ghee
Ghee has a rich history in the Indian culture.  It has been used nutritionally and religiously for over 2,000 years.  A rich, aromatic, clarified butter with a depth of nuttiness.

Like any clarified butter, ghee is composed almost entirely of fat.  However, as I have discussed before, fats are essential to life and help the body assimilate nutrients.  Ghee contains the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Another nutritional benefit of ghee is that it helps aid in digestion. It has been used in Indian medicinal practice to help with ulcers, constipation, and the promotion of healthy eyes and skin.

It’s also known that in the Indian culture, many mothers give their children a tablespoon of ghee a day to keep them healthy.  A tradition I may start in my own home.

Because ghee has such a high ‘smoke point’ of around 375F it is also a very useful oil to cook with. The smoke point determines when an oil actually starts to burn and generate oxidisation. As it has a very low oxidisation rate ghee stays fresh and shelf stable for a long time. Another benefit of using ghee is that the heating procedure removes the lactose content making it a suitable replacement of butter for those that are lactose intolerant.

The process of making ghee is quite easy!  I learned how to make ghee from Jennifer McLagan’s book, Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes.

Ghee is made by slowly cooking butter on the stove top until the it separates into 3 parts.  The water which is boiled off, the butter, and the milk solids which are left on the bottom of the pan to brown.  It’s these browned milk solids that infuse the ghee with their characteristic nutty flavor.  According to Jennifer McLagan, the browning of the milk solids creates antioxidants that help delay rancidity.

I have seen many Indian blogs where they add spices or herbs to the cooking butter to impart flavor.  I’ve seen mint and curry leaves.  Something I’ll definitely try in the future.

As easy as this was to make, I encourage you to give it a try.  I used farm fresh butter from a local farmer and the taste was unbelievable.  I’ve been using it on rice, toast, vegetables, fried eggs, and have even found myself eating it plain.  It’s really that good!

Homemade Ghee
Recipe by Jennifer McLagan

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup / 1/2 pound unsalted butter

Method:

  1. Cut the butter into small pieces and place them in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat.  Once the butter has melted, increase the heat just until the butter simmers.  As the butter simmers, a layer of white foam wil form on the top and the butter will bubble and spit as the water boils off.

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    After about 10 minutes the spitting and bubbling will stop.

  2. Now the milk solids on the bottom of the pan will begin to color.  Watch the butter carefully at this point, using a spoon to push aside the foam to check the color of the milk solids.  When they turn brown and you smell a sweet, nutty aroma, remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes, allowing the flavor of the browned milk solids to infuse the ghee.
  3. Carefully strain the ghee through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a double layer of cheesecloth into a clean glass jar, leaving the browned milk solids behind. 
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    When cool, cover the jar and keep the ghee refrigerated for up to 6 months.  It can also be frozen.

I have seen other recipes where it’s okay to keep the ghee at room temperature for up to 2 months.  It’s up to you.  Also the milk solids left over from making ghee taste great!  Save them to add to rice or vegetable dishes.

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Buen Provecho!

This is a post that I have been wanting to share for quite some time.  I was recently given a copy of The Book of Tapas by Simone and Ines Ortega to review.

I was ecstatic to get my hands on a copy of this book!  Here’s why.  Simone Ortega is the original author of 1,080 Recetas De Cocina.  The definitive book on traditional and authentic Spanish home cooking.  It was first published in 1972 and has been a bestseller for nearly 40 years.  This is a book that every woman in Spain receives as a wedding gift.  My mother was no exception.  I grew up flipping through the pages of my mothers soft cover, beat up, thick cookbook.  My mami would pull out the fiction novel sized book and teach me the words that were written in it.  She would explain to me what the ingredients were and I would often hear, “this tastes wonderful but… you can’t find these ingredients here.”  I hated those words.  However, she would make substitutions as she saw fit and we always had a wonderful time together!

You can only imagine my excitement when in 2007, 1,080 Recetas De Cocina was translated into ENGLISH!!  This time, Simone collaborated with her daughter Ines.

I bought a book for both my mami and I.  I remember the day we received our books.  I bolted to my mami’s house and we both sat on the couch comparing the recipes from the English translation to her original copy in Spanish.  They stayed true to most of their recipes.  Some things they did cut out on as our times have changed but really, they’ve done a great job keeping the recipes traditional utilizing real ingredients.  This is definitely the book on Spanish cooking that should have a place on your bookshelf.  What I enjoy so much about it is that they call for ingredients like they were originally prepared.  Spaniards use backfat, lard, butter, salt, organ meats, all parts of the animals and you can find it all in this book!  This book also has an amazing list of vegetables with recipes as the Mediterranean diet is also about eating tons of veggies.  Usually cooked with some sort of fat, be it olive oil, lard or jamon!  Of course recipes for legumes can be found in this book as well.

So you now understand why I was so ecstatic to get my hands on the new book by Simone and Ines Ortega called The Book of Tapas!  Like 1,080 Recipes, this book stays true to Spanish traditional cooking!  It is filled with recipes and very much in line with their original book.  It makes a great companion book!  It’s filled with straight forward recipes and sections of images.  No extra words to introduce a recipe, no historical facts… just Spanish recipes.  These are my favorite books on Spanish cooking!

For this post I was able to create a recipe from the book called Fried Green Asparagus with Garlic, Vinegar and Paprika.  It turned out fabulous, however, I failed to use the amount of asparagus needed and ended up with more of a soup, lol!!  I should of halved the recipe.  Oh well… It still tasted great!

friedgreenasparagus

Fried Green Asparagus with Garlic, Vinegar and Paprika
Recipe from The Book of Tapas by Simone and Ines Ortega
Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2lb (2kg) green asparagus, trimmed
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 slices bread, crusts removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • 3 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • salt

Method

  1. Cut the asparagus into 1 1/2 inch (4-cm) lengths. Heat the oil in a skillet or frying pan.  Add the bread and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, for a few minutes, until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes, until golden brown.  Transfer the garlic to a mortar, add the fried bread and pound with a pestle.
  2. Pour the oil from the skillet into a pan and heat it.  Add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the paprika, then pour in 2 cups (450ml 3/4 pint) hot water. Return the pan to a medium heat, cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the asparagus spears are just tender.
  3. To finish, add the vinegar and a little of the asparagus cooking liquid to the mixture in the mortar and stir well, then stir into the pan containing the asparagus. Season with a little salt and cook for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.

Have a great week and here’s to traditional Spanish cooking!  Buen Provecho!  

garbanzos_espinaca

This is my submission to My Legume Love Affair, hosted by me this month and brought to us by Susan from the Well Seasoned Cook.  You have until June 30th to enter :D

This is another traditional Spanish dish that can have many variations.  Each family claiming to have the best recipe.  This particular recipe is reminiscent of what my family makes, however, my mother did let me know that I forgot the pan frito!!  Sorry mami.. I’ll add it in the recipe ;)

Being that spinach is now going out of season, I was excited to try water spinach, the asian green Kang Kong.

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When I visited Yang at the farmers market, he showed me these beautiful greens.  He explained to me how they were used in his culture and right away I knew I had to try them out in this Spanish dish.  They worked beautifully as they were deliciously mild and sweet.  I’m excited to get another bunch of these next week to try in a different dish.  This dish is quite simple to create at home.  Although for the best in flavors, you’ll need to soak dry garbanzo’s overnight and cook them the next day to make a broth of it’s own that is used in the final dish.  You can take shortcuts and use canned garbanzo beans, however, flavor and depth will be effected.

Garbanzos con Espinaca

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry garbanzo beans soaked overnight ( or 2 cans garbanzo beans)

For cooking the garbanzo’s

  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

The Garbanzo’s con Espinaca

  • 1 bunch water spinach (Kang Kong), or spinach
  • 4 pieces bacon, chopped
  • 6-8 garlic cloves sliced
  • 3 tbls red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Spanish Paprika, Pimenton
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns (1/4 tsp ground pepper)
  • 1 tsp salt

Method:

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  1. The night before soak 1 cup dry garbanzo beans overnight
  2. The following day, in a large dutch oven add the garbanzo beans, carrot, 1/2 white onion, and celery.
  3. Cover the beans and vegetables with water at least 2″ above ingredients.
  4. Bring to a boil and add the evoo, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer over medium heat for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until the beans are tender.
  5. Set Aside
  6. Once the garbanzos are done, In a large cast iron pot or dutch oven, add a drizzle of evoo and the bacon pieces.  Cook until browned.
  7. Add the garlic and toss for 3-5 minutes.
  8. Add the garbanzo beans (about 3 cups) and mix thoroughly.
  9. Add the red wine vinegar, Spanish paprika, and about 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking broth that you cooked the garbanzos in.
  10. With a mortar and pestle, grind 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp black peppercorn and 1 tsp salt.
  11. Add the ground spices to the garbanzo’s, reduce the heat and simmer on low.
  12. While the garbanzos are simmering, In another large pot, bring water sprinkled with salt to a boil.  Add the spinach and cook for 5 -7 minutes or until wilted, (not soggy).
  13. When the spinach is done cooking, add to the garbanzo’s and mix thoroughly.  Simmer for 5 minutes.
  14. To serve with this meal, fry a couple pieces of bread in evoo until browned on both sides.  Place on top ;)
  15. Serve.

Buen Provecho!!

This post is also a part of Gnowfglins Tuesday Twister and Girlichef’s Two for Tuesday.

Upon our return from Granada, we spent another couple of days in Sevilla visiting family and relaxing.

Below are a couple of shots of my tita’s in Sevilla.

Abuela Rora
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Tita Maria, Tita Carlota, Abuela Rora
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I’m disappointed that I can’t find the photos of my Tita Manolita.  She is another sister of my tita’s above with a wonderful heart.  She helped my mother and aunt during the last day’s of my grandfather over a year ago. We are excited that her daughters, my mother’s cousins, are visiting us with their families in the States this year.  I can hardly wait!

Spring is a great time to be in Spain.  The weather is perfect and you can catch many fairs going on throughout the country including many religious holidays.

During the month of May, Las Cruces de Mayo is celebrated.  Religiously, the festival is rooted in the search by the Byzantine Empress Saint Helena for the cross on which Jesus died, but the popular traditions connected to the festival certainly originate from pagan traditions brought to Spain by the Roman Empire.  In light of Las Cruces de Mayo, throughout the city you will frequently see many children carrying miniature crosses on float type displays.  The children, usually with an adult tagging along, will carry it around the block.

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As cute as this is to see, it almost seems to me as a way to prepare their children for what awaits them when they get older, La Semana Santa.  Knowing that many of these traditions are rooted in pagan traditions, I’m not to keen on them.  Just my feelings!  I’d rather catch a flamenco show and eat some traditional Spanish food!
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ensaladilla rusa
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empanadilla de atun
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After visiting cousins, we hit the beach!  Chipiona!!

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Chipiona has history in our family.  My Tita Carlota purchased the chalet a block away from the beach when my mother was a tiny thing.

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My mami used to spend her summers on the beach eating freshly picked mulberries and tagging along with my tita’s as they fetched fresh raw milk and bought live chickens that my Abuela Rora would cull in the kitchen for La Merienda (Dinner).  My mami called Chipiona her refuge, her place of peace as she would run up sand dunes and swim for hours.  Wow… Times have changed.  However, when I was little I also have the memories of tagging along with Abuela Rora and buying live chickens for dinner.  Ha!  I may just bring that memory back!!

So we all have our treasured memories of Chipiona and now my children will as well!

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My nephew Xavier mowing down on Mejillones (mussels).  He called them, “His Favorite!”
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I’m so glad that my Tita Carlota was able to spend a couple of days with us!
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Seafood/Shellfish in Chipiona and San Lucar are the best!!!
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How cute is my nephew Ezra!!
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Zekie’s model pose!
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Ice Cream!!
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Churros!
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I even ate some snails!

Although Chipiona is packed with people during the summer time, it’s a small town and quiet during the rest of the year.  It’s a town where everyone pretty much knows everyone.  As soon as we got there, we had half the town stop by to say hi to Carloti and her family.  It’s a special feeling as it makes you feel as though you belong there.

One of our most favorite breakfast treats to eat in Chipiona, is manteca colorá.  Believe it or not, it’s seasoned rendered pork fat that is smothered on toast and sprinkled with honey or sugar.  Unbelievably good!!

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My family swears by it and will not eat it from anywhere else.  The person who makes it is the town carnicero (butcher) and a family friend!  His wife Meji and their children have been friends with ours since I can remember.  So it was so much fun visiting his booth at the plaza where he GAVE ME HIS RECIPE!!!

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Showing me how to slice the back fat.
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I’m still waiting for my back fat from a local family farmer.  As soon as I get it, I’ll share with you the recipe!  So…. that was how we spent our time in Chipiona.  Relaxing!!
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I’m so glad I was able to share with you my time in Spain!  You can definitely look forward to a recipe for manteca colorá in the future.  Also, look forward to a very special giveaway!

Until then, have a great weekend!

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Good Morning Garden Soldiers!  It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted on my gardening series since I’ve been so busy in my own garden.  I’m happy to say, everything is sowed in the ground and in different stages of sprouts to harvest.

Thinning Seedlings

One of the most difficult things for new gardeners to comprehend is that it is essential to thin your seedlings.  Every year at my community garden, I see many newbies plant their seeds, watch them grow and then get disappointed by their yields.  The culprit… they did not thin their seedlings.

So what does thinning your seedlings mean?!

Thinning your seedlings simply means that you are cutting away all but one seedling per space that the vegetable needs to grow.  You see why this is difficult to comprehend for newbies?  When we see so many sprouts growing we assume that we should keep them all to increase our harvest.  However, this is far from the truth.  Every vegetable needs it’s space to grow.  It’s essential to thin your seedlings for healthy plant growth and development and believe it or not to maximize your crop production.

This becomes even more important when planting your root vegetables such as radishes, carrots, beets, turnips etc.  If too many seedlings are growing together the root is competing for space and nutrients.

Below is an example from my garden.

Before thinning my seedlings (radishes)

After thinning my seedlings

Tips for thinning your seedings

  • Identify the proper spacing for plants.  This can be found on all seed packages.
  • Pick the largest and healthiest seedlings to keep.
  • Wait to thin your seedlings until the first true sets of leaves appear.
  • For small seedlings, use scissors to cut away the seedlings you don’t want at the soil line.  This is important so you don’t disturb the roots of the seedling you want to keep.
  • Add more soil if roots are exposed

 So take a good look at your garden.  If you have any crowded seedlings, make sure to thin them out!

My next post in this series is going to be on disease, fungus and insects that can damage your crops including preventatives and treatments.  We are coming to that time of year where we may encounter some of this and the effects can destroy all of our hard work.

It’s been so much fun hearing how so many more foodies are growing our own food!  If you have any pictures of your thriving garden, please send me pics to diana (at) phileodesign (dot) com.  In the meantime check out newbie Miranda’s garden from My Food and Life Encounters!  Yeah… after looking at her pictures you wouldn’t think this was her first year!!  AMAZING!!!

Until then Garden Soldiers! Let’s Grow Our Own Food!

Fresh Garden Salad with Bacon Fat Dressing
Fresh lettuce from the garden is something we have had in abundance.  Much more than my family can eat that I was able to share a couple bags of my harvest with my next door neighbor.  My next door neighbors have become friends of ours and the boys enjoy spending time with them.  Don and Judy are retired but quite the busy bees.  You can usually find Don working on his house and yard or his elderly neighbors house to the South.  Judy maintains their home, cooks and makes sure to take her daily walks a few times a day.  They are great neighbors and always vigilant of the neighborhood.

With extra bags of lettuce, I walked next door to give Don and Judy some of the harvest when she shared with me her mothers recipe for wilted lettuce.  It was actually quite funny because she told me that she had a wonderful recipe for me, however, it contained bacon fat so it might not be good for me.  I laughed and said, “Judy, if it contains pork fat, I want the recipe.”  She laughed!  She gave me the easiest and most delicious recipe for a bacon fat dressing poured over fresh harvested lettuce.  The lettuce wilts a bit with the heat of the dressing.  Hence the name, wilted lettuce.  After a quick search online for wilted lettuce, I found other similar recipes.  However, since Judy gave me the recipe with her mothers handwriting, I’d like to give credit to Edith North.

Fresh Garden Salad with Bacon Fat Dressing (Wilted Lettuce)
(Adapted) By Edith North

Ingredients:

  • Leaf Lettuce
  • Green Onions
  • 4 strips farm fresh bacon
  • 2-3 tbls raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp raw honey
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 farm fresh hard boiled eggs

Method:

  1. Wash, drain and heap lettuce into a large bowl
  2. Add chopped green onions
  3. In a cast iron skillet or pan, fry the bacon until crisp and can crumble.  Set aside
  4. To the bacon fat in the skillet or pan, add vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper.
  5. Bring to a boil and stir
  6. Add crumbled bacon and pour hot over lettuce
  7. Toss, slice eggs over top and serve

Buen Provecho!

24TbadgeGIRLICHEF

This post is a part of the new Real Food Carnival… Two for Tuesdays!