Quick Meals

Blue Corn Nachos with Mexican Chorizo

Blue Corn Nachos with Mexican Chorizo

 

Now days Nochos are as much American as they are Mexican. The story of Nachos began in 1943 in the Mexican town of Pedros Negras across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. There is where Ignasio “Nacho” Anaya invented Nachos, nacho being the diminutive of Ignasio. By the 1950’s Ignacio’s creation spread across the US and Mex-Tex food became as American as apple pie.

And who doesn’t love nachos! Well, even today nachos can be a bit baffling for the uninitiated living beyond the Americas. Visually nachos do look like a “mash up” and then there is the challenge of how to eat them. With your hands… of course! With that all inhibitions are off the table and the fun begins. I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t love nachos.

Nachos have many incarnations and can veer well beyond the Ignacio’s original idea. Fast food joints are notorious for drowning the whole affair with a lava flow of processed cheese and mountains of faux sour cream.

My advice is to choose your ingredients with consideration so that that each ingredient’s flavor is complimentary, identifiable, and does justice to Ignasio’s original concept. Less is more makes all the difference here.

The recipe that follows does require the gathering together of several preparations made in advance, but there are some shortcuts. Mexican chorizo is readily available where there are Mexican communities and canned beans can be used in lieu of cooking them yourself. I highly recommend splurging on the corn tortilla chips and cheese. For this recipe I have used Garden of Eatin’ organic blue corn chips and Spanish Queso Manchego cheese. Queso Manchego is a semi hard sheep milk cheese from the arid  plateau of La Mancha in central Spain with fruity, grassy, and tangy notes. It shaves beautifully and well worth a try.

Nachos can be served with drinks, as a snack, or even as a main course as I often do. I assure you nachos will become an all time favorite with friends and family and they will love you for all your efforts!

See sourcing tips in Chiang Mai below.

 

Blue Corn Nachos with Mexican Chorizo

Queso Manchego

Queso Manchego

  • 1 teaspoon cold pressed peanut oil
  • blue or yellow corn chips
  • refried beans, warmed (see recipe here)
  • Mexican chorizo warmed (see recipe here)
  • Monchego cheese, thinly shaved (or other)
  • sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt
  • flame roasted tomato salsa (see recipe here)

Have ready a cast iron comal (grilling platter) or skillet.

preheat oven to 350f/180c

Lightly oil the cast iron platter or skillet. Arrange a layer of corn chips over the bottom of the platter and add a second layer of chips crisscrossing the first layer.

Spoon the refried beans here and there over the corn chips.

Queso Manchego

Queso Manchego

Generously spoon the chorizo over the chips and beans.

Distribute the shaved cheese over all.

Transfer the platter to the oven and heat for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is just melted.

Remove from the oven and add dollops of sour cream or Greek Yogurt over the nachos.

Serve with the flame roasted tomato salsa which pulls all the flavors together!

 

Buen provecho!

 

Sourcing tips for those of you who live in Chiang Mai

For those of you who don’t have a cast iron comal or skillet, Rimping at Promenada have stocked a rugged looking skillet that looks perfectly functional at just under 1000 Baht!

Top’s Market has a full selection of Garden of Eatin” organic corn chips and well worth the 115 Baht.

Rimping Markets carry El Charro Nacho Chips which are made with stone ground masa. They are the real thing and made in Thailand.

Canned beans are available at Top’s Markets and Rimping Markets. Rimping at Maya has recently added black beans to their selection!

For an an alternate cheese source check out Wine Connection’s retail cheeses and meats. They often have cheeses that are not available at other retailers and their prices are generally cheaper.

Paul’s Cold Pressed Peanut Oil is available at Rimping Markets. Wonderful peanut flavor and the perfect substitute for lard when cooking Mexican food

 

Egg & Olive Sandwich with Pickled Watermelon Rind

Egg & Olive Sandwich with Pickled Watermelon Rind

 

Summer’s soaring heat has already arrived here in Thailand so it’s timely to think about cooling it down in the kitchen with some easy summertime chilled favorites.

