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Archive for 5 de Mayo/Dia De Los Muertos

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Your Own Corn Tortillas

Do something different for Cinco de Mayo: Make your own corn tortillas.

Americans eat lots of tortillas: Back in 2000, the Tortilla Industry Association estimated that Americans consumed approximately 85 billion tortillas (not including tortilla chips). They haven’t updated their website information, but we can safely assume that tortilla sales have only gone up. [Source]

Yet the majority of us have never have seen handmade tortillas. Most Mexican restaurants and retailers have machine-made tortillas, pressed very flat with added preservatives to extend their shelf life.

Tortillas are a flatbread (see the different types of bread). In a tortilleria (tortilla bakery) or Mexican restaurant, masa (cornmeal dough) is rolled into small balls of dough, flattened and cooked them quickly on a hot skillet. They require only one ingredient—masa harina, a special cornmeal—plus water.

Like fresh-baked loaves of bread, fresh-baked tortillas are heavenly—and much faster to make. They have no fat or preservatives, so must be eaten the day they’re made (or stored in the fridge for 2-3 days).

If you don’t have a local tortilleria, it’s easy to make your own.
 
THE ORIGIN OF TORTILLAS

Before wild yeast was harnessed by man, bread meant flatbread the world over: arepa, bánh, bannock, focaccia, injera, johnnycake, lavash, matzoh, naan, piadina, pita, pizza, puri, roti, tortilla and dozens of others.

Tortillerias are native to Mexico and Central America, where they remain a staple food. The oldest tortillas discovered by archaeologists date back to around 10,000 B.C.E., made of maize (maize—corn—is native to Central America). The dried corn kernels were ground into cornmeal, which was mixed with water to make a dough called masa.

When Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors arrived in what is today Mexico (on April 22, 1519), they encountered the native women making tortillas—flat corn bread. In the Aztec language Nahuatl, it was called tlaxcalli (teu-ax-CAH-lee). The Spanish called them tortillas, little cakes.

Originally hand-flattened, “technology” most likely evolved to flattening with an implement, and later to manually operated wooden tortilla presses, flattening the tortilla dough one by one. Modern machinery can produce up to 60,000 tortillas an hour.

Tortillas are now wheat flour in addition to maize. Typically, corn tortillas are used for tacos, flour tortillas for burritos.

   
Tortillas Recipe

Tortillas Recipe

Tortilla Recipe

Top: The dough is rolled into small balls, eachh of which becomes a tortilla (photo courtesy LoveAndOliveOil.com). Center: The balls are flattened and placed on the grill (photo © Jim Damaske | Tampa Bay Times). Bottom: Beautiful, fresh tortillas (photo TheGumDropButton.com).

 
Women Making Tortillas
 
Mexican women making grits in a work by Carl Nebel, 1836.
 
THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF GROUND CORN

Unless you work with these products regularly, you can’t be expected to know that all arground cornmeal, dried corn that’s ground down into smaller, coarse bits.

  • Corn flour is the most finely-ground maize. When nixtimalized, it becomes masa harina, used to make tortillas and other flat breads. Compare it in uses to all-purpose wheat flour: for fried food batter (start with a 50:50 mix of wheat and corn flours, for dredging, pancakes, etc.).
  • Cornmeal, also spelled corn meal, is coarse-ground maize (corn). It is used for arepas, grits for breakfast cereal or dinner sides, cornbread, fried foods, gluten-free cakes and pie crusts, hush puppies, Indian Pudding, shrimp and grits, and many other recipes.
  • Cornstarch is a thickener made from refined maize starch. It is a very fine powder.
  • Grits are hulled and coarsely ground grain. Grits can be made from any cereal, although corn grits are the norm. Here are uses for grits for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Hominy grits are the same thing as grits. Grits is the shortened term for hominy grits.
  • Masa harina, meaning “dough flour for tamales,” is very fine-ground nixtimalized corn used for tortillas and tamales.
  • Masa and hominy are both nixtimalized corn kernels, but hominy is ground from white corn.
  • Nixtimalization is a process that soaks the grain kernels in an alkaline solution, usually limewater—a diluted solution of calcium hydroxide. The kernels are then rinsed. This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. Masa harina is nixtimalized corn,
  • Polenta is a paste or dough made from medium- or coarse-ground cornmeal. It is cooked, formed into a roll and then fried or baked.
  • Southern grits are made from a different type of corn than polenta. Grits are made from dent corn; polenta from Italy is made from flint corn. Flint corn holds its texture better, which is why grits are the consistency of porridge and polenta is coarser and more toothsome.
  •  
    RECIPE: HOMEMADE CORN TORTILLAS

    All you need to make tortillas is masa harina and water. Masa harina, Spanish for dough flour, is the corn flour (corn meal) used to make tortillas and tamales. You can’t substitute regular cornmeal: Masa harina is specially treated corn (see the next section).

    You can find masa harina in any Latin American market or other market with a good Latin American foods section. We prefer Bob’s Red Mill brand, which we pick up at Whole Foods. Rick Bayless uses Maseca brand. Since the cornmeal provides the only flavor in the tortilla, go for the freshest, best-quality product. And don’t buy “instant.”
     
    Ingredients For 15 Tortillas

  • 1-3/4 cups masa harina (substitute 1 pound fresh smooth-ground corn masa*)
  • Water
  •  
    ________________________________
    *If you’re near a tortilleria, you may be able to purchase fresh, smooth-ground corn masa. On the other hand, if you’re at a tortilleria, you can purchase the tortillas freshly baked.

     

    Masa  Harina Bob's Red Mill

    51L2KlaJw7L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

    Top: All you need to make tortillas: masa harina and water (photo courtesy Bob’s Red Mill). Because the corn flour is the only flavor to the tortilla, buy the best. Bottom: The tortilla recipe is from Rick Bayless’ great book, Everyday Mexican (photo courtesy W.W. Norton, Inc.).

     

    Preparation

    1. MEASURE the masa harina into a bowl and add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot tap water. Knead with your hands until thoroughly combined. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. (If using fresh-ground masa, available from a tortilleria, scoop it into bowl, break it up and knead a few times until smooth.)

    2. SET a large griddle (one that stretches over 2 burners) or 2 skillets on your stovetop. Heat one end of the griddle (or one skillet) to medium, the other end (or other skillet) to medium-high.

    3. SQUEEZE the dough gently. If it is stiff (it probably will be), knead in some water, 1 or 2 teaspoons at a time, until the dough feels like soft cookie dough: not stiff, but not sticky. Divide the dough into 15 pieces, rolling each into a ball. Cover with plastic.

    4. CUT 2 squares of a plastic bag, 1 inch larger than your tortilla press (we used our George Forman grill with the flat plates). Open the press and lay on one piece of plastic. Lay a dough ball in the center, and gently mash it. Top with the second piece of plastic and close press. Gently flatten the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick disk. Peel off the top piece of plastic.

    5. FLIP the tortilla onto your right hand (if you’re right-handed); the top of the tortilla should line up with the side of your index finger. Gently roll it onto the side of the griddle (or skillet) heated to medium. Let the bottom of the tortilla touch the griddle, then lower your hand slightly and move it away from you. The tortilla will stick to the hot surface so you can roll your hand out from under it as it rolls down flat. After 30 seconds, the edges of the tortilla will dry slightly and the tortilla will release from the griddle. Until this moment, the tortilla will be stuck.

    6. FLIP the tortilla onto the hotter side of the griddle (or the hotter skillet) with a metal spatula. After 30 seconds, the tortilla should be lightly browned underneath. Flip it over. Cook 30 seconds more—the tortilla should puff in places (or all over—a gentle press with metal spatula or fingers encourages puffing). Transfer to a basket lined with a napkin or towel.

