Monday, May 22, 2017

Tilapia Quesadilla with Tomato Salsa and Chili Beans





     Healthy Fish Quesadillas!
     I basically grew up as a kid in a great California Mexican restaurant kitchen that my step grandfather managed.  My step grandfather also managed a small chain of taqueria restaurants and I used to tag along as he did his rounds.  In doing so, I learned plenty about the restaurant business at an early age and of course, Mexican food became second nature.
     There is a difference between traditional Mexican food and Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex cuisine.  In modern times, north of the border food items, like Burritos or Quesadillas, are becoming more common in Mexico.  This is especially true in tourist trade areas.
     Fish Tacos actually are one of the first tacos made in ancient times.  The Aztecs made tacos with fresh caught fish from a local lake.  An authentic Taco de Pescado is simply a cooked piece of fish on a tortilla with a minimum of garnishes.  Fish Tacos have become a popular snack food in America in recent years, but the Fish Tacos in trendy restaurants are not the same as what is made in Mexico.  Many restaurants use a fast food style frozen batter coated fish product and garnish the tacos with all sorts of unnecessary toppings.
     Fish Quesadillas have become popular in America in recent years too, but of course the majority of restaurants that only care about high volume sales and not quality have taken a fast food approach to this item too.  Frozen batter coated fish is deep fried then cut up and placed on a large flour tortilla with cheese and folded in half.  The Fish Quesadillas are then partially cooked before they are chilled, so they are easier to handle when in a hurry.  The cold pre-made Fish Quesadillas are reheated on a flat top griddle till lightly browned and served.  The problem with this high volume fast food method is that the tortilla gets soggy and the Fish Quesadilla tastes stale.  Fish Quesadillas that are prepared way ahead of time look like a joke when compared to a good Fish Quesadilla that is prepared the right way with traditional ingredients.
     The key to making Cal-Mex or Tex-Mex food is the freshness of the ingredients and incorporating traditional Mexican cuisine cooking methods.  A Quesadilla is a Mexican style grilled cheese sandwich that is made with a flour tortilla.  The object is to grill the tortilla till it is golden brown and the cheese melts.  It takes butter, lard or oil to accomplish this, just like when making a traditional grilled cheese sandwich.  Pan seared fish is traditional and a Quesadilla made with pan seared fish looks and tastes much better than a Quesadilla that is made with a fast food style frozen battered fish product.  A Fish Quesadilla that is made to order is far better than one that was assembled way ahead of time.
     If soggy limp fast food style Fish Quesadillas are the only choice at restaurants in your area, then the best choice is to make some great Fish Quesadillas in the home kitchen.  Fish Quesadillas require very little preparation time and they are a tasty healthy munch, especially when served with salsa or guacamole!                

     Chili Beans: 
     This recipe yields about 3 cups.
     Step 1:  Soak 1 cup of dried red beans in a container of water overnight in a refrigerator.
     Drain the water off of the beans and rinse the beans.
     Step 2:  Place the soaked red beans in a sauce pot.
     Cover the beans with an extra 3" of water.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Boil for 17 minutes.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer till the beans are soft and tender.  (Add water if necessary.)
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Place the beans in a strainer.
     Rinse the starch liquid off of the beans under cold running water.
     Step 5:  Place the cooked red beans in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil (or roasted lard).
     Add enough water to barely cover the beans.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Guajillo Chile Powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Ancho Chile Powder.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 6:  Place the sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Simmer till the beans are hot the flavors meld.
     Keep the Chili Beans warm over very low heat.

     Tomato Salsa:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.  (3 or 4 garnish portions)
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of diced tomato into a mixing bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of diced onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced mixed red and green bell pepper.
     Add 2 tablespoons of thin sliced green onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced seeded green jalapeño pepper.
     Step 2: Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of lime juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 3:  Stir the ingredients together.
     Place the salsa in a container.
     Chill in as refrigerator for 30 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     *Drain off the excess liquid before using as a garnish.

