Monday, May 30, 2011

Mango and Black Bean Salad (with Avocado and Shrimp)

A huge thank you to my sister for providing today's recipe. I remembered her serving this tasty dish at family gathering and wanted to try it out for an upcoming potluck.

adapted from Maureen Callahan, MARCH 2008
with shrimp, avocado and hot sauce additions from Nichole

serves 6

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled ripe mango (about 1 large)
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup cooked wild or brown rice
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp roasted tomatillo or fresh salsa
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can organic no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large ripe avocado, peeled pitted and diced
1/2 pound cooked, shelled and deveined shrimp
hot sauce to taste

The Process:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently to mix.

My Modifications:
I doubled the recipe to feed a larger crowd...easy enough to do with this recipe! I used a combination of brown rice and wild rice. In a grocery list snafu I had forgotten to pick up enough green onion for last night's roulade AND today's salad. As a substitute I added finely diced vidalia onion.

The Review:
Pending tonight's gathering

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Leek Roulade with Ricotta, Red Pepper and Walnut Filling

Roulade. Rolled foods. A few months ago the challenge of filling and carefully rolling a cake, a pork loin or a souffle-like shell would have been far too daunting. They seems so elegant--and by default--beyond my skills.

How wrong I was. This particular recipe is as elegant as it is light. And proof yet again that vegetarian dishes needn't be boring.

It is another time consuming treat, but I found it easy enough to multitask--roasting the peppers while I prepped the roulade, mixing the filling while the roulade baked and the like.

For the more visually inclined, this video provides the same recipe:

adapted from Main Courses 365 edited by Jenni Fleetwood

serve 6-8

The Ingredients:

butter or oil, for greasing
2 Tbsp fine dry bread crumbs
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, divided
1/4 cup butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1/3 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
2 large eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
salt and pepper to taste

2 large red peppers
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
scant 1 cup chopped walnuts
4 spring onions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil
The Process:
Preheat the oven to 375

Grease and line a 12 x 9 jelly roll pan with baking parchment, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs and 2 Tbsp of the grated Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a pan and cook the leeks for 5 minutes, until softened.

Stir in the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually stir in milk. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to make a thick sauce.

Stir in the mustard and nutmeg and season well with salt and pepper. Reserve 2-3 Tbsp of the remaining Parmesan, then stir the rest into the sauce. Cool slightly.

Beat the egg yolks in the sauce. In a scrupulously clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff. Stir 2-3 spoonfuls of the egg white into the leek mixture, then carefully fold in the remaining egg white.

Pour the mixture into the tin and gently level it out with a spatula. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until risen and just firm to a light touch in the center. If the roulade is to be served hot, increase the oven temperature to 400 after removing the roulade.

Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Halve and seed the peppers then broil them skin sides uppermost until black. Place in a bowl, cover and leave for 10 minutes. Peel and cut into strips.

Beat the ricotta with the walnuts and spring onions. Chop half of the basil and beat it into the mixture. Season to taste.

Place a large sheet of baking parchment on the work surface and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Turn out the roulade on to it. Strip off the lining paper and allow to cool slightly. Spread the cheese mixture over it and top with the red pepper strips. Tear the remaining basil leaves and sprinkle them over the top.

Using the parchment paper as a guide, roll up the roulade and roll it on to a serving platter. If serving hot, roll the roulade on to a baking sheet. Cover with a tent of foil and bake for 15-20 minutes.

My Modifications:
These weren't modifications so much as errors I caught after the fact. Had I caught them sooner I may not have run into the dryness issue I had with the final product...

First, my pan was not a jelly roll...but not to worry. Any baking sheet with a bit of a lip should work just fine. The roulade doesn't raise to terribly high as it bakes. However, my pan was closer to 16x11, resulting in a much thinner layer that needed far less time to bake.

Second, I forgot to tent foil over the filled roulade during its second foray into the oven. The layers still heated through beautifully, however the out-most crust dried out slightly and began to crackle along the surface.

The Review:
I know I've had a success when my husband goes back for seconds...especially if the dish had nary a trace of meat or potatoes. However, a dear foodie friend and classmate recently shared a secret on her own blog, Good Graces. The same holds true to husbands...they will eat what you offer them...

