Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Winnemucca, Nevada

The Location: Winnemucca, Nevada
2013 population: 8,002. 69.4% white, 25.5% Hispanic. Per capita income: $29,629

The city was named for the 19th century Paiute chief who lived in the region with his tribe. The name loosely translates to "one moccasin". The chief's daughter, Sarah Winnemucca, learned English and acted as a go-between for the US Army and her people. She was an advocate for fair treatment and education rights of her people. During the Bannock War of 1878, she was a messenger and scout for the United States.

The Bannock War was fought between the United States army and the Paiute and Bannock tribes. The war ended badly for the Native Americans, and those not killed in battle were forced to move to the Yakama Indian Reservation in what is now Washington state. Approximately 543 people were forced to live there from 1878 to 1886 before being granted permission to return to Nevada.

Sarah Winnemucca wrote an autobiography in 1883. It was the first autobiography written by a Native American woman. Many people see her as a traitor to her people, but I see her as somebody trying desperately to smooth things over for her people. Even if it meant playing to both sides, she always had her own people's best interests in mind, even if it didn't always work out that way.

In 1868, the Central Pacific Railroad came to Winnemucca. And on September 19, 1900 Butch Cassidy's gang robbed a bank in the city. They would take $32,640 from the First National Bank of Winnemucca. Over the years, Basque and Chinese immigrants would also call Winnemucca home.

Today, Winnemucca partakes in Nevada's gambling culture, as well as having its fair share of brothels.

The Food: Pine Nuts

During my researching for foods native to Nevada, I ran across pine nuts, and thought that was interesting. I'd only ever really used pine nuts in pesto sauce before, and that's Italian. How would such vastly different cultures in very different places, both use the ingredient in their own way? And have you ever wondered why pine nuts cost so much when you buy them? I have, and it turns out that pine nuts are an incredibly labor-intensive ingredient.

This video is very interesting and education. It shows the importance of the pine nut to the Paiute people, which is why I decided to focus on this food for this week's blog. Pine nuts, it turns out, are not native to just the United States. It's why you see it show up in dishes from other cultures, like pesto sauce from Italy. Each culture has its own way of harvesting the pine nuts, and today there is most likely a modernized version of harvesting, but it still takes several steps to get a pine nut from a pine cone on a tree, to your dinner plate. It makes sense to me now why they would cost that much.

This video shows another way of harvesting and preparing pine nuts. This is how the Navajo people of Arizona do it. You can see that they have different traditions and different ways of thinking about the pine nut. It's a good example of how ideas differ between tribes and that Native Americans cannot be thought of as all the same or having an interchangeable culture.

The Dishes: Spinach and Pine Nut Quesadilla and Pine Nut Tart

Try as I might, I was unable to find recipes specific to the Paiute or other Native American tribes to try out for this blog. I did, however, find a couple of my own recipe cards that heavily feature pine nuts, and used them instead. I looked around for the best priced pine nuts I could find and got mine from Trader Joe's. An 8 oz. bag cost $7.99. It was enough for both of these recipes with about 1/3 cup leftover to use another time. I highly recommend going to Trader Joe's for your pine nut needs.

Spinach and Pine Nut Quesadilla:
4 (6") flour tortillas
1 cup cheddar cheese(I used a reduced-fat cheddar-jack mix and it was just fine)
1 cup spinach, cleaned
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Salt and Pepper, to taste(I actually didn't notice this and didn't do it, but thought the flavors were just fine anyway)

Blanch spinach. In boiling water, add spinach; cook till a bright green color, about one minute. Squeeze water out from spinach and set aside. Salt optional. (I did salt the water and I think it worked well.)
Place 2 tortillas in a large frying pan over medium heat. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the 2 tortillas. Add all the spinach(this is all bunched up after squeezing the water out of it. I took the time to unfold all the spinach but you could also chop it up and sprinkle it evenly over the cheese.) and pine nuts. Take the last 2 tortillas and sprinkle the remaining cheese. When cheese has melted, place over the first 2 tortillas. Cut quesadillas into 4 pieces.  Makes 2 servings

I didn't make this exactly like the recipe calls for. I did it for one quesadilla, to begin with, and prepared it this way: tortilla, half the cheese, all the spinach and pine nuts, then rest of cheese over top. Top with next tortilla and pan-fry until golden on one side. Place a large plate over the quesadilla and keeping your hand on it, lift up the pan and flip it over, allowing the quesadilla to fall onto the plate. Then gently slide the quesadilla back into the pan so the uncooked side can heat through. When it's toasted on both sides and the cheese is melted, slide it out of the pan and back onto the plate to serve. Use a pizza cutter to cut it into quarters. I served this with salsa and some tortilla chips. It was really good. The spinach is slightly bitter and the pine nuts have a unique flavor I can't actually describe in words. It blends well with the cheese and spinach. I highly recommend this one. It's super easy.

