Thursday, September 30, 2010

Holy mock Mole'

If you have never heard of, let alone tried Mole' sauce you are in for a treat and should try it the first time you it see available at any authentic Mexican restaurant you happen to come upon. Mole' varies from place to place, region to region and in some cases, day to day. Take a moment and look it up on wikipedia sometime, there is a history and a tale as rich as the sauce itself. I won't go in to the details, but the basic premise is that it is a sauce of great honor and tradition, to be served and eaten on special occasions and with reverence with loved ones.

That being said, let me say this is not the end all, be all, Mole' recipe. It is really something I threw together last minute when I was looking for something to with the excess of chicken I had leftover. This coincided with my discovery that the "bbq" sauce I had been thawing, (the label had long since slipped off, if ever there at all), was in fact some Ancho chilie sauce I made a few months back. Ancho chilies are dried pablano peppers and readily available in any gourmet/local store. They have a rich, slightly bitter flavor and great color. My Ancho sauce consists mainly of 10 dried ancho chilies, soaked in hot/hot water for over and hour and up to a day. De stem and rinse the seeds out, toss in a blender with 2 roasted/peeled/seeded red peppers, 6 blackened roma tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, 2 Tbl olive oil and 1/2 cup of chicken stock,( beef or veg will do)...and blend until smooth. Scald in a cast iron pan and simmer for 20 minutes. It stores well and goes great with fish/fowl or meat. Plus, as in this case, it works for a base for other stuff,,always a plus in my book.

I gently reheated 1 Qt Ancho sauce, and added 1Tbl cumin, 1 Tbl Chimayo red chilie powder, 1 Tbl chili powder, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt/pepper to taste, mixing it in while the sauce is not yet heated, it mixes smoother when not hot. Then reduce to around 3 cups, or until you get a nice sauce consistency. Now for the big finish,,the chocolate, I used 3 squares of Lindt chococlate with chili, which I seem to see at every store I run into. You can use any kind you like, I would stick with higher grade, don't toss in a Hershey bar, ideally some Mexican chocolate would be wonderful. Again,, this was a toss together meal, so work with me.

So we have our sauce, all we need now is a good civil engineer and we can start to construct our masterpiece. As I mentioned, I had a few cups of chicken meat, pulled from the previous nights roasted bird, corn tortillas, ( a fridge staple), jack and cheddar cheese, cilantro and diced spanish onion. I find that warming the tortillas in the microwave the easiest for this and placed 4 corn tortillas in a small plastic bag, micro for 30 seconds and let them steam in the bag for a few moments before assembling, caution, there will be steam, hot tortillas and potential danger, have no fear,, trundle on. Place tortillas on cutting board and put a little sauce on each, followed by shredded chicken, lightly seasoned with salt/pepper, chilie powder and lime, sprinkle some raw onions and cheese and roll,,you do know how to roll don't you? Put down some sauce in an oven safe dish, lay filled tortillas on top and cover with sauce and cheese. Bake, covered at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, uncover for ten more, or until cheese and sauce is bubbling and brown.

In this case I had some canned re fried beans, yes canned re fried beans, sometimes you do what you have to, for a side dish and since dinner really did not take up much time I made a Avocado "relish" to top the enchiladas with. The relish is just basic guacamole, but instead of smashing all the ingredients together, I dice the avocado and fold in the cilantro, onion, garlic, jalapeno, lime and salt, which by the way kills on chips.

All this really shows is that you can toss together anything from your fridge in a small amount of time, if you look at it with an open mind, and might just stumble on to your own masterpiece. So get started creating and might like the resulting smiles.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sole stuffed with smoked bluefish.......?

This may sound like more work than some of our previous projects, however it can be done in stages and you will be done before you know it. The summer of 2010 has not been the best fishing season in recent years, partially due to new restrictions limiting size and amount of the catch, so I have been finding different things to do with what is available, local and fresh. After a steady diet of swordfish and scallops I decided to look no further than our flat little friend,, the fillet of Sole. I like it for its versatility, consistency in size and subtle flavors. Easily pan fried with a lemon, caper sauce or lightly breaded and baked, it cooks quick and is a nice source of protein.

I knew I had to make something a little special, since Jane had been digging in the rocky shore line to provide our appetizer, so I entered Zeek's Creek fish and bait shack with thoughts of Bluefish, or Bass. Finding none of the previously mentioned delicacies I perused the usual suspects and thought the Sole looked the happiest among the clan. Right next to the sole was some of Zeek's smoked Bluefish, lightly smoked and studded with peppercorns,,,, a light bulb went off in my head,,and sole stuffed with smoked bluefish, spinach and cream cheese was born!

Now all this was going to need was a sauce and I was on my way, since I had a large bag of basil from the farmers market, I thought it sounded like a good time to make some pesto for the winter and use a little on the fish tonight.

Making pesto is not hard and does not take long, it freezes well and is so much less expensive to make than purchase, plus you can tailor the taste to your liking. I find most commercial pesto's to be a weak in the garlic department and for me, a good garlic base defines a good pesto.

1 Lbs basil leaves, large stems discarded

1/2 cup toasted crumbled walnuts, pine nuts or try different nuts..Almonds...Pistachios..

5 cloves peeled garlic

1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp salt..pepper to taste

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Wash the basil well, pat dry and place in blender or food processor, add remaining ingredients and pulse/grind until you have a smooth paste. You may need to add more olive oil and you will need to push down the side with a rubber spatula for an even grind. In the end you will have around 2 cups of pesto which you can put up in portion size containers and freeze for the long winter. When storing, be sure to cover the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil,, it will help prevent browning. If browning does occur the top layer can be tossed out, or mixed in, depending on your mood and the quality of the company you are feeding.

On to the main course,, stuffing the fish. For starters mix 4 oz of room temperature cream cheese with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup shredded smoked bluefish.. you can substitute smoked salmon, oysters or trout, juice of 1/4 lemon and some chives, salt and pepper to taste keeping in mind the bluefish is peppery, set aside.

Blanch a large handful of spinach and let cool

Now take your sole filet's and cut them down the middle, there will be a natural split, cut along it, one will be larger than the other. Lay your fish skin side up, there is no skin, however you can the marking of where it once was, sprinkle with salt and pepper and put down a few leafs of wilted spinach, keeping in line with the fillet. Then "spread" on the bluefish/cream cheese mixture, it will be thick, you can make little logs and press them down onto the spinach. Do not make it too thick, remember you are going to be rolling this up, so the filling will add up. From smallest to largest end, roll the fish in a pinwheel and place in buttered oven dish, avoid placing too close and give the fish room to cook. Give them a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish. Now you are ready for the oven, set to 375 degrees, bake covered in tin foil for 10 minutes, uncover and bake for 8-10 minutes more and you ready to eat!

For service you can either top the fish with pesto, or as I did, serve under the sole,, I like the way the pinwheel looks on a plate, so keep on cooking and check back here for more food from my table.

One side note,, if you make extra bluefish/cream cheese mix, it is wonderful on toasted pita or a ritz cracker!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Look what we found!

Summer is over as the Harvest moon has set but tell that to my taste buds. Last night we dined on fresh clams right from our front yard, or in this case, front shore. Now I know most people will have to resort to going to your local fishmonger, but nothing screams summer like a bowl of steaming clams, some broth and if you like...melted butter!
A couple of times a year Jane gets up the gumption to sit in the outgoing tide and sift through the silty home of the Rhode Island clam and every time she does, I reap the rewards. There really is nothing to making good steamers as long as you remember to take the time and care to preparing them for their steam bath. After a good washing and light scrubbing with cold water, put your clams in a bowl, cover with cold water and add 1Tbl salt & a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of corn meal, mix in the clams and put, covered with a wet towel, in the fridge. The clams will "eat" the corn meal and spit it out, along with any sand their have digested recently. We usually repeat this process at least twice over a one day period.
All you have left to do know is steam your clams and dig in. Set up a steamer, you can add aromatics to the water,, herbs, onion, garlic,,anything you like, however I like mine straight, traditional, unadorned. With clams in pot, bring the water to a boil, covered for about 5 minutes, you can give the clams a toss at the halfway point, they are done when they open. If the majority of the clams are open and you have a few that refuse, have no fear and pass those over, if a clam won't open it has good reasons and we should no doubt them.
Place your clams in a bowl, ladle a cup of broth for dripping and rewarming and serve with melted clarified butter, if you choose. The clams we get are often so sweet and succulent I find they need no help, so i forgo the butter, but some people find that part integral to the equation. Whatever you decide you can't go wrong and it could no be easier. We served the clams as an appetizer, along with smoked bluefish spinach stuffed sole, but you are going to have to wait until the next post for that recipe. So until,, eat more clams and let summer live on, share and have fun!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chicken Livers!...the sky is falling

Now if you know anything about my Mother, you know she was no Julia Child, she did however know food. Being a good Jewish gal from Brooklyn she knew a thing or two about the chicken liver.
So shake off your prejudice and dust those glands with flour. They deserve another chance if you have relegated them to something you pass over in the meat department, or better yet from your local chicken herder. They work well straight up, just salt, pepper and some flour, sauteed in butter or oil and served with hot peppers and lemon. Or you can make them Asian with a simple marinade of soy, ginger, sesame and rice wine vinegar.
My favorite is still something of a variation on liver and onions with bacon.
I dust the drained chicken livers with Chimayo red chili, cumin, salt/pepper and garlic powder. Heat a large saute' pan and add butter or oil, both is a nice touch and after dredging the livers with flour pan sear them for 4 minutes a side. When you turn your livers, add one thin sliced vidallia onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic and if you have it, a 1/2 cup of cooked chorizo, (Mexican sausage), you can also use bacon. If using bacon, render the bacon 1/2 way, then add your livers and continue to cook, using the bacon fat to cook the livers, which adds a ton of flavor. When the livers are near done, add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock, one diced tomato and a handful of chopped cilantro. The flour and stock will make a rich sauce, for extra artery clogging you can "finish" the dish a pat of butter, it will give the sauce a nice shin and lets face it, butter tastes good.

I usually serve with grit's, (because I am a junky), but mashed sweet potato's, rice,or anything to soak up the goodness will do.
So, throw caution to the wind and enjoy a dish that will make your Mother proud,,well, maybe not your Mother, but mine with be thrilled. Keep cooking and remember to share, it's more fun!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Release the Beet!

The Beet,,,,,,
Much maligned in childhood, well, not mine,, but of lore, right along with brussel sprouts and Popeye's favorite, spinach. Many folks aversion to the beet is their introduction to them. If you have ever tried the lowly "salad bar" beet salad, with its wilted onions and flavorless texture, I understand your horror. Many of us grew up with a canned beet or two on the culinary landscape and likely ducked them like enemy fire. Fast forward to the green conscious, farmers market new world order and you will discover beets have regained their lofty and regal place on the food chart.
How can one resist the dark crimson, burgundy, yellow or orange flesh that hides beneath the tough, coarse skin? Beets make a wonderful addition to salads, bringing color and a vitamin or two. A nice side dish, hot or cold and are very good when given the "salad bar" treatment at home,, try a little mint, white balsamic vinegar, virgin olive oil, red onion, garlic and salt/pepper, toss and chill, serve on baby greens with crumbled blue cheese,,,Sweet Nirvana.
Beets are easy to deal with and just take a little prep to get you on your way to a beet filled day. Buy beets that are firm and preferably have their greens, which sauteed are a great alternative to mustard greens or chard. Cut the stems/greens and rinse the beets in cold water, then in a small pot cover the beets with water, adding a pinch of salt. Bring the beets to a boil, uncovered, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 25-30 minutes. At this point I remove from the heat and go about my day, the beets cook evenly as the cool in the can't really rush the part of the process. You can cook the beets longer and then just shock them in cold water, but I think the outer edges always get overcooked compared to the center, but hey, if your in a hurry,, it does work.
Once the beets have cooled, cut off the ends and cut them however you choose for your needs. Quartered is nice since it makes them look nothing like a canned beet! Peeling is best done before you refrigerate, once cold the skin tends to cling, also I cut them right after peeling as you are already covered in beet juice, which by the way will stain your tuxedo.
So baby don't fear the beet, put it on your plate and in your diet before the season is over..Enjoy and make enough for two...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Macaroni and cheese gets an upgrade

After being bombarded by adverts for Pizzareia Uno and their new "lobster" menu, including Lobster macaroni, I thought I should give this lofty dish my personal touch and perhaps lift what has to be a poor substitute for a great idea and bring it to you.
I know it is summer and the thought of a plate of bubbling, steamy cheese laden pasta might turn even the heartiest of tummies, however I found a relatively cool night a few days ago and thought this would be the chance to give it a run.
Also, trying this now will help to ensure it's coming out perfect the next frost covered day on the calendar. You can substitute any pasta you choose,, I prefer the largest Penne or Rigatoni you can find and in this case, boxed is a better choice than fresh as it holds better under baking and certainly when reheating, that is, if, a big IF, there happen to be any leftovers.
If you have never made Mac N' Cheese from scratch is does require a few simple techniques that if you don't have in your bag of tricks, you should and soon will. You will need to make a Bechamel sauce, one of the "Mother" sauces, for a base in your mac n' cheese. Do not fear as this is easier than is sounds and will come in handy. Your "Mother" sauce will turn into a Mornay sauce with the addition of cheese.
Bechamel is basically a roux, (equal parts flour and butter, cooked for 5 minutes to remove the raw starch flavor), and half and half or milk,, (note, non fat will not do the trick,, this is not a Jenny Craig recipe). Once you have "cooked" your roux, add the milk/ half & half, bring to boil, while stirring and lower heat. At this point you can add the cheese, slowly stirring it in to avoid clumps.
1 Tsp LOBSTER BASE, available at most grocery store




Cook flour and butter together for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid burning, add lobster base, nutmeg and paprika, Milk or half and half, bring to a boil, again, careful not to burn and shut off. Slowly mix in cheese and basil, season to taste with salt and pepper.
While your waiting for your Mornay sauce to come together you can cook the pasta, drain and cool, keeping your pasta a little al dente', remember it is going to bake.
For the ritz crust, melt the butter and garlic, add ritz crumbs, lemon and S & P

Now that you have all the parts all you need do is assemble. I used a Pyrex dish, (9x6), but anything you have will work and for this dish, the prettier, the better. It is a nice dish to serve whole at the table and let people dig in for themselves. Pour in 1/2 your pasta and half of your sauce, then evenly place lobster in dish, cover with remaining pasta and sauce, loosely top with ritz crackers and bake, covered at 350 degrees for 1/2 an hour, uncover and baked until crust is golden brown, let cool 5 minutes and serve.
You be the judge, i have never been to Pizzareia Uno, but I am guess after this dish you won't feel the need to either...enjoy and make enough for everyone!