Showing posts with label personal recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label personal recipes. Show all posts

Guacamole and Grilled Cheese

I swear that this isn't becoming a food/cooking blog but lately I've developed a bit of an obsession based mostly on the fact that, for maybe the first time in my life, I am in a situation where it's hard to find the things I'm used to or want to eat. There are wonderful meals to be had here - like the amazing corn on the cob grilled over charcoal on the plaza with chili oil, salt and lime - but few things are convenient, familiar or reliable. We'll decide on a restaurant for dinner and head into town only to find that it's not open - there isn't any reason and no sign to explain the disruption; it's just that they've decided to stay closed. Or, after finally finding a store that does decent cheese, they'll suddenly stop carrying it and we'll be back to Kraft Singles.

In the grand scheme, none of this is a big deal and I've had some amazing food here not least of which is the local seafood, which is probably the freshest I've ever had. But it means that I fret and think about food in a way that I don't do when it's just available and abundant. I'm a bit spoiled by a culture where anything is available and in London, it's also available nearly 24/7. I recognize the impropriety of this along with the environmental and social impact of consumption - but it's my reality.

This new food reality in Mexico has led me to some interesting combinations of ingredients that would probably never have occurred to me anywhere else. It will be interesting to see how all the different places we visit over the next year will change how I cook and think about food. So, because I am having a love affair with the beautiful Mexican avocado, here's my favourite new lunch dish: 

Guacamole and Grilled Cheese Sandwich (pictured above)

One medium avocado
One small onion
One clove of garlic
Splash or two of hot sauce
A few sprigs of Cilantro
One small lime
One small tomato
Two pieces of bread
A small pad of butter, margarine or some anti-stick spray
Two slices of Kraft singles (or any other kind of cheese - I've only used singles because they're all I had)
  1. Fine chop onion, garlic and cilantro and put it in a bowl. 
  2. Cut open the avocado and remove the pit. Put the 'meat' into the bowl with the onions, etc.
  3. Squeeze lime juice into the bowl and add a few splashes of hot sauce. Use a fork to mash the avocado and mix everything together. I like my guacamole chunky, but it's up to you. 
  4. Fine dice the tomato and mix it in with the guacamole. This is an optional step - I just like tomato. 
  5. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and put a bit of butter or non-stick agent in it. 
  6. Make a sandwich with the cheese and bread and put it in the skillet. Keep an eye on things so that it doesn't burn. Once it's browned on one side, flip. To help the cheese melt you may want to cover the skillet for a few minutes towards the beginning of this process - but make sure you end with the lid off so the bread crisps up. 
  7. Once the cheese is melted and bread is toasted, remove from heat. Pry open the bread and put lots of guacamole in there. Close back up again and eat. This recipe makes more than enough Guacamole for two or even three sandwiches, if you aren't selfish like I am.
So yummy!

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Recipe - Mexican Melting Pot (AKA Vegetarian Chilli with a Twist)

We purposely sought to rent a place in Mexico with a kitchen so that we could save money (and sanity) by cooking in on occasion. It's about as far from fancy as I've ever seen - a tiny little space with a fridge, a small stove and a sink - but everything is in working order and as long as we remember to wash the plates and cutlery before eating to get rid of the little ants everywhere, it's actually relatively clean.

The biggest challenge with cooking in is that it's hard to find most ingredients here and I don't know what to do with a lot of what is available. I also refuse to cook meat here because the butcher shops put me off. I suppose it's a good dose of reality to snap me out of my hypocrisy about eating meat - instead of the sterile aisles of Safeway, the butcher shops here are bloody in smell and appearance and there is a little more of the animal around than I can cope with. It actually surprises me how few vegetarian options there are on most menus here; fish is usually an option but often the choice is limited to chicken or beef and a lot of the meals don't actually come with beans or rice so there isn't a lot of filler if you forgo the meat.

Despite my culinary challenges, tonight we made dinner in and it was actually pretty delicious. It's a bit of a mishmash (or melting pot) of ingredients that I cobbled together into a hybrid vegetarian chili/stew. It was cheap to make, we had lots of leftovers and I actually think it might be something I make again - even when we are back in the land of Safeway and Waitrose.

