A niçois salad can be controversial. Traditionalists swear it must only include raw vegetables. Modernists appreciate changes that were recommended in the late 19th century that added eggs and potatoes (cooked, of course). It is the one salad that nobody can seem to agree on.
This twist certainly is not traditional in some ways. It welcomes the history of the origins of a niçois, however, developed by peasants who could not afford much and focused on fresh regional vegetables available to them and the tuna and anchovies available in the nearby seaports. This takes that same approach.
Moving to Austin and having access to abundant and fresh southwest flavors, we’ve incorporated the regional aspect of the origins of the salad. Here, instead of vinegar and olive oil, we replace it with a salsa verde with tangy tomatillios, spicy jalapenos, and zesty limes.
Ingredients for tomatillo sauce:
1.5 pounds tomatillos, paper and stems removed
1 jalapeno, stem removed
1 red onion, peeled and stems removed, chopped
1 avocado, pit and skins removed
2 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
Zest and juice of two limes
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If you wish for a less spicy salsa verde, seed the jalapeno prior to blending.
Put in a container and put in fridge for at least an hour so flavors meld.
Ingredients for guacamole:
1 avocado, pit and skin removed
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
½ tsp cumin
Juice of one lime
¼ tsp salt
Prior to plating, mash all ingredients using a mortar and pestle or the back of a fork.
1 can of tuna, drained
Zest and juice of one lime
¼ tsp of salt
Mix all ingredients together.
Take one radish and slice thinly. Using a ring mold, first put the guacamole for the first layer in the middle of a plate. Next, pack the tuna mixture tightly. Arrange the radish in a layer. Place in fridge for approximately 5 minutes.
Remove plate from fridge and add a teaspoon on top of the layers, removing the ring mold carefully. Spoon salsa verde in a circle around the plate and serve immediately.
Ajiaco is a traditional Columbian soup (specifically, Bogota) that is hearty and filled with some pretty delicious flavors, from a rich, velvet broth to starchy potatoes, and chicken that has melted away. Making it here in the United States, however, proves difficult due to two ingredients that are pretty difficult to come by: a potato variety specific to Latin America of very think skinned, and very small yellow potatoes, and guascas, or potato weed, an earthy herb.
One of my closest friends is Columbian, and while she traveled there this year pre-pandemic, she sent me photos of this dish, and the mouth-watering sight put it on the list of new things to try. I confess, I forgot about my list until recently while watching a food documentary that happened to talk about it. Being in self-isolation from my move, what better time to reach for new flavors than the present?
This recipe is not ajiaco. Unable to find the necessary potatoes and the guascas, I did my best to replicate the flavors described to me by my friend while she attempts to hunt down those ingredients for me so that I can make a proper ajiaco. However, whatever this dish may or may not be, it is certainly delicious. While the recipe looks long, it is a fairly straight forward dish, but be sure to read the recipe first before planning on making it! Buen provecho!
5 green onion stems (white part with roots only – reserve the remainder for other dishes)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ of an onion, cut in half (reserve the remainder for other dishes)
¼ of a bunch of cilantro
3 chicken quarters
3 cups chili stock (make this ahead of time – soak dried chilis of your choice in a big bowl of water, then blend the next day. You can skip this step if you like by replacing this with more stock).
5 cups good quality chicken stock
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
6 small Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ¼ inch slices
3 russet potatoes, divided (peel and grate 1 of the potatoes; peel and slice into ¼ inch rings for the other 2 potatoes)
2 ears of corn on the cob, cleaned and sliced into 6 equal pieces
1 tbsp Mexican oregano
In a cheesecloth (I did not have a cheesecloth, and if you don’t, that’s alright – use coffee filters like I did), place the first three ingredients and enclose, then tie tightly with butcher’s twine so nothing falls out.
In a large pot, add the chicken, the cheesecloth, all 8 cups of the stock, the salt, and the pepper. The stock should submerge the chicken completely – if not, add more stock or water. Bring to boil slowly over medium high heat, then reduce to simmer and cover. Slow cook on low, checking on it frequently, for approximately 3 hours.
Check on the chicken, it should be cooked at this point, and very tender. Using tongues, pull the chicken out and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, pull apart into pieces (tip: save the bones to make some stock later).
