Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Jamaican Beef Patty Mon

I first had a Jamaican beef patty when I lived in Dorchester. I had never heard of such a thing, I even thought it was an actual patty, like a hamburger patty. It is not. When it arrived with the rest of my order I was pleasant surprised by this little gem, a nice flaky orange pastry and inside it was deliciously spicy beef.

Now that I no longer live in the good ol' Dot, it is almost impossible to find these babies around so sometimes I just buy them from Market Basket, usually near the breakfast sausage. They carry original and spicy hot (which is very spicy but awesome). Tonight, I just felt like making my own, since I have all of the ingredients including the Goya brand empanada discs, 10 to a pack. I like the orange kind, just because they are prettier but feel free to buy the white variety or make your own.

Also, because I am addicted to cheese and was told that the reason I am is because cheese contains opiates, I added a half slice in each turnover pastry. 

2 Tablespoons olive oil/butter
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon chopped Scotch bonnet pepper (VERY optional)
1/2 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1/2 teaspoon grocery store curry powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chicken stock

For the filling:

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, saute onion and Scotch bonnet peppers in oil/butter until softened. Add ground beef, curry powder, thyme, allspice, salt, and pepper. Saute, stirring often, until beef is browned and broken apart, about 10 minutes. Stir breadcrumbs and beef stock into the ground beef.

Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the meat filling in the center of each pastry circle.  Follow directions on the empanada dough package to learn how to fold over and seal with a fork. I usually brush with some oil, but you could try an egg wash too.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes until golden.

Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

PS. I did another filling which was awesome. It contained Puerto Rican sausage, ground turkey, adobo, a tomato, onion and a plantain. All cooked together and folded. The plantain gave it a nice creaminess and a slightly sweet flavor.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Buongiorno Pollo alla Romana!

I first got this recipe for Roman Style Chicken from one of my favorite food network personalities, Giada DeLaurentiis. This is a fairly light dish but is BURSTING with flavor all over the place. This is one of those dishes where you will want to make a lot, because it is so darn good! The original recipe calls for mostly white meat on the bone, but I actually prefer dark meat, boneless and skinless and I've also decreased the amount of oil, I think we can handle using a little less, dontcha think?

Ok ok, lets back up a bit. Actually, my sister found this recipe years ago, at first it sounds blah, but when we tried it out we fell in love with it. I like it so much that last week I suggested we make it for friends that she has over once a week, I just happen to be there so I end up cooking, but they always pick the theme. This meal is pretty easy and not very expensive at all. If you don't normally cook with wine, this recipe is the time to start, it just adds a really nice flavor, also when a recipe calls for wine, just get a cheap bottle, no need to follow food network stars who tell you only to get a bottle that you would drink. Just don't use cooking wine from the grocery store. If using white wine, try to stay away from chardonnay or riesling  and if using red almost any would work.

Last time I made this, I used a cheaper priced family pack of boneless skinless chicken thighs and 2 breasts...um...for two people. That is how delicious this recipe is! This is right up there along with my creamy chicken marsala. Also, if you want, you can use chicken on the bone, it will only add more flavor and moisture to the meat, the choice is yours!

2 Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
6 Skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper diced
1 onion chopped
3 oz prosciutto chopped (I've been using pancetta lately)
2 cloves garlic
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano


Season the chicken with salt and  pepper. In large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken to the hot oil and brown on both sides, remove from pan when they are cooked (don't have to be fully cooked through, just browned). 
In the same pan, add the peppers, onion and prosciutto and cook for about 5-7 minutes, til peppers are browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, thyme and oregano. At this point, you will be able to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring to a boil. You'll want to simmer this 'stew' for about 30 minutes, covered, all of the flavors will cook into the chicken and everything comes together...soooo goooood.

The photo I am using above used heirloom tomatoes in a homemade tomato sauce. You will most likely be using red tomatoes so your sauce will be a rich red color. 
These are the heirloom tomatoes before they were sauced!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cool n Refreshing Minty Iced Tea

There is no better beverage to enjoy during the hot summer months than fresh brewed iced tea. I can't even tell you how long I have been enjoying this beverage but I can tell you its been a long time. My mother has always had mint growing in her yard, which she got from my grandmother who in turn always had mint growing in her yard, so the mint we had been using over the past 20 years or so came all from one small plant transplanted from my grandmother's garden. Now I have my own yard, but the mint I am using was already here when I bought the house and looks much different than the kind that I was used to seeing, it is frilly and large leafed and very pretty to look at!

Spearmint on the right Peppermint on the left
Now, you might be wondering what kind of mint to use right (and if you are not wondering then here is the time to start!)? I personally like spearmint in iced tea (Think Orbitz Sweet Mint Gum) and if I don't have enough in the yard then I would use peppermint of which I also have a ton! I like spearmint though because it has a sweeter flavor while peppermint is, like its name suggests, more peppery but cooling. Anyways, use whatever you have as long as it is fresh, do not try to use dried mint. If you are lucky to have a yard, buy only one small plant from a local farm and plant it someplace where it can be contained so that you too can be blessed with this lovely herb year after year, but please keep in mind that it can end up being an invasive weed if not properly contained.

Now onto the tea! I use regular black and sometimes green tea, but really you can use anything you like, as long as its not strongly flavored with fruits or spices, you can be as simple as a few lipton tea bags too, its that easy!

Here is how I do it:

4-6 Tea bags
1 bunch of spearmint, leaves and stems lightly crushed

Brew the tea bags in some warm or hot water in a large pitcher, doesn't have to be boiled, about 5 minutes. Add the mint and some water to fill to the top. The tea will continue brewing and the mint will permeate throughout the tea yummm. I would say after a full day if you still have tea leftover, remove the leaves as they can start to rot.

Thats it, that is all there is to it! As you see, I didn't add any sweetener, but you can add as much or as little as you want and I will leave it at that, just dissolve it in warm water first so you aren't chewing your tea.

One of the saddest moments of the year is when my mint withers to the ground, but it does give me something refreshing to look forward to in the spring. If only I could grow a pot of this indoors....hmmm..

Enjoy over ice!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Slimcado: Not Your Average Avocado

I love Avocados. Their creamy, lightly flavored meat is so versatile I don't even think we realize it. We can eat it raw (the best!), on salads, soups, make into a sauce, dip or even fry it. A few things about avocado that may keep us from consuming them on a regular basis is price, right? I mean, one Hass avocado can cost up to $2 at one of the cheaper grocery stores and is the most readily available. That is a lot of money, even though it is so worth it once in a while.

Just a few days ago though, I went into Shaws after work looking for cheese and some other ingredients to make meatballs, but the second I walked in I was hit with a huge display of lovely, large green smooth skinned "Florida" avocados prices at 2 for $3. I couldn't believe it, that is a steal compared to the size of these babies. But wait....what the heck is a Florida Avocado, why is it so large and why are they promoting it as being "healthier" than the common Hass?

After a couple of days researching this large avocado, I found out that it is actually called the "Slimcado" because it is 30% lower in calories and about 50% less fat than the original avocado. Ok so what's the catch? I just cut mine open and the inside looks the same, smells the same however the flavor was slightly different. It was a little less creamy and a little sweeter, but was actually really delicious!

If you see them in the store, try it. If they are rock hard, use my ripening trick and all will be rewarded with delicious avocado.

Ripening trick: Place the avocado in a brown paper bag with a tomato or an apple. It should ripen within a day, MAYBE two days.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Book Closest To Me

So, I just saw that a friend had posted this on facebook:

"It's National Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status. Don't mention the book. Post these rules as part of your status."

My answer: "Brown all the chicken pieces this way."

If you know me, even a smidgen, you know that I don't own any books that normal people read. The only books I have in my collection are cook books. Indian, Thai, Scandinavian, Russian, Italian, Puerto Rican, Arabic....pretty much 90% of the world's cuisine lies in my living room in the form of a cookbook.

A lot of people can't quite understand that I do read cookbooks, not just the recipes or the pretty pictures but many of my books have short stories, or like one of my favorite middle eastern book, its basically one long story of recipes, which I find to be the most interesting. Yes, I do love reading how every Sunday in Syria, so and so's grandfather would go to the market to pick out the most perfect chicken to be eaten that day and then read about how the women would prepare it from what they wore to how it was served. This kind of detail is what makes a truly great reading book (in my opinion) and the fact that it comes with a family recipe, even better!

So in the end, it is no coincidence that the closest book to me was a cookbook.

Any guesses as to which book my quote comes from (not the book below)??

The Arab Table: Recipes and Culinary Traditions

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hand-Me-Down Heirloom Tomatoes!

I like tomatoes, a lot. I grow tomatoes too, but not just any tomatoes. My favorite are the oddly shaped, oddly colored heirlooms which usually sell for about $5/lb, for no good reason when they are so easy to grow!

 Anyways, this past spring Dawn and I had one of our old lady days. The day, in our older age, consists of having tea, scones and lunch at a lovely old lady tea farmhouse in Northborough, MA called Special Teas. After that, I really wanted to go to one of the local farms out in Marlborough (or vicinity) to get some plants for my new garden. When I saw the rows and rows of tomatoes they had I almost peed myself. Then when I saw how many varieties of heirloom tomatoes they had I actually did pee myself! I told the staff that was helping me that I don't want to waste my time or theirs on the reds, just take me to the heirlooms, and on we went!

"Green zebra? Its green when ripe, and very neat to look at!'" - YES!
"Pink so and so? (cant remember). These are the best tasting" - YES! (could be pink brandywine)
"Yellow cherry tomatoes? VERY flavorful" - YES!
"Old German.." - YES! (I cut them off mid sentence as this one is the prettiest)
"Purple cherokee" - YES!

So basically, I got everything I hoped for and more and I am sure being blessed with globes of color popping up in my garden each day. The cherry tomatoes are the most abundant, and I've already gotten a few pink ones and I think 2 purple (which are actually a brownish red the sliced one in the pic!), and 2 green ones, which when ripe, remain green but their stripes are yellowish!

We recently just had a big rainfall, which means tomatoes and more tomatoes! I came home from work today and picked even more cherries and about 3 more larger ones. I remembered one thing, I had mozzarella in the fridge! What a perfect pair, tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil and fresh basil (also from the garden).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

African Chicken in Spicy Red Sauce

I love going out for Ethiopian food in Boston. There is a great place called Addis Red Sea on Tremont St. which is fairly small but the best part is eating from a straw table, with your hands while sitting on small stools. It is such a fun experience, and its something that you can actually recreate at home too. When I tasted this dish I wanted to cry, that is how amazing all of the flavors were, they all came together in such a harmonious manner. 

If you've never had African food, you don't even know what you are missing! You might think "what the heck do they eat in Africa?" Well this recipe that I tried out is actually an Ethiopian chicken in a tomato sauce, actually it is a "wot" or a thick stew, similar to the Indian curry. The spice mix, the aroma and the flavors of this dish are amazing. It looks a bit like an Indian curry,  but there is something a little different about this dish.

In Indian dishes there are a lot of 'masalas' or spice mixtures to use, and in Ethiopian cooking there are lots of combinations, however, they seem to use a mix called 'berbere' quite often. It is a warm and spicy mixture of red pepper (chili powder), cinnamon, ginger and cloves. If you are skeeved out by the thought of cinnamon in a savory dish, trust me, you won't taste just cinnamon, it works together with all of the other spices to create something awesome!

2 lbs boneless chicken breast
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (2 medium)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Berbere Spice 2.0 oz by Zamouri Spices1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can chicken broth
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
4 lemon wedge
2 tablespoons ground red pepper
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Yields 1/4 cup. Serving size is 1 teaspoons.
Place chicken in a shallow dish; drizzle with juice, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add onion and garlic; cook 5 minutes (do not brown), stirring frequently.
Add 2 tsp Berbere, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, butter, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom, cook 1 minute.
Add wine, broth, and tomato paste; stir until well blended.
Add chicken mixture; bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 50 minutes or until chicken is tender, turning chicken occasionally.

You will want to serve this with rice, and if you are feeling up to it, make some easy Injera bread!