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Nika's Culinaria - Eat With Your Eyes: January 2007

Nika's Culinaria - Eat With Your Eyes

Culinary Photography

New post at new blog, oven-fresh!

I have added the latest post to my newly migrated blog. You might want to surf over there and check it out.

Remember that all further new posts will be at my new blog,

Also, if you have not already done so, modify any blogroll links to the new one.

Dont forget to re-subscribe to my new post RSS at this link. The RSS for this blog is bound to be rather boring :-)

Let the migration begin!

Today, I am starting the official migration of traffic from this blog to my new blog at

Its my hope that you will visit there from now on. It has everything that this site does, with better navigation!

If you could, please modify any blogroll links to this URL to the new one.

Also, re-subscribe to my new post RSS at this link.

I will be putting redirects throughout the site but I know I will miss some readers.

Sorry for all the rigamarole!


PS: check out my about page to learn more about me.. tho no pics of me yet! (Am very shy so not sure if it will happen)

Blood Orange: An irresistible photo-meme

DxO of Blood Orange

Before some 2 years ago, I had never heard of blood oranges. Now it seems like they are everywhere. I love oranges, especially the kind you peel, like navels. I adore fresh squeezed but dont like doing it myself (dont like to get the citric acid all over my poor dry winter skin and the wax the stores put on the peel always ends up flaking off onto my palms - yucktastic).

If you search across the food blogosphere, you will find many examples of blood orange lust. Here is a small listing for you to cruise at your leisure:

MattBites beautiful blood oranges
The Food Section on blood oranges
California Blood Orange
a Blood Orange Quinoa Salad
Blood Orange Cordials
German blood orange kit kat sort of candies
Blood Orange Sour

I will be updating this post a bit later to discuss how I took this shot, in case you were curious.

Tropical Shakes from South America (Well Fed Network article)

Its that time again! Here is my monthly contribution to The Spirit World blog over at The Well Fed Network.

Tropical Shakes from South America (Well Fed Network article)

Mora Shake

(Mora (Blackberry) Shake © 2007 Nika Boyce)

Without a doubt, January is a time of fighting the winter doldrums. Many across the northern tier states are having a wicked trying winter with unusual amounts of snow while we have been oddly warm but very dark and dreary with non-stop fog here in New England. For many of us, thinking of tropical climes can be a treacherous thing unless you have the means to jet off to the Caribbean, South America, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia or other reasonable locations.

Without such options, I am left with a trip to my local Latino market to get a taste of my childhood. I remember visiting relatives in Colombia for Christmas and experiencing equatorial weather and foods. One refreshing sort of drink comes to mind: the fruit shakes made from tropical fruits (frescos de frutas) like guava, mangos, guanábana, and berries such as blackberries.

In the parks of Pereira and on the coast of Colombia (cities like Cartagena, Santa Marta, Tolú, and Barranquilla), street vendors can be found whipping these drinks up to order. Back in the 60s, they would serve the shakes up in glasses that you would use and then give back to the vendor who would then rinse it out for the next patron. Its likely this has changed since then! Nearby, food vendors can be found selling things like empanadas, yucas fritas, chontaduros (roasted and salted acacia tree fruit, sort of tastes like chestnuts), candied fruits, and simply divine roasted ears of corn (mazorca asada).

These frescos de frutas are not only rejuvenating, they are also loaded with Vitamin C and other antioxidants. You can make it like they do in Colombia (see below) or you can get creative and add your favorite smoothie amendments.
You can buy most of these as fruit pulps (stored in frozen packs) like you see below in your Latino grocery store.

Mora Shake

(Fruit pulps © 2007 Nika Boyce)

Mora Shake
* 1 14 oz. pack of Blackberry (Mora) fruit pulp - FROZEN (do not thaw)
* 1 C ice
* 1 C cold milk (do not use whole milk, this really wants 2% or 1%, skim would not hurt)
* 1/2 C sugar
Put fruit pulp, sugar, milk, and ice in blender and blend until well mixed. You may need to add a bit more milk to get the consistency you desire. You also might need to stop and open the blender a couple of times to force the unblended chunks down into the base for proper blending.

Mora Shake

(Mora (Blackberry) Shake up close © 2007 Nika Boyce)

I hope you take the time to hunt down some of these fruit pulps and give a try at making your own frescos. You can’t go wrong!

Related Posts:

Menu For Hope III winners announced!

Peppermint Marshmallow Puff Pastries

Pim has announced the winners of the 2006 Menu for Hope charity event over at her Chez Pim post today. Check out that link to see if you won and what you won.

Did you know that the 2006 Menu For Hope raised $60,925.12 ?! Thats just mind-bending!

For the winners of my prints and pinwheels who are visiting here - you do not need to register with blogger etc - just drop me an email at nika7k at yahoo dot com. After I verify your winning status, I will prepare and send your winning prize! Thanks again for bidding in the Menu For Hope!

My winners are:
UE27 Picture and Pinwheel Cookies helenjane
UE28 Picture and Pinwheel Cookies Ida
UE29 Picture and Pinwheel Cookies she
UE30 Picture and Pinwheel Cookies lmg
UE31 Picture and Pinwheel Cookies Stuart Spivack
UE32 Picture and Pinwheel Cookies Gerald San Jose

I can't thank you all enough for participating. I have got some serious baking in my near future! I already have the prints ready to go so its a matter of rigging up packaging that gets you pinwheel cookies and not pinwheel crumbs!

Peppermint Marshmallow Puff Pastries

Meme: Where do you live?

Where do You live?

Matt over at Matt Bites had a lovely post detailing his home in LA. It was great in that it really localized you into his own slice of LA.

Michael over at Chicken Fried Gourmet suggested that more food bloggers might do right by writing a bit about their own homes/worlds.

This is my "Where do you live?" post.

I have lived all over the US and was born outside of it. I had moved 15 times by the time I graduated high school and then I moved a lot more. As a result, when I decided I wanted to have kids and a family and all that, I wanted to stop moving. My husband and I lived in the South End in Boston, MA when we decided to stop renting and buy a house. We soon mapped the concentric rings of expensive living radiating out from Boston. We ended up looking at housing WAY far away from Boston (with still working IN Boston). We settled on a tiny little town called Wales, some 70 miles from Boston. We chose this place because we found some beautiful land and we built a house.

This place is not about food. Closest grocery store is something like 15-20 miles away. We have one restaurant that serves Italian-American food of the suburb variety. We have one gas station that has some food and some alcohol. We have no stop lights, this is a SMALL town. If we want to go out to a restaurant, we drive to Worcester or Boston. We dont eat out much! When I want to go to Whole Foods, its about 70 miles or so to the closest one (the one I prefer is in Cambridge).

We love it here because we are hermits and telecommute. Culture? Not detectable.

Below is a quickie tour of some of Wales.

Ramen: Nothing lost in translation

ramen noodles

In the appreciation of Mr. Momofuku Ando, the late inventor of ramen noodles (1-9-07 ed New York Times by Lawerence Downes) Downes said,
"Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don't have to teach him anything".
Mr. Downes does a beautiful job of summing up the pros and cons of ramen-eating, it all rang so true. Its a beautiful appreciation of an interesting man who sought to make cheap good eats and who ended up feeding a globe of students.

I am not ashamed to admit that I rather like ramen noodles or that my kids like them.

I am sure there are a million million different ways to make them. Here is my way. I boil it 3 minutes, drain completely, add a bit of butter and then about 1/4 of the seasoning MSG package. I mix and wolf. Sometimes when I am really hungry (tho I did this more back in the grad school days), I add a raw egg after draining the noodles. I put it back on the stove until the egg is cooked (I am not all that fond of salmonella).

My husband makes it more like a soup.

Thanks to the ramen-conditioning I received as a youngin I have moved on to more adventerous territories like nuclear hot Korean ramen and miso soups directly from Japan that have no english on the package whatsoever. I just wing the directions and try to guess at the intended flavor(s).

Momofuku-san, we will raise a bowl of noodles in your memory today.

Some interesting links:
Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum Wiki entry

Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum (新横浜ラーメン博物館, Shin-Yokohama Rāmen Hakubutsukan) official site

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, Tokyo Food Page

Food Play: Why my deep fryer aint kosher anymore

Tempura Bacon

(Tempura Bacon, its whats for breakfast, lunch, or supper)

I adore tempura as a nice break from sushi when I go out to the woefully few Japanese restaurants here in the rural boonies of Massachusetts. I have not really tried to make it at home because 1) when I am grocery shopping at enormo-food-hell supermarket they just do not have tempura batter that calls my name and 2) I usually decide against making oil-laden foods.

But sometimes, especially when you have a new deep fryer that is so easy it could walk your dog and paint your nails for you, you get a wild hair to fry SOMETHING up.

I know, its not well what happened, but it did.

The third element that enabled me to do this deed was that I found some tempura batter mix at my favorite Japanese grocery store in Worcester. Now the game was on.

I have been harboring a secret desire to make tempura bacon and hot dogs so I finally did. You can see those images at the top and bottom of this post.

Let me assure you that if you do this right the bacon comes out quite edible and delicious in a seriously gluttonous way. The hot dog needs to be eaten as soon as it cools because it can get dried out. I am not a huge dog fan so maybe I am just picky about my dog-texture.

Be sure to use cold tempura batter. You see Iron Chef Morimoto putting icy water in his mix. I ran out of ice so I used reallly cold water, mixed it all up and then held it in the freezer for a bit to really cool off. The other thing I did was to dip the bacon (and later hot dogs and onions) in the wet tempura mix and then in panko bread crumbs and THEN carefully put it into the deep fryer basket (when it was in the oil so the bacon and dogs just float on the surface and dont stick to the basket).

There is really not much more to add to this. I am part scots so MAYBE thats my excuse? I am also part many other things so its possible that I am just wrong. Just pass me the napkins.

Tempura Hot Dogs and Onions

(Tempura hot dogs, yeah thats what I said)

Electronic Gluttony: A pig roast by any measure

The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(The making of a lechona - latino pig roast)

As a judge for the 2006 Food Blog Awards I had to to look at and evaluate a HUGE number of food blogs.

I read so much filling prose, I saw so much beautiful photography.

I came very near to catastrophy.

Around 11:30 or so last night, after debating various nominations ALL DAY LONG with other judges, I very nearly didnt want to ever blog or surf blogs again!

I know, its shocking, but true.

I must be ok because here I am today adding even MORE content to the huge food blogosphere (for better or worse). I have learned a lot and gained so much perspective from the exposure to so many different blogs. (Even if it did leave me quivering with hyper-exposure overstimulation syndrome, something I will call HOS for short).

I found the perfect visual personification of my experience over at Grab Your Fork's blog in today's post "Cafe Mix, Sydney".

Visit, but for the love of all that is good and holy, be sure to be hungry before you go!

In the spirit of stretch-mark inducing cuisine, I will share a sparsely worded pictorial of what it takes to prepare a pig for a latino pig roast (traditional at Christmas and New Years).

Be warned, we ARE talking about carnage and reality here. If you are a vegetarian or of a delicate constitution you may not wish to scroll further down.

Lechona: Step 1 - gird the loins

(Chef and pig at attention)

This fellow was so patient. This look tells the story. He is wondering why in god's name would a self-respecting woman with pre-teen daughter in-tow want to spend time in the bowels of a large latino supermarket, in a less-than-spotless prep kitchen, shooting pictures of a perfectly boring and routine activity like getting the pig ready to roast. On top of all that, my spanish is so bad (was my first language but it has suffered massive attrition over the years of living in gringo-landia) that it was hard to explain to him why I would want to take these pictures. As a result, I am now putting together a photobook on latino foods (really, honestly, look at my eyes, would I lie?).

Let us commence with the gore and oddly intimate aspects of pig roast making.

Lechona: Step 1 - gird the loins

(Another view of the carcass)

This was a young pig, not suckling nor fully mature. Perhaps something like a junior in high school, still somewhat tender but with some meat on the bones.

The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(Bone breaking - hacking really)

I watched and was forced to deduce the purpose of things by observation, not interrogation. Maybe its better this way.

Here the chef is using a meat cleaver to crush the vertebrae of the spinal column. Why oh lord why, do you ask? This is the first step in getting the carcass to lie flat so that it roasts evenly.

