Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Who Knew? Chile Relleno Taco

For many years the criterion on which I judged any Mexican restaurant was their chile rellenos and I would order them if they were on the menu.  Most of them were decent but none really stood out.

And then I saw the chile relleno taco at Taqueria San Juanito, the Mexican restaurant right around the corner from my new apartment.  I couldn't imagine what it could be so of course I had to order it.  I took it home along with the taco al pastor I ordered and opened it up to see what it could possibly be.

And as you can see by the photo above, it is a full chili relleno sitting on two corn tortillas.  I don't know what I was expecting - maybe some kind of deconstructed version - but there it was in all its glory.

And it was delicious.  I didn't really need the taco al pastor but it was tasty too so I ended up eating them both anyway.

I didn't know this was a thing although a friend told me she has seen it on other menus around the city.  If that is the case I am all for it.  The breading was crisp and not too greasy and the tortillas, which are hand made, were thick and soft and delicious.

If you ever see a chile relleno taco on the menu do yourself a favor and order it.  You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Sweet Potato and Tomato Posole

I was looking for something new to do with pinto beans as it has been a while since I have used them.  I eat a lot of red lentils because they are so easy to prepare and a lot of chickpeas because I like them so much and they are so versatile.  Pinto beans, not so much.  They were ubiquitous in the parts of Texas where I grew up and until black beans arrived on the scene in the late '80s were the only beans I ever ate other than doctored up Van Camp's Pork and Beans.  (And the only reason those tasted good was because of the massive amounts of ketchup and brown sugar I added to them.)

Although I do not often cook with them, I still pretty much always have some dried pinto beans on hand and now that the weather has turned cold and soup and stew season is full upon us I decided it was time to cook some up in a nice hearty winter dish.  I had my eye on a recipe for a sweet potato and pinto bean soup that intrigued me because it called for basil, an herb with which I do not usually associate sweet potatoes and pinto beans.  So I decided to make it.

Imagine my surprise when I could not find any decent basil at any of my usual grocery stores here in Chicago in the dead of winter.  This led me to reconsider, and I decided maybe I would make that dish in the summer when there is plenty of fresh, beautiful basil on hand.

I then turned to another recipe I have been eying for a while that uses pinto beans.  The recipe actually calls for butternut squash, but I had already bought the sweet potato so I decided to go with that.

And it worked out beautifully.  I used my home-made chili powder which has no heat so I added half a teaspoon of cayenne which added the perfect amount of heat for me.  I used chicken broth since I had some in the freezer but I would normally use vegetable broth since I always have that on hand.

The relatively short cooking time leaves the flavors of each ingredient intact while at the same time bringing them all together for a bright, fresh flavor.

A batch of Skillet Cornbread provides the perfect accompaniment.  Add a green salad and you have a perfect meal.

Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne, or to taste
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 15-oz can white hominy, draind and rinsed
1 lb cooked pinto beans, drained, or 1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed
diced avocado, for garnish
chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.

Add the sweet potato, broth, hominy, beans and tomatoes. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, umtil the sweet potato is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with avocado and cilantro.

adapted from Eating Well November/December 2012 http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/butternut_squash_posole.html

Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/homecook.php)

Monday, January 07, 2019

Baking Class: Lahmacun (Flat Bread with Lamb and Tomatoes)

Lamb and cinnamon is one of my favorite flavor combinations.  So when I came across a recipe for a flat bread with lamb and tomatoes with cinnamon (Lahmacun) in Saveur Magazine I knew I had to try it.  And it did not disappoint.  It is perfect for a light meal or snack and makes an impressive party treat.

Both the dough and the meat sauce come together easily and can be made ahead and refrigerated for a day or two.  It's a little bit of a production to roll out and top the dough but well worth it.

And as good as the sauce is on the flatbread, it would be just as good on its own over eggplant, sweet potatoes, or other vegetables.  It's a winner either way.
Home Cookin v9.73 Chapter: Breads and Muffins
Sourdough Version:
72 g starter
204 g flour
1 tsp sugar
152 g water
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more

(For the non-sourdough version click here)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 ounces ground lamb
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 plum tomato, grated
1 small onion, grated
1 Tbsp dried mint

Combine the starter, flour, sugar, salt and water in a large bowl and stir to form a dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 6 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and divide it into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place them onto a floured baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

While the dough is resting combine the oil, tomato paste, parsley, cayenne, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon in a medium bowl and stir vigorously with a fork. Add the lamb, garlic, tomatoes, onions, chilies and salt and mix well. Set aside.

Put a pizza stone or an inverted rimmed baking sheet in the bottom third of oven and heat oven to 475°.

Roll each ball of dough into a 10-inch disk. Brush off excess flour and transfer each one to a piece of parchment paper. Spoon three to four tablespoons of the topping onto the dough and using your fingers or an offset spatula, spread it evenly to the edges. Season with salt.

Hold the parchment paper by its edges and transfer it to the baking stone or upside down baking sheet. Bake until the dough is golden brown and the topping is cooked, 6 to 8 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

adapted from Saveur Number 132

Exported from Home Cookin v9/73 (http://www.mountainsoftware.com/)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Roasted Broccoli and Mushrooms

Broccoli and mushrooms are something I try to eat every day, as they are both quite good for me.  When the weather is warmer I will usually just cook up the mushrooms using this cool method I discovered a couple of year ago and throw them in a container with frozen broccoli florets and take them to work with me.  By the time lunch rolls around the broccoli is defrosted and the mushrooms have enough flavor from the sherry and olive oil to make a delicious side.

But when the weather gets colder I like to roast them together with some onion and herbs for a quick side.  It's super easy and full of flavor and goes with just about everything to make a satisfying dinner.  I make it at least twice a month during the winter.  Once you try it I am sure you will, too.
Home Cookin v9.73 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 head broccoli, but into bite-size pieces
1 lb button, cremini, or portabello mushorroms, sliced
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp dried thyme, oregano or tarragon
salt and black pepper to taste

Line a half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to coat well with the olive oil. Spread the mixture evenly into as much of a single layer as you can. Bake for 10 minutes and then turn the pan in the oven. Bake for another 10 to 20 minutes, until the broccoli and onions have some char on them. Serve immeditely.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (www.mountain-software.com)

Monday, December 03, 2018

Dan Dan Noodles

I don't remember where I first heard about Dan Dan noodles, but I do remember wanting to try the recipe right away.  One of the things that stopped me was that it contained Sichuan Peppercorns, which are related to the citrus family and which for a long time were banned in the US for being potential carriers of a citrus virus.  I first heard about them as one of the ingredients in Chinese 5-Spice Powder, which at the time what we could buy here in the states did not contain.  So I decided to wait until the ban was lifted before trying any dishes that I knew traditionally used it.

Not long after the ban was lifted in 2005 I saw them in my local spice shop and bought a big bag of them.  And put it in my spice cupboard.  Where it sat for a few years, until I finally decided I wasn't going to use them any time soon and they had probably lost all potency and got rid of them.

And then Bon Appetit had a recipe for Dan Dan Noodles in their October 2011 issue so I eagerly tore it out and resolved to make it soon.  But I no longer had the Sichuan peppercorns.  And could never seem to remember to pick them up when I was at the spice shop.

Fast forward several more years to the time that we chose Sichuan Peppercorns for one of our spice-themed potlucks in my spice group. By this time I had pretty much forgotten all about Dan Dan Noodles so I was thrilled when the recipe popped up during my search for something to make and decided to make it then.

I was pleased with the results.  The Sichuan Peppercorns are not that hot but you can taste the citrus just before your mouth goes tinglingly numb.  But not so numb that you can't still taste everything.  The chili oil raises the flavor of the pork to a new level and the pork and the sauce complement the noodles perfectly.  The peanuts and green onions add a welcome freshness to the overall flavor profile.  The result is a spicy, numbing, tingling and surprisingly comforting dish.  It was a big hit.

This is one of those lovely dishes that is simple to make and has simple ingredients that come together for a powerhouse of flavor.

Home Cookin v9.73 Chapter: Grains Pasta and Potatoes

8 ounces fettucini
2 Tbsp grapeseed or peanut oil
12 oz ground pork
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped peeled ginger
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp chili oil (or to taste)
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, lightly crushed
2 Tbsp chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish
2 Tbsp thinly sliced green onions

Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl of ice water and let stand until cold. Drain well and place in a serving bowl.

Heat vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add pork and season with salt and pepper. Cook about two minutes, breaking up pork with a spoon. Add the ginger and cook until the pork is cooked through and lightly browned, about 3 minutes more. Stir in the chicken stock then add the chili oil, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, tahini and Sichuan peppercorns and stir. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 7 minutes.

Pour the pork mixture over the noodles. Garnish with the peanuts and green onions and serve.

from Bon Appetit October 2011

Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (www.mountain-software.com)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Turkey Isn't the Only Reason to Love the Winter Holidays

Most of my friends and family look forward to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays because it is the only time they have turkey during the year.  Which is mainly interesting for the fact that most of them don't really like turkey all that much.  I include myself in this group.  While I do love those leftover turkey sandwiches, I usually only eat one or two small slices at the Thanksgiving table, mainly as a vehicle for sweet pickles and cranberry sauce, both of which I only eat with turkey, and vice versa.  I am a big fan of the stuffing, potatoes, and other side dishes but the turkey itself is my least favorite part of the meal.  (That being said, I have no problem whatsoever having it those two times of the year for those who do actually, you know, like turkey.)

