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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Limes

In 1935 Highway Traveler magazine mentioned “icebox lime pie” as a specialty of the Florida Keys. The first key lime pies were made over 100 years ago in Key West with whole pelican eggs- without a meringue top. Later, Key West homemakers switched to chicken eggs and discovered that the whites ruined their pies. Since nothing was wasted, the homemakers added meringues to the pies to make use of the egg whites. Condensed milk (invented in 1856) was used because of the lack of fresh milk and refrigeration until the arrival of tank trucks with the opening of the Overseas Highway in 1930. But condensed milk turned out to be a successful necessity because it makes the pies really smooth.

Key lime pie has been traced back to the early 20th century in the Key West, Florida area. Its exact origins are unknown, but the first formal mention of Key lime pie as a recipe may have been made by William Curry, a ship salvager, and Key West’s first millionaire when his cook, “Aunt Sally”, made the pie for him. If such is the case, however, it is also possible and maybe even probable that Sally adapted the recipe already created by local sponge fishermen. Sponge fishermen spent many consecutive days on their boats, and stored their food on board, including nutritional basics such as canned milk (which would not spoil without refrigeration), limes and eggs. Fresh milk was not a common commodity in the Florida Keys before modern refrigerated distribution methods. Sponge fishermen at sea would presumably not have access to an oven, and, similarly, the original recipe for Key lime pie did not call for cooking the mixture of lime, milk, and eggs.

Today, Key lime pie is an American dessert made of Key lime juice, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk in a pie crust. The traditional Conch version uses the egg whites to make a meringue topping. The dish is named after the small Key limes (Citrus aurantifolia ‘Swingle’) that are naturalized throughout the Florida Keys. While their thorns make them less attractive, and their thin, yellow rinds more perishable, Key limes are tarter and more aromatic than the common Persian limes seen year-round at grocery stores in the United States. Key lime juice, unlike regular lime juice, is a pale yellow. The filling in a Key lime pie is also yellow, largely because of the egg yolks.

During mixing, a chemical reaction between the proteins of the egg yolks and condensed milk with the acidic lime juice occurs that causes the filling to thicken on its own without requiring a thickening agent. Early recipes for Key lime pie were not baked but relied on this reaction to produce the proper consistency of the filling. Today, because consuming raw eggs can be dangerous, pies of this nature are usually baked for a short time. The baking also thickens the texture more than the reaction alone.

On July 1, 2006, the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate both passed legislation {HB 453} and {SB 676} selecting “Key Lime Pie” as the official pie of the state of Florida.

Key Lime Pie

Crust:
1 ½ cups almond flour or graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup powdered sugar or powdered sugar alternative (such as Lakanto monk fruit)
1/4 cup salted butter, melted

Filling:
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 (14-ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk or sugar alternative sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice or store-bought

Meringue Topping:
4 egg whites
¼ teaspoon, cream of tartar
2 tablespoons powdered sugar or powdered sugar alternative (Lakanto)

Whipped Cream Topping:
1 cup heavy or whipping cream chilled
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions

For the crust

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, sweetener, and salt. Stir in melted butter until the dough comes together and resembles coarse crumbs. Turn out into a glass or ceramic 9-inch pie plate. Press firmly with fingers onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use a flat bottomed glass or measuring cup to even out the bottom.
Bake until the edges are golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on and turn the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

For the filling

In an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the baked crust. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the filling has just set.

Turn the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

For the meringue topping

With a mixer, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff peaks form. Spread the topping over the filling and seal to the edge of crust. Bake for 5-8 minutes or until meringue is golden brown.

Note: Watch the oven and don’t take your eyes off the meringue, it could brown quickly. Place in the refrigerator and let it chill for 2-3 hours.

For the whipped cream topping

Whip the cream and the confectioners’ sugar until nearly stiff. Cut the pie into wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with a large dollop of whipped cream.

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Immigrants to the United States from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are referred to as Asian Indians. The first Asian Indians or Indian Americans, as they are also known, arrived in America as early as the middle of the nineteenth century. By the end of the nineteenth century, about 2,000 Indians, most of them Sikhs (a religious minority from India’s Punjab region), settled on the west coast of the United States, having come in search of economic opportunity. The majority of Sikhs worked in agriculture and construction. Other Asian Indians came as merchants and traders; many worked in lumber mills and logging camps in the western states of Oregon, Washington, and California, where they rented bunkhouses, acquired knowledge of English and assumed Western dress. Between 1910 and 1920, as agricultural work in California began to become more abundant and better paying, many Indian immigrants turned to the fields and orchards for employment. For many of the immigrants who had come from villages in rural India, farming was both familiar and preferable. In July 1946, Congress passed a bill allowing naturalization for Indians and approximately 6,000 Asian Indians immigrated to the United States between 1947 and 1965.

