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Archive for International Foods

TIP OF THE DAY: 10-Minute Chorizo Tacos

Chorizo Tacos Recipe

White Corn Tortillas

[1] Make these tortillas in 10 minutes or less. [2] Artisan white corn tortillas from Tortillas de la Tierra (both photos courtesy Good Eggs).

 

Nothing planned for dinner?

Guests drop by for a beer or glass of wine?

Finicky kids?

[Fill in] your own challenge?

There’s a quick, crowd-pleasing solution: chorizo tacos.

The folks at Good Eggs, who sent us this recipe, rejoice that “the ease and flavor of these simple chorizo numbers knocked our socks off.

“Give it a try and you’ll be wondering if it can be Taco Tuesday every day.”

It can be used at lunch and brunch, too.

RECIPE: QUICK CHORIZO TORTILLAS

Ingredients For 4 Tacos

  • 1 package chorizo sausage (pork or turkey)
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 10 tortillas de la Tierra
  • Optional: whatever you have in the fridge*
  • Optional: lime wedges
  •  
    ________________
    *Avocado/guacamole, beans, crumbled/shredded cheese, plain or pickled jalapeños, radish, salsa, sour cream, tomatoes (chopped), etc.
    ________________
     
    For A Side Of Salad

  • 1 bag mixed greens or other salad ingredients
  • Olive oil
  • ½ lemon
  • Preparation

    1. REMOVE the casing from the sausages. Place the chorizo in a cast-iron pan and sauté over medium-high heat until fully cooked, 7-10 minutes.

    2. WARM the tortillas on both sides, directly over the flame on your stove. Keep the tortillas warm in a dish towel as you continue to heat the stack. Alternatively, wrap the stack in a slightly damp dish towel and microwave until warm.

    3. PLACE a scoop of chorizo on each tortilla, along with some cilantro and green onions. If serving any optional ingredients, place them on the table and let people dress their own.

    4. DRESS the salad: Toss the greens with olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, season to taste with salt and pepper.

     

    HOW TO FREEZE TORTILLAS

    Some brands of tortillas with preservatives have a long shelf life in the fridge. Others don’t.

    To freeze tortillas, stack them with parchment or wax paper separating each tortilla, and place in a freezer bag with the air squeezed out. Then you can remove them one by one, as you need them, without tearing.

    If you typically use two or four tortillas at a time, place the parchment at that interval.

    The tortillas will keep for six to eight months beyond their “best by” date.

    Parchment separation is also advisable to hedge against tearing if you’re keeping tortillas in the fridge.
     
    HOW TO THAW & WARM FROZEN TORTILLAS

    Quick Thawing Techniques

  • Stove Burners: With electric or induction burners, place the tortillas directly on the burners and flip them with tongs. For a gas burner, hold the tortilla over the flame with tongs.
  • Microwave: Wrap in a kitchen towel (if the tortillas have started to dry out, use a damp towel. Microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute 30 seconds, depending on how many tortillas you are heating. We use a rubber tortilla warmer—easy to store and great for microwaving any food.
  • Steamer: Wrap the tortillas in a kitchen towel and steam for a few minutes. They will stay hot if kept inside the towel.
  • Stovetop: Heat the tortillas in a pan, adding in a bit of water if you want to soften them.
  • Toaster Oven or Oven: Wrap the tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven.
  •  
    Slow Thawing

  • Slow: Defrost on the counter overnight.
  • Slower: Defrost in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours.
  •  
    NOTE: The towel or foil you wrap the tortillas in continues to keep them warm after they leave the heat source. Bring the tortillas to the table in the wrap.
     
    WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE QUICK HOT MEALS?

    Let us know!

     

    Freezing Tortillas

    Heating Tortillas

    Handmade Corn Tortillas

    [3] To freeze, stack the tortillas in a freezer bag with parchment paper (photo courtesy Americas Test Kitchen Feed). [4] Heat frozen or fresh tortillas over the burner (photo courtesy Wonder How To). [5] Look for artisan tortillas: so delicious, they’re worth the higher price (photo courtesy Hot Bread Kitchen).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Plan A Dinner With Gujeolpan

    Gujeolpan

    Gujeolpan Platter

    Gujeolpan Pancake

    [1] Classic gujeolpan in a nine-sectioned octagonal plate (photo Jamie Frater | Wikipedia). [2] A beautiful non-traditional presentation at Siwhadam restaurant in Seoul. [3] Ingredients in the pancake (photo courtesy TheBeauti4.Blogspot.com).

     

    For a first course or a main dish, pass the gujeolpan.

    The what?

    In Korea, gujeolpan (gu-JOLP-an) is the name of a sectioned serving plate that holds nine different foods: eight delicacies and a stack of crêpe-like wheat pancakes (jeon)in the center, used as wraps. The shape that purportedly resembles a flower.

    Gu is Korean for nine, jeol is selection and pan is the plate. The idea is to present foods that represent different foods artistically: different textures and colors. Foods are separated by color and ingredients, and comprise various preparations of mushrooms, seasoned vegetables (bean sprouts, carrots, leeks, radishes, etc.).

    Today, it’s a special-occasion dish, served at banquets and weddings, and available at restaurants that specialize in it.
     
    HISTORY OF GUJEOLPAN

    An elaborate presentation, gujeolpan is one of the most beautiful centerpiece Korean dishes, colorful and aesthetically appealing. It was once available only to nobility. Today you can have it at Korean restaurants that specialize in ancient foods (and where it can be quite pricey), or make a version of it at home with modern recipes.

    The octagonal plate of yore is still used to present them; although these days any shape of platter or unsectioned dish can be used. The traditional ebony covered box can be replaced with a plastic version. There are also sectioned metal boxes, and ceramic or glass plates with depressions for the food.

    Gujeolpan dates back at least to the 14th century, and has become closely associated with the Joseon kingdom that lasted from 1392 to 1897 (when the country was officially renamed the Korean Empire).

    The plate can be quite elaborate, with a carvings, gold or brass embellishments and (for the very wealthy) gem encrustations.

    But you can create your own, and have fun with it as an appetizer, first course or light dinner.

    Might we add: It’s also a better-for-you, lower-calorie dish of fun?
     
    HOW TO EAT GUJEOLPAN

    As with Peking duck and other pancake-based Asian dishes, each person takes a pancake and fills it with the ingredients of choice. The ingredients are drizzled with sauce or other condiment, then rolled and eaten.

     

    HOW TO MAKE GUJEOLPAN

    If you have an Asian market, head there first to see what’s available. Otherwise, your produce store or supermarket will be a source of inspiration.

    But you can use anything you like. It’s very easy to pickle vegetables, for example; and you need only one meat and one fish.

    Create a balance of colors: brown, green, red, white, yellow. Consider:

  • Baby spinach, steamed and dressed with a bit of sesame oil
  • Bay scallops, marinated
  • Bean sprouts
  • Jeon (see note below)
  • Meat: lamb, pork, poultry, tofu, grilled or teriyaki, julienned
  • Mushrooms, marinated (we especially like enokoi and chanterelles)
  • Raw fish, thinly-sliced or cubed (fluke, salmon, tuna)
  • Salmon roe (ikura)
  • Seafood, raw (clams) or lightly cooked (crab, shrimp, squid, etc.)
  • Shredded or julienned carrots, cucumber, daikon/radish, scallions, seasonal (e.g. asparagus, ramps, sea beans), zucchini
  • Pickled cocktail onions, garlic, green beans or haricots verts (first cut to bite size)
  •  
    Non-Traditional Items

  • Baby arugula or watercress
  • European vegetables: endive, fennel, squash, etc.
  • Mayo-bound salads: crab, egg, potato, tuna, etc. (small dice)
  • Microgreens
  • Grilled or roasted vegetables
  • Sweet gherkins
  • Tartare: beef, salmon, tuna
  • Et cetera, et cetera and so forth
  •  
    Plus

  • Condiments on the side, e.g. chili paste, herb mayonnaise, horseradish, shredded basil, etc.
  • Korean mushroom and/or mustard sauces (recipes), soy sauce with vinegar
  •  

    Gujeolpan Plate

    Guljeopan Recipe

    Gujeolpan Recipe

    [4] A modern gujeolpan plate in metal with removable sections (photo courtesy Korea.net). [5] This plate has less than nine sections, but it works (photo courtesy Jungsik | Seoul). Or, repurpose a Passover plate. [6] You can use any plate (photo courtesy MarooDining.com.au).

     
    You can serve extra dishes, and fusion dishes; for example, beets, Japanese kimchi or gourmet sauerkraut (we’re crazy about Farmhouse Culture, which makes sauerkraut in Classic Caraway, Garlic Dill, Horseradish Leek, Smoked Jalapeño and Spicy Wakame Ginger).

    You can use a substitute for the pancakes (see next section).

    The biggest challenge is knife skills: slicing the ingredients thinly. On the other hand, this is an opportunity to practice your knife skills.

    Don’t forget the chopsticks!
     
    MAKING THE PANCAKES

    Here’s a recipe for traditional gujeolpan pancakes.

    You can also substitute:

  • Crêpes
  • Mu shu pancakes (recipe)
  • Nori (toasted seaweed)
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Other flexible wrap
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Drinks For Mexican Independence Day

    Tequila & Grapefruit Juice Cocktail

    Bandera Shots

    [1] The Paloma, said to be Mexico’s favorite tequila-based cocktail (photo courtesy TasteCocktails.com). [2] The Bandera comprises shots in green, white and red, the colors of the Mexican flag (photo courtesy FoodNetwork.com). [3] A layered bandora shot with chartreuse, maraschino liqueur (clear) and grenadine (photo courtesy BarinaCraft.com).

     

    September 16th is Mexican Independence Day. It’s also National Guacamole Day. Coincidence? We think not!

    Yesterday, we explained how Mexicans celebrated with shots of Reposda tequila, aged for up to a year.

    But what if you don’t like drinking straight tequila?

    You can enjoy another tequila cocktail or a non-alcoholic Mexican drink. Here are some of the most popular:
     
    RECIPE #1: MICHELADA: MEXICO’S BEER COCKTAIL

    You can have a plain Mexican beer, of course. Bohemia, Corona, Dos Equis and others are commonly found across the country.

    But if you like a bit of heat, have a Michelada (mee-cha-LAH-dah), a traditional cerveza preparada, or beer cocktail.

    Michelada is a combination of beer, lime and hot sauce served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. Chela is Mexican slang for a cold beer, combined with mixto, referring to the the mix of ingredients added to the beer. Eliminate the hot sauce and you’ve got a Chelada.

    Here’s the complete Michelada recipe.
     
    RECIPE #2: PALOMA COCKTAIL, TEQUILA & GRAPEFRUIT

    This cocktail couldn’t be easier: 3 parts grapefruit soda and 1 part tequila, served over ice cubes in a highball glass, garnished with a lime wedge. You can add an optional salt rim.

    And you can make it by the pitcher-ful, which we’ll be doing tonight.

    Paloma is the Spanish word for dove. In Mexico the soft drink of choice is Jarritos brand grapefruit soda (in the U.S., look for it at international markets or substitute Fresca.

    You can purchase pink grapefruit soda from the premium mixer brand Q Drinks, or combine grapefruit juice with club soda or grapefruit-flavored club soda.

     
    At better establishments, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice is combined with club soda. Use pink grapefruit juice and you’ll have a Pink Paloma (our term for it).

    Here’s the history of the Paloma from TasteCocktails.com, which says it’s the most popular tequila-based cocktail in Mexico.
     
    RECIPE #2: BANDERA SHOTS

    In Mexico the Bandera (flag), named after the flag of Mexico, consists of three shot glasses representing the colors of the flag (photo #2).

    The first is filled with lime juice (for the green), the middle has white (silver) tequila, and the last contains sangrita (for the red), a chaser that usually contains orange and tomato juices. Here’s the recipe from Food Network.

    You can also make layered shooter with liqueurs in the national colors (photo #3). Here’s a recipe.

     

    NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

    RECIPE #4: AGUA FRESCA

    In Spanish, agua fresca means fresh water.

    In culinary terms, it refers to a variety of refreshing cold drinks that are sold by street vendors and at cafés throughout Mexico and other Latin American countries (photo #4). They’re also sold bottled at stores, and are easily whipped up at home.

    Agua fresca is nonalcoholic and noncarbonated. The recipe can include a combination of fruits or veggies, flowers (like hibiscus), herbs and/or spices, cereals (barley, oats, rice), seeds (chia), even almond flour (which is used to make horchata, the next example).

    A traditional agua fresca is an infused, sweetened water, flavored with fruits and/or vegetables—often a more complex layering of flavors than lemonade and limeade.

    Our favorite combinations: watermelon (or any melon), basil cucumber and mint hibiscus. Here’s how to make them.

    As you can see from this recipe template, it’s easy to mix your favorite flavors.
     
    RECIPE #5: HORCHATA

    Agua de horchata—horchata for short—is a very popular recipe, made from ground almonds and rice spiced with cinnamon (photo #5). Other flavors such as coconut can be added.

