Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Food of the Month Club: Tomato Round-Up

If you love tomatoes, then you're in the right place!  Today, I'm rounding up the recipes from the first ever Food of the Month Club.  

If you're anything like my friend (and birthday girl), Ericka from Nibbles & Feast, who wasn't really a fan of tomatoes, this gorgeous Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pasta, Watercress, Pine Nuts and Basil Oil is sure to change your mind.     



Sarah from Kitchen Procrastination cooked up a delicious plate of Smothered Chicken with Bacon and Burst Cherry Tomatoes.



Rory from Mamá Contemporanea, introduced us to a special Venezuelan treat called Bollitos Pelones.  



Girlichef brought us two truly tantalizing tomato recipes, starting with Slow-Roasted Golden Yellow Cherry Tomatoes with Garlic & Marjoram.



And this Smoky Tomato Rissotothat just looks SO comforting.  Perfect for this cold winter weather.  (Or anytime of the year.)



Jennifer, a fellow expat living in El Salvador, inspired by the shrimp cocktail she used to enjoy at her favorite Mexican restaurant in Georgia, created these Shrimp Tostadason her blog, Life in the Armpit.



Nicole from Presley's Pantry is a girl after my own heart with  her easy to make Homemade Pizza topped with slices of tomato.



Vianney from Sweet Life, shares her recipe for Salsa Cruda, made with refreshing pieces of jicama.  I think I might have to make this for my Super Bowl party this weekend.



And last but not least, my contribution to the Food of the Month Club.  Taking advantage of the beautiful and tasty cherry tomatoes that were available here in Mexico in early January, I made this Cherry Tomato & Panela Cheese Salad with Chile de Arbol Infused Olive Oil.



Before sitting down to watch Eat Pray Love, I cooked up a plate of Spaghetti al Pomodoro.



And I had to include this recipe for Tomato Cobbler, which was one of the first recipes I thought of when I was dreaming up with the idea for Food of the Month Club.



Thank you to all of my wonderful foodie friends for joining me for the first edition of The Food of the Month Club.  I really enjoyed cooking with all of you and can't wait to see what deliciousness you're going to come up with next month.

If you would like to be included in the next Food of the Month Club Round-Up, be sure to tune in tomorrow to discover February's Food of the Month.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Name That Fruit

Cue the kitschy 70's game show music, friends.  It's time for another edition of your favorite game and mine....

NAME.  THAT.  FOOD!!!

(Applause!)

Today's mystery fruit is brought to you by my 12-year old son, Nick.  He brought it home from the market yesterday just so I could share it with all of you.  The only bad thing is that both Hubby and Nick forgot the name of our mystery fruit on their way home, so it's really up to you to tell me the name, because I have no idea.  And it's raining today, so I can't walk to the market and ask my favorite fruit vendor.

As you can see, our mystery fruit looks like a rather large date with a dull tan color on the outside, with just a hint of orange.


Once I sliced into it, which was just like slicing into an avocado, I discovered it's brightly colored flesh with 2 medium-size seeds.

mystery fruit 3


As adventurous as I like to think I am, smelling and tasting new foods makes me a little nervous, because I'm always afraid they're going to taste and smell like old gym socks.  But then I remind myself that I've eaten far more exotic things, and that it's only a fruit.  How bad can it be?

mystery fruit 4


Lucky for me, it wasn't bad at all.  It smelled like a freshly cut pumpkin.  The flavor was mild and slightly sweet.  And the consistency was like cooked sweet potatoes.

My suegra doesn't remember the real name of this fruit, but she does remember that some people call it "Miguelito".   She also said that this particular piece of fruit was still verde (unripe) and that eating it could make me sick.  Uh-oh!  I really hope that last part doesn't turn out to be true, because it really was quite tasty.

I consulted with Señor Google looking for Miguelito fruit and found something called pifas and/or chontaduro, also known as bactis gasipaes.   It kind of looks like my mystery fruit, but then again, not really.

So...can you name this mystery fruit?

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tomato Cobbler

Tomato Cobbler

When I started dreaming up the idea for The Food of the Month Club, I made a mental list of all of the tomato recipes I wanted to try.  The first recipe on that list was Tomato Cobbler from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain.   It just sounded like something I would love.  So when my hubby brought home this gorgeous clay pie plate as a "Get Well Soon" present two weeks ago (I had the flu), I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it.


For me, this gift was better than flowers.  I'm crazy about all things made of clay.  My dream is to one day have a kitchen full of clay pots, plates, bowls, cups, pitchers and whatever else I can get my hands on. 

Now, about that cobbler.  When I think of cobbler, I automatically think of peach cobbler.  I think I've mentioned before that my Southern great-grandmother made the best peach cobbler I've ever tasted. Okay, so maybe I'm a little biased.  But I do love me a good cobbler.  I've made cobblers with a variety of fruits, but it never crossed my mind that I could make a savory cobbler.  Now that I've tried one, all I can say is, "Wow!  I was really missing out on something good!"

As the title implies, the most important part of this recipe is the tomatoes.

Tomato Cobbler Prep 2

Fresh is always best, but Lisa says you can also use canned, diced tomatoes.  The serrano chilies add a little heat, while the ground cumin adds a light, smoky flavor.  The garlic, cilantro and lime juice just bring it all together and really enhances the flavor.  I could have eaten the whole bowl of tomatoes.

The cobbler itself was like a light cornbread, but it also reminded me of a tamale pie.  (Probably because I used masa harina instead of cornmeal.)  This Tomato Cobbler turned out to be a big hit with all of us, including Hubby who wasn't too convinced when he first saw what I was making.  But after one bite, he quickly changed his mind.

Tomato Cobbler 2


Tomato Cobbler
(recipe adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain)

Ingredients:
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 2 serrano chilies, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup Maseca (masa harina) 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk

Directions:
Slice the tomatoes to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Sliced Tomatoes

Toss the tomatoes with the serrano chilies, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice.  Season with the ground cumin, salt and pepper.  Let set for 5 to 10 minutes, then drain the excess water.


Tomato Cobbler Prep 1

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, masa harina, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the milk until well combined and no lumps remain.  Set aside.  

Tomato Cobbler Prep 3

In a large ovenproof skillet, melt the butter.  Remove from heat.  Pour the batter over the melted butter.  DO NOT STIR.  Arrange the tomato slices over the batter, pressing down gently.  Bake uncovered for  30 minutes. 

Tomato Cobbler Prep 4

Enjoy!!!

Tomato Cobbler 3


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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Food 'N Flix: Eat. Pray. Love. {Spaghetti al Pomodoro}




For Food 'n Flix this month (January), hosted by The Law Student's Cookbook, the movie was Eat. Pray. Love.



For me, this was all the excuse I needed to finally finish watching this movie in its entirety.  I started to watch it when it was released here on DVD, but just when Julia Robert's character was arriving in India, company came over.  I don't remember what else happened that day, but for some reason I never finished the movie.

I love a good chick flick.  I'm a huge Julia Roberts fan.  And this movie was directed by Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy.  (I ♥ Glee!)  On paper, this should have been the perfect movie for me.  But the truth is, and I hope you won't hold it against me, I wasn't crazy about this movie.  (I wasn't all that crazy about the book either.)

Don't get me wrong.  There were parts I loved.  Hello, Javier Bardem!  But my favorite part was the whole Italy experience.  I would love to visit Italy.  Even though I'm pretty sure I'd never want to leave.  I'd love to learn the language.  But most of all, I would love to surround myself with all of that glorious food.  Aside from Mexican food, it's one of my all-time favorite cuisines.

That's why, before I even sat down to watch the movie, I headed into the kitchen to prepare a simple, yet absolutely satisfying Spaghetti al Pomodoro.  Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato.  So this dish is really just spaghetti in a simple tomato sauce.  But it sounds so much nicer in Italian.  And I'm pretty sure it's what Julia Roberts is eating in the  trailer above. (1:48)

If you like dinner and a movie, then you should join us for Food 'n Flix next month, hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.  The movie is one of my favorites...My Big Fat Greek Wedding!

Spaghetti al Pomodoro 1

Spaghetti al Pomodoro

Ingredients:
  • 6 to 8 oz. spaghetti  (I used 200gr.) 
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium onion (optional) 
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Red Pepper flakes

Directions:
Cook the spaghetti according to package directions in a pot of boiling water.  While the spaghetti is cooking, chop the tomatoes, onion and garlic.

Chopped Tomatoes


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  (I used my Chile de Arbol Olive Oil for extra flavor.)  Stir in the chopped tomatoes, onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper.  Traditional Pomodoro sauce doesn't include onions.  But I love the added flavor and texture they bring to the dish.

Eat Pray Love Spaghetti Sauce Prep 1


Reduce heat to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are completely cooked.  At this point, you can puree the sauce with an immersion blender OR if you're like me and you like a chunky sauce with bits of tomato, just mash the tomatoes with the back of a large serving spoon.

Eat Pray Love Spaghetti Prep 2

Drain the spaghetti, reserving a little of the cooking water in case your tomato sauce is too thick.  Toss the spaghetti with the sauce.  Season with salt (if needed) and red pepper flakes.

Eat Pray Love Spaghetti Prep 3


Garnish with fresh basil leaves before serving.  Enjoy!!!

Spaghetti al Pomodoro 2

*I apologize for some of the bright pictures.  I'm still adjusting to working with the new light fixture in my kitchen and I was forced to use my camera's flash. I am just so happy to have electricity once again!  

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Food‘nFlix   La Cocina de Leslie





Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nachos

Homemade Nachos

We're halfway through January already and there is really only one thing I can think about:  Football! The Super Bowl to be exact.

Every year, my older, college student nephews and one of their friends, whom we've adopted as another nephew, come over to watch the big game.

Now everybody knows that you can't have a Super Bowl party without delicious food and cheesy, spicy snacks.  One of our favorites, year after year, is Nachos.  

We could head downtown to buy a plate of bright, neon-orange imitation cheese sauce served on Nacho flavored Doritos for 10 pesos (less than a dollar) a plate, but there's nothing like a homemade cheese sauce made with real cheese.

Most cheese sauces are made with a roux (butter & flour) and milk base, but I prefer mine a little creamier, so I use Mexican crema.   My favorite is this thick and rich crema from Tototlan, Jalisco.   Isn't it gorgeous?

Mexican Crema de Tototlan, Jalisco

The secret to my cheese sauce is in the special little something I add to it to give it extra flavor....Jalapeño vinagre.  It's the liquid canned jalapeños are packed in.  It's not so spicy that it will burn your tongue off, but it does add that extra jalapeño flavor that gives you the illusion that you're eating jalapeños, even if you can't handle the heat of actually eating them.

I've shown you mine, now tell me what are your favorite football snacks?

Nachos



Nachos

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups Mexican crema
  • 2 tablespoons jalapeño vinagre (the liquid jalapeños are packed in)
  • 6 to 8 oz. Manchego cheese (I used 200 grams), cut in bite-size cubes
  • 6 slices American cheese, cut in bite-size pieces
  • Tortilla Chips
  • Canned jalapeño slices


Directions:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Stir in the Mexican crema and jalapeño vinagre and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is warm.  

Nacho Cheese Sauce Prep 1

Stir in the cheeses.

Nacho Cheese Sauce Prep 2


Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cheeses have completely melted.  Season with salt and pepper.  (If the sauce is still too thick, stir in more jalapeño vinagre, one tablespoon at a time.) 

Nacho Cheese Sauce


Ladle cheese sauce over tortilla chips and top with jalapeño slices.  Enjoy!!! 

Nacho Cheese Sauce

*If you have any leftover Cheese Sauce, it's delicious served on top of steamed veggies like broccoli and/or cauliflower! 


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cherry Tomato & Panela Cheese Salad w/ Chile de Arbol Infused Olive Oil

Mexican Caprese Salad

I usually only prepare this salad duing the summer, when I'm in the mood for something light and refreshing.  But lately, my favorite produce vendor has had these gorgeous little cherry tomatoes that are so full of flavor, I just had to try them in this salad.

Granted, this salad isn't a traditional Mexican recipe, but it is my Mexican twist on the Italian Caprese Salad, substituting Queso Panela and chopped cilantro for the fresh mozzarella cheese and basil.  And to top it all off, a spicy Chile de Arbol infused olive oil.

I can't remember the last time I had such great tasting tomatoes.  One of my fellow Mexpats described them best saying, "They're like little sugar bombs going off in your mouth!"  And I couldn't agree more.  I don't know how long these tasty little gems will be available at the markets here in Mexico, but for now, I can't get enough of them.

Cherry Tomato & Panela Cheese Salad w/ Chile de Arbol Infused Olive Oil

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 6 to 8 oz. Panela cheese, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Chile de Arbol Olive Oil (recipe below) 

Directions:
In a medium bow, gently toss together the cherry tomatoes, panela cheese and cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, drizzle with Chile de Arbol olive oil.  Enjoy!!!

Cherry Tomato & Panela Cheese Salad w/ Chile de Arbol Olive Oil



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Chile de Arbol Olive Oil is a fragrant, chile infused oil that can be used in salad dressings and vinaigrettes, to saute fish, shrimp, chicken, beef or pork and can be used in just about any savory recipe that calls for olive oil.

Chile de Arbol Olive Oil

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (you can also use canola oil)
  • 3 to 5 dried arbol chilies

Directions:
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Toast the arbol chilies for about a minute.  Carefully pour in the oil and reduce heat.  Simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the chilies start to darken.  Remove from heat and let cool.  

Pour cooled oil into glass bottle and stir in 1 chopped arbol chile.  Cover tightly and store at room temperature.  Enjoy!!! 

Chile de Arbol Olive Oil

Don't forget to join me this month as we celebrate Tomatoes for this month's Food of the Month Club.




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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ejotes con Huevo {Green Bean Scramble}


When I was little, one of my grandpa's favorite breakfasts was Nopales con Huevo.  It was one of the few foods I refused to eat as a kid.  Fresh nopales weren't available at the local supermarket back then, so my grandmother always used canned nopales.  They were precooked and cut into long thin strips and packed in some kind of liquid.  I thought they were totally gross looking and refused to eat them, no matter how much my grandma tried to convince me otherwise.

"But m'ija, they taste just like ejotes (green beans)."

"Well, then make me ejotes con huevo, instead of nopales!"

Gramm didn't say much after that, but from that moment on, every time she made Nopales con Huevo for her and Pappy, she prepared a small skillet of Ejotes con Huevo just for me.  I was happy as a clam and thought my Ejotes con Huevo were a million times better than their Nopales con Huevo.

It wasn't until a few years later that I realized Gramm had tricked me.  She never made me Ejotes con Huevo.  I had been eating Nopales con Huevo the whole time!

More than being upset about being tricked, I felt silly for thinking that Ejotes con Huevo actually existed.

So, you can imagine my surprise, when many years later, my suegra (mother-in-law) prepared Ejotes con Huevo for breakfast one morning during Lent.   Remembering that Gramm had tricked me all those years ago, I asked my suegra if she had really made Ejotes con Huevo or if she was just saying that so the kiddies would eat nopales.  My suegra looked at me as if to say, "Estas loca!!!", and kindly explained that Ejotes con Huevo were indeed a real dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Ejotes con Huevo have been an old family favorite ever since.


Ejotes con Huevo
(Green Bean Scramble)

Ingredients:
  • 8 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked green beans (or canned), cut into 2-inch pieces 
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 to 2 serrano chilies, sliced
  • Queso Fresco (optional) 

Directions:
Break the eggs into a medium bowl and beat with a wire whisk for about a minute until well combined; set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil in a large skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium-high heat.  Sauté the green beans, tomato, onion and serrano chilies for 2 to 3 minutes.  Pour in the beaten eggs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the egg is completely cooked.  Season with salt and pepper.

Top with grated queso fresco and serve with your favorite tomato-based salsa.  Enjoy!!! 



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