Your Guide to Reading Between the Tines

Archive for the 'Odds and Ends' Category

The Unicyclist’s Standard Version Guacamole Recipe

If I were to become a hard-core locavore (not likely while my patoot is still parked here in ye arid desert), I suspect that I would bend the rules when it came to avocado.  Avocado and I have had a rocky relationship at times, due to my personal conviction that avocado belongs in the savory camp and not the sweet one, but I am still hopelessly devoted to this alligator-skinned fruit.  Never heard of a sweet avocado dish?  Besides avocado smoothies, custards, breads, and pies, there’s a simple breakfast in some parts of Latin America (such as Ecuador, where I spent about six months) that consists of avocado slices drizzled with honey, a slippery, sticky affair that doesn’t sit well with me.  And if you’ve ventured beyond the familiar, dark-green-to-black Hass avocados in the grocery store, you may have stumbled on a larger, bright-green variety that is naturally sweet, making for an odd sort of guacamole.  While it may just be that I’ve never had a really good avocado pie, I’ll confess: I think I can live without one.  After all, avocado fits so nicely in my salads, sandwiches, and guacamole benders.  Which, Gentle Readers, brings us to today’s recipe:

Guacamole.
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Dark Days Challenge: Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Several weeks ago, the Unicyclist and I splurged at the Guadalupe Farmer’s Market.  We decided it was time to decorate our place while stockpiling some good food.  That’s how we wound up with a massive jar of mesquite honey and a cheerful ristra of red peppers, one of those beautiful strings of chiles you often see adorning kitchens or doorways in the Southwest.  Both of them are on display in our kitchen, but the honey has definitely been getting more use than the peppers.  You see, I’ve been something of a pepper collector the last couple years.

The Unicyclist and I both like food with bite.  That’s the first problem.  The second problem is that we live in some pretty good chile country.  The third problem is that I have frequented both Native Seed SEARCH and the Santa Cruz Chili and Spice Company in the Tucson area a couple times when entertaining out-of-town guests.  Both places have fantastic assortments of chiles, and it’s nigh to impossible to turn any of them down once you give them a whiff.  As a result, I have nearly a dozen unique kinds of chiles commiserating in my cabinets.  There’s morita negro, chiltepín, chile japonés, pasilla Oaxaca, pasilla negra, guajillo, and Santa Cruz hot.  In addition, we have cayenne, paprika, whole mystery ristra chiles, and fresh serranos.  As you might guess, my cupboards smell amazing.

All of which is great.  However, it also means that I’m not giving said enormous ristra as much attention as I ought.  To compound the problem, we’ve received a hearty helping of dried chiles in our CSA share the last two weeks running.  As the chiles piled up on the counter, it became clear that it was time to take action.  It was time to figure out a chile-intensive dish that could help cull some of my burgeoning chile population; thin the herd, as it were.

It was time to make enchilada sauce.

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About that Muhammara Recipe…

At long last, the moment you’ve been waiting for…or at least the one I’ve been promising you for the last several days.

But, really, this one is worth the wait.  Try it.  You’ll see.

First, what is muhammara? It’s a rich and tangy spread from the Middle East that complements pita triangles, roasted vegetable kabobs, and raw, crunchy vegetables beautifully. I bet it would even go fabulously with a chunk of meat if that’s your thing, but it’s so flavorful that I think the the warm chewiness of fresh pita and clean taste of vegetables are the perfect canvas for it.

The spread is tangy, sweet, rich, and bright, though you can add different notes to it with fiery peppers or smoked paprika if that’s more to your liking. In any case, it’s amazing. Make up a batch for a New Year’s party as a healthier alternative to creamy, heavy dips.  Your guests will love the color and unique hints of pomegranate.

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Something’s Fishy Here: Harvesting Tuna Fruit

I admit, I don’t know why it got the moniker “tuna fruit,” just that tuna is the name of the fruit in Spanish.  In English, we usually refer to it as prickly pear fruit.  Prickly pear is a long-standing native food source.  The tender young pads of the cactus are often cut into strips and prepared a variety of ways in Mexican and Native American dishes.  They are known as nopalitos, and they taste somewhat like green pepper, though they are mucilaginous like okra.  The blossoms of the cactus are reported to have medicinal properties, one of which is to strengthen capillaries.  And this time of year, the fruit has a high profile around my corner of the desert.  The deep magenta teardrops stand out brightly against the pale green, oblong pads of the cactus, attracting the attention of all sorts of critters: desert tortoise, coyotes, a wide variety of birds, and even your friendly neighborhood Laurel.

The flavor is reminiscent of a fruitier type of watermelon, though the texture is closer to that of a strawberry.  The center of each fruit is packed with hundreds of small, extremely hard seeds.

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