Fresh Sauerkraut – Hit or Miss?

It’s another Hit!

The Coatimundi in Costa Rica may not like it but I do! There are several brands and several flavors available. This is a spicy flavor with carrots and jalapeños. We have enjoyed it on rubens with Swiss cheese, smokey tempeh, and homemade 1,000 Island dressing, but it also makes a great addition to packed lunches!

Lacto fermented foods are thought to be a great addition for our diets. They contain probiotics and several vitamins, with a high fiber, low calorie delivery.

Read your labels carefully. Foods fermented this way can be very high in sodium. Also, watch for flavorings, there’s just no reason to add ‘flavor’, natural, or unnatural, to a food that is so perfect in its raw state. Look for theme in the refrigerator section of delis and produce departments. Most food markets have one or two varieties available. We enjoy the Saverne brand, their website contains some information about the farmers and recipes.

Be daring, try some Saverne raw kaut and Release YOUR Bonus Vivant and Savor Your Life!

 

*no coatimundi were actually exposed to sauerkraut for this posting.

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Garden Chive Hummus

Here’s a great springtime hummus recipe, especially if you have chives in your garden. Spinach could be substituted for the chives if you’d like a milder version.

Garden Chive Hummus
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (or the equivalent quantity of home cooked)
1 cup fresh chives, snipped into 1″ pieces
3-4 Tbs lemon juice
4-8 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp tahini
1/2 tsp cumin, ground
freshly ground black pepper
salt

Put everything but the olive oil and salt in a food processor. With the processor running drizzle the olive oil into the mixture. Stop the processor, scrape down the sides and check the seasoning, add salt and adjust seasoning as desired. Continue processing the hummus until it reaches the desired consistency. Tahini is not a must, if you don’t like it leave it out. You can also reduce the olive oil and increase the lemon or use a little water in its place. If you find raw garlic to pungent, try granulated (dry) garlic or oven roasted garlic cloves for a more mellow flavor.

Serve the hummus room temperate or cold, with a variety of crackers and vegetables. I like to drizzle a little Tenisian olive oil on it and top it with a little freshly ground black pepper and pumpkin seeds. This recipe also makes an excellent sandwich spread! Slather it on bread and try topping it with sliced tomatoes and avocados.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Pass the Ketchup, hold the Sugar

 

Rye bread, krout, Emmentaler Swiss cheese, pastrami, and 1,000 Island dressing. Is there a better sandwich on the planet? Today there was not, but a few changes needed to be made to this classic. First pastrami doesn’t fit into my plant-based diet, substitution: smoky tempeh slices. Second 1,000 Island dressing is just too sweet for me these days. Solution: make a batch of Spicy 1,000 Island Dressing.

Spicy 1,000 Island Dressing
1 part mayonnaise (I prefer a vegan canola mayo)
1/2 part homemade ketchup (recipe follows)
1/4 part dill relish or finely chopped dill pickle
1/4 part finely chopped onion
2 Tbs sugar (if needed)
1 tsp smoked paprika

Combine, taste, adjust, refrigerate, enjoy. You can also adjust the flavor by adding lemon juice, cayenne, or sweet relish.

When I committed to reading food labels I was disgusted to see just how much sugar is in ketchup, no wonder it just tasted like ‘sweetness’ without any distinction. Originally ketchup was made from fish sauce and didn’t even contain tomatoes! But I didn’t want to give it up completely. There are somethings that just ‘need’ ketchup. So, I starting making my own. And yes, it does have some sugar, but it’s not just a sugar sauce in disguise. I make this in a large batch and freeze it in small jars. Sometimes I add finely chopped rosemary and freshly ground black pepper.

Classic Ketchup
26.5 oz tomatoes – strained/crushed/chopped
6 oz tomato paste
1/4 cup minced onion
3-6 minced garlic cloves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp hot chili powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar – divided
Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened. Add the tomato products and spices, cook while stirring for a few minutes. Add the brown sugar and half of the cider vinegar. Stir well, cover and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. Transfer to a blender after it cools slightly and blend to your desired consistency, adding the remaining vinegar if needed. Store it in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freeze it.

Release YOU Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Chimichurri

 

 

 

 

Chimichurri is wonderful pungent salsa/sauce that is really nothing like salsa. There are no tomatoes in chimichurri and the green is not from tomatillos, like green salsa. Instead Chimichurri get’s it green color from fresh herbs, like cilantro and oregano. It’s said to have originated in Argentina. Like most foods, I’m sure that every household has their own way of making this condiment. Mine never turns out exactly the same, but it IS always delicious and versatile. I don’t spend time measuring for this, I simply adjust contents as needed to get the consistency I want. Chimichurri can be stored in the refrigerator. If my pantry is low on red wine vinegar then I add a touch of red wine and a touch of apple cider vinegar. We like our chimichurri hot so I add a few slice of pickled habaneros.

