It was raining today. Nothing unusual in this season of rain which lasts for months. The electric was out, something unnoticeable for hours until the dark skies caused me to flip the switch in the cave-like bathroom.
I am making banana ketchup today. It requires ginger, onions, a few spices. and of course, bananas. Bubble and stir. On the gas stove. No need for electric. On another gas burner, a huge pot simmers jars and lids. The rain so loud I cannot hear the dog and cat fussing, or my Mista calling out that there is no internet.
On another gas burner simmers brine for bread and butter pickles and on the last burner, eggs bobbing. I canned my sauerkraut. Four new large heads of purple heads of cabbage sit behind me in a basket, waiting to be rotkraut, red sauerkraut, a cast-off from my days in Germany. Rotkraut requires some sugar towards the end of the process, while regular kraut does not
I towel off from a mad dash to the fogon, my outdoor smoker/kitchen to retrieve onions for bread and butter pickles, and an apron full of potatoes to go with the smoked pork and sauerkraut we will have for dinner.
Last night was clear, and lovely. We had dinner by kerosine lamp and finished off a dish of stuffed squash leaves. We danced in the lamp light flicker to Miles Davis.
Grape leaves, being unavailable, squash leaves, rinsed and plunged for a few minutes in salted water, make a wonderful substitute. For the filling (make extra for meatballs) you take a half pound of ground pork, a half pound of ground beef, a teaspoon of ground fennel, a teaspoon of the following: hot pepper flakes, salt and sugar. Mix that all up with the addition of a splash of vinegar and chill in the fridge. Make some rice. If you want some meatballs, add an egg, pat them out and freeze them firm in the freezer now. Take the rest and mix it 1/3 rice 2/3 meat mix and add a little tomato paste if you like. I like it a little saltier so I add some more salt and a little fresh ground pepper as well. Lay out your cooled, simmered squash leaves (or cabbage, or grape leaves). Place a couple tablespoons or more of the mixture on the leaf and roll it up, tucking in e sides of the leaf as you go. Once you have all your rolls done up, drizzle some olive oil in a casserole pan, line up the little beauties, cover with a fresh tomato sauce and bake for one hour at 350 degrees. These freeze well.
New tendrils of squash plants (overgrown, out-of-control patches like mine have many) make a wonderful addition to any oriental soup. Snip them off, rinse in warm salt water, plunge into your broth and continue with your favorite recipe. With my prolific squash vines, I can harvest constantly, and found that in the absence of collard greens, these work just fine. The squash leaf is virtually impervious to pests here. Other greens, not so much. A big pot of simmered squash leaves with onions and my home-smoked bacon puts me into a coma. Especially with chombo cornbread on the side.
With kerosine lanterns, a charged-up iPad for music and a gas stove, we always have perfect evening.
Next time...hushpuppies (hard to explain the name to Panamanians), some banana ketchup and cold beer over ice with clamato juice, lime and hot sauce.