You can call me old fashioned, but what came to mind where a couple of dog days of summer lunchtime favorites that my mother used to make up for us when we were kids. Egg and olive sandwiches, pickled watermelon rind, and a tall pitcher of lemon iced tea were all set out on the old Victorian oak kitchen table where lunchtime was always peppered with lots of chatter and wild laughter. Lunch was then topped off with strawberry ice cream cones for all! An hour later we were all running off to the creek for a swim. Those were the halcyon days of summers past!

With the glow of those summer days on my mind I couldn’t help thinking about how beautiful the forms and colors of the ingredients are as I gathered them together while recalling the recipe as I remember it to be. Cooking does have this wonderful narrative that captures your imagination as you work from garden to table. You may well have your very own favorite recipe for an egg and olive sandwich What ever the case, this is a sandwich that may have fallen through the cracks of time, but it is a splendid old time favorite that is well worth a deserved revival.

 

Egg & Olive Sandwich    makes 3 to 4

Chinese celery& broad leaf parsley

Chinese celery& broad leaf parsley

  • sliced white bread (or my preference panini), lightly toasted
  • 4 hard boiled organic eggs
  • 8 pimento stuffed olives, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/3 cup finely diced young tender celery (or Chinese celery; not to be confused with coriander/cilantro)
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced broad leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise + more for spreading
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • sea salt to taste
  • several twists of ground white pepper
  • iceberg lettuce

As mentioned my alternative for white bread is panini, which I like for its soft billowy texture and slight scent of olive oil. 

I have used Chinese celery as blanched young celery is not available in Thailand.

 

Place the eggs in a saucepan and add water to  cover the eggs. Bring to a low boil and simmer for 10 minutes. This will insure that the yolks are soft.

Fill a bowl with water and add ice cubes. After simmering for 10 minutes, promptly transfer the eggs to the iced water bath.

When cool enough to handle, lightly bash the eggs and peel off the shells under cold running water and set aside.

Slice the eggs in half lengthwise, remove the yolks and gently chop them. Place them in a small bowl and set aside.

 

 

Slice the egg whites lengthwise and then slice into thirds crosswise and place in another bowl. Add the sliced olives, celery, and parsley and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon Mustard, and salt and pepper. Whisk together until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings to you liking.

Egg & Olive Salad

Egg & Olive Salad

Add the mayonnaise mixture to the bowl with the egg whites, olives, celery, and parsley and fold the mixture together until evenly coated.

Add the chopped egg yolks to the bowl and gently fold them in with out breaking them up if possible.
Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate until you are ready to make the sandwiches.

To assemble the sandwiches lightly toast the bread  or panini slices. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the slices. Place iceberg lettuce on half the slices and top with the egg & olive salad mixture. Top with the remaining bread slice and serve.

As suggested serve with pickled watermelon rind (see recipe here) or pickles of choice.
…and don’t forget the strawberry ice cream cones afterwords!

Braised Chinese Sausage with Rice Glass Noodles

Braised Chinese Sausage with Rice Glass Noodles

 

Gong xi fa cai (Mandarin)…Kung hei fat choi (Cantonese)….a happy and prosperous lunar new year from my kitchen to yours!

The recipe that follows is probably more a figment of my imagination or a recreation of a dish I vaguely recall from the distant past. I am of course not Chinese  and make no claims for the authenticity of this recipe other than than to say it is one of my favorite Chinese inspired cold weather quick meals using lap cheong (Cantonese)/ la chang (Mandarin)/ Gun chiang (Thai), a dry Chinese sausage with a sweet and spiced flavor as the main ingredient. The aroma and warming flavors of this dish are sure to sooth away any of winter’s biting chill.

La Chang; Chinese sausage

La Chang; Chinese sausage

 

Braised Chinese Sausage with Glass Noodles serves 4

Have on hand a lidded ceramic baking casserole.

