Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday's Last Spoonful: Eggplant

Eggplant -- an edgy veggie

The eggplant has a very subtle nutty taste. Frankly, eggplants are nearly tasteless and never eaten raw. Cooking brings out more flavor. It’s a fruit that absorbs and extends flavors in many recipes. Look for many shapes and sizes. Colors include purple and white. Japanese eggplants are long and skinny while Italian eggplants are round and robust. The name “eggplant” comes from the color of the raw flesh, which appears in eggshell color. This ingredient does well in baked casseroles. Make lasagna without pasta using thin slices of pre-cooked eggplant instead of noodles like in Moussaka. Asian cuisines call for eggplant in different stir-frys and Thai curries. Also, try frying eggplant slices in a beer batter or Tempura batter to make a simple appetizer or side dish.

Helpful Hint: Eggplant is in season right now.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Baba Ghanoush

Mushy about flame-smoked eggplant salad
This Mediterranean dish is so versatile. Prepare baba ghanoush as a side dish, a dip for chips, or a spread for sandwiches. The different flavors combine with the creamy texture of cooked eggplant to make a tasty treat. If you’re willing to experiment, spread it on your favorite savory sandwiches instead of fat-laden mayo. Other suggestions: Use baba ghanoush as a filling for mushroom caps, stuffed tomatoes, and stuffed bell peppers. In Greece and Turkey, the name for this dish translates into “eggplant salad.” Here is a more detailed article and recipe.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday's Helping: Olive Oil

A slick option among slippery characters

Mediterranean and Spanish recipes usually call for olive oil. It comes in several grades: Extra virgin, virgin, and regular olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil undergoes the least amount of processing; therefore, it’s considered the best in quality and flavor. Extra virgin olive oil is technically a fruit-juice. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fats. These are considered healthy fats if compared to saturated fats that come from foods made from or with animal products: cheese, lard, and cream, … etc. Cooking with olive oil helps increase good cholesterol and decrease bad cholesterol. Olive oil is good for the heart, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday's Cupful: Annatto or Achiote

These seeds will make you see red

Achiote seeds (from the annatto plant) originated in Central and South American regions. Spanish traders and settlers brought the plant to Asia. Natural chemicals (with flavors) in the seeds’ coating can be extracted by soaking the seeds in oil or water. The process infuses the liquid with the natural chemicals. Cooks use the flavored water or oil (which turns red) and can discard the seeds. The seeds are inedible unless ground into a powder. The achiote/ annatto flavor is peppery and earthy. We’ve found whole achiote/ annatto seeds and the powder in the international foods aisle of most supermarkets. Brands include Rio Grande and El Chilar. Goya’s Sazon seasoning contains the achote powder mixed with cilantro, and other spices. Add achiote powder to soups, any stir-fry, and dry rubs for grilling meats.

We use achiote to make red rice in Guam. Start the night before by soaking achiote/ annatto seeds in water overnight. Strain the seeds away from the infused water, which turns red. Discard the seeds. When ready to prepare red rice, first sauté chopped onions, chopped garlic, and salt in oil. Next add red achiote-infused water and rice. Let the rice (in red water) cook as usual. The achiote powder can also make red rice.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Red Hot

Yummy comfort stew

We call it “Red Pork Stew.” The annatto and paprika in this dish make it unique, flavorful, and red. We’re betting that you’ll like its comfort food charm. The braised pork pieces are scrumptious. Serve it up. Enjoy!

What you will need:

1 large stock pot with lid
1 long wooden spoon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves chopped fine
1 large yellow onion chopped fine
2 tablespoons achiote/ annatto powder
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 lbs—pork meat —cut into 1 inch pieces
5 cups water
1 tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and directions

Start pot off on medium high heat with vegetable oil. Add chopped garlic and onion. Sauté them in heated oil until they are almost translucent. Place pork in pot and let them sit for a few minutes until browning occurs. Add annatto, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and water. Stir until annatto powder is completely diluted. Bring pot to a rapid boil and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Reduce again to a simmer and then cover pot. Let the meat braise for at least one hour. Stir the pot occasionally. After an hour, add paprika and cilantro. Leave on low heat for another 30 minutes so the flavors can combine. When meat is tender, stir in flour to thicken the sauce. Serve it up hot and yummy.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday's Last Spoonful: Tortillas and Pita

Flat bread is on a roll

These two flat breads have become increasingly popular — especially among those trying to avoid leavened breads. Tortillas are used in Mexican and Hispanic cuisines. Meanwhile, the pita originates in the Middle-East and the Mediterranean region. Tortillas come in two varieties: corn or wheat flour. Mexicans make tacos, enchiladas, burritos, … etc, with tortillas. Some restaurants now serve wraps that stuff tortillas with select cold cuts, veggies, and cheeses. Pitas are only made from wheat flour. The pita is famous for its pocket, which (when stuffed with meat and veggies) is convenient for a hand-held meal. Greeks roll pitas to make gyro and souvlaki sandwiches. Can you think of different fillings for these two flat breads?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday's Side Dish: Pocket Pita

Hand held wraps – not just sandwichesTake something old and make it new. That’s the idea behind wrapping up leftovers in tortillas or pita bread. Forget sliced bread, which is boring and filled with carbohydrates. Add lettuce, bean sprouts, tomatoes, and sliced onions to make a loaded wrap that rivals anything prepared at a fast food merchant or deli counter. We suggest doing something nontraditional like adding fresh cilantro, basil, or regular parsley. It’s yummy. Also, don’t forget the shredded cheeses. Pictured is a pita wrap of leftover pork stew (dressed with lettuce, onions..etc.) and chicken kelaguen between tortillas.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday's Helping: Chicken Breast

Filet with no fuss
Chicken breast has been the choice for cooks needing to cut the fat from chicken dishes. Additionally, the breast is the largest piece of the bird. Adding grilled chicken breast to Caesar salad should satisfy any appetite. Chicken Kiev changes the chicken breast (by stuffing it with garlic butter and herbs) into a delicious main course for a fancy dinner. What other ingredients would you combine with chicken breast for a hearty meal? Nelly favors a Florentine treatment with spinach and cream served over baked chicken breast. Don’t underestimate the chicken breast. Grill chicken breasts on skewers and serve them with Thai peanut sauce for a spicy Thai twist. Get creative with this choice meat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday's Cupful: Poppin the Peppers

Capsaicin brings heat in peppers
Capsaicin is the name for the chemical agents in peppers that make them hot. Remove capsaicin and peppers will lose their spicy hotness. The heat of different peppers is measured in Scoville units. A bell pepper has virtually zero units while a habanero (very hot and spicy) has over 200,000 units. Small peppers can measure really high. Capsaicin causes pain receptors in the skin to react with the person feeling a burning sensation. It’s also used in pain relief creams and pepper spray. Capsaicin can increase one’s metabolic rate, which makes people sweat and burn more calories. If you are wary of hot peppers, consult a Scoville units chart to pinpoint peppers you are comfortable eating.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Chicken Kelaguen

Forget the mayo for this twist on chicken salad

Chicken kelaguen is a dish that conjures up ceviche flavors. It is a signature dish from Guam. White and dark meat of chicken is cooked on a grill or under a broiler until just done (it is important not to overcook the chicken or let it sit too long after removing from heat). Then the chicken meat should be deboned, chopped finely, and mixed with grated coconut, freshly squeezed lemon juice, chopped green onions and hot peppers. Add salt and black or white pepper to taste. Next, refrigerate it for at least three hours so that the flavors can combine. Serve this at your next party with pita bread chips or tortilla chips. Small flour or corn tortillas are great too. Just wrap a serving of the kelaguen in the tortillas and eat like a soft taco. Serving this dish cold is a must. We don't get too wrapped up in portions for this recipe as it takes some trial and error for each cook to reach the right mix that he or she prefers. But if you must, here is one version of a recipe.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday's Last Spoonful: Plantains or Bananas

Relative differences between the two

Plantains and bananas are both in the Musa family. Bananas are best eaten raw when the skin turns yellow. Bananas are soft, sweet, and used often in desserts. Think banana pudding or Bananas Foster. Plantains are available in either green or red. They are firm, starchy, and (somehow) must be cooked for consumption. Plantains are also called banana plantains in the United States. Tropical countries use the plantain like we use the potato -- as a starch with meals. Bananas are a great source of potassium, which helps prevent fight high blood pressure. Eating bananas and plantains also guarantees fiber regularity.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday's Side Dish: Picking Plantains

Coconut milk combo -- it's bananas

Use coconut milk and plantains -- Hawaiian plantains (which are shown here), or the usual variety found at any big-chain supermarket or international grocer -- in another potential side dish. Coconut milk is white and produced by squeezing water combined with grated coconut. It is different from coconut juice, which is translucent and forms naturally inside the nut. To make the dish, slice anywhere from four to six plantains (depending on their size) into ½-inch pieces and place them in a large pot and cover. Put stove on medium heat. Add one can of coconut milk and an equal amount of water. Next, add one tablespoon sugar. Bring everything to a boil on medium high heat. Lower heat and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Helpful Hint: Bananas and plantains are rich sources of potassium.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday's Helping: Coconut Groove

Cuckoo for a giant nut
The coconut comes a long way from its tropical home to the dinner table. The old-school thinking that the coconut is bad for you is no longer in effect, according to some sources. Recent articles are touting the benefits of cooking in coconut oil, which helps the body absorb nutrients and burn fat. Add (3/4ths of a cup) coconut milk to our bean stew recipe to give it a flavorful twist and richness. Look for canned coconut milk in the international foods section of most popular food store chains. In Guam, grated coconut is thrown into a ceviche-like dish called kelaguen. Topping off a donut with grated coconut makes it yummier. If you still have reservations about the coconut, practice moderation.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday's Cupful: Cracked Peppercorn

Shaking up a dish with peppercorn
Peppercorn has been a valuable spice for centuries. It’s actually a berry. The color varieties are black, red, green, and white. Black pepper can be found right next to the salt shaker on most kitchen tables. French and Chinese cuisines often call for the white variety, which is not as common. Shirley’s Coffee Shop in Guam has a whole menu section of salt and pepper dishes using shrimp, pork chop, chicken, and fish (pictured with pork and shrimp here is mahi mahi). Each dish may come with a hefty portion of Shirley’s fried rice. Most authentic Chinese restaurants offer salt and pepper dishes. Sometimes the simplest seasonings bring out the most

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Out of Office

The Mixed Stew crew is traveling today. We plan to be back tomorrow with more tasty servings. This is another fun site.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday's Last Spoonful: Snow Ice Sensation

When ice cold is hot
Shave ice has a decadent feel with less fat and calories. Mt Lam Lam Sno’ and Ice Cream in Barrigada, Guam, had our mouths watering for more. Try a Neapolitan snowball with strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate. The delicate texture of true shave ice (not to be confused with crushed ice) is the secret. (By the way, we used “shave” instead of “shaved” ice on purpose. It’s an island thing.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday's Side Dish: Spam Musubi

Spam in sushi – canned meat done differently

Yes, it’s a favorite in Hawaii and Guam. President Obama was also seen buying several on his last visit to the Aloha state. Spam in sushi is a tasty marriage between East and West. The flavors of Spam, seaweed, seasoned rice, pickled radish, and (sometimes) egg combine to create a yummy snack. Spam musubi fits in the palm of your hand like a sandwich, making it convenient (and popular) for a quick lunch. There are other varieties in the islands. Take a look at the “hot dog” musubi pictured with a Spam sushi roll. What do you think of Spam musubi?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday's Helping: Break Time

A little R & R goes a long way
The Mixed Stew crew has been busy lately. We’re taking a much-needed breather today. Here is a cool blog to check out. It is written by a resident of Guam, which also is home to The Mixed Stew crew.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday's Cup: Jumpin' Jackfruit

Close encounter of the sweetest kind

Jackfruit, one of the biggest fruits, offers a unique -- almost offensively -- sweet flavor that is difficult to describe. We have sampled it in halo halo and smoothies. A mature jackfruit has a pungent smell and will give a little when touched. The ripe flesh is slimy and appears yellow. Check out its size next to a husked coconut and an average-sized mango.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Dessert Stew of Sorts

Hello, halo halo – a tropical snow ball effect

Halo halo is a Filipino dessert shake that has traveled across the Pacific. Shaved ice and ice cream (mango, French vanilla, or ube, which is taro) are requisites. The duo is layered with fruit salad to create an unexpected treat. The salad mix usually includes candied jack fruit, red beans, and young coconut. Evaporated milk is added for an extra creamy finish. Our recent discovery in Guam, Mt Lam Lam Sno n’ Ice Cream, also adds bits of real taro and what tastes like toasted corn nuts to its version. On the mainland U.S., the icy dessert stew may be found at Filipino restaurants. Nelly also suggest trying Mt Lam Lam's shave ice surprise.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday's Last Spoonful: Mango Mania

A mango montage
Here is a collection of images from the annual Mango Festival in Agat, Guam U.S.A. Can you believe the size of some of these babies? We will be back next week with more selections for you to enjoy.

Everybody now: Pickled mango, mango donuts, mango ice cream, mango salsa, mango juice, mango bread, mango cakes, mango turnovers ...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thursday's Side Dish: Keen for Quinoa

A grainy solution to avoid carbs

Cooked quinoa (keen-wa) absorbs flavors like rice does. Its texture helps carry and extend flavors. Use quinoa instead of macaroni in salad. Use it as a substitute for rice, potatoes, and pasta in your meals. I have cooked quinoa in an automatic rice cooker, and the method works. To give the grain some flavor, use a low-sodium chicken broth, some chopped onions and/or garlic in the cooker just as you might do with rice. The ratio of liquid to quinoa is about 3:1. Another possibility for the grain: Use cooked quinoa as a substitute for rice in Asian-style fried rice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wednesday's Helping: Rice, Rice, Baby

Hot? Sticky? Sweet? How do you like it?
Mention the word rice and visions of pilaf or rice pudding come to mind. Whether it’s long, short, sticky, or non-glutinous, rice has many culinary uses. From Arborio in Italian risotto dishes to the sticky short-grain rice used in Japanese sushi, many ethnic cuisines feature rice. Don’t forget Filipino arroz caldo and Spanish paella. Rice also comes in different colors: white, brown, red, and black. Jasmine and Basmati (known for their distinct aromas) are considered premium varieties. Did you know that wild rice is a grain and not rice?