Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

Brazilian Orange Raw Kale Salad

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

citrus kale salad, Brazilian Greens, easy kale salad

The first time I ate feijoada, it was served with an excellent collard green salad. It was the perfect compliment to the rich and thick black bean stew.

After doing a little research, I learned kale is also used to make Brazilian greens. Since I grow kale in my garden and I know that many of you are looking for additional ways to use this healthy leafy green (kale is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and is touted by health advocates as having anti-inflamatory benefits), I created this super easy Brazilian kale salad with oranges.

Kale was introduced to Brazil during Portuguese colonization along with other food stuff like: figs, citrus fruits, coconuts, rice, watermelon, Guinea pumpkin, mustard, cabbage, lettuce, coriander, cucumbers, watercress, eggplant, carrots, according to the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture.

Since Brazilian greens and feijoada are served with orange wedges, it was obvious to me to combine the greens and oranges into a more-modern version.

Nearly all the recipes for Brazilian green salad that I could find in cookbooks and online called for cooking the kale or collards – either boiling, blanching, or sautéing them. In our house we prefer to eat our kale raw, so this salad is one of the raw kale versions in our rotation. If you haven’t eaten raw kale, don’t be alarmed.  The citrus in the dressing tenderizes the greens and also removes the bitterness – much like the ever-popular lemon-parmesean-based one that populates the internet.  If you like or if you’re greens are super bitter, give them a quick saute before adding them to the salad.

You could also use collards or swiss chard as a substitute. As far as all things kale, I prefer the lacinato variety over others. Lacinato kale can also be found under the names cavolo nero, black cabbage, Tuscan cabbage, Tuscan kale, and dinosaur kale.

Whether you make feijoada or not, you’ll want to try this salad. By the way, it’s one of those salads that’s better the next day or two after the flavors have melded and the greens have fully softened.

Best Latina Food Blog – Please Vote

I’m one of the finalists up for Best Latina Food Blog sponsored by Blogs By Latinas. I appreciate every single vote of support nominating Fork Fingers Chopsticks to get me this far. Would you vote for FFC in the final round?

  • Vote at Blogs by Latinas before midnight Tuesday, July 26, 2011.
  • When you go to the site, you’ll need to fill in a vote in the other categories (I’m obviously in the FOOD category)
  • To submit, scroll down near the blue “quit” box, then use your right arrow button to find the “finished” button to submit.

For almost two years, this blog has been the space where I combine my creative talents and passion food. Thank you, not only to those who voted or who will vote, but to all of you who follow my kitchen escapades as I explore ingredients and culture.

Happy eating!


Black Beans: Feijoada – Brazil’s National Dish

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Black Bean Stew - Feijoada - History Brazil - Brazil National Dish

I fell in love with feijoada at first bite.  Feijoada (pronounced “faysh-ju-ada”) is known as Brazil’s national dish. Literally it means “big bean” stew. I’m not sure how it was officially declared the honor, but from all the Brazilians I’ve met, they’ve never disagreed.

My introduction to this black bean dish came at Emporio de Brasil, a very small but cherished Brazilian market/restaurant in north Denver. On Saturdays, they serve up a limited number of items – the best of which is Denver’s finest feijoada.

Feijoada is said to have originated during slave times, concocted from unwanted cuts of meat from the master’s table – including the non-choice parts of the pig including ears, snout and tail. Most of the feijoada recipes today still include plenty of pork – generally pork belly, chorizo, ribs, and other kinds of meat like carne seca (a Brazilian dried beef)

As you know, I’m not a huge meat eater and consider myself more of a flexitarian. But, I smack my lips when it comes to feijoada. All that slowly simmered pork makes for a tasty pot of creamy black beans and, to my surmise, is the reason feijoada continues to be a Brazilian favorite.

A feijoada completa or “complete feijoada” is served with rice, chopped greens (usually collards or kale), fresh orange slices, farofa or farinha, and a side dish of peppery sauce. The stew is generally served year-round in restaurants on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and on the weekends when made at home. It is also a requisite dish for a Brazilian feast and other holidays.

