Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gallo Pinto (Rice & Beans, Costa Rican Style)

I met some pretty fantastic people while I was in college. Heck, I married one. The friends I still keep in contact with are kindred spirits and one day, when we are very old, very gray-haired (hmmm...a milestone I've already tackled), toothless, and achy, we'll share a porch-swing at some old folks home near the everglades. Ok, probably not the everglades. Maybe New England, near the ocean. If I somehow earn a boat-load of money between now and then.

My friend Zaida will be on that porch with us (wherever it is). She'll be the one cracking jokes, making sure our lap blankets are on just right, mixing up some antacid cocktails, and zinging me about my socks not matching my panty hose.

Even though we are currently separated by many States, I know if I ever needed her, she'd be here. And she'd bring a big pot of gallo pinto to comfort me. Zaida is Costa Rican, and when it comes to cooking, she can throw. it. down. She taught me to make this dish our senior year, and I now keep the ingredients on hand at ALL TIMES. This is that go-to, I don't have time, I need comfort food-stat, type meal.

Growing up, we always cooked our rice and beans separately (beans were always frijole style). But...once they hit the plate, their marriage was inevitable. Rice and beans are just made for each other...

This rice and beans dish is one of the easiest things I now know how to make. And it's actually pretty insane that something so simple, tastes so amazing. And since I learned Zaida's trick of serving it with a fried egg on top - I can't eat it any other way. When you split the warm yolk over the rice, it adds richness and a buttery flavor to the entire dish. A nice side salad makes this meal complete!

Thanks, Zaida, for sharing this recipe with me, so I could share with others (hi, mom!), and open their eyes to the power and simplicity of rice and beans - together - how nature intended.

Gallo Pinto

1 can black beans (drained)
1 cup rice (see instructions below - also works well with left over rice)
1 med onion chopped (I also add two cloves garlic, minced. shhh...don't tell her!)
1-2 tsp cumin (I had 3 or 4 sometimes, depending on my mood)
Chopped cilantro (to taste)

1. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan on medium heat
2. Saute onions (and garlic) until soft, about 5 mins
3. Add beans, cumin and cilantro
4. Add cooked rice
Mix all together and let cook for a minute or two so the flavors come together.
Add salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Rice - if you don't have a rice cooker, obviously!

The ratio my mom taught me: 1 extra cup liquid to every cup of rice. So, if you are making one cup of rice, add two cups liquid. Making two cups of rice, add three cups of liquid, etc. For gallo pinto, I usually use one cup of rice (2 cups liquid), but I have been known to frequently double the recipe above, ;)

Add rice and liquid to a medium pot that has a tight fitting lid
Heat rice and liquid over high heat until boiling
The second it comes to a rolling boil (a heavy boil, not a simmering boil) lower heat to low and cover
Cook for approx 15 mins and fight the urge to peak! Do not stir!
Peak at 15 mins. When the rice is cooked through the liquid will be gone, and the rice will be tender when taste tested. If it's still hard, cover again and let cook for a few more minutes.
When cooked, turn the heat off and move to a cool burner. Keep covered until ready to serve.
Fluff with a fork before serving (I use a fork to serve it, actually.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cherry~Blueberry Pie

Yes. I did soften the edges on this picture just a tad. I had to make it look as angelic as this pie tasted.

Abel and I made this the other night to bring to a friends for dessert. It had only been out of the oven a little over an hour when dessert time rolled around and I was a wee bit nervous cutting into it so soon. But we couldn't wait. And I was very relieved when it actually held its shape pretty well! Then, within a few hours it had set up perfectly. Can't say that always happens with my berry pies, so that is why this recipe needed to be written down somewhere other than my brain.

A very tasty spring dessert, if you don't mind using frozen fruit for now. With fresh fruit it could easily be an ace every time. I used frozen sweet cherries and blueberries of the Wegmans- "Just Picked" variety. Danny does it again.

Cherry~Blueberry Pie
Adapted from Peter Sterk (a Foodnetwork.com recipe)

2 cups frozen or fresh cherries (tart or sweet)
2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
4-5 T cornstarch
1 T tapioca
1/8 T almond extract
Your favorite pie crust recipe doubled (mine is below)
1 1/2 T butter to dot fruit (I used honey butter)

Berry Filling

Mix all four cups of fruit in medium saucepan and cover. Place over medium heat until the fruit loses a fair amount of juices, about 5 minutes. Add cornstarch, sugar, and tapioca and reduce heat to simmer and simmer until juice becomes thicker. Adjust amount of cornstarch/tapioca if it still seems very runny. Add almond extract and remove fruit from heat. Place in cold bowl and then put in fridge to cool while making the crust.

