Brussels Sprouts and Winter Squash Made Great with Pomegranate

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Sometimes you read something and you have to say WHAT THEY HEY?! The idea is so startling you have to read it over a couple of times to let it soak in.  Then you screw up your nerve, go shopping, come home and give it a try.

The thought of sweet winter squash, the bitterness of roasted Brussels sprouts and the tart yet sweet bursts of pomegranate arils all brought together with pomegranate molasses is hard to grasp. But it works and is wonderful.  It also is beautiful to look at.  Add a little rare sirloin and all you can do is sigh with every bite.

You can do this recipe a couple of ways.  I used kabocha squash, but butternut would work as well.  I chose to pull the leaves of my Brussels sprouts and roast them for a lightly crisp texture.  You could just cut them in half.  I din’t have a red onion, so I used a yellow one and no-one would notice the difference without being told. You might have to go to a middle eastern grocery to find pomegranate molasses.  I found it at the large Specs liquor store on Sunland Park. That store carries some great foodstuffs in addition to adult beverages.

By the way, I had enough squash left that I picked up more Brussels sprouts and a red onion so I can have this dish again tonight!

Brussels Sprouts, Winter Squash and Pomegranate

Ingredients

1 medium to large winter squash (butternut or kabocha)

1 lb Brussels sprouts

½ medium red onion

2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp chile powder

¼ cup pomegranate molasses

1 cup pomegranate arils (seed)

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 400°

Butternut squash: Cut top and bottom off squash, peel, halve lengthwise and scrape out seed. Chop into small cubes and spread in one layer on a baking sheet. Kabocha squash: Cut squash in half vertically and scrape out seed. Cut halves into half-moon wedges and spread in one layer on a baking sheet.

For either squash: Peel and cut onion into strips vertically. Separate and sprinkle over squash. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chile powder, toss to coat with olive oil.

Trim stems of Brussels sprouts and separate leaves from stem. You’ll have to trim the stem a couple of times as you separate the inner leaves. Place on baking sheet and toss with olive oil, and pepper.

Roast squash 30 – 35 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Toss squash about halfway through cooking. Halved Brussels sprouts can be roasted with the squash.

Roast Brussels sprouts leaves 5-7 minutes an toss. Return to oven for 3 minutes more. Remove from oven when leaves are tender and have a little bit of char.

When squash is tender, remove from oven. Put sprouts, squash and onions into a serving dish, drizzle with pomegranate molasses and toss. Sprinkle with pomegranate arils, toss and serve immediately.

 

 

Evidence of Evolution

I am not a scientist. I am not a proselyte. I do believe I am a witness to evolution. At least to the evolution of grocery shopping in El Paso.

Over the past few months as a new Whole Foods Market was being built, the Sprouts Farmers Market developed an olive bar, a soup bar and a pretty fair salad and take out entrée bar. Greatly appreciated, but a little out of the way for me. Suddenly, since the Whole Foods opened, the closest and somewhat corporately neglected Albertsons nearest to it has evolved to include a modest soup and salad bar and a fairly decent bulk foods display of grains and nuts.  It even has had a facelift inside and out and is has more varied in all areas than previously. I will give it credit for having a wings bar that has provided last minute suppers at my house. People who are familiar with the Whole Foods concept know about well stocked cold and hot food bars, many prepared foods to take  home and an exhilarating variety of produced and seafood new to us. The evolution in markets here is a good thing for our palates.  Rumors of HEB and Trader Joe’s are floating and we await the next step in evolution in El Paso

I managed to hit both Whole Foods and Albertsons and find the makings for a different and fun dinner. I love the cold bar at Whole Foods.  I can build an interesting salad with lettuces, grains, vegetables and cheeses that lets me have a salad for two without over filling the vegetable drawers in the fridge. It makes salads fun at last! Sometimes the well-stocked olive bar adds a new kick to a salad as does a wonderful cevichi bar.

The other night, I picked up roasted purple and white cauliflower florets, roasted broccoli and mixed greens for my dinner salad. Around the corner at Albertsons I found mushroom agnolotti on sale. The agnolotti are similar to ravioli. The mushroom ones were excellent and I’m be trying the artichoke one’s soon. My luck held out and large shell on shrimp were on sale, too.

This dinner came together quickly.  I let the shrimp sit in a coating of garlic powder while I put the salad  together and made a blistered tomato sauce for the agnolotti.  I pan grilled the shrimp and plated it up for an good evolved meal. I’m getting spoiled by convenience. If I watch myself, I don’t blow the budget with what I bring home (most of the time).

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Play with Breakfast

I’m a chileholic. I must have chile in some form several days a week or I’m off my game. When I wake with the craving, I check out the refrigerator and see what I can come up with.  The other day, it was corn tortillas eggs, roasted and peeled green chiles, cheese and a few grape tomatoes on the counter. I remember covered dish dinners featuring chile relleno casseroles which were mostly virtuous because the were tasty and not fried.  I’d never made that casserole, but I figured it couldn’t be too hard. and of course, I had to give it a Gringo Gourmet spin or two.

img_2695I used a small glass loaf pan for my casserole. I coated it with non-stick spray and set my oven to 400º.  I beat four whole eggs and about 1/4 cup of liquid egg product together and added a pinch of salt and pepper to the mix. I cut three corn tortillas in half and placed two tortillas overlapping in the bottom of the loaf pan. I placed two roasted, seeded and split long green chiles on top of the tortillas then mourn in about a third of the egg mixture and sprinkled it with pepper jack cheese.  I repeated this procedure two times to make three layers in the pan.  A few sliced grape tomatoes on top added some color.

I baked it for about 30 minutes and checked it for doneness with a wooden pick I keep handy for this purpose. After determining it was done, I left it to setup for about 10 minutes, then sliced and served it.

This casserole differs from a chile relleno casserole because of the addition of layers of tortilla and use of a multi-peppered jack cheese.

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Layered green chile, tortilla, egg and cheese breakfast casserole satisfied a chile craving.

Taco Tome

Last Friday’s paper had a large article about a book promotion event for The Tacos of Texas, a newly released book by Jarod Neece and Mando Rayo, a former El Pasoan, both of whom now consider themselves taco journalists.  The book is the product of 7,000 miles of driving around Texas eating tacos, interviewing local taco eaters and recruiting members of the Texas Taco Council for the promotion and perpetuation of tacos.

fullsizeoutput_b90 The promotion event was free tacos in different styles by four different chefs. There were traditional tacos, Tex-Mex tacos and New Americano Tacos. The gates opened at noon and the lines ran out the gates and up the block at Memorial Park’s special activity area.

I didn’t not choose to wait in long lines for a free taco.   Instead, I had tacos and enchiladas at nearby Doña Lupe’s instead.  Afterwards, I returned to the park go find the lines still were long. The book buyer line was very short. Go figure – 45 or more minutes or in line in the sun for a taco or five minutes in line and $20 for a book.

img_2728 I purchased the book, waved goodbye to some friends in who’ve been in line line in the sun and headed home in the air conditioned comfort of my truck.

At home, I kicked back and read the introduction to the book and then skipped ahead to the chapter on El Paso. There are interviews with the owners and chefs at restaurants, taquerias and with local celebrities and just folks who know their way around a taco. Somehow, they failed to interview the Gringo Gourmet for the book

Each of the sections of the book follows this pattern of interviews and offers a list of five “bests” for tacos, based on the interviews. You’ll have to read the book to find out who is on the list!

Folks who read this blog know that there is a category called play with your food. Dishes there start with a basic premise and adapt it into something individual.  It evolved from reading Bon Appetit’s Cooking Without a Recipe feature on their e-mail feature series.  I use their model and list ingredients and tips on methodology if needed, but don’t create a formal recipe with things like quantities and measures.  It becomes a fun adventure for me and no one, so far, has complained or been harmed by my creations.

The book calls tortillas, fillings and salsa the trinity of tacos. It also says a taco can be anything served in a folded-over taco, the exception being taquitos which are rolled and fried tacos sometimes called flats, and what folks in the north and eastern parts of the state call a breakfast taco that looks suspiciously like an egg burrito to me.

The book does have recipes from each of the five “bests” in each locale and a few from the local celebrities. It will be fun to try some from the different regions of the state – even those bastions of Mexican food, Midland-Odessa, Abilene and Dallas.  I will give the authors credit for been unbiased-ish in their statewide taco tasting.

I am enjoying the book greatly. It is fun for foodies to read and to be inspired by some new approaches to tacos.

After a night of reading The Tacos of Texas I woke wanting a chile based breakfast. Here’s how the taco exposure affected a couple of breakfast favorites in this house – the Chile Relleno al Flojero (lazy man chile rellenos) and enchilada montages (stacked enchiladas with an egg on top).

Bye the book definition of a taco being a tortilla filled with something, my Relleno al Flojero must really be a cheese stuffed green chile taco.  It loses something in the translation, but the flavor is still there.

I usually use three tortillas for my breast enchiladas with egg.  But under the taco spell, I decided to fill the tortillas in half with a green chile, cheese, onion and dollop of red chile sauce, then top the taco looking enchilada with more red chile, onion and cheese.  I made two and added the requisite fried egg and christened it tacolada montada.  I think this breakfast will appear on the the table again soon, perhaps with a side of refried beans that the authors call Mexican mayonnaise.

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From the bottom” green chile and cheese taco AKA Chile relleno al flowers and tacoladas montadas – eggs topped cheese enchiladas folded like a taco instead of stacked – warning: tacoladas are not finger food.

 

 

 

Scooped! It’s what happens when someone beats you to a posting and has the nerve to plagiarize, too!

Are you ever at a loss for what to fix for dinner? Same old beef, pork, chicken and salmon at the grocer… really not in the mood for clams, shrimp or mussels… wandering around waiting for inspiration.

Sometimes  the past comes to the rescue. It was a cool evening and something from the oven sounded good.  Chicken pot piece to mind.  I did a mental inventory of what was on hand and what I needed to pick up to make it happen.  No recipe around, so I put together what would work and moved forward. It was getting late and I did decide on a short cut – a boxed baking mix I could mess with and improve a little.

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Chicken Pot Pie, right out of the oven. My baking dish held nine biscuits; three extra on the sheet pan were good for a little extra gravy sopping!

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CHICKEN POT PIE WITH A SHORTCUT, BUT WITHOUT A RECIPE

Ingredients

4 boneless/skinless chicken thighs, excess fat trimmed

onion, celery and carrot

1 tsp Better Than Bullion Low Sodium Chicken Bullion Paste per cup of water used. (Better Than Bullion comes in beef, chicken, vegetable and fish versions. It is an excellent flavor base. I think the low sodium version is plenty salty, so taste after you get you chicken and vegetables going before adjusting any seasonings.)

Small bag frozen mixed vegetables

1/2 tsp dried thyme or a few springs of fresh thyme if you can find it

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp flour (maybe a little more)

Bisquick baking mix in a box  (baking mix is the short cut. Buttermilk makes the biscuits better.)

Buttermilk

Water

Method

Heat oven to 450º.

Place package of frozen thighs in warm water. While they defrost, dice about 1/2 medium onion, two celery stalks and two carrots into 3/8-inch cubes.  Mix bullion paste into a cup of hot water.  You’ll have to stir vigorously to mix it all well. Place bullion and another cup water in a a good sized sauce pan, bring to a simmer and add diced vegetables.

When chicken thighs are pretty well defrosted, cut the meat into 3/4 inch cubes.  Add to vegetables in pot and simmer until cooked through.  Add frozen vegetables and heat through.  Add thyme. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Follow biscuit instructions on Bisquick box side panel.  Substitute buttermilk for the plain milk  Stir to mix and put dough on a flowered counter top and knead about 10 times.  Roll or pat dough to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into biscuits.  I use a tomato sauce can with both the bottom and top ends removed as a biscuit cutter to get biscuits that are a comfortable size for holding gravy or butter and jelly.  The recipe makes a dozen biscuits that are almost as good as biscuits made from scratch! Allow the cut biscuits to sit a few minutes.

Put butter in a glass measuring cup and heat it in your microwave in 20 second bursts until it is melted. Stir a couple of teaspoons of flour at at time into melted butter. Zap again at 20 second bursts.  Flour will thicken in the butter.  Repeat until all flout is absorbed.  Then, add Tablespoons of broth from the chicken and vegetable pot and mix it we’ll into the butter/flour. You want to have a smooth, thin paste in your measuring cup.  Then slowly add a couple of spoons full at a time back to the cooking pot.  Stir well to mix into the pot liquid.  It will begin to thicken.  Add more until you have a somewhat thick “gravy” in the pot with the chicken and vegetables. Empty chicken and vegetable mix into an 8X8-inch baking dish, top with biscuits and place in oven.  Biscuits will rise and become golden brown on top in about 10 minutes.  When biscuits are done, remove dish from the oven and let rest a few minutes to set up.

My mother always made chicken pot pie with just chicken and chicken broth gravy. She would make huge pans of it as an alternative dish for the annual Order of Eastern Start Enchilada Supper, and it would sell out every time. I like to add vegetables to my pot pie and I can still her telling me that that’s “just not right.”

The other night, after supper, my friend Jack scooped me by posting a picture of my pot pie on FaceBook before I could write this article for the blog or post my own pictures on FaceBook. And, he even plagiarized my “Dinner at the Doublewide” category from here.  What are friends for?

Friend-inspired Adventure

A few days ago, a friend whose culinary skills I’ve long admired, posted a photo and recipe for a whole roasted cauliflower with a three-cheese sauce on his blog. He was clever enough to finish the roasted cauliflower with a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan and panko crumbs for crowning light crust.  I immediately headed out in search of a small cauliflower.

The dish reminded me of steamed cauliflower in cheese sauce my mother served as I was growing up.  An excellent cook, she would never have imagined roasted cauliflower and what a difference it makes in texture and flavor.

I immediately headed out in search of a small cauliflower. I succeeded in finding one that was a good size for generously serving two people.  As wonderful as the three cheese sauce looked and read, I remembered a recipe for a Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa Yogurt I had been meaning to try. I found it in my recipe file and made a note to borrow the panko idea

Harissa can be very spicy. 2 tsp in a cup of Greek yogurt tempered the heat and made a nice sauce for serving.  I massaged a bit of olive oil, the yogurt sauce, a sprinkling of panko and Aleppo pepper on the the cooked cauliflower and returned it to the oven for a few minutes.  My version was considerably paler than the cheese sauce recipe, but the flavor was very good. I think the cheese sauce version will be appearing on my table very soon.

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Oven Roasted Cauliflower on a bed of Harissa Yogurt toped with yogurt sauce, panko crumbs and Aleppo pepper. A grilled pork chop and simple salad with marinated vegetables complimented the cauliflower.

WHOLE ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH HARISSA YOGURT

INGREDIENTS

1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt

2 tsp harissa paste

1 finely chopped garlic clove

1/2 tsp lime zest

1 medium cauliflower

2 Tbsp olive oil

Kosher salt and black pepper

Options: 2 Tbsp panko crumbs; 2 tsp Aleppo pepper; 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

METHOD

Preheat oven to 400º.

Combine Greek yogurt, harissa, garlic and lime zest; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 pepper.  Taste before adding salt and pepper.  Some harissa pastes are very salty to begin with.

Trim the leaves and stem from the cauliflower. Rub with the olive oil.  Please on a foil lined baking sheet and roast until tender, about an hour.

Options: rub a little yogurt sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle with panko and Aleppo pepper. Return to oven to set sauce and lightly toast panko.

Plate a slice of cauliflower on a generous spoonful or two of the yogurt sauce and drizzle a little more on the top. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro if desired.

 

Amazing New Treats Discovered Regularly

I confess I’m still exploring our new Whole Foods almost every day and I usually find a little something to take home. I’ve been explaking the concept of the store to strangers who are walking around drop-chinned  and glassy-eyed at what is for many here a totally different food shopping experience. I need to find Manager Mark Heinz, formerly of El Paso’s Greenery, and ask for a job as a tour host.

Yesterday, I had a craving for scallops. I rarely cook them at home because, the ones we usually find here are limp and milky and not something I want to spend good money on.

When I looked at the scallops at Whole Foods, they were dry, firm and good-sized. I signed the papers for a second mortgage and invested in 10 lush scallops weighing in at just over a pound. The fishmonger told me their supplier ships them “dry-packed” instead of just in a box of ice.  It makes a big difference!

I browned the scallops in butter and minced garlic in two batches and set them aside.  I then added a generous splash of white wine and juice of half a lemon and let it reduce for several minutes. I tossed cooked and drained fettuccine into the pan sauce to warm the pasta, then stirred in about 3/4 cup green peas. A little salt and pepper balanced it out.

With the scallops, I served a romaine, baby spinach and small cucumber salad dressed with a wonderful creamy fennel dressing. The dressing had crushed fennel seed, sour cream, red wine vinegar and buttermilk.  I would roll in the dressing if the bowl were big enough!

Dessert was a simple bit if Vitorin and a hot soak in the spa on a chilly fall evening.

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Scallops browned in butter and minced garlic served atop fettuccine in a white wine pan sauce. A creamy fennel dressing on the salad compliments the scallops.

CREAMY FENNEL SALAD DRESSING

This recipe makes about two cups.  (About 12 servings) It can be halved easily.

Ingredients 

1 Cup mayonnaise

1/2 Cup sour cream

1/2 Cup buttermilk

2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley

4 tsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp minced fresh garlic

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1-1/2 tsp fennel seed, chopped

salt and pepper to taste.

Method

Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, parsley, vinegar, garlic Italian seasoning and fennel seed; season with salt and pepper. Cover dressing and chill at least two hours before serving.

Toss greens, sliced snacking cumbers and croutons, drizzle with dressing.  I used romaine and baby spinach greens.

SCALLOPS

No real recipe.  Melt butter in a wide pan, stir in garlic. Pan sear the scallops in butter and minced garlic, turning once after about five minutes until both side are browned and scallops are opaque. Remove to a plate.  Add a good cup of dry white wine and the juice of half a lemon to pan juices, stir loose any fond and reduce liquid to about half a cup.  Stir in cooked fettuccine to warm. Add about a half a cup (or more to taste) green peas and warm.  Plate fettuccine, top with scallops and drizzle with any liquid left in pan.  I used five plump scallops per serving. I could have gotten away with three per serving with more pasta, but I was after scallops!

 

Just sharing

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Gringo Gourmet in Action at Cactus Appreciation Day

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Couldn’t have done it without lots of help from Marianela and Clarisa.

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Sometimes, I think Stephan Pastis has a camera drone following me! I recognize myself in his strip!