Global Cuisine

Chile Relleno Tart

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by Susan Salzman

TART.chilirell.slice .sm Generally, on Cinco de Mayo, we go out to one of two of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I grew up going to Casa Vega. It truly is, in my opinion, the best, authentic restaurant in Los Angeles. The enchilada sauce is perfection, the crispy tacos with shredded beef cannot be beat, and the margaritas kick your butt. More importantly, it holds a whole lot of nostalgia for me. Another favorite is Lucy’s Cafe El Adobe. There is really nothing better than their bar-b-q beef tacos!

This year we are eating home. I have planned a festive meal to share with my family and I am making some of our favorites. Along with our favorites, I wanted to make something new. What I really wanted to make was chile rellenos. I don’t even order chili rellenos in a restaurant, but I had an anchoring to make these.

I looked through my Diana Kennedy Cookbook, a book I have had for over 30 years. I have made several of her recipes, but she did not really have a chile relleno recipe. Sooooo, I turned to the trusty Internet. I searched Saveur, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, and Epicurious. Epicurious was the winner. I found this recipe for a tart and I immediately knew that I wanted to make this dish.

Oven Baked Pulled Pork Flautas

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by Cathy Pollak

Oven-Baked-Pulled-Pork-Flautas-1This recipe as a weapon of mass deliciousness. It’s easy to make and serve for a house full of your friends and family.

I have always thought of flautas as a specialty dish, one I would only order at a Mexican restaurant. Somewhere along the line I convinced myself flautas were complicated and I didn’t want to deal with the deep-frying. It’s not that I’m opposed to deep frying, but I knew it would be difficult and time-consuming to fry dozens of flautas for a large gathering.

However, I recently changed my mind and started working on perfecting baked flautas at home. I wanted the meat seasoned properly with traditional Mexican flavors. But most importantly, the flour tortilla had to have the perfect crunch. Anything less wouldn’t be right. I was looking for a flaky texture, similar to the deep-fried flauta.

Dulce de Leche Cake – Pure Heaven

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by Susan Salzman

CAKE.dulcedelecheThis week we will be celebrating both Cinco de Mayo and Teacher Appreciation Week.  Needless to say, I am going to be spending lots of time in the kitchen. Baking for the teacher’s give me lots of joy. Last year, for the teachers, I made Cake in a Jar and in prior year I have made dozens of cookies and pounds of candy.  This year I am using seasonal fruits to inspire my gift giving.

But, before I get to my baking adventures for the teachers, I am planning my Cinco de Mayo menu.  Along with my traditional guacamole, shredded beef tacos with pickled onions, red rice, and mojitos(more on these recipes later), I made a Chili Rellano Tart and this Dulce de Leche Cake. One very small bite of this cake and I couldn’t believe how wonderful it tasted.  If there was a show for “The Best Thing I Ever Baked”, this would be the winner.

It is so moist and so light.  It is a very basic white cake (with booze), but what makes it so rich and delicious is, while warm, a mixture of heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk is poured directly over the cake (my thighs are growing as I write this).  Then it sits in the pan, soaking up all this goodness, while the cake cools. As it was cooling, I made some homemade dulce de leche.  Right before serving, I sliced the cake and drizzled the caramel over the top.  This is not something one could keep in the house, it is simply a special occasion kind of treat!

Southwestern Sauté with Salsa Grits

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by Cathy Pollak

southweststirfrySometimes it's all about conveinance and this meal definitely was. The best part, it was full of flavor but ready in minutes. The cheesy, salsa-flavored grits are the base for this simplistic vegetable saute.

By utilizing frozen veggies from the refrigerator and a couple of canned goods from the pantry, this meal was on the table in no time. It's also vegetarian, a good break from all the red meat we seem to eat around here.

In my house, "grits" has always been called "polenta" and there is nothing like real, stone-ground grits (polenta), but in a pinch, instant worked great. There is lots of flavor here, it's really a nice meal. Quick grits can be found near the oatmeal and other hot cereals or near cornmeal in the baking aisle...look for it.

Now, would my kids eat this? No. Too many foods touching each other but for me....the perfect lunch or dinner.

What to do with Bok Choy

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by Amy Sherman

bokchoysaladRecently I learned that bok choy is the number one vegetable in China. It seems to be the number one vegetable in my CSA box lately. It's a very healthy vegetable with a ton of vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K plus and is even a good source of calcium and iron, but I have to admit, after serving it steamed or sautéed again and again, I was looking for a new way to prepare it.

As luck would have it, at a Chinese New Year's dinner I stumbled upon a terrific dish at Fang restaurant. It was served raw, as a salad with a soy and sesame vinaigrette alongside some chunks of short rib. Bok choy is very mild flavored but it has great texture. The leaves are tender and somewhat herbal without being bitter, and the stems are very juicy and crisp. I had never considered using bok choy in salad but after trying that dish, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Looking around online I found plenty of Asian inspired recipes for bok choy salad, and a few takes on coleslaw and even a chopped salad. My idea was to make a more Italian style salad using extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and Parmigiano Reggiano. The result is a salad at once familiar and yet fresh. It's a great choice for a potluck or dinner party, because it is very sturdy and won't easily wilt. You could mix in other greens, add cherry tomatoes or even fresh fava beans when in season.

Cooking with Paiche

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by Amy Sherman

paicheIt’s not everyday that you get the chance to try a fish you’ve never even heard of before. Last week I cooked paiche (pie-chay) a fish from the Amazon, also known as arapaima or pirarucu. Freshwater paiche are huge, growing be up to near 500 pounds, and breathe through lungs rather than gills. Considered a prehistoric fish, the flesh is very firm, but also rich and high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Endangered in the wild from overfishing, paiche is now raised commercially in ponds so wild fish remain protected, and free of any antibiotics or mercury. It’s one of the top fish farmed in Peru, and you may find it on restaurant menus or at Whole Foods, the only retailer currently selling it in the US.

It’s easy to cook paiche for a couple of reasons, because it’s dense and firm it won’t easily fall apart and because it’s rich it doesn’t get dry, even if you overcook it. It has a very clean, buttery slightly sweet flavor and is somewhat similar to sea bass or cod in texture.

Home-Cooked Take Out: A Recipe for Healthier Shrimp Brown Fried Rice

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by Susan Russo

shrimpriceHome-cooked take out (or homemade take-away as the Brits say). It's an oxymoron, but you know what it means.

There are loads of articles in cooking / health magazines touting the benefits of making your own take out favorites. It's no surprise. At-home take out is more affordable, healthier, and often tastes better.

Without a doubt, my favorite take out food is Chinese and Thai, which unfortunately is usually loaded with sodium and excess fat from oil. So I often make my own Chinese and Thai take out favorites such as this Thai Pineapple Fried Rice.

With a few tweaks, fried rice can easily become a healthier take out dish. In this recipe for Shrimp Brown Fried Rice, brown rice and added veggies boost fiber and complex carbohydrates while reduced sodium soy sauce and unsalted cashews keep sodium levels on check. Boldly flavored toasted sesame oil is more flavorful than regular sesame oil, so less is needed without sacrificing flavor.

So tell me, dear readers, what are your favorite home-cooked take out dishes?

Oaxacan Enchiladas Made Simple

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by Susan Salzman

easyenchiladasWe love good Mexican food in the Salzman household. Soft tacos are a weekly staple on our dinner table (using leftover grilled steak or roasted chicken, sauted with a little bit of onion and garlic), served with fresh salsa, sliced avocado, and if time permits, pickled onions.

One of our favorite neighborhood haunts is Monte Alban. Isaac not only eats his entire meal (enchiladas mole), but he polishes off half of Levi’s “Camarones a la Diabla”. We all crave the diabla sauce and if I would let him, Isaac would “lick” his plate clean. We save that behavior for the privacy of our own home!

When ever I find my kids getting bored with my cooking, I ask all of them to list their five favorite meals. Enchiladas always gets a collective thumbs up and is a meal that rarely gets the, “oh no, not that again…I don’t like that anymore”. Enchilads seems like a labor intensive task, but it really isn’t. With a little bit of prep and organization, this meal can be whipped up in 30 mintues or less.

My Menudo Recipe for 2014

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by Brenda Athanus

menudochiliesI don’t want to lose weight, stand in line at the gym, or make short-lived resolutions for 2014 - I resolve to live in the moment.

Days before the holiday I decided that Menudo was my good luck dish for this New Year’s Day. It could have been black-eyed peas or slow cooked green with pot liquor, or lentils with something but I’ve been craving Menudo for months! Menudo is tripe soup with Guajillo chiles, onions, garlic, white hominy and a few other slippery slope ingredients. I planned on freezing 11 little bags of this potion, just in case my luck needs to be topped off…

I thought about creating my Menudo for days. I dragged every cookbook out on the subject and read all about it. I visited with Rick Bayless and Diana Kennedy and that was long overdue. This good luck dish was turning into an adventure. Sure, I could have bought a can of Menudo and left it at that, or flown to Tucson, but instead I drove an hour south in light snow flurries to collect the ‘unusual’ ingredients. I had my grocery list and I was ready for some interaction with the human race after being isolated by bad weather.

A Thousand Hills to Heaven, a Story of Hope, Love, Sacrifice, and, Yes, Food

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by Steven Raichlen

thousandhillscoverJosh Ruxin did not write a book about food, although his story takes place against a backdrop of heart-wrenching hunger and Eden-esque abundance, tracing a journey from famine to feast.

He did not write a book about restaurants, although he tells how two American ex-pats created one of the hippest dining establishments in Africa.

He did not set out to write about good and evil, but his book describes one of the most horrific genocides in human history, and the astonishing efforts of both the victims and their persecutors to find forgiveness and redemption.

He didn't even write a love story, although A Thousand Hills to Heaven centers on two people who are very much in love—young Americans you might meet at a party, endowed with the same hearts, brains, and DNA as you or I—but who found the strength to work a thousand miracles in a land God forgot.

And he certainly didn't write a cookbook, but he concludes his story with six recipes that will make you want to head for your kitchen and light your grill to try them.

What he did write is one of the most extraordinary narratives of hope I have read in decades—a book that, just for reading it, makes you aspire to be a better person.

 

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