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Chile Relleno Casserole

This was one of my favorite dishes growing up. I should have just asked my mother for the recipe, but instead tried to figure it out myself. Really, the invention is the source of my joy in cooking. So I looked at some recipes online. My daughter walked in and said “you’re using a recipe?!!” and walked out in disgust. Custards are tricky, however, and a recurring source of failure for me in the kitchen.

I think I got the proportion right, but I did not put any flour into the custard, which was my downfall. It just didn’t seem right, and many of the recipes I found did not add flour. ADD FLOUR. I’m going to give you the recipe I used, with the addition of the flour, then the recipe I got from my mother. So, one that was almost a success with a fix, and another that I didn’t test but was the recipe mom used when I was a kid– the source of my love for this dish. You can choose which to use. My recipe is much smaller, as I just cook for my daughter and myself. My mom’s recipe will feed at least 6 people.

 

 

Anaheim chiles are in season now. So don’t use whole chiles in a can [ok, maybe in a pinch], fire roast your own. They are readily available even at Safeway.

My mother gave me this wonderful grill that goes right over my gas burner, just for roasting peppers. I have also roasted them under a broiler, on a gas grill, and in a pinch in the old days, on the coils of an electric stovetop [they stick a little]. I love the smell of roasting chiles. If your neighbors smell it, they may think you’re smoking pot, but it will only add mystery and intrigue to your reputation in the neighborhood.

Char the chiles on all sides until they are black [I used 6 for this recipe]. Don’t do it too quickly, you don’t want to simply burn the skin, you want to partially cook the chiles. Turn them around and rearrange them on the fire until they are all roasted evenly. Transfer them to a plastic bag and tie it closed. You can also use a paper bag, and there are possibly harmful effects of heating plastic against your food, but it makes peeling much easier. Allow them to sit and steam in the bag. When they are almost cool, and leaving the bag closed, rub the skins off the peppers with your fingers through the bag. It seems odd at first, but it makes much less mess than taking them out and doing it by hand. When they are all skinned, open the bag and wipe off the skin debris with a towel. Don’t rinse them, and don’t feel the need to remove all of the black, charred skin; it adds to the flavor. Cut off the top of the chile, make a slit down once side, and scrape out the seeds [and if you like, trim out the ribs]. You can attempt to seed them without cutting the side, keeping them in tact, but it’s hard.  Pasilla or ancho chiles that have a wider top and are shorter are easier to seed intact. These chiles are usually stuffed and fried or baked– so keeping them intact is more important.

 

I used 8 oz of goat’s milk Jack cheese. Half [4 oz.] I cut into 6 strips to stuff the chiles, the other half I shredded to put on top. Put a slice of cheese in each chile, fold it over, and place into a baking dish.

 

Make the custard: Beat together 1 1/2 cups of whole milk [I used 1 cup of lowfat milk and 1/2 cup of half and half], 3 large eggs, and a scant 1/4 cup flour [the step I regrettably omitted]. A higher fat content milk makes a better custard and one that is less likely to be watery. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the custard over the chiles, and sprinkle with the remaining, shredded cheese. This is not a lot of cheese, compared to other recipes, if you want to add more– go for it. Often cheddar is used in conjunction with Jack. The goat cheese was really good, perhaps a goat cheddar? I sprinkled some ancho chile powder and freshly ground black pepper on top. Bake in 350 degree oven until brown and puffy. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before cutting.

My mother’s recipe is as follows [same assembly, just different amounts of ingredients]:

Use a 9: x 13″ pan.

18 chiles, seeded
1 lb. M. Jack cheese cut into 1″x3″x1/4″ strips to stuff into chiles
1/2 lb. Cheddar, grated
5 eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 t salt; pepper to taste

White Bordal beans

I came across this bag of White Bordal Scarlet Runner beans that I had purchased in Tucson at Native Seeds Search while visiting at Christmas time. White Bordal beans [often called ‘Mortgage Lifters’ because of their large size] have a delicious flavor and meaty texture, perfect for salads or just slathering in olive oil.

They had been in my pantry for months so I was not sure if they would be very good, but they were delicious.

Like most beans, you need to soak them over night. The only beans I don’t bother soaking are dried lima beans. I find they can boil up nicely right out of the bag without adverse effects. I soaked my beans for about 10 hours; not because they needed the extra couple of hours, but because I was distracted and lazy. They nearly triple in size, so give them adequate water.

After rinsing them and giving them fresh water, I added a few cloves of garlic and a couple of bay leaves. Don’t add salt to cooking beans– it toughens their skins. That’s it. I simmered them until they were tender [skimming the surface throughout their cooking].

I drained the water and doused them with a lot of really good olive oil, salt and pepper. The heat and olive oil combined to further soften the outside skins– or so I imagined. The outsides were not as delicate and tender as they are with smaller beans, or maybe it was the extended time on my pantry shelf… but they were delicious.

I served them for dinner with grilled skirt steak and arugula/kale salad with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing. The next evening after my daughter went to sleep I warmed some up, poured on more olive oil and red Hawaiian salt, and had them with a chunk of Stilton and a glass of Beaujolais. She would have wanted me to…

Below is the link to Native Seeds Search. They are a not for profit organization that collects and grows heirloom, native seeds. Their work is amazing and their prices are ridiculously reasonable. Definitely worth your support!

http://shop.nativeseeds.org/products/fd207

Socca

I wish that I had photographed all of the steps and stages of this meal, but alas, I forgot. Again. It seems to be routine. Perhaps I just get too hungry, or distracted… whatever it is, it puts the onus on you to use your imagination and create your own visual images for the missing parts and pieces. So sorry.

So I had been wanting to make this dish. It is called different things all over the world: Socca in France,  Farinata in Italy, Karantita in Argentina, and Calentita in Gibralter. Other places have other similar dishes, but the basic ingredients are chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil. The mixture is let to rest, then baked in copious amounts of olive oil until brown. Sometimes cumin is added. Unable to follow even the most straight forward instructions, I added a few things and turned it into an experiment…

  

I took 1 cup of fresh (canned) chickpeas (Garbanzo beans) and processed them with some salt and a clove of garlic. I made this twice, the first time adding the fresh chickpeas and the chickpea flour together in the food processor. The second time I added the ground chickpeas and garlic to the batter already prepared. I preferred the texture of the latter. Combine 2 cups of chickpea flour with water. Start with about 1 cup and add until it’s a thick batter. The first time I made it thicker, and I was forced to spread it in the pan, which was difficult. I advise adding water until it is thick but pourable. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt (more if you like), and 1/4 t cumin (if you like). Add the ground chickpeas and garlic and about 1/4 cup olive oil. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably 4.

It was about 100 degrees outside, so I decided to make it on the grill in an iron skillet. Many people cook it under the broiler or in a hot (450 degree) oven. The grill is nice because with the lid down it creates a very hot oven environment and surface heat.

Right before I cooked the socca I added about 1t of baking powder. As far as I can tell no one else advocates this, but I think it made it a tad lighter. I heated up the grill well, then put two iron skillets right on the grill. When they were hot I added a lot of olive oil– probably about 1/4 cup to each. When the oil was hot I poured in the batter, swirled it around to make it even, then shut the lid. After about 5 minutes I flipped the socca with a large spatula (don’t time it, make sure it’s nice and well browned). The socca in the larger skillet fell apart (I just flipped over the pieces– it tasted just as good, ya know). I let it brown on the other side then took it off the grill.

I cut it in wedges and served it with eggplant that I had previously sliced, salted, rinsed, oiled, and grilled, and red peppers I had blackened over a flame, let steam in a brown bag, then cored, peeled, and cut into strips. I salted both and poured on more olive oil and some chopped parsley.

I served the socca with the eggplant, peppers, toasted pine nuts, crumbled goat cheese, and an arugula salad (sorry, no photo evidence). I think it was a success and my 9 year old loved it. It’s gluten- free, wheat- free, and has a high amount of plant protein. Paired with the veggies and all the olive oil– healthy!

I’ve never been a pickler or canner, I actually never really appreciated a pickle that wasn’t a really good homemade dill pickle. But recently I’ve been enjoying other random pickled vegetables. I have zero patience for projects where the process takes much planning and where there’s the possibility of contamination or, God forbid, poisoning someone. Still, I really didn’t want to be at the mercy of some pricy restaurant to enjoy pickled vegetables. So, with about 2 minutes of research for basic proportion, and no know-how whatsoever, I thought I would give some quick pickles a try. Here’s what I did, but I would encourage you to experiment. This is in no way a recipe for canning pickles, or producing anything that can be put on a shelf indefinitely. This is a recipe [that’s being generous] for making something resembling pickled vegetables that you make, cool, and consume immediately with friends and some cheese, charcuterie, and wine.

