Monday, July 29, 2013

San Antonio Green Market

I do love early mornings, don't you? Unfortunately I love my bed more and you rarely find me out of bed before the sun.  So what was I doing up in the chill, misty, pre-dawn of the Santa Cruz Valley two weekends ago? For the longest while I have wanted to visit the San Antonio Green Market. This farmer's market is located in a valley not too far from where I live. It's a small market with some noble aspirations as explained in this video.

I was relieved to see that the land which was cleared for the market space has greened up nicely and is now quite scenic. In fact I was happily distracted from my shopping by the numerous hummingbirds that darted among the flowers and the feeders along the walkway.

One of the goals of this market is to encourage farmers to use less pesticides so the produce you find here is organic. It's worth coming back often because what's on offer varies and is dependent on seasonal availability.

In season now are chennette, mangoes and passion fruit. There were yellow and pink passion fruit on the day that I visited. I bought some of these beauties to make passion fruit curd. The yellows are slightly sweeter than the pinks which were just a bit more tart in my opinion. Both are fabulous for making passion fruit curd. Just swap out the lemon juice in this recipe with passion fruit for an easy peasy curd in just 5 minutes.

I freely admit that I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the stuff. Passion fruit curd over my oatmeal with mangoes for breakfast ~ a little bit of heaven.

As you walk through the market you are likely to score some fabulous finds by local artisans.  I bought a gorgeous hand-carved, teak, salad bowl but the old fashioned tops also caught my eye. My boys were delighted to be given a demonstration.

Aren't these soaps adorable? I have seen some fancy, French ones that were quite similar, in a high-end store in the mall. These locally crafted soaps are every bit as good.

Now is a good time to mention that you should definitely keep abreast of the market events and latest products on offer by liking San Antonio Green Market's Facebook page. It was here that I learned about this beautiful stained glass piece. I am currently stalking them and simultaneously trying to convince my husband that we need something like this in our home.

Since stained glass flowers are unlikely anytime in my near future it's my luck that there are always lovely tropical blooms on sale. I can never resist these sexy pinks. I am not trying to be cute. Sexy pink is actually the name of this pink heliconia cultivar and it is one of my favourites.

After shopping it was time for breakfast. We were advised to try the arepas and they did not disappoint. Sorry there are no actual photos of the food but after all the walking around, they were inhaled. At this point it was time to put the camera down.

It can be said that food is about community. It takes a community of farmers to grow or rear our food. Then we gather in spaces like this to purchase it before finally gathering around a table to partake. 

This little market has just that kind of friendly, community spirit. While here you should expect to fall easily into conversations with random strangers. Folks here smile at you and pass on advice, like telling you that the locally grown and produced cocoa tea (hot chocolate) is not to be missed.  Unfortunately with all the people I stopped and chatted with along the way,  I missed out on the cocoa tea. In a sense, I am glad since it gives me reason to visit again.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How to make microwave Cou-Cou (Trinidad Coo-Coo)

What's better than cou cou with stewed fish? Cou cou that doesn't need stirring until it feels like your arm is about to fall off, that's what.

What's the worse thing a friend can tell you when you have been proven wrong?

I told you so!

Yes Cynthia my friend feel free to unleash the three most annoying words in the english language at me.

You really did tell me so.

Cou cou, is the Caribbean version of polenta. Paired with flying fish, it is the national dish of Barbados but it is made all across the region. The traditional way of making this cou cou involves a lot of stirring with a stick that looks like this

As the liquid is absorbed into the cornmeal the entire thing stiffens up and gets very heavy. Turning it becomes a tiresome process. 

About 5 years ago my good friend Cynthia gave me a tip for preparing cou cou in the microwave. It takes just ten minutes and you can avoid the arm workout because it's so easy to do.

I was skeptical and promptly ignored her.

You will forgive me but I have deep seated ill feelings towards microwave ovens, borne out of past experiences where food basically tastes like rubber. However my recent success with making lemon curd in the microwave made me think that I should give Cynthia's suggestion a try. Am I ever glad that I did.  

Trinidadian Cou Cou
(adapted from Cynthia Nelson)

butter ( for greasing bowl)
1 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons Trinidad pimento peppers (chopped)
1 tablespoon bell peppers
1 tsp onion powder ( or one tablespoon finely chopped onions)
1 cup okra (thinly sliced or chopped fine according to your preference)
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups water 

Butter a pyrex bowl (approx 9-10" diameter) generously and put aside.
Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and stir to mix everything together.

Pour the mixture into the buttered pyrex bowl and place in the microwave.
Set the microwave on high and cook for 6 minutes.

At the end of the 6 minutes use oven mitts to remove the bowl from the microwave. Be careful the bowl will be hot.Stir the mixture well folding the top over into the bottom and evening out any lumps. Place the bowl back into the microwave and cook for 4 minutes.

Remove from the microwave. Smear a pat of butter across the top and leave it at least 15 minutes to firm up before serving. After it is cooled turn the bowl upside down and unmold the cou cou onto a serving plate and slice to serve.

COOKS TIP: This recipe is for a Trinidadian style cou-cou which is different from a Bajan (Barbadian) cou-cou. Trinis mostly use coconut milk for their cooking liquid in cou cou while other islands do not. Trinidadian's also like to see a colourful cou cou hence the use of red and green peppers. Some people also include grated carrots.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Omelette with Greens and Pommerac

This morning I made this super simple breakfast. It may not seem like much but for me it is quite the deal since breakfast is a meal I usually skip. Now that I am on a spiritual rejuvenation of sorts, i.e. vacation, I find myself wanting to rejuvenate my physical self as well. As such, I am making it my goal to improve on how I start my days. 

Luckily this is not going to be too hard to do since a couple of the fruit trees in my yard are bearing heavily. Right now our pommerac tree is making a spectacular showing. Without a doubt this fruit is set to be a regular feature at my table over the next month. 

Red Pepper Omelette
(serves 4)

8 eggs 
1/8 cup onions (chopped)
1/8 cup red bell peppers
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese ( or any cheese of your choice, grated)
salt to taste
1 tsp oil

pommerac (sliced)
choi sum flowers


Crack the eggs into a small bow. Whisk with a fork. Add chopped onion and red bell pepper. Season with salt and whisk a bit more.

Heat oil on medium heat in a frying pan. Once the oil is hot pour in the egg mixture, tilting the pan to spread the egg mixture in a circle to cover the base of the pan. 

As the omelette sets use a heatproof plastic spatula to gently lift the edges. At this point depending the type of frying pan you are using you may have to lower your heat. I have a ceramic coated frying pan that cooks best on low heat. Raise or lower heat according to the kind of pan you are cooking with. Occasionally you can tilt the pan so that the liquid runs off the top and cooks. Cook until the base is set and light golden and the top is almost set. The top should remain slightly liquid. Once folded over the residual heat will finish cooking it.

Sprinkle your cheese over the top and using your heatproof spatula fold the omelette in half. cook for a couple seconds more then transfer to a large plate and cut into four pieces. Serve with watercress, pommerac and choi sum flowers.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Strawberry Spinach Salad

It's the morning of my first day of summer vacation and I am giddy with excitement.

There I said it, summer!

In Trinidad some people assume that you are being silly to call the July/August long vacation, summer. We don't have four seasons like the temperate zone countries. So technically we don't have summer. It's perpetually warm here. What we do have is a period of more rain, then a couple months of scarcely any rain.


In my mind it's not about the technicalities. Summer for me is more a state of mind than the actual change in weather patterns.

Summer is about sleeping in. Booyah! I don't have to hustle the kids out of the bed in the predawn darkness to get them ready for school.

Summer is about time.....and having lots of it. So much time that I am sure that I will eventually get bored. I look forward to ignoring mile long to-do lists and getting bored. I can't remember the last time I even had time to get bored. 

Bring it!

Summer is about slowing down.

That means there will be a lot less time in the kitchen and a lot more sandwiches and salads.....oh yeah and ice-cream and pennacools cause those are perfectly acceptable meal substitutes during summer. 

This strawberry spinach salad is a particular favourite of mine and it is one that I sometimes eat on it's own as a light dinner.

So tell me what does summer mean to you? 

For those of you still seriously opposed to the word summer, I wish you a happy Rainy Season! 

See now, that doesn't evoke quite the same sentiments as wishing you a happy summer does it?

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Plain or candied walnuts
herbed or plain feta cheese
strawberries ( sliced)
spinach leaves (washed)
Italian dressing to serve

So I am taking the easy way out here and assuming you don't need directions to make this salad. It is after all the first day of my vacation and I am feeling rather lazy. Even blogging, as much as I love it, feels like work right now.