Sunday, August 16, 2009

Green Dragon Salsa

Salsa is really easy to make and it's worth the effort. You can make combinations you like, it's fresh and you can impress your friends. I don't have a set recipe for this one either, but I have a combination of ingredients I like to use. I call the my Green Dragon salsa because, well it's green for one, and it's hot- to the point you breathe fire. You can take out the jalapenos if you like, for more of a Green Non-Fire-Breathing Reptile Salsa.

The following ingredients will make about 30 oz (two fair sized jars) worth of salsa. It will keep in the fridge for a week or so. I'm not sure exactly how long, but it doesn't have preservatives in it, so I'm sure a week maximum is good.

10 tomatillos
2 Poblano peppers
1 Green Bell pepper
1 Hungarian Wax pepper
2 jalapenos
3-4 limes, juiced
1/4-1/2 yellow onion
1-2 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch of cilantro

Directions: Peel off paper-like skin off tomatillos, rinse and cut in half. Place tomatillos (cut side down) and all peppers on a cookie sheet. Set oven to broil and place rack in top 1/3 of oven. Place sheet in oven and check after 3-5 minutes. You want to roast these well, the blacker the better so that the skin comes off nice and easy. Once blackened (it may take longer than 5 minutes) flip peppers and blacken the other side.

While this is happening prepare a bowl full of ice water. Once ingredients are done roasting you want to place them in the ice water to shock them and cool them down. Let them sit for a few minutes when you're able to pick them up bare handed. Peel skin off peppers, removing stems and seeds. Peel outer layer of tomatillos as well. These can be a little tricky seeing that they are already cut in half, but they should hold together while in the ice bath. Place in a blender. Toss in onion, garlic clove, cilantro (stems are okay) and lime juice. Blend it up. Salt to taste. You can add some olive oil too for a little thicker consistency.

Wallah, green salsa. It's great for dipping chips, topping fish tacos or sauteing chicken or pork for a little carnitas. I'm telling you, it's versatile. It's even good to add to the skillet when scrambling eggs for some juevos rancheros.

Tips: If you don't like so much heat you can leave out the jalapenos and substitute in Anaheim peppers for the Hungarian wax. They have nice flavor and they're green. Onion and garlic add lots of flavor, but they also add lots of burps. So if you don't want to be tasting this salsa for days, stick to the 1/4 onion and one garlic clove.

When shopping for tomatillos, most still have the papery skin still intact. Check to make sure worms or bugs haven't gotten to them by peeling back the paper a tad. If you forget to look inside the packaging, you may end up with unusable tomatillos, and they're the real star of the salsa. They add a nice tang that is the main characteristic of green salsa.

Play around with it and have fun. You'll never want to buy salsa again.

Fish Tacos

One of my favorite things to make (and eat) is fish tacos. I don't really have a recipe, but I'll explain how I make them.

Fish: I like to use a white, flaky fish like Tilapia. It's usually cheaper than other fish, but you can use halibut, salmon or whatever you like. I usually season it with salt, a little pepper and lime juice. Sometimes I'll use a little creole seasoning like Tony Chachery's. If you use the creole seasoning, or any other packaged seasoning for that matter, it contains salt so you won't want to salt the fish and use the seasoning.

The fish can be prepared anyway you like, but its nice to get a good browning on it so I grill it or broil it in the oven. Broiling fish is really handy because it doesn't drip through the grill or get stuck to the grill. You don't have to worry about it stinking up the house like you would pan searing the fish, but pan searing is quick and easy too. Grill or broil for about 7 or 8 minutes and then check it for doneness with a meat thermometer or by touch. It should be flaky but moist and bounces back when you touch it.

Slaw: Fish tacos have to have slaw. You can use pre-packaged shredded lettuce, green cabbage or a mix of both. Cabbage holds up better with the sauce though. I mix to taste with 1 part sour cream and 1 part ranch and some lime juice (3 or 4 limes). If you can find jalapeno ranch, try that for some heat. I can't find it anymore in my local market, but you can always chop up 1/2 jalapeno without the seeds for heat. Mix this together while the fish is cooking.

That's it. You can top with salsa or pico de gallo if you like, but I don't like to over power the flavor of the fish and the slaw. I prefer flour tortillas, but use what you like. These go great with the beans and rice listed below. Enjoy.

Traditional Black Beans

This is a base recipe I use when we make Mexican food. It pairs really nice with Spanish yellow rice. I don't usually follow the recipe exactly, but throw in some variations of my own, but this will get you started.

1 Tbs. Olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup diced tomato (you can use a can of diced or stewed tomatoes also)
1 can black beans, drain and reserve juice
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic salt
3 Tbs. cider vinegar

Pair with 2 cups cooked rice, Serves 4

In large skillet heat olive oil, cook onion and green pepper until crisp and tender. Stir in tomatoes, beans, thyme and garlic salt. Cook 3 minutes, add vinegar, and reserved juice. Continue to cook 5 minutes. Serve over rice.

Tips: I usually double the recipe (two cans of beans to one can of diced tomatoes). I also use chopped garlic, cumin and oregano to taste. It comes out a little different every time because I usually wing it, but the base ingredients make a good combination. Adding lime juice also adds nice flavor as well. A couple limes usually do it. Of course you can add other types of peppers if you want to heat it up a bit, like a Hungarian wax or Poblano. I also usually let the beans simmer for longer, which allows them to break down. A little mashing creates more of a refried bean consistency. It's great with chips, rice or as a burrito. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Korean Style Beef Bowl

This recipe is nice because there's no need to marinade the meat far in advance and there is very little prep, but the taste is dyn-o-mite.

Steak and Marinade

2 Green onions with tops, divided
1 lb skirt steak
2 garlic cloves, pressed
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp sugar (I prefer brown)
1 tsp vegetable oil

Rice and Vegetables

1 cup uncooked jasmine rice
2 medium carrots
2 cups bean sprouts

1. For steak and marinade, thinly slice green onions and save about a table spoon for garnish. Place the rest in a bowl or whatever you are going to marinade the meat in. I like big ziplock bags, its easier to make sure all the meat gets sauced.

2. Cut steak crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Slice each piece into thin strips, against the grain. Add these to the bowl or bag. Press garlic over beef. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, black pepper and sugar; mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. As beef marinates, microwave rice according to package directions. Really you can prepare anyway you like, but I always microwave my rice. I cannot get it to come out right on the stove top. We have pyrex dishes with tops that have a little steam hole, which we use to steam everything. This type of dish works really well, and the jasmine rice we buy only takes fifteen minutes or so in the microwave. 

4. For the veggies, peel the carrots; discard skin. Continue peeling carrots to make long ribbons and place in ice water until ready to serve.

5. To finish steak, add some oil to a skillet (vegetable or olive); heat over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes until shimmering. Add beef and marinade to the skillet. Try to get a single layer to cook evenly, 2 minutes undisturbed. Stir; cook another 3-4 minutes or until beef is no longer pink. Remove from heat.

6. Remove rice from microwave, fluff with fork. To serve, divide rice among bowls and serve with beef, carrots and bean sprouts. Garnish with green onion.

Yields: 4 servings

Tips for steak: Skirt steak is labeled a cheap cut of meat, but it is expensive where we live. It must be gaining in popularity. I usually will use whatever steak cut is cheapest, but skirt steak is worth the extra little bit when using it for this or fajitas. Be sure to cut against the grain or it will turn tough. That goes for any steak, but especially skirt steak which has a lot of connective tissue to begin with coming from the bottom of the cows belly. Do NOT overcook it or it will turn tough very quickly. It's okay if there is some pink left, trust me- you do not want to overcook the steak.

Tips for marinade: This marinade is really flavorful and thickens a little to make a nice sauce when cooked. You probably do not have sesame oil on hand, but it is worth getting. Trust me, you'll want to use it again for this recipe and most asian recipes use it so you'll have reason to expand your horizons. I've played around using some other ingredients. I use brown sugar, but the last time I cut back on the sugar and added some molasses. It wasn't as sweet but had a nice flavor.

Tips on rice: If you haven't had jasmine rice, you will like it. It's lighter and fluffier than normal rice, cooks quickly and doesn't have that minute rice texture. Trust me, you do not want to substitute regular white or brown rice.

Tips on bean sprouts: I've only used bean sprouts for this recipe. They seem keep for a day or two in the fridge, so pick them up the same day or day before making this recipe. After a couple of days they get kind of slimy, okay, really slimy. They are fine if you rinse them off really well, but who wants to touch slimy bean sprouts.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Spiced Braised Beef with Sweet Potatoes

It's been months since posting anything. Here's a nice slow cooker recipe that doesn't take much pre-preparation.

hands on time: 15 minutes | total time: 4 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours (depends on your crock pot)| serves 6

1 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into chunks
2 sweet potatoes (about 1 pound) cut into 1/2 inch thick half-moons
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (you can use canned diced as well)
1 large red onion, cut into wedges (I only use a half, otherwise it takes over the dish)
1/2 cup dried apricots (I used these once, but didn't like the texture or flavor so you can leave them out)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt
1 10 oz. box couscous (1 1/2 cups)
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed
2 cups baby spinach (1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup roasted almonds, chopped

  • In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine the beef, potatoes, tomatoes (and their juices), onion, aprictos, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water.
  • Cook, covered, until the meat is tender, on high for 4 to 5 hours, or on low for 7 to 8 hours
  • Ten minutes before serving, prepare the couscous according to the package directions.
  • Add the chickpeas to the slow cooker and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach. Serve with the couscous and sprinkle with almonds
It comes out kind of like a stew, so you'll want lots of couscous. I've made this recipe twice and cooked the potatoes two different ways. The first time I followed the recipe, which is very good. Today I tried something different and made mashed sweet potatoes instead for a different texture. It's great either way, but I think I like the mashed potato style. I know Jaclyn preferred it that way. I just added a tablespoon or so of sour cream, a little brown sugar and salt. You could probably leave out the brown sugar and still get the nice sweetness of the potato with the savory beef and sauce.

I like this recipe for the combination of flavors. It's got mediterranean feel with the cinnamon and ginger with the tomatoes and beef. You could even add some nutmeg to really put it over the top. The addition of the chickpeas sounds a bit strange, but it works. 

Like a mentioned, we did not like the apricots. They do not soften up that much leaving a weird texture and they turn quite bitter which ruined the sweet and savory blend that the recipe is supposed to feature. Enjoy!