Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ham & Cheese Tortas


Ham & Cheese Tortas
(2 servings)

 
Ingredients:

2 Fresh Bolillo Rolls (see note)
2/3 cup Refried Beans
1 medium Fresh Avocado
4 oz. Ham, sliced (your choice on type)
3 oz. Monterey Jack Cheese, sliced
¼ small White Onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup Pickled Sliced Jalapeno Chiles

Directions:

Slice rolls and remove some of the insides so slightly hollowed.  Spread half of beans on each bottom roll half.  Mash avocado and spread on top halves pressing to make it stick.  Next divide and layer the ham followed by the cheese.  Top this with the onion and chiles.  Place the tops on and slice to make it easier to eat or leave whole.

Note:               A Bolillo is a Mexican bread roll.  You could use a Ciabatta roll, French or Italian bread in its place if none are available.

Note:               You could use other sliced deli meats if desired in place of the ham.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pork Tortas


Pork Tortas
(2 servings)

 
Ingredients:

2 medium Fresh Jalapeno Chiles
1 medium Fresh Lime, juiced
2 Fresh Bolillo Rolls (see note)
2/3 cup Refried Beans
5 oz. Mexican Pulled Pork (see note)
2 small Fresh Tomatoes, sliced
4 oz. Cheddar Cheese, sliced
1/8 cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves
2 tbsp. Crème Fraiche (see note)

Directions:

Cut chiles in half and remove seeds.  Slice halves in thin strips and place in a small bowl with half the lime juice.  Set aside until needed.  Slice rolls and remove some of the insides so slightly hollowed.  Spread half of beans on each bottom roll half.  Next divide pork and place on top of beans.  Top this with the sliced tomatoes and drained chile strips.  Place the cheese slices next and sprinkle the cilantro over the cheese.  Taking the tops, spread the crème fraiche on each and place on top of everything.  Eat the tortas whole, sliced or after grilling on a Panini grill.

Note:               A Bolillo is a Mexican bread roll.  You could use a Ciabatta roll, French or Italian bread in its place if none are available.

Note:               You could use any type of pulled pork or even sliced pork for this sandwich.

Note:               In place of crème fraiche, you could butter, mayonnaise, guacamole or even just smear avocado over the bread.
 
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Part 8 Mexican (Tortas) Cuisine

I'm not sure about the rest of the world but "Sandwiches" are a big thing in the USA.  I believe many (at least Americans) will be surprised to find out that "Mexican Cuisine" is big on sandwiches too.  They are called "Tortas" or "Torta de something" depending on the filling that is used.

I believe most people thought they only used tortillas in Mexico to tacos and the like.  In fact, I'm sure everyone thought the taco was the sandwich of Mexico.

But they make breads in Mexico too.  The type used for tortas is a "Bolillo or Telera" which are a type of roll.  If you can't find them in your area, try using ciabatta rolls, French bread or even Italian bread as a good substitute.

The best way to describe a "Tortas" is to say they are very much like an American sandwich only they use traditional Mexican ingredients inside them.   They will be made with all the different types, styles and flavors of meats throughout Mexico.  Just as in the USA, different regions have different favorite ingredients too.

The condiments or garnishes used again are of typical Mexican items.  The only essential ingredient for a torta is refried beans and chiles.  Others that are common include avocados, onions, tomatoes and some type of cheese.  I guess there is one other ingredient they like to use.  Instead of mayonnaise that many other countries will use, they use crème fraiche or heavy cream.  Usually on the top half of the bun (the refried beans always goes on the bottom part.

"Crème Fraiche" is actually French but they did have their influence of Mexico too.  If you can't find crème fraiche in the store, you could make your own.  It is similar to sour cream in thickness but is sweet, nutty and yet slightly sour.

To make a cup of your own crème fraiche just use equal amounts of sour cream and whipping cream.  Another way is to add 3 tbsp. of buttermilk to 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, cover and let stand for 12 hours.

You could just use mayonnaise or even mash up an avocado and spread it on the bread.

Tortas can be served cold or warm.  You could toast the bread first in desired.  You can even use a sandwich press or fry pan with a weight to grill the sandwich.  And don't think they can't match the French Dip sandwich too.  Instead of dipping their sandwich into au jus as with the French Dip, they like to dip into different types of chili sauces (green and red).

They are popular because they can be wrapped and hand-carried for events such as bullfights, football (soccer) matches, concerts or wherever street vendors operate.  Tortas are also good for any of the 3 traditional meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner.  In fact, in Northern Mexico they are referred to as "Lonche" which  relates to eating on your lunch break.

The "Torta" recipes this week are for a "Pork Tortas" on Wednesday and a "Ham & Cheese Tortas" on Thursday.  I hope you will try these and others as you have the opportunity.  They are big in California and the Southwest USA.  So if you are in the region, hunt them out.

