Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Notion to Cook and a Peek at the Jungle

It must have been all the cool and wet weather that gave me a notion to cook (not that I don’t cook almost every day any how). On Sunday I started cooking about 10:00am and was still going at into the evening. It was very satisfying. So, what did I cook? I started with homemade sofrito. Sofrito is used as a component in Puerto Rican/Cuban dishes. It is pretty easy; basically you throw all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until it reaches the consistency you want. I like mine so you can see the separate colors of the ingredients, but you can’t tell what veg it came from. I used fresh local yellow and red tomatoes, lots of garlic cloves, poblano peppers, Serrano peppers (they had gotten semi-dried while languishing in the fridge), onion, fresh cilantro, and salt. The nice thing about sofrito is that you make a big batch and can freeze it in small plastic bags to use later. Most recipes call for about ¼ cup.
I started with the sofrito because I wanted to use it in black beans to serve along side or over rice. I sautéed a chopped onion, sweet red bell pepper, Mexican oregano (different from Italian oregano), and dried epazote leaves. I added that to a large saucepan with canned black beans that I had rinsed really well, and then cooked it up on the stove with ½ c sofrito and a can of squished up whole tomatoes. The final touch was to add dried roasted chipotle peppers to give it the flavor of roasted peppers. This made about 6 servings, so I froze 4 servings for later.


While all that was going on, I was chopping leeks for 2 other dishes: lentil soup and chicken-barley casserole. I caramelized the thinly sliced leeks and added crushed garlic cloves to the leeks destined for the soup. The soup was made from dried lentils simmered in chicken broth, leeks and garlic, fresh spinach, sautéed Porcini mushrooms, and Moroccan spices. Again, there was enough to freeze 6 servings plus have 2 later in the week.

Last and easiest of all was the chicken-barley casserole. I hadn’t cooked barley in at least 15 years, I think because it is hard to find in Minnesota. We finally found some at the organic food store that we like to go to. This was very simple, I put barely, chicken broth, chicken pieces, sautéed button mushrooms and leeks, into a casserole dish and baked it for about an hour. There were 9 servings from this recipe.

They all turned out to be very tasty.  Now, I have cooking out of my system - for a while at least …

Like a few other bloggers who have posted recently, I am having to dig into my rainy day file of photos. So here is a small selection of some jungle plant life from Belize. The first 3 shots are of a plant called Crepe Ginger (Cheilocostus speciosus). It is not a true ginger, but is in a family closely related to ginger. This plant, originally from Southeast Asia, is a non-native garden escapee and is pretty common along roadsides. It is pollinated by carpenter bees.



The part I find attractive is the spiral that its newest growth makes.



The flowers are impressive, too.  If you clikc to enlarge, you can see the ants that are attracted to nectar producing glands at the bases of the red bracts.


This last shot is of the sunlight streaming through a break in the canopy to illuminate the inflorescence of this epiphytic bromeliad. To me, this captures the essence of the jungle and takes me back every time I look at it.




13 comments:

  1. Wilma, all that talk of cooking has made me feel quite hungry. It all sounds very tasty, and made me think I should do more 'proper' cooking myself, instead of quick snacks.

    Love that last shot of the sunlight illuminating the plant in the jungle.

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  2. Hi Wilma,
    I agree with Keith that it is better to read your post after lunch or dinner, then you are not getting hungry by reading it ;-) Like Keith again, I love the last shot with the sun shinning on the plant... it has a marvelous atmosphere.

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  3. Keith and Chris -

    I re-read the blog and it made me hungry too! Must be time for dinner. ;-) Glad you liked the jungle picture. Thanks for the nice comments.

    cheers,
    Wilma

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  4. hi Wilma,

    so nice to find another central American blogger! have you visited Liz's blog from Nicaragua?
    http://gringaenparaiso.blogspot.com/
    Love your picture of the bromeliad, just wonderful!
    Ancel (the island farm)

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  5. Beautiful flower and plant pictures. I have found it in the wild here while birding Here is the picture

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  6. I like the way you get the sun rays there.

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  7. Ancel - thanks for visiting. You can be sure I will be following your Costa Rica blog. and thanks for the link to Liz's blog. I will check it out soon.

    Tabib - the ants are on your flowers, too. I could see them when I clicked to enlarge them. Great photos.

    Knight - thank you.

    Thanks to all of you for visiting and for your kind comments.

    cheers,
    Wilma

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  8. Hi Wilma.
    It's a pity we don't have cyber smell(if there is such a thing).I bet it tastes good. I love the photo of the sunlight streaming through the woodland canopy. Lovely pictures.

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  9. Wow, Ken, what a great idea - cyber smell! Thanks for visiting. I;m glad you like the sunlight picture. Cheers - Wilma

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  10. Wilma, these are recipes with punch! All the time used in preparing just goes to say how good the taste will turn out to be!

    I have posted on the Crape Ginger too. But I've never seen such dense growth in the jungle. Love the spirals..many of the ones I've seen grow straight but the blooms are the same. It's really very interesting to see the same plant from another end of the planet. Thanks for sharing. The last photo is reminiscent of a jungle in my part of the world too.

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  11. Kanak - this one was growing at the edge of a clearing, so that is probably why it looks lush. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers,
    Wilma

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  12. Yum! I love sofrito. I think most islands in the Caribbean have a seasoning blend. The herbs used may differ by region but we all agree that fresh seasoning is the best. Great blog.

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  13. Wizzy - thanks for visiting and commenting. I even add sofrito to homemade macaroni and cheese! ;-)

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