From 1965 onward, a second significant wave of Indian immigration began, spurred by a change in U.S. immigration law that lifted prior quotas and restrictions and allowed significant numbers of Asians to immigrate. Between 1965 and 1974, Indian immigration to the United States increased at a rate greater than that from almost any other country. This wave of immigrants was very different from the earliest Indian immigrants—Indians that emigrated after 1965 were overwhelmingly urban, professional, and highly educated and quickly engaged in gainful employment in many U.S. cities. Many had prior exposure to Western society and education and their transition to the United States was a smooth one. More than 100,000 such professionals and their families entered the U.S. in the decade after 1965.

India Square, Jersey City, New Jersey, is home to the highest concentration of Asian Indians in the Western Hemisphere and is one of at least 24 Indian American enclaves characterized as a Little India which have emerged within the New York Metropolitan Area.

In general, the Asian Indian community has preferred to settle in the larger American cities rather than smaller towns, especially in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. The Asian Indian community in the United States is an ethnically diverse one. One can distinguish among subgroups who trace their roots to different regions or states within India, who speak different languages, eat different foods, and follow distinct customs. Some of the most populous Indian groups within the United States are Gujaratis, Bengalis, Punjabis, Marathis, and Tamils.

The majority of Asian Indian Americans have retained diets rooted in Indian cuisine. Indian food is prepared with a variety of spices, including cumin, turmeric, chili powder, ginger, and garlic. All Asian Indians eat a variety of dals (lentils), beans, and chaval (rice) dishes. Hindus generally will not eat beef for religious reasons, while Muslims do not eat pork.
Tandoori, the clay-baked chicken or fish marinated in yogurt and spices, is a popular North Indian dish. Biryani, or flavored rice with vegetables and meats, is served on festive occasions, often accompanied by a cooling yogurt sauce called raita (rye-tah). Southern Indian dishes like masala, dosai crepes filled with spiced potatoes, and steamed rice cakes, are also popular.
Green chutneys made of mint or coriander accompany a variety of savory fritters like the triangular, stuffed samosas. Pickled vegetables and fruits like lemons or mangoes are popular accompaniments to meals. A variety of unleavened bread like naans, rotis, and parathas are also widely eaten.

Most Asian Indian American families continue to eat freshly-prepared Indian food for the main meal of the day and the evening meal often serves as the time when the family will get together to discuss their daily activities. The average Asian Indian family tends not to eat out as often as other American families because of the importance accorded to eating together at the family table.

Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori chicken is a popular Indian dish consisting of chicken marinated in a mixture of yogurt and spices that are traditionally cooked in high temperatures in a tandoor (clay oven) and also can be prepared on a traditional barbecue grill.

Tandoor cooked chicken actually dates back to the Mughal period. This delicacy was the main course at Indian feasts of that day. Other stories of its origins exist, such as the one about a man named Kundan Lal Gujral, who ran a restaurant called Moti Mahal in Peshawar before the partition of British India. Trying out new recipes to keep his patrons interested, Gujral tried cooking chicken in tandoors (clay ovens) used by the locals to cook naan bread. The tandoors are bell-shaped ovens, set into the earth and fired with wood or charcoal reaching temperatures of about 480 degrees. Gujral was able to cook the tender chickens in these ovens making them succulent inside and crispy outside. After the partition in 1947, Punjab was partitioned with the Eastern portion joining India and western Pakistan. Peshawar became part of Pakistan and Gujral found himself a refugee fleeing the upheaval by moving to India. He moved his restaurant to Delhi in a place called Daryaganj.

The dish gained so much fame that even the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru was so impressed by the Tandoori chicken at Moti Mahal that he made it a regular at most of his official banquets. Visiting dignitaries like the American Presidents Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, Soviet leaders Nikolai Bulganin and Nikita Khrushchev, the King of Nepal, and the Shah of Iran have all enjoyed this famous dish.

The chicken gets its characteristic red color from either a lot of red chilies or the addition of red food dye. You don’t need a tandoor oven to make tandoori chicken. You can cook it over a grill or in an oven with a broiler.

