Posts Tagged With: spice

Nopalitos Pulao

Hello friends, Amy here making something different out of the same characters I always eat, again and again and again. Eating more locally and seasonally encourages creativity! Nopalitos, young prickly pear cactus pads of many species, are DELICIOUS but like okra need special care to not let them overpower the texture of a meal. Start by harvesting a tender young pad that still has its true leaves, the little cones at the top of the pads seen in the photo below. As the pad matures, the leaves yellow, fall, and a woody internal structure develops. This might be the last I harvest before a new flush of pads comes with summer rains.

Any large spines or tiny glochids can be quickly singed to ash over an open flame, holding the pad with tongs.

Singed nopalitos can be safely touched and if they turn from bright green to pale olive, they are cooked and ready to be eaten.

To showcase this little harvest I made pulao, an extremely flexible rice pilaf from India. I started with a traditional recipe changing to local veggies and nuts. Whole cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, star anise, Indian bay, fennel and black cumin can be toasted in oil or ghee. I wish I had whole nutmeg or mace to add at the beginning, because I forgot to add them as ground spices later.

Then onion, garlic, ginger and a whole green chile (a serrano frozen from last autumn’s harvest) went in to fry. Followed by Tucson CSA carrots.

Then Tucson CSA zucchini, soaked basmati rice and mint from the garden.

After several years without, I now have a great spearmint patch again. A smart gardener gives plant starts away to friends and family for backups and last year I was a grateful recipient. Anybody need some?

After water, salt and 20 minutes covered over low heat, it was ready.

After fluffing, I toasted some local pecans and sprinkled them as well as the nopalitos on top. A totally new taste for my usual veggie friends. If you like this, you make like Tia Marta’s cholla bud jambalaya.

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, herbs, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pucker Up for Pickled Lemons

Jacqueline Soule here, on a lovely spring day, subbing for “Savor Sister” Martha who usually posts the second week of the month.   As I write this some people are celebrating Passover and others are getting ready for Easter Sunday.  Both holidays celebrating renewal and new life.  Very appropriate because the entire Northern Hemisphere is experiencing spring and new life.
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In my garden, the citrus trees are developing tiny young fruit from the fragrant flowers of last month.  The older lemons from last year are all fully ripe and ready for harvest.  I always wait to harvest my lemons at the point when they fall into my hand with the gentlest tug.  Now they are fully flavorful and astonishingly juicy.  Tart, yes, but barely acidic at all.

Since my lemon trees produced prodigiously this year I am working using all these lemons in new and fun ways.  In December 2016 I wrote about making lemony alcoholic drinks, In March 2017 Carolyn wrote about lemon pie.  Time to look at another lemon use – salted lemons.
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Salted lemon, also called lemon pickle, is a condiment common in South Asian and North African cuisine, including Moroccan tagines and Cambodian ngam nguv, a chicken soup.  Diced, quartered, halved, or whole, lemons are pickled in a brine of salt, lemon juice, and water.  Generally spices are included.

Create.
Lemon – you can do this with only one lemon, or with many.  Rinse off the lemons.
Salt – use canning, sea or kosher salt, not iodized.
Jars with lids – you can sterilize these, but no one in the rest of the world does so.  Your choice.

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Slice the lemons, making a criss-cross through the center, but not cutting all the way through. Just enough to open them up.  Put lemon in jar and add salt.  Plan on at least a 1/2 cup of salt for a quart jar.  Press the lemons down as you go, packing them in tight. Pressing helps release the juice that helps preserve them.

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Choose if you wish to add spices – or not.  Any combination of dried herbs and spices will do – get creative!  I experimented with coriander seed, cinnamon bark, bay leaf, peppercorn, cloves, cardamom pods and sumac.  If you use fresh herbs, use a full cup of salt per quart jar, to ensure the brine is strong enough to kill botulism bacteria.

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Shake the jar once a day for the first few days to help dissolve salt and get any air bubbles to the surface.  The jar should be at least 3/4 full of juice by day three.  If not, be sure to add liquid – either lemon juice or water.

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I add a layer of plastic wrap between salty mixture and the metal lid to help keep the lid from rusting.

Wait.  Lemons are best allowed to pickle at room temperature for at least a month. Longer is fine.
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Use. The pulp of the preserved lemon can be used in stews and sauces, but it is the peel (both zest and pith) that is most valued. The flavor is mildly tart but intensely lemony.  Pieces of lemon may be washed before using to remove any surface salt, or blanched to remove more of the salt and bring out the natural mild sweetness.
The lemons may be sliced, chopped, or minced as needed for the texture of the dish.  Slip some under the skin of a whole chicken for roasting, rub diced over a piece of fish prior to grilling, or coarsely chop and mix in a cold whole grain salad (a twist on taboli).  The rind may be used with or without the pulp.  But don’t throw away the pulp!  The pickled pulp and liquid can be used in Bloody Marys and other beverages where lemon and salt are used.
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Notes:
Salt.  Use non-iodized salt.  This can be kosher salt, sea salt, or pickling salt.  The iodized salt experiment resulted in harsh flavor and a slippery texture.
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Label.  Always label what you have!  Include the date!  Sharpies write on glass and are easily erased with some rubbing alcohol.
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JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule.  All rights reserved.  Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission.  I receive many requests to reprint my work.  My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site.  Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule and they may not be used, borrowed, shared, etc.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Kino herb, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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