Costa Rica: Ensalada Palmito

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To accompany my Chivito (which didn't really need to be accompanied...it's like four meals on its own), I made Ensalada Palmito. Ensalada Palmito is a very common and popular dish in Costa Rica. It's my understanding that typically this salad uses a mayo-based dressing. I chose this version specifically because it did not use mayo, but use your best judgment.



Ensalada Palmito (from otnfinefood.com)
-(2) 16-ounce cans of hearts of palm
-1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
-1/3 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
-1 tablespoon chopped parsley
-1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
-1 tablespoon dijon mustard
-2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-ground pepper to taste
-very small amount of salt
-lettuce leaves

1. Drain the hearts of palm, cut them into ½-inch pieces, and put them into a large bowl. Stir in the red pepper, yellow pepper, and chopped parsley.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, chicken broth, and olive oil. Drizzle the dressing over the hearts of palm mixture and toss gently. Season to taste with salt (optional) and pepper.

3. Line a serving bowl with lettuce leaves, spoon the salad on top and serve.

Verdict: I'm iffy on how much I enjoyed the Hearts of Palm, but overall this salad was very good. I liked the light dressing, as well as how it made a refreshing contrast to a heavy main course.

Uruguay: Chivito

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Uruguay is a great place. It's beautiful, full of rivers, has absolute freedom of religion, and recently began to allow legal marriages between same-sex partners. On top of that, its national dish is one hell of a sandwich. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a sandwich for the faint of heart (and especially not the weak of heart). This is a carnivore's sandwich.

Let me introduce you to the Chivito. Filet mignon, black forest ham, bacon, a fried egg, mayo, and cheese for starters: Pickles, tomato, onion, olives, and more for optional add-ons. Now you can see why when my friend Gus charged me with the task of making him "one of the fattiest things I could find" for his visit today, I chose the Chivito. Yes, I could've gone with Poutine, but I'm pretty sure I don't have any duck fat lying around (and I also am scared to death of deep frying). Fortunately, Gus was delighted by the Chivito and said, "I just want it to keep going on and on for like, three feet." And Gus is a man who knows his meat sandwiches.

Beware: This is a not just a fatty sandwich. It is a HUGE sandwich. I couldn't even eat half in one sitting.



Chivito
(slightly modified from Road Food)
-2 slices of bacon
-1/4-inch slice of filet mignon
-Salt and pepper
-1 egg
-1 hard roll (Portuguese Roll, New Orleans Muffuletta, or any sturdy Italian torpedo)
-Mayonnaise
-1 slice of Black Forest ham
-1 slice of Provolone cheese
-Lettuce
-2 tomato slices
-Optional: Slices of pickle, sliced olives, roasted red peppers (I used the first two, but forgot lettuce).

1. Fry the bacon in a hot skillet. When cooked, remove to drain but leave the bacon fat in the skillet.

2. Pound the filet mignon until it is about the size of the hard roll.Salt and pepper it on both sides, then fry it in the bacon grease. When cooked until pink in the center, remove the steak.


3. Fry the egg, removing the egg when the yolk is cooked but still runny.

4. Slice and toast the hard roll. Spread mayonnaise on both sides. On the bottom, first place the filet mignon, followed by the ham, the Provolone, the fried egg, the bacon, the lettuce, tomato, and onion.

5. Serve with French fries and many napkins.



Verdict: Sinful and delicious. Even though I couldn't pack it all away in one sitting (which is probably better for my heart, anyway), I wanted to. There are so many textures and flavors that it becomes addictive to eat.

Mushroom Rigatoni Bake

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I never thought I would say this about a cheese, but: I do not like Asiago. Sure, maybe using it in small quantities mixed with other cheeses would be fine. But when it's the star cheese in a dish, I just can't stand it. I hate the bitter, overpowering flavor.

Of course, I forgot this when I decided to make this dish. I couldn't remember what the cheese I disliked was (as I've never met another cheese I didn't like), but thought, "Eh...maybe Romano?" So sad.

