Archive for the ‘Ethnic’ category

Mexican red rice

June 2, 2020

This is a staple at Mexican restaurants, plopped on your plate next to the refried beans. But with rare exceptions it is but a pale shadow of what it should be, consisting of little more than tomato-tinged rice. It can be so much more, and it’s not all that difficult. It goes well with many non-Mexican dishes, too. It’s very helpful to have a kitchen scale. This is vegetarian if you use vegetable stock.

2 c long-grained rice, preferably Carolina Gold
1-14 oz can diced or whole tomatoes
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
5 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1 or 2 Jalapeño peppers, stemmed and seeded
1/4 c oil
1 c chicken or vegetable stock
3 whole bay leaves
1/2 c frozen peas, thawed

Rinse the rice well and let drain thoroughly.

Drain the tomatoes and save the liquid.

Put the tomato solids, half of the liquid, onion, Jalapeño, and garlic in a blender and zap for 30 sec or so, until fully pureed. Pour into a bowl on your scale–you want 20-21 oz. Either remove some or add reserved tomato juice to get correct weight.

In a heavy bottom soup  pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat and when hot add the rice. Stir until the rice turns a light golden brown, 3-4 min then remove the rice to a bowl. Add the pureed vegetables to the same pot, bring to a simmer, and cook until the raw onion/garlic smell is gone–a few minutes. Add the stock and bay leaves and when simmering add the rice. Stir, cover, and simmer slowly until the liquid is pretty much all absorbed. Turn off heat and add peas. Let sit for 10-20 min then fluff with a fork and it’s ready to serve.

Ramja (kidney beans in a spicy tomato sauce)

May 14, 2020

Ramja is a Punjabi-inspired stew of kidney beans in a spicy tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella. It’s adapted from a NY Times magazine recipe. I like to serve it with white rice and/or a flatbread such as naan.

Preheat oven to 350o

1 large red onion, peeled
1-2 green chilis (serrano, jalapeño, etc) seeeded
1 TB oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 inch piece ginger root, peeled
1 tsp red chili powder
big pinch powdered cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1-28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes, not drained
2-15 oz cans kidney beans, drained or 4 c of home-cooked beans
1 c diced mozzarella
¼ c white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
¼ c water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 c chopped cilantro

Cut the onion into quarters lengthwise. Slice 1 piece thinly and set aside in a small bowl. Put the other 3 pieces in a blender (preferred) or food processor along with the oil, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, chili powder, and green chilis. Process until not-quite pureed. You may need to scrape down the bowl and/or add a bit of oil.

Heat 2 TB of oil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly browned. Add the blended mixture and cook, stirring, for about 5 min until very fragrant and just starting to brown. Add beans and tomatoes and stir. Salt to taste and scatter the cheese over the top. Put, uncovered, in the oven and bake (without stirring) until bubbling and the cheese is lightly browned, 30-40 min

Dissolve the salt and sugar in the vinegar and water. Pour boiling water over the onion slices and drain after about 20 sec. Stir in the vinegar mixture. Serve, passing the onions and cilantro at the table.

Mediterranean-style lamb shanks

March 23, 2020

Lamb shanks are one of our faves, and this is a lovely way to do them. Za’atar is a spice mixture that has been used for ages in the middle east. There is no one fixed recipe for it, but the three base ingredients are thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac. Middle Eastern markets will carry it and of course you can get it by mail order. A pressure cooker is ideal, but not required. I serve this with rice or couscous.

4 lamb shanks trimmed of excess fat
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 c pitted and halved kalamata olives
1 TB za’atar
1/2 c dry red wine
1/2 c beef or chicken stock

Pat the shanks dry, salt and pepper then and dust with some flour. Brown on all sides in a bit of olive oil. Remove from pan. Add the onion and garlic, cook until soft. Add olives, wine, and stock and return shanks to pan. Sprinkle za’atar over all.

To pressure cook: Bring up to pressure using the high setting (if your cooker gives a choice). Cook for 1 hour, let the pressure release on its own for 15 min., then release the remaining pressure manually. Remove the shanks and keep warm. Boil the liquid down rapidly until it is the desired consistency. Skim off excess fat if needed. Spoon some sauce over the shanks and pass the rest at the table.

Regular cooking: The steps are essentially the same as above, but simmer gently for 3 to 3-1/2 hours. Check the liquid now and then and add more stock if needed.

Plaki (Greek fish in a pouch)

February 17, 2020

There used to be a wonderful Greek restaurant in our town that served the most delicious plaki. When they closed we decided to try to develop our own recipe. This is what we came up with, and while it strays from the traditional recipe a bit, it sure is good! And it’s a great dish for company. Serve with crusty bread to sop up the juice, a green salad, and (of course) white wine.

The amount of vegetables can be varied. You can use less, say 1/2 c per fillet and you will get the flavor, or as we like to do about 1-1/2 c per fillet and you will have your veg dish cooked along with the fish.

You can use any firm, white-fleshed fish, such as cod, haddock, snapper, flounder, etc. Try to get fillets that are about 1 inch thick.

Preheat oven to 400o

Four single serving-size fish fillets, or 2 larger fillets cut in half crosswise
Thinly julienned fennel bulb, onion, and carrot (see note above)
½ c roughly chopped kalamata black olives
Olive oil
1 lemon, cut into 8 thin slices

4 sheets of parchment paper, each large enough to wrap 1 fillet

Mix the julienned vegetable and the olives in a bowl. Use roughly equal amounts of fennel, carrot, and onion—it’s not critical—but we are fennel-lovers and always add extra. Dribble with olive oil, maybe 2 TB, and season with S&P. Mix.

Place 1 fillet on each piece of parchment and season. Mound the veg mixture equally on them. Drizzle with a bit more oil and lay 2 lemon slices atop each. Wrap up the parchment paper and secure with wooden toothpicks. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 min. Place 1 pouch on each diner’s plate, cut open with scissors, and serve.

Variation: Add ½ c drained, diced tomatoes and/or 2 cloves minced garlic to the veg mixture.

Mexican chicken enchilada casserole

January 7, 2020

Greatly simplified by the use of a jarred enchilada sauce. Homemade tortillas are best, but not necessary.

About 12-6 inch corn tortillas, preferably home made
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Adobo seasoning (preferred) or chili powder
1 small or ½ large green bell pepper
1 medium onion
2 cans red or green enchilada sauce (you may have extra, which can be frozen.)
1 small can chopped jalapeño peppers, or 2 fresh
1-12 oz package shredded Mexican cheese blend

If you have a sous vide gadget, dust the chicken with adobo seasoning or chili powder. Seal in the bag and sous vide at 165o for 90 min. Remove from bag and shred. Set aside.

Lacking a sous vide, poach the chicken in gently simmering salted water for 25 min. Remove to bowl and shred, then dust with adobo or chili. Set aside.

Seed the bell pepper, peel the onion, and dice. If using fresh jalapeños, seed and mince.  Sauté all in a little oil for a few minutes. If using canned jalapeños, add them at the end. Set aside

Pour a little sauce in the bottom of a 12” square casserole. Cover with a single layer of tortillas, cutting to fit as needed. Distribute 1/3 of the chicken, 1/3 of the pepper mixture, ¼ of the cheese, and enough sauce to just cover. Repeat 2 more times. Finish with a layer of tortillas, then sauce, then the remaining cheese. Bake uncovered at the middle level in a 350o oven until bubbling around the edges, about 40 min. Let cool for 10 min before serving.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory cabbage pancakes)

October 20, 2019

Okonomiyaki is, in essence, just a fancy, savory cabbage pancake. In Japan it’s available in many regional variations—you’ll hear about Hiroshima okonomiyaki, Tokyo okonomiyaki, and so on. This relatively simple version should, I guess, be called Okayama okonomiyaki because that’s where my wife’s cousin lives (it’s her recipe). It is served with okonomiyaki sauce and traditionally eaten with hashi (Japanese word for chopsticks) and a small metal spatula for cutting. And, of course, white rice and a selection of oshinko (Japanese pickles)! Our approach is to put a large electric skillet on the table and cook as we go along, but you can cook in the kitchen and keep warm in the oven.


1 c low protein flour such as White Lily or cake flour (not self-rising).
1 c water
½ lb small peeled shrimp, thinly sliced pork chop, chicken breast, or a combination
3 c thinly sliced (as for coleslaw) freshest green cabbage
1 egg
½ c bean sprouts
½ c slivered scallions

Mix the flour and water, making sure there are no lumps. Beat in the egg. Mix the cabbage, sprouts, scallions, and shrimp/meat in a large bowl. Add the flour slurry and mix well.

Heat your skillet to medium-high and add some vegetable oil, just a thin layer. When the oil is hot, add the cabbage mixture in about 1 c dollops and use a large spatula to flatten each into a pancake about 3/4 inch thick. Cook until the bottom is lightly browned, then flip. Continue until cooked thru, but not mushy, and remove to a plate. Continue with the remaining cabbage mixture, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Serve hot with the accompaniments mentioned above.

Empanadas

November 24, 2018

Almost every culture has its own version of a savory filling cooked inside dough – ravioli, pierogies, pasties, pot stickers, etc. Empanadas are South America’s best known contribution to the mix. There are probably as many empanada recipes as there are cooks, and there are plenty of creative ways to vary the recipe such as cooking small potato cubes with the beef or placing a slice of hardboiled egg on top of the filling. They can be finger food or made larger for eating with a knife and fork. They can be frozen after assembly then thawed and baked at a later date. 

I present two options for the dough. The first is traditional and uses only lard, flour, water, and salt. It gives a sturdy, flavorful result. The second uses store-bought puff pastry and, as you would expect, results in a tender, flaky crust. The photo above shows the puff pastry version.

The dough (traditional)

5-6 c all purpose flour
2 c water
2 tsp salt
1/2 c lard (preferred) or butter, plus a little extra

Bring the water, salt, and lard to a simmer and stir to melt the lard. Let come to room temperature. Add the flour a cup at a time, mixing to get a firm dough. You may not use all the flour. Knead for a minute or two until smooth, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Puff pastry

If it is frozen, let the puff pastry thaw in the fridge overnight.

The filling

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 c pimento-stuffed green olives, cut in thirds
1/3 c dried currants or raisins
2 tsp dried oregano
A few grindings of black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB tomato paste

Sauté the ground beef in a little oil until just browned. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft. Dissolve the tomato paste in 1/2 c broth or water and add to the pan along with the olives, currants, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Simmer slowly for a few minutes. Taste and correct salt if needed. If necessary, add a bit more water or broth to get a moist but not soupy mixture. Or if too soupy let simmer for a while to reduce. Set aside to cool (may be refrigerated overnight at this time or frozen for future use).

The assembly (traditional dough)

Bring the filling to room temperature if needed. Break off chunks of the still-cold dough and form into balls about golf ball size or a little larger. Roll into 4-5 inch circles on a floured surface and place 3-4 TB of filling in the center. Moisten the edge with water and fold over, sealing by pressing with a fork. The goal is to trap as little air as possible inside. If the sealed edge is wider than you want you can trim a bit off with a sharp knife. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Oven at 375.

The assembly (puff pastry)

Roll the pastry out onto a cutting board. Cut into desired size pieces. Because the pastry comes in rectangular sheets, it’s most efficient to use square or rectangular pieces for assembly. Put some filling on each piece, brush the edges with water, and fold over, sealing with your fingers or a fork. If you are using square pieces you an make triangles.

Final prep and baking

Use a pointy knife to cut a small slit in the top of each. For traditional dough, melt a bit of lard or butter and brush over the surface. For puff pastry, use milk. Bake for 15-20 min until nicely browned. Serve warm.

