Más tomates!

I do love tomatoes. In Panama, my sister and I used to eat them like fruit. I remember how flavorful they are when picked just right. Slightly tart and sweet, always juicy. YUM! I love the different varieties: cherry, grape, here recently I’ve been introduced to raisin tomatoes. Tiny little things, filled with flavor. I haven’t tried the infamous heirloom tomatoes yet, what can you tell me about them?

Moving on. My previous post was for a tart I saw Chuck Hughes prepare, today I’m bringing you a variation on that tart. As much as I liked the original, I kept thinking of other ways to enjoy it. I happened to have some avocados ready to go, and they were the primary source of inspiration. This time the flavors come a bit further South of the border. I also switched to puff pastry instead of phyllo sheets.

Tomato & Avocado Tart

1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cp queso fresco, shredded
3/4 cp queso Oaxaca or Monterrey Jack, shredded
1 avocado, peeled & thinly sliced
4-5 Roma tomatoes (or whatever you have around)
Cilantro leaves, torn
Sea salt & black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. Use a rolling pin to stretch out the pastry, just enough to make sure it covers the bottom of the pan you will bake it in. I used a tart pan, but a baking sheet would also work. Place the pastry sheet on the bottom of the pan, pulling some of the dough up the sides to create an edge.

Brush on the mustard, then top evenly with the cheese, make sure you cover th entire surface. Next lay the avocado slices across the bottom.

Slice the tomatoes to about 1/4-inch thick and top the avocado with the tomato slices. You can overlap them, if you’d like. Tear a few cilantro leaves and spread them around. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the puff pastry is nicely golden brown. Allow it to cool for just a few minutes before serving.

Oh yeah, baby.

Cookingly yours,


I heart Cooking channel!

I do. I really, really do. It’s like meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. I know it is still part of the Food Network, but I like the variety of chefs on the lineup. I hope you’re watching it too, there’s some really good stuff there.

I already shared a post based on a dish from French Food at Home. This post follows a dish from another of my new favorite chefs, Chuck Hughes. His show is called Chuck’s Day Off and the camera follows him around his restaurant kitchen as he dishes out some simply delicious food for friends and family on his day off.

One of the recent episodes showed him cooking for his family, he recreated the dishes his mom & aunts cooked as he was growing up. This tart caught my eye and heart immediately. It was pretty. It looked fancy. AND it was a breeze to make. And let me tell you, it tasted fantabulous!

Chuck’s Tomato & Cheese Tart
from Chuck’s Day Off

7 phyllo sheets, thawed
1/4 cp melted butter
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1-1/4 cps grated cheese (he recommends Emmenthal)
3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
12  fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°. Phyllo dough is paper thin and will dry and crack quickly. Once you have removed it from the packaging, place the sheets you will use between lightly damp towels.

On a tart pan or baking sheet, place 1 sheet phyllo and brush with melted butter, repeat, stacking them on top of each other as you build your pie crust. You may want to stagger the sheets a little bit to ensure that the baking sheet is well covered allowing extra pastry to create an edge.

On the top layer, brush on the mustard. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the pastry to ensure even coverage. Lay the tomato slices generously, all over, overlapping, as needed. Season with coarse salt and ground black pepper. Sprinkle the thyme leaves on top.

Bake in the oven until the pastry is crisped and browned at the edges, about 25 minutes.

Add another sprinkling of coarse salt and garnish with fresh basil leaves. You can serve it hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Cookingly yours,

Chef School – Lesson 1

It seems only appropriate that my first chef technique or tip is based on Latin cooking. This is the backbone of almost every Latin American sauce, casserole, stew, in reality, of  most dishes. You will come across slight variations in the ingredients depending on the country. Cubans add cumin, bay leaves and oregano, while Dominicans may add achiote (annatto seeds). In Puerto Rico, you may find they add capers and olives.

I’m talking about Sofrito and I’m going to tell you how we make it in Panama. As I mentioned, it is a great base for tomato-based sauces, casseroles and complex rice dishes. I use it for beans too. It’s uses are endless. Here we go.

Sofrito Panameño
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (I prefer red, but green works too)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 culantro leaves (or 1/2 cp cilantro), chopped
1/4 cp Italian parsley, chopped
1 tsp habanero paste (or 1 chili)
1/2 cp white wine

Heat the oil in a medium saute pan and add the onions.

Sweat the onions and peppers

Sweat them for about 3 minutes, then add the bell pepper and garlic–cook until all vegetables have softened.

Now add the tomatoes, culantro, parsley and habanero sauce, finally add the wine. Lower temperature to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. All the vegetables will begin to disintegrate and it will all look like a paste.

and, that's it

You’re done, add to your favorite dish. I use it as the base for stewed chicken, to top fish fillets and loads more.

Not merengue, SALSA!

Here in Houston, TexMex food is almost as essetial as oxygen. Every time you hit a ‘Mexican’ spot, you’re received with a bowl of, hopefully, fresh salsa and chips. I can’t help you with the chips, but I can throw my hat in for the salsa bit.

We like ours a bit on the heated side and I usually make enough for about 3 cps worths. It keeps really well in the fridge.

8 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded
2 – 3 serrano peppers, halved
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
½ medium onion, quartered
½ cp cilantro, coarsely chopped
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp sugar
Âľ tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Add 1 tbsp of the oil to a skillet and place over high heat. When it begins to smoke, add the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and onion. You want to char and smoke the vegetables, but keep a close watch on them or they’ll burn. Try to get some color on both sides, then remove from the heat and put it all into your blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until all veggies are a mush.

Pour the salsa back into your skillet—you can add about ½ cp water to the blender to remove all the salsa bits—allow the salsa to cook over medium low temperature for about 10 minutes. This will yield about 3 cps of salsa, it will keep in the fridge for about a month.

This is muy bueno!

Cookingly yours,