This dish would be absolutely outstanding if it didn't use Asiago. In the future, I will use mozzarella and parmesan, or some other understated-yet-flavorful cheese combination. I added asparagus, which was a delight. I used baby bella mushrooms and some kind of "melange" variety pack of fancy mushrooms. I used dried thyme (1/2 tsp) instead of fresh. I used vodka instead of sherry, actual rigatoni instead of gigli or radiatore, and onions instead of shallots. Hell, I even put it in a 13x9" pan and baked at 350 instead of an 8" pan at 375! And that was all fine--everything worked out great! It even came together easily and quickly. It was just that damn Asiago. I shake my fist at thee.


By the way...I got a light box! Yippee for prettier photos!



Mushroom Rigatoni Bake
(from Cooking Light)
- 8 ounces uncooked gigli or radiatore pasta
-2 teaspoons butter
-1/4 cup sliced shallots
-8 ounces sliced shiitake mushroom caps
-4 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
-1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1 tablespoon dry sherry
-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
-2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
-1 cup (4 ounces) grated Asiago cheese, divided
-Cooking spray
-Thyme sprigs (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well. Set cooked pasta aside.

3. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1 tablespoon thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic; sauté 8 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add sherry; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.


This mixture was so delicious before it was ruined with Asiago. I wanted to eat it all by its lonesome.


4. Place flour in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring mixture to a boil; cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat; add 1/2 cup cheese, stirring until melted. Add pasta and mushroom mixture to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

5. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

-Serves 4
-Calories: 474; Fat: 16g, Protein: 21.8g, Carbs: 61.4g

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

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I made my very first pie yesterday. Well, I mean--I've made pies, but only with a frozen crust, canned filling, or both. And the reason? Because pie dough is terrifying to me. It's legendarily finicky. It rips. It cracks. It's too doughy. It's too tough. It's not flaky enough. It won't roll out right. You ask if you can rub its feet and it throws a drink in your face. Scary. And yes, I do realize how silly it is for me to be scared of pie crust when I've made croissants. That's why I attempted pie crust.

I was armed with all three Pie Tutorials from Smitten Kitchen (god, that woman really rocks your face off, doesn't she?). I got a recipe from Epicurious.com, as they've yet to fail me. I got organic strawberries and beautiful, seasonal rhubarb from the Farmer's Market. There was nothing to be scared of, right?

Well, no. It was still scary. And ultimately, kind of a failure...albeit a delicious failure.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
(from Epicurious.com)
For crust
-3 cups all purpose flour
-2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
-1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
-10 tablespoons (about) ice water

For filling
-3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds untrimmed)
-1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
-1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/4 cup cornstarch
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)

Make crust:
1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in shortening and butter until coarse meal forms. (**NOTE: I'm of the school of "cut in the butter yourself with two knives or a pastry blender. So, that is what I did.)

2. Blend in enough ice water 2 tablespoons at a time to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; cut in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling.)

Make filling:
1.Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

2. Roll out 1 dough disk on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang. (**NOTE: I'm pretty sure 13" was juuuuust a bit too large. 13" made my dough un-pick-up-able, but 12" was more manageable.**)

3. Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.


Before disaster struck...


4. Brush glaze over crust. transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

-Serves 8

Verdict: Okay, so I really don't know what happened. At under 1 hour 25 minutes after dropping the oven temperature, the pie was still fine. It was looking good, in fact. But, I could see that the filling was still oozy. So, I figured that the recipe knows best, and let it stay in the oven for the rest of the recommended time (which was only another 10-15 minutes). And in that 10-15 minutes, the friggin' toppings burned! I was a wee bit furious. What's even better is that somehow, after 1/4 cup of cornstarch and almost 2 hours of baking, the filling was a fruit soup. THAT'S what really makes me mad. Afterward, I read up on possible solutions, which include using instant tapioca for high-acid fruits, and stewing the fruit and starch first. That's all fine and well, but then why does the recipe work for other people on Epicurious? Such a mystery.

That said, the fruit soup was spectacularly tasty. So tart and sweet. I'm going to go get some vanilla ice cream today so that I can use the pie filling as topping. The crust was good, though thin. Greg is not a big fan of pies overall, but he enjoyed eating the crust. So, there's at least one kind of victory for my first fruit soup pie. ;)

Any tips or suggestions on making pies, or why this pie failed? Please send them my way!

**Update: 5/27/10. After chilling in the fridge overnight, this pie was no longer fruit soup. It gelled and the pieces actually looked like pie, not like crust floating in fruit goo. Hooray! So, that's the key, I guess.**

New Zealand: Pavlova

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Have you ever thought, "Gosh. You know, I would really like to find a recipe where I can use four different types of sugar. Alas--such a dessert does not exist. Woe is me." ??

Well, you can relax. This recipe delivers your wildest fantasies! This particular pavlova uses superfine sugar, granulated sugar, confectioner's sugar, and brown sugar. It reminds me of that quote from Elf, "We Elves try to stick to the four main food groups: Candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup."

Pavlova originated in New Zealand, and is named after the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova. It's not hard to see why it would be named after a ballerina. Pavlovas are the dessert embodiment of a frilly tutu: Crunchy outside to the touch, but floaty and light. The nice thing about Pavlovas is their versatility. If you don't want to make a layer cake, you don't have to. You could spread it into a ring (like a tutu!), make it into individual islands (like a tutu!), or some other such creation (probably still like a tutu!).



Two-Layer Berry and Brown Sugar Pavlova (modified slightly from this recipe at Epicurious.com)
For meringue:
-Confectioners sugar for dusting
-1 cup superfine granulated sugar
-1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
-1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
-1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
-3/4 cup egg whites (from 5 to 6 large eggs) at room temperature 30 minutes

For berries
:
-1 1/2 pounds strawberries, trimmed and quartered
-1 pound blackberries
-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
-Optional: 1 1/2 tablespoons orange flavored liquor (I used Triple Sec)
-Optional: Slices of kiwi (Kiwi feels quintessential to pavlova, but was not included in this recipe...so, I put it in! And it was delicious.)

For cream:
-1 cup chilled heavy cream
-1/3 cup chilled sour cream

Make meringue:
1. Preheat oven to 275°F with rack in middle. Lightly butter 3 (8-inch) round cake pans, then dust sides of pans with confectioners sugar, knocking out excess. Line bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper. (**NOTE: I do not have two 8" cake pans, only 9". So, I used two 9" pans (and put more in them), and then made several individual meringue islands.**)



2. Pulse superfine sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a food processor until well combined.

3. Stir together vanilla and vinegar in a small bowl.

4. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more. Add vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Spoon meringue into pans (about 2 1/2 cups per pan) and smooth tops.

5. Bake until meringues have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, about 1 hour (insides will still be marshmallow-like).

6. Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringues in oven 1 hour. (Meringues may sink slightly and crack while cooling.)

7. Run knife along sides of cake pans and carefully turn meringues out of pans. Carefully peel off parchment (meringues will be fragile and the crust may crack further). Carefully turn right side up. (**NOTE: When they say "carefully," they really mean it. These things crack if you look at them the wrong way. Both of my layers almost split completely in half just from having their full weight on the palm of my hand. SO. Be really, REALLY careful!**)

Macerate fruit while meringues cool:
1. Toss berries with sugar and let stand at room temperature until ready to use (up to 1 hour).

Assemble dessert:
1. Beat heavy cream with sour cream using an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks. Put 1 meringue on a serving plate and spread one third of whipped cream over it. Spoon one third of fruit (with juice) over top. Repeat with remaining meringues, cream, and fruit.

Note: Meringues can be frozen, individually wrapped, up to 1 month; thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature for at least 2 hours.



Verdict: This was the cake I decided to make for my birthday, and....I LOVED it. I wasn't too sure about how I'd like the dryness of a meringue cake (I thought it would make my teeth jingle), but it was just melt-in-your-mouth fabulousness. It was kind of like eating a crunchy marshmallow, but with whipped cream and boozy berries. Holy eff, dudes. Awesome. Happy birthday to me.

