Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mexican Banana Bread (Pan de Platano)

So these plantains are taking fuh-ever and a day to ripen.. I would have waited til they were mostly blackened but I got all antsy in my pantsy and went ahead and made my Plantain Bread anyways..
I happen to think it turned out well for being a first run and it was fun putting together some flavor combos for compound cream cheeses to accompany said plantain bread. Mmm…

Mexican Banana Bread (Pan de Platano)

2 c. AP Flour
1 t. ea. :
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
2 Ripe/Over-ripe Plantains - diced small
1 c. Brown Sugar
1 stick Unsalted Buttah - room temperature
2 Eggs
1 T. Bacardi Solera Rum
1 t. Mexican Vanilla Extract
1 t. Cider Vinegar

~ Preheat oven to 325*F and prep a loaf pan by greasing and flouring.
~ Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside
~ In a mixer, cream together sugar and butter 2 minutes - til fluffy.
Add in eggs one at a time. Add in rum, vanilla and vinegar. Mix in
flour until just combined.
~ Fold in, by hand, the diced plantains. Pour batter into prepped loaf
pan and bake for 1 hr - 1 hr 10 min until a knife inserted comes out
clean. Let cool then unmold and slice. Spread on butter or a flavored
cream cheese (like the ones to follow). Enjoy :)

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I forgot the eggs here so just imagine I added them 
How I prep a plantain (whose skins can be thick and may take some finangaling to get off)
Trim ends
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They are long so, cut in half and score the skin longwise. Make sections if you must, but this plantain was easy to peel.
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Oh God.. working has turned my hands into wrinkly old lady hands.. 
Err.. back on track.. Yeah, dice these up. After having tasted the end product, I would dice this much smaller than I did here – since plantains are more solid and starchy than bananas.
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And through the magic of television… Voila!
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I did 4 different combinations of flavored cream cheese to have with this plantain loaf. Get creative, add your own nuts/spices/extracts/oils/herbs/zests/juices (you get the idea  ).

Pepitas y Canela Creamcheese (Pumpkin seeds & Cinnamon)
8 oz. Cream Cheese
1 t. Ground Cinnamon
2 T. Powdered Sugar
2 T. Chopped Pumpkin Seeds
~ Mix creamcheese, cinnamon and 10x sugar with an electric mixer. Fold in pumpkin seeds.

Nuez el Clavo Creamcheese (Pecans & Clove)
8 oz. Cream Cheese
2T. Powdered Sugar
¼ t. Ground Cloves
¼ t. Vanilla Extract
2 T. Chopped Pecans – toasted
~ Mix creamcheese, ground clove, extract and 10x sugar with an electric mixer. Fold in pecans.

Cocoa Chile Creamcheese
8 oz. Cream Cheese
½ t. Ancho Chile Powder
1 T. Cocoa Powder
2 T. Powdered Sugar
¼ t. Vanilla Extract or Rum
~ Mix creamcheese, chile powder, cocoa powder, extract and 10x sugar with an electric mixer.

Mojito Creamcheese
8 oz. Cream Cheese
2 T. Powdered Sugar
Few drops of Lime Oil
1 T. Fresh Mint – minced
~ Mix creamcheese, 10x sugar and lime oil with an electric mixer. Fold in minced mint. Serve soon after making.

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Mexican Vanilla from Nielsen-Massey – Some of the best stuff on the market. I get mine through either King Arthur Flour or Williams Sonoma
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I got this Boyajian Lime Oil from King Arthur Flour too. A 1 oz. bottle has the equivalent of like 80 limes or some crazy mess like that. So use sparingly!
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Psst! I also added a smidge of this. Not too much, don’t want the cream cheese to be soupy and yuckers.
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Ugh, and with that.. Goodnight! 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Platanos Fosters

I’m giving away the ingredient I plan on using for a 3 part series tonight but at the rate my free time is being eaten up, I’ve got to post whenever I have the spare moment or things’ll start to build up on me!

Well these next few entries, you can surmise have all to do about plantains. Plantains are a tropical fruit that is kin to bananas – there is no “formal difference” and plantains are occasionally referred to as bananas but anyone who’s eaten both a banana and a plantain can tell you there is a marked difference. Bananas are most oft eaten raw from the peel while plantains, being much starchier and less sweet, are usually cooked in some fashion.

Plantains are a global fruit, known and used all the way from Cali to Mexico to the Caribbean islands to Portugal, Africa, the Mediterranean, Thailand and all the way over to Australia. They can be used both in their green un-ripened state and also in their near-blackened over-ripe state.

The way I am most accustomed to having plantains is when my Mother In Law either makes Tostones (double fried and flattened green plantain sprinkled with salt) or Platanos Maduros (frying an over-ripe plantain to either eat alone as a dessert or as a side dish).

I have a couple that I’m waiting on to ripen, because my favorite way to eat plantains is in their sweeter form. I also had a couple that were already ripened and were at risk to spoil if I kept putting them off. So.. me being the day late and dollar short kind of person I am thought “Hey! What if I made a bananas foster type thing but with plantains!”. Ugh.. yeah, so original.. Google confirmed this – haha..
ANYWAY! I still wanted to do it up my way and this is what became of it..

Platanos Fosters *said in a Nacho Libre accent*
2 Over-ripe Plantains – sliced on the bias about 1/4” thick
½ Stick Butter
2 T. packed Brown Sugar
Ground cinnamon (for sprinkling)
1.5 oz Banana Liquer
1.5 oz Bacardi Solera Rum
4 c. Oil
4 small flour tortillas
Dulce De Leche Ice Cream
Cinnamon Sticks

~ In a small/medium saucepan (or conversely, a deep fryer) heat the oil to 350-375*F. Drop a tortilla in the hot oil and press down a metal ladle/spoon in the center so that the tortilla takes the shape of a shell around the ladle. Fry until lightly browned and place on a plate lined with papertowels to drain. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon while still warm.

~ In a sautepan over med-high heat, melt butter til frothy – add sliced plantains to the pan and let fry for about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar to the pan and a sprinkle or two of cinnamon. Cook for another minute. Add liquors to the pan and set alight with a long match or long lighter *take extreme care at this step and be prepared for a big flame* - shake the pan a bit as the flame goes down and the alcohol burns off. Once extinguished, take the pan off the heat.

~ Place a tortilla cup on a plate or in a bowl, spoon a scoop of dulce de leche icecream in the middle of the cup and top with 4-5 plantain slices and a few spoonfuls of the rum sauce. Garnish with a stick of cinnamon and enjoy immediately 

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You can use just about any rum you’d like for this recipe but I used a special Bacardi 1873 Solera if for no other reason than it’s a Bacardi that is made in mexico and my plantain series is meant to have a hint of Mexican flair about it :D
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Frying the tortilla shells
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Ripe plantains are still pretty firm in relation to a ripe banana
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After flambéing
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Use any vanilla/cinnamon/caramel icecream you like – I like Haagen Dazs’s Dulce De Leche
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Stay tuned.. :D

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Missing In Action... :(

Okay WOW.. I know! I've been gone so long! Well to explain, no, I haven't forgotten about this blog. I've just been going through some big life changes and to be honest, simply enjoying the summer with my children a bit.

My family and I have relocated back to the USA is one big change.
I'm registered to start school back up in the fall for my Bachelor's..
And I have a new part-time job coming up...

I reckon I won't really need this blog for my original reasons for beginning it BUT.. in the same breath I think I still need it. I still need a means of experimentation and inspiration. I will be amongst professional peers again but part of me is intrinsic when it comes to seeking out answers.

I think I have a couple of good ideas for future blog posts but it's something I just wanted to let any readers out there know that I haven't given up on.

So.. yeah. See you on the flipside! Will be up and writing again very soon here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Orange Chipotle Carnitas

Sheesh! It’s been a bit of a break since my last post but alas, I am back with another. I was trying out a vegetarian “fast” of sorts for a few days but am now back to carnivor-ism ☺ I had already made this dish a few weeks ago but didn’t do one of the steps that really and truly make it what it is. Any traditional-styled carnitas cannot begin to be deemed traditional if it is not fried in fat ☺. TRADITIONAL traditional carnitas (“little meats”) are fried in lard after being roasted or braised in the cook’s choices of liquid and spices. Outside of the flavor, the most crucial thing about carnitas that make them so weak-in-the-knees yummy is their texture.. melt-in-your-mouth tender yet crispy and caramelized.

You can simplify this kind of dish by skipping the frying as an afterthought and go straight to braising the meat IN melted lard and then finishing by cranking the heat so the meat crisps up. Shred and enjoy.

My Orange Chipotle Carnitas

3# Pork Shoulder/Butt – cut into 4 manageable peices
3 canned Chipotle chiles + 3 T. Adobo sauce
2 Oranges – zested & juiced
2 cloves Garlic – peeled
2-3 T. Lard or Shortening

~ In a food processor, combine chipotles, adobo, zest, juice and garlic – process til well combined.

~ Lay pieces of pork in a medium sized crockpot – pour orange chipotle mixture on top of meat and let cook on low for about 8 hrs (or dutchoven @ 300*F for 3 ½ - 4 hrs).

~ Remove meat from liquid (set liquid aside). Shred meat with a fork or by hand and set aside.

~ In a large sauté pan, heat left over liquid to a simmer & let reduce for about 5 minutes. Add shredded meat to the pan and toss to coat meat in the liquid. Let the meat brown for a minute before tossing a few more times until there is barely any liquid left in the pan and the meat is uniformly browned. Serve warm with desired accompaniments.

Warmed corn tortillas
Sliced onions
Diced tomatoes
Chopped Cilantro
Sliced Avocado
Sliced Radishes
Sour Cream
Refried Beans

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I used an extra orange (clementine) here for shits’n’giggles – who knows if it actually imparts more flavor? Lol
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See all the leftover liquid? A mix of rendered fat from the meat and the orange/chipotle liquids
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Shredded meat
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Rendered liquid reduc.
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Finished “frying”
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Heating my tortillas for tacos – Double the comal , double the fun!
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So that’s that. So simple. So satisfying.. You may see recipes out there that call for coke or pepsi, etc. I believe they even use soda for carnitas in mexico! Those are alright but I’ve made it that way and it produces a very sweet meat – something I didn’t much care for as a taco filler. (And that’s SUPER weird coming from me, the gal with the insatiable sweet tooth). I find the orange juice lends juuuust enough sweetness and won’t overpower any kind of chili/spice you put in there. I’ve seen a recipe floating around online that uses pineapple juice and soysauce, smh. Just say NO yall..


Orange on Foodista

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chili-Spiced Dark Fudge Brownies

Not really chipotle, but still chili related.. My recipe for rich dark fudgey brownies with delightful undertones of spice (in the flavor sense, not in the heat sense – these aren't hot brownies but they have lots of sensuous spicey flavor). I fashioned this one from a few recipes I'd found but decided to make the flavors more intense by using not only the chili powder but also brown sugar, freshly ground cinnamon & organic dark chocolate (the really good stuff, not the generic baker's chocolate).

The kids wanted so badly to bake something and I'd been meaning to re-do a batch so to the chefcave we went..

Chili-Spiced Dark Fudge Brownies

6 oz. Bittersweet/Dark chocolate – chopped
1 c. Butter – cut into pieces
1 ½ c. Brown Sugar
2 t. Vanilla Extract
4 Eggs
1 ½ c. Flour
1 T. Pasilla/Ancho Chili Powder (you can try chipotle too, but I'd add just a smidge less)
1 t. Cinnamon
1/2 t. Salt

~ Preheat oven to 350*F and grease a 9x13 in. baking dish.

~ In a microwaveable bowl, melt chocolate and butter in the microwave just until smooth. Mix in sugar to the melted chocolate and let this mixture cool a bit.

~ Whisk eggs into chocolate mixture, 1 @ x – blend well before each addition.

~ Whisk in flour, spices and salt. Pour the brownie batter into the greased dish and bake for 30-35 minutes – until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before serving (better the next day though IMO).

Makes 12 brownies.

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Cuttin' the buttah
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The fudgey finished result
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Feel free to make this with standard baking chocolate and whatever have you. Also, feel free to make it as organic as possible. Organic eggs, sugars, flour.. After writing that piece on child labor in chocolate production I decided to use organic chocolate as often as I possibly could. I would like to start becoming a more responsible consumer – an extraordinary feat in this day and age of mass production and bountiful sweatshops. But.. I'm going to do as much as I can and that's all anyone can do..

I was worried about the kids taking to the dark chocolate. They don't have chocolate much to begin with and when they do it's usually that toned down milk variety we're all used to, thanks to umpteen sugar-laden Halloweens and Easters.. BUT! They scarfed them down in no time flat. True, not the savoring approach I take and would like them to emulate BUT.. they ate them and liked them so I consider it ground covered in the battle of refining our tastebuds :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Roasted Mango Chipotle Shrimp w/Rice & Chilled Blackbean Salad

Second entry in my “Chipotle Theme” week. I can't rightly remember how I got the idea for this one, surely a rift off of something but I made it my own. Roasting the mangoes added a sweet complexity to the sauce in this dish, exactly what I was aiming for.

I really would have rather used raw fresh shrimp for this dish, and certainly will the next chance I get but.. the only shrimp I had available was pre-cooked frozen or arabian gulf shrimps. And if you've heard anything about Kuwait's recent-ish leaky sewage issues, you'll understand why I bolted for the frozen. But I believe the sauce would have penetrated the raw shrimp much better, making for a more comprehensively flavored dish.

Roasted Mango & Chipotle Shrimp

2 dz. Jumbo Shrimp – peeled & deveined
2 med. Mangoes – cut into strips
4 canned Chipotle Peppers + 2 T. Adobo sauce
1 Lime – juiced
¼ c. Olive oil
Salt – large pinch

~ Roast mangoes under a broiler for 10-15 minutes or until they just begin to char – Combine these in a blender with the chipotle + adobo, lime juice, olive oil and salt. Puree til smooth & let cool to room temp.

~ In a shallow dish, coat shrimps with mango/chipotle puree, cover and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. In the meantime, soak 8 bamboo skewers in water.

~ Skewer 3 shrimps to a bamboo skewer & grill shrimps for 2-4 minutes on either side or until the flesh turns milky white. Serve with Garlicky White Rice Pilaf.

Serves 4

Garlicky White Rice Pilaf (per Rick Bayless)

1 ½ c. med. White Rice
1 small White Onion - diced
Olive Oil
2 Garlic cloves – minced
1 ¾ c. Chicken Stock
1 Lime – juiced
Salt TT

~ Preheat oven to 350*F

~ Heat an oven proof 3qt saucepan over the stovetop - saute rice and onion in a swirl of olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic to the pot and saute another minute. Add in stock & cover with lid. Place the pot in the oven and cook for 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before seasoning with lime juice and salt. Fluff with fork.

In addition to this I made a chilled blackbean salad. It's got a few things going on in it but for simplicity sake, I'm just going to call it a blackbean salad.

Chilled Blackbean Salad w/Lime Cilantro Dressing

2 cans Blackbeans – drained & rinsed
1 c. fresh Corn off the cobb
2 vine ripe Tomatoes – diced
1 med. Chayote – diced
1 small Red Onion – thinly sliced
1 Bell Pepper (yellow, orange or red) – diced
2 lg Limes – juiced & zested
1 lg Jalapeno – seeds & membranes cut out & diced
½ c. Cilantro
¾ c. Olive Oil
Salt TT

~ In a large bowl combine blackbeans, corn, tomato, chayote, onion & bell pepper.

~ In a blender, process the lime, jalapeno, cilantro and olive oil til smooth. Toss with the diced vegetables and blackbeans and season with salt. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Mise – I love these indian alfonso mangoes. They have a certain creamy quality to them that I think make them stand out from other varieties. However, do with what you have. Any mango is a good mango in my book! Look for mangos that give a little when you squeeze them, to denote their ripeness. And generally when they begin to yellow and/or redden a bit like the ones pictured, that's another indicator of ripening (though not true for every type of mango).
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Roasted mango slices
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Sittin' happy – drinking up that spicy mango-ey goodness
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Let ch'ya see my grill..
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What you need for Garlicky Rice – tres simple
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Mise for Blackbean Salad
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Not a bad meal at all if I do say so.. This meal was made only for adults so I didn't skimp when it came to the spiciness of the chipotles. Went full strength on that. Admittedly though, the heat punch of a chipotle/jalapeno is not that hot. And funnily enough, I am one of those kinds of people who don't enjoy a very high level of heat in their food but I looove chili peppers and their flavors. So much so that they're the theme of my home kitchen.

But back to what I was saying about chilies and their heat, and I was talking with a friend about this a bit today.. Most chilies hold the hardest-hitting part of their heat in the seeds AND the white membrane/ribbing that anchors the seeds to the flesh of the chili. Some level of heat IS present in the flesh but for the most part, you can really cut down on the heat by discarding the innards of the chili.

And that “heat” I keep mentioning has a proper chemical name – Capsaicin. This was discovered by Christian Friedrich Bucholz in 1816 - and almost a hundred years later, in 1912, a man named Wilbur Scoville created a “scale” by which we could measure the spiciness of every variety of capsicum (pepper) family member known to man.

Mr. Scoville's test's accuracy however, is subject to the human palate as this is the medium by which his test registers heat. Some found this to be in error – not illogical since as humans we are apt to inaccuracy. Another unit of measurement was created by the American Spice Trade Association, using something called “High-Performance Liquid Chromatology”. Basically science science science and hey, I majored in food not chemistry so you're on your own figuring out the rest.. But essentially, Scoville's unit of heat measurement is still used in conjunction with the ASTAHU – they multiply their findings by 15 and come up with a number very close to what would be found on that pepper according to the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU).

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Just how I was saying I'm not a fan of spicy heat, some people are actually hardwired to enjoy the pain that is inflicted by capsaicin via consuming hot peppers/sauces. It is thought that the pain induces release of the euphoria-inducing hormones called endorphins. These neurotransmitters, oddly enough, help reduce pain so it's like this chemical paradox – consume, cause pain, release hormone that dulls pain, repeat. Ahh the human body..