Tortilla Soup

From Sean and Kelly, base recipe found on epicurious.com:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
4 cups canned vegetable broth — [ I always use better than bullion — it’s the best broth by far if you can’t make your own!]
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

4 6-inch-diameter corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed, drained
2/3 cup chopped zucchini
1 1/2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño chili

Spray large nonstick saucepan with vegetable oil spray. Add onion and garlic; cover and cook over medium-low heat until almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cumin and chili powder. Add broth and 2 tablespoons cilantro; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until flavors blend, about 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to simmer before continuing.)

Add tortillas, tomatoes, beans, zucchini and jalapeñp to soup. Cover; simmer until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro.

[ Note: This could have used a bit more punch — maybe including all the seeds from the jalepeno?? Also, I would add corn and perhaps some canned chiles in the future. ]

Tex Mex rice

From Sean and Kelly:

3/4 cup onion, chopped
2 tb Olive Oil
1 c Rice, raw
1/4 ts Black Pepper
2 Garlic Cloves
2 1/2 c Vegetable Broth
1 1/2 ts Ground Cumin
1 Red Bell Pepper

Mince garlic. Remove seeds and dice bell pepper. In dutch oven, cook onion, garlic and raw rice in oil until onion is tender and rice is lightly browned. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cumin and black pepper. Cover tightly and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in bell pepper. Let stand covered until all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

[ I actually sauteed the red pepper with the onion accidently, but it tasted fine. 🙂 ]

French: Salmon and Asparagus Flan

Flan au Saumon et aux Asperges
Salmon and Asparagus Flan.
Pronounced: flah(n) / oh / soh moh(n) / ay / ohz ahs pehrzh

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
• 2 Tablespoons dried bread crumbs
• 1 lb. asparagus, woody stems removed
• 5 eggs
• 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
• 1 cup frozen peas, completely thawed
• 3 oz. smoked salmon (not lox), cut into 1/4-inch dice
• 3 Tablespoons finely minced chives
• 3 Tablespoons minced fresh dill
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
1. Brush a 10-inch deep dish pie plate with the butter. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs, tipping the dish to coat the bottom and sides.

2. Cut off the asparagus tips.

3. Fill a high sided skillet halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the tips and cook for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.

4. Put the asparagus stems into the boiling water and cook for 7 minutes or until tender. Remove and chop.

5. Put the asparagus stems, eggs and cream into a food processor and purée.

6. Pour the purée into a bowl and stir in the peas, salmon, herbs and salt and pepper. Pour into the prepared pan.

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until almost set. Remove, decorate the top with the reserved asparagus tips. Return and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until set.
To serve:
Serve warm or at room temperature.

French: Pumpkin Tian

Tian de potiron
Pumpkin Tian

INGREDIENTS:
• 2 lbs pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced (butternut squash makes a nice substitute)
• 3 TBS olive oil
• 1 onion minced
• 2/3 cups cooked rice
• ½ cup freshly grated swiss or Parmesan cheese
• 1 egg beaten
• 1 teas. salt
• freshly ground pepper
• 2 TBS bread crumbs

PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1. Heat oil in large frying pan and cook onion until tender – 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Add the pumpkin and cook for 10 minutes. Stirring occassionally. Remove from heat, allow to cool.

3. Blend cheese, rice, parsley, egg, salt, and pepper, and combine with pumpkin and onion.

4. Oil a shallow baking dish. Spread mixture into dish.

5. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top. Drizzle with 1 TBS olive oil.

6. Bake for 20 minutes and serve immediately.

French: Potatao and Blue Cheese Gratin

Potato and Blue Cheese Gratin
Pronounced: grah teh(n) / oh ver nyaht

The Auvergne region of France is well-known for its cow’s milk blue cheeses like Fourme d’Ambert, Bleu d’Auvergne and Bleu des Causses. If you can find one of these cheeses, try it in this recipe.
INGREDIENTS:
• 4 cups milk
• 1/2 cup crumbled Fourme d’Ambert (my favorite!) or other crumbled blue cheese
• 1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream
• 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
• 3 lbs. potatoes, peeled and sliced very thinly (a mandoline works best for this)
• freshly grated nutmeg
• salt & freshly ground pepper
PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 375°F.
1. In a saucepan, scald the milk and set aside.

2. Blend the blue cheese and crème fraîche (or cream) in a food processor.

3. Generously butter a 14x9x2-inch gratin or baking dish.
Layer half of the potatoes in the dish. Season with salt, pepper & nutmeg. Dot with half of the blue cheese mixture.

4. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients, ending with the blue cheese mixture. Pour the milk over the potatoes.

5. Bake about 1-1/2 hours, or until the top is crisp and golden.

Greek: Moussaka

Moussaka – (Mousakas)

I did not use meat in my Moussaka.  I roasted the eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced, in a hot oven drizzled with olive oil for the final dish. To me, it was too greasy sautéed.
INGREDIENTS
• 1 kg aubergines (large or/and elongated variety)
• 160 ml vegetable oil (about 1 teacup)
• 1 large onion, finely sliced
• 450 gr. minced beef
• 1 glass white wine (not retsina, but aretsinoto)
• 350 gr. fresh tornatoes, 1400 gr. tomatoes, drained of some of their juice and chopped
• teaspoon ground cinnamon
• teaspoon ground allspice
• salt and black pepper
• 1 teaspoon oregano
• 25 gr. grated parmesan, kefalotiri, or Gruyere cheese
• some chopped parsley

Bechamel Sauce
• 80 gr. butter
• 80 gr. flour
• 600 ml warm milk
• salt and white pepper
• 30 gr. grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese
• 2 egg yolks

Topping
• z 60 gr. grated Parmesan,Gruyere or kefalotiri cheese
• 4 tablespoons toasted breadcrumbs
METHOD
Moussaka should be baked in the oven. Use a roasting container, eitber square or oblong, approximately 25×25 cm or 39×28 cm. It is recommended that you spread the work involved over two days for your convinience; one can easily cook the meat the day before, witbout the Moussaka suffering at all. Do not do the same with the aubergines; they should be fried on the day.

Aubergines
Top and tail the aubergines, without peeling them. Rinse them, cut them lengthways in 75-mm thick slices and immerse them in salted water, for 30 minutes.Take them out, squeeze gently, rinse, then squeeze them again. Drain them in a colander and pat dry. Fry them in hot vegetable oil until they become pale golden on both sides; you can either deep-fry them, which is easier but they absorb a lot of oil, or shallow-fry them. In either case, drain them on absorbent paper on a flat platter before serving, so that most of their oil will dribble away.

Meat
Sautee the sliced onion in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, until it looks glistening. Add the meat and sautee together, stirring, until all the lumps are broken down and the meat starts to change colour. Pour in the wine, add tomatoes, sliced finely, the spices, salt and pepper and the oregano. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time in case it sticks. Then mix in the grated cheese and parsley.

Bechamel Sauce
Melt the butter and, away from the heat, gradually add the flour and stir to amalgamate. Return to the heat and gradually add the milk and seasoning, stirring continuously. Simmer for 9-10 minutes, stirring, until it has thickened considerably. Withdraw the pan from the heat, let it stand briefly, then add the cheese and the egg yolks. Stir to amalgamate them. Do not let the sauce boil after this. It should by now be a thick bechamel, to enable it to sit on top of the meat mixture and form a kind of crust.

To assemble, cover the base of the roasting dish with half of the fried aubergines, then spread half of the meat mixture evenly on top of them and cover neatly with the remaining aubergines. Spread the remaining meat and sauce evenly over the top and cover neatly with the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle the grated cheese all over the top, and the breadcrumbs. Moussaka from Macedonia may contain a layer of thinly sliced roun potatoes which have been fried first. Bake in a pre-heated oven, gas no.4/ 350 grades F/ 180 grades C, for 1 hour, untit a golden crust is formed all over the top. Let it stand for 5 minutes before serving, in order to be able to cut it more easily. To serve, cut into square or oblong-shaped pieces, about 8 cm thick. It should be quite dry by then and the pieces should ideally stay intact.

Greek: Spanakopita

Spinach pie with cheese – (spanakopita)

INGREDIENTS
• One pack of very thin filo pastry (obtained from a specialist deli)
• 1 Kg / 2 lb of spinach, either frozen or fresh
• 1 kg / 2 lb of fιta cheese
• 250g / 1/2lb of butter or margarine
• 2 cloves of garlic or garlic power

METHOD
If the spinach is raw, cook and slice thinly. If frozen, defrost. In either case, mix the feta cheese with the spinach to make a mixture, adding the chopped garlic. Spread some butter on an oven tray. Open the filo package and place each thin pastry (it is as thin as paper) on the tray, buttering each one using a brush. After you have done 8 filo slices, place the spinach/feta mixture and spread over the entire oven tray, covering the 8 pastry slices. On top of this, place the remaining pastry slices, buttering each one of them as well. Notch the last one creating 2 inch (5 cm) on a side, squares. Place in a medium heat oven and cook till brown.