Mexico/Daring Cooks Challenge: Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Veggie Enchiladas

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I've been craving Mexican food in the most serious way lately. So, I was thrilled to learn that the May Daring Cooks Challenge was "Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas." Enchiladas are just about my favorite thing ever (it probably has everything to do with them being smothered in cheese). Anyway, as I'm wont to do when I'm excited about something, I went overboard. I made my own tortillas (totally unnecessary, but I didn't find roasting chiles or making sauce to be challenging), grilled vegetables instead of chicken (which is more time consuming, unfortunately), made margaritas from scratch, and made those Besos and Curtido you saw in previous posts. That was too much work, and not something I'm likely to repeat--but it was all well worth it.

(Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh).



Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Vegetable Enchiladas:
-1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chiles (about eight 6 to 8 inch chiles) 24 ounces 678 grams - roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely. Other green chiles (NOT bell peppers) could probably be substituted but be conscious of heat and size!)
-7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium)212 grams - peel, remove stems
-4 cups Chicken broth (32 ounces/920 grams) (**NOTE: I used vegetable broth).
-1 clove Garlic, minced
-2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
-1 teaspoon dried oregano
-½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)
-¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)
-2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)
-Hot sauce, your favorite, optional (**NOTE: I added a couple dashes of cayenne. My sauce was *really* spicy. So, beware!)
-Hearty vegetables of your choosing, quartered
-Adobo seasoning and cumin for sprinkling (Technically optional, but really recommended!)
-3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)
-Kosher salt and pepper
-12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)
-6 ounces grated Monterey Jack, 170 grams (other cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican cheeses) can be used. Just be sure they melt well and complement the filling)
Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional.




Roasting Fresh Chiles

1. Coat each chile with a little vegetable oil. If you are doing only a couple chiles, using the gas stove works. For larger batches (as in this recipe), grilling or broiling is faster.

2. Lay the oiled chiles on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.

3. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove them to a bowl and cover with plastic, or close up in a paper bag. Let them rest until they are cool.

4. Pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.

5. DO NOT RINSE!

Green Chile Sauce

1. Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil and remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos. Boil the tomatillos until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. You can also grill the tomatillos until soft.

2. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.

3. Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken broth, chopped green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.

4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.

6. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.



Corn Tortillas (from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen)
-Makes about 15

-1 3/4 cups masa harina
-1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water

1. Pour hot water over masa harina, cover and let sit 30 minutes. Add (additional) cool water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is soft but not sticky. Divide the dough into 15 balls and cover with plastic wrap.

2. Heat a large (two burner) ungreased griddle or two large skillets, one on medium-low and one on medium-high.

3. Put a ball of dough between two sheets of plastic. If you don’t have a tortilla press, press to a 5-6” circle using a heavy frying pan or bread board or other heavy, flat object.

4. Put the tortilla into the cooler pan or cooler end of the griddle. The tortilla will probably stick, but within 15 seconds, if the temperature is correct, it will release. Flip it at that point onto the hotter skillet/griddle section. In 30-45 seconds, it should be dotted with brown underneath. Flip it over, still on the hot surface and brown another 30 seconds or so. A good tortilla will balloon up at this point. Remove from heat and let them rest while cooking the remaining tortillas. Use quickly.

Enchiladas
1. Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal. Cut vegetables into quarters (or large chunks), coat with olive or vegetable oil, and a sprinkling of Adobo seasoning and cumin.



2. Grill the vegetables until just cooked through. Time will vary depending on the vegetable. **NOTE: The quickest for me were the mushrooms and peppers. The slowest was the chayote squash.**

3. Cool and then slice into strips.



4. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.

5. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).

6. Drain on paper towels.

7. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.

8. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.

9. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.

10. Divide half the vegetables among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.



11. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the vegetables, more sauce and another third of the cheese.

12. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.

13. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.

14. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.

Stewed Garbanzo Beans with Zuc-Quinoa

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I'm really hittin' it out of the park posting two vegan recipes in a row! Go me!

I first made this recipe because I was overcome with the clever hilarity of the word "Zuc-Quinoa." For those not in the know, you pronounce "quinoa" as "keen-wah." Therefore, "zucchini" and "quinoa" are natural wordy extensions of each other. Hilarious! If puns don't hit your funny bone, then make this because of it's incredible nutritional content, health benefits, cost effectiveness, quickness, and tastiness quotient.



But first, let's take a moment to talk about quinoa. If you haven't tried it, try it now (and it's all the rage right now, so it shouldn't even be difficult to find). Quinoa is a powerhouse grain. It's packed with protein, iron, fiber, and magnesium. It's also gluten-free and easy to digest. This makes it a fantastic food for vegans and vegetarians, but really for anyone seeking a healthy, balanced diet. Added bonuses are that it's super easy to make, and one bag lasts for a long time (yay, economical!).



One quick note: This recipe is for "Zuc-Quinoa," but as you can see in my pictures, I used asparagus instead of zucchini, making it more like "Asparagnoa." I did it because we nabbed delicious asparagus at last week's farmer's market. It worked very well as a substitute....so, I'm thinkin' that you could probably use whatever veggie tickles your fancy.

Stewed Garbanzo Beans with Zuc-Quinoa (From "1,000 Vegetarian Recipes," by Carol Gelles)
For the beans:
-2 tsp. olive oil
-3/4 c. chopped onions
-3/4 c. chopped green bell peppers
-14.5oz can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
-2 tbsp. Italian-style tomato paste
-15oz can garbanzo beans
-*Optional, but recommended: 1-2 cloves garlic, minced


For the zuc-quinoa:
-3/4 c. quinoa
-2 tsp. vegetable oil (though, I'm sure olive oil would be fine)
-1/2 c. chopped red onion
-1 1/2 c. vegetable broth or water
-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
-2 c. sliced zucchini (2 medium or 1 very large)
-1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

1. For the beans, in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 cup onions and the bell peppers; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomatoes with juice; break them up with the back of the spoon. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the chickpeas. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes.



3. While the beans are cooking, place the quinoa in a large; fill the bowl with cool water and then drain into strainer. Repeat 4 more times or until the water no longer looks soapy. **NOTE: Most pre-bagged quinoa (like Red Mill organic) will say right on the bag that you do NOT need to do this step. So don't! :)**

4. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup red onions; cook, stirring until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and oregano; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and salt; cook, covered, 10 minutes longer.



Variation: Use kidney beans instead of garbanzo beans. Use yellow squash instead of zucchini. Though you are meant to serve the sauce over the quinoa, they both function as side dishes. Apparently, the sauce is also excellent over cooked spaghetti squash.

Beans 'n Greens Pasta

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Since we couldn't justify the expense of a CSA this year (let's hear it for weddings...), Greg and I decided to make a concerted effort to buy more of our produce at the farmer's market. This week, I tried to pick recipes based around vegetables that might be available at the market. We succeeded in getting quite the haul, despite the fact that it was below 40 degrees and many of the vendors didn't even come out. The haul included locally made gluten-free spinach pasta, and single origin bean-to-bar dark chocolate. *drool*

Eeniewho, I found this very simple, very nearly 'kitchen sink' kinda recipe in the "Sundays at Moosewood" cookbook. The recipe calls for the "greens" to be escarole or similar, but I chose kale both because it's seasonal (really, one of the ONLY seasonal veggies available right now) and because it's local. Let me tell you: The bag of kale smelled like freshly grown heaven. So yummy.

This is a vegan recipe with less than 10% of the calories owing to fat. Though, if you're a 98% uber-non-vegan like me, you'll toss some goat cheese you had lying around on top of it.



Beans 'n Greens Pasta (from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook)
-1 cup onions, chopped
-5-6 cloves garlic, minced
-2 teaspoons olive oil
-1 pound escarole or other curly, leafy green, chopped
-1 cup water
-1 pound chunky pasta (like rotini)
-3 cups or 2 cans kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
-1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Juice of one lemon
-Optional: A sharply flavored crumbly cheese

1. Heat oil over med-low heat. Add onions and garlic. Saute until golden, about 10 minutes. Add leafy greens and 1 cup water. Cover, bring heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes. Add beans and basil, cook another 5 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash up at least half of the beans.

