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Monday, July 26, 2010

Guacamole!

So, here I am sitting on a hotel bed in the middle of nowhere, north-central Washington state, with my laptop out, posting about food. Isn't technology great? I've been home visiting family in Washington state for the last week or so and am currently out on a rock-hounding trip. Being a geologist, I love driving around checking out the rocks in new places... and, of course, bringing some home with me! There aren't a lot of rocks to be had in Florida, so I've been going through a rock-hounding withdrawal.

Tonight we're in Okanogan. Today was a lovely drive, punctuated by a few stops to do some antiquing, eating, and rock hounding. At one stop, I came across a herd of big horn sheep. There were about twelve of the buggers; I've never seen so many in real life before! I picked up some nice rocks too, so all is right in the world.

Unfortunately, the food scene today was only so-so. We had a nice lunch in Cle Elum, but we made the mistake of not going to dinner early enough here in Okanogan. Apparently, the world shuts up early here. Even driving to Omak didn't produce many more options... so, here I sit fondly reminiscing about this past Saturday night's meal.

My brother and his family came to dinner at my mom's, and I made some guacamole. This recipe is more or less pilfered from an authentic Mexican (versus Tex-Mex) restaurant down in Florida my husband and I have been going to. Easy to make and absolutely delicious, I recommend trying it even if you've never really cared for guacamole before. That was me, by the way, up until a month ago.

Here's the cast... a whole bunch of super fresh, tasty ingredients.

Be sure to choose some nice, large Haas avocados for this recipe. They're ripe when they are soft and the skin has turned evenly dark. Run your knife around the outside and twist to pull apart. The giant seed in the middle is nearly impossible to pull out unless you know the trick. Tap your knife into the seed until it is gently stuck and twist; the seed will twist out perfectly!

Just use a spoon to scoop between the skin and the flesh. Look how nice and green and creamy this avocado is! You don't need to cut the avocado, when it gets into the bowl, you can simply use a fork to mash the ingredients together.

Make sure to add the lime juice right away. Avocados oxidize really, really fast and look super unappealing when they're all brown and nasty. The lime juice not only adds great flavor but keeps things nice and green.

Mince the garlic, sprinkle the salt onto the garlic, and then use the edge of your knife to smear the salt and garlic together, forming a paste. Making a paste of the garlic allows the flavor to more evenly permeate the guacamole. Add the remaining ingredients and mash and stir it all together. While you can store this, covered, in the refrigerator for a few days, I like it best right away, at room temperature; I believe this provides the best texture and flavor.

Guacamole!
Yield: approximately 3 cups

2 large, ripe Haas avocados
1 lime
1 large clove garlic
1/4 tsp (or to taste) salt
1/3 cup seeded, diced tomato
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 TBS chopped fresh cilantro

Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed, and scoop the flesh from the skin into a medium bowl. Juice the lime and pour over the avocado. Mince the garlic and then add the salt to the minced garlic while it is still on the cutting board. Using the edge of your knife, smear the garlic and salt together to form a paste. Add the garlic paste and remaining ingredients to the bowl with the avocados and lime and mash and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Serve immediately, at room temperature. Guacamole will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a few days, but tastes best if used immediately.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Beef Jerky

I honestly just don't know what's wrong with me! Twenty something days since my last post... you know why? Because I just haven't felt like cooking. .:GASP:. Say it ain't so!! Really. I've done very little cooking since July came around. The few times I have put something together, it very often is something I have already posted. The good thing is that means what I have posted so far are things that I think are good enough to make over and over.

I'm not sure what is to blame for this lack of kitchen-ness, but I suspect it might have something to do with our recent attempts to tame the jungle in our back yard. Most days, I can only make it out there for 2-3 hours, lest I kill myself from heat stroke. I don't know what my problem is... I mean, it's only been 117 degrees with the heat index lately. Fortunately, the yard is really starting to look like something. Anyway. I'm really not sure what has caused my recent reluctance to cook, but I'm sure it will go away soon. It better!

One thing that I did make recently, mainly because I saw London broil on sale at the market, was beef jerky. Homemade jerky is really nice because you get to determine the seasonings and how much salt you want to use. While some salt is really required if you want your jerky to have any staying power at all, it doesn't have to make your tongue burn!

I think London broil is really a good choice for making jerky. There are other cuts you can use such as flank or skirt steak, but London broil is so easy to cut into nice strips and it isn't overly fatty. This is a good thing because too much fat means your jerky can turn rancid on you pretty quickly.

I slice mine about 3/8 of an inch thick. You can partially freeze the meat to facilitate cutting even strips, but I find as long as my knife is sharp, I can do a good job with thawed meat. Cut the meat across the grain, unless you really like to chew and chew... and chew.

Marinate the meat in a seasoning mixture. I like to use soy sauce as my base, but you could use teriyaki or even just use spices alone. You can experiment with spice blends, but my favorite is Chef Paul Prudhome's Meat Magic. It has a slight smokiness and blend of spices that I think is great in a jerky. Set the meat aside, covered, for about an hour.

Lay the strips out on the racks of a dehydrator leaving plenty of space between each slice. You can do this in an oven, but I find the results are less than spectacular. I think the reasons are two-fold: the lowest temperatures available in most ovens are not low enough and there isn't as much air flow.

If you don't already have a dehydrator and are in the market to get one, I strongly advise getting one that provides some temperature control. Depending on what you are dehydrating, you'll want to use different temperature settings. To dry meats, you want a temperature somewhere between 150 and 170 degrees, but most herbs want a more delicate temperature of less than 100 degrees.


Beef Jerky
Yield: approximately 3/4 lb of jerky

2 lbs London broil, trimmed of fat and sliced across the grain 3/8 inch thick
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 TBS Chef Paul Prudhome's Meat Magic seasoning blend (or any other you prefer)
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

Marinate meat strips in the soy sauce and seasoning, covered, at room temperature for one hour. Place, spaced out, in a single thickness on the trays of a dehydrator. Dry at approximately 165 degrees for 4-6 hours. The time it takes will vary depending on the meat and the climate. Be careful not to over dry or the meat will end up very hard to eat. When you take it out of the dehydrator it will be somewhat inflexible. Place in an airtight container immediately to store. Jerky will soften somewhat once cooled and be easier to eat than when fresh off the dehyrator tray.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Corn Salad


I just noticed that I had a typo in the ratio for the simple syrup. Sorry it took me so long to notice it! I make my own sugar water for the hummingbirds and use a ratio of 1 to 4 sugar to water. When I make this salad, I just steal a little of that liquid, which I store in the refrigerator. You can simply mix 1/2 cup of water and 2 TBS of sugar, if it's easier for you.

Knee high by the Fourth of July... you ever heard that? That used to be the old adage about corn. With all the new hybrids and what not, it doesn't hold very true anymore. In fact, we've been seeing some pretty darn good local sweet corn in the markets for a little while now.

This is a perfect recipe to serve on the Fourth. It's quick and easy, holds well on a hot day, and is sweet, crunchy, and super delicious. Back when I was going to the farmer's markets in Ohio, one of my fellow sellers would while away the time eating corn fresh off the cob... you know... raw. I'd never seen anyone do that before and it seemed kind of odd to me. Who the heck knew that raw corn is so stinking wonderful? I like to cut it off the cob, myself, otherwise you splash corn juice over four counties, but it is really good stuff. Raw corn is much crunchier and sweeter than when it is cooked. Put it together in a salad like this, and you'll get rave reviews every time!

Corn Salad
Yield: approximately 2 quarts of salad

5-6 fresh ears of corn, kernels cut off
1 cup minced sweet onion
1 cup seeded, diced fresh tomato
1 mostly peeled, seeded, diced cucumber

2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup simple syrup (a 1 to 4 ratio of sugar to water, i.e. about 2 TBS sugar)
3/4 tsp beau monde seasoning
1/4 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
dash ground pepper
1/8 tsp guar gum (optional - helps emulsify dressing)

Mix together all ingredients and put in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving. When cutting the kernels off of the corn, try not to cut too far back in the cob or you will get the tougher part of the kernel in with your salad. Do not scrape the cob for the milk like you would if making creamed corn. I like to peel my cucumbers most of the way for taste but leave a little peel on for color.
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