Tag Archives: recipes

Eclectic Houston – Extremadura, Spain

Hola! and welcome to the Susitna Cafe’!  We’re discussing “Eclectic Houston”, our monthly chronicle about the unique and international aspects of Houston, TX USA.

Our Susitna Cafe’ neighbors in Houston come from all around the world… France, Hong Kong, Cuba, Spain, India, Mexico, Armenia, and Texas A&M (Ha-Ha!).  Isn’t that wonderful?  Whenever our neighbors warmly welcome us into their home, we learn about the native food and cultural traditions that they brought with them to Houston.  We are sooo fortunate!

Recently, our neighbor Rita and Fernando invited us to a party at their lovely home to celebrate Rita’s birthday.  Oooohhhh, they are such nice people and they always have a wonderful international smorgasbord.  You know, I really like international smorgasbords and birthday parties!

Fernando’s family originates from the Extremadura Region of Spain, an area bordering Portugal in Europe.  Rita’s mother’s family is from Ecuador.  So, we were delighted to participate in their eclectic Spanish smorgasbord and birthday celebration.

Happy Birthday Rita!

Oh look, there's Fernando (to the right)!

Extremadura, by the way, means “to go to extremes”.  This is a Spanish region that is blistering hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  The Extremadura landscape consists of lush forests, sweeping plains and ancient hilltop villages.  It is an area off the beaten tourist path and a region of Spain where the villages seem frozen in time.

Photo Courtesy of Spanish-Living.Com

Extremadura is well known for its outstanding gastronomy.  Highly prized Iberian pork, for example, originates from Extremadura where the free range pigs feast on acorns which give their meat a unique and highly prized flavor.

Extremadura’s delicious food is based on seasonal availability.  It is simple and down to earth thus reflecting its peasant origins.  Rita and Fernando’s feast included an Extremadura gazpacho amongst other delightful simple and down to earth Spanish dishes…

various canapes and vegetables…Albondigas Al Zafaron (pork and veal meatballs with saffron)…Potatas Alinadas (Andalusian potato salad), and even a Lithuanian beet soup (borcht)…There was a beautiful Empanada Gallega (Galician cod pie) with a patisserie enscription of Rita’s initials too!  Oh my, someone pinch me now! :o

In addition to the delightful  Spanish smorgasbord, we enjoyed some refreshing sangrias poured by Joseph, Rita and Fernando’s son…

Of course, all the guests had a wonderful time eating fresh seasonal food and sipping sangria…

Oh look, and there's Rita's sister (to the right)!

Handsome Bogart

Oh, and let’s not forget about dessert…Maria, Rita and Fernando’s daughter, made some delightful carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting…

Lucky for all of us, Rita and Fernando have generously shared their family recipe for Xela’s Extremadura Gazpacho with the Susitna Cafe’!  This recipe originated with Fernando’s mother, Xela, and it is absolutely wonderful…it’s refreshing and delicious!  Thank you Rita, Fernando and Xela from your Susitna Cafe’ friends!

Xela’s Extremadura Gazpacho

6-8 Servings


Ingredients

4 pounds fresh ripened tomatoes, skins removed and cut into chunks

1 cucumber, cut into chunks

2 red or orange bell peppers, cut into chunks

4-5 garlic cloves, peeled

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

3-4 Tablespoons sherry vinegar

2-3 Tablespoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Garnishes

1 bell pepper (any color), diced

2 tomatoes, skins removed and chopped

1/2 medium onion, diced (I use red onion)

1/2 cucumber, diced

2 boiled eggs, chopped

croutons, 1/3 stale baguette cut into small cubes, sprinkled with olive oil and salt and baked until golden on cookie sheet

To begin, prepare your vegetables and tomatoes.  Dip the tomatoes into a boiling pot of water for a few minutes.  Allow to cool to touch, then peel and remove the skins.

Next, in a food processor or blender, add a combination of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and garlic with a portion of the olive oil.

Process/blend the vegetables and olive oil until you have a speckled puree.

Pour the speckled puree into a large bowl or non-aluminum pot.  Continue to process/blend the vegetables and olive oil in batches pouring into the large bowl or pot when done.  Add the sherry vinegar, cumin and salt to the bowl or pot and stir well to incorporate the ingredients and flavors.

