Serpentine Squash Farmer’s Market Adventure

I got this squash a couple of years ago from our local farmer’s market. I had great fun playing with my food before eating it, as you can see from the pictures below.

I found these while cleaning out my computer hard drive and thought I would share these gems with you!

Do not Disturb the Squash

zucchetta rampicante

I got those flowers from the farmer’s market too! There is a vendor that sells milk in those jugs. And roll butter.

Why hello there

You can see why it’s called the ‘serpent’ squash.

I don’t remember how we prepared the squash, probably a stir fry. I seem to remember that the skin was much tougher and thicker than zucchini or yellow squash. More like an acorn squash.

This article has a pretty good recipe for preparing the serpentine squash.

And this guy has a more presentable version:

Serpentine Squash

I’ll be venturing out to the farmer’s market again this weekend. Treasure awaits!

Adventures in Food #3: How to Explore A New Cuisine

In my last Adventures in Food post, I mentioned that Tumeric and Garam Masala were my first Indian spice purchases that were new to me. Now, I’m going tell you how to break into a new cuisine– you know, the food you love to eat in restaurants but think its too difficult to make at home.

Curry & Garam Masala

I really like Indian food, and after flipping through a few Indian cookbooks it seemed to me that Garam Masala & Tumeric were two of the core Indian spices (though of course this varies by region but we’re talking basic here). I already had and use ground cumin, so no need to purchase anything new there.

After deciding that I would make some sort of tumericgaram masala chicken dish, I began looking for Indian or specialty stores that would carry tumeric and garam masala at a reasonable price. My search ended with at a local Indo-American Convenience Store (the same location where I purchased the infamous naughty tomatoes). Happily, this was very close to a friend’s house so I knew the area quite well.

My first visit was a little intimidating– most of the items are in another language and look unfamiliar. To acclimate myself to these foreign treasures, I took a slow walk around the store, starting in the rice and packaged foods, then onto refrigerated items, and then finally ending up in the spice and legume aisle.I planned to purchase a package of Garam Masala and tumeric, but I was distracted by the rainbow of lentil varieties: Oily, split, yellow, red. I indulged my desires and picked up the 2 pound split red lentil variety. On a later trip, I purchased split yellow mung beans in an effort to branch out of my ‘rut’.

Moving on to the wall of spices, I allowed myself to get lost in the smells and names. Aamchur (sour mango powder). Choti Elaichi (Green cardamom). Ajwain (Thyme Seed). Asafoetida.Jaiphal (Nutmeg). Even spices I know and love took on an unfamiliar air with their imported packaging and Hindi names– and that is one of the bigger hurdles to overcome when venturing into a new cuisine: the vocabulary. Many of the Indian cookbooks I checked out from the library were “Intro” books, which was great because they contained copies explanations and definitions, often with a glossary of terms and substitution notations in case the ingredients are unavailable where you are. My advice to you is just to read as much as you can about your new cuisine to acclimate yourself to the core flavors, cooking methods and techniques.

When you finally bring your pile of treasures to the cashier, be sure to chat them up to find out how they use the items you’re purchasing. The gentleman who rang up my mung beans told me that he likes to eat them plain, after they’ve been pan toasted. I’m looking forward to trying that!

Here’s a quick summary of how to ease into a new cuisine without breaking the bank or your sanity:

1. Go to your local library and peruse the books on the cuisine you’d like to explore. If they don’t have any on the shelf, use their online catalog or ask your reference librarian to help you find cookbooks for that region.

2. Read those books! Flip through the books you found and mark any recipes that look tasty. Then, go back through the recipes you marked and review their ingredients and special cooking materials.

3. I would recommend selecting recipes that only use 1-2 core ingredients that you don’t already have on hand (assuming that you have a decently stocked pantry with your native spices & ingredients). Good beginner/intro to cuisine cookbooks will note where an ingredient is not essential or a replacement that is likely to be found in your country. Or, search the web for a conversion table like this one for Indian spices. In addition, keep an eye out for notes like: advanced, hard, 1-2 hours, etc. You want to start off with something relatively easy while you’re still learning.

4. Focus on recipes that use cooking instruments you already own, or get creative about ways to use what you have for the purposes described. E.g. a deep frying pan instead of a wok.

There you have it– the Bread and Butter Method to Exploring a New Cuisine (without breaking the bank or losing your sanity).

Let me know how it works for you! Share your experiences below.

Adventures in Food, Episode 2: Stuff in My Pantry

All right folks, its time for another installment of Adventures in Food. This episode takes place in my pantry and features all the random stuff I’ve bought.

All the random stuff I've boughtHere’s the rundown of my recent impulse and adventure buys:

Trio of sea salts- Himalayan pink, grey, and cyprus flake. I searched for a while for this assortment of sea salts, and finally found one at a reasonable price at our local big box store. My favorite so far is the cyprus flake sea salt, but mostly because I haven’t decided how to use the other two.

Quick Cooking Bulgar, aka Barley– as featured in a previous post.

Paprika– a Hungarian paprika, a generic cheapo paprika (not pictured) and a jar that my mom got me that I haven’t opened yet. Why so much paprika? One word: Chickenpaprikash (ok that’s two words).

Minnesota Wild Rice (you have to say it “minn-ee-soooh-tah”- its more authentic that way) and Farro– Surprisingly, I found these both at a local big box store. I’ve also purchased Quinoa, but I’ve since used that up and moved on to other grains. The wild rice does have an earthy flavor, and kinda smells boggy when cooking it (what I imagine a bog to smell like since I’ve never actually been to a bog). I’ve used the Farro in quite a few recipes, trying to get a feel for it: Risotto, roasted cauliflower soup and just plain.

The Sauce That Killed Kenny– This is a hot sauce that a friend gave us. It sat on my shelf for a while until I started trying spicy foods. Now we add a drop or two to stir fry and sauces to give them a little kick.

Currants– I’ve had these for a while; unlike most of the stuff listed I actually had a recipe in mind when I bought the box… I think the recipe used like 1/4 cup of currants. I like to add them to salads with or instead of dried cranberries.

Curry Powder– Curry is my newest addition to my spice collection. I always thought that curry was too spicy for me, but since I started trying spicier foods I worked up the courage to buy it. Now its one of my most frequently used spices (I’ve been cooking a lot of Indian food lately).

Specialty Mustards– I discovered the jam, jelly and mustard lady at my local farmer’s market- she ensnared me with her free samples and cute little jars. I bought a sun-dried tomato and garlic mustard, and later a cranberry mustard that I was planning to serve at Thanksgiving with the turkey but it got lost in the shuffle.Very tasty but at $7 for a small jar, they’re a sometimes impulse buy for me.

Garam Masala & Tumeric– (the tumeric is the goldenrod yellow spice in the recycled container). These were my first ‘outside my comfort zone’ Indian spice purchases.

What random impulse food purchases have you made?

Awesome Naughty Tomatoes Kurkure Ad

Apparently, a number of readers have found my site by searching for Kurkure. I feel a little bad that I only have one post relating to that taste exploration, so I’ve decided to share this video my bf found with you.

I’m not sure that I get all of the subtle cultural references, but enjoyable nonetheless! Be sure to check out some of the other Kurkure commercials- like this one featuring a flaming Kurkure consumer or this one where the prodigal son returns to eat Kurkure on a horse.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Adventures in Food, Pt. 1

I had a pretty great day today- I had a vacation day and I got to do a LOT of shopping, and my boyfriend got back from his trip. So pretty much the trifecta of awesome.

Today is my first post about food adventures, which means I saw something cool on a shelf somewhere and decided to buy it.

We were in our local Indo-American Convenience store stocking up on essentials like red lentils and moong beans, when we saw this gem on the shelf. It’s Kurkure, Naughty Tomatoes flavor. Yes, that’s right: Naughty Tomatoes.

There wasn't much cheese flavor in these

So naughty

Just in case you can’t see how awesome this packaging is, here is a close up of what I’m going to call the flavor mascot:

Luscious Lips- Tomato LipsLook at those lips! And the horns- they’re vibrating (with what? Naughty-ness?). And the whole tomato-body-thing is pulsing with bright rays of light (or radiation? Maybe that’s why a tomato has such luscious lips and quivering horns).

A treat such as this must be shared with loved ones and friends, so I recruited my boyfriend and a fellow blogger/friend to join in this taste extravaganza. A bite-by-bite commentary follows:

Boyfriend and Blogger-Friend: (pick up and sniff the Kurkure-thing)

Fake Cheetos

Blogger-Friend: Smells like fake pizza flavoring.

Boyfriend: Smells like tomatoes.

Boyfriend and Blogger-Friend (Crunch)

Blogger-Friend: (Grimace, Looks confused): It looks like a Cheeto, but tastes like a tomato.

Boyfriend: This makes me want real Cheetos.

Blogger-Friend: It’s like you sucked all of the cheese dust off of a stale Cheeto, then dipped it in ketchup.

Boyfriend: There is just a little zip.

Blogger-Friend: They’re not good, but I feel strangely compelled to keep eating them.

Boyfriend: They aren’t as bad as Mountain Dew Doritos.

Blogger-Friend: They could be an accoutrement to tomato soup.

…. 30 minutes later

Blogger-Friend: A bowl of Cheetos would not have lasted as long as these have. And I would have a lot more orange crap on my lips.

So there you have it: Kurkure Naughty Tomato fake Cheetos. Tastes like stale Cheetos dipped in ketchup. All right!