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Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Easiest Dinner Ever AKA Smoky Chickpea and Tomato Soup

Ever wonder what in the world to do with all of that juice on the bottom of the roasting pan after baking a ham?  I say keep it and freeze it up!  It's one of the best things you could have on hand for the tastiest bean soups all season long.  We made ham last month and, since I was craving chickpeas, not to mention a super quick dinner after a stressful week of getting ready for the kids to come back to school, I decided to whip out my trusty ham broth.  Few things make a bigger flavor impact with minimal effort than leftover ham broth.  I say keep the bone and use it to make a stock or throw it into beans, cabbage, or greens too.  Works like a charm each and every time!  Since I also stock up on red, yellow, and orange bell peppers when they are on sale, quarter them, and freeze them too, this recipe was a breeze.  Cuban-inspired, but done to my tastes, you and your family are sure to enjoy this dish with my favorite legume--chickpeas!  So here it is, a quick and  easy, hearty recipe for protein-packed chickpea and tomato soup.  It's so easy, your kids can cook dinner for you for a change ;)!

Smoky Chickpea and Tomato Soup

1/2c – 3/4 c dried chickpeas, soaked overnight with ½ tsp baking soda and drained
Mixed bell peppers (mixed red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, equiv. of 1 whole pepper), in quarters
½ large white onion, in quarters
1 can spicy red pepper diced tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
About 1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
Black pepper to taste
1-1/2 c Seasoned homemade ham broth, already brought to a rolling boil in a separate pot (do not use packet, use a ham bone and water)*

*Add more or less broth to your taste for a thicker or thinner soup
**My ham broth was seasoned very well, so I didn't need any salt.

Spice Things Up!
If you want to switch it up a bit, try adding in bite-sized beef or lamb chunks, or even potatoes, yuuuuum!

1. Stir together all ingredients and allow to cook on low for about 5 hours, or until the chickpeas are tender, not mushy or falling apart.

2. Remove bay leaf.  You may wish to remove the onion and bell pepper as well, leave it in, or puree it and add it back to the soup.  Whatever you choose, serve with steamed white rice and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spicy Cameroonian-style Grilled Marinated Fish *Poisson braise alla camerounaise*

enough mildly flavored white fish for four people (I like to use swai)

3 TB vegetable oil
1/4 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 small plum tomato
1 handful parsley (about 1/4, stems and all)
1 small piece of ginger (about a 1" piece)
about 1 tsp or so salt
2-3 tsp pebe (cameroonian homemade hot sauce) *

*If you don't have this, simply add in 1/4 habanero pepper.

1. Preheat oven to high broil.  You will broil the fish uncovered for about 15 minutes.

2. Place all ingredients in blender until very smooth and uniform.  You do not want any chunks.

3. Oil pan well with vegetable oil.  Pat fish dry with paper towels.  Brush fish with marinade on one side.  Halfway through cooking, flip fish gently using two spatulas and brush other side with marinade.

4. Check fish for flakiness with a fork.  Once the flesh flakes easily, it is done.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Fried Green Tomatoes *Gluten-Free and Standard Versions*

3 green tomatoes
1c stone ground yellow corn meal
1/8c potato starch*
1/8c pre-cooked cornmeal (such as harina PAN)*   **
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 pinch dried oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 dash garlic powder
1-1/2 tsp salt

1 egg
1/2c milk

oil for frying
*If you are not on a restricted diet, I recommend subbing these ingredients with unseasoned breadcrumbs for the ultimate crunch, yum!
**Found in the Latin aisle at most supermarkets or at your local Latin market

1. Preheat oil to 375F.  You can deep fry or shallow fry for this recipe
2. Wash tomatoes, trim them, and slice them into thick rounds (about 1/4").
3. In a shallow bowl, blend together all dry ingredients until evenly combined.
4. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended.
5. Place tomatoes in milk mixture, dredge them in flour mixture and shake off excess.  Take a second dip into both bowls and to the fryer we go!
6. Fry until golden brown, drain on a paper-towel-lined tray and enjoy :).

Bonus:  If you're a dipper, blend together your favorite mayo and a TB or two of prepared deli mustard with some of your favorite spices and there you have it.  If you have no idea what your favorite spices are, give some of the ones used above a try  ;).  Now you've got yourself a little remoulade!  Sounds fancy, no?  and to think, you didn't even know what your favorite spices were.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rice Pudding from Leftover Rice

2c cooked rice, crumbled with your hand or a fork to remove clumps
3-1/2c milk
4 egg yolks, lightly whisked
zest of 1 lime
zest of 3/4 of an orange
1-1/2c turbinado sugar
1 cup dried fruit (raisins or whatever other dried fruits your heart desires, just chop larger fruit)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp salt
1TB dark rum
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter, cut into cubes

Mix it Up!
Sub. in cranberries or mix them with raisins.

Sub. lime with the zest of half a lemon plus 1\2 tsp lemon extract

Add a couple dashes of nutmeg.

Sub. cooked rice with 2\3 c raw rice, add an extra egg yolk, and use a total of 5 cups  milk

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Bring a medium size pot of water to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, blend all ingredients, except butter, together thoroughly, being sure to incorporate the sugar and egg yolks well.
4. Place rice, milk, egg yolks, zest, sugar, dried fruit, cinnamon stick, and salt into a tempered glass or ceramic cooking vessel and blend well.
5. Place the glass or ceramic cooking vessel into a large pan (a rectangular cake pan works well).  Make a bain marie by pouring the boiling water into the outer pan, being sure to avoid any of the water getting into the rice pudding.
6. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to avoid curdling.  Cook at 300 F for 2-1\2 hours,stirring every 15 minutes in the first 30 - 45 minutes.

7. Stir in rum and vanilla and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes for a total cook time of 50 minutes to one hour.  The custard should still look a little loose.  Remove it as this point, as the carryover cooking will allow it to set completely without curdling.  Stir in butter and serve or allow to cool to room temperature.  Enjoy cold, heated, or at room temperature, but be sure to store under refrigeration.

*Your rice pudding will not brown with this method, but it also will not curdle and will be perfectly creamy.