Blog Archive

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Desperate Measure and Ways to Use It

Notes on Chai Concentrate and Blueberry-Lavender Syrup:  I've received several emails asking various questions about my last post that I thought to address here.  The Chai Concentrate is just my version, certainly not like you are likely to find in India.  In my experience with the chais of India and East Africa, which are Indian-derived, you would never find a chai with orange peel, vanilla, allspice, or even the more expensive honey vs regular table sugar.  In fact, I remember (I kept the bottle for years because it pleased me at some level) one bottle of Ruby Chai Masala, or a dry mix of tea spices I bought in Kenya, had only five ingredients:  ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and black pepper. You wouldn't go amiss using just those spices.  I probably got carried away, but the blend was heavenly.  Also, I would add even more lavender the next time I make the blueberry syrup--and I definitely will make it again!

A few more ways to use both drinks:

  • Add chai concentrate to milk or soy milk or nut milk and toss in a frozen banana to blend into a milkshake
  • Do the same with the blueberry syrup
  • Dilute the chai concentrate, skip the milk, or not, and serve over ice
  • Definitely make a kir (do see my article on kir and a recipe with variations here) with the blueberry syrup
  • Pour the blueberry syrup over ice cream
  • Cook a portion of the chai concentrate until it becomes syrupy, add a bit more honey, and use it over ice cream

 El Rescate:  the rescue

 The rescue in a different light

The sad, naked roasted vegetables, unrescued

A Desperate Measure and Ways to Use It
by Victoria Challancin

We call them rescates in Spanish.  Rescues.  And that is what I had to resort to when my husband returned from three weeks in California eschewing all fat, all salt, and basically all good things.  A "rescue" was clearly called for, for my part of the food.  Mind you, my husband, who teaches yoga, always eats healthily.  Always.  He eats well, but has never been a purist.  Until now.  And clearly, clearly, a purist is something I am not.  Not in any way.  So today I give you a tasty way to rescue the bland, in another example of necessity being the mother of invention.

Today I roasted vegetables for lunch.  As requested, I only used a wee tad of olive oil, no salt, and no pepper.  Six garlic cloves did find their way into the mix, however.  Almost undetected.  Since I had no interest in eating naked vegetables, I concocted a rescue remedy of my own, to perk up veggies.  And, as it turns out, to perk up just about everything else.

Cook's Notes:  To the best of my ability, I am writing down exactly how I made this recipe, but honestly, this is one of those make-it-up-as-you-go recipes that kept morphing as I created it.  I am giving you the basic flavors, but by all means, add and subtract amounts according to your own tastes.  I wanted this a bit pungent, as a part of my rescate to compensate for the bland food I planned on using it with.  I added a good bit of garlic; you might choose to add less. For the Parmesan, I simply cut off chunks from a larger piece, but grated would be fine.  I had large-leafed fresh Italian basil, strong-smelling and ready to bloom, but any fresh basil would work, as would other fresh herbs such as mint, thyme (use less), marjoram, or even a bit of finely chopped rosemary.  Other vinegars could be substituted, such as white wine or balsamic--even a bit of lemon juice would be great for the acid.  Black or green pitted olives and capers would also work with this.  Onions.  Oh, yes.  Play with it.  Make it your own.

Recipe:  Mediterranean Sun-Dried Tomato Spread
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

1/2 cup oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese 
3 medium to large garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Sea salt to taste (I didn't actually add any as the Parmesan was salty enough for me)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Check and adjust seasoning to tastes.  And prepare to rescue.
The bland roasted vegetables perked up with my rescue--and a touch of Trader Joe's Smoked Sea Salt

Suggested Ways to Use It

  • Add enough olive oil and more vinegar to make a vinaigrette and toss it with a leafy green salad (This will stand up to strong greens such as kale, dandelion, purslane, or spinach)
  • Use it as a sandwich spread
  • Toss it with hot, cooked baby potatoes for a potato salad--add radishes, boiled egg, celery, onion, and chopped fresh herbs
  • Mix it with vegetables prepared for roasting--simply toss it with the cut vegetables; spread them on a baking tray; and roast at 400 degrees F until they reach the desired doneness, which will depend on the vegetables (see my recipe below)
  • Steam asparagus (or roast as above) and drizzle with a spoonful of the spread
  • Mix with mashed egg yolks for a new riff on deviled eggs
  • Use it as a dip for fresh, crusty bread--add a bit of dukkah (see my recipe and article on it here)
  • Use it to moisten a tuna or chicken salad (see my recipe below)
  • Blend it into freshly cooked fava or white beans while they are still hot as a sauce or puree with cooked beans into a spread for crackers or pita or crusty bread
  • Serve it as a dip for a tray of crudites
  • Add to a salad of thinly sliced raw mushrooms
  • Add it to any grain salad--mix in chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, olives, capers, and bell peppers
  • Pour it over a plate of roasted bell pepper strips; add raisins, pine nuts, and capers
  • Add it to goat cheese; mash it together and serve with crackers 
  • Add it to goat cheese and mix it with the hot insides of a baked potato before restuffing it 
  • Serve with cheese and crackers
  • Add chopped capers and olives and use it as in any of the above suggestions
  • With avocado--either fill an avocado half or mash it all up into a sort of Mediterranean guacamole
  • Plunk a dollop of it atop a plate or bowl of hummus
  • Serve it in or on an assortment of antipasti
  • Mix it with mayonnaise or creme fraîche for a milder variation and use as a dip
  • Add a spoonful to tomato gazpacho and top with some tasty croutons
  • I think this list could go on and on--just use your imagination as it is so flavorful that once you have made it, you will think of excuses to enjoy it
 Dolphin-friendly canned tuna

The beginnings of a tuna salad with my rescue remedy

Cook's Notes:  Again, a recipe for you that morphed as I made it.  I started with water-packed tuna as I was adding oil.   To that I added a dollop of a creamy Caesar Spread I had on hand (mayonnaise would be fine--or skip it altogether), some capers, sliced green onion, fresh basil in chiffonade, a squeeze of lime (or lemon) and of course, some sun-dried tomato spread (see recipe above).  Hard-cooked eggs, green or black imported olives, a pinch of chile flakes would all go well with these Mediterranean flavors.  Note that I added no salt as the sun-dried tomato spread contained Parmesan cheese and was plenty salty.  As always, use your imagination.

Recipe:  Mediterranean Tuna Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

1 can tuna of choice, drained
1/2 cup sun-dried tomato spread (see recipe above)
2 tablespoons caesar spread or plain mayonnaise 
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 green onion, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Basil in chiffonade to garnish

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl, breaking tuna with a fork as you mix.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

My rescued lunch plate

Another Rescue:  Cooked Fava Beans, My Southern Roots, and la Pièce de la Résistance

I am far from my Souther roots.  Far from my beloved fresh black-eyed peas, lima beans, shelly peas, field peas, pole beans, butter beans, and all the other beany friends of my youth.  I do live in Mexico, a land of incredible dried beans, however, but they just aren't the beans I grew up with and miss.

My husband loves cooked dried beans.  Loves them.  Plain and relatively unadorned are just fine with him, and are preferred on this new austerity eating program.  They are not, however, fine with me.
A steaming pot of unadorned dried fava beans

In the spring, we are able to get lovely fresh fava beans, habas in Spanish, but only for a brief period when they are in season.  But all year we can find dried favas, especially popular during Lent (often in a soup with diced cactus).  And I do love them.  I like to make my falafels with them or use half favas, half chickpeas.  And I use them often in soups in the winter.  Today we had boiled favas.  I almost boiled them too long as I was doing other things and forgot about them, but they were still edible.  Edible, that is, with my rescue sauce.

La Piece de la Résistance:  Fava Beans with the Rescue Sauce.  Oh my.

This may not look irresistible.  It may not symbolize for you any sort of pièce de la résistance, but believe me that for my palate, it was a perfect dish.  Served over the hot beans, mashed together in a mouth-pleasing mush, and wow, these flavors did sing!  Of course, I always like Mediterranean culinary tunes.

Parting Shot:
Yesterday, while plant foraging with my Plant Study Group, I saw this beautiful African Shield Bug.  Beautiful, yes, but my Mexican friends tell me they spit nasty stuff in your eye.  Oops!

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using my text or photos.  Thanks!


Nancy said...

Hi Victoria,

You know the beautiful thing about cooking is that there are so many ways. A recipe isn't just one set way, it's all about making it our own. Your Chai concentrate sounds really good and I love all the little personal touches you added.

The rescate sounds really good too and love all the ways you can use it. Your meal with the tuna and aguacate on the side looks really good.

Thanks for sharing all the recipes:)

Minnie(@thelady8home) said...

Nice recipes. Loved them. The article is beautifully compiled.

Hotly Spiced said...

Your rescue remedy certainly has a lot of uses. It looks just gorgeous on those roasted vegetables. I'll look forward to making this Victoria xx

Eha said...

I am laughing aloud at the 'rescate'. Shall make it early tomorrow morning as have all the ingredients, and then begin rescuing so many of my own meals :) ! And thank you for the tip to use your chai concentrate with soy milk and banana as a shake - another wonderful, practical idea! Oh, golly gosh lady, I am becoming quite dependant on doing things just a tad differently 'cause 'Victoria said so' :) !

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I adore the flavour of sun dried tomatoes so this would be just what I would love to keep in my fridge. And that African shield beetle is amazing. It may sound strange but it looks like a gorgeous piece of jewellery! :o

Sawsan@chef in disguise said...

Hello Victoria,
You know I use something very similar to your first sauce minus the vinegar and with less oil as a sauce for pizza.
I loved all the rescues and loved how versatile they all are

Victoria at Flavors of the Sun said...

Pizza! Wow--I didn't think of that. Great idea, Sawsan.

Lynne Daley said...

Brilliant!! Everything you make looks delicious! I like the idea of your tuna salad very much. I sometimes come up with some good things, but if I don't write them down, I never remember what and how much of something that I use. You are an inspiration to me!