Tag Archives: Condiments

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

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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…

Chunky Mojo Isleño

Salinas Puerto Rico

Photo Credit – Angel Figueroa. All rights reserved.

On Sundays, people pile up their families in their cars and take off to explore the island and every corner’s signature flavors.  On today’s Domingo Criollo feature, we ‘visit’ the Southern Puerto Rico town of Salinas through this recipe for chunky mojo isleño.

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Harissa Red Pepper Dip

Harissa Red Pepper Dip

Harissa is a Tunisian pepper paste or condiment that is used to season meats and vegetables or to bump up the flavor in soups and stews.    Although it is traditionally found and can be made at home in paste form, dry blends have been popping up in specialty grocery stress.  The dry blend I have on hand has paprika, caraway, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, garlic, and peppermint.  The jar suggests mixing it with oil to create a paste closer to the traditional preparation.  I’ve been using it lately as as substitute for Cajun seasoning, especially for blackening fish.  The fresher herbs give such a nice contrast to the fiery peppers.  Harissa is often combined with lemon, another essential ingredient in North African cuisine. Read More…

Operación Limón: Lemon Syrup

Operacion Limon Lemons

Yesterday I went shopping for groceries and made a stop at the warehouse club to buy a few essentials we were low on and to stock up on supplies for our annual Easter getaway.  Although I’m much, much better about making impulse buys, I could not resist grabbing a large bag of lemons.  Since there were at least fifteen large lemons in the bag, I figured it would be a great excuse to make a recipe series featuring this delicious and refreshing flavor.  Hence – drumroll – Operación Limón! Read More…

Catching Up with Dorie: Summer Vegetables

Palomino Island

Palomino Island, off the coast of Fajardo, Puerto Rico

And I present you my version of floating islands for this weekend!  ¡Hola Palomino!
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Quick Tip – Rescuing Spices

Rescuing Spices - Old Bay Seasoning

The Caribbean humidity and spices do not get along. Rust eats away tins, spice blends clump, and in the worst case scenario, mold might grow on any jar that wasn’t completely sealed off. Based on these experiences, I’ve gathered some tricks for saving money and rescuing spices that might have been affected by humidity. Read More…

Arugula Chimichurri

Arugula Chimichurri

As much as I love chimichurri – the Argentinean condiment for meats and potatoes – I don’t make it as often as I should.  Skirt steak is in our dinner rotation at least every other week.  Most of the time it is sliced and used to top salads, but when I don’t there’s always roasted potatoes or some other starch involved.  In those occasions, it’s always nice to have some sauce on the side.  This is part of the lore on how chimichurri came to be an Argentinean and Uruguayan staple. Read More…

Green Onion Chimichurri

Green Onion Chimichurri

It seems that it is easy to bribe people with food.  Friends and family are more willing to help you move, paint the house, or fiddle around with satellite TV if there is a meal (or the promise of a meal) in store.  That’s how we found ourselves hosting my best friend and her family for impromptu Sunday grilling.  The menu was as simple as these last minute meetings allow for: grilled churrascos (skirt steaks), mashed potatoes and salad.  And if there is churrasco, there has to be chimichurri. Read More…

Frituras 101 – Navigating the Puerto Rican Appetizer Sampler Platter

Fritters are universal.  I have yet to come across a culture that does not embrace cooking some foods in blistering hot fat.  From delicate tempura vegetables, to the universally loved French fry, fried foods entice us with their crisped crusts, their savory or sweet fillings, and a sense of indulgence (or is it temporary guilt?).  The dipping sauces are usually fun, too.

Puerto Rico is a fritter lover’s paradise.   Almost every restaurant, hole in the wall cafetín or beachside shack will have a variety of frituras sitting under the glare of a heating lamp.   Some people even start their day with a pastelillo and a cup of coffee!  Here’s a little tour of the most ubiquitous frituras –  based on an appetizer platter ordered with some friends during a recent day trip to Aibonito, a town nestled in the mountain range that crosses the island.  This list is definitely not all-inclusive.

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French Fridays with Dorie – Pan con Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Another Friday, another brilliant recipe/technique from Around My French Table.  Today we cross the border and take these decidedly Provençal tomatoes over to la Madre Patria for a different twist in the classic Catalan tapa pan con tomate.  That is exactly what it sounds like: bread with tomato.  Traditionally, a slice of rustic bread is rubbed with a garlic clove and topped with freshly crushed tomatoes and olive oil.  Since it is FFwD, I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for slow roasted tomatoes instead.

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Quick Sherry Mustard Pan Sauce

People have complicated relationships with leftovers.  Some love them, some loathe them.  My only complaint is that I can’t make them look pretty!  I’ve packed part of the meals I cook at home before sitting down to eat to make sure I have enough for lunch the next day because otherwise, they might become too generous seconds.   This approach works especially with stews and other recipes that improve with a bit of rest.  Some leftovers, however, need a little boost to remind us or to take them beyond their former glory. Read More…

Béarnaise Sauce

Ever since we came back from Paris, I have been dreaming of Béarnaise sauce.  I grew up with the Knorr mix version (which is hard to find these days around these parts) and thought that it was pretty fantastic, but of course my encounter with the real thing ruined me for life.  I even had a taste of a restaurant version and it screamed Hollandaise at me – a very good Hollandaise – but lacking the shallots, tarragon and tang of the white wine vinegar signature of the Béarnaise.  Our early attempts at making this sauce from scratch were laughable, but every year we added it to our ‘to cook’ list and chose to ignore it. It felt too daunting to pull off.

I visited my parents this weekend, with the intention of picking up my newly arrived copy of the French Culinary Institute’s “The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine” and borrowing an old Mexican food cookbook I knew my mother had around somewhere.  I stepped on a stool and stood before the row of dusty cookbooks and came across this pleasant surprise – a 1961 edition of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ that belonged to my Grandmother.  Yes, she is still very much alive, but that book is MINE now!  Having recently seen Julie and Julia on cable tv, I cooed like Meryl Streep at the discovery of this family heirloom. OOOOH!!!!!

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Cookbook_row

Armed with these two veritable references, suddenly my quest for Béarnaise sauce didn’t seem that daunting!  Out of the freezer came out the remaining ‘fishtail’ (el moñon, as my family calls it) of a seven pound beef tenderloin I purchased for the holidays. The beef was be seared and finished in the oven until medium rare.  We decided to roast some red-skinned potatoes in the oven too, in order to make the most of the indulgence.  Eduardo and I made a deal that could elevate this meal: if the sauce turned out well, we’d take out one of those bottles of wine we’ve been collecting from our trips. If it didn’t, a $10 bottle would have to do. I stretched my arms and back, took a deep breath, and began to work. The first step was to review both recipes as to proportions and tips to facilitate success, as the method for preparing the sauce is really that classic piece. Based on that comparison, this is what we did:
  • Take out two eggs and separate them, allowing the yolks to reach room temperature. Store the whites in the back of the fridge for macarons. 😉
  • Melt 14 tablespoons (yes, 1 3/4 bars!) of butter in a small saucepan and separate the milk solids to obtain clarified butter. Once it is ready, set aside on a low burner to keep warm.
  • In another small saucepan, combine: two tablespoons minced shallot, 2 1/2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried tarragon (1 tablespoon if you have access to fresh), and five peppercorns or about 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Set to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until reduced by 80%. In the meantime, prepare a double boiler by setting a larger saucepan filled with about an inch of water. A heatproof bowl should be able to sit in the saucepan without touching the water.
  • In the a heatproof bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 tablespoons of water, the reduced vinegar/shallot/tarragon mixture, and the two egg yolks until frothy. Place over the saucepan with water and whisk for about three minutes. After whisking for three minutes, the mixture will be airy but should start to thicken.
Making Béarnaise Sauce

DH pinch hits and continues whisking while I take a picture. It felt safe at that point! I’m not taking any chances after that burned roux!

  • While I continued to whisk the yolks, DH slowly and steadily streamed the warm clarified butter into the heatproof bowl. If you feel the mixture is getting too hot, take it out of the larger saucepan and continue whisking until cools off. It is better to be safe and remove it if you have doubts as to the temperature because once it curdles… you loose the sauce. It might take a little longer, but it is completely worth it.  After ten minutes of stirring, you should have a silky emulsion you’ll want to lick of the plate
  • >Adjust the seasonings to your taste: 1 teaspoon or 2 of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Strain it if you like smooth sauces, or if you enjoy a bit of shallot here and there forego that step.

Could you guess that we made it? At one point I thought my arm would fall off, but it didn’t! We achieved the velvety, buttery sauce we wanted. It was only fitting to serve it in my Gradmother’s gravy boat.

Béarnaise Sauce
Beef tenderloin with Béarnaise Sauce

As for the wine, we pulled out the last bottle from our 2004 trip to Napa, a 2004 Joseph Phelps ‘Le Mistral’. The Le Mistral is a blend, reminiscent of the Côtes du Rhône region of France, of Syrah, Grenache, Petit Syrah and Alicante. It was delicious and assertive enough to stand to the steak and the rich sauce. What a way to close the weekend!

 

Béarnaise Sauce Wine Pairing

 

Bernáise Sauce

Tzatkiki

I love falafel.  I usually go to a little hole-in-the-wall Turkish place that serves the best falafel sandwiches, but they have become very popular and now I only go just for takeout. After reading a couple of recipes, I set off to make my own oven-baked falafel.   

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I wasn’t crazy about the way the recipe turned out.  It called for a lot of breadcrumbs, and that was most of what I could taste.  The falafel patties tasted just okay – not fantastic.  There’s still leftover mix still in the fridge, and I’ll try actually frying it to see if that helps too.  

While we work on Falafel Take 2, I’ll leave you with an easy version of a tzatkiki yogurt sauce.  

  • 3/4 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp mayo
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • About a tablespoon of your choice of herbs – I worked with basil, parsley, spearmint, and oregano, but dill is pretty classic.
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine well all the ingredients and allow them to chill in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.  The longer it sits, the better the flavors will meld.  

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Go away, tzatkiki butterfly and find me a great recipe!

  True Tzatziki

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