Archive for June, 2009

Many of my friends including myself had been feeling rather down with the current economic situation. Having to do without things we were so used to having has been painful and downright DEPRESSING ! So,instead of jumping off a pier my husband Larry and I decided to have a party. Knowing full well that we would not be able to duplicate a party on the scale of our tamale mania party (see my first posting), Larry suggested a Street Foods party. This was a great idea since street foods are always cheap and interesting. Plus this kind of made up for my longing to travel which I have not had the moolah to do for some time.

All cultures have street food. Mexico has its fresh mango, jicama,watermelon, cucumber with lime juice and chili powder. Bali has it’s equivalent doused with tamarind sauce. Just about every culture has a bread with meat or vegetable filling dish. Tacos from Mexico, pupusas from El Salvador or barbecue pork buns from China, they’re all a form of sandwich but much more interesting.

Larry had been trying out a number of Street Foods recipes from Tom Kine’s book of the same name. As a result our appetites were whetted to continue our discoveries. What better way than to invite friends along on our adventure.

We invited 8 guests to bring a street food entree. Larry did not dictate nor ask what they would be bringing. I tend to be more of a control freak and would have at least had them tell me what they were planning to bring but since the theme was his idea I did’nt push. I still shudder remembering college day pot lucks where some twit would bring a box of frozen peas………. However since I wanted to keep our marriage intact and I knew the caliber of folks being invited ( all foodies) I put aside my insecurity issues. Later in the week before the party I found out that Larry would be making pakoras and lamb meatballs with sour cherries. Kris and Sandra said they would bring Salvadorean pupusas and Peter said he would bring knishes.

Okay so now I knew about at least three cultures that would be represented. The other two dishes would be surprises. I proposed to Larry that I provide the beginning nibbles as well as the in between palate refreshers between countries. He could set up music to go with each culture. That man has an incredible eclectic CD library of music !

Before the party I put out bowls of spiced cashews, a crunchy chat mixture as well as a stack of paper-thin crispy chili pepper pappadams that I had purchased from the Indian market in Fremont. I served the pappadams with a lime- cucumber yoghurt sauce to tone down the heat of those chilies. These kept the guests entertained while Larry finished frying the pakoras.

As we sat and ate the sweet potato and onion filled pakoras with freshly made chutney, Larry’s niece arrived with her entree of feather light zucchini meatballs in a rich masala tomato cream sauce. That fit in just perfectly with the Gypsy music from India playing in the background.

Next culture introduced was Latin America.

I set out a platter of fresh mango, pineapple and jicama slices that had been drizzled with lime juice and a sprinkle of chili powder. A jug of water with orange peels was also offered at this intermission

Dan and Elaine served mini soft tacos with three types of fillings. There were small chunks of spicy pork pastor, mildly flavored shredded chicken and crunchy roasted pork carnitas. They even brought the little plastic containers that held cilantro, tomatillo salsa and limes. Elaine put a dollop of sour cream over each taco to fancy them up.

Next came Salvadorean pupusas from Kris and Sandra. The soft corn flour griddled patties were filled with three different fillings;cheese, pork and cheese and cheese and refried beans. Hot and oozy with the melted cheese in it we mounded curtido, a tart and crunchy pickled cabbage relish with a drizzzle of salsa over each slice and popped them in our mouths. It was much more fun to eat them with our fingers.

Intermission time for the Middle East. I served a salad of arugula, parsley, orange sections and shredded carrots sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds* to clear everyone’s palate. A chilled jug of water with cucumbers was also presented.

Deborah, a new friend, brought freshly baked pita bread with a very rich yogurt sauce to accompany her lamb meatballs that had coriander, cumin and mint in them. They were perfectly round, bouncy, subtle and so light. We put a dollop of her sauce on the meatballs and wiped up the remaining sauce with the warm pita slices. After we had taken our time tasting and commenting on Deborah’s meatballs we tried Larry’s Turkish lamb meatballs*. They were more rustic in appearance and were more dramatic in taste spiced with garlic, chili,onions and coriander. A sauce that was tart and sweet with cherries and pomegranate molasses accompanied these meatballs. People could not decide which meatballs they liked better and a draw was called between the two types.

Finally the last entree arrived hot, crisp and elegant. Knishes a New York school boy would never have recognized but hey ! we’re in California and damn they were great! But before we cut into them we had to have a toast to the immigrant Jewish folks who brought us the original creation. A toast was made followed by a shot of Polish vodka that had been chilled in the freezer ! Nastrovya ! Nobody knew what that meant but it seemed the right thing to say. Okay back to that exquisite knish. Rich mashed potato infused with carmelized onions was draped over with a crisply glazed puff pastry. It was sublime! How fitting to end our eating travels with a dish that spoke of the sweetness of life and simplicity of a potato.

Our dessert, served with coffee and tea was cold slices of honeydew melon lightly sprinkled with rose water and a platter of ripe peaches, plums, apricots and cherries.

We had eaten, drunk copious amount of wine, beer and mulberry soda, conversed, laughed, sang, parried and communed for over 6 hours.

We were full of food and life. Forgotten was what we had to give up, remembered was the joy of being with like minded people enjoying a simple meal of street foods.

Hoping you will make the time to commune with loved ones over a meal, simple or extravagant .

* Recipes for the arugula salad and lamb meatballs with the sour cherries can be found in Tom Kine’s book “Street food”.

A number of the dishes were purchased. That was okay with me since the primary purpose was for us to have fun and eat together. The next time I do this however, I will send suggestions and recipes to people I invite. I used this approach with an Indonesian party I coordinated years ago and had spectacular results.

The tacos and pupusas were purchased from local street food vendors. Those exquisite knishes were purchased from Saul’s Deli in Berkeley. I picked up the spiced cashews and chat mix from an incredible Indian restaurant called Kabila in Union City. An assortment of pappadams can be purchased at Indian markets.

Here are recipes for my nibbles and refreshers for the party. They can be made in a flash for impromptu entertaining.

Pappadams with yogurt dip

Microwave the pappadam wafers for anywhere from .25 seconds or more depending upon the intensity of your microwave. You can also fry them but that would add more fat and who needs more fat ?

Serve with cucumber-lime yogurt dip———–Enough for l pkg of pappadams

1 cup low fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup shredded cucumber ( no seeds, no skin)
juice from 2 Persian limes
grated rind from l lime
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Combine all ingredients. Taste and adjust with more lime juice or more cucumber.
The purpose of this dip is to provide a cooling counterpoint to the pepperiness of the pappadam.

chili pepper pappadams with yogurt sauce

chili pepper pappadams with yogurt sauce

Fruit skewers with lime and chili powder

Choose ripe mangos that are firm to the touch. Don’t get them too soft ! One thing I look for is a little bit of oozing clear sticky liquid coming from the stem area. If the skin is green that is okay. Often times the mango is ripe under the green skin. The main thing is to gently press it and see if it has a little give to it. I like to buy either Tommy Atkins or Hayden mangos. I don’t use the manilla type mangos, they are a bit to musky for this dish. Peel the mangos and cut them into 1/2 inch half moon shaped wedges.

Slice a ripe pineapple into 1/2 inch thick wedges. Cut them into 2-3 inch long pieces for easy handling.

Peel and cut up 1 inch thick cubes of jicama. Spear a wedge of pineapple, mango and jicama at the end of a bamboo skewer. Drizzle FRESH lime juice over them and lightly sprinkle chili powder over the fruit.

Mango/pineapple/jicama with lime/chili

Mango/pineapple/jicama with lime/chili

Honeydew melon with rose water

Chill the melon. Make sure it is cold when served. Cut in one inch wedges after being seeded. Sprinkle or douse ,depending upon your whim or intentions*, rosewater and serve immediately.

Honeydew with rosewater

Honeydew with rosewater

For refresher intent, I like to have a light touch. For seduction purposes I like to use a heavier hand.

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