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 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


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 takes over. It melts fast, it lasts melted, it is stringy and the flavor is fantastic...what else? 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 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 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) 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


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.