Harissa dip

I love peppers in all their forms, so I’m always looking for new ways to use them.

This harissa based dip only takes a few minutes to make and it’s great for dipping pita chips, or carrots, and I’ve been known to put it on a toasted cheese sandwich.

You add equal parts Greek yogurt and sour cream, then a pinch of salt, a couple of spoonfuls of harissa, and maybe a half a teaspoon of sugar.

Because the yogurt tends to dominate the flavor I dilute it with sour cream. It mellows out the base flavor and makes the aftertaste less potent.
Harissa dip ingredients
–This dip is best if you put it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so before digging in.

When it comes to harissa, I have made my own, but I never seem to have the necessary ingredients on hand when I get the craving. So, instead, I buy Mustapha’s harissa in the jar, that way, since it keeps practically forever, I always have it when I want it.
Mustapha’s harissa in jar

I’ve tried Mina, the quality is good, but it’s a little sweeter than I like.
Mina brand harissa

And the stuff in the tube is too bland for my tastes. I use it to add a little pepper flavor when I’m cooking middle eastern food that has a lot of liquid.
DEA harissa in a tube

I also have a jar of dried harissa that I’ve never opened. I imagine you would put it in a bowl and add olive oil until you get the consistency you want. Or maybe you treat it like any other spice and toss it into the pot.

A final note:
If you’re going to use this on a sandwich you might want to spice it up. I just put some on a toasted cheese sandwich and it was too mild.

Easy Rustic Bread

I lack the patience to make bread very often, especially since I’m living alone.

In fact, I find baking to be enough of a pain that I when I want fresh bread I just trot on down to the bakery and give them money. But this recipe so easy I’ve started baking bread about once a week.

Fair warning, this is not your light and fluffy loaf. But if you like a good solid loaf this is the way to go.

I’ve also found that the flavor depends almost entirely on how much honey and salt you put in.

Here’s everything you need.
============
Water

1tsp salt
1Tbsp honey
1Tbsp active yeast

3 or 4 cups of all purpose flour

400° oven
============

Put a cup and a half of warm water (just over body temperature) in a medium sized warm bowl. –I rinse the bowl with hot water.
Add the yeast, salt, and honey and stir until the honey dissolves.
yeast water and honey

Set the bowl in a warm spot and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so, until foam forms on top.
yeast reaction with water and honey

Add flour, stir it with a spoon until the dough starts to come together, then finish mixing with your hands adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
(I take mine out of the bowl and finish kneading it on a floured counter. It gives me more leverage so I have fewer streaks of flour in my loaf.)

Cover the bowl with a dish towel and set it someplace warm for about 20 or 30 minutes to let the bread rise.
(I put mine straight on the cookie sheet)
unbaked bread

When the dough looks right, put it on a cookie sheet with silicone mat or some parchment paper and place it on the center rack of the preheated oven.
fresh baked bread
Bake it until the loaf is brown on top and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.

You then put it on a rack, cover it with a dish towel and wait for it to cool. If you’re like me, your willpower runs out after about 10 minutes. Then it’s time to grab the butter out of the fridge and reach for the bread knife.

The M.I.N.D. Diet

I’ve been trying to get used to being on the Mind (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet.

It’s mainly fruits, vegetables, and fish, just like the Mediterranean diet but with more leafy green veggies.

Here’s what you should eat:

    Green leafy vegetables (like spinach and salad greens): At least six servings a week
    Other vegetables: At least one serving a day
    Nuts: Five servings a week
    Berries: Two or more servings a week
    Beans: At least three servings a week
    Whole grains: Three or more servings a day
    Fish: Once a week
    Poultry (like chicken or turkey): Two times a week
    Olive oil: Use it as your main cooking oil.
    Wine: One glass a day

And here’s what you shouldn’t eat.

    Red meats
    Butter and stick margarine
    Cheese
    Pastries and sweets
    Fried or fast food

The good part: I like red wine.

The bad part: That entire shouldn’t eat list.

A friend of mine has become an evangelist for this “life-altering” diet, but what he forgets to mention in his sales pitch is that it took him a couple of months to adapt.

When I spoke to him last the diet was the first thing he asked about, so I told him I was still trying which seemed to make him happy. Although I may have forgotten to mention the banana bread I made in the middle of the night.

The way I see it, I’m allowed a couple of minor lapses, after all, I’m just getting started.

As a side note. Does anyone else feel like they spent more time coming up with a cutesy acronym than they did on the diet?

Banana Bread vs My Diet, Hint -the Diet Loses

The other night I couldn’t sleep because of the neuropathy in my feet and legs. -Tingling, burning, twitching- As I was pacing the floor waiting for the meds to kick in, I spotted some ripe bananas.
bananas
I’ve been on a diet, so we all know where this is going.

At half past midnight I started putting together the first pan of banana nut bread I’d made in years.
Banana bread

Here’s the basic recipe:
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 Tsp baking soda
1/4 Tsp baking powder
2 large eggs -lightly beaten
3 very ripe bananas -large
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup room temperature butter -one stick
1 Tsp vanilla

Cream together sugar, butter, and eggs. Sift the dry ingredients and add to the sugar mixture then add mashed bananas, chopped nuts, and vanilla. Pour into a greased loaf pan.

Bake at 350F for 45 to 60 minutes. Check on the bread after 30 minutes, it’s done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let it rest in the pan for about fifteen minutes then, turn it out on a wire rack and cover it with a dish towel to finish cooling.

–Finish cooling? We’re talking fresh hot banana bread. Cut it, cover it with butter and eat it.

Pastel de Choclo

CORN AND MEAT PIE – Pastel de Choclo

picture of pastel de choclo
This is a very popular Chilean recipe.

6 large ears of corn, grate the kernels
8 leaves of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter
1/2-1 cup milk
4 large onions, chopped
3 tbsp. oil
1 lb. (1/2 kg) finely ground lean beef
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
1 cup black olives
1 cup raisins
12 pieces of chicken, browned in hot oil, seasoned with salt,
pepper and cumin
2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

Heat the grated corn, chopped basil, salt and butter in a large pot. Add
the milk little by little, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.
Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
Leave to one side while you prepare the
meat filling.
Fry the onions in oil until transparent, add the ground meat
and stir to brown. Season with salt, pepper and ground cumin.
To prepare the pie use an oven-proof dish that you can take to the table. Spread over
the bottom of the dish the onion-ground meat mixture. Arrange over this
the hard boiled egg slices, olives and raisins. Put the chicken pieces on
top, bone the chicken if you like. Cover the filling with the corn
mixture. Sprinkle the confectioners’ sugar over the top. Bake in a hot
oven 400 Deg. F (205 Deg. C) for 30-35 minutes until the crust is golden
brown. Serve at once. In Chile a sugar bowl is on the table so you can sprinkle over the
“pastel” as it is eaten.

Serve with “Ensalada Chilena”.

4 cups finely sliced, onion
4 cups finely sliced peeled tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
3 tbsp. oil
lemon juice to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put sliced onions in a bowl cover with cold water. Let them sit for an hour.
Drain well, then mix with the tomatoes on a large platter.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix oil and lemon juice in a shaker and pour over the top.
Toss once more and serve with chopped cilantro.

4 tazas de cebolla cortada pluma
4 tazas de tomates pelados, cortados finos
1 cucharadita de sal
pimienta al gusto
3 cucharadas de aceite
jugo de limón al gusto
1/2 taza de hojas de cilantro picadas

Poner las cebollas en una fuente y
cubrirlas con agua fría. Dejarlas
1 hora. Estilarlas y mezclarlas con
los tomates en una ensaladera,
sazonar con sal, pimienta, aceite
y jugo de limón. Servir
con el cilantro encima.

Rice Horchata

Mexican Horchata:
Let the rice soak for 2 or 3 hours to soften, strain the rice to eliminate the excess water, transfer it to a high-speed blender and blend until it’s completely smooth, with no stray pieces of rice left. This can take as long as 10 minutes. Move it to a pitcher or jar, add the water and stir in the other ingredients making sure that everything is completely dissolved.

There is no need to strain it if you blend it right because it should essentially become rice flour in water and that’s what gives it the right texture.

1.5 cups rice
3 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 can evaporated milk
.5 can sweetened condensed milk
2.5 cups sugar
enough water to make 1.5 gallons of horchata

Horchata on bar

Broccoli Cheese Bites

Broccoli Cheese Bites

Some years back if you went to TGI Friday’s you could get broccoli wrapped in cheddar cheese coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried.
Those, along with their Long Island Iced Tea, were pretty much the only reason I went to Friday’s.

