Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tilapia, Ancho Chile and Roasted Maize Crème Soup

     A Mild Tasting Southwestern Style Fish Soup!    
     Dried Chile Ancho is a very mild and flavorful pepper.  Chile Ancho taste like rich raisons mixed with a classic deep dried chile pepper flavor.  Like many pepper, Chile Ancho has a different name when it is fresh.  Chile Ancho is a dried ripe Chile Poblano.
     Many chefs assume that all dried chile peppers have to be toasted in a dry pan before adding them to a Southwestern style recipe.  This is not really true and it is a good way to burn high quality dried peppers.  I rarely dry roast any dried chile pepper pods, because the flavors simply are carried off in the air, instead of remaining in the pot.  A good high quality chile pepper pod rarely needs to be dry roasted to bring out the full flavor.    
     Tilapia is in the Snapper family of fish.  Tilapia are usually farm raised, but this does not always mean that Tilapia are sustainable.  Tilapia feed on small baitfish and this contributes to wild baitfish depletion in in fisheries that are not heavily regulated.  Baitfish depletion affects other fish species in the sea.  Tilapia that are farm raised in brackish water tanks basically feed on just about anything from fresh water or salt water, but unregulated fish tanks often are contaminated with murky sediment, which affects the flavor of the Tilapia meat.  Tilapia from regulated fish tank or pond farms are the best choice.  For more information about selecting sustainable Tilapia follow this link:  Seafood Watch.
     For today's recipe, the Tilapia is seared to create more flavor.  Roasted corn kernels add a classic Southwestern touch.  The integral garnish adds a refreshing flavor.  The thin bread slices are dried till they are rusk.  Lime juice saturates the rusk and this garnish should be added when the soup is served, so the lime flavor remains bright.  
     Tilapia, Ancho Chile and Roasted Maize Crème Soup:
     This recipe yields about 4 1/4 cups.  (2 hearty portions)
     Step 1:  Shuck 1 ear of heirloom corn.
     *Try not to select a GMO Sweet Corn variety!  Heirloom Native American Maize varieties are a much better choice, because they are not bred to be sweet!
     Roast the ear of corn under a broiler or over an open flame, till the tips of the corn kernels are caramelized to a light brown color.
     Let the ear of corn cool.
     Cut the roasted corn kernels off the cob and place them in a container.
     Set the roasted corn kernels aside.
     Step 2:  Simmer 1 large Ancho Chile Pepper in 1 1/2 cups of water over very low heat, till the dried chile pepper is reconstituted.
     Remove the soft ancho chile from the broth.
     Save the pot of ancho chile broth aside.
     Split the pepper open.
     Remove the stem and seeds.
     Mince the chile ancho and return it to the chile pepper broth.
     Set the ancho chile broth aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons each of:
     - small diced carrot
     - small diced celery
     - small diced onion
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Add 3 cups of shrimp broth.
     Add the reserved minced ancho chile and its broth.
     Add the reserved roasted corn kernels.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 3 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while stirring with a whisk.  (The roux should look shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux turns a light blonde color.
     Add a little bit of the roux at a time to the hot soup broth while stirring with a whisk, till all of the roux is incorporated.
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of cream, while stirring.
     Add 1 cup of milk.
     Stir the soup occasionally till it returns to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     *The soup will be a very thin consistency at this point.
     Step 7:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 8 ounces of tilapia filet.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sear the tilapia filet till it is lightly browned on both sides. 
     Remove the tilapia from the hot pan and place it on a cutting board.
     Chop the tilapia filet into small pieces.
     Add the chopped tilapia to the soup.
     Step 8:  Gently simmer and reduce till the soup is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  (The finished volume will be a little more than 4 cups.)
     Keep the soup warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Petite Rusk Garnish:
     This recipe yields enough for 2 bowls of soup.
     Cut 3 thin slices of small baguette bread that are about 3/16" thick.
     Cut the bread slices in half.  (half moon shapes)
     Place the bread slices side by side on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 275ºF oven.
     Bake till the bread is completely dried and crisp.  (Do not let the rusk turn brown!)
     Set the petite pieces of rusk aside.
     This recipe yields describes 1 soup portion presentation.
     Step 1:  Ladle 2 cups of the Tilapia, Ancho Chile and Roasted Maize Crème Soup into a large soup bowl.
     Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of thin sliced green onion on the soup.
     Step 2:  Float 3 of the Petite Rusk Garnish slices on the center of the soup, so they point out from center.
     Sprinkle a few drops of lime juice on the rusk slices.  (About 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon.)
     Garnish the floating rusk with a very thin lime slice curl.
     This Southwestern style fish soup is perfect for a chilly day! 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Guisado de Chivo y Lulo

