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

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

About 7 years ago, I had the most wonderful nanny, her name is Adrienn.  She hails from Hungary, and my daughter and I were lucky enough to be taught a few wonderful dishes that she prepares.  This salad is something fantastic.  Simple, easy, healthy.  It is a perfect side dish to many dishes, not necessarily Hungarian.

I remember her making this the way I assume her family taught her.  She didn’t use measuring spoons or cups, all she did to make the dressing was grab a glass and fill it with the desired quantities of what she needed.  I studied her closely, me being the perfectionist in the kitchen, and this was a challenge.  I am quite accustomed to making dishes that people have taught me this way, but still get a little nervous when they do.

I am going to share this recipe with you the best I know how, feel free to tweak it as you need, because to some it may lack salt, and to some it may be too sweet.  The one thing I do stipulate, as she said to me, please try to use Hungarian Sweet Paprika.  I am told it is the best!

Hungarian Paprika

So here’s what you’re going to need:

1 large cucumber, thinly sliced with a mandoline (or as thin as you can get it with your knife)

3/4 tbsp sugar (or to taste)

3/4 tbsp paprika

1/2 tsp salt or more to taste

Water

Distilled White Vinegar

Place the cucumber slices in a deep bowl.

photo119

 

To the cucumber, add the 1/2 tsp of salt, and mix well with your hands, coating all the slices.  In a large drinking glass, fill half of it with water, and add the sugar and paprika.  Mix well until the sugar is completely dissolved.  You should have a very red liquid.  Add the vinegar a little at a time, until you reach your desired acidity, I think it should be at least a tbsp.  Add your dressing to the cucumber slices, and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.

Hungarian Cucumber Salad

 

Your cucumber slices should be quite soft.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Parmigiana di Melanzane – Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

 

I adore eggplant.  I love it’s versatility, it’s meatiness, the way it soaks up the surrounding flavors.  I love that you can even make desserts with eggplant! (Just ask the Sicilians).  Parmigiana has been a staple in my household for years.  When I was vegetarian, I used to prepare this all the time.  And, lucky for me, my sweetie Paolo, makes an amazing parmigiana.  Unfortunately, he is in Madrid, so I had to make this myself.

My daughter, also, absolutely adored this.  I didn’t tell her what was inside.  When she asked what was for dinner and I said Melanzane alla Parmigiana, she just nodded and life was ok for her.  Italian food is her passion.  I should probably start translating all of my dishes in Italian so she’ll eat them.  The best bit was when she tried the first bite and told me it was delicious.  Score!  Another veggie consumed happily by the picky teen!

Parmigiana can be served as a main meal, or as an appetizer.  But I like to eat it as a main, since every bite is amazing.  Oh, and this recipe I changed up a bit, to make it a little more heart and calorie friendly.  Instead of frying the eggplant, I baked them in the oven.   Let me tell you, I think I am going to make it like this all the time.  The flavors of the tomato sauce and the eggplant really came out, instead of the heaviness of the oil.  But hey, if you ain’t watchin’ your weight, go ahead and fry!

It is a very simple dish to prepare.  It has a few steps, but once that is done, you can just sit back and wait until it comes out of the oven.  And it’s even better the day after!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4 (as a meal) or 8 (appetizer)

2 medium eggplants, sliced and sprinkled with salt, and place in a colander for about 1 hour, then rinsed.

1 tbsp olive oil, more for tray and eggplants.

1/2 onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and black pepper, to taste

2 small cans diced tomatoes, if you can, use italian tomatoes.  You WILL notice the difference.

2 fresh mozzarella, sliced

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).   On a large baking tray, place a layer of aluminum, and paint with a layer of olive oil.  Place all the eggplant slices on the tray, and then paint them with another layer of oil.

photo (99)

 

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until starting to brown.  Take out of the oven and lower the heat to 400F (200C).

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium low heat, add the tbsp of olive oil.  Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté until translucent and softened, about 6-8 minutes.   Add the two cans of tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes.

In a small baking dish, add a scant layer of tomato sauce.  Top with the slices of eggplant, then mozzarella, and finally the parmesan cheese.

photo 101

 

Repeat, adding, in order, tomato sauce, eggplant, mozzarella and parmesan until you have no more.  The last layer should be the mozzarella and parmesan.  Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes.   Uncover and continue to bake until the cheese is golden brown and most of the water from the tomatoes has evaporated.    Take out of the oven and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

photo 103

 

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Saveur Magazine Classic Recipe No.19 – New England Clam Chowder

 

I had high hopes for this recipe.  Being one of my favorite chowders and all.  (Ok, my super-duper favorite is Conch Chowder, but conch is hard to come by here.)  Paolo chose this recipe, he was really excited, loving clams, loving New England.  He also had never tried this and was super intrigued.   Alas, I have to say it was a total disaster.

As I mentioned in my first Saveur Magazine post,  I am going to prepare the recipes exactly as it states in the magazine.  I’ve prepared this dish from another recipe of mine and it has been a complete success.  I have eaten this dish a gazillion times too.  The problem that I found with this recipe, is that it was extremely watery.  A little red flag started waving wildly as I read the recipe calling for 6 cups of water to 2 cups cream.  And no thickener.  And, I would highly advise to place the clams in water to rid them of the sand, because I was straining and straining and straining.  But, anyhoo, I proceeded to recreate it in complete trust and experimental nature.

Needless to say, my two co-judges were not pleased at all.  Another recipe bust, another lunch that we ended up eating mainly bread and the sautéed porcini I had made as a side.  But, tastewise it was delicious.

So, without further ado, the rankings:

Overall points:  4.6/10

Difficulty:  Medium, as it has numerous steps and a wee bit time-consuming

Availability of ingredients:  Easy, if you can’t find fresh clams, frozen will do in a cinch.

10 lb clams in the shell, preferably cherrystone, scrubbed

4 oz. thick-cut bacon, finely chopped

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp finely chopped thyme leaves

2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

2 1/2 lb. new potatoes, cut into 1/4″ cubes

2 cups heavy cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Oyster crackers and hot sauce for serving

1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan over high heat.  Add clams, and cover pan;  cook until clams are steamed open, about 10 minutes (discard any that do not open).  Remove from heat, and let cool.  Remove clam meat from shells, and roughly chop;  set aside.  Pour cooking liquid from pan though a fine strainer into another bowl (you should have about 6 cups; if not, add enough water to make 6 cups); set aside.

2.  Heat bacon in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until its fat renders and bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes.  Add butter, thyme, onions, and bay leaves, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add reserved cooking liquid and potatoes, and bring to a boil;  reduce heat to medium low, and cook, stirring until potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Add chopped clam meat and cream*; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper;  serve with crackers and hot sauce on the side.  Serves 8.

* I suggest you lower the heat to minimum, if not your cream is going to curdle.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

Buckwheat Polenta with Gorgonzola Cream and Toasted Walnuts

 

Buckwheat Polenta

 

The first time I tried Polenta I was 11 years old, my first year in Switzerland.  I remember seeing these enormous vats of polenta, being stirred constantly by a mechanical arm.  To tell you the truth, it really didn’t look very appetizing.  It looked like a big mass of yellow mush.  Then I tried it.  I’ve been hooked since.

I love the versatility of polenta.  It can be eaten soft, or left to harden then baked or fried.  It allows you to top it with an infinite nuber of possibilities, savory or sweet.  Buckwheat Polenta, or as they call it in Italy, Polenta Taragna, is quite different.  It has a saltier and denser quality, and usually it is eaten only with savory, and with a final addition of Bitto cheese.  In Lombaridia, the region where Milano is capital, there is an area called Valtellina.  This is the northern alpine area, and buckwheat is used in many recipes, two of the most famous being this polenta and a type of pasta called Pizzocheri.  They are both some of my favorites, but for my belly it needs to be quite cool to eat this since it is much more filling than normal pasta and polenta varieties.  That said, it is also a heck of a lot more nutritious too!

On my last trip to Lugano, I brought back some of this polenta, and finally the weather cooled down enough for me to make some.  I have a few friends here who are die-hard fans of polenta, so I wanted to introduce this variety to them.  I chose to top it with a creamy gorgonzola sauce, and some toasted walnuts.  If you are so lucky to find some, make sure you get the express variety, which cooks in about 5 minutes.  If not, you will have to stand over the stove and CONTINUOUSLY stir the polenta for 40-50 minutes!  (I haven’t had an arm workout like this in years.)  But, the end result is well worth the exercise, and throughout the process, I was channeling my inner nonna.

So, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 6

500 g Polenta Taragna (or regular polenta if you can’t find it)

250 g Gorgonzola Dolce Cheese

200 ml cream

Salt, Pepper and Freshly Grated Nutmeg to taste

100g Walnuts, toasted

Cook polenta according to package directions.   In a small saucepan over medium low heat, add the cream and gorgonzola cheese, stirring until it melts.  Take off heat and add the salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Keep warm.

In a small frying pan, toast the walnuts until darkened and fragrant.  Take off heat.

On a plate, heap some polenta on it, then drizzle as much cream sauce as you want ( I like a lot) and top with the toasted walnuts.

It’s that easy and it’s even more delicious!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

Shiitake Croquetas

Shiitake Croquetas

 

I LOVE CROQUETAS.  Croquetas are croquettes, usually made with leftover ham, but now a days, you can find them filled with anything your heart desires.  I have had cheese, spinach, pine nuts and raisins, beef, onion, fish…..the list goes on.

I have eaten croquetas since I was a kid, and I think my obsession started because my parents really didn’t buy or make them.  In Miami it is a Cuban thing, and the only time I would get to eat them is when I went to sleep at my Uncle Ernest and Aunt Myra’s house.  We used to have them for breakfast.  Sooooo good.

Now, call me stupid, but I had no idea that croquetas was a Spanish thing.  When I first landed in Spain, and saw that every single restaurant had a croqueta on the menu, I had an “A-ha!” moment.  Croquetas originally are made with left over chicken or pieces of Jamon mixed with a thick béchamel, then coated with breadcrumbs and fried.  The ham ones are still my favorites.  I’m not so sure about the chicken.  I decided to make them with some shiitake, because I had some dried in my fridge, kind of just staring at me every day.

Croquetas are fairly easy to make, but they are laborious and time-consuming.  This is probably something you might want to do on a rainy Sunday, (as I did) and make a lot.  They freeze really well, and as all things, the home-made versions are much better than store-bought, which usually has a very low ham to béchamel ratio, favoring the latter.  And once you get the knack, then the possibilities are endless!

So here’s what you’re going to need:

2 handfuls (sorry, I didn’t measure other than that) dried Shiitake mushrooms, soaked and strained, reserving 1 cup soaking liquid, then minced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely minced

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour, more for dusting

2 cups milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 eggs, beaten

Breadcrumbs, for coating.  In this recipe, I used Panko (Japanese Style Breadcrumbs)

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, shiitake and onion.  Saute until the mushrooms and onions are softened, about 20 minutes.  Make sure all the water from the mushrooms has evaporated too.  Take off heat and set aside.

In a stockpot over low heat, melt the butter and add your flour and mix well, to make a roux.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes.  Mix the milk with the cup of soaking liquid, and in a slow stream add to the roux, whisking constantly.  Stir until very thick, about 25 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and mix well.  Spread out on a plate, and let it cool to thicken even more.

Now, on your counter line up the plate with the filling, the bowl with the beaten egg, the bowl with the breadcrumbs, and a baking pan to place them on.  Dust your hands with flour, and grab a bit of the mushroom filling, roll into a ball or a log shape, dip them in the eggs, and then roll them in the breadcrumbs.  Continue to do that in order until all your filling is gone.  If needed wash your hands in between.  If you are not using immediately, you can freeze them in an airtight container for up to a month.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan with olive oil, when it is hot but not smoking, fry your croquetas about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Turn over and repeat.  Place on a plate lined with paper to soak the excess oil.  Serve hot.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla

 

 

Saveur Magazine Classic Recipe No. 24 – Rosti

Rosti

 

For years now I have always loved Saveur Magazine.  Along with Martha Stewart Living I remember way before I became a chef I would read every single article and recreate all the recipes at home, or almost all.  Some of them I really couldn’t because of time or not being able to find the right ingredients.  But, I have every single copy still and they rest proudly on my shelf.  I love revisiting them and re-reading the articles.

Saveur is on a league of its own, though.  More than just a food magazine, I absolutely adore the stories that go along with the recipes.  It’s almost like a travel AND food magazine at once.  Just a week ago, I received my October 2012 copy and tucked into it immediately.  I love that they showcase 101 Classic Recipes, and the fantastic part is that they aren’t 101 American Classic recipes, they are classics from around the world.  I was so intrigued by the amount of things that I hadn’t tried yet, that last Sunday over lunch, I announced to my family I wanted to recreate every single one.  The look on Paolo and Cassia’s (my daughter’s) face was priceless.  They picked up the copy and started leafing through it, and they decided that ok, I could, but they would have 4 vetoes each.  That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to make them, just that they weren’t going to try them.  After much discussion, I agreed.  I mean, I am the foodie, but I can’t force them to eat something that they really don’t like, even though I told them unless you try it you won’t know.  But hey, that’s still 97 recipes that they WILL try!

So, obviously I am not going to make all of them consecutively, but you will know which ones come from the magazine because in the title I will always mention the magazine and the number of the recipe.

I decided to begin with this one because I have a lot of potatoes at home.  Also, I love Rosti.  I first tried it when I was 10 years old when we traveled to Switzerland to look for schools.  Obviously, this is something super easy to like, it’s potatoes.  But all the incarnations available are simply astounding.  Cheese, mushrooms, onion, bacon, the list is endless.  I think I have tried most variations throughout my six years in Switzerland, and it was always a cheap and tasty way to feed a teenager.

This recipe is the classic version, just potatoes.  It really is kind of like a large hash brown, but thicker.  It is crispy and crunchy on the outside, moist and dense on the inside.  Perfect on its own, or as a side, for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

I hope you enjoy this voyage with me, as I will be recreating exactly as much as I possibly can all the recipes, even if they differ from how I make them ( a lot of my family classics in it).  But that is how you learn, right?  Also, I will give you my family’s reaction to it.  We’ve decided to rate them on how much we like it, and I will rate it on difficulty and if the ingredients are readily available (mind you I realize that we don’t all live in the same place, so I will take that into account too).  3 voices are better than one, I think?  Except for today’s, since my sweetie is in Madrid.

So, without further ado, the super easy and delicious recipe for Rosti!

Taste: 2 out of 3  said excellent

Difficulty: Easy, beginner level

Ingredients readily available: Definitely

2 1/4 lb russet potatoes (about 3 large)

2 tbsp lard or unsalted butter

2 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp kosher salt, plus more to taste

1.  Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook until tender, about 30 minutes.  Drain potatoes, and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.  Peel potatoes, then refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.  Grate potatoes using the large holes on a cheese grater; set aside.

2. Heat lard and oil in and 8″ nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  When lard has melted, add potatoes, sprinkle with salt, and mix well, coating potatoes with fat.  Using a metal spatula, gently press potatoes, molding them to fit the skillet.  Cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

3. Cover skillet with a large inverted plate, invert the rosti over onto plate, then slide it back into the skillet, cooked side up; cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 20 minutes.  Transfer to a cutting board, sprinkle with salt, and cut into wedges to serve.  Serves 4.

Verdict:  It came out perfectly cooked, really easy to make.  The time was spot on for the cooking on each side.  The only gripe we both had is that 1 tbsp of salt is way to much.  I would reduce the amount to half a tablespoon.  But everything else was perfect!

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla