Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Jicama, Jicaletas and Yam Bean, Oh My!

While I was on my Trump Apology Tour of Mexico, in between apologizing, I became an unapologetic culinary observer. All it took was one working eye to observe that Mexico is the land of the jicama. These mighty, pre-Columbian tubers were in full regalia on every calle and corner from Mexico City to Puebla and Cholula. Also known as Mexican yam bean or Mexican turnip, this tuberous root is from a vine that’s a member of the bean family. Not only is it a good source of vitamin C and high in fiber, it's good photo fodder, too.

The most ubiquitous jicama sightings were on street vendors' carts paired with papaya, melon, mango, orange or cucumber. It’s the perfect complement to fresh fruit with its crisp bite and striking color contrast. It also appeared either cubed, sliced or grated in buffet offerings, acting as a quiet compadre to all the alpha meats, manly moles and sassy salsas. You could see whole jicamas piled high in every market, from the small mom and padres to the large supermercados. In fact, there were so many tubers to go around, Trump could build the wall out of jicama and Mexicans wouldn’t even know they paid for it.

Jicaletas y paletas

Just when I thought I'd seen it all, I eyed the jicaleta. This modern-day street-food phenomenon of sliced jicama on a stick is an homage to the popular Mexican ice cream bar, the paleta. Hence the name: jicaleta (jicama + paleta). The moniker may sound cute, like designer jicama for the youthful YouTuber market, but these tuberous treats seem to appeal to every jicama-eating demographic. But if you think a piece of naked jicama doing a pole dance on a stick of raw wood is sexy, you should see what comes next: the colorful rub-down in a tsunami of umami.

First, a thick slice of jicama on a stick is brushed with chamoy syrup (the red goop on the right) that's either a sticky liquid or paste consistency. It's made from pickled fruit that’s salty, sweet, sour and spiced with chiles. The jicama is then rolled in either tajíne (a seasoning powder from chiles, salt and lime juice) or a sugary powder that comes in different colors and flavors that adheres to the chamoy. While I never tried a jicaleta (artificial colors and flavors aren't how I roll) or got a photo of one in its final glam-shot glory, you can see what they look like in the short video below and some wilder designs here.

I'm already planning my next Mexico trip to do more apologizing—mostly to myself for not trying a jicaleta. And while I’m there, I might as well hit the Trump apology trail again. I barely scratched the surface. In fact, I better start planning my world tour.

Related Links:
My Trump Apology Tour of Mexico
My Trump at the Table eCookbook 
Street Snacks, Mexico City
East LA Meets Napa and a Love Letter to Mexico

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Trump Apology Tour of Mexico

Before embarking on my holiday trip to Mexico, I decided that instead of donning a Canada pin like U.S. travelers did during the George W. Bush era, I would just come right out and apologize for my country. I would be the self-anointed anti-ambassador of Trumpistan, imparting to the Mexican people that the majority of Americans are horrified by Trump’s words, that there will be no wall, and that as a Californian, I value and appreciate them.

How would I achieve all that in the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world? I would stand in the middle of Mexico City’s swarming, humongous zocalo near the historic Metropolitan Cathedral, holding a handmade sign. Droves of people would see the crazy gringa who’s spreading good will, and whether they embraced me or not, they’d have to appreciate the effort, right? These were some of my sign ideas:

  • América es lo siento (America is sorry)
  • California te ama (California loves you)
  • Haga el amor, no muros (Make love, not walls)
  • Trump es no America (Trump is not America)
I would make eye contact with as many people as I could and offer them a smile, a nod and an hola. In one nanosecond, we would share a universal understanding that humility and humanity transcend borders and that we are all in this together—one big wall-less familia.

Oh, who was I kidding? Did I really have the cojones to stand in the middle of Mexico’s largest square like Michael Moore or one of those terminally happy people giving away free hugs? Hug shmug. I needed a plan B. I would be a real investigative journalist, engaging people who could speak enough Inglés to have a conversation with me. I’d get their names, take photos and quote them. This would be a highly respectable mission with journalistic integrity.

But when I got there, I remembered I was on vacation, and having integrity seemed like too much work. I was there to detox from Trumpistan. I needed to get all that hateful, swampy rhetoric out of my damaged psyche so I could go back to the States recharged, with renewed determination to fight. Plus, serious gastronomy awaited.

Plan C wasn’t likely to earn me a Pulitzer, but it was low impact, and I could still be an exile from Trumpistan for 95% of my trip. I would simply ask people what they thought of Trump whenever I felt like engaging someone.

“What do you and your countrymen think of Trump?” I asked a young woman in Puebla (two hours southeast of Mexico City) who worked at the Ampara Museum. She said half the people were truly afraid and the other half were very angry. Needless to say, none were happy. I told her that I was sorry and please try not to confuse Trump with the American people. She said she understood, and that likewise, not all Mexicans wear a sombrero and have a mustache. We parted with a big mental hug.

See, that wasn’t so hard. So what if I didn’t get her name, and I have no journalistic integrity. Next, I approached a saleswoman selling Talavera pottery in a Puebla store. I said, “I want you to know that Donald Trump does not represent America, and that I am sorry.” She smiled and said, “I do not hate Donald Trump.” 

Wow, I thought. She is so much more evolved than me.
“I don’t hate Trump,” she repeated.
“Why not?” I said.
“We will kill him,” she said casually, as if informing me that I had a piece of lint on my collar. “We are Mexicans. Carlos Slim was his boss. We won’t let him get away with anything. Someone will take him out.”

There was something oddly comforting about her bravado. As badly as we had treated Mexico, maybe Mexico had our back. When I told her that I was on an apology tour, she said many Americans had been apologizing to her. Apparently there was a whole club of traveling apologists from Trumpistan.

“I am not worried,” she said, before we parted ways as BFFs—or at least BFs for the next four years.

A man in Mexico City I apologized to simply smiled awkwardly and acted like he didn’t know what I was apologizing for and didn’t want to get into it. I was starting to wonder, too, because after a few more apologies, I realized that instead of bringing up Trump—which was a total buzz kill—I would simply try to exude a friendly, gracious persona so they could see that all Americans aren’t jerks. I would show, not tell.

But that was easier said than done. There was the time I was tired and hungry, waiting for a bus that was woefully late, and some guy was hustling me to buy a cupcake that I didn’t want. I just wasn’t in the mood for his spiel. 

“Where are you from?” he said with a boisterous swagger. 
“Trumpistan,” I said with a feigned smile. “Lo siento,” I said. "And I’m sorry I can’t eat gluten either.”

Related Links:
My eCookbook: Trump at the Table
Travel Bite: Street Snacks, Mexico City

Friday, November 4, 2016

Black Bean Collard-People Tacos

Before you accuse me of being a culinary racist, let me remind you that this hateful plateful is from my eCookbook Trump at the Table. It's not me, it's him! 

No, it's not really this impressive, but what's one more lie when you're living in Trumpistan?

If you haven't had the good fortune of going to Trump University, striking it rich and donating a billion to my pay-what-you-want eBook, what are you waiting for? Visit the site, behold the brilliant copywriting, and download your way to culinary LOLz. Oh, and try these tacos. Hate never tasted so great. Believe me.

Black Bean Collard-People Tacos 

Donald loves collard people—and they love him. Just ask Ben Carson. Or better yet, ask these tacos! They’ll tell you that sautéed garlicky collard greens, earthy black beans, sweet butternut squash and vibrant guacamole inside a raw collard leaf makes one towering taco! Like Trump, it’s totally unpredictable and rich. You won’t even miss the tortilla. After all, when Donald builds his wall, who’s going to make them? But you won’t need illegal masa-making Mexicans to build this taco when you’ve got hard-working collards. Don’t believe Donald when he says “laziness is a trait in blacks.” Orange-complected squash and green guaca-money all nestled in tight with the blacks proves Donald is a man of the collard people.

1 butternut or acorn squash 
Olive oil

6 organic collard leaves

1 clove garlic, minced 
1 BPA-free can of black beans (or 2 cups fresh), drained 
1 large avocado

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

Handful of cilantro, chopped 
Cumin to taste 
Salt to taste 

Cut squash in half, remove seeds, rub with olive oil and roast face down on baking sheet in 400º oven. When cooked and cooled, scoop out the flesh. 

Cut two collard leaves in thin strips and sauté them in a little olive oil with minced garlic. Reserve the other 4 leaves for the “tortillas.” 

Heat the black beans. 

Whip up some beautiful guacamole with the avocado, onion, cilantro, cumin and salt. Make sure it’s tremendous. 

Take each raw leaf and fill with sautéed collards, beans, squash and guacamole. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Egg-Free Garbanzo Flour Quiche

Every year, Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules holds the October Unprocessed Challenge, in which thousands of people commit to give up processed food for an entire month. As a guest blogger this year, I wrote a post featuring this Egg-Free Garbanzo Flour Quiche that was adapted from the Cage-Free Garbanzo Flour Quiche in my Trump at the Table eCookbook. Same recipe, two crazy-different backstories. One disses a chicken on the funny farm and the other discusses chickens on factory farms. Check them both out.

Get the Egg-Free Garbanzo Flour Quiche story.

Get the Cage-Free Garbanzo Flour Quiche story.

Related Links:
Christian Cauliflower Tabbouleh and an eBook

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Christian Cauliflower Tabbouleh and an eBook

After being bombarded with Donald J. Trump during every waking moment of every waking hour from every working media outlet, one day he turned up in one of my recipes. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I didn’t want him there. Yet when I was making a tabbouleh salad, there he was, telling me to deport the Middle Eastern wheat and replace it with sheet-white cauliflower. Muslim-free, white-supremacist salad? Rude, yes, but rather than risk being called a pig, dog, slob or loser, I succumbed to the bully's pulpit and put a little hate on my plate.

And so it began—my creation of healthy recipes based on Donald Trump quotes. There were so many tasteless remarks to choose from and so many ideas in my fertile little noggin, it was hard to narrow them down. But I had to stop myself before the election was over. 

Introducing my first eCookbook, which includes 16 plant-based, gluten-free recipes inspired by the words of Donald J. Trump. Please have a look at my website, download the book (pay what you want), and if you experience a few OMGs, WTFs and LOLz, tell your friends. Oh, and try this salad. Hate never tasted so great. Believe me.

Christian Cauliflower Tabbouleh Salad

This supremely white salad is the perfect dish for any Caucasian—especially the party of Donald J. Trump! The Middle Eastern wheat has been deported and replaced with sheet-white cauliflower for a grain-free alternative to Islamic extremist salads. The light, zesty flavors pop like a garden of gunfire, and the ingredients are raw except for some insurgent garbanzo beans who snuck into the salad bowl. With its herb-fresh fervor, this tabbouleh is a Christian cauliflower coalition in your mouth. Just make sure all the ingredients are local and not imported—especially those terrorist olives who are out to choke you with their pits.

When I make this, it’s the best—believe me. If it’s lacking anything, it’s probably your fault.

1/2 large head cauliflower, separated into small florets 
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 cup mint, chopped

1 small cucumber, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
4 - 5 green onions, chopped (white and green parts)

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/2 BPA-free can of garbanzo beans (or 3/4 cup fresh), drained 
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, not in oil (or 3/4 cup fresh)

1/4 cup pitted, cured black olives, halved

5 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste 

Put raw cauliflower florets in food processor and pulse until rice-like consistency. Place in bowl with other ingredients.

In a small bowl, mix olive oil and lemon juice. 

Add dressing to other ingredients; add salt to taste. Stir well and adjust seasonings. 

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Makes about 6 servings. 

Related Links:

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Masa Balls For Passover

Why was this night different from any other night? Because homemade corn tortillas were on the menu during Passover. Not that I adhere to the dietary laws of Passover. As a non-practicing Jew, I usually pass right over them. My everyday diet is punishment enough. But this year, what’s permissible to eat during those eight days of menu mehs includes what's known as kitniyot—corn, legumes, rice and seeds—that were forbidden for centuries. 

Mazel tov! Jews are free from the shackles of an 800-year ban on innocuous foodstuffs! But who passes Passover amendments, anyway? Ruth Bader Ginsburg? They don’t call the badass Supreme Court Justice Notorious RBG for nada. If she bangs her gavel and proclaims it okay to eat tortillas while commemorating our liberation from slavery in Egypt, then who am I to argue? Bring on the masa (as long as it’s not GMO corn. I’m pretty sure Moses wouldn’t be down with that). But if it's not her, who are these grain and legume authorities nulling sacred Passover practices, and why change the laws now?

First of all, matzo is made of flour and water—but not just any flour. It must be ground from wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oat that has not been allowed to ferment and rise. During Passover, leavened foods, known as chametz, are forbidden, and while Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern European descent were prohibited from kitniyot, the same rule didn’t apply to Sephardic Jews from Spain and the Mediterranean. 

Rabbis can’t really agree on why kitniyot was forbidden in the first place, but one theory is that since these foods were stored in the same sacks as the chametz grains, people may have worried about cross contamination or that both types of grains may have grown in the same fields. In any case, it’s likely that worrying was involved. And kvetching, too, since Ashkenazi Jews have been complaining about this rule for generations. 

So last year, some influential rabbis with the Conservative movement argued that kitniyot should be allowed, so they lifted the ban. But inquiring minds want to know why. Was it Big Grain lobbyists? Citizens Kitniyot United? A Passover super PAC? Did the Koch brothers convert to Judaism?

Some rabbis suggest that some traditional concerns surrounding kitniyot are simply no longer problems. Now that we buy our grain in supermarkets in sealed packages that are carefully labeled, any fear that a bit of wheat flour might make it into cornmeal or rice flour is mitigated.  

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, chair of the movement’s law and standards committee, said “It was not a wise custom to begin with, and in our day, when you have Jews of Ashkenazi descent married to Jews of Sephardic descent, it gets really hard to figure out what to do in your house.” He said there was also another reason behind the decision: the rise of vegans and gluten allergies. “I think that’s why it came up now as opposed to a generation ago,” he said.

It just goes to show how market trends can become movements that impact more than the marketplace. Voting with your dollar can help change 800-year-old laws. I can't wait for next year's Passover. I'm thinking sustainable gefilte fish will be having its moment. 

Related Links: