Thursday, May 31, 2012

Welcome Made Just Right Members!

A while ago I mentioned that I had entered my Raw Zucchini Pasta with Peanut Sauce recipe in a competition for Made Just Right, and today I was lucky enough to be featured on their site! So welcome, Made Just Right-ers!

Thanks for stopping by my blog! You can sign up for my RSS feed using the button to the right, and if you scroll down you can also sign up for email subscription. Here are a few more Vegan recipes you might like!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mango Chicken Salad

Ever pick up an item in the grocery store with absolutely no idea what you're going to do with it? Yeah. Thought so. I almost always end up at the checkout line with something in my basket that I absolutely don't need and have no idea why I put it in there. I'm pretty good at putting the item back, but I'm always a bit baffled by what I was thinking.

I was picking up spinach for my Single Girls Lunch Salad (which I am still eating pretty much every single work day for dinner), and I found a bag of Mangos at 3 for $1. Since this was the Mango deal of the century, I really couldn't say no. I absolutely adore Mango, even though it's one of the hardest fruits to get the flesh out of ever. If anyone has handy tricks for that, let me know. As I continued around the store I kept thinking on what I was going to do. I didn't want to get to the check out line and have absolutely no use for the fruit, then come home and just chop it all up and put it in the freezer. Luckily for me, inspiration hit as I passed by the meat counter and spied some gorgeous fresh chicken breasts.

Mango and Chicken go together really really well. Add a tangy dressing to tie it all together and you have a delicious lunch. It's really easy to make ahead, and luckily, nothing will really get soggy if it sits in the fridge for a few hours. I think one of my favorite things about this dish is that it looks bright and sunny and, well, happy. It taste pretty darn good too.

Mango Chicken Salad

1 Mango
1 Large Chicken Breast
2 Cups Spinach, chopped
2 Tablespoons Walnuts, chopped
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Water
1 Teaspoon Poppy Seeds (optional)
Salt and Pepper

In a non-stick pan, heat a little olive or canola oil. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken and sauté over a medium high heat until  just cooked through. You want to get a nice color on the chicken, so the outside is almost a little crispy. I usually cover the pan with a lid for the first few minutes to try and ensure the chicken cooks through and doesn't dry out. 

Dice up the flesh of the Mango. Put 1/3rd of it in a blender with the water, olive oil, rice wine vinegar and a few grinds of salt and pepper. Blend into a smooth dressing. Stir in the poppy seeds. 

Mix the spinach with the rest of the mango and the chopped walnuts. Put on two plates. Slice the chicken breast and lay over the greens. Add a few more grinds of salt and pepper over the whole dish. Pour over the dressing. Eat, and feel the sunshine.

Makes 2 Servings.

Other recipes you might like:

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bacon, Brie and Spinach Quiche

Normally, I use the phrase "When all else fails, just drink wine". I'm amending that today.

"When all else fails, just make quiche".

I sometimes think that I make too much quiche. It's my go to. My fall back when I have nothing in the freezer, or when I have extras of something that I feel like I need to use up. The story of this quiches inception story involves the latter.

A little while ago, I got into the habit of having a midnight snack of some really good brie on some toasted bread, or a couple of crackers. This with a glass of wine is what became my go-to after work for about a month. I'm still on the kick, but I've been trying to be better about eating things that are delicious unhealthy before bed.

One fateful night, I was heading home. I was tired and sleepy and I just wanted to curl up in bed with my snack of choice, a decent glass of red, and some early episodes of 30 Rock. As I was driving, I remembered devastatingly that I was out of Brie, and also out of cat food. I stopped at the 24 hour grocery store and sleepily grabbed some cheese and friskies, concentrating hard to ensure I didn't mix them up. I got home, toasted my bread and cut into my cheese. This was when I realized that I had picked up some decidedly sub par cheese. This was not the creamy brie that I had been spoiled by. This brie made me sad and unsatisfied. I crawled into bed with just my wine and pouted.

The next day I wrestled with what to do about the Brie. It was a slow day at work. I decided that if I was thinking about it at work, I should just go and pick up some decent Brie, dammit. So i did. The rejected Brie sat in my cheese drawer for a couple of weeks. I felt sorry for it. It hadn't done anything wrong and here it was, lazing around and going to waste.

So when I went through my freezer trying to take stock of the necessary pantry busting that was coming and found some bacon, I realized that I could make this Brie's life worth living. I could restore it to joy and glory. I could turn it into quiche!

So that is what I did.

Spinach, Bacon and Brie Quiche

I've posted a basic quiche recipe before in the early days of my blog. This one is very similar in structure and is a good base to use if you ever want to make a standard quiche. I have a real live quiche pan in the mail right now because I did get a wee bit tired of using my good old pie pan. I'm looking forward to christening it. For the filling, if you don't want to use cream, you can substitute it with half and half or milk.

The Pastry

1 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons (1/3rd Cup) Butter
2-4 Tablespoons Cold water

Make sure the butter is really cold. Dice it up and mix it with the salt and flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add a little water at a time and mix or knead until the dough comes together. You don't want it sticky at all. Roll it out until it's the size of the pie dish. Set into a standard pie or tart pan, spread evenly up the sides. If you have a standard tart pan, you may have some excess to trim off. If you are using a pie dish, you'll likely have extra pastry up the sides when the filling is in. Personally, I like the crunch, but feel free to trim it is you don't.

The Filling

6oz Brie
1 Cup Fresh Spinach, Chopped
4 Rashers Bacon, cooked crispy
5 Eggs
1/4 Cup Cream
1/4 tsp Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cook the bacon until it is nicely crispy, then chop in into inch sized pieces. Chop up the Brie and layer it over the bottom of the pie dish. Cover with the chopped spinach, then sprinkle over the bacon.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream and salt and pepper. Pour over the fillings. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the pastry is cooked and the filling is set. Delicious warm or cold.

Makes 8 servings. Believe it or not, this quiche freezes beautifully wrapped in foil and then stored in a zip lock bag.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Whilst I'm Not Cooking #8

The biggest news this week was the addition of Evelyn to my family. Other than that, I'm still working on recording an Audio Book. I've not yet filled my docket for things to cook this coming weekend. I should have a new Marshall meal posted next week.

Pantry busting is going well, though I need to come up with some pasta dishes that aren't terribly unhealthy. Any ideas?

Did you know that lots of Salted Spoon recipes are on Pinterest? Here is my board for other peoples recipes that I find awesome, just in case you want more recipes from around the web!

Here are some awesome recipes from my Google Reader this week that I hope I'll get to make soon.

Red Potatoes with Olives, Feta and Mint from The Sweets Life

White Bean Gnocchi from Eat Tori

Homemade Cheese Crackers from 101 Cookbooks

Pan Fried Turkey Sage Scotch Eggs from Coconut & Lime

Homemade Asiago Cheese Bagels from How Sweet It Is

The above picture is very simply titled "Iris" and you can purchase it here.

Whilst I'm Not Cooking #7 Made 1/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #6 Made 0/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #5 Made 1/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #4 Made 1/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #3 Made 1/2
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #2 Made 0/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #1 Made 2/5

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strawberry Fruit Fool with Brandy and Snaps

When you start writing a food blog, you end up searching your memory frequently for food related thoughts and tidbits. You constantly think up recipes and then realize that they are related to something in your past. It can be a bit surprising, especially for someone like me. I don't really consider my childhood as home to many culinary gems. There was a lot of boil in the bag fish, and I think I lived off cheese omelets for about nine months once.

All last week I was trying to figure out what on earth I was going to make as a dessert for a dinner with Mary that was coming up. Normally, I'm pretty quick to pull out a recipe from my repertoire, but nothing that I was coming up with felt right. I wanted to use rhubarb initially because I've seen a million recipes for it, but that didn't feel quite right. I thought about doing something with chocolate, but that felt like it might be too heavy. I went back and forth and finally stopped and thought about what I think about when I think of the quintessential fruit dessert. That's when I remembered my mother, sitting on a couch, eating Gooseberry Fruit Fools. They seemed to be one of her favorite puddings in a hurry. In England, them come in little yoghurt pots and they are cloud-like, creamy and delicious. No too sweet, but definitely indulgent.

Fruit Fools are very English. They are basically a fruit puree combined with whipped cream. Very easy to make.

I figured that Gooseberry wasn't the way to go here. It's not really a common American fruit and it's a little hard to find. I figured that Strawberry would be a good choice. I made the Brandy Snaps from Lottie + Doof that I spoke of in my last Whilst I'm Not Cooking post, since I wanted a different texture. They turned out great, but a work of caution.... if your baking pan is hot because you are making these in batches, they will spread like heck. I also subbed walnuts as I didn't have pistachios.

If you don't want to make Brandy Snaps, use some other thin cookies for texture here.

These desserts are decadent and delicious. They look beautiful, and they taste divine.

Strawberry Fruit Fool with Brandy

The use of balsamic vinegar in the strawberries and brandy and cream cheese in the cream here is not traditional, but I feel like it really gives the dessert more depth and body. If you wanted to go the more traditional route, you could skip them, but you'd be missing out!

For the Strawberry Puree

1lb Strawberries, hulled and chopped
2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

For the Cream

1/2 Pint Heavy Cream (1 Cup, 8oz)
4 Ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Brandy

Hull the strawberries and chop them quite small. Coat them with the sugar and the balsamic vinegar and let them sit and macerate. The vinegar and the sugar will pull lots of liquid out of the strawberries. You probably want to try and let them sit for at least half an hour or longer.

Once they are nice and juicy and soft, use a fork or a potato masher to mash them up a bit. I don't recommend using a blender as you will lost a lot of texture.

In a mixing bowl, preferably with a stand mixer, add the cream cheese and a few tablespoons of the cream. Whip until it starts to thicken a little to form a base, then add the rest of the cream, the sugar and the brandy and whip furiously. You want the cream to be quite stiff. You may find you have little nubbins of cream cheese suspended in the mixture, but it is a nice textural compliment in the end.

In a glass or other tall container, start with a glob of the cream in the bottom, then layer on a tablespoon of strawberries, then repeat all the way up, ending with a cream layer. I think I had five repeats of cream and strawberry. Top with a brandy snap or other cookies and a couple of slices of fresh strawberry.

Makes four decadent summery servings.

Other recipes you might like:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Goodbye, Hello

A while I posted about how I had lost the use of my A key, which made me very sad when wanting to do things like talk about Avocado's. I've been working on this new big voiceover project, and my computer has not been handing it well at all this whole time. It's lost entire chapters of the book. Twice.

 It's finally gotten to be too much for me, so I made the tough decision to go ahead and pick up a new computer. This meant purging my entire savings account. It made me sad, but it was the right choice. I've always named my machines. So, Goodbye Della, hello Evelyn.

I'm happy about the new member of my family, and I'm incredibly excited about the recipe I'll be bringing you tomorrow! Watch this space!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meatballs with Homemade Barbecue Sauce

I talk a lot about comfort food here on Salted Spoon. I firmly believe in the power of mashed potatoes, peas and gravy. I know that if I ever have a ridiculously horrible day, a bowl of comfort food and a good cry will do more for me than pretty much anything else. I think it's interesting that many of us have completely different comfort foods. 

Back in February at a Superbowl party I ate meatballs made by my boss, Jenn. They were insanely incredible and I'm still thinking about them three months later. The sauce was delicious. It had a rich almost sweet flavor, and the meatballs themselves were perfect nuggets of joy. They could very potentially be in my comfort food rotation, except I have no idea how she made them. It's a family recipe, so unless I abandon my Stunt Guy and do some very elaborate stalking and scheming to marry some random cousin, you can bet your bottom dollar I'm never going to know what made those meatballs so great. This is probably a good thing, because if I did know how to make them I would probably eat them so often that I'd either a) get sick of them or b) have to start wearing maternity jeans. 

Since I'm still pantry busting, I was thinking this week about what I wanted to cook out of my pantry for dinner yesterday and I decide it was time to share my meatball recipe. I was convinced I had ground beef in the freezer, but evidently my memory is off because I couldn't for the life of me find it. It was the only ingredient I was missing though, so I did pick some up at the store, continuing my "buy no more than 1 in 5 ingredients" rule. 

I started making my own barbecue sauce a few months ago and I've been meaning to share it. Since it's  the perfect sauce for meatballs, I think now is a good time. The meatballs go wonderfully with a standard marinara sauce. The barbecue sauce goes great on chicken or ribs. Or, just be like me and put them together with a side of rice and broccoli, or maybe some mashed potatoes and whole corn.

Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite comfort food is. I'll give it a try.

Meatballs with Homemade Barbecue Sauce

These meatballs aren't dense at all. They come out wonderfully light. Once you've done all the cooking here, you let the meatballs simmer for an hour and a half in a crockpot. This creates the moist yumminess and it's worth the time. I used Parmesan Cheddar Bread for the breadcrumbs and it was delicious!

For the Meatballs

1lb Ground Beef (or use half beef, half turkey as suggested by my friend Adam)
2 Cups of Fresh Breadcrumbs
1 Cup Grated Parmesan
1/2 Cup Milk
2 Eggs
2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley
1 Teaspoon Dried Sage
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

For the Barbecue Sauce

1 Small Onion, diced
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Red Wine
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 Cups Ketchup
4 Tablespoons Molasses
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

Start with the sauce. In a non-stick pan, heat the olive oil and add in the onions. Saute for 5-10 minutes until the onions are starting to brown. Mince the garlic and add in with the onions. Cook for another two minutes, then add in the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste. If it's too acidic for you, add a tablespoon of sugar. Let this simmer away while you make the meatballs, or if you are just making the sauce, about 20 minutes.

For the meatballs, mix the herbs in with the parmesan and breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs into the milk. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the breadcrumbs, add the ground beef and salt and pepper. 

Mix until combined, but try not to overmix.

With a meatballer or a spoon, roll into small balls. You should get about 35.

Heat some olive oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides. It should take about two or three minutes a side. 

Put the meatballs in a crockpot and pour over the sauce, then let simmer for an hour and a half. You could also do this on the stove in a pan over low heat, just be sure to keep a lid on it and stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks. 

Makes 35 meatballs and three cups of sauce. 

Other recipes you might like:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Potato Cakes with Creamy Mushroom Gravy

My Nana was a really interesting woman. I spent a lot of time with her when I was young. In England our Summer holidays were 6 weeks long, and I used to spend almost the entire summer at her house as my Mum was working. Almost all the memories I have of her involve food. She was a stickler for timing. Dinner was at 1pm every day. Tea was at 6pm. She had a defined number of dishes that she would rotate around. When the summer holidays started, she would plan the menu for every day of the time we would spend with her. She stuck to it as well. It was quite impressive.

She used to make potato cakes from leftover mashed potatoes. I really think that it might be here that the seeds of mashed potatoes being my ultimate comfort food were sown. I know my mother sometimes made these too. I don't remember exactly what they tasted like. It was a very long time ago. I have a vague memory that she used to shape them with a gingerbread man cookie cutter. I wish I could remember better.

I always say that if I could, I would wish for a chance at a conversation with Nana as an adult. I have so much to ask her, so much to thank her for. I was thirteen when she passed away and I had no idea how many things she had taught me until I couldn't go back and ask questions for more detail.

There are a few recipes in my playbook that are inspired by her, and several I am still trying to master. I've made these a few times, and though I can't make them exactly like Nana's, I like them anyway.

I'm really into sifting flour right now, and you should too. It makes such a difference in everything!

Potato Cakes with Creamy Mushroom Gravy

For the Potato Cakes

2 Cups Prepared Mashed Potatoes
8 Tablespoons Flour, sifted
1 Egg
1 Cup Grated Cheddar or Parmesan Cheese (or a combination)
A few grind of Salt and Black Pepper

For the Mushroom Gravy

4oz Mushrooms (chopped)
2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon Flour
1/2 Cup Vegetable Stock
1/4 Cup Red Wine
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
A few grinds of Salt and Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Mix the ingredients for the Potato Cakes together in a large mixing bowl to form a dough. The dough will be a little sticky. On a lined baking sheet, portion out 8 balls of mixture. Shape into little patties. If you are having trouble with the dough sticking to your hands, wet them before you shape the balls. Top with a little more cheese.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then turn on your broiler and broil them on high for two more minutes to get a little color on the top.

While those are baking, make the gravy.

Melt the butter in a skillet or saute pan. Roughly chop the mushrooms and brown them in the butter. They should be lightly browned but not to the point of being crispy, and they should be at the point where they are releasing their liquid into the pan. 

Pull out the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the flour to the pan and then add a little of the vegetable stock to form a paste. Add in the rest of the vegetable stock, the bay leaf, and the red wine. 
Mix well and let simmer for about five to ten minutes until it starts to reduce and thicken. When the consistency is thicker but not super thick, fish out the bay leaf, add the mushrooms back in and then stir in the cream. Simmer for five more minutes, keeping an eye on the thickness.

 When the sauce is the consistency of gravy in the manner you like it, take it off the heat. It will thicken more as it cools. This should be around the same time as the potato cakes are done.

Spoon some mushrooms and gravy over the potato cake. Garnish with a little fresh parsley! These are also really good reheated in the oven. The gravy also goes really really well on a grilled chicken breast.

Makes 8 Cakes and about 1 1/4 Cups of gravy.

Other recipes you might like:


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Whilst I'm Not Cooking #7

It's been a very very crazy week filled with lots of ups and downs for me here in the Valley. My big news is that I got a contract to record an Audio Book, which is extremely exciting and is going to involve a lot of work. I'm really chomping at the bit to get started on it tomorrow! It's a memoir of a woman raised in South Africa.
In hand with that, my website for my voice work launched, and you can check it out here if you are curious:

Redd Horrocks

And also, since everything should come in threes, you can now get directly to this blog by going to:

How busy was I this week?!

Since I've got all this extra work to do, I'm wondering if anyone is interested in doing a guest post for me. I'd love to see a couple of your recipes featured here on Salted Spoon. If you're interested, just send me a note using the contact form in the Sidebar to the right!

And now, here is what I've found awesome and inspiring this week:

Brandy Snaps from Lottie + Doof
*Update: I made these! They were really yummy with my Strawberry Fruit Fool. The only note I have on this recipe is that when putting the second batch on an already warm baking pan, they spread significantly more and needed much less time to bake. Might be good to rotate two pans and have one cool all the way while the other is in the over. 

Spicy Butternut Squash Pie from The Copycat Cook

Chocolate Chip Cookies from Everybody Likes Sandwiches

Chive Blossom Vinegar from Food in Jars

Spring Pea Hummus from Simply Recipes

The Photograph above is entitled "Double Cherry" and you can purchase it here

Whilst I'm Not Cooking #6 Made 0/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #5 Made 1/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #4 Made 1/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #3 Made 1/2
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #2 Made 0/5
Whilst I'm Not Cooking #1 Made 2/5

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blueberry, Lemon and Ricotta Tarts

I've figured lots of things out over the last 5 weeks or so. I've figured out that my Stung Guy really is my best friend and having him living 2,000 miles away is not something I like. I've figured out that the whole time he and I have lived together, my cat has been secretly wishing he were two feet shorter so she can sleep where his feet go. I've figured out he eats a LOT of cereal. I've figured out that if it's my weekend I have to have something planned with real people at least one of the days, because if I spend two days my myself in my apartment I will go more than a little nuts. My cat does not approve of me trying to hold conversations with her. She'd rather be sleeping in her nearly acquired spot at the foot of the bed.

One of the good things about being by myself is that I can spend an entire uninterrupted day in my kitchen, which is what I did on Tuesday. Since I'm in this big pantry busting phase, one of the rules I've made myself is that if I'm looking to make a recipe, I can only need to purchase 1 ingredient in 5. Since I had a dinner date the next day, I decided that I could work on a recipe for these tarts. I had seen the blueberry and lemon ricotta combination over at The Pastry Studio and loved the combination. I made mini versions for my birthday and wanted to make bigger ones to take over to Rene and Moray's house. 

If you haven't discovered the wonders of cream cheese pastry yet, let me enlighten you. Cream cheese pastry is incredibly simple to make and it comes out very flaky and fluffy, not too heavy at all. It's a nice alternative to standard pie pastry because it doesn't come out as dense, and if you are making little tarts with it in a muffin pan, you can make it really thin and it will still hold up the filling. These tarts are really yummy, and leftovers are pretty great for breakfast the next day with a mug of coffee.

Blueberry, Lemon and Ricotta Tarts

You can use frozen blueberries here if need be, though fresh is always better. I like to reserve a few to bake on top of the tarts. This recipe makes extra pastry, which I like to just stick in the freezer so I can pull it out and whip up a couple of small desserts or tarts at a later date with little effort.

For the Pastry

1 Cup Flour
4oz Cream Cheese
1/2 Cup Butter
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

For the Blueberry Filling

4oz Blueberries 
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon

For the Lemon Ricotta Filling

4oz Ricotta
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 Egg Yolk
Zest of 1 Lemon

In a mixing bowl or a stand mixer, cube up the butter and the cream cheese. Sift over the flour and the salt and then work into a dough. It will need a few tablespoons of cold water for it to come together. 

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set it in the fridge to firm up a little while you make the fillings. This makes it easier to roll later.

In a small saucepan, add the ingredients for the blueberry filling and simmer over a medium heat, stirring often. The blueberries will break apart and the whole mix will resemble a compote. Have a careful taste and add more sugar if necessary. It's nice for it to have a bit of a tart edge, but there should still be some sweetness to it. It will seem quite thin at first, but will thicken up as it cools. Once this is made, set it aside so it can cool a little.

In a small mixing bowl, add the ingredients for the Lemon Ricotta filling. Makes sure these are all mixed well and that you don't have any big lumps. I love the colors of the filling before it's mixed, all different shades of yellow.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Divide your dough into 12 pieces, then mush three of those back together and stick them wrapped up in the freezer for a later date. Roll the remaining pieces into balls and then use a rolling pin to flatten them into thin discs. Place them into 9 muffin cups. 

I started out with twelve, then remembered this recipe makes less filling than that and changed my mind.

Divide the blueberry mixture into the pastry cups, then spoon over the ricotta and the top with a fresh blueberry. Bake for 30 minutes and then cool on a wire rack. 

Makes nine delicious tarts. Serve a little warm or at room temperature, or cold for breakfast the next day.

Here is another recipe you might like:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tacos El Gordo

I usually shy away from Mexican restaurants. Many years ago I lived with a family that had a lot of Mexican heritage and we ate a lot of really good Mexican food. Every time I went to eat in a Mexican restaurant I was completely disappointed because I was used to things that were more delicious. I gave up, and now cite Mexican as something I "don't like that much". 

So when my friend Nico wanted to have lunch at Tacos El Gordo on the strip, I wasn't too excited. 
But dear god how wrong was I? Completely! Tacos El Gordo is on the strip, but North of all the craziness of the big hotels. Just past the Encore, it's in a little shopping strip on the corner. You go in, order your tacos, pay, then grab a seat inside or outside.

I tried the carne asada and the adobada tacos. One of each plus a soda came to $5. On the strip, this is unheard of. I was expecting to pay $15 for something I didn't like. These tacos were incredible. The meat on both was seasoned perfectly and delicious. It was tender, it was just the right amount of heat. The adobada (which is a pork marinated in a red sauce) was indescribably delicious. So savory with a hint of sweet and mixed perfectly with a sauce and vegetable adornments. They were both served on a corn tortilla. I inhaled them and felt light and satisfied. I wasn't weighed down at all but I wasn't hungry any more either. They provide plenty of limes on the side and slices of radish for your adorning pleasure.

One of my other dining companions got this dessert. I think it's called Dulce de Tamarindo. It's basically a sweet tamarind paste wrapped in sugar and dusted with chili powder. It was really amazing. I couldn't stop pulling off pieces. The paste had a great chewy texture combined with a little crunch from the sugar and the chili powder was an accent but not a punch. The tamarind flavor was awesome.

Now here's what I personally wouldn't order. One of my companions ordered the carne asada fries. I think the meat and the topping were wonderful, but the addition of the fries just made it all too heavy. Probably really good though is you are inebriated and need to soak up some alcohol. I think this whole box was $10. 

This place is brilliant. I'm going again on Saturday night with my friend Lee because I want to try more fantastic food and share it with anyone I can. They are open until 3am on weeknights and 5am on weekends. Definitely a great place to visit the next time you are on the Las Vegas strip!

Tacos el Gordo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Parmesan Cheddar Bread and Fond Memories

When I was in college I was nowhere near the cook that I am now. I dabbled around a little, making things like lasagna, but I was never really in love with food. It was years later that a single fried egg made me figure it all out. I look back on the non foodie time in my life and wonder what the heck I ate. I was shuffling through my old old recipe book, and happened upon a version of this recipe. I remembered that I had liked it and it was good, but I'd never been happy with the cheese I used. 

Since my cheese drawer is still stuffed from my birthday, I took a peek and figured that this was the perfect recipe for a Tuesday afternoon. I set to work and soon made two delicious crusty loaves. You should make this too. It's really simple and really tasty.

Parmesan Cheddar Bread

Seriously, this recipe is so easy. It takes a total of about three and a half hours with rising time, especially good if you are pottering around the house one afternoon. It freezes beautifully. Use good quality cheese if you have it, and so long as you use a cup or just over a cup, feel free to mix up the ratio.

2 1/4 Teaspoons Yeast (1 package)
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 1/4 Cups Warm Water
4 1/2 Cups Flour
1/2 Cup Cheddar Cheese (fresh grated)
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese (fresh grated)

In a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1/2 Cup of the warm water. Stir the salt into the rest of the water and pour that in also. Stir in the flour. Knead the dough for ten minutes, either on a flat surface or using the dough hook of a mixture. You need to be sure to work the dough a lot because this is what makes the texture great. 

Grease a large bowl with some oil, butter or cooking spray and set the dough in there.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out. I usually grease the plastic wrap a little so it doesn't stick. Let it rise for two hours or so until it has tripled in size.

I had to transfer it to a bigger bowl. This is after two hours sitting in a 78 degree room.

Punch the dough down. It will sound and feel incredible satisfying.

Next, add your cup of cheese and work it in. This takes some effort to get it evenly distributed, but it is totally worth it.

Split it into two greased loaf pans, cover again, then let it rise for another 45 minutes.

Grate some parmesan on top, then place it in a 450F oven for 20 minutes. Turn the over down to 350F then bake for another 5 minutes. Check if it's down by carefully pulling out a loaf and knocking the bottom of it. If it makes a hollow sound, it's done. If not, give it five more minutes.

There you have it. It's really that simple.

 Butter up a slice. Eat. Makes 2 Loaves.

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