Archive for the ‘Cuisine’ Category

Food-writing class: Recipe writing

For the food-writing class I’m taking at the Muse, we have an assignment to take a badly written recipe and rewrite it in proper format with good directions. Patrick gave us several to choose from and we practiced in class.

This selection sounds like it would make a good casserole for a potluck, and since this is the season … enjoy.

Garden veggies from our 2008 garden
From our 2008 garden: ingredients that could be used in this dish

Black Bean Tortilla Casserole

A meatless meal with lots of zip. Good for vegetarians and those on a budget.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
4 ounces jalapenos, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained (or, if in season, 2 large tomatoes, chopped)
3/4 cup salsa
2 15-ounce cans black kidney beans
12 6-inch corn tortillas
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (divided use)

2 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 cups lettuce, shredded
3 green onions, sliced
1/8 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream, optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, peppers, jalapenos, garlic and cumin. Saute for five minutes. Stir in undrained tomatoes and salsa. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in beans.

Spread 1/3 of the bean mixture over the bottom of a 13”x9”x2” baking dish. Top with half of the tortillas, overlapping as necessary, and half of the cheese. Add another 1/3 of the bean mixture, the remaining tortillas, and the rest of the bean mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes until heated through.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese and let stand 10 minutes. Top with tomato slices, lettuce, green onion and olives. Cut into squares and serve with sour cream.

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Restaurant Review: Tortilla West

Tortilla West, at the end of Orapax Street near Lambert Point Docks in Norfolk, is not easy to find the first time you go, but it’s really easy to go back to again and again.The style is Mexican flavors with a modern twist using fresh local ingredients and for the most part, they do it very well.

I visited Tortilla West on a recent Sunday for lunch with Patrick Evans-Hylton and members of the food writing class we’re taking at The Muse in Norfolk. We ordered a variety of dishes to share tapas-style.

We started off with drinks. My companions went for the Bloody Mary bar, but as I’m not an aficionado, I ordered the house margarita on the rocks with salt. It always has the perfect balance of tequila, lime juice and orange liqueur, and a crunchy rim of kosher salt.

The most memorable dish for me was the fried oysters with a creamy dipping sauce. The plump, juicy Chinoteague oysters were coated with a crackling cornmeal crust that broke apart with the first bite, releasing the sweet meat. The creamy, slightly spicy sauce was the perfect counterpoint to the crunchy coating. I used to think I didn’t like oysters – they’ve made a convert of me.

Tortilla West dishes

More disappointing was the Mexican pulled pork sandwich, served on ciabatta rolls with tomatillo dipping sauce. While the pork was fork-tender, the sauce was overly salty, which really detracted from the flavor. The Mexican-influenced macaroni & cheese, however, made up for it. It was delivered nice and hot, with curvy cavatelli pasta soaking up the flavor of a perfectly melted, beautifully balanced spicy-creamy cheese sauce flecked with bits of jalapeno.

Pulled Mexican pork with tomatillo dipping sauce

I’ve been to Tortilla West many times since they opened several years ago, and I don’t believe I’ve ever not liked a dish, until this pork. So I’m sure I’ll be back – the food is generally outstanding, the prices are reasonable and the service is fast and friendly.

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Quick Refrigerator Pickles: Szechuan Green Beans

The green beans have been quite prolific this year. We have a couple of pounds in the freezer and a couple of pounds in the refrigerator. This is the year I plan to experiment with more food-preserving techniques, so last year, I purchased “Put ’em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling.” It’s full of wonderful ideas for enjoying fresh garden produce now and later.

Szechuan Pickled Green Beans
Szechuan Pickled Green Beans

This refrigerator-pickle recipe for Szechuan Green Beans intrigued me because it’s so simple. It doesn’t involve the scary-seeming boiling-water method that is generally used for canning vegetables for the relatively long term – a few months to a year. This recipe just requires covering blanched beans with a seasoned vinegary brine and keeping it in the fridge. It will last for a month and the flavor deepens every day. Yum.

Szechuan Green Beans

  • 1 pound green beans, washed, topped, and tailed
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns, preferably Szechuan
  • 1 (1-inch) knob ginger, sliced into coins
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced

Line several baking sheets with dish towels and set aside. Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl or clean sink.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the beans into the water, no more than 1 pound at a time, and return to a boil. Blanch for 1 minute.

Scoop the beans out with a spider or slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice-water bath. Continue blanching in batches. Remove the beans from the ice bath with a slotted spoon and spread on the towel-covered baking sheets. Blot dry.

To make the pickles, pack the beans vertically in a quart jar.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 minute. Pour the hot brine over the beans to cover by 1/2 inch. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the lid.

Refrigerate: Cool, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Szechuan Pickled Green Beans with Quiche and Tomatoes

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A Mexican Feast

Last week, Dan and I prepared a Mexican feast for 26 teachers during the annual capstone event for the graduate professional development class he teaches along with colleagues Dan B. and Richard.

I was so busy making sure everything was done and we hadn’t forgotten anything that I forgot to take pictures of everything when we were done with each dish. But here are a few to accompany the recipes we used.

Appetizers, all by Rick Bayless, served with toasted sliced baguette and tortilla chips

Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa Prep
Prep for Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa

Dinner

Ingredients for mole sauce
Mole ingredients

Corn tamales with chicken or cheese
Corn tamales stuffed with chicken (left) or cheese right)

Dessert was a trifle layered with cubed angel-food cake, lemon pudding and fresh strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. I tried making a tres leches cake for this, but it was flat and heavy, so I went with store-bought angel food.

Lessons Learned

  • When making tamales, test the batter by checking to see whether a handful sticks to itself; if not, it’s too wet, so add a bit more corn flour
  • I need a Kitchen Aid mixer if I’m going to try a tres leches cake; I didn’t fluff up the butter enough, so the cake was short and heavy rather than tall and light
  • When I’m cooking for a crowd, delegate the camera work to someone else!
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A delicious one-pot meal: Paella

A few years ago, my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas a wonderful gift for a foodie like me – a paella kit. It included a paella pan, Spanish rice and olive oil, and some saffron.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, because harvesting it is so labor-intensive. Saffron threads are the stamens of a variety of crocus. There are three stamens per flower and each must be picked individually by hand. It has a delicate flavor; liquids are generally infused with saffron and then used in recipes.

Paella is a classic Spanish dish of saffron-flavored rice with seafood, chicken and sometimes chorizo, or Spanish sausage. I made this dish for a dinner party and it was a big hit. Serve with a nice green salad and a vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar.

Seafood, Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Ultimate Paella with Seafood, Chicken and Chorizo

The term comes from the Latin patella, a flat plate on which offerings were made to the gods. The prepared dish is placed in the middle of the dining table, as it is traditionally eaten straight from the pan.

1/2 tsp. sweet paprika (preferably Spanish smoked paprika)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 chicken thighs, cut in half
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish chorizo sausage, thickly sliced (about ½ cup)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups short-grain Spanish rice, preferably Calasparra
5 1/2 cups strong chicken broth
Generous pinch saffron threads (about 1/2 tsp.)
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Combine paprika, oregano and salt. Rub spice mixture all over the chicken, cover and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325*.

Warm chicken broth in a saucepan to just below a simmer. Crush saffron slightly and stir into broth; keep warm.

Heat the oil in a 14-inch paella pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the chorizo until lightly browned; remove from pan and set aside. Add chicken skin-side down and brown well on all sides; remove from pan and set aside. Sauté onions in the same pan; when the onions start to brown, add red peppers, garlic and half of parsley. Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add tomatoes; cook until mixture caramelizes a bit, stirring occasionally.

Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains with the onion mixture. Pour in the chicken broth and stir gently to loosen browned bits from the bottom of the pan. The broth will almost fill the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring the mixture a couple of times.

Press the clams into the rice. Simmer for 5 minutes more, occasionally moving the pan on top of the flame so the rice cooks evenly and starts to absorb the liquid. You should still have a lot of liquid in the pan.

Press the chicken (with any accumulated juices), chorizo, mussels and shrimp into the rice. Place the pan into the oven and bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Place the pan on the stovetop and sprinkle with peas and parsley. Cover with foil and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

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TNT Dinner: Rajput

Barbara and I had dinner at Rajput last night. It was pretty good, although service was slow. They seemed confused about whose table it was.

I’m not as familiar with Indian foods and flavors as I am with some other cuisines, so I generally end up ordering the same thing: chicken tandoori. And that’s what I had last night. The chicken was nice and tender and the tikka masala sauce was tasty. There wasn’t a lot of heat, though. Next time, I might ask for some hot sauce. I also ordered garlic naan – that was delish!

Barbara had lamb biryani and offered me a taste. It was very good, with a bit of heat. Nice flavor. I forgot to bring my camera in, though, so no pix. This post is primarily a reminder for me, so next time I go out for Indian, I can look back and see what I liked.

I’ve been watching the new show Aarti Party on the Food Network, to learn more about basic Indian cooking. Now I need to actually try some of the recipes 😉 And I already have all five of her basic Indian spices.

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