    7. PRESS and bake the remaining tortillas. Stack each newly baked tortilla on top of the previously baked tortillas. Keep the tortillas well wrapped in a kitchen towel for warmth.

     
    REHEATING CORN TORTILLAS

    Some people have a tortilla steamer to reheat tortillas in the microwave (we picked up a silicone steamer and use it every day to warm or steam other foods in our microwave). But you don’t need one: You can substitute a kitchen towel.

  • In the microwave: Drizzle 3 tablespoons of water over a clean kitchen towel and wrap the tortillas. Place in a microwaveable plastic bag and fold it over—don’t seal the bag. Microwave at 50% power for 4 minutes to create a steamy environment around tortillas. Let stand for 2 or 3 minutes before serving.
  • In a vegetable steamer: If there is a center post, remove it. Pour 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of a pot. Wrap the tortillas (no more than 12 at a time) in a clean kitchen towel. Place it in the steamer, put the lid on the pot and set it over high heat. When the steam begins to seep out under the lid, time for 1 minute. Then turn off the heat and let the tortillas steam for 10 minutes.
  • On a griddle: Quickly reheat the tortillas one at a time on a dry griddle or skillet.
  • With kitchen tongs: Hold the tortilla with tongs over a low flame.
  •  
    CORN TORTILLAS VS. FLOUR TORTILLAS

    People who don’t enjoy the more pronounced flavor or texture of corn tortillas prefer the milder, softer flour tortillas are prized for their mild flavor and softness. Either can be used in any recipe requiring tortillas. However:

  • Flour tortillas are made with added fat—lard or vegetable shortening—and salt.
  • A standard six-inch corn tortilla contains about half the fat and calories and one fourth the sodium of a similar-sized flour tortilla.
  •  
    Recipe © copyright 2005 Rick Bayless, Mexican Everyday, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
     

      

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    RECIPE: Frozen Kiwi Cilantro Margarita

    Don’t want Irish beer or w whiskey for St. Patrick’s Day?

    You can still drink green with this frozen Kiwi Cilantro Margarita from QVC chef David Venable.

    David notes: “This is a Margarita recipe unlike anything you’ve ever tried. It gets a beautiful pop of green color from flavorful kiwi and bright cilantro. As you continue to sip, you get all of those memorable Margarita flavors you love.”

    RECIPE: FROZEN KIWI CILANTRO MARGARITA

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 6 kiwis, peeled and quartered, plus 1 extra for garnish
  • 1 cup white cranberry juice
  • 4 cups ice
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, stems removed
  • 3/4 cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Garnish: Sliced kiwi wheel
  •  

    kiwi-margarita-davidvenableQVC-230

    Chef David Venable puts a green twist on the Margarita. Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the kiwi and the cranberry juice in a blender. Blend on low speed for 15-20 seconds, making sure not to dissolve the seeds. Strain the mixture through a sieve and discard the seeds.

    2. PLACE the strained mixture back into the blender and add the ice, cilantro, tequila, triple sec and sugar. Blend until smooth. Garnish and serve immediately.

    Find more of David Venable’s recipes at QVC.com.

      

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    RECIPE: Savory Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Chocolate Gazpacho

    Top: Savory chocolate gazpacho from Chef Mat Schuster. Bottom: Savory chocolate gazpacho with strawberries from GoodToKnow.co.uk. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Chef Mat Schuster of San Francisco’s Canela Bistro & Wine Bar offered us this Chocolate Gazpacho recipe, which we like for Valentine’s Day. It’s a savory chocolate counterpoint to all the sweet stuff.

    When most people think of savory chocolate dishes, Mexican mole comes to mind. You may have made a chili recipe with cocoa powder. It’s a popular ingredient in Mexican dishes.

    (And why not? Cacao cultivation was begun by the Olmecs, the first major civilization in Mexico, located in the present-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco; and furthered by the Mayas of the Yucatán Peninsula. When the Aztecs learned about cacao from the Mayas, they made it a drink for noble or wealthy Aztecs and their warrior heroes).

