Guacamole

Guacamole, Avocado

Guacamole is not only for dipping chips, but it is also great as a condiment for tacos, sandwiches, or any Mexican dish. This is also a great summer time food. It goes perfectly at any barbecue or picnic. Add jalapeño peppers if you like a little heat.

Avocados are very nutritious. They are full of vitamins and minerals such as potassium, folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, and more.  Although avocados are high in fat, they are a good source of the heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acid called oleic acid.  So you don’t have to feel too guilty about eating something so delicious…enjoy!

Ingredients:
2 – avocados
1 – medium ripe tomato
1/4 – cup diced red onion
1 – lime
1/4 – cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 – tsp. salt
Ground black pepper to taste
Tortilla chips for dipping

Directions:
I use a mortar and pestle to mix the guacamole, but if you do not have one you can use any bowl and a fork to mix the ingredients.

Using a knife, slice the avocado in half, length wise. Hold the fruit with both hands and twist until the two halves separate. To remove the pit, whack it carefully with the knife until it sticks into the pit. Hold the avocado firmly in your hand and twist the knife with the other hand. The pit will lift out easily.

Scoop out the avocado from both halves with a spoon and place it into the mortar or bowl. Add the salt and black pepper. Using the pestle or a fork, mash the avocado to the consistency you prefer. You can make it smooth or a little chunky. I prefer it a little chunky.

Now add the diced onion and tomatoes and chopped cilantro. Squeeze the juice of the lime over top and mix through the avocado.

Remove the guacamole from the mortar and place into a bowl or container. Cover completely with plastic wrap, placing it against the surface of the guacamole in order to keep out the air. Let it set about one hour to allow the flavors to come together before serving. Serve at room temperature for the best flavor with your favorite tortilla chips.

Enjoy!


 




Potato Pancakes

Potato pancakes were not something I grew up eating; needless to say, they were not something that my Italian mother made.  As a matter of fact, the first potato pancakes that I ate were made by my mother-in-law.  I liked them so much that I made sure to learn how to make them.  The pancakes are made of basic ingredients, but they are packed full of flavor.

Potato Pancakes make a great side dish.  They go well with pork chops, kielbasa, or chicken.  They also make a great appetizer or work very well as a vegetarian main dish.  I like to serve them with apple sauce and sour cream. The combination of the savory sour cream and sweetness of the apple sauce enhance the flavor of the pancakes.  You can get creative and use any condiments or sauces that you prefer.

Ingredients:
2 – large russet potatoes
1 – heaping tbls. flour
1 – egg
1 – level tsp. salt
1/2 – tsp. ground black pepper
Apple sauce
Sour cream
Canola oil for cooking

Directions:
Peel the potatoes and place in a bowl of cold water until you are ready. Peel and quarter a small onion. Attach the medium shredding disc to your food processor (you can also you a block grater). Quarter the potatoes and grate them in the food processor.

Next grate the onion directly into the grated potatoes.

Empty the potato and onion mixture into a large bowl. Whisk the egg in a small bowl and add it to the potatoes along with the rest of the ingredients: flour, salt, and black pepper.

Mix well.

Heat a little canola oil in the bottom of a large iron skillet. Add a large spoonful of the potato mixture to the skillet and spread out with the back of the spoon.

You can make them any size you like, but I generally make them about 3″ in diameter. Cook on a medium-low flame until golden brown, then flip onto the other side and do the same.

Do not be in a rush. Let them cook through slowly. Place on paper towel to absorb some of the excess oil.

Serve immediately with sour cream and apple sauce.

Makes 9-10 pancakes.
Servings 3-4




Saag Paneer – Creamy Spinach and Cheese

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Saag Paneer is a great vegetarian side dish that is the perfect accompaniment to spicy Indian dishes. This recipe that follows is from Aarti Sequeira, one of my favorite chefs. You can serve it with Chicken Tikka Masala, which you can find on my blog.

Start with making the cheese.  Do not worry, it is much easier to do than you may think.

Ingredients for the paneer:
1/2 – gallon whole milk
1/4 – cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 large lemons)
1 – pkg. cheesecloth (can be found in most grocery stores)

Directions for the paneer:
Pour the milk into a large pot and heat on a medium flame until it just comes to the boiling point. Stir often to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It will take about 12 minutes or so to do this. The milk will become frothy; do not rush the process.

In the meantime, line a large colander with the cheesecloth and place it in the sink so that it is ready when the cheese is ready.

Squeeze the lemons and strain it to remove the pulp and seeds. Once the milk is ready, turn down the heat to low and add the lemon juice. Stir in circles and you will see the milk form curds almost immediately.

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You will notice a greenish, thin liquid form. This is the whey that separates from the curds. If for some reason the curds do not form, you can add a little extra lemon juice. (I have never had that happen).

Strain the curds into the cheesecloth.

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Once the whey has drained off, rinse the cheese gently under cold water to remove the lemon.

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Gather the ends of the cheesecloth and form a ball with the curds. Twist the ends of the cloth to wring out the excess liquid. Be careful as the cheese is still hot. At this point, let the cheese drain for about 5 minutes or so.

Now the cheese should be cool. Keep it in the cheesecloth and form it into a wheel of cheese. Place it on a plate and put another plate on top, and place something heavy on top of it (like a heavy can or bowl) to flatten it a little and make it smooth. Place it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before using. Remove the cheesecloth and set aside.

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If you are not going to use the cheese right away, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. You can make the cheese the day before if needed.

Ingredients for the Saag (spinach):
12 – oz. paneer (cheese, recipe above)
1 – tsp. turmeric
1/2 – tsp. cayenne pepper
1 – tsp. salt
3 – tbls. canola or vegetable oil
16 – oz. frozen spinach
1- medium white onion
1- inch piece of fresh ginger root
4 – cloves garlic
1 – serrano chile (optional)
1/2 – tsp. garam masala
2 – tsp. ground coriander
1 – tsp. ground cumin

1/2 – cup plain yogurt

Directions for the Saag (Spinach)
First, cut the paneer (cheese) into 1/2″ cubes. Cut it carefully so that it does not fall apart. Next mix together the turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt with the oil. Add the cheese cubes to the mixture and coat evenly. Let the cheese marinate about 15 minutes. Heat a little oil in a skillet and add the cheese cubes. Cook until it becomes a little brown on both sides. Set aside while you prepare the spinach.

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Thaw the spinach. Once the spinach is thawed, use a food processor to blend the spinach into a fine chop. It is not necessary to purée the spinach.

Finely dice the onion and Serrano pepper and mince the garlic, and ginger root. Heat 2 tbls. oil in a medium sized sauce pan. Add the onion, Serrano, garlic, and ginger and sauté slowly until it becomes caramelized. Be careful not to let it burn, you can add a spoon or two of water if necessary.  Next, add the garam masala, coriander, and cumin. Stir to incorporate the spices and continue cooking for about 3 minutes. Stir often so that the spices do not burn. Again you can add a spoon of water if necessary.

Add the spinach, 1/2 cup water, and 1/2 tsp. salt and stir well. Bring to a boil and let cook about 5 minutes. Remove the spinach from the heat and add the yogurt a spoon at a time. Return the spinach to a medium-low flame and add the paneer. Stir gently so you do not break up the cheese. Cover and cook about 5 minutes more and serve.