Since my first bowl-full, I vowed to make some at home. In keeping with tradition, I made this Brazilian staple on a weekend and made a huge pot to share using three kinds of pork – pork ribs, pork stew and chorizo.  Oink! By the way, the ribs were the prized piece of meat.

Now, you have a recipe to host at your next Brazilian party. If you’re a person who appreciates beans and you can also get down on some pork, then you must try this dish!

Tidbits on Beans:

  1. Brazil was the largest black bean producing country. In 2006, the Food Guide for the Brazilian Population recommended that beans be consumed at least once every day.
  2. 1 pound of dried black beans = about 6  cups of cooked beans.
  3. Black beans are a strong source of phytonutrient, which is generally derived from fruits and vegetables.

Sources:  The World’s Healthiest Foods, Beans: A History, “Brazil” in the Encyclopedia Food and Culture.


Black Beans: Molletes – Mexican Refried Bean Open Sandwich

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Black Beans Healthy Snack Easy

If you haven’t made that big pot of black beans, you’ll want to soon. They are the base for the refried beans in molletes (a Mexican antojito/snack) and other recipes coming up.

Nearly two decades ago I made my first trip to Mexico – I lived with a family in Cuernavaca and traveled around central and southern Mexico. Some of the places I visited were  D.F. (Districto Federal aka Mexico City), Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Puebla, Taxco and so many pueblitos I can’t remember their names.

This trip has a very special place in my heart since it was the first time I packed my bags to venture alone in a new country. But, more significant was that it was my first trip to my Motherland and an amazing personal journey – with much familiarity and even more that was new.

I have vivid food memories from this first extended stay, like the tacos de flor de callabaza I bought trail-side after finishing a hike near some steep ruins where the locals frequented; the just-caught, fried fish served with nopales on a remote beach near Puerto Escondido; the mole in Puebla; and the amazing mercado in Oaxaca. Also on this list are molletes (pronounced mo -YEY -tes). Refried black beans and melted cheese on crusty bread, topped with fresh pico de gallo.

This open sandwich quickly became a favorite. At the time, I was on a budget and molletes were a great anytime meal that was both good and cheap. I think I paid the equivalent of 50 cents or a dollar for two halfs when eating out. Two pieces is a full meal for this chica.

Nearly every time I’ve had them in Mexico, they’ve been served with black beans, although pinto beans are also used. Most of my travels so far have been to central and southern Mexico, and the Yucatan – places where black beans are preferred

To make molletes, you can use my Cuban black bean recipe (no, it’s not sacrilege) or your favorite home-made black or pinto beans. You can also use canned beans; but, if you do, buy the beans whole and make your own refried beans, they’ll taste much better.

Molletes are not fancy food but you’ll be glad to have this recipe in your arsenal of quick to make meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks. As I write this, I’m thinking one of these topped with bacon would be a Mexican BLT.


Black Beans: Cuban Frijoles Negros

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Life happens. I know you’ve been there. There’s more on your plate than you can chew on – whether it’s work, family, unexpected twists and turns, or simply keeping up with the day to day.

I’m not complaining. Just keeping it real.

At times like these, I turn to some staples. Near the top of my list of go to foods are frijoles. In most Latino homes, you’ll find some beans ready to eat. My kitchen is no different. I’ve got an assortment of dried beans and cans in the pantry. Yet, It’s the black beans in the freezer and the fridge that are prized and a necessity.

That wasn’t always the case. Growing up, pinto beans were king. That is, until I fell in love with their black cousin.

Frijoles negros, “turtle beans,” “caraota,” and “habichuela negra,” are just a few of the names for this small, shiny, sweet legume that is predominantly used in the Carribean, central Mexico, the Yucatan, and African cooking.

Despite the fact that I’ve yet to visit Cuba, I’ve been making this recipe with slight variations for nearly two decades. It’s my go to recipe for a big pot of beans – some to eat and the rest to stash in the freezer in quart containers.

Cuban black beans are spiced with bay leaves plus a freshly-made and cooked sofrito of olive oil, peppers, onions, cumin, and lots of garlic. If you’re hip to Cuban food, you probably know that black beans are typically more common to the western region of Cuba, while red beans are more popular in the eastern region’s cuisine.

Regardless, these beans are a must try. Half it if you don’t want to make such a large amount. You can also modify this recipe to make other cultural variations of frijoles negros. Make a Puerto Rican version with my sofrito with culantro and cilantro or a Mexican version using epazote.

We’ll be using these beans for more recipes. Stay tuned.


Tidbits on Black Beans:

  1. Black Beans and other “common” beans originated in parts of Central and South America.
  2. Beans were introduced into Europe in the 15th century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World and subsequently spread to Africa and Asia by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
  3. Purchasing black beans:  buy newer beans when possible since they cook more quickly than “old” beans.  Store in a sealed container in a cold, dry place. If you have leftover black beans and you purchase more beans, do not mix old and new beans since they have different cooking rates.
  4. Cooking black beans:  add salt during the last hour of cooking. I add a tiny pinch of baking soda to my black beans to deter discoloration; this, according to some, is also a method to aide digestion and reduce the incidence of flatulence.


Ginger: Trinidadian Ginger Beer

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

I’m a bit of a ginger freak.

I’m quick to try it in its many incarnations. Some of my local Colorado favorite’s are ChocoLove’s Ginger Crystallized in Dark Chocolate, Bhakti Chai (a black pepper and ginger chai that’s fantastic hot or cold), and Big B’s Ginger Apple Cooler.

I haven’t, however, found a local ginger beer that outshines the homemade versions made by Caribbean friends. These versions, for the most part, have a stronger ginger punch and are more complex in spice than the store-bought, fizzy varieties.

In the Caribbean, ginger beer is an all-occasion and special-occasion beverage. My friend Val who hails from Trinidad is an extraordinary cook and fact man. He says ginger beer – typically the non-fizzy version, such as the recipe below, is enjoyed during the holiday season. Other holiday drinks include sorrel punch (similar to hibiscus) and punch de crème (an eggnog-rum-based drink).

Like most recipes, there is no single way to make ginger beer. Recipes vary from family to family and by region. In Trinidad, cinnamon, cloves and lime are typically added. Whereas, in Jamaica, they generally add fresh pineapple. Regardless of the array of spices/ingredients used, one thing is constant – the ginger is strong. This is NOT a whimpy ginger ale, it’s got a bite that’s both refreshing and addictive.

The recipe below is mine. It’s not as sweet as some versions that have about half as much sugar as water. It’s layered with flavor from a whole pound of fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, fresh lime juice and raw sugar.

Val made sure to hip me up on the “proper” sugar for traditional Trini ginger beer – Demerara, turbinado or another raw sugar but not the white stuff or brown sugar. (However, in my research it appears a lot of folks in the states use brown sugar as a substitute.) A version he remembered most was by a family friend who served her ginger beer much like a sangria – with slices of fresh oranges, limes and a piece of raw sugar cane as a swizzle stick.

Salud! Cheers! Happy Holidays – whether you are neck deep in snow or chillin’ at the beach.

Oops. I forgot to mention. There’s no alcohol in this even though it’s called “beer.”

Tidbits on Ginger:

  1. Ginger is a rhizome – an underground stem that grows horizontally.
  2. Ginger, although native to India and China is grown around the world especially in the hot tropics including the Caribbean and Africa, where it was introduced in the 16th century.
  3. In the 13th and 14th centuries, ginger, along with black pepper, was one of the most commonly traded spices.
  4. Initially ginger was consumed more for its medicinal purposes than for strictly culinary purposes. Today it is believed to aide digestion, relieve rheumatoid arthritis, reduce migraines, sooth sore throats, improve circulation, reduce fat deposits in the arteries and treat nausea.


Cornmeal: Green Chile Cheese Grits

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Green Chile Cheese

Do you call ground, dried corn “grits” or “polenta?”  You’d be right if you said either one. Yes, polenta, the haute cuisine of the last two decades, is equivalent to good ol’ grits.

Grits v. Polenta

If you’re scratching your head, it’s completely understandable. The labeling is inconsistent and I suspect regional – in the South, I’d reckon you’d find “grits” on store shelves but in northern Italy, you’d see “polenta.”  Here in Denver, I just bought a bag of coarsely-ground, dried yellow cornmeal labeled “polenta (corn grits)” at the natural food store. What gives?

For intellectual purposes, know that one of the primary differences between the two is that grits are usually made with white corn, while polenta is made of yellow.

Some polenta authorities also distinguish the two by the size of the grind, polenta being larger with a nuttier taste. However, both grits and polenta are available in fine, medium and coarse grinds.

To add even more confusion, there’s also the lighter colored “hominy grits.” Early on, the word “hominy” reflected the lye soak process used to loosen the husk and germ, which made for a softer and creamier final dish. Today, “hominy grits” has become a generic term for “corn grits.”

Ugghh. To me it’s all “mush,” like my brain when I try to figure out all this nomenclature.

Green Chile Cheese Grits

Grits are an institution in the South – served with butter and salt, sweetened with milk and sugar, or topped with red-eye gravy, ham, bacon or shrimp.

This recipe for green chile grits is a bit Southern/Soul Food and Mexican – a reflection of my household and history. Corn (maize) was originally domesticated in central Mexico and eventually became a favored crop among Southerners.

These green chile cheese grits are easy to make and much tastier than regular mush. They are delicious for breakfast with eggs or for lunch or dinner as a substitute for potatoes or rice. Enjoy! Leave a comment about your favorite way to eat cornmeal mush, and if you have a preference for “grits” or “polenta.”

Tidbits on Cornmeal:

  1. Southerners hailing from the Charleston area use the word “hominy” to refer to cooked grits and the term “grist” for its uncooked state.
  2. Early Southern pioneers cultivated more corn than cotton.
  3. The smaller the grind of corn, the faster it will cook. Larger grinds (and most polenta recipes) can take up to an hour to cook. The grits/polenta is ready when it’s no longer crunchy.
  4. Stone ground and whole grain cornmeal has more nutrients because it still contains the germ.

Sources:  The Oxford Encyclopedia for Food and Drink in America, Good Old Grits Cookbook by Bill Neal & David Perry.


Popcorn: Rosemary-Garlic Popcorn – Snack or Croutons

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Garlic-Rosemary Popcorn

The modern American palate considers popcorn snack food. However, the other night I watched a flick where the leading lady fed her family popcorn for breakfast. In the movie, she was broke. Nonetheless, it was way out of the box for me. Popcorn cereal?

It may seem kitschy now, but decades ago, popcorn cereal was avant-garde.

According to the history of popcorn cookery, popcorn was on the verge of becoming a staple ingredient in the early 1900s – commonly eaten at every meal. The upper and middle-class are credited with developing this broader recipe repertoire, which was later adopted by the less affluent and farmers.

Besides cereal (cold and hot), popcorn was used to make puddings, bread, popcorn balls, and stuffing.

Popcorn was also used as a replacement for croutons and crackers. The crispy texture was a perfect garnish for soup and salads.

Like most of you, I fall in line with the majority of people who snack on popcorn – usually just salted and buttered. But, with just a little more effort I’ve created an herbed popcorn that can be eaten as regular snack food or as a topper for soup and salad.

The recipe below for rosemary-garlic popcorn is a lovely addition to a hot bowl of tomato soup. Add the popcorn to your dish just before eating, especially with soups.

