Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Magic Tomato Box

Not really magic.   But it does work.
As usual, I had a bumper crop of late tomatoes.  Summer was too, too hot and dry, but this fall the tomato plants were very happy.
So, when word was that it was going to frost, I went out and picked a big bunch of green tomatoes.
The ones that were starting to turn went to the window sill and we're still eating them now.
The ones that were solid dark green I did two things with.
1.  I made a batch of green tomato/jalapeño relish.
2.  I put the rest in a box of sawdust with a couple of apples on the bottom and left it in the garage.

I really didn't know if the sawdust/apple combo would work or not, but have not had much luck with any other method in the past.
This worked like a charm, and continues to do so.  Some weren't quite there yet but I'm sure another week will turn them red.  Not as tasty and juicy as off-the-vine ripe, but tomatoes nonetheless.
*Follow-up.  Every single dark green tomato turned dark red.  The flavor was comparable to store-bought, so $ saved.  Heh-heh.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey Sopa -or What Do with Rest of the Turkey

Sopa is a spanish word that causes some confusion, because it's used slightly differently in different regions of the spanish-speaking world.
It sounds like soup and doubtless the words come from the same origin.  Sometimes it is used for "soup", but more often it is some kind of starch (bread, tortillas, rice, or pasta), cooked in a broth or liquid.
Hence, "sopa de arroz" is the ubiquitous tomato-y rice pilaf that is served with all "Mexican Plates".
In other parts of Texas you wouldn't call this sopa, you'd call it enchiladas, or some kind of King Ranch Casserole, but I prefer the word Sopa, and I like my sopa to be very simple and minimal.  I exclude a lot of Tex-Mex add-ons, such as other vegetables or lots of herbs and  spices, such as cumin.  There is just way too much cumin being tossed into "Mexican" food, IMO.  Ditto for cilantro.

We always have so much white turkey meat left over, this is  a wonderful way for me to use it up.  So here is how we make ours, and of course you can do this with chicken as well.
I usually use Long Green Chile, but this time of year the long green is too flaco, so I'm using Poblanos.  They are always gorgeous.
I learned at A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate that if you boil your chiles first, the skin comes off easier when you roast them, so I do that.

Then I spray them with a little oil and put them under the broiler, which is quicker for me than over the flame, but you don't get as much of that wonderful smell in the kitchen!
Into a baggie they go to steam and cool off.

Then I peel and de-seed them, and it really works better using a paper towel and a little sharp knife than under the tap.

Grate the cheese, Monterrey Jack.  I guess this is about 2 cups.

Put 2 cans of Cream of Chicken Soup into the blender with about a cup of milk and 2 poblanos.  Blend that up good.

Assemble your ingredients:

Turkey, Cheese, Chiles, Soup, and of course, Corn Tortillas.  Salt and Pepper.

Layer 1: tortillas
Layer 2: turkey meat
Layer 3: chile strips
Layer 4: cheese
Layer 5: soup
Continue until you have used up your ingredients or filled your dish.  I like to finish up with a big layer of cheese.

Cook for 1 hour at 350°.  Or, you could freeze this and have a wonderful dinner ready for another day.

Of course, you need some beans to go with this meal. To me, this is one of those "comfort" foods that always makes me feel better.  Must be all the carbs!  Or the chile.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mango Salad, a regional classic from Seasoned with Sun

Here in our sharp corner of West Texas/New Mexico,  our most popular regional cookbook  is Seasoned with Sun from the Junior League of El Paso.
The original,  published in 1974 and followed by several later variations,  is sub-titled, "A Blending of Cultures",  and that says it all.  This cookbook is about what happened when Margie from Dallas got together with Maria from Durango in the kitchen to fix dinner.  It's about cooking with what's plentiful and common in this area, and using Northern Mexican foods and culinary techniques in new ways, as well as in the time-tested and traditional ways.

There are certain dishes from "Seasoned with Sun" that have become traditional in many homes, especially at holiday and entertaining time.

