A Harmony of Flavors

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Garbanzo Beans in a New Guise

I am mostly finished with the Guatemalan cookbook / memoir I have been making, though I am continuing with my effort to eventually make all the recipes I have amassed. I have 80 recipes in this book of mine. Some are recipes I copied from somewhere, either a private recipe of a family member or from a very old cookbook someone had loaned to me. These have been changed over time when I have made them, to reflect my own way of doing things. In one single instance, I clipped a newspaper recipe and embellished to my taste. In many instances, I watched someone make a dish and I went on to do something similarly on my own, with there being no written recipe involved, even from my source. Many of the foods I learned to make while in Guatemala were created from someone's description of what to do, but including absolutely no amounts, timing or any such aid to creating a dish. Sometimes, even the person giving me the ideas had never made the dish involved!

Garbanzos en Dulce
This last instance is how I came to make Garbanzos en Dulce. Garbanzos en Dulce translates to Garbanzos in a sweet form, or in syrup. I learned so many ways that sweet and savory foods crossed paths while in Guatemala. Sweet spices are used in savory applications. Savory foods are used in a sweet application. If we think of a pumpkin pie, we realize that while pumpkin is a savory food, it makes a most excellent dessert. In this case, garbanzos, while so often associated with hummus, or added onto salads at a salad bar, are not necessarily the first thing we think of in the context of a dessert. Yet, in Guatemala, they do, with excellent result. This dessert is generally served during Holy Week, but that never stopped me from making something I like when I want it.
 
Garbanzos en Dulce, served

Coming to the page in the cookbook, while proofreading, it occurred to me that the main reason I have not recreated this dessert since returning to the US more than 30 years back, is that in Guatemala I had access to dried garbanzo beans, which had to be cooked, then peeled and then made into the dessert. For anyone who has cooked beans, we know that it takes a while for the cooking process. To ensure the beans would peel easily once cooked, some wood ash was added to the cooking water. Once cooked through, the skins slipped off easily. The dish is really wonderful, but makes a much better presentation and texture if the garbanzos are peeled. Once all this was finally done, it came time to cook the beans into a dessert. Most every Guatemalan recipe seems to ensure the maximum amount of kitchen time possible! 

However, in this day and age, garbanzo beans are available in cans. And not only that but with the choice of regular salted beans or unsalted. It occurred to me as I was proofreading that page in the cookbook that I needn't start from dried garbanzo beans. I have cans in the pantry! All I would have to do is peel and make them into dessert. I ran to the kitchen to try it out. 

Bowl of Garbanzos in Syrup
This still leaves the peeling part. I know that not all cans of garbanzos are created equal. I have read online how many people have had great difficulty peeling garbanzos, even from a can. I have read that hummus comes out with far better texture if the beans are peeled. I have not bothered with this step for hummus, just yet. For this dessert, I wanted it to be right. I was all prepared to use the baking soda method to get the beans to release their skins, but when I opened a can of "Kuner's brand of unsalted garbanzo beans, they peeled very easily indeed. As easily, in fact, as peeling blanched almonds. I was thrilled. 

It does take a little time to peel all the garbanzos, even only from one can. For me, it was not a really big deal-breaker in this case, to spend an extra 15 minutes or so peeling the beans. It must be done carefully, as the dish really presents best if the beans are whole and not all crushed. The only thing left to do was to place the drained and peeled beans into a saucepan with water, sugar and some true cinnamon stick to cook for about half hour and voila! Nearly instant dessert. I understand if this is a little too outre for some people, but if you love garbanzo beans, you just might be surprised!


It is important for correct flavor of this dish to use true cinnamon for the flavoring. True cinnamon, versus the cassia we are generally faced with in the US, has a very different flavor, and even color than cassia. True cinnamon sticks are thin quills, generally rolled together and very easily crumbled if needed, where cassia sticks are thick, single quills, difficult to break.  True (soft stick) cinnamon quills are generally found in any Mexican grocery or in the international foods aisle in many grocery stores.

Garbanzos en Dulce

serves 3 or 4

1 can (15 - 16 ounces) garbanzo beans, preferable unsalted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, if needed
1 cup water for cooking
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
3 to 4-inches true (soft stick) cinnamon


Drain and rinse the garbanzos. Test peeling them. If they peel easily, skip this step and go on to making the dessert. If they do not peel easily, then first stir the baking soda into the drained and rinsed beans. Pour them into a skillet and heat them through, stirring constantly. Once hot, return them to the colander set over a bowl of cool water and rinse them well, rubbing them gently to loosen the skins. Gently make sure all the skins are loose and removed, changing the water various times during this process.

skin loosened     |   bowl of beans peeled     |         Kuner's brand  |       gently boiling in sugar water  |  boiled to syrup
Once the beans are peeled, place the drained and well rinsed beans into a saucepan with the water, sugar and the cinnamon. Bring to a boil and continue at a medium boil for about 30 or so minutes, until the liquid has become syrupy. Cool and serve..

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Red Quinoa and Black Rice

Some may be wondering about these two things in the title: Red Quinoa and Black Rice. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has become much more popular and accessible these days, while black rice is perhaps less so. I only found out about red quinoa in the last couple of years. While I had some black rice prior to even knowing red quinoa existed, black rice is far less available in many places. There is always the internet. The entire world has opened up so much more each year, providing availability of items we had no real hope of acquiring just a few years ago. 
 
Red Quinoa

Red Quinoa, and Quinoa in General

Quinoa is used similarly to grains, but is not even related, making it a wonderful replacement for persons with gluten intolerance. It is ground into flour, though using quinoa flour alone produces rather dense baked goods. This is remedied by using it in combination with rice or tapioca flours. Quinoa is far higher in proteins than wheat, making it a more complete protein source. It has far higher fat content than most grains, and it is a heart-healthy kind of fat, mainly monounsaturated oleic acid, alpha-linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Quinoa is also a significant source of the antioxidant flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, and can contain a greater concentration of these flavonoids than berries such as cranberries and lingonberries. Other significant properties being studied are quinoa's anti-inflammatory properties, effect on diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Information in this section taken from this website.

Black Rice
Add caption

Black Rice, or Forbidden Rice / Emperor's Rice, was once forbidden to the common people and only eaten by Emperors. It is still relatively uncommon in the US, but as demand rises, it will become more widely available. 

One spoonful of black rice provides the same amount of anthocyanin antioxidants (the purple and dark red pigments that give color and nutrients to blueberries, grapes, blackberries, dark cherries and acai berries) as a spoonful of blueberries. Out of various kinds of rice, including polished white rice, brown rice, purple rice and red rice, black rice has the highest concentration of nutrients. It has nearly double the fiber of brown rice. The information in this section was gleaned mainly from this website.

Moving on...

With the information here, one can understand the reason why these two foods are of interest. For me, this is coupled with the fact that they taste really good. Either quinoa or rice is easy to prepare and both lend themselves to the addition of other vegetables and or fruits to enhance the flavors. I have made rice "salads" in past, using the addition of some chopped fresh vegetables and a light vinaigrette for flavors. One of my daughters has done the same with white quinoa, with fantastic results. In fact, she is the one that started me on quinoa to begin with.
Red Quinoa & Black Rice Salad


I have had many colors of rice in my pantry. Currently, I have white basmati rice, arborio rice, brown rice, purple sticky rice and bamboo rice (infused with bamboo juice), in addition to black rice. I was thinking back to a rice salad recipe i used long years back. It used white rice and "wild rice" (not a rice at all). I recall really liking that recipe, though I never made it again. I thought that this combination of black rice with red quinoa would be interesting to look at, and with the addition of some vegetables, would make both a lovely presentation as well as great flavor and texture. As we are in the dead of winter up here where I live, while vegetables are available, they are more expensive and sometimes I just avoid buying things when who knows how far they have traveled before reaching a store nearby. 