I put about 2 cups of miscellaneous vinegars in a non-reactive pot. It was a mix of cider, red wine, and rice vinegar. I added about a cup of sugar and a 1/2 cup of water. I added about a teaspoon of turmeric [I would recommend more like 2 tablespoons], a teaspoon of salt, a few juniper berries, some green peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a handful of sliced ginger. I brought it to a boil to dissolve the sugar then added 2 bunches of small radishes that had been halved or quartered [depending on size] and half a red onion. I let it boil for about three minutes, scooped it into a tempered glass container with a lid, and threw it into the fridge.

They got good reviews. I’m going to try to reuse the liquid… maybe add more vinegar and sugar and adjust the spices; there definitely could have been more kick. I might even throw in a peeled, hard- boiled egg or two to see what happens. Or perhaps do those separately; do you think it would make the vegetables taste eggy??

Refrigerate them and consume them expeditiously! Now, you’re a quickler…

Hanger Steak

Hanger steak is my new favorite cut of meat, especially now that it’s summer. A hanger steak is a cut, not unlike skirt steak and flank steak, that has a long fiber. These cuts have a really great flavor and are best served rare to medium rare so they don’t get tough. I think that the hanger steak is more tender and less sinewy than a flank steak. The skirt steak is great too but has more fat and is thinner and thus easier to overcook. Traditionally the hanger steak is one of those cuts that the butcher used to keep for himself, but has become popular because of the flavor and lower cost. The hanger steak comes from an area near the diaphragm of the steer.

I used my go-to marinade for the steak: A few cloves of garlic chopped fine, a bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley, salt, pepper, and grape seed or olive oil. You can put all of the ingredients into a food processor, but I prefer to chop it on the cutting board. I don’t like turning it to mush. Slather the meat in the chopped parsley and garlic mixture and allow it to macerate for about an hour. If you like it medium rare, leave it out at room temperature. If you like it really rare, you can throw it in the fridge and put it on the grill a bit cold to slow the speed at which the internal temperature rises relative to the outside, which I prefer well- caramelized.

I have a searing burner on my grill. I sear it until it doesn’t feel too floppy, take it off, and let it rest for a few minutes.

Cut it into slices against the grain. Enjoy the summer weather and a glass of red wine.

How to get my daughter to eat her greens… I’m getting desperate. I don’t like to eat much wheat, so I no longer make pasta very often. She loves it, however [really, who doesn’t], and if i throw the green stuff in there she’ll happily consume it. Well maybe not totally happily, but…

I found some gluten- free pasta. Usually this means corn, which I pretty much never eat since it’s hard on my blood sugar, but I found some in the refrigerator at New Seasons under the brand name “Cucina Fresca” and it’s main ingredient was garbanzo bean flour — a good source of protein. It cooks fast — like in under three minutes, so I started the spinach first.

Actually, I browned a chicken apple sausage for her in a pan first. When I removed it I added a little olive oil and sauteed the spinach. I added the spinach about the same time I added the pasta to the boiling, salted water. When the spinach was done I added grated Reggiano, sea salt, pepper, a grating of nutmeg, and about 2 T of cream. I had started with about 4 cups of spinach, just to give you an idea for the amount of cream that was added. It was just enough to meld with the cheese and give the dish a slightly creamy texture. I drained the pasta and added it to the spinach, then threw it on her plate where once sat the chicken sausage. I threw in a few red chile flakes to mine. Fast and really good.

The pasta was really pretty good. It had that slightly grainy texture that non-wheat pasta has, but not nearly as gross as the brown rice pasta, which I consider a complete waste of time, money, and calories.

today i met my friend jason for lunch at taboush– a lebanese restaurant on hawthorne. as usual, i forgot to take a picture before we ate, so all you can see is the fallout.

we split a fatoush salad and a mezza plate, which was great. their baba ganoush was fantastic, as was the humous. the falafel was probably good, jason ate all of it so i don’t know. i’ve had other dishes there that are great– their  homemade soujouk sausage is a favorite of my friend bek.

tarboush has a happy hour from 2 to 6 every day and is open for lunch and dinner. they have beer, wine, and a bar. it’s in an old portland foursquare that has been the home to many restaurant establishments before. they are not busy enough; hopefully they won’t disappear…

jason brought his 11 month old son august who is exhibiting his father’s defiant character already…

tarboushbistro.com/