Saturday, April 11, 2009

Vaca Frita

I must say that the Cubans don't have the most appetizing names for their country's most famous dishes. Vaca frita (fried cow) is a close relative to ropa vieja (old clothes). Whatever you want to call it, though, the dish boils down to the basic element of shredded beef. Where ropa vieja gets stewed in tomato sauce, vaca frita is marinated and seared until crispy.

I tried this recipe last night and it was a breeze to make, although a bit time consuming if you plan to start cooking in the evening. You need to allocate enough time for the beef to marinate and it took me quite some time to shred the beef (but that could be because I bought brisket instead of flank steak. I think it's higher fat content made the task more difficult). The result, I believe, was no less delicious. The tangy lime and garlic marinated beef paired nicely with side of black beans and rice.
Vaca Frita
(from Food & Wine, May 2009)

1 1/2 lbs flank steak, cut into four pieces
1 green bell pepper, cored and quartered
2 large onions - 1 halved and 1 thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup plus 2 TBS freshly squeezed lime juice
3 TBS olive oil
freshly ground pepper

In a large saucepan, combine the flank steak with the bell pepper, halved onion and bay leaf. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove flank steak and let cool. Strained broth can be reserved for another use. Shred the meat and transfer to a bowl.

Using the side of a large knife, mash the garlic to a paste with 1/2 tsp of salt. Stir the paste into the meat, along with the lime juice, olive oil, and sliced onion. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

Heat a large griddle until very hot. Working in batches, spread the shredded beef on the griddle in a thin layer and season with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat, turning once or twice, until sizzling and crispy in spots, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter and serve.

(photo published on Tastespotting, 6/29/09)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Leek and Chickpea Soup

This recipe comes to me somewhat third-hand. For my birthday, Eric gave me The Foster Harris House cookbook, from the B&B where we stayed to celebrate our first anniversary. (Buy it here.) This recipe comes from that book, but it came to that chef - John MacPherson - via renowned chef Jamie Oliver's friend Bender who found the recipe in an old cookbook somewhere. Did you follow that? So, nods all around. Thank you Bender, thank you Jamie for having a friend Bender, and thank you John.

This soup makes a great one course meal. Hearty enough to stand on its own and complex enough in taste and texture to stay exciting.
Leek and Chickpea Soup

5 large leeks
2 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 small peeled potato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
12 oz of canned chickpeas
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra to garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare leeks by cutting off and discarding tough green tops of leeks. Slick white parts of leeks lengthwise and rinse well. Roughly chop.

Melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy pot and add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute, then add the leeks. Cook the leeks for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the potato and chickpeas and cook for 1-2 minutes longer. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add more broth to thin the soup if desired or use a regular or emulsion blender to puree soup to desired consistency. Add half of the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and top with the remaining Parmesan.

Serves 6.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Party Food: Turkey Sliders and Homemade French Fries

This post comes from my friend, John, another old friend from high school (Props to Motown. So many recipes on this site have come from my childhood friends!). I think this post brings up a good point. That not all meals have to come from written recipes. John tells me that the idea for this meal just "formulated on the Metro on the way to the grocery store last night." Fortunately, I was able to have him jot down the basics so I could share it with all of you. I share the recipe in John's words - because for party food, who needs a formal recipe? Just have fun with it!

Homemade French Fries

Idaho potatoes (1 potato equals 1 serving)
vegetable oil for frying
cayenne pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
salt, to taste
cajun seasoning, to taste

Take a bunch of Idaho potatoes. Chop them into fry-like shapes (I can’t remember what you actually call that shape – finger shaped?) with skins on. Fry them in a skillet filled with vegetable oil until all sides are golden-brown (don’t forget to turn them!). Once cooked, drop them in a bowl of paper towels to drain the oil, then top with cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and cajun seasoning to taste.

Mini Turkey Burgers/ Sliders

1 lb ground turkey
salt/ pepper to taste
Bone Suckin' barbecue sauce
1/4 - 1/3 cup bread crumbs

Take your ground turkey, add an egg, salt/pepper, some Bone Suckin’ barbecue sauce for flavor, and probably like ¼-1/3 cup of bread crumbs, hand blend, then stick in the fridge for a half hour-ish. Throw them on the grill, flip them only once. Top with Irish cheddar and bacon. For the buns, use one of those 25-30 minute Pillsbury Italian bread loafs, cut it into a sufficient number of pieces. Throw on some tomatoes, lettuce, and onion, and enjoy! (Makes 8 mini burgers)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Seeking Recipes - Lots of Herbs

It's been two and a half weeks since I plugged in my Aerogarden and I am well on my way to having a bounty of herbs this Spring. So much so, that I'm using this down time - it's another week or two before I can start picking the herbs - to figure out how I'm going to use them. Pesto or tomato, mozzerella and basil?  Salmon with dill or tzasiki dip? Send in your favorite recipes featuring fresh herbs and I'll be sure to post and try them!
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