Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Aji Relleno (Green Bell Pepper Stuffed with Ground Beef)

Well this is my grandmothers stuffed Bell Pepper dish. It is a green bell pepper, stuffed with well seasoned raw ground beef binded with raw beaten eggs, stuffed well, sealed and simmered in a tomato based sauce.

This is a comorting dish (well to me almost anything Cuban that has been simmered, etc. is comfort food.)

Main Ingredients:
-6 medium green bell peppers
-1 beaten egg to bind the tops
Ingredients for filling:
-1 lbs. lean ground beef
-2 large eggs beaten
-1/2 onion minced
-4 cloves garlic finely minced (mashed to a paste in a mortar or with a garlic press)
-1/2 bunch cilantro or parsley minced
-1 teaspoon cumin
-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
-1 1/2 more or less salt to taste
-1/2 cup cracker meal or bread crumbs
For the sauce
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce
-1 teaspoon cumin
-1/2 teaspoon oregano
-Salt to taste
-1/2 a bunch of cilantro minced or parsley
-1/2 onion minced
-4 cloves of garlic finely minced or mashed (in a mortar or garlic press)

Directions for Main Ingredients and Filling:
(1)Wash the green bell pepper from outside only, cut a small circle on top of the bell pepper where the stem is, just remove the stem cap, carefully clean out the insides without ripping, remove seeds and white parts. As much as you can without breaking it. Set aside.
(2)Beat an egg and add a pinch of salt set aside.
(3)Now mix ground beef with 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and salt to taste, 1/2 minced onion, 4 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 bunch cilantro, 2 beaten eggs, and 1/2 cup cracker crumbs or bread crumbs, or grated hard old bread your choice ( I use crackers)
(4)Now fill bell peppers carefully with ground beef mixture, don't fill all the way to top leave a little bit of space and spoon in a little beaten egg to be able to make the caps of the bell pepper fit. Repeat until your done with all peppers. If you have leftover meat you can just get another bell pepper and prepare it, or you can make it into a meatball or something. (I had no leftover ground meat)
Directions for sauce:
(5)Now heat exra-virgin olive oil on medium, then sautee 1/2 minced onions and 4 garlic cloves until fragrant don't let garlic burn, add tomato sauce, and about 1 cup water to thin our sauce, then add cumin, oregano, and salt to taste, bring to a boil stir.
(6)Place carefully bell peppers over boiling sauce standing up, spoon over sauce, cover and simmer on medium low for 25- 30 minutes until everything is cooked.
(7)Your done sprinkle some minced cilantro or parsley around.

I ate it today with the "Congri Con Coco" (check out recipe on my blog) I made.

If your wondering how to start digging into the bell pepper, in my house we simply cut it right down the middle with a fork and kinfe then cut pieces with bell pepper and meat and eat like that. Then I scoop some of the tasty sauce with my spoon and drizzle it over each bite.


Congri Con Coco (Coconut Red Beans with Rice)

My grandmother never made "Congri" like other Cubans did. She would always add coconut milk to , but she would also always tell me "Cubans don't make it like that".

She said she learned to make it like this from some Haitian friends that lived in Cuba at the time she was there.

This is not an authentic "Congri" but very similar to it, I know how to make a more authentic "Congri" but I will make it some other time.

Honestly I will almost always pick my "grandmas way" over authentic, because her cooking when I make it reminds me of her and brings up child hood memories of her food and comfort. I want to preserve that and share my cooking with others and pass it to future generations of my family.

I guess this dish is an example of Haitian influence on Cuban cooking. When I make the "authentic" "Congri" I will explain the whole story about "Congri" and how in Western Cuba "Moros y Christianos" done with black beans is more popular and in Eastern Cuba (El Oriente) prefers red beans and makes Congri usually instead of "Moros"

-2 cups rice
-1 cup red beans (like red kidney beans or something similar)
-1 cup coconut milk
-2 cups red bean broth (I'll show how to make it)
-9 cups water (to cook red beans)
-1 medium to small green bell pepper minced or 1/2 a large green bell pepper minced
-1/2 onion minced
-4 cloves of garlic crushed and finely minced (preferably through a garlic press or a mortar)
-salt to taste (I used like 3 teaspoons for the whole dish)
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-2 tabelspoons Coconut Oil or Lard/ pork fat to fry/suatee "sofrito" (You can use Extra-Virgin Olive Oil to but this dish is at it's best with Coconut Oil or Lard I used Extra-Virgin Olive Oil this time because I didn't have Coconut Oil and forgot I had a tub of lard in the fridge)


(1)Sift rice on a strainer to get rid of tiny broken grains. Rinse about 3 times until water runs clear swooshing and rubbing to get rid of any excess starch. Now place back on the strainer and let it drain well leave it alone until your beans are ready for the rest.

(3)The beans should be soft but not really mooshy and falling apart easily. They should be able to hold it's shape because you will cook them an additional 30 minutes with the rice.(4)Drain beans and SAVE the red bean broth (this will give the rice a nice color and has to be used to cook rice)
(5)Pur rice in rice cooker, add red beans, 2 cups of red bean broth, and 1 cup of coconut milk (you can freeze any leftover coconut milk use in any other dish). Set aside.
(6)Heat Coconut Oil or Lard in a frying pan on medium high or medium and then when warm enough sautee minced onions, bell peppers, and garlic until fragrant and onion is translucent (this may take like 5 minutes or more) stir every now and then.(7)Add the sauteed onion, bell pepper, and garlic mixture with oil and all to the rice and beans and stir in gently.

(8)Season with salt (I used 3 teaspoons the liquid will taste salt but once it is fully cooked it will be just right, because rice absorbs lots of flavor and you gotta have enough salt to flavor rice, beans, and sofrito (sautee). Then add ground cumin and also stir in gently I fold carefully I don't want to break any of the beans and have it release stach.

(9)Cover and turn on rice cooker, when done fluff rice and everything and it's done.

I love it the rice is a very light redish pink color because of the red bean broth and coconut milk mixture. The rice was perfect it was moist but not mooshy. It was very slightly al dente but it's suppose to be like that.

If your final dish is slightly dry in your opinion then just splash a little bit of leftover bean broth fold in gently and cover for awhile it should moisten (I always get it perfect now days though ;) If it ends up to moist, simply get a paper bag, cut it place it on top and press slightly then cover for a while turn rice cooker back on and wait for like 10 minutes.

If it's still not right then you are screwed love ;) BUT IF YOU FOLLOW EVERYTHING EXACTLY AS I STATED THEN YOU SHOULD GET A PERFECT RESULT. (assuming you used regular long-grain white rice like Mahatma or something)

ALSO sometimes my grandmother would add unsweetened shredded coconut or fresh grated coconut to this

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bistec de Puerco Empanizado (Breaded Pork Steak)

This is a really thin cut pork steak, seasoned with some spices, passed in egg then cracker meal and pan-fried.

I love this, and when we pan-fry meats or just brown them in a pan we always make them "Encebollado" meaning in the drippings left in the pan we sometimes add more oil and sautee lots of thick cut onions, and deglaze with lime and season with a little salt and then garnish with some cilantro or parsley. We serve it over the meat.

My mom does this exactly how my grandma taught her, except she adds all the seasoning to the beaten egg and passes every single piece of meat well until there is no more egg left and everything is well coated, she say's it better like that because, "Si le pones el sazon a la carne y lo pasas por huevo se le queda el sazon al huevo" (if you season the steaks directly and pass them through egg the seasoning will not stick or some crap like that it doesn't make sense to me because you end up using the whole egg anyways so the seasoning still stays with the meat regardless but I do it like her anyway just in case)

-1 1/2 lbs. thin cut pork steaks
-5 large cloves of garlic mashed to paste in a mortar and pestle or pressed through a garlic press. (yes we love garlic that much)
-1 teaspoon ground cumin (to taste you can use more or less)
-1/2- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
-salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
-1 large egg
-Some well crushed Saltine Crackers or Crackers (if unsalted season em with salt)
-1 whole onion sliced into rings, or thickly julienned
-1 or 2 limes
-Some Cilantro or Parsley to garnish.

(1)Firstly before ANTHING using crackers as bread crumbs will make this really crisp and good, JUST when you are breaking the bread crumbs put them in a bag and crush well with a cup or something heavy even your hands. This will make a crispy crust.
(2)Okay now, beat 1 egg, add cumin, salt, pepper and garlic now smother each steak and dip and swish around beaten seasoned egg, do it to all thin steaks, then if you run out and still have some steak smother them all together to get everything seasoned (I know messy) now wash your.
(3)In a plate dump the cracker crumbs, roll each steak in crumbs and coat well. Set aside.
(4)Heat oil on medium high until heated (we use extra-virgin olive oil). Now lightly fry each steak until browned on one side, then flip to brown on the other.
(5)Set aside cooked steaks on a plate with paper towels. And repeat.
(6)When all steaks are done, now add the cut onions and sautee until you get rid of raw taste, squeeze lime juice into the pan and stir to deglaze some and give them some tang, season with salt (optional) and toss with some parsley or cilantro. When serving steaks put this on top.

PLEASE NOTE: You can do this with really thin cut sirloin steak.

Curtido de Repollo (Pickled Cabbage Salad)

A Nicaraguan family friend made this for a a reunion me and family attended because we hadn't seen this family or friends from that area in years.

She made this delicious spicy pickled cabbage salad. My mother later asked her if she could please share the recipe with us, and she did (along with her family recipe for the BEST Tres Leches Cake I have ever had in my entire life posted somewhere on my blog but it has no pictorials)

Well we made this dish just how she told us and since then it has been a hit in my house we make this REALLY OFTEN it is perfect because it makes a LARGE portion and can last in the fridge for over a week or longer since it's pickled. We just pull it out of the fridge for any meal of the day and eat tons of it as a side dish.

PERFECT FOR SUMMER HEAT also because you don't have to use the stove or oven :)

-1 cabbage head (shredded)
-2 Serrano chili peppers or other green spicy chili peppers or milder ones like Jalapeño
-1 1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
-1 cup of water
-1 tablespoon salt (if using a giant cabbage hear or a fairly large one use 2 tablespoons)
-2 medium tomatoes diced
-1 medium or small onion minced
-2 spicy Serrano chili peppers or other green spicy chili pepper minced finely (OPTIONAL this is for adding way later)

(1)Put shredded cabbage in a large bowl.

(2)In a blender, add water, vinegar, salt, and 2 chili peppers. Blend until chili peppers are destroyed and liquefied.

(3)Add blended contents to shredded cabbage and toss well together. Let rest in refrigerator AT LEAST 3 hours and toss every 1 hour if possible or every now and then. You can also just leave it OVERNIGHT to pickle in the fridge and toss every now and then.

(4)After pickling toss with the tomato, onion, and Serrano chilies or other green chilies.

(5)This is COMPLETELY optional, after tossing with everything you may drain all the excess liquid if desired, I simply use a giant spoon or something with openings to scoop out the pickled cabbage, I also like to leave the liquid because it pickles the tomato, onion, and chili pepper overtime and gets stronger and more intense.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is really spicy for some people so it is optional to add 2 extra chili peppers, taste it first, you may want to add less chili peppers if you find you can't tolerate heat. But in my household and many others here WE LOVE SPICY!

Also be careful with your hands, when handling the chili peppers they will get spicy and if you touch your eyes it will burn, I don't wear gloves or anything I don't mind the spicyness on my hand, I just don't rub my eyes and am careful.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tacos de Papa Con Queso (Cheese and Potato Crispy Tacos)

My mom takes care of an elderly lady, who makes these delicous "Tacos de Papa Con Queso", so my mom learned from her how to make them, and I learned from my mother, even though the lady is Salvadorian I'm pretty sure this is a Mexican dish.

These are delicous corn tortillas, stuffed with a mixture made of smooth potatoes and grated cheese, stuffed and lightly fried to a nice crisp.

These can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner they are all purpose :)

-6 small potatoes
-Equal amount of shredded cheese (any cheese preferably a white colored one, we use "Queso Fresco" (Fresh Mexican Cheeeses), "Queso Ranchero", also "Monterey Jack", and "Queso Blanco" would work well.)
-1/2 teaspoon pepper
-1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder to taste
-1/2 an onion finely grated
-10 corn tortillas
-oil to pan-fry


-Steam and peel the potatoes, by putting in a pot with very little water, bringing to a boil, cover lower heat simmer about 20-40 minutes
-Mash peeled potatoes mix in equal amounts of shredded cheese, season with salt and chicken bouillon. Mix well until kind of like a dough along with grated onion.
-Heat corn tortillas in a griddle, stuff with mixture and fold.
-Heat oil in a pan and lightly fry on each side until golden brown. Put on a plate with paper towels and then serve.
IMPORTANT: There are many side dishes you can choose from to accompany this.
Some sour cream along with any one of the following:

Mexican hot sauces like like "Slsa de Chile de Arbol" or "Salsa de Chile Verde"

Or Guacamole (Mexican Avocado Mash):

Or simply some "Pico de Gallo" simple minced tomato, onion, green chili peppers, cilantro in equal amounts tossed with fresh lime juice and salt:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ensalada de Brocolli (Brocolli Salad)

This is a really simple broccoli salad my grandma taught me, it is refreshing, simple and healthy. It doesn't mask the flavor of the vegetables and I love it.

I don't know if it's Cuban or Spanish or whatever but I know it's my grandmas salad, and since most of her cooking is Cuban I'll label it as Cuban.

