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!

Market Day

I love that Houston has been promoting local farmers more and more these days. I love getting up Saturday morning and driving out to see what goodies are available that week.

The other really neat benefit, is to be able to speak with the farmers themselves and see the pride in their eyes as they offer you their crops and are always happy to answer questions about what to do with the produce and how to do it best.

It also gives me an opportunity to see products I’ve never heard of before and it encourages me to expand my foodie repertoire. For instance, I’ve never seen yellow oyster mushrooms before, have you?

What about black radish?

I’ll share my impressions as I use these finds. I already went through the artichokes, rainbow carrots, yellow oyster mushrooms, dill, lemon balm¬†and fresh flounder. I should’ve documented the flounder & oyster mushroom beauty, but I didn’t. My bad.

My hubby filleted the flounder, I dusted them with a bit of flour (we kept the skin on) before giving them a quick pan-fry. I topped them with the oyster mushrooms, which I sautéed in EVOO, garlic then deglazed with a bit of sherry, added a bit of cream because The Hubbz loves to have a sauce. Just before serving I added a bit of the lemon balm and we proceeded to devour the whole thing. It was very quiet in the room.

We also had some roasted artichokes. After trimming the leaves and cutting them in half, I drizzled a ‘marinade’ of olive oil, balsamic vinegar syrup, garlic, lemon balm, salt & pepper. Popped them in the oven for about 15 minutes before serving.

While the artichokes roasted, I turned my attention to the multicolored baby carrots. I trimmed the stems, then added some butter, chopped garlic and about 1 tsp of habanero hot sauce to a pan and cooked the garlic for about 1 minute.

Then added the trimmed carrots and sautéed them a bit before adding about 1/2 cp of sherry to the pan. Lowered the temperature to medium low and added 1 tbsp of coconut sugar (brown sugar will work just as well), put a lid on and allowed it to steam for about 10-12 minutes.

It was the perfect balance of spicy and sweet. Aaahh, Spring. Even if it really feels like Summer already. Food is good.

For more Farmers’ Market shots, follow this link.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Saril, not just for drinking anymore

I love learning new things, especially new cooking things. Be it techniques, flavors, ingredients, I love it.¬†The world is¬†so full of delicious and unique goodies, we would need to live several lifetimes in order to¬†appreciate them all. There is a flower/plant that is very popular in Panama, the Caribbean and Mexico. In Panama and the Caribbean it is known as Saril¬†or Red Sorrel. In Mexico, they call it Flor de Jamaica (Jamaican flower) and they use it for their aguas¬†frescas–essentially, flavored (infused) waters.

These next 3 shots were taken by Peter, Mr. P. de Panama. A US expat living in my little country, who kindly allowed me to use his shots in exchange for the link to the recipe featuring them. I think I got the best end of that deal. Definitely take some time to visit his Flickrstream, he has some awesome photos here.

by Mr. P. de Panama

Saril bush, flower and ...the thing you make the juice with

by Mr. P. de Panama

Similarly, I’ve been drinking Ponche¬†de Saril¬†(Saril¬†punch) since I was a little kid; my mom and aunts would sit around for hours piting¬†the flowers, then they would steep them with lots of ginger. To serve it, sugar and sometimes lime juice was added and then the drink is poured over lots of ice. It is one of the most beautiful and refreshing things you’ll ever drink, an awesome combination of tartness and zing. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

the pits!

That was the only use I was aware of for this flower, a relative of the common hibiscus plant. Recently, I read a post by one of my fave foodies, Lesley over at The Mija Chronicles. She used the reconstituted flowers to make quesadillas, then I discovered she has a fascination with the little flower and has prepared and¬†eaten many dishes incorporating it. To say I was intrigued does not cover it. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The possibilities seemed endless once I realized the genius of exploiting the flavors of the miracle flower. What to do…?

As you can see, the flower is a bright purplish red, the color intensifies when dried. The liquid, broth, tea, water, whatever we should call it, is a beautiful ruby red, a bit more intense than the color of cranberry juice. I wanted to make sure that the dish I created continued to pay homage to the vibrancy of¬†the flower’s color. Saril’s¬†flavor profile could be compared to that of fresh cranberries, I guess. Except, not as tart, giving way to a slight sweetness along the way. Again, I needed to preserve¬†those flavors in the final product: chicken would open itself up to the flavors. A bit of heat and we would be golden. Want to see?

Chicken in Saril and Ancho Sauce

For the chicken
1 whole chicken, cleaned
2 carrots, halved
1/2 cilantro bunch
4 cloves garlic, whole
1 tbsp Herbs d’Provence
1 tbsp sea salt
Water

Remove the innards from the bird’s cavity and rinse the chicken under cold tap water. Place all the ingredients, except for the chicken and water in a stockpot, rest the chicken over them, then fill the pot with enough water to completely cover and submerge the chicken. Place on the stove on high heat until it comes to a boil. Once it boils, lower the temperature just enough to keep it at a slow boil (about medium-high flame) and allow it to cook for another 20 minutes.

At the end of the 20 minutes, turn off the heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let it steam for another 30-45 minutes. Remove the chicken to cool and reserve the broth. This will result in the most beautiful, flavorful, moist chicken meat ever and the broth is amazing. Once the chicken has cooled, break the chicken into pieces and remove the meat from the bones into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

For the sauce
2 cps reserved broth
2 ancho chilies, whole
2/3 cp dried saril
2 tbsp raspadura or dark brown sugar
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cp heavy cream, approx
Reserved chicken broth
Sea salt & black pepper

Place the raspadura, anchos and saril in a small pan with about 2 cps of the chicken broth, bring it to a slow boil for about 10-15 minutes, just until the chilies have softened. Puree in the blender until smooth.

Heat a pan large enough to hold all of the¬†chicken meat and add the olive oil, onions and garlic, cook until the onions are soft and translucent. At this point add the cilantro then¬†the flour and stir constantly¬†over medium heat, don’t let the flour burn, this will help thicken the sauce later. Add the saril¬†puree and enough broth to make the sauce runny, about the consistency of¬† half & half.

Once the sauce thickens a bit, to about the consistency of heavy cream, stir in the cream then add the chicken and lower the temperature to a slow simmer. Allow it to cook for 20-30 minutes, long enough for all the flavors to come together.  Serve over white rice, maybe even pasta and be ready to be oh so happy!

To see just a few more pictures of the cooking goodness, go to my Flickr stream, here. Don’t forget to stop by Peter’s page while you’re there. Mil gracias, Pedro!!!

 Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

A Ridiculously Delicious Challenge

Here we are at the 2nd part of my first Marx Foods challenge of the year. The Ridiculously Delicious Challenge is divided into multiple rounds. The first one was to choose 3 ingredients we would like as our prize should we win the final. My chosen 3 were Wild Boar, Heirloom Potatoes and Saffron Strands. I really hope I get a chance to play with all of those.

This is the second round: create an original recipe using 2 of the ingredients sent to us in the mystery box we received as a gift when we made it through the first round. It was an interesting choice of ingredients, as usual. It included things like Iranian saffron, several types of chilies, juniper berries, dried cherries, grains of paradise and dill pollen. Several of the ingredients were a first for me, which is exactly why I love participating in Marx challenges.

I wanted to make sure I used the ingredients in a recipe that would highlight my Latin heritage. I really had to think about it: sweet, savory, sweet, savory. In the end, I settled on savory, a play on Arroz con Pollo. I wanted to use something more exciting than chicken, though. In the absence of duck, I went for lamb. As for the mystery box, juniper berries, grains of paradise and dried cherries would be the other willing participants.

This was an easy dish to put together, but it doesn’t taste or look like it. WOW! So much flavor. First let me tell you about the mystery ingredients. Grains of Paradise taste like herby peppercorns. Then there is the Juniper Berries, biting into one is like sniffing good gin, they have an inherent¬†briny taste. Finally, Dried Tart Cherries. Exactly what they sound like, sweet and tart, perfect substitutes for raisins and prunes. I picked lamb shoulder chops, I wanted the flavor the bones would add to the broth and also a cut of meat with some fat. OK, let’s cook!

Arroz con Cordero (Lamb & Spicy Rice)
6-8 servings

Approx 2lbs lamb shoulder chops
For marinade:
12 juniper berries
1-1/2 tsp grains of paradise
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp cooking sherry
I put all of these in my grinder then rubbed it on the lamb and allowed it to sit for about 20 minutes or so while I prepared the rest of the vegetables needed to braise the lamb.

Braising broth:
2 tomatoes, quartered
2 carrots, quartered
1/2 cp cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 green onions, coarsely chopped
about 1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cp sherry
water

Heat a medium-sized Dutch oven over medium high heat and brown the lamb on both sides. Once all the lamb chops have been browned, deglaze the pan with the sherry, scraping the bottom to loosen the bits that are stuck. Add the vegetables and lamb and enough water to cover everything. Bring to a slow boil, lower temperature to a simmer and cook until the lamb is tender. Remove the lamb from the broth and allow it to cool.

Run the broth and vegetables through the blender to get everything smooth. Debone the lamb and chop it into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

For the rice:
3 cps long grain rice
1 cp baby carrots, halved
1/2 cp olives, pitted and chopped
2/3 cp dried cherries
1 roasted pepper, sliced
1/2 cp cilantro, finely chopped
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Reserved broth

In the same dutch-oven, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Rinse and drain the rice before adding it to the hot oil. Stir well, making sure the oil coats all the grains and they turn from translucent to chalky white.

Add this time you can add 5 cps of broth, check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Once the broth has almost completely evaporated, layer the remaining ingredients. DO NOT disturb the rice, don’t stir it or you’ll end up with unevenly cooked, mushy rice. Top with the lamb, carrots, peppers, olives, 2/3 of the cilantro and the cherries. Reduce the temperature to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and allow it to cook/steam UNDISTURBED for another 20 minutes.

At the end of that time, remove the lid and mix in all the ingredients. Serve with a salad and top with fresh cilantro. Enjoy! Be sure to stop by MarxFoods.com¬†to see the other contestants throwdown. Also, I’ll keep you posted, but you’ll get to decide which of the yummy recipes move on to the next round. Yep, it’s voting time…, soon. Not yet.

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