Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dark and Stormy Rum Cake with Lime Glaze

So, the year ends today and it has been quite a stormy year, so I decided to bake this luscious and decadent rum cake. The original recipe I found in a magazine, adapted it to my culinary specs (it means I used what I had in hand)  and the cake is patiently waiting to be eaten tonight.

The year has been a great year, where I started this unfancy blog (autocorrect wants to change unfancy to unfunny...ha!) which after 5 months has already a good group of unidentified visitors. The blog started as an idea to share my cooking experiences in Spanish and English...which resulted in a bigger task than I though. After great consideration I decided to drop the Spanish one. With now three blogs, a job and a full time wife...life is busy.

I have also discovered that the one and only son is becoming independent so Christmas and New Year, for the first time...we are on our own. Due to that shocking event, the current wife and I decided to spend Christmas in San Francisco and New Year's here at home. Go figure.

A year of great things where I discover that I kind of like my only cousin who visited us (an annoying experience on its own), that rediscovering life only with the wife which has been more satisfying than I expected. She is a curios being, full of happiness and...full of food. Her fault.

So, here I am... the year ahead is predicted to be a great year, or at least that is what I predict. Like they say in my native land: Feliz Año Nuevo!


Dark and Stormy Rum Cake with Lime Glaze

Cooking Time: 90 Minutes   Yields 16 servings
Ingredients

2 1/2 Cups Sifted flour

2 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1/4 tsp Baking soda

2 tsp Ground ginger

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp All spice

1/2 Cup Crystalized ginger chopped

1/2 Cup Molasses

1/2 Cup Dark rum

1 1/4 Cup Room temperature Butter

1/4 Cup Brown sugar

3 Large eggs, room temperature

2 Egg Yolks -from large eggs-

LIME GLAZE -recipe below-

Lime Glaze Recipe

1 Cup Sifted Icing Sugar

1 tsp Dark rum

1 tsp Coconut oil *

3 tsp Lemon juice

1/2 tsp Lime zest

1 1/2 tsp Coconut milk or whole milk -I use regular milk-

* Coconut Oil: I wish I had all the necessary ingredients for all recipes I do but due to limitations in budget and kitchen space… sometimes I resource to some allowable substitutions. Coconut oil is one of those ingredients (along with avocado oil, chestnut oil, etc). For what I understand, coconut oil is used as a thickener, so I used butter instead… knowing that butter will add another flavor to the icing, but who doesn’t like butter?


Cooking Instructions

CAKE:

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and grease and flour a 2.5 L Blunt cake mold making sure that we cover every inch of the mold. Tap excess flour and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl we are going to mix all dry ingredients BUT the brown sugar. Reserve.  

3. On a different bowl mix the dark molasses, the rum and the crystallized (and previously chopped) ginger. Mix well and then cover with plastic wrap and reserve.

5. Now we are going to cream the butter: in a mixer bowl combine the brown sugar and the room temperature butter (of course using the mixer…) until we get a light yellow cream (it must be light color). 

6. Add, one at the time, the eggs and keep mixing. Now add the egg yolks and continue mixing for another good 3 minutes so we end with a nice, soft mix. Keep scraping down the mix so we make sure that all is combined and we have no waste.

7. Now, let’s incorporate the dry ingredients mix and the molasses-rum mix: mix first 1/4 of the dry and wet mix alternately, then the second, third and fourth quarters until we have only our final and fabulous scented mix. 

8. Pour the mix into the buttered blunt pan and firmly tap it on the work surface to get rid of air pockets and to make sure that all corners of our mold are filled.

9. Bake for around 45 minutes until you get a dry wooden skewer when inserting it in three different parts of the cake. You will know that is almost ready when the top has raised and has already started to crack open.

10. Remove and allow it to cool down on a wire rack for at least 1 1/2 hours (don’t be impatient!). While you wait, let’s do the icing.

ICING:

1. In a medium bowl sift the icing sugar and add first the rum, then the coconut oil (I used room temperature butter instead), the lemon juice and the lemon zest. Start stirring. At first the mix is going to be heavy and hard to manage. Add a bit of the milk to get it less dense. If you have finished all the milk and the mix is still dry, then add lemon juice bit by bit until achieving the right consistency (which is semi-liquid and semi dense…when it “clings” on a spoon and drips slowly).


PUTTING IT TOGETHER:

Unmold the cake which should come out easily (if you buttered and floured  it correctly) and slowly and carefully distribute the icing mix to decorate (artistic direction not included in this recipe…sorry)

2. Enjoy!




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chocochristmas !

Even though I am not a fan of Christmas as per say -yes, I am the Grinch!- I do like the music (not Justin Biber please) I do like the original idea behind it. Family, sure why not. Christmas tree...just because the wife likes it, but sure. Nativity scene, for sure...brings good childhood memories, Turkey and Ham...really?

The best thing about Christmas is...food! and more so...treats!

You can eat without guilt anything that the health gurus disapprove.   Buttery cookies?...checked; warm alcoholic beverages?...checked; super sugary cakes?...you bet ; and, the main reason why I still celebrate Christmas is...chocolate! -and sweets-

As I started couple of years to learn how to make chocolates...it is something I really enjoy. During the year I take couple of courses with Master Greg Hook. The classes are expensive for me...so it is a double treat. Last year the chocolate batch was eaten at home with family (the wife) and friends (the wife's). This year I did a slightly bigger batch so I could share with these weird people that are closer to me, or at least annoy me year round.

To crown my Christmas bonanza, the current wife gave me a fantastic Traditional Mexican Candy recipes of an author I like (please don't ask...it's not your business) and after reading some recipes I already do, I realized that the book is good. The first fire test was to make "jamoncillo" which is a Mexican version of  fudge. In my native country you buy them from street candy vendors (I miss them so much!) or high end specialty stores. I love them, the wife does too and, believe it or not...even my Canamex son likes them too!

Today is not a recipe post. It's a sharing post. Sorry...

PS...the name Chocochristmas I just made up...but knowing Starbucks or s huge company like that...sooner than later they will make it theirs.

Chocochristmas! 

After the cooking and baking...the prep mess


From left to right, top to bottom: chocolate brittle with festive colors, dark chocolate with pistachio leaf, salted caramel, candied and roasted peanut cup, dark chocolate corn flakes melange, gingerbread choco guy, Tequila Patron Reposado dark chocolate truffle (absolutely amazing!) and blackberry filled square.

  
Gingerbread shortbread with chocolate booties and "jamoncillo"

The setup in a nice ceramic mini loaf mold

The semifinal lineup

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mustard Bourbon Salmon

The wife and I like fish. She prefers white fish and I prefer salmon...and I am the one who cooks, therefore I cook more salmon than white fish -also the price has to do with the choice-. Where I live salmon is abundant and of great quality. The best season for salmon is Spring, but in reality yo can find it year round -off season is frozen-.

As I have proven before, salmon is one of the easiest fish to cook and most of the times the end result is great. This time around I decided to try a recipe that I have seen somewhere before (can't remember where), so, after deciphering my scribbles, I share the recipe with some modifications I made.

Again, the photo is not mine as I tend to forget the photo when I'm serving... mea culpa. Next time...


Mustard Bourbon Salmon

Cooking Time: 30 Minutes   Makes 6 servings
Ingredients

1/2 Cup Brown Sugar

1/4 Cup Dijon Mustard

6 Boneless salmon fillets

1/2 Cup Bourbon 

1/4 Cup Lime juice

2 Garlic cloves minced

Procedure

1. Preheat the oven’s broiler, place the rack in the second rack holder -the second from the bottom up- and prepare a broiler pan (one that can take high heat) with some olive oil.


2. Mix together the mustard with the brown sugar and the lime juice until incorporated, then add the minced garlic and mix again (I crush a bit mine so one doesn’t have to bite garlic).

3. When the oven is ready, place the salmon, skin down in the broiler pan.

4. Add to our mustard-sugar mix the bourbon and mix until incorporated, then spoon the mixture on top of the salmon fillets.

5. Cook for about 10 minutes (mine is perfect at 10 minutes…but it depends on your oven) and just check it at the 10 minutes…the salon should flake easily. Don’t over-bake it!!!, nobody likes dry salmon.

6. Serve it with some wild rice or mash potatoes or some steam veggies… your choice. Enjoy!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Huitlacoche Pasta

Huitlacoche Pasta

I am not a huge fan of fusion cousine as I believe that dishes have been created as a perfect mix of flavors, texture, temperature and...culture. A dish created, for example in France, talks about their culture, their dedication to cousine, the produce they naturally have and their unique sense of what food is all about.

But...there are exceptions and I do enjoy these quite a bit, for example this fantastic dish: the mix of huitlacoche, a fungus that is a parasite that grows in corn and Italian pasta. Mexicans (the ones who discovered that huitlacoche was edible -go figure how or why they did that- and Italians, pasta making masters. The combo is absolutely fantastic and has a flavor like you have never experienced before...is not sweet nor tangy but creamy and has this truffle flavor that has no parallel. 

As we live in Canada, huitlacoche doesn't grow here and I find scary the thought of bringing fresh huitlacoche from Mexico and trying to explain it to a customs officer, so I resource to can huitlacoche (that is labeled "cuitlacoche" for some reason beyond my understanding). The rest is in the recipe...

The wife wanted pasta yesterday and, me being such a good husband, I decided to treat her with tho of her favorite foods: huitlacoche and pasta. She loves the black fungus in quesadillas and in soup but have never tried on pasta, which I have seen somewhere before, so I decided to cook this absolutely different and super tasty dish. I hope you like it as much as we did.

Huitlacoche?...is healthy or just a weird food Mexicans eat?

This gnarly, gray-black corn fungus long-savored in Mexico has nutritional values similar to those of the corn on which it grows. Test results published in the journal Food Chemistry reveal that an infection that North American farmers and crop scientists have spent millions trying to eradicate, is packed with unique proteins, minerals and other nutritional goodies..and has more economic value than the corns it ruins.

Huitlacoche can actually synthesize significant nutrients that don't even exist in corn," so the fantastic flavor is just a bonus.

 flavors are amazing!" said Steve Sando, a grinning Napa Valley epicurean whose booming Rancho Gordo speciality food company grows and sells heirloom beans, corn and other indigenous "New World" ingredients.

This epicurean wonder is an exquisite delicacy both nutty and earthy with a hint of fruity sweetness.

When huitlacoche attacks corn, the insidious-looking pustules that bubble up don't just force the husk to explode, it forces the metabolical process inside the cob to change, creating new, healthier nutrients, for example  lysine, one of those "essential amino acids" that the body requires but can't manufacture. We need it to fight infections and strengthen bones. Bodybuilders pound lysine when they want to build muscle, and estheticians recommend it to keep skin looking young (in that case I need to eat it every day as I am not fit nor handsome). 

It just happens that corn has virtually no lysine; huitlacoche is loaded with it. It also is packed with more beta-glucens – the soluble fiber that gives oatmeal its well-known cholesterol-cutting power – than, well, oatmeal.

You can eat it at  James Beard House in New York City, for example but also you can find it in huitlacoche stuffed chicken breasts at La Cocina Michoacana in Cedar Park, Texas; huitlacoche quesadillas at Tu y Yo in Boston; and at La Casita Mexicana in Los Angeles, they blend the huitlacoche into a tamale masa, then stuff the entire tamale into a large, roasted chili.

Or you can eat it at home...like we do.


Fresh Huitlacoche 
Canned Huitlacoche


Huitlacoche at the Market




Huitlacoche Pasta

Cooking Time: 40 Minutes   Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

3 Tbsp Olive oil

1/2 Onion finely diced

1 Garlic clove, chopped

1 Flaked Tuna in water can

4 Stewed tomatoes

1 Can of Huitlacoche* (380 g)

1 Small can of sweet corn 

1 Box (454 g) Spaghetti pasta

- Parmesan Cheese 

Cooking Instructions

1. In a medium size pot, heat the olive oil and cook the onion until translucent and then add the chopped garlic. Reduce heat.

2. Drain the water from the tuna can and then add to the onion mix. Bring heat to medium high and fry the tuna until a bit golden (fully cooked…a bit brown)

3. Add the stewed tomatoes and mash them a bit so it incorporates to the mix -but we want it a bit chunky-. Reduce heat and let it cook, covered, for 15 minutes.

4. Add the huitlacoche* to the sauce and stir until incorporated, then add the corn and stir again. Cover and allow it to simmer for another 15 minutes (covered).

5. In a big pot, heat water and then cook the pasta for about 10 minutes or until is “al dente” (the pasta is semi-soft but the center is a bit uncooked). I never add oil nor salt to my pasta when cooking it…so far no problems there. Once the pasta is cooked, remove from the heat, strain it under cold water and drain perfectly. Return the pasta to the already drained big pot.

6. Add the huitlacoche sauce to our pasta and stir until coated evenly.

7. Serve and top with parmesan cheese.

8. Enjoy!

*Huitlacoche…

Even though is a fungus that grows on corn, it is black and looks quite suspicious, huitlacoche is not only tasty for is good for you.

This black fungus (Ustilago maidis) is a parasite of the corn. The word comes from the nahuatl “huitla” which means excrement and “cochi” that means pig. The scientific name comes from “ustilare” -to burn- and “taino mahis” that means corn.. keep in mind that what, even though the meaning of the name is not appealing, the flavor and the nutritional value are amazing.

Nahuatl was the language of the Mexicas also known as Aztecs, and it is still spoken in small rural areas around Mexico City.


















Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Halloween is a very good excuse to eat cookies and candy. My dentist wouldn't agree with me, but otherwise she would be out of business. My current wife used to be in charge of this holiday department but now that she is "busy working"... somebody has to do the job, otherwise the kids would end with no Halloween treats.  The fact that my child has moved out of the house is just collateral damage. Cookies are cookies, regardless of the child's presence or absence. 

The wife wanted to treat her colleagues at work with some sort of a Halloween treat. I suggested poisoned apples but, after a long thought she decided against. That is the reason of my baking this time. As usual, just to please the wife as I am a pleaser.

Cookies are fantastic and home made cookies are just on the top ten food items I like, so I decided to bake this mega delicious chocolate and peanut butter Jack-o-lantern shape cookies. You can't go wrong with the mix of chocolate and peanut butter. I baked them yesterday and I did 16 of them. Today there are 2 left... that should tell you enough. They are fantastic!


Halloween Peanut Butter Cookies

Cooking Time: 60 Minutes   Makes 16 pieces

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups of sifted flour

1/2 Cup Unsweetened Valrhona cocoa powder, sifted


1/2 Tsp Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp Baking Soda

1/2 Tsp Kosher salt

1 Stick (125 g) Butter, room temperature

1 Cup White sugar

1 Egg, large, room temperature

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

1/2 Cup Chunky Peanut Butter


Cooking Instructions

1. In a medium bowl we are going to mix our dry ingredients: whisk together the sifted flour, sifted cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Reserve.

 2. In a large bowl (I use my mixer’s), cream together butter and sugar until light, smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and the vanilla extract. 

3. Add our dry ingredient mixture to our butter-sugar mix and beat until just combined. Dough should come together (actually looks shinny but it feels like play dough…somehow heavy but not crumbly. If crumbly add a tinny amount of water and mix…don’t overwater!!!)

4.  Form dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.

5. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 

6. We are going to divide the dough in half and roll one half out onto a lightly floured surface to a thickness of approximately 1/8th- inch. I keep adding flour to my surface because the dough is quite sticky. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

7.  Cut out 12 pumpkins using a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter and transfer to a prepared baking sheet (with parchment paper) . Be careful: the unbaked cookies are quite fragile, so be gentle when transferring them. You should have approx. 16 cookies. These will be our bottom part of the cookies. Reserve

8. We are going to do the same with the remaining dough, but this second batch will have the jack-o-lantern faces. I have to admit: it sounds easier than it is -at least for me-. As I don’t have tinny cooking cutter shapes (eyes and mouth) I ended using the tip of a small funnel for the eyes and I cut the mouths with a pairing knife. They don’t look like a Martha Stewart’s confection but they look good enough for me. Transfer them to the second prepared baking sheet. Again…they are fragile so take your time. Obviously these are the top part of our cookies and we should have approx. 16 faces. Reserve.

9. Bake the first batch for 10 minutes or until the top looks dry on top. (I bake mine for 12 minutes because I like them crunchy). When ready, let them cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack (if you transfer right away they will brake and you will feel frustrated and cranky).

10. Now we are going to bake our second batch, exact same as the first batch. Follow the same instructions for the cooling method. Reserve.

11. Once the two sides have cooled perfectly (I waited half an hour), spread the flat side of our faceless cookies with about 1 teaspoon of the peanut butter. I really like the texture of the crunchy one, so that is what I recommend. Top them with the flat side down, so the two flat parts are the ones that touch the peanut butter. Press carefully the sandwich so a bit of the peanut butter comes out of the eye sockets and mouths.

12. Eat one and be strong, otherwise you will end eating half your cookies. I keep them in a Tupperware with paper towels so they keep dry and crispy, while they last…mine didn’t make it to Halloween. If so, feel sorry for the kids…and give them Oreos or something.

13. Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tipsy Cranberry and Almond Whiskey Cake


Somehow people associate cake with kids...I don't. A grownup has as much right as any kid to eat cake -or even more right-. In the other hand people associate alcohol with grownups...and I agree. Kids are cute, at a distance, but a kid and alcohol does not mix. Sorry kids.

And once we are debunking urban myths,  I would like to talk about food and alcohol. Some people (let's call them weirdos) are convinced that the only wine, rum, cherry, etc...that is to be used in the kitchen  MUST be of lower quality -cheap-. I totally disagree. To me drinking a good wine is as pleasant as tasting it on a dish. Cheap wine on a dish equals cheap flavor. Not a good thing.

With all these thoughts out of my system, I want to share a real tasty and grownup cake that uses Whiskey... and quite a bit. Between the needed Whiskey for this cake and the ones I drank while baking it...I finished a bottle -or at least that is the last thing I remember-. Who put me on my bed  is still a mystery to be resolved...

Here it goes!

Tipsy Cranberry and Almond Whiskey Cake
 Serves 24 small slices or 12 generous slices

Ingredients

1 Cup of dried cranberries
1 Cup of Raisins
2 Tbsp Lemon zest
2 Tbsp Orange zest
1 Cup Whiskey (I used Buchanan's)
175  g Room temperature butter
1 Cup Brown sugar
3 Eggs, room temperature and separated
1 1/2 Cups Flour 
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
3/4 Cup chopped and toasted almonds.

Instructions

1. Combine cranberries, raisins and the whiskey in a metal or glass bowl and add the lemon and orange zest.

2. Mix well the cranberry-raisin mix and cover with plastic wrap (tight) and leave it room temperature overnight. You can drink couple of glasses of whiskey just because you deserve it.

3. Cream the butter with the brown sugar together until it becomes a soft, pale color mix.

4. Separate the eggs 

5. Turn on the oven to 375˚F and butter and flour a 9 inch bunt pan. 

6. Incorporate, one by one the egg yolks to the butter mixture until incorporated. Reserve.

7. Mix the dry ingredients -sifted- : the flour, the baking powder, the salt and the cinnamon. 

8. Toast the almonds and let them cool. 

9. Incorporate the toasted almonds to your butter mix. Reserve.

10. Now incorporate in three additions the dry ingredient mix. You will have a dry dough. Don't worry...drink another whiskey. Reserve

11. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff . Reserve

12. Incorporate the drunken berries to your dry mix and fold the egg whites. Don't over mix it !

13. Pour the mix into the prepared pan. Shake it a bit to get rid of air bubbles. 

14. Bake for 45 minutes (can go up to an hour) and you will know that the cake is ready when you insert a toothpick and comes out dry.

14. Allow the cake to cool in a wire rake. The house should smell fantastic!

15. Enjoy!...and make sure that you tell your kids that this cake is not for them. They will cry...then drink another whiskey and ignore them.

Whisk the eggs until stiff

Fold the egg whites...

The cake before baking it

The end result (very nice)

And a small slice...tipsy!















Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Super Good Coffee Maker...for one





Super Good Coffee Maker





UPDATE:

I got a very nasty email from the so called "cousin"...he complains that I forgot to mention that it was he who paid for the coffee maker. At least he paid for something... a freeloader we call them...


I was born in Mexico and had an Argentinian mother (I know...) so when I was a kid, coffee was not allowed for underage children so I had to wait for some time to get to drink such wonderful drink. I remember clearly my mother having, first thing in the morning, her coffee. She drank Nescafe like anyone else. Nescafe was the coffee to drink...the most popular and with the best publicity campaign.

But one day I turned 6! That was the day my mother thought it was a good age to introduce me to such delicatessen. Then my world changed. I was allowed to have a coffee with breakfast but that was that (my mother had her limits too!). Since then until today I drink coffee. Like everything else in life...I blame my mother.

Then drinking coffee was a good deal. When I was in junior high, you could go to any restaurant or coffee shop and order a coffee and you got bottomless coffee. You could seat for hours for the tremendous amount of 5 cents. How could I not drink coffee?

Nowadays coffee has become this urban craze. Most people can get a good cup of java almost by just walking... 5 minutes. Then the golden liquid is not 5 cents anymore, you pay now between 4 to 12 dollars per cup. And coffee shops are always busy.

So... I left my Nescafe days behind and started drinking better coffee. Nowadays you can get coffee and you can get extraordinary coffee, but that is only one part of the deal. Once you have great coffee at home, then you need at least 3 things: a coffee grinder, a coffee maker and a cup. Today I'll tell you about my coffee maker...actually my new coffee maker -and now my favorite-.

When a guy who claims to be my cousin came for a visit from Argentina, we went to the old downtown, called Gastown. There we found a fantastic coffee shop called Revolver where they actually sell a great drip coffee made the way it should be made and a delicious expresso. Also they sell individual coffee makers. Then I got my new gadget. I bought a Frieling individual coffee brewer. Absolutely amazing!

My Frieling coffee maker is a three part apparatus. It has a 23 karat gold plated super fine filter -so you don't have to buy a new filter every time (you can call me ecologically responsible...which I am not), a water regulator and a lid. That is all.

All I have to do is place my coffee filter onto my cup, fill it with good freshly grated coffee and pour hot water into the regulator. Close the regulator with the lid...and voila!, Houston we have coffee!!

Now, if you like tea and you are not sick with the flu or something...then you are in the wrong side...you are in the dark ages.

Ah!, then the White Coffee came. Bizarre and not very politicly correct campaign...but that is another story.


Not me, though...I was way cutter, but nevertheless it looks exactly the way I looked when I got my first coffee.

And the 5 cent bottomless coffee cup add.



The not so politicly correct White coffee add...go figure.



The 23 k filter into the mug


And the contraction into my super nice Native coffee cup

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mexican Style Lentil Soup

Mexican Style Lentil Soup

After a month without posting due to a quick trip to Mexico to visit my mother in law and the visit of my only cousin from Argentina who I haven't seen for at least 20 years... August is gone, and I don't know where.

The trip to Mexico deserves its own post, which I'll do later but today here in Vancouver it looks and feels like Fall. To me, as much as I love the sun (and dislike heat) Fall has some sort of magic which I feel is unique. Here we love to complain about the rain, but honest...if not what else would be complaining about? This place is as close to paradise as it can be.

Fall is back to my kitchen. I'm still doing some gardening -moving things here and there- and...fighting bamboo! Yes, I AM the last Bamboo Fighter (post to come)... so as today it's raining and I have a group of students coming at 4, so I had time to bake a fantastic looking old fashion apple cake which looks amazing but I haven't tasted it just yet and I wanted to get back to my blog.

The current wife loves lentils and as I love the wife...this week I cooked for her Mexican Style Lentil Soup. The wife had 3 teeth fixed at the dentist and pretty much couldn't eat any solid food...because I am such an angel... I prepared this for her.

Lentil soup is comfort food. In Mexico we eat it year round and each family has its own recipe that most likely came from a family elder. My mother (Argentinian) prepared it with pork feet (I know...) and the current wife's mom did it with chorizo, so I am doing it with chorizo because I want to please her and because I think that pork feet taste nice but look awful (they look awful).

Mexican Style Lentil Soup
Cooking Time: 60 minutes Feeds 4 hungry people


Ingredients

250 g Green lentils

1 l Water

100 g Chorizo (Mexican is the best for this recipe)

1 Large Tomato

1 Large Carrot -cubed-

1 Laurel leaf

1 Large Potato -cubed-

150 g Finely chopped onion (about 1/4 of a large onion)

2 Garlic cloves cut in thin slices

1 Piece of toasted bread (dry, not soft)

- Canola Oil

- Kosher Salt

Instructions

1. Peel the carrot and the potato and cube them in small pieces. Reserve

2. Cut the chorizo in 1 cm slices (doesn't need to be exactly 1 cm !)

3. Clean the lentils using cold water and in a large pot, medium heat put them to cook with the water. Do not put the pot lid on!!

4. Add the tomato and the laurel leaf after about 15 minutes (the tomato is whole)

5. When the water with the lentils is boiling, lower the heat to simmer and add the chorizo, carrot and potatoes. Leave it simmering for for approx. 45 minutes (by then they should be soft but not breaking apart...if they are still a bit hard, leave them for intervals of 5 minutes and check them to see when are they ready). Stir occasionally.

6.  In a medium pan heat the oil and fry the onion and the garlic until the onions are a bit clear and the garlic looks a bit toasted.

7. Add the toasted bread, bring the heat to high and let the onion golden allowing the bread to absorb the flavor. 

8. Add the bread, onions and garlic to our lentils and we mix gently -we don't want lentil smoothie-. By now the lentils should be perfect (soft but whole). They should have some liquid broth as we don't want them like paste. If they are too thick, add a bit of water (a bit!). At the end we want a soup that has a bit of broth and tons of lentils.

9. Remove the laurel leaf. 

10. We are ready to serve!..some weird people (like my wife) likes to slice a banana on top of the lentil soup as they (she) claim that enhances the flavor. I never contradict the wife -survival instinct they call it-. The fact that she adds ketchup I'm not going to mention because I am a discrete guy.

11. Enjoy!


* Photo from Enriqueta Lemoine's fantastic cooking site SavorFaire (the recipe is mine though)... I forgot to take my own picture... next time.





Monday, August 18, 2014

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

The Perfect Hard Boiled Egg

Yes, I am one of those few guys who actually believe that hard boiled eggs are not as easy to achieve as one would think. Most people (including the current wife) swear that such egg is a matter of boiling a raw egg for...who cares...15, 20, 30 minutes. At the end a hard boiled egg is just that: a hard boiled egg.

I am not part of that group of misguided people. A hard boiled egg can be underdone or overdone. Can be soggy or can be dry...that means that there is a science to achieve the perfect hard boiled egg. I have been trying to make my point with the wife but she just doesn't get it... if someone else makes it for her, then is a perfect egg. Ouch!

To make my point I have decided to illustrate my point. I did an experiment that consisted in hard boiling 3 eggs, all room temperature (that is important) and removing them from the boiling water at different times. This is what I got:

First: same size and all ROOM temperature (that is important because the temperature exchange has to be the same). I numbered them.


Second: I boiled them at different times: I removed egg number 1 at 11 minutes and right away I put it in ice water to stop the cooking process. I left egg number 2 for 13 minutes and cooled the same way I did with the first one...and egg number 3 was in boiling water for 15 minutes, cooling it down the same way.


As you can see, the three eggs do not look the same. Let's look at them with more detail:




The yolk in egg number 1 (11 minutes) was a bit soft. So what you will say... well a "soft hard boiled egg" will result in affecting anything you do with it, for example, if you use it for a egg salad the end result will be mushy and soggy. It is a bit underdone, no doubt (in the right half you can see how it wants to melt out of the egg white)


Egg number 2 (13 minutes) was in its prime. The perfect consistency: not soggy nor dry. When you use it you will achieve a better result when doing, for example, a potato salad.  A perfect potato salad, a perfect pascualina is always welcome.



Egg number 3 (15 minutes) is definitely dry and therefor anything you cook that asks for a hard boiled egg will result  dry and chewy (a dry egg salad sandwich is horrible...!!). You will always know that you over cooked an egg when the rim between the yolk and the egg white presents a gray tone. If it has it, then you better eat it with salt...unless you are not as picky as I am....

Now...if you couldn't care less...then at least admit that there is a difference. Try it. Once you note the difference you will not come back to the dark side. Promise.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Super Cheese Mexican Style Zucchini



I feel like a million bucks!
Usually I adjust and modify other recipes I have tried in the past so I know that the dishes will turn the way I like them (you read it right...I did not create Chiles Rellenos!), but this time around I decided to use my taste memory, the current wife's suggestion and a Mexican recipe. So, in fact, this is my own creation...and the end result couldn't be better. Honest.

As you know, this year we had a good zucchini crop (still waiting for the second batch!) -even though it was our first time planting zucchini-. As I told the wife: it can not get more organic than this. My own zucchini, my own stewed tomatoes and a fantastic Oaxaca cheese I bought two weeks ago. If you can't find Oaxaca style cheese, choose something that melts nicely and stays melted for a while, like a good Manchego (you see...I love Fortina cheese for melting but for this dish is too runny).

At the end the dish resulted in a very pleasant dinner. I served the zucchini with Spanish rice and I had red wine (the wife still refuses to drink...in front of me).

This is also a great vegetarian dish. Try it and if you don't like it...then ... look for a Greek or Ucranian  Food blog or something... 



Super Cheese Mexican Style Zucchini

Cooking Time: 60 Minutes   Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

4 Fresh round Zucchini 

250 g Melting Cheese (I used Oaxaca style cheese) coarsely chopped

1 Jar of Stewed Tomatoes  (see recipe here) -500 g-


1/2 Chopped onion

1 Tbsp Oil

- Salt to taste


Cooking Instructions

1.Put the oil in a medium size pot and bring it to very hot. Pour the oil in the pan as we are going to fry the onions for the sauce: we want to caramelize them a bit (translucent is good)

2. Once  the onion is ready we pour the stewed tomatoes. That will mix with our onions by moving it for 10 minutes. After that add the salt AND TASTE IT !!!. Sometimes instead of salt I use 1 little Knorr cube (beef). Reserve
3. Using your food processor or your blender (or by hand if you still think that we are in the 1500's or live in a cave) blend the onion-tomato sauce. Pour the sauce in the same pot we used before and put your fire to high until the mix start bubbling. 
4. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover it  and let it cook for 20 minutes (you want to check here and there just to make sure that everything is OK). Once ready turn the heat off and keep the lid on.

5. While the sauce cooks take a bigger pan (like the one for cooking pasta) filled with warm water and bring it to a boil. Add the zucchini and let it soften for about 7 to 10 minutes. You know that they are ready when you can (they must be still hard, though!) puncture them with a fork. We want them a bit hard and not soft at all!!!


6. Take your zucchini of the water and IMMEDIATELY put your zucchini under cold running water. You want to do right away because otherwise the zucchini keeps cooking. 

7. Once the zucchini is cold we remove their top (stem side) making sure that the exposed flesh has a diameter big enough to remove some of the flesh with a teaspoon  but not bigger than that.


8. Now with the teaspoon we remove some of the flesh making sure that we leave enough flesh on the sides (hollow only half the zucchini) so they don’t dissolve in front of us (if you messed up already, then go to plan B and make zucchini soup!) . Remove about half of the flesh. Reserve

9. Now the assembly. In a medium baking dish we put our zucchini. Reserve.

10. Stuff the  zucchini with the chopped cheese (the smaller the pieces the better) until they almost overflowing (melted cheese occupies less space than freshly cut cheese).

11. Bring your oven to 325˚C

12. Now just pour your sauce around the zucchini without touching them (we are making a sauce bed) 
and bake it for 15 minutes or until you see that the cheese has melted. Once melted the cheese remove from the oven and serve IMMEDIATELY (they are fantastic when you eat them right away but they reheat perfect).

13. I like this dish with rice (today was Spanish style rice) but you can accompany the zucchini with nice and soft mash potatoes.

14. Enjoy!























Sunday, July 20, 2014

Harvest Time ... the Early Crop

This is a fantastic time of the year -besides the heat which I'm incapable to deal with. The garden is full of flowers that the wife and I planted last Fall, knowing absolutely nothing about gardening. We still don't have a clue...but looks amazing to our eyes.

Also is amazing that, what I call "The Tomatina" (because we have at least 8 different tomato species) is working out in planters. The smallest of all are called cranberry tomatoes and they grow as a bunch like grapes... but it gave us tinny tinny tomatoes that are quite tasty and sweet. Today we decided to have roasted chicken with a Chard and Cranberry Tomatoes... it was fantastic!

The chard has been grown by us too and we are also growing zucchini (the round kind) and gourds. The zuchini has already given me 5 pieces (gorgeous look) and tomorrow I will pick the 6th and cook them Mexican Style with cheese (Oaxaca cheese) and a tasty tomato sauce. I will poswt that recipe soon.

There is no picture of the roasted chicken but here is my salad...





Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Oaxaca Cheese! (queso Oaxaca)



There are cheeses and there are cheeses. Each cheese has a peculiar characteristic that help us to decide which one to use for a particular recipe.

I like cheese but my current wife likes it way more but we share the love for Oaxaca cheese. Why?

Real Oaxaca cheese must come from México is made by the Marquez brothers in San Jose California ... so it qualifies for the Mexican requirement. There are LOTS of Mexicans there therefore the demand for the real deal is big. As a fact I buy it in a Mexican grocery store in Bellinham WA called La Gloria -there are tons of temporary Mexican workers there-

Now the question would be...why I say it super good?

The texture and the flavor. Oaxaca cheese is a string cheese, that is, you can separate a piece and eat it by peeling off "strings" that follow the cheese's knitting. It is from cow's milk. It is a semi-soft cheese with a balanced soft flavor. 

Cheese in general was introduced to America by the Spaniards (sorry but this destroys the myth about Moctezuma's quesadillas). It started to be made in the mid 1800's and was born in one of the most beautiful areas in Mexico: Oaxaca. It cannot get more Mexican than that.

Back to my own story: I really like Oaxaca cheese because of the flavor BUT the most important part is that melts like no other cheese I know. It melts but doesn't run. When melted is stringy and LASTS melted longer than most cheeses.

At home we eat lots of quesadillas and usually we use Mozzarella but when we can buy real Oaxaca cheese...it takes over. It melts fast, it lasts melted, it is stringy and the flavor is fantastic...what else?

Oh...by the way: this cheese is also known as Quesillo or Asadero. And I don't share...





This time around we bought a big piece!

And as soon as we got home I made quesadillas...


And as proof  of my posting...here is the melted cheese...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wine Review: Herederos del Marques del Riscal 2007

Herederos del Marqués de Riscal, RIOJA 2007 Reserva

By far I am not a wine connoisseur but I do like wine. Actually I like red wine (what else is there?). Thanks to one of my good friends I get to try different kinds of wine from all price ranges. This one is in my opinion a great wine and yet affordable (now if you like to make your own wine please leave this page now!).

Way back then wine drinkers with big pockets had the patience, the space and the resources to wait patiently for years as their bottles would get to maturity. I do not have neither, so I am one of many that want instant reward when it comes to wine. That is why many producers have changed their methods in an effort to make wines accessible when they are young. You can seat on a Barolo for some years (I like Barolo wine to cook some quite amazing Italian dishes) or you can go for instant gratification with something like a Rioja reserva.

By law a "reserva" has to be aged at least 3 years in an oak barrel before its release. My reserva is (was) dated 2007... Last week it was time to let it be my dinner companion. Me and my wine as the current wife doesn't drink at all!

Rioja is a pioneer is young but fantastic wines. Usually just the name guarantees a great experience -but not always-. A "gran reserva" MUSt be aged for at least 6 years... now I know that my friend's choice was a fantastic one. The Marques del Riscal Reserva is a Tempranillo wine therefore the grapes come from vines that are at least 15 years old. Ha!

The color is a cherry red, that clings in the glass (good robe they call it) and has a bit of a fruity taste...dark berries. The only problem was that it did not last long enough. Four out of five stars in my humble opinion (that at the end is the only one that counts!)






Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Strawberry Bread

Here, where I live is Summer...one of the best times of the year. It's sunny, a bit warm and it's strawberries and cherries' season. I absolutely love locally grown strawberries and cherries... strawberries come from nearby farms and they are a bit smaller than the ones usually you find in the grocery stores. They are SO aromatic and with a perfect texture!

Now...if you don't eat all your local strawberries they will spoil in about half a day out of the fridge and three days (max) in the fridge. Because I love them so much usually we buy more than we can eat (we eat with our eyes as my grandfather would say)...so...what to do with all the non eaten fruit?

The wife suggests smoothies and I refuse... she makes a case but the suggestion of fresh home made bread and strawberries was just an irresistible idea... so here is my first Summer recipe. I hope you like it as much as we do. It is an amazing bread, honest.


Strawberry Bread

Cooking Time: 40 Minutes   Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

1/2 cup (113 grams) Unsalted butter room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) Granulated white sugar
3 Large eggs  
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 cups (260 grams) All-purpose flour 
1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (120 ml) Sour cream or plain yogurt (I use yogurt)
1/2 cup (120 ml) Toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) Fresh strawberries, diced in 3 or 4 pieces, dusted with flour (so they don't go to the pan's bottom)


Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 350˚F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven.

2. Butter and flour a loaf pan (9” x 5” x 3”)

3.  Place walnuts in a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly brown.

4. Once ready, chop coarsely the nuts and reserve

5. In a mixer (or by hand if you are old fashion and brave) beat the butter until softened and add the sugar until completely incorporated -it should be now smooth and cream color-

6. Add the tree eggs, one at the time and beat until incorporated and also beat in the vanilla extract. Reserve

7. Now we are going to mix our dry ingredients. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder , cinnamon and salt.

8. Add the flour mix into our butter mix in three additions.

9. Add the yogurt (or sour cream) until perfectly combined.

10 Fold the walnuts and at the very last minute, add the strawberries

11. Fill your pan with the mix and get rid of air bubbles by hitting the mold hard on a firm surface.

12. Bake for about 60 minutes or when the bread has risen and looks a bit golden (check if it’s done using a wood skewer, which should come out perfectly clean)

13. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 30 minutes (do not remove the bread from the pan or it will break and you will blame me for giving you wrong instructions!

14. After the half hour remove the bread from the pan and allow the bread to cool for about 2 hours.

15. Enjoy!

** You can keep the bread at room temperature (covered) for about a week and also you can freeze it.