I spent 3 or 4 hours in the back yard today pulling the grass off of the brick walkway that runs from our back door to the garage door, trimming some branches off the laurel tree that the “arborists” hacked up like a wanna-be Billy Idol hairdo and trying to do some major revamping on a rhodie bush in the backyard that was being overgrown with roses and bittersweet. Now admittedly, pulling grass from a walkway sounds tedious but not all that difficult. I’m including this picture so everyone can see how difficult this one is. The walkway doesn’t just end there, it actually goes another 20-25 feet to the garage, it’s just buried under what is essentially sod with an attitude. Only sod would be easier to remove as the roots wouldn’t be growing down between each and every brick. But I’m not complaining. It’s actually good exercise that is accomplishing something and not just walking endlessly to nowhere on a treadmill or stairmaster.
Aside from the yard work however, and no, I haven’t made anymore progress on either the rockery out front or the front yard, I did do a bit of cooking yesterday that turned out really well. I started with a batch of what I’m calling tamale bread. The original recipe called for the use of cornmeal but I substituted masa harina instead to give it more of a mexican food flavor. It turned out really well and half the loaf is already gone! I also made a batch of Hawaiian chili pepper water. If you are wondering what that is, well, I had never had it before a trip to Hawaii myself last August. I cooked for myself the entire trip and stuck to rice, veggies, fish and grilled chicken. With such a simple menu I was game to try as many new condiments as I could and this was one of them. To quote another website, it is, “Like a distant island cousin of Crystal or Tabasco sauce, chili pepper water is a fiery brine used in Hawaii to add a spicy kick to rice, eggs, spaghetti, fried foods, Bloody Marys—just about anything.” Now I wouldn’t call mine fiery it’s more sort of “zesty” but then again spiciness is all relative. As a matter of fact I have one relative with an asbestos tongue who would happily suck on a scotch bonnet Tootsie pop and another that nearly cries at the merest drop of mild taco sauce (and they know who they are). Lastly, since the other chubby vegan is working another Saturday to help us pay off moving expenses, I tried to make her a dinner that would blow her socks off. Or at least make them flap in the wind a little. I started with a salad plate of avocado slices and garlic whistles (her two favorites), added a slice of “buttered” homemade bread (I know, it looks like frosting, right? I’m working on it… ) and finished with a big bowl of Greens and Beans soup. The greens being golden beet greens from our garden and the beans being my home-canned Butter Beans. Not only was it filling in the extreme but every part was even tastier than the last.
Tamale Bread (for a bread machine)
1 cup water, 80 degrees
3 tbsp oil
1 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 cup jalapenos, chopped (I used pickled jalapenos for nachos)
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 cup masa harina
3 2/3 cup bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
Follow your bread machine instructions for white bread, adding the ingredients in the order they appear on the list which should keep the yeast separate from the liquid until you turn on the machine and start making the bread.
Hawaiian Chili Pepper Water
1 clean, used bottle with a good tight cap. (I used a clean olive oil bottle from Trader Joe’s as the cap includes a plastic strainer)
12 dried red chili peppers (I used dried red chili flakes instead)
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Optional: I also added a few tbsp of dried garlic
4 fresh Thai chilis, thinly sliced
2 red jalapenos, thinly sliced (these are just for color and variety)
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
3 cups hot water
1. Push the peppers and garlic into clean bottle.
2. Mix the vinegar, salt and hot water.
3. Pour the liquid into the bottle to cover the chilies. Let cool.
4. Cap the bottle and store it in the refrigerator. It should keep for about a month. (I used mine for much much longer. Remember, vinegar is a preservative)
5. Sprinkle this spicy, garlicky water over your food as the Hawaiians do. Enjoy!
Garlic Whistles (Garlic Spears, Garlic Scapes) and “Beans ‘n’ Greens Soup
Trim the spear ends, not the blossom end. The blossoms are edible and oh so very tasty. Par boil in salted water, drain, toss in Garlic Expressions or the vinaigrette of your choice and chill. These can be served hot but are really fun to nibble on as a salad or snack. The soup is even easier:
2 large bunches of your favorite greens, rinsed and chopped. I often use beet greens or rainbow chard but any green will do. Plop them in a dutch oven or stock pot.
Add 2 15 oz cans of beans with bean juice. I use butter beans or navy beans, but again whatever makes you happy.
Add 1 onion, chopped
Put in sufficient vegetable broth to cover the beans and greens in the pot.
1/8 to 1/4 cup sweet smoked paprika, depending on your taste.
1/4 to 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, again add according to your taste preference.
Simmer until greens are soft and flavors have melded nicely. Do not add salt until you taste the finished product. We didn’t need to add any.
Let me know if you try any of these recipes.