Monday, August 16, 2010

Not quite Refried Beans and other goodies

The staple and mainstay of every Mexican meal for me starts and ends with the beans. When traveling and eating in every Mexican,, not to be confused with tex/mex, establishment I can find, I use to things to test their merit. The first, if they offer it, is a proper and well executed Chile Rellenos,,a Anaheim Chile, roasted and peeled, stuffed with Monetary jack Cheese, battered, fried and served with a rich and dark red Chile sauce. A close second is the re fried bean, simple and tasty this mainstay has filled many a belly and made a full day's hard work possible. Though simple, everyone has their own twist and turn and some work,, some on the other hand,,do not.
I stumbled in to my bean recipe years ago while trying to find ways to make food less fatty and, (even if just slightly), better for you, or me, as the case may be. My re fried beans are not technically re-fried, however I think you won't miss the lard, or pork fat traditionally used to Re-fry beans. They still have the creamy texture we love and covet and all the flavor you crave, demand and have come to expect.
First you need a bag of Pinto beans, I try to buy them from a supplier who "moves" a lot of beans, as they can sit for ever on your commercial or chain grocer's shelf. Pick through the beans, look them over for small rocks which make their way in to the bag now and then. Rinse and soak overnight, but not more than 24 hours,, they will eventually ferment, causing a white foam to form on the water and rendering the beans sour. I usually soak from 12 to 18 hours. After soaking, drain the beans and in a heavy bottom pan, I have a special bean pot I inherited from my Mother, who used it for Cod knows what. You want something that will not scald the beans during the long cooking process.
Heat your pot and roughly chop one Yellow Onion, or Sweet Vadilla, sweat the onion with 3 large cloves of garlic. Once translucent, add 2 Tbl ground Cumin, 3 Tbl Chimayo red chili powder, or any high quality red chili powder found in a Gourmet shop or local bodega, stir in the dry spices and cook for one minute, to mix thoroughly and the cooking brings out flavor. Next, add the beans and cover with water or better yet beef, chicken or vegetable stock, usually takes about a quart of liquid,, but you may need to add more during the cook process. I do not add salt until the end, it tends to make the beans tough. Bring the pot to a boil, cover and lower heat to a strong simmer. Checking and stirring every hour the beans should cook in about two to three hours,, depending on your altitude, age of beans and the luck of the draw. When the beans are fork tender, uncover and cook down the liquid until the beans are a creamy consistency. If you do not want re fried beans, you can drain them and use them for any number of things, add to soups, make a salad, use them as a side dish. But if re fried is your goal, evaporating most of the liquid will do the trick. At this point I salt to taste,, beans will require good amount of salt and quantities will vary depending on your taste and the saltiness of your stock. I finish the beans with a handful of chopped cilantro, which some find optional.
Once you have good beans, you have the building blocks for a great and healthy meal. My beans have now been served with Grilled Sea bass taco's and last night they found their way on to a plate with Annatto marinated bone in Pork chops and a green chilie sauce I made, portioned and froze last year. The beans also freeze well and add a touch of Mexico to any meal. I am sorry I have no pictures, but my photo loading program is on the fritz,, darn PC's,, but a pot of beans is not the most photogenic of food suffs there is, so use your imagination and make the beans your own with any twist you enjoy. Eat up and share!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Peach and Blueberry crisp.....

After yesterday's peach extravaganza I still had enough energy to make Peach and Blueberry crisp. Now I am by no means a baker, with guidance and patience I might make dough boy, but baker is not in the cards, too much science for me. If you fall into this category have no fear, crisps are not really baking. They are pretty forgiving, a quality I admire in a baked good. You can use any fruit you have handy or better yet, is in season, ripe and abundant.

I had not made a crisp myself in years so I looked up a quick recipe and used it as a guideline. Having no oats in the house I found a bag of home made local granola, made by my friend Steve and his partner Claudia, OM HOME GRANOLA, ( It happened to be cinnamon and raisin, which worked perfectly for me, also, because it has been so humid as of late and I had not properly stored said granola, (sealed plastic bag, or a house with air conditioning would have helped), it was a little damp, or let's say less than it's usual crisp delicious self. So I had my oats and like most kitchens I had flour, brown sugar and butter. The nice thing about the crisp is that you can make the recipe your own with any number of small changes or additives. Add crystallized ginger to the fruit, use orange or watermelon juice to marinate the fruit in, add mint,, really the possibilities are endless.

