Monday, September 22, 2014

Birria Stuffed Eggplant

You'd think as a gardener that one year would influence another. That over time your experiences would build on themselves and turn you into a competent grower of stuffs; but plants (I guess like children and any other living, growing thing) have a mind of their own.

If last year was any indication, I imagined this year's eggplant crop would be bounteous and overflowing. I thought I knew a thing or two about the bulbous crop. Like well first of all, you plant it in the ground, water it and it grows into these immaculate specimens worthy of the State Fair. So in my overly confident state I decided last spring to purchase a rare heirloom breed of eggplant that clearly had other intentions than heavy production.

Out of four plants I've gotten about 8 very small eggplant, for all you math wizards out there that's 2 eggs per plant. I have a few more growing but with this being September 22 in North Dakota I'm assuming that's going to basically sum up my crop.

I decided to extend the small harvest by filling the little gems with chile-laced lamb birria. I got the idea after seeing Yvette's Picadillo-Stuffed Zucchini and my mind instantly went to another lamb-stuffed eggplant dish that I made from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook last summer (with the eggplants that actually grew).  His recipe calls for ground lamb and pine nuts and definitely should also be made but I was looking for something more Latin than Mediterranean.

Birria is normally made with large pieces of goat or lamb shoulder which cooks slowly in a rich broth of chiles, spice, and loads of onions until completely tender. The meat then gets shredded and added back to the broth and eaten as a stew or eaten separately with the sauce on the side. I decided to go with ground lamb to make this meal weeknight friendly but without losing all those rich, complex flavors. You could certainly make a true birria, remove the meat from the broth and make this dish with shredded lamb too if want to do something a bit fancier. Stuffed to the top and slow roasted they turned out beautifully. So good in fact that we ate it in about a tenth of the time that it took to grow.

Want more comida for your vida? Follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or Bloglovin. If you have a cooking question (or any other kind of question) leave me a comment below, they kind of make my day (insert smiley face here). ¡Gracias!

Birria Stuffed Eggplant
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Inspired by Muy Bueno and Yotam Ottolenghi

Makes 6 servings

4 medium or 6 small eggplant, halved lengthwise and scored
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 ancho chiles, cored and seeds removed
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground lamb
1 large tomato, chopped
cilantro leaves to garnish, optional

1. Heat oven to 425°F. Place eggplant halves, skin side down, in a large roasting pan big enough to fit in a single layer. Brush with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

2. Meanwhile, place chiles in a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from the water, let cool slightly, then chop finely.

3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook until translucent then add spices, and garlic. Cook until garlic is just starting to brown, about 1 minute. Add lamb and brown, breaking it up with the back of the spoon. Once lamb is cooked all the way through, add tomato and chiles, stir to incorporate then remove from heat.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Spoon lamb mixture over eggplant, cover dish tightly with foil and roast for 1 hour or until eggplant is very soft.

5. Let cool slightly then sprinkle with cilantro leaves and serve with rice.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Grandma's Pear Canela Coffee Cake

My grandma was a master of quite a few things in the kitchen—primarily pies, but a close second would be coffee cake. Going through her recipe box she had several coffee cake recipes, but I remember her making only one.

It was soft and crumbly and would smell her whole house up with cinnamon and spice. There was a ridiculous amount of streusel topping and it was dotted with plump blueberries throughout. This recipe is not hers exactly but is definitely inspired by the one she used to make.

I wanted to make it with pears to give it more of a fall feel, she only ever used blueberries (fresh in the summer and canned in the winter). You can do either they both work beautifully as would raspberries, peaches, or any other soft fruit.

The topping makes a ton (something I'm rather fond of) but if you find it too much for your liking you can make a streusel layer in the middle by spooning half the batter into the bottom of the pan, then sprinkling half the streusel over that. Spoon the remaining batter over the streusel and top with the rest of the streusel. Make sense? How many times can I use the word streusel to describe something? Apparently a lot.

My gram used nothing fancy in the cinnamon department but I couldn't resist giving this cake a Mexican touch with the soft, sweet flavor of true canela. She also only used all-purpose flour but I opted for white whole wheat just for health's sake. Try it out this weekend and let me know what you think. What did your grandma make? Share her recipe, I'd love to know!

Want more comida for your vida? Follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or Bloglovin. If you have a cooking question (or any other kind of question) leave me a comment below, they kind of make my day (insert smiley face here). ¡Gracias!

Grandma's Pear Canela Coffee Cake
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Makes 1 10-inch coffee cake

3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 cup milk (non-dairy milk works here too)
2 large ripe pears, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)

For the topping:
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground canela cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cubed

1. Grease a 10-inch tube (angel food cake) pan. Heat oven to 350°F and arrange rack in the middle. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the sugar and shortening together until creamy and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, then the milk.

3. Add the dry mixture and mix on low until completely incorporated. Add the pears and fold them in with a plastic spatula. Spoon mixture into the prepared pan and spread so the top is even.

4. Combine all the topping ingredients in a medium bowl and mix together with your hands, rubbing the shortening into the dry ingredients until it has formed clumps of streusel. Evenly top the batter with the streusel.

5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown, about 60-75 minutes.

6. Let cool at least an hour before removing from the pan.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Perfect Pot of Beans

There's been a bean embargo of sorts put down on the Professor. 

Apparently his consumption has crept into unsustainable territories and a he was put on notice that his activities in the bean department were being closely monitored. He's a man who really enjoys his beans so it's getting a little ugly around here.

If Louisa catches him reaching for a can of black beans (breakfast is usually when he tries to slide by unnoticed) she comes out of nowhere like a freakin' ninja and says in a strikingly accurate motherly tone, " is NOT a bean day".

She's got him on a schedule.

I feel for him, because I love beans too. So for the rest of us who aren't on watch, right now is perfect bean eating season. This recipe is the one I make on an almost weekly basis. I got it from my friend Tomasa who I worked with during my days at Firefly in San Francisco. She would chop up a huge pile of onions, get them nice and soft then add loads of spice. They are an absolute classic. These beans come out initially very soupy and we do eat it like bean soup with a squeeze of lime and maybe some sautéed beet greens on top. But if there are leftovers we will scoop out spoonfuls, letting the liquid drain back into the bowl and fry them with oil or bacon grease, mashing to a perfect refried consistency.

There's debate whether salting the beans before they are fully cooked inhibits their softening. I believe it so I don't add salt until the beans are perfectly soft. It may be an old wives tale but it's one I choose not to mess with.

The recipe makes a lot but these beans are one of those things that are better the longer they sit so making a huge batch is to your benefit. And if you're only allowed beans every other day, then that could take a while.

Perfect Pot of Beans
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Makes 8 servings

1 pound dried pinto beans
1/4 cup vegetable oil, lard, or bacon grease
1 large yellow onion, diced
2-3 jalapeños, cored, chopped, and seeds removed if you'd like it less spicy
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons chile powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1. Rinse beans in a colander to remove and dirt, while rinsing them be sure to run your fingers through them to check for small pebbles or rocks. Transfer beans to a large bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak, preferably, overnight. If you are in a hurry you can rinse them and cook them as is but they will take much longer to get soft.

2. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and jalapeños and cook until starting to become tender, but not brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, chile powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano. Let spices toast for a minute or two.

3. Drain and rinse the beans then add them to the pot along with the bay leaf and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover. Simmer the beans, stirring occasionally, until tender. This could take anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on how long you soaked the beans and how fresh they are. Add salt and taste. If it is not salty enough for your tastes, add some more and serve.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Toasted Coconut Cold Brew Horchata {Dairy-Free}

Happy Monday!!! If you celebrated 'Dies Y Seis' this past weekend then read slowly. I'm sure you'll get through this day just fine, it certainly isn't the first time you've gone to work hungover, right?!

I'll bet there were many of you who celebrated Mexican Independence Day last weekend and I know a few of you who will be continuing to live it up for the next couple days. You're going to eat some Chiles en Nogada, maybe some Pozole, have a margarita or two. I know you've got all that covered. The unfortunate part is that this is not Mexico. You still have to show up at work. But no worries, I've got you.

I fixed up a cold, lightly sweetened horchata with a caffeine kick that will get you through the day. It is the best worlds of iced coffee and creamy horchata mixed together with the tropical flavors of toasted coconut. So stop what you're doing, drag your booties to the kitchen and make a batch right now. It requires four ingredients and five minutes of your time, but you do have to let it sit overnight so make it now and it will be waiting for you tomorrow morning.....just like your boss at the office. ¡Viva México!

Want more comida for your vida? Follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or Bloglovin. If you have a cooking question (or any other kind of question) leave me a comment below, they kind of make my day (insert smiley face here). ¡Gracias!

Toasted Coconut Cold Brew Horchata {Dairy-Free}
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The sugar from the sweetened coconut makes this drink lightly sweet. If you are looking for more sweetness you can add agave syrup to taste or mix in a little sweetened condensed milk. 

Makes 4 servings

1 cup whole coffee beans
1 1/4 cups rice (any kind will work)
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes, toasted
5 cups water

1. In a coffee grinder coarsely grind the coffee beans. Pour into a large pitcher.

2. In the same coffee grinder finely grind the rice. You want it to be almost like a flour, depending on the grinder you may need to do this in batches. Pour the ground rice into the pitcher with the coffee.

3. Add the toasted coconut and the water. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight, or at least 12 hours.

4. The next day give the mixture a stir, then strain through a coffee filter into a clean pitcher (I used my regular pour over set up, but you'll have to do a little at a time, it could take up to 30 minutes for it all to go through. Give the mixture a stir if it gets clogged.)

5. Seve immediately over ice or cover and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mexi Turkey Burgers

For years I've been deciphering the language of my husband. It is not that his English isn't up to par or that he speaks with an accent (Texas, Mexican, or otherwise). It is that he has his own lexicon where the pronunciation of words (particularly names) or the correct word for the context is just a little askew. To speak with him requires the adherence to two very important rules, what he says and what he actually means are two different things, and don't interrupt, because if you listen long enough he usually comes full circle and it will all eventually makes sense.

This may sound very confusing (and it can be) but after 14 years of togetherness I know how he takes his tea, I know that in most cases he'd rather eat with a soup spoon, and I know when he emails me about execution dates he means exhibition dates. In other words, we don't need to talk as much, we speak the language of love (go ahead roll your eyes, it's okay).

But there are times when confusion still reigns supreme. As we lay in bed last night, recapping our day, he starts telling me this story about a new adjunct professor at the college, Barack. Or at least that's what it sounded like his name was.

"Wait a minute. Barack?" I say. Completely taken aback that someone in North Dakota would name their white son after the President.

"Barack." He says

"The guy's name is Barack, like the President?"

"No, Barack"




"No, Brrrrr-ock"

"Oh, Brock!"

"Yes!" annoyed. "That's what I said."

And this, my friends, is what keeps our marriage alive. The constant reminder that I have no idea what he's saying—it's very mysterious.

What does any of this have to do with burgers? Nothing. Other than the fact that we also had these burgers last night and it went very smoothly because I know what everybody likes on their burger and no one had to say a word.

I love a good burger, but don't always love the gut bomb that follows. Turkey is a great option to avoid that stuffed sensation, but can sometimes be dry and tough. When we were in Michigan last month we had turkey burgers with my uncles' at their cabin and they added ground bacon to make them more juicy and flavorful. I'm to lazy to actually grind the bacon, finely chopped seemed to work just fine. I've also found that a little egg and bread crumbs can boost a turkey burger's ego and a little spicy jalapeño never hurts either.

Want more comida for your vida? Follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or Bloglovin. If you have a cooking question (or any other kind of question) leave me a comment below, they kind of make my day (insert smiley face here). ¡Gracias!

Mexi Turkey Burgers

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Makes 4 burgers

1 pound ground turkey
4 ounces bacon, finely diced (about 4 slices)
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 large jalapeno, stem and seeds removed, finely diced
1 large egg
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup panko
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients except oil in a large bowl and gently stir to incorporate all ingredients evenly. Divide evenly into 4 patties. If you have time, it is best to do this a couple hours in advance and let them chill in the refrigerator.

2. To grill, heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high heat. Lightly oil the grates then cook the burgers about 5-8 minutes per side or until the patties are firm and cooked through.

3. To cook in a pan, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once shimmering place burgers in the pan and let cook, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, about 6 minutes. Flip and cook about 5 to 6 minutes on the other side, or until cooked through. Serve on toasted hamburger buns with your favorite condiments.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mexican Street Corn Soup with Blue Cheese-Chile Crumble

This is the last of the corn from our garden. Which I guess means I have to face the fact that summer is drawing to a close. I think the temperature dropping to near freezing last night might also have been an indicator I chose to ignore this morning when I about froze my butt off while walking Louisa to school in a sundress. Goose pimple skin. Not cute.

If you have surfed the interwebs any time in the last 6 months you might have come across a few hundred thousand recipes for that cheesy, spicy, mayonnaisey Mexican treat called elote. It seemed to me that the only rational thing to do in this scenario is to bump it up to a hundred thousand and one with a soup rendition, because if there is one thing I believe in, it's that everything is better in a bowl.

What's that? You think so too? Okay, here we go. First you go to your backyard and pull 4 or so ears of corn out of your garden.....or procure it from some other place. I understand not everyone needs a 24 hour corn supply like I do.

Then you gather up some onions, garlic, jalapeños, chile powder, and cream which will be standing in for the mayonnaise in this version. You might want a lime too.

You shuck the corn and remove all the juicy little kernels by holding the corn upright with one hand and carefully sliding your knife down the cob (a few might fall on the floor and then you might step on them and get corn juice all over your feet, it's okay, just let it happen).

But wait, don't throw those cobs away! We are going to use them to make the stock for the soup. Corn kernels + corn cobs = super-d-dooper corn soup.

What else goes in corn stock you might ask? Well the onion skin and ends you just took off and the core from the jalapeño. The papery skins from the garlic too, and the garlic ends (which I know you removed because ain't nobody got time for garlic butts.

Then you let that simmer until the corn infuses the water with sweetness and your kitchen smells like it's been transplanted to the middle of a field somewhere in Iowa.....or about an hour. Meanwhile you can start sautéing up all those veggies you chopped—multitasking, yes!

Then you strain the wet into the dry and get rid of that first pot, cause really, who's idea was it to make soup with two pots? Oh wait, never mind.

Then all that's left is cook, cook, cook. And blend, blend, blend. And while your cooking and blending you make a little cheesy crumble (look at you still multitasking!!). I went for blue cheese here even though no proud Mexican would ever put blue cheese on their elote. But, hear me out my Mexican pragmatists, the blue cheese adds that necessary tang that is essential to good street corn. Give it a try or use more traditional Cotija or even Parm, it's okay, I won't be mad.

And that's it! Spicy, tangy, cheesy corn-on-a-stick, in a bowl.

Want more comida for your vida? Follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or Bloglovin. If you have a cooking question (or any other kind of question) leave me a comment below, they kind of make my day (insert smiley face here). ¡Gracias!

Mexican Street Corn Soup with Blue Cheese-Chile Crumble
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This soup utilizes the corn in all its parts by making a stock with the cobs. If you'd rather use store-bought vegetable or chicken broth instead go right ahead, it will still be delicious. 

Makes 4 servings

4 ears corn, shucked
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 jalapeños, cored and chopped (seeds removed if you want less heat)
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 cayenne or thai bird chile, thinly sliced
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Remove all the kernels from the corn by sliding your knife down the cob of the corn. Save the kernels (you should have about 3 cups) and place the cobs in a pot.

2. To make the corn stock, cover the cobs with 8 cups of water then add the onion trimmings, garlic skins, jalapeño core, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. You can add more aromatics if you want, things like chopped celery, bay leaf, black peppercorns, or fresh parsley would be good. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour.

3. When the stock is ready, heat oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Let cook for a few minutes to soften then add garlic and jalapeños, and corn. Season again with salt and pepper. Let cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add chile powder and let toast for a minute or two.

4. Place a fine mesh strainer over the vegetables in the pot and carefully pour the stock through the strainer. Discard the solids.

5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

6. Ladle soup into a blender and cover the top with a clean dish towel (you may need to do this in batches). Purée on low, then slowly increase the speed until the mixture is smooth. Return the puréed soup to the pot, add the cream and reheat. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

7. While you are waiting for the soup to reheat you can make the crumble by combining the blue cheese, cilantro, and chile in a small bowl.

8. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a spoonful of the crumble and serve immediately.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tiny House Solutions: Mud Room

Last Thursday we got up, made scrambled eggs, sent the kids off to school, and bought a house. 

It's nothing fancy, pretty small, tiny in fact, not even 900 square feet, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. Built 100 years ago it has the original hardwood floors, plaster walls, high ceilings, and woodwork. It has a great front porch where the kids can play even when it gets too cold to be outside and a nice size yard to fulfill my gardening needs. We didn't just buy any house, we bought our house. The same one we've been renting for the last five years.

A tiny house has its benefits; less to clean, easier to eavesdrop on your kids, less area to navigate when someone is crying in the middle of the night. It also has its disadvantages; less privacy, a little more chaotic, and a lot more clutter. In anticipation of the big purchase we've spent the last couple weekends clearing out all—okay, some—of the crap we've been accumulating for the last five years and tried to get more organized.

I thought I'd share with you our renovations as we started on this path of home ownership and offer any tips we stumble upon on how to make our tiny home more livable. I don't fancy myself a design blogger by any means but I'm always on the lookout for ideas so I'd love to hear your solutions too. Promise?

One area that gets massively messy is our back porch, aka mud room, aka dirty shoe and junk area. We used to have this janky table in there and some random chairs and everyone would just kick their shoes off into a sand and mud infused pile. The Professor (genius that he is) made this super simple shoe cubby system and placed a nice piece of reclaimed wood on top.

Now everything is so organized and neat and beautiful I want to squeal it makes me so happy when I walk in there. We also hung some low hooks so the kids will have no excuses when I yell, I mean ask them politely, to hang up their crap.

 It's wonderful and I love it. One tiny house solution accomplished 23,573,947 to go!

Check out my Tiny House board on Pinterest for hundreds of more great ideas and don't forget to share your ideas—you promised!

Want more comida for your vida? Follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, or Bloglovin. If you have a cooking question (or any other kind of question) leave me a comment below, they kind of make my day (insert smiley face here). ¡Gracias!