Enchiladas with Chipotle Peanut Sauce
Makes 6 enchiladas

A friend of mine, who lives part-time in Mexico, said being a vegetarian is not easy there. It’s true. Mexican food tends to be heavy on the meat. But with some creativity, it doesn’t have to be. This recipe, from the vegan Mexican website Dora’s Table, uses spinach and mushrooms as a filling. Believe me, you won’t miss the meat! The enchiladas are also topped with a sauce of exquisite depth, complexity and sophistication. I think Dora should bottle this sauce and sell it. And if you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on other dishes like fish, chicken or eggs.

Of course, I have changed the recipe and put my own Doña Tina’s take on it. Enchiladas can be a bit of work, but these are fairly easy to make and a restaurant-quality addition to you dinner table.

Ancho chiles, used in the sauce, are the dried form of poblano chiles, the large dark-green variety used to make chiles rellenos. Ancho chiles can be found in supermarkets  and in the bulk section of natural foods stores. Unsalted, roasted peanuts can be found as “peanut butter stock” in the bulk section of grocery stores.

Since money isn’t spent on packaging, buying from the bulk bins reduces your grocery bill. There is also less waste to end up in landfills, and that’s a good thing! Using reusable cloth bags for bulk items is even better.

Buen Provecho! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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The Sauce
4 ancho chiles
1–2 chipotle peppers in adobo
2 cloves garlic
1 plum tomato
1 cup roasted peanuts
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 cup vegetable broth

The Filling
8 oz cremini mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8 oz fresh spinach
6 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated
canola oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roast tomato on a baking sheet until it is soft and the skin is spilt and blistered, about 25 minutes. While the tomato is roasting, prep the other ingredients. When tomato is done, remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Remove seeds and stems from ancho chiles. In a medium-sized pot, bring water to a boil then add chiles to boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, and let chiles cool.

When ingredients are cool, blend the ancho chiles, tomato, chipotle chiles(s), garlic, peanuts, cloves and vegetable broth (cooled or at room temperature) in a blender. If the sauce is too thick, thin with water. Set aside.

The reason for using cool ingredients is that many blenders contain plastic parts, especially the lid. Hot liquids on plastic can leach harmful chemicals into the food. For the same reason, please don’t wash plastic items in the dishwasher.

Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a pan on medium-high. Sauté mushrooms until almost all the water water has boiled off, about 9 or 10 minutes. Reduce heat, add garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add spinach and sauté until wilted, about a minute or two. Turn off heat and set aside.

Fill a frying pan with canola oil to about a 1/4 inch depth. Heat oil on medium high until oil starts to shimmer. Place tortillas in the hot oil and cook for about 10 seconds on each side. (When the oil is hot enough, there should be bubbling and sizzling around the edge of the tortilla.) Drain on paper towels.

In a large baking dish, spread 1 cup of sauce evenly along the bottom. Fill each tortilla with just under 1/4 cup of the mushroom-spinach filling and 2 tablespoons of grated cheese. Roll up and place seam side down on the baking dish. Top with remaining sauce and grated cheese. Heat, uncovered in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

Puerto Rican Tostones and Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Hello all 15 million of my subscribers (Ha! Ha! I wish).  I’ve been feeling very tired and yucky the past few weeks. But now, returned to health, I have several exciting recipes to share with you.

One of these is tostones, without which no repertoire of Latin dishes is complete. Tostones are fried patties made from green plantains, a large banana common throughout Latin America. Green plantains are not sweet and are eaten as a vegetable, much like a potato. They are readily available in grocery stores. This week’s quick, easy-to-make recipe is from Saveur, an excellent cooking magazine and a reliable source of recipes.

Which brings me to my second point. Some sources are not reliable, including books in print. For instance, in search of new Latin recipes, I went to my local public library and checked out a book called Caribbean Cooking. I saw a recipe for banana fudge and thought it would be fun to make. The recipe said to mash 3 bananas, add 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of margarine, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, simmer it on the stove for a few minutes, then let it cool and cut it into squares.

It made this liquid slop that couldn’t possibly be cut into squares and, with 3/4 of a cup of sugar, was so sickeningly sweet it was inedible. The “fudge” went down the garbage disposal. Another time I saw a recipe for green gazpacho in The Wall Street Journal. That sounds really good, I thought. So I made it. It was horrible. Maybe the Journal didn’t test the recipe before it went to press?

So while it may have been unrealistic to expect culinary expertise from The Wall Street Journal, I think you get my point, dear readers. Don’t believe everything you see in print.

In cooking, as in every other topic, rely on reputable sources as much as possible. Major cooking magazines such as Sunset, Bon Appetit, and Saveur have test kitchens in which they rigorously test their recipes before publishing them. And of course Doña Tina always tests her recipes.

So enjoy the tostones! They go great with rice and beans!

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Dipping Sauce
3–4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
salt to taste
3–6 cilantro sprigs, chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Tostones
3 green plantains
canola oil
salt

First, make the dipping sauce. Add garlic to the olive oil, then crush with a pestle until it makes a kind of paste. Add cilantro, and crush the leaves and stems. Salt the dipping sauce to taste and set aside.

Peel the plantains. Cut both ends off the plantains, then with a knife, make a few slits in the skin all the way down. Remove the skin and any fibers sticking to the plantain. Cut the plantains into 1-inch slices.

Add canola oil to a large, heavy frying pan to a depth of about 1 inch. Heat the oil on medium until a candy thermometer inserted in the oil reads 325 degrees. Working in 2 batches, fry the plantain slices about 1 1/2 minutes on each side, then drain on paper towels.

With a spatula or potato masher, press the slices down until they are half their original width. Fry them again in the oil for about a minute each side, until the tostones are golden brown.

Drain on paper towels, and season to taste with salt. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chorizo Tostadas with Mango Salsa
Makes 2 tostadas

Chorizo and mango is a marriage made in heaven. So I found out in this recipe of my own invention. Chorizo is a very soulful, vibrant and pungent element of Mexican cooking that pairs well with the cool sweetness of the mango.

I love chorizo, even though for humane and environmental reasons, I eat as little meat as possible. Fortunately, there is humanely and sustainably-raised meat. And for vegetarians, there is soy chorizo, such as Soyrizo. However, Soyrizo has so much vinegar, it overpowers the other ingredients in your dish. If I were you, I would either find another brand of soy chorizo with vinegar far down on the ingredients list, or try soy Andouille sausage.

You can find thin corn tortillas in well-stocked supermarkets. Rick Bayless, that guru of Mexican cooking, says thin tortillas are good to use for tostadas because they don’t puff when frying. I would say that they also add a lighter, more contemporary element to your tostadas.

Buen provecho! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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Mango Salsa
1 cup chopped mango
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon canola oil

Tostadas
2 thin corn tortillas
1 15 ounce can black beans
6 ounces pre-cooked chorizo, cut into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup lettuce, chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil plus enough oil to fill frying pan to 1/2 inch depth
salt to taste

In a bowl, mix together chopped mango, green onion and cilantro with lime juice and oil. Set aside.

Fill a frying pan with canola oil to about 1/2 inch depth. Heat oil a minute or two on medium high until you see the surface start to ripple. Fry the tortillas one at a time about a minute on each side, until the tortillas are crisp. Drain on paper towels, and set aside.

In another pan, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil on medium heat. Add chorizo and brown for about 5 minutes. I used Aidell’s pre-cooked chicken chorizo, but you can use fresh chorizo. Just remove the casings, and cook on medium high for about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove chorizo from pan and set aside.

Drain the can of beans and set aside the water in a cup or glass. In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil on medium. Add chopped garlic and sauté for about a minute, then add beans. Add enough of the water so that the beans are not too soupy and not too dry. Taste the beans, and add salt if necessary. Heat the beans all the way through, about 2 minutes or so. Turn off the heat.

Place beans and chorizo on fried tortillas. Top with about 1/2 cup of your favorite lettuce per tostada and mango salsa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garlic Soup
4 servings

No, you won’t need breath mints! The flavor of garlic is subtle in this absolutely scrumptious soup that takes off the winter chill.

This Spanish-influenced New Mexican recipe is from Cocina de la Familia, a very good cookbook by Marilyn Tausend. It is quick, inexpensive and easy to make. The author suggests serving the soup with dry sherry or red wine, French bread, and Watercress Salad with Pine Nuts (see last week’s blog post).

By the way, if you really love garlic and want to splurge sometime, try The Stinking Rose, a garlic restaurant with locations in San Francisco and Beverly Hills. The Stinking Rose has dishes such as 40-clove garlic chicken and entire heads of roasted garlic. It’s a fun place to go for a special occasion, like a birthday.

Buen provecho! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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2–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled
4 slices French bread, evenly sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
red chili flakes

In a pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Sauté garlic cloves until golden (about 3 to 4 minutes). Remove from the oil and set aside.

In the same pot, toast the bread in the olive oil until golden brown (about 30 seconds each side). The bread acts like a sponge that soaks up the oil, so add about a tablespoon more of olive oil after you toast each slice. Place bread on a plate covered with a paper towel, and set aside.

Stray crumbs may burn to a crisp while you’re toasting the bread. Either remove the burnt crumbs with tongs, or let the pot cool and wipe it clean before proceeding.

Slowly add 3 cups of the broth to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pureé the garlic cloves and 1 cup of chicken broth in a blender until smooth, and add to the pot. Heat the broth until simmering; then cover and cook on a low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

Break each egg into four separate dishes. Remove the pot from the heat; then add each egg to the soup. Return the pot to the heat, and ladle some broth over the eggs. Cover the pot and poach the eggs for about 2 or 3 minutes. (You can also scramble the eggs like I did; then add them to the pot all at once. The soup is absolutely delicious this way.)

Place a slice of toast at the bottom of 4 bowls, and add an egg to each bowl. Ladle in the broth, and garnish with sliced green onions and chili flakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watercress Salad with Pine Nuts
Serves 4 to 6

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a nice holiday season. I haven’t posted in a while because of the holidays and other things in life getting in the way. But I guarantee you’re going to love this exquisite and sophisticated salad.

This recipe is from Cocina de la Familia, by Marilyn Tausend, a collection of interesting and sophisticated recipes from Mexican-American home kitchens. She says that watercress is a common and well-loved salad green in Mexico and doesn’t understand why it isn’t more popular in the United States. I have added my own twist to this recipe, as usual.

Although pine nuts are very expensive per pound, remember that you can significantly reduce costs by buying only as much as you need at a time from the bulk foods bins at natural foods stores and upscale markets. Also, a lot of pine nuts come from China and sometimes Russia, but if you look around, you can find some grown in the United States. It’s always better to buy local (or as local as you can) because climate change is here, and local foods mean less fossil fuel is consumed in getting the food to stores.

Enjoy this nutritious and delicious salad. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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The Dressing
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

The Salad
2 bunches watercress
3 white Belgian endive
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Whisk the vinegar, salt and pepper, garlic and olive oil in a bowl. Set aside.

To toast the nuts, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place the nuts on a baking sheet, and toast for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.

Remove watercress leaves from the thick stems and rinse. Pat the leaves dry gently so not to bruise or crush them. Slice the endives diagonally, and discard the cores. Combine the watercress and endive in a salad bowl.

Right before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and pine nuts.

Refried Beans with Chorizo
Makes 4 to 6 servings

The other day I was over at my mother’s house thumbing through an old copy of Saveur magazine, when I saw an article by Richard Rodriguez, one of my all-time favorite writers. Richard Rodriguez wrote Hunger of Memory, a poetic and beautiful memoir of his education from elementary school through graduate studies at UC Berkeley. Hunger of Memory is also an account of the intimacy and closeness of his family life and how his education ended up separating him from his Mexican immigrant parents. I loved his lyrical writing so much, I read it twice.

The Saveur article was about refried beans and chorizo, a dish his father used to make. It was a fixture in the Rodriguez home, and I am thrilled to feature it on my blog.

Many years ago, I went to hear Richard speak at Grace Cathedral, whose Forum series features various artists and writers in conversation. Afterwards, the public could meet and talk with him. Besides Hunger of Memory, I was a big fan of his video essays on the PBS NewsHour. I went up to meet him, so nervous I was literally shaking in my shoes and trying hard not to show it. To this day, I don’t know why. I told him he had beautiful thoughts, and he was very nice.

