Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dinner Crepes

Crepes are an ideal meal to make in stages; you can start the batter in the morning then cook the crepes when you are ready to make dinner. Alternately, you can cook and freeze crepes for later use; they defrost quickly in room temperate. I have a tendency to make crepes when I have other things going on - in this case I am also making our bi-weekly batch of cat food - so they seem to be very tedious. I have decided that I am overwhelming myself by trying to multitask rather than focusing on the crepes.

Anyway, these crepes were delicious and it was such a large batch that the effort will save me from one night of meal planning. If you are making these for a dinner party, it really is ideal because you can make ahead of time and simply warm up in the oven when the time is right. Alternately, you could even freeze half the batch and stick away for some night when you want a quick meal, home-cooked meal.

Crepe batter is best when it is given the good part of the day to sit; the flour has more time to absorb the liquid. In the morning, I decide that crepes will be good for dinner and make the batter right after breakfast. I take my blender and measure 1 cup of milk, 1/3 cup of water into it then I add two large eggs, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Once all the ingredients are in the blender, I put the lid on the jar, put it on the base and blend until smooth for about 5 seconds. I put the blender jar directly in the refrigerator and leave it there until I am ready to cook later tonight. (At the very least the batter should sit for an hour; two is preferable. It can last for up to 24 hours.)

Ideally, you do need a crepe pan since you can more easily judge the size and thinness of the crepe with it. I try to avoid buying kitchen gear that serves only one purpose but in this case I find it necessary. Although to make myself feel better I sometimes use it to make pancakes too. I find making the crepes themselves to be the fun part and they bring back memories of my high school French class when we made them for a fundraiser. My teacher brought in her electric crepe maker and showed us how to make them.
To set yourself up, have a plate handy in which to place the crepes once cooked. You want to have your pan on a burner set to medium-high heat. You will need a paper towel lightly coated with butter (you can use any type of oil but butter is preferable to achieve the right browning); you will brush this lightly over the surface of the pan so that the metal is shiny but you don't want any sizzling butter or oil. Pick the pan up off of the burner and pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter for a (6 or 7 inch pan; 1/4 cup for a 9 or 10 inch pan) on the pan while tilting and rotating to spread the batter to the edges of the pan- coating the pan's surface.

Cook until almost dry on top and lightly browned on the edges; about a minute. Loosen the edges of the crepe from the pan with a metal spatula and then flip the crepe over and cook for another 15 seconds or so. Turn the crepe onto the clean plate and continue the process until all the batter is used; continue stacking the crepes.

I used a filling from this cookbook called Crepes; Sweet and Savory Recipes for the Home Cook. The filling is chicken, sweet corn and red pepper - I have almost all the ingredients except fresh ginger, fresh corn on the cob and Monterey jack cheese but I decided to try it out. I have frozen, sweet corn and a four cheese blend of shredded cheese from my lasagna last week; close enough.

I start by poaching 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts in about an inch of water with half of an onion and some salt. I simmer this over low heat for about 10-15 minutes. I then remove the chicken and let cool so that I can dice it a bit later. I also place 1 1/2 to 2 cups of frozen corn in enough water to cover it, bring it to a boil and then drain.

Simultaneously, as the chicken and corn are cooking I start assembling the rest of the filling. I dice half of a red pepper (about 1/2 cup) and one green onion (an alternate ingredient is to use a shallot). In a small skillet, I add a scant 1 tablespoon of olive oil, heat it over medium heat and saute the pepper and green onion for about 2-3 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, I mix 1 large egg, 3/4 cup of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried sage. I will add the diced chicken, corn, peppers and green onions to this mixture and blend it all. Finally, I will add salt and pepper to taste. (I tend to under salt when I cook because I prefer salty foods and don't want to go overboard.)

I preheat my oven to 350 degrees and prep a 10 x 13 baking dish by spraying it with a bit of olive oil spray. Then I assemble the crepes; I put in one to two heaping tablespoons of filling for each crepe and fold it like an envelope to completely enclose the filling. I arrange them in the baking dish as I go, spray the whole thing with a bit more olive oil spray, sprinkle the whole pan with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. I simply served these crepes with no side dish - a bit of salad would be a nice accompaniment.

Cornmeal Crusted Pork and Quinoa

My mother showed me an Asian market on Irving Street between 25th and 26th Avenues - Sunset Super - that has a butcher and seafood counter. I am excited because it is a few blocks down from my favorite produce market - 22nd & Irving - so that means I can now park once (if I happen to drive over) and get more ingredients within walking distance.

They have some very nice looking meat and seafood including sukiyaki cuts of meat. (Sukiyaki is a japanese one pot meal. Since all the ingredients are typically cooked and assembled at the table, the meat is sliced paper thin for quick cooking.) I purchased several items; one of which was a package of sukiyaki pork.

We had some friends over for dinner on last week so I decided to use the pork and serve it with oven-roasted cauliflower and quinoa. I also decided to serve the quick vegetable soup as a starter since I had frozen some of my most recent batch. Since the cauliflower will take almost 40 minutes, I set that up and start pre-heating the oven. Additionally, I drop my frozen soup into a pot with about an inch of water on the bottom and set it on my burner with the lowest BTU at low. This will defrost the soup and allow me to ignore it while I am cooking.

Next, using I decide to dip the pork in egg and coat with a cornmeal mixture. Since the pork is so thin it will be almost the last thing I cook, however I want to coat it now and give it some time to dry so that the crust will be crisper. (Another method is to do a three part process; coat in flour, dip in egg and then coat in breadcrumbs or corn meal. This method is very effective but I always mess myself up by rinsing my meat and putting it right into my egg wash. At the same time, you save a step which isn't bad either.)

For my egg coating, I use the two egg yolks left over from my souffle and one whole egg all whisked together with a bit of water (otherwise I would use two whole eggs and some milk). For the cornmeal coating, I put 1 cup of cornmeal in a pie plate and add approximately a teaspoon each of salt, pepper and thyme as well as 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese. I set up a couple of cutting boards to place the coated pork to dry; carefully remove a piece of pork from the egg coating; and lie it on top of the cornmeal coating and gently cover the meat. I flip the pork piece around, pressing into the coating to make sure it is fully covered and set the coated piece onto the waiting cutting board. I continue this process until all the meat it set aside and ready to cook. (If you start to run out of the cornmeal coating, it should be sufficient to simply add a bit more cornmeal - if you gauge it right you shouldn't have to add more seasoning.)

The cauliflower has been cooking and it is time for me to turn it for the final 10 minutes. I start the quinoa; I put 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of chicken broth in a medium saucepan. As it begins to boil, I add 1/2 cup of frozen peas, cover the pot and let cook for 10 minutes. When done, the grain appears soft and fluffy; the germ ring will be visible around the outside of the grain.

Finally, I take a bit of butter and lemon-infused olive oil and heat it in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I gently brown each peice of cornmeal coated pork for about 2 minutes per side. I remove the cooked pieces to a warm plate and continue cooking until they are all done. This recipe made a lot of leftovers - even serving to four people we will have enough for dinner another night this week. Just by making different side dishes it will be like a whole new meal...

Goat Cheese Souffle & Tomato Soup

Souffle is really my idea of a glorified omelet. It takes a few extra steps but it is really worth the effort for a simple tasty meal. I found a recipe online for this souffle a few weeks ago and decided to finally try it on Saturday night.

What appealed to me about the recipe is that I almost always have broccoli and goat cheese handy. I set my oven to 375 degrees and prepared my souffle dish. The recipe called for just coating it with a cooking spray but I have had more success in the past with oiling and flouring the dish. You just put a scant tablespoon of oil or butter in the dish and use a paper towel to coat the pan - taking care to get the corners. Then take a bit of flour (about 2 tablespoons) and carefully move the dish around to get the flour to coat all the surfaces; gently tap out any excess. Set this aside so it is ready to be filled with the batter and placed in the oven.

Next I washed and set up my broccoli (approximately 1 1/2 cups) to steam. I didn't chop it just yet as I want my florets to stay intact while they steam. I will chop them just before I add them to the batter. (The recipe calls for you to steam the broccoli in the microwave the only reason that I don't do this is personal preference. I almost never use my microwave except to melt butter and heat up leftovers.)

Next I set up my ingredients for the cheese sauce base. It is a good idea to have everything measured and set up since a cheese sauce requires immediate action on each step. My biggest problem with putting together a cheese sauce is that it almost never fails that Luis wants my attention suddenly when I am cooking one. I hate telling someone to hold that thought but dinner is at stake so sometimes you just have to. I add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to my saucepan. Then I measure out 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour; 1 1/4 cup of milk (I use skim milk because that is the only kind that I buy); and in a third small dish I measure out 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary (in this case I used fresh rosemary so about 1/2 tsp).

Before I start the sauce, I carefully crumble my 1/2 cup of goat cheese (you can substitute any type of cheese but goat cheese and rosemary compliment each other well). I also set up my eggs; I take five large eggs and carefully separate the yolks and egg whites. I will need all five of the egg whites but only three of the yolks for this recipe. (I put the two extra yolks in the fridge in case I find some use for them in the next day or so.)

Finally, with everything set up, I am ready to get the show started. My final check is to determine when our dinner guest is arriving because souffle needs to be served immediately. It is one of those dishes that looks amazing coming out of the oven and then quickly deflates. I turn the burner under the butter and oil to medium-high heat. When it starts to sizzle, I add the flour and quickly whisk it in for about a minute. I don't want it to get too dark but I do want it to lightly brown. Then I add the milk and whisk it quickly to prevent lumps and finally add the mustard, salt and rosemary. I let this cook - whisking constantly - until the sauce begins to thicken. The consistency should be somewhat creamy - the idea being if you were to pour this over pasta it would coat the pasta nicely; it would be neither watery nor gloppy.

Turn off the burner and remove the pan from the stove top. Immediately add the goat cheese and three eggs yolks and whisk them in until the cheese is melted. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl as you will be adding the eggs whites in the final step.

Now your egg whites should be started with an electric hand mixer; set the mixer in the bowl and turn on the high. Whisk the eggs whites until they start to form soft peaks. Turn off the mixer and add a 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. (Cream of Tartar is optional but it helps give your whites a bit of an advantage; it helps stabilize the egg whites and give a bit more volume when whisking them.) Now continue whisking the whites until the peaks of egg whites are very stiff. Using a spatula, gently add about half the whites to the cheese sauce and fold in. Next add the broccoli and the remaining egg whites and continue folding in the mixture until there are no more foamy white streaks. Pour this mixture into the prepared souffle dish and put it into the pre-heated oven. Cook for about 30 minutes (if using individual ramekins cook for about 20 minutes). When cooked it should looked very puffed and have a nicely browned crown. Serve immediately.

Now that the souffle is cooking, I am going to start on the soup. I am making a simple, tomato puree soup. I get the following ingredients handy: one tablespoon of butter; 1/4 cup diced onion; 1/4 cup diced celery (optional if you simply don't have it but can be missed); one tablespoon of all-purpose flour; 2 cups of beef broth; 2 cans of chopped tomatoes (with juice); 1 teaspoon of sugar; 1-2 teaspoons of dried basil (double if using fresh); and salt and pepper to taste. In a pot, I heat the butter over medium-high heat and when it starts sizzling I add the onion and celery to saute them. When the onion starts to get translucent, I add the flour and stir to coat the cooked onion and celery. Then I add the beef broth and stir it all quickly to prevent lumps of flour from forming. Then I add the tomatoes, basil, sugar and salt and pepper. I cook for at least 20 minutes; remove it from the stove and puree it using an inverted hand mixer. If you have croutons, you can float a few in the soup when serving to add a bit of crunch.

The souffle came out beautifully but by the time I got the camera it was already starting to deflate so it wasn't worth the picture. Next time I will take the shot while it is still in the oven...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Quick Berry Tart

Last weekend we were invited to dinner at a friends' home and I wanted to bring something for dessert. After a few very rare hot days in San Francisco, we were suddenly engulfed in the typical fog that follows. We were headed out to their house to enjoy some of the inland heat so I thought they would appreciate something freshly baked but summery.

First I made a sweet, buttery pie crust since it would have to chill a bit before rolling it out. In my food processor, I put 1 1/8 cup of all-purpose white flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar - I pulsed this mixture once or twice then added; 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter cut into pieces. I processed the flour mixture and butter for about 10 seconds - or until the consistency of cornmeal. I placed this mixture in a bowl and added 1 egg yolk and about 3 tablespoons of ice water - using a spatula I gradually mixed and gathered the mixture into the form of a ball. I then flattened the ball slightly, wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the freezer for 10 minutes. (If the mixture still seems dry continue to add 1/2 teaspoon of ice water at a time until it comes together. Additionally, rather than placing the dough in the freezer you can place it in the fridge but do not use it for at least 30 minutes.)

As you wait for the dough to chill, wash the berries you plan to use. I happen to have some strawberries. I wash, dry and de-stem each of them then slice them thinly; I want to place them in a thin layer over the pastry. When I have two cups of the strawberries sliced, I toss them with a scant teaspoon of sugar and a small capful of orange liqueur (you can substitute a squeeze of fresh lemon juice). I set these to the side until the pastry is ready to be rolled.

I turn my oven onto 425 degrees to bake. After the dough has set for 10 minutes, I place the dough on a floured board and gently roll it out. It doesn't have to be beautiful but you want it to get it to be a rough 9- to 10-inch circle. You place the rolled pastry on the cookie sheet and gently fix any holes or cracks by pinching with your fingers or "filling in" with a bit of extra pastry from the edges. Then gently place the fruit on top of the pastry and leave yourself about an inch to an inch and a half of an edge. You will gently fold this over to keep the juices from spilling onto the cookies sheet. The whole thing should resemble a fruit pizza essentially.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and gently brush the exposed pasty and the top of the fruit all over. Bake the tart for 20-30 minutes; until the pastry is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly. Remove from the oven and cool before serving. You can serve warm or at room temperature with a bit of whipped cream or ice cream.

Quick Vegetable Soup

I have always leaned toward making heavier soups or stews and felt that they should be made a day ahead to really catch the flavors. However, there are times when you get home and suddenly crave a soup that is warm and flavorful but not out of a can.

One night while at a friend's house for dinner she completely changed my outlook - she made a wonderful pureed vegetable soup in about 30 minutes. Suddenly our whole outlook for winter changed - we could have soup much more often and I no longer had to make huge pots of one type of soup to freeze it for future use.

The beauty of this recipe is that it contained vegetables that I typically keep in my fridge; onion, garlic, carrot, zucchini, broccoli and potatoes. However, you can vary it if you lack an ingredient or want to tweak the flavor. Additionally, you increase or decrease the ingredients depending how much you want to make. It does freeze and reheat well but it is so easy to make on the fly that small batches are good too.

To start, rough cut all your vegetables - they don't have to be pretty because you will be pureeing them all. (I wash the carrots, zucchini, broccoli and potatoes with vegetable wash but do not peel anything.) Use the following amounts for a vegetables will produce roughly 10 cups of soup;

  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 3 medium-sized carrots with skin
  • 2 medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 small head and stem of broccoli (or half a bag prewashed)
  • 5-6 medium-to-large baby potatoes with skin

In a larger, deep-sided pot heat about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute all the vegetables for about 5 minutes - stirring intermittently. Then add 1 quart of broth - I tend to use vegetable but chicken is also good. You want the liquid to just cover the vegetables so you might have to add another cup or so of water. Cook over medium to low heat until the carrots and potatoes are soft - about 20 minutes.

Turn off the burner and remove the pot from the stove (or to a cool burner). The fastest and least messy way to puree the soup it to use an immersion hand blender. However, if you only have a traditional blender you will have to puree in batches. I suggest using a slotted spoon to scoop out vegetables and using only a bit of your broth - this will minimize the danger of the lid of your blender "popping" off with the pressure from the heat. You might even consider letting the soup cool a bit before pureeing in a traditional blender.

When you have pureed the soup, salt and pepper to taste and add one teaspoon of dried thyme (optional but adds nice flavor). If you want the consistency to be a bit thinner simply add more broth or water. You can serve with wheat crackers and some nice mild cheese as a side. Frankly sometimes just having a bowl or two of soup with crackers and cheese is enough for us for dinner but usually I serve with oven-baked chicken thighs or a fillet of sole. If you are having a dinner party, you can simply use this as an opening course.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lasagna - It isn't as hard as you think

The beauty of lasagna is that you cannot mess it up - it doesn't matter how you layer it or if each layer is fully coated. It doesn't need to look pretty or neat it just has to taste great. The most important thing is to have enough sauce and I personally prefer to make it with fresh pasta but no-boil lasagna noodles are a good alternative.

Fresh pasta can be purchased but you rely on the source not running out which sadly has occurred for me. So most of the time I just make my own pasta rather than wasting my time hunting it up. Fresh pasta is surprising easy to make and the biggest benefit is that your cooking time reduces to only 10 minutes! No-boil pasta is much more convenient but you have to cook the lasagna for about 45 minutes. Typically it takes me a bit over an hour to put a lasagna together (including making fresh pasta and marinara sauce). Therefore using no-boil lasagna noodles and canned pasta sauce should take you about 90 minutes to get the meal to the table.

My favorite lasagna uses a package of chicken silician sausage (about a pound), half a bag of fresh spinach, half a container of crimini mushrooms (about 4 oz), half a bag of shredded mozzarella cheese, 15 ounces of ricotta cheese, approximately 30 ounces of marinara pasta sauce and 1/4 cup parmesan/reggiano grated cheese. You can vary this recipe to make it vegetarian; if you hate vegetables keep it purely meat; and if you hate everything but cheese than you can simply remove everything but the cheese. (Another nice vegetarian option is to use basil leaves and a marinara sauce - simple but very flavorful. An alternative to using sausage is to simply use a meat sauce rather than a marinara.)

(Note if you are using no-boil noodles and already prepared pasta sauce skip the next two paragraphs.)
If I am making my own marinara sauce, I set that up to cook first since it has to simmer for 45 minutes. I use two 15 oz cans of chopped tomatoes and briefly puree in a blender. I pour this into a pan with deep sides and add a stick of butter (1/4 pound) - you could probably substitute olive oil for this; 1/2 medium onion peeled and halved keeping the root end intact; and a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. I set is on a back burner with the flame very low and set the timer for 45 minutes.

If I am making my own pasta, I next make my dough using my food processor. Using a regular blade, I put 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour in the bowl and crack three whole eggs on top of the flour. I then place the lid on there and pulse until the mixture is very grainy - similar to couscous. Briefly, with the lid on and a few quick pulses to the processor, I drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil just to give it a bit more "sticking" power. Remove the pasta from the processor bowl and carefully shape it a ball. It is like bringing hundreds of little pieces of clay together but you want it to be a solid piece. Slightly flatten the ball of pasta and cover with barely damp paper or cloth towels - you don't want the pasta to dry out but you also don't want to get the outer layer sticky.

I cut away the casings surrounding the chicken silician sausage so that I have a pile of raw seasoned meat. Under a small skillet, I set the burner to medium or just a bit warmer and add the sausage meat. I slowly brown this while I prep my other ingredients. I place the 15 oz of ricotta cheese into a medium-sized bowl and crack one egg over it, add 1/4 cup parmegan/reggiano grated cheese and a dash of hot sauce (alternatively I sometimes add a pinch of nutmeg). I whisk all these ingredients together and set aside.

Next I wash my mushrooms and slice thinly slice them. I typically don't cook my mushrooms but you can add them to the cooking sausage. When the sausage is mostly brown, I turn off the burner and set it aside with my other ingredients. Next I turn my oven onto 375 degrees to bake the lasagna when it is finally set up. I then take a 13 x 9 inch baking dish and carefully spray it with olive oil to prevent sticking.


I coat the bottom of the pan with a scant ladle of pasta sauce, add a layer of lasagna noodles (if I am using the pasta I made I roll out about three strips for each layer - details below); on top of the pasta I spread half my sausage and mushroom mix, cover with grated mozzarella cheese, and add another ladle of pasta sauce; I add another layer of lasagna noodles and on top of that I spread half of my ricotta mixture, cover with some fresh spinach and add another ladle of pasta sauce. I continue to alternate these layers until I run out of pasta. On top of my last layer of pasta, I will pour the remainder of my marinara sauce and sprinkle the whole thing with grated mozzarella cheese. Typically, I have a total of 8-10 layers - four or five of those being pasta.

My oven is pre-heated now. If using fresh pasta, just pop your creation in the oven and cook for 10 minutes or until the top layer of cheese is melted and browning. If using no-boil pasta, add a cup of water along the sides of your pan, tightly cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for about 45 minutes. Check at 35 minutes and remove the foil for the last few moments to brown the cheese at the top.

My preference it to serve this for dinner parties because there isn't too much left over. If I am cooking it for just the two of us I tend to freeze half of it for another night. Even freezing half of it leaves enough for lunches for the next two days. If serving it for a dinner party you can either prep beforehand or have your guests help you with the assembly. It is always more fun to cook together and it leaves you more time to set up appetizers so they can nibble while working.

Rolling out fresh pasta dough isn't an exact science and takes practice but it is worth the effort. I have found this site that has the step-by-step process for rolling with an Imperia Pasta Machine, which is the type I have;

My mother swears by her electric attachment for her Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. I believe she has the Pasta Excellence attachment set.

One Dish Meal - Chicken Apple Sausage and Pasta

This is one of those meals that I whip together if I forgot to defrost anything. I almost always have some type of sausage in my freezer that is already cooked and just needs to be reheated. One of my favorite is Aidell's Chicken Apple Sausage; it has a light, smoky flavor and works well cooked with several types of vegetables. (My other favorite use for these sausages is for pigs-in-blankets appetizers but we will discuss those another time.)

If my sausages are frozen, I place four sausage links in a skillet with about 1/2 cup of water; cover them and turn the burner to medium-high. This will defrost them quickly and I will only have to cool them enough to slice them to toss with the vegetable saute.

Next, I set a large pan of water to boil for pasta. My favorite shape to use with this is a bowtie pasta a.k.a. Farfalle. I will use a bit over a half pound of the Farfalle. I give myself about 5-10 minutes for the pasta water to start boiling and another 10 minuts for the pasta to cook. The vegetable saute will be the "hardest" part of the prep for this meal.

The first step is to scope out my vegetable options; I find onion, garlic, broccoli, zucchini, spinach, crimini mushrooms, tomatoes, etc. I can use any combination of these but I choose the following:
  • half of a small, onion - thinly sliced;
  • 1 clove of garlic - finely chopped/minced;
  • 5-6 crimini mushrooms - thinly sliced;
  • 2 cups broccoli - cut into bite-sized pieces and steamed.

I set the burner to medium-high under a large skillet with a bit more than a tablespoon of olive oil (add more if needed). When the oil starts to smoke, I add the onion and saute it for 1-2 minutes until it starts to become translucent. I then add the garlic and when the smell starts to rise up from the pan, I add the mushrooms. As the mushrooms are cooking, I slice the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Just as the onion, garlic and mushroom mixture starts to brown I carefully add about 1/4 of white wine. (Alternatively, you can add broth but I like how the wine cooks away. You don't want very much liquid at all.)

Just as the wine starts to cook away (and it will happen quickly) I add the sliced, chicken apple sausage and the steamed, broccoli and stir it all together. At this point, turn off the burner, cover and set the saute to the side. If you pasta is cooked already, drain it, put it in a large serving bowl with 1-2 tablespoons of butter (this is optional but it adds a bit of richness to the sauce. Alternatively, use a vegan, heart healthy substitute like Earthbalance if you love butter like I do you honestly won't notice the difference.) Add the vegetable and sausage to the pasta and toss it all together. Then bring to the table so everyone can help themselves. I typically serve with bread and cheese as a side.

This recipe is typically enough for us to have a serving plus a bit extra for dinner and then enough for two lunches the next day.

Mahi Mahi Braised with Green Mole

My favorite use of green mole is as a sauce for fish. I have some mahi mahi defrosted so I decided to braise it with a bit of the mole and serve with rice and green peas. I start some white basmati rice in my rice steamer and - to make it more flavorful - I add a few sprigs of cilantro and use chicken broth rather than plain water (1 cup basmati rice, 2 cups liquid and 3-5 sprigs of cilantro). Alternatively, you could chop the cilantro and stir it in after you cook the rice - this is a bit more work but would give you a "fresh" cilantro flavoring.

While that is cooking, I rinse my fish fillets, pat them dry and set aside. I also set up some frozen, organic peas in a pan of water that I will boil later. I wait until the rice is cooked to start both of the fish and peas because I don't want to overcook the fish. Fish is very delicate and cooks quickly; many times people who don't like fish have eaten either overcooked or not very fresh fish. When you buy fish it should smell fresh and only faintly like fish - if it smells strong or even overpowering then it is starting to turn bad and you shouldn't buy it.

My rice cooker turns itself off when the rice is cooked with a loud pop. It cooks that small amount of rice quickly (10 minutes) but this will be enough for dinner and a few lunches. I set the heat under my saucepan with frozen peas to high - I will turn them off as soon as they boil.

Under a large, skillet I add about two tablespoons of olive oil and a scant tablespoon of butter. I turn the burner on to medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and starts to sizzle, I add my mahi mahi fillets (I have about four-medium sized fillets no more than 1/2 an inch thick) and when a bit of white edging appears on each fillet, I turn them over. I then add about 1/3 of a cup of green mole to the pan and cover. I cook this for no more than 3-5 minutes depending on the size of your fillets. (I don't mind my fish even a bit underdone so in this case I turned the heat off after about two minutes and left it on the burner covered while I set up plates for dinner.)

With the mole already made, the rest of the meal takes no more than 20 minutes. It does payoff to make some items ahead of time and freeze them in batches that are easy to take out and use to enhance small meals. This recipe serves two for dinner and leaves leftovers for two lunches over even another meal if you don't like reheating a fish lunch at work.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tamale Follow-up

The tamale-making event was exhausting so all meals last week were either left overs, quick meals and even a few nights out. Monday night we had a 20-minute meal; frozen, meatballs (store bought - not my own); spaghetti; a can of pasta sauce; and warm bread.

Tuesday night I decided to steam a bag of tamales. When we packed up the tamales, we put about 20-25 tamales in Ziploc Freezer bags. I feel it is most efficient to steam a batch versus just a few at a time so I set up a large steamer pan. Ideally, you would set up a bed of wet corn husks on top of the steamer pan to protect the tamales from direct steam contact and enhance flavor. However, I have none left from our Sunday event so it is okay to just steam them directly in a pinch. I prefer a pan large enough to stand the tamales upright so that they cook more evenly. However, some people cook them by stacking them.

If you defrost the tamales, it should take about an hour to steam them. (Frozen tamales can take 60 to 90 minutes to cook.) The masa becomes light and fluffy - similar to a muffin. When I believe the tamales might be done, I take one out and unwrap it to confirm that the masa is cooked all around. If it isn't, I just return it to the pan and let it cook some more. Having 20-25 tamales is a bit much for two people to eat in a week so after we eat a few for dinner I return the rest of the cooked ones to the freezer. Now when I want to have some more we will only have to heat them for about 10-20 minutes (depending on whether the tamales are defrosted or frozen) in a steamer.

Additionally, I discovered that the sweet tamales were really good drizzled with honey just after they were taken out of the steamer. The honey enhanced the flavor just a enough. However, I still feel the need to perfect this recipe.

Also, we have one injury confirmation - a sprained finger from kneading masa dough. Marnie joked that she might have hurt herself but she said later her finger was swollen and she purchased a splint to minimize movement. So far she says she is impressing everyone who asks how she injured herself that it was due to making tamales.

Refreshing Jicama Salad

Making tamales is hard and hungry work so while so there was plenty to nosh on when you wanted to take a break. One of the favorites was a quick jicama salad that my mother made.

She took the medium-sized jicama that I had, washed it (since it is a underground tuber it is a good idea to clean the outer part to prevent food poisoning from e-coli that might have been in the fertilizer), peeled off the skin, and sliced the jicama into french fry sticks.

She then grated the zest of a medium-sized orange over the jicama and then added the juice as well. She finely sliced half a medium-sized red onion and chopped a few sprigs of cilantro. However, she felt it was still missing some tartness so she then grated the zest of a lime and added the juice of the lime as well. Her final ingredient as to add a bit of chili powder over it all.

This salad was crunchy and refreshing and didn't last very long.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tamale Making on Mother's Day

For years, my mother-in-law and I have been making tamales around Christmas time; just the two of us would spend a whole day making hundreds of them. Friends always expressed interest in learning how to make them but the timing of doing them in the midst of the holidays was always bad. Last year I decided to see if Mother's Day might be a better time and it was so successful that we decided to make it an annual event.

A few weeks in advance I send out an Evite so that I can get a sense of how many people will be able to attend and then estimate how much of the ingredients need to be purchased. Gathering all the ingredients is a big project but living in San Francisco makes life a bit easier. La Palma Mexicatessen is a great source for masa (the primary ingredient) and the corn husks that we use to wrap our tamales. You can purchase masa that has been pre-mixed with lard, broth and baking powder but we prefer to mix these ingredients in ourselves. In the past we have purchased the pre-mixed masa and still spent a lot of time working the masa with our hands to get it aerated enough. The secret to light and fluffy tamales is aerating the dough until a small lump floats in a glass of water.

I spent over a week gathering ingredients; first for the green mole which will be used to flavor the meat fillings and gradually gathering other items that will be needed. I would prefer to stick to one type of meat - pork - but over the years there have been requests for other fillings and even for sweet tamales. La Palma sells a sweet tamale dough; it is fully mixed with all the ingredients as well as raisins and flecks of cinnamon. Unfortunately, I have been spoiled by strawberry and pineapple tamales we found during our travels in Mexico and don't find this sweet mix to be up to par at all. Trinidad, my mother-in-law, has tried jam and even dried fruit or candy but I still have dreams about perfectly flavored, light and fluffy strawberry tamales.

This year I have made it my mission to achieve that sweet tamale as well as make seven other fillings: red and green chicken; red and green pork (carnitas); beef; picadillo; grilled corn and cheese; and rajas (poblano chili and cheese). It will be quite a feat but I have 20 estimated helpers and I am going to cheat - I purchase three roasted chickens from Costco and six packages of Pork Carnitas from Trader Joe's - this saves significant time on cooking meat fillings. I purchase 70 pounds of masa quebrada simple (that is rough ground hominy and unmixed), 4 pounds of lard (you can substitute solid vegetable shortening), 2 cups of baking powder, six bags of pre-washed corn husks, a flat of strawberries, two pineapples, and 4 pounds of ground beef.

My reference for ingredient measurements is Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless. His recipe for tamales using 1 pound (approximately 2 cups) of masa, 1/2 cup lard, 2/3 cup broth, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt (depending how salty the broth is). This recipe estimates it will make 16 medium-sized tamales; therefore 70 pounds of masa should yield over 1,100 tamales and each helper will leave with over 50 tamales each. This is exactly why this is a full, day; fully staffed function.

Before the event, I set most of the corn husks in a large pan full of hot water and weigh the lid down to keep the husks fully submerged. (Unfortunately, I will have to do this in two or even three batches because I don't have a large enough pan to accommodate all the corn husks). I cook the picadillo and make sure all my ingredients are handy and ready.

When everyone arrives, I give them a moment to grab a bagel, some coffee and even champagne before I set them up kneading masa. We separate the 70 pounds of masa dough into four, 20 quart bowls and add the requisite amounts of shortening/lard and baking powder. Kneading the masa is the longest part of this process so the bulk of the work will be there.

My first helper, Danielle gets to work cutting up some pineapple and strawberries. The fruit tamales require the addition of a cup of fruit puree per pound of masa rather than broth. I plan to set aside about 10 pounds of the masa (five pounds per flavor) and for the moment I am going to add sugar and shortening to this 10 pounds then separate it again to add the respective purees.

When I have enough people working on the masa, I set the next batch of helpers to shredding the meat. Since both the chickens and pork carnitas are pre-cooked the meat just needs to be shredded and seasoned to be ready as a filling for tamales. When all the meat is shredded, I separate it into batches and season some of the pork and chicken with green mole and the rest I season with a bit of mole poblano and a can of spicy tomato sauce (El Pato Sauce). Additionally, I add a lot of salt - you want the flavoring to be pretty intense (spicy, flavorful and/or salty) to offset the blandness of the masa dough.

Rajas are a "vegetarian" tamale (fully vegetarian if you use solid vegetable shortening and vegetable broth). It is made by placing thin strips of slightly grilled, poblano chilis and queso fresco on the bed of masa. The cheese melts when the tamales get steamed and it is a really delicious filling - especially if you are a fan of chili rellenos (poblanos stuffed with cheese; battered; fried and covered with light tomato sauce), which is one of my favorite dishes. Another vegetarian tamale we created last year was to use a bag of frozen, roasted corn - a Trader Joe's item - and mixing it with shredded cheese; approximately two cups.

I spend the whole day funneling ingredients to the workers and checking the masa for float worthy status, plus setting up the tamales to cook. I have a large, 30 quart pan which I placed a steamer at the bottom with about 2 inches of water. I then take some of the wet corn husks and made a bed in which to place the tamales. I place enough tamales in the pan so that they can stand up so that the open part of the husk is pointing toward the lid of the pan. At around 6:00 pm (we started at 11:00 am) the first batch of tamales is fully cooked.

The tamales that are taken home will be uncooked and I tell everyone to freeze them when they get home. By freezing the tamales uncooked, you get a much fresher tasting tamal. You can remove tamales right from the freezer and steam for about 90 minutes. (If they are unfrozen or fresh they only take about 60 minutes.) It is easy to tell if a tamal is fully cooked because the masa goes from a soft mush to a spongy dough. You can just open the corn husk to confirm doneness.

Everyone worked tirelessly to knead the masa and fill tamales. Luis kept the workers hydrated by refreshing champagne, beers, sodas, agua frescas, etc. He also took the vacuum out numerous times to clean up masa from the floor. His justification is he wanted us all to impress any random arrival with our ability to keep the floor clean during such a massive project.

So next year, I will purchase masa fina, mixta (finely ground, masa mixed with everything) and just knead it to aerate it better. We spent too long kneading the masa again and it wasn't salty enough. Unfortunately, I totally forgot that the puree replaced the broth in the sweet tamales so my quest for the perfect sweet tamal is as yet unfulfilled.

Picadillo for Tamale Filling

Another time I will discuss this recipe in terms of dinner - it varies only slightly with the addition of potatoes - but in this case I made picadillo as a filling for the tamale making event we have on Mother's Day.

In a large, deep-sided pan heat a 1/4 cup of olive oil, turn the heat to medium or medium high and when the oil is hot add about 1.5-2 pounds of ground beef. Stir the beef around until evenly browned. This step can take about 5-7 minutes so as you periodically stir and check it take the time to dice half a medium onion, mince 1-2 cloves of garlic and 1 jalapeno chili (optional). When the meat is browned, add the onion, garlic and jalapeno; you want to cook it a bit to get the vegetables a bit translucent (2-3 minutes). Pour in one bottle or can of beer and let boil away a bit which will evaporate all the alcohol in the beer. The addition of beer serves to tenderize the beef and give the dish a richer flavor.

After about five minutes, add a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce to the whole mixture and move to a back burner on a low setting. Cover the pan and let cook for at least 30 minutes. When it comes time to use this as a tamal filling we will actually drain the sauce so that the filling isn't so runny.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Chicken and Pasta

I discovered a recipe last year for oven-roasted cauliflower so now I keep my eyes open for a good price on the vegetable every time I am at the produce store. It was reasonably priced the other day ($1 per head) so I picked up two. Since cooking time is over 30 minutes, I start prepping this first. I first turn the oven onto bake at 475 degrees. The cauliflower will be cut into wedges so that it roasts more evenly so carefully remove the leaves and cut stem flush with bottom. You can cut into 8-12 wedges so that the core and florets remain intact (as much as possible at least because you will still have some that fall about). I take out a cookie sheet (with sides; mine are about 1/2 deep) and lightly spray it with olive oil cooking spray. I then carefully toss the cauliflower in two tablespoons of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Once coated I place the cauliflower on the prepared cookie sheet in a single layer; cover the whole thing with aluminum foil; and place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. (Total cooking time will be around 30; after the first 10 minutes you will remove the foil and cook for another 8-12 minutes on one side; flip the cauliflower over; and then cook for another 8-12 minutes.)

Next I whisk one egg with a scant 3 tablespoons of milk (you can substitute water as well I just prefer milk for a bit more coating of the chicken). Then I take the chicken breast tenders (one package gives me about 10-12 tenders, which is equivalent to slicing one to two whole breasts into tenders) that I defrosted and rinse them before placing them in this egg mixture. I then put approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs in a flat dish, add 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1-2 teaspoons of salt and pepper and a heaping teaspoon of dried tarragon (you can substitute any dried herb you want here; basil, oregano, thyme, sage, or even just nothing). I then take each breast tender individually out of the egg mixture and coat it with breadcrumbs and set aside on a sheet. The longer you let the breadcrumbs dry on the chicken, the crispier it will cook up; if you transfer the chicken from the breadcrumbs right to the hot oil most of your crumbs end up stuck to the bottom of your skillet.

I have since removed the aluminum foil from the cauliflower (which allowed the vegetable to steam a bit) so it is roasting now on one side for 8-12 minutes. Now I set a large pan of water on the stove to boil for pasta. I am repeating my ricotta sauce recipe with the addition of some tomato sauce (and deletion of peas) for variety. In bowl large enough to add the pasta later combine 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 tablespoon butter(optional but per the recipe it adds richness to the sauce), 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup of pasta sauce, salt and pepper to taste. When the 1/2 pound of pasta is almost cooked, add a scant ladle of water to this sauce and whisk it all together. Then toss the pasta in the sauce before serving.

I wait to start cooking the chicken until the cauliflower has been flipped and roasting for the last 8-12 minutes. I then heat approximately 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet on medium to medium high. When the butter starts bubbling, I add about half of my prepared chicken tenders. As the chicken starts to cook and you see a bit of white around the edges it is time to flip over. If you have your pan hot enough it shouldn't take more than 3-4 minutes on each side to fully cook the breast tenders. As I am cooking the second batch of chicken tenders, I finish the pasta sauce with the addition of the ladle of hot water, drain the pasta and toss it in the ricotta mixture. I flip the chicken tenders over and remove the cauliflower from the oven. Then I turn of the burner under the skillet cooking the tenders and serve pasta and cauliflower and a few of the tenders of the first batch. Voila! Dinner is served.

Notes: Unfortunately, I am not too excited about the addition of tomato sauce to the ricotta cheese sauce. It tastes good but isn't so photogenic and you notice that I ended up just putting some on top of the pasta versus tossing the pasta with the sauce. I think the pasta is better off being tossed with the sauce as it coats it more evenly. In addition, I will stick to doing this sauce with the peas and fresh tomato salad on the side that was much more satisfactory both visually and in taste. The fresh tomatoes add a nicer contrast to the overall palate.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pork with Green Mole

Since I cooked green mole in the afternoon, I am going to take advantage of that for dinner and make something quick. I have some pork tenderloin spears (the package is a bit over a pound) in the freezer so I defrost those and slice them into smaller pieces; almost bite-sized.

I want to brown the pork prior to adding the mole for better flavor. (This method of browning and then finishing the cooking in a moist heat is referred to as braising.) I heat some oil in a medium-sized skillet on medium-high heat and just as it starts smoking I add the pork a batch at a time but work quickly to avoid overcooking the meat. When all the meat is a browned (few signs of raw, pink meat) I add a ladle of green mole (approximately 1/2 cup); cover and let cook for about 5 minutes.

I serve the pork with steamed rice, corn and some quesadillas or just plain tortillas. In this case, we have enough leftover oven-baked rice (recipe from Fish for Dinner) that I will reheat that. However, if you have to cook the rice start it in advance since it takes about 20 minutes; 1 cup of raw, long grain rice to two cups of water or broth and bring to a boil over medium to high heat; reduce to medium low, cover and cook for about 15 minutes.

Green Mole - Pronounced Moe-Lay

This week involves prepping for Mother's Day Brunch and Tamale Making party. I typically make pork or chicken for the tamale filling and flavor the meat with this green mole or mole poblano (rich sauce flavored with several types of chilis, chocolate and spices). Green mole is the easier mole to make; it takes about 90 minutes to two hours and much of that time is unattended cooking. Mole poblano is a whole other story since it is at minimum a six hours process and that is only if you have all the ingredients on hand.

Since green mole is less time consuming and what I consider to be a fresher sauce, I tend to make it closer to the time of using it. However, if you make a big batch and don't plan to use it right away it freezes well and can last awhile stored that way. Green mole is a good sauce to use for chicken, pork or fish. I also tend to make it with vegetable broth so that my vegetarian friends can just eat it with rice. It would probably go very well with tofu even.

In a large pan filled with water, add 8 medium (approx 12 ounces) fresh, green tomatillos that have been husked and washed; one medium tomato; 1 poblano chili ; and 3 jalapeno chilis. Do not cut any of the vegetables; you will de-stem and de-seed the chilis later and the tomatillos and tomato will be left whole. Turn on the burner and cover, bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. (You can used canned tomatillos - use 1 1/2 13-ounce cans- and if you do you will not need to simmer them with chilis.)

Next place a medium-sized skillet on burner, put the heat to medium and when the pan is hot add one cup of hulled, un-toasted pumpkin seeds. The seeds should start popping and you need to stir constantly to prevent them from burning. When they have all popped and nicely toasted (approximately 4-5 min) remove from the heat and place in a pie plate or cool cookie sheet. This will stop the seeds from cooking and start the cooling process.

Now clean five large romaine lettuce leaves and half a bunch of cilantro. You want to make sure to remove any grit from both of these items. Shake out excess water but don't worry about completely drying. Tear the lettuce into rough smaller pieces for easier processing in the blender. Next, rough chop half a medium onion and three cloves of garlic. Set aside near the toasted pumpkin seeds.

By this time, the tomatillos and chilis should be cooked. You will drain them and let cool slightly. When you can, remove the poblano and jalapenos from the pan and cut away the stem, slice the chilis in half and scoop out the seeds using a small teaspoon. Then roughly chop the chilis and set aside. (When working with chilis it is always a good idea to wear thin latex gloves. If you don't, even after washing your hands, the oils can linger and you discover - after gently rubbing you eye sometime later - that they had quite a kick. Rinsing your eye with cool water will help but it might take awhile for the burning sensation to go away.)

Now that all the ingredients are prepped, you will use a blender to pulverize everything together into a smooth puree. You will have to add the ingredients to the blender in small batches and pour each batch into a large pan (I typically use the same pan I used to simmer the tomatillos and chilis). Since most of the ingredients are dry add enough broth to each batch (1/4 to 1/2 cup per batch is usually enough) to help with the pureeing. You will need at least 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth. After pureeing all the ingredients, add any leftover broth to the pureed ingredients in the pan.

You will turn the burner onto low and let the mole simmer for approximately 30 minutes. It will change from a fresh, avocado green color to a more grayish, green color similar to the color of overcooked/canned peas.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fish for Dinner

After a weekend of dining out, I have decided dinner should be on the simpler side; nothing too spicy or heavy. I have defrosted some fish; petrale fillet of sole which is a thin, delicate white fish. This is a good fish to fry breaded or with a batter and if you are going very low calorie you can even steam it.

I have decided to do the fish in a light batter and serve it with some oven-baked rice and steamed zucchini. Since the rice takes the longest I will start with that process. I set the oven to bake at 400 degrees and then take a skillet that has a lid out to use for this. I melt 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter and once melted I saute half a small onion. When the onion is soft, I add 1 cup of raw, long grain rice and let it cook a bit until it is translucent and slightly toasted. I slowly add two cups of broth (you can use chicken or vegetable); stir the rice and onion well; cover with the lid; and place in the pre-heated oven. It will take approximately 18-20 minutes.

Now I rinse and dry three zucchinis and set up my steamer pan with water. I cut the zucchini, place it in the steamer and turn the flame on to medium. It is now time to set up the fish. I rinse it, pat it dry with paper towels and set it aside. I put a cup of flour in a pie dish and add a bit of salt, pepper and dried thyme (a scant 1/4 teaspoon each). I then whisk one egg with a bit of water. The fish is so thin that it will cook really quickly (about three minutes) so I am waiting for the rice to be fully cooked before I start the fish.

After about 18 minutes, I carefully remove the covered pan from the oven. Now be very careful with this pan and cover it with potholders because it is easy to forget how hot it is if you need to move it suddenly. Luis and I have both had the experience of grabbing the pan barehanded accidentally - not very pleasant. When you remove the lid, the rice should be fluffy and there should be no liquid left.

In another, larger skillet I heat a small pat of butter with a bit of olive oil (in this case I have some lemon-infused olive oil to use to enhance the flavor). When the oil is hot, I coat each fish with the flour mixture first, then dip it in egg and then add to the oil in the pan. It should long take about 60-90 second per side of each fillet so everything else should be cooked and ready to serve.

For more flavor, you could add a light tomato sauce (similar to the albondigas sauce) or some green mole. In this case I unfortunately don't have either handy so our meal with be sauceless but by no means flavorless.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Albondigas - Translation; Mexican Meatballs

This recipe for albondigas was taught to me by Luis. Every once in awhile he suddenly remembers some dish from childhood and calls his mother for the recipe. This is one of those meals that actually is best if you can prepare a day in advance because the flavors enhance when it is set aside and reheated the following day. Still it is a meal that takes about 90 minutes overall to prepare and is good for a group of about six.

In the morning, I set aside about a cup and a half of pinto beans (or black beans) to soak for the day. The water should be almost 3 inches above the beans because they will expand as they soak. Additionally, if you have a curious cat like we do I suggest soaking them in a plastic container and setting it in a corner that discourages investigation. I learned my lesson once when Zorro pushed a glass bowl with a lid off the stove just because he was sure there was something he could eat in it.

Cooking your own beans is optional really; you can use canned pinto beans, black beans or even refried beans. Bean tacos are also a nice alternative; you spread a heaping soup spoon of beans lenghwise on a corn tortilla, roll it and fry it in oil. You have to be careful with vegetarian refried beans because the water in them causes the oil to pop.

So later in the day about an hour before I want the meal to be prepared, I drain the beans, rinse them and put them in a pan with water to cover them plus about an inch. I then turn the burner to medium and let them cook until soft. One way to test for doneness with pinto beans is to remove a bean or two from the water and gently blow on them; if the skin peels back with your breath they are done.

As the beans are cooking, I fill a large pan with water and turn the burner on high. I need this to boil the albondigas before cooking them in the sauce. I then take a package of ground beef (the one I used was 1.29 pounds), two eggs, and 3/4 cup of raw white, long grain rice. Additionally, I added a bit of salt, pepper, chili powder and nutmeg for flavor. I am still working on the balance and with the final product didn't notice any significant impact - good or bad - of these additions. I will update with appropriate amounts when I figure it out. I mix these ingredients in a bowl with my bare hands until I feel the mixture go from sticky to smooth and well-blended. I now form the mixture into small balls - about an inch in diameter. I ended with 30 albondigas. The water started boiling as I was just starting to form the albondigas so I can now gently drop each one in the water. I am going to cook them until they start floating to the surface; about 10 minutes.

As I wait for the albondigas to cook, I start on the sauce. I add two cans of cut tomatoes, half a medium onion and two cloves of garlic to a blender and quickly puree and set aside. The albondigas are already floating so I bring the pan over to the sink. I carefully pour about four cups of the water into a measuring cup because I will need some of this for the sauce. I drain the rest of the water and return the albondigas to the pan, with the tomato puree and just enough of the reserved water to get the sauce just over the top of the albondigas. You might need to thin the sauce as it is cooking so keep the reserved liquid just in case. You can always just add water as well but it isn't as flavorful. Finally, I add a bay leaf and turn the burner to medium and let these cook for 30 minutes.

If you are using whole beans for this meal, to serve you simply put a ladle of beans on the bottom of a bowl and add some albondigas and sauce on top. You can serve with quesadillas or plain tortillas. A nice avocado salad or just plain sliced avocado is also a nice side.


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