Eat This Word: Cucamelon

 

WHAT? Tangy, crunchy, and bite-sized—cucamelons are perfect in salads, sandwiches, and fruity salsas. Native to Mexico and Central America, Melothria scabra, or the cucamelon, is also called the mouse melon, Mexican sour gherkin, or “sandita,” meaning little watermelon. Originally part of the Aztec diet, cucamelons are now commonly served in Central America as a delicacy. These grape-sized fruits have crisp, white flesh with a refreshing and mildly sour cucumber taste. As a staple of Mexican cuisine for centuries, cucamelons have an abundance of uses and can be grown in the comfort of one’s own garden—we even grow them at the Beard House, thanks to Koppert Cress. Sow the seeds from April to May indoors, and when there is no chance of frost outside, plant them with a trellis and watch their delicate vines grow. While they are slow starters, cucamelons produce plentiful yields and require barely any upkeep. Although seeds aren't... Read more >

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Eat This Word: ‘Nduja

 

WHAT? Nestled at the “toe of the boot,” Calabria, Italy, is surrounded by crystal clear water and blanketed with rocky coasts, sandy beaches, and copious amounts of local agriculture. While Calabria has long been notorious for the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, it’s also the birthplace of ‘nduja: a spicy, spreadable salami, made with ground pork and red Calabrian chile peppers. Originating from a tiny village named Spilinga, the pigs destined for 'nduja are raised in a summery climate, and fed a diet of mostly acorns, grains, chestnuts, beets, and pumpkins. The time-honored process of making ‘nduja, one of the region's most cherished foods, begins with mixing the hand-ground pork trimmings together with salt and the chile peppers, and then kneading the combination into a smooth paste. The pork is then stuffed into a natural casing, briefly smoked, and then aged for months.  
 

‘Nduja tends to be on the spicy side, so combine it with a spoonful of ricotta cheese for a milder bite. This... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Poke

 

WHAT? Sashimi, Hawaiian–style. The Hawaiian word for “cut crosswise into pieces,” poke is also one of Hawaii’s most beloved dishes. Poke was originally developed as a way to preserve local seafood: The fish was cut, salted, and seasoned for extended shelf life. In its most basic and traditional form, poke combines cubes of raw ahi tuna, limu seaweed, ground kukui nuts, and sea salt. Sliced green onions, chile peppers, and soy sauce are more recent additions that reflect the 50th state’s melting-pot status. Once primarily served in the home, this island favorite can now be found everywhere from Hawaii’s supermarkets to the pupu, or appetizer, menu in fine-dining restaurants. Poke reached celebrity status in 1991 when local luminary and poke promoter Sam Choy (who calls the dish Hawaii’s “soul food”) started the Annual Poke Festival and Recipe Contest. The contest inspired thousands of amateur and professional chefs and helped expand the definition of poke... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Huitlacoche

 

WHAT? Fancy fungus. A bulbous grey or black fungus that grows on ears of corn, huitlacoche used to be considered a nuisance by American farmers, who routinely destroyed crops "infected" with the blight and lobbied to make imports illegal. But in the late 1980s, chefs like Josephina Howard of NYC's Rosa Mexicano began promoting huitlacoche for its earthy, smoky flavor and its role in traditional Mexican cuisine. On September 12, 1989, Howard headlined a celebratory all-huitlacoche dinner at the James Beard House. Today, the delicacy is so savored that it is commonly referred to as the Mexican truffle.

 

WHO? The Pubbelly Boys 

 

WHEN? Tuesday, June 9, 2015

 

HOW? Huitlacoche Croquetas with Sweet Corn Aïoli 

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Eat This Word: Sambal

 

WHAT? Fiery flavoring. The word sambal encompasses a variety of condiments and side dishes served primarily as accompaniments to rice throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, and southern India. The spicy sauces are made from different chiles combined with other ingredients, such as vinegar, tamarind, shrimp paste, fruits, vegetables, and meat, and are served either cooked or raw. The most basic sambal, sambal ulek, is an uncooked mixture of chiles, salt, and acid, ground with a mortar and pestle. As a seasoning, sambal is as essential to Indonesian and Malaysian cuisines as salt and pepper is to Western cooking.

 

WHERE? Hot Modern Australia 

 

WHEN? Friday, June 5, 2015

 

HOW? Sausage Roll with Ground Pork, Secret Spices, and Sambal Mayonnaise... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Pea Shoots

 

WHAT? Trendy tendrils. Long used in Chinese cooking, pea shoots are just beginning to find popularity on menus in this country. The pretty green tendrils, actually the leaves and shoots of the young pea plant, are a spring delicacy in China. Pea shoots, called dau miu in their native land, may be grown from a variety of pea plants but are traditionally culled from immature snow peas. Pea shoots are sweet, tender, and have a strong pea taste. You cook them as you might any green—very quickly in hot oil with, perhaps, salt, garlic, and a splash of sherry or rice wine.

 

WHERE? Beltane in the Berkshires 

 

WHEN? April 28, 2015

 

HOW? Housemade High Lawn Farm Ricotta Gnocchi with the Meat Market–Cured Blue Hill Farm Prosciutto, Indian Line... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Galette

 

WHAT? French flapjacks. Most Americans are familiar with crêpes, but the galette, a signature dish of Brittany, is not nearly as well known. Made with buckwheat flour and encasing savory fillings such as mushrooms, cheese, eggs, and ham, galettes came into vogue after the Crusaders brought back buckwheat from their travels to Asia. They called it sarasin, derived from the same root as Saracen, meaning “of a dark color.” Culinaria: France (Könemann) explains that buckwheat's popularity in Brittany came from the crop's resiliency, its short growing time, and the fact that it was not taxed, hence was more profitable for farmers than planting wheat. This unleavened, stone-baked substitute for bread, Culinaria states, “is probably man's oldest food.” Incidentally, the word galette is also used in French for flat cakes, as in the galette de roi. Every fall the Breton town of Louiseville holds a weeklong Festival de la Galette de Sarrasin, celebrating the flatbread with sporting events, Bingo, and... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Fennel Pollen

 

WHAT? Obscure no more. Once a little known spice used by Tuscans on meat or in soups and stews, fennel pollen was introduced to an American audience by food writer Faith Willinger, an American who has lived in Italy for nearly a quarter of a century. In the 1990s she brought American chefs like Mario Batali to a butcher shop in Panzano, Chianti, owned by Dario Cecchini, who sells specialty products of the area, including fennel pollen. The flowers of the blossoming wild fennel plant are coated in a mass of yellow pollen and, when shaken loose, the powdery condiment imparts a sweet fennel flavor and aromatic flowery scent. Batali was quick to incorporate the spice in his repertoire. As he explained to us a few years ago, "You sprinkle a tiny dusting on something hot, and it gives you this heady fennel perfume. It's amazing." This once hard-to-find spice, which marries wonderfully with a variety of ingredients, including pork, mussels, and even dark chocolate, is now popping up on menus everywhere. ... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Harissa

 

WHAT? This fiery, rust-colored condiment made from chiles, garlic, cumin, and olive oil is traditionally stirred into the broth ladled over couscous. Harissa is also used to add heat to many other Tunisian dishes, ranging from salads to brochettes. Commercially prepared harissa is available at specialty stores in the United States, but homemade harissa is easy to prepare and will last about a year if covered with a layer of olive oil and stored in the refrigerator. Neighboring Morocco and Algeria also use the condiment in their cuisines.

 

WHERE? Local and Salted, Pacific Northwest

 

WHEN? April 21, 2015

 

HOW? Anderson Ranch Lamb Loin with Charred Ramps, Sweet Tooth Mushrooms, Harissa, and... Read more >

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Eat This Word: Pupusas

 

WHAT? Referred to as “a distant cousin of the empanada” by Rob McKeown of the Boston Phoenix and “the world’s most overlooked pancake” by Robert Sietsema, pupusas are less well known than their Mexican counterparts, but just as tasty. A staple food in El Salvador, pupusas are thick, handmade corn tortillas made with masa harina (a dried hominy flour) and water. Traditional pupusa preparation calls for kneading the ingredients together before slapping the dense dough into disks and frying them on the griddle until hot and golden brown. Before cooking, pupusas are often stuffed with savory fillings such as quesillo, a mild, white cheese, fried pork rinds, braised chicken, refried beans, or loroco, an edible Central American flower. The snacks are usually served with curtido, a pickled cabbage slaw, and salsa. Pupusas were brought to the United States by El Salvadoran immigrants and they are sold in pupuserías in cities across the country.

 ... Read more >

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