Recent Assorted Taste Treats

A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, I was running a little ahead of schedule in Raleigh. I had already stopped by the NC State Farmers’ Market and bought several things. Now, I was on my way over to Whole Foods (or perhaps Crabtree Valley Mall, first) via Wade Ave. As I approached Cameron Village, I turned in and made a brief tour around some of the shops. At some point, my eye spied the Fresh Market. I’m not sure if I had ever been in this Fresh Market, but I knew the “high end” market and decided to take a quick tour.

As I was walking down one of the isles, I noted plastic containers of dried kiwi fruit. I love kiwi, so I got a couple of these. One for me, and one to share as I visited around (friends & relatives). I then turned to the opposite side of the isle where there was a row of bins (barrels) with plastic lids covering assorted dried items. I then saw what was called an “Okra Chip” and I knew I had to try this. I got one of the nearby plastic bags and grabbed the scoop and opened the lid to the bin. I scooped up some of the okra. They were whole okra, vacuum fried, so they were extremely light in weight. The price on the bin cover said that they were $12.99 per pound. This sounds expensive until you realize how many okra it takes to make a pound. My first bag only cost about $4.00 when I made it to the check out counter.  *Yes, after trying my first chip I went back inside and bought an even bigger bag to share and it only cost around $7.

After I paid for my dried kiwi and okra chips, I went out to my car and sat down to try each before leaving. Wow!!! What amazing okra flavor when I bit into my first okra chip. If you love okra, then you should definitely love these. They are light in weight and intense in okra flavor. The moisture has been removed in the low temp, vacuum frying process. They seem to be both like biting into fragile glass, as the texture fragments easily, yet never a hint of being pierced by a “shard” of the snack. They are lightly sweetened and salted, but neither overpowering. The processor doesn’t even cut off the knob on the vine end of the okra. You usually do this if you are frying okra, but in this process, the whole okra becomes light and crunchy. I’ve read that the low temp oil is only about 130 degrees F. so the negatives of cooking over high heated oil aren’t passed on in the product. *It may never happen, but I would love to buy a home model for frying with this process. Seems like someone could come up with a oil/pressure cooker device in a manageable size.

All the friends that I’ve given a taste of okra chips have loved them. That is if they liked okra in the first place. I would imagine that even okra haters. Those that hate the gummy, stringy stewed okra, would like okra chips.

I have since found okra chips also at Harris Teeter in Fayetteville, NC. They were pre-packaged, but I think a little cheaper in price and selling around $5 per plastic bowl. I’m not sure that these were as intense in flavor as the bulk ones I found at Fresh Market.

As I’ve said in earlier posts, I have really learned to love hummus since I made it at home several months ago. I had opened two cans of Garbanzo beans, at different times, and only used half a can (because that is what fits well in my chopper). I must have not realized that I still had a plastic container of beans in the fridge before I opened the second can. Well, both plastic containers sat in the fridge for days, if not at least a week until this week. I opened and smelled one container and then tasted one bean. It was fine, and I made some hummus. A day or two later I repeated the process with the older plastic container of Garbanzos, and they were good also. Apparently, Garbanzos will last a long time out of the can, as long as they are refrigerated.

The extra things that I did to this week’s hummus was to add some flavored olive oil and a handful of Italian parsley. I had purchased the flavored olive oil in Hickory, NC some months ago. The one I used was a mushroom flavored oil, very earthy in aroma and flavor. I added some roasted garlic, capers, lime juice and some regular olive oil (Frantoia). Boy, this produced a very distinctive and flavorful hummus, and the parsley gave it a beautiful green color.

I ate at the Red Lobster in Fayetteville yesterday for lunch. The waiter told me that they were out of the red wine vinaigrette but before he left I thought to ask if they had vinegar and oil. He said yes and brought the two vials out with the house salad. The vinegar appeared to be red wine vinegar, both in color and flavor. Perfect! I asked for a little sauce bowl and put some oil and vinegar in and then added several packets of artificial sweetener. It needed a little more vinegar, but this was as close to their red wine vinaigrette as I needed, and it was good.

A little over a week ago, I was in Harris Teeter and tried a sample of cheese. Normally, I try it, find it to be nothing special, and walk away. But, not this time. It was a white American Cheese and reminded me of all those Kraft American Cheese slices that I had grown up with. Reminded me, but having a much better flavor. I even mentioned this to a man standing behind me at the time. He tried it, and then offered a sample to his wife/girlfriend,… and they bought some of this cheese also. *I’ve since gone back and bought a little more of this cheese. And, when I did, I bought a small loaf of olive bread. So, I’ve been eating my flavored hummus, with a little American Cheese, and a slice of the olive bread, with a little mayo, on the bread, and on freshly sliced tomatoes, and alternating with some ripe Spanish and French olives, and maybe adding a little Turmeric or freshly ground Cumin to the tomatoes. It is so natural for me to snack off my kitchen island. I might go to Crate and Barrel in Winston-Salem this coming weekend to get a chair to use with the island cart.