2. In the meantime, cook your pasta. When done, drain, and toss with the finished bean 'n greens mixture (**NOTE: I didn't toss it for photo's sake...obviously, it was fine). Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and mix well. Serve warm.

Servings: 4
Calories: 474



Verdict: A very hearty, tasty meal. It has bold, simple flavors that Greg and I both really enjoyed. PLUS, it's a two-pot meal and it's quick and easy to make. PLUS, there's a TON of nutritional bang for your buck. Kale provides antioxidants, lots of beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium. Kidney beans are chocked full of dietary fiber, iron, thiamin, and are an excellent source of protein. It's an all around win!

Margaritas

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Doesn't that picture make you thirsty?

I love margaritas. Love. Friggin. Margaritas. So, naturally, when creating a south-of-the-border-type meal, I decided to pick up the ingredients for one of my favorite boozy beverages. I'd never made them from scratch before, but lifted a recipe from a book of Mexican recipes I own but never use. It was extremely sour (and I like sour things, so you know it's bad), and I needed to add some sugar. But here is the lightly modified recipe for your enjoyment.

Margaritas
(name of the book I got the recipe from is forthcoming)
-1 1/2 tablespoons tequila
-1 1/2 tablespoons orange liqueur
-3 tablespoons freshly squeeze lime juice
-1/2 teaspoon sugar
-Ice
-Salt for the rim of the glass

1. Wet the rim of a martini or margarita glass with a lime. Dip the rim in salt.

2. In a cocktail shaker, add first 5 ingredients and shake well. Strain into prepared glass.

3. Consume like your life depends on it.

El Salvador: Curtido

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This weekend, as a side dish to something super-top-secret that I will post about on Friday, I made Curtido. Curtido is from El Salvador, and traditionally accompanies the national dish, Pupusas. No, my super-top-secret post is not about Pupusas. Pupusas are tortillas filled with cheese--and I am not quite daring enough to try to make tortillas filled with cheese. Curtido is a lightly fermented vinegary-peppery slaw made of cabbage, carrots and onions (it reminds me a bit of escabeche). It is great on its own as a side salad, but would be fantastic on top of or inside of things like burritos or quesadillas.



Curtido (from RecipeZaar)
-1 medium head of cabbage, chopped
-2 small carrots, grated
-1 small onion, sliced
-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika
-1/2 teaspoon oregano
-1 teaspoon olive oil
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon brown sugar
-1/4 cup vinegar
-1/2 cup water

1. Place the cabbage in boiling water for no more than one minute. Discard the water.

2. Put the cabbage in a large bowl and add grated carrots, sliced onion, cayenne, oregano, olive oil, salt, brown sugar, vinegar, and water.

3. Let chill in refrigerator at least two hours before serving.

Verdict: Tasty and refreshing! If you get urges for spicy, pickled things like I do from time to time, this really hits the spot.

Besos

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As a prelude to my Nueve de Mayo/Mexico Challenge, I made Besos. Besos are like a four-way cross between whoopie pies, scones, jelly-filled doughnuts and christmas cookies. The dough is heavy and light at the same time, and even though the end product is coated in sugar, it's not as sweet as you'd imagine.

I nabbed this recipe from Teenie Cakes. She modified the recipe to make "Besitos," or "tiny kisses." After making this recipe, I understand why. These suckers are HUGE. I only used a small ice cream scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons), but they spread a lot, rise a lot, and therefore make a hefty sandwich cookie. So, when reading the recipe here, use your own judgment of how large you really want your Besos to be (you could use a scale that goes from "Peck" to "Spit Swappin' Smackeroo!").

As a note, I used sugar-free cherry jam for the filling, and then grated lemon zest into my sugar coating. That is a highly recommendable combo.



Besos (from Teenie Cakes, originally from a cookbook, "Dulce: Desserts in the Latin-American Tradition by, Joseluis Flores")
-3/4 cup butter, softened but firm
-3/4 cup sugar
-3 eggs
-4 cups all-purpose flour
-2 teaspoons active dry yeast
-1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
-2 tablespoons vanilla extract
-1 cup water
-1 1/2 cups marmalade or jam
-1 cup butter, melted (**NOTE: About 3 tablespoons was plenty for my Besos)
-2 cups sugar for coating (**NOTE: Again, I used less than 1 cup)

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and yellow. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined after each addition.

2. In another bowl, combine flour, yeast, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture, 1 cup of water, and the vanilla to the butter mixture. Mix on low speed until combined. Then, mix on medium speed until dough becomes smooth and soft with a thick, batter-like texture. (**NOTE: The batter will be really, REALLY thick. It essentially created a dough tornado on my poor hand mixer.)

3. Preheat oven to 350.

4. Using a 2-ounce ice cream scoop or 1/4 measuring cup, scoop half spheres of dough 2" apart on a non-stick baking sheet, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. (**NOTE: Obviously, if you make these smaller, you will need to adjust the baking time down accordingly.) Let them cool completely on a rack.

5. Spread about 1 tablespoon (again, depending on size of the Besos) on the bottom-side of each bread. Place another bread flat-side against the filling to assemble the Beso. Using a pastry brush, coat the assembled Besos with melted butter. Roll into sugar and tap off the excess. Store in an airtight container.



-Yield: This will be dependent on the size of your Besos. I got about 20 large Besos, but the recipe says 15.
-Calories: Splurge on one or two (and I do mean "splurge"), and then give the rest away. These are sinful. :)

Speedy Black Bean Burger

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I don't think I'm alone in saying that when I get home from work, I don't really want to spend a lot of time cooking. I'd rather spend those precious few hours curled up on the couch with the fiance and the kittens, watching Season 5 of Angel. This recipe delivered. It comes together in no time flat. Paired with a box of "5 minute couscous" or bagged salad w/chopped veggies, this goes from ingredients to dinner in less than 20 minutes. The best part? It is so good for you.



Our Homemade Quick Black Bean Burger (from Cooking Light)
-1 (2-ounce) hamburger bun, torn into pieces
-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
-2 teaspoons chopped garlic
-1 (15.25-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1 teaspoon grated lime rind
-3/4 teaspoon chili powder
-1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 large egg, lightly beaten
-1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1. Place bun in a food processor; process 4 times or until crumbs measure about 1 cup. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, and beans in processor; pulse 8 times or until beans make a thick paste. Scrape bean mixture into bowl with breadcrumbs. Stir in rind and remaining ingredients. With moistened hands, divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions (about 1/3 cup mixture per portion), shaping each into a 3-inch patty.

3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; reduce heat to medium, and cook 4 minutes or until bottom edges are browned. Carefully turn patties over; cook 3 minutes or until bottom edges are done.

Servings: 4 patties
Calories: 182 per patty. Carbs: 15.6g, Protein: 6.6g, Fat: 12.3g

Serving Suggestions: I melted a slice of Pepper Jack cheese on each patty, and added two avocado wedges, slices of red onion, and ketchup. And, of course, a whole wheat bun.
--Calories WITH the above serving suggestions (or, "Calories for the Entire Burger"): Approximately 485 calories. Not too shabby for a protein-packed veggie burger!

Verdict: This was a great burger. It made watching the sad episode of Angel where Ilyria keeps calling Fred "The Shell" more bearable. Greg said the following, "This is the best black bean burger I've ever had. You know what the best part is? We get to eat them tomorrow, too." SO, there you have it. OM NOM NOM!

Better-For-You Pizzas

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I invited my coworker Kathy and her two awesome, adorable genius-children over for homemade pizzas last night. I've never made pizza dough before, but I figured that if I could make acceptable brioche and cinnamon rolls, pizza dough should be a piece of cake (or pizza, as it were). And it really was. Pizza dough is quite possibly the easiest yeast dough I've ever come across.

I used a recipe for Whole Wheat Pizza Dough from The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook. I cannot find that recipe online, but I'll try to replicate it from memory and change it once I get home if need be. Anyway, I was afraid that the dough would be too thin and dry (admittedly, I still have a childhood "Eeww, wheat!"-stereotype niggling in the back of my mind). This dough was anything but dry. Instead, it was flavorful and light, but strong enough to hold up a decent amount of toppings. In short--I will definitely be making it again.



Whole Wheat Crust (from Cooking Light)
-1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
-1 tablespoon honey
-1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
-2 cups whole wheat flour, divided
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 tablespoon olive oil

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in a cup of warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes.

2. Using a spoon to lightly scoop into measuring cups and a knife to level, measure the flours into another bowl. Add salt and mix well.

3. Gradually add the flour mixture into the yeast-honey-water mix. Add olive oil. Stir enough to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Oil a mixing bowl and place dough ball inside, turning to coat. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place (about 85 degrees) until doubled in size, about an hour.

4. Once dough has risen, punch down and let rest for 5 minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half. Roll each half into a 12" circle (it doesn't need to be a perfect circle). Place each crust on a oiled baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes (**NOTE: Mine did not really "rise" this second time, so I don't know how necessary the step is). Bake as directed in the recipe.

-Servings: 8 slices
-Calories: ~143/slice.

**Note: The dough may be frozen for up to a month. To do this, punch the dough down, divide in half (before rolling it out), wrap up, and freeze. To use, let defrost for 12 hours and come to room temperature before rolling out.

Basic Pizza Sauce
(from Cooking Light)
-Cooking spray
-1/4 cup finely chopped onion
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1/4 cup white wine
-2 tablespoons tomato paste
-1 teaspoon dried oregano
-1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, undrained
-1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
-1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Add garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in wine; cook 30 seconds. Add tomato paste, oregano, pepper, and tomatoes.

2. Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat; stir in basil and vinegar. Cool.

Note: Nutritional analysis is for 1 1/3 cups Basic Pizza Sauce.

Spicy Pizza Sauce Variation: Add 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper with the oregano and black pepper; omit basil. Yield: 1 1/3 cups.

-Makes 1 1/3 cups.
-Calories: 203 (for 1 1/3 cups). Carbs: 42.2g, Protein: 9.6g, Fat: 0.3g.

Our "adult" pizza for the evening, was a modified version of Pizza Salsiccia from Cooking Light. It goes as follows:

Spicy Sausage & Goat Cheese Pizza (modified from Cooking Light)
-12" whole wheat crust
-1/3 recipe for Basic Pizza sauce (above)
-1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
-1 (4oz) hot turkey sausage link, casing removed
-1/2 can sliced black olives
-1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
-1/2 teaspoon dried fennel
-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
-3/4 container of goat cheese crumbles (or to your taste)
-Sprinkling of shredded mozzarella (to your taste)
-Sprinkling of shredded parmesan (to your taste)

1. Heat oil over med-high heat. Add the onions, fennel, salt, and turkey sausage. Saute until sausage is cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Spread sauce on pizza crust. Add toppings as desired.

3. Bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for 8 minutes.

-Servings: 4-8, depending on the hungriness of your people.
-Calories: Approximately 200...I would guess.

So, we let the kids make their own pizza. Girl Child is kind of picky and will only eat cheese pizza. So, we made a cheese half and a pepperoni half. Honestly, though I liked our adult pizza, I liked the pepperoni pizza best. You can't mess with a classic.



Cheesey-Pepperoni Pizza (modified from Cooking Light)
-12" whole wheat pizza dough (above)
-At least 1/3 recipe for Basic Pizza sauce (above)
-2 cups shredded mozzarella
-1/2 cup shredded parmesan
-Turkey pepperoni slices (how many is up to you)

1. Spread sauce on prepared dough. Add toppings as you see fit.

2. Bake in a 500-degree preheated oven for 8 minutes, or until cheese is nice and melty.

-Servings: 6 (if you cut into 6 wedges or 12 smaller pieces)
-Calories: Approximately 350.