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Hungriest Foodie: May, 2015

 

May 9, 2015

Issue 12: May/June 2015

Bridget-Shanahan__beetsricemeat_Edible-Baja-Arizona_01

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Food Is Love

Great food isn’t just about the skillful assembly of ingredients. It is about the energy around the food and the energy you put into it. I know this sounds woo-woo but I really believe food tastes better when love is involved. And I think that’s why Little Café Poca Cosa (151 N. Stone Ave.) is one of the best restaurants in Baja Arizona. I always get the chef’s choice, the Plato, and it’s never disappointed me. On a recent visit, Sandra Davila, the gregarious owner, rushed over to the stereo and turned the music up really loud, yelling, “If you say that you don’t love Neil Diamond, you are a LIAR!” The love in this place is brimming. You get hugged when you come in. You probably get hugged again when you leave. What they do under that roof is not just gastronomical, it is medicinal.

New in Baja Arizona

Bridget-Shanahan__smallcastironpotnoodles_Edible-Baja-Arizona_05The restaurant renaissance shows no sign of simmering down in Tucson. The new Ermanos (220 N. Fourth Ave.) is a craft beer and wine bar—but the food is brilliant. Dishes are perfectly proportioned and easy to eat with a beer. This isn’t standard bar food. At the soft opening, I had the Grilled Shishito Peppers and the Gnocchi & Cheese, which comes with poblano chiles and herbs, served in a tiny cast iron pot. Ermanos is also doing a fair amount of local sourcing, including beef from Double Check Ranch.

Bridget-Shanahan__pizza_Edible-Baja-Arizona_04The upswing in the food scene is not limited to new restaurants. Renee’s Organic Oven (7065 E. Tanque Verde Road), an old Tucson favorite, is now offering weekday breakfast. The menu balances creative use of ingredients and reinterpretations of breakfast standards with the expected comfort of breakfast. There are also several breakfast cocktails to take the edge off any hungry body angst you might have.

Bridget-Shanahan__cuttingboard_Edible-Baja-Arizona_02Bodega Kitchen & Wine at St. Philip’s Plaza (4340 N. Campbell Ave.), closed in late February of this year, and almost immediately Amalour Revival Lounge sprung up in its place. The food and drink menu is totally new and sources many ingredients locally—as local as a few doors down (Flying Leap and Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamics reside in the same plaza). My girlfriend, Katy, and I shared the Cheddar & Pear Bruschetta and the Apple, Beet, & Blue Salad. Ingredients are fresh and paired nicely with our midday Sazerac and Old Fashioned. The patio looks like an amazing place to spend some pleasant hours winding down with the sunset.

Bridget-Shanahan__sushi_Edible-Baja-Arizona_06Reminiscing about the Sea

I was born in Astoria, Oregon. My grandmother owned a fish cannery—I have a need in my heart for fresh fish. And the fish that satisfies this need more than any other is salmon. Like Golem of Lord of the Rings, I prefer my fish raw, so you can find me hunting for sashimi at sushi places about Tucson. Salmon has such a wonderful flavor and texture that you don’t need much else besides the tiniest bit of soy sauce. An early dinner recently brought Katy and me to Kazoku Sushi & Japanese Cuisine (4210 E. Speedway Blvd). Luckily, Katy prefers tuna sashimi so I get to eat most of the salmon and nobody has to get hurt. Nothing pairs with sushi like Sapporo, a Japanese rice lager that even non-beer lovers can appreciate.

Bridget-Shanahan__tacos_Edible-Baja-Arizona_07As a lover of the ocean, it does weigh heavy on my heart that we are overfishing and polluting the oceans so that the ability to enjoy seafood may soon become a thing of the past. One restaurant that is trying to source its seafood from sustainable sources is Fini’s Landing (5689 N. Swan Road). They only sell fish from recognized sustainable fisheries, following guidelines from the likes of Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, and Green Chefs, Blue Ocean. We ate a mess of tacos (and some hot wings) and our wallets were not considerably taxed by a somewhat less guilt-ridden seafood indulgence.

