Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mmmm.... That Looks Gross!

But it tastes good, and that's the most important part of the equation folks. Since my oven here isn't conducive to cooking meat, I've been doing a lot of stove-top cookery (you may have noticed.) The reason my oven isn't up for roasting, baking or broiling is because when it gets too hot (aka is on for more than 25-30 mins) it shuts itself off and does not allow itself to be awakened again until it is ice cold. An oven that gets too hot? I ask you, where is the sense in this country? Anyhow, back to my stove-top adventures...

I like to slow cook meat in sauces frequently if I'm stove-top cooking because that tender, fall-away, juicy deliciousness is just such a perfect exploration of the marriage of flavors be it smokey, sweet or savory. Alas, when you stew meat in a sauce for say, over an hour, it sometimes can start to look a little less than gorgeous. I mean, the meat will taste amazing but it won't be the prom queen. As is the case with a very good recipe I threw together a couple of weeks back. Inspired by the wonderful flavors of Latin cuisine and my insane love of black beans, I made a Chicken Thighs Stewed in a Black Bean Sauce. Oops! Wait, there's no black beans readily available in the UK stores? Oh, well then, how about refried black beans? Okay, I'm sold. It also cuts out the whole washing and cooking of raw black beans; I like any way that reduces the amount of steps it takes to make dinner.

Positives about this dish: flavorful, lots of protein, tender, and juicy.
Negatives about this dish: time is takes, and the whole beans, beans the magical fruit theory...

The sauce that I threw together covered the chicken, but it might have been too much to serve the chicken with. It kind of looked like black bean soup with large hunks of chicken. And a bowl of black bean sauce doesn't exactly look appetizing; I'm warning you so you don't have high expectations of the photograph. I can tell you that what it lacked in presentation it definitely made up for in yummyness. Try it. You may like it. Or at least you'll get rid of your unwanted house guests with your new-found gas issues.

Chicken Thighs Stewed in Black Bean Sauce

12-14 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 12-16 oz can of refried black beans (standard size)
4 oz can of mild green chiles, roasted and chopped
3/4 cup thick salsa
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp garlic paste
pepper to taste

In a hot skillet coated with oil, brown chicken thighs.
In a large pot, cook all other ingredients together and bring to a medium boil, keeping the mixture covered.
When the thighs are browned, transfer them to the large pot and cover them with sauce.
Reduce heat to a low boil, simmer and cover for 2-3 hours.
Remove and serve with rice or over a salad or just as is!

Super easy right? I would make it a Q & E recipe except for the fact that it stews for 3 hours, and even though you're not attending to it, the cooking is not quick. It's just being ignored.

PS. Dear Reader, you know my food doesn't usually look like the above, so don't judge me will ya? I have some beautiful GF pasta I'm waiting to post so don't think I've gone off the deep end on you!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

YWPWT: Childhood Memories Pie

It's raining in the UK.  It's been raining all weekend.  I can't help to transport myself back to how summer was for me when I was growing up in sunny, hot South Florida.  This is convenient because this month's You Want Pies With That Challenge brought to us by the amazing Ellen at Kittymama is to "bake a pie or tart inspired by a favorite childhood memory."  

Most of my childhood memories involve me eating fruit- a lot of fruit.  This was mostly two-fold considering I lived in the land of produce/easily importable produce and the fact that my mother often liked to give us fruit as desserts or snacks.  Often before or after meals we would have a slice of melon, some grapes, or her favorite and mine: those tiny mandarin oranges that came in a can.  I loved those little cans of mandarin oranges, and if it were purely based on  a sole memory, yes I would have made a mandarin orange tart.  However, I am not allowed to eat any type of orange right now, so I am going to the next best flavors to marry my memories.  

To me, summer was my childhood.  I grew up in a tropical summer climate all year round. Every time I eat a mango, guava, pineapple, passion fruit etc... I am instantly transported to feeling like I'm home, like everything is right in the universe.  It brings me back to family summer trips to Marco Island or Naples, or just going to Miami Beach for the day.  Going shopping in Coconut Grove or Las Olas with my mom and getting lunch, usually a salad with fresh fruit in it. Every time I taste a smoothie or margarita, I can smell the sunscreen and feel my toes crunching into the baking sand.  I miss Florida very much sometimes; it was a fantastic place to grow up.

So in honor of all these memories, I've made Mango & Lime Tropical Tartlets. These little darlings are made up of my typical tart shortbread crust, a mango puree, a lime custard, topped with fresh mango. They're also small, like me as a child and now, the same height as a child. With each bite, I can smell the sunscreen now.  Can you?

Mango & Lime Tropical Tartlets


3 1/2 cups GF shortbread crumbs
200 grams butter, melted

Mango Puree:
2 mangoes, pureed
1 tbs agave

Lime Custard:
2 cups milk (I use fat-free, lactose free)
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup GF flour mix
1 dash salt
2 tsps vanilla extract w/seeds
1/2 grated lime rind
1 tbs butter
the juice of 2 limes or key limes, squeezed (use 1 if you want the fragrance but not the flavor)

Optional Topping:
Chopped mango, nectarine, pineapple, lime
Whipped Cream
Mango Puree


Although it's a bit of a process, it's not hard.  Just step by step folks...
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine crust ingredients and pat into a 12 muffin tin lined with parchment paper cups.
Bake crusts for about 6-12 minutes depending on your oven yield.
When light brown, remove and cool, placing tin on wire rack.

Make custard in the following steps:
Mix sugar, flour, and salt together.
Combine beaten eggs into sugar mixture slowly until well combined.
Scald milk on stove top; do not burn, do not boil!
Add sugar mixture to milk slowly, whisking constantly until thick (it takes a few minutes)
Remove from heat.
Add vanilla, lime rind, lime juice and butter and whisk together until combined.  Set aside.

Coat the bottom of each tartlet with mango puree.
Top that with a huge dollop of the lime custard.
Refrigerate until slightly set.

Assemble as artistically as you would like and voila!  You're done.  Time to eat those suckers.

What I liked most about these (besides the obvious fragrance/flavor) is that they weren't too sweet.  They were still very rich (the custard is thick and you will have about a cup leftover), but they didn't leave me feeling like my teeth were rotting.  See that's what's so great about fruit.  It's light, fresh and leaves you feeling fantastic.  Now if it weren't for all that butter in the crust... ;)