Monday, August 30, 2010

Meatless Monday: Arroz al Horno•Oven Baked Rice

I've been rattling my brain trying to think of a nutritious vegetarian meal with a Spanish or Cuban flair. I was walking through the rice and pasta isle of the supermarket inspecting my options when I came across Arroz Valencia otherwise known as Pearl Rice. My grandmother always used Valencia rice to make arroz con pollo. Of course I wasn't going to make anything with chicken for Meatless Mondays and eliminating the chicken from the recipe would leave something to be desired, so I did some internet research.  There is a dish called Arroz al Horno which is very popular in Valencia, Spain. It calls for pork and blood sausage, but also chickpeas. Aha...chickpeas would provide the protein we're lacking in a plain rice dish and I thought according to the other ingredients involved that we wouldn't miss the lack of pork and sausage. I was right! Even my husband liked it. So here is my variation of the original recipe. (I made a small portion since I was experimenting).

3 large cloves of garlic, whole (I took the skins off, but you can leave them on if you'd like)
1 medium sized tomato, sliced or quartered
3/4 cups pearl rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 1/2 cups water and vegetable bouillon)
1 medium potato, sliced
7 oz cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
a dash of Bijol for coloring (annatto powder)
olive oil
petit pois for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350F

Coat an oven proof pan with olive oil and lightly fry your garlic. Add the rice and stir it around a bit to coat it in the oil. Add your tomatoes. Add your broth (or water an bouillon) and Bijol. Add the pre-cooked chickpeas and salt to taste. Let that simmer for a few mintues until it comes to a boil at which point you can turn off the burner. In the meantime, in a separate pan coated with olive oil, lightly fry your potatoes. Transfer them to the rice pan by laying them on top of the rice. Carefully place your oven proof pan in the oven. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes until golden brown on top. Sprinkle with a handful of petit pois.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mariposas de Guayaba: Fried Guava Wontons

And for Dessert

Since I made Cuban Fried Rice, I figured I'd make Cuban Wontons for dessert. This is so simple, it's silly to show the steps, but here they are:

Wonton Wrappers
Guava Paste
Oil for frying

Lay out your wonton wrappers individually and place a small piece of guava paste in the center. Wet the edges of the wontons all around; fold over into triangles pressing down to seal. Heat oil in a skillet and fry your wontons until golden. That's it, and they go really fast. Everyone loves this.

Arroz Frito Cubano: Cuban Fried Rice

This is how I learned to make fried rice growing up in a Cuban household.

Measure 2 cups of uncooked long grain white rice and cook using your preferred method (i.e, rice cooker, stove top, etc) making sure it results in fluffy rice, not sticky rice. It's best to make the rice the day before and refrigerate over night.

For the fried rice:
1 lb Ham, diced
1 lb Smoked Pork Chops, diced

1 lb Shrimp, cleaned and deveined
3 Eggs, beaten
14 oz can bean sprouts, drained

soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced

peanut oil or vegetable oil

There are quite a few step involved in this recipe. I'm going to break it down for you as best I can.

Dice your ham and your smoked pork chops.

The ham and chops usually have water added. We want to extract as much liquid as possible from the meats without drying them out. In a skillet heat a little vegetable oil and drop in your diced meats. Stir, once the liquid starts to separate strain your meats to eliminate the liquid. Set aside.

In the same skillet now heat a little more oil and drop in your garlic, do not let it brown, add your shrimp, stir until cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Strain. (If you are using pre-cooked shrimp follow the same steps and we need to reduce the liquid from these shrimp as well.) Set aside.

The bean sprout have a lot of liquid as well. For these we will heat oil in the same skillet and basically fry the sprouts until they start to turn golden. The liquid should be evaporated by this point. Set aside.

Scramble your eggs. Heat oil in the same skillet you've been using and pour your eggs in letting them lie flat like a pancake. Flipping once (I made a mess of this). Remove from pan and cut into long slices.

Now to fry the rice: coat the bottom of a wok or a very large pan with vegetable oil and bring to a high heat. You're going to need a strong wrist for this – drop your rice in little by little stirring rapidly to coat it with the oil. Drizzle in some soy sauce as you stir, add more rice, more soy suace, etc. Watch the heat as your rice may start to stick or burn, adjust accordingly and keep stirring. Once the grains of rice are no longer sticking to each other and are evenly coated with oil and soy sauce stir in your ham and pork chops, next the bean sprouts and shrimp and lastly the eggs.

Leave the soy sauce bottle on the dinner table for those who always want more. Enjoy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Creamy Chicken Salad

I haven't posted much this week; I've been pretty lazy in the kitchen. Yesterday I made a chicken noodle soup which I totally did not photograph, and today a quick creamy chicken salad which I did photograph. I mention the soup because I took the two chicken breasts from it to make the chicken salad. I put the boiled chicken breasts through a food processor to grind them (I had intended to make croquetas de pollo, but did I mention I've been lazy?)  Anyway, it's pretty simple and tasty.

2 cooked chicken breasts passed through a food processor
1/4 cup red onion, thinly chopped
1 celery stalk, thinly chopped
1 small carrot stick, grated
3 to 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise (you can use about 4 ounces of cream cheese and less mayonnaise if you prefer)
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all these ingredients together. That's it!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Meatless Monday: Empanadas de Espinaca con Masa de Yuca: Spinach Empanadas with Yucca Crust

Fried Empanadas

Baked Empanadas

Well I came across this recipe, and I just had to try it. It is a Cuban recipe and it seemed crazy, but it worked out great. It is an empanada dough made with yucca root. Follow me so you can see how it's done.

1 lb yuca
3/4  cup all purpose flour
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 tsp salt

If using fresh yucca, peel, and cut into chunks. I used frozen yucca which is easier to find here. Boil your yucca until tender. Strain and remove hard root center. While still warm pass through a food processor to form a paste. In a large bowl combine your yucca paste with the butter, salt and egg yolk. Using your hands slowly work in the 3/4 cup of flour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to cool. (I left it in overnight until I was ready to prepare my empanadas).

Liberally flour a working surface and separate a small ball of dough and place onto your surface. The dough may be sticky, so make sure you have flour to sprinkle on as necessary. Roll out your dough, removing any hard pieces that may be left behind. Use a bowl to form circles on your dough, trace around the bowl with a knife. Place your filling in the center and fold in half. Crimp the edges up with your fingers to seal. You can fry your empanadas in vegetable oil, turning to brown evenly or brush on an egg wash on the tops and bake in a 350 degree oven until golden. (I preferred the baked ones)

These may be filled with whatever you desire ... meat, chicken, cheese, etc. I made a simple spinach filling using chopped onions, garlic, canned spinach and feta cheese.

Sautee your onion and garlic in olive oil and add your drained spinach. Cook on low heat 'til the liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If necessary strain your spinach filling to release as much liquid as possible.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Shrimp Stuffed Portabellas

Cubans aren't known for eating mushrooms. A mushrooms is a fungus and we don't eat fungi, my mother would say. I don't even know of any Cuban recipe that calls for mushrooms.

The first time I ever ate a mushroom was probably as a pizza topping in my late teens, and I wasn't introduced to portabellas until my thirties when my vegetarians friends encouraged my husband and me to try a portabella appetizer at an Italian restaurant. After that day I would order them at restaurants whenever they were offered on the menu, but I never really made them at home.

I was tempted to buy these portabella mushrooms at the supermarket the other day thinking I'd make something with them for Meatless Mondays. Well, that idea went out the window because I decided to make a shrimp stuffing that turned out delish.

2 large portabella mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped cooked shrimp
1/4 cup onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped or pressed
6 Saltine crackers, crushed
1 heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise
olive oil

Wash your mushrooms and remove the stems and dark scaly parts with a spoon. Do not discard this. It is quite edible and we are going to incorporate it into the stuffing. Chop the stem into small pieces.  Drizzle olive oil into a skillet and sauté your onions, garlic and mushroom pieces. Add your cooked shrimp and crushed saltines and mix together. Add your mayonnaise, mix and turn off the heat. If you want to grill these, then brush the outside of the mushrooms with olive oil before stuffing. If you're going to bake them in the oven as I did, then coat a baking dish with olive oil and place your mushroom in the pan, stuff with the filing and bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven, slice into wedges and serve as tapas, or you can eat a whole one as a meal. (I cut up some red peppers as an afterthought  and sprinkled on top.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Heat Is On!

Still extremely hot in the Midwest.  I thought a salad for lunch would be pleasant. I prepared a large chef salad for everyone, and chilled some steamed shrimp to top it off.

I used romaine lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, green olives, Genoa salami, turkey, swiss cheese, edam cheese, and hard boiled eggs

I steamed the shrimp with some spices I threw into the water along with lime juice. The salad dressing was served on the side.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

If You Can't Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen

With heat indices of 105 continuing through Friday, I'm avoiding the kitchen altogether. For now, I'll enjoy my small bowl of lemon sherbert, and I'll be back soon. (Looks like vanilla ice cream, I know!)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Meatless Monday: Penne with Stewed Tomatoes and Feta Cheese

So I took one of the containers of the stewed tomatoes I had put aside yesterday, and I added:

1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1/2 cup of water
about a dozen sliced olives (green or black or a combination)
1 tablespoon of capers.

I boiled 1/2 lb of penne, topped it off with some feta cheese and there you go — a perfect Meatless Monday meal.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Giant Tomato: Turkey BLT

I made tukey BLTs with the giant tomato, thought you might like to see a picture. The second one is a little blurry :(

Stewed Tomatoes

There's an over abundance of tomatoes this time of year, at least up here in the Midwest where everyone grows their own. We don't do it because we have family that does. I was staring at 10 tomatoes on my counter, 5 of them very ripe, so I thought about what to make with them right away. I pondered: salsa? tomato sauce? spaghetti sauce? I settled on stewed tomatoes. Now, I've never made these from scratch, but I always keep cans of them in my pantry. I figured I could separate the batch into small containers and freeze them. I searched for recipes and there are many variations, so as usual (I ain't scared) I combined the ingredients I thought worked best considering what I had at my disposal.

5 large ripe tomatoes (I did not sacrifice my GIANT tomato for this, it is still whole, but not for long)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2-3 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 cup water

To successfully peel your tomatoes, boil water, dip the tomatoes in the water for about one minute and transfer to a cold water filled bowl. The skin will shrivel and you can pull it off with your fingers. Dice your tomatoes removing as many seeds as possible and discarding the hard stem portion. Melt your butter in a pan and sautee your celery, onions, peppers and garlic. Add your tomatoes, your salt, sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a gentle boil for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Giant Tomato

My husband came home last night with quite a few tomatoes from his brother's garden. Among them were two very large ones, but the one pictured here was the GIANT. Look at the size of that thing next to the largest potato I had!

Not to mention he had brought home about 10 more 2 days ago. What am I going to do with all these tomatoes?....Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In an Instant

I'm at a crossroads in the kitchen, and it all started with instant mashed potatoes. What are the pros and cons of keeping boxes of instant mashed potatoes or rice mixes or pasta mixes? Should I even bother buying jars of spaghetti sauce?

I have a good Cuban friend who left Miami four years ago and along with her family moved to Georgia. In Miami she was a realtor; now, we call her a guajira (Cuban hillbilly/farmer), she has a big enough property where she and her husband plant their own garden; a garden that this year has yielded 504 ears of corn which were husked, cut in three, blanched and frozen and greens beans that were canned as well as the peaches from her trees. Jellies were made with the many raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. She put her onions and peppers through a food processor and froze them in exact proportions to make sofrito. She has enough to last a year and she feeds a family of nine. She has 25 hens so she never has to buy eggs. She buys her rice in 40 lb bags, the same with sugar and flour.  I'm pretty sure she doesn't have any Rice-A-Roni boxes sitting in her pantry. The pictures above are from her garden.

I guess it all comes down to time, expense and nutrition. You can get a box of macaroni and cheese for under a dollar, but how nutritious is it? It's easier to open and heat a can of beans than to prepare a batch of dried beans from scratch, but dried beans are much cheaper and yield way more than what you get in a can, plus you can prepare them to your taste. Then again, if you live alone, when would you ever be able to go through a pound of beans?

But my conundrum started with instant mashed potatoes. The potatoes in my refrigerator were starting to shrivel, so I peeled them, boiled them and mashed them. We can only eat so much, then what? I don't like frozen mashed potatoes, so in this instance I think I'll keep buying the instant.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Meatless Monday: Arroz con Maiz – Yellow Rice with Corn

I've decided to join the Meatless Mondays bandwagon. If you haven't heard of it, it is a movement to cut out meat one day a week in order to improve one's personal health and the health of the planet. I've placed an icon with a link to their page on the right.

Today I've decided to make yellow rice with corn which requires absolutely no meat. (I know, it's Wednesday, just play along – you can make it on Monday).  Since I finally feel confident to make rice outside of the rice cooker (thanks to my followers and their tips and advice), I thought I'd give this recipe a whirl, and I must say it turned out yummy!  This is a very flexible dish, you can add or subtract at whim.

4 cloves garlic pressed
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped peppers (I used red and green)
the kernels from 2 ears of corn or 1 1/2 to 2 cups of frozen or canned
1 tbsp capers (optional)
1 tbsp salt or to taste
dash of Bijol (Bijol is basically food coloring, the ingredients listed on the label are: corn flour, cumin, annatto, yellow 5 and red no.40)
1 bay leaf
2 cups long grain white rice
3 1/2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil

Pour olive oil into a large enough pot to cook your rice, sautee your onions, peppers, and garlic. Add your water, salt, Bijol, bay leaf and capers. Bring to a boil. Stir in your rice and reduce heat to simmer. Cover.
In 15 minutes uncover, fluff and taste your rice. If the rice is still a little hard but there is moisture left in the pot then turn off the heat and cover letting the steam finish cooking. If it is still a little hard and there is not moisture left, add 1/4 cup water, turn of the burner and let it finish steam cooking. At this point you may also add salt and/or olive oil depending on your taste.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Out Here in the Fields

I don't leave the house often and when I do everything I need is basically within a two mile radius. A fifteen minute drive in any direction puts you out in the middle of the corn or soybean fields. I'm still not used to it. I'm a big city girl. I like concrete beneath my feet. We went out for a drive yesterday. Thought you might like to see some pictures.

I had a little fun with Photoshop for the above picture. I'll be cooking something by the end of the week. Got to put on my thinking cap!