The roulade was light, if a little dry. But the filling made up for what the crust suffered. The ricotta was piping hot and creamy. The red pepper smokey and sweet. The walnuts earthy and, well, nutty. The fresh basil was perhaps a touch overpowering at times...infusing an almost licorice like flavor.

For a dish so light we found it incredibly filling. Little needs accompany this to round out a meal. Perhaps a small salad of arugula or frisse...or a chunk of crusty bread dipped in oil. Ideal for a dinner. Impressive for company. Holding its own at room temperature for a holiday buffet. A bit time consuming for everyday cooking, but a treat when you have time to appreciate the journey.

Fried Rice

Fried rice. Another Chinese take-out staple. Can you believe I have never actually tried my hand at making this seemingly simple dish? It's hardly gourmet cooking. Rice, egg, soy sauce and bits of vegetables. Really how hard could it be? And why oh why have I waited so long?

The sweet and sour chicken prompted me to finally try my own fried rice. I wanted a rice side, but was weary of the basmati and brown rice that often accompanies our meals. I let Chef Madhu Menon of the former Shoik restaurant be my guide. The article listed below as the recipe's source is more an outline than recipe, full of careful advice and suggestions. Sometimes these are the greatest instructions to follow. The recipe that follows is my creation based upon that guidance.

guided by the advice of Chef Madhu Menon

serves 2-3

The Ingredients:
1 c cooked brown or white rice, preferably a day old
1Tbsp vegetable oil + sesame oil to taste
1-2 scallions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg whisked
1/4 cup peas
1/4 diced carrot
any assortment of leftover veggies and meats
2 tsp oyster sauce or fish sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
pepper to taste

The Process:
Gather all of your ingredients...everything will cook up incredibly fast.

Heat a wok or large skillet till the surface is almost smoking. Then add the oils and spread it around till it coats the surface evenly.

Temporarily move the wok off the heat and the add the garlic and scallion, then stir for about 10 seconds. This is to prevent the garlic and scallion from burning. Move these to the side of the wok and add the egg. Cook, stirring, until they are lightly scrambled but not too dry.

Now add the rice to the pan, crumbling any big sticky blocks with your hands to ensure they're all separate. Add in the peas, carrots and any other tidbits your heart desires.

Toss the rice and the veggies well and keep stirring for another minute or two so that the rice grains are properly coated with the oil. Then add pepper, fish or oyster sauce and soy sauce. Stir the mixture around again for another minute. Taste the rice to check saltiness. Serve hot.

The Review:

Given the simplicity of this dish, we are certain to see it again. Possibly in the form of a main dish! The leftover mentality makes this perfect as we head into summer...all of those farmer's market veggies needing to be consumed before they wilt and wither away. And how easy to alter this recipe to appease the vegan, vegetarian and omnivores among us! Omit the egg and oyster sauce, toss in some extra veggies or tofu for the vegan. Mix it up with some egg for the vegetarian. Throw in any assortment of chicken, shrimp, pork or beef for the omnivore...

This incarnation was pretty basic and a bit generic. But now that I know the premise behind the simple dish, I'm more inclined to play around with my spice cabinet and leftovers. How about a Thai version with ginger, lemon grass and chili? Or Japanese with a touch of miso and sake? Indian curried fried rice? Perhaps a Korean touch of kimchi? Or even Hawaiian style with spam, and pineapple? Oh the possibilities...

Saucy Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and sour dishes are a Chinese take out staple for many people, but they never appealed to me. The sauce was a bit too artificially sweet. The neon orange color a little too unnatural. The pineapple a touch too sad. The breading on the chicken limp and soggy after its car ride duration with its saucy companion.

Despite my aversion to the sticky sweet orange sauce, I decided to give this recipe a try. The list of condiments used to make the sauce was such an usual combination; my curiosity got the better of me.

adapted from a recipe by Better Homes and Gardens.

serves 4-6

The Ingredients:
2-1/2 to 3 lb meaty chicken pieces (breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks), skinned
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 of a 12-oz can (about 3/4 cup) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp vinegar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water

The Process:
Place chicken pieces in a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt. In a medium bowl, combine lemonade concentrate, brown sugar, ketchup, and vinegar. Pour over chicken in cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3-1/2 hours. Transfer chicken to a serving platter; cover and keep warm.

For sauce, pour cooking liquid into a medium saucepan. Skim off fat. Combine cornstarch and the cold water; stir into liquid in saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve with hot cooked rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

The Review:
I was incredibly surprised by this recipe. The chicken may have cooked a touch longer than nearly 9 hours in the slow cooker the meat was falling off the bones, but also starting to dry out.

It needed the sauce. And this sauce was the perfect accomplice.

Unlike its take-out variety cousin, this version was a much deeper russet color. The sauce had a richer meaty flavor too...due to simmering with the chicken all afternoon. The sweetness and tanginess were still there. Who would have known frozen lemonade concentrate would create such a dish?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ambrosia salad

Ambrosia salad. The name conjures thoughts of Greek gods and... well...Edward Scissorhands. It is a name wrapped in the nostalgic mythos of backyard barbeques and weak attempts to get kids to eat more fruit. Fruit coated in sweet, whipped goodness. It was dessert, salad and side dish all in one.

It was the nostalgic feelings that lead me to hunt down this recipe. A friend was hosting a birthday party of our youth. Silly sting, pinatas and teenage mutant ninja turtles. Ambrosia salad seemed like the the perfect fit. I recall similar sweet, whipped cream coated fruit salads from my youth...but they usually went by the moniker fruit fluff. I vaguely recalled lime jello or pisctchio pudding being involved, but I was a kid. It was sweet and didn't really matter at the time. The recipe I ended up basing mine on what appeared to be a common interpretation of the seemingly infinite versions of this dessert-like salad.

But of course I made some changes of my own.

adapted from a recipe at

serves several

The Ingredients:
2 cans pineapple chunks, drained

2 cans mandarin oranges, drained
2 jars maraschino cherries, drained
1 can coconut flakes

1/2 bag mini marshmallows

4 oz. sour cream

16 oz. Cool Whip

The Process:
Combine sour cream and Cool Whip. Fold in all other ingredients. Chill covered for at least 2 hours.

My Modifications:
This recipe was verily vague on what constitutes a "can." But sometimes such ambiguous instructions lead to the best results. I was used to seeing tiny jars of cherries and mini cans of mandarin oranges, but in all honesty, I have no what sizes this person was alluding to.

In the end I used one 16 oz can of pineapple chunks, one 14.5 oz jar of mandarin oranges, one 10 oz jar of maraschino cherries, and because it wasn't nostalgic enough, one 16 oz can of fruit cocktail. In all cases I opted for fruit in juices or light syrup instead of heavy syrups. I suppose it doesn't really matter as all of the fruit was drained, but corn syrup is typically one thing I do avoid as much as possible. Ironic, I know, as it is a major ingredient in Cool Whip.

I also omitted the coconut for the pickier eaters at the party. The dressing remained unaltered.

The Review:
This trip to our youth disappeared faster than the more traditional and healthful fruit salad present. I take that to mean it was very well received...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chocolate Rapture Cake with Sour Cream Frosting

Perhaps it is a bit rude to poke fun at a small group utterly convinced that our judgement was upon us. But when I came across this cake recipe from the 1950's I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate what very well might have been our last hours...baked goods and friends....

Well, the supposed hour of the rapture has come and gone, and perhaps those who fell until the spell of this small groups is a little wiser for it...and hopefully prepared for a much longer stint on Earth than they planned for. But at least there's still cake!

Cake adapted from "Pepper's" recipe at
Frosted adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Yeilds one 9 inch 2-layer cake
The Ingredients:
1 3/4 c cake flour
1 1/2 c white sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 c shortening
3 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 c buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
8oz sour cream
2 lb powdered (confectioner's) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk

The Process:
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 inch, round cake pans.

Sift together cake flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add shortening, chocolate, buttermilk, and vanilla; beat for 2 minutes. Add eggs, and beat for 2 minutes. Stir in coconut. Pour batter into p
repared pans.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool, and frost.

For the frosting:
In large mixing bowl beat softened butter with mixer 30 seconds; beat in sour cream. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla and milk. Use at once or refrigerate up to 3 days. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before using.

My Modifications:
A few commented how un-chocolatey this cake was, and perusing the ingredient list I was inclined to agree. I did not wish to over do it, but I did opt to add 1 Tbsp of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients.

And I forgot in a moment of distraction to flour my cake pans...which led to some choice words that probably would have condemned me to the next several months of hell on Earth should the rapture have come to fruition. Ross stepped in and managed to free the cakes...mostly intact...

