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Archive for International Foods

TIP OF THE DAY: Lettuce Wraps ~ Wrap It Up

Lettuce wraps are a Vietnamese specialty, often used as an appetizer or side instead of a main course. But for a light, better-for-you lunch or dinner, we enjoy them as a main.

Lettuce wraps are a fun, interactive course for lunch or dinner. You can wrap up any boneless protein in a lettuce leaf; or make it a vegetarian dish, using anything from tofu or seitan to stir-fried vegetables.

While the recipe below is so easy it can be made on weekdays, it’s also festive for Labor Day weekend. The secret is pre-cooked Tony Roma’s Boneless Ribs (other brands sell a similar product).

The meaty ribs ready to heat and eat. You can heat them on the grill, in the oven or in the microwave. The ribs are sold at Sam’s Club and other retailers nationwide.

The other tasks are simply to wash the lettuce, make a quick Asian slaw and set out the sauces. If you want to cut back on the number of sauces, just pick the one everyone will like (we recommend hoisin*). Whatever you choose should be thick, so it doesn’t dribble out of the wrap.

   

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Wrap cooked boneless ribs in lettuce leaves and top with Asian slaw, cilantro and a sauce of choice. Photo courtesy Tony Roma’s.

 
*Hoisin sauce is a thick, sweet-and-pungent sauce popular in Chinese cuisine as a glaze for meat, an addition to stir fries, as dipping sauce and a condiment (e.g., in lettuce wraps as well as dishes with pancake wrap such as Moo Shoo Pork and Peking Duck). It is dark brown in color. Hoisin is not the same as plum sauce, which is an orange-colored sweet and sour sauce. In Vietnamese, hoisin sauce is called tuong den.
 

WHAT ARE BONELESS RIBS?

Boneless ribs, also called country-style pork ribs or or pork shoulder country-style ribs, are thick strips of meat cut from the pig’s shoulder. They come from a cut called the pork shoulder steak; so they are not actually from the rib cage, but look like the meat removed from a rib. They are marinated and seasoned before cooking.

Boneless ribs, also called pork loin country-style ribs, can be cut from the shoulder blade as well. They can be sold bone-in, but the bone is usually to make them boneless.
 

 

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Boneless country-style pork ribs. Photo courtesy Calumet Diversified Meats.

 

RECIPE: BONELESS RIB LETTUCE WRAPS

Since the ribs are pre-cooked, prep time is just 15 minutes; cook time is 15 minutes.

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 32 ounces† Tony Roma’s Boneless Pork Ribs
  • 12 leaves of crisp green leaf lettuce (we use romaine hearts, but Boston or bibb work well too)
  •  
    For The Slaw

  • 1 radish, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons sweet rice vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    †There are 3 boneless ribs in each 16-ounce package and 6 boneless ribs in each 32-ounce package. Each person can have two lettuce wraps.
     
    For The Garnish

  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  •  
    For The Sauces

  • 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 4 tablespoons sambal oelek chili sauce or Sriracha hot sauce
  • 4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
  •  

    Preparation

    1. WASH the lettuce and pat dry with paper towels.

    2. PREPARE the boneless ribs per package instructions.

    3. MAKE the salad topping: Combine the radish, carrot, cucumber and green onions in a mixing bowl. Add the sweet rice vinegar and season with a pinch of salt (or more to taste). Gently toss and set aside in a cool place. When ready to serve…

    4. INSTRUCT everyone on how to serve themselves: Take a lettuce leaf and place a strip of boneless rib in center. Top with some of the slaw; then garnish with cilantro and choice of sauces (hoisin, Sriracha, sambal oelek, sweet chili).

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Israeli Salad

    Israeli salad (salat yerakot, vegetable salad*, in Hebrew) is a chopped salad of diced tomato and cucumber. It can also include bell pepper, onion, and parsley (that’s the way we like it). Other ingredients, such as carrot and ethnic-specific ingredients (more about that in a few paragraphs) can be added. The dressing is fresh lemon juice, olive oil or both. A dash of sumac or za’atar (see below) is optional.

    In Israel, the ingredients are diced very fine, and it is a badge of honor among cooks to dice as finely and perfectly as possible. Chunkier versions appear in the U.S.

    As a kibbutz tradition in Israel (and now ubiquitous at restaurants and cafés), Israeli salad is typically eaten for breakfast, along with a host of other options†. It is also served as a side dish at lunch and dinner, and added to pita along with falafel or shawarma.

    ISRAELI SALAD HISTORY

    Israeli salad is actually an Arab salad, adapted from a Palestinian country salad and popularized in the kibbutzes of Israel. Variations include ancestral seasonings: chopped ginger and green chili peppers show India influences, preserved lemon peel and cayenne pepper are popular with North African Jews. Bukharan Jews, who immigrated from Central Asia, dress the salad with vinegar only. A Persian variation substitutes mint for parsley.

       

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    Israeli salad: refreshing, low in calories and good for you. Photo © Pushiama | IST.

     
    RECIPE: ISRAELI SALAD

    Truth be told, although an ideal Israeli salad is known for its fine, even dice, dicing is our least favorite kitchen task. So we make a medium dice, imperfect in every way, and it works just fine.

    You can serve Israeli salad plain or with greens underneath; as a side dish; in a pita with hummus, falafel or both; and on a mezze plate with hummus, babaganoush, grape leaves, tabbouleh and tzatziki or labneh. Add feta and Kalamata olives for a Greek salad, and on top of that, add chickpeas for a Middle Eastern salad.

  • 6 Persian‡ cucumbers or 3 peeled Kirbys, finely chopped (no need to peel the Persian cukes)
  • 4 plum, San Marzano or other roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced, or equivalent red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional seasoning: sumac or za’atar (see below)
  •  
    Plus

  • Pita triangles, warmed or toasted
  •  
    *Israeli salad is also called salat katzutz (Hebrew for chopped salad) and salat aravi (Hebrew for Arab salad).

    †The Israeli breakfast is a dairy meal (meatless), starting with eggs in different styles, including shakshouka (recipe), eggs poached in a spicy tomato. In addition to Israeli salad, other Middle Eastern dishes may be served, such as baba ghanoush (eggplant spread), hummus and labaneh, a thick-strained yogurt. The options continue with breads, cheeses and fish, such as pickled herring, sardines and smoked salmon; olives and fresh vegetables (cucumbers, green bell peppers, onions, radishes, shredded carrots, tomatoes).

     

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    Persian cucumbers. Photo courtesy John Vena Produce.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, along with the optional sumac and za’atar.
     
    MEET THE INGREDIENTS

    Persian Cucumbers

    Persian cucumbers don’t require peeling. They were developed in 1939 on a kibbutz in northern Israeli; the local cucumbers were small and tasty but susceptible to rot and disease. The breeders hybridized them with cucumbers from China, India, Japan, Surinam and the U.S. to improve disease resistance; and crossed them with English and Dutch varieties to be seedless.

    The result was a small, very flavorful cucumber with crisp, sweet, succulent flesh, a smooth, thin, edible skin and without developed seeds. [Source]

     
    They range from four to six inches in length. In Israel, the variety was called Beit Alpha, after its birthplace. Some American growers called it a Persian cucumber or Lebanese cucumber. You can find them at farmers markets, higher-end supermarkets (we found them at Trader Joe’s). Or, buy Persian cucumber seeds,also called baby cucumbers, and grow your own.

    Sumac

    Sumac is ground from a red berry-like drupe that grows in clusters on bushes in subtropical and temperate regions. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy, crimson spice. (One of the species not used is the poison sumac shrub.)

    The word “sumac” comes from the old Syriac Aramaic summaq, meaning red. In Middle Eastern cuisine, the spice is used to add a tangy, lemony taste to meats and salads; and to garnish hummus and rice. The spice is also a component of the popular spice blend, za’atar, below.
     
    Za’atar

    Also spelled zahtar, za’atar is a spice blend that is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisines. It is actually the word for Lebanese oregano, a member of the mint family Lamiaceaea, and known since antiquity as hyssop. The za’atar blend includes spices well-known in European cuisines, with the unique components of Lebanese oregano and sumac berries, which impart a tart, fruity flavor that differentiates za’atar from other spice blends.

    Traditional ingredients include marjoram, oregano, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, savory and sumac. Za’atar is used to season meat and vegetables, mixed with olive oil and spread on pita wedges or flatbread, added to hummus, and for a modern touch, sprinkled on pizza, especially ones with feta cheese.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Paella On The Grill

    We love paella and don’t make it often enough. So when Fagor wrote to us about their paella pan and included a recipe to make it on the grill, our ears perked up.

    PAELLA HISTORY

    Paella (pronounced pie-AY-ya) originated in Valencia, a region on the Mediterranean (east) coast of Spain. It was originally a peasant dish, made by agricultural laborers who cooked a mixture of rice, snails and vegetables in the fields. Cooked in a pan over an open fire. it was a communal dish, eaten directly from the pan with wooden spoons.

    Valencianos who lived closer to the coast added local eel plus butter beans (lima beans). Paella is the type of dish that lends itself to adding whatever you have on hand, so can change seasonally. Recipes thus evolved in many directions.
     