Ingredients

2 lbs skinless chicken thighs and breasts
Vegetable oil for basting
Marinade
5 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder (or substitute ½ teaspoon each paprika and cayenne pepper)
½ cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
3 teaspoons minced garlic
3 teaspoons peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
Garnishes
Thin slices of red onion, tomato, cucumber, lime, and mint leaves

Directions

Use a sharp knife to make shallow cuts in the chicken. Combine the marinade ingredients in a large plastic ziplock bag. Add the chicken and toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 12 hours. I did not use red food coloring.

To grill
Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high. Remove chicken from the bag using tongs and place it on the grill; discard the bag and extra marinade. Grill for about 10 minutes on each side, brushing with oil before turning. The meat should feel firm when you press it and register an internal temperature of 165 degrees F for the breasts and 180 degrees F for the thighs on an instant-read thermometer.

To bake
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil (for easy clean-up) and set a rack on top. Spray the rack with nonstick cooking spray or grease with vegetable oil.

Arrange the chicken on the rack, leaving space between the pieces. Roast for 45 minutes, turning once midway through until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through (be sure to turn on your exhaust fan as the oven will get a little smoky). Turn on the broiler and broil the chicken about 6 inches from the heat for 3-5 minutes, until lightly charred and crisp all over.

To finish the dish
Transfer the chicken to a large platter. Arrange the garnish slices over the chicken and seal the platter with foil. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes to absorb the garnish flavors before serving.

Indian-Style Basmati Rice

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced or shredded
1/2 large green chili, seeded and sliced
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, chili, and ginger and stir for 3-4 minutes until the onion softens. Add rice and stir well to coat with the butter. Stir in stock, turmeric, peas, and salt. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is tender. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.


 

Mexican Americans have lived in the United States for most of the country’s history. Ethnically, Mexican Americans are a diverse population, but the majority are Mestizo, which in colonial times meant to be a person of half European and half Native American ancestry. Nonetheless, the meaning of the word has changed through time and currently refers to the segment of the Mexican population who do not speak indigenous languages.

The United States is home to the second-largest Mexican community in the world, second only to Mexico itself, and comprising more than 24% of the entire Mexican population of the world. Mexican American families of indigenous heritage have been in the country for at least 15,000 years, and Mestizo Mexican American history spans more than 400 years, since the 1598 founding of Spanish New Mexico. Spanish residents of New Spain in the Southwest included New Mexican Hispanos and Pueblo Indians and Genizaros, Tejanos, Californios and Mission Indians. Approximately ten percent of the current Mexican-American population are descended from the early colonial settlers who became U.S. citizens in 1848 following the conditions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which ended the Mexican–American War.

Generally, when Americans speak about Mexican food, they are usually referring to Tex-Mex (or Cal-Mex) cooking, an extremely popular cuisine that follows the long border between the United States and Mexico. The food of the southwestern US state of New Mexico and the dishes of many of the Native American peoples of the southwestern US have similar names to many Tex-Mex and some Mexican dishes but they use different flavorings and cooking techniques.

Dishes like chili, fajitas, salsa, tortilla chips, chimichangas, quesadillas, burritos, and nachos are actually homegrown American inventions. Even dishes that exist in Mexico like enchiladas, tacos, and tamales are cooked and served differently in the United States. True Mexican dishes are not as spicy as many US versions. American versions of Mexican entrees add prodigious quantities of cheese, either shredded or melted, to nearly every dish, a practice rare in Mexico. The same heavy hand applies to the American use of sauces of all kinds. North of the border portions are larger, plates are filled so that the food items tend to run one into the other. In Mexico, the soft corn tortilla performs the function that bread on the table performs in the United States; it is a side starch. In the United States, fried tortillas, become an ingredient in nearly every dish.

Like most immigrant groups, Mexican Americans have remained loyal to the food traditions of their homeland. Many shops in small ethnic markets carry Mexican specialty foods. When they cook, they follow recipes handed down to them by their parents and grandparents and their cooking styles have certain things in common. Meat, usually pork or beef, is central to the diet. It is often eaten with salsa on the side. Corn, beans, rice, and root vegetables are also staples, especially sweet potatoes, yams, yucca, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, and taro. Also popular is a pear-shaped squash called chayote. Here are some Mexican American recipes for you to make at home.

Carne Asada

Carne asada means grilled beef in Spanish. The best cuts for making carne asada is Arrachera or skirt steak. It’s the taste that comes to mind when you think carne asada.

In Mexico, there are several marinating techniques that vary depending on the region of the country.
In the south and in the Gulf of Mexico area, where bitter oranges are grown, cooks will add some of its juice to the meat they are using to make Carne Asada; in other regions, they will add lime juice, and others will add a splash of beer.

Carne asada is traditionally made using a skirt or flank steak. The two cuts are very similar, but I prefer flank steak. When cutting the cooked meat, be sure to cut against the grain. It is quite easy to see the grain running through the meat in both of these cuts. It looks like long lines. Do not cut parallel to these lines, always cut perpendicular to them.

 

Carne Asada

Adapted from Rick Bayless, Chicago Chef

Servings: 6
Ingredients

2 limes juiced
4 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 jalapeno minced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 pounds flank steak

Directions

In a gallon size resealable bag, combine the lime juice, crushed garlic, orange juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, olive oil, jalapeno, and vinegar. Squeeze the bag to mix it up.
Put the entire flank steak into the resealable bag. Seal it up tight. Make sure all the meat is exposed to the marinade, squashing the bag around to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight is better.
Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan over high heat.
Remove the flank steak from the marinade, and discard the excess marinade. Cook on the grill for 7 to 10 minutes per side.
Once done, remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes. Slice against the grain, and serve.

For Carne Asada Tacos

Thinly sliced grilled flank steak
Sliced tomato
Sliced avocado
Sliced red onion
Shredded lettuce
Cotija cheese, crumbled
6 tortillas
Blood oranges, cut into eighths

Grilled or Roasted Corn On the Cob

Ingredients

4 ears corn
2 tablespoons butter (softened)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Chopped herbs (your choice)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F or use the grill when cooking the meat.
Remove husks and silks from the corn. Place the corn on sheets of foil.
Butter corn and sprinkle with herbs and Parmesan cheese. Enclose the corn in foil and press the edges to seal.
Place wrapped corn on a cookie sheet or on the grill and roast for 25-30 minutes.

Mexican Red Rice

Arroz Rojo Mexicano
Adapted from Rick Bayless, Chicago Chef

Ingredients

2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained
1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ cups long-grain white rice
1 ¾ cups unsalted chicken broth or water
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (roughly 1 to 2 serranos or 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and cut a slit down the side of each one
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch cubes
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro

Directions

Place the garlic into a blender or food processor, add the canned tomatoes and process to a smooth puree.

In a large saucepan, stir together the oil and rice. When the rice is thoroughly coated, stir in the tomato puree, broth (or water), carrots and 1 teaspoon salt. Nestle in the chiles. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Gently stir the rice, re-cover and let the rice cook about 20 minutes. or until tender Taste a grain of rice: It should be very close to done at the core. If not, sprinkle in a little water, re-cover and cook 5 minutes more.

When the rice is done, uncover it and sprinkle in the peas and the parsley or cilantro. Use a fork to gently fluff the rice, reaching all the way to the edges of the bottom, to release steam and slow the cooking. Re-cover, let stand 5 minutes.

Black Beans with Chiles

Ingredients

1 pound dried black beans
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
2 whole serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño chile
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Rinse beans. Place beans in a large bowl. Cover with water by several inches. Let soak overnight.
Place oil, onion, and carrot in a Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until the onion is tender. Drain beans and add to the Dutch Oven. Add whole chiles, cumin, chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 1 hour. Uncover and simmer until beans are very tender, about 15 minutes more.


Cinco de Mayo, or the fifth of May, is a holiday that celebrates the date of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. Cinco de Mayo 2018 occurs tomorrow on Saturday, May 5. A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, however, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a commemoration of Mexican culture and heritage. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day. Mexican independence is celebrated on September 16.

Celebrate the day with this traditional Tex-Mex dinner, Steak Fajitas. The fajita is a Tex-Mex food (a blending of Texas cowboy and Mexican panchero foods). The Mexican term for grilled skirt steak is arracheras, and its American counterpart is fajitas. Today, the term fajita has completely lost its original meaning and has come to describe just about anything that is cooked and served in a rolled up soft flour tortilla. The only true fajitas, however, are made from skirt steak.

Sonny Falcon’s Fajita Concession (Austin Chronicle)

According to the Austin Chronicle, Fajitas appear to have made the leap from campfire to backyard grill in 1969. Sonny Falcon, an Austin meat market manager, operated the first commercial fajita concession stand at a rural celebration. That same year, fajitas appeared on the menu at Otilia Garza’s Round-Up Restaurant, At the Round-Up, fajitas were served on a sizzling platter with warm flour tortillas and mounds of condiments – guacamole, pico de gallo (chopped fresh onions, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro), and grated cheese – for making tacos. The more popular the dish became, the less likely it was to be made from skirt steak. By the mid-1980s, fajitas were a fairly common dish in most Mexican restaurants and would ultimately become a popular nineties fast-food item where other cuts of meat were used, and the addition of grilled items such as chicken, shrimp, and even vegetable “fajitas” blurred the line even further.

How do you make authentic steak fajitas? This way:

First, make the Lime Marinade

Grated zest and juice of 3 limes
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the lime marinade ingredients; set aside.

Fajita Ingredients

Lime Marinade (see recipe)
1 to1 1/2 pound skirt steak or flank steak
2-3 assorted bell peppers, cored, seeded, and quartered
1 large sweet onion, cut into thick circles
2-3 plum tomatoes, chopped
Diced avocado
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream
Flour Tortillas

Directions

Lay the skirt steak on a cutting board and remove the outer membrane (grab the membrane with one hand and slide the knife beneath it, cutting as you go). Using a sharp paring knife, make a number of slits in the meat, cutting both with and against the grain of the meat (this cuts the muscle fiber and reduces any toughness.)

Add the skirt steak to the lime marinade; re-seal the bag and marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour but overnight is recommended, turning the steak occasionally.

Remove steak from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat an outdoor grill and oil the grates.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap stacked flour tortillas in aluminum foil and heat in the oven 15 minutes or until hot.

Brush the bell peppers and onions with olive oil.

Drain the steaks and reserve the marinade. Place the steak on the hot grill and spoon some of the reserved marinade over the steak. Close the grill lid and cook 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare (120 degrees F. on a meat thermometer). Remove the steaks from grill and transfer to a cutting board. Cut the steaks on the diagonal into thin strips.

While the shirt steak is cooking on the grill, add the bell peppers and onion slices and grill about 2 minutes or until soft; remove from the grill, place on the cutting board and slice into strips. Place cooked steak strips and vegetables onto a platter.

For each fajita, fill a warm flour tortilla with cooked steak strips, peppers and onion slices. Add tomatoes, cheddar cheese, sour cream and avocado as desired and roll up like a burrito.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


august

The ingredients listed above are all at their best, so make the most of August’s seasonal foods by turning them into delicious summer recipes. Pair some of summer’s ripe tomatoes with some delicious crab. Create a salad with ripe peaches and Parma Ham. Cook up some pasta and add chopped August veggies and chill. Perfect for a weeknight dinner. Below are some ideas to inspire you to create some recipes from August’s bounty.

New York Deli Style Pickled Green Tomatoes

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Ingredients

For each quart jar:

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups distilled water or purified tap water
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 pound firm full-sized green tomatoes
  • 1 stalk celery, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 Serrano chili, stem removed or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
  • 2 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

Notes on the ingredients:

The tomatoes must be all green and cut into quarters.

You can usually find distilled water in the grocery or drug store. Distilled water is best because it has impurities removed and impurities can impart off flavors. Purified tap water is perfectly fine to use also.

Use Kosher salt not table salt. Kosher salt has larger flake shaped grains and also has small amounts of anti-caking additives but no iodine.

The recipe needs a little heat. Half a serrano works perfectly. If fresh peppers are not available, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

You must use distilled vinegar. Any other vinegar imparts too many odd flavors.

Directions

Use really clean bottles and lids. Sterilize them by submerging them in a boiling water bath or on a setting for sanitizing in your dishwasher.

Add the garlic, dill seeds, celery, hot pepper or red pepper flakes and peppercorns to the jar.

Thoroughly wash the tomatoes, remove the stem and cut them into quarters. Cram them in the jar leaving about ½ inch of space at the top.

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Make the brine by combining the vinegar, water and salt in a non-reactive sauce pan or pot. Bring to a boil and stir until all the salt is dissolved.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes to within 1/4″ of the top. Wipe the jar top, put the lids on and tighten. Turn the jars over and let sit for a couple of hours.

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Return the jars to the upright position and leave on the kitchen counter overnight. Refrigerate the pickled tomatoes for two weeks before serving.

The pickled tomatoes will keep for months in the refrigerator.

Easy Chilled Summer Melon Soup

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This soup makes a great summer appetizer or serve it for lunch.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Crenshaw or cantaloupe melon, skin and seeds removed
  • 4 cups yellow watermelon, skin and seeds removed
  • One 15 ounce can coconut milk
  • Grated zest of one large lime
  • 1 large scallion (green onion) light green section finely diced and the top chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Basil or mint leaves for garnish

Directions

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Dice the melon and set aside 4 cups of each kind of melon. Puree the melon in a food processor. You will probably need to do this in batches. Pour the processed melon into a storage bowl.

To the last batch of puree add the lime zest, jalapeno, ginger,1 teaspoon of basil, the 1 teaspoon mint, diced light green scallion and the salt to the melon puree in the processor.

Pulse a few times and pour in the storage bowl with the first batch of pureed melon. Pour in the coconut milk and stir well.

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Chill the soup overnight. Garnish with scallion tops, fresh mint leaves or basil when serving.

Breaded Eggplant Salad

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For 2

For the eggplant

  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 cup dried Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • Olive oil

For the salad

  • Half a large yellow or red tomato, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup diced pickled peppers (spicy peppers are great here if you like them)
  • 4 cups salad greens, chopped

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of sea salt and black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil.

Combine the salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Cut the eggplant into 1 x 2 inch pieces.

Combine the beaten egg and milk in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs in another.

Dip the eggplant into the egg and then into the bread crumbs. Place the coated eggplant on the baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake the eggplant until crispy and brown, turning them over when one side is golden, about 20 minutes.

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Place the chopped pickled peppers on a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.

While the eggplant bakes, arrange the salad ingredients on individual salad serving plates. Top with the cooked eggplant and drizzle with some of the dressing.

Mix well; serve immediately with additional dressing on the side.

Broiled Tomatoes

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Need a quick side dish, full of flavor and certainly seasonal, try these quick broiled tomatoes.

For each 2 person serving

Ingredients

  • 1 large beefsteak tomato
  • 2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Directions

Heat the broiler to high.

Cut the tomato in half and place in a baking dish, cut sides up.

Spread 1 teaspoon of pesto over each tomato.

Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs and then the grated cheese.

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Drizzle each with a little olive oil.

Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the topping is nicely browned.

 


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Easy Homemade Jam

This is a basic jam recipe and it works with any fruit (other than citrus). You can make jam with whatever fruit grows well where you live. In each season, use the best fruit you can find.

Work in small batches. Three pounds of fruit will yield close to 2 ½ pints of jam. If you want more jars, make two small batches rather than one double batch. The quality of the jam will be much better.

You don’t need to process the jars in a boiling water bath for this recipe. Just store the jam in the refrigerator, where it will last for weeks.

You can also store the jam in the freezer. The Ball Company now makes great containers to store the jam in for the freezer.

The unprocessed homemade jam will not make you ill, because most jams are made from high acid fruits which are not susceptible to botulism.

I made Blackberry Jam using this recipe. It is definitely worth making because the jam has such a fresh and distinct blackberry taste. Not at all like processed jam.

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For 2 1/2 pints

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ripe fruit, such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, plums, etc.
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 lemon

Directions

Clean and cut the fruit as you would for making a fruit salad or fruit pie. For example: remove the caps from strawberries and cut into quarters; or peel, pit and slice peaches into pieces; or trim rhubarb and chop it into chunks.

Using a potato masher, crush the fruit until soupy. Measure this puree and note the quantity. Put the puree in a wide, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot.

The puree should be no more than 1 inch deep in the bottom of the pot. I placed half of the blackberry puree in a strainer to remove the seeds before proceeding with the recipe.

For every two cups of fruit puree, add to the pot one scant cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Stir to combine and taste. Very tart fruit (such as sour cherries, some plums or blackberries) might need a little more sugar. Very sweet fruit (such as white peaches) might need a little more lemon juice. Adjust to taste.

Bring the fruit-sugar mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. After it boils, continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 12 to 14 minutes, or until thickened.

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Check the consistency by turning off the heat and putting a spoonful of hot jam on a chilled saucer in the freezer for one minute.

When ready, the cold jam will form a light skin that wrinkles when you push your finger through it and it will cling to the saucer when you tilt the saucer upright.

If the cold jam is too runny, bring the pot back to a boil for another minute or two, stirring constantly, then check the set again.

When the jam is set, ladle it into clean half-pint jars or other air-tight containers. Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Fresh Strawberry  Syrup

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Delicious over pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream or crepes.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-pint strawberries, stems and leaves removed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat; stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely. Place half the berries in the jar of a blender; add the syrup. Puree until smooth and pass through a fine sieve or colander.

Chop remaining berries; stir into the strawberry puree. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days or freeze in small containers.

Blueberry Muffins

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Makes 12 – 15 muffins depending on the size of your muffin pan.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups (9 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) fresh blueberries

Topping

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F and either lightly grease 12 -15 muffin cups or use paper liners and spray the insides of the papers.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand-held or stand mixer, until light and fluffy and almost white in color.

Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed just until the batter is smooth. Fold in the berries by hand.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using 1/4-cup for each muffin.

To make the topping:

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over the muffins.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center, comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Summer Fruit Salad

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Use summer fruits that are in season. I used about 6 cups of cut fruit in this recipe.

Ingredients

Fruit, sliced or cut into cubes

  • Melon
  • Pineapple
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Cherries

Mint-Lime Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Directions

For the syrup:

Stir together the sugar and mint and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 1 minute or until the sugar dissolves.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice, and cool 30 minutes. Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into an airtight container. Cover and chill syrup 4 hours.

For the salad:

Gently toss together the fruit in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup Mint-Lime Simple Syrup, and gently stir to coat. Taste to see if the fruit needs more syrup.

Serve immediately, or cover and chill until serving time.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

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This recipe makes one of the best tasting BBQ sauces I have made. It is especially good for grilled chicken.

Yields 4 cups.

  • 2 cups peeled and chopped very ripe peaches, about 4 medium peaches
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed and well chilled

Directions

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Process peaches in a blender 1 minute or until smooth and pour into a medium saucepan. Add all the additional ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.

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Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a few cubes at a time, until incorporated. Refrigerate covered until needed.

Ball Canning Company Freezer Jars

Ball Canning Company Freezer Jars


 

A favorite destination for Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffett, and many more, Key West is known for its palm lined streets, gingerbread architecture, water sports, and for “the” freshest locally caught fish. With a distinct mixture of cultures, the island is not only home to a strong seafood scene, but to a tantalizing fusion of cuisines. At night, the streets are lit with vibrant sidewalk cafes that lure in passersby’s with the delicious scents of their specialties. Live music and hopping bars are the perfect pairings to watch the sunset into the Gulf of Mexico.

key west street

The Florida Keys is home to five districts, each with their own personality and attractions that make visitors feel like they are a world away. The southernmost paradise, Key West, is just miles from Cuba and is home to an enviable temperate climate and a delicious array of fresh seafood set to a beautiful sea backdrop. Bringing together a multitude of cultures that have made Key West home during its history, Key West’s food scene has delicious flavors, like African and Cuban, that are difficult to find anywhere else in the US.

Paul Menta

As a guide to the restaurant and seafood landscape, Paul Menta can tell you all there is to know about the area. A professional chef, community advocate, and pro kite surfer, Paul is the perfect person to tell you about the best secret dining spots in Key West. The Philly native began his culinary career in Spain and France and eventually came to Key West to continue his love for competitive kite surfing. An athlete, distiller, chef, and entrepreneur, Paul has made it his mission to tap into all that Key West has to offer.

Paul Menta

His most recent venture, Three Hands Fish, is a community supported fish market in Key West. Its members, chefs and home cooks, have access to the freshest fish, shrimp, stone crabs, oysters, and lobster that come to the docks each day. As Paul describes it,” the first hand is the hand of the fisherman, the second the market, and the third is when the fish makes it into the hands of the individual or restaurant”.  Paul is proud of his market as it brings local, traceable seafood to the people with plenty of variety, thus avoiding over fishing a specific species.

Key West 2

Key West has seafood unlike anywhere in the world and the crucial ingredient is the water. The Gulf of Mexico mixes with the Atlantic ocean making a perfect nursery for a plethora of fish, crab, and lobster. The fishermen of the region have come together to create a sustainable plan for the future of their industry, naturally controlling over-producing populations that threaten to take over the ecosystem. “Not only are visitors able to jump on the boat for themselves and go fishing in some of the clearest waters, but they are able to sit back and relax, knowing they can find the same fresh fish in local restaurants,” says Paul.

If you are looking for a taste of the freshest seafood right on the dock, Paul suggests visiting The Stone Crab restaurant. This restaurant serves up some of the best of what Key West is known for, the stone crab, but they also do it in a stunning setting with an unbeatable view of the water. Housed in a resort built in 1956, the restaurant keeps alive the tradition of the fishermen bringing their catches straight to their dock, something that is no longer happening in other areas. And if you are looking for a place to stay, Paul recommends Ibis Bay Resort, home to The Stone Crab, which has a retro feel. Stop in for fun cocktails and great seafood that the restaurant catches themselves. Head here for stone crab, lobster, Key West shrimp, and more local fish. Be ready for a good time at The Stone Crab!

Key West 7

For the die-hard cooks, go for a ride on a private charter to catch the freshest fish for yourself. Paul recommends Lucky Fleet, chartered by Captain Moe, to take you on this adventure and help guide you in hooking the best seasonable seafood. Moe has been fishing the waters around Key West for over 30 years and knows his way around. Whether you are an avid deep-sea fisherman or fisher-woman or this is your first time, Captain Moe will take you on a great adventure, not just a boat ride. From sailfish to tuna to grouper, they will lead you to the right spot.

To learn how to prepare the seafood you just caught, take a class at Isle Cook where Paul himself will teach you how to cook local recipes and healthy meals with seafood. “Being a chef and commercial fisherman I can tell you there is no better teacher of how to use, care for, store, cook and eat a product than a fishermen. They have ideas and techniques that most chefs would die for….but they have to ask…..so we spread the word to them,” says Paul.

Key West 4

When visiting Key West, be sure to try fish you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get at home. Considered local to Key West are the Hogfish, Mangrove Snapper, and, as of late, the Lion Fish. Paul’s favorite? The Hogfish. This fish is caught by spear fishing, which is a fun challenge to try. Speared by yourself or someone else, Paul suggests serving the fish whole and he affectionately calls it the “Key West Turkey”, because it can be stuffed with lobster, onions, and herbs.

While you may have heard of Key West’s conch fritters, which is fried conch meat that is actually native to the Caribbean, Paul prefers to make grouper fritters. Fisherman of Key West are able to catch the grouper right off the coast, so this is a true local specialty. Similar to the conch fritter, the grouper is mixed with onions, carrots and a traditional Key West seafood seasoning made by the Key West Spice Company and it contains celery seed, salt, paprika, and red pepper. It is a simple preparation, but fresh grouper doesn’t need overpowering flavors. Once the batter is made, Paul fries the fish balls until golden and enjoys them in a sandwich or as an appetizer sitting by the beautiful water. You will find his recipe below:

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Grouper Fritters

Author: Paul Menta
Ingredients
  • 1 pound grouper
  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Key West seafood seasoning
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons Key Lime juice
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Coconut oil, for frying
Directions
Chop the grouper with a knife or use a food processor.

Finely dice the onions and carrots and mix with the grouper.

Add the Key West seafood seasoning.

In a medium bowl mix together the egg yolk and the key lime juice.

Add the flour and mix until a batter forms.

Use a tablespoon to make balls and fry the grouper balls in coconut oil or bake them in the oven on a sheet tray until brown. Serve with your favorite dip or sauce.

To make the grouper mixture into a sandwich filling instead of an appetizer, form the mixture into larger patties or rounds and cook as described above.

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Key West Inspired: Strawberry Salad with Coconut Milk Dressing

Since it is strawberry season in Florida now, I decided to make a Key West inspired strawberry salad to add to this post. I think the recipe I created is a great example of the type of local flavors, ingredients and good eating that you will find in Key West. This salad is also a great accompaniment to some wonderful grilled Key West Pink Shrimp.

Ingredients

  • One head Butter or Bibb Lettuce
  • 1 pint of fresh strawberries
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Half of a large or one small cucumber, unpeeled
  • Lime juice

Dressing

  • 3/4 cup regular coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flavored Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Directions

To make the dressing:

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the salad.

For the salad:

Wash and dry the lettuce. Place the lettuce cups on a serving plate. Leave space on the serving plate for a small bowl that can hold the dressing.

Remove the strawberry leaves, wash the strawberries and place them on paper towels to dry.

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and cut each half into one inch pieces.

Cut the peeled avocado into one inch chunks and squeeze lime juice over them to prevent browning while you make the salad.

Arrange the strawberries, cucumber pieces and avocado attractively in the lettuce cups. Pour the Coconut dressing into the bowl on the serving plate.

Guests can help themselves to a lettuce cup and drizzle some of the dressing over the salad.

Key West

This post is written in collaboration with The Florida Keys and Key West and Honest Cooking Magazine.



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