2011 in Review for Cooking in Mexico

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 33 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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tuna empanadas

 

Empanandas de Atun — Tuna Empanadas

 

Empanadas de atun — tuna empanadas, are prepared during Lent in Mexico. This version is made with a whole wheat flour and extra tuna in the filling.

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Yield: 16 empanadas

Calories per serving: 240

Fat per serving: 16 grams

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (13.5 oz./383 g.) cold whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz/63 ml.) cold milk
  • 2 cold eggs, plus one egg to brush on empanadas
  • 7 oz. ( 200 grams) drained canned tuna
  • 2/3 cup (129 g. can) drained canned peas
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml.) drained, home made cooked salsa

Cooking Directions

  1. To make dough: 
  2. Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a food processor, pulsing 3 or 4 times. 
  3. Add butter and process for 10-15 seconds, or until butter is cut into very small pieces, but still visible. 
  4. Add milk and 2 eggs and process just until a ball of dough forms. Do not over-mix. 
  5. Handling as little as possible, roll into a ball and divide into two pieces. Refrigerate 
  6. while mixing tuna filling. 
  7. To make filling:
  8. Lightly blend all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.To make empanadas:
  9. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.) Oil large baking sheet.
  10. Roll out one ball of dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch (.32 cm.) thick.
  11. Use a 5 inch (12.7 cm.) round shape as a cutter and cut out circles from rolled dough, then do the same with the second ball of dough. Roll out scraps and cut more rounds of dough.
  12. Spoon one heaped tablespoon of tuna filling on one half of dough circle.
  13. Overlap dough, forming a half circle. Moisten lower edge of dough with water.
  14. Press with a fork to seal edges. Place on baking sheet.
  15. Brush empanadas with beaten egg. Pierce crust with a fork to allow steam to vent.
  16. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Asian Liver Vegetable Stir-Fry

Liver Stir-fry is for liver lovers and for those who aren’t so sure about liver. If you like liver, you’ll love this dish. If you don’t like it, give this a try. It is so full of veggies and Asian flavors, you will forget you are eating liver.

Buy the best liver you can — range-fed, baby beef and organic. Use a variety of crisp vegetables, whatever is in the fridge. Asian ingredients make this dish. Ginger, garlic, fresh basil, tamari or soy sauce, fish sauce (just a few drops) if  you have any, something zippy, like minced fresh chiles or bottled Thai hot sauce. I always add turmeric and cumin. Use whichever seasonings appeal to you. This dish will be good  with any combination of spices and vegetables. Allow about 1 1/2 cups of vegetables per serving.

Asian Liver Vegetable Stir-Fry

  • bell pepper, sliced
  • carrots, sliced
  • onion, chopped
  • jícama, sliced
  • cabbage, sliced
  • nopal (a cactus “paddle” or leaf), sliced
  • fresh chile, minced
  • garlic, minced (1 clove per 2 servings)
  • ginger, minced (1 tablespoon per 2 servings)
  • coconut oil or mild vegetable oil
  • 3-4 oz. fresh liver per serving, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • tumeric (1 teaspoon per 2 serving)
  • cumin (1/2 teaspoon per 2 servings)
  • tamari or soy sauce to taste
  • fish sauce (very optional)
  • bottled Thai hot sauce
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh basil
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté vegetables, starting with onion, and adding the hardest vegetables by turn in one minute increments. Add garlic, ginger and spices last and cook for 1 minute more. Don’t over-cook — total time should not be more than 5-6 minutes.
  2. Remove cooked vegetables to a covered dish. Add more oil to hot skillet, and cook liver until no longer pink on the exterior.
  3. Add cooked vegetables to liver. Season with soy sauce or tamari to taste. Garnish with cilantro and thinly sliced basil leaves. Serve over rice.

Notes:

Three to four ounces of liver is about the amount you can hold in the palm of your hand.

Calf liver is more tender than the liver of older animals and less likely to have an accumulation of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. It is very nutrient dense.

More reading:

Why you should eat calf liver (The World’s Healthiest Foods)

What is Fish Sauce? (Wikipedia)

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Almond Cream with Tropical Fruit

The lovely Italian food blog, Uova, Zucchero e Farina (Eggs, Sugar and Flour), recently inspired me to make Almond Cream with Tropical Fruit.  On her blog, Zia Elle calls her dessert Crema di Pesche al Cointreau (Peach Cream with Cointreau). I changed the ingredients and the name slightly, as Russ, my chief taster, is lactose-intolerant. Homemade almond milk, instead of dairy milk, made a cool, refreshing dessert to enjoy on a hot August day.

Zia Elle has lots of other enticing recipes, influenced by her Italian home. The blog translates into English and many other languages.

Almond Cream with Tropical Fruit

1 1/4 cups (300 ml.) almond milk*

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon organic sugar

1/4 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extract

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau

1 cup  (230 ml.) fresh or canned fruit of your choice (don’t use fresh pineapple)

mint leaves for garnish

Slice fruit and allow to macerate in Grand Marnier while you make almond cream. I used two small, home grown bananas, a small home grown papaya, and a pineapple we bought from a truck going through town. I regretted using pineapple, as I forgot its enzymes thin cornstarch mixtures. The dessert was still very wonderful and refreshing.

In a small saucepan, stir together cornstarch and sugar. Gradually add almond milk (or dairy milk), stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Bring to a simmer, and stir until thickened, then cook on a low simmer a few minutes more.

Remove from heat and add almond extract, vanilla and Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice. Stir to release most of the heat and cool to room temperature.

Spoon 1/4 of fruit into two glasses or small dishes. Divide Almond Cream between the two glasses. Chill in refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. To serve, top with remaining fruit, almond slices and mint leaf.

Notes:

*Almond milk is easy to make. Soak one cup of whole almonds overnight. The next day, drain them, discard the water, and combine the softened nuts with three cups of cold water in a blender and process until very smooth. Strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. (Save pulp for muffins or cereal.) Refrigerate almond milk and use in place of diary milk. Makes three cups almond milk.

Russ, my loyal taster, did not comment on the thin almond cream as he spooned it up. I follow Julia Child’s dictum: if a recipe does not turn out as you hoped, don’t tell anyone. Usually, they will never know the difference and will instead complement your cooking.

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Making Homemade Yogurt in a Styrofoam Cooler

Homemade yogurt made from raw milk is preferable to store-bought non-organic yogurt. Even yogurt made with regular, store-bought milk is preferable, as it will not have the usual thickeners of commercial yogurt. It is also about half the price.

Sadly, I see that the new Joy of Cooking cookbook does not include directions for making yogurt, as its earlier editions did. Thank goodness a 1967 edition of the Joy guided me as I became a cook in my younger years. Back then, I knew a lot of people who made yogurt, baked bread, put up fruit preserves, canned fruit, churned ice cream, all guided by Joy of Cooking. Today’s young cooks don’t have the encouragement to make these recipes if they follow their new Joy. No, I don’t want my youth back today, if it means I would mature into my cooking skills without knowing how to bake, preserve, churn and culture.

But I digress. Back to making yogurt.

First, you need a way to keep the cultured milk at a temperature range between 106 and 110 degrees F. (41-43 degrees C.). The easiest method is to buy a yogurt maker, a heating device with six or seven glass cups. I don’t have one, and have found it easy to improvise by using a small styrofoam cooler and a heating pad. A thermometer is necessary if you use this method. I use recycled plastic yogurt containers to make two quarts at a time. Here are all the accoutrements for making yogurt in a cooler.

Included in the photo is a container of Activia, a Dannon product, for the lactobacillus culture needed to innoculate milk (any yogurt that contains live culture will work), and also a timer to turn the heating pad off and on. Using a heated metal skewer, I made a hole in one of the lids for the thermometer, so that I can track the temperature of the milk while it is “yoging”.

To make yogurt, regardless of your heating method, slowly bring two quarts of raw or other fresh milk to 180 F./82 C. over low heat. Cover the pan to prevent a skin from forming. This temperature pasteurizes the milk and kills anything live that would interfere with the yogurt culture.

When it reaches 180 F./82 C., turn off the heat, cover with a lid (again, to prevent a skin from forming) and walk away and do something else while it cools to 110 F./43 C. This may take a while, but you can hasten this by stirring if you want it to cool more quickly. When the milk is at 110 F./43 C. degrees, stir in two teaspoons of live yogurt, mixing well. Pour into scrupulously clean containers, turn on the heating device of your choice, and allow eight to twenty-four hours to culture.

The containers are sitting on the lower part of the heating pad, with the rest of the pad fitted along the inside. The thermometer is placed in a corner for easy viewing. Of course, while it is culturing, the cooler lid is in place. You will need to monitor it the first time to see how to adjust your timer. The pad should be set on the lowest setting.

The longer yogurt cultures, the more sour it becomes. This is because the lactose (milk sugar) turns into lactic acid. The more time, the more lactic acid, the more sour the taste. This works well for my lactose-intolerant husband, who can eat this yogurt without any problems. And for me, as I prefer yogurt with a tart flavor. If you like tart yogurt also, with a minimum of lactose, culture it for 24 hours. For a milder tasting yogurt, 8-10 hours is sufficient.

When finished, refrigerate the yogurt. Save a small amount, uncontaminated, to culture your next batch.

Notes:

About every three or four batches of yogurt, you will need to buy fresh starter in the form of a small container of yogurt. Flavored yogurt is OK to use, as long as the culture is live.

To make “car yogurt”: place the containers of milk in a closed car on a summer’s day. The interior heat will be warm enough to make yogurt, though you may want to use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. Wrap the containers in towels if you use glass bottles, as milk should not be exposed to sunlight.


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Borscht, a Simple Beet Soup

Making beet soup, also known as borscht, is easy if you use your food processor. Once the veggies are chopped, cooking time is quick. In under an hour, counting clean-up time, you will have a healthy, colorful soup on the table.

Borscht, Simple Beet Soup

2 medium beets (1 lb./230 grams), peeled

1 large carrot (4 oz./100 grams), peeled if not organic

1 medium onion (4 oz./100 grams)

1 cup shredded cabbage (4 oz./100 grams)

2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade

1 tablespoon (15 ml.) organic butter

1 tablespoon (15 ml.) apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon (5 ml.) salt, or to taste

freshly ground black pepper

plain unsweetened yogurt or sour cream for garnish

Chop carrots into 1″ (2.5 cm.) lengths and chop in a food processor until very small, using the steel “S” blade. Cut the onion and beets into eighths and chop them in the food processor, individually. The vegetables, each with different density, will vary in the length of time to chop, so they are chopped separately.

Put beets, carrots and onion in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add water to cover and simmer 20 minutes, with the pot covered.

Shred cabbage, if you haven’t already,  and add to pot with beef stock, butter, vinegar and salt. Gently simmer, covered, for 20 more minutes.

Add pepper and adjust salt. Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with a generous spoonful of yogurt or sour cream. Serve with slices of whole grain bread. Bon appetit! (I’m reading for the second time Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France ~~ a great book. I highly recommend it.)

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Banana Coffee Mousse — Dairyless, Sugarless, Eggless

Banana Coffee Mousse

If you are following my parallel blog on Cooking in Mexico, you may remember the banana ice cream recipe that was dairyless, sugarless and eggless. This morning, I made the same recipe, this time adding espresso  powder. I was trying for a coffee ice cream with a banana base. Instead, it became a coffee mousse with a banana base. I ran the food processor longer to dissolve the espresso granules and the “ice cream” softened to a mousse-like consistency. I’m not complaining — it made a great breakfast. Extra was frozen to enjoy this evening after dinner.

Banana Coffee Mousse
serves 2

3 large, frozen bananas, peeled
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder
pinch of espresso granules for garnish

Cut bananas into 1″ slices.  Puree in food processor until almost smooth. Add vanilla and espresso powder, such as Medaglia D’Oro. Process for 2 minutes longer. Eat right away or freeze.


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