     Ecuadorian Goat Stew with Naranjilla Fruit! 
     Stews are popular in Southern Mexico, Central America, Ecuador and Colombia.  Many of the stew recipes from those regions require plenty of native ingredients.  Few people think of stew as being hot tropical weather cuisine.  Tropical stews usually have ingredients and flavors that give relief to the heat.  Stews also provide good nutrition that is easy to digest.
     Stew recipes are some of the oldest recipes in the world.  Stewing was one of mankind's first cooking techniques.  The great thing about a stew is that all of the nutrients and flavor stays in the pot!
     Native cuisines of the Americas require many ingredients that are considered to be exotic.  Locally available ingredients produce great flavor combinations that really should be experienced.  Omitting the native ingredients for the sake of personal taste or convenience is not a good thing to do, especially when making a traditional stew.  Often when exotic ingredients are omitted, the stew will end up looking and tasting like any other ordinary stew and it will not impress guests.
      Naranjilla is an exotic tropical fruit that is essential for today's traditional Ecuadorian goat stew recipe.   Lulo is a local Ecuadorian name for Naranjilla.  Naranjilla is a tropical fruit from a nightshade family plant that grows in the Northwest region of South America.  Naranjilla looks like an orange color tomato.  When the fruit is cut open, the pulp looks greenish yellow.  Naranjilla fruit has a tart, tangy, citrus fruit flavor that is one of a kind.  Naranjilla is used in stew recipes and it is also used to make a refreshing afternoon fruit drink that is similar to Lemonade.  Lulo (Naranjilla) can be purchased fresh or frozen in Latin American food markets.  Frozen Naranjilla is a nice quality product that is easy to work with.
     Guisado de Chivo y Lulo: 
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     Frozen Naranjilla (Lulo) is available at most Latino food markets.  Fresh Naranjilla is more difficult to find outside of South America.
     Step 1:  Press the juice and pulp of 4 or 5 Lulo Fruit (Naranjilla) through a fine mesh strainer into a container.  (About 1 cup)
     Set the container aside till later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Select 10 ounces of large goat meat stewing pieces with the bones attached.
     *The bones add flavor, but try to select meaty pieces so the proportion of bones remains low.  Any small bone pieces or bone splinters should be removed.
     Season the goat meat with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Heat a braising pan (or wide sauce pot) over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of blended olive oil.
     Add the seasoned goat meat pieces.  
     Sauté till the goat meat is browned on all sides.
     Step 4:  Add 5 crushed garlic cloves.
     Add 3/4 cup of very finely chopped vidalia onion.
     Sauté till the onions start to turn clear in color.
     Step 5:  Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped red bell pepper.
     Add 1 finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper.
     Add 1 finely chopped seeded red serrano pepper.
     Sauté till the peppers start to become tender.
     Step 6:  Add 1/2 cup of finely chopped tomato.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 2 pinches of oregano.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of allspice.
     Briefly sauté and stir till the spices become aromatic.
     Step 7:  Add 3/4 cup of lager beer.
     Add the reserved Lulo juice and pulp.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Piloncillo.  (Plioncillo is also called Panela.  Piloncillo is raw sugar.)
     Add enough water to cover the ingredients with 1" of extra liquid.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper if necessary.
     Skim off any excess oil that floats on top of the liquid
     Step 9:  Gently simmer the stew for at least 2 hours, so the goat meat becomes very tender.
     Allow the stewing sauce to reduce to a medium thin consistency that easily clings to the goat meat.    
     *Only add more lager beer or water to the stew if the stewing sauce reduces too far before the goat meat is tender.
     Keep the finished stew warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     This recipe describes 1 hearty entrée.
     Step 1:  Remove the large goat meat pieces from the stew and mound them on the center of a plate or shallow stew bowl.
     Spoon the rich stewing sauce over the goat meat pieces and onto the plate.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle 1 or 2 pinches of finely chopped cilantro or Italian Parsley over the stew.
     Garnish the plate with a cilantro sprig or Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with beans and rice on the side.
     Serve with soft crust bread or steamed corn tortillas on the side.

