Saturday, March 29, 2008

Black Beans and Rice

Since my hubby is on travel doing his training, I haven't been cooking much. I had forgotten what a hassle it is to cook just for one. I figured it's just easier to order take out than to cook for myself, but it isn't too healthy eating out all the time. So I'm saying "no" to the taco joints and sushi places and I'll start cooking for myself. I started with the simplest (and the tastiest) dish, black beans and rice. You can make this meal completely vegetarian by substituting the chicken stock with vegetable broth. Mmm, and a side of tostones would make this the perfect dish!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4, but you can save left overs for the next day and make burritos)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped green peppers (I used red)
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 1 (15oz) can black beans(undrained)
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken stock or broth
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch of brown sugar
  • 1 package sazon Goya (without annato *see note)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups cooked white rice, preferably Mahatma rice

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan and sauté onion for 5 minutes. Add green pepper, chopped tomato and garlic and saute until tender, about 4-5 more minutes.

Add in the remaining ingredients, except cooked rice, and stir until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is reduced, about 12 - 15 minutes. Add the cilantro during the last minute of cooking.

Mash a few of the beans with the back of a spoon to thicken the sauce a little more. Serve black beans over white rice, or serve it as we like it in Latin America by mixing the black beans and rice all together like a happy family.

Note: if you do not have Sazòn Goya an appropriate substitute would be ground cumin, chicken bouillon, and garlic salt to taste.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mediterranean Couscous

This past Sunday--on Easter--I made this dish to accompany my braised lamb shoulder. The couscous was fluffy and delish. You can use any of your favorite vegetables, I just really like roasted zucchini, tomatoes and onions together. Also, this photo is not mine. My family ate the couscous so fast that I didn't have a chance to take a picture of the finished product! Enjoy.

INGREDIENTS (serves 6 - 8)

  • 1 box of Near East Original Plain couscous
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced into 1/4"
  • 6 asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise or in 1/4" rounds
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced into 1/2" rings (do not separate)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sliced green onions
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to broil.

Place the tomatoes, zucchini, red onions and asparagus in a baking pan. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Broil for 8 minutes, then turn veggies over and broil another 5 minutes, or until lightly charred. Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Once veggies have cooled, cut into bit size pieces.

In medium saucepan, bring water and pepper just to a boil. Stir in couscous; cover. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork; cool, uncovered 10 minutes.

In large serving bowl combine lemon juice, remaining olive oil, parsley, mint and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk until well blended. Add the couscous, all the vegetables, and the green onion. Gently mix well and chill 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, stir in the feta cheese.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Braised Lamb Shoulder

I made this lovely braised lamb shoulder for Easter. It was so delicious and succulent and there was hardly any fat on it because I removed most it before cooking. I also braised the lamb in tomato juice instead of wine; I think the tomato juice gave it another dimension. I served it with some couscous with roasted veggies on the side. All in all, the lamb was quite popular and it was gone before I knew it. I didn't think a lot of people would like lamb, but apparently it's one of those secret indulgences most of us Mexicans and non-Mexicans have.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 to 5 hungry people at Easter)

  • 3 pounds lamb shoulder (deboned, if possible)
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into 2" chuncks
  • 4 stalks celery, cut into 2" chunks
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, low sodium
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 (28 oz.) can of tomato juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced parsely
  • 1 tablespoon finely mince mint

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The day before: wash lamb in cold water and pat dry. Trim off as much fat as possible. Squeeze the juice of lemon all over and inside the lamb.

In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, rosemary and oregano. Rub this mixture all over the lamb shoulder. Tie the lamb with butcher's twine. Cover in plastic wrap and let it marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day: Remove plastic wrap from lamb. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven on medium high. Sear lamb on each side for 2 minutes. Remove lamb onto another plate. Add the carrots, celery, onion, 2 whole garlic cloves, red wine, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Simmer for 30 seconds and turn off heat. Place the lamb back on top of veggies and add the tomato juice. Cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap or with parchment paper, then with aluminum foil (don't let the foil touch tomato juice).

