Lost in the Clouds

I dropped by one of my favorite stores today to pick up a few specialty items. It’s always fun to plan a weekend visit, because the folks at Roth’s Market in Silverton go out of their way to feature tastings and innovative offerings.

Out front, they had their usual grill area set up cooking off their notoriously fantastic burgers—the smell is enough to draw you in and seal the deal.  As I skirted past the crowd to make my way into the store entry, I caught a whiff of another oddly familiar smell that jerked me around and took me back outside again.  It made no sense, but clearly, I was downwind from an unmistakeable cloud of roasting hatch chile peppers!

Yes, indeed, behind the tent of barbecuing burgers, a roaster was gyrating about searing and tumbling the elusive, elegant, elongated hatch chile peppers.Hatch roaster  A team of three was busy removing and bagging them as fast as they could for waiting shoppers.Roasted hatch Shades of New Mexico and Austin! How could this happen? The lady ahead of me carried off 10 pounds of peppers; she clearly knew what she was doing.

Hatch box resizedApparently the word is out: that small window of opportunity called hatch chile pepper season is upon us, right here in Silverton, Oregon. fresh hatch resized If you have not experienced these amazing peppers now is the time, and it will not last.  That is why people in the know, freeze enough of the freshly roasted peppers to last them an entire year.

Of course hatch chiles are amazing on burgers, for more information and ideas on these marvels, check out earlier posts:

The Land of Enchantment

Yup, Hatch Pepper Manicotti

Chile-Cheese-in-a-Hole

Heat Wave?  Just Add Ice

Here in the Pacific Northwest we are known for our extreme coffee consumption.   At any time of the day or night, drive down a busy street and you will likely find multiple drive up coffee stands positioned to service the staggering number of customers queued in line for their next quick fix.

And when it comes to heat waves, rather than sweet tea, iced coffee is often our drink of choice. With temperatures soaring over 100 degrees for multiple days recently, my friend Chuck’s house specialty is a refreshing Thai iced coffee.

Thai Iced Coffee

Thai Iced Coffee

He suggests sugar muddled in a glass with a spiced coffee base, filled with ice cubes, and finished with half and half to taste.

Of course this took me right back to my coffee days in the Bahamas and Caribbean.  Since fresh milk was considered a luxury that required refrigeration, condensed milk was often favored due to its greater shelf life.  So popular, it was also served in most cafes and restaurants; after a while its taste just became part of the experience.

Since I’m not a big fan of sugar in my coffee anyway, I opted to stay with tradition and go with my old standby, sweetened condensed milk.  If you are a blog follower, then you are likely familiar with other recipes here praising its virtues, like Key Lime Pie and Dulce de Leche.  Its light caramelized flavor adds a richness, it rounds out, and enhances the cardamom and cinnamon flavoring brewed into the coffee base – it’s that simple.   Just add ice!

Thai Iced Coffee

Ingredients
4 tablespoons coffee, freshly ground
1/3 teaspoon cardamom, ground
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
6 cups water
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk
Ice
Garnish:  Cinnamon or cinnamon sticks

Directions

  1. In basket of a coffee brewer, place ground coffee, cardamom and cinnamon. Brew with water and allow to cool.
  2. In individual glasses add 1-2 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk and thin with 1-2  tablespoons milk.
  3. Add ice and pour in cool or chilled coffee; top off with additional milk as desired. Garnish with a sprinkling of cinnamon or a cinnamon stick. Serves 4.

Tea, from Oregon with love

Minto Island Tea Company stands in a class all its own.  They are leading the way in the specialty production of certified organic, handpicked, small-batch crafted teas in Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley.Minto Island Tea

Who knew temperamental, labor intense teas would grow in Oregon—or in the US, for that matter?  First planted back in 1988 as an experimental project, their plants and techniques proved to not only thrive but they have flourished over the years. Minto Island Tea leaves

As small batch growers, this family operation continues to adapt, perfect their art, and gain acclaim along the way for high quality green, oolong and black teas.  For more information their teas can be sourced at their Minto Island Farm Stand in Salem, from their website, or at the Portland State Saturday Market. 

The Tostada: Meal in a Flash

These days a tostada is an easy go-to meal.  A satisfying and tasty plate can be whipped up in no time with a few odds and ends pulled from the fridge.  I learned about precooked crisp corn tostada shells during my last trip to Mexico, and decided if they are good enough for the fine cooks of Querétaro, they are good enough for me!  The Guerrero brand has always been reliable.Guerrero tostadas

I recently had plenty of jerk pork left from a grilling episode, but roast chicken is equally good.  Warmed refried beans are a nice touch, but I had chili spiced sorghum ready to go.  Top it with crunchy lettuce or cabbage slaw and pass the salsa.

Jerk Pork Tostada

Jerk Pork Tostada

It’s that easy.  Additional garnishes are always welcome:  avocado, chopped tomato, cilantro, or grated cheese.

Jerk Pork and Sorghum Chili Tostada

Ingredients
Tostada shell, Guerrero is good
2-3 tablespoons warmed Refried Beans or Sorghum Chili
2-3 tablespoons Jerk Pork, sliced
2-3 tablespoons Cabbage Slaw
Garnishes: sliced avocado, chopped tomato, cilantro, grated cheese, salsa of choice

Directions

  1. Heat the tostada shell in the microwave for about 1 minute.
  2. Warm the refried beans or Sorghum Chili and spread on the tostada.
  3. Add warmed or room temperature jerk pork.
  4. Top with the slaw, add sliced avocado, and garnish with tomato, cilantro, grated cheese and spoon on the salsa. Yield:  1 serving.

Make Ahead Salad? Consider crunchy cabbage slaw

Cabbage is a wonderful thing, but it took me a long time to reach that conclusion.  It’s a caterer’s best friend, as well as anyone into recreational dining.  It is refreshing, adaptable, and holds very well.  Here’s a slaw that moves beyond the dull standard mayonnaise based variety.

If making ahead, the salting process and a slightly wider shred work well in maintaining crispness.  If not an issue, omit the salting and use a regular cut, adding 1/2 teaspoon salt to the dressing.  Crunchy slaw works in lieu of generic lettuce for many uses:  in sandwiches and wraps, on burgers, fajitas and tacos or as a default salad with barbecue and picnic fixings.

cabbage slaw

Broccoli Slaw Variation

Short of time? There are plenty of pre-cut packaged slaws that can be substituted in lieu of the cabbage and carrot; the new broccoli variations are worth checking out.

Cabbage Slaw with Lime Dressing

1 medium head of cabbage, without core, slice into 1/4-1/2″x2″ lengths
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 small carrot, peel and shred
1/4 cup cilantro (optional)
4 green onion, chop
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seed, dice (or a dash cayenne in dressing)
Lime Dressing
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
Black pepper, few grinds
2 tablespoon olive oil, to taste
Garnish: 1 large tomato, seeded and diced, optional

Directions

  1. Remove the core and any thick portions, slice the cabbage into 1/4-1/2″ x 2″ shred, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt to distribute evenly and place in colander or sieve. Let drain 30 minutes or longer.
  2. Combine dressing ingredients and set aside.
  3. Squeeze out any cabbage surface moisture and place in large bowl. Add the carrot, cilantro, green onion and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss evenly to coat.  Adjust seasoning, it should have a bite to it.  Chill and toss again before servings.  Top with fresh tomato if desired and serve.  Serves 5 or more.

Sorghum: worth knowing about

For centuries sorghum has been used as a flour for flatbreads in both India and Africa.  Today, its similarities in taste and texture to wheat flour make it a worthy gluten-free baking option.

 This ancient grain has plenty of health benefits, too.  Sorghum has abundant levels of fiber, unsaturated fats and nearly half the daily intake of protein. It is rich in minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron, and such vitamins as niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine. Plus, it has more antioxidants than blueberries and pomegranates.

Sorghum’s exterior shell presents more of a cooking challenge than many ancient grains. Since a prolonged low simmer is necessary, the slow cooker is an ideal tool for the job. I recently gave it a try in my small slow cooker and I ended up with a mellow satisfying chili variation, sans meat.

Once the sorghum was almost tender, I added a sautéed vegetable melange along with diced tomato, and let the flavors simmer until thick.

Sorghum Chili, ready for layering

Sorghum Chili, ready for layering

Spiced up to personal taste, the Sorghum Chili yields a slightly chewy texture similar to barley, making it a nutrient-rich, light alternative to the traditional heavy bean laden chili.  Layer it with plenty of optional components like onion, tomatoes, and cheese.

Here are two cooking options, a stove-top version and a crock pot alternative.

Light and Easy Sorghum Chili

Ingredients
1 cup sorghum, rinsed
2 3/4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided in half
½ teaspoon salt
½ onion, dice
1 clove garlic, crush
1 green pepper, pasilla or bell, seed and dice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 Roma tomato, seed, dice
½ cup grated cheese, jack, harvarti, or cheddar

Directions

  1. In a medium sized pot, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add half of the oil, salt, sorghum, and cook 5 minutes; reduce to medium. Cover and simmer until water reaches the level of the grains, 30 – 40 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan, add remaining oil, the onion and garlic and sauté until soft; add the pepper and seasonings and stir until aromatic.  Add the Roma tomato and toss to combine and add all to the sorghum.
  3. Reduce to low, placing a double layer of tea towel under the lid to absorb moisture, and cook until the water has evaporated and the grains are puffed with a tender bite, an additional 10-15 minutes; a total of 45-55 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Stir in ½ cup grated cheese until melted and creamy.  Serves 3-4.

For Slow Cooked Sorghum
Cooking in a slow cooker may accumulate water in the lid, which contributes excess liquid to the pot. To alleviate the water gain, add a tea towel below the lid in the final cooking stage to help with water absorption.
In a small slow cooker set on high, combine 1 cup sorghum and 2 ¾ cup boiling water, drizzle with oil and a sprinkle of salt.  Cook on high for 2-3 hours, or until the water reaches the level of the grains.
Add the seasoned sautéed vegetables, reduce to low, cover with lid lined with a double layer of tea towel to absorb moisture, and cook until the water has evaporated and the grains are puffed with a tender bite, an additional 30-40 minutes.  Adjust seasoning. Stir in ½ cup grated cheese until melted and creamy and serve.  Serves 3-4.

Jerk Pork: it’s grill time!

It’s summertime and the living is stunningly easy here on the homestead.  Especially now that I have finally located another folding grill!  What was once called the Pyromid has resurfaced under the new name of EcoQue, and I couldn’t be happier.  This unique stainless steel grill not only folds neatly into its own 2” thick tote for easy storage, it produces temperatures close to 900 degrees on its 12” surface with only 9 charcoal briquettes.

I apologize, I did not intend the post to become a sales pitch for this adorable grill, but I guess I can’t help myself. I am utterly thrilled that it hasn’t completely disappeared!  With the new grill at hand, my first order of business was to grill off a little celebratory jerk pork.

Jerk Pork

Jerk Pork

This popular Bahamian marinade makes anything taste better.  It’s wonderful hot off the grill on chicken, fish, beef, or pork and it is even better the next day. Jerk meats remain so moist and flavorful they are ideal for picnics and travel. Today, I’m cooking a thick chunk of pork but 3 to 4 pounds of chicken or beef will work just as well.

Jerk Pork, Chicken, or Beef

Ingredients
3 – 4 lb.  pork, chicken or beef ribs
Jerk Marinade
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
3 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup green onions, chop
1 clove garlic, minced
4 scotch bonnet chiles, or jalapeno peppers, seed
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. For marinade: place all ingredients in blender and puree for 2 minutes.
  2. Massage the meat well with the marinade and marinate several house or overnight.  Any extra marinade can be reserved for dipping if not used for brushing the meat on the grill.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-low heat.  Drain and pat the meat dry.  Brush the grill with oil.  Grill, turning and brushing with marinade as needed until nicely browned all over and pork reaches an internal temperature of 160°, beef is between 145-160°, and chicken reaches 165°.