Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ceviche with Spanish-inspired Papas Rellenas

Talk about "just in time"... This recipe from The Daring Cooks hit my apartment right when I needed it the most.
"Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra."
Boyfriend and I just got home from a BEAUTIFUL wedding in Miami. Get ready to become very jealous (if you live in New England anyway):

Yes, you're seeing that right, I got a wee bit o' sun before the nuptials

Oh how I miss the sun, warmth, sand, and pimped out cars.  Now, to be completely honest, and most of my friends know this about me, but Florida is very high on my list of hated states.  "America's Wang" I used to call it (snerk!).  Don't ask why, just trust me, I have my reasons.

But this trip to Miami was just in time as well.  It felt so nice to pull on my shorts and have them actually fit. We are just barely starting to thaw out here in the Northeast, but all that means is that temperatures are hovering between 30 and 45F.  "Thaw" and "warm" (or "Spring" for that matter) are definitely not the same thing up here as they are in other parts of the US.

Ceviche de Pescado (serves 2)
1 large tilapia fillet, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined, cut into 1/2" dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalepeno pepper, minced
juice from 7 limes, freshly squeezed (squoze?)
juice from 1 orange, freshly squoze
4 cubes of Trader Joe's fresh frozen cilantro (or used ~1 tbsp fresh if you have it), finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

For Garnish: lettuce and Salsa Criolla (recipe below)

First, make the marinade/cooking liquid for the fish. 

1) Force Ask Boyfriend to juice the limes and oranges for you.  He has bigger, stronger hands and hey, its the least he can do while you're prepping dinner and he's watching ESPN SportCenter.

2) Add the jalepeno, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper to the citrus juice and add you seafood to the mixture.  Try to pick a container that will allow the seafood to be completely covered by the juice.  The directions say to give it 10 minutes.  My fish was still pretty raw at that point so I just let it go until dinner was ready.  All in all, about 1.5 hours.  And even after that, I still wasn't 100% sold on the half-cooked half-raw mixture, so I zapped it in the microwave for a minute.  Sue me, but I'm too busy to take any food poisoning risks.  I'm sure if it was sushi-grade fish I would have been less nervous.

3) Make the Salsa Criolla.  Let it macerate for at least 30 minutes or as long as you need before dinner is ready.  It will last in the fridge for a day or two if you want to make it early.

Salsa Criolla
1/2 medium red onion, sliced very thinly in half-moon shapes
1 small jalepeno, diced
1 tbsp vinegar (I used rice vinegar because its all I had, but white would work fine)
juice from 1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste

1) Soak the onions in cold water for about 10min to remove some of the bitterness.  Drain.
2) In a small bowl, combine the onions with the rest of the ingredients, season, and let sit at least 30min or until you're ready to use them.

To plate: 

The next part of this wonderful dinner was to make Papas Rellenas. 

Boyfriend's first words were, "Sooo, what does that mean?"

L: "Well," I reminded him, "remember when I made Chiles Rellenos?"
B: "Yeah, yum."
L and here goes me being a teacher: "Ok, so what were those made of?"
B: "Stuffed, battered chiles... get to the point!"
L: "Right, so if 'papas' means 'potatoes', what would you guess 'papas rellenas' means?"
B obviously annoyed with me for being so patronizing: "GOT. IT. (grumble)"

So the point of that little exchange was to say that yeah, Papas Rellenas means basically, stuffed potatoes.
This part of dinner took me a lot longer than it should have, and I'm not even sure why.  None of it is particularly difficult.  I made quite a few changes to the original recipe, which made my papas rellenas more "Spanish" than "Peruvian".

First, I decided to use a mixture of sweet and russet potatoes for the dough.  I thought that the sweet potato would lend a little sweetness (and nutrients) to the final dish and contrast nicely with the sour notes in the ceviche.  Instead of the typical ground beef, raisin, and olive filling, I used chorizo (soy-rizo since we're honest on this blog), kalamata olives, and marcona almonds as the base flavors.

Papas Rellenas
For the dough:
1 large sweet potato
1 medium russet potato

For the filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 C Trader Joe's Soy-rizo (use the soft-style chorizo if you can't get the soy version)
6 kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped (from my CSA farm.... soooo yummy!!)
3 tbsp crushed marcona almonds (toasted)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalepeno, minced
2 tsp cumin
pinch cinnamon
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 C dry white wine
salt and pepper

For the final prep:
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water
1 C flour
1 C bread crumbs (I used panko, but any unseasoned ones would work)
oil, for frying

1) I decided to roast my potatoes for 30min in a 400F oven to try and get rid of as much moisture as possible.  I think boiling them would have been easier and I'm not sure we would have noticed a huge difference in texture.  Do whatever floats your boat, you are basically making "mashed" potatoes when then are done, just don't add any butter or milk.  Let the mashed potatoes cool in a bowl while you prep the filling.

2) In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add the onion garlic and jalepeno.  Cook over medium heat for about 5min or until the onions start to turn translucent.
3) Add the chorizo and brown for a couple minutes.
4) Add the cumin, cinnamon, and paprika, stir to combine.  Let this cook for about 2-3 minutes more.
5) Add the white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
6) Add the olives, cook for another minute or so, then remove from the heat and fold in the hard boiled eggs and marcona almonds.
7) Let the filling cool while you get everything ready to make the "papas".  Add an egg to the potato dough and mix well.  Here's the line-up for preparing the final dish:
8) Make a flat, round "patty" in your hand using the potato dough, then put some of the filling in the middle and carefully fold the potato around the filling, making a ball where the inside is all filling and the outside is all potato.  This was not as easy as I thought it would be, but not impossible.  I'm sure with more practice it wouldn't be nearly as challenging.
9) Once you've made the papas ball, drop it in the flour and coat, then into the egg mixture, then into the breadcrumbs.
Papas ready to go into the fryer
10) Heat an inch of vegetable oil in a skillet to 350-375F. 
11) Fry the papas (in batches if necessary), rotating, until the entire outside is golden brown and delicious.  Drain on paper towels.
To serve, I put down a bed of lettuce and topped it with the Ceviche and some Salsa Criolla.  Place a Papas Rellenas and a wedge of manchego on the side (because originally it was supposed to go in the filling but OOPS... I forgot).
This was so refreshing and a nice throw-back to our weekend in Miami, especially since it was gray and gloomy back here in Boston.  If I wasn't in the middle of detoxing from said vacation I think a Mojito or dry Rose' or crisp beer would have complemented this very nicely.  Next time.  And yes, there will definitely be a "next" time for the ceviche since it was SO EASY and SO DELICIOUS.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pear and Squash Soup = 2 Dinner Ideas

Sooooo, I've had these winter squash hiding since the end of the CSA season, theoretically "in storage" until needed at some point during the winter.


It was randomly like 60 degrees the other day.

Also, I've already signed up for my CSA season that starts June 2011.

So, the moral of the story is: If I plan to use these squash I better do it soon because the next thing I know I'll be overloaded with beets and greens again.  Already.  

Wow.  Where did my year go?


Moving on.  So we're makin' some soup, yes?

First, roast an acorn squash (or squash of your choosing) with some salt, pepper, and butter in the oven at 400F until soft and delicious smelling, 30-45min.

While the squash is in the oven, cut 3 pears in half and core them.  Place the cut/cored pears flesh-side down in a baking dish and cover with a slighly sweet and floral white wine (I chose a lovely Gewurztraminer that my boss made me for Christmas).  Bake for 30-45min until the pears are soft.  Check on it now and then to check to make sure all the liquid hasn't evaporated.

While the pears and squash are roasting, start sweating some diced onions, carrots and celery (mirepoix) in a tablespoon (or so) of olive oil.  I failed to take any photos of the next step, which would be to put all the flesh from the baked squash and pears into the pot with the mirepoix.  Season with salt, pepper and a little cream and anything else you think it might need.  Blend it smooth with an immersion blender and prepare for the eats.


The night I made this soup I wanted to taste-test it in the simplest form possible.  I topped it off with a crouton made by melting some gorgonzola cheese onto a slice of french bread and drizzling it with honey and parsley.

LOVED the addition of salty/sweet to the soup.  I admit, however, if you put gorgonzola on anything I'll be a  happy girl.


I wanted to keep playing with this idea of pairing the sweet soup with something salty and perhaps somewhat savory.  While I was at the store, black forest ham was on sale and it occurred to me that the lovely thing about black forest ham is that it is both sweet and savory/salty.  Hmmmm... this could be the winning match, no?

The magic of this soup and sandwich combo wasn't JUST the perfect pairing of salty ham, creamy gruyere and sweet pear soup.  OH NO NO.  I toasted the ham n' cheese sandwiches in something AMAZING.  And yes, butter was involved.  But not just butter.  OH NO NO.  Curried butter.  Yeah.  I said it.  I mixed curry powder with the butter, then melted it in the skillet, then toasted (fried) the sandwiches.  OH NO SHE DIDN'T.  Oh yes, I did.  And. It. Was. Breathtaking.  A perfect combination of flavors and textures.

I was pretty damn proud of myself for this one.  I'd serve this to company.  I'd serve this at a dinner party.  Yeah, crazy right?  Soup and sandwich?  Yeah.  And you should too.  Trust me on this one.
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