My first Pastelón ("Latin Lasagna")

I don't often cook from recipes unless I'm doing something I've never tried before.  Partly because I seem to be pretty good at remembering how to cook something that i've made before, and partly because when I make something a second time, I often like to change it up.

This is a case of me cooking something for the first time, so I'm not going to spend the time listing all the ingredients or going through the directions because I just used Ingrid Hoffman's recipe for this.

Ingrid Hoffman hosts a show on the Food Network called "Simply Delicioso" and also has a cookbook out by the same name. This is hands down my favorite cookbook because her cooking style is right up my alley. It's all latin food, but not a specific type... all sorts of south american stuff, cuban, mexican...

Anyway, when I'm in the mood for something different and am having trouble coming up with something on my own, this cookbook is usually where I turn. While paging through the other day I ran into this recipe and instantly transferred all the ingredients to my grocery list.

Here is the recipe from Ingrid's site.

Basically I just followed this recipe as well as I could, and only made a few small changes: I ended up using ground chicken instead of turkey, so mine might have ended up a bit less lean (read: more tasty); Instead of pepper jack, I used a cheese I got at the mexican market which was very similar.

I was secretly fearing that i spent nearly 2 hours making something that i wasn't going to like. But, the meat blended really well together, the sauce was incredibly good, and the whole thing ended up tasting very very good.  Not nearly as sweet as i was expecting, but still sweet, and very very savory, with just a touch of spice.

I would definitely recommend this recipe to anyone (and i guess that's what I'm doing by writing this).



Tequila-Lime Pork Chops with Jalapeño Pesto and Guacamole

I saw the words "Jalapeño Pesto" in a recipe title over Christmas while paging through a cookbook I was wrapping up for my brother-in-law. Immediately I thought "holy cow! I need to make that!"

Kind of surprised that it took me this long to actually follow through.

This was another recipe that I came up with on the way to the store. I decided that I wanted to give the jalapeño pesto a shot, I just needed to figure out what I was going to serve it with/on/in. At the store, I noticed some nice looking boneless pork chops, and then the light bulb turned on in my brain (or stomach, or maybe palate).

So this is the result of yet another grocery store Eureka.

Tequila-Lime Pork Chops with Jalapeño Pesto and Guacamole

I started by preparing my favorite white-meat marinade. (great for shrimp too)

the marinade
4 limes
2 jalapeño peppers (minced finely)
1/2 cup tequila

4 boneless skinless pork chops

I like to just put the meat and marinade in a big zip-lock freezer bag, and then put the bag in a bowl in case it leaks.

Marinate for at least an hour (this marinade overnight makes for some ridiculously tender chicken breasts, by the way). I didn't have the foresight this time, so I only let it marinate for about an hour and a half.

Next, i worked on the pesto.

Jalapeño Pesto
3 large jalapeños
1 bunch of cilantro
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
good chunk of parmesan
(1/2 to 2/3 cup grated)
2 Tbsp. Olive oil

Pesto is something that can be made (in my opinion) either really quickly or really well, not both.  You could technically take all of these ingredients and throw them in a blender or food processor, and be done with it in 5-10 minutes.  In all honesty, this does produce a pretty decent pesto, but I really think it is worth it to make it by hand (Most people don't have the patience for chopping that i do though, so i won't blame you for using a food processor).

I like my pesto to have a less homogeneous texture.  Basically what i do is decide which of the ingredients in the pesto i want to be chopped more finely and which i want to be chopped more coarsely, and arrange them in order from fine to coarse. In this case, garlic » jalapeño » cilantro » cheese » pine nuts. Begin by chopping the first ingredient finely, then add the next ingredient right on top of that pile, and chop until that ingredient is minced, add the next right on top of the pile, chop until minced, etc.

Using this process, the ingredients you start with end up being pretty much totally pulverized, and the ingredients more toward the end have some texture to them still.

Once all the ingredients are chopped to your satisfaction, put it all in a bowl and mix in half the olive oil. (mix in the second half just before serving)

Next, I made a simple guacamole:

Basic Guacamole
2 large avocados
(3-4 if small)
1 medium tomato
small bunch of cilantro
1 lime
1/2 onion
salt and pepper to taste

This is pretty basic guacamole. I usually add some heat to it via a serrano or a jalapeño or two, but i wanted this to be the item on the plate that wasn't spicy. With guacamole i start by juicing the lime into a bowl and then mash/whip the avocados into the lime juice... this keeps it from turning brown. then just dice everything else up, stir it all, and you're done.

Once everything else was ready I grilled the pork chops, mixed in the last part of the oil to the pesto, and served.  (Advise serving with a few tortilla chips with which to eat the remaining guacamole and pesto)

Serve each pork chop on a bed of the pesto, with a nice glob of guacamole.


Roasted Halibut with Chile de Arbol Sauce

Nothing new in the last few days... the rain made me a little lazy.

so i'll post one of my favorites that i made over the last several months.

If you're a glutton for spice like i am, this sauce is heavenly, works with chicken, steak, fish, shrimp, would be good on eggs... I could pretty much put it on anything.

without further adieu,

Roasted Halibut with Chile de Arbol Sauce

the fish

1 gigantic slab of super good halibut, cut into 2x3inch chunks (think the piece we got was about 1.8 lbs)

also, apart from the sauce (below), you'll need:

1 lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt

the sauce

I made the sauce a few days ahead of time, as it really needs to sit for at least 24 hours.
Very glad of my decision to make twice as much sauce as needed, cause now i have the hard part done for another round sometime soon. I'd recommend doubling or tripling this recipe and jarring some for later.

Worth mentioning that you need a good blender or food processor for this.

anyway here it is:

50-60 dried chiles de arbol
4 Tbsp shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
4 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup lemon juice

making the sauce

These chilies are no joke. I'd advise doing this in a well ventilated area and using gloves.

Remove the stems from the chilies and break them in half. Roll/squish them in your fingers to get all the seeds out. I saved my seeds for later use. This part takes a while, as well.

Turn the vent fan on high. open windows, whatever you can to get the air moving wherever you do this step.
Toast chilies over medium heat in a skillet until browned. Takes about 5 minutes. Stir or shake the pan as often as possible to keep the chilies from burning. (A bit of burn is actually good for the flavor, thus the toasting in the first place) Beware however, the smoke that comes off these things burning is basically a biological weapon and will make you and your friends/family cough very very hard. Add these to the blender.

After the trial of chili roasting, toast the pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and cumin seeds over medium heat the same way until the pumpkin seeds start popping, 3 to 5 minutes. Add to blender.

Add garlic, salt, oregano and allspice to blender and then pour in boiling water.

A this, point you're probably just getting over your coughing fit, so cover the blender and let it settle and stand in the boiling water for 10-15 minutes. You could probably use some fresh air, or you could start squeezing lemons.

Now add the lemon juice, and puree the whole deal until it's pretty much smooth but with some chili bits here and there.

You're done! Put it in the fridge for at least a day and up to a week.

cooking the fish

Marinate the fish in enough sauce to fully coat it all in a big ziplock or whatever. I marinated for about an hour or so.

Preheat oven to 450°F

Grease a baking pan, and put the fish and all the sauce into it.
Dribble a bit of oil on each piece of fish, and add a dash of salt

Roast until fish flakes easily when tested, about 12 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges.


Sunday Pho Experiment

A very useful habit I've started over the last few months is saving my vegetable scraps.  Stuff like: onion and garlic peels, the ends/peels/seeds of peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers, the stalks of herbs, and just generally anything that would add to a pile of veggies ready for stock. I keep all of this in a big ziplock bag in the freezer and add to it as much as i remember to.

Lately, when my bag of vegetable butts becomes full, i've been turning it into stock for pho.

I have made pho from a homemade beef stock a few times, and it is delicious.  However, it is very messy, really fatty, and honestly not really any better than veggie pho.  I'll definitely do beef pho again sometime, and probably try chicken at some point as well, but for now i'm pretty happy with this.

so here we go:

I actually started the stock on Saturday, thinking that i was going to make the pho that evening, but decided against it and stopped after the first few steps and just covered and refrigerated the stock for the next day.

I'm not going to write this one out like an actual recipe because, well i'm not sure exactly what was in that bag to be honest.  It's a little different every time.  Also, i use the spices all on a "to taste" level, and there is quite the list of spices, so i really don't know what quantities i ended up putting in.

The first step in this pho (and also in the beef one i've made) is roasting ginger and onions.  I took two medium red onions and a few healthy hunks of ginger and cut them in half, brushed them with olive oil, and put them on the highest rack of the oven at 450 for about a half hour, flipping them halfway through.

Once these were in the oven roasting, I put the contents of my frozen bag into a large pot and added water to cover it all and heated it up to a boil.

