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Well, this is it. The spice store has made it's last gasp & is shutting down. Thanks for your support. If you have any requests or questions, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards to all,
Elliott

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Important Notice:


6/7/2010:

We're back. I'm still trying to re-figure/ streamline the Spice Selections to make it all more sensible to you and feasible to us. Truth is, y'all just don't use the spices and seasonings as much as I do (despite that, as with all spice & seasoning ingredients, they are best if used within a six month period and not after). That's understandable, but it makes having an online business impractical, is all. Over the course of many months I've been considering ways to make the spices more appealing to first time as well as repeat buyers. I've sought to solve several problems with the product, including:

The tendency for the spice seasonings to clump - I've switched suppliers and am now using ingredients which are ground finer and have less tendency to clump. I've been satisfied with the results and I hope that you have as well.

Packaging: The metal tins I'm using are, at best, a compromise in order to ship the spices as well as make them appealing and functional. When I initially started selling spices back in 2005, I was using 4 oz. glass jars. People really like the jars over the tins, and while the tins cost more, they are easier to ship without worrying that you will end up with a package of seasoned glass shards on your end.

Packaging #2: I have been considering losing the tins in favor of simple, functional, utilitarian plastic bags. Why? I have a lot of plastic bags in stock intended for refills of spices, and that just doesn't happen. If I switch to using the plastic bags, I could probably increase the amount of spice seasoning per order while decreasing the cost of each item as well as shipping. How about that?

Packaging #3: Wouldn't ya know, now they are saying that plastic is EVIL and DOES NOT LIKE YOU or YOUR FAMILY. Oh, plastic - we lived with so many hopes for you that must now go unfulfilled. It was sweet while it lasted.

Scrapping the catalog: That's right. Another serious consideration I've had for some time now is to scrap all of my current product and sell only certain items. What I have been selling over the past several years would essentially be retired. "What will you replace it with?", you ask? Well, let me tell you - I've been thinking of starting a whole new line of extremely hot and spicy seasonings and bbq rubs, so that I can rename it THE BURN WARD. That's right. I don't joke about such things. We're talking (or rather mumbling, since we've been steadily searing off the nerves on our tongues) serious Scoville Units here. What is your vote?

Spice of the Month Club: While it is still a serious consideration, it has never generated enough interest to convince me to do it. Maybe. Drop me a line and tell me you'd support it if I made it available. No, not just you, I mean some of those other people out there who haven't piped up yet.

Gift Sets: Of course - there will always be gift sets, as well as sales, like the ever popular buy 2 get 1 free deal.

Cost: Oy... one could make a living, if only they'd let you - ya know what I mean? Over the past 12 to 18 months, cost just got weird, particularly because import/ export costs that bear on the availability of ingredients for the spices and seasonings. I try to keep that old carbon foot print as small as possible - I've even considered binding my carbon foot to a child's size 2 - but there are certain ingredients that just are not easily available in our area of Western Massachusetts. Things like fresh Kaffir Lime Leaf and Lemongrass which, the last time I had to purchase a bulk of each I was told that I would need to pre-order it as it comes from places with sunnier climates, yet it is also affected by state restrictions which prevent growing these plants in proximity of delicate citrus agricultural regions. So - I temporarily stopped making the Green Thai Curry, which needs a good amount of each to get the flavor perfect. I know - it makes me sad, too, not to have my Green Thai Curry.

So that's the short of the long on the matter. Write me and let me know what your vote is on any or all of the intertwining topics.

And thanks for your support, your patience and your friendship - I really do appreciate it!

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This blog is a companion site to my online business at emburke.etsy.com where I sell unique spice and seasoning blends. I will be featuring recipes that use the spice blends here, but you can easily adapt them to suit your own needs. Also, my spice and seasoning blends are interchangeable - you can easily use one blend in place of another to get a different creative result or you can play it safe and stick to the recipe.

I have a variety of spice & seasoning blends available for purchase here - the perfect compliment for your meat & vegetarian entrées or side dishes. Each of my spice blends are made from fresh, organic spices purchased locally and are ground & blended by myself. They can be used as a dry or wet rub, as a marinade or sauce, or as a seasoning to add a little extra flavor.

Also, if you have any ideas, suggestions or challenges - send them on to me and I'll place them on the site as well.

Each quarter a portion of all sales from this site will be given to support a local charity in Western Massachusetts.

I think you will enjoy them as much as I do. Please spread the word!

Thanks, Elliott

P.S. - I'll have some other items available here in the near future.
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What would you like to find here?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tamale Pie by any other name

There is a scene in Waiting for Guffman where Parker Posey's character, Libby Mae Brown, is mulling over her career options - whether to head off into the great unknown world of acting or to stay at Dairy Queen where she will have a limited future. There is this quote by her about staying and maybe making some variation of the popular Blizzard treat. I can't remember or find the quote, otherwise I wouldn't be writing all of this as an introduction. Maybe I just imagined it.

Cooking is a lot like her dilemma. When it comes to creating a new Blizzard, well, how many new ones can you make? Do you go straight on and blaze new trail ways destined to go down in the annals of cooking while never looking back, stick with the familiar and trusted, or just hang it all up and go for take out?  When it gets down to utilizing the common staples available in a region, what you get is a compromise between similarity and variety. Italian and Mexican food are great examples of this.

Don't get me wrong - I love Italian and Mexican food. As a kid growing up in Southern California, we had the best authentic Mexican food available, and it has always been on the top of my list of favorite cuisines. But with Mexican, you've got your meat, your rice, your beans, a sauce, some cheese, a tomato and onion salsa with some form of dough, either flour or corn, usually as a tortilla which serves as a large, edible eating utensil that also helps to keep all of the other stuff together in one place. My oldest sister, DonaRea, once made what I can only describe as "Mexican Manicotti" - manicotti shells stuffed with some sort of cheese filling and baked in a very spicy adobo sauce. The memory of that dish still lingers in my mind and occasionally I slip into what can only be diagnosed as a state of manicotti depression.

Italian is also right up there among favorite foods, only Italian as my mother made it, which, as Frank Zappa would say, isn't really Italian but the white people really like it. Who doesn't love spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna or macaroni and cheese? The only possible exception to this would be pizza, although pizza is really just zesty tomato sauce with some cheese and stuff on top of a very large unboiled noodle. After that, my favorite places to go out to dinner were either Chinese or Polynesian, which probably wasn't terribly authentic, but they had a variation of another stripe - jumbo shrimp or prawns with some sort of noodle or rice dish. (By the way, the theory has it that Marco Polo brought noodles back from China and bequeathed them to the citizens of Italy, who were eternally grateful. What, pray tell, did they previously use for a starch to bind it all? You can only do so much with risotto.) If you have ventured any distance into the soul of the culinary palate of a culture, you will soon find that they have a basic theme with lots of variations. It's the same, but different.

Last night's dinner was just such an example. We had a homemade first, an original variation on the Mexican dish which turned out to be a sort of nacho-lasagna-casserole thing. I'm thinking that it just might require a new sub-classification, like nachsagnarole. something like that. Except that sounds German. Any ideas?

In an effort to minimize time and energy expended on cooking dinner, I usually turn to the casserole for simplicity as well as comfort. Except it never really works out that way. Entropy quickly takes over and suddenly I'm using every pan and bowl in the house to cook and hold separate components of the whole meal structure, reusing them for the next stage as one becomes available. It becomes a 12 stage construction process and five hours later we have enough casserole for the rest of the month. In the end, I wasn't certain that the results would be all that impressive, but I have to say that it came out quite nicely, and perhaps that is why in Mexican cooking you have so many variations of the same thing.

Should you wish to try this yourself, be forewarned - it is going to take some commitment on your part. Maybe - just maybe - this one will have to go into the Double Wide Diner Cookbook.

Roasting Poblano Peppers (simulated)

I had actually tried to approach this with simplicity in mind, hence the use of canned ingredients as well as hamburger because, well, we were just in the mood for ground beef. (This is what we refer to as "going ghetto"). You can substitute fresh over canned, or any other meat in place of the hamburger. Chicken or pork would be really nice. For the vegetarians - yes, of course you can use vegetables instead. Either way, whether you prefer vegetables or something other than hamburger, you're on your own.

Here it is: Nachsagnarole, or the Nacho-Lasagna-Casserole thing.

Ingredients are for a casserole cooked in a 13" x 9" dish.

1 can of chunked tomatoes, seasoned if preferred
1 can of black beans, rinsed if preferred
1/2 to 1 cup of green olives, diced
12 to 18 tortillas, corn or flour, 8" to 10" in size (I used both)
1 onion, sliced thin
4 poblano peppers, fire roasted, cleaned and sliced thin (more on that soon)
1 1/2 to 2 lbs hamburger
1 to 1 1/2 cups cream - light or heavy, it's your choice. I used light
1 cup monterey jack cheese, grated
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and chopped well Approximately 2 cups or more if you prefer
Jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and diced. I used four very small pickled ones.
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of Mexican Sazón, whether my own from Etsy, from Goya or elsewhere.
Salt and Pepper to taste

Lightly coat the whole poblano peppers with olive oil and place them directly on the open fire of your stove top. Turn them occasionally to insure that they get roasted equally all over. You can roast them in the oven, but I find it easier to do it over the stove top. Place them in a container, cover it and let them sit for 40 t0 60 minutes. The heat will make the peppers sweat, allowing the charred skin to come off easily. Remove the charred skin thoroughly, unless you prefer a bit of char left on. It won't hurt anything. If you need to, wash the char off with a small amount of water. Too much water will remove the flavor from the pepper. Cut the peppers length wise and remove the seeds and the top stem, then slice them into thin strips.

Making the sauce:

This is a variation of a recipe called Creamy Rajas, which I think I originally found in The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins, but I could be wrong about that.

Cut the whole onion into thin strips. Heat a large pan or skillet to medium high with a tablespoon of olive oil, Add the onion strips and stir, cooking them until they are caramelized. Add the poblano strips, cream, cilantro, and salt and pepper, stirring to mix them all together. Bring the mix to just under boiling, add both cups of cheese and turn off the heat.

Cook the hamburger in a skillet at medium to high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Season the meat with Sazón, cilantro and salt and pepper. While browning the meat, break it up into smaller chunks with a spatula. If you prefer, strain the grease from the meat.

Now begin to build your casserole.

Cut six tortillas in half. In your 13" x 9" dish, layer them with the edges lined flush with the dish edges and place one whole tortilla to cover that  gaping hole in the middle. Put half a can of the tomato chunks evenly over the tortillas, then a layer of meat, then half the can of beans and half of the olives evenly across the meat. Press the layers down and then add half of the poblano and onion cheese sauce. Repeat again except skip the cheese sauce. Place the final layer of tortillas over the top. You may have to use more tortillas as the top layer will be larger than the bottom layer. Press the ingredients down, add the diced jalapenos into the remaining cheese sauce and spread evenly over the top.

According to my recipe process, you should have 1 13" x 9" casserole with no remaining left overs. If you have any left over, do something with it. Sneak it into the built layers of the casserole or make a mini one.

When you are ready to bake it, cover it with aluminum foil and place in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees. Since the casserole is already "cooked", it really just needs to be heated thoroughly. Bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

Cut into portions and serve with salsa, sliced avocado and a dollop of sour cream. Share with someone you love.

Bon Appétit!

1 comment:

moonleaves said...

How about a "Layered Nachismo"?

karen

Read what some nice people have to say about my spices:"

Some mornings, I just stand in the kitchen alone and sniff Elliotts' spice. Then I'm somehow ready to start my day. And, oh yes, Elliott's spice IS great for cooking. Your eating habit will literally get "spiced up"."~ Tomoko Deeney (TADworks)

"I’ve almost never finished a full jar of spice and I’ve used several jars of Elliott’s spices in a matter of months. They are very unique and full of different flavors without being too salty or overpowering. They get my highest recommendation. Try them and you will love them."~ Keith Brisebois

"Elliott’s Green Thai is the most amazing spice... perfect for tacos, fish, chicken or beef. Once you’ve tried it, you won’t be able to cook without it!"~ Chrissie Henry

"I hadn't really explored the world of spices until this mixture somehow found its way into my cupboard. I had lived a fairly plain sea salt and cracked pepper food life, until this came along. I enjoy the 'kick' it has on my palate. And still the blend lends itself to good eatin'."~ Rachel Wilson

"Having a jar of Elliott's spice blends in my cupboard I feel as if I have been instantly transformed into a fantastic chef. Dishes I would normally feel intimidated to try - Curried Cauliflower, Tandori Chicken, Morrocan Lamb Stew - now feel within reach. Thank you, Elliott for opening up a whole world, literally, of fabulous food!"~ Alicia Pritt

"Filled a void in my life."~ Elizabeth (from Russia)