-water in a pot
-2 broccoli heads
-1/2 red or white onion cut into thin rings (I messed up and they came out to thick and not perfect)
-1 tablespoon white vinegar
-1 tablespoon extra-virgin oil
-salt to taste about 1 tsp. drizzled/ 3 big pinches

(1)In a pot bring water to a boil
(2)Meanwhile wash the broccoli well, seperate the florets, if you don't wanna throw away the stems, peel them well with a potato peeler then cut into desired size.

(3)Throw brocolli in boiling water until bright green, drain and rinse in cold water until cooled, drain and dry well.

(4)Put in a bowl, put sliced onions on top, drizzle with olive oil first, then vinegar, then salt. Now toss and marinade in the fridge 3 hours. Toss every 1 hour.

VARIATIONS: One variation of this is using "Cauliflower", if using Cauliflower DO NOT BLANCH IT SKIP THE BOILING PART and also USE RED ONION or it will look ugly if you don't.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Potaje de Garbanzos Con Patas de Puerco (Chickpea & Pork Feet Stew)

Probably not that many people like "pig's feer", well in my household only my mother and me like pig's feet (my Dad and little sister aren't fans of it). My grandmother use to make this and she didn't like pig's feet she only made it for my grandpa my mother says. She would eat everything in the stew except the pig's feet and give them all to my mother and my grandpa who really really enjoyed it.

Me personally I love hearty, rich legume based stews, even though it is summer I just love them so much I eat them in summer and winter, I just turn on the AC full blast while I cook and eat it while pretending it's winter ha ha.

I haven't had this in years I think for more than 5 years. It's been so long that I don't even remember eating it! I was checking the fridge last night to see what to make the next day and I bumped into pigs feet. My mother said, "oh I remember your grandma used to make a stew with them, I don't remember how to make it you should give her a call", I did and am glad I did, I will make this more often and won't let it fade away from my family kitchen.

-1 lb./ about 2 cups dried garbanzos/ chickpeas (soaked overnight)
-2 1/2 lb. Pork feet cut in half (tell your butcher to cut them in half for you)
-2 medium to large potatoes or 4 small potatoes peeled and cut in half
-1 onion minced
-6 cloves of garlic pressed and minced or mashed to a paste in a mortar with a pestle.
-1 can 8 oz. tomato puree or blend some ripe tomato in a blender or grate a large tomato.
-1 green or red bell pepper or 1/2
-2 bay leaves
-1 teaspoons ground cumin
-1/2 -1 teaspoon "Bijol" (or in it's place saffron or ground achiote powder)
-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper (optional)
-Salt to taste

(1)Soak garbanzos overnight at least 12 hours by covering in at least 3 inches submerged into water with a huge palm full of salt, mix well.

(2)Next day rinse them well several times and get rid of water. Add new water and about 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside in a large pot. Just add enough water to cover garbanzos and pork feet. The garbanzos aren't gonna suck any more water they already did when soaking over night.

(3)To clean pork feet get pork feet, put in a medium pot add water and bring to a boil, boil for about 5 minutes. Drain it, rinse in cold water 3 times to cool down. Now wash again all of them by rubbing with vinegar and salt, swooshing around rubbing well. Drain and rinse each one individually and set aside in a bowl. This is done to get rid of all the impurities and the strong smell and taste.

(4)Now bring pot garbanzos to a boil mix in pork feet and an extra teaspoon of salt or salt to taste let it come to a strong boil, cover and simmer about 45 minutes to 1 hour on low heat or medium low. Only add enough water to cover pork feet well.

(5)Meanwhile chop up everything. When pork fetes and garbanzos are done, turn of while and leave covered while you do the rest.

(6)Heat olive oil on medium high, then sautee minced onion until translucent and some browns, then add garlic for about 2-3 minutes until golden and fragrant. Add tomato puree and bring to a boil. Add this to the garbanzos and cooked pork feet.

(7)Add bay leaves, cumin, black pepper, bijol, potatoes, and thickly julienned green bell pepper. Mix well. Turn on heat, bring to a boil and cover for 15-20 minutes.

(8)Taste it if it needs more salt or cumin. This stew is not suppose to be super loose or super thick. It will thicken later from all the gelatin from the bones of the pork feet that will be released over time. If you must thicken more simply take out a potato, blend it with sthe broth and add it back in to thicken.

NOTE: At my house we usually serve this with a bowl or plate of white rice on the side and a raw salad. Also you can eat it with bread instead if you wish or heck both bread and rice! It already has potatoes so why not haha. Let's load up on those carbs... just kidding about the carb loading part.