Pine Nut Tart:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. + 2/3 cup sugar(I used 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce)
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 cup shortening(Note, even the updated version of shortening still has trans fat in it. I opted to use lard instead of shortening. Even though lard is all saturated fat, I believe it's still more natural and less damaging than trans fat. But you can use whatever you're most comfortable with.)
10 Tbsp. butter, divided
3/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 cup pine nuts, toasted

1.) In medium bowl, with fork, stir flour, 2 Tbsp. sugar, and 1/4 tsp. salt. With pastry blender, cut in shortening and 4 Tbsp. butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle about 4 Tbsp., 1 Tbsp. at a time, into flour mixture, mixing lightly with fork after each addition until dough is just moist enough to hold together. (I found I needed closer to 5 Tbsp.) Shape dough into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm enough to roll.
2.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On lightly greased surface, with rolling pin, roll dough into 14" round. Press dough onto bottom and up sides of 11"x1" round tart pan with removable bottom. Fold overhang in and press against side of tart pan to form a rim 1/8" above edge of pan.(I found mine made way too much dough so I cut off the excess and baked that separately with butter, sugar and cinnamon as a separate treat, rather than just throw it away.) With fork, prick dough in 1" intervals to prevent puffing and shrinking during baking.

3.) Line tart shell with foil and fill with dried beans or uncooked rice. Bake shell 20 minutes; remove foil with weights and bake 10 minutes longer or until golden. If crust puffs up during baking, press it to pan with back of spoon. Turn oven down to 375 degrees.(Note, I didn't notice this step, because the recipe card is really small writing. I just did the initial 20 minute baking with the weights and then removed them from the shell and filled it with the filling. It turned out just fine, but you should probably do this step just in case it would make it even better.)
4.) In food processor, pulse almonds, cornstarch, baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt until almonds are very finely ground.
5.) In large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat almond mixture, 2/3 cup sugar, and 6 Tbsp. butter until crumbly. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until well combined, about 3 minutes. Constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Add eggs, 1 at a time, vanilla and almond extract; beat until smooth.
6.) Pour filling into warm tart shell. Arrange pine nuts evenly over filling. Bake tart 20 minutes or until golden and filling is firm. Cool tart in pan on wire rack. When cool, carefully remove side from pan.
Makes 12 servings.
I tried this when it was still warm and it was pretty good. Because of the eggs in the filling, I refrigerated it overnight and tasted it it cold the next morning. I think the flavors work better when it's chilled.
I think this would be good with ice cream or whipped cream if you're into that sort of thing. The texture was pretty much the same with the half applesauce, half sugar blend I went with, though I think the flavor wasn't almond-ey enough. The extract I had was older, so maybe it wasn't as strong as it could have been. The pine nuts add the distinct pine nut flavor and blends well with the almonds. The crust was on point. It was crispy and delicious. It looks like a lot of steps, and it does require a lot of equipment to make, but this was a fun baking project. If you like baking and have confidence, I recommend this one. It's a bit much for a beginner, but if you have a some baking under your belt, do try it out. I think you'll like it! Definitely not for somebody with a nut allergy, though...both are tree nuts, after all.

Whenever you make something with pine nuts in it, and grumble about how much money you shelled out for them, take a minute to remember the work that goes into preparing a pine nut from something inside a pine cone, on a tree, to your pot or pan. It takes many steps and many people to get it from there to here. Depending on where you're from, there is a long and illustrious history with pine nuts, and they should be respected. Do try them out in something other than pesto, too, you won't regret it!

