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Sunday, July 29, 2012

The All American!


I didn’t cook dinner last night. I, like most of the country most of the world for that matter, was glued to my television watching the 2012 London Olympics. Dinner was planned but it would have to wait. You see, I couldn’t miss Phelps or Lochte in the 400m individual medley, and as a proud New Yorker there was no way in hell’s kitchen was I going to miss Bronx born John Orozco or the rest of those cute young men on our Men’s Gymnastics team over take Britain in the qualifiers. I am a huge sports fan every four years and TeamUSA is always my home team!!! Inspired by their success so far led me to think, what is an all American meal? I sort of drew a blank there for a moment. We have burgers, casseroles, barbecue and last but never least good ole apple pie; but I didn’t want any of those things.
After some craving and fridge raiding I came up with Chicken and Waffles. I mean what’s better than chicken and waffles; shoot its right up there with steak and eggs in Americana cookery.

Ingredients:

Waffles:
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup sugar
¾ cup grated parmesan
5 large basil leaves, chiffonade
¾ cup of corn kernels fresh off the cob*
2 cups buttermilk
3 large eggs, separated
½ stick butter, melted
*microwave the cob with husk on for 2 ½ minutes. When cool enough to handle use a sharp knife and cut the kernels away from the cob. Scrap down the cob with the back of the knife to release the “milk”.

 Berry Medley Syrup:
2 tbsp strawberry preserves
2 tbsp blackberry preserves
1 tbsp raspberry preserves
2 tbsp orange juice
¼ cup of water
Bring to a gentle simmer for 5 min in small saucepan and set aside.

 1 white peach, quartered and grilled

Chicken:
4 pieces of chicken cutlets seasoned and breaded to your taste. I chose to season mine with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. I also added those same spices to my flour and panko bread crumbs.

Directions:
1.       Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the center, set aside and begin to whisk 3 egg whites to medium peaks.
2.       Mix buttermilk, 3 egg yolks, corn kernels, basil and parmesan cheese in another bowl then add to dry, stir slowly into almost combined. Then add butter mix until just incorporated.
3.       Using a whisk fold the whites into the batter gently, it’s okay if you see a few small lumps they will cook out in the waffle iron. (You can also turn this recipe into corn griddle cakes if you want!)
4.       Keep your waffles warm in an oven holding at 200 degrees while you finish up the batter and fry your chicken. I also grilled a white peach at this point on my stove top griddle pan.
5.       Now just build your plate, waffles, chicken, grilled fruit if you’re using and the berry medley syrup.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

A little bit of Latin!


A friend told me to “put a Latin flare” on my next Saturday meal. What does that mean exactly?
Is using sofrito Latin flare? Is adding chiles Latin flare? I don’t know!
 Being a Newyorican (ethnically Puerto Rican, culturally New Yawker!) does not automatically mean I can put a Latin spin on a dish or that I would want too. I grew up in the Bronx during the late 80’s early 90’s. My neighborhood was diverse. I grew up eating from a sit down Chinese restaurant on 188th street and the Grand Concourse. A roti spot on 184th street and before that roti spot opened it was home to an Italian Restaurant where I would have dinner with my aunts all the time, my first introduction to “fine dining”, I was 7! What Puerto Rican 7 year old eats clams posillipo? I did!
I didn’t grow up eating what is considered traditional comida criolla. Don’t get me wrong, every once in a while grandma slaved over a pot of sancocho or made me help her with masa for pastelles, but more often than not Mom boiled a pot of good old blue box mac and cheese, and  fried up a can of Hawaii’s favorite mystery meat. Mom didn’t like to cook, she cooked because she had to feed us. Comfort food was fried chicken wings and instant mash potatoes, the flakes looked and smelled like fish food! It was a love/hate relationship I had with that can of instant mash.
But I thought the suggestion over and I decided flan for dessert would be nice, flan is as Latin as any of us are gonna get. After all it is a treat beloved by the Spanish, French and Italian in all of us!
My first introduction to flan was a Goya instant version; was nothing instant about it! You would have to stand by the stove and baby-sit the thing or it would get lumpy if you didn’t constantly stir, then it needed refrigeration for at least 8 hours. I loved it! I thought everyone ate flan that was made this way, boy was I wrong. The first time I saw someone make flan from “scratch” I was dismayed. And the first time I ate “homemade” flan I wanted to barf. A little girl that can eat clams raw could not down a slice of homemade flan?? Sigh! Something wasn’t right.

I now know what caused my instant barf reflex, evaporated milk! I am not a fan, but I am knowledgeable enough to understand that for some dishes evaporated milk, or any canned milk (condensed) is sometimes a necessity to keep a regions dish authentic. So what occurred was I stayed away from flan. I stood away until I watched Jacques Pepin make flan on “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home”. Not one can of evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk went into his flan and I was relieved. He said his wife loved his flan, and I believed him! He explained the origins of flan and I understood. I also put two together and realized why Latin America utilized canned milks, lack of refrigeration and/or fresh milk, yet the continued urge to have meals reminiscent of the old country (Spain, Italy, and France).  He said his wife loved his flan, and I believed him, she’s Puerto Rican after all!
Ingredients:
6 large egg yolks
1 cup of milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split
4 oz of semi sweet chocolate at least 60% cacao
1 ¾ cup of sugar, separated
1 tbsp of corn syrup
Pinch of salt

Directions:
1.       Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.       Heat the milks, vanilla bean, and salt in a sauce pan over low heat until hot, but do not boil. Turn off heat and allow the bean to continue to steep for 5 min. After 5 min add chocolate to milk and stir until chocolate is fully melted, strain milk mixture.

3.      In the mean time, make a caramel with 1 cup of sugar and the corn syrup. Good trick is to mix in a splash of water to make a wet sandy mixture. The water and the syrup help in avoiding sugar crystals from forming and ruining your caramel. Cook until a nice medium amber color. Use a candy thermometer if you have it and don’t go over 330 degrees.

4.       Pour caramel into molds/ramekins and place in larger dish that will hold your Bain Marie (water bath.) set aside to cool.

5.       Mix the egg yolks and the remaining sugar until combined. Keep in mind to whisk the moment you add the sugar so you don’t burn the egg yolks. (yes they burn, Google it)



6.       Now temper the egg yolk mixture by whisking in the milk a little at time. Once all the milk is incorporated pour the mixture into a measuring cup to help you fill the molds.

7.       Add hot water to your baking dish and bake for up to an hour, until the center of the flan makes a barely visible wave when the dish is tapped.

8.       Cool in the water bath for up to 20 min then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, I find it best overnight.

9.       Unmold and serve.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Who's Cous? My Cous!

All weekend long I wondered what I would make for dinner that will make it through to lunch on Monday. I read, and read, and surfed the food sites and paced the kitchen and grumbled and mumbled all the way.
Saturday morning I caught an episode of Giada at Home on Cooking Channel TV and she was making a couscous salad with smoked paprika vinaigrette, and I was still uncertain. I did not have anything she put in this salad except for the olive oil, smoked paprika, and a box of couscous. Determined, I went into my fridge and pulled out everything I thought could go into this couscous salad.
Out came, scallions, roma tomatoes, cucumbers,a block of iberico cheese and I even pulled a box of raisins out of the cupboard. I threw everything on the counter and started dicing, still determined to make something. And this is what I came up with, Couscous a la Hispaniola, topped with a piece of Roasted chicken paprika. I paired that with a nice glass of Caribbean style lemonade, to keep my palate fresh, hope you like it!
Couscous a La Hispaniola
Ingredients:
1 Box of Israeli Couscous
2 Large Roma Tomatoes, diced
1/2 Hot house cucumber, diced
3 scallions, sliced on diagonal
2 tbsp raisins, rough chopped
3oz Iberico cheese, diced

Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup extra-virgen olive oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Mix the ingredients for the vinaigrette and set aside
2. Cook a box of Israeli Couscous according to instructions, set aside to cool slightly.
3. Add the vegetables, cheese, and raisins to a large bowl. Add couscous while still slightly warm, pour vinaigrette and toss lightly.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

What to Eat? How about Mediterranean!

I am having this horrible dilemma. What the hell to eat?!! Trying to eat healthy is quite difficult. And what is it with this portion control thing anyway. You can only have 5 portions of protein and 3 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of this and 0 portions of that....sheesh. Yes I said sheesh. It may sound very easy but it isn't. At breakfast you had an egg (white hopefully) and bacon on wheat toast, right? Turns out you just had two portions of protein and its only breakfast people, we still have lunch and dinner to go..smh. Is anyone else out  there having this problem or is it only me?

