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From Tongue to Lengua

The hideous organ on my cutting board hardly looked like dinner. However, trimmed, stewed and sliced, tongue can be delicious. In the oven, I stewed the tongue in a pot with canned plum tomatoes, carrots onions, cilantro, thyme, garlic and water. I seasoned the sauce with spices like cumin, chili powder, Spanish paprika, Adobo seasoning and oregano and finished it with brown sugar and a sauce made from tamarind and vinegar from Costa Rica. Finally, I pureed everything to add body. I smothered the tongue in the tangy, brick-colored sauce, piled it over white rice, garnished with diced red onion, chopped tomatoes, roasted corn and cilantro.

On a hot, summer day a mango salsa is the perfect refreshing snack. The tanginess of the tomatillos makes a good backdrop behind the sweet mangos while the char from the grill adds a welcomed complexity. Honey and lime round out the flavors, while tempering the heat of the jalapeño—which I tend not to go easy on.

Directions:

  • Peel two mangos, remove the pits, chop and mix with diced red onion. Add a generous amount of lime juice. Grill one ear of corn, half a jalapeño and the tomatillos (with the husks on), turning them until they are charred and soft. Remove the husks and stems and pulse in the blender with a drizzle of olive oil, one chopped garlic clove and jalapeño to taste (remove the seeds and membranes for a gentler heat).
  • When it has cooled, mix with the mangos and add salt, more lime and a healthy drizzle of honey. Remove the corn kernels and mix in. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips. My favorite brand is Xochitl totopos de maíz sold in a large paper bag. Chopped scallions make a pretty garnish.

My parents recently transformed their diets into something much healthier. They reduced the quantity of red meat and started cooking lighter food. We used to bake fatty salmon with mayo, lemon and dill. I used a leaner salmon steak and seared it for as a low-fat preparation. We all know that salmon is healthy because of its protein content and good fats, but did you know that a 4 oz serving of wild salmon provides a full day’s requirement of vitamin D? A honey mustard sauce is high in flavor, yet low in fat. Quinoa is one of the healthiest grains available and I boosted the nutrition with some spinach. I sauteed mushrooms and peas in white wine and marsala wine to add flavor without unnecessary salt or fat. Finally, sweet potatoes are the healthiest item in the produce department, so roasting them alongside seemed like a no-brainer.

Ingredients:

Spinach Quinoa:

  • half a package of quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • chicken stock (follow quinoa package directions)
  • 1 bag of Spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Mushrooms:
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • fresh thyme, de-stemmed
  • Splash of white wine of choice
  • Splash of marsala wine
  • light brown sugar to taste
  • Dash of worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic and onion powder
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Salmon and sauce:
  • Thick salmon steaks (1 per person)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 tablesoon tamari

Directions:

Spinach Quinoa:

Over medium heat, toast quinoa grains in a drizzle of sesame oil for 5 minutes and then add a splash of rice wine. Follow the directions on the package to cook, replacing the water with chicken stock. Sauté spinach in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. When the quinoa is tender and the moisture is absorbed, add the spinach.

Mushrooms:

Over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil with two cloves of garlic and salt. Wash and slice the mushrooms and add to the pan. Add fresh thyme leaves and a splash of white and marsala wine. Add some light brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

Salmon:

1. Heat a pan on high and sear the salmon steaks with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 4 minutes on each side. Both sides should be well browned and peek inside the flesh to determine doneness. The center should be bright pink, yet still flaky. To make the sauce, combine honey and your favorite mustard. I like either Dijon or something grainy. The last component is tamari, which is thicker, richer, more complex and a little less harsh and salty than soy sauce.

2. Plate the salmon steak over the quinoa and mushrooms and drizzle the sauce over the salmon. I served the dish with roasted sweet potatoes, which can be made by rubbing the skins with olive oil, salt and pepper, poking them with a fork, wrapping them in aluminum foil and roasting in a 350° oven until fork tender all the way through.

Thai Coconut Red Curry

A thai curry is a great way to make use of fresh vegetables and impress people with an exotic dish. Although curries may sound daunting, they are no more difficult than a standard stew. Coconut milk is a rich, dairy-free and forgiving backdrop to a spectrum of flavors. I cut its richness with lime juice, contrast the heat of the red curry paste with some light brown sugar and use turmeric and curry powder for a warm, yellow color. Since the vegetables are pre-steamed, you can spend more time eating than cooking!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 2 handfuls of diced carrots
  • 3 small yukon gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2-3 large rotisserie/leftover chicken breasts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 large red or white onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15.5 oz. can of garbanzos/chickpeas, washed well
  • 2 13.5 oz. cans of coconut milk
  • 2 limes, rolled and halved
        Spices:
  • 1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon thai seasoning mix (includes things like dried lemongrass, garlic, ginger and mint)
Directions:
1. Steam broccoli and carrots until tender, keeping in mind that they will cook longer in the sauce. Steam potatoes or poke them with a fork and microwave until tender. With leftover rotisserie chicken, take off the skin and bones and chop into cubes.
2. Over medium heat, drizzle olive oil in a pan and sauté onion and garlic with salt until translucent. Add chickpeas, steamed broccoli, carrots potatoes and chicken.
 ♦
3. Stir in red curry paste until dissolved and add yellow curry powder, ground cumin, coriander, chili powder, turmeric, salt, light brown sugar and thai seasoning mix. Add the juice of two limes and the peas.
4. Simmer for a bit and turn the heat off. Allow to rest for about 1 hour in order to marry the flavors. Reheat and serve over your favorite rice.