Chimichurri

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 small clump fresh oregano
several sprigs of curly leave parsley
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (or a splash of red wine and apple cider vinegar)
1 tsp ground cumin
hot chilies (optional: hapanero, red pepper flake, etc.)

Put every thing in a blender and puree until it’s smooth. You’ll need to scrape down the sides of the blender a few times to make sure it’s mixed well. Taste and adjust as needed. I prefer a little more vinegar than oil. Some recipes call for mostly parsley with just a touch of cilantro but since I eat a lot of Southwestern foods I enjoy a cilantro base. Use it as  a condiment for eggs, burritos, tacos, steak, chicken, tofu, grilled vegetables, or purple rice as pictured above.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Muse Style Madras Curry

How do you feel about eggplant? I love it, but I’m starting to think that it’s a a love it or hate type of food. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s baked, grilled, mashed, cubed, sliced, or pureed, I’ll eat and love it. Long ago a vegetarian friend of mine described it as ‘comfort food’. Even if you aren’t as crazy about it as we are, you may still find it enjoyable. This is a simple method for making a spicy dinner of miniature eggplants and tofu. You can easily adjust the recipe to accommodate full size eggplants. If your Madras is hot add a side salad, or sliced cucumbers, to help balance the heat.

Curried Eggplants with Tofu

Slit the ends of mini eggplants, going both directions, up to the stem but leaving the stem in tact, and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with Hot Madras Curry Powder (recipe follows). Toss to evenly distribute the spices. As you place them on a baking sheet, or tray to take them to the grill, stuff each one of them with a dried red chili, a cherry tomato, or anything else to help keep them slightly open. If any of them look dry on the inside then drizzle a little more olive oil into the opening. Save the bowl you tossed them in, you’ll use the drippings for the tofu. Smoke, roast, or grill them, at a medium low temperature until they soften to your preference.

For the curried tofu, start with a brick of extra firm tofu. Drain and dry it, and then slice it into 1/2″ slices. Rub each slice around in the bottom of the eggplant tossing bowl until it’s covered on all sides with the olive oil and madras curry powder mixture. Add more of both to the bowl if you need more. At this point you can heat the tofu and serve it, or let it set for a while to incorporate more flavor. Heat the tofu on a grill or bake in in the oven to heat it. If you heat it on the stove in a hot skillet, you would probably end up with a lovely golden crust. I was afraid that the hot chilies would release too much capsicum into the air.

For a smokey version of this dinner, both the eggplant and tofu can be cooked in a smoker. Slice the leftovers for a great addition to garden salads.

 

Tasteful Muse Madras Curry is a hot curry, cut back on the chilies if you want a milder batch. Make sure you have good ventilation while making this recipe. The spices will become very fragrant as they toast, and the chilies can be very strong. The recipe can be easily doubled, or tripled and it can be stored for a long time.Visit an ethnic market for the best availability and prices on whole spices.

Tasteful Muse Hot Madras Curry Powder

4 tbsp Coriander Seeds
2 tsp Cardamom Seeds
1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 tbsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
4 inch Cinnamon Stick
6 Dried Red Chilies
10 Fresh or Dried Curry Leaves
1 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tbsp Ground Turmeric

Heat a heavy cast iron pan over medium low heat. Toast everything but the turmeric, ginger and curry leaves, for a few minutes, just until it begins to brown. Add the curry leaves and stir, letting it brown for just a little longer. Remove the spices from the pan to let them cool. After it cools, grind small batches in a a clean coffee grinder to grind everything into a fine mix.  Place the finished batches in a larger mixing bowl. Once everything is finely ground and add the ground turmeric and ginger and stir until it’s well blended. Store the curry in an airtight container in your spice cupboard.

 

 

Smokin’ on a Sunday – Salsa Picante

I admit it, I love spicy food. But I’ve grown bored with pico de gallo. Last year I added a smoker to my outdoor kitchen and so I’ve started making smoked salsa. Since my main dish rarely fills the smoker, I started filling the racks with different vegetables just to see how they would turn out. Smoked jalapeños were an immediate hit. They add a superb flavor to so many dishes, but take it a step further and go for smoked salsa. If you don’t have a smoker you can probably accomplish the same thing on a grill. Just keep the temperature low and use whatever method your grill manufacturer suggests for smoking.

Smoked Salsa
15-20 tomatoes, halved
10-15 jalapeños, sit cut in the end but stem left intact
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 bunch cilantro
2-4 Tbs jalapeño vinegar
3-4 garlic cloves minced
black pepper, freshly ground

Line your smoker racks with foil. Place the halved tomatoes cut side up on the racks and hit each one with some freshly ground black pepper. Put a slit in each jalapeño without disturbing the stem. Place them on a rack with the thickly sliced onion.

Smoke them over mesquite or hickory chips, or a combination of the two, until the vegetables are soft. It took just over an hour for mine to get perfectly done, but it can vary. Removem the from the smoker and let them cool. Once everything is cool enough to handle you’ll have to decide between chopping by hand or a food processor. I used the food processor for this batch. First I pulsed the tomatoes until I had a chunky consistency. I poured the chopped tomatoes into a bowl. Then I added the remaining ingredients to the food processor and again, pulsed until I liked the consistency. Then I added the jalapeño mixture to the bowl and stirred.

Salsa does not have to be an exact science. In other words, adjust the recipe to fit your taste, if you don’t like cilantro cut back or omit it. Oh, you probably noticed my recipe doesn’t call for salt. I rarely use salt when I cook. If you do, add some to the tomatoes when you process or chop them. If you’re not confident heading into the this then hold back some of each ingredient. That way if your salsa turns out too hot to enjoy you’ll have a few tomatoes left to tone it down a bit. If it turns out too mild, you’ll have more jalapeños to add.

The salsa will keep in the refrigerator for a while, and it freezes well. Use it like you would any other salsa: chips, nachos, burritos, quesadilla, marinades, eggs, etc. etc.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

 

 

Voluptuous Vinegars

If your looking for a great way to add flavor to foods without adding unsavory elements like sodium and fat, try flavored vinegars. It’s even a beautiful way to decorate your kitchen counters.

Vinegar is an ancient food, dating back to at least 3,000 BC in Egypt. Almost anything that ferments can be made into vinegar: apple must, corn, cane sugar, coconut, honey, rice, millet, sorghum, palm fruit, and trebbiano grapes, used in balsamic vinegar. It seems like each culture makes their vinegar from what is readily and regionally available.

So if you’re a Bon Vivant like me, you’ve already wondered if you can make your own vinegars. YES, and they are divine. But be careful, you will no longer be satisfied with the watered down flavors of mass produced vinegar.

To make vinegar you need a mother. The vinegar mother feeds on alcohol and converts it to vinegar. You can purchase it (try home brew suppliers) or use the mother that is in an unfiltered apple cider vinegar, as long as it is unpasterized. Once you make a batch of vinegar you can reuse the mother. It’s a living mass of bacteria so treat it well. If you have trouble finding instructions email me (info@tastefulmuse.com) and I will explain my vinegar making methods. I’ve been making white wine, red wine, and cranberry vinegar for a while now.

OK, back to easy flavors. I use clamp top lemonade bottles that have been cleaned and sterilized. Fill the bottle with the flavor element (cleaned of course), top it with the vinegar of choice (apple cider is my favorite), let it sit long enough for the flavors to infuse, refill as needed. Then use it in salad dressings (including quinoa, rice, and other grain based salads), marinades, or any place else you would use a splash of vinegar. You can do the same thing with vodka too, but that’s a different post!

Here are a few of my favorite flavors…

Cacoa nibs, cinnamon, and red chiles. As you can see, this variety takes on a lot of color from the flavor elements. My favorite use for this one is to toss it with cucumber slices and chopped purple onion for a quick summer side dish.

Jalapeño cilantro. This is a great addition to marinades, especially grilled fish. Although lately I leave out the cilantro and just make jalapeño vinegar.

Kumquat jalapeño. I use less jalapeño for this one to make sure the citrus flavor comes through.

Mango and red chiles. Sweet and hot!

Rosemarry black pepper. This is another staple in my kitchen. I use it in cooking when I want a more complex black pepper flavor, the oils from the pepper will turn it almost black as it sits.

Cherry tomato and basil. A light summery flavor for salads.

If you have any other ideas please share them! Bon Vivants are always on the lookout for new flavor combinations.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

 

Make Your Own Chili Powder

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Classic Chili Powder:

2 tbsp Ground Paprika
2 tbsp Ground Oregano
2 tbsp Ground Cumin
2 tbsp Granulated Garlic
2 tbsp Granulated Onion
1 tbsp Ground Cayenne

Combine the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

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Many other spices mixes are available in The Tasteful Muse, Volume Two.

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Black, White, or Melange?

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Farmer’s Market Pickles

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Twenty four hours to phenomenal pickles! The Farmer’s Markets are overrun with the last of the cucumbers right now. Try refrigerator pickles, with just a little time and a only a few basic ingredients you can create some delicious and unique pickles.

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Pickles are made with vinegar so consider using something unique. Try wine vinegars, cider vinegars, or better yet, flavored vinegars. I used some passion fruit jalapeño vinegar to make these lovelies. This recipe will make two large jars.

Cut your cucumbers into wedges or slices and place them in a jar. Top each jar with the following:
1.5 tsp dill (fresh or dried)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flake (optional)

In a saucepan heat 1.5 cups of your chosen vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar. Let it come to a boil so the sugar dissolves. Pour the liquid into the jars, secure the tops and refrigerate them. They will be ready for snacking in 24 hours!

Add other vegetables to make it interesting, and experiment with the vinegar and spices! In my kitchen no two batches turn out identical!

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!