Post #650 And the Answer Is . . . !

June 12, 2019 at 8:55 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #650 And the Answer Is . . . !

So it’s the 6th anniversary of the blog.  I don’t know if I ever expected it to last this long.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’m happy with every milestone it passes.  So to mark this one, I’ve added a new “feature”.  I’ve long said that any time any of my readers has a question about food or technique to simply ask and I’d do my best to answer as completely as I could.  Someone took me up on that and sent me a series of questions about foods she’s unfamiliar with.

Let me give some background.  I’ve known this person since high school and she’s been a good friend for decades.  She was there at the start of my cooking education and has watched my skill set grow in the subsequent years.  She is not a cook, but that’s mostly due to impatience than anything else.  During recent years, she’s been asking about cooking and following some of the recipes I’ve posted.  She bought one of the cookbooks that is one of my favorite “go to” books, and asked for a list of my favorite recipes from it.  I did, and she read through them, and came back with questions about things she was unfamiliar with.  So, here’s the answers she needs.

What is a tomatillo?

This is a tomatillo:

It’s Spanish for little tomato, and it looks quite a bit like one.  It has a paper-thin husk around it.  The husk is removed and the tomatillo is eaten either cooked or raw depending on the recipe being made.  In my experience, cooked tomatillos are generally roasted then added to whatever is being cooked.  Roasting strengthens and enhances the flavor which is a light citrus tang.  Mostly tomatillos are used in sauces.  Salsa Verde is a tomatillo based salsa the uses tomatillo, green peppers, and cilantro that’s used in Mexican cuisine a lot.  One of my favorite recipes is pork loin stewed in salsa verde and served with rice and tortillas.  It’s not a spicy fruit so it’s easy to add to salads, tacos, or whatever you want.

What is Jicama?

This is jicama.

Jicama

It’s a root vegetable that in my opinion is best eaten raw.  It has the texture of a potato and the flavor of an apple.  It’s crisp and juicy and lightly sweet.  I’ve seen it cooked, deep fried into French fries, but I’ve never tried it.  I’ve thrown it into salads, cut it into strips for dipping in hummus, and cut it for appetizers by itself.  It’s sweet flavor lends itself sharp flavored foods, as well as blander foods.  My favorite way to eat this is to cut it into strips and eat it plain.

What is orzo?

This is orzo.

It’s a pasta that is shaped like rice and can be used in any recipe that calls for rice, except risotto.  Orzo can be added to soup, eaten on its own, or added to other dishes.  It’s pasta, so any pasta dish that calls for a short piece of pasta can be enhanced with orzo.  I’ve also put a small handful of cooked and cooled orzo in salads of just about any kind.  I’ve made chicken salad with a mayonnaise base and added orzo to give a different texture.  Just remember that like rice and other forms of pasta, orzo absorbs the liquid its in to the point where it will fall apart.  I did learn of a new technique for cooking pasta that helps that.  I haven’t tried it so if anyone does before I do, let me know how it goes.  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet and sauté some onion.  When the onion is clear, add whatever pasta you’re going to use and stir to coat.  Allow the pasta to cook in the oil until it just starts to get toasty, about five minutes.  Then finish cooking in whatever liquid you’re adding it to.  The oil seals in the starches but allows the pasta to cook completely without absorbing too much liquid.  This sounds like the perfect way to cook orzo so it doesn’t explode in your soup or casserole.

What is escarole?

This is:

It’s a leafy green that can be used in salad mixes.  It has a slightly bitter flavor so it seldom used by itself.  It’s part of the chicory family which gives it its signature lightly bitter flavor.  I’ve seen it used in soups, salads, and sandwiches.  I like the flavor it gives to sandwiches, but I don’t eat a lot of it.  Like any other leafy green vegetable it’s rich in antioxidants.  To get the most nutrition from this veggie, it’s best eaten with either potatoes or white beans.  There are tons of recipes, from nearly every cultural cuisine that pairs escarole with beans in a soup.  I like it when I want something different.

What is falafel?

Here we go:

Falafel is a paste made from ground up chickpeas.  Typically, it’s formed into balls and deep fried.  The paste is made by grinding the chickpeas with herbs and spices and adding an egg for binding together.  They can shaped into whatever shape you like, and can actually be cooked in any way you like.  Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of recipes calling for baked falafel which is likely healthier than deep fried.  Can’t vouch for the flavor though.  Anything deep fried is better.  Mostly, I see falafel in sandwiches like this:

But in many places, it’s a street food and eaten by hand after dipping into a thick sauce.  But I gotta tell you, when you look at that sandwich with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce, I’d eat an old flip flop with all that.  Falafel is so good, and to make it more easily accessible to the average consumer, there are mixes available that you just add water to, and sometimes an egg, to make the basic dough, then you shape and fry.  Some are good and some are not so good.  Just remember, you get what you pay for so go for the quality brands.  Or, if you just want to try it, go to a Middle Eastern restaurant.  They’re going to do it right.

What is tempeh?

It’s this:

Doesn’t look so great does it?  It’s a meat substitute that’s been around for a long time.  It’s one of those things you gotta wonder how it happened.  It looks a little like compressed brains, but it’s actually compress soy beans that have fermented and a special fungus has been added.  After the processing is done, you have a product similar to tofu but with a much firmer and meatier texture, and a ton more nutrition as well as a very stable shelf life.  And like tofu, it can take on the flavor of the things it’s cooked with.  So, if you have some tempeh and some spaghetti sauce, you can turn them into this:

And have a healthier version of spaghetti.  I’ve only had tempeh once, in a sandwich, and it was excellent.  But it takes some work to make, and it takes some time to find a brand you like and trust.  Once that’s done, though, if you’re totally into the whole nuts and grains style of cooking, this is a good meat substitute that won’t let you down.

So!  I hope you’ve learned something from someone else’s questions.  Please feel free to throw more questions my way if you like.  I’ll try to make this a regular feature in the blog, but that’s really up to you folks.  Feel free to share this post as you like.

As always,

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