Shark, Really?

Some foods or dishes are associated with a particular place or activity. A perfect example of this is Bake and Shark at Maracas Beach in Trinidad. Maracas Beach is a beautiful beach on the north shore of Trinidad. The most important feature of Maracas Beach is the many Bake and Shark huts. Bake and Shark is a Trinidadian dish consists of a piece of deep fried shark served in deep fried bread called ‘bake’. The shark is typically marinated in a combination of herbs, garlic and lime juice. The ‘bake’ is doughy bread similar to Native American fry bread which is found the Southwest such as Arizona and New Mexico.

The key to this simple sandwich is the variety of condiments and toppings it can be dressed with. Each hut has a table of toppings such as tamarind chutney, chadon bene (cilantro) chutney, hot pepper sauce, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, fresh mango (sour mango) chutney, mayonnaise, mustard sauce and mango kutchela (a mango pickle). My favorites are the chadon bene sauce and garlic sauce. No trip to Maracas Beach is complete without a stop for Bake and Shark dressed to perfection!

Double up on Doubles

This past week we were in Trinidad visiting G’s family and one local dish which cannot be missed is doubles. Doubles is a street food in Trinidad and Tobago which is a sandwich made with two fried breads called ‘bara’, hence the name doubles, and is filled with curried garbanzo beans or channa. It is served with pepper sauce, ‘slight’ (a dash) to as much as you want! It is one of the most popular fast foods in Trinidad and is typically eaten for breakfast or as a late night snack.

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Croatians in Kansas City!?

One of the things I find the most interesting about food culture is how certain foods become popular in an area because of the immigrant populations that settled in the area. A friend of ours from college is now living in Kansas City and came out to visit us for the long holiday weekend. He brought us a loaf of delicious povitica. Apparently, povitica is a staple bread made in Eastern European countries. It is basically a nut roll made with yeast bread and a filling of nuts, cream cheese, and/or dried fruit. Traditionally it was served for celebrations such as weddings, Easter or Christmas. In the 1800’s a group of Croatian immigrants settled in Kansas City and worked in the meat packing industry. They brought the tradition of povitica which is still baked in the area.

Our friend brought us the English Walnut variety from the Strawberry Hill Bakery. It is a dense (2.5 lb) loaf filled with ground walnuts and honey. It is delicious and extremely rich with so much filling!! I have been enjoying a small slice with my morning tea for the past few days! If you are ever in Kansas City or anywhere with an Eastern European heritage you should look for it.

Cookies with a kick

Even though I am sweet tooth sometimes I crave something not overly sweet, but with a little kick. I love the sweet and savory combination! With just such a craving I was browsing dessert recipes and came across Mexican Chocolate Cookies from the December 2007 issue of Cooking Light Magazine. I am not much of a baker, so this simple recipe seemed to be the right skill level and had the flavors I was craving. My only change to the recipe would be to reduce the cooking time a minute or two. The cookies were a little hard for my tastes after they completely cooled. The flavor of the cookies was delicious! The bittersweet chocolate balances out the heat of the peppers. It is a perfect ending to any meal!

Mexican Chocolate Cookies
Source: Cooking Light, December 2007

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A friend of mine is always bringing over different food items to try and the other day she gave me these, loquats. With some research I found that they are also called ‘Japanese Plum’. These small bright yellow fruits are products of the ‘Eriobotrya japonica’ plant. The fruits are only about 2.5 in length and have the shape of a kumquat (though it is not related). The fruit is covered with little fuzzy hairs, very much like a peach. The pulp of the fruit is also a bright yellow almost the same color as the skin. Inside the pulp is a cluster of three large brown seeds which are easily removed. The fruit is delicious, very sweet and juicy! I am not sure I can compare the flavor to any other fruit. The texture is soft and smooth almost like a plum. After trying one I decided to peel the second which was much better since the fuzz of the skin detracts from the smooth pulp. I think these would be wonderful for preserves or pies. In fact, I could also see it cooked into a sauce for savory dishes. I do hope to come across some loquats again soon!

Latest favorite snack

As you will learn, I am quite a sweet tooth! So much so that I still sweeten fruits that are perfectly ripe. My latest sweetening technique was introduced to me by one of my dear friends who happens to be a pastry chef by training. She mixes brown sugar with sour cream and spoons it over fruit. Yum! The brown sugar adds a wonderful sweetness to the tangy sour cream. I have enjoyed this over plums and strawberries and I can’t wait try it over other fruits! In fact, I have been using low fat sour cream since I have been enjoying this a little too often.

To make this I use about ¼ cup of brown sugar to ¾ cup of sour cream. Stir together the brown sugar and sour cream until the sugar is completely dissolved. Spooned over strawberries this is a great snack which can make even a rainy day feel like summer! Yum!