Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rosie Makes Tortilla Soup.

After having a taste of the Chicken Tortilla Soup at Ortegaz
the other day, I wanted to do my version of Tortilla Soup.
My ingredients:
homemade chicken consomme thawing in the background
 red onion
shaved slices of pork
 (Already cooked, but you could use raw.
Just cook longer when you put it in the soup.)
Oops. Almost forgot the cilantro.
I sliced two tortillas into strips.
Fried the strips.
Drained on paper towels.
And if you like,
you could sprinkle some cumin on the strips while they're still wet.
 Now the next thing I'm doing is cool.
I got an email from my friend Marion this morning
 about fried avocado wedges.
I only needed half of the avocado for my soup
 so I cut the other half into little wedges,
 rolled them in Panko bread crumbs, and fried them.

Fry until golden brown.
 Drain on paper towels.
I heated my consomme to wisping steam and added in a few scoops of rice.
Then the pork went in.
 If you're using raw pork, simmer the soup until pork is done.
 Maybe two or three minutes if you have very thin slivers.
I chopped some red onion, tomato, and cilantro.
'maters go in.
Red onion in.
Cilantro in.
And finally the chopped avocado.
 Do not cook the avocado.
 Turn off the heat and just barely heat through.
Serve with thin slices of lime, fried tortilla strips,
perhaps a sprinkling of cumin, and the fried avocado.
What can I say?
 This is one of those dishes
 which has a whole lot of flavors going on
 and you can taste each flavor separately,
 but all together, you have an awesome synergy
where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Fried avocados have to be the ultimate comfort food.
Creamy, smooth goodness on the inside.
Fried crunchiness on the outside.
I believe endorphins were released.
Avocados are high in calories and fat.
 A single avocado has over 700 calories and over 30 grams of fat.
No wonder they're so damn good.
 Despite the high caloric and fat content,
adding avocado to your diet packs a beneficial punch
 that outweighs the calories and fat.
Avocados contain potassium, folate,
 monosaturated fats and are high in fiber (10 grams).
 Folate is a B vitamin that has been proven
 to prevent serious birth defects for pregnant women.
 Fiber helps to prevent high blood pressure,
 heart disease, and certain types of cancer, particularly colon cancer.
Avocados also contain lots of potassium
(30% more potassium than a banana).
Potassium is beneficial by lowering
the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and cancer.
The monosaturated fats contain oleic acid
 which has been found to improve fat levels
 in the body and can help control diabetes.
 By having avocado as their primary source of fat in the diet,
diabetes sufferers can lower their triglycerides by up to 20%.
 In addition, the monosaturated fats in avocados
are good for lowering cholesterol.
Also a low fat diet containing avocados
 has been shown to lower levels
 of dangerous low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
 and raise the level of healthy high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
 And now I battered and fried all this goodness!
What's not to love?
I loved when I pressed the lime slices
with my spoon it released limey goodness in the soup.
Just enough to appreciate.
 Excellent soup.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fun At The North Carolina Aquarium.

Mr. Hawthorne and I traveled to Manteo last Tuesday for our first class in a seafood series at the North Carolina Aquarium.
This is where Andy Griffith lives - beyond the gates at the end of the crape myrtle-lined drive.
We got to the aquarium a bit early, so I had a chance to wonder through and shoot some more pictures. I've never posted about the Heroes of the Outer Banks - The Pea Island Lifesavers.
My regular readers may recall a post I did about the Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony. And also here. Back in the late 1800's, some of Roanoke Island's black army veterans - men whose families had lived in the Freedmen's Colony - found jobs as surfmen in the United States Life Saving Service. The Pea Island Station was one of seven stations along North Carolina's coast. Up until 1880, the black men served along side whites at various stations along the coast in integrated or "checkerboard" crews. In 1880, the general superintendent of the US Life Saving Service, Sumner Kimball, appointed Richard Etheridge keeper of the Pea Island Station. The Pea Island crew soon gained a reputation for being the bravest life-saving crew on the Carolina coast. Richard Etheridge was born a slave on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, property of John B. Etheridge. Due to the non-existence of large plantations on the Outer Banks, blacks were relatively few and slavery limited. Like most Outer Bankers, Etheridge learned to work the sea, fishing, piloting boats, and combing the beach for refuse from wrecks. His master also taught him to read and right, even though it was illegal to do so. After fighting began between the states in 1861, the Outer Banks was the site of one of the first Northern invasions in February 1862 under General Ambrose Burnside. Burnside, the Union commander, used black labor to build fortifications for his armies and Roanoke Island soon became a refugee camp for fugitive slaves. The Union recognized the potential that the active recruitment of Southern blacks offered their forces - not only by bolstering Union ranks but simultaneously diminishing the labor supply of the opposition. Black troops started enlisting in the summer of 1863 and Richard Etheridge joined the 36th United States Colored Troops. The 36th distinguished itself in the 1864 Battle of New Market Heights, Va., overrunning Lee's position and securing an important victory on the road to taking the Confederate capital at Richmond. Two days after the battle, Etheridge was promoted to sergeant. Etheridge was also active in the behind-the-lines struggle to end the mistreatment of blacks. In 1865, Etheridge and William Benson drafted the following letter to General Oliver Howard, the Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, protesting the treatment the blacks were suffering from at the hands of the Union army: "The white soldiers break into our houses act as they please steal our chickens rob our gardens and if any one defends their-Selves against them they are taken to the gard house for it. so our familys have no protection when Mr. Streeter is here to protect them and will not do it... General we the soldiers of the 36th U.S. Co Troops having familys at Roanoke Island humbly petition you to favour us by removeing Mr Streeter the present Asst Supt at Roanoke Island under Captn James." Etheridge signed the letter, "in behalf of humanity." In 1866, Etheridge left the service and returned to the Outer Banks, making his living fishing and serving in the newly-formed Life Saving Service, first at Oregon Inlet in 1875, then at Bodie Island. The U.S. Life Saving Service was formed in 1871 to assure safe passage of Americans and international shipping interests and to save both lives and cargo. Stations were located along the beaches of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, later known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." In the early years of the Life Saving Service, many appointments were tainted by cronyism and nepotism. In 1879, the keeper of Pea Island was a white man who had a crew of both white and black men. A series of highly publicized maritime disasters occured off the North Carolina coast. In two months, 188 lives and more than half a million dollars in property was lost off the Outer Banks, within sight of and with little assistance from the lifesavers on the shore. It was reported in the New York World, "It begins to be painfully clear that the terrible loss of Human life on the North Carolina coast ... must be attributed directly to the inefficiency of the Life Saving Service." In November 1879, a rescue effort was bungled, and the keeper and some of the crew were held responsible. And investigation was conducted by the Revenue Cutter Service, the white keeper was fired, and Richard Etheridge, one of the best surfmen on the North Carolina coast, was appointed keeper. Etheridge was one of only eight blacks in the Life Saving Service and he was promoted from the lowest ranking surfman at Bodie Island station to take over the incompetently run station at Pea Island. The Life Saving Service recommended Etheridge to the position, despite warnings from locals, writing: "Richard Etheridge is 38 years of age, has the reputation of being as good a surfman as there is on this coast, black or white, can read and write intelligently, and bears a good name as a man among the men with whom he has associated during his life. I am fully convinced that the interests of the Life Saving Service here, in point of efficiency, will be greatly advanced by the appointment of this man to the Keepership of Station No. 17." Richard Etheridge was the first African American to hold the rank of keeper of a life saving station. Under the racial standards of the times, this meant the entire crew under his command would have to be black.
Etheridge recruited, trained, and led a crew of African Americans at Station 17, the only all-black station in the nation. Though civilian attitudes towards Etheridge and his men ranged from curiosity to outrage, the Pea Island crew figured among the most courageous surfmen in the service, performing many daring rescues from 1880 to the closing of the station in 1947. The accomplishments of these brave men, and others like them, led to the formation of the United States Coast Guard. Within 5 months after Etheridge took charge, arsonists burned the station to the ground. Knowing the scrutiny he was under and that the slightest error could result in his or one of his crewmen's dismissal and reinstatement of a white keeper and crew, Etheridge ran the station with exacting preparation and military ardor. Etheridge's exceptional leadership skills, vigorous efforts, rigorous training drills, and the crew's strong work ethic paid off the night of October 11, 1896, during a hurricane, when the schooner "E. S. Newman" grounded south of the station. The captain of the vessel had his wife and three-year old child on board when it was driven ashore. Beach patrols had been suspended due to the ferocity of the storm, but Theodore Meekins, a surfman, thought he saw a distress signal. Meekins fired off a Coston flare and as Etheridge and Meekins carefully watched, the schooner acknowledged with a flare of its own. With the help of a mule team, the Pea Island crew pulled the wagon with rescue equipment and surfboat towards where the distress signal had been seen, the huge waves making this especially difficult. Arriving at the scene of the wreck, the wave conditions were so great that the surfboat could not be launched. A breaches buoy could not be used either because an anchor for the buoy line could not be placed in the sand due to the relentless inundation of waves. Two of the surfman volunteered to swim out in an attempt to reach the wreck. They eventually accomplished this and managed to heave a line aboard. Nine times the surfmen went into the water, and starting with the captain's child, each and every passenger was rescued. According to local lore, Meekins was reputedly the best swimmer of the group and made every voyage out to the Newman. The Newman's captain searched for days for the piece of the side which held the vessel's name. He finally found it and donated it to the crew as an offering of this thanks. For 100 years, this would be the only award the Pea Island crew would receive for their efforts. The crew voted to give the wooden sideboard to Theodore Meekins, the young surfman who first spotted the distress signal and who swam out numerous times to the vessel during the rescue. Meekins nailed the board at the top of his barn on his farm on Roanoke Island. He served at Pea Island for 21 more years until his death in 1917. While boating home on leave, a storm came up at Oregon Inlet, and, ironically, Meekins drowned trying to swim to shore. Etheridge served as Pea Island Keeper for twenty years. At age 58, he fell ill and died at the station. Pea Island continued to be manned by an all-black crew through World War II. After the war, in 1946, the station was decommissioned . Its crews had saved more than 600 lives and outperformed all other lifesaving stations. In 1996, the Coast Guard awarded the Gold Life-Saving Medal, the services highest peacetime honor, posthumously to the keeper and crew of the Pea Island Station for the rescue of the people of the E. S. Newman. It is interesting to note that it took the tenacity of a 15 year-old middle school student from Washington, N.C. to shed light on the heroism and brave efforts of the surfmen. Kate Burkhart wrote an award-winning essay about the Pea Island lifesavers, then wrote to Senator Jesse Helms to request they be honored. She lobbied members of Congress and President Clinton in a process that culminated in the members of the Pea Island station receiving their long-overdue gold medal at a March 1996 Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. Family members of the crew received certificates and the last surviving surfman of the Pea Island crew, 82 year old William Bowser was present, in addition to the Commander of the Coast Guard and Kate Burkhart. Etheridge and his family are buried at the Pea Island Life Saving Station memorial on the grounds of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. Here's an interesting trailer from a documentary made about the Rescue Men of Pea Island. This documentary is actually debuting tonight at Roanoke Island Festival Park. Now, I need to go to the Museum in Manteo honoring the Pea Island lifesavers. And here's the N C Aquarium's display about the Lifesavers of Pea Island.
Now let's take a stroll through the aquarium. Enjoy.
I love this part of the aquarium.
Sleeping otter.
Enjoy the videos.
Little Miss Myrtle the Turtle.
The otters recognized Myrtle's voice and got all excited.
Shark tank:

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Hawthornes And Xmaskatie Attend Cooking Class At The NC Aquarium. Seafood Enchiladas!

I'm excited because Tuesday was our first cooking class in a series at the North Carolina Aquarium. We've attended these for the past two years and I've been eagerly anticipating the start of this year's series. Chefs Todd Riddick and Jim Smith of Mama Kwan's Grill and Tiki Bar presented the demonstration. And lookee!
We have perks!
A lei, a mug, a T-shirt! Ah. The bar is raised. Today's meal is Seafood Enchilada. Listen up, Ange in Wisconsin. You're going to like this. Ange in Wisconsin often challenges me with her Just Ask Rosie questions. And back in December, Ange wanted Rosie to make enchiladas and lasagna. Here's my first attempt. Then I made a shrimp enchilada which according to Wikipedia is questionable. My third attempt. And here's the lasagna I made. Back to Mama Kwan's cooking demo.
I snapped a shot of some of the ingredients on the counter. Heavy cream, Sriracha Sauce, kidney beans, cilantro, onions, peppers, tomatoes, lemons, limes, Romaine, green onions, and tortillas. I haven't mentioned this before in my posts about these classes, but before we actually start on the cooking demonstration, Beth, the wonderful, efficient, and knowledgeable NC Aquarium Activities/Program Coordinator/Educator, always explains the fish in question. She presents an extremely informative, enlightening, and interesting discourse on the seafood. For example, I learned that rockfish are anadromous. That means they live in the ocean, but spawn in rivers. In fact, fish are classified as to their migration patterns. From Wiki:


Fish can migrate vertically, up and down the water column, or horizontally, across oceans or along rivers. Many marine species make daily, or diel vertical migrations (Latin: 'Dies' is day).

Classification of horizontally migrating fish:

  • potamodromous fish migrate within fresh water only (Greek: Potamos is river and dromos is 'a running').
  • oceanodromous fish migrate within salt water only (Greek: 'Oceanos' is ocean).
  • diadromous fish travel between salt and fresh water (Greek: 'Dia' is between).
  • anadromous fish live in the ocean mostly, and breed in fresh water (Greek: 'Ana' is up; The noun is "anadromy")
  • catadromous fish live in fresh water, and breed in the ocean (Greek: 'Kata' is down)
  • amphidromous fish move between fresh and salt water during their life cycle, but not to breed (Greek: 'Amphi' is both)
I don't know about you, but I always want to know where the fish I'm eating goes to spawn.
Chef Jim Smith preps the veggies.
In the bowl above are the beginnings of the enchilada filling. It's cream cheese with a sauteed onion mixture. Chef Riddick, commentator, (Sadly, he was out of commission for cooking due to the cast on his right hand.) reiterated Beth's comments about sustainable fisheries, management of fisheries for long-term viability, the importance of buying fish caught locally, and adherence to seafood availability. Check here to see the 2009 stock status of coastal NC fisheries. No recipe, per se, was given, but I'll have some instructions at the end - my interpretation of what Chefs Riddick and Smith did and Beth's frantic printing on the computer/overhead projector-like thingie while Chef Riddick was giving her the ingredients list. Good job, Beth on a totally user-UNFRIENDLY, (Microsoft, I'm sure) piece of software carnage. Oh wait! I meant the software is carnage. Not Beth's use of it. She was extremely adept. They're serving about 20 enchiladas here and Beth is putting up the ingredients for 10 enchiladas.
First, the ingredients for 10 servings: 2 lbs cream cheese 2 cups shredded pepper jack 1 qt heavy cream garlic 1 cup white wine 3 lb rockfish butter lemons limes 1/2 cup fresh cilantro 1/2 cup scallions 1 jalapeno, fine dice 2 peppers (The chefs used yellow and orange.) sweet onion 3 tomatoes 1 head of romaine tortillas I doubt if any of you out there would be making ten servings of this, so adjust accordingly. Taste as you go along. You know - cook. It ain't rocket science. Here's the method: Basically you're going to saute your onions and add them to cream cheese, then saute the peppers and add to the cream cheese. Next, cook your rockfish and combine it with the cream cheese, sauteed onions and peppers, and fill the tortillas with the mixture. A cheese and cream sauce (Alfredo) is poured over top. More cheddar/jack cheese is sprinkled, then it goes back into the oven to melt the cheese. The enchilada is served over a bed of rice and beans. Sriracha sauce, enchilada sauce, chopped tomatoes and romaine accompany the enchiladas. Chef Jim Smith preps the veggies. Let's start with the Alfredo Sauce: Melt some butter. Add a few minced cloves of garlic. Add in heavy cream Bring to a boil, whisking. Add shredded cheddar/jack cheese slowly, whisking, to melt. Done. Keep warm. If you need help with amounts, just Google Alfredo Sauce. Here's one: Alfredo Sauce. Instead of Parmesan, sub cheddar/jack. And here are a bunch more. Now, for the rockfish: Put your rockfish in a buttered baking dish. Add white wine and dot with butter. Add salt and pepper, garlic, cumin, cayenne, and lime and/or lemon. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Chef Smith prepares the seafood. It's rockfish, AKA striped bass. He's adding butter, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, cayenne, lime/lemon juice, white wine, salt and pepper. Next, let's start on the filling for the enchiladas: Disclaimer: For the following semi/half-assed "recipes," I offer suggested amounts of ingredients for the enchiladas. The chefs from Mama Kwan's made about 20 enchiladas. I'm trying to adjust to two - four (?) servings for you. As always, you taste as you go along. Build up your flavors the way you like. My amounts are merely suggestions. Saute in oil/butter: onion, chopped (1) garlic, minced (2-3 cloves) cumin (maybe a tsp) salt and pepper (a sprinkling of freshly ground) 5-7 minutes Add mixture to room-temperature cream cheese (maybe 1 - 2 packages) Saute: chopped pepper (Maybe 1/4 each red, orange, yellow, green) green onions (2) cilantro (to taste) 2-3 minutes Add in juice of one lime. Add mixture to cream cheese and onion mixture. After cooking the rockfish, add it hot to the cream cheese mixture and mix well. Add more cilantro.
The cooked rockfish went into the cream cheese/onion/pepper mixture.
It gets well-mixed.
Thusly. The filling for the enchiladas is ready. Start on the beans: Saute: jalapeno (One, if you like it hot.) cilantro salt and pepper Add chicken base to intensify. (Chicken base is kinda like a bouillon except it's a paste.) cumin (1/2 tsp) garlic (2-3 cloves, minced) kidney beans, cooked (1 - 2 cups) Add water to cover beans. Simmer a bit. Keep warm.
Back left is a basic cheese, cream sauce. Alfredo. Front right is a vegetable melange.
Back right is the bean thingy. I'm still trying to remember what was front left. Maybe just the skillet with a wisp of oil to slightly tan the tortillas.
Assembly: Check list: tortillas cream cheese/onion/pepper/rockfish mixture bean mixture Jasmine rice chopped tomatoes chopped (I prefer torn.) Romaine The tortillas were heated in a skillet first, a slight film of oil. Then filled. I video'd Chef Smith's rolling technique. Roll up rockfish/cream cheese mixture in tortilla. Top with Alfredo sauce, sprinkle with cheddar/jack cheeses and back into the oven to melt. About 10 minutes. While the enchiladas were heating up, the chefs started plating the dishes. An ice cream scoop of rice. Scoop of the bean mixture on top of that. A squiggly embellishment of sriracha on the plate. A sprinkling of cayenne, paprika, and I swear I thought he said nutmeg, around the outside of the plate.
Then the enchilada was carefully placed so it was leaning against the pile of rice and beans. Enhance with enchilada sauce, a sprinkling of cheese, and chopped tomatoes and chopped romaine.
I thought this was a lovely presentation. BUUUUUTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!! Let me just tell you this, Chefs: I like the little capricious designs and florishes and embellishments on the plate/presentation, but for CRYING OUT LOUD, give me the pretty colors in a cup so I can dip. And indulge.
See the sauce on upper left? The "enchilada sauce?" The chefs were pretty much MUM on that. I asked about it: "Hmmmm. Butter and flour. You know. A roux. Then some enchilada seasonings." Imonna hafta check out Sandra Lee and her enchilada seasoning packets.
Enchiladas filled with a rockfish/cream cheese/onion/garlic/ pepper/cilantro mixture topped with Alfredo sauce and grated cheddar and jack cheeses. A scoop of rice. The bean mixture on top. The enchilada with rockfish, cream cheese, onion, pepper mixture. The romaine and tomato. The miscellaneous cheese gratings. Some cumin, maybe nutmeg, and some cayenne sprinkled on the outside of the plate.
This was delightful.
I'll let you know when I reproduce the enchilada sauce. Shouldn't be too hard. Butter and flour to make a roux, then whisk in some chicken stock and assorted seasonings. I'm thinking chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin. Who knows? Maybe I'll throw in a dash of cinnamon. Rosie can be bad. These enchiladas would be excellent with shrimp, crab meat, or chicken. Bon appetit!