Friday, April 18, 2014

Cheers to Life with a Jamaican Sorrel Cocktail




It’s been a while since I've posted. I’ve missed sharing my thoughts and food experiences, and life is all about sharing moments: the highs, the lows and everything in-between.

I recently met a character. Someone who shares honestly and openly, and his integrity and authenticity inspired me. What is authenticity or being authentic? To strive to be genuine, real, true, sincere. These are all qualities I look for in others and try to use as a compass for myself. I fail, and I watch others make mistakes too. The arrow on the compass isn’t always locked in the right direction. But I know I’m heading the right way.

Thanks to another authentic individual I met a few years ago, I’ve been able to do some traveling to a few warm climates this past winter. In November, I was in Jamaica on assignment with Taste & Travel Magazine. A new taste for me was sorrel. Sorrel comes from a shrub with small pink flowers. Jamaicans take the flower petals of the sorrel to make drinks and condiments. It is from the species of the Hibiscus, and not the sorrel of the garden herb variety that I know. At Hotel Mockingbird Hill, we sipped this sorrel cocktail while viewing the lush hills and ocean below. It was one of many memorable moments.

[The Summer issue of Taste & Travel Magazine will include my article about Jamaica.]


 Sorrel Petals

Jamaican Sorrel Cocktail

1 lb sorrel, thoroughly washed
2-4 oz ginger root, grated
8-12 pimento (allspice) berries
8 cups water
Sugar syrup, to taste*
Sparkling wine or rum (optional) 
Ice

1. Combine sorrel, ginger and pimento berries.
2. Boil water and pour over sorrel. Allow to stand 4-6 hours. Strain.
3. Sweeten to taste with sugar syrup and serve with sparkling wine or rum and ice.

*To make sugar syrup, bring 2½ cups water and 1¼ cups sugar to a boil. Allow to cool.

Note: You can get sorrel from specialty Caribbean markets.

Recipe from Chef Barbara Walker
Hotel Mockingbird Hill
P.O. Box 254, Port Antonio, Jamaica
+1 876 993 7134 or 7267
www.hotelmockingbirdhill.com



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  • Monday, February 6, 2012

    Ottawa and Taffy on the Snow



    Taffy on the Snow is nature's best candy. Though I usually associate it as a sugar shack tradition, I was excited to see it offered at Ottawa's Winterlude. As part of our skate on the Rideau Canal Skateway, which is the world's largest skating rink, we stopped to indulge in this sweet treat.

    While talking to the taffy maker, I learned that in one week he has gone through 300 kg (over 600 pounds) of maple syrup! For the "snow", he grinds up bags of ice cubes. And each taffy pop costs $3.

    The pure maple syrup is boiled to the soft ball stage (about 235˚F).


    boiling the maple syrup


    Then, it's poured onto the snow and allowed to cool slightly. Using a popsicle stick, the taffy is rolled around the stick into a ball.


    pouring the maple syrup

    placing the popsicle sticks

    letting them cool

    rolling the taffy


    The crunchy snow crystals on the taffy make an unstable but delicious marriage of ice and warmth. And it just might be a better business idea than a lemonade stand!

    Click here for more ideas about baking and cooking with maple syrup.

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    Monday, January 9, 2012

    Bringing Mexico Home: Pescado Zarandeado


    Pescado Zarandeado is a signature Mexican dish that varies depending on the chef creating it. It can involve marinating a whole fish in a combination of lemon juice, garlic, soy sauce and lime. The choice of fish is often Pargo, which has sufficient fat content to prevent it from drying out during the grilling process. However, other types of fish such as Snook or Red Snapper can also be used. Then, the fish is butterflied and grilled over an open fire.

    Pescado Zarandeado is thought to have originated on the isle of Mexcaltitan in the state of Nayarit. Today, Diego's in Mazatlan has mastered this national dish without losing sight of its basic roots. His version was a mayonnaise-based sauce with garlic, oregano, soy sauce, herbs and cilantro, which was different from the recipe I tried here.


    Chef Diego Becerra, barefoot on the sand, made us Pescado Zarandeado grilled on the beach outside his restaurant. The smoky aroma of fish as it was slowly being grilled was tantalizing while the sound of the waves and the children playing on the beach made it memorable. Traditionally, mangrove wood was used to smoke this dish, however, now mesquite is used so that the mangrove forests are protected.

    The Pescado Zarandeado was served on a large platter with all the sides filling the table. Everyone dug in to fill their tortilla with the fish, refried beans, salsa, onions, rice, a squeeze of lime and all sorts of other fillings. It was moist, tender, and delicious.


    Recipe for Pescado Zarandeado

    from link

    Serves 6


    For the marinade:
    1/3 cup olive oil
    1/2 cup soy sauce
    1/4 cup lime juice
    6 cloves garlic, minced

    For the fish:
    1 3-pound fillet Snook, Dorado, Bonita, Red Snapper, Pargo or other white-fleshed fish suitable for grilling
    6 tomatoes, deseeded and quartered
    2 green bell peppers, cut into thick strips
    2 red bell peppers, cut into thick strips
    1 purple onion, cut into thick slices
    6 jalepeños, sliced

    Whisk the marinade ingredients. Let steep to blend flavors for about 15-30 minutes. pour over fish and let the fish marinate for 30 minutes.

    If you don't have a grill or fish cage (or if it's winter!), you can put the fish in foil with the vegetables.

    Grill (or bake the fish in the oven at 375° until the meat flakes). The time it takes depends on how large the fish is. My small Red Snapper took 20-30 minutes in the oven.

    Serve with salsa, guacamole, refried beans, rice, limes and tortillas.


    I would like to thank www.gomazatlan.com for inviting me to the 2011 Gran Fiesta Amigos. All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared on my blog are completely my own.

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    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Bringing Mexico Home: Huevos Divorciados


    I haven’t touched a palm tree in many years. For me, a palm tree is my centering thought, the one thing I visualize when I’m tense or stressed. It was the image I was going to use during labor, but now it’s one I use during everyday life. It had been too long since I felt the bark of the palm. And I don’t intend to let time slip away before I’m shaded by a palm tree again.








    Hotel Riu, Mazatlán, Mexico


    I have long been a fan of Huevos Rancheros, that popular Mexican dish consisting of eggs served with a fried corn tortilla and topped with a spicy chili or tomato sauce. But I had to go to Mazatlán, Mexico in person to experience “divorced eggs” known as Huevos Divorciados.

    This dish, a spin-off of Huevos Rancheros, features two eggs situated on opposite sides of the plate, each egg preoccupied and bathed in a sauce of its own – usually one adorned with green chilies and tomatillos while the egg on the other side of the plate is dressed in a saucy red chili creation. The plate is further decorated with delicacies such as refried beans and rice, strong cheese, pinto beans, guacamole, or rings of onion. These accompaniments are often placed down the middle of the plate, further separating the two divorced eggs, which have so obviously gone their separate ways. Instead of two salsas, I used one salsa on one side and guacamole on the other.

    And though I can’t bring the palms or the sand home, I can bring the food home to share.

    Recipe for Huevos Divorciados

    Serves 6

    For the salsa:
    3 medium tomatoes, quartered
    ½ onion
    ½ hot green chile or 1 teaspoon canned green chilies
    3 sprigs cilantro leaves
    ½ red bell pepper
    2 cloves garlic
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    ½ lemon, squeezed

    For the guacamole:
    ½ large ripe avocado
    2 tablespoons green onion, minced
    1 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
    ½ teaspoons Asian chile sauce
    2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    ¼ teaspoon salt

    For the tortillas:
    6 tortillas, cut into rounds that will fit a muffin tin

    For the poached eggs:
    12 eggs, poached

    Prepare the salsa:
    Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until chunky. Drain.

    Prepare the guacamole:
    Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until smooth.

    Prepare the tortillas:
    Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the tortillas into rounds that will fit a muffin tin. Carefully push a round into a muffin cup. Bake until golden, about 5 minutes.

    Prepare the poached eggs:
    Poach 12 eggs.

    To assemble:
    Put the poached egg into the baked tortilla cup. Top with salsa on half of the cups. Top with guacamole on the other half. Garnish each plate with refried beans and cilantro along with a tortilla cup of each type. Serve immediately.



    Tips
    If you don't feel like making this at home and if you happen to be in Ottawa, Canada, you should check out the Huevos Rancheros at Edgar. The best in the city.



    And if you're in Mazatlán, Mexico, you can get this dish at several places. Here is the one I had at the Shrimp Bucket in Olas Altas.



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    Disclosure: I would like to thank www.gomazatlan.com for inviting me to the 2011 Gran Fiesta Amigos. All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared on my blog are completely my own.



    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Bringing Mexico Home: Horchata

     
    Horchata


    I love food, and I love travel. Experiencing life in a different place, tasting new flavors, smelling salty or unfamiliar air and trying to capture it in my memory or through the lens of my camera resets my soul, makes me smile and reminds me of what life offers.


    sunrise in  Mazatlán, Mexico

     
     sunset in Mazatlán, Mexico


    One year ago, I was recovering from surgery to remove more thyroid cancer. A year later, I’m feeling the sand between my toes, listening to the waves crash on the beach, and enjoying a culinary tour of Mazatlán, Mexico.

    One thing I love to bring home is a favorite taste to make in my own kitchen. Mazatlán is known as the Pearl of the Pacific. For me, the pearl-colored beverage, Horchata (or-CHA-tah), will always remind me of Mazatlán and Mexico. It was also one of the first things I looked up when I got home.

    If you love rice pudding, then Horchata is rice pudding in liquid form: rice (along with nuts sometimes) and cinnamon are soaked in water (or milk) and then sweetened and flavored with vanilla and other spices and finally strained and poured over ice.

    “In Spain horchata was made with with ground melon seeds but given the seeds were not available in the new world the Spaniards substituted the readily available squash seeds. Later almonds and rice were brought to the new world and incorporated into the drink as it is prepared today.”
    (from link)

    I tasted the best Horchata at a small village restaurant called El Mesón de los Laureanos in El Quelite just 45 minutes outside of Mazatlán. It wasn’t too sweet and quenched my thirst after a hot morning of sun and tequila tasting.



    Horchata (from the Latin word hordeum, which means "barley" or Orxata in Catalan) was introduced to Spain by the Moors. The original Spanish version is made with ground tiger nuts (chufas) and is popular in Valencia (from link). Legend says that James I the Conqueror, King of Aragon, tasted the drink and exclaimed:

    "Açò és or, xata!"
    "That's gold, darling!"

    Variations include almonds, lime zest, or even pecans and popcorn. Momofuku Milk Bar serves a Horchata Soft Serve Ice Cream with Cinnamon. And adding a dash of Tequila can improve its already soothing qualities. Salud!



    Recipe for Horchata

    For Horchata Base:
    6 tablespoons long-grained rice
    2 cinnamon sticks
    2½ cups warm water

    For sugar syrup:
    ½ cup sugar
    1 cup water
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    To finish:
    Milk, to taste
    Ice
    Ground cinnamon and nutmeg, for garnish

    In a blender, blend the rice to break it up into small pieces. In a large bowl, blend the rice, cinnamon sticks and water. Cover and store in the refrigerator for 6 hours, or overnight.

    To make the sugar syrup, melt sugar and water in a medium-heavy pot over medium-high heat until the sugar is melted. Add the vanilla. Let cool.

    Remove the cinnamon sticks from the rice mixture. Strain the rice mixture through cheesecloth and squeeze out the rice to get the entire flavor out of the rice. Add the sugar syrup, to taste.

    To finish, in a blender add 1 cup of the strained-rice/sugar-syrup mixture and ½ cup milk (or to taste). Blend until frothy. Pour into a glass and garnish with ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

    For Horchata Coffee, prepare a double espresso. Froth ½ cup milk with ½ cup Horchata. Mix and garnish with ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

    Bucket List
    • Taste tiger nut Horchata in Valencia or Catalonia
    • Taste Horchata Soft Serve Ice Cream with Cinnamon at Momofuku Milk Bar

    Links
    The Bojon Gourmet: Horchata Ice Cream
    TastyType: Horchata Ice Cream 
    Vampire Weekend – Horchata: “In December, drinking horchata | I'd look psychotic in a balaclava”

     


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  • To see an index of recipes, click here.
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    To see an index of Julia Child-inspired recipes, click here.

    Disclosure: I would like to thank www.gomazatlan.com for inviting me to the 2011 Gran Fiesta Amigos. All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared on my blog are completely my own.