Side Dishes and Salsas

Spiced Hibiscus Infused Tequila Cranberry Sauce

Yes, this is completely mine. Yo solito as my muy mexicano friends would say. This recipe I made 3 years ago and I have been doing it since. It comes to shine in Thanksgiving and in Christmas. It is a favorite of the one who looks like an alien, smells like an alien but claims not to be an alien (who by the way lives with the one who claims to be my son).

The "not an alien" just eats it like crazy. She even hides some in her pockets -I have seen it!- but I just don't say anything because I am so prudent. 

The recipe is honestly quite easy to prepare. The story behind the recipe is that 3 years ago I bought a bottle of this Rosangel Tequila in Mexico as I though it would be just incredible. Well..far from that. The tequila honestly is horrible but i can just throw things away so I decided to cook with it and use the tequila flavor that I like so much. The result was fantastic and the cranberry sauce is just something else. The distinctive tequila flavor is there, no doubt and the mix with cranberries and orange just did it.

When I mentioned that you can make your own is true though..I have done it before with Quince and with Chestnuts...is easy but require LOTS of patience. You choose...

Spiced Hibiscus Infused Tequila Cranberry Sauce

Cooking Time: 30 Minutes   Makes 12 servings

Ingredients
12 oz Bag of fresh Cranberries
1 Cup of Sugar

1 Cup of Tequila Reposado already infused with tequila (*) OR 1 Cup of Centenario Rosangel Tequila.

1/2 Cup of Water

1 Tsp Tajin Chile Mix

- Grated zest from an Orange

Cooking Instructions
1. (*) O.K. the “infused tequila” thing. It is not that hard but requires at least 1 year patience. If you know the Hibiscus plant (Flor de Jamaica) you know that people drink it as a tea or as a cold tea (agua de jamaica). To infuse the tequila all you need is one bottle of reposado tequila, a cup of caster sugar and a cup of dried hibiscus flower. Mix the sugar with the tequila until blended and then add the hibiscus flower. Put it back in its bottle and place it in a dark place…for a year or so. every mont you turn the bottle upsidedown to mix and put it back. At the end of the year you remove the flowers and you have an infused tequila.. OR  buy a bottle of Hibiscus Tequla from Centenario (called Rosangel) which is not a good tequila watsoever but is great for the recipe. Your choice.
2. I did the later so I used the Centenario Rosangel Tequila. 

3. Combine the cranberries with 1/2 Cup of tequila, the water and the Tajin mix (you can buy it at any Mexican grocery store) in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the berries pop, the add the other 1/2 Cup of tequila, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.

4. Turn off the heat and stir the orange zest. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Can be made several days ahead.

5. Enjoy !



Balsamic Vinegar Pearls

The wife says jump and I ask how high. I am such a noble and docile husband. If you are one of those lucky women that has such a guy like me as husband, let me tell you something: adore him and if you can, build him a pedestal so you can do the adoration the way it should be. Also keep in mind that if you adore him he will be not only noble, fantastic and all that... he, like me, becomes adorable!

I am adorable, what are you going to do. Adorable with capital A.


The current wife in her past life was a scientist, and a brilliant one I have to admit. She created life!... and in this life she has done it again. Reincarnation at its best. Her first creation (past life) was ... the creature...Frankenstein was the name of her creation who she lovely called it "my son".  In her current life she calls her creation "my son"...coincidences?, I don't think so.

In any event, she discovered something that would satisfy her interests and mine. A bonding activity if you will. She discovered Molecular Gastronomy which combine two of her passions: food -she loves to eat as you know- and science. A gift that worked as an excuse to celebrate my second birthday (my kidney transplant date is the day I was born again thanks to a generous soul to whom I am and will be grateful)

Molecular gastronomy is the fancy name for... cool looking food. I like both, presentation and flavor (the big head son of mine has the gift of presentation... but he knows he got that from me, even though he denies it).

This is my first attempt to do Molecular Gastronomy. I went for something easy and ... attractive. Balsamic vinegar pearls was the choice.

The whole key to this is a product called Agar-Agar, also known as China Grass. With that name in hand I went downtown -actually to China Town- and looked for China grass. Not easy to find at first and people were sending us from place to place. At the end, a guy had it. He went to the back of his store and came back with the cooking ingredient. Not cheap though.

Exited we got home and got ready all ingredients. The mysterious package from China Town looked like grass as the name indicate. The wife was static. She told me: I know this stuff and, faster than you can say kaboom, she was rolling the grass and started smoking it. She hid in the bathroom and refused to share. Somehow I guessed that it was the wrong grass. Back to shopping.

At the end I did more research and I discovered that Agar-Agar is a substitute gelatin made of algae and not from animal protein and it is used as a gelling ingredient for vegetarians and Asian dishes. It is a thickening and stabilizing ingredient. It is tasteless and odorless -like love- and it sets more firmly than gelatin.

So, here is my very first attempt to do Molecular Gastronomy!!!

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls

Preparation Time: 30 minutes           

Ingredients
1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar

2 Cups Olive oil (will be reused so no worries)


2 g Agar-Agar

1 Glass room temperature water

Special Equipment

1 Cooking syringe or a cooking pipette

1 Piercing spoon (Tbsp size)

Instructions


1. Put the olive oil in the freezer for 30 minutes


2. In a pan bring to a boil the mix of the vinegar and the agar and allow it to cool for 3 minutes

3. Pour the vinegar into the cooking syringe or pipette

4. Dribble the vinegar into the cold olive oil (if using the syringe make sure that the syringe is parallel to the working table)

5. Using a pierced spoon, collect the pearls that have formed and put them in a room temperature glass of water to rinse

6. Create a nice looking dish that requires balsamic vinegar and let your creative side go crazy !!

7. Enjoy!




















Cherry Tomato Salad

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...




Baked Creamed Onions

Good food doesn't have to be complicated, and this side dish is a good example. In less than an hour we'll have a super tasty side dish for BBQ time, for salmon and even for roasted chicken (for vegetarians I guess you can use them as a side dish for...tofu?)
They are delicious!

Also this dish makes you feel healthy and zen... all we need in life...


Baked Creamed Onions

Cooking Time : 60 minutes    Serves 8 portions

Ingredients


 4 Medium Yellow Onions
100 ml. Heavy Cream
2 Laurel leaves
25 gr. Grated Parmesan Cheese



Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 375˚F 

2. Peel off the dry skin from onions and trim away root and 1/4" of top of onions leaving the onions whole.

3. Put the onions in water in a medium pot and let them boil for bout half an hour -we want them firm but crunchy-soft...tender- . We don't want them to disintegrate (it's not onion soup). Drain the onions and reserve the water where we boiled the onions. It would be a good idea to reserve the onions too!

4.  In a medium bowl mix the cream with two tablespoons of the onion water and season to taste (I only put a bit of kosher salt and a tablespoon of soy sauce) 

5. When the onions are cool enough, slice them in half -root side- and place them in a square oven proof dish with the cut side facing down.

6. Add the laurel leaves, the seasoned cream and the parmesan cheese and bake them for about half an hour or when the onions look a bit brown on top and the cream is bobbling.

7. Serve and enjoy!



Salsa Verde or Green Salsa

Tomatillos are one of those things that, if we don't know what they are we just don't buy. Somehow here where I live you can find tomatillos at least in two places that I know. In Mexico they are quite common and some people call them tomate verde but regardless of how they call it this little fruit is quite useful in the kitchen. I cook with this salsa lots of things like green enchiladas, green salsa eggs, baby potatoes in green salsa... you get the idea.

In reality preparing salsa verde -green salsa- is very easy and the only secret lies on choosing fresh ingredients.

The tomatillo is a member of the little berries family (cape berries) and its originally from Mexico. As I mentioned before, it is a fruit. The plant on its own is quite pretty if you manage to grow it -I failed miserably last year- and blooms with a beautiful yellow flower that eventually transforms into the husk which will contain the precious fruit. It belongs to the night shade family but loves sun... go figure.

There are out there many recipes for salsa verde, no doubt, but this one (one of Frida Kahlo's favorites) is a very easy salsa to do and loaded of flavor.

As I mentioned in others posts I don't eat spicy whatsoever because of my Crohns. but if like to spice things up... go crazy with the Serrano peppers!




Salsa Verde 

Cooking time: : 45 Minutes               Yields  1 Liter  (kind of)

Ingredients

1 Kg Fresh Tomatillos

1 Cup of water 

3/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro -chopped-

4 Tbsp Canola Oil 

1 Medium Onion finely chopped 

4 Serrano Chiles -optional- 

- Salt to taste 

- **

Procedure

1. Remove the husks (that you can keep for couple of days if you are cooking tamales) and wash the tomatillos as they are a bit sticky just fresh out of the husk.





















2. We are going to cook in a medium pan with lid all the tomatillos (don't cut them!) in medium heat... and you probably are going to think that one cup of water is not enough...I promise it is. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until most tomatillos are a bit soft but they are not disintegrating.








3. While the tomatillos are cooking we roughly chop the cilantro -and now you will think that this amount of cilantro is not enough for the amount o tomatillos-... it is. Reserve





4. Finely chop the onion (even though sometimes I like it roughly chopped for texture) -again you will be doubting me...it looks like a lot and it isn't-. Reserve

5. By now the tomatillos should be ready and hot. We are going to blend them with any leftover water that is in the pan (now if you are one of those traditionalists you can always do it the Aztec way with a molcajete...good luck) until we get a consistent texture, then we add the cilantro and blend again for one minute. Reserve  

6. In a big frying pan we heat the oil and sauté the onion until a bit clear -at medium high- and then we can add the Serrano peppers roughly chopped for about half a minute. As I mentioned before, I don't use any peppers whatsoever and nobody that has eaten my dishes ever complained.




7. When the onion is a bit clear we add the tomatillo/cilantro mix and mix toughly. Then we keep it, low-medium heat, covered with a lid for 20 minutes. You can stir now and then.

8. After the 20 minutes our salsa should be almost ready so this is the perfect time to add salt to taste. In my case I only add half a teaspoon.




9. Now the salsa is ready and the house smells fantastic. Now we can serve accompanying tacos, green enchiladas, with totopos (crisps tortillas) or you can just can it for a later time, which I do. It freezes very well also.

10. Enjoy!

** Some people like to add two garlic cloves and fry them with the onion (chopped)..  I don't do it because somehow I think it overwhelms the tomatillo flavor.