Puerto Rican Cilantro Sauce

sauce-1 

Cilantro, or fresh coriander, is a plant that is popular in Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisines.  Various parts of the plant have different uses and tastes.  The seeds, when dried, are used for pickling or ground and used for flavoring dishes.  The leaves and stems are usually chopped fine and used as a fresh note to add final flavor to a dish.  People who like cilantro love the fresh lemony, lime taste it adds to foods.  But there is another group of people who can’t stand it, saying it tastes soapy or rotten.  I saw this first hand when I lived in Colombia, and believe me, the people who don’t like cilantro really, really don’t like it.  That’s rough for someone who has just been assigned to Bogota, where they put it on just about everything.  But, if like me, you like cilantro, you will love this sauce that I adapted from Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking.

sauce-2 

I discovered cookbook author Steven Raichlen long before he became the barbecue and grilling guru he is today.  In his former life he wrote cookbooks about “healthy low fat” (remember those days?) cooking with a lot of spice and flavor. I’m not a fan of low fat cooking; however, his recipes are so flavorful, I still have a couple of his older books and still use them.  He has also traveled the world extensively and the knowledge he has gained is put to good use in his cookbooks.

This sauce is one of those recipes that can be used in many different ways.  The first night I made it, I spooned it over some pan-fried salmon.  It’s great with tortilla chips, especially for dinner when you are too tired to cook, as I discovered one evening.  Later that week I added a splash more olive oil and vinegar to create a salad dressing.  I used what was left to marinate some chicken thighs that I cooked on the grill.  That’s just what I did with it.  I’m sure there are more possibilities.

sauce-3

Puerto Rican Cilantro Sauce

This sauce will keep up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, so you have plenty of opportunity to experiment with it. I made this in the food processor, but it can be made in a blender.  Place all the ingredients into the blender container at once and blend to desired consistency.  Because the sauce is pureed, you don’t have to meticulously pick off each cilantro leaf.  Just chop the stems off at the base of the leaves and discard them.

1 small onion, peeled and quartered

3/4 red bell pepper, cut into 1” chunks

1/2 green pepper, cut into 1” chunks

2 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bunch cilantro, stemmed

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup water

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine the onion, peppers scallions, garlic, cilantro and oregano in a food processor and chop.

2. Add the oil, vinegar, and water and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. Transfer to glass jar for storage.

Adapted from Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking

 

Creamy Grilled Tomato Soup

soup-1

It’s that time of the year again – the last few weeks of summer.  Today it’s not so bad; however, yesterday it was in the 90s outside with humidity to match. My husband was watching Michigan playing football on television.  Wait a minute, isn’t football watching weather supposed to be somewhat cool?  Something like it was a few weeks ago when we were in the Scottish highlands? 

highlands 

Well, even though the weather is not cooperating with my current frame of mind, summer’s end is absolutely the best time for tomatoes.  However, since I got sick with a nasty bug while in Scotland, soup seemed more appropriate for my situation than another salad.

soup-2

One of the things I love to do when I travel is go to a local bookstore and see what sort of cookbooks written by local chefs are available.  Note:  Scotland was no different.  Recipes for baked goods with lots of oats will be seen on Jeannine’s Cuisine in the future.

soup-3 

When my husband and I went to Traverse City, Michigan, at the beginning of the summer I went on my usual cookbook scavenger hunt and found a winner.  It’s a beautiful little book called “Fork in the Road,” written by Okemos, Michigan chef, Eric Villegas.  The recipes make great use of the local produce, none are too time consuming and “restauranty,” but they all have a little twist to make them interesting.

tomatoes

This tomato soup is great made with seasonal summer tomatoes.  And don’t limit yourself to just the standard supermarket variety.  I imagine you could make this with any variety of heirloom tomato as well.  Just be careful when mixing colors so as not to end up with something weird.  It will still taste great, but the final color could be a little distasteful looking.  Sadly, I do not recommend this soup with anything but the ripest, freshest tomatoes, so you are pretty much limited to making it in the summertime.  Think of it this way – those tomatoes are what makes all this heat we’ve been withstanding worthwhile.

soup-4 

Creamy Grilled Tomato Soup

4-6 Servings

Unlike traditional tomato soup, the color of this one turns out as a pastel version of whatever tomato you are using. Don’t begin to think that lack of a vibrant color means lack of tomato taste.  It’s smoky and delicious.

5 pounds of ripe Summer tomatoes, type your choice

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Tabasco or other hot sauce, to taste

2 cups heavy cream

Preheat your grill.

Place the tomatoes on the grill core side up and grill until they turn black, turning once.  Use tongs to remove the tomatoes from the grill, placing them and any charred bits you can peel off the grill in a large saucepan.

Use a spoon to break up the tomatoes as much as possible.  Season with a little salt, pepper, and hot sauce.  Continue to taste and season while preparing the soup.

Bring the tomatoes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are reduced to a thick puree, about 20 minutes, but adjust cooking time as needed. 

Puree the soup in batches in a blender.  Note: a Vitamix is great for this, but any blender will do.  Be very careful when blending hot liquids so as not to splatter the kitchen and yourself with molten tomatoes.  Fill the blender container no more than two thirds full at a time and take out the removable center of the lid and cover with a towel with your hand firmly on top.  The towel will keep the liquid in the blender, but allow the steam to escape. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the soup, but the texture won’t be as smooth.

Return the soup to the pan, add the cream and cook until warm, about 5 minutes.  Check seasoning one more time and serve.

Adapted from Fork in the Road, by Eric Villegas

Kitchen Basics – Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Vinaigrette 1

It’s almost the end of January. How is everyone doing on those resolutions? I actually decided to do something different this year and just not make any. Bring on the cookies! Actually, I decided that rather than set specific goals, I would just try to live each day in as healthy a manner as possible. I know… all those diet gurus with their intentions and affirmations would totally disagree, and I’m sure writing down goals works for some, just not for me. And, you know, my definition of “healthy” differs from day-to-day depending on what is going on in my life. Lately it’s been a lot of intense, all-day snow shoveling resulting in ravenous hunger. In that case I think it’s okay for a treat or two. Other days, rather than tackling that plank workout, some restorative yoga may be a better choice.

One thing we don’t neglect, however, is our commitment to what we consider a healthy diet. For us that means pretty much no processed food, as much as possible prepared from scratch, and a LOT of vegetables. I’m here to tell you that’s not easy sometimes, especially after a long day at work. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and there are days that I just can’t face it. I cook extra so there is always something in the freezer, but sometimes even that is not enough. That’s when we say “oh well,” and pull out the Chinese take out menu or order wings or pizza. The tomatoes in the pizza sauce count as a vegetable, right?

Vinaigrette 2

Actually, I’m okay with ordering out on occasion, especially if I’ve had my usual huge salad for lunch. One thing that is super easy to make and keep on hand and takes your salad to a whole new level is homemade salad dressing. I use bottled dressing too, but much prefer to make my own, when I remember to do so. I usually have a vinaigrette of some type in the fridge as well as a creamy mayonnaise and buttermilk based one.

I’ve decided to start doing a section on Jeannine’s Cuisine called Kitchen Basics. These will be recipes that everyone should have in their hip pocket. These are foods that are the building blocks of how I cook. Vinaigrette seemed like the ideal choice for the first one.

The proper ratio for a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid. For one cup that means 3/4 cup of oil to 1/4 cup of vinegar, lemon juice, etc. I have seen countless salad dressing recipes that call for half oil and half acid. In some cases, when someone is trying to produce a low fat salad dressing, the ratio is even switched – pucker up! Just don’t go there. I almost always add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for flavor and to help with emulsifying, and then I add herbs and other extra flavors. For this recipe I decided to go with strictly dried herbs. That might have something to do with the fact that my fresh herb garden is currently buried under about 3 feet of snow, but I also wanted to see how it would taste. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think you will be too.

Vinaigrette 3

Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

1 to 1 1/2 Cups Dressing

The amount of dressing will depend on if you use dried or fresh herbs, or even a combination. I generally allow one teaspoon of dried herbs for a tablespoon of freshly chopped herbs. The red pepper flakes add a bit of a bite and some nice color to this dressing. Feel free to decrease the amount or leave them out.

3/4 cup olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon (approx. 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 4 teaspoons dried

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a 1 1/2-2 cup mason jar and screw on the lid tightly. Shake the jar vigorously to blend the ingredients. If using dried herbs allow the dressing to sit for 15 minutes and shake again.

Note: You will have to shake the dressing to blend it each time you want to use it. Alternatively you can place the acids and the mustard in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil a bit at a time before adding the remaining ingredients. This will better emulsify the dressing and prevent it from separating as quickly; however, it does take more time.