Some things I do keep on hand are artichoke hearts, pimiento and other things in cans or jars, for when the mood strikes. In this case, the mood struck yesterday afternoon, when thinking of what to add to this recipe I was thinking up. There is a timing difference between cooking black rice and quinoa, so two pots must be dirtied to make them, but sometimes, the desire to eat a thing outweighs the consideration of how many things to wash up afterwards. 
Red Quinoa and Black Rice Salad, served with pork chops


Ultimately, I just loved this dish. It did turn out as pretty as I imagined. In summer I might add in other fresh vegetables such as green or red bell peppers, carrot, summer squash and other things. I love cilantro, and used it in this dish, but if cilantro is not your thing, use parsley instead, or even celery leaves. I used feta cheese in my salad, but other cheese can be substituted as desired. I had Feta in the fridge, as well as crumbled blue cheese and goat cheese, but opted for the Feta as it's saltiness was to play the part of any extra salt needed. If all you have available is white quinoa and brown rice, these would work just as well, though without quite the pretty color combination. Brown rice often must be cooked longer than the black rice also, so keep this in mind.

Red Quinoa and Black Rice Salad

serves 4 - 6
 
Red Quinoa & Black Rice Salad

1/2 cup black rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water

3/4 cup red quinoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup water

VINAIGRETTE:
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
salt and pepper

EXTRAS:
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimientos, drained
1 (6.5 or 7-ounce)jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
4 ounces diced or crumbled Feta cheese

In one small saucepan combine the first three ingredients, bring to boil, cover the pot, reduce temperature and cook until rice is tender and water is evaporated, about 30 minutes. If water is not completely gone, drain of any excess. Cool to lukewarm.

In another saucepan, combine the next three ingredients, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and cook until water is evaporated, about 15 or so minutes. Cool to lukewarm.

Mix together all the vinaigrette ingredients and whisk well. Set aside. Drain the artichokes and cut them into smaller chunks. Add the diced pimiento to the artichokes. Place the cooled rice and quinoa into a larger bowl and toss. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Add in all remaining ingredients and mix lightly but thoroughly. Serve tepid. 


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Most Exceptional Three Bean & Bacon Medley

I made pizza a few days back. It was good, but my husband is the pizza fanatic in our house. I was getting tired of it. He will eat it as leftovers for days. I was really craving something fresh, but also something more hearty. I made both. I was thinking of making the macaroni salad that I posted yesterday. It was fresh in my mind, and sounded good. Still, I was trying to get away from all the useless carbs from the pizza, so why switch to macaroni? Beans! Beans would be just what I wanted.

Three Bean & Bacon Medley

I had been meaning to make a batch of black beans for weeks. I just don't seem to get to it, and I prefer the flavor when they are made in the crock pot. Meaning that I must get them into the pot no later than 9 AM to have them cooked through by 4 PM to fry some onion and mix them together before dinner. I love black beans. My husband is also a fanatic for beans, but they must be the "pork and beans" kind, meaning in a tomato-based sauce and sweet. I do love pork and beans also. I just have more varied tastes than he does, and having lived in Guatemala for 12 years gave me a real love for black beans. 

Long and short, I had no black beans simmering away all day, so what next? I do keep cans of various kinds of beans in my pantry. If I decide to make chili on the spur of the moment, I have kidney beans. If I feel like hummus, I have cans of chickpeas, and on and on like that. So I went to stand in the pantry and peruse my options. I wondered if I could make a mixture of beans that could simulate a nice pork and bean type mixture. I picked up cans of kidney beans, pinto bean and garbanzo beans. I also picked up a can of corn, thinking to mix that in, but changed my mind on the corn.

Three Bean & Bacon Medley
My husband's love of ketchup would have him more than happy if I used all ketchup to make the sauce for these beans, but I didn't want to go there quite so avidly. I took a can of tomato sauce also, along with a little can of mild green chilies. Now I had the basics, so it was a matter of deciding how to embellish and make these more exciting. I was inspired, I guess, because while my husband still ate leftover pizza, he also ate a large bowl of these beans. He said afterwards that I should hang onto this recipe with my life, because they were the best beans, EVER! That is quite the compliment. I am pleased. I loved them as well, and really overindulged. Between us, we ate 2/3 of the pot full. As a regular side dish, it should feed far more! It ended up being my main dish for dinner, along with some cole-slaw.

Three Bean & Bacon Medley

Three Bean & Bacon Medley

serves 6 to 8

1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans
1 (15.5 ounce) can kidney beans
1 (15.5 ounce can pinto beans
4 - 5 ounces bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons double concentrated tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Empty the cans of beans into a large colander and run cold water over them repeatedly, until they stop foaming. Set them aside to drain. In a 6 quart pot, fry the bacon over medium to medium low heat until about halfway done. Add in the onion and continue to cook, stirring often, until the onion is well softened and translucent and the bacon is cooked through. If there is more than a tablespoon of bacon fat in the pot, drain some of it, or use a paper towel to soak up some of the grease to discard.

Add in the green pepper and stir for a few minutes, then add in all the remaining ingredients and stir well. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to meld the flavors. Serve hot.


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Do You Love Macaroni Salad?

I know, carbs and all that. Sometimes though, macaroni is just comfort food. And it tastes good. And there are so many ways to make macaroni. My husband, for one, just loves macaroni salad straight from the grocery store. I have to admit, I like it too, though less often. Somehow over the years, though I have made various iterations of a macaroni salad, it had yet to really end up with that creaminess that the store-bought kind has.
 
Macaroni Salad



Until now. I was trying to come up with something quick for supper. I was out of potatoes, my husband's first (side-dish) love. He isn't wild about rice, unless it has a lot of things added, or has a gravy to smother it. Macaroni it was, then. I ended up being inspired that day, because this macaroni salad was just creamy and delicious, and even better (in my honest opinion) that the store bought I had been trying to emulate.

What I did was something similar to how I make my Mustard Potato Salad, i.e. soaking the freshly cooked (potatoes) macaroni in a vinaigrette first, until cool. This has two wonderful effects. It soaks into the potatoes or macaroni while they cool, making them less likely to soak up and absorb all the mayo creaminess, resulting in a more moist and creamy end result. The second wonderful effect is that because of this pre-soaking, you need far less mayo or sour cream to make it all creamy.
Just look at all this creaminess!





Additions to the  macaroni salad can be most anything you'd like: things like olives, carrots, capers, cheese, peas, other chopped veggies like broccoli slaw or tiny broccoli or cauliflower florets (cooked or uncooked), hard boiled egg, etc. My husband is not fond of carrots, olives, broccoli or cauliflower. He loves peas, but I didn't think of those. I did use some of my pickled red onion, just because I have these made in the fridge and my husband will tolerate onions if pickled. If you do not have pickled onions, use 3 or 4 scallions, minced, or 1 shallot, minced. This is what I did:

Macaroni Salad

serves about 4

8 ounces macaroni (penne, shells, elbows, etc)

VINAIGRETTE:
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, optional
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced finely

CREAMY MIXTURE:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire for Chicken (the "Rooster Booster") 
OR 1 - 2 tablespoons regular Worcestershire Sauce, to taste

ADDITIONS:
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped pickled red onions
3/4 cup chopped bell pepper

Cook the macaroni to desired doneness. While macaroni is cooking, make the vinaigrette by whisking together in a large bowl all the vinaigrette ingredients until smooth and homogenous. Drain the macaroni well and pour it into the vinaigrette, tossing well to coat. Set aside to cool, or place in the refrigerator to speed chilling. Toss the macaroni a few times during the cooling process, both to speed cooling and to ensure all the macaroni is exposed to the vinaigrette evenly.

Mix together the Creamy mixture and set aside until the macaroni has cooled. Chop the vegetables and have these ready. Once macaroni cools, add in the creamy mixture and mix well, then stir in any vegetables you are using and the dish is ready to serve.



My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Indian Spiced Lamb Chops with Garbanzos


Indian Spiced Lamb Chops with Garbanzos
A few months ago, I bought a whole butchered lamb from someone locally. Not too far out from all the holidays, I did not yet really make too much use of the meat, except for ground and the packets marked "chislic", a local term for a stew type meat that is often fried. I got out some lamb chops yesterday, since I had not yet seen them and how they were cut. This is always a surprise when you are faced with locally butchered meat. One never knows how it will be. These lamb chops were cut thin, at barely a half inch. They would probably have been better left as a rack, but that's okay. 

Tamicon Tamarind Concentrate
When making lamb, I am always inclined to think of Indian spices first. I don't know why, precisely. This is what I had in my mind when I got the chops from the freezer in the first place, but no recipe specific in mind. Just an idea - but that's always a great place to start. First off, what flavor components did I want? Certainly garlic and ginger. Coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds seemed logical. Chile of some kind. While we don't eat very hot spicy foods, a little bit is fine. I wanted to work with a sweet and sour element, sort of combining the concept of chutney sweetness with a sour note of tamarind. Tamarind paste is the one ingredient likely not found in everyone's refrigerator. I am not sure how to advise a substitute for tamarind. It is sour, but not like lemon. Possibly the use of some lemon or lime juice with some of the zest would suffice. The "Tamicon" tamarind concentrate (thick paste) shown at right is my favorite brand. It is very thick and concentrated. A little goes a long way.

As I started getting a hazy vision of a recipe taking shape, I thought about other common elements, such as onion and green pepper. Check. I wanted to use garbanzos. Did I want to use coconut milk? Maybe. I also thought more about the "sweet" part of this equation. I had a jar of orange marmalade. I thought I would use a little of that to give the sweetness, along with some orange juice. As a last thought, I added some dried apricots to the list of ingredients.

Indian Spiced Lamb Chops with Garbanzos
Now that I had more or less a fairly well rounded idea of the pieces and parts of the recipe, I sat down to think about how to put this together. If the lamb chops had been very thick, I would have started them in a fry pan and moved to the oven to finish. As it was, this was totally unnecessary. They were completely done in 8 minutes. I did, however, use a marinade on them while I prepared the sauce. All in all, we both absolutely loved the dish. The sauce alone would have been an excellent meal with rice for anyone who does not eat meat. It was rich, hearty and satisfying. I had only 4 very thin lamb chops in the package I opened, so it served my husband and me just fine. the sauce part would have easily served 3 to 4, so if one doubled the amount of meat, the sauce amount could stay the same.

Indian Spiced Sweet & Sour Lamb Chops with Garbanzos

Serves 2 - 4

1 pound of lamb chops (4 chops)
Indian Spiced Lamb Chops with Garbanzos
ghee or oil for frying

MARINADE RUB:
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, divided
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh garlic, divided 
1 tablespoon Tandoor Spice Mix (can substitute Garam Masala)
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 to 1 teaspoon Indian powdered chile or Cayenne, according to taste
oil to moisten, if needed

SAUCE:
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seed
2 teaspoons ghee or oil
1 small onion, in large cubes
half the garlic/ginger/salt mixture from marinade
1 teaspoon Garam Masala
2 - 3 tablespoons orange marmalade, to taste
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate / paste


dash Cayenne, optional
1 small green pepper, diced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup dried apricots, in small dice
1/2 cup coconut milk, optional

First prepare the marinade. A mortar and pestle are ideal for pounding together the garlic, ginger and salt. If this tool is not available, press the salt, garlic and ginger with the back of a spoon in a small bowl. Once well mashed into a paste, divide the mixture in half and set one half aside for the sauce.

To the remaining garlic ginger paste, add the Tandoor Spice, mustard powder powdered chile and mix, adding in some oil if needed to make a paste. Slather this paste liberally over the lamb chops. Set them aside while making the sauce:

In a dry skillet set over medium high heat, toast the coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds until very fragrant. Pour them onto a plate to cool. Once cooled, grind them finely in a spice grinder and set aside. In the same skillet, heat the ghee or oil and gently saute the onion until it is golden. Add in the reserved garlic ginger paste from the marinade, along with the toasted and ground spices and the Garam Masala and stir well until the mixture is very fragrant. Add in the marmalade and orange juice, tamarind paste , stirring until well dissolved. Add the green pepper, garbanzos and apricots and let the mixture simmer on low heat while preparing the meat. If desired, add in the coconut milk just before serving, off heat, until it dissolves.

In  another skillet, over medium heat, add in more ghee or oil as needed and saute the lamb chops quickly, about 3 to 4 minutes per side without turning, allowing them to form a crust. Once done, move the pan off the heat and cover, to let them rest while finishing any prep. Serve the dish with rice.

I placed saffron rice in a large bowl, set two lamb chops on each serving and spooned the sauce over all. It was absolutely scrumptious!


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Spinach Artichoke Dip Great for any Occasion

I have had many forms of a spinach and artichoke dip over the years. Long ago, I had one with little tiny shrimp mixed in, and other combinations along the way. I love spinach. I love artichokes. Match made in heaven. And then add in cheese and a miracle happens.

Despite never having made this, one would think that I'd have had some kind of idea for making it, at least. But no. Somehow that idea completely passed me by. When my sister-in-law was visiting before the Christmas Holidays began, discussing what fine appetizers to have for our Christmas Eve celebration, she asked about using artichokes. She had a very large jar of little baby artichokes she had gotten at one of the large stores that sell these things in bigger than usual quantities. I have lots of recipes using artichoke hearts. She asked about a dip?
 
Spinach Artichoke Dip

And there I sat, thinking, "Why in the world, do I not even have a clue what to use for an artichoke dip?" So we did what it seems has become the norm. We whipped out our smart phones and Googled it!

Between us, and about 12 or more different recipes, I began compiling what I considered to be all the things a good artichoke dip might have. Once reading the recipes, it is easy to then imagine how this or that ingredient will work with others. What ingredients are not among my favorites? Shrimp were out, since having discovered an allergy to shellfish. For me, spinach was a definite yes, but..... My husband is not too keen on spinach. He will eat the Spinach Dip using the package of dried vegetable soup mix. But he might object to a hot dip with spinach. I left he spinach out. Scallions sounded like a fine idea, as did the cans of green chiles. Eggs seemed completely unnecessary. Large onions would be out, as we are not so keen on heavy onion flavor. I didn't want long stringy, cheesy strands when trying to dip, so mozzarella was out. Thickening the dip with a butter and flour roux also seemed a total waste of time; busy-work at a time when that's the last thing we need. 
Artichoke Dip

Ultimately I decided on using cream cheese and some mayonnaise and Parmesan. I used a splash of lemon juice and 2 cups of the artichokes. I wanted lots of artichoke flavor in every bite. I made the dip for Christmas Eve. My sister-in-law and I ate the dip with various types of crackers. It was good. My husband never even tried it, even without the spinach. He loves artichokes; guess there were too many other tempting things for him. But somehow, we were not wowed with the dip. I did really wish for spinach in it. I decided to try it again for New Year's Eve, using spinach. 

Then, since we had quite a bit of leftovers, and a lot of the Artichoke Dip left, I took it with us Christmas Day, to reheat and serve for the snack portion of the day. I totally forgot to take crackers. My other sister-in-law said no problem, they had plenty. However, the first thing to hand were plain tortilla chips. I used a chip and took a bite. OMG. What a difference. With the chips, the dip was absolutely splendid. Everything I had hoped for. All the difference in the world, just with chips instead of crackers. One of the teenaged grand-neices came to me, put her hand on my shoulder and exclaimed that this Artichoke Dip was the best - thing - EVER!

Spinach Artichoke Dip on a Pita Cracker
I did make it again for New Year's Eve, with the spinach added in. My sister-in-law brought tortilla chips. We feasted, and all was well. Once using the tortilla chips, the dip made with or without the spinach is excellent. Creamy and of perfect consistency. I used plenty of cheese but not so much as to be excessive. I will be making this again and again.

If desired, and you love shrimp, drain and rinse one can of tiny shrimp and add this to the mixture. Nothing else in the recipe needs change. Keep the spinach or leave it out, as you wish. 

MAKE AHEAD: If time is at a premium, mix together all the ingredients except the artichoke hearts and spinach; prep those separately and store each of these  things (creamy mixture, spinach, chopped artichokes) in their own containers, refrigerated for up to 3 days. When ready to make the dip, simply stir all the ingredients together and pour them into a greased casserole dish and bake. My reasoning for the separate containers is that I did not want the mixture to become watery while mixed in the fridge. If left separate, the artichokes or the spinach can always be drained more, this way, if needed.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

makes about 5 - 6 cups

Spinach Artichoke Dip
1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced scallions
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 (4-ounce) can mild green chiles
1 - 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
2 cups chopped artichoke hearts
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 on Convection Bake). Grease an 8 x 8-inch, 9 x 9-inch or similar sized round oven safe casserole with non-stick spray and set aside. 

Drain and chop the artichoke hearts, until they make 2 cups; set aside. Completely thaw the spinach, and using hands, squeeze it as dry as possible. At this point I like to chop it a little finer, even if you have used pre-chopped spinach. Set this aside. In a bowl, preferably with a hand mixer, beat together the first 7 ingredients until creamy. With a spatula, mix in the prepared artichokes and spinach. Pour into the prepared casserole. If desired sprinkle a little more grated Parmesan over the top. This yields a more golden top after baking. Bake the casserole for 35 to 40 minutes, or until it is bubbly and golden on top. Serve hot or warm with tortilla chips, baguette slices, pita chips or crackers. 

***If you happen to have leftovers of this dip, I can truly say it makes an excellent filling for an omelet, and a great spread on your morning bagel.


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Making Rosquitas - Little Ring Shaped Breads

Still working on my Guatemalan cookbook/memoir for my daughter, I am working diligently on recipes to make and photograph. I want as many of my own photos in the book as possible. Making all of them, for now, will not happen, but some are easier than others. Rosquitas are one of the easier recipes. The only reason I never looked at them as a recipe possibility is because I was never terribly fond of them. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with them. Everyone has their own taste, and I am sure these little bread / cookies must have a strong niche in the market to still be popular. 
Baked Rosquitas

What are Rosquitas, you may ask?

Rosquitas are little Guatemalan ring shaped bread / cookies that fall under the header of "sweet breads", or "panes de manteca". These fall in with some, like champurradas, hojaldras and other harder type "breads" that are actually verging on being a cookie. The only difference is that cookies are usually sweeter, and these breads, while made with sugar in the recipe, are generally not too sweet.
 
Rosquita dough, fringed or not, ready to bake

The rosquitas are shaped into little rings, and sometimes are left smoothly ring shaped, and sometimes they are given a little notched "fringe" either on only one side or sometimes around the whole bread. Once baked, these little bread / cookies are tender but crisp. The hardness level is nearly to a teething biscuit, which is what they always reminded me of. Being less sweet, on their own they are less inviting to eat. Dip them into hot coffee or hot chocolate however, and you have a much better result.

If you are interested in a cookie that is not too sweet, this is the way to go. The shape makes them interesting. See what you think:

Rosquitas

makes 32 little ring-shaped cookies

3 cups (14 ounces) all-purpose flour


2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sugar
4 egg yolks
3 ounces milk (6 tablespoons)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Add the yolks and beat until well combined. Add in the dry ingredients and cut in with fingers or a pastry cutter, until crumbly. Add in 2 ounces of the milk (4 tablespoons or 1/4 cup) and mix lightly and quickly as for pie dough. If the dough will not yet come together, begin adding the remaining milk, one tablespoon at a time. Add the extra milk only if needed to make a stiff cookie-like dough.

Making fringe on Rosquita dough
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Divide the dough into 32 small pieces of equal size. Roll each piece into a log about 6 1/2 to 7-inches long, equal thickness along its length. Bring the two ends together and pinch slightly to make a ring. At this point they may be placed on an ungreased baking sheet to bake, or you might make the little fringed edge, using either a small, sharp knife or small scissors to make many small snips halfway into the thickness of the ring along one side of the ring, or around the entire perimeter if desired. Set the shapes on an ungreased baking sheet and bake them for about 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. 

When all is said and done, I find that I really like these little cookie / breads now. Possibly because I am not being tempted by 15 other varieties of Pan Dulce all at once? Possibly. Still, I truly am enjoying these cookies now, with a nice cup of coffee, mmmm.


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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