For that matter, come up with your own tortas and let me know how they turned out.  "Happy Cooking" until next week and please share my food blog with family and friends.  Thanks.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fresh Caramel-Apple Cake


Fresh Caramel-Apple Cake
(12 servings)

 
Ingredients:

1½ cups Pecans, chopped
½ cup Unsalted Butter, melted
2 cups Sugar
2 large Fresh Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
2 ½ lb. Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored & cut into ¼ inch wedges
1 cup Light Brown Sugar, packed
½ cup Unsalted Butter
¼ cup Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Directions:

Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant.  Stir halfway through.  In a large bowl, stir butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well blended.  In another large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.  Now add to butter mixture mixing until well blended.  Stir in the apples and 1 cup of pecans.  Batter will be very thick and similar to cookie dough.  Spread batter into a greased 9x13 baking dish and place in the pre-heated 350 degree oven.  Bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean from center.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  While cake is cooling, combine brown sugar, butter and milk in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Stirring constantly bring to a boil and continue for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Stir for 2 minutes and then top cake with glaze.  Let cake cool another 30 minutes and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup of pecans.  Spoon cake out of pan, cobbler style and top with ice cream as you serve.

Note:               You could use other baking type apples if
                        desired.

Note:               You omit caramel glaze and use your favorite frosting too.  If you frost cake, I recommend that you slice cake into 12 pieces instead of using a spoon.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Easy Baked Apples


Easy Baked Apples
(4 servings)

 
Ingredients:

4 large Apples (tart cooking types like Granny Smith or Rome)
4 tbsp. Brown Sugar, packed
4 tsp. Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon (plus more to sprinkle)

Directions:

Core apples but leave in the bottom (see note).  You may want to peel top half of apple or just around the center (helps prevent splitting) or not.  Place apples in a glass baking dish (ungreased).  Spoon sugar into apples first followed by the butter and then the cinnamon.  Add water to dish to just cover bottom.  Sprinkle a little more cinnamon over apples and place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes (give or take 15 minutes depending on size and type of apple).  Apples should be fork tender when tested.  You can baste apples during and after baking with juices in dish.

Note:               You can use a knife or a melon baller to core the apples.  Be careful not to cut all the way through to bottom.  You want the apples to hold the seasoning mixture throughout the baking and serving process.  You also want to make the cavity big enough to hold the sugar, butter and cinnamon.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Apple Time of Year

September usually means the start of "Apple Season" in the USA.  There's nothing better than biting into a fresh apple just picked off a tree.

As kids, my brothers (and friends) use to pick green apples off trees that were not in our yards.  Most of those people didn't mind us taking a few apples to eat but a few did.  Those were just a challenge for us to see if we could get in and out without being caught.

A neighbor lady (in fact I babysat her children) would have us get green apples for you during a few seasons.  She craved green apples during her pregnancies.  I have to say we loved doing it for her too.

Besides just eating them as an apple, they are great in baking, salads and many other dishes.  This week I'm sticking to a couple of dessert recipes but there are a few salad dishes already on this blog calling for apples.

This week's recipes are for "Easy Baked Apples" (Wednesday) and "Fresh Caramel-Apple Cake" (Thursday) and both are simple to make.

There is well over 25 different types of apples out there.  Most are great for salads and sauces.  Fewer are used for baking and pies.  The thing you need to do is fine what's available in your area and then which ones you really like to eat.  Then check to see what use they are best for in making a delicious dish to serve.

You'll find that apples vary in texture and taste too.  There are crisp, slightly crisp and tender textures to apples.  Some of the crisp ones include; Braeburn, Fuji, Gala, Golden (and Red) Delicious, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith and Winesap.  Of these crisp apples; the Braeburn is slightly sweet, the Winesap is slightly tart and the Granny Smith is tart.  The rest of the list considered sweet.

Slightly crisp apples include Honey Gold (sweet), Fireside (slightly sweet), Rome (slightly tart) and no common ones that are tart.  For tender apples none are sweet, Jonamac is sweet tart, Jonathan is slightly tart and there are no tart apples either.

I hope today's blog and the recipes this week have got you started thinking about apples and how you can use them in your lifestyle.  Remember the old adage "An apple a day will keep the doctor away" I'm sure you have heard sometime in your life?  It is very helpful so please try it (especially in season).  "Happy Cooking" until next week.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Green Tomato Pickles

Green Tomato Pickles
 (5 quarts)

 
Ingredients:

5 lb. small/medium Firm Green Tomatoes
10 tbsp. Dillseed
5 cloves (large) Fresh Garlic, peeled & crushed
5 whole Cloves
5 large Fresh Jalapeno Peppers, sliced (optional)
1 qt. Water
1 qt. Cider Vinegar
1/3 cup Pickling Salt, granulated
5 qt. Canning Jars, Lids & Bands

Directions:

Wash and slice tomatoes a quarter to a third inch thick.  To each jar (see note) add 2 tbsp. dillseed, 1 clove garlic, 1 clove and 1 jalapeno (if using).  Then place tomato slices into jars leaving ½ inch headspace.  In a large sauce pan, combine water, vinegar and salt then bring to a boil.  Carefully and slowly pour vinegar mixture over tomatoes into jars again leaving a half inch of headspace.  Wipe rims clean and put on lids and bands according to manufacturer’s directions.  Place jars in canner with boiling water at least 1 inch above jars, cover with lid and cook for 20 minutes starting as soon as you put them in the water.  Remove from water bath and place on a towel to cool.  Sound for lids to pop as that means they are sealed.

Note:               Jars need to be sterilized in boiling water or washed in dishwasher with drying cycle on just before filling.

Note:               You could half and quarter green tomatoes instead of slicing if desired.

Note:               You could use something other than the jalapeno for heat to make your tomato pickles spicy.  Use your favorite ingredient.

Note:               Pickles need to rest for 8 weeks before opening for best results.

Ideas for Future Efforts
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