Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fish Tacos

Every so often I get a craving for fish tacos. Luckily, I  live in Miami where fresh fish is plentiful, but you can use good quality frozen fillets too. I have made these with a mango salsa and a jimica slaw which was wonderful but also with a traditional tomato salsa, lettuce and cheese. I don't use a creamy cheese because I don't think it goes well with the fish. I use Queso Fresco ( a fresh Latin cheese) or feta. Feta makes a good substitute but is saltier. If you have a ripe avocado laying around, by all means make guacamole to go with it. I generally use sour cream too. I use soft corn tortillas, home made or store bought which I brown up in a little oil. They tend to rip apart when you eat them but then again, tacos are a messy food to begin with, though very tasty. I don't mind the mess- that's the fun of  it. This is what I made tonight. It's not a recipe really - I never measure anything so the ingredients are eye balled. Adjust to your liking.

Fish Tacos

6 ounce mild white fish fillet per person, such as Mahi Mahi or Snapper.
Chili Powder
Chipolte Powder
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
A squeeze of lime

Pour a bit of olive oil over the fish fillets. Sprinkle with Chili and Chipolte powders, salt and pepper. Pan fry in a little olive oil until just cooked.  Fish should flake easily with a fork. Do not overcook. Squeeze a little lime over the tops of the fish when cooked. Remove from pan and set aside and keep warm until ready to assemble tacos.

Basic Salsa
1 1b fresh or canned tomatoes or a combination of both (I used a combination).
1 sweet onion, small chopped - about 1/2 cup
2-3 fresh Serrano peppers or to taste - thinly sliced, seeded and deveined
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Red bell pepper, chopped fine
Apple cider vinegar - about 2 -3 tablespoons
Sherry Vinegar - About 1-2 teaspoon
Strawberry balsamic vinegar 1/4 teaspoon (optional)
Pinch of sugar (If tomatoes are particularly acidic)
Salt and pepper to taste
Squeeze of lime juice
1 handful of fresh chopped cilantro
Olive oil for sauteing
*Add chopped mangoes if you want an easy mango salsa

Saute onions in a little olive oil until soft. Add Serrano peppers and red pepper and continue sauteing until peppers are soft. Do not let brown. Add minced garlic and stir about one minute. Add tomatoes  and mango is using, and cook until slightly softened over medium or medium low heat. About 5 minutes. Add vinegars and lime juice. Off heat. Stir in cilantro and pour into a bowl to cool. Serve over tacos, nachos or anything you like.

To Assemble:
Cooked white fish fillets (see recipe for fish tacos)
Shredded romaine lettuce
Sour cream and/or guacamole
Crumbled Queso Fresco or Feta cheese
Home made or store bought corn tortillas

In a non stick pan or iron skillet pour in a small amount of olive oil. Fry tortillas until crisp but still soft. Fold tortillas as you take them out of the skillet to help them keep a taco shape.
Fill tacos with about 2 ounces of fish. Top with salsa, sour cream (and/or guacamole) lettuce and cheese.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mom's Green Beans

This is a homey dish my mom used to serve to us when we were kids, often accompanying meatloaf or pan fried burgers. It was one of the few ways my mom got us picky kids to eat green beans. I like to serve it with meat balls and white rice or mom's favorite accompaniments. It is not a gourmet dish but it is delicious and a wonderful dish to take to potlucks. It is best made with fresh green beans but frozen or even canned could do in a pinch. If you usually make the dreaded green bean casserole for the holidays, why not try something new? Your guests won't be disappointed.

Mom's Green Beans

Green beans - 1 package fresh or one bag frozen or 1 large can (32oz)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 medium onion, preferable Peruvian or Vidalia chopped
1 teaspoon dried parsley or a handful of fresh
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or a handful of fresh
2 plum tomatoes chopped
2-3 eggs - beaten well
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup or so water, vegetable broth or chicken broth if using fresh green beans
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for sauteing

Chop green beans into small pieces - about 1/4 inch long. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until lightly browned and caramelized. Add herbs and garlic and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chopped beans and mix together.
If using fresh beans add a little water or broth and cover and cook beans until tender, about 15 minutes. Make sure all the moisture has been absorbed.
When the beans are tender, add chopped tomato and salt and pepper. Easy on the salt because the cheese is salty. Add the eggs and let them set for a few seconds. Then mix in the Parmesan cheese, little by little into the eggs so that the cheese melts into the egg as it's cooking. Check the seasonings for salt and pepper. Serve.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Mushroom Gravy

Since it is Thanksgiving, I'll go ahead and share some of my recipes of dishes I prepare for my family's gathering. My mushroom gravy always gets rave reviews. My sister even brags to her colleagues about it after Thanksgiving day. (Thanks, Sis!) It is a very simple gravy to make. The trick to making gravy is using a well seasoned home made stock and making a roux before slowly whisking in the stock. Your gravy will be smooth and delicious, with no lumps.

Mushroom Gravy

2 - 3 cups home-made stock (directions will follow) or canned stock, chicken or beef depending on what you will be serving the gravy with (Use chicken stock for turkey gravy)
1 package button mushrooms
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter or pan drippings from Turkey
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 Tablespoon kitchen bouquet (optional)
1/3 cup stuffing/dressing from my recipe below.

Make stock:
Put 2 1/2 cups water in a sauce pan. Add turkey neck, and scraps of vegetables used in dressing, such as onion ends and skins, celery tops and leaves, and a carrot cut into chunks. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.

To make gravy. Slice mushrooms and chop into small pieces. Saute in a mixture of olive oil and butter/dripping with garlic clove, and herbs. When mushrooms are soft, add salt and pepper. Remove garlic clove. Add flour and cook until it turns a light carmel colored roux. Add more butter or drippings if needed. Slowly add strained stock, using a whisk to mix it into the roux. Add the kitchen bouquet. Add the stuffing mixture and let simmer. Add more stock if the gravy is too thin. Check the seasoning for salt and pepper. Serve with turkey and mashed potatoes, and wait for the compliments.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Thanksgiving Dressing (Stuffing)

It's that time of the year again. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and I do the majority of the cooking. I came up with the "stuffing" recipe a few years back. Although we call it dressing.
I have never stuffed a bird of any kind. I don't like the idea of putting something I will eat in the raw cavity of a a turkey, duck or chicken. I know plenty of people do the stuffing but not me. I do, however, make an incredible Thanksgiving dressing that everyone raves about, so I thought I would share the recipe.

Thanksgiving Cornbread Dressing

2 cups crumbled corn bread
6-7 slices dense Oatmeal bread, or brown bread, lightly toasted to dry out and cut into cubes
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 package fresh shitaki mushrooms, chopped
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1 medium sweet onion chopped
5-6 stalks of celery shopped small
1 clove garlic, minced
Large Handful fresh sage leaves, chopped
Small Handful fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley and sage each
1/2 teaspoon more or less of celery salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2-3 cups chicken or vegetable broth ( use vegetable broth if you want a vegetarian dressing :)
2 eggs
Olive oil

Cook the onions and celery in a little olive oil until soft. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients except the broth and eggs. Beat the eggs and add broth to egg mixture. How much broth you need is determined by how dry the bread is..... start with 2 cups- you can always add more over the top of the dressing. It's better to add more liquid than not enough if you aren't sure.
Pour the egg/broth  mixture over the bread mixture. Mix well so that all the bread is well coated. Turn into a buttered casserole pan, dot the top with butter pieces and bake at 350 degrees or until the top is toasty. About 25-30 minutes. Do not overcook or it will be too dry.

Note: Save a little of the dressing aside before baking it, about 1/3-1/2 cup. I put this in my mushroom gravy I make to go with the turkey and mashed potatoes. It makes the gravy taste fantastic! My younger sister goes crazy for my gravy every year and even asked how I made it (although she doesn't cook!) The secret is mixing in a little of the dressing mixture - it just does wonderful things to mushroom gravy. Try it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shredded Pork Tacos

I love Mexican food. It's not that dissimilar from Costa Rican food........ we eat a lot of tortillas, picadillos, beans, rice, salsas, etc. but Costa Rican food is not spicy - at least nor the way my mom made it. Mexican food usually means chillies - and spicy- which I love. Last night I was craving some truly Mexican style tacos. I threw together this lovely dish - which was delicious - with what I had laying around. I used Rick's Bayless's cookbook, Authentic Mexican as my guiding light. It's a great cookbook, but a lot of the recipes are much too time consuming. So, I take short cuts and take note of the spices and flavors he uses as guidance. The results? Fantastic. This really isn't a recipe so much as an explanation of what I came up with.

PORK TACOS (serves 2-3 people - but can easily be doubled or tripled)

Shredded Pork

Bone in pork loin chops
Left over Mojo (see recipe on my previous post)
Apple cider vinegar - about a tablespoon for two huge pork chops
Dried thyme, parsley and oregano -about 1/2 teaspoon each
1/4 teaspoon ground Chipolte powder
Fresh ground Allspice- about 1/4 teaspoon
Salt and pepper

Mix the Mojo with the remaining ingredients. Marinate the pork chops in the Marinade all day or over night. Cook in a stove top skillet, browning lightly in a little olive oil. Remove and let cool to the touch. Shred the pork and add to the chipolte sauce (recipe follows). Use as a filling in tacos. I used store bought soft corn tortillas which I browned in a little olive oil. (You can also make homemade tortillas if you are ambitious- use Masa to make them.) Very spicy and delicious!