     Tilapia Quesadilla:
     This recipe yields 1 large quesadilla.  
     If you are new to making quesadillas, just think of a quesadilla as being a Mexican style grilled cheese sandwich!
     Step 1:  Select 2 small tilapia filets that weigh about 3 to 4 ounces apiece.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of cumin over the tilapia.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of coriander over the tilapia.
     Gently rub the spices onto the tilapia filets.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add the seasoned tilapia filets.
     Sauté the tilapia filets till they are seared on both sides and fully cooked.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Set the seared tilapia filets on a cutting board and cut them into large bite size pieces.
     Step 4:  Place a 10" flour tortilla on a countertop.
     Sprinkle a thin layer of grated cheddar cheese on one half tortilla.  (About 1/3 cup.)
     Place the seared tilapia pieces on the cheese.
     Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chopped roasted chile poblano over the fish.
     Sprinkle a thin layer of cheddar cheese on top of the fish and chile peppers.  (About 1/3 cup.)
     Fold the plain half of the tortilla over quesadilla ingredients.  (The quesadilla should look like a half moon shape.)
     Step 5:  Heat a cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Spread about 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or lard) on the hot griddle.
     Place the quesadilla on the oiled griddle.
     Grill each side of the quesadilla till it is crispy golden brown and the cheese melts.
 
     Tilapia Quesadilla with Tomato Salsa and Chili Beans:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Use a large spatula to place the Tilapia Quesadilla on a cutting board.
     Cut the quesadilla into 3 or 4 pie shaped pieces.
     Step 2:  Overlap the Tilapia Quesadilla slices on the front half of a plate.
     Place a portion of the Chile Beans on the back half of the plate.
     Spoon a generous portion of the Tomato Salsa over the center of the Tilapia Quesadilla.  (About 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup.)
     Garnish with a lime slice curl.

     Tilapia Quesadillas with Tomato Salsa is a nice healthy light meal!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tacos de Chocolate Chile Colorado Pollo y Chicharrones








     Tasty Tacos!
     Chicharrones Tacos are popular in Central Mexico.  Taquerias throughout the Desert Southwest offer Chicharrones Tacos on the menu too.  Chicharrones are added to many different kinds of stew and casserole recipes.  When cooked, chicharrones become soft and they add a nice light pork flavor.  
     Chile Colorado is a sauce that is made with ground dried red chiles.  Chile Colorado is usually mildly spicy and it has a very rich robust flavor.  Raw Chocolate is added to a variety of Mexican and Southwestern cuisine sauces, stews and Mole Paste.  Chocolate Chile Colorado Sauce has a rich complex flavor that helps to meld the flavor of chicharrones and chicken.
     
     Vidalia Onion Taco Topping:
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.
     Place 1/4 cup of thin sliced Vidalia Onion in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 pinch of chopped cilantro.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of red wine vinegar.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Let onion mixture marinate for 20 minutes.

     Chocolate Chile Colorado Pollo y Chicharrones: 
     This recipe yields enough for 2 to 3 tacos.  (1 portion)
     Step 1:  Place 4 ounces of boneless chicken meat in a sauce pot.  (Chicken scraps are good for this recipe.)
     Cover the chicken with water.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Boil the chicken till it is fully cooked.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off of the chicken.
     Coarsely chop the chicken.
     Set the chopped chicken aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil (or lard).
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced green bell pepper.
     Add 1 chopped garlic clove.
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chile guajillo powder.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ancho chile powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.  (to taste)
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 ounce of dark unsweetened chocolate.
     Stir as the chocolate melts into the sauce.
     Step 6:  Add the reserved chopped chicken.
     Add 1/3 cup of small Chicharrones pieces.  (Chicharones are Pork Cracklins.)
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that easily clings to the meat.  Stir occasionally.
     Keep the taco filling warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
  
     Tacos de Chocolate Chile Colorado Pollo y Chicharrones:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (2 or 3 tacos)
     There are many ways to warm tortillas for tacos.  Heating tortillas on a dry griddle or steaming the tortillas are common methods.  Briefly pan frying the tortillas is a good method too.
     Step 1:  Select 2 or 3 small corn tortillas that are 5" to 6" in diameter.
     Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or lard).
     Briefly pan each corn tortilla on both sides till a golden highlights appear and they are still soft and flexible.
     *Do not fry the tortillas so they are crisp and crunchy!  These tacos are meant to be folded in half when eaten.
     Set the soft fried tortillas on a dry pastry towel and pat off any excess oil.
     Step 2:  Place the 2 soft fried tortillas on a plate.
     Place a 2 to 3 ounce portion of the Chocolate Chile Colorado Chicken y Chicharrones taco on each tortilla.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of grated Monterey Jack Cheese over the meat on each taco.
     Sprinkle a little bit of the Vidalia Onion Garnish on each taco.
     Step 3:  Garnish the plate with:
     - Cilantro or parsley sprigs
     - diced tomato
     - sliced jalapeno pepper

     These are some rich tasting tacos!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Carne de Cordero con Queso Oaxaca Burrito








     Lamb, Mild Red Chile Pepper and Oaxaca Cheese Burrito
     The flavor of today's Lamb Burrito is savory and mildly spicy.  A combination of Red Bell Pepper, Red Jalapeño and Spanish Paprika create a classic mild chile pepper flavor that tastes good with lamb.  Adding a little bit of Chile Arbol is an option for those who prefer a medium level of spicy heat.
     Lamb is a popular meat in Central Mexico.  Guadalajara has always been a prime sheep grazing territory and classic "pastor" style recipes abound in this region.  Local traditional recipes reflect upon Spanish influence, so lamb is usually prepared as a stew, soup or roast recipe.
     The Spanish culture in Guadalajara also influences local tortilla making.  Guadalajara is one of the few regions in Mexico where Wheat Flour Tortillas are popular.  Sheep herding and wheat farming are two European land management systems that have been carried on by the Spanish culture in this region.  Even so, Flour Tortillas are eaten as bread in Guadalajara and they are rarely used to make Burritos.  Burritos are more of a Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex tradition and Burritos are usually only marketed at tourist hot spots in Mexico.      
     The lamb meat in today's recipe is thin shaved, just like beef for a Philadelphia Cheesesteak.  To thinly slice or shave raw lamb leg meat into paper thin slices with a knife, the meat must be partially frozen.  The leg of lamb can be fully frozen if an electric meat slicer is used.  Another option is to shop at an Asian food market that caters to Korean clientele.  Thin shaved lamb leg meat is used to make Korean Lamb BBQ and Lamb Bulgogi.  The butcher in an Asian food market usually has packages of a variety of paper thin sliced meats ready to go.
     
     Chile Rojo Carne de Cordero:
     This recipe yields enough Red Chile Lamb Meat for 1 large burrito. 
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan (or cast iron skillet) over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 1 chopped seeded red jalapeño pepper.
     Sauté till the peppers start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Add 7 to 8 ounces of paper thin sliced raw lamb leg.
     Use 2 spatulas to break the paper thin slices of lamb into bite size pieces as it cooks.
     Sauté till the lamb is fully cooked.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of ground Chile Arbol.  (optional for medium spicy heat)
     Add 1 pinch of Mexican Oregano.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Gently simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates and the red chiles cling to the lamb meat.
     Keep the Chile Rojo Carne de Cordero warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
  
     Carne de Cordero con Queso Oaxaca Burrito:
     This recipe yields 1 large burrito.
     Step 1:  Place a large 10" to 12" flour tortilla flat on a counter top.
     Mound the warm red chile lamb mixture across the middle of the tortilla.
     Sprinkle 1/3 cup of grated Queso Oaxaca over the lamb mixture.
     Step 2:  Fold one side of the tortilla partially over the end of the meat filling.
     Roll the tortilla into a tube shape with one closed end.
     Trim the open end of the burrito, so it looks neat.
     Step 3:  Place the burrito on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 300ºF oven.
     Bake till the burrito is piping hot and the cheese melts.
     *This only takes a few minutes.  The tortila should still be soft after baking and it should not be crisp.
     Step 4:  Remove the burrito from the oven.
     Use a long spatula to place the burrito on a plate.
     Garnish the plate with:
     - Endive Lettuce leaves
     - slice tomato
     - black olives
     - a dollop of sour cream
     - thin bias sliced green onion.
     Place a ramekin of Mexican style hot sauce on the plate.