Preheat to oven to 350f/180c

  • 3-4 dry Chinese sausages
  • 2 tablespoons cold pressed peanut oil
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced batons of young ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced bok choy (or green cabbage)
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth (heated)
  • 6 oz/180g dry glass rice noodles (rice vermicelli)
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3  teaspoon Chinese five spice powder (wu xiang fen) (see note)
  • fresh ground toasted Sichuan pepper  (hua jiao) to taste

Prick the sausages all over with a wooden skewer and place them in a large skillet along with about a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the sausages and set aside to cool. Discard the cooking water.

When the sausage is cool enough to handle thinly slice it on the diagonal and set aside.

Return the skillet to the stove set over medium heat. When hot add the oil. When the oil is nearly smoking add the onions, garlic, and ginger and saute while continuously stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the Shaoxing rice wine and saute until it is nearly evaporated.  Add the bok choy (or cabbage) and the sliced sausage and cook until the bok choy is wilted. Promptly add the hot broth and stir in the rice noodles. Then stir in the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, 5 spice powder, and Sichuan pepper to taste. Cook until the noodles are wilted, about 1 minute.

Transfer the mixture to the baking casserole and cover with the lid. Place in the oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until most of the broth has been absorbed and the noodles are lightly browned around the edges.

Remove from the oven and serve in individual bowls!

Note: Five Spice Powder (wu xiang fen) is a seasoning mix of ground star anise, ground cassia bark (cinnamon), ground Sichuan pepper corns, ground fennel seeds, and ground ginger. There is no set recipe but equal parts of each ingredient works well. You can adjust the mix to suit your own tastes as well.

Miso Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

Aka-Miso (red miso) Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

 

Now that fall has arrived and temperatures have waned soups are very much on my mind. One of the most satisfying soups I can think of is Japanese miso soup. It is simple to prepare and the warming pleasures of miso soup for breakfast, lunch, or dinner are well worth so little effort.

As I started thinking about this post a favorite Japanese film came immediately to mind; Tampopo. It is a sweet and very very funny comedy about Tampopo’s quest to make the best noodle soups for her noodle shop in her village. It says everything about achieving perfection in all things Japanese, including in the kitchen, and well worth a watch for some very lively and entertaining inspiration.

Ichiban Dashi, a clear light amber colored broth, is the foundation for many Japanese dishes like soups (including miso soups), simmered dishes, sauces, marinades, and salad dressings. Its essence is in its simplicity, using only three ingredients. Water, kombu seaweed (kelp), and Katsuo bushi (shaved dried bonita flakes). The resulting clear light broth has a subdued mellow smoky flavor with an underlying sweetness and a hint of the salty sea that belies its rich nutritional content.

Kombu is cultivated in the icy mineral rich waters of Hokkaido, Japan’s northern most prefecture. After harvesting the kombu is air and sun dried into a hard leathery textured bark like strips. Kombu contains numerous nutrients including natural glutamic acid which contributes an umami (pleasant savory) taste to the dashi broth. More about umami taste in my next post.

Katsuo/bonito is a type of Japanese tuna. The fish is boiled, the bones removed, and the flesh smeared with a fermented fish paste. The fish is then set aside to marinate and then sun dried. Once completely dry the fish is smoked until it is very dry and hard. The bonita is then thinly shaved into flakes called katsuo bushi that look very much like planed wood shavings.

Dashi preparation involves slowly simmering strips of dried kombu in water to extract the flavor and nutrients from the kombu into the broth. Just before the water comes to a boil the kombu is promptly removed from the pot to avoid any bitterness to the finished broth. Katsuo bushi/shaved dried bonito flakes are then added to the pot. Once the water returns to a boil the pan is promptly removed from the heat and set aside until the shaved bonita flakes sink to the bottom of the pot. The broth is then strained and set aside. This preparation’s success is all about timing!

This may appear to be a little complicated, but really the whole process takes no more than fifteen minutes from start to finish. There are packaged instant dashi powder sachets available, but the results using the traditional method of making dashi is far superior and more nutritious in every way.

To make Miso-shiru soup, miso is stirred into a small quantity of dashi until dissolved and then whisked into the hot dashi broth and poured into a soup bowl that may include some cubed tofu, a few sprigs of chives, and a dash of sancho pepper. That’s all there is to it!

The ingredients, as unfamiliar as they may sound, should be readily available at larger supermarkets, Asian markets, health food stores, or online as a last resort.

 

Ichibon Dashi

Ichibon Dashi

 

Ichiban Dashi (first dashi) makes 2 quarts

kombu

Kombu

  • 1.9 liters/2 quarts cold spring water
  • 1 oz/25g dried kombu strips
  • 1 oz/25g dried bonito flakes

Fill a medium size soup pot with cold spring water.

You will notice some white powder on the kombu which contains nutrients and will add flavor to the broth, so do not rinse it before placing the kombu into the pot of water.

Put the kombu into the pot of water and place on the stove over medium heat. Bring the water to a slow simmer without boiling for about 10 minutes. The kombu will soften, unfurl, and turn a deep green as the water nears the boiling point. As mentioned it is important that the kombu is removed from the pot before the water comes to a boil to avoid any bitterness in the broth. Using tongs remove the kombu and set aside to make a Niban Dashi (second dashi) with a more assertive flavored broth later.

Katsuobushi; Dried Bonito Flakes

Katsuobushi; Dried Bonito Flakes

Bring the broth back to a full boil and then add a little cold water to bring the temperature down a bit and add the bonito flakes without stirring. As soon as the water returns to a boil promptly remove the pot from the heat and set aside. Once the bonito flakes settle to the bottom of the pot, skim off any foam from the surface of the broth and discard.

Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth and strain the both into a clean bowl and set aside to cool. Reserve the bonita flakes to make a Niban Dashi (second dashi) later.

The dashi can then be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 days or frozen for later use.

Niban Dashi (second dashi): Reusing the kombu and bonita flakes from the first dashi will produce a deeper flavored dashi that is useful for simmered dishes, sauces, and dressings.

Follow the same procedure, adding the reserved kombu and bonita flakes from the first dashi, in a fresh pot of water. Bring to a near boil, remove the kombu, and then lower the heat and simmer until the broth is reduced by a third. Then add ½ oz/14g fresh dried bonita flakes and promptly remove from the heat. Let the flakes settle to the bottom of the pot, remove foam, strain, and refrigerate or freeze. 

Miso 

Miso is a Japanese fermented soybean and grain paste. All have a high protein content and rich in vitamins and minerals.

Shiro miso; aka white miso is pale light color with a mild and slightly sweet flavor.
Shinshu miso; yellow miso is a yellowish brown color with a bolder flavor and more salty.
Aka miso; aka red miso is dark red brown with an assertive flavor and the most salty miso.

 

Miso-shiru (miso soup) basic: serves 4

  • 4 cups Ichiban Dashi (first dashi)
  • 3-4 tblespoons Miso of choice
  • ½ block firm tofu cut into small cubes
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions 
  • Optional: shiitake mushrooms, seaweeds, assorted Japanese herb stalks, sansho pepper as a seasoning.

Heat the dashi to a near boil.

Place the miso in a small bowl and ladle some of the hot dashi into the bowl and whisk the miso into the broth until completely dissolved. Then slowly pour the miso mixture into the hot dashi and stir until well combined.

If you are using mushrooms or seaweed stir them into the soup as well.

Heat the soup for an additional 1 or 2 minutes until piping hot without boiling.

Serving:

Place the cubed tofu and scallions into individual serving bowls and ladle the soup into the bowls.

Garnish with Japanese herbs if using and serve.  Sancho pepper, with a light lingering peppery citrus after taste, is a nice additional seasoning at the table. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...