Saturday, February 26, 2011

Arroz con Mollejas (Chicken Gizzards Rice)

Rice is a staple in Colombia eaten every day with lunch and dinner. We eat it white, in soups, with eggs, risottos and even as fritters. Also we dress it with different meats, seafood, grains, vegetables and spices like saffron, achiote, cumin and paprika. Also in the Colombian cuisine is very popular to use internal organs than in North America were discarded until the Offal movement started. We cook with tripe, liver, kidneys, hearts, tongue, rooster combs, chicken feet, gizzards, beef stomach, pig blood, lungs, etc. For this rice the meat component is chicken gizzards which have a very interesting texture and exceptional flavor.

Ingredients for 6 portions

2 pounds chicken gizzards, cleaned
2 cups long grain white rice
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup  frozen diced carrots
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 red chili seeded and chopped or 1/2 teaspoon of chili paste (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon achiote or turmeric
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 chicken bouillon cube
8 cups water
 a pinch black ground pepper

Wash the gizzards under running water and clean carefully removing fat and food residual. Place in a pot with 8 cups water, chicken bouillon cube, garlic cloves and salt. Boil over medium- high heat for about 30-40 minutes until gizzards are cooked and soft and liquid reduces to half. Remove the gizzards and garlic cloves and keep broth to cook the rice.

Cut the gizzards in a cutting board to 1/2 inch pieces. Keep aside.

In a braiser, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add onions and scallion and cook for 3 minutes. Add green peas, carrots and corn kernels, cook for 3 minutes. Add the red bell pepper, cumin, achiote or turmeric, paprika, chili and black pepper. Mix well, add chopped gizzards and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the rice in the center and mix well with the other ingredients, stir for 2 minutes. Add 4 cups of the warm broth where the gizzards were cooked. If you don't have 4 cups add chicken broth to complete. (Taste the salt because depending of the chicken bouillon and additional broth that you used you may need to add more). Bring to a boil and right away reduce to low heat and cover. Let cook for about 25-30 minutes. The rice must be fluffy and soft.

Serve hot and garnish with minced cilantro or plantain chips.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spicy Mango Salad (Ensalada de Mango Biche)

Mango is a fruit we eat in Colombia almost everyday in smoothies, desserts, or just as a snack. In some some regions like Valle del Cauca and Atlantic Coast eating unripe mangoes is very popular. You'll find street vendors offering "Mango Biche": small bags filled with unripe mango wedges seasoned with lime and salt.I particularly can't resist to have one every time I visit my home city. This salad is inspired by the Colombian "Mango Biche" and the Asian mango salads, the perfect fusion of sweet, sour and spicy flavors.

Ingredients for 4 servings

1 big unripe, firm, green-skinned mango ( or 2 medium size)
1 red chili pepper, seeded and finely minced.
1 lime (juice)
4 bacon strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 scallions minced including the green part
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
salt and pepper

Cut the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and fry it in a non stick pan until crispy. Discard the fat and drain over kitchen paper.

Peel the mango and using a kitchen mandolin, julienne the mango into thin strips. Be careful when reaching the pit.

Place the mango in a salad bowl and add the scallions, chili and cilantro and mix well. In small cup whisk the olive oil and lime juice and add to the salad bowl. Bring all the ingredients together.

Season with salt and pepper. Add and mix the bacon and sesame seeds,before serving.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Arepas de Maiz Colombianas (Colombian old style Arepas)

The predecessor to the Arepa was a staple of the aboriginal tribes that inhabited the northern Andes of what today is Colombia and Venezuela. Arepas are to Colombians what Baguette is to French. They are eaten for breakfast, snack or as a side dish for grilled and fried meats, sausages, fried chicken, etc. They are normally cook over hot grills and topped butter and grated cheese. Also the cheese can be incorporated in the dough. In Colombia you will find fried arepas as well, like the Arepa de Huevo or the small ones served normally at the fried chicken restaurants like Kokoriko or Frisby. These are the traditional Arepas made by the grandmothers before the precooked cornmeal became so popular and the flavor speaks for itself. Once you tried a traditional Arepa made from broken corn kernels you won't go back to the precooked corn anymore.

Ingredients for 20  thin Arepas

3 cups white hominy ( dried broken corn kernels which the hull and germ have been removed )
8 cups water
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons soft butter
Fresh grated white farmers cheese.(mozzarella or double creme cheese work as fine)

Place the corn in a bowl and cover with water. Let soak and rehydrate for 24 hours. Change the water every 6 hours.

Drain the corn and discard the water. Place in a pressure cooker with 8 cups of water, seal and cook for about 25-30 minutes over high-medium heat. Remove from the stove and once the pressure has been release open the pot and let it cool. The corn must be very soft.

Pass the corn through a meat grinder or a cast iron grinder to a bowl. Add the butter and salt and knead for 4 minutes or until having a soft dough that does not stick to your hands.

