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TACO SALAD/TOSTADAS FOR THE FORGETFUL

TACO SALAD/TOSTADAS FOR THE FORGETFUL

I am certain that anyone who likes taco salad already has a favorite recipe for it, so this is not for them. This is for me. I have made this three times this summer when it was too damn hot to cook. The first time was a veggie taco salad. The second time was with some bits of steak thrown in. The third time we made tostadas.

I am sure that by next summer I will have forgotten what I did to make this, hence this post. There are tons of possible variations.

TOSTADAS ON THE GRILL

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Stir together and refrigerate.

Salad:

Chopped tomato, chopped red onion, sliced black olives, 1 can corn, 1 can kidney beans or black beans, shaved cheeseP1050824

Top that with

Romaine, iceberg lettuce, shredded cabbage

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Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

On the grill:

Heat refried beans in skillet. Keep diced steak (or chicken, or pork) warm in foil packet.

Place corn tortillas on grill and lightly brush each side with oil.

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Flip tortillas as necessary and let them get crisp.

Toss salad with dressing.

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Smear crisp tortillas with refried beans. Top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt or sour cream, then with salad, bits of steak, and pour green and/or red salsa on top. Pick up to eat. Have lots of napkins available.

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For taco salad, break up some bagged tortilla chips and toss with the salad and dressing. Some avocado would not be amiss with this.

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KIMCHI TO THE RESCUE

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KIMCHI TO THE RESCUE

There are people who are frightened by kimchi. It’s too… too much. Too fermented, too cabbage-y, too hot, too salty. It’s like the inside of a subway car in July. It explodes when you open the jar (much like a subway car).

This is not for them.

But if you’re feeling puny, overwrought, in dire straits, in need of restorative potions, this might cure what ails you. I originally found the recipe on Epicurious and of course made some changes, partly because I could not find the gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) required. I made do with what I had. I used King brand kimchi, available in every supermarket here (it would be even better if you get some real kimchi from a Korean store, but it will cost more).

This isn’t for sissies, kittens, Lawrence Welk fans, or the fearful. If you have to have chop suey and sweet & sour pork at Chinese restaurants, if you’re the girl in the horror movie who is running from the monster and sprains her ankle – open a can of Cream of WTF instead.

HOT KIMCHI AND TOFU SOUP

  • 1 16-ounce package soft tofu, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 14-ounce jar cabbage kimchi, drained (reserve the scary orange liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons chile-garlic paste or Sriracha or sambal oelek
  • 4-6 green onions, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon  sesame oil

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, reduce heat, and carefully add the tofu.

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Under the best of circumstances, tofu doesn’t look too exciting.

Let simmer about 4 minutes, then drain and set aside. (The original recipe said to remove the tofu to a “medium” bowl and you can certainly do that if you don’t mind washing an extra “medium” bowl.)

Open the kimchi carefully – it is still fermenting, which is why the jar lid may be bulging.

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Drain the orange liquid off the kimchi and save it.

Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large saucepan and add the drained kimchi plus the 2 tablespoons of whatever hot chile paste you have. If you can get the gochujang, more power to you, but don’t obsess over it if you can’t.

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Saute the kimchi and chili paste over medium-high heat until it starts to brown. (This may smell pungent, in which case open a window.) Then add the kimchi liquid and 6 cups water, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.

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Let simmer about 35-45 minutes until the kimchi cabbage gets tender.

Then add the green onions, soy sauce, and tofu.

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Let this simmer very gently for 25 minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the flavors.

Stir in the sesame oil; season (if necessary, though I don’t think it will be) with salt and pepper.

You can serve as is.

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Or you can add an egg yolk, to cook very lightly by the heat of the broth, and some toasted sesame seeds. To toast sesame seeds:

Put sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat. Shake and/or stir the seeds very frequently.

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When the seeds are lightly browned, remove them from the pan right away; otherwise they will continue to brown and burn by residual heat.

If you wanted some more body to this, some rice noodles (the silken type used in pho) would be a good addition, or some shrimp tossed in the last five minutes of simmering. Some fresh basil leaves – especially Thai basil – or mint leaves or cilantro would be nice shredded and used as garnish, though that might just be window dressing and not really required.

 

LESS SUGAR PUMPKIN BREAD

If you buy a small (16 ounces) can of pumpkin, that is just enough to make one pumpkin pie. But if you buy the big can of pumpkin because it’s cheaper, you might still only make one pie, and then you have half a can of pumpkin left over. You will put it in a dish in the fridge and intend to make it into muffins or pancakes, or you might put it in the freezer and intend to make a pie out of it, and we all know how that winds up, right?   Recently I threw out an unmarked frozen glob in the freezer which I realized about a week later was frozen pumpkin puree from God knows when.

I have been making pumpkin puddings – which is pumpkin pie filling baked without a crust – because it’s way easier than pie, and far fewer calories and less fat, and that works out very well, except when there’s half a can of pumpkin left over.  To that end, I thought pumpkin bread would be a good solution.

I found a Bobby Flay recipe at Epicurious for Pumpkin Bread, and I adapted it a little bit, primarily by cutting the sugar way down, but this is still plenty sweet. If you have leftover baked sweet potato or winter squash like Acorn or Butternut, use those in place of the pumpkin. This would be an excellent bread to serve thinly sliced with coffee or tea. It also toasts very well the next day.

LESS SUGAR PUMPKIN BREAD

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 – 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your bread)
  • 1 16-ounce can pumpkin puree or half of one 29-ounce can (NOT canned “pumpkin pie filling”)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously grease (I use vegetable oil) and flour a glass loaf pan.*

[To grease and flour a pan: take about 1 tablespoon oil, Crisco, or other fat, and smear it around the inside of your pan, being sure to get up on the sides and in the corners. {I don’t recommend butter for this because butter is not entirely fat, and the fat-less portions will not coat a pan – leaving places where batter will stick.} Then toss in a generous tablespoon of flour and tilt the pan around to get all of the greased areas covered with flour. You might need a little more flour. Pour out any big excess of flour.)

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan and add the raisins and dates. Turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes, then drain thoroughly and set aside. This will remove any sulfur (used to keep dried fruit soft; it can cause allergic reactions and is unbelievably nasty if it seeps into the rest of the bread) and also soften and plump the dried fruit. (if you have more time, steep the rinsed fruit in hot tea or hot orange juice.)

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Combine softened butter, oil, and sugar, and cream with a wooden spoon until sugar is fully incorporated. Stir in the pumpkin, then add eggs, one at a time, until combined.

Add the flour, salt, and spices.

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Mix to completely incorporate dry ingredients. Mix in dates and raisins.

Scrape into greased and floured loaf pan. It will be a little soft and gooey and pudding-like, but don’t worry.

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Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 1 hour, 15 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool 15 minutes. Loosen around the loaf with a knife. Place a cooling rack on top of the bread, hold the pan and the rack, and flip it upside down to release the bread.

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While it is tempting to slice it right away, it will crumble if you do so. Let it cool at least 15 minutes and it will slice much more evenly.

Serve as is, or with softened butter or cream cheese. Let cool completely before wrapping for longer storage. A brown paper bag is really better than plastic wrap – the bread won’t sweat and get ugly and moldy.

Variations:

  • Add powdered or diced candied ginger.
  • Add up to 1 cup toasted chopped nuts.
  • Substitute brown sugar or turbinado sugar for all or part of the sugar.
  • Use all unbleached flour, OR all whole wheat flour.
  • * To use a metal loaf pan: preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake as above.
  • If you don’t want to use the raisins and dates, increase sugar to 1 cup. But you will find that if you soften the fruit in hot water as above, that it simply seems to melt into the bread rather than stay intact like odd little lumps. Also, golden raisins (sometimes called white raisins) are much more tender than black raisins.

 

 

BROCCOLI SLAW

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BROCCOLI SLAW

I am not a fan of substitute foods, i.e. “Let’s substitute Ritz crackers in this pie and everyone will think they’re apples!” or “”Carob and chocolate look the same – they must taste the same, right?” No thanks. (Whatever happened to carob? It was a sort-of rage for a while back in the 1970s and then I guess it died the death it deserves.)

Coleslaw, to me, is cabbage with a couple of minor supporting players and a sweetish dressing. So I was surprised at myself when I saw this recipe on Epicurious and thought it sounded good, and even more surprised when it turned out to be really good. I’ve simplified this from the original, which included Napa cabbage. It’s easy and you get to practice your mad knife skillz. I guess you could buy a packet of that already-shredded broccoli, but there’s such a thing as carrying convenience too far, and that exceeds my limits.

BROCCOLI SLAW

  • 1 head or bunch broccoli
  • 1/2 head white cabbage
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise

Slice the broccoli into teeny florets and thin matchsticks (or as thin as you can get them). Don’t obsess.

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Slice the cabbage likewise into thin slivers. Mix broccoli and cabbage in a bowl.

Combine the buttermilk and mayonnaise in a jar, stirring until you don’t have any lumps of mayo floating around. (At this point you can add some dill, salt, pepper, and garlic if you so choose.)

Toss the dressing with the veggies. Make this ahead a few hours and let it sit in the fridge until you need it. This keeps really well for several days.

Easy peasy.

(Sorry about the blurry photo. Under the best of circumstances it still looks like lawn clippings.)

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BLACK BEAN & MANGO SALSA

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I bought a couple of Ataulfo mangoes with no particular plans for them.

Just a very few of the mango varieties out there:

Mango-Varieties-courtesy-of-the-National-Mango-Board

Then it turned out there was a baseball game on TV and we would need something to snack on. So I made Black Bean & Mango Salsa. It’s now my husband’s favorite dip for chips – better than guacamole or the tomato-based salsas and pico de gallos I’ve made in the past. I guess this could be filed under Caribbean, Mexican, or world cuisine.

Lots of chopping here, but this is a great way to practice mad knife skillz, since it’ll all be tumbled together at the end anyway. And speaking of chopping: I saw a food demonstration of how to efficiently chop garlic, and it works better than a garlic press. Use a large chef’s knife (a small paring or steak knife will not work) and salt. This video describes it all (until he starts flogging garlic in a jar, which is convenient but does not taste like fresh garlic).

BLACK BEAN AND MANGO SALSA

  • 2 small (Ataulfo) or 1 large (Tommy Atkins, Haden, etc.) mango, peeled and diced small
  • 1 Anaheim chili, roasted, peeled, minced (see this for the how-tos)
  • 1 Jalapeno chili, roasted, peeled, minced (as above)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 5-6 fat garlic cloves, minced (do not be tempted to skimp on the garlic!)
  • 1 can (about 16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and minced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, diced small –  about 1 generous cup of chopped tomato (Romas are great for this, but other tomatoes work too – even cherry tomatoes if you don’t mind extra chopping)
  • juice of 1 fat lemon or 2-3 limes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt to taste (if you did not use salt to mince the garlic)

Chop/prep everything and toss into a bowl as you go. Mix it up and let sit for about 20 minutes, then taste and adjust  seasoning (more lemon? More heat? More salt?).

Eat. Great with chips but also on tacos, chicken, pork chops, grilled fish, green salad, whatever.

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Variations:

  • Substitute peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, or papaya for the mango.
  • Substitute other chilies for the Anaheim and Jalapeno.
  • Use raw minced chilies instead of roasting them.
  • Add fresh minced sweet basil.

And finally: I found this video and I have not tried it, but it looks like it would work. Just be sure to hold onto that glass (or use a plastic glass) because nothing is more slippery than a mango.

SWISS CHARD SOUP

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I went to the local farmer’s market the other day and snagged three fat bunches of Swiss Chard for a buck each. EACH! They’d been harvested about an hour before. It doesn’t get much better than that.

But what to do with them? Fortunately, I also recently snagged The Art of Real Food by Joanne Neft and Laura Kenny, who also wrote the fabulous Placer County Real Food Cookbook. Both books are beautifully photographed, the recipes are simple (though not always for rank beginners), and the books are arranged chronologically so that you can flip to May and see what is likely to be in the farmer’s market, and find a recipe that will showcase that ingredient. Like Swiss chard.
swiss chard by alex flickrPhoto by Alex on Flickr

I made this soup last night and it was wonderful. It was unusual in that the recipe did not include onions – odd for a vegetable soup – but when I tasted it, I understood why. Onions would have overwhelmed the other ingredients. I did include more broth than the recipe called for, but that’s a matter of taste.

The book also included a recipe to deal with those chard stems – deep fried with blue cheese dip. Next time.

This is a lovely and easy soup for this time of year when chard is springing up in home gardens and farmer’s markets.

SWISS CHARD SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, mined
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 big bunch chard, leaves only, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 potatoes, halved lengthwise and then sliced into half-moons
1/4 pound penne pasta
salt and pepper

Heat oil in deep pot. Add garlic, carrots, and celery, and saute over medium heat, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to brown lightly. Add the chard and stir and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Pour in the broth and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and add the penne pasta. Cook over medium-low heat until the potatoes and pasta are done.

Season with salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and some crusty bread.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS SALAD

I haven’t actually tried this, but a friend posted it on Facebook and I need to keep this around somewhere so I can find it again.

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Pan Seared Brussels Sprout Salad

1 pound brussels sprouts, remove stems and cut in half
½ cup fresh cranberries
⅓ cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
½ cup pecans
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

1.Heat brussels sprouts, cranberries, and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
2.Season with salt & pepper. Cook for 8-10 minutes.
3.Add balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Stir to coat and remove from heat.
4.Toss sprouts, cranberries, and pecans in a large bowl. Top with gorgonzola.

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