Jamaican Fish Stew

April 22, 2018

This is a winner on many fronts. Very flavorful, it is a good way to feed fish to people who aren’t fond of fish in simpler presentations. Leftovers do well, also. You can use pretty much any white-fleshed fish: cod, haddock, mahi, etc. as long as the fillets aren’t too thin. Serve with white rice.

2 lbs fish in 2 inch chunks
2 limes
1 large or 2 small onions
4 cloves garlic
1 hot pepper such as Scotch bonnet
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
3 TB tomato paste
4 tsp white or cider vinegar
1-1/2 tsp sugar

Dust the fish with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the juice of the limes. Set aside.

Coarsely dice the onion and slice the garlic. Put in a skillet with a bit of oil and the whole pepper (see note below), pepper flakes, thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the onion is just starting to color. Add the coconut milk, tomato paste, vinegar, and sugar and cook slowly for about 10 minutes. Add fish and any remaining marinade. Stir and cook slowly until fish is cooked thru, perhaps 5-7 minutes. Adjust salt and add a touch more vinegar and/or sugar if you think necessary. Remove whole pepper and serve.

Note: For more heat, cut the pepper in half before adding.

 

Congee with chicken, scallion relish, and crispy shallots

March 24, 2018

Congee is Chinese comfort food at its best. At its simplest it is, like fried rice, something to do with your leftovers – cooked rice, some shreds of meat and vegetables, cook in broth until the rice is soft and soupy. But it can be made as a more formal recipe, as this one, and is worthy of serving to guests.

The chicken:

2 large chicken thighs with bone and skin (about 1 lb)
1 tsp black pepper
1 TB oil
2 c low salt chicken stock
5 scallions, white and green parts, in 1 inch lengths
2 inch piece ginger cut into coins (no need to peel)
4 garlic cloves, halved (no need to peel)
1/4 c Chinese rice cooking wine or dry sherry
1/3 c soy sauce
2 whole star anise
2 tsp Chinese hot pepper paste (optional)

Heat the oil in a soup pot and brown the chicken well on all sides. Remove excess oil from the pan. Turn chicken skin-side up, add all remaining ingredients, then simmer gently for 60-90 minutes until the meat is very tender. Remove chicken from the pan and take the meat off the bones, discarding bones and skin. Set aside. Strain cooking liquid thru a fine-meshed strainer. Set the broth aside and discard the solids. Shred the meat and set aside.

The Relish

5 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 fresh hot red pepper such as a Thai bird chili or a ripe jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c unseasoned rice vinegar

Mix all ingredients and set aside

Crispy shallots

Thinly sliced shallots, about a cup
2 c vegetable oil

Place oil and shallots in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle bubbling and stir occasionally until golden brown. Strain and spread on a paper towel, salting lightly.

Note: Strain the shallot-cooking oil thru a paper coffee filter and save it. It can be used for frying again or as a tasty change to your salad dressing.

Final prep

1 c raw short-grained rice
Chicken cooking liquid
4 c water
2 c low salt chicken broth
Shredded chicken

Put all except the chicken in a heavy bottomed soup pot and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 1 to 1-1/2 hour, stirring frequently, until the rice is very soft and soupy. Add some more water if needed. Remove from heat, stir in the chicken, and serve in bowls, passing the relish and shallots separately.

Instant pot black bean soup

March 11, 2018

This hearty winter fave is ready in little more than an hour.

1-1/2 c dry black (turtle) beans, rinsed but not soaked
8 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 tennis ball-sized onion, peeled and chopped
1 red bell  pepper, seeded and chopped
1 or 2 jalapeño pepper(s), seeded and chopped
3 large or 4 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp white pepper (or use black pepper)
6 c chicken or vegetable broth
2 tb chopped cilantro

Garnish:

More chopped cilantro
sour cream

Using the pot’s saute setting, cook the bacon until just starting to brown. Remove most of the rendered fat, leaving about 1 TB behind. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic and continue to saute, stirring, for another 5 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients except cilantro, stir, and seal the pot. Pressure-cook on high pressure for 40 min, then let the pressure release on its own. Stir in the cilantro, adjust salt if needed, and serve with the garnishes.


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