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.