City Stats

City Pic

City Map

City History

Sarah Winnemucca History

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Des Moines, Iowa

The Location: Des Moines, Iowa

2013 population: 207,510 people. 67.9% white, 13.3% Hispanic. Per capita income: $23,723

Des Moines was incorporated on September 22, 1851 as Fort Des Moines. It was named for the Des Moines River which translates to River of the Monks in French. Prior to and after the European invasion, there were numerous Native American tribes who lived in Iowa. As with the whole of the Midwest and American expansion, the region was a crossroads for many different tribes as they were pushed further west over the decades as more Americans and Europeans took over their land, displacing them. Fort Des Moines was built to try and control the Meskwaki and Sauk tribes. They had already been forced to move from the eastern half of the state, their homeland. They did not fare well in their new land.

By 1857, the city's name was shortened to Des Moines. In 1864, coal mining became an important industry with the opening of the Des Moines Coal Company. It was very active until the early 1900's when the coal was used up.

The city has undergone several transformations and beautification projects over the years, changing the shape and look of the city. Today, Des Moines is home to several large financial and insurance giants such as Wells Fargo and Allied Insurance.

Through my research of the city, I was unable to find a lot of outstanding events or points in time of interest. Des Moines appears to be a city that has largely kept its head down and gotten its work done. It doesn't make waves, it just moves ever on with the changing times. It has always been a politically active city, though, and the state of Iowa is one of the shapers of past and current American politics.

Iowa is also the setting to one of my favorite musicals: The Music Man. If you've never seen it, you really should. It's a lot of fun. The movie takes place in a fictitious town, but one of the songs I think perfectly embodies the state, and therefore, the city of Des Moines:

So, why are we in Des Moines today? Well, we are here for the world-famous, or at least nationally-famous, Iowa State Fair! The Iowa State Fair began in 1854 in the city of Fairfield. It was moved to Des Moines permanently in 1878. With a few exceptions, it has been held every year since then. It is known for attractions like the Butter Cow sculpture which was introduced in 1911. They also have a double ferris wheel. They are also well-known for their loved of deep-fried foods and foods on sticks. Deep-fried butter and the deep-fried Snickers bar are some of the more outlandish items they have fried up over the years. In honor of that, I decided to partake in my own deep-fried feast.

The Food: Deep-Fried Everything

Deep-frying is something I never really do. I have done it when I worked in the restaurant industry, but never really do it at home. I eat deep-fried foods, but I never really make it for myself. I decided that if I was going to deep-fry a meal, I was going to do it right. I borrowed my parents' table-top small deep-fryer and some oil from them and picked out several recipes to try. I had more recipes planned but didn't do all of them because I hit my deep-fried threshold before dessert.

Did you know that you can eat too much deep-fried food? I didn't, but I learned that last night. I don't really know why, I made corndogs, onion rings, deep-fried pickles, sweet potato chips, and corn fritters. That really shouldn't have been too much...OMG that was so much deep-fried deliciousness! No wonder I had no stomach for dessert. I was going to make a dessert batter and try deep-frying apple and nectarine slices, but it was a no-go.

I found a recipe for Iowa State Fair corndogs online and they worked brilliantly. I will share the link because I didn't alter the recipe except to use chicken dogs instead of beef hotdogs. I think it turned out really well. There's something thrilling about making your own corndogs. They're easy to buy at the grocery store at the deli or in the freezer section, but there's something cool about making your own. You control the ingredients more and the quality is better. I used chopsticks for the sticks. The cheapo kind you get with teriyaki and you keep them in your silverware drawer and never use, but you don't want to throw them out either. This is the perfect use for them.

I also used the extra batter from the corndogs to dip dill pickle wedges in and deep-fried those. If you have never tried the amazing treat that is a deep-fried pickle, do yourself a favor and try one. They are so good!

The sweet potato chips really don't need a recipe. I had half a sweet potato left over from last week's chili recipe and thought this would be a good use of it. All you do is peel it, slice it as thinly as possible and throw it in the fryer. Sprinkle a little salt on them when they're done and you have sweet potato chips! I had originally thought to do them in french fry form, but the shape of the potato was such that chips were a better option. They weren't overly sweet and were really good!

The last two recipes I used my own recipes for so I'll write them out here.

