Monday, May 28, 2007

Tortilla Española

I think in our past lives, my husband and I were Gypsies because we both love to travel and we don't like to stay in one place for long periods of time. Next year, we are going to Barcelona where the true gitanos are! So, in order to get me even more excited about our upcoming trip, I'm beginning to cook some Spanish recipes, and of course, the most famous recipe of all is their tortilla de patatas. This is my absolute favorite dish and if you're ever in San Diego, Tapas Picasso restaurant has one of the best tortillas Españolas.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

For Saffron Aïoli

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon saffron threads
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For Tortilla:
  • 2 small boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Make aïoli:

In medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and lemon. Set aside.

Place 2 tablespoons hot water in small bowl. In small, dry skillet over moderate heat, toast saffron for 30 seconds. Stir into hot water, then fold saffron water into egg mixture.

In blender, combine 4 tablespoons canola oil, garlic, and salt. Blend on high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add egg mixture and blend 1 more minute. With motor running, very slowly add olive oil and remaining canola oil in steady stream, and continue blending until thick, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Make tortilla:

Preheat oven to 300°F

In medium pot, combine potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring to boil, lower heat to moderately low, and cook, covered, until potatoes can be pierced with fork, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

In small sauté pan, over moderate heat, sauté onions and garlic in vegetable oil until soft, about 5 minutes.

In medium bowl, combine eggs, potatoes, onions, and garlic. Heat 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat and add egg mixture. Cook 4 minutes, then invert tortilla into ovenproof nonstick pan. Cover and bake until just set, about 10 minutes. Serve with saffron aïoli.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Aragorn's Grilled Steak

grilled rib eye steak a la aragorn
Have you ever wondered what Lord Aragorn ate at his coronation party after he was crowned King Elessar? (If you have no idea what character I'm talking about, then you better go to the library). Perhaps they served lots of boiled potatoes and all sort of meats, and an assortment of good weeds to smoke. However, I'm thinking that Aragorn was more of an "cook over an open fire" type of guy, don't you think? And I'm pretty sure he would be impressed with this grilled steak recipe. Perhaps even the Prancing Pony would have it in their menu! Don't forget to serve it with a huge pint of ale, lads!

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4 normal Hobbits or 2 hungry Orcs!)

Grilling Method: Combo/Medium Heat

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 shallots minced, soaked in Jack Daniels
  • 3 teaspoons minced parsley
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 teaspoons Jack Daniels
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • White pepper to taste
  • 2 Bone-in ribeye steaks, about 1 pound each and at least 1-inch thick
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, optional
  • Parsley, chopped for garnish

Make Butter at least 3 hours in advance. Combine butter, shallot, parsley, Worcestershire, mustard, Jack Daniels, salt and pepper. Mix well. On a piece of Saran Wrap, drop butter in spoonfuls to form a log. Roll butter in plastic wrap and smooth out to form a round log. Refrigerate until hard and easy to cut into pieces. making a butter log

Preheat grill or build a charcoal fire. While the grill is preheating, allow meat to come to room temperature about 20 minutes before grilling. Wrap meat in paper towels to get rid of excess moisture. Just before grilling, brush both sides of the steaks with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place steaks directly over Medium High heat for about 5 minutes. Turn steaks and continue cooking for about 8 more minutes for medium rare, or 10 - 12 for medium. Remove the steaks from the grill and allow to rest at least 5 minutes but no longer than 10 before serving.

Cut the cold compound butter into four generous slices. Serve the steaks warm with the butter. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

    One day I will make Armida my queen

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lee's Banana Bread

My little sister, Nathalie, is finally learning how to cook. Not that she is completely clueless--she does make a great breakfast--but she's beginning to look up recipes, and baking. She made this completely insane banana bread with real shortening, for crissakes! It's very moist and delicious and it's sure to become a family favorite. Also note, the chocolate chips are totally optional except for you chocoholics...and you know who you are!!!

INGREDIENTS (makes 3 loaves)

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 1/2 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease 3 loaf pans with shortening, then add about 1 tablespoon flour into each pan and tilt pan to coat. Shake off any extra flour.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir to mix well.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together shortening, sugar, mashed bananas, and eggs. When well beaten, gradually add the flour mixture while mixture is at lowest speed. Mix only until combined.

Stir in any chopped walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts or macadamia nuts, and/or chocolate chips, if using.

Pour batter into the 3 loaf pans.

Bake for 65-70 minutes or until cake tests done (toothpick inserted in center comes out clean).

Remove from oven and allow to sit for several minutes. Run a bread knife around edges of loaf pan to free it from sides and remove from pan.

Serve with whipped cream cheese spread on each slice, just to add a bit more fat if there isn't enough in the bread already!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

How To Drink Tequila

There are two schools of thought on how you properly drink tequila. There's the infamous Lick-it, Slam-it, Suck-it method (salt first, tequila second, suck on lime wedge last) or the savour-it method, where you sip your glass of tequila slowly, similar how you would enjoy cognac (this is usually done with really good tequila like Cazadores Reposado, Tres Generaciones Añejo, or Herradura Silver).

But if you're like my family, which you probably are, then my tio Alex and tia Marisa's method will probably work best for you--just don't use any of that Jose Cuervo stuff--it's too harsh for your pipes! Salud!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Easiest Shortbread Recipe Ever!

I'm not a big fan of Martha Stewart's recipes only because mine never seem to come out as good as the pictures in her magazine, but that could be because I tend to tweak my recipes. However, this is a super ridiculously simple recipe that I got from her magazine. It makes 8 yummy wedges of shortbread. Make yourself a pot of Marks & Spencer's extra strong tea and enjoy! For a slightly sweeter shortbread alternative, sprinkle a bit of powder sugar over the top while the shortbread is still warm.


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300°.

In mixing bowl, cream butter. Add flour, sugar and vanilla; mix just to combine (chill 10 minutes in refrigerator).

Pat into an 8-inch round cake pan and with a pairing knife, lightly score into 8 wedges; crimp edge with a floured fork. Bake until firm and slightly browned, 30 to 35 minutes (drape with foil if browning too quickly). Cool completely. Turn out of pan; slice wedges with a serrated knife.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Caprese Salad

Ah, summer is almost here and I'm beginning to see my favorite fresh fruits and vegetables at the store. I recently found huge organic beefsteak tomatoes and I just had to buy one. But instead of making some fancy shmancy recipe with it, I made my favorite, most simple recipe: caprese salad. If you can't find fresh buffalo mozzarella just fresh regular cow's milk mozzarella will work fine. You can serve this as an appetizer, but I usually eat the entire salad myself for lunch or dinner.


  • 1 beefsteak tomato
  • 3 oz fresh mozzarella (use fresh buffalo mozzarella, if you can find it)
  • 5 leaves fresh basil
  • Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsely, chopped (optional)

Slice the tomato to about 1/4 inch thickness and arrange on plate. Slice the mozzarella about the same width and layer it between the tomatoes. Arrange the basil between the layers of cheese and tomato. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the fresh parsely and serve.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

This dish is said to have orginated with the streetwalkers in ancient Naples, when they neede a quick hot meal. That is why it is called puttanesca. The name puttanesca is a derivation of puttana, which in Italian means "whore." According to one story, the name purportedly comes from the fact that the intense fragrance of this sauce was like a siren's call to the men who visited such "ladies of pleasure." I don't know how true this story is, but it sure makes a great conversation starter!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 1 lb.linguini (or spaghetti or buccatini)
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups (two 14.5-oz. cans) canned diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 Tbsp. oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. brined capers, drained and rinsed
  • Salt to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Saute the garlic, anchovy paste, and pepper flakes in a saute pan over medium heat. Stir, cooking for 30 seconds—it will smell strong because of the anchovies.

Add tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, brown sugar, and vinegar; stir to combine. Simmer sauce until slightly reduced, 10–15 minutes. Add the olives, herbs, capers, and salt (if necessary) to the sauce, plus some pasta cooking water if it seems thick. Simmer a couple of more minutes.Transfer the sauce to a large shallow bowl and top with the drained pasta. Toss until pasta is evenly coated with sauce. Serve and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top...don't forget to serve it with garlic bread.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Spinach and Gorgonzola Cream of Wheat

I was having a polenta craving last night but lo and behold, I did not have any quick-cooking polenta in the pantry. Incredibly enough, my local food shop did not have any polenta in stock. I was shocked, but that didn't stop me from making something I came up with this recipe using cream of wheat. Yes, you heard right, cream of wheat--you know that stuff we used to eat as kids? Of course, it's not really the same as polenta, but it has that creaminess and richness that polenta possesses. If you do have polenta in your pantry, you can use that instead, but let me tell you this is a very unique version! This makes a great side dish to chicken or even fish.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

Mushroom Saute

  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup white wine or champagne
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
Savory Cream of Wheat
  • 1 2/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup Malt-o-Meal Cream of Wheat
  • 2 Tbsp. half and half
  • 1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • 2 oz. (about a palmful) of Gorgonzola cheese (you can also use Gruyère cheese or mozzarella, if you don't like Gorgonzola or blue cheese)
  • 4 oz. fresh spinach

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for one minute. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until they are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine or champagne and raise the heat to medium-high. Let all the alcohol evaporate. Season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the chopped parsley, mix to combine. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a 4 quart sauce pan, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Slowly add the cream of wheat, whisking constantly with a whisk. Once all cream of wheat is incorporated, add the half and half and lower heat to medium. Keep whisking for 3 minutes until it becomes creamy. Add Parmesan, Gorgonzola (or whichever cheese you're using), mushroom mixture and spinach. Mix it all to combine, and serve immediately.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Shrimp and Sausage with Saffron Rice

When I tasted this dish, it reminded me of paella. It has all the flavors and ingredients of paella, yet this is truly a super easy dish. Try to use andouille sausage because it really gives this dish a kick. Also, serve it with wedges of lime...the acidness really makes this dish pop! And don't you forget to serve the sangria!!!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces andouille sausage (or kielbasa), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup white wine (we used champagne)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 12 saffron threads (you can find them in Trader Joe's)
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 sprigs fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Wedges of lime

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Spoon off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add the broth, saffron, and rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir the shrimp and peas into the rice, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with the salt and pepper. Spoon onto plates and add the cilantro (if using) and wedges of lime.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Chicken Taco Cornbread Pie

I've wanted to buy a cast-iron skillet because two of my favorite things to cook in it are fried chicken—yum—and corn bread—double yum. After I found this recipe for chicken taco cornbread pie I just knew that I'll be going to Great News Cookware in Pacific Beach this weekend and buy myself that cast iron I've been eyeing. By the way, a Chenin Blanc goes surprisingly well with this dish. I know I was surprised as well!



  • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • 1 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14 1/2 oz.) can dice tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (7 oz.) pkg. Martha White® Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix or your favorite cornbread mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup crushed corn tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 3 cups shredded romaine
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes

Heat oven to 400° F. Combine ranch dressing, salsa and 1 cup cilantro leaves in small food processor or blender. Process until well blended. Cover and refrigerate.

In 10-inch Lodge® cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper; cook 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Stir in chicken, 3 tablespoons cilantro, salt, cumin, pepper and tomatoes with green chilies; cook 5 minutes. Remove from skillet. Wipe out skillet with paper towel; grease.

In large bowl, beat egg. Add cornbread mix and milk; mix well. Place tortilla chips in greased skillet. Pour cornbread mixture over chips. Spoon chicken mixture over cornbread mixture; sprinkle with cheeses.

Bake at 400º F. for 16 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges. Top with romaine and tomatoes; drizzle with dressing.

Recipe courtesy of National Cornbread Cookoff