Tamal de Cazuela

Tamal de Cazuela

Tamal de Cazuela

Don’t make it because it’s easier, make it because it’s great! Tamal de cazuela is a “tamale casserole” with all the fabulous flavors of our favorite Mexican tamales baked in a cast iron dish.

Labor-intensive traditional tamales are steamed individually in corn husks or banana leaves, resulting in a fluffy masa. Here, the masa is simply spread in a pan, filled with a meaty mixture, capped with more masa, then baked. It has a denser texture more like a sope, the process makes a terrific pie crust.

I often use leftover meat for my tamales. Have you tried my Hanukkah Tamales made from frozen brisket? This pie is made with my leftover braised short ribs (recipe here). For the filling, you can use any shredded meat (beef, pork, chicken) or even vegetables and beans to make a delicioso tamal de cazuela!

Tamal de CazuelaOnce the tamal de cazuela is baked, let it cool slightly then slice into wedges. Serve the pie slices on plates and let guests garnish with lots of toppings of their choice:

  • salsa roja
  • salsa verde
  • shredded cabbage
  • cotija cheese
  • sliced jalapeños
  • lime wedges
  • cilantro
  • crema Mexicana
  • guacamole
Tamal de Cazuela Recipe

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Alaskan Halibut, Japanese Flavors

Alaskan Halibut, Japanese Flavors

Panko Crusted Halibut over Baby Bok Choy in a Miso Broth
Togarashi and Mitsuba Garnish

Summer is the time to enjoy fresh halibut from Alaska. This pristine lean fish with mild, sweet white flesh, large flakes and a firm but tender texture naturally pairs well with Japanese ingredients; miso, tamari, mirin, and toasted sesame. Harmoniously balanced, this dish is a stellar warm weather meal.

Mitsuba, a Japanese herb with a fresh, wild, sweet flavor adds the herbaceous notes. Taberu Togarashi Furikake can be found in Japanese markets. A tasty mixture of black sesame, red pepper, salt, white sesame, dried bonito, kelp, powdered plum, powdered red perilla – it enlivens the whole dish. Serve with fluffy white rice on the side if desired.

Alaskan Halibut, Japanese Flavors Recipe

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How To Make Spaghetti alla Chitarra

How To Make Spaghetti alla Chitarra

How To Make Spaghetti alla Chitarra

The chitarra, pictured above is an implement that has been used for ages to make fresh noodles in the Abruzzo region of Italy. It has a wooden frame that is strung with several taut parallel wires, reminiscent of a guitar, hence the name “chitarra” which is “guitar” in English.

A long rectangle of pasta dough is pushed through the wires with a rolling-pin to make noodles. Although the instrument is old, my method is not. Below I show how to make Spaghetti alla Chitarra with a food processor to form the dough. Old World meets New World and fresh pasta noodles couldn’t be easier, or more fun!

Spaghetti alla Chitarra Recipe

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Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Lamb Ragu

Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Lamb Ragu

Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spiced Lamb Ragù

One of the most popular dishes of the Italian region of Abruzzo is spaghetti alla chitarra. It is also known as maccheroni alla chitarra – but the long noodles are more similar to spaghetti than what we call macaroni-shaped pasta, so “spaghetti” is often used outside of Abruzzo.

A chitarra is the implement used to make the noodles, it looks, and when strummed, sounds like a guitar, hence its name. It is a wooden frame that is strung with many parallel wires. A long rectangle of pasta dough is pushed through the wires with a rolling pin to make the noodles. I show how to make spaghetti alla chitarra in the next post, here.

A hearty lamb ragù is most often paired with these robust noodles. With its mountainous pastures and grassy plains,  Abruzzo has been an ideal environment for sheep-farming for centuries. I’ve spiced my lamb ragù with toasted fennel, cinnamon, and oregano. It’s topped with pecorino, an Italian cheese made from ewe’s milk.

For fun, I styled and photographed the dish in the dramatic style of late 16th century Italian master painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

Spiced Lamb Ragù Recipe

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Scallop Amuse-Bouche, Miso Aioli, Shiso

Scallop Amuse-Bouche
Scallop Amuse-Bouche
Miso Aioli, Shiso, Carrot Cucumber Slaw

The complex herbal flavors of shiso (reminiscent of mint, lemon, anise, basil and curiously cinnamon) complement the sweet buttery taste of wild-caught Atlantic sea scallops. Miso aioli adds creamy, garlicky, umami characteristics. A refreshing crisp carrot cucumber slaw balances all those rich notes.

At the last minute, place a spoonful of slaw on top of each scallop,  then serve one scallop per person for a palate-pleasing amuse-bouche. Big flavors, bold colors, eclectic textures create a stunning small bite to launch your next elegant dinner party.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Miso Aioli Recipe

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Greek Avgolemono with an Unorthodox Garnish

Avgolemono

Avgolemono

Greek Chicken Soup with Egg, Lemon, and Orzo
Crispy Chicken Skin Garnish

Yep, that is a big crispy piece of chicken skin on the side of the soup bowl. This is a heartier version of the classic Greek Egg Lemon Chicken Soup, Avgolemono.

Here, the irresistible tangy pale lemon soup is chock-full of orzo (rice-shaped pasta) and shredded chicken breast. Fresh snipped dill, a good dose of pepper, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and that crazy chicken skin take it over the top. Is crispy chicken skin the new bacon?

Avgolemono Recipe

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Egg Foo Young

Egg Foo Young, Shiitake Gravy

Egg Foo Young with Mung Bean Sprouts, Pork, and Scallions
Shiitake Gravy

It’s a nostalgic American egg dish borne of Chinese ancestry, one similar to the Italian frittata filled with vegetables and sometimes meat (but no cheese). Here, it’s cooked with a bit more oil than a frittata in order to conjure up the original deep-fried version of Egg Foo Young invented by resourceful Chinese immigrants to California during the Gold Rush.

Ten years ago I posted my Egg Foo Young recipe. A recipe that is still #trending today. Growing up, on most Sunday nights that I can remember, we would drive with our Dad to pick-up Chinese take-out for dinner. I loved that exotic deep-fried thick pancake then and still do…but what was it exactly?

I thought, of course Egg Foo Young was made with eggs. But it didn’t taste like any eggs that I was familiar with. It was oddly brown and mysteriously kind of crunchy. And who serves eggs with gravy, anyway? Gravy is for turkey.

Mom thoroughly enjoyed a Chinese cooking class back in the 60s and learned, among other wonderful things, that broccoli should be served bright green and crisp, not olive green and mushy. But “mung bean sprouts” did not show up in our home any other time except Sunday nights. The sprouts were also an ingredient in beef chop suey, another of our Sunday night favorites.

Recently I told my brother that I was writing about Egg Foo Young and asked if he had any recollection of it from our youth. He said, “Yes, loved egg foo young. Now I think it is too bland, but I order it anyway; because of the memories.”

Ok then, Donny, here is my updated Egg Foo Young recipe with wholesome ingredients reinvented from our past, it’s less greasy than the take-out version we remember because it is cooked in a pan, not deep-fried. It’s savory and evocative of Sunday nights long ago, and anything but bland.

Egg Foo Young Recipe

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