Even in the Desert, You Can Get a Craving for Seafood

When you live about 1,000 miles from the coast, seafood is something exotic.  We know about shrimp and sometimes see live lobsters can be found in a tank at the grocery store.  We get salt cod and a few varieties of frozen “fresh” fish are good, but pretty mundane.  Now that we have a Whole Foods market, we see different varieties of seafood that I hope to learn how to cook someday. In the meantime, I fall back on the tried and true.  I do grill the occasional swordfish steak and I love to sear ahi tuna with a crust of crushed wasabi peas when I’m feeling exotic. I’m more likely to do a soup or stew or to try a version of baked cod.  I found a new baked cod recipe in an article on sheet pan suppers and, of course I had to try it and am happy to share it.  It was a recipe for four servings that I was able to reduce to one serving successfully in keeping with my new search for how to make one or two serving meals.  I’m including the full recipe below, but have added a couple of notes about my experience

Sheet pan Provençal Cod, Potatoes and String Beans fulfill a desert craving for seafood!

 

Provençal Cod, Potatoes and String Beans

 Ingredients:

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced

¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp herbes de Provence, Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

8 oz yellow wax beans and/or green beans, trimmed

2 small tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

2Tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 6-oz cod fillets (1 to ½ inch thick)

Chopped fresh parsley for topping

Method:

Put a rimmed baking sheet in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 475°. Combine potatoes, 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp herbes de Provence in a large bowl; season generously with salt and pepper.  In a separate bowl, combine the beans, 1 Tbsp oilive oil and the remaining ½ tsp herbes de Provence; season generously with salt and pepper.

Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven; add the potatoes in a single layer on one side of the pan and the beans on the other side.  Roast until the potatoes and browned and the beans are tender – about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, olives, remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, the lemon juice. ½ tsp salt and pinch of pepper in a small bowl; set aside. Season the cod all over with salt.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven. If potatoes and beans are done, remove and keep warm. If not done, push to their sides leaving a space in the middle.  Place the cod in the middle of the pan and top with half of the tomato mixture. Roast until the cod is opaque – 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle the potatoes with parsley. Serve with the remaining tomato mixture.

   Notes: In my oven, the beans and potatoes were done at 20 minutes.  I left them on the the cod and the beans were a bit overdone by the time the cods was done. Check them while the cod is cooking, to be safe.

I could only find a long filet of cod with a narrow end. I folded the narrow end under the thick end sandwiching some of the olive and tomato mix in between.  It worked fine and was colorful and tasty.

This recipe reduced easily to one serving with a single cod filet and smaller portions of beans and potatoes.  I did the full recipe of the olive, tomato lemon mix and enjoyed what didn’t fit on the cod right out of the bowl with a spoon!

 

 

Paring Down Can Foster Indulgence, so Play with Your Food!

Some of us subscribe to cooking and recipe sites on the web.  Interesting things appear that tantalize the eye and the appetite.  Some arouse curiosity and other demand to be made. All those happened when I ran across Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes and Grilled Bread.  My curiosity was peaked by the inclusion of chick peas (garbanzo beans) in the recipe.  I’m most familiar with chickpeas as hummus and don’t have much experience with them as whole beans.  What the heck, give it a try!  And this recipe for four servings appeared easy to reduce per my goals in this New Season of reduced quantities. It also was flexible enough to allow for loose measuring of ingredients. For instance, it called for 24 clams. Six clams per serving? Pikers!  I ordered 12 clams to make one serving. I love clams and had no guilt over this indulgence. When cooking for one, or som times two, indulge and enjoy! I used the recipe below as a guideline for this dish.  I played with parts of it, hence inclusion in the Play with Your Food Category.

Chile-Lime Clams with Tomatoes. As good as it was hoped it would be! A keeper.

