Saturday, March 31, 2007

Food on the Move

Over five hundred years ago, an Italian named Christopher Columbus sailed west for the Spanish crown in search of a water route to the spice center of the then known world. The commodities he sought clove, mace and nutmeg were the highly prized aromatic treasures that came from the small islands of Ternate, Tidore, Ambon, and Banda Neira (The Spice Islands). Along with peppercorns from the Malabar Coast of India, these exotic spices prompted the European Age of Discovery and formed the backbone of the medieval western economy. The Portuguese, Spanish, and later, the Dutch and English found their way to the sparkling waters off the Moluccan archipelago.

Stretching overland from China to Africa, the Spice Trail was an ancient trading route, originally a caravan trail, which served to introduce more than just spices to the lands it traversed. It also carried oranges and peaches from China; bananas and ginger from Southeast Asia; rice and sugar cane from India; saffron and melon from Persia; cumin and coffee from Africa; coriander and olives from the Mediterranean basin. Over the years, these tastes converged with each other forever transforming world cuisine.

The discovery of the New World sprang upon us a whole new cornucopia of culinary offerings to revel in. America is the ultimate immigrant society, though prior to the establishment of the United States, food products were the first foreigners to cross boarders, set up shop and be assimilated into another culinary culture. Can we take the tomato away from the Italians; hot chilies from the Thai; chocolate from the Swiss; the potato from the Irish, or heaven forbid vanilla from the world’s ice cream supply? Yes, we all have a long and rich history of sharing from our pantries, and need look no further than our own kitchens to notice the effect of this cross-pollination on local foods.

Grilled Shrimp and Scallops marinated in Tequila and Cinnamon - yields 4 servings

1/2 cup orange juice
1 lime - juiced
2 garlic cloves – crushed to a paste
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 2 shots tequila
2 star anise
1/8 cup canola oil
32 shrimp - cleaned and de-veined
1/2 pound scallops
8" bamboo skewers

Mix the orange juice, limejuice, garlic, cinnamon, tequila, star anise and canola oil together well. Toss over the shrimp and scallops to thoroughly coat and refrigerate for no more than 3 hours. Submerge 8 bamboo skewers in water, and let them sit for a few hours or overnight. This will prevent the skewers from burning too quickly when cooking the shrimp skewers. Place four shrimp and scallops per skewer, and over a hot grilled cook the skewers for 5 minutes on one side than another 3 minutes on the other.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Star Fruit and Jicama Salad - serves 6

2 star fruit
1 pound jicama - peeled
2 bunch arugula- washed and chopped
3-tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2-teaspoon cumin seed - ground
1/2-cup canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Slice the star fruit into 1/4 inch thick rounds, and the jicama into 1/4 inch thick julienne. Then toss with the cumin and vinegar. Just prior to serving add the arugula, oil and salt pepper to the star fruit and jicama. Toss well and serve immediately.

1 comment:

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