Refrigerate for several hours or overnight if possible to meld all the flavors.  Serve with a platter of garnishes so that your family and guests  can add their own to taste.

Cook’s Notes:  I reduce the amount of extra virgin olive oil when I make this recipe simply because I prefer a little less oil.  Do consider using a colorful confetti mixture of the chopped bell peppers as a nice touch to the garnish platter.  If, by chance, your gazpacho is too thick just add some cold water or ice until you have a desired consistency.

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Filed under August 2010

Eclectic Houston – “Little India”

Houston, TX USA…this city never ceases to amaze me…it’s sooo international…it’s sooo eclectic…it’s sooo tasty!

The Mahatma Ghandi District

Hi!  Welcome to the Susitna Cafe’!  We’re sooo glad you’ve stopped by for a visit.  Today we’re talking about one of Houston’s many ethnic enclaves, the “Mahatma Ghandi District”.  The ” Ghandi District” or “Little India” comprises the area around Hillcroft Avenue, Harwin Drive, Fondren Road and Westpark Drive.

Map of Mahatma Ghandi District, Houston, TX

Little India is identified streetside in Houston by temple-shaped street signs.

Photo Courtesty of Wikipedia.Org

There are more than 76,000 people of Indian descent who live in the Houston area.  Therefore, residents and visitors alike have the opportunity to enjoy the diversity offered amongst the Houston Indian community.  One of these opportunities is the ethnic enclave of Little India.

So, the Susitna Cafe’ hit the road and embraced what Little India has to offer, and we did so on a very hot India-like day in July.  In fact, our car thermometer read 109 degrees Fahrenheit!  Lucky for us, we did so amongst friends!

We ventured forth with approximately 30 adventurous members of the Houston Chowhounds group on “A Big Tour of Little India” led by Shubhra Ramineni, cookbook author of “Entice with Spice”.

Our first stop was Shri Balaji Bhavan, a family run restaurant specializing in southern Indian vegetarian food.  As soon as we entered the restaurant, I knew it had to be good!

The exotic aromas in the restaurant filled the air with all kinds of wonderful tasty possibilities…and a peek into the kitchen window revealed some very busy ladies cooking…

and smiling…

Of course, happy cooks means happy food and happy food means tasty lunch!  Ohhhh, the decision on what to order was very difficult…dosas?  samosas?  curry?  Oh my!

Thank goodness that Grace, our friend and official taste tester at the Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles, was along and ready to order–afterall Grace “was hungry!”  So, order we did!

Soon enough, along came an assortment of dosas, green coconut chutney and pigeon pea soup…

The dosas were sooo beautiful…i just had to take a peek inside…

The food all smelled sooo delicious.  So, we all had to Chow!

All the tasty bits were Chow Hounded in an instant…

Shri Balaji Bhavan on Urbanspoon

After laughing, talking, and eating….together, Shubhra led us to our next stop, Laxmi Sarees…

This was a place where we could all try on some beautiful Indian clothing…

So we did and, as you know, sometimes the clothing fits…

While at other times, it doesn’t…

Well, since the shoes didn’t fit, we didn’t wear them (ha-ha!), so Shubhra led us to our next stop, India Grocers…

Oooh,  i really like grocery stores!  Shubhra gave us a tour of the store and we learned all about Indian food and various tasty ingredients.  We even stocked-up on some yummy spices…

and veggies…

Once loaded with all of our goodies, Shubhra led us to our final stop, Bombay Sweets…

another delicious stop where we enjoyed an assortment of Indian pastries…

and some relaxation…

Bombay Sweets & Pure Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

We all had such a nice time!  We hope you’ll discover and enjoy a little of India too!  Or, at least join us at the Cafe’ for some tasty bits…

Okra with Onions

(adapted from Shubhra’s recipe in the India Herald article “Entice with Spice”)

Ingredients

1 pound fresh okra, cut into 1/4″ pieces and prepared

2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil*

lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

1 small onion, sliced thick*

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

cilantro, chopped for garnish

* Our preference at the Susitna Cafe’ is to use olive oil (vs. vegetable oil) and red onion in this recipe.  In addition, we’ve added some chopped cilantro for garnish and flavour.  However, it’s important to use the ingredients that you enjoy eating yourself!  Don’t forget to experiment some too!

