Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vegetable Curry

"I'm in the mood for curry." Well, I wasn't, really. But then i saw an amazing picture of a Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry dish on the Tastespotting website and I was sold. There were 3 reasons I really wanted to make this:

1. I do like curry. Although I don't really think about it all the time, whenever I do have curry, I really enjoy it.

2. I think this would be a great dish for all those vegetarians out there. At the same time, I think the result is also flavorful enough to satisfy any meat-lover.

3. It's so simple! I love simply, tasty recipes!

As I was perusing the produce section of our neighborhood ShopRite, I ran into some gorgeous green beans. I love green beans, but I hardly ever buy them since they can spoil before I return home from my travels. I figured since I was using chickpeas and cauliflower already, why not throw in green beans as well? This recipe is so flexible that you can feel free to add vegetables at will. However, keep in mind that the more vegetables you add, the thicker the entire dish will be.

Vegetable Curry
(slightly adapted from Carmen Cooks' Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry recipe)
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 4 cups)
  • ~ 20 medium-sized green beans, halved
  • 1 15 1/2-ounce can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 1 10-ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1) Heat oil in large skillet over high heat.

2) Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 6 minutes.

3) Add curry powder and stir 20 seconds.

4) Add cauliflower and garbanzo beans. Stir 1 minute.

5) Add the diced tomatoes with chiles and the coconut milk. Bring to boil.

6) Reduce heat to medium-low and cover.

7) Add green beans.

8) Simmer gently until cauliflower is tender and liquid thickens slightly, stirring occasionally for about 16 minutes.

9) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This dish can be served as a meal or as a side dish. I love the taste of the tender cauliflower and the soft crunch of the green beans. The coconut milk provided just a touch of creaminess that slightly offset the heat of the chiles.

I found that this dish is great served by itself, over white rice, or (gasp!) over ramen noodles! I think it could have been a little bit spicier, but that's just in my humble opinion. I would probably add a touch of cumin and turmeric to the recipe. The next time I make this, I'll have to figure out how to incorporate these. Mmmmmm...definitely can't wait to make this again!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Shrimp Enchiladas

It's my roommate Kimmy's birthday! Well, it was Kimmy's birthday. On June 7th. Since I was basking in the sun in the Bahamas at that time (or rather, waiting in line at the U.S. Embassy and begging to get my visa approval), I figured there was no time like this weekend to pull together Kimmy's belated birthday meal.

Kimmy is a shrimp lover. As is, she can eat shrimp all day for at least a week and be OK with that. Although I tend to favor other meat and seafood options, this was not a dish being created entirely for my personal enjoyment.

However, Kimmy and I do share a common bond over salsa verde. I obtained a recipe from my friend Matt and it is the most amazing sauce ever. I put it on everything when I make it, so of course I have to put it on/in these enchiladas.

That being said, I began the requisite search for salsa verde enchilada recipes through my favorite blog website, Tastespotting. The Boastful Baker's Chicken Enchiladas recipe seemed like a good base with which to start experimenting. So here we go, the final product of my labors:

Shrimp Enchiladas with Corn, Green Chiles & Sweet Onions
Yields 8-10 enchiladas (12 enchiladas if you don't overstuff like I do!)

  • 8-10 medium flour tortillas
  • 25 frozen, chopped cooked shrimps (you can also use fresh cooked shrimp if desired)
  • 1 sweet onion, diced and cooked until soft
  • 1 can corn (fresh or frozen), drained
  • 2 4.25 oz cans diced green chiles
  • 2-3 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese (use more or less cheese depending on personal taste)
  • 5 1/2 cups tomatillo sauce
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking pan. Depending on the size of your enchiladas, you may need to oil another baking pan.

3) Pour 1/3 of the tomatillo sauce into bottom of pan and spread evenly.

4) Mix another 1/3 of the tomatillo sauce with shrimp, corn, green chiles, and onions. Stir until well combined.

5) Using a skillet, lightly heat a corn tortilla. They’re not very flexible when they're cold or at room temperature. If they are not heated, they will break during enchilada assembly.

6) Spoon 3-4 tablespoons chicken mixture down the middle of tortilla shell.

7) Sprinkle with a small amount of shredded cheese. Roll one side of tortilla towards the middle. Roll the other side and then carefully transfer the enchilada to baking pan with the seam side down.

8) Repeat steps 5 - 7 until the pan is full.

9) Evenly pour the last 1/3 of the tomatillo sauce over the enchiladas in the pan. Top with remaining shredded cheese.

10) Bake for approximately 30 minutes until sauce is bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

The result? A sweet, tangy and savory combination of shrimp, vegetables, tomatillo sauce, and of course, cheese! I enjoyed the entire dish first of all because I love enchiladas suizas (basically, enchiladas with a green sauce). Second of all, I love melted cheese and this dish can pack as big a wollop of melted cheese as you desire.

You can also customize your enchiladas. Below are a few examples, but feel free to go hog wild:
- Serve the enchiladas with rice on the side and a big dollop of sour cream on top.
- Substitute other meats and vegetables as fillers in the enchiladas. I made these before using shredded grilled chicken instead of shrimp.
- Add black beans or pinto beans to the mix. I personally dislike beans, so I kept them out of my recipe, but don't let this stop you if you actually like beans.

I could eat Mexican food at any time. These enchiladas would definitely satisfy my cravings for a spicy and cheesy meal, which is what I tend to associate Mexican food with. That could also be because I typically only order Mexican food containing cheese, but that's another story. Pair this dish with a Corona or two (substitute margaritas here, if necessary) and I think you'll have a stellar dinner meal at hand.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bahamian Conch Fritters

Ahhh, island food. One of the greatest things about returning home for a visit is that I get to eat the amazing food that I grew up with. As my mom and I were debating our next meal, the subject of conch fritters came up.
Conch fritters are savory, fried balls of dough that contain chopped conch, some chopped veggies and spices. Yessss. Conch fritters. That settled it. Conch fritters were being made.

Some of you may not know what a conch is. Everyone's seen a conch shell, right? Well, the conch is the mollusk that lives in that shell. Check out some pics below:
- 2 Conchs, au natural (I never said they were pretty.)

- 2 Conchs, skinned

- 2 Conchs, sinned and bruised

Conch Fritters
  • 2 med. sized conchs (skinned, bruised and diced)
  • ½ onion (diced)
  • 1 stick celery (diced)
  • 1 ½ tomatoes (diced)
  • 3 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1 bird pepper (or half a habanero, if bird pepper is not available)
  • 2 tsp. hot sauce
  • ½ - ¾ cup ketchup or tomato paste
  • ¼ cup thyme
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 ¼ cup water
1) In a large bowl, mix everything together except the flour, baking powder, and water.

2) In a smaller bowl, mix together the flour and the baking powder.
3) Add the dry ingredients to the large bowl, then add the water slowly.
4) Pre-heat a pot of oil (vegetable or canola). You will need a few inches of oil.
5) Scoop tablespoons of the batter into the oil. Only fry a few fritters at a time. Fry until golden brown on one side. Turn the dough until the other side of the fritter is also golden brown.
6) Serve hot with sauce below.

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
1) Whisk all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
Last (but certainly not least!), I know that conch is not always readily available. Never fear, though. You can substitute a 15-oz can of corn for the conch. (The can of corn can be somewhere in the 15-oz range, so don't fret if you can't find this exact size of canned corn.) The recipe stays exactly the same, but now you'll end up with some amazing Corn Fritters. Give it a try and I think you'll be deliciously surprised!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Guava Cupcakes

There are three reasons I decided to make guava cupcakes this week:

1) I love guavas. I realize that I am not a fresh fruit fan, but this fruit is an elite member of my "nice" list.

2) I found a can of guava shells in my cupboard.

3) I was channeling "vacation mode" in preparation for my trip to the Bahamas!

After what seemed to be a very long week at work, I have finally made it back home to Nassau, Bahamas, which is where I am currently writing this post.

Now it's time to drop some knowledge. For those of you who don't know what a guava is, here are some Cliff's Notes from Wikipedia:
"Guava fruit are round or oval depending on the species. The outer skin may be rough, often with a bitter taste, or soft and sweet. Varying between species, the skin can be any thickness, is usually green before maturity, but becomes yellow, maroon, or green when ripe. Guava fruit generally have a pronounced and typical fragrance, similar to lemon rind but less sharp. Guava pulp may be sweet or sour, off-white to deep pink, with the seeds in the central pulp of variable number and hardness, again depending on species."

I grew up with a guava tree in my backyard, so I always got a fresh taste of the fruit when it was in season. There's also a very popular Bahamian dessert called "Guava Duff", which would always provide a taste of guavas even when they weren't in season. Whenever my mom comes to visit me in the US, I attempt to coerce her into making some sort of Bahamian treat. The creation of a Guava Duff was actually the reason for having guava shells in the cupboard.

Since I had these little treats at my disposal and I was also not going to be making a Guava Duff anytime soon, I decided to make the next best thing: Cupcakes! After a little bit of thinking, I determined it would be best to convert a Guava Cake recipe into cupcake form, complete with chopped guava shells.

Guava Cupcakes
(makes ~30 cupcakes)
  • 2 sticks (16 tbsp) butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash cinnamon
  • 1 can guava shells, chopped
1) Cream the butter and sugar together.
2) Add the eggs, one by one.
3) Add the vanilla and milk.
4) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
5) Slowly, combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.
6) Fold in the chopped guava shells.
7) Pour batter into cupcake liners. Fill cups 1/2 full with batter. (I discovered that if I filled the cupcake liners 2/3 full, they would "overflow" in the oven.)
8) Bake ~25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below).

Guava desserts (duff/cake/cupcakes) pair well with a sweet icing, so I made a cream cheese icing to spread on top of the cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Icing
  • 1 cup confectioners (icing) sugar
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp guava syrup (from the canned Guava Shells)
1) Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth.
2) Add the guava syrup and beat again until it is thoroughly mixed. Add more guava syrup if you want a thinner icing.
3) Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

You can also use 2tbsp whipping cream instead of the guava syrup if you like. I was trying to incorporate additional guava flavor into the cupcakes, so I used the syrup instead of the traditional whipping cream. I don't think it came out half bad. You can detect just the tiniest hint of guava flavor in the icing. If you want a little extra kick, you can also add a few tablespoons of rum, but keep in mind that the icing will become pretty runny with each additional liquid that is added.
I liked the guava cupcakes. It reminded me of a spice cake, but there was the definite guava flavor. In addition, the guava shells provided a sweet compliment to the savory cake. Alas, the chopped guava shells sank to the bottom of the cake again. I think I needed a thicker batter in which to suspend the guava shells. One of these days, I swear I'll figure out how to do this consistently...
Zoo thought they were yummy, especially because they were cold (aka, not warm). My roommate Kimmy liked the cake, but thought the icing was a bit too sweet.

Kimmy also bravely took some of the cupcakes to work for her coworkers. Fran said she loved the cake in the cupcake but wasn't crazy about the frosting. Mike, who didn't even know what a guava was, ate a whole cupcake and allegedly said, "Wow that's really good! Delicious!"

I believe these tropical cupcakes were a success overall. Although I wouldn't claim that the success was on par with other cupcakes I've made, I like to think I at least brought a taste of the islands to the Northeast. You know, for a minute or two.