Saturday, October 27, 2007

Salsa

There's no reason not to have fresh salsa. It's so easy - and fast! I found some fabulous tomatoes on the vine at my corner veggie and fruit stand so I went crazy! The tomatoes are from Mexico so they really wanted to become salsa - I could tell.


Aren't these beautiful? They were so juicy!


I threw these bad boys into the food processor with some garlic, red onion and a little bit of fresh cilantro, pulsed it a few times and opened a bag of chips.



Could it be easier? Really, nothing beats freshly made salsa.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mucho Margarita Cupcakes

Do I love VCTOtW? You bet I do!

This is the Mucho Margarita Cupcake - and it really is. Mucho. Mucho DELICIOUS!!!

Tequila and fresh lime. What's not to love?

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

naked cupcakes

In keeping with the Mexican theme, and because I'm having a small fiesta tomorrow, I made VCTOtW's Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes.

just a dusting of confectioner's sugar

The recipe called for 1/4 cup of almond flour, but I had none on hand so I upped the measurements of corn flour and all-purpose flour to make up the difference.

a quick sift of cocoa powder

The batter is delish, I haven't tried a cupcake yet because they are for a party... and I'm being strong. Yeah. that's gonna last.

a sprinkle of cinnamon and they're ready to eat!


on display with marzipan skulls


Fantastico!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tamales!!

I've made tamales. It's my first try. I highly recommend you try it out!

I learned some basics from watching the great Post Punk Kitchen and then with a little internet surfing and a little experimentation (and with much shaking in my boots) I made some all by myself.

There are some basics that you need. First of all Maseca. If you can't find it in your area (I couldn't) you can order it at mexgrocer.com. It's really inexpensive (and delish!)

Next you need corn husks to wrap the tamales. Again I got mine at mexgrocer.com (LOVE that site!)The husks are dried so you need to soak them to soften them up so you can wrap your tamales.
Then you need a nice deep steamer pot. I did not have one so I improvised and it worked quite well. I took an aluminum pie plate and punched holes in it - it fit in the stock pot I had perfectly.
Of course you need filling. I had some TVP that I've never cooked with and thought this might be the time to try it out. I mixed one cup plain dried TVP with 1 cup water and a packet of taco seasoning (okay, so I cheated a little, it was my first attempt and I was going easy on myself.)
I sauteed some onions, garlic and red bell pepper until soft then added the spiced up TVP , a can of black beans, a little veggie broth, a little tomato sauce, a tomato and some chopped jalapenos (because they are my favorite). I also threw in some pepper paste I'd gotten from mexgrocer and a few splashes of habanero sauce (I like the spice!)
I thought it needed a little something more so in went some frozen roasted corn kernals and some spinach... and a little more chopped jalapeno. I didn't use any set measurements, just went for it.

You cook your filling down until it's not so runny and then let it cool. I'm serious. I didn't and it's a mess - the heat from the filling melts the masa and you don't want that - it makes the wrapping a nightmare! You can make the filling the day before and refrigerate it. Trust me. Learn from my mistakes. Let the filling cool down.

Then make your masa (the corn dough). The directions are on the package, but they call for lard - I used olive oil instead.
You have to beat it like crazy - use a handmixer if you have one - until it is light and fluffy.

It ought to be the consistency of peanut butter when you slather it on your softened and dried off, corn husk. Again, learn from my mistakes. I didn't dry off the first few husks and it made it very hard to get the masa to stick to the husk. So pat down your husks before attempting to fill them.

I very cleverly forgot to take a photo once I'd put the filling on - I'll update this when I make my next batch (tomorrow) with my very cooled off filling. But what you do is put a little plop of filling in the middle, roll the husk around it so that the masa meets and covers the filling, then you tie the ends together with some strips of corn husk (it tears really easily - kind of like curling ribbon).

UPDATE: This is what they look like with a little filling.


The wrapping is where you find that practice makes perfect. I messed up a lot. Learning the right proportions of masa to filling seems to be something you just have to learn by doing. But it's a fun process and worth doing it until you learn it!
That's my first little tamale! I'm so proud!

One the third one I tried a different wrapping style. I was getting cocky. I went back to the two tie method.

The recipe I was using for the masa, from the Maseca package, said it would make 16 small tamales. I got 9 good sized tamales that's them waiting to go in the steamer.
And that's them IN the steamer. I covered it and thought it would be done in about 45 minutes. No such luck. They took about 90 minutes - because they were so stuffed. In that time the water in my steamer burned away - so remember to keep an eye on that. I had a lot of water in there, didn't think it would boil away, but it did. Luckily I smelled that something was amiss and caught it before everything got ruined. Whew!You know they're done when they feel firm to the touch and are a little poofier than when you put them in the pot - don't worry, you'll be able to tell. Take one out of the steamer when it feels right and let it sit for a couple of minutes, then try peeling away the corn husk. If it's done the husk will come away smoothly and the masa will be firm and cooked. This one above is done. Sadly my masa was not completely meeting as it should and some filling seeped out. But only a little. If you find your sample tamale is not done, just put it back in the steamer and give it some more time.

When it's done it will look like this!


I ate one and put the rest in the fridge to see how they hold up.

I think they'll be okay.

UPDATE: I resteamed a couple that I had refrigerated yesterday - they were perfect. Then made a second batch. I'm freezing them to see how that works out. This is some of Tamales Day Two in the pot. (my wrapping technique improved and I tried some different styles to suit the husk sizes = it's so much fun!)

Try some yourself!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Split Pea Soup - simple dinner

The other night my friend Gary was staying over, I was in the mood to cook so while we usually run out to eat when he comes in, I decided to cook.

It was a slightly chilly day, one might even call it autumnal (which is saying something in these days of global warming). I decided to make soup. A thick, hearty split pea soup. To celebrate the fact that this was one of the very rare times my kitchen table was clear, instead of being used as a catchall, I decided to make this simple soup dinner a little more special.

I have four vases (they are actually recycled mini soda bottles) set up in my bathroom* with happy orange and yellow flowers, so I grabbed one of them and put it on the table with my fancy-schmancy leopard plates and matching votives. Voila! A special table with no effort whatsoever!


The soup was just the basic recipe from the back of the Goya beans package (minus the suggested pork products) - it's so easy. An onion, some garlic, a carrot, veggie broth and the split peas. Cook until soft. Simple. With split pea soup I also like to pour half of it into a blender and really smooth it out, it helps thicken the soup and I LOVE really thick pea soup. Making soup is so easy and stressless because you basically throw stuff in a pot, let it simmer forever and you don't have to keep an eye on it the whole time or worry that it will overcook, and you almost always have leftovers.


I just served it with some rye bread and Earth Balance margarine. The sweetness of the soup worked really well with the sourness of the bread.

It was just soup and bread and yet it was filling, and cozy.


*yes, that's an action figure of Norman Bates dressed as his mother from Psycho. Of course it belongs in the bathroom, where else?!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Red Lentil Pasta


I'm in a cooking mood. The dilemma is always what to cook? I have a jar of red lentils I've been meaning to use and aside from throwing some into lentil soup just haven't found anything special to do with them. Tonight I flipped through La Dolce Vegan and found the quickest easiest use for the little red devils!

It's just the usual start point for savory goodness - onions and garlic sautéed in a little olive oil; add some veggie stock, some fresh chopped tomato, the lovely red lentils and the thing that gives it that special zing: cinnamon! I'd love to post the recipe, but since it isn't mine I don't feel right about that (copyright and all).

Toast some cashews to toss on top.

And here it is!

I can't even tell you how yummy this is - and it took about 20 minutes to make. Now I know what to do with my red lentils. AND what to make when I'm in a hurry!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Eggplant is my friend

Eggplant is such a great vegetable. It's not only gorgeous, who can resist that purple color? But it's also versatile and so yummy!

The trouble is cooking a fresh eggplant. It's something I'm not overly familiar with and just .... oh alright, I'm lazy.

But I was recently introduced to two ready-made eggplant items that I've incorporated into my life with great ease. This one:


Is so super easy to use that it probably should be illegal. They are prebreaded and all you have to do is brown them in a little olive oil (takes all of 2 minutes!) and you have a great addition to a veggie/pasta dish or the perfect, quick makings for an eggplant parmigana hero.

I used them with my usual throw a pile of veggies into a pot, saute 'em and toss with pasta dish.
This is just some string beans, wax beans, carrots and chopped collard greans sauteed in garlic and oil with some pine nuts.

I threw that over some pasta (not whole wheat I'm afraid... I was in a rush and used some angel hair that I had because it cooks so quickly).

Then I topped it all with a quickly browned cutlet.

Very scrumptious. And insanely quick.


Sabra makes a sauteed eggplant that is really good on top of toasted bread.

I sliced up a bagette, this one was salted - yum! And dropped a dollop of the eggplant on top.

I found this eggplant a tiny bit too sweet for me so I sprinkled some hot pepper flakes on top.
It was just enough heat to offset the sweet.
Makes a nice hors d'oevres - or just a nice snack.
Now to practice cooking with a fresh eggplant!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

more gobo fun

Living a block away from Gobo is dangerous. I want to eat there all the time! I try to mix it up... but given the opportunity I would eat at Gobo every day. These are two dishes I have not published photos of - other dishes we had have already been discussed here.

I'm so in love with the seitan dishes here that I would probably have never veered away from them. Luckily I didn't have to make the choice as my friend ordered this panini and I got to try it. yes... the bite mark is from me.

Oh man, this is one tasty sandwich. It's brimming with yummy mushrooms and seasoned so beautifully I could have eaten the whole thing. But then I would have had to share my seitan. *sigh* I couldn't let that happen.

truffled wild mushroom panini with onion fonduta

This is the apple & pear crisp. Um... usually there is an identifiable scoop of soy ice cream on top. Sadly we dove into this temptation before I remembered to snap a photo. This is the first time I've ordered this dessert that I've gotten any sort of photo of it - so I guess that's a good sign. Maybe next time I will be able to stop drooling long enough to remember to take a quick shot before devouring it.

If you go to Gobo and you're stuffed after the great meal, I recommend you split this dessert with your dining companion. It looks like a tiny little serving, but in reality it is quite a lot and quite filling so splitting it is more than enough for even the biggest sweet tooth.

apple & pear crisp with (some) soy vanilla ice cream