I can't keep that up and I really didn't even start in the first place. So yesterday I decided to eat what the hell I wanted to eat. For breakfast of course I had coffee and eggs, go figure; lunch was pan roasted bacon wrapped chicken breast and a Mediterranean salad

Breakfast:
Poached Eggs w/Roasted Red Pepper Hummus on whole wheat English Muffin
(Recipe to follow)

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

2 cans chick peas (Garbanzos), rinsed and drained
1 tbsp of tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup of roasted red peppers, fresh or packed in oil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 med cloves of garlic, grated or finely minced
2 tbsp of water
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Put all the ingredients, except the water and oil, in a food processor and process until smooth, drizzle in the water and oil. Scrape down sides of bowl and pulse a few more times, should be a spreadable consistency.

Poach your eggs by boiling water in a pan, drop the heat to barely a simmer and add a tsp of vinegar and a pinch of salt to the water. Crack your eggs one a time into a small ramekin (those Glad disposable rounds work well) slowly lower the container's rim into the water and slide the egg in, there should be very little separation of the white from the yolk. Cook eggs until your desired doneness, but I suggest you leave the yolk soft it works great with the hummus and toasted muffin....amazing!!


Now for lunch....
Mediterranean Salad with Pan roasted Bacon wrapped Chicken Breast


Salad:
1 Roma tomato (plum tomato)
3 cups of Baby arugula mixed greens, loosely packed
1 tbsp chopped cilantro (coriander leaves)
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley (flat leaf)
3 tbsp red wine vinegar ( I used Colavita, best I could get in my neighborhood)
1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (also Colavita, artisan cold first pressed)
1 tbsp sliced Manzanilla olives (Spanish olives, they have the pimento stuffed inside)
1 clove of garlic, finely minced (use a microplane grater if you can)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

In a large mixing bowl add all your ingredients, except the tomatoes, greens, and herbs, whisk well. Add tomatoes and greens and toss with your clean hands, gently.  Plate up really pretty, slice up your chicken, sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt if you have it, and enjoy pure awesomeness (chicken recipe to follow).

Chicken:
 2 strips of thickly sliced bacon
1 chicken breast, halved
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Season your chicken generously with salt and pepper and coat with olive oil, let marinate for at least 30 min. remove from fridge and let stand 10 min, then wrap in bacon. Heat pan on high at least 3-5 min., until your pan is searing hot. Add about 1tbsp of oil to coat the bottom then add chicken to pan and sear on both sides at least 2 min. Pop pan into hot oven and cook for 15 minutes until breast is just done. Do not overcook; dry chicken breast is not awesome, at all. Remember you heated the pan and seared the breast, it was not a cold piece of chicken you put into the oven, and it will cook fairly quickly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dinner with my sister.

How many of you out there have sisters? I do and I love her, but sometimes.....

Fortunately this was not one of those times. I asked her over for dinner, I was in the mood to cook and I wanted risotto. Yeah I know, risotto! Cremini Mushroom Risotto with Sofrito Marinated Ribeye--deelish-ious (sometimes I get these urges for the difficult, this dinner being no exception).

I was able to procure an entire ribeye on the cheap a few weeks back and I have a freezer full of ribeye, somebody has to eat it :-). In the cupboard was a box of arborio rice that I purchased with the plans to make rice pudding, but obviously plans changed. So after twenty minutes of listening to my sister whine about being hungry as i stired, and stired, and stired the risotto we had a very nice meal :P



So today my friends I gift you with the Sofrito Marinade I made for the Ribeye.

For the Sofrito:
1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1 medium sweet chile (ajicito dulce, they resemble jamican hot peppers but are sweet*)
1 small bunch of cilantro (coriander)
1 leaf of culantro (spiny coriander, black benny coriander, saw leaf herb)
2 cloves of garlic.
1 pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup good olive oil
1 tsp brown mustard
1 tsp worcestershire sauce


Put all the ingredients for the sofrito, mustard and worcestershire sauce in a food processor (or blender) and pulse a few times. Next with the processor running drizzle in the olive oil (you can whisk it in if you choose). Taste again for salt and pepper add more if you wish and pour over your ribeye steaks. Makes enough to marinate 2-3 12oz steaks. Pop into fridge and marinate at least 2 hours, if your going to marinate overnight go easy on the salt.

After 2 hours in the fridge marinating

Pan seared Ribeye

Ajicito Pepper (Sweet Chile)
photo for ajicito courtesy of shutterstock.com