In the Mexico edition of Saveur, Diana Kennedy was described as being the “Julia Child of Mexico.” I received two of her cookbooks from my dad last Christmas, and finally decided to open them.
First I felt the need to make chiles rellenos (literally “stuffed chiles”). I decided to make a vegetarian chile relleno because I had zucchini and squash leftover in my fridge. They were delicious – spicy chiles filled with tender squash, salty cheese, and tangy onions.
And after reading Diana’s recipe for Mexican rice, I realized I was wrong on my previous Mexican rice blog post. While my made up version of Mexican rice is delicious, it’s not the traditional Mexican rice (which I have since realized is made with tomatoes). I must say, though, I am quite happy that I’ve realized the error of my ways. This rice is WAY better.
I’ve really had a desire to cook more authentic Mexican food lately. I don’t know if I’m longing for my days in Southern California, or if it’s just one-quarter of my heritage calling (I’m one-quarter Mexican), but I’ve really been wanting to cook Mexican food and to cook it right. I did some research on Mexican herbs and spices so I could put together dishes with more authentic flavor profiles. I bought Mexican oregano (surprisingly different from Italian oregano), epazote, achiote/annatto seeds, among others. I’m ashamed to say that they’ve just been sitting sadly in my pantry – until tonight.
I decided I wanted to put my new spices to use tonight no matter how long it took, so I poked around for some Mexican rice recipes. I know many recipes say that Mexican rice is red because of a tomato base, but I also know that achiote/annatto seeds are used for both flavoring and coloring food. I decided to go with the achiote/annatto seeds over the tomatoes. Some recipes were complicated with lots of ingredients that I didn’t have and didn’t feel like buying tonight, so I winged it. The only change I’d make moving forward is using more annatto seeds (which I reflected in the recipe below). This rice tasted great as the annatto seeds really brought a lightly nutty, lightly peppery taste to the rice. The flavor is really quite difficult to describe, other than saying it tastes like the flavor infused into the oil by the annatto seeds. You’ll have to just make it and see for yourself.
Heat oil in bottom of large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Once hot, add whole annatto seeds.
Allow annatto seeds to cook in oil for 2-3 minutes, swirling the pan constantly to keep the seeds moving. You should see your oil turning a very dark red.
After 2-3 minutes, strain by pouring oil through a strainer into a small bowl, with the strainer catching the annatto seeds. You don’t want the seeds in your rice.
Put oil back into the saucepan and heat again over medium-high heat.
Add onions to the oil. Cook until they just begin to get soft, around 2 minutes.
Add garlic and dry rice to the oil/onions in the pan. Mix until everything is bright red.
Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add vegetable broth.
Turn heat up to high. Bring to a rapid, rolling boil.
Once boiling, cover pan and turn heat down to medium-low (closer to the low side)
Cook, covered, for about 15 or 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through when you taste it. If the rice is cooked but there is extra liquid, cook with lid off for a few minutes until the extra liquid has evaporated. Taste, and add salt as needed.
Serve piping hot with ground beef, chorizo, tacos, fajitas, anything you want!
onions, after being mixed into annatto oil
rice, onions, and garlic after being mixed into annatto oil
final product, half eaten. i couldn’t help myself.
Work has been absolutely kicking my butt lately, so last night when I left work at 5 I felt so energetic, like I had the WHOLE night to do whatever I wanted. It was a great feeling. I channeled that great feeling into a delicious dinner that I’m so excited to share with you. Yesterday was so rainy and cold, which instantly made me want a stew or a chili with cornbread. Looking around at different stew recipes left me feeling like there weren’t enough veggies, or too much cream (and you know I’m trying to watch my figure), so I decided to wing it and make my own. The jalapeno cornbread I adapted from a recipe I found online and might still need a little tweaking, but it was definitely still enjoyable.
28 oz can peeled tomatoes
4 tbsp tomato paste
2 c chicken broth
2 bell peppers
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped finely
2 habanero peppers, chopped finely
2 pasilla peppers
3 oz Portuguese chorizo, chopped (I use Gaspar’s because it’s all they carry at my grocery store. Whatever sausage you have is fine)
1 onion, chopped
1.5 tbsp butter
3 cups kale, chopped
ancho chili powder (or any type of chili powder)
First, to roast the bell peppers and pasilla peppers. Turn oven onto broil and allow to heat to full temperature. Place peppers in oven as close as possible to broiler. Once the skin closest to the broiler becomes blackened and bubbly, rotate the pepper, and continue doing this until each side is blackened and bubbly.
Remove peppers from oven, allow to cool, then peel the skin off the peppers and chop them, removing all seeds
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium. Add onions and allow to cook until translucent and soft. Once soft, add the jalapenos and habaneros. Continue to cook until the onions become browned and caramelized.
Add peeled tomatoes (including liquid), chicken broth, tomato paste. Allow to reach a light boil.
Once boiling, add the bell peppers and pasilla peppers, and chopped chorizo. Allow to boil for 15 minutes uncovered.
Add kale to the liquid and mix it in. Add ancho chili powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper to taste. Make sure you taste this so that you know how to season accordingly. Cover, and allow to simmer for as long as you’d like. The longer it simmers, the more flavor it has.
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 jalapenos, finely chopped
1 cup milk
1/4 cup apple sauce (instead of oil)
1 cup creamed corn
1/4 cup light maple syrup (you can use regular if you want – again, watching my figure)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl
Mix wet ingredients into a large bowl
Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Mix well.
Pour corn bread into a round baking dish, muffin pan, or mini-muffin pan. In mini-muffin pan, bake for around 15 minutes. Check on them periodically to see if they’ve set. Once set, remove, let them cool, and chomp away.
If you make them in a round baking dish or regular size muffin, the bake time may be longer. Just check on them periodically. They’re not super fragile.
To be honest, I’m not sure quite what the official definition of a pilaf is, but I know it’s sometimes categorized as rice cooked in broth with some onion bits. Well, this is my take on a really easy quinoa pilaf. If you don’t know what quinoa is, check out this recipe where I explain it a little more. This was a great side dish with my tofu last night and is making a great lunch at work today.
lunch at work. yum.
Easy Quinoa Pilaf
Makes 2 servings
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup broth or water
1 onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1/4 cup frozen corn
1/2 tbsp butter
To cook quinoa, bring broth or liquid to a boil. Add quinoa. Cover and turn down heat, letting simmer for around 15 minutes or until the quinoa looks like it has little threads coming out of it.
In a saute pan, melt butter. Add onions and cook until translucent and soft. Add jalapeno and continue to cook until those are soft. Add corn and cook for 2-3 more minutes, or until corn is hot and no longer frozen.
Mix quinoa with saucepan mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.
As we all know, last Thursday was Thanksgiving. As you probably do not know, my holiday started Wednesday morning and did not end until 6:30 this morning when my alarm clock went off. As I sit here in my office trying to get a grip on the work I have and waiting for my 10 am meeting, I am reflecting on my culinary endeavors of the past 5 days. Despite my best efforts to stay on track on my diet (read: no real effort to speak of), I did not. As a result, I made some of the most delicious, delectable dishes I’ve ever made. The first dish is a brussels sprouts dish that I made as a side dish to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. I know a lot of people don’t like these little guys, but with bacon, garlic, and shallots, they’re hard to resist.
Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Garlic, and Shallots
(Original recipe from myrecipes.com)
6 slices bacon
1 large shallot, sliced thin
1.5-2 lbs brussels srpouts, trimmed and halved (or quartered if you want more loose leaves)
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute bacon until extra crispy and remove the bacon from the pan. Leave most of the bacon drippings in the pan.
Chop the bacon into small pieces.
Reduce the heat on the skillet to medium and add the bacon, shallot, and sprouts to the skillet with the bacon drippings. Saute about 4 minutes.
Add garlic, saute until garlic begins to brown. Stir frequently so as not to burn the shallots or the garlic.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, or until most of the broth evaporates.
Continue to cook brussels sprouts until then are tender, or until they achieve a dark color that suits your taste. (I personally like my brussels sprouts dark and crispy-ish)
too many brussels for one pan. not a bad problem to have.
As you all should know by now, Rick Bayless is my absolute cooking idol. I love his food, his restaurants, and basically everything about him. I honestly feel like Mexican food is my true culinary calling. It must be the quarter-Mexican side of me (yes, really. I am a quarter Mexican). It also doesn’t hurt that he’s totally in love with me, as demonstrated in our Twitter convo:
Anyway, not the point. I recently made a slightly altered version of his Green Queso Fundido for a little feast I hosted for my mama and friends. That link is to his exact recipe, but I’ll tell you what I did. I will say this, the Queso Fundido was a HUGE hit with all my friends. Everyone gobbled it up in like 2.2. Here’s the recipe:
2 tbsp vegetable oil (or olive oil. I just like cooking better with veggie oil)
1 medium white onion, chopped
5 ounces of chorizo, chopped (Chorizo has many forms. It’s hard for me to find Mexican chorizo where I am in Boston, so I end up using Portuguese Chourico. Still tastes great)
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese (according to Senor Bayless, monterey jack goes best if you’re using beer)
Chips, to serve with
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chorizo and onions and cook until the chorizo is cooked through, stirring regularly so the onions don’t burn. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
Add the beer and the spinach to the skillet, and stir until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture looks dry again.
Once mixture looks dry, turn off heat and let it cool a bit. Add cheese to skillet, on top of all other ingredients. Place in oven for about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbling.
Serve with big bowl of chips, and salsa if you’d like.
This first recipe I have to publish because it is definitely one of my favorites in mexican-esque recipe repertoire (alliteration much?). I borrowed it from Gina of Skinny Taste (www.skinnytaste.com) and it is a great side dish to any Mexican meal. I get a lot of my recipes from Gina because her recipes are usually incredibly delicious, easy to make, and healthful as well.
Cilantro Lime Rice
Yield: 4 servings
Serving size: 3/4 cup
1 cup long grain rice
1/2 lime, juice
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
3 tsp vegetable oil
fresh chopped cilantro to taste
In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Add rice and salt. Bring back to boil and continue to boil until the water evaporates to the point where you can barely see the rice at the top of the water.
Reduce to low, cover, and let cook for around 15 minutes. When rice is fully cooked, add the juice of the lime, the oil, and the chopped cilantro. Adjust the lime juice and salt to taste.