Escabeche

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My thoughtful daughters gifted me a do-it-yourself fermentation kit for Christmas, 2017. Escabeche immediately came to mind.

I’ve only made escabeche one time, many years ago. The reason I only made these crunchy, zesty vegetables once is that the vinegar smelled up the house for days, which was very upsetting to my husband. I thought perhaps using the fermentation crock will “stink” up the house less.

The recipe I used was from Diana Kennedy’s ground-breaking book on Mexican cuisine, the bible, in a way – The Art of Mexican Cooking, published in 1989.

Escabeche is the Spanish word for “pickle”. Legumbres en escabeche describes a combination of pickled vegetables. It originates from Veracruz, and is a favorite for serving with Mexican dishes.

Chiles Jalapeños en Escabeche
Pickled Jalapeños
Makes about 8 cups

1 pound jalapeños, rinsed
1 1/2 pounds carrots, trimmed and scraped
3 tablespoons sea salt
1/3 cup water
5 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
10 peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seed
4 whole cloves
16 California bay leaves
Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 cup safflower oil
1 pound white bulbous onions, boiling onions, or regular white onions
3 cups mild vinegar
1 cup strong vinegar
10 garlic cloves, peeled
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Remove the stems from the fresh chiles and cut each into 4 lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and put into a large bowl. I don’t have to scrape out seeds because I cut around the seeds.

Slice the carrots diagonally about 1/8” thick and add to the chiles. I used a mandoline for even slices. Sprinkle with salt and toss well. Set aside to macerate for about 1 hour.

Put the water into a blender jar and add the chopped garlic, peppercorns, cumin seed, cloves, 10 of the bay leaves, the thyme leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon of the oregano. Blend as thoroughly as possible.

Heat the oil in a large, fairly deep pan. Add the blended spices and onions and fry until the liquid has evaporated and the onions are translucent, not brown – about 10 minutes.

Strain the chiles and carrots, reserving the juice, and add to the pan. Fry over fairly high heat, stirring and turning the vegetables over for 10 minutes.


Add the chile and carrot juice, vinegars, whole garlic cloves, 6 thyme sprigs, remaining 6 bay leaves and remaining teaspoon oregano, and the sugar.

I wish you could smell this! The depth of odor is remarkable.

Bring to a boil and continue boiling for about 8 minutes. Transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl and set aside to cool before storing in the refrigerator.

But instead, just to take these pickled vegetables a step further, I used the fermentation crock for 24 hours, after the vegetables cooled down. I could have chosen 3 days, but I didn’t want the vegetables to lose crunchiness, which is very important.

The weight, placed over the vegetables and shown in the above right photo, is used to hold down the vegetables and keep them submerged in the pickling liquid.

The first time I used these aromatic pickled vegetables was with chicken and corn enchiladas made with an ancho white sauce.

Note: To better understand the difference between pickling and fermenting, this is a great read.

And if you’re interested in this kit, it was purchased at Uncommon Goods. The packaging is very sweet, and there are directions and recipes.

Cheese Panela

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There is a restaurant in Dallas, Texas, called Javier’s, that specializes in gourmet Mexicano cuisine. No nachos at this restaurant.

I discovered Javier’s in 1979, after moving to Dallas for my first job. Since marrying 36 years ago, we go Javier’s whenever we’re in Dallas, which can be quite often. It’s that good. I just checked the website for Javier’s, and learned the restaurant opened in 1977. And, it’s still open.

Not only is the food exceptional, but also the ambiance and service. The key to its continued success, in my mind, is the fact that the owner, Javier, is always at the restaurant. Saturday, Tuesday, whenever, he’s there.

One entree we’ve always enjoyed is steak Cantinflas, which is a filet stuffed with cheese, topped with an Adobo-style sauce, and served with fresh avocado. There’s also roasted chicken mole, shrimp Guaymas, great margaritas, and coffee drinks made and flambed at the table. Spectacular.

When you’re seated at Javier’s, you are given warm chips served with two warm salsas – a thin tomato salsa that almost tastes like tomato soup, and a thicker green salsa. We’ve never been able to decide which is better. Oh, and there’s fresh butter in case you want to first dip your chip into the butter, then the warm salsa…

As an appetizer, my husband and I have often shared the Cheese Panela, which is prepared at the table. It’s melted cheese with chorizo and green chiles served in warm tortillas. It doesn’t sound extraordinary, but it is.

I never thought about why the appetizer’s name is cheese panela, until I came across the same word in a blog I discovered, Nancy’s blog called Mexican Made Meatless. Her blog is “dedicated to transforming classic Mexican dishes into modern vegan, vegetarian, and pescetarian delight.”

To quote from Nancy’s blog: I was born and raised in a traditional small town Mexican environment, in which my education in Mexican food preparation began early by watching the passion that my mother, grandmother, and aunts all put into their cooking sessions. Though the culinary bug took time to fully infect my soul, when it finally did it instilled in me a fiery passion that has lead me to devour everything about the culinary arts and helped me get to where I am today.

So while perusing her blog, I saw the word panela, and learned that it’s the actual name of a cheese. Because of my memories of cheese panela at Javier’s, I knew I’d be making this recipe, interestingly also reminiscent of the Argentinian baked provolone I made called Provoleta, topped with chimichurri.

Who can go wrong with spicy melted cheese?!!

Cheese Panela
or, Baked Panela Cheese that will Knock Your Socks Off!
printable recipe below

7oz panela cheese
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 teaspoon parsley (I used fresh)
1 teaspoon thyme (I used dried)
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano (I used dried)
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoon olive or avocado oil

Drain the cheese and set aside.

In a bowl combine the oil and all of the herbs and spices. Poke little holes all around the cheese to help the seasoning absorb better. Place the cheese in with the oil and spices mixture and coat the cheese, cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight if desired.

Because I purchased a 3-pound wheel of Panela, I trimmed it to fit the gratin pan.

Preheat the oven to 190℃ or 375°F for 10 minutes. Place the cheese in the oven-safe dish and bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes.

The cheese will become soft and gooey but not melt completely. Allow to cool slightly.

Serve with either corn chips or country bread or any rustic bread. I baked some tortilla triangles.

As the cheese cools it will firm up again, so try to keep warm when enjoying.

The cheese is definitely reminiscent of what we used to order at Javier’s, although not as melty.

However, this cheese panela recipe is absolutely incredible. I love the aromatics, the spiciness, and the parsley.

The next time I made this recipe I used half panela and half Monterey Jack to make it more melty, which worked, but it’s best served over some kind of warmer.

 

 

 

Greek Pork and Beans

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We had quite the cold spell a while back, so I during it I felt the need to make a one-pot, stick-to-your-ribs kind of stew. And what better cuisine from which to choose than Greek. It’s often the direction I take for satisfying and comforting dishes, like pastitsio and moussaka.

For these times, I refer to an old cookbook, called Flavors of Greece, published in 1991, and authored by Rosemary Barron. And in it I found exactly what I was looking for – a Greek version of pork and beans.

The beans in this dish are giant white Lima beans, and the meat includes pork shoulder, bacon, and sausage.

The bean and pork components are layered, then topped with a thick bread crumb and Parmesan crust. Oddly enough, it reminds me of a giant cassoulet!

Here’s the recipe.

Traditional Pork and Bean Casserole
Khirino´ Khoria´tiko

1 1/2 pounds dried butter beans, soaked overnight
3 pounds boneless lean pork shoulder
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup diced pastourma´s ham or bacon
3 cups chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup red wine
2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, diced, juices reserved
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup dried oregano
2 tablespoons ground coriander
5 whole cloves
4 juniper berries, lightly crushed
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 – 1 1/2 cups meat stock
1/2 country sausages
1 cup fresh whole-wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup kasse´ri cheese or Parmesan

Cook and drain the soaked beans. I cooked mine in chicken stock. Set aside.

Cut the pork into 1” cubes. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy skillet and lightly brown half the meat over medium heat. Repeat with the remaining meat.



Add the bacon and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Add the garlic, cook 1 minute longer, and add the red wine. Bring to a boil and boil a minute or two, then stir in the tomatoes with their juices, honey, oregano, coriander, cloves, juniper berries, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Add 1 cup of the stock and simmer 5 minutes longer.

Add the meat, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer 30 minutes longer; add stock if there appears to be less than 2 cups of sauce. Season to taste. The sauce should be highly flavored.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Slice the sausages into 1/2” thick slices and combine with the beans.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the bottom of a heavy casserole and cover with one third of the sausages and beans. Cover with a layer of half the meat mixture, then half the remaining beans, then the remaining meat. Top with a layer of the remaining beans.

With the back of a wooden spoon, gently press down on the beans so some of the sauce rises to the surface.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs and cheese on top.

Sprinkle with the remaining olive oil, cover, and bake 45 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake 1 1/2 hours longer, until a golden crust has formed.

Remove the casserole lid and bake 10 minutes, or until the crust is deep golden brown.

I let the casserole sit for at least 45 minutes, without the lid, before serving.

Even though I used a large/wide Le Creuset for this casserole, it was so thick I wasn’t sure how to serve it up!


For the sake of this post, I cut out a square so the layers would show.

The casserole is quite stunning. And the flavors are just what you’d expect. Tomatoes, herbs, meat – a lovely, rustic meal.

And the meat is extremely tender.

Note: The recipe also included dried marjoram and winter savory — neither of which I had.

Provoleta with Chimichurri

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In the old days when I wanted recipes, I read food magazines and cookbooks. It was wonderful.

But I have to say, having millions of recipes at my fingertips by simply being “online” makes me thrilled that the internet was discovered during my lifetime.

I discovered provoleta after receiving an email from Good Food, which is an Australian publication.

Provoleta is Argentina’s version of raclette, and to make it even more fabulous, this molten cheese is served with chimichurri. And good bread, of course.

So this was certainly a cheese dish I could not ignore, being a huge raclette fan. And cheese fan.

Provoleta with Chimichurri

Chimichurri:
½ cup finely chopped parsley
3 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
large pinch of crushed red pepper
3 tsp red wine vinegar

Cheese:
Round of provolone cheese, sliced about 3/4″ thick
3 tsp roughly chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
½ tsp cayenne pepper flakes

1 baguette, sliced, toasted, if desired

In a small bowl, stir together the parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, crushed red pepper, and vinegar. Thin with a little water, if necessary, to make a pourable sauce.

Set aside to let flavors meld. Sauce may be prepared the day ahead.

Before you begin, have your bread sliced (I grilled mine), and the oregano chopped.

Set a small cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. I used my crêpe pan. When pan is hot, put in the cheese.


Sprinkle with half the oregano and crushed red pepper.

Cook for about two minutes, until the bottom begins to brown.

Carefully flip the cheese with a spatula and cook for two to three minutes more, until the second side is browned and the cheese is beginning to ooze.

Transfer cheese to a plate and sprinkle with remaining oregano and crushed red pepper. I added a few tablespoons of chimichurri.

Serve from the hot skillet on a heat-proof surface, along with the bread and the chimichurri.

Alternatively, finish the cheese by putting it under the grill or in a hot oven.

Argentinians grill the provolone slices directly on the fire, but I was not willing to lose good cheese and deal with the resulting mess on my stove!

As soon as the provolone cools a bit, it gets a bit rubbery, but the cheese can be reheated.

Which is exactly what I did that evening when my girlfriend came over. I reheated it on the stove, and we kept eating it, and eating it. Until there wasn’t much left.

She really loved the addition of the chimichurri. I just loved the cheese with the oregano and cayenne pepper flakes.

Will I be making this again? Oh yes indeedy.

note: If you’d like more direction for making chimichurri, check out my recipe on the blog here.

Green Rice with Corn

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For Cinco de Mayo 2017, I made a Mexican-inspired meal, not surprisingly. Mexican and Southwestern foods are some of our favorites, and any excuse to cook a bunch of delicious food and include friends work for us!