     This is a good tasting hearty Lamb Burrito!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ditali Pasta with Shrimp en Saffron Tomato Crema and Manchego







     Spanish Style Pasta!
     Pasta creations are part of nearly every cuisine around the globe these days.  Modern Spanish style pasta creations are often featured on menus at resorts along the Costa Del Sol of where tourists flock. Petite portions of creative pasta are also en vogue in South America at restaurants that feature tapas.  The key to creating a good theme for a pasta is to use locally available ingredients or to use ingredients that are representative of a cultural region.  The choice of the pasta shape also is important.
     White Wine is used to lighten the flavor of today's pasta sauce.  As always, only cook with a wine that you would be happy to drink.  In keeping with a Spanish theme, Torrantés Wine from Argentina was the top choice.   The Torrontés Grape varietal is a breed of its own and this grape vine is originated in Spain and Portugal.  Torrontés wine has a unique dry flavor with highlights of citrus and light hints of peach, with no acidic sour flavor.  Torrontés Wine from Argentina is one of a kind.  Substitute a suitable Chardonnay if no Torrontés Wine is available.  
     Shrimp are abundant in Spain and nearly everywhere.  Spain produces top grade saffron and good tomatoes.  Queso Manchego from the La Mancha region of Spain is one of the most famous sheep milk cheese varieties in the world.  Aged Manchego Cheese tastes great with saffron, sofrito, tomato and shrimp.  Ditali Pasta is popular in North African countries and the entire Mediterranean region.  Put it all together and there is one nice Spanish style pasta to serve guests.  The same Spanish influences can also be found in modern Southwestern cuisine.   

     Ditali Pasta with Shrimp en Saffron Tomato Crema and Manchego:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Like most a la minute pasta recipes, the sauce can be made in the same amount of time that it takes to cook the pasta!  If a more casual cooking pace is preferred, the cook the pasta ahead of time.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Ditali Pasta in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat till the pasta is al dente.  
     *The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks!
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat. 
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of brunoise diced onion.  (Brunoise = 1/8" dice.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of brunoise diced carrot.
     Add 1 tablespoon of brunoise diced celery. 
     Briefly sauté till the vegetables start to become tender, but do not let the sofrito vegetables brown.
     Step 3:  Add 12 peeled and deveined medium size shrimp.  (Remove the tails too.)
     Sauté till the shrimp are halfway cooked.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato puree.
     Add 1/2 cup of Argentina Torrontés Wine.   
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Saffron (Crocus Sativa).  (Be sure to crumble the saffron between the fingers.)
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Add 1/4 cup of sour cream   
     Stir the sauce as it comes to a simmer.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin cream sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat till the pasta is ready.
     Step 7:  When the Ditali Pasta is cooked al dente, drain the water off of the pasta.
     Add the Ditali Pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the Ditali Pasta with Shrimp en Saffron Tomato Crema in a shallow pasta bowl.
     Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of finely grated Aged Spanish Manchego Cheese over the pasta.  (Spanish Manchego Cheese easily melts!)
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.

     This Spanish style pasta entree tastes rich and elegant!  This simple pasta is easy to like!  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mole Poblano Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomato






      Looking for a stuffed tomato that is different?  This mole' chicken salad stuffed tomato has a very nice flavor!

     Mole can be made with mortar and pestle, but the process takes a very long time.  A good mole paste is far too dense to be made in a food processor, because the motor will overheat.  There is a large selection of fine mole pastes to chose from in Mexican markets.  Even regular grocery stores carry mole paste.  
     Mole paste is very dense.  Mole is about 50% calabaza seed and sesame seed.  The dried chile peppers in a mole can vary.  Most mole pastes are very mildly spicy.  Some dark mole pastes contain chocolate.  I chose a good dark dried chile chocolate mole paste for this recipe.

