Moros y Cristianos – Refried Black Beans and Rice

Moros

 

I grew up in Miami, and one of our Saturday night staples was going to Habana Vieja Restaurant on Coral Way.  This “upscale” Cuban restaurant was (and I say was because it sadly no longer exists) where we would go eat dishes that I thought had the funniest names; Vaca Frita (Fried Cow), Ropa Vieja (Old Clothes), Fufu con Masitas (Mashed plantain with pork chunks, and last but not least, Moros, or Moros y Cristianos.  As a kid, I obviously was not aware of the deep historic meaning, and racial undertones, of the name of the dish.  It literally translates to Arabs (moros) and Christians (cristianos).  This has its roots in old Spain, which once, and still now to a degree, is a mixture of both cultures, as does most of the Cuban food we eat today.

All things aside, this is one of my favorite things to eat!  Here in Spain there is a lot of white bean and lentil consuption….but only in cuban or other latin restaurants will you find the black or red pinto varieties.  I miss my latin roots so much, and so does my daughter, that at least once a month I make beans and rice, and of course, the next day we mix them up and fry them up to serve alongside whatever we are eating….fish, chicken, beef, pork, you name it.  Most of the time, we eat it on its own, since its so delicious and it really doesn’t need to be an accompaniment.  I am sure you can find a million different recipes, but I hope you try mine, with a touch of roast red peppers and some sherry.  Also, I think my mom’s white rice is pretty spectacular!  To make a vegetarian version of these beans, just swap the beef bouillon cube for a vegetable one, and you have a perfectly well-balanced meal!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4-6

For the beans:

2 cups black beans, soaked in water and salt overnight

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 large onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 large green pepper, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 small can of roast red peppers, minced

1/4 cup sherry

1 beef or vegetable bouillon cube

For the Rice:

1 1/2 cups long grain white rice

1 tbsp onion, minced

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 tbsp green pepper, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt to taste

3 cups water

 

To make the beans:

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, green pepper, garlic and oregano, sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until translucent.  Add the red pepper, sherry and bullion cube, and cook until the sherry has almost evaporated.  Add the pre soaked beans, salt and enough water to cover them about 3 inches.  Raise heat to high, cover leaving just a crack open so the steam can come out.  When it boils, lower the heat to medium low, and let cook until the beans are tender and it has thickened into a stew consistency.  About 2 hours.  If you find that the water has evaporated and the beans aren’t tender enough, boil another cup of water and add it to the beans.  Never add cold water because it will “stunt” the cooking of the beans.

In the mean time, prepare the rice.  Wash the rice with cold water, and strain.  In a medium stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and green pepper.  Saute for about 5 minutes, and add the rice, give it a good stir to coat the rice with the oil and veggies.  Add the salt to the water, and stir it up, then add to your rice.  Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil and then lower to medium low, with the stock pot half covered like the beans.  When the water is halfway evaporated, (about 10 minutes, you will see the top part of the rice to be dry-ish and hear water bubbling in the bottom) with a large wooden spoon, “turn” the rice so that the wetter rice is on top, and the dryer rice goes on the bottom.  Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the rice is dry.  It will be kind of sticky, but don’t worry.  Take off the heat, cover it and let it rest another 10 minutes, and before serving fluff it up with a fork.

When the beans are ready, you can either serve them with the rice on the side, or grab a cup of the rice, and add a spoonful of the beans, mix well.  That is now Moros!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Penne Con I Broccoli – Penne with Broccoli

Penne with Broccoli

 

This is our second recipe from our cookbook “Italy, The Beautiful Cookbook”, and one that my daughter chose.  I wasn’t very surprised, as she loves broccoli, but then I read the rest of the ingredients and thought, she obviously only read the title.  I was quite perplexed at the combination of ingredients as well, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, raisins, anchovies, pine nuts…….in my brain, these ingredients really shouldn’t go together.  But they did, marvelously well, and we were all really surprised.  My hubs mentioned that he felt that it was because there were really no overpowering flavors, it was just the right amount of each ingredient for it to be harmonious, delicate even!

This recipe is from the southern Italian region of Apulia (Puglia).  As the south of Italy was conquered and influenced by the Arabs, this recipe started to make more sense, it was an obvious melange of Arabic and Italian cooking!  The use of savoury and sweet is very Arabic, hence the pine nuts and raisins, but then combining it with broccoli, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies is redolent of southern Italian cooking.  Many of you will want to omit the anchovies, as I know that not everyone is on that bandwagon, but I ask you to try it out, if my daughter, who hates all things fishy, couldn’t tell and was waxing poetic about this recipe, I am positive you won’t either.  Because the recipe calls for you to mash it and then fry it in the olive oil with the garlic, it basically melts in the oil, and adds just a hint of salt and umami to the dish.  If you are still hesitant, reduce the amount, but don’t leave it out!

So here is what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped

1 can (1lb/500g) whole, peeled tomatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 head broccoli

500g Penne pasta

6 anchovy fillets in oil, mashed

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup pine nuts

Grated Pecorino cheese

Soak the raisins in lukewarm water to cover until needed.  Heat half the oil in a large skillet over moderate heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent.  Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about an hour to reduce the sauce.

Meanwhile, separate the broccoli into florets and stems.  Peel and slice the stems.  Drop into a saucepan of boiling water and cook until the penne are al dente.

Fry the anchovy fillets gently with the garlic and pine nuts in oil, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.  Add to the tomato sauce.  Mix in the strained raisins, broccoli florets and a spoonful of the cooking water from the pasta, cover and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender, stirring frequently.

Add the strained penne to the skillet, and raise the heat to high, stirring frequently to incorporate all the sauce.  Serve immediately with the grated Pecorino cheese.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Pesce al Acqua Pazza – Sea Bream in “Crazy Water” Sauce

Pesce al Aqua Pazza

Acqua Pazza is probably one of my favorite styles of baking fish.  I tried it in Positano for the first time, and I was so enthralled with it, it completely embodies what you want to eat in summer in the Mediterranean.

Acqua Pazza literally means, crazy water.  I guess the crazy part is that it has just a touch of chili pepper, but if that’s what crazy means, I am totally “loco” over it!

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Super simple to make, it will literally take you all of 40 minutes to make this.  Most of the ingredients you will probably have in your pantry already, all you need is some delicious super fresh fish.  We decided on this beautiful Red Sea Bream, very typical here in Spain.

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Easy enough for a weeknight meal, but spectacular for an early lunch now that the weather is warming up!   I hope you try it, cause I am sure you will be hooked too!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1  2kg whole firm fleshed white fish, such as Corvina, Snapper, Sea Bream, or Sea Bass.  Ask your fishmonger to clean it for you.

Salt and Pepper, to taste

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chili pepper flakes

1/2 large onion, sliced

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp capers

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp lemon juice

Lemon slices, for garnish

Pre heat the oven to 200 C.  Wash the fish thoroughly, inside and out.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place in a large baking dish.  Set aside.

In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat.  Add the chili pepper, onion, and garlic, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the cherry tomatoes and raise the heat to high, stirring.  Add the white wine and capers, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until super fragrant.  Take off heat and add the 1/4 cup water and lemon juice.  Let cool for about 5 minutes, and pour over fish, add the lemon slices to the top.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

“Kitchen Sink” – Power Breakfast Muffins

Breakfast Muffins

These days I have exercising like a fiend.  I am extremely proud of myself because I usually train when I have a race coming up, and then take a more relaxed attitude to working out.  But, since this year I wanted to not only lose weight, but get healthier and feel better, I have stuck to a rigorous gym workout for the last 4 months.  (Patting myself on the back now.)

The only problem, is mid through my workout, I get ravenously hungry.  I have done the fruit and yogurt with granola, the eggs with toast, smoothies, you name it.  I needed something filling and portable to take to the gym with me, that is healthy, but also feels like I am indulging.  So, I went into my pantry, I love having a pantry after all these years, by the way, and basically took out a basket full of ingredients that could possibly go into a muffin.  I edited quite a few, but I did end up using most of them.  The result was perfect.

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Made with whole wheat flour, oat bran, chia seeds, walnuts, fruit and some cinnamon and chocolate for that splurge factor, these are fantastic little nutrient power houses, with no added fats!  Ridiculously delicious and easy to make, and super healthy, these will be a staple to carry in my gym bag when my belly starts a rumbling!!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup oat bran

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped semi sweet chocolate

1 ripe banana, mashed

1 cup oat milk (you can substitute soy, almond or real milk if you want)

1/2 cup apple juice or sauce

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, set aside.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.  Sprinkle in the walnuts, raisins and chocolate.  Mix well.  In another bowl, mix the banana, oat milk, apple juice, molasses and egg.  Fold into the dry ingredients.

Use a 1/4 cup measurement to fill the muffin tin 3/4 full.  Cook for 16-18 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Lightened up Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

 

Yup.  I’m on a diet.  That is probably the most loathed word in my vocabulary.  I hate to diet, but I need to.  You see, in about four months, I will be wearing a white dress….and you know how unforgiving white is.  I mean, even my chef white’s are black.

Anyhoo…..so, since I have been so completely undisciplined and totally accustomed to eating my heart’s content, I started to dig up some recipes that I know are in Martha Stewart magazines, namely, the Fit to Eat section.  The first one I came across was this one…..and I love me some Mac and Cheese.

I was really dubious about this lightened up version, in the magazine it looks creamy, but after reading the ingredients, I really wasn’t sure how it would hold up.  And, my daughter and Paolo being pasta connoseiurs….oh boy.  I was setting myself up to fail.  But I did it anyway, and let me tell you….it was amazing!  Ok, it obviously isn’t your typical rich mac and cheese, but damn, this was good!  The main component is Butternut Squash, boiled with chicken stock and nonfat milk, then mashed.  Just a teaspoon of olive oil, and 1 cup of full fat cheddar, this dish screams deliciousness.  And at only 350 calories per serving?  Sold!!!!

iphone january february 540

 

So, if you’re watching your weight, or just want to make a healthier version of a comfort classic, look no farther than this!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Martha Stewart Living Magazine January 2003

Serves 6

1 small butternut squash (about 1 lb), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 cup homemade or low sodium chicken stock, skimmed of fat

1 1/2 cups nonfat milk

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of Cayenne pepper

3/4 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb elbow macaroni

4 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese

4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp fine breadcrumbs

1 tsp olive oil

Olive oil cooking spray

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Combine squash, stock and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper.  Stir to combine.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions.  Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tbsp Parmesan.

3.  Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray.  Transfer noodle mixture to dish.  In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tbsp Parmesan, and oil; sprinkle over noodle mixture.

4.  Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

Per Serving:  35o Calories, 6 G Fat, 18 MG Cholesterol, 57 G Carbohydrate, 505 MG Sodium, 16 G protein, 2 G Fiber

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Orange Soup with Ancho and Chipotle Cream

Butternut Squash Soup

It’s cold here.  I mean, I know it isn’t as cold as some parts of the world, but for a Caribbean gal like me, it’s damn well near freezing.  These last weeks, I find myself drinking cupfuls of tea every day, and dreaming of really warm things like oatmeal, stews, and of course, soups.

Since in South Africa I saw butternut squash EVERYWHERE, and the first shopping I did here had a big crate full, so I thought, why not?!  I did have to wait a while to make it, because I love roasting squash. (Remember I didn’t have an oven until last week?)  I love roasting it because it brings out its natural sweetness.  The kitchen also was super warm and cozy with the lovely aroma emanating from it.  I also had some oranges, so I decided to grate a little bit of the zest into the onions, and then juice the rest of it to put in the soup.  It completely changed the dish, for the better!  It tasted fresher and brighter.  But of course since I like contrasts, I needed a little zip too, so I toasted and soaked some ancho chiles and pureed them with some ground chipotle pepper into the cream.  The result?  Phenomenal.  I hope you try it too!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 medium-sized butternut squash, halved and roasted at 190C (375F) for about an hour, let cool

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 a large onion, chopped

1 tsp grated orange zest

Juice from 1 orange

5 cups vegetable stock

1 cup 2% milk

Salt and pepper to taste

1 large ancho chile, toasted, soaked and seeded

2 tsp (or more, heck, I like it spicy, but it’s totally up to you) ground chipotle powder

1/4 – 1/2 cup heavy cream

Parsley leaf, to decorate if you are so inclined

In a large stock pot, add the olive oil and set the heat to medium low.  Add the onion and zest.  Saute until it is translucent, about 6-7 minutes.  In the meantime, peel the squash and cube it.  Add to the onions along with some salt, pepper and cook for about 5 minutes more.  Add the juice and stock and raise the heat to high.  Let it come to a boil, and then lower the heat to medium low and let it simmer for about 20-25 minutes.

When the squash is easy to mush, add the milk and purée with an immersion blender. Simmer for another 5 minutes.  Pass it through a chinois (or not, if you want it chunkier, omit this step) and return to heat.

In a small bowl, cut the ancho chile up into strips.  Add the chipotle and the cream and with the same immersion blender, blend until it is smooth.  Add some salt and pepper to taste.  (So your cream won’t whip, heat it up a little).

Serve the soup in bowls, and drizzle with the ancho chipotle cream.  Garnish with a parsley leaf.  Serve immediately.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Saveur Magazine Classic Recipes No. 74 – Garides Saganaki (Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta)

shrimp

Sometimes, you come across a recipe and you read it and think, hmmm, ok, sounds nice but you really don’t think much of it.  Well, this one was like that for me.  Last night, with Paolo’s parents here on a visit, we decided to give it a try, and we were all spectacularly pleased with it.  First of all, it was super easy to prepare, and very quick.  If you have these ingredients on hand, you can make this dinner in 30 minutes, tops.  Secondly, the flavor!  Oh my lord…..the tomatoes and melted feta were heavenly, add to that the nuanced hint of the ouzo, it turned an already delicious dish into something more than special.  The secret to this dish is to really buy the best ingredients possible.  Since it only has about 8, and in small quantities, it really begs for you to go all out.

shrimp2

One thing that I absolutely recommend you to do.  Have lots of fresh crusty bread on hand.  You’ll be sopping up this sauce for sure!

Overall points: 8.5/10

Difficulty: Easy

Availability of ingredients: Readily available, if you can’t find Ouzo, use any other anisette liqueur

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 small yellow onion, chopped

1/2 medium hot green chile, stemmed and finely chopped

1 1/4 cups canned whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 large head-on shrimp (about 12 oz.) bodies peeled (heads and tail shells left intact), deveined

4 oz. Greek feta, coarsely crumbled

2 tbsp ouzo

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

1. Heat broiler to high.  Heat oil in an 8″ round metal gratin dish or a heavy ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and chile, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, and season to taste with salt and pepper; cook until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

2. Arrange shrimp in dish, spoon some sauce on top, and continue to simmer until shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.  Scatter feta around shrimp, then transfer dish to broiler, and broil until feta begins to melt, about 2 minutes.  Remove dish from broiler.  Warm ouzo in a tiny pot over low heat, then ignite it with a kitchen match and pour over shrimp and feta.  When flames die out, garnish dish with parsley, and serve.  Serves 2.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla