9th Day of HTCE: Fajitas

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I’m giving away copies of the new How to Cook Everything iPad App, one every day until new year’s eve. Just sign up for the newsletter (look to your left) to enter the running. I’ll pick an email address at random and send you the App.

Fajitas

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Fajita has come to mean any assemble-it-yourself assortment of meat, chicken, or even fish (usually shrimp) and grilled vegetables. Here’s the basic formula:

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Posted in Behind The Scenes, Mexican

Dinner with Bittman: Arroz Con Pollo

Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Arroz Con Pollo

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 1 hour

There are as many ways to make this as there are to make fried chicken, and they’re all pretty good. This version is stripped to its bare essentials: onion, chicken, and rice. You can add peas, red pepper, tomato, seasonings like bay leaves and allspice—well, see the variation for a more complex version. Stock makes the best cooking liquid, but the commonly used water works well, because as it simmers with the chicken they combine to produce a flavorful broth, which is in turn absorbed by the rice.

Saffron is not essential here, though it is welcome. More often than not, though, people make arroz con pollo with turmeric or annatto oil, which are more about color than flavor; the dish is customarily yellow. Take your pick.

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Posted in Mexican, Recipes

Less-Meat Mondays: Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho with Feta

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By Freya Bellin

[Starting this very moment I’ll be posting a recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook every Monday afternoon. Some of these recipes will include “less meat” than we might be used to, and others no meat at all.  In conjunction with these postings, Freya Bellin has gallantly volunteered to (slowly) cook her way through the book while photographing the recipes and commenting on them. Without further ado, let Less-Meat Mondays begin. MB]

I know it’s now officially fall, but with the farmer’s market still overflowing with peaches and tomatoes, I couldn’t help but turn to gazpacho, a traditionally summery soup. For this gazpacho, I used a combination of about 4 cups watermelon, 2 heirloom tomatoes, and 2 peaches. The recipe says you can substitute peaches for the tomato or the watermelon, but I figured, why not use all three?  Good thing I did: it ended up being one of the lightest, most refreshing dishes I can remember eating. 

You can’t exactly taste the individual fruits in this non-traditional gazpacho, but the watermelon lends its texture and the peach its sweetness. Make sure you include the toppings and garnish with this one. The salty feta adds great texture and super-fresh basil offsets everything beautifully.  If you’re entertaining, make sure not to garnish too far ahead of time, as the feta starts to sink. Recipe adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho with Feta

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 20 minutes, plus time to chill (optional)

The combination of cool watermelon and tomatoes with feta is as good as it gets in the summer, and just about as easy. One simple variation: use peaches instead of the watermelon or the tomatoes—it’s great either way.

1 garlic clove

1 small watermelon, or a section of a larger one, about 3 pounds, flesh removed

from the rind, seeded, and cut into large chunks

2 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges

2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste

Salt and black pepper

4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1⁄2 cup chopped fresh basil or mint, for garnish

1. Put the garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop it. Add the watermelon, tomatoes, and lemon juice, with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. You have two choices here: chunky or smooth. It all depends on whether you turn the machine on and leave it on, or just pulse a few times.  Add a few ice cubes, one at a time, just enough to keep the machine working, and blend or pulse until smooth or chunky. Put the gazpacho in the fridge to chill a bit if you like, up to several hours.

2. Just before serving, taste the gazpacho and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed (remember you’ll be adding feta, which is usually salty). Pour the gazpacho into 4 bowls, top with the feta, drizzle with a few drops of olive oil, garnish with the herb, and serve.

 

Posted in Mexican, Recipes

Food Matters Cookbook: Sneak Preview Recipe

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Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook. Pre-order the book today or pick up a copy when it’s released on September 21st.

Giant Quinoa “Tamale” with Tomatillo Salsa

Makes: 6 to 8 servings                                                                                                

Time: About 2 hours, largely unattended                                                                                               

Don’t let the time and number of steps here put you off: This loaf is a fraction of the work of traditional tamales, and all of the components can be made ahead for last-minute assembly. I like the tamale a little soft, with a center that oozes a bit, but if you want a firmer tamale-like texture, bake the loaf uncovered for another 15 or 20 minutes. Use the tomatillo salsa recipe on its own for a quick sauce that keeps well and comes in handy for serving with steamed vegetables, beans, fish, or tortilla chips.

1 pound tomatillos (about 5 or 6 large), husked and rinsed (canned are fine; drain and reserve their juice)

1 large poblano or other fresh mild green chile

1 large onion, roughly chopped

4 garlic cloves, smashed

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the loaf pan

2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained

Salt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried

2 tablespons lime juice

Black pepper

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup crumbled queso fresco or grated Monterey Jack, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Put the tomatillos, chile, onion, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil. Roast, turning once or twice, until the chile skin is blistered and everything is browned, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the pan but leave the oven at 400°F if you’re making the tamale right away.

2. Meanwhile, put the quinoa in a large pot along with a big pinch of salt. Add water to cover by about 1 1/2 inches. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grains are very tender and begin to burst, 25 to 30 minutes. If the grains get too dry, add just enough water to keep them submerged. When the grains are starchy and thick, remove from the heat. (You can cook the quinoa up to a day ahead and refrigerate; return to room temperature before proceeding.)

3. Remove the skin, seeds, and stem from the chile and put the flesh in a blender or food processor along with the tomatillos, onion, garlic, and any pan juices. Add the oregano, lime juice, 1/2 cup water (or the reserved canned tomatillo liquid), and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Blend or process until smooth, adding enough water to thin the mixture into a pourable sauce; taste and adjust the seasoning. (The salsa can be made ahead to this point and covered and refrigerated for up to a day; return to room temperature or gently warm right before serving.)

4. When you’re ready to make the tamale, generously grease a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan with some oil. Mix the baking powder and a pinch of salt into the quinoa with a fork. The consistency should be thick but spreadable; if it’s too stiff, add a few drops of water. Spread half of the quinoa mixture in the bottom of the pan and sprinkle with the queso fresco and chili powder. Add the remaining quinoa, smooth it out evenly, and press down a bit to seal the loaf. Cover the pan tightly with foil. (At this point the quinoa loaf can be covered and refrigerated for up to several hours.)

5. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake until the top is golden brown, another 30 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the oven and let the tamale sit for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a platter. Garnish with the cilantro and a little more cheese, cut the tamale into slices, and serve, passing the salsa at the table.

 

Posted in Mexican, Recipes

Call it Pasta, Potatoes, and Chorizo

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by Edward Schneider 

I’m not entirely sure what Jackie and I had for dinner on Friday night. I am sure that it was delicious, felt great in the mouth and was fun to eat (with a spoon – the best tool), and I’m pretty certain about what it was not: it wasn’t pasta cooked like a risotto, because I didn’t gradually add liquid and keep stirring; it wasn’t fideuà (the paella-like noodle dish of Catalunya), because I didn’t brown the pasta or use a sofrito or leave the pan uncovered. It was … well, let me tell you how I made it, and you can tell me what it was. 

It came together as I was cooking, and it started with a yen for pasta. In the house was a farmers’ market treasure: small, firm new-season potatoes. There are Ligurian dishes of pasta and potatoes, often with green beans and pesto, and these are delicious, but I didn’t feel like making pesto (even in a food processor, which is really the most sensible way to do it) and, anyway, there were no beans. There were juicy new onions, though, and little Spanish chorizos – the ounce-and-a-half ones that come four to a vacuum-sealed pack – and parsley and a bit of chicken stock. And of course many shapes of pasta from the drawer that Jackie refers to as our pastateca. Oh – and half a cup of pan gravy from a roast chicken. 

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Posted in Italian, Mexican

Sunday Supper: Fast Avocado Soup

It’s the weekend after the 4th, it’s hot, and you’re still stuffed with meat. Check out this unbelievably refreshing (and quick) avocado soup from How to Cook Everything. There’s no cooking required, but if you have any leftover cooked shrimp or crab lying around, definitely try the variation.

Fast Avocado Soup

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 10 minutes, plus time to chill

Creamy, with a gorgeous color, this soup couldn’t be simpler. If you like, dress it up with chopped cherry tomatoes, sliced scallion, chopped chervil or mint, or a dollop of crème fraîche (or any of those in combination). Or see the variation for some seafood additions.

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Posted in Mexican, Recipes

Bocadillos [Help Please]

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These, according to the sign in the bake shop in Buenos Aires, are bocadillos. Vegetable-egg-rice-cheese-potato fritters, or rounded pancakes, made in many different ways, as you can see. And quite good.  

Now before you tell me that they’re not, that bocadillos are sandwiches, I know. I’m just reporting: This is what the sign said. And if I’d known that identifying them would be such a challenge I would have a) paid more attention and b) grilled the saleswoman about the weird name.  

But as I’m not going back to BsAs (as they say) any time soon, and as I’d like to make these, I’m wondering if any of you know what they are, exactly?

Posted in Mexican

Ducking Around with Carnitas

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By Daniel Meyer 

Carnitas is (are?) one of my all-time favorite foods. Pork shoulder braised, pulled, and crisped in its own fat; a pile of tortillas, a higher pile of beers. It doesn’t get much better than that.  

Last week it almost did. I used duck instead of pork; it stood to reason in my head that braising and frying a duck couldn’t possibly be a bad idea. It wasn’t.  Continue reading

Posted in Mexican

Semi-Traditional Tacos, Straight Out of the Garden

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By Kerri Conan

No one drives a taco truck yet in my neck of Kansas, but since the craze is contagious and we do have access to good local corn tortillas, I too have become an aspiring tacologist.

In this new science, those behind the wheel of the taco truck trend provide both our inspiration and some ground rules: All of our experiments will be delicious. We will be respectful of—but not hamstrung by—authenticity. And the toppings should be crunchy, colorful, maybe creamy, and more interesting than iceberg lettuce and Jack cheese.  Continue reading

Posted in Mexican