Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Song of the Season

As I write this I'm sitting near an open window and can hear the beautiful sound of a mockingbird singing from the top of a giant fir tree across the street. He's soooo excited and vibrant as he announces to the entire neighborhood that he's there. I love the sounds of birds singing, especially mocking birds. Suddenly a wealth of memories flood my heart and mind. Chilly Sunday mornings at my grandmother's house eating cheese toast and getting ready for church. Crisp Saturday mornings driving along with my mom and patrolling tag sales. School mornings standing in front of our kitchen window with the sun streaming in through the branches of a neighbors tree and closing my eyes in the warmth. All of those memories have one thing in common for me....the ever present sound of bird songs.  To me they represent morning and life for a new day.

 I'm especially focused on savoring every single note today because it will only be a few more weeks and then that sound will be gone for months. Winters in Connecticut can certainly be beautiful to look at when the snow and ice come...but the only nature sound that will fill the air will be the stark and lonely sounds of crows and seagulls and I will dearly miss the happy little songs of the warmer weather. Unfortunately it's just a simple side affect of the changing seasons. I realize however, that if it weren't for that gaping span of time without it..I wouldn't properly appreciate when they return.

Just like anything else in life really. I used to love Chinese food....until I worked across the street from a restaurant and ate it every day for almost a year. Suddenly I didn't feel the same about it...the appreciation was gone. Last Winter I couldn't wait for the warm weather of Summer....until the sweltering heat and humidity hit me and made me long for cooler days. Whether it's a season of weather or a season of life....change is good and variety is essential...for many reasons. It makes us appreciate things more and realize the value each brings. So today Ime going to appreciate the birds singing....and tomorrow I will do my best to appreciate something else current to the day.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 & 11 (NLT)

1 For everything there is a season,
      a time for every activity under heaven.
 2 A time to be born and a time to die.
      A time to plant and a time to harvest.
 3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
      A time to tear down and a time to build up.
 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
      A time to grieve and a time to dance.
 5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
      A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
 6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
      A time to keep and a time to throw away.
 7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
      A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
 8 A time to love and a time to hate.
      A time for war and a time for peace.   
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 
What are you appreciating today?

AMH Cooks: Sofrito & Recaito

I wanted to get back to the recipes portion of this blog for a moment. by sharing two recipes that I love and use often.

Connecticut has a huge Puerto Rican population and I have come to love a lot of the foods that they make. I've also come to appreciate a lot of the seasonings that they use and have come to use a lot of them in my own cooking. These are two staple items that are used in Puerto Rican cooking and if you don't live in an area that offers large ethnic grocery sections like I do then you can make them yourself. Also, if you just prefer fresh then you can make them yourself.  So far these are the best recipes I have found for them and they both come from Daisy Martinez, the host of tv's Daisy Cooks. If you've never tried Spanish food...please give it a try, you won't regret it. If you've never seen Daisy's show..please check it out...she's AMAZING!!! So, on that note, here are her recipes that I use all the time and highly recommend!

Sofrito - Can be used in almost every dish. Similar to how a lot of people use season salt in almost everything....this has the same amount of flexibility. From rice and vegetable dishes to soups and sauces, to meats and seafood, etc. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. Once you try it, you will look for ways to use it. It can also be frozen and used as needed.
2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks
3 to 4 Italian frying peppers or cubanelle peppers
16 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large bunch cilantro, washed
7 to 10 ajices dulces (see note below), optional
4 leaves of culantro (see note below), or another handful cilantro
3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks
Makes about 4 cups
Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
If you can’t find ajices dulces or culantro, simply up the amount of cilantro to 1 ½ bunches

Recaito - I love this in all kinds of things just like sofrito. Both are excellent, but this has a distinctly fresher taste to me which I think lends itself better to things like bean soups and meat dishes. It's AMAZING on a pork roast! Although I will also mix it with mayonnaise and make a very nice spread for sandwiches. Just like sofrito, it can get you out of almost any kitchen emergency. It also freezes very well so make extra and keep it on hand..
Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 medium Spanish onion, cut into big chunks
8 cloves garlic, peeled
6 ajicitos dulces (see recipe for Sofrito) or 1 cubanelle peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into chunks
4 leaves culantro (if you can't find culantro, increase the amount of Iajicitos or cilantro by half)
6 big sprig cilantro, stems and all, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup packed)

Place the onion and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients, one at a time and process, until the mixture is smooth. 

Please make sure when you are purchasing your ajices dulces that you in fact do have that pepper, not just aji pepper or habanero. Ajices dulces are sweet with no heat at all.
Whatever extra amounts you have can be poured into ice trays, frozen and then bagged for later use.
Hope you enjoy and let me know how you have used these recipes!