Lechona: Step 2 - Loosen up the joints

(Cracking open the chest cavity)

He then pulled open the chest cavity and pulled down the rib cage, breaking it along the spine so that it would lay open.

Lechona: Step 2 - Loosen up the joints

(Ooh, yeah, right there, that feels great)

Lechona: Step 2 - Loosen up the joints

(Man, that feels so good)

Another thing that has to be done to get this carcass to lie flat is to break the joints. This is the intimate odd part I mentioned. It is really reminiscent of a massage (a harsh one to be sure) and the chef was really quite meditative about the whole thing. He must have done MANY of these. I think 10 pigs for this New Years alone.

The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(Salt bath)

The chef sprinkled salt all over, inside and out. He also rubbed it into the skin and meat.

The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(Lemon Juice rub)

After the salt came the lemon juice. He sloshed the juice everywhere, very liberally.

The pig sat after this treatment for about 15 minutes or so while the chef got the marinade going. This involved garlic, whole oregano, and mystery spices (or ones I just did not recognize in spanish - see, mysteries).

The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(A hosing)

After those 15 minutes, the chef hauled the carcass over to the freshly scrubbed sink and he washed off the salt and juice.

The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(The rub)

What I didnt show earlier is the poorly shot and rather disturbing images of the chef gouging holes into the skin and meat. The skin so that it renders into crisp goodness, the meat so that it can accept the rub/marinade. The chef is methodically rubbing in the marinade, pushing it into pockets he made with a knife and all over the surface.

The making of a lechona - latino pig roast

(Ready for the long night)

After the whole carcass is covered in rub it goes into the walk-in cooler over night. The chef said that he would rub coconut water onto the skin before roasting for 4 hours. The coconut water gives the skin a slightly sweet flavor and I think helps with the crisping and carmelizing process.

He said that this would cost something like $60 and feed some 50 people (ok, maybe 10 of my relatives).

Hope you enjoyed this.

I am planning to do more of these in the future. One showing the making of salchichas (colombian sausages) (also see these pics) either by a butcher or myself (have to get a meat grinder 1st though). I also promise better pictures because today I will be taking delivery of a new flash bracket and 580ex flash for just these purposes!

Related Posts:

Resolution-Free New Years!


(There is more ice in this photo than in this MA winter, so far)

I do Christmas, Easter, the solstices, beltane, samhain, Valentines Day, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, birthdays, all of that (all in an areligious way). I have even done a Seder for cultural growth for the little ones (my husband was amazed and puzzled, poor guy).

Matzo Ball Chicken Soup

(Pure comfort)

BUT, I do NOT do New Years resolutions, period. I also loathe new-year diets and dieting. This is my least favorite time on the Food Network. Oy, too much with the diet shows, already.

I am not sure what it means but I spent the day yesterday cooking massive stews and soups and homemade corn tortillas. I scrubbed all my pots and cleaned the kitchen like a fool. I didnt mind either, which for me is novel, I hate cleaning too :-).

For me, at my age, my 40th New Years was relatively free of reminiscing. Its something I do not really like to do anymore because living in the past is tedious and I need all the energy I have to live in the now. I did give thanks once again for our new baby, Baby O. That is a good thing to remember. I did give thanks for the entire family and the opportunities I have had this year to grow creatively.

Q - wan look


KD snacking out on peppermint fluff


Baby Oh with AB B800 bounce 12-29-06

(Baby O)

I did not (and certainly will not) waste a second worrying about calories or diets or carbohydrates.

I will not indulge in that guilt-ridden consumer trend that sweeps through the US this time of the year. I have lived way too many years on diets (Oh NutriSystem, how many times, I shall not count them) and have begun to break free of that insidious group think. I have three kids to teach healthy food attitudes to, thats a huge responsibility. What I put in my mouth and theirs ARE the lessons, not any lecture I could give. I dont mind telling them that I love pralines, loathe malted balls, and such. I will never tell them to watch their weight or that birthday cake has to many calories to have a second helping.

SO many "will nots" huh.

What I will do this year is love more, hug more, smile more, cook more, create more, live more.

I hope you will too!

© 2005-2007 Nika's Culinaria - Eat With Your Eyes

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