Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mexican Monday by Tom

Mexican Monday by Tom

Driving home from exercising, I was thinking about what to make for dinner, as I was given that assignment today.  At first I thought that maybe tacos would taste good.  But then I thought further and determined my theme would be "Mexican Monday." 

I started with the taco idea and then expanded on it to a complete meal, and instead of tacos, I was torn between making fajitas and burritos.  So I have compromised and have made a "burr-ita" or perhaps a "faj-rito".  A combination of both.  To this I added black beans and a Mexican rice.  You won't find these recipes in any cookbooks.  I made them up as I went along.

My able sous chef David assisted me throughout the process.  And of course, he stayed for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed our joint concoctions.  "Mexican Monday" was a success, with comments like "why don't we do this more often!"  Perhaps we will.


11/2 pound flank steak, cut into 1/4" strips and then cut again into bite-size pieces
1 red pepper, julienned
1 yellow pepper, julienned
1 orange pepper, julienned
1 jalapeno pepper, julienned
11/2 sweet onions, cut into strips
1 lime, juice squeezed
1 fajita prepackaged seasoning mix
3/4 cup tequila
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Black Beans
1 can black beans
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
Juice from a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mexican Rice
1 package Mexican rice mix
1 bunch of scallions, sliced including most of the green stems
1 tablespoon olive oil

shredded lettuce
shredded cheddar cheese
tomatoes, diced
flour tortillas

Three to four hours prior to cooking, slice the flank steak into 1/4" pieces.  Slice against the grain with a very sharp knife.  Once the strips are sliced, cut them into bite size pieces about 1-2" long.
Use any tequila that you have lying around the house.

Into a 1-quart Ziploc bag, add the fajita pre-packaged mix, the tequila, the juice from a lime along with the rinds, the garlic, and the flank steak.  Mix this up well so that all of the meat gets coated with the marinade.  Put into the refrigerator, turning every 45 minutes or so.

Julienne the peppers. Slice up the onions as well.

Over medium-high heat, add the olive oil to a large skillet.  Once the oil is hot, start sautéing the peppers and sweet onions.  Do this until they are soft, about 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly so that they do not burn.
Next add the flank steak while reserving as much of the liquid marinade as possible in the Ziploc bag.  Brown the meat for about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Now add the marinade from the Ziploc bag and simmer the mixture while you are making the black beans and the Mexican rice.

Time to make the black beans.  In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, sauté the onion, garlic and the jalapeno pepper until it is soft.  Again, stir often to insure no burning.
Add the black beans, squeeze in the lime juice, and bring to a low boil.  Cover and simmer over a very low flame for 20 minutes or so.

Time to make the Mexican rice.  In a separate pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, sauté the green onions for just a few minutes.  These will cook quickly, so keep stirring.

Add the packaged Mexican rice to the pan and brown the rice for a minute or two, again stirring constantly.  Now add the required water and cook per the package directions.  Usually this will take about 25 minutes.
Everything should be done about the same time if you follow the above steps.  It also was convenient to have my very able sous chef David assisting me.

The black beans.

The Mexican rice.

The accoutrements.

Using the flour tortillas slightly heated in the microwave, assemble your "burr-ita/faj-rito" with as much of everything as you want.  If you really pack it with everything, it will be best to eat with a knife and fork, making it more burrito like.  If you pack it lightly, you might be able to pick it up with you hands and eat it like a fajita.  Eaters choice.

So there you have it, "Mexican Monday".  A treat for us.

                   --- Tom

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Broccoli, Tomatoes, Artichoke Hearts and Olives

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Broccoli, Tomatoes, Artichoke Hearts and Kalamata Olives

I substituted quinoa for whole wheat pasta in this tasty salad and it worked just as well, if not better.

It's a salad I made up a long time ago, when we were asked to bring a healthy dish to pass in a class we were taking at Healthworks.
Quinoa is a grain grown in Bolivia in the Andes of South America.  It is considered an ancient grain, treasured by the Incas, who considered it "mother grain."  Today it is popular because it is has great nutritutional value.  It has 6 grams of protein in 1/4 cup.

While it is cooking it smells a little like popcorn.  It is light and fluffy, more like couscous than rice.  It is supereasy to cook.  Takes only 15 minutes, once it comes to a boil.

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Broccoli, Tomatoes, Artichoke Hearts and Kalamata Olives

1 large head of broccoli, cut into bite size florets
garlic powder
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 can artichoke hearts, in water or brine, well drained and quartered
1/2 pint of ripe, cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup drained, pitted Kalamata olives, cut in two
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 T. good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 -1/2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup liquid (water, or chicken stock, or vegetable stock)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  On a heavy baking sheet, place broccoli florets in one layer.  Toss with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Roast for 20 minutes, stirring half way.  Remove and let cool on pan.
Cook quinoa per package instructions.  Rinse until water runs clear.

Add 1 1/2 cups liquid (I used 1/2 chicken stock 1/2 water) and to quinoa in small pan, and bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cover.  Cook for 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
When done, season with salt and pepper and some garlic powder, fluff well, cover and let sit until ready to assemble your salad.
In a large salad bowl, cut tomatoes and place in bottom of bowl.  Ditto for artichoke hearts, and Kalamata olives.

Mix up the vinaigrette in a small bowl.
Toast pine nuts.
Place quinoa and broccoli on top.  Pour over the vinaigrette.  And mix well.
Scatter the toasted pine nuts on top.

Serve warm, or at room temperature.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Chicken and Red Wine (Coq au Vin)

Chicken and Red Wine (Coq au Vin)

Last week, I spent in bed, recovering from a bad cold and being rundown.  Once I felt better, I decided to try making coq au vin because we had a partially opened bottle of LMR Ranch House Red.  Also, because I watched the Barefoot Contessa while in bed and she talked about the off-putting purple color, at least to some people.

Since I don't think I have ever made coq au vin --- I looked up what Jacques Pepin and Julia Child had to say about it -- and then went with Jacques.  But I added pancetta for the lardons ---which Julia thought were key.

It doesn't take very long to make. For some reason, I thought coq au vin was a dish you braised for hours.

The hardest part for me was cutting up the chicken --- but you could just buy parts, and skip this step. Just be sure to remove the skin.

Yes, the color is strange.  But it tastes very, very good.

Chicken and Red Wine (Coq au Vin)
(Jacques Pepin's Table)

1 chicken, cut into parts
2-3 ounces of diced pancetta (or lardons)
fresh or dried thyme, about 1/2 t. dried or a sprig of fresh
salt and pepper
mushrooms -- about a pint or 8 large ones, cut up
bottle of good red wine, dry and fruity
pearl onions, about 12, cleaned and peeled
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (2 t.)
1/2 cooking onion, chopped
a pinch of sugar
2 bay leaves
gravy flour (or potato starch)
2 T. butter
fresh chives (or parsley)

Cut up the chicken into parts, and reserve the unused parts for soup stock.  Remove the skin from all the parts but the legs.  Dry well with a paper towel.  Season with salt and pepper.
In a skillet large enough to hold the whole dish, brown the pancetta and the pearl onions for a few minutes.
Push them to the side and then add all of the chicken, except the breasts, to brown. Keep scraping up all of the brown bits in the bottom of the pan.
Add the sliced or chopped onion and continue to brown, to keep developing flavor. Add a pinch of sugar.
Add the chopped garlic, thyme, then lay the chicken breast on top, then add as many mushrooms as you can, then the bay leaves.  And cover with red wine.  The breasts will poach in the liquid and be delicious and tender.

Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the meat is fully cooked but not overcooked.
Remove the meat to your serving dish. Remove the bay leaves.
Then, add 1-2 T. of gravy flour mixed with 1 - 2 T. of butter, to thicken the sauce and reduce it until glossy and thick.
Pour over your chicken and garnish with fresh chives or parsley.
We served it over smashed potatoes.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thai Chicken and Rice by Tom

Thai Chicken and Rice by Tom

This is a simple, easy to make meal.  All in, it took me about 30 minutes to pull together.  Not spicy, but the right amount of Thai flavoring.  This will be a new "go to" meal for us.


Thai Chicken and Rice
(Cooking Light)

Serves 4

1-2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 sweet onion, cut into 1/4" wedges
1 can coconut milk
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 - 1 1/2 lb. boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite size pieces
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 small bottle roasted red bell peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
salt to taste
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice prepared per the directions on the package

Slice up the onions into small wedges.  These will break apart when you sauté them.

Trim the excess fat from the boneless chicken thighs, and cut into bite sized pieces.

On a separate cutting board, drain the roasted red peppers and coarsely chop them.  Coarsely chop the cilantro as well.  It is important to not use the same cutting board that you chopped the chicken on for food safety reasons.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Meanwhile start the rice, which will be the base that the Thai-style chicken will be served on.  Sauté the onions until they start to turn golden in color.  This requires that you stir them often so that they do not burn.  This will take about 7-10 minutes.
Now add the coconut milk, curry paste and the black pepper.  Stir this up and bring to a near boil.

Now add the chicken and stir into the mixture.  Make sure all of the chicken is covered.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through.
Finally add the roasted red peppers, the fish sauce and the cilantro and cook for another minute or two.  At the end of this step, taste to determine if it needs some salt.  I added about a quarter teaspoon of salt to my concoction.
Put the rice into the bottom of a large bowl or pasta dish, and ladle the Thai-style chicken mélange over the rice.  Be sure to add some of the liquid to the bowl for added taste.