    Here’s a recipe from Noshon.it.

    It’s not conventional, but, you could add a shot of tequila or rum.

    After all, it’s a day to celebrate!

     

    Watermelon Agua Fresca

    Mexican Soft Drink

    [4] Whip up a pitcher of watermelon aqua fresca with this recipe from Whole Foods Markets. [5] Horchata, made from ground almonds and cooked rice, may sound unusual—but it’s unusually good (photo courtesy Noshon.It).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Feijoada For The Olympics

    Feijoada Recipe

    Feijoada Light

    [1] Feijoada at Sushi Samba, a Brazilian-Japanese restaurant with locations in New York City, Florida, Las Vegas and London. [2] A lighter version of feijoada from SimplyRecipes.com.

     

    To get into the grove of the Rio Olympics, we turn to Brazilian fare, beginning with its national dish, feijoada (fay-ZHWA-dah).

    A hearty, smoky stew of beans and salted, smoked and fresh meats, it is served with white rice and sautéed collard greens are served, along with a set of garnishes that including orange slices and farofa, a toasted cassava flour mixture (think of cornmeal made from cassava and see photo #5 below).

    It’s a one-bowl dish of comfort food, and is the traditionally Sunday dinner in Brazil (as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is in England).
     
    WHAT IS A NATIONAL FOOD

    A national food is a popular dish made from local ingredients prepared in a particular way. It’s part of the country’s sense of identity, like Austria’s wiener schnitzel and Hungary’s goulash, Korea’s bulgogi (hibachi-grilled beef wrapped in lettuce leaves) and the U.K.’s roast beef with yorkshire pudding.

    According to Wikipedia, during the age of European empire-building, nations would develop an entire national cuisine to distinguish themselves from their rivals.

    The U.S. has no declared national food; nor do countries such as India. There are too many diverse ethnic groups with specialized cuisines to choose a single national dish.

    In Latin America, however, dishes may be designated as a “plato nacional” (national dish).

     
    In addition to feijoada, examples include:

  • Argentina’s locro, a hearty stew of beef or pork or tripe and red chorizo, corn and other vegetables.
  • Colombian’s ajiaco, a soup that includes chicken, three varieties of potatoes and a local herb, guanaco.
  • Dominican Republic’s and Panama’s sancocho, a heavy soup/light stew.
  • Peru’s ceviche, made from any combination of fresh seafood and a variety of marinades (here’s a recipe template).
  •  
    Whatever the national dish, there are as many versions as there are cooks.

    Feijoada, for example, can be spicy for mild, eaten with a spoon or so thick, you can eat it with a fork.

     

    RECIPE: FEIJOADA, BLACK BEAN STEW

    This recipe was developed for American cooks buy Hank Shaw of SimplyRecipes.com.

    (It’s hard to find fresh pig ears, tails and preserved malagueta chiles in many American supermarkets, but if you want a truly authentic recipe, here it is from the Centro Cultural Brasil USA. Not to mention, the traditional recipe is a two-day preparation.)

    You can make it for own; for example, top the greens with bacon, or lighten the meats and smokiness by substituting chicken sausage and/or thighs.

    Pair it with iced tea, beer, red wine, or red sangria.

    Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry black beans
  • Boiling water to cover
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound pork shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound carne seca (dried beef) or corned beef, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 pound fresh chorizo or Italian sausage
  • 1 pound kielbasa, linguica or other smoked sausage
  • 1 smoked ham hock or shank
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • Water to cover
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • Salt
  •  
    Sides & Condiments

  • White rice
  • Collards, kale or other greens, sautéed with onions and garlic
  • Orange slices
  • Farofa
  • Pork rinds
  • Fresh parsley and/or green onions
  • Hot sauce
  •  

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/Feijoada cookdiary.net 230

    Feijoada Garnishes

    Farofa With Raisins

    [3] Feijoada is served family-style, scooped from a pot with passed garnishes (photo courtesy CookDiary.net). [4] Feijoada and its traditional accompaniments (photo courtesy Centro Cultural Brasil USA). [5] Farofa, a dish of toasted cassava flour, can be layered with ingredients from herbs and olives to peas and raisins. In feijoada, however, it is served plain (photo courtesy Blog Da Mimis).

     
    Preparation

    1. COVER the beans with boiling water and set aside.

    2. HEAT the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and brown the pork shoulder. When browned, remove the meat from the pot and set aside.

    3. PLACE the onions in the pot and brown, stirring occasionally. Be sure to scrape up the fond (the tasty browned bits on the bottom). Sprinkle with a bit of salt and add the garlic. Stir to combine and sauté for two minutes more.

    4. RETURN the pork shoulder to the pot, along with the other meats, bay leaves and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.

    5. DRAIN the beans and add them to the stew pot. Simmer covered, until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes.

    6. ADD the tomatoes, stir well and taste. Add salt as desired. Simmer uncovered, until the ham begins to fall off the hock, 2-3 hours.

    7. SERVE with sides and condiments.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Crunchy Fried (Or Baked) Tortilla Strips

    What more crunch in your summer salads?

    Toasted croutons and chow mein noodles have long served that purpose.
     
    OTHER CRUNCHY OPTIONS

    You can also add slices of bell pepper, bok choy, carrot, celery, fennel, kohlrabi, radish or water chestnut; florets and stalks* of broccoli and cauliflower; and even nuts (try cashews).

    Romaine is the crunchiest lettuce; you can substitute or add shredded cabbage.

    But one ingredient we’ve been enjoying lately is fried tortilla strips.

    It had not been top-of-mind for us until the lightbulb turned on as we were crunching on the Skinnylicious Mexican Tortilla Salad at The Cheesecake Factory. These strips are more flavorful than chow mein noodles and most packaged croutons.

    We asked ourself: Why don’t we use them on every salad?

    We headed to the supermarket and found bags of fried tortilla strips, from Fresh Gourmet’s slender Tri-Color Tortilla Strips to Mission’s standard strips that are wide enough for dipping.

    But you can easily make your own, simply by cutting corn tortillas into strips and frying or baking. The only difference is that yours will be fresh, warm and all natural. Bonus: You can control the amount of salt.

    There’s nothing better than homemade tortilla strips, warm and fragrant from cooking. They’re made the same way as tortilla chips; just in a different shape.
     
    RECIPE: FRIED TORTILLA STRIPS

    Ingredients

  • 4 six-inch corn tortillas
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  •  
    Plus

  • Deep-fry/candy thermometer
  • Wire skimmer
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STACK the tortillas. Cut them in half, then crosswise into thin strips (you can use a pizza cutter). Line a baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels, for draining.

    2. POUR 3 inches of oil into a 4-5 quart pot. Clip the thermometer to the pot and heat the oil over medium-high to 350°F. Test the oil with a drop of water from the tap. If it sizzles, it’s ready; if it splatters, it’s too hot. Turn off the heat for a few minutes.

    3. ADD half of the tortillas to the oil carefully—that oil is hot!—and use a wire skimmer or slotted spoon to stir often so they don’t burn. The strips should be submerged in the oil until golden brown (about 3 minutes).

    4. REMOVE the tortillas with the skimmer or a slotted spoon, allowing the excess oil to drain back into the pot. Spread the strips on the paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
     
    If you won’t be using the strips within a few hours, let them cool and store them in an airtight jar.

     

    Tortilla Strip Garnish

    Tortilla Strips

    Tortillas

    [1] Mexican Tortilla Salad. Here’s the Skinnylicious recipe from Cheesecake Factory. [2] You can make your strips long as in the first photo, or short like these (photo courtesy Heather H. | Food.com). [3] Beautiful colors of tortilla chips (photo courtesy Ramiro Valencia, D.R.).

     
    Spicy Variation

    This option brushes the tortillas with seasoned oil, before stacking and cutting.

  • 1-1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1?4-1?2 teaspoon ground red chili flakes
  •  
    COMBINE the oil and spices; brush one side of each tortilla with the mixture and proceed with steps above.
     
    Oven Variation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F.

    2. SPRAY a baking with cooking spray and spread the the strips, trying not to let them overlap. Sprinkle with salt.

    3. BAKE for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
     
    USES FOR TORTILLA STRIPS

    In addition to a salad garnish, try them on:

  • Mac & Cheese, instead of toasted crumbs
  • Sandwiches, including burgers and franks
  •  
    __________________
    *There’s no reason to toss the bottom stalks of broccoli and cauliflower. The reason people do is because we’re accustomed to eating the “pretty” florets. The stalks are just as delicious—and they’re the parts used to make fancy purées. We cut them into coins and steam or roast them.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Tapas Party For World Tapas Day

    “Official” food holidays are those officially declared by a government: local, state or national. In these fast and loose days of the Internet, however, many companies and individuals don’t bother to seek official sanction for a “special observance day.” Instead, they simply announce online that a particular date is now World Nutella Day (started by two bloggers) or National [Whatever] Day.

    Here’s how official holidays are established in the U.S.
     
    IT’S OFFICIAL: WORLD TAPAS DAY

    No less an entity than the country of Spain has established a welcome new holiday: World Tapas Day. Spain’s tourism agency, Turespaña, has declared El Día Mundial de la Tapa, to recognize the “singular nature of this vital element of Spanish cuisine and culture” (here’s more information).

    World Tapas Day will be held each year on the third Thursday of June. That’s June 16th this year, and you’ve got time to plan a tapas party—or serve tapas for Father’s Day on June 19th. Tapas are easy to make. Check out these recipes from Martha Stewart. You can make it a “group party” and have everyone make a different tapa.

    Tapas are a long tradition in Spain. A snack for agricultural workers evolved into bar food, and has become so popular in modern times that it is now the focus of brunches and cocktail parties.
     
    THE HISTORY OF TAPAS

    While there are legends surrounding the birth of tapas, the accepted theory is that they originated as a snack for field workers. (Paella also originated among field workers, as the lunch meal.)

    As a refreshment during the long hours between breakfast and lunch, workers were served wine from a ceramic jug. The top of the jug was covered with a piece of bread with ham or cheese, which served to keep insects out of the wine. Tapa is a cover or lid.

    As the idea came to cities, tapas with a snack became popular at midday or for an after-work drink. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, tapas (TOP-us) are “a small portion of any food served to accompany a drink.”

    The original tapas were simple: slices of bread with ham or chorizo served free with a drink. The bread was set on top of the glass rim and covered the drink, just as with the jug of wine. Today the choices can be vast, and are served on small plates.

    It has evolved into a verb, tapear: to eat tapas. A tapeo is a social gathering where the food is tapas.As with the free caviar supplied at American taverns in the 19th century (American sturgeon were plentiful then, and caviar was cheap [sigh]), the salty food made patrons thirstier and they bought more alcohol.

       

    Tapas Plate

    Modern Tuna Tapas

    TOP: A platter of tapas: tortilla (potato omelet), boquerones (marinated anchovies) and chiles fritos (fried shishito peppers (photo courtesy Foods From Spain). Bottom: Headed to Vegas? Check out the best tapas restaurants in this feature from Vegas Magazine. This is Julian Serrano’s modern take on tuna tapas.

     

    Today, tapas comprise a wide variety of cold or hot foods can be ordered with a drink or combined into an entire meal.

    Each region of Spain serves tapas that reflect the local cuisine. Meats, cheeses, olives and nuts and tortillas (egg and potato omelet) are common to all areas, with more seafood tapas along the coastline.

    Spaniards seek out the best tapas bars (a bar that serves tapas—not all bars do) as Americans seek out the best pizza. While tapas are ubiquitous all over Spain, cities such as Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, Málaga, San Sebastian and Seville are known for the quality, variety and innovation of their tapas.

     

    Croquetas de Bacalao

    Empanada Gallega Galicia

    Top: Croquetas De Bacalo, cod croquettes. Bottom: Empanada Gallega Galicia, Galician Pork and Pepper Pie—the original empanada (photos courtesy LaTienda.com).

     

    HOW ARE TAPAS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SMALL PLATES?

    Amuses-bouche, antipasto, hors d’oeuvre, mezzo and tapas are similar, though different.

