Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sweet Potato Crab Cakes

Here I go again... frying something. I bought a a sweet potato last week. I like to make sweet potato fries instead of the regular potato French fries now an then, but I wanted to make something different this time. I guess by now you've figured that I like crab. A couple of years ago I had sweet potato crab cakes at a local food fair, and they stuck in my mind. I did a little research and didn't really find any specific recipe that appealed to me, so I went ahead and put together ingredients that I thought made sense.

1 1/2 to 2 cups worth of grated sweet potato
6 to 8 oz canned lump crab meat, drained
1/4 cup onion, minced
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (if using dried like I did use one tablespoon)
1 teaspoon salt

oil for frying
lime to garnish

Peel and grate your sweet potato or run through a food processor. In a large bowl combine all your ingredients. Heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet. Form a ball with about a tablespoon of the mixture and drop into  hot oil. (You may have to press the balls in your hands to squeeze out excess liquid.) Drop balls in one by one adjusting the temperature of your oil as you go. Remove onto a paper towel lined plate. Squeeze a little lime on top if desired. Serve with your choice of dipping sauce.

(Note: you may only notice one egg in the photo. I added another one after I took the picture.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pollo Frito: Cuban Fried Chicken

I've slowed down my blogging but not my cooking. After posting over 100 recipes I'm pretty much down to repeating myself. I rattled my brain this week thinking of what to make that wasn't redundant. Finally I settled on fried chicken. I don't often make fried chicken because, well, it's fried. But what the heck? Cuban fried chicken is not battered so that eliminates some calories, and I had family over tonight who could help me eat it. The trick to this recipe is to marinate the chicken in mojo overnight, or for at least a minimum of three hours.

1 chicken cut up into sections, (I cut up the chicken breast into smaller pieces also)
vegetable oil for frying

for the mojo
4-5 cloves garlic pressed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup sour orange juice (half sweet orange juice and half lime juice)
1/2 large onion, peeled and sliced

Remove the skin from your chicken except for the legs and wings. Press the garlic with the salt and spices. Stir in orange juice. Place chicken pieces in non reactive bowl. Arrange onions over chicken and pour on marinade.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill a few hours or overnight. Drain chicken and discard marinade. Blot chicken dry. Fry the chicken pieces until golden and cooked through. (I didn't do a great job at draining the chicken or blotting it dry, so I had little burnt on pieces of garlic and onion, which was fine by me).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Carne con Papas

I don't make this too often because it reminds me of my first husband. Although he was born in Brooklyn, he was raised very Cuban. I mean in an old-fashioned has-to-have-dinner-on-the-table-when- he-gets-home Ricky Ricardo sort of way. Nothing store bought or out of a box, had to have Cuban food the way his mother (or father) made it... yada, yada, yada. This is one of the first Cuban meals I learned to make way back then—about 100 years ago.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves pressed
2 pounds lean stewing beef, cubed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 green pepper, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 cup beef stock (or 1 cup water with one beef bouillon cube)
1 tbsp. ketchup
A few pimento-stuffed green olives (optional)
2 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
Salt to taste

Okay, now here's the easy part. Take all of the above mentioned ingredients and toss them in a crock pot. Whaaaaa? Yes, meat for stew is very tough. You could make this on the stovetop, but after you sautee your onions and peppers and brown your meat and pour in the tomato sauce and the sherry, etc. you'd still have to let it simmer for at least 2 hours or more just to get tender meat. The alternative would be to make it in a pressure cooker, like my mother used to... but I'm afraid of those! And no, the potatoes won't fall apart from sitting in the crock pot for so long, just leave them in big chunks.

Serve over white rice (of course). Plantains as a side dish are the best!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gotta Have That Ribeye

Sometimes you just gotta eat a steak. I can go quite some time without eating any significant amount of red meat, but every few months I crave a steak—an American steak—not one of those skinny Cuban Palomilla steaks buried under mounds of onions and shoestring potatoes. Just a big fat ribeye steak seared in the frying pan and cooked to perfection. Nothing added to it, not even salt. How 'bout you?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Banana Walnut Bread

I was organizing the freezer this morning and out fell two bananas (once the bananas get too ripe I toss them in the freezer to use in baking).  They were trying to tell me something. This is a recipe that I adapted from my grandmother's recipe for panetela.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 very ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup milk
1 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
oatmeal (optional)

In a large bowl using a fork combine your softened butter with the sugar, add the eggs. Cut up your ripe bananas and add them to your mixture. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Chop 1 cup walnuts and stir into mixture. In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients: flour,  baking powder and salt. Measure one cup of milk. Slowly add a little of the dry ingredients a bit of milk and stir. Continue until all the ingredients have been added.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour 2 bread pans. Pour your mixture equally into each pan. Sprinkle the tops with oatmeal (optional) and bake for 45 minutes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Time for my husband to order out

I had some snow crabs and mussels in the freezer (nothing is fresh here) and decided to prepare them enchildados. This photo was taken at the halfway point. Didn't get a chance to take one at the end, it went too fast (I had company, it wasn't just me, okay).  I posted the recipe for this back in March. Click here.

My husband went out and got himself some chicken wings. Go figure.

Dulce de Ciruela

I don't know why so many people turn up their noses at prunes. They are sweet and good for you. They provide potassium,  fiber,  antioxidants as well as iron and Vitamin A, and they promote good digestive health.

Growing up both my mother and my grandmother made this dessert. It is very simple and will keep in the refrigerator for a month or more.

20oz bag of dried plums (I guess they don't like to call them prunes anymore, whatever)
1 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
large slice of orange peel (optional)

Wash your prunes and place in a pot with enough water to cover twice the height of the prune. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight to rehydrate the prunes. Stir in your sugar, cinnamon stick and orange peel and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium low let it cook uncovered until much of the water has evaporated or until it reaches the consistency of your desired syrup (about an hour or more).  Turn off the burner and let it cool completely. Remove the orange peel and cinnamon stick. Store in glass containers and refrigerate. My grandmother used to serve it with cream cheese, but cottage cheese works well too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Yucca Cheese Balls

A few weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon there was an emergency on our block. We had fire trucks and police cars, ambulances and EMT's. The whole neighborhood came out to see what was going on.

A couple of ladies from the block introduced themselves as they stared oddly at me. Where are you from one asked? Miami I answered. But you have an accent and you look Hispanic. Although politically incorrect, they seemed harmless. I was born in Cuba, I replied, but considering I learned to speak in Miami, my accent is from Miami. (I think people here have an accent). They seemed very excited to have met a Cuban. Yes ladeies, there is a Cuban on your block.

This is all very strange to me. Having only lived in Miami and Los Angeles, it is difficult for me to not blend in. There are so many Hispanics in Miami, and when I lived in Hollywood there were 108 languages spoken in my high school – we were all foreign.

I guess one's comfortable with what one is exposed to. This leads me to food of course. I found a yucca root at the local supermarket the other day which I promptly put in my cart. The checkout lady inspected it and asked what do you do with this?  I replied: Well, it's sort of like a potato but starchier and thicker in consistency, you can boil it, fry it, use it in soups and stews. The girl loading my bags made a face. Have you eaten it before? I asked her. Yes, I didn't care for it.

I sigh.

When my cousins were here a few weeks ago they asked me if I had ever made yuca rellena. Like a papa rellena they explained, it's yummy. After my misadventure with alcapurrias last week, I was a bit hesitant to try something new...again, but I am quite familiar with yucca so, what the heck. I didn't want to make it like a papa rellena, meaning I wanted to simplify things and not have to make a meat filling. I came across a recipe for yuquitas rellenas con queso. 

This was a good idea but it required frying twice, and I'm avoiding the calories. I researched further and found this recipe from Emeril for carimanolas which is a meat stuffed fried yucca.

I decided to take ideas from both

2 lbs yucca root
olive oil
4 ounces cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (use whatever cheese you prefer)
vegetable oil for frying

I used the following seasoning, but it is totally optional, you can season with salt and pepper or any other spices  you prefer.

Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning)

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon onion powder

(I didn't have the thyme or the onion powder)
Mix these ingredient together. I put it all in a bottle and shook.

Place yucca in a large pot with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, but not falling apart. (about 45 minutes). Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash with a drizzle of olive oil. Mix in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the creole seasoning. (You can use your hands)

Take about a tablespoonful of the yuca mixture into your hands and roll into into a small ball. Using a finger (I used a measuring teaspoon), press a deep hole into the center of each. Insert your cheese into the center of each ball and gently work the yucca dough around it to completely enclose. (I made a couple with shredded mozzarella, but it was too messy. Non-shredded cheese is best)

Heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil. Add the balls in batches and cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve hot or at room temperature.

I only made a few since I was testing it (I refrigerated the rest). I found that these balls needed a cool dipping sauce. All I had on hand was ranch dressing, but I think some sour cream and chives would work well.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tamal en Cazuela

My grandmother was crowned the queen of Cuban tamales by those who knew her, but growing up I didn't like tamales. Later as an adult, even though I learned to appreciate my abuela's tamales, I preferred tamal en cazuela. 

I decided to make this dish vegetarian although it traditionally calls for pork and/or chorizo. Knowing my meat loving family, I've prepared pork in the slow cooker to add to their bowls of my vegetarian cornmeal.

For the cornmeal:
1 cup ground yellow cornmeal
6 cups cold water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons salt

In a large pot over medium heat combine the cornmeal, water, oil and salt. Whisk until the mixture starts to thicken.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened about 30 minutes.

For the sofrito:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
10-12 piminto stuffed olives (optional)

In a large skillet  heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sautee your oinions, peppers and garlic, stirring until the onion is tender about 8 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and cumin. Simmer 30 mintues, stirring frequently.

Add the tomato mixture and olives to the cooked cornmeal. Blend well.

For the pork:
2 lbs boneless pork shoulder cut into bite size pieces (this dish is eaten with a spoon)
salt and pepper to taste
juice of one lime
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
dash of cumin
drizzle of olive oil

Put all these ingredients into a slow cooker and walk away.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Outside it's America

It doesn't get more American than the Midwest, but sometimes I forget I'm living in America. Considering I spend more time online than outside, I tend to ignore where I'm situated. Of course, Miami was a different story. You'd be surprised how many Americans consider Miami a foreign country, I mean they don't even speak English there! I only remember I'm in true Americaville when I want diversity. The remedy is Chicago.

I have mentioned before on this blog that I live two hours outside of Chicago, but due to obligations, I don't get out there too often. These pictures are from a couple years back.

I brought up the subject of Chicago again because my daughter was there with her boyfriend a couple of weeks ago for the Taste of Chicago which is a food festival that takes place in the week leading up to the fourth of July. They came back salivating over a fried food that consisted of plantain stuffed with pork. What was it called? I inquired. They had no idea. Well what country was it from? They shrugged their shoulders. I remembered that Sharline, one of my faithful followers, had asked me if I knew how to make alcapurrias. I googled it, showed the pictures to my daughter and... bingo, yes that was what they ate. I've never had it, and obviously never made it.  This is a Puerto Rican recipe.

I set out today to find the ingredient for this recipe that I found at Rican Recipes dot com. Click here.

Ingredients for the batter:

5 green bananas (Chiquita Bananas)
1 lb. taro root (yautía)
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small envelope sazón with annatto (achiote) coloring
Lots of vegetable cooking oil for deep frying

Thoroughly wash the yautías then peel. Peel the green bananas and wash with salted water. Finely grate the bananas and yautías then add the salt, vinegar, oil and sazón. Mix well and set aside.

The Filling:

Okay, so I never got this far. Let me tell you about my odyssey. I went on a quest to find really green bananas (I was hoping to find plantains). I thought for sure that Walmart would have them. No. Then I went to another local grocery store...No. The most I could find were sort of green Chiquita bananas that were turning yellow before my eyes, but I bought them anyway. I researched taro root and figured I could substitute with malanga which I had frozen a couple of months ago. Salt, sure. Vinegar, yep. Sazón with annatto – I've never used this before and had no idea what the spices involved were, but I was lucky to find it at Walmart. Vegetable oil...ditto.

I have to tell you that I put all day into this. What follows is a "Don't let this happen to you" post.

Mistake #1. The bananas weren't green enough and too large.

Mistake #2. My frozen malanga was, well, frozen .... and I had no idea how much of it would be the pound the recipe called for.

Mistake #3. I started grating, and the bananas immediately turned into mush. The malanga was another story ... not a pretty one.

Mistake #4. I went ahead and added the remaining ingredients when I could already tell that there was no way I could form this into a ball.

Mistake #5. I still believed I could save it. It needed more malanga, and and and I'll grate it in the food processor!

Mistake #6. I was delusional. This will work I thought. I pulled out the instructions: On the palm of your hand, spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture and make a shallow well. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons of the filling mixture and cover the filling (meat) with the banana mixture all around. In a deep fryer or deep frying pan, heat lots of vegetable oil to cover the alcapurrias. Fry until slightly crispy..... But I had no filling, wait, I had made meatloaf.... it was in the fridge. I'll test it with that.

Mistake #7. Ah ha! That's what it looks like on the internet. I made it! Now the taste test. FAIL!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Meatless Monday: Ricotta and Spinach Stuffed Manicotti

I don't like to post Italian recipes too often since I 'm no expert, but I decided to make manicotti and since it's been at least 15 years since I've made it, I thought it worth the while to post it.

For the sauce:
2 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups canned stewed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (a combination of dried oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil and savory)
olive oil

Coat a skillet with olive oil and sautee your onions and garlic. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, water and spices. Stir. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

The manicotti pasta:
8 oz manicotti
olive oil

Boil your manicotti in a pot of water with a splash of olive oil. Cook to al dente. Do not overcook or it will fall apart when stuffing. (It will soften later in the oven).  Strain and let cool.

For the filling:
1 small onion, chopped
10 oz canned spinach drained
olive oil
salt to taste

2 cups ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg

Sautee your onion in olive oil and add the spinach, cook until the liquid is absorbed, add salt to taste. Remove from heat and let cool.In a large bowl combine the spinach mixture, the three cheeses and the egg.

My top photo shows more spinach than I actually used. The written measurements are corect.

To stuff the manicotti:
Take a large ziplock bag and cut the corner (not to big, but not too small) pour half the cheese mixutre into the bag. Hold the manicotti with one had vertically and squeeze the mixture into the pasta halfway, then turn the manicotti and fill from the other end.

Coat a baking pan with olive oil and lay the stuffed manicotti side by side.

Pour your spaghetti sauce over the stuffed manicotti and place in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Shrimp Salad

A fairly simple recipe that goes as follows:

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot stick, grated
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Boil your cleaned shrimp in water with a splash of lime or lemon juice and a dash of salt. Let cool and cut into small chunks. In a bowl combine, shrimp, celery, carrots, onion and mayonnaise. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. How simple is that?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chocolate Amaretto Bread Pudding: What??

Oops, I did it again. I made another one. I had to clear out the freezer, and I didn't want to keep making the same bread pudding, so I decided to be inventive. My cousin left behind a package of Hershey's dark cocoa powder and I had the remains of a bottle of Amaretto DiSarono from two Christmases ago, so I thought … what the heck. I checked the pantry to make sure I had the necessary ingredients for the basic bread pudding and to my dismay I had no sweetend condensed milk. I remembered that when my mother used to run out, she would use regular milk and add sugar. Seeing as this dessert did turn out pretty darn good, I'm going to write down exactly what I did and not what I think I shoud have done. Makes sense? I'm a little confused. LOL.

For caramelizing:
1 cup sugar

For the pudding:
about 6 cups worth of bread cut into 1/2" cubes.
1 can evaporated milk (1 cup)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
2 heaping tablespoon Hershey's dark chocolate powder.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In an aluminum bread pan over medium-low heat, melt sugar until liquefied and golden in color. Carefully tilt the pan to evenly coat the bottom and sides.

Cut your leftover bread into cubes and place into a large mixing bowl.
In a blender beat the evaporated milk, milk, sugar, eggs, amaretto and chocolate powder. Pour this mixture into the bowl with the cut up bread and stir. Let sit for a few minutes for the bread to absorb some of the liquid. If it appears too dry you may add a little more milk.
Place this mixture into the caramelized bread pan.
Place this pan into a larger rectangular pan that is at least 2 inches deep.
Place both of these into the oven and pour hot water into the larger pan to about half way full.
Bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours, until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the center of the pudding
Let cool and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.
Use a knife to separate the sides of the pudding from the pan. Invert onto a serving plate. The caramel syrup will cover the pudding.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Potaje de Chicarros: Split Pea Stew

Having been married to an American for so long now, my potaje de chicarros is starting to resemble Split Pea and Ham ... sort of. This stew calls for ham hocks and Spanish chorizo, neither of which my husband will eat. I still put in the smoked ham hocks, and I replace the chorizo with ham. Here we go:

1 lb dry split peas (2 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1 ham hock
2 cups diced ham
1 large carrot, sliced
1 large potato, cubed
olive oil
10-12 cups broth or water
salt and pepper to taste

Split peas do not have to be soaked overnight. Go ahead and bring your water/broth to a boil with the split peas and the ham hock and a splash of olive oil.  Cover and continue cooking on medium low for  1-2 hours until the peas are tender (check your liquid, you may need to add water as it evaporates). Add  your carrots and potatoes to the pot. Sautee your onions and garlic and ham in a bit of olive oil and add it to your pot. Simmer until the potatoes are tender. Remove the ham hock and pick out the pieces of ham, tossing out the bone and the fat. You can put the pieces you pulled back into the pot or you can reward yourself for your hard work and eat these pieces as a little appetizer while you stand by the hot stove.

This dish is supposed to be thick like a stew so if it's too watery uncover your pot and let it reduce, but nothing is written in stone, so if you prefer it soupy and it's too thick, add water. My daughter likes it pureed.

Cubans will add a dollop of white rice (of course) to their bowl of potaje. If you prefer, serve with bread or crackers. This is a hearty meal that requires no other side dish.

Note: This dish can absolutely be prepared vegetarian by deleting the ham, just adjust the salt.

Pork Chops in Wine Sauce

I was really hungry last night, and I figured a pork chop wouldn't kill me. I remembered that many years ago I would make pork chops in wine sauce, but I couldn't remember the recipe exactly, and I knew that I used to bread them first. Seemed fattening, so I opted to google a healthier recipe. I found this one which I adjusted since it called for butter (a no, no) and other spices that I did not have at hand. This is how I prepared them, and I can say they turned out quite tasty.

1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper
2 pork chops
olive oil
3/4 cup white wine

Combine rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Press around both sides of pork chops. Heat a skillet coated with olive oil. Brown the pork chops on both sides and remove them. Add white wine to the pan juices, bring to a boil while stirring. Return the pork chops to the pan, and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover the skillet and turn the heat up for a couple of minutes to reduce the pan juices. Serve with your choice of side dish.