Thursday, August 14, 2008

On Chipotles in Adobo, and Mexican Slaw

Our new favorite ingredient: chipotles in adobo. Great stuff! It has smoked jalepeño peppers (chipotles) in a chile sauce that's thick, rich, hot and very smoky. The adobo sauce has tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, and some combination of spices. Use the adobo a teaspoonful at a time, or mince a small chipotle, to give body and heat to a sauce or salad dressing. Adobo, the Filipino dish, we'll tackle another day.

This slaw we made for a basic, quick lunch with tortillas, fresh tomatoes, avocado and some red onion. We had it alongside a yuca root (a starchy potato-like vegetable) I gave to Pat some 5 months ago - what can I say? It keeps.

Mexican Slaw

1/4 head shredded green cabbage, the fresher the better
1/4 cup minced or shredded onion

1/4 cup Best Foods mayonnaise (or half mayo, half sour cream)
1/2 lime, juiced
2 Tbl chopped cilantro
1 small chipotle in adobo, minced, with seeds
1/2 tsp adobo sauce
pinch salt, to taste
(optional: pinch of sugar, or to taste)

Mix dressing ingredients together. Adjust seasonings to taste. Pour over cabbage and onion, mix well, and let sit about 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Amaranth Greens II - Mexican style

The same day we saw the amaranth greens at the farmer's market (Amaranth Greens I), there was another vegetable sold as 'Chinese Spinach'. It looked suspiciously like the amaranth greens, but didn't have the same magenta splotch in the middle of the leaves. Instead, it had fuchsia undersides and stems, so of course we decided to get it.

First, we tried searching online for both amaranth greens and 'Chinese spinach'. As we had suspected, they are both an amaranth. Beyond that, all bets are off. Any authoritative information about the genus Amaranthus is convoluted at best. Apparently, the species don't stay in their neat little boxes, deciding instead to look frighteningly alike and interbreed with each other. A number of plant genera do this, creating a mess for botanists. This assertion isn't stated for amaranth in as many places as it should. (Tanya is overly trained in this area, researched a group of plants that did this for a significant chunk of her life, and is very, very picky about authoritative information. If you want more info, ask!) We'll do some more research, but this post is likely to stand for a while.

The 'Chinese spinach' tasted very similar to the amaranth greens - until we do a taste test with the two together, we'll call them the same. Last night's foray into pozole was perfectly accompanied by these greens, with a dressing that we'll probably want to make again and again: ground pumpkin seeds, lime juice, chipotle...mmmmmmmm........

Amaranth greens, Mexican style
serves 2
  • 1 bunch amaranth greens or 'Chinese spinach', steamed until just barely done
  • 2 Tbl raw pumpkin seeds, finely ground in a coffee or spice grinder
  • 1/2 tsp adobo, from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 tsp salad oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbl chopped onion
  • pinch salt
  • 1-2 Tbl water (to desired consistency)
Blend/puree everything but the greens in a small mixer until smooth. Adjust seasonings. Top the greens with it and enjoy!

Saffron Orzo Salad

One of the best potluck dishes I know: very quick, easy, goes with anything at a potluck (maybe not sushi night, though), and super yummy. We had it Monday night, along with several other things that were decidedly NOT mole.

Saffron Orzo Salad
modified from Giada de Laurenti's Food Network show
makes about 6 heaping servings
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 pound dried orzo
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, preferably with a high mineral content like Ile de Re
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, bringing the stock to a simmer. Add the saffron, stir, and allow the saffron to bloom, about 5 minutes. Return the heat to medium and the stock to a boil, then add the orzo and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain orzo and transfer to a large bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parsley. Toss to combine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Amaranth Greens I - Amaranth & Fennel Salad

The farmer's market has many new vegetables for us to try, things we haven't seen in the supermarket for one reason or another. A couple weeks ago, our trip to the farmer's market resulted in the purchase of amaranth and Chinese spinach, which looked pretty similar, but at the very least looked beautiful: dark green, rounded leaves with a large magenta splotch originating at the veins. We purchased them to see what they would taste like.

We were happily impressed! The amaranth wilted like a surprisingly sturdy spinach, and stood up to a fair bit of cooking with ease. It was nutty, with better flavor than spinach. If we can get it year round, I'm not sure we'll go back to spinach - it's that good, and supposedly that good for you (although after 30 minutes of online searching, there isn't much hard data about this).

Monday night's dinner salad of amaranth and fennel bulb was really, really yummy - here's how we made it, at least this time around.

Amaranth and Fennel salad
serves 2-3
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced crosswise into 1/8" slices
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c. chicken stock
  • 2 threads saffron
  • 2 Tbl chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 large bunch amaranth greens
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • (optional: fresh shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Saute the fennel bulb in the oil and salt over medium-high heat until the fennel is soft.
  2. Meanwhile, wash the amaranth leaves and steam them in a large stockpot with a steaming basket until just barely done, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the stock/saffron mix to the fennel.
  4. Mix the two together in a saute pan over medium heat until combined and amaranth is thoroughly cooked.

Monday, August 11, 2008

La Noche de Mole Negro del Diablo

Without going on too long about this, imagine a day consisting of:
  • Shopping, because you didn't get all the ingredients ahead of time
  • Rendering your own lard, because the recipe said to do so
  • Fire-roasting tomatoes, onions, garlic and tomatillos whole over a hot griddle (turning them constantly with your fingers, of course)
  • Sauteeing just about all the ingredients for mole in lard, including the raisins (ever tasted raisins sauteed in lard?)
  • Making a double batch of mole negro, including burning the chile seeds separately from burning the dried chiles
  • Steeping hibiscus flowers and reducing it to syrup for drinks
  • Making chicken stock out of the chicken feet you got at the farmer's market
  • Making turkey stock by poaching two very large turkey legs
  • Grinding your own corn to make masa for tamales
  • Washing, then cutting the banana leaves to size
  • Roasting fresh peppers for chili later in the week
  • Making packets of turkey tamales
  • Steaming them for an hour
  • Whipping together chile sauce from scratch
  • Making avocado ice cream
Oh, and did we mention we had guests? Coming over at 6:30?

Needless to say, we have incredibly patient friends -we finally ate the tamales at 9:30. Good thing the food turned out all right, especially since we have about 18 cups of mole now. Recipe posts to follow - we're both still exhausted from Sunday's menu, and it's already Wednesday.
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