Mexican Melting Pot Recipe

1 can of black beans
1 can of tomatos
1 avocado
1 medium onion (white, red, yellow - doesn't really matter)
2 large cloves of garlic
1 small hot pepper
1 medium green pepper
1 small carrot
hot sauce
1 small-medium size lime
Olive oil/butter (something to use to ensure things don't stick to your pan)
1 cube of chicken or vegetarian broth
1 cup of rice
A few slices of whatever cheese you have laying around
(We didn't have access to any other spices, but this would likely benefit from some cumin and freshly ground pepper. It doesn't need extra salt though - the canned good have more than enough.)
  1. Put about four cups of water on the stove to boil and add your cube of broth stock. Once it reaches a boil, turn it down to simmer so that it stays hot but doesn't evaporate.
  2. While you're waiting for the water to boil, melt your butter or heat a small amount of olive oil in a non-stick large pan over medium heat. Once it's hot add nearly all of your roughly chopped onion and peeled roughly chopped carrot. Fine chop the remainder of the onion and set it aside.
  3. Once the onion and carrot have started cooking, add approximately 3/4 of your garlic. Fine chop the remainder of the garlic and set it aside with the onion. 
  4. Let this stuff cook until it looks soft and the onion gets translucent, then add your finely chopped hot pepper. Depending on how sensitive you are to spiciness and how hot your pepper is, you may only want to add part of it. It's good to remove the seeds before chopping it up. 
  5. While all of this is happening, if your vegetables start to burn or darken too much, add a few ladles of the simmering stock. 
  6. After a few minutes, add the can of black beans and the can of tomatoes, the roughly chopped green pepper and a few dashes of the hot sauce. Bring this mixture to a boil and stir in a cup of rice. There should be a lot of extra liquid in the pot at this point from the beans and the tomatoes but if there isn't, add some of the chicken stock. 
  7. Continue to stir and add in stock until the rice is cooked - the time will vary depending on the kind of rice you've used but it took me about 20 minutes. Make sure you babysit it or the rice will stick to the bottom and burn.
  8. While the rice is cooking, cut open a large avocado, take out the pit and add the 'meat' to the onion and garlic mixture you've set aside. Cut your lime in half and add the juice, add a dash of hot sauce. Smash up the avocado and mix it all around until you have a slightly chunky version of guacamole. Add the other half of the lime to your cooking rice/vegetable mixture.
  9. A few minutes before the rice is cooked, add some roughly chopped cilantro to the rice/vegetable mixture, keeping a bit aside for garnish. 
  10. When the rice is cooked, dish the food up into bowls, put some cheese on top along with some chopped cilantro. Finish with a dollop of guacamole on top. 
Good on its own or with tortillas. Obviously you could substitute black beans for any bean you want.

It was really very good and extremely filling.

PS: Thankfully the above is not a picture of our kitchen - it belongs to someone else in San Blas.

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Garlic Soup Recipe

Lord knows this isn't a cooking website. But this soup was good and easy, provided you start enough in advance to properly simmer things. It also made me feel a lot better when I was suffering from the December sniffles. Though it is most definitely garlicy, somehow it manages to be warm and soothing, not stinky and pungent. I promise.

This is a slight modification of a recipe from the lovely 101 Cookbooks website, which is a modification of a recipe by Richard Olney from his The French Menu Cookbook. Some genealogy for a soup!

Lovely Winter Garlic Soup
  • 4 cups chicken broth (you could use veggie broth)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sage leaves
  • Pinch or two fresh thyme (or dry thyme)
  • a dozen medium cloves of garlic, smashed peeled, and chopped\
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped into big pieces
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • a healthy amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (this is up to you but I like a lot)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • crusty bread

Boil the broth, herbs, garlic and onion. I put it on high until it comes to a full rolling boil and then reduce it to low/medium simmering heat where I leave it for about half an hour to forty minutes. Once I tried to reduce it to only about 20 minutes and while the soup was still good, it wasn't nearly as good as when I let it simmer properly. Patience!

Strain your broth and put it back on the burner on low heat.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese and pepper. This isn't a meringue and doesn't need to be frothy but should be well mixed and creamy looking. Slowly, while whisking, add the olive oil. If you add it all at once without stirring, your mixture will separate and it's all down hill from there. Trust me. I like to add some ground pepper to this concoction.

Slowly (yes again - I'm sorry) add a ladle or two of hot broth to the egg mixture. It is very important that you add this slowly or you will end up not with a creamy lovely soup, but with watery scrambled eggs. Continue to whisk vigorously while you add the ladles of hot broth.

This will bring your egg mixture to a warm temperature and now you are ready for the final step. Slowly (while whisking) add your warmish egg mix to the pot of hot broth. Once it's all added, whisk over low heat for a short while until it's all piping hot.

Cut up a crusty baguette and put some pieces in your bowl. Grate some paremesan cheese over top and grate some more pepper. Add soup. Drizzle some olive oil on top. Enjoy!

Garlic image by Robynejay.

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