Wednesday, August 31, 2011

White Sauce for Fish or Feesh Tacos

Feesh Taco (fried tofu)
1 part Mayo (I use vegenaise when I'm veganizing this)
2 parts Yogurt (I use So Delicious cultured coconut "yogurt" when I'm veganizing this too)
squeeze Lime Juice 
1 garlic clove, minced
big pinch Salt 
dash Hot sauce or Adobo (Open a can of chipotle chiles en adobo and dig out a teaspoon of the sauce- that's adobo)

Just mix it all together and put on your fish tacos, or your feesh tacos (my fake vegan version with fried tofu replacing the fish)

Chile de Arbol Salsa

Right after pouring on the boiling water, the water gets a little yellow. The water will look like tea after an hour.

1 c. Chiles de Arbol, seeds shaken out
2 c. boiling Water to soak chiles
1/2 cup vinegar (red wine, white wine, cider, and rice vinegar are all good, even white vinegar will work)
1 tsp. ground Mexican Oregano
2 cloves Garlic
2 tsp. Salt 

The procedure for making chile paste is outlined in detailed in this post, where I used Ancho chiles. But what you'll want to do, simply, is pour the boiling water over the chiles and allow them to soak for about an hour. Then drain off enough of the soaking liquid so that there's enough for your blender to "catch," and puree the chiles to make chile paste.
Add the vinegar, oregano, garlic and salt and puree again. Adjust for consistency and taste. If it's too acidic and too thick, you can add water instead of more vinegar.

Thoughts on Taco Assembly

Thanks to Jennifer Jean Lee for taking such great photos of my class!
Taco assembly is obviously not rocket science, but there are some things that will make the process go more smoothly. 
  • If you want hot tacos, don’t put them on cold plates. You can warm plates in a warm oven. 
  • Get all of your toppings, sauces, tortillas and sides ready, within easy reach, in order, room temp or hot as appropriate. Mise en Place! 
  • The order of operations should be: Tortilla, meat, sauce, veggies. Assemble them all the same, uniformity is more striking than each taco being a special snowflake. 
  • Don’t get cute and put lettuce, cheddar shreds, or sour cream on these- Tapatio/Cholula or Arbol salsa and a squeeze of fresh lime is all that authentic tacos need. 
  • If plating, you can prop two tortillas up “back to back” or wrap in non-absorbent paper. Alternatively, serve family style with tacos all in a line, using the tacos to hold each other up in taco formation. 
  • You are not 5 and your foods can touch each other, food looks stupid segregated on a plate.

Apartment-Style "Grilled" Mahi-Mahi

Resting the fish lets it complete its cooking

If I’m making this, I’m almost certainly making fish tacos, but there’s no reason you can’t just eat these puppies as a fish dinner with some veggies and a starch. And the “Apartment-style” means we’re not even grilling, technically- it’s just an easy differentiation between a battered and fried piece of taco fish.

1/4 lb Mahi Mahi per 2 people
Olive oil
Lime juice

Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat.

Take the fish out of the fridge and drizzle on some olive oil, sprinkle on plenty of salt, pepper, and a little paprika. Rub the goodies into the fish.

Spray with non-stick spray if you’re chicken, (but if you were generous with the olive oil, this is unnecessary) and add the fish. DO NOT COVER IT and don’t move it once it hits the pan, play it where it lies.

Cook for 4 minutes, and look to see that the edges are turning opaque. Gently prod to test to see if the fish is still stuck to the bottom. If it releases easily, flip it. If it gives you any resistance, quit your prodding and leave it alone for another minute and before checking again.

Once it’s flipped, cook it for half the time it was on the first side. So if it took 5 minutes for the first side, give the second side 2 and a half minutes and prod to see if it releases. Check again every minute. When it releases, it’s ready to come out.

Take the fish out of the pan and let it rest on a plate or cutting board for 3 minutes to complete cooking. 

  • Be ready to add the fish immediately after you add non-stick spray or it will burn and taste terrible. Fish ready in one hand, spray with the other.
  • Fish doesn’t need to be cooked all the way, so if it’s flakey throughout, it won’t be moist. Don’t do that. Undercooked fish is almost always better than overcooked fish.
  • If your fish smells fishy, it’s going to be gross. Mahi-mahi especially is a virtually odorless fish- it should smell like the ocean. If you can’t get fresh fish from a real fish guy (not the supermarket), buy flash frozen fish. These were caught and frozen immediately, so are technically very “fresh.” Defrost in the fridge TWO nights before using.
  • A splatter guard over your pan will greatly help with your place not smelling like fish at all. It’s those little splatters of oil that are to blame, not the fish itself.
The Quintessential San Diego Summer Meal 

For Authentic Fish Tacos, assemble in this order:

White Sauce
Serve with lime wedge

Apartment-Style Carne Asada (Tacos)

You may not have a grill, but you probably have a broiler (you may not know where it is, but that’s a different problem) and can use it to great effect to make delicious meat.

1 lb. hanger steak, flat iron steak, or ask your butcher what they've got for you if you're making carne asada 
1/4 c. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 2 limes
1 Tbsp salt 
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
Many grinds of Pepper
Pinch cayenne

Toss everything but the meat in a big ziploc, and mush to combine. Open the bag and insert meat. Zip up most of the way, then roll to push out air and zip closed. Marinate overnight or for as long as you have, you non-planning ahead slacker!

Preheat your broiler for a few minutes, and while that’s happening, line a BROILER SAFE pan with foil. Lay the meat out on the foil and broil for 7 minutes or so (you want some charred bits, more than you think are reasonable), then take it out, flip it and broil for another 6 minutes, until it looks awesome.
Take it out and leave it the F alone. Seriously. Don’t touch it, don’t even look at it for 5 more minutes. Think this step isn’t necessary? Why’d I write it then? Your meat is still cooking, this is part of the cooking process, so if you bothered to follow the directions and cook it, freaking DO this.
Chop it up into desired shapes and sizes and OMNOMNOM.
Taking a first pass at slicing against the grain on the bias
  • Slice against the grain. Always. If you’re going to cut in both directions, use a diamond pattern, rather than square, so you’re never cutting directly with the grain.
  • If you do have a barbecue, by all means, use it. Instead of the broiler, just grill over high heat (covered) for 6 minutes per side. Flip it once and don’t poke it or smash it.
  • For your carne asada tacos, toss diamond shaped chunks with arbol salsa to make a spicy delicious meat mixture.
Tacos 101
For Traditional Carne Asada Tacos, assemble in this order:

Carne Asada (I like to toss the meat with the onion and salsa before putting in the tortilla)
Serve with lime wedge

Friday, August 26, 2011

Authentic Handmade Corn Tortillas

For neater edges, add more water and be sure to wet your hands before rolling dough into balls

If you think you don’t like corn tortillas, it’s because you’ve never had a handmade tortilla that’s still too hot for any sane person to eat. I don’t like packaged corn tortillas either, they taste like cardboard with a texture like sand. They’re cheap and quick to make at home- faster than going to the store for tortillas.

Maseca brand masa flour

This is stupid easy. You follow the directions on the bag with some minor modifications. Double the salt and use boiling water instead of warm. 

Mix your dough with a dough scraper or spoon and then switch to kneading by hand until it’s smooth and not sticky. 

Roll it into a log, then cut into even pieces for the batch you’re making. 

Once your log is cut into discs, wet your hands a little and roll each piece into a ball. Cover your collection of balls with a damp paper towel. 

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat, and if you’ve got more than one, fire ‘em up! You can cook a whole batch in no time at all.

I don’t have a tortilla press, honestly every time I’ve used one I’ve screwed it up in some new and different way. Just use a gallon ziploc bag, cut so it opens like a book and 2 big heavy hardback books. Put the first book on your counter, then lay the ziploc on top and open it up like a book. Put one dough ball in the center of the ziploc, close your ziploc “book” to cover, then top with the other heavy book and press down hard! Or move the whole setup to the floor and stand on it. Take off the top book and peel one side of the ziploc off the dough, then peel the other side off the dough.

Toss your uncooked tortilla in the pan and cook for 1 minute, flip (quit your whining and just use your fingers, everything else sucks.) and cook for 1 minute more.

  • Don’t try to peel the tortilla off the ziploc, peel the ziploc off the tortilla or it will rip! 
  • If you preheat your oven to its lowest setting, then turn it off, you can stack your tortillas in there as they come off the stove and they’ll stay warm. Cover them with a damp paper towel.
  • These are fantastic with butter, but Chili honey butter is AMAZING (butter, chili powder, honey, nuke in microwave for 10 seconds and stir together)
  • To freeze, stack between pieces of parchment, allow them to cool completely, then slide into a big ziploc and freeze flat. To defrost, nuke tortillas for 10 seconds at a time, flipping after each zap, until hot (about a minute). A big batch can be wrapped in foil and heated in the oven.

Quick and Easy Black Beans

I'm ashamed to call this a recipe
Delicious, but embarrassingly simple. Mumble about how complicated they are to make when you bring these to a party and get asked for the recipe.

1 can of black beans
1/2 c. of your favorite salsa from a jar
2 Tbsp Panela cheese (omit to make vegan)
thin strips of red chile (optional)

Dump in can of beans and salsa and stir to combine. Cover, and heat until bubbling, stirring occasionally to make sure beans are not scorching at the bottom. When bubbling, turn heat to low and check consistency- if you want beans thicker, remove lid and cook until desired consistency is reached. If thinner/looser beans are required, add water and stir until heated through again.
Transfer to plates or a serving dish and garnish with crumbled Panela. Top with vibrant red chile strips, if using.

  • Alternative salsa suggestions: Tomatillo (green), Chipotle, Peach HabaƱero
  • Also good garnished with cilantro

Enselada de Elote

For easier eating than on the cob, try this!

Elote means “corn,” but it’s synonymous with how corn is prepared at markets and fairs all over San Diego. If you’ve seen the tables near the corn on the cob at the fair, covered in condiments and wondered what they hell they were for, they were for dressing your corn up, Mexi-style. Now in a salad!

1/2 c. mayo (use vegenaise if that's your thing)
1 lime, juiced
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (omit to make vegan)
1/2 bag of frozen corn (thawed)
1/4 red onion, diced
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

In a large bowl, add mayo, lime, chili powder, garlic and cheese. Stir to combine.

Add remaining ingredients and gently toss to mix through and coat with mayo mixture.

Transfer to plates or a serving dish and AAAAAAAWWWWWW YEEEEEEEAAAAAH!

  • Great to make up to 1 day ahead and take to parties.
  • Trader Joe’s sells awesome frozen grilled corn, highly recommended for this application.

Restaurant-Style Guacamole

Little plate on big plate for much improved presentation over plastic tub and bag of chips

Great guacamole doesn’t need a lot of fussing, or mystery flavor packets from the supermarket, just a little prep and you too can be making authentic and delicious guac just like you’d get for ten bucks at a nice restaurant.

For each avocado:
1 Tbsp. small dice tomato, drained
1 Tbsp. small dice red onion
1 Tbsp. small dice red pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. finely minced serrano/jalapeno (optional)

As you prep ingredients, put them in a bowl (not the serving bowl, you savage!): Dice your onion, add to the bowl; dice the pepper, add to the bowl; and so on, until the LAST thing you add is the avocado. 

Avocados should be sliced through their poles to the pit, and twist to separate. Set aside the half with the pit, and get to work on the other half- slice through the fruit along its length, to the skin, but not through it. Turn the avocado in your hand and repeat through the width of the fruit. You should be slicing a crosshatch pattern in the fruit, while leaving the skin intact. Set that half aside. Position the other half on the counter and give the seed a good whack with your knife, so it embeds in the pit. Pick up that half and twist to remove the pit. Repeat cross hatching pattern with your newly pitless avocado half.

