Sunday, May 20, 2018

Going green, greens and activism



                  Cooking a meal to show love for a friend can be an act of activism.

                  “When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
                  When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” – Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb

                             These two notions crossed my path in the same week I was invited to a gathering where guests brought all that “health” food kind of stuff, from quinoa and avocado salads to hummus.
                             The part about cooking came from “Love Activism,” Stacy Russo’s book calling readers to approach everything they do with hope, empathy, non-violence and creativity. She asks us to be mindful during our meals and appreciate the food, the workers who brought it to us and the natural world that grew it.
                             Consider a silent meal to be truly mindful, and make a proper setting for your repast, even if you must dine in a space of cleared papers on your desk. This is another example of how my tiny fork helps me consider each bite.
                             Russo shares her conversion from vegetarian to vegan in a thoughtful way and discusses Love Activism in several aspects. Some ideas: Visit the sick; mail someone a surprise post card; and truly listen and be present when someone is speaking to you.
                             She asked readers to consider the beverage they may be drinking while reading her book.  If it was something other than safe tap water, they have options they may not realize. If someone has access to clean water at no extra charge and still has money to buy coffee, tea, bottled water, etc., then he or she has money that could be used in the service of others.


                             Going very green
                             A “restaurants near me” search in Houston steered me to The Green Seed, a vegan restaurant on Almeda Road. It had a modern, yet classic neighborhood feel with a variety of patrons lining up for lunch.
                             After perusing the menu above the counter, I chose a Solburger: Raw hemp nut patty topped with microgreens, spinach, tomato, red onion and spirulina aioli on a collard wrap.
                             I wanted to see how they got a collard to stay folded over a wrap. I waited with my number, which featured the proverb about good diet. I thought I’d love to get two paper menus to give to two friends who have interest in food in general, and specifically these types of offerings. Well, this restaurant was so “green” that they didn’t have any sort of menu. Staff suggested I take a photo of the posted menu.  Come to think of it, I didn’t actually see any big sign stating the name of the place on the outside building. My phone got me there. Maybe they were trying to save paint.
                             This place was an experience, and I’m pleased to say my collard wrap stayed wrapped and was completely delicious.
                             Darragh Castillo loves trying new things and wants to hear what you’ve been tasting lately. Contact her at:
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com
                

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Taco Hugh's Day


                             London and a movie?
                             My husband was sharing a story of a mutual friend who went to London and it was snowing and she was having trouble getting in to see “The Greatest Showman.” 
                             Clarisa Chavarria overcame several multiple snags to getting inside the theater and I was thinking “why was she all the way across the pond in  London watching a movie?” It must have been to cold to ride the London Eye.
                             Then I thought that this story is going to end with Hugh Jackman being in the theater, live. Guess what? It did.
                             The theater stopped the movie and the audience thought it was a tech problem and that Australian charmer danced in. My front-of-the-rows friend even showed up in the background of Hugh’s Instagram.
                             Everybody and my Mom is talking about this show, so I decided to host a theme night for her. Mom has great memories of the excitement when the big tops came to town and set up, and that made me crave peanuts and popcorn, but more substantial fare was in order.
                             Then it came to me. It was a Sunday, so we had not a Taco Tuesday, but a Taco Hugh’s Day showing of “The Greatest Showman.”
                             Let me say it once more: Taco Hugh’s Day. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue with the same grace as the acrobat flipping through the air in the movie, but we weren’t “clowing” around.
                             It got us to thinking of how the classic image of a “taco” has changed over the years, even in this Tex-Mex stronghold.
                            I’ve always been partial to a crunchy taco and loved the innovation of wrapping a soft flour tortilla around a hard shell so as to keep your toppings from crumbling out from your first mouthful. And who wants all those extra calories?
                             Then there’s always the flour vs. corn tortilla issue and within that my house there’s a  white flour vs. whole wheat flour side debate. Who wins? Eventually we all did.
                             We served coriander-heavy beans and ground meat and I ended up with a loose taco salad over shredded lettuce, scooping it all up with tortilla chips.            
                             While Hugh Jackman won’t be invited every time, I could see how a regular Taco Tuesday is becoming an American favorite, because there’s a never-ending variety of ways to get your Tex-Mex.
                             Let me know yours via darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Spring clean to bring in the new


 

                  Spring Clean to bring in the new
                 
                             It’s not that I love cleaning, I keep telling my husband, it’s that I like things clean.
                             Big difference.
                             In keeping a household flowing, I love to “edit” or go through closets, drawers and cabinets on a semi-frequent basis and see if I can “let go” of anything. Sometimes, new things come along to replace the space and do a job better. This column is devoted to some of that  innovation and “rotation.”


                             * Candlescape – I was so impressed with a candlescape at my church’s Italian dinner, I snapped a photo. Someone thought of placing glass votive candles over unopened Contadina tomato sauce cans. The label is one I recall from my youth: A woman is featured with a basket of freshly-harvested tomatoes and Italian scenery is in the background. This look set the mood for all the dishes waiting to be enjoyed. I also love the notion of creating a visual from what’s on hand and offering a peek at what’s to come.

                        * Clipa2 – I think that the sort of personalities who painted their nails with correction fluid and wore binder rings as bracelets in middle school invented Clipa2, a non-nonsense purse hook that looks like that big ring, only with a hematite-sleek look. This clip will keep your bag off the floor while you’re meeting friends for lunch or keep it more secure in your shopping cart. Clipa2 opens wide and does the job on rails, restroom doors, etc. without being “cutesy.” It’s designed to work for 10 years, so you’ll be clipping it longer that you tote around your latest shopper. Yes, I am sporting Clipa2 as a bracelet, too. It holds bags up to 33 pounds and has been tested for 10 years of daily use and won’t tarnish, rust, peel, split or corrode.  Find one at: https://amzn.to/2IrOuZ5

                             * Kinder Joy – I got a free sample of this plastic egg with cocoa wafer bites over sweet cream. Packaged for a kid with a prize inside, this joy surprised me with a sense of  a European hazelnut kind of flavor. A flat little plastic spoon came inside to scoop up the sweet and mine came with a toy bike you power with your fingers. Maybe next time I’ll work out a deal where I keep the sweet part and a kinder gets the toy.
                             * Root Assassin Shovel – If you need to get your mother out of the garden to present her Mother’s Day gift, consider the Root Assassin Shovel, with “teeth” that do all the work. It’s an ergonomic 48-inch multi tool to clear out the garden. I tried my sample on a variety of tasks and got a patch of yard looking fit and fine. Overgrown with forest or brush? Serrated edges on both sides get to the root and pull it out.  The sawing part is genius. It’s light and curved and features carbon steel, overlaid with a silver powder coat. Four pounds of power are what we need in our gumbo clay. I’m not alone in admiration. Root Assassin won the Golden Shovel Award by Garden Products Review.

                  darraghcastillo@Icloud.com

Monday, April 23, 2018

Pack your peppers


                             A friend texted she had a craving for piquin/chiltepe peppers, so at lunch I dashed to a Mexican market and got a jar of my own.
                             These are the tiny guys. My 32-ounce Goya label indicated there were 375 servings inside. Pickled pepper friends, these babies are brined and spicy. It’s funny that little birds eat them from potted plants.
                             My first thought was to mash some up into mayonnaise and spread that on brisket sandwich. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m in no danger of running out of peppers.
                             A little thing I do when a big batch of something comes into the house is package it as attractively as possible in my pantry. I’ll be looking at it a long time, after all. These round, green peppers went into a beautiful Mason jar.
                             I’ll use them to adorn tomato and cucumber salads this season.
                             I’ve enjoyed a LaGrange barbecue experience where the restaurant put vinegar into bottles that once held whiskey. Some of these tiny, colorful peppers were floating around in the bottle and people would douse their meal with this flavor. I’ll be that was a story that northern visitors took home.
                             Spice is part of our daily lives. When heat levels come up in conversation, I sometimes note that jalapenos are often part of my breakfast. Turns out lots of Southeast Texans have the same tradition. Give us spicy migas and salsa and keep it coming.
                             The piquin/chiltepe peppers have long stems. I experimented with tossing some into the blender to see if they would dissolve into a salsa. I didn’t have enough other ingredients to work with, so what I made was a mess.
                             Fortunately, I have plenty of pickled peppers packed for Peter Piper and pals who pop in.
                             Darragh Doiron is a Port Arthur area foodie who likes it hot. If want to talk spicy to her, contact Doiron at:
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Four-day pot of beans and beverages with Mom

 
            Four-day pot of beans: The beans didn't even smell that good, but I'd become intimate with them over several days, and I couldn't bear to throw them out. The bean mix and been in a beautiful display jar and it was time for them to go from d├ęcor to dinner. I soaked them a day then put them in a big pot on day two, even though I knew I wouldn't be eating them that day. When I took them out on day three, they were still tough so they went back on to simmer. I got a better offer for dinner so they came out on day four and they were still a bit hard. In the mean time there was a bit of scorching so I transferred them to a smaller pot and started scrubbing the first one, and I had a bright idea to drain them so they'd be more of a soup one night and then more of a side dish later. A strainer and more spoons went into the sink. Finally, it was time to eat those little guys. They were simply a big pot of failure. Bean there?


                  Spicy Skittles?
                             Skittles are so not my thing. But my daughter wanted me to try their Sweet Heat version, promising fruity flavors with a spicy kick. So hey, Blazin Mango, Flamin' Orange and Lemon Spark are pretty kicky and addictive. I think someone before me ate all the Fiery Watermelon and Sizzlin' Strawberries out of the pack.


Purity Vodka is certified organic and gluten free, so you might want to share it with your mom. Whoever got together to propose this pitch for Mother’s Day refreshments also noted the bottle’s diamond shape, which fits right in with honoring Mom.
            Makers want you to know that while most vodka brands are distilled “only a handful of times, Purity Vodka has an unprecedented 34 times distillation process and utilizes the finest organic ingredients for an exceptionally smooth, non-burning yet complex tasting vodka.”
            I will vouch for this smoothness, reflected in craftsmanship, and will share their concoctions with readers:  
Rosemary Hound
Ingredients:
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • one half part ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 2 slices ruby red grapefruit, for garnish
Directions:
  1. Place the grapefruit juice, Purity Vodka and 1 ounce rosemary and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  1. Shake well to mix.
  1. Serve on the rocks, garnished with grapefruit slice. 
Cucumber Gimlet
Ingredients:
  • three fourths parts fresh squeezed lime juice
  • three fourths part simple syrup
  • 4 slices cucumber
  • 1 lime wheel
Directions:
  1. Add all ingredients into cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  1. Shake well and double strain into a large cocktail glass.

  1. Garnish with a lime wheel
  2.  


     

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Cajun flavors fan festival fun

 Wayne Toups can pack a house in Port Arthur and he proved it again at Cajun Heritage Fest this past weekend at the Carl A. Parker Center.
                             Big Doobie’s Boudin & Cracklins was another hit. Big batches of these hot, fatty, salty little pillows of Cajun heaven came out all day. People carried little brown paper bags of them around and crunched as they chatted, listened to music and decided when they’d hit the dance floor again.
                             Big Doobie’s isn’t a store, yet, but they’re on face book touting traditional Cajun meats made fresh per order. Big Doobie, Sis and June Bug were busy filling orders all day at the festival. Call Joshua Rodrigues at 409-548-3075 for more information.
                             The Knights of Peter Claver Council 3491 set up with selections including catfish and shrimp courtbouillon, my dinner choice. Boudain and crawfish vendors cooked all day and the aromas were as enjoyable as the music.
                             Meaux’s  Gumbo food truck made food lovers smile with their creations such as Cajun Dog and Split Decision. I’m not going to spill the red beans on what some of those dishes are. Enjoy for yourself.
                             Louisiana visitors to the Elite Redfish Series event, part of Cajun Heritage Festival, said Meaux’s gumbo looked, smelled and tasted authentic. The cook said he’s very aware about keeping his chicken at just the right temperature so that it doesn’t “break down.” If you find this yellow food truck in action, say hi and place your order.
                           
                 
                            “Fermentation Revolution”
                             How ironic that I accidentally spilled my mother’s glass of Easter wine on the cookbook I was so excited to show here, “Fermentation Revolution: 70 Easy, Healthy Recipes for Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Kimchi and More.”
                             Photos of Sebastien Bureau and David Cote, authors, look like these guys had an extreme amount of fun concocting these blends such as Ginger Bug, for making your own ginger beer; Fermented Garlic Scape and Brazil Nut Bruschetta Tapenade, 
pen            a Sunday cocktail called Your Sister on a Skateboard; and Lactofermented Fiddleheads.
                             The spill thing is funny, because colorful ink blots that look like the kind of good, fun, messy cooking these authors enjoy, are part of the book’s design. The real-life blotch blended right in. You’ve got to get a little loose to create flavors this explosive.
                             They literally had me at  Lactofermented Grape Leaves because I was keeping an eye on the vines growing on my patio that I gathered in the urban wild. I wanted to eat them with something, but what? These author’s note that ideally, one should use “grape leaves that were picked from a garden or plucked surreptitiously from the back alley lane of your neighbor… who isn’t using them anyway.”
                             So you can brine these leaves to use in sorghum and honey rolls, recipe included, and pair them with a glass of wine and…. Here they suggest a lax dress code, but add that you can wear your bathing suit if it makes you more comfortable. I willing to prepare and taste all these recipes, but it sure would be more fun to eat it with these two guys. Here’s more of their pairing suggestions:

                             * Fermented Banana Bread – To eat with warm thoughts of  your grandmother.
                             * Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce -  Use on any food that’s short on personality and, while eating it, try your best to add the fact that you’ve added a bit too much.
                             * Mustard – Use without skimping on anything that goes nicely with the color yellow.
                             darraghcastillo@icloud.com

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Olive this dip


                            The Easter season is just right for dipping bread in to olive oil and home-grown herbs give your blend a visual and culinary boost. My latest batch kept red pepper on the side in case any guests had spice issues. Canned olives and fresh oregano and rosemary enhanced the flavor of oil drizzled into a dish. It’s an appetizing appetizer.


                            

                             Rotarygrams making history
                             History talk, April 23: Marilyn Manson-Hayes will present 1930s Beaumont Voices at a free multi-media event. Period essays will be accompanied by a historically-pertinent commentary enhanced with radio, movie clips, music and pictures.
                             Essays are from Chester A. Easley – a Baptist Texas-born owner of Seaport Coal Company, and Samuel Rosinger, a Hungarian immigrant and rabbi of Temple Emanuel, who wrote essays for Rotarygrams newsletters for about seven years. The event will be from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Student Lecture Landes Auditorium, Galloway Building at Lamar University in Beaumont and from 5 to 7 p.m. at the public performance University Theatre at Lamar. The Center for History & Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast at Lamar University will present the program. Manson-Hayes told me she hopes Culinary Thrill Seeking readers will come and enjoy the evening reception. For information, call Mary L. Scheer at 409-880-8518.


                            Cajun Heritage Festival reminder
                             Wayne Toups is the still hot with Port Arthur fans and he’s expected to be a big hit at Cajun Heritage Festival on April 7 in Port Arthur at the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center. The Elite Redfish Series will be in town with free weigh-in shows April 5-7 at the center.
                             For information on festival tickets, go to www.CajunHeritageFest.com and get your mouth set for some Cajun cuisine. Here’s the scoop: “The Cajun Heritage Fest is back with more music and food than you can shake a stick at! This year Wayne Toups and Royal BluGarou head the festival. Returning for their third year in a row, Jamie Bergeron and the Kickin' Cajuns will be in the house. Travis Matte and the Kingpins and Donovan Bourque & Friends! So come on! Dance to that foot-tapping music, chow down on the rich, delicious Cajun cuisine and have some fun!”


                   
                  darraghcastillo@icloud.com