Revuelto, a spring Migas of sorts

This week David Tannis, food writer for the New York Times reprised a recipe for Spanish Asparagus Revuelto from an article originally published in 2014 titled Asparagus, Spanish style.  The inter-web tells me that revuelto is Spanish for scrambled eggs.  So, Spanish asparagus and scrambled eggs.  Sounded good to me.

In reading through the recipe, it struck me that this revuelto sounds a lot like a variation on Migas, which we wrote about several years ago.  A comparison of that Migas to this Revuelto reveals a similar approach in preparation but with more vegetables, without the chickpeas and with eggs scrambled in rather than cooked separately and presented on top of the other ingredients.

I followed Mr. Tannis’ recipe but roughly cut it in half except I used 4 times the amount of pimentón that he called for and double the amount of chorizo.

The end result was very tasty but the eggs didn’t exactly scramble, rather they formed more of a sauce that coated the other ingredients.  I think the asparagus brought a lot more moisture to the dish than I had anticipated, making for the sauciness.  Yummy none the less.

Asparagus Migas

1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
2 peeled garlic cloves, whole, plus 1 small clove, minced
1 cup day old bread (baguette or ciabatta), torn into 1/2″ pieces
Salt and pepper
2 oz. Spanish chorizo, cut into matchstick pieces
3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1″ – 2″ pieces
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, roughly chopped

Saute the whole garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, remove and discard.

Saute the bread in the oil until lightly browned and crispy.  Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt, some pepper and 1/2 tsp of pimentón.  Remove from the saute pan and allow to cool.

Saute the chorizo a minute or two to release some of its oil, add the asparagus and saute for several minutes until the asparagus is tender but still firm.  Add the green onions and saute an additional minute.

Beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp of pimentón and a pinch of salt and some pepper to taste.  Add the eggs to the asparagus mix and cook, stirring until the eggs are just soften and creamy.

Divide the revuelto onto two plates, top with parsley and croutons.  Serve immediately.

Pharma-Scrabble

I’m sure you’ve noticed the proliferation of advertising for prescription drugs on the TV in recent years. Gone are the days when the name of a drug might give you some understanding of what it does. The names are often a meaningless and atypical grouping of letters (with frequent use of “bohemian” letters like J, V, X, Y & Z) that are intended to make the drug name stand out but instead makes them all start sounding the same.

Over the past several weeks I’ve been keeping track of the drugs (mostly prescription but a few over-the-counter) advertised on broadcast TV during prime time. I’ve come up with 31 different drugs although I’m sure I’ve missed some.

In looking over the names it occurred to me that many of them would be great Scrabble or Words-with-Friends words (if proper names were allowed) so I tallied the scores each would bring, not counting any double/triple letter/word bonuses.  Any thing above 15 is a respectable score but some drug companies are just not trying very hard to win the game and use too many low scoring vowels and consonants in too short names.  A few load the deck, using hardly any vowels and extra “bohemian” consonants.

Of course, their scoring potential aside, I doubt you could tell me what more than a handful of these drugs are for.

The addition of the X saves the day with a score of 19

Score = 8    Too short, too many low scoring vowels

Score = 13

Score = 20

Score = 17

Score = 16

Score = 18

Score = 11

Score = 13

Score = 15

Score = 18

Score = 16

Score = 15

Score = 16

Score = 11

Score = 17

Score = 21

Score = 15

Score = 12

Score = 12

Score = 12

Score = 14

Score = 14

Score = 14

Score = 10

Score = 21

Score = 14

The winner at 39 points. Too bad there aren’t two Xs in Scrabble

Score = 24  Good job of packing the high scoring letters into a short name

Score = 17

Score = 20

Clash of traditions: Birds or Beans?

cardinalWe have two traditions that clash with each other on New Year’s Day.

We’re birders and we keep a life list (all the birds we have ever seen in our lifetime) and a year list of all the birds we have seen in a calendar year. Obviously, the life list is on-going and cumulative. And obviously, the year list re-sets each year on January 1. It’s exciting to get up on New Year’s Day and see what birds are visiting our feeders. Of course, most are the same birds that were here yesterday but today it’s as if we haven’t seen them before. Every bird has the chance to be the first bird of the year, though, not all are contenders. Cardinals get up early and often are at the feeders before first light. They’re followed by the juncos, mourning doves and sparrows. Later in the morning, well out of contention for “first” honors come the various woodpeckers, finches, nuthatches and chickadees. We welcome them all but honor the first arrivals by naming each year the “Year of the ______” in our journals.

After breakfast we bundle up and head out for some field birding; usually along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Sheboygan, north to Manitowoc, east to the mouth of the Fox River in Green Bay with field and forests along the way. Depending on the year, the weather and our aging eyes we may total 20-30 species for the day – not a championship tally but a respectable way to start off the birding year.

The Clash!

Beans and Ham Shank simmering

Our other tradition is to eat Red Beans and Rice, a traditional southern dish, to herald the New Year and which you can read more about here. The clash? Beans and Rice take a long time to cook – 3 to 4 hours. It’s hard to stay around the house cooking beans and rice when birds beckon outside.

The solution? Beans and Rice are even better the next day, so we cook up a batch of Beans and Rice on New Year’s Eve day and when we get back from birding on New Year’s Day all we have to do is reheat the beans and cook some fresh rice and enjoy.

We’ll let you know how things turned out.

I am a bitter(s) man: Preamble

I am bitter over the loss of Bitter Lemon.

bittersYears ago I used to be able to buy Schweppes Bitter Lemon.  It was sold in most stores alongside the mixers like Tonic Water or Club Soda, but a lot of people drank it straight as a less sweet, decidedly bitter adult lemonade.   For some obscure reason Schweppes no longer makes or distributes their Bitter Lemon in the U.S.  Apparently it is available in the U.K. and some other markets but not here except as an imported item.

I bemoan the loss of Schweppes Bitter Lemon.  It was a refreshing, pleasantly tart (but not diet) summer beverage.

At some point it occurred to me that I might be able to “hack” an ersatz bitter lemon.  Most carbonated drinks are mostly carbonated water – seltzer or club soda.  The basis for the Schweppes Bitter Lemon is, in fact, tonic water which contains quinine where the bitter component comes from.  The lemon flavor comes from lemon, of course, which contributes tartness.  I like the bitter edge of Bitter Lemon and would welcome a little more (like I said, I’m a bitter man)  So why not add some real bitters, like Angostura – that’s its announced role.  So the juice of a fresh lemon, a half-dozen good shakes of bitters, some ice and top it up with tonic water (yes, Schweppes).  No chance of displacing the original but a pretty easy and quite refreshing hack for a bitter man

bitters_orangNote:  After making this the first time I was a bit disappointed with the color the bitters gave the drink.  But then I remembered that I had once bought a bottle of Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters.  It’s in the citrus family and all but colorless so in subsequent iterations I used Orange Bitters instead.

 

 

 

Sometimes…3: It’s more than a cookbook

As I’ve noted before, we volunteer at our local library sorting books for the semi-annual Friends of the Library book sale. These are books that have been withdrawn from the library collection for various reasons or donated books that citizens have given to our Friends group for our book sale. As we sort the books into one of 46 different categories we occasionally come across something of note; something amusing, maybe shocking or possibly just puzzling.

This is the third in a series of occasional posts about those finds.

recipe.coverSometimes things are more than what they seem.

On its face, this is a composition book popularly used in schools around the country during the first half of the twentieth century.  We found this one interesting because it’s not a school child’s work book but a housewife’s recipe book that also served as a scrapbook and address book.

recipe.INcover

Inside front cover

It first caught my eye because one of the addresses inside bears a surname that we know from my wife’s side of the the family (but no apparent connection to her actual family).  It also held things that spoke to the times.  Meat and potatoes must have ruled the dinner table but sweets ruled the recipe book.  Of 87 hand-written recipes, 67 are for some sort of sweet thing.  Times must have been tough – one recipe is for milk-less, egg-less, butter-less cake.

milklesscake

Milk-less, egg-less and butter-less. Mmmmm-good.

Other recipes of note are one for a poultice made of onions and rye flour to be used for a chest cold, and one for Bug killer which starts with carbolic acid (crude) (black).

BugKiller

Cold remedy, bug killer and birthday notes.

Occasionally there are recipes or newspaper clippings pinned onto the pages with straight pins.

GrayHair

Other items include a remedy for high blood pressure, garden advice and a note of Minie’s birthday.

You might also like Sometimes… Demonic Control or Sometimes …2: South Beach Diet

Rule of thumb: Planting Potatoes

dandelions blooming

Rules of thumb are common guides to navigating everyday life without having to refer to some authority. Wickipedia says the term is thought to originate with carpenters who used the length of the tip of their thumb (approximately 1 inch) as a handy – get it, handy – unit of measure rather than resorting to a ruler. In general, rules of thumb are principles with broad application not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. They are easily learned and easily applied for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.

Farmers have many rules of thumb.  One that I remember and invoked today was “Plant you potatoes when dandelions bloom in an open field”.  The logic is that the weather (and soil) is warm enough for the seed potatoes to flourish.  Why in an “open field”?  Because the soil near a foundation is warmer than the soil in a field and dandelions will bloom near a foundation days or weeks earlier than those in a open field where the soil will still be too cool.

These wizened things will sprout in several weeks and yield a nice small but nice crop of Russian Banana potatoes.

These wizened things will sprout in several weeks and yield a small but nice crop of Russian Banana fingerling-type potatoes.

Picadillo Alfredo

Warning! This is an experiment.

The NY Times recently published a recipe by Sam Sifton for Picadillo which he calls the ultimate Cuban comfort food.  Picadillo is a sort of sloppy-Joe kind of stew made from ground meat (picadillo means mince), tomatoes, raisins, olives and liberally seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and other warm spices.  To my taste, it sounds like a Persian inflected dish (who often combine meat, fruit and spices) via Spain (remember, that Arabs held sway in the Iberian peninsula for nearly 700 years).  Mr. Sifton suggests serving it with rice.  OK, but I couldn’t quite get my head around picadillo as a stew.

Recently Jeanne made spinach enchiladas which were quite tasty.  Her enchiladas prompted me to think of picadillo as a stand in for the filling of an enchilada-like presentation.  Of course, I couldn’t follow the typical enchilada routine by covering the filled tortillas with a tomato and chili sauce as the picadillo has plenty of tomatoes in it already.  So, why not invert the order of things?  Enchiladas often have cheese in the filling so why not put the cheese on the outside.  But I didn’t want to just bury the tortillas in shredded cheese.  How about something creamier?  I’ve got it – Alfredo sauce!  I know, it’s not Cuban.  It’s not even Latino.  But it creamy cheesy good.  And you can buy it in a jar, ready to go.

For the picadillo I followed the NY Times recipe to a “T”, just cutting it in half to accommodate our more limited table (and so as to not have too much left over in case my experiment was a bust).

Ingredients.1

Ingredients (see NY Times recipe for complete list)

Minced garlic, diced Chorizo and chopped onion

Minced garlic, diced chorizo and chopped onion

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic and seasonings saute away

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic, raisins, olives and seasonings saute away

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Sprinkle a light layer of grated cheese (I used a Mexican blend but cheddar would be fine).  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350˚ F. for about 30 minutes or untll the Alfredo sauce is bubbly and lightly browned.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not much to look at but pretty yummy.  I think the picadillo mixture could serve other purposes – maybe an Cuban sloppy-joe?

Watermelon what?

Every once in a while some food idea crosses my mind that I file for future reference but quickly forget about. Later something will poke my memory and that idea will resurface.watermelon-1

We were in the grocery the other day and the store had a special on mini-watermelons. I know, what am I doing looking at watermelons in the middle of winter. I know they come from somewhere in Central America and their carbon footprint is heavy, but they looked pretty good and the price was good so I bought one …. so much for eating local.

Anyway, I saw those watermelons and into my head pops the idea of watermelon steak. Huh?  Somewhere I had heard of such a thing and I thought it would be worth trying. If it didn’t pan out I figured at the very least we could add some to a salad or eat it fresh for dessert.

But, when I got home that idea of watermelon steak kept floating around in my head but I didn’t really know where to start so I did an internet search and, lo and behold, there are lots of sites that feature watermelon steak. Most referenced a restaurant near Boston called 51 Lincoln that seemed to have originated or, at least, featured a pan-seared watermelon steak as an appetizer or small plate.

If you have read our blog before, you know I’m always up for something different.  This watermelon steak, as imagined by 51 Lincoln and repeated by many other blogs, certainly was a strange sounding dish and one I wanted to try.

I spent some time scanning the many variations. Some recipes called for marinating the trimmed blocks of watermelon in cream sherry overnight or at least for several hours.  Some cooked the “steaks” on a grill or directly in a saute pan.  But in many the “steaks” were roasted in the oven for 2-1/2 (yes, two and a half) hours at 350˚ F.  I settled on a shorter marinade, 2 hours in the oven and a finishing sear in the saute pan.  Here’s what it all looked like.

Watermelon "steaks" marinating in sherry

Watermelon “steaks” marinating in sherry for 3 hours

Watermelon "steaks" seasoned with salt and pepper and a pat of butter and ready for the oven

Watermelon “steaks” seasoned with salt and pepper and a pat of butter and ready for the oven

"Steaks" after 2 hours at 350˚. Note that the color is still quite bright, even redder than the raw watermelon

“Steaks” after 2 hours at 350˚. Note that the color is still quite bright, even redder than the raw watermelon but without any sear

"Steaks" searing briefly in a skillet

“Steaks” searing briefly in a skillet

Watermelon steak appetiser

Watermelon “steak” served with an avocado, blood orange, clementine and tomato salad with feta cheese

Now, most of you would probably think (I certainly did) that after that amount of time in the oven the watermelon would be cooked to a mush.  But not so.  Remarkably the melon held up quite well.  It shrinks a bit but the color remains bright and the texture is transformed.  The melon was no longer grainy the way fresh watermelon is.  Rather it takes on a decidedly firmer texture not unlike the linear grain of fresh beef or raw tuna.

A strange dish but one worth trying, if for no other reason than to say you did.