So what does make me happy this time of year?  In a word, citrus.  Late fall and early winter is citrus season, when oranges are orangier and limes and lemons are juicier, and Texas Red grapefruits make their annual appearance in my local Chicago grocery store.

As I mentioned when I first wrote about them in this 2009 post, the two things that I miss the most since moving away from Texas are Ruby Red grapefruit and the Pecos Cantaloupe.  I still haven't found the cantaloupe, but every November the grapefruit shows up at Jewel.

Apparently I am not the only one who feels that way about these deep red, sweet gems.  The 73rd Texas State Legislature declared it to be the State Fruit in 1993.  That is a resolution I can get behind!

Since my move this summer I have been thrown off kilter from my normal routines, and seeing all kinds of things from a new perspective.  The holidays and grapefruit have not been much on my mind, especially once I decided that I was not going to travel this year and instead spend time working on my apartment and other things I have been neglecting since I moved (like this blog).  So I wasn't really thinking about the usual things this fall.  A few days ago I did have the fleeting thought that we were coming into citrus season, which made me happy because oranges are more plentiful and juicier this time of year, but that is as far as my thoughts went.  So when I walked into Jewel Monday afternoon and this five-pound bag of Texas Reds was the first thing I saw, I think I actually squealed with delight.  And threw it into my cart, of course.  That five-pound bag of flour I was going to buy could wait until my next visit.

I went home and immediately supremed a few of them and have been enjoying them all week.  Unlike pink or white grapefruit, the reds are sweet with just a hint of tartness.  I am not a big fan of the pink and white varieties but I absolutely love the reds.  If you give them a try I think you will too.

Many people find grapefruit to be more trouble than it is worth.  I always supreme a few at a time and keep them in a container in the fridge so it is ready to eat when I want some.  If you have never supremed citrus before, this post will show you how.  So now you have no excuse not to enjoy these seasonal gems.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Holiday Baking: Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread

The holidays offer me the perfect excuse to try recipes for breads that I would normally not consider eating, and this Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread is the perfect example of that.  It is full of butter, sugar and milk and is a very rich bread.  Which makes it delicious, of course.  The cardamom takes it up a notch from a more usual cinnamon-filled sweet bread and I was intrigued by the shaping method.  So I decided to give it a try last year and was so happy with the original large loaf that I made that I made smaller loaves to give as gifts.  The bread itself is light and not too sweet.  The filling is sweeter but the cardamom helps to mellow out the sweetness.  It was a big hit with my friends.

It is fairly easy to make, which is always a plus.  It only takes a few hours and the aroma of cinnamon and cardamom made for a festive holiday feel in my kitchen the day that I made it.  I am sure it will do the same for yours.

Home Cookin v.9.73 Chapter: Chapter: Breads and Muffins


7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups whole milk, heated to 115°
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4-1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds, lightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds, finely crushed
1 egg, beaten
Pearl sugar, for topping

Melt butter in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium. Remove from heat and stir in milk and yeast; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt in a bowl. Stir in yeast mixture until dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. Return dough to bowl and cover with a clean dish towel; let sit in a warm place until dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Mix granulated sugar, butter, cinnamon, and cardamom in a bowl until smooth.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 11" x 17" rectangle, about 1/4 " thick. Spread filling over dough, leaving a 1/2 " border along edges. Working from one long end, roll dough into a tight cylinder; transfer seam side down to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover with dish towel; let sit in a warm place until dough has doubled in size once more, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375°. Using kitchen shears and starting 1" from ends of dough, make crosswise cuts, spaced 1" apart, three-quarters of the way through dough. Fan dough slices away from the center, alternating left to right. Brush dough with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar; bake until golden brown, about 22 minutes. Let bread cool completely before serving.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (www.mountain-software.com)

Monday, November 05, 2018

Sunday Breakfast: Polenta and Eggs

As often as I make bread, there are still times when I do not have any in the house. Which can be a problem on a lazy Sunday morning when I want to make a nice breakfast of fried eggs and toast.  This actually happened to me the first time when I was visiting my brother and his family in Austin when they had given up flour and most grains.  The only grains they had in the house were instant oatmeal flakes with a questionable use by date and cornmeal.  And I wanted eggs.  But I needed something to go with them, but what?

And I started thinking about the cornmeal and how it can be used to make polenta, and how similar it is to grits, and I realized I could probably make a single serving to go with the eggs.  Which is what I proceeded to do.  I brought three-fourths of a cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan and then added one-fourth of a cup of cornmeal and a little bit of salt.  I turned down the heat as low as it would go and simmered the mixture for about 20 minutes and then poured it out onto a plate to let it cool.  I then cooked up the eggs and plated them on top of the polenta, which had cooled enough to set.

And while not the same as toast (and let's be honest, nothing beats toast with eggs), it was quite tasty and satisfied my need for some kind of carbohydrate to go with the eggs.  And it was filling, too.  And it impressed the hell out of my brother and sister-in-law.

So when I found myself without bread last weekend I remembered that polenta-and-eggs breakfast and decided to do it again.  Except that this time, in my own kitchen, I was able to expand on the theme and came up with something even more tasty.  Here's how you can make it too:

Bring 3/4 cup of water to a boil over high heat in a small saucepan.  (I found this saucepan hanging from a strip in the canned vegetable aisle of the grocery store.  While immune from impulse candy purchases in front of the checkout lane, I find myself alarmingly vulnerable to those odd little items hanging from strips in the aisles; to wit - an equally small skillet, teeny tiny snack containers, and biscuit cutters.  All unnecessary, but I have not yet regretted bringing any of them home with me.)

Slowly stir in 1/4 cup of cornmeal (I prefer coarsely ground but any kind will do).  Turn the heat down as low as it will go and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes, adding more hot water as necessary.

After the 20 minutes, when the mixture is thick and the cornmeal has softened, add about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional but really adds to the flavor!).  Stir well and remove from the heat.  Pour the polenta out onto a plate and let it stand for about ten minutes to set.

If you are lucky enough to have some fresh parsley on hand from an earlier dish (as I was), sprinkle chopped parsley over the polenta.

Top with eggs, shrimp, sausage, or whatever you have on hand and serve immediately.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Mushrooms with Onions and Tomato

What have I been doing in the many months since my last post?  Moving.  For the first time in 28 years.  Need I say more?  Well, if you insist.  It took a couple of months for me to find a place, and then a couple of months to whittle down 28 years' worth of accumulated unnecessary stuff, another couple of months to pack, and then of course there was the unpacking.

The upshot is that I love my new neighborhood and my new apartment.  Especially the kitchen.  I have moved from a shoe box to a spacious area with three times the counter space.  In addition, there is the dishwasher, disposal, and capacious refrigerator.  I have been having a grand old time getting used to everything.  I am almost past the "this is the first time I am cooking [whatever] in my new kitchen" phase.  That will be complete when I make pasta, which is in the works.

In addition to cooking familiar dishes for the first time in my new digs I am still revising and adapting them.  This mushrooms with onions and tomato dish is a prime example.  I have gotten in the habit of cooking mushrooms every week with this technique that has made it so easy to have them on hand to throw into other dishes without having to worry about prepping and cooking them every time.  On workday mornings I will take frozen broccoli and throw in some of the mushrooms with a sprinkling of thyme or oregano for an afternoon snack, by which time the broccoli will be fully thawed and would have soaked up the flavor from the mushrooms.  Or I will chop them up and add them to a frittata or omelet.  Mushrooms enhance just about any dish.

But even the best of foods can get a little humdrum with regular use.  I started thinking about how I could utilize the basic mushroom-cooking technique by adding more ingredients and varying the flavors.  Once the water cooks down you are left with the oil, which makes a great vehicle for adding and sauteing many other things.  So I started experimenting with them and have come up with some winners.

I am especially pleased with this version.  The garlic and onion add another level of flavor and the tomatoes cook just enough to create a little sauce to coat everything nicely.  The oregano complements the tomatoes and brings together all of the flavors.

This makes a lovely side dish on its own and can be added to other vegetables or tossed into pasta or eggs.  It's a great way to get more mushrooms into your life, and who wouldn't want that?

Home Cooking v9.73 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables


1 lb button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup sweet sherry
1 large or 2 small Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tsp dried oregano leaves

Place mushrooms in a large skillet and add enough water to cover. Add the olive oil and bring to a boil on high heat. Continue to boil until the water has evaporated. Add the sherry and season with the salt and pepper. Continue to cook over high heat until the sherry has evaporated and the mushrooms are just beginning to sizzle in the remaining oil.

Push the mushrooms to the sides of the pan and add the onions, stirring to coat in the oil. Cook for a minute or two and then stir in the garlic. Cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and oregano and cook until the tomatoes have just started to soften, another 3 to 5 minutes.


Exported from Home Cookin v9.73 (www.mountain-software.com)
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