Thursday, June 21, 2012

A knock on a stranger's door

Today after thinking about the neighborhood fruit sharing idea and how I would build a similar project here in Victoria, I decided I might as well act on it.

As I drove to work, with fifteen minutes to spare, I made a stop off Navarro Street two block before my usual turn to the Advocate. I pulled over, illegally against traffic, and turned off the engine to my car. I stepped out and onto some truly lush Saint Augustine grass. There was no curb next to the street so I stepped right onto it from the car. My heart was racing and I could feel the blood rushing to
 limbs and my brain signaling to pluck the precious fruits from their limbs. I was beginning to sweat.

Before I could think any further I was pulling open the screen door and knocking on the glossy black door to a house I had never been too. A small sign of a Boston Terrier, probably painted by hand, read "This home is protected by a Boston Terrier." Or at least something like that.

This is a different house that has a pomegranate
tree with fruit on it, but it's in the same area. 

A man answered the door and out poured these words, that I didn't rehearse but probably should have. I explained that he didn't know me and that I couldn't help but notice he had two pomegranate trees outside of his home. He acknowledged them and told me they weren't ready to pick yet but that I could help myself to them if I wanted.

Given a perfect opportunity to explain to him my idea, I told him that I would love to pick them but that I would wait until they were ready. Hopefully, in a not-too-hurried way, I was able to tell him what I was hoping to achieve by disturbing his afternoon watching television in his air-conditioned home. Fruit sharing community this, get people together that, share recipes and network, blah blah blah. I think he understood what I was getting at.

After I spilled my beans and handed him one of my business cards, then introduced myself – all ass backwards, I know – I want on my merry way to work. Oh, but I forgot to add, that he did mention he was interested in helping get this thing started. Its hard to tell what he was thinking – because I didn't know him – but I think he may have been interested in helping me out.

I'm pretty excited about it. There isn't much else to do, but to wait until more fruit pop up and I conjure up enough courage to knock on more doors to talk to people about sharing their bounty or knowledge of where the bounty lay.

No word from the community just yet, but like I said, I will have to keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Help from Mother Nature

 The Crossroads were lucky enough to have some rain today. There was a fair amount off rain in the downtown are of Victoria and it brought a smile to my to know that O.U.R. Community Garden was getting a nice soaking from Mother Nature herself.

So far O.U.R. garden has produced a generous amount of vegetables. Rosa Linda Garcia, the mastermind behind the idea, and I tried to keep track of everything we pulled, but lost count along the way. Between the two of doing most of the picking, we need to find a way to document our harvests when the other isn't there. Luke found a nice art set in the dumpster next to the garden so hopefully, we will have our method of keeping track in line soon. But given the way the plants produce and how long ago we lost count, I know the numbers are right around or more than: 150 cucumbers, 200 chile pequin, 60 okra, 7 watermelons, nearly 100 tomatoes, 20 bell peppers, 20 summer squash and soon we will have a handful of weighty butternut squash.

Of all the vegetables we've been lucky enough to harvest a small handful go to those that work in the garden and the rest goes to Christ's Kitchen,  a local soup kitchen, the shut-in ministry and to the Our Lady of Sorrows ReSale Shoppe where it is distributed to other parishioners community members in need. The best thing about being a contributing member of the garden is knowing that the food is fresh and unadulterated but man-made fertilizers and pesticides. All the things in our garden thrive and grow via the dirt and sunshine exactly how we find them every morning or evening when we are there. Knowing the vegetables are fresh and healthy for everyone who eats them is the most gratifying for me.

Along those same lines, I have been trying to get a foraging community up and going. Here in Victoria there is an abundance of food growing out in the open. Not barricaded behind fences and or hidden behind houses. They're growing at the park, along apartment buildings and railroad tracks. I don't know what kind of response, but I hope to get something together soon. The pomegranates are turning red, the grapes are turning purple and its time to start making wonderful eats out of all that Mother Nature is telling us to eat.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent is upon us

As a littler one, I was raised Roman Catholic and remember going to Mass on Ash Wednesday and omitting red meat from our plates every Friday up until Easter Sunday. During that time I remember eating lots of fish and shrimp cooked in traditional Filipino ways, including shrimp sauteed with garlic or fished cooked on the grill.

Going out to eat can be a challenge sometimes, but you can see all the Lent-friendly menus out around town and they are all clad with fish and shrimp dishes that are sure to please. On the other hand, as a friend implied to me, why not accept it as a challenge and try to cook without meat?

Challenge accepted.

Unless I run out of recipes, I will post a Lent-friendly recipe on my blog every Thursday for readers to try up until Easter. Keep in mind that measurements are not entirely precise because have the tendency to fly by the seat of my pants when I am cooking. Also, a good thing to remember is that fish is interchangeable to a varying degree and can substituted by other similar fish. For example, a white fish like tilapia can be replaced by another white fish like halibut or cod. The prices and sizes will vary also, so experimenting with different fish or shellfish is the best way to learn what you like or don't like. Same thing may go for vegetable dishes, if you don't like Brussels sprouts, substitute another vegetable, like broccoli or whatever sounds good to you as the eater.

This dish is one of my favorite seafood concoctions I came up with when I first moved out to Victoria. The H-E-B Plus! had fresh shark and catfish packaged and put on the rack at near the freezer section and I was eager to cook with them. In New Mexico, there isn't much fresh seafood, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned how close to the water I was and how often I would be able to cook fresh fish.

Citrus ceviche

1 filet of shark, cut into small 1/2-inch pieces
1 filet of catfish, cut into small 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup of small scallops
1/2 cup of shrimp, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch small pieces
1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar
1/2 to 1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup of green chile or jalapeno, diced small (optional)
1/4 cup of yellow onion, diced small
1 medium orange, sectioned and juice reserved
1/2 of a small lime, sectioned and juice reserved
1/4 cup of cilantro, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package of tostadas for serving
fresh cilantro, minced for serving
fresh avocado, diced for serving

The thing with ceviche, if you have never made it is that it takes some time. The trick is the acids in the liquid will essential cook the fish and the longer it sits, the better it gets. I serve mine on a tostada with fresh cilantro and tomato. This is the same way I had it when I lived in Zacatecas while I was studying Spanish in college.

There is no real method to this, but the easiest way to do it, so there isn't much cleanup to do in the end is to just use one bowl for everything. Cut up your shark and catfish and place it in a glass or ceramic bowl, as some metals will react to the citrus. Since the scallops are small, they don't need much attention and can be thrown right into the mix.

You can buy the shrimp cleaned already or you can do it yourself. Simply remove the head along with the shell and the tail. Once it is free of it's shell, you should have a shrimp body with dark vein along its spine. With a paring knife, cut just deep enough to reach the vein and continue to cut down to the end of the tail. Then cut the shrimp, depending on the size, into three or four pieces. Add the shrimp to the bowl with the other fish.

Moving on the cooking. Pour about apple cider vinegar and 1/2 cup of orange juice into the bowl, leaving the remaining orange juice as a standby if you need more. Peel the orange just as you would a cantaloupe, cutting off one of the ends and cutting off the rind from the top to bottom to expose the flesh of the orange. There should be no bitter skin left on the flesh. Once this is complete, holding the fruit over the bowl to catch all the extruded juices, cut the orange into sections (just like wedges) as close to the skin as possible. You want to try and get as little of the skin as possible, just the pulp and juice sacs of the orange are what you want. In the end, squeeze the last of the juices from the skin that remains and discard. Follow the same steps for the half of a lime, catching the juices in the bowl and sectioning the flesh of the lime.

Combine all the contents of the bowl together well and salt and pepper generously. At this point, you can add the cilantro, onions and chile. Mix again to get all the aromatics distributed throughout. Also, make sure that all the seafood is submerged under the citrus liquid. At this point you take a spoon and sample the mix. You can add more orange juice, more salt, more jalapeno or whatever you want and then you just wait. Place the bowl, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator and let the acidity do its magic.

When you are ready to serve it, dice up fresh avocado and cilantro and spoon the ceviche onto tostadas and enjoy! You can also warm the tostadas in the oven, or a toaster works well on a low setting, just remember to keep an eye on it. The oils in the tostada can heat up and start smoking if you're not careful.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I've figured it out

For me, 2012 started a few days early. I had a nice long vacation where I had a lot of time to plant some seeds for thought. A few weeks later, those seeds have made their way deep into what I can only hope to be a bed of fertile soil and not some soggy mess in the corner of my mind.

While I returned home to Rio Rancho for the holidays, with my boyfriend Luke in tow, I couldn't help but think about whether I am supposed to return to New Mexico in my near future or if there really is somewhere else I need to be. Having moved around a few times and lived in almost all of the nation's time zones in my adult life, I am used to uprooting my life and moving onto something else. I avoid saying better, because who really knows if that is ever the case.

Moving to Victoria has been a wild adventure. It has been a roller coaster ride with loops and dips and those nosedives that put your stomach in your throat and I still haven't come to a stop yet. I'm strapped in and I am making the most of it. The question is, where does it end? Or does it. I was reading this post, that Luke emailed me and it got me thinking.

At the end of his post, the author asks readers, how are you going to change the world? And I thought to myself, do I have to? Do I have to change the world? It got me thinking about what the things I am passionate about, and I started scribbling things down on paper.

What do I love? Food! Duh.

But what about it? I love everything about it. I love to learn about where it comes from, how it's produced, who eats it. I ask questions about why people eat, why is it packaged that way, what are the beliefs that go hand-and-hand with that food, etc. I love food.

Than it hit me. This is what I wrote.

I want to work with food. I want to feed hungry people healthy food. I want them to have happy memories about food and forget about being hungry. I want to solve some problems about food supplies, child obesity and misinformation. Children should know where food comes from and how to make good eating decisions. I'm going to become a member of a community garden. I am going to educate kids about healthy, but tasty food. I want to share my love of food with other people.

I know it sounds like a lot, but I think I can do it starting with babe steps. I think the first thing to do, is to start my own garden and learn what it takes to feed myself on a budget and make health food choices. I hope I can do it. I know there'll be more loops and turns, but I'm already strapped in. If the ride stops, I can get back in line and do it all over again, right?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cheers to 2012

I hope I can beat last year's record of only three posts. Really? That is horrible. I haven't even made it to the 50 posts mark yet.

Alas, this is a new year, and as most people do when the ball drops in Times Square, we pledge to make a change in our habits – whether they be to improve good ones or to abolish the bad ones. I, Jessica Rodrigo, make this pledge on this day of Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, to write an entry on my blog at least once a week. I think I can do that. And if I don't then I challenge you, whoever you might be, to jump on my back about it. Send me a topic, at my email address,, or those that have my cell phone number, text me ideas. I would be more than glad to write about them. No topic is too taboo.

So, here is to 2012.

P.S. This doesn't count as number one, either.