    If you’ve ever had an all-chocolate dinner (chocolate used in every dish), you know that it can be included in every course, from cacao nibs in the salad to cacao chèvre for the cheese course. Here are more examples, with the recipes available at Saveur.com.

  • Asado de Bodas, pork in red chile sauce with Mexican chocolate
  • Charred Cauliflower and Shishito Peppers with Picada* Sauce
  • Chocolate Barbecue Sauce
  • Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs
  • Enchiladas in Chile Chocolate Sauce, with Mexican chocolate
  • Gascon-Style Beef Stew (Daube de Boeuf À la Gasconne), made with
    Armagnac, chocolate and Madiera wine
  • Triple Chocolate Beef & Bean Chili
  • Turkey in Mole Poblano
  • White Chocolate Baba Ghannouj
  •  
    RECIPE: SAVORY CHOCOLATE GAZPACHO

    Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (substitute red wine vinegar)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup seedless or low-seed cucumber (Armenian, English,
    Persian, etc.), diced
  • ¼ cup bell pepper, diced
  • ½ cup to 1 cup cold water
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Garnishes: shaved chocolate (70% cacao to 100% cacao)
  • and/or croutons†

    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients into a blender; blend until smooth.

    2. ADD enough water to make the consistency you prefer, but be sure not to dilute the flavor.

    3. TASTE, season with salt and pepper and chill the soup. Before serving, garnish as desired.
     
    WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT CHOCOLATE?

    Take a look at our Chocolate Glossary and other articles in THE NIBBLE’S Chocolate Section.

     
    _______________________
    *Picada is a Catalan-style pesto made with almonds, parsley and chocolate.

    †These can be American-style croutons—small squares—or French croutons/Italian crostini, slices of baguette or similar bread, grilled or toasted with olive oil, seasonings (herbs, spices, salt and pepper) and/or optional toppings (for this gazpacho recipe, try fresh goat cheese and chives). You can float it on top of the soup or serve it on the plate under the bowl.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Chicken Or Fish With Pico De Gallo

    There are many different types of salsa, but our favorite is the finely chopped fresh salsa called pica de gallo.

    Pico de gallo, pronounced PEE-coh-deh-GAH-yo, is Spanish for “rooster’s beak.” How did it get that name? It once was eaten between the thumb and finger in a way that resembled a pecking rooster. (Salsa as finger food?!)

    Pico de gallo is made with finely diced raw tomatoes, onions, lime juice and cilantro. Jicama and other raw ingredients can be added. It differs from salsa fresca and salsa cruda in that the ingredients are uniformly chopped; but the terms are often used interchangeably. Another term is salsa mexicana.

    Most Americans not of Mexican ancestry limit their use of pico de gallo to Tex-Mex recipes—chips, nachos, tacos, tortilla chips, quesadillas, etc.

    But this better-for-you condiment provides great flavor and nutrition to everyday better-for-you foods, like grilled chicken and fish.

    Those in the know use fresh salsa to complement grilled meats—especially pork and steak—egg dishes, rice and other recipes.

       

    chicken-breast-pico-de-gallo-QVC-230

    Grilled chicken breasts topped with pico de gallo salsa. Delicious and good for you! Photo courtesy QVC.

     
    We make a lower-calorie dip by blending it into nonfat Greek yogurt, and serve it with crudités as well as chips. When people hesitate to eat salad, we mix it into a vinaigrette.

    This recipe is from QVC’s chef David Venable. Serve it with a large salad, other sides of choice, and a few tortilla chips for crunch.

    If you’re pressed for time, buy the salsa (it’s in the refrigerator case). Then just grill, top and enjoy!

     

    A bowl of pico de gallo surrounded by tortilla chips

    Pico de gallo is delicious with so much more than tortilla chips—and low in calories, too. Photo © WayMoreAwesomer | Fotolia.

     

    RECIPE: GRILLED CHICKEN OR FISH WITH PICO DE GALLO

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

    For The Pico De Gallo

  • 4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Optional: tortilla chips
  •  
    For The Chicken Or Fish

  • 4 (5–6 ounces) boneless, skinless chicken breasts/fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Preparation

    1. MAKE the pico de gallo: Toss all the ingredients in a medium-size bowl until evenly combined. Place into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

    2. PREPARE the chicken or fish. If chicken, place the breasts between 2 pieces of wax paper. Use a meat mallet to pound them to a 3/4″ thickness.

    3. PLACE all the ingredients into a large zip-tight bag. Gently toss so the marinade evenly coats the chicken/fish. Place in a bowl in the refrigerator and marinate at least 8 hours, or up to 12 hours.

    4. PREHEAT the grill to high. Place the chicken breasts onto the hot grill and cook for 4–5 minutes until char marks appear. Flip the chicken and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken reads 165°F, about 4–5 more minutes. Top each chicken breast with pico de gallo before serving.
     
    HOW TO GET CROSSHATCH GRILL MARKS ON THE MEAT

    Most people are happy with simple horizontal grill marks. But if you’d like to get fancy and create crosshatch marks, just rotate the meat.

    Position the piece(s) at a 45-degree angle (the 1 o’clock position), sear, then turn 90 degrees (back to about the 11 o’clock position). Flip and repeat.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Salsa For National Salsa Month

    Five_Pepper_Salsa-melissas-230

    Salsa fresca, made with raw ingredients. Other salsas are cooked. Photo courtesy Melissa’s.

     

    Salsa, which has been America’s favorite condiment since 2000 (when it supplanted ketchup),actually has been a favorite condiment for thousands of years.

    The chile was domesticated around 5200 B.C.E., and tomatoes by 3000 B.C.E. both in Central America. The Aztecs combined the two, often along with other ingredients like beans and squash seeds, into a condiment, which the Conquistadors named “salsa,” or sauce. Here’s the history of salsa.

    May is National Salsa Month. If you’ve never made salsa at home, now’s the time.

    Basic salsa couldn’t be easier: salsa fresca, “fresh salsa” made with raw ingredients, is a combination of chopped tomatoes, onions, chiles and lime juice.

  • You can customize your salsa with beans, bell peppers, cilantro, corn kernels, and fresh herbs.
  • You can vary the texture: uncooked salsas can be puréed until smooth, chopped finely like pico de gallo or be served semi-chunky, in which case it is called a salsa cruda.
  •  

  • You can include Old World ingredients like garlic and olives.
  • You can add fruit—mango, nectarine, peach and pineapple are the most popular—for sweet heat.
  • You can make salsa verde, green salsa, by substituting tomatillos or avocado for tomatoes (guacamole is avocado salsa; the tomatillo is not a small green tomato but a relative of the gooseberry).
  • You can vary the chile flavor and strength, from mild to hot, from green and vegetal to smoky chipotle.
  •  
    If you want to make a cooked salsa, another world of ingredients opens, including roasted vegetables and sweet potatoes to.
     
    USING MORE THAN ONE CHILE

    There are many easy recipes for salsa fresca; most use jalapeño chiles. But you can layor the chile flavors by adding other varieties.

    We adapted this recipe from one for Five Chile Salsa from Melissas.com. It adds an Anaheim chile to the jalapeño.

    The Anaheim chile was developed around 1900 in Anaheim, California from New Mexican pasilla chiles. (See the different types of chiles.)

    The Anaheim is not a hot chile. It has a modest heat level, as low as 1,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Jalapeños are about 10,000 SHU, while habaneros are 100,000 SHU or more.

    Bell peppers are also chiles (all chiles come from the genus Capsicum), but they have no heat. Chiles, new world fruits, were mis-named “peppers” by Columbus’s sailors, who compared their heat to black pepper (no relation).

    While much of the world continues to use the misnomer “pepper,” we use it only for bell peppers, calling all other varieties by their proper name, chile.

     

    RECIPE: THREE CHILE SALSA

    Ingredients

  • 3 roma* (plum) tomatoes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 Anaheim chile
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup red onion
  • Juice of one lime or lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SEED and dice the tomatoes and peppers, chop the cilantro and red onion.

    2. MIX the tomatoes and peppers in a bowl with the cilantro and red onion.

     

    salsa-baked-potato-TexaSweet-230

    Top a baked potato with salsa, with or without sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt). Photo courtesy TexaSweet.

     
    3. JUICE the lime or lemon over the other chopped ingredients, and season with salt and pepper.

    4. MIX the ingredients until well combined, serve with tortilla chips, or as a garnish.

     
    *Named after the city of Rome, Roma tomatoes are also known as Italian tomatoes or Italian plum tomatoes.
     
    WAYS TO ENJOY SALSA

    Breakfast

  • On eggs as a garnish
  • Mixed into frittatas and omelets
  •  
    Lunch

  • As a sandwich condiment—especially with grilled cheese or roasted veggies
  • Mixed into chicken, egg, macaroni, potato or tuna salad
  • With fries, instead of ketchup
  • With anything Tex-Mex
  •  
    Dinner

  • As a sauce for seafood cocktail (add some horseradish!)
  • Atop a baked potato, or mixed into mashed potatoes
  • Made into compound butter and served as a pat atop grilled meats
  • Mixed with cooked rice or other grains
  • With mac and cheese
  •  
    Snacks

  • Mixed into deviled eggs
  • Mixed into a dip with mayonnaise, sour cream or plain yogurt
  • On nachos
  • With chips
  • With crudités
  •  
    What’s your favorite use? Let us know!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Mexican Parfait

    southwestern-parfait-FSTG-230

    A savory Mexican (or Tex-Mex) parfait. Photo and recipe courtesy Food Should Taste Good.

     

    This Southwestern Tomato and Yogurt Parfait is made in trendy glass canning jars, but you can use wine glasses, juice glasses or whatever you have.

    It’s easy to make the salsa, but if you’re pressed for time you can buy ready-made corn and bean salsa.

    Happy Cinco de Mayo!

     
    RECIPE: MEXICAN PARFAIT Parfait

    Ingredients
     
    For The Salsa

  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) fire roasted tomatoes (we used Muir Glen), drained, 2 tablespoons juice reserved, patted dry
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped, seeded jalapeño chile
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Optional garnish: cilantro sprig
  • For The Parfait

  • 1 quart plain Greek yogurt
  • Tortilla chips
  •  
    Plus

  • 8 pint-sized canning jars (substitute juice or wine glasses)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. MIX the salsa ingredients in medium bowl.

    2. SPOON into each of the jars 1/4 cup salsa, then 1/4 cup yogurt. Repeat with two more layers. Top with a layer of salsa

    3. GARNISH with a sprig of cilantro. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Lobster Guacamole

    In the chips? Add lobster to your guacamole!

    This recipe is adapted from one sent to us by Dos Caminos restaurant in New York City.

    RECIPE: LOBSTER GUACAMOLE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped white onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño or serrano chilies (seeds and membranes removed for less heat)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 2 large ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
  • 1 small plum tomato, cored, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 pound whole lobster or 4 ounces lobster meat, steamed, cleaned and rough chopped
  • Tortilla chips
  •    

    lobster-guacamole-temazcalcantinaboston-230

    Fancy schmancy: lobster guacamole. Photo courtesy Temazcal Cantina | Boston.

     

    Garnishes

  • Optional garnish #1: Japanese pickled ginger (a.k.a. gari or shoga—here’s a recipe to make your own)
  • Optional garnish #2: Diced tomatoes, extra lobster meat
  •  

    mango-lime-bowl-cabochips-230

    Tortilla chips taste so much better when warmed in the oven before serving. Photo courtesy Cabo Chips.

     

    Preparation

    1. MASH 1 tablespoon of cilantro, 1 teaspoon onion, 1 teaspoon minced chile and the salt together in a medium size bowl, using the back of a spoon to mash against the bottom of the bowl.

    2. ADD the chopped lobster to the bowl. Add the avocados and gently mash them with a fork until chunky-smooth.

    3. FOLD in the remaining cilantro, onion and chile. Stir in the tomatoes and lime juice; taste to adjust the seasonings.

    4. GARNISH with the pickled ginger or extra cilantro. Serve with warm corn tortilla chips.
     
    TO WARM TORTILLA CHIPS

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper (optional, for easier clean-up).

    2. ADD the tortilla in a single even layer. Heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until the chips are warm.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mexican Cheese Course

    We’ve been asked how to put together a cheese plate for Cinco de Mayo. Truth to tell, Mexico’s signature cheeses, from fresh to aged, are white cheeses made for cooking. They’re not intended to be nibbled during cocktail hour or as a cheese course.

    To learn about Mexican cheeses for cooking, read our article, Cooking With Hispanic Cheese.

    For a cheese course, we have three recommendations. You can serve one or all:

  • Panela. A fresh cow’s milk cheese, queso panela is used for snacking and in recipes. Similar in taste and texture to mozzarella, it’s commonly served with fruit. You can get creative and toss cubes of panela in a fruit salad or with berries, or serve it with bread or crackers and a light white wine.
  • Queso Criollo. This semi-hard yellow cheese is similar to Munster, but not easy to find in the U.S. If you want to be flexible, substitute a Monterey Jack made with jalapeño or other chile, and a hearty red wine.
  •  

    manchego-membrillo-thebestspanishrecipes-230

    Creative presentation: wedges of Manchego cheese topped with wedges of membrillo and a sprinkling of chili powder. Photo courtesy The Best Spanish Recipes.

  • Manchego. The famous sheep’s milk cheese from Spain (the breed of sheep is manchega) is also popular in Mexico, served for dessert with dulce de membrillo (quince paste*) and marcona almonds†. The cheese can be aged from six months to two years; the older the cheese, the more complex. Serve it with Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine.
  •  
    We’re already getting hungry for this cheese plate!
     
    *Quince paste, often made in a loaf form, is a sweet, thick, jelly made of the pulp of the quince fruit. It is sliced and served with the cheese.

    †Marcona almonds, imported from Spain, are a variety of sweet almond. They’re slightly shorter and plumper in appearance compared to the almonds typically found in U.S. markets. But you can serve any raw or roasted almonds with manchego or any cheeses.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Ice Cream Tacos

    ice-cream-tacos-tasteofhome-230

    Ice cream tacos: olé! Photo courtesy Taste
    Of Home.

     

    How about ice cream tacos for Cinco de Mayo?

    You can make them the easy way, with frozen round toaster waffles, or make crunchy pizzelles and fold them into taco-like shells.

    But we adapted this recipe from Taste Of Home, which uses actual tortillas. As a neater alternative to tacos, you can form the tortillas into a bowl (drape them over an actual dessert bowl).

    Prep time is 20 minutes. With all due respect to Klondike’s Choco Tacos, these taste a lot better!

    RECIPE: ICE CREAM TACOS

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pint ice cream of choice
  • 4 plain 6″ or 8″ tortillas
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  •  

    Choice Of Toppings

    Select two toppings; you’ll need two tablespoons of each.

  • Chocolate chips or other baking chips or shaved chocolate (see below)
  • Mini candies: M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, marshmallows
  • Shredded coconut
  • Chopped honey peanuts, pecans or other nuts
  • Diced banana, kiwi, mango or strawberries
  •  
    Plus

  • Caramel or fudge sauce
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream and sprinkles
  •  
    Preparation
     

     

    blocks-curls-hebertchocolate-230

    Chocolate shavings. Photo courtesy Hebert Chocolate.

    1. COMBINE the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on one side of each tortilla.

    2. HEAT the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the tortillas, one at a time, with the cinnamon side up. When the tortilla starts to brown, fold it into a taco shape and drain on paper towels.

    3. USING the same skillet, cook and stir the pecans for 2 minutes or until lightly toasted.

    4. ASSEMBLE: Line up the taco shells in a baking dish to keep them upright, open-side up. Place two small scoops of ice cream in each tortilla shell; add the toppings, drizzle with sauce and finish with the whipped cream.

     
    HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE CURLS OR SHAVINGS

    To shave chocolate or make chocolate curls, start with your favorite chocolate bars—solid, without nuts or other inclusions.

    1. WARM the chocolate bar in a microwave for 3 seconds. Use a vegetable peeler to scrape down the side (not the front/back) of the bar, forming curls.

    2. PLACE the chocolate curls on a wax paper-covered dish or baking pan and refrigerate until firm. It is easiest to move the curls with toothpicks.

      

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    RECIPE: Tortilla Chips & Steak Appetier

    GrilledSalsaSteakAppetizer-beefitswhatsfordinner-230

    Crunchy and beefy! Photo courtesy National
    Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

     

    This isn’t exactly an authentic Mexican recipe, but it’s close enough for Cino de Mayo.

    Presented by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (“Beef, it’s what’s for dinner”), it’s a stylish, fresh way to serve guacamole or salsa with tortilla chips. Just add some steak to it!

    The total recipe time is 35 to 40 minutes. It’s delicious with beer, savory cocktails and wine.

    Find more steak-sational recipes at BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

    RECIPE: GRILLED SALSA STEAK APPETIZER

    Ingredients For 24 Pieces

  • 2 flat iron steaks, about 8 ounces each
  • 1 cup thick-and-chunky salsa, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 24 large corn (restaurant style) tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup guacamole
  • Optional garnish: 24 fresh cilantro leaves
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the beef steaks and 1/2 cup of the salsa in food-safe plastic bag; turn steaks to coat. Close the bag securely and marinate in the refrigerator 15 minutes to 2 hours.

    2. COMBINE the remaining 1/2 cup salsa and chopped cilantro; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

    3. REMOVE the steaks from the marinade; discard marinade (always discard a marinade when finished; bacteria, which die when the protein is cooked, can remain present in the marinade). Place the steaks on a grill over medium-hot, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 10 to 14 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 12 to 16 minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.

    4. CARVE the steaks into thin slices; cut the slices into bite-size pieces.

    5. ARRANGE the tortilla chips on a platter. Top each chip evenly with the reserved salsa mixture, a piece of beef and topping of guacamole. Garnish with a cilantro leaf. Serve immediately.

     

    WHAT IS FLAT IRON STEAK?

    Flat iron steak (also called top blade or patio steak) is cut from the shoulder of the steer (the top blade roast), producing a cut that is flavorful, but a bit tougher because it’s cut with the grain. It thus requires marinating and cooking to no more doneness than medium; but produces a piece of beef with deep, rich flavor.

    If it seems like a newer cut, it is. It was developed by teams at the University of Nebraska and the University of Florida, with research funded by the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

    The problem presented to the university researchers was the best way to use a challenging cut of beef from the shoulder of the steer. Though a flavorful and relatively tender cut of meat, the top blade roast has a serious flaw in the middle of it; an impossibly tough piece of connective tissue running through the middle.

     

    flati-ron-geecheemeatmarket-230

    A flatiron steak. Photo courtesy Ogeechee Meat Market.

     

    To make the flat iron steak, the top blade roast is separated into two pieces by cutting horizontally through the center to remove the heavy connective tissue. The result: the roast was turned into tasty, tender, economical steaks.

    See our beef glossary for the different cuts of beef.

      

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