Coco-nuts for fried squash blossoms

August 21, 2007 in cooking, deep fry, Food Porn, Gardening, Local Food, vegetable

Fried Squash Blossoms

It seems to be the [tag]nature[/tag] of [tag]pumpkin[/tag]s and [tag]squash[/tag] and that sort of plant to grow abundant vines and millions of tall stalks with [tag]blossom[/tag]s bursting forth at the ends. Without looking up some resource on the physiology and morphology of these types of plants, I am guessing that these tall blossoms, that never turn into something like a squash, [tag]zucchini[/tag], or pumpkin, are the “boy” parts, releasing pollen.

These blossoms are constantly visited by [tag]bee[/tag]s which turn a sunny orange-y yellow from their visits into the [tag]pollen[/tag] laden blossom interiors. You can stand in a patch of these plants, surrounded by MANY buzzing bees and not fear a sting. They are pollen-[tag]besotted[/tag] little fuzzy things not unlike the [tag]salmon[/tag] obsessed [tag]grizzlies[/tag] in the [tag]Kenai[/tag] in [tag]Alaska[/tag].

I have been mostly enjoying the bee circus without much thought for the blossoms until Curt of [tag]Bucky’s BBQ and Bread Blog[/tag] suggested that I pick them and [tag]fry[/tag] them up. I filed that away in the virtual recipe box (the brain) with a thought of getting around to it before the blossoms were all spent.

When one of my [tag]beefsteak[/tag] [tag]tomato[/tag]es fell early and green I decided it was time to make some [tag]fried green tomatoes[/tag] and s[tag]quash blossoms[/tag]!

Recently, I have been reading “[tag]Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats[/tag]” by [tag]Sally Fallon[/tag], a book that helps you understand just how bad [tag]transfat[/tag]s and vegetable oils are once used for cooking. A good alternative is [tag]organic[/tag] [tag]coconut oil[/tag], which has a very high burning point. One wants to use only these sorts of fats in high temperature cooking because oils like [tag]canola[/tag] and [tag]corn[/tag] and such will break down and form all manner of [tag]DNA[/tag] chewing free radicals.

I can not recommend this book highly enough.

Finding organic [tag]coconut[/tag] [tag]oil[/tag] can be hard and once you do, it will make your eyes water due to the expense. Why organic? High throughput (industrial) methods of preparing coconut oil uses nasty organic solvents (organic as in chemistry) that remain [tag]partitioned[/tag] into or “stuck” in the coconut oil, no matter how “pure” the manufacturer claims it is.

I went out to the [tag]garden[/tag] and harvested [tag]squash[/tag], [tag]zucchini[/tag], green and [tag]lemon cucumbers[/tag], and blossoms from spaghetti squash, pumpkins, and zucchinis. I had to evict quite a few bees and other nectar-loving bugs. One or two bumblebees put up quite a fight.

I will write about the [tag]cucumber[/tag]s I made into lacto-fermented [tag]pickle[/tag]s in a while, once they have had some time to set up and I can try them (and shoot them).

I pulled out my [tag]Japanese[/tag] [tag]tempura[/tag] [tag]batter[/tag] (instructions all in Japanese so I just use 1 cup ice water to 1 cup mix), made it up and stuck it in the freezer to cool (with a few ice cubes in it too). I also used [tag]panko[/tag] crumbs.

I cut the green base off the bottom of the squash blossoms and double checked for occupants. I didn’t wash them, didn’t seem the right thing to do.

I sliced the tomato, zucchini, and [tag]scallopini squash[/tag] into 1/4 inch slices, dipped them and the blossoms in the cold tempura batter and then the crumbs and then fried in a cast iron pan with a 1/8 inch layer of medium hot coconut oil.

This slideshow will give you a sense for that process.


Once cooked, I removed them from the oil and salted them. Anything [tag]fried[/tag] is fantastic but if its fried in coconut oil? Oh my goodness, it is fantastically delicious, miles and miles better than any fried item I have tasted before.

Give it coconut oil a try, you will not be sorry. Munch on your fried blossoms as you read your new copy of Nourishing Traditions.

Arepa de huevo (Arepa with egg)

March 23, 2007 in breakfast, Colombian Food, cooking, deep fry, Food Porn, ingredient, latino, recipe

[Sorry for the annoying copyright symbols on these images but there are too many people downloading and stealing these images. I am working on a downloadable for-a-fee document where you can get the whole “picture” and I do not lose all photo rights and revenue.]

Arepa de huevo - after final frying

Arepa de huevo is a Colombian food that I remember from my childhood. Other countries may do this but I do not know much or really anything about other varieties. Arepas are made from a very finely ground corn meal. I will put a recipe or guideline below for making that as well as how-to photos on how to make the arepa with egg below.

My first experience with it was when we visited Colombia 25 years ago. As in other latin american countries, street vendors sell all manner of things. We were on foot somewhere in Bogota, Colombia, and literally by the roadside there was this large woman sitting next to an enormous wok-like pot filled with boiling hot oil. She also had dozens of eggs and arepas. I didn’t really know what to expect when we walked up. I watched her cut open a large arepa (size of your hand, I am used to seeing them more like 1/2 that size), break an egg into the steaming middle of the arepa, pinch it back closed, and slip it quickly down the side of the wok-pot down into the boiling oil. Next thing I know, I am holding a napkin with a steaming hot arepa de huevo inside, tasting it for the first time.

Truly fantastic.

I have always respected the potent possibilities of food poisoning and GI upset that can happen when you eat things in a region where you have not acclimated yourself to the local bugs in the water. On this trip, I experienced food poisoning also for the first time but it was NOT from the Arepa de huevo I had from the street vendor.

Why?

Arepa de huevo

Because this treat is deep fried, making it less likely to be a vector for forborne illnesses.

More important than all of that, it is very delicious!

I had not eaten one in all that time until just the other day, when I finally got down to making them in my own kitchen. They came out so much better than I had anticipated. I hope you will try them too!

Arepa de huevo

Ingredients:

Arepas:

  • 1 C “La Venezolana” or “ArepaHarina” precocida masa harina (extremely fine precooked corn meal – you simply can not use any substitutes here, find this ingredient)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 C boiling hot water
  • 4 eggs (or more, depending on how far your masa goes)

Hogao:

  • 5 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 bunches of green onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cominos
  • Pinch of ground annatto seeds
  • 1/2 cup of packed, chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

Saute the listed “hogao” ingredients in the olive oil until wilted, set aside.

Mix the harina and salt and then add the boiling water. Mix until incorporated and set aside for 15 minutes.

Arepa de huevo ingredients

Dough ball

Wet hands with cold water and shape hand sized pancakes of harina (about 1/6 inch thick) or use a tortilla press. I used the press in this case but I think I would prefer to recommend the hand method as you get a thicker arepa. With the press, its a delicious crispy thing, just a bit different than I remember.

To use the press:
Put a ball of masa on the press (which you have lined with a freezer ziplock bag, cut to size).

Arepa de huevo - on press to be flattened

On the press, with plastic

Gently push down on the press so that you mash it flat but not TOO thin.

Arepa de huevo - squished flat

First pressing

Open the press and rotate the arepa 180 degrees and press just slightly more to try to even the thickness all around.

Peel back the plastic and either toast in a hot pan like you do with most arepas (below shown with smaller ones), or slip the raw arepa into the hot oil until it puffs up.

Arepa de huevo - after smashing flat

Ready for first stage cooking

Remove and allow to cool.

Carefully cut into the side of the arepa to form a pocket.

Arepa de huevo - fried once, opening pocket

Slicing the hole

Put a spoonful of hogao in the bottom of the fried arepa.

Put an egg into a small cup and then slip the egg into the pocket.

Arepa de huevo - pouring in the egg

Small expresso cup used to put egg in arepa

Arepa de huevo - after the egg has been poured in

Egg in the arepa, quick go to the next step!

Mend the edge with raw dough and then slip it back into the hot oil for a couple of minutes (until it hits the color you want, light golden brown).

Arepa de huevo - mending hole at edge with a bit of raw masa

Mending the edge before frying

Enjoy hot!

Arepa de huevo - right out of the second fry

Ready to eat!

Related Posts:

International Boston Seafood Show 2007: Mantis Shrimp

March 17, 2007 in deep fry, Fish, ingredient, International Boston Seafood Show, Japanese, product, review, seafood

What is a [tag]Mantis Shrimp[/tag]?

Well, you are looking at three of them in the photo above. I was walking through the IBSS and came across some [tag]Southeast Asian[/tag] [tag]seafood[/tag] purveyors who had some interesting displays, this one included. These [tag]animal[/tag]s are much larger than most shrimp, you would likely need two hands to hold one of them. They tend to be about 30 cm (11.8 inches) in length but have been known to grow to 38 cm (15 inches).

While they are referred to as shrimp and are in the crustacea subphylum, they are not actually shrimp at all. Their name comes from the fact that they look like a cross between a [tag]praying mantis[/tag] ([tag]terrestrial[/tag]) and a shrimp. They are also much more intelligent and fierce than your average shrimp. Their odd looking [tag]appendage[/tag]s in the front are not just funky eye candy. No, the [tag]mantis[/tag] [tag]shrimp[/tag] can use these claws to attack prey and predator (including fishermen’s fingers), with great force.

Pet mantis shrimp are so tough they can even break through the double glass walls of an [tag]aquarium[/tag].

“A truly pugnacious stomatopod (ed: mantis shrimp) can threaten not only aquarium fish but also the aquarium itself. In 1998, a 4-inch mantis shrimp at the Sea Life Centre in Norfolk, England, shattered the quarter-inch-thick glass of its aquarium. The power puncher was promptly christened “Tyson.” ” Source = NWF

Yikes, this guy is not going to be added to any aquarium I have!

One other interesting fact about these curious sea creatures is that their eyes are the most [tag]complex eye structure[/tag]s known in nature. They are the only animals to have something called “hyperspectral color vision.”

“Mantis shrimp have the world’s most complex color vision system,” according to Justin Marshall of the University of Queensland. “These lowly crustaceans possess four times as many color receptors as humans, four of which sample the ultraviolet, a region of the spectrum to which we are blind.” Stomatopods also can see polarized light. Marshall believes that for a mantis shrimp, polarized vision may be as rich a sensory experience as color vision.” Source = NWF

Ok, one more neat fact and then I will get on the the meat of the matter. These mantis shrimp are not only wily and throw their back into their battles, they are able to create balls of fire in their [tag]claw[/tag]s. Remember I said they can break an aquarium wall? Well, with those fierce claws, they can flick them out to attack their prey or tormentor. When the claw is flicked out, a “[tag]cavitation bubble[/tag]” forms (a void that is left behind by the rapid displacement of the claw). Things on this micro-scale (and nano-scale) are non-intuitive for us. We would not expect that this cavitation bubble would flash with light, heat as hot as the surface of the sun, and pop to produce sonic wavefronts that travel away from the mantis shrimp at high speeds (called [tag]sonoluminescence[/tag]).

You can try to view a [tag]video[/tag] of this activity at this link (I could not open the mov file, but thats just me, hope it works for you) – This video was found on this page and they give these credits – “Courtesy of Sheila Patek, Wyatt Korff and Roy Caldwell/UC Berkeley.”

For far more information on this and other aspects of Mantis Shrimp visit “Shrimp spring into shattering action” by [tag]April Holladay[/tag], a science journalist for USATODAY.com. I have borrowed a few resource links from her excellent article and put them at the bottom of this post.

Good eating, if you can get a hold of it that is.

They taste less like shrimp and more like [tag]lobster[/tag]. The Japanese call it “shako” and eat it raw and [tag]tempura[/tag] fried. The Italians eat it as a stewed dish called “canocie in busara” (stewed mantis shrimp) (found in “Cofanetto cucina del Bel Paese“). The Chinese eat them a million different ways, to be sure. You can visit one off-the-beaten path restaurant in Hong Kong to get your Mantis Shrimp fix, fried, combined with pepper and its own roe. The Spanish call them “[tag]galera[/tag]” and boil them in salt water. They probably serve them as a tapas in some seaside locations.

I hope you have learned something interesting about these odd creatures. I sure have. I am not sure I will be eating them any time soon as they are rarely found in any market I go to and I hear they are quite [tag]expensive[/tag].

Have you eaten these? Where did you find them? How were they cooked? Did you like them? Share if you can.

Resources for learning more:

Books of Interest:

PÄ…czki: A pre-lenten sweet from Poland

January 26, 2007 in baking, cooking, deep fry, dessert, fruit, holiday, Local Food

Paczki

The full five senses gluttony that is Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is celebrated in Poland and other eastern european countries on Fat Thursday (TÅ‚usty czwartek in Polish) (The last thursday before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent). This is a Christian tradition (that has pagan roots, as so much of Christianity does) where all the perishable and decadent ingredients generally given up for Lent (such as sugar, butter, eggs, chocolate, etc) are used up in feasting that would tax even the most conditioned competitive eater.

A relatively large population of Polish immigrants settled here in Central and slightly more Western Massachusetts back in the early part of the last century. Some towns such as Springfield, Greenfield, Chicopee, Deerfield, Ludlow, Ware, Warren, and Palmer (especially the Three Rivers part of Palmer) attracted and fostered identifiably ethnic Polish American populations. As with any situation where an ethnic group coaleses, food is one of the first manifestations and nexi of culture. For example, Three Rivers has a festival every year where you can get your pierogi fix (as well as other dishes of which I am less knowledgable with, I am a relative newbie to Polish food beyond the iconic dishes).

Another obvious Polish identifier is that you can find freshly made PÄ…czki (Poonch-ki) up until either Fat Thursday or Fat Tuesday (depends on the store I guess) in our big chain grocery stores. I have usually steered clear of these because of their decadence (we are not a dessert eating family) but this year I grabbed a few and shot a couple to share here.

What is a PÄ…czki?

A PÄ…czki is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and filled with jam or other sweet filling. A traditional filling is marmalade made from fried rose buds. Fresh paczki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing or bits of fried orange zest.

Many countries and cultures share this treat (it tastes like the usual doughnut to me). Polish Jews called them pontshkes (Yiddish: פּאָנטשקעס) and ate them at Hanukkah. They are now known by the Modern Hebrew name, סופגניות, sufganiyot (singular: סופגניה, sufganiyah). In St. Petersburg Russia they are called pyshki and ponchiki (пончики) in the rest of Russia. In Ukranian, they are called pampushky (пампушки) and in Lithuanian they are known as spurgos.

However you may celebrate this time of the year, I say:

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler Yall!

Break out of your usual box and experience something new. Eat a PÄ…czki