Botanical Explorations

Bridget-Shanahan__onionandjars_Edible-Baja-Arizona_03I am a botanist; my favorite places to hunt for species I don’t know are import markets in Tucson. I had been writing about garbanzo beans when I came across a darker, wild sister: the Bengal gram. I found this more protein-rich bean at Nur Market (3565 E. Speedway Blvd.) I loaded up on spices like curry, turmeric, and cardamom (they didn’t have asafetida, which I got at the Food Conspiracy Cooperative, 412 N. Fourth Ave). My aim on this day was to make a black chickpea curry. After soaking the beans overnight with a bit of baking soda (to soften them up), I pressure-cooked them for about 25 minutes and made a curry sauce in a medium of tomatoes. Nothing makes the house smell as good as cooking curry—minus the brief moment before the asafetida joins the other flavors; if you haven’t used asafetida before, it stinks horribly on its own but somehow magically adds a depth of umami. It is a great substitute for onion or garlic in any dish but is a spice you want to make sure is in a well-sealed container. The cuisines of the Middle East, Africa, and India have a lot in common with our own: the prominence of legumes and chili peppers, the use of flatbreads (like tortillas, naan, or injera), and the not-so-subtle use of spices. Many great chefs are starting to play with cross-pollinating these cuisines and I very much enjoy doing the same. Here is my recipe for black chickpea curry:

Hungriest Foodie's Chickpea Curry
Print Recipe
Indian -style lentil curry, as mentioned in the May/June 2015 issue of Edible Baja Arizona magazine.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes At least 5 hours
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes At least 5 hours
Hungriest Foodie's Chickpea Curry
Print Recipe
Indian -style lentil curry, as mentioned in the May/June 2015 issue of Edible Baja Arizona magazine.
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes At least 5 hours
Servings Prep Time
4-6 people 10 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes At least 5 hours
Ingredients
Chickpea Ingredients
Sauce Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
Cooking the Chickpeas
  1. I start off by soaking the chickpeas in a solution of water and sodium bicarbonate otherwise known as baking soda, overnight. Use about double the water with a large pinch of baking soda. This helps soften up the chickpeas and starts a sprouting process. They won’t totally sprout, but the chemical process that is started within the seed is gearing it up to sprout. We take advantage of this chemical process to make them easier to cook and digest.
  2. After seeds have been soaked overnight, or during the day (at least 5 hours), drain water, rinse chickpeas, and add to your pressure cooker with about double the amount of water, cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. Optionally, you can also add in a few chili peppers to taste for a kick.
  3. If you have not used a pressure cooker before, please consult instructions. Start burner on high until water is boiling and cooker is hissing. Then turn to lowest setting and cook the chickpeas for about 20-30 minutes--basically until they are soft and you can smash them easily with your fingers. When they are done, drain enough water that there isn’t more than enough to cover the chickpeas. Don’t drain all the water. Remove the bay leaf, cardamom and cinnamon stick.
Making the Curry Sauce
  1. Take a can of whole, canned tomatoes and cut up into small pieces. You don’t have to be too thorough, the tomatoes will cook down. Set aside.
  2. While the chickpeas are cooking, take an iron skillet with some coconut oil and a dash or two of toasted sesame oil and heat up on medium high. Add in the cumin seeds, black peppercorns and mustard seed. Cook until they start to crackle or get dark brown.
  3. Add the curry, paprika and coriander and toast, stirring quickly. If oil is sucked up, add a little bit more. The house will start to smell amazing about now.
  4. Add in onions, garlic and a little bit more oil so that you can cook the onions until translucent.
  5. Add in tomatoes, salt and asafoetida, turn down heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. Once the sauce is cooked add it to the chickpeas in the pressure cooker and cook on low heat with lid on for about another 5 minutes.
  7. Eat as is, or add a blob of yogurt, sour cream or Crème fraîche in the middle of the bowl.
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Jared R. McKinley is the associate publisher of Edible Baja Arizona.







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