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My friend Hortensia brought me  fresh tomatoes from her garden- and some other beautiful green things.  Then I went to the store & brought back another very Native fruit- the avocado- some cilantro, and a poblano pepper.

Avocados AKA Persea Americana AKA Alligator Pears are  mashed together with homemade, spicy tomato salsa, making a rich & delicious accompaniment to many foods.  That is more or less the  form of guacamole most familiar for many people here- and if you make it from scratch, it is greatly appreciated.

OK, you twisted my arm, and I will surrender my recipe to you. This is how I make my famous, authentic smoked pepper Eskimo Guac.

Please locate the following ingredients, if you can:

-a Poblano green pepper (a green, sweet pepper would also be good)

-1/2 a  small red onion, shaved thin & chopped to atoms (I use a mandolin)

-1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

-a clove of garlic, also minced to smaller atoms

-a lime, halved & juiced

-1/2 tsp cumin

-1/2 tsp hickory salt (otherwise use plain, table salt)

-one tsp chili powder (or ground, dried red chili)

a couple of dashes of tabasco sauce

-a full 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

-if you happen to have it on hand, 1/2 tsp dried, or 1 tsp fresh Epazote (fresh is better).  This is a traditional Native herb, and it gives an almost indefinable, gently sharp, chocolate flavor, when not cooked.  When cooked with beans, it aids digestion, and it also tastes very, very good.

2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped

There is only one ingredient here that requires some special attention- the poblano pepper.  Roast it over a fire of some kind, or roast it almost black in a heavy skillet on top of the stove:

This may take several minutes, but be patient.  The pepper builds up steam inside & cooks.  The charred outside gives you some complex, deep flavors.

When the pepper is no longer recognizably green, take it off the heat & place it in a paper bag:

Now, seal the bag & forget about it for a while.

After a few minutes, open the bag & scrape off the charred skin.  You can use the flat of a knife, your fingers, or even paper towels.  Clean out the ribs and seeds, and then cut into fine strips.  Then chop the pepper very finely.

Now you can begin to mix your salsa together- everything all at once.  And now you can also split & mash your avocado.  I think I use almost 1/2 cup of salsa to each avocado.  Some people like to keep the avocado in big chunks, or cut in large pieces -you can do it whichever way makes you happy.

My camera still is missing in action.  Nevertheless, at the beginning of this New (2010 CE) Year I have consulted my one of my favorite world cookbooks:  “The Jewish American Kitchen“, by Raymond Sokolov. And while I have no photo documentation concerning, this- my very first foray into chopped liver- I have  attempted it- because  I have been unsurprisingly craving it since our Minnesota January deep-freeze officially began.   I was first invited to Seder about 30 years ago by my good friend Shelly, who also introduced me to gefilte -fish, which was a revelation of cultural, religious *and* culinary significance, all at the same time.  How often does that happen?  Then I bought my first Jewish recipe book.  Why does my spell-check keep telling me this should be filtered? fish.

I’m Native American-and Eskimo furthermore- so recognizing the relationships  of foods from another tribal tradition was something entirely predictable.  Could it have been guessed that I would  immediately bond with gefilte -fish?  I say yes, Eskimos love fish.  My friend Shelly also toured me through various Brooklyn and Manhattan eating and dining establishments, and I have regarded the 2nd Avenue Deli in the East Village as a Mother-ship ever since.  I had been visiting New York since I was 17, and so the first time I went there to 2nd Ave Deli by myself around 1982, I was about 21 years old and very excited to be there.  I arrived there knowing I wanted a pastrami on rye.  The nice waitress asked me if I wanted anything else besides the sandwich.  I  remember doubtfully saying Matzo Ball Soup?  I still wasn’t completely clear about what a Matzoh Ball was, and wanted to find out, because all I knew was that they were supposed to be good.   She looked over her glasses and studied me.  “Do you want that just with the soup… or with some extra carrots?” she tapped the eraser of her pencil on her cheek thoughtfully.  I had no idea what to say.  It didn’t seem like a trick question:  “Um, just the soup, I guess.”  She raised one eyebrow and glanced down at her order-notebook.  “Carrots,” she nodded her head once for emphasis as she wrote- and took my menu with a reproving smile of the utmost gentleness and subtlety .  I got carrots.

After 2 long decades, since it finally occurred to me that I could make my own chopped liver (because it is nowhere to be found  anywhere in Minnesota since the Lincoln Dels closed years ago)  I finally got the courage up to attempt making Chopped Liver in my own gay Eskimo Home Kitchen.  Of course, I now rely on an authoritative  cultural cookbook, so you will be the judge (particularly if you have exacting kosher expectations).  Chopped Liver is nearly the first thing I eat every time I visit New York for the last 25 or 30 years, because I have always known that this is the BEST place to get it (in addition to to  ‘Bialys’, also which see, via Google).  Bialys are possibly my second food-love from NYC.

In order to make my first attempt at this truly complete and global, I first made sourdough bread.  I thought an Irish Soda Bread with plenty of currants (as advised by the Dubious Citty Katt) right out of the oven might be good with chopped liver.  The bread didn’t take too much effort, and it came out fine – I’ll publish it as a separate recipe if you want.

FINALLY, I had to make the Chopped Liver.  How did I make it?  After 20 YEARS of anticipation, maybe even apprehension, of course I will tell you how an Eskimo tries to make NYC-style  chopped liver.  Use an appropriate amount of black pepper:   That’s all there is to it.  And True Schmalz (i.e. Chicken Fat- available through your on-line Kosher supplier or local deli).

Place a good tablespoon of schmalz (your rendered Chicken Fat) in a heavy skillet and allow a pound of chicken livers cook over medium heat till no pink remains (this is important).

Remove to a bowl and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, saute 2-4  medium diced onions over  moderate heat in another tablespoon of Schmaltz until translucent (I used 2 onions, but apparently 4 is recommended).  This can take 10-15 minutes.  Do NOT allow them to brown, and don’t rush it.   And if you can divide them in half and  cook  them separately , 1/2 of them minced, it would also be considered proper.  I am just saying.

Season with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of FRESHLY ground black pepper (upper case letters are significant) and put though a cuisinart with a couple of nicely hard-boiled eggs.  Do NOT overprocess.

This is ambrosia and I challenge anyone to tell me otherwise.

To make a simple Farmers-type cheese, mix anything you like into your yogurt.  I picked a few herbs from my balcony herb garden, minced a little garlic, a little salt and pepper and mixed it into the yogurt.

To make cheese:  pour your yogurt into a make-shift settling form- in this case I used an unbleached paper coffee filter sitting in an ordinary kitchen sieve, which I placed over a small bowl to catch the whey.  After a night in the refrigerator, you have cheese!

It was time to make yogurt- I hid my yogurt machine on myself in the hallway storage shelf a few months ago by accident, and a good friend of mine helped me discover it two weeks ago when I was preparing for a trip out of town.

The first time I tried making yogurt, I was 16, maybe around 1977, I had been reading The Mother Earth News, wanted to build a yurt.  Our family lived deep in the rural upper midwest, so people had big, amazing family farm-gardens.  My first yogurt experiment was not successful or impressive.  It was runny sour milk.  I had no idea what I was doing (I made tofu from scratch around the same time, and was very interested in all things self sufficient, and subsistence of course.)  I haven’t been a huge consumer of dairy products over the years, but I do use more dairy now than I did 10 or 20 years ago.  If you have low tolerance for cow’s milk, sometimes it’s easier to digest in the form of yogurt (or kefir).  A lot of Native people have lactose intolerance.  It’s what happens when you don’t have cows occurring naturally in your environment for 10,000 years or so.  But it can be good for you, and it has beneficial flora (bacteria) that makes your digestive environment happy.  Or is bacteria a fauna?  Anyway, it’s one of the things they now call ‘active-culture foods’, or pro-biotics.

Other pro-biotic benefits include- reducing the risk of colon cancer, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, immune boosting, and other good things.  Other pro-biotics you know, or have eaten, or may have heard about:  kim chi, tempeh, miso, kombucha tea, amazake.  And they all taste good and almost have too many good qualities to list here.

To make good yogurt, now I use a yogurt maker, which is easier, more reliable, less work- intensive,  with a better product.  I found one for- I think- about $30 years ago.  Not a bad investment.

-commercial yogurt, a quart, is anywhere from $3-5 a quart now (especially organic yogurts, whether cow’s milk, sheep or goat milk, or non-dairy soy)

-2 quarts of milk is $2-4 (at least rbgh-free- that’s commonly known as bovine growth hormone- more and more commercial diaries are now loudly and proudly steering away from it.  I think Europe may have banned bgh comestibles initially, although I’m not sure about that any longer.  There’s always detective work to do if you want to eat foods that nourish you and do not harm you.)  So that’s maybe a dollar or 2 for a quart of milk, a few cents of electricity, and maybe 25-50 cents of commercial culture.  The closer food is produced to home, the fresher it is, the better it tastes (in most cases), the better is is for you – and the COST is amazingly lower than what you will pay at the store.  And yes it may take time and practice, but it’s all good.

-therefore, you can make your own yogurt for 1/2 the price- maybe for 1/3.

I use a commercial culture- it’s called Yogourmet (this is not an endorsement) and it’s easy to use.  The live culture is portioned in little envelopes, like gelatin always used to be packaged.  You mix some into a cup of milk at the right temperature, stir it into the 1 quart of milk (that’s the capacity for my machine) and after a few hours you have very fresh yogurt.

finished guac and salsa

finished guac and salsa

salsa fixings

salsa fixings

When I entered the whole foods restaurant business I had been prepared

by my family, & my own exploration of foods.  Salsa was a joy to learn,

- with the summer farmers market you can find everything you

need for a very traditional salsa.  You can use it as a springboard

for many other variations.I like color (you eat first with your eyes),

so it's nice to use red onions (or scallion), multicolor tomatoes-

and I love a little heat, but you can keep the Scoville factor down

by removing the inner membrane/seed of a jalapeno (or serrano 

pepper, for that matter). Chilies can vary widely in heat; a jalapeno

grows according to its individual characteristics as well as growing

conditions.  Chili (like coconut and chocolate) is a natural mood

elevator, and is abundant in the Vital Amino (Vitamin) C.  I like

to use a few ingredients that you don't always encounter in US versions

of salsa fresca - namely hickory salt (just a 1/2 tsp in a small batch of

maybe a pint; also a little ground chili powder (any variety- to get an

idea of what's out there, go to 'Seed Search, Native foods' on the web-

you'll also be saving Indigenous seed varieties. I  visited their storefront

in Tucson AZ many times and it's an amazing place.

One other ingredient I really like to use is fresh or dried Epazote,

a piquant Native plant frequently found in Central American Indigenous

cookery, with an intriguing chocolate undertone. When I make

guacamole I usually make salsa fresca first, and then 

combine a little bit with smashed up avocado, along with a little

extra cracked black pepper and maybe a little salt.