    MODERN PAELLA

    The paella we know today—saffron rice mixed with chorizo, chicken and seafood—did not evolve until the late 18th century century, when living standards rose affording the use of more expensive ingredients—especially saffron, the world’s costliest spice.

    It’s easy to vary the ingredients to create any type of paella, including vegetarian and vegan recipes. But three main styles developed in the 19th century:

  • Paella Valenciana combines rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck), snails, beans and seasoning.
  • Paella de marisco, a seafood paella that replaces meat and snails with seafood, and omits the beans and green vegetables.
  • Paella mixta, a freestyle combination of meat, seafood and vegetables. Note that in the U.S., dishes called “Paella Valenciana” are actually paella mixta, the combination of ingredients preferred by most people.
  •    

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    Above, paella on the grill; photo courtesy A Couple Cooks. Underneath, the Fagor paella pan; photo courtesy Fagor America.

     

    By the mid-1800s, paella included short-grain white rice and a mix of proteins: chicken, duck, rabbit and snails (less affluent people often made do with snails alone). The dish was actually a “rice and beans” dish, with a mix of butter beans, Great Northern beans (white beans) and runner beans (green beans). Artichokes and tomatoes replaced runner beans in the winter. Spices included garlic, pimentòn (sweet paprika), rosemary, saffron and salt. The dish was cooked in olive oil.

    The recipe continued to evolve as chorizo, green peas, olives and roasted red pepper found their way into the dish. We’ve seen recipes with chopped chard or escarole, eggplant, fennel, mushrooms, oives, onion, piquillo chiles, red or green bell pepper, snow peas, tomatoes (fresh diced or roasted) and seasonal (spring asparagus and winter squash, e.g.). Some cooks garnish the top of the paella with sliced hard-boiled eggs and lemon wheels.

    The cook’s favorite ingredients were sure to be included. The chef at Soccorat, Soccarat, a group of tapas and paella restaurants in New York City, devised a paella menu that includes:

  • Arroz negro (black rice): calamari, fish, scallops, piquillo peppers and shrimp with squid ink rice.
  • Carne (meat): chicken, chorizo, mushroom sofrito, short ribs and snow peas.
  • De la huerta (from the orchard, i.e., vegetarian*): artichokes, cauliflower, eggplant, snow peas and tomatoes.
  • Fideuà† de mar y montana (ingredients from the sea and mountains): Brussels sprouts, chicken thighs, cuttlefish and shrimp, with noodles instead of rice
  • Langosta (crustacean): lobster, roasted peppers, scallops, shrimp and squid.
  • Pescados y mariscos (fish and seafood): cockles, English peas, mussels, scallops, shrimp, squid and white fish.
  • Socarrat‡ (house signature recipe): beef, chicken, cockles, cuttlefish, fava beans, mussels, shrimp and white fish.
  • Valenciana: asparagus, pork ribs, rabbit, scallions and snails.
  •  
    *The word vegetariano does exist in Spanish, but there is some poetic license involved with the orchard reference.
     
    †Fideuà denotes the a type of cuisine from Catalonia, the northeastern part of Spain (north of Valencia). The style originated in the 1920s in the city of Gandia, when thin noodles like vermicelli (fideu in the Catalan language) were used instead of rice in the paella. The pasta is broken into short lengths and cooked in the paella pan. There are many variations of it, and it is optionally served with allioli sauce, the traditional Catalan garlic and olive oil sauce. Other examples of the cuisine: calçots—barbecued spring onions with romesco sauce—cured anchovies, embutidos y butifarras (cured meats and sausages), sparkling Cava wine and anything made with the local bolet mushrooms. Canelons, Spanish cannelloni, and Pa amb tomaquèt, bread rubbed with tomato (and sometimes with with garlic and olive oil), and Escudella de carn d’olla, is a hearty Catalan stew, round out the list of “must trys” when you’re next in Barcelona.
     
    ‡Soccorat is the hard, crunchy rice crust that develops on the bottom of the pan from its proximity to the heat. Some people particularly enjoy it.

     

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    Paella is a freestyle dish: Whatever you have on hand can go into the pan. Here, chicken legs and thighs, green beans and corn are included. Our personal favorite combination: a mixto with pimento (red bell pepper in a jar), black and green olives, artichoke hearts and green peas, plus fresh asparagus in the spring. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.com.

     

    RECIPE: PAELLA ON THE GRILL

    This recipe, sent to us by Fagor, takes about 40 minutes. Created by ACoupleCooks.com, can easily be made as a vegan dish. You can also add the traditional mixto ingredients, chicken thighs and sliced chorizo.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 15-inch paella pan or any large, shallow, flameproof pan (stainless steel or aluminum preferable)
  • 12 mussels or clams
  • 12 high-quality deveined shrimp (or substitute cooked chickpeas for a vegetarian version)
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 zucchini
  • ½ head cauliflower or any vegetables of your choice (we used a classic blend of roasted red peppers [pimento], peas and olives)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup tomato purée
  • 5½ cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups arborio (short grain) rice
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 2 tablespoons pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. HEAT the grill to medium high heat. Prepare the ingredients: Scrub the mussels or clams; place them in a bowl with the shrimp. Slice the zucchini and mushrooms; chop the cauliflower into bite sized pieces. Place the vegetables in a bowl.

    2. MINCE 4 cloves of garlic and put them in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons olive oil. In a medium bowl, place ½ cup tomato purée and 5½ cups broth; mix to combine. In a another bowl, add 2 cups arborio rice, 1 pinch saffron, 2 tablespoons pimentón, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a good amount of fresh ground pepper.

    3. ASSEMBLE the paella: Bring the bowls of ingredients and the paella pan to the grill. Prior to cooking, add about 15 briquettes to the fire to keep the temperature up. Place the pan on the grill and add the olive oil and garlic; cook for about 30 seconds. Add the vegetables; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the seafood; cook for about 2 minutes, flipping the shrimp once. Pour in the rice and spices so that they cover the pan. Add the broth and purée mixture and stir to combine.

    4. COOK the paella for 20 to 30 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Cook uncovered on a charcoal grill or with the cover down on a gas grill. Make sure not to stir, since this when the soccorat develops. (Editor’s note: Soccorat is the rice crust on the bottom of the pan, which some people find very exciting. We personally don’t like hard, crunchy rice).

    5. CHECK to see that the rice on the bottom does not burn; it cooks fairly quickly. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to cool.
     
    WHY BUY A PAELLA PAN?

    Why not make paella in a roasting pan or other vessel you already have?

    You can, of course; but a paella pan is specifically designed for seamless heat conduction and retention. Fagor’s, with a heavy weight and enamel-on-steel design, is a great heat conductor on the grill, oven or stovetop.

    You can buy it Fagor Paella Pan or at retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond. Be sure to get the 15-inch size. With a dish like paella, you want to make as much as you can and enjoy the leftovers.

    A paella pan is a versatile piece of cookware that can also be used to make:

  • Eggs and bacon
  • Pancakes
  • Roast chicken (the pan goes from oven to table)
  • Stir-frys (or anything you’d use a wok for)
  • Pizza: grease and flour the pan well or use nonstick spray
  •  
    And the pan easily goes from stove to table (don’t forget a trivet).
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Elote & Esquites, Mexican Corn Recipes

    Elote is the Mexican version of corn on the cob, a popular street food. The ear of corn is roasted or boiled in the husk, then husked and served on a stick with condiments. If the kernels are removed from the corn and served in a bowl, the dish is called esquites. These recipes are also made at home, where corn holders often replace the stick.

    Corn on a stick has become popular in the U.S. at state fairs, and as street food in areas as disperse as Chicago and Texas.

    Elote is the word for corn in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs (the Spanish word for corn is maíz). The cooked corn is served with a range of condiments: butter, cotija cheese (and/or feta in the U.S.), chili powder, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise, sour cream (crema in Mexico) and salt. Popular combinations include chili powder and lime juice in Mexico, butter and cheese in the U.S.

    In some areas of Mexico, the cooked kernels are cut into a bowl, topped with the same condiments and eaten with a spoon. This variation is called esquites (or ezquites) in southern and central Mexico, and troles or trolelotes in the north. (The word esquites comes from the Nahuatl word ízquitl, toasted corn.)

       

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    Make elote at home. Photo courtesy IWashYouDry.com.

     
    CORN PORN

    Our colleague Hannah Kaminsky created what she calls “corn porn.”

    “The simplest elements of a meal,” says Hannah, “those unassuming side dishes that are all too often overshadowed by flashier, more expensive or more complex main dishes, serve up far more nuance than they’re given credit for. A perfect example of this is the humble ear of corn.

    “As summer marches on and those golden yellow kernels swell larger, juicier and sweeter underneath the hot sun, truly sumptuous fresh corn is a rare treat despite its ubiquity. A whole world of flavor can be found within those pale green husks, just beyond the tangled forest of corn silk, if only one knows how coax it out.

    “Finesse is the key to letting such a pared-down dish shine, accentuating the inherent flavor of is base ingredients without covering them up with a heavy-handed smattering of seasonings. Elote, served up either straight on the cob or sheared off and mixed up in the trolelotes presentation, is worth getting excited about.”

    A vegan, Hannah eschews the butter, cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream used to bind the seasonings. Instead, she created the vegan sauce recipe below and serves the corn esquitas-style, as kernels in a bowl.

     

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    Trolelotes, garnished with butter, cheese, chili powder, lime and mayonnaise. Photo courtesy ShopCookServe.com. Here’s their trolelotes recipe.

     

     
    RECIPE: ELOTE OR ESQUITAS WITH CASHEW SAUCE

    Don’t want cashew sauce? Load up on the original condiments: butter, cotija cheese (substitute feta or use both), chili powder, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise and sour cream.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 8 ears sweet corn, husked
  • 2 tablespoons oliveoil
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 clove garlic, eoughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon light agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • Optional garnish: chili powder
  • Preparation

    1. SOAK the cashews for 3 hours and thoroughly drain them.

    2. MAKE the sauce. Place the cashews, garlic and lime juice in a food processor and pulse to combine. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula so that the nuts are fairly well broken down. Add the nutritional yeast, agave, paprika, cayenne and salt, pulsing to incorporate.

    3. DRIZZLE in the water, allowing the motor to run slowly to blend thoroughly. The sauce should still be a bit coarse in texture, and the small pieces of cashew that remain will emulate the traditional curds of cotija cheese.

    4. COOK the corn on a hot grill, or indoors on a large griddle over high heat. Depending on the size of your cooking surface, you may need to work in batches since the corn must make full contact directly with the surface. Lightly brush the corn with oil and grill the corn until lightly charred, turning as needed. This process should take approximately 10 minutes, but let the color of the corn serve as your guide. Set aside to cool.

    5. CUT the kernels off the corn cobs and place them in a large bowl. Pour the cashew sauce on top and mix thoroughly. Add the fresh cilantro, tossing to combine. Divide the corn into 6 to 8 cups or bowls and top with a sprinkle of chili powder.

      

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    PRODUCT: Quesadillas On The Grill

    Quesadillas, anyone?

    Yes, and make them on the grill for a touch of smoky flavor! For just $7.98, you can get this Quesadilla Grill Basket from Williams-Sonoma, on sale from $19.95.

    In fact, at these prices get more than one, and grill multiple quesadillas at the same time. Then, enjoy smoky quesadillas hot off the grill, with a crisp golden exterior.

    The 12-inch diameter grill basket cooks one large quesadilla or two halves at the same time. The basket is designed to flip and cook without spilling any ingredients from the quesadilla.

    Buy this Williams-Sonoma exclusive online at Williams-Sonoma.com.

    You can also use it to grill pita and other flat bread. Mmmm!

     

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    Add a touch of smoke flavor by cooking quesadillas on the grill. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

      

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    RECIPE: Salmon Tostadas

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    Nutritionists advise that salmon and other fish make a healthier tostada or taco. Also substitute fat-free Greek yogurt for the sour cream! And substitute corn tortillas and shells for the white flour versions. Photo courtesy Salmon From Norway.

     

    According to Cabo Flats Cantina & Bar, there are 54,000 Mexican restaurants in the U.S., and $39 billion is spent each year on Mexican food.

    You can keep some of that restaurant money in your pocket by making these tasty salmon tostadas at home.

    Simple mesquite-seasoned salmon tostadas are a tasty Tex-Mex meal. You can grill the salmon or cook it on the stove top.

    RECIPE: FRESH SALMON TOSTADAS

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 4 each 5-6 ounce salmon fillets, skin removed
  • 1 small head iceberg lettuce
  • 4 teaspoons mesquite barbeque seasoning
  • 2 tablelspoons canola oil
  • 8 tostada shells
  • 1 can refried black beans
  • 1 cup Mexican cheese blend, shredded
  • 3/4 cup salsa
  • Optional garnish: sour cream (substitute plain Greek yogurt)
  • Optional garnish: fresh cilantro leaves
  • Preparation

    1. SHRED the lettuce.

    2. SPRINKLE mesquite seasoning on each fillet. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the canola oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Carefully place the salmon into the pan, and cook for 2-3 minutes until browned.

    3. TURN over carefully and cook for another 4-6 minutes or to desired temperature.

    4. HEAT the refried beans in a saucepan while the salmon finishes cooking.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Place 3-4 tablespoons of beans on each tostada shell, and place two shells overlapping on each plate. Mound lettuce on top of the beans and sprnkle with the cheese. Place a salmon fillet on top. Garnish with salsa and the optional sour cream and cilantro.
     
    Find more salmon recipes at SalmonFromNorway.com.
     
    TACO, TORTILLA, TOSTADA: THE DIFFERENCE

  • A taco is a corn tortilla with filling. Corn tortillas have more flavor and are whole grain. Taco chips are made from corn tortillas.
  • Flour tortillas are more pliable and used to roll burritos, enchiladas and soft tacos. Hard tacos are flour tortillas that have been deep fried into the familiar “U” shape.
  • Burritos are a meal-size alternative to tacos. Tacos are snack foods, and typically have one filling (beef, chicken, fish) plus garnishes (cilantro, lettuce, onion, salsa, sour cream, tomato, etc.). They can be made with corn or flour tortillas. The much larger burritos require a flour tortilla that won’t crack when rolled. It has multiple fillings—beans, cheese, meat, rice, vegetables, etc. While tacos date back to pre-Columbian times, the burrito is a 1940s century invention, credited to an unnamed vendor who wanted to sell rice and beans without having to provide plates.
  • Quesadillas are large flour tortillas toasted on a grill with fillingd (cheese, meat, onion, pepper), folded over and sliced into triangles.
  • >Tostada means toasted, and refers to a “tortilla tostada,” a toasted tortilla.
  •   

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    RECIPE: Deconstructed Fajita Salad

    Beef-Fajita-Salad-with-Mango-Serrano-Vinaigrette-beefitswhatsfordinner-230

    Ditch the tortilla carbs and have a fajita
    salad. Photo courtesy Beef It’s What’s For
    Dinner.

     

    According to Cabo Flats cantina and bar, there are 54,000 Mexican restaurants in the U.S., and $39 billion is spent each year on Mexican restaurant food.

    Instead of an elaborate fajita spread with six different condiments and sides (see the history of fajitas, below), try this “deconstructed” Beef Fajita Salad with Mango-Serrano Vinaigrette. It’s from the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

    You can substitute a green salad for the diced mangoes. Or, serve a large green salad on the side with a different vinaigrette (we like balsamic).

    RECIPE: BEEF FAJITA SALAD WITH MANGO-
    SERRANO VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 beef boneless top sirloin steak (about 1 pound), cut 1 inch thick
  • 3 medium mangoes, peeled, cut in half
  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium poblano chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 large red onion (about 11 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 cup radishes (about 1 bunch), thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • For The Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 to 2 serrano chiles
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  •  
    Optional

  • Flour or corn tortillas
  •  

    Preparation

    1. BRUSH the mangoes lightly with oil. Place the mangoes and poblanos in the center of the grill over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill the chiles, covered, 9 to 10 minutes (gas grill times remain the same) or until the skins are completely blackened, turning occasionally. Grill the mangoes 8 to 14 minutes (gas grill times remain the same) or until very tender, turning occasionally. Place the chiles in a food-safe plastic bag; close bag. Let stand 15 minutes. Set the mangoes aside.

    2. PRESS the black pepper evenly onto the steak. Brush the onion slices lightly with oil. Place the steak in the center of the grill over medium, ash-covered coals; arrange the onion slices around steak. Grill the steak and onions, covered, turning occasionally. Cook for 11 to 15 minutes over coals, 13 to 16 minutes over medium heat on preheated gas grill, or until the steak is medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) and the onion is tender. Keep warm. Meanwhile…

     

    top-sirloin-lockestmeats.ca-230

    A top sirloin steak, grilled and ready for a fajita salad (or a regular fajita!). Photo courtesy Red Marble Steaks.

     
    3. PREPARE the vinaigrette. Cut the grilled mangoes into 3/4-inch pieces. Combine 1/2 cup mango, lime juice, water and serrano chiles in a food processor. Cover and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the opening in the lid, processing until well blended. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.

    4. REMOVE and discard the skins, stems and seeds from the the poblano chiles and cut them into 3/4-inch pieces. Slice the steak. Cut the onion slices in half.

    5. PLACE the beef, remaining mango pieces, onion, chiles and radishes on serving platter. Season with salt as desired. Drizzle the salad with vinaigrette. sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
     

    ABOUT FAJITAS

    Fajita is a Tex-Mex term for strips of meat cut from the faja, or beef skirt (skirt steak is the most common cut used to make fajitas, but you can also use top sirloin). The word faja is Spanish for band, belt, sash or strip.

    The dish was popularized in the 1970s by Mexican restaurants in Texas. The meat was served sizzling, usually cooked with onions and bell peppers. Tortillas were used to roll the meat, with a choice of add-ins from shredded lettuce and cheese to guacamole, pico de gallo or other salsa, sour cream, and tomato.

    Today, you can order fajitas in all popular proteins: chicken, pork, shrimp, and all cuts of beef.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Shakshouka, Spicy Poached & Baked Eggs

    Our friend Terry commented yesterday that on weekend mornings, she goes to a neighborhood café for a dish of shakshouka (shah-SHOOK-ah). “That’s the NIBBLE tip of the day for Tuesday,” we exclaimed.

    So here’s the scoop, something to consider for Father’s Day or any day you have the extra time to make the spicy sauce.

    Shakshouka is a breakfast dish of eggs baked or poached or both, in a spicy tomato sauce that incorporates crushed tomatoes, garlic, hot chiles, olive oil, onions, paprika and/or cumin and salt.

    Some variations include artichoke hearts, beans, potatoes and salty cheese.

    Shakshouka means “a mixture” in Tunisian Arabic. The dish is believed to have a Tunisian origin, but it’s also a staple of Algerian, Egyptian, Moroccan and Libyan cuisines and is popular in Israel, where it’s served for dinner as well.
     
    The dish is traditionally served in a cast iron pan or in a tagine*, with bread to mop up the sauce. The recipe is similar to Mexican huevos rancheros, Spanish pisto manchego and the Turkish dish menemen.
     
    *A tagine or tajine (tah-ZHEEN) is a North African earthenware that comprises a shallow pan covered with a dome. Here’s a photo, recipe and more about tagines.

       

    shakshuka-1-oneofakind.com-goodeggs-230r-r

    An American approach to shakshouka: Served it for lunch with a salad. Photo courtesy GoodEggs.com.

     

    RECIPE: SHAKSHOUKA

    This recipe, from Good Eggs chef Audrey Snyder, is first poached, then baked. But you can poach only if you prefer. Chef Audrey adds both beans (more protein!) and cheese, which add flavor and texture. You can omit them if you prefer.

    You can serve shakshouka with warm bread or toast for dipping, can serve it over polenta, or both. To serve it for lunch or dinner, add a salad and cooked vegetables, as in the photo above.

    If making the sauce is too time-consuming for you, you can substitute a prepared puttanesca sauce along with the fresh herbs and optional cheese. The flavors won’t be the same (anchovy paste, capers and olives instead of cumin, onions and paprika), but they’ll be close enough to enjoy spicy eggs.

     

    Shakshouka_jill-betterhappierstsebastian-230

    This more traditional version of shakshouka, from Jill of ABetterHappierStSebastian.com, uses cheese and parsley to garnish. Here’s the recipe.

     

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cups/15 ounces cooked beans of your choice, drained
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 sprig each of thyme and rosemary
  • 1 28-ounce jar/can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
    and juices reserved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or basil
  • 1 cup grated hard cheese or crumbled feta (optional)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F.

    2. HEAT the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeños. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes.

    3. ADD the beans, paprika, oregano and fresh herbs and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a light boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

    4. SEASON to taste with salt and pepper. Crack the eggs into the sauce one at a time, spacing evenly. Top with the cheese.

    5. TRANSFER the skillet to the oven and bake until the egg whites are set but yolks are still runny, 5 to 8 minutes. Garnish with parsley and basil or cilantro. Serve with warm bread for dipping, or serve over polenta.
     
    Yum!

      

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    RECIPE: Rice Noodle Salad with Lemongrass, Mint, Cilantro…& Tea!

    Today is National Iced Tea Day. Approximately 85% of the tea consumed in the U.S. is iced, and iced tea is now the most consumed beverage at lunch time (source: Tea Association of America).

    Tea is also used as a recipe ingredient, in dishes from Smoked Tea Duck to baked goods, soba noodles, smoothies and sorbet.

    Culinary expert Gail Simmons created the Thai-inspired recipe below with unsweetened Pure Leaf tea. She used Pure Leaf Unsweetened Iced Tea to cook and flavor both the rice noodles and the marinade.

    With added protein—sliced beef or chicken, scallops or shrimp, or tofu—it makes a delicious lunch or dinner entrée. And for the gluten-sensitive, rice noodles (and the entire recipe) are gluten-free.

    RECIPE: LEMONGRASS-SCENTED RICE NOODLE SALAD WITH MINT & CILANTRO

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 8 ounces vermicelli rice noodles
  • 4-1/4 cups, room temperature, divided
  • 4 cups water
  •    

    lemongrass-rice-noodle-salad-PureLeaf_Lipton-Pepsico-230

    Thai-inspired rice noodle salad. Photo courtesy Pure Leaf.

  • 1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and trimmed into two 2–3 inch pieces, one half of pieces bruised using the back of a knife, one half finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves plus 10 stems reserved
  • 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, half sliced, half finely chopped
  • 2 small Thai* chiles (bird’s-eye chiles), stemmed, seeded and chopped or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, cut into matchsticks or shredded lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 6 radishes, cut into matchsticks or shredded on a mandoline
  • 1/4 cup mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, crushed
  • 1 pound cooked shrimp, shredded rotisserie chicken or other protein
  •  
    *Substitute 1 jalapeño chile for two Thai chiles.

     

    pure-leaf-unsweetened-230

    Pure Leaf unsweetened ice tea was used in this recipe. You can brew your own tea. Photo courtesy Pure Leaf.

     

    Preparation

    1. HEAT the canola oil in a medium sauté pan until just before smoking. In a shallow bowl, toss shallots with flour, shaking off any excess. Fry the shallots in the oil, stirring gently until golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shallots to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season immediately with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

    2. COMBINE in a large saucepan 4 cups of iced tea, water, bruised lemongrass, sliced ginger, 10 cilantro stems and the remaining teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook until just tender, about 7 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water until chilled. Shake out any excess water and spread noodles on a paper towel-lined tray.

    3. MAKE the dressing: Combine the reserved lemongrass, reserved ginger, chiles, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and remaining 1/4 cup Iced Tea in a blender or food processor; pulse until smooth.

    4. PLACE the noodles, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, mint, cilantro leaves and chicken/shrimp in a large bowl. Add dressing to taste and toss well. Garnish with fried shallots and crushed peanuts before serving.

     

    NOTE: Any remaining dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week and used on meat, fish and salads.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Kabob Sandwiches

    For your grilling pleasure, here’s an alternative to burgers and other red meat from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

    Food on a stick is great fun for kids, and the entire family can help prepare this simple kabob recipe.

    Children can skewer the meat, which cooks in minutes on a grill or indoor George Foreman-type grill. Then everyone assembles his/her own pita sandwich, customizing the garnishes to their preferences.

    This recipe is classic Greek: roasted meat with tzatziki, the Greek yogurt-cucumber sauce, and whatever garnishes you like:

  • The basics: lettuce, onion, tomato
  • The “extras”: bell pepper rings, thin-sliced cucumber, radish or cucumber salad
  • The “whatevers” from the fridge: fresh or pickled chiles, crumbled feta, pepperoncini, pickles and of course, “whatever”
  • And did we mention, it’s quick?

       

    kabob-sandwiches-ws-recipe-230

    Find more delicious recipes at Williams-Sonoma.com. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    RECIPE: QUICK KABOB PITA SANDWICHES WITH TZATZIKI

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt (more to taste)
  • 1 pound filet mignon, lamb loin or boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 pita bread rounds
  • Garnishes: shredded romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes and shaved red onion
  • More garnishes: bell pepper, chiles, feta, pepperoncini, pickles, whatever you’ve got
  •  
    For The Tzatziki (Yogurt Sauce)

  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons total chopped fresh dill and/or mint
  • Salt to taste
  •  

    lamb-kabobs-sliding-skewers-WS-230

    Iconic Greek lamb (shish) kabobs, made even easier with these stainless sliding skewers. Photo courtesy Williams-Sonoma.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the tzatziki. Combine all ingredients and stir well. Add salt to taste and set aside. This can be made several days in advance and stored in the fridge; serve it at room temperature.

    2. PREHEAT the outdoor grill to medium-high. For an indoor grill, place the grill plate on the lower level and the griddle plate on the upper level (Williams-Sonoma used the Cuisinart Elite Griddler). Preheat both sides to 450°F.

    3. STIR together in a small bowl the paprika, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and salt. In another bowl, toss the meat with the oil and 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture.

    4. THREAD 5 or 6 meat cubes onto each skewer and place on the grill (or the grill side of the electric griddle). Cook, turning the skewers occasionally, until the beef/lamb is cooked to medium, about 8 minutes, or the chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Meanwhile…

     

    5. LIGHTLY toast the pita bread rounds on the grill or the griddle side of the electric griddle, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

    6. CUT the toasted pita rounds in half crosswise, then pry open. Fill the pockets with the meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onion other garnishes. Top with the tzatziki and serve immediately.

     
    OUR FAVORITE NEW SKEWERS

    Grilled kabobs is easy until it’s time to remove the cooked food from the skewer. New skewers from Williams-Sonoma (photo above)solve the problem with a sliding disk that lets you push food onto the plate in one swift motion.

    An added bonus: The square shape of the rod prevents foods from spinning when you turn kabobs on the grill. You’re guaranteed even cooking!

    This Williams-Sonoma exclusive is dishwasher safe, too. A great gift for grilling enthusiasts.

    Get yours at Williams-Sonoma.com.

      

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