What is “tamarind”?

Another Friday, and I sort of think it’s one of those “TGIF” Fridays! The week has been fairly busy as Tuesday; I started my day with our monthly Auxiliary meeting and then went to work in the gift shop, as the lady who usually has morning shift is not able to do so at this time. The morning was busy, but the afternoon was pretty slow, so I was glad when 5:00 p.m. came around and I could go home. Wednesday was a Doctor’s appointment and everything was fine, Thursday the blood bank was there and I was able to donate. On Friday, I spent a good part of the day at the Toyota place in Victoria as it was time to have maintenance done on my car. Everything went well until the lady told me that the bulb I needed in my tail-light wouldn’t be available for five days. I made a quick phone call to my neighbor who works on cars and he had a bulb! I still can’t understand why it would take them five days to get a new one! Now, my car is ready for the road trip my daughter, my sister and I are taking this weekend. My sister-in-law recently celebrated a milestone birthday and my brother is having a family party for all of us. They live in north Texas so it is a fairly long drive, not anything like the ten-hour trip of a few weeks ago. I am excited as I will get to see my nieces and nephews and their families.
This week, I’ve found a different item to tell you about, it’s called tamarind. The tamarind has been on produce aisle shelves for years, but I’ve never paid particular attention to it. Unfortunately, no recipes were on the site I used for my information and the only way that I can think of for you to find some if there are any out there is to check with a recipe finding search. For more information, and lots of pictures, just type “tamarind” in Google or whatever search engine you use and you will find lots of interesting things about this unusual ‘bean’!
How many of you have seen tamarinds in the produce section and wondered what the heck those beige colored beans with brownish seeds really were?
This pod-like, edible fruit is used in cooking in many areas of the world. A couple of other uses are traditional medicine, and, believe it or not, as a metal polish. The wood has many uses, including wood carving. The seeds produce tamarind seed oil, and the tamarind is cultivated around the world in tropical and sub-tropical zones.
The name “tamarind” derives from the Arabian language and when romanized, translates to “Indian date”. It has also, over time been written in various ways, including Latin as “tamarindus”.
In several countries, it is called “tamarindo” and is often used to make a drink of the same name. (It seems to me, in the back of my memory, that at one time, in the stores where candy from Mexico was sold, that there was a candy called tamarindo, but I am not sure).
It is mostly indigenous to tropical Africa, but has been cultivated for such a long space of time on the Indian subcontinent, that it is often reported to be indigenous there.
Tamarind grows wild in Africa in locales as diverse as the Sudan and Tanzania, as well as other locations.
In Arabia, one of the places where it grows wild is on the sea-facing slopes of the mountains in Dhfar. It reached Mexico in the 16th century and to a lesser degree South America, being brought in b Spanish and Portuguese colonists and became a staple of their diet. In our world today, India is the largest producer of tamarind. It is used to flavor chutneys, curries and many other dishes.
According to the article in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that this information is from: “Tamarind sweet chutney is popular in India and Pakistan, as a dressing for many snacks”. It goes on to say: “Tamarind pulp is a key ingredient in flavoring curries and rice in South Indian cuisine, in the Chigali lollipop, and in certain varieties of Masala chai tea”.
It is also used in savory dishes; most notably meat based stews, and is frequently combined with dried fruit, which achieves a sweet-sour tang. (Something like this is what I remember of the candy I spoke of earlier, it seems that it was plums or another dried fruit and was a very tangy sour).
If your gardens are anything similar to the ones around here, you might be looking for a couple of recipes to use the excess squash you have.
Squash Casserole
2 pounds steamed squash (cut them into pieces and steam with just a little water)
4 medium carrots (cut into circles and steam)
1 chopped onion (medium size)
1 chopped green pepper (medium size)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
1 package herb stuffing mix
1 stick margarine, (melted)
Stir together squash, carrots, onions, green pepper, soup and sour cream in bowl. Mix melted margarine and stuffing mix together and put half into the vegetables and stir together. Place in 13×9-inch pan and sprinkle remaining stuffing mixture on top. Bake at 350ºF for 40 minutes.
Stuffed Zucchini
4 zucchini (6-inches long)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup canned, chopped tomatoes, drained
½ cup plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped black olives
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
¼ cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise and hollow out, leaving a 3/8-inch shell. Coarsely chop the zucchini and onion and mince the garlic. Set aside while you heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Add the zucchini, onion and garlic to the skillet. Stir together, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until tender. Add the tomatoes and cook, covered, 5 minutes longer. Uncover and stir in the bread crumbs, olives, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Stuff the zucchini halves with the filling and place in a shallow baking dish. Pour the chicken broth over the zucchini and bake 30 minutes in preheated oven until tender.
Fried Zucchini
Salt and pepper (or seasoned salt)
Cooking Oil for deep frying
Wash and slice the zucchini into even slices about ¼-inch thick, or cut into small chunks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper or seasoned salt, (I used some Julio’s® seasoning the other day when I made this and it came out really well). Allow to stand a few minutes, and then dredge in flour until well coated. Next, dip slices into milk, and then back into flour. Fry a few at a time until golden brown and tender. Serve hot with Ranch Dressing to dip the slices into if desired.