Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gluten Free Empanadas

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and I love it.  Perhaps not for the traditional reasons like eating until you explode, but because I get to cook and I have the time to cook.  The 4 day weekend is wonderful to relax and recharge.  I also get to make complicated recipes.  Making something complicated is very satisfying to me.  I enjoy trying to make something that is difficult and different.  This Thanksgiving was no different.  I started with my great aunt Laly's orange candy.  This was fun because I had to make it up as I went along.  She didn't write anything down so I had to remember everything I had witnessed during her preparations.  I did it!! It turned out great and wasn't as crazy as I thought it would be.

This time I wanted to make something crazy as well.  I found a recipe for Cassava Pasties.  These are made from grated cassava (yucca).  They are gluten free and that's a plus for anyone who can't consume gluten.  But they are amazingly good!  These beauties are very popular in the Dominican Republic and called catibias.  I found a recipe and adapted it from a Dominican cookbook.

The recipe starts with raw cassava root (yucca).  Grate it until it is a fine paste.  Bring a small amount of salted water to a rolling boil in a heavy bottomed pot.  Add the grated yucca and lower heat.  Cook, stirring constantly! until it is translucent and most of the mixture becomes a translucent dough.  Turn out onto an oiled surface and knead until cool.  Keep your hands wet to avoid sticking.  Tear off 1/8 cup amounts and pat them into disks.  Fill with desired filling.  I used cooked ground beef.

Fill the disks and fold over to form an empanada and press edges with the tines of a fork.  After you are done with the entire amount you can refrigerate until you are ready to deep fry them.  I think you can freeze them at this point also, but I didn't try.

Then deep fry and this is what they should look like.  They are very crispy on the outside and very soft and delicious on the inside.  You can also opt out of filling and just fry up the disks and that is very good also.
This didn't make very many so it looks like I'll be upping my ingredients next time!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tis' the Season

Why do I disappear during the summer months?  I think it may be the dreadful heat.  It is painful to have to cook anything in my kitchen when it is easily almost 100 degrees.  This summer was particularly harsh and I don't just mean the heat, work really took up all of my free time as well.  I quit a part-time job that allowed me the time to bake and cook but had me flat broke.  In better news I got a job that allowed me the purchase power for ingredients but no time.  It's always somethin'!

Tis' the season though and that means I need to make the time to get into the kitchen.  I started with my great-aunt Laly's sour orange candy.  Like many recipes that involve very little ingredients, it is complicated and time consuming.  In this case all you need are about 25 or so small to medium sour oranges, lots of sugar and water.  That's it believe it or not.  The hard part is finding about 18 hours of free time.  Let me walk you through this delicious and complicated holiday treat.

First I need to actually be able to get the sour oranges off my tree.  This is no small feat here in Miami where sour oranges, avocados, mangos, and mamey sapote are quickly stolen by anyone who can a) jump your fence, b) destroy your fence, c) get past your pets, and want to steal them to to sell them off a truck on the street corners or just take them home to eat.  The sour oranges are different and to understand this you must know that the juice is popular on pork meat (and any other meat really) as a marinade. This complicates matters because citrus begins to flourish now, just around the holidays. But I digress, first I had to fight for my own sour oranges.  After I secured as many as I needed I duly shared with my deserving neighbors, friends and co-workers.  Here is my first pic:

This isn't all the ones I used, you will need about 25 or so to make a decent amount of this marmalade candy concoction.  The next step is just as difficult, remove the rind only.  Leave the pith!  The pith makes the candy!  You can try to grate the rind off using a grater but I find it leave way to much rind and therefore leaves too much bitterness in your final product.

After you grate and/or cut away the colored rind, you have to remove all the pulp from the oranges.  This is where I squeezed all the lovely juice out and saved it in my bottle for future marinading.  These are juicy oranges.

Just so you know this takes a few hours.  No kidding.

Next you need to soak the cleaned piths in water overnight with about a teaspoon of salt.  I omitted this step for my first batch last week and the end result was a little too bitter for my taste.  So I made sure not to omit this for yesterday's/today's batch.  Now comes the boiling.  Discard the soaking water and cover the piths in fresh water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, rinse and repeat a minimum of 2 times.  At this point you should taste the piths and see if it is to your liking but I took it to 1 more boiling round.

After the last boiling round drain again and add equal parts sugar and water to cover the piths.  Cook until the syrup becomes thick, reduced and a light amber color.

The syrup is thick and sweet and the piths keep a very mild bitter orange flavor that works well with the cloying sugary syrup.  This is why you need sour oranges as sweet oranges will not have the flavor punch necessary.

And so, here I begin some holiday stuff.  My next challenge is to make empanadas out of cassava.  This will be another journey into culinary hell but I need to start the engines and stop neglecting my blog. I am following the recipe of another blogger and of course, 3 ingredients to make this cassava dough.  Peeled and grated yucca (cassava root), a little water and a little salt.  Why do I try these crazy things? I also want to take more pictures again.  Ugh, responsibilities always gets in the way but I hope to have lots more time for this year's holiday season.

I found a kitty on election day at my voting station, I named him Romney.  Looks like he will be around when I'm blogging.

So was it the heat or my lack of time? I think it's a combo because the hot oven warms the house during the cool months. Till next time (hopefully this coming week as I already will not be at work from Tuesday through the end of the week, some black friday shopping maybe?  ;-)

Friday, February 10, 2012

What did I eat this week?

I have decided to keep a food diary and recap my weekly culinary attempts.  Let's see if I can remember...I know I made a throw together kind of pasta dish. I didn't feel like marinara so I threw a couple of glugs of olive oil in a pan and added fresh tomatoes, garlic, and dried chillies, heated this up gently and added some cooked spaghetti and just tossed it around with a little pasta water and shredded parmesan cheese.  Turned out rather well and made for a satisfying meatless Monday night dinner. I am trying to go meatless at least one day a week.  On the other hand I also made some great peppery steaks with roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic one night this week.  One of my favorite meals.  Because I have been sick as a dog with a horrible cold and throat infection, I spent two days eating a huge batch of chicken soup I made. My chicken soup starts with boiling whatever parts of the chicken you like to eat, but must include the bone as this makes the best base for any soup or stock.  To this chicken and water I add, salt, pepper, sliced onions, minced garlic, saffron and/or turmeric because I like that yellow color in my chicken soup.  After or when the chicken is almost done I peel my root veggies. I love to add, potatoes, batata (white sweet potato), taro (very little because my mom is the only one who eats this stuff, it tastes like rotten potatoes.  If you have ever had poi then you know), and green and ripe plantains.  The ripe plantain adds a nice touch of sweetness but it must be yellow with very few black dots, if it is too ripe it will become mush.  I boil these in salted water because I never add root veggies to boiling water.  They should always be started in cold water in order to cook evenly.  They boil in the salted water until almost done then I add them to my soup along with some diced carrots.  When this is done I shut off the heat, but leave it on the burner, and add some pasta.  That is my chicken soup and I never give quantities because I think cooking is personal and should be adjusted according to taste. It isn't like baking which has to be precise.

I made some banana muffins and these turned out great.  I followed a basic muffin recipe and just switched out some of the ingredients. I swapped the butter for oil and sour cream that provided plenty of moisture and a lovely tang to balance those overly sweet mashed ripe bananas.  I also added some mini semi sweet chocolate chips, that I always have on hand, and created a lovely crumb topping with brown sugar, flour and butter.

I haven't baked in a while and it is because it has been unseasonably hot even for South Florida and you really don't want your oven heating up the house.  So what else did I make this week...I am making burgers tonight.  I will put these lovely patties on Hawaiian sweet bread buns.  I love this stuff.  I also make my take on bahn mi on this bread it is absolutely delicious, soft and ever so slightly sweet.  I will season the ground chuck with salt, pepper, some minced garlic and onion because I find that the minced veggies keep the meat moist.  After these patties get fried I will top with lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup (food of the gods!), mustard, sliced Vidalia onion and cheese.  I will serve with oven fries both regular and sweet potato fries.  If I remember anything else I will add to this post.  Cheers! Happy eating.