The original recipe suggested cooking in a cast iron pan on a grill outside. Think this over… acid foods (including tomatoes)  cooked in cast iron can acquire a metallic taste and cause the pans to lose their carefully built up seasoned finish. I read that acidic foods cooked in cast iron for no more than 15 minutes will not acquire a metallic taste, nor will the harm the finish.  Not worth the risk on my older than I am cast iron hand-me-downs from early in the last century!

It has been unseasonably hot so far this spring and summer.  I’m convinced hot air from the Capitol fanned by Tweet kindling is the cause, but that’s a different rant. I chose to cook on the stovetop in an anodized aluminum pan that has a non-teflon, dishwasher safe non-stick finish.  I had to forgo grilled toast, but was satisfied with torn chunks of bread with a schemear of butter for sopping up the pan sauce with the meal. This photo is of the pan on the stovetop.  I knew a dozen clams in my serving bowl, would be too crowded for a good picture.  Indulge me and imagine chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

CHILE-LIME CLAMS WITH TOMATOES AND GRILLED BREAD

4 servings

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided

2 large shallots, chopped

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup beer

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed

2 tablespoons (or more) sambal oelek

24 littleneck clams, scrubbed

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

4 thick slices country-style bread

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

1/2 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems

Lime wedges (for serving)

METHOD

Prepare a grill for medium, indirect heat (for a gas grill, leave one or two burners off; for a charcoal grill, bank coals on one side of grill). Place a large cast-iron skillet on grill over direct heat (move it around to cooler part of grill as you cook if needed) and melt 4 Tbsp. butter in skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste darkens to a rich brick-red color, about 1 minute. Add beer and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until beer is reduced nearly by half and no longer smells boozy, about 4 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and sambal oelek, then add clams. Cover (if you don’t have a lid that fits, use a sheet of foil) and cook, stirring occasionally, until clams have opened; this could take from 5–10 minutes depending on size of clams and the heat level. Remove from heat; discard any clams that don’t open. Stir in lime juice and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter.

While the clams are cooking on the grill, drizzle bread with oil and season lightly with salt. Grill until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer toast to plates and spoon clam mixture over; top with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

 

 

 

Tomato Salad with Crispy Potatoes and Creamy Feta

It took some time to prep and cook, but it so worth the effort. This plate is two servings. I slipped a small steak on my plate to go with it.

My Master Gardener good neighbor brought me a bag of grape tomatoes and green tomatoes that will ripen in a few days.  Coincidentally, I had been looking at this tomato salad in the new issue of Sunset Magazine. Of course I had to give it a try. Red, green and yellow tomatoes were cut in slices, wedges and halves to make it interesting.  Some slivers of red onion gave it a gentle bite and oven roasted, smashed baby potatoes set it off well.  Those potatoes are destined to be a house favorite.  You can see a little of the base of creamy feta made by blending feta with buttermilk to get the desired creamy consistency.  A touch of sumac was just the right touch.

TOMATO SALAD WITH CRISPY POTATOES AND CREAMY FETA

 Serves 4 – 6;

Prep and cook 1-1/2 hours and worth it!

 Crispy Potatoes

Ingredients

1 lb. baby potatoes

About ½ tsp salt

About 1’2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Method

Preheat oven to 425°. Scrub and dry potatoes and heap on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt and pour on ½ cup olive oil. Turn to coat well and spread in an even layer and roast until crisp – 25-30 minutes. Turn every 10 minutes or so to be sure they are evenly coated with oil.

Remove potatoes from oven and test with a fork, when soft enough to pierce, press with a potato masher to flatten them.  If needed season lightly with salt and drizzle with more oil, if needed. Return to oven and roast until browned and very crisp – another 20–25 minutes, turning over halfway through. Set aside to cool.

Creamy Feta

Ingredients

7 oz. feta, preferably sheep’s milk, crumbled to yield about 11/2 cups

1 to 4 Tbsp well-shaken 2% buttermilk

11/2 tsp. sumac (available at middle eastern groceries)

fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

While potatoes roast, make the feta sauce. In a food processor, blend feta a few seconds to break it down. With blade spinning, slowly add buttermilk to make the sauce thick and smooth as crème fraiche. Scrape sides and bottom of processor with a rubber spatula if necessary and blend just until smooth. Blend in sumac. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve:

1/1/4 heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges and/or thick slices.

2 Tbsp thinly sliced red onion

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1Tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves and chervil leaves

¼ cup small to medium basil leaves

Extra-virgin olive oil

Assemble salad: In a large bowl, toss tomato pieces, red onion, red onion and crispy potatoes (include any oil left in pan) with vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread feta sauce on a large serving platter and arrange tomato and potato mixture on top. Shingle in herbs and finish with a drizzle of oil.

Carrot and Radish Salad Ramped Up

I’ve been playing with my food again. I recommend that everyone try it.  It can be satisfying on many levels.  This time I began with a recipe I’ll share below, after I tell you what I did.

The recipe for a Carrot and Radish Salad read well and the accompanying photo was attractive. The recipe used orange carrots and red radishes and oil-packed canned tuna. As a rule, I’m not a fan of canned tuna, especially in soup-based casseroles or pasta salads with mayo and pickles.  The one embarrassing exception is I love the scroodle tuna salad at Souper Salads. I haven’t figured out what is in it that makes it so good, but it really is tasty.

I decided to up the ante for last night’s salad with rainbow carrots and Easter egg radishes and tuna steaks.  My playing with it made a very bright and colorful salad that was a great accompaniment to the seared tuna.  The recipe’s vinaigrette was complimentary to both the vegetables and the tuna. I served chunks of baguette with butter on the side because everyone in this household loves a rare treat of white bread and butter.

NOTE: I used a handheld mandoline to slice the vegetables.  Even the thinnest slice was a bit thick for the carrots. Next time, I’ll just use the vegetable peeler on the carrots to make them a little more delicate.

Carrot and Radish Salad with Seared Tuna – what happens with you play with your food.

Carrot and Radish Salad

 INGREDIENTS

1 bunch radishes (about 1/2 pound)

2–3 medium carrots (about 1/2 pound)

2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons white wine or Champagne vinegar

3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons capers

4 ounces drained oil-packed canned flaked tuna (about 3/4 cup)

2 tablespoons parsley leaves

MEDTHOD

Slice radishes into very thin rounds. Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots lengthwise into long, thin slices. Combine 2 tsp. salt and 3 cups ice water in a medium bowl and soak radishes and carrots for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Meanwhile, whisk lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, pepper, and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt in a small bowl until combined. Whisk in oil in a slow stream.

Toss radishes, carrots, and capers in a large bowl with just enough vinaigrette to coat.

Divide among 4 plates and top with tuna and parsley; drizzle with remaining vinaigrette and top with a few grinds of black pepper.

Note:  I used rainbow carrots and Easter egg radishes, seared tuna and a tiny dab of wasabi paste on each chunk of tuna. Otherwise, I followed the recipe.  The vinaigrette is very nice.

Meatless Monday With Enhancements

I think Meatless Monday is a good idea.  It can be something simple or it can get quite elaborate, depending on mood and time.  Since Whole Foods came to town, one can choose from a broad array of special items at the olive bar and salad bar to kick up a simple salad.  You don’t have to fill the refrigerator will more than you need for one meal. Even the local Albertson’s has added a basic salad bar.

Last night, I decided to have a salmon filet roasted with Williams Sonoma Potlatch Seasoning.  This is a frequent treat on the grill, but it was windy last night, so I roasted it in the oven. I wanted a salad with the salmon, but what I had in the fridge was some baby arugula, some snacking cucumbers, limp celery and a couple of carrots and green onions.  Off to the store I went and picked up artichoke hears and drunken tomatoes at the olive bar.  Drunken tomatoes are lightly roasted and marinated in a vinaigrette spike with a splash of red wine. I found more goodies at the cold food bar – roasted baby  eggplant with green peppers and onions and a Brussels sprouts and kale salad.  I got just enough of the goodies for the salad to make one serving for each of us. – no left overs!

I drained the marinade from the drunken tomatoes and added olive oil, and a few pinches of Aleppo pepper with a smudge of whole grain mustard and make a dressing for the salad.  I added the bit of Brussels sprouts and kale salad to my arugula and tossed it all with the dressing.  When I plated the salmon, I arranged all the other goodies on the salad and plate and suddenly, the salmon and salad supper sparkled.

One word of caution, all the beautiful goodies on the food bars are sold by the pound.  Don’t get carried away or you’ll be in for a shock at the register!

Roasted salmon and salad enhanced with goodies from the food bars at the store. Meatless Monday at its best.

Green Posole

Cold weather is here. It’s the time for comfort food to warm spirit and the body. I’ve made posole with nixtamal, a slaked corn that eventually becomes hominy. I like the firmer texture of nixtamal, but it is an acquired taste for most people. I also have made a green chile and potato soup enriched with butter and cream based on a recipe from a now defunct El Paso restaurant. And what would the winter holiday season in El Paso be without tamales? I’ve already enjoyed red pork, chicken and green chile and cheese and green chile tamales.  I’d debating crashing the party when my niece and her sisters spend an afternoon making tamales. It is a lot of work and many hands make it a lot of fun.  FYI, the masa used in making tamales and corn tortillas is ground nixtamal!

After all these rich and comforting cold weather treats, I needed to get out a recipe I’ve made before and make a lighter version of posole. Posole is the Spanish name for what is called hominy in English. It is also the name for a stew made using hominy.  There are pork and red chile posoles and chicken and green chile posoles. They are traditionally garnished with oregano and chopped onion, grated cheese and, sometimes, crunchy fried narrow strips of corn tortilla. My lighter posole uses seafood and tomatillos, serrano peppers and hominy for a very different green posole.  The original recipe calls for chunks of cod.  I like to add a few shrimp to the broth for color and flavor.  As with anything delicious, there’s some prep involving chopping, but it is worth the effort in the end.

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Green posole with cod and shrimp in a tomatillo/cilantro/serrano pepper and clam juice broth garnished with cilantro and radish slices. I had extra sliced serrano for garnish, but after tasting the broth, decided it had enough kick by itself!  A lighter, herbier counterpart to porky posole rojo, this tasty stew is wonderful on a crisp winter night.

Green Posole with Cod and Cilantro

 Ingredients

4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced, divided
  • 8 medium tomatillos (about 1¼ pounds), husks removed, rinsed
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves with tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 1 pound cod fillet
  • (optional: 1 dozen shelled, raw shrimp)
  • 1 15-ounce can white hominy, rinsed
  • 1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 3 small radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • Lime wedges (for serving)

 Method

Heat oil in a large pot over medium. Cook shallots, garlic, and half of chiles, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, 6–8 minutes.

Meanwhile, purée tomatillos in a blender until smooth.

Add half of tomatillo purée to pot and cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 cup cilantro to remaining purée in blender and blend until smooth; set aside.

Add cod, shrimp if using, hominy, clam juice, and 1 cup water to pot. Bring to a simmer and gently cook over medium-low until cod is opaque throughout and beginning to flake, 8–10 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in reserved raw tomatillo-cilantro purée, breaking cod into large chunks; season with salt and pepper.

Divide stew among bowls and garnish with radishes, cilantro, and remaining chile slices. Serve with lime wedges.

Shakshuka

I’ve posted shakshouka or shakshuka before. I’m doing it again, because today it fits in the “Play With your Food – Cooking Without a Recipe category. I’ll post a recipe for Shakshuka below as a starting point for you and then have fun with it as I did this morning.

I inventoried the pantry and fridge and found I didn’t have all the ingredients in the recipe.  I did have things that were close to it and decided to give it a go anyway.

What I pulled together were:

A bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 small white onion, peeled and diced

One good sized garlic, diced

One large fresh tomato

One can of diced tomatoes

One tube of tomato paste

A jar of green chile sauce

Four eggs

A bunch of cilantro.

Some crumbled Mexican Cotija cheese

Kosher salt

That’s sort of like the list of ingredients in the recipe, don’t you think?

Sweat the onions in olive oil, when soft, add the garlic followed by the tomato sauce, diced fresh tomato and the can canned tomatoes.  Cooked off about half the liquid, taste and added a couple of pinches of salt.  Then stir in four tablespoons of El Pinto Green Chile Sauce. I love El Pinto Green Chile Sauce and El Pinto Red Chile Sauce. They are manufactured by twin brothers who have the El Pinto Restaurant in Albuquerque, NM. Their salsas are good, but a little too Northern New Mexico style for this border guy. I tell people that the green chile sauce is huevos rancheros right out of the jar and the red sauce is enchiladas, slightly thinned, is enchiladas right out of the jar!

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Lower the heat under your skillet and carefully break four eggs into the mix. Cover the pan and let the eggs cook in the shaksuka until the whites are set and the yolks still soft.  When the eggs are nearly done, lightly sprinkle a few pinches of Cotija cheese over it all to add another subtle layer of flavor.

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Cotija cheese, a little cilantro and a few sliced yellow grape tomatoes finish the shaksusa and it’s breakfast!

Below is a very good recipe for Shakshuka.  I hope you’ll try it and that you’ll make it your own by adding your own special touches to the basic tomato/egg stovetop casserole.

 

Shakshuka

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium brown or white onion, peeled and diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 medium green or red bell pepper, chopped

4 cups ripe diced tomatoes, or 2 cans (14 oz. each) diced tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp chili powder (mild)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste– spicy!)

Pinch of sugar (optional, to taste)

Salt and pepper to taste

5-6 eggs

1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional, for garnish)

METHOD

Heat a deep, large skillet or sauté pan on medium. Slowly warm olive oil in the pan. Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant

Add the bell pepper, sauté for 5-7 minutes over medium until softened.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste to pan, stir till blended. Add spices and sugar, stirwell,and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till it starts to reduce. At this point, you can taste the mixture and spice it according to your preferences. Add salt and pepper to taste, more sugar for a sweeter sauce, or more cayenne pepper for a spicier shakshuka (be careful with the cayenne… it is extremely spicy!).

Crack the eggs, one at a time, directly over the tomato mixture, making sure to space them evenly over the sauce. I usually place 4-5 eggs around the outer edge and 1 in the center. The eggs will cook “over easy” style on top of the tomato sauce.

Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and the sauce has slightly reduced. Keep an eye on the skillet to make sure that the sauce doesn’t reduce too much, which can lead to burning. image: Some people prefer their shakshuka eggs more runny. If this is your preference, let the sauce reduce for a few minutes before cracking the eggs on top– then, cover the pan and cook the eggs to taste. Garnish with the chopped parsley, if desired. Shakshuka can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For breakfast, serve with warm crusty bread or pita that can be dipped into the sauce (if you’re gluten-intolerant or celebrating Passover, skip the bread). For dinner, serve with a green side salad for a light, easy meal.

Of Tomatoes and Pomegranates and Ottolenghi

I’ve been seeing cookbooks by Yotam Ottolenghi in bookstores for quite some time and couldn’t imagine what someone with a name like that would cook.  I finally decided to find out, so I went to Amazon and looked at a couple of his books.  It is nice that you can look inside the books there and get a feel for one before  you buy it. I learned that Ottolenghi was born in Israel and has lived in London. He and  Sami Tamimi, who was born of Palestinian parents in the old city of Jerusalem met in London, discovered they had grown up very close to each other but hadn’t known each other.  After becoming friends, they subsequently became chef co-owners of restaurants, c0-authors of cookbooks and entrepreneurs who make middle-eastern spices and foods available commercially. Ottolenghi also has a regular column and publishes recipes in The Guardian newspaper. His website is ottolenghi.co.uk.

Browsing the website, I found a section on recipes which kept me busy for quite a while just reading and drooling. Now, my challenge is selecting one of the cookbooks to purchase. (Complication ; I need to clear out space on my tablet to make room for a software upgrade – it’s always something!)

Lisa Mandelkern of Las Cruces was kind enough to give me a bag of pomegranates while we were at the Native Plant Society of New Mexico State Conference last weekend.  I had a few ripened tomatoes ready to use from a fried green tomato cooking demo I did a couple of weeks ago. It was fate that I would discover a beautiful recipe for a tomato and pomegranate salad  by Ottohenghi. I even had pomegranate molasses in my pantry from another culinary adventure!  All I needed was a small red onion and a packet of fresh oregano and I was ready to go.

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How could I resist making Ottolenghi’s Tomato and Pomegranate Salad. With it’s wonderful pomegranate molasses based dressing, it is as delicious as it is beautiful with different varieties of tomatoes and the glow of pomegranate arils.

Tomatoes are and pomegranates both are sweet, but in different ways.  Pomegranate molasses has a delectable tartness that goes well with a hint of white wine vinegar. It is an amazing treat for the palate. I may have to have guests for dinner just to show this off!

Here’s Ottolenghi’s recipe for this spectacular salad.  It converted easily to make half a recipe that was the right size for two. Do yourself a favor and make it now at the end of the fresh tomato season and beginning of the pomegranate season overlap.

Tomato and Pomegranate Salad

BY YOTAM OTTOLENGHI

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups red cherry tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice

1 1/3 cups yellow cherry tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice

1 1/3 cups tiger or plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice

18 ounce medium slicing tomatoes (about 5), cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice

1 red pepper, cut into 1/4-inch/5-mm dice (1 cup)

1 small red onion, finely diced (rounded 3/4 cup)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1/4 cup/60 ml olive oil, plus extra to finish

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large pomegranate, seeds removed (1 cup seeds)

1 tablespoon small oregano leaves

 

Method

Mix together all the tomatoes, the red pepper, and the onion in a large bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, allspice, vinegar, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, and a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt until well combined. Pour this over the tomato mixture and gently mix.

Arrange the tomato mixture and its juices on a large, flat plate. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds and oregano over the top. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve.

 

 

 

 

Watermelon Season and Some Like it Hot

Start with a few leftovers, add a couple of new recipe discoveries and have a good time Mexican-style with a couple of tweaks  by the Gringo Gourmet.

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Tostadas compuestas – guacamole, pinto bean and chicken topped with Watermelon – Ancho Chile Salsa and cabbage radish on the side.

I frequently order tostadas compuestas at Mexican restaurants because they are about the lightest thing on the menu.  You usually are served three, one with beef or chicken, one with refried beans and on topped with guacamole.  I consider the guacamole tostada a dessert and save it for last.  I wanted a quick and easy dinner, so I rummaged through the refrigerator and pantry.  In the refrigerator, I found leftover chicken from chicken tacos a few days ago, some grilled corn and a dab of pinto beans.  On the counter I had part of a package of pre-cooked flat tortillas for making tostadas compuestas. I was on my way.  I added a sweet pepper and some diced onion to the chopped chicken and one topping was done.  I spooned the leftover  beans into a small pot and heated them.  Then I added about a tablespoon of milk and some grated Jack cheese and worked all over with a potato masher making unfried refried beans for tostada number two. Then guacamole, with a little chopped onion and garlic salt, mashed by hand so it had some small chunks in it.

There was a wonderful restaurant called Sylvano’s where Albuquere’s tangled spaghetti bowl of freeways is now. I loved their blue corn enchiladas and could have become addicted to their guacamole.  One evening sat where I could peek into the kitchen as the servers brought out platter after plater of wonderful food.  In the background, I watch a granny-looking woman bent over a huge bowl, mixing that wonderful guacamole with her bare hands.  She had guacamole almost up to her elbows. I didn’t share that vision with my table mates.  They would have cringed at the sight. I sometimes use my hands and fingers to mash the avocados just like that beautiful old lady did.  I hope that gives mine something close to the wonderful authentic handmade flavor of hers.

In the picture above, you see my plated tostadas. I served shredded cabbage on the side so the three tostadas wouldn’t be  hidden. The dark red salsa on the chicken tostada is from a recipe I recently discovered.  It is a no-cook Watermelon-Ancho Chile Salsa that has a little heat and a little watermelon sweetness in its rich flavor.  It is excellent on chicken and I have enough left to try it on a roasted pork tenderloin this weekend.

When I made chicken tacos earlier in the week, I added a side of Shrimp Ceviche.  I had some leftover, so we polished it off with the meal of tostadas. I love ceviche and sometimes treat myself to a pair of shrimp ceviche and small shrimp cocktail for lunch on a hot day at Sofi’s Mexican Restaurant. We use different recipes, but both are very good.

Traditionally, ceviche, made with firm-fleshed fish or shrimp, is marinated in lime juice to “cook” the fish.  Most modern recipes suggest blanching the fish or shrimp for about three minutes, then draining it and letting it cool. I’ve made it both ways with no ill results. I do blanch it if I’m serving it to guests. I expect that most restaurants poach their for safety reasons.

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Homemade shrimp ceviche and tostadas – appetizer, side dish or main course – your choice. It is more than worth all the chopping prep.

WATERMELON-ANCHO CHILE SALSA

Ingredients

2 ancho chiles, seeds and stem removed

1/4 small seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)

1/2 large beefsteak tomato, chopped (I used a whole Roma tomato)

1/4 small red onion, chopped

1/2 jalapeño, with seeds, chopped

 

1 garlic clove, smashed

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Kosher salt

Method

Bring chiles and two cups water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat, cover and let situ until chiles soften (about 30 minutes)

Transfer chiles to a blender with a slotted spoon, discard liquid.  Add watermelon, tomato, onion, jalapeño, garlic and lime juice, blend until smooth. Season with salt, cover and chill.

SHRIMP CIVICHE

INGREDIENTS

Active
 50 minutes, ready in about 1-1/2 hours

Poaching liquid

2 quarts water

1/4 cup kosher salt

Ceviche

1 pound raw shrimp (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined

juice of 2 lemons

juice of 2 limes

juice of 2 oranges

1 cup diced seeded peeled cucumber (1/4-inch dice)

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

2 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped

1 cup diced seeded tomato

1 avocado, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro leaves, plus more leaves for garnish

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

METHOD

Active
 50 minutes, ready in about 1-1/2 hours

Combine water and 1/4 cup salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Add

shrimp and immediately turn off the heat. Let the shrimp sit until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.  Chop the shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a medium nonreactive bowl (see Tip). Add lemon, lime and orange juice. Stir in cucumber, onion and chiles. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir tomato, avocado, chopped cilantro, oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the shrimp mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired.  Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 2 and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Kitchen Tip: A nonreactive bowl or pan—stainless-steel, enamel-coated or glass—is necessary when cooking with acidic foods, such as lemon, to prevent the food from reacting with the pan. Reactive pans, such as aluminum and cast-iron, can impart an off color and/or off flavor.

Cold or hot? Yes, it is. And crunchy, too!

Watermelon, and jicama and jalapeñ0? Why not? And brightest all with lime juice and come chopped cilantro.

IMG_2103

INGREDIENTS

1 3-lb. seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into 2-1/2 X 1/2 inch sticks

1/2 large jicama, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 X 1/2 inch sticks

One jalapeño or serrano chile, thinly sliced, seeds removed.

1 scallion (white and pale green parts only) thinly sliced on the diagonal

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Kosher salt

METHOD

In a large bowl, toss together watermelon, jicama, jalapeño, scallion, cilantro and lime juice. Season generously with salt. Gently toss in watermelon. Serve chilled.