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

Stracotto Al Barolo – Braised Beef in Red Wine

Stracotto al Barolo

I know, I know.  I suck.  Not having posted a thing since October is terrible.  But, sometimes life gets in the way, holidays, etc. etc.  But, I am back!  This year, I wanted to do something that I had read about a year ago, it was a group of people who chose a cook book and did a recipe or two from it.  I really can’t remember the fundamentals, but at home I decided it would be a great way to expand my knowledge, and to actually crack open my cook books and magazines.  It also think it will be quite fun because it’s a great way to involve the whole family.  My way of doing it is this: Every month, one of us chooses a cookbook.  I chose this months, “Italy – The Beautiful Cookbook”.  Then, we choose 9 recipes, 3 recipes each, to make in one month.  Obviously, I am going to try to stay true to the ingredients, but will omit or swap some ingredients that I simply can’t find here.

So, today is one of my recipe choices, only because its Sunday and it is a time-consuming recipe, the beef has to marinate overnight.  I chose this recipe because the picture in the book looked divine and the ingredients were promising.  This recipe hails from Piedmont, a northern region in Italy bordering France, so I am not surprised that it is basically like a Beef Bourguignon, but with Barolo wine and different herbs and spices.  That suits me just fine, I basically kind of wanted something heart and belly warming since I am sure we all can agree that this is one helluva cold winter!  This dish is simply delicious.  As the beef is cooking, your house will smell incredible, really mouthwatering.  I could hardly wait until the beef was done!  Rich and complex, it is a perfect sunday lunch meal.  I am absolutely positive it will become a favorite of yours too….my family devoured it!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

2lb (1kg) braising beef (I used eye of round)

2 carrots, cut into several pieces each

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 celery stalks, cut into several pieces

1/2 cup parsley

2 bay leaves

1 tsp juniper berries (which I didn’t find)

1/2 cup diced lard

1/2 bottle aged Barolo wine (or any other full bodied red you have on hand, I used Rioja)

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

Combine the meat, all the vegetables, the herbs, and the wine in a large bowl.  Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

Remove the meat and dry well; reserve marinade.  Make little cuts on the surface of the meat and fill them with lard.  Brown the meat thoroughly in the butter and oil in a flame proof casserole.  Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).  Lift out the marinade vegetables with a slotted spoon and add to the meat.  Add 1 cup of the wine and salt to taste.  ( I added all the wine from the marinade).  Cover and braise in the oven for about 3 hours, adding more wine as needed to keep meat from drying out.  Halfway through the cooking time, take out the meat, slice thinly, and put back into the wine, with any juice on the cutting board.

Remove meat when done and place on a platter.  Put the vegetables and wine through a food mill or grind to a textured purée in a food processor.  Reheat this and pour over the meat.  Serve at once,  with potatoes, but I chose polenta.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Murgh Makhanwala (Butter Chicken)

Butter Chicken

 

I have no idea if this is the authentic recipe, but let me tell you, it tasted damn well delicious! For me Indian food is akin to comfort food.  Blame my college room-mate, who I love dearly and her family hails from Gujarat;  she was the person who used to cook for me when I couldn’t even boil water.

I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than a deliciously spiced meal, with loads of extra tasty sauce to sop up with home-made bread, in this case, Naan.  I stole this recipe from the Saveur website.  It popped up in my inbox, and I couldn’t get it out of my head since the moment I looked at it.  Normally my main problem in making Indian food is finding all the right ingredients.  This one is fairly easy, the only ingredient missing was the fresh or frozen curry leaves, which I still haven’t managed to find here.  Hopefully, one day I will, but to tell you the truth, I don’t think it would have changed much in this dish.  This chicken is really “finger lickin’ good”…..I mean, with all that yummy sauce, it begs for you to let your table manners go for the night!  As always, the true testament of a dish being good or great….my daughter eating it all, and then taking some for lunch the next day!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

For the chicken:

1/2 cup greek yogurt

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp oil

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp crushed red chile flakes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 3″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced cross-wise

Salt, to taste

1 3-4 lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces and skin removed

For the sauce:

1 tsp crushed red chile flakes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

4 whole cardamom pods, cracked

3 whole cloves, crushed

1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained

1 3″ piece of ginger, washed and grated

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

4 fresh or frozen curry leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

 

Marinate the chicken:  Combine all ingredients except for chicken in a food processor; purée.  Transfer marinade to a large bowl and add chicken, tossing to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  (I did overnight, I think it made a difference.)

