23 February 2014

Tomatillo Tortilla Casserole

This might just be as close as I can get to fusing Mexican and Swiss cuisines. Have you heard of Enchiladas Suizas? The Enchiladas topped with Swiss cheese or a b├ęchamel-like sauce. This creation was influenced by the Swiss immigrants to Mexico after they started dairies to produce milk and cheese in their new home country.

I have always been supportive of immigration, but living as an expat in Switzerland has evoked a whole new level of compassion and sympathy for what immigrants have to go through to make a home in a new country, assimilate to a new culture and language, and be accepted alongside their native neighbors. I think those who assimilate well find ways to integrate their old identity with their new identity, appreciating both where they come from and where they are building a new life. In fact, research has shown us that measures of assimilation include assessing the way people eat because it says a lot about how much they embrace their new surroundings.

The enchiladas suizas lead me to think the Swiss assimilated pretty well in Mexico. My take on this dish is a lazy tortilla casserole version where corn tortillas are layered with hominy, a tangy and spicy  tomatillo sauce, and Swiss cheese. It is finished with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) , cilantro, and pickled onions. I use canned tomatillos, but if  you have access to fresh tomatillos please use them! Just don't tell me about it because I'll be jealous.

Tomatillo Tortilla Casserole
Inspired by Rachael Ray
Serves 4-6

Tomatillo Sauce
28 oz can tomatillos, drained (or 10 large/20 small fresh tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed)
2 tsp. ground coriander
3 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground chipotle powder
1/2 red chili (or jalapeno)
1/2 tsp. salt

Knob ghee
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced

1 avocado
Juice from 1/2 juicy lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

1 1/2 tsp. honey
1 1/2 cups cooked hominy (or 15 oz can, drained)

Remaining Casserole Ingredients
12 corn tortillas, toasted*
1 cup Swiss cheese (Emmentaler), grated

To Finish
Pickled onions (this recipe is a favorite)
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 F (218 C).

To make the sauce, add the first 6 ingredients to the food processor. Process until smooth.

Melt ghee in a large saute pan over medium heat and saute onion and garlic until starting to soften (1-2 minutes). Stir in sauce and lower heat to simmer to warm through and wake up spices (3 minutes).

In the meantime add avocado, lime juice, and cilantro to the food processor (no need to clean the bowl). Process until smooth, then stir into the tomatillo sauce along with honey and hominy. Warm through for a few minutes, taste and adjust for seasoning adding more salt, honey, or lime if necessary. Remove from heat.

In a 9x13" baking dish or something of similar dimensions layer sauce, 4 tortillas, sauce, and cheese. Repeat process 2 more times ending with cheese.  Cover with foil and bake in oven for 10 minutes. Remove foil and turn oven to broil. Broil until cheese is starting to brown (~3 min).

Top with pickled onions, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro and serve.

*Toast tortillas in a 400 F (~205 C) until starting to dry out and become somewhat crisp, making sure to turn over half way through (~5-7 minutes total). Alternatively you can toast tortillas on the stove in a dry skillet.

This week I am sharing my quick but tasty version of Enchiladas Suizas with Deena for her Fabulous Fusion Food series.

I am also sending it over to Deliceux and Eat Your Veg's Four Seasons Food "Cook from the heart" February challenge because I make this and other Mexican-inspired dishes especially for my husband - he can never get enough Mexican food, especially here, and I know how happy it makes him when vibrant, spicy, and comforting Mexican flavors are on the table.

16 February 2014

Chipotle Miso Noodle Soup

If you are one of those who think soup is boring because you get the same taste spoonful after spoonful, then this noodle bowl is for you. There may seem to be a disparate range of ingredients here, but they come together to compliment each other nicely in this particular soup. Besides being pleasantly feeling, it is a really fun dish to put on the table. And the work, if you can even call it that, comes mostly in prepping the toppings. There are bits of this and that that keep the soup exciting for the eyes and taste buds and make it one of those dishes where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I'm talking about the magical yin and yang balance of spicy chipotle with rich umami-flavored miso freshened by bright lime, crunchy sweet roasted cashews with creamy fresh avocado and chewy paneer, and finally the slurping of noodles in a warming broth. 

For me food often mimics life. This bowl reminds me that seemingly unrelated ingredients harmonize in the end if I know my end goal, give a little thoughtful attention, and trust the process. Days can feel scattered, months can blend together, but knowing what I am working towards gives me clarity, direction and focus. 

Here's to a new week filled with clarity and direction for us all!
Chipotle Miso Noodle Soup
Serves 4

Notes: Go for a darker, aged red or brown miso here. The richness will hold it's own against the smoky chipotle and paprika. I use black rice noodles but other noodles also work well:  whole wheat spaghetti, udon, soba, brown or regular  rice noodles.

Knob coconut oil (or ghee)
2 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
2 tsp. smoked paprika
6 cups water
1 medium head broccoli
3 Tbsp. red or brown miso
1 tsp honey
Juice of 1/2 lime

To Finish
1 package paneer
Cooked black rice (or other) noodles (250 gr or ~ 1/2 lb)
Avocado, cubed
Cashews, toasted
Basil and/or cilantro

Prepare paneer: Set oven to broil. If paneer is one thick block, cut in half lengthwise into approximately 1/4" planks. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, spread a thin layer of coconut oil on top (optional), and broil in top 1/3 of oven until starting to brown around the edges (~5 minutes). Flip over to brown slightly on other side (~1-2 minutes). Let cool slightly to firm back up, then cut into cubes.

Divide broccoli into small florets and chop tender stem. In a soup pot, heat  coconut oil over medium heat and add chipotle powder and paprika. Coat spices in oil and toast until fragrant (~30 seconds). Add water and broccoli and simmer until broccoli is tender but still with a bite (5-8 minutes). Remove from heat.

Mix miso in a separate bowl with a ladle of soup broth until dissolved, then pour into soup and stir to combine. Add honey, lime, then taste to balance flavors adding more miso or honey if needed.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with paneer, noodles, avocado, cashews, and herbs. Enjoy with a spoon and fork!

This week I'm sending this recipe over to Deena for her Fabulous Fusion FoodChallenge.

08 February 2014

Gently Stewed Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes

There's a technique for cooking vegetables from this cookbook that I love because it is easy to execute, only dirties one pan, and uses less oil than roasting would, which is nice sometimes. I do love roasting, but sometimes I want something gentler, something stewed. Do you ever feel that way?

When I say stewed here, I am talking about a shallow stew. Water is added not even half way up the vegetables so they partially stew and partially steam. Once the vegetables have cooked (all of 8 minutes), the remaining water becomes a slightly thickened, nutrient-rich, reduction sauce concentrated in flavor from the vegetables and spices.  

Because of the sauce, this vegetable dish pairs well with grains/quinoa/beans/lentils, basically anywhere a little extra liquid is welcome. I like to make it with a lentil dal or mung bean curry (pictured), served over rice with the vegetables and their sauce alongside, all in one bowl.  This is another favorite one-bowl meal, and it's pretty delish if you ask me.

Speaking of one-bowl meals, all of this time I have neglected to tell you that my Mediterranean Bulgur Bowl was featured on Buzzfeed's 30 Delicious Meals In a Bowl! Thank you Buzzfeed!

Gently Stewed Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

Knob coconut oil (or ghee)
1 inch piece ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 tsp. mustard seeds (optional)
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 small head cauliflower
1 small sweet potato
1 cup water
Heaping 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. coconut butter or splash of coconut milk (optional)

Prepare the vegetables: Divide cauliflower into small florets and chop tender stem into bite size pieces. Peel sweet potato, cut lengthwise into 4 planks, stack planks (may want to do in 2 batches), and cut across the planks to make narrow batons.

Add coconut oil to a medium high-sided saute pan (one with a lid) over medium heat. Once coconut oil is just melted, add ginger and spices (mustard seeds, if using, through cardamom). Stir around to coat in oil and toast until fragrant (about 30 seconds). 

Add vegetables, stir to coat in spices, then add water and salt. (You want just enough water to come 1/3 of the way up vegetables, so you may need to adjust water according to the size of your pan).

Cover, reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until cauliflower is just fork tender (8-10 minutes), stirring once halfway through. Remove from heat and if desired, stir in coconut butter or coconut milk. This is not necessary, the sauce is very flavorful without it. But it adds a rich, sweetness if that's what you're going for.

02 February 2014

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers with Dill, Currants, and Goat Cheese

Maria from the Erlexte B&B in Lagaurdia shared her recipe for stuffed Piquillo peppers with us last week, and she inspired me to create my own version. As she said, this is a great way to use up leftovers. If you have plain leftover quinoa (or other grains for that matter), here's where you can use it. But I also include directions for cooking quinoa if you don't have any leftover.

A favorite flavor pairing for me is dill, currants, and lemon. It's probably a carryover from a particular Sicilian pasta dish I love (which I should also share with you sometime). But the sharpness of these flavors along with tangy goat cheese and crunchy pine nuts provide a perfect contrast to the sweet peppers.

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers with Dill, Currants, and Goat Cheese
Serves 4-6 as a side, 3 as a main

Notes: I used long sweet Italian red peppers because they are sometimes  easier to find than Piquillo peppers and are a larger but similar shape so they lay nicely on a platter when stuffed. If you  want something smaller and can find jarred Piquillo peppers, they would also be great here and you would be able to skip the first step of blistering them to remove the skin. I have not tried it but you could also use small red/yellow bell peppers (~4), but you'll want to serve in a small dish with sides so the peppers  are touching and don't fall over.

6 long sweet Italian peppers
1 cup quinoa, rinsed  (or ~3 1/2 - 4 cups leftover, cooked quinoa)
2 Tbsp currants
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste) + freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dill, chopped
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Turn oven to broil. Place peppers on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet and broil in oven until black and blistered on all sides (~3-5 minutes per side). Transfer to a large glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let steam for 20 minutes. Gently peel the skin away (it should come off easily), stem, and seed.

If you are using leftover cooked quinoa, skip this step: In a medium saucepan, bring 1 3/4 cup water to a boil, add quinoa, currants, and few pinches salt. Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed.

In the meantime make the dressing in the bottom of a medium mixing bowl. Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and dill. Fluff cooked quinoa with fork and add to dressing while still warm (if using leftover quinoa you may want to warm it before adding to the dressing - it will absorb the flavors better). Add pine nuts and goat cheese (if goat cheese is not soft do your best to break it up and it will melt down when stirred in) and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Place peppers on a serving plate or platter and use a spoon to fill them with quinoa. If there's leftover quinoa you can spoon it on the platter around the peppers.