Tag Archives: quesadillas

The G20 Series: Mexico

13 Jun

by Stephanie Dickison

Funny, I was just thinking along the same lines as Chris – how the hell do you sum up an entire country’s food in a mere 3-4 paragraphs?!

You can’t.  I can’t, anyway, so I thought long and hard about what sets Mexican food apart for me from the rest of the crowd (I had to fight getting up in the middle of the night to make tacos).

Here’s what I came up with:

Mexican food is perhaps one of the most fun, messy foods to eat.

Tacos and tacitos drip hot sauce and juices from pork and chicken,  enchilada sauce bursts forth from your entree, and ceviches blot your napkin with lemon or lime juice.

Salsas are perhaps one of the messiest condiments, with the water from the tomato or tomatillo and citrus juices making it sometimes difficult to get on your tortilla chip or breadstick.  And when your  fajitas, quesadillas and tacos have salsa on them, just  know that it might take a few tries to get the hang of it and not have it end up on your shirt front.

The good thing about salsa is it is simple to make an outstanding one as long as you have fresh ingredients on hand, and because you don’t have to cook it, it can be made quickly.  The base ingredients include tomatoes or tomatillos, cilantro, onion, garlic, citrus juice and hot peppers.  Some pros say salt and pepper too, but I’ve never done that.  (Hmm, I’m going to try that next time….) I like to chop and mix it all by hand, but many people use their food processor.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is the making it fresh always trumps a store-bought one. And this way, you can make it as hot or mild as you like.  The best way to add heat to your salsa is to remember that:

1.  the smaller the chili, the hotter it is

2. add a little at a time and taste as you go

The other thing I’ve learned is, salsas vary in Mexico, depending on the region.   Northern Mexico is known for its hearty grilled beef dishes, so you want something vibrant to stand up against the heaviness.

In The Cuisine of Puebla by Karen Hursh Graber, Northern Mexican “Drunken” Salsa is the perfect accompaniment.  And she says if you don’t have tequila, an extra 1/4 cup of beer will do just fine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 mulato chile, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft, drained
  • 3 pasilla chiles, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft, drained
  • 3 large garlic cloves, roasted on a comal or griddle, then peeled
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • 3 tomatoes, roasted on a comal or griddle
  • ½ cup beer
  • 2 tablespoons tequila
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar or piloncillo
  • salt to taste

Preparation:

Grind the chiles, garlic, onion and tomato in a molcajete or blender. Add the beer, tequila, pineapple juice and sugar and blend to combine ingredients. Add salt to taste.

Made a few hours ahead of serving, this salsa develops a deeper flavor. Makes 2 cups

If you want to make something from the South, use a smoked jalapeño called Chipotle.  The Aztecs who lived in central and southern Mexico from the 14th to 16th Centuries, came up with the idea.

The only other thing I would suggest is a lot of napkins.

You’re going to need ’em.

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Monday Review: Food 2.0

17 Nov

food203

Food 2.0: Secrets From the Chef Who Fed Google by Charlie Ayers, DK Publishing

By Stephanie Dickison

The basis behind Charlie’s cooking at Google was, he says “I want to help people eat better.”

When he was hired at Google back in ’99, it was to create food that would energize people, stimulate them and introduce healthy, organic and sustainably-sourced food into their diets.

That’s quite a lofty list – trying to persuade programmers and computer folk to eat well AND eat local.

But Charlie made over the office cafeteria into a feast for the eyes and stomach, all the while serving healthy food, including at least 2 raw salads a day.  He says that “You can save time and enzymes by eating raw foods,” and offers 5 easy ways to go raw.

In Food 2.0, Charlie lays out what every cook should have in their pantry, with fun and interesting options.

In fact, the book is laden with helpful hints and tips, whether you are a cook just starting out or an avid foodie who never leaves the kitchen.  The whole first half of the book is actually just information – what condiments to stock, how to freeze meats and broths, and why you want to invest in a rice cooker.

The second half is all recipes, which is what I am most excited about.

And in keeping with the pro-health lifestyle that Charlie writes about, the recipes begin with yogurt, smoothies and fresh juices and shakes.  The Wake-Up Shake-Me-Up Power Shake with black tea, rice milk, honey and strawberries?  Now that’s how I want to start my day!

And for lunch, I’m going to make his Dragon Breath Noodles with fresh egg noodles, peanut butter and chili flakes!  Don’t worry, I’ve got gum for afterwards…  And then there’s the Apple and Brie Quesadillas, Seattle Jim’s Pea Salad and Silicon Valley Split Pea Soup.  This is what lunch should be like every day – fresh, invigorating and yet so very healthy.

The dinner options are just as exciting – Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce, Snapper in a Yogurt Coat and Filet Mignon with Crisp Bacon, Seared Polenta and Wilted Spinach Salad.

I am not afraid to say that there are bits of drool on some of these here pages now.  I was trying to decide what to make for dinner.  I think it’s down to the Wild Salmon and Warm Beet Salad, but it’s still early.  I may yet go with Spinach Latkes and a salad or start all over again.  The photos and layout make it completely enjoyable to flip through over and over.

For some reason, maybe because he worked at Google and that says to me big corporation and lots of computers, I was expected a very different book – a more straight-ahead cookbook of standard recipes (read: boring and expected).

But this is a lively, very of the moment book with a lighthearted, yet easy-to-follow guide of fresh recipes that are good for you and lots of advice that may just change the way you cook – and the way you eat.

This is a great gift for the upcoming holidays.  And you might just want to go ahead and order yourself a copy while you’re at it…