While all of the food on our recent trip to Belcampo Belize was out-of-this-world delicious, one dish particularly stands out, and it just happens to be one we order daily — the garden vegetable ceviche. The vegetables used in the dish may change depending on what is fresh, but the ceviche is always delicious. I see it as a side dish at home instead of a salad, but it works equally well as an appetizer or a main course with a salad. Your choice!This recipe is courtesy of Chef Renee of Belcampo Belize.
Would you believe that sometimes I return from a culinary research trip feeling literally fed up with Mexican food? Contrary to what you might think, the effort to find and taste as many new things as possible can be a physical ordeal for people like me, who generally prefer to eat lightly. My biggest problem is usually fresh vegetables — or lack of same — in an endless sea of meat and poultry and seafood dishes. Why do all the beautiful vegetables grown by neighborhood farmers do such a disappearing act between Mexican markets and Mexican tables?Well, of course they don't, really, at least in everyday meals. But both restaurant menus and the proudest offerings of home cooks are so heavy on animal protein that my digestive system starts crying for mercy after a few days. To be able to eat my fill of fresh garden vegetables during one of these trips is a rare treat, so I was in heaven when I encountered this soupy, aromatic stew at La Brisa del Mar restaurant in Veracruz. The rich brothy sauce or saucy broth can be made with either beef or chicken.I wish I had a neat definition for tesmoles, but about all I feel justified in saying is that they belong to the big family of soup-stews so beloved in the central-southern areas if Mexico, and that they invariably seem to include minute and toothsome masa dumplings (bolitas). The medley of green vegetables used in this version can be varied according to what’s good in the market. At La Brisa del Mar, the staff uses large, mature, fresh lima beans that stand up well to cooking. In this country it’s not always easy to find a good equivalent. I’ve successfully used frozen Fordhook limas or fresh green fava beans. I suggest avoiding baby limas. The vegetables in this dish should be full-size and sturdy, not tiny and super-delicate. If you have to use baby limas, add them only at the end, after the other vegetables and just before the bolitas.The bolitas are cousins of the chochoyotes of Oaxaca. The reason for their funny indented shape is that it helps cook them faster when added to a soup or stew. I would not try to substitute any fat other than lard; it holds them together compactly while making them fluffy without a hint of greasiness.This recipe appeared originally in my book Zarela's Veracruz: Mexico's Simplest Cuisine.
Another example of José Andrés' famed Spanish recipes that can be found on the menu at China Poblano in Las Vegas. This innovative restaurant is a fusion of Mexican and Chinese cuisine, combining unexpected ingredients such as chayote and jicama with soy and ginger.
"Gado" in Bahasa Indonesia usually means one of two things: 1) to eat something raw or 2) to eat something without rice. So important is rice in the typical Indonesian meal that one word has been set aside to designate the unusual practice of eating something without the staple crop.
Since most of the vegetables in this salad are cooked, and as far as I can recall, I have never seen someone enjoy this dish with rice, it's probably safe to go with the second definition in this context.
Saying something descriptive twice, though, is a way of denoting emphasis, as in, "really really." And so, in reading "gado gado," or "gado²" the translation could be roughly interpreted as "you really, really shouldn't eat this with rice." Why? Because it would be weird.
This is a light and refreshing salad popular in many parts of Indonesia. I suspect it is of Javanese origin because of its notably sweet flavor profile and use of (ideally) Javanese palm sugar. No palm sugar? No problem — dark brown sugar makes a decent substitute. Same thing with the "kangkung" — it's a green leafy Chinese vegetable for which spinach is a good substitute; for those of you familiar with Malaysian cuisine, it's the vegetable that's in kangkung belacan. And if the shrimp paste has you worried, no sweat — it's not completely necessary. The most important thing to remember about this salad is that when you serve it, eat it right off the bat. Don’t let it sit, because the vegetables have a lot of water that thins out the dressing (a good thing, at first, since it's pretty thick), but after awhile... not so good.
Anyway, the next time it's 100 degrees out at 100-percent humidity and hazy (normal weather in the capital, Jakarta), give this recipe a whirl.
Many thanks to Zulinda Budiaman, my mother, for helping me with this recipe.
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Davina Lambreaux: When my mother was alive, she and our neighbor had a standing arrangement. When the mirlitons got ready in the fall, Mama would send me or Delmond or Cheri, or sometimes all three of us, to go around the corner and pick all the mirlitons we could. It seems like there would be hundreds of them. I know it was dozens at least. Then Mama would boil them and scoop the meat out of them. She would stuff the meat back into their skins with some shrimp or some ham and some seasoning. We would keep about half of those for Sunday dinner and send some to our neighbor. There was still plenty of mirliton left. So Mama would freeze the rest of the meat and cook it a little at a time until Christmas. That’s when she cooked the last of it.
This is my favorite of my mother’s recipes. (It’s also my daddy’s favorite.) My mother always hated it when people made ground beef the main ingredient in their oyster dressing or their stuffed mirliton. Why call it oyster dressing? Why call it stuffed mirliton? She would say it’s really just beef seasoned with oysters or mirliton or eggplant whatever. I hear her voice echoing with that whenever I eat other’s people’s versions of one of these dishes. The mirliton and the shrimp are the stars here. Mostly, it’s the mirliton.
My mama died years ago. That neighbor never came back after the storm. The mirliton vine drowned in the flood. It wasn’t until the year after Katrina that it hit me. We had us a little ritual. And as much as I used to hate pick¬ing mirlitons and helping Mama clean them and cook them, it was one of the things that we did together. When I would walk back to the neighbor’s house and see how happy she was to get the stuffed mirlitons, it all seemed worth it.
If you can’t find a neighbor with a mirliton vine, then try to find a neighbor without one. When you buy the mirlitons from the store, get two or three extra ones and fix them for your neighbor. That’s about the best advice I can give you to make your mirlitons taste like Mama’s used to.
From Treme, by Lolis Eric Elie