cucumbers & limes.

an obsessive cook's exploration of time, place, food and nostalgia. Contact at minerva.orduno@gmail.com.

Rules of Pork.

If the pork cut is fatty, dry cure it. 

Dry Cure:

1/2 pound kosher salt
4 ounces brown sugar
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon coriander

Grind the spices coarsely. Mix well with the salt and sugar. 

Rub generously on item to be cured. Rest for one or two days, depending on the thickness of the cut. Rinse well under cold running water. Pat dry, and rest, refrigerated, for at least a day before cooking. 

If it is lean, brine it. 

Brine:

2 quarts water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed

Bring half the water to a boil with the remaining ingredients. Simmer for for 5 minutes. Add the remaining water, preferably very cold. Cool completely before using. 

Most items need no more than 24 hours of brining. When removed, rinse lightly in cold running water, and rest, refrigerated for another 24 hours.

This isn’t Top Chef: Scallop. Or is it?

Making a special has become a two minute exercise. What’s in the walk in? What do I have? What can I throw in there with a minimal amount of effort on my part that can make it seem amazing? God I have too much stuff to do already, do I really need to do a special? Did I really just volunteer to do this? Scallops? Again? Why is it always scallops? I’m the queen of the scallops now, aren’t I?

Somehow I always end up making a special on scallop day.

Mussel and scallop ‘stew’

12 medium sized mussels
2 ounces Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cooked beans
1/4 cup diced tomato
A few mixed olives, sliced
Minced shallot and garlic to taste
1 cup white wine
Salt, black pepper, fresh herbs, butter, all to taste
Scallops, if you have them

Place two sauté pans over medium high heat. Add oil. Place seasoned scallops in one pan, and mussels in the other. Ignore the scallops while they cook, trying to turn them before they’re ready will just break the beautiful golden brown crust they are developing.

Add the diced tomato, sliced chorizo, garlic and shallots to the mussels pan. Sweat them for 30 seconds. Add the beans olives. Season very lightly with salt and pepper. Add the white wine, giving the pan a shake occasionally. Add butter and fresh herbs to taste. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Cook the mussels for 2 or 3 minutes at the most. Toss any mussel that doesn’t open, or any empty shells.

Turn the scallops over when they freely detach from the pan. Move them to the top of the pan, add a good amount of butter to the pan, allowing it to melt. When the butter starts to foam, baste them generously by tipping the pan towards you, and with a large spoon carefully flicking the golden liquid towards the scallops. Carefully. Do not allow the butter to brown.

Marry the two pans in a large bowl. Eat with plenty of bread on hand.      

Today’s geography lesson: there is a city in southeast Turkey named #Batman. Thank you natgeo Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition.

Today’s geography lesson: there is a city in southeast Turkey named #Batman. Thank you natgeo Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition.

Grasshopper Tacos.

1/2 pounds grasshoppers
2 garlic cloves, minced
Limes
Salt
2 ripe avocados, mashed
6 tortillas

Roast grasshoppers in a 350° oven until crispy. Toss with minced garlic, lime juice and salt to taste. Spread mashed avocado on tortilla. Sprinkle on grasshoppers, to taste. 

From the book ‘Man Eating Bugs’ by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio.

I need some grasshoppers.

Grasshopper Tacos.

1/2 pounds grasshoppers
2 garlic cloves, minced
Limes
Salt
2 ripe avocados, mashed
6 tortillas

Roast grasshoppers in a 350° oven until crispy. Toss with minced garlic, lime juice and salt to taste. Spread mashed avocado on tortilla. Sprinkle on grasshoppers, to taste.

From the book ‘Man Eating Bugs’ by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio.

I need some grasshoppers.

The saddest question I’ve ever received from a server?

'Does heirloom mean just different colors?'

Sigh.

The saddest question I’ve ever received from a server?

'Does heirloom mean just different colors?'

Sigh.

How to Eat Papaya.

Mexican papayas are not for the commitment fearing yet fruit loving person in your life.  This is a fruit that requires careful thought in selection, peeling, deseeding, cutting, and then the actual preparation begins.  This is not your average good into your brown bag lunch kind of fruit.  Papaya requires love, it requires patience.  And most of all it requires good forearm muscle.

If you taste a Mexican papaya straight from its thick green-yellow-orange skin, you’ll find a taste that is somewhere between vomit and a rotten cantaloupe.  And those slimy looking black seeds that dot the hollow interior normally scooped straight into the garbage can?  For the first time in my papaya-loving life, I popped one in my mouth after the vague memory of a food-magazine reference to them being a fantastic addition to salads.  As the taste of potent mustard seed and gassy fermented cabbage engulfed me, arms waving around helplessly, I thanked my own laziness for not ever building a new screen for my window, and allowed the chewed-up slimy black seed to fly to the hell where bad culinary advice goes to die.

Marinated papaya

1 - 3 pound papaya

1 3/4 cups fresh squeezed lime juice (about three pounds of limes)
1 cup cane sugar
Non-reactive container (glass, ceramic or plastic)
Citrus press

Picking a papaya is much easier than picking a watermelon.  Skin color in papayas can vary widely, from pale lime green to bright orange, passing through yellow in between.  Avoid papayas with excessive black and sunken spots.  Ripe papayas will have the slightest amount of give to them, and will somehow feel both heavy and hollow.  

Cut the papaya in half and remove the seeds with a spoon and discard.  For the love of god, unless you actually enjoy the taste of mustard gas, throw them away.  Quarter the papaya, then cut each quarter in half again, or until it is at a size to comfortably run a knife along the skin without wasting the flesh.  I’ve never been a fan of the peel first then cut method when it comes to the irregular shape of papaya, but whatever works for you.  

Once all the papaya is peeled, cut into large dice, about ¾” in size.  Place in a non-reactive container, and start warming up your forearm, the citrus press is coming out.  Cut and squeeze those limes until the papaya is completely covered in juice.  This is one of those moments when I wondered for America survived so long without the citrus press.  Add the sugar, and mix well.  Cover, place in the fridge, and find something to do for the next 2 hours as the lime and sugar work their magic and soften up the bright orange flesh, bringing out a mellow sweetness from the flesh itself, and surrounding it in a delightfully potent lime syrup.  

Get a spoonful of that softened up papaya in your belly and enjoy my friend.  And if that bright flavor doesn’t erase the thought of mustard gas tasting seeds out of your mind, let me add one word: tequila.  I found that 3 tablespoons each of pureed marinated papaya and marinade, 2 ounces of tequila (anejo, of course), ice, and a soda water topper, will erase just about anything.     

Previously published in Chow Bella, March 11, 2013.

There comes a time in every cook’s career when they look at a dish and think ‘This really could use some compressed sous vide fruit.’

Things that love each other. Salt and herbs. Food that is not wasted.

Things that love each other. Salt and herbs. Food that is not wasted.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein (via good)

Essential knowledge.

(via tinyhousedarling)

How to make a fantastic and chewy chocolate chip cookie: lightly spray the top with water before baking. (via Ad Hoc at Home).

How to make a fantastic and chewy chocolate chip cookie even better: add the zest of half an orange to the recipe. 

How to make a fantastic and chewy chocolate chip cookie: lightly spray the top with water before baking. (via Ad Hoc at Home).

How to make a fantastic and chewy chocolate chip cookie even better: add the zest of half an orange to the recipe.