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Archive for May, 2010

Alright, I’m Jewish and not Mexican. But hey, both of our cultures were slaughtered by the Spanish so we share the same plight. Not really, but my mom lives in Mexico. To celebrate Mexican Independence I made my first attempt at a mole. Whole Foods had these fantastic lamb shoulder steaks on sale. Using a Oaxacan Red Mole recipe as my base, I altered it to fit the ingredients I could find as well as to make it more of a braise to break down the fat of the shoulder cut instead of a sauce like you typically see with a mole. While it’s usually not the best idea to screw around with a recipe you’re unfamiliar with, especially one with as many steps as mole, I’m confident enough in myself that it was no problem. The results almost couldn’t have been better!

To start, I soaked 3 ancho chiles and 4 New Mexico chiles in boiling water. I was looking for guajillo chiles, but couldn’t find any. So, I used the New Mexico ones instead. I have absolutely no idea if the two chiles are at all similar, and still don’t, but thought it was a risk worth taking.

While the chiles were soaking I heated up a skillet and, one spice at a time, toasted 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, 1/4 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns, and 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. Once cooled I ground them up with my pestle and mortar.

Then I used the same hot skillet to roast two garlic cloves. Keep the skin on the cloves and just let them sit in the hot pan for about 2-3 minutes per side. When they were cool to touch I put them in the blender with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and made a smooth puree.

I cleaned out the blender. I de-stemmed and de-seeded the chiles and pureed them with about a cup of the soaking water which had taken on a lot of the chile flavors and aromas. The recipe I was using only called for a tablespoon or so of the water, just enough to puree the chiles. Since I wanted a braising liquid instead of just a thick sauce I used a lot more of the water. I also set some aside in case I wanted to add more, but didn’t need to. After the chiles were pureed, I strained them into a bowl and set aside.

Alright, time to put the mole together. I heated up about 3 tablespoons of soy oil and added the spice mix from my mortar. After about 15 seconds I poured in the tomato sauce and then the pureed chiles. Careful though, it splatters! I mixed that all around. Once it started to boil I added 1/2 cup of sugar, 1.5oz of Mexican chocolate, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. I let that come to a gentle boil.

While the mole was coming up to a boil I heated up some oil in a hot skillet, cut the lamb steaks into bite-sized pieces, and seared them off in batches. As they were seared they were tossed into the mole. I let them braise in the mole for about 30 minutes then I added two chopped carrots and let it all braise for another 45 minutes. The sauce became nice and thick.

For starch I made some cilantro mashed potatoes. I took 4 good-sized russets, skinned them, quartered them, and tossed them in a pot with cold water. I added salt and three large peeled garlic cloves. Then I brought it up to a boil. Once the water started to boil I let the potatoes go for about 25 minutes.

While that was going on I took a handful of cilantro and blended it with about 2/3 cup of soy milk. I then took 4 tablespoons of butter and cut that into smaller pieces. Once the potatoes and garlic were cooked I drained them and added them back to the pan. I poured the cilantro milk in and mashed it all up real good one pat of butter at a time. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper. They might have been the best damn mashed potatoes I’ve ever made!

For a side I heated up some olive oil and threw in two cloves of crushed garlic. A few minutes later I added 1/2 of an onion chopped and let that saute down a bit. Then I threw in a jalapeno that was seeded and sliced. A few more minutes and I threw in a bunch of sliced mushrooms. I had a few shiitake left in my fridge as well as a carton of buttons. Once those were almost cooked through I tossed in 1/2 radiccio that I had thinly sliced. I let that all wilt down, seasoned and then served. For garnish I broke up some cotija cheese.

To garnish the mole I diced an avocado. I also diced a red onion and soaked it in water for most of the day to draw out the rawness. Besides those two garnishes, I laid a few cilantro sprigs on top.

I have to say, for a Jew, I make a mean mole! The ony thing I think I’d do different is cut the sugar from 1/2 cup to 1/4 quarter cup. It was slightly sweet, but not so much that it was bothersome. Soy chingon!!!

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Whole Foods had these fantastic looking bone-on pork chops for sale yesterday. With the weather being nice and all, I thought “I gots to grill me some of those!”

To start, I made a marinade for the chops. I grated an inch of ginger and two garlic cloves into my baking dish (I wasn’t baking at all, but it fit the chops in an even layer). To that, I added 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 of sake, and 1 of apple cider vinegar. I mixed in about 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and some fresh cracked black pepper. I coated the chops, covered with plastic, and marinated in the fridge for about an hour.

For veggies, I did some sauteing in butter. I melted 2 tablespoons of butter and then threw in 3 crushed garlic cloves and let cook down for a few minutes. Then I added a chopped carrot. A few minutes later I threw in a red bell pepper that I sliced as well as 8 chopped green onions. Then, a few more minutes and I added some green beans and shiitake. I let it all cook together for a few minutes and then added a few tablespoons of soy sauce. I let the soy coat all of the veggies and then covered it and turned the heat down to med-low. I let the veggies sort of steam in the soy butter while I grilled the chops.

Since the chops were bone-on, the meat stayed a lot juicier than a boneless chop. I do want to mention that I took them out of the fridge about a half hour prior to throwing them on the grill to bring them back to room temp.

Some white rice and we were ready for dinner.

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For Meatless Monday I took advantage of another grilling opportunity. I made lasagna with grilled vegetables. By doing this, the sweetness of the veggies is brought out and that fantastic smokey flavor is added. I needed all the flavor I could get since I wasn’t adding any meat. I also opted not to use a tomato sauce or bechamel sauce either in order to keep the flavors more natural and lighter.

I started by thinly slicing a large eggplant and two smaller zucchini as well as two orange bell peppers. I drizzled them with olive oil and then grilled them until they were about half-way cooked.

Then, in my baking dish I poured a tablespoon of olive oil and coated the bottom. I put down a layer of pasta, then alternated layers of veggies. The veggies I used were the eggplant, zucchini, and pepper from the grill, some thinly sliced red onion, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes. I also put some ricotta cheese layers inside. I seasoned with salt and pepper as I went along.

I covered it in foil and then put it in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Then I took it out and removed the foil. I sprinkled some parmesan cheese on top and then put it back into the oven, uncovered, for another 20 minutes until the cheese and top layer of tomatoes started to brown a little.

To serve, I put pieces on top of some baby arugula. Then I drizzled some basil oil I made. A handful of basil blended with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. I do prefer meat, but this tasted pretty damn good.

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Yuki did the cooking last night. There’s a popular bento dish called Sanshoku Bento, or three-color bento. It’s basically rice topped with some sort of ground meat, scrambled eggs, and some sort of vegetable. Hence, the name three-color. Drawing off of that, she ended up doing Yonshoku, or 4 colors.

For the meat we picked up some really good ground beef. Whole Foods had 85% grass-fed on sale, so we took advantage of that. She cooked it up with some garlic, ginger, sugar, soy, sake, mirin, and a little sesame oil. Not sure what measurements she used though.

For the eggs she simply scrambled a couple.

We had a Chinese eggplant in the fridge that needed to be used up, so she cooked it in soy, sake, and mirin.

For the green she used two vegetables. First, she boiled some broccoli. Then she wilted down some spinach in a little bit of soy sauce.

Not wanting to waste the broccoli water, she added the spinach juice to it and then boiled some mushrooms, carrot slices, green onion, and wakame in it for about 10 minutes or so. Then she added a little soy sauce and just a touch of sesame oil. Just before serving she mixed in about a tablespoon of miso.

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