Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"EVERYDAY" SALSA: SALSA CASERA


Salsa casera (or ranchera) mean house salsa (or ranch salsa) in Spanish. This is the beloved day-to-day homestyle salsa that is so easy to make and tastes great with everything. There are as many varieties of salsa casera as there are Mexican households... everyone makes it ever so slightly differently, depending on personal taste, tradition, chiles available, etc. It's sometimes made with a mix of tomatillos and tomatoes, or with roasted fresh chiles serrano/jalapeño/de arbol/cayenne instead of dried. Sometimes with chiles pequin added to take the heat up a notch, sometimes without cilantro, sometimes with Mexican oregano. However you make it, you can't go wrong with this salsa. It's quite basic, fresh, and herb-y.


Salsa Casera
makes: ~1-1/2 cups

- 1 lb. ripe tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 5 - 8 chiles de arbol (or cayenne, commonly used in India)
- 1/2 white onion, unpeeled
- 1 large handful cilantro, leaves and tender stems
- 2 tbsp. distilled vinegar
- 1 tbsp. salt
  1. Put the onion cut side down and the unpeeled garlic in a pan. Dry-roast on medium until the garlic is softened somewhat, charred in places, and the cut side of the onion is mostly charred. Peel the garlic and onion and place in a food processor jar.
  2. Boil water in a pan large enough to hold the tomatoes. Cut a cross on the top (stem side) of the tomatoes and put into the water. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat. Allow to cool and peel the tomatoes. Transfer to the food processor.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse into a salsa - don't blend into a soup! Adjust salt and lime to taste.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.

Monday, January 19, 2015

SUPER HOT PEANUT SALSA: SALSA MACHA


Macho/macha in Spanish means brave. And this is truly a salsa for the brave... it's fiery but so addictive that you'll want to ignore your blazing tastebuds as you reach for *justonelastbite*. This feisty salsa is easy to make and conveniently, it goes with everything! I keep it around in the fridge because who knows when the urge will strike to dip a few tortilla chips into it to go with a cold beer?! Or to have it over eggs, or simply with a couple of hot tortillas. Or with tamales as in the photo below.

The guajillo chile is a smoky fruity chile that isn't that high on the heat but is sultry and has a gorgeous dark red, almost brown colour. If you don't have guajillos, it's ok... you'll have a brighter coloured salsa, still just as delicious. Enjoy!


Super Hot Peanut Salsa: Salsa Macha
makes: 1 cup

- 1 cup roasted peanuts (skinned or unskinned, salted or unsalted)
- 10 - 12 chiles de arbol, (or cayenne, commonly used in India)
- 2 chiles guajillo (optional)
- 2 tbsp. white or black sesame seeds
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic
- 1 lime/lemon, juiced
- 2 tsp. salt (1 tsp. if using salted peanuts)
- 1/4 cup peanut oil (or olive oil)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup water, to adjust consistency
  1. Dry-roast the guajillos (if using) in a pan until fragrant and transfer into a bowl of hot tap water to soften for about 15 - 20 minutes while you do other things.
  2. Dry-roast the sesame seeds in a pan. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Dry-roast the chiles de arbol (or cayenne) until fragrant - be careful not to burn or they'll taste bitter - then transfer into a bowl.
  4. Dry-roast the garlic until the it's blackened in spots and softened a bit, about 7 - 10 min.
  5. Drain, stem, and de-seed the guajillos - discard the soaking water. Put all the ingredients except water in a blender or food processor and blend well. Add water, 1/4 cup at a time to adjust consistency (sometimes I leave it thick to use as a spread, and other times I add water to make it more of a dip).
  6. Adjust salt and lime to taste and serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to a week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

HABANERO-SWEET POTATO HOT SAUCE



This spicy, sweet, tangy hot sauce is so addictive you'll find yourself having it with everything! And the colour is so pretty too.

I first had this hot sauce at the incredible Cochon in New Orleans a few weeks ago. And since then I was a bit obsessed. It was so utterly delicious with enough spice, sweetness, and tang to want it over and over, that I had my muffaletta practically doused in it. As a parting gesture, I photographed the ingredients on the label (they sell bottles at the restaurant and also have the same bottles at each table).

Well I came home and couldn't get it out of my mind, so I looked at the photo with the ingredients and created a version of it. I must say this is pretty darn close to the Cochon version, with a bit more spice and a slightly thicker texture so that I can use it as a dip and a spread. And now I always have some in the fridge!

I've made it with sweet potatoes of all colours - white, yellow, orange, and they're all terrific! So use any type of sweet potato that is available to you. And if you don't have apple cider vinegar, use distilled and adjust the sugar to balance the taste.


