Jasmine here! I love Latin food. In particular, I love Mexican food. I crave Mexican food pretty much every day and sometimes I have to make my own.
My favorite easy meal with mexican flavors is this:
- Sauteed onions and red peppers (I like to keep them fresh with just a bit of canola oil, salt and pepper, and maybe a bit of paprika or chili powder)
- Canned, refried black beans (we get ours from Trader Joe’s), reheated on the stovetop. Make sure to add plenty of paprika, cumin (this is KEY), and a dash of garlic or chili powder.
- Corn tortillas - you can heat them in the microwave in a stack or in a pan in the oven or on the stove top (special tip: fill a small bowl with water, add a tsp of oil, dip the tortilla in and then place it in the pan. this keeps it moist without too much extra oil).
- Guacamole (whether it’s my favorite homemade recipe - which I should probably post the next time I make it - or one that I’ve picked up from Trader Joe’s or Mi Pueblo, guacamole is key in many of my Mexican cooking endeavors).
- Assemble into simple tacos and enjoy!
Summer Harvest Risotto
One of my favorite cookbooks is the William-Sonoma California cookbook. It has a phenomenal basic risotto recipe that I have used a couple of times. This week, I had tons of fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil from Rory’s garden so I wanted to incorporate them into the recipe.
The Recipe (adapted from Williams-Sonoma California Cookbook)
- 2 tbs unsalted butter
- 1 cup thinly sliced leeks
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 3 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 ears of corn (remove husks and silk and strip off the kernels by cutting vertically down the ears of corn to create about 1 1/2 cups of kernels)
- 2-3 ripe fresh tomatoes
- 1/2 cup fresh, hand-torn basil
- 2 tbs store-bought truffle oil
1. Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the leaks and stir to coat with butter. Cover and cook until leeks are wilted and soft (about 5 minutes), checking to make sure leeks don’t burn.
2. Pour chicken stock and water in a saucepan and place over medium heat so that it stays hot but does not simmer.
3. Add the rice into the pan with the leeks and saute until the rice is heated throughout, it will become transparent all around the edges (about 3 minutes). Begin adding the liquid 1/2 cup at a time, adding more only when previous addition of liquid has been absorbed completely. After 10 minutes stir in the corn. It should take about 20 minutes total for all of the liquid to be absorbed and for the rice to become al dente and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper (freshly ground is best).
4. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes and basil and 1 tbs truffle oil. Plate the risotto and top it with the other tbs of truffle oil, evenly divided. Serve immediately!
The Verdict: I LOVE LOVE LOVE risotto and now that I’ve got down the basics it is so easy to adapt and create new versions based on the fresh ingredients we have on hand. This particular version was phenomenal - it tasted like summer. We served this risotto as an accompaniment to a simple spice-rubbed pan-seared chicken breast tenders and a fresh chopped salad. Delectable!
For a recent week night dinner I wanted to make something simple and healthy. Although I like most vegetables, broccoli has never been one of my favorites. There has been a lot of good-looking broccoli at the green grocer recently, so I’ve been buying it and I wanted to cook it in a new more exciting way to cook it.
Spicy Roasted Broccoli (with Garlic and Red Pepper): Epicurious
Coriander Teriyaki Chicken (I used this steak recipe to create the marinade and used organic chicken breast tenders instead:) Epicurious
The Verdict: The chicken was delicious! I love this marinade and it went very well with the simple, but spicy flavor of the broccoli. The roasting also gives the broccoli a great al dente texture that things like steaming and boiling don’t provide. All in all, I thought this was a highly successful, quick, easy, delectable dinner.
I found this peach cobbler recipe on a Gluten Free Goddess and decided to try it out for a dinner party/game night that our good friends Benjie and Stephanie hosted. We served it up over a game of Puerto Rico with some vanilla bean ice cream.
The Verdict: It turned out pretty well. The peach filling was delicious! That said, I personally like more contrast between fruit and crust than this recipe delivered. The cobbler topping and peach filling both had a sweet taste and the soft doughy topping and the soft stewed fruit were also similar in texture. Next time, I think I’ll take the recipe as inspiration and update it with my own touches - a flakier, more buttery, more savory topping.
Simple Fresh Side Salad
The other night Jasmine made a wonderful risotto and pan-seared chicken dinner. I’m always a fan of threes and of getting vegetables daily. Hence I threw together an easy side salad so that we could have some green color and fresh, tasty crunch on the plate.
I tossed together the following:
- Romaine, shredded
- Sprouted seeds (basic nameless ones that I bought at my green grocer)
- Green onion, cut into 1/4 in rings
- Carrot, shredded (from the garden)
- Newman’s Own Caesar dressing
Sunday Breakfast: Chicken Sausage, Egg Scramble, & Hash Browns
I love sunday mornings. The world is at peace, I’m feeling rested from having a day of weekend under my belt, and I can enjoy brunch guilt-free. Because sunday mornings are made for brunch, or late and leisurely hot breakfast, whichever you want to call it.
Jasmine and I went on a run and stretched. While she showered and got ready for the day, I cooked up some chicken-apple sausage, eggs, and hashbrowns.
- 2 chicken-apple sausages (I used pre-cooked basil ones)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 medium tomato, chopped (fresh from the garden)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 a red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 yellow or white onion, chopped
- 2 hash-browns, cut into half-inch squares (frozen, from Trader Joe’s, gluten free)
- 2 oz parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp chives, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Put olive oil in a medium saucepan and turn heat to medium
- When the oil shimmers, add onion to the pan
- Heat sausages in a small saucepan over medium heat
- About 3 minutes later, when the onion is starting to look translucent, add the bell pepper
- In a third saucepan, place chopped tomato over low-medium heat
- In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs so that the whites and yolks are evenly mixed
- Let the tomatoes sizzle for a minute then add the eggs into the saucepan
- Check the sausages, when they are getting browned, flip over
- When the bell peppers are soft, add the hashbrowns
- Stir up the eggs regularly, to keep them nice and fluffy as they cook
- When they are mostly cooked through but still slightly runny, add the cheese
- When eggs are cooked but still moist, remove from heat and serve on plates
- Add cooked sausages to the serving plates
- When hashbrowns are warm and lightly browned, add to plates and sprinkle with chives
- Season with salt and pepper, to taste
Grilled Portobello Mushroom Stuffed with Tomato and Cheese
As you know, I’ve enjoyed playing with portobello mushrooms recently. They’re have a great taste and a nice meaty texture, and add great bulk to a vegetarian meal. In this case, I wanted to try another variation on stuffing and grilling the mushrooms. This recipe yields a wonderful garlic, tomato, cheese, and herb flavor. Use it as a main dish or side dish.
- 2 large portobello mushrooms
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato (from the garden)
- 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- Juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced (from the garden)
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Remove mushroom stems. If desired, remove gills using a spoon (I left mine on)
- Marinade the mushrooms with the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.
- Prepare grill.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Place mushrooms stem-side down on the grill rack. Cover and grill for ~4 minutes, until browned on the underside.
- Flip mushrooms over and spoon the tomato and cheese filling into the upturned cavity, dividing evenly between the two mushrooms. Cover and grill for another 4 minutes, until the underside is brown and the cheese has melted.
- Carefully take the mushrooms off the grill and serve (note that the filling is slick and can easily slide off from a tilted mushroom).
Sides: I also grilled eggplant (brushed with a grilling sauce) and red bell peppers, to serve on the side. It was a very vegetable-heavy meal that turned out great. Each of the three vegetables had very different flavors, so my mouth was never bored!
Turkey & Tomato Sandwich
I enjoyed pulling together a simple sandwich today of the following:
- Turkey breast (peppered)
- Fresh tomato from the garden
- Dried rosemary
- Wheat bread
I enjoyed using hummus as my spread, instead of my typical mayonnaise, mustard, or aoli.
Light Lunch Salad of Arugula and Vegetables
For a light weekend lunch, I pulled together a simple salad. I had a bunch of fresh carrots from my garden, so I thought that I wanted to highlight them in the salad. Looking in the fridge, I was inspired to create a salad that was sweet, bitter, fresh, and savory. All at the same time. It was light on the palette and satisfying to my taste buds. Toss the following together in whatever ratios float your boat:
- Arugula greens
- Fresh carrot, grated (from the garden)
- Red bell pepper, sliced
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Dried cranberries
- Brianna’s New American dressing (balsamic vinaigrette)
Grilled Bell Pepper and Eggplant
It’s beautiful weather here in the Bay Area, so I’ve been trying to use the bbq grill as much as possible. As a side dish for dinner last night, I wanted to grill up some red bell pepper and this beautiful chinese eggplant that I fell in love with at the green grocer. Check out that vibrant purple color! It’s so mesmerizing.
I cut up both, then drizzled with a little olive oil and ground some fresh salt and pepper over top. I let it sit for about 30 minutes before firing up the grill. While they were on the grill, I brushed the eggplant slices with a tarragon honey-mustard grilling sauce which imparted them with a slightly sweet and tangy overtone.
I grilled both until they were al dente. Hot all the way through, easily sliced into by my front teeth, and slightly crunch on the inside. The eggplant took on an almost “wet” look and the bell peppers took on a little charring.
Prosciutto and Arugula Sandwich
Today I felt like a full-tilt savory sandwich. Something that would delight me with its saltiness, tanginess, bitterness, and all-around richness. Hence I pulled together the following into a deeply-satisfying sandwich:
- Whole-grain mustard
- Arugula greens
- Sliced asiago cheese
- A ciabatta roll
How to Make Great Spicy Breakfast Potatoes
While I’m as big a fan as anybody for weekend brunches out with friends, sometimes cooking up a warm breakfast at home really hits the spot. While Jasmine was out at her bar method exercise class, I first went on a run in the cool, calm, over-cast day to get my blood flowing and properly wake me up. Having finished stretching and showering, my tummy was rumbling. I sipped on water to rehydrate myself, but I knew that some potatoes and eggs were really what I needed to satisfy myself.
Hence when Jasmine got back from her class, we started cooking up a wonderful breakfast. She handled the eggs (written about in another post) while I tackled the potatoes.
As you’ve probably surmised by now, we don’t like boring food. So I decided to spice things up a little bit by adding some great flavors to my potatoes. Here are the ingredients I prepped, in the proportions shown in the below photo
- 2 large yukon potatoes (or any type with thin, edible skin), cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup white onion, roughly chopped
- 4 or 5 dried red chili peppers, de-seeded and sliced into thin rings
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tsp rosemary (dried or fresh)
- ~2 tbsp olive oil
A note about the peppers: I generally keep a bag of the dried red chili peppers in our cabinet, as they last for a long time and are great for adding some spicy and savory flavor to dishes. I got mine from a chinese grocery store (it was $1 for a huge bag of easily 200 peppers), but you should be able to find them larger grocery stores as this type of pepper is used readily in asian cooking.
For these peppers, you vary the spiciness of the dish by controlling the number of pepper seeds that you put in the dish…in my experience, the number of seeds are more important than the quantity of pepper skin for determining spiciness…For this dish, I wanted a low-medium spice level; a spice that was present, but more assertive while chewing than upon immediately entering the mouth. Hence to prep the peppers, I first cut each pepper in half width-wise (not length-wise) and shook out as many dried seeds as I could. I then sliced along the pepper width-wise to get my thin rings, and kept whatever seeds were still left in the pepper.
- Add the olive oil to a medium-sized skillet and heat on a medium heat setting
- When the oil is warm and starting to shimmer, add the garlic and dried pepper
- After about 1 or 2 minutes, when the aroma of the garlic and pepper is potent in your nose (and hence their flavors have started leaching into the oil), add the potatoes
- Cook the potatoes, stirring occasionally so that the potatoes get evenly browned (in my case I wanted just a light browning, if you want a heavier browning, you can turn up the heat towards the end)
- After about 10 minutes, add the onion and stir everything together
- Cook the potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork, which indicates they’re cooked through. The onion should be translucent and slightly browned.
- Stir in the rosemary and serve
Shortcut: If you’re running short on time, you can significantly decrease a potato’s cooking time by microwaving it first. In this case, microwave the cubed potatoes on high for 3-4 minutes, until you can pierce them with a fork. Meanwhile, cook the garlic, dried pepper, and onions together in the skillet, and add the potatoes when they are ready from the microwave. The potatoes won’t be quite as infused with flavor as the stovetop-only method, but finishing them in the pan can brown them nicely.
Epic Pig Roast at the Madsen Ranch
This post is long overdue, as the event I’m writing about occurred at the end of July. As you probably know by now, James is very ambitious with his cooking. And because it’s James, that ambition usually is realized with an event that is pulled off with precision, audacity, and enjoyment. His birthday was no exception.
This year, James wanted to involve a number of his friends in his cooking adventures. Hence 13 of us brave souls headed to his family’s ranch in Paso Robles, CA for a weekend of relaxing and cooking. Much wine would be drunk and much merriment would be had. But most importantly, a young pig would be cooked and enjoyed by adoring fans. What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a pig roast?!?
With a little research, James decided to try a cuban-style roast, modeled after these Cuban guys from Miami: http://cuban-christmas.com/pigroast.html. We hence elected to build a cement-block pit, butter-fly the pig and hold it between two metal frames, marinade the pig with cuban flavors, and cook it over a 5 hour period.
James made arrangements with a friendly local butcher in Paso to buy a relatively small (70 pound) hog. The hog had had a free-range good life and was freshly butchered for our roast. I arrived with James early Friday afternoon to pick up the pig and acquire the necessary supplies for the rest of our food and the method to cook the pig. It was a good thing that his parents keep a pick-up truck at the ranch, as 70 cement blocks weigh almost half a ton!
That first night we built part of the pit and marinaded the pig and stored it under ice in one of the bath-tubs in the house. The next morning a number of the crew went wine tasting while Eric, Jay, and I built the metal frame that would hold the pig. Upon everyone’s return, the coals were lit and the pig was ceremoniously brought out, fixed into the frame, and put over the coals. Eric manned the fire for the 4.5 hour cook time, and we flipped the pig once half-way through. Everyone drank mojitos and beers throughout the afternoon, melting in the sun and enjoying the sounds of summer.
About 1.5 hours from the pig being done, Jasmine lead the charge in the kitchen to prepare the side dishes, included black beans, saffron rice, plantain, and a salad. I fired up a side grill to cook some vegetables that I knew would also be delicious accompaniment to the meal. When everything was ready, we set up a big buffet and everyone settled into chairs on the porch. We munched away, sipping wine and licking fingers, until we were all thoroughly stuffed.
This roast was epic, all in good ways. I enjoyed having such a big undertaking to focus the weekend around, and appreciated understanding where the pig meat I was eating came from. Everyone was very satisfied with the weekend and I’m sure we’ll be talking about it for many years hence!
Grilled Swordfish with Corn, Sausage, and Chive Oil
While usually Jasmine and I opt for fresh ingredients, we do usually keep our freezer stocked with some items that come in handy when in a pinch. A few months ago I picked up some frozen swordfish at Trader Joe’s, and I wanted to use it before it started getting freezer burn. Jasmine looked up a couple of recipes, and found this one at Epicurious that I adapted to our needs and ingredients on hand.
- 2 medium ears of white corn, husked
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 lemon
- 6 peeled garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large fresh rosemary sprig
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 6-ounce swordfish steaks
- 1 chicken sausage, cut length-wise in quarters and cross-wise in 1/3 inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon minced green onion
- 1 teaspoon dried red pepper, crushed or minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cook corn in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 8 minutes.
- Using tongs, remove corn from cooking liquid.
- Cut corn kernels from cobs.
- Save 1/4 cup of the water the corn boiled in.
- Combine 1/3 cup oil, lemon juice, half of the garlic, and rosemary in a small bowl; set aside.
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
- Add chicken sausage and sauté until almost crisp approx 3 minutes.
- Add remaining garlic and the green onions and sauté until soft but not brown, approx 3 minutes.
- Stir in corn and minced red pepper.
- Add butter and 2 tablespoons of the corn cooking water; stir until mixture is moist and fully cooked, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in chives and thyme and season with sea salt and pepper; put on low heat while cooking the fish.
- Grill the defrosted swordfish steaks on the bbq grill on a medium-high heat, brushing with the oil, lemon, rosemary, and garlic mixture. It should take 2-3 minutes per side.
- Divide corn among 2 plates or bowls. Top each with swordfish steak and sprinkle with sea salt and chive oil (see below).
Use a blender to combine equal parts olive oil and fresh chives (we used 1/4 cup of each). Drizzle it on top of the cooked fish. You can let it sit and then strain if desired, but we left it chunky. That’s just how we roll.
Sides: while grilling the fish, I also grilled some fresh figs (spliced in half), which makes for a great treat. Jasmine tossed some arugula greens in a balsamic vinegar dressing, and topped the greens with the grilled figs and feta cheese.
Verdict: we were very happy with the salad, the bed of corn and sausage, and the general flavors of the swordfish. The only thing left wanting was the swordfish texture - while we were expecting the “steaks” to require a bit of cutting, Jasmine’s piece required a bit of… sawing. It could’ve been a different, tougher part of the fish that the cut had been taken from, but next time I think we’ll play it safe and go for fresh swordfish.