Friday, January 30, 2015

Things to do with Leftover Roast Meat

A few days back I made the Fruity Moroccan Style Lamb that was the topic of my last blog post. Unless you've had a good sized dinner party, making a larger roast will leave you with some significant leftovers. My husband has lately been of the mind that two days in a row of the same thing is enough. Then, it's either make something new, and still have the old leftovers - or make something new with those leftovers. 

Lamb Quesadilla with Pepperjack cheese and cilantro
Lamb Quesadilla with Pepperjack cheese and cilantro
As a dinner, quesadillas are not my husband's cup of tea, so to speak. I do love the ease of slapping two tortillas together with some cheese and or meat and calling it a meal. This is what I did with some of the leftover lamb. I took a couple of chunks of meat, sliced them and set the meat it between tortillas with some pepper jack cheese slices and cilantro. This was easily heated / melted through in a dry, nonstick skillet and was absolutely delicious and more than enough as a meal for myself. 

Yesterday, amidst many projects, including mixing up the new version of Ras el Hanout spice and getting photos, I was also running through my mind on what to make for dinner. The leftover lamb was still in the fridge. What to do? And then I thought - pot pie! The roast, or more appropriately "braise," had a fairly thick mixture from the pot, in which the onions, dates, apricots all melted into a very flavorful sauce. I thought if I added in a few vegetables and made a bit more sauce, I could easily whip up a pie crust and make a pot pie. That is one thing my husband absolutely loves. Nearly anything in a pie crust is sure to please. To start, I made a pie pastry very simply:

Simple Two-Crust Pie Pastry

For one 9 or 10-inch pie

2 cups all-purpose flour
⅔ cup shortening, lard or butter
1 teaspoon salt
5 to 7 tablespoons of water

Cut the fat into the flour and salt with a pastry cutter or forks, or even fingers. Once the mixture looks like large crumbs, add in about 4 or 5 tablespoons of the water, tossing the mixture quickly with a fork. Do not over-work the mixture, but bring it together into one mass. If it does not come together, add in another tablespoon of water and try again. You should not need more than 7 tablespoons of water. Once the mixture comes together, form it into two flat pieces, wrap well and refrigerate for an hour.
 Lamb Pot Pie
Beautiful New Meal: Lamb Pot Pie

Next, I started creating the filling for the pie. I cut all the remaining meat into small cubes and set that aside. I set aside the remaining mixture from the braise (which contained some tomatoes, dissolved fruits and even some of the rice that was served with it) for later. I chopped onion and started sauteing that, added in garlic and then flour to thicken with some water. Adding in veggies in small cubes to cook with this mixture, it was done in about 20 minutes. The meat and leftover pot mixture went in and the whole was checked for seasoning. All in all it went together quickly. Here is what I did:

Lamb Pot Pie
Perfect slice of Lamb Pot Pie

Lamb Pot Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons flour
1½ cups water or stock
1 small potato, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled, cubed
15 fresh green beans (½ - ¾ cup), small slices
½ teaspoon salt
a few grinds of pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1½ to 2 cups leftover lamb (or other meat), cubed
1 cup any leftover braise-bits from original roast
6 dried apricots, diced, optional

In a large skillet, over medium heat, saute the onion in the olive oil until beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook about 1 - 2 minutes more. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture in the pan and stir until it has disappeared into the oils in the pan. Off heat, stir in the water or stock until smooth. On the heat again, add in the carrots, green beans and potato with the rosemary, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add in the remaining ingredients, stir and allow the mixture to cool somewhat.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (375 on Convection). Roll out one of the two pieces of pastry and fit to a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the edge evenly with the edge of the pan. Once the filling has cooled a bit, pour it into the pie shell. Roll out the second piece of pastry and cover the pie. Trim the edges so they overhand the bottom crust by about 1 inch. Tuck the edge of the top pastry under the edges of the bottom pastry. Crimp all the way around. Poke a few vent holes in the top crust with a sharp knife. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling has begun to bubble out just a bit.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or 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 also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fruity Moroccan Style Lamb

I have no Moroccan background on which to base a "Moroccan" style recipe. I have never been there. I did see Morocco as a distant land mass when visiting Gibraltar. Still, I suppose we might all have some sort of preconceived notion of things "Moroccan." For me, these notions are of souks with all manner of goods, most interesting to me would be spices, foods, and only after these would come clothing, pots, containers and anything else to be had. Mint tea, piles of spices, lots of noise and bustle, vendors shouting; this is what seems like a souk, to me. 

Fruity Moroccan Style Lamb, with Ras el Hanout
Fruity Moroccan Style Lamb, with Ras el Hanout

I easily fall in love with a concept, particularly if it comes in relation to food. I fell in love with the cooking pots called tagines, long before I knew what constituted a "tagine". I still do not own one. The Moroccan culture has not been something I have delved deeply into, though Moroccan spices hold a fascination for me. Some years back, I read about a spice mixture called Ras el Hanout. At that time, I had absolutely no concept of what this might be. I looked it up, discovering it is a spice mixture that can contain up to 30 spices. The name, Ras el Hanout, means top of the shop, or best of the shop, and different vendors of spices may have their own idea of what should go into this mixture. Whenever I find a spice mixture that calls for ingredients I do not have, have not used, and possibly no notion of what they might taste like - well, I just have to find them and try them out. When i looked up Ras el Hanout online, back then, I took note of every single, differing spice that was listed in about 20 different "recipes." I took from these some of the most exotic, out of curiosity, and created my own mix. I have had this Ras el Hanout mixture for years now, though unless there is someone like me, who cannot resist a new and exotic spice, I suppose few would make that mixture. 

Ras el Hanout I

Ras el Hanout I
Ras el Hanout I
Makes about ⅔ cup

3 whole nutmegs
10 rosebuds
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon Grains of Paradise
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon lavender flowers
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons cardamom seeds
2 teaspoons ground galangal
1 teaspoon ajwain seeds
1 teaspoon black cumin (kala jeera)
1 teaspoon mace blades
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 six-inch sticks true cinnamon
6 cloves
½ teaspoon Spanish Saffron

In a dry skillet, separately heat until fragrant the Grains of Paradise, allspice berries, black peppercorns, cardamom seeds, ajwain seeds, black cumin, cinnamon and cloves. Remove each to a plate to cool. Crush or grate the nutmeg. Place all ingredients into a spice grinder or blender and grind to a fine powder.


With this in mind, when I decided to use my Ras el Hanout mixture to make a lamb dish that is vaguely Moroccan style (in my mind), I considered that I might also recreate my Ras el Hanout mixture using less exotic spices (galangal, ajwain, black cumin, rosebuds, grains of paradise, lavender). All of these in my new mix are more readily available to the average person.

Ras el Hanout II

Ras el Hanout II Spices
Ras el Hanout II Spices

Makes about ½ cup

4 teaspoons coriander seed
4 teaspoons cumin seed
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed
2 teaspoons allspice berries
2 teaspoons dried oregano (in leaf form)
3-inches true cinnamon stick, crumbled
16 green cardamom pods, seeds removed, hulls discarded (or a scant teaspoon of cardamom seeds)
8 whole cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
½ (whole) nutmeg, ground

Combine the first 10 ingredients in a spice grinder and grind to powder. In a bowl, combine this mixture with the remaining ingredients and mix well. Store in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place.

Meanwhile, I had decided to use one of the legs of lamb I had in the freezer, and wanted to make it in a somewhat Moroccan style; mainly that I use some of the Ras el Hanout, that it have some fruits in the mix, I would use saffron, and I would garnish with pistachios, pomegranate arils and a drizzle of honey. Ultimately, it was a very tasty "tagine" style braised lamb. If Moroccan, it might have chilies in the mixture. If spicy hot is your thing, add in chiles to taste. I used some Aleppo pepper, which gave a nice gentle heat. The apricots and dates in the braise dissolve completely, making a slightly thickened sauce. The figs stayed recognizable. Here is what i did:

Fruity Moroccan Style Lamb

Fruity Moroccan Style Lamb

Fruity Moroccan Style Lamb

Makes one 5 - 6 lb leg of lamb

1 (5 - 6 pound) leg of lamb
6 - 8 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, optional
a few saffron threads
3 tablespoons Ras el Hanout
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 - 4 carrots, peeled, cut in a few pieces
½ cup whole, pitted dates
½ cup whole dried apricots
½ cup dried figs, cut in half
1 (2-inch) strip of lemon peel
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes

½ cup stuffed olives
½ cup pomegranate arils
½ cup shelled pistachios (can substitute almonds)
2 - 3 tablespoons honey, for drizzling

Using a mortar and pestle or other implement, pound / smash together the garlic, salt, saffron and Aleppo pepper until garlic is in very small bits. Add in the Ras el Hanout and olive oil and continue to pound the mixture to a paste. Smear this paste all over the lamb leg.

veggies in pot     |  pounding garlic & salt mixture  |     pounded finer       |      added spice & oil      |  rubbed onto lamb
Place the onion and carrots in the bottom of a large heavy duty pot with tight fitting lid (must be able to hold the whole piece of lamb). Set the lamb onto this bed of vegetables. Add in the fruits, lemon peel, thyme and can of tomatoes. Cover the pot and set into a low, preheated 275 degree oven and allow the lamb to braise for about 5 hours, until very tender. check periodically to make sure there is some braising liquid in the pot. The lamb on the bed of veggies should just be setting in a little liquid. Add water if needed so the pot does not burn.

Once done, use 2 forks to pull the meat off the bone in chunks. Using paper toweling, lightly set the towels onto the surface of the liquids in the pot to remove excess fat. Discard paper towels. Return the meat to the pot and stir. Serve over a bed of rice and strew the olives, pomegranate arils, and pistachios over. Drizzle the honey over all. Garnish with cilantro sprigs if desired.

I made saffron rice to serve with the braise. I used 2 cups basmati rice, 2 teaspoons olive oil, a little saffron rubbed to fine bits, 2 teaspoons salt and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or 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 also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.

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
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
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, in Guatemala, 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. 

 Garbanzos in Syrup
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!
True Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon
True Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon

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
1½ teaspoons baking soda, if needed
1 cup water for cooking
½ to ¾ 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.
Making Garbanzos en Dulce
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.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or 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 also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.

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

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
Black Rice
Black Rice

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
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
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

½ cup black rice
½ teaspoon salt
Red Quinoa & Black Rice Salad
Red Quinoa & Black Rice Salad

1 cup water

¾ cup red quinoa
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cup water

1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
salt and pepper

1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimientos, drained
1 (6.5 or 7-ounce)jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
⅓ to ½ cup chopped scallions
½ 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 teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or 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 also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, 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
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
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

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
½ green bell 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 teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or 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 also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, 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
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.
Macaroni Salad
Macaroni Salad. 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
Macaroni Salad

Macaroni Salad

Serves about 4

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

1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, optional
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced finely

¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire for Chicken (the "Rooster Booster")
OR 1 - 2 tablespoons regular Worcestershire Sauce, to taste

1 cup chopped celery
¾ cup chopped pickled red onions
¾ 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 teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or 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 also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest.