January 23, 2010

Brussels Sprouts with Leeks and Bacon

Do any of you have a favorite brussels sprouts recipe? Before the holidays, I was in the waiting room of my doctor's office, reading Good Housekeeping. A recipe caught my eye- I had been looking for a way to prepare brussels sprouts ever since I ate the best sprouts I had ever tasted at my friend Phil's house for his annual holiday get together a couple of years ago. His dish included chestnuts. I asked Phil for the recipe, but he is one of those people who doesn't measure anything. When I saw this recipe in Good Housekeeping, I made a note of it! I finally got around to making it this week, and it was exactly what I was looking for- even without the chestnuts.

You can refer to the recipe in its entirety for specifics but here is the routine with my twists. The recipe calls for twice as many sprouts as I bought, so I cut the other ingredients in half, except (of course) the bacon. You can prepare the sprouts the night before by washing them and trimming the tough stem. Put it in a pan, pour 3/4 of a cup of water over them. Cover and simmer for 12 minutes or until tender. Drain well and put it a tight container and put in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the rest of the dish- cook 4 strips of bacon cut into 1/4 inch slices over medium heat until they brown and render their tasty and delicious fat. Remove with slotted spoon and reserve- but don't turn down the heat!

Place sprouts in the pan. Add 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes until browned, stirring frequently. Remove to bowl and keep warm.

Add olive oil and leeks to pan- the leeks have been sliced once lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/4 inch strips- the same as the bacon. Add salt and pepper. Cook 12-14 minutes until leek is tender and browned. Add bacon, sprouts and 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar (I had no cider vinegar so I used balsamic). Cook on medium high heat for 2 - 4 minutes, stirring frequently. The recipe calls for fresh chopped parsley at the end but I didn't have any, so I didn't use it. The end result did not suffer in the least. The sprouts were perfectly tender throughout, and the taste of the leek, bacon and touch of balsamic were just what they needed to push the flavors through the roof!

This was one of those dishes that I could eat every day. One and a half pounds of sprouts was much more than enough for two people. I think the recipe in the magazine was intended to be used as a holiday side dish, in which case you might need the 50 ounces of sprouts. In any case- we loved it. Without as much time as I used to have to cook and share recipes, I have chosen to be selective and make what I love the best. So far, so good...and the eggs.

January 17, 2010

El Santo Coyote - Revisited.

Another trip to the Mexico in my own backyard.

Fresh salsa- we have had this 4 times now and it is consistently great!

This is the fajita dish I was telling you about - carnitas. Slow cooked, marinated succulent shredded pork. Slightly charred in the second heating process. Put it on a soft corn tortilla, bite, and let the flavors sink in.

Heaven. It's so juicy and full of flavor that you are forced to take your time to savor it.

This is a chile relleno platter. It looks like something has gone wrong but there was too much going on to put my finger on it, so I just took a bite. The rice is cooked perfectly. The poblano chile is all about flavor, which was there. They smothered it in some sauce with a kick, having been told about my affection for heat, but it took away from what might have been a perfect chile relleno. Don't ask me about that radish because I just don't know. The dish looked like something from a Mexican food version of Cakewrecks (if there was a Mexican food version of Cakewrecks). You win some, you lose some.

As I have heard from some friends who visited El Santo Coyote on my recommendation, the owners are anxious to hear your feedback- good or bad. It's a new restaurant and they appreciate your praise and and constructive criticism- and will bend over backwards to make you happy. Another note taken by my friends concerns the service. From what I have gathered during my visits, this is an extended family operation and mom, dad and cousins are the hostess and wait staff. It is easy to see that polish is lacking, but I have been to some much higher end restaurants with much worse service. I will return again and again for what it is and hope that, with experience, those kinks work themselves out. We need some restaurants down here, folks- there are diners with dollars to spend south of Pinecrest...and the eggs.
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January 7, 2010

Easy Ambrosia Cake- Happy Birthday Me!!

My niece, Savvy, happened to be visiting on my birthday, so I asked (forced) her to bake my birthday cake. To her credit, she was willing to take on a difficult cake, but I didn't have the heart to make her do that. We found a recipe to tweak a boxed cake mix and decided to give it a whirl. If you love ambrosia, this cake's for you!

1 package moist yellow cake mix (we used Duncan Hines)
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1x11 ounce can of mandarin orange segments
1x8 oz. container of frozen whipped topping, thawed
1x20 oz. can crushed pineapple with juice
1x3.5 package instant vanilla pudding mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9x13 pan.

In a large bowl, break and beat eggs, add cake mix, oil and mandarin oranges with juice. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool.

To make the topping, mix together the thawed whipped topping, crushed pineapple with juice and vanilla pudding mix. Let it sit in refrigerator to set for a couple of hours, then it's ready to frost!

We sliced the cake in half since we wanted a layer cake- you could also use three round pans- we didn't think of that! It came out beautifully anyway.

The taste of the cake is definitely reminiscent of ambrosia, and it's delicious. Not too sweet- not too rich- just right. Very easy to make. Exactly the recipe we were looking for!

Give it a try the next time you guilt a teenager into baking you a birthday cake, it works like a charm! Thank you, Savvy...and the eggs :)

January 6, 2010

Salsa Fresca!

Whilst searching for a large outdoor planter, we happened upon a new Mexican restaurant! El Santo Coyote is South of Cutler Bay, FL. The building and grounds was formerly a shop selling Mexican crafts, and they recently added a restaurant. The salsa there merits a blog resurrection!! The food we tried also deserves raves- everything is made fresh, from the salsa made tableside to the guacamole.

This salsa was the best I have ever tasted- because I asked for the heat I wanted! Our waiter didn't just toss in extra dried red chili peppers- he went to the kitchen and got one especially spicy dried pepper and ground it into the mixture with the mortar and pestle. I highly, highly recommend the carnitas fajitas. The sangria is wonderful- no canned fruit cocktail here.

For their website, click here.
Ole... and the eggs.

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