Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Grilled corn (esquite) with black beans, lime dressing and queso Cotija

024 v1One of my favorite aromas is grilled sweet summer corn emanating from Hispanic food stands and taco trucks.   Smoky and hot with the presence of a little char, roasted corn on the cob is becoming a common street food here in Texas as it is in Mexico.  Known as elote, corn is usually roasted in its husk.  When stripped but left attached at the end, the husk (also known as the shuck) becomes the handle with which one eats the corn.   Slathered with mayonnaise, lime and chili powder, it is one toothsome treat!

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Elote that has been cut off the cob are called esquites, and that’s what I served my delightful bunco group at my Cinco de Mayo feast this year.  Served with traditional Mexican accompaniments of mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder, cayenne pepper and Cotija cheese, I took my esquites one step further by adding black beans and scallions.   It was very well received!

Roasted corn (esquites) with black beans, lime dressing and queso Cotija

4 ears corn, husks on

½ – 1 can black beans (14-oz), rinsed and drained

2 scallions, chopped

Lime dressing (see below)

1/3 cup queso Cotija (Cotija cheese), crumbled

To roast the corn: Soak corn with husks intact in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain water and pat dry. Broil or grill corn, turning every few minutes, until the husks char and corn kernels are cooked but still firm, about 12 – 18 minutes depending on the intensity of the heat. Cool and remove husks. Cut kernels off the cob and place them in a bowl.

Add black beans, scallions and lime dressing. Toss to combine and top with crumbled Cotija cheese and sprig of cilantro.

Lime dressing:

1/3 cup mayonnaise (sour cream or yogurt would be fine as well)

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ teaspoon chili powder, or a little more to taste

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon salt

Combine sour cream or mayonnaise, lime juice, chili powder, cayenne, cumin and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside. 046 v1


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tabbouleh with mint, honeydew melon and prosciutto

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Whether you spell it tabbouleh, tabouleh, tabouli or even tabuli, you will love this light and fruity version!  A staple in the Middle East, tabbouleh is a cold salad often found on meze plates.  Tabbouleh is made with bulgur, a whole grain wheat that has been parboiled, dried, crushed and sorted by size.  It is very high in fiber and protein and a perfect food for those watching their calorie intake - i.e., someone like me! 

I have recently formed a Biggest Loser contest with 16 of my lovely friends with the hopes of shedding the twenty, yes 20, or so pounds that I have gained since starting my blog!  The effect of sitting in front of a computer for hours on end and ingesting more calories than my typing fingers can burn has shown its ugly side.  Yeast dough, chocolate ganache, and the pleasing glass of wine in hand while I cooked will be replaced by healthier options until such time as I win this thingand that bundle of money to be awarded!   (I am normally not very competitive but I seem to be showing my ugly side so let’s get back to tabbouleh…after all, this is a food blog and I have a job to do!)

With temperatures well into the 90’s here in Texas, tabbouleh is the perfect summer salad because stovetop heat is not needed to cook it.   It rehydrates and softens within 30 minutes with the simple addition of cold water.   Available in most grocery stores, bulgur comes in different sizes and ‘fine’ (#1) bulgur is the choice for tabbouleh

My garden is about to be overtaken by mint and I have been thinking of ways to use it in the kitchen.  Here it replaces parsley, the traditional herb of choice in tabbouleh.  I have never been a fan of cucumbers so they’ve been tossed for flavorful honeydew melon…and since melon and prosciutto go hand-in-hand I guarantee that you will love a few thin slices with the salad.

You may be questioning my choice of honeydew melon over one with less sugar (cantaloupe).   A girl’s got to get her vitamins and honeydew melon is very high in vitamin C and potassium.  Surprisingly, it’s high water content results in only 60 calories per cup!

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Tabbouleh with mint, honeydew melon and prosciutto

Adapted from Gourmet, July 2006.  Original recipe by Melissa Roberts-Matar

1 cup cold water
¾ cup fine bulgur (5 oz)
1½ cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1½ cups diced firm, ripe honeydew melon
½ cup finely chopped red onion
½ teaspoon salt

¼ pound thinly sliced prosciutto

Pour water over bulgur in a bowl.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain in a sieve if there is water at the bottom of the bowl.

Place mint, oil and lime or lemon juice in a blender or food processor.  Blend until the mint is finely chopped but still has some distinguishable pieces.

Toss bulgur with mint mixture, honeydew, onion, and salt.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Serve with prosciutto.  Serves 4.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Onion Jam

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I have always loved the taste of jams and preserves.  What can be better than fruit cooked with a healthy dose of sugar?  A picky eater as a youngster -- oh, how things have changed -- bread, butter and jam kept this overactive, skinny little girl happy.  Peanut butter and jelly was an unheard-of combination in South Africa so my sandwiches were filled with salted butter and exotic berry jams, apricot, plum or my all-time favorite fig. 

I still enjoy my jam and butter but it’s more likely to be on a single piece of toast since the calories add up a lot quicker now :(    With the increase in availability of a wide variety of cheeses from all over the world and locally by our very own artisans (try Blue Heron Farm), a new way of enjoying preserves has emerged.   Chunky preserves can complement a pungent, rich cheese with its texture and sweetness;  fig jam is a perfect partner to tangy goat cheese.  

