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May 31, 2012 09:18 PM

June 2012 COTM, The Homesick Texan: Pickles and Preserves; Salsas, Sauces, and Gravies; Morning Food

Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from the June Cookbook of the Month:

Pickles and Preserves, pages 18 - 36
Salsas, Sauces, and Gravies, pages 42 - 61
Morning Food, pages 66 - 85

If you are reporting on a recipe that has not yet been reviewed, please hit the reply in this box. If you are discussing a recipe that has been reviewed in this thread, please hit the reply in that post. That way the discussions will be grouped together.

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  1. Guacamole, p. 50

    Pretty standard guac. Avocado, garlic, serrano chile, cilantro, lime juice and salt, all mashed up. If you don't know how to scoop out an avocado, here's a tip: stand the avocado on end, and turn it so that it faces you in a way that you have a symmetrical view. Then slice the avocado in half vertically, working around the pit. Take the avocado in your hands and twist it the halves in opposite directions. The avocado should come apart, with the pit stuck in one side. Stab the pit with a knife, blade parallel to the cut side of the avocado. Twist the knife and out pops the pit. Now you can scoop out the avocado with a spoon. If you need diced avocado, do it like a mango, and make cuts in each half in a grid pattern, then turn the avocado inside out and scrape off the flesh, which will come off in cubes (you don't need to do this for this recipe).

    This recipe is pretty much the way I would make it, except I'd probably just use one clove of garlic. The recipe says to "crush" the garlic, then no further instruction. I assume crushed means still mostly whole, but smashed with the flat side of a knife. I did a fine mince instead. A good batch of guac.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MelMM

      Guacamole – p. 50

      Terrific! I made this with reservation since we have our T&T favourite recipe for guacamole. That said, I’m always keen to try something new so I plodded ahead w this. Though I omitted the cilantro (due to an allergy), which would otherwise be a predominant flavour, we still felt this recipe produced a lovely, fresh-tasting guacamole that allowed the richness of the avocado to shine with the Serrano and lime juice providing fresh, bright contrasting flavours. The only other change I made was to incorporate approx 1 tbsp of diced red onion to compensate for the lack of another dominating flavour (cilantro). We really enjoyed this and I’d definitely make it again. The Serrano was wonderful and held greater appeal than the jalapeno that I usually add.

      I really enjoyed reading Mel’s tips and will share one of my own. To preserve the bright green colour of your guacamole, store with the pits of the avocado atop your dip. Not sure why this works but it definitely seems to do so. I learned this from a colleague from Mexico.

    2. Pico de Gallo, p. 54

      Once again, pretty standard recipe, with the exception of the cumin. That got my hackles up. Cumin doesn't belong in pico! I have no idea where she got this from. Anyway, according to the recipe, diced ripe tomatoes, minced garlic, diced onion, cilantro, jalepeños, cumin (?!), lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper are mixed together and that's that. I don't normally put oil in mine, but I did this time, and I never put cumin in mine, but I did this time, just to see if it could possibly add anything. Frankly, I think this author overuses cumin. But truth be told, this made a large enough batch of pico, and the amount of cumin was small enough, that it didn't make much difference at all. Put it in, leave it out, whatever floats your boat. Do use good quality, ripe, fresh tomatoes, or don't bother at all.

      6 Replies
      1. re: MelMM

        I was confused by the cumin in this one as well and funnily enough, it's not included in the version of the recipe she has on her web site: .

        1. re: TxnInMtl

          The presence of cumin in these recipes appears to be a thorn in the side our of own homesick Texans. I wonder if she just thinks of it as a signature flavor? And how odd that it crept into the book for this recipe in particular!


        2. re: MelMM

          Pico de Gallo was the first food item I fell in love with when I moved to Texas. I simply could not get enough of it, but was on a student budget so I worked tirelessly to recreate this salsa at home. Oil, black pepper, and cumin are not part of the standard Pico de Gallo salsa. Not in the one I created, and not in the one shown to me by a friend's mother, an amazing Tex-Mex home cook.

          These days I use serranos since jalepenos no longer have any heat and taste like green peppers to me. I generally use a red onion. And after I dice the tomatoes, I put them in a colander with a bit of salt and let them drain. I love the resulting tomato water when the tomatoes are really in season in a glass, straight up.

          Leftover Pico de Gallo tends to get a bit mushy. Try this- a pico de gallo and feta cheese omelette. I always make extra salsa so that we can have this for lunch.

          1. re: smtucker

            Not sure where I got the black pepper in my description above. I must have been flustered from the cumin! Anyway, to set the record straight, the recipe did not call for it, and I did not use it. Nor have I ever, nor would I ever. I agree with you it has no place in pico.

            1. re: MelMM

              I think the cumin has a lot of us quivering! :-)
              And I love cumin.

        3. Spicy Pickled Okra

          pretty standard-

          i water processed the okra pickles-
          i haven't tried them yet

          5 Replies
          1. re: jpr54_1

            i used jalapeno peppers and 1/2of the cumin
            i opened the jar last nite and had some with my hamburger-
            it was delicious not too hot-but good with the burger.
            i will make this again
            simple and not complicated

            1. re: jpr54_1

              Spicy Pickled Okra, p. 23

              I love pickled okra; DH hates okra in any form. So I made a half recipe of this: 1 lb. okra, 2 serrano chiles (I forgot to halve, stem, and seed them, as directed; they went in whole), and 4 cloves garlic went into two jars. Then 1 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar, 1 tap. red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. cumin seed, and 1 tsp. kosher salt got boiled and divided between the two jars. The major change I made was omitting the fresh dill (would have been 1/2 c) as I'm not a big fan of dill.

              I sterilized the jars but did not properly "can" these; they'll have to be refrigerator pickles, but in my experience, they'll keep quite a while in the fridge.

              These are tasty and easy, pretty standard as pickled okra goes--my favorite Bloody Mary garnish and a great snack on a bloody hot afternoon. Mine will not win any beauty contests but I'm glad to have them in the fridge.

              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                Curious as to whether you are a fan of apple cider vinegar. I mean in taste; however, I always prefer a lighter colored brine on my pickles; but sometimes white vinegar can be so harsh.

                I hope they are good whole; later let me know, as I always grow plenty of okra; and I just can't see myself stemming and slicing them.

                All summer long, I eat them one way so this might be a great alternative for us.

                One way is: sliced in rounds, fried hot in olive oil. Sometimes red pepper flakes.

                1. re: Rella

                  Rella--I use them mainly as garnish or quick cool, crunchy snack. I actually like okra in lots of ways (love it smothered with onions and a little tomato until it is completely broken down, as my grandmother used to make it; my aunt would add shrimp or crabmeat to that concoction, and, oh, was that delicious. I love it fried or in Indian preps too. But, alas, my husband depises it so I don't do anything much with it here.)

                  As to cider vinegar, I use it in a number of recipes, so I guess I like its taste, but you got me thinking--and I've very rarely used it to make salad dressing . I used it in this recipe because that's what was stipulated. I do like these pickled pods, btw, though they taste much like any pickled okra I've ever had.

                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    I've never even begun to think of shrimp or crab with okra. But now, I'm going to beginning with the first mess from the garden this year.

                    Me thinks I'll try to pickle some whole okra this year, too.

                    Many thanks.

            2. page18
              Blanche's Mustard Pickles

              fairly routine except I water processed pickles

              1. Salsa Fuego - p. 56

                I needed a salsa for a party that did not require access to good tomatoes and this one fit the bill. This is a fairly mild salsa with a very smoky taste from the blackened tomatoes and chipotle. My guests didn't discover it until the end of the night, but it went over well. Truth be told, I'm more of a salsa verde person, but this did bring back memories of Taco Cabana. As an undergraduate, I made way too many meals out of their tortillas & queso and fajita tacos, because it was still dirt cheap, but a step up from Taco Bell.

                To make this salsa, 2 pasilla chiles are toasted and soaked in water for 30 minutes. While they're soaking, a pound of halved plum tomatoes are blackened under the broiler. She says this should take 20 minutes, but mine were not blackened at that point, so I left them in longer. Once they're blackened, the tomatoes are flipped to be cut-side down and onion and garlic is added to be broiled for a bit longer. The tomatoes, soaked chiles, a chipotle in adobo sauce, 1/2 cup of cilantro, and a cup of water are added to a blender and the whole thing blended until smooth. She doesn't say it, but your salsa will still be warm after blending (obviously), you're probably going to want to let it cool before serving.

                1 Reply
                1. re: TxnInMtl

                  As a big fan of this salsa at Taco Cabana, I was disappointed here. It must be said, the recipe for the TC salsa is no where to be found so people just try to imitate it. For me, this had way too much chipotle. It ended up tasting just like a chipotle salsa. It was fine, but not what I was looking for. I ended up making the salsa twice, the second time really roasting the tomatoes black (it takes longer than noted in the recipe) as well as roasting jalepenos at the end, along with the garlic and onion. That made a pretty terrific roasted tomato salsa.