One of these is Mango Salad.  Straight out of the 60's,  (in a good way), it's tangy, light, and refreshing; a perfect side for a holiday dinner,  and since it must be made ahead of time there's no last minute interference with the turkey and gravy preparations.
Here's what you will need:
3 boxes of Lemon Jello.  In a pinch you can use another kind, but lemon is the best.
1 box of cream cheese
1 can of sliced mangos in syrup
1 or 2 limes

1. Drain the mango syrup into a measuring cup.

2. Add enough boiling water to make 3 cups, then add the jello and dissolve it.
3. Blend the cream cheese and the mangos.
4. Stir it into the jello liquid along with the juice of 2 small limes or one large one.
5. Pour it slowly into a large casserole.  This will be enough for a crowd. Then cover and chill overnight.  If you wanted to, you could make this several days ahead of time.

6. Serve on a lettuce leaf with a nice dollop of sour cream or crema (creme fraiche) and a sprinkle of brown sugar.  Good for any dinner, luncheon or brunch.

Seasoned with Sun, the Original, can be found at the following link, or at Amazon.com


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Adventures with Quince, or Membrillo

One of my very favorite appetizer/snacks  is Manchego Cheese with Ate de Membrillo, or Cajeta de Membrillo, or even Dulce de Membrillo.  It's very sweet, but with a sharp tartness at the same time, very.... refreshing and tangy. Combined with the mellow, salty funkiness of the manchego... delicious.  Perusing through a neighborhood store the other day, I saw some quince and decided to have a go at it, even though my history with candy is mainly disasters.
You can find this in some stores.

I have consulted dictionaries and translators, and apparently there is no consensus on what  to call this unusual and sweet delight.  Ate is supposed to be "quince jelly" but in Mazatlán you can buy Ate de Guayaba (guava) or Ate de Membrillo (quince), and Mrs. Griggs calls it Cajeta de Membrillo which is quince caramel.  So since there are probably many equally correct names for it, for my purposes, I'll just refer to it as Membrillo, and it is pronounced mem-bree-yo.
Here is what I found in Wikipedia about Membrillo:
"In Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela the membrillo, as the quince is called in Spanish, is cooked into a reddish jelly-like block or firm reddish paste known as dulce de membrillo. It is then eaten in sandwiches and with cheese, traditionally manchego cheese, or accompanying fresh curds. In Portugal, a similar sweet is called marmelada. It is also produced and consumed in Hungary where it is called "quince cheese". The sweet and floral notes of carne de membrillo (quince meat) contrast nicely with the tanginess of the cheese.[7] Boiled quince is also popular in desserts such as the murta con membrillo that combines ugni molinae with quince. Similar dish exists in Dalmatia, Croatia."
In Mexico, sometimes membrillo is eaten as jam on toast or rolled in sugar as a candy.

Well, to get to the gist of this tale,  I followed Josephine Griggs' recipe (which had left out an important step).  And then I compounded my mistake by thinking I could leave it in the oven to cook instead of cooking it on the stove top.  ¡Tonta!

And, I hate to admit it, but I did that twice, cooking up two batches of burnt quince jam that didn't set. Aaaarghh!

Finally I found a recipe in Allrecipes that mentioned an essential step: you must drain the water out of your quince before adding an equal amount (in weight) of sugar.  Then add the juice of a lemon and about a teaspoon of salt.
Here are the steps:
1.  Clean and chop your quince. You don't need to peel it.   I used about 6 large ones and got a 10x13 pan full of finished product.  

2.  Cover it in a heavy pan with water and low boil it until soft, around 20 minutes.

3.  Put the quince into the blender and blend it, using only a small amount of the boil water.
Blend it into a fine puree.
Important!  Drain most of the water out!
I didn't use this dish to cook, only for measurement.
4.  Put it back into the pot, add the equal amount in weight of sugar, a teaspoon of salt,  and the juice of a lemon and cook in that heavy bottomed pan over medium low heat. a Give it a good stir every 10 minutes or so.  The color will change from yellowy-tan to a lovely shade of pink/orange/brown as you cook. 

When it starts making large bubbles that pop loudly and shoot burning hot quince all over the place,  and you can see the bottom of the pan when you pull a wooden spoon through it, you know you are done. 
5. Pour it into a cake pan that is greased and lined with waxed paper.  Heating the knife before you cut makes nice cuts.  I like to sprinkle chile powder on mine before serving.

Enjoy your delicious Membrillo!    Wide mouth jam jars would be a perfect way to package this for gifts, maybe with a chunk of Manchego and some crackers. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Griggs Ensalada de Col, or Cole Slaw

This Post is being done as a Public Service.

One of the main things people seem to remember from Griggs Family Restaurant is the Cole Slaw.  None of that sickly sweet, mayonaisey stuff, no pickle juice, no pineapple, not for Josephine, no siree.  This was a slaw that made your taste buds stand up and salute!  Vinegar and Pepper!  Yeee-haw!

Did you know that cabbage in Spanish is col, as well as repolllo?  I didn't, until I read Mrs. Grigg's Cookbook.

So, if you've ever wondered where "Cole Slaw" came from, there's your answer.  Now, as for the word "Slaw"... ¿quíen sabe?

I also happen to think that the oil and vinegar in this recipe made for a slaw that would "hold up" as they say in restaurants.  No fears about bad mayonaise here, you could probably just jar this up and keep it on the shelf.  Just kidding...  (A little...)

So here it is:
Take a small head of green cabbage and shred it finely.  (Or you could buy the pre-shredded stuff and take your chances on "fresh").
A side note:  Am I the only person in the world whose mother had her convinced that this was just as good as candy?  And I never could convince my kids.  Oh, well...

1/4 c. olive oil or Wesson oil (from the book)
*2 T. vinegar (white, as I remember, but apple cider vinegar would be nice.)

1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. coarse grind black pepper (that's not how I remember it in the restaurant, I remember fine ground pepper straight from the can)
*I have to note that I ended up adding 2T. more of vinegar.  You might want to add more, somehow I think that Mrs. Griggs didn't share everything with us on this one.  Please tell me what you think.

"After cabbage is shredded, mix remaining ingredients together.  Add to slaw, mix well and chill before serving." I used latex gloves and my hands.  This takes a lot of tossin'.

This is a fresh, healthy and zing-y accompaniment to any Mexican dish, and a great alternative to plain old shredded iceberg.  
You're welcome!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chile Verde

There are a ka-jillion variations for Chile Verde con Carne, or green chile with meat.  Some call for tomatillo, some for tomato, some for potato, some have lots of spices. Some are for beef, some for pork.  Everybody has one, as they say.  Including my Dad.

Dad makes himself a big pot every week or so in the retirement apartment where he lives.  He then eats it several times during the week  for lunch.  He never gets tired of it, and although I wish he ate more vegetables, it's a healthy, low fat meal.
His recipe is:  chile, round steak cut into pieces, potato, and onion.  Sometimes garlic, sometimes not.  Water with beef bullion cube. Salt and pepper.  He cooks it a long time on low.  That's it.  He doesn't brown the meat or the vegetables and he uses only round steak.   He learned from a butcher that a local Mexican restaurant always used round steak, because the cooked meat held together and didn't disintegrate into vague beef-ish stuff.   His weekly batch definitely needs to hold up.

I use round steak as well, but sometimes I'll cut up a tri-tip or a chuck roast because I like the flavor.  You could certainly use "Stew Meat". 

Personally, I like Chile Verde that doesn't have potato.
Here is how I like to make mine:
You will need;

(for 6 servings)

2 1/2 lbs. of trimmed round steak.
seasoning (I like Great American Steak Seasoning) and flour
6 (minimum) green chiles, peeled and seeded.
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 bottle or can of beer or 2 cups  of water.
Cooking oil for browning the meat and vegetables.
1.Season the meat with seasoning and flour lightly. Cut into bite sized pieces.
2. Heat up a heavy dutch oven and put a small amount of oil on the bottom. ( I use peanut oil for browning)
3. In batches, brown the meat well.  Remove from the dutch oven. 

4. Cook the chopped onion, garlic and chile and 1/2 tsp. oregano until it's slightly browned.

5. Return the meat to the pan.
6. Add the can of tomato sauce and the water or beer.
7. Cover and put into a 300° oven.

 8. Check after 2 hours for tenderness and add liquid if you need to. You can cook this all day if you want to.

Serve with flour tortillas.