The recipe is flexible – your favorite herbs and seasoning could be substituted. How about garlic and chive, basil and sun-dried tomato, or chile and lime? At your local spice store there is a plethora of seasoning mixes that could be used and some include powdered cheese – which makes for even tastier popcorn croutons.

If you eat herbed popcorn or use popcorn for something other than a snack, please share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Tidbits on Popcorn:

  1. Popcorn consumption rose in the United States after World War II, when grains were sent to Europe.
  2. The precursor to today’s microwave popcorn evolved from popping the entire cob with kernels in an early model of the  “microwave oven” around 1945.
  3. Popped popcorn is a very profitable business product. It is bought by weight and sold by volume. The aroma of freshly popped popcorn significantly induces sales at movie theatres. Therefore, they regularly pop it.

Source: Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn in America by Andrew F. Smith; Corn: Meals & More by Olwen Woodier; Crazy for Corn by Betty Fussell.


Popcorn Basics: How to Make Great Popcorn

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Popcorn -

Normally, I like food with exotic flavors and sauces. But, popcorn, I like simple – popped fresh with a dash of salt and, on occasion, lightly buttered.

After talking with folks here and there about how they eat p-corn, it seems I’m not alone. Most adults, or at least the ones I spoke with, prefer to nosh on popcorn that’s simply salted and buttered. It’s most often eaten while watching flicks.

So this post is about the basics. No fancy toppings or long ingredient list. (My shortest recipe to date.)  Just some guidance on making great popcorn at home.

I do not claim to be an expert. But, we know a bit about popcorn in our house since we make it two to three times per week. Roughly speaking, I (yes, just me) eat about 100 quarts of popped popcorn a year. Note: the average American generally consumes about 44 quarts of per year.

Let me know how you like your popcorn? Or, if you employ any interesting techniques. Before we get to popping, here’s some helpful info:

Why does popcorn pop?

The outer shell of popcorn kernels (the pericarp) is tougher than regular corn and can withstand greater pressure. This special maize “pops” when heated because the moisture inside the kernel swells as it cooks, rapidly expanding to a point where the shell cannot contain the explosion. It bursts, turning it inside out.

Butterfly v. Mushroom?

These terms refer to the “flake” shape. Whether it’s marked “butterfly” or not, it’s the kind found in most grocery stores. Butterfly popcorn is irregular in shape with protruding “wings.”  The mushroom variety is ball-shaped with less distinct wings. The main difference comes down to texture. Popped butterfly popcorn is light and fluffy, with wings that are delicate. Mushroom popcorn is generally preferred for candied and coated popcorn because it is denser and less delicate.

Popcorn Maize - Cob - Kernels - ForkFingersChopsticks

Boulder Popcorn heirloom (left); Popcorn varieties (right, clockwise - top right): Kailey's Kernels, Ryder's Red, Cambria's Cream from Boulder Popcorn, large yellow and white from the grocery store.

Which type:  yellow, white, colored?

Regardless of the color you buy, it’ll pop up some color of white. If you’re shopping for popcorn at a regular grocery store and they have white and yellow kernels, choose white. White popcorn pops lighter and crisper. The yellow has a tougher hull, which makes it much chewier. I also find it sticks in my teeth.

If you have access to other varieties, definitely give them a try. There are several companies selling heirloom popcorn online and at local farmers’ markets. In the Denver area, there’s Boulder Popcorn.

Boulder Popcorn sells three heirloom varieties:  red, blue-grey and yellow. The kernels are smaller than what you find in the store and are much lighter and crisp when popped. They carry Ryder’s Red, Kailey’s Kernels (hulless), and Cambria’s Cream (hulless). Note, the hulless varieties still have hulls but they are less distinct, easier on the teeth and to digest. Their popcorn is natural and non-Genetically Modified. This was so good, we ate it plain – no salt or butter. Each variety is unique: the red pops large and fluffy; the blue has a medium, bright white wings with a slight nuttiness; and the cream is smooth and creamy.

Addendum 10/17/10:  Andrew Knowlton, the BA Foodist (Bon Appetit) is also a fan of Boulder Popcorn. In the October 2010 issue and on the BA Foodist blog he says Boulder Popcorn is his current favorite brand of popcorn.

What kind of popper?

There’s a lot on the market from hot air poppers to fancy/gimmicky contraptions. However, a no fail method and my preferred equipment is a heavy pot with a lid.

What if I have a lot of duds?

It’s likely the moisture content is low. Don’t throw it out, you can fix it. Put your kernels in a glass jar with about a tablespoon of water. Cover, shake and refrigerate for a day or two. The moisture will absorb into the popcorn and should pop up fluffy. Just make sure the kernels are dry first. Researchers say the moisture content of popcorn kernels should be between 11 to 14 percent.

What kind of fat or oil?

I’ve popped it in olive oil, coconut oil, butter and bacon grease. But, we still prefer canola oil.

What about leftovers?

Heat oven to 200 degrees and reheat on a cookie sheet for about 20 minutes. However, I think the best popcorn is fresh popped.


Rice: Puerto Rican Rice with Chicken – Arroz con Pollo

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Puerto Rican - Arroz con Pollo - Rice with Chicken -

A couple of months ago my amiga Kitty and I spent an afternoon cooking. She offered to show me how to make Puerto Rican arroz con pollo, rice with chicken.

I happily assumed the role of sous chef – peeling heads of garlic, chopping veggies, and stirring this and that. Meanwhile, Nivia was my window into the cultural and personal nuances of Puerto Rican cookery .  .  .

For starters, Puerto Rican cuisine employs a spectrum of cooking techniques and ingredients that reflect the island’s diverse inhabitants: the Caribbean native Tainos, Africans, Spanish, and other Europeans.

Three items are signature to the cuisine:  adobo, sofrito and achiote.  Arroz con pollo employs all three. No wonder it’s touted as the most popular chicken dish on the island.

Adobo: In Puerto Rican parlance, adobo is a seasoned salt. A wet adobo made of garlic, olive oil, salt, black pepper, oregano and citrus juice is rubbed on the chicken in this dish and marinated overnight. It’s the secret to moist and flavorful chicken, and it also infuses a layer of flavor to the rice.  Sofrito: The rice is bursting with flavor because of the sofrito, a fresh bouillon of peppers, onions, garlic and herbs. (Read about sofrito and view recipe.) Achiote: Achiote is derived from annato seeds and is used for its subtle flavor and to give the dish a reddish hue. No saffron here, the less expensive achiote is a long-time tradition in Puerto Rican cooking. Achiote can be purchased as a paste, ground or in seed form. It is readily available in Latino markets and spice stores.

After cooking with Kitty, I did some research. The majority of recipes out there are more intuitive rather than specific. For a Puerto Rican arroz con pollo novice, that’s not helpful. I know, I made this dish three times in the last several weeks.

Here’s my final recipe, with a bit more detail – I’ve borrowed techniques I learned from Kitty, other Puerto Rican friends and research. Remember it’s the process that matters, so make certain to read the instructions thoroughly before you begin.

It serves six. You’ll be glad to have leftovers!

One more thing, don’t forget the little bits of crispy, cooked rice at the bottom of the pan are called “pegao.” It’s considered the best part of arroz con pollo by some aficionados.

Tidbits on Rice

  1. Rice was introduced to Puerto Rico by Columbus in his second trip to America in 1493 and has since become a primary food source.
  2. Long grain rice is said to be favored in Puerto Rico, according to some sources. However, medium and short grain rice are heavily favored in dishes like arroz con pollo and arroz con gandules.
  3. Arroz con pollo dates back to the eighth century to Andalusia, when the Moors occupied Spain. It has become a popular rice dish in nearly all of Latin America and the Caribbean, with regional variations, of course.

Sources:  The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America; Puerto Rican Dishes by Berta Cabanillas and Carmen Ginorio.