Archive for the ‘Sauce’ Category

Kale: Catalonian (Spanish) Greens with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

cooked Kale greens with golden raisins pine nuts Spanish Catalan

Kale – there’s so much more to make with this leafy green than kale chips. Try this easy recipe for Catalonian sautéed greens with raisins and pine nuts. In case you didn’t know Catalonia is an autonomous community in northeastern Spain . . . .

Yes. I’m back – with food facts and recipes.

It worked. The hints from FFC friends and followers about not having seen any posts in their email box or RSS feed.

I wish I could say I was traveling the world eating exotic food to my pansa’s (belly’s) content. Nope, I came down with a nasty summer bug that lingered and lingered. For nearly two months, I did a drastic clean up of my diet cutting out anything white (flour, sugar, dairy), alcohol, and even my go to remedy for all that ails me . . . chocolate.

Instead I upped the fruit and veggies and have been eating loads of leafy greens – kale , chard, beet greens, spinach, cabbage, etc. If you didn’t know it, leafy greens have anti-inflammatory properties and are full of anti-oxidants, plus they’re good for nutritional healing, particularly for the liver – when you/your body is stressed and your immune system is down.

I like greens raw and cooked, so eating them has been no chore for me.

This recipe for kale and chard with garlic, raisins, and pine nuts is just one adaptation of sautéed greens we’ve been eating for years. Mix it up depending on what’s in your garden, pantry and refrigerator. This raisin/pine nut (and/or almond) combination comes from Catalonia’s take on espinacas con pasas y pinones (spinach with raisins and pine nuts), although they also use other leafy greens.

Espinacas with Raisins and Pine Nuts is usually a first course and is popular in other parts of the Mediterranean from Sicily to Greece. It also makes an excellent side.

This version, and my preference, is to use kale or a kale/chard combo, since spinach is less hearty and wilts much more. I also prefer to saute the greens and skip the parboiling that’s generally customary to other recipes. The greens are finished with orange juice, a technique I picked up from Bryant Terry, a chef and author of Vegan Soul Kitchen.

Kale and other leafy greens are abundant and vibrant now with the cooler temps. So next time you score some, try this Spanish favorite. For all my readers who are into Southern and Soul Food, you’re sure to like these – they’ve replaced the traditionally cooked greens in our house.

Glad to be back. Happy eating!

Tidbits on Kale:

  1. Kale is a variety of cabbage that descended from wild cabbage native to the Mediterranean region.
  2. Kale may have been the first cultivated cabbage.
  3. Kale was one of the most common green vegetables in Europe until the middle ages.

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Cranberry: Ginger Cranberry Ketchup

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

cinnamon ginger orange cranberry sauce ketsup

Cranberries are “the” Thanksgiving berry, even though it’s unclear that they were part of the 1621 feast shared by Native Americans and pilgrims.

The meal is believed to have included wheat, corn, barley, waterfowl, deer, fish, and wild turkey. It is certain, however, that long before white settlers arrived, Native Americans had been cultivating cranberries (and other berries) for food. So, it’s possible some of those crimson berries made an appearance.

Nonetheless, cranberries are requisite today at Thanksgiving. During this time of year – cranberries are coincidentally at their peak (October through December).

No qualms from me. I like food that’s tart and bitter and I’m a big fan of cranberries – fresh, cooked, dried and juiced. Since the 19th century, the berries have found their way in desserts, sauces, jellies, preserves and ketchup.

Yes, cranberry ketchup. This interesting tidbit caught my attention too. Apparently, it’s one of the more popular non-tomato based ketchups.

My recipe for ginger cranberry ketchup is not just novel. It’ll be a staple year-round – for your turkey sandwiches , turkey burgers, chicken and turkey tacos, etc. It has both sweet and sour notes and a little kick, if you choose to add chile. It’s easy to make and the spice blend is open to your own twist: nutmeg, cumin, and Chinese five spice.

The extra bonus here over cranberry sauce is that the vinegar in the recipe not only gives it some twang but it extends its shelf life. It’ll keep for about a month with refrigeration.

Tidbits on Cranberries:

  1. Cooking: When cooking cranberries, add sugar after they have popped to avoid tough berries.
  2. Buying: Select cranberries that are firm not shriveled or discolored. Stock up on fresh cranberries while in season (October through December).
  3. Storing: Fresh cranberries can be refrigerated for up to four weeks; frozen in plastic bags for nine months to a year. Do not wash them before storing.

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Pumpkin Seeds: Mexican Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

As you know Fork Fingers Chopsticks just celebrated its 1 Year Anniversary. There are new things in the works – one in particular is my marketing campaign. To spread the word and create more Web love and buzz for this site, I’m taking on more opportunties – like this recent guest post at my friend Pamela’s blog My Man’s Belly. I met her at Campblogaway, a food bloggers conference last May. She’s very creative in the kitchen and as an extra beni – she gives relationship advice.

Check out my recipe for Mexican Pumpkin Seed Pesto. Use it over melted queso for an extra special appetizer, as a spread on bread or tortas (sandwiches), or as a base for a sauce to accompany your favorite meats, veggies or pasta.

I’ll be posting more pumpkin seed recipes after I finish a few more apple posts. Stay tuned – Moroccan Chicken with Apples coming soon.

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Zucchini Balsamella – Zucchini Bechamel

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

My garden runneth over with zucchini. I know. I’m not alone.

About this time of year the excitement in finding one or several zucchini beneath a canopy of green begins to wear thin. If you’re like some of my gardening friends you take the easy way out and give most of them to friends and neighbors.

Yes, it’s nice to share. But, don’t do it because you’re uninspired.  When I first started this blog I posted two excellent recipes for zucchini:

- Calabacitas con elote – a Mexican zucchini and corn succotash
- Kabak mucveri – Turkish zucchini fritters

And, because I’m a zucchini aficionado, I have a few more recipes coming your way, including this one for zucchini béchamel.

If you’re unfamiliar, not to worry, béchamel is a white sauce made out of a simple roux of butter, flour and milk. It is considered one of the mother sauces of French cuisine. So, when I came upon a recipe for Tortino di Zucchini, a crustless zucchini tart with béchamel sauce in the famed Italian cookbook, The Art of Eating Well by Pelligrino Artusi, I was curious.

Artusi explains that the Italian “balsamella,” is the “. . . equivalent to the béchamel sauce of the French, except theirs is more complicated.” His version omits the French step of cooking the sauce with onion and cloves.

According to many, The Art of Eating Well is the grandfather of Italian cookbooks, treasured by home cooks like the Joy of Cooking is to American audiences – except it dates back more than a century. . . In 1891, Artusi a retired Florentine silk merchant, self-published La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well). It is a collection of recipes from all the different regions of Italy – although it is heavily Tuscan-influenced. The cookbook has been in continuous print since 1894 and was finally translated into English in 1996.

The recipes sometimes have obscure ingredient measurements and scant instructions, which I think adds to its charm. Since most of these recipes were collected from home cooks, it makes sense – a pinch of this or a handful of that.

Since the first time I made the zucchini tart last summer, I’ve modified it significantly for the modern cook. And, I think it has more in common with a casserole than a tart. And, technically my version is a Mornay sauce (since it has cheese). It’s not a quick dish to make, but it is worth the effort. To make it easier, make up the béchamel a day or two in advance and reheat.

The final result is semi-crisp zucchini baked in a creamy cheese sauce that hints of nutmeg. It’s a perfect dish to take to a potluck or for those occassions you’re hankering for macaroni and cheese – but, this one is vegetable based.

Buon appetito!

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Salsa Wars – Recipes for Roasted Tomato, Beet & Tomatillo Salsas

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Salsa Wars Finalists

Over the years, I’ve become a bit of a salsa virtuoso. I point to my Mexican roots for precipitating the fondness for chile-based condiments.

Salsa, which means “sauce” in Spanish, originates back to the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas in Mexico and Central America, where sauces were made using tomatoes, chiles and a variety of other ingredients including seeds and berries, depending on availability and location. They encompassed sauces that were cooked and smoothed and those that were chunky and raw.

Growing up, salsa was on the table at every meal, right next to the salt and pepper. Whether it was my dad’s hot roasted green chiles mashed to perfection in the molcajete with garlic or my momma’s impromptu fresh pico de gallo with garden-fresh tomatoes, cilantro and jalapenos – salsa was the choice condiment for everything from tacos to eggs to pizza.

Today, salsa still reigns. Although my definition of it has expanded beyond Mexican and Latin American cuisine.

So, when I got the chance to be a judge at Salsa Wars, Denver Public Library’s salsa recipe contest, I jumped on it. The event was part of DPL’s Street Food series in July, which highlighted food from Peru, Brazil and Mexico.

As a judge, I had the pleasure of tasting the six finalist salsas, and the task of picking my favorites. I was torn . . .

Do I vote for the more traditional Salsa Jefe with roasted chiles and tomatoes or the roasted tomatillo-based Garlic and Lime Green Salsa – both of which I could eat leisurely with chips while I have a cold beer or margarita? Or, do I vote for the Salsa Puttanesca with capers and anchovies that would be great on fish, but I wouldn’t touch with chips? Then, there was that darn Caramelized Onion Salsa that tasted divine but called for an hour plus to caramelize onions?

There was also the lure of ingenuity with the roasted beet Red Square Salsa – tasty but more of a side dish than a salsa? And, a green tomato salsa that appealed to the gardener in me.

Ultimately, I channeled some Iron Chef judiciousness. Along with two other judges – Chef Shellie Kark of Kitchen cue and Jesse Ogas of Encantada Catering, we selected the winners:

1st Place:  Salsa Puttanesca-Salsa Italian Style – by Beth Hewlett

2nd Place:  Salsa Jefe – by Rocio Rowland

3rd Place:  Caramelized Onion Salsa – by Laura Kark

Other Finalists:

Red Square Salsa-Salsa Russian Style – by Beth Hewlett

Garlic and Lime Green Salsa – by Katherine Linder

Coleen’s Amazin Green Tomato Salsa – by Coleen Walsh

Below are recipes and pictures for half of the finalists. I cooked up the three (in bold) and made a few notes in italics. The remaining three recipes can be found on Chef Kark’s blog and her Facebook page.

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Parsley: Italian Salsa Verde with Anchovies and Capers

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Italian Salsa Verde Parsley Anchovies_ForkFingersChopsticks.com

Several things stand out in my memory of the semester I lived in Florence . . .  I remember narrow cobblestone streets. The tranquility of brisk, autumn mornings near the Arno and The Ponte Vecchio, and the quiet occasionally interrupted by buzzing vespas.

I also remember my delight when tasting new Tuscan foods such as Italian salsa verde, green sauce.

In Italy and especially the Tuscan region, Italian salsa verde is paired with steamed vegetables and more traditionally with bollito misto, mixed boiled meats. Made from fresh parsley, anchovies and capers, it certainly awakens the tastebuds.

Salsa verde is a green sauce similar to pesto but uses parsley as the main ingredient. After making it more recently, I would also have to liken it to a fresh herbed version of chimichurri. After all, Italians migrated to Argentina in huge droves in the late 1800s, and the culinary influence is obvious.

As I researched this sauce further, I also found it referenced as “salsa rustica” in the Chianti area.

Most salsa verde recipes include parsley, anchovies, capers, onions, garlic and olive oil. Some also include adding vinegar soaked white bread and/or chopped hard boiled eggs. The addition of either of the latter makes the sauce more substantial and gives it some bulk.

My recipe includes eggs as an optional ingredient.  I make it with and without depending on my mood. My prefernce is still to use the sauce to top boiled eggs rather than include the eggs in the sauce.

Use this green parsley sauce on boiled eggs, steamed green beans, boiled chunks of potatoes, cold meat and as a condiment with canned tuna or to substitute for mayo in deviled eggs. If you don’t care for anchovies, leave them out, it’s still delicious.

Tidbits on Parsley:

  1. Flat leaf or Italian parsley is preferred for many culinary dishes. It has a slightly stronger flavor than curly parsley and holds up better while cooking. If you are making in a white sauce, use the stems rather than the leaves, so that color does not bleed.
  2. According to some alternative medicine remedies, parsley has many healing properties. It can be used in poultices to soothe tired, irritated eyes and also to help heal bruises. The juice can also be used as a natural mosquito repellent and to help relieve the itch and sting of insect bites. Note, however, some people can have allergic side effects.

Sources: The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, The Essential Herb Garden

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Parsley: Chimichurri – Argentinean Herb Sauce

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Chimichurri_Parsley Sauce Argentina - ForkFingersChopsticks.com

For people who enjoy cooking or eating, the Fourth of July is as much a holiday related to grilling as it is to fireworks.

Whether you’re throwing down on grilled beef, chicken, fish or tofu this weekend, one sauce you should serve your guests is chimichurri.  It’s easy to make and will earn you some culinary cred.

