Wednesday, February 25, 2009

3 Recipe #46: Steak Fajitas with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

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Just made this recipe tonight, from scratch. And boy, was it tasty!

Yes, this is a photo of tonight's dinner. :) We don't normally eat so much steak in a single week, but I needed to do something interesting with the remaining steak from the other night's dinner (of T'ibs We't). Unless absolutely necessary, I'd much rather use fresh steak than frozen.

Steak Fajitas with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients (for steak fajitas):

1 Tbsp. (extra virgin) olive oil (used to season pan)
1/2 of a red onion, sliced into tiny crescent slivers
4-6 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 sliced rounds of jalapeño pepper (about 1/4 pepper), sliced & then finely diced
6 oz. flank or skirt cut of steak, sliced into 2-3" long vertical strips
salt & pepper to taste (to season the meat)
Mexican-style chili powder
Adobo seasoning (a mix of black pepper, Mexican oregano, cumin, & Cayenne pepper)
cumin powder (I like to add extra cumin! ;-) )
dried epazote leaves [Note: If you can't find these, it's OK to leave them out. Several (online) stores also carry this spice, including Penzeys Spices, & The Spice House, Spice It Up, Whole Spice, Gourmet Sleuth, Mountain Valley Growers, & Savory Spice Shop, among others.]
ground Cayenne pepper (Go easy on this spice!)

Tomatillo salsa (i.e., salsa verde):
4 whole tomatillos, husked & washed (to remove stickiness)
1/2 of a red onion, sliced into 2 wedges
2-3 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
remainder of jalapeño pepper, whole
lime juice, about 1 tsp.
chopped fresh cilantro, about 1/2 c.
kosher salt, to taste, about 1/2 tsp. or so

Condiments (for steak fajitas):
1 large vine-ripened tomato, diced
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced into 1/2" cubes
chopped fresh cilantro, reserve for garnish
nonfat/lowfat, soft flour tortillas

1. Chop various ingredients as specified above for main meal, salsa, & condiments, putting each ingredient in a separate area/surface or bowl.
2. Season steak strips lightly with salt & pepper, Mexican-style chili powder, Adobo seasoning, cumin powder, dried epazote leaves, ground Cayenne pepper, & lime juice & put aside. In terms of quantity, be sure to use generous amounts of the Mexican-style chili powder, & cumin, & more moderate amounts of epazote. Be sure to go easy on the ground Cayenne at first; you can always add more later.
3. Turn on stove top range to high heat. Since this is a stir fry, you need to use a wok or a large pan that can withstand/retain high heat.
4. Sauté the red onion slivers (from the 1/2 red onion), the chopped, 4-6 medium-sized garlic cloves, & the 3 sliced-&-then-diced rounds of jalapeño in olive oil until soft. About a minute or two. Watch stove top range carefully to ensure mixture doesn't brown/burn.
5. Add steak strips to skillet, cooking for about a minute on each side (i.e., medium rare). Steak will cook fairly quickly if pan is at optimal temperature. Pan should be very hot & the steak should sizzle when it hits the pan; if you're not hearing that sizzle, then you need to turn up the heat on your stove top range. Otherwise steak will not cook to proper specifications. (IMHO, steak fajitas taste best medium rare. If overcooked, it tastes like shoe leather! ;-) Also, make sure you cook in a large enough pan so ingredients aren't crowded; it's important to allow enough room in the pan so all ingredients cook evenly.
6. For tomatillo sauce, broil/roast whole tomatillos, onion wedges, whole unpeeled garlic, & remainder of whole jalapeño on the rack of a broiler pan, about 1-2 inches from heat, turning until softened & slightly charred. This takes about 8 minutes. (Roasting the main section of a conventional oven takes about twice as long!) (If you have access to a grill, this would be even better!) Purée all salsa ingredients (both roasted & fresh) in a food processor.
7. Heat flour tortillas on high for 1 minute in a microwave. Only heat them if you are ready to serve/eat them immediately; otherwise, they'll harden after sitting around for only a few minutes.
8. Add meat mixture & garnish accordingly with condiments.

Yield: 2 servings.

Alternate Ingredients: You can use chicken instead of steak. You could also add red & green bell peppers to your sauté in step #4, or roast them in step #6 along with the tomatillos, onion wedges, garlic cloves, & other ingredients.

Helpful Tip: It's a lot easier to marinate the meat using a Ziploc bag. Keeps your hands clean & saves on the dish-washing. ;-)

Serving suggestions: This dish is rather filling, so if you are only making it for two persons, the main attraction usually suffices as the entire meal. However, if you've got a hearty appetite (or are instead divying this dish up into smaller portions , i.e., for lunch) & would like to include some side dishes, I recommend serving traditional Mexican sides like refried beans (frijoles refritos), quelites (Mexican greens), or perhaps lighter accompaniments like a salad or green vegetable(s). Rice is probably overdoing it, since there are already enough carbs in the flour tortillas.

Chef's Notes: This recipe would be wonderful to make on an outdoor grill. You could toss the marinated steak on the grill & also roast the ingredients for the tomatillo salsa (i.e., whole tomatillos & garlic cloves, onion wedges, & the remainder of jalapeño) there as well.

A word on steak: Flank & skirt cuts of steak are less expensive than tenderloin (which is best used for other dishes anyhow), & works well with stir fry dishes because it has a lot of flavor & won't dry out when cooked under high heat like other cuts of beef. It's not as lean of a cut as London broil (hence its slightly marbled appearance), but the extra little bit of fat in this cut is actually necessary for flavor & moisture. These cuts are often sold in large quantities, 2+ lbs., etc., so just take what you need & either refrigerate or freeze the rest for later.

Adjusting piquancy/heat of the dish: Jalapeños are fairly mild peppers, but if you'd like to decrease their "heat" even further, just scrape out the seeds & discard them. This is where most of the heat from hot peppers originates.

Slicing fruits & veggies: The easiest way to cube an avocado is to halve it, remove pit, then score flesh into crosshatched sections, & remove the cubes.

To peel garlic, gently crush the side of a wide knife on top of the cloves. That should loosen the skin & make removal a lot easier.

Also, be sure to finely dice the cilantro garnish.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

0 Recipe #45: My Own Spin on T'ibs We't (Ethiopian Beef Stir-Fry)

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For the uninitiated, T'ibs W'et is a traditional Ethiopian dish made with beef, red onions, red wine, & "Berbere" spices -- a spice mixture typically consisting of ginger, clove, coriander, allspice, chili peppers, ajwain, & rue berries, etc. [Not suprisingly, the exact ingredients (& specific quantities of ingredients) used in "Berbere" can vary quite widely, depending on originating region & one's personal preferences.]

Of course, not being one to do the usual thing & follow the traditional recipe, I've changed it up a bit & made it my own, adding flavor elements inspired by other Ethiopian beef dishes. Also making their appearance in this dish are jalapeño peppers & red onions (which are commonly found in the dish, Zilzil Alecha) & tomatoes (which are also a featured ingredient in dishes like Key W'et). Also to save time & simply the preparation process, the Berbere spices are just tossed in during the cooking process instead of toasting the spices separately in a skillet.

T'ibs We't (Ethiopian Beef Stir-Fry)

1 Tbsp. (extra virgin) olive oil (used to season pan) (Some people prefer to use butter, but I find that butter typically melts too quickly & then congeals in a very thin layer without really coating the pan very evenly. You could also do a mixture of the two if you like.)
3/4 of a red onion, sliced into tiny crescent slivers
4-5 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped
red wine, about 1/4 c. (or just enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan)
8 oz. hanger or flank cut of steak, sliced into 1" cubes
salt & pepper to taste (to season the meat)
1 large vine-ripened tomato, diced
1/4-1/2 jalapeño pepper, sliced julienne & then diced (Note: Adjust amount to suit individual preferences. Or, if you prefer even less heat, you can either remove the seeds or omit the pepper altogether.)

Berbere Spice Mix Ingredients:
2 parts ground ginger
2 parts ground cardamom
1 part ground coriander
2 parts ground fenugreek
1/2 part ground nutmeg
1/4 part ground cloves
1/4 part ground cinnamon
1/4 part ground allspice
1 part ground cayenne pepper
1 part salt
1 part pepper
1 part ajwain seeds (Note: Can be found at an ethnic grocery store. I bought my ajwain seeds at a local Indian grocery store/corner market. If you can't find these seeds, it's perfectly fine to omit them from the recipe.)
lots of paprika, probably 4-5 parts or so

1. Chop up all ingredients: Cut steak into cubes & put aside. Season lightly with salt & pepper. Chop up onions, garlic, jalapeño, & tomatoes. Put each ingredient in a separate area/surface or bowl.
2. Turn on stove top range to high heat. Since this is a stir-fry, you need to use a wok or a large pan that can withstand/retain high heat.
3. Add olive oil, & then onions & garlic, to pan. Sprinkle Berbere seasonings on top & stir quickly, making sure that ingredients don't burn/brown. Cook onions & garlic until translucent, i.e., about 5 minutes or so. Regarding seasoning measurements: What I did was basically eyeball the seasonings & then lightly sprinkle a light coating on top of the onions & garlic, but if you prefer, you can make up a small batch of spice mixture beforehand, following the precise proportions, & then lightly sprinkle the mixture on top. If you have extra you can always bottle & store it for later use. Please note: It's important to be conservative in adding the spice mixture; you can always taste your food as it cooks & add more later if needed.
5. Add meat to stir-fry. If you don't hear a sizzle when the steak hits the pan, your stove top range's heat isn't turned up high enough. Meat will cook fairly quickly. Be sure to allow enough room in pan to cook all ingredients evenly.
6. Deglaze pan with red wine. Only use enough to coat the bottom of the pan.
7. Next add diced tomatoes & jalapeño & keep stirring.
8. Cook steak to suit your personal preference. (I personally prefer my steak to be tender & not taste like shoe leather, so medium rare is just perfect for me. Medium is fine too, but I wouldn't recommend well-done, because even this cut of beef might taste a little tough that way. :) )
9. Remove from heat & serve. Enjoy!

Yield: 2 servings.

Serving suggestions: I recommend serving this dish with injera (a traditional Ethiopian fermented pancake-like bread) or couscous that's been simply seasoned with olive oil & salt. Since there's a lot of flavor in the beef stir-fry, you'll want to keep any complementary carbs-based side dishes fairly straightforward & unadorned.

Chef's Notes: Hanger steak is a butcher's cut of meat, & is typically only about a 1-1.5 lb. cut of meat. It's less expensive than tenderloin (which is best used for other dishes anyhow), & works well with stir-fry dishes because it has a lot of flavor & won't dry out when cooked under high heat like other cuts of beef. It's not as lean of a cut as London broil (hence its slightly marbled appearance), but the extra little bit of fat in this cut is actually necessary for flavor & moisture. If you don't have access to a butcher, flank &/or skirt cuts, which can usually be found at the grocery store, will also do. The latter of these cuts are often sold in much larger quantities, 2+ lbs., etc., so just take what you need & either refrigerate or freeze the rest for later.

Jalapeños are fairly mild peppers, but if you'd like to decrease their "heat" even further, just scrape out the seeds & discard them. This is where most of the heat from hot peppers originates. If you'd like to make the dish less spicy overall, just cut down the amount of Berbere that's originally called for in this recipe.

Monday, February 16, 2009

0 Some Interesting Cooking Shows of Note

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My TiVo sure knows what I like. :) The other day it taped a few "new" cooking shows that I'd never watched before. Of course the shows aren't actually "new,"but they are new to me since I haven't seen them before. ;-)

The first one I watched was Sam Zien's "Just Cook This." For those of you who've never watched his show before, he takes standard recipes and -- with the help of a nutritionist -- he converts them into healthier alternatives. The feel of his show, like his personna, is very casual & laid-back. He gives the impression that he's "just some guy who happens to cook." You can check out some of his recipes here.

The second show I watched was "Urban Cuisine with Marcus Samuelsson. Marcus is a world-renown chef based in NYC. His show features lively guest celebrities who chat with him about food/his recipes & also assist him in the kitchen. There's a small cache of his recipes on the show's website, which is merely a scant sampling of the recipes featured on his show. I also found some more of his recipes on his official website.

0 Featured Cuisine: The Food of Ethiopia

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I absolutely LOVE Ethiopian food!!!! So it's a good thing we happen to live in the epicenter of Ethiopian food in the USA, Washington, DC. :) We have more Ethiopian restaurants here per square inch than anywhere else in the country.

If you've never tried it before, the best way I can describe it is that it's a complex mixture of flavors unlike any other cuisine. :) Here's a good predictor: If you like Indian food, then you will probably like Ethiopian food. Both have complex flavors, & there are some similar
"spice subsets" common to both.

Below is a compendium of some popular Ethiopian recipe sites:
RecipeZaar: 80 Ethiopian Recipes
The African Cookbook: Menus & Recipes from Ethiopia
Cooking by Kittee: Ethiopian Recipes Ethiopian Recipes
Whats4Eats: Ethiopia -- Cuisine and Recipes
Ashtray Recipes: Ethiopia

To find an Ethiopian restaurant near you, check out these directories:
Nazret: Ethiopian Restaurants Directory
The Abyssinia Gateway: Food (Directory)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2 Interesting Website: Eating in India? Check out Grubhogs

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For those of you who happen to either live in India or are planning a visit there, check out Grubhogs, an entertainment & restaurant review guide for various major cities in India, & the accompanying blog.

It's sort of like India's answer to Yelp. :)

0 Metropolitan Foodie Resources

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For those of you who live in the greater Washington DC metropolitan area, I just thought I'd mention two great foodie resources:

D.C. Foodies

Also, for great foodie resources around the world, check out Chowhound, MenuPages, & Foodbuzz.

Feel free to comment & mention your own favorite general & regional foodie sites.

0 Go Local!

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One of the things I really enjoy is strolling through an open air market. There's simply nothing like it. The sights & smells of bountiful, fresh local produce are visceral & stimulate the senses, providing ample inspiration & ideas for meals.

Many of my original recipe ideas have come to me while strolling through local farmer's markets, or visiting open-air markets in other areas (i.e., the "Italian Market" in Philly, etc.).

Using locally grown, fresh, seasonal produce is not only a great way to support your community, but is also makes your dishes taste better! Since it's been picked fresh (versus arriving from halfway around the world), local produce is fresher, typically retains more of its nutrients, & usually costs less.

Time to open up the floor: What's your favorite local market & why? Do you also get creative cooking ideas when visiting open air markets? What inspires you most & make you want to cook? From which sources of inspiration do you derive your best cooking ideas?

Monday, February 2, 2009

2 Recipe #44: Corey's Cream of Broccoli Soup

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To continue the theme of winter soups, below is an original recipe, "Corey's Cream of Broccoli." I've preserved all of the best elements of cream of broccoli soup but have made it a lot healthier than the standard "cream of" type soups. :) You'll most likely be surprised to find that it tastes no less creamy than the original standard versions. The trick to keeping the soup creamy tasting is to use "cream substitutes" like lite nondairy creamer mixed with skim milk or nonfat plain soy milk, & thicken it with a dab of flour. :)

Also, here's a "green" tip: To save on the number of cookware pieces you'll have to wash in the dishwasher, & thus also conserve water & energy, I find that it's easiest to cook everything in 1 pot, instead of using a separate saute pan to cook the mirepoix or the roux.

Honestly, making the traditional roue of butter, flour, & mix isn't really necessary to do as a separate step; also, it's healthier to skip the additional butter & instead just add the flour & milk into the soup at the final step.

Also, be sure to sample your soup as you're cooking to make sure it has the right balance of seasonings. As mentioned in the previous post, you can always add more seasoning later, but in a soup, it becomes a bit trickier to take it away. :)

Corey's Cream of Broccoli

3 large shallots, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
1/3 c. sherry (Note: Use liquid measuring cups!)
8 c. broccoli (about 2 large "heads" of broccoli, including stalks), chopped into approximately 2" pieces
3 c. water
1-2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme (Note: You can use dried leaves or ground).
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley (Note: If you use fresh parsley, just toss in a small bunch. :) )
salt & pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 c. milk mixture: 1 1/2 c. skim milk + 1/2 c. non-dairy creamer (I use Nestle Low-Fat Coffee-Mate, original flavor) (Alternative: 2 c. nonfat plain soy milk.)

Optional Ingredients:
1 dash nutmeg
1 tsp. chervil
1 Yukon Gold potato - boiled, peeled, & diced

1. If using potato, boil it (unpeeled!) in salted water until tender. Dice into 1-1 1/2" chunks & set aside.
2.Sauté shallots & celery in butter in large soup/stock pot. Cook until tender.
3. Deglaze bottom of pot with sherry. Stir.
4. Add broccoli (I use all parts, florets & stalks), (potato, if using), water, & all of the spices (including optional spices, if using). Cook for about 10 minutes.
5. Purée soup in blender & return to heat.
6. Add flour & milk into soup & stir thoroughly. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until soup has reached a thick consistency. Remove from heat & stir.

Yield: 4 servings.

Chef's Notes: The version I made today did not include the optional ingredients of nutmeg, chervil, & potato. However, I've made similar "cream of" type soups using these ingredients & it definitely will give your soup a richer & more complex flavor. Be careful to only use a dash of nutmeg, as it can make the soup bitter-tasting if you use too much. Those of you who may not have used chervil before, it's a very mild-tasting spice, which happens to be related to parsley. (I think its flavor is also similar to parsley but not as strong.)

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