Adapted from The Homemade Pantry:  101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila

 

Chicken Cacciatore

chicken first

You know that saying, “You don’t appreciate what you have until you almost lose it?” This time last week I thought I had completely lost my blog. Life was spinning out of control with busyness, and I neglected to renew the domain on WordPress. Then one day, about two weeks after it had expired, I tried to access my site and couldn’t. To say I had a meltdown is an understatement. But then reality inserted itself into my teeth gnashing and moaning and groaning (okay, I tend to exaggerate a little). Stop, hold the presses, I didn’t lose a family member. All the pets are okay. Jeannine, you’re getting this upset over a website?

chicken mug

I calmed down, contacted the support people at WordPress, who were extremely helpful, and as you can see, Jeannine’s Cuisine is up and running again, this time with automatic renewals scheduled. And, as a result, I did some serious thinking about what this blog means to me and why.

chicken beer

It’s been a while since I’ve done a post. It was an extremely busy summer and moving into fall it wasn’t much better. I actually considered putting the blog on hold until I retired. But I think everyone needs a creative outlet of some sort and this little blog, that I only manage to post to once in a while, is mine. It’s not a business, and may never become one, although it was, and perhaps still is, my goal. I’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. However, it is a way to express myself and share what I love with friends and family. Yes, I did get upset, because each time I do a post I’m creating something that is essentially me- my thoughts, my cooking, my photography. And I get to share it with others. How cool is that?

Enough philosophizing. Let’s move on to the food, shall we? Aren’t you glad autumn is finally here? I know some people love summer and dread the coming of winter. But I’m one of those that needs summer so I can enjoy the transition to fall. Today’s recipe is perfect for today’s damp cloudy weather.

Vegetables

Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. This dish is a stewy chicken dish with onion, mushrooms, herbs, tomatoes, and bell pepper. Serve it with a side of pasta or some bread to soak up the sauce if that’s your thing, or if you are watching your carbs, it’s just as good by itself.

top down recipe

Slow Cooker (or not) Chicken Cacciatore

Serves 4-6

No slow cooker? No problem. Just make the recipe in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour. This dish is great for using up end of summer tomatoes, but if you don’t have any or can’t get decent ones, just substitute a 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes, chopped. To peel and seed the tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for 1 minutes. The peel will come right off. Cut in half horizonally and squeeze the seeds out.

3 tablespoons butter or other fat of choice, divided

2 pounds chicken thighs

1 onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 pound mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 tablespoon each of finely chopped basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram (or use 1/2 teaspoon dried)

Season the chicken very well with salt and pepper.  Do not fear the salt.

Raw Chicken

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large sauté pan. Brown the chicken in the pan, in batches as necessary, about 5 minutes. The chicken should be golden brown. Transfer chicken pieces to slow cooker as you go.

Chicken

If you are cooking this dish on the stove, remove the chicken until you cook the vegetables, then add it back to the pot with the tomatoes.

Melt the remaining butter in the pan and sauté the onion, pepper, celery and mushrooms until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more. Pour the vegetable mixture over the chicken in the slow cooker.

Add the tomatoes, paprika, herbs, and a little more salt and pepper to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Adapted from The Paleo Slow Cooker by Arsy Vartanian and Chris Kresser

A Mexican-Inspired Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

salad 1

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the direction I want to take this blog. Is it all about the photography? Food styling? Or is it about developing original recipes? I started the blog not only as a way to reach out to friends and family when they requested a recipe, but also as a way to work on my food photography, with the possibility of turning it into something more professional in the future. I didn’t realize just how much time it takes to post a decent blog post, but I’m not willing to cut corners. Don’t worry, Jeannine’s Cuisine is not going anywhere — not after all the work I’ve put into it. But I’ve finally accepted that, as a full-time Government employee with up to 2 hours of commuting each day, sometimes I’m just not going to be able to post as often as I would like. I read about other bloggers who also work fulltime and have been doing this for years. How can they be so prolific? Where do they find the time? As for me, I’m still working out my “blogging routine.” I guess I’ll get it down eventually, but in the meantime, I will continue to post as time allows.

Salad 2

I’ve also thought a lot about my food message. Is it gluten free? Paleo? Desserts? Quick and easy? Original recipes or adapted from other sources? I think I made the right decision when I decided to name this blog Jeannine’s Cuisine, because the food style in my blog is about all of those things. It’s the way I like to cook. Sometimes the food is healthier and at other times the food I cook is better suited to a special occasion, or when I have all kinds of time to cook. What you won’t find here is any processed food or anything labeled “fat free.” I generally change pretty much every recipe I get my hands on to some degree, and occasionally I even get an original idea and just roll with it. But I also use my ever-expanding cookbook collection for inspiration quite a bit. My goal for the future is to expand the collection of recipes on the blog, both original and adapted, to offer something for everyone. Because that’s the way I cook.

Salad 3

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and food bloggers everywhere were hard at work, coming up with all kinds of delectable Mexican-style appetizers, entrees, and desserts. I would usually have done the same, but this year, after returning from non-stop gorging on Mexican food during a week-long trip to Arizona, Yum! I decided something a little healthier was probably in order.

Salad 4

I take a salad to work for lunch most days of the week, and it’s normally a bowl of lettuce with some salad dressing. I’m starting to get pretty bored with that and have been experimenting with making the lunchtime salads a whole lot more interesting. This salad is the answer. A delicious bacon vinaigrette (who doesn’t love bacon?) goes over a mixture of salad greens, tomato, avocado, bacon “chips” and toasted pumpkin seeds. I was trying to come up with something for Cinco de Mayo – this salad contains avocado and pepitas that are sort of Mexican ingredients, right? Don’t limit yourself to May for this salad. This is good anytime of the year.

Salad 5

A Mexican-Inspired Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Serves 4

This recipe makes more salad dressing than you will need for the salad. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and warm to room temperature before serving.

1/4 sweet onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound bacon, cut crosswise into inch-wide pieces

4 large handfuls Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1 large tomato, cut into wedges then cut crosswise

1 avocado, halved, peeled, cut into wedges, then cut crosswise into chunks

1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted and salted

Place the onion, mustard, and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add the olive oil a small bit at a time, whisking with each addition. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the bacon in a cold sauté pan and turn the heat on medium. Cook the bacon until crispy then turn it out onto a paper towel-lined plate. Set the pan with the bacon grease aside while you prepare the salad.

Combine the lettuce, tomato and avocado in a serving bowl. Add the vinaigrette mixture to the bacon fat in the sauté pan and whisk well to combine. The mixture may splatter if the bacon fat is still hot. Dress the salad with as much dressing as desired, top with the cooked bacon pieces, sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds, and serve immediately.

Salad dressing adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

 

Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon

Cabbage 1

Today’s recipe is from a guest cook, my husband Scott. I wanted to get it posted as soon as possible because I consider it to be more of a chilly weather recipe than something that represents Spring, which, knock on wood, finally might be here to stay for awhile. This time last week I was sitting right here at my computer and looked outside and saw – snow. I couldn’t believe my eyes. But it was short lived. Now, the daffodils are up and trees are budding, and I’m sitting in front of an open window.

Cabbage 2

Although this cabbage is a recipe that we normally have for Saint Patrick’s Day, it is really versatile and will go with almost anything. I especially can see it alongside pork chops or chicken. The bacon is what makes this recipe special, so I don’t recommend leaving it out.

Cabbage 3

Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon

6 Servings

1/2 pound bacon, diced

4 tablespoons butter

1 large sweet onion, about 14 ounces, diced

1 head cabbage, thinly sliced

In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon over low heat to render as much fat as possible before the bacon browns, approximately 10 minutes. Add butter, and when it melts, add the onion. Increase the heat to medium and sauté until the onion softens, approximately 7 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Increase the heat to medium-high and start adding cabbage by the handful, cooking it down until you are able to add all of it to the pan, approximately 10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to tasted. Continue cooking cabbage, stirring frequently, until done, approximately 10 minutes.

 

Sweet Potato Hash with Chorizo

Hash 1

Today’s post is about what my husband affectionately refers to as the “5-year rotation;” the way I plan meals.  I don’t think I have kept my cookbook addiction a secret.  Actually, it’s so bad that a better name for this blog might be “So Many Cookbooks, So Little Time.”  What can I say?  Cookbooks are one of my principal inspirations. Now that I have a food blog and am attempting food photography, the inspiration that a well-photographed cookbook provides has become even more important.

Hash 2

You can imagine that with so many recipes to try, I don’t do many repeats.  I crave variety, in every aspect of my life, and the food I eat is no exception. I do repeat recipes, but not that often, and I almost always vary it slightly each time; however, I’ve definitely never been one of those Meatless Monday or Friday fish sticks types. Although, as a young girl, when my mother was doing her meal planning and asked me what I wanted to eat that week, the answer was always Bavarian Supper Sandwich – a layered casserole with a poppy seed-flavored biscuit base, sausage, and a baked béchamel on top.  I absolutely loved that stuff.

So, it’s been something of a surprise that just in the past 2 months I have made a couple of recipes over again, almost immediately – the goat cheese salad recipe that I made for Christmas Eve dinner, and now this hash. It is very filling and makes a very satisfying breakfast, especially when topped with a fried egg.  It also works well for those following a Paleo or Primal eating plan.

Hash 3 

Sweet Potato Hash with Chorizo

4-6 Servings

This recipe will serve 4 to 6, depending on the size of the sweet potatoes you use and how much potato you like on your plate. 

2 large sweet potatoes (approximately 2 pounds total), cut into 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons salt (for boiling water)

2 links (approximately 6 ounces total) fresh Mexican chorizo

5 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage

salt

pepper

4-6 fried eggs for serving

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by about 1 inch, and add the salt.  Bring the water to a boil and add the sausage links.  Cook until the potatoes can be pierced easily with a knife, about 10 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and sausage links.

Slice the chorizo into half-inch coins and brown in a large skillet in 3 tablespoons coconut oil. Remove from the pan, but leave the oil and chorizo bits in the pan.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the hot fat until the onion begins to brown, 5 minutes.  Add the sage and stir until the scent is released, about a minute.  Add more coconut oil to the pan if necessary.  The pan should be thoroughly coated with the oil and have enough to brown the potatoes.    Add the potato chunks and cook until they are brown on the bottom, about 3-5 minutes. Return the chorizo to the pan with and cook until everything is warm and browned.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the potatoes between 4-6 plates and top each serving with a fried egg.

Adapted from Gluten-Free Girl Everyday by Shauna James Ahern

 

 

 

 

Dates with Sausage and Bacon

Dates 1

A couple of years ago in a quest to find an eating plan to negate the rich cuisine and fabulous beer we were enjoying a little too much in Germany, I stumbled upon something called the Primal Blueprint.  It’s a variation of sorts on the Paleo Diet; however, unlike strict Paleo, it allows some rice and a little high fat dairy.  Both plans stress “real food” and restrict consumption of grains, legumes, and refined sugars.  As with most restrictive eating programs, I wasn’t very successful, but my husband was and continues the program to this day.

I believe the Primal Blueprint is a good program for a lot of people, my husband included, and I try to be very supportive of his new, healthier eating habits.  It probably doesn’t hurt me to cut back on carbohydrates either.  Eliminating most grains and legumes (what no sandwiches?) proved to be a challenge.  Although we have always tried to limit processed food, I was clearly in the “no fat, whole grains” camp, and this was a complete switch.   It was also a great excuse to add to my ever-expanding cookbook collection.

Dates 2

I read every Primal and Paleo cooking blog I could find online and eventually figured out on whom I could probably rely for some decent recipes, while I learned to plan menus around this new eating style.  Everyday Paleo quickly became one of my favorites.  One of the first books I bought was this one, and one of the first Paleo recipes I made was dates stuffed with sausage and wrapped in bacon.  I wish I could take credit for this recipe.  One bite and I was hooked. I have yet to meet anyone who does not like this recipe, Paleo follower or not.

Dates 3

Dates with Sausage and Bacon

12 pieces

We have found that Medjool dates work best for this recipe, but if you can’t find them any other type will do.  If they are considerably smaller, you will need more dates and more bacon than the recipe calls for.  This recipe doubles or even triples easily, a good thing since it’s so addicting.

12 dates

1/2 pound bulk sausage

6 slices bacon, sliced in half crosswise

Preheat the oven to 375. 

Pit the dates if necessary, by slicing them lengthwise halfway through and removing the seeds.

Use about a tablespoon of sausage per date, more or less depending on the size of your dates.  Stuff the sausage into the date, wrapping the date around the sausage ball.  The dates will not close around the sausage completely.

Wrap each date in one of the half slices of bacon and stand up in a baking dish small enough to hold the dates upright. Depending on the number of dates you are preparing a small to medium Pyrex works great for this, but you could also bake them in a pie pan. 

Bake dates for 40 minutes.  These can be prepared ahead of time, frozen, and rewarmed in the microwave for 1.5 minutes.  It’s great to have a stash in the freezer for unexpected guests.

Slightly adapted from Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso