Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fresh Lime Ice with Berries

I don't like hot weather at all.  Anything above 90 degrees is pushing it for me.  This 100 degree heatwave we've been having has really been testing my limits.  However, in an effort to be positive and go with the flow, I've tried telling myself that I love the hot weather.  If you say it enough times it must be true, right?

When I'm wheeling my grocery cart across the blacktop in the middle of the day, with two kids hanging on me, I tell myself the heat feels wonderful.  After all, I love hot weather.
When I get in my car and the temperature gauge says 120F I tell myself it's good for my character.  You just gotta tough these things out sometimes, right?  When the kids start whining about the heat I tell them the same thing. I chuckle to myself because they love it when I tell them things like that.   
When I get home and it's time to carry in all the groceries (and the back of my shirt is already soaked with sweat) I tell myself I should just be thankful to have groceries to carry in the house. 

For the past two months I've tried convincing myself that I love the heat.  I was successful in my endeavor until this past Thursday.  On Thursday I was walking out of the grocery store and I literally reached my melting point.  It was crazy stupid hot and miserably humid.  I felt like laying down and having a temper tantrum just like my five year old.  Right then and there I decided I was going to quit lying to myself.  The fact is I just can't stand the heat.

So, for the rest of the summer I'm hiding inside.  The only reason I'm going outside is to check the mail or walk to my car.  On the off chance I'm forced to brave the great outdoors you will find me rewarding myself with something really cold like this super icy refreshing lime ice.  This lime ice stays really cold.  Almost too cold to eat.  It's the stuff of dreams on a hot summer day.

Fresh Lime Ice with Berries
Adapted from Mexican Everyday
by Rick Bayless
Serves 4-6 

5 to 6 large limes (or enough to make 3/4 cup lime juice)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
2 to 3 cups fresh raspberries, blackberries or strawberries for garnish

Grate the zest (colored part only) of 2 of the limes and scrape into a large bowl.  (If the zest is in large pieces, finely chop it.)  Juice the limes, measure 3/4 cup and pour it in with the zest.  Add the sugar, corn syrup and 1-3/4 cups water.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Pour the mixture into the canister of your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.  The ice will have the best texture if you transfer it from the ice cream maker into a container and let it firm up for several hours in the freezer.  The ice is best eaten within 24 hours.  Scoop it into small dishes and sprinkle with the berries.

Alternatively, pour the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, slide it into the freezer and "still-freeze" the mixture - stir it thoroughly after 45 minutes, then twice more at 15 minute intervals.  It's that easy,  (This is my preferred method for making any fruit ice.  I think the texture is so much better than using your ice cream maker).

Theme: Nieves (Icy Cold Treats)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Crispy Chicken Torta

I made this crispy chicken torta because I had all the ingredients on hand.  I expected the torta to be good, but I didn't know it would be such a hit.  Don't y'all love it when that happens?

My Mom declared this one her favorite things to eat ever.  She even asked if I would make her this torta for her birthday, which really tickled me because her birthday isn't for another 10 months.  Of course, my Mom might be a little biased.  The woman loves a good sandwich.

Any way you slice it, we all loved this torta.  There are so many wonderful things going on here. The top of the bread is all soft and fluffy while the bottoms are all toasted and golden.  The torta begins with a slathering of smooth, creamy, and delicious smashed black beans, then comes the perfectly- golden-fried-to-perfection chicken cutlet in all it's panko coated glory, next up is a layer of melty Monterey Jack cheese, followed by a few slices of pickled jalapeno peppers and cool, creamy, buttery, slices of avocado.  Finish it off with a really good sprinkling of hot sauce and it's one delicious mouthful!  (Be prepared to make a big mess and do a lot of dishes though.  Don't say I didn't warn you.)
Crispy Chicken Torta
Adapted from
Makes 4 tortas

4 thin boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets 
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 cups panko bread crumbs
4 1/2  tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, plus 1/2  cup for frying (divided use)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 telera or bolillo rolls
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded 
Pickled jalapeno slices
1 ripe avocado, cut into 1/4-inch slices
Optional:  hot sauce (we like Cholula chili garlic hot sauce)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Set up a 3 part breading station.  In the first dish, combine the flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.  In the second dish, beat 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon oil,  1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.  In the third dish, pour in 2 cups of panko crumbs and mix with 1 1/2  teaspoons salt. 

Sprinkle salt over both sides of chicken and dredge each breast in the flour, shaking off the excess.  Then, dip into the egg mixture, making sure that they are totally coated.  Finally, place the chicken in the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs into both the top and bottom surfaces.  Move the coated breast to a wire rack to allow the crumbs to dry. 

Set a large (10-inch) skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon oil.  When the oil is hot, stir in the garlic.  Once the garlic is golden brown, add the beans with their liquid.  As the beans come to a simmer, mash them to a smooth paste.  Cook, stirring nearly constantly, until you’ve reached the consistency of very soft mashed potatoes, about 8 minutes. Taste and season with salt.  Keep warm over the lowest heat, covered, so that the beans stay soft and moist.

Place a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Slice the rolls open lengthwise.  Scrape out some of the soft bread in the center of each piece, making a small hollow (I didn't follow this step.  I like having the whole roll and I also think it toasts much better if you don't hollow out the bread).  Using the remaining 2 1/2  tablespoons oil, brush the insides of the rolls, then lay them cut-side down on a griddle or skillet to crisp to a rich golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. 

Add 1/2 the frying oil to the skillet and raise the heat to medium-high. Once the oil is hot, place two of the breasts into the pan and cook until both sides are golden brown about 5 to 6 minutes total.  Remove to a warm plate lined with paper towels.  Add the remaining frying oil and saute the last two breasts.

Smear a layer of warm beans over the bottom half each roll.  Lay the warm chicken breast on top of the beans.  Top with shredded cheese, pickled jalapenos and the avocado.  Set the top of each roll in place.  Place the finished tortas on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

Theme: Potluck!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Roasted Jalapeno Potato Soup with Greens and Chorizo

Sometimes you just need comfort food.  Food that gives you a hug. The past few weeks have have been extreme.  We had a great family vacation over the 4th of July, but we came back to two broken vehicles and some heartbreaking news from a dear friend.  Lots of ups and downs.  On top of that things have been really busy and we really haven't had time to process anything. 

This afternoon we had a long awaited thunderstorm and it cooled off just enough to make a comforting bowl of soup.  It's been a few weeks since I had a few hours of time to myself and I decided kitchen therapy was definitely in order.  Potato soup is one of the most comforting meals I know of so potato soup it was. 

This potato soup differs from the traditional cream and cheese laden potato soup.  This is a chicken broth based potato soup.  It has no cream or butter and only uses a small amount of cheese as a garnish.  Surprisingly, this potato soup is every bit as creamy and delicious as it's calorie-laden counterpart.  We loved the heat from the jalapeno, the healthy addition of greens, and the gorgeous and flavorful chorizo topping.  My husband, who isn't a big soup fan, enjoyed two bowls.  It was a hit for sure!
Roasted Jalapeno Potato Soup with Greens and Chorizo
Adapted from
Serves 6

6 medium red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 large jalapeno peppers
8 ounces Mexican chorizo, casing removed (used as a garnish)
8 cups stemmed, sliced greens (such as spinach or chard)—1/2-inch slices are good

To garnish:
grated Mexican queso anejo or other garnishing cheese like Romano or Parmesan
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Cut (4) of the potatoes into 4 pieces each and scoop them into a large soup pot (dutch oven), along with the garlic.  Chop the remaining (2) potatoes into 1/4-inch cubes and set aside. Pour half of the broth into the saucepan and set it over high heat.  When the liquid boils, reduce the heat to medium and simmer briskly until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. 

While the potatoes are cooking, roast the jalapenos over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about 5 minutes for an open flame, 10 minutes for a broiler.  Cover with a kitchen towel or place in a brown paper bag. Let cool until handleable.  Cut the top off the chiles, slit the side from seed pod to point, open out flat and scrape out the seeds; discard.  Flip over and scrape the skin off the flesh; discard.  Chop the flesh into smallish pieces.

When the potatoes are tender, use an immersion blender to coarsely puree the soup base (or coarsely process in several batches in a food processor or a loosely covered blender draped with a kitchen towel, then return to the pan).  Add the remaining half of the broth, the reserved cubed potatoes and the chile pieces.  Simmer 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the chorizo in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking up any lumps, until thoroughly cooked and well browned, about 12 minutes.  Scoop onto a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  

Just before serving, stir the greens into the soup and let simmer until they are tender—2 to 4 minutes.
Taste and season the soup with salt, usually about 1 1/2 teaspoons depending on the saltiness of your broth.  Ladle into warm soup bowls, then sprinkle with a portion of the chorizo, cheese and cilantro.  Serve right away.

Theme: Soups and Sides
Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Salsa Baked Cheese

This summer I haven't spent as much time in the kitchen as I'd like to.  In another month or so my oldest will be going into middle school and my baby is going into Kindergarten.  I'm having a hard time thinking about all that so I've been busy spending as much time with them as possible.

In the meantime I still have that itch to get in the kitchen.  I find myself looking for recipes that are super quick and easy, but still family-pleasing and full of flavor.  This recipe for Salsa Baked Cheese fits the bill.  Rick's recipe does call for toasting some nuts first, but my son has a nut allergy so I omitted that step (making this recipe even easier).  All you really need to do is buy some goat cheese and cream cheese, let them come to room temp, mix the two cheeses, spread them onto an oven-safe dish, top with salsa and let it bake for about 15-20 minutes.  Top with cilantro or green onion and you're ready to go.  Everyone enjoyed this creamy and tangy dip.  There are only a few ingredients in this recipe, but the goat cheese really adds that special something. 

Salsa Baked Cheese
Adapted from Rick Bayless online
Serves 4-6

1/4 cup pine nuts or coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans*
1 4-ounce log goat cheese
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup salsa
A tablespoon or so chopped fresh cilantro or sliced green onion,  for garnish
*I omitted the nuts because my son has a nut allergy 

Note: Take a look at your salsa before making this recipe.  If your salsa doesn't have any garlic, feel free to add some sauteed garlic to your salsa prior to baking.  This recipe is great on it's own, but I feel it would really be enhanced by a little bit of garlic.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread out the nuts on a baking sheet, set them in the oven and let toast until lightly browned and very fragrant, 7 or 8 minutes. Remove and slide off into a medium-size bowl.

Add the cheeses to the bowl and combine thoroughly with the nuts. Scoop into the center of an ovenproof baking dish and form it into a 5-inch-diameter disc. Spoon the salsa over and around the cheese, set in the oven and bake until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with the cilantro, or green onion,  and set out to enjoy as a dip or a spread on crackers, chunks of bread or toasted croutons.
Theme: Potluck