Posted by pamela on Jan 10th, 2008
Jan 10

 Picadillo is a dish mainly consisting of ground beef (sometimes shredded beef or chicken) typically found in Cuba, Mexico, and other Latin American countries, and in the Philippines. In Mexico it is sometimes used as a filling, such as for tacos, and can be mixed with vegetables. It can also be prepared as a type of stew. In most other Latin American countries it consists of a common table from where people pick small beef pieces or other food such as french fries. The name comes from the Spanish word, “picar” which means “to chop”.Picadillo is a traditional dish in many Latin American countries; it’s made with ground meat, tomatoes, and regional ingredients. The Cuban version includes olives and on occasion capers, omits chili powder, and is usually served with black beans and rice.
Thank you Wikipedia.

Now, as I understand it, one of the fun things about picadillo is that no two people make it the same way.  There are regional variations based on the foods commonly available and well as personal and familial variations.  I suppose if you tried hard, you could conceivably make it wrong, but you would have to try very hard and it would only be an insensitive oaf who would bother to criticize.  Picadillo is a comfort food.  One of those foods your mother would make from your grandmother’s recipe.  Something heavenly that the house smelled of when you finally arrived home.

Now, as I said in the previous posting.  I am predominantly of some vaguely British ( English. Scottish, Irish, French Canadian) extraction and my culinary heritage tends toward rather bland meat and potatoes.  Well, we have all heard the jokes about British food.   The French part of the family might have contributed something of culinary interest, but it apparently was lost in the annals of history as apparently did my recipe for Picadillo.

I was initially introduced to Picadillo by a friend from Berkeley.  Thus this is yet another foray into the memory of my long lost youth, more specifically, the wild and wonderful college days at Berkeley.  However, as with many things from that time and earlier, somewhere along the way the details got lost and I was left with a vague idea of what went into the recipe: ground beef, a can of tomato sauce, a jar of green olives, a can of applesauce (one of the distinctive ingredients I was told), raisins (also distinctive), garlic, onions, vinegar.  I vaguely remember the “can of this and can of that” format that had made it reasonable easy for a college student to assemble, but no specifics.  I needed specifics!!  I need to get it right, to taste like Berkeley 1978.  Serious gastric memories were at stake.  Were there spices?  Was I leaving out some essential trans-formative ingredient?

So, I inquired of the source “Do you remember your Mom’s picadillo recipe from Berkeley?”  Alas, a dead end, nada, no interest.  So, as with most questions today, it was time to go surfing.  Typing picadillo into google yielded a host of responses the most interesting of which was a site called “cooks.com“.  A fabulous place, well worth exploring, which yielded several pages of picadillo recipes.  Well, none of them seemed to capture the memory quite perfectly.  However, there were enough of them that I could mix and match and patch together a recipe that more then adequately fed both my memories and my appetite with multiple opportunities for future experimentation.

So, here it is, Picadillo rediscovered and recorded for future use.


1 lb ground beef
1 large onion chopped
2-3 garlic cloves chopped
1 small can tomato sauce
1 6-0z can tomato paste
1 small jar Pimiento stuffed green olives
1/2 to 1 c Raisins
1 jar applesauce
1 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
dash ground cloves
dash ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp vinegar

Brown the ground beef, onions and garlic together, pour off the excess fat.  Turn heat down to low.  Add the remainder of the ingredients and simmer until most of the liquid evaporates.  (or you give in to the heavenly smell and decide it is time to eat)

There are many, many variations.  You can use shredded beef, pork, chicken or beans instead of the ground beef.  You can leave out the applesauce, add green peppers, add nuts, change from green to black olives, change or leave out whatever spices you like.  Experiment.  Enjoy.

Corned Beef

Posted by pamela on Jan 5th, 2008
Jan 5

Ah hah, I got you.  You thought that this post was going to be about Corned Beef.  That lovely stuff of deli afficianado delight sliced thick or amazingly thin as you choose, then piled so high between two slices of rye bread that a civil person would have to utilize a knife and fork, which , of course, none of us do.  Well, it is after a fashion, although I know relatively little about Corned Beef coming, as I do, from a somewhat ethnically inpoverished background.  Rather this this is about growing old and staying young and the connections in between.

 My husband, when parked at a deli, is fond of inquiring of the compatriots then present “Who makes your favorite corned beef?”  Then, often before they have a chance to respond, he tells them “You favorite corned beef tastes like the stuff from the deli you went to when you were twelve.”  There is a truth in that, or a truth of sorts, believing as I do that truth is largely relative and maleable.

Perhaps much of who we are, of what feels right to us, is set by our experiences when we were young.  How much of our perception of well being as adults comes from how closely we can now approximate our youth?  No, not all of those insecurities and inadequacies that tormented ones childhood and teen years, but the good things.  The memories of food, security, health and youth. 

This all came to me, other than occasionally being queried about corned beef, when I noticed that I was no longer as limber as I had been, as I remembered being in that long past youth.  I had spent years in my youth during high school and college doing ballet and jazz dance.  Being limber, flexible and strong, was what feeling young meant to me.  Now, creeping past fifty, I was beginning to get stiff.  Oh, nothing major, I could still touch my toes, even in three inch heels, but clearly no longer the smooth ease of movement that characterized my decidedly un-wild youth.  Steps need to be taken.  The situation cried out for rectification. 

So, for the new year, Pilates is the answer.  Yoga would serve as well, but according to some Pilates is dance based, so the movements and language are more familiar.  However, the methodology is perhaps less important than the end result.  Means versus ends, ends versus means we shall see.  A different truth..  A question remains grammatically though as to what the verb would be, or perhaps it is the gerund.  My grammatical comprehension is failing also along with the vanishing flexilibity, but admittedly grammer was never a strong point.  I am Pilating, or am I Pilatesing.  I am confused, but that isn’t news either.

With regard to Corned Beef I am even more confused.  Corned Beef always came with cabbage in my family and was pretty much boiled to death.  Not much there that would explain my husband’s passion about it.  Although, admittedly, as with me his passion isn’t for Corned Beef, but rather for youth and that previously ingrained sense of well being.