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If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc

October 3, 2010

Boooo ! Boys and girls, it′s close to Halloween time again. My folks saved a lot of money on Halloweens. Instead of buying a pumpkin and making a jack-o-lantern, they would just set me in the window.

I can′t think of a single traditional Texas Halloween dish. There may have been some pumpkin pies in the wake of the holiday, but I don′t think we ever had a live pumpkin. Making a pumpkin pie from a whole pumpkin was too labor intensive.

We are in the midst of tailgating season. That is when, in theory, you cook and eat on the tailgate of a pickup truck before the football game. The tradition has sort of blown itself out of proportion, like everything else. I have seen where folk show up a day ahead of the game and set up elaborate cooking and dining facilities. Looks more like a big time barbecue cook-off than a tail gate party.

I do endorse the KISS method of tailgating, that is, Keep It Simple Stupid. Go with the simple fare: hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage and the trimmings. You will need the fixings for the burgers and dogs (buns, mustard, onions and whatever else you can think of). For the sausage, you can use brats or whatever. The Texas favorite would be hot sausage. A hoagie bun works very well with sausage -- hot dog buns are a bit small.

Keep the tater salad and coleslaw cool, and don′t forget the salt and pepper. Bring some soda pop for the kids. Oh yes, don′t forget the pack of plastic forks, spoons and knives and a couple of rolls of paper towels. If you live in town and never learned how to wipe your hands on your pants, you can bring a pack of the wet-wipes.

Now it&primes time for the doctor to go to work.

Scott wrote me about using epazote in beans. Here′s my answer.
Epazote is a herb that is used in Mexican cooking, especially black beans. It is supposed to cut down on the gas produced by the digestion of beans. That point is debatable. Epazote grows wild in Texas and many other places in the U.S. Some folk prefer fresh to dried and, either way, it is said to have an aroma resembling gasoline or diesel fuel. Try it; it won′t hurt you. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John
Linda writes: Doctor, what is the best way to grill summer squash? We have a lot of them.
Linda: Squash is one of my favorite things. The way I grill them is to wash them and cut off the tip and stem. If the squash is over one inch in diameter, split it down the middle. Brush the squash with olive oil or an oily salad dressing like Italian. Sprinkle the squash lightly with seasonings of your choice -- just salt and pepper works fine. Put them on a medium hot grill, cut side down, and cook until browned. Turn them onto a cooler part of the grill and continue to grill until they are as soft as you want them.

Some folk swear by wrapping the squash in foil with seasoning and grilling the packs. This is just steaming the squash, and you can do that in the steamer with a lot less work. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Rick is advancing his cooking technique: I have been mostly grilling up until today. I have an inexpensive char broil barbecue pit. I would like a quick note regarding what to use to get my fire started -- charcoal or wood or maybe both.

And how much of a crime is it to add wood or charcoal to keep my heat to temperature. I have read not to add charcoal unless it is already lit. I have also read not to add wood in the same fashion. I can′t seem to keep my temp where I want it otherwise. Please help and thank you.
Hi Rick: Best way to get the fire started is to get a "chimney" for starting charcoal. You can find them at most places that sell barbecue equipment. You can start wood in it, too, if it′s not too big.

Of course you have to add fire on a long cooking project. Best is to get the coals going outside and then add them as needed. You can use long tongs for handling the hot coals. If you are going to be doing a lot of this, go to the welding supply store and get a pair of insulated gloves for working around the hot stuff. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Ron has a mildness problem: I′ve been trying to make some hot pepper relish (medium-hot, actually). I′m using bell peppers with either jalapeños or serranos. It has sugar and vinegar in the recipe. I can′t seem to get it hot. Does the sugar or vinegar affect the heat? The last trial was 10 bells and 15 serranos with two cups of sugar. I′m not a screaming hot guy, but the relish just isn′t hot at all. Thanks.
Hi Ron: You′re the first one writing in wanting something hotter. Most have overdone it and want to cool it off.

First thing that comes to mind is put in a wee bit of habanero or Scotch Bonnet as they are sometime called. Start easy as these buggers are the hottest you can get. The chile petin is another smoking-hot chile. They have a good flavor and are small enough that you can adjust the heat easily. I don′t use serrano, so I can′t comment on that, but I know jalapeños have become so inbred they can be stinging hot in one pod and mild as bell pepper on the next. The easiest thing to do would be to add a bit of ground cayenne.

Just experiment a little and you'll find the combination soon. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

See ya next month, boys and girls.

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

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