Monthly Archives: April 2009

Otsu (or Fiery Lemon Ginger Soba Noodles with Shrimp)

food-1446I came across this recipe a few weeks ago, when I first purchased Super Natural Cooking, a wonderful book by Heidi Swanson of www.101cookbooks.com. It looked intriguing. Apparently, this dish comes from a little restaurant near where Heidi lives called Pomelo. I love Asian foods (in case you haven’t already figured that out by my numerous Asian-inspired posts), but this recipe used buckwheat noodles, an ingredient I have seen in other recipes and in stores, but had yet to try for myself. And then, after reading Jaden’s version of the recipe on www.steamykitchen.com, and considering her suggestion to substitute shrimp for the tofu, I decided I was dilly-dallying around for too long, and I made a point to make it this week. And as usual, Heidi didn’t disappoint! I could eat bucketloads of this stuff. Seriously. I had more than my fair share for dinner last night, and I have packed a healthy amount of leftovers for lunch today.  As you’ll see, on a last-minute whim, I added the sliced kumquats, only because I found them at the store that afternoon and had already gotten into them and was inspired. (Couldn’t help myself!) They make a unique contribution to this dish that I really enjoyed.

Have you ever had a kumquat? If not, I highly suggest you try to find some. They are kind of like a Crybaby candy in your mouth. (Remember those?) You bite into them, and at first, they’re sour – like pucker-your-face-up sour. But then, the juicy, citrusy, sweet flesh on the inside gushes over your tongue, and floods your mouth with happy deliciousness! (Okay, so they’re really better than the candy, because they’re not artificial-tasting, but you get my drift.) You can find them in some Asian groceries, or at Whole Foods. I actually found them at Wal-Mart…a place I’m not usually shopping for produce…but there is a Neighborhood Wal-Mart on my way home from work that has a huge amount of Asian produce available. It’s rather unique. So when I happened by the kumquats, I grabbed them.

So, without further adieu, I bring you Ostu, by way of Heidi Swanson and Jaden Hair, originally from Rolf Bachmann who I have decided is a genius to create this dish.

Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 inch section of ginger, peeled and grated
1 T honey
3/4 t cayenne
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c rice vinegar
1/3 c soy sauce
2 T olive oil
2 T toasted sesame oil

12 ounces dried soba noodles
1 T olive oil
8 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and pepper

¼ c cilantro, chopped

½ cucumber, peeled and seeded, sliced thinly

5 kumquats, sliced thinly
1/4 c toasted sesame seeds

Additional chopped cilantro for garnish

 

To make the dressing, combine the lemon zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce and blend in a food processor or hand blender. Run the blender for a few seconds, until all ingredients are combined. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.

 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles until just tender, then drain.

 

While the noodles are cooking, heat up a large frying pan or wok. When hot, pour in the 1 T olive oil. Season the shrimp with a bit of salt and pepper. Once the oil is hot, add the shrimp in a single layer, and cook for 2 minutes. Flip over and cook until just cooked through, about another minute or two. Remove shrimp and set aside.

 

Drain excess oil from pan/wok, remove from heat, and add the soba, cilantro, cucumber, and about ½ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the shrimp and kumquats and toss again, and serve with sesame seeds and cilantro sprinkled on top.

 

Serves 4. Can be served warm or cold.

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Filed under Dairy-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Pasta, Quick and Easy

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Bringing the Bayou to the ‘Burbs

Hot and Tasty Crawfish, Ready to Eat!

Hot and Tasty Crawfish, Ready to Eat!

It seems as though nowadays, neighbors don’t speak with one another as they used to. Everyone works long hours, there are countless events away from the home, and even to some degree, those (gasp!) electronic distractions, such as the internet, TV, and gaming consoles, all keep us from meeting our neighbors and socializing. My family has, truthfully, fallen victim to this dilemma as well. We always mean to make efforts to get to know everyone, but for some reason or another, we never get around to it. My husband John and I decided that we were missing out on one of life’s many pleasures, as having a relationship with your neighbors can allow friendships to form, can enhance a sense of belonging and safety, and can allow neighbors to share ideas on how to make the neighborhood a better place.

