Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Black bean and potato tacos. ¡Órale!

Hey there, a real post with food!
I don't know where this idea comes from.  It's probably not original but I've been wanting to do it for a while.  Part of the reasoning is that ever since I became a vegetarian, potatoes took on a totally new role for me, almost even replacing meat.  Don't ask me how, but they can be really satisfying. 
There's no standard recipe for what I did here, but hopefully I'll have something slightly more specific in the future once this is perfected.  So yeah, this isn't a recipe per se, but I'll give some tips as to how to make these (I'm hearing the voice of Donald Kaufman in Adpatation - "Not rules, Charlie, principles"). 

Step one: beans
I start out with my standard bean recipe which I will make forever and ever.  I love it.  It's the basis for refried beans, chili, you name it. 
2 cups of black beans, rinsed, picked through.
1 onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bay leave

Put all ingredients into a large pot.  Add 8 cups water and one bottle of beer.  I had some skunky beer lying around which did me just fine.  Bring to boil and then put to a low simmer for about 5 hours.

Step two: potato.  In the meantime, cook a potato.  My microwave potatoes generally end up like shriveled little lumps but it turns out the microwave actually has a potato function.  Who knew?  Anyway, you want a cooked potato.  Get there however you like.

Step three:  Refried beans.  Whenever you have beans that you are ready to work with, take a good three cups of beans and add a cup of broth.  I like better than bouillon beef, but be sparing with the flavor (a scant teaspoon can go a long way).  Mash over the stove and cook on a low heat until liquid has been absorbed.  Season with salt, pepper, oregano, and something spicy (I used powdered chipotle).  Okay, how is chipotle not in bloggers spell-check?  Come on...

Step four: Saute potato and mix everything.  When the potato is cool, cube it, and then saute it in butter seasoning with salt, pepper and oregano.  Mix it well into beans.  The mixture should be thick and stick together pretty well.  

We garnished our tacos (soft shells with corn tortillas heated on the comal), with salsa, vegan sour cream, and avocado.  Pretty awesome. 

Queue mariachi song end 'duh-duh-DUH, duh-duh'.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Like a phoenix from the ashes...

Yikes.  How long?  A year and a half?  I haven't really forgotten about this blog but it just seems like so much has gotten in the way.  I think I originally used this blog as a place to redirect my energy away from my dissertation.  The summer when I started this blog I did very little academic work.  After that summer I came back to my dissertation, wrote all year long and into the next summer and then defended the dissertation in August of 2011.  So yeah, now it's Dr. Elitist Taco.  We'll see if any of the recipes retain any kind of academic flare...
Throughout this time, I probably used the blog at least once a month, in particular for the enchilada sauce recipe.  I'm still interested in coming up with a better one, but it's one we like and it's one I will keep coming back to for a while.  So it was never really out of my mind.
But there are some big changes ahead.  This summer we'll be moving to Dallas where I'll start a job as a university professor at the University of Dallas.  I'm excited.  I love Bloomington, but access to Mexican groceries, warmer weather, and a real job sound great.  I don't know what it will be like to live in Texas but I'm bringing two pretty important people with me so I'm sure it'll be great.
That second person, after my lovely wife, is our newborn son Diego who turned 8 days today.  It's been an indescribable week of joy, exhaustion, and awe.  I'm happy to have the new motivation to work a little harder and be a bit more organized.  Looking to the weeks, months, and years ahead I feel nothing but enthusiasm.  Welcome little D!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gingerbread Pear Upside-down Cake

Yes!  A post!  I've been so busy lately with my dissertation, teaching, and job applications that I haven't had any time to think about blogging.  Cooking still happens though and we've been loving curries and all things with rice.  I think I could happily be a vegan if I ate vegetable jhalfrezi every day too.

So for Thanksgiving, some friends of ours hosted a vegetarian-themed potluck.  No turkey, but plenty of goodness.  It was the best tasting Thanksgiving I've ever had.  Take a look at this:

So very good.  Friends, wine, food, a great Thanksgiving.  Very tasty.

Back to the cake.  This is an epicurious recipe.  I was looking for an alternative to the pumpkin pie.  Well, not an alternative, we had pumpkin pie too.  Gingerbread is such a nice, festive holiday flavor.  Bosc pears give it a nice sweetness and different texture.  The best part is that you start out in a cast-iron skillet and end up in one too.  I guess maybe that's typical of upside-down cakes.  I've never been a fan of pineapple upside-down cakes, but this is really great.  

(the recipe calls for more butter and brown sugar but I made the cake for a test-run and the first time the topping was a little goopy. It's best to cut back on the butter and sugar)
2 1/2-3 Bosc Pears, sliced
1/4 stick of butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar (or really just enough to cover the skillet well).  

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 cup mild molasses
1 cup boiling water 
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened 
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar 
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Peel and slice pears, set aside.  Melt butter in an 11-inch cast-iron skillet on medium heat until foam subsides.  Reduce heat and sprinkle brown sugar over butter.  Cook undisturbed for 3 minutes.  Arrange pears on skillet and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together molasses and boiling water in a small bowl. Beat together butter, brown sugar, and egg in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes, then alternately mix in flour mixture and molasses in 3 batches at low speed until smooth. 

Pour batter over topping in skillet, spreading evenly.  Be careful not to disturb pears, and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 40 minutes.
Cool cake in skillet on a rack 5 minutes. Run a knife around edge of skillet, then invert a large plate  over skillet and invert cake onto plate (just like what you'd do with a tortilla española). Replace any pears that stick to skillet. Serve warm or at room temperature.  We served it with fresh whipped cream.  Enjoy! 



Saturday, September 18, 2010

Vegetarian Posole

I love posole.  The thick rich spicy soup broth, the hominy (nixtamal in Spanish, or technically Nahuatl), and of course the additions.  Cilantro, shredded cabbage, radish, avocado, lime juice, baked tortilla strips, and on and on.  The beautiful thing about the stock is the introduction of ancho chiles (dried poblanos) that are reconstituted and pureed in the blender.  It makes for a complex and spicy broth.  Of course posole normally has pork or in some cases chicken and so the broths are normally a little heartier.  I honestly thought it would be impossible to make a vegetarian version but this comes so close to the real thing I can't say I missed the meat at all.  I can't say how happy I was that this worked. 

In place of chicken, I used dried shitake mushrooms.  They take a while to soften so if they only sit for a couple of hours in the soup, they'll still be a little chewy (which I was okay with because it reminded me of posole's cousin 'menudo', but for reasons I won't get into).  By the second day they were much softer and oh so good.  The broth was hearty and spicy and everything was perfectly balanced. 

This recipe is for the Souper Sunday blog hop hosted by Kahakai Kitchen.  Soup... what a great theme.  I'm relatively new to making posole so I got my help from girlichef, an excellent blogging chef for all things Mexican (and otherwise) and Bobby Flay.  See their recipes here and here.  I like girlichef's addition of tomatoes and onion to the blender with the anchos and then cooking them on the stove.  It's definitely my new method - I just added a little oregano to the mix because it's one of my favorite flavors in Mexican cooking.

For the base, start with three ancho chiles.  Put them in a small bowl (put small cuts in the chiles so they don't float) and cover them with boiling water.  After twenty minutes, remove chiles from water (saving the water) and pull the stems out.  I like to save a few seeds for the heat.  Place chiles in a blender with 1/2 cup of the reserved chile water and the following items:
1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 t. fresh oregano leaves

Blend for a couple of minutes, pausing to scrape sides of the blender down with a rubber spatula.  Heat one tablespoon oil in large soup pot and add chile puree.  Cook for about 10 minutes, letting mixture thicken.  Add six cups of vegetable broth and heat through, bringing to a boil.  Add:

1 28-ounce can of hominy (don't drain, include all the liquid in the can)
2 cups (loosely packed) of dried shitake mushrooms. 

Simmer for about 20 minutes and add two tablespoons of chopped cilantro.  Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes or so.  Garnish with any (or all!) of the following.

Freshly chopped cilantro, green onions
Quartered lime wedges
Chopped or grated radishes
Shredded cabbage
Dried oregano
Avocado slices

Enjoy!  I'm going to be making this again and again!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Very Excellent Vegetable Broth

The elitist taco has taken a back seat these past few weeks as I get re-accustomed to the school year, teaching two classes and actually working on my dissertation.  While I'm still cooking (enchiladas de mole and posole this week!), not many things are that new or postable.  But the posole has been a real discovery.  I'll be posting that in a couple of days.

Officially, both the elitist taco and its author are now 100% vegetarian.  The blog was mostly vegetarian already, but now it is for sure.  It's nice to give it an identity and I'm happy to make my own vegetarianism official.  I've been headed this direction for awhile and I'm feeling great about it.  There are a variety of reasons, but none really matter much to the blog.  What matters now, is how to creatively adapt recipes and still have a great flavor.  I might miss late night hamburgers from Rally's or bacon but truthfully, it was the homemade chicken broth that I had gotten used to that I was saddest about.  A good chicken broth has so many great uses.  When I came across Bobby Flay's method of reducing a chicken broth for an hour or so after it was already done, something that intensified the flavors, I was sold.  We've been making our own vegetable broths for a while now, but for the most part they're clear and have little in the way of body.  So I set out to make a great vegetable broth that could be used in a soup like posole, which really depends on a good broth.  In an effort to give the broth some depth of flavor, I threw in a couple of potatoes and a few mushrooms.  For a final step I took a boiled potato, threw it into the blender with some of the stock and blended it until smooth.  The texture it added to the broth was awesome and it really made a difference. 
So here's the recipe.

