Wednesday, August 20, 2008

South Beach and beef jerky

I’m on a diet. One day I woke up and suddenly all my clothes felt snug. I bought two pairs of jeans to tide me over until I lost the weight, but one day I woke up and those felt snug. I was at a crossroads—I could go buy even larger jeans or lose the weight. I opted for the latter.

I’m not much of a follow-the-rules kind of person so the thought of adhering to a strict diet automatically raises my internal rebel. Tell me that I can’t have something and I’ll want it even more—that’s human nature. But after much research I learned that there was one diet I could follow—the South Beach diet.

I decided to go with South Beach because it seemed easier than the other diets—no counting calories, just eating as much as I want of the right kinds of food. And thankfully, the right kinds of food are things I love—fresh vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, eggs and nuts; forbidden during the first two weeks are sugar, fruits, breads, alcohol and fatty protein. I admit that it’s been difficult seeing the tail-end of the summer fruit at the market and not being able to indulge, but thankfully there are plenty of fresh vegetables to keep me and my stomach satisfied. And I’ve had some great support during these past few days with my blog buddies Kalyn, the guru of all things South Beach and Karina, the guru of all things gluten-free, both of whom are also doing South Beach right now.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pico de gallo recipe

Pico de gallo, you oughta give it a try-o
Even if you're from Ohio, it’ll get you by-o.
Don’t get it in your eye-o unless you want to cry-o
So come on, don't be shy-o, eat some pico de gallo!

From “Pico de Gallo” by Trout Fishing in America.

You know how it is when you get a song stuck in your head and it just won’t quit? The past few days I’ve been singing “Pico de Gallo” by Trout Fishing in America and no matter what I do, the silly song won’t leave me alone.

It’s not a complete mystery, however, why I’ve been humming this tune. It’s August, which should be officially deemed national salsa month. Everything you need to make salsa is fresh and in abundance. Cilantro, tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapenos, habaneros, serranos, corn, peaches or whatever else your stomach desires. (And perhaps this is why the Austin Chronicle has its annual hot sauce festival in what is also the hottest month of the year.) If you go to the farmer's market, you will be struck by the bounty. It’s beautiful. And you will also feel the urge to take advantage of it because this is the peak—soon we’ll only have apples, pears and squashes.

I think I’ve probably made a different type of salsa every night this week, but the one I always like to always keep on hand during late summer is pico de gallo. Most of my other salsa recipes can still taste OK with canned tomatoes or tomatillos but it’s impossible to make pico de gallo (pronounced pee-ko duh guy-yo) unless the ingredients are fresh, ripe and in season. It just won’t taste the same—it’s a salsa fresca.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Cool off with hot jalapeno pickles

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember a time when along with chips and salsa, you also got free corn tortillas, pats of butter and hot pickle relish served to you at your local Tex-Mex restaurant.

You’d see this in classic Dallas places such as El Fenix or El Chico, and in Houston establishments such as Molina’s. The hot pickle relish, also known as escabeche, was made up of jalapenos, carrots and cauliflower and it was tart, fiery, crunchy and yes, very refreshing.

There’s been a lot of bad news about jalapenos lately, namely those from Mexico. And while I’m glad they pinpointed the source of the salmonella, it didn’t give me much confidence in buying jalapenos at the grocery store, especially when their origin was unknown.

Earlier in the summer I bought a jalapeno plant and it produced two tiny peppers, until it started shedding all of its leaves working its way toward a slow death. I have since nursed it back to health and it now has a few blossoms, which if all goes well could mean more jalapenos. Very local and very fresh! But my one plant isn't enough to keep me satisfied.

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