A mind-boggling array of delicious savory jams has emerged in recent years.  Chipotle peppers cannned with peaches or raspberries, ginger with figs, and blueberries with garlic are just a few that come to mind.  Here’s the simple recipe for Onion jam that I served with Walnut bread and Humboldt Fog chèvre (goat cheese) as seen in my previous postWhen cooked slowly, the onions are allowed to absorb the sugar, soy sauce, wine and vinegar.  Once the water in the liquids has evaporated the mixture becomes thick, jammy and complex in flavor…sweet, salty, a tad sour…umami... and perfect with chèvre. 

This savory jam would also be an outstanding accompaniment to a roast beef or turkey sandwich.  It would be delicious with a freshly grilled steak or on a vegetable pizza.  The thought of it mingling with melting queso in a quesadilla makes my mouth water!.  Get creative with it…it’s worth the 45 minutes or so of stirring!

Onion Jam from the Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook

Makes about 1 cup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cups sliced onions; I have used both yellow and red

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine

2 tablespoons water

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 - 8 minutes until tender and translucent. Add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 - 20 minutes, until onions are golden brown. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring often to avoid scorching, for about 20 minutes, until the mixture is thick and jam like.  Taste and adjust for salt, if necessary.  The slower you cook it, the richer the jam will become. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Walnut bread with Humboldt Fog goat cheese and Onion jam

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My love for goat cheese (chèvre) is no secret.  I am an afflicted turophile!  It’s a new word for me and probably for you as well, dear reader.  It comes from the Greek tyros ‘cheese’ and philos ‘love’ and was first used by the English in the 1930s.  Rarely used today, it also means ‘connoisseur of cheese’.   Aside from being a dedicated turophile, I also spend way too much time on the internet where I came across an alternative/rock band based in Toledo, Ohio named Turophilie, that claims to have “no tolerance for the lactose intolerant”!   I listened to a couple of songs on their playlist and quite like their sound.  Interesting stuff one comes across on the internet!

Back to chèvre…Hubby and I hosted a wine dinner recently with goat cheese or goat's milk in every single course.   For starters, and with the help of my accomplished wine group members, I managed to pack eight delicious tidbits on two appetizer plates.   Each of the items varied in texture, flavor and color and presented a feast for the eyes!

Warm appetizer plate

Tartelettes with chèvre, red peppers and caramelized red onions

Creamy Mediterranean chèvre polenta with scallops on a half shell

Dates stuffed with chèvre wrapped in bacon

Roasted beet and chèvre tower with pistachios

Chevre dinner 2-2010 hot app plate

Cold appetizer plate

Humboldt Fog on homemade walnut bread

Terrine of chèvre with zucchini and roasted red, orange and yellow peppers

Chèvre crème brulee with turbinado crust

Melon salad with chèvre feta and sherry vinegar dressing

Chevre dinner2 2-2010 cold app plate

Chèvre overkill, you say?  It can never happen in my world, but it was a definite challenge for Hubby in the wine pairing department.  Since a few members of our group tend to steamroll toward the reds, we had to remind them that goat cheese loves to be courted by champagne, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.   I managed to sneak some chèvre into the spinach and pine nut ‘cigars’ that accompanied the main course of grilled lamb chops with celery root and Yukon gold puree and sautéed mushrooms.   We drank a few Chateauneuf-du-Pape reds and everyone was very happy.   Homemade Vanilla bean goat’s milk ice cream topped individual apple tarts for dessert and we were ecstatic!

In my ‘humboldt’ opinion, Humboldt Fog chèvre rivals the best the French can produce.   Made in California by Cypress Grove Chèvre, it is the epitome of American made cheese.  It’s firm and chalky, thick and creamy, with an unmistakable tang derived from the acids unique to goat’s milk.  The rind is edible, as well as the delicate layer of ash that runs through the middle of the cheese, giving it a pretty layer-cake look.  Best at room temperature, the outer layer oozes creamy-rich decadence seen in the picture at the end of this post.

A nice complement to the chèvre is bread made with walnuts and shallots.   The soft rich cream in the cheese contrasts with a hint of onion and crunchy nuts.  It’s also great with Onion Jam, a recipe I’ll share in the next few days.   Here’s the bread…on bright red!

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Walnut bread

Adapted from The Cheese Course by Janet Fletcher

Makes one 8-inch round loaf

1 cup walnuts

¼ ounce package active dry yeast, or 2½ teaspoons instant yeast

1/3 cup warm water (110ºF to 115ºF)

1 cup milk

1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut up into chunks

about 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup minced shallots

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1 pound Humboldt Fog cheese

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Toast walnuts on a baking sheet until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In a small bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let stand for 2 minutes to soften. Stir to dissolve and allow to sit for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until fine bubbles form on the surface. This means that the yeast is active and you have just ‘proofed’ it.

Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until butter is melted. Set aside to cool to about 110ºF.

In a large bowl, stir together 1¾ cups of the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and salt. Add the active (proofed) yeast, milk and butter mixture, shallots and walnuts. Stir until well blended. Add more all-purpose flour gradually, stirring until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary.

Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a large greased bowl (I use about 1 tablespoon olive oil). Turn the dough over to coat the entire surface with oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until doubled, about 1½ hours. Punch the dough down and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Reshape into a ball and transfer to a baking sheet dusted with the cornmeal. Cover with the towel and let rise until doubled, about 1½ hours.

Preheat oven to 425ºF. Put a baking dish with ice water on the floor of the oven to create steam. Slash the loaf a couple of times, and then bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF, remove the water from the oven and continue to bake bread until it is well browned, about 30 minutes more. Let cool on rack before slicing.  Serve with sliced Humboldt Fog cheese and Onion Jam.

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I am submitting this recipe to YeastSpotting, a weekly review of yeast-driven food.  Check the link for some wonderful recipes!