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Friday, February 27, 2015

Tomatillo-Chilpotle Salsa

I usually make this sauce when making Tacos con Carne Asada. You can also make it as a dipping sauce for tortilla chips (see photo below). It can also accompany any grilled meat or chicken, veggies, potatoes, etc... As you see it has many uses!

This sauce has a smoky and spicy flavor from the chilpotle pepper that combines perfectly with your tacos. Chilpotle or, more widely known in the US as chipotle, is a smoked jalapeño used in Mexican cooking. You can find it dried, powdered or canned. I am using the canned version for this recipe, which you can usually find in the international section of your grocery store.

Tomatillo is a fruit that resembles a green tomato. It grows in a paper-like husk that has to be removed before cooking. Tomatillos are a staple of Mexican cooking and you can easily find them in US supermarkets.

Tips: The spiciness in this sauce comes from the chilpotle. If you don't like your sauce spicy, you should remove all the seeds from the jalapeños and skip the chilpotle.


2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1lb tomatillos (husks removed, rinsed and quartered)
1 medium tomato (quartered)
1 red onion (quartered)
2 jalapeños (seeds removed and cut in half lengthwise)
2 garlic cloves (peeled)
1-2 canned chilpotle peppers
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (chopped)

Preheat broiler to high. Place tomatillos, tomato, onion, jalapeños and garlic on a baking pan, add the olive oil and mix well.  Place the baking pan in the oven on the top rack and cook until tender and slightly charred (about 25 minutes), turning the vegetables occasionally.

Ready to go in the oven

Vegetables are tender and slightly charred

Place the vegetables in a blender and pulse a few times until roughly blended. Stir in the cilantro and pulse again. Season with salt to taste.

Place salsa in an oven safe dish and bake at 450ºF with goat cheese for 10 minutes. Serve as an appetizer with tortilla chips.


Tacos de Carne Asada with Caramelized Onions

The only secret to this Mexican dish is to marinate your flank steak. I like to marinate mine for about 2 hours in the fridge and bring it to room temperature before grilling. A mix of acidic, sweet and spicy marinade is perfect for this type of meat and will bring a tender, flavorful and well browned steak. You can grill your flank steak in one piece which adds more convenience. For the tacos, flank steak should be sliced very thinly against the grain; it should be cooked rare or medium-rare. Well-done flank steak is dry and rubbery. Always remember to allow meat to rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board before carving. Finally, don't worry if you have leftovers from your grilled flank steak. You will be able to use it in sandwiches, salads, more tacos the next day or just eat them straight out of the fridge with mustard.

The queen of this taco is the sauce, spicy and smoky, yields an incredible flavor to this dish. You can find the recipe to make the Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa here.

You can add whatever garnishes you like to your taco, including avocado, guacamole, queso fresco, micro greens, cilantro leaves, Mexican crema or sour cream, lime wedges, etc...

To warm your tortillas you will need to:

1. Preheat skillet or pan and warm one tortilla at a time; or
2. Place 6 tortillas in the microwave separated by a damp paper towel and heat for 30 to 40 seconds.


Serves 4

2 lbs flank steak
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 orange
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 red onion (sliced)
1/2 cup tequila
1/4 teaspoon tabasco
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

12 corn tortillas (warmed)

Garnish with: queso fresco, avocado, guacamole, micro greens, cilantro, sour cream, lime.

Marinate and cook flank steak: Place meat in a shallow dish and add juice of lemon, lime, orange, the garlic cloves, red onion, tequila and tabasco. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Bring meat to room temperature. (While meat comes to room temperature you can start cooking the caramelized red onions -see below-) When ready to grill, pat dry meat with a paper towel and brush with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Heat a grill pan over high. Grill the steak over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Allow meat to rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board. Slice very thinly across the grain.

Cook the caramelized red onions: Heat a pan over high-medium and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add red onions from your marinade and reserve liquid. Cook onions for 10 minutes stirring occasionally, then add reserved liquid and cook over high until liquid has completely absorbed.

Place meat in warm tortillas and serve with caramelized red onions, Tomatillo-Chilpotle Salsa and other garnishes.


Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pasta with Broccoletti, Red Onion, Sausage and Cherry Tomatoes

Today I am making an easy pasta, perfect for any weekday night when everyone is in a rush! I am using broccoletti, a vegetable very similar to broccoli, but smaller and very sweet. Broccoletti is a hybrid vegetable between broccoli and gai lan or Asian broccoli. To me, the stem resembles the taste of green asparagus while the florets have broccoli notes. It is really tender and cooks very fast. You probably did not grow up eating broccoletti, the reason being it is a new vegetable that has been in the market since the 90s. Nowadays you can find broccoletti in every grocery store in the US.

Tips: Always cook your pasta al dente and reserve some of the pasta boiling water in case you need to add it to your sauce.
You can substitute cherry tomatoes for sun dried tomatoes. You can substitute broccoletti for broccoli.
If you buy sausages, cut and discard the casing; you will only need the meat for this recipe.


Serves 5

1lb  spaghetti or other pasta
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1lb broccoletti (washed and chopped into bite-size pieces)
1lb Italian sausage meat
1 red onion (sliced)
15-20 cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In the meantime prepare the sauce. Heat a large deep pan over high heat and add olive oil and Italian sausage. Sauté the sausage meat breaking up with a spoon until browned (about 4 minutes). Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and broccoletti. Sauté stirring occasionally for about 3-4 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Boil the pasta until al dente according to package instructions and reserve 1/2 cup of starchy boiling water. Drain and do not rinse.

Toss the pasta in the sauce and add the 1/4 cup of reserved water and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

This traditional Italian pasta dish is made with onions, bacon, Parmesan, eggs, salt and freshly ground pepper. It is a perfect weekday dinner for the entire family: you can have it on the table in 20 minutes or less and everyone will enjoy it!


Serves 4

1 lb dry spaghetti
2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion (chopped)
1/2 lb good quality bacon (chopped)
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs (beaten)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Start by making the Carbonara Sauce: Heat a medium deep skillet over medium heat and add olive oil and onions; cook over medium-low heat until onions are translucent, about 12-15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add bacon and continue cooking stirring frequently for another 9-10 minutes until bacon is cooked and browned.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and let cool.

In a large bowl beat the eggs well and add the grated Parmesan. When the bacon and onions have cooled down, transfer to the bowl containing the eggs-Parmesan mixture with a slotted spoon. You can choose to add all the remaining fat to your sauce or discard the same.

Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta and stir; cook over high heat stirring occasionally following the package instructions (usually 8-10 minutes). Pasta should be tender yet al dente. Drain pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of the starchy boiling water.

Mix pasta and sauce: Immediately after draining the pasta, pour the spaghetti onto the carbonara sauce and mix thoroughly.  Tip: You have to mix the pasta and sauce right away so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs. The eggs should thicken but not scramble.
Add 1/4 cup (or less) of the reserved water from boiling the pasta and mix.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Pork Chops with Blackberry Chutney

Chutney is a thick sauce of Indian origin that contains fruit, vinegar, sugar and spices. You can make  chutney with your favorite fruit and, depending on the spices you use, it will be sweet or spicy. Chutneys are also great with cheese!

This is a very easy recipe that looks amazing. You need about 1/2 hour to make the chutney and cook the pork chops. You can even make the chutney ahead and refrigerate it;  then leave the pork chops for the last minute.


Serves 4

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
4 pork chops

1 package of blackberries (6 oz.)
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot (minced)
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 garlic clove (minced)
1 tablespoon of mustard seeds
2 teaspoons of grated peeled ginger
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Start by making the blackberry chutney: Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the shallots, cook until shallot begins to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add sugar, vinegar, water, garlic, mustard seeds, ginger and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and cook over high heat for 2 minutes.
Add washed blackberries, bring to a gentle boil, cover and simmer over low heat for 8 minutes.
Uncover and continue cooking over medium heat until juices have thickened, about 10-12 minutes.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Serve at room temperature.

Continue by cooking the pork chops: Heat a skillet over high heat and add olive oil and pork chops; cook over medium heat until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes on each side depending on thickness of pork chop) flipping once. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the pork chop covered with the blackberry chutney.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Colorful Winter Citrus Salad with Walnuts

Did you know that citrus are at their peak season? If you want to find the juiciest, sweetest, most flavorful citrus now is that time of the year. Gather all the different citrus you can find at your grocery store: blood oranges, tangelos, clementines, pink and white grapefruit, ugli fruit, cara cara oranges, regular oranges, kumquats, etc... They all have different flavors and colors, perfect to make a seasonal citrus salad topped with the peels from all of them and some more. I like to add the peel of limes and lemons to give it even more color.

You will have a very colorful, healthy (lots of Vitamin C), gluten-free, vegan and tasty dessert in 20 minutes.


Serves 4

1 orange
1 cara cara orange
1 blood orange
1/2 pink grapefruit
1/2 white grapefruit
1 mineola tangelo
1 ugli fruit
3 clementines
8 kumquats

peel of 1 orange
peel of 1/2 pink grapefruit
peel of 1/2 lemon
peel of 1 lime

1 cup of water
1/2 cup of sugar
2 oz Grand Marnier (optional)

1/4 cup of walnuts

Start by zesting the citrus: using a vegetable peeler or knife remove the top layer of the orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime making sure not to remove the pith. Use a sharp knife to slice finely the peeled pieces.

Make the syrup: In a small pan put the water, sugar and sliced citrus peels. Bring to a boil and cook covered at low heat until the peels are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the Grand Marnier and cook at medium-high heat for another 1 or 2 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Prepare the citrus: Peel and slice all your citrus and assemble in a large serving platter. Add citrus peels and syrup. Top with walnuts or your favorite nut.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Minestrone Soup

We need some warming up in Chicago after the last blizzard and subzero temperatures! This minestrone soup will do it! Plus it is a complete meal with vegetables, pasta and protein from red beans!

Did you know that you can use Parmesan rinds instead of throwing them away? I wondered for a long time what was the use of those Parmesan rinds that Whole Foods Market sells packed for $3 a box of 1/2 lb. Well, finally I found out you can make the best broth for Minestrone Soup, sauces for pasta, stews, etc... Next time, please save your Parmesan rinds in a Ziploc bag and freeze them until you have enough to make Parmesan broth! It will add so much flavor to all your dishes!


Serves 4

For the Parmesan Broth:

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion (quartered)
1 garlic head (cut in half)
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leave
1 bunch of parsley
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 lb Parmesan rinds
1 cup of white wine
3 quarts of water

For the Soup:

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks
3 celery ribs
3-4 carrots (if you have tricolor it will add more color to your soup)
1 bunch of green chard
1/2  cup of cooked red beans
1/2 cup of small size pasta

Start by making the Parmesan broth:  Heat a large pot and add olive oil, onion,  garlic, thyme, bay leave, parsley and black peppercorns. Sauté for 3 minutes until beginning to brown. Add white wine and cook for another minute, then add Parmesan rinds and water. Bring to a boil and cook covered at low heat for about 2 hours. Let cool and strain through a fine mesh sieve.

Continue making the soup: Chop your vegetables in small pieces. Heat a large pot and add olive oil, sauté leeks, celery, carrots and beans for a couple of minutes, then add 1 and 1/2 quarts of Parmesan broth, bring to a boil, cover and cook at low heat for 10 minutes. Add pasta and green chard and cook covered for another 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Add more Parmesan broth if you need to. Season with salt and pepper.

Eat right away before the pasta gets mushy!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Curried Meatballs with Basmati Rice, Raisins and Pine Nuts


Serves 6

2 lbs ground veal
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of parsley (minced)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1 slice of white bread
1/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1 onion (chopped)
2 teaspoons of curry powder
1 and 1/4 cup of chicken stock
salt and pepper

2 cups Basmati Rice
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of pine nuts (toasted)
1/4 cup of raisins
2 and 1/4 cups of warm water


Heat milk and add the bread; mix well.

Milk and bread mixture

In a large bowl add ground veal, eggs, parsley, garlic cloves, bread/milk mixture, salt and pepper.  Combine all the ingredients thoroughly.

Meat mixture
Start making small-medium balls with the meat and dust with flour; set aside.

Heat a deep skillet and add olive oil. Working in batches, start frying the meatballs until golden brown on both sides (about 1 and 1/2 minutes on each side at medium heat); transfer meatballs to a Dutch oven or medium pan.

Transfer meatballs to a Dutch Oven

Using the same skillet and olive oil, add onions and cook covered at low heat until soft (about 10-12 minutes); add curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes; add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Put a food mill on top of the Dutch Oven and transfer the onions, curry and chicken stock to the food mill. Mash the onions to make the sauce for the meatballs.

Mash the onions to make the sauce

Bring Dutch Oven to a gentle boil, season with salt and pepper and cook covered at low heat for 15 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cooked meatballs

Basmati Rice with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Heat a deep pan and add olive oil and rice; stir rice and cook for 2 minutes; add warm water and season with salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes (Tip: do not uncover pan while rice is cooking; lid should fit tightly) Remove from heat and add raisins, cover again and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir rice with a fork before serving.

Toast the pine nuts in a skillet at medium heat stirring often until golden brown (about 3 minutes).

Serve meatballs with sauce, rice on the side and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

These cookies don't need an introduction, they are so crisp and light you will not be able to stop eating them!


Makes about 20 cookies

1 and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cups of granulated sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons of poppy seeds
1 stick of butter (chilled and diced)
1 egg
a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Put the flour, sugar, grated lemon zest and poppy seeds into a food processor and mix thoroughly.

Add cold chunks of butter and process; add the egg and process again until the dough comes together.
Shape the dough into a log about 3 inches in diameter and wrap in foil or plastic. Transfer to refrigerator until dough is hard (about 2 hours).

Slice log into 1/4 inch thick rounds; place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; leave space between cookies as they will grow when baking.

Chilled log ready to cut in 1/4 inch rounds

Bake in preheated oven at 350ºF for 10 minutes or until the edges are beginning to turn golden brown.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool down.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Braised Kale with Sweet Spices

Kale is not only good for you, but it is also a superfood. It is loaded with antioxidants, anti-cancer effects, lots of minerals, vitamins, calcium, folate, protein...
It is a kind of cabbage and therefore grows in the winter. Today I prepared braised kale with sweet spices that everyone in my family enjoyed. Add white beans and you will have a complete meal; serve it as a side dish with meat, chicken or fish.


1 bunch of Lacinato Kale (washed and chopped)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion (in 3 slices)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon of curry powder
1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds (crushed)
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper (crushed)

Heat a deep pan and add olive oil and spices (cinnamon, curry powder, mustard seeds, turmeric and black pepper) and cook at medium heat for 2 minutes; add onion and kale and cook at medium-low heat until kale is tender (about 30 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Roast beef with Red Wine Sauce, Tri-color Carrots, Parsnips, Mushrooms and Potatoes

This is a traditional British and Irish meal served on Sundays consisting on meat, vegetables and potatoes. My vegetarian friends will have to skip this recipe, but it will be a carnivores' favorite!
It needs some preparation time, about 15 minutes and the rest is mostly oven time.

Tips: Always let your meat come to room temperature before sealing or roasting. Take the meat out of the fridge at least 1 hour before cooking.

In this recipe I am using a boneless beef ribeye steak with its own fat on top. Leave the fat when cooking and remove when eating. If you like beef with less marbling fat you can use a New York strip roast which will cook faster.

I like to seal the meat in a pan before roasting and then seasoning with salt and pepper. You will get an awesome browning and will seal the juices inside the meat for a very tender and juicy roast beef. However, if you want to avoid the mess of sealing, you can put the beef and vegetables in the oven at a very high temperature (450º F) for about 10 minutes and then roast at a lower temperature.

I prefer roasting at low temperature since it will yield a moisture and tender meat that is full of flavor. However it will take longer, you will need to be patient. I am roasting this 3.5 lb ribeye at 325º F for about 1 and 1/2 hours for a medium cut. If you are roasting the NY Strip, check at 50 to 55 minutes since it tends to cook faster.

Roast the meat until its ideal internal temperature has been reached. Be aware that the internal temperature will increase 5 to 10ºF while resting. Use a meat thermometer to check internal temperature.

Ideal temperatures for meat are the following:

Rare 125º F
Medium rare 130-135º F
Medium 135-140º F
Medium well 140-150ºF
Well done 155ºF

After roasting, always let your meat rest covered with foil for about 15 minutes before carving.


Serves 6

3.5 lbs of Boneless Beef Ribeye or New York Strip Roast
8 tri-color carrots
1 lb of mushrooms
3 parsnips
3 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of marjoram
2 garlic cloves with skin
12 cipollini onions
6-8 yukon gold potatoes
salt and pepper
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

For the sauce

1 shallot (minced)
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of mustard
1/2 cup of red wine
1/4 cup of sweet white wine (like amontillado sherry)
1/4 cup of beef or vegetable stock
salt and pepper

Prepare the vegetables: Peel and chop in big chunks the carrots, parsnips, mushrooms and put in a roasting pan; add thyme, marjoram, garlic cloves, and cipollini onions (peeled). Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper and mix.

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Prepare the meat: Heat a dutch oven or deep skillet over high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil; sear the meat until golden brown on all sides (about 5 minutes); reserve pan and oil for making sauce; transfer meat to roasting pan and place on top of vegetables. Season meat with salt and pepper and transfer to oven at 325º F for about 1 and 1/2 hours for ribeye, or  45-55 minutes for NY strip roast or until your ideal internal temperature has been reached (see above for temperatures).

Meat has been sealed and is ready to go in the oven
Prepare the potatoes: While the meat and vegetables are roasting, wash and cut the potatoes in 4 sections, transfer to a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt and simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender but do not break apart. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a small roasting pan; drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes at 425º F or until potatoes are golden brown on the sides.

Prepare the sauce: (While the potatoes are boiling you can start preparing the sauce) Heat the Dutch oven and olive oil left from searing the meat and add shallots, mustard seeds and mustard and cook for about 3 minutes; add red wine, white wine and beef/vegetable stock and cook at medium-high heat until reduced to half (about 4 minutes); season with salt and pepper; right before serving add crème frâiche and stir without letting the sauce boil.

When the meat has reached the ideal internal temperature, transfer to a wire rack and cover with foil for about 15 minutes before carving.

Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter.

Enjoy with a glass of red wine!