Here are some basic guidelines,, the rest is up to you and your tastes, as with all things food, have fun and share!

Peach and Blueberry crisp
2 cups of fruit...(in my case, 1 1/2 cup peaches
1/2 cup blueberries)

2 TBS lemon juice

1/2 tsp Vanilla extract

1 cup of Oats..(or crumbled Granola)
1/2 cup packed Brown Sugar

1/3 cup of Flour

1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix fruit with juice, ( add a touch of sugar if you feel the fruit is too tart), put in small baking dish

In separate bowl mix the dry ingredients and add the extract and butter, mix and let sit for ten minutes.
loosely crumble the "crisp" mixture on top of the fruit and bake for 20 to 25 minutes,, let cool,( at least a little), on a rack and serve.

Home made ice cream, blueberry, was my choice for an a accompaniment, but you can pick your own poison,,good luck!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pretty as a Peach

Well if you have an ounce of sense in your head you have discovered your local Farmers Market. These days you would have to be Bubble Boy not to have stumbled across mass amount's of healthy people glamoring around stands containing the fruits and vegetables of the land you live in. So it will come to no surprise to most of you that Peaches are here, have been for a while and will continue to be for a month or so. Most markets sell them by the pound, or in bag's, (either 1/4 or 1/2 Peck), a quarter Peck is around 12- 15 Peaches depending on the kind and the size, and how many you eat on the way home, a common issue for me, so I get a little extra for the drive.

What in the name of Cod am I going to do with 12-15 peaches that will undoubtedly ripen at exactly the same moment and rot soon afterwards? Freeze them!, Yes it is a little work, but not much compared to the rewards, imagine making a peach pie in the middle of winter using your own Local peaches? Thanksgiving and Christmas spring to mind if you follow those things, need to impress your Mother in-law? peach pie while the snow is falling..try it.

For now lets not focus on when and how you might use the peaches to your advantage, just how to get them to storage.

I brought a large pot of water to boil, with a pinch of salt added and quickly placed/lowered..not dropped, the peaches into the water, counted to ten and carried the pot to the sink, where I gently poured the peaches into a colander. Then replacing them in the pot I covered them with cold water and ice cubes. When you are refilling the pot with water, use your hand to diffuse the force from the faucet, peaches bruise VERY easy, nobody likes to be bruised. Let the peaches

chill in the water for a few minutes before placing on a paper towel, or on a cooling rack in the sink,, my method of choice. If you hit your mark and the fruit is just ripe enough, the skin will literally fall off the peach, but some will require a gentle tug to remove the skin. Next, over a large bowl and with a paring knife cut the peach to the pit in quarters, at the last one, you should be able to "pop" out a section, and once you are in, you're all set. Cut each 1/4 into whatever size slices you like, I shoot for 4 slices out of a 1/4. Once this is done squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon on to the peaches and toss lightly.

Seems like a lot, but you are coming down the home stretch. On the largest sheet pan or plastic cutting board that will fit in your freezer place plastic wrap, or if you have one, a rubber baking mat. If you have not seen these they are great for cookies and any baking needs and they roll up for easy storage, plus very little cleanup, your local culinary store will have them. You just need something to keep the peaches from freezing to the sheet pan, or whatever flat surface you choose to use.

Place the peaches in rows, cover lightly with plastic wrap and freeze for 6 hours or overnight. Now all you need do is put the peach slices in a freezer bag, and you have set yourself up for a winter of success, at least in the peach department. You can add them to smoothies, or bake with them, tease, then please your friends with your bounty of fresh fruit from your local farmers market in the middle of a long New England winter. I am making a Blueberry and Peach Crisp with some of my "leftovers" from my afternoon of peach freezing, look for the crisp in the next edition and keep on cooking!

Monday, August 9, 2010

been gone so long I needed a chicken

I have been remiss in my writing as of late, see last posting from yours truly, (dated June of '09). So I feel it is high time to get back on the horse, or in this case, into the kitchen. However during the summer months I try to do as much cooking as I can on the grill, in the relative comfort of my back yard, catching summer breezes and fighting the mosquitoes.

Last night was no exception, with the humidity level spiked at 89% and very little wind, the house was a bit unbearable. I had however planned for this event the day before and made a creamy Potato salad with chives, mint and a light caesar dressing, so I was ahead of the game. Cutting any commercial caesar dressing with an equal amount of mayonnaise and a splash of white balsamic vinegar makes for a nice easy dressing, salt and pepper to taste. Any component you can make a head of time will save you time and energy. There are days when I just "feel" like cooking, so I try to take advantage of those moments and I make things that can be frozen and used later, or something that will get devoured within 48 hours,, less in most cases.

Grilled marinated vegetables from my Farmers Market, ( Coastal Growers' Market, ) would accompany my grilled chicken. Any veggie's you prefer or that your children will eat will suffice, this time of year the market is overflowing with bounty and choice. I marinated with a little left over salad dressing from the back of the refrigerator, this time it happened to be a honey mustard vinaigrette, cut with some Olive Oil and Red Wine vinegar, salt, pepper and crushed garlic cloves. As with all cooking you can use whatever you like best,or happen to have on hand, sometimes just cleaning out the ice box can cause your brain to stumble into some wonderful concoctions. When you do find something you like, especially by accident, try to write down on an index card, or your handy electronic device, a brief description of what you just made. Like me your memory might not be what is once was, for a variety of reasons we will not go in to here.

Now grilling a whole split chicken may seem a little daunting at first, but it is really quite easy if you remember a few things. First you need to lower your grill temperature, something I am remiss to do, but in this case a necessary evil. Lower heat, something hovering around 350-400 degrees will keep your bird from cooking too fast and drying out, it will also lessen the risk of flair ups and a charred bird. You can purchase split bone in chicken from your grocer or ask your local butcher to split a whole chicken for you, providing they are not a 16 old with spikes in their face, purple hair and the attention span of a Nat. Knowing your butcher in this case is a plus. If you feel up to the task , splitting your bird is easy and good practice. I used a 4 # roaster chicken, I find that larger birds can be a little tough. Place your chicken backside down, after patting dry with paper towels, on a cutting board. I keep a separate board for chicken and meats. All cutting boards will absorb flavor and liquids so unless you like your watermelon scented with garlic, a fruit and veggie board are in order. It sounds like a lot of boards, but all culinary stores carry multi packs of inexpensive boards, which can be discarded after prolonged use.
With a sharp and heavy blade, I like the Chinese cleaver, cut into the breast plate and separate the chicken halves with your hands, pressing downward. The back bone will be exposed and can be cut out with a little elbow grease or a good whacking. Of course some folks, mostly those south of the Mason Dixon line find the back bone a coveted possession, so if you hail from there, or just like to get personal with your bird, feel free to leave it in. Pat dry again and rub liberally with salt and black pepper. Your marinade can be anything you like, I went with Adobo sauce from a can of Chipotles, the juice of one lemon and some smoked paprika. Marinate for 3-48 hours, having spent the day doing yard work I opted for the short marinade time of 3 hours.

Place the chicken, bone side down, on the grill and cover, keeping the top on the grill will keep the smoky flavor locked in and let the bird cook at an even temperature. Half an hour at 350 degrees will get your bird close to done, I usually flip the bird to breast side down, crisping the skin and cooking the chicken through. You can also just keep the chicken bone side down and increase the heat to 500 for the last 10 minutes. If you are concerned your chicken is not completely cooked, poke a sharp knife or grill skewer in between the leg and thigh, if the juice runs clear, your all set, blood, or red juice will tell you to continue cooking. As with all meats, resting is an important factor and I stick with 4 minutes a pound, so in this case my bird sit's for 16 minutes or so, covered in the comfort of my kitchen. This also gives me time to grill my vegetables and make a small salad of yellow tomato's and pickled beets,, yes I pickled them and that recipe will follow at a later date, or feel free to email me for it.
All that is left is the plating and a desert decision, which in my case will be a wine berry sorbet Jane made last week with wine berries from the garden, but the choice is yours, so enjoy and keep reading!