     Diced Mole Poblano Chicken Breast:
     This recipe yields 5 ounces.  (Enough for 1 stuffed tomato.)
     Jars or tubs of Mole Poblano Paste are available at Mexican food markets and some grocery stores.  Sometimes this Poblano Mole Paste is just labeled with only the word "Mole."  Read the label and if Cocoa or Chocolate is listed in the ingredients and it is a deep reddish brown color, then it is the correct Mole Paste Product.
     Poblano Mole Paste is so dense, that it will be necessary to warm the container in a pot of water over low heat just so a portion can be scooped out.      
     Step 1:  Select a 5 ounce boneless chicken breast filet.
     Remove the skin and trim off any excess fat.
     Lightly season the chicken breast filet with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the chicken breast filet.
     Sauté till golden brown highlights appear on both sides and the chicken breast is about halfway cooked.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Remove the chicken breast and set it aside on a platter.
     Drain off any excess oil from the pan.
     Step 4:  Return the pan to low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Poblano Mole Paste.
     Stir with a whisk till the liquid warms and the Poblano Mole Paste dissolves.
     Bring the Poblano Mole Sauce to a gentle simmer.
     *The Mole Sauce will be very thin at this time.
     Step 5:  Place the partially cooked chicken breast in the thin sauce. 
     Gently simmer and reduce till the mole is a medium thin consistency that can easily cling to the chicken.  (Turn the chicken breast over occasionally, so the sauce flavors the entire chicken breast.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Allow the chicken breast and Mole Sauce to cool to room temperature.
     Place the Chicken Breast and Mole Sauce in a container.
     Chill to 41ºF in a refrigerator.
     Step 7:  Remove the chicken breast from the Mole Sauce.
     Scrape off any excess Mole Sauce.  (Save the Mole Sauce for later in the recipe.)
     Place the Mole Chicken Breast on a cutting board.
     Cut the chicken breast into 3/8" diced pieces.
     Place the Diced Mole Chicken in a container and chill till it is needed.
 
     Mole Chicken Salad:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Place the Diced Mole Chicken in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced celery.  (1/4" dice)
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced pimiento.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped green onion.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of the reserved Mole Sauce.  (Any excess Mole Sauce can be saved for another recipe.)
     Add enough sour cream to bind the ingredients together.  (About 2 to 3 tablespoons.)
     Gently mix the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Place the Mole Chicken Salad in a container.
     Chill Mole Chicken Salad to 41ºF.

     Guacamole:
     This recipe yields about 2/3 cup.  (4 garnish portions)
     No sour cream is needed in this guacamole!  It tastes amazingly crisp and fresh without sour cream.
     Step 1:  Place the fruit pulp of 1 medium size ripe avocado in a mixing bowl.  (About 1/2 cup)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped green onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped tomato.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped cilantro.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced seeded green jalapeño.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  (about 2 pinches)
     Step 2:  Mash and mix the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Place the guacamole in a container.
     Chill for at least 10 minutes before serving.

     Caper and Pimiento Vinaigrette: 
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup.  (2 small portions)
     Step 1:  Place 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of fine diced pimiento.
     Add 2 teaspoons of rinsed small capers. 
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 2 pinches of chopped cilantro.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and coarse ground black pepper.
     Step 2:  Stir the ingredients together.
     Place the Caper and Pimiento Vinaigrette in a container.
     Chill for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     *Stir before serving! 

     Mole Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomato: 
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     Step 1:  Select 1 extra large Plum Tomato (or a 5 x 6 size regular tomato). 
     Place the tomato on a cutting board, so the stem core faces down.
     Cut 6 even pie slices vertically into the tomato that stop about 3/8" short from the tomato core end.
     Fan the "tomato flower petals" open.
     Step 2:  Gather 5 to 6 ounces of the Mole Chicken Salad.
     Form the chicken salad into a ball shape.
     Stuff the Star Cut Tomato with the Mole Chicken Salad.
     Step 3:  Place the Mole Chicken Stuffed Tomato on the front half of a plate.
     Place 8 Romaine Lettuce Heart Leaves on the back half of the plate, so they fan out from the stuffed tomato.
     Step 4:  Place a dollop of guacamole on top of the chicken salad.  (About 2 to 3 tablespoons.)
     Place a small dab of sour cream on the guacamole.  (About 1/2 teaspoon.)
     Garnish the tomato with a green onion sliver.
     Step 5:  Stir the Caper and Pimiento Vinaigrette.
     Drizzle about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the Caper and Pimiento Vinaigrette over the romaine lettuce leaves.
     Step 6:  Garnish the plate with Oil Cured Olives and cilantro sprigs.  (optional)

     Viola!  A tasty Southwestern style Molde Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomato!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Cellentani with Chorizo, Arugula and Parmesan Tomato Crème








