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BLACK BEAN & MANGO SALSA

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I bought a couple of Ataulfo mangoes with no particular plans for them.

Just a very few of the mango varieties out there:

Mango-Varieties-courtesy-of-the-National-Mango-Board

Then it turned out there was a baseball game on TV and we would need something to snack on. So I made Black Bean & Mango Salsa. It’s now my husband’s favorite dip for chips – better than guacamole or the tomato-based salsas and pico de gallos I’ve made in the past. I guess this could be filed under Caribbean, Mexican, or world cuisine.

Lots of chopping here, but this is a great way to practice mad knife skillz, since it’ll all be tumbled together at the end anyway. And speaking of chopping: I saw a food demonstration of how to efficiently chop garlic, and it works better than a garlic press. Use a large chef’s knife (a small paring or steak knife will not work) and salt. This video describes it all (until he starts flogging garlic in a jar, which is convenient but does not taste like fresh garlic).

BLACK BEAN AND MANGO SALSA

  • 2 small (Ataulfo) or 1 large (Tommy Atkins, Haden, etc.) mango, peeled and diced small
  • 1 Anaheim chili, roasted, peeled, minced (see this for the how-tos)
  • 1 Jalapeno chili, roasted, peeled, minced (as above)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 5-6 fat garlic cloves, minced (do not be tempted to skimp on the garlic!)
  • 1 can (about 16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and minced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, diced small –  about 1 generous cup of chopped tomato (Romas are great for this, but other tomatoes work too – even cherry tomatoes if you don’t mind extra chopping)
  • juice of 1 fat lemon or 2-3 limes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt to taste (if you did not use salt to mince the garlic)

Chop/prep everything and toss into a bowl as you go. Mix it up and let sit for about 20 minutes, then taste and adjust  seasoning (more lemon? More heat? More salt?).

Eat. Great with chips but also on tacos, chicken, pork chops, grilled fish, green salad, whatever.

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Variations:

  • Substitute peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, or papaya for the mango.
  • Substitute other chilies for the Anaheim and Jalapeno.
  • Use raw minced chilies instead of roasting them.
  • Add fresh minced sweet basil.

And finally: I found this video and I have not tried it, but it looks like it would work. Just be sure to hold onto that glass (or use a plastic glass) because nothing is more slippery than a mango.

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ASIAN CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAP SAUCE

Sometimes you need to pull a rabbit out of your hat. On occasion you find that what you pulled out actually was more like a weasel or a marmot, but now and then it does turn out to be a rabbit, just as you’d hoped.

I’m preparing food for a cocktail party, which has to be all finger foods. I thought Asian chicken lettuce wraps would be good, never mind that I have never made them before. The filling part is easy enough – diced chicken, water chestnuts, peanuts, cilantro, scallions – but the dressing was another story. You can buy all kinds of bottled dressings and some of them taste okay, but it’s fun to mix your own. If you have a well-stocked pantry with Asian ingredients, it’s fast and easy.

Here is what I came up with. This started with a recipe for Vietnamese Chicken and Mint Salad from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson, and took off from there.

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SAUCE FOR ASIAN LETTUCE WRAPS

  • 2 small red Jalapenos, minced
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon nam pla
  • 2 Tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black bean garlic sauce
  • 1 star anise

Combine all ingredients. Store in refrigerator. Remove star anise before using. Toss with diced chicken or shrimp for Asian lettuce wraps or as a salad dressing.

Notes:

Use chili flakes, Sriracha, cayenne, or other hot peppers in place of the Jalapenos.

Nam pla (fish sauce) is available in Asian markets or well-stocked supermarkets. If necessary you can substitute soy sauce or tamari.

Black bean garlic sauce is available in Asian markets or well-stocked supermarkets. Leave it out if you can’t find it.

Thai sweet chili sauce is available in Asian markets, supermarkets, and Trader Joe’s. It is a thick sweet-spicy sauce that has a couple of million uses.

BRUSCHETTA: PERFECT SUMMER FOOD

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I’m so over summer, but like honey badger, summer don’t care. It’s going to be here for the next million years, or at least that’s what it feels like.  It’s a long string of days in which it’s just too hot to do a lot of cooking.

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On those kinds of days, I often make bruschetta. It’s virtually no-cook (except for making toast) and is an extremely good way to enjoy the best summer tomatoes. There’s no set recipe: use as much of each ingredient as you like or you have on hand. This approaches Nirvana if made with heirloom tomatoes.

  • Real summer tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Core and chop tomatoes. Mince garlic. Chop or sliver basil. Combine in a bowl. Pour in some olive oil and add salt & pepper to taste.

Toast the best bread you can lay your hands on (i.e. not  squishy supermarket bread like Rainbo).  If you feel ambitious, cut a garlic clove in half and rub the cut side onto the toast until the garlic disappears. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the toast. Eat.

Possible add-ins:

  • Minced hot peppers, cayenne, or hot sauce.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Fresh oregano along with, or in place of, the basil.
  • Minced sweet onion.
  • Chopped roasted red bell pepper.
  • Chopped good-quality olives (like Kalamata).

Other things to try:

  • Top bruschetta with cheese, then run under the broiler.
  • Spread tapenade on toast, then top with tomato mixture.
  • Spread pesto on toast, then top with tomato mixture.
  • Skip the toast. Mix this into hot cooked pasta.
  • Pour over green salad and toss.
  • Puree leftovers and serve as cold soup.
  • Use to top baked or grilled fish.
  • Use to top grilled eggplant.
  • Puree and strain. Pour over ice along with a healthy shot of vodka.

THE GREEK LAYERED SALAD

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Now then: my previous post was about Crazy Feta, which is absurdly good by itself. But it is a key component of a salad they probably don’t actually make in Greece, but maybe that’s because it hadn’t occurred to them. They have lamb roasting on a spit, stuffed grape leaves, feta, ouzo, spanakopita – what else do you need?

Once more, the credit goes to Jessica at How Sweet it Is for coming up with this amazing combination. She says it’s a dip that could be used on chips or in wraps or sandwiches, but I served it as a salad, a messy messy layered salad.  I varied mine a bit from hers. I would expect anyone to vary their versions too.

Once you have the components made and/or bought, it’s just layering in a bowl.    You could also arrange it on a giant platter like those layered Mexican dips and surround with bread and pita chips.

Things you will need to either make yourself or purchase already made:

The aforementioned Crazy Feta.

Hummus.

Tzatziki.

Okay, got your dips made? Putting this together is fun.

LAYERED GREEK SALAD

  • 1 1/2 cups tzatziki
  • 1 can (about 15 ounces) pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 1/2 cups hummus
  • 1 can (about 15 ounces) artichoke hearts or artichoke bottoms in water
  • Crazy Feta
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 cup roasted bell peppers
  • 1 large delicious ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced sweet red onion
  • sumac 
  • za’atar

In a deep clear bowl, layer in this order:

tzatziki on the bottom of the bowl (drain off excess liquid)

drained, chopped olives

hummus

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Drained and chopped artichoke hearts

Crazy Feta

Chopped zucchini

Roasted bell peppers (these were yellow)

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Chopped tomatoes

Chopped cucumber

Minced onions

Sumac

Za’taar

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Cover and refrigerate up to eight hours. Drain off any excess liquid that may accumulate.

This served 10 people as a salad as part of a dinner. There was about 2 cups left over, which we smeared on sourdough bread the next day.  If served as a dip, this would probably serve 15-20 people.

A few notes:

  • I made hummus from one can of garbanzos and one can of cannellini beans, sesame oil, lemon, garlic, and plenty of cilantro. Not traditional but I liked it better than garbanzos alone.
  • A block of plain feta can be crumbled and used in place of the Crazy Feta.
  • If you are fortunate enough to live near a Middle Eastern market, you can get the sumac and za’atar there. I bought mine at The Spice Shop.  Penzey’s also sells them (I can highly recommend Penzey’s spices and service) as well as probably plenty of other outlets. They are not absolutely essential here, but I wanted to add something extra to the tomatoes & cucumbers without salting them (which would cause them to get watery).  If these spices are too exotic, sprinkle the tomatoes with pepper and oregano.
  • Trader Joe’s carries both pitted Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts in water, as well as tzatziki, hummus,  and feta.

Now go forth and make this.

CRAZY FETA

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I can’t take credit for this. All thanks go to Jessica at How Sweet it Is for this amazing mixture of deliciousness. I will take credit for being a Google ninja and finding it, though.

So you see, I was having my annual Summer Solstice dinner on June 21, which was – surprise!  – the actual Summer Solstice. I think Middle Eastern and Greek food goes especially well in the summer, so I was looking for those kinds of dishes. (For some reason I only have one cookbook dedicated to that region, and it seems to be on loan somewhere.) And that was when I found the directions for a Greek Layered Salad, which also comes from Jessica at How Sweet it Is.

But it was the Crazy Feta that really sold  me. All by itself, this stuff is so fantastic; made into a Greek salad, it approximates Nirvana.

Here is what you do.

CRAZY FETA

  • 1 pound feta cheese
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 Jalapeno peppers
  • juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • olive oil
  • pepper

Slice the top quarter off the entire head of garlic, just enough to expose the cloves (do not peel away the papery skin). Place head on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with a very small amount of olive oil, then wrap the foil around the garlic and place it at one end of a small baking dish. At the other end, put the Jalapenos. Put the dish in the oven at 400 degrees.

Turn the Jalapenos after about 15 minutes.  After about 30 minutes, remove the dish from the oven.  Place the peppers in a paper or plastic bag and let them steam about 15 minutes. Then cut the stem end from the Jalapenos, remove the seeds, and remove the blistered skin. Chop peppers finely.

NOW WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES OR ANY OTHER TENDER BODY PART FOR AT LEAST THREE HOURS.

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I couldn’t find blocks of feta packed in water at the Grocery Outlet, but I did find these two packages, which totaled 1 pound.Works for me.

Mash the feta with a big fork. Add the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon, the minced Jalapenos, and about 1/4 cup olive oil. Then take the roasted garlic and squeeze the sweet caramelized cloves right out of their skins into the bowl.

Mash mash mash. You want this to be spreadable and dipable but not runny. You may need more olive oil.  Taste and add pepper (and salt, if necessary).

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When the consistency seems just right to you, pull out a bag of chips and cram everything into your face  cover and store in the refrigerator for one week.

This is an essential ingredient in the next recipe, Greek Layered Salad.

NEW YORK HOT DOG ONION SAUCE

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I’m seeing a lot of articles lately about “The 50 Best Hot Dogs in America.”  Best, of course, is subjective, but these photos make all of them look pretty damn good. Here is a slideshow to get you salivating.

I don’t eat a lot of hot dogs because even the best ones aren’t what you’d call healthy. We’ve been getting Hebrew National Reduced Fat; they’re not quite as nutritionally reprehensible as some other brands. Grilled over charcoal – because we like to add our own carcinogens – they are pretty tasty.

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When I lived in New York City in a different life, a hot dog from a cart on the street was a great treat. I think they were fifty cents at the time; they now run about $1.75.  There were three acceptable toppings for the dog (which was kept warm in a tub of greasy water): mustard (deli mustard – none of that fancy-schmancy Dijon), sauerkraut, and onion sauce.  It was perfection.

The onion sauce is what New York expats dream about, and what visitors come away craving.  Apparently Sabrett’s bottles it for sale, but why buy that when it’s cheap and easy to make your own? I found a recipe here on the internet and made it the other night. It turned out pretty good. It’s easy to make and good on a lot of things besides hot dogs. You’re going to be grilling hot dogs this summer anyway; make a batch and try it – whether you’re eating Nathan’s, Sabrett’s, or Smart Dogs, it’ll be great.

NEW YORK HOT DOG ONION SAUCE

  • 2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • sprinkle of salt

Heat the oil in a wide frying pan. Add the onions and salt and cook slowly over medium heat, turning as needed, until onions start to brown on the edges. If they burn, throw them out and start over. When onions are starting to brown, add the garlic and cook another few minutes (do not brown the garlic).

Meanwhile, combine in a small bowl:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (stir to get lumps out)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste OR 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco, Tapatio, Cholula, etc.)
  • big pinch cinnamon

After adding the garlic to the onions, pour in this liquid mixture. Cover the pan, lower the heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Check now and then and add water if necessary to keep it from sticking or burning. You want to end up with onions in a somewhat thickened sauce – not runny and not gummy.

After 1 hour, it’s ready to eat. This keeps nicely in the refrigerator for a few days, covered, so you can make it ahead of a BBQ. Try it on hot dogs, of course, but also burgers, steak, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes instead of gravy, steamed rice, or wherever a slightly sweet, slightly savory condiment would go well. If you chopped the onions instead of slicing them, this would make a nice dip to go with chips.

MAYONNAISE: EAT IT RAW

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I like underdone (runny) fried eggs, carpaccio, beef tartare, extra-extra rare beef, sushi and sashimi, raw cookie dough, and unpasteurized cheeses. And I eat yogurt past the expiration date.

I have been making my own mayonnaise for over 30 years and not once has anyone gotten sick from it.

But for liability reasons, I feel I need to make a disclaimer here:

Eat raw eggs at your own risk.

There.

Now then. Mayonnaise.  It may have been invented in Mahon, Spain. It might have been named after Charles de Lorraine, duke of Mayenne, or it might have been invented in England in the 15th century. I suspect some version of this sauce might have developed in several places over the centuries, and eventually took its current name by popular use. Does it matter?

I actually personally know people who hate mayonnaise, but I like them despite this inexplicable flaw. (Ditto for people who like Miracle Whip.)  So this is not for them.  But for people who love mayo – the world extends beyond Best Foods (or as the label reads, Hellman’s East of the Rockies). (Why is the dividing line The Rockies? Why not the Mississippi or the Louisiana Purchase?)

Making your own mayonnaise is easy. My niece was making it when she was three years old (she did need some assistance getting up on the kitchen counter). It tastes far better than commercial mayonnaise. And you can jazz it up to suit yourself.

The basic principle of making mayonnaise is that you are forcing two different substances – egg yolk and oil – to blend together (emulsify) harmoniously. Technique is crucial. But even if the worst happens and it breaks/separates, it can be repaired.

Mayonnaise can be made in a bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer, in a food processor, or blender. The first method is a sure thing but tedious, and I only resort to that when I have screwed up and the mayo broke/didn’t thicken. In theory the food processor should work well, but I’ve had more failures than successes with it. I think the blender is the way to go.

Separate two eggs. Put the yolks in the blender. Put the egg whites in a covered container in the refrigerator; use in scrambled eggs, baking,  or omelets, or freeze for longer storage: when you collect enough, make an angel food cake.

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Add 3 tablespoons vinegar or fresh lemon juice, and blitz for 30 seconds.

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Let stand for 3 minutes. This is to kill sick-making bacteria. (Yes, I know someone will pipe up and cite some kind of study that shows this won’t kill .00182 % of the bacteria. If you’re about to do that, perhaps you should go read another blog. This is my blog, dammit, and if you don’t like it, leave.)

Where were we? Yes. Eggs and vinegar.

Now add the seasonings.

1 teaspoon dry mustard or 2 teaspoons prepared mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

good hit hot sauce

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And blitz again for 30 seconds.

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Start adding oil. You want to do this VERY SLOWLY, drop by drop if possible. If you add the oil slowly enough, the oil droplets emulsify with the egg yolk, creating a thick mayonnaise.

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I use about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, then switch to a vegetable oil like canola or safflower. The mixture will be thickening; when that happens, you can add the oil a bit faster. You might need as much as one cup of oil or slightly more, but once the mixture stops absorbing oil, do not continue adding it.

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When the mayonnaise is very thick and you can’t see oil being absorbed any more – i.e. it’s puddling up on top – turn off the blender. Remove the bottom of the blender carefully (sometimes the mayonnaise will all spill out at once) and scrape into a container.

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The mayonnaise will be yellower and much less sweet than commercial products. Store, covered, in refrigerator. You can use it right away or let it continue to develop flavor for a couple of hours in the fridge.

HOW TO FIX BROKEN MAYONNAISE

Sometimes the mayonnaise will not thicken, or it may break and look curdled. This could be due to adding the oil too fast or blending too long after the maximum amount of oil has been added.

Place one egg yolk, at room temperature, in a clean bowl. With a balloon whisk, beat in 1 teaspoon prepared mustard until very thoroughly combined. Then, drop by drop, add the broken mayonnaise, whisking constantly. Once the emulsion begins to take, you can add the mayonnaise a little faster.

SOME VARIATIONS

Vary the vinegar: sherry, pear, red wine, apple cider, garlic, tarragon, champagne, and so on, or try fresh lime lime juice.

For richer mayonnaise, add one or two more egg yolks.

Try different oils, or a higher/lower percentage of olive oil.

To the seasonings, add:

  •  a chipotle chili from a can, including some of the adobo sauce. This is particularly good when using lime juice.
  •  garlic, raw or roasted.
  •  fresh herbs – parsley, basil, dill, tarragon, cilantro, etc.
  •  a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil and a little Sriracha.
  •  prepared mustard to taste.
  •  sun-dried tomatoes. including some of the oil.

Homemade mayonnaise will last a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. It doesn’t have the commercial stabilizers and preservatives found in bottled products so don’t count on keeping it the same amount of time, but that isn’t likely to be a problem: it’s far more delicious than Best Foods.

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