Posts Tagged ‘history’

Brazilian Orange Raw Kale Salad

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

citrus kale salad, Brazilian Greens, easy kale salad

The first time I ate feijoada, it was served with an excellent collard green salad. It was the perfect compliment to the rich and thick black bean stew.

After doing a little research, I learned kale is also used to make Brazilian greens. Since I grow kale in my garden and I know that many of you are looking for additional ways to use this healthy leafy green (kale is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and is touted by health advocates as having anti-inflamatory benefits), I created this super easy Brazilian kale salad with oranges.

Kale was introduced to Brazil during Portuguese colonization along with other food stuff like: figs, citrus fruits, coconuts, rice, watermelon, Guinea pumpkin, mustard, cabbage, lettuce, coriander, cucumbers, watercress, eggplant, carrots, according to the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture.

Since Brazilian greens and feijoada are served with orange wedges, it was obvious to me to combine the greens and oranges into a more-modern version.

Nearly all the recipes for Brazilian green salad that I could find in cookbooks and online called for cooking the kale or collards – either boiling, blanching, or sautéing them. In our house we prefer to eat our kale raw, so this salad is one of the raw kale versions in our rotation. If you haven’t eaten raw kale, don’t be alarmed.  The citrus in the dressing tenderizes the greens and also removes the bitterness – much like the ever-popular lemon-parmesean-based one that populates the internet.  If you like or if you’re greens are super bitter, give them a quick saute before adding them to the salad.

You could also use collards or swiss chard as a substitute. As far as all things kale, I prefer the lacinato variety over others. Lacinato kale can also be found under the names cavolo nero, black cabbage, Tuscan cabbage, Tuscan kale, and dinosaur kale.

Whether you make feijoada or not, you’ll want to try this salad. By the way, it’s one of those salads that’s better the next day or two after the flavors have melded and the greens have fully softened.

Best Latina Food Blog – Please Vote

I’m one of the finalists up for Best Latina Food Blog sponsored by Blogs By Latinas. I appreciate every single vote of support nominating Fork Fingers Chopsticks to get me this far. Would you vote for FFC in the final round?

  • Vote at Blogs by Latinas before midnight Tuesday, July 26, 2011.
  • When you go to the site, you’ll need to fill in a vote in the other categories (I’m obviously in the FOOD category)
  • To submit, scroll down near the blue “quit” box, then use your right arrow button to find the “finished” button to submit.

For almost two years, this blog has been the space where I combine my creative talents and passion food. Thank you, not only to those who voted or who will vote, but to all of you who follow my kitchen escapades as I explore ingredients and culture.

Happy eating!

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Black Beans: Feijoada – Brazil’s National Dish

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Black Bean Stew - Feijoada - History Brazil - Brazil National Dish

I fell in love with feijoada at first bite.  Feijoada (pronounced “faysh-ju-ada”) is known as Brazil’s national dish. Literally it means “big bean” stew. I’m not sure how it was officially declared the honor, but from all the Brazilians I’ve met, they’ve never disagreed.

My introduction to this black bean dish came at Emporio de Brasil, a very small but cherished Brazilian market/restaurant in north Denver. On Saturdays, they serve up a limited number of items – the best of which is Denver’s finest feijoada.

Feijoada is said to have originated during slave times, concocted from unwanted cuts of meat from the master’s table – including the non-choice parts of the pig including ears, snout and tail. Most of the feijoada recipes today still include plenty of pork – generally pork belly, chorizo, ribs, and other kinds of meat like carne seca (a Brazilian dried beef)

As you know, I’m not a huge meat eater and consider myself more of a flexitarian. But, I smack my lips when it comes to feijoada. All that slowly simmered pork makes for a tasty pot of creamy black beans and, to my surmise, is the reason feijoada continues to be a Brazilian favorite.

A feijoada completa or “complete feijoada” is served with rice, chopped greens (usually collards or kale), fresh orange slices, farofa or farinha, and a side dish of peppery sauce. The stew is generally served year-round in restaurants on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and on the weekends when made at home. It is also a requisite dish for a Brazilian feast and other holidays.

Since my first bowl-full, I vowed to make some at home. In keeping with tradition, I made this Brazilian staple on a weekend and made a huge pot to share using three kinds of pork – pork ribs, pork stew and chorizo.  Oink! By the way, the ribs were the prized piece of meat.

Now, you have a recipe to host at your next Brazilian party. If you’re a person who appreciates beans and you can also get down on some pork, then you must try this dish!

Tidbits on Beans:

  1. Brazil was the largest black bean producing country. In 2006, the Food Guide for the Brazilian Population recommended that beans be consumed at least once every day.
  2. 1 pound of dried black beans = about 6  cups of cooked beans.
  3. Black beans are a strong source of phytonutrient, which is generally derived from fruits and vegetables.

Sources:  The World’s Healthiest Foods, Beans: A History, “Brazil” in the Encyclopedia Food and Culture.

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Apple: Moroccan Chicken Apple Stew

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

savory chicken apple stew tajine

Are you like the majority of Americans who only eat apples as a raw snack or in sweet dishes? If yes, you’re not alone – only a few years ago, I was the same.

More recently, I’ve taken cue from other cultures that use apples in savory dishes, much like one would use a potato – apples add a tart and sweet dimension to soups, stews and salads.

Last fall, I wrote about the Moroccan and North African cookery and how they use fruit such as apples, pears, quinces, apricots and raisins for savory dishes. This chicken and apple tagine is a twist of the Moroccan Lamb and Pear Tagine I posted. Of course, you could easily substitute pears or use both.

Although I still haven’t bought a tagine (the cooking vessel), this dish is a tagine – a reference to the rich Moroccan stew. The chicken version has more veggies (carrots, zucchini, and potatoes) and garbanzo beans. This is pure comfort food, especially when paired with couscous.

October is national apple month – so try apples in a savory dish. What’s your favorite non-sweet apple dish?

Tidbits on Apples:

  1. In 2004, U.S. per capita total apple consumption was 50.4 pounds per person, according to the U.S. Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. For fresh fruit, Americans eat 18.6 pounds of apples per person, second to bananas.
  2. The high pectin and malic acid in raw apples are good for digestion and elimination. Leave the skin on for extra nutritional benefits. The flavonoids found in apples are believed to help prevent cancer.
  3. The acid content of apples makes them a natural breath freshener.

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Popcorn: Rosemary-Garlic Popcorn – Snack or Croutons

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Garlic-Rosemary Popcorn Croutons_ForkFingersChopsticks.com

The modern American palate considers popcorn snack food. However, the other night I watched a flick where the leading lady fed her family popcorn for breakfast. In the movie, she was broke. Nonetheless, it was way out of the box for me. Popcorn cereal?

It may seem kitschy now, but decades ago, popcorn cereal was avant-garde.

According to the history of popcorn cookery, popcorn was on the verge of becoming a staple ingredient in the early 1900s – commonly eaten at every meal. The upper and middle-class are credited with developing this broader recipe repertoire, which was later adopted by the less affluent and farmers.

Besides cereal (cold and hot), popcorn was used to make puddings, bread, popcorn balls, and stuffing.

Popcorn was also used as a replacement for croutons and crackers. The crispy texture was a perfect garnish for soup and salads.

Like most of you, I fall in line with the majority of people who snack on popcorn – usually just salted and buttered. But, with just a little more effort I’ve created an herbed popcorn that can be eaten as regular snack food or as a topper for soup and salad.

The recipe below for rosemary-garlic popcorn is a lovely addition to a hot bowl of tomato soup. Add the popcorn to your dish just before eating, especially with soups.

