Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Standing Out

Living in Mexico and being 5'10" Tall with very pale skin, blue eyes and light hair I feel a little like the tangerine at times.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Homemade Challenge March 09 - Bread

I have followed Ben's Blog, What's Cooking, off and on for some time now and recently he started a Homemade Challenge where each month there is a theme of something that you can make yourself. Month one (February) was homemade cheese. Well I missed the cheese I did manage to get involved in in March Homemade Challenge of making Bread.

At first I wanted to make some flat bread to go with a dish that I wanted to try that my friend Warda posted over at 64 sq ft Kitchen called Tchicha bel Khoubiz and then a few days later Diana Dyer posted her version of Tchicha bel Khoubiz over at 365 days of kale. I had this dish for the first time at a Food blogger get together last summer and enjoyed it very much. Thank you Warda! Please visit Warda's blog for recipe.

I made this dish for lunch on a day that I was making pizza for dinner so I too some of the pizza dough and pressed it out flat and cooked it on my cast iron pan. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of it before it was gone making it hard to post it for Ben's challenge so a few days later I decided to make homemade flour tortillas and those I managed to get a photo of...

the tortillas are easy, here it is

1 cup flour
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
3/4 teaspoon baking powder

mix dough, knead for 10 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes. Divide into 6 equal balls. Roll out paper thin. Cook on hot pan for 30 seconds a side. Done!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna - Daring Bakers March 2009 Challenge

ok, I know that I have been missing in action on the Daring Baker circuit for far too long. I have good reason though, we moved. We did not just find a new house we moved from Detroit Michigan to Mexico City. Moving to a new country takes a lot of time, effort and focus leaving very little time for such things as the monthly Daring Baker Challenges.

I am happy to be back this month with Lasagna. Yes The month of March was dedicated, in the Daring Baker world, to Lasagna made with fresh pasta, regu and bechamel. To tell the truth this is very close to the Lasagna that I make on a regular basis so there was not a lot new for me but it was still very fun. One new thing was making spinach pasta by hand. I have made pasta lots of times but always in my KitchenAid, sadly my kitchenaid is taking a vacation in a storage unit in Michigan so my little man Luka and I had ourselves an afternoon of kneading green dough and taking photos...and, well, having a blast.

I made my own standard ragu because I could not bear the idea of going to the market and trying to figure out how to tell the butcher that I need veal shoulder, pork loin, and beef chuck steak all ground up. No Hablo Español here, at least not yet.

My Ragu

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot grated
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper

In a medium to large sauce pan over medium low heat add olive oil and onions, slowly cook onions until they are light brown and very sweet.
Add the ground beef to brown. As the beef is browning break it up into little pieces with a spoon. When the been if about half browned add the carrot.

once the beef is brown move it to one side of the pan and add the garlic and tomato paste to the cleared area in pan. cook until the paste develops a dark color, maybe about 1 minute then add the tomatoes and water (use the water to rinse the rest of the tomato sauce out of the jar). use the tomatoes and water to deglaze the bottom of the pan.

cook the sauce for about 5 minutes then add the garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes. Taste to be sure that the sour, sweet salt in the sauce is balanced. At times, if the onions or carrots are not very sweet, a teaspoon of sugar may be added to the sauce to offset the acid of the tomatoes.

this was the Regu that was posted for the Daring Bakers. I am very happy that there was an option to create our own sauce, as mentioned before...

Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced

4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the m
eats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Ok I will let you catch your breath now..........

Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:


A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.


Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of bé

chamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:

Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely

tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

Thank you to Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge for hosting this month

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tortas Chorizo

I have not yet had many opportunities to try a lot of Mexican street food but what I have tried so far I have loved. The only complaint that I, if it is even a complaint, is that some of the things could use a little more salt. However, I have been known to add a lot of salt to my food.

The first real regional item we had after moving here was Tortas Chorizo, torta being a sandwich. Toluca is know to have the best Cherizo in Mexico and the locals in Toluca say the best chorizo sandwiches are at La Vaquita Negra. Now I have not gone around eating sausage sandwiches after sausage sandwich to be sure that they have the best Tortas Chorizo. With a sandwich as good as that I can imagine that it would be very hard to beat, and that is a lot of fat I would rather not consume.

These Tortas Chorizos are good sized and they can be topped with chopped jalapenos (which are HOT in Mexico unlike in the US), tomatoes, onions, and creme (a runny sour cream) as seen below and this will cost you 25 pesos or 1.73 US dollars. We also tried the torta cubana which was really just way too much with chorizo, cheese, and ham! We also tried the torta milanesa (I think that is what they are making in the photo above) which was good but paled next to the torta cherizo.

I even found a video of the place on youtube...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Oatmeal Cookies and Kitchen Supplies

Sorry I have been neglecting my blog for the last few weeks but we moved. We are finally not living in a hotel but in a house. We moved in about two weeks ago but did not have Internet right away and we have to find a by furniture. that takes some time you know and we are not done yet after 2 weeks of focus. We did find a great little town not far from Mexico city that has shops and shops of hand made furniture but I will save that for a future post.

After a few ways I asked my daughter, Z, what she wanted to have for dinner and she said oatmeal cookies. While I did not give her oatmeal cookies for dinner I did set off to purchase all the necessary equipment for making them and within days we were enjoying the wonderful disks.

First I had to find a mixer and hubby found a great little Black&Decker hand held beater with oodles of power for only $16. then a mixing bowl, measuring spoons, measuring cups and backing pan were found, purchased and brought home. Now all I need was a recipe and to by the ingredients.

I found was looked to be a great recipe on Smitten Kitchen called Thick, chewy oatmeal raisin cookies. Sounded easy enough so I made my list for the grocery store and, well I was not able to find a few of the basics like baking soda so I had to improvise and that is what follows.

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup almonds, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, and nuts.

Chill the dough for a bit in the fridge before baking them. You could also bake them right away, if you’re impatient, but I do find that they end up slightly less thick.

The cookies should be two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in, I am thinking that the thermostat on the oven is not working). taking cookies out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.