     The goat meat is very tender after simmering in the acidic stew sauce.  The spices create an interesting flavor.  The Lulo Fruit has a great tasting tart citrus flavor.  This is a great tasting Ecuadorian goat stew that can be served any season!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Sun Dried Tomato and Pepper Jack Frittata

     A Simple Southwestern Style Frittata!
     Sometimes, an uncomplicated flavor combination with no extra garnishes is best.  Sun Dried Tomatoes have a deep rich flavor that goes well with Pepper Jack Cheese.  Today's frittata could be garnished with guacamole, a flavored crema or any number of things, but why bother?  The simple combination of eggs, sun dried tomatoes and Pepper Jack tastes great on its own!
     Pepper Jack is a Monterey Jack Cheese that is flavored with spicy hot chile peppers.  Pepper Jack always used to be made with real Monterey Jack Cheese, but many dubious modern cheese companies now make Pepper Jack with processed cheese.  Processed Cheese is nearly identical to plastic and it is the root cause of many health problems, so it is best to avoid Pepper Jack that is made with Processed Cheese.  There is nothing like the real thing and Pepper Jack made with old fashioned real Monterey Jack is the best for Southwestern style cooking.    
     When melting Pepper Jack, it is best not to brown the cheese.  Monterey Jack Cheese is semi firm and it has a fairly high fat content.  The oily fats will separate from the curd when too much heat is applied.  Browning Pepper Jack will cause the cheese to lose its character.  

     Sun Dried Tomato and Pepper Jack Frittata:
     This recipe yields 1 petite frittata.  (For a full portion frittata, use 3 large eggs.)
     Step 1:  Heat 2 cups of water over medium low heat in a small sauce pot.
     Add 6 sun dried tomato halves.
     Simmer till the sun dried tomatoes are reconstituted and tender.
     Step 2:  Place the reconstituted sun dried tomatoes on a cutting board.
     Dice the sun dried tomatoes and set them aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add 2 whisked large eggs.
     Add the diced sun dried tomatoes.
     Use a spatula to even the edges of the frittata.
     When the eggs cook firm on the bottom half of the frittata, remove the pan from the heat.
     *The eggs on the top half of the frittata will still be runny.
     Step 4:  Sprinkle 1/3 cup of grated Pepper Jack Cheese on the frittata.
     Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon fine plain bread crumbs on the frittata.
     Sprinkle 1 small pinch of Mexican Oregano on the frittata.
     Lightly season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 5:  Place the frittata pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake until the Pepper Jack Melts and the eggs are fully cooked.  (Try not to brown the cheese!)
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Slide the frittata onto a plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig or cilantro sprig.

     This is a nice tasting simple frittata recipe that is worth trying!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Sopapillas with Cashew Fruit Honey Syrup

     Tasty Sweet Sopapillas For Dessert!
     The Spanish word "Sopapilla" is derived from a word that the Arabic Moors used to describe a type of oil saturated fried flatbread during the occupation of Southwestern Europe about 1,000 years ago.  Later in history when the Spanish occupied South America after 1492, the Spanish used the word Sopapillas to describe Native South American fried flatbread that was made with calabaza and maza harina.  The old South American native Sopapillas idea was adapted by the Spanish and the recipe spread throughout the new world empire.  Sopapillas eventually became a tradition in Mexico.  
     After the Spanish introduced wheat grain to Mexico, wheat flour either replaced masa harina or it was combined with the corn flour when making flatbread Sopapillas.  Calabaza pulp was no longer part of the bread recipe.  The flat bread was no longer drenched with oil from frying,   This style of Sopapillas is still the standard in modern times.
     Mexican style Sopapillas can be fried, but they are usually cooked on a hot dry griddle.  Mexican Sopapillas are nearly always served as a dessert with a generous amount of honey poured over them.  Sopapillas are also nice for breakfast.
     Across the ocean in Spain, Sopapillas eventually evolved into a Spanish style fried sweet pastry that is the equivalent of a donut.  When looking at recipes, it is important to note that there is quite a difference between Mexican Sopapillas and modern Spanish Sopapillas.  Mexican Sopapillas were borne from South American native cuisine and this bread only resembles the Moorish fry bread from long ago.      
     The dough for today's Mexican Sopapillas recipe is made with a combination of wheat flour and masa harina.  This is the same kind of Dessert Sopapilla that is commonly served at restaurants in Central America, Mexico and throughout the American Southwest.  The texture is one of a kind and it is not like an American style Johnny Cake or Pancake!
     In order to jazz up today's recipe, Cashew Fruit flavors the Honey Syrup.  Cashew trees are indigenous to South America.  The Tupi Native name for the cashew tree and fruit is Acajú.  Acajú can be translated as "Nut that produces itself."
     Cashew nut pods are attached to a tasty sweet fruity pseudocarp from a cashew tree.  Pseudocarp means "false fruit."  The cashew seed pot nut is actually the true fruit and the sweet false fruit lures animals that discard the seed nut pod.  
     Guatamala is home to many cashew trees and the fruit is used locally as both a refreshing drink and as a flavor additive in cooking.  Fine tasting desserts and dolce preserves are also made with the cashew fruit.  Ripe cashew false fruit can be red, yellow or orange in color.  Cashew fruit tastes like sweet fruity cashew nuts!  Cashew fruit juice mixed with honey is a nice syrup flavor Sopapillas.

     Cashew Fruit Honey Syrup:
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.  (1 portion) 
     Cashew fruit is available as a frozen product in Latino food markets.
     Step 1:  Pop the cashew nut pod off of 1 cashew fruit and set it aside.
     *The cashew nut pod can be roasted and used as an optional garnish.
     Trim any dark spots off of the cashew fruit.
     Chop the fruit into small pieces.
     Step 2:  Place the chopped cashew fruit in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Gently simmer till the cashew fruit is soft.
     Mash the soft cashew fruit in the liquid.
     Continue simmering till the liquid is full of cashew flavor.
     Step 3:  Pour the cashew fruit liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of canella.  (Central American Cinnamon)
     Gently simmer and reduce till about 3 tablespoons of cashew fruit liquid remains.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of honey.
     Keep the thin cashew fruit honey syrup warm on a stove top.

     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (3 medium size sopapillas)
     *The reserved cashew nut pot can be roasted on the hot griddle while the sopapillas cook.  Roll the cashew nut in the pan occasionally so it roasts evenly.
     Step 1:  Place 2/3 cup of all purpose flour in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 cup of masa harina.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
     Add 1 tablespoon of melted lard.  (1 tablespoon of melted vegetable shortening or vegetable oil can be substituted)
     Step 2:  Add a little bit of water at a time while mixing, till a soft pliable dough is formed.  (About 3/4 cup of water, more or less.)
     *The dough should be soft, but it should be able to be gathered as a ball.   The dough should have the texture of a biscuit dough.  Just mix the dough till it is blended and do not knead the dough!
     Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, so the moisture is absorbed.
     *If the surface of the dough looks dry after resting, then add a little bit of water while mixing till the dough looks soft and pliable.
     Step 3:  Lightly dust a countertop with masa harina.
     Place the dough on the floured counter top.
     Step 4:  Cut the dough into 3 equal size portions.
     Use your hands to roll the dough into 3 ball shapes.
     Press the ball shapes flat.
     Pat each sopapilla with fingertips till it is a flat round pancake shape that is about 3/8" thick.
     Step 5:  Heat a seasoned cast iron griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Lightly brush the griddle with vegetable oil.
     Place the sopapillas on the griddle.
     Cook the sopapillas till a few brown highlights appear on the bottom half.
     Flip the sopapillas.
     When a few brown highlights appear on the other side of the sopapillas, then they are ready!

     Sopapillas with Cashew Fruit Honey Syrup:
     This recipe yields 1 large dessert portion that can be shared.
     Overlap the 3 warm sopapillas on a plate.
     Pour a generous amount of the warm cashew fruit honey syrup over the sopapillas.
     Garnish the plate with fluted lime slices.
     Place the toasted cashew nut pod next to the lime slices as a garnish.

     Sweet cashew fruit flavored honey syrup and sopapillas is a very nice tasting dessert!