Every Saturday in Puerto Vallarta, there's a Farmer's Market at the plaza in "the romantic zone". It's always one of the highlights of my visit. Local farmers and food vendors come together to share what they've grown and produced with the 'snow birds', part timer's, permanent expats and Mexican nationals. Last Saturday, there was seafood paella, candied nuts (all kinds), Thai food, creamy coconut water, homemade yogurt, hummus, cheeses, tortillas, tacos and tamales (duh) along with baked goods and of course beautiful produce. I came looking for rocket (aka arugula) and in the process also found some beautiful fennel and a bunch of golden beets...perfect salad ingredients!. According to Gillian Riley, author of the Oxford Companion to Italian Food, rocket has a reputation as a sexual stimulant and it was "prudently mixed with lettuce, which was the opposite", who knew? The combination of the spicy, sexy rocket with the crisp and mild anise flavor of the fennel is a perfect base for the sweet, earthy beets. The addition of some thinly sliced red onion and salty feta cheese adds just the right touch. This salad just might be the perfect addition to your St. Valentine's Day menu... lucky devil.
Golden Beet, Shaved Fennel & Rocket Salad
a few big handfuls of fresh rocket (arugula), washed and dried well.
1 bulb fennel, cut in half and sliced thinly (I use a mandoline)
1 bunch of golden beets (or any color of beet)
1/4 of a red onion, cut into 1/4's sliced thinly
1/2 c crumbled feta (optional)
for the vinaigrette:
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 T dijon mustard
1 T honey
1 T chopped, fresh basil leaves
1 T rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper, a few grinds of each
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the tops off of the beets, wash and dry them well. Place them on a piece of foil on a sheet pan and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Close the foil and roast until done 45-55 minutes. I like them to have a bit of resistance when poked with a knife since they will be eaten in a salad. Let them cool and then peel, the skin should come off pretty easily. Prepare the vinaigrette, mix the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking to emulsify. Toss the rocket in a bit of the vinaigrette and place on 4 plates by small handfuls. Toss the fennel and red onion together with a little vinaigrette and place on top of the rocket, then top with some of the beets. Drizzle lightly with more vinaigrette and then sprinkle with the feta. You could sprinkle with some torn basil if you like. Serves 4.
My dear friends Peter and Tari Bowman live in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I have credited them in my bio with giving me my start in catering - having to do with them moving to Mexico in 1981, buying a restaurant on the beach, and never returning. They not only gave me my start in catering, they gave me a thirst for adventure…in cooking and life. I have always admired them for their bravery, stamina and talents - no sissies could survive the restaurant world in Mexico. Survive they did and 36 years later I am still coming to visit and they are still running their very successful beach restaurant, Daiquiri Dick’s. On the first day of my vacation, I stopped in to the restaurant for a bite to eat, I try to eat as much fish as possible when I am down here so I ordered this dish on the menu described as 'Shrimp in a Wonton Canasta with Salsa Playera, (*fresh shrimp tossed in a spicy but sweet/tart green salsa and served in a fried wonton ‘basket’). It was perfect for my re-entry into Mexico! So fresh and prepared simply, it just might be the perfect appetizer for a Super Bowl (or any) party back home too! Try adding chunked avocado or diced red peppers for a bit more color and added flavor!
This recipe was originally printed in the cookbook "Sand in Your Shoes, The Daiquiri Dick's Kitchen Workbook" by Rafael Nazario. Available on Amazon. I highly recommend it.
* I have attached a you tube video (just for fun) for you to check out. I made this video about 9 years ago, my first and only video to date. It cracks me up. Maybe I will try taping a video again soon, this one borders on embarrassing!
Shrimp in Wonton Baskets with 'Playera' Salsa
4 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cilantro roots (I know, difficult to find so... substitute stems and a few leaves)
2 serrano chiles, chopped (leave the seeds in for a bit of heat)
1 1/2 t sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
3/4 c rice wine vinegar
2 c shrimp, peeled, deveined, cooked and cooled (cut into medium chunks if large)
12 baby tomatoes cut into quarters (or 1-2 plum tomatoes, seeded and sliced thinly)
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
chunked avocado and/or thinly sliced red peppers, optional
12 wonton baskets (see below)
Place the first six ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour over the shrimp, tomatoes and green onions, (avocado and red pepper if using) and toss well. Allow to marinate for a few minutes. Just before serving, spoon into the wonton baskets. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
For the baskets:
1 pkg square wonton skins (found in the produce section of your local market)
1 egg, beaten with a bit of water (you'll need another egg if you are doing a bunch)
canola or veggie oil for frying
Brush the corners of the wonton wrapper with the egg wash. Pinch together both sides of the same corner on all four corners, creating the basket. Fry in the oil (325 degrees) until golden. Drain and cool on paper towels.
