Introduction to Barbecue
Small Reception at Nilo’s Place
January 17, 2014
We have been attempting to establish a bit of a friendly and social atmosphere at the apartment complex in Laem Mae Phim, Thailand. So far we have cleared out the area for the French game, Petanque (Boules), which some of the Swedish and Finnish population here wished to enjoy (I think); the pool is kept in good working order, although I think one of the pumps needs to be replaced again; the fitness center is working, but new equipment is being considered to replace the old equipment Logan’s, the Swedish builder, left behind after we took over the maintenance contract; a few new lounge chairs have replaced the old worn-out outdoor furniture; and finally, the barbecue area, which has been dubbed “Nilo’s Corner” is set up with two grills, a sink, two small round, tables and eight chairs. This barbecue area was the latest addition for outdoor enjoyment. So, it was a matter of introducing the area to those who were interested in grilling in the future and an opportunity for a small get-together.
We agreed to meet at 5:00 p.m. for drinks. Because we did not know who or how many might show up for this small event, we decided to forego the barbecue, but to serve drinks and finger food. We bought beer, bottled water, red wine, plastic cups for wine and plastic cups for beer, paper plates, and serviettes. We decided to keep the menu simple. My husband and I bought all the necessary items for this occasion and, after some discussion and support from one of our friends, we decided to provide the following as finger food.
Mexican Scoop with crackers (tortilla chips are a rare find in this section of the globe)
Fresh vegetables, e.g. carrot sticks, cucumber sticks and small tomatoes to compliment a sour-cream dip
From the Tesco/Lotus bakery, crab and cheese on fresh bread cubes
Vegetables in ham rolls, which one of the residents and friend here, was kind enough to contribute to the event.
I don’t know if it is the weather, the country or the people who come here, but there is a tendency to criticize and, generally a negative atmosphere permeates an otherwise beautiful environment. I thought people would come here to enjoy themselves – engage in golf, walks, swimming, tennis, enjoy good Thai food, attempt to learn bits and pieces of the language, and thrive in the sun and warm weather. A lot of people come here and their first course of action is to “teach these people” (Thais). I think it is an odd and an old imperialistic attitude – “These people need to learn!” Basta. To countermand that attitude, my husband and I decided (with the kind help and support of friends) to sponsor a small get-together around the barbecue area. Around 30+ people came and everyone seemed to be positively inspired, or so I like to flatter myself into thinking. At least, so far we have had NO COMPLAINTS! Again, basta!
We have several people employed here at the apartment complex: We have the guards manning the gate at the guardhouse; the cleaners who keep the walkways, back terraces, as well as the pool area tidy and clean; there is a pool man who cleans every morning and does general maintenance work; two gardeners; another talented all-around handy man with a wonderful, smiling attitude; and last and vital to our well-being here, we have a juristic person who overseas the running of the compound. All the employees seem to be pleasant, capable people. So, for this event, the two cleaners and the juristic person helped out by handing out plates, drinks and keeping the place tidy.
I can’t remember when the event ended, but we did go out to eat to a wonderful Thai restaurant where we enjoyed garlic prawns, sweet and sour fish and steamed rice. Actually, it is cooked rice, but we seem to always refer to it as “steamed rice.”
What to server? Well, when living in a foreign country, my first order of business is to peruse the local markets and supermarkets, which we have in plentiful supply in this area. I go through the recipes and pick and choose food that is possible to make here. So for this event I chose three types of food to go with the drinks. Recipes below are for your consideration and possible enjoyment.
1, 16-oz can refried beans * See below
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ Cup taco sauce (if available)
1¼ Cup shredded Cheddar, grated – it needs to be a “sharp” cheese
1¼ Cup sour cream(like crème fraiche)
1/3 Cup green onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 Cup shredded lettuce, very finely shredded (chopped)
½ Cup pitted black olives, sliced
Preheat oven to 350° F / ca 175° C.
Combine beans, chili powder, salt and taco sauce in a 10-inch quiche dish or similar. Spread evenly with spoon. Sprinkle cheese evenly over bean mixture. Bake until cheese is melted and dish is hot, about 15 minutes. Blot away any oil from cheese surface. Let cool 10 minutes.
Combine sour cream and green onion. Spread over cheese mixture. Arrange tomato, lettuce and olives decoratively on sour cream.
Serve warm with tortilla chips or crackers for dipping.
If you can buy kidney/pinto beans in a tin (can), you don’t need to cook them first. You can skip Step 1 and go to Step 2.
1 Cup uncooked pinto/kidney beans (I soak these in water overnight to reduce cooking time) This recipe calls for 2 cups, but I use only one cup. I think two cups is a bit much – you can try it yourself and see what you like.
2 sprigs epazote (if available) – see note below
1 small beef cube (optional, but gives more flavor)
Rinse beans and check for debris (rubbish). Place beans in a large pot and fill with water (approximately 4 cups.) Add epazote. Bring beans to a boil, and then reduce to a slow simmer for 2 hours. If water level gets low, replace with more boiling hot water.
½ Cup bacon drippings or lard (I use a couple of Tablespoons of cooking oil)
½ cup (or less) bacon or garlic powder
1 Serrano (or any other) chile, seeded and halved (optional)
¼ Cup chicken or beef stock (you can just dump a chicken or beef cube in hot water until it is dissolved and then slowly add it to the mashed beans. I use chicken stock instead of all that bacon drippings (fat) or lard.
Salt to taste
When beans are extremely soft, prepare a large skillet (frying pan) by heating drippings or lard (or oil) over medium heat. Cook the serrano chilies until browned. Using a slotted spoon, add in about 1/2 cup of beans and mash with back of spoon or fork. If the mixture seems thick, add about a tablespoon of the cooking liquid from the beans or chicken stock.
Continue to add beans and mash them together, adding liquid as necessary. Remove chilies and discard. Add garlic powder and salt to taste.
Voila: Now you are ready to make the Mexican Scoop.
Note: Epazote has a distinct taste that cannot be replaced by other herbs. If you do not have access to it, you can leave it out. If you leave it out, use more of the other seasonings to balance out the loss of the epazote.
You can find this herb in most Latin markets or Hispanic grocery stores. There are many places online that sell dried epazote which is a satisfactory alternative if fresh is not available.
Papaya Salsa with Jicama “Chips”
May 1, 2012 | Issue 398
Makes 4 servings.
Forgo the canned dips and salsas and make one of your own using a few fresh ingredients and spices. This tropical fruit salsa features papayas, which contain vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber. When shopping for a ripe papaya, look for skin that is turning from green to yellow. These bright colors also signify an abundance of carotenoids (including lycopene), anti-inflammatory antioxidants that may help protect against cancer and other chronic diseases. For dipping, try Jicama, sliced thinly, as a great alternative to potato chips. This tuber looks a little like a turnip, but has a unique flavor that works well with salsas and salads.
May 1, 2012 | Issue 398
2 cups small-diced papaya
2/3 cup plum tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped seedless European cucumber, peeled
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium jicama
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
In mixing bowl, combine papaya, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and chile pepper, tossing gently with fork. In small bowl, whisk lime juice and cumin with sea salt and 3-4 grinds pepper until salt dissolves. Pour over salsa and toss to combine. Set aside for up to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, use paring knife to peel brown skin from jicama and cut away fibrous layer beneath it. Cut a thin slice off bottom and stand jicama on work surface. Using large knife, cut jicama vertically into 1/8- to 1/4-inch slices. Stack oval slices, including uneven ones, and halve vertically. Cut slices longer than 4 inches into thirds. Sliced jicama can be stored in bowl of water in refrigerator for up to 8 hours if not serving immediately. Drain and pat dry before using.
Just before serving, mix cilantro into salsa. Spoon salsa into serving bowl in center of serving plate. Arrange sliced jicama around it to use as dippers.