For the main course, I served buffalo fajitas along with sautéed vegetables, plus I made refried black beans and what I called “green rice”.

The rice is green from green chiles and an abundance of cilantro. (Don’t read on if you dislike cilantro!)

Okay, so what’s the big deal? Rice with cilantro? I don’t know, but it was everybody’s favorite dish. I mean, over the queso, the guacamole, and the chipotle shrimp, the green rice was the bomb.

The next morning I heated some up and plopped a fried egg on top. It was just that delicious.

This rice is more of a pilaf, with all of the goodies I included. The green chiles, cilantro, and seasoning turn it into one that’s Mexican-inspired and delicious.

Green Rice with Corn

2 cobs of corn
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
1 onion, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
Rice of choice, about 1 1/3 cups
Chicken broth, about 3 cups
2 – 4.5 ounce cans chopped green chiles
Lots of chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, optional

Cook the corn cobs in boiling water until they’re done, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and rice, and stir for about 30 seconds, then add the broth.

Bring the rice to a boil, cover, then turn down the heat. Cooking time depends on the kind of rice you use.

Once the rice is about cooked, remove the lid and stir in the remaining ingredients.

Cut the corn from the cobs. Break the corn up into neat pieces and stir into the rice gently.

I like to put the lid on and without heat, let the pot sit at the end of the cooking time. This step encourages more liquid absorption.

You can sprinkle on some cilantro leaves if you wish.

Fancy? Not at all. And just the same amount of time to make any pilaf.

And don’t forget to have the green rice with an egg the next morning!

Note: When I cook at home I always use brown rice, because it’s not processed. It takes a little more cooking time and a little more liquid, typically. White rice can certainly be substituted, and would actually look prettier. It’s just a personal call.

Cast-Iron Grilled Chicken

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The name of this recipe isn’t terribly exciting, or unique for that matter, but when you find out where I got this recipe, I think you’ll be intrigued.

The book is Anthony Bourdain’s “Appetites: A Cookbook,” published in October of 2016.

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a fan for a long time, originally because of his non-fiction book about the restaurant business, called “Kitchen Confidential.” “Medium Raw” was also terribly enjoyable.

His first cookbook was the “Les Halles Cookbook,” from the famed NYC restaurant where Mr. Bourdain was the chef.

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And then there are also his television shows that continue to take us with him around the world, from crazy-busy food markets or remote deserts. We’ve witnessed him drunk, hungover, chain smoking, but mostly, enjoying every strange bit of food and drink offered to him. That’s the Anthony Bourdain I think most people know and love.

He’s opinionated, maniacal, and open to adventure. I’m not sure his tv fans were aware he was an actual chef when he became popular on tv.

There have been many different shows over the years, although they have the same theme. Some of my favorite episodes are when his good friend, Eric Ripert, goes along. Talk about two opposite ends of the spectrum! I would so love to hang out with the two of them. It makes me giggle just to think of them together.

And speaking of Eric Ripert, his pretty French face is featured in Appetites amongst the interesting array of photographs. There’s one photo where I’m not sure if he’s about to laugh or cry. He’s definitely a good sport.

So what’s Appetites about? It’s about what Anthony Bourdain loves – what he likes to cook for himself, for his family, for his friends. Although I did spot a few hard-to-come-by ingredients like truffles, the food in this cookbook is not frilly and fancy. I guess the premise is, even though you’re a chef, at home you’re a home cook, doing home cooking.

So why did I pick this cast-iron grilled chicken recipe as the first to try from Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook? Well, the reason behind it is that in NYC, according to Mr. Bourdain, “outdoor grills and the space to operate them safely, are tough to come by… but anyone can use a cast-iron grill pan to get real char on their food.”

I don’t have limitations with outside grilling space, but for much of the summer it’s just too darn hot to stand outside and watch meat cook. Even with cold beer.

So for this yogurt-marinated chicken recipe, the chicken is seared on the stove, and finished in the oven, just like one would do with really thick steaks. I’ve never thought to “finish” chicken in the oven!