What better way to bring people together than to provide a fun, exciting food event to the neighborhood? It’s crawfish season (which runs from about March until June), and a lot of North Texas residents have not truly experienced a fun, Louisiana tradition: the crawfish boil! When John suggested that we should submit our neighborhood crawfish boil idea for this month’s 24, 24, 24, I was excited. And when Foodbuzz.com selected us, I was ecstatic! We had an excellent opportunity to make our idea come alive!

Once the excitement subsided somewhat, reality set in. How do we pull this off? We had SO much to do! I started to make a list. We needed to reserve the neighborhood park, which is just across the street from our home. It is a perfect place to host a party, as there is a covered pavilion, a playground, a basketball court, and plenty of space. (Thank you, City of Wylie!)

Kids playing basketball while waiting for crawfish

Kids playing basketball while waiting for crawfish

The next big step was to gather some guests. We opted to go door-to-door, handing out flyers and speaking with our neighbors whenever possible. (Next time, we will probably opt to just leave flyers. As much as we liked the “personal touch” of the door-to-door greetings, we didn’t get to visit as many houses as we would have hoped.)

We then needed a game plan on how and where to obtain the crawfish and other necessities. This was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. There aren’t many groceries that offer live crawfish in this area, so we were limited to locating a specialty company. If you search around the internet, there are numerous companies that claim to deliver the freshest, tastiest crawfish available, straight from Louisiana. How to choose? I decided on going local. A few years back, I introduced myself to a guy in the parking lot of a grocery store that was offering his crawfish boil services, and obtained his card. I kept it, just in case one day I decided to throw a crawfish boil. I’m glad I kept it. I called up David at www.cajuncrawfishco.com, a company based in the Dallas area, and as insanely busy as he was, he took the time to personally discuss with me all of the ins and outs of throwing this crawfish boil, his product, and he worked with me on pricing. He even had tips on how to prepare the crawfish, which we followed with great success…but I’ll get to that in a bit. As for the other “necessities”, such as drinks, plates, and napkins, I made sure I looked at grocery store advertisements to compare prices, and worked to get the most for our money.

John and I made a game plan about who was to do what during the actual event. He was to be the one in charge of the actual cooking(which for those of you that know us or read this blog on a regular basis, I’m usually the “chef”, he’s usually the critic. However, he has a few meals that he is “in charge” of – and boiling crawfish is one of them. There is definitely something to be said for keeping your signature dishes to just a few, because he certainly excelled at this!) I was in charge of playing hostess and making sure I visited with each of our neighbors. We both worked to discuss with people one particular topic – that we wanted to do this every year!

the crawfish, about to be placed into the basket for boiling

the crawfish, about to be placed into the basket for boiling

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Helping the little one eat a crawfish

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The boy in orange probably ate more than anyone there!

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crawfish, ready to be devoured

How did everything go? We were very pleased with the event. We had a great turnout, and neighbors got to meet and become acquainted with one another, share a meal together, and enjoy a pleasant evening outdoors. We even had a chance to meet a gentleman running for City Council here in Wylie, which was a pleasant surprise! The neighbors discussed how wonderful it would be to make this an annual neighborhood event, and everyone threw out great ideas on how we could make it even bigger and better for next year. We took down email addresses, so that we can organize together each spring. A lot of positive feedback was received, both about the idea of throwing the event, and about the delicious food, thanks to the direction of Cajun Crawfish Company and John’s excellent preparation. We thought about things that went well, and things that we felt we could improve upon for next time.

I encourage you to throw your own crawfish boil! It was a great amount of fun, and compared to preparing other foods for a large amount of people, it’s relatively simple. We are by no means experts, but part of what made our crawfish boil a success was the advice we received from “experts”. I do have a good list of recommendations on what to do (and what not to do) that I’ll share with you, should you decide to throw your own boil.

