Archive for the 'Mexican food' Category

14
Aug
11

Where’s the Beak?

The Artful Dodger hipping Oliver to street lingo

“You do know what a beak is, don’t cha?” “It’s a birds mouth, isn’t it?” “For your information, a beak’s a magistrate.” That line from “Oliver”never made sense to me. Where is the connection? Anyone?

The Spanish word for beak is pico. I had a friend in Mexico nick named Pico because he was blessed with a hooter resembling that of Ringo Starr.

Pico de gallo is a popular salsa we like to pour over our tacos and enchiladas. But why is it called “rooster’s beak?” Again, where is the connection?

I consulted the “Food Lover’s Companion”, my first go-to book when I have a culinary connected conundrum. According to that source, “Pico de gallo [PEE-koh day GI-yoh] ….is a relish made of finely chopped ingredients like jicama, oranges, onions, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers and cucumbers along with various seasonings. This condiment was so named because it was once purportedly eaten with the thumb and finger, an action that resembles a rooster’s pecking beak.” Ok, I guess that makes some sense.

Here’s what I found on Wikipedia:

Another suggested etymology is that pico is derived from the verb picar, which has two meanings: 1) to mince or chop, and 2) to bite, sting or peck. The rooster, gallo inSpanish, is a common metaphor for the hyper-masculine (“macho“) male in Mexican culture. One example of such machismo is taking pride in withstanding the spicy burn of chilis.

However, neither theory can be considered definite, as they assume the use of hot chilis. In many regions of Mexico the term “pico de gallo” refers to any of a variety of salads, condiments or fillings made with sweet fruitstomatoestomatillosavocado or mild chilis — not necessarily with hot chilis, or any chilis at all. Thus, the name could be a simple allusion to the bird feed-like minced texture and appearance of the sauce.[2]

The pico de gallo I am used to seeing and eating in California and the Pacific Northwest is more of a salsa or salsa fresca. Tomatoes, onion and garlic are the staple. And it’s chunky yet a bit on the soupy side, so I can’t imagine trying to peck that up with your dedos (that’s Spanish for fingers).

My simple, spicy version of Pico de Gallo

Enough scratching and pecking for the significance of the name of this spicy concoction. Here is my simple version of Pico de Gallo:

3 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

½ yellow onion, finely chopped

3 large cloves garlic, finely minced

1 large jalapeño, finely minced

salt and pepper to taste

chopped cilantro (optional)

Rough to finely chop the ripe tomatoes

These summer beauties were the perfect ripeness!

chop the onions

make sure they are pretty fine

ditto the jalapenos - keep the seeds if you want the heat or remove for a less heated condiment

Remove the skins from the garlic cloves

The easiest way to remove the skins from garlic is to chop off the hard, woody end and using the flat of your chefs knife, give it a good firm bash with your fist.  Did that make sense?  Place the knife on it’s side over the garlic clove.  Make a fist like you are playing one-potato-two-potato and smash it down on the knife.  One smash is all you need do.

Finely chop all of that beautiful garlic

Place it all in a mixing bowl and give it a good stir.  Season with salt and pepper to taste,  You can also add chopped cilantro if you like.  I didn’t have any on hand the day I made this, otherwise it would have made it in there too.

Spoon over your favorite Mexican dishes or anything that you like. It's great on it's own with some tortilla chips.

Whether you call it pico de gallo, salsa fresca, tomato relish or Mexican ketchup, it doesn’t get any easier to make.  Team it up with some guacamole and get the party started.  Hmmm….where’s that avocado?

17
Mar
10

Enchilada casserole tutorial

 A few weeks ago we had  a party at our place  and I made a vegetarian “chicken” enchilada casserole.  Everyone loved it!  Some people were very confused, saying “I thought you guys were vegetarian; there’s chicken in here!”  Well, yeah, but no.  There wasn’t any dead yard bird in there, just good ol’ Trader Joe’s Chickenless Strips.  I’ve posted a picture of the box a few posts back.  I like using those things.  They are so handy when it comes to doing recipe reduxes involving chicken.  Trying to make mostly vegetable heavy meals now days, I like to indulge in some processed stuff once in a while.  Moderation in everything, right?

The night before last I decided to make the casserole for dinner.  Since it was such a hit at the party, I thought I should share it with my blog audience this time.  So here goes:

The first layer

This is made like a lasagna, in layers.  The first layer I spooned in some green enchilada sauce (yes, from a can!), two corn tortillas (or what ever fits in your dish), sprinkle a little grated cheese (I used pepper jack and cheddar), chopped onion, sliced olives, chopped jalapeno, and chopped Trader Joe’s Chickenless Strips (I sauted these first in a little olive oil, added garlic powder, cumin, salt and chili powder to taste).

Layer two more corn tortillas

Ladle more green enchilada sauce on top

Add a little grated cheese

Add the chickenless strip chunks, sliced olives, chopped jalapeno, chopped onions

Load the top up with cheese

And bake it until it looks like this!  Preheat your oven while you are building your casserole to 350 degrees.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until it is browned and bubbling.  The other night when this was baking I made Spicy Quinoa instead of rice and refried black beans.  I’ve shown you in past posts how I make refried beans so I’m not going to get into that this time.  I am, however, going to show you  a little step by step action with the quinoa.

Before you heat the pan, have a measuring cup with the liquid ready.  I have a 1 cup plastic measuring cup that has all of the cool markings on it.  I put 1 – 2 tablespoons of chili paste or salsa into the cup and add water or stock up to the 3/4 cup  marking.  Add a small amount of olive oil to a small sauce pan.  Heat over medium high heat, saute a couple tablespoons chopped onions, add some salt, cumin and chili powder to taste and 1/2 cup quinoa.  Stir often until quinoa starts to brown a little.

  Add your liquid and reduce heat to low and cover pan with lid.  Cook until all of the liquid has evaported, about 19 minutes.  Fluff with fork when done.

And this is what it looks like when it is done!  My lighting is a little strange here, so don’t freak if you make this and it isn’t this color, okay?

Add a  green salad and you’ve got yourself a nice balanced meal.  This is better than any Mexican restaurant and a lot lower in fat.  The whole thing takes less than an hour from start to finish.  And, yeah, we really eat meals like this almost every day.  Just ask Katie!

10
Nov
09

Vegan Enchiladas

I love Mexican food.  Especially enchiladas.  There’s something comforting about that plate of cheesy enchiladas, spicy rice and garlicky refried beans that warms my soul as well as my belly.  And speaking of bellies, mine has taken to expanding a bit these days, so I came up with this next recipe to ease my waistband, but still give me plenty of flavor that I so dearly crave.

You remember all those pesky green tomatoes from my garden?  Well, there are still a few hanging around.  I usually just use canned sauce for my enchiladas, but I thought the green tomatoes might just lend a nice flavor to a home made sauce.  Turns out I was right.

Red and green tomatoes, garlic, jalapenos and habaneros

I cut up both red and green tomatoes, about 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, three jalapenos and one habanero and spread them on a sheet pan.  I drizzled the whole thing with olive oil and seasoned to taste with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Then I roasted the tomatoes for about an hour at 350 degrees.  I pulled the pan from the oven and after taking a quick photo, placed the hot mixture into the food processor and pureed until I had a nice spicy, thick sauce.

Earlier in the day I took advantage of the nice fall weather and started up the grill outside.  I grilled Portabella mushrooms and some peppers.  I planned for two meals:  Enchiladas one day and chili rellenos the next.

While I was busy grilling in the backyard, I had the oven going  inside baking an acorn squash.  I chunked up the squash after it was cool enough to handle and cut the grilled Portabella up into bite size pieces, readying them for their place in the enchiladas.

Normally I would just make refried beans to accompany my beloved enchiladas, but I decided they were going to a part of the filling this time. 

 I sauted onions, red bell pepper, ground cumin to taste and jalapenos in olive oil until soft.  I added an undrained can of black beans, cooking and mashing until they were a nice consistency.  I put a large clove of garlic in the press, and squeezed the garlic into the beans.  I like adding the garlic after the beans are hot because it gives it a better garlicky flavor and doesn’t actually cook the garlic.

OK, so once all of these components are ready,  I heated corn tortillas on a griddle, spraying each side of the tortilla with non stick spray, until it was soft enough to roll.  I spread some of the beans on the soft tortilla, then added mushroom bits and squash chunks.  I rolled the enchiladas and place seam side down, in an oiled lowed rimmed dish.  Once all of the enchiladas were in the pan, I poured some of the sauce over the top, evenly coating  each one.  I made sure to save some sauce for plate finishing.  The enchiladas were then popped into a 350 degree oven and baked for about 20 – 25 minutes, until very hot.

Here is the resultant meal.  I thinned the remaining sauce in the pan with a little water and poured it over the plated enchiladas.  Spicy Mexican style rice and a little fruit salad completed my healthier version of a Mexican meal.  The acorn squash gave the enchiladas a nice mouth feel and we didn’t miss the cheese at all!  The beans and rice gave us our complete protein and the fruit helped cool the mouth from the burn of the habanero and jalapeno in the sauce.

If you don’t have green tomatoes, you could use tomatillos or just use all red tomatoes.  Either way, it’s a great little sauce, tasty and simple.

 

05
Sep
09

Simple, Tasty Tostadas

These tostadas are better than any I have had in a Mexican restaurant!
These tostadas are better than any I have had in a Mexican restaurant!

They might not be super pretty, but the tostadas I made for dinner the other night were mighty tasty!  Under that lettuce is a crisp, baked corn tortilla, slathered with spicy, soyrizo refried pinto and black beans, spicy Mexican style rice, and shredded jalapeno jack cheese.  Yes, you could say we like things spicy at our house.

Mexican Style Rice

1/2 cup rice (I like Basmati, you can use whatever you like)

1/4 medium onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

2 tbsp chili paste

water

Heat oil over medium high heat.  Saute onions until they are soft and beginning to brown.  Stir in cumin and chili powder.  Stir in rice covering it with oil and spices, about 1 minute (careful not to let it scorch!)  Put chili paste in measuring cup and add water to make it 3/4 of a cup.  Pour over rice and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer and cover with lid.  Simmer for 19 minutes.  Remove from heat and leave lid on until you are ready to assemble tostadas.

Refried Pinto and Black Beans

1 15 oz can pinto beans

1 cup cooked black beans

1/2 large onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp cumin

salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in saute pan.  Saute onion until soft and golden.  Add pinto beans with juice from can.  Add black beans.  Stir and sprinkle with cumin.

Pinto, black beans, onion and cumin
Pinto, black beans, onion and cumin

Using a potato masher, mash into a smooth paste.

Mash, mash, mash
Mash, mash, mash
Smooth, refried beans - yummy!
Smooth, refried beans – yummy!

I always add some water during this process, as it tends to dry out pretty quickly.  Just add as needed.  When the beans are at this point, I put my garlic into a garlic press and add to the pan.  It’s a good point to add your salt and pepper now, too.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  It’s great like this but even better if you add soy chorizo right about now.

Lookin good!
Lookin’ good!

While you are cooking the rice and beans, you should have your corn tortillas baking and crisping in the oven.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cover sheet pan with foil (to facilitate clean up) and place tortillas on pan.  Spray both side with non stick spray.  Place in oven and just keep an eye on them, turning once during bake time.  Remove from oven once they are crispy and browned a little.

Crispy and browned and ready to be slathered with beans
Crispy and browned and ready to be slathered with beans

Chop Romaine lettuce.  Dress with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp vinegar of choice.  I like Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar.

Assemble tostadas.  Place crisped tortilla on a plate.  Slather with a generous amount of refried beans.   Top with an equal amount of rice.  Sprinkle with grated cheese.  Sprinkle some chopped onion.  Top with dressed lettuce.  I added chopped tomato, sliced olives, chopped cucumber, chopped avocado, a dollop of light sour cream and jarred jalapenos to our tostadas.  You can use whatever is in your kitchen and imagination.  Enjoy and ole!

Dinner is ready!

Dinner is ready!




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