Sweet Onion Rings: (I made a half batch but will write out the original recipe)
3 cups buttermilk
2 sweet onions, thinly sliced into rounds, then separated into rings
3 cups flour
3 Tbsp. onion powder
3 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pepper
4 cups canola oil

Pour buttermilk into large bowl. Add onion rings; toss to coat. Let stand 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Mix flour, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in another large bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour enough oil into heavy large skillet to reach depth of 3". Heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Working with a few onion rings at a time, shake off excess buttermilk, then turn onion rings in flour mixture to coat. Fry onion rings until golden brown, adjusting heat as necessary for each batch to maintain temperature to 350 degrees, about 2 minutes. Transfer onion rings to paper towels to drain, then place on baking sheet and keep warm in oven while frying remaining rings.
Makes 6 servings

The only things I did differently was to leave out the onion powder because we were out. I added a dash of cayenne pepper instead. I also added a bit of Tabasco sauce to the buttermilk to flavor the onions more. I breaded all the onions before starting to fry them and used a deep-fryer instead of the pan. These were amazing! They were really crispy and the onions were so thin that they basically melted when you ate them. I probably ate too many of these.

The other recipe is for the corn fritters.  This is apparently a family recipe but I've never had the occasion to try it. It's not an Iowa recipe, but it is corn, and corn and Iowa go hand-in-hand, so I thought it was a good time to try it. I changed it to deep-fry the fritters, but I'll write out the recipe as it is stated, which calls for pan-frying. The batter is essentially a pancake batter, so pan-frying would result in a pancake-type finished product, but when you deep-fry them, they are more like a savory doughnut. I chose this recipe because I also had leftover creamed corn from last week's blog recipes and wanted to use it up. I think this was a great way to use it because there were delicious!

Seabeck Corn Fritters:
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar(I cut it down to 1 Tbsp and they were quite sweet from the corn. I don't think you need 2, personally.)
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup cream-style corn
1/3 drained canned whole kernel corn(I used frozen because that's what we had on hand. It was just fine.)
1 qt. corn oil

1.) In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.
2.) In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg and milk to blend, stir in cream-style corn and whole corn.
3.) Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; add corn mixture and stir until dry ingredients are moistened.
4.) Pour oil into a large iron skillet, filling 1/3 full. Over medium heat, heat oil to 375 degrees.
5.) Drop mixture by Tbsp. into oil, no more than 3-4 at a time. Fry until brown. Turn once. Drain on absorbent paper.
6.) Serve at once with syrup.(I did not do this.)
Makes about 18 fritters; can be doubled.

I made so much food that I called my parents to come up and eat the rest of it. They came up at about 8pm and devoured the rest of the food, with the exception of the plate they took down to my grandparents to try. There was only a tiny bit leftover in the end, but I had reached my limit and could eat no more. Deep-fried foods are delicious, but they really are best in moderation. I can't imagine eating like that every day, but there are some people who do. I don't know how they manage it, but they do! I would highly recommend any of these recipes, but maybe don't make every one of them all at once. It's a bit overwhelming. Amazing, but overwhelming!

City Stats

City Map

City Pic

Iowa Native American Tribes History

Iowa State Fair Corn Dog Recipe

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Fort Collins, Colorado

The Location: Fort Collins, Colorado

2013 census: 153,061 people. 82.9% white, 10.3% Hispanic. Per capita income $29,987

Prior to the European invasion, the region was home to multiple tribes of Native Americans. The Cheyanne, Arapaho, Ute, Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache all lived there. Forts like Fort Collins were built to protect white settlers and their interests, and maintain control over the Native American population. By 1878, reservations for each tribe had been established and they were forced to move there. All but the Ute were moved out of the state of Colorado, to other nearby states.

Fort Collins was built in 1862. It was only used by the United States Army for a few years when settlers arrived in the area. The fort was decommissioned in 1867. The city surrounding the fort was built up in the 1870's and 1880's. The sugar beet and lamb industries were the top industries that helped build up the city's economy. It remained an economically strong city even through the Great Depression. World War Two brought with it a population boom and much of the city's original structures were replaced with newer models.

Politically, the city was known to be rather conservative. Alcohol was banned from the late 1890's until 1969 when students at Colorado State University protested against it. Today, the city is known for its robust beer culture.

Fort Collins is the fourth largest city in Colorado. It is also said to be one of the cities that was the visual inspiration for Disneyland's Main Street, USA, when Walt Disney was designing the park.

The Food: Chili and Cornbread

Colorado is a unique state in our country. It is part of the West, but it is also part of the Midwest, and it is part of the Southwest as well. Its cuisine is influenced by all of these cultures. It's known for its beef and lamb production, neither of which I eat. This presented some problems for me when trying to pick a meal for this state. I didn't want to just go with the Denver Omelet, because I felt that was too easy. I originally did plan on it, if I couldn't find anything else to use. In the end, though, I settled on chili and cornbread. I had a recipe card for chicken chili in the slow cooker and it even called for beer, so that fit in perfectly with the city's beer culture, though truth be told, that was a coincidence because I picked out the recipe before researching the city's history. It was a lucky choice, I guess!

I altered the recipe a little, as I always seem to do, so I will write it out how I did it, because I think it worked really well.

Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
1lb. ground chicken
3 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. chili powder
1(15oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1(15oz.) can white beans, drained and rinsed
2(14.5oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 med. sweet potato, peeled and shredded(about 10 oz.)
2 zucchinis, shredded
1(15oz.) can chicken broth
1/4 cup instant tapioca
1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce with seeds, chopped
2 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. onion powder
2 tsp. granulated garlic(I didn't have this and used powdered garlic and it was fine.)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch ground cloves
1/2-3/4 cup lager-style beer, optional

Put the chicken in the slow cooker. Add 3 Tbsp. of the chili powder and the rest of the ingredients except the beer. Stir everything together, cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Just before serving, stir in the remaining 2 tsp. of the chili powder, the beer if using, and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Divide the chili among warm bowls.
Toppings: Sour cream, shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, chopped green onions.

Makes 6-8 servings.

This chili was amazing! I did the 8 hours and stirred it a few times throughout the day just to make sure everything blended together. When I added the beer and last of the chili powder I left the lid off and turned it onto high for a while to help burn off some of the alcohol because it was a little bitter otherwise. I used 2 chipotle peppers, but if spice is an issue, you might only use one. I wouldn't recommend skipping it entirely since that's the only spice source in the recipe. Chili powder isn't spicy, so there's nothing else in it to give it the spice you want in chili.

The recipe originally called for two pounds of ground chicken, but I felt that was too much and substituted half of it with the zucchini. I think it worked out just fine. The flavor blends overnight in the fridge and is even better the next day. Chili freezes really well, so I will be putting one-cup portions into zip-lock bags to freeze for later meals. It's a good way to make a batch of chili go a long way!

 The cornbread recipe I found online and it hails from an inn in Colorado. Cornbread is pretty generic as a dish so I wanted to find one relevant to the state. This also marked the use of a new ingredient for me. I have never used creamed corn before. It has a really deep corn flavor but a sort of strange texture for my tastes. It's probably fine cooked into things but I don't know that I would really ever eat it plain. And this means I need to find something else to cook it in this week because I have about a third of the can left and I don't want it to go to waste. I spent good money on it.

Since the recipe is online I won't write it out here, but I will talk about the one change I made to the recipe. I made a half batch since it was easily divided in half. Instead of a half cup of sugar, I used a half cup of unsweetened applesauce, my main go-to for replacing sugar. Since I don't know what it would be like if I'd used sugar, I guess I can't say for sure if it worked just the same. I think it turned out fine, though. It's a different type of cornbread because it's more wet from the applesauce and creamed corn, but it was supposed to be that way. My first piece crumbled when I took it out of the pan, but the second piece held up better. It just needed to sit for a while before being cut. I found it sweet but not overly sweet and really delicious with some butter on it.

This would be an ideal autumn meal, but it's good any time of the year because the crockpot keeps from heating up the kitchen. I was really happy with the results of this meal. It was easy to make and very tasty. I highly recommend it!

City History

Native American History

Cornbread Recipe

City Stats

City Map

City Pic

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dining-In: A Culinary Tour of America-Greeneville, Tennessee

The Location: Greeneville, Tennessee

2013 population: 15,020; 83.7% white, 7.8% Hispanic. Per capita income: $18,693

Greeneville was named after Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero. It was also the home and is the final resting place of President Andrew Johnson.

Archaeology places humans inhabiting the region as far back as 10,000BCE. The Cherokee tribe were living there prior to the European invasion. European settlers began taking over the area in 1772. Greeneville was officially made a town in 1786.

The state of Tennessee has a unique place within the history of the American Civil War. Part of the state supported the Union and part of the state supported the Confederacy. The eastern half of the state, the half that Greeneville is part of, supported the Union and had a long history of participating in the Abolitionist movement prior to the war's outbreak. The eastern half of the state went so far as to fight to become its own state in order to side with the Union, but they were denied, and the entire state of Tennessee would side with the Confederacy. Greeneville and the rest of the eastern side of the state participated in acts of civil disobedience in order to continue their fight for the Union, even though they were occupied by the Confederacy. Railroads were destroyed and bridges were blown up. At least two people were executed for their acts of rebellion against the Confederacy. Today, Greeneville's county courthouse has monuments to both the Confederacy and the Union and is thought to be the only city in the United States with tributes to both sides of the Civil War.

The Food: Fried Green Tomatoes and Peach Hand Pies

Tennessee is known for their barbecue, but because I have featured that already and am reserving the right to do so again, I didn't want to overdue barbecue. This led to researching other popular dishes of the region. I have never had fried green tomatoes before but it is such an iconic Southern dish, I knew it would be the perfect time to try it. I had originally planned a different city with a different menu, but when my parents went to the Edmonds Farmer's Market yesterday and ran across a couple of green tomatoes for me, I made a last minute switch to try them out. I'm really glad I did because they were soooo good!

Fried green tomatoes were not necessarily a Southern delicacy. They were an American delicacy. They showed up in menus throughout the country over the years. They had a popularity that waxed and waned. They were waning and possibly poised to fade into obscurity when a little movie, based on a book, came out in 1991. Fried Green Tomatoes, starring Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, and Mary Stuart Masterson, made a hit out of the dish, which began showing up everywhere in the Southern states. I suppose you could call the dish, a neo-classic. The movie is fantastic, and I highly recommend it. I have not read the book, but I hear it is also quite excellent.

I had a recipe card that I intended to follow, but I was missing eggs and didn't want to run to the store, so I had to completely revamp the recipe. I decided to really revamp it, so the recipe is entirely mine. I will write it out here.

Fried Green Tomatoes:
2 green(unripe red) tomatoes(Or however much you want depending on how many people you're making it for.)
Equal parts unseasoned breadcrumbs and cornmeal(Sorry, I didn't measure anything. Just use enough so that it looks like it'll coat all the tomatoes you have.)
Salt/Black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. each chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, and onion powder
1 cup buttermilk(I made mine homemade by pouring 1 Tbsp. white vinegar into a 1 cup measure and filling the rest of the cup with milk. Let it sit about five minutes before using.)
Tabasco, to taste
Butter/Canola oil/Bacon grease(You can use any of these or a combination of them. I made a batch for my parents with butter and canola oil, but mine I made with bacon grease and canola oil.)

Slice the tomatoes crosswise into 1/2" slices. On a plate large enough for dredging the tomatoes, combine the flour, cornmeal, and dried seasonings. Mix well. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl large enough to hold the tomato slices; you can do this in rounds if you need to. Add the Tabasco to the buttermilk and mix well. Soak the tomato slices for a few minutes in the buttermilk before dredging in the cornmeal mixture. Set the coated slices onto another plate and let sit for five minutes or so to let the coating adhere firmly to the tomatoes.

Heat the oil of your choice in a large frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the tomato slices. You will have to be very gentle with these when they fry because the tomatoes are delicate and the coating is even more delicate. It will fall off very easily if you are not careful. When they are deep brown, remove them from heat and gently dab at them with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

You can eat these plain or with a sauce of your choice, but I made mine into a BLT. Well, a BT, because I didn't use lettuce. I bought some lovely poppyseed kaiser rolls, sliced one in half, and toasted it in the oven. I fried up thick-cut bacon and used some of the leftover grease from it to fry the tomatoes while the bacon rested and the roll toasted. Mayonnaise on the roll, then tomato slices, then the bacon, and it was fantastic!! It was just out of this world! I also tried a couple of the tomato slices plain to know what the texture and flavor of it was just on its own. I can see why this has become such a popular dish because it was just ridiculously delicious.

Peach Hand Pies:
Peach pie is another dish synonymous with the South and I felt they paired well with tomatoes. Both are in the height of their season this time of year. It's the perfect summertime dessert. I have done peach pie for this blog before, but this was different because they were individual-sized. I had a recipe card for it and I based mine off of it. I made a few changes based on my tastes. The recipe was for 16 servings, but I only bought enough dough for half, so I only made half. Now I have too much peach filling leftover and I'm not sure what to use it for. I will write out the recipe based on eight servings so you don't accidentally buy too many ingredients.

1/2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. sugar(I substituted unsweetened applesauce and it worked just fine.) + 1/2 Tbsp sugar(I actually did use this.)
1 lb. ripe peaches, unpeeled, pitted, and cut into 3/4" pieces
Pinch salt
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 pkg.(15oz) refrigerated unbaked pie crusts (The kind you unroll yourself, not the ones in a pie tin)
1/2 Tbsp. milk

1.) In nonstick 12" skillet, melt butter over medium heat. In cup, mix cornstarch with 3 Tbsp. sugar. Stir peaches, sugar mixture, and salt into butter in skillet. (If you use applesauce like I did, don't mix that with the cornstarch first, just add all of the ingredients to the skillet and stir well to mix.) Cook 25 minutes or until peaches are very soft and mixture thickens and boils, stirring frequently. Boil 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat; stir in lemon juice. Cool completely. (Mixture can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.)

2.) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Let pie crusts stand as label directs.
3.) On work surface, unfold 1 dough round; cut into quarters. Spoon 2 Tablespoons of filling in strip down center of each quarter, leaving about 3/4" dough uncovered at each end. Fold dough over filling. With fork, press edges together to seal. Transfer pies to ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. (You will need two cookie sheets for them.)
4.) Brush tops of pies with milk; sprinkle with remaining sugar. With knife, cut 1" slit in top of each pie to allow steam to escape during baking.
5.) Place cookie sheets on two oven racks. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown, rotating cookie sheets between upper and lower oven racks halfway through baking. Transfer pies to wire racks to cool.
Makes 8 pies

This was one of the best meals I've had in a while. Tomatoes and peaches really do go well together. Both are fruits, and sweet. They evoke images of the South and summertime. I highly recommend both of these. You will not be disappointed. I promise!

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dining-in: A Culinary Tour of America-New Bedford, Massachusetts

The Location: New Bedford, Massachusetts
2013 census: 95,078 people; 66.5% white; 22.2% Hispanic. Per capita income $20,517

New Bedford is nicknamed "The Whaling City," because it was a large whaling port in the 19th century. Fun fact: In 1841, Herman Melville shipped off on the Acushnet whaling ship from New Bedford. His experiences on that ship would inspire the story of Moby Dick.

Prior to the European invasion, the region was home to the Wampanoag tribe who numbered approximately 12,000. New Bedford was settled by Europeans in 1652. The city's first newspaper was founded in 1792, as was the first post office. When Europeans began to arrive, they came in several different waves of ethnic groups. First came the British Protestants, and then the Irish. With the advent of the first cotton mill in 1846, came the Portuguese. After them came the Polish and Eastern European Jews in the late 1800's.

New Bedford, along with Fall River and Greater Providence, have the largest Portuguese American population in the entire country. Every year, New Bedford is host to the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, a festival devoted to Portuguese and Portuguese-American culture. This year marks the 101st year, and it runs from July 30-August 2nd. Events include a parade, fado singing(think Portuguese blues, a genre dominated by women), and tons of Portuguese food. The feast was started at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in 1915. It was an homage to a similar feast celebrated each year in Madeira Island.

 Here is a video of an example of fado singing. It's quite lovely, I think.

And here is a video of folk music and dancing at a past Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, so you can visualize what it's like there.


In honor of the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, an event that I was first introduced to in the movie Passionada, a lovely romance starring Jason Isaacs wearing a horrible wig, I decided I had to partake in it when I began this food blog. I have never cooked Portuguese food before and it all looks so amazing, so I was very excited to try it. I chose two recipes and both of them included ingredients I'd never used before. It turns out that I will probably never use one of them again...

The Food: Caldo Verde and Bacalhau

 Salt Cod, out of the box

Bacalhau: Basically salt cod cakes or fritters. I used a recipe from The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors cookbook by Jeff Smith. The recipe did not turn out so I will not bother writing it out here. I'll just explain what happened.

Salt cod, after soaking for a day

I cooked with salt cod for the first and probably last time yesterday. Salt cod has a long history, it dates back at least 500 years. It was a way of preserving food for the long winter months and some say it makes the fish taste even better. That might be a bit of an exaggeration. It took an email, a trip to two different stores and $12 for me to track down the salt cod. It is not easy to find in Seattle. But find it I did. I followed the instructions to soak it in water starting late Thursday night. I kept it in a pan of water in the fridge and changed the water several times on Friday and Saturday morning. I think maybe I did it too soon because it didn't seem to have any flavor when I finally cooked it up. All the salt was gone. To cook the fish, you just simmer it in water for about a half hour. Do you know what the smell of boiled over fish water on your stove as it evaporates on the burner smells like? I hope you don't. Because I do, and I wish I didn't...

The breading was made by leaving fresh bread out to dry and grating it into breadcrumbs. I didn't have quite enough so I used panko for the rest. You mix this with olive oil, fresh garlic, and spices. When the fish is cool enough to handle, you crumble it into flakes and mix it into the breadcrumb mixture. I did not realize until it was too late that it was not boneless fish. I got some of the bigger bones out, but I'm pretty sure I was feasting on fish bones last night...Not a pleasant thought.

The breading didn't keep the cakes together. It needed more of a binder, maybe an egg or milk or something. When I formed the cakes, they just crumbled but I fried them up anyway. It turned into basically a breaded fish hot mess hash. The flavor was pretty good, though the fish was no longer flavorful. The garlic was a very good addition and worked really well with it. I put some lemon juice on it and that turned out pretty good too, but it wasn't enough to save this trainwreck of a dish. Because salt cod is so expensive, hard to track down, and labor intensive to prepare, I don't know that I will ever try this one again, but it was a fun experiment. I think if I ever want to try it again, I'll splurge and go to a restaurant that has them on the menu.

Caldo Verde: This sounds like a really exotic dish, but it's Portuguese for kale and potato soup with linquica sausage. Linguica sausage is another new ingredient to me that took a while to track down. It looks like kielbasa but it's redder and has a milder flavor. In case you want to try this sometime, Safeway carries it. It's a tad expensive, but it's there. If you can't find it, kielbasa would make an ideal substitute. I have heard this of this dish over the years but never attempted it before. This one was a winner, thankfully! I will post the link to the original recipe because I found it online.

Caldo Verde is what you would call "peasant" food. It has humble ingredients like potatoes, sausage, and kale. The sausage flavors the soup but isn't a main component. The potato and kale are definitely the stars of the show. Some versions also include beans, but I chose one that didn't since I don't always like beans in my food. It was very simple and pretty quick to prepare. It might not be the ideal food for an 85+ degree day, but it worked out just fine.

You start with four large russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and sliced thin. Put them in a large pot and cover with two quarts of chicken stock. Cook for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. In the meantime, chop two cloves of garlic and a small onion and saute in olive oil until softened. Put these into the pot with the potatoes. When the potatoes are cooked, remove the pot from the heat and puree with a hand-held blender or in a regular blender. If you have neither of these available, a potato masher would probably work though it might be chunkier than with the other methods.

At the same time as the potatoes are cooking saute 6 ounces of thinly-sliced linquica sausage in olive oil and when that has cooked until browned put in 1 lb. julienned kale(I used purple kale but use whatever you like the most. Just cut it off the stems and julienne in long strips.) to the frying pan. Cover and let cook down until partly cooked before pouring that and the sausage into the pot of pureed potato soup. Return the pot to medium heat and cook through until the kale has cooked down. Mix well before serving. You can put olive oil on the top if you like though I skipped that step.

The soup was really good and I think it'll be even better reheated. Soup always tastes better the next day, doesn't it? I gave some to my parents and grandparents to try and froze a couple servings so I'll get to enjoy it later on. The fish cakes tasted pretty good but visually they just didn't work. I think they're too impractical to try again, but I really did enjoy experimenting with it. I'll just wait until I get to go to the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament in person one day to try them made by people who actually know what they're doing. Do try the soup though, you won't regret it!

Feast of the Blessed Sacrament website

Caldo Verde Recipe

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