Do

-Plan for 2-3 pounds of crawfish per person. If you’re feeding a lot of kids, you can plan for less, but if you’re feeding a lot of “Cajuns”, plan for 5-6 pounds per person.

-Pick up the crawfish the same day as you plan to boil, and keep them cool and wet. We kept them in their sacks and used towels that were dipped in ice water to lay over the top of the sacks, and regularly re-wet the towels in the ice water to keep the crawfish cool.

-Call your city to reserve the park, should you decide to use a city park, so you can be sure you have the space available.

-Shop around for crawfish, and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions about the crawfish.

-Make a checklist and follow it. This checklist will be your lifesaver as time draws near and you become incredibly busy.

-Buy more drinks and ice than you’ll think you need. We ran out of ice and soft drinks and had to make a run to the store for more, and I estimated about 2 drinks per person.

-If you’re planning to blog about it, take a WHOLE lot of pictures. I became so caught up in talking with neighbors that I didn’t take as many as I’d hoped.

-Have instructions on how to eat crawfish, for those first-timers. See below for instructions!

-Plan for a day of rest afterwards. We’re glad Sunday will be relatively uneventful, as we’re pretty worn out from the party!

Don’t

-Go hungry! John and I both did not really have time to eat until near the end of the event. We were too busy preparing food, talking with the neighbors, and other “hosting” duties. Of course, when we did have a moment to take a bite, it was well worth it, as those “mud bugs” were good!

-Be afraid to ask for assistance. Thankfully, we had additional family among our guests, and they were very helpful in assisting us carrying items to the park, setting up, preparing food, or even running to the store when we ran out of something. A big thanks to our family, as they really helped make this event successful!

-Overestimate how many potatoes you will need. We ended up with so many leftover potatoes that it’s not even funny. Don’t know what to do with them!

-Be afraid to improvise. Follow a recipe, but if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to make changes as necessary. We had to change how we were preparing crawfish. We started out cooking 10 pounds at a time, and quickly changed our method to prepare 30 pounds at a time. Those crawfish were going quickly, and we had to feed the crowd!

How to Eat Crawfish

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A diligent crawfish eater indeed!

We made handouts for our first-time guests that illustrated, step-by-step, so that everyone could enjoy their “mud bugs”.

1. Grab the head in one hand, and the tail in the other hand.

2. Twist and pull the head and tail apart.

3. Optional: A true “Cajun” will suck the juice out of the crawfish’s head.

4. Throw the head away. Extend and press the bottom of the tail.

5. Grab the meat sticking out of the tail with your teeth.

6. Pull the tail with your teeth, while pressing the bottom with your finger. This will remove the meat from the tail.

7. Chew! Yummy!

8. Repeat as many times as necessary to get your fill.

Alternatively, you can peel the shell from the tail to eat. Of course, this might take longer, and the experienced “Cajuns” might beat you to the next plate of crawfish, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

And of course, without further delay, the recipe. This recipe is based on Cajun Crawfish Company’s recipe, and produced a consistent, delicious flavor. We started out using two pots, one for boiling and one for soaking/seasoning, but our boiling pot was pretty small, and we changed our method to use the larger of the two pots for both boiling and soaking/seasoning. The following recipe details how to do this with one pot. The one (larger) pot we used was huge – 120 quarts – but you can always scale back the recipe to a third in order to accomodate a smaller pot.

Ingredients:

40 quarts water

3 lbs dry seasoning (we used a seasoning blend provided to us by Cajun Crawfish Company, but you can find other seasoning blends. Zatarain’s provides a lot of seafood boil seasoning packets. http://shop.zatarains.com/default.php?categories_id=1406 Most of these blends include salt, cayenne, garlic, onion powder, and other spices)

1 cup concentrated liquid boil seasoning (we used a liquid seasoning provided by Cajun Crawfish Company, but Zatarain’s provides a liquid as well. Most of these liquids have a good deal of clove oil, which smells delicious)

20 silver dollar-sized red potatoes (or if your potatoes are larger, as ours were, cut them into fourths so that they will cook relatively quickly)

30 lbs live crawfish

12 ears sweet corn, broken in half

Ice

2 lemons, cut in half

Extra dry seasoning, for sprinkling

 

Bring water to boil. Add seasonings and mix well. Boil potatoes in pot for about 5 minutes. Add crawfish and corn. Boil an additional 10 minutes. Turn off/down heat and add enough ice to water to bring the temperature down to around 140 degrees. This temperature will allow for optimal soaking/seasoning. Add lemons. Soak for 10-30 minutes, depending on how strong you would like the seasoning. Dump crawfish onto a prepared table, and if desired, sprinkle additional seasoning over, for added flavor and heat.

Enjoy! If you don’t have a huge crowd ready to devour the steaming pile of crawfish (like we did), you can use an empty ice chest to preserve the temperature of the crawfish until they are eaten.

We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to throw this crawfish boil, and hope to do this every year with our neighbors. I hope that this is only the beginning of a great relationship with our neighbors!

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Filed under Main Dishes

Smoky Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese

food-1360I know, I know, before we even start, I’m sure you’re thinking: What is up with the chipotle obsession? Seriously? Can’t you branch out just a little bit?

Yes. I can. And I know. It does appear as though it’s an obsession. I can’t help it. I do love chipotle peppers. I actually love a lot of spicy foods, but chipotle pepper is more than just “hot”. It’s also smoky, slightly sweet…it’s a great ingredient! So maybe I am a little obsessed. Deal with it. But I’ll tell you this. I’ll do my best to lay low on the chipotle recipes (after this one) for a while, and give you a bit of something else. Can’t promise that there won’t be another one in the future, though, because if I stumble upon something good, I can’t help but want to share!

This recipe was one I created a long while ago. It was an old post (without a picture, even) on here (I’ve since deleted it and replaced it with this one), and I remembered the macaroni was pretty tasty, so I decided to make it again tonight. Glad I gave it another look, because I thought it needed some revamping. (The old recipe used Velveeta – I’ve since stopped buying that kind of processed stuff for the most part.) This version uses only real cheese. I also used 1% milk and it was plenty creamy enough, so feel free to use whatever milk you have on hand. I also used whole grain macaroni, so one could pretend like it was healthy macaroni and cheese, but we all know that macaroni and cheese is still not exactly the lightest dish out there. (read: understatement!) But we all need comfort food every now and then, right?

½ lb elbow macaroni

¼ c butter

1 T flour

1-2 canned chipotle pepper, chopped with some sauce

1 c milk

 ½ c cheddar cheese, shredded

½ c swiss or fontina cheese, shredded

½ c Monterey jack cheese, shredded

1 egg, lightly beaten

Dash salt/pepper

 

Place large pot of water on stove for macaroni. When water boils, salt water and cook until just shy of al dente (the macaroni will continue soaking up liquids when it is mixed with the rest of the ingredients). Drain and set aside.

 

Melt the butter, add flour and whisk. Add minced chipotles and sauce. Add milk, warm on stove for a few minutes. Add cheeses and egg and stir. Once melted, add macaroni and stir until incorporated. Add additional milk if sauce is too thick. Season as needed with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

 

Serves 4.

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Filed under Pasta, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Turnip Green, Bean and Cheese Empanadas

food-1342This past Saturday, I attended a dinner with some of my friends. But it wasn’t just any ol’ dinner. This was a dinner with a purpose: to learn more about seasonal, local, and organic foods and how to cook with them. You see, the group decided earlier this spring that we needed a “Supper Society”, and named the group “Dallas SOL” (SOL=sustainable, organic, and local). I was excited when the group extended an invite to me for this month! So, basically, we get together and have dinner, pot-luck style, and each person cooks a dish that uses as many organic and local ingredients as possible. After days and days of deliberation, I finally decided to bring empanadas. I wasn’t sure what I would fill them with, but recently I made empanadas using a recipe I saw on www.smittenkitchen.com. Deb, the owner of that blog, has some wonderful beef empanadas posted. I decided I would take a cue from her, and borrow the dough recipe, adapting it to use the organic whole wheat pastry flour I already had in the pantry. As for the filling? That’s where the “local” part came in.

