Login

Recent Tweets

Follow Me on Twitter

Powered by Twitter Tools

Amazin’ Amazon

   

Looking for Something?

Google

Who’s There?

Affiliations

Foodbuzz

Ahoy, Matey! Time for a Barrrrgh-B-Q…

Arrrgh Boy

Yep, it’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day” once again. Snuck up on you didn’t it…

Since this is a food blog, let’s talk about what pirates eat (besides BBQ). Pirates like corn. Unless it’s high-priced, like a buccaneer or something. After all, they like to get their food cheap; as in on sail. They’re starving all the time, though; they even show it with their flag, it’s got a skull and bones. Unless they are marooned on a desert isle. They’re never hungry there, because of all the sand which is present.

What’s a pirate’s favorite cookie? Ships Ahoy! Where do they keep these cookies? In a jaarrrrgh.

Where does a pirate with a wooden leg eat out? IHOP, of course. And what do they ask the waiter to put on their meal? A gaarrrgghhnish, of course. If they go for fast food, they always go to Aarrrby’s.

Why are there no vegan pirates? They all staarrrrrved.

After all this, I think I need a vacation. Guess I’ll take some Aarrrggh and Aarrrggh…

Enjoy the (Aye for an Aye) Heat!

Share

Four Pickles and a Funeral

Fresh Cukes

Yes, I’ve been absent a while. All I’ll say for now is, I’ve been busy. Way too busy…

That doesn’t mean I’ve been out of the kitchen, though! Summertime means lots of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, among other tasty veggies. The garden’s been producing all sorts of chiles, from golden cayennes to bananas (hot and mild) and colored bell peppers. Habaneros, red Caribs, Gypsy and Cajun bells, with plenty of cayenne, kung pao and Cubanelles. Only the production of the serranos has been disappointing, likely due to the terrific heat and drought throughout August and September. (Or maybe I bought lazy plants; I dunno.)

Pickling StuffI dried both red and hot yellow peppers, in batches, and turned them into powders. I saved some dried reds and made pepper flakes too. I now have chile powders that are hot enough they need a special license from the fire department. (Not really, but don’t tell them, they might inspect.) I used small amounts of these powders to make some tasty burrito beef, for example.

Pepper jellies have been a big part of the summer’s production. Cherry ones, plum and apricot and peach varieties, and prickly pear tries as well. I’ll have more on all those in a later post.

I’ve also gone on a pickle-canning rampage. Okay, not a rampage, exactly, although PJ thinks that’s a reasonable assessment. The assortment of quality pickling cucumbers, at both the neighborhood groceries and the farmers markets, got me to thinking. Then I tasted a couple of specialty dills at some food events and I got moving.

I like a dill pickle with a bit of crunch. That’s actually harder to produce than you might think, in a canned pickle. There are some ideas out there, though, that improve the chances you’ll get a pickle that resists your teeth a bit better than some of those limp, wimpy ones you buy in the store. One I’d never heard of was placing grape leaves (or cherry leaves) in the jar with the canned pickles. The concept here is that the tannins leach out and make the cucumber crunchier. Of course, using little or no heat prevents cooking of the cukes, making them crunchier when you eat them; however, that requires cold-aging, and these pickles aren’t shelf-stable.

Another important part of making crunchy dills: Cut off the blossom end of the cucumber! There’s an enzyme in there which softens the fruit (yes, cukes are fruit), and if you leave that in there you’ll get very soft pickles. If you don’t know how to tell which end had the blossom, play safe and trim both ends, about 1/2 inch back.

There’s a DIY site I enjoy that shows complete steps for quick process dills, and these will have fair crispiness.

Market ProduceThe experimental scientist in me wanted to try some controlled conditions, but once I got going I simply canned and relied on my experience and the new information to guide me. I really like the flavors of lime and ginger together, and of course, these pickles had to have some kick to them. (After all, what else can I do with the ground mound of hot peppers that are taking over my counters and all of my fridge space?)

I tried the following sets: Ginger-Lime Cayenne Kosher Dills, as both spears and waffle-cut hamburger chips; Ginger-Lime Habanero Kosher Dills, ditto on the types. I also made a few jars without any peppers, as a control on the heat level, and I made a batch of Red Carib-Ginger-Lime Kosher Dills with the grape leaf trick, to see how much the crunch would be improved. I quick-processed at 4-5 minutes in the canner, to try to get added chewiness into these pickles.

4525306-1800x1197The brine was simple to make: 3 parts white vinegar (5% acidity, or 50 grain), two parts water, and about 3 tablespoons of salt per quart of brine. You can make this solution up in larger quantity and use whatever you need for a batch of pickles, saving back the rest. You can add sugar, but I prefer my kosher dills without; your choice. If you add sugar, I don’t recommend going beyond about 1/2 cup per quart of brine, and you should use any sweet brine fairly quickly; it doesn’t store as well as the other.

Other ingredients, besides a big mound of pickling cucumbers (I prefer the Kirby variety), include peeled garlic cloves, pickling spice, and plenty of fresh dill. I also had fresh-squeezed lime juice ready, and about a cup or so of fresh ginger pieces. Remember to peel the ginger; that skin makes the brine ugly and the taste very bitter.

I set up for canning and got some pint jars, flats and rings ready. For the spears I used the wide-mouth jars; hamburg chips go fine into regular pints. I had the brine heated to boiling, and when it was time to process I used these steps: Put lime juice in the brine, to taste (about 1/4 cup per quart of brine worked for me); place some ginger pieces in the bottom of the jars; stack in as many cucumber pieces as you can fit; lightly crush a couple cloves of garlic for each jar, and add a big sprig of dill to each one as well; put a good dose (I used a heaping tablespoon) of pickling spice into each container; pour in very hot brine, leaving the required headspace. At this point you simply seal finger-tight with flats and rings and process in the canner for 4-5 minutes.

Here’s a key point: Usually the food authorities say you should process at least 10 minutes to get shelf-stable, safe product. However, these pickles have lots of acid, so they’re not likely to go bad soon. If you’ve been diligent on sanitation leading up to processing, then a short time in the boiling bath, just enough to cause the jars to seal when taken out to cool, will work. Don’t try this on low-acid food! I don’t want to attend any more funerals soon, okay?

The end-product of a couple days of leisurely kitchen work led to a nice shelf full of tart, pungent pickles. A friend tried some, and he said he hadn’t had pickles this tasty since he left California years ago. He used to get them (hand-made ones, of course) at a small deli in Hayward, and he missed them. How much did he miss them? He ate a whole pint in one afternoon. (I’ve had to hide the rest for his protection.)

As for the funeral: It was a fine send-off for Dr. Bier, who I’ll miss dearly. RIP, old friend; you lived well…

Enjoy the (Pickles Galore) Heat!

Share

Echos of Father’s Day: Whacked-Out Bacon Ideas for Next Year

Big Bacon

Just in case you missed the opportunity to share bacon gifts with your dad this past Father’s Day, here’s a slide show of some great ideas for next time! Heck, why wait until Father’s Day? There’s something like 85 more opportunities during the next year, if you total up all the holidays in the European Union and the USA. Not to mention my birthday, which you can send me a gift for anytime, as I’ve quit celebrating that milestone on a given day. (The fire department’s tired of detailing enough manpower and gear to keep the birthday cake candles in check.)

Looking through the list, I’m not sure I’d go for the bacon-and-eggs nail paintjob; I’m not saying it’s not interesting, just that I can’t type if my nails are that long. (Yeah, that’s it! Too long!) And the bacon-themed coffin is a bit premature, if not outright creepy. The gym sneakers would totally work, though. (And I already have the soap and toothpaste, which explains the shiny teeth and well-scrubbed cheeks.)

Whatever you do, don’t lose this list…

Enjoy the (Pig Out on Bacon) Heat!

Share

Father’s Day Follies: Feed the Need for Bacon

Slicing Bacon

Ahh, bacon. Something that makes (nearly all) fathers smile, then drool with anticipation. This weekend has Father’s Day as an excuse to give all of us fathers the lavish gives we crave celebration as the major excitement available, unless you’re entered in the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon. So how about combining the two: Bacon and Father’s Day? Sounds good to me! Here’s a roundup of recent bacon news to, er, get the juices flowing…

Crisp Bacon

  • Oscar Mayer has the right idea: Bacon as a gift. Watch the video here to see what they mean.
  • If your dad likes bacon and coffee, then simplify his life with this bacon-flavored brew.
  • Speaking of brew: What about the other one, made with yeast? If you’re in Omaha (my condolences), then this summer you’ll be able to attend the Beer and Bacon Festival. It’s a few weeks away, though; don’t let the anticipation get to you.
  • Maybe your dad wants a special bacon, one with an essence that’s not found anywhere? Bespoke Bacon can make it for you! Read about this brave business that attempts to improve on the perfect food.
  • Want to make a present for dad? One that he’ll truly enjoy? Then make these cookies for him. He’ll thank you for weeks.
  • Danville, PA may have the best present for dads with weekend: Old Forge Brewing is hosting their third annual Bacon Fest, and the weekend will see all sorts of tasty treats available. It’s worth the drive from almost anywhere.
  • Finally for the Rich Dads out there, here’s a very special treat: Chocolate covered bacon, with edible gilt sprinkles. Surprisingly affordable at only $39.99 a package.
  • There is a bit of sad news, though. In San Francisco, dads are crying. They won’t be able to go to Bacon Bacon, as that restaurant has been closed. Seems the neighbors complained of the smell. (Now you see why Real Men don’t live in San Francisco.)

Bacon Slab

Finally, today is National Bourbon Day (Bourbon! My favorite!) and National Strawberry Shortcake Day. And don’t forget, it’s also Candy Month, Soul Food Month, Fresh Fruits & Veggies Month, and Turkey Lovers Month

Enjoy the (Tasty Father’s Day) Heat!

Share

Playing With Your Food (and Your Mom Would Approve): Shabu Hot Pot & Noodle Bar

This entry is part of a series, Austin Scene»

Zhu Zi Hu, Taiwan

This tale begins with a trip with my spouse into north Austin to buy a bicycle. Although the story has roots further back, for me…

A spring sale at Performance Bicycles had my wife looking to buy her dream bike for well less than list. Their closest outlet to us is on Anderson Lane, less than twenty minutes away. When we got there, PJ got good news. And bad. Yes, they had the bike she wanted, at a great price. However, they’d just sold the last one that was assembled. Their master builder would have to get one out of the box, put it together and tune it up. Could we return in an hour or so?

Paula Pooh put a happy face on it, though I could tell she was disappointed that she wasn’t riding out on her new, red wheels. It was lunchtime, though, and the immediate area offers plenty of options for grazing. I mentioned that there was a “new” shop (meaning we’d not eaten there) just around the corner: Shabu Hot Pot & Noodle Bar. We moseyed over and peeked in; almost empty, and inviting.

Shabu is a special project of three Austin chefs: George Chen of Chen’s Noodle House, Johnson Ngo (GM) of Musashino Sushi Dokoro, and Henry Wong of Mikado Ryotei. Indeed, the current location of Shabu carried Chen’s name for a short while. This restaurant isn’t large, and is sparkling-clean and a bit edgy. The décor is understated Asian, in the modern style. There is plenty of wood, chrome, and black trim. Given the ritzy feel of the dining space, I was concerned we were seriously underdressed; I’d somehow left my tux at home, and PJ certainly wasn’t wearing an off-the-shoulder evening gown. We were welcomed smoothly in any case. (At least I had my shoelaces tied.) Typically Austin, the other diners were all dressed in Saturday-casual, chosen for comfort in the warm, humid weather.

Baby Bok ChoyWe were seated near the east windows, and our servers (yes, two!) appeared quickly and introduced themselves. All the wait staff were smartly dressed, in black and white; no wrinkles, all smiles. Okay, we were clearly underdressed. However, you couldn’t tell from the warm welcomes we received. I relaxed and looked over the hot-pot offerings.

This is when I had the flashbacks: Shabu-Shabu and noodle joints all over Asia, from Dalian, Tianjin and Shanghai to Guanzhou, Shenzen, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore. Always before, I had hot-pot meals with friends and business associates in seamy, hole-in-the-wall locations, some of which I’m sure were unregulated locally. It didn’t matter, the food was always tasty. Contrary to the experiences of other travelers, I never got a bad meal, and I never had tummy troubles from eating shabu-shabu in these places. (One eatery is pictured below; a converted garden nursery in the mountains of Taiwan, consisting of plastic walls and roof, with the occasional tarp to block holes.)

However, Shabu isn’t anything like those places, with one notable exception: The food’s excellent.

The founders of Shabu and their executive chefs have chosen both classical and modern dishes from China, Japan and elsewhere in eastern Asia. Shabu-shabu apparently has a Japanese origin, though I’ve never eaten the dish there. I always assumed hot-pot meals were thoroughly Chinese in nature; already I was getting an education about something I was sure I understood. Appetizer offerings include dumplings (gyoza in Japan, jiaozi in China), tempura-fried crab, lamb skewers, shrimp make, crepes and stuffed jalapeños (the Texas influence). Besides hot-pot, Shabu offers noodles in broth, wok-fried noodle dishes, and interesting sweets for afters.

PJ and I enjoy a variety of noodle dishes that have Asian origins, though I mostly favor pho and she prefers Vietnamese vermicelli plates. Shabu’s noodle offerings generally aren’t like these, though. There are plenty of seafood choices, with examples that include pork, beef or chicken. Lots of tasty bits for every palate. I think I’ll plump for the Singapore flat noodles next time, or the crisp-fried chicken.

This time, though, it was all about the hot-pot.

Shabu-Shabu starts with a pot of boiling broth in the center of the table, kept warm with gas, canned heat (jellied alcohol), or electricity. Since PJ hadn’t ever had this sort of meal before, we asked for samples of the broths. I wasn’t used to having a choice, actually; the places I’ve visited, you got whatever the broth was that day. At Shabu, there are four basic broths: Ma-La, which is spicy; Shiitake Mushroom, which is very mild and earthy; Herbal; and Tomato, which has a slight zest tingle with plenty of tomato flavor and aroma. We chose the mushroom for PJ’s introduction to shabu-shabu.

Hot-pot isn’t just about broth, though. Two more key elements are required: Items to cook in the broth, and dipping sauces to add seasoning and interest to the cooked food. We chose ribeye (their most popular choice), clear bean thread, baby bok choy and cauliflower as our ingredients. Three dipping sauces are provided: Asian BBQ (with a bit of shrimp paste in it); creamy garlic in sesame oil; and a variation on ponzu, whose ingredients I couldn’t determine (and the server wouldn’t reveal). All three of these sauces are tasty, though we didn’t use much of the barbeque one.

Yang Ming Shan Restaurant, TaiwanWhile we waited for our order to appear, a selection of mirin-pickled vegetable sticks were offered to occupy us. Carrot, radish, and more, sprinkled with sesame.

Now the fun part: You get to play with your food! We started some cauliflower florets cooking, and a couple bits of bok choy, then we dropped a couple slices of ribeye into the broth. This ribeye was so thin you could almost read a newspaper through it, so it cooked in no time at all. The veggies took a bit longer, of course. From there, it was pick out what you wanted from the pot, and replenish whenever the contents seemed to get low. There was plenty of food, including bits of mushroom in the broth. We played, ate and otherwise had a fine time. I found a pot of chile oil on the table, so I could make my portion zesty while PJ kept hers mild. That’s one of the beautiful things about shabu-shabu: You cook in a common pot, but you can tailor the final flavor to fit your desires.

We had such a good time that we were reluctant to leave, even when all the food was gone and the dishes cleared. There wasn’t room for dessert this time, though. Suddenly PJ remembered her bicycle, so we settled up, thanked our servers and waddled hurried out to check on the bike order’s progress.

We’ll be back, perhaps fairly regularly, as we have a reason to be in the neighborhood at least once a month. Sure, there are plenty of eating choices on Anderson Lane nearby. However, none of them actually encourage you to make a game of dinner…

Shabu Hot Pot and Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Shabu Hot Pot & Noodle Bar, 2700 Anderson Ln., Austin, Texas 78757. Phone 512.336.8888. Shabu-Shabu (Hot Pot), noodle dishes and other Asian specialties, for lunch, dinner or later in the evening, seven days a week. Chef-prepared food and outstanding service. Perfect for a romantic dinner or casual lunch.

Enjoy the (Fun Food) Heat!

Entries in this series:
  1. Cool River Café and Southwestern Poblano Soup
  2. Restaurant Review: Gumbo's Louisiana Style Café
  3. Restaurant Review: Chola Indian Restaurant
  4. Restaurant Review: Fujian Grand China Buffet, Austin
  5. Restaurant Review: Casa Garcia's Tex-Mex Restaurant
  6. Review: Mesa Rosa Mexican Restaurant
  7. Restaurant Review: Truluck's Seafood, Steak and Crab House
  8. Restaurant Review Update: Fujian Grand China Buffet Restaurant
  9. Restaurant Review: Pho Viet Restaurant
  10. Sunday Brunch Anniversary Celebration: Moonshine Restaurant Patio Bar and Grill
  11. Late-Lunch Steaks at the Blue Oak Grill
  12. Mama Roux: So Good There's A Song About It, Sort Of...
  13. Phil's Ice House, an Austin-Weird Place for Great Burgers
  14. Easter Sunday Dinner: A Poor Experience at a Usually Reliable Locale
  15. A Sedate Spring Lunch at Zed’s
  16. Looking for a Taste of Germany? Well, We Tried…
  17. Fresh and Tasty Tex-Mex, Prepared by a Grandma
  18. The HomeField (Grill) Advantage
  19. Dinner for One: Sometimes the Good Stuff is Right Under Your Nose
  20. Smoky Heaven in Round Rock: Johnny T’s BBQ
  21. Tex-Mex, Better’n Sex (Says So on the Menu)
  22. The Quest Begins Anew (Just Pho Me): Mai Lien Bistro
  23. A Little Bit of the French Quarter, Here in Central Texas
  24. Quick Bites: El Caribe Tex-Mex
  25. It’s Good, It’s Italian, and You Don’t Have to Go to Europe to Get It
  26. Casa G’s for Lunch (Hint: It’s Awesome)
  27. Chola Indian Restaurant: A Good Indian Eatery Gets Better
  28. Tacos are Brain Food, and Brainiacs Eat at El Taquito…
  29. Get Your Indian Food Fix the Easy Way: Tärkă Indian Kitchen
  30. Late Lunch at Mandola’s Italian Market; Worth the Wait…
  31. I Didn’t Know Sichuan, China Included Round Rock
  32. Sunday Brunch at Pecan Street Station; Good Choice…
  33. Does Kung Fu Buffet Lives Up to Its Name? My Sample Says…
  34. The Underground Visits Ethiopia for Dinner (and Has a Wonderful Time)
  35. Pho Lee Vietnamese, It’s Total-Lee Pho (and Very Good)
  36. A Taste of Jalisco in North Austin
  37. The Great Pho Quest Continues: Pho Thaison in Allandale
  38. From New Pho to Old: Lunch at a (Nearly) Forgotten Friend, Tan My
  39. Z’Tejas, a Wonderful Place for Brunch and Clan Revelry
  40. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Round Rock: Great Meat; As For the Rest…
  41. LongHorn Steakhouse Round Rock: A New Family Favorite
  42. Salt Lick BBQ in Round Rock: More Than Finger-Licking Good
  43. Drinks and Snacks on the Deck at McCormick & Schmick’s
  44. Going Back Pho More at a Local Favorite
  45. Swagat Indian: A Disappointment With a Few Bright Spots
  46. Branch BBQ in Wells Branch: A Local Secret?
  47. Karrrazy, Man: Kublai Khan Crazy Mongolian Stir Fry
  48. VooDoo BBQ & Grill: Their HooDoo’s Pretty Good, Actually
  49. My Fit Foods: Tasty, Healthy Food, Ready in a Flash
  50. Chang Thai, Our Family’s New Favorite
  51. A Quick Trip to Agra, Without Leaving Home
  52. Playing With Your Food (and Your Mom Would Approve): Shabu Hot Pot & Noodle Bar
Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
Share

A Quick Trip to Agra, Without Leaving Home

This entry is part of a series, Austin Scene»

Taj Mahal, with Ashwarya Rai

Recently my father-in-law was in town on a mission to single-handedly rescue the central Texas economy doing a little window-shopping and foraging. Since he’s retired now he can do pretty much as he pleases so long as it’s at the explicit direction of his wife. He’s been on a careful diet the past few months, and it’s been working; however, he hasn’t had opportunities to eat Indian food in quite a while.

I felt obliged to correct this abomination minor oversight.

Chris said we’d meet at Frys, as electronics is always interesting to him (and to me, for that matter). On the other side of Parmer from the center where Frys is located is an HEB grocery and associated strip malls. I knew there was an Indian food place over there (though I’d never been in it), so I suggested we should check out their offerings. At first he paused and started to say something about his diet, then he woke up and realized he’d be completely off his leash sans spouse, and he quickly accepted. I hopped in the Red Ride and headed out.

Chicken Curry

After more than an hour of shopping and strolling, all to build up our appetite (of course), we headed south to the Taj Mahal. No, the real Taj Mahal hasn’t been purchased by some Texas oilman and moved, as one businessman did with London Bridge. Our destination was only a few minutes away, and as we parked nearby the tempting aromas almost had me drooling like a teething infant.

We were right at the tail end of lunch seating, and there were only a few tables with any diners. It was clear, however, that they’d had a good lunch showing. The buffet was open, so we placed our drinks order and headed over quickly. No sense in missing out by dawdling!

A fine assortment of choices was displayed on the steam tables. Vegetable pakore, Madras soup, tandoori chicken, palak paneer, aloo gobi, malai kofta, chicken tikka masala, curry beef meatballs, biryani and a zesty-smelling vindaloo were all waiting for us. Salads and desserts were offered on a separate table. I loaded up on soup and a mixed plate that had rice, vindaloo and pakore, as a way to start the feast.

Naan

I looked around as we dined. This is clearly what a strip-mall, hole-in-the-wall restaurant should be! Clean, well-lit, pleasant to the eyes, ears and nose. Decorated, of course, but not wildly so; ambiance isn’t the reason you go here, the food is. No distractions in the furnishings or background music. I suppose about 50 diners could eat at once at the Taj Mahal, if they’re all friendly.

We ate and chatted, occasionally returning to the buffet to replenish our plates. Our server brought us plenty of naan, and offered to modify anything as request. We asked for garlic naan, and that came out quickly, hot and fresh from the tandoor. Excellent eats, everything.

By the time we were stuffed a Christmas goose full, the store had cleared out and the wait staff were cleaning up the buffet. I was sad to see it all go, but I simply had no more room. We talked for a few minutes with the owner, who was helping reset the shop for evening meals.

Vegetarian Dish

Here’s what we learned: Taj Mahal Indian Cuisine has a daily buffet for lunch and dinner, as well as a full menu a la carte. They deliver via Dine on Demand, and cater as well. They’re vegetarian and vegan friendly too. I found their prices to be very reasonable. The service was better than most buffet places, in my experience.

For sure I’ll be back. I don’t often get over to the Mopac-Parmer area, but Frys is still there, so I’ll always have excuses reasons to go. In fact, I think I need a couple of parts Real Soon Now; I wonder if Chris will drive up and join me…

Taj Mahal on Urbanspoon

Taj Mahal Indian Cuisine, 12407 North Mopac Expwy Suite 200B, Austin, TX 78758. Phone 512.837.4444. Indian specialties for lunch and dinner, served in a relaxed atmosphere, seven days a week. Vegan and vegetarian dishes on the buffet and the menu. Kid friendly. Gluten-free available. Free Wi-Fi. Reservations taken.

The (Indian Buffet) Heat is ON!

Entries in this series:
  1. Cool River Café and Southwestern Poblano Soup
  2. Restaurant Review: Gumbo's Louisiana Style Café
  3. Restaurant Review: Chola Indian Restaurant
  4. Restaurant Review: Fujian Grand China Buffet, Austin
  5. Restaurant Review: Casa Garcia's Tex-Mex Restaurant
  6. Review: Mesa Rosa Mexican Restaurant
  7. Restaurant Review: Truluck's Seafood, Steak and Crab House
  8. Restaurant Review Update: Fujian Grand China Buffet Restaurant
  9. Restaurant Review: Pho Viet Restaurant
  10. Sunday Brunch Anniversary Celebration: Moonshine Restaurant Patio Bar and Grill
  11. Late-Lunch Steaks at the Blue Oak Grill
  12. Mama Roux: So Good There's A Song About It, Sort Of...
  13. Phil's Ice House, an Austin-Weird Place for Great Burgers
  14. Easter Sunday Dinner: A Poor Experience at a Usually Reliable Locale
  15. A Sedate Spring Lunch at Zed’s
  16. Looking for a Taste of Germany? Well, We Tried…
  17. Fresh and Tasty Tex-Mex, Prepared by a Grandma
  18. The HomeField (Grill) Advantage
  19. Dinner for One: Sometimes the Good Stuff is Right Under Your Nose
  20. Smoky Heaven in Round Rock: Johnny T’s BBQ
  21. Tex-Mex, Better’n Sex (Says So on the Menu)
  22. The Quest Begins Anew (Just Pho Me): Mai Lien Bistro
  23. A Little Bit of the French Quarter, Here in Central Texas
  24. Quick Bites: El Caribe Tex-Mex
  25. It’s Good, It’s Italian, and You Don’t Have to Go to Europe to Get It
  26. Casa G’s for Lunch (Hint: It’s Awesome)
  27. Chola Indian Restaurant: A Good Indian Eatery Gets Better
  28. Tacos are Brain Food, and Brainiacs Eat at El Taquito…
  29. Get Your Indian Food Fix the Easy Way: Tärkă Indian Kitchen
  30. Late Lunch at Mandola’s Italian Market; Worth the Wait…
  31. I Didn’t Know Sichuan, China Included Round Rock
  32. Sunday Brunch at Pecan Street Station; Good Choice…
  33. Does Kung Fu Buffet Lives Up to Its Name? My Sample Says…
  34. The Underground Visits Ethiopia for Dinner (and Has a Wonderful Time)
  35. Pho Lee Vietnamese, It’s Total-Lee Pho (and Very Good)
  36. A Taste of Jalisco in North Austin
  37. The Great Pho Quest Continues: Pho Thaison in Allandale
  38. From New Pho to Old: Lunch at a (Nearly) Forgotten Friend, Tan My
  39. Z’Tejas, a Wonderful Place for Brunch and Clan Revelry
  40. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Round Rock: Great Meat; As For the Rest…
  41. LongHorn Steakhouse Round Rock: A New Family Favorite
  42. Salt Lick BBQ in Round Rock: More Than Finger-Licking Good
  43. Drinks and Snacks on the Deck at McCormick & Schmick’s
  44. Going Back Pho More at a Local Favorite
  45. Swagat Indian: A Disappointment With a Few Bright Spots
  46. Branch BBQ in Wells Branch: A Local Secret?
  47. Karrrazy, Man: Kublai Khan Crazy Mongolian Stir Fry
  48. VooDoo BBQ & Grill: Their HooDoo’s Pretty Good, Actually
  49. My Fit Foods: Tasty, Healthy Food, Ready in a Flash
  50. Chang Thai, Our Family’s New Favorite
  51. A Quick Trip to Agra, Without Leaving Home
  52. Playing With Your Food (and Your Mom Would Approve): Shabu Hot Pot & Noodle Bar
Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
Share

Garden Update, Part 4: Mild and Sweet Peppers

Snack Sweets

On to the sweets of the pepper patch! Although there are more zesty plants in the garden and pots this year, the milder variants have a good portion of the space. A couple have just the slightest tingle, while the rest have no apparent heat at all.

Colored BellsIt’s likely that the sweet Bell pepper is the most-cultivated Capsicum variant in the world, with nearly 30 million metric tons produced commercially each year. (For those of you who have trouble with such large numbers, this is approximately 20 bells for every man, woman and child. In the world.) Bell peppers are well represented at the grocery these days, in a complete riot of colors: Green, yellow, orange, red, purple, brown, white; even lavender and variegated. Recently, hybrids that exhibit a small bit of heat have become available to backyard farmers, like the Cajun Belle.

I saw some really nice specimens for sale recently, and soon the farmer and his cash were parted. I took a pair home and found them a sunny spot on the south side of the pepper patch. They didn’t seem to notice they were free; no swoon from transplanting like many peppers suffer. They stand up straight, though these bushes will likely be shorter than other bells in the garden. The slightly zesty fruit of the Cajun Belle are usually smaller than classic bells too, though there are claims that these plants are more productive over the whole season than their taller, milder cousins. I hope to make fajitas with a mix of red and green Cajuns, to surprise my friends with their piquancy.

These aren’t the only bells I planted. At the north edge of the pepper patch I’ve got a Yellow Bell, a Red Bell, and a Purple Bell. I use plenty of yellows and reds in pepper jelly, as well as making stuffed peppers and in Asian stir-fry dishes. As far as I know, I’ve never tasted a purple bell. What intrigued me about this last type is the claim that the color is only skin-deep! All the other bells I’ve caught and cooked, their color ran all the way through the fruit. Supposedly the purple bell retains a green flesh underneath its dark, satiny skin. All three of these plants look identical at this point in the season, tall and striking. Blooms are appearing on all three, so I could see finished fruit in just a few weeks.

Cubanelle

One pepper with a bit of tingle in the taste is the Cubanelle. I had one of these in the garden last year, quite by accident; apparently the small label had been swapped with one for a cayenne. In any case, this plant was the darling of the plot. Very sturdy and productive, we fell in love with the large, light-green fruit; I bought four, on purpose this time. Plenty of sweet flavor, with just a hint of zing. Great for stuffing, as fans of classic Mexican food know. We let several fruit ripen to bright red, and those chiles were a bit hotter, still sweet and tasty. The ripe reds aren’t as sturdy as the immature greens, though, so I mostly used them in stir-fry and the like.

Santa Fe ChilesAnother first for us this year is the Santa Fe Grande pepper. Also known as a Yellow Hot Pepper, it really isn’t very hot at around 500 Scoville. (For comparison, jalapeño peppers run from 2,500 for the milder giants, to over 8,000 for some editions.) This one’s also known as a Guero Chile. Whatever the name, this pepper has a reputation as a great snack or in pickles. Usually the fruit are picked when bright yellow, although they can be allowed to ripen to orange or even red. Ripe Santa Fe peppers are hotter, and don’t keep as well in the fridge. I have two in the experimental pots, so we’ll get to see how they do on the porch.

I planted two Sweet Banana plants to complement the two Hot Bananas. These sweets aren’t quite as tall as their spicier cousins, at least not yet. last year, our one sweet banana went to nearly four feet tall, and was an amazingly productive plant. Two of these should yield enough for giardiniera, snacks, salads, and to keep the rent paid on the T-post hammer. (Mike loves banana peppers; I’m not in any danger of repossession of this critical tool.)

Nowadays, when you cruise the produce aisles of your local grocery, you might well see clear plastic bags of snacking peppers. These peppers are usually about three to four inches long and tapered, in a variety of appealing colors. The orange ones could well be Tangerine Dream peppers. I started some of these from seed this year, and so far a couple of the plants have survived. (I seem to have gotten started a bit too early on these.) It’ll be another month before these bloom, I would guess, but after that I look forward to some tasty, orange snacking peppers of my own.

Many Bells

I have three Gypsy peppers, another new variety to me. Two are in one of the big pots, and the third is on the south end of the pepper plot. A container-friendly bell pepper variant, the Gypsy produces medium-sized fruit, with more taper than a typical bell. They’re ready to eat when bright yellow, and will ripen further through orange to red. Great for stuffing as well as all the other uses for bells, I think I’ll try this recipe when I have some Gypsy peppers ready.

So altogether, zesty and mild and sweet, in garden and planters, I have nearly 60 pepper plants this year. I think I’ll have almost enough to Feed the Need…

Enjoy the (Sweet to Eat) Heat!

Share

Eating Peppers is Good for You, Maybe: News on Parkinson’s Disease

Mixed Peppers

The Elves here at the Chile Underground have ben espousing increased consumption of peppers of all types for years now. (They’ve also been espousing massive consumption of beer and meat-on-a-stick, but that’s for another article.) Now there’s scientific evidence that their push to get everyone to eat chiles is well-founded. Actually, it’s not their push that’s sound science, but you know what I mean.

Now there’s proof that peppers of all varieties, consumed in reasonable quantities, can help fight Parkinson’s disease. Or at least there’s an indication to that effect. Sort of.

The actual findings: People who eat plenty of peppers (up to five servings a week, or even more) have a decidedly lower incidence of Parkinson’s. Peppers are known to contain small quantities of nicotine. Since previous research indicated that smokers also have a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, the new research would seem to indicate that nicotine is the active agent in preventing Parkinson’s (or at least reducing the risk).

Here’s the soundbite:

In general, vegetable consumption had no effect on Parkinson’s risk. The more vegetables from the Solanaceae plant family that people ate, however, the lower their risk of Parkinson’s disease. This association was strongest for peppers, according to the study, which was published May 9 in the journal Annals of Neurology.

One thing to keep in mind: The actual results don’t prove cause-and-effect, only that a nice correlation exists. That is, it’s not proven that peppers actually cause the reduced risk of Parkinson’s. More research (meaning, more tax dollars spent) is anticipated.

Tomatoes, which are also found in the Solanaceae family, didn’t seem to provide the same protection. Tomatoes are low in nicotine; it takes about a quarter ton of fresh tomatoes to give the same amount of nicotine one would get from a single cigarette. (Hope you’re hungry.) Peppers seem to have about 100 times the nicotine content of tomatoes. Still far short of tobacco, but a surprising amount nonetheless.

So unless you want to spend all your waking hours in a smoky pool hall imbibing second-hand smoke (from the Elves, likely) or take up smoking cigarettes, then we heartily suggest you eat more peppers. Hot, mild, sweet; makes no difference. Or you could go completely crazy and eat eggplant; but who wants to live like that…

The (Disease-Fighting) Heat is ON!

Share