Bake in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. Remove meat and tent with foil to keep warm.

Remove bay leaves. Put about 2 cups of the lamb/tomato juices and half of veggies into a blender. Puree for 1 minute. Strain through a sieve. Heat the sauce in a small saucepan on low us until ready to use.

To serve: Remove butcher's string from lamb. Slice shoulder into 1/2" slices and place them onto your serving plater. Drizzle the strained juices all over the meat and sprinkle a mixture of parsley and mint. A side of couscous goes excellent with this dish.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Death By Cake

Death by cake
I stumbled upon some very disturbingly funny foodie photographs by Daniela Edburg, who is a very talented artist from Mexico. Her eye is remarkable and her photographs seem as quirky and surreal as a three-legged Chihuahua wearing a lucha libre mask. The photo, Death by Cake, is my favorite. But she's got other good ones like Death by Oreo, Death by Bananas (my husband hates this one), Death by Slimfast, and several others. Anyway, it's a slow day at work and I wanted to share these gorgeous photos with y'all.

Images courtesy of Kunsthaus and Daniela Edburg, copyright © Daniela Edburg.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Traditional Irish Breakfast

Irish Breakfast
Happy St. Patricks day everyone! Today is one of my husband's favorite holidays, mainly due to his Irish heritage. And one of his most favorite Irish dishes is the traditional Irish breakfast. You can totally make this at home; you'd be surprised how many specialized markets and online stores carry food from Ireland. You totally need the real thing to make this, but you can always improvise, as well. Don't forget to serve Irish hot tea and brown bread on the side. This meal is just brilliant!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 1 packet of Irish Sausages
  • 1 packet of Irish bacon (or Canadian bacon)
  • One Pack of White Pudding
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 pint white mushrooms, sliced
  • Irish Butter
  • Grated Dubliner Cheese

You are basically going to fry the bacon, sausages and white pudding until they are fully cooked and golden brown all around (do not fry the bacon crispy, keep it soft and well browned.) Keep them in a warm oven, covered with foil while you finish the rest.

Next, fry the mushrooms in Irish butter until soft, about 5 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside in oven.

Season tomatoes with salt and pepper and fry them, cut side down. Set aside in oven.

Finally, fry the eggs and grate Dubliner cheese on top if desired. Divide all this Irish goodness among four plates and be ready for your tummy to be happy!


Friday, March 14, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I have been on the road lately and I'm sorry I haven't posted any new recipes recently, but I'm back. I tried these chocolate chip pancakes from one of Paula Deen's recipes. I've haven't particularly liked any of her recipes only because they are full of fat and are not entirely healthy. But I had a craving for chocolate and y'all know I'm in search of the perfect pancake. Well, this was an OK pancake. It did cause my husband to go to sleep because of all the sugar--so I wouldn't recommend this if you're diabetic. Next time, I would definitely cut the mini chocolate chips in half and maybe I'll add a little ricotta just to make the pancake silkier.

INGREDIENTS (10 servings)

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted plus 4 tablespoons, divided
  • 1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate morsels
Cinnamon Cream
  • Maple syrup, for serving
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat griddle to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, combine milk, egg yolks, and 3 tablespoons melted butter; add to flour mixture, whisking until smooth.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until stiff. Gently fold into batter. Gently fold in chocolate morsels.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter on hot griddle. Ladle about 1/4-cup batter for each pancake onto hot griddle. Cook pancakes for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Turn and cook the other side. Repeat procedure with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and remaining batter.

For the Cinnamon Cream: In a medium bowl, beat cream at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until thickened. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar and cinnamon, beating until stuff peaks form. Cover and chill.

Serve pancakes with Cinnamon Cream and maple syrup.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Lasagna de Enchiladas

I decided to try a new twist on enchiladas by making them "lasagna" style. I saw an episode of Good Eats and this is how Alton Brown prepared his enchiladas. I like the concept, and it's quite easy if you buy the canned sauce, but it doesn't look very pretty when you plate it. But the dish is very yummy. I cut the recipe in half since it's just the two of us, but the recipe below serves 6 to 8 people. If you really like spicy food, try using the hot enchilada sauce instead.

INGREDIENTS (serves 6 to 8 Obama supporters)

  • 1 (28oz) can of Las Palmas Enchilada Sauce (mild)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups shredded queso fresco or Monterey Jack
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Crème fraîche or sour cream
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Slices of avocado (optional)

Place the entire can of enchilada sauce into a sauce pan wide enough to fit tortillas in it and simmer on low until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken until cooked through, approximately 7 to 9 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and place in a medium bowl. Add the onions to the same pan along with a generous pinch of salt decrease the heat to medium-low and sweat for 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook until the onions are tender, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the chicken back to the pan and 1/4 cup of the simmering enchilada sauce. Mix to combine and remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large skillet (or the same one you used to cook chicken but make sure it is clean) add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and heat on medium-high. When oil begins to shimmer, add one tortilla (or two if you can fit them) and fry for 10 to 15 seconds per side. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. Repeat this with remaining tortillas.

Spray a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with non-stick spray. Place 1/2 cup of the sauce into the bottom of the dish. Dip 4 tortillas into the remaining sauce and lay them into the bottom of the dish. Cut 1 of the tortillas in half to evenly cover the bottom of the dish.

Top this with half of the chicken mixture and 1 cup of the cheese. Starting with 4 more tortillas, repeat the layers, ending with the last 4 tortillas on top. Pour remaining sauce over the dish and top with remaining 1 cup of cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven on the middle rack for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese on top is bubbly. Serve slices of enchilada lasagna with a little crème fraîche and a sprinkling of cilantro and slices of avocado on the side.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Deconstructed Niçoise Salad

They say that we eat with our eyes first, that's why it's important to serve food that is appealing to the eye...but sometimes it's difficult making food look pretty, like salads, for example. I'm not a big salad eater mainly because it's usually just a mishmash of a bunch of veggies and lettuces mixed together and it's not really a good looking dish. But after visiting Bite restaurant in San Diego, I tried their deconstructed nicoise salad and not only was it delicious, it was probably one the prettiest salads I've ever had.

INGREDIENTS (makes 4 servings)

  • 12 fingerling potatoes, or 6 to 8 small new potatoes
  • 1/2 pound green beans
  • 2 cups arugula or baby greens
  • 8 red cherry or red plum tomatoes, cut in half
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • 1/2 cup black olives
  • 10 oz. sashimi grade yellow fin tuna
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, smashed with salt until paste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and add a heavy pinch of salt. Simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender and done. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and let them cool completely. Add the green beans into the same pot of boiling water and bring to a boil again. Simmer for 2 minutes then drain green beans and let cool room temperature. Drizzle the potatoes with a little olive oil so they don't dry out.

Drizzle the sesame oil over tuna. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then pat down the sesame seeds all over the tuna. Wrap in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.

When ready to cook, heat a cast iron skillet or heavy bottom skillet on medium high. Add 1 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil and as soon as it lightly smokes, place the tuna on skillet. Let it sear for 20 seconds, then turn and sear second side for another 20 seconds. Keep doing this until all sides of tuna are seared. The entire searing time should not take longer than 90 seconds. Remove and let it cool slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and place back in fridge. About 15 minutes before serving, take seared tuna out of fridge and slice into 1/4" slices.

Vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk together white wine, Dijon, garlic, and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking constantly. Drizzle the arugula or baby greens with 1 tablespoon of dressing and set aside.

To plate: In four plates (preferably rectangular and white) uniformly distribute black olives, then fingerling potatoes, dressed arugula, sliced seared tuna, green beans, sliced hard boiled eggs, and sliced tomatoes. Drizzle the green beans with the dressing. Sprinkle a little paprika over hard boiled eggs, and sprinkle salt and pepper over tomatoes and serve with a side of the dressing. I suggest a buttery champagne, such as Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé or even Korbel Brut for this fabulous dish!