These baskets are great for stuffing with just about anything. Be sure to fill just before serving so they don't get soggy.
Here's the problem...when is chili 'chili' and when is it soup? I have been wondering about this since yesterday when I made a chili (Martha Stewart inspired) but ended up with a soup. It was my fault, really. When I was done with the recipe, it just didn't feel right to me, so I added two more cups of stock and it became... soup. Was it just me or does REAL chili need to be a "bowl of red" with beef? Is everything else just a chunky soup? I did some research to find out. According to one definition, "chili is a thick, hearty soup with beans, meat and chile powder". Another said that "the addition of cumin" makes it chili. All of these ingredients are in my chili, errrr...soup? I finally realized that it's more of a personal thing, if you want to call it chili, great, and if you prefer to call it soup, well, that's okay too.
Chicken and White Bean Chili
1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 poblano chiles, seeded and chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t ground coriander
2 t chili powder ( I used New Mexico chile powder from The Spice Tin)
1 4 oz can mild diced green chiles
6 c chicken broth ( I like Swanson's if you don't have homemade)
3 T fine cornmeal
2 15.5 oz cans of white Navy beans, rinsed drained (any white bean will work)
Sour cream, cilantro sprigs, tortilla chips, and lime wedges for serving
Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large (6 quart) pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sear chicken in batches, turning once, until golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium; add onion and poblanos. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, coriander, and chili powder, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Stir in canned chiles. Add chicken back to pot along with broth and juices, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through and flavors meld, about 15 minutes.
Remove chicken to a plate and shred into bite-size pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together cornmeal with 1 cup hot cooking liquid. Return to pot, along with beans, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in chicken until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning. Divide among bowls and top with sour cream, fresh cilantro sprigs, tortilla chips and lime. Serves 6.
Whew... the holidays are over and the new year has begun. It's a great time to try something different that's maybe not in your everyday recipe box. Enter these delightfully delicious and easy to make stuffed squash. Warm and satisfying with aromatic Moroccan spices, they are fancy enough for a dinner party but easy enough for a weeknight dinner. I served them for lunch to a group of ladies over the holidays, they LOVED them! Happy New Year everyone.
Moroccan Wild Rice & Turkey Stuffed Squash
6 small acorn squash, about 1 1/4 lbs each
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 t ground cinnamon
1 1/2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t ground paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 T minced garlic (4 large cloves)
1 lb ground turkey (or lamb works well too)
2 c cooked wild rice blend
1 1/2 T tomato paste
8 pitted dates, chopped
1/2 c pistachios, chopped coarsely
4 T fresh mint, plus 2 T for serving
1 (7-oz) container whole-milk Greek yogurt, such as Fage
2 T fresh pomegranate seeds
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Turn each squash on its side and cut an inch off the stem end, removing and discarding the stem. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and the stringy parts of the squash. Slice a 1/4" off the bottom end so that they sit without wobbling. Put the squashes on a sheet pan open side up. Brush with 2 T of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for 40-50 minutes, until the flesh is tender when pierced with a sharp knife.
Meanwhile, heat 1 T of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, cinnamon, cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Raise the heat to medium, and add the turkey and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Cook for 6-8 minutes, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned. Add the tomato paste, dates, pistachios and the 3 T mint, cook for 2 more minutes. Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375. Using a soup spoon, scrape about two tablespoons of flesh from each squash (you should have 3/4 c all together) and add it to the sauté pan with the turkey then add the cooked rice, mixing well. (depending on the size of your sauté pan you may find it easier to just put all into a large bowl in order to make mixing easier).
Spoon the turkey/rice filling into the hollowed out squashes, filling each one to the top. Bake for 15 minutes, or until heated through. While the squash is cooking, combine the yogurt and ½ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Serve hot with a dollop of seasoned yogurt, the reserved mint, and the pomegranate seeds. Serves 6.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"