Friday, September 14, 2012

Poblano Pepper Quesadillas with Roasted Tomato Salsa

I'm sneaking back in at I Heart Cooking Clubs for the last couple of weeks of cooking Rick Bayless recipes. I've had a ton of fun making his authentic Mexican dishes for the family and really enjoy his recipes.  When I made these "Crusty Griddle-Baked Quesadillas" I was surprised at what a huge hit they were.  I made half with the roasted poblano peppers and half plain cheese for the kids, which they appreciated since they are not yet poblano fans.  The Tomato Jalapeno sauce is so yummy, it is our new go to salsa recipe and I've made it many times. I love the short ingredient list and depth of flavor. This was a fun recipe to try with the roasting of the poblano peppers and also the homemade quesadilla dough.

Essential Simmered Tomato Jalapeno Sauce
adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
* I usually make a half batch and only use 1 jalapeno so it is not too spicy for the kids

2 and 1/4 pounds tomatoes
3 to 4 fresh jalapeno chiles, stemmed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced (I use about 1/2 tsp onion powder)
1 and 1/2 cups vegetable broth

Roast the tomatoes and chiles on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes then flip and roast on the other side.

Cool, peel the tomatoes (I don't peel them), collecting all juices. Roughly chop the jalapenos (I don't bother to chop them). Coarsely puree the tomatoes (with their juices) and chiles in a food processor or blender.

In a medium size pot, heat the oil over medium. Add half the onion and fry, stirring often, until browned, about 8 minutes. (I just heat up the oil and add the onion powder with the tomato chile puree) Increase the heat to medium high and when very hot, add the tomato-chile puree mixture. Stir for about 5 minutes as the mixture sears and thickens, then reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the broth and simmer about 20 minutes, until just beginning to thicken again. Taste and season with salt. Cover and keep warm.

Crusty Griddle Baked Quesadillas -- Quesadillas Asadas
adapted from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen

For two cups essential roasted poblano rajas
1 pound 6 medium large fresh poblano chiles
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon

Roast the chiles directly over a gas flame or 4 inches  below a very hot broiler until blackened on all sides, about 5 minutes for open flame, about 10 minutes for broiler.

Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand 5 minutes. Peel, pull out the stem and seed pod, then rise briefly to remove bits of skin and seeds. Slice into 1/4 inch strips.

In a medium sized skillet, heat the oil over medium to medium-high, then add the onion and cook, stirring regularly until nicely browned but still a little crunchy about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano, toss a minute longer, then stir in the chiles and just heat through. Taste and season with salt.

1 and 3/4 cups masa harina mixed with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
2 and 1/2 cups shredded Mexican chihuahua cheese, or other melting cheese such as brick or Monterrey Jack

Cut two squares of medium heavy plastic (I used a zip lock bag) to cover the plates of your tortilla press. If necessary, knead a few drops more water into the masa to give it the consistency of a soft cookie dough, then roll it into 12 balls. Cover with plastic.

Turn on the oven to the lowest setting. Heat a large griddle or heavy skillet over medium. (I just use my electric griddle at the highest setting). One by one use the tortillas press to press out the dough between the two sheets of plastic, peel off the top sheet, then flip the uncovered side of the tortilla onto your hand (the top of the tortilla should alight with your index finger and fingers should be slightly spread to give support.) Carefully peel off the plastic, then, with a gentle swift motion, lay the tortilla on the hot griddle. Evenly sprinkle on a portion of the cheese, leaving a 1/2 inch border all around so the cheese doesn't run out onto the griddle, then lay a portion of the rajas down the center.

When the tortilla comes free from the griddle (it will take about 20 seconds) use a spatula to fold it in half, and gently press the edges together, more or less sealing them. Move the quesadillas to the side to continue baking as you begin the next one. Continue making and folding quesadillas, letting them bake on the griddle until crispy/crunchy and nicely browned (the masa on the inside will still be a little soft), 2 or 3 minutes in all. Keep finished quesadillas warm on a rack set on a baking pan in the oven.

When all are made immediately line them up on a warm serving platter or wooden board or basket lined with colored paper or a napkin, and serve with salsa. (I also like some sour cream on the side.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bucatini con Melanzane Spappolate -- Pasta in Chunky Eggplant Sauce

Our My Kitchen My World destination for the month of September is Italy and we are focusing on regional Italian cuisine.  I adore Italian foods and love learning more about the different regions of countries everywhere so I was very excited to give this a go.  I have a few regional Italian cookbooks and used the book, Rustico -- Regional Italian Country Cooking for this cooking questOne recipe that immediately caught my eye was Bucatini con Melanzane Spappolate from the region of Calabria, right at the toe bottom of the boot of Italy...

I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand, including two lovely eggplants that my mom brought over from her garden. This was the first time I've ever had an eggplant sauce like this, with the eggplant essentially  mashed up -- spappolate is derived from spappolare which means to crush, mash, or pulp in Italian. This ended up being a delicious lunch that I wouldn't hesitate to make again, I think the sauce would be delicious with any pasta and also wonderful with spaghetti squash, which I plan to make it with next time.

Bucatini con Melanzane Spappolate 
Bucatini in Chunky Eggplant Sauce
adapted from Rustico -- Regional Italian Country Cooking by Micol Negrin

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped (I used roasted garlic cloves, smashed)
3/4 pounds eggplant, peel on, cut into 1/4 x 1/4 x 3-inch strips
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced (I used 1 pound of canned imported San Marzano tomatoes, and forgot to chop them, just ended up mashing them in a potato masher)
1 teaspoon minced oregano
12 basil leaves, torn
1 pound bucatini (long hollow spaghetti type noodles, also called perciatelli from what I've read)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch saute pan over a medium flame. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, then add the eggplant, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper.

Cook, stirring often, for 25 minutes, or until soft.

Crush the eggplant with a fork into a coarse puree while it is still in the pan, then add the tomatoes and oregano and cook 5 minutes more.

Stir in the basil and keep the sauce warm.

Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the bucatini and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. (Side note -- my pasta box said cooking time was 11 minutes for al dente, so be sure to taste test the pasta before you drain, you do not want it underdone, mine had to cook for about 12 minutes and was still plenty al dente!)  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Toss the bucatini and sauce in a bowl.

Dilute with enough of the reserved cooking water to coat the bucatini and serve hot, dusted with the Pecorino.

If you are an eggplant / tomato / pasta fan, I bet you would enjoy this southern Italian dish too! Can't wait to browse through my cookbooks and try some more regional Italian cuisine!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

End of Summer Tomato Sandwich

Was it really May when I last posted?!? I'm still here! I guess the summer just got the best of me and I decided to just go with the flow and enjoy every crazy minute of it, which meant no time to blog. Here it is September 1st and for whatever reason I figured I'd put a simple post up and try to get back in the blogosphere... 

This is barely a recipe but it has been one of my go to lunches while picky husband is running the grill. Instead of burgers or hot-dogs, I have a yummy tomato sandwich! I have not always loved tomatoes, infact, I didn't like them at all as a child. Tomato sauce, yes, but not anything with an tomato texture in it, thank goodness my tastebuds have changed over the years and I now thoroughly enjoy the once forsaken tomato.

Here are my musts for a tomato sandwich...

toasted bread (preferably and most often homemade French bread from this recipe)
mayonnaise (not too much, but a little on both slices)
fresh tomatoes (this year I grew Cherokee Purple tomatoes and they made amazing sandwiches!)

I also love to add thin slices/crumbles of goat cheese, it adds that perfect tangy touch!

I hope everyone/anyone who reads this has had a wonderful summer!  I can't wait to get back into the blogging grove and hope to have some yummy recipes to share soon :)

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