Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Raised-Bed, Year 2

This Spring has come with some  events that have slowed me down a bit, as far as my blogging goes.  And I won't be posting much new for a little while, but....
I wanted to show you how my raised-bed square foot garden is doing this year.

As you can see, it isn't looking quite as spiffy as it did last spring, and could probably do with a little "grooming".  

However, I am happy to report that the soil underneath is great.  The 6 inch tomatoes that I planted late in March are thriving and in spite of planting last year's seeds, the squash, okra, and cucumbers have leaped up.  My weed prevention (weed cloth, straw and cooler pad fibers) has worked beautifully, and even tho it's covered with %$#* chinese elm seeds, only a couple have sprouted.
I have moved things around, this year the tomatoes are on the north edge, okra on the south.  Don't know whether this is really important with these vegetables, but I do know that it's important to rotate crops.
Different also this year will be my pest control.  I don't want to see any of those creepy squash bugs or their spawn this year, so early and often applications of Sevin will be used.  Hats off to those who search with a bucket, but not me.

Black-eyed peas will be planted in a few days, they need a little more heat to grow, so this year the garden consists of:
Yellow squash
Black-eyed peas

Here we go, again!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Capirotada This Way

Capirotada (kah-pee-roh-tah-dah) is a dish similar to bread pudding that is usually served during the Lenten season.  I first had the pleasure of enjoying it when a fellow teacher brought some "leftovers" into the teacher's lunch room many years ago.  Wow!  So interesting and full of flavor; nuts and cheese and sugar, sweet and savory together.  Just lovely.
I've since learned that the only thing that one Capirotada might have in common with another is the bread and the sweetness.  Families have their own Capirotada just like their own Thanksgiving Dressing.  Some add candy, some use tomatoes and onions with the bread and sugar "broth".  All different kinds of cheeses are used, all kinds of bread.  It's basically whatever you want it to be.
For an interesting treatise on the origin of Capirotada click on this link: Capirotada
So for whatever it's worth, having no family recipe to guide me, this is the recipe that I have settled on for ours.
Easter season would not be the same without it.

Here's what I use:
Old dinner rolls (stores around here sell these especially for Capirotada during Lent) torn up and baked until toasty and dry.
Nuts (any kind of nut is good, this time I used some toasted piñones)
Piloncillos (Mexican dark cane sugar, or you could use regular dark brown sugar)
Aged cheddar cheese
Mexican Crema (cream similar to creme fraiche, for serving)

To make:
Tear up the rolls and bake them until dry and toasted.  You will have to toss them two or three times while baking.

Now take three cups of water, some ground cinnamon or good cinnamon sticks, a few whole cloves, three or four piloncillo cones or 1 and 1/2 cups of brown sugar.  Boil this for about 5 minutes, and then strain the cinnamon and cloves out. Put it back in the pan and now add the butter, raisins and currants.    Boil 5 minutes more.

Take the toasted bread in the pan and add the apples, nuts and 1 cup grated cheese.

Ladle the hot syrup with the raisins and currants over the bread.

Cover it with foil and bake at 350° for 40 minutes.

Serve hot with cold crema on top.   Happy Easter!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Onion Rings a la Jamie

In El Paso there is a famous family-owned drive-through burger joint.   Before McD's and all the others, we had Charcoaler.  It  holds a special place in the heart of every local yokel who was once a hormonally hungry teenager and fortunate enough to be able to drive through and chow down.  My theory is that we imprinted it in our brains like a baby with it's mother as the ultimate in hunger satisfaction!
That's why former El Pasoans often make it their first stop in town before they go home for Mom's cooking. Really!
Everyone has their favorite order to yell at the speaker, but those onion rings are truly special.  Crisp, salty, real onions and hot enough to melt braces, those onion rings can make you moan.
And darned if my neighbor Jamie made some the other day that could be mistaken for.....those.
It's one of those recipes that is just so simple you won't believe it.
You will need:
A white onion or two.  Or yellow onion.  Or vidalia onion.  Whatever floats your boat.
All Purpose Flour
Frying oil.  I used peanut.
That's it.
Here's how to make them:
Slice the onions and put the rings into cold water to soak for a while.

They can soak as you are getting everything else together.
Mix 1c. all purpose flour, 1c. water, and 1 tsp. salt.  Stir this glue (I mean batter) up well and let it sit.

Put about 3-4 inches of oil in a heavy dutch oven and crank it up.
Get another bowl and put in 1 or 2 cups of plain all purpose flour.
Line a pan with lots of brown paper or paper towels or even newspaper to place them on when they are cooked.
Check now to see if your oil is hot. Drop some flour in there and see if it foams and bubbles.  If not, wait a while longer.
Take the onion rings out of the cold water, shake them around to dry them off, and dip 3 or 4 in the water/flour mixture making sure they are coated well,  then put them straight into the bowl with the flour.   You can either use your hand to coat them or just shake the bowl around until the rings are coated.  Don't worry if they look pretty shaggy, that's the way they are supposed to be.

Put them (carefully!) into the hot oil and take them out when they are good and brown.
Sprinkle liberally with salt and serve.

".....and a Number 2, an apple fried pie, and a large chocolate milk over ice, please.  Thank you, Mr. Cox."