     Contemporary Southwestern Style Pasta!
     Arugula is a popular lettuce green in health oriented restaurants, but relatively few modern chefs actually cook Arugula.  Arugula is used to make many hot cooked recipes in the Mediterranean region.  There is a traditional Italian pizza that is topped with only Arugula, which I have seen offered in old school Italian restaurants and an Arugula Pizza really is something special.
     The mild spicy flavor of Chorizo Sausage goes well with the peppery flavor of Arugula.  There are a few kinds of Chorizo and the one to look for is a Spanish or Portuguese Sausage that is made with an edible casing.  Spanish style Chorizo is sold in long links or as a long rope sausage.  Mexican Style Chorizo is a fine ground bulk sausage that has a very high fat content.  The paprika flavored fat may be used to flavor recipes, but Mexican Style Chorizo Sausage is not well suited for a cream sauce pasta because the grease would more than likely separate from the sauce.  
     Combining fresh tomato with tomato paste creates a nice flavor contrast that is perfect for a cream and cheese sauce.  The tomato paste adds depth, while the fresh tomato lightens the sauce on the palate.  Parmigiana Cheese is the classic choice for a cream and cheese pasta.  Italian Parmigiana pairs well with a tomato crème sauce.  The mild spicy flavor of Chorizo and peppery Arugula adds zest to a Tomato Parmigiana Crème Sauce.
 
     Cellentani with Chorizo, Arugula and Parmesan Tomato Crème:
     This recipe yields 1 pasta entrée.
     Spanish style Chorizo is sold raw or cooked.  If Raw Spanish Chorizo is selected, roast the sausage in a 300ºF oven till it is fully cooked, then chill the sausage so it can be easily sliced.
     The Italian cardinal rule of pasta is to only make enough sauce to coat the pasta with flavor.  Pasta that is swimming in excess sauce is not desirable at all. 
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Cellentani Pasta in a pot of boiling water over medium high heat till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of finely minced onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add 4 ounces of thin sliced cooked Spanish style Chorizo Sausage.  (About 3/16" thick.)
     Sauté the Chorizo till a few golden highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of diced peeled seeded fresh plum tomato.  (concasse)
     Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Briefly sauté till the tomato starts to cook.
     Step 5:  Add 1 teaspoon of minced fresh basil.
     Add 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped Arugula Leaves.
     Add 1 small pinch of Mexican Oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Briefly sauté till the Arugula wilts.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/4 cups of cream.
     Stir the sauce.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese while stirring.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan.
     Occasionally toss the ingredients together till the pasta reheats.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the pasta on the center of a plate.
     Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Garnish with a small basil sprig.

     Cellentani with Chorizo, Arugula and Parmesan Tomato Crème is a gentle tasting pasta that will please guests!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Queso Oaxaca and Ham Stuffed Chicken Filet with Cilantro Tomato Sauce






     A Southwestern Style Stuffed Chicken Filet!
     The flavor of a ham and cheese stuffed chicken breast has always been popular.  The classic American Chicken Cordon Bleu is probably the most famous ham and cheese stuffed chicken breast entrée of them all.  Unfortunately this item has resigned to being imitated in various ways by the chain restaurant industry and there are far more bad Chicken Cordon Bleu products than good.  Even so, a real Chicken Cordon Bleu still sells at finer restaurants because the flavor combination is nearly irresistible.
     Since chicken, ham and cheese go so well together, it is only natural to create a Southwestern style recipe that features this classic flavor combination.  Today's Queso Oaxaca and Ham Stuffed Chicken Filet with Cilantro Tomato Sauce recipe could be considered to be a variation of the Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe.  Basically, the only difference is the choice of cheese and the sauce.  Queso Oaxaca is a rich tasting fresh cheese that can be compared to fresh Mozzarella.  A mild cheese like Queso Oaxaca appeals to those that do not like a strong tasting Swiss Emmentaler Cheese.  The Cilantro Tomato Sauce is a complete departure from a rich creamy Sauce Suprême, but this Southwestern style tomato sauce appeals to health conscious guests.  Cilantro Tomato Sauce also compliments the flavor of the ham and cheese stuffed chicken breast filet.

     Queso Oaxaca and Ham Stuffed Chicken Filet Preparation: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Select a large 7 to 8 ounce boneless chicken breast filet.
     Butterfly cut chicken breast filet.
     Step 2:  Place the butterflied chicken breast filet flat on a countertop.
     Place 2 ounces of thin sliced ham on one half of the chicken breast.
     Place 1 1/2 ounces of thin sliced Queso Oaxaca on the ham.
     Fold the plain half of the chicken breast over the ham and cheese.
     Lightly pound the chicken breast seam edge with a meat mallet to seal in the stuffing.  
     Step 3:  Place the stuffed chicken breast on a small pan.
     Place the pan in a freezer.
     Allow the stuffed chicken breast to partially freeze, so it is easier to handle when it is breaded.
     *Just freeze the stuffed chicken breast till it is firm and not frozen solid!
     Step 4:  Place 1 cup of flour in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Mix the ingredients together and set the seasoned flour aside.
     Step 5:  Place 1 large egg in a mixing bowl.
     Whisk till blended.
     Set the egg wash bowl aside.
     Step 6:  Place 1 1/2 cups of plain French bread crumbs in a third mixing bowl and set it aside.    
     Step 7:  Remove the partially frozen stuffed chicken breast from the freezer.
     Dredge the stuffed chicken breast in the seasoned flour.
     Dip the floured chicken in egg wash and make sure it is completely coated.
     Dredge the chicken in plain fine bread crumbs.
     Set the breaded stuffed chicken breast on a small pan and chill it in a refrigerator till later in the recipe.
  
     Spanish Rice:
     This recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups.  (2 to 3 portions)    
     There are many Spanish Rice recipe variations.  A simple Spanish Rice is best for accompanying entrées.
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 cup of chicken broth in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1 tablespoon of tomato puree.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 1 pinch of onion powder 
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper. 
     Step 2:  Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 cup of long grain white rice.
     Return the liquid to a boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer and steam till the rice is tender.  (About 20 minutes.)
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Cilantro Tomato Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (3 portions)
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced seeded green jalapeño pepper.
     Gently sauté till the garlic turns a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 3/4 cup of canned California Tomato Puree.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.  (About 2 pinches.)
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency
     Step 5:  Add 2 tablespoons of minced cilantro.
     Stir the sauce.
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Reheat the sauce over medium low heat just before serving.  
   
     Queso Oaxaca and Ham Stuffed Chicken Filet:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
     Add enough vegetable oil, so the oil is about 3/8" deep.
     Adjust the temperature so the oil is 350ºF.
     Step 2:  Place the breaded stuffed chicken breast in the hot oil.
     Pan till the bottom half is a light golden brown color. 
     Use a spatula to turn the chicken breast over.
     Pan fry till the other side is light golden brown.
     *The stuffed chicken will only be halfway cooked at this point.
     Step 3:  Use a spatula to place the fried stuffed chicken breast on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Roast till the chicken is fully cooked.  (About 10 minutes.  A probe thermometer should read 165ºF in the center of the stuffed chicken breast for 15 seconds.)
     Keep the Queso Oaxaca and Ham Stuffed Chicken Filet warm on a stove top.

     Queso Oaxaca and Ham Stuffed Chicken Filet with Cilantro Tomato Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Use a ring mold to place a portion of the Spanish Rice on the back half of a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Cilantro Tomato Sauce on the front half of the plate as a bed for the stuffed chicken breast.
     Place the Queso Oaxaca and Ham Stuffed Chicken Filet on the Cilantro Tomato Sauce.
     Garnish the rice with cilantro sprigs and a lime slice curl.
 
     This is a nice tasting Southwestern style stuffed chicken breast entrée that can be served any season!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Eggplant Sticks with Chipotle Tomato Sauce







     A Southwestern Style Eggplant Appetizer! 
     Fried Eggplant is popular worldwide.  When served as a home cooked meal in America, thick slices of eggplant are breaded and fried, then served with ketchup on the side.  Italian style Eggplant Parmigiana is usually prepared with batter fried eggplant and this entrée is a true classic. 
     Breaded fried eggplant sticks can be served as a vegetable side dish.  Oddly enough, I prepared breaded fried eggplant sticks as a vegetable du jour at a restaurant one time and it caused some confusion.  Somebody simply wrote "Fried Eggplant" on the special board and the American servers pictured it as being fried round slices of eggplant instead of stick shapes.  During the first dinner hour rush, several side dish plates of fried eggplant sticks were piled up in the expediting window.  A manager came back and said that the customers were waiting for their eggplant, so I pointed to the small plates of eggplant sticks.  The manager then just laughed and said that the waiters must have thought they were fish sticks!  I must admit, fried eggplant sticks do kind of look like fish sticks.   
     When fried eggplant sticks are served as an appetizer in a restaurant, the classic choice of an accompanying sauce is Italian Tomato Sauce.  Tomato and eggplant is a classic flavor combination and this is why even ketchup is a good choice of sauce for fried eggplant.  I thought about making a spicy Southwestern style Habanero Ketchup for today's Fried Eggplant Sticks appetizer, but I recently published a Habanero Ketchup recipe for some other item.  Chipotle Ketchup was another easy choice, but there must be at least a dozen brands of this condiment stocked at nearly every grocery store and the popularity is already starting to fade.  A simple Southwestern style mildly spicy Chipotle Tomato Sauce seemed like the best choice, because the natural flavor of the tomato goes so well with eggplant. 

     Chipotle Tomato Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.  (2 condiment portions)     
     Step 1:  Place a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Gently sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 cup of canned diced California tomatoes with a proportion of their own juices.
     Add 2/3 cup of canned tomato puree.
     Add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of canned Chipotle en Adobo.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1 pinch of Mexican Oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of chopped cilantro.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Use an emersion blender, food processor or blender to puree the sauce.
     Step 5:  Return the sauce to the sauce pot.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency and the volume is about 1 cup.
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Reheat the sauce over low heat shortly before serving.
     
     Fried Eggplant Sticks:  
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     Step 1:  Select 1 medium size eggplant that is about 5" wide and 10" long.
     Cut the top and bottom off of the eggplant.
     Use a knife to cut the skin off of the eggplant.
     Step 2:  Cut the eggplant in half across the middle.
     Cut each eggplant section lengthwise into thick slices.  (A little less than 1/2" thick.)
     Stack the eggplant slices and cut them lengthwise into thick stick shapes.
     *About 12 to 14 eggplant sticks is plenty.
     Step 3:  Place the eggplant sticks side by side on a sheet pan.
     Lightly salt the eggplant sticks on all sides.
     Set the pan aside for 30 minutes, so the salt can cause the eggplant to sweat.
     Step 4:  Rinse the salt off of the eggplant under cold running water.
     Place the eggplant sticks on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan and let the excess water air dry.
     Step 5:  Place 1 1/2 cups of flour in a mixing bowl.
     Set the flour bowl aside.
     Step 6:  Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.  
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 1 pinch of onion powder.
     Add 2 pinches of Mexican Oregano.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground mild New Mexico Chile Pepper.
     Whisk the egg mixture till it is blended.
     Set the egg wash bowl aside.
     Step 7:  Place 2 1/2 cups of plain fine French breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl.
     Set the breadcrumb bowl aside.
     Step 8:  Dredge the eggplant sticks in the flour till they are coated.
     Use a wide strainer to gather the floured eggplant sticks and shake off any excess flour.
     *Any leftover flour can be sifted and saved for another recipe, but the flour should be stored in a freezer.
     Step 9:  Place the floured eggplant sticks in the egg wash mixture.
     Gently toss the eggplant stick with the eggs till they are coated.
     Step 10:  *The Eggplant sticks should be battered in small batches.
     Pick up a few egg washed eggplant sticks at a time and place them in the bowl of breadcrumbs. 
     Gently toss the eggplant sticks with breadcrumbs till they are completely coated. 
     Place the breaded eggplant sticks side by side on a sheet pan.
     Repeat till all the eggplant sticks are breaded.
     *Any leftover breadcrumbs can be sifted and saved for another recipe, but they should be stored in a freezer to prevent pathogen contamination. 
     Step 11:  *If the pot is not wide enough to fry all of the breaded eggplant sticks at one time, then fry them in small batches. 
     Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Place a batch of the breaded eggplant sticks in the hot oil.
     Fry till they are golden brown on all sides.
     Step 12:  Use a fryer net to gather the fried breaded eggplant sticks out of the hot oil.
     Place the fried eggplant sticks on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.  
     Keep the fried eggplant sticks warm on a stove top.

     Eggplant Sticks with Chipotle Tomato Sauce:     
     This recipe yields 1 large appetizer portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Step 1:  Place a 3 to 4 ounce portion of the Chipotle Tomato Sauce in a large ramekin.
     Place the ramekin on the back half of a plate.
     Step 2:  Place the eggplant sticks in the front half of the plate, so they point out from center.
     Step 3:  Garnish the sauce with a cilantro sprig and thin bias sliced green onion slivers. 

     This is a tasty Southwestern style eggplant appetizer!