Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Century Plant.


Within every home I have ever owned, a room was always set aside for relaxation; well my type of
relaxing at least.  A standing lamp, poufy recliner, end table, overloaded bookcases, and shelving full of houseplants; many plants hanging from the ceiling as well.  This was a personal haven, a place to read, nap and enjoy the beauty all those plants put forth.  Cacti were a fascinating addition; beautiful flowers blooming on a plant that took enjoyment from stabbing any fingers that came too close.  While the majority of houseplants needed consistent watering and maintenance; the cacti needed little to survive, especially attention.  One could almost say they were introverts and quite antisocial.

Here in the southwest, the cacti enjoy the freedom that comes from outdoor living; all that fresh air, sunshine, dry soil.  Perfect conditions for growing, thriving and becoming a staple for the Native American people who inhabited the land.  This last part was not on the to-do list of the cacti, so it is no wonder they grew long, sharp needles to deal with those human hands and fingers.  Notice, as with any living entity, I have given the cacti personality traits; survival and enjoyment being two.  I am very certain that horticulturalists and botanists are rolling eyes right out of their sockets by now.



In my lifetime, I can now say that I have seen the blooming of the “Century Plant” which is often referred to as a cactus, but is actually an agave (Agave americana) which is a succulent.  The other nicknames for Agave americana are “sentry plant”, “maguey” and “American aloe”; get ready for this, it is not an aloe plant either.  This agave is native to Mexico, so it is not surprising to see it in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.   Mormon pioneers brought it to Utah when settlements were, not politely asked, but forced to leave and resettle in the United States. 
Richard Watkins - his height is over
6 feet.
My hubby, Roy - his height is 5 feet,
10 inches.

Though it is called “Century Plant”, it typically lives only 10 to 30 years; flowering only once.  This agave expends all its living energy to produce a towering 25 to 30-foot-tall stalk laden with lovely, yellow blossoms.  Suckers are produced at its base, ensuring that new plants will take hold, grow and continue the lineage.

While there are many uses for a local cactus, Prickly Pear (love the jelly and syrup products), why was the Century Plant so prized by Native Americans, and the Spanish explorers?  Within the tall stalk, and before it flowers, a sweet liquid called aguamiel (honey water) is found in the hollow center; once fermented, an alcoholic drink called pulque is produced.  The leaves of Agave americana grow 3 to 5 feet in length; the fibers called pita, can be used to make rope, matting or coarse cloth.  Found artifacts exhibited that the fibers were also used in leather embroidery; now those are tough fibers!



The yellow flowers of the agave, and their buds, need to be boiled or steamed before they can be eaten. After boiling, the flowers can be battered and deep fried, equal to those fancy battered squash blossoms at an overpriced restaurant; or diced and added to scrambled eggs, breakfast casserole, or any dish really that needs some added veggie sweetness.  Hint, remove the pollen tips before boiling the flowers as they are quite bitter.

Needless to say, this has been an interesting adventure into the knowledge regarding cactus vs. agave.  Not only did I get to delve into history a little, but botany, uses of a plant by Native American culture, and a culinary tidbit here and there.  Hope you enjoyed the journey as well.


Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Drop That Biscuit


Sunday morning, bacon sizzling in the skillet; eggs frothy with cream; oven preheated for that baking sheet full of soon-to-be fluffy biscuits.  No better way to begin a pajama day, that is what Sunday is at our home, than with a good, old fashioned, pioneer breakfast.  Hey, the Cokenours were pioneers as well as any other family that made that trek from the bustling eastern coast of the USA, to the deserts and plains of the southwest.

The Fourth of July is nearing fast; a celebration of our country’s forefathers declaring independence from oppressors, the British Realm.  Those brave pioneers traveled the Atlantic Ocean to an unknown land, with unknown dangers; worked hard, made happy homes for themselves.  If one was to truly think about what makes a pioneer, it is anyone who sets off into the unknown to find...?  Well ain’t that the truest question, what does anyone, clueless about a new beginning, really wish to find?

For Roy and myself, our oppressors were high humidity, laid off from jobs, financial institutions failing, businesses downsizing to keep from failing themselves.  To San Juan County, Utah we traveled, settling down in Monticello, to find beautiful surroundings, slim to none humidity, severe lack of economic development and affordable housing.  To many, it sounded like we had jumped from the frying pan into a fire.  “Come back”, they cried, “You’ll never survive out there!”   Surprise!  Not only are we still surviving, but we have overcome any hardships thrown at us; and let me tell you, some people have wasted too much precious time trying!  The Cokenours are survivors, just like the pioneers that have traveled, lived through hardships, but stayed together in love and happiness.  With the Fourth of July, we will be celebrating our rights to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness".

Now to a recipe for Baking Powder aka Drop Biscuits which was a staple of the American colonies, and known to them as “scones”.  As travel to other areas, which later became states, ensued, those pioneers brought their recipes with them.  The variations of biscuit recipes developed as other food items were introduced; honey, dried fruits, nuts, cheeses, potatoes, sweet potatoes, as well as milk and cream from different animal species.

From The Pioneer Cookbook, Recipes for Today’s Kitchen, by Miriam Barton, I found a recipe called “Milk Biscuits” (page 119) which is an old Virginia (one of the original 13 colonies) based recipe.  Now this recipe just happens to be extremely similar to “Baking Powder Biscuits” (page 8)
found in The Old West Baking Book, by Lon Walters.  A story about these latter biscuits tells how they were brought from the American colonies as pioneers traveled westerly.  I bet many of them were from Virginia!

Milk Biscuits
(The Pioneer Cookbook, page 8)

Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. butter, cut into small chunks
1 cup milk
Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Using a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the pieces of butter are about the size of small peas.  With a large wooden spoon, stir in the milk.

On a lightly floured surface, use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out the dough until it is about 1/3 inch thick.  Use a 2-inch biscuit cutter (or the brim of a glass) to cut the biscuits out of the dough.  Take the scraps and roll them out again, then cut them and continue until all of the dough has been cut into round pieces.  Place pieces on a cooking stone or cookie sheet about an inch apart.  Bake biscuits about 15 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.


The recipe in The Old West Baking Book has the addition of eggs which causes a wetter batter, it can be scooped and dropped (hence the name) onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  I played with both recipes, they were both easy to make, and we enjoyed munching on both.  Just like true pioneers, we created from what we had on hand, and it was good.



Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Put the Lime in the Coconut.


In 1972 (Wow, I was only 14 years old!), a song was featured regularly on the radio, Coconut by singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson.  I remember being in high school and the question was, “What is this song about!?!”.  Oh there were many answers bandied about, from the simplest answer – a stomach ache, to the worst – back alley abortion technique.  It was the 70s and what was not strange in those days?

The story behind the song is basically a narrator (the singer) telling the story of a girl with a stomach ache, she calls a doctor that tells her to drink a concoction made of coconut and lime. 
It does not work, she calls the doctor again and wakes him up; angry, he tells her to put a whole lime inside a coconut, shake it up and drink it all down.  He tells her to call him back in the morning with the results.  Sort of like having a hangover and drinking the “hair of the dog that bit ya”.



When I first created the recipe for “Lime in the Coconut Cupcakes”, I had finished watching a rerun of the television series “Bones”.  One of the main character’s assistants had been murdered.  As his casket was being loaded into a truck, for shipment back to his homeland of England, the FBI psychiatrist, Dr. Sweets, begins to sing the man’s favorite song.  Yes, you guessed it, Coconut; a turned down version of a New Orleans funeral procession of sorts.  For those who do not know the song, where the heck have you been? It is available on YouTube and even the Muppets did their version of the song on “The Muppet Show”.

It got me to thinking, why not put the lime in the coconut? How would it taste anyway; a weird Pina Colada? I did not go down the drink route to avoid that belly ache; instead I decided to make cupcakes. A dumb downed version of a vanilla cupcake with lime curd mixed in, topped with a ginger frosting and either sweetened or toasted coconut. Num Yummy!!! is all I can say.



By the way, recently I stopped in at Blue Mountain Foods looking for frozen fruit bars.  It now carries “Good Pops” with flavors like Orange Cream, Watermelon Agave, Raspberry and, you guessed it again, Coconut Lime.  They are refreshing, not too sweet and hit the spot whether as a dessert or snack treat

So, put the lime in the coconut, try my cupcake recipe, and the only doctor you will be calling is the dietitian.










Lime in the Coconut Cupcakes (with Ginger Frosting)

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
3 eggs
¾ cup lime curd
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
¾ cup milk
1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1 cup shredded, toasted coconut
¼ cup additional lime curd

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; line muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy; beat in one egg at a time, then the lime curd and the vanilla extract.

In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder; stir into the creamed mixture. Add the milk and stir until batter is smooth. Use an ice cream scoop to fill the cupcake liners up halfway.

Bake for 20-25 minutes; until toothpick comes out of center cleanly. Remove to wire racks to cool before lightly frosting; put coconut into separate bowls and dip frosted cupcake into one or the other. Spoon a dollop of lime curd into center of each cupcake.

Makes 24-26 cupcakes.

Ginger Frosting

Ingredients:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ tsp. fresh ground ginger or 3 tsp dried ground ginger
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. cold milk

Preparation:

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy; add in ginger, vanilla extract and milk; continue to beat until smooth and spreadable.  Makes 2 cups.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Reading "The Recipe" Inspired Brownies


Reading has always been a fundamental part of my life; becoming the character as I read, figuring out clues, taking fantastical journeys through time and space.  I have been drawn to historical, fictional, non-fictional, true stories as well as what-ifs; I admit, I enjoy reading Ernest Hemingway.  I own a Kindle, so can download from any genre at the swipe of a finger.  My true enjoyment comes from a real book, paperback, hard cover, does not matter.  It is the feel of the book itself, the weight of it within my hands, the turning of each page as words are devoured within the mind.  While the Kindle is convenient, it does not have the same comforting feel.

Recently I finished a novella called The Recipe by Candace Calvert and her specialty genre is “Inspirational”.  This genre tends to focus upon religious and/or spiritual aspects, but the amount of focus is dependent on the author.  It can be soothing, relaxing, a good mood uplift, and a way to look outside the box, or get your mental act together.   I chose to read this novella based upon two aspects; first the cover featured a female wearing an apron with a bowl full of luscious strawberries in front of her.  Second was the lead in description, “In this heartwarming romance novella by Candace Calvert, hospital dietary assistant Aimee Curran is determined to win the Vegan Valentine Bake-Off to prove she's finally found her calling. But while caring for one of her patients - the elderly grandmother of a handsome CSI photographer - Aimee begins to question where she belongs.”   A little romance, some soul searching, a bake off, and if the reader is lucky, a recipe at the end.

The character, Aimee Curran, creates a vegan brownie recipe featuring a choice of a “mystery” ingredient of her choosing; she chooses black beans.  Alright, spoiler, the brownies are a huge hit with the judges and she gets into the finals.  The brownies are mentioned several times within the novella, the recipe has to be featured by the author, right?  Read the novella for yourself; it can sometimes be frustrating due to what is happening with a particular character, but has a sweet ending in more ways than food.

To answer the question above, no, the black bean brownie recipe was not at the end, but another just as delicious dessert.  Now my quest began to find a recipe to play with; five baking books later, no recipe.  Online I found plenty, printed a few, baked, and changed ingredients, amounts used until I was happy with my own original version.  The batter is thicker than a traditional brownie recipe, after baking thickness only doubles from ¼ inch to ½ inch, color is almost black, and taste is equivalent to eating Ghirardelli Chocolate Intense Dark Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao Chocolate.

By the way, my traditional brownies usually have walnuts or pecans added in; I chose walnuts for this recipe.  Also, there is a mention of apple cider vinegar in the recipe; it gives a kick-start to the baking soda to give the batter that lifting ability.

Traditional Chocolate Walnut Brownies


Traditional Chocolate Walnut Brownie


Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients:
 
1 can (15.5 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
3 eggs
½ cup Truvia Baking Blend  
1 Tbsp. 2% milk
½ cup unsweetened baking cocoa + 1 Tbsp.
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup walnut pieces and halves, divided in half







Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 9” x 9” baking pan with non-stick baking spray (or what I prefer for brownies, non-stick cooking spray and sprinkle that + 1 Tbsp. of baking cocoa over the bottom and sides of the pan).  Sprinkle half of walnuts onto bottom of the pan.




Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the beans until a smooth paste; move to a medium size bowl.  Add the eggs, Truvia, milk, ½ cup baking cocoa, oil, baking soda, baking powder, and vinegar.  On medium speed, mix until smooth; use a spatula to occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl and clean out the mixer blades.

Place batter into pan and carefully spread out to sides (remember, it is thicken than a traditional batter); sprinkle remaining half of walnuts over top.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean; let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into squares (9 or 12).






Now for that Paleo brownie recipe; I found the original recipe (page 21) in the book Paleo Sweets by Kelsey Ale.  However, it does call for coconut oil and coconut sugar which I have found not to our liking with baked goods.  I will write out the original recipe, in parentheses will be the changes I made.  These brownies are almost the same as a traditional brownie in taste, texture and color except not as sweet and the flavor of the walnuts is enhanced.





Paleo Chocolate Walnut Brownies

Ingredients:

¾ cup walnut halves and pieces, divided (1 cup divided in half)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (1/3 cup vegetable oil)
4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate (4 oz. bar Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Chocolate)
1 cup almond flour (I shifted the almond flour)
1 cup coconut sugar (1/2 cup Truvia Baking Blend)
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; chop and toast ½ cup walnuts on 350F until browned, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Line an 8x8x2-inch baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.  (I did not toast the walnuts, plus I prepped the baking pan the same as in the Black Bean Brownies recipe).

In a small saucepan, heat the oil and chocolate over low heat until melted, remove from heat and set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour and sugar, mix to incorporate.  Add the melted chocolate/oil mixture; add the eggs and vanilla, mix to completely combine.  Fold in the toasted walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread to edges.  Top with remaining walnut pieces and halves.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from oven, let cool completely before cutting (12-16)











Note: I used a 9” x 9” baking pan and the brownies baked up cake-like; very much like baking traditional brownies 10 minutes longer for the extra rise)

Truthfully, anyone who is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or low carb dependent; either brownie will satisfy.  If you have a sweet tooth, and Truvia Baking Blend or coconut sugar will just not do it for you, than use granulated sugar: 1 cup either for the Black Bean or Paleo Brownies.

Read a good book, get some inspiration into your life, and eat a brownie!

Mary Cokenour





Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Eatzza In at Thatzza Pizza


Thatzza Pizza and Eatzza Your Pizza Here

201 South Main Street
Monticello, Utah, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-9111




  
“We get a lot of out-of-towners who want to eat here as a family.  …and the price is right!” which placed an idea in Linda Wigginton’s mind that simply would not go away.  Linda, owner, operator and chief chef at Thatzza Pizza – Monticello needed more space to expand and create a dine-in area.  Even though there were picnic tables outside the business, they could not accommodate many; bad weather was a huge deterrent as well. 

Spring of 2019, a business space finally became available next door; Tom, her husband, and Linda snapped it up and began to build the dream.  Tuesday, May 21, 2019, “Eatzza Your Pizza Here” opened up where the public could order their meals at the main area up front, then bring their food to the dining area.  Sound too inconvenient?  Plans are still in the works for opening up a doorway between the two sections; patience grasshopper, this too shall come to fruition.

The interior of the dine-in area took a lot of muscle, knocking down walls, rewiring, painting, new wooden flooring; the addition of metal wall panels and signature lighting giving it a modern, yet comfortable feel.  Booth seats, chairs and tables line both sides of the walls currently, but there is another plan in the works – a buffet unit.  Imagine, a half hour or hour for lunch, where to grab a fast meal that is made fresh?  Workers, visitors on a tour itinerary, anyone in general will be able to stop in, sit down and manga’, or fill up a take-out box for eating on the go.  For Monticello, this will also be a unique addition to restaurant fare and this also means, Thatzza Pizza will be open for lunch!





For those who have not tried out Thatzza Pizza, the menu is more than just pizza, it includes pasta dishes, salads, cheesy bread, wings with 7 different sauces to choose from. 



Dessert?  Try out cinnamon sticks, one of the new dessert pizzas, or an ice cream favorite with soft or hard pack – shakes, sundaes, cones (crispy waffle or regular), cups, or a warm, freshly made waffle bowl.  Mmmm, you can even get a root beer float or banana split; sounds like something available for whatever you are craving!




Sitting here, watching snow fall on this near-the-end of May day, Eatzza Pizza could not have come at a better time.  Especially for new visitors to the area who are very confused about the weather, but still need a great meal away from the cold.  Thatzza Pizza can give it their all now!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Spirit of Community at Twin Rocks Café

 Twin Rocks Café

913 East Navajo Twins Drive
Bluff, Utah, 84512

Phone: (435) 672-2341






Twin Rocks Trading Post
The Navajo Twins
The Simpson Family of Bluff, Utah, has been an integral part of the community for several generations. Duke Simpson purchased land overseen by two sandstone pillars, The Navajo Twins.  He established a trading post in 1988, bartering with local Native Americans, and other residential artisans.  Six years later, with the idea of opening up a small deli to provide sandwiches to travelers, could Duke have foreseen the iconic business he was creating?

Before Twin Rocks Trading Post and Café were even a thought in Duke’s mind, he ran a gas station at the corner of Highways 191 and 162.  He helped Rusty and Lily Musselman build a small trading post of their own right next door; The Cow Canyon Trading Post.  Duke was teaching and establishing values in his children that would benefit the community as well as the family.



As Barry Simpson states, “Twin Rocks has the community in mind; it is about local community and it is about the community of travelers coming through Bluff.”  The Simpsons care about their employees, they are not simply workers, but part of the Twin Rocks family.  “We are living wage employers; we provide opportunity via our own incubator program.  After coming to work for us, one of our employees was finally able to get electricity into her home.  Many are able to go off to college, graduate and then come back to their community of Bluff.”

After purchasing the Trading Post and Café from their father, and there by keeping it within the family, the Simpson sons experienced their own knowledge building and growing processes with the businesses.  Attracting only locals would not be sustainable, it had to attract the interests of travelers as well.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner were made available; many items given that Southwestern flare visitors were looking to experience.  A huge change came about on July 4, 2017 with the addition of new General/Restaurant Manager, Frances Vander Stappen.
Executive Chef, Frances Vander Stappen and Owner, Barry Simpson
Frances hails from northern Utah, did a lot of traveling in her day, and it is no wonder why she fell in love with Bluff.  She is a certified executive chef and very in tune with the restaurant world, as Barry states, “She has taught us a lot!”.  Revamping the menu did not mean losing the Southwestern flare that locals and visitors enjoy, but amping it up!  Green chiles are a staple in many dishes, or can easily be added; Navajo Fry Bread is made with the best flour, Blue Bird; hot sauces and beans from Adobe Milling.  Local sourcing is done as much as possible as dictated by supply and demand.  Sauces and dressings, except for Caesar, are house made and the tastes are fresh.  That is another facet that is important to the Twin Rocks Café menu - fresh, and the addition of healthier, vegetarian and gluten free options offers something for everyone.  If you walk into the Café and cannot find anything on the menu to your liking, that is due to not being hungry in the first place.  

Along with Barry and Frances, their “right hand in general” employee is Nizhoni; a lovely Navajo woman with a beautiful personality and fun spirit.  All the employees are friendly, helpful and make the dining experience at the Café enjoyable.  As a complete family, the Cokenour and Watkins clans always have the best time at Twin Rocks Café.  The atmosphere is welcoming, the employees laugh along with our antics, and the food is always, always the best.

…and there is my lead in to the food.  We all had not been to Twin Rocks Café, since their renovation (life does interfere with life sometimes).  The additional seating area has windows that open up wide to let in those soft breezes; or there is patio seating outside on the veranda.
There are two Tesla units attached to the building, so a vehicle can feed as well as the owners.

New appetizer on the menu, Bluff-alo Chicken Bites; hand-cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a fabulous crunch (balance of the sugar mixture is key) and Adobe Milling hot sauce.  Instead of celery sticks, we received cucumber spears along with the sweetest carrot sticks; both a refreshing treat between mouthfuls of delicious heat.












Many of the meals come with a choice of salad, fries or coleslaw; lucky me chose a house salad with the most outstanding dressing, maple-agave-balsamic vinaigrette.  Almost had to stick a fork in my hubby’s hand as he kept stealing my salad; that is how good that dressing is!











My meatloaf dinner is a mixture of pork, beef, bread crumbs, freshly diced celery, onions, herbs, spices….hey there Frances, were you trying to copy my meatball recipe!?! Ah, but here comes the bite upon the cheek, green chile added to the mix and a nice surprise too.  The red-skinned mashed potatoes are house made, and choice of gravy is brown or white.  I picked the brown gravy which was thick and so lip smacking tasty; I even dipped my hubby’s fries in the gravy.  If he can steal my salad, I can steal his fries!






He had the Classic 7-oz. Burger on, what else, Navajo Fry Bread which makes the best Navajo Taco or Pizza as well.  The meat is a ground mixture of Choice round, brisket and short rib grilled to your liking, but an addition of sautéed onions and roasted green chiles makes it A++. The fries are lightly dipped in a beer batter mixture which makes them crunchy good on the outside while fluffy tender on the inside.














Navajo Taco





That beer batter mixture is used more thickly for the hand-cut Alaskan Cod featured in Beer Battered Fish n’ Chips which is eye-popping amazing!  We enjoyed a sample, and were craving it the next day; dad (Bishop Richard Watkins) was still talking about it the next week! Anyone who is a fish eating lover will enjoy this meal, and still be craving it again days later; it is that great! Wow, wonder if I’ll have to put in an order in advance, to make sure they have not run out?  





I know they make sweet tooth indulging desserts, like Peaches de Chelly; but holy moly, we had eaten so much food, they needed to push us out in wheel barrows.  Alright, not really, but we just could not eat another bite without exploding; oh but we so wanted to…eat that is, not explode.


There are a few other new options at Twin Rocks Café, such as breakfast offered all day! Navajo Blue Corn Pancakes, Omelets, Breakfast Burrito, Pancakes and more!  Need a picnic lunch for that hiking, climbing or river rafting adventure, and I always recommend that; Twin Rocks can fix it up fresh for you.  Meat and veggie packed sandwich with all the fixings, dessert, chips and drink for only $13.50.  





When you walk into the front door of Twin Rocks Café, you will notice the newest addition to their delicious offerings; an ice cream counter that also features espresso, espresso beans, quiche, house baked desserts and more!   Oh, but look to the left and see the gift shop featuring crafts and wares from artisans of the Four Corners; plus, books, maps and other must-haves.





Kachina Dolls
While I have only mentioned a few of the menu items, I need to tell you that each experience at Twin Rocks Café has been great…great atmosphere, great staff, great food.  The spirit of community is strong with the Simpson family, with new executive chef, Frances, and with all the staff.  We sat speaking with Barry and Frances for over an hour; the pride and passion was over flowing; their eyes shining with excitement as they watched us taste the food, “ah” over it, and dive in again for another bite.  Go, visit, have a great time, and enjoy being part of the Twin Rocks community; it is a great, not just San Juan County, but Four Corners experience.

Mary Cokenour





Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Curry Up and Thai One On.


In the past, over ten years ago really, going to a Thai restaurant featured two choices in curry; green (usually made with fresh chilies which while pungent, have a sweeter taste) or red (usually made with dried chilies, have a smoky taste and are hotter). Within the past 5-6 years though, I have experienced Thai culinary pleasures at Thai Cortez in Cortez, Colorado; Arches Thai, Bangkok House Too and Thai Bella in Moab.  Hint San Juan County, you so do not understand the delights your taste buds are missing out on not having your own Thai palace.  Anyway, imagine my surprise when I found out that Thai Curry’s variety is astounding. 

The base for curry is the paste, not just red or green, but Southern Thai (Massaman), Northern Thai (Jungle), Chili Tamarind, Yellow Bean, Black Bean, Mint Tamarind and even Lemongrass.  Now remember, I'm only dealing with Thai cuisine here; there are also curries from India, Pakistan, Japan and most of the Asian cultures which all have unique beginnings.

As a reminder, authentic curry powder is not the same thing; it is made from the curry plant which is similar in appearance to lavender, but smells and tastes similar to sage. However, to confuse the issue more, some places do sell "curry powder" which is a dried, ground mixture of herbs and spices to help the home cook's life "easier" when making a curry recipe. I noticed some recipes state "add curry powder" and I wonder if they are using this premade mixture, or the curry plant.  It does make a distinct difference in taste and flavoring, so make sure to use the correct “curry”.

I will not be posting any recipes for a curry paste as there are so many varieties, but I will recommend a book.  It is a simple book to read, easy recipes and little "knowledge" tidbits added in here and there to make it more interesting.  The book is called, The Everything Thai Cookbook by Jennifer Malott Kotylo; and I do recommend books in "The Everything" series as they are informative.  Chapter One is "Pastes, Marinades and Other Concoctions" which includes rubs and vinegars.  Not a book reader, then there are tons of cooking sites on the internet containing recipes, and even instruction videos.  Seriously, what can you not find a YouTube video about nowadays!?!







I will be giving you two of my recipes, one for Red Curry and the other for Green Curry; simple basic recipes which you can expand upon depending on your own tastes in vegetables and proteins.

Thai Curry



 Red Curry

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup snow pea pods
½ cup diced onion
1 Tbsp. red curry paste
1 (14 oz.) coconut milk
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Preparation:

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat; sauté vegetables until they just begin to soften, about 7 minutes. Turn heat up to medium-high; stir in curry paste and cook another minute. Mix together coconut milk and cornstarch; add to skillet and bring to a boil; let cook for 2 minutes before serving. Suggested side: Jasmine rice.

Note: One cup of chicken, pork or shrimp can be previously cooked in additional two tablespoons of oil and set aside to be added to the skillet during the final two minutes of cooking.

Makes 2 servings.



Green Curry

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. green curry paste
1 cup coconut milk, divided in half
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped broccoli ½ cup chopped baby corn
3 kaffir lime leaves, split
¼ cup Thai basil
1 tsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar

Preparation:

In a large skillet, heat oil and curry paste over medium heat; add in half cup of coconut milk, vegetables and kaffir leaves; cook for 10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium-high; mix in remaining coconut milk, basil, fish sauce and sugar; bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes before serving. Suggested side: Jasmine rice

Note: One cup of chicken, pork or shrimp can be previously cooked in additional two tablespoons of oil and set aside to be added to the skillet during the final two minutes of cooking.

Makes 2 servings.

Now the only real problem is going to one of my favorite restaurants and not ordering one of everything!  Thai cuisine, it’s a wonderfully tasty adventure.

Mary Cokenour