To supplement the stuff in the bag i also prepared:
3 leeks, chopped up a bit
a dozen or so crimini mushrooms
twenty or so okra fruits, halved

Once the onions and ginger were done roasting, and the fresh veggies were chopped up, I added all of this to the pot. At this point, the stuff from the freezer bag was boiling and no longer had big frozen chunks, and the kitchen was already humid with soupy goodness. Then i added more water to cover this and brought it all back up to a boil.  Once boiling, i brought it back to a simmer and let it bubble away for a few hours.

this is where i covered and refrigerated the stock to be continued the next day.

The following day (and what a day for food... House of Nanking for lunch and homemade pho for dinner), I started again by bringing the pot of stock back to a boil and then back down to a simmer.

Then i prepared the spices to be added.  As I said, I'm not sure on quantities, picture shows initial estimation that i measured out, and i then ended up adding more salt and a few more cloves if i remember correctly.

Here's the list:
Cinnamon Stick
Cardamom Pods
Ground Cardamom
Star Anise
Fennel Seeds
Fish Sauce (used about a quarter cup)

I also threw in a handful of chiles de árbol

With the spices added to the pot, I let it simmer for another hour or so and worked on preparing the myriad condiments that accompany any good pho:  sliced fresh peppers (i used jalapeño), bean sprouts, sliced lime, fresh basil, fresh mint, fresh cilantro (all chopped coursely)

After that i prepared the rice noodles.

The final step before serving was simply straining all of the solid veggie matter out of the soup itself.  Once this is done, it was time to eat.

This soup makes me happy.


Asparagus, Spinach, and Basil Stuffed Chicken with a Mushroom Cream Sauce

Spent the evening helping a friend move to a new apartment.  In the course of events, I decided to head over to the store and get something to make dinner while he was doing something that didn't require my help.  I figured I'd just get something quick and easy, but on the way to the store, this is what i came up with.

I'd have to say that my best ideas often just come to me this way, when i'm planning on doing something familiar and simple, and decide to try something new.

Anyway, here's the recipe

(I don't often use measuring cups and stuff, so bear with me with my measurements and units)
Serves 3 (sorry for the weird number of servings, this is just how it happened)

the stuffing
6 stalks of asparagus
a handful of fresh basil
a large handful of fresh spinach
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

the sauce
1 small red onion
4-5 cloves of garlic
10 medium sized crimini mushrooms
1 cup Crème fraiche
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable stock
(chicken stock would be fine too)

the chicken
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts


Preheat the Oven to 400 degrees

Finely chop the asparagus and mince the spinach and basil. Combine all of this in a bowl. Add olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for now.

Mince the garlic.
Slice the mushrooms into thickish slices (1/4 inch)
Slice the Onion into thin crescents
Set this aside for now

Cutting the chicken is a little hard to explain without just showing somebody.  Most boneless skinless breasts come already kind of butterflied, with one thicker chunk, and one smaller chunk.  What you want to do is start at where these two pieces join together, and cut the thicker chunk in half almost to the end.  This way, it ends up like a tri-folded piece of chicken. Do this to all 3 breasts and either pound or roll them flat. (I just kind of wailed on them with my flat palm...)

Once your chicken is laid out flat, salt and pepper the surface lightly, and then spread the stuffing evenly across the top of each piece.  Roll these pieces up carefully and put onto a double layer of foil.  Close up the foil around the chicken and put on a baking pan and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

While the chicken is baking, it's time to make the sauce.

To start off, heat up some olive oil in medium or large pan. Add the garlic and onions and sautee until the onions are semi-transparent and very flexible.  Next add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms have soaked up most of the remaining oil.  

Once the mushrooms are nice and tender, add the chicken stock and reduce by about half.  Then add the Crème fraiche and cook for another 15 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently.

If timed, properly, the chicken and the sauce should both be pretty much done now.

Serve with 1 rolled breast per plate, with a big spoonful of the sauce. (I also served some steamed baby broccoli and some baby bok choy)

Very happy with how this turned out, especially since it was just kind of off the top of my head and out of the blue. All in all it was a very good evening.


Dragonbreath Salsa

This has got to be my most requested recipe.  Definitely one of my stand-ins for when i want to bring something to a party or dinner or something and don't have the ambition to come up with something new.

One of these times I'll take some photos of this recipe, chances are I'll make it again soon... mmm, maybe tomorrow.  So i guess I'll just end up rewriting this when i have pictures, but oh well, here it is anyway.

The big secret is that if you use good produce and know some basic combinations of flavors, salsa is REALLY easy to make.

Be prepared for a LOT of chopping.  Sure, you could just throw it all in a food processor (except the beans), but i really prefer to chop it all by hand.  Plus, at least to me, chopping is a huge part of the experience of cooking.  It's really zen, or something... I don't know, it relaxes me.


1 medium red onion
1 bell pepper (yellow is good to round out the colors in the salsa)
1 poblano pepper
4 jalapeños
2 serrano peppers
1 can green chilies (or you can roast an extra poblano and dice it)
5 cloves garlic (more if they're tiny cloves)
2 15oz cans diced tomatoes (an equivalent amount of good fresh chopped tomatoes is preferable, but in the off season canned can really be better)
1 can black beans, drained
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp of white wine vinegar
juice from two limes
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp black pepper
3 tsp salt


1) Chop the hot peppers as finely as possible and drain the beans.
2) In a large bowl mix the hot peppers and beans with the lime juice and vinegar and let it sit while you chop everything else.
3) Don’t drain the tomatoes. Use that juice from the cans as well. Mash them up as best you can so there aren’t any huge chunks left… I like to really pulverize them. Add this to the bowl with the hot peppers and beans.
4) Finely chop everything else (sometimes i use a press for the garlic, sometimes not).
5) Add the cumin, allspice, black pepper, salt
6) Mix
7) Serve, and watch your guests sweat.

Breakfast Burritos for Lunch!

I'm a big fan of eggs and vegetables for breakfast.

However, I have never really developed the habit of eating breakfast in the morning.  I know I should at least get something in me right away, and i do try to at least have some juice or yogurt or something, but I don't often cook a meal in the morning.

I do like a long lunch however, so here's today's action:

Simple Breakfast Burritos


2 eggs
2 green onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium sized tomato, sliced
1 handful of parsley
a hunk of cheese
(this time around i used Añejo cheese)
2 tortillas


Heat a skillet or fry pan with a bit of oil
(I used Olive Oil cause i'm an addict).

Start by frying the tomatoes until they're a bit firmed up and a good amount of liquid has come off and burned away.

Chop the green onions and garlic and add them to the pan

Add the eggs (I like to make a little basket out of the vegetables and just crack the eggs right into it)

Chop the parsley and dice the cheese (very small cubes), then add them to the pan

Now that it's all in there, loosely scramble it up and cook until the eggs are... well however you like them.  Split this into the tortillas and serve.

Whole process takes about 20 minutes.

This is the kind of meal that i make a lot for myself because it's quick and easy, and there's not a lot to clean up afterwards.

To me, it also serves as proof that even if you're just throwing some stuff together that you happen to have in the fridge, it's worth the extra effort to turn it into something delicious.


so here goes nothing

I'm going to use this first posting as a chance to explain how i came to the decision to start a food blog.  It's definitely not something i would have envisioned myself ever doing, even a few years ago, so i think an explanation is in order.

I have never had formal training or any sort of professional experience preparing or even serving food. Nor do i particularly desire either of those things (though I am often told that i should give one or the other a shot). I don't aspire to become a recognized chef or celebrated cook, I simply appreciate good food and enjoy every opportunity to learn how to get more of it.

I certainly don't cook gourmet meals every time I eat, though maybe if i always had the necessary groceries on-hand, i might try.  As it is, I'm no stranger to the local taquerias, simple pre-made sandwiches and the like from the grocery store, or just a whatever-happens-to-be-on-hand-slapped-together type of meal. I'd love to eat super great every day, but it just doesn't happen in normal life. Hell, when I was going to school there were several-day periods where all i had was some kind of ramen, so I'm no stranger to the quick cheap meal.

Over the course of the last few years, when I have decided to cook for myself (and especially when I have found myself cooking for others) I have slowly and without noticing or really meaning to, been raising the bar for myself.  I never really realized that what i was doing was teaching myself to cook.  Once I finally did realize that I had accidentally developed a pretty serious hobby out of cooking, I pretty much just embraced it.

Even more recently, when I have found something I have really enjoyed making, I've been trying to share it with people. Whether by making food and bringing it to parties, or just posting my cooking adventures on FB it's been enjoyable to share my food with others. Now apparently all of that has led to this.

I'll start by moving a few of my previously shared recipes here, and until i get into the rhythm of developing new content a few times a week, I'll keep doing that.  I'm hoping that all of this will inspire me to cook something new at least a couple times a week, and that sounds like a delicious thing indeed.