The recipe is flexible – your favorite herbs and seasoning could be substituted. How about garlic and chive, basil and sun-dried tomato, or chile and lime? At your local spice store there is a plethora of seasoning mixes that could be used and some include powdered cheese – which makes for even tastier popcorn croutons.

If you eat herbed popcorn or use popcorn for something other than a snack, please share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Tidbits on Popcorn:

  1. Popcorn consumption rose in the United States after World War II, when grains were sent to Europe.
  2. The precursor to today’s microwave popcorn evolved from popping the entire cob with kernels in an early model of the  “microwave oven” around 1945.
  3. Popped popcorn is a very profitable business product. It is bought by weight and sold by volume. The aroma of freshly popped popcorn significantly induces sales at movie theatres. Therefore, they regularly pop it.

Source: Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn in America by Andrew F. Smith; Corn: Meals & More by Olwen Woodier; Crazy for Corn by Betty Fussell.

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Rice: Puerto Rican Rice with Chicken – Arroz con Pollo

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Puerto Rican - Arroz con Pollo - Rice with Chicken - ForkFingersChopsticks.com

A couple of months ago my amiga Kitty and I spent an afternoon cooking. She offered to show me how to make Puerto Rican arroz con pollo, rice with chicken.

I happily assumed the role of sous chef – peeling heads of garlic, chopping veggies, and stirring this and that. Meanwhile, Nivia was my window into the cultural and personal nuances of Puerto Rican cookery .  .  .

For starters, Puerto Rican cuisine employs a spectrum of cooking techniques and ingredients that reflect the island’s diverse inhabitants: the Caribbean native Tainos, Africans, Spanish, and other Europeans.

Three items are signature to the cuisine:  adobo, sofrito and achiote.  Arroz con pollo employs all three. No wonder it’s touted as the most popular chicken dish on the island.

Adobo: In Puerto Rican parlance, adobo is a seasoned salt. A wet adobo made of garlic, olive oil, salt, black pepper, oregano and citrus juice is rubbed on the chicken in this dish and marinated overnight. It’s the secret to moist and flavorful chicken, and it also infuses a layer of flavor to the rice.  Sofrito: The rice is bursting with flavor because of the sofrito, a fresh bouillon of peppers, onions, garlic and herbs. (Read about sofrito and view recipe.) Achiote: Achiote is derived from annato seeds and is used for its subtle flavor and to give the dish a reddish hue. No saffron here, the less expensive achiote is a long-time tradition in Puerto Rican cooking. Achiote can be purchased as a paste, ground or in seed form. It is readily available in Latino markets and spice stores.

After cooking with Kitty, I did some research. The majority of recipes out there are more intuitive rather than specific. For a Puerto Rican arroz con pollo novice, that’s not helpful. I know, I made this dish three times in the last several weeks.

Here’s my final recipe, with a bit more detail – I’ve borrowed techniques I learned from Kitty, other Puerto Rican friends and research. Remember it’s the process that matters, so make certain to read the instructions thoroughly before you begin.

It serves six. You’ll be glad to have leftovers!

One more thing, don’t forget the little bits of crispy, cooked rice at the bottom of the pan are called “pegao.” It’s considered the best part of arroz con pollo by some aficionados.

Tidbits on Rice

  1. Rice was introduced to Puerto Rico by Columbus in his second trip to America in 1493 and has since become a primary food source.
  2. Long grain rice is said to be favored in Puerto Rico, according to some sources. However, medium and short grain rice are heavily favored in dishes like arroz con pollo and arroz con gandules.
  3. Arroz con pollo dates back to the eighth century to Andalusia, when the Moors occupied Spain. It has become a popular rice dish in nearly all of Latin America and the Caribbean, with regional variations, of course.

Sources:  The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America; Puerto Rican Dishes by Berta Cabanillas and Carmen Ginorio.

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Rice: Mexican Rice – Arroz a la Mexicana

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Mexican Rice-ForkFingersChopsticks.com

Mexican rice, also called arroz a la Mexicana or arroz rojo, is a requisite when it comes to Mexican food.