The Review:
Of our Rapture eve tasters there were many a mixed review. No one hated. Some of us found the cake sort of boring and dry. Others found it perfect because it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet. Ross and I thought the frosting was on the verge of putting us into a sugar comma...neither of us were able to finish the more frosting coated bits on our plate. However one among us absolutely loved the frosting and practically licked the plate clean.

This was my first attempt at a frosting from scratch, and I was pretty disappointed. The consistency was runnier that I expected...causing most of the frosting to sigh under its own weight and settle around the base of the cake before it finally decided to settle. I am by no means an artist at frosting.

Overall, I may make the cake again, though I do need to find a way to make it more moist. And perhaps make it batter more fitting to the chocoholic. But this frosting was definitely not a good pairing...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Greek Picnic Pie

Quiche meets spanakopita, but with beautiful layers.

serves 6

adapted from Main Courses 365 edited by Jenni Fleetwoowd

The Ingredients:
1 pie crust, thawed if frozen
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large eggplant, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
6 oz spinach, washed
4 eggs
3/4 c crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp plain yogurt
6 Tbsp heavy cream
2 c cooked white or brown rice
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Roll out the pie crust thinly and line a 10 in quiche pan (my pryex pie plate fit the bill just fine). Prick the base all over and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the pastry is pale golden. Alternately bake blind, having lined the pastry with baking parchment and weighted it with a handful of baking beans.

Heat 2-3 Tbsp of the oil in frying pan and cook the eggplant slice for 6-8 on each side until golden. You may need to add a little more oil at first, but this will be released as the flesh softens. Lift out and drain on paper towel.

Add the onion and garlic to the oil remaining in the pan and cook over a gentle heat for 4-5 mintues, until soft, adding a little extra oil if necessary.

Chop the spinach finely, by hand or in a food processor. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the spinach, crumbled feta, Parmesan, yogurt, milk and the onion mixture. Season to taste with salt an pepper and stir to thoroughly mix.

Spread the rice in an even layer over the base of the part-baked pie. Reserve a few eggplant slices for the top, and arrange the reminder in an even layer over the rice.

Spoon the spinach and feta mixture over the eggplant and place the remaining eggplant slices on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve the pie warm, or cool completely before transferring to a serving plate or wrapping and packing for a picnic.

My Modifications:
I used a little more feta, and little less Parmesan than recommended. I did not have fresh Parmesan on hand; instead I relied on the grated shaker variety sadly seen at every pizza place and lower quality Italian bistro...

I also upped the garlic to 3 cloves. Seriously, who doesn't love garlic?

The rice of choice was brown, and the pie crust was from scratch...recipe courtesy Better Homes and Gardens.

We also did not eat this right away...having miscalculated the amount of time it would take to make (if your starting from the beginning, you have to remember to figure in time to cook the rice and let if cool slightly...unless you're using minute rice, that could be almost an hour). The pie finished baking right about the time we had to run for a meeting. We left the dish to cool while we were gone, and upon our return were greeted with dinner just a hair above room temperature. Having set a while made it a breeze to cut, allowing all the layers to shine through.

The Review:
Even those who dislike eggplant will likely enjoy a piece of this pie! The layer of the veggie between the spinach/feta mixture the rice really acted a a barrier between the to, without imparting the bitterness or sogginess some occasionally associate with eggplant. Instead we were treated to a rich oven roasted veggie flavor. As a foot note, the recipe does suggest zucchini as a substitute for the eggplant if that aubergine colored veggie still turns you off...

The dish truly was a marriage of quiche and spanakopita...all the flavors of the later in the presentation of the former. And the layers were fun to see when I cut into the pie. I had first expected the egg mixture to seep into the rice, but was pleasantly surprised to see how well the eggplant acted as a barricade between the two.

I would have liked a little more of the egg/spinach filling and a little less rice though. Overall it was incredibly filling...more so than many quiches I've had in the past. In a way, perhaps that's where the rice comes into play. Not only is it a's also very filling. And by using brown rice, the pie had a nice nutty quality.

One thing I wish I had done (and hadn't noticed suggested as a footnote until after the fact) is to add a bit of oregano to the pie crust before blind baking. Really, when making a crust from scratch the add in options are limitless. I was a bit surprise to see a Greek dish without this herb added, but in the end the pie was incredibly flavorful without it.

This Greek treat was a bit time consuming to prepare...start to finish (including making the crust, cooking the rice, mixing up everything and baking) took about an hour and a half...closer to 2 hours if I hadn't been able to multitask while other parts cook or cooled. So you really do need to plan a bit ahead...

But really there are few complaints . It tasted wonderful fresh while at room temperature. It reheated very well the next day. And even served well as a cold lunch. A true find all around...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ginger Garlic Green Beans

A few days back, when I planned on preparing the miso glazed salmon, I wanted a light fresh side to accompany. I had meant to grab unshelled edamame while we were shopping. Unfortunatley the little podded soy beans never made it into our cart.

In a pinch, I grabbed the nearest green veggie from our freezer and dug up this recipe online.

adapted from Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez on Epicurious

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 lb green beans, trimmed
3 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated peeled ginger
2 tsp rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp sesame seeds

The Process:
Cook beans in a 6-quart pot of boiling well-salted water, uncovered, until just tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain in a colander, then plunge into an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain beans and pat dry.

While beans cook, mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt, then stir together with soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, and oils in a large bowl.

Add beans and toss. Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.

My Modifications:
It is still too early in the spring to find quality green beans. Our farmers market had just kicked off the Saturday before, with little produce to be had. And the "fresh" offerings from our grocer's produced seemed far from it. I opted to use what I had on hand, which happened to be cut green beans. They don't look quite as elegant, and didn't keep their crispness quite as well, but they did the trick.

The Review:
I would really have preferred to try this recipe with fresh green beans. As the growing season continues I'm certainly many an opportunity to do just that will present itself. Yet as prepared using frozen green beans, this side fit the bill perfectly. The ginger was a touch over powering, but I attribute that to how coarsely I ended up mincing the root. A little more time under hte knife next time. But the side was light, green, full of flavor and easy to prepare. I couldn't ask for a much better accompaniment for our miso glazed salmon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Miso Glazed Salmon

I adore seafood. However, I am often at a loss for new ways to prepare fish. I'm a fan a simple sauces and minimal ingredients when it comes to fish, as to let the flavor of the fillet shine through. Enter miso. I had seen a few marinades, glazes and sauces using this paste tossed around on a friends' food blog and epicurious. However, hearing NPR's Kitchen Window segment on miso sold me on this preparation. With only three ingredients in the glaze, the hardest part was tracking down the miso!

adapted from NPR's Kitchen Window, April 20, 2011

serves 2

The Ingredients:
2 Tbsp white miso (any variety)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 lb sockeye salmon fillets
sesame seeds (optional)

The Process:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the miso, soy sauce and honey, adding more honey if it's too salty for your taste. Brush the fillets with the miso glaze. Place the fish on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for about 8 minutes or until opaque inside, and the flesh flakes easily. When done, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve hot.

My Modifications:
Eve's orginal recipe called for halibut, but what glaze seemed to work equally well on salmon. As the recipe recommended, I used equal amount of honey, soy sauce sauce and miso and found no need to adjust the amounts to taste. The salmon did need to bake closer to 12 minutes to cook through.

The Review:
One pound of salmon yielded three dinner sized fillets, however the dish was so loved that when I went to wrap up the third fillet, I discovered Ross had already devoured it! The dish was simple and elegant. As I mentioned early, the hardest part was finding the miso. Two Asia markets did not carry it, nor did our higher end grocer. We finally discovered a few varieties at our co-op, the Wedge.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tamale Casserole

Two back to back Mexican-inspired dishes? This happened to be a complete coincidence! On Saturday Ross and I were wandering the farmer's market on its opening day. We happened upon a booth selling locally ground grains and bread mixes. Off to the side the miller had a pile of recipes, one toting several uses for his cornmeal. The tamale casserole called out to be made...