Habanero-Sweet Potato Hot Sauce
makes: 16 oz./2 cups

- 2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and unpeeled
- 4 habanero peppers, cut into large pieces (remove the seeds from two if you want to tone the spice down a bit)
- 3 cloves garlic, cut into large pieces
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, cut into large pieces
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup distilled vinegar
- 1-1/2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking tray and bake for 40 - 50 min. until a knife slides easily into the sweet potatoes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  3. In a small pan, bring the distilled vinegar to a simmer. Add the garlic, onion, and habanero and simmer until the onion is mostly softened, 5 - 7 min. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. Put the peeled sweet potatoes, vinegar mixture, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and salt (if using) in a blender jar and blend until smooth. You may need to thin with apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp. at a time, to help blend well.
  5. Taste and adjust sugar if needed. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge for a few weeks.
  6. Enjoy with eggs, tamales, sandwiches, burgers, empanadas, steak, chicken, pizza... whatever you please!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

TOASTED SEAWEED SNACKS: IODINE BOOSTER!


This toasted nori, zucchini, muhammara, feta tangerine herb dip was born out of necessity, because I was famished and wanted something tasty yet with minimal effort. I put together stuff I had in the fridge and pantry. This is a terrific snack, pretty enough to serve to company, and is an iodine booster! Perfect for those of us who don't use iodized salt.

Toasted Seaweed Snacks: Iodine Booster!
makes: 1 serving

- 2 sheets toasted nori, cut into 16 pieces
- 1 small zucchini or cucumber, sliced
- 1/4 cup muhammara
- 1/4 cup feta tangerine herb dip
  1. Arrange the pieces on a plate, as shown above.
  2. Top with one or two zucchini slices and the dips.
  3. Serve immediately.

SUPERFOOD CHOCOLATE MOUSSE!


You'd never guess this gorgeous silky mousse is made from... avocados!! It's so nourishing and energising that you can have it for any meal of the day, even as a snack.

Superfood Chocolate Mousse!
makes: 2 servings

- 1 medium (or 2 small) ripe avocados 
- 1/4 cup raw cacao powder, or more to taste (use regular unsweetened cocoa powder if you don't have raw cacao)

- 5 dates, pitted and roughly chopped

- 1/4 cup orange juice (or water)

- 1 tsp. natural vanilla extract or pure vanilla bean powder (optional)
- A pinch of sea salt

- Honey or maple syrup (if required, to adjust sweetness)

Topping Ideas
Toasted coconut, shaved dark chocolate, fruits, nuts, granola, etc.

  1. Soak the dates in the orange juice for 10-15 minutes to soften. In a blender, add the avocado flesh, dates, juice, salt, cacao powder, and vanilla if using. Blend until smooth. You will most likely need to scrape down the sides of the blender jar a few times. 
  2. Taste and adjust cacao and sweetness to taste. Serve immediately with toppings of choice. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

ROASTED BEET SALAD, GARAM MASALA VINAIGRETTE


This is an easy and fantastic salad that can be a first course, appetizer, or a side for two people, or a main meal for one. I often have this over whatever greens I have at hand. Or sometimes with crostini. Or with more beets! Just joking.

To roast beets: wash the beets and put them in a preheated 400 F oven for 30 - 40 minutes. The beets are done when you can easily slide a knife into them. Allow to cool and slide the skins off. Trim, slice and serve. Or refrigerate whole for up to two days.

Roasted Beet Salad, Garam Masala Vinaigrette
makes: 2 servings

- 6 tbsp. olive oil 
- 1 tsp. garam masala (or any curry powder)
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- 2 tsp. coarse salt 
- 1 tbsp. raisins 
- 3 medium beets, roasted, peeled, and sliced (see above)
- 2-3 tbsp. feta (or any soft goat cheese) (optional)
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts (or 1 tbsp. toasted pine nuts) (optional)
  1. In a small saucepan, heat 3 tbsp. olive oil with garam masala over medium-low heat until just heated through. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a food processor or blender jar along with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, raisins, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Blend till smooth.
  3. Arrange beet slices in a plate and drizzle the dressing over them. Top with feta and serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

VEGAN KHAO SOI: CHIANG MAI CURRY NOODLES


This spicy, savoury, sweet, sour noodle soup will wake your taste buds up! I love having this healthy yet filling noodle soup in cold weather or when I'm under-the-weather-but-not-too-under-to-make-it. And.. it can easily be made gluten-free by using gluten-free noodles or not using noodles at all and adding extra vegetables like I do sometimes.

The fresh curry paste makes a big difference in flavour so do make it if you have time. If not, there's always next time! Adjust the salt, sugar, and lime to taste - the quantities given below are just guidelines. Customize the flavour to *your* taste buds! 

Vegan Khao Soi: Chiang Mai Curry Noodles
makes: 4 large or 6 small servings

- 1/2 cup khao soi curry paste (recipe below)
1 tbsp. coconut oil
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 2 carrots, cubed
- 1 handful green beans, cut into 1 in. pieces
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 med. capsicum, cut into 1 in. pieces
- 2 cups tofu cubes
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 4-5 cups water
- 1 lb. (~1/2 kg.) egg noodles (or gluten-free noodles)

Garnishes 
- bean sprouts (or fried noodles)
- sliced shallot (or onion)
- sliced hot chiles
- lime wedges
- cilantro

Curry paste (This makes 1 cup curry paste. Use half for this recipe and refrigerate the rest for up to 1 week.)
- 2 shallots, peeled and quartered
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese black cardamoms (elcha in Gujarati, badi elaichi in Hindi)
- 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 3 dried Thai bird chiles (or any spicy dried peppers), dry roasted
- 1 tsp. garam masala (or any curry powder)
- 1-2 in. piece of fresh turmeric
- 1/2 in. piece of ginger
- 4 stalks lemongrass, tender inner part roughly chopped (bottom ~four inches only)
- 1 bunch cilantro, stems cut and leafy tops and tender stems reserved
- 1 tbsp. lime zest
- 1 tsp. salt
  1. In a skillet, dry-roast (roast without oil) the coriander and cardamom seeds. Dry-roast the dried chiles.
  2. Add the roasted seeds and chiles to a blender jar. Add the remaining curry paste ingredients and blend into a smooth paste. You'll have to scrape the sides of the jar a few times to get a smooth paste.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the coconut oil and add the 1/2 cup curry paste. Fry the curry paste on medium-low heat until it is fragrant and slightly dry, ~5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the coconut milk and stir to mix. Fry for ~5 more minutes until the mixture is somewhat dry. Add 1 cup of coconut milk and fry on medium-high until you see coconut oil on the surface (it will be red oil since it's mixed with the curry paste).
  4. Add the carrots and green beans, turn the heat to medium if needed, and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the capsicum and mushrooms and stir-fry until the capsicum softens slightly.
  5. Turn the heat to high. Add the remaining coconut milk and 4 cups of water and bring to a soft boil. Turn the heat to medium or medium-high and simmer until the vegetables are cooked. Add the tofu and simmer for a few more minutes. Turn the heat off.
  6. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, and extra salt if needed. The soup should taste ever-so-slightly over-salted since you will serve over unsalted noodles and with garnishes.
  7. Cook the noodles according to directions on the package and divide among 4 bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles and garnish as desired.
  8. Serve with generous lime wedges and extra sliced green and crushed red chiles. Enjoy hot! Refrigerate leftovers for no more than 2 days.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

FRITTATA: GREEN BEANS, MUSHROOMS, WALNUTS, OLIVES


This easy frittata with green beans, walnuts, mushrooms, olives, and a bit of feta cheese is a quick breakfast or brunch meal that can be made with as many or as few ingredients as you have at hand. It's great hot or cold, which makes it a terrific dish for picnics, potlucks, and road trips!

I added the last little bit of a delicious French feta I had, but feel free to add no cheese, or any other cheese you prefer. Or stir in any kind of pesto after adding the eggs. I typically don't care for meat, especially at the first meal of the day, but you can definitely add smoked trout, sausage, proscuitto, diced chicken, or whatever other meat you want.


Frittata: Green Beans, Mushrooms, Walnuts, Olives
makes: 3 servings

- 6 eggs
- 1 handful green beans, blanched
- 1 shallot (or small onion), sliced
- 6-8 crimini mushrooms, sliced (or any other mushrooms)
- 1/4 cup walnut halves
- 1 jalapeno, sliced
- 1/4 cup whole pitted olives
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. olive oil

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan/skillet on medium heat. Crack the eggs into a bowl and lightly beat with a fork.
  2. When the oil is heated, add the sliced mushrooms and shallots. Sauté.
  3. Turn the heat to low, add the eggs and quickly swirl the pan to spread the eggs in the entire pan.
  4. Turn the heat up to medium and arrange the remaining vegetables and walnuts around the pan so they're all more or less in a single layer. Arrange the feta between all the vegetables.
  5. Cook until the egg custard is set, about 7-10 minutes, occasionally swirling the pan so the eggs in the centre run around the sides.
  6. Turn the heat off and transfer the frittata to a plate or cutting board.
  7. Cut into wedges and serve with bread, roasted potatoes, other roasted vegetables, or a salad. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a day.