Trippin’ on tripe

Our apologies for the delay in new ingredients.  Clint and I just had a baby and have been busy attending to her needs rather than cooking and blogging.  This week’s ingredient was something I cooked awhile ago, but didn’t have a chance to post until now.  Enjoy!

This entry’s ingredient marks my first foray into some more adventurous culinary territory: tripe. Tripe is not for the faint of heart. For those unfamiliar with this ingredient, tripe is essentially animal stomach – more commonly cow’s stomach, but sometimes lamb, sheep, or pork stomach as well. There are several different varieties of tripe, depending on the part of the stomach you’re using: smooth tripe, honeycomb tripe, and leaf tripe. (I’m not much of a culinary expert, but here’s a site that explains a little more the different types of tripe, along with descriptions of other organ meats: Types of Offal)

Bleached tripe, ready to be cookedHaving grown up in an Indonesian household, I am not that unfamiliar with tripe. My mom would make it once in awhile when my dad was out of town (although as a child, I did have my reservations in eating the unusual looking piece of meat in my soup). When I got to college, I discovered pho, and would always order mine with the tripe. It’s an acquired taste, and the texture (somewhat chewy) can be a turnoff for some people. But tripe, when cooked well, can be quite tasty, and really absorbs the flavors of the broth that it’s cooked in.

Surprisingly, (or maybe not surprisingly, since tripe is a pretty inexpensive ingredient) tripe is found in a variety of different cuisines from all parts of the world:
• Asia: Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Filipino
• Western Europe: French, Italian, Spanish, Irish, English, German, Scottish
• Eastern Europe: Bulgarian, Romanian, Hungarian, Czech, Croatian
• African: Nigerian, South African, Zimbabwean
• North African/Middle East: Moroccan, Jordanian, Iranian
• Latin America: Mexican, Ecuadorian, Chilean

For this entry’s recipe, I decided to pay homage to my childhood and make an Indonesian recipe. I found a recipe for Soto Babat (Beef Tripe Soup) on an Indonesian food blog (Indonesia Eats blog) but in preparing my soup, I decided to take some liberties on the recipe and make some modifications.

Soto Babat (Indonesian Beef Tripe Soup)

Ingredients for soup:
1 lb. beef tripe (thoroughly cleaned!)
4 cups water
4 bay leaves
1 lime, quartered
2 stalks of lemongrass, bruised
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1 leek, sliced (just the stem)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
5 cups of broth (beef broth, but you can also add some vegetable broth if you want)
3 ears of corn (kernels only)
5 stalks of celery, sliced (with leaves)
fried garlic or fried onions, for garnish

Ingredients for rempah (spice mix):
3 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp. pine nuts
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. turmeric powder

Step by step:
1) In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add tripe, 2 bay leaves, 2 lime slices, coriander powder, and 1 lemongrass stalk, salt (for flavor). Cook for 30 minutes. Drain and cut into chunks or slices. Set aside on a plate.

2) Grind ingredients for rempah until it becomes a paste consistency.

3) In the same large pot, stir fry rempah, 2 bay leaves, the rest of the lime slices, 1 lemongrass, and leek until fragrant.

4) Add cooked tripe and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add corn and celery. Season with salt, sugar, and pepper.

5) Serve hot in bowls, garnished with fried garlic or fried onions.

The finished productOverall, I was pretty satisfied with this recipe, the flavors reminded me of Indonesia, and the addition of corn and celery helped to create a more nutritionally balanced meal. Clint, however, just couldn’t get past the texture of the tripe. Oh well. I guess I’ll follow in my mom’s footsteps and make this meal when Clint’s out of town…

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20

09 2010

Pura Vida! Costa Rican Life with Lizano…

Black Beans. Clint Bush Photo

For my wife and me, August marked our first year anniversary. It’s been a wonderful year and I wanted to do something special for dinner this week especially with my son in town. Posed with the challenge to come up with something for both a special dinner, and some new ingredient this week, I decided to combine the two and make a meal that was reminiscent of our honeymoon one year ago in Costa Rica—Gallo Pinto.

Gallo pinto is essentially black beans and rice, and it is traditionally served with just about any meal. Every morning we ate it with scrambled eggs and fresh papaya or watermelon. For dinner it was usually served as part of Casados—a traditional Costa Rican meal with black beans, rice, salad and some kind of meat. In any case we ate a lot of it, and it quickly became one of our favorite things to eat while we were there.

Now I’ve made black beans and rice before. In fact I’ve done it several different ways from a Tex-Mex style chili to a straight-up Oaxacan side served with a little Cojita, and although I love it prepared all these ways, I had never tasted it the Costa Rican way. There was a subtle spiciness and an obvious though not overpowering sweetness. The flavor hinted at cilantro yet masked by a myriad of other flavors. The complex layers and aromas had me hooked, and although I could have blissfully carried on eating my Gallo Pinto in its simple beauty, it wasn’t until our server suggested eating it with Lizano—the strange green salsa that sat at the end of our table—that Gallo Pinto became one of my favorite foods.

Lizano Salsa. Clint Bush Photo

Little did I know that one year later, that mysterious green concoction that almost went unnoticed would be the secret ingredient to my own attempt at making Gallo Pinto. As with any new recipe, I researched and researched trying to find as much info on making Gallo Pinto as I could. The more I searched however, the more and more I saw Lizano Salsa popping up. It seems that this salsa is almost synonymous with making Costa Rican food, especially Gallo Pinto. Now I could’ve made my own salsa, and I’m sure it would have been fine, but I wanted to have the same experience as eating down there. So I decided to buy some.

First I looked at our main grocery stores—no luck. Then I looked online, and I found a bunch. Unfortunately they all came with some hefty shipping costs. Turned off, I decided to go down to a small international market near our apartment, and low and behold there it was—beer bottle shaped, black, and unassuming. In fact it was so low key, I had overlooked it several times before I finally spotted it right in front of my face. Once I got it home I cracked it open, and magically that familiar sweet yet spicy cilantro tinged flavor came flooding back, filling my senses and reminding me of the summer evenings eating in small Costa Rican cafeterias know as Sodas. Once I added it to my simmering black beans and rice and served it with some fresh watermelon, the special anniversary dinner was complete. And although we couldn’t be in Costa Rica for this special occasion, at least I was able to bring a little of Costa Rica here to share with family. Pura Vida!!

Recipe from Costa Rica Guide

Gallo Pinto with Watermelon

Gallo Pinto and Watermelon. Clint Bush Photo

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06

09 2010

Heading down South for some grits

Another week, another new ingredient.  This is Astrid again, posting about our continued adventures into the culinary unknown.

Recently, I tried my hand at cooking grits.  Grits is a porridge made out of ground hominy, which are dried maize kernels that have been treated with alkali, a basic salt (thank you, Wikipedia).  The food itself is of Native American origin, but has now become a staple food throughout much of the South. Okay, so this “new ingredient” might be kind of a cop out, since grits are not really that unusual, and they are relatively simple to make.  But having grown up as far as you can possibly think of from the South (the Pacific Northwest is pretty much on the opposite corner of the country), grits is actually pretty unfamiliar to me, and I can honestly say that I had never really had a liking to them.

A few weeks ago, we happened to have breakfast at a Southern restaurant called Eatonville (http://www.eatonvillerestaurant.com/).  Supposedly, it’s owned by the same people who own Busboys and Poets, one of our favorite breakfast spots in the DC area.  This time, though, we thought we’d try a new restaurant, and wandered into Eatonville (which is conveniently located just across the street from Busboys and Poets).  Clint and I split an order of Shrimp and Grits, and it was absolutely amazing!  Sauteed shrimp, tomatoes and spinach over a bowl of jalapeno and cheddar grits.  Topped with gravy.  Wow, I never knew ground corn could taste like that.

After our delicious meal at Eatonville, I thought I’d try my hand at making my own version of Shrimp and Grits.  The recipe is simple enough.  All the ingredients you need to make this scrumptious meal are grits, cheddar cheese, raw shrimp (peeled and deveined), onions, garlic, tomatoes, and a large bowl of baby spinach.  And maybe some jalapenos for a kick.

I used Quaker’s brand grits, and cooked about four servings worth according to directions.  Approximately five minutes before it was ready, I added four ounces of cubed cheddar cheese to the grits, and slowly melted it in the grits as they were finishing cooking.  Meanwhile, I sauteed onions and garlic in a little bit of olive oil on the cast iron skillet until they softened.  Then I added the shrimp and cooked over medium heat.  When the shrimp were just starting to turn pink, I added chopped tomatoes and spinach, and continued cooking until the spinach was wilted and the tomatoes and shrimp were cooked.  To serve, I ladled some of the cheddar grits into a bowl, and topped it with the shrimp and veggie mixture.  Voila!  My own version of shrimp and grits.  (As an added kick, I mixed some chopped jalapeno to the cheddar grits.  Woo, hoo, that was nice!)

My overall impressions of the dish: just as good as I would have had at Eatonville, although maybe not as polished in its presentation.  But the cheddar helped add some cheesy flavor to the grits, and the sauteed veggies helped to lighten up an otherwise heavy dish.  I would definitely try this one out again!
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08

08 2010

Watermelon Rinds

Clint Bush

1 week down, and 51 to go, and that means a new ingredient. Up to bat this week is that summer favorite, WATERMELON. Wait, now before anyone thinks I’ve lived in a cave for the the last 31 years, let me just say I have of course had and prepared watermelon in many different ways from raw to fruit salad to juice. What I have never worked with on the other hand is the rind. So officially this week’s “New 52″ is WATERMELON RIND.

Now I have to admit, I actually cheated and did this last week when Astrid was putting together the wheat berry dish. After all my son and my mom came to town this week for the 4th, and I had a hunch that I wouldn’t have time to work on finding and preparing a new ingredient this week. All in all it worked out, and they enjoyed our cooking and entertaining despite not having a “New 52″ this week.

So how did I end up with an excess of watermelon rind and nothing to do with it? Probably like everyone else this summer—through a grocery sale on watermelon of course. Let me set the scene.

There I was munching on some deliciously sweet watermelon that I had just cut up. My discard bowl was overflowing with rinds, and I had our “52 Weeks” challenge on the brain. I’m an avid fan of “Iron Chef America”, and I tend to recall either Bobby Flay or Michael Simon making a pickled watermelon rind to serve with some pork or fish dish. So there it was, I had my idea. Next up was surfing Google to find some recipes.

When I started my search, I didn’t realize that Pickled Watermelon Rind was such a southern staple, but the more I looked, the more recipes I discovered. Having no idea what the finished product is supposed to taste like, I took a guess and just selected a recipe off of myrecipes.com.

The pickling process was actually pretty easy, and after the initial brine, the rinds just had to sit in the fridge for a week. So here we are, one week later.

A small taste…interesting.

I’m not sure about this one. This might have to grow on me. Slightly sweet with a mild vinegar bite. The texture is typical of pickled veggies—soft with a bite. The color is page with hints of red from the watermelon flesh.

In conclusion, I’m not totally sold on the whole pickled watermelon thing. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up with it, but for me I’ll take the red stuff instead. Another ingredient down, no new favorites yet.

Scorecard:

  • Preparation—Impressed
  • Taste—Eh
  • Overall Impression—Ready to move on.

Ratings Key:

This sucks, Ready to move on, Eh, Impressed, New Fav

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23

07 2010

Wheat berries

Astrid here, posting our first new ingredient, which we prepared last week (June 27th-July 3rd) … da da-da da… wheat berries!  We found a recipe in a cookbook called Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson for wheat berry salad, and since it was my turn to plan the menu for the week, it seemed like a pretty safe new ingredient to try.  (I’ll leave the frogs, turtles, andeels for Clint to cook, thank you very much)

To give some culinary background, a wheat berry is the entire wheat kernel (without the hull), before it’s been processed into flour.  Eaten on its own, it sort of has a nutty flavor, and is boiled like any other grain in order to cook it.  For the recipe that we made, we simply used wheat berries, an orange, spinach, pine nuts, feta cheese, a shallot, and some olive oil.  The wheat berries were boiled in water for about forty five minutes, then drained and mixed with the other ingredientsand a citrus dressing (made from the orange, shallot, and olive oil).

I have to say, I kind of like the heartiness of the wheat berries.  But the salad was a little lacking.  Perhaps it’s because of the change in appetite caused by pregnancy, but I’m not much of a fan of soggy spinach, and this recipe definitely made my spinach soggy.  Oh well, hopefully I’ll find a better recipe next time.

Stay tuned for our next new ingredient!

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09

07 2010