Global Cuisine

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!

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ImageFor those who love Mexican food, there's nothing better than finding a good Mexican restaurant to frequent regularly. That's because foreign cuisine can seem tough to tackle at home, especially the unique Mexican. But sometimes the craving hits without notice and you want something more than salsa and chips. For me that's when I get the urge to make authentic Mexican food at home. I have yet to master the cuisine, but rather than hit the fast-food chain with the bell or an expensive restaurant, I make my favorite dish in my own kitchen. Chilaquiles is the dish I've found really easy and successful for a beginner in south-of-the-border cooking.

Chilaquiles, a Mexican dish purposely invented to repurpose day-old tortillas, is also the perfect dish for using leftover Thanksgiving turkey or chicken. Made up of fried tortillas, shredded chicken, tomatillo salsa, and cheese, it can resembles a lasagne when layered in a casserole dish. But for faster results, chilaquiles can also be put together in tortilla stacks and placed in a hot oven just to melt the cheese and warm it through. When I first tasted chilaquiles at a restaurant, it hit my comfort spot immediately. Once I found a recipe by Daisy Martinez, I knew I had to try making it for myself. It's a dish that can make a person or—if you're willing to share—an entire family very happy.

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greencurry.jpgI cannot go to a Thai restaurant without ordering green curry. It is by far my most favorite Thai dish and I've eaten so many versions that I can almost say I'm an expert in its flavor. Something about the creamy coconut sauce with slight sweetness, the hot chiles, the green color, and verdant flavor makes me crave this dish very often. Curry, a generic term for dishes in South Asian cuisine, is known for its use of distinctive spices combined to form unique flavor. Most Westerners assume that curry is a single spice or a mixture of them. Although this is somewhat true, the word curry, an Anglicization of the Tamil word khari, references the nature of the dish: a stew, sauce, or gravy; not the spices. The colonizing English happened to call all saucy South Asian foods by the name curry, and the name stuck.

The most well-known curries are Indian and Thai, but the combination of ingredients differ greatly. Thai curries use a vast array of fresh herbs and vegetables such as cilantro, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass to lend incomparable aroma. The base of the green curry comes from the all-important paste, which combines lemongrass, lime leaves, shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro, chiles, and the spices coriander and cumin along with the particularly Thai ingredients: fish sauce and shrimp paste. All of the Thai curries begin with a similar flavorful paste, but of course a red curry will begin with a red paste, and a yellow with a yellow. The "green" ingredients create the unforgettable fresh flavor that is the base for green curry.

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shrimpsaladThis just screams summer and Mexico! Doesn't a tropical Mexican Riviera vacation sound good about now? A few margaritas, a couple of these salads....I'm in...who wants to go?

My oldest boy loves shrimp, I mean, really loves shrimp. And he loves taco salad. In fact, I'm not sure which one he loves more. So I decided to combine these two loves and make something summery and delicious. I think I succeeded, since he gobbled this up in no time at all. It was an epic gobbling, let me tell you.

I love watching people eat and enjoy the things I make....it's like a weird voyeur thing, but I can't help it.

I first cook the shrimp in this buttery-lime-cilantro sauce. I slice the shrimp lengthwise before cooking because it doubles the amount of shrimp bites in your salad. And, the shrimp cooks a little faster so there is a less chance of overcooking it.

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greeceThere is nothing like ordering fresh fish at a sea side tavern in Greece. It’s one of the quintessential experiences when visiting the Greek Isles. My friend Rich Campbell, who has uncanny knack for finding incredible places to eat, introduced me to a wonderful spot in Oia on Santorini called Taverna Katina in the quaint Ammoudi Port.

It’s simple, casual dining at its best. Mrs Katina oversees everything and beams with pride as guests enjoy her authentic Greek dishes. If you visit, be sure to try her tomatokeftedes (tomato balls) – a house specialty.

They offer the freshest fish, which you can choose from the display case inside the restaurant. We opted for local snapper - served whole with simple lemon and olive oil dressing on the side - and it was some of the best I’ve ever had.

If a trip to Greece isn’t in your near future, you can grill fresh snapper in your own backyard. Grilling a whole fish (head and all) delivers a richer, deeper flavor than grilling boneless fillets. If your fish are a little larger (between 1 1/2 and 2 pounds), simply grill them a minute or two longer on each side.

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