Chalupas for breakfast…lunch and dinner

I prepared for my trip to Mexico by adding siracha sauce to all my meals the week beforehand to get used to eating spicy. Let me say that adding siracha to normally non-spicy food does not taste good, nor it is helpful to prepare your tastebuds for the explosion of freshness and complex spices in mexican food. People have told me for many years that it is impossible to get real Mexican food in the Northeast and I would be completely surprised by my trip. As a food lover, one of the most anticipated parts of my trip was the food. I lasted 3 days. And then came montezuma’s revenge. Before the revenge, however, came chalupas. And I promise these did not contribute. They are simple flavors and made by easily-accessible ingredients. I made them this weekend for breakfast  based on what I learned from Sofia, the octagerian mother of a friend I stayed with for 2 days outside of Mexico City.

You don’t actually need this tortilla press to make chalupas, but Sofia gave me a small one to take home with me and it definitely makes the process more fun. The first step is to make the dough. All you need is Maseca and water. This is the brand we used and it has instructions on the side: http://www.mexgrocer.com/2440.html. You can get it at any Latino grocer or corner store. We added a tablespoon of oil to help hold the dough together a little more. The important thing in making chalupas is that YOU DO NOT FLATEN THE DOUGH. With the press, you press down a bit on one side, then flip it over and press it a bit on that side. The dough should still be about a centimeter thick.

Next step is to put the dough in a cast iron pan or on a griddle until browned. No oil or butter needed in the pan. As soon as you take them out, press your thumb around the edge and then pinch in the middle into a little ridge. It will burn your fingers. Nobody ever said comida casera fue facil. Don’t be a wimp. Chalupa means little boat in Spanish so you are basically creating a little seat for the salsa and other yummy stuff to sit in. Otherwise the ingredients would fall out. Imagine eating an open-faced sandwhich in which the ingredients didn’t slide off…amazing.

Final cooking step is to put the chalupas back on the griddle to puff them up a little and get them hot before serving. Meanwhile, your assistant (or you if are a good multi-tasker) shreds or crumbles cheese and sets the table with salsa.

In Mexico we ate our chalupas with green spicy salsa, parmesan cheese and crema. Crema is a condiment used in a lot of central american food but one that I’ve only ever seen sold in Latino supermarkets. The two similar easily accessible options are Sour Cream and Creme Fraiche. Both are delicious. When I made them last week I served them with roasted peppers and onions, salsa and feta cheese. The week before that I served them with stew pot beans (runny, spiced black beans) and cottage cheese. You can really get creative with toppings depening on what you have in your fridge and how hungry you are. If, however, you are not feeling up to the chalupa challenge and are looking for good Mexican food, I would recommend you visit us in Chelsea, MA and check out either King Tacos or the new place across from Montecristo on Broadway.

Mocha rum birthday cake

I forgot to say that I’m trying a gluten free month to see if it helps give me more energy and calm my ezcema. So far, I can’t say that I’ve had any positive effects, I even have had bad ezcema and felt really tired, drained a lot of the time and bloated. Maybe I’m doing something wrong–suggestions? I’m gonna give it a full 6 weeks to make sure, but I’m not convinced yet after 3 weeks. I must say, however, that it has not been as hard as I expected. There are so many gluten-free choices–the only problem is that the products are more expensive, but with supportive roommates at our cooperative house, I get to share that cost.

For Becky’s birthday I decided to try a gluten-free cake. It’s based off the “Russian Chocolate Torte” recipe in “New Recipes from Moosewood Kitchen” with a few changes. It was best on day one, then got a bit dried out, but overall we were all very impressed.   Thanks to Manface for his frosting suggestion which definitely added a better balance of dry cake to moist frosting. In any case, it’s still dense, so start with a small piece, and I suggest serving with vanilla, coffee or kahlua ice cream.

CAKE

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 4 ounces unsweetend chocolate, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp rum
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 and 1/2 cups Bobs Red Mill gluten free flour mix
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder

FROSTING (top)

  • 3 tblsp butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tblsp strong, warm, freshly brewed coffee
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 tblsp strong, dark rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

FROSTING (sides)

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar

FILLING: 3/4 cup mixed berry or raspberry jam

Generously butter an flour a 10-inch springform pan.

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, then add the next four ingrediets, beating until smooth. Mix in the vanilla and rum. Sift together the cinnamon, flour, xantham gum and baking powder and add it to the batter, mixing well. Beat the egg ewhites until stiff, but not dry, and fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour. Check it and keep baking until a knife in the center comes out clena. Cool the cake at least 15 minutes then detach the springfoam pan.

While the cake is cooling prepare the frostings. Cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until smooth. When the cake is cool, carefully slice it in half and spread the jam between the layers. Spread mocha rum frosting on the top and whipped cream frosting on the sides. 