Chipolte Sauce

Canned fire roasted tomatoes - about 1/4 cup - chopped fine
About 2 tablespoons canned Chipolte in Adobe sauce - chopped fine
1 Tablespoon chopped onion
Olive oil for sauteing - about 1 teaspoon
Water - about 1/2  cup or so.
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Saute onion briefly in olive oil. Add tomatoes and chipolte in adobe sauce. Add a bit of water. Add shredded pork and stir to mix. Add enough water to sauce the meat lightly. The chipolte sauce is meant to season not drench the meat. Serve in corn tortillas, lightly browned in oil.

Shredded lettuce (I used Romaine)
Pico de Gallo (recipe follows)
Sour cream
Queso Blanco or Feta cheese, crumbled
Sauteed onions and peppers *

*( I sauteed a mixture of red and sweet onions, red and green bell peppers with a sliced garlic clove in olive oil with salt and pepper) Remove to a bowl and proceed with the pork chops in the same pan.

Pico de Gallo (Rooster's Beak)

Chopped red onion - 1/4 cup
Chopped plum or ripe and juicy tomato about 1/2 cup
1-3 Serrano peppers, seeded, deveined and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Lime juice, about 1/2 a lime
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
a drop of honey
Salt to taste - about 1/4 teaspoon
A drop of strawberry balsamic vinegar (optional) Brings out the tomato flavor.

Mince onions and set in bowl with lime juice and salt while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Add all the ingredients and mix. Let sit for the flavors to blend while you prepare the rest of the taco ingredients.

To make tacos, layer in this manner:
Shredded pork, sauteed onions and peppers, lettuce, sour cream, pico de gallo, feta cheese or queso fresca. These are truly amazing tacos! Very authentic. You will never find anything like this in a restaurant or take out!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mojo - The Latin Garlic Sauce

Mojo is a staple in Latin cooking, especially Cuban cuisine. Every kitchen has its own house recipe but the ingredients remain basically the same: fresh garlic, chopped onion, olive oil and fresh citrus juice. Normally, sour orange is used as the citrus but it can be hard to come by in many places other than Miami and its indigenous homes. I use a combination of lime, lemon and orange juices, which gives a similar flavor. I also use a bit of Sherry vinegar, which is just my way of making Mojo. Moja is traditionally served over boiled yuca, especially on Nocha Buena or Christmas Eve in many Latin or Caribbean households. I use it as a base marinade for pork chops chicken or shrimp. It also makes a great sauce for roasted potatoes or tostones, which are twice fried green plantains. Makes my mouth water just to think about it. The measurements are approximate. But there are two things that are absolutely required: Mojo is a garlic sauce with a strong garlic flavor so you must use lots of fresh garlic. And lastly, you must use freshly squeezed citrus juice. Nothing reconstituted or bottled will work. I use dried herbs in mine, fresh if I have them. Use or omit according to your own taste. This sauce will knock your socks off......... and keep the vampires at bay!

Mojo - Latin garlic sauce

1/2 cup Good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lime- juiced
1/2 lemon juiced
1/2 orange juice
1 Tablespoon Good quality Sherry vinegar
6-8 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
pinch of Cumin
1 Bay leaf, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley or 2 Tablespoons fresh
 Salt and pepper to taste

Pour olive oil in a glass jar with a lid. Add garlic and onion. Heat in microwave for about 30 seconds or over low heat for a minute or two. You just want to infuse the oil by warming it, not completely cook the garlic and onion. Add the fresh squeezed citrus juices, sherry vinegar, herbs and spices. Top jar with lid and shake. Will keep in refrigerator for about a week.

Use as a marinade for shrimp, chicken, beef or pork. (I usually marinade the meat over night, a few hours for the shrimp.) and then grill, broil or bake. Also wonderful used to marinade a lamb. Add fresh mint and omit bay leaf if using on lamb.
Serve sauce on the table to spoon over roasted meats or poultry or veggies.
Great over roasted potatoes, boiled yuca, fried green plantains or plain white rice too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vietnamese Curried Kebabs

I love kebabs. I made these delicious morsels last night. Kebabs of all cuisines are often made with ground meat. Southeast Asian cuisine is known for it's delicious satay, which is pretty much the same as a kebab. Kebabs originated in the Middle East as small pieces of meat threaded and cooked over a fire. Traders brought the idea of kebabs to India, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, who adopted the idea and came up with their own versions of this delicious meal. This recipe is my version of one I found in "Curries and Kebabs" a favorite cookbook I often look to for ideas. I'm not the sort of cook who follows recipes verbatim but I am often inspired to make my own versions of recipes I come across. This is one of those recipes. It has the flavors of Vietnamese cuisine.  The fish sauce is very salty so I don't use any salt. You will notice the use of Indian curry powder. Curry powder is often used in Vietnamese cooking, especially in the south of the country. The mingling of cultures produces a magical combination that is delicious.

Vietnamese Curried Kebabs

8oz ground lean beef or sirloin
8oz ground pork
1 egg
1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped red onion or sweet onion such as Vidalia or Peruvian
2 teaspoons lemon grass, finely chopped (I buy it in a jar as a speciality shop)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
 2 teaspoons fish sauce
3 Tablespoons coconut milk
1/2 tsp Indian curry powder
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons minced  fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
1-2 teaspoons Sambal chillie paste or 2-3 minced chillies such as Serrano
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 of a lime, juiced

Mix together bread crumbs, eggs and coconut milk. Add remaining ingredients and form into patties or meat balls. Thread on a skewer if desired and grill. Or, bake or broil until done. You can also pan fry them as patties like a slider burger. Do not over cook. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over the top.

Serve with a veggie noodle salad with peanut sauce or in a wrap garnished with lettuce, fresh cilantro, cucumbers, and bean sprouts. Drizzle with Nuoc Cham or peanut sauce.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Indian Style Lamb Curry

One of my favorite cuisines is Indian. Ever since I was introduced to the exotic spices so beautifully put together in Indian cuisine, I have loved it. I woke up today with a craving for spicy lamb curry. Luckily, there was lamb in my fridge and almost everything else you need is in the pantry. I even make my own curry power, which I will post. But for this recipe, a good quality store bought curry powder will be fine. Here is what I made tonight. It's a combination of various recipes for homestyle curries I have come across in my mountain of Indian and curry cookbooks. This is true comfort food.

Lamb Curry - serves 4
1 1/2 lbs lamb shoulder or leg cut into  2 inch cubes
1 large onion, Vidalia or Peruvian sliced.
2-3 Serrano chillies seeded and sliced
2 inch piece of ginger, grated or minced
3 large cloves of garlic or 4-5 small ones minced
1 Tbsp Indian Curry powder, plus 1/2 tsp
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1 bay leaf
1 15 ounce can petite cut tomatoes
5-6 Cardamon seeds
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, about 1/2 tsp or to taste
3/4 - 1 cup of water
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
Vegetable oil for sauteing

Sprinkle lamb cubes with 1/2 tsp of curry powder. Set aside.
Saute onions in a little oil until soft. Add ginger, garlic, cardamom seeds and Serrano pepper. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp curry powder and saute a minute more. Push onion mixture to one side of the pan. Add about 1 tbsp oil and add lamb pieces. Lightly brown lamb then mix with onion mixture. Add salt, bay leaf, tomatoes, garam masala and 1/2 cup water. Mix well and lower heat and let simmer until lamb is tender, about 20 minutes. Watch pan and add more water from time to time. Liquid should be about the consistency of a thin gravy. When done, remove bay leaf and cardamom seeds. Off heat and mix in fresh cilantro.  Serve with basmati rice and raita.

Raita (yogurt dressing)
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp cumin power
1/2 cup chopped cucumber, seeded
1 plum tomato chopped
pinch of salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup Fresh cilantro, chopped

Mix all ingredients. Serve with curry and rice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Middle Eastern/African /Greek Dinner

Tonight I made chicken kebabs with Middle Eastern spices, Moroccan style couscous and a Greek style salad. I know, weird combination but it all worked rather nicely together. I'm nothing if not a creative chef ! The salty acidity of the salad complimented the sweetness of the couscous. And the kebabs were nicely seasoned. I basically marinated the chicken in a puree of plain yogurt, onion and spices, paired with a dried fruit and nut couscous seasoned with warm spices You could serve it with toasted Mediterranean pita bread and a Tzatziki sauce if you are inclined. All in all, a nice meal.

Chicken Kebabs - Serves 4

1  1/2 pounds boneless chicken (I used a mixture of breast and thigh meat) cut into two inch cubes.

1/2 Sweet Onion, like Peruvian or Vidalia
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon ground Coriander
1/4 Teaspoon Paprika
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Mint or 2 Teaspoons fresh Mint chopped
1/2 Teaspoon Parsley
1 Tablespoon Iranian Spice 
1/2 lemon Juiced
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon fresh ground Pepper

Puree onion and garlic in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process until well mixed. Taste to check to see if it need more salt, pepper or heat (cayenne).
Marinate chicken cubes all day or overnight if possible. Thread on skewers. Grill over a medium flame or broil about 3-4 minutes per side. (Check for doneness)
Serve with Tzatziki if desired. (Plain yogurt mixed with fresh garlic, shredded cucumber, lemon juice and a touch of olive oil.) See my post for an exact Tzatziki recipe.