Chimichurri is a parsley-based sauce originating out of Argentina. There it accompanies grilled meats, chorizo and empanadas. There are countless ways to make chimichurri – ranging from a fresh-herbed bright green sauce (like my version below) to one that is red hued and calls for dried herbs and cooking.

Regardless, essentials for this sauce include parsley, oregano, vinegar, and olive oil. From there, it’s cook’s choice.

To impress your guests further, here are some food history facts:

The origin of chimichurri is a bit sketchy. Credit is given to los gauchos, the cowboys of Argentina’s pampas plains area, famously known for grilling meats and sausages over an open wood fire. Their marinade and salsa of choice was chimichurri, which was likely made of dried parsley and oregano.

Some food etymology also points to non-Argentines as the source:  an Englishman Jimmy Curry, a meat importer who traveled with gauchos in the mid 1800s and an Irishman Jimmy McCurry, who marched with troops for Argentina’s independence in the 19th century. Under either, the locals had difficulty pronouncing their last names and “chimichurri” resulted.

Others, like Argentinean gourmet Miguel Brasco, say the name dates back to when England tried to invade the Spanish colony of Argentina. Allegedly, British prisoners asked for condiment for their food, mixing English, Aboriginal, and Castilian Spanish words – “che-mi-curry” in English meaning “give me curry,” later changed to chimichurri. Another recent theory to surface is by barbecue expert Steven Raichlen, who links it to the Basque word “tximitxurri.” The Basque settled in Argentina in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Despite the intellectual exercise above, know that this sauce will be a hit.

Chimichurri, especially this fresh-herbed version, is perfect for your grilled food. The fresh herbs, vinegar and lemon juice balance the grease in grilled meat. You can also use it as a salad dressing, marinade, or as my husband enjoys – on corn on the cob.

Let me know how you use chimichurri.

Tidbits on Parsley

  1. Use parsley within a few days of picking or purchasing – before the leaves begin to shrivel or turn a yellowish hue.  After washing thoroughly, store in a glass in the refrigerator. If you want to freeze it for later use, dry thoroughly, chop and freeze.
  2. Parsley is poisonous to most birds but of high nutritional value to humans – rich in vitamin C (three times as much as oranges); it has compounds that clear toxins from the body, which reduce inflammation; it also contains histamine; and contains a compound within called apiol that is valuable for treating kidney ailments.

Sources: Hints & Pinches by Eugene Walter; Encyclopedia of Spices at theepicentre.com

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Sofrito – Puerto Rican Fresh Bouillon

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Puerto Rican Sofrito - Fresh Bouillon - ForkFingersChopsticks.com

Sofrito is the essence in Puerto Rican dishes like arroz con pollo – the next rice recipe in the queue. It’s also the foundation of flavor for beans, soups and other good eats.

What is sofrito? It’s a blend of fresh vegetables and herbs. You could liken it to fresh bouillon because it can be added to a dish to round it out and give it depth.

The idea to liken this fresh base to a “bouillon” was inspired by Heidi at 101 Cookbooks. She posted a recipe for homemade bouillon a few months ago. Her version had carrots, fennel, and a slew of other veggies and herbs – preserved with salt. When I read her post, I immediately reconceptualized a way to explain the culinary use of sofrito.

This sofrito is Puerto Rican. It is not spicy. But, it is flavorful! The main ingredients include: onion, peppers (bell pepper and aji dulce), garlic, cilantro and recao.

In Puerto Rican cookery, recao is also referred to as culantro. It is an herb typically found in tropical areas like Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Mexico. It has a mild green flavor that is reminiscent of, but not as strong as cilantro.

Look for it in the fresh herb section of ethnic markets labeled as spirit weed, fit weed, cilantro extranjero, cilantro habanero, or in Asian/Vietnamese markets as ngo gai.  I managed to score some at Rancho Liborio, here in Denver.

If you are a sofrito purist and have access to aji dulce, yours will likely be greener in hue. I used a red pepper, which gave it a reddish tinge.

This fresh bouillon is a great addition to your kitchen staples, especially if you’re big on Latino and Caribbean food. It can be made in large batches and frozen in smaller portions (such as ice cube trays) for convenience. For vegetarians and vegans, it’s a nice alternative to oomph up flavor. And, another huge plus, there’s no salt.

Try it! If you make sofrito and have any interesting uses for it, please leave a comment.

(more…)

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