A Tale of Two Rices

As I browse through my blog, I can’t help but notice how often rice seems to come up. I really can’t help it, I have a love affair with that little grain. My only hope is that I offer some variety for you. That said, this is a rice post. Yep. Mas arroz.

In Panama, we prepare rice in many different ways; sometimes with coconut milk, or various beans and peas. Anything you want, really. Two of my favorites are Arroz con Frijoles Negros (rice with black beans) and Arroz con Camarones Secos (rice with dried shrimp).

They’re both easy to make and follow the same process as the recipe for Arroz con Guandú. For the black beans, I used dried beans and cooked them in the coconut milk, as detailed in the recipe below, but you can use canned beans . For the one with the dried shrimp and guandú, I cooked both of those in the coconut milk first, then followed the recipe.

For the Arroz con Coco y Frijoles Negros (Black beans & rice)
2 cps rice
1/2 cp dry black beans
2 cps coconut milk
3 cps water
1/3 cp salt pork or bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the Arroz con Camaroncitos Secos y Guandú (Rice w/dried shrimp & pigeon peas)
2 cps rice
1 cp frozen guandú (pigeon peas)
1/2 cp dried shrimp
2 cps coconut milk
3 cps water
1/3 cp salt pork or bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method for both versions:
In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, brown the salt pork/bacon rendering some of its fat. Add the guandúes (pigeon peas), coconut milk. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat until it simmers. Cook it until the peas are tender, about 40 minutes. Strain the liquid and measure, add enough water to make 3-1/3 cps of liquid, set aside.

This recipe uses the frozen peas, however, if you are using the canned variety, just skip the step above. Instead, drain, rinse and strain the beans, then add coconut milk and water to  measure 3-1/3 cups. Fry the salt pork or bacon just before adding the rinsed rice.

Add oil to the pan with the peas, rinse the rice and add it to the pot stirring all the ingredients. Add the liquid, check the salt, stir this well. Make sure you remove any drippings that may have been stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring it to a slow boil; once the liquid boils do not stir it again. Keep the temperature on medium high.

Once the liquid is almost completely evaporated, bring the temperature to low and cover with the lid. Allow to steam undisturbed for 40 minutes. When you remove the lid, all the peas will be at the top, go ahead and stir them into the rice. You’re done!

Note: The flavor of the coconut milk will intensify with time. You can cook the peas a day ahead to allow the flavors to meld together.

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Fideos a la Shun, sorta

My dear friend Shun, as I affectionately call her, shared this dish with me many moons ago, and I was hooked after my first try. Fideos (noodles) are a simple symphony of spicy, smoky and fresh flavors. It is sometimes called sopa de fideos, which translates to dry noodle soup.

It makes for a great side dish, but I often eat it as a main course. Traditionally, it is served with crema fresca (creme fraiche), queso fresco and avocado. A great option for a meat-free menu, and delicious to boot. Another plus, it is prepared in a jiffy or rápidito! I made this batch at the last minute to take to a party and was unable to find tomatoes that were ripe enough, so I opted for good canned ones. Likewise, I had no luck in the avocado front, so no avocados for me! You decide how much heat you want and adjust the number of serranos accordingly, you may also remove the seeds, this will further reduce the heat level.

Fideos a la Shun
12 oz fideo pasta or angel hair
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves, whole
1 or 2 serrano peppers, to taste
5 fresh Roma tomatoes, ripened OR
1 can (15 oz.) stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp chicken flavor bouillon (like Knorr or Maggi)
Water
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
For plating:
Queso fresco, crumbled
Crema fresca
Avocado slices or small cubes

I would suggested getting the sauce ready first. Shun’s recipe calls for the onion, garlic, serranos and fresh tomatoes to be roasted first. You can skip this step, but it does add an intensity and complexity to the dish, so if you have the time–about 10-15 extra minutes–you should do it.

I use my comal or grill pan for this, getting it nice and hot, then sear the sliced onion, whole serranos, garlic and tomatoes (fresh). Once  seared, dump the whole thing into your blender or food processor, adding the chicken bouillon, cumin, oregano, salt & pepper and enough water to get things moving. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat add the oil and break the pasta into it, the purpose of this step is to toast the pasta, but don’t walk away, it burns rather quickly and that will ruin the flavor of the dish. The noodles will change color and turn golden brown.

Carefully, VERY carefully add the pureed sauce and watch yourself! It becomes the evil spitty monster at this point, add enough water to ensure the noodles are submerged in liquid. Lower the heat so it simmers gently, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.

The noodles should be al dente, when done. It will take about 20 minutes for the pasta to cook and you may need to add more water as it cooks down. To plate: spoon some noodles onto a plate, top with crema, avocado and the crumbled cheese. Pull up a chair and enjoy!

To see more of the step-by-step process, click here.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris
PS: Thanks, Shuni!

A paella wannabe

This is another winning recipe from my old Panamanian cookbook, El Arte de Cocinar, by Berta de Pelaez. Berta must be Martha Stewart’s sister from another mother. I don’t remember if I saw Julia on TV when I was growing up, I do know Berta’s show was a daily event for my mom and I. She inspired my mom to expand her cooking and fueled her entertaining dreams.

I don’t believe I ever had this dish while I lived in Panama, but I’m definitely gonna make up for that with gusto! This turned out to be an easy, quick and delicious recipe, almost a quick take on a paella, really. I must admit, I made this a few months ago and didn’t share, it got lost amongst files and trips and lazy days. Now, I don’t want you to think it lacks luster, it really is a dish you should make. Soon.

I’m not sure about the name of the recipe, don’t really know what makes it ‘provincial style’, but it’s not my recipe. Also, the original called for fish pieces and salchichas–these would be wieners, instead, I opted for shrimp and soft Spanish chorizo. Enough of that, here’s the food.

Arroz a la Provinciana (Provincial style rice)

1 cp pork shoulder, cubed
1 cp Spanish chorizo, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 tsp cumin
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt & pepper
1 can stewed tomatoes, diced
1 cp white wine
1/4 lb squid, cleaned & sliced to rounds
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/4 cp olive oil, approx
3 cps rice

Season the pork with the cumin, salt, pepper and garlic. Add a bit of oil to a medium saucepan, heat it over medium high and add the chorizo. Once the fat begins to render, add the pork cubes and brown for a few minutes. Remove from the pan, leaving the oil behind, then add the onions and bell pepper. Continue to cook until the onions are translucent, then remove from the oil and combine with the shrimp and squid.

Return the pork and chorizo to the pan over high heat, add the wine and allow it to burn off the alcohol before adding the tomatoes. Add about 1 cp of water and coo until the pork is tender. Remove pork mixture from the  pan and reserve any liquid. Add a bit more oil and heat over high temperature.

Rinse and drain the rice and add to the heated pan, stirring to coat all the grains with the oil and until the grains look white and not translucent. Stir in the pork and chorizo. Measure any liquid that you reserved and add enough water to measure 5 cps of liquid. Add to the rice, check and adjust the seasoning as needed. Do not stir once it begins to boil!!!!

Allow the rice to cook without disturbing it, until the liquid evaporates. When it is almost dry and you can see the top of the rice, delicately add the shrimp, squid and onion mixture, spreading it evenly across the top DO NOT STIR INTO THE RICE.

Lower the temperature to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the rice to steam for about 15 minutes. At that time, you can feel free to stir with wild abandon, but be careful not butcher the cooked seafood. Now get a fork and start eating!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Cinco de Mayo? Pork in Green Sauce

The Hubbz hates the use of the word ‘juxtapose’, he says it has become all trendy and overused. I laugh every time I hear the word and look at the disgust on his face as he rolls his little blue eyes. That said, this dish is a perfect juxtaposition of flavors. Creamy, tart, spicy, hot, and a cooling sweetness. Perfect! Just pair it with a Margarita and you have the makings of an excellent 5 de mayo celebration.

Puerco en Salsa Verde (pork in green sauce) is a very popular Mexican dish that marries chiles and tomatillos with pork meat, usually the shoulder. You’ll find a few variations, with or without corn and at various degrees of heat = picante. One element that is always present, is that zingy tang of the tomatillos.

To contrast, or juxtapose, the tang, I added a radish and red pepper raita–of sorts. Raita is an Indian or Pakistani sauce or condiment, usually prepared with yogurt, cucumbers and various herbs. My version, with a Latin flavor, used crema fresca instead of the yogurt and some colorful Easter radishes and red peppers. This made for a deliciously fresh, cool and ever so slightly sweet topping for the tomatillo and chile sauce. It is juxtaposition perfection and tastes GOOD!

Pork in Green Sauce with Radish and Crema Fresca Raita

For the pork:
1 lb pork shoulder or butt, cubed
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, whole
6-8 tomatillos
1-2 serrano peppers (to taste)
1 tbsp cumin, ground
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cp onion, chopped
2 cps fresh corn, shucked
1/2 cp cilantro, chopped

I like roasting tomatillos, this intensifies their flavors and brings out more rounded aspects of the fruit. Spread them on a baking sheet with the onion slices, serranos and garlic cloves, and broil them for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them as they brown.

Once browned, dump the whole thing (there will be plenty of juices from the tomatillos) into a blender vessel and puree with the cumin, oregano, salt & pepper. Set aside.

In the meantime, season the pork with salt & pepper; in a medium-sized pan, heat the oil and then brown the pork pieces. Remove the excess fat from the pan, leaving enough to saute the extra cup of onions. Once the onions become translucent, add the pork, followed by the pureed tomatillo & pepper sauce.

If necessary, add enough water to ensure there’s enough liquid to cover the pork. Once it comes to a boil, bring the temperature to low, just so it is slowly simmering. Put a lid over it and allow it to simmer for about an hour or until the pork is tender.

Once the pork is fork tender, add the corn and cilantro, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Allow it to cook for another 5 minutes or so, just long enough for the corn to soften. To serve, top with some radish raita and enjoy!

For the Radish and Red Pepper Raita

1 cp radishes, julienned
1/4 cp red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cp crema fresca (creme fraiche)
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

Combine all the ingredients and keep cool until ready to serve.

Where’s my Margarita?!!

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

Calling all Cooking Channel Addicts.

I admit it. I spend a LOT of time watching cooking shows, a lot. I’m obsessed with them, sometimes I imagine I am sitting in their kitchens having a glass of wine while they tell me about how they came up with the concept for the dish. One of my favorites is Extra Virgin, hosted by Debi Mazar (of LA Law fame) and her husband, an Italian farmer and chef she met while traveling in Italy. They’re a really cute couple and they prepare all the meals in their own quirky little kitchen. I want their kitchen.

Banner taken from CookingChannelTV.com

A few weeks ago, The Hubbz and I were watching a marathon of episodes on a Sunday afternoon, when we saw it. They made lasagna. Not just lasagna, though, Lasagne alla Bolognese. What I found out about this delicious dish is that it is less tomatoey, less cheesy, but still super creamy. Similarly to how my Mami taught me to make lasagne, the Bolognese incorporates quite a bit of Béchamel Sauce, which I’m now realizing isn’t a traditional component of a basic meat lasagne.

The Bolognese sauce consists of a slow cooked creamy ragu. In their recipe, Debi and Gabriele used a combination of beef, veal, and pork and they added pancetta to the sofrito. I decided to use lamb instead of veal and Spanish chorizo, instead of the pancetta. Traditionally, the Bolognese calls for Parmesan, in an effort to bring in my Latin roots to the table, I opted for an Argentinian Sardo cheese. Sardo is similar  in flavor to Parmesan, it is made of cow’s milk and has a mellow, yet rich, and lightly salty taste.

The lasagne was intensely flavorful and rich and, yes, creamy.The Hubbz loves to cheese up his meals, and even though there was very little cheese added, his need for cheese was satisfied. The sauce needs to cook for a while, so you’ll do well to start there, maybe even the day before. I actually made it in the space of a couple of hours, maybe 3 altogether.

Lasagne alla Bolognese for the Latina’s Soul

For the sauce:
1/2 cp Spanish chorizo, cubed
5 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb each ground beef, pork, lamb
Salt & black pepper
1/2 tsp each nutmeg and allspice
2-3 cps red wine
3 large cans stewed tomatoes
1 cp whole milk

Saute the chorizo in the oil for a few minutes before adding the onion, carrots, and celery; continue cooking until the onions are translucent. Then add the meats, break it up the large pieces with a wooden spoon; once the meat begins to brown, you can add the garlic, season with salt & pepper, and the spices.

After a couple of minutes, add the wine and cook briskly for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate completely, make sure to scrape any bits that may be stuck on the bottom of the pan. In the meantime, pulse the tomatoes in a blender or food processor, then add them to the meat. Taste the sauce and season again with salt and pepper as needed. Lower the temperature to medium and cook for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Finish the sauce by adding the milk, stir well and set aside, to cool off. While the sauce mellows down, start working on the bechamel.

For the Bechamel sauce:
1/2 cp butter (yep, that’s a whole stick)
1/2 cp flour
4 1/2 cps whole milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt and black pepper

Melt the butter over medium heat and briskly stir in the flour, taking care to dissolve any lumps. At this point, you want to slowly toast/cook the flour without burning it. Gradually add the milk to the flour mixture, make sure to whisk it constantly and slowly bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for a few minutes, until it thickens. Season the sauce with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Puting it all together:
Butter
Bolognese Sauce
Lasagne noodles
Bechamel sauce
3/4 cup grated Sardo cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter the pan well–I used a 9×13 pyrex–and add a very thin layer of meat sauce. Followed by a layer of noodles, then Bechamel, and finally Sardo. Repeat a couple of times. At the top, cover the noodles with meat sauce and some Bechamel, add a few thin slices of butter and finish with some Sardo.

Bake for about 30 minutes.

Are you looking for more foodie porn? Click here.

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 Caribeña (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