Global Cuisine

mexisoup.jpgSo any dish that I can make one day, eat it the next two or so, and enjoy it every time is a winner in my book. Soups and stews are most always better once they have “set” and allowed their flavors to thoroughly combine. This stew slash thick soup is of no exception. Delicious right out of the pot and just as good the next day, my Mexican Stew is an easy winner.

Don’t get me wrong, I love soups and food in general, but condiments, sides, garnishes, and flavor savors make a dish! Sour cream and Monterey Pepper Jack cheese in this case. Now, about this cheese…oh my! The Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack I love is from our local meat market, M&T Meats in Hawkinsville. It IS a cheese among cheeses. Very creamy, plenty of pepper warmth but not fiery, and melts in a jiffy…this is a cheese for me! The ones at the grocery are just fine, but if you have the chance to buy a local cheese, pounce on the opportunity…it is well worth it!

I digress, back on to the Mexican Stew. Meaty, hearty, and full of flavor, this stew was born out of what I had on hand – sometimes making the best dishes. A leaner ground beef and little bit of ground sausage (plain ol’ good sausage, no flavorings…mine again was from M&T) make for a textural background flavor and also provide the right amount of cooking fat for the whole stew.

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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.

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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?

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cucumber salad 012When I was growing up, my mom often made two different cucumber salads. For each of the salads, she sliced fresh cucumbers into very thin rounds. In one salad, the cucumbers bathed in a clear vinegar-water solution seasoned with sugar and lots of black pepper. I always liked that salad. My favorite, though, was the salad made of thinly sliced cucumbers swimming in a delicious sour cream sauce with sugar and vinegar stirred in along with thin, delicate threads of fresh dill weed.

During the last couple of weeks I’ve been able to purchase English, or seedless, cucumbers at my local farmers market. These long, slender cukes are not really seedless, but the seeds are so small and insignificant compared to regular cucumbers, they seem seedless when they’re being eaten.

Last night I served the Sour Cream Cucumber Salad with grilled pork chops, potatoes and beans. This is a salad that is good with everything. My Hungarian mother always served Sour Cream Cucumber Salad with a traditional meal of Paprika Chicken and tiny homemade dumplings. Since my mom taught me how to make this salad, I often refer to it as Hungarian Cucumber Salad.

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ImageCongee is rice served "wet" in a broth with vegetables, tofu, meat, seafood, or poultry.

Congee is the Asian equivalent of Jewish chicken soup, perfect when the weather is cold and damp or you're fighting off a cold. Served in a variety of ways, depending on the country of origin or what's in season, the basic dish is made with cooked rice, a liquid, and flavorings. You'll find dozens of authentic, regional recipes in cookbooks and online, but in our kitchen "congee" is another way of saying repurposed deliciousness.

Whatever we don't eat at a Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Thai restaurant we bring home. Invariably, a container of rice is included along with the kung pao chicken, tempera shrimp and vegetables, stir fried beef with broccoli, or sweet and sour pork that we couldn't finish.

Reheating these dishes at home is one option, but transforming them into congee is better. For example, converting vegetable and shrimp tempura into an aromatic, deeply satisfying and delicious congee is one way this simple technique can turn left-overs into the best comfort food you've ever eaten.

Tempura Vegetable and Shrimp Congee

Serves 2
 
Time 30 minutes
 
Ingredients
 
2 tempura shrimp, tail removed
4-6 pieces tempura vegetables
1 cup cooked rice
1 garlic clove, skin removed, finely chopped
4 cups spinach leaves, washed to remove grit, stems and leaves finely chopped
4 shiitake mushrooms, washed, tips of the stems removed, thinly sliced
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh or from a can
2 cups water or miso soup or a combination of both
1 tablespoon olive or sesame oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
 
Method
 
Cut the shrimp and tempura vegetables into bite-sized pieces and set aside.  Saute on a medium-low flame the garlic, shiitake mushrooms, and corn kernels until lightly browned. 
 
Add the cut up spinach and water or a mix of miso soup and water. Raise the flame and simmer 10 minutes.
 
Add the cut up tempura vegetables and shrimp to the broth. Stir well and simmer 10 minutes.
 
Add the cooked rice, stir well and simmer a final 5 minutes.
 
 
David Latt is an Emmy-award winning television producer who turns to cooking to alleviate stress. He shares his experiences with food and his favorite recipes on his blog Men Who Like To Cook.