Heat the oil in a non-stick saute’ pan til warm.  Add the okra and lemon juice and saute’ and stir for approximately 5 minutes.  Add the onion and spices to your pan and saute’ until the onions are transparent and the okra is tender (approximately 15 minutes).  Enjoy!

Cooks Notes:  Shubhra has some excellent tips on how to prepare Okra.  Check them out at:  \”Entice with Spice\”.  In addition, note that we added a little extra lemon juice to the okra and onions at the Cafe’–delicious!

Traveler’s Note:  Don’t forget to tour Little India when you’re in Houston.  Be sure to contact us at the Cafe’ if you find something tasty to share.  You may leave a comment on this post or email us at SusitnaCafe@gmail.com.

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Filed under July 2010

Cafe’ Menu Gallery – Spring

Guess what Susitna Cafe’ friends!  Did I tell you?  We have a new Susitna Cafe’ menu.  The menu is a collection of recipe favorites inspired by travel (of course) and gardening!

Just click on the “Cafe’ Menu Gallery” tab and take a peak for yourself!  There’s an aromatic lamb and artichoke tangine…some spring picnic foods including apple pie and a lemony herb potato salad…an al fresco bean salad…and a very delicious Thai curry.  Go ahead and browse the menu for now, and I’ll be back to take your order :o.

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Filed under May 2010

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roules!

It’s so good to see you again here at the Susitna Cafe’!  We’ve been on the road along the Gulf Coast, USA…oh my, and good times have been rolling at Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil in New Orleans, LA…

Crawfish boils are entrenched in Louisiana family and cultural tradition.  The gastronomic techniques are typically passed from generation to generation.  According to Cajun (a person of French Canadian descent) legend, crawfish are descendents of the Maine lobster.  However, unlike lobster, crawfish are a freshwater shellfish.  A crawfish boil includes crawfish, sausage and an assortment of vegetables boiled and soaked in a delightfully spicy brew.

Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil has been in their family for about 19 years.  Their family and friends look forward to the event every year.  Only once was “The Boil” canceled, and it required the rath of Hurricane Katrina to prevent this lively event from happening in 2006.  But even then, the spirit of Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil was alive…despite Katrina, the annual t-shirts were still designed and distributed by Mickey’s family.

This year attendees traveled to “The Boil” from around Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Florida and North Carolina to join the fun.  Lucky for us, the Susitna Cafe’ attended too!

Hey, how about if I introduce you to Mickey and Cookie?  Then we can learn about the gastronomic and other fun details of “The Boil”!

Here’s Mickey busy as a bee.  She’s organizing the troops and getting ready for the big day.

Mickey is retired from the Navy and is a New Orleans street artist.  Mickey served as the Crawfish Boil cook extraordinaire for the first 5 years.  Mickey says “Hi to Y’all!” at the Cafe’.

Oh look!  There’s Cookie getting ready for the Crawfish Boil.  Looks like she’s cleaning up and getting ready for the tents and chairs to be delivered…

She sure is a nice lady…Cookie is a retired bank VP who loves to spend time with her family…Cookie says “Hi to Y’all!” too.

Well, over the years, attendance at Mickey and Cookie’s Annual Crawfish Boil has grown to about 100.  So, now Huey does the cooking with a little help from some of his friends.

Huey is a fun lovin’ New Orleans undertaker with a great sense of humor.  He’s also an amazing Crawfish Boil cook!  Huey tends to say things like “Coooh, luk at da size o dat crawfish!”  (i.e. an expression of astonishment).  Or, he says things like “Please go get de sack o crawfish, sha.” (i.e. dear (French “cher”)).

So my Susitna Cafe’ friends, how does this big party come together?  Well, the food preparations start on the eve of “The Boil”…

First, all the veggies (yellow onions, carrots, celery, red potatoes and garlic) are prepared.

The ends of the garlic and onion are removed.  The carrots and celery are cut into 3-4″ chunks.  Afterwards, the prepared veggies are evenly distributed into 10 plastic grocery bags.  The veggie bags are stored overnight in the refrigerator awaiting the big day…

Next, the yummy artichokes (my personal favorite in the boil) and mushrooms are prepared…

Since the artichokes and mushrooms tend to separate in the boil, they are placed into nylon ladies knee highs like so…

The artichokes and mushrooms are stored overnight, with the other prepared veggies, in the refrigerator.

