I broke out my fall garb this week, and taught my students a valuable lesson while wearing a cozy wrap/scarf that the mister got for me in Amsterdam. A scarf is just a socially acceptable way to wear a blanket to work or school. You’ll see me wearing a lot of “scarves” in the coming days. The Dutch have a specific word for all things cozy, inviting, friendly and warm: gezellig. It’s one of those words that has no English translation. Picture a cool misty fall day. Gezellig is arriving home from work and snuggling up in a cozy knit blanket with a cup of tea, a book, and your favorite furry companion (canine, feline, or hey, even human). It’s huddling around a fire with friends, steaming mugs of soup in hand. The leaves are swirling around, and it’s hinting at frost. It’s gezellig time, so I thought I’d share my favorite after-work gezellig I meal to spread a bit o’ the cozy. If everyone were just a bit more gezellig, the world would be a happier place.
Tag Archives: mexican
Every morning, I step into my flowered gardening boots, and take 23 steps to water 14 tomato plants growing along the back fence. Luca follows me, alternately stretching and shaking out her bedraggled doggy bed-head, collar ringing and ears flapping. She wanders around the yard, black nose deep in the grass, collecting dew. She looks at me expectantly as I fill ditches around Brandywine, Celebrity, Cherokee Purple, Sungold, Roma, and Cherry tomatoes. “Okay, Luca,” I say as I invite her to the hose. She laps up the cool water happily in a rhythmic triplet pattern: lap lap lap, lap lap lap.
I step over the mottled 8 ball zucchini leaves and butternut squash, as Luca zooms in erratic circles around the yard; a self-imposed morning exercise regimen involving sudden changes of direction, and athletic leaps over potted plants. I breathe in the smells of late summer, tomato stems and fragrant herbs rubbed between my thumb and forefinger. Luca slides onto the grass, collapsable legs spread frog-dog style while I pop a few cherry tomatoes, a purple green bean, and a baby dino kale leaf into my mouth–a pre-breakfast snack, my morning dose of vitamins.
The leaves on the tree in the front yard already know that it’s almost time. The tomatoes feel it too–they’re slowing down, not ripening quite as quickly as they once did. Fall wins me over with its charms year after year, but I always put up a fight. Luca is, as always, spunky and adaptable, happy just to be with her people, watching as I cook and preserve, waiting for tidbits of carrot or other wayward ingredients to fall her way. Flopped on her belly, peering up through muppet fur, she’s kept me company through pickled cucumbers, peach barbeque sauce, spicy pickled carrots, crushed tomatoes, jam, and most recently, a batch of salsa to rival all my previous salsa-canning attempts.
This salsa bridges summer and early fall. Tomatillos and tomatoes are at their best, plump and ready to be roasted with a variety of fresh hot chiles and onions. When the tomatillos and tomatoes have shriveled and charred, filling the house with an irresistible aroma, it’s time to blend. In go the lime juice, chopped cilantro, torn toasted chile negros, salt, and a couple “secret” ingredients. My friend Karissa said, “There’s something special about this salsa, but I can’t tell what it is!”. The clove and allspice aren’t immediately perceptible, but they round out the salsa. The finished salsa boasts a mole-like complexity which can be eaten with tortilla chips, used as a base for Spanish rice broth, or warmed up over enchiladas or tamales.
Luca appears unamused, but only due to the fact that she doesn’t eat salsa. She will however, keep following me from garden to kitchen 7 days a week, asking only for the occasional table scrap or belly rub in return for her faithful culinary companionship.
Roasted Tomatillo-Chile Negro Salsa
Makes about 7 pints
I adapted this recipe from my new favorite canning book, Canning for a New Generation, by Lianna Krissoff, and customized it using ***SAFE*** substitutions–that is, substitutions not affecting the acidity of the finished product. If you’ve never canned before, take a look at a few of my favorite online canning resources here and here to learn how. If you’d like to make the salsa without canning, or would like to can a smaller batch, the recipe can be halved. To ensure safe canning, do not alter the proportions of ingredients.
•5 pounds tomatillos, papery husks and stems removed, rinsed (halve the larger tomatillos)
•2 pounds tomatoes, cut in half
•1 large white onion (8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
•4 ounces hot or mild fresh chiles, including 2 dried chiles negros
•10 medium cloves garlic, peeled
•1 1/2 cups roughly chopped fresh cilantro
•1 1/3 cups bottled lime juice
•2 tablespoons pure kosher salt, or to taste
•8 allspice berries
Preheat the oven to 500˚F.
1) Prepare for Canning:
Wash and dry the jars and lids. Put the lids and rings in a heatproof bowl and set aside. Put the jars in a canning pot filled with water and bring to a boil to sterilize while you prepare the salsa ingredients. Once the water in the pot comes to a boil, allow the unfilled jars to boil for at least 20 minutes before filling. Place a folded towel, a damp paper towel, a canning funnel, and a jar lifter next to the stove.
2) Put the tomatillos, tomatoes, onions, fresh chiles and garlic in a single layer on two large rimmed baking sheets and roast for 25-35 minutes, or until charred in spots. The tomatillos and tomatoes will be soft, collapsed, and leaking juices. Allow to cool slightly before blending.
3) Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, toast the dried chiles in the pan until fragrant and beginning to blister. Flip to toast the other sides.
4) Working in batches, pureé the vegetables and their juices in a blender along with the chopped cilantro, cloves, and allspice. Hold down the top of the blender with a towel to prevent the hot mixture from spurting.
5) Pour the puree into a large, non-reactive saucepan. Stir in the lime juice and salt. Bring to a boil.
6) Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids and rings. Using a jar lifter, carefully remove a jar from the canning pot, and pour out the water back into the pot. Place the jar on the folded towel, and ladle the hot salsa into the jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (empty space at the top of the jar). Wipe the rim of the jar with the damp paper towel, then put a flat lid and ring on the jar, tightening until just finger-tight. Repeat with the remaining jars.
7) Return the jars back to the water, making sure that the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process (at sea level), and an additional minute per 1,000 ft above sea level (I live at 5280, so I boiled for a extra five minutes). Remove the jars to a folded towel and leave undisturbed for 12 hours. After an hour, check to see if the jars have sealed by pressing down on the middle of the jar lid. If it can be pressed down, it hasn’t sealed and should be refrigerated immediately. Store the jars in a dark area.
Wanting what you can’t have makes it oh so much more desirable. Before you get the wrong idea, my lust is strictly reserved for seasonal produce. Now is the time of year where I start craving things that are nowhere to be found; warm weather, ripe tomatoes, and farmers market eats from trendy little busses.
Epicurious has a handy little seasonal ingredient map which will tell you what is in season in your area for every month of the year. I click on Colorado, and am greeted with the following message: “The growing season is currently dormant here; opt for items from storage, such as apples, pears, and root vegetables.” It’s like the voice on the phone that tells you “If you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again”, or, “We’re sorry, but all customer service representatives are busy. Your approximate wait time is….four months”. I hate that lady.
If I eat another root vegetable, or cold storage pear, I think I may lose it. Luckily, our wayward neighbors in California, Texas, and Florida are sending us vitamin C-filled grapefruit, oranges and tangerines, so at least we don’t have to add scurvy to our list of Winter woes (yarrr, maties).
Summer cooking is easy. It just happens between bites of sugar snaps and cherry tomatoes. Winter stretches my creativity. Luckily, Colorado is a sunny, albeit cold state, but on snowy days like this, I find myself trying to cheat winter by adapting my favorite summer foods to fit what is seasonal and available.
The subject of my Summer food craving last weekend was a Bricklayer Taco; from a taco stand with a highly inappropriate name, and ridiculously good street food (Hey, I’m a school teacher–we’re keeping it family friendly here). Kevin Morrison started his colorfully named taco truck just last summer at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market, and from the looks of it, will be back next summer.
The original “bricklayer” starts with a small, locally made corn tortilla. The bricklayer is formed with cotija, a salty Mexican crumbly cheese, which is griddled until it melts together and is speckled and golden on both sides. Morrison tops the cotija with scrambled eggs, house-made tomatillo salsa, and cilantro.
My version mimics the original, with a corn tortilla softened in hot oil, topped with a golden layer of cotija and scrambled eggs. I puzzled over the salsa. Although tempted to re-create the tomatillo salsa, I knew that any tomatillos I could find at this time of year would pale in comparison to those in-season. So, I set my sights on a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce–they’re readily available in winter, and have enough smokiness and heat to help me throw out all my notions of out of season produce (for now).
The grass is (literally) greener on the other side, but instead of whining for the next few months about things normal Denver-ites embrace, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands. Last year, when my blog was just a wee one, I had Project Snow Globe to help me make it through to warmer days. This year, I’m feeling a little more feisty, so let’s all welcome a little acronym called P.O.W! (Project Outsmart Winter). The Mister has agreed to let me P.O.W! (yes, it can be a noun or a verb), so my next order of business will be to paint my living room wall a color called “kumquat”….how will you bridge the gap to warmer days?
“Bricklayer” Breakfast Tacos with Griddled Cotija and Chipotle-Lime Salsa
Inspired by a colorfully-named taco truck
Makes 8 tacos
- 12 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled
- 8 large eggs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 corn tortillas
- Canola oil, to fill a small frying pan to 1/2 inch
- 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted and sliced
- Chopped onion and cilantro for garnish
- Chipotle Lime Salsa (see below)
Griddle the Cotija:
Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Wait until the pan is hot, then place 1/4 cup crumbled cotija in the middle of the pan. Spread the cotija into a circle about 3 or 4 inches in diameter. Cover the pan and cook for one minute, or until the cotija is bound together, and the underside is speckled and golden. Press it down with a spatula for 10 seconds, then flip. Press down the other side and cook for an additional 30 seconds. If not using immediately, the cotija patties can be kept warm in an oven set to the lowest temperature for up to 10 minutes.
Soften the Tortillas:
Set a plate covered with paper towels beside the stove. Heat the oil in a small frying pan until hot and shimmering. Cook each corn tortilla until softened and just beginning to puff up in spots. Remove from the pan and set on the paper towels to drain. Blot any excess oil from the top with additional paper towels.
Scramble the Eggs:
Whisk the eggs, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Scramble them as per usual (I like Deb’s method, which you can find here).
Assemble the Tacos:
On top of each tortilla, layer the griddled cotija, scrambled eggs, salsa, avocado, chopped onions and cilantro. Devour while hot.
This salsa is smoky, tangy, and pretty spicy, so a little goes a long way!
2 tablespoons adobo sauce, from one small can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 chipotle chiles, from 1 small can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
In a food processor, puree the adobo sauce, chipotle chiles, lime juice and salt. Add the onion and cilantro, and pulse until everything is finely chopped.
The vegetarians think the vegans are too conservative, but that the pescatarians aren’t conservative enough. The vegans think the vegetarians are too liberal with eggs and cheese. “I have the right to bear chicken and beef,” the omnivores say. And then, there’s that crazy new movement…and we’re not really sure what they eat.
Here is a recipe that will satisfy everyone. Your vegetarians will be happy, vegans can nix the cheese, and meat eaters won’t even miss the meat. These tostadas are gluten-free, and you can make them in about 40 minutes (30 if you’ve enlisted an extra pair of hands). It’s like world peace around the dinner table. Throw together some Southwest Quinoa Salad, and you’ll have a fiesta (just don’t bring up food politics!).
I’ve already been political today, so I may as well be a little bossy too. These tostadas have as much potential as the ingredients you put into them. Mediocre pre-made tostada shells and jars of one-dimensional salsa will be so-so at best. Why bother?
Now is the time to harvest tomatoes, so ripe they practically jump off the vines–perfect for a fresh tomato salsa. Pull up those onions you’ve been waiting for since Springtime. Or, ransack the farmers market. Find the guy with the red hat that will take a big bite out of any pepper you question him about, regardless of Scoville heat rating. Then, visit the lady with the speckled baby mixed greens. She’ll give you a little more than you paid for if she can tell they’re going to a good home.
Fry up some corn tortillas until golden and crunchy. Layer with cumin-lime toasted black beans and shredded mixed greens, and salsa. Top with spoonfuls of avocado, salty crumbled feta, and a few little garnishes.
I can only think of one reason you’d want to go out for Mexican food instead of making these tostadas at home…but I’m sure a savvy liberal-conservative-moderate-libertarian such as yourself could probably figure out how to make a darn good margarita, too!
Cumin-Lime Toasted Black Bean Tostadas with Summer Tomato Salsa
This recipe has become a regular in the Spoon With Me household. Mr. Medium Rare may need a new nickname, as he happily devours these vegetarian tostadas on a regular basis. On their own, these tostadas make a great weeknight meal. For a dinner-party or on a relaxed Saturday night, serve aside a big bowl of Southwest Quinoa Salad and a frosty margarita.
- 2 cans no salt added black beans, rinsed in a colander, and drained well
- 3/4 tablespoon ground cumin
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 8 corn tortillas
- canola oil (1 1/2 inches in a dutch oven or heavy saucepan)
- a few big handfuls mixed greens, shredded (thinly sliced with a knife)
- 1 medium tomato, chopped (for garnish)
- crumbled feta (omit to make vegan)
- 2 ripe avocados, pits removed, roughly chopped
- Summer tomato salsa
Make the salsa: (see below)
Fry the tostada shells
Heat 1 1/2 inches canola oil in a dutch oven or in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Fry one tortilla at a time for about 2 minutes, flipping occasionally. Remove to a plate covered in paper towels when crisp and golden. Be sure to monitor the oil, turning down the heat if needed.
Toast the beans:
Heat a large, nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the beans. Let them sizzle for a while. Cook for two minutes, shaking the pan to toss the beans. Add salt to taste and the ground cumin, and give everything a stir, taking care not to smush the beans. Continue to shake the pan back and forth for another 2-3 minutes, until some of the beans split open, and begin to show toasty spots. Remove from the heat, and pour in the lime juice. Stir.
Arrange the beans, salsa, feta, lettuce, tomato and avocado on the fried tortillas. Eat promptly.
Garden Tomato Salsa
- 1 1/2 pounds ripe summer tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 1-2 jalapeños, roughly chopped (more or less to taste)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 small handful roughly chopped cilantro (upper stems are okay)
- Juice from one lime
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt to taste
- approximately 1/4 cup each chopped onion, jalapeño, and cilantro to stir in at the end
Place the onion, the roughly chopped jalapeño, and the garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for about 5 seconds. Add the tomatoes, and process until the ingredients are mixed together, but not overly smooth. Add the cilantro, lime juice, cumin, and salt . Pulse a few times to incorporate. Making salsa is a balancing act, so taste, and add more salt, lime juice or cumin if needed.
Transfer to a bowl, and stir in some extra chopped onion jalapeño, and chopped cilantro to add variety to the texture.
This salsa may be refrigerated in a clean, airtight container for 3 to 4 days. To refresh the flavor, add a sprinkling of salt and a splash of lime juice.