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Carne Guisada – Puerto Rican Beef Stew

Carne Guisada

When I was a kid, I did not show much love for my mother’s beef stew, carne guisada.  I was told once by a family friend that my mother made the best beef stew and I shrugged it off.  Teenagers are stupid.  I didn’t really get the alchemy behind sofrito, tomato, potatoes, carrots, bay and beef.  My siblings and I would get home back from school and basically ignore the large pot where the beef stew, stuffed pot roast and carne a la catalana would simmer for hours before dinnertime. It was just… there.  It took going away for college and coming back home to appreciate the comforting magic of these slow cooked dishes.   Read More…

World Peace Chocolate Chip Cookies

World Peace Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ever had the strongest urge to eat something sweet and chocolatey, and absolutely nothing in the pantry or refrigerator fit the bill?

It would have been a LOT worse had there not been a bag of chocolate chips leftover from the holidays.  And a vacuum sealed bag of cocoa powder that hasn’t seen the light of day in over a year.

That also speaks of the cobwebs and dust piling up around here…

It’s not like the days magically grew an extra hour or two to accommodate the growing demands of the day job, running practice, the house and all the other curveballs life throws.

But you know, those cravings… they cover all the things we love and want to do, not just eat.  Sometimes you just have to plug in the stand mixer and start measuring. And sit down in front of the laptop, and let it flow out. Whatever it is.

World Peace Chocolate Chip Cookies

World Peace Cookies – a Dorie Greenspan classic – is a dark chocolate shortbread cookie laced with semisweet chocolate chips and sea salt.  As a group, we baked a version included in Around My French Table – the cocoa sablés.  After quickly flipping through my friend Liz’s blog – which hosts many incredible chocolate recipes – I realized this was not time to try a full new recipe.  My favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe got a quick makeover with cocoa powder and a smidge extra salt. Voilá: World Peace chocolate chip cookies!

World Peace Chocolate Chip Cookies

The original cookie recipe uses 1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour.  I swapped 1/4 cup for the cocoa powder and added an extra tablespoon of flour to the dry ingredients. On a whim, a teaspoon of powdered peanut butter made its way to the dough. It probably brought out the saltier notes in the cookie.  If you don’t have any powdered peanut butter, it’s not a big deal.  The cookies turn out crunchy after resting for an hour on a cooling rack.

World Peace Chocolate Chip Cookies

Curried Grass-Fed Beef Shanks #CaboRojoSteaks

curried grass-fed beef shanks

It’s hard avoiding all the negative – and sadly true – news coming out of Puerto Rico this summer.  Countless articles explain how the government borrowed beyond its means during the last four decades and the reasoning behind many families leaving the island in record numbers since the 1950s.  Not as many articles have been written about the creative ways some Puerto Ricans are trying to solve some of our more pressing issues, like economic growth and sustainability.  And there are many people who are leading the way down that road through entrepreneurship and collaboration.  We – as a society – need to get through our thick skulls (and sluggish butts) that supporting these local products (and the businesses that consume them) is crucial for our economic recovery.

Let’s go to the mall Plaza del Mercado today

We found out about Cabo Rojo Steaks, a local grass-fed cattle ranch operation, through a friend.  Their Providencia Ranch is located in Cabo Rojo, a town in the Southwestern corner of the island, but they have a retail operation at the Santurce Plaza del Mercado.  Their cattle is fully grass-fed, free range, and humanely raised for eighteen months.  The Cabo Rojo Steaks product line includes everything – from the traditional steaks cuts, beef stew chunks, and churrascos to bones for stock, heart, tongue, liver… it’s all available at the Placita or by special order.  All of their cuts are portioned and vacuum sealed for easy selection and storage.

Cabo Rojo Steaks Ribeye Steaks

Cabo Rojo Steaks Grass Fed Ribeye Steak

Prior to cooking these steaks, I did not have experience working with grass-fed beef.  Beef from grass-fed, free range cattle is leaner than the varieties more commonly available in retail.  There is much less marbling, as you can see on the picture of the ribeye steak above.  To ensure the meat remains tender, it is best to cook it to medium temperature at most.  We coated these steaks in oil, salt and pepper just before tossing them over the hot coals.

Curry can’t be hurried

Grass-fed beef has a gamier flavor than corn fed varieties.  If you like lamb or goat, you would definitely enjoy the taste of grass-fed beef.  When we were looking at the different cuts at their counter at la Placita, I knew I wanted to marry the flavor of the beef with curry.  Curried goat stews are very popular all through the Caribbean.  Somewhere along curry’s journey from India (through Britain) to the West Indies its flavor mellowed out, it met a tomato or two, and obtained its own culinary identity.

curried grass-fed beef shanks

Browned beef shanks ready for braising in the coconut, curry and tomato sauce.

local organic cayenne peppers

Local organic cayenne peppers from Desde Mi Huerto. For a milder taste, scrape out the seeds and membranes. For full on heat add the whole chopped pepper to the pot while sweating the onions.

This curry recipe would work well with short ribs, beef stew chunks, boneless skinless chicken thighs, and of course the shanks (osso buco).   The smells that will come out of the oven while the beef braises… YUM!  Plan to make this recipe with plenty of time.  Prepping for the recipe and searing the beef takes approximately twenty minutes, and it the braising process requires two and a half hours.  It will be worth the time: the meat from the shanks will fall of the bone, and explode with flavor.  There will be plenty of sauce to soak up with white long grain rice, apio root puree, or mashed cauliflower.

curried grass fed beef shanks

Cabo Rojo Steaks has a retail outpost at the Placita de Santurce, operating at regular market hours from Monday through Saturdays.  All of the products featured in this article were purchased with our own funds.  We did not receive any compensation for writing this article or developing the curried grass-fed beef shanks recipe.

Flash Fried Green Cherry Tomatoes

Fried Green Cherry Tomatoes

I purchased a basket of assorted cherry tomatoes on a trip to the warehouse club last week.  It included every color under the sun, from striped brownish red, red, orange and yellow, to green.  I made a point of using every tomato during the week – except the green ones.  At the time I wasn’t sure to which dish I would be adding them to, but their destiny was clear.  I was going to flash fry those green cherries.   The last time I got my fried green tomato fix was back in November in DC. Seven months is a long time! Read More…

Roast Pumpkin Salad with Romesco Vinaigrette #BarGitano

romesco vinaigrette

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to taste Bar Gitano’s rejuvenated menu.  Chef Carlos Vázquez has added delicious small plates to the tasca’s already popular dishes – and inspired a salad recipe that would be right at home with them.

Some of Bar Gitano’s new menu items developed by Chef Vázquez include:

  • Veal and pork meatballs braised in sherry with tomatoes, shallots and migas
  • Arugula salad w roasted beets, fried goat cheese nuggets and pistachio and fig jam vinaigrette
  • Brandada de Bacalao: Codfish croquettes with lime aioli
  • Goat cheese pizzeta with romesco, fig jam, truffle oil & arugula
  • Lamb skewers with mint salsa verde and fennel salad
  • Mussels with chorizo in a rich pimenton-wine broth & toasted bread
  • Medjool dates stuffed with Valdeón cheese wrapped in bacon
  • Coconut Cake Gitano with guava mousse and topped with  toasted meringue

Read More…

Roasted Eggplant Étouffée

Eggplant Etouffee

When May rolled in – particularly during third week of the month – my social networks swelled up with all the activities surrounding my alma mater’s commencement ceremony.  Lovely birrete art, the second lines and music that only come from New Orleans, and Maya Rudolph’s hilarious address.  It made me nostalgic for my own hectic graduation week, so I scoured the web and my own ‘archives’ for those memories from fifteen years ago. Read More…

Harissa Turkey Chili

Harissa Turkey Chili

Is harissa the next sriracha?

It seems many blogs and food publications are ready to anoint the next big thing when it comes to hot sauces and spice flavors.  Sriracha’s supremacy has been challenged by condiments from all over the world.  Harissa – a north African blend of peppers and spices – has been floating around for a few years now as a contender.  What sets harissa apart from other pepper blends is that it includes a hint of mint. It doesn’t cut the heat, nor overpowers it.  I wish I had a better way to describe how the flavors complement each other.   In addition to hot red peppers and mint, harissa contains caraway, garlic, cumin, and coriander. Read More…

Mango Spiced Quick Oats

mango spiced oats

It feels good to be back after a break of a few weeks without doing much cooking or writing.  For most of February and March I was caught up in training for the Puerto Rico Marathon and Half Marathon.  Those focused weeks definitely paid off: I shaved off over six minutes over my previous half marathon personal best. Read More…

Chicken and Pumpkin Green Curry

Chicken and Pumpkin Green Curry

October couldn’t wrap up without a pumpkin recipe!

I started dating E ten years ago.  During those first months of courtship, he made sure I knew that he could cook. Pastas? Check. Steaks? Check. Composed salads?  Oh, please.  A whole Thanksgiving feast?  That too.  This year, E took off most of the month of September off from work, and on several days I came home to find dinner waiting for me.  Just when I was getting used to arriving to a tasty meal, it was time for him to head back to the office. Read More…

Whipped Potatoes with Olive Oil and Pesto

 

Whipped Potatoes with Olive Oil and Pesto

Countertop Ornaments

Storage space is a touchy subject in our kitchen.  While a cluttered countertop doesn’t bother me on most days, sometimes I wish I had enough storage space in the cupboards to stash the kitchen gadgets that are scattered around.  Even if I could, there are two larger pieces of equipment I definitely can’t fit in the cabinet.  One is the toaster oven, a key appliance when cooking for two.  I use it almost every day and it wouldn’t be practical to stash it away.  The other is the stand mixer.  Every time I see it, it begs to be used.  I usually take it out for a spin once or twice a month, but know I should be taking advantage of it for more ‘everyday’ cooking.  My favorite of those cooking tasks is whipping potatoes.  Nothing against the humble potato masher, but if in a minute or two I can have perfectly smooth potatoes ready for dinner… Read More…

The Porchetta Project

porchetta toscana

Girl and boy salivate in awe at certain food preparation on TV.  Trips are planned with the hope to find this mythical creation.  Oceans are crossed, stick-shift cars rented.

“Look!  There is its!”

“Didn’t we just have lunch?”

“Oh… maybe later.”

Read More…

Blueberry-Orange Coffee Cake

Blueberry-Orange Coffee Cake

To celebrate the end of the month, and just because it’s just so darned fun, we’re having a potluck breakfast at work.  Up until the last one we had in October, I would stop by the supermarket and buy fruit or other ready-made treat to add to the conference table.  For our second quarter’s gathering, I baked a pumpkin bundt cake that was well received by everyone.   When Nidal, our fearless organizer, rounded up everyone on Wednesday to organize today’s breakfast, he was quick to remind me about last time’s cake.  Darned flattery… Read More…

Cassava Shepherd’s Pie (Pastelón de Yuca)

pastelon de yuca

Have you ever gotten so hooked on a recipe you’ve made it over and over in a very short period of time?   This holiday season I made not two but three pastelones de yuca.  A Caribbean interpretation of the shepherd’s pie, this pastelón is a layered casserole that combines yuca (cassava) and a savory filling – meat, soy, or veggies.   Pastelones are one of the most versatile pies that can be assembled.  The starches and the fillings are limited only by your imagination.  Any root vegetable or plantain that can be mashed into a soft but substantial puree can be used for pastelón.  Some of my favorites include ripe plantain (the classic!), malanga (taro), and potato.    Read More…

Gougères (de Queso del País)

Gougeres de queso del pais

Feliz día de Reyes!  Happy Epiphany Day!

One of my New Year’s blogging resolutions is to continue incorporating Puerto Rican ingredients into my posts.  While some times these flavors will be shown in their traditional preparations, it’s also fun to integrate them into dishes from other cuisines.  Today’s recipe, gougères, is a traditional French cream puff that can be enjoyed as as sweet treat or as a savory snack or appetizer.  Instead of using Gruyére or Cheddar cheese, I made these with queso del país – Puerto Rican white cheese. Read More…

Orange Cinnamon Oatmeal

Orange Cinnamon Oatmeal

Roll call: Sweets that dwelled together in my refrigerator during the last week of the year.

  • Chocolate/mint cupcakes
  • Mallorca bread pudding
  • My sister’s INSANE amaretto cheese flan
  • Arroz con dulce
  • Banana cake made out of overripe banana guilt
  • A big bottle of Tita’s coquito
  • Coquito popsicles (Failed experiment, I’m sorry to report.  Need higher creme anglaise to coquito proportion)

By the time 2014 rolled in, there are only two of these list left over.  But you can imagine I’m going through quite the hangover.  Sugar hangover.  And with four more days of Puerto Rican Christmas indulgences to go, I’m trying my best to keep a reduced stash of homemade treats around. Read More…

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