Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cauliflower Zipped up a Notch with Hatch Chili

Is your food spicy & hot or just hot? We had an experience last weekend where we thought we'd figured out the heat level of some jalapeno peppers. I seeded & de-veined them however once the peppers were pulled off the grill we were all crying from the pain. (literally!! Did something happen to this late summer jalapeno crop? We love them but seriously way past habanero heat level these peppers were...) The family is not short in the heat tolerance area so we thought we'd better temper the jalapeno intake this week. We opted for the Hatch peppers, a nice spicy change of pace after the over the top jalapenos. (the smoke is still drifting from my ears...) As the saying goes: “Variety's the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor” and so I was in search of flavor with or without that tall glass of ice water close at hand~ For a kinder gentler jalapeno recipe check out our New Blog at Fresh from the Heart of Texas.

Hatch Chili festivities have begun here in town. While we are a lengthy drive from New Mexico, Texans do love a good spicy chili & a reason to celebrate. At several local stores around the area, the large roasters full of Hatch Chilis are set up outside (in our 100+ summer temps) searing those Hatch Chilis. The peppers can be purchased fresh or straight out of the chili roaster.
Inspired by a side dish challenge from fellow blogger Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice I searched for a way to incorporate one of my favorite spicy peppers into a side dish. Not to be a double dipper but I also follow Gloria Chadwick's blogs & love her Hatch Chili Heaven blog where she is positively green about all things Hatch. She inspired me to zip up the spice in my Cauliflower dish. Searching through several cookbooks I came across an Indian recipe which blends a wonderful array of spices & flavors into a thick flavorful sauce topping cauliflower. While I enjoy the flavor of several curry mixtures, Mr Texas to Mexico is not really a fan. I am however happy to say this sauce contains no curry blend. The tomato, ginger & garlic sauce really create a magic that can transport even an average menu into something exciting with a head of cauliflower. The heat in this dish can be taken up or down depending on what your preferences are.

Two books I've been reading are: The complete Hot & Spicy Cookbook & on the Chile trail, 100 Great Recipes from Across America. ( a birthday gift from Hornsfan) The last by Coyote Joe, also known as Mad Coyote Joe Daignaeult. I can recommend both books & believe the Hot & Spicy cookbook goes a long way towards helping cooks decipher some of the special ingredients involved in cuisines of 5 different countries featured in the book.

Cauliflower for me is great steamed with a squeeze of lemon & pepper...that was before I tasted this recipe.

Chili Roasted
3 Medium Tomatoes. sliced
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 inch of peeled, sliced, ginger root
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
2 Tbsp. Ghee, or clarified butter
3/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground chili powder
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1 c. peas, if frozen thaw
1 Hatch Green Chili, seeded, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Med. Cauliflower, cut heart out & blanch

Blend tomatoes, onion, garlic & ginger in the blender forming a nice paste. Heat butter or ghee in a skillet over medium heat, add the paste, turmeric, chili powder, garam masala. Stir fry until the paste & spices separate. Mixture will be pulling away from skillet & have loose texture to it. This process takes 5-6 minutes. Add the peas, Hatch Green Chilis & salt then continue to cook 4-5 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Place the Blanched Cauliflower in a large ovenproof dish, pour the spices over it. Place in preheated oven *375 for 30 minutes or till the Cauliflower is the texture you want it. I like this vegetable to maintain a crisp quality to it. Serve flat on plate with the spices on the Cauliflower florets. Serves 4, great served with warm nam bread.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chicken with a savory Gravy~Pollo Guisado

"The fact is that it takes more than ingredients and technique to cook a good meal. A good cook puts something of himself into the preparation -- Pearl Bailey, 'Pearl's Kitchen"

Since our return from living in Mexico I have craved certain Mexican dishes which are not as easily found in restaurants here in the states. Some meals are just good homemade versions of things which are probably comfort foods in any culture. Any one dish meal that a cook puts their heart & special touch to has bound to be well recieved. Pollo Guisado is just that type of meal. A Mexican comfort food. Like your Grandmother's steak & gravy or Chicken & dumplings, Pollo Guisado translates to Chicken in Gravy. Simple & hearty this poultry dish is easy and hits home with the depth of flavors as well as being an all in one pot meal. Browned chicken, an easy roux and veggies are all that are needed for this Guisado.
This summer I have had a bounty of tomatoes & peppers from the garden which are an essential part of this dish. Moreover making this meal gave me reason to travel to a favorite grocery store to pick up a few extras for this dish.
On a recent trip to our local Fiesta Mart grocery store my daughter Bytes from Texas & I found Yoki Cheese bread mix (Pan de Queso) a typical Brazilian preparation for a very tasty cheese bread. There are certainly recipes I could try to locate for this bread but we had very much enjoyed the unique warm bits of bread during an evening we spent at Fogo de Chão. Upon finding the boxes of Yoki mix we added them to our shopping cart without another thought. Any foodie knows that a trip to an ethnic grocery store can yield astonishing surprises. Keep an open mind & don't miss a single aisle. We have been shopping Fiesta Mart for more years than I can count & I am always amazed by some new product I've never seen before. We will continue to scour the local stores & shops keeping up with current trends & flavors. Some of those adventures will bring us here to the New Blog, Bytes from Texas & I have started. Enjoy the last days of summer & buen provecho~

Simple ingredients can scent the kitchen with flavors that satisfy & soothe.

Pollo Guisado

4 Tbsp Oil
2 lbs fryer parts, or Chicken thighs (your choice)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 large seeded, sliced red or yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cumino
1 tsp fresh or dried thyme leaves
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup tomato sauce*el Pato brand with chilis is preferred,
(found in Latin American grocery stores)

Sprinkle chicken parts with salt & pepper tossing so the seasonings are coating the chicken. Saute the chicken parts in oil in a deep Dutch oven over medium heat. Brown chicken for approx 15 min turning so that the pieces are evenly browned. Set the browned chicken pieces on a plate & scrape up bits which may be at the bottom of the Dutch oven. Those bits are just an additional flavoring to the roux which you make next.
Saute the garlic in the oil, browning slightly before adding in the 4 Tbsp flour & then brown oil, flour mixture till it attains a "tawny brown" color. Add the onion, peppers & fresh tomatoes. Stir continually so this mixture does not burn, scrap any pieces which stick to the bottom of the Dutch oven, cook 2-3 min.
Add in slowly 2 cups of chicken broth, mixing continually, to this add the tomato sauce, cumin & thyme. Place the Chicken pieces back into the Guisado/Gravy. Bring all of this to a slow simmer. Cook approx. 30 - 45 minutes. The chicken will be very tender & flavored with the rich gravy once it is ready to serve. If the gravy reduces, add a little more chicken stock. Skim any excess oil off the Guisado-Gravy. (Grease is not gravy) Serve this hot with either tortillas, french bread or cornbread. Enjoy!

*I cooked this dish with Chicken thighs because the moist dark meat tends to have a little more flavor for a Guisado.
Shopping a Latin American or Grocery store can yield many surprises, try something new to give a standard dish a new twist. My daughter & I frequent a large Latin American grocery store here & found easy to prepare Yoki cheese bread mixes such an great "go to" addition for a weeknight meal. (they are gluten free too!) If you cannot find Yoki Cheese bread but would like the mix you might check here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Pico, New Blog & Cooking Inspirations~

Food & Family have close connections in our home~

After a Summer of rushing about, having company & life in general I am very much behind the curve with my blog. I have had much
time during the off-blog time to get together with Bytes from Texas & come up with a mother daughter blogging adventure. We love Farmers Markets & enjoy cooking with garden fresh ingredients we find on our jaunts around the state of Texas. What could be more appropriate than a dual adventure through cyber Foodie world? We named our blog....(drum roll please!!)
Fresh from the Heart of Texas. We thought it most relevant given our location. We will both continue to keep our original blogs posting (from whence it all originated) & just do some postings now & again on the new one when the mood strikes us! In the meantime this summer we have been experimenting with cool recipes from new foods we find. Both of my daughters tend to inspire me in different directions however this one challenges me in the kitchen in more ways than one. She was trying to cook as early as 6 yrs old when she would come in early on Saturday mornings & let me know she had "made something for she & her sister". She was well known back in the day for her microwave breakfast specials. (microwave is the only thing I allowed her to use when Mom was not in the room) She has surpassed herself as a cook and as a young woman & I am so proud of her along with her blogging adventures. Little sister is even heading in the blogger direction. Seems like it has taken hold of our entire family.
We have a contact locally who is growing Thai melons. The flavors are somewhere between cantaloupe & honeydew melon. The Thai melons ripen very quickly from farm to table & my guess is we don't see many of these melons in the grocery store because they would soften quickly & ruin. I am inspired when I see some new veggie or fruit I have never tried to use it in some fun recipe which really makes the flavors pop & the senses come to life. Hope you give it a try & enjoy the new blog~ Fresh from the Heart of Texas from our life into yours.

Mango & Melon Pico de Gallo
1 Mango, peeled, cut off the seed & diced
1 cup of Melon (honeydew or cantaloupe fine), seeded, skinned & diced
1 grapefruit, sectioned & chopped
2 fresh jalapenos, cut into 1/4 in. strips
1/4 cup onion, sliced
2 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 sprig of fresh lemon thyme, leaves only (1/4 tsp)

Combine melon, mango, grapefruit, onions, jalapeno strips & toss with oil & lime juice. Add salt to taste & lemon thyme. Marinate for 3-4 hours in refrigerator. Serve over fish or chicken. I show mine served over Talapia (my fillet was disappointingly thin & frail) but it would be even better over a more sturdy fish filet such as Amber Jack or Tuna. Buen Provecho~