Global Cuisine

tacoseasoningI grew up loving “taco night”. It was one my favorite nights of the week. I love a crispy shell (a tortilla, lightly fried in oil), filled with seasoned meat, homemade salsa, good-organic cheese, and fresh lettuce. Yum!!

I wanted to make a childhood favorite for my kids. The seasoning that I grew up on, sadly, was not something I was going to feed to my kids. Instead, for years, I made soft, chicken tacos. The chicken, slightly sauteed in a combo of onions, tomatoes, a small teaspoon of chopped jalapenos, chicken stock, and some seasonings. They are super tasty, but nothing can beat a crispy taco.

I read Cook’s Illustrated religiously and own every issue since 1993 (and a selection from 1981-1992). They are my “go-to” and a place that I find lots of inspiration. Many of our favorite dishes are adapted from CI so when I found a recipe for homemade taco seasoning, I earmarked the page and headed to the kitchen.

Using the original recipe as a jumping off point, I changed it up a bit to make it my own. Keeping a mix of the dry ingredients, stored in a glass jar, helps make taco (or tostada) night, any night of the week.

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kungpo2The biggest lesson I learned  when stepping up from someone who occasionally cooked for herself to someone who cooks for a living is that the quality of ingredients is at the apex of importance. Actually, I think tasting the difference between food cooked with cheap or old elements, and fresh, high quality ingredients is a skill everyone develops whether they cook or not. This past summer I was walking home from the gym and passed a Mr. Softee truck. I was feeling depleted and entitled from my workout and stopped for a van/choc swirl cone- a prized acquisition in my childhood.

And you know something? It was disgusting. It tasted exactly like cold, wet plastic. And I was shocked- because I had decided that it was the most delicious and incredibly naughty reward I could give myself. I finished it of course but I had this sneaking suspicion that I would have felt happier had I rewarded myself with something that was good for me like one of the peaches from a local fruit stand. There are things that we all loved as a child that our adult palates won’t tolerate.

And that brings me to Chinese food. As I have mentioned before, I grew up in New York City, on a hearty diet of Chinese take-out at least once or twice a week. It’s what you did. And it was fantastic, I swear. But these days… I cannot figure out why I can’t recapture the blissful Chinese delivery food orgy of my childhood. It all tastes like crap to me, like used fry oil and old ingredients and people skimming every last cent of quality into their bank accounts.

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curry2.jpgNothing is more satisfying than farmers' market fresh vegetables. Usually I'm completely happy relying on olive oil, sea salt, and pepper when I saute, grill, or roast the great bounty of summer vegetables.

Do carrots, broccoli, asparagus, fennel, peas, string beans, tomatoes, squash, and potatoes really need elaborate sauces to bring out their flavors?

The Italians get it right, in my opinion. Buy the best ingredients and get out of the way.

And yet, there are times when a little more spice or a variety of flavors is needed to reinvigorate the palate. A few drops of fresh citrus juice, a dusting of cayenne, a sprig of fresh rosemary, or a drizzle of nam pla can transform the familiar into the exciting.
 
Authentic Indian curries are complex combinations of a dozen spices and herbs. An easy-to-make version for every day use can be made with a packaged curry powder or pulled together with five basic elements: fresh garlic, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and coconut milk.  
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Spicy Pumpkin Seeds – Great with beer

Classic Margarita – Blending is not allowed.

Lila’s Guacamole – The best way to eat green.

Huevos alla Amy – A breakfast treat.

Tortilla Soup - In case it's still cold in your neck of the woods.

Topopo Salad – A salad of volcanic proportions.

Ceviche – Cool and refreshing.

Enchiladas Suizas – Simply delicious.

Mexican Chicken – Spicing it up.

Goat Cheese and Poblano Quesadillas with Pineapple-Habanero Salsa - For those who like it HOT!

Grilled Steak Tacos with Watermelon-Mango-Jicama Salsa - It's not a celebration without tacos & salsa.

sweetsourshortribis.jpgI’ve never really use a “crock pot” that often, but these ribs make it worth dragging it out of the basement. They literally fall of the bone and the sauce is the perfect combination of sweet and savory. They are quick to throw together but take a few hours to cook, so start them early.

America's Test Kitchen suggests standing the ribs in the crock. Simply halve each rack of ribs and stand the pieces up in a ring around the outside of the slow-cooker insert, where the heating coils are.

Their technique results in perfectly cooked ribs with concentrated meaty flavor and even allows the ribs to brown a little right against the heat source.

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