Monday, February 16, 2015

Technical Difficulties Corrected - Hopefully

Video of how my children open Champagne bottles;

Cactus, Chayote, Cherimoya and Champagne?

 Thank you Sharon, Addison and Friends

I was sitting in the backseat of the car.  Two of my closest friends up front engaged in one of their favourite past times, male bashing. We were on our way to the mall, still in high school and of the three of us, only Leslie had her driver’s license. Both Leslie and Carrie had recently broken up with their respective boyfriends of three months, (the average life span of relationships at that time), and were going on about how self-centered, poorly mannered and generally stupid boys can be.

I listened and watched noting how very pretty Les and Carrie were and since they could have their pick of any of the guys in our class, they likely weren’t going to be unattached for too long. I sat back there unnoticed. I didn’t add anything to the conversation because really, I liked boys. A lot. It dawned on me how the prettiest girls can so easily discard boys, when it is far more difficult for the rest of us. Oh well, I thought, at least I’m smart.

It was years later when I realized I was indeed smart, but smart in a different way. Fast forward to my sophomore year in college and I find myself dating a scientist who worked at the Nasa-Ames Research Center in Mt. View California. Now he was smart! And even though he was years older than I, and completely enthralled with the fact he was dating a dance major, he had on many occasions told me how smart he considered me to be. And honestly, I really don’t think he was just saying that. During the three months, (I was on the three month relationship plan well past high school), we dated he and I had many a deep and intellectual conversation.

So why bring this all up now? Because I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks wondering how smart it was of me to come up with the challenge of writing about food ingredients that are in season at the time of my writing anddo it in alphabetical order!! I knew the end of the alphabet was going to be tough, but I’ve been struggling with letter“C” for the last ten days! However, we smart girls aren’t deterred by difficulty instead we do our research and then use a party to inspire ourselves.

The party was the idea of my youngest daughter. Another bright woman, who mentioned she wanted to co-host her first Annual Galentine Brunch with me, at my house. Our guest list included mostly women friends who don’t currently have Valentine/Sweethearts in their lives. Although, good sports that we are we allowed a few who do. The menu included three quiches; mushroom and spinach, bacon and green onion and traditional Lorraine. We set up a small waffle bar where our guests could prepare their own pink waffles and offered Mimosas and Bloody Marys.
Love at First Bite - Really 

This is where the “C” is for Champagne comes in, as an ingredient in mimosas.Champagne is always in season in my book and was my inspiration. What made this Galentine party even more special is the fact that my daughter and eldest son took our gathering as an opportunity to surprise me with chocolate cake, (hey more “C’s”), with only a few burning candles on it, bless their hearts and incorporate my upcoming birthday into the celebration.I cannot thank my children enough for this grand surprise and loving consideration for their mother.I am blessed to have them.So I will take a moment to show you how my kids open a bottle of champagne.See video

What inspired me to feature Cactus, Chayote and Cherimoya? I don’t know, probably all that Champagne. So, for those brave souls who stayed after the clean up, that would be my kids; I reimbursed their thoughtfulness by sharing with them the uncommon and in season edible Cactus, Chayote and Cherimoya. Of course I felt compelled to impress them with my intellect and gave them a bit of background on this week’s three “C’s.”
Cactus Leaves, Chayote and Cherimoya.  Champagne too of course. 

Cactus leaves are edible! And not just by land turtles, who by the way use their tongues to crack a small opening in the cactus then extract water from it. Cactus leaves, also known as Nopales have been a popular food item in Mexico for forever. Their taste is actually delicate and slightly tart. You want to choose cactus leaves that are firm and wrinkle free. They can be stored in the refrigerator, wrapped tightly for up to a week. Of course you must remove the thorns before cooking. I have seen some recipes suggesting you use a peeler, but I prefer to use a knife first then the peeler to ensure I’ve removed every last bit of thorn. I use a pair of tongs to hold the leaf while removing the thorns. Simmer the leaves in water until tender then cut the leaves into strips and add to salads or mix into a bowl of grains and other veggies. I might be pushing this a bit, as I’ve also read cactus leaves are at their best in spring. Hmmm.

Chayote, really in season now, is a gourd-like fruit, and was a main food staple of the Aztecs and Mayans. They’re roundish in shape with skin that is a soft, pale green. The inside offers an almost bland tasting flesh with one soft seed in the center. Select chayote that is small and firm to the touch. As for cooking them up, they can be cut in half, stuffed and baked like acorn squash or eaten raw in salads. Since their flavor is so mild chayote to me, is much like tofu, in that they absorb the seasonings and flavors of the ingredients they are cooked with.

Cherimoya? Now this one brings forth that intelligence my Nasa guy referred to. I really researched this. Cherimoyas, also referred to as “custard apples,” are tropical fruits, indigenous to Central America, these days are grown in California. Easy to pass up at the grocery store due to their rather ugly exterior, a dark, greenish brown, with a pattern resembling scales on a dragon.  Cherimoyas are a creamy, white inside with large inedible seeds. Purchase those that are firm and feel heavy for their size. Store them at room temperature until they soften and become ripe. They are best chilled before eating. Simply cut in half, remove the seeds and eat with a spoon. It is said Mark Twain declared Cherimoyas “the most delicious fruit known to man.” He's right.
Cherimoya - soft & sweet, truly like custard inside!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Recipe for Butternut & Black Bean Tacos

Roasted Butternut Squash & Black Bean Hummus

Topped with Arugula, Cilantro, Crema Mexicana & Avocado Puree




1 15-ounce can black beans – drained and rinsed

1 clove fresh garlic – minced

1 tablespoon tahini

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1/8 teaspoon chili powder

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

3 tablespoons Olvie oil

What To Do
1)      Place all ingredients into food processor

2)      Turn on machine and blend until smooth

3)      Spoon mixture into serving bowl – using index finger to create a small mote towards the outside of mixture.

4)      Pour 1 teaspoon of Olive oil into mote and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves

Serve with pita bread or chips or use as spread for tostadas or tacos.

To Make these easy tacos simply spread 2 tablespoons of hummus on a large soft flour tortilla.  Then top with a handful of each, roasted butternut squash cubes, black beans, toasted seeds from the squash and chopped cilantro.  Drizzle with Crema Mexicana and Avocado Puree, then top with your favourite salsa!
To roast the squash - cut both ends off squash, then cut into 2 or 3 chunks to more easily manage.  You may use a potato peeler to first remove the skin then use a thin slicing knife to remove the tough rind.  Or skip the peeler and use the knife to remove skin and rind at once.  Dice peeled squash into cubes.  Spread on foil-lined jellyroll pan and drizzle with olive oil then season with salt and pepper.  Place in 375 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until edges are brown. 
To toast the seeds inside the squash; clean seeds under running water then allow to dry on paper towel.  Once dry throw seeds into small skillet and toast over medium heat until golden brown.  Don't walk away the seeds will burn quickly.  You may season with salt if desired. 
The easiest way to make an avocado puree is to simply prepare or purchase guacamole and thin with a bit of lime juice of water.  You may use squeeze bottles to apply the Creme and Puree to get the results shown here, or you can use a spoon, which is what is really shown here, since I can't find any of my squeeze bottles.