Mr. Bourdain doesn’t give any insight into the yogurt marinade, which is disappointing, because it’s sort of Indian, but not really.

Here’s the recipe.

Cast-Iron Grilled Chicken

1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
15 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 2 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1-2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
Salt to taste
Hot sauce, optional

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, cumin, cardamom, oregano, and pepper.

Place the chicken in a plastic zip-seal bad and pour the yogurt mixture over, making sure each piece of chicken is evenly coated on all sides. Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Rub a grill pan with 1-2 tablespoons of oil, depending on its size. This is the grill pan I used. It has nice sharp edges, even though most of the time I don’t get the char stripes. It’s a Le Creuset.

Begin to heat the grill pan over high heat; you’ll know it’s ready to go when you can see waves of heat shimmering off it. This would be a good time to turn on your kitchen vent and turn any other fans on.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drip off. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season it liberally with salt.

Place on the hot grill pan and let cook, undisturbed, for 6 to 7 minutes, so that is is distinctly grill marked.

Using tongs, turn the chicken to cook on the other side for about 5 minutes.

As you can tell, there are no char stripes. However, I did forget to remove the skin on the thighs.

I “grilled” the thighs in two batches. Transfer the chicken, still on the grill pan, to the hot oven to finish cooking for about 10 minutes. The internal temperature should be 150 degrees F at the thickest part.

Remove from the oven, let rest for a few minutes, then serve, sliced or whole, with hot sauce if desired. The flavor of the chicken is fantastic. The cardamom, cumin, and oregano really worked together.

So in the future I think I’ll stick with my cast-iron skillet, and not worry about grill marks.

The whole concept of charring/searing the chicken on the stove, then finishing it in the oven is brilliant. And it worked beautifully. I will certainly be using this technique in the future.

Oh, and adding hot sauce? Brilliant!!!

Enchilada Sauce

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My enchilada sauce is a simple red sauce that is enriched with ancho chile paste and Mexican seasonings.

It is a rich and hearty sauce that I make to top black bean enchiladas, or just about any kind of enchiladas or burritos. It’s also good on meat, from chicken to ribs.

There are many authentic Mexican sauces in older cookbooks by Diana Kennedy, the queen of Mexican cuisine, as well as more recent cookbooks by Rick Bayless, who I consider the king of Mexican cuisine.

The problem with following those recipes is that they contain multiple chile peppers and other ingredients that I cannot get my hands on, so it does no good to use the recipes.

Because of this, I fall back on my “default” enchilada sauce, using home-made ancho chile paste. And it will taste different depending on the chile peppers used in the chile paste.

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Enchilada Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 – 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 26.46 ounce carton Pomi tomato sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Grindings of black pepper
2-4 tablespoons home-made Ancho chile paste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about five minutes. Turn down the heat if they brown too much. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or so.

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Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Mix in the cumin, oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper.

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Bring the sauce to a boil gently, then lower the heat and simmer the sauce gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until isn’t no longer “watery.”

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your black bean enchiladas by placing refried black beans and Queso blanco, or your choice of cheese on a tortilla. Roll up, place in a greased baking dish, and continue with the remaining tortillas.

Add the desired amount of ancho chile paste to the red sauce and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning.

When you are ready to bake the enchiladas, ladle the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Some people like them smothered in sauce, others, like me, like the enchiladas only partially smothered.

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Bake for approximately 30 minutes.

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Let the enchiladas set for about 10 minutes, then serve.

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I love a dollop of sour cream on my enchiladas.

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The sauce goes well with any burritos or enchiladas, with or without meat. And it’s fun to use different kinds of cheese in the tortillas.

The good thing about this enchilada sauce is that you can control the amount of ancho chile paste and other seasonings. If you want it smokier you can always add some ground chipotle pepper and paprika. But always use cumin and oregano if you want a truly Mexican-flavored sauce.

