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Monday, September 5, 2011

Marvelous Refried Beans

I learned to make these beans from my friend and neighbor, Lori. She insisted when I called here that the way of preparing them was too simple to even be called a recipe. I always feel like I'm getting away with something when I serve these, because they are so incredibly easy and yet they taste incredibly good. And they come off looking like you slaved over them for hours.

All you'll need is a couple of cans of pinto beans. The number of cans you need depends on the number of people you're serving. Lori recommends one can per three people. We have been known to stretch it a little beyond that, say one can per four or five people. But use your judgment based on the appetites you're feeding. Drain about half of the liquid off of the beans, until the liquid that is running off is cloudy rather than clear.

I like to sautee a little onion and garlic in a little vegetable oil before I add the beans to the sauce pan. Once they are clear (but not necessarily brown), add the beans. Cook them until they are warmed through. Then smash them with a potato masher until they are not completely broken down (you want a few whole or partially whole beans for effect). Then add salsa to taste; I usually stir in 1/3 to 1/2 cup.

Keep the beans on a low simmer until you're ready to serve them. I usually stir in a bit of grated cheese and then top it with cheese in the serving bowl.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Greek Salad

This recipe is such a favorite that I'm shocked I've never posted it before. This was our Sunday afternoon lunch today. I don't remember how I discovered Greek salad, but it is one of the best things in the late summer tomato season (right up there with tomato sandwiches, tomato tarts, and bruschetta. It's dreadfully easy to make, can be modified at least three different ways, and almost everyone likes it. It's also pretty healthy. What more could you want?

I've listed the standard recipe here. Obviously, avocados are a great addition. A few sweet or red onion slices dress it up a little bit as well. I've eaten in in Greek restaurants with torn lettuce pieces. I prefer it on the simpler side, but one of the many beautiful things about this salad is that you can modify it any way you want.

Greek Salad
4-5 roma tomatoes, diced in chunks
2-3 cucumbers, peeled and diced into chunks
2-3 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
2-3 tablespoons of your favorite vinagrette salad dressing (today we used Bernstein's Cheese Fantastico; when we use that dressing I like to add a splash of balsamic vinegar. Newman's Own balsamic vinagrette is also delightful)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve. You'll want to serve it in a bowl, as it gets quite juicy after a few minutes. That juice is especially delicious sopped up on a piece of crusty bread.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Coconut Chicken Curry

Today's post is a recipe I discovered on a favorite of the blogs I follow, My Kitchen Cafe. It's practical and yummy, all at the same time.

I love a good curry, but haven't been especially successful at making them at home. For some reason, the finished product never seems like it's good enough to justify the time invested. But this recipe is a glorious exception. It's relatively simple and exquisitely delicious. It's universally loved at our house. And I hope you love the odor as much as we do, because it will hang around the house for several days. We just look at it as one of the positive by-products of making the meal.

Mel, the author of My Kitchen Cafe, suggests taking the recipe to the simmer phase early in the day and then pouring it in the crockpot to finish on low for four to five hours. I think this is a lovely idea, but it would require thinking four or five hours ahead, which often does not happen when I'm in charge of the meal. We serve it over jasmine rice with any kind of Asian or vegetable sides that suit your fancy.

Coconut Chicken Curry
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks or strips
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons curry powder (we are especially fond of Penzey's sweet curry, which a thoughtful friend shared with us)
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (substitute cayenne if you want it hotter; we don't)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
4 medium red potatoes, cut into chunks
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, Italian style
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons of sugar (no wonder it is good)

Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the oil, curry powder, and paprika in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat for two minutes, until fragrant but not burned. Turn the heat up to medium and stir in the onions and garlic; cook 7-9 minutes or so until the onions are very clear. Add the chicken, tossing lightly to coat with the curry oil and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and is cooked through or nearly cooked through (it will continue to simmer in the next step). Add potatoes, coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce and sugar into the pan. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30-40 minutes. The sauce thickens slightly upon standing. Serve with jasmine or brown rice.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Secret to Cooking Jasmine Rice

I'm not making an obscene gesture to the rice. I'm showing the secret to cooking jasmine rice.

We discovered soon after we bought a 50 pound bag of jasmine rice that the proportion of water to rice required in the rice cooker was different than say, Japanese rice. Our friend Michelle and her mom insisted that if you put your middle finger on top of the rice and then fill with water until it reaches the first knuckle, the rice will turn out just right.

I don't know how it works; I realize that people have vastly different finger sizes and that the measurement seems to require a great deal of subjective judgment. But it works. We've had perfect jasmine rice every time I've done it this way.

That's it. That's the secret.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chicken Adobo

Chicken Adobo is a Filipino classic. We've tried making it many different ways; one of the most fun efforts was when our friend Michelle and her mom, who is from the Philippines, came over to teach us their method. We made a huge pot of adobo along with many other tasty treats.

This recipe is a slight modificiation of the one Michelle taught us. I have to warn you that it will smell up your house for quite a few days with a potent aroma. But it's fairly simple, exceptionally delicious and also quite inexpensive.

Chicken Adobo
(Makes 6 main dish servings)

12 bone-in chicken thighs (I take the skin off because it's healthier and also because I don't think there's anything quite so creepy as boiled chicken skin on your plate)
2 cups soy sauce
1  cup white  vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
4 teaspoons minced garlic
3 bay leaves
1 large onion, sliced in large slices
fresh ground black pepper to taste (other recipes we've tried call for whole peppercorns; one thing I like about this recipe is that you don't have to pick out the pepper corns).
Trim skin and excess fat from chicken. Put chicken in single layer in heavy pan. Mix other ingredients and pour over chicken. Cook on very low simmer for 1/2 hour, then turn chicken and cook additional 1/2 hour. Remove chicken and place on broiler tray or in shallow glass casserole which will fit under your broiler.

Strain liquid to remove onion pieces and bay leaves. Drain off as much fat as possible, using a fat seperater if you have one. After fat is removed, boil down the liquid until the sauce is thick enough to barely coat your spoon.

Preheat the broiler. Put chicken under broiler for 5-10 minutes. Turn and broil the other side another 5-10 minutes (depending on how hot your broiler gets). Serve immediately.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Baked Potato Soup

This is not the healthiest recipe you'll ever make. But it's luxuriously delicious, and it's not as fat-filled as it looks.

The name says it all--this soup tastes just like a loaded baked potato, primarily because it has all of the same ingredients. We tried this for the first time a few months ago, and it has quickly become a family favorite. And if you bake the potatoes ahead of time, it's a pretty quick meal as well.

I combined a couple of recipes I found online to create my own version. It serves 6 to 8 generously.

Baked Potato Soup
4 baked potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 pound bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled (reserve a couple of tablespoons for topping)
3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup flour
7 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
4 green onions, sliced thin, with a couple of tablespoons of them reserved for topping
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, grated (reserve a couple of tablespoons for topping)
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven. Whisk in the flour until completely mixed, breaking up any lumps. Slowly add the milk, stirring into the butter mixture gradually. Bring to a simmer and let cook on low for about ten minutes, until soup is thick and bubbly, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes, green onions, sour cream, salt, pepper and cheese, reserving some of the bacon, onions and cheese for topping. Cook over low heat until  well heated, about ten minutes. Sprinkle each serving with cheese, onion and bacon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chile Verde

I know that those of you who are still hanging around thought I was gone for good. But I'm back. At least for a minute.

This recipe was so easy that I didn't think there was any way it could taste good. I found it on when I was looking for a way to use a pork loin roast in my freezer. I was taken in by the easiness of it and figured we would choke it down somehow. It had the very romantic name of Crock Pot Mexican Pork., promising that it's "a low-fat way to serve Mexican." Now if that doesn't entice you to make it, I don't know what will!

In the meantime, I should tell you that one of Bob's specialty dishes is called Chile Verde. He has spent years acquiring the recipe and adapting it to perfection; when he makes it, it seems like he slaves for hours. And the result is truly amazing. He often makes a very large batch because he knows we'll want more.

Back to my story. I am not kidding when I say that I made this dish in five minutes in the morning before I went to work. I was late. I had forgotten that it needed to be done. So I threw it all in the crock pot and wondered what else we could eat for dinner if it didn't turn out (but at least I wouldn't feel guilty about the unused roast in the freezer anymore).

When I came home after work that night, my daughter Sara said, "I didn't know you knew how to make chile verde." I quickly insisted that it was a different dish. But even I had to admit that it smelled an awful lot like Bob's chile verde. Later, we discovered that, except for not having any potatoes in it, it tasted an awful lot like chile verde. So I've named it after Bob's famous dish, even though we all recognize and accept that it's just Mom's emergency substitute.

Chile Verde
1 pound boneless pork loin roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 20-ounce jar salsa (I used Pace mild)
4 ounces chopped green chiles,drained
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

In a 4-quart slow cooker, mix together the pork, salsa and green chiles. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours or until pork is tender. The original recipe calls for 1 can of black beans, which you can add to the slow cooker, turning the stew up to high and heating for five to ten minutes. I didn't add the beans, because we as a family do not necessarily agree on which kind of beans we prefer.

The recipe also calls for sprinkling the stew with the cheese. We ate it with tortillas, with the cheese and a little squirt of sour cream on top. We ate it all, and we'll make it again!