Saturday, April 2, 2016

Cuba!

What's better than pineapple rum mojitos and slow cooked red meat? Not much.

Ropa Vieja is the national dish of Cuba and we had it with friends. I must confess that I cheated and used the crockpot. Don't judge. It was easy and made the house smell delicious. Double win. The dish is the Cuban version of a beef stew with lots of fun things like green olives, capers and peppers. I've already made this dish twice, it's that good. Serve it on buttered noodles, or rice or polenta or some other starch and you're done.

I loosely followed a couple of different recipes this one and this one.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Jamaica

Another Caribbean country finished!

Jamaica was fun, bright, and delicious. Jerk chicken, rice and peas, rum punch and a pineapple cake. We broke with tradition and made the rice and peas even though it wasn't Sunday. Great recipes if not a tad heavy on the carbs.

As an aperitif we had some plantain chips and coconut soda.

Wonderful way to spend a Thursday evening.

Rice and Peas

Ingredients
1 can red kidney beans
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp fresh thyme
4 green onions, chopped
2 cups of rice (rinsed well)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
water
salt
pepper

Preparation
Drain the kidney beans over a measuring cup that holds 4 cups. Add the coconut milk and then add enough water to make 4 cups of liquid.

In a large pot, add the liquid mixture, garlic, thyme, onions, kidney beans, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and taste the liquid for saltiness. Next add the rice and boil or 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 15 - 20 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve warm.

Jerk Seasoning
1/2 pimenta (allspice berries)
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 garlic cloves, minced
5 scotch bonnet peppers
2 tbsp thyme leaves
2 green onions, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
2 tbsp soy sauce

Ratings
A's Rating: 7
H's Rating: 8 (loved the chicken and the coconut rice)
M's Rating: 7 (wasn't as thrilled as I had hoped)
Guest Rating: 7

I will be repeating the rice recipe again. Loved the hint of coconut and the fresh herbs. Will also be repeating the jerk seasoning.

Friday, February 5, 2016

China

Interestingly enough, especially in the midst of Chinese New Year, we hit China on our journey around the world.

I decided to tackle Chinese dumplings (known as jiaozi) since they're a traditional New Year dish. Happy Year of the Monkey!

About a year ago, we were invited to dinner at our neighbors' house. They are a wonderful couple from Shanghai. They taught us the art of dumpling making. It was delightful if not time consuming. For our country night, I decided to brush out my notes from that dinner and the results were delicious.

I used pre-made dumpling wrappers so I guess that's cheating. Oh well.

Pork Dumplings

Ingredients
1 and a half packages of dumpling wrappers
1 cup ground pork
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
3 tbsp sesame oil
3 green onions chopped
1 1/2 cups of shredded napa cabbage
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves minced

Preparation

Mix all the ingredients for the filling.

Place 1.5 tsp of filling in each wrapper. Using a touch of water, seal the wrappers in a half moon shape.

Place a large pot of water on the stove. Once it boils, add half of the dumplings and then immediately add 1/2 cup of cold water. Once the water boils again add another 1/2 cup of water. Do this a second time adding cold water again when it boils. After the pot boils for the third time the dumplings are done.

If you like crispy dumplings, you can now fry some (or all) in a pan with cooking oil.

Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.

H's Rating: Solid 7
Husband Rating: 7 (though with the addition of sriracha the rating goes up to 8)
M's Rating: At least an 8.5 (she had 3 crispy dumplings and 3 boiled dumplings)




Friday, January 29, 2016

Puerto Rico

How about a little Caribbean flair? We ran through Puerto Rico with street food and a hearty rice dish. The recipes required that I run around the neighborhood looking for seasonings and spice packets that were completely foreign to me. I tried the huge Mexican supermarket chain store, Cardenas. I had mixed success there. Turns out my unassuming Vons store had everything and more.

We headed over to our friends' house (who graciously provided the grill) and enjoyed:

Arroz Con Gradules
Pinchos
Bolitas de Queso

Also, did you know that Puerto Rico is home to the first pina colada? You're welcome.

The rice was very salty though no actual salt is in the recipe....
However, I loved the idea that you throw dried herbs, and sliced olives into the pot before the rice.
The pinchos are the Puerto Rican version of chicken kebabs. Delicious.
The bolitas de queso were heavenly. Fried cheese balls.



A's Rating: 7 out of 10
H's Rating: 7.5 out of 10
M's Rating: 8 (I think she devoured 4 balls)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Laos

I was thinking that Laos would be interesting but not terribly exciting. A weeknight country without any fanfare or party planning. Wow, was I wrong. Have you ever had larb? Aaaaaaaamazing.

Larb is a meat salad which you can make with nearly any meat or poultry. You eat it with sticky rice or in lettuce cups. It is deceptively simple which, at first glance, leads you to believe the flavors would be boring. Not true.

We will make this again. And again. It is the highest rated dish of this adventure so far. Seriously.

I read a lot about larb before making the dish. Basically, you have a lot of flexibility with the ingredients but there are some deal breakers--don't use soy sauce, salt, vinegar, dried herbs, or store bought lime juice; ever.

Turkey Larb

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 large shallots
  • 1 tbsp rice powder (or rice flour)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro 
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint leaves
  • fresh lime juice
  • fish sauce
  • cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes)
  • lettuce leaves

Preparation

Brown the ground turkey in a skillet over medium heat. Drain some of the juice, but not all.

Add the shallots to the turkey and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes. Off the heat, add 1 tbsp of fish sauce and 1 tbsp of lime juice and dash of cayenne pepper. Check for seasonings. Continue adding fish sauce and lime juice in equal parts until desired taste.

Add the rice powder and mix well.

Add the chopped fresh herbs.

Serve in lettuce cups.

Antoine's Rating: 9 to 9.5 out of 10
Heidi's Rating: 9.5 (Super tasty)
M's Rating: ????