Next, folks take a break and enjoy refreshments…

Uh-oh…looks like there are no refreshments until tomorrow…

So, back to work…next, the butter is placed in styrofoam containers.   They’re stored in the refrigerator overnight and will be placed on the tables during “The Boil”.

Alas!  The big day arrives so there’s a bustle of activity starting early in the morning…supplies get pulled out of the attic…

The tables get set-up and dressed in ‘Who Dat’ colors (i.e. New Orleans Saints team colors), and condiments, paper towels, bibs, plates and silverware are distributed on the ‘Who Dat’ tables…

Cooking tents and gear get set-up…

Mickey prepares her special seafood dipping sauce with ketchup, horseradish, and fresh squeezed lemon juice…

The crawfish are delivered (very important that this get’s done :O)

The outdoor high-pressure propane cookers for the 60-80 gallon stainless steel boiling pots are fired-up…

The crawfish are purged and washed in water…

All the Bebs (i.e. sweetheart or darlings) provide assistance (very important)…

The stainless steel pots are filled with water and brought to a rolling boil.  Meanwhile, lemons are prepared by rolling and slicing in half.  The lemon juice is squeezed into the water along with the halved lemon sections.  The prepared veggies from the plastic grocery bags are added along with the veggies wrapped in ladies knee highs.  Salt, 2 dry bags of crawfish boil spices and 1.5 cups of liquid crawfish boil are added to0.  All the ingredients are cooked for about 10 minutes or til the potatoes are tender…

Next, the crawfish are added to the pot and the top is dusted with cayenne powder…

After the water comes to a rolling boil again, the boil cooks for about 5 minutes.   Periodically the boil is stirred with a big crawfish paddle.  The sausage, cut in 1-2 inch chunks, are added to the boil and all the tasty bits steep in the spicy brew for about 20-30 minutes…

Around noonish, the guests begin to arrive…

They hug and greet each other…

Beverages are served…

Some folks at “The Boil” label their cups so they don’t get confused with someone else’s beverage.  You know, sort of like using wine charms for wine glasses.  However, in this case, the cups are labeled like “Mr. Wonderful” or whatever else comes to mind…

People smile…

People chat…

More beverages are served…

While some folks buy raffle tickets to participate in a drawing for fun prizes…

Raffle tickets are purchased from the “Hula Girls”, of course…

Or, some folks “people watch”…

Afterall, there’s almost always something interesting to see…

After awhile, some folks say things like “I got an ahnvee  for some crawfish!” (i.e. a longing or hunger (French “envie”))…

So, the crawfish and veggies are poured into the pirogue (i.e. boat) for serving…

Folks serve themselves…

Then…they dive-in!

And everyone enjoys!

People get full…

And the pirogue gets empty…

Oh…did I tell you that people bring desserts?

Like homemade red velvet cake?

Homemade strawberry shortcake…

And Cannolis (a personal favorite :o)!!!

And Susitna Cafe’ pies…

After dessert, people wait in anticipation for the raffle drawing…

Some feel particularly lucky…

So, Mickey calls the lucky ticket numbers while Cookie helps with the prizes…

And people win!

The luckiest win Hawaiian shirts…

After the raffle, games begin…

People smile…

And they’re happy!

So my Susitna Cafe’ friends…Mickey and Cookie say “Who Dat Say Dey Got A Better Boil!”

Mickey and Cookies’ Laissez Les Bon Temps Roules! Crawfish Boil

Protein

320 pounds fresh, live crawfish

10 pounds Conecuh smoked sausage

Veggies

20 pounds #2 red potatoes

12 pounds yellow onions

4 large bags carrots

4 large bags garlic

4 packages celery

4 large cartons button mushrooms

12 artichokes

Flavoring

16 boxes dry crawfish boil seasonings (Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp and Crab Boil is good)

2 gallons concentrated liquid crawfish boil (Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil is good)

Cayenne Pepper

Salt

Other

3 packages ladies knee highs (2 pairs in each pack)

Traveler’s Notes:  Be sure to say hello to Mickey and visit her outdoor studio on Jackson Square in New Orleans, LA

Cooks Notes:  Many of the ingredients in the Crawfish Boil are at your discretion.  Add more garlic to intensify the garlicky flavor…add more artichokes if you like them…be sure to use #2 size red potatoes to be sure they conveniently cook for the same amount of time as your other veggies.  Oh, about the garlic…be sure to squeeze the cloves and spread on saltines…

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Filed under April 2010

The Dim-Sum of the Matter…

你好 (nee-how) my Susitna Cafe’ friends!  We’re talking about travel here at the Cafe’.  I know, this is no surprise to you!

