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June, 2011


June 29, 2011

The Mexican way to wildly dress simply cooked corn drives me wild:

Crunchy sweet corn on a stick, brushed with butter and mayo, coated in tangy and salty crumbled queso fresco, sprinkled with chile powder, typically chile piquí­n, coarse salt and a liberal squeeze of lime juice…

It doesn’t matter if I am hungry. The mere site of a street food corn stand makes me stop dead in my tracks and zoom over for one. Like a wild woman. I need one. Well, the truth is one is not enough, ever.

In Mexico you find corn stands all over, in little towns and big cities. Locals know what day of the week and at what times they show up. If you are not from there, it takes a while to figure it out.

Continue reading Go Wild, Munch On Your Crazy Corn!


BLACKBERRY AND PECAN TAMALES
Tamales de Zarzamora y Nuez
Makes about 20 tamales

INGREDIENTS
25 dried corn husks
1 cup vegetable shortening or good quality lard
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp cold water
1 tsp baking powder
1 lb instant corn masa mixfor tamales, or about 3 1/4 cups, such as Maseca
3 cups warm water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
12 oz blackberries, rinsed

TO PREPARE
To make masa for tamales:
Place the vegetable shortening or lard with 1 tablespoon of cold water in a mixer and beat, until very light and spongy, about 1 minute. Add the baking powder and salt, and then take turns adding the instant corn masa mix and the water. Continue beating until the dough is homogeneous and fluffy.

Mix in the sugar and cinnamon and continue beating until everything is well mixed. You may also do it by hand.

You know the tamal masa is ready if:
1. When you lift a big spoon with masa, drop it into the dough it falls “de golpe” or heavy.
2. It has the consistency of a medium thick cake batter.
3. If you place 1/2 teaspoon of masa in a cup of cold water and it floats.

To prepare the steamer:
Place water in the pan of a steamer and bring it to a simmer. Line the steamer with one or two layers of corn husks. Use the dough to form about 20 corn husk wrapped tamales.

To make tamales:
Soak the dried corn husks in hot water for a couple of minutes, until they are pliable and drain. Lay out a corn husk with the tapered ends facing towards you. Spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of the masa into a 2 to 3 inch square, the layer should be about 1/4 inch, leaving a boarder of at least 1/2 inch on the sides. Place 1 to 2 blackberries in the middle of the masa filling and sprinkle about a teaspoon of the pecans on top.

Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together, causing the masa to surround the berries and pecans and fold them to one side, rolling them in the same direction around the tamal. Fold up the empty section of the husk with the tapering end, from the bottom up. This will form a closed bottom and the top will be left open.

Prepare the tamales and then place them vertically in a container. When you have them all ready, place them as vertically as you can in the prepared steamer, with the open end on top. If there is space left in the steamer, tuck in more corn husks so the tamales will not dance around. Cover with more corn husks and steam, covered for 50 minutes to an hour over medium heat. You know the tamales are ready when the tamales come easily free from the husks.

Finished tamales will stay warm for about 1 to 2 hours in the steamer. They can be made ahead several days before and stored in the refrigerator, well wrapped. They can also be frozen for months. In either case, reheat in the steamer. For refrigerated tamales it will take about 15 minutes, and for frozen tamales about 45 minutes.


BAKED PLANTAINS
Plátanos Macho al Horno
Serves 2 to 4

INGREDIENTS
2 ripe plantains
Salt or sugar to taste

TO PREPARE
Preheat the grill to medium heat or the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut a few small slits into the sides of the unpeeled, ripe plantains with a knife, since the plantains will expand as they cook. Individually wrap each plantain in aluminum foil and place them on the grill or in the oven. Let them cook for about 45 to 50 minutes, until they are soft and cooked through.

You know they are ready when they feel extremely soft to the touch and the sugar of the plantain has begun to caramelize. Open the aluminum foil, make a slit in the plantains, sprinkle with salt and sugar and eat them up!