  • Amuse-bouche (pronounced ah-MEEZ boosh) is French for “amusing the mouth.” It’s an hors d’oeuvre-size portion plated on a tiny dish, sent as a gift from the chef after the order has been placed but before the food arrives. It is brought after the wine is poured. It is just one bite: A larger portion would constitute an appetizer. Amuses-bouches tend to be complex in both flavors and garniture, and enable the chef to show creativity.
  • Antipasto, the traditional first course of a formal Italian dinner, is an assortment of anchovies, cheeses (mozzarella, provolone), cured meats, marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms and other vegetables, olives, peperoncini and pickled foods. The choices vary greatly, reflecting regional cuisines. Some restaurants have antipasto buffets.
  • Appetizer, a first course lately referred to as a starter in fashionable venues, is small serving of food served as a first course. It can be the same type of food that could be served as an entrée or a side dish, but in a smaller portion (e.g., a half-size portion of gnocchi). Or it could be something not served as a main dish, such as smoked salmon with capers.
  • Hors d’oeuvre (pronounced or-DERV) are one- or two-bite tidbits served with cocktails. They can be placed on a table for self-service, or passed on trays by the host or a server. Canapés—small pieces of bread or pastry with a savory topping, served at room temperature—were the original hors d’oeuvre. They’ve been joined in modern times by hot options such as cheese puffs, mini quiches, skewers, baby lamb chops and other foods. Also in modern times, several pieces of hors d’oeuvre can be plated to serve as an “hors d’oeuvre plate” appetizer/first course.
  • The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook. Thus, a cheese plate is not an hors d’oeuvre, nor is a crudité tray with dip, even though someone has cut the vegetables and made the dip. Martinets note: In French, the term “hors d’oeuvre” is used to indicate both the singular and plural forms; Americans incorrectly write and speak it as “hors d’oeuvres.”
  • Mezze or meze (pronounced MEH-zay) refers an assortment of small dishes, served to accompany alcoholic drinks or as an appetizer plate before the main dish. In Greece, expect mezedes of feta cheese, Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, assorted raw vegetables and dips like taramasalata and tzatziki. Among the many other options, anchovies and sardines, saganaki (grilled or fried cheese) and roasted red peppers are commonly served. In the Middle East, you’ll typically find dips (babaganoush, hummus), olives, pickles, tabouleh and other items, from raw vegetables to falafel and sambousek (small meat turnovers). Don’t forget the pita wedges!
  • Tapas (pronounced TOP-us) are appetizers or snacks that comprise a wide variety of popular foods in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold or hot, from cheese and olives to chorizo to a tortilla, meatballs, or fried squid. While originally traditional foods, some tapas bars now serve very sophisticated plates. You can order one or more tapas with a glass of wine, or order a series of plates to create a full meal.
  •  
    MORE ON TAPAS

  • Entertaining With Tapas
  • Vermouth & Tapas Brunch Or Cocktails
  • Potato Tapas
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Some Pelmeni

    Pelmeni

    Pelmeni Stuffing

    Pelmeni Mold

    Top: Pelmeni with Russia’s favorite herb, dill (photo Amazon). Center: Meat stuffing in a pelmeni mold (photo Amazon). Bottom: Ready to cook (photo MumsPrefer.com).

     

    You may have had Polish pillow pasta—pierogi—but how about their Russian cousin, pelmeni (pell-MEN-ee).

    As with dumplings the world over—including ravioli—a simple dough rolled out and stuffed with beef, cheese, chicken, mutton, pork, seafood or vegetables. Or, they can be a blend: A traditional recipe combines beef, mutton and pork. In Europe, add some garlic, onions and pepper to the mix.

    THE HISTORY OF PELMENI

    Historians agree that pelmeni originated among the indigenous Siberian people and later became part of Russian cuisine; they are also called Siberian dumplings in Russia. The word translates to “ear bread”: The bite-size dumplings can be seen as little ear pasta (although not nearly as ear-like as Italian orrechietti, which have the advantage because they aren’t stuffed).

    Pelmeni were a particularly good way to preserving meat during the six months of Siberian winter, with temperatures as low as -47°F and snow on the ground through April. It became a tradition in Siberia households to make thousands of pelmeni as soon as temperatures fell below freezing, in November. Long before electric refrigeration, Siberians had natural refrigeration, i.e., in an unheated barn or shed. A bonus: Livestock could be harvested before the freeze, eliminating the cost to feed them over the long winter.

    Pelmeni have evolved from labor-intensive food prepared by housewives to quality frozen versions to the Russian student substitute for instant ramen noodles!
     
    Pelmeni Cousins

    European stuffed boiled dumplings may be a simplified version of Chinese wontons. The list of cousins includes Chinese jiaozi, Georgian khenkali, Italian ravioli, Japanese gyoza, Jewish kreplach, Korean mandu, Middle Eastern shishbarak, Mongolian bansh, Nepalese and Tibetan momo, Polish uszka, Turkish and Kazakh manti, Ukrainian vareniki and Uzbek chuchvara, among others.
     
    EASTERN EUROPEAN DUMPLINGS: THE DIFFERENCE

    In the U.S., the term pierogi is often used to describe every type of Eastern European dumplings. Of course, there are differences: in shape, size and thickness of dough (these are the differences between all dumplings, as well as cooking technique: boiled versus fried, boiled in water vs. broth or stock).

  • With pelmeni and vareniki, the dough is as thin as possible, and the proportion of filling to dough is high.
  • Pelmeni fillings are usually raw, while pierogi and vareiyki can be sweet.
  • Pelmeni are bite-size, like raviolini.
  •  
    MAKE THEM OR BUY THEM

    Similar to making ravioli, you can short-cut the process by purchasing a pelmeni mold in plastic or aluminum—and make other types of stuffed pasta with it.

    Or, look for a good brand. We recently tried Popkoff’s, and were very pleased. Use the store locator to find the nearest retailer.
     
    POPKOFF’S PELMENI & VARENIKI

    These delicious dumplings, full of Old World flavor, are easy to prepare. It takes just 5 minutes from boiling water to plate. The simplest preparation is a traditional one: butter and sour cream, with fresh dill.

    The dumplings can be served as an appetizer, side or main dish. Or, add a bit of smoked salmon and caviar for a luxurious hors d’oeuvre.

    Why do Popkoff’s pelmeni taste so good?

    Their “farm to frozen” pelmeni and vareniki are made from 100% all-natural ingredients from the best vendors: King Arthur Flour, Mary’s Free Range Chicken, Meyer Natural Angus Beef, Marcho Farms Veal and Good Nature All-Natural Pork. All ingredients are domestic and the dumplings are made in California, and are packaged in GoGreen sustainable packaging.

    The meats are antibiotic-free and hormone-free, the fruits and vegetables are locally grown and non GMO. There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservativess.

    We tried four varieties of pelmeni, all so good that we can’t wait to try the vareniki. Traditionally, pelmeni are filled with meat and vareniki, a Ukranian variation, were filled with cheese or vegetables; vareniki are larger, like ravioli. Popkoff’s choices:

    PELMENI VARIETIES

  • Pelmeni With Beef
  • Pelmeni With Chicken
  • Pelmeni With Farmer’s Cheese
  • Pelmeni With Pork & Beef
  • Pelmeni With Veal & Pork
  •  
    VARENIKI VARIETIES

  • Vareniki With Beef
  • Vareniki With Cabbage & Carrots
  • Vareniki With Cheese & Cherry
  • Vareniki With Chicken
  • Vareniki With Potato & Onion
  • Vareniki With Sweet Farmer’s Cheese
  •  

    PELMENI & VARINIKI TOPPINGS

    Pick a topping, pick a sauce. Some of these are traditional, and some reflect modern tastes.
     
    TOPPINGS

  • Raisins or other dried fruit
  • Fresh chives, dill or parsley
  • Lemon zest
  • Onions: caramelized, frizzled or sautéed
  • Sliced almonds
  •  
    SAUCES

  • Horseradish sauce
  • Melted butter
  • Mushroom sauce
  • Mustard sauce
  • Plain yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Soy sauce and chopped chives or green onions
  • Tomato sauce
  • Vinegar sauce
  •  
    You can also add pelmeni to broths and green salads. They are traditionally boiled; vareniki can be boiled or pan-fried.

    Also, check out our 50 ways to serve pierogi and adapt them to pelmeni.
     
    RECIPE: PELMENI IN MUSHROOM SAUCE

    You can make this recipe from Chef James Bailey from scratch (recommended), or take a shortcut with canned cream of mushroom soup.

    It’a a variation of the famous Russian dish that originated in the mid-19th-century rage, Beef Stroganoff, which has a sauce made with sour cream (smetana in Russian).

    Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 20 minutes.
     
    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 10 ounce package Popkoff’s Beef Pelmeni (or other flavor)
  • 2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup onions, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 16 ounces low sodium beef broth
  • Garnish: fresh dill leaves, minced
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter over medium heat; add onions and cook until softened. Add the garlic and mushrooms; stir and cook for 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms have softened.

    2. ADD the beef broth and cook over medium heat until the liquid is slightly reduced. Add the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is combined.

    3. BRING a large pot of water to boil and add a pinch of salt. Carefully add Popkoff’s Beef Pelmeni and cook for 5 minutes until cooked through. Drain and reserve.

    4. MIX in sour cream and chopped parsley into mushroom stroganoff, portion dumplings onto plates and top with sauce, optional toppings and dill garnish.
     
    DESSERT PELMENI & VARENIKI

    Pelmeni stuffed with delicate farmer’s cheese is a charming dessert or a sweet lunch.

    Vareniki are typically used for dessert because the cheese can be sweetened. Cheese pelmeni has no sweetener.

    But with sweet toppings, you won’t even notice. We enjoy dessert pelmeni with a few of the following:

  • Cherry preserves
  • Brown sugar, cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar
  • Dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins)
  • Fruit purée
  • Grated chocolate and hand-whipped cream
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Mascarpone
  • Mixed fresh fruits
  • Plain or sweetened sour cream
  • Sliced almonds
  • Sweetened chestnut purée and hand-whipped cream
  •  

    Popkoff's Pelmeni

    Pelmeni In Soup

    Pelmeni In Mushroom Sauce

    Pelmeni  With Tomato Sauce

    Vareniki With Cheese & Cherries

    Dessert Vareniki

    Blueberry Vareniki

    Top: A package of Popkoff’s Pelmeni. Second: Pelmeni in miso soup. Third: Pelmeni in mushroom sauce. Fourth: Pelmeni with Moroccan-spiced tomato sauce. Fifth: Vareniki with farmer’s cheese and cherries. Sixth: Dessert vareniki. Photos courtesy Popkoff’s (see the recipes). Bottom: Vareniki stuffed with cottage cheese and blueberries, with blueberry sauce. Here’s the recipe from ToDisCoverRussia.com.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Rice Paper For Fun Food & Serious Food

    Shrimp Summer Rolls

    Summer Rolls

    rice-paper-wrappers-c-denzelGreen-cooksinfo-230

    Rice Paper For Spring Rolls

    Top: Vietnamese Summer rolls with shrimp (here’s the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Second: Vietnamese Spring Rolls with added fruit (photo California Strawberry Commission). Third: Rice paper wrappers (photo © Denzel Green | CooksInfo.com). Bottom: Traditional packaging (photo Three Ladies Brand).

     

    ABOUT RICE PAPER

    Rice paper is a name for everything different products, including edible paper and decorative papers, including wallpaper. The edible kind, made from rice flour, is the white, translucent wrapper used for Vietnamese spring and summer rolls, chilled and raw or fried and hot. They can be used to wrap savory or sweet ingredients—or a combination.

    Here’s more about rice paper from CooksInfo.com.

    Beyond traditional spring and summer rolls rolls (here’s the difference between spring rolls and summer rolls), you can make lots of fusion food. Some of the uses we’ve tried:

  • Asian ravioli (i.e., dumplings) with an Asian sauce or an Italian sauce (pesto or olive oil).
  • Baked salmon in “parchment” (the rice paper becomes “edible parchment”—recipe).
  • Gluten-free lasagna.
  • “Leftovers” rolls: proteins, noodles/pasta, salmon usually) and soba noodles, raw or cooked vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, etc.
  • Salad rolls/crudité rolls, with your favorite raw veggies.
  • Wrap “sandwiches”: curried chicken salad, smoked salmon, tuna salad, BLT (bacon, butter lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes).
  •  
    Some supermarkets carry rice paper in the Asian products aisle; or get them from an Asian grocer or online. They may be called spring roll wrappers or spring roll skins.

     
    RECIPE: DIY SPRING ROLLS

    This is a fun dish made by each person at the table, like Moo Shoo Pork. We first had it at a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris in our late teens, and it was love at first bite: grilled beef and fresh mint wrapped in butter lettuce leaves with condiments.

    We’ve since added rice paper for do-it-yourself spring rolls. You can make them vegetarian or add a grilled protein of choice.

    Set the table with ingredients of choice. You can use them all (we do) or make a selection of five or so.

  • Basil or cilantro, freshly minced or shredded
  • Butter lettuce leaves
  • Carrots, shredded
  • Chiles, thinly sliced
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Cucumber, julienned
  • Fresh fruit: mango, blueberries, strawberries, apple
  • Fresh mint sprigs (substitute basil leaves)
  • Daikon, shredded
  • Green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
  • Protein: grilled beef or tuna slices, shrimp, crab, etc.
  • Red cabbage, shredded or made into slaw with Asian vinaigrette*
  • Rice noodle vermicelli, cooked
  • Rice paper wrappers with bowls of warm water
  • Optional: Asian chili sauce, sambal olek†, watercress or baby arugula, whatever appeals to you
  •  
    Plus

  • Dipping sauce: choose from Nuoc Mam Cham (recipe below), peanut sauce, chimichurri sauce (especially with grilled proteins), Asian-style vinaigrette†, or other sauce of choice.
  •  
    __________________
    *Asian vinaigrette: For 1/2 cup, combine 2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/2 cup olive oil or other salad oil, 1/2 teaspoon dark/toasted sesame oil, 1/2 small garlic clove finely grated. You can also add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and/or grated lime zest.

    †You can make your own sambal olek simply by grinding chiles with water to form a paste. We used a mortar and pestle.

     

    RECIPE: NUOC MAM CHAM, VIETNAMESE DIPPING SAUCE

    Nuoc cham is Vietnamese for “dipping sauce.” Nuoc mam cham is specifically a fish sauce-based dipping sauce.

    Ingredients For 1 Cup

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 bird’s eye chile†, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  •  
    _______________________
    †Bird’s eye is a very hot chile, 100,000 ~ 225,000 Scoville Heat Units. You can substitute the less hot jalapeño or serrano—pick the smallest ones. (See the different types of chiles.)

     
    RECIPE #2: HUMMUS & CRUDITÉS “CLOCK”

    Whether you have kids or a sense of whimsy, this Hummus and Crudités “Clock” is a fun and good-for-you snack (photo above).

    We adapted the idea from a photo on the Tio Gazpacho Facebook page, and created the face of the clock from hummus.
     
    Ingredients

  • Rice paper sheets
  • Hummus (flavor of choice)
  • Cucumbers, sliced
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Scallion tops
  • Optional garnish: minced parsley
  •  

    Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
    Crudites

    Top: Nuoc mam cham sauce (photo and recipe variation from GastronomyBlog.com). Bottom: Hummus “clock” on rice paper (photo Tio Gazpacho | Facebook).

     
    Preparation

    1. SOFTEN the rice papers according to package directions. Spread with hummus and place on a plate. (It’s difficult to make a perfectly round clock face, so the we use the rice paper for a clean look).

    2. ADD the crudités as shown in the photo to make the face of the clock.

    3. SPRINKLE the the rest of the plate with minced parsley if you need to “fill out the plate.”

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Stovetop Kabobs In A Cast Iron Pan

    Who needs a grill to make kabobs?

    With the recipe below from Good Eggs, you can make delicious and healthful kabobs on the stovetop, using a cast iron pan to char the meat. A hot cast iron pan yields all of the smoky flavor of a grill—and a lot more.

    THE HISTORY OF CAST IRON COOKWARE

    Cast iron vessels have been used for two thousand years. The first known use was during the Han Dynasty in China, 206– 220 C.E.

    Cast iron cookware was prized for its durability and ability to retain heat—a challenge when cooking in a hearth or an even iffier open fire (the kitchen stove was not created until the mid-19th century).

    The original cast-iron vessels were cauldrons and pots. The flat cast iron skillet as we know it appeared in the late 19th century.

    While cast iron cookware was popular among home cooks during the first half of the 20th century—along with affordable aluminum and expensive copper—the second half led to stainless steel, less durable and flexible but more attractive.

    Even more attractive and less durable was the pricier enamel-coated cast iron, like Le Creuset (the enamel coating will chip if dropped and can’t be repaired).

    Nonstick, easy to clean Teflon-coated cookware became the choice of housewives beginning in the late 1960s, although cast iron, copper and stainless continued to be used in professional kitchens.

    Here’s a longer history of cookware, which began with animal hides in prehistoric times.

    And they’ll endure forever. Ours was purchased by our grandmother in the 1920s! Today, a 15-inch cast iron skillet, large enough for steaks and chops, is $40.
     
    READY FOR A CAST IRON SKILLET?

    Cast iron skillets are available from the petite (6 inches in diameter) to the jumbo (17 inches). Lodge, a top producer of cast-iron cookware, sells them in one-inch increments (6, 7, 8, 9, etc). Lodge-brand pans, our favorites, are pre-seasoned and ready-to-use, eliminating the main objection to buying cast iron.

    In addition to a lifetime of service for an affordable buy-in, cast iron:

       
    Skillet Cookbook

    Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

    Top: A cast iron skillet is the beginning of a cooking odyssey. Three cookbooks from Lodge are also a good start. Bottom: A 15-inch cast iron skillet from Lodge Manufacturing in Tennessee. A line with beautiful craftsmanship, it is the only cast iron cookware manufacturer still in the U.S.

  • Delivers the best heat distribution, which is why it’s the choice of professional chefs. The ability of cast iron to withstand and maintain very high cooking temperatures makes it best for searing or frying. Using cast iron ensures that there’s no “hot spot” on the pan, when some of the food cooks faster, overcooking or burning it before the rest of the contents are ready.
  • Versatility: Excellent heat retention makes cast iron preferable for braises, stews and other long-cooking, as well as quick-cooking dishes like eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches. Before there was bakeware, cast iron skillets were used to make breads, cakes, cobblers, pies, and so forth.
  • Is a “grill” for apartment dwellers, providing char, smoky flavor and a perfect crust on fish and meat.
  • Is nonstick after seasoning. Seasoning must be done before first using the cookware, to create a nonstick surface and prevent rust. It is the process of covering the cooking surface with vegetable oil and baking it at 250°F for 90 minutes. When the pan cools down, the oil is wiped off. After each use, the pan is not washed, but wiped. While this is very easy to do, the concept is foreign to many modern cooks, who therefore avoid cast iron.
  • Can be heated beyond 500°F, the limit of stainless steel. Campfire temperatures average 1,571°F.
  • Provides great performance at a low price for a long time. You can cook anything in it, and it goes from stovetop to oven. If a minuscule amount of iron leaches into your food, that’s a good thing—like taking an iron supplement.
  •  

    Chicken Yogurt Kabobs Recipe

    Spring Red Onions

    Top: Healthful and delicious: yogurt-marinated chicken kabobs with charred vegetables. Bottom: Spring red onions. Spring onions are immature onions, harvested early. If left in the ground, these would grow into conventional red onions. You are more likely to find white spring onions, but Good Eggs specializes in fine produce. Photos courtesy GoodEggs.

     

    RECIPE: YOGURT-MARINATED CHICKEN KABOBS WITH INDIAN SEASONINGS

    Feast on tender chicken and charred vegetables. Prep time is just 20 minutes, and you can marinate the chicken overnight. This dish pairs well with a side of grains—ideally whole grains (barley, brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, etc.), but is fine with good old, less nutritious white rice.
     
    Ingredients For 3-4 Servings

    For The Chicken & Marinade

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2” cubes
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Optional: pinch cayenne or other heat
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Bamboo skewers*
  •  
    For The Charred Vegetables

    Three of the four vegetables here are spring vegetables. You can substitute any veggies you like.

  • 1 bunch spring onions†, roots and outer layer pared away
  • 1 bunch carrots, peeled and (if larger) halved
  • 1 pound whole fava beans, rinsed
  • ¼ pounds ramps (wild leeks), greens intact but roots pared away
  •  
    _____________________
    *If you don’t have skewers, you can cook the chicken pieces without them.

    †Spring onions are not the same as green onions (a.k.a. scallions). Spring onions are immature onions, harvested early in the season. They are milder than regular onions. You can substitute sweet onions or shallots.(

     

    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Place the bamboo skewers in a large bowl of water and soak for 5 minutes. (Or cook the chicken without skewers. It will taste the same, but skewers are a more special presentation.) Mix the marinade ingredients in a large bowl, add the chicken and toss to combine.

    2. THREAD five cubes onto each skewer. You can do this in advance and store the prepped kebabs in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

    3. HEAT a large cast-iron skillet, then add enough two tablespoons of olive oil, or as much as you need browning. Brown the chicken on all sides, about 2 minutes per side; then place the entire pan into the oven. Bake for 5 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F. Remove the kebabs from the skillet and set aside.

    4. HEAT a second large pan (or wipe the first pan clean), adding the olive oil when the pan is very hot. Add the vegetables in one layer without crowding (cook in two batches if necessary). Cook for 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes. When the vegetables are a bit tender, very browned and (hopefully) a bit charred, remove them from the pan. Dress with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt, and serve alongside the kabobs.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Authentic Mexican Recipes For Cinco De Mayo

    Mexican Ceviche

    Chicken Fajitas

    TOP: Ceviche Acapulqueno, from the Pacific Coast of Mexico (photo courtesy KatanaeStudio.com. BOTTOM: Tex-Mex foods like fajitas are not authentic Mexican (photo courtesy Wild Oats), but Tex-Mex cuisine that originated in Texas.

     

    Chef Johnny Gnall’s mother is from Mexico, so he grew up eating the real deal: authentic Mexican cuisine. So today’s tip is: Cook something authentic for Cinco de Mayo.

    It’s easy to default to Tex-Mex favorites: most “Mexican” food North of the Rio Grande is Tex-Mex, a cuisine developed by Mexicans who moved to Texas (Tejanos). For example, beef, cheese-stuffed burritos and wheat [white] flour are not common in Mexico. You won’t find chili con carne there; or chimichangas, for that matter.

    Queso dips and fajitas were born in the U.S.A. Nachos were invented in 1943 on the Mexican side of the border, as a spur-of-the-moment solution to feed a group of Army wives from Texas who stopped at a restaurant when the kitchen was closed.

    Anything with beef, black beans, Cheddar or other yellow cheese, cumin, wheat flour, black beans, and canned tomatoes are Tex-Mex, a term that first appeared in print in the 1940s. Tex-Mex was developed by Tejano restaurateurs using local ingredients to appeal to gringos (there’s plenty of beef in Texas). The fusion cuisine began to expand nationwide when food writers “discovered” it in the 1970s.

    While cooking Mexican cuisine is often a multi-step process, there are some simple yet authentic dishes you can make. Also note: There is no single “Mexican cuisine.” As it is everywhere, different regions of any country have different specialties, based on local ingredients.
     

    AUTHENTIC MEXICAN RECIPES FOR CINCO DE MAYO

    RECIPE #1: CEVICHE ACAPULQUEÑO

    Ceviche can be found throughout Mexico (and the rest of Central and South America). Its origins lie along the country’s coastlines, where fresh fish was a staple. Recipes vary according to the local catch.

    This recipe is a popular Pacific Coast ceviche. The distinguishing characteristic of Pacific ceviches is the use of tomato juice and, often, pickled chilies in the recipe. Eastern ceviches, from Mexico’s Gulf Coast, are less complex, using fresh chilies and foregoing the tomato juice.

    You can serve ceviche as an appetizer, as a light entrée (especially at lunch), or a snack. Chef Johnny’s mother eats a big bowl for breakfast when vacationing in Acapulco.

     
    Always buy the freshest fish you can find for ceviche.

    Ingredients For 4 One-Cup Servings

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless fish fillets, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican* oregano
  • Optional: 1 bay leaf
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 fresh serrano chiles, seeded and minced
  • 20 green Manzanilla olives, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Optional garnish: sliced avocado
  • Optional: tortilla chips
  •  
    ______________
    *Mexican oregano is a different herb than Mediterranean/European oregano. It is in a different botanical family and has different flavor notes. Mediterranean oregano is sweeter, with anise notes. Mexican oregano is grassy, with citrus notes. That being said, you can substitute Mediterranean oregano; just use a little less of it. You can also substitute dried marjoram, which comes from the same botanical family as Mexican oregano and also has citrus notes. Dried lemon verbena is another option.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the fish in a non-reactive mixing bowl and cover it with the lime juice. Let the fish marinate for 3 hours. (This part of the process is curing—essentially, cooking—the fish).

    2. ADD to the bowl: the onion, tomato, orange juice, half a cup of the tomato juice, 1 tablespoon of minced serranos, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch or two of dried oregano, bay leaf, olives, cilantro, and a pinch of salt. Cover the bowl and let everything marinate overnight. The next day…

    3. TASTE and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Garnish with avocado and serve with tortillas chips.

     

    RECIPE #2: FISH VERACRUZ STYLE

    The Mexican state of Veracruz on the Gulf Coast is known for its fine cuisine. While recipes can be quite elaborate, this one is quick and easy.

    This dish was adapted from a Spanish dish called Frita that uses chicken, not fish. The Veracruzeños substituted fish and also added the spicy chilies, as is typical when “Mexicanizing” a dish.

    Ingredients

  • Snapper fillets (substitute tilapia or other white fish)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 limes
  • 1 white onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2-3 pickled jalapeños
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced green olives (pimiento-stuffed is fine)
  • Garnish: avocado or lime slices
  •  
    Serve With:

  • White rice
  •  

    Mexican Tilapia Recipe

    Tilapia Veracruz Style (photo courtesy MexicoInMyKitchen.com).

     
    Preparation

    1. SEASON the filets by rubbing salt, pepper, and lime into the flesh; let sit fit for 15 minutes. The goal here is not to fully cook the fish as in ceviche, but rather to infuse it with a bit of flavor. While the fish is sitting…

    2. CHOP half a white onion, the garlic, bell pepper, pickled jalapeños and tomatoes. Sweat the onion, garlic, and peppers in a pot until soft; then add the tomatoes with as much of their liquid as possible. Add the olives, bring to a simmer and cook for ten minutes.

    3. ADD the fish to a pot, covering the filets as best you can with the sauce. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, until the fish is done. Garnish and serve.

      

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