Monday, July 21, 2008

Wine Class: The Power of Pinot

Sam's Wine and Spirits has some great wine events. I have been to several tastings before but this time I went to an incredible two-night wine class called the "Power of Pinot". Our instructor brought about 9 different types of Pinot for us to try from various parts of the world. And the second week would be the parts we didn't have time to cover during the first night, with a heavy focus on France.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beef Stew Zuazua-Style

I have been ordering beef dishes with a gravy on them the last few times I have eaten at a Mexican restaurant. They are served with tortillas on the side so it is almost like fajitas where you make your own. So when I read the recipe for Los Barrios Beef Stew Zuazua-Style, I knew I wanted to try and recreate that "beef with gravy" dish myself.

A mistake I made was not realizing how expensive beef tenderloin is BEFORE heading to the store. Even though I cut this recipe in half while making it myself, I still spend $40 just on the meat! I do not know enough about meats to suggest that you substitute the beef tenderloin for another meat, but I can tell you that you do end up cooking the meat for quite some time so it will not end up being rare no matter what you do. The end result was really good and I'm not sure it would taste as flavorful with a different cut, but if you know about it then go ahead and substitute as you see fit.

That being said, I really liked the results because of the wonderful rich flavors. I am not a huge fan or oregano and this recipe calls for A LOT so you might want to adjust the amounts accordingly. But this is easy to throw together and is a nice change from regular tacos or fajitas.

Beef Stew Zuazua-Style
Cortadillo Zuazua
Serves 6

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 lbs. beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
Pinch of garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. dried oregano

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large deep skillet or a Dutch oven over medium heat. Season the beef with the garlic powder and salt and pepper. Add to the pan, in batches, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Drain the juices into a small bowl and set aside. Return all the meat to the pan.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan, then add the tomatoes and onion and cook about 8 minutes. Return the reserved juices to the pan, add the water and oregano, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes longer.

Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Watermelon Flavored Water

I am fascinated by flavored waters. Typically, I use lemons to flavor water. On occasion I use limes or oranges. I have even been know to use cucumbers (inspired by my favorite spas). But I never thought about flavoring water in a way other than by throwing slices of fruit in there. This method has you pureeing watermelon and adding to the water. It seems like the same process for lemonade, but by using watermelon the result is more refreshing (and unique).

Refreshing Watermelon Delight
Refresco de Sandia
(Makes 1 gallon)

2 pounds watermelon
3 1/2 quarts water
2 cups sugar

Remove the seeds from the watermelon, slice the flesh from the rind, and cut it into chunks. Transfer to a blender, in batches if necessary, and blend for a few seconds; there should still be some small chunks of watermelon.

Combine the water and sugar in a large pitches, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the watermelon puree, blending thoroughly. Refrigerate until chilled before serving.

Variation: You can substitute cantaloupe for the watermelon.

The pitcher that I planned to use could not hold a gallon of liquid. I ended up modifying the recipe by using 10 cups of water, 1 pound of watermelon pulp, and 1/3 cup sugar/splenda.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Poached Eggs with Baked Feta and Olives

I think feta cheese and kalamata olives is one of the best flavor combinations that exists. I was intrigued by baking the feta and also the use of egg. I can tell you that the egg added a richness to the texture but also cut the richness of the strong flavors. A perfect combination!

The recipe calls for focaccia but I just used some crusty artisan bread and it was perfect. Also, I had to go out and buy a gratin for this recipe. But it was just an excuse to get some more kitchen goodies.

Poached Eggs with Baked Feta and Olives
6 servings

Six 3-inch squares of rosemary focaccia, halved horizontally

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

10 ounces feta cheese, cut into 6 slabs

Aleppo pepper or ancho chile powder, for sprinkling

6 large eggs


18 pitted kalamata olives

1 tablespoon chopped sage

Preheat the broiler and position a rack 6 inches from the heat. Bring a large deep skillet of water to a simmer. Brush the focaccia with olive oil and broil until lightly toasted. Put a slap of feta into each of 6 individual gratin dishes. Drizzle each slap with 1 teaspoon of the oil. sprinkle lightly with Aleppo pepper and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly browned and sizzling.