Form orange size balls, and place one by one between two sheets of plastic and with a wood cutting board or a pot cover, flatten to your desired thickness. Normally from 1/8 to 1/2 inch. Cut using a small soup bowl pressing firmly over the plastic. You can also make thicker Arepas flattening the balls with your hands.

Cook the Arepas in a barbecue grill or using a wire  rack or parilla over the stove element (Parrillas to cook arepas are sold at latin stores) over medium heat. They must be golden brown and crunchy on both sides. You can cook them also in non stick pan, but they won't be as crunchy, besides the burnt spots add a delicious taste. Brush with butter and top grated cheese. Eat while still warm.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Carne Asada Colombiana (Grilled Flank Steak)

Carne asada is sold in artisanal  grills around the country, normally prepared over wood fires and served with chimichurri, arepas,salted potatoes and aji pique.

Ingredients for 4 servings

 2 pounds beef ( flank steak or fillet)


2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup beer
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pinch chili flakes
2 tablespoons orange juice (it can be replaced by white vinegar)
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a blender place all the marinade ingredients and process for 2 minutes. Rub the meat with the marinade and place in a zip lock bag and refrigerate over night or at least 2 hours.

Prepare the barbecue or cast iron grill to medium-high heat. Remove the meat from the marinade and discard the marinade. Season with a pinch of salt on both sides and place on the grill. Grill steak to desire doneness. About 5 minutes for medium-rare (145 F internal temperature), 7 for medium (160 F internal temperature), and 9-10 minutes for well-done (170 F internal temperature).

Remove the steak from the grill and place on a cutting board. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut across grain into thin strips serve with chimichurri and arepas.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chimichurri (Chimichurri sauce)

Chimichurri is a green sauce that originated in Argentina and Uruguay and is used to accompany grilled meats. It popularity has extended from the south through all the Latin countries and now every country has its own version. It is also fantastic for barbecued pork and poultry and can be used as well as a marinade.

Makes 1 1/2 cup

1 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 cup minced fresh cilantro
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 red chili, seeded or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
2 tablespoons red or sherry vinegar
the juice of one lime
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a blender or food processor, add the garlic and scallions and process for 1 minute. Add the parsley, cilantro, chili or chili flakes, vinegar, lime juice and process for 1 minute. Add half of the olive oil, salt and pepper and process for another minute.

Place in a glass jar or container and add the remaining olive oil, mix with a spoon for 10 seconds. Let sit at room temperature for at least 3 hours before serving. It can be kept refrigerated up to a week.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Doughnuts (Donats)

Doughnuts are my all the time favorite naughty snack. There's nothing that beats home made doughnuts eaten warm with a glass of milk as a late night snack. This is a very simple recipe that makes the most amazing fluffy and light doughnuts.

Makes about 2 dozens

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (a little bit more to flour the surface)
1 pack of dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups warmed milk
zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
vegetable oil to fry

Place the yeast in a bowl with a tablespoon of the sugar and a tablespoon of the flour and add the warm milk and mix well. Let sit in a warm place for 15 minutes until it becomes frothy.

In a separate bowl put the rest of the sugar, flour, lemon zest and butter. Add the yeast mix and bring together with the help of a spoon. Work the dough with your hands until forming a ball. If it is to sticky add more flour. Knead  the dough on a clean and floured surface until smooth about 5-8 minutes. Place the ball in a bowl sprayed with oil and cover with a clean cloth or kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm place (oven with the light on) for about one hour.

When the dough has doubled in size, place it on a floured surface and give it a bit of a punch to knock out some of the air. Roll the dough to a 1/2 inch thickness  and using a 2 inches diameter cookie cutter or small glass cut about 24 circles and place them in a greased baking sheet to rise again, make sure you leave enough room between each one to allow to rise. Cover with a cloth or towel and let rise for 45 minutes, this way your doughnuts will be fluffy and light.

After the 45 minutes they must have double the size again. Heat the oil in a large deep sauce pan or a fryer to 350 F. With the help of a chopstick make a little hole in the center of each circle and fry in batches placing them carefully in the hot oil for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.

Drain them in paper towel and while still hot coat them in sugar. Serve warm.

You can flavor the sugar to your taste. For example adding: ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg, orange zest, etc.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blanquillos con Chorizo (White kidney beans with chorizo)

Beans are a staple food in all Latin America and in Colombia is not the exception. We eat them in all shapes and colors and, in all regions of the country. This kind of beans, also known as cannellini, are a little bit lighter and more flavorful because they absorb more moisture and provide more texture when cooked, than red kidney beans. This recipe makes a delicious meal, full of flavor as these beans soak up the flavor from the juices they are cook in.

Ingredients for 4 servings

2 cups white kidney or cannelli beans (Dried)
3 large chorizos or mild Italian sausages
1/2 cup minced onion
1 cup chopped scallions
1 cup finely minced tomato
1 beef or pork bouillon cube
1 big carrot peeled and diced
2 medium white potatoes peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon salt or to your taste
black pepper

Wash the beans in cold water and remove the dirty. Soak with enough water overnight in a bowl or place in boiling water for 30 minutes.

Discard the soaking water and drain the beans. Place them in a pressure cooker with 5 cups of water, add the carrot, onion, garlic, bouillon, cumin and potatoes. Seal the pressure cooker and cook in medium high for 25 minutes. You can cook them in a regular pot it will take about 2 1/2 hours.

While the beans cook, cut the chorizos in 1 1/2 inches chunks and heat the oil in a non stick frying pan over medium heat. Fry the chorizo chunks until all surfaces are brown. Add the scallions and cook for 2 minutes, add the tomato, tomato paste, turmeric, paprika, and half of the salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until it makes a thick sauce.

Once the beans are cooked for 25 minutes. Quick release the pressure and open the pot. Add the sauce and mix well. Add the rest of the salt if needed. Cook in low heat for 10 minutes. Beans must be very tender and soupy.

Serve with withe rice and avocado.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ensalada de Pulpo y Garbanzos (Octopus and Chickpeas Salad)

This salad has many variations, Cubans make it with canned octopus and chayote, Italians and Greeks also prepare their own version adding or omitting a few ingredients, but no matter what version you make, it is always a delicious way to start a meal.

Ingredients for 4 servings

2 pounds fresh or defrosted clean octopus
1 onion halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 can chickpeas 16 Oz
1/2 cup roasted red peppers drained and cut into strips
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 1/2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper.

Wash the octopus over running water making sure is clean. In a pressure cooker, place the octopus with enough water to cover, the halved onion and the garlic cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat and seal the cooker. Once the pressure is reached lower the temperature to medium  and cook for about 20 minutes. Use quick pressure release, remove the octopus and drain. Discard the cooking water.

Place the octopus in a bowl with cold water to cool. Once is cold enough to handle, over running water rub w the octopus with your hands to remove the dark outer skin, it should come off very easy.

Heat a cast iron grill or barbecue. Cut the octopus into big pieces, leaving the tentacles whole. Rub with salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil and grill until crisp and brown. Remove from the heat and cut into smaller pieces or leave whole if you want to serve it on top of the salad.

In a salad bowl place the chickpeas drained, the roasted red peppers, red onion, cilantro. In a small bowl mix the olive oil and vinegar, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Add oil mix to the salad bowl and mix well.
Before serving add the octopus to the salad and mix.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ranchero Eggs (Huevos Rancheros)

This is a delicious Mexican inspired breakfast dish, full of flavors and textures. A perfect dish for you Sunday brunch.

Ingredients for 4 Servings

8 eggs
12 corn tortillas
1 ripe avocado
1 cup chopped tomato
2  minced scallions
4 bacon strips cut into 1 inch pieces
1 can whole Mexican black beans 560 grams
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 lime
1/2  minced chili or 1/2 teaspoon spicy sauce
4 tablespoons grated fresh or feta cheese
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper

In food processor add the avocado pulp, lime juice, half cup chopped tomatoes, minced chili or spicy sauce, minced cilantro, salt and pepper and process for 3 minutes to make a creamy guacamole. Set aside.

In a small pot reheat the beans and let some of the liquid evaporate it takes about 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Set aside.

 In a small non stick frying pan, fry the bacon pieces until golden brown, discard the fat released and drain over towel paper. Set aside.

In a medium frying pan heat the vegetable oil over medium heat and fry the tortillas on both sides until crisp and golden brown and drain over towel paper.

Discard the vegetable oil and melt 1 tablespoon butter and crack 4 eggs making sure they are well distributed in the pan. Fry them for 3, 4 minutes, we want the eggs over easy with runny yolks. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat the process with the remaining 4 eggs.

To assemble the dish, place one tortilla on a plate and spread guacamole generously. place a second tortilla on top and add the beans, garnish with bacon pieces and 1 tablespoon grated cheese. Place a third tortilla on top and top 2 over easy eggs, garnished with chopped tomato, minced scallions and bacon. Serve with cilantro leaves and lime wedges.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bistec de Higado ( Colombian Liver Steak in onion-tomato sauce)

Bistec de Higado are beef liver filets sauteed in an onion and tomato sauce. It is typical from the Valle del Cauca region where it's eaten as a Sunday breakfast served with Arepas or over white rice.

Ingredients for 4 servings

1 1/2 pound beef liver, thinly sliced
2 big tomatoes sliced
2 medium onions sliced
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
black pepper
1 tablespoon minced cilantro (optional)

Wash the liver in cold water and dry with towel paper. Rub with the Lemon juice and let rest for 10 minutes. Rub with some salt, pepper and garlic.

In a pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion thinly sliced for 3 minutes, place the liver on top of the onions and topped with the tomato sliced.

In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup water, cumin, remaining salt, turmeric, pepper, tomato paste and cilantro. Add to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes until the liver is tender and the sauce has thicken.

Serve with Arepas or white rice.