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Choripanes con escabeche

The humble hot dog gets a new make-over. Evidently, every region and country has its own version of a sausage and a bun. Sometimes I crave a hot dog with just mayo, ketchup and mustard. I respect that kind of simplicity. Other times, I want something with a little more bite and acidity that cuts through the richness of wieners and sausages.

I have a fond memory of a choripan I ate in El Cerro Verde, El Salvador. The word choripan is a combo of the words chorizo, which means sausage, and pan which means bread. The concept is similar to a hot dog, or a German bratwurst with sauerkraut. The relish is made of an escabeche or pickled veggies dressed with a little Dijon mustard and mayonnaise.

Ingredients for Salvadorian Escabeche (for about 4 hot dogs):

  • 1 carrot, julienned (I used 2 small tricolor carrots)
  • 1 can sliced jalapeños, reserve 1 tablespoon of vinegar from the can
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Preparation:

Stir-fry the onions in a little bit of oil until slightly translucent. Add the rest of the veggies, bay leaf, oregano and thyme. Continue to stir-fry and sprinkle in about one tablespoon of the vinegar from the jalapeños and about 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Stir in the mayo and mustard and toss to coat all the veggies. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and use immediately as a topping for hot dogs or sandwiches. The carrots and bell pepper should be crispy al dente.

You will need really good hot dog buns such as brioche, and hot dogs or sausages of your choice. I used a turkey hot dog pictured below. It was yum and with all those veggies.

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Salvadorian Quesadilla

Authentic Salvadorian quesadilla is warm afternoon treat traditionally paired with a good cup of coffee. It should have a subtle cheesy/creamy taste and the texture is sort of like cornbread, slightly grainy from the rice flour and sweetened with sugar, but not like a cake. The cheese used in my recipe is queso fresco which is mild as opposed to hard cheeses. I have tasted quesadillas made with hard cheese and I find that for my taste, parmesan sweet bread is just too strong.

When visiting El Salvador we often drop by a roadside restaurant called La Posada in La Libertad, where quesadillas are made in a wood-fired oven. It’s a very artisanal way of making them. It’s similar to the difference between pizza made in a commercial oven vs pizza made in a wood-fired brick oven. Artisanal quesadillas have a slightly darker color all around from the heat of the terra-cotta ovens. It’s the kind of flavor that you want to capture and replicate.

An authentic Salvadorian quesadilla baked in a wood-fired oven near La Libertad.

The ingredients in El Salvador are natural and fresh and I tried to mimic those flavors the best I could, opting for crème fraîche instead of “Salvadorian” sour cream from the Latino market. Unfortunately, most brands of Salvadorian cream I have found contain additives and it’s just not the real deal. Real Salvadorian cream is the naturally cultured cream top of freshly milked milk. That’s it. So the cream that is the closest thing to Salvadorian cream is actually crème fraîche. I also used high fat 6% A2/A2 whole milk which you can find at specialty stores like Wholefoods.

Ingredients:
  • 1 10 oz queso fresco, crumbled or grated
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (8 oz tub) crème fraîche (or crema)
  • 1 egg (you may add 2 eggs that can be whipped and gently folded into the mixture for a more cake-y, airy consistency)
  • 1 lb (2 cups) rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 12 oz bottle (1 1/2 cups) 6% milk (extra cream top) or whole milk
  • Sesame seeds to garnish
Preparation:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Crumble the cheese using your hands or use your mixed with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add the sugar, cream, and egg. Mix until well combined.
  4. Add the flour and mix on the lowest speed. Slowly add the milk until you end up with batter similar to pancake batter.
  5. Pour the batter in greased baking pans or tins and sprinkle with sesame seeds. I used three 7″ pans plus one 6″ pan because that’s what I had on hand. However, you may use any size pan or baking dish as long as you spread out the batter thinly and evenly. Quesadillas are supposed to be roughly 1 inch thin more or less.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. I baked my quesadillas for roughly 35-40 minutes.
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Egg Crêpes

I was recently contemplating the idea of having some chickens in our small backyard to get some fresh eggs, and after some research, I came to the conclusion that our yard is too small and that it is easier just to buy them. It seemed like a worthwhile endeavor at first because I love eggs so much. I especially like the fresh organic eggs from the farmer’s market because they reminds me of the quality of eggs you get in Europe with almost orageish yolks.

Eggs are versatile and can be cooked in so many different ways for any kind of meal, not just breakfast. In this recipe, the eggs crêpes have a turkey filling, but you could add other ingredients as well. So whatever you have on hand like maybe some ham, cheese, or even left over beef stew would all work here.

Ingredients:

For the crêpes:
  • 6 eggs (for 12 crêpes)
  • 1/3 heavy cream (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil cooking spray or butter (your choice)
Preparation:
  1. Whisk the eggs, cream (if using), salt, and pepper in a large measuring cup or bowl. *I like using a measuring cup because it easier to pour the egg.
  2. Heat a small (6 inch) nonstick skillet over medium-low heat and spray with cooking spray or melt a dab of butter.
  3. Pour close to 3 tablespoons of egg mixture into the center of the skillet, swirling to coat the bottom of the skillet evenly just like a regular crêpe. Once the egg is set, carefully flip the crêpe and cook the other side for about 30 seconds. Transfer the cooked crêpe to a plate and repeat the process. You get about 2 crêpes per egg.
For the ground turkey filling:
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • onion, chopped
  • bell pepper, chopped
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce (regular or spicy)
  • 1 cup water or stock
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • Olive oil cooking spray (or choice of fat to cook with)
  • Any kind of cheese that melts like pepper jack or mozzarella
Preparation:
  1. Heat a medium skillet over medium-low heat and spray with cooking spray (or use a little bit of oil) and brown the ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the chopped onion and bell pepper. Stir and continue cooking for about 5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle Worshcestire sauce, stir.
  4. Add canned tomato sauce and water. Cover and simmer for 10 min.
  5. Add spinach, stir and turn off the heat.
  6. Fill each crêpe with the turkey mixture and some cheese. Roll like a taco and serve.

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Tortellini Soup

I love soups. Right now it’s early spring in California, but it feels a bit wintery with some rainy days here and there and 60 degree weather. I know what you’re thinking if you live in some frigid state somewhere up north. But here, 60s means it’s soup weather.

Here’s a soup that is easy and versatile. You can make different variations of it every time. This time I added some sausage, carrot and spinach because that’s what I happened to have in my fridge. You can make it with just broth or add any veggies you like. It’s really up to you and super easy to make for a quick weeknight meal .

Ingredients:

  • 4 Italian chicken sausage links, sliced
  • 1 diced carrot
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 diced celery stick
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 carton chicken broth
  • Chopped fresh herbs (ex. parsley, basil, thyme, etc) or Italian seasoning
  • 1 lb cheese tortellini
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh spinach leaves, desired amount

Preparation:

  1. Heat a soup pot and spray with some cooking spray or add a tiny bit of olive oil. Brown the sausage.
  2. Add carrots, onion, and celery stick and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the tomato sauce and broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. *Sometimes the sausage is bit a salty so you may not need much salt.
  4. Add the chopped fresh herbs. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are tender.
  5. Add the tortellini and spinach and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat.
  6. Serve and enjoy.
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Pork Chops With Fresh Garden Herbs

Growing your own cooking herbs is no easy feat depending on what types of herbs you use. We are not gardening pros and we are still trying to acquire a green thumb. Cilantro is by far the most delicate of all herbs I have ever tried to cultivate so I still rely on store-bought bundles which, fortunately, are pretty cheap. Here at home we enjoy growing the heartier types like mint, rosemary, thyme and lavender. Sometimes we have basil, parsley and even some romaine lettuce which you see pictured here.

Fresh herbs are great for cooking just about anything. I like the extra freshness they bring to chicken dishes, pot roasts, soups and in this case oven-roasted pork chops. A few sprigs of mint are great for making tea and for Salvadorian meatball soup.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 bone-in loin pork chops
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • fresh herb bundle of your choice, chopped
  • or 2 teaspoons of dried herb mix like herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Prepare a roasting pan by spraying with cooking spray or oil.
  3. Rub the pork chops with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then sprinkle all over with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chopped herbs, salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange all the pork chops in the roasting pan. Transfer the roasting pan with the pork chops into the oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pork chops.
  5. Feel free to add some carrots and/or potatoes to roast right along with the pork chops.
  6. Serve and enjoy with your favorite sides.
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Semita

Out of all types of pan dulce that exist in the Salvadorian repertoire of pastries, this is by far one of my favorites. There are essentially two types of semitas that are popular in El Salvador: semita pacha and semita alta. Flat semita and tall semita. I prefer the flat semita since it’s less bready and dense. It is more like a sandwich of pie crusts with a sweet filling in the middle. When I eat a piece of pie I am all about the crust. I could honestly care much less about the filling. Just give me crust. That is why I love this semita so much. It has a crumbly crusty texture with just the right amount of filling in the middle. It is basically a rustic type of yeast pie crust.

Traditionalists will say you have to mix the ingredients and knead the dough completely by hand. The method involves starting with a well of flour on a clean surface and then incorporating the wet ingredients into the flour until you form a dough. While this method seems to be what you’ll find the most on YouTube videos, I learned that mixing the ingredients using a stand mixer works just fine and the results were better than I expected.

So where does the word semita come from? I am a true history geek at heart. I love to research the meaning and origins of things. So what I discovered is that semita could have its origins in Sephardic Jewish baking with an old Spanish etymology relating to the word bran or coarse flour. It all makes sense to me. Wheat was introduced to the New World by the Spaniards, many of whom were of Jewish descent. So fast forward to today, cafecito and pan dulce in the afternoons has become the Salvadorian tea time. It is the art of slowing down and enjoying the moment.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups wheat bran (or wheat germ)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4-10 tablespoons cold water

Filling:

  • 4 oz fruit jam
  • 5-7 oz piloncillo also known as panela or atado de dulce (unrefined whole cane sugar)

Tips: For this recipe I used our homemade persimmon jam and it turned out really good. I suggest using jams that are kind of pulpy, definitely not jelly like. Pineapple and guava jams are more traditional for semita, but you can experiment with other flavors. I am thinking apple or pumpkin butter for fall.

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven for 3500 F.
  2. Combine flour, bran, baking powder, yeast, sugar, salt, and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed to avoid a flour explosion.
  3. Add the butter a few cubes at a time and mix until the flour looks like coarse, lumpy sand.
  4. Next, add the egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Slowly add cold water, starting with about 4 tablespoons (the dough shouldn’t be wet). When the dough starts to come together it is a good sign that it is moist enough. You should be able to roll a ball in your hand. It is okay to see small bits and streaks of butter in the dough.
  5. Squeeze the dough into a ball and allow it to sit in the mixer bowl until ready to use.
  6. Next, grate the piloncillo with a box grater. Butter a quarter size 9x 13 baking sheet or baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and knead the dough until it is pliable enough to roll out. Sprinkle with flour as much as necessary.
  8. Reserve a little bit of dough to roll out “snakes” to decorate the semita with a lattice. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a traditional lattice for a pie.
  9. Divide the rest of the dough in 2 equal mounds. Roll out the first mound of dough on parchment paper until it is about 1/8 inch thick.
  10. Carefully lift the parchment paper and flip the dough unto the buttered baking sheet. Slowly peel off the paper and press the dough down with your fingers to line all the corners and sides of the baking sheet. Trim off excess dough from the ends and use it to mend holes or short corners.
  11. Spread the jam evenly over the dough and sprinkle the piloncillo all over the jam.
  12. Roll out the second mound of dough on parchment paper and gently flip it over the jam and piloncillo filling. Stretch the dough to cover all the corners and press all the edges to seal.
  13. Roll out some dough “snakes” to form a lattice on top. This is a great activity for kids. It’s like rolling out play-dough with your fingers.
  14. Bake for 30-35 minutes until it’s deep golden brown. Let the semita cool completely before serving. It’s actually better the next day.

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Blueberry Galette with Frangipane Filling

Blueberry galette is almost a weekly necessity around here. It is one of my husband’s love languages, especially a la mode or paired with some good quality vanilla ice cream. Since I make it so often and being that I am a busy mom, I always keep store-bought pie dough in the freezer. A pint or two of blueberries is always on the weekly grocery list, and thankfully, you can find them in stores year round.

A galette is basically a French crusty pie that is rustic and faster to make than a traditional pie. I like using blueberries or any other fruit that holds its shape a bit after cooking. Check out my persimmon post here. Pears and apples work great as well.

Filling a galette with something besides just the fruit is absolutely not necessary, but I like to layer the bottom with frangipane to give it a little more richness. Frangipane is an almond cream that takes this galette to the next level of yum!

Pro-Tips:

  • The amount of sugar used in this recipe can be modified to suit your taste buds. I personally don’t like desserts that are unbearably sweet, especially when paired with ice cream.
  • Use a pie dish lined with a large piece of parchment paper instead of a baking sheet. This prevents the galette from spreading out too much during baking and it helps to contain the fruit and juices inside the shell.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Frozen store-bought pie crust, thawed

For the frangipane filling:

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (1/2 cup if you’d like it sweeter)
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs (beat one of the eggs in a separate bowl and reserve a little bit to brush the galette at the end)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the blueberry filling:

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix the frangipane ingredients in a bowl with a whisk or spatula until it becomes a smooth cream.
  2. Tip: Beat one egg in a small separate bowl. Add some to the frangipane and reserve about 1/2 to use as your egg wash later.
  3. Combine the blueberries with lemon zest, sugar and corn starch in a separate bowl. Toss gently with a spoon.
  4. Lay the pie crust gently over the parchment paper inside the pie dish. Spread the frangipane almond cream evenly over the middle of the crust, leaving about a 2 inch border. Next, spread the blueberries on top of the frangipane. Fold the dough up and over the blueberries and pleat the entire border.
  5. Brush the dough with the reserved egg wash. Sprinkle with some sugar and slivered almonds to create a really crispy crust and add texture.
  6. Bake the galette for 35-40 min until the crust is just golden brown. The blueberries and frangipane will be a bit bubbly. Allow to set and cool for at least 2 hrs.

Serving the galette with ice cream or whipped cream is highly suggested!

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Italian Not-Just-For-Sunday Sauce

When I first met my husband I was introduced to a new culture. Originally from the Philadelphia region, his dad’s side of the family grew up surrounded by Italian culture, being second generation children of an Italian father. I grew up eating pasta. My mom always made Salvadorian style spaghetti with a little bit of cream or a simple tomato sauce with tomato paste, water and some chicken bouillon. The next day she would scramble left over spaghetti with eggs and put in a sandwich roll and pack it in my lunch bag. In other words, I always had a connection to pasta because it’s economical and you can make it simple but delicious. I also knew Italian food from Olive Garden, but I had never had pasta before in an Italian home. I didn’t know about anti-pasto bites like asparragus wrapped in prosciutto, salame and homemade pizzelle cookies. I had never tasted the robust meatballs and sausage that always welcomed us at grandma’s house in Philly, not just on Sunday but on any special day. It turns out, after doing some DNA research, that my father-in-law’s ancestors were originally from the Abruzzo region in Italy and their traditions have apparently survived in their cooking that I am now proud to help pass on to the next generation. I also have a tiny of percentage of Sardinian which I fully embrace. And I am not going to go into a long history lesson here, but the moral of the story is that I love the way food reconnects us to who we are deep inside.

Here’ s a family recipe for Sunday Sauce like my mother-in-law taught me with a few of my own modifications.

The first element is the meatballs. Next are the Italian sausages, which should be browned before adding them to the sauce. Last but not least, I added braciole to make this dish extra special.

Meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb roll of sage sausage
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese or Pecorino Romano
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley
  • A dab of mustard (optional)
  • Salt & pepper

Braciole:

  • 1 lb top round beef, thinly sliced and pounded
  • 1 cup of Italian or seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Chopped parsley
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Provolone cheese, cubed or grated
  • Slices of prosciutto di Parma, one for each slice of beef

For the sauce:

  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 3 cans of diced tomatoes, blended
  • 1 jar of homemade passata or substitute with 1 can tomato juice or sauce
  • 1 small onion quartered
  • 1 bell pepper, quartered and deseeded
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A large bundle of fresh parsley and basil tied with kitchen twine
  • Red wine
  • 1 package of 5 mild Italian sausages cut in half and browned

Preparation:

First make the meatballs by combining all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with clean hands and form balls about the size of golf balls. Place them on a baking sheet that has been previously sprayed with non-stick cooking oil. Bake the meatballs at 350F for 30 minutes or until browned. You can also fry the meatballs, but I prefer to bake them so I can cook other things while the meatballs are in the oven.

To make braciole, begin by pounding the meat slices on a cutting board by placing the meat in between two sheets of plastic wrap. I prefer using a ziplock back because it will hold up until you finish pounding all the meat. Place all the meat slices in an assembly line on some parchment or wax paper. Next, mix the parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs and parsley. To begin the assembly, place a slice of prosciutto, then the breadcrumb mixture on top of each slice and roll. Tie each meat roll-up with two pieces of kitchen twine and continue the assembly. Next, brown the braciole on all sides in a pan o pot with a little olive oil or spray. Save aside for later.

To make the sauce, add a little more oil or cooking spray to the same pot and fry up the onion, garlic and bell pepper along with the tomato paste. This mixture will start to brown. At this point you can add about a cup of red of wine and bring it to a simmer deglazing the pot at the same time. Those bits and pieces will add flavor to your sauce.

Layer the braciole, meatballs and browned sausage in a slow cooker. Next, pour the wine mixture, tomato sauce and blended diced tomatoes over the meat. Place the herb bundle on top, add a little salt and pepper and cover. Cook on high for 5 hrs then switch to low or warm (or cook on low heat for 3hrs if you are making this on the stove top). You can lightly stir it occasionally and push the herbs down so they get immersed into the sauce. Taste and adjust the flavor. If the sauce tastes a bit tart, feel free to add a pinch or more of sugar.

*The sausages and the meatballs add lots of flavor to the sauce so don’t go crazy with the salt, but rather add a pinch here and there gradually until the sauce reaches your desired level of saltiness.

Remove the herb bundle and large pieces of onion/bell pepper before serving with pasta of your choice.

Summer Tarts

This week I went tart crazy! I had an opportunity to cook for a friend who had surgery recently and who also happens to have a gluten intolerance. I cooked a full meal of stuffed bell peppers and rice, and for dessert I made these fruity tarts. The crust is gluten-free and made with almonds, walnuts, and cashews. It’s nutty, crunchy, and more flavorful than a traditional pastry crust in my humble opinion. The filling is passion fruit pastry cream.

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You are probably familiar with passion fruit which can be found in juices, desserts, teas, and much more. This tropical fruit tastes a little bit like guava, but less intense, and it has a bit of tartness like kiwi. Growing up in El Salvador I became familiar with a few different kinds of granadillas, which is a general name for any fruit that resembles passion fruit. It looks like a maraca and it has pulp and seeds inside. I’ve been looking for fresh passion fruit to photograph and add to this post without much luck. My quest isn’t over yet though. But for now, frozen pulp will have to do. You can find it in Latino grocery stores. If you can’t find it, you can use actual juice that has passion fruit in it.

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I meant to make mango tarts to compliment the tropical flavor of the passion fruit, but my mangoes were not ripe enough, so I had to improvise and use other fruit I had in the fridge. As a cook you have to improvise all the time and make things work with what you have available. It’s impromptu experimentation that leads to new discoveries. My inspiration for part of the recipe was Pati Jinich’s Mango Tart, especially the apricot and wine glaze.

Passion Fruit Tart

Nut Crust:

1 ½ cups mix of nuts like walnuts, cashews, pistachios, or pecans (peanuts are fine if you’re not allergic)   
1 cup almond flour (or grind your own almonds)
¼ cup maple syrup or honey (sugar is fine, too)
1 egg
¼ cup cold butter, cubed (½ stick of butter)

Passionfruit Pastry Cream:

½ cup milk (I had 2% in the fridge)
¾  cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-5 egg yolks (I used the leftover yolks from this Swiss Meringue Recipe)
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup thawed passionfruit pulp or juice

Fruit:

Any fruit you have available such as strawberries, mango, canned mandarin oranges, berries, kiwi, etc.

Glaze:

½ cup apricot jam
½ cup white wine or orange liqueur (you can use sub orange juice)

Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350F. Grind the nuts in a food processor. Next, add the rest of the crust ingredients and pulse until the mix gets crumbly. You do not want a ball of dough.

Use mini tart pans with removable rings. This mix makes 8 4 inch tarts or 1 large 10 inch tart.

Press some of the nut mix into the bottom and up the sides of each tart pan. Bake the crusts on a large cookie sheet for about 15-17 minutes or until slightly golden. Allow to cool completely in the pans.

You can work on the next two steps while the crusts are baking and cooling:

Glaze: In a small saucepan, combine the apricot jam and wine. Mix to fully dissolve and simmer on low-medium heat until it reduces and becomes syrupy. This will take about 10 minutes. Cool and set aside. It thickens up a bit more when it cools.

Passionfruit Pastry Cream: In a bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Measure the milk and cream in a measuring cup and add the egg yolks. Whisk to combine the egg yolks and milk. Add the milk and egg mixture to the the sugar and cornstarch and whisk to combine. This is the easy method. No need to heat the milk first to temper the eggs.

Pour the cream mixture into a saucepan and set over medium heat and mix consistently with a wooden spoon until it thickens.  Add the passionfruit pulp at the end and stir the cream a little more to incorporate into the cream. Cool and place in the fridge until ready to use.

To assemble your tarts, begin by filling the crusts with a couple of tablespoons of cream. Arrange the fruit on top however you wish. Have fun with the process. If making 1 large tart you may want to arrange sliced fruit in a circle starting from the edges and working your way towards the center.

Brush the fruit with the glaze. Refrigerate the tarts overnight to set. Gently remove cooled tarts from the tart rings before serving.

Light & Easy Peach Tart (Gluten Free)

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You Need:

Nut Crust 
Filling: About 2 cups of peach yogurt or greek yogurt mixed with a little honey (for 8 mini tarts)
Sliced peaches or plums
Glaze: ¼  cup honey & ¼ cup orange juice (no need to cook or reduce)

Follow the steps above to make the crusts for 8 tarts. Allow the baked crusts to cool to room temperature.

Fill each tart with yogurt and top with peaches and/or plums. Brush with honey/orange juice glaze. Sprinkle with some crushed nuts and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving.

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Plátanos: Plantains

Plantains, bananas, and banana leaves are deeply ingrained in Latin American cuisine. Plantains are more dense than bananas and mostly used in cooking whereas bananas are eaten as fruit. Bananas and plantains have an interesting origin and are perhaps one of those fusion ingredients brought by the explorers to the new world from Asia in the Columbian Exchange. Some sources say they come from Africa, India, or Southeast Asia. In Central America and in the Caribbean bananas are called guineos which is actually a clue to their possible origin, not Guinea in Africa where they were brought perhaps in the 13th century by Muslim traders, but a more likely origin is the island of Papua New Guinea as well as the Philippines.

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Most likely due to their versatility, starchy texture, and high nutritional value, bananas and plantains quickly became staples all over Central America and the Caribbean where the climate is tropical and ideal to grow all sorts of banana varieties.  It was used both for the fruit and for intercropping. It became a cheap source of food for the slave population of the Caribbean, hence evolving into the numerous ways in which bananas and plantains are used in Caribbean cuisine today.  Banana leaves are used to wrap tamales and in other recipes it is steamed like in pollo en achiote. The leaves are not actually eaten but they add a subtle flavor to foods that is very unique to Mesoamerican, South American, and Caribbean cuisine. Who came up with the idea of wrapping tamales in banana leaves? I’m not sure. However, in tropical climates bananas leaves are plentiful whereas corn husks may not be as widely available.  Wrapping tamales in any kind of edible leaf is a tradition dating back to pre-Columbian times. Cooking is all about creativity, being resourceful, and using whatever is available in your environment. That’s something that we take for granted given the wide variety of goods from around the world found today in supermarkets.

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The manzano plantain that you see above here is what used to grow in my childhood home in El Salvador. We planted only a couple of trees at first, but they didn’t take long to quickly multiply so we always had an abundant supply of this type of plantain that we know as guineo majoncho. One of my favorite afternoon snacks was fried majonchos and also plantains cooked in simple syrup and cinnamon. It’s what you do as a kid in El Salvador. Any fruit or vegetable becomes a snack and you learn to cook early on in life. You became resourceful and snacks didn’t need to be store bought.

On our trip to France a few years back we had the wonderful opportunity to sample West African dishes for the first time at the home of our friends from Benin. Fried plantains were served with chicken and rice. It was an African dish, yet it tasted and looked very familiar to me.  It was almost identical to what you would find in a Cuban restaurant. That’s when I first began to wonder about the origins of plantains and how they became infused in Latin American cooking. I find those kind of things very fascinating.

Plátanos en gloria: Plantains cooked in syrup

Very easy.

Ingredients:

  • Ripe plantains, peeled and sliced
  • Two cups of water or more depending on how many plantains you’re making
  • 1 cup of sugar or 1/2 cup of agave syrup
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan or pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy consistency and the plantains are slightly browned.

Serve with sour cream or yogurt. It makes a great topping for pancakes or French toast.

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Plátanos rellenos con picadillo: Stuffed Plantains

Ingredients:

  • Ripe plantains
  • 1/3 lb ground pork for two plantains
  • Finely chopped bell pepper, tomato, and onion
  • Capers
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Any kind of cheese that melts

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut a slit lengthwise through the plantain being careful not to cut all the way through. Remove the skin. Place them in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Roast uncovered for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the meat filling or picadillo. Add olive oil to a pan and brown the ground pork. Season with salt and pepper, then add the bell pepper, tomato, onion, and about a tablespoon of capers. Continue browning until the meat is cooked through and flavorful from the added ingredients.

Stuff the plantains with meat filling and sprinkle some cheese on top. Put them back in the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese and they’ll be ready to serve!

Sweet Plantain Empanadas

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We have two versions in El Salvador, either with a custard filling or refried beans. As a kid I preferred the custard filling or leche poleada. It’s a yummy dessert.

Ingredients for 8 empanadas:

  • 4 ripe (but not too ripe) plantains
  • 3 tablespoons coconut flour or plain flour (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Coconut oil or canola oil for frying

Leche Poleada (Milk Custard):

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups half & half or whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cook the plantains:

Cut the tips off the plantains and then cut in half, cover with water in a pot, and add a cinnamon stick. Cook them over medium heat for about 15 min. or until you seem them plump up a bit. Peel and mash the plantains with a fork or masher and add a tablespoon of coconut flour, one at a time until it becomes the mixture becomes a soft dough. Coconut flour is not a traditional ingredient in Salvadorian empanadas, but after experimenting I find that the dough is easier to manage without tasty too doughy and I love the flavor of coconut. Make sure to oil your hands to prevent the dough from sticking.

Filling:

*Next, let’s prepare the filling. We call it leche poleada and it can be prepared to the desired thickness or consistency depending on what it’s being used for. In this case, it needs to be a very stiff custard so that it doesn’t ooze out of the empanadas. You can also use refried beans in this recipe, which need to be cooked down to about the same consistency as the plantain dough.

Combine all the custard ingredients in a blender. Pour the mixture in a saucepan and heat slowly on medium heat. Stir constantly  for about 5 minutes with a wooden or plastic spoon until it thickens up almost to a doughy consistency. Remove from the heat.

Assembling and frying:

Next, make a ball of plantain dough with wet or oiled hands and flatten it like a tortilla. Place about a tablespoon of the custard in the middle and close up the empanadas between both hands making sure to seal all the sides. Repeat the process.

In a deep skillet, add enough oil to fry the empanadas.  Fry the empanadas on medium heat until they brown on all sides. Drain excess oil on paper towels. Serve warm and rolled over sugar and cinnamon.

*Coconut oil is not traditionally used in this recipe but I think it adds a delicious aroma and layer of flavor that complements the plantains really well. Plus, coconut oil is very heat resistant and better for you.

En Español

Los guineos, plátanos y hojas de huerta están profundamente arraigados en la cocina latinoamericana. Los plátanos son más densos que los guineos o bananos y se utilizan principalmente para cocinar, mientras que los bananos se comen como fruta.Los bananos y plátanos tienen un origen interesante y son quizás uno de esos ingredientes traídos por los exploradores al nuevo mundo desde Asia  a través del intercambio colombino. Algunas fuentes dicen que vienen de África, de la India o del sudeste asiático. En América Central y en el Caribe los bananos se llaman guineos, lo cual es una pista de su posible origen, no Guinea en África, donde fueron llevados tal vez en el siglo XIII por comerciantes musulmanes; pero un origen más probable es la isla de Papua Nueva Guinea y las Filipinas.

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Probablemente debido a su versatilidad, textura densa y alto valor nutricional los plátanos rápidamente se convirtieron en alimentos básicos en toda Centroamérica y el Caribe, donde el clima es tropical e ideal para cultivar todo tipo de variedades de banano. Se utilizaba como fruta pero también para el cultivo intercalado. Se convirtió en una fuente barata de nutrición para la población esclava del Caribe, por lo tanto, esto evolucionó en las numerosas formas en que los guineos y plátanos se utilizan en la cocina caribeña hasta hoy. Las hojas del plátano se utilizan para envolver tamales y en otras recetas se cuece al vapor así como en pollo en achiote. Las hojas no se comen, pero añaden un sabor sutil a las comidas lo cual es muy típico en la cocina mesoamericana, sudamericana y caribeña. ¿Quién tuvo la idea de envolver tamales en hojas de plátano? No estoy segura. Sin embargo, en los climas tropicales las hojas de plátanos son abundantes, mientras que la tusa de maíz no siempre está ampliamente disponible. Envolver tamales en cualquier tipo de hoja comestible es una tradición que se remonta a la época precolombina. El cocinar se trata de ser ingenioso y utilizar lo que está disponible a su alrededor. Eso es algo que damos por sentado dada la gran variedad de productos de todo el mundo que se encuentran hoy en los supermercados.

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El plátano manzano que usted ve aquí es lo que solía crecer en mi hogar de infancia en El Salvador. Primero plantamos sólo un par de huertas, pero no tardaron en multiplicarse rápidamente, por lo que siempre tuvimos una abundante cosecha de este tipo de plátano que conocemos como el guineo majoncho. Una de mis meriendas favoritas de la tarde era majonchos fritos o plátanos en gloria. Es lo que haces cuando eres niño creciendo en El Salvador. Cualquier fruta o verdura se convierte en una merienda y aprendes a cocinar desde bien pequeño. En El Salvador aprendemos a rebuscarnos y no todo necesita ser comprado en la tienda.

En nuestro viaje a Francia hace unos años tuvimos la maravillosa oportunidad de probar platilllos de África Occidental por primera vez en la casa de nuestros amigos de Benin. Nos sirvieron plátanos fritos con pollo y arroz. Era un plato africano, pero sabía y me parecía muy familiar. Era casi idéntico a lo que se puede encontrar en un restaurante cubano. Esa fue la primera vez que comencé a preguntarme sobre los orígenes de los plátanos y cómo se infundieron en la cocina latinoamericana. Este tipo de cosas me fascinan a mí.

Plátanos en gloria: Plátanos cocidos en almíbar

Muy fácil.

Ingredientes:

  • Plátanos maduros, pelados y rebanados
  • Dos tazas de agua o más dependiendo de la cantidad de plátanos que esté haciendo
  • 1 taza de azúcar o 1/2 taza de jarabe de agave
  • 1 palito de canela

Agregue todos los ingredientes a una cacerola o una olla pequeña. Hierva y luego cocine a fuego lento durante unos 30 minutos o hasta que el líquido se haya reducido a un almibar y los plátanos cambien a un color acaramelado.

Servir con crema o yogur. Son muy ricos con para panqueques o torrejas.

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Plátanos rellenos

Ingredientes:

  • Plátanos maduros
  • 1/3 libra de carne de cerdo molida para dos plátanos
  • Chile verde, tomate, y cebolla finamente picados
  • Alcaparras
  • Aceite de oliva
  • Sal y pimienta
  • Cualquier tipo de queso que se derrite

Precaliente el horno a 400 ° F. Se hace una rajadura a lo largo de cada plátano teniendo cuidado de no cortar a través de todo el plátano. Retire la cascara. Coloquelos en un recipiente para hornear y rocíe con aceite de oliva. Hornearlos sin tapar durante unos 20 minutos.

Mientras tanto, prepare el relleno o picadillo. Añada un poco de aceite de oliva a una sartén y dore la carne de cerdo molida. Sazone con sal y pimienta, luego agregue el chile, tomate, cebolla y una cucharada de alcaparras. Continúe dorando hasta que la carne esté cocinada y sabrosa con ingredientes añadidos.

Rellene los plátanos con la mezcla de carne y ponga un poco de queso encima. Póngalos de nuevo en el horno durante un par de minutos para derretir el queso y estarán listos para servir!

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Empanadas de plátano

Tenemos dos versiones en El Salvador, ya sea con un relleno de leche poleada o frijoles fritos. De niña prefería las de leche poleada. Es un delicioso postre.

Ingredientes para 8 empanadas:

4 plátanos maduros (pero no demasiado maduros)
3 cucharadas de harina de coco o harina sencilla (opcional)
1/2 cucharadita de canela molida
Aceite de coco o aceite de canola para freír*

Leche Poleada (también conocido como manjar blanco):

1/2 taza de maicena
2 tazas de leche entera
1/2 taza de azúcar
1/2 cucharadita de canela molida
1 cucharadita de extracto de vainilla

Hervir los plátanos:

Corte las puntas de los plátanos y después partalos por mitad, cubra con agua en una olla y añada un palito de canela. Cocine a fuego medio durante unos 15 min. o hasta que esten cocidos. Pele y aplaste los plátanos con un tenedor o triturador y agregue una cucharada de harina de coco, una a la vez hasta que la mezcla se convierta en una masa suave. La harina de coco no es un ingrediente tradicional en las empanadas salvadoreñas, pero después de experimentar me parece que la masa es más fácil de manejar y además pues me encanta el sabor a coco. Asegúrese de untarse aceite en sus manos para evitar que la masa se le pegue.

Relleno:

* A continuación, preparamos el relleno. Le llamamos leche poleada y se puede preparar de acuerdo al espesor deseado o la consistencia dependiendo para qué lo va a utilizar. En este caso, tiene que ser una crema muy espesa y durita para que no se le salga a las empanadas. También puede utilizar frijoles fritos en esta receta los cuales necesitan estar bien cocidos y fritos hasta llegar a  la misma consistencia de la masa de plátano. A estos les conocemos como frijoles colochos en El Salvador.

Combine todos los ingredientes de la leche poleada en una licuadora. Vierta la mezcla en una ollita y caliente lentamente a fuego medio-bajo. Revuelva constantemente durante unos 5 minutos con una cuchara de madera o plástico hasta que se espese a casi una consistencia pastosa. Retirar del fuego.

Para preparar las empanadas:

A continuación, hacer una bola de una masa de plátano con las manos untadas de aceite y aplane con las dos palmas como una tortilla. Coloque alrededor de una cucharada de la leche poleada en el medio y cierre las empanadas entre las dos manos sellando bien todos los lados. Repita este proceso para hacer el resto de las empanadas.

En una sartén profunda, agregue suficiente aceite para freír las empanadas. Fría las empanadas a fuego medio hasta que se doren por todos lados. Pongalas sobre toallas de papel para absorban el aceite. Sirva las empanadas calientitas y espolvoreadas con azúcar y canela.

 

* El aceite de coco no se utiliza tradicionalmente en esta receta, pero creo que añade un delicioso aroma y sabor que complementa los plátanos muy bien. Además, el aceite de coco es muy resistente al calor y mejor para la salud.

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References:
Admin, and Pete Diaz Says. “News.” The Austin Times. N.p., 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 18 Mar.  2017. <http://www.theaustintimes.com/2010/01/the-history-behind-tamales/&gt;.
“Early History of the Banana.” Early History of the Banana. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2017. <http://cwh.ucsc.edu/bananas/Site/Early%20History%20of%20the%20Banana.html&gt;.