Roasted Poblano and Chihuahua Cheese Enchiladas

>> Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Roasted Poblano and Chihuahua Cheese Enchiladas


My friend Sheilja recently taught me to make some traditional Northern Indian foods; last week I invited her over to make some traditional Mexican foods I learned from my mother-in-law. I made vegetarian versions of the food because Sheilja doesn't eat meat. But the enchilada roja sauce can be used to stew chicken, and the enchiladas can be stuffed with anything you like - there are no rules about the insides of enchiladas!

There are, however, some strong ideas about what goes into a red enchilada sauce. Purists, and I suspect my teacher Mama Nona, would claim that the sauce should not contain tomatoes, so I didn't include any. But if you'd like to add some chopped tomato or a bit of tomato paste, I think you should cook what makes you happy.

Ingredients

For the Enchilada Roja Sauce

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
5 medium dried guajillo or pasilla chiles
5 medium dried ancho chiles
1 medium red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp oregano
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar

Heat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium then lay the garlic on one side to roast. Flip the garlic around in the pan until it is toasted on both sides, but not so brown that it gets bitter.

Tear the chiles into flat pieces and, few at a time, press them against the hot surface until they blister and change color. Flip them over and press again. Remove chiles and garlic from heat and place in a bowl, then cover with the broth. Soak in hot broth for 15 minutes.

Toast the cumin seeds on the hot skillet until fragrant and slightly browned. Place in a blender or food processor. Peel the garlic and remove the stems from the chiles. Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add a little more water if needed; this should be a thick liquid, not a paste. Strain out the seeds.

For the enchiladas 


16-18 corn tortillas
5 poblano peppers
4 cups shredded chihuahua cheese
3 cups enchilada roja sauce
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups shredded lettuce
1/4 cup cotija cheese

Directions

Heat the broiler or grill. Place the peppers on a broiler pan or cookie sheet. Broil or grill close to the heat until the exposed side is blotchy, black, and peeling. Turn over the peppers and roast until both sides are blistered and the skin is blackened.

Place the peppers in a paper bag and allow to steam for 15 minutes. This will help you peel the blackened parts off. When finished steaming, cut off the stem and scrape the charred skin and seeds off with a knife. Cut the peppers into thin strips.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x12 casserole pan, then spread out 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of the pan. On a flat griddle or frying pan, heat the corn tortillas until soft and pliable.

Pour half of the enchilada sauce onto a plate, and lay a tortilla on the plate. Add several strips of pepper and about 1/4 cup cheese.  Roll up the tortilla and place, seam side down, in the casserole pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, then drizzle with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the cotija cheese over the top.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the centers are cooked and the casserole is heated through. Top with tomato and lettuce before serving.

Serves 6-8.

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Coconut Basmati Rice

>> Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Creamy and savory coconut basmati rice


This coconut rice dish is deceptively simple - only 5 ingredients, and 20 minutes to prepare! It's also subtly flavored by the basmati rice and creamy coconut milk. Adjust the amount of jalapeno pepper to your taste, or leave it out completely if you prefer. We like this side dish with grilled fish, but it's pretty versatile side for other meals.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 13.5 oz can low fat coconut milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp Thai birds-eye or jalapeno pepper, minced
3 stalks green onions, chopped

Directions

Rinse and drain the rice until the water runs clear - washing off the surface starch helps prevent the rice from getting sticky or gummy.

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and let it simmer for 17-20 minutes, until the rice is just tender and fluffy. 

Makes 4-6 servings.

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Carrot Romesco Sauce

>> Monday, July 11, 2016


Carrot Romesco Sauce


This carrot romesco sauce came straight from Bon Appetit, and we used it as a sauce for a luscious roasted pork loin, as the editors suggested. We seem to have gotten all kinds of photos during the romesco-making part of the evening, and none of the pork. Oh well.

In fact, you don't even need to use this as a sweet-salty and unusual sauce for pork. We made scads of this (that's right, scads) and used it for a veggie dip and bruschetta topping, too.

If you're new to romesco sauce, Bon Appetit describes it as being to Spanish cooking what pesto is to Italian cooking. It finishes as a thick paste, and if we hadn't been busy slathering on to everything we ate that week, we would have planned ahead and tossed it with some pasta. Analogies give one all kinds of ideas, don't they?

Ingredients

¼ cup pine nuts or chopped pecans
1½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise into quarters
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
Salt and black pepper to taste
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
1 tsp marjoram, minced

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450°.