This recipe is from that 2010 issue of Saveur; it is not from Richard’s family. But as usual, I have changed a few things. For health and environmental reasons, I have substituted olive oil for lard. Chorizo is usually made with pork, but there are also chicken and soy versions. I tested the recipe using both precooked chicken and soy chorizo. The recipe made with soy chorizo had a less pungent taste and a different texture, but it was absolutely delicious. And the beans were even better the next day! Whatever chorizo you use, you’ll be going back for seconds; I promise.

In these beans, Richard Rodriguez said, “I tasted my father.” I think what he meant was he tasted home.

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3 cups dried pinto beans
6 ounces fresh chorizo, casings removed and cut into small pieces
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for cooking chorizo
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste

Place beans in a large pot with 12 cups of water. Bring water to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook beans for 2 to 2 1/2 hours until beans are very tender. Check the pot a time or two during cooking to make sure all the water hasn’t boiled off. Add more water if necessary. When beans are done, set aside 3 cups of cooking water and drain. Return beans to pot.

While the beans are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add precooked chicken or soy chorizo and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. (Note: if using uncooked pork chorizo, use medium-high heat, break up chorizo into small pieces, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.) Set aside.

Mash beans in pot with a potato masher while adding olive oil. Add half the chorizo. Heat beans on medium and add 2 cups of reserved cooking water (add more water, if you prefer). Stir frequently, and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve beans hot with remaining chorizo and chopped cilantro.

Potato Quesadillas
Makes 4 quesadillas

The Biblical saying that there is nothing new under the sun is eternally true. In life and in cooking. The same is true with trying to come up with new and different recipes; we sometimes end up with new takes on old standards, like quesadillas.

At first glance, potato in a warmed tortilla with melted cheese seems to be an odd combination. Too much carbohydrate, right? And potatoes – meat and potatoes in particular – are such an integral part of European and American cooking. What are they doing in a Latin recipe? Well, potatoes as we know them are native to South America and were brought back to Europe by the Spanish in the 1500s. So it’s a quintessentially Latin dish after all.

These potato quesadillas make a terrific appetizer for holiday potlucks, and a light meal for any time of the day, breakfast, lunch or dinner. This particular recipe was inspired by  the one in Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking. His recipe has no cheese and uses low-fat sour cream and fat-free flour tortillas. Mine includes cheese and uses corn tortillas instead.  I think corn tortillas are much more flavorful and have a better texture than flour. But still, it’s matter of personal preference.

Have them for breakfast with a good cup of chocolate. Buen provecho! Thanks for visiting my blog!

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1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 large russet potato
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 chipotle chile in adobo chopped, seeded
1 tablespoon of adobo sauce, strained, seeds removed
8 corn tortillas
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

First, bake the potato. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the potato and pierce it 2 or 3 times with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes or until the potato is soft, and you can pierce it all the way through with a fork. Let the potato cool, then peel. Discard or eat the peel (potato skins are delicious!) Mash the potato, then set aside.

If the tortillas have been refrigerated (and they should be after purchase), set them out on a rack or plates to dry while the potato is baking. The reason for this is that if the package of tortillas is refrigerated, water condenses on the inside, and the moisture will cause the tortillas to stick to the pan while cooking.

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until the onions are golden brown, about 6 minutes.

When onions are browned, add the chicken broth, chopped chipotle chile, adobo sauce, and the potato. Mix well and simmer until all the chicken broth has been absorbed, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt or salt to taste and mix.

Heat another skillet or griddle on medium until a drop of water dances and sizzles when you sprinkle it. Wait a few seconds until all the water is gone, then place a tortilla in the skillet, add 1/4 cup of the potato mixture and 1/2 cup of cheese. Spread evenly. Place another tortilla down on top and press down with a spatula. Heat quesadilla for about 1 minute on each side, taking care that the tortillas do not get crisp. Repeat with remaining tortillas, potato mixture and cheese.

Cut quesadillas into quarters, and place on a serving platter or plates. Garnish with chopped tomato and cilantro, and serve immediately.