Moroccan Couscous

1 cup Couscous
1/2 Red Onion, chopped
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Ginger
3-4 Green Cardamon seeds
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/4 Teaspoon All Spice
Handful of Raisins
Handful of dried Cranberries
Hanful of Almonds, chopped coarsely
1 3/4 cups hot chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cups chopped Cilantro
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Roast chopped nuts in a dry pan for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Saute onion and red bell pepper in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients (including nuts) except broth, salt and pepper. Stir and let flavors blend about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add broth.  Check seasonings. Add salt if needed and a little ground pepper. Stir to mix, cover and let sit for about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve with Kebabs.

Greek Salad

Romaine lettuce, torn into bite side pieces. About 1/2 a head.
Finely sliced red onion, a handful
Finely sliced red bell pepper, a handful
1 Cucumber, seeded and cut into chunks
4 Ripe plum tomatoes, cut into chunks
Feta cheese, crumbled about 2 ounces
1/2 14 ounce can baby artichoke hearts, quartered.
Garbanzo beans (optional) 1 small can, drained

1/4 Cup good quality Olive Oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 Teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Teaspoonon crumbled feta cheese

Mix dressing ingredients together and let sit while you prepare salad. Remove garlic from dressing. Taste for seasoning. Add additional salt if needed, but keep in mind the feta on the salad adds saltiness too. Toss salad with dressing right before serving.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vietnamese Beef Wraps

After watching "The Great Food Truck Race" episodes on Food Network, I started to crave a wrap from the Nom Nom Truck - who used fusion cooking to create Vietnamese style tacos in flour tortillas. I love wraps of all kinds.  They are a quick way to create a tasty meal and the possibilities are endless. Last week I made Greek wraps, with beef  kebabs (marinated in lemon, garlic, olive oil and oregano)  broiled or grilled., then wrapped in Mediterranean pita bread and dressed with tzatziki, red onions, lettuce and tomatoes. Yum! You can make wraps with the flavors of any cuisine including Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern and everything in between. Tonight it's Vietnamese.
I just marinated some steak, then seared and sliced it, wrapped it in a flour tortilla, topped with lettuce, red onion, fresh cilantro and chopped peanuts. Drizzle with some Nuoc Cham and you're good to go.

Sirloin steak, about 3-4 oz per person
Flour tortillas

Lime Juice from 1/2 a lime
Garlic - a large clove minced
Fish sauce - 1 tsp
Lemon Grass, chopped - about a Tbsp
Fresh cracked pepper - a pinch
1 tsp vegetable oil

Shredded romaine lettuce
Thinly sliced red onion
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Crushed peanuts
Nuoc Cham sauce (recipe below)

Nuoc Cham Sauce:
Fish sauce - 2 Tbsp
Lime Juice from 1/2 of a lime
Rice Vinegar - 3 Tbsp
Garlic - 1 clove minced
Ginger - 1 tsp minced
Sugar, 1 1/2 Tbsp
Carrot, 1 Tbsp finely grated
Hot Water, 1- 2 Tbsp
Sambal  Oelek (chilli paste) 1 tsp or more if you like it really hot. Or use chopped, fresh chillies, such as Serrano.

Mix sugar in hot water until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients in a covered jar. Shake to mix. Refrigerate until needed.

Marinate the steak in marinade while you prepare the rest of the meal. Sear on both sides over medium high heat. It should be about medium rare. Let rest about 5 minutes before slicing into strips.

Warm tortillas in a dry pan on medium low (or use microwave, about 10 seconds) until warm. Arrange beef slices in the center of the tortilla. Top with lettuce, cilantro, red onion and Nuoc Cham sauce. Sprinkle with peanuts and devour!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Singapore Noodles

Tonight I made Singapore Noodles for dinner. So yummy!!  As you can see, I am a major noodle addict. I've seen so many different recipes for Singapore Noodles but I don't really think there is one definitive, "authentic" recipe.  It's basically a street vendor food which is a mixture of Asian flavors, primarily soy sauce, Indian curry spices and sometimes fish sauce and sesame oil. From what I've read, there is some question as to whether it originated in Singapore or not. I will leave others to argue that chicken or egg question. I don't think there is really any way to know factually who was the first person who created this dish. Regardless, it is a delicious dish and one that is good for cleaning out the refrigerator :) Here's what I used to make it tonight: I didn't measure anything; I just used what I had in the refrigerator and pantry.
Make as much as you need, depending on how hungry you and your friends are :)

Singapore Noodles

Vermicelli Asian rice noodles, I used two dry squares which is how they come from my Asian grocery story.
Or use thin spegetti  and cook al dente according to package directions.
Chopped cooked chicken
Chopped barbecued pork ( I had left over ribs from lunch at a local Barbeque's place.)
Chopped  raw shrimp ( marinated in a little fish sauce, and sambal)
Tofu, cut into slices and marinated in a little fish sauce, sambal and a pinch of sugar
Sliced onions
Sliced celery
Sliced bell peppers, I used red and green mixed
Shredded romaine lettuce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp minced fresh or jarred ginger
Oil for sauteing, about 2 Tbsp
1 lime (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste.

1 cup broth or water
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Indian Curry powder
1/4 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp Sambal Oelek (Chili  paste) or to taste (it's very hot.)
1/4 tsp fish sauce

Soak rice noodles in hot water until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside, leaving a bit of the water with the noodles so they don't stick together.
Mix sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Saute tofu over medium heat in a small amount of oil until browned. Add onions, celery and bell peppers. Saute until limp, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and let cook about a minute. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Add chicken and pork and toss to combine. Shove everything over to the side of the pan and add raw shrimp to pan. Cook about two minutes until barely cooked through. Add romaine lettuce and noodles and sauce. Toss to evenly distribute sauce. Adjust the seasoning for salt and pepper as needed. Serve in shallow bowls with a wedge of lime to squeeze on top.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Quick Minestrone Soup

Quick and Delicious Minestrone
Tonight I'm making a quick version of Minestrone soup for dinner. I know, it's not exactly tropical (well, I've been to some rather warm, seaside towns in Italy...) but it was so quick and easy to make, I thought I'd share. The silver lining is it's very healthy and can be completely vegetarian if you use vegetable stock or water. This isn't a recipe per say, just what I threw together with what I had to make an awesome soup :) The amounts aren't that important, just use what you have and measure according to how many people you are cooking for. It took me about 15 minutes to throw together and about 30 minutes to simmer. Serve with some earthy, whole grain bread. Using my amounts, you will have enough for about 4 servings or two servings with seconds.

Chicken broth, vegetable broth or water, enough to cover veggie by about three inches - about 32 ounces
Dried herbs - (about a tsp each) parsley, oregano, marjoram, basil, thyme and 1 bay leaf
Potato, skinned and diced (I used one red one)
Carrots, skinned and diced (I used two)
Celery, diced (I used about 1/2 cup chopped)
Onions, diced (I used 1/2 medium onion)
Garlic clove, minced (I used one)
Kidney beans, I used about 1/2 15 oz can)
Lima beans (I used frozen ones)\ (I used about 2/3 cup)
Green beans, chopped into bite sized pieces (I used frozen ones) or use zucchini (I didn't have any.)
(I used about 2/3 cup)
Canned or fresh chopped tomatoes, (I used about 2/3 cup)
Greens such as Kale, Swiss chard or Spinach, 1-2 cups, chopped (optional)
1-2 Tbsps tomato paste (I used 2 Tbsp)
Sugar, about 1/4  - 1/2 tsp
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese for garnish

Sauté onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oil. Sprinkle with dried herbs and salt and pepper. Add diced potatoes, garlic, and tomatoes. Stir to coat veggies and let simmer a minute or two. Add broth, tomato paste, sugar, kidney beans, lima beans and green beans. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed. Let simmer about 30 minutes or until veggies and lima beans are tender and cooked through.  Check occasionally; you may need to add more broth or water. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if desired.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice) - Serves 4

Arroz con Pollo is comfort food to me. My mother, who is Costa Rican, used to make it often when I was a kid and I always loved it. She put potatoes, olives and raisins in hers; I generally omit the potatoes but like the addition of raisins and sometimes put in olives, if I remember. My mom used to make a big pot of small, red beans to go on top of the rice... so yummy! These beans are typical of Central American cooking and have a hearty, delicious flavor that is different from the regular kidney beans used in other Latin kitchens. I can't imagine eating Arroz con Pollo without some fried platanos (plantains) on the plate. Just let them get ripe (golden with streaks of black on the skin.) Not too ripe or they will absorb too much grease. Please use Valencia rice; this is a must! The rice is what makes the dish! Make as much as you need, depending on how many people are eating. This is a great dish to make for company. And it's very economical too. You can even make it with rotisserie chicken or left over shredded chicken. Don't worry about exact amounts of the vegetables or meat. I never measure anything when I cook. Just make sure the rice is moist. There should be excess liquid in the dish when you are done. That is the correct way to make Arroz con Pollo. This dish is a staple in my home. Delicious!

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice, Latin Style)

1 1/4 cup Valencia rice
4-6 legs or breasts of Chicken, shredded or on the bone.
1/2 Large Onion, roughly chopped
1/2 Green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 Red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced.
1/2 15 oz can petite cut tomatoes
3/4 cup of frozen peas and carrots
Good quality Olive oil, extra virgin if possible
3 3/4- 4 1/2 cups Chicken broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Dried Parsley
Pinch of Saffron threads (optional)
1/4 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Annatto
Raisins, a handful (optional
6 Spanish Olives with pimiento (optional) Chopped fine or left whole

If using shredded chicken, cook chicken parts in simmering water until cooked, about 30 minutes. Take out chicken pieces and set aside. Shred the chicken when it is cool enough to touch. Save the broth to cook the rice in.

If using bone in chicken, brown the chicken pieces in a little olive oil then set aside. Don't worry about completely cooking them through, as they will cook in the rice and broth later on. Pour off the oil and then begin making the suffrito in the same pan.

In a large pan on medium heat, sauté onions until limp. Add Green bell pepper and about 2/3 of the red pepper slices. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and sauté just a minute, and then add the canned tomatoes, olives, raisins, the cumin, oregano and parsley, paprika, annatto, salt and pepper. This is called a suffrito and is the basis of many Latin dishes. Push the suffrito to one side of the pan and add a little more olive oil (about 1 Tbsp) Add the rice to the oil and sauté for about 2 minutes until all the rice is coated and a bit toasty. Mix the rice with the suffrito and add the broth. Stir and taste the broth. If it needs more salt add a little more. Add the chicken and mix into the rice mixture. Add the saffron threads. Let the rice simmer for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Make sure the heat is not too high because it will burn the rice on the bottom. Add the peas and carrots and put the remaining red bell pepper strips decoratively across the top of the rice. Lower heat to med low and put a lid over the pan. Cook another 10-15 minutes. Test the rice to see if it's done. The rice should be soupy and not dry. Add more broth or water if it gets too dry.

Serve with fried plantains and a crisp garden salad of tomatoes, red onions, avocado, cucumber and lettuce with sherry vinegar vinaigrette.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Asian Noodles

When I was a little girl, I lived in the Florida Keys. Yeah I know, lucky kid growing up on a tropical island vacation spot. It was great and the Keys still have a warm place in my heart. My mother, who is an immigrant from Costa Rica, often befriended other immigrant mothers and this recipe comes from a lovely Japanese woman that was her friend. It became a favorite in our household and was served as often as regular Italian-American style spaghetti that we loved. I have made a few adjustments to Mom's recipe, adding ginger and Sambal Oelek  (chili paste) for a kick. Don't worry about the long list of ingredients. You can use a food processor to quicken the slicing of the vegetables or buy them precut. I have even used frozen veggies in a pinch. The recipe is very forgiving, and it can be easily doubled. Everyone who has tried this dish loves it. I find these noodles addictive.

Asian Noodles - serves 2

1/2 package of spaghetti (1/2 lb)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (you can use left overs if you want)
1/2 large sweet onion, Vidalia or other type
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the bias
1 cup shredded cabbage or romaine lettuce
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp minced ginger
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Sambal (Vietnamese chillie paste) optional
1/2 cup sliced ham
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1/2 cup water or chicken broth or vegetable broth
1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the water to boil the noodles. Cook noodles until al dente since they will be added to the pot later on.

In a large wok or pan over medium heat, add 1 tsp or so of oil. Pour in eggs and let cook until set. Carefully flip the egg over, trying to keep its shape and thinness. Let cook another 30 seconds or so and remove from pan.  Cut into 2 inch strips. Add ham slices and cook briefly then set aside with cooked egg. These will be garnishes.

To the same pan add remaining oil and sauté onions, bell peppers and carrots. (I use olive oil for everything.) When they are limp (after about 2-3 minutes) add garlic and ginger. If using cabbage, add here. (If using romaine add last.) Add shredded chicken and cooked drained noodles. (Add romaine here if using romaine.) Add the broth or use the cooking water from the noodles. Add soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and chili sauce if using. Mix well. Turn off heat. Taste and correct the seasoning for salt and pepper. You can add more soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce if you wish but I prefer a subtle hint of their flavors since they can be over powering. Serve topped with slices of ham and slices of the cooked egg. Divine!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thai Inspired Fish / Crab Cakes

Tropical Fish Cakes with Avocado/Papaya relish.

Inspired by my love of Thai food and locally grown ingredients from my home town of Miami, these cakes are a combination of fish and crab cakes, served with a spicy tropical relish of avocado and papaya.

Fish-crab Cakes
Make 8 cakes.
2- 6 ounce cans of crab meat or 1/2 lb fresh crab meat picked over for shells.
1/2 lb mild white, Atlantic fish such as Mahi Mahi or Snapper
3/4 tsp Thai style red curry paste
3 Tbsp light mayonnaise
1/2 cup unseasoned fresh bread crumbs
1 egg + 1 egg white beaten together
1 tbsp chopped kaffir lime leaves (available jarred in speciality shops) or 1/4 tsp grated lime zest.
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground preferred
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
1/2 medium sized red onion, cut into small dice
1/2 red bell pepper cut into a small dice


Sprinkle half the salt and pepper over the fish fillets and cook in a non stick skillet in 1 tsp of olive oil. Depending on the thickness of the filets, limit cooking time to 3-4 minutes per side. Do not overcook. Put cooked fish filets in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Saute ginger, garlic, onion and red bell pepper in remaining oil until soft. Add to fish. Drain crab mixture (if using canned) until fairly dry, squeezing out the excess moisture. Add crab to fish and mix well, leaving a few chucks of fish and crab.

Mix red curry paste, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, lime leaves or zest, and mix until well combined. Add to fish and crab mixture, along with bread crumbs and eggs. Mix throughly and form into patties a little smaller than an average hamburger. You should have eight cakes total. Cover and refrigerate while you make the relish. Pan fry the cakes on medium heat in olive oil until golden using a non stick pan. Fry in two batches, using 1 Tbsp of olive oil for each batch. Serve over bed of shreded iceburg lettuce with the Avocado relish on the side.


Avocado/Papaya Relish
1/2 head of iceburg lettuce, shreded
1 Haas avocado or 1/2 Florida (large variety) avocado
1 cup papaya cut into small dice
1 minced clove of garlic
1 tsp minced ginger

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
1 Tbsp Asian Fish sauce
1 Lime, juiced
2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
Pinch of Salt
1/2 tsp or more of Sambal chilli paste (Optional)
Make dressing: In a medium size bowl mix together the chopped cilantro, Thai sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, and salt.  Add Sambal if you like it really spicy and hot. Set aside.

Add the papaya and avocado to the remaining dressing. Mix to cover with dressing. Refrigerate until searving time.

To serve: Arrange fish cakes on top of shredded lettuce Serve with Avocado-Papaya relish on the side. A side dish of baked or roasted sweet potatoes make a great accompaniment.

Miso Soup

I love Miso soup. There is something comforting about a steamy bowl of soup that soothes the soul. Tonight I was seeking that comfort after a rainy, gloomy day. Within about 15 minutes tops, I had a healthy dinner, a full stomach and a calm spirit. I just made a simple Miso soup; the type I get in restaurants with my sushi. Only there seems to be something so much better about homemade Miso Soup. Mix the miso paste directly in the bowl because if the water is too hot it will destroy the healthy goodness of the miso. The stock used for making Miso soup is called dashi. It is used extensively in Japanese cuisine and is a fish stock made from dried bonito fish and dried seaweed. I use the stock granules but if you can't find them you could make a broth with the kombu, which is seaweed and maybe add a dash of Thai fish sauce. Or if you are a vegetarian simply use the seaweed in a vegtable broth. This is a basic recipe- feel free to add other veggies and/or some soba noodles.

Miso Soup
Makes two servings.

3 1/2 cups water
1 tsp dashi stock granules (I bought mine at an Asian grocery store)
1 slice dried kombu about 5inches by 2 inches long, snipped into bite sized pieces
4 oz firm tofu cut into cubes
2 green onions chopped into thin slices
4 tsp miso paste (I used white miso)

Put the dashi granuels in a pot with the water and kumbo. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.  Add tofu. Simmer about 10 minutes until kombu is soft. Add green onion and let simmer for about another 1-2 minutes.
Meanwhile, set out two soup bowls. In each bowl put 2 tsp of  miso paste. Add a little of water to the miso paste and mix until well blended. I use a wisk. Divide the soup between the two bowls. Mix each well to make sure the miso paste is well blended. Enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

What to do with that can of tuna in the pantry.

In these challenging economic times, that old stand by, canned tuna has come back into vogue. Personally, I've always loved tuna salad and have even made it with left over fresh tuna steaks, (pretty awsome!) although I cook them through before tossing in the dressing. There are so many uses for canned tuna aside from the traditional tuna salad sandwich. You can make tuna cakes, like crab cakes but far less expensive. The thing I love about making fish cakes is that they lend themselves to just about any type of seasoning. I've made Thai style fish cakes with a spicy relish of avocado and papaya, I've made Spanish style fish cakes with a corn and tomato relish, or you can just use the good old American style with Bay seasoning and tartar sauce dip. Yum!

What are some of your recipes using canned tuna?
Here's my latest tuna salad creation. I love it on Ritz crackers.

Fabulous Tuna Salad Recipe
1 can solid, albacore tuna
handful of finely chopped red onion
juice of half of lemon or lime
splash of good quality olive oil, about 1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon sweet relish
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 stalk celery, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of salt
about 1/4 cup finely diced tomato (I usually use one plum tomato)
1/4 cup, more or less of mayonaise

Drain tuna well and put in a bowl. Squeeze lemon or lime juice over it, add the olive oil and let sit while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve as a filling in celery sticks, over crackers or toasted bread.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


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I am a novelist, a major foodie and an accomplished home chef.

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