Toast nuts in a small skilled for a few minutes, until slightly browned and fragrant. Let cool.



carrot romesco sauce


Spread half the oil on a baking sheet, then arrange the carrots on the sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and slightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool.


carrot romesco sauce


Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, along with 1 tbsp of water. Process until it forms a thick paste, scraping down the sides occasionally and adding more water if necessary.

While spreading this on thick slices of juicy pork loin is optional, I recommend it highly. Or spread it on toast rounds and place under the broiler until bubbly. Or toss with a green salad and more wine vinegar. Or...?

Makes about 2 cups of sauce.

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Avocado Cream Soup

>> Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Avocado Cream Soup


Joe called me from the local grocery store on his way home from work. "I'm at the reduced produce rack, and there's a bag of perfectly ripe avocados for $1.99. There's about ten in the bag. Could you use that?" I checked the refrigerator and said, "Sure, I've got a great idea."

This soup is everything I love about guacamole - the tangy bit of lime, the luscious creaminess of the avocados, the savory garlic. Joe added some tortilla chips left over from the elote dip we'd just made, but tortilla chips are really just a vehicle for avocados, aren't they? I don't know about you, but when I'm standing in front of a bowl of guacamole, all I really want is a spoon.

We had the soup hot for dinner on a night that was peculiarly cold for August in Illinois. I whipped up a batch of cheddar dill biscuits to go with it. The next afternoon, it was warm and humid again, so I had it cold for lunch and took these photos. Next time, I think I'll add some chopped tomatoes to the cold soup.

Ingredients

4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp olive oil
8 ripe avocados
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Juice of 1 fresh lime
1/4 cup sherry or dry white wine (optional)
2 cups tortilla chips

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the root end of the garlic cloves and place them in a small oven-safe dish or pan. Drizzle with the oil, then roast about 15-20 minutes, until the garlic is browned and fragrant.

Peel and dice all but one avocado. Place half of the avocados, garlic, and cilantro in a blender and add half of the cream. Puree the mixture, then pour into a bowl and repeat with the other half of the avocados, cilantro, garlic, and half-and-half. 

Pour the stock, salt, pepper, and lime into a large saucepan and heat to a boil. Reduce heat; when the stock is simmering slowly, pour in the avocado mixture and stir well. Stir in the wine, if using. 

Serve immediately if you want hot soup; chill for 2-4 hours for cold soup. Slice up the last avocado and sprinkle the tortilla chips and avocado slices over the bowls before serving. 

Serves 6.

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Caribbean Rum Punch

>> Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Caribbean Rum Punch


Want to make a big pitcher of punch for cookout guests? This Caribbean punch is sweet and smooth and just right for hot summer days. During one of our trips to the Caribbean, we sampled a number of rum punches and asked everyone we met how they made theirs. After lots of sampling and trial and error, we formulated a luscious recipe.

Barbados, hidden beach
Barbados, hidden beach

The secret is to use juices you'd find on Caribbean islands, like papaya and guanabana. They may be easier to find than you think! Check your grocery store's canned fruit juice aisle. The authentic touch is the fresh cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon - the native plants that give the Caribbean islands the nickname "The Spice Islands".

St. Lucia, fishing boat
St. Lucia, fishing boat

Make it up a few hours before serving, and keep stirring while you serve it, as the heavier spices tend to settle on the bottom. Serve with plenty of ice. In our experience, it's better not to make it too strong, since it goes down quick and easy on a hot summer day.

There's a traditional island song that celebrates rum punch (Planter's Punch), and will help you remember how to make it without a recipe. In Barbados, they say, "One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak." The best rum punch we had, though was on a visit to Roseau, Domenica after tubing down the Layou  River. When we asked about the recipe, our host showed us the prickly green soursop fruit and sliced open a papaya so we could take some fresh slices with our drink. Tasty.

Every time the neighbors get together in the summer, we bring a couple of pitchers of this punch. Our downstairs neighbors have traveled all around the Caribbean, like us, and they say this was the best punch they ever had. Win.

Ingredients

1 cup lime juice
2 cups cold simple syrup (1 cup of sugar dissolved in one cup of hot water)
3 cups amber or dark rum
2 cups orange juice
1 cup guanabana (soursop) or pineapple juice
1 cup mango or papaya juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
Fruit slices, for garnish

Directions

Stir together all ingredients. Let it chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. Pour over ice in tall glasses and garnish with fruit slices. A pretty straw is highly recommended.

Makes about 20 4-oz servings.

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