Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Trip To Moscow

First I'd like to make a tribute of thanks to about half a dozen regular readers from the Russian Federation. I enjoy visiting this city and hope to one day get to see more of this interesting country.

Now let's set the mood with some Tchaikovsky:
Tchaikovsky 1812 overture

Aeroflot airplanes parked at the gate at the  Sheremetyevo Airport

 Russia is twice the length of the USA. It's immense size has left lasting effects on some of histories great conquers. She's said to be unconquerable. 

This a memorial leading into the city. It demarks the furthest Hitler's army was able to push east. I know you Russians refer to this point as when you won WWII. There is a bit of controversy here but certainly with Hitler being stretched on two fronts "we" , the allies who were opposing him, defeated him. 

This drink is kvass, it is kind of like a first brew beer drunk before it is given the chance to be bottled and only slightly fermented. It is a bit different tasting but it reminds me of the smell in the kitchen when my mom was baking bread and the yeast was growing. It's not just used as a beverage. It is the heart of a cold summer soup called okroshka.  I absolutely love it.  I'm going to have to try making the kvass and the okroshka soon.  I'll do a story on that effort.

This stuff is so good. All of those wonderful veggies blended with fresh herbs and of course garnished with sour cream. 

It is a great change from my typical fare. Enjoy some Russian culture, food, and history!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spain's Dried Hams

In Italy it is prochuoto ham in Spain it is Iberian named after the region. Anyway you slice the cured meat it is good.

They take it very seriously.  In the States we eat ham but over there it is taken to a different level.  Of course here you can order an aged ham but you can't just go down to the grocery and pick one out that is hanging.  In the grocery stores over there you will see many hams hanging from the ceiling just waiting to go home.  They have racks just out there hanging, truly cured. In the restaurants it usually is just sitting there ready to be sliced. 

I was wandering the streets of Barcelona and they were sampling them and selling it.  After tasting some and falling in love with it I bought a bit and shoved it into my pocket.  Walking along and snacking on it was fun.  It's a great snack.  It is more like my jerky than ham.  You simply must give it a try.

The longer it is aged the dryer it gets and the more valuable it becomes.  They leave the hoof on it which is again an all together different way of selling a pigs leg.  I can't wait to get back over there for another taste.
They cure the whole leg letting it age sometimes for years. The older the dryer and more valuable it becomes.

Not the ham I grew up on but a good use of the leg.  They probably don't put it in a pot of beans like Mama did but it would be good there too. It certainly is different than a ham from here. Try it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Transform Your Left Overs Into Taquitas

What do you do with that left over roast? You've had it for dinner twice and your tired of it. Turn it into something different. It could be the big pork roast or the beef. It could also be left over chicken. Perhaps even turkey would be great.  You simply turn it into a taquita!!!  Here is how to do it.

First you need to chop the meat up real finely. If you have a meat grinder it would be perfect. Your food processor will also work. I just sliced and diced my pork with the butcher knife. So therapeutic to hack away with the big knife.
Once your frustrations are relieved it's time to season it up. I'll tell you how I did it but you could do many other things like buying a taco seasoning packet.

I used a can of diced green chilis, a half can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I used some garlic powder and onion powder. A little cumin.
You could use your favorite salsa too. You don't want it to juicy is the only thing.
A can of refried beans or mashed black beans will help make the texture better not to mention a great source of fiber. I used black beans because the were in the cupboard and I missed refried beans on my grocery list.
I put about 10 oz of shredded cheese. I put a combination of Monterey Jack and Cheddar. Then I worked it into my mixture.
Now it's assembly time. I've read several opinions on the best way to soften the tortillas. My Mom taught me to put them in a little oil on the skillet for a few seconds to soften them up. One person suggested a quick bath in chicken broth. I opted for spraying them with cooking oil as I stacked them, and then microwaving for a moment on 50% power. This worked well and kept me from needing to spray them prior to baking them. Of course most restaurants will be frying them. Baking is less mess and less calories. As good? Well, I grew up on fried everything so I do have a preference for it but...
I then spread half the tortilla about a quarter inch thick or roughly 3 table spoons of the filling. I used my handy Cutco peanut butter spreader for the job.
I then rolled it up and placed it on the cookie sheet. My filling was just right for a package of 24 and after cooking you can freeze some for another day!

Bake them at 400 for about 30 or 45 minutes till crispy.

I made a tomatillo sauce for them. Really simple to make using 6 tomatillos baked for about 20 minutes until brown.
I added a couple of tomatoes, some onion, some garlic, some cilantro, jalapenos to taste (I used 7 because I like it hot!), and garlic salt. Blend well and there it is!
A streak of read salsa a dabble guacamole and sour cream and there you have it. It looks nothing like last night's roast.  No one will recognize the transformation!  Go at it....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's Good To Be A Jerk When Making Jerky

I love jerky but I hate the price. It's a great low fat low carb snack that can go with you. Well unless you're me and have to deal with Customs on your re-entry into the USA. You are not allowed meat products unless they are canned. Doesn't matter where they originated...they don't care.

Last year for Fathers Day I was given a food dehydrator from my kids. They were so brilliant for taking the hints I gave them.
It's really simple and easy to use. It takes all day plus the day before. You can get your very own on line or at one of the big outdoor sporting goods stores. Or like me you can drop some hints before your next birthday or parent type day.
I shop for meat on sale which is very lean and boneless. In order to slice the meat thin, less than a quarter inch it helps to be a bit frozen. No silly the meat frozen.
Once the meat is all sliced your going to marinade it for a day or more. You can buy jerky marinades but I just create my own. Just remember no oil based products, you want the meat to dry out. I mix it up in a gallon bag making sufficient Liquid to cover the meat. I like to use Worcester sauce and add to it some other things. Garlic powder, pepper, some soy sauce, I like cayenne pepper. A little lemon juice is good, I start tasting and tweaking it. A little sugar works nicely. I always use some liquid smoke to give it that "I made it over the open campfire taste." Again get creative with it. Once you've cleaned out the spice rack and the refrigerator of tasty additions bag the meat and refrigerate it over night.
Drain the meat squeezing out the excess liquid and lay out the strips on the racks.
I have also done this in the oven. If you weren't lucky enough to get the dehydrator as a gift. On a cookie sheet place a cooling rack and put the meat on that. You'll want your oven about as low as it will go. 160 works, leave the oven door open a little. If you door won't stay open just an inch or two you can put a wooden spoon in the door to hold it ajar.

Just keep checking on it. If you let it go too long it will crumble. Not long enough and spoilage becomes an issue. Of course I keep sampling it until its just right. 5 or 6 hours depending on how thick you cut it. If you get it very thin 3 or 4 might be sufficient.

When it's done let it cool and then either put it in a jar or a baggy. Go ahead and store it in the refrigerator. Not necessary if you gobble it up. Remember unlike the grocery store cousin yours will not contain preservatives. You can also store it in the freezer for long periods of time.

So go hit the trail, slope, bike, or whenever else you want a fun snack. Or like me at the airport or the hotel room.