Saturday, June 30, 2007

Topless, I mean Tapas Bar

Tapas Sandwiches 1, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

When we lived in Mexico City people often thought we were from Spain or Argentina. That was until I opened my mouth. "Ahhh, Norteamericana!" That's right, I have a gringa accent. I can't even do a good British accent and I lived there, too. However, S. is still mistaken for being Spanish or Argentine after he speaks. He has the accent. I guess that's what comes from learning Spanish living with a native Argentine and living in Argentina for two years. One time when S. was serving a mission for our church he was walking down the street with his missionary companion when a 6 foot 4, 300 pound, drunk man grabbed him by the collar and pinned him against the wall and accused S. of being an FBI agent. The man threatened to kill him. In S.'s best Argentine accent he said (in Spanish), "I don't know what you're talking about, I'm from Buenos Aires." The guy said, "Oh, never mind." Talk about the Lord protecting you.

Here is a Spanish-inspired meal. In Charlottesville were deciding where to go for dinner one night. A friend, (Mike N.) said, "What about a topless bar?" Okay, that is what I thought he said. He really said, "What about a Tapas Bar." So, Mike, next time you guys are in town we can add these sandwiches to the Topless, I mean Tapas Bar.

A couple weeks ago S. had an urge for some good cheese. When I saw the wedge of Manchego he bought at Wegmans I was inspired to invent this new Spanish dish.

FYI: Tapas is the name for a wide variety of appetizers in Spanish cuisine.

They may be cold, such as mixed olives and cheese, or warm, such as puntillitas, Andalusian battered, fried baby squid. In Spain (mainly in the southern half of the country), tapas are usually given for free to accompany a drink before lunch or dinner. In the United States and the United Kingdom, tapas have evolved into an entire cuisine; at Spanish restaurants, patrons may order many different small tapas, and combine them for a full meal.

Tapas Sandwiches
Serves 2

Cheese marinade:
2 green onions, chopped
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 lb Manchego cheese, thinly sliced

Place cheese in a 9x9 pan. Drizzle with olive oil, green onions, cumin, salt and pepper. Top with red peppers. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to overnight.

The Sandwich:

1 russett potato, washed and thinly sliced
1/3 pound Chorizo, thinly sliced
Good bread, such as a bagette, sliced into sandwich-sized pieces (4 pieces total)

In a frying pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high. Add sliced potatoes and cook, turning so both sides are golden brown about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place sliced Chorizo in a frying pan over medium high and saute about 7 minutes. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to broil. On a cookie sheet place sliced bread. Add sauteed potatoes, chorizo, marinated cheese with red peppers on the top of the bread. Broil for 2 minutes, watching closely.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dreaming of a tropical island

With baby #3 on the way, S. and I are itching to get away on a vacation--by ourselves. We have never done this since having B., 4 years ago (yesterday). The only time I have been away from her was while I was at the hospital after having Little Man. I remember all the trips we took before kids. Some of my favorites: Costa Rica, Hualtuco, Mexico (all over Mexico, actually), Hawaii, London...

It does make me a little nervous to leave the kids for a long time. I mean, we don't have the best luck on trips. During our honeymoon in Costa Rica we almost died 3, yes, THREE times. Here's how it happened: We arrived in San Jose, and boarded a small, single-prop plane to Playa Langosta (no biggie, right? Keep reading). We were kayaking in a river and we saw a crocodile right by our kayak, it came a little too close for comfort. After staying a few nights at Playa Langosta we headed to the Arenal volcano that heats some hot springs at the nearby Tabacon resort. As we approached the volcano we saw hundreds of toucans flying away from the volcano, not usually a good thing. As we got closer, ash started falling on our little VW van. Uh, how do you say, "turn around" in Spanish? We arrived at the hotel, only to be directly evacuated down the other side of the mountain to another, not so posh, hotel. As we were driving down we saw a wall of volcanic ash rolling down the side of the volcano. It was the largest eruption in 30 years. So, we continued our vacation, eventually returning to the original hotel, and then to San Jose for our last night. As we were waiting to board our plane back to the states, S. was reading a local paper and saw that the same plane we had taken to Playa Langosta had crashed in the jungle the night before.

So, as we think of where we might go, my mind turns to the potential cuisines. This inspired me to make a Coconut Tart with Lime Curd.

Coconut Tart with Lime Curd

Makes 6 individual tarts
2 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place coconut and sugar in a food processor to blend. Add egg whites and mix. Press mixture into a well-greased 4 inch tartlet pans with removable bottoms.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Lime Curd

adapted from Barefoot Contessa

4 limes at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt

Remove the zest of 2 limes with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the limes to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lime zest. Add-- the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lime juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Carefully remove tarts from pans, pour curd into coconut tarts. Wait about 20 minutes until curd is set. Add sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries.

I want to try this crust with chocolate and almonds--an Almond Joy-type creation. Yum.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Kabobing along

Kabob feast, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

My alma mater is not known for its partying. Students party in a different way than most universities--no alcohol. One of my most memorable parties I went to was at my friend, Brooke's house. It was packed, and it was a "Make your own Kabob Bar." They had a table set up with everything you can think of to put on a kabob--tomatoes, peppers, onion, mushrooms, beef, chicken... We were sitting around with some friends, waiting for our personalized kabobs to cook, a challenge with how many people were there, when a friend ate some chicken. It wasn't until we were talking about waiting for our chicken to cook that she realized her mistake--she had eaten the chicken raw. I guess the room was dark, but she didn't realize she had just eaten a big piece of chicken sushi. The story has a happy ending--no salmonella.

I love kabobs for entertaining a crowd because they provide guests with choices--in meats, in marinades, and in sauces. Just make sure they don't eat the chicken before it's cooked.


Kabobs--in two to three different marinades, using meat, chicken, or pork
Cilantro Ginger marinade
Peanut Marinade
Sauces--Cilantro Pepper
Tomato, Cucumber, Feta
Peanut Sauce
Veggie Kabobs
Pita with Hummus
Cilantro Rice (or Couscous)
Dessert--Fresh fruit tart or Baklava

plan for 1/4-1/2 lb of meat per person

Cut chicken, meat or pork into 1x1 inch chunks

Cilantro Garlic Marinade
for 1 1/2 lbs meat

3 garlic cloves
2 T olive oil
1/2 tsp ground mustard
3/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup lemon juice
Kosher salt and ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well blended. Marinate meat for at least an hour or overnight in a ziplock bag. Place meat on skewers.

Grill over medium-high about 10 minutes, rotating and marinating as they cook.

Peanut Marinade

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 garlic clove
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well blended. Marinate meat for at least an hour or overnight in a ziplock bag. Place meat on skewers.

Grill over medium-high about 10 minutes, rotating and marinating as they cook.

Cilantro Pepper Sauce

1/4 cup chopped onion
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 T water
1/4 cup lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor to chop finely. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tomato, Feta and Cucumber Relish

2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/4-1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 tsp salt
1 T lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

Peanut Sauce

2 garlic cloves
1/2 onion, chopped
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 T ginger, minced
1 T olive oil
1 cup coconut milk
2 T soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and simmer over low until thick, about 4 minutes. Thin with coconut milk, if necessary.

Veggie Kabobs

Zucchini, sliced
Yellow Squash, sliced
Red, orange, yellow, green peppers, 1-inch chunks
Onion, 1 inch chunks
Cherry tomatoes
Fresh Pineapple

I just marinate the veggie kabobs in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar with salt and pepper. We put them on separate skewers since they cook at a different speed than the meat. You can also choose not to put the veggies on on skewers and just grill them in larger pieces (i.e. peppers in fourths).

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A doll from the eighties

Strawberry shortcake, originally uploaded by mud pie gourmet.

I am a child of the eighties. I loved Rainbow Brite, Bonkers candy, E.T. cereal (thank goodness they came back with Reese's Cereal), jellies (as in the shoes--have you seen they have some in the dollar section of Target?!??! I'm so tempted), Pee Wee Herman (you know you can do the Tequila dance), and watching the Take on Me video over and over. Occasionally I'll get emails forwarded to me like, "You know you're a child of the eighties if..." I am always hit with nostalgia and wonder how I could have forgotten about such funny, seemingly important (at the time) things.

Well, now children of the eighties are parents, and you can see it when you go to the toy store. They have Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Ponies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. They know we will buy the toys--not just for nostalgic reasons, but the fact that we can (no more asking mom and dad). Man, I wanted a Cabbage Patch kid so bad. I finally got one, but by that time my friends had FIVE Cabbage Patch Kids. I have to admit, it is nice that my mom still has some of my old toys--B. can play with that Cabbage Patch Kid (it's a preemie and it's birthday is the day before mine--I still remember) and my Strawberry Shortcake dolls when we visit. I don't mind playing with her (B., that is), either.

I love Strawberry Shortcake, not just the doll. With the strawberry season here I knew I had to make my shortcake. I have made so many different recipes of shortcake and S. always asks me why when my usual is always the best. Here's the best.

Strawberry Shortcake

Makes 12 servings

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
approx. 6 cups sliced strawberries
approx. 1 cup Whipping cream, whipped with about 2 T powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and sugar. Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form. Combine milk and egg in a separate bowl. Add milk and egg mixture to dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Drop onto cookie sheets in large mound (about 2-3 inches in diameter). Cook for 18 minutes. Let cool. Slice in half horizontally. Place a generous dollop of whipped cream on bottom of biscuit, top with just under 1/2 cup of strawberries each. Place top of biscuit back on and add whipped cream to the top with a few more strawberries. Add more or less whipped cream and strawberries to your liking.

I always eat the leftovers for breakfast with a big glass of milk. Hey, it's fruit and an egg!