We unfortunately did not pick up any of the miller's cornmeal at the market, so I was in a bit of a bind. Until I remembered the box of jiffy mix in the cabinet. I poked around on a few recipe sites to see if others had used this cornbread staple for a similar casserole. This is the resultant recipe.

adpated from recipes provided by Home Hearth Grains, and Whole Foods Market

serves 6-8

The Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef, turkey or bison
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 clove of garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1 can (14 oz) kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
1/4 cup water or broth

tamale crust
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 cup gluten free flour
1 pkg (8-10 oz) cornbread mix
1 egg
1 Tbsp honey
1 cup of milk, sour cream or water

The Process:
Preheat oven to 350

In a large sauté pan, brown meat, breaking up any large pieces. Drain well and return to stove. Add onions, garlic and jalapeno. Saute until the onion is tender. Add beans, oregano, chili powder, salt diced tomatoes and stir to combine. Simmer uncovered for 7-10 minutes. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour and baking powder (or the contents of the cornbread mix). Whisk in milk, egg and honey until just combined. The mixture will be runny. Pour the batter over the batter over the filling mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the cornbread is lightly browned and the filling hot and bubbling.

My Modifications:
Is the recipe as written above...but substituting a 1/4 cup of red enchilada sauce (from last week's pablano enchiladas) for the water. For the 'original' recipe check out Whole Foods website.

The Review:
Quick, easy comfort food! As I was adapting this recipe, merging the two I was using as my basis, it dawned on my that this is essentially your favorite chili, topped with a running corn batter crust. That realization opens the door for countless variations. I'm curious to try a spicier, vegetarian version next time around. And dependent upon which cornbread mix you is easily gluten free.

The casserole reheated well the next two days...and was consumed very quickly between the two of us.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pablano and Queso Fresco Enchiladas

Happy Cinco di Mayo! This day seemed like an appropriate time to branch away from my tried and true enchilada recipe...a recipe my mother clipped from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel years ago...a recipe that became a cornerstone of "family dinners" in Stevens Point. Others have carried the recipe on with them, and they have found it highly adaptable to accommodate not only any spice level, but also vegetarians. The best part was...this particular enchilada recipe did not rely on jars of sauce, cream of anything soups or packets of taco seasoning. It was one of my first attempts at from scratch* cooking.

So imagine my disappointment when pursuing food blogs and cook books. Page after page of enchiladas recipes toting cream soups, jars of pre-made sauce, boring chicken or ground beef fillings. My hopes were sinking until I stumbled upon this little gem from Vegetarian Times.

adapted from Vegetarian Times, September 2008, pg 75

Seves 6

The Ingredients:
The Sauce
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
2½ oz. dried New Mexican chiles, halved, stemmed, and seeded
4 medium tomatoes, chopped

The Enchiladas

6 Poblano or Anaheim chiles
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced (approx. 2 tsp)
1½ cups queso fresco
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
12 6-inch corn tortillas

The Process:
To make Sauce: Heat olive oil in saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in oil 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Add dried chilies, and sauté 3 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups water. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until chiles are soft. Remove from heat, cool 5 minutes, then purée in blender or food processor until smooth.

To make Enchiladas: Preheat oven to broil. Place poblano chiles on baking sheet, and broil 15 to 20 minutes, or until blackened on all sides, turning often. Cool in covered bowl, then peel off skins and remove seeds. Chop chiles into 1/4-inch pieces.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic in oil 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Transfer to mixing bowl, and add queso fresco, 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, and chopped chiles.

Spread tortillas on baking sheet. Warm 3 minutes in oven to soften.

Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Divide cheese mixture among tortillas, and roll loosely. Place filled, rolled tortillas in baking dish. Top with remaining Sauce, and sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until Sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

My Modifications:
I had perhaps a third of the sauce left over...using two-thirds seemed to be more than enough without drowning the enchiladas.

The Review:
I adored them, but these my not be for those who like their Mexican dishes tear-jerkingly hot. The heat was subdued and smokey. The flavors of all of vegetables really came through...the peppers, the tomatoes, the onions. And the corn tortillas were pleasantly soft and on the verge of soggy. For the record, I abhor working with corn tortillas. While I love the flavor and texture of flour tortillas, I can never roll these little flat tortas without them starting to crack of flake.

Overall they reminding me of the enchiladas you would be served at one of those hole in the wall madre y padre taquerias. Ross and I really enjoyed them. And we were really surprised that the picky eater among us...given that she avoids meat and spicy foods...didn't enjoy them. But to each their own.

*if one considers using canned tomato sauce, cartons of broth and stewed tomatoes "from scratch." The next incarnation of this recipe will likely use only the bounty of the farmers market, and homemade stock.