Esquites

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Elote is the Mexican name for grilled corn on the cob that is coated in spices and cheese. Esquites is everything from the cob removed and served basically as a corn salad. These salad recipes are also called Mexican street corn salad.

I’ve never gone crazy with the whole elote idea, mostly because it’s messy to eat that way. However, with the corn removed from the cob, other yummy ingredients added, plus a zingy dressing? I’ll eat that with a spoon!

The two recipes I printed a while back and saved, are from two of my favorite blogs – Tricia’s Saving Room for Dessert and Laura’s Hummingbird Thyme. I decided to fuse the two and see what happened!

Mexican Street Corn Salad

Salad:
6 firm corn cobs in their husks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 purple onion, finely chopped
2 small red bell peppers, finely chopped
A dozen or so green onions, thinly sliced
8 ounces feta cheese

Dressing:
1/3 cup good mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon salt

For serving:
Extra crumbled Mexican cheese or feta
Freshly chopped cilantro
Cayenne pepper flakes

Begin by “cooking” the corn cobs in the microwave. Wrap the cobs in a dish towel, and cook on high for 8 minutes. Let them cool in the microwave first for about 5 minutes, then remove them from the microwave.


When the corn cobs have cooled down, remove the husks and silk. With this microwave technique, they come off really easily. Roll the cobs in oil poured onto a flat surface like a jelly roll pan, to get the corn completely coated.

Using your gas stove top, grill the corn, just as you would roast chile peppers, until some of the corn is charred. Continue until all six have been grilled. Set pan aside to let the corn cool further.

Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a blender jar; set aside at room temperature. Refrigerate if not using right away.

Cut the corn off of the cobs, break them into smaller pieces and place The corn in a large serving bowl.

Add the onion, red bell peppers, green onions, and toss together well.

Add the dressing and stir. You might not want to add the whole amount if you’re not into heavy dressings.


To serve, sprinkle the salad with more cheese if desired, and cilantro, and offer cayenne pepper flakes for those who like spicy!


Cotija cheese is a popular crumbly Mexican cheese, but I find it too salty. If you like it, definitely use it, or use feta cheese.


The salad is mostly about the corn, but you could always include an avocado and/or tomatoes in the salad. And, you could also add white or black beans.


The basic salad ingredients can be tossed together ahead of time, but only add the onions right before serving.


If you want more smokiness, use a smoky paprika, and up the chipotle powder a bit.

note: If you want the corn to look more yellow, skip the grilling part.

Saltado with Shrimp

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Where I live, in a town of 50,000, there is no “fine” dining. There are three restaurants my husband and I go to (I can’t even say frequent) when I want a break from cooking. Sadly, we maintain low expectations. Otherwise, we’d be terribly disappointed, instead of just able to laugh things off.

It’s not only the lack of quality and consistency of the food, but the terrible menus (this problem is not limited to my town) and the crazy bad service.

The only exception is Mexican restaurants. Thank god for these. There are quite a few, and we have our favorites, but it took years for them to reach the quality they are today. I can’t count how many times we experienced rancid chips or stale chips, overcooked chicken, bad salsa, etc. And why serve queso that’s “free” but tastes like dish water?

Anyway, we are now enjoying happier times when it comes to local Mexican restaurants. My favorite is one with a salsa bar. My husband’s favorite serves decent tasting salsa, but it’s served ice cold, and I’m constantly removing tomato peels from my mouth, which drives me crazy. But my husband loves their quesadillas.

We were at this restaurant recently when I spotted a menu item called Saltado, which could be chicken, beef, or shrimp. I was served this lovely plate of food, after choosing shrimp version.

What I loved about this dish was that the shrimp were perfectly cooked, and it was fresh and light. This isn’t typical with Mexican food in Oklahoma, being that we’re so close to Texas. But this Saltado could have been served at a Mexican restaurant in Malibu.

It turns out that Saltado originates from Peru, but when I read about it, it was really nothing like what I was served, so I’m not going to get into it. Like the fact that’s it’s more of a Chinese stir fry with beef, vegetables, and French fries. What? Maybe I shouldn’t google.

So here is my rendition of Saltado.

Saltado with Shrimp

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 poblano chile peppers, finely chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of oil
1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, cleaned, peeled
Tajin seasoning or your favorite seasoning salt
Chopped cilantro

For serving:
Street-sized flour tortillas
Guacamole
Sour cream
Refried beans

In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the onion and peppers and toss them around until there’s a bit of caramelization, then turn down the heat and sauté for 8-10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomatoes and seasoning, and cook gently until there’s no liquid in the skillet.

Once the vegetables are “dry” place them on a serving platter. Cover lightly with foil to keep warm and set aside.

Heat the same skillet, dried out with paper towels if necessary, with the oil. Over medium heat, sauté the shrimp just until they’re pink and opaque. Season them generously with Tajin Seasoning. Place the shrimp over the vegetables.

Sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the top, if desired, and serve immediately.

Offer warm tortillas and bowls of guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gaillo or salsa. If you have (crazy) people eating who don’t like cilantro, serve it separately in a bowl as well.

If you prefer, roast the poblano peppers first, then peel, remove seeds, and chop. You won’t need to sauté them with the onions.

I also served refried beans heated with some cheese. At the restaurant they serve both beans and rice.


And, this mixture works really well for making shrimp tacos!

Tarragon-Marinated Vegetables

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This is a recipe I jotted down decades ago, but it somehow got lost, which isn’t what typically happens considering my extreme organizational skills. I’m not Marie Whatshername, but I do know where my recipes are and how to keep track of them. Or so I thought…

A while back I decided to make marinated vegetables as part of an hors d’oeuvres spread for family, after remembering this old recipe. It was February, and all I could find were basic vegetables – broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and red bell peppers. Everyone loved them.

It’s very easy to marinate vegetables. Use what’s in season, of course, raw or par-boiled if necessary, and then marinate them. I use a mixture of tarragon vinegar and white balsamic. Tarragon isn’t my favorite herb, but it adds a wonderful sweetness to the vegetables.

You could of course add fresh tarragon to infuse a vinegar, but my tarragon hadn’t really thrived yet.


The marinade is basically a vinaigrette, but with more oil than vinegar, because the vegetables shouldn’t be “pickled.” Plus a little sugar is added.


The veggies are great served with bread, butter, cheese, charcuterie… just about anything. And, they’re healthy!

Tarragon White Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup tarragon vinegar, strained if necessary
1/2 cup white balsamic
1 tablespoon sugar, or more if you prefer
1 teaspoon salt
4-5 cloves garlic, germ removed if necessary, smashed

Add the above ingredients to a jar with a tight lid. Shake well, then refrigerate for at least a day to let the flavors mingle.


See the tarragon in the tarragon vinegar?

The next step is to prepare the veggies. They all work, but some need to be cooked, like potatoes and beets, and some can be blanched, like asparagus and cauliflower. I prefer the carrots and cucumbers raw.

Cut lengths of vegetables like celery, red chard stems, and carrots, but think about using bell peppers in ring shapes. Then place the prepped veggies in bags and add the vinaigrette. Refrigerate.

Give them at least 24 hours to marinate. About 2 hours before you want to serve them, remove the bags from the refrigerator and let the marinade warm a bit.

Then have fun. Arrange anyway you want. You can use bowls for the baby potatoes and pickled onions (which I had prepared sous vide on a previous day), and glasses for longer vegetables like celery, cucumbers, and carrots.

I’m no stylist, but it’s hard to mess up when the vegetables are so pretty.
I especially love purple cauliflower and carrot varieties.

I threw some whole grape tomatoes on the platter for some color.

But seriously, if all you have are basic vegetables, trust me, they are also delicious. You don’t have to get fancy at Sprouts, like I did!

Shrimp Feta à la Neil

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This is a recipe I’ve had for years, and know I made it at least twice. Making a recipe more than once for me is a rarity, even more so in the early cooking years because there was always another recipe to make, another technique to learn. And more to taste.

We loved this dish, my husband and myself. Pasta with shrimp, ricotta, vegetables, red sauce, and cheese. Yes, this was before I learned that one doesn’t combine seafood and cheese. Well, in this case I don’t care what the “rule” is, cause this is fabulous.

