Nosh News: Olé! Edition

At the Greensboro Supermarket, you can get dried chiles, a game of pool, a flat-top hair cut and the most authentic tacos in the Tallahassee area.

This Saturday, May 5, encompasses two events traditionally celebrated with lots and lots of alcohol: The Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo. If you’re looking to shake up your mint julep for this weekend’s run for the roses, check out the Kitchn’s roundup of five non-basic julep recipes, including a Cherry Julep made by my favorite talking head, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. To put a spin on the traditional Cinco de Mayo margarita, try Rick Bayless’ Champagne Margarita or Hotel California Jamaica Margarita. While you’re over at Bayless’ site, take a look at his collection of recipes for salsas, appetizers, entrées and desserts, too. The Chicago chef is one of our country’s great masters of Mexican cuisine.

With a Mexican native in my casa, we won’t be doing anything too splashy for Cinco de Mayo, since the Professor likes to point out that the holiday isn’t widely celebrated in his ancestral land. (It’s more akin to Casimir Pulaski Day than the Fourth of July). We’re always up for eating authentic Mexican food, however, so this weekend we’re planning to visit our favorite taqueria in the Tallahassee area. We love the picadillo sopes, bistek tortas and barbacoa tacos served at the little dining counter in the back of the Greensboro Supermarket, 119 Green Ave., Greensboro. The taqueria’s housemade tomatillo salsa alone makes the 30-mile drive worth it. The Greensboro Supermarket carries a variety of Mexican packaged goods, including all kinds of dried chiles, that can be tough to find locally, and also houses a pool hall and a hair salon. (Yes, I said hair salon). Now that’s one-stop shopping.

Have you dined at any of the eateries on the just-released list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants? I haven’t yet visited the heavy hitters ranked by Restaurant magazine, but several of my friends have marveled over chef Grant Achatz’s masterpieces of molecular gastronomy at Alinea. The Chicago restaurant, which claimed the No. 7 slot, is one of eight American eateries on the list published annually by the London-based magazine. Noma, a restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, nabbed No. 1. Personally, I’d love to compare the two menus of traditional and creative dishes offered by Biko, the Basque-Mexican hybrid restaurant in Mexico City that landed at No. 38 this year.

Nosh News and Best Bites: Jammed Together Edition

Now is the time to find ripe strawberries at local farmers markets and roadside stands.

Berry fans, rejoice: The local strawberries are ripe! I picked quite a few quarts on Tuesday during my volunteer shift at Full Earth Farm, and got to take some home. We ate all of them fresh — the first ripe strawberries of the spring never last more than minutes around here — but next time I luck into a berry bounty I’m going to restrain myself long enough to make this recipe, which was inspired by a dish served at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort: Simple Strawberry Soup from Christy Jordon’s Southern Plate blog.

Paella and flamenco make the perfect picante pairing. On Friday, April 27, you can relish both at Mission San Luis, 2100 W. Tennessee St. Award-winning guitarist Grisha Goryachev will perform modern and traditional flamenco music while local caterers Real Paella serve a sit-down gourmet dinner that includes sangria, Spanish salad, flan and, of course, paella mixta with vegetables, meat and seafood. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35. Visit the Real Paella website to order tickets or call 339-2043.

In the epic battle of the big coffee chains, I’ll choose Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks every time. So I was thrilled to discover that filmmaker Whit Stillman prefers the Double D, too. In fact, the crew on his just-released film “Damsels in Distress” was treated to two Dunkin’ Donuts runs each day. I found out about Stillman’s coffee predilections, along with a handful of unexpectedly intriguing everyday insights, when he was featured this week in Bon Appétit’s My Morning Routine series, which explores how people kick-start the day.

Do you dream of owning a food truck? Find out more about how to make it happen at the Food Truck 101 Workshop offered by the Tallahassee Food Truck Association. The event is set for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 27 at the All Saints Hop Yard, 453 All Saints St. Attendees will learn about required licenses and registrations, insurance, suppliers and more, and will have the chance to talk with food truck owners who’ve already hit the local streets.  The cost is $25. To register in advance, visit the Tallahassee Food Truck Association website.

Roll into National Bike Month with the Capital City Cyclists, who are encouraging Tallahassee-area bicyclists to get together for dinner at a different local restaurant on each Wednesday in May. The Dinner by Bike series kicks off on Wednesday, May 2 with a meal at Mike’s Stone Baked Pizza, 1313 Jackson Bluff Road. Start your ride from home, work or school and meet up with other riders at the restaurant anytime between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. For more information about Dinner by Bike and other National Bike Month events, visit the Capital City Cyclists website.

Cracking the Spine: Punjabi Curried Kidney Beans (Rajmah)

We’re boldly delving into our ever-growing stacks of cookbooks, seeking out recipes we’ve never made before.

Prepping the ingredients for Punjabi Curried Kidney Beans, or Rajmah, a hearty Northern Indian dish that’s perfect for the slow cooker.

I came late to the slow cooker.

Unlike so many born-in-the-’70s kids with working parents, I didn’t grow up with a Crockpot on the kitchen counter — on busy weeknights, my mom preferred to whip up some pancakes or rifle through our collection of takeout menus. I acquired my first slow cooker just a couple of years ago, when one of my friends pulled an extra one out of her cabinet and gave it to me.

Since then, I’ve made quite a few chilis and stews in the slow cooker, and the Professor uses the device just about every week to prepare a big batch of soup. But we haven’t done much with our Crockpot beyond making those classic comfort foods.

I’m an easily distracted cook who hates attending to a simmering pot of anything for hours, so a slow cooker, with its set-it-and-go simplicity, should be one of my most valued kitchen tools. I just needed the right enticement and the right recipes to encourage me to experiment.

I found both in the form of a cookbook I recently picked up, “The Indian Slow Cooker” by Anupy Singla, the Chicago-based writer behind the blog Indian as Apple Pie. Indian food is another culinary delight I didn’t discover I became an adult, and for years I’ve wanted to learn how to make spicy curries and creamy masalas at home.

“The Indian Slow Cooker” is packed with great recipes for all sorts of Indian dishes, from Chicken Tikka Masala to Goan Black-Eyed Peas. The cookbook also includes a guide to the spices, legumes and other ingredients most often used in Indian cooking.

For my first attempt at making an Indian dish in the slow cooker, I chose Punjabi Curried Kidney Beans, or Rajmah. Singla points out that this dish is considered the quintessential comfort food in Northern India. That sounded ideal to me, since I’ve come to think of my slow cooker as the ultimate comfort-food maker. The recipe for Rajmah couldn’t be simpler: Chop some stuff, drop it all in the slow cooker and crank the heat to high; 11 hours later, give the Rajmah a few whacks with an immersion blender (another kitchen tool I don’t use often enough) and spoon out a rich, satisfying meal.

If you’re looking for the Indian spices called for in this recipe (or any other dish) here in the Tallahassee area, I’d suggest making a stop at Little India, 1350 E. Tennessee St. In addition to spices and packaged goods, the grocery store also sells fresh and frozen Indian breads, including naan and paratha, that make excellent accompaniments to Indian meals.

Punjabi Curried Kidney Beans (Rajmah)
Recipe from “The Indian Slow Cooker” by Anupy Singla

Ingredients
3 cups dried red kidney beans, cleaned and washed thoroughly
1 medium yellow or red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped or grated
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped or grated
4-6 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, chopped
3 whole cloves
1 (2-4 inch) cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon red chile powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon tumeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
9 cups water
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions
1. Put the kidney beans, onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chiles, cloves, cinnamon stick, cumin, red chile powder, salt, tumeric, garam masala and water in a 5-quart slow cooker.*

2. Cook on high for 11 hours, until the beans break down and become somewhat creamy.

3. Remove and discard the cloves (if you can find them!) and cinnamon stick. If the Rajmah is not creamy enough, take an immersion blender and press it two or three times to break up some of the beans. If using a blender, take out about 1 cup and process in the blender, then return it to the slow cooker. Be careful not to process all of the beans; most of them should remain whole.

4. Stir in the cilantro. Serve over a bed or basmati or brown rice with a side of raita and an Indian salad.

Try this! After cooking, turn off the slow cooker and add 1 cup plain yogurt. Stir well and let the slow cooker sit with the lid on for about 10 minutes. This adds a unique tang.

* To make this dish in a 3 ½ quart slow cooker, halve all the ingredients and proceed with the recipe. (I would suggest reducing the cooking time to 9 hours on high; that’s how long it took for the the beans to break down and become somewhat creamy in my 3 ½ quart Crockpot).

Rajmah makes a satisfying main dish for lunch or dinner.

Farm Fresh: Welcome Spring with Snow Peas

We’re sharing our favorite veggie-centric recipes featuring the produce that’s in season right now in north Florida, and available at local farmers markets, produce stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

These fresh snow peas soon will meet their stir-fried destiny in the wok.

Bite into a snow pea, and you will experience everything that is most wonderful about spring. A just-picked snow pea tastes crisp and green, delicate enough not to overwhelm your senses but robust enough to be memorable.

We’ve been fortunate to receive locally grown snow peas in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share for the past two weeks. Last week, we ate them fresh, in handfuls as a snack and tossed into salads.

This week, we decided to put our snow peas at the center of a dinner entrée. Nothing elaborate, of course, since produce this fresh requires very little adornment and, besides, who wants to spend hours in the kitchen when the weather is so lovely?

The folks at Full Earth Farm, who grow our CSA share, offered up the perfect suggestion. Their weekly email, in which they list the produce we’ll be receiving and update us on what’s new at the Quincy farm, also included a recipe for a snow pea stir fry.

I’ve tweaked the simple recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart’s website, so it will be spicy enough for my chile-loving household. Feel free to use 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, as per Ms. Stewart’s original recipe, instead of the serrano chili and Vietnamese chili garlic sauce I’ve added, if you don’t like your meals quite as fiery. We love to serve our stir fries on top of Asian noodles, such as soba or rice noodles; brown rice would be a great addition, as well.

Shrimp, Shiitake and Snow Pea Stir Fry
Recipe adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Vietnamese chili garlic sauce (Thai sriracha sauce also would work well)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved (large ones quartered)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces (2 cups) snow peas, trimmed
1 serrano chili, cut into thin slices (you could use a jalapeno instead)
2 scallions (green parts only), chopped

Directions
1. In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, and Vietnamese chili garlic sauce.

2. In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, just until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic mixture and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp, snow peas and serrano chili and cook, stirring, until shrimp are opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes. To serve, top with scallions.