Do you like to travel?  I like to travel because I like to learn.  I like to learn what a place is really like.  You know, really get into “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.

Sometimes getting to “the Dim-Sum of the matter” during a short visit can be challenging, particularly when jet-lag is involved.  Last year, we traveled to Hong Kong.  We had anticipated some jet lag.  However, I experienced serious jet lag.

Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I was absolutely sure that my body was  located in Hong Kong.  However, my brain was located elsewhere.  Timbuktu perhaps?  No telling really…

Our planned Day 1 itinerary didn’t challenge our jet lagged minds too much.  We had planned a ride on the Victoria Peak Tram, the world’s oldest funicular railway.  All of our travel guidebooks had recommended it as a “must-do” activity.

After reaching Victoria Peak, we planned to walk amidst the nature trails and enjoy the views of Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong below.  And so, that’s what we did.

Upon arrival at the Peak, we refreshed ourselves with some strong Pacific Coffee at the Peak restaurant.  And, zoom-zoom!  Off we went to enjoy our walk and fabulous vistas!

The view of  Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong below was sooo impressive…Hong Kong appeared like a modern and westernized city!

Gee, it even looked like a big city in North America (you know, that place where my brain was located…or, was that Timbuktu?).

The Peak nature trails were lovely.  Much of the vegetation was semi-tropical and familiar to us.  Gee, it sort of looked like the same vegetation found in Houston, TX…

“R” really liked the trees along the Peak trails.  According to the horticultural signage in the Park, the trees were identified as rubber trees.  Hmm…we hadn’t seen any rubber trees like that in Houston, TX…

So we walked and wandered amongst alot of rubber trees.  Although still feeling  jet-lagged, I experienced a brief moment of clarity during our walk.  I thought “Hmm…if you can find something different, like a rubber tree, amongst so much familiarity, then our distant view of Hong Kong might be like a wonton wrapper”.

I’m sure that you understand what happens to a person when you walk around and see alot of rubber trees pondering these sort of thoughts my Susitna Cafe’ friends.  As you can imagine, we had reached a decision point during our first day in Hong Kong amongst all those rubber trees.  We decided that this is “where the rubber meets the road“!  Tee-hee :o

So, at that point on our first day in Hong Kong, we decided to break-away from our planned itinerary and dive-in to “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.  There was no time to lose, so we headed down into the heart of the city to see what was inside the Hong Kong wonton wrapper…

Upon arrival at street level, Hong Kong  appeared very modern and westernized just like our view from atop Victoria Peak.  I think we were still on the edge of the wonton wrapper…

We saw big and western style malls full of fashionable shops…

You know, a funny thing happens when you travel and explore…the more you explore, the more you discover what’s behind the wrapper (wonton wrapper that is…).  Here’s a peak inside the Hong Kong dumpling…an Asian junket amongst a modern and westernized backdrop wrapper…

After seeing the Asian junket on Victoria Harbour, we were excited to really get to “the Dim-Sum of the matter”.  So we explored further.  All of a sudden, we noted that the signage in our surroundings began to change.  Instead of modern and westernized signs, we saw neon multi-lingual signage printed with both western and Chinese characters…

As we delved into the dumpling even more, the street signs changed again.  Now there were more Asian influences…

Soon, our exploration led us to the heart of the dumpling…an evening Ladies Market where we experienced all kinds of tasty ingredients…

This is a vibrant place where locals and visitors enjoy the tasty dumplings…

A place where the friendly ingredients meld so nicely together…

Well my Susitna Cafe’ friends, as you can see, we had a wonderful first day in Hong Kong!  Sigh…there’s just nothing like getting to “the Dim-Sum of the matter” when you’re traveling!

Susitna Cafe’ Shrimp Dumplings

Ohhh…I love yummy dumplings, don’t you?  Although you can use store bought wonton wrappers for these dumplings, homemade tastes so much better!  Ohhh…they’re even better when we incorporate tasty herbs too!

Herb Wonton Wrapper Ingredients

2 cups organic unbleached flour, plus extra for pastry board

1/2 teaspoon gourmet salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup cilantro & chives, chopped fine

cornstarch

Combine flour and salt on your pastry board or countertop.  Make a well in the center of your flour and salt mixture.  Next, add egg and water into a mixing bowl.  Whisk until mixed.  Pour the egg and water mixture into your flour well.

Mix and knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball.  If the dough sticks to your pastry board, then add a little extra flour to the surface.

Now add the chopped herbs to your dough and knead to distribute herbs evenly throughout the dough.

Place the dough ball into a mixing bowl.  Set aside and cover with a damp cloth and let sit while we make the shrimp dumpling filling.

Shrimp Dumpling Filling Ingredients

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped and dried on papertowel

1 cup chinese cabbage, chopped fine plus some extra whole leaves to line your steamer basket

3 Tablespoons carrot, minced

2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped fine

2 Tablespoons chives, minced

2 Tablespoons green onion, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

3 Tablespoons oyster sauce (we use Lee Kum Kee brand with No MSG Added at the Cafe’)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Toss all ingredients together into a mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.

Now let’s work with our herby wonton dough again.  Begin by dusting your pastry board and rolling pin with corn starch.

Next, cut your dough into quarters.  Roll-out one of your dough quarters until approximately paper thin.  Cut the dough with a biscuit cutter.  If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you may use a 3-4 inch diameter drinking glass edge dusted with corn starch too.

Now let’s make dumplings!  Place approximately 1 teaspoon of your shrimp mixture in the center of your cut-out dumpling wrapper.

Wet the edges of the wrapper, fold-over into a half-moon shape and seal.  You may pinch the edges for a decorative effect.

Or, at the Susitna Cafe’, we often pinch up the wrapper to form a little happy package.

Then we tie our dumpling package with a little chive bow…sigh

Once you have made all of your dumpling packages, pour about 3/4 cup of water into a dutch oven and place a steamer basket inside.  Heat the dutch oven over medium heat.  When you observe steam arising, place chinese cabbage leaves on the bottom of the steamer basket.  Place enough leaves to cover the bottom of the basket.  Now place your dumpling packages in the basket and be sure that they are not touching.

Place a cover on your dutch oven and steam for about 10 minutes or until your dumplings are semi-transparent.

While the dumplings are steaming, you can continue working your 1/4 pieces of wonton dough, filling them and forming the dumplings into the shape of your choice.  If the water is low in your dutch oven, add additional water and wait until the water steams prior to adding additional dumplings in the steamer basket.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.  You can make a quick dipping sauce with 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 ounce rice wine vinegar, 1 ounce cooking sake, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon chili paste, 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger and 1/2 Tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine.

It’s now time to get to get to “The Dim-Sum of the Matter…”



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Filed under March 2010

Spring Forward

Top of the mornin’ to you my Susitna Cafe’ friends!  We’re just chatting and enjoying our morning coffee here today.  As usual, I’m a wee bit late getting my first cup.

Seems like our routines in the wee hours of the mornin’ are about the same at our house in Houston, TX.  Here’s an example of our wake-up routine:

1.  Get nudged by cold, wet nose*

2.  Arise out of bed

3.  Take red-head outside

4.  Bring red-head inside

5.  Grind coffee beans

6.  While grinding, note that red-head has very sad Irish-looking eyes…

7.  Stop grinding coffee beans

8.  Feed red-head

9.  Grind coffee beans

10.  While grinding, note red-head looking at me followed by a glance at the front door…

11.  Grind coffee beans

12.  Note red-head pointing at front door with cold, wet nose as if he is pointing to something that I surely must agree is of utmost importance…

*Note:  This is not my red-headed husband’s nose

After the top of the mornin’ routine is done and we have alot of ground coffee beans (but, with no coffee to drink…sigh…), my red-headed Golden Retriever, Gus, takes “R” and me on a morning walk at a nearby park.

As we walk, Gus communicates to me as he usually does in his own very happy canine way.  This morning, however, he stopped during the walk to “speak to me” for a moment.  He not only stopped, but he also flopped onto the grass and pointed his cold, wet snoz downward.

I guess I wasn’t quite “listening”, so he made an effort to do so again.  He stopped, flopped and pointed his snoz downward to be sure that I understood the importance of his communication.

Well, I understood.  Today, he communicated, is a day to celebrate green…spring forward green…Irish clover green…

It was, indeed, a wonderful and inspirational walk this morning.  We saw spring forward green all around us.  We observed it on the park trail…

In the woods…

On the ground…

On the bushes and trees…

Yes, even in the Irish clover…

Sigh…when we were done with our walk, I decided to check and see if spring forward green might be elsewhere in Houston too.

So, I loaded up my Irish-looking dog in our car and drove to Georgia’s Farm to Market.  Upon arrival at Georgia’s, I was surprised to see a couple of leprechaun farmers from Richmond, TX.

They had a pot of gold…

It was all so fresh, colorful and green sort of like a rainbow…

So I got some of the pot o’ gold from the Leprechaun farmers amongst their rainbow, and decided to spring forward green at the Cafe’ today.  Would you like to spring forward green with me, my Susitna Cafe’ friends?

Let’s cook a pot o’ gold to celebrate a wonderful green St. Patrick’s Day!  Well then, away we go lads and lassies to cook some Colcannon, an Irish potato and kale pot o’ gold dish.

Susitna Cafe’ Colcannon


Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large sweet yellow onion, rough chopped

4 medium russet potatoes, boiled and chopped

1 bunch curly kale, washed & chopped with base stems removed

salt and ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in frying pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion.

Saute’ until the onions are transparent.  Next, add the boiled chopped potatoes (with peel) and mix with the garlic and onion mixture.

Saute’ while mashing the potatoes with the back of a fork.  Potato consistency should appear somewhat chunky.  Slowly add chopped kale, a small bunch at a time, incorporating into the potato and onion mixture.  Saute’ and allow the potatoes to brown on the bottom of the pan.

The brown bits have alot of flavor, so continue to turn the potato and kale mixture over to brown some more.  Continue to do so until the kale is wilted and the brown bits are evenly distributed throughout mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

“R”, who has some Boston Irish heritage in his family, enjoys Colcannon with eggs cooked over easy for breakfast.  You may wish to serve Colcannon as a side dish to corned beef or as a main vegetarian meal.

Enjoy your pot o’ gold on this wonderful green St. Patrick’s Day!

Cook’s Note:  Try substituting chopped cabbage for the kale.  You won’t be disappointed!

Traveler’s Notes: Georgia’s Farm to Market is located at 12171 Katy Freeway, Houston, TX.  Don’t miss the farmer’s market on Wednesday and Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm.

I haven’t been to Ireland yet.  However, “R” has been there.  He tells me that the land is the greenist green you ever will see.  Someday, we are going to visit Quigley’s Point in Northern Ireland where his mother’s family originates.  We’re looking forward to this trip together in the near future…

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Filed under March 2010

Caffe’ Ahh…Roma

Ciao!  I’m glad you’ve stopped by the Cafe’ today.  We’re discussing Italy.  Have you been?  Hmm…how about a quick culture lesson?

A very nice man, Bruno Bozzetto,  produced a video on Italian culture.  It won’t take too much of your time to view…just a few minutes…let’s watch the video together, shall we?

Oh, by the way, be sure to take notes when you see the “Coffee” section of the movie.  It’s really important.

So, what do you think?  Isn’t it just the berries that you can have sooo many coffee choices?  That’s why I like Italy, and Rome in particular.  In fact, my name is “happy-happy” when I’m around the ahh…Roma of coffee.

My view of Italy, and particularly Rome is probably different than most.  I think it has something to do with the caffe’ (pron. kahf-Feh with an accent at the end:o).

Oh don’t get me wrong.  I love Italy.  I love Rome.  I truly do.  It’s just that once you’ve tried the caffe’ in Rome, something happens to you.

It certainly happened to me.  When “R” and I were in Italy last year, we walked and wandered the streets of Rome.

It was our second trip.  We had seen many of the sights before, and it was oh so nice to see them again…

Somehow though, Rome was different on that trip.  In fact, “R” agrees too.  Rome had taken on an ahh…Roma-like personality.  You know, sort of intense and aromatic.

Ahh…Roma is everywhere in Rome.  Doesn’t seem to matter where you are…it’s just there.  After all, there is a caffe’ bar on every street and street corner.

You can just walk-in (the doors are always wide open), order your caffe’ from the barista, and sip away while standing.  It’s like a quick “happy-happy“, and then you’re off to see more of ahh-Roma!