Much to my dismay, they have long since been discontinued. Fortunately, thanks to one of their former bartenders, I know the secret ingredient…. It’s bacon bits. Yup, those dry crunchy things of unknown origin that taste almost but not quite entirely unlike bacon are what gives one of my favorite snacks their unique flavor.

They’re really easy to make.

sharp cheddar cheese
bacon bits
panko bread crumbs
1 egg
corn starch
broccoli –if you insist

You melt sharp cheddar cheese in a double boiler, add bacon bits and then coat small pieces of broccoli with the cheese.
–In fact, unless I have someone around that really insists on having broccoli I skip the green stuff altogether.

At any rate, wait until the cheese starts to cool then roll the mixture into bite-sized balls, dip the balls in cornstarch, followed by slightly beaten egg and then bread crumbs.
Deep fry them until they’re golden brown.

broccoli cheese bites

Add ranch dressing and a cold beer and you’re golden.

Chili Rellenos Sauce

This is not a complete recipe for Chili Rellenos, only the sauce.

1 medium white onion thinly sliced
3-4 serrano chilis
1/4 bunch of cilantro, leaves not stems, chopped
2tbs Knorr Chicken Bullion
2 8oz cans tomato sauce –Not paste
2 cans El Pato chili salsa fresco.
Salt to taste

Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a saucepan, and saute the onions and serranos until they are soft.
Then add the chopped cilantro, mix well and add the tomato paste along with the el pato sauce then rinse the cans with water and add it to the pot
Because it’s fairly salty I add the Knorr, stir it well and give it a few seconds before I taste it. After that, I decide how much salt I need.
Let it boil stirring occasionally until the sauce gets to the consistency you like.

Knorr chicken bullionEl Pato, tomato sauce and chile fresco

Homemade Enchiladas and Red Sauce

This is a recipe for homemade enchiladas and sauce (Enchiladas con Salsa Roja Casera) I got from a friend, who just happens to be the best cook I know.

She’s from Michoacan, Mx. They didn’t have a lot of money for meat, but everyone grew potatoes (papas), so that’s what they used for filling.

Nope. –No exact measurements. She cooks by taste and experience, so this is all the recipe you get.

You’ll also notice that these aren’t smothered in sauce and cheese like the enchiladas most people around here grew up with.

Basic enchilada ingredients
Corn tortillas
3-4 red potatoes
3-4 dried California chilies
1-2 dried pasilla chilies
garlic -1/2 clove
salt
————-
sauce
oregano
salt
4-5 tomatoes
1 med-large white onion, finely chopped
1-2 Serrano chilies
cilantro
———-
toppings
sour cream
cotija cheese -crumbled
pork rinds
—————–
hot dogs served on the side
————–

Boil the pasilla and California peppers until soft. About 15min -Reserve water
Allow them to cool then remove all the seeds, ribs and stems.
Blend with salt and 1/2 clove of garlic, adding a little of the water you boiled the peppers in. –Keep it saucy but fairly thick.

Boil the potatoes until soft. Allow them to cool, peel, and mash them with salt.

Make the red sauce by blending 4-5 large tomatoes, 1-2 serranos, and a little water, salt, and oregano.

Pour into a wide bowl or pan and add the finely chopped onion and one bunch of chopped cilantro. (Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld.)

Heat a pan with cooking canola oil (Manteca works) until the oil starts to shimmer.

Dip the tortillas in the red sauce and lay in hot oil add the potatoes and pepper sauce to the center. Use a spatula to fold each side in, overlapping in the middle. Let it fry for about 1 minute on each side.

Make diagonal slices in the hot dogs and cook them in the same oil.

While that’s finishing shred some lettuce or use the pre-shredded kind (my way)

Serve enchiladas with sour cream, cheese, shredded lettuce and pork cracklings. (and Tapatio)
Add one hot dog to each plate.

Green Tomato Cake

Green tomato cake.

2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp nutmeg
1cup coarsely chopped pecans
1cup raisins
21/2 cups diced green tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350° F
While the oven is heating get a large mixing bowl and beat sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
In another bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg and slowly add to the bowl with egg mixture beating until well mixed.
Then, with a large wooden spoon, stir in pecans, raisins, and tomatoes.
Pour into a greased 9×13 pan and bake about one hour, until the top is browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool on a rack.

Top with Browned Butter Icing:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until butter is lightly browned. Whisk in confectioners’ sugar until smooth.