Friday, October 26, 2012

Swedish Taco Night Fridays: Tequila Chicken

Well here are the ingredients for Sweden
Obviously the chicken is the most important. The are a couple of brand names here. Clearly Bröstfile (breast file) are the most sought after and expensive of the chicken parts. You can purchase high end priced Guldfågeln as seen in the photo above right.
Or you can go for the cheapy brand label called Euro-Shopper which is sort of a spooky looking generic brand from the mainland continent I assume. And who knows what or where it comes from. I get a feeling of  Industrial Ag when I see it. Oh well, the Tequila marinate corrects any of the Industrial Ag health issues anyway right ? Just kidding! - *smile*

Next there is the Tequila for the main marinate. We had friends bring over this past July for us a bottle of Tequila. What we didn't expect was two bottles of X-Large El Jimador 100% Puro Agave. This is the sipping Tequila for those special occasions. Like slamming down shots followed by Budweiser ? Kidding! But seriously, the reason the pure 100% Agave is so expensive is that there is only so much actually agave growing plantations in all the world. Hence the cheaper versions which are watered down with common grain alcohol. I'm guessing something like Vodka is neutral.
But I'd rather use Jose Quervo or another cheaper brand and quality as opposed to the expensive. Even though most Tequila brands are not 100% Agave but have a large measure of tasteless grain alcohol added to make the flavour go farther, it nevertheless has the Tequila taste and it's for a marinate anyway. If you've never been to an American Mexican Restaurant or even one in Mexico and had real Tequila marinate and grilled chicken, then you don't have a clue as to what you've been missing. 
Limes are also important as these components and flavours in combination will not only compliment one another but kill potentially any bacterial problem associated with our modern industrial Ag-Farm Industries. Besides, if you also want Margaritas, you can also make your own mix here as Margarita mix imported to Sweden is insanely priced at about $13.00 a bottle. Seriously, that's Svenskland!  
Cilantro - (Koriander) 
Okay here a new rule. As long as you Swedes are going to make Mexican Food on Fridays or any other night, start calling one of the primo herb ingredients to Mexican food - Cilantro & not Coriander. Coriander is a Mediterranean herb for Mediterranean food dishes. The common packaging for Cilantro here are the cute little Santa Maria live herb packages you see above located in every produce section. There truly is nothing like fresh cilantro. Sorry, Coriander. Start getting use to the Spanish word/term is you really want to get into the mood of Mexican cooking.
We often get these at ICA MAXI or Hemköp, but because I use so much in my cooking I quite often go over to the local Middle Eastern Immigrant Produce Store and purchase the much larger bunches of Cilantro as seen above and store it for a week in our fridge's produce bin. It's cheaper, more quantity and has generally a darker richer green colour than the usual Green House grown brands. I have no idea where they get it, but the Arab/Persian store owners have inside tracks outside of Sweden for getting better quality produce. Trust me, people who come from warmer climates know better when it comes to quality produce, what we like and are use to. Still though, the other brands are good, but - Just Say'n . . ! Okay here's one last word on Cilantro. Watch this video from Taco Bell (for you Euros this is a long time Mexican Fast Food chain started way back in the 1964 in the U.S.) But this video of theirs illustrates and educates the importance of Cilantro to Mexican Food. 

The Spices - Santa Maria
Okay no big secret here. I like the Santa Maria spice collection. It's true many recipes call for just the right measured individual ingredients and you can go the route. However I want quick and fast and they have actually done a terrific job with their various blends. The most popular one I use is indeed their original Taco Spice, but the Habanero is a often used flavourite for me. I don't know what it is about Habanero, but it seems to have a slight smokiness to it, without actually being smoked over wood fire. It's also inexplicably addictive. Seriously your mouth is on fire, you lay off the Habanero Salsa till the mouth cools off, but finally you find yourself craving more. Go figure!
The Recipe:
1/2 cup Gold Tequila
1 Lime
3 garlic cloves crushed in a handpress
2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup Canola Oil (for Euros - Rapseed) 
2 tablespoons reg Butter (Bregott)
2/3 packet of flavourite Santa Maria Spice
one small bunch (about 8 stems) Cilantro
3 Chicken Breasts (Kyckling Bröstfile)
Mixing and Marinate 
I like to do things quickly, but the marinating should be given enough time to do it's work of getting that main ingredient for which the dish is named after - Tequila - to do it's work of infusing that particular flavour into the chicken.  I like to slice the breast files length wise into long slender strips. Although if I choose to Bar-B-Q, I leave them whole. This recipe is one I did very quick last night. You can mix the ingredients into a plastic bag and marinate for an hour or so before cooking, but I like to put all the strips into an oval glass ovenware dish, add the Tequila all over the top of the chicken, squeezing one lime on top of that and then adding the Sea Salt & my choice of Santa Maria Taco Spice over the top of the chicken, then turning them over and doing the same to the other side. Cover dish and let it set at room temperature for an hour and then placing in a hot frying pan where the Canola Oil & butter already are. I first however mix in the finely pressed garlic gloves in the hot oil and often I'll throw in some sliced yellow onions for a change, but not always. My main purpose is for that Tequila flavour to win out above everything else. You can actually go too far with other ingredients and mask that flavour. The Cilantro I rinse with water and finely mince or chop on a cutting board and sprinkle evenly over the top of the chicken in the frying pan. I also have added prior to cooking in the marinate and so can you. Next cover with a lid and allow to slowly cook on low heat. Chicken like fish cooks very fast and cooking to fast can make it tough. The way I do it the chicken comes out delicate & tender which has the effect of melting in your mouth when you bite in. 

BAR-B-Q Files
There are of course countless ways to cook, bake, broil or you can BAR-B-Q this chicken marinate, but this is the quick-easy approach for me. You can serve it with a rice dish or even beans. I have to admit as far as Mexican Cooking here in Sweden, Frijoles (W/ Pinto Beans) has not exactly caught on here. But we're working on that as I've done them from scratch before when I've had guests over for a meal. Okay, this was simple, not complicated. Anyone can do this. Wow, when I did it last night and took the cover off the pan mid-way through the cooking, the aroma was killer. Just remember one thing - It's called Cilantro, not Koriander!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Salton Buttes Volcanoes: Not as Old as Once Thought & Still Active ?

photo by Cliechtenstein (Crawling Around Geology)
Salton Buttes Volcano field at the southern end of Salton Sea and northern reach of agricultural fields.
Image - L.A. Times
Note the location of the Salton Buttes Volcanic Fields. Also take note of the recent pattern of Earthquake incidents this past summer as numerous swarms of quakes shook the area this past summer. In fact it was heavily reported on back in August of 2012 this past summer as this L.A. Times article reveals
L.A. Times: "Earthquake swarm 'classic' activity for Brawley area, USGS says"
In some ways this is exciting. I've been to Salton Buttes Volcanic Field and the hissing bubbling hot mud pots and mini volcano mud domes fields. It's a really kool area. But it appears that geologists today are taking a fresh look & newer viewpoint on the actual age of this field as much younger than they first thought. It was once thought that this field was attributed to seismic activity along large well known San Andreas Fault Zones. They once thought the area last erupted about 30,000 years ago, but new information has come to light that has last eruptions as early as between 940 & 0 BC. That's less than yesterday in geologic time. The interesting thing about the alarm being given is that Scientists are now monitoring several potential live active volcanic fields and Salton Buttes is on that live active list. The seismic activity epicenters on that map back in August did not exhibit the typical main initial shock and aftershocks patterns which it would be were it on the tectonic faults. Note that the swarms of quakes are actually away from the Fault lines marked in red lines on the map. This is why they are taking a more serious monitoring approach to this area. Below is the full article from Live Science:
(Articles Source)
Salton Sea Volcano Mystery Solved

Further Food for thought and discussion. does anyone remember the great Indonesian Mud Volcano disaster and who and what caused it's existence ? Seriously, Fracking and Energy Well Drilling. And what exists and continues to be explored down in this region of the Salton Sea and Imperial Valley ? Geo-Thermal Exploration. could these activities even slightly be responsible for recent earthquake swarms in the area ?

Indonesian Mud Volcano Was Man-Made, New Evidence Confirms

Just Something to Ponder

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wow, So Sweden has a Coral Reef ?

Photo: PhysOrg
A close-up image of Lophelia pertusa coral taken by a remotely operated vehicle 1,450 ft depth in 2009. Although this image was taken in the Gulf of Mexico, the species also lives in Swedish water.

Norway's Cold Water Coral Reef
Yesterday, News Reports came out that Sweden's Säcken Coral Reef was in danger of going extinct. Most people don't consider Sweden or Norway to be places which have coral reefs off their coasts. Why we all think of coral reefs as being a tropical phenomena. Yet incredibly there are cold water coral species and an abundance of other colourful biodiverse sea life that depend on them.  So what has happened ? Here is yesterday's published info on the ecological disaster happening presently off Sweden's coastline which comes straight from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden on the west coast. Here are some quotes from the article:
"We've known since the mid-1920s that cold water coral reefs exist here in Sweden," says marine biologist and researcher Mikael Dahl. "At that time, corals could be found at three locations in the Koster Fjord. Today, only the Säcken Reef remains, and it's in poor conditions."
So what has happened ? Well the first thing that comes to mind is mankind's ability at polluting and filthing up the environment around us. The Baltic Sea certainly has it's problems with so many nations surrounding it's coastlines and needing to keep economies going. Despite Sweden's reputation for being Eco-Green, they have their issues as do all other nations in this regard. Gothenburg's Harbour for example is typical for any harbour surrounded by City with all it's infrastructure. Storm runoff is almost impossible for any country to contain and authorities are at the mercy of it's citizens to keep their surrounding hygienically clean. Once again, we don't live in a world like that. Silt and other debris certainly are issues as the article referenced, but is there something more ?
"Some of the causes to this are the impact of Trawling and increased sedimentation from eutrophication. Continuous observations with remotely operated vehicles (ROV:s) shows that the health of the reef slowly continues to decline.
"The red list assessment is currently in the 'under immediate threat' category. The Säcken Reef has been protected against trawling for more than a decade, but trawling damage have been observed on the reef several times after legislation was set in place", says Mikael Dahl.
So sedimentation and eutrophocation (pollution chemicals which create nutrient enriched waters - kind of like a Miracle Grow for Algae which gives polluted waters that pea soup green effect) are listed as culprits, but notice also Trawling was referenced. The fishing industry as we know uses net to catch fish as we all are aware, but how could that effect Coral Reefs ? Are not fish swimming up and around in the water and coral reefs on the sea floor ? True, but the trawling referenced here being utilized is a drag net type of fishing to catch a specific bottom dwelling species of fish which is extremely popular with most people in this part of the world.

Atlantic Cod
It is the human love affair with the taste of Cod Fish that causes the problem. Mmmmmm, Cod is one of the world's flavourite fish whose taste is mild and with a dense flaky texture to it's white flesh.  It's also famous for it's well known health food store items known as Cod Liver Oil which is said to be rich in Vitamins A, D, E, and omega-3 fatty acids. The Atlantic Cod is also well known as the main ingredient for Great Britain's Fish & Chips. They inhabit the seas of many northern areas and in many ways are similar to other well known popular seafood cold water seafloor dwelling fish like Flounder and Halibut. Atlantic Cod occupy a varied habitat favouring rough ground and are considered what is called a Demersal Fish, which means they prefer to live and feed near the bottoms of seas and/or lakes.

Norwegian Libas Fishing Trawler
It's for this reason modern giant Trawler Fishing Ships which look more like a military outfitted weapon of war of a Superpower's Navy than the old time humble fishing boat are the main reason seafloor habitats are being destroyed. These nets must be dragged along the bottom scraping and scouring everything in front of it. Virtual deserts are created quite literally under the water where abundant bio-diverse life once existed. When the nets are brought all other life forms are discarded back into the sea while the prized Cod are kept. But the collateral damage has already been done. The Swedish Säcken Coral Reef has been a casualty in all of this. It has been noted that damage is so severe from this irresponsible fishing practice that left to it's own healing, it will never come back. Therefore the plan appears to transplant manually coral species from intact Norwegian reefs as mentioned in the article:

"This means that it is highly unlikely that the Säcken Reef will recover naturally", says Mikael Dahl, who led the study. "Instead, interventions are needed in order to ensure the survival of the reef."
The importance of starting restoration on the basis of the results, researchers from University of Gothenburg have started a restoration project where healthy corals from nearby reefs in Norway are being removed and placed on the Säcken Reef after being genetically characterized. The researchers hope that these corals will survive the process of being transferred, and that they will be able to help with the reestablishment of the reef, through both asexual and sexual reproduction.
The Säcken Reef is spread across an area of 5,000  , but today there is only living coral in an area of around 300-500 
Source of Article: 
 Sweden's only coral reef at risk of dying

Which do you prefer ?

Humans love Fish & Chips, but this favourite food quite possibly could be a thing of the past if this obsessive regular demand for ir doesn't change some time soon. While words/terms like being moderate or setting reasonable limits on one's consumption are often suggested in our modern world's Eco-Green Political Climate, but the reality is we don't truly live in a world like that. People everywhere demand their rights to do as the please. Still, with that in mind, the increasing human population can either limit it's intake by moderation or do without altogether.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hurray, it's "Taco Night Fridays"

Taco Night Fridays is a  Mexican  *cough-cough*,  I mean Swedish tradition. Aside from the usual long lines at most SYSTEMBOLAGET Stores across Sweden before the weekend begins where the folk who live along the Vodka Belt of the planet load up on all manner of their favourite drink, the Taco Night has an even more powerful draw. 

A Swedish Traditional Food = Taco Fridays!
Interestingly it all starts at your local Swedish Grocery Store. We like to shop at the local ICA-MAXI Store in Torslanda or the ICA Kvantum Store in Sannegårdenhaven Eriksberg on Hissingen. 

MAXI ICA Stormarknad - Torslanda

Photo: Mine
It all begins here in the Produce Section. Quite often in the produce section there will be a display with products from brand names like Old El Paso & Santa Maria. These companies provide all manner of Mexican Spices, Tortillas, Taco Shells & Tubs (like the ones  introduced by Taco Bell in the 1960s)  jars of Salsas etc etc etc. They will have Avocados and Tomatoes displayed in among these other products on Fridays to induce people into purchasing these for Friday Night Tacos. Funny thing here about that word Taco. To a Swede, everything Mexican is Taco. Doesn't matter if we're talking Enchilada, Burrito, Chile Relleno, Taquitos,   Quesadilla or whatever, it's all Tacos. I think it's a Socialist version of Logam where everything must be equal. 

Photo: Mine

Ah here is my section. I would have photographed the entire thing bit these two feisty ladies wouldn't get out of the way - whatever! Al manner of things Mexican from Tortilla Chips (plain or flavoured) Flour Tortillas and a phony type of corn tortilla which is mixed with wheat flour which basically has the same taste as flour. Anyone who has had corn tortillas knows what I'm talking about. Now this section is dedicated to all Old El Paso & Santa Maria brand name products, but still such a large aisle dedicated to the Mexican palate is something one would not expect to find in northern country like Sweden. For me it's a life saver.

Photo: Mine
This section is important for getting grated  Cheese for Tacos. I purchase a bag labeled  Pizza Ost(cheese) for this. You can also get something called Creme Fraiche(sour cream) from the Dairy section where milk is located.

Photo: Mine

This is the Torslanda Bakery section, but I prefer bread from ICA Kvantum Store at Sannegårds. When they remodeled this store a couple of years ago they gave up a bread brand in favour of another which for me was cheaper and less quality. ICA Kvantum Store in Sannegården picked up the older brand which has the more rustig chewy bread. 

Okay, so here is what I pick up at any of the stores throughout the week fresh for making Salsa. I actually dislike the canned or jar brands. The first thing one needs is an electric food processor. I have used a manual hand crank salsa maker, but I like the electric it's faster. The one pictured here on the right looks exactly like our own on the kitchen counter. They're great and beat the hang crack gadgets on the market

Next I first choose either the Jalapeno or Habanero chiles for adding the flavour and heat that I want. I often have gotten into trouble from my family for purchasing and using the Habanero. As you know, many northern Europeans burn their lips on Ketchup. Actually these Greenhouse grown Jalapenos are bred for Gringo Styled palates.

Next I need to red or yellow onion for the Salsa. Usually I choose yellow onion for this. Good quality onions are hard to come by in Sweden. Of course most everything produce-wise is imported from warmer countries that grow it. I often joke about onions being grown in Israel or Africa and loaded onto an old wooden sailing ship which has been out to sea for months before arriving at Gothenberg Harbour. You have to carefully choose by squeezing for firmness because often times that can be rotten inside, especially in winter.

And what Salsa would not be the same without a good strong fresh garlic for which you will need a good garlic hand operated press tool. I use about three or four cloves from the garlic bunch. When you think about it, all of these ingredients which go into making salsa are a very healthful bunch & sickness preventative.

Next you will need some Cilantro or as the Euro-zone refers to it as Coriander. This is usually one thing that is missing in many of the Salsas made here in Europe I've tried. When generally get the Santa Maria brand nicely packaged Coriander or purchase large bundles from a few of the Immigrant produce stores here in Sweden which often have better and bigger quality and quantity. We go through a lot of it every week and so buy large bundles. The immigrant stores also usually have better prices. Even quality. Well, at least larger sized produce. They have connections.

Now finally there both limes and spices to add to the final flavouring of your Salsa. Seriously , what Mexican Food wouldn't be without some good limes ? Not only have we used a half of one in the Salsa for freshness and preserving, but what is left over can be used for your Corona Beer or for making your own Margarita mix. Margarita Mix here is outrageously expensive, almost $10+. We make half the mix with fresh squeezed lime juice and the other half with a sugary lime juice syrup concentrate from the store. 

Of course the spices, I almost forgot- We purchase the already made Santa Maria or Old El Paso Taco Spice mix blends in the small packets. Mostly though it is Santa Maria. Original Taco Spice mix and/or some of the Habanero Salsa mix. They actually have a huge variety of mixes. We get the Chile Con Carne mix for bean and ground beef chile making and also the lime and coriander or smoked chile flavoured. All of them very good and fun to experiment with. 

Now is the time to put it all together. Main ingredient first though are the Tomatoes. We buy over here the Dutch Green House grown in what are called Kvist Tomatoes which look like the photo above to the left. These are always identified by the green stems still connected to the bunch. In that food processor and cut up into four quarters the tomato and I figure about two thirds of the blender should be tomato. Next I use one large yellow onion which I cut in half and then half again to get four chucks which I put in the blender. Next four or five garlic clove peeled and pressed into the mix. As far as chiles, I use two Jalapenos or just one Habanero depending on what type of salsa I want. I finely slice length-wise several chile thin strips after cutting off the stem and then finely chop these thin slices to make little bits and add them to the mix. Next I take about 8 or 10 long stems of Cilantro (Coriander) and chop them finely on a cutting board before adding them to the mix. I then add generous portions of the Santa Maria Taco spice mix to the mix leaving about a quarter of the mix in the package, but you can add as much or less to your own taste. I have created mixes from scratch, but this store brand is fast and easy and tastes perfect. Then I add the half wedge of whole lime squeezed into the mix, put the lid on and blend. Depending on how long you blend, you will get a Pico de Gallo mix which is chunky in texture or liquefied to a hot sauce blend. 

Pico de Gallo is a chunky type of blend as seen here for which you may use the blending food processor to accomplish or do it by hand.

Real Salsa on the other hand is more of a blended liquefied texture for which many prefer to dip their corn chips into. Well, this should get your Taco Night Fridays off to a good start. Next week I'll do a Part Two with the actual taco making and my own Guacamole mix. Oh and don't forget the Coronas or Margaritas !!! BTW, Corona 3.2 Beer can be purchased at ICA MAXI & Kvantum Stores.

Corona with Lime - Don't Be Greedy!
References and websites for recipes:

And for people in the United States here is a website to a southwest Mexican Grocery Chain store that I absolutely love when I'm there. I could love working at this place.Cardenas Market

Cardenas Market - El Centro California

Monday, October 1, 2012

75 minutes of Thunder and Rain - Relaxed and Soothing sounds for your ears

Typical Summer Monsoon Forecast
Some time early on this blog I have posted about my love for the monsoon season. Not just any rain event, but summertime monsoonal rain events with all the Thunder & Lightning that goes along with it. 

Of course there is even more. To me summer rains mean the scent and fragrances that come along with them. Back in the 1980s, long before internet reading I did things the old fashioned way with a book and a chair or couch on my covered porch deck in the afternoon. Whenever there was a weather report indicating monsoonal moisture out of the east from Arizona to California mountains, then you knew porch reading in the afternoon was going to be a pleasure. 

By Meteorologist Kevin Martin

Southern California Weather authority
A big part of the experience for me was not only the sights and sounds, but also the almost addictive highs one gets off the refreshing fragrances which came off of the Redshank or Ribbonwood chaparral and also from the low deserts filtering up through Coyote Canyon from Borrego Springs the smell of the Creosote Brush. I recently found an audio recording of a Monsoonal Thunderstorm which lasts for 75 minutes. The sound is wonderful to read by and I have had rain forest sound recording before, but found this by accident yesterday. It starts off slowly with rain and thunder moving closer until finally it's right on top of you. Then at the 58 minute mark it starts to taper off as it does in real life. I remember sitting for three hours after the initial blast came through and a slow steady gentle shower just pelted away at the roof until the cloud formation was dry. Sometimes it was something to fall asleep by.

Essential Oil Humidifier
The only other thing that would make this listening pleasure perfect is to have some sort of replication of those fragrances & negative ions floating all around in the air in your room when you are listening and reading. And I think I've found an answer. We use to have a humidifier which had a reservoir depression just where the mist came out which you filled with your favourite Essential Oil (Volatile Organic Compound Tincture or oil extraction from plants). You know of course any proper monsoon season has high humidity. So that is a must along with the fragrant atmosphere. Surely such oils could be made from home if you've got the proper equipment and know how. Can you imagine having Creosote & Redshank essential oils ? Of course around our globe many people experience fragrances which are local to their areas, but you can adjust accordingly. 

There are countless other recordings on Youtube, but you can find them. Enjoy the experience from the one posted above if you have time (75 min). And don't forget to Bookmark it.