Oh wait.  Here are some more pictures.  You’ll see what I mean about the ahh…Roma-like personality.

Oh look, there’s a Latte Macchiato.  Isn’t it lovely? sigh

Oh yes, I remember this sight.  This is Caffe’ Ristretto.

Oh Joy!  Aren’t Italian baristas just the best!  Look at the perfect swirls of milk foam on the Cappuccino!

I think there’s just one more photo…yes, here it is…a favorite of mine, the Mocacchino.  You know, the one with chocolate!

Oh my, you’re right.  There is something  missing in all these photos….Hmm…what do you think it is?

Oh, I know!  It’s that wonderful little cookie that is served with the caffe’.

No problem!  We’ll just make some.  Let’s see…let’s celebrate “happy-happy .  So, how about baking some Chocolate Caffe’ Ahh…Roma Biscotti?

To start, let’s assemble the ingredients.

Ingredients*

1 3/4 cups unbleached flour (will need some extra to dust your pastry board or work surface)

1 cup natural cane sugar

1/2 cup cacao powder (Valrhona is best for this recipe)

1 1/2 Tablespoons allspice

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 Tablespoons fresh brewed espresso

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli Gourmet 72% Cacao chips are wonderful in this recipe)

8 ounces pistachios

parchment paper, wax paper or silpat liners (enough for 2 large baking sheets)

*organic ingredients are preferred

Now that the ingredients are assembled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Begin by adding all of your dry ingredients (flour, cane sugar, cacao powder, allspice, baking soda, and salt) into a large mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.

Next, add your liquid ingredients (eggs, vanilla, and espresso) into a small bowl and lightly beat together to combine.

Let’s now pour the combined liquid ingredients into your large mixing bowl containing the dry ingredients.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Next, fold in the pistachios.

Transfer your dough onto your floured work surface and begin to knead.  Note that the dough will be sticky and stiff.  Add additional flour to your work surface, as necessary while kneading, to prevent the dough from sticking to your work surface.

Divide the dough into 2 balls.  Shape each ball into 2 loaves approximately 12-inches long.  Place 1 loaf onto your prepared baking sheet.

Bake the loaf until it appears cracked (about 35 minutes).  Set the loaf aside to cool.  Meanwhile, bake your 2nd loaf until it appears cracked.

After you remove your 2nd loaf from the oven, reduce your oven temperature to 300 degrees.

While you’re waiting for the 2nd loaf to cool, place your 1st loaf on a cutting board.  Using a sharp serrated bread knife, cut your loaf into 1/2 inch diagonal slices.  You will have approximately 25 biscotti slices.

Place your biscotti slices onto your baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 7 minutes, or until lightly toasted.  Once toasted, turn over the slices and bake again for 7 minutes or until toasted.

It is important at this stage, to do the following:  walk out of your kitchen for approximately 1 minute;  breathe in some fresh air; next, walk back into your kitchen; and, breathe in a Big breath of Chocolate Caffe’ Ahh…Roma Biscotti air.  Isn’t it wonderful?  Aren’t you “happy-happy“?

Now repeat the twice-baked procedure with your 2nd loaf.  You may, at this point, repeat the Big breathe-in procedure too.

Allow your biscotti to cool thoroughly so that the chocolate chunks harden.  Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.  Or, freeze the extra (if there are any).

Oh…think of the possibilities…perhaps if we crushed the biscotti, we could use biscotti crumbles for a cheesecake crust…yum…

There now.  What a relief…  The photos are complete.  There is “happy-happy” biscotti with the caffe’.  Sigh

Cooks Note:  This recipe was developed after testing (and tasting) many, many chocolate biscotti recipes.  Thanks to Martha Stewart for her “Martha Stewart Living Cookbook” Double-Chocolate Biscotti recipe and to Todd English and Sally Sampson for their “Figs Table” Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti recipe.  Their brilliance led me to adapt those recipes and ultimately develop the  “happy-happy” Chocolate Caffe’ Ahh…Roma Biscotti.

Traveler’s Notes:  Don’t miss the beautiful sites in ahh-Roma:  the Coliseum; Campo di Fiori; the Trevi Fountain; the Arch of Constantine; the Vatican Museums (and the spiraling staircase); the Pantheon; and, of course, the Spanish Steps.

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