Do you ever manipulate your spouse? I mean just plain set them up on the path you want them to follow. Can you do it without guilt?
I don’t want to think of myself as having crossed over to The Dark Side, but I’m rather accomplished at steering Suzen now.
“What’s that? ANOTHER Mexican cook book?” Suzen asked me with skepticism. She took the book from my hand. “Did you buy this because of the picture?” Now she was being very accusative, so the manipulation that was about to take place stirred not a scintilla of guilt in me.
The book cover for Fresh Mexican features author Marcela Valladolild. Marcela has one of the Disney-Mickey-Mouse-Club faces that has appealed to men since 1955.
Now, it turns out, the Marcela is a very accomplished culinary pro. She has books, TV shows, and writes with an important perspective: she likes Tex-Mex food but she grew up on real Mexican food and wants us to experience and enjoy authentic Mexican dishes. The 100 recipes in the book, while simple to prepare, are wonderfully different and intensely flavor packed. Imagine trying:
- Lobster, Mango and Avocado Salad
- Poblano Potato Salad
- Puff Pastry Wrapped Jalapenos with Oaxaca Cheese
“Suzen,” I began strategically. “I really hadn’t noticed this picture. I got this book for you. You like poblanos, right? Look at this picture.” I showed her a full page phone of this Poblano Rice Gratin.
“Let me get the shopping list,” she announced. “We’re doing this tonight.”
And we did. And it is fiery good. And, and, we served it with the Bulgarian Cast Iron Chicken with Bacon and Sauerkraut I posted yesterday. It’s a perfect pairing.
There are books, like Fresh Mexico, where you can do the whole meal from that single book. With 4000 cookbooks, we can adopt more of a United Nations approach. Some Bulgarian here. A Mexican dish there. Something American tossed in. Oh, our American piece for this meal? That’s a frozen iceberg lettuce recipe that you will see this weekend.
This rice dish makes great leftovers, of course. The chile and cheese flavors penetrate and mellow. Easily prepared, you may find the being one of those side dishes that is a family standard.
Poblano Rice Gratin
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¼ cup minced white onion
- 1 cup long-grain white rice
- Kernels from 2 ears fresh corn
- 2 poblano chilies, charred, stemmed, seeded and chopped
- ¼ cup Mexican crema or sour cream
- ½ cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese
Heat the oil in a medium-size heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the rice and cook for 10 minutes, or until opaque. Add 2 cups water and the corn kernels and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler on high.
When the rice is cooked, fluff it with a fork and stir in the chopped poblanos. Transfer the rice to a 7 x 10-inch baking dish. Drizzle with the crema, and sprinkle the cheese all over the rice. Broil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the top is browned in spots and the cheese has melted
Source: Fresh Mexico: 100 Simple Recipes for True Mexican Flavor by Marcela Valladolid
Mothers’ Day approaches. Fathers and children are perplexed. You would love to cook a wonder for Mom, but, let’s face it, the kitchen is her domain. Her cooking skills are better than yours, much better. Now what?
Time for a history lesson.
Before there was a Rome, Central and Northern Italy had a wonderful civilization call the Etruscans. The Etruscans were eventually absorbed by Rome, and details of that society remained in the shadows for thousands of years. In the past decades, though, more and more knowledge about the Etruscans has emerged. For example, their food.
The Etruscans made a dish called a pul, which was a thick combination of grains, beans, and vegetables cooked together. That pul is the ancestor of Parma’s minestre, which in Parma is physically denser than the regular Italian minestrones you may have enjoyed. In Parma today, a minestre is more of a stew-soup. While meat can be a component, beans or rice are often used.
This recipe, from The Cooking of Parma by Richard Camillo Sidoli, presents a rice and cabbage stew-soup that any husband can do. Really. There’s some chopping involved, so older children can help Dad in creating this one-pot meal. Add a glass of wine, perhaps a simple salad, and a rose on the side. Mom will be thrilled. Dad may find himself recruited for kitchen duty.
The wine and cheese ingredients here could be added at the end of the cooking, but tradition is to serve the soup and cheese on the side and let each diner add their own portions. In our picture above, some green herbs have been added for color and a spark of flavor. As with any soup, you can use your imagination to make this dish personal and loving.
The Cooking of Parma was published in 1996, but we still pull it off the shelf to enjoy the secrets and flavors of Parma’s regional food.
Minestra Di Riso E Cavolo
Yield: serves 4
- 1 ½ quarts meat broth or good-quality store-bought
- 1 carrot
- 1 green celery rib
- 1 medium onion
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 large bay leaves
- 4 cups 1-inch cubes cabbage
- 1 cup Italian or long-grain rice
- ½ cup peas [ideally fresh, but frozen works, too]
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ½ cup red wine
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Put the broth in a soup pot over medium heat. Dice the carrots, celery, and onion and add to the broth. When the broth reaches a slow boil, add the herbs. When the vegetables are half-cooked, in about 20 minutes, add the cabbage and rice. When the rice is al dente, add the peas and scallion, season to taste with the salt and pepper, and continue to cook until the peas are cooked through but not mushy. Add the parsley and remove the pot from the heat. Pass the wine and the cheese at the table.
Source: The Cooking of Parma by Richard Camillo Sidoli