Sotsil

Shrimps, Scallions, Sun-Dried Tomatoes June 18, 2010

Filed under: Meals — sotsil @ 8:26 pm
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One day, my colleagues and I sat outside the office building with our lunch bags in tow.  As we unwrapped our sandwiches and got ready to eat, someone got the conversation going by asking us what food we could not live without.  One lady immediately said "cheese" and we all agreed.  When my turn came, I blurted "juicy, fat shrimps!"  They looked at me like I was either out to lunch or had just landed from Mars.

 

Let me explain.  When I was four or five years old, the doctor told my mother that I had an allergy to shrimps and that I’d probably never be able to eat them even as an adult.  We were colonized by Spain (before the Americans colonized us) and because they ruled our country for 300 years, they had introduced a lot of things Spanish.  The afternoon siesta was one.  The manana habit was another (there ought to be a tilde on the first "n").  As for food, they introduced us to  paella, arroz a la valenciana, chocolate con churros, chorizo de bilbao, and many, many others.  I loved paella, but could not really bury my nose into that colorful platter of "mariscos" for fear that I’d react violently to the shrimps.  I felt helplessly deprived.

 

But time heals, as they say, and I lucked out.  Over the years, my shrimp allergy slowly vanished into thin air and I was able to savor all the shrimp dishes that I missed in my childhood.  I’d beg my mother for paella, "rebosado" (shrimps coated in flour and deep-fried) and shrimps sauteed in pools of butter and fistfuls of garlic.  Other times, I would ask for skewered giant shrimps barbecued on the grill.  My mother also had a shrimp dish that she would cook slowly throughout the day in a thick tomato type sauce that was in between sweet and spicy.  What was remarkable about this dish was she didn’t remove the skin. By the end of the day, and the cooking was done, the skin was so tender that we ate it with the shrimp.  You didn’t even feel the sharp gills – it was like they melted on your mouth.  My mother’s culinary treats left me with fond memories.  She was one person who bubbled with creativity as soon as she put on that apron.  Funny, but I don’t think she ever cooked with a recipe on her hand.  She’d improvise – the way she improvised George Gershwin’s pieces on the piano.

 

I made this shrimp dish last month.  I never had the time to post it.  The sun-dried tomatoes give this dish that special flair and flavor.

 

shrimps with sun dried tomatoes2

 

Ingredients:

15-20 shrimps

3 tbsp scallions (green onions – sliced as above)

2 tbsp garlic (mashed)

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (in oil), sliced into bits

dash of white wine

canola oil

salt and pepper to taste

 

Saute your garlic in the hot oil.  Add your sun-dried tomatoes.  Lower heat to medium and add your shrimps with their tails on.  When shrimps turn pink, sprinkle your wine.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Decorate with green onions before serving.

 

What would this world be like without shrimps?  I agree, cheese is indispensable.  Some will give pizza, bread or cheese cake a vote of confidence, but I’ll stick to my guns and give shrimps my vote!

 

Spread the Word, Not the Cookie! June 14, 2010

My food presentation and photography skills leave much to be desired.  You’ll probably agree with me after you see this picture:

chocolate chip cookies

Let’s forget about my photography skills in the meantime and focus instead on the cookies.

 

I was never a cookie lover in my younger days and not once did I feel the urge to make them.  I didn’t grow up like most 5 or 6 year olds who say, "mummy, mummy, can I help you make cookies", and then they turn the kitchen into a war zone when they’re done.  No, the kitchen was not a place to hang out.  When my mother would start puttering about with her pots and pans, I’d run away and hide, fearful that she’d ask me to help her. 

 

But people change.  Here I am – 4 decades later – discovering the joys of the kitchen.  And these cookies – I lust after them.  These are the only cookies that stir my five senses and sensuality.  A carnal affection – if we can say that about cookies. 

 

I have made them four times now.  They’re called – rather simply – chocolate oat cookies.  The first three times I made them, they exhibited "cookie spread" disease.  I would start with small mounds of cookie batter on the sheet, and exactly 9 minutes later end up with huge flat pancakes.  No matter though, they were still delicious, soft and chewy, and…un-sugary.  The best cookies I’ve ever had – that’s why I don’t buy the commercial variety anymore.  These are top of the line, folks.  On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, I’d give taste and texture a 12!

 

Back to cookie spread – before I made them last week, I was curious about how to prevent them from spreading.  I did a quick search on the Net and learned that there are at least 4 ways you can avoid cookie spread:

  • use less butter and more shortening
  • use less baking soda
  • add more flour (as much as 2 tbsp more than what the recipe calls for)
  • refrigerate them before baking (some said 15 minutes, some said half an hour and still others suggested an hour)

I like butter in baked foods so the first option was out.  I don’t buy shortening either.  I chose option # 4:  refrigeration.  I scooped individual mounds onto the cookie sheet, covered them with aluminum foil and then put them in the fridge for 45 minutes.  I took them out just as I was starting to pre-heat the oven.  I said to myself, if this will prevent the cookies from spreading, that’s good but…will I lose that delicious taste and texture?

 

Result:  it worked!  The cookies did not spread out – not even by a millimeter. And the best part – they had the same delicious flavor!

 

I’m not going to post the recipe – not because it’s a secret.  But I’m sure you all have a dearly beloved chocolate chip cookie recipe in your stash. Either grandma or the village baker gave it to you, or you clipped it from the back of a product label.  Chocolate chip cookie recipes are a-plenty.  I have no doubt that each baker believes his or hers is the BEST.  Posting a chocolate chip recipe here would be like blogging about something inane, talking about something that everyone has read umpteen times.  This is why even if I say these cookies are the "mostest", the best of the best, and the kind that the devil would try to snatch away from the angels, I know that you would say the same thing about your recipe.  But if you’ve been won over by my sales upmanship and you want it, just ask.  Email me at ques2008@gmail.com

 

These chocolate oat cookies practically melt in your mouth and they don’t clog your throat with sugar.  I think I’ll make extras next time and give them away.  Once they wake up your taste buds, you won’t want the supermarket kind…ever again.

 

First trivia:  Ruth Graves Wakefield was the accidental inventor of chocolate chip cookies.  Ever heard of Toll House cookies? 

Second trivia:  in 2001, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania declared the chocolate chip cookie as its official cookie.

 

Rice & Leftovers: Just "Bung" Them Together! June 11, 2010

Filed under: Meals — sotsil @ 11:15 am
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rice with leftovers1

When I lived in Washington DC, I had a British colleague who often spoiled us with her home cooking.  She would put food on a fancy platter lined with "paper lace" (a.k.a. paper doily) and then go around offering everyone a nibble or two.  There were meals that she’d go all out for and they were excellent; other days she’d come up with "quickie" meals.  I’d ask her, "Ushi, how did you make this?"  Her answer:  "oh I just bung them all together."

 

The word "bung" stayed with me.  Maybe she meant to say "bang" but I distinctly remember the "uh" sound when she’d say "I just BUNG them all together."

 

Here’s a not-very-fancy rice dish that I put together by scavenging for leftovers in my fridge:  green seedless olives, Hungarian hot salami, green bell peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes.  The rice I use is one day old rice.  It would be more difficult to make fried rice when it’s fresh from the pot.  What I do is I take the leftover rice and store it in the fridge overnight.  The next morning I separate them with a fork – hard manual labor you bet – but definitely worth it.  I’m just teasing.  Separating the rice with a fork or masher is a no-brainer.  Takes 2 minutes – depending of course on how much rice you have.

 

After all the rice is separated, I heat a bit of oil in my fryer and throw the rice in.  Make sure your other ingredients are all cut up and ready.  After two minutes of swishing the rice around at medium heat, throw in your olives, peppers, salami and sun-dried tomatoes.  If I had some sesame oil in the cupboard, I’d probably sprinkle a few drops on the dish right before serving.

 

You can make your own rice dish by using cut up sausages, green onions, and yellow/green bell peppers for color.  Kalamata olives are also a good bet.  Next time, I think I’ll crush some peanuts and sprinkle them over the rice before serving, including a handful of bean sprouts to give the dish that zingy crunch.