Friday, March 26, 2010

Tostadas RĂ¡pidas (Quick tostadas)

 I have a very authentic recipe for tostadas posted on the blog, but I wanted a recipe that I could make quickly for dinner.  Now that you can buy really good tostadas already fried, the whole process is much easier.  I had this ready in about 30 minutes. There are some very good fresh salsas available. Buy one and add a little fresh lime juice or cilantro to it, if it needs a little freshening up.  That will make this meal even quicker.  You can also garnish these with avocado, sour cream, or cheese, if you like.

To serve 4:

For the meat: (You could substitute shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken instead cooking the ground beef.  You can spice it up with a little Rotel, cumin, salt, and pepper, and make this Really fast.)

1 lb ground beef
1/2 can of Rotel or about 1/2 cup of Goya Sofrito
olive oil
1/4 onion,chopped
salt, pepper to taste
1/4 tsp cumin,
1/4 tsp oregano
 1-2 tbl red wine vinegar
1/4-1/2 cup Chopped, stuffed green olives or 1/4 Cup of capers

Put 1-2 tbl of olive oil into a heated skillet.  Add the Rotel or Sofrito and fry gently until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add the meat, onion, and spices, add cook until the meat is no longer pink.  Add the vinegar, and cook another minute.  Taste and correct seasonings.  Remove meat from pan and discard grease, but don't clean the skillet.

1 can seasoned, refried black beans
olive oil
1/4 can Rotel, or 1/4 Cup Goya Sofrito
1/4 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped finely or a little garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
salt & pepper to taste
pinch or two of oregano

Add the olive oil to your skillet and heat.  Add the Rotel, onion, garlic, and fry gently for a couple of minutes.  Add the beans and cumin.  Cook until bubbling hot.  Taste & add salt and pepper to taste.

Xni Pec (Fresh Yucatecan salsa)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 purple onion, chopped
1/2 or more fresh chile like a jalapeno or habanero (This is to my taste. You may want less or none.)
handful of fresh cilantro chopped
juice of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 orange
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all together.

To assemble:
Heat the tostada shells according to the package. Spread some beans onto a tostada.  Top with some meat and salsa.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lidia's Broccoli or Cauliflower with pasta

I got the idea for this  from Lidia's Italian Cooking show on the Create channel.  I made it with left over broccoli. It was a very quick and easy meal. I just made enough for 2 people, but I wish that I had had leftovers.  I am addicted to pasta of any kind, and I really liked this. Lidia's version also has toasted almonds instead of parmesean, but I am a huge parmesean fan so that's what I used. 

If you are using left over broccoli or cauliflower, just put it in the colander and drain the pasta on top of it to reheat it or reheat in the microwave and add it to the bowl when you add the cooked pasta.

To serve 6

½ teaspoon salt
8- inch chunk day- old French bread 
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4  garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
¼ teaspoon peperoncino (hot, red pepper) flakes, or to taste
1 small head cauliflower or broccoli, cut in small florets (about 1 pound)
1 pound Cavatelli

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Parmigiano reggiano - grated 

Fill a large pot with salted water (at least 6 quarts water with 1 tablespoon salt), and heat to a boil.

Grate the bread chunk on the coarse holes of a box grater into a mixing bowl (you'll have about 2 cups). Saute the garlic & red pepper flakes for a minute in  5 tablespoons of the olive oil  over medium-high heat. Add the bread crumbs, and stir to moisten them with the oil.

Toast the crumbs until they’re golden and crisp, being careful not to let anything brown too much. Remove from heat, and pour the toasted crumbs and garlic into the serving bowl.

Meanwhile, start cooking the cauliflower and cavatelli. With the cooking water at a rolling boil, drop in the cauliflower florets, and cook them for about 3 minutes, until barely tender. Drop in the cavatelli, stir, and return the water quickly to a boil. Cook another 4 to 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is fully tender and the pasta is al dente.

Drain and add the pasta and florets to the bread crumbs in the bowl. Add the parsley and salt, and toss everything together well, until the crumbs are evenly distributed and coat the pasta and cauliflower florets. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil all over, and toss again. Top with grated Parmigiano. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

El Girasol - Taqueria

Our friend Steve invited us to lunch yesterday at El Girasol. He knows that I spent all my summers in Yucatan as a kid, and he thought that I would really like it.  Well, he was right. We ate yesterday at El Girasol Mexican Grocery, Taqueria, Carniceria, Tortilleria.  For those of you who don't speak Spanish that's a taco shop, butcher shop, and tortilla shop. This place is located just east of Panera's on that funky little street that runs diagonally between Kingston Pike and Forest Brook. It's really a series of shops.  Running from left to right there is a clothing store that houses the tortilleria in the back.  Be sure to go in and buy tortillas or fresh masa because they're made fresh daily.  Then there's a hair salon and finally the grocery store.  Walk into the grocery store, take your first left, and you're standing in what appears to be a clean, but unpromising little restaurant.  Oh, ye of little faith, you are standing in the holy grail of Mexican restaurants, one that serves REAL Mexican food.  I ordered from the daily specials which were all in Spanish.  I speak Spanish, but our waitress spoke excellent English; get her to translate the specials.  I ordered the Tostada de Camaron.  It transported me back to Yucatan.  Fresh, uncomplicated, and excellent--boiled, chopped shrimp were combined with cilantro, onion, tomato, and lime juice, and placed atop a crispy flat taco. It was the best item of the day.  Jim had the fish tacos--breaded and fried fish placed in an excellent soft tortilla, served with a delicious "condimento" of thinly shredded coleslaw, onion, cilantro, tomato, and lime juice.  Steve's wife, Connie, had a combination of enchiladas that were all excellent.  Steve had an enormous burrito that was delicious as well. There were so many things that I want to go back and try--Pork Ribs in Green Salsa and Caldo de Res among many others. You've got to try it!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Glenda's Coconut Cake Recipe

Southerners are famous for their funeral food. Almost every woman in the South has a special funeral recipe. Mine are Mimoi's pound cake and Hot Chicken Salad. Here is a recipe that should be added to everybody's repetoire.  Glenda Hanks brought this cake to my mom's wake.  So many people loved it and asked for the recipe that I just had to get it from Glenda.  She graciously shared it with me.

1   -  Box French Vanilla Cake Mix, (mix and bake according to instructions)
Pour into a 9 X 13 sheet cake pan and bake

1 Can - (Coco Lopez)
Mix with hand mixer,  1-2 mins, to reduce any lumpiness.
Remove cake from oven and, while still hot, punch holes with a straw  in the top of cake.
Pour cream of coconut over hot cake

Cool cake completely.


1 -  large cool whip
1 -  small cream cheese
1 -  cup powdered sugar
1 -  tall can bakers coconut

Mix cool whip, cream cheese, and  powdered sugar with mixer 2-3 mins. Spread on cool cake

Top cake with 1 tall can bakers coconut.  (Keep uneaten cake in refrigerator)

