Mexico

Jicama

April 22, 2021

Crunchy, juicy, nutrient packed jicama is an unsung hero of the produce aisle. Technically a cousin to green beans, jicama is a root vegetable from Mexico available year-round that is delicious cooked or raw. With a mild, earthy, slightly sweet flavor and an apple like consistency. It’s a great addition to salads, salsas, slaws, and grazing boards. Jicama also works as lighter swap for potatoes in baked and air fried recipes, and it’s delicious sautéed or boiled, too.

If you’ve never tried jicama, don’t be intimidated. Start by choosing one with a smooth, unblemished surface and thin brown skin. The skin should be thin enough to scrape with your thumbnail to reveal the white flesh inside. Avoid thick skinned, bruised, or shriveled jicama, which are signs of aging.

Once you’re ready to prep, start by trimming off the ends of the jicama and slice in half. Then, use a knife to gently peel away the skin.

For Jicama Sticks:
Step 1: Carefully slice off the rounded parts of the jicama, creating a flat surface.
Step 2: Cut each half into 1/4-inch slices.
Step 3: Stack slices and cut evenly into sticks.

Fresh, raw jicama sticks are a great addition to lunchboxes or served on a vegetable platter with your favorite dip. They can also add unexpected, satisfying crunch to cooked dishes, like a noodle salad with jicama and a miso vinaigrette.

Jicama sticks are delicious roasted, too. Their firm texture can withstand the heat, while the edges get golden brown and tender. Toss together with sweet peppers and spices for a simple, satisfying sheet pan side that pairs well with all kinds of meat and fish.

For Diced Jicama:
Step 1: Follow the steps above to create jicama sticks
Step 2: Line up sticks or stack into a pile, then evenly cut into cubes.

Diced jicama is a vitamin and fiber-rich way to add bulk to all kinds of green, grain, and protein-based salads. I love the combination of crunchy jicama with creamy avocado served with grilled chicken.

Moist and mild flavored jicama also plays well with fruit, especially melon. A refreshing combination of watermelon, jicama, and fresh mint falls somewhere between salad and salsa, delicious scooped onto tortilla chips or just spooned straight from the bowl.

Next time you’re at your local grocery store or market pick up jicama and experiment with ways to incorporate it into your recipes.

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2021 All Rights Reserved

Turkey

November 22, 2016

The turkey came originally from America and was first domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico. The Spanish introduced turkeys into Europe and they soon became a popular choice in France, Italy and Britain.

When early settlers from Britain, France and Holland crossed the Atlantic to North America, the vast flocks of turkey that roamed wild provided them with sustenance. They were plentiful and so easy to trap or shoot that the older children of the family were given the responsibility of catching them. The Native Americans meanwhile taught the new settlers the rudiments of farming, and in November 1621, on the first anniversary of their arrival, the Pilgrims entertained the locals to a feast, at the center of which was the turkey. Ever since, this has been the traditional bird served at Thanksgiving.

Turkeys are available fresh, chilled, or frozen all year round. When buying a whole bird, look for a plump well-rounded breast and legs and clear, soft and evenly colored skin. Avoid birds that are bruised, with blemishes or torn skin or any that have been badly or unevenly plucked. Turkeys vary enormously in weight.

When you’re ready to purchase your turkey it’s easy to get confused on what size to get. A good guild to go by is to figure approximately 1 1/4 pounds per person. This makes enough for the meal and provides a decent amount of leftovers.

To store your turkey place it in a large, deep dish and cover it completely with plastic wrap. Store it in the coolest part of the refrigerator; making sure that it does not come in contact with other foods.

Thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days. Estimate 24 hours for every 5 pounds, so 2 days for a 10 pounder, 3 days for a 15 pounder, etc.

And then there is always the frozen turkey emergency that goes like this, “Help, help, it’s Wednesday, and my turkey is still frozen!!!” It’s been a long time, but I’ve been in this predicament. What you do is leave the turkey in its wrapper and put it in a large-size container. A lobster pot works well. Fill the container with cold tap water and let it sit for 30 minutes. Dump out the water and refill. Let it sit another 30 minutes. Repeat until the turkey is thawed, then roast immediately or transfer to the refrigerator.

The good news is that you can brine or dry cure your turkey while it defrosts in the refrigerator. What a Godsend that is! Use a lighter brine solution, which is about 1/2 cup kosher salt per gallon of water, plus sugar and spices). If you’re dry curing, use the standard recipe. You’re turkey should stay below 40 degrees while brining. You don’t need to brine or cure a kosher or butterball type supermarket frozen turkey. These come pre-brined. If you want to be able to put your own flavor stamp on your meal, then get a natural or untreated bird and do it yourself. If you plan on brining for 2 days use the weaker solution that I just mentioned. If you plan to brine for 24 hours or less, then bump it up to 1 cup kosher salt per gallon of water. Then add an equal amount of sugar. I don’t always brine, but when I do I’ve been known to throw an assortment of flavorings in the brine. Flavorings that you could add to your brine could be: apples, lemons, oranges, onions, garlic, shallots, peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, juniper berries, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, rosemary, sage, thyme, savory, parsley, or oregano. You can also replace half the water with sweet cider, hard cider, vegetable stock, turkey stock, chicken stock, beer, white wine, or red wine. If you want to dry cure then use about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt for every pound of turkey. Then add spices to your taste.

Stuffing your turkey is a personal preference. I always stuff the bird because I love how it tastes when cooked inside the turkey. It does slow down the cooking process, however. Never stuff the turkey in advance of cooking. The stuffing can be made in advance, but the turkey should not be stuffed until just before it is placed in the oven. Weigh the stuffing and add this to the weight of the bird before calculating the cooking time. Thoroughly rinse the body cavity of the bird under cold running water, and then drain it well. Wipe the turkey, inside and out, with paper towels. Press the stuffing inside the shallow neck cavity. Make sure not to pack it in too tightly. Turn the bird over and pull the neck skin over the stuffing. Now it’s time for a little turkey bondage and truss the bird (tuck the wing tips under the breast and tie the legs together) and then cook for the calculated time. Never shorten the cooking time because although the meat may appear cooked, extra time must be allowed for cooking the stuffing thoroughly.

If you choose not to stuff your turkey then place aromatics in the body cavity of the bird. Cut a large onion in half and stud each half with 4 to 6 cloves. Place this in the body cavity of the bird. Cut an orange and a lemon into quarters and add these, together with 3 or 4 bay leaves, 4 to 6 fresh sage sprigs, and 2 to 3 fresh thyme sprigs. Add 1 cinnamon stick or 1 blade of mace for a festive hint of warm spice.

Turkeys are super easy to roast, but require a little more attention than smaller birds. Check to make sure the oven shelves are in the correct position before heating the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the prepared bird on a rack in a large-size roasting pan. Smear the turkey breast generously with butter, season with salt & pepper and place in the oven. Baste the turkey from time to time during cooking. When the breast has browned, cover with foil to protect it and continue cooking. Remove the covering foil for the final 20 minutes of cooking. To check if the meat is cooked, insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh. If the juices run clear and the meat is white, it is cooked. If the juices are pink and the meat is soft and pink, the turkey is not ready. Return it to the oven and check again after 20 minutes. Cooking times will differ depending on whether your bird was purchased fresh or frozen. Plan on 20 minutes per pound in a 350 degree oven for a defrosted turkey and 10 to 15 minutes per pound for fresh. Remember to add more time if you’re turkey is stuffed. You should have an instant-read thermometer in your kitchen drawer. Insert the thermometer into the breast (all the way to the bone) and if it reads 160 degrees you’re good to go. You may also measure the thigh by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part, but not touching the bone, and it should read 165 degrees.

Remove the turkey from the oven and cover it closely with foil. Leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes. This will even out the temperature and make it easier to carve. I know some chefs who let it rest for 2 hours, but I don’t think that one needs to wait that long. If you wish to make gravy in the roasting pan, transfer the bird to a carving plate.

When you’ve let your bird rest awhile remove the trussing string. Hold the bird steady in position with a carving fork. Cut off the legs, then cut these in half or carve the meat from the bones. Make a horizontal cut across the breast above the wing. Carve neat and even vertical slices off the breast. Repeat on the other side of the bird. Arrange slices on a warmed platter. Add the turkey legs or sliced meat to the platter or set them aside for serving separately. Scoop out the stuffing and serve with the meat.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2016 All Rights Reserved

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo‏

May 5, 2016

Cinco de Mayo (the fifth of May) has become a lively and fun commemoration of Mexican culture. The history behind Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican war (1861-1867). Cinco de Mayo is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico. In the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Cinco de Mayo traditions include parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals in cities and towns across Mexico and the United States.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2016 All Rights Reserved

Constitution Week – Foods of Our Forefathers Part IV

September 20, 2013

Revolutionary War 2Constitution Week – Foods of Our Forefathers Part IV

The longer winters in New England produced a diet somewhat different from that in Virginia.  Not as many varieties of fruits and vegetables grew as in the South, and emphasis was put on those which would store well or which could be converted to something stable through drying, salting, or pickling.  The staple grain in the early days was rye, in addition to the new grain, Indian corn.  A common bread was called “Rye’ n Injun,” and was baked from a yeast dough of rye, cornmeal, and molasses.  Wheat did not grow well in the harsh climate, and the small amount of wheat flour available was used “for best,” as was the refined sugar.

Sweet potatoes and other root vegetables and cabbages were major items on the menu.  All cooking was done in cavernous fireplaces, either in kettles or on spits.  The cooking range, although invented by Count Rumford in the late 1700’s, didn’t become popular until the Civil War era.  The New England boiled dinner of corned beef, potatoes, cabbage and whatever else was available, was a natural outgrowth of fireplace cooking.  Beans baked in a pot set in the coals also fit the New England style of cooking and the available found supply. 

Although mutton had been the main meat supply in England, pigs were more attractive than sheep in the new land.  For one thing, sheep usually had only one lamb at a time, while a litter of pigs a dozen strong was not uncommon.  Also, pigs could forage for themselves at an earlier age than sheep, and thrived on the vegetation in forest and field. 

Cattle were kept largely for milk and cheese, and although they were scarce at first, they reproduced prolifically in the Northeast.  In fact, the Reverend John Cotton once remarked “milk and ministers were the only things cheap in New England.” 

In other parts of the country, settlers found more new foods and used them in new ways.  In Louisiana, for example, French settlers adapted their old world recipes to accommodate such new foods as tomatoes, okra, crayfish, red snapper, catfish and, of course, corn.  The climate was amenable to growing fruits and vegetables year ‘round, making a varied diet easy to get – even if it didn’t taste like home. 

In the Charleston and Savannah areas, rice cultivation began very early, in 1694, and soon became a major business.  Much of the rice was exported.  Oranges were also grown in the Charleston area. 

In the Southwest, the Spanish had developed a cuisine all their own, as they moved north from Mexico and Latin America.  New varieties of beans, plus the ever-present corn, were cooked with traditional Spanish spices plus something unknown in Spain – hot peppers.  With the continual warm weather were also possible, at least where water was available, and there was little emphasis on preservation.  In the more arid areas, however, variety was as limited as during winter in New England.  Beans, corn and squash were the order of the day. 

As time went on, Americans moved west, and the frontiersmen had an entirely new set of problems to meet.  Trappers and explorers traveled light, and that usually meant living primarily off the land. Many subsisted almost exclusively on meat, killing bear, venison and small game as they went.  One of Pierre LeSeur’s men wrote in his journal of consuming about 10 pounds of buffalo meat each day, plus four bowls of broth.  While buffalo meat apparently took some getting used to, this particular explorer wrote that “it made us quite fat, and none was sick.”

One “recipe” called for bear steak fried in tallow and covered with whisky – meat and drink in one meal!  Pemmican, made from dried meat, fat and berries ground together, was travelling food.  Beef and buffalo cut into strips and dried in the sun was called “jerky,” and kept well, even though it was tough chewing!

Bread was almost unknown, but occasionally a hardtack or ship biscuit could be obtained at a trading post. 

The frontiersmen, including migrating settlers, also found the edible wild plants to be helpful sources of nutrients missing from the dried and salted staples.  These included such things as dandelions, polk sprouts, sassafras, grapes and various nuts and berries.  When they found a place to stay for a season, corn could be planted by simply making a hole with a pointed stick or ax, dropping several kernels into the rich soil – and a crop would grow; plowing simply wasn’t necessary. 

To Be Continued…

 

Feast of Saint John The Baptist June 24th

June 24, 2012

Feast of Saint John The Baptist June 24th

One of the many unique things that we could say in describing St. John the Baptist is that he is truly the "Saint of Summer."  Saint John the  Baptist is one of the most important saints.  Other than the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, John the Baptist is the only saint who is honored on the Church calendar with more than one Feast Day (the other is August 29th, the day of his martyrdom).  As we can see, both these Feast Days occur at the opposite ends of the Summer season.  John the Baptist saw and lived very clearly his purpose in life and carried it out in the midst of challenges.  He had two important qualities of his life that should inspire us each day.These two qualities are humility and a sense of purpose. 

Son of Elizabeth and Zacharias, both already advanced in years and childless, John was born about 6 months before Jesus.  This birth had been announced by the archangel Gabriel to Zacharias, who was struck dumb by the message.  8 days after the birth, having to be circumcised, the child needed a name, and Zacharias succeeded in writing “John,” following indications of the angel; his tongue loosened in the hymn of the Benedictus.  In representations of the birth o the Baptist, Mary is usually also present, assist her cousin Elizabeth, while Zacharias is most often shown in the act of writing.  The name John is from a Hebrew name meaning “Yahweh is gracious.”

This is a great feast of June that is common to countries and has been celebrated since early times, is the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, also known as Midsummer.  In lots of places bonfires are lighted in honor of Saint John.  This day is to celebrate the summer solstice.  In Ireland and in England these bonfires had their origin in the Druidic fires lighted in honor of the god of the sacred wood. Today they are known as the Fires of Saint John although a few pagan customs remain in connection with the celebration.

In France the bonfires are built as close as possible to one of Saint John’s own chapels.  It is important to have a boy named Jean or a girl named Jeanne provides a wreath to throw into the fire.  When vesper services are over the priest kindles the blaze and the evening begins with singing and dancing which will last far into the night.

In Mexico Saint John’s feast is a big affair.  Saint John is the Mexicans dearly beloved saint, especially the saint of the waters.  On this day wells and fountains are decorated bright with ribbons and flowers.  At midnight on the eve, everyone bathes: in the country in lakes or pools or rivers; in large cities the festivities center around the fashionable bath houses where swimming contests and exhibitions of diving skill take place. 

Saint John’s Day in Mexico is definitely also a day of feasting.  Everyone brings food to the bathing places.  Cakes, sweets, chicken tamales, stuffed peppers, pork tacos and empanadas. 

Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2012

Cinco de Mayo

 

Cinco de Mayo (the fifth of May) has become a lively and fun commemoration of Mexican culture.  The history behind Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican war (1861-1867).  Cinco de Mayo is a relatively minor holiday in Mexico.  In the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations.  Cinco de Mayo traditions include parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals in cities and towns across Mexico and the United States. 

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