Friday, October 22, 2010

Sweetened Quesadillas

Two years ago, my friends got me an awesome gift for my birthday - tickets to see Jason Mraz in LA. Before going to the show, we wanted to have dinner and I called my friend who lives in LA to ask her what restaurant we should check out. She mentioned this cute little place called Cha Cha Chas. This place is known for its sangrias and interesting twist on Latin foods. While browsing the menu there, Daniel and I saw something that we just had to try. It sounded so different, so interesting and a little bit weird. It was their guava and goat cheese quesadilla. It was SO tasty! I loved the combination of the tart- like cheese with something so sweet - the guavas. The combination was like heaven on your pallet. So there is a reason why I'm talking about this quesadilla that I ate about two years ago. I went to the Irvine farmer's market this weekend and bought myself some fresh goat cheese that traveled all the way from Mojave, CA. The vendors infused the goat cheese with garlic, chives and different flavors but we ended up taking home the cucumber flavored one. It's so refreshing you can just eat it by the spoonful! Anyway, I had plenty of tortillas left over and goat cheese that I thought "Hey why not make some of the those fruity little quesadillas?" I went to Bristol Farms and bought figs. I couldn't remember that Cha Cha Chas actually used guavas and kept thinking I ate fig and goat cheese. Well, as I went online to see if there was a recipe I could use, I found out that the ingredient was indeed guava and not fig but I had three figs now so I had to use them. No biggie! I've come to terms with substituting things in recipes because sometimes everything is not available (guavas are not in season right now anyway). Here's the recipe:

- Goat cheese (I used fresh goat cheese but you can use those prepackaged logs in the store)
- Flour tortillas
- Figs or guavas

- Take the back of your spoon and spread the goat cheese evenly onto one half of the tortilla.
- Cut open the figs and scoop out the flesh and spread it with the back of your spoon on top of the goat cheese. It will become mushy together but that's how you want it.
- Fold the tortilla in half and place it on the skillet. Heat it to your liking. I like it crispy and slightly brown.

That's it! Even though I didn't use guavas, the figs were still sweet enough to give it a lightly sweetened taste. I think next time I'll have to scoop more of the flesh out and make my tortilla more pink on the inside. Since guavas have a bit of a stronger taste than figs, I would highly recommended doing the guava version since it'll give a sweeter fruitier taste. In one tortilla, I use whole cut figs, the other I squished the figs into jam. :)

So the quesadillas were just an appetizer for my dinner last night. The main course was mahi mahi and whole wheat cous cous. I marinated the mahi mahi with a pesto and garlic chili paste that I bought at another farmer's market so I didn't make it myself (therefore no recipe). It was so tasty! I tried just one fish fillet with the marinade and the other I left plain with just some pepper and lime juice. I placed it on the grill and in the mean time, I made this aioli sauce that was on the fish package from Trader Joe's. I really like garlic and sometimes mayo, even though it's not healthy, so this was something nice to try on the fish. I can't entirely remember the recipe but I believe it was one part mayo (tbsp), one part lemon juice, some pepper and small piece of garlic (chopped up). Use a spoon and just really whip up the mayo with the liquid and then add the two last ingredients. Make sure that the garlic is chopped up finely or else you'll be biting into big chunks. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blue tortillas + red sauce = purple enchiladas?

As a big fan of enchiladas, I decided that I should try making my own. When I lived on campus at UCSD, my Wednesdays (and maybe the occasional extra day) consisted of me going to have some cheese enchiladas at the Mexican restaurant. Not chicken, beef or anything else - just cheese. It was my comfort food and it always brought a smile to my face :). I didn't try any fancy recipe but instead tried tweaking two recipes that I found on two of my ingredients - the back of a mozzarella cheese bag and the back of Trader Joe's enchilada sauce bottle. While my enchiladas didn't come out as saucy as the ones I usually get at Mexican restaurants, they were still tasty. Since I try not to add too much sauce (an entire bottle seems a little overboard) I try to lighten up my dishes by using only 3/4 or 1/2 of what the recipe asks for. I also try to make my dish look a little more colorful by using the blue corn organic tortillas instead of the plain corn tortillas. Unfortunately blue tortillas and red sauce do not add up to purple enchiladas. Nonetheless, still tasty and somewhat colorful.

The other day I tried making flour tortilla enchiladas and the texture was ... interesting. Daniel thought I had made him some kind of a lasagna. It wasn't terrible but the corn tortillas are needed for just the right texture.

My own version of enchiladas (my first recipe?)

Package of corn tortillas (medium size)
Medium onion
1 chicken breast (I actually made chicken enchiladas, not cheese!)
1 bag of shredded cheese (jack or mozzarella)
Enchilada sauce (I like the Trader Joe's brand but anything else can work)
Cilantro (optional)
Chives (optional)

- Cook the chicken thoroughly (thank you George Foreman!) and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooling, dice half the onion (about half a cup). Place it in a bowl and pour half a cup of enchilada sauce into the onion bowl.
- Take half a cup of cheese and mix it in to the onion bowl.
- Shred the chicken by peeling it into thin strands. Place the strands into the onion bowl.
- Use a fork and mix all the ingredients in the onion bowl together to make sure that everything is coated in the red sauce.
- Spray an 8 x8 oven dish with cooking oil. Pour a little of the enchilada sauce into the dish and spread it out (by tilting the dish back and forth or using a spatula).
- Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Take one tortilla at a time and scoop a spoonful of the onion bowl mix into it. Make sure that it doesn't clump in one area but is spread out along the tortilla in a line down the center. It is up to you how stuffed you want your enchilada.
- Roll the tortilla up to create a small burrito and place it flap side down into the oven dish.
- Continue to do this until all of your mix is gone or until you fill up the entire oven dish.
- Once you've got them all lined up in the dish, pour half a cup of enchilada sauce over the rolls to get them all covered with the sauce.
- Sprinkle cheese over the enchiladas (as much as you'd like).
- Place it in the oven for about 10 minutes (or until the cheese is completely melted and just the way you like it). Enjoy!

For dessert or a snack after try the Chex Mix muddy buddies recipe. It's so fast and easy (though probably not healthy) to make! Part of my goal this month and until the end of the year is to make some snacks for my co-ed softball team. My first snack were the muddy buddies. I usually don't like uber sweet things but this was good. I love Chex cereal in general - sans sugar- but with the chocolate and peanut butter melted all over, it was so hard to resist! Plus it makes for a great treat for an entire week! Since I don't have as much time to make as many sweet now, having a sweet treat that lasts for a while is quite nice. Snacks are important to me everyday now that I'm in the classroom. Something about walking around to the students for two hours straight makes me a very hungry person at around 10:00 am everyday. Anyway, here are some snapshots. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Foodie Books to Read

I'm almost done with my new book "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry" and am ready to jump into other food related books. Currently I have Anthony Bordain's Kitchen Confidential on my bookshelf but I don't know if I want to start with that one just yet. After watching a couple of his shows, I don't know if I can handle his personality or his writing. Here are some that I found while browsing Amazon that might be a little more kind hearted. Let me know if you want to read any of these with me. I like doing book clubs so let's chat about some of these!

Going Solo in the Kitchen by Jane Doerfer

The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones - This one sounds interesting. I don't really find the joy in cooking for just myself because recipes always make more than one serving. Plus good food should always be enjoyed with good company :) but I hope that this book teaches me something new.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

Do you notice a trend in the author's names? They all start with J... Isn't that interesting?! Especially since the book that made me want to start a food blog was also written by someone with a name starting with J. I guess it's just coincidental.

I'm going to start uploading other recipes soon. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Boeuf en Croute Champignons avec Sauce Vin Rouge

I'm turning French! Well, sort of. I'm currently reading a book called "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry" and it's made me a little French food fanatic. The book is a lot like Julie and Julia; the only difference is that this author sets out on a journey to Le Cordon Bleu to learn how to be a chef and doesn't try to Master the Art of French cooking book. While J&J was somewhat comedic, this book makes going to culinary school sound like a terrifying experience - it kind of scares me to even consider culinary school. I've given pastry school some thought after going to the Culinary Institute in Napa Valley this summer but after reading a few chapters in this book, I think I'd rather make my kitchen my classroom and stay here where no one is breathing over my shoulder or critiquing my food. Also, no one will make me pluck a fish's eyeball out with a paring knife. Yeah... this book can get kind of descriptive at times. Other than the terrifying details of what it's like to be trained by top French chefs, this book has some great recipes that the author learned while learning to be a master chef in France. I never knew how time consuming French cooking could be until I skimmed all of the recipes in this book. Not only does it require a lot of time for preparation, it also requires a lot of time for slow cooking either on the stove or in the oven. I guess it's true that great food does take time! Lucky for me I found some time between classes, life and everything else to make a wonderful steak recipe :)

Boeuf en Croute Champignons ave Sauce Vin Rouge (for four) from Kathleen Flinn

Red-wine sauce recipe - To drizzle on the steak or on the mashed potatoes
1 cup dry red wine
2 ounces stew meat or beef trimmings
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrots
Parsley stems (I didn't include this)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tbsp flour
1 cup brown beef stock
1 tbsp butter
salt, pepper

1. Reduce the wine by half in the small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reducing means to just heat the wine until it reduces in amount.
2. While the wine is reducing, sear the beef in oil in another pan on medium-high heat.
3. Add onions, celery and carrots and stir until softened (3 minutes) then add thyme and flour. Stir to coat the ingredients with the flour.
4. Add the reduced red wine and beef stock and bring to a boil. Skim the foam off the top and reduce to heat. Let simmer for half an hour while you finish the other part of the recipe.

Mushroom-Crusted Steaks recipe
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup bread crumbs or panko (I used half and half)
1 tbsp parsley (I left this out)
Salt and pepper
4 beef-tenderloin fillets (about 6 ounces each)
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Saute the mushrooms in the butter over medium heat until browned.
3. Strain the mushrooms and chop it finely together with the bread crumbs, parsley, teaspoon of salt and black pepper mixed in.
4. Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides.
5. Heat the oil over high heat in a skillet and sear each side of the steak for 2 - 3 minutes.
6. Remove the steak from the pan to a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment.
7. Press the mushroom mixture on top of each steak and place the cookie sheet in the oven. Turn the oven to broiler mode. Broil the steaks until the mushroom coating gets brown and the meat firms to medium-rare (about six minutes).
8. Remove the red wine sauce from the stove and strain the veggies and beef out of the sauce. I saved the veggies and beef for another dish but you can discard it. Return the sauce to the saucepan and stir in a knob of butter to finish. Serve the sauce alongside the meat.

For the mashed potatoes, I peeled three potatoes, chopped them into small cubes, and boiled them on high until they were tender (about 20 minutes). Remove the potatoes from the water and mash it with a fork in a serving bowl. Pour in a little heavy whipping cream and garlic bits to soften it up. Pour the sauce on top like gravy and enjoy!


Review: If you like your steak rare to medium, this process of cooking the steaks in the oven works really well! The mushroom topping gives the steak so much flavor and texture. The meat cuts really nicely too and is easy to chew (who wants tough steak anyway?). Definitely a do-again type of recipe.