Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter, However one Celebrates

We are going to be with family for Easter dinner tomorrow. Every family has its own special Easter foods. My background being Slovak and Serbian had us enjoying ham, kielbasa or other smoked sausage, sirets, beets with horseradish and Pascha bread. My parents and grandparents are long gone now, and my husband's family celebrate with some other foods to accompany their Easter ham. Here is my recipe for Beets with Horseradish:

Beets with Horseradish

Beets with Horseradish

This combination has been a favored condiment to go with Easter ham (or for me, any time we have ham). It was traditional from my Serbian grandmother, and has remained so with me. I have seen it possibly called Hren, Ren, Chrin and many other things, I do not recall ever hearing it called anything but Beets with Horseradish in our household. This was served as a condiment in my family, to be eaten next to the ham, Sirets, and kielbasa with the Pascha bread. Alternatively, we put it on the ham in a sandwich, which is my favorite usage.

Amount is flexible, make as much as desired

1 (1-lb) can or jar beets, well drained
1 small jar horseradish, start with 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon sugar

Using a rotary grater (mouli) or hand grater with small holes, shred the beets into a bowl. Add in horseradish, to taste. Use one teaspoon, one tablespoon, or however much to make is as hot as you will enjoy. Add in the sugar, to taste. Pack into jars for use over Easter with the ham.

NOTES: If the beets are pickled, meaning they already have sugar added, the added sugar is not necessary in this recipe.

Silk Dyed Eggs
However it is celebrated, one never forgets their roots, and it is always good to have some of those comforting things amid all the rest. I made my beets with horseradish. Just cannot live without that when it comes to ham. I made my Pascha loaf to take to my sister-in-law. I don't bother making lots of Easter eggs. I do not have any small children around to have Easter egg hunts. I did, however, make some silk dyed eggs after watching The Chew on TV the other day. They turned out really lovely, and they can be decorations at any time of the year.
Pascha Bread (Mom's Bread Updated)

As my contribution to the Easter dinner tomorrow I was asked to make Hot Cross Buns. Though I have been making bread for over 40 years now, Hot Cross Buns are one iteration I had not made before. I used the recipe from my husband's grandmother. It is very similar to the recipe for my mom and grandma's Pascha bread, but I decided to follow the Hot Cross Buns recipe as it was written. They look wonderful, so I imagine they will taste great, too.

Hot Cross Buns
Since neither my husband nor I need extra sweets around the house, I have long since stopped buying Easter candies. However, for the sake of recipes to go in my website or blog, I have been wanting to make Brigadeiros, a Brazilian Truffle, for a long while. I made them yesterday, and they are as good as I recalled, though it has been a long time since I made my recipe last, 



These Brazilian truffles are about as quick as is possible for a caramel type candy. Traditionally rolled in chocolate sprinkles, they may be rolled into any coating desired. I used chopped pecans for some here. These are my token Easter candies this year.

Makes about 15 - 20 truffles

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon butter
sprinkles or other for coating

Mix ion a medium saucepan the milk, cocoa and butter. Bring to a boil, stirring vigorously so it does not stick to the pan. Continue stirring constantly for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and clumps around the spoon.

Allow to cool slightly and scoop out balls about 1 inch in diameter. With buttered hands, roll the mixture into a neat ball and roll into the coating of your choice.

The other thing I made to take to Easter dinner is a lemon meringue pie. Last year I was asked to bring a lemon meringue pie and a coconut cream pie. Both were hideous messes. Both the fillings turned out hopelessly runny. I tried to make an Italian Meringue and failed at that. I tried making a stabilized whipped cream and ruined that. Alas. No matter how good a baker I am, and I pride myself on my baking, those two types of pies are not ones I have ever really made. I recall living in Guatemala, once making a lemon meringue pie. I used an old fashioned egg beater to whip the meringue. I like lemon meringue pie, though I am not wild about meringue, itself. I cannot recall how it turned out, overall. I love coconut cream pie, but as luck has it, my husband does not like coconut, so I have not made one of those. In the course of this last year, I found Rose Levy Berenbaum's Lemon Curd recipe. It comes out beautifully firm, so I used that as the filling for this year's pie. I also found references to making a meringue with cooked cornstarch to stabilize it. The pie looks good. Tomorrow I will find out how these things came out!

