Freshly Made Corn Tortilla Tacos

>> Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When I found out how easy it was to make corn tortillas, I wanted to make them IMMEDIATELY. I made my honey walk with me to the corner Mexican market and got a blister on the walk back. Totally worth it. I picked up some Maseca corn flour (gluten free natch), an avocado and some soy chorizo.

Shout out to my friend Elizabeth for recommending Reynaldo's Soy Chorizo. SOOO good. WAY less greasy than regular chorizo plus none of the salivary glands (what, you didn't know that's what chorizo is made out of?) I have tried other soyrizo brands and Reynaldo's is hands down the best. This isn't much of a recipe, just the basics to making easy, yummy, warm corn tortillas that you can stuff full of anything you like.

- 1 cup of Masa Harina (corn flour)
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tube of Reynaldo's Soy Chorizo
- 1 avocado cut into slices
- Sour cream
- Shredded sharp cheddar or crumbled cotija cheese

In a bowl, slowly add water to the masa and salt while you stir. The texture will be slightly crumbly. When the mixture just starts to form a ball, get your hands in there and smoosh. You should be able to easily form a large ball. If the mix is too dry or crumbly, add a tiny bit of water until it comes together. Split the large ball into four equal sized balls. Place a damp paper towels over the balls while you roll out and cook the tortillas.

Cut two pieces of wax paper. Place a ball on the paper and set the second sheet of wax paper on top. Press down and flatten the ball. Roll the ball out with a rolling pin until it is super thin but not so thin that it rips when you try to peel it off the wax paper. You'll get a feel for it.

Heat a dry, nonstick skillet on medium high heat. Toss a tortilla onto the skillet and heat for about one minute then flip with a spatula. Heat the other side for a minute and if both sides are crisp and slightly brown at the edges, pull it off, stuff it and eat it! Repeat with the rest of your tortilla balls.

Soy chorizo is so easy to make. Squeeze it out of the package into a skillet, heat it up on medium high and cook until it gets a little crispy. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

I made these tacos with regular chorizo for a group of friends and they seemed tickled. Try these for yourself!


Herbed Roasted Lamb Shank

>> Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An old friend of mine was given a gorgeous lamb shank and had no idea what to do with it. I looked around for some good recipes and then messed them about to come up with this. This old friend also has a nice camera and some major photog skillz, hence the pretty pictures for this installment.

This recipe takes for ever but the results are so worth the long wait. Be patient and don't give in to the temptation to peek.

- Lamb Shank (you can do this with more than one, we just had one)
- Sea Salt
- Black Pepper
- Olive Oil
- Fresh Herbs (we used Rosemary and Thyme and a few sprigs of fresh Sage)
- Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (we used about 10. You could always use more)

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

Line your roasting pan with foil, put the shank in and drizzle it with olive oil. Sprinkle both sides of the shank liberally with sea salt and black pepper. Pop the pan in the oven for 25-30 minutes, you are just browning the shank at this point. It will look delish but don't eat it yet. The best is yet to come.

Turn the oven down to 200, YES 200 degrees.

Crush the garlic with the flat of a chef's knife then sprinkle it all over the shank. Place your herbs on and around the shank then wrap the shank in the foil that was under it. Pull out another swath of foil and wrap it the shank up completely, no holes. You are more or less going to steam the meat that's already brown and crisp so that it will be literally fall-off-the-bone tender.

Once your bundle of joy is all wrapped, put it back in the 200 degree oven for 3 hours. 3 whole hours. Wait. When it's ready, take it out, let it cool a few minutes and open it up. Warning, your house will smell amazing and you will want to yank the lamb out of the oven and devour it with your hands. Don't do this.

For an easy side dish we used ready made mashed potatoes, heated them up with a pat of butter and tossed in the roasted garlic cloves from inside the lamb shank bundle. It was perfect with the herbed, tender lamb.

Bon Apetit!

P.S. Here is my Frenchie Violet enjoying the bone as much as we enjoyed the lamb!


Springtime Pizza

>> Sunday, April 19, 2009

I had some leftover asparagus from my Asparagus Risotto (recipe forthcoming) and I thought it'd be perfect with some prosciutto. I came across gluten free frozen pizza crusts at Whole Foods and inspiration struck. This was my first time trying crusts like these. They were not traditional pizza crusts, more on the crispy/chewy side but after going pizza free for 6 months, they really hit the spot. This recipe was super simple because most of the stuff I used was pre-made. You could make any of the pre-made bits from scratch if you were feeling ambitious. I was just feeling hungry.

