Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Curried Red Lentil Soup with Lime

Here’s an excellent use for red lentils. We love hot curry, but you could easily replace it with regular curry. The lime sour cream is an essential condiment for this spicy and delicious soup.The photo above shows the soup a little thinner (and better in my opinion) and the photo below shows the soup a little thicker. Simply add more water if you want a thinner soup. 

Here’s what you need:
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 t hot curry powder
2 C dried red lentils
28 ounces canned tomatoes
8 C water
2 Fresh limes
Sour cream (dairy or vegan)

Here’s what you do:
Sautee the onions in a bit of olive oil for a few minutes. Add the celery, garlic, sweet potato and curry. Cook for a few minutes. Add the lentils, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat until the veg is all soft. I always like to let my soup sit, covered, off the heat to ‘soak’ for a while before serving. I think the flavors are better if you don’t rush it.

Use an immersion blender – or a high speed blender – to make a creamy consistency. Add the juice of a lime (or to taste) and garnish each serving with a ‘lime sour cream.’ (Create this by mixing more lime juice in sour cream to taste) Also garnish with cilantro. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mayocoba Bean and Grilled Vegetable Salad with Citrus Dressing

When I was scouring the county last month for authentic achiote powder for my Cuban Christmas, I came across these unusual Mayocoba beans. 

Turns out, they’re not all that unusual in the Peruvian culture, but they sure were new to me. Making beans at home could not be easier: cheap, healthy, tasty and so versatile. Plus they freeze like a dream.

Rinse the beans. Bring them to a rapid boil in lots of unsalted water. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Allow to sit for 1 hour. Drain, rinse, cover with more water and simmer until tender – maybe 2 hours. That’s it! This method is pretty much the same for all types of dried beans.

As far as this Citrus Dressing goes, you MUST trek to your nearest Trader Joe’s and purchase a dozen bottles of their Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar! Drizzle it over absolutely everything – from fruit, to vegetables, to avocadoes, to Mexican, to soup, to fish, to chicken, to bean salad. It’s excellent! Order it on line if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby – you won’t be sorry!

Here’s what you need:
Some white beans – I used mayocoba, but you could canned cannelloni beans or even navy beans
Some grilled vegetables – I used onions, green peppers and corn
Some cilantro
Some dressing:
¼ C Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar
2 T olive oil
½ t cumin
½ t coriander
½ t sugar

Here’s what you do:
Grill the veg. Whisk the dressing. Serve over lettuce or in a tortilla or next to a grilled chicken breast or over rice or in a bowl of broth or on toast for breakfast.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sushi Roll Edamame Salad – Isa Chandra

Even in the middle of the Polar Vortex, I craved salad.

Was it cold last week where you lived? We were way below zero and I still craved salad.

Did you have to shovel out from 4 feet of fresh snow fall? I did, and I still craved salad.   

Schools closed; state highways and freeways closed; I stay in the house for three days straight…. And I craved salad.

The fireplace was on; the car was under two feet of snow; hot tea was constantly in my mug…. And I craved salad. ... and yes, I had nori in my pantry. ..... and edamame in my fridge.

Isa never fails, but.... I think her salad needs MORE nori and LESS green onion. My changes are reflected here. 

Our lighthouse. January 2014 (this is not my photo and there are many more great Lake Michigan Polar Vortex photos on the internet. Actually, it was really beautiful - just too darn cold!)

Here's what you need:
1 C edamame beans
1 t rice vinegar
1 t agave
6-8 C chopped crisp lettuce
2 C cooked brown rice
1 small cucumber, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
4 t sesame seeds
2 sheets nori, chiffonaded - cut into very fine strips
1 avocado

Green Onion Miso Vinaigrette
1/4 C light miso
1 C chopped green onions - green and white parts
3 T rice vinegar
2 t fresh ginger (or more to taste)
1 clove garlic
2 t agave
2 t sesame oil
1/2 C water

Here's what you do:
Mix 1 t rice vinegar and 1 t agave and pour over edamame beans. Arrange all salad ingredients on a large platter. Mix all dressing ingredients in a high powered blender and whirl until very smooth. Add more water if needed. Drizzle over salad. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Isa Chandra’s Corn Chowder

I am very nostalgic about corn chowder because it was one of the first soups I learned how to make. I used to use my grandma’s recipe which has whole milk, butter, bacon, and cans of creamed corn. 

 In my mind, I can see myself fretting over that simple recipe, trying to figure out how long to sauté the onions, when to add the milk and what to do with the bacon grease. Good cooks have some natural instinct and that comes with practice. After 28 years of practice in the kitchen, I no longer fret over how to sauté onions and I can tell a great corn chowder recipe when I see one. Isa never fails!

Here’s what you need: (I have included some minor modifications)
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ t red pepper flakes
5 ears fresh corn – equal to about 4 cups of kernels plus the cobs
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes or red potatoes, diced
4 C vegetable broth – divided
1 T corn starch
1 can full fat coconut milk
Fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes include:
Fresh basil
Thinly sliced radishes
Shredded carrot
Extra corn kernels

Here’s what you do:
Sauté the onions in the oil until they are translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and simply warm the garlic – do not brown it. Add the carrots and corn kernels and cook for a few minutes. Measure out 1 C of the broth and whisk in the corn starch. Set aside.

Add the remaining 3 C of broth and potatoes to the soup pot.  Cover and bring to a boil. Add the corn cobs. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes. I believe in letting soup rest for a while to really allow the flavors to peak. So if you have time, turn off the heat and let the whole thing sit for another 30 minutes. This will also allow the starch from the corn cobs to do its magic.

Remove the cobs. Add the starchy veggie broth which you have been saving and raise the heat until the soup is a bit thickened. Add the coconut milk. Season with salt and lots of black pepper. Save the lime juice (fresh, of course!) until the last minute.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Simple Mango Salsa

Two mangos
One English cucumber
Some minced red onion.
Some cilantro
One minced jalapeno pepper, seeds and veins removed
Season with fresh lime zest, lime juice and salt

This recipe wraps up my Cuban Christmas menu. I hope you enjoyed looking at the photos and recipes and I really encourage you to step away from the turkey and ham and 'Go Cuban' at your next holiday meal! 

One last departing look at my beautiful Cuban Christmas. 

For the rest of the recipes, simply click below:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ropa Vieja – a show stopper!

Don’t you get tired of turkey and ham every year on the holidays? Why not ‘go Cuban’? This Ropa Vieja was the centerpiece at my Christmas dinner.

I served my Ropa Vieja with Coconut Cardamom Rice and a Mango Salsa.
Pineapple Coconut Layer Cake with Pineapple Curd was dessert. 

Bring a platter of this to your table and watch what happens. Serious goodness. Yes, it takes a tiny bit of effort to make, but isn’t a great meal worth some effort?  I actually drove to Grand Rapids (the BIG city) to find the achiote powder at a Mexican market. If you can’t find real achiote, you could swap it for some paprika which would give your dish that wonderful reddish color, but not an authentic taste. It’s worth it to start planning now on your shopping trips to get some of this spice in your pantry. Think ahead! If you find achiote, grab it! I do not recommend the premixed Goya Brand spice blends, even if they say achiote on the box…. Way, way, way too salty!!

You will see recipes for Ropa Vieja all over the internet and in every Latino cookbook, and each one might use a different cut of meat. I like flank steak because it can stand up to the long cooking  time (in fact, it needs it.) You will also see many spice blends, but I like this one.  I think my recipe has lots more veggies than most also, which we prefer. Keep everything chunky so it doesn't cook away to mush.

Here’s what you need:
3 pounds flank steak
1/3 C Worcestershire sauce
3 Bottles beer
¼ C vegetable oil
1 large onion chopped in large chunks
1 red pepper chopped in large chunks
1 green pepper chopped  in large chunks
14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
3 ounces tomato paste
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T dried oregano
1 T lemon pepper
1 T dried parsley
1 T achiote powder
½ T cumin

Here’s what you do:
Make the dry rub by combining the garlic powder, onion power, oregano, lemon pepper, parsley, achiote and cumin. Cut the flank steak steak into large pieces and massage each piece well with the rub. Cover the meat with the beer and allow to marinate for a few hours. After a few hours, transfer the meat and all the juices to a large Dutch oven, bring to a soft boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook gently for about 3 hours or until meat is tender. Remove the meat from the cooking liquid – SAVE THE BROTH. Shred the meat into very large chunks. Continue to simmer the liquid until you have about 4 cups. You may chill the liquid and degrease it, but with a flank steak, there is not too much fat.

In the mean time, sauté the onions, red pepper, green pepper, and diced tomatoes for about 10 minutes. Don’t let the veggies get too mushy. Add the tomato paste and reserved cooking liquid. Stir well. Add the meat and continue to cook until very tender, maybe another 30 minutes or so. You want the dish to have some broth, but not so much that it is swimming in liquid. The entire dish will get very tender the longer you cook it, but keep the veggies and meat in large chunks for the best end result.

Serve with rice and beans, avocado, lime, cilantro and tropical fruit slices (grilled pineapple) 

(printable recipe)

For the rest of the recipes in this menu, click below:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Coconut Cardamom Rice Casserole – from Cook’s Illustrated

Here’s another recipe I used in my Cuban Christmas menu – it’s a good one, especially if you want to serve rice to a big crowd. Nothing worse than fiddling with food on the stove at the last minute. This goes into a casserole and then into the oven.  Super easy and perfect with my Ropa Vieja.  I did not garnish this with cilantro and lime because I also served a mango salsa which was loaded with both cilantro and lime. The cashew topping on this dish was outstanding! I would never have thought of this! Crunchy and salty and buttery.

Here's my Cuban Christmas meal. Ropa Vieja. Mango Salsa.
Cardamom Rice. And off to the side- Pineapple Coconut Layer Cake
with Pineapple Curd. 

Cook’s Illustrated has the very best recipes and methods, in my opinion.  The research that goes into every recipe is incredible and I can’t even imagine how many repetitions they must do to get the perfect end product.  If you’ve ever seen their TV show then you know that they treat every recipe like a mini science experiment, explaining how every protein, fat, spice and temperature contribute to the recipe.

I found this recipe in a huge hard cover cook book called “Cover and Bake,” but I see it all over the internet also. This makes a huge 9x13 casserole, so maybe cut everything in half if you don’t want too many leftovers.

Here’s what you need:
For the topping:
1 C roasted, unsalted cashews
4 slices good white bread, torn in pieces
2 T melted Earth Balance non-dairy butter

For the rice:
2 T Earth Balance non-dairy butter
1 medium onion, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 T fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cardamom
4 C vegetable broth
4 C coconut milk (Silk brand beverage)
2 C water
3 C rice
Salt and pepper to taste
(cilantro and lime for garnish)

Here’s what you do:
Process the cashews in a food processor until crumbly – not too long. Add the bread and melted Earth Balance and process until crumbly.  Set aside.

Melt 2 T Earth Balance. Saute the onions and jalapenos until soft, but not brown – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cardamom and ginger and continue to cook for a few minutes. Add the broth, milk and water. Bring to a simmer. Add the rice, salt and pepper. Return to a simmer, lower heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes – stirring often. Pour creamy rice mixture in a prepared 9x13 casserole. Top with cashew bread crumbs. Bake 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

For the rest of the recipes, click below:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pineapple Coconut Layer Cake with Pineapple Curd – revisited

Here is the first in a series of recipes which I used for a Cuban Christmas meal. I think having  a theme for a menu can be fun, plus it makes it easier to decide what to include. Ropa Vieja was our main course alongside Coconut Cardamon Rice. I also served a mango salsa. When you include a great dessert like this cake, you really don't need many more things on the dinner plate. Everyone has to save room for dessert! 

Here's the entire meal.... Cake is over there somewhere. 

I have made this cake before from scratch, following the recipe to the letter. This time I used a boxed cake mix, and it was much improved. It was extremely tender and was perfect after a huge meal. I also used fresh pineapple this time, which was a wise move on my part.  For the original recipe (Eating Well website) click here. For my previous version of this gorgeous cake click here.

I actually made this cake the day before I served it and stored it in the fridge. Before serving it, I allowed it to come to room temperature. Excellent! Rave reviews all around! Not many leftovers.

Here’s what you need:
Boxed white cake mix – the kind you only add egg whites to
2 T Dark or spiced rum
3 t Coconut extract - divided
Fresh pineapple
3 eggs – separated
¾ C canned pineapple juice
¼ C sugar
5 t cornstarch
12 ounces reduced- fat cream cheese – room temp
1/3 C powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 ½ - 2 C fresh pineapple chunks – divided
Toasted coconut for garnish

Here’s what you do:
Prepare the cake mix by following the directions on the box. Add 2 T rum and 2 t coconut extract to the cake batter. Bake according to the box. Allow to cool completely.

For the curd: whisk together 2 egg yolks, pineapple juice, sugar and cornstarch. Place over medium heat and whisk constantly until thick and shiny. Remove from heat all allow to cool completely.

For the frosting: mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, 1 t coconut extract and pinch of salt  until smooth and spreading consistency.

To assemble the cake, place one layer (top side down) on a plate, spread the curd over this stopping short of the edge. Sprinkle small pineapple chunks over the curd. Place the second layer on top (top side up). Dump the frosting on the top of the cake and carefully frost. There was not any extra frosting, so plan carefully as you go.

Decorate with pineapple chunks and toasted coconut.

For other recipes from by Cuban Christmas Menu, click below: 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year!

Rose Bowl 2014
  Happy New Year from sunny Pasadena! 
No, I am not a Spartan, but I do love a good party! 

May your 2014 be filled with love, laughter and lots of great meals together.