PORK TENDERLOIN IN A SWEET CITRUS SAUCE
Lomo de Cerdo con Salsa Dulce de Cítricos
Serves 8 to 10

INGREDIENTS
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup shredded piloncillo, or brown sugar
5 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
5 bay leaves
3 whole banana leaves
5 lbs pork tenderloin
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
2 tbsp safflower or corn oil

TO PREPARE
To make the marinade: mix together the orange and lime juice, vinegar, piloncillo, garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaves in a bowl.

Begin to layer the banana leaves in a large baking dish, one by one. Place the first one vertically so it covers the whole dish, leaving the sides hanging over the dish on both ends. Layer the second leaf horizontally so it covers half or so of the dish, with the sides hanging over the dish on both ends. Layer the third one horizontally the the bottom of the baking dish is fully covered with leaves, with extra hanging over the sides to wrap up the meat.

If you can’t find banana leaves, you can use tin foil.

Place the meat in the middle of the leaf bundle. Pour the marinade on the top and cover the meat with each of the banana leaf layers on all sides. Let it marinate anywhere from 2 to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and unwrap the pork from the banana leaves.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat, until it is hot but not smoking. Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper, place it in the pan, and sear for about 1 to 2 minutes on all sides.

Place it back in the banana leaves and bundle it back up. Place the wrapped pork into the oven and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove it from the oven, carefully open up and unfold the banana leaves, tucking them on the sides until you expose most of the meat. Remove the meat from the dish to rest on a cutting board. Pour all the marinade into a sauce pan and set over medium high heat, for about 10 to 15 minutes, to reduce up to 1/3 of its volume.

Meanwhile, slice the meat at about 1/2″ thickness or to your liking. Place the slices on a platter, drizzle some of the sauce on top and serve.


Mexicans have been wrapping and cooking food in leaves for a long time, and this episode will look at the reasons why. It will also share three scrumptious dishes you can make in your own kitchen with the wrapping method and with three different kids of wrappers! We’ll also look at some shortcuts and tips for cooking wrapped foods in your own kitchen, as opposed to the traditional method of digging a pit or steaming them in an enormous pot.


June 24, 2011

I had such a lovely tome visiting the Today Show, their food prep team is beyond amazing and the cast is so friendly and oh so much fun.

Here is a clip of the cooking segment, where we made three totally different recipes with corn: the wild and fun Crazy Corn, a chunky, hearty and fresh Chop Chop Salad, and a comforting Corn Torte that you can top with Poblano Rajas.

Click here, to get the full recipes

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


GRANDMA LALI’S  VANILLA FLOATING ISLANDS
Islas Flotantes de Vainilla de mi Abuela Lali
Serves 10

INGREDIENTS
For the Floating Islands
12 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

For the Caramel
1 1/2 cups sugar

For the Vanilla Sauce
3 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1 inch piece vanilla bean
10 strawberries optional for garnish, sliced, or any other fruit of your choice

TO PREPARE
To make the caramel:
Place sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the sugar melts, moving the pan so it will not burn, until it has a caramel consistency. Turn off the heat and pour the caramel quickly into individual flan or custard molds as you tilt them, so the caramel covers the bottom of each mold. The caramel will quickly cool and set.

To make the floating islands:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place egg whites in a mixer with the salt and cream of tarter and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Add in the extracts and the sugar and mix until combined. Then top each of the molds with the egg white mixture.

Place molds in a large baking pan. Pour about an inch of boiling water into the pan to create a water bath. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. The top of the islands will look browned and crispy. Turn the oven off, open the door oven slightly and let the islands cool inside of the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven.

To make the vanilla sauce:
In a saucepan, lightly beat the egg yolks with 1/3 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of all purpose flour.

In another saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean (make a slit on its side and free the seeds into the milk). Let it heat until very hot but not boiling. Slowly, in a very thin stream, add the hot milk into the yolk mixture, emulsifying with a whisk until it is all incorporated. Place over low heat and stir until the sauce almost reaches a boil, and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Turn the heat off and keep on whisking slowly, for about a minute or so. The sauce can be served hot, warm or cold. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month once cooled.

Once the molds have cooled to room temperature, you can unmold them. Use a knife to go around the edge of the molds and carefully turn them onto a plate. Drizzle the caramel from the bottom of the molds on top of the islands. Add a couple tablespoons of the vanilla sauce on top. You may garnish with strawberries or any other fruit of your liking.

Islands can be refrigerated in their molds, covered, for up to 5 days.


TORITOS: PEANUT AND VANILLA APERTIF
Torito: Bebida de Cacahuate y Vainilla
Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
2 12 oz cans evaporated milk
1 14 oz can La Lechera sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup cane liquor (aguardiente de caña), or rum, more or less to taste
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (or espresso if you want to make it coffee flavored)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Ice, to taste

TO PREPARE
Place the cane liquor, evaporated milk, condensed milk, peanut butter and vanilla extract in the blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a jar, cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Alternatively, you may also pour directly over ice cubes or add some ice cubes to your blender and make it a Frappé! In any case, serve very cold.

NOTE: There are different Torito flavors. To make coffee Toritos, substitute peanut butter for a cup of strong coffee and add more sugar to taste. To make fruit Toritos, substitute peanut butter for about 2 cups of guaba or mango (or any fruit of your choice) pulp, and sugar to taste.


GRILLED SHRIMP & PINEAPPLE SALAD WITH VANILLA & CHILE DE ARBOL VINAIGRETTE
Ensalada de Camarón y Piña a la Parrilla con Vinagreta de Chile de Arbol y Vainilla
Serves 8

INGREDIENTS
For the Vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 vanilla bean (or about a 2″ piece), chopped
1 to 2 chiles de arbol, stemmed and chopped
1/4 cup safflower or corn oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp kosher or sea salt, or more to taste
Ground black pepper, optional
1/4 tsp sugar, or more to taste

For the Salad
4 fresh pineapple slices(about 1/2″ thick), peeled
Safflower or corn oil to brush the pan or grill
1 lb large or extra large shrimp, fresh or thawed from frozen, rinsed, peeled, deveined
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp safflower or corn oil
kosher or sea salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
12 oz mixed spring salad(or your choice of mixed baby lettuces)
1/2 cup red onion, slivered

TO PREPARE
For the vinaigrette:
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan set over medium heat, until hot but not smoking. Add garlic clove, vanilla bean and chiles, and cook about 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Be careful not to let them burn, remove the pan from the heat and pour its contents into a mixing bowl to cool.

Combine the safflower oil, red wine vinegar, salt pepper, allspice and sugar into the same bowl. Pour all the mix in the blender, puree until smooth, and reserve. The vinaigrette will be textured as the vanilla bean will not let itself be entirely pureed. But that makes it even more delicious! If you will not use the vinaigrette in the next couple of hours, cover it and refrigerate. It will keep for a week, but re-emulsify or thoroughly mix, before using.

For the grilled pineapple:
Heat a grill pan, a grill or nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and lightly coat with safflower or corn oil. Place the pineapple slices and cook for about 4 minutes per side until they are slightly charred. Remove from heat. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut in half, remove the core and cut into strips along the grain. Reserve.

For the shrimp:
Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a saute pan over high heat. Once the butter sizzles, add the shrimp, you may need to do it in batches so they they don’t overlap, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side. They should have plumped up and changed color on both sides, but be careful not to overcook them. Remove and reserve.

To assemble the salad:
Place the greens in a salad bowl. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette and toss, so that they are lightly coated but not soaked. Assemble on individual salad plates. Divide the shrimp, pineapple and red onion on top of each plate. You may drizzle a bit more of the vinaigrette on top and serve.


Vanilla only comes in a bottle, right? Oh, it’s a bean!? Where on earth do I find vanilla beans and then how do I cook with them? Wait, vanilla comes from Veracruz, Mexico–not Madagascar!? This episode will explain all of that, plus share a few amazing vanilla-infused recipes, including:

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