Gluten-free pasta with sweet potatoes and cauliflower

It came to me while I was on a long walk today. Nobody is around on this long President’s day weekend and I have the house to myself and dinner to cook for just myself. I can make anything I want! The vision started with sweet potatoes and the half a califlower and pangs of jealously when I thought back to my roomates’ pasta dinner earlier this week. Ahah! Gluten free pasta for dinner!

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced small
  • fresh thyme and basil, fresh or ground sage
  • 1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese
  • 8 ounces rice pasta (I used Tinkyada Brown Rice pasta with rice brain)
  • grated parmesan
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Roast sweet potato, califlower, thyme, basil, sage, fresh ground pepper and salt with olive oil until soft. Meanwhile, set pot of water to boil. Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil and white wine covered until translucent. Mix roasted veggies, onion and garlic mix and cottage cheese in a bowl. Add pasta and 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Mix in pasta and serve with grated cheese and fresh parsley if you have it.

Sweet rolls are good for you

Dear Reader,

This is Manface.  Recently, some people have been giving me “constructive criticism” about my penchant to only post nummy baked goods on this “healthy” food blog.  To those poor, misguided souls, I say, “Fuck you*.” Righteously, I declare that psychological health is just as important as physical health, and apple-cardamom sweet rolls make us happy.  The moist, fluffy dough; the sticky brown sugar salt caramel; the subtle, mysterious, oaky tang of the cardamom; the anticipatory rush of saliva as you smell them emerging from the oven all make for one of the most joyous, sensual and life-affirming moments of the week.

These rolls, which can be easily adapted to any flavor combination (we tried orange marzipan with toasted almonds a few days ago, perhaps next week we will try prosciutto, pear, gorgonzola), take more time to eat than to make.  Start with this brioche recipe, then, instead of shaping it into little squat snowpeople, roll it into a rectangle about 1/3″ thick.  Sprinkle or smear one side with your filling concoction (a basic mix is 4T melted butter + 1/4 cup brown sugar + some spices and/or nuts and/or fruit — you can also make extra to put in the bottom of your pan to make a sticky topping instead of frosting them). Next, roll it like Morton would. Then, cut the roll into 1 – 2″ rounds, and flip them into a high-walled pan to rise.  Cover them, and after some time (depends on how fluffy you want them, or whether or not the potatoes for the frittata are almost done), toss them into a 350F oven.

Pull ’em out with your mittens after about 35 min.  Frost if desired. Consume with joy.

*Perhaps this expression of my position is not as nuanced as it could be.  I blame the medium.  I accept that there are some situations where this hedonistic attitude could lead one into trouble.  I’ll bet that shooting heroin makes for a good experience in the moment, but the long-lasting negative effects probably outweigh this momentary high.  If you are addicted to sweet rolls, or any type of nummy pastries (not functionally addicted, but to the point where your need to consume croissants is interfering with your job or social life), I suggest counselling and will work with your support network to stage an intervention.  Hey, man, I’ve been there; it’s not a way to live: always itching for the next cannoli, or thinking about where to score your next plum galette. Don’t let the sweets life eat you up!

Mushroom tart and winter endive salad

I picked up the January 2012 Bon Appetit in the airport on the way back from Mexico after being sick for 5 days and only eating saltines, white bread and yogurt. I was finally feeling better and poured over the magazine, so lured by the recipes I had to bring it home with me (and then subscribe to it for only $12/year). This issue has a bunch of vegetarian recipes I want to try and great hints for cooking Thai food, like how to make fluffy rice. The first recipe everyone wanted to try was the Roasted Vegetable Tart which includes tomatoes, fennel, eggplant, bell pepper and sweet potatoes. We didn’t have those ingredients at home though so here is what came out:

Pastry (total time: about 1 hour, start this first)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 10 tbsp (1 and 1/4 sticks) ice cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

Pulse 2 cups of flour, salt, sugar in a food processor. Add butter, pulse until corase meal with pea-size lumps. (Try not put the wrong blade attachment–look for the one that says “pastry” or “dough”). Drizzle 4 tbsp ice water over mixture. Pulse until moist clumps form adding more ice water by tblsp if dry. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Roll out disk on a lightly floured surface so it’s a little bigger than the shape of the pie dish. Transfer to dish and press onto bottom and up sides of dish. Trim overhanging dough. Place in freezer for 10 minutes.

Line dough with parchment paper or foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans and return to oven until crust is light brown, about 20 minutes.

Filling

  • 2 small onions (that we got from Dorchester winter farmers market)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • mushrooms (any kind, I used almost 1 container of white mushrooms)
  • vegetable of choice (i used 3 small zucchini but thinking back may have used tomatoes and/or asparagus instead)
  • rosemary (i tore quite a bit off our rosemary plant, add to your liking)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tblsp herbs de provence
  • parmesan cheese

Roast veggies at 350 degrees with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Sautee garlic, onion, mushrooms and herbs de provence. Mix veggies together and when the pastry is ready, fill with veggies. Mix in cream cheese until well-dispersed. Grate parmesan cheese over top. Whisk milk and eggs together and pour over veggies. Bake for 45 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Winter Endive Salad

  • 1 head belgian endive
  • a bunch of mustard greens, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 2 apples, shredded (still trying to get rid of all our apples)

Dressing

  • 1 tblsp mayo
  • 1 tsp spicy mustard
  • 1 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • parsley
  • oregano

Mix dressing with mustard greens, carrots, apples. Fill one spear of endive with salad mix and scoop into your mouth!

One pot winter dinner


Cooking on Thursday night can be an overwhelming prospect after a tiring week but these dishes couldn’t be easier. I was trying to think of how to chip away at the piles of apples, potatoes and onions we have and remembered my one pot lentil dish from when I lived in Chile and then found a red cabbage in the fridge.

We literrally have a pile of potatoes–red, white, different kinds of sweet potato. I grabbed a handful:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Pot lentil curry

  • 1 big yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 5 (approx) potatoes depending on size, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 tbsp curry
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • generous ground pepper, salt to taste
Wash and chop potatoes. Sautee onions and garlic with olive oil. Add potatoes. Add lentils, curry, cumin and 1 tbsp parsley. Stir rapidly so lentils don’t burn for a few minutes. Add water until just covered with water. Turn down heat to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes. This made enough for dinner for four and two lunches.

Then start working on braised cabbage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Braised cabbage and apple

  • 1 red cabbage, halved, cored and cut into fourths
  • 2 apples — pink lady or granny smith, corred and cut into pieces
  • 1 smallish yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Heat butter in dutch oven. Add garlic and onion and sautee for a few minutes. Add cabbage and vegetable broth, cover, reduce heat for 15 mintutes. Add apples and cook 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and sugar and cook 5 more minutes until cabbage is soft.

I forgot to mention that the first step of the evening was to chop of a piece of dough off of our 5-minute a day bread. Check out the recipe: http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/2010/02/09/back-to-basics-tips-and-techniques-to-create-a-great-loaf-in-5-minutes-a-day. This was my FIRST TIME MAKING BREAD! Manface always makes it but tonight I was completely in charge of dinner so I chopped off a piece of dough, shaped it and let it sit for 20 minutes, heated the cloche in the oven for 20 minutes and then baked the bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one part of the meal I did not prepare for was desert. There were no cookies or other baked goods in our cake stand. Ice cream choices were only grapefruit sorbet or nonfat tangy frozen yogurt. Then I remembered the in the far corner of the freezer, from many many months ago…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doesn’t look like much, but raspberry cake with lemon buttercream was a beaut in her day and was still able to get lots of yummms from both of us.

Sunday night pizza and beer

I swear I am never going out for pizza again. It is so much better at home. Easy to make and delicious. Sunday night dinners with friends are my favorite. Tonight we made pizza and salad for four.

To be honest, I didn’t measure the ingredients in the sauce. It was something similar to this: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/spanish_romesco_sauce/. The recipe here makes a lot of sauce. The first night we made the sauce we ate it with red quinoa, squash and carmelized onions. We were going to make a pizza that night but didn’t get dough started in time. So tonight, we used the sauce on pizza. So good.

Pizza with Romesco sauce, chicken sausage, mushrooms and carmelized onion

  • 1 chicken sausage
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushroom
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup romesco sauce
  • 1/4 ball of mozarella cheese
  • rosemary
  • oregano

Slice up the sausage. Put it in a plastic bag with parmesan, asagio (or I used hard salty gouda) and rosemary. Shake it up good and put aside. Spread sauce on pizza dough, then add carmelized onions, mushrooms, sausage and finally rounds of mozarella, spaced out about 1 inch between pieces (it spreads out to cover the whole thing). Sprinkle rosemary and oregano.

This recipe makes one pizza with six pretty small pieces. I ate half the pizza myself, so for four people we made two pizzas. The other was the same but without sausage and tasted delicious as well. We paired it with a Franklin Land Trust Brew by Berkshire Brewing Co out in Western, MA. The beer is part of a campaign to raise awareness about the connection between local conservation and agriculture. It’s label says, “No farms, no beer” and part of the proceeds go to Franklin Land Trust start and preserve their farms. The beer is copper with spicy hops and a small head. Tasty but also round and bold enough for the winter and sausage pizza.