Heat oven to 500F (250C).  Transfer chicken to aluminum foil lined baking sheet, and spoon any marinade left over on top of the chicken.  Bake chicken until light brown but not cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to a rack, set aside.

Make the sauce:  In a large pot over med-high heat, combine chile flakes, garlic, cardamom, cloves, tomatoes, ginger, bay leaf, and 2/3 cup water.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to med-low, and cook, stirring often and crushing tomatoes with a spoon, for 25 minutes.  Discard bay leaf and transfer sauce to a food processor, purée.  Return sauce to pot and continue cooking over medium-low heat until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.  Add reserved chicken pieces and any marinade left over from the pan, along with a 1/3 cup water.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cream, butter, garam masala and curry leaves.  Reduce heat to low and cook until flavors meld, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with warm Naan bread.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla 

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

Yesterday my baby girl was home sick with a tummy bug, which incidentally I caught, so I decided to make her a clear broth.  I had some chicken and ham bones in the fridge, plus loads of veggies, and I always have some herbs and spices on hand, so it was easy-going.  Today she is feeling much better, and I put that delicious stock to good use.  Lentils-  I love lentils, having grown up eating it almost every week.  In Colombia our grains are usually accompanied with white rice, but here in Spain, lentils are eaten as a dish on its own.  That is what I was going for today, swapping my usual “latino” herbs and spices for some more “mediterranean” ones.  Oh, and let’s not forget the chorizo……no lentil dish worth its name would be without it here, since pork is king!

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

I love the chorizo in the lentils, it gives it a warmth and depth that really isn’t achieved with in our Colombian counterpart; at least in my home our lentils were more of the vegetarian variety.   Also, I added some smoked sweet “pimenton” to give it that extra smoky kick!  Adding the chorizo and pimenton makes this more of a one plate meal, no accompaniment needed, and as the weather cools down, it definitely warms your belly too!

So here’s what you’re going to need”

4 cups dark stock (recipe below)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 green pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 carrot, chopped

1/4 cup chorizo, cubed

1 tsp smoked sweet pimenton or paprika

1 cup Pardina lentils, or Lentilles du Puy (french lentils)

2 bay leaves

1 sprig of thyme

Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a medium sauté pan, add the olive oil and warm it up over medium low heat.  Add the onion and green pepper, and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and tomato paste, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the carrot, chorizo and pimenton, stirring and cook for another 2 minutes.

In the meantime, in a dutch oven or medium stockpot, bring your stock to a boil.  When boiling, add the vegetables, lentils, bay leaves and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat for 10 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium low, and simmer for another 35 minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked and it has slightly thickened.  Serve with fresh crusty bread and enjoy!

For the Stock:

This is a go to stock recipe that can be used as a broth, or base for other food preparations.  This makes about 6 cups, and feel free to swap some of the vegetables and herbs for what you have on hand.  The most important part is the cooking time so it really develops some flavor.

Makes about 6 cups of stock

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 leek, sliced

3 shallots, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 celery sticks plus some leaves, sliced

1 large tomato, diced

1 cup cabbage, diced

1 tbsp tomato paste

Chicken bones and neck

3 ham bones

8 cups water

2 sprigs of sage, roughly chopped

2 sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

1 tsp black peppercorns

Salt, to taste

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add the leek, shallots, carrot, celery, tomato and cabbage, cook for about 15 minutes, until softened.  Raise heat to high, add the tomato paste and your bones, stirring constantly to incorporate the paste.  Add the water and the rest of the ingredients.  Boil for about 10 minutes, and then lower heat to medium high, and cook for another 40 minutes.  Turn off heat, and cover to let the flavors meld for another 20 minutes.

Strain through a chinois, and return to the dutch oven.  If you want a very clear broth, like consome, then when the stock is simmering, add 2 scrambled egg whites to the stock, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove the egg whites, this picks up all the impurities and leaves you with a crystalline broth.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Spinach and Four Cheese Baked Pasta

Spinach and 4 cheese pasta

 

The only way I can get my daughter to eat spinach is to pair it with cheese.  So, I did.  Pasta al Forno, or Baked Pasta, I guess could be considered the great granddaddy of Mac & Cheese.  My family adores Pasta al Forno, so whenever I can, I try to come up with interesting variations.  One of the most important parts of this recipe is making a great béchamel.  Bechamel is silky and creamy, if done properly.  The only thing it requires, is time, a good amount of stirring and a proper roux.

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Making a roux is easy, ruining it is even easier.  This part of the process requires you to be completely aware and not leave it for a second, because it can and will burn!  The key is cooking it over very low heat, and stirring constantly.  Another tip, is to always slowly stream COLD milk (or cream, if you’re feeling really sinful) into the roux, while stirring vigorously.

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Your béchamel should be perfect in about 10 – 15 minutes.  When it’s done, take off the heat, and add the salt, pepper and all the cheese you want!

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I used a mix of Gruyère, Ricotta Salata, Emmenthal (a.k.a. Swiss Cheese) and Old Amsterdam, which has a slightly nutty flavor, similar to a mild cheddar.

Whatever combination, I am sure this will be a winner at dinner!

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So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6 approx.

1 lb pasta, I used gnocchetti

200 g frozen spinach, boiled and drained

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups cold milk

1 cup cold heavy cream

4 cups mixed, grated cheese

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

1 cup bread crumbs plus 1 tbsp butter, melted

Boil pasta according to package directions, draining one minute before the time on package.  Set aside.  In a heavy stockpot over very low heat, melt the butter until foamy.  Add the flour and whisk.  Cook over low heat for about 5-6 minutes, whisking constantly.  Slowly pour in your cold milk (or milk and cream), whisking all the time to make sure there are no lumps. Now switch to a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring all the time, until thickened.  Take off the heat and add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and the cheeses.

Add the spinach and pasta to the cheese sauce, mix well.  Preheat the oven to 180 C.  Add the pasta to a large baking dish, set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with the butter until thoroughly combined.  Sprinkle on top of the pasta evenly.

Place the pasta in the oven and cook for about 25-30 minutes, or until bubbling and the breadcrumbs are nice and golden.  Take out of the oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Saveur Magazine Classic Recipes No. 72 – Shepherd’s Pie

Sheperd's Pie

I bet you thought I had forgotten about my self-imposed challenge.  True, I haven’t been cooking as much lately, but as I have been preparing for the wedding and busy with beaurocratic bullsh*t since I moved, the inspiration has been on the back burner.  But I’m back, with a vengeance!  Finally after settling in and having the majority of my tasks completed, I now have time and the chutzpah to dedicate to some serious cooking.  Especially now that the weather has turned, and I can open my kitchen windows and let in that beautiful spring breeze!

I have made shepherd’s pie for many, many years.  It was one of the first ways I got my daughter to eat her veg, masked under the layers of creamy mash.  That is why I was so excited to try this recipe from Saveur, because it looked delicious.  And true to its word, as my daughter put it, it was the best shepherd’s pie she had ever eaten.  Quite disillusioned with the recipes that we tried before from the magazine, she was super surprised when I told her its provenance!

I know I mentioned in my first challenge that I would recreate the recipes exactly as they are printed, but since moving to Madrid, I haven’t found “my markets” yet.  You know, your go-to places to get those ingredients that are a little harder to find?  Well, in my case, even the easy ingredients are harder to find.  It’s amazing how much Madrid differs to Barcelona.  Some things that I considered staples in my household because I knew where to buy them, have now become extremely difficult to attain.  So, this recipe has two variants.  Instead of lamb shoulder, I used ground beef, (I get lots of lamb chops in my neighborhood, but shoulder, not so much.)  And, I added peas.  Just cause we all love peas.  (I snuck some nutmeg into the mash too….)

This dish was a winner.  The layer of beef was juicy and flavorful, the mash was silky smooth on the inside, and perfectly crispy on the outside.  Total hit!

Overall Points:  9/10 –  It beat the Carbonnade!

Difficulty:  Medium, just for the varying components of the recipe.  But, it is leaning more towards easy.

Availability of ingredients:  Readily available

Serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 lb trimmed lamb shoulder, cut into 1/4″ cubes

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup beef stock

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

1 15 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed by hand

1/2 cup frozen peas (my addition)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 lb russet potatoes, peeled

1/2 cup heavy cream

8 tbsp unsalted butter

Freshly grated nutmeg (my addition)

1. Heat oil in a 6-qt saucepan over medium high heat.  Add lamb, and cook, stirring, until browned all over, 10-12 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl and set aside.  Add celery, garlic, carrot, and onion to pan, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes.  Add wine, and cook, stirring to scrape bottom of pan, until wine evaporates, about 8 minutes.  Add stock, Worcestershire, bay leaves, and tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until slightly reduced, about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, add the peas and lamb, mix well, and transfer to a 9″ deep-dish pie plate; set aside.

2.  Heat oven to 400 F.  Place potatoes in a 4 qt saucepan, and cover with water by 1″; bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook until tender, about 30 minutes; drain.  Meanwhile, bring cream and butter to a simmer in a 1 qt saucepan; keep warm.  Transfer potatoes to a food mill or potato ricer, and process into a bowl; add hot cream and butter, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and whisk until smooth and fluffy.  Spoon potatoes over meat filling in dish, spreading to cover to the edge; drag tines of fork lightly over potatoes to create ridges all over.  (Alternatively, fill a piping bag with the potatoes and pipe them in rows over the filling.)  Bake until potatoes are golden brown and filling is heated through, about 45 minutes.  Let cool 20 minutes. (Serve with peas if you didn’t add them in!)

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Peposo : Tuscan Peppery Beef Stew

Tuscan Beef Stew

 

It’s April.  It’s still cold.  It’s. Not. Fun.

Normally at this time, I would be thinking of springs vegetable bounty, but unfortunately, my body is still asking for belly warming dishes such as these.  I came across this recipe from one of my cook books, “The Country Cooking of Italy” by Colman Andrews.  It is a beautiful book, full of regional recipes with beautiful pictures and anecdotes.  My decision to make this was the absolute ease of the recipe.  You basically just throw the ingredients in a dutch oven and slow cook for hours.  Perfect for when you want something delicious and homemade but don’t have the time to sit at the stove.

These ingredients are also readily available in your pantry – Pepper, Salt, Garlic, Tomato Sauce and Wine.  That’s it.  Easy as 1-2-3. (Now you’re thinking of the Jackson 5, aren’t you?)

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I made this last night for some friends who came to dinner.  Yet, I had to run a whole bunch of errands, but no problem.  Slow roasted in the oven for 8 hours, it left me plenty of time to do what I needed and still come home and whip up some boiled and buttered potatoes.

This recipe did not taste at all like any other Italian food I have ever eaten, the simplicity was very italian, but it’s peperiness reminded me more of an Asian dish than a Tuscan one.  It was truly delicious nonetheless!

So, if you have things to do and still want to make a hearty homemade meal that the family will love, you absolutely must try this dish.  And you won’t even need a knife.

 

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4-6

1 kg of beef for stew

2 tbsp crushed peppercorns (not ground)

12 garlic cloves, peeled

Salt

1 cup tomato sauce

1 bottle Chianti

Preheat the oven to 135C.  In a large dutch oven, add the beef, peppercorns, garlic, generous amount of salt, tomato sauce and the wine to cover.  Cover the dutch oven and place in the oven, cooking for 6-8 hours, do not take off the lid.

Serve with your favorite starch…..or not.  It’s delicious on its own.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla