Tag Archives: Ellen Brown

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Classic Mexican Picadillo

I must apologize for my absenteeism, right before blaming the walking pneumonia-turned double ear infection that’s had me quite derailed the past couple weeks. I do not recommend it. Starting to feel just this side of human again = let’s blog some more!

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Unlike the end of 2015, December 2016 has been, well, cold, and we’ve even seen some snowflakes! And since I’m well aware it’s not just me battling illness – the season for that has begun, grrr – I figured some healthy comfort food to soothe embattled senses and perk us up was in order.

Classic Mexican Picadillo

I believe Mexican Picadillo to be Mexico’s precursor to Texas’ chili, but without the extra calories we all love to pile on in the name of garnishes, which let’s face it, sounds much fancier and more virtuous than admitting we made chili solely to eat copious amounts of shredded cheddar, sour cream, and Frito scoops. No, you don’t do any of that to Picadillo. The most you do to Picadillo is maybe serve some warm corn tortillas or tortilla chips on the side.

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Which, if you’re now wondering what the point is, 1) I don’t blame you; and 2) let me assure you it’s incredibly delicious. This isn’t chili. The flavors and textures are familiar, yes, but different – less heat, more subtle sweetness, and if this makes sense, it just feels more pure than chili. Not that I’ll ever say a bad word about chili – that’s certainly not what I mean. I will recommend this (highly!) to both chili-heads and those who aren’t so crazy about chili. If you, like me, adore a bowl of chili, this will broaden your horizons and introduce a lovely, easy one-pot weeknight dinner into your repertoire with far less calories than chili; and if you don’t groove on a bowl o’ red, I’d say this is distinct enough that you should definitely give it a shot. Everyone, enjoy!

Classic Mexican Picadillo

Source: The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Ellen Brown

2 tbs olive oil, divided
1 lb. ground beef (I used sirloin)
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, seeded and diced
3 tbs chili powder
1 tbs sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup beef stock
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with their juice (can be fire-roasted if you prefer)
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup raisins
1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
Chopped fresh cilantro, to garnish

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbs olive oil and tilt the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Add the ground beef and cook it, breaking up lumps until browned. Add the second tbs of olive oil and add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook 30 seconds more, stirring to evenly combine.
Now stir in the stock, tomatoes with their juice, tomato sauce, wine and raisins. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the beans and olives and cook 15 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve hot, sprinkling each serving with cilantro.

Dilled Irish Cheddar Soda Bread

Dilled Irish Cheddar Soda Bread

So apparently today is St. Patrick’s Day. Where I grew up, St. Patrick’s Day was barely even mentioned – you were supposed to wear green to school to avoid being pinched but that was it. Then I moved to New York City, aka a city with a St. Patty’s Day parade, and St. Patrick’s Day has become One of the Worst Days of the Year – at least it is if you’re trying to get anywhere in midtown Manhattan.

Dilled Irish Cheddar Soda Bread

That damn parade can mess up a commute like nobody’s business. Last year I had to walk an extra four blocks (yes I counted) and take an extra twenty minutes I didn’t have to spare to get around the roadblocks and fight through the crowds. I got so annoyed that I found myself inwardly fuming about why we are celebrating a country that has been so historically backwards about marriage equality and birth control. I got myself so worked up I had to go play with kittens to calm down (true story, I used to volunteer at an animal shelter).

Dilled Irish Cheddar Soda Bread

In my purely personal opinion, the one redeeming quality of St. Patrick’s Day for those of us living in A City with a Parade who don’t identify with the Irish spirit is soda bread. I never had this as a kid, probably because no one in Dallas suburbs seemed to give a rat’s backside about the holiday, but I’m extremely happy to have discovered it in adulthood.

Soda bread seems to be the cause of many arguments – do you put raisins in there or not, that kind of thing – but it seems that most can and will happily forgive a little “experimentation” if the spirit of soda bread is left alone. I found this recipe for adding cheddar and dill – I made sure I used a good Irish cheddar – and everyone seemed to love it. It may not be completely authentic, but it’s delicious!

Dilled Irish Cheddar Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day if you celebrate it, and for the rest of us, may we not get pinched, trampled, or too inconvenienced by parades. Enjoy!

Source: The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Ellen Brown

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 ½ cups buttermilk
1 large egg
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
1 ¼ cups shredded sharp Irish cheddar, divided

Preheat your oven to 350 F and generously grease a 12” cast iron skillet with cooking spray or softened butter.
Combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Combine the butter, buttermilk, and egg in another bowl and whisk well.
Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. The dough will be sticky. Stir in the dill and 1 cup cheese. Transfer the dough to the prepared skillet, smoothing the top but mounding it slightly in the center with lightly floured hands. Cut a large X about 1 inch deep in the center of the dough, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of all four quarters.
Bake the bread in the center of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes, or until the crust is browned and a toothpick or cake tester in inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the skillet for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Strawberry Gazpacho

Strawberry Gazpacho

Please meet the first meal I cooked and photographed in our new place for the blog! Except that technically I didn’t cook anything… because gazpacho… but still! Summer fruits and vegetables are popping up everywhere in my neck of the urban woods, and in fact as I write this I’m planning my first venture to scope out my new city’s farmers markets!

For me, the default in using summer fruits has always been desserts or other baked goods that are really just desserts with slightly less sugar masquerading as breakfast items. It’s easy, it works, everyone loves it. Pardon the pun, it’s low hanging fruit. These sweet berries, melons, and stone fruits are made for sweets.

strawberries for gazpacho

But, I’m feeling more savory (that’s code for cranky – moving is a real pain!) than sweet these days, so I plan to use this wonderful summer bounty in more salty, umami, main-course-type recipes this year. Not exclusive of sweets of course – that wouldn’t be any fun!

Starting with some of the first berries we see in late spring/early summer up here – strawberries! The ones I’m finding lately are perfect – juicy, sweet, plump, and bright red. While gazpacho is traditionally made with tomatoes, I very pleasantly discovered that strawberries make a wonderful stand-in. This strawberry gazpacho is sweeter and less acidic than its more typical tomato sibling, but with the same basic flavor components and textures. As all gazpacho should be, it’s light and refreshing, and packs a ton of flavor into a healthy, guilt-free meal or side dish. Enjoy!

Strawberry Gazpacho

Source: adapted from Soup of the Day by Ellen Brown

1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and rough chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts divided
3 tbs dry red wine
3 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
3 cups vegetable stock
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground coriander
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries, plus a little more for garnish
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Add the bell pepper, celery, scallion whites, red wine, lime juice, vegetable stock, ginger, coriander, and strawberries to your blender. Puree until very smooth. Do this in batches if need be. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. If you prefer your gazpacho chilled, then place it in the refrigerator for a few hours. If you prefer it room temperature, then pour it into serving bowls and garnish with the scallion greens and some extra sliced or chopped fresh strawberries. Serve immediately.

Huevos Rancheros Salad

Huevos Rancheros Salad

I have one more classic-dish-turned-dinner-salad recipe to share with you to conclude this themed week, and I was going to share it yesterday, until I remembered that (for whatever reason) Friday is always my slowest traffic day; and thus, I decided to share this on a Saturday (which, again for whatever reason, is a much better traffic day for me) because this dish is just too delicious and too special to risk not being seen.

Huevos Rancheros Salad

This is Huevos Rancheros, the classic Mexican morning dish of crisp tortilla covered in ranchero sauce, cheese and a fried egg, but it’s turned into a salad!! You may be asking if that can even work, and I’m here to assure you, yes it can. It does. It’s insanely good.

Now, I’m not going to ask you to take my word for it – that this salad is just beyond. You see, I don’t have the least bit of an objective relationship with Huevos Rancheros. I love it, period. It can do no wrong in my book. I guess what I’m saying, is that, for me, Huevos Rancheros is like sex: when it’s good, it’s indescribable, and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

Huevos Rancheros Salad

So you should take Matt’s word for it, instead. He, being much more discerning about his Huevos Rancheros and not being quite so obsessed, found this salad to be “phenomenal.” And he, unlike myself, would recognize and say so if it wasn’t.

This salad is everything you love about the iconic dish, just transformed by placing the traditional ingredients on a bed of lettuce and crushing some tortilla chips on top. There’s a creamy chipotle dressing that lightly coats the lettuce pieces but doesn’t compete with the traditional flavors. And of course, that runny egg yolk – arguably one of the best parts of Huevos Rancheros – serves to dress everything too.

Huevos Rancheros Salad

It’s different, for sure! But, I firmly believe that all of you out there who are Huevos Rancheros lovers will also love it in salad form. A really beautiful meal, for any time of day. Enjoy!

{One Year Ago: Julie’s Famous Buffalo Wings; Soy, Dijon and Blue Cheese Chicken Wings}
{Two Years Ago: Meyer Lemon and Fresh Cranberry Scones; Gas Station Pork Tacos}

Source: recipe slightly adapted from The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Ellen Brown; egg technique from Smitten Kitchen

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
2 tsp adobo sauce
1 large egg
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves
Kosher salt, to taste
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup sour cream

1 large romaine heart, chopped
¾ cup diced jalapeno Jack cheese
1 cup cooked corn kernels (frozen are fine, just thaw them first)
¾ cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1-4 tbs unsalted butter, lard, or rendered bacon fat
1-2 large eggs per serving (anywhere from 2 to 8 eggs)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup tomato salsa, homemade or store-bought
Crushed tortilla chips, about 1 generous handful per serving
4 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish

First make the DRESSING: combine the chipotle, adobo sauce, egg, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and salt in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. With the machine still running, carefully pour in the olive oil through the top of the blender, until a thick sauce forms. Add the sour cream and process 30 seconds. Refrigerate until using.
Combine the lettuce, cheese, corn, and beans in a large mixing bowl. Toss with your hands to evenly incorporate everything. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over high heat and get it screaming hot, about 1 full minute. Add the fat of choice, about 1 generous tbs for every 2 eggs. Work in batches to avoid crowding the eggs. Let the fat melt completely, then add your egg, reduce the heat to medium-high, and step back. The whites will sputter and hiss. Within a minute, it should get brown at the edges but don’t touch or move it. Let it cook until the white looks fully opaque, another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Shimmy a thin metal spatula under the egg, gently loosening any stuck parts. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper to taste. Repeat as needed to cook all of your eggs.
To serve, dress the lettuce mixture lightly with the dressing and toss to combine. Mound the lettuce on dinner plates, then top with 1-2 fried eggs. Spoon salsa over all and garnish with the tortilla chips and scallions. Serve immediately.
As written, this will probably yield 4-6 servings, depending on how large a portion you prefer. I got 4 servings. How many eggs you use depends on whether your diners want 1 or 2 eggs per serving, and how many servings you choose to have.

New Mexico Hatch Chile Chicken Soup

New Mexico Hatch Chile Chicken Soup

Happy weekend!! And happy three-day weekend for many of us! Yea! This particular recipe is from a new cookbook I received for Christmas, Soup of the Day by Ellen Brown. I adore soups (plus stews, chowders, bisques, chilis), so having a book where soup is the major theme of the book just excites me to no end! When I learned of this soup, a soup where I can use up FOUR of my hatch chiles sitting in my freezer, I knew it was getting made immediately.

New Mexico Hatch Chile Chicken Soup

This soup is quite delicious, and extremely health-conscious while not compromising on flavor or heartiness. Perfect for this cold weather.

New Mexico Hatch Chile Chicken Soup

So I’ve made a decision that 2015 should see more recipe development from me. Y’all know how much I love my cookbooks here, and I’ve learned pretty much everything I know from them. But I think it’s high time I started flexing my creative muscles a little more. So I’ll update you periodically on how things are going in my little test kitchen, so to speak, and hopefully be sharing a few perfected recipes throughout the year! The first thing I’ve been working on is Bacon Cheeseburger Chili. It needs more bacon…

New Mexico Hatch Chile Chicken Soup

In the meantime, stay warm with this delicious, slightly spicy soup!

{One Year Ago: Brunswick StewFish, Fennel and Saffron Stew; Garbanzo Bean, Lentil and Vegetable Stew}
{Two Years Ago: Homemade Old Bay Seasoning}

Source: Soup of the Day by Ellen Brown

3 tbs olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½” cubes
1 large onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
4 Hatch chiles, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted, undrained
2 quarts chicken stock
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
Kosher salt and black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Cotija cheese, crumbled, for garnish

Heat the oil is a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until opaque. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and chiles and cook another minute.
Add the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the potato, and simmer the soup, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the chicken back in and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Season the soup to taste with salt and black pepper.
Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with cilantro and Cotija.

Italian Vegetable Frittata

Italian Vegetable Frittata 022

Eggs and I have had a rather complicated relationship over the years. As a child, I liked scrambled eggs, but no other kinds – ever! Fast forward to college, where I majored in biology. Which meant taking labs. And labs meant conducting experiments, oftentimes on poor dead animals like fetal pigs and cats and frogs. And, chicken eggs.

Zucchini 001

My junior year, we used a special microscope to peer into a chicken egg that was actually meant to you know, hatch a live chicken. The egg was in its infancy stage, so it looked like a regular egg you’d buy in a carton at the grocery store, only we could see a beating heart. First it looked like nothing, then you’d see a quick burst of blood that then dissipated back into itself, like tossing a pebble into a puddle.

zucchini close-up 006

It freaked me the hell out. Probably shouldn’t have, but it was so weird to see this normal-looking egg, the likes of which I’d eaten my whole life, and all of a sudden there’s a bloody heartbeat in the middle of the yolk. And I mean a literal bloody heartbeat, not a British bloody heartbeat.

Italian Vegetable frittata 031

So, eggs and I broke up for a while. Despite liking the taste of scrambled eggs, I couldn’t bring myself to eat them after what I’d witnessed. It was just too weird. This persisted for several years. It wasn’t until Matt and I were dating that I agreed to try them again. See, I met him while he was a mid-twenty-something grad student, and scrambled eggs were one of the few things he knew he could make competently. So when I initially said I disliked them, he panicked a little, then regrouped and convinced me to try them. And I agreed. Because it was the beginning of the relationship, the part where we agree to do and try things we dislike, just for our new love.

Italian vegetable frittata 053

Good news though – I rekindled that old fondness for scrambled eggs, and decided to get over my squeamishness. And then the whole thing snowballed. Before you know it, I was eating poached eggs, and fried eggs, and baked eggs. Like frittatas. Something I never grew up eating, or even knowing about, for that matter…

Now I make them often. And this one I made with zucchini! And parmesan. And it was fluffy, light and delicious. Quite perfect, really. Enjoy!

italian vegetable frittata 042

{One Year Ago: Sweet Corn Sorghum Ice Pops}

Source: slightly adapted from The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook by Ellen Brown

3 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. (about 3 thin) zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
10 large eggs
3 tbs chopped fresh basil
2 tbs dried oregano
6 tbs half-and-half
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 425 F.
Heat a 12” cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and tilt the pan to coat evenly. Add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, until the onion is softened a bit. Add the garlic, zucchini, and bell pepper. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes, or until the veggies soften and the liquid has evaporated.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the basil, oregano, and half-and-half. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat on the skillet to medium and pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Do not stir. Cook about 4 minutes, or until you just start seeing the sides begin to set. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the frittata evenly, then transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the top is browned and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Run a spatula around the sides of the skillet and under the bottom to release it. Cut into wedges and serve.

American Breakfast Sausage

Want to hear a story about how I am an idiot?  I thought so!  Here goes…

I have decided to start making sausage from scratch.  First, I bought the KitchenAid stand mixer sausage stuffer attachment.  Then I bought a book on home sausage making.  I also did some internet research on just how to go about this endeavor.  Everything I read indicated you need two things for sausage making: casings (either hog or sheep), and pork fat.  I ordered some casings on Amazon, but now I needed pork fat.

The things I read weren’t terribly specific, they just said pork fat.  That’s lard, right?  I ventured to the lower east side of Manhattan, found a butcher shop, and they sold me five pounds of lard.

Before I made my first batch of sausage, I happened to run across an internet article that further specified the term pork fat.  It’s not lard, people.  No, when someone says you need pork fat for sausage, they are meaning pork backfat.  Lard is rendered backfat.  Backfat is taken directly from the pig, and that’s what you need.  Groan.

But that’s okay, I’ll just get some backfat. I found a company online that would ship and ordered five pounds of backfat from them.  It wasn’t cheap – about $39.  Then, the company would only ship via FedEx two-day delivery, so shipping came in at an exorbitant $23.  Oy.

So it shipped in two days as promised, and upon opening the shipment and finding the brochures, I realize that the shop that sold me the backfat is in Manhattan.  They are a twenty minute subway ride from my apartmentAnd I just paid them $23 in shipping!!!  Arrrrgh.  Not my finest moment.

But, I now have the backfat, it did its job beautifully, and I made two pounds of bulk breakfast sausage that is oh so delicious.  I used one pound to make breakfast for dinner with scrambled eggs and grits. But it would have also been delicious with these buttermilk biscuits. Now if I can just figure out to get through 5 pounds of lard! I mean, there’s only so much pie crust one can make…

Source: adapted from The Sausage Cookbook Bible, by Ellen Brown

Note: I made bulk sausage, so that is how I will write the recipe.

2 tbs vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork butt
1/2 pound pork backfat
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Set aside and let cool completely.
Cut the pork and backfat into 1 inch cubes. Make sure they are very chilled, then run them through a meat grinder on the coarse setting.
Add the sage, salt, pepper, marjoram, and nutmeg to the meat. Then add the onion mixture.
Also add 1/4 cup ice water to the pork mixture and mix together with your hands until well blended. Fry 1 tablespoon of the mixture to taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
Transfer the mixture to a plastic food storage bag and refrigerate at least 30 minutes to marry the flavors.
When ready to cook, preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle in a touch of olive or vegetable oil.
Form patties into desired size and fry until just cooked through. Cook time will vary depending on your patty’s size and thickness, but I formed mine pretty small – standard breakfast sausage patty size, and mine took about 3 minutes per side.