Hola! Heart of A Peach Palm

Sometimes when looking up recipe ideas, and following various trails on the internet, I lose track of what got the process started.  I believe in this case it was a mention of Costa Rican Ceviche Salad, utilizing heart of palm. But the most important thing mentioned on that recipe site (for me anyway) was that Peach Palms are clonal - i.e. clumping.  At that point a little light bulb flashed in my brain. I jumped up from the computer and ran downstairs, out to the garden, to inspect my Peach Palm. It had been planted a number of years ago with the idea of providing us heart of palm, as an alternative to cutting down a coconut palm for its heart, which is the growing tip at the very top of a palm, inside the bark.  Not that I would.  When one of my brothers was a tree trimmer, in his youth, he brought us some.  However, in the years following, always in the back of my mind, I had the idea that cutting the peach palm down for a salad would be wasteful, and then there would be no more. So it remained untouched.

But, clonal means that the palm should be making little ones, known here in Hawaii as keikis.  Sure enough, that tall palm had a friend, right in back of it, which I hadn't noticed - so there were two tall ones.  And, at the base were new sprouts coming up, next to where a load of mulch had just been dumped. Oh boy, one of my happy dances ensued!  Right before chopping down a palm (yes, with some delegating). Now we can look at the palms as a sort of pantry, in which are now included various coconut palms here and there, which have sprouted from dropped coconuts, and were about to be uprooted and tossed.  Oh no!

             Costa Rican Ceviche - Ensalada Palmito (heart of palm salad)

Ingredients - reduce for the amount you want to serve
½ of a palm tree heart – coconut or Peach palm (or two 14 oz cans of hearts of palm) cut into small bite sized pieces
lettuce leaves, broken in pieces
1 vine ripened tomato, chopped
1 red or yellow sweet pepper, chopped
juice of 1 fresh lime
fresh ground black pepper
or  mayonnaise to taste

Toss together then add lime, salt and grind fresh pepper to taste, or dress with mayonnaise, as is common in Costa Rican restaurants. Actually, a mix of both would be good

A bit more research revealed that a palm heart can also be cooked - fried, baked, braised, etc., giving a slightly different, softer texture. Above some palm heart, breaded and fried, then served on the side of a whole other salad, bolstering slices of ham.  Cooking can be a trip, an adventure!  Tonight my grandson is bringing over a "bass" he caught.  He says it's from the ocean, but closely resembles a bass in shape and meat texture/taste, but is actually grouper. So I've looked up a recipe for bass from Mario's Babbo.  Well that's some of what's been going on here cooking wise.  Will link this to Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event. Check it out, always good for recipe ideas and to see what people are reading.  You might also link up your own food related post.


Our Big Fat Jackfruit Adventure

My first experience, face to face, with a jackfruit.  People grow them here, but you don't generally see them in the market.   Well, occasionally in the farmer's market, cut up and wrapped in saran.  This all started when I went to a local vegetarian restaurant with a friend, wanting to try the now almost cult fruit, prepared like pulled pork.  The owner said she didn't use jackfruit for that purpose, just ripe ones in smoothies.  So I managed to talk her into selling me a whole, unripe specimen.  Luckily she had just taken delivery on a bunch of them, so I was able to stagger out, with one of the staff helping me to carry it. This is a fruit you don't want falling on your head out in the orchard.

Me negotiating said purchase. The next job was researching how to cut it open, prepare for cooking and use in some recipes. Verizon has told me I'm down to 10% due to excessive data usage.


History and Some Wee Oatcakes for St. Pat's

Call me nuts, but I'm thrilled when I come across a new book series (new to me anyway) that is absolutely terrific, full of fascinating history, great characters, a mystery to be solved, well written and even with some humor and romance.  Lots of wonderful books yet to be read. Well, watch me do a little happy dance!

I'm doing it now for Peter Tremayne a Celtic scholar who has written such a series - Mysteries of Ancient Ireland!  This one, Shroud for the Archbishop, featured today, is the second in said series. Absolution by Murder being the first. They're also called the Sister Fidelma Mysteries.  She is the protagonist, an Irish advocate and judge who is called upon to investigate a tricky and politically sensitive murder, while on an assignment in Rome.  Here's what the Publishers have on this one:

"Wighard, Archbishop designate of Canterbury, has been found dead, garrotted in his chambers in Rome's Lateran Palace in the autumn of A.D. 664. His murderer seems apparent to all, since an Irish religieux was arrested by the palace guards as he fled Wighard's chamber, but the monk denies responsibility for the crime, and the treasures missing from Wighard's chambers are nowhere to be found.

The bishop in charge of affairs at the Lateran Palace suspects a political motive and is wary of charging someone without independent evidence. So he asks Sister Fidelma of the Celtic Church to look into Wighard's death. Fidelma (an advocate of the Brehon Court), working with Brother Eadulf of the Roman Church, quickly finds herself with very few clues, too many motives, a trail strewn with bodies--and very little time before the killer strikes again."


Crispy Treats, Peacocks and Co-Dependency

Define co-dependence?  Okay, Wikipedia says "Codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person's addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity."

You can also see this phenomenon  in action, if you haven't already encountered it in life.  Just read Murder with Peacocks, by Donna Andrews.  This is her first novel, and I'm hoping she will tame the tendency in Meg, her protagonist, by the next one.  Because I will be reading at least one more of her works.  There was enough humor, laugh out loud type, good character development with some truly outrageous relatives, and hilarious situations to keep me reading, despite frequently wanting to take Meg by the shoulders and give her a good shake, yelling "Are you Serious??"

She has taken on wedding planning, Maid of Honor duties for three summer weddings, her mother's, brother's, and best friend's. None of whom are being at all helpful, far from it in fact.  Besides which, she is not a wedding planner.   Two of the couples she doesn't even want to see married, at least not to the horrid people they've picked.  So there you have it - Co-Dependency with murder.


Fiddle Head Ferns and Fennel Salad, With a Mystery

Sheila Connolly has several "cozy mystery" series out and I've enjoyed her writing thus far.  This newest series, the Victorian Village Mysteries, is outstanding already.  A real winner, judging from the debut, Murder at the Mansion.  I especially loved her blend of history, including little known background on Clara Barton, a bit of romance, an interesting premise - can a dying town be saved, and an unusual solve. It's the girl grows up, leaves town in a hurry and unwillingly comes back to help someone scenario, with a few fun twists. Connolly is an entertaining and witty writer.

Kate has a great job, managing day-to-day operations for a high-end boutique hotel on the Baltimore waterfront, when her high school best friend comes seeking help for their hometown.

Here's what the Publishers and a few Reviewers have to say:

"Welcome to Asheboro, Maryland, where the homes are to die for. . .

Katherine Hamilton never wanted to return to her dead-end hometown. But when she is called in to help save Asheboro from going bankrupt, Kate can’t refuse. The town has issued its last available funds to buy a local Victorian mansion. It’s a plan that Kate would be happy to help get off the ground. . .if only she didn’t have such bad memories associated with that mansion. Is Kate ready to do business―or is this job too personal for her own good?


Kuku Sabzi - and I Don't Mean Crazy

We are currently reading Pomegranate Soup for our Cook the Books Club, hosted this round by Simona of Briciole fame. This novel by Marsha Mehran is the tale of three young women who made their escape from the revolution in Iran, and have come to live and open a cafe in a small village in Ireland. A bit of culture shock going on here.  More so on the part of some unsympathetic Irish villagers.  However enough of the residents are willing to try the strange food on offer, and come back for more.

I did enjoy the story as a whole, though I thought Mehran's tale got off to a bad start with her prologue. All about the evil villain of the piece, Thomas McGuire.  He is so over-the-top nasty that it strains credibility.  This negativity continues through her first 5 or so chapters, carried into descriptions of  Irish villagers, police, the town, even the country side. Such as, on a remote mountain road: "the big man puffed his way along the rocky mile and a half to the cottage on foot, coughing on vapors of cow dung and pig fat that hung in the air." Truly?  Doesn't mesh with the remoteness of the spot, or "beauty of the surrounding verdant valleys."


A Super Pesto - With Moringa!

Okay, all right, I do realize that most of you won't be harvesting Moringa any time soon.  However, (should be in caps) it was such a thrill making this pesto that I'm posting it anyway, especially since it turned out so darned good! The moringa itself has a lovely nutty flavor, just a hint of bitter, with the basil adding it's sharp herbal notes and citrus offsetting the unctuousness of toasted walnuts, Parmesan and olive oil. 

YOU CAN ALSO make it with moringa powder.  Add 1 Tablespoon of the powder to your pesto recipe, and increase the amount of basil and parsley if you wish. As shown on the Dr. Oz show apparently.  I started a project some time ago, determined to find more ways of incorporating this very healthful plant into our diets.  And, pesto is a great addition for sure.  See above post link.

                                     Moringa Basil Pesto
                                                         A Variation of Pesto Genovese
1 cup fresh basil, divided
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
2/3 cup finely grated parmesan
2 large cloves raw garlic, chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups fresh Moringa leaves
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil  (adjust to desired consistency)
1/2 lemon or lime, juiced
Salt to taste

Place half the basil leaves along with the garlic cloves, cheese, and walnuts into a high speed blender. Blend continuously until finely chopped and evenly dispersed.

Add lemon juice, remaining basil, parsley leaves and the fresh Moringa leaves. Blend, scraping down sides of the blender jar intermittently until adequately chopped and incorporated.

Drizzle in oil while blending. Adjust to desired consistency. (Note: More oil will produce a thinner pesto that works well for sauces. Less oil will produce pesto better equipped for spreading.)

Spritz in extra lemon or lime juice as needed. Sprinkle in salt. Add/adjust ingredients (garlic, walnuts, cheese, lime, salt) to taste.

If keeping, coat the top with a bit of olive oil and store in a small air tight container.

For our Valentine's Dinner we had Tagliatelle with Pesto Genovese and Tenderloin steaks.  Blueberry Upside down Cake to follow.

We really enjoyed this mixture of pasta and potatoes with the pesto sauce. From a favorite cookbook of mine, Great Italian Cooking, edited by Michael Sonino.

Another useful moringa discovery was the trick of putting a good sized bunch of leaves into a big paper bag for drying.  A few days in a sunny spot or in the oven with just a pilot light.  Then you can easily pull out the bigger stems and keep your dried herb in a mason jar for tea.  Especially good with ginger and lemon grass.

All will be shared over at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event.  Check out some good suggestions, both for cooking and reading.


Escapism Cooking, In One Sense

When I got The Art of Escapism Cooking by Mandy Lee, from our library (this is not a book you want to buy without checking it out first) I thought, my word, what amazing looking recipes!  What wonderful photography!

Then, I realized that these recipes were for very involved, not to mention strange, concoctions.  Pages of instruction and hard to come by ingredients, many incorporating unique sauces, which needed to be created first, before using, in meals entitled for instance, Spelt Jianbing with Kettle Cooked Potato Chips, Clams Over Oatmeal, Chewy Layered Paratha, Korean Pork Belly Tacos with Pear on Sticky Rice Tortillas, and Semi-Instant Risotto with Pork Fat Crispy Rice Cereal.
This is not merely fusion cooking people, but more like Double Extreme Fusion!  And Lee gives her readers a few tirades on that subject, for example her rant on pizza: 
"Pizza has the potential to be Italy's ramen, a democratic arena of creativity, progressivism, and tolerance, if only the Italians could just chill the fuck out about it.  Is it really pizza?  Who says so, and who cares?  Neither the tomato itself nor baking stuff on top of a fermented dough was an original Italian idea, and if the Italians from a few hundred years ago were dumb enough to give a shit about that, then there wouldn't even be such a thing as pizza today.  All the dishes we eat today were fusion at some point in history.  And to say that this progression should stop and freeze at an arbitrary point for the sake of national pride is both dangerous and dumb-sounding."


Pistachio Dusted Cream of Cauliflower Soup from The Knowledge

Many of you may be familiar with Martha Grimes' series featuring Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent, Richard Jury, and her clever pub name titles.  The Knowledge  is one of those, her latest effort in the series.. Jury and his occasionally strange cohorts/friends are always fun.  I'd recommend starting at the beginning however, unless you already have.

From the Publishers:
"With their signature wit, sly plotting, and gloriously offbeat characters, Martha Grimes’s New York Times bestselling Richard Jury mysteries are “utterly unlike anyone else’s detective novels” (Washington Post). In the latest series outing, The Knowledge, the Scotland Yard detective nearly meets his match in a Baker Street Irregulars-like gang of kids and a homicide case that reaches into east Africa.

Robbie Parsons is one of London’s finest, a black cab driver who knows every street, every theater, every landmark in the city by heart. In his backseat is a man with a gun in his hand—a man who brazenly committed a crime in front of the Artemis Club, a rarefied art gallery-cum-casino, then jumped in and ordered Parsons to drive. As the criminal eventually escapes to Nairobi, Detective Superintendent Richard Jury comes across the case in the Saturday paper.

Two days previously, Jury had met and instantly connected with one of the victims of the crime, a professor of astrophysics at Columbia and an expert gambler. Feeling personally affronted, Jury soon enlists Melrose Plant, Marshall Trueblood, and his whole gang of merry characters to contend with a case that takes unexpected turns into Tanzanian gem mines, a closed casino in Reno, Nevada, and a pub that only London’s black cabbies, those who have “the knowledge,” can find. The Knowledge is prime fare from “one of the most fascinating mystery writers today” (Houston Chronicle)."