Pork Chile Verde

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Pork chile verde just means pork with green chile peppers, which I’m sure everyone knows. But there’s one other green component that’s typically in a chile verde, and that’s tomatillos. If you’ve never worked with them before, I really think you should at least make this recipe to experience the deliciousness that is a tomatillo.

Tomatillos have papery husks, and once they’re removed, they look like green tomatoes although they’re not related to tomatoes at all.
verde
When you buy tomatillos make sure they’re firm, not wrinkled up or rotten. They can be cooked or used raw. For me, raw tomatillo salsas are a bit on the tart side, so I use them in cooked sauces like in this chile verde.

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Here’s what I did to make this hearty pork stew with green chiles and tomatillos:

Pork Chile Verde

1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, quartered
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
Olive oil
4 pound trimmed pork butt, cut into bite-sized pieces
Black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery plus leaves, finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3 – 4 ounce cans chopped green chiles
2 bunches cilantro, rinsed, divided
3 cups broth, divided
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Sour cream, optional
Chopped cilantro, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or 375 degrees on a roast setting.
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Place the cut up tomatillos, onion, and garlic cloves on a jelly-roll pan and sprinkle with some olive oil.
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Roast them for about 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, heat up some olive oil in a large dutch oven on the stove over high heat. In batches, brown the pork.
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Continue with the remaining pork, adding a little more olive oil as necessary, and placing the browned pork in a large bowl; season generously with black pepper.
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When you are done with the pork, turn down the heat to medium, add the onion, celery, and green onions and sauté for about 5 minutes.


Then add the green chiles, 1 bunch of chopped cilantro, and 2 cups of broth. (I’ve even used a good Mexican beer to braise the pork, and it’s good!)

Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot, and season with oregano and cumin. Bring the mixture to a boil, then gently simmer for about 30 minutes.


Keep the pot covered with a lid if you feel there’s not enough liquid to braise the pork. Or, if you feel there’s too much liquid, leave the pot uncovered and let the liquid evaporate gently.

Place the roasted vegetables in a blender jar. Add the second bunch of cilantro, and the remaining 1 cup of broth. Blend until almost smooth.


Pour the green sauce into the pot with the meat.

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Stir well, and simmer for about 1 hour.

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Pork chile verde is a stew. It should be thick, not some cubes of pork floating in a green soup. If you need to reduce the liquid a bit, don’t hesitate to do so. It will not adversely affect the overall dish.

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I like my chile verde with a dollop of sour cream!

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I also sprinkled on a little ground pink peppercorns. You could also use some cayenne flakes.
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Chopped cilantro also adds to the freshness of the chile verde; chopped green onions can also be included.
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note: I usually make pork chile verde the day before I first serve it. Somehow, it’s just better that way.

Lasagna Soup

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I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t love lasagna. It’s hard not to love, with the luscious layers of red sauce, pasta, and multiple cheesiness. But what’s odd for me, is that I rarely make it. In fact, if I do make it, it’s for a post-funeral family get-together or such. I make it for other people. I can’t remember the last time I made it for my own family.

Sure, making lasagna is a bit tedious, but there’s nothing difficult about it. But unless there’s another funeral to cook for, I may never make lasagna again, thanks to my girlfriend. Years ago she showed me a recipe from a cooking magazine, and since then I’ve been hooked on making lasagna soup!

It’s got all of the elements of lasagna – pasta, red sauce, a few cheeses, plus a few extras. It’s hearty and delicious, and a big pot of this soup goes a long way. It’s great for company.

I don’t have the original recipe, but here’s what I did today. As with most of my recipes, you can put your own stamp on it by substituting ingredients. Just as you keep the soup tasting like lasagna, it will be delicious!
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Lasagna Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 – 1 pound packages bulk Italian sausage
19.2 ounces of ground turkey
2 onions, finely chopped
1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 – 32 ounce cartons beef broth
10 ounces baby spinach
1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cheese(s) – you can use ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, or any combination thereof

For the lasagna soup, I chose a combination of Italian sausage and ground white-meat turkey, but you could use beef and pork if you prefer.


Begin by adding the oil to a large stockpot. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the meats, and spend about 10 minutes slightly browning and cooking them.
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I have a wonderful tool that this same girlfriend gave me last Christmas that helps cut up ground meat into smaller pieces. Grab one of these if you spot one.

Lower the heat to medium and add the onions. Stirring occasionally, cook the onions for about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms.


Cook the mushrooms for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and give it a stir. Then add the broth.

Break up the lasagna noodles and place them in the broth.
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Submerge the noodles as best you can, cover the pot, and lightly simmer the noodles for about 30 minutes. I used whole-wheat noodles. If you’re using white noodles, be careful not to overcook them.

Add the spinach, and carefully stir it into the broth until it wilts. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add the seasoning.


Give everything a good stir. Spinach and mushrooms aren’t necessarily traditional in lasagna, but in this soup the vegetables are a great addition, making the soup a little healthier by stretching the meat.
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Heat the soup, taste for seasoning,and serve hot.
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In the past, when I have made this soup for a crowd, I offered cheese choices so everyone can customize his/her lasagna soup. You can place a little blob of fresh ricotta in the bottom of your bowl, add the hot soup, then add a few fresh mozzarella pearls and freshly grated Parmesan. Or simply offer grated mozzarella. It’s all good. But some cheese is absolutely necessary or it won’t be lasagna soup.

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Today I placed grated fresh mozzarella in the bottom of the bowl, and topped the soup with finely grated Parmesan. When you stir the melted cheese with the soup, you’re tasting lasagna. And it’s fabulous!

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* Which herb or herbs to use in a red sauce that would be used in a traditional lasagna are widely debated. Some people only use oregano, some a mixture of basil and oregano. I just love the flavor of dried basil, when no fresh basil is available. Make this soup your own.

note: It’s important to add all of the broth to this soup. For one thing, it’s important for cooking the noodles. But secondly, you don’t want the soup so tomatoey thick that you’re eating spaghetti sauce instead of a soup. Keep a good balance between the crushed tomatoes and broth.

Sausages and Zucchini

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This recipe comes from a cookbook I was gifted by my family, Kitchen Garden, published for Williams-Sonoma. It’s exactly what you’d expect with that title – seasonal recipes using fresh garden fruits and vegetables, plus a chapter on chicken coops and bee hives. The author is Jeanne Kelley.
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Now, every one has enjoyed grilled sausages and zucchini, I’m sure, but this recipe caught my eye for a specific reason. After the sausages and zucchini are grilled, they are tossed with a green sauce. The sauce it not unlike a chimichurri, if you use that term loosely, but with the addition of fresh basil, oregano, and capers.

My husband hates capers and everything pickled. So for today’s recipe I’m omitting them. But I’ll probably toss a few on my sausages and zucchini when I sit down for dinner tonight.

Grilled Zucchini and Sausages with Sauce Verte
Adapted from Kitchen Garden Cookbook

Sauce Verte:
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1 green onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons packed parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers (or not)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 pound zucchini, trimmed and halved, or a variety of squashes
Olive oil, for brushing
Salt
Pepper
Italian sausages
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves

First make the green sauce by adding all of the ingredients to a food processor, except the oil. Process some, and then add the olive oil. I left it with some texture to it, but you can alternatively make a smooth puree. Although, if you want it really smooth, I’d use a blender.

Prepare a charcoal grill, electric grill, or whatever you’re going to use to cook the sausages and zucchini. I’m using my oven for the “grilling” because I have a wonderful roast setting on it that roasts both meat and veggies perfectly.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, if you don’t have a roast setting and want to use your oven.
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Place the sausages and zucchini in a roasting pan and drizzle some olive oil over everything. Place the pan in the oven and roast until the sausages are no longer pink, and the zucchini are fully cooked as well.
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Pour some of the sauce over the sausages and zucchini, and serve with extra sauce.

And add capers, if you’ve been forced to omit them from the sauce. I completely forgot about the capers, and it was delicious without them.
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I served the sausages and zucchini with slices of a ripe garden tomato sprinkled with salt. A lovely meal!
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