Monday, March 15, 2010

John’s Gumbo

John Hanks made this for the family the week before Ama B died.  He and Glenda had asked if they could do anything, and I said to send us some of their incredibly good food.  This was the result--sooo rich and satisfying--unbelievably good. 
(I have retained John's notes on the recipe.)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • A couple of chopped yellow onions, about 1 & ½ or 2 cups.
  • Two or three ribs of chopped celery, about a cup or so.
  • One chopped green bell peppers, about a cup.
  • 1 pound hot smoked andouille sausage cut  into 1/2-inch slices.  They usually have fresh andoullie at the Fresh Market. If you get it fresh you will need to cook it before adding it to the gumbo.  I usually grill it.  The packaged precooked andoullie at Kroger is also good.  If you can’t find it you can also use smoked kielbasa.
  • 1/2 to 1 pound of smoked ham cubed.  The pre-packaged cubed cooked ham at Kroger is not as tasty as smoked ham but is ok.
  • You can also get some seafood (shrimp, etc.) if you like.  We are allergic so we don’t.
  • Salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon. I usually go easy on the salt at first because it boils down and becomes saltier as the water evaporates. You can always add more at the end.
  • Cayenne. 1/4 teaspoon is pretty mild.  If adding more be careful and add it in small amounts and test it between each addition because it doesn’t take much to make it too spicy.  I’ve found that more than a teaspoon is too much heat for my taste.
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 3 bay leaves (very important ingredient)
  • 3 quarts chicken stock with all the chicken meat removed. recipe below
  • A couple tablespoons fresh chopped parsley. (Italian of course)
  • A small bunch of chopped green onions.
  • File powder
  • Hot Sauce (I like Frank’s Red Hot but any good Louisiana Hot Sauce will do).
  • Cooked long-grain white rice.  I sometimes use Jasmine rice instead.  I make quite a lot for leftovers.
(You can also add more or less vegetables or meat.  I usually add more of both for heartier Gumbo)
In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and stir in the flour. Stir slowly and constantly along the bottom of the pan for 25 to 30 minutes, I’ve found that a flat edged wooden spoon works best.  You may want to get someone to help with the stirring, 30 minutes is a long time and I have found it difficult to have a glass of wine or a beer if you are stirring all the time J Make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate. The roux should be smooth in the end, not grainy.  If you heat the Roux too fast it will burn. If you mess it up it’s better to just start over otherwise it ruins the entire dish.  The darker the roux the richer the taste but the less thickening power it has.  I like my gumbo thinner and I do love the richer taste so I tend to make mine pretty dark. You can always do the corn starch in cold water trick to thicken it up at the end if you like.
Add the chopped onions, celery, and bell peppers and stir for about 6-8 minutes. The roux will get darker as you add the vegetables.  Add the sausage, ham, salt, cayenne, pepper, and bay leaves. Cook and stir until heated through.
Add the chicken stock to the roux mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered for 1 hour. Stir occasionally.
Add the chicken (and seafood if you like) near the end and cook just until seafood is done and the chicken is heated through. About 8 or 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in parsley and green onions. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with file powder and/or hot sauce.  Add a scoop of rice in the middle and enjoy.

Basic Chicken stock:
1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 head garlic, cut in 1/2 horizontally
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Parsley stems
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 quarts water

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, skimming the surface occasionally to remove any foam that forms on the surface.
Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones and vegetables.  Refrigerate overnight if possible. It makes it easier to skim some of the fat that forms on the surface. This should make about 3 quarts of stock and 3 cups of cooked chicken meat.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Frozen dumplings

Okay.  I pride myself on my homemade chicken and dumplings.  My grandmother who was the master of all pastry, taught me to make them. Making them takes me back in time to her kitchen in Birmingham. It didn't have a dishwasher, microwave oven, gas cooktop or granite countertops, but some of the best food that I've ever had came from it.  That being said, sometimes I don't want a walk down memory lane and the mess of homemade dumplings.  Sometimes, I just want dumplings--as quickly and easily as possible.  I have found, through my Aunt Nancy, a brand of frozen dumplings that are fantastic.  Perhaps they aren't quite as good as homemade, but they are very good. They're called Sally B's dumplings (check out their biscuits as well).  Today, I made a rich chicken stock with backs and wings and cooked a whole chicken in it.  I deboned the chicken, brought it back to the boil, and started adding frozen dumplings.  Thirty minutes later, after thickening the stock with a slurry made from 1/2 and 1/2 and flour, we were eating delicious chicken and dumplings.  I'm not kidding, they are really good.  Even my son Patrick was fooled. So if you've never made that icon of Southern cooking, chicken and dumplings, you can now.

Marcella Hazan's Tangerine Sorbet

This is an extraordinarily delicious sorbet which is easy to do if you have an ice cream maker and simple syrup. During the summer I keep the bowl of my ice cream maker in the freezer and I keep simple syrup in the fridge so that I can make sorbet at a moment's notice. You can easily adapt this recipe to almost any fruit, and you can use frozen fruit if fresh is not available.

This is very pretty served in a hollowed out orange--cut about 1/4 off the top of a naval orange, and scoop out the flesh with a sharp spoon.  If you really want to gild the lily, make some chocolate sauce with bittersweet chocolate, butter, and Grand Marnier.

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

1 cup fresh squeezed tangerine juice
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp (or so) grated tangerine peel
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau
1 cup Muscat wine or any not too dry white wine like a Riesling

Make a simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water, stirring frequently.  When all the sugar is dissolved, it's ready.  (Make double & keep the rest for next time.) Let cool.

Combine the simple syrup with all other ingredients and refrigerate.

Stir to combine and freeze in the ice cream mixer.

Sauteed Pork Scallops with Scallions and Capers

This is another delicious Marcella Hazan recipe. This is a very quick and easy.  I like to serve this with crunchy french bread and a simple vegetable like broccoli or green beans,
but it is also delicious with a  risotto if you really feel like spending some time cooking.

15 scallions, washed well & sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 tbls capers, drained if packed in vinegar; rinsed & drained if packed in salt, chopped if big
1 lb sliced boneless top pork loin chops
2 tbl veg oil
2 tbl butter
Flour, spread on a plate
Salt, black pepper

Using a meat pounder, pound the pork to about 1/3 inch thick.

Put the oil & 1 tbl butter in a 12 inch skillet & turn on the heat to high.

Flour the pork and brown in the hot oil on both sides, transferring them to a warm plate as you cook them.
Turn the heat down to medium low and add the green onion, salt & pepper to the skillet and cover the pan.
Cook stirring from time to time, until the scallions are very,very soft, about 20 minutes.
Uncover the pan & stir in the chopped capers.
Add the remaining tbl of butter & return the meat to the pan.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper & turn the meat over once or twice.  Cook until reheated, but no longer or the pork will get tough.  Serve immediately.

You can do everything up to reheating the pork several hours in advance.  Reheat the scallions and capers thoroughly before proceeding.

Baked Tomatoes Stuffed with Ham, Green Olives, and Parmesean

These are from Marcella Hazan's cookbook, Marcella Cucina. They are THE BEST, THE MOST DELICIOUS stuffed tomatoes that you will ever put in your mouth. As my grandmother would say "They'll make your tongue slap your brains out". They make a delicious first course or side dish with roasted or grilled meats, but I also love to make them as an hors d'ouvre by using a smaller tomato. Just reduce the baking time to about 12-15 minutes. As you know, I have picky eaters in my family. So, for my husband, I make these with capers instead of olives which he hates. I don't think they're quite as good, but they're still good. I also use whatever good ham I have, smoked or not.

Serves 12 as an appetizer or 6 as a first course.

Preheat oven to 400

6 medium-large ripe, firm, round tomatoes, almost 3 inches across
2 ounces boiled, unsmoked ham, chopped fine, about 1/2 cup
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
12 green olives, pitted and chopped finely or substitute capers
2 tbl chopped Italian parsley
2/3 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-reggiano
5 tbls extra virgin olive oil
salt, black pepper
2 tbls fine, dry unflavored bread crumbs

Wash the tomatoes & cut them in half across their width. Scoop out the seeds. Place them, cut side up, on a baking pan large enough to hold them snugly.

In a small bowl combine the ham, onion,olives,parsley, cheese, 4 tbl of the oil, salt & pepper and mix thoroughly.

Stuff the tomatoes, mounding slightly. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and drizzle with remaining oil. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until light brown. Serve warm, but not hot.

You can bake these ahead and reheat in a 350 oven until lukewarm.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Roman Style Broccoli

Patrick made this last night to go with some simple grilled steaks and roasted potatoes. He has been home from Rome for a couple of weeks and is the reason for all the recipes "alla Romano" (Roman style). You're going to think that the cooking time is a mistake, but Italians do not like half cooked veggies. The color is not very pretty, but it tastes delicious. I promise!

2-3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 head of broccoli, leaves removed, stems sliced, & head separated into florets
1/2-3/4 cup dry white wine
salt & pepper

Saute garlic with a pinch of salt in olive oil in a large skillet. Add broccoli leaves and saute. Add sliced stem and saute. Add florets and a sprinkling of and saute. Add wine, cover,reduce heat to low, and let cook 20 to 30 minutes, checking and stirring every 5 minutes or so. If it gets too dry, add some water. It will be gray green and tender when done. Taste and adjust salt & pepper. Turn off and add a drizzle of olive oil. Toss and serve.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Roman style mashed potatoes

Last night I made this to go with Roast Chicken with Pancetta. I remembered this dish from a restaurant in Rome in the Trastevere area called Dai Due Cicioni. The dish in Italian is called Patate alla Romana, and the restaurant served it as a first course. It was incredible--spicy, tomatoey, and redolant with olive oil. I didn't use a recipe, but this was delicious.

To serve 4-5

5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, sliced, boiled, and drained
1/2 cup simple marinara, pureed tomatoes, or tomato sauce
3 tbl or more extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup or more chicken stock
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

None of these measurements are exact, so season to your taste.
Mash the potatoes and add some of everything. Mix well and add more of whatever you think it needs.