Saturday, December 3, 2011

tamale party

first of all, have we shared the joy that is our new kitchen?  i think with all the catch-up posting we forgot to mention the fact that we are now cohabitational.  one of the greatest parts about this new arrangement is the kitchen.  to begin with, the kitchen itself is wonderful - lots of counter space, good work flow arrangement (we can chop side-by-side without elbowing each other).  additionally, the spices, oils, and random ingredients that used to be divided between two different kitchens can now live together in OUR kitchen cabinets.  it is truly an amazing thing.
we also like living together because, well, it means we can see each other all the time.
moving right along.  we had another couple over for dinner to show off our lovely new home.
we opted for a mexican theme but we wanted to be adventurous and try some recipes we've never made before.
we decided upon black bean and corn tamales (based on a recipe from two blue lemons) and tortilla soup
here's the info.
*before you begin, if you've never made tamales before i'm going to tell you now that they take a lot longer to cook than i had originally anticipated - like over an hour.  not sure why i thought this was like a simple, quick steaming procedure*
tamale ingredients:
2 ears of fresh corn  - remove husks carefully as these will serve as the wrapper for the tamales
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups masa harina - it's corn flour and can easily be found at the local grocery store in the "latino" aisle
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 serrano chili, minced
handful of fresh chopped cilantro

alright so you start by making the masa: boil the water with salt and olive oil, remove from heat and add the cumin and masa.  once it's cool, form the masa into 1-2 inch balls and set aside while you prepare the filling.
remove the corn husks - remember, be careful! and save the husks.
slice the kernels off the cob.
saute the onion and garlic in olive oil.
add tomatoes and spices and cook until the tomato breaks down.
add beans, corn and cilantro.
once the beans are warm, you're ready to begin tamale assembly.
make an X with two corn husks and place a ball of masa in the middle.
spoon the filling on top of the masa
carefully wrap the corn husks around the masa and filling.  don't make this more complicated than it has to be - just make sure everything is contained in the corn husk.
once you've wrapped up all your little tamale packages, prepare a bamboo steamer over a pan with some water.
place your beautiful packages into the steamer and cook for about an hour.
basically you're looking for a soft, almost cake-like texture in the masa.

adventure dish number 2: tortilla soup (don't let the long list of ingredients frighten you - it's a simple recipe)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 peppers (red/green/yellow/orange), chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
kernels from 2 ears of corn
1/2 cup green onion
3 tbsp cumin
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno, diced
4 cups vegetable broth
sat and pepper
chili powder
cayenne pepper
lime juice

use a large soup pot to saute the onion, garlic, peppers, zucchini and corn in olive oil
add the tomatoes, spices, cilantro, lime juice and vegetable broth
cover and simmer
see, it's easy.
serve with tortilla strips for some extra crunch
please excuse the fact that there are no pictures of the soup...i made it while the photographer was at work.

grilled pizza

so there is a classy vegan restaurant in the west loop neighborhood called karyn's on green.  this karyn woman also has a few other vegan and raw restaurants in Chicago but we have yet to frequent those establishments.  anyways...we got all gussied up and made the trek in the chilly Chicago wind and went to karyn's on green to see what "fancy" vegan food would look like.  we split an appetizer: chorizo sliders and our main courses were chicken legs and an arugula pizza.  the food was pretty good.  the chicken legs had an excellent texture.  the pizza was inspired.  or should I say inspiring?
cut to the middle of the summer and we're wondering what to make for dinner.  arugula pizza!  this pizza from karyn's used thinly sliced yukon gold potatoes to replicate the texture of cheese.  it was topped with caramelized onions, garlic oil and arugula.  since we're only classy sometimes, we didn't get quite as fancy as karyn.
grilled arugula pizza:
pizza crust - we bought ours pre-made but we have subsequently been graced with the recipe for a delicious pizza crust which we will definitely use in the future.
3-4 yukon gold potatoes
small red onion
a whole bunch of arugula
goat cheese - yeah, yeah, totally not vegan but totally delicious and can be eliminated if you're going vegan

first you must prepare your toppings.
heat up the grill.
boil a pot of water.
thinly cut the potatoes into rounds - a mandolin is an extremely helpful tool for this procedure.
place the potatoes into the boiling water for a few minutes.  you want the potatoes to be tender.  we boiled the potatoes in batches and used a delicate hand so as to preserve the shape of the potato rounds (because who doesn't like beautiful food?)
thinly slice the red onion - mandolin not necessary
brush some oil onto the grill and onto the bottom of the pizza crust.
arrange the cooked potato rounds on the crust so that it is covered.
place the onion slices on top of the potatoes.
put the pizza on the grill and close the lid.
once the crust is warm and crispy, place handfuls of arugula on top and close the lid of the grill for just a minute or two.
once the arugula is wilted, remove the pizza from the grill and top with goat cheese if so desired.

the potatoes give the pizza a heartiness that you wouldn't expect to find in a grilled pizza.  once it's time to bust out the grill again, we'll have to try some topping variations.

grilled vegetable pasta and spicy bok choy

summer time is grilling time and we love us some grilled vegetables.
essentially we got a whole bunch of vegetables, cut them up and grilled them.  we cut the veggies into bite-sized pieces and added some to a jar of pasta sauce as it heated on the stove and served the remainder of the veggies over the pasta. this is simple stuff.
we used red onion, red pepper, green pepper, baby eggplant, zucchini and yellow summer squash.
we used a jar of pasta sauce - something with some spice and good herb-y flavor.
we got a tad bit adventurous with regard to our side dish: spicy grilled bok choy.
so we wanted to try bok choy and that martha stewart just happened to have a lovely grilled bok choy recipe.
here's what you need:

4-6 heads of baby bok choy - cut in half length-wise
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato-based chili sauce (we used sriracha)
2 teaspoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
salt and pepper
here's what you do:
clean the bok choy well and trim off any outer leaves that look less than ideal.
mix the vinegar, chili sauce, brown sugar, oil and salt and pepper.
toss the bok choy in the sauce mixture.
grill bok choy but do not disgard the sauce.
once the bok choy is tender - after about ten minutes - remove from the grill and drizzle with the remaining sauce.
easy peasy, beautiful, and delicious.