I went to a small farmer’s market nearby (Georgia’s Farmers Market in Plano, for those readers that are local) and found these amazing turnip greens with little baby turnips still attached. They also had some frozen “fresh” Texas-grown pinto beans available, and some local tomatoes (okay, so they were from West Texas, but it was still Texas). Score! I then decided that with some cheese, these ingredients would be perfect for my empanada filling. So on my way home, I visited a local dairy farm (Lucky Layla farms in Plano) and picked up some lovely Tex-Mex Campesino cheese, which was a lot like Pepper Jack cheese.

The rest of the filling was created pretty much by winging it. All in all, these ended up quite tasty! They took quite a bit of time, however. If you choose not to do the dough by hand and use canned beans, you can save a lot of time. Goya makes frozen empanada disks, and they can be found in the frozen section of some ethnic groceries, maybe even a traditional grocery store. They aren’t quite as pleasant as the handmade dough, however, so if you have the time, I encourage you to make your own!

As for the dinner, everyone’s food was great! It was a fun event, and if I could speak for the others, I’d say we all went home knowing a bit more about organic, local, and sustainable foods, and are all feeling a bit more comfortable cooking with them!

For dough:

 4 ½ c whole wheat pastry flour

3 t salt

1 c (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes

2 large eggs (I used local free-range eggs from Jacob’s Reward Farm – http://www.jacobsreward.blogspot.com/)

2/3 c ice water

2 T distilled white vinegar

 

Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.) Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into two flat rectangles and chill them, each wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour. Dough can be chilled up to 6 hours total.

 

For filling:

 ½ lb fresh pinto beans (or can use dried)

1 tomato

½ c organic vegetable broth

½ T Chipotle chili powder

½ T cumin powder

¼ t salt

 

1 T olive oil

½ bunch turnip greens, chopped

Salt to taste

 

1 ½ c shredded pepper jack cheese

 

Egg wash:

1 egg

2 t water

 

Place beans in a medium saucepan and pour enough water over to cover. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, simmer for 45 minutes or until soft. (if using dried beans, this may take more like 1 ½ hours) Drain beans and place back into saucepan.

 

Bring a small separate pot of water to boil. On the bottom part of the tomato, score an “X” through the tomato skin using a knife. Once the water is boiling, add tomato to water and boil for 2-3 minutes or until you see the skins start to peel away from the flesh. Remove tomato from water and set aside to cool. Discard water.

 

When tomato is cool enough to touch, peel the skin from the tomato. Chop in quarters and using your fingers, remove the seeds and the core. Crush the tomato using your hands into small bits and place into the beans. Add vegetable broth, chipotle powder, cumin, and salt, and stir. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, and let simmer 30 minutes or until flavors meld.

 

Bring olive oil to medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Add turnip greens and sauté, stirring occasionally, until limp and tender. Add the beans and stir. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary.

 

Let mixture cool completely.

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven.

 

Remove chilled dough from refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each rectangle of dough to about ¼ inch thick. Cut out 4 inch disks from dough, and roll out disks until they are about 6 inches in diameter. (I used a small bowl to cut out the disks.)

 

Place about 2 T of greens and beans mixture into middle of each disk. Add 1 T cheese, and fold over disk to form a semi-circle, then crimp edges with a fork. Repeat with remaining empanadas.

 

For the egg wash: Beat the egg with the water.

 

Lightly brush empanadas with some of the egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching positions halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer empanadas to cool on a rack for about 5 minutes.

 

Makes 12 empanadas. Serve warm.

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Filed under Appetizers, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Vegetarian

Sloppy Joes

food-1330As much as I am a huge fan of fresh produce, all natural ingredients, and healthy, balanced meals, on occasion, I really need a tasty, easy comfort food that is easy to get everyone to eat. Because after all, there are some nights I’m just not feeling up to negotiating how much of the meal one must finish in order to get a piece of their Easter candy for dessert. And sometimes, even I need a comfort food treat.

For as long as I can remember, sloppy joes were one of those “easy” meals moms made for their kids. After all, isn’t that how Manwich became so popular? But although I have been known in my past to resort to a can of Manwich, tonight I wanted to at least provide a “home-cooked” version of this traditional delight. And these sloppy joes were delightful indeed – the flavors were complex and satisfying, with just enough heat to keep it interesting. The heat comes from – what else? Chipotle! Chipotle peppers are one of my favorite peppers to use, I love their sweet and smoky heat. Chipotles are smoked, dried jalapeno peppers. The easiest way to get ahold of them is in canned form. You can find these in the Latin section of most groceries. Below is just one of several brands available. food-1332

With a few oven fries on the side, this was a comforting meal indeed, perfect for a Friday night. Yum!

2 T olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped

2 lbs ground beef

Salt and pepper

2 c crushed tomatoes

2/3 c ketchup

2 t Worcestershire sauce

 

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot (but not smoking), add onion and celery. Cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add chipotle peppers and stir.

 

Increase heat to medium-high and add ground beef. Crumble ground beef as it cooks. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Lower heat back to medium and add the crushed tomatoes, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook, stirring, until liquid is reduced and mixture is thick, about 20 minutes.

 

Check seasoning and adjust as necessary. Serve on hamburger buns.

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Filed under Beef, Budget-Friendly, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy

Soy Sesame Chicken Salad

food-1224The other day I was drawing a blank for ideas of what to do with a couple of boring ol’ chicken breasts for dinner. I had it in my mind to do something with them to place on a salad, but what? I was looking for inspiration, and so started to search some of my favorite food blogs for help. This is when Jaden of Steamy Kitchen http://steamykitchen.com/blog/ came to my rescue! Among her many wonderful recipes is a recipe for a Chinese Chicken Salad. This became the basis for this recipe. I modified it to include the ingredients I had on hand (I added radishes, eliminated snow peas…although if I had them, I would have gladly included them!), added cilantro (because I love the way cilantro plays against the sweet/spicy flavors) and changed up the dressing a bit to give it a little heat. This salad is a wonderful weeknight dinner, as it came together quickly, didn’t create a lot of dirty dishes (a definite bonus in my book!), and oh, by the way, it was delicious! It definitely turned “boring ol’ chicken breasts” into something we were glad to enjoy!

1 t salt

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

 

1 head red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

1 carrot, julienned

3 radishes, thinly sliced

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 orange, segmented (save remaining part for dressing)

1 T coarsely chopped cilantro

 

5 T honey

½ c mayonnaise

1 T coarse ground mustard

½ t soy sauce or tamari

½ t sambal oelek (garlic chili paste)

Juice from the remaining part of segmented orange

½ t toasted sesame oil

3 T rice wine vinegar

 

Oil, such as canola oil, for frying

5-6 small wonton sheets, cut into strips

 

 

Place enough water in a medium saucepan to poach the chicken breasts. Add salt to water, and bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts, return to a boil, and reduce to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts and let cool enough to handle. Tear chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. (You can even save the water for the beginnings of a soup or for cooking pasta!) You can also substitute leftover cooked chicken or rotisserie chicken for the poached chicken breasts.

 

While the chicken is poaching, prepare your dressing. Whisk together honey, mayonnaise, mustard, soy sauce, sambal oelek, and orange juice. Then whisk in oil and vinegar. Set aside.

 

In a large frying pan, pour enough oil to come up to the sides of the pan about 1 inch. Bring oil to 375 degrees. Place wonton strips in oil and fry until golden, about 30-45 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon or tongs and let drain on paper towels.

 

To assemble salads: Divide lettuce, carrots, radishes, cucumber, and orange segments among plates. Sprinkle cilantro over each. Drizzle dressing over salad, and add chicken breast pieces to each. Top with wonton strips and serve.

 

Serves 2 as main course or 4 as appetizer.

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Filed under Appetizers, Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Dairy-Free, Main Dishes, Salads

Nopalitos con Huevos (Nopal Cactus with Eggs)

food-1200Living in Texas my whole life, it’s little surprise that I love Mexican food. However, because I live in Texas, I have Mexican food readily accessible, and it’s not often I really cook a lot of it at home. Not real, authentic Mexican food, anyway. I’ve had a Diana Kennedy cookbook in my collection for years, and rarely tried a recipe from the book. So there it sat, gathering dust, and not getting the love it deserved.  I decided that it was time for a change…time to crack open that book!

One of the first recipes I marked with my “must make soon” sticky note was the Nopalitos con Huevos recipe. Why? A friend of mine the other day was talking about nopalitos. The conversation went something like this:

Friend: I’m excited about lunch, I have nopalitos!

Me: Nopalitos? What are those again?

Friend: Cactus.

Me: Oh, yeah. I think I’ve seen those before at the store. What do you do with them?

Friend: I’m eating them cooked with eggs. My grandma is making them.

(side comment – my friend’s grandma is an amazing cook. Every Christmas, she makes tamales, and I kid you not, they are the best tamales in the world. And she makes some darn tasty enchiladas too!) 

Me: Interesting. I wonder what they taste like!

Friend: You should totally try to make them!

And so…here we are! Nopalitos, or nopales, are the pads of a Prickly Pear Cactus. Yes, cactus. (You have to wonder how, exactly, some guy came to decide to actually eat something that has spines on it. Must have been really hungry. But I suppose you could pose that same question about a lot of the foods we eat.) You can find either the whole pads or even prepared nopalitos (already cleaned and chopped), at Mexican/Latin grocery stores. I found mine at Fiesta, a Latin supermarket here in Texas. If you can only find the whole pads, you will have to peel and remove the spines (wear a thick glove!) and chop. Learn more about nopalitos and the cleaning process here: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/nopalitos.htm. Me, I bought them already prepared. I’m usually not a huge fan of convenience products, but bypassing the task of removing spines seemed worthwhile in this instance.

As for the other ingredients, Mexican chorizo is fresh (not cured), spiced sausage. It is usually made from pork. I wouldn’t suggest substituting Spanish chorizo in this recipe, as Spanish chorizo has an entirely different consistency. If you can’t find Mexican chorizo (which is also available at a Mexican/Latin grocery), you can use bacon or another breakfast sausage as a substitute, or omit it entirely. Cotija cheese is a Mexican cheese that is dry, crumbly and pleasantly salty. This is also found at Mexican/Latin groceries, or you could substitute another cheese, such as feta, or even Monterey Jack. They will change the flavors a bit, but I imagine it will be just as delicious.

I’m sure there are many, many variations of this recipe. Mine is a variation of Diana Kennedy’s. I added chorizo, and used jalapenos instead of serranos.

6 oz Mexican chorizo (if you need this recipe to be gluten-free, check the label. You could substitute sausage if need be.)

12 oz nopalitos, cleaned and diced

1 large tomato, unpeeled, diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/3 c white onion, finely chopped

1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

4 large eggs

 

8 corn tortillas, warmed

4 oz cotija cheese, crumbled

¼ c cilantro, chopped

 

Heat a large saucepan to medium-high. Remove chorizo from casings, crumble, and brown. Remove chorizo from pan and set on paper towels to drain. Drain most of the oil from the pan. Add nopalitos, tomato, garlic, onion, and jalapenos to pan. Cover the pan and cook over medium flame, shaking the pan from time to time, for about 25 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, and add chorizo. Break the eggs into the nopales and stir until set.

 

Spoon egg mixture into warmed tortillas, topping with cheese and cilantro.

 

Serves 3-4.

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Filed under Eggs, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes