Monday, July 26, 2010

A Serious Food Opera

Disclaimer: Any resemblance that the following scenes might have to objective reality is entirely circumstantial. Summer heat and humidity have been known to cause extreme thirst, hunger, depravity, and utter insanity. Thank you.

This is my sous chef. He's da boss.

He's usually pretty tame, but when he's overheated and hungry, he tends to become mildly delusional, and completely bonkers.
Oh, and this is me, your loyal chef. On corn.

Kids, corn is dangerous. Never say I didn't warn you.

It's even more dangerous than beer.

Anyway, we devoured all our food like ravenous, carnivorous bunnies...

...and still had room for dessert: homemade strawberry frozen yogurt (see recipe below)

Real Strawberry Frozen Yogurt - adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz
(makes about 1 quart)

- 1 lb. organic fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vodka
- 1 cup plain (whole-milk or low-fat) yogurt

Slice the berries into small pieces and toss in a large bowl with the sugar and vodka. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve and let stand covered at room temp for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Puree the macerated strawberries and the resulting liquid with the yogurt in a blender or food processor until totally smooth. If you want to remove the seeds, press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the machine's instructions.

** Cool addition: Boil down 1/2 cup good balsamic vinegar until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Cool completely. When the frozen yogurt is done, spoon in the balsamic reduction and continue churning for just a few more seconds (as in, 3 to 5) to swirl, then stop and transfer frozen yogurt to a container, and freeze before serving.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The cook's dilemma

Greetings, all! I've been supremely MIA for the past month, which I can only attribute to my infrequent employment and resulting frazzled nerves. I had a dangerous thought, not a few days ago, which was this: Do I even want to be a cook?? (Holy moley, did I really just say that out loud?!) Yes, it's true. The fact is, cooking is a labor of love, and sometimes the love just isn't there, especially when the pay is small, or absent, the hours are miserable, and I let those devious doubts slip in through the back door.
But folks, I'm happy to say that I'm back!! (at least, for now) I'll keep you posted on the developing job situation, but what's more important at this moment is that I've reclaimed my love for cooking and I want to share it with you all. That's a sure sign of a happy, mentally stable Evie.
Tonight I'm making potato and chorizo tacos with avocado-tomatillo salsa. Mexican food is one of my passions, but it often clashes with my locavore bent (Do avocados grow in NY? Noooo.) However, today my conflicting interests in Mexican food and local food found a middle ground when I discovered beautiful tomatillos and serrano chiles at the Union Square Greenmarket! They hail from the Oak Grove Plantation, in Hunterdon County, NJ, not far from my hometown. Who'd o' thunk? Vamonos...

Potato-Chorizo Tacos with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

- 1 lb. ground meat (I did half sirloin, half pork)
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. chile powder/any desired spice mix (I actually used my homemade Ras el Hanout)
- 1 tbsp. paprika (I used smoked paprika, but normal sweet/Hungarian works too)
- 2 cloves minced garlic

-1 lb. small white potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
- salt

- 1 cup husked and diced tomatillos
- 2 Serrano chiles, stemmed and chopped
- 1/2 large white onion, chopped
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 2 large ripe avocados, halved and pitted

- salt to taste

- 1 small Spanish onion, sliced thinly

- 12 small corn tortillas, warmed

1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and work with clean hands until all the meat and seasoning is combined. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add salt and diced potatoes, and boil for about 5 minutes, until tender but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.

3. Make the salsa: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tomatillos, chiles, white onion, cilantro, and lime juice, and pulse on and off a few times, scraping down sides of container as needed. Scoop the meat from the avocado halves into the processor bowl and pulse a few more times until the avocado is totally incorporated, but the salsa is not pureed. Season with salt and set aside in a bowl, with plastic wrap pressed onto the surface of the salsa to prevent browning.

4. Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the chorizo mixture, breaking up vigorously with a wooden spoon. Once the chorizo is totally broken up and no longer raw, add the sliced onions, stir to incorporate, and cover. Let cook 5 minutes. Add the potato cubes, stir, and lower heat to medium, cooking for another 3-4 minutes.

5. Spoon the potato-chorizo mixture onto a warmed tortilla, and top with salsa. Enjoy with a good Mexican beer!