Posts Tagged ‘idolatry’

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Handed down. (EMPANADAS)

March 18, 2015

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I was introduced to empanadas as a late night drunken treat in the deepest depths of Queens. The version we ate were greasy and deep fried, stuffed with ground up meat and some questionable, grizzly bits. Perfect drinking food. I will confess that Janine and I called them “Keebleros” because, in our boozy haze, we couldn’t remember what they were really called. We thought this was hilarious.

Empanadas vary greatly from country to country and are interpreted further still, by region. Colombia and Venezula deep fry their stuffed creations while Chile and Argentina bake theirs in the oven. In general, empanadas can be cooked either way and filled with anything; meat, cheese, egg, spinach, fruit, shrimp or squash, in infinite combinations. A basic (if not totally traditional) empanada is anything that tastes good wrapped in dough, which is almost anything. The key to success is pretty simple. As long as the filling you have created tastes great, your empanadas will be voraciously devoured by anyone you offer them to. Take into consideration, the doughy exterior will tone down the filling, so it’s important that whatever you are stuffing in is seasoned well.

Years after my experience with Keebleros, I befriended the lovely Erica and became close with her family, who relocated to New York from the San Juan province of Argentina. As a result of this friendship, I am introduced to a whole new genre of amazing tastes. Chimichurri! Alfajores! Maté! Malbec! When Christmas rolls around, among the many delicious foods served, one of the family’s traditions is a heaping platter of freshly baked empanadas; stuffed with beef (picadillo), a green olive and a small chunk of hard-boiled egg. Guests are encouraged to eat as many as they possibly can …and to compete while doing it! I couldn’t quite beat out brother, but I held my own, foregoing other dishes so that more empanadas could fit.

Then the learning began. There were years that we helped punch the homemade dough* into submission, years that we browned kilo after kilo of beef, and many lessons about twisting the edges just right. Often times, Erica would arrive at my family’s holiday party with a heaping platter just for us, and it quickly became a ritual anticipated by all.

Because of these awesome memories –and sheer deliciousness– I have adapted the very same empanadas sanjuaninas as one of my favorite celebrational foods too. They are a perfect self-contained party dish. Easy to transport (I should know, I used to fill my pockets with them), and effortless to serve. Heat them if you have the means, but I have never seen empanadas refused neither cold nor at room temp. It is obvious, just by looking, that they are made with love. And so, the excitement continues to generate.

EMPANADAS DE PICADILLO

(Makes about 10 empanadas using 5-inch dough circles)

1 pound ground beef

2 tablespoons cooking oil, divided

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

a few dashes of hot sauce (optional)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped

10 small pimento-stuffed green olives

10 Goya Discos para empanadas (1 package), thawed

1 egg, whisked in a small bowl with a tablespoon of water

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Start warming a skillet over medium heat, add half of the oil and the beef. Wait for some sizzling sounds and occasionally break up the beef with a spoon as it cooks. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. When the meat is thoroughly browned, lift it from the skillet with a slotted spoon and put aside in a big bowl.
  • Wipe out the skillet and warm the second tablespoon of oil. Brown the onions (about 8 minutes). Add the garlic and the next five spices until toasted and fragrant, another 5 minutes. Add a small splash of oil if dry.
  • Stir the onion mixture into the ground beef, combining well. Add hot sauce, if using. This is picadillo! Taste for seasoning. If needed add salt, pepper, etc.
  • Lay the dough circles on a work surface and brush half of each with the raw egg mixture.
  • Place a mound of picadillo (about three heaping tablespoons) on each circle. Put one olive and a piece of egg with the meat on each round.
  • Fold the dough into a half-moon shape over the meat-olive-egg pile and press to seal. Gather up small sections from the edge where the two sides meet and pinch them together in one-inch intervals, further sealing the dough. Another option is to push the two sides together by pressing down to ‘crimp’ them with a fork. Repeat with all meat/circles.
  • Place finished empanadas on a baking sheet and brush the tops with the remaining raw egg mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the exterior is golden and crisped.

* I am a busy lady, (frozen) Goya discos are my secret weapon, and puff pastry could be a last-resort substitute. But pleeease feel free to make your own dough.

Here lies post from way back, it talks about a sweet-savory experiment:

RICOTTA AND FIG EMPANADAS

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Joining is good. (SUMMER CSA)

July 14, 2014

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I guess I say this every year. Joining a CSA is major! There are many resources that can help you to find a Community Supported Argiculture group in your area: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ , for example.

Support your community, the planet, your health and best of all challenge yourself to incorporate all of that good eating into your lifestyle. Everyone wins!

Past posts on CSA love:

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/at-last-tomatoes/

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/summer-cravings-vegetable-noodle-soup/

https://upchefcreek.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/from-the-box-fish-kebabs-with-collard-greens/ 

Enjoy!

 

 

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Lunching. (IN PRAISE OF BENTO)

October 21, 2013

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Healthy lunches can be elaborate or simple and sometimes both! Using ingredients that might be readily available in the pantry (or leftovers from another meal) make the daily process of producing balanced meals-to-go a little bit easier.

 
Lately I have been seeing some great bento-style lunchboxes for sale. The cool thing about bento boxes is that each ingredient has its own separate compartment so you can really be creative and vary the things that go in. From a bean dip surrounded by fresh veggies, fruit and crackers to cold buckwheat noodles and shredded chicken with colorful roasted veggies (from last night’s dinner), lunch-makers can be endlessly creative and diverse with their lunch packing, staving off boredom all year long. Lunch-eaters can assemble and eat the meal in a variety of ways and really make it ‘their own’. It’s the same concept that launched Lunchables into the success stratosphere, but this version is 100% wholesome and homemade.
 
Use one compartment for a green salad, the lidded part for dressing/dipping sauce and cut a sandwich to perfectly fit into remaining sections. Don’t forget to add a sweet treat and, just a reminder, that nature provides us with many a nutritious dessert. Remove the pit from a date and stuff it with your favorite nut or seed butter and a drizzle of honey for an instant energy boosting (candy-like!) snack. 
 
Find some cool bentos here:
 
black and blum at west elm (pictured below)
 
 
 
ucc_bento1
 
 
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On Harold McGee. (EXCERPT)

February 4, 2013

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It is well documented that On Food and Cooking is an essential resource in any food-curious person’s kitchen. Harold McGee lays down facts in detailed explanations of scientific processes behind the foods we love, their history and a description of every form a particular food can possibly take. A fascinating amount of information. It is slightly less documented how incredibly poetic his exacting writing can be.

This excerpt from the first chapter, 61 pages on milk and dairy products, has always stood out as an example to me. Enjoy!

“The modern imagination holds a very different view of milk! Mass production turned it and its products from precious, marvelous resources into ordinary commodities, and medical science stigmatized them for their fat content. Fortunately a more balanced view of dietary fat is developing; and traditional versions of dairy foods survive. It’s still possible to savor the remarkable foods that millennia of human ingenuity have teased from milk. A sip of milk itself or a scoop of ice cream can be a Proustian draft of youth’s innocence and energy and possibility, while a morsel of fine cheese is a rich meditation on maturity, the fulfillment of possibility, the way of all flesh.”

–Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking

(Pictured above is the cheese plate that never saw 2013. If you think that looks bad, you should have seen the minibar.)

HAPPY AND HEALTHY REMAINING 11 MONTHS OF 2013, EVERYONE!

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100% bueno. (SPANISH MEATS + TOMATO BREAD)

December 23, 2012

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I need to share this photo. It is the most exquisite plate of cured meats eaten in one of Barcelona’s cute little xampanyerias. We sampled the house cava, meats and cheeses accompanied by lots of the tomato bread pa amb tomaquet  found all over the place in Catalonia. Cured meats are a big deal in Spain, so we did our best to really treat them like the special deal that they are, eating them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snack. It was the perfect thing to obsess over because eating a plate of charcuterie left some room so that we could stop short at any other good looking tapas we saw along the way to wherever we were going… which was usually to eat tapas.

Starting with the top right you are looking at chorizo, moving clockwise next is lomo, which is made from the loin of the pig and is therefore significantly leaner than the others but no less delicious. Lomo is followed by traditional Iberico (swoon), then salami-like salchichon, and in the center is cecina or ‘dried’ beef which was knockout.

Variations of these meats are available in the States but it’s just not the same. Sure when you are eating something local in a foreign place, it is the atmosphere and the sounds, the smell of the fabric softener, the sky color and all the other details that amplify the experience but I have a theory about a number of delicious European foodstuffs that are also exported to the U.S. and it is simply… they send us the good stuff but not the best. This is why I have my own personal French calvados dealers.

Adéu!

Be real Spanish and serve this bread with your next meat and/or cheese platter.

PA AMB TOMAQUET

1 loaf of your favorite bread

2 cloves garlic

2 ripe tomatoes

your best olive oil

salt

  • Slice the bread lengthwise and toast it lightly (optional). 
  • Slice each clove of garlic in half and rub it on the cut side of the bread. 
  • Slice each tomato through its equator and rub each half all over the bread until it is just skin. 
  • Arrange the bread on a platter and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

spain_bread

Together forever.

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YOU GOT VERJUICE NOW, MAN. (VERJUS)

April 13, 2012
Used Grapes. Gouache and pencil on paper bag
(This is a reprinted article I wrote a while back (6/16/08) for a site called cookingdistrict.com, formerly gigachef.com. I edited a bit of the blahblah but it’s still good stuff.)
    Verjuice is the slightly sweet, slightly tart juice of unripened wine grapes. It is bottled like vinegar or wine but it is neither fermented nor does it have an alcoholic content. The word verjuice or verjus is derived from the French word pairing ‘vert jus’ translated ‘green juice’ meaning the liquid pressed from unripened wine grapes. It will last for several years unopened, deepening in fruitiness and color while it ages. Once uncorked, it has only a few months to last in the refrigerator since it is an unfermented product and does not have the same stability as a fermented one. Its applications are wide and open to creativity.
    When used to deglaze the pan after roasting or sauteing meat or vegetables, the natural sugars in the young grapes help caramelize the leftover bits beautifully. In salad dressings, verjuice will not compete with wine being served, unlike vinegar or lemon which infamously sour the palate. The touch of acidity brightens soups, sauces and in my recipe-tweaking opinion,  goes swimmingly well with seafood. Dishes that normally call for white wine benefit from verjuice’s fruity, roundness without having to ‘cook out’ any of the alcoholic essence. Seemingly it shines in pared down recipes where the goal is to use just a few ingredients that are unique and/or possess some special quality that takes a simple dish to the next level.
    I like to splash some into the pan when wilting greens or as a part of a marinade. Not only a real winner* for savory courses, it can be used to poach or macerate fresh fruit or make a mean glaze when buddied up with some sugar.
    Verjuice is not a new ingredient. Its appearance in cooking dates back to the 1300’s. Now it is making a comeback for its merits of playing nicely with wine as well as the many above-mentioned uses. Though historically it appears in European and Middle Eastern cooking, an Australian chef, Maggie Beer, is credited with bringing it back to modern kitchens. She bottles and sells verjuice from her country’s Barossa Valley but most wine producing regions have their versions too: California, France, Italy (where it is called agresto), South Africa and locally here in New York on Long Island (Wolffer Estate), my personal favorite. Like everything, verjuice can be purchased online but also look out for it in wine shops and gourmet groceries.
Oh, and sometimes it is used for drinking straight up… or maybe on the rocks.
* I vaguely remember enjoying heavy use of the phrase ‘a real winner’ back in ’08.

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Accessorizing. (BLOODY MARYS + BASIC QUICK PICKLES)

January 13, 2012

I talk about Bloody Marys plenty. I love to drink them, I love to make them. Seems to be the drink that has a preparation most like cooking (and drinking it is alot like eating). And though I am loyal to a sturdy classic drink, I love the bells and whistles that people come up with to adorn a Bloody Mary making it achieve even more than its perfect basic self. Seven kinds of seafood on a stick, gold dusted rim or 30 year old scotch are not necessary to the success of a Bloody Mary, but I wouldn’t turn them down either. The beauty is in the flexibility. It is a kind of very sophisticated open relationship.

It’s not about one particular recipe so much as striking a balance which can be achieved in many ways, adventurous and non. Go ahead! Use fish sauce and hot pepper purees, roasted tomatoes and wine. It just needs to consists of that savory drinkability, slight thickness, peppery bits and stand up to a decent spill of vodka (or whatever spirit one chooses to use). My ideal also provides a slow heat and a briny under-layer. To get it right I usually taste, adjust, taste, adjust, etc. just like cooking. Some batches are better than others and some kill it! Sometimes all the favorite ingredients are on hand and often there is creative substitution. And then there’s mixing drinks with that person who insists on their own carte blanche move (i.e. my friend who always uses dijon mustard). It’s cool, it all works and I’ll drink it to hell. But I’ll always have my own crazy concoction to go home to.

ORI’S BROOKLYN BLOODY MARY MIX

(makes about 10 drinks)

6 cups tomato juice

1/4 cup horseradish

1/4 cup pickled jalapeño juice (or dill pickle juice)

2 tablespoons Pick-a-Peppa sauce

4-5 shakes Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

juice of one lime

1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon celery salt or regular salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
dash cayenne
a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce until desired spicy-ness is reached. (I like Texas Pete)
  • Stir all ingredients together in a pitcher.
  • Fill a short glass with ice.
  • Pour 2 ounces of your favorite vodka (I like Tito’s) and approximately 6-8 ounces of Mix over the ice and stir. Garnish with Spanish olives, pickles* of any sort and/or celery.

* Lately I’ve been making these easy quick pickles as a garnish. They perfect for stirring up a drink but they are also great on sandwiches, in salads, as a side dish, a snack. This is not limited to carrots, celery and string beans. Try with cabbage, radish, cauliflower, peppers, onions or beets, etc.

QUICK PICKLES

2 cups of vegetables (approximately)

1/3 cup vinegar (white, cider, rice or white wine)

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • Peel, slice and prep your vegetables accordingly and place them in a bowl. 
  • Put vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  • Pour vinegar mixture over the vegetables and wait 10 minutes. Veg should be submerged in liquid. 
  • Let stand in the brine for at least 2 hours or up to 24. When cooled place in the fridge.
  • Drain and enjoy within a few days.

Recipes are guidelines not rules!