Monday, July 13, 2015

The Wizard of Elf

This will be a remarkably short blog this week…we’ve actually had a bit of a let-down with the hiatus from Susan Voisin’s FatFree Vegan Kitchen recipe-ing and felt kinda at loose ends. Not to worry, though…we’re getting’ our groove back and the week to come looks to be a pretty intense one.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t been cookin’ up a storm but just doin’ a LOT of things we have been familiar with and shared many times. Here’s a picture of the Bacun that we inhale as its cooking--both with our noses and our mouths! (SO GOOD!) 
And a double batch of it ready for the oven.

 Saturday night found us at Anjou Restaurant; this place never disappoints.  This week, they prepared a luscious entrée salad with extra avocado and hearts of palm.  The Elf threw on some sautéed Chikun Shreds and had a divine dinner!!

 On tap this week will be our elf-fort at Gluten Free Plant-based Meat (“V” Meat) from anther really cool blogger/recipe-er, Rhea Parsons and The ‘V’ Word. We finally located all the ingredients and will now be able to give this a go.
We guess that the MOST fun we had this week was being a guest on SuperTalk MS’s The Linda Allen Show. Y’all may recall we’d been on another show on SuperTalk MS called The Paul Gallo show back in the winter. Well, Ms Linda called us not ago and asked if we’d come back on. We wanted to make sure we went with vegan food to sample, so we prepared the Roasted Cauliflower and Lentil Tacos with Spicy Chipotle Sauce (see last week’s blog for the link). In addition, we sautéed up some Chikun Shreds and made a fresh Peach/Cherry Crumble. Since The Linda Allen Show is later in the day (9:30-ish), we felt pretty comfortable taking an early brunch for folks to sample. The picture is The Elf getting her microphone adjusted.

For those of you who might be interested, here’s a link to the show.

Just a heads up, the first portion of the show (about 20 minutes or so) is an interview with a guest who had been to see the last concert of The Grateful Dead in Chicago; it's a great interview, so enjoy that as well.

As always, we had a great time talking about how we decided to go ‘plant-based’, tips for folks who are thinking of changing their eating habits from unhealthy to LESS unhealthy, stories of folks who had dramatically altered their poor health by going totally plant-based, grocery shopping ideas and suggestions and discussing the food we’d brought to eat. One of the other guests on the show actually said she was not a big fan of chicken but really did like the Chikun.
We are starting a new little feature on this little bitty blog…“ELFERY SPICERY!” Each week for, well who knows, we will explore the various spices we use a LOT in our plant-based cooking.  There is no rhyme or reason to our selection process except that we will go into The Elf’s spice stash and pick one at random, research it and share information. Some spices will be well known and some more obscure.  We came to this idea by way of reading recipes that call for certain spices/herbs that may have different strengths, intensities, or whatever and questioning exactly what we should use.  Case in point is our very FIRST spice—paprika. Many recipes call for paprika; and you are probably aware that paprika comes in a variety of intensities and types. So, without further ado, welcome to our ELFERY SPICERY--PAPRIKA!! We researched several sites on the internet but settled on this one that seemed to have pretty concise and interesting information. 
Paprika is a red powder that is made from grinding the dried pods of mild varieties of the pepper plant known as (Capsicum annuum L.) The pepper plants used to make this spice range from the sweet Bell pepper to the milder chili peppers. The Paprika peppers originally grown were hot. Over time, they have evolved to the milder varieties. In Hungary there are six classes or types of paprika ranging from delicate to hot. The peppers also range in size and shape depending on where they are grown. Some are grown in Spain, Hungary, California and other parts of the U.S. The most commonly produced paprika is made from the sweet red pepper also called the tomato pepper.

Paprika powder ranges from bright red to brown. Its flavor ranges from sweet and mild to more pungent and hot, depending on the type of pepper used in processing. Sweet paprika is the standard. It is mild in flavor. The hot paprika gives your taste buds a jolt. Both varieties are generally carried in most supermarkets. If you cannot find hot paprika in your local supermarket try gourmet stores.

Hot, sweet, smoked, plain, Hungarian, Spanish – what are the differences between types of paprika?

• "Regular" or "plain" paprika
Most of the paprika sold in grocery stores is simply labeled "paprika." Its origins may be Hungarian, Californian, or South American, and it is sometimes mixed with other chiles like cayenne. This paprika tends to be neither sweet nor hot and is a suitable garnish for things like deviled eggs or wherever you want some color.

Paprika is considered the national spice of Hungary and it appears in the country's most celebrated dish, goulash. Hungarian paprika is made from peppers that are harvested and then sorted, toasted, and blended to create different varieties. All Hungarian paprikas have some degree of rich, sweet red pepper flavor, but they range in pungency and heat. The eight grades of Hungarian paprika are különleges ("special quality"; mild and most vibrant red), csípősmentes csemege (delicate and mild), csemege paprika (similar to the previous but more pungent), csípős csemege (even more pungent), édesnemes ("noble sweet"; slightly pungent and bright red), félédes (semi-sweet with medium pungency), rózsa (mildly pungent and pale red), and erős (hottest and light brown to orange). In the US, what is marketed as Hungarian sweet paprika is usually the édesnemes variety.

Although generally less intense that Hungarian paprika, Spanish paprika can range from dulce (sweet and mild) to agridulce (bittersweet and medium hot) to picante (hot), depending on the type of peppers used (round or long), whether the seeds are removed, and how they are processed. In Spain's La Vera region, farmers harvest and dry the chiles over wood fires, creating smoked paprika or pimentón de La Vera. Smoked paprika should be used in paella and dishes where you want a deep, woodsy flavor. Here are the various paprikas in the Elf’s Spice Drawers…so you can see we have a bit of everything.

 If you have a recipe that calls for paprika without specifying which kind, you can usually get by with using Hungarian sweet paprika. But also consider what type of color, sweetness, pungency, or heat you'd like to add and experiment with the wide world of paprika varieties!  (Elf Note: We have been able to find sweet, bittersweet, and hot smoked paprika at Fresh Market. Our preference is the bittersweet unless recipes specify otherwise.)
We look forward to learning about the different spices and herbs and being able to share information with y’all. Plant-based and/or vegan doesn’t mean tasteless and boring, does it now?
And that’s it for this week. As the doldrums of summer set it, the lure of fresh produce is even more enticing with things like ice cold watermelon, cantaloupe, seasonal fruits and salads with fresh tomatoes. Enjoy them while you can because in a few short months, we’ll be wishing we had them all back!!
So, til next week, y’all, breathe deep, eat plants, laugh a lot and love life.
The Elf

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