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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

Raise Your (Eight) Hands!

For the non-octopus lovers, I’m probably losing you at “hello”, but stick around. You might just have some fun.Octopus baby tapas 2

Octopus Card in Hong Kong

Octopus Card in Hong Kong

Think of these tentacled cephalopods as clams and oysters, their relatives, but without the shells. They are odd looking, lending themselves to silliness, like the old Beatles tune, Octopus’s Garden. And to being logos, such as the Octopus card you use to ride the Hong Kong Metro system.

There are strange octopus rituals practiced in some cuisines, which may be the key to a certain texture, or just wastes of time, or even myths. Have you ever heard of people putting their octopus in the driveway and driving the car back and forth to tenderize it (attributed to the Greeks)?

Watch the wonderful film, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and see how a master massages the octopus to get the perfect texture.http://www.magpictures.com/jirodreamsofsushi/

At Boulud Sud (NYC)

At Boulud Sud (NYC)

At Barrique (Stamford, CT)

At Barrique (Stamford, CT)

 

One popular way to enjoy octopus is to simply grill the tentacles with a little olive oil and lemon juice seasoning, the Mediterranean approach, showing up more and more frequently on menus. The squeamish can ask the fish monger to clean/trim the beast, so as to avoid that chore at home.

Fried Octopus with Hot Peppers

Fried Octopus with Hot Peppers

Deep fried octopus with hot peppers, such as the Chinese do with shrimp, is fabulous, too. Like squid, its close relative, octopus also makes a tasty pasta sauce.

Baby Octopus Tapas

Baby Octopus Tapas

Another delicious approach is eating the baby octopuses (actually a smaller species) whole, whether in Asian cuisines or grilled or fried as in Barcelona’s ubiquitous tapas bars.

 

For the truly intrepid, travel to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for a whole grilled full sized octopus at El Diaz, myMEGusta’s favorite for Argentinean beef.

At El Diaz (Playa del Carmen, Mexico)

At El Diaz (Playa del Carmen, Mexico)

Not recommended is this faux octopus, presumably a trick to get one’s finicky three-year old to eat a hot dog and pasta, but just scary!

No. Don't do this!

No. Don’t do this!

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Pomegranates: A Seedy Topic

What do the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona have in common?

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

A connection to the pomegranate, albeit in very different ways.

For those who have not been there (or have not been there “yet”, as myMEGusta likes to say), the Sagrada Familia Cathedral is the masterpiece of Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi, a genius whose concepts were based on nature, incorporating motifs such as fruits and avoiding straight lines. Started in 1882 (Gaudi took over the design work in 1883), the cathedral is incomplete, still in construction with no end in sight.

The north facing façade of the cathedral symbolizes the sad darkness of winter, and it contains motifs of the Passion.  Look up to see fruit topped spires, piles of winter fruits such as pomegranates.

Outside the Blue Mosque

Outside the Blue Mosque

Switch to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, another iconic religious structure. No, there are no pomegranates in the design, but there is a delightful fresh pomegranate juice stand as you approach. Freshly pressed, this is the tastiest pomegranate juice you will ever have.

Pomegranate juice became a mainstream beverage in the US about 30 years ago, and there are also pomegranate liqueurs (which myMEGusta has not sampled).

Aside from sipping on the juice, just plain, there lots of things to do with it: Add to with sparkling wine to make a kir-like cocktail, or make a pomegranate martini with vodka and a little triple sec.

Pomegranate Kir

Pomegranate Kir

For a real treat, make the trek to La Palapa, a fabulous Mexican restaurant in New York City’s East Village (www.lapalapa.com) and have one of their pomegranate margaritas!

You can also make a pomegranate sorbet or ice cream from the bottled juice.

Pomegranate Sorbet

Pomegranate Sorbet

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

The fruit itself is a cluster of juicy seeds encased in a red rind.  Once peeled, It can be enjoyed as is, or livening  up a salad. Just don’t bite too hard, and be cautious if you should not be swallowing whole seeds

Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

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Time for Spring (Rolls)!

Spring rolls!  Summer rolls!  Eggrolls!

The names have nothing to do with the seasons, or with eggs for that matter.

Take eggrolls, a Chinese- American invention named after an unrelated pastry in Cantonese cookery. They are ubiquitous, but blessedly less so than in 1968 when “With Six You Get Eggrolls”, Doris Day’s last film, was released. It is possible to make a tasty eggroll, but that rarely happens. Restaurants usually default to factory made rolls comprising a rather clunky deep fried wrapper, normally filled with lots of cabbage and little else, dunked by many folks in sweet “duk” sauce.

Spring Rolls!

Spring Rolls!

Moving on…

Summer Rolls

Summer Rolls!

“Spring” and “summer” come from the words come from which they were translated from the original Asian language, for example Vietnamese or Thai. No matter, they are treats, and can be exquisite depending on the fillings and how skilled the frying.

The wrappers are much more delicate than eggrolls’, often made of rice flour, sometimes deep fried, and sometimes with the translucent roll wrapped around ingredients  such as shrimp and vegetables, then served cold.

In general, a spring roll can be fried or not, and served hot or cold, but a summer roll is usually cold.  A fried spring roll is generally shorter and more slender than an egg roll, but a cold rendition can be quite sizable.

Yummy with Lettuce and Thai Basil

Yummy with Lettuce and Thai Basil

They come with dipping sauces that vary by cuisine, for example, soy sauce, rice vinegar, fish sauce, peanut sauce, even mustard/chili mix, or that old-fashioned sweet sauce. They are particularly delicious wrapped in lettuce leaves and herbs such as Thai basil before dipping.

Wrappers can be found in supermarkets, and the best selection will be found in Asian markets.

Several years ago, while touring Vietnam, MyMEGusta was treated to a demonstration of how rice wrappers were made (probably still are) by villagers, basically making pancakes from a rice gruel.

Drying Spring Roll Wrappers

Drying Spring Roll Wrappers

Making Spring Roll Wrappers

Making Spring Roll Wrappers

This demo took place outside the infamous tunnels near Saigon, and this was one of the foods sustaining the thousands of people – army and civilians – hiding there during the 1960’s war.

Emerging from a Tunnel

Emerging from a Tunnel

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