According to the writing on the taped-up magazine cutouts, this recipe was from Better Homes and Gardens, October 1984. I tried to find it online, which I thought would be easy with its name, but no. However, there are many variations of this recipe, so I guess a lot of folks, including those from NY Times cooking, have ignored the seafood-no-cheese rule as well.

Obviously I loved the recipe because I gave it four stars. I just wish I could find out who Neil is. Or was. I doubled the recipe, because it’s that good.

Shrimp Feta à la Neil
printable recipe below

12 ounces fresh shrimp, peeled, cleaned
6 ounces linguine
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup snipped parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
4 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 ripe tomato, seeded, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup crumbled feta
Cayenne pepper flakes, optional

Rinse shrimp and place on paper towels to dry.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

Combine the egg and ricotta; Stir in the parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss the warm pasta with the ricotta mixture. Turn into a greased 9” pie plate; press onto bottom and up sides to form a “crust.” Set aside.


In a 10” skillet, heat the oil and butter. Add the garlic and basil and cook for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, onion, and red bell pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes more till vegetables are just tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the shrimp, chopped tomato, and salt. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or till shrimp is just done, stirring occasionally.

Combine the water and cornstarch; add to shrimp mixture. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly.

Turn the shrimp mixture into the pasta crust; spoon tomato sauce atop. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the mozzarella and feta on top.

Bake 5 more minutes or until cheeses melt.

Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

I sprinkled the dish with cayenne pepper flakes.

If you’re making this in the summer, you can always add some basil chiffonade. I just thew a few little leaves on. The dish is quite messy as it is.

In the future, I might add the cheeses, or at least the grated mozzarella to the pasta and ricotta mixture, because the melted cheese on the shrimp hides them.

And speaking of the pasta with the ricotta mixture – divine.

I will definitely be making this dish again, maybe with a few tweaks.

 

 

Croissants Breakfast Boats

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I happen to love Instagram, and I follow Cheesy, which probably isn’t surprising to those who know me well. Cheesy posts just that – photos of cheesiness!

And, one day I saw these – hollowed out croissants, baked with eggs, cheese, and bacon! At least I’m assuming that’s how they were prepared. I searched online and saw many similar recipes, but never found this photo.

Aren’t these boats beautiful? During the holidays, I typically have croissants on hand and save them for various purposes. To use as is, obviously, or for baked French toast or bread pudding. The Williams-Sonoma croissants are really nice to have on hand; you can bake one or a dozen at a time.

So here’s my version of croissants breakfast boats, and if anyone knows to whom to give credit for the photo of his/her boats, I’d appreciate it!

Croissants Breakfast Boats

4 baked croissants
1 small purple onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt
Pepper
6 eggs at room temperature
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Prepared diced bacon
A few green onions, sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Slices of black olives (optional)
Slices of sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
Cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

Turn each croissant on its side and slice a “hat” off of the top. Discard the hats, then using your fingers, pick out the dough until you have a nice boat. Try not to make any holes!


Place the prepped croissants on a jelly roll pan and preheat the oven to a roast setting.

Place the onion and red bell pepper on another jelly roll pan, drizzle with oil, and generously add salt and pepper.

Roast the veggies in the oven until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove the veggies from the oven and let them cool. Change the oven temperature to 350 degrees.


Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and cream with the salt and white pepper.

When you’re ready to bake the croissants boats, stir about 3/4 of the roasted veggies into the eggs and stir. Have all of the goodies prepped and ready.

Gently, using a ladle, pour the mixture into the croissants. The only reason I spilled was that I was pouring with my left hand so I could take a photo with my right!


Place in the oven and bake just until the eggs are firm, about 18 minutes; you don’t want rubbery eggs.

To serve, sprinkle with bacon, feta cheese, and chopped green onion, plus the leftover veggie mixture. Optionally, include the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes. Or, keep them plain and offer the goodies on the side.

Instead of bacon you could use good ham or Prosciutto or sausage.

The options are endless for these breakfast boats!

The best part was finding out that I could pick up the breakfast boats and eat them like a sandwich!

But the prettiest these are is when you can see the beautiful yellow egg filling, so next time I might stir more of the goodies into the whisked eggs, and not worry about “toppings.”


And there will be a next time!

Summer Corn Dip

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I’m not a huge fan of Emeril Lagasse. It’s not that I don’t respect his accomplishments, which are vast. In fact, he’s one of the longest lasting tv chefs in the U.S. We just never clicked. I didn’t get the “night show” element of live music on his cooking show, and the “BAM” was way overdone. Just my opinion.

So I wasn’t completely thrilled when I received an Emeril cookbook as a gift. But when I opened the book, Prime Time Emeril, to a random page, it was to the recipe for Hot Corn Dip.

Not being from the Midwest, I haven’t always been a huge corn fan like some people. I mean, it’s really good with butter and salt – on the cob, of course. But corn dip???

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Well I made it, and it’s now one of my few repeat recipes I make in the summer. For this one recipe alone, I will always keep Prime Time Emeril, published in 2001.

So here is my version of Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for corn dip, from his cookbook. It’s especially fun to make when corn on the cob is 10 for $1.00! However keep in mind that to make it simpler, canned corn can also be used.

Hot and Cheesy Corn Dip

4 corn on the cobs
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 green onions, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces grated white cheddar or Monterey jack
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste

Remove the corn from the corn cobs using a knife, slicing vertically on four “sides” of the cob. Then break up the pieces of corn into individual kernels.

Cook the corn in boiling water for about 10 minutes; test it to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. Drain the corn in a colander, and set aside to cool.

Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat it over medium-high heat. Chop the onion, red bell pepper and green onions. Add the vegetables and sauté for approximately 5 minutes.

Then add the corn, the cream cheese and cubed or grated cheese, and allow the cheeses to completely melt into the vegetables.

Add the salt and cayenne, or sprinkle the cayenne on top of the dip when serving.

Serve the dip warm with good corn chips. I like the “scoopable” variety!

I’ve also used mayonnaise in this dip along with cream cheese. It just adds a depth of flavor.

Now to change things up. You can make a Southwestern version of this corn dip by adding chopped green chile peppers and cilantro, plus a little ground cumin.


I’ve also made this dip with crumbled chorizo. Yum. Italian sausage also works.

For a pescatarian option, add crab, some Old Bay, and top with chopped avocado!

Korean Coleslaw

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Often when I’m browsing online for recipes, I print one I like, save it, and keep the stack of recipes in my kitchen.

Which is silly, because I have boxes of recipes glued on cards stemming from my childhood, and even folders for saved recipes that are organized by the season and, of course, my cookbooks. I guess one can never have too many recipes.

So I was browsing through my recipe “stack,” and I saw the words “gochujang” and “coleslaw” together. What? There it was – a coleslaw, with a dressing containing Gochujang!!

I only recently discovered the Korean barbecue paste, and used it on pork tenderloin. What a wonderful flavor this paste imparts.

Turns out that the coleslaw recipe is from Abbe’s blog “This is How I Cook.” Not only does she have a great blog, she has the cutest dog, Geordie.

I made a few adjustments, mostly adding more gochujang to the coleslaw dressing.

Korean Coleslaw

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons gochujang
1-2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 tablespoon agave

4 cups shredded cabbage, purple and white
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 cup grated carrots
8 green onions, sliced
1 bunch cilantro, cleaned, chopped
Black sesame seeds, optional
Peanuts, optional

First prepare the gochujang dressing in a small blender jar and set aside.


Place the purple and white cabbages, red bell pepper, and carrots in a large bowl. Mix well.

Add the dressing and stir. Let sit for 1-2 hours to soften the cabbage slightly. Taste before continuing with the recipe.

Add the green onions and cilantro and mix together.

To serve, sprinkle the coleslaw with sesame seeds.

If I’d only used purple cabbage, I would have also used white sesame seeds.

Then add some peanuts.


If you want it spicier, add more Sriracha sauce and stir well, but you don’t want it to overpower the gochujang.

And for heaven’s sake, slice your own cabbage. Don’t buy those terrible bags of coleslaw!

It’s fresher and it’s cheaper!

This coleslaw was fantastic! It would be great with salmon or chicken on top as well. Thanks Abbe!

Scallops and Veggies

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This dish is easy and healthy, and a nice change from all of the heavy meals typically served during the holidays. It’s simply seared sea scallops on top of layers of vegetables. What could be better!! So, here’s the recipe.

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Scallops and Veggies
serves 2 hearty eaters, or 4

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash, baked
1 pound sea scallops, of uniform size
2 leeks, white part only
Olive oil
1 large purple onion, sliced
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
Butter, for the scallops
Cayenne pepper flakes

Bake the squash using this recent recipe here. Then, after it’s cooled down, use a fork and scrape out all of the strands of spaghetti squash onto a serving platter; keep it warm.
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Rinse the scallops, and place them on paper towels to dry off; set aside.
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The next step is to clean the leeks. Leeks grow in soil, so they always contain dirt and silt that you need to avoid.
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Slice the white ends cross-wise. Place them in a medium bowl and fill the bowl with water. Separate the rings of leeks so that any silt sinks to the bottom of the bowl. Then remove the leeks from the water and place them on paper towels to dry.


Using a large skillet or work, heat the oil over high heat, and add the red peppers and onion when it’s hot. Allow some caramelization, then reduce the heat slightly to cook the vegetables through. Add a little salt and pepper, then place them over the cooked spaghetti squash. Keep warm.

Add a couple more tablespoons of oil and using the same technique, caramelize and then cook the leeks. Add a little salt and pepper, then place the leeks over the red bell pepper and onions.

Switch to a clean, flat skillet to cook the scallops, which should be completely dry. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, and 1 tablespoon of butter and heat over high heat. The butter will brown, which only adds flavor.

Sear half of the scallops in the oil and butter mixture, for at least one minute. Then turn them over using tongs and sear the other side. Make sure to also season them with salt and pepper, and even garlic pepper if you so desire.


Turn down the heat a little if you feel they’re not completely cook through. Place them on a plate, and continue with the remaining scallops.

When you’re ready to serve, make sure your vegetables are still warm, then top them with the scallops.
scallos

Serve from the platter, making sure every serving includes squash, peppers, onions, leeks, and scallops.

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I love cayenne pepper flakes on this dish, and you can also offer Sriracha for extra spiciness!
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I have also smothered the cooked scallops in chile paste before, and you could always create a sauce with a Thai curry paste for an alternative flavor profile.

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But even straight forward, with salt and pepper, the scallop on the vegetables, all cooked to perfection, creates a fabulous dish!


I served this dish with an Albariño, and it was a lovely combination.

note: I could imagine this dish with also lovely sausages or grilled shrimp!

How to Stir Fry!

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Stir frying is something I do quite often in my kitchen. For one thing, Asian stir fries, with traditional ingredients, are simple and delicious. Secondly, they’re quite healthy, because of the lovely balance of meat or seafood and vegetables. They’re also a good use for leftover meat and vegetables, and mostly, I love them because no recipe is required.

It does help to be familiar with Asian ingredients. My stir fries are more on the Chinese side, but add some fish sauce and you’ve got yourself a Thai stir fry! As I have said before, you can certainly follow recipes, but I often cook the inspired way. That is, being familiar with the traditional ingredients of a cuisine, and using those in your dish. It may not be a perfect stir fry according to Chinese chefs and grandmothers, but no Chinese food police are coming to my kitchen to arrest me any time soon!

First, it’s important to have the basics – onion, garlic, and ginger. These can be part of the stir fry, or used in a marinade. If I do marinate meat before a stir fry, I only use a little peanut oil or olive oil – enough to blend the aromatics. Liquid additions are wonderful, but then the meat has to be patted dry before cooking. An oily marinade is just easier.

The seasonings for stir fries are easy to find, fortunately. Soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, sherry, sesame seed oil, chile paste, hot sauce, and hoisin sauce. Other optional ingredients include fermented bean paste, shrimp paste, plum sauce (which I don’t care for) and oyster sauce.

One Chinese seasoning is called Chinese 5-Spice, which, obviously, is a mixture of spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, star anise, and pepper. I’ve noticed that some also contain fennel. As with most spice and herb mixtures, I hesitate to use them. Just like using a purchased curry powder, every dish you make will end up tasting the same. For this dish today, I just want the meat, vegetables, and seasonings to shine. But use the spice mixture if you like it!
5spice
The protein used in a stir fry has to be good quality and quick cooking. For example, I wouldn’t use beef or pork that requires 4-6 hours of cooking. I’m talking beef and pork tenderloin, chicken thighs and breast, scallops and shrimp.

When it comes to vegetables, anything goes, unless you are expecting the Chinese food police to show up. Of course there’s traditional bok choy, Chinese cabbage, Chinese eggplants, snow peas, and so forth, plus ingredients that play a minor role like bean sprouts, dried mushrooms, chile peppers, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and cilantro. But if you want to use carrots and broccoli, you can make a delicious stir fry as well. Or spinach and tomatoes!

The only requirement of a stir fry is that all the different components are cooked properly at the very end when all of they are all tossed together. So if you’re using carrots and broccoli, steam-cook them first until almost completely tender, then add them to the cooked meat at the end. Perfection! Spinach and tomatoes wouldn’t require any pre-cooking. It’s all about common sense.

Here is the stir fry that I made using what was in my refrigerator one night. Enjoy, and make sure to customize it to your tastes and ingredients!

Beef and Vegetable Stir Fry

1 1/2 pounds cubed beef tenderloin
1/2 cup olive or peanut oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 – 1 1/2″ piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound sugar snap peas or snow peas
1/3 cup soy sauce
3/8 cup mirin
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
2 medium onions
2 medium red bell peppers
Fresh cilantro, chives, or chile pepper slices

Drain the beef well on paper towels, then place the cubed beef in a large bowl or re-sealable bag. I used the ends of a whole beef tenderloin, from which I had cut filet mignon slices, which is why the “cubes” are different shapes. The volumetric uniformity of the cubes is what’s important in a stir fry. Mine are on the large size, but uniformity is what’s critical.

Add the oil, garlic, ginger, and salt to a jar of a small food processor.
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Process until smooth, then pour over the meat.
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Toss the meat, or bounce it around in the bag to make sure the beef is uniformly coated with the flavorful oil. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Bring the meat to almost rooom temperature at least an hour before beginning the stir fry.

When you’re ready, begin by trimming the peas, if necessary, and steam them just until crisp-tender. For me, this was 5 minutes of steaming. Snow peas are thinner and would require less cooking time. However, cooking time also depends on how crisp you like your vegetables.


Let the peas cool. If you think you have overcooked the peas, or any vegetable for that matter, toss a cup full of ice over the vegetables in a colander. This will cool them off faster, and the melted ice will drain away. Set the peas aside.
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In a measuring cup, measure out the soy sauce, mirin, hoisin sauce, and sesame see oil. Whisk the mixture, and set aside.
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If you’re not familiar with hoisin sauce, I’d suggest buying some. You don’t need much for fabulous flavor. It’s just a soy bean paste. There are different qualities and brands. This is the one I can find locally, but when I have the opportunity to visit an Asian market, I buy more “authentic” brands.
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Slice the onions and peppers to your liking. I like more of a wedge look. Have these in a bowl nearby.
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Have everything you’re going to use in your stir fry near the stove. A lot about Chinese cooking, much like all cooking, is to have everything on hand during the cooking process. It’s mise en place on crack, because things can move quickly

To begin, heat a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil* and just when it begins to smoke (have your ventilation system on) add a handful of cubed beef. Let them sit for a minute, before tossing around, then leave them alone for another minute or two. Get the cubes to the point where all sides show browning, but don’t allow any further cooking. Remember, there will be a little cooking boost at the end.


Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, then continue with the remaining beef.
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When you are done with the browned beef, lower the heat on the stove by about half. Add the onions and peppers, and saute them, tossing them around occasionally to create some caramelization.

If you want them cooked softer, you can put a lid on the skillet/wok for about a minute.


when you’re happy with the “cook” of the onions and peppers, add the peas and toss gently.
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Then add the beef cubes and any juices that might have accumulated in the bowl.
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Immediately pour in the seasoning mixture, and combine it gently. Stir occasionally, to make sure the beef cooks through to your liking. Mine, of course, will end up medium-rare.
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If the stir fry seems like it has too much liquid, remove the beef and vegetables, using a spider sieve, and place in a large serving bowl. Then reduce the liquid in the skillet/wok.
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Pour the reduced liquid over the stir fry, toss gently, and serve.
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Most people enjoy rice with their stir fries, but I prefer it as is.

Serve the stir fry with chile paste or sriracha or even cayenne pepper flakes for those who want a boost in heat. I’ve also included dried chile pepper slices, and you can always serve black or white sesame seeds for a pretty topping.
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* You may not need any extra oil if you have enough extra oily marinade. Make sure to use all of the marinade in the stir fry for extra flavor.
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note: Some recipes call for cornstarch to thicken the final sauce for a stir fry, but I don’t bother. If you’re not careful, the sauce will become gloppy, which reminds me of bad Chinese American restaurant food.

Quesadillas

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It was my mother who first made a quesadilla in our home about the time I was in high school. Of course, she was the one who did the cooking, but there had never been Mexican food prepared in our home before. She cooked food from a lot of international cuisines, like Greece, Russia, France, India, Ethiopia, and China, but somehow had never been exposed to Mexican. Which is funny to me, because she really loves everything spicy. I think she eats more jalapenos than I do, and I love jalapenos!

The way we all discovered Mexican food was at a restaurant in Park City, Utah. It was there where we fell in love with cheesy quesadillas, as well as other Mexican and Southwestern specialties.

And being my mother, she went home and made them herself. So this is recipe I’m presenting for quesadillas is how I learned how to make them, from copying my mother’s technique. I honestly think they’re better than in any restaurant – browned, crispy, with cheesy wonderful goodness inside. Whatever ingredients you choose will work, I promise you, as long as there’s enough cheese to hold everything together!

And that’s the fun part. Today I’m simply using chicken, purple onion, red bell pepper, poblano pepper, cilantro, and lots of Monterey jack cheese. Plus tortillas, of course. But you can add any meat, any kind of cheese, and any accessory ingredients.

On two different occasions, back when I catered, I made quesadillas to order at parties. I had 2 skillets going, and used smaller tortillas, since one larger one can easily fill a person to the brim! The guests got to pick their ingredients. I even had chopped mango, which I love to mix with spicy beef and cilantro in quesadillas. Avocados work well, and are a good meat substitute, if necessary. It’s a really fun thing to do, even at your own party. For a smaller group, of course.

In any case, today I present to you my way of making quesadillas. This will hopefully inspire you to try your own, using your favorite ingredients!

Quesadillas

Olive oil
Red bell pepper, diced
Poblano pepper, diced
Purple onion, diced
Tortillas, I used a multi-grain variety
Grilled chicken, I used one I’d marinated in a lime-garlic marinade, then grilled, sliced thinly
Butter
Grated cheese, I used Monterey jack
Chopped cilantro
Hot sauce or salsa for serving


Heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a skillet, then add all of the peppers and onion. Saute just until soft and set aside.

Get out another skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Have all of the ingredients nearby; the quesadilla cooking process goes fairly quickly.

First begin by adding about 1 tablespoon of butter to the hot skillet. It will brown, but that’s good. Place the tortilla in the skillet.

Working quickly, place half of the cheese allotted per quesadilla on top of the tortilla, then place the chicken slices over the top.

Quickly add the chopped cilantro and the remaining cheese. Top with another tortilla. Press down on it, then reduce the heat to practically nothing, and place a lid on the skillet.

After a few minutes, flip over the quesadilla. That’s why it’s important to lower the heat, because you need the cheese to be melted to keep the two tortillas sticking together. Otherwise you won’t be able to successfully flip it.

Raise the heat just a little bit to get some browning on the other side, but leave the lid on to heat everything through on the inside. Remove the quesadilla from the skillet and let it rest for about 5 minutes on a cutting board. It will cut better when you rest it.

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Continue with remaining tortillas if you’re making more.
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I am a huge fan of salsa, but for these quesadillas, I used green and red hot sauces that were given to me by Richard, from REM Cooks, when I met him in Dallas. He has recipes on his blog for both of these hot sauces, so if you have an abundance of chile peppers coming up in your garden, check them out.

Quesadillas are best hot or warm, when they’re really crispy. The butter really does the trick in this recipe, but making adjustments with the flames help as well. If you have an electric stove – I’m sorry, I can’t help you. You probably have to be a little more careful!