Mexican Tamales

img_0909Along with rice, beans, and tortillas – tamales are one of the staple foods I grew up with. The types of tamales have varied widely, from meaty to spicy to sweet, and each one is as delicious as the next. One of the most commonly known is the Mexican style tamale, traditionally made with masa, meat stuffing, and sauce. They’re also fairly simple to make, especially when you have a lazy weekend day to spare.

img_0912For these tamales I decided on chicken with a salsa verde, which compliment each other perfectly.

img_0894Ingredients (makes 40 tamales): 1 whole chicken, 3 lbs tamale masa, salsa verde (recipe to follow), 40 corn husks, salt to taste.

img_0896Before making the chicken and sauce, soak corn husks in warm water and let sit for several minutes.

Then place chicken cut into eight pieces in a large pot with enough water to just cover the chicken and boil with 3 tablespoons of salt. Cook the chicken thoroughly, then remove from water and let cool – reserving water.

img_0897For the salsa verde: 20 tomatillos, 6 serrano chiles, 1/2 large onion, 4 garlic cloves, 2 green bell peppers, 1 large bunch cilantro, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 all spice, salt and pepper to taste.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot with no more than 1/2 cup of water and simmer until tomatillos are cooked through and soft. Put everything in a blender and puree until smooth.

img_0899Shred the cooled chicken, and put in a bowl. Spoon salsa verde over chicken, and mix to coat thoroughly.

img_0900Pour masa into bowl of a stand mixer, and gradually add the reserved chicken water with the mixer on medium speed. Mix until any lumps are dissolved, and mixture is smooth.

img_0903Cut aluminum foil sheets into roughly 10″ x 10″ squares. To assemble tamales place a husk on a sheet of foil, followed by a thin layer of masa. Use the back of a spoon to spread the masa onto the corn husk, as if you were thickly spreading cream cheese onto a bagel. Then spoon chicken down the middle.

img_0904Roll the corn husk to enclose the filling, then wrap the foil tightly around the raw tamale. Place them all in a pot, with about 2 cups of water on the bottom – the steam will do the cooking. Bring to a simmer and let cook or about 50 minutes, covered.

img_0915Serve with extra salsa verde and cheese on the side. Tamales also freeze very well, making for easy meals throughout the week.

 

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Apple Dutch Baby

img_0028After our apple picking adventure, we came home with five pounds of apples just waiting to be enjoyed in various ways. Naturally, one such way had to be warm and sweet, so I decided to bake up a simple apple dutch baby – perfect for autumn mornings.

img_0017Ingredients: 3 small apples, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, pinch of nutmeg, 4 Tbsp butter, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup milk, 1 Tbsp granulated sugar

img_0018Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 350F. Peel and slice apples into thin pieces, then add to a bowl with cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. In a cast iron skillet melt 2 Tbsp butter and add apples. Cook until apples are becoming tender (about 3 minutes).

img_0022Remove apples from skillet, and wipe clean. Place skillet in hot oven, and let it heat. While skillet is heating in oven whisk eggs, flour, milk and sugar in a bowl.  Add remaining 2Tbsp butter to hot skillet and melt. Once the butter has melted add cooked apples to center of skillet, then add batter. Cook at 350F for 10-12 minutes, until the batter rises and edges start to crisp.

img_0032Serve immediately with syrup, and fresh apple slices. Best enjoyed with a cup of hot coffee for an even more comforting breakfast meal.

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Stone Fruit Panzanella with Basil Vinaigrette

IMG_9948Growing up with peach trees in my backyard, I have always thought of stone fruits as the quintessential summer produce. As summer slowly comes to an end, I’m taking full advantage of the season’s produce while I still can, and adding them to a variety of dishes. For days when you want something light and summery, but still a bit hearty and filling, this stone fruit panzanella fits all of the above.

IMG_9947Ingredients: 1 small loaf of bread, 3 nectarines, 3 plums, 2 large heirloom tomatoes, 1/2 cup burrata, 3 cups arugula, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper.

IMG_9933Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 350F. Cut the loaf of bread into slices, then rip apart using your hands to make small pieces. Toss the bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then place on a baking sheet. Bake in oven for about 8 minutes. You want the bread to be a little toasted, but not so much that they turn into crunchy croutons.

IMG_9934Slice nectarines, plums, and tomatoes into wedges and add to a large bowl. Add arugula, bread, and burrata in small dollops.

IMG_9935For the dressing: 1 shallot, 1 cup packed basil, 1 garlic clove, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper.

Add all dressing ingredients to a blender, and blend on high until all ingredients are completely liquified.

IMG_9945Drizzle dressing and fresh ground pepper over salad before serving.

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Tortilla Soup

IMG_9648aThe weather in Southern California has been a bit chilly and intermittently rainy the past few days, making it ideal soup weather. I was craving something flavorful and hearty, without being too heavy, and tortilla soup quickly sprung to mind. I have been using this recipe for many years, and it is at the top of my comfort soups list. I love making a big batch of it on the weekend, and having some as a small side to meals throughout the week, or as a meal itself.

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Ingredients: 3 tomatillos, 3 ripe tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper, 3 guajillo chilis (seeds removed), 3 garlic cloves, 1 white onion, 1 cornish hen (or 1/2 chicken), 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs thyme, 2.5 quarts water, 10 tortillas, 2 cups canola oil, salt and pepper to taste. Optional toppings: avocado, cilantro, shredded cheese.

Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 375F. Cut the tomatillos, tomatoes, bell pepper, chilis,  and onion into quarters and place on baking sheet along with whole garlic cloves. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, until all vegetables are soft and starting to brown. While vegetables roast, cut cornish hen (or chicken) into separate pieces, and put in large pot of water with bay leaf, thyme, and a dash of salt. Bring pot to a boil, and let simmer until hen is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove hen from pot, let cool, and shred meat off the bones using a fork.

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Cut the tortillas into thin strips. Heat canola oil in a pot, and add tortilla strips in batches, cooking until each batch is crispy. Remove each batch from hot oil and place on dish to cool.

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Remove roasted vegetables from oven, and let cool. Add all of the vegetables to a blender, along with some of the water from the pot, and a handful of tortilla strips, and blend until thoroughly liquified. Add the vegetable mixture back to the pot (you can do this by running it through a fine mesh sieve to avoid having too many seeds in the soup). Add the chicken back to the pot, and about 3/4 of the remaining tortilla strips, and bring back to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and let simmer for at least 5 minutes. Serve hot with crispy tortilla strips, sliced avocado, cheese, and minced cilantro.

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Herb and Garlic Rack of Lamb

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The strong flavor profile of lamb makes it something that I only want to indulge in every once in a while. However, since our fantastic lamb dish at Le Mouton Blanc on our honeymoon, I’ve decided to make it at home every so often. This recipe is very simple, and elevates the already flavorful meat just the right amount.

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Ingredients: 1 frenched rack of lamb (1-2 lbs), 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp rosemary, 1 tbsp fresh thyme, 1/2 tbsp mint, 2 tbsp parsley, 1 tsp paprika, salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Meanwhile, pat lamb dry and season thoroughly with salt. Sear the lamb front and back, about 3 minutes per side. Place the rack of lamb on a roasting dish.

Pre-heat oven to 400F. Combine the chopped herbs, spices, garlic and remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Rub herb mixture all over the lamb until well coated. Put in oven, uncovered, and cook for 15 minutes. After the first 15 minutes cover the rack of lamb in tin foil and cook in oven for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit with foil covering for 10 minutes.

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Cut the rack into individual pieces and serve with favorite sides.


Mushroom Caperberry Pizza

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Shortly before moving to our new house, I had some friends come over for a book club meeting in our apartment. It was the last time that I hosted guests in our first home together before the big move, so I wanted to keep it casual and fun, but still special. I decided to make a couple of pizzas that used homemade sauce and dough, fresh cheeses, extra flavorful vegetables, and a drizzle of spicy honey. The combinations were a little daring, but a great success.

Ingredients:

  • For the mushrooms: 2 cups sliced portobello mushrooms, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 large minced garlic clove, 1 1/2 tbsp finely minced fresh tarragon, 1/4 cup chopped caperberries, 1 tsp fresh thyme, 1 tsp fresh oregano, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper
  • For the sauce: 1 large can whole San Marzano tomatoes, 1 large thinly sliced garlic clove, 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, 1 sprig fresh thyme, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp salt.
  • For the dough I used the same recipe I used for garlic knots, which always works like a charm
  • 1 large ball fresh mozzarella
  • 1 large ball burrata
  • 1 tsp minced oregano
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp ground chili

The star of this recipe is the mushroom caperberry sauté which makes the pizza incredibly flavorful. To make the sauté, heat the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic, sauté until light brown. Add mushrooms, tarragon, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms begin to soften, then add caperberries. Continue to cook until mushrooms are cooked through and tender. Set aside to cool.

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I’ve always been a fan of chunky tomato pieces in sauces, so I made a simple sauce using whole San Marzano tomatoes.

Add all of the sauce ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Gently crush tomatoes with a wooden spoon as it simmers until all tomatoes are crushed and sauce is chunky. Set aside to cool.

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Once the mushrooms and sauce are ready to go, flatten out the dough using a rolling pin to make a large oval. Add the sauce, mushrooms, slices of mozzarella, and a dash of fresh oregano to the dough and bake for 20 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 380F. While the pizza is cooking, heat the honey and ground chili over low heat in a small saucepan for 3 minutes. Once the pizza is done, remove from oven and add the burrata in random chunks throughout, then drizzle spicy honey to complete.

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I served the pizzas with some refreshing rosé champagne cocktails, and my friends loved the flavor combinations. I will certainly miss hosting in that apartment, but I am very excited to resume once our kitchen remodel in our new home is complete.


Picnic at the La Brea Tar Pits

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Since our third date together at Barnsdall Park, we quickly realized how much we enjoy picnics. It’s so nice to pack a simple lunch and lounge in one of our favorite parks on lazy weekends.

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We’re lucky enough to have a great selection of parks in our neighborhood, and one of the most interesting has to be the La Brea Tar Pits. This little park is filled with shady trees, animal sculptures, and of course pools of bubbling tar – making it an incredibly unique and lovely park.

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The bubbling pits are behind fences, and as long as you avoid certain coned off areas, you’re not in any danger of getting your shoes stuck.

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Right next door to the tar pits is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Pavilion for Japanese Art is an architectural masterpiece that forms the perfect transition between the two properties, with its rough stone texture and tusk-like structures on the roof.

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For the picnic menu we tend to stick with the three main categories: sandwiches, a type of salad, and fruits. On occasion, we pack a few extra snacks if we have them at home, but following these categories makes the prepping process fairly quick and easy. Aside from the food itself, I always pack enough beverages to keep us hydrated, a picnic blanket, and of course a good book.

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Warm Egg Breakfast

One of my favorite meals from our honeymoon was a simple, straightforward, soft boiled egg breakfast. Although fairly minimal, the meal felt fanciful as we enjoyed it on a slow morning in Paris, and I instantly knew I would be recreating this meal at home.

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The main piece in this meal is a just a soft boiled egg. I boiled five cups of water, brought it back down to a simmer, then added four eggs to the water and set a timer for six minutes. After running the eggs under cold water immediately after cooking, I just sliced off the top of each egg and put them into egg cups.

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To scoop up the runny yolk inside the egg, I sliced up a few pieces of bread and lightly toasted them. To accompany the egg and bread, I set out a jar of delicious homemade jam and some butter. Just as we had experienced in Paris, I made coffee and squeezed a few grapefruits to make a fresh juice to complete the meal.

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This leisurely breakfast was just as satisfying and decadent as we remember, and it will certainly remain a staple in our home.

 


Sliders Four Ways

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Sliders are one of my favorite bar foods; I especially love when there is more than one type of slider available instead of having four of the same. They are also a great meal to prepare at home for casual nights in and are quite popular with guests. My favorite way to prepare sliders is with mini pretzel rolls and paired with home-made french fries and a good beer. Here are four different slider combinations I tend to keep coming back to whenever making them at home.

For the beef patties: 1 lb ground beef, 4 strips bacon, 1 large tomato (diced), 1/2 yellow onion (diced), 1 teaspoon each of dry parsley, salt, pepper, and paprika.

To get started fry the bacon strips in a large pan until crispy. Remove bacon and set on a paper towel (you will use the bacon for one of the slider recipes). Keep the pan with the bacon oils on low heat. While the bacon is frying, prepare the meat by combining onion, tomatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, and paprika with the meat. Mix well with your hands to thoroughly blend the ingredients. Create small patties with your hands, and add the patties to the hot bacon pan. Cook patties about 2 minutes per side and remove from pan.

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From left to right –

Slider 1: Make a basil aioli by combining 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 minced garlic clove, and a dash of salt. Spread aioli on pretzel bun then add a slice of havarti cheese, beef patty, arugula leaves, and a couple pieces of bacon.

Slider 2: Spread softened goat cheese on bun, top with beef patty, a few sliced pieces of sun-dried tomatoes, and a little bit of fresh parsley.

Slider 3: Make a spicy aioli by adding four sweet and hot cherry peppers (or you can use canned chipotle peppers), and 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise to a food processor. Mix in processor until puréed. In a small pan sauté sliced yellow onion with a teaspoon of olive oil, a dash of sugar, and a dash of salt. Remove onions from pan and fry egg in the same pan (add more olive oil if needed). Spread aioli onto bun, top with beef patty, sautéed onions, and fried egg.

Slider 4: Chop 2 large portobello mushrooms, 4 caper-berries, and 1 teaspoon of capers. Sauté ingredients in a small pan with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Spread burrata cheese onto bun, top with beef patty and sautéed mushrooms.