Once bottom crust is rolled out place in 9 inch pie plate and put somewhat cooled berries into pastry, dot with butter, place top crust and cut vents in top. Bake at 375 for about an hour or when top crust is golden and fruit starts bubbling through vents.

My favorite Pie Crust via Betty Crocker
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 c plus 2 T shortening
4-6 T ice cold water

Pre-heat over to 425.
Mix flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour mixture until pea sized crumbs form, Add water one T at a time and toss with a fork until mixture can shape into a ball. Cut in half for two crusts. Refrigerate for 15 mins before rolling out on floured surface.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lentil & Sausage Soup (Stew), Two Ways

Not really sure why I don't typically pay attention to recipes on food packaging, but I'm glad I didn't ignore this one. I've been on the hunt for a great lentil recipe (ever since I read they are one of the healthiest things to eat, which explains why my mom fed them to us till they came out of our ears), and ever since we went on vacation and ate the most delicious lentils in the world.

So this recipe isn't nearly as delicious as the lentil salad that we had at Chez Panisse, but it is a hearty, flavorful and an easy way to get more nutrients into your body (and kids seem to like it).

This is pretty much the same recipe that's on the back of the Goya lentil package (found in the Goya section, of course!), I just added more veggies (quantity), more garlic (shocked?), more sausage, added tons of fresh thyme (because, what isn't better with fresh thyme?), and removed the bouillon cube. I've even made this with just water (didn't have broth or stock on hand), I just added some Goya adobo seasoning, and it was really good.

I love this soup because of its earthy, sausage-y flavor. And also because it thickens so well. You can add more stock to loosen it if you prefer, or you can leave it thick and eat it like a hearty stew. For a second dinner, you can put it over noodles, rice or Tracey even put it over perogies once. Great one pot-two dinner thing going on here.

I've made this at least 6 times in the past 2 months, and Rich hasn't asked me to take it off the list yet. That's a great sign. ;)


Lentil & Sausage Soup

1lb lentils (rinsed)
3 glugs of olive oil in a soup pot
1 large sweet onion, minced
4 largish stalks celery, chopped fine
4 largish carrots, chopped fine
10 sprigs of fresh thyme - leaves picked
1lb sausage
3-4 largish cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
8-9 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil for 5-7 minutes until slightly soft (add fresh thyme immediately after all three are in the pot). Sprinkle veggies with salt and pepper. Add sausage and brown. Then add bay leaves and garlic. Saute 2-3 mins more.

Add lentils and saute for 1 min - then add the stock. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are cooked through and soup thickens a bit. Add more hot stock if you want it looser. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve with warm biscuits or crusty bread.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Our Family's Sauce (or a loose translation) + Meatballs!

I say it's some sort of translation because in my family, it changes depending on the day and what's in the pantry. Any way that you throw it together the guarantee is that if you let it simmer for a few hours your house will smell like heaven. No pictures available of the meatballs. We always eat them too fast.

Red Sauce

1-2 lbs of either pig's feet, pork ribs, or pork neck bones
1 large onion minced
5-6 cloves garlic minced
olive oil
medium can of tomato paste
1 super large can of sauce, puree, or many fresh tomatoes pureed, or 5-6 smaller cans combined (some diced if you like chunks)
salt and pepper
2 large whole carrots or splash of sugar
some red wine to taste
dried or fresh basil
rosemary (just a tiny pinch)
parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper the meat. Saute meat in olive oil, about 4-5 minutes per side... not cooked through.
Remove meat and set aside, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat. After the onions & garlic are tender, throw in a can of paste and saute it for awhile. Add a little salt and pepper.
After paste has been flavored for awhile, dump in the rest of you tomato products.
Put in two whole carrots to sweeten the sauce. Then about 1 cup red wine at this point and about 1 Tablespoon dried basil, some fresh rosemary (just a little), and the meat at this point. Bring to a boil and then set on simmer. Once it has cooked down check flavor and adjust salt/pepper and add another splash of wine and parmesan.

Let simmer until cooked down... I will taste and season again at this point. After it cooks down enough for the right flavor you can cover until ready to eat.
Add more wine, and parmesan cheese to taste.


1 lb meat (any combo you like)
4 med cloves garlic or 2 large minced very small or pureed with back of heavy knife and some salt
2 eggs beaten
1/2 c Parmesan
3 sprigs fresh thyme, de-twigged
1 c panko breadcrumbs
Canola oil

Mix garlic with beaten eggs, thyme and cheese. Mix in meat until well combined. Add a little salt and lots of pepper. Add breadcrumbs plus a little more if mixture is too wet. Form into 2 inch balls.
Heat sauté pan on med heat until hot and 3 t/l canola oil. Add meatballs and brown for 1 min on all sides then add to sauce. Allow to simmer in sauce for up to an hour.