Fold the avocado in half over the bowl and squeeze out the chunks, like you’re squeezing toothpaste from a tube- squeeze from the bottom. Now all you have to do is mix it all up with a fork, mashing any chunks that are too big for your liking. Just keep mashing until you like what you see. Taste it and add more salt, cilantro, or lime juice as necessary (if you don’t know what it needs, it needs salt!), when it’s good, and only then, spoon it into the serving dish.

  • Recipe is designed to scale! Big party = big guac 
  • Salt, lime, cilantro and onion are key- everything else is nice to have. 
  • Eyeball this one, don’t bust out measuring tools.
  • For max juice from citrus, zap in microwave for 30 seconds before you cut them in half OR roll them on the counter to squish and free juice.
  • To get leaves without stems from a bunch of cilantro, shave that puppy!
  • To remove the pit from your knife, pinch the blade behind the pit and it will pop right off. 
  • To drain diced tomatoes, salt them and throw them in a little bowl on a folded paper towel to soak up the liquid. I usually prep them first so they have maximum drainage time so they don’t make the guac watery.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vegan Katsu Dinner

Japanese dinner comes together quickly if your freezer and pantry are well stocked

This dinner was made up of a bunch of little things. I prefer to eat this way, with just a few bites of each dish and lots of variety.

The revelation for me was using spicy boca chick'n patties as my katsu (cutlet). Once I heated the patty up in a skillet, toasting the breading in the process, and sliced it up with katsu sauce (kinda like a bbq sauce, recipe follows), this dish was exactly like regular ol' tonkastu- maybe lighter and less greasy!

I served my katsu with:

  • Zaru cha soba - cold green tea buckwheat noodles. Be sure to rinse/wash well with plenty of cold water after cooking. This was simply tossed with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. 
  • Inarizushi - the two pouches made of fried tofu skin, stuffed with sushi rice. (recipe follows)
  • Seasoned Tomato - fresh tomato slices sprinkled with Penzey's buttermilk ranch herb mix- a weird choice, I know
  • Seaweed salad with cucumber and red onion (recipe follows)
  • Edamame with smoked sea salt - nuke frozen soybeans and a Tbsp. of water in a covered dish in the microwave
  • Gari - young sweet pickled ginger, like you'd get with sushi
  • Umeboshi - pickled plum with a strong flavor- I like to nibble a little before taking a bite of inarizushi

Katsu Sauce
Mix together:

  • 1/2 c. Ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dry Mustard Powder
  • 1 tsp. Sriracha sauce

Sushi Rice Dressing
Mix together:

  • 2 Tbsp. Rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 2 tsp. agave nectar 

Pour over 2 cups of cooked white short grain rice (I use Botan Calrose) and toss gently to coat each grain of rice with the dressing and cool it down quickly.

Seaweed Salad with Cucumber and Red Onion

  • 2 Tbsp. sliced wakame or seaweed of your choice, reconstituted in cold water (5-10 minutes)
  • 1/2 inch of cucumber
  • red onion
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. agave nectar
  • salt to taste 

Shave red onion with the thinnest setting of a mandoline/japanese slicer until you have about 1 Tbsp of onion ribbons. Microwave on high for 30 seconds in a dish full of water. Drain and pat dry. This process takes a lot of the harsh bite out of raw onions.
Shave cucumber on the same setting.
Stir together remaining ingredients to make dressing and toss with seaweed, onion and cucumber.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fettuccine Arrabiata with Asparagus, Shiitake Mushrooms and Mock Mozzarella

Lunch of the gods

  • 1 serving Cooked Fettuccine
  • 1/2 c. Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 2 oz. Mock fresh mozzarella cubes (recipe follows)
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms 
  • 2 asparagus spears, sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tsp. red chile flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil garnish

Heat a large pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Saute mushrooms until well cooked, about 5-10 minutes. Add jalapenos and asparagus and saute until barely cooked/still crunchy, about 3 minutes. Stir in red chile flakes and marinara sauce and heat through. Add cooked pasta and stir to combine and heat through. Add mock fresh mozzarella cubes and heat through. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh basil garnish.

Marinara Sauce
1 14 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes
1/4 c. finely diced onion
1 big clove garlic, minced/pressed
2 tsp. Dried Italian Oregano
1 tsp. Dried basil
1/2 tsp. Dried Thyme
olive oil

Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat the bottom with a little olive oil. Add onion and saute until translucent (3 minutes). Add garlic and herbs and stir to combine. Stir in tomatoes and raise the heat to bring to a boil, stirring often. Once boiling, lower heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and add salt.

Mock Fresh Mozzarella
1 block firm tofu
2 tsp. salt
juice from 1 lemon
1 c. cold water

Press firm tofu for 30 minutes between plates, cutting boards, whatever. Combine water, lemon juice and salt in a ziploc bag, add tofu, and marinate for 30 minutes. Slice into 1/2 inch cubes.

First, locate the teats on your cashew...

I've been buying almond, coconut, and/or soy milk instead of milk for quite some time now. Recently I concluded that making nut milk shouldn't be that hard and googled around for guidance. I think I have this process pretty streamlined, have stuff to say, and am ready to document it, so here goes:

Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is flipping delicious and easy to make, so if you want to try making nut milk, I highly recommend starting with cashew. If you have a kick ass blender (vita-mix, blendtec, etc.) you won't even need a nut milk bag/fine mesh to strain it, because you won't need to strain it at all.

  1. Get RAW un-dicked around with cashews. No salt, no whatever else. I buy them in the bulk bin now. You will need about 1 cup of cashews to make 3 cups of cashew milk.
  2. Soak them in plenty of water for a few hours or even overnight. You can soak them in the pitcher of your blender, so you don't dirty another thing in the kitchen. 
  3. Strain and rinse them off.
  4. Add them back to the blender pitcher and add just enough fresh cold water to cover. I use filtered water from my Brita for this.
  5. Blend on your blender's juice setting (my Blendtec starts out slow, then beats the crap out of them for maybe a minute and a half on this setting).
  6. Behold your cashew cream! Depending on what you're up to, you might need to stop here. More on that later.
  7. Add in the rest of the water (up to the 3 cup mark is a good place to start) and put the lid back on securely. I shake the pitcher at this point to basically wash down the sides.
  8. Blend again on the whole juice setting.
  9. Check it out! It looks like milk! 

At this point it tastes very very neutral, so give it a taste and adjust for the consistency you like. If it's too creamy, just add more cold filtered water. I also like to buzz in a pinch of sea salt, a tiny bit of maple syrup, a tiny bit of vanilla extract, and a tiny pinch of cinnamon. If you go overboard on that stuff, it tastes like Horchata, which is damn awesome, as well.

If you find, as I have, that you'll want to make a 3 cup batch of this every week, I recommend soaking a big batch of cashews all at once, then portioning them out into ziploc bags for the freezer. If you don't want to wait 20 minutes while they thaw a little, they can be zapped in the microwave for 30 seconds when you're ready to make milk, so the whole process from using pre-soaked, frozen cashews takes only five minutes.

Other ideas
Double Honey Nut Cheerios 
Flavor your nut milk with honey and a pinch of salt and pour over your Honey Nut Cheerios. OMG Sweet Jesus.
Honey Nut Semi Freddo
Make honey nut semi-freddo by flavoring the cashew cream with plenty of honey and a good pinch of salt and freezing it. It should be too sweet to eat before you freeze it because freezing dulls the sweetness quite a bit. I stirred it once or twice as it was freezing too. This was amazingly good. I think I'm going to try this with hazelnut cream and chocolate next.
Coffee Cream
Coffee cream can be made by adding less water than when making milk, and can, of course be flavored however you like.
Chocolate Cashew Milk
Mix 1 Tbsp. agave nectar with 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder and a pinch of salt until it looks like Hershey's chocolate syrup. Add a little cashew milk to thin and stir until dissolved. Add more cashew milk until it tastes the way you want.
Delicious Cashew Spread
Start with 1 cup of extra thick cashew cream and add 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast, chopped fresh herbs, cracked black pepper, and garlic (or any combination of that stuff- this combo tastes a lot like Boursin cheese). Awesome on crackers, crudite, and baked potatoes.
Creamy coffee!