Add the potatoes to the pot, including the grated potato. Cook, covered, another 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are extremely soft and starting to fall apart. Using a stick blender, blend the mixture for 30-60 seconds until thickened. In the alternative, if you do not have a stick blender, take half the potato mixture out and put into a blender, then return it to the pan, or add a roux.
Add the corn and the Mexican oregano. Cover and cook another 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
The soup is done. You can return the chicken to the pot or you can serve it in a more traditional style and plate the soup separately, then add the chicken and corn piece to each bowl. Serve immediately or serve later by reheating slowly!
My dad’s birthday was a couple of weeks’ ago (Happy Birthday, dad!), and what better way to celebrate a summer birthday by grilling up a storm. We made a number of dishes, but the favorites may surprise you: grilled portabellas and cauliflower, and grilled whole fish.
While a rib eye maintained its well earned love by my mother and me, my father prefers lighter meats, such as fish, and has a passion for vegetables without rival. To be sure, between the tender flesh of the branzini and the smokey, melt-in-your-mouth mushrooms, nobody will miss red meat if you decide to just go with those items for your next cook out and ahead of the Fourth.
Chili Spiced Portabella Caps
4 portabella caps, stems removed (reserve these for another use such as making vegetable stocks, or dicing and sauteing them as a topping for a burger).
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients except the mushrooms together in a bowl to make a thick paste – add more vegetable oil if needed.
Slather the mushrooms evenly with the paste, and place in a plastic bag up to overnight so that they absorb the flavors.
When ready to cook, on a hot, well-oiled grill, over direct heat, cook the mushrooms for approximately 3 minutes per side, trying to flip the mushroom as infrequently as possible as the flames allow.
Serve immediately – if desired, squeeze some lime juice on top before serving.
Grilled Whole Branzini
2 whole branzini – ask your fishmonger to clean and gut these for you.
2 lemons, sliced
1 bunch of cilantro, trimmed and cleaned
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp pepper, divided,
1 tbsp cumin, divided
2 teaspoon chili powder, divided
Several hours before you wish to grill, take the whole branzini and rinse them under cold water, making sure the fishmonger did not leave any remnants of unpleasantness in them and that the fish is entirely de-scaled. If not, de-scale the fish by running the back of a knife against the fish to get any missed scales.
Make sure you have everything prepped ahead of time. Squeeze some vegetable oil throughout the fish (we did this previously out of video).
With your CLEAN hand, sprinkle the seasonings evenly among both fish and the cavities of both fish. Stuff the fish with lemon slices and cilantro sprigs – as many as you can fit without the herbs and fruit spilling out.
Wrap butcher’s twine around the fish to keep everything inside of it. Place covered in fridge until ready to grill and up to overnight.
When grilling, make sure you oil the fish (again) very liberally, that the grill is very well oiled, and that you are working on high, direct heat. This will all prevent the fish from sticking. Grill for approximately 4-5 minutes on each side. The fish should not stick when you flip it over if it is cooked and you’ve done all these steps. If you do not feel like dealing with risk of a sticky fish, use a cedar or other wood plank pursuant to their directions and cook the fish on top of that. This will take longer but will still be delicious.
Remove the fish and serve with a squeeze of lemon. Remember to be wary of bones!
We had a lot of leftover Lobster Boil. With fall being the season of transformation, we deiced to transform the boil as well. I had also been craving food from my adventures in New Orleans after coming across some Beignet mix from Cafe du Monde. Few dishes symbolize the festive city as much as jambalaya with its unique cajun flavors, smoked Andouille sausage, and fresh sea food. Here, we play off those key characteristics to transform one great dish into another.
When we made our Lobster Boil, we had Loki the Lobster Queen leftover who was simply too big to fit into the pots with the remaining lobsters. As a result, we experimented with making a Thai inspired curry. Fragrant aromas of garlic, chili and coconut will make your kitchen transform into the coast of Thailand. Sweet, spicy and acidic, the sauce compliments the subtle sweetness of the lobster without overwhelming it.
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 Thai chili peppers, stems cut off
1 can coconut cream
1 lobster, approximately 2 lbs
1 cup water
Lime wedges for garnish
In a mortar and pestle, ground the garlic and peppers to make a paste. To help with friction, add a pinch of salt.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add the shallots. After they soften, add the paste. Once fragrant after approximately 30-60 seconds, add the coconut cream and stir.
Once simmering, add the lobster and cover. Steam the lobster for approximately 15 minutes.
Add the water to the mortar and stir to get the excess oils.
Uncover the pot and add the mortar water. Flip the lobster, cover again for approximately another 10-15 minutes until the lobster is red and mostly cooked. Add the mussels, and baste the lobster with the sauce from the bottom of the pan, approximately another 5 minutes.
Remove the lobsters and mussels to another plate. Put the sauce into your serving platter, then put the lobster and mussels on the platter.
It was my birthday last week, and my parents surprised me with a cooler of live lobsters. Those who know me know that I try to cook with new ingredients often (read: at least weekly) so I can learn about new ingredients and methods of cooking (and just in case I ever make it onto Chopped on Food Network). Despite this, I had difficulty a month back finding anywhere in my vicinity that sold live lobsters, but my parents came to the rescue in a big way.
I opted to make a Lobster Boil as I had been informed we would be having company over, and the recipe below follows. Few meals are as inclusive as a seafood boil – friends and family huddled over a mass of shared, delicious food can be the ultimate comfort food experience.
I then used the shells to make a lobster stock for Jambalaya, and that recipe will be posted later on separately. I did also take one Lobster and make a Lobster Curry, and I’ll share that recipe as well. I also apologize for the lack of photos – this was not originally intended to be on the blog, but enough people have expressed interest in how to do it that thought I would share!
Before we get started though, I want to say hello and thank you to our new followers. We’re happy to have you here!
So here where the lobsters that starred in the show:
Later on, we grabbed the pot and started pouring the liquids and first ingredients:
Next came the corn:
Then, it was time for the seafood:
Let the feasting begin!
2 medium onions, quartered
1 head of garlic – all cloves peeled and crushed (not chopped)
8 Yukon Gold Potatoes, halved
3 Thai chilis, sliced
3 Mexican Style Beers of your choice (If you don’t want to use alcohol, you can substitute seafood stock).
2 links of Turkey Sausage (We had some dietary restrictions with our company, but you could easily substitute Andouille or Kielbasa sausages, and if you eat pork, would recommend doing so). Cut these into about 1.5 inch pieces.
4 ears of corn, husked and cut into 3 pieces of each for a total of 12 small cobs.
5 live medium lobsters (about 1-1.5 pounds each)
4 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp toasted coriander seeds
4 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 pounds of mussels, scrubbed and cleaned
2 pounds of shrimp, under 16, cleaned and deveined (alternatively, use frozen but make sure that they are cleaned and deveined as well)
3 tbsp cilantro, cleaned and chopped
Place the onions, garlic, potatoes, chili peppers, and sausages in a large pot. Place 4 cups of water and both beers on top.
Place pot on medium high heat to bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer. Add the corn. Cover pot and cook for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the cumin, chili powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper together. You may want to make a double batch so you can sprinkle the mixture on top of the boil later.
After 15 minutes has elapsed, add half the spice mixture over the ingredients already in the pot, then add the lobsters. Cooking time for lobsters will vary. We followed these guidelines to make sure that we treated the lobsters humanely before putting them in the pot: https://www.thespruceeats.com/ways-to-kill-a-lobster-1808804.
After you add the lobsters, cover the pot. For the lobsters, you will need about 20 minutes for the first pound, and about 7 minutes per pound after. So after 20 minutes, add the mussels and shrimp and cover the pot again. Add the rest of the spice mixture. The liquid should be simmering and steaming during all of this.
Cook for about 7-10 more minutes depending on size of lobsters and check on pot. Mussels should be open at this point (discard and do not eat any unopened mussels) and shrimp should be pink and opaque.
Strain the pot and make sure to reserve the broth. Lay out the seafood wonders onto prepared newspaper or parchment paper. Garnish with chopped cilantro, more of the spice mixture, and lime wedges. Serve immediately.