Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

HOW HOT IT IS!

 


I am sitting in the kitchen, looking outside and wondering how hot is. It doesn’t make any difference. I know it’s hot. My phone says its 97 and feels like 101. It is time to water my garden. I have to water much more than I did just two weeks ago. The plants are larger and require more water and it’s hotter than it was two weeks ago. I need more water! The tomatoes, basil, and blueberries need a good amount of water. The Carolina Reapers, the Ghost Peppers along with the Habaneros, Jalapeños and the Poblanos get the least amount of water. Just enough water the keep the leaves from drooping. Somewhere I read that the peppers will be hotter if you don’t over water them. I don’t think you can tell the difference from an overwatered Ghost Pepper and one that was lightly watered. They are going to be mouth numbing no matter what. With the good rains we had over the winter and spring, my fruit trees look healthy. I should have a good crop of figs and pears. The peaches look good, but my trees don’t produce many peaches.

I have about eight gallons of prepped peaches, 5 gallons of prepped figs and about five pounds of assorted peppers left over from last year that I never got around to canning. I bagged and froze them waiting for a good time to can them. I plan to make some new jellies and jams with a hint of heat, hence the Ghost Peppers and Carolina Reapers. Blueberries are new to my garden and I can’t wait to try some new jams. I could call one “Ghostly Blueberry.”

As you can tell I don’t have a big garden. I like to concentrate on a few fruits and vegetables. I like making jellies and jams and I use them to trade for other fruits and vegetables I don’t grow. I have already prepped yellow squash and plums from neighbors in exchange for some jams and preserves.

I have a lot of other things going on right now too. I have been shopping and buying up blueberries, zucchini, yellow squash, apples, spinach, and cane sugar. Some of these items because they looked good and were inexpensive, some because they looked good. The cane sugar because I always need sugar for jellies and jams. I don’t think it is just a coincidence that my jam and jellies turn out better when I use cane sugar. My jellies set better when I use cane sugar. When it is on sale, I end up with too many plastic bags from the grocery store. The plastic bags can only safely hold one bag of sugar. Trust me, I know because there is a sweet spot in my SUV and one in my back yard. So I don’t put 8 pounds of sugar in a plastic bag. But then I come home with more bags than I want to. I also have to make up my mind when I buy groceries, do I want to choke a fish or kill a tree.

I also have been playing with a gadget I got for my stand mixer. It’s a spiralizer. This gadget only changes the shape of the vegetable or fruit, not the taste. But your eyes are just as important as your taste buds. Cutting zucchini and yellow squash into round discs or half-moons is not exciting. But when you can spiralize a zucchini into a six foot long string, now that is exciting. My favorite trick is to spiralize a sweet potato. I love curly fried sweet potatoes.

I read an article recently about something dear to a Southerner's heart. Tea and specifically sweet tea. The article was ranting about bottle sweet teas and flavored sweet teas. You would be surprised to learn that some of the bottled teas don't have tea in them. And you will get less sugar if you ate 10 chocolate chips cookies than drink a 16 ounce bottle of some of these concoctions. My favorite was a bottled sweet tea that had over 14 ingredients. Now how can you justify 14 ingredients when the Southerner that invented sweet tea, most likely only used real tea, real lemons, and real sugar. Like I always say, read the label. Besides the controversy over the amount of sugar we consume, we are told to eat organic. Organic foods are expensive and not always tastier and that much more nutritious. The concerns are the pesticides used to keep the crops for human consumption and not for the bugs meals. This is not a iron clad rule, but if the fruit or vegetable is covered by a thick skin that you do not eat, then it is okay to eat non-organic. Examples are avocadoes, bananas, sweet corn, cabbage, mangoes, melons, and eggplant.

But if you are eating strawberries, apple, peaches, celery, grapes,spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and cucumbers, it is advised to buy the organic variety. I guess if you peal your apples and cucumbers then they are safer. All of this can be solved by knowing where your produce comes from and the farming practices used. If you buy LOCAL you can get answers to these questions from the growers.

Asking questions about your food should extend to the labels on the packaging. Is Organic Palm Kernel Solids good for you and did your grandmother put them in her cookies? Another favorite of mine is the no added nitrates in the food. But did you notice the ingredient celery juice? Guess what celery has naturally according. Is it really bad for you? New government eating guidelines say we can eat our eggs and drink our coffee, but cut down on sugar.

