Blog

Potato and Leek Soup

I never liked soup.

As a child, and indeed, a young adult, I believed soup was for the sick.  Why else would anyone subject themselves to that bland wetness, if not for its restorative properties?

Needless to say, my tastes have evolved.

20180331_135230

As a cook and food lover, I’ve come to love soup.  It’s comforting, nutritious, versatile and either subtle or in-your-face, depending on one’s mood.  It can be used to deliver spicy noodles, seafood extravaganza, or simply the rich melange of flavor that comes from simmering ingredients all day.

This soup recipe is not especially challenging.  And while you probably don’t normally have leeks sitting around waiting to be used, it’s probably the only thing you’ll have to shop for.  But the beautiful interplay between the leeks and onions, the intuitive wholesomeness of the spinach make for an excellent meal starter or standalone soup that doesn’t induce feelings of guilty over-indulgence.20180331_140240

Soup on!

Leek and Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large leek, chopped (see preparation notes below)
  • 2-3 medium potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen spinach (or 2-3 cups fresh spinach)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1-2 bay leaves

To prepare fresh leeks, cut off the root end and the dark green leafy stalk.  Slice the leek in half, lengthwise, then chop into desired size pieces.  Place the pieces in a bowl and run under clean water, letting any grit sink to the bottom, then strain excess water from the pieces.

Heat a large pot over medium high heat, and add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the onions and leeks, salting them generously to hasten softening.  Once the onions and leeks are translucent, add the spices, stirring until the seasonings become fragrant.

Next, add the stock and potatoes and return to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  Toss in the spinach, stirring to incorporate.  Simmer another 10 minutes.

Blend the soup using an immersion blender.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup in a blender, working in small batches.  If using a countertop blender, be careful to hold the top in place while working, to avoid splattering your kitchen (and yourself) with scalding soup.  Blend until smooth and serve.

BajaMed inspired tacos with slow-cooked beef

If, like me, you think the “Taco Tuesday” trend is getting out of hand, try visiting Tijuana some time.  In that infamous border town, famous for vice, striped donkeys and regrettable college weekends, every day is Taco Day.  Seriously, you can’t swing a beer-can-pinata without hitting a taco truck, stall or bicycle.

Dig a bit deeper, though, and you’ll find a culinary revolution that’s now drawing more tourists to Baja than Avenida Revolucion – BajaMed cuisine.  Launched by a local chef, and embraced by a growing contingent of cooking school grads, BajaMed dishes provide a modern, globalist take on traditional Mexican dishes.  While Wikipedia has a brief (and somewhat stodgy) article about the trend, you can get a much livelier picture of the culinary scene at The Independent20180329_201000

Now, I may not be Javier Plascencia, but when I finished my last batch of slow-cooked beef, rather than plating it carelessly aside mash and gravy, I thought of the one thing I really miss from my time in Tijuana – fancy-ass tacos!

As you make this dish, remember the spirit of BajaMed – make it delicious, make it fresh, and keep it fun.  Be bold!  Be adventurous!  Grab your mezcal, eat the worm, and let the creative juices flow!20180329_194607

Slow-Cooked Beef Tacos

Ingredients

  • 3 lb chuck roast or similar, cut into large 2 in. chunks
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper*
  • 12 oz beer (or subsitute with two cups beef broth)
  • 1 15 oz can stewed or diced tomatoes
  • * I’ve got small kids with very low spice tolerance.  If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, feel free to increase the cayenne or, better yet, add a sliced habanero to the mix.
  1. Place the beef chunks in a large bowl.  Salt and pepper generously, and toss to coat evenly.  Next, add all the dry spices and use your hands to rub the spices into the beef.  Set aside.
  2. Chop the onions, carrots, celery and peppers, and add to your slow cooker.  Then add the seasoned meat.
  3. Add the tomatoes on top of the meat, then gently pour in the beer or broth.
  4. Cook on low for 7 hours, or high for 4 hours.  Remove the meat and shred it with a fork.
  5. Serve in warm corn tortillas, topped with coleslaw, goat cheese, salsa and corn.  Feel free to experiment with different cheeses and veggies.  Bleu cheese, pickled onions, shredded zucchini, heirloom tomatoes…anything goes!

The Last Tiramisu You Will Ever Crave

Let’s start with an apology.  To your previous go-to source for tiramisu, I’m sincerely sorry.  Whether it’s your local cafe, the corner bakery, that amazing restaurant you go to on special occasions, or your beloved Italian relative.  Once you’ve make this tiramisu, you’ll be ruined for all those others.  Seriously.20180328_152955.jpg

The secret to this silky, creamy, addictively punchy dessert is the eggs.  Specifically, whipped, uncooked egg yolks and whites.  That’s right, we’re going to use raw eggs, and a bunch of ’em.  Despite what you may have heard, raw eggs are generally safe to eat, especially when prepared at home in small batches.  Here’s a good article on the benefits and risks of eating raw eggs.

Beyond the eggs, the other key to this dessert is the coffee mix.  You’ll want to use a strong coffee for this pudding.  My default is a pre-brewed coffee concentrate, which can now be found in most grocery stores.  If you prefer, you can certainly use home-brewed coffee, the stronger the better.

I normally add some liquer to the coffee before dipping the ladyfingers; Kahlua is my favorite, since it intensifies the coffee flavor, but you can also use rum, brandy or just about any flavorful alcohol.  If you want, you can skip the booze entirely without compromising the finished product. Bear in mind that the alcohol is not cooked out of this recipe, so use your discretion about giving it to kids (I do, and they love it). 20180327_095102.jpgSo, let’s review: raw eggs, coffee and alcohol in a dessert for the whole family.  You still with me?  Good!  This really will change your life.  Just be prepared to bring this dessert to every potluck, picnic, family dinner and office happy hour for the rest of your life.

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 16 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups strong coffee
  • 2 Tbsp Kahlua, rum or other liquer (optional)
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Italian ladyfingers (Savoiardi)
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder, combined with…
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

20180327_101713-e1522272290988.jpgCombine egg yolks, vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar in a stand mixer or hand mixer.  Add mascarpone cheese and blend until smooth.  Next whip the egg whites to soft peaks, add remaining sugar and continue whipping to stiff peaks.  Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, preserving as much of the egg white’s fluffiness as possible.

Combine the coffee, liquer and lemon zest in a shallow dish for cookie dipping.  The ladyfingers will absorb liquid VERY quickly.  As you build the dish, quickly roll the ladyfinger in the coffee mix to moisten it, but don’t let it rest in the liquid.

20180327_103214.jpgTo assemble the dessert, spread a thin layer of custard on the bottom of your casserole pan, then place a layer of coffee-soaked ladyfingers.  Top the ladyfingers with approximately half the remaining custard mixture.  Sprinkle the cocoa/cinnamon mix onto the custard.  Repeat with ladyfingers, remaining custard and a final layer of cocoa/cinnamon.

Refrigerate the tiramisu for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

In a World Full of Culinary Blogs….

I decided to add one more. The reason? I believe that your passion should be shared with other people, and for those of us in the culinary profession more than an obligation, it is a pleasure.

The same way that I learned and improved from various mentors on the online world. I hope I can inspire someone as well.

I’ve never written down my recipes, but that’s my goal for this site.  When my dishes are borrowed from other experts, I’ll point you to them for instruction.  Either way, this will be more than just pretty pictures. 🙂

food-collage