3-4 stalks of celery, washed
2-3 carrots, scrubbed (not peeled), split down the middle
2 potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
4 garlic cloves, smashed (skins left on)
1 large onion, quartered (skins left on)
1 poblano chile, halved and seeded
white button mushrooms (small box - washed and sliced)

Of course, a vegetable broth can have pretty much anything you have on hand.  Often we'll keep the tough spine from kale and throw that in.  Some nice additions are black peppercorns, fresh thyme, fresh cilantro etc. 

Place all the vegetables into a large soup pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and turn to medium low, cooking uncovered for an hour.  Remove vegetables and let cool (save some potato for later).

When I was ready to use the stock, I heated it up on the stove, while I combined some broth with a few potato pieces in the blender.  Once that was reintroduced into the broth, I added salt to taste and... there you go.  For a little extra flavor, I added 2 cups of 'chicken broth' (Better than bouillon brand, vegetarian) that I mixed up. 

This is my new go-to broth.  Even before I introduced chile for the posole base, it had a nice, complex flavor.  I'm sure it'll be a little different every time I make it, but I think the potato will make constant appearances.  

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Zucchini Crust Pizza: Real Food

My wife discovered this recipe in search of something to do with our zucchini and wow, what a find.  Who would've thought that zucchini could be grated and baked into a flatbread.  We stay pretty faithful to the crust recipe (originally a Moosewood recipe, but find another version at this great blog here), and our own gluten-free sympathies have moved us toward to finely-ground polenta.  And let me just say, with cheese mixed into the zucchini, this is amazing - and smells really good as it bakes.  I would say, based on the criteria of the challenge, this satisfies the soul (as well as the waist-line) and I think it's got a complex flavor while helping you get a couple servings of your veggies at the same time.  It's been a good year for zucchini (from the farm share - I got one zucchini and then little pests attacked my plant) and tomatoes, so this is perfect. 

You can top it anyway you like.  We used a homemade tomato sauce made from cherry tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh garlic, basil, oregano and thyme.  We had so many fresh cherry tomatoes that we ended up using it again for eggplant parmesan a couple days later. 

Finally, we topped it with some grated mozarella and paremsan and there you have it.  Here's the recipe:

2 cups grated zucchini
2 eggs
1/4 cup finely ground corn meal (plus some more for the pan)
1/2 cup grated mozarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1-2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Butter and flour a cookie sheet.  Mix together all the ingredients and spread out into pan.  Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes.  Brush with olive oil at about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for about ten minutes.  Work on loosening the crust from the pan with a large spatula.  Top as desired and place back into the oven until cheese has browned. 



Cooked salsa #2, end of the summer...

First week of classes - Summer is officially gone in Bloomington.  It's a good thing for my productivity so I can't complain.  Last weekend was our Farmers' Market's salsa contest.  I've entered a few times in the past, getting second once before and first place also.  I made a salsa that I've been working on for most of the summer.  Most recently I've tried pureeing half of the roasted tomatoes and coarsely chopping the other half.  I put both sets of tomatoes into a saucepan and cook on low with three crushed garlic cloves and a tablespoon of dry white wine for about an hour to cook out the water (which there is always a lot of) while intensifying the tomato flavor.  The wine adds a nice element and I find a little garlic is always necessary. 
So on to the contest.  I entered a cooked salsa into the salsa contest and it was not my best one, but it was still pretty good and it took second. I couldn't get my hand on any anaheim green chiles, which are my favorite, so I'm making sure to include them in this recipe.  For the contest I used hungarian and cayenne which are pretty good but not anaheims. 
So here's my salsa recipe. 

8 large heirloom tomatoes, roasted and peeled
5-6 anaheim chile peppers, roasted, peeled and chopped*
2-4 jalapeño peppers, roasted, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. dry white wine

4 green onions, chopped
1/4 c. cilantro chopped
1 lime, juiced

Sea salt (depends on you) and 1/2 t. dry oregano (crushed finely)

Start with half of the roasted tomatoes and put them in the blender and mix at a low speed for about 30 seconds.  Coarsely chop the rest of the tomatoes.  Add all tomatoes to a sauce pan and turn heat to low.  Add wine and garlic to the tomatoes and cook on low for about an hour. 

When hour is up, add diced chiles to the tomatoes.  At this point you can add a little salt and taste the salsa to see how it's faring.  Continue to cook for another 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.

When salsa is cool, stir in onions, cilantro, lime juice and oregano.  While I imagine everyone has different ideas on what goes well in a salsa and what doesn't I am a huge fan of dry oregano.  It holds its own against all the spice and even the cilantro.  I love it.  Give it a try if you haven't before. 
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