My recipes are meant to be shared and enjoyed. I welcome you to re-post my recipes and text. I ask only that you credit me and include a link to my blog if you post any of my content.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Two Must-See Programs For Foodies (Especially Texas Foodies) Coming Soon

The new season of Next Iron Chef featuring two of my favorite chefs, Anne Burrell and Chuck Hughes, and an overall incredible cast of contestants, begins October 30th on Food Network.  Don't miss it!  Check out this link for more info:

And as a Native Texan, I'm anxiously awaiting Top Chef Texas on Bravo, which premiers on November 2nd.  Check out this link for more info:

Don't forget to set your DVRs for these great food competition programs!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Puerto Rican Carne Mechada/Cuban Boliche Hybrid Recipe

All us good ole southern girls grew up with pot roast.  Here's a Latin twist on our down-home favorite.

Puerto Rican Carne Mechada and Cuban Boliche are variations on a theme of succulent stuffed beef eye of round roast, with a savory sauce, cooked either on the stovetop or in the oven until tender.  There are lots of recipes out there with varying ingredients and cooking methods.  The following recipe combines my favorite elements from each version and was inspired by a couple of recipes, namely Carne Mechada -- Puerto Rican Stuffed Pot Roast from the blog Platanos, Mangoes and Me, and Cuban Boliche from the blog CDKitchen.

This is so yummy.  Savoriness inside the roast, savoriness in the sauce, super yum.  The roast is tender because of the pre-salting and the slow braising, even though it's a totally affordable cut.  I hope you'll enjoy it.

Just a note:  I had intended to cube up some potatoes and add them to the Dutch oven during the last 30 minutes of cooking and just totally forgot (probably because we're so in the habit of limiting our intake of starchy carbs).  That would have been a really great addition, though, to soak up the yummy sauce, either that or a scoop of the fabulous white rice that Puerto Ricans and Cubanos are famous for.  This recipe absolutely screams for some potatoes or rice to sop up all the crazy good sauce.

Puerto Rican Carne Mechada/Cuban Boliche Hybrid Recipe

3-4 lb. beef eye round roast
Kosher salt
3.5 oz. package Goya (or your favorite brand) Spanish chorizo (divided use)
2 oz. manzanilla olives with pimientos (divided use)
1 head of garlic, separated into cloves (divided use)
1 packet of Goya sazon seasoning
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cubanelle peppers or 1 green bell pepper
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon dry oregano
4 bay leaves
1 cup red wine (I used Merlot, but I think the best option would be Chilean Carmenere if I hadn't finished off that bottle last week)
2 tablespoons capers
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 cup beef broth (I had homemade chicken broth so I used that instead)
1 bunch of cilantro

Rinse the roast and pat dry with paper towels.  Pierce a hole through the middle of the roast lengthwise.  I used a bread knife because it's really long and the blade is the same width along its entire length so it can make a nice even hole.  Rub the roast with a teaspoon of Kosher salt.  Rub the salt all over the outside and into the hole you just pierced as much as possible.  Let it sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.

While the roast is sitting and "salting," cut the chorizos into quarters lengthwise, peel away the casings, and slice the quarters.  Drain the olives.  Peel the garlic cloves and cut any large cloves in half.

Rinse the salt off the roast and pat dry with paper towels.  Time to stuff the roast with yumminess.  Starting with two chorizo pieces in each hand, insert them into the holes in the roast from each end until they meet in the middle, then insert a garlic clove or garlic clove half from each end, then an olive from each end.  Continue inserting two chorizo pieces from each end, followed by a garlic clove from each end, and an olive from each end until the cavity is filled.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Sprinkle the sazon all over the "stuffed" roast and rub it into the meat.  Let the stuffed, seasoned roast sit at room temp while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Dice the cubanelles or bell pepper and the onion.  Mince the leftover garlic cloves.  Cut the leftover olives in half.  Drain the capers.  Rough chop the cilantro.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add olive oil.  Add roast and brown on all sides by cooking 2-4 minutes on each side, turning until it's browned all over.  Remove browned roast to a plate.  Reduce heat to medium low and allow the Dutch oven to cool until the oil isn't smoking.

When the olive oil in the Dutch oven has cooled a bit, add the leftover chorizo.  Cook and stir a couple of minutes.  Add the diced cubanelles or bell pepper and the diced onion, oregano, and bay leaves.  Cook, stirring frequently, until pepper and onion is opaque.  Add the leftover garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, allowing the moisture released by the veggies to cook off.

Add the red wine, stirring to deglaze the pan.  Add the leftover olives, the capers, tomato sauce, broth, and cilantro.  Bring to a simmer, then add the roast back into the pan.  Spoon the sauce over the roast.

Put the lid on the Dutch oven and put it in the oven to braise for 2 hours.

Remove roast, slice, and serve with lots of sauce.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kisir (Turkish Bulgur Wheat Salad)

Kisir is a Turkish salad made with bulgur (cracked wheat).  I'd never heard of it until my husband's coworker from Turkey told him about it.  It's similar to Lebanese tabouli, but incorporates red pepper paste that gives it a nice tangy flavor and pretty color.  This recipe is an amalgamation of what I found when I Googled-searched Kisir recipes.  I can't tell you if it's authentic since I've never had it before, but it tastes really good.  And it's loaded with fiber and nutrients, always a bonus.

Turkish bulgur and red pepper paste.  Cool, huh?

Kisir Recipe

1 1/2 cup fine bulgur

6 green onions, white part and some of the green part sliced thin
2 Kirby cucumbers, seeded and diced
2 tomatoes, diced
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped dill

3 tablespoons Turkish red pepper paste (there are mild and spicy versions; I used mild)
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
crushed red pepper to taste (omit if using spicy red pepper paste)
salt to taste

Put the bulgur in a medium-sized bowl.  Add enough simmering water to just cover; that will be roughly 1 1/2 cups water.  Let sit for 15 minutes to absorb the water.  While you're waiting for the water to absorb you can prepare the veggies and herbs.

In a large bowl, mix the onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, mint, and dill.  Add the red pepper paste, lemon juice, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, crushed red pepper if using, and a few pinches of salt.  Mix well and let the veggie mixture sit for a few minutes for the salt to dissolve and the flavors to blend.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Pour the soaked bulgur into the veggie mixture, mix well, and serve.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Making Pesto With Morgan

Morgan is a wee bit shy and doesn't like for me to post photos of her.  I think she'll be okay, though, with this little pic of her presenting the yummy pesto that she made with me.

Homemade Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts
3 peeled and roughly chopped garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese or a combination of the two
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Use the measurements as guidelines and adjust the amounts to suit your taste.

In a small saute pan or skillet, toast the pine nuts and walnuts over medium heat, shaking constantly, for a few minutes to give them a nice toasty flavor, but being careful not to let them burn ... the difference between toasted nutty goodness and blaring smoke alarm is, oh, about a second, haha.  Let the nuts cool until they can be handled easily.

Put the basil, pine nuts, and walnuts in a food processor and pulse a few times to roughly chop.  Add the garlic cloves and pulse a few times.

With the food processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil.  Stop processing and scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula.

Add the grated cheese and pulse just to combine.  Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper and pulse to combine.

Let the pesto rest for a few minutes, especially if you're using Kosher salt, which has larger granules than table salt and needs some time to dissolve.  Then give your pesto a quick pulse in the food processor, taste it, and add more olive oil, salt, or pepper if necessary.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Spaghetti squash is a tasty, low-carb option to use in place of pasta.  I'm not gonna lie to you, it absolutely does not have the same flavor and consistency as pasta; it is, however, yummy and satisfying.  You can mix it with leftover tomato sauce and top it with cheese to make a great low-carb meatless casserole.  This is a nice Meatless Monday kind of main dish if you're trying to reduce your carb or animal protein intake or cook on a budget.  And a big bonus for my family is that our young'uns like it and every serving provides them a couple of their daily servings of veggies as well as some calcium.

I don't have exact measurements to give you for this recipe.  I used two fairly small spaghetti squash, a few cups of leftover tomato sauce, and enough grated Mozzarella cheese to cover the surface of the mixture, and cooked it in an 8-by-8 baking dish.

For the tomato sauce, here's a recipe for a quick and easy weeknight tomato sauce or use your favorite recipe.

There are several ways to prepare spaghetti squash.  You can Google "how to cook spaghetti squash" for info about different prep methods.  I chose the method where you cut the squash in half lengthwise before baking.  This requires a very, very sharp chef's knife or cleaver and some muscle; having a strong hubby to hack through the squash for you is highly recommended (muchas gracias, mi amor!).  After you cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds and pulp.  If you're patient, it's worth separating out the seeds to roast in the oven, just like pumpkin seeds.  They're super-yummy!

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray the foil with nonstick spray.  Put the squash halves cut side down on the foil and bake at 375 degrees until you can easily insert a fork right through the skins and the flesh, about 30 to 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a while, then use a fork to scrape the flesh from the squash.  The flesh will shred into spaghetti-like strands as it's scraped.

Shredded spaghetti squash

Mix the squash and tomato sauce and put it in a greased casserole dish. 

Cover with a nice, thick layer of grated Mozzarella. 

Bake at 375 degrees until the casserole is hot and the cheese is ooey-gooey melted, 20 to 30 minutes.

Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Soup

This twist on broccoli cheese soup is creamy, cheesy, and pretty darn nutritious.  It has just a touch of butter and flour, only enough to allow the cheese to melt without separating, and it has milk instead of cream.  The primary thickener is the cauliflower.  Our gradually-becoming-less-picky kiddos like this soup, and it provides them lots of veggies and calcium ... winning!!!

For the cheddar in this recipe I highly recommend the Cabot extra sharp white cheddar available at Wal-Mart.  I know, it's totally counterintuitive to think the best cheese comes from Wal-Mart, but this is our family favorite for taste, smooth melting, and reasonable price ... go figure.

One other recommendation, and it's about specialty ingredients.  It's seldom necessary to invest in specialty ingredients.  For instance, the cheapest black peppercorns will taste great as long as they're freshly ground and I love Lawry's seasoned salt more than any higher-priced version I've ever had.  Once in a while, though, a specialty ingredient really makes the recipe, well, special.  I think that's the case with this soup, where I used Penzeys toasted granulated onion (no, they don't pay me anything to tout their products; boy, don't I wish).  You can of course substitute regular onion powder, but the results just won't be quite as toasty yummy good.

Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Soup Recipe

3/4 pound broccoli crowns
1 head of cauliflower
cloves of half a head of garlic
2 cups stock (see note)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup lowfat milk
1/2 pound grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons toasted granulated onion
salt and freshly ground black pepper
splash of Sherry (optional)

Note:  The best stock for this soup is a smoky one, such as a stock made from smoked chicken or ham bones.  Use the best stock you have available.


Rinse and drain the broccoli and cauliflower.  Trim away the very ends of the broccoli stems and any leaves.  Cut the florets off the stems and roughly chop the florets.  Set the chopped florets aside.  Roughly chop the broccoli stems.  

Cut the cauliflower head in quarters and cut away the stem/core and leaves.  Rough chop the quartered cauliflower. 

Peel the garlic cloves.

(Remember to throw all the veggie trimming "discards" in your freezer bag for making stock later.)

Veggies prepped and ready to fulfill their soup destiny

Fill a large heavy-bottomed stockpot with water, add a few big pinches of salt, and bring to a low boil.  Add the broccoli stem chunks, the cauliflower chunks, and the garlic cloves.  Boil gently until all veggies are very tender and can be easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.

Once you have the broccoli stems, cauliflower, and garlic boiling in the salted water, bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan, add broccoli florets, and gently boil while you complete the remaining steps.

When the broccoli stems, cauliflower, and garlic are tender, drain them through a strainer, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Put the heavy-bottomed stockpot back on the range; you're going to use it again.  Process the broccoli stems, cauliflower, and garlic in a food processor or blender until smooth, working in batches if necessary, and adding a little of the cooking water if necessary.

In the heavy-bottomed stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat, add the flour, and whisk for a couple of minutes to cook the flour.  Whisk in the milk and continue whisking until the mixture thickens like gravy.  Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring to incorporate.

When all the cheese has melted, pour in the stock with the broccoli florets, add the toasted granulated onion, salt and pepper to taste, and Sherry, if using.  Simmer for a while before serving to allow all the flavors to blend.

Makes roughly (very roughly) 2 1/2 quarts of soup.