Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Kinder, Gentler Barbecue

Tonight sounded like a good night for barbecue. Some cool ghosty shows were coming on and I wanted something fun and simple. So, I made this:

Crock Pot Barbecue Tofu


2 containers firm or extra firm tofu, pressed
1 1/2 cups ketchup
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Simple enough. Reviews were mixed. My daughter and I thought it was okay, non-vegan hubby ate two sandwiches and youngest son loved it. If I were to make it again, I would use extra firm tofu and freeze it first to get a more chewy consistency. I had to buy firm because the grocery store was out of extra firm. I'd also half the red pepper flakes because everyone, other than my daughter who loves spicy stuff!, thought it was too spicy.

The next day I had a thought that it would be good over rice. I spooned some into my food processor, added a little water and made a slurry. Mixed it in with some leftover rice and liked it much better.

The origins of the word *barbecue* are, well, not interesting so much as curious. The most plausible theory states that the word "barbecue" is a derivative of the West Indian term "barbacoa," which denotes a method of slow-cooking meat over hot coals. Bon Appetit magazine blithely informs its readers that the word comes from an extinct tribe in Guyana who enjoyed "cheerfully spitroasting captured enemies." The Oxford English Dictionary traces the word back to Haiti, and others claim (somewhat implausibly) that "barbecue" actually comes from the French phrase "barbe a queue", meaning "from head to tail." Proponents of this theory point to the whole-hog cooking method espoused by some barbecue chefs. Tar Heel magazine posits that the word "barbecue" comes from a nineteenth century advertisement for a combination whiskey bar, beer hall, pool establishment and purveyor of roast pig, known as the BAR-BEER-CUE-PIG (Bass 313). The most convincing explanation is that the method of roasting meat over powdery coals was picked up from indigenous peoples in the colonial period, and that "barbacoa" became "barbecue" in the lexicon of early settlers. Due to the rather murky etymology of the term *barbecue*, and its constant association with meat, I'd like to find another word. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Renewal and Ratatouille

Isn't this season just fantastic? We are so loving the cooler temps here. Renewal seems to be the word of the day for me, so with that in mind I have been vigorously and furiously cleaning and scrubbing and reorganizing my kitchen. Not wanting to have to stop this frenzy early for meal preparation, I decided this week to make all of the meals in the crockpot. One, it is just so simple and convenient, and two, it permeates the house with the most mouth-watering and delicious smells! My first recipe for the week is ratatouille.

Ratatouille Crockpot

•1 eggplant, peeled and 1 inch dice
•2 medium onion, chopped
•1 green bell pepper, 1/2 inch dice
•1 red bell pepper, 1/2 inch dice
•1 yellow bell pepper, 1/2 inch dice
•3 zucchini squash, sliced
•3 tbsp olive oil
•3 tbsp dried basil
•4 cloves garlic, minced
•1/2 tsp ground black pepper
•6 oz tomato paste
•1/2 tsp salt
•2 cups fresh tomatoes

Sprinkle eggplant with salt and let it drain in a colander about 1 hour. Press out excess moisture. Rinse with water and pat dry using paper towels. Place in crockpot then add onion, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, olive oil, basil, garlic, and salt then mix well. Cover and cook on low 7 hours, or on high for 3 hours. Serve over hot cooked rice.

The sprinkling with salt and draining was probably unnecessary, but I did it anyway. I substituted the green bell pepper with an orange one, just for fun and additional color. It went very well with bread buttered with Earth Balance and iced green tea. This one is definitely a keeper!

A little bit of fascinating history about ratatouille:

The word Ratatouille actually comes from the french term "touiller," which means to toss food or to stir up.

Ratatouille originated in the area around present day Nice and is now eaten throughout Languedoc and Provence. It was originally a meal made by poor farmer's (in essence it started out life as a peasant dish), and was prepared in the summer with fresh summer vegetables. The first appearance of the word in English was found in Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery, 1877.

The original and simplest form of Ratatouille used only zucchini, tomatoes, green and red peppers (bell peppers), onions, and garlic.

Today eggplant is usually added to the list of ingredients.

It can be served warm or cold. My son actually ate some at room temperature and still thought it was delicious.
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