Brassicas

We’re big fans of brassicas here. (It’s cool, I’ve only recently learned that word myself.) As you can tell, we cook a lot of cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. Hey, the attractive nuisance loves him some cabbage-based veg, so who am I to deny him such pleasure?!

Here’s a great new way to prepare cauliflower from one of our new favorite cookbooks, Mesa Mexicana, by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. I recommend cutting the florets relatively small (bite-sized) so they’ll brown quicker and more thoroughly.

20121130-110611.jpg

Braised Cauliflower with Parsley and Lime (Mesa Mexicana)

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Preparation

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Briefly saute the cauliflower with the salt and pepper just to coat with oil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking, tossing frequently and adding a few tablespoons of water at a time as necessary to avoid burning, until the cauliflower starts to soften and brown evenly, about 35 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and lime juice and serve.

Leftover

Leftover turkey? Meet mole! This was a good recipe but not an all-time fave. I’ve realized I’m not a chili fanatic, but if you are, you might give this a try.

20121130-103426.jpg

Turkey Mole Chili (Food & Wine)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons pure ancho or New Mexico chile powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or turkey stock
  • Two 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup finely ground tortilla chips
  • 1 1/4 pounds roast turkey, diced (4 cups)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Rice, warm tortillas, cilantro, chopped onion and sour cream, for serving

Preparation

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chile powder, cumin and bay leaves and cook for 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the cocoa powder and sugar in 1/4 cup of the broth and add it to the casserole, along with the remaining broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes over low heat.
  2. Stir the beans and ground tortilla chips into the sauce and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add the turkey, season with salt and pepper and simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Serve the chili with rice, tortillas, cilantro, onion and sour cream.
Make Ahead: The chili can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Suggested Pairing: Ripe, black berry-inflected Malbec.

__

And I decided to follow an actual recipe for the white rice, rather than just the bag. Butter is good. From our new favorite Mexican cookbook by the Border Grill chefs, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.

20121130-103413.jpg

White Rice (Mesa Mexicana)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Place the rice in a large bowl (not a colander) and rinse under cold running water for 5 minutes. (If you use a colander, the starch remains on the rice, leaving it sticky.) Drain

Pour the water into a medium saucepan, add the butter and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, salt and pepper and bring back to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

__

And for the veg, we tried this super simple, very delicious chard recipe from the Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. Yes, there’s butter. And yes, we’ll be making this one again. And again. And again…

20121130-103419.jpg

Seared Greens (Mesa Mexicana)

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches red or green chard or mustard greens
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Trim and discard the stems of the greens and wash and dry the leaves. Stack the leaves, roll into cylinders and cut across the rolls into 1-inch strips.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until bubbly. Saute one-quarter of the greens with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and a pinch of pepper until the greens are limp, 30 seconds to 1 minute. If the greens begin to brown before they wilt, sprinkle in a few drops of water for steam. Transfer to a covered platter and repeat the procedure with the remaining 3 batches of greens. Serve immediately.

Loving Love and Lemons

I recently stumbled upon a new food blog that is both visually fun and filled with healthy and delicious-looking recipes. Check out Love & Lemons. Husband and wife food bloggers? Aww… This was tasty and fun to make. Especially with our homemade tortillas! Any day that involves a tortilla press is a good day.

20121114-124735.jpg

Miso-Maple Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce (Love & Lemons)

Serves 3 to 4

Glazed Sweet Potato Filling
2 tablespoons miso paste
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled and chopped into small cubes
1 small red onion, chopped
Olive oil

Taco Fixings
Corn tortillas, 2 to 3 per person
Avocado, sliced
Sprouts
Cilantro
Chopped scallions
Toasted pepitas

Heat oven to 400°F. Whisk the miso paste, maple syrup, and vinegar together in a small bowl. Spread sweet potatoes and onions in a single layer on a baking sheet (you might need 2 baking sheets). Drizzle with a little olive oil, and then liberally brush the glaze over the vegetables.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. The time will vary depending on the heat of your oven and the size of your sweet potato cubes. The onions will likely be done first so be sure to watch and take them out when they’re nicely browned but not burnt. When the sweet potatoes are finished, remove from the oven, taste and add another brushing of glaze if you wish.

Serve on warm corn tortillas with cilantro-coconut sauce (see below) and fixings such as avocado, sprouts, cilantro, and pepitas.

Cilantro-Coconut Sauce
1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup basil leaves
1 scallion, green and white parts, chopped
1/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 small garlic clove
Splash of Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
Pinch of sugar (optional)
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients together until just combined. Serve alongside the tacos.

Homemade Corn Tortillas (Love & Lemons)

So I learned 2 things in this experience:

First, and most importantly, I missed the step in the directions where once you mix your masa harina with water you need to let it sit for at least 30 minutes. The dehydrated corn flour needs time to rehydrate. This is an important step to getting a more pliable texture that won’t crumble when you go to press your tortillas. Don’t skip this step.

Second, some things just take a little bit of practice and patience. You might not necessarily get the “feel” of it the first time (or maybe you will if you’re just that good – but that’s what I had thought too).

makes about 16 tortillas that are 5-6 inches in diameter – even if you don’t need 16, I recommend starting with more (at least the first time) in case you mess some up.

This is the method that I found to work, based on the instruction (as best as I could follow) in Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen. He goes into more authentic detail. It’s a book worth having if you’re interested in learning more.

INGREDIENTS:
1 3/4 cups masa harina (the Maseca brand seems to be the most popular)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
a few tablespoons of cold water, as needed

gadgets & materials:
a tortilla press, I have this one. (Or go without like she did – brave girl)
medium weight plastic – cut up plastic trash bags or storage bags (ie, NOT thin cling wrap)

METHOD:
Mix masa harina with the hot water. Cover and set aside on your countertop for at least 30 minutes.

While you’re waiting on that, cut your plastic into squares just larger than the surface of your tortilla press. (you’ll use 2 plastic pieces at a time – one for the top, one for the bottom). Cut up a bunch of plastic – I can sometimes get a few tortillas out of one round of plastic, but when they start to stick, it’s easier to start fresh again.

Have a margarita and continue to wait for your dough.

When your 30 minutes is up, form the dough into a ball, it’ll be a bit crumbly so add some cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft without being sticky. It should be similar in texture to play-doh. If you’ve added too much water, it’s ok, just add a little more of the corn flour.

Gently knead the dough to help it form into a semi-pliable ball (this is not pizza dough). Cut the ball into in half, and half again, etc, etc, until you have about 16 pieces. Roll them in your hands to form into little balls. Place on a plate and cover with plastic or a towel so they don’t dry out as you go.

Heat your pan or cast iron skillet to medium.

Place your plastic on both sides of your tortilla press (I spray mine lightly with a little canola spray – I’m not sure if this is completely necessary, but it works). Place your dough ball in the center and press down. You’re trying for a tortilla that is less than 1/8-inch thick. Lift the press up, and carefully peel the top layer of plastic off. Gently pick it up, flip the dough side down in your other hand and gently peel off the other side.

Place tortilla in your pan and cook for about 20 seconds until it releases. Flip, cook for 30 seconds more until it starts to brown. Flip again and cook for 30 seconds to a minute until your tortilla starts to puff up. If your tortilla puffs up, you’ve done well. Be careful not too overcook your tortilla or it’ll become dry and crack more.

Place finished tortillas in a towel or foil and cover to keep warm while you finish the rest. I generously salt mine before serving.

Fiesta

After making John Besh’s Chicken Stock post-Gumbo, I knew it was time to make another soup. (Mainly because there’s not enough room in the freezer for all that stock.) I’ve been wanting to try another version of tortilla soup, so the Mexican fiesta was on!

I went with Rick Bayless’s Sopa Azteca. Muy bien!
sopa-azteca.jpg

Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup) (Rick Bayless)

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe from Frontera Grill/Topolobampo

Like guacamole, tortilla soup has a place, I feel, in practically every collection of Mexican recipes.  It’s a filling, flavorful meal that can be made with little effort, but one that sings with an unmistakable Mexican harmony. Earthy dark pasilla chile. The softening crunch of toasty corn tortillas. Soul-satisfying broth.  And creamy-rich avocado and cheese.

A note about pasilla (sometimes called negro) chile:  Its unique flavor defines tortilla soup in central Mexico. In Michoacan, it’s ancho chile. In your kitchen, it might turn out to be another chile, like New Mexico or even a little smoky chipotle (be forewarned that chipotle will make the broth quite spicy). Though for these everyday recipes I’ve relied heavily on the easier-to-use powdered dried chile, finding powdered pasilla (negro) can be harder than finding the whole pod. Should powdered chile be at your finger tips (be it powdered pasilla (negro), ancho or beyond), add about 1 tablespoon to the pan about halfway through the cooking of the onion.

In Mexico, it’s more common to crush toasted chile pods over the soup than to add it to the base. You can follow that lead, or do both as we do in our restaurants.

Ingredients

1 large dried pasilla (negro) chile, stemmed and seeded
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 quarts chicken broth
1 large epazote sprig, if you have one
4 (about 1 1/4 pounds total) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
A generous 4 cups (about 6 ounces) roughly broken tortilla chips
1/2 cup Mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraîche for garnish
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving

Directions

Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen. (Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.) Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender jar along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won’t completely puree the chile.)

Heat the oil in a medium (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes. Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender. Process until smooth.

Return the pan to medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. Add the broth and epazote, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about a generous teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth).

Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth. Divide the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips between serving bowls. When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls. Garnish with the crema.  Pass the lime separately.

 

Also made his Frontera Ceviche.

frontera-ceviche.jpg

Frontera Ceviche (Ceviche Fronterizo) (Rick Bayless)

Makes about 4 cups, enough for 6 to 8 as a starter

Recipe from Season 7 of Mexico – One Plate at a Time

Ingredients

1 pound “sashimi-quality” skinless meaty ocean fish fillet (halibut, snapper and bass are great choices), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
About 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
1 small white onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
Hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 or 3 serranos or 1 large jalapeño), stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives, preferably manzanillos
1 large (about 10-ounce) ripe tomato, cored, seeded (if you wish) and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
OR 1/4 cup (lightly packed, about 1 ounce) soft sundried tomatoes, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
1/4 small jícama, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (optional, but suggested if using sundried tomatoes)
1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
Salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Directions

1.  “Cook” the fish in the lime juice.  In a large stainless steel or glass bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion.  The fish should float freely in the juice; if not, add a little more.  Cover and refrigerate until the fish is as “done” as you like:  An hour or so for medium-rare, 3 to 4 hours for “cooked” all the way through.  Tip off the lime juice—sad to say that it’s fishy tasting at this point and can’t be easily used for any other preparation.

2.  Flavor the ceviche.  In a mini food processor, process the green chile and olives until finely chopped (or finely chopped by hand).  Add to the fish along with the tomato, optional jícama, cilantro and olive oil.  Stir well, then season with salt (usually about a scant teaspoon) and sugar.  Refrigerate until ready to serve — preferably no longer than an hour or two.

 

And had to try Rosa Mexicano’s Guacamole en Molcajete (menos Molcajete)

rosa-mexicano-guacamole.jpg

Guacamole en Molcajete (Rosa Mexicano)

Makes 4 servings

Chile Paste Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • 1 firmly packed tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeño, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or as needed

Additional Ingredients

  • 3 medium ripe but firm Hass avocados (about 8 ounces each)
  • 3 tablespoons diced tomato
  • 2 firmly packed tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped white onion
  • Salt if necessary
  • Tortilla chips and/or fresh corn tortillas

Make the chile paste: Grind the onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and salt together in a molcajete until all the ingredients are very finely ground. Alternatively, use a fork to mash all the ingredients to a paste in a wide hardwood bowl.

Cut each avocado in half, working the knife blade around the pit. Twist the halves to separate them and flick out the pit with the tip of the knife. Fold a kitchen towel in quarters and hold it in the palm of your “non-knife” hand. Rest an avocado half cut side up in your palm and make 3 or 4 evenly spaced lengthwise cuts through the avocado flesh down to the skin, without cutting through it. Make 4 crosswise cuts in the same way. Scoop the diced avocado flesh into the molcajete. Repeat with the remaining avocado halves.

 

And our old favorite: Southwestern Slaw.

southwestern-slaw.jpg

Southwestern Slaw (Epicurious)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fine-shredded green cabbage
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp minced red onion
  • 2 tsp minced jalapeños
  • 2 tsp chopped cilantro
  • Salt, to taste

Preparation

Combine all the ingredients. Allow the mixture to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before serving.

 

See? Fiesta!

Ceviche

Chop raw shrimp and fish into small pieces.

Toss with lime and lemon juice, refrigerate.

Add minced garlic, onion, jalapeno, refrigerate.

Add chopped cucumber, tomato, jicama, cilantro.

Add salt and pepper.

FT

We’re so back in LA. Fish taco night! Found a great recipe that didn’t require a grill (which is a good thing, since we don’t have one…). No mahi mahi, but tilapia was a delicious substitute.

Fish Tacos

Also jazzed them up with the guacamole I made after my farmers market visit, plus the Southwestern Slaw and Mexican Crema from another good looking FT recipe (Baja Fish Tacos). Oh, and a side of black beans, inspired by Rafi’s recipe.

The only hazard of this job is the dreaded jalapeno fingers. Otherwise, pretty easy, very tasty and totally worth it. This will be made again!