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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 “June, 2014”

Nutty Crisis!!!!!

What’s a girl to do?

Pistachio Ice Cream Beckons!The Jefferson Dairy (”Where Ice Cream Dreams Come True”) in Lake Hopatcong, NJ, is “out” of their pistachio, an icon on their permanent sign.

On two of myMEGusta’s two most recent forays to grocery stores, there were no pistachios! None!  Not the house brand or the identical, overpriced “Wonderful” brand.

Full disclosure: Costco, aka Land of Buying Power, has them.

Pistachios

Pistachios

It’s the drought, and this is one of the many ways in which everyone is starting to feel the pain California is living through. Even though the pistachio bush is native to arid climates and has a very low water requirement, the plants are suffering and yields are off, resulting in escalating prices. The “Wonderful” advertising campaign has, obviously, been put on hold.

So, let’s move to happier thoughts of these lovely nuts, and the first that comes to mind is the extraordinary pistachio ice cream at Madu Café in Istanbul, a delicacy that tasted like icy cold ground nuts bound by gelato. And you don’t have to travel to Turkey to find it; there are over 200 Madu Cafes in the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and even in Bulgaria.

And aren’t we happy that today’s pistachio ice cream has just a light hint of green, from the actual color of the nuts, rather than the neon green dye they used to use in the 50s?

Macaroons at Hakkasan

Macaroons at Hakkasan

Pistachio macaroons are wildly popular in Europe, myMEGusta’s most recent tastes having been at Hakkasan in London (yes, French macaroons in a Chinese restaurant) and at Dallayou, the French patisserie where a “free” macaroon accompanies your morning café au lait.

Pistachio Souffle

Pistachio Souffle

Another memorable dish, this time at La Grenouille in New York, was a pistachio soufflé, complete with a pistachio scented crème anglaise sauce.

Have you wondered why the nuts are cracked open? This is a natural occurrence when they ripen, although the occasional shut nut does show up. Have you wondered how to open the ones that are nearly shut tight? Just take another half shell and pry it open. Toss the tightly closed ones to the squirrels.

One real pistachio plus is that the nuts are no longer processed with hideous, finger staining red dye which used to serve the purpose of hiding damage. (If you are too young to remember this, count your blessings.)

So, figure it out. Have some other nut to snack on.

Pistachio Bush

Pistachio Bush

Or have the special black cherry ice cream at Jefferson’s, if you are there on the right day.

 

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Eels Before Breakfast???

Eel Wrangler at Billingsgate Fish Market

Eel Wrangler at Billingsgate Fish Market

Not to eat, but to ogle.

Eels Living in Drawers

Eels Living in Drawers

The scene was an early morning tour of London’s wonderful Billingsgate wholesale fish market, located on Canary Wharf in the Docklands in the shadow of mushrooming bank skyscrapers.

The whole market was delightful, but myMEGusta’s favorite stand was a wall of drawers, full of slithery eels. The nice young man even offered to let her hold one. (No, I’ll stick to cooked ones, thank you.)

This vendor and others also sold delicacies like smoked eel and jellied eel. More on this coming soon in myMEGusta’s Fourth of July Special honoring British food!

In Japan, the best eel is found in specialty restaurants where the creatures live in tanks until seconds before they are killed and cooked, mirroring how lobsters are stored in the United States.

Unaju

Unaju

Unadon

Unadon

The best known Japanese preparation for eel (unagi) is grilling with a delicious, slightly sweet sauce known as tare, then served as unadon (eel in a rice bowl, donburi), unaju (eel in a lacquered box, jobako), or in various forms of sushi, sometimes sprinkled with sesame seeds or sansho (a ground dried berry with a spicy/tangy flavor).

Grilled Eel at the Store!

Grilled Eel at the Store

You can enjoy grilled eel anywhere there’s a Japanese grocery store. That’s how the Japanese homemaker prepares it, never cooking the dish from scratch.

Moving to the Mediterranean, eels pop up in yet a totally different form, tiny elvers, baby eels known as glass eels.

Angulas!

Angulas!

I know at least one MyMEGusta follower is a huge fan of Spanish angulas, glass eels simply cooked in olive oil with garlic and chili peppers. Alas, these delicious angulas are expensive due to shortages, although most eel on the market is now being farmed and this may mean more for all of us.

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