Posts Tagged ‘processed foods

04
Aug
10

ways with avocado

I haven’t known many Filipinos or Filipino-Americans, but enough to form a theory. Our two peoples, Filipino and Mexican, were twins, separated at birth–and after that, things got weird.

For instance, one night at Paulie and Jessamin’s place, we were making guacamole, a properly savory Mexican avocado preparation. I described a recent experiment with avocado fool–avocado beaten smooth with lime juice, then folded together with whipped cream. A funny fusion idea that tasted great and certainly wasn’t good for you.

Jessamin, with a background in the Philippines, grinned diabolically, confiscated an avocado, and fished a can of sweetened condensed milk out of the cabinet. She mixed the two together and invited us to try the authentic Filipino version of avocado fool. Paulie (another Mexican-American) and I found it oddly compelling but refused to call it good. J-P declared it revolting. Call it another example of junk foods translating poorly across cultures. It definitely put me in mind of Jell-o molds, avocado pie, and other mid-century experiments with processed foods.

A Twisted Family Tradition ~ The Lime Jello Brain
(Click for Elisabeth Feldman’s Jell-o Brain recipe.)

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23
Jul
10

food for bike camping

adjusting the flame
More pictures through the link.

Favorite new toy: Our Jet Boil camp stove. It looks like an oversized insulated coffee cup; that’s the cooking vessel. Packed inside are fuel, stove with igniter, plastic cup, and French press attachment. Efficient and terribly clever.

Lesson learned: Beans, especially in the form of instant bean soups, really foam. Turn off the heat before you add them to the water, lest you have to reach through a boiling cascade to turn it off after. J-P is very brave.

Comparative instant dinners: Casbah’s lemon & spinach couscous is merely all right. Definitely enhanced by the addition of real lemon juice, salt, and chorizo. The instant black bean soup from the Rainbow bulk bin, on the other hand, is delicious. Salt and chorizo still didn’t hurt.

Unexpected standout: Concentrated Concord grape juice. We spiked two bike bottles with it while preparing post-hike dinner the second night. They were the best possible thing right then.

Lifesaver: Foil packet of peanut butter with honey, consumed somewhere on the Wolf Ridge Trail, when chickpeas just weren’t delivering the goods fast enough anymore. (Wildlife bonus: a hummingbird settled onto a nearby branch while I had my hummingbird moment. Spirit animal much?)

Admission: Especially in the chilly damp, I did miss the eggs, bacon, and potatoes of my family’s car camping days. Just a little. Luckily, we have friends who will go car camping with us. In the short term, we had brunch at Boogaloos when we got back to SF.

19
Jul
10

we’re going camping

So I am preparing chickpeas and hard-cooked eggs. (It’s less tragic if the eggs crack once they’re cooked.) We’re also taking pre-packaged lemon-spinach couscous (if there ever were a time for flavored convenience foods, this seems to be it), instant black bean soup, Spanish chorizo, saltines, granola, dried fruit, nuts, food bars, chocolate-covered coconut, blueberries, foil packets of nut butters, grape juice concentrate, some apples, a lemon, some salt, and ground coffee. I insisted that corn tortillas and nopales would be great additions to our stash, but saltines won out over the tortillas for some reason, and J-P inexplicably naysaid the nopales. (They’re flat, lightweight…) We’re only out for two nights, and we’ll be near Sausalito, but we’re still being very careful to cater to my tendency toward metabolic collapse.

This will be the first time we’ve camped since Labor Day weekend 2003, when we went to a star party in the Berkshires, where a bunch of astronomers had gathered to view Mars at perigee. It’s Labor Day weekend, we thought. How cold can it get? The answer was 34 degrees Farenheit. We had a tent but no sleeping bags, just blankets. By nightfall we were wearing every scrap of clothing we’d taken with us, and the Boy Scouts made a lot of money selling us hot chocolate and coffee all night long. When we finally decided to try sleeping, we kept each other half awake with our attempts to burrow under the other for warmth. At daylight, we emerged from the tent to run up and down the hill we were on in the sunshine.

We swore never to do that again until we were properly prepared for it, and now is the time. A little over a week ago, we went to REI for sleeping bags, a bigger tent, headlamps, and a camp stove (Jet Boil, a technological marvel with a French press attachment). This weekend, we explored Rainbow Grocery’s selection of dehydrated and instant foods. This afternoon, we bike to Bicentennial Campground in the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.

20
May
10

mis migas: autenticas o no?

Late night –> slow morning –> lazy breakfast.

Are these migas? All the elements are there: stale tortilla chips (the eponymous migas, or crumbs), eggs, cheese, salsa picante. Does it matter that the salsa is the liquid variety (Tapatio, specifically), rather than pico-like? How much does that change the identity of the dish? If I’d had a jar of Mrs. Renfro’s or Green Mountain Gringo in the fridge and had used that instead, would my breakfast have been more authentic? What if I had ginned up my own salsa? It’s what I would have done if there’d been onions and canned tomatoes in the pantry. (I really need to get to the grocery store.) And would my salsa have been even more authentic if I’d had fresh tomatoes instead of canned?

In The Farmstead Egg Cookbook, Boston suburbanite Terry Golson presents her recipe for huevos rancheros with an apology: “I don’t claim that these are totally authentic huevos rancheros, but they are delicious and very easy to make.” She fries an egg, puts it on top of a fried corn tortilla, and tops that with salsa from a jar and some queso fresco (more authentic than my cheddar). Clearly it’s the ease of the dish that worries her, but I also remember reading about someone of a similar background to Golson’s seeing a Mexican woman cooking a sauce from scratch for a breakfast dish and being slightly appalled at the effort required. (It’s not that hard, really, if you have the ingredients on hand.) It seemed primitive and patriarchal, and not something that a busy, modern woman could take home to the US.

How should we judge the authenticity of Mexican or Tex-Mex egg breakfasts, parvenus to the public faces of both cuisines? In Que vivan los tamales, Jeffrey Pilcher reports Marilyn Tausend’s finding that “The habit of eating eggs for breakfast, when transferred [through mid-century tourism] from the United States to Mexico, stimulated creative experimentation rather than slavish imitation. In searching for national counterparts to Eggs Benedict, Mexican chefs served huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs) fried with tomato-and-chile sauce, huevos albañiles (bricklayers’ eggs) scrambled with a similar sauce, and huevos motuleños (from Motul, Yucatán) fried with beans, ham, and peas. Soon, no hotel with pretensions to luxury could neglect its own ‘traditional’ egg dish on the breakfast menu.”

The taint of Americanism seems to be one of the factors that earns Tex-Mex scorn from Diana Kennedy and her followers. Does the fact that these egg dishes are a product of U.S. tourism make them any less authentically Mexican? They did originate in Mexico, after all. You can’t get much more “authentic” or “interior” than the Yucatán. Does the fact that they are innovations, rather than traditional dishes, make them less authentic?

Whatever the answers, my lazy migas were very tasty.

19
May
10

diner chili

Lest you think my Texas Red relies too much on canned and otherwise preserved foods, let me share my method for vegetarian diner chili. (I did say vegetarian chilis were a whole nother thing, didn’t I?)

You’ll need:
cooking fat
1 sweet yellow onion; chopped medium
4 cloves garlic; minced
1 can (abt 15 ounces) each of red, black, and pinto beans; drained
1 similarly sized can diced tomatoes with green chiles; undrained
some spicy tomato/vegetable juice
several tablespoons chili powder
a teaspoon or so ground comino
pickled jalapeños, chopped medium
salt

Chop the onion medium and soften in hot fat. Add the minced garlic for a minute or two before you add the beans, tomatoes, and juice. Add the spices, jalapeños, and salt to taste. Let simmer about half an hour. Serve with the usual accoutrement: grated cheese, chopped scallions, saltines.

18
May
10

My Texas Red Algorithm

There are two reasons I don’t make chili very often. One is that it takes a honking lot of beef, the other is that I always remember it as being harder than it is. There’s no solving the former problem (vegetarian chilis are a whole nother thing), but recording my method can solve the latter, and keep it from feeding back into the infrequency of my chili-making. So.

Thaw 1-1.5 pounds ground beef. Assess its fattiness. Heat an appropriate amount of fat in a stockpot or Dutch oven. (This weekend I used about a tablespoon duck fat, in the stock pot, as the Dutch oven needed reseasoning.)

Soften two medium-sized sweet yellow onions, chopped medium, in the fat. Add one large ancho/pasilla (long, wide, green, moderate heat) pepper, chopped medium. Add six-ish cloves of garlic, minced, and the ground beef. When the beef starts to look cooked, add 3-4 tablespoons of San Antonio chile powder from Central Market. When you’re just about ready to add tomatoes, first add two teaspoons ground comino and one teaspoon dried oregano. Then add two 15-ounce-ish cans of diced tomatoes, juice and all. It’s ok if they have (appropriate) flavorings–this weekend, I used one can with green chiles (Muir Glen brand, aka Hippie Rotel) and one with roasted garlic.

Once the tomatoes have been added, throw in a couple cloves more minced garlic. Add about half the chiles from a 12-ounce can of chipotles in adobo, and most of the adobo. Keep adding adobo and chile powder until the stew is as spicy as you like and the right color–a deep, serious red. Taste for salt–the adobo has a lot, so you won’t need much. And add just a teaspoon or so of cocoa powder, which mellows things and marries the flavors. I’m not kidding.

Let this simmer down. Meanwhile, someone has been making cornbread according to J-P’s algorithm, and someone else has been grating a mound of cheddar, colby, or jack cheese. Serve the three together, et voilà–dinner.