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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Poblano Mushroom Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce

This recipe is a knockout. And I have anecdotal proof: My husband, who is culinarily hard to please, couldn’t stop raving about it. It’s a little more work than usual, so you might want your sous chef, that is, a friend, partner or child, to help you. They won’t be sorry.

The fun thing about developing your own cuisine is that you can mix and match existing recipes to make new ones, then add a few tweaks of your own. The filling for these enchiladas, for instance, comes from Bon Appetit’s recipe for poblano and mushroom tacos. The avocado cilantro cream sauce is from Gimme Delicious. And the enchilada assembly and baking is from The Recipe Critic’s Chicken Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce.

Together, they make something wonderful. So here are these recipes in combination, with a few minor modifications. And I know my pictures look like a movie star’s face before it’s been Photoshopped, but the food tastes great. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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The Filling
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium to large poblano chiles, seeded, sliced into strips
1 red onion, sliced
6 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons cumin
salt to taste (I recommend 1/2 teaspoon)

Heat oil in skillet on medium-high and add chiles, red onion and mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, then add cumin and salt. Mix well and set aside.

The Avocado Cream Sauce
1 California avocado
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary. Set aside.

Make the filling and the cream sauce first, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees while you cook the tortillas.

The Tortillas
8 corn tortillas
olive oil

Tip: You will need to soften the tortillas in hot oil, so before doing so, please follow these safety measures. First, make sure your frying pan is dry. Any water in the oil will turn to steam while you’re cooking, causing the hot oil to pop and splatter. Second, heat the oil gradually, allowing any steam to escape. You can also cover the pan with a fine mesh splatter guard; I recommend doing that. 

Fill a frying pan with olive oil to about 1/4 inch depth. Heat oil on medium-high, then cook tortillas in hot oil for about 10 seconds on each side, and place on paper towels to drain.

Assembling the Enchiladas
Place a softened tortilla down on a plate, spread 1 tablespoon of avocado cream sauce down the center. Add some of the poblano mushroom filling. Roll the tortilla up and place seam side down in a baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Spread the rest of the avocado cream sauce over the tops of the enchiladas. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove enchiladas from the oven, garnish with a few springs of cilantro and serve.

Buen Provecho!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilapia with Coconut, Jalapeño and Cilantro
Two Servings

Hola readers. These are crazy times we’re living in, so it’s a good thing to have some kind of refuge, whatever that is for you. It could be taking a walk in the woods, having coffee with a friend, or knitting – anything you enjoy doing that recharges your batteries.

This blog is my refuge. I listen to the soothing strains of jazz musician Chet Baker’s trumpet and voice while I cook. His music, along with other jazz greats of his era, envelops the beautiful colors and scents of Latin cooking such as the cilantro, jalapeño, coconut, and cumin of this recipe, making a comforting little blanket to snuggle in, at least for awhile.

This is a fish recipe, not only because tilapia is delicious, but because the recipes in this blog use meat as little as possible. There is a reason for that. Right now I am stuck at home in California because of the smoke from one of the catastrophic wildfires that have erupted at both ends of the state. And animal agriculture is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

There are other factors for sure, such as overdevelopment and people living further out in fire-prone areas. But global warming is certainly one of them. We can have great food and take care of the planet at the same time. Enjoy! And thanks for visiting my blog!

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2 tilapia filets
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeño chile, seeded, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt

Tip: Wear gloves when you handle chiles because capsaicin, the compound that makes chile peppers hot, will absorb into your skin. If you don’t have gloves, just be careful not to touch your eyes. Ouch!

Heat coconut oil in large skillet on medium heat until it starts to bubble. Sauté chile and garlic until garlic turns golden, about 2 minutes.

Add coconut milk, salt and cumin. Stir. Add tilapia filets and cook until fish is opaque and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.

Place tilapia filets on plates, and spoon remaining sauce in the skillet over them. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chayote Soup with Peanut and Chipotle
Four Servings

One purpose of this blog is to introduce readers to the foods of the Americas, especially ones they might not be familiar with. One of these foods is chayote, a light green, pear-shaped squash that is native to Mexico. It’s not as well known as more familiar squashes such as butternut or acorn, but now that fall is here, it will make a delicious Latin addition to your holiday table.

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Chayote has a mild, pleasant flavor, and you can find it in supermarkets and Latin grocery stores. This particular recipe is based on one for butternut squash from Lydia Walshin’s blog, The Perfect Pantry.

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This recipe is simpler (this is time and budget-conscious cooking!), but is delicious and very satisfying. When I was taking pictures for this post, I could hear my husband  scraping the bowl with his spoon to get every last drop. Thanks for visiting my blog!

4 chayotes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo seeded, chopped
4 tablespoons of peanut butter
Salt to taste

Tip: If you have never worked with chayote before, it has a “tush” at the bottom (Turn it upside down; you’ll see.) Slice lengthwise along the “tush,” and take out the whitish pit at the center. Remove any brown spots.

Place 8 cups of water (or enough to cover the chayote) in a pot and bring to a boil. Add chayote and boil, covered, until chayote is soft and tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Let chayote cool. (The reason you let the chayote cool is because you’re going to need to put it in a blender. Many blenders have plastic pitchers, and you don’t want to put really hot things in plastic, which can release harmful chemicals into the food. Doctors have also advised people not to put plastic items in the dishwasher.)

When chayote has cooled, whirl in a blender with the chicken broth, chipotle chile, and peanut butter. For 4 servings, you’re going to need to work in batches, so in terms of liquid volume, add half the chayote and 2 cups of chicken broth at a time.

Return soup to the same pot, salt to taste, and heat. Serve hot.

Make cooking meaningful. Growing up, I spent many years watching my abuelita (grandmother) cook. Her chicken soup, apple strudel, Chinese egg rolls, roast chicken, and oatmeal cookies with jam all stand out vividly in my mind. Now she watches me cook. She’s long gone, so I have an 8 1/2 by 11 black-and-white photo of her on my kitchen counter. I know she’s not really watching me there in the kitchen, but she would if she could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Tacos with Mole and Doña Tina’s Rice

Welcome to the first post of Doña Tina’s Latin Café, the blog that emphasizes festive, budget-conscious, and easy-to-make Latin recipes.

I started this blog as a fun hobby, a way to share Latin-inspired dishes of my own invention, such as the sweet potato and rice recipes that follow. Then I did an Internet search and found that Doña Tina is not as brilliant as she thought she was. My ideas had already been thought of!

So here at least, are my own versions of these recipes. Since I’m a one-woman band, and developing and testing (and retesting) recipes takes time, I may not post several times a week, but I will post often enough to keep things interesting. So subscribe and get a post in your email box!

Enjoy my recipes for sweet potato tacos with mole and Doña Tina’s rice. They make a great meal served together! Thanks so much for visiting my blog!

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Sweet Potato Tacos with Mole
Four servings

Mole, such as mole negro, is a Mexican sauce made from ingredients such as chocolate, sesame seeds, and chiles. Some traditional versions contain over a dozen ingredients and can take hours to make. But no need for that! You can buy ready-made mole paste, such as Doña María’s, in the Latin or ethnic foods section of most supermarkets.

My college roommate Rosa was a great cook and made the best chicken mole I have ever tasted. This mole, to the best of my memory, is what hers tasted like. Food memories are powerful! Make some of your own.

1/4 cup Doña María’s mole paste
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
2 10 ounce packages frozen diced sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
4 corn tortillas

Place mole paste and water in a medium-sized pot. Put on low heat and stir continuously until paste breaks up and dissolves. Add in sugar and cocoa and continue to stir until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and keep covered.

Place 2 cups of water in a large covered skillet and bring water to boil. Stir in frozen sweet potato cubes. Cover and steam potatoes on medium-high heat until soft and tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. In same skillet on medium heat, melt butter until potatoes are thoroughly coated and stir. Turn off heat. Scoop sweet potatoes into warm tortillas, and spoon mole sauce over them. Enjoy!

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Doña Tina’s Rice
Four Servings

2 jalapeño or serrano chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup basmati rice
1 1/3 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Rinse and drain rice in a small bowl until the water comes out clear (about 3 times). Add water to a medium-sized pot with the olive oil and salt. Cover and bring to a boil.

When the water is boiling, stir in rice and chopped garlic. Turn heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, very quickly and all at once, add the chopped chile peppers, stir, and cover. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Stir in chopped cilantro and serve immediately.