Foodie bliss

Every now and again I find myself enjoying what I describe as a gastronomical religious experience. I’m a food snob, I admit it. I love good food, the rest isn’t worth the calories. I recently had one of those meals in Austin, Texas.

Do you know who Tyson Cole is? Only the latest recipient of the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest, an honor that celebrates how he expresses his genius on plate after plate at Uchi and its little sister dining room, Uchiko.

On the recommendation of a local, I had a meal at Uchiko my last night in town. You can read all about it over at Eating Our Words. I thumbed through their cookbook while I ate my Fried Milk dessert, immediately knew I had to own a copy. Armed with the cookbook featuring fantastic cooking techniques and my lingering Uchiko-buzz, I attempted a new dish inspired by Cole and his cookbook (by the way, you really should a copy of it). You can click on this link to see more of the Uchiko food porn shots.

I came across a recipe for tuna steak coupled with compressed watermelon and other fancy accoutrements I chose to skip. I don’t really have a recipe for this, I’ll simply walk you through the method. This was very easy and quick to put together. I decided to allow the tuna steaks to marinate for about an hour and at the same time this allowed me time to dehydrate the watermelon slices.

Tuna Steaks with Dehydrated Watermelon
serves 2

For the steaks:
2 tuna steaks, marinated
Marinade:
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
Crushed black pepper
Sea salt

Dehydrated Watermelon
4 watermelon slices (about 1/2-in thick)
Fish sauce
Cooling rack
Remove any seeds and sprinkle each side of the watermelon slices with a couple drops of the fish sauce. Then place them on the cooling rack over a cookie sheet and allow some of the liquid to drain out of the watermelon.

Peach & Habanero Sauce
2-3 ripe peaches, peeled & diced
Water
Pinch of salt
Habanero sauce, to taste
Throw everything, except the water, into a small saucepan. Add enough water just to come to the tops of the peach cubes, bring it to a slow boil/heavy simmer and cook until the peaches have softened to mush. Keep warm.

Sear the steaks in a nonstick skillet, we like ours medium rare, but cook it to your preference. Lay 2 slices of watermelon, spread a bit of the peach sauce and top with the seared tuna steaks.

I know this combination of ingredients may sound odd, but it really works. The tuna steaks were simply flavored, so you can really appreciate their flavor. The watermelon, which is always just mildly sweet, is accented by the complex saltiness of the fish sauce and all of this balanced out by the fresh sweetness and spiciness of the peach sauce. It was a perfectly harmonized dish.

Enjoy!
Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

If by sea.

My seafood obsession¬†is well documented. If you were to do a search on this here blog, you will probably find that fish and/or seafood appear¬†more often than anything else. The Hubbz says I have the ocean(s) running through my veins and¬†I suppose he’s partly right. After all, I grew up with quick and easy access to the Atlantic and the Pacific and to all the goodness harnessed within their waters.

Yesterday I made my required stop by the Asian market, the one place in Houston where I know I will find seafood-a-plenty, all on display, glistening and fresh. I had to stop myself from buying everything I saw and craved, reminding myself of my limited freezer. I can almost imagine that is how those midnight shoppers feel when they go into the stores on Black Friday. Frantically going through the options and picking up marked down items to fill their carts.

This time, I’m going back to¬†one of my all-time-standbys: Al¬†Ajillo¬†(garlic sauce), with yet, another twist. The addition of cream to end up with a silky, creamy sauce. I also used cod fillets, instead of my usual snapper or red fish or shrimp. It was so good and super easy and¬†it came together in a snap. This will work with almost any fish, I even think it would be great to sub the fish with chicken or pork cutlets.

Cod in Creamy Garlic Sauce

1 lb cod fillets, seasoned with a sprinkling of salt and pepper
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cp onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 cp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cp sherry or white wine
1/4 cp heavy cream

You will need to use a saute pan with a lid. On medium-high, heat the olive oil and butter until melted, then add the onions. Cook onions until translucent before adding the garlic, bay leaf and parsley, cook for 2 or 3 more minutes.

 

Bring the temperature to high and add the sherry, stirring constantly and allowing  the alcohol to cook down. Add the fillets, giving them a turn to make sure both sides enjoy the sauciness.

Allow them to cook for about 2 minutes per side (this may vary depending on thickness). Add the cream and swirl the pan around to distribute the cream evenly. Turn off the heat and cover with the lid, allow the steam and heat contained in the pan to continue cooking the fish.

Serve it over white rice or with steamed veggies.


Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Honey, I’m home!!!

Do you ever want to do so much you end up doing nothing at all? Constantly adding items to a mental to-do list that never comes to fruition? Meaning to share some wonderful experience, but never actually picking up the phone or sit before the keyboard? I hope I’m not alone in this crazy little world, but that’s where or what’s been going on with me. Work is crazy busy, they’re REALLY making me work for my money. Add to that new business responsibilities and last minute travel and you end up with a MIA blogger.

I’ve missed my times with you guys, I hope you’ve missed my updates too. Even The Hubbz finally said to me ‘Blog, baby, blog!’ Honey, this one’s for you.

I went to Portland for a bit over a week to attend a conference and I had so much good food and beer. I’ve been dying¬†to tell you all about it, but I also wanted to share the pictures I shot of the scenery¬†so I haven’t. Why you ask? Because I have about 600 shots to review¬†and select the good ones before I can share them with you. That means that I haven’t finish picking, but then I haven’t posted anything else because I keep wanting to share the pictures! Do you see how this crazy cycle has been spinning? So, I decided to go back to what I promised you from day one. Food. I will talk to you about a few dishes I’ve put together in the past few weeks, a few dishes that will rock your world really hard. Promise.

Fish. I don’t know what to call this one, but I’ll tell you how it came about. Have you heard of fish a la Veracruzana? Usually snapper. It is a Mexican recipe, hailing from the province of Veracruz. It is fish cooked in a tangy and flavorful sauce that features tomato, herbs, olives, capers and¬† spices.¬†I had some fillets in the freezer and started out thinking I would prepare them that way.

As the day progressed, I kept thinking about how to Caribbeanize¬†the recipe. A bit of curry came to mind, a bit of serranos¬†for spice. What the heck, let’s make it creamy and add a bit of coconut milk. Yep. That’s what I did, and let me tell you, The Hubbz and I ate more than we needed to AND fought over the leftovers… I won. I’m such a lucky girl! Wanna know the details? Yes you do!

Pescado¬†a la Caribe√Īa (Caribbean Fish)

1 lb fish fillets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 serrano pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cp sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cp sherry or white wine
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp anise seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cp coconut milk
Water
Fajita seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste

Season the fillets with a sprinkling of fajita seasoning, if not available, salt & pepper works just fine; set aside. In a large saucepan, heat up the oil and add the onions and bell pepper, cooking them until softened. Once the onions are translucent, add the serrano, garlic and continue to cook for a minute or so, just make sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Lower the temperature to about medium and add the sundried and fresh tomatoes, curry, anise and cinnamon. Use the sherry to deglaze the pan and remove any bits that may have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan. Allow the sherry/wine to evaporate before adding the coconut milk and water. Season as necessary.

This sauce will cook down for about 20-30 minutes to allow all the flavors to meld together, so you want enough liquid in the pan to allow the fillets to cook. I would say that by the time it cooks down you’ll want to have about 1/2-inch of liquid. I added about 1 cp of water in addition to the coconut milk.

Once this sauce cooks down, simply drop in the fillets, making sure to pour some of the sauce over each one. Cover the pan with a lid and cook the fish for about 5 minutes or until the fillets flake nicely. Serve over rice and wait until you have that first bite, YOU.WILL.NOT.BELIEVE.THE.AWESOME.

Did I mention I got a new camera? I’m still learning it, but here are a few more shots.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Raising the dead

I think I’ve hinted at the fact that Panama is a big seafood country. I may have also shared that we love to party. Overindulgence is quite common to us. When it happens, you hear of various remedies and traditions to¬† cure a persistent hangover. One such remedy: Levanta¬†muerto (raise the dead).

I’m uncertain where the restorative quality of a caldillo¬†de mariscos comes from, or if they are real. What I do know is that it makes for excellent cold weather, hot weather, bad mood, happy mood and comfort food food.

I love seafood soups, but I wanted this broth to be light and filled with the flavors from the sea without being too fishy. So when I went to my fish market, I picked up some mild fish and asked for the carcass to be bagged separately. I then used it to make a deliciously flavored broth.

*To make the broth, I added the fish carcass, shrimp peels (no heads), 1/2 an onion, a few garlic cloves, carrots and celery to a generous pot of water that was seasoned with salt & pepper. I allowed it to simmer for a few minutes, strained and reserved the broth. Here’s how it comes together:

Caldillo de Mariscos (Seafood soup)

Seafood broth*
Clams, scrubbed
Fish (red fish, tilapia or similar), cubed
Shrimp, peeled & deveined
Culantro leaves
Fresh thyme
Yuca, peeled & cubed
Sea salt & pepper

After straining the broth, I returned it to the pot, added the pieces of yuca, chopped culantro leaves (you can substitute with cilantro), a bit of finely chopped thyme, adjust the seasoning as needed. Allow it to cook until the yuca is fork-tender.

While the yuca is cooking, I seasoned the fish and shrimp with 1 tsp of Jugo Maggi (substitute with Worcestershire),  then reduced the temperature to bring the broth to a slow simmer and added the fish, shrimp and clams. Allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes, just until the clams open up. Serve with white rice or crusty bread.

Want to see more food porn? Follow this link. Yeah, baby!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Chef Morimoto vs Chef It Yourself

Last week¬†Houston enjoyed a healthy dose of real¬†Winter weather (finally!),¬†on Wednesday¬†I was manning a booth for Dress For Success Houston at my neighborhood Whole Foods, the location¬†was appropriate¬†for food thoughts. There I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I knew that¬†The Hubbz would enjoy something warm and comforting as much as I would, so a soup of some sort seemed in order. Something creamy, rich, with fish and Panamanian flavor, that’s what I wanted.¬†CHOWDER!

I quickly started jotting things down, instead of clams, fish. No potatoes, let’s use chayote¬†instead. Skip the cream and go for some coconut milk and some salty, fatty pork was mandatory. So I ended up with El Fish Chowder-o. It was delicious, I used some leftover rice to thicken it up a bit and should’ve¬†ran it through the blender, but I got lazy and hungry. Aside: Hubbz, if I had a handy immersion blender I would’ve never skipped this step…, hint, hint. No matter. I took a whisk and made sure all the rice grains were completely obliterated and it was pretty velvety.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with Iron Chef Morimoto. Well, let me tell you. I know you will have some doubts about this part of the story, but I’ve never lied to you and never will. On day 2 of El Chowder-o, The Hubbz¬†and I were watching Iron Chef Morimoto¬†battle Chef Mehta, the mystery ingredient: Coconut. Morimoto¬†proceeds to work his magic with coconut in every conceivable variation and then it happened. He started making a clam chowder. He cooked a bit of rice in coconut milk and used it as a thickener for the chowder and added more coconut milk to make the broth. Of course my dish styling wasn’t as gorgeous as his, but I had a Morimoto genius moment!

El Fish Chowder-O

1 lb fish (I used some striped bass and salmon), cubed
Salt pork or bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 culantro leaves or 3 cilantro sprigs
about 6 cps broth
1/2 cp rice, cooked
1 can coconut milk
2 chayotes, peeled & cubed
3 green onions, diced
Salt & black pepper

In medium pot, render the fat from the bacon, add the garlic and cook until soften, add the coconut milk, broth and rice, season with salt and pepper, simmer for about 30 minutes until rice disintegrates. At this point you can run it through the blender to get a smooth broth.

Return to the pot and add the chayote, allowing to cook until fork tender. Once the chayote is cooked, add the fish and 1/2 of the green onions. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the fish is cooked and flaky. Add the rest of the green onions and serve with crusty French bread.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour: Destination Panam√°

The first time I came across Joan’s blog, Foodalogue,¬†was because of her Culinary Tour¬†events. She chooses a country and invites her readers on a virtual tour of that country and its cuisine. Joan’s rules for her tour are very relaxed; one can make a traditional dish in¬† a traditional way, OR modernize a traditional dish, OR utilize the ingredients and/or techniques of the country in your own way. The world tour will end this year visiting 7 new countries and Panama will be kicking things off.

As a 100% Paname√Īa¬†(that’s Panamanian for non-Spanish speakers), I am required to participate¬†and represent. Really, it’s in the constitution or something. When most people think of Panama, they think of the Panama Canal and Noriega, so before we dive into the grub, let me share some so facts regarding my homeland.

  • Our borders are¬† the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, Colombia and Costa Rica.
  • According to the 2010 country rankings by the World Economic Council of Global Competitiveness, Panama ranks 53 out of 139 countries and is expected to end up in the top 50 this year.
  • As of 2010 it is the second most competitive economy in Latin America.
  • Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon.
  • Basketball is big there and a number of well-known NBA players hail from the little country, including Rolando Blackman (four-time NBA All-Star) and Kevin Daley¬†of the Harlem Globetrotters.
  • Another big game, baseball. Rod Carew¬†and Mariano Rivera¬†both hit balls in Panama before hitting the big time.

  • Panama‚Äôs cuisine is influenced by its diverse population of Hispanic, native Indian, European, African and even Chinese migrations.
  • Unlike many of the neighboring countries, Panamanian food is not particularly spicy (heat).
  • Yellow corn is often used for many of our dishes and fish, seafood and shellfish dishes are Panamanian specialties. For more detailed food info, check this link.

Anydoo,¬†this past year I’ve shared many recipes and told you about foods¬†from Panama and you can be assured that there are plenty more to come starting¬†with 2 dishes I¬†submitted¬†for Joan’s tour. The first is a modern rendition using local ingredients, which could work as a beautiful appetizer, though The Hubbz¬†and I scarfed it down as our entr√©e the other night. The second came as a result of one of our ‘What’s in the Bag‘ evenings. The Hubbz¬†went to the store and brought everything but the¬† butcher’s block, which I then had to incorporate¬†into a meal.¬†It is a pretty traditional dish, with a very tiny itsy¬†bitsy twist. Ready? Here we go.

For an appetizer: Langostinos en Caramelo de Maracuyá con Aire de Coco (Prawns in Passion Fruit Caramel and Coconut Foam).

This was incredible with an exciting and complex flavor profile. I followed a recipe from Jorge Jurado’s latest cookbook ‘Sabores¬†de Panam√°(Flavors of Panama). Jurado¬†is a renown chef in Panama,¬†who is at the forefront of a movement to elevate Panamanian dishes to haute cuisine.

In this recipe, Jurado makes use of popular local flavors: shrimp, passion fruit, chayote squash, coconut and¬†sugar cane and¬†hypes them up with fish sauce and smoked paprika. The final¬†dish¬†is assembled¬†a layer at a time and topped with coconut foam–which I wasn’t able to accomplish, but still ended up with an insanely delicious¬†sauce that tasted of the sea and tropical fruits. That sauce alone would make a dish unforgettable.

This dish wasn’t complicated to put together, but it does have a lot of steps. Because I usually offer step-by-step photo instructions for my dishes, I’ll limit this post to a review and description then direct you here for the how-to.

As an entrée, I offer you a semi-traditional Guacho de Mariscos y Hongos

Guacho (pronounced WAH-cho) is a sort of risotto that is topped with a flavorful¬†sofrito. The primary, always present, ingredients¬†in any guacho¬†are rice and the sofrito that crowns it. Secondary and tertiary¬†ingredients would include an assortment of¬†any of these: various beans, pork, chicken, cured pig’s tails, seafood, and roots such as yuca¬†and¬†otoe.

Panamanian sofrito is generally made with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and a few other aromatics, but this time, I added a puree made from dried chile ancho and guajillos. Also, mushrooms are not traditionally added to this dish.

For the guacho, I made a seafood broth with the shrimp skins and used it as cooking liquid for the rice which cooks until swollen plump. The seafood is added just at the end to prevent overcooking. Let me tell you, this is seafood heaven. The rice is laden with seafood and bacon flavors and is complimented by the sweetness of the shrimp and scallops. To add some textural interest, I pan-fried a few of the shrimp & scallops to top each serving. You can check out this post for the step by step recipe.

There you have it! Panam√°¬†en tu plato (Panama on your plate). Next stop… ALASKA!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Iron Foodie Contest: Allez Cuisine!

UPDATE:

What I really want to do is bounce around with a placard yelling EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! But this will have to do.

Santa Marx has opened the polls for voting, so if you missed the elections, get you fix there. Click on this link¬†to go to Marx’ post and choose your favorite use of the secret ingredients. I will tell you there are 25 fabulous entries, yes, I’m including mine. Go check’em out and vote for me your favorite one. It’s one vote per IP address, so be choosy when you imagine me spending those $200 on Marx goodies.

~~~~~~~~~~

Just before Thanksgiving madness started, I mentioned I had thrown my apron into the Iron Foodie contest hosted by Marx Foods (aka Santa Marx) and Foodie Blogroll. It was too tempting to pass it up. The challenge was set up a la Iron Chef / Chopped; we would receive mystery ingredients that we would then incorporate into an original creation.

 Let me tell you, there was all kinds of excitement at home for about a week. It all started out with the Iron Foodie contest. I had to submit the application post and wait a few days (read: eons) to learn if I had been selected. Once selected, I waited another few eons days to receive the mystery box. We knew we would receive a total of 8 items and had to use at least 3 in the recipe.

The waiting was killing me, so in the meantime I decided to torture myself with the offerings on the Marx site. That’s when it happened. I found their blog… and another opportunity for freebies. I tell you what, I was like a crack addict. Every time I saw the UPS or FedEx or USPS trucks I would start pacing around, hoping for that hit, I mean knock on my door. And when I received all my deliveries, I yearned and longed for the knock again. OK, sorry.

This post is about what I did with the mystery ingredients. Once I had the hot little box in hand and discovered what was in it, I went from giddy with excitement to totally freaked out in about 2.2 seconds. Some of the ingredients¬†left me dumbfounded i.e., Dulse Seaweed???? Others, I had heard of but never tried before: Fennel Polen, Maple Sugar. At first I wanted to try making something sweet because I don’t seem to offer you enough desserts, but the sweets just don’t speak to me.

I will tell you that I made an earlier attempt which included the seaweed, chile panca, vanilla bean and peppercorns. I kept thinking about a savory flan and because the seaweed is, well, from the sea, I went with shrimp. I incorporated the maple sugar and Telicherry¬†peppercorns in the bacon. It was good, but I should’ve made a sauce for it and, overall, I didn’t see myself making that dish ever again. Back to the drawing board I went.

I had planned on a dessert and I WILL make it in the next few days, but then I was struck by a thought or a memory or something. I love Chinese Salt & Pepper Shrimp or Calamari. I’ve never made it, but I loooooove it. So I thought, I could make that with the Smoked Salt¬†and Tellicherry¬†peppercorns! That’s how this came to be. Instead of deep-frying, I pan-fried. Instead of shrimp or calamari, SALMON! I finished it up with a creamy sauce incorporating the chile panca¬†and fennel polen. YUM!

Salt & Pepper Salmon with Fennel & Panca Cream

Salmon fillets, skinless
Smoked salt
Telicherry Peppercorns
Extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cp heavy cream
1 small chile panca, finely chopped
1 tsp fennel polen
Smoked salt
Telecherry pepper

Though I love salmon skin, I chose to have it removed for this application. I started out with 2 fillets cut from the thick part of the fish, those fillets were then halved into 2-inch sections (approximately).

Grind the peppercorns; if you don’t have a spice grinder (like me), place them in a baggie, put the bag over a towel and use a rolling pin to break the peppercorns. Another alternative is to use a mortar and pestle. Combine about 1 tablespoon smoked salt and pepper.

Dip the salmon pieces in the salt/pepper mixture (top and bottom).

Heat a nonstick skillet over high heat, add a swirl of olive oil and sear the salmon pieces on both sides–about 2 to 3 minutes per side depending on thickness and how done you like it. Set aside and keep warm.

Rinse out the skillet, heat over medium and add a bit of olive oil. I removed the seeds from the chili before chopping, I wasn’t looking for heat, just the fruity flavor.

Add the panca¬†chili, stirring constantly. Add the cream and fennel polen, season with smoked salt and ground pepper. Remember the salmon will be heavily seasoned, so don’t add too much salt to the sauce. Allow it to come to a soft boil for a minute or two. Run through a blender before serving.

I grilled a few asparagus spears, poured the cream on the bottom of the plate, then came the asparagus and salmon over that. This salt is incredibly flavorful, the salmon tasted as though it had been smoked. And the peppercorns are strong! They really wake up your palate.

Finally, the creamy sauce brought it all together. It was silky, rich with a hint of sweetness from the fennel, but not at all overpowering. This one goes in the archives and you, you should really try it.

For more shots, click here.
Cookingly yours,
Anamaris