In the States, it is a standard side served along with beans. In Mexico, it is one of the most popular sopas secas (dry soups), in a multi-course meal, typically served before the main course.

In case you’re confused, Mexican rice is different than Spanish rice, although some people use the names interchangeably. The Mexican version gets its reddish hue from tomatoes, while Spanish rice generally uses saffron.

Mexican rice was one of the first dishes I learned to cook that required a little skill in the kitchen – sautéing, boiling and steaming. Sounds tricky, but it really just requires keeping a watchful eye on the pot during the sauté.

I’ve been making rice for eons and only recently realized that the technique I learned from my momma, and she from her abuela, was considered a pilaf. In pilafs, the rice/grain is browned in fat before it is simmered in a flavored broth. This cooking process creates fluffy, flavorful rice that’s moist. It also gives it a faint smoky taste from browning.

As you’ll see from the ingredient list and the photos, I add vegetables to my rice. It’s the way my family does it and it’s also the way many in Mexico make it – cocineros add carrots, peas, zucchini and/or fresh whole chiles for flavor. However, if you add peas, promise not to use the canned stuff! Ewww.

Most of the time, I eat this rice with black beans, lots of fresh pico de gallo, and slices of avocado atop. (The pre-cursor to Chipotle’s® bowl.) Others usually eat it as a side dish. Try it with rajas and grilled chicken, caldo de res, mole poblano, and Mexican zucchini – calabacitas con elote.

Tidbits on Rice:

  1. Rice was introduced to Mexico via the Spanish during colonization via the Spanish trade route from Manila in the Philippines to Acapulco in Mexico. In Mexico, the route is referred to as the Nao de China.
  2. The length of rice grains should be considered for your desired end result. Long grain rice is fluffy and has separate individual grains after cooking, while medium grain rice clings together a bit more but remains a bit more tender and moist. Short grain rice tends to stick together and is best for things like rice puddings.

Sources:  Encyclopedia of Food & Culture; The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy

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Rice: Perfect Brown Rice at High Altitude

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Perfect Brown Rice with Grain - ForkFingersChopsticks.com

It’s back to basics with brown rice.

Nutritionally brown rice is better for you than its white counterpart -  it’s higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals. And, I think it tastes better – it’s chewier and nuttier. The tradeoff, however, is that it has a much longer cooking time and is more perishable.

Generally, I’m a patient person. But, making a good pot of brown rice used to give me a fit. Despite the fact that I love cooking gadgets, I refuse to buy a rice cooker, so I do it old school – in a pot. That meant cooking brown rice for an hour plus at high altitude with a lot of guesswork and not so good results.

That was, until I learned the trick.

After one of my not-so-successful attempts, I came across a recipe for Perfect Brown Rice on Pinch My Salt, which adopted an unusual cooking technique from Saveur magazine. Basically, the trick is this:  boil the rice in a lot of water, drain it off and return it to the pot to steam. So simple, but it works.

I adapted the technique slightly for high altitude – using 6 cups of water per 1 cup rice and also boiling the rice longer. (Saveur used 12 cups water/30 minute boil, Pinch My Salt 4 cups/30 minute boil.) At high altitude it has to cook a bit longer and the water/rice ratio needs increasing. However, the 6 to 1 ratio can be used wherever you might be located.

So far I’ve used this method to cook short grain brown rice, long grain brown rice and brown basmati and they’ve all come out perfect. (The photos are of short grain brown rice.) Give it a go!

Tidbits about Brown Rice:

  1. Rice Layers: A rice grain is comprised of several layers. In brown rice, only the outer husk is removed. However, in white rice the grains are milled to further remove the bran and germ.
  2. Class:  Today brown rice costs more than white rice but in certain parts of the world, particularly in parts of Asia, brown rice was less preferable and associated with poverty.
  3. Nutrition: Brown rice is one of the top nutritious foods on the market because it provides high levels of fiber, complex carbohydrates, certain B vitamins, vitamin E, lysine, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. It’s also touted as good for weight-loss because it has no cholesterol, a miniscule amount of fat, and only an estimated 160 calories per cooked cup.
  4. Storage: Brown rice becomes rancid more quickly than white rice, therefore it should be refrigerated. Sources vary on how quickly it should be used, typically between one and six months.

Sources:  Britannica.com; AsiaRice.org; Rice as a Food, Encyclopedia of Food and Culture.

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Lentils: Lentil & Plantain Salad – Ensalada de Lentejas Y Platanos

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Ensalada Lentejas con Platanos - Lentil Plantain_ForkFingersChopsticks.com

Apparently, lentils and bananas are combined more commonly than we think.

I came upon a Banana-Lentil Salad recipe while browsing Nuevo Latino: Recipes that Celebrate the New Latin-American Cuisine by Douglas Rodriguez, a James Beard award-winning chef. His salad trails back to the Spanish Canary Islands.

In Mexico, as well as in other Latin American and Caribbean countries, lentejas y platanos (lentils and plantains) are frequently eaten as a soup usually stewed with pork. And, in places like Puebla, Mexico, pineapple is also added to the mix, according to The Art of Mexican Cooking by renowned cookbook author Diana Kennedy, who links the savory/sweet combo to Moorish Spain. The combination can also be traced to some African recipes.

This salad recipe, however, is my version of lentejas and platanos. It’s loosely inspired by Rodriguez and traditional lentejas recipes.

If you’re leary about the lentil/plantain combo – have the salad without the plantains, it’s still plenty flavorful and healthy. However, you’re on notice that it’s those platanos fritos (fried plantains) that makes this salad special.

The caramelized plantains have sweet, tender insides that are also a tad bit tangy and a perfect contrast to the crunchiness of peppers, onion and celery, and the nuttiness of wild rice and lentils.

It’s an unusual twist that’s not so unusual.

Tidbits on Lentils:

  1. Before cooking lentils, be sure to sort the legumes to remove any debris such as dirt and stones. Then rinse well in a colander and drain. It is not necessary to pre-soak lentils before cooking.
  2. Store unused lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry location for up to one year.
  3. Lentils are high in soluble fiber and recommended for people with diabetes and cholestoral problems.

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Lentils: Comforting Red Lentil Soup

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Red Lentil Soup_ForkFingersChopsticks.com

This red lentil soup is comfort food.

It takes the edge off a cold, winter day and satiates my panza (belly).

It’s a souped-up tomato soup – made hearty with red lentils and flavorful with my favorite warming spices:  ginger, cumin and chile.  Several Ethiopian red lentil dishes are similar; this one is more simple.

Last month, I made a jumbo batch for a New Year’s snowshoe group outing. It was a crowd pleaser. After trekking steep hills in gusty winds at 11,000 ft., we huddled near a fire pit warming cold fingers and toes. And, we grubbed! Hot chocolate, hot ginger tea, home-made sweets, grilled spicy sausage on sticks and, yes, red lentil soup. It was a wonderful way to start the New Year – outdoors, warm and belly full.

Red lentils cook faster than other lentils because they are hulled. Although they are referred to as red, they are actually a salmon pink hue. When cooked, the discs turn golden and are delicate, which makes them well-suited for purées or soups.

This lentil soup is a filling main course especially when served with crusty bread. It’s also a nutritious side dish with a sandwich (or sausage on a stick).

Tidbits on Lentils:

  1. Lentils’ botanical name Lens culinaris means cooking lens, a reference to its convex shape.
  2. Up until the later part of the last century, lentils and other beans were generally stigmatized as peasant food – they were staples to those who could not afford meat. However, in places like Egypt, there were aficionados who were particularly fond of red lentils. In India, where vegetarianism was prominent, lentils were also integral to diet.

Source:  Beans: A History by Ken Albala

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