Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thank God for Neighbors

So after a very pleasant weekend of Macbeth, Crocodile Lounge, Odea, and the Fort Green Flea Market, and a new couch (!), it was 6 pm on Sunday and I realized I had no food in my apartment. The Coop closes at 7:30, so I had just enough time to get there, get my groceries, stand in line for 30 minutes before it closed. So I get on the subway, go a few stops, walk the 10 minutes. I open my purse as I'm getting there, and I realize that I left my wallet on my kitchen table. Shit. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Luckily, one of my neighbors was smoking his very tasty jerk chicken in his very own homemade grill, and he was nice enough to give me half of a chicken (he makes like 30 chickens all in one go), a huge plate of rice, potato salad, and regular salad (actually, just lettuce and tomato because it doesn't have any dressing, but thats another post).

I know I'm lucky to have one neighbor who is very welcoming and so generous and I hope that when I finally settle down in a house, I live in a neighborhood full of people like my neighbor Kevin.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Chef Finale

The finale of Top Chef Chicago just ended, and I think this is the first time that a Bravo contest show goes the way I want it to go. I usually feel like as soon as I take a liking to someone, they get cut. And in a couple of cases, the person I dislike the most ends up winning (Top Chef seasons 2 and 3, Project Runway the to most recent seasons).

I was a little disappointed in the twist in this episode. Last season it was "make another course" half an hour or so before the meal started, and this time it was "your sous chef isn't showing up." I realize that removing the sous chef doubles the work that they have to do (or cuts the opportunities), so it is probably harder to execute than the extra dish. But the drama just wasn't there, I was expecting something else. Though it is probably a good thing that they are allowing the chefs to really show what they are like with minimal interference, even if it is one of the few times that it happens throughout the season.

I wish the Tabasco Ice Cream for the oysters would have gotten made, I'm really curious what the judges would have said.

As for who won... I won't ruin it for the one person who I know is actually reading my blog but didn't see the show :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fresh Start

So... its been a while. A long while. And for that, my (few) readers, I apologize. Matthew and I went to Per Se for his birthday, and I planned to gush about it in a few thousand words here about the exquisiteness that is Thomas Keller's kitchen. But, it turns expressing enthusiasm on paper is hard. Really hard. I did a few drafts, but I felt I wasn't getting across how much we anticipated the lunch, so I eventually gave up. And then I didn't post anything for a month and half because I felt I needed to get Per Se done before I did anything else.

But, this weekend Matthew inspired me. He was reading "Writing your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day," which among other useful advise, said to start writing in small amounts (10 minutes every day) in order go get used to the process of writing to think, rather than thinking to write. I had also read somewhere that to really become a food blogger, the process of cooking and writing have to fuse, which doesn't just happen, it takes progress.

So here I go again, I'm giving this blogging thing another try. No extravagant promises this time, I'm just going to write about what is bouncing around in my head. This way I can write about the things that I'm thinking about (the cute kids on the times dining section on 6/11 who will eat anything, the meaning of salad, the best food picture I've seen in a while) versus the things I've been eating (take out Chinese, yogurt, the deli of my office building).

(About that last extravagant challenge, I've basically become vegetarian at home, primarily for budget and environmental reasons, and its hard to do Mexican food without meat. Not a good excuse, not even a true excuse, since it is perfectly possible to have vegetarian Mexican food, I know, but planning is hard and time consuming, and not really how I eat or even think about food. Which I guess is then really my real reason :) )

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Raw Meat and Books

I just finished Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy and it was wonderful. But, one thing in the stories stuck out at me in terms of food. At one point, the main character is rescued by polar bears, and they give her the kidney of a freshly killed walrus to eat. The narrator talks about how delicious the meat was, that it was still warm and all of the flavor that it had. The experience described was unlike anything I've ever had or have ever read about anyone else having. What is it like to have meat so fresh it is still warm? And taking a step further - can you really tell that level of freshness when it has been cooked? Do you need to have it raw to really appreciate it? Should you?

Blake tells a story of going from live animal to turduken, but I'm skeptical about his source; I wouldn't want to eat raw meat from an animal that has been living in a cage in a warehouse in Brooklyn, if I were ever inclined to satisfy this curiosity I'm feeling. (Though it turns out that I have a live animal warehouse less than 5 blocks from my place! I may have to try some fresh meat at some point, but cooked, of course.)

Vegetables and fruits also have a very different taste freshly picked from when they've been sitting, and that is the result from sugars converting to starches. But meat seems like it would be in a different category entirely.

Have you had meat that fresh? What is it like?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The First Thing I’ve Cooked Since I Got Sick….er… Since I Got Back From Mexico(?)

I woke up Monday morning at 5:30 (30 minutes before my alarm was set to ring) with my entire body stiff and my stomach in a messy state. It was so bad that I called in sick to work, and went back to bed. I won’t go into details on the nature of my stomach issues because this is a food blog, and well, no one wants to read about that. My stomach problems abated during the day, but the stiffness remained, so much so that by 9 pm I was contemplating going to the ER because I thought I had meningitis. A quick call to a doctor, and 30 seconds with a thermometer later dismissed this idea, but that made me feel only slightly better. I had eaten one 5” piece of wheat bread at like 4 pm, 2 asprin, and a glass of water, so I decided to try to make this yummy sounding recipe from Serious Eats. I mean, if a pregnant lady can eat sardines, eggs, mayo and mustard, surely I can too? Right? WRONG. (Not to mention that I didn’t have sardines, all I had was anchovy paste. I’ll have to try this again, correctly, at a future date when my stomach won’t want to kill me to see if I like it.) After 2 bites, the whole thing went into the trash. Whatever was wrong with me was based in my gastrointestinal system, and not my neurons (thank god).

I went to work the next day, though I had only eaten water crackers and bread during the past 36 hours. For lunch, I attempted the vegan soup from café in the lobby of the building, but that only caused the stomach issues to return. So I bought triscuits for dinner, and intended to eat only those until I had some sure sign that I was better.

And today (Wednesday), I got that sign. I was hungry again for the first time since Sunday. While it turned out to be a false sign, it was still glorious to eat solid food again without almost immediately regretting it. I only regretted it a little while later, and even then only a little. So while I was having the terrible catered lunch that I had at work, I decided that tonight would be the night I started cooking again (not to mention blogging…).

This all hinging on the ingredients that I’d bought about a week and half ago, when I originally planned to make this dish were still good. I bet that the tomatoes wouldn’t be, so I stopped at the store and bought a couple, but that everything else would be all right. I was right (maybe I should have been betting on something with higher stakes?).

This might be the time to mention that I have in fact cooked other things since I’ve been back from Mexico. It was one of those, “I need a vacation to recuperate from my vacation” situations. I worked till after 8pm for the 6 workdays following my return. I was in no mood to try to be entertaining about cooking; it was just about feeding myself, and most days I was letting someone else cook for me. I have a whole list of excuses for why I haven’t posted any of the things, I can keep going, but you don’t want to hear them, right? I thought not. With a little will power (and a lot of stomach getting better) this will be the first post on my road back to regular posting.

So finally, on to the food:

Hopefully the picture looks as appetizing as the dish really was (actually, is, since I made like 6 servings for little me so there is lots left). The recipe was adapted from Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, and I decided to make it because I had some leftover mint from a pesto sauce I was making at some point that I can’t remember. (Ok, ok it was last weekend, and I was making this three bean pesto salad from Rachel Ray. It needs lemon juice, but once it was added, the recipe was quite tasty).

Couscous Salad with Mint and Parsley
Makes 4 servings

About 3 cups basic couscous (I wasn’t sure if he meant 3 cups cooked, or 3 cups raw. I had 2 raw cups, so I made that much)
3 ½ cups of liquid (some mixture of water and stock, I did half and half)
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 bunches of parsley
3 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded (he says to peel, which I didn’t but wish I had)
1 bunch (or close to that) of mint
Juice of 2 lemons, or to taste
1/3 cup olive oil or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste.
1 small red onion (or ½ cup minced scallions)

To make couscous: allow oil to heat slightly over medium low heat. Add all couscous and stir to coat for about 1 minute. Add liquid all at once, with ¾ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 5-8 minutes until liquid is evaporated. Fluff with a fork, preferably in the serving dish.

While couscous is cooking, start chopping (quickly, couscous is fast) parsley, mint, tomatoes, and onion, and add to the serving dish. Add couscous to the dish whenever it is ready. Mix together all ingredients. I only added another tablespoon of olive oil because my stomach has been so sensitive, but add to taste. Mix well, and serve. In my opinion, this is best at room temperature.

Bittman differentiates from the Tabbouleh on the previous page because it has more “grains” than real tabbouleh (we won’t talk about the fact that couscous is a pasta). I found this amusing. Almost every time that I’ve seen “tabbouleh” available for purchase, it is very heavy on the couscous (except at Tanoreen, where there were no visible grains in the salad at all). This is probably a price issue than a recipe issue. Afterall, couscous is infinitely cheaper than the fresh herbs that would otherwise be the bulk of the salad.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Leaving for Mexico!

The time has finally come! Matthew and I are leaving for Mexico on Friday morning. Hopefully will have all sorts of yummy food stories to tell when we get back, but for now, happy weekend everyone!

Matthew and I at the airport. I was pouting because I didn't think the camera was working. Not sure why Matthew was making that face.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Livers and Mistakes

With the surprising liver within my chicken from recipe #7, I decided to make this recipe from Epicurious.

Chicken Liver Crostini

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, minced
12 ounces chicken livers
1/3 cup dry white wine (I left this out cause I didn't have any)
1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

1 French-bread baguette, sliced into 1/3-inch-thick rounds

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil. Add onions, anchovies, and garlic, until tender over medium heat. Turn up heat to medium high, add liver and brown. This is where you are supposed to add the white wine, and wait till the liquid is absorbed. I skipped straight to adding the chicken stock and sage. Let the meat simmer till fully cooked and liquid is reduced. Pull meat out once it is done, and keep simmering stock if necessary to reduce. Place meat and some of the liquid in a food processor, and process by pulses until chunky. If needed, add more liquid (but I doubt you will, the recipe calls for way more liquid than is actually necessary). Add lemon peel, and salt and pepper to taste (do not forget this step! I ate my first couple of bites without the lemon, and it made a huge difference).

Brush the rest of the oil on the bread, and toast. Spread the liver on the bread, and eat.

While I was preparing this, I was really worried that I wouldn't like it, because I could not remember ever having eaten liver. And as soon as I tasted it, I was like, oh, I've had pate like a million times, and fois gras too, silly Ana. But, cooking it was nonetheless an interesting activity. I didn't really have 12 ounces of liver, I just had one, so I roughly cut down the recipe to make the amounts correctly. Like I said above, the first few bites I had did not have lemon, salt or pepper, and it made a huge difference. I don't think I'll go out of my way again to make this dish, but if I come across liver again, I will now what to do with it. :)

So in the interest of multitasking, I also had pinto beans and garbanzo beans cooking on the stove because I'd run out of refried beans and hummus. The pinto beans came out perfectly, better than last time. But the garbanzo beans took a little too long, and the cooking time ran into the finale of Project Runway. I heard some sizzling, but I thought water had just spilled out of the pot. During the second commercial break, I went to go stir the beans and I realized that they were completely dry. Zero water. And of course, the beans had burnt. So I had to throw away a cup of garbanzo beans and 1/4 of an onion. Boo. I blame Project Runway. Lesson: make sure beans have enough water!

Monday, March 3, 2008

My favorite dish so far

Mario Batalli's house keeper, Leo, is a genius. But I should have known that it was going to be good if Mario Batalli's children eat it weekly.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, we start with the chicken. One of my favorite soups is this Chicken and Rice soup from Epicurious. When I started making it senior year of college, I decided to try with a whole chicken, cause hey, its supposed to be better and fresher. I would put it in the pot whole, and then try to take it apart after cooking. That was never really efficient (the cavity would get full of rice, then make a mess when I tried to get it out). So, another time, I tried to take it apart before cooking. Lets just say I ruined most of the chicken because of my lack of knowledge on how to properly do this. Needless to say, I was ASTOUNDED when I saw Alton Brown take a chicken apart perfectly in under three minutes. (I highly recommend watching this show, its one of my favorites. The deconstruction of the chicken happens between minutes 5 and 8.)

I'm particularly amused by the intro.

Anyways, so when I was shopping yesterday, I decided to try my luck again with a whole chicken and see if his strategy of deconstructing a chicken works. You be the judge:

Chicken, with one wing cut off (I forgot to take a true initial picture)

Chicken, deconstructed

And, much to my surprise, there was a chicken liver inside of the cavity. I almost dropped it before I noticed it. I've never had chicken liver before, so I'm going to experiment with it later this week (the recipe I want to try calls for chicken stock, which I don't currently have). I'm very excited, stay tuned for that.

After the chicken was taken apart, I moved onto the sauce. From here, I pretty much followed Leo's instructions exactly (except I cut the recipe in half)

Recipe #7 - Chicken in Tomatillo Sauce
a la Leo, via Mario Batalli

1.5 pounds of tomatillos, husks removed
1 bunch of cilantro
2 limes, juice and zest
5 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeño (I couldn't find serranos)
minced onion

Drop the tomatillos, garlic, and chili into a pot of boiling salted water. Leave it in there for 2-3 minutes, drain. Place in food processor. Add cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice, and blend until smooth. Return to pot, add onion, thighs and drumsticks. (Actually, I meant to blend the onion with the rest of the sauce ingredients, but I forgot, and it worked this way too.) The sauce should entirely cover the chicken, but if it doesn't, flip the chicken a few times during the cooking process so both sides cook. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes.

At like 15 minutes, I couldn't wait any more, so I heated a tortilla, spread some beans on it, and covered the sauce. It was delicious, I knew I was in for a good dinner.

I had one piece of thigh, some beans, and 3 more tortillas for dinner. I'm really resisting eating the rest of it. I've gotten up 4 times while writing this post to have a spoonful of the sauce. Its tangy and just slightly spicy. I'll be making this again, and I'm the kind of person that is bored by chicken.

PS Unless you don't want me to like you, the correct answer is that yes, I was successful in deconstructing my chicken.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Beans, Beans: They are good for your heart, the more you eat....

For breakfast, Matthew and I finally made good on my promise to refry some beans. Central to the discussion of the beans was that "refried" does not actually mean "fried again" but "super-fried." Diana Kennedy translated refried to "Well-Fried," and Ricardo Arjona's song Tu Reputacion has the line "Tu reputacion son las primeras seis letras de esa palabra" (your reputation is the first six letters of the word -> the word being reputacion -> first six letters -> puta = whore, reputa = super whore).

My apologies for the convoluted rambling, I had no master plan for this post. So, onto the recipes.

Recipe #5 Refried Beans
a la Dianna Kennedy and Mark Bittman

I ended up merging the two recipes because I started with Kennedy's, and I wasn't happy with it, so I switched. These beans have all sorts of uses, and were really the way I ate beans growing up, rather than still whole in broth like Mrs. Kennedy claims is common in Mexico. Probably a regional thing.

6 tablespoons of pork lard (I still don't have lard, I used a mixture of vegetable shortening and bacon fat, but if you have pork lard, use it)
2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
2 cups cooked beans (either previous recipe #3 or canned), in their broth (I didn't have enough broth, so I added water to make up the difference)
1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
salt, to taste

In a heavy skillet, heat the fat and sweat the onion without browning, until soft. Add a small amount of th beans and their broth, and mash well as you cook them over highish heat. Matthew and I shared this job, each of us with a fork, and it went fairly quickly. Keep adding beans and broth and mashing until you run out. Add cumins and cayenne and mix in well. Add water if too dry or cook until desired consistency. (There is really no exact recipe here, you just have to keep cooking them until the beans are how you like them. I like mine moist.)

Possible additions: bacon, chorizo, cheese, chili of various sorts, sour cream or Mexican crema. I'm probably going to add creme fraiche at some point, just to try it.

Recipe #6 Molletes

My great grandmother used to make me these bean sandwiches for breakfast when I was little. I never could talk my mom into making them for me, so I haven't had them in years, but they are as good as I remember. Matthew liked them too :).

Note: do not skip the butter, it really adds a lot of flavor to this sandwich that might otherwise be pretty dry.

Mexican Bolillos, if possible, we used hamburger buns. A better replacement would be French bread
melted butter
3/4 cup of refried beans
Salsa (I used the leftover sauce from the enchiladas in recipe #2)
Cheese (white cheddar, cojita, whatever white cheese is on hand, but under no circumstances use yellow cheese)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread melted butter on bread. Place in oven on cookie sheet for 10 minutes. The bread should be crispy in the center, but try to avoid browning it. Mix cheese into the beans. Quantity here is a matter of taste, but I really like mine to be super cheesy. Almost like a grilled cheese sandwich with beans. Spread beans on both slices of bread, and place back in the oven to heat the beans and melt the cheese. Put sandwich together. Add salsa as desired.

No pictures this time. The batteries died during the last photo shoot, but I have batteries now, so tomorrow's dish will be well photographed. I will be making this excellent sounding dish from Serious Eats. Unless I'm too tired from work tomorrow, in which case, it'll happen sometime this week.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cooking Extravaganza!

Tonight, I had a cooking extravaganza. They've been working me to the bone at work for like 3 weeks, I haven't turned on my stove in like 2 weeks, its been rough. But, tonight, I finally got to leave by 6:15, so I got home in time to cook dinner for myself! It made me so happy, I love cooking.

So I was, perhaps, a little ambitious; I made hummus, beans, and tortilla soup.

The hummus was the quick thing that I could make so I could eat soon after getting home. I've made it before, and I'll make it again. Particularly because I haven't quite gotten the texture right. But also, its fun to see how the different flavors come through. This time, in trying to get it smoother, I added too much tahini, so in flavor and textured, it needed to be balanced by olive oil and lemon. Both times I've made it, the raw garlic is too strong. But I think this is the fun part of the recipe. Eventually, I would like to start adding different flavors like you can get in the store (roasted peppers, roasted garlic, uhm, etc.) but for now, I'm sticking to the basic recipe.

a la Mark Bittman

2 cups drained well-cooked or canned chickpeas, cooking liquid reserved if possible (I cooked mine but I don't think it matters)
1/2 cup tahini with some of its oil if you like, more to taste
1/4 cup evoo, plus more for garnish
2 cloves of garlic peeled
juice of 1 lemon, plus more as needed
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 table spoon ground cumin, or paprika, or cayenne
parsley for garnish (I never have any, so I leave it out)

Put everything into your handy dandy food processor. Blend until smooth. Add cooking liquid or water to reach desired consistency. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve with pita or veggies.

(It should be said now, I don't measure anything. I pretty much just add the listed ingredients, and taste things. Which can work well, or can be a disaster. So tasting and adjusting is an important step.)

So after the hummus was made and eaten, a bottle of wine was opened, and two episodes of Scrubs were watched, I started the recipes that actually count towards the challenge.

My grandmother always made beans in a pressure cooker, and until recently, I thought that it was special somehow. Turns out, its just so that it is faster.

Recipe #3: Beans
a la Diana Kennedy

This recipe is for a lot more beans than I made. I think I only had maybe half a pound of beans. I didn't want to commit to a full pound of beans on my first attempt :)

1 pound of dried beans (I used pintos, but you can also use black beans)
10 to 12 cups of hot water
1/3 cups roughly sliced white onion
2 tablespoons pork lard (I don't have any, I used shortening)
salt to taste

Rinse the beans, and remove anything that is not a bean (rocks, dirt clumps, etc). Put them in a pot, and more than cover them with hot water. Add onions and lard and bring to a boil. Once it boils, cover and lower to a simmer. Time varies greatly here; I cooked them for about an hour and 20 minutes, Diana says 2.5 hours to 4 hours for black beans. Basically,cook until the beans are soft and the skins are breaking open. Add salt, cook for another half hour, until the beans are completely soft.

Tomorrow, or sometime this weekend I'm going to refry the beans, so that will be another recipe. (I tried to today, but it wasn't working, so I aborted the plan.)

Recipe #4 Tortilla Soup
a la Diana Kennedy

This is not at all the tortilla soup recipe I grew up with, which called for a can of corn, can of beans, can of tomatoes and a chopped up zucchini. But all I needed was to use up the disaster tortillas from 2 weeks ago, so I chose this recipe instead, which just calls for broth and fried tortillas.

Vegetable oil for frying
tortillas for frying, cut into strips and dried
12 ounces tomatoes, broiled (actually, because its the middle of February in New York, I used canned tomatoes...)
1 garlic clove
6 cups chicken stock
2 large springs epazote (I couldn't find any, so I omitted)
2 pasilla chiles, fried crisp
6 tablespoons grated cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet, fry the chiles. Remove them, put them in the food processor. Add tomatoes, garlic, onion, and process until smooth. Add to oil in a pot, and fry for about 5 minutes, until sauce is well seasoned and has reduced. (Warning, this will bubble like CRAZY. My stove top is currently a MESS. Cover this with a lid or a splatter cover thing.) Add chicken broth and continue to cook.
Fry the tortillas until lightly browned. Make sure that they are crispy, not just damp with oil (like my first batch). Just before serving, add epazote. Serve each portion with cheese and crispy tortilla strips.

Yay for cooking!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Valentines Day and the discovery of old mistakes

For valentine's day last week, my sweetie gave me a gift to help me with The Challenge. He gave me Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, which is a combination of her first three books. According to wikipedia (the source of all knowledge), Kennedy is ... actually, it turns out Kennedy's page provides almost no information. According to Elise at Simple Recipes, she is "The grande dame of Mexican cooking." Because I was visiting him last weekend, and could therefore not cook (he lives in a dorm), I had to content myself with reading the book. (Yes, I read cookbooks. This is not the first time. I'm still slightly embarrassed by it though.)

I have not yet finished it, but it did bring to light why my enchiladas were so terrible. Apparently, you are supposed to lightly fry the tortillas before rolling them, so that the dish is moist. It is not enough to pour the sauce over the dish. That will not make them moist enough. It is also not essential to bake them. And, good tortillas should be used (though I did not need the book to tell me this). My tortillas were not good. A rolling pin does not seem to be an acceptable method to form corn tortilla's by any standard that I can find. They should be formed either by "patting" by hand (33 pats is the perfect number, according to Kennedy) or by using a tortilla press. But the lesson learned is that I am not yet comfortable enough in Mexican cuisine to be able to fly by the seat of my pants, so I will have to follow recipes for a while.

I had hoped to cook at least once this week, but it was an exhausting week at work, I never made it home before 8:30pm, and I don't want to start cooking at that time. So no new food posts for now. But, a list of things to anticipate:

Beans (I have them, I just need to make them)
Bolillos (bean sandwiches, an obvious use of the previous ingredient)
Tortilla Ball soup (kind of like matzo ball soup, and a way to use the remaining tortilla's from recipe #1)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Recipes #1 and #2 - Corn tortillas and Enchiladas

So, there were supposed to be pictures with this post. But the camera I'm using only holds three pictures. So I have three pictures, and then the batteries died. List of things to buy: double A batteries, and a memory card-y thing.

On to the food, sans pictures.

#1 Corn Tortillas

I read at length about needing special flour (corn and lime, the mineral, not the citrus food). I happen to have accidentally bought some last summer, and had it in my freezer. I bought it at Whole Foods, but I don't have the package anymore. I don't have a fancy tortilla press like Lisa or Elise, but I did the best I could. With a rolling pin and two pieces of parchment paper, eventually got my tortillas thin enough. The ingredient list is simple enough (masa harina and hot water, added slowly enough to make a dough). The first few were too thick, but with a little practice, they got thinner. However, my complaint is that they are not as flimsy as store bought tortillas. This might sound like a good thing, but it isn't. Tortillas need to be able to be folded and rolled easily WITHOUT breaking. Mine could not do that. Which leads us to recipe #2.

#2 Red Enchiladas

I remember my grandmother's enchilada sauce to be thick and a deep red. Mine turned out to be neither. I haven't actually tried the enchiladas yet though, so I can't say if they are good or not.

5 dried chilies
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion

1. Boil water, once it boils, turn off the fire and drop the chilies in. Let them sit to soften.
2. Place chilies, garlic, and onions into a food processor. Process until smooth. If you have a sift, run the sauce through it. I didn't have one, so no big deal.
2. Make a roux out of the oil and the flour. Add the processed sauce to the roux to thicken it slightly.

Filling: I like cheese enchiladas, but I don't find them filling enough, so I did something a little unorthodox and filled them with both cheese and meat. My meat of choice was pork tenderloin, which I broiled with some salt and pepper. I shredded it, added red sauce to coat the meat.

Making the enchilada:
Add some meat and cheese in the first third of the tortilla. Roll as tightly as possible. Lay the roll in the bottom of a baking dish (I used my bread loaf pan because its all I had. Insert picture here of rolls going in slanted because they are too big for the pan). Repeat until you run out of ingredients or your dish is full. Between layers, add cheese. Cover the whole thing with lots of sauce, and more cheese. Bake until the cheese melts. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 3, 2008


1) Buying a piece of produce - in my case 2 mangoes - when you know that they are waaay out of season and not even kind of ripe just because a recipe calls for it. It will not be good. Fortunately for me, the recipe called for cooking the mango in sugar and vinegar, so it was so broken down you can't tell. But I know in my heart of hearts that if those mangoes were ripe, the chutney would be better. Infinitely better.

2) Using the broiler when you do not know how to turn off your fire alarms. Again, this time, I was fortunate. A kind soul who lives upstairs came to show me how to turn them off. But this is probably the 15th time that I've set my alarms off since I moved into the apartment in September, and I've now just learned. Thank you Mitch!

The recipe I made was Curried Pork Tenderloin with Chutney and Arugala from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, and it will be delicious for lunch the week. I highly recommend it. Pictures of food will come later. :)

The Challenge

So I've been talking about blogging about food for just about forever. I love to eat, and I really enjoy cooking, but I've been held back by the fact that I feel like I'm not a writer. But the BF finally got tired of hearing me talk about blogging, and he issued a challenge over brunch.

We were at Chavella's in Brooklyn (Classon Ave and Park Place), and I made the comment that I would be willing to stop cooking and just eat there all the time. Chavella's is that good, it is better than the stuff my grandmother used to make (shh don't tell her). He challenged me not to stop cooking, but to cook the stuff that they sell, the food I grew up on: over the next 4 months, 30 Mexican meals, starting today, February 3rd.*

An aunt of mine at some point published a Mexican cooking book, but sadly, I lost my copy during one of the four moves that I made in the three months after graduating from college. So, I will be making stuff up, calling my mother, and pulling stuff from untraditional sources until March (aka the internet), when I'm going back to the family ranch for a reunion. I will get another copy of the book then.

So, here I go. Here is my wish list of things I want to make for this challenge. Some of these may happen, some of them probably won't, but at least it will give me some focus.

Refried beans, from scratch, without a pressure cooker
Chiles rellenos, 2 ways (stuffed with meat, and stuffed with cheese)
Tortillas from scratch, maybe flour, maybe corn, maybe both
Huevos Rancheros
Green Enchiladas
Tres Leches Cake
White Pozole
At least 3 different kinds of tacos

*In terms of rules, we didn't decide if the recipes had to be start to finish meals, or if I could do a dish that was not a full meal. In the interest of challenging myself, I will attempt to do as much many full meals as possible.