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

Perfect BBQ Sides: Corn

Fiesta is a popular grocery store here in Houston, it caters to almost every culture of the world. We have a very large Mexican-American population here in Houston, so it makes sense to find a lot of Mexican influences throughout the store, including the parking lot. Yes. The parking lot.

I think my first experience with a food truck, was outside my neighborhood Fiesta. There was a truck that served roasted corn on the cob. Let me tell you about this delicious little treat. They roast it, husk and all, then smear it with butter, crema fresca and chili powder. Insert dramatic pause here.             .  O. M. G. I still remember the first time I had it. A real thing of beauty.

Fast forward some years later and here we are. I made minimal changes to the concept, but the resulting side dish is absolutely. divinely. cornily. DELICIOUS. And fresh. A true Summertime side dish. Super f√°cil (super easy).

There’s no need for a recipe. I used crema¬†fresca, creme fraiche, but if you can’t find it in your area, sour cream will work or a bit of cream cheese loosened with milk. In addition, I threw¬†the corn onto¬†a burning grill, but you can chuck¬†the corn and cook it on the stove top or you can use frozen/canned corn.

Elote con Crema (Corn with Creme Fraiche)

Corn on the cob, roasted & chucked
Sea salt & black pepper
Crema fresca
Queso Cotija or Fresco, shredded
Chipotle pepper powder

Once you have removed the corn from the cob, simply mix all the ingredients and serve warm. Sprinkle extra cheese on top.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

One eggplant, two eggplant, FRY!

I wish I could tell you I know a lot about eggplant, but I can’t. I never touched the stuff when I was growing up and as a young and not so young adult, I stayed away from it based on my early childhood impressions.

Then I went to Spain and the stuff was EVERYWHERE. I tried it roasted and swimming in garlicky olive oil and I feel in love with the creamy sweetness of it. Since then, I’ve made it a handful of times, always following the preparation I enjoyed in Spain. I add onions, peppers and garlic, douse it with olive oil and either roast it in the oven or slow cooking on the stovetop.

Lately I’ve been pondering about other ways to eat it since it is now a friendly veggie.¬† This means it will make an appearance every so often on this little blog. Today, I’ll give you a recipe I found in Saveur magazine for fried eggplant. When I tell you it is to die for, I am NOT exaggerating. The batter is a similar to a tempura batter, but it is ridiculously easy to make. Read on.

First things first, get that eggplant ready for consumption. I didn’t know this about eggplant, but it has an inherent bitterness that is best removed before frying. Saveur’s suggestion is to use salt to draw the bitterness out.

Peel and slice the eggplant into rounds that are about 1/4 inch thick. Lay them out on a cookie sheet that has been covered with paper towels or a kitchen towel. Sprinkle with salt, preferably coarse that way the eggplant doesn’t absorb as much of it. The salt also seems to prevent the discoloration.

Saveur’s recommendation was to let it sit 30 minutes, but the first time I¬†made these I allowed them to sit for about an hour and that seemed to work best. At the end of that time, you’ll notice there’s a lot of liquid on the tops of each slice.

Flip each slice over and squish it into the towel to remove the liquid and remove some of the moisture that may still be trapped in the slice. Then brush off with a damp cloth to remove the excess salt.

OK, Ok. Here’s the recipe:

Saveur’s Fried Eggplant

1 1/2 cp flour
1 1‚ĀĄ4 cp white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio)
1 large or 2 medium eggplants sliced into rounds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Whisk wine and flour in a medium bowl until batter is smooth, season to taste with salt and pepper. Remember that the eggplant slices will have some salt if you used that method, so be mindful about how much salt you’re adding to the batter. I would suggest following the recipe as is, frying one slice and tasting it before adding any more salt.

Pour oil into a heavy skillet or deep fryer and heat¬†oil to 400¬į or until it sizzles when you drop in a little batter. Dip eggplant slices in batter, then drop them¬†into oil, but try not to crowd them. Fry until golden brown, flip and fry the other side. Drain on paper towels.

You can keep them warm in a 200¬į preheated oven. Something weird happened when I made these the first time. I left the skins on them and it was perfect just out of the fryer, but as they cooled, the skin was tough and papery. I suggest peeling them, makes eating them a LOT more enjoyable.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

PS: The batter was awesome on asparagus too!

New Mexico: Calabacitas

This was another incredibly successful dish for the food orgy that was our 24, 24, 24 dinner last month. We put together a menu based on foods by the various US regions. This entrée represented the Southwest region: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The food in this region was heavily influenced by Spanish immigrants who brought ingredients such as chiles, tomatoes. These were then combined with ingredients common to the area, which included red pepper, cummin and cinnamon. And, of course, this is cattle/livestock country, so the entrée had to include something meaty. We ended up with: Lamb Chops with Pepper Chutney and Calabacitas.

Calabacitas is a true New Mexican favorite, you will often find it as one of the sides you can pick from when you eat at most restaurants. I remember having it in Albuquerque many years ago. It was a creamy casserole of sorts, with Mexican squash, corn, chilies, cheese and a hint of allspice.¬† For this recipe I wanted something ‘fancier’, so I was thrilled when I came across this version over at Fete & Feast. It brought to mind a stuffed chayote my¬† mom prepares. Anyway, here it is:

Calabacitas Rellenas
Serves 6

6 small zucchini squash
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 cp fresh corn kernels
1/2 cp red bell pepper, chopped
4 oz. chopped green chiles
1 tsp allspice
1 cp queso Oaxaca*, shredded
1/4 cp crema fresca or heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375¬į degrees.

Slice the top ¬Ĺ inch from the squash. The squash I used for this were very small, about 4-5 inches long each and I used a whole one per person. To trim and remove their filling, I split each zuchinni at about 2/3s of the way–less than halfway through. If you’re working with larger ones, you could simply split them¬†in half horizontally and scrape out the seeds.

Bring enough salted water to cover the squash halves to a boil. Drop the halves into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove shells from boiling water; nestle close together in a glass baking pan, and season with a little more salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Cook the onion until soft and starting to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the corn,  and green chiles. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Then add 2/3s of the cheese, crema, and allspice. Check for seasoning; add salt and pepper to taste.

Mound some of the stuffing into each squash half. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the rest of the cheese, and return to the oven. Cook for an additional 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Is there a Leek in the house?

Leeks are new to me, at least I think they are. I was updating my mom with the menu for last weekend’s Foodbuzz event and she mentioned I did use leeks in Panama. She knows everything, but I’m not sure about this little fact.

Nonetheless, I’ve quickly become a big fan of the elegant leafy… thing. I’ve used it as stuffing, in soups, but this is my first time making them an independent agent. I came across recipes for melted leeks as I conducted my research. Various methods and even more additions and omissions, in the end I settled on a recipe from the TomatoKnife. It was the simplest of them all, but the post sung its praises quite highly.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. This was the base for an awesome Seared Salmon with Beer Blanc.

Melted Leeks

4 cps leeks, chopped (about 3-4 bunches)  
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, fresh
1 tbsp butter, optional

To prepare the leeks, first trim the bottom roots and remove the top leaves just where the stalk becomes green. You may need to  peel off the first layer, as this one can be tough.  Slit the stalk down the middle and wash each half under cool running water. Leeks grow close to the earth, so make sure you get in between those layers to get all the grit. Now you can chop them into half disks.

Slowly heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium temperature, add the leeks, salt and pepper.¬† Make sure to stir them well to coat them with the oil. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom or begin to burn.¬† You can cover them loosely in between stirs, but don’t go too far, it will take about 20 minutes for them to be.¬†

When ready, the leeks will be tender, almost pureed and beginning to brown.  Add the butter just before serving, if you wish. Try these with this salmon recipe.