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Archive for January, 2010

Veal Fricassée

During the past few years I have reduced my meat consumption greatly.  I have become a “flexitarian” (a person who eats meat occasionally, as a “seasoning” and in much smaller quantities than the leafy greens, dairy, legumes, grains and/or vegetables etc. that are in my plate).  It was not a dramatic decision I made one day but rather gradual little changes and adjustments I have done during the past 2 years. I believe in eating fresh, natural, whole foods even though you may allow yourself to eat a decadent dessert once in a while, or like my brother Manolo says; “Allow yourself a treat only on Sundays to satisfy cravings!”.  Add exercise to the equation and you have the basic formula to keep a balanced lifestyle.  By making homemade meals from fresh ingredients we know what we are putting into our mouths and giving our families the nutrients they need to maintain a healthy (not necessarily skinny) body.

Cooking at home brings families and friends together. Sadly, this tradition is being lost in many homes and substituted by fast food and take-out as the rule instead of the exception. After reading books like the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Skinny Bitch, Food Rules and Slow Food Nation, I was motivated to make some adjustments in the way I buy, cook and eat food.  I am convinced eating less processed foods and more organic foods that come from plants, trees, the wild (as in fishing), and pastured animals that have not been exposed to antibiotics or pesticides, are the best alternatives.  In the long run, its worth paying the premium prices these items usually have and I try to buy organic, local and seasonal whenever possible. This doesn’t mean I won’t have an Oreo once in a while.  I have never liked extremes, so balance is the key.


That being said, my husband is a meat lover, so sometimes I make stews, beef tacos, “ropa vieja”, stuffed chicken breasts, lamb or pork chops, breaded veal scallopini, picadillo, etcetera for him and guests to enjoy.  Last week my brother in law Mandy, our niece Camelia and her boyfriend Ricardo along with my mother in law Martha came over for dinner and this is what I made for them. They loved it as well as my recipe for cheese fondue (I will post in the near future) which is always a great hit.  Keep in mind I make this recipe in a pressure cooker to make it faster. For all the meat lovers out there, here is my recipe for Veal Fricassée!

BTW, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MANOLO! WE LOVE YOU!

Enjoy!

Veal Fricassée

6 servings aprox.

Ingredients

2 1/4 pounds of veal cut into cubes aprox. (2″x2″ aprox.)

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 medium size orange (juice and about 1 1/2 tsp of zest)

1 tbsp kosher salt

1 cup of white wine

2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)

1 1/2 tbsp recaíto (or 1 frozen “ice cube” of recaito, see recipe under seasonings) if you cannot find recaito in your grocery store, a bled of italian seasonings is a good substitute (1/2 tbsp)

2 bay leaves

2 carrots cut about 1″ thick

2 golden potatoes cut  into large cubes

2 tomatoes cubed

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1/2 cup finely chopped cubanel pepper or green pepper

1 tsp oregano

4 oz tomato sauce

8 oz canned pimentos (pureed)

10 manzanilla olives

3 sprigs of thyme

1 cup of veal stock (or chicken stock)

1/2 cup of water

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure

1.  Season veal chunks with salt and orange juice and zest.

2.  In a pressure cooker, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium-hi heat.  With a slotted spoon remove veal pieces from marinade and sauté for about 5 minutes. Reserve the marinade juices.

3.  Add wine, onion, carrots, tomatoes, recaito and pepper.  Sauté for another 5 minutes.

4.  Continue by adding potatoes, pureed pimentos, tomato sauce, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, pepper, broth, marinade juices and water.

5.  Cover pressure cooker and cook for about 45 minutes. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, make it in a heavy bottom medium-large pan or a dutch oven.   It will take about 2 hours over med-lo heat for meat to become tender (covered).  You will have to add more liquid or water  so that the sauce doesn’t dry up)

6.  Best when served with basic white rice (see recipe under rice), risotto alla milanese (see recipe under risotto) or brown rice.

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I had planned to post this recipe during next month, but I am making an early posting of my champagne punch bowl recipe at the request of my good friend Yuri.

This champagne punch bowl is one of my trademarks.  My friend Narah named it “bul de la verdad” or “the drink of truth”  because every time I make it and guests start to drink it, by the end of the gathering everyone will be  telling “the truth” (without inhibitions). Ja! It is very refreshing and easy to make.  Your guests will be asking for this recipe too!

Please remember this is not juice, it has alcohol so pace yourself no matter how good and sweet it is!  Tip:  Drink plenty of water and eat before, during and after drinking.

If you want you can add frozen strawberries (about 2 cups) to this punch bowl mix. Its optional.

Bul de la Verdad (Champagne Punch Bowl)

Ingredients

3 cups of cranberry juice

3 cups of orange juice

3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 bottle of white wine (inexpensive)

4 bottles of cold champagne, sparkling wine or cava (inexpensive)

2 cups frozen strawberries (optional)

Procedure

1.  In a large pot heat cranberry and orange juice with sugar just until the sugar dissolves stirring occasionally . Remove from heat and add bottle of white wine (and strawberries optional).  Mix well. Freeze mixture pouring into two separate containers overnight. I freeze it in 2 tupperware covered jello molds or into two bundt cake pans.

2.  When ready to serve, place frozen mixture in a punch bowl and add 2 champagne bottles for each mold. Stir and serve.

Enjoy!

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Recaíto


Recaito is the typical seasoning base for many Puerto Rican dishes. It is key to making “sofrito” for arroz con pollo, carne guisada, stews, soups and beans among others.  Recao or culantro, is a long aromatic herb.  Home made recaito is absolutely delicious.  I dare to say every puertorrican has (or at least should) recaito in their fridge. My friend Bea says her kids always eat the food she prepares with my recaito and has asked for a lifetime supply. ja!  I grow my own recao and make this batch about every two months and freeze most of it in several ice cube trays that have lids. That way I use as many recaito “ice cubes” I need for a recipe.

Recaíto

Ingredients

2 handfuls (bunches of culantro) recao

1 cup of seeded ají dulces (sweet peppers)

1/2 cup of cubanel pepper (pimiento de cocinar in PR or aji for Cubans)

1/2 of a large yellow union (coarsely chopped)

8 garlic cloves

1 tbsp of fresh oregano

handful of cilantro (cilantrillo)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup of apple vinegar

Procedure

1.  Clean recao leaves.

2.  Put all ingredients in food processor and pulse until all ingredients are very finely chopped.  Almost pureed.

3.  Store in the refrigerator or freeze in ice cube trays with lids. (Mine are from Tupperware and OXO)

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“NO! THIS IS NOT A LEGAL DOCUMENT.” ja! That ‘s what I have to tell people when they ask for my pizza dough recipe and I hand them a copy or send them an email attachment. I know it’s long, but it’s worth the time.

I have been involved in sports throughout my whole life.  I play tennis, golf and volleyball. I also love to swim and am a yoga fan. A few months ago I invited my volleyball team mates (group of oldies but goodies!) to my house and we had a bbq pizza party.  The pizza dough takes some time to make but homemade pizza is the best!  Each of them made their own pizzas and I had a variety of toppings available  to suit everyones’ tastes. You can make it in the oven or in the bbq (my favorite!!!).  I must mention that my brother Joaco has become an expert at this craft.  His bbq pizza parties are legendary! The most important thing is to heat the pizza stone at 450-500º at least for 45 minutes before starting to cook.

I have been making this recipe for the past five years. It is adapted from a recipe I found in http://www.theartisan.net.  For those of you interested in culture and history, what we consider in America to be basic pizza (a pie with tomato sauce and mozzarella) is not in Italy.  If you wish to order this kind of pizza in Italy you will have to say Pizza Margherita. This kind of pizza became popular when Queen Margherita, wife of King Umberto I, visited Naples in 1889.  She noticed the poor and peasant people eating flat bread with different toppings and became curious.  She summoned Raffaele Esposito, a pizza-maker from Naples, to make different pizzas for her to choose from and she chose this one because it had the colors of the Italian flag (red-tomatoes, white-mozzarella di buffala, green-basil). Word spread throughout her kingdom about how much she liked to eat pizza.  Before this moment, pizzas were only topped with a white sauce, spices or vegetables. It is believed the greeks made the original version of pizza, a flatbread topped with olive oil and spices, which Italians adopted and improved.  Of course, in the beginning tomato was not the main ingredient of pizza because tomatoes are native of the Americas like chocolate and corn.  Today, they use pureed uncooked San Marzano (plum) tomatoes and fresh mozzarella di buffala. In Naples the crust of the pizza is thicker than in Rome because they add more ingredients like whole cherry tomatoes and fish and sometimes liquid ingredients like egg.  Also, if you buy pizza from a pizza stand they will sell it to you by the kilo.

Buon appetito!

Pizza Dough

Starter:

2 tsp active dry yeast

¼ cup warm water

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough:

1 cup water

2 ¼ cups of unbleached all-purpose flour (some extra for hands and surface)

1 tsp salt (substitute with same amount of sugar when using whole wheat flour)

Tomato Sauce:

15 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

1 tsp salt

pinch Italian herbs

Procedure:

To make starter, dissolve yeast in warm water and allow to stand for approximately 5-10min.  Add flour and mix until flour is absorbed.  Cover starter with a cotton towel and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

For the dough, mix the the salt with the flour.  Place the starter mix in an electric mixer with the dough hook and add the additional water.  The water  should be at room temperature.  ( If you don’t have an electric mixer you can do this by hand)  Add the flour/salt mixture and continue to mix the ingredients to the consistency of a soft dough. Once, everything is incorporated finish kneading by hand with additional flour for hands until smooth and elastic.

Divide dough in three portions.  Shape into a ball.  Dust a board with flour.  Place the 3 portions of dough on the dusted surface.  Cover with cotton or linen towel and allow to rise until double their original size approximately 1 ½ – 2 hours.  After this stage, depending on when the kneaded portions will be used, they can be wrapped individually in plastic and placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days or frozen up to 2 months.  If so, allow the portions to come to room temperature before rolled out and used.

As the dough is rising,  place the baking stone in the oven at 500f.  Allow oven to heat for 30 min.  If you are baking the dough in a gas or charcoal grill, you may heat it at 450º f using a special baking stone that has a metal frame. (you can find it at Williams Sonoma stores or Marshall’s)

Fold the edge of each portion of the dough toward the center, kneading it gently while maintaining a round shape.   Place each portion into a floured work surface.  Work with each portion individually.  Roll the dough into a circular shape aboub 10-12 inches in diameter.  Drizzle with at least 1 tbsp of olive oil over the pizza dough spreading it with a brush, your hand or back of a spoon.  All of the surface except for an inch around the edge should be covered with a thin layer of olive oil.  ( for additional flavor make a mixture of mashed garlic and olive oil to  coat the pizza’s surface).  This  coating serves a number of purposes:  it coats the dough thereby making it impermeable to the water in the tomato or other toppings.  Thus, the pizza has less tendency to become soggy and to stick to the peel.  Additionally, the olive oil heats faster and assists in the cooking of the ingredients.

The initial topping, except in Pizza Bianca, should consist of 3-4 tbsp of crushed fresh or canned whole peeled tomatoes (see pizza sauce recipe above).  This should be spread thinly over the olive oil with the back of a large spoon.   It should be thick enough for you to see the dough underneath.  Toppings like cheese,  sausage, mushrooms, prosciutto or anchovies, should rarely be thicker than  the dough itself and should not cover the edge of the pizza base.  Toppings should be added to enhance the flavor of the base not overwhelm it.

I recommend you roll the dough into shape in a wooden board or marble surface but transfer it to a well dusted baker’s peel when you are going to put the toppings, so it is easier to slide on the baking stone, at least until you master this technique.

Remove pizza from fire and cut into individual slices using a pizza cutter.  Serve immediately.  Makes 3 pizzas.

FYI

You can also make whole wheat pizza by substituting amount of flour and add one tsp of sugar.  You might need a  bit more water.

Neapolitan Pizza is thicker (over 1/8  of an inch because they have more fluid ingredients which need to be contained.)

Roman Pizza is thiner (less than 1/8 of an inch because it has less ingredients that do not need a rim to contain them.)

Pizza Margherita:  tomato sauce, mozzarella di buffala, basil.

Pizza Bianca:  Olive oil w/ garlic, rosemary, mozzarella, kosher salt and pepper

Nutella:  Only topping is a spread of Nutella over the dough (no olive oil)


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Seasons app

FYI: If you want to contribute in helping the environment by buying local and eating products that are in season like nature intended, check out the iphone app seasons. It tells you when each item is in season with pictures and additional information about the product like which season it is harvested and how many times a year, etc..  Pretty cool!

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Pear Bliss

Sometimes I open the fridge and start improvising with the ingredients and/or leftovers I happen to find. I don’t like to throw away food so I am very creative with my everyday cooking.  I can humbly say most of the time the outcome of my experiments are pretty good.  I got the inspiration to make this dessert when one day about one year ago, I looked at a large fruit bowl I have in my kitchen and had about 8 ripe green bartlett pears. What had happened was that I bought a box of these pears at Costco on an impulse the week before without realizing my family and I wouldn’t be able to eat all of them before they spoiled.   So I started skimming through my collection of food magazines and books and found a pear pie in an edition of Everyday Food.  I read the recipe and made my own version with the ingredients I had at hand.  The outcome was this delicious pear custard pie. I called it Pear Bliss because it is so light and I couldn’t figure out how to describe it because it is neither a cake, custard, flan or pie by definition, texture or appearance. It is easy and fast to make.  For a more decadent version make it “a la mode” with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel syrup on top.

Pear Bliss

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter (melted) plus some for pie dish

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour

3 large eggs

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup evaporated milk

3 Bartlett, Comice or D’Anjou pears (quartered and cored)

confectioners sugar for dusting

Procedure


1.  Pre-heat oven at 350º f.  Butter 9 inch pie dish (I use a glass Pyrex round 9” pie dish)

2.  In a blender, process melted butter, granulated sugar, flour, vanilla extract, eggs and evaporated milk until completely blended.

3.  Slice pears about 1/4 inch thick lengthwise.

4.  Arrange sliced pears in greased pie dish in a circular pattern.  Once finished arranging the pear slices, press down with the palm of your hand to level.

5.  Pour batter over pears and place in oven for 50 minutes.

6.  Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Enjoy!

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Guava (guayaba) is a tropical fruit mostly found in Central America, northern South America, South East Asia and the Caribbean.  It has also been naturalized in Hawaii, India and Tropical Africa.  Guava trees give 2 crops a year.  One of the reasons I loved going to Mami Chelo and Papi Bartolo’s (my grandparents on my father side) house as a little girl was because they had a guava tree.  They lived in a two story house with the living areas in the top floor and a garage and a small apartment in the first floor. After my grandparents became “empty nesters”  they decided to rent the apartment  and for many years they had a tenant in the first floor.  Her name was Doña Estefania, a sweet, old, petitte Spanish lady. At the time, I think she was in her late seventies, a widow and lived by herself.  Almost every Sunday, we went to visit my grandparents and the moment Doña Estefanía heard my voice she immediately came out to to say hello and gave me a fruit, most of the time it was a guava fruit from their tree. I loved the smell, the taste and color. The skin was green-yellow, soft when very ripe, a bit bitter at first and the inside dark pink and sweet with hard seeds which I ate too. It is hard to find guavas in the supermarket because they bruise easily and are highly perishable once they reach their ripeness, that’s why not many people have the chance of eating “the real thing”. What most people are used to is guava juice (which I love!) and guava paste which are much sweeter than the actual fruit.

I like to use this sauce as a bbq sauce for baby back ribs, its a nice and sweet contrast as a dipping sauce for the salty gouda cheese balls (see recipe under appetizers) or as a glaze for bbq pork chops. Use your imagination…

Guava and cilantro sauce

Ingredients

10 oz. guava paste (cut into large cubes)

1/4 cup white distilled vinegar

1/3 cup water

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro (cilantrillo)

Procedure

1.  Put all ingredients together in a sauce pan and stir constantly over medium-hi heat.

2. Stop stirring once guava paste is melted and incorporated with the liquids.

Enjoy!

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