Monday, September 16, 2019

Made in Mexico: Pescado a la Veracruzana


Happy Mexican Independence Day! I can't think of a better day of the year, other than perhaps Cinco de Mayo, to celebrate Mexican cuisine and talk to y'all about this gorgeous new cookbook by Danny Mena called Made in Mexico.

First of all, I have a decent array of Mexican cookbooks in my collection. Some of them focus on specific types of dishes, like tacos or salsas. But Made in Mexico is a unique cookbook offering, as it's not only a book full of mouthwatering recipes, but also a glimpse into the food scene of Mexico City.

The recipes within are approachable and appetizing. My only qualm with the book is that all the recipes titles are in Spanish only without an English translation. I find that in books featuring international cuisine it is very helpful for English-speaking audiences to have the names of the dishes listed in both languages. When I look at the Table of Contents I have no idea what most of it says. I would have to flip through the book and read the ingredient lists and look at the pictures to know what is what (which isn't all bad, but it almost defeats the purpose of having a handy Table of Contents listing all the chapters and recipes).

This is not your typical Mexican cookbook full of tacos and tamales. It bursts at the seams with a plethora of traditional and contemporary Mexican recipes derived from the heart of Mexico, in the country's capital. Recipe introductions refer to the actual Mexico City restaurants from which they originate.

Sauce ingredients ready to go!

I have compiled a long list of recipes I'd like to try, the first of which boasts the coastal flavors of Veracruz, a seaside state and city on the Gulf of Mexico. Pescado a la Veracruzana is a crowd-pleasing fish dish made with either a whole fish or fish fillets smothered in a tomato sauce infused with olives and capers. The flavors are reminiscent of of an Italian puttanesca, a bit of spice, some brininess, salt and acidity.

Although preparing the dish with a whole fish has a certain visual appeal, it cooks faster, and is easier to serve and eat if you opt for fillets. I used skin-on red snapper fillets, but any flaky white fish will do. I may try tilapia next time.

I absolutely loved this fish dish, and I have really enjoyed exploring Made in Mexico. Mexican food is one of my favorite global cuisines, and I am always looking to add more Mexican flair to my repertoire!

Pescado a la Veracruzana
Serves 4
(From Made in Mexico)

4 tablespoons olive oil (I scaled this down significantly to about 1/2 teaspoon for cooking the onions, and 1 tablespoon for cooking the fish)
1/2 yellow onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons white wine
3 bay leaves
4 plum tomatoes, chopped (I used small farm-fresh tomatoes)
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano)
1 sprig fresh thyme
10 pitted Manzanilla (or other green) olives, roughly chopped (I increased this to 14)
2 tablespoons capers
2 canned pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped (I chopped a small handful of my homemade sliced pickled jalapenos)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 large whole red snapper (3 to 4 pounds) or other flaky white fish (or substitute 1 1/2 pounds boneless skin-on fillets)

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook just until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and bay leaves and cook until the wine is almost completely evaporated. Add the tomatoes, oregano, thyme, olives, capers, and jalapeno and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the tomatoes are completely soft, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Raise the heat if necessary to evaporate most of the liquid. Stir in the parsley.

If using a whole fish, score each side with three or four deep slashes (this will help the sauce penetrate the fish and keep it from curling up). If using fillets, remove the pinbones using fish tweezers or needle-nose pliers, and season the flesh-side with salt and pepper.

In a pan large enough to hold the whole fish (or the fillets in a single layer), heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the whole snapper and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown. Carefully flip the fish and pour the tomato mixture on top. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through (the thickest part of the fish should flake easily when prodded with a fork). If using fillets, cook skin down first, then flip and add the tomato mixture, following the directions provided above (it won't take as long to cook as the whole fish).

To serve, divide the fish evenly among four plates and top with the sauce. Serve with white rice.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Cacao Tea


I was recently introduced to cacao tea by the Cacao Tea Co. As a lover of chocolate and tea I am surprised it was not previously on my radar, but now that I've discovered it I'm thrilled to share it with my readers!

Cacao tea is also known as chocolate tea or cocoa tea, and it was first discovered thousands of years ago by Mayan and Aztec civilizations. A few years ago I visited a spice plantation in Grenada where I got to see the various steps of the chocolate-making process. During chocolate production, after fermenting and drying the cocoa beans, the husks are typically a waste product. It's enlightening to learn that there are uses for the discarded husks other than throwing them in the trash. VoilĂ  cacao tea!

Cocoa beans drying in the sun at Douglaston Spice Estate on the island of Grenada

The husks yield an intensely chocolate-scented brew which in the case of the cacao tea from Cacao Tea Co. is 100% organic, sugar-free, caffeine-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free, making it a righteous beverage choice day or night. Upon opening the package, the cocoa aroma is exquisite, a precursor to the delights yet to come.

Through my cacao tea education I have learned there are multiple ways to brew the tea, and I decided to try out a couple methods to compare the results. The first method (pictured below on the left) is similar to brewing traditional tea, pouring boiling water over the cacao tea (ideally in a tea infuser) and letting it steep for about 5 minutes before straining/pouring into a cup. The second method (pictured below on the right) is the stove-top method where you add the tea and cold filtered water together, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes before straining into cups. The latter method yields a darker and more intensely flavored result, while the initial method yields a somewhat lighter and clearer liquor and a slightly softer flavor. When comparing the results side-by-side I enjoyed them both, but would likely use the stove-top method in the future for a more potent flavor. I may even try cold-brewing it at some point!

As an aside, I experimented with the cacao tea brewing while visiting my sister, and she immediately fell in love with the cacao tea as I did, and told me she planned to purchase some herself as well. Collectively we enjoyed a lot about the cacao tea including the rich aroma, the subtle chocolate flavor, and the natural sweetness, which makes this a very diet-friendly tea since adding sugar is easily avoidable.

The folks at Cacao Tea Co. have graciously provided a coupon code for my readers who would like to try this lovely cacao tea themselves! The code is MISSIONFOOD15 and is valid for 2 weeks starting today through September 25th! If you try it please leave me a note in the comments to let me know your thoughts :)

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free bag of Cacao Tea to sample. My opinions are always my own.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Kerber's Farm Cookbook: Lobster Rolls


Kerber's Farm of Huntington, New York (on Long Island) has become a national brand through its products sold in stores such as Williams-Sonoma and Neiman Marcus, but its roots trace back to a simple farm and roadside country market first opened in 1941.

Over the years it's made an indelible impact on locals including Nick Voulgaris, who frequented the farm as a child, and purchased it in 2013 before it was converted into condominiums. In addition to Kerber's Farm products available nationwide, starting next week on September 17th The Kerber's Farm Cookbook will be for sale!

With this book in hand old fans and new will be able to recreate many of the beloved favorites on the Kerber's Farm menu including their lobster rolls recognized as one of the state's best by The New York Times, and even Oprah's favorite Kerberry Pie.

There are many mouthwatering, seasonal recipes within the pages of this beautifully photographed book. I have bookmarked several to try, including the decadent Mac and Cheese Pie, and the comforting Carrot and Chicken Soup.

Since it's still summer, I simply couldn't resist indulging in homemade Lobster Rolls featuring cool lobster salad studded with crunchy celery, served atop a bed of lettuce, and nestled in a buttered, griddled Martin's potato roll.

You can easily take a shortcut with your lobster rolls as I did, having your local seafood market or supermarket steam your lobsters for you if they offer this service. It was free for me, and I was relieved not to have to cook the lobster myself, which is not something I particularly enjoy doing.

I purchased a single lobster, and halved the recipe to yield 2 rolls. The result is a classic New England summer mainstay that pleases the palate, and will easily be a recipe I turn to in future summers when craving lobster.

The book itself is a seasonal treasure I plan to revisit throughout the year. I'm already looking forward to fall and the Apple Cider Pork Chops with Pear Sauce! The recipes are simple and approachable, with easy to source ingredients, making this an unpretentious farm-to-table cookbook ideal for all cooking skill levels.

Lobster Rolls
Serves 4
(From The Kerber's Farm Cookbook)

2 (1 1/2 pound) Maine lobsters
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped celery
Pinch of salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) salted butter, softened (I used approximately half, and felt it was enough)
4 Martin's hot dog potato rolls
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce (I used shredded Romaine)

In a large pot on high heat, bring 8 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Place lobsters in the water and allow them to cook for several minutes. When they float to the top, they are ready. Using tongs, remove them from the pot and cool under cold water. (Alternatively your seafood market or supermarket seafood counter may steam the lobsters free of charge--that's what I did!).

Remove all the meat from the tails, knuckles, and claws and chop them into bite-size pieces. (I like to keep the tips of the claw meat intact for visual appeal.) Transfer the meat to a bowl and mix in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery, salt, pepper, and sugar.

Lightly butter the inside of the potato rolls and place them facedown in a frying pan on medium heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until they brown, taking care not to burn them.

Line each roll with a bed of shredded lettuce and then add a healthy scoop of the lobster salad.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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