optional.

Basic Tamale Recipe

3 cups masa harina*

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening

3 cups vegetable broth

25-30 dried corn husks, soaked in water for a couple of hours*

heatproof, food-safe twine or string (or if you want to deal with tying corn husk strings, be my guest)

filling of your choice, but nothing too runny

*You’ll probably have to go to a Latin or Mexican grocery store to find the masa harina and corn husks.  If you want to try tying the tamales with the husk itself, once you’ve soaked them, take a few and just tear them into strips.  It takes a little practice to efficiently tie a corn husk string, which is why I suggest twine.  But whatever floats your boat.

1) In a small bowl, whisk together the masa and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, beat the shortening until fluffy.  With a rubber or silicone spatula, start mixing in the masa.  Once it’s getting too dry and difficult to mix, start mixing in the broth.  You want to end up with a soft, kinda pasty dough, so add the broth gradually, until you have a good consistency.

2) Place a steamer basket at the bottom of a large, deep pot.  The higher you can place the basket, the better, so if you want, put some kind of heavy objects that will survive being boiled underneath.  Fill with water to just below the bottom of the basket.

3) Assemble the tamales.  Spread a few tablespoons of dough onto the center of a corn husk.  Your husks might be large enough to put more dough.  Just make sure you stay in the center so the husk can fully wrap around.  Leave enough empty husk at the bottom to be able to fold it up and tie.  Place a bit your filling on the dough, just enough so that the dough will still be able to encase it.  Wrap up the corn husk so the dough covers the filling.  Fold the bottom tail up and tie it securely.  You can leave the top open.  Set aside and repeat until all your tamales are ready for steaming.

4) Place the tamales in the steamer basket, standing on their bottom.  Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and steam for about an hour, adding more water as necessary.  They’re ready when the dough is firm.

Serve with sauces and sides of your choice– salsa, hot sauce, sour cream, guacamole, etc.  For fillings, you can try spinach, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, different types of cheese, etc.  Whatever you use, make sure it’s cooked already.  You don’t want liquid seeping out the dough while the tamales steam.

This recipe makes enough to feed four people, maybe more, depending on appetites.  You can store leftovers in the fridge or freezer, and heat in the oven.  So it makes a good weekend project to be able to have tamales at your disposal.  Awesome?  Yes.

Oh, and Happy Belated Birthday, Dad.

P.S.  These are by far the hottest chipotles I’ve ever tasted:

La Morena indeed…

 

Brothers, Part 1 September 29, 2012

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info,Recipes — rabbit @ 8:42 pm
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Do you know what these are?  Raise your hand.

If you said “Plantains”, you  are right.

My oldest brother (aka brother from another mother), however, did not know this.

Phil told me he once bought plantains, thinking they were bananas, and tried to eat one raw.  His reaction was not pleasant.  I laughed.

Okay, I know plantains look like giant bananas with a tougher skin and a slightly different shape and slightly different coloring and they’re harder to peel…  Okay, no, I’m sorry.  The photo above may be deceiving but plantains look like ugly Hulk bananas, and if you buy plantains thinking you’re getting sweet, delicious fruit, you has a little bit of teh dumb.  Sorry, Phil, I don’t care if they were mixed with the bananas. :p

(Well, I guess it’s not all his fault.  He is from Jersey…)

He didn’t believe me when I said that if COOKED, plantains are yum-tastic.  So I bought plantains out of spite because I’m evil.

Thing about plantains, is that even though they look similar to bananas, you have to deal with them more like potatoes or pumpkin, depending on how ripe they are.  When they’re green, they act more like a root vegetable.  You can fry them up like chips or boil and mash them.  When they’re in their riper stage, you can bake, grill, saute, etc., and you’ll get a soft, sweet and savory treat.

And then you can eat as is.  Or…

You can make plantain gnocchi.

Jesus, now I have to explain gnocchi.  Lolz, just kidding.  Gnocchi is an Italian dumpling.  It’s traditionally based on potatoes, but common variations include sweet potato and pumpkin.  The cooked potato mash (or whatever) is mixed with some egg, flour and/or cheese, and dropped into a pot of boiling water.  When it floats to the top, you’re done.  Serve with some kind of sauce, and you got a nice comfort food meal.

I don’t know why or how I decided to to make plantain gnocchi.  It just felt right.

Plantain Gnocchi with Peas and Coconut-Lime-Mint sauce

For the gnocchi:

2 medium ripe plantains (yellow and black in color)

spices to flavor the gnocchi, if desired

1 egg

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting and shaping

Sauce– to be explained!

1) Preheat your oven to 450°F.  Make a slit down the plantain skins, peel, and slice them about a centimeter thick.  Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased aluminum foil.  Brush the slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and soft.

2)  Once slightly cooled, transfer them to a food processor, and puree with a few tablespoons of olive oil until relatively smooth.  It won’t be like mayo, but there should be no large chunks.  Maybe a little mealy-looking.  That’s okay.  Transfer to a medium bowl.

3) Add to the processed plantain whatever floats your boat.  I used a few dashings of turmeric, fenugreek, and dried garlic (salt and pepper, of course).  Mix in the egg, then the flour.  Add more flour if necessary.  You want a Play-Doh-like consistency, and slightly sticky.  Set a medium/large pot of water to boil.

4) Sprinkle some flour over the dough and whatever surface you’re using.  You can shape the dumplings in various ways. Some peeps just like to roll the dough out into snakes and cut even portions,  others like to make a fork-like indentation, or a thumbprint.  No wrong or right  if you ask me, (or as far as I know…).  I made thumb prints.  Then place them in gently boiling water until they float to the top, and drain.  After that, you can save them in the fridge or freezer, or serve them up with an appropriate sauce.

For the sauce…

The sauce depends on whether or not you season the dough and with what.  Since I went with a West Indian kind of spectrum, I made a creamy coconut-mint-lime sauce with sweet peas.  Unfortunately, this takes a little planning ahead.  You have to refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk overnight.  Then take it out while avoiding the shakes, and remove the solidified fat from the top.  Set aside.  Over medium heat, start cooking a few spoonfuls of finely diced onion and half a cup of sweet peas in a schtickle of olive oil.  When the onions are soft, add the coconut cream.  Add the zest of a lime, half its juice, and several julienned mint leaves.  Salt and pepper.  Taste, and add more lime juice if necessary.

Since I had prepared the gnocchi one day, and the sauce the next day, I quickly pan fried the gnocchi before plating everything.  Gives a nice little charred accent to the dumplings.  So you can prepare everything ahead of time, then just heat and serve.  This recipe will serve two to three people, so multiply as necessary.  Also remember you can try different sauces and different spices in the gnocchi.  Before going with the coconut, I had thought about goat cheese and guava.  A cashew based sauce would also be great.  Or just some sauteed veggies.

Tender, sweet, spicy, creamy.  Yes, ma’am.

Hmm.  What a shame my brother lives so far away…

 

Bulbous March 11, 2012

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info,Random — rabbit @ 11:25 am
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A quickie for you today.

I found something at the supermarket that struck my fancy.

Elephant garlic.

“Dude.  The hell?  That’s not normal.”

Sure it’s normal, cat.  By the way, you got shit on your nose.  Again.  Actually, elephant garlic is not true garlic.  It’s a relative of the leek, part of the onion family, but looks and tastes much more like garlic.  It’s milder than regular garlic, so it’s more friendly to those whose taste buds are sensitive to real deal.  And, as you can see, it is gigantic in comparison.

Elephant garlic does not have as long of a shelf life, though, so if you find this jumbo baby at the grocery store or a farmer’s market, use it soon.  Treat it like you would any aromatic ingredient and just experiment- soup, stew, stir-fry, salad, etc.  I roasted mine.

Because everyone likes roasted garlic.  Especially in hummus.

I would also like to note that while this was roasting, it started to turn a greenish blue color.  I freaked out.  But I did a search, and it turns out it’s totally okay.  It’s just a chemical reaction cause by the naturally occurring sulfur, the same stuff that makes your life miserable when cutting onions.  I kept roasting and it subsided (mostly).  This apparently can also happen with onions.  So.  Don’t freak out if one day you’re cooking fresh garlic or onion and it turns greenish blue.

“Why aren’t you paying attention to me?”

 

Chili of the Gods February 5, 2012

Filed under: Interestin' Food Info,Recipes — rabbit @ 2:59 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Hey.

Hey, guys…

I have to tell you about this chili.

 

I mean, it just looks like a bunch of funky stuff.  Which it is.  But it’s an awesome bunch of funky stuff… tomatoes, onion, and garlic, naturally.  Cumin, cayenne powder, AND chili paste.  Yesss.  Black lentils and red quinoa, for heartiness and protein, but also because they are the perfect color for chili (thanks again, Tiiinnnaaa).  Cinnamon, cocoa powder, and peanut butter… wait!  Don’t make faces at me!  I know those last three are more like dessert ingredients, but trust me…

This chili is largely inspired by ancient Mesoamerican culture (damn you, inner Mexican).  If you are familiar with mole sauce in Mexican cuisine and how it’s made, the array of spices in this chili should not surprise you.  There are many versions of mole sauces, but the most accessible types are general mash-ups of chili peppers, sweet and savory spices, herbs, nuts, seeds, and unsweetened chocolate or cocoa.  The chocolate/cocoa adds a unique depth to mole, as well as this chili.  In fact, you may find that many chili afficionados support the addition of chocolate or cocoa.  Then there’s the quinoa, the “mother of all grains”, according to the Incas.  Although most associated with Peru in origin, various types of quinoa have been grown throughout South and North America, and is therefore, totally appropriate combined with Mexican flavors.  And I’m not gonna lie, black lentils just sounded cool to use in combination with red quinoa.

 

Amiright??

Vegan Aztec Chili

Ingredients:

(Long list, yes, but easy to make.  You can use other veggies if you’d like– bell peppers, sweet potato, greens, summer squash, etc.  But definitely keep the onion, garlic and tomatoes.  Quinoa and lentils of any color will do, also.)

2 medium carrots, chopped into small pieces
1 1/2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup black lentils
1 cup red quinoa
2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp cocoa
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
2-3 Tbsp peanut butter (almond or cashew butter would probably work nicely as well)
2-3 Tbsp chili paste
2-4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2-4 Tbsp soy sauce
2-3 tsp vegan worcesteshire sauce

Seriously, this is the most laborious part.  If you have a food processor though…

1) In a large soup pot, combine the carrots, mushrooms, onion, garlic and tomatoes.  Bring to medium-high heat, and cook until reduced.

2) Add the quinoa, lentils, and EVERYTHING ELSE.  Oh, and six cups of water.  Simmer over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This should be enough time for the lentils and quinoa to cook thoroughly.

3) Add salt and pepper to taste, and adjust seasonings if need be.  If it’s not rich enough for you, add some olive oil or extra peanut butter (but be careful, you don’t want too much peanut flavor).  If you like it more saucy, add some plain tomato juice (or dark beer… that would be good… but let the alcohol cook out).  For ultimate awesomeness, let it sit for at least 15 minutes so the flavors can party together.  You can serve this with some avocado, corn chips, tortillas, pico de gallo, or if you’re not doing the vegan thing, some sour cream or farmer’s cheese.

Why, yes, you CAN eat chili from a mug!

But don’t eat the dried chili pepper…  You’ll die.

 

Grits ‘n’ Greens, Mediterranean-Style January 29, 2012

Maybe it’s because I’m part Mexican.  Maybe it’s because I’m part Paraguayan (the lost land of South America).  Or maybe it’s because I’m American-born.  But I’m quite a fan of any food that is based on corn as a grain.  Corn tortillas, tortilla chips, corn nuts, Fritos, grits, tamales, cornbread, pop-corn, Corn Pops…  I once lost, and swallowed, a baby tooth while eating Corn Pops.  Corn Flakes are kinda boring, but I’d eat them, I guess.  And let’s not forget Cheetos.  The crunchy kind, not puffy.

And then there’s polenta, the Italian answer to American grits.  Both are a simple combination of cornmeal and water to produce a porridge, but polenta is cooked longer than grits, to bring out more flavor from the grain.   Additionally, there is soft polenta, and firm.  Soft polenta is a more velvety version of grits.  Firm polenta has a creamy interior, yet is able to hold its shape.  Either style can be fashioned in a variety of ways: as breakfast, lunch, or dinner; main dish or side; sweet or savory; boldly flavored or mild.  Cornmeal is awesome…

Firm Polenta (to impress your friends and family)

2 cups cornmeal (I used half coarse and fine ground)

6 cups water

salt to taste

any other desired herbs or spices (optional)

butter or olive oil (optional)

1) In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and 2 cups of the water to make a mush.

2) Heat the remaining water to a boil.  Add the salt, and whisk in the cornmeal mush.  I also threw in some black pepper, nutmeg, and paprika.  Reduce the heat to low, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes.  Stir almost constantly.  As time passes, the polenta will thicken.  (I went for 30 minutes, arms got tired.)

3) Once the time is up, spread the polenta onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  You can spread it as thick as one inch, or thinner.  Let it cool for at least 15 minutes, depending on the thickness.  I neglected mine for a couple of hours, actually…

4) Once the polenta is cooled, you can cut it into any shape you desire.  I happened to have received some AWESOMELY AMAZING animal-shape cutters from Henry’s sister, Justine.  I couldn’t help but use the rabbit…  Thaaank yoooouuu Justiiiiiiinnne :)

5)  Bake your bunnies polenta at 400°F for 20-30 minutes, or til desired crispiness.

After that, you can do what ever you like with your polenta.  But I have a suggestion…

Saute a few cloves of garlic and a cup of sliced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil.  Add half a cup each of chopped black olives and raisins, and half a pound of fresh spinach (trust me on the olive-raisin combination, especially if you like sweet-and-salty stuff).  Once the spinach is cooked, season with salt, pepper, and some vinegar if that’s your thing.  Then throw in a quarter cup of chopped nuts or seeds.  I used pistachios, but anything will  do.

Some paprika for color, and CUTEST DINNER EVER.