Wednesday, March 24, 2010

30 lbs of oranges...... Seemed like a lot but wasn't....

Well, another Wednesday (but feels like Sunday, such are the woes of the unemployed I guess..) and I'm back to tell the tale of my food adventures in the Twilight Zone.

Tuesday means we gather around and read the flyers that come from all the neighborhood markets; mostly the Mexican ones but there are also 3 that are Anglo chain stores, so this gives us a nice "point comparison", as if there was one.... and yet again a foray into the "folkloric" land of the latino market is in the offing.

This time the highlights were the 30 lbs of oranges for a dollar and 16 lbs of tomatoes for a dollar too. Lots of other offers but after these two, how could 4 lbs for a dollar compare? I used to buy the big sacks of oranges in Puerto Vallarta weekly and these were 25 lb bags. We would consume them in less than a week.... if you've ever had hand squeezed orange juice from ripe oranges, you might understand why the industrial quantities.

Unfortunately for us now that we've come back to the States, the majority of the fruit is tasteless and usually un-ripe which has meant we hardly ever buy any fruit since no one will eat it. BUT now that we frequent the Mexican markets, once again we are able to get fruit on a regular basis and enjoy this healthful treat. We buy it because it's great tasting and it's an added plus that it's also healthy, but sweet juicy fruit is it's own reward.

I'm sure you're probably thinking and I wasn't able to lead you on a tangent by mentioning the taste aspects of this that you've forgotten I mentioned 30 lbs of oranges and 16 lbs of tomatoes that the inevitable question that would arise is "what would anyone possible do with so much produce?".... Right? It is a lot, but once you get right down to it, it gets used up pretty quick and I'll tell you how.

First off I began by planning on making massive amounts of "Mother Sauce". This is an inside joke between Ricardo and me and it relates back to the "mother" yeast which is leftover and used on following days for bakers. Same kind of thing I do for Yogurt, buttermilk and things such as these, only this is miss-applied to Tomato Sauce but the science and thought behind it is sound and you will agree once I explain.

You see, once I get on a roll and make a great tomato sauce to use with one of our meals for some reason there is always some leftovers which I subconsciously plan for that will be on-hand for a quick lunch or tidbit, so this leftover then becomes the "mother" for another day's sauce, get it? By the time days go by you could probably say that the basis for most sauces is an aged product I've had around for months..... makes sense now doesn't it?

For some reason I used up the last of the "mother" I had on hand, I guess subconsciously I was ready to let go, (Oh the games our mind and so now I planned for a big "mother" cook off and with all the tomatoes I got would be just the ticket, so got my large pressure cooker and started heating the olive oil, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt & pepper, thyme and anything else I could think of to throw in there like, onion, lots of garlic, bay leaves and half a bottle of strong red wine. I also added some sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes while I was at it and finally began adding the chopped tomatoes I was cutting up. Lots of ripe, red tomatoes which I squished down with a potato masher. After letting it boil for a minute or two, I lowered the heat and let it simmer until it looked done.

I had some cleaned squid, mussels and shrimp so I seared those in the cast iron pan, added some of the sauce, put it on top of some fresh pasta and added lots of grated cheese on top. Voila! Dinner is ready and plenty of sauce left over for other days..... more "Mother"......

While I was bubbling away the tomato sauce I also began using up some of the oranges I got by slicing them very thin, after taking the top and bottoms off, throwing them into another pot along with lots of sugar, some water and a little lemon juice. Once again, boiling for a while, lowering the heat and letting it boil away for about an hour. I turned this off, covered it and let it wait until the following day when it would get finished by boiling for 2 hours at least or until it becomes "jammy"......

Also made some Old Fashioned Tomato Marmalade with cinnamon, clove, ginger and chiles which is sweet, hot and quite addicting. This takes less time since you don't need to boil on two different days and was ready easily. I only made one medium jar while the orange marmalade made 1 large and 1 medium jar. Did you notice my fancy marmalade jars? Ran out of the Mason jars but these will do in a pinch.....

All this was going on while we made some fresh orange juice which was enjoyed by all.... Mmmm love fresh orange juice! We all said it reminded us of Mexico too. I also saved some oranges and made some "looser" sauce without as much sugar as the jam which I will save as a topping for duck, chicken or pork. We will be able to have a quick "a la Orange" any day of the week. Fabulous!

I'll also work on some Orange Cake which is usually made with frozen OJ but will turn out even better with fresh. Also made a Margarita Salad (no, not like the drink) with fresh basil, Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato.... some olive oil and you've got a classic dish that's perfect for the pasta. I've gone ahead and sliced lots more tomatoes which will go into the oven and will be transformed into dried tomatoes vs sun dried ones but just as tasty. (slice and lay on a cookie sheet with some PAM, cook at 200 degrees for a while) I'll be able to keep these for a lot longer without worrying about spoilage and they taste great on pizza, salads, sandwiches, dressings or just about anything you can think of.

I just noticed some very ripe bananas in front of me which I'll need to make into Banana Tea Bread, an easy, moist and very satisfying loaf cake that you can make in a snap, add nuts if you like or raisins and serve plain or with frosting, it can also stand to get toasted which only adds to the flavor. It's really an ideal way to use up those ripe bananas that are sitting on the fruit plate or maybe it will entice you into buying some extra bananas so you can have them on hand for this bread..... Here's the recipe for you:

English Tea Bread.- Great for breakfast or tea time. Easy and fast to make with guaranteed results every time.

1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup mashed (2 or 3) ripe bananas
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour your loaf pan (muffin or whatever pan). Sift the dry ingredients together.

Cream the shortening and the add the sugar a little at a time until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the dry ingredients but alternate with the bananas, a little at a time, insuring it's well blended before adding more. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and mix.

Put into your prepared pan and bake about 45-70 min, depending on your oven or until such time as you stick a knife into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool 5-10 min before removing from the pan.
NOTE: You can frost with cream cheese frosting or your favorite if desired or simply top with some sifted confectioner's sugar. It's lovely either way..... You can add nuts, raisins, etc.....

Baked Orange Custard.- Smooth and lovely, brings memories of times past.....

1 cup cream
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp finely grated orange rind (no pith)
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients well and pour into custard cups. Place cups in pan of hot water (Bain Marie). Bake about 40-50 min or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

So much for the fruit adventures, eh? The recipes for the Tomato and the Orange Marmalade are already on here so just look through the posts and you will find them. I think they're under Desserts? The bananas are waiting for me so this will be tonight's comfort food along with my "clean the fridge" night that will probably turn into "Sopes" or "Tostadas" and leave us without those bits and pieces leftover from other days. I'll make some Orange Julius (remember those?) kind of shakes to go along with it too.

Wishing everyone a lovely evening, we'll talk soon.................. oops! have to finish the banana bread, went off on another

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