For now, I am sharing photos of some of the things I made, and hope all of you have wonderful foods to share this Easter 2013.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cincinnati Chili, Unlike any Other

Many long years ago I lived in Cincinnati, and was introduced to Cincinnati Chili. For any who have never had the pleasure, Cincinnati Chili is a thin consistency and with unusual flavors. And that's just the start. All over Cincy they serve what they call "Chili Spaghetti", and that is a take-off on the Cincinnati Chili "Two-Ways." Maybe this is getting confusing. Let me explain.

Cincinnati Chili Two-Ways, or Chili Spaghetti
Cincinnati Chili has a thin consistency, with little tomato in the sauce. The flavors are distinct, including such possible spices as cinnamon, allspice and chocolate, among others. The chili may be served alone ("One-Way"), over spaghetti noodles ("Two-Way"), with shredded cheddar over top ("Three-Way"), with the addition of either kidney beans or chopped onion ("Four-Way"), or may be served with all of these things, making it Five-Way Chili.

This chili is not one that everyone will like, but if you are up for the unusual, you might want to try out this Cincinnati special. Interestingly, I lived in Cincinnati for 2 years prior to getting married for the first time and moving straight to Guatemala. In Guatemala, it is very common to have these kinds of flavors together in a savory dish. Mole, whether sweet or savory, contains cinnamon and chocolate among other things. Recado over tamales also contains these flavors. I was being introduced to many more dishes that mixed together spices and flavors that previously had been reserved only for sweets. I was very young when I moved to Guatemala, but I went with an open mind and learned a lot about cooking and combinations that seemed unlikely but were wonderful when tasted.

Cincinnati Chili Five-Ways
Some years ago my current husband and I went back to Cincinnati for a family reunion. He had never been introduced to Cincinnati Chili before, but one of my brothers-in-law had actually worked at Skyline Chili, where Cincinnati Chili is served. He had to have my husband try it, and I was curious to taste it again after so many years. In the meantime, I have seen recipes for this chili, but my recipe combines the flavors as they seem right in my own mind. This may not be "authentic". In fact Skyline has the chili brought in already  made, so no one knows the secret of their ingredients. Still, I think my version tastes great, so I hope there are those out there who might be willing to try it out.

Cincinnati Chili

Makes about 8 - 10 servings
Cincinnati Chili Five Ways

2 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil)
1 large onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 quart water or beef stock
2 pounds ground beef
1 (15-ounce) can + 1 (6-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
½ ounce (½ square) unsweetened chocolate, grated
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 - 3 teaspoons salt (depending on the saltiness of the stock, if using

In a large soup pot, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and saute over medium heat, until the onion is quite tender and translucent. Add in the chili powder, cumin, allspice, cinnamon and cloves and toss to combine until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in the water or stock and then the ground beef. Break up the beef into the liquid until in very small pieces. Add in the tomato sauce and bay leaf, cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 2 - 3 hours.

Add in the grated chocolate, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire and pepper. Stir to combine. Check for salt and add more if needed.

The chili may be made a day ahead and refrigerated. This allows the easy removal of any fat that has risen to the surface. If the chili has been refrigerated at this point, reheat and continue the recipe from here.
NOTES: As noted above, this chili may be served in a bowl all by itself. It is traditional to serve this with oyster crackers and a bottle of hot sauce on the side. The chili is not made to be hot-spicy, but left to the discretion of the one eating. "Chili-Spaghetti" is found everywhere in Cincinnati, and this is also considered Chili Two-Ways. The addition of a mound of grated cheddar makes this Three-Way Chili. Either the addition of kidney beans or chopped onions make the chili "Four-Way. Using all five together makes Five-Way Chili.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Little Trip Down Memory Lane - Cinnamon Twists

When I was little - a LONG time ago - Mom used to occasionally make Cinnamon Twists. In short, these were made from her bread dough. Mom made some fantastic bread anyway, and making the Cinnamon Twists was a treat once in a while. I remember once our grade school was having a bake sale, and these were what I asked Mom to make. They were the first things that sold out!
Finished Cinnamon Twists
I had not thought of these for a very long time. I happened to see some pictures out on the 'net and it sparked the memory. I make all of our bread anyway, and I make Mom's bread recipe regularly. It makes such fantastic sandwiches or toast. So the other day I was making bread anyway and set aside a loaf worth of the dough to make these Cinnamon Twists. They are easy enough, though I am sure that I made the cinnamon mixture differently than Mom did. I mixed up some room temperature butter with sugar and cinnamon into a paste. I rolled out the dough to at least 2 feet wide by about 12 - 14 inches. I had one long end closest to me and spread the cinnamon mixture over that long half of the dough. I folded the top half of the dough down over the cinnamon mixture, making about a 7-inch by 24 inch piece. Using a bench scraper, I cut the strips. 

I prepared 2 baking sheets by spraying lightly with cooking spray. Each strip of the folded dough was twisted twice around, and placed about a dozen to a baking sheet. The twists were set aside to rise until nicely puffed, and then baked at 350 for about 12 to 15 minutes. I made a confectioners' sugar glaze and drizzled that over the top of the pastries and let them dry. And voila! Beautiful Cinnamon Twists. They are so good, we just devoured them.

Ah, memories.....

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Little Wine Tasting Last Night

Sweet Salty Rolled Flank Steak
We had some new friends over last night and introduced them to some wines and wine and food pairings. It is a subject I am passionate about, as one can get the wrong impression about some wines if they are tasted alone, or with the wrong food for the wine. These new friends are involved in a fund raiser in town, where there will be a lot of wines to taste, with appetizers presented as well. My goal last evening was to have this couple recognize how much different a wine can taste when alone, versus with a food.  Then, tasted with a food that really does not pair well and again with a food that does pair well. We tasted 5 wines: a California Cabernet, an Australian Pinot Noir, a German Riesling Spatlese, a French Sauternes and a Warre's Warrior Port. I was not looking for very high-end wines, but mainly for wines that taste very good for their price range.

My Favorite Pesto Crostini
A little about my wine knowledge. I started learning about wine about 24 years ago. I am no sommelier, and have had no professional schooling on wine. When I met my husband and found he was interested in wine, we began going to local wine tastings. We bought a few bottles here or there, to try them out and find out what our taste was. We are lucky enough to both really prefer the same types of wines, in general. I bought Hugh Johnson's Wine Atlas of the World and read it cover to cover, taking notes all along the way. We continued tasting, and using my notes, went looking for wines Hugh Johnson wrote about. I ordered the Wine Spectator and read them religiously for years. I found that the ratings they gave for wines coincided with what I would rate those same wines; another felicitous happenstance. We began buying some wines with a little more forethought. I love to cook, so we had some lovely dinners, paired with some equally lovely wines. I got a better sense of what different wines tasted like, and was better able to pair the right wine with the foods. I made 5-course dinners, serving at least 4 and sometimes 5 different wines. Practice makes perfect. My food and wine pairings got better. My taste has refined.

Green Pea, Feta and Mint Spread
We began our wine tasting and learning in Florida 24 years ago, have traveled all over the US and lived in 8 states and soon-to-be 12 different houses since then. A few years back we chanced upon a wine store where they specialized in the road less traveled, so to speak. Wines from lesser known regions and of excellent quality were the norm, and we were introduced to smaller areas such as Faugeres, in France. I fell in love with the two wines we tried from Faugeres. The people at the store were extremely helpful. We came away with 2 bottles of this, 2 bottles of that and began filling our brand new 600 bottle cellar. More recent discoveries have been Torrontes and Albarino. I discovered a wonderful Red Zin from Pezzi King. I love French, South African and Australian wine styles best, but have had great wines from all over the world.

Savory Blue Cheese Coins with Apricot Jam

Some of the appetizers I made for last night's tasting were the Green Pea, Feta and Mint Spread, served with either Triscuit Black Pepper crackers or slices of toasted, fresh No-Knead Bread. I made a wonderful broiled flank steak, sliced it thinly and rolled the slices. I served little Savory Cheddar Crackers with a dab of Apricot Jam. I served more slices of No-Knead Bread spread with Basil Pesto, Parmesan Cheese and broiled briefly. I set out a tray with salami and cheese.

Some things we found were that the Green Pea Spread went perfectly with the German wine if spread onto the toasted No-Knead bread, but not if spread on the Black Pepper Triscuit crackers. The salami and cheese tray was best paired with the German Spatlese, though they also went well with the Cabernet; less so with the Pinot Noir. The Cheddar Crackers went okay with the Pinot Noir, but far better with the Cabernet. The rolled Flank Steak went well with either of the red wines - no surprise.

The dessert wines were tasted alone. I served a tiny dessert but it was not meant to pair with wine. If one has never tried a good dessert wine, such as a Sauternes, Trockenbeerenauslese, Ice Wine, Muscat or a good Port, the chances are about 50-50 whether they are enjoyed or not. This couple loved both the dessert wines, which was great. A truly great Port is a magical drink, but the Warre's Warrior is about as similar to a really good port as one can hope for, and at a fraction of the cost of a good aged vintage. A good time was had by all. The remnants of a lovely table are seen in this photo above, taken though my (empty) port glass.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Monday, March 11, 2013

An Old Recipe; Still Good After All These Years

Today I had a little 7 year old visitor for a couple of hours. She was content to watch cartoons for a little while as her Dad had business to discuss with my husband. She soon tired of sitting there, in a strange house, and I had things to do also. I asked if she helped cook at home. She said not too much. I  asked if she would like to help? She said yes, if I told her what to do.

Scooping out the chocolate haystacks
I had to make dinner, and was planning to make chili, so I put the meat to brown in a pot. I chopped onions and gave my little helper strips of green pepper to cut into little bits to add to the chili. I had her use my garlic press, which she hadn't done before, but her small hands didn't have the leverage they needed to finish that job. I asked her to grind pepper. That kept her busy for quite a bit, and then I opened cans of tomato sauce and paste, and she added them to the pot. I always rinse my kidney beans so I had her do that. I asked her to stir the pot to get everything mixed. Once the chili was cooking away, she asked if there was anything else to make?

I got out my old tried and true Quick and Easy Cornbread recipe. I gave her measuring cups and a table knife and showed her how to measure into the cup and level off the contents. She got all the dry ingredients together, then opened up the stick of butter so I could microwave it. She measured the milk and cracked in the egg. She did the mixing. I held the bowl while she scraped the batter into the pan I had prepared. It went into the oven and a few minutes later she exclaimed at how it was growing.

And once again, we had finished. She was having fun, and wondered if there was anything else we could make. I got out a very old recipe for Chocolate Haystacks. I gave her the measuring cups again and the table knife and had her measure the oatmeal, and coconut. She ground the nuts. I melted the butter, cocoa and sugar. She stirred them together to combine, and I gave her a scoop to make the little mounds onto waxed paper. At the point she was almost finished making the haystacks, her Dad came back into the room. The haystacks were still completely soft, but I cut a section of the paper and set them into a box for her to take home. It was a fun and entertaining afternoon, and she was reluctant to leave. Here is the Haystacks recipe I have been making for 40 years, since my children were little:
Chocolate Haystacks

Chocolate Haystacks

2 cups granulated sugar
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup milk
½ cup butter
3½ cups quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt

In a saucepan, combine the first 4 ingredients and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add in all the other ingredients until combined. Drop onto waxed paper into little mounds (haystacks). Allow to cool and set.

A simple recipe, and simple to make with the help of a child or two. Make someone's day and have them help you out. It is so rewarding.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Delightfully Different Beverages from Guatemala

When I lived in Guatemala, I became enamored of a variety of delicious beverages commonly found anywhere down there. Whether in a restaurant, visiting or at home, the sheer variety of unusual things to drink astounded me. Three in particular are ones I want to write about here. One is a hibiscus drink made from the Roselle hibiscus, Hibiscus sabdariffa, or "Rosa de Jamaica" as it was called in Guatemala. Another is called Horchata and is made with raw rice, cinnamon and sugar. Beverages similar are served in many countries, but making it fresh, it is so delicious. The third is tamarind. Tamarind is known all over the world and is probably used more in cooking than as a beverage. It is used in Indian chutneys, African dishes, Caribbean foods. As a beverage, it is easy to  make and a wonderful alternative to lemonade. 

Discover the flavors of these three delicious and healthful beverages. Seek out the ingredients and see what you may have been missing.

Rice and Almond Beverage

This is a very refreshing drink made from rice. In Guatemala it is called "Horchata". The rice is simply soaked, not cooked, and with the addition of a few other ingredients, it is great on a hot day. It is lovely for a party, if alcohol is not a choice for some. I once served it at a baby shower.

The benefits of this beverage is the fact that one is extracting the goodness and nutrition from almonds, rice and sesame seeds. If only water is used for the liquid, there are no extra calories from the milk. Almonds are low in calories in comparison to many other nuts and good for you. Sesame seeds are quite high in calcium.



Makes about 4½ cups

4½ tablespoons uncooked rice
3 tablespoons raw almonds
3 inches "true" cinnamon (look in Mexican
markets, or Mexican section of the grocery)
3 tablespoons cantaloupe seeds (dry and save), optional
4 tablespoons sesame seeds (raw, unhulled)
6 cups water (or 3 c. water, 3 c. milk)
¼ - ½ cup sugar, as desired
Soak the rice in water to cover for at least 4 hours. Rice remains uncooked. Wash it well and put into a blender container along with the almonds, cinnamon, melon seeds, sesame seeds, sugar, and about ½ of the liquid called for. Blend till everything is very finely ground. Strain the liquid into a pitcher and add the remaining liquid, stirring well. Chill before serving. Serve over ice, if desired.

NOTES: This recipe calls for melon seeds. I have never seen a recipe call for melon seeds before, but they are easy enough to harvest from a nice cantaloupe, when cutting and slicing. Rinse the seeds well, pulling out any bits of melon that cling. Allow them to dry out completely before storing in an airtight jar.

Sweeten to taste, starting with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and add more as needed as per your preference. The Horchata beverage may be sweetened with honey, agave syrup, Stevia or any other sweetener preferred.

Roselle Hibiscus and Beverage

Roselle Hibiscus calyxes
Roselle: Hibiscus sabdariffa is a species of Hibiscus native from India to Malaysia, growing best in tropical and sub-tropical regions up to about 3,000 feet and requires good rainfall.

It is an annual, erect, bushy sub shrub that can grow to 8 feet tall, with mostly smooth and usually red stems. Leaves are alternate, about 3 to 5 inches long with reddish veins. The flowers are 3 – 5 inches in diameter, pale yellow or buff colored with a dark red spot at the base of each petal. The flowers mature to have a stout fleshy calyx at the base, fleshy and bright red as the fruit matures over about 6 months. The leaves are used in some countries like a spicy version of spinach. The fleshy calyxes can be chopped and cooked with sugar, yielding a condiment much like cranberry sauce.

The beverage as made in Guatemala, is made from the calyxes of the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant, often called Roselle Hibiscus (as in "hibiscus tea"). They are deep red and fleshy when fresh. Once dried, the calyxes are packaged and found in many health food stores. They may be ordered online or Mexican groceries often carry them, as they are common in Central America. In Guatemala these are called Rosa de Jamaica, or Jamaican Rose. The hibiscus plant bears small, pale yellowish-white hibiscus flowers, with a deep red center. The plant is not grown for the small flowers, but for the fleshy calyxes. These calyxes can be eaten raw in salads, but in Guatemala they are most often found dried, and used steeped in hot water to make a healthy beverage which can be served hot or over ice.

Rosa de Jamaica
These calyxes are high in vitamin C. They are high in citric acid, tartaric acid and malic acid as well as flavonoids such as cyanidin, giving them their deep red color. Most countries that cultivate and use these calyxes also consider them medicinal. Some believe the tea can help with coughs. Some studies have been done claiming that drinking the tea helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol. In Guatemala it is considered a hangover remedy. Since the tea helps break down complex sugars and starches, there may be some basis in fact. As the calyxes brew a tea high in Vitamin C, it is good to drink to fight off colds and strengthen the immune system.

Rosa de Jamaica

Makes 1 quart

1/3 to ½ cup dried Rosa de Jamaica
4 cups boiling water
¼ cup sugar, more, or less to taste

Place the dried Rosa de Jamaica calyxes into the boiling water and allow to steep for 20 minutes or so. Strain and sweeten to taste. Chill and enjoy.

Tamarind Beverage

Tamarind Pods and inner fruit
Tamarind, or Tamarindus indica, is known throughout the world and is possibly used in cooking more often than as a beverage. While not actually a spice, this sweet tart fruit is used like a spice to flavor foods all around the world. Its flavor is a component of Worcestershire sauce. It is commonly used in Indian chutney. Tamarind is native to tropical Africa, and also grows abundantly in India but has spread around the world. The name tamarind comes from the Indian words Tamar Hindi, meaning Indian Date. The tamarind was introduced into Mexico and the Caribbean sometime around the 16th century. The tamarind tree can grow to a height of around 80 feet in its preferred climate. The tree appears feathery, with tiny leaflets down each side of the stems. These leaflets close up at night. The fruit grows as brown pods. They have a brown, brittle shell, rusty brown, sticky pulp and may contain from 1 to 12 large, flat, glossy brown seeds. The pulp is very fibrous. The flavor is quite sour and tart, making it excellent for use as a refreshing beverage, much as lemons for lemonade. Tamarind is used to make a most refreshing and thirst quenching beverage in Guatemala, Mexico and other areas of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Tamarind is both sweet and sour at the same time. It is a potent flavor, best used somewhat sparingly unless you are quite accustomed. It is a wonderful addition to any sweet and sour dishes, and is an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce. In Southeast Asian cooking, it is a flavor often combined with such other ingredients as garlic, dried shrimp, coconut and chilies. Pad Thai is one commonly known Thai dish using tamarind.

In India, it is used to make delicious chutney, as well as a Tamarind Rice or South Indian Fish Curry. In the Caribbean islands it is often used in cooking seafood. Small amounts of tamarind paste are used in sauces for dishes containing cassava, chickpeas, potatoes or rice with greens. It can be used to make sweet and sour sauces, mixed into recipes with both sugar and pepper, mixed into barbecue sauces, made into beverages, desserts and candies. One common use for tamarind is in sauces, which gives control of the amount used.

Tamarind is a good source of antioxidants, containing carotenes, vitamin C, flavonoids and B vitamins. They protect against vitamin C deficiency. Tamarind is good for digestion. It can be made into a gargle for sore throat. It is said to lower cholesterol and promote a healthy heart. It is very high in potassium and provides a great supply of calcium, unusual in a fruit.

Tamarind can be found in its pods at some international markets, or in compressed cakes or in concentrate or paste form. For this recipe, use either whole pods or the compressed cake version.

Tamarind Beverage - Agua de Tamarindo

Agua de Tamarindo

Makes 1 or 2 quarts

1/2 pound tamarind pods or cake
1 - 2 quarts of water, as needed
sugar or sweetener, to taste

Peel pods, cracking off the brittle shells, if whole. Soak the fruit or compressed cake in at least 1 quart of water for about 2 hours to soften. With scrupulously clean hands, break apart the pulp, freeing it into the water. Strain the mixture and add more water if desired. Less water makes a more concentrated beverage. Add sugar or other sweetener as needed.

Chill or pour over ice to serve.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest