Category Archives: Basic

The Great Pumpkin

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Yet another exception has been made while making this cooking blog. Just to prove that I am alive and well, I decided to post this Jack-o-Lantern that I carved for Emmanuel in celebration of our Second Anniversary. He generally scoffs at “silly American holidays”, so I thought a neat, Nightmare Before Christmas- Jack Skellington one might warm him up to the idea. In regards to justifying it for my cooking blog, I say, “First of all, I do whatever I want!, and secondly, I baked the squash seeds(noting that this isn’t actually a true pumpkin) for a tasty snack”. I didn’t do anything too special, I just washed them well, then rubbed them with butter, olive oil and salt, then toasted them at 400 degrees until crispy. That is how my Mommy did them for me as a kid, and I will honor her simple and tasty recipe. I have to say, I do miss spreading out newspapers on our old linoleum floor and carving giant pumpkins that we all picked together, only to have them smashed by too-old-to-be-trick-or-treating-neighborhood-kids a week or so later. Those were good times, but a good pumpkin carving session can bring some of it’s coziness back.

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Tacos! Hooray!

Salty Dog with Silver Tequila (i.e. Perro Salada) with Chorizo and Avocado Tacos on House Made Tortillas and Chile de Arbol Salsa….Amazing!!Sometimes I make tacos, and I drink some…..

 


Tortillas

Don’t be intimidated about making your own tortillas….they are tasty and there is something to be said for making your own tacos from SCRATCH.

They take a little bit of practice to make them pretty, but you don’t even need a tortilla press. You just need:

   2 Cups Masa Flour

   1 Teaspoon of Salt

   1-2 Cups Warm Water

   A Plastic Shopping Bag/Produce Bag Cut Into a Long Rectangle

   Something Solid and Flat (Cutting Board/Pot With a Flat Bottom)

   Skillet or Comal

   Spatula

   **Love**

I would have taken pictures of the process, but there is really nothing to it. I mixed the masa with the salt breifly then I mixed the water in. The goal was to be able to make balls that didn’t crumble totally when smashed. They were roughly the texture of warm playdough. Then I divided the dough into 20 balls roughly the size of golf balls. I covered the bowl of dough balls with a moist towel to keep them from drying out. Then I got my skillet hot, not so hot it is smoking, but hot enough to get some color on the tortillas.

Next, I took my large rectangle of plastic and layed it out, placing a ball of dough on one end. Then I folded the plastic over the ball to cover it sandwich style. I layed my cutting board over the ball of dough sandwich and smashed it. I applied pressure evenly over the top. Actually, I smashed it slightly pushing down on it with my hand’s strength just to get it flat, then I sat on my cuttingboard on the edge of the counter to make it nice and flat. I had a bad migraine, so it really made my head want to explode just to press using hand strength alone, so this was my solution….sue me.  Then, I removed the bag from one side of the tortilla. Laying the dough side on my palm and fingers, I quickly peeled back the other side of the plastic from the tortilla, being careful not to tear the dough. Working quickly, because your hand tends to want to stick to the dough, I slapped the dough flat onto the hot skillet or comal. Then I quickly pressed another dough ball to be ready for the next round. After that, I used my spatula to press the tortilla down to get some color on it. Then I flipped it and pressed it with the spatula again. Once I had a few nice golden brown spots and the tortilla lost it’s translucent doughy color, I called it good, and started the whole process over again. I have to say that if I had a tortilla press the whole process would have been easier, and a double burner comal would have been awesome, but I made it happen. I didn’t use them immediately, but I wrapped them in a cloth and cooled them in the fridge. Once cool, I could have either bagged then froze them or used them in a day or two. I am no Mexican abuela, but I think I did a pretty good job. They were tasty with some thawed out molé from the freezer and chicken.


Tacos Dorados con Queso y Frijoles

Last night at 2 AM I made tacos dorados for the first time ever, don’t ask why. I never realized how easy they are, until then. I usually am pretty hesitant about deep frying anything….the spent oil….the smell…the clogged arteries….ock. In this case though, I was able to shallow fry them and they worked out really well.

For the beans:

I made some re-fried beans the same night that I made the Salsa Verde, by first rinsing then boiling 3 cups of pinto beans. I added some cumin, chicken stock (or bullion), 1/2 small white onion diced really small, 2 chipotles from a can of chipotles in adobo small diced, a small handful of cilantro and a bottle of Negra Modelo beer. Don’t forget to season them well. When the liquid reduced, I added more hot water as needed. I let this boil away uncovered until the beans were soft and fully cooked. Then I mashed them with my bean masher, but you can use anything with mashing capabilities. I let them cool overnight, but I am sure you could do the tacos with hot beans too.

For the actual tacos, I just steamed a stack of corn tortillas in the microwave wrapped in a dish towel for 3o seconds so they would be pliable enough to fold, then I started to fill them. I put a small dollop of beans onto the tortilla and spread it out. Then I smashed a small ammount of shredded Muenster (I prefer it over Chihuahahua cheese, which I would use if I didn’t have Muenster) in the midddle of the beans. Then I folded the tortilla in half sealing the cheese in the middle of the beans and securing the sides by stabbing them with a toothpick on each side.

Then I fried them in hot oil about 2/3 of an inch deep. I got it pretty hot, but not smoky and left it on medium to high heat. The tacos leaked a little, bit not like crazy. Then, once both sides were golden brown, I blotted them on paper towel and let them cool a little before biting into the little lava filled crunchy amazing treats. The salsa verde was amazing with these. They are often filled with seasoned potatoes or seasoned ground meats too. Both are amazing too. They made for the perfect food at 2 AM, and I am sure that any drunk person would be more than happy with them too. Hahaha.


Best Salsa Verde EVER

Well, maybe not ever, but pretty damn good! This salsa is super easy and super delicious on tacos, with chips, or pretty much anything….maybe not on ice cream….

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The best part is the delicious charring you get on the chiles and tomatillos, and you don’t even need a fancy grill!

5 Medium Tomatillos -Peeled but Whole

2 Jalapeños -Whole

3 Cloves Garlic-Peeled

1/2 t Ground Cumin

1 Lime

Salt To Taste

1 Avocado

Start by getting a sauté pan hot (NO OIL) on the stove. Throw the tomatillos and chiles in the pan and let them sear the skin for a good 4 minutes before you flip them on high heat. Give the same ammount of time on the other side. Repeat one more time for each side then add your garlic cloves and cover the pan with a lid to help steam the tomatillos. Once they turn to the dirty brown green, you can take them off the heat and throw all of it into the blender cup.  (Actually I rough chopped the garlic at this point  just to be safe). Everything that went in was cooked and had nice black and brown char over most of the surface.  Then I added some salt and the cumin. BLEND!!! Once it is all delicious and smooth, you could stop there, BUT WAIT….THERE’S MORE!! I cooled it down a little in the freezer (just to make sure I didn’t cook the avocado and lime juice….it sort of tastes gross when you do) then I scooped out a ripe avocado, and dropped it into the blender cup and blended it up! To be safe, I added the juice of 3/4 of a large lime. I also checked for final seasonings. The end result was delicious and creamy, but spicy and bad ass. This stuff lures you in with it’s smooth texture, but it has an awesome kick. I saw someone make it at a barbeque this spring, and I made a mental note to steal it for myself. Finally, I was not dissapointed!

Sidenote: In the background you can see the beginnings of my first craft project that I have deemed fit for my cooking blog. I will justify it when I post. Let’s just say I have found a loophole…


Naan of your business.

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I am sitting here listening to ‘Leader of the Pack’ radio on Pandora and baking some elaborate naan to go with my Daal Curry tonight. It is a good time. The smell of the dough baking and the cilantro and garlic together are amazing. A rather slow and lazy Saturday is a good day to make naan. I used to try to make Indian food and get really worried about doing things the right way, but today is all about experimentation. My naan isn’t traditional, but it is pretty damn good with Indian food. I looked up a general recipe for naan on the interweb, then I proceeded to not pay attention much and make some modifications due to my lack of attention span:

  • 1 Packet Dry Yeast
  • 1 C Warm Water
  • 2 t Sugar
  • 3 1/2 C AP Flour
  • 2 t Salt
  • Dash Turmeric
  • Dash Cumin
  • 3 T Shortening
  • 3 T Butter
  • 3 T Greek Yogurt
I activated the yeast with the water and sugar in the mixing bowl of my KitchenAid for 10 minutes or so, covered. Then I added everything else and mixed for like 10 minutes with the dough hook. The dough seemed really wet to me and I noticed that I more than doubled the fat in the last recipe without realizing it. Haha. I compensated by adding the extra 1/2 cup or maybe even more flour to the recipe. It seemed to work alright, although this made the dough almost brioche-like on the fatty scale. I decided that this didn’t matter one bit. Then I covered the bowl and let it rest a whole 90 minutes in the window sill to rise. Once the dough was nice and puffy I beat it down and kneaded it again with the dough hook for another 10 minutes.
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***This can all be done by hand, trust me, I have done plenty of things without the aid of a KitchenAid in my past life, but I did get one good thing out of my last relationship, and her name is Esther. ***
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Then I cut the dough into 8 pieces, which could easily be further divided for more portions. These naan were hUgE. I preheated the oven to 400 Degrees, then I balled them all up and rolled them out one by one into oblong disks.
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I made a sauce to brush on them before baking with finely chopped cilantro, garlic, salt, butter and olive oil.
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Then I baked them on an oiled sheet pan in the oven after I brushed them with the garlic cilantro oil. I baked them half way, brushed them with the oil mixture again, then baked them until golden brown. When I pulled out the little butterballs, I brushed them one more gratuitous time with the garlic-y magic paint.
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These naan are like nothing I have ever had before. That isn’t to say that they are superior or inferior either. They are not the stretchy moist things that Indian cooks pull out of a tandoor at all. First of all, I don’t own a tandoor, nor do I have the room in our kitchen. Mostly they were almost cracker-like in thin brown spots and crispy bready in the thick spots. They were pretty frickin’ tasty, and they aren’t that bad to look at either. The turmeric gives them a nice vibrant yellow tinge and a nice curry kick.
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Then I realized that, it was pretty important to start cooking the actual meal and stop focusing on the side dish. I have made curries before and tried to be true to the recipes, but I just have stopped caring about doing things the “right way”.  For my curry, I started with 1 1/2 White Onions and then I finely julienned it.

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I also small diced 4 small carrots.

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Then I caramelized the onion mostly.

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Before the onions were fully caramelized, I added the diced carrots and made sure that they were fully cooked.

Then I busted open a Can of Coconut Milk. I couldn’t find my can opener, so it is a good thing that a keep a P-38 military issue can opener on my keychain. It is the best can opener on the planet in my opinion.

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I took out 3/4 of the Carrot and Onion and put it in the blender cup with the Coconut Milk and blended it smooth to add back to the pan for further cooking.

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Then I added some ground Coriander, Cumin, Yellow Curry Powder, Turmeric, Chiles de Arbol, and Allspice to the pan with the remaining whole vegetables.

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I also added the Coconut Milk, Water, Lentils, and a Can of Garbanzo Beans and let the lentils cook fully. While this was reducing, I made some Jasmine Rice with the remaing Garlic-Cilantro Paint from the naan.

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It was really F-ing good.

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Twins in the City

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My twin sister visited, flew even, over the last week and we hung out in the middle of a heat wave. My goal was to convince her to move to Chicago, as she has been tossing the idea around for a little while, but given the heat wave, the city wasn’t looking it’s most glamorous. However, we did manage to have fun and to cook some. I miss her dearly already. Continue reading