There are no real measurements here, just do what works for you, it's hard to mess up pizza.

- Frozen Pizza Crust (I used Nature's Highlights brand from Whole Foods. If you use a different one, follow directions on box)
- Pre-made Pesto
- Buffalo Mozzarella cut into slices
- Chevre (crumbled)
- Asparagus (about 5 thick stalks or 8 thin cut into 1"-1 1/2" pieces)
- Toasted Pine Nuts
- Prosciutto
- Parmigiano-Reggiano

Let the pizza crust thaw and pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees.

Cook the plain, un-topped crust right on the oven rack for 4-5 minutes.

Remove the crust and let it cool for a minute then top with the pesto, mozzarella slices, crumbled goat cheese, asparagus, pine nuts, prosciutto and then sprinkle with parm.

Reduce the heat in the oven to 425 then put the pizza back on the rack. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese melts and starts to bubble. Remove from the oven, let sit for two minutes then cut and DEVOUR!


Cedar Plank Salmon

>> Monday, April 13, 2009

Here is Sous Chef Matt's Cedar Plank Salmon (adapted from Real Simple Magazine)

It's spicy and sweet, moist and flaky. You may want to add a splash of lemon juice for some acid.

You can purchase cedar planks in the BBQ section of your hardware store.

- 2lb salmon fillet
- 1 cedar plank
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbs canola oil
- 1 tbs dried thyme
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp kosher salt

Soak cedar plank in water for 30-45 minutes

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Line a baking sheet with tin foil, put the plank on top of the foil put the salmon on top of the plank

Combine the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl then rub the marinade onto the salmon and lump on any extra

Cook 20- 30 minutes until salmon is cooked through and flaky

Salt the salmon to taste and enjoy!

*For the side I tossed cauliflower in olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt then roasted in a 350 degree oven on a cookie sheet for 25 minutes. SO GOOD!


Cooking School

>> Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Picky Gourmet learned an important lesson tonight: sometimes you can follow a recipe to a T and it still doesn't work out.

My Sous Chef planned to make me a nice romantic dinner of cedar plank salmon and I offered to make a side dish I've been dying to try; cauliflower puree with caramelized cauliflower garnish.

I started with a recipe I had seen on TV and tweaked it by using purple cauliflower (yea antioxidants!) and adding a splash of half and half and some roasted garlic.

I prepped, I slaved, I photographed and I ended up with purple cauliflower soup. Yuck.

I figured out what I did wrong and I still plan to try this dish... another day. Sometimes we all fall off our culinary high horse and have to start over from scratch. I hope I can help readers of this blog by learning some of the hard (and expensive) lessons for them.

PS Sous Chef's salmon was DELISH and the caramelized cauliflower was tasty too. Pics coming soon!


Squashed Mac and Cheese

>> Thursday, April 9, 2009

This dish is adapted from several recipes I found online. It has hidden squash to make it radioactively orange and slightly healthier than plain old ooey-gooey mac and cheese. The squash makes it a little sweet so make sure you taste it and adjust the salt and cheese to make sure it tastes like macaroni and CHEESE instead of just macaroni and squash.

Also: I made this with gluten-free pasta shells. If you don't HAVE to eat gluten-free pasta then by all means do NOT. I have tried half a dozen gluten-free pastas. Rice based, potato based, you name it. They really can't come close to good old Barilla BUT those among us with wheat-hating tummies must soldier on and fight the good fight. I'd rather eat bad pasta than no pasta so there you have it.

This dish lends itself to many variations, try adding some sauteed shallots or garlic for a punched-up flavor or add fresh peas or chopped red pepper for even more veggie goodness.

Bon Apetit!

- 1 lb macaroni/shells
- 2 10 oz pkgs of frozen squash
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cups extra sharp cheddar
- 2 cups gruyere
- 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup blue cheese
- 1 tbs salt (more to taste)
- 1 tsp. powdered mustard
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Cook the pasta until just barely al dente then strain

Preheat oven to 375

Grate cheeses and reserve parmesan and 1/4 cup of cheddar and 1/4 cup of gruyere to sprinkle on top

Mix the squash and the milk in a large saucepan over medium high heat until it just begins to simmer

Add cheese and spices to the squash and milk and whisk together

Pour pasta into the cheese sauce mixture and stir until pasta is coated with sauce

Pour into greased 9"x13" casserole dish

Sprinkle reserved cheese on top

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until sauce bubbles and top begins to brown