Meanwhile, crack the eggs one at a time into a small bowl, then slide them into the simmering water. Poach until the whites are set but the yuolks are sill runny, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the gratin dishes and season with salt. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper, the olives and sage. Serve with focaccia.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Peruvian-Style Fried Rice

Jaden of Steamy Kitchen recently posted Meat Fried Rice - Four Ways which really got me thinking about how versatile fried rice can be. When I saw this recipe for Peruvian-Style Fried Rice in the May, 2008 issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray Magazine I knew I wanted to give it a try. Anything with shrimp and chorizo sounds good to me. This recipe takes a traditional Chinese dish and gives it a Latin spin.

One warning I have for you if you make this recipe is that a large skillet is simply not large enough. I used a large skillet and it was filled up with the onion, shrimp and chorizo. There was no room for the rice! I ended up using a large dutch oven and that worked out really well.

This recipe yields a HUGE quantity - I have enough for about 6 meals for myself here. The nice thing is that it reheats really well. But one can only eat so much of the same thing! The doggies are loving the fact that I have so much left over because they get it (it's not spicy, just a bit rich, but so far so good).
Peruvian-Style Fried Rice
Serves 6

Cooking spray
2 large eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups chopped chorizo (about 8 oz.)
1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups cooked white rice, cooled
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sherry
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over high heat and coat with cooking spray. Pour half of the eggs into the pan, swirling to coat the bottom, and let cook until set, about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat, flip the eggs and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer the egg "tortilla" to a cutting board and repeat the process with the cooking spray and the remaining egg. Roll up each egg "tortilla" and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips.

In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil over high heat. Add the shrimp, chorizo and onion and cook, stirring, until the shrimp is just opaque, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in the rice, soy sauce and sherry. Cook until heated through. Stir in the egg strips and top with cilantro.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tomato-Pepper Stew with Poached Eggs and Harissa

This recipe was featured in a "Travel Israel" section of the May, 2008 issue of Food & Wine magazine. Tomato-Pepper Stew with Poached Eggs and Harissa intrigued my by all the ingredients in the title alone! Anything with tomatoes is okay in my book. Also, while I sometimes enjoy poached eggs when dining out, I have never made them before. Poaching them in a tomato-pepper sauce just sounds amazing, doesn't it?

I was first exposed to harissa (a Tunisian red-chile-pepper paste) last year when I made Harissa-Roasted Turkey Breast from Marcus Samuelsson's The Soul of a New Cuisine. That book focuses on African food so I found it interesting that this recipe highlighting food from Israel used the same unique ingredient. Lucky for me I can now find a jar of harissa at my local Whole Foods and I do not need to make it from scratch like I did last time.

I am really happy that I tried this one out! It is super flavorful and actually quite easy to make. The harissa makes it pretty spicy so if heat is not your thing then you might want to cut it in half. I noticed that if you got a bit of egg with the tomato mixture the creaminess of the egg balances the heat. I ate this with naan and when I took a bite of that it absorbed the rest of the heat. So it's not that bad if you balance it well, but it can catch you off guard if you just take a big mouthful of tomatoes!

This is a recipe that I made for dinner but I ended up with a bunch left over and found out it works really well for breakfast too. As suggested in the recipe, I saved have of the tomato mixture for use on another day and only poached three of the eggs. Considering that you can eat this for any mean and is uses 6 eggs, this is one recipe that can stretch far.

Tomato-Pepper Stew with Poached Eggs and Harissa
6 servings

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. harissa
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
One 28-once can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
6 large eggs
Pitas or crusty bread, for serving

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper, season with salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the paprika and coriander and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the harissa and tomato paste and cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer over low heat until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes, Stir in the parsley and cilantro and season with salt.

Raise the heat to moderate. One by one, break the eggs into a cup and add them to the simmering sauce. Poach the eggs until the whites are firm but the yolks are still runny, about 5 minutes. Season the eggs with salt. Transfer the eggs to bowls along with some of the sauce. Serve with warmed pitas or crusty bread.

Make ahead: The recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat before proceeding.