Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Thrift Store Cookery 
The largest thrift store in Alabama is ten minutes from my house. That means happiness. My kids LOVE to go to the thrift store. A year or so ago, I went in their room, which had piles of toys EVERYWHERE. I said, "WHAT is going on in here?" Their response: "We're playing thrift store." OK, my kids MAY be a bit deprived ;o)! It looked JUST like the toy aisle at the thrift store, minus the iffy stuffed animals. On principle, I never bring home anything with faux fur (or real fur). Who knows what kind of critters lurk beneath their cuddliness?! Ick. Although, according to Nathan, since I wear shoes from the thrift store, I really have no such hygiene boundaries. I rely on the posted statement that the shoes have been treated, and so far no foot fungus, so we're good! ;o)

One of the places I always stop is the cookbook aisle. Over the years, I've learned what I'm looking for. I'll always grab a Taste of Home (but they are NEVER in our thrift store). I brush by the gazillion old Weight Watchers cookbooks, the trendy Rachel Ray stuff, the many "Cooking with Rosie" books. I peruse happily the old community/church cookbooks. Although occasionally I find their editors to be desperate for material. One I have literally has this recipe: "Jack's Special" Get in your car and drive to Jack's. Go through the drive through. 1 bacon cheeseburger and 1 package fries. Best fast food in town. Not only is this debatable, but that is the classic sign of a desperate editor filling space. I mean, didn't ANYONE have a potato salad recipe laying around their house they could have loaned this poor woman?

 But occasionally I'll find a gem. One that will revolutionize how I cook for years and years. I'm not utterly devoid of creativity, but it doesn't thrive on scrapbooking and arranging flowers. I love to cook. Putting ingredients together and pulling out something truly mouth-wateringly special is such fun. If I need to relax, I head to the kitchen. So introducing my two favorite ethnic cookbooks:  

Mexican Family Cooking by Aida Gabilondo I've been looking for this book for years! A.G. grew up a rich child on a Northern Mexican cattle ranch. Her recipes range the gamut of the humble Mexican repasts to the fabulous beef recipes you would expect from a ranch. She has 20 pages of salsa varieties which I am working my way through right now to find our favorite. Sprinkled throughout this goldmine (written in English and not in metrics- which is also helpful) are fascinating snippets from her childhood. Here's the salsa I made yesterday. This is different from any I've tried. The absence of cilantro is interesting. The flavor is GREAT! Here you go:

Cooked Sauce/Salsa Guizada
1 lb. ripe tomatoes (I used 2 1/2 large tomatoes)
1 7 oz. can green chiles
1/2 c. chopped white onion
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. mashed garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed oregano leaves
 Parboil tomatoes in 1/2 c. boiling water to make peeling easier. (OK, boil yourself a 1/2 cup of water, throw in the whole tomatoes and roll them gently around in the water and steam for a minute or two. Run cold water over them, and the peeling is a breeze). Peel and chop tomatoes. Mix tomatoes, canned chiles (I drained mine), and chopped onion and cook, covered for 3 minutes. (I cooked mine for 3 minutes AFTER they started simmering) Season with salt, fresh garlic and oregano (crush the dried oregano between your fingers for great flavor). Now, I used a blender on this mixture, since we don't do 'chunks' in our family. This is mild and great hot or cold. I put a little cream cheese on a ritz cracker and topped it with the hot salsa to test it- yummmmmm!
 The recipe says it keeps indefinitely and freezes well. But don't worry, it's not a big batch, and it won't be around long ;o)
  The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo This is my other favorite find. It's out of print, but if you ever see it, your Chinese food will be the talk of the... house. Nathan's family lived in Beijing for a school year when he was a teenager, and he has a thing for authentic Chinese food. No buffets for him, thank you. He's quite a Chinese foodie/snob ;o) This book teaches ALL the tricks! Velveting chicken (that's what keeps it tender even when it's been stirfried) has revolutionized my attempts with the wok. I'll put that recipe up later.... Happy thrift store cookery!

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