Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Mardi-Gras~

When my children were growing up and we lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mardi Gras was a yearly celebration.

The festive, though rooted in religious theme, it is one of the most loved holidays and celebrations throughout the ages.

Let The Good Times Roll....a favorite Mardi Gras standard.
Apollo may have "discovered" horseradish but he didn't share it. No actual record of using the potent root medicinally existed before the thirteenth century. John Gerard's 1597 Herbal was the first culinary mention of horseradish when he sited it as a condiment eaten with fish and meat by the Germans. We do know that during the Middle Ages the Germans and Dutch enjoyed the leaves as a vegetable and used the plant medicinally as well.

Native to regions along the Caspian Sea from Russia to Finland.

Known botanically as Armoracia rusticana, horseradish is a perennial member of the mustard family. Its root is the spice but the plant will grow to about three feet offering leaves that are indeed tasty in salads. The Latin name, Cochlearia armoracia, refers to the hollowed, spoon like shape of the leaves.

The horseradish root has a remarkably pungent scent and equally memorable bite. The long, plump roots have no odor until broken or bruised. Once released, the flesh begins an enzymatic action where glycoside sinigrin reacts with the volatile oils capable of bringing tears to your eyes if inhaled.

Like mustard, horseradish has long been used externally as a poultice. Other medicinal uses, from ancient times and still today, include as a diuretic, expectorant and a cure for hoarseness. It is packed with Vitamin C--so much so that sailors used horseradish to prevent scurvy.

Freshly grated, horseradish is a traditional condiment to meats, and oysters. It makes a zesty addition to dips, sour cream and sauces. Think of it with potatoes, smoked fish, on sandwiches or, as in the recipe that follows, with tomato juice.

Horseradish root is often available as a vegetable selection in the supermarket. Purchased this way, you can grate it as needed with a regular hand grater or food processor. Use care not to inhale the fumes or get the juice into your eyes.

If you decide you would like to grow horseradish, bear in mind that it will spread and could become hard to control.

Mardi Gras Bloody Mary

Even without the vodka, this makes a fine, eye-opening beverage.

For each cocktail:

Lime or lemon wedge, optional

Kosher Salt, optional

2 Tablespoons vodka
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon minced lemon zest
3 turns of the pepper mill
2 drops hot sauce (like Tabasco)
Pinch cayenne pepper
Ice cubes

2 parts tomato juice
1 part V-8 vegetable juice
Optional garnishes: celery stalk, peperoncini, red onion wedges and/or lime wedge

NOTE: For a true Mardi Gras theme, you would want to garnish with the traditional carnival colors of green, gold and purple. Use the green celery stalk, the yellow peperoncini and maybe a slice of red onion or a purple swizzle stick.

Hope your day was festive~

Bea Kunz

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