Thursday, January 08, 2009

Abuelita, My Favorite Granny


Until I moved to California, where there are a lot of Mexican foods available in the grocery stores, I had never heard of "Abuelita" brand chocolate. And even still, I saw it but didn't know what it was, other than knowing that the word "abuelita" means "granny." I ran across a number of mole recipes that called for Abuelita and still, I didn't go through the effort of finding some and trying it--until last week. I Googled "Mexican grocery store" in my neighborhood, and schlepped over there to get some Abuelita's. The proprietor of the store, an adorable mother-figure, kept calling me "mi hija," or "my daughter," which I found to be delightful (me? her daughter? She was probably only 10 years older than me).

So I bought two packs of Abuelita's and used some for the first time in my chicken mole for the dinner party. Truly, it was a revelation. What suprised me was that it made the mole sweet. Not too sweet, mind you, but pleasantly sweet. And the flavor was gloriously complex.

Just yesterday, I tried Abuelita's for the first time in hot chocolate. Instead of being in powder form, Abuelita's comes in chunks of solid chocolate. The chocolate is premixed with just the right amount of sugar (not too sweet, like most American hot chocolate) and cinnamon. You drop a chunk in your milk, microwave it, and then froth it with a cappuccino machine (or a special milk frothing device, which I don't have). You get the most fabulous hot chocolate on this Earth, with no exaggeration.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

For New Year's? Black-eyed Peas, If You Please


How Much Do You Know About the Humble Black-eyed Pea?
  • Thought to symbolize good luck since references to eating black-eyed peas in the Talmud (where it is called "rubiya"). Took on good luck status in the US after Union soldiers stripped southern fields of all edible crops except for "field peas" and corn.
  • Also known as "cowpeas" or "crowder peas"
  • A common food in the US South
  • Native to Africa, but popular throughout Asia as well
  • Often served with either ham hocks or ham in the South
  • Also known as "Texas Caviar" when made into a salsa
  • A great source of calcium, protein, and fiber
  • Like other legumes, adds nitrogen--thus improving--the soil in which it grows
I've got a nice pot of black-eyed peas in the crock pot now. The trick with beans is not to add any salt--or anything salty--until after the beans are cooked. Then, it's on to Hoppin' John. Here's Emeril Lagasse's Hoppin' John. Since I don't have a ham hock, I'll be using Black Forest ham and ham stock instead of chicken stock. Very hammy, very nice.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large ham hock
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
  • Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
  • 3 cups steamed white rice

Directions

Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.