Friday, January 28, 2011

Sue's Salsa

I do this a little differently every time, depending on what I have on hand. This recipe evolved from information James and I got from a little taco stand in Progreso, my neighbor, Alma Galindo's salsa recipe, and a mistake I made a few batches back.*

about 10 Roma tomatoes, cut in half
1 medium sized or 2 small tomatillos, cut in fourths (optional - it makes for a nice texture though)
3-4 jalapeno peppers or 6-8 serrano peppers depending on their heat, cut in thirds
1 large onion, each half quartered
1 t. salt
3-4 cloves garlic*, run through a press
about 1/3 of a bunch of cilantro, chopped fine*
a few drops of olive oil (maybe an 1/8 of a t. - not more)

Put the little bit of olive oil in the bottom of a medium sized pot. Add the tomatoes, cut side down, and then all the other vegetables EXCEPT the garlic and cilantro. Turn the heat on medium high. Give it a stir every now and then, making sure nothing burns until the tomatoes release their juices. Bring to a boil, cut heat just a bit until it is simmering. Put the lid on ajar, until all the vegetables are very tender and it's starting to cook down - about 30 to 45 minutes. *Here's the secret: Add your garlic and cilantro at this point. Not before! Put the lid on and put the pot to cool away from the stove. When it's cool enough, run it through the blender. It's important that you cook the vegetables down enough - this is what determines the texture. It will keep in the fridge about 10 days.
NOTE: Here is the warning I've heard from Alma time after time: "Watch out! Don't put it in the blender hot. It will blow up in your face!"
Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

George Orwell on Tea

"If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britannia ware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it outwith hot water.

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent."



Turkey Carcass Soup

This recipe is from "Jane Brody's Good Food Book". I think I remember Jesse or Phil calling Jane Brody "Miss Good for You." I made this at our New Year's gathering at Mare's house with our Christmas turkey. It was not quite as rich or delicious as the one from the turkey at Thanksgiving. See the note after this recipe if you want to find out why. But the gathering was certainly rich and wonderful. Thank you Lovegrens!

Preparation tip: The stock can be frozen or used right away to make this or some other soup.

1 turkey carcass, broken into pieces
Any defatted pan juices or gravy that may be left over
12 cups water, or enough to cover the carcass completely
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, diced, with leaves, if available
1/2 c. diced carrots
1/2 c. diced well washed leek (optional)
1/2 c. diced turnip
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. salt, if desired
Bouquet garni, made by tying in cheesecloth:
6 sprigs fresh parsley, 1/2 t. thyme leaves, and 1 bay leaf

1. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, bring the stock to a boil, and simmer it, partially covering the pot, for 2 to 3 hours. (This stock tastes better the longer it simmers, as long as you don't cook away the liquid.)
2. Strain the stock, and skim off the fat.
3. If desired, remove all the bones, reserving any piece of turkey meat. Discard the bouquet garni and bay leaf. In a blender, food processor, or a hand sieve, purée the remaining vegetables in a cup of the stock and save the mixture for another soup or for flavoring a stew or sauce.

2 T. minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. butter or oil
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 c. diced celery
1/2 c. finely chopped mushrooms
1 1/2 T. flour
6-7 cups turkey stock from recipe above
1 t. marjoram
salt and pepper to taste
1 c. cooked barley or rice or 1/3 c. raw barley or rice
1 c. diced turkey meat
Dash hot pepper sauce (Tabasco), or to taste (optional)
2 T. chopped parsley

1. In a large saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic in butter or oil until they are soft.
2. Add the carrots, celery, and mushrooms, and cook the vegetables, stirring them, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
3. Add the flour, and cook the mixture, stirring it, for another minute.
4. Add the stock, marjoram, and barley. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, partially cover the pan, and simmer the soup for about 1 hour.
5. Add the turkey meat, hot pepper sauce, and parsley. Heat the soup back to a boil and immediately cut the heat.
Bon Appétit!

My notes are in the comment section.