So with that in mind let's try a summer meal with a salad a meat and one side. That's really a meat and two sides in some restaurants. It is summer, so we want something quick and easy and not a lot of stove or oven time.

There is a fruit that is very popular during the summer but there are times when you have too much. And that is watermelon! Okay, maybe you can never have too much watermelon. But when you have a big sweet watermelon and you want to try something different, then here's your chance.

Since I know that during the summer with all the cook outs and BBQs, that red meat consumption is at an all time high. So here is a recipe that gives your gut a break.

I can't wait, bye.

CHICKPEA SALAD

INGREDIENTS

1 15-oz can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cups peeled and diced English cucumber( if using regular cucumber, peel and deseed, then dice)

1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes

1 jalapeno, seeds and pith removed, finely diced

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

1/2 cup cilantro minced

2-3 tablespoons minced basil

2-3 tablespoons minced mint

2 garlic cloves, mashed

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

1. Rinse and drain chickpeas. In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, cucumber, tomato, jalapeno, red onion, and herbs.

2. In a small bowl, mash together the garlic and salt. Whisk in the lemon juice, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste with pepper. Toss the dressing into the chickpeas and vegetables.

3. Let it sit for at least an hour in the refrigerator. Give it one final toss before serving.

SERVES 4

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BAKED FISH with TOMATO and WATERMELON SALSA

INGREDIENTS

1.5 pounds fish filet

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon your favorite taco seasoning, to taste

1 pound cherry tomatoes

2 teaspoon olive oil

2 cups of 1/2” cubes of watermelon

Juice of one lemon, plus more to finish

1 shallot, minced

1 jalapeño, seeded and minced

1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

NOTE: I don't name the fish. Any firm body white fish will do. Or whatever you caught. I used halibut.

METHOD

1. Pat dry the fish with a paper towel and drizzle the tablespoon of oil on top. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and the taco seasoning and rub it into the flesh of the fish. Let it sit at room temperature while you make the tomato and watermelon salsa.

2. Halve the cherry tomatoes and put them in a large mixing bowl. Toss with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the watermelon cubes, lemon juice, shallot, jalapeño and cilantro and stir to mix. You can make this in advance but don't add the salt until ready to serve or salsa will become soggy. Keep the topping cool but not cold.

3. Preheat the oven to 475°F and lay the fish on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake the fish for 7-8 minutes (depending on the filet’s thickness), until the top is just cooked. You want the center to be slightly undercooked since it will continue to cook as it rests. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top. Plate the fish and top the fish with the watermelon and tomato topping and serve.

4. Now if you are real adventurous make the grilled watermelon and add it to the salad and used in the fish and salsa dish. I didn't do this but will the next time. Just thinking outside the box.

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GRILLED WATERMELON with TEQUILA

INGREDIENTS

4 pieces of watermelon(cut into squares) about 3/4 to one inch thick. See notes at bottom.

2 shots of your favorite tequila

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 teaspoons of chili powder

( I like chipotle powder but ancho is good, just not the store bought red powder called Chili Powder.)

8 ounces Lime yogurt

Cilantro, 1/4 cut loosely shredded

METHOD

1. Mix the yogurt and the cilantro and set aside cooled.

2. Mix the tequila, lemon juice and zest in a bowl and drizzle equal amounts on the watermelon slices. Sprinkle the chili powder and salt on top and gently rubbing it into the watermelon.

3. Now the decision time. If you have a ribbed grill pan, grill the watermelon on the stove at high heat with the chili side down. About 2-3 minutes. Remove from grill and turn grill marks up, and top with Cilantro Lime Yogurt.

4. If you have a good clean grill and you are a master on your domain, by all means do it outside over an open flame or coals. The smoke will add to the flavor.

5. If you were successful with the Grilled Watermelon, do it first and add cubed grilled watermelon to the salad or to the salsa. Also seedless watermelon will cut better and make whole pieces that won't be as likely to break. A whole new experience.

But when it comes down to brass tacks, the best way to eat watermelon on a hot summer day, is by the slice with the cool sweet juice running down your arms.

 

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