Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ropa Vieja

Printable Version (Recipe Only)

Ropa Vieja (ROpah vee-EH-hah) translates literally from Spanish as “old clothes,” so named because you cook the beef, then shred it up, like tattered old clothes. 

And with flavors of slow cooked beef stewed in a rich sauce of onions, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cumin, bay, and oregano, it’s no wonder it’s among the best loved dishes in all of Cuban cuisine.

Some recipes call to braise the beef first with all the flavorings and then shred. I prefer to boil the beef first, cool and shred, and then stew it with all the seasonings. I find it cooks up more tender this way. There’s not that much active time to make the dish, but it does take about an hour and 30 to 45 minutes from start to finish. The part where you boil the beef can be halved by cooking it in a pressure cooker for about 30 minutes, if you have a pressure cooker.

Ropa Vieja

Serves 4 to 6
Time: About 2 hours, of which about half is inactive
Printable Version

*For efficiency, make sure to put the beef on the stove to boil before you start your knifework.

- 2.5 to 3 pound chuck roast cut into roughly 8 equal pieces (you can also use skirt or flank)
- ½ medium onion, cut in half
- 4 smashed garlic cloves
- 1 carrot, cut in thirds
- 1 celery stalk, cut in thirds
- 5 cups water, or enough to cover by about ½ an inch

- 2 Tablespoons oil (olive or vegetable)
- half a medium onion, cut into ¼” strips vertically
- 1 red bell pepper, halved, cored, and cut into ¼” strips vertically
- ½ green bell pepper, cored and cut into ¼” strips vertically
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
- ¼ cup green pitted olives, cut into thirds or quarters
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1  15 oz. (or so) canned tomatoes
- 2 cups boiling liquid
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ⅓ cup frozen peas (optional)

1) Put the beef, the ½ onion, carrot, celery, and four garlic cloves in a 4 or 5 quart Dutch oven, pour in the water, cover the pot, and place over high heat, until the meat comes to a rolling boil (about 15 to 20 minutes). Then turn the heat down to medium, keeping the pot completely covered, and continue to boil the beef for another 40 to 50 minutes, or until the thickest part of the largest piece of beef is very easily pierced with a fork.

2) While the beef is boiling, do all your knifework and set aside. When the beef is boiled, remove all the pieces from the liquid and cool for at least 20 minutes or while you prepare the base of the stew. Save 2 cups of the liquid in a mixing bowl or other container. You can discard the rest, or save it, like I do, to use as soup or sauce stock.

3) In your Dutch oven, bring 2 Tablespoons oil up to slightly higher than medium heat and saute your onions, peppers, and garlic for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and begin to wilt.

4) Add in the cumin, oregano, black pepper, and bay leaves and stir to distribute evenly. Then add in tomato paste, canned tomatoes, boiling liquid, 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon sugar, and stir to completely dissolve the tomato paste into the liquid. At this point, your beef should be ready to shred. Remember the turn the heat off while you shred. :)

5) Loosely shred all the beef (See pics - it doesn’t have to be a fine shred, unless you insist on it that way, but it is a little more work. Besides, the simmering will continue to separate the meat fibers a little more.) and put into pot with the stewing liquid. Turn the heat up to medium high and stir to incorporate thoroughly.

6) With the pot covered, bring the Ropa Vieja up to a rolling boil for about 2 minutes (should take 7 to 8 minutes), uncover, stir a couple of times, turn the heat down to medium and simmer, fully covered, for another 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times halfway.

7) Remove the lid and simmer the ropa vieja for another 10 to 12 minutes, stirring a couple of times halfway through to ensure everything is evenly cooked. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning if needed.

8) Remove from heat and let cool for at least 15 minutes (this will give the flavors time to set and the sauce time to thicken). If you’re adding frozen peas, right after you cut the heat is when you would fold them in. Adding them in at the end helps them retain their texture and color better. 

Serve with steamed rice (in Cuban cuisine, they usually add a little salt and oil to their steamed rice). Alternatively, it would also be delicious over risotto or polenta. 

Leftovers are great in tacos and burritos. Use a little less liquid, and it makes a delicious empanada filling.

¡Buen provecho!


Full cooking album HERE.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Thai Inspired Green Apple Slaw

I came up with this recipe on a night that we were having roast chicken with Thai sweet chili sauce and I had these super tart green apples that I couldn't get the family to eat alone. (Or with cheese. Or peanut butter. Or anything.)

I went with a som tum (Thai green papaya salad) inspiration, and it was quite tasty with the roast chicken! It would also go great as a side to satay or as a fresh roll filling.

Thai Inspired Green Apple Slaw
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Time: 20 minutes
Printable Version

- 3 small tart green apples, julienned (about 4.5 cups)
- 1/2 a small white onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 handful mint and cilantro, chopped
- 1 ripe Thai chili, thinly sliced (or any kind of hot, fresh chili you have on hand)
- 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1.5 Tablespoons lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable-type oil

Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss to thoroughly and evenly season.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Super Easylicious Peanut Sauce

Printable Version (Recipe Only)

Since we're having lettuce wraps tonight, I thought I'd share this super easy and delicious recipe for peanut sauce that takes no time to make and makes a great accompaniment for wraps, summer rolls, crudites, satays, and assorted appetizers like egg rolls and dumplings. 

If thinned down just a bit with a little more citrus and vegetable or toasted sesame oil, it also makes a great dressing for a cold Asian-inspired noodle salad.

Omit the sriracha and chilies, and it's super kid-friendly, too!

Super Easylicious Peanut Sauce
Makes about 1 cup
Time: 5 to 10 minutes
Printable Version

If you don't already have Hoisin sauce in your pantry, I would highly recommend it. It's a wonderfully versatile and generally palate friendly condiment that you'll find lots of other delicious uses for including marinades, BBQ sauces and glazes, and stir-fries.

- 1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 Tablespoon lime or lemon juice
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons minced onion OR 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 Tablespoon sriracha (or sambal oelek or chili garlic paste)
- optional: chopped fresh chilies to taste (I used Thai chilies today)
- optional: chopped roasted peanuts, if you've got 'em

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.

That's it!

Enjoy. :)


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Easy, Accessible Pad Thai

Printable Version (Recipe Only)

This pad thai recipe uses commonly stocked ingredients like ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to mimic the flavor of tamarind, brown sugar in lieu of palm sugar, and crushed red chili flakes (like the kind you use on pizza and pasta) to provide the heat normally brought to this dish by Thai chilies.

Unfortunately, there is no good substitute in my opinion for the rice noodles which are the heart of this dish. Luckily, they are light, ship inexpensively, and keep forever. If you don't have an Asian market nearby where you can buy them in person, you can order them online from web retailers like amazon. You might even be able to find them at your neighborhood Cost Plus (World Market). But don't discount the Asian section of your grocery, either. With the increasing popularity of so-called *ethnic* cooking, new ingredients are popping up everywhere.

Easy, Accessible Pad Thai

Serves 3 to 4
Time: 30 to 45 minutes
Printable Version

- 8 ounces wide rice noodles, about half a typical packet (sometimes labeled as Pho noodles, but get the wide ones - they're about 1/3" wide uncooked)
- 2 eggs, whisked and lightly seasoned with salt
- 2 cups mung bean sprouts
- 1/2 to 3/4 lb. of the protein of your choice (I prefer shrimp or chicken, and today it was chicken), cut in bite-sized pieces and lightly seasoned with salt, a teaspoon of minced garlic, and a pinch of sugar
- oil for frying
- 1 or 2 green onions and some cilantro, chopped for garnish
- 4 lime wedges for garnish


- 3 Tablespoons ketchup
- 2.5 to 3 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons brown sugar (or white sugar if you don't have brown)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon crushed chili flakes (more or less to taste - I'd say this makes the dish about a 7 on the *How hot you want???* scale)

1) Soak the noodles in enough hot water to cover for about 12 to 15 minutes or so, until all the noodles go completely limp when pull them up by the handful out of the water.

2) Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir thoroughly to incorporate all the seasonings evenly.

3) While the noodles are soaking, in a large wok or non-stick pan, saute/stir-fry your protein in about a tablespoon of oil brought up to medium hight heat and set aside.

4) You probably still have enough time to scramble your eggs before the noodles are done soaking, so scramble your eggs and set them aside with your meat.

5) Once the noodles have been softened (but not too soft - you still want them to retain their texture and not get soggy), pour out the water, rinse a couple of times with cold water, and drain thoroughly.

6) With the heat still on medium high, add 1 or 2 Tablespoons of oil to the pan, wait about 20 or 30 seconds to heat it up, and add in the noodles. Let the noodles sit for about a minute so as not to disperse the heat. After about a minute, give them a toss to redistribute them. Do this 3 or 4 times total before adding in the rest of your ingredients.

7) Add in the rest of your ingredients - meat, eggs, sprouts, green onions, and sauce - and toss thoroughly to season each noodle strand.

If you like some crispy/charred bits to your noodles, now is the time to add another Tablespoon of oil to the pan, and just let your noodles sit for a minute and a half to two minutes. This will crisp up some of the edges.

The crispy bits - my fave. :)

8) Garnish to taste with green onions and serve with lime wedges. The added fresh lime juice gives the dish extra zip.

If you're like me, squeeze some sriracha on top, or add some chilies in vinegar or prik nam pla to the mix - the hotter, the better!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Spicy Salmon Poke with Crunchy Cucumber

Printable Version (Recipe Only)

As you might already know, we are big on raw fish Chez Robinson. While I generally prefer to have sushi out so we can enjoy a wide variety of fish, sometimes a quick and easy poke bowl at home hits the raw spot without breaking the bank.

Poke (pronounced POHkeh) is a Hawaiian dish of seasoned raw fish and other ingredients, and the possibilities are endless. In our house, we'll eat all kinds of poke, but salmon is probably our favorite fish for the application.

I love this combination of rich, raw salmon with the savory crunch of the onion, the refreshing crunch of the cucumber, and the yummydelicious spicy seasoning in which it's tossed.

You can buy sushi fish in person at places like MitsuwaMarukai99 Ranch, and H-Mart (or just yelp "Japanese Market" in your 'hood) and online at places like Catalina Offshore Products, among others. If you're buying it at a market that's somewhat far from your house, make sure to either take an iced cooler with you, or ask the people at the fish counter for a bag of ice on which to transport your fish back home.

People often ask me what distinguishes sushi grade fish from non. The quick and dirty is that sushi grade fish here in the US is suggested or required, depending on the type of fish, to have been frozen at a certain temperature for a certain time period in order to have killed certain cooties. The further quick and dirty is that much fish sold in market cases, by this definition, is "sushi grade."

What you want to do when shopping for sushi fish is shop from a place that not only has the fish requisitely frozen, but has high turnover of it, i.e., it is a place where lots of people go to buy their raw fish. And always remember that if it smells fishy (and I don't mean of the clean ocean, but a little rank and nasty), it's not fresh.

If you'd like to read more about sushi grade fish, click HERE.

Spicy Salmon Poke With Crunchy Cucumber
Serves 2 as an entree over rice, 4 to 6 as an appetizer with tortilla chips, pita chips or fried wonton wrappers. It is easily doubled.
Time: 20 to 30 minutes
Printable Version

If you're planning to eat this with steamed rice, remember to put your rice on before you start making the poke, and they should be done roughly about the same time. :)

- 3/4 pound fresh raw salmon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (you can use whatever sushi fish you like if you don't like salmon)
- 1 medium Persian/Lebanese or Kirby cucumber, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced (you can use white or yellow if you don't have the red. If they're specially hot and sulfury, give them a 5 minute soak in cold water and drain thoroughly before adding to the poke)
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chilies (I like jalapeños or serranos.)
- 5 to 10 whole stems cilantro, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce to start
- 1/2 Tablespoon chili garlic paste to start (you can also use sriracha or sambal oelek)
- 1/2 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice to start
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and gently toss with a spoon or spatula to season evenly. Adjust seasoning if needed, toss again, and enjoy!

Again, it's great over plain steamed rice, or if you prefer seasoned sushi rice, which is made by adding seasoned sushi vinegar to your steamed rice per bottle instructions, or to taste.

Enjoy. :)


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cucumber, Ham & Sriracha Bites

Something I came up with when we decided to have friends over for cocktails last minute and I had to make some noshes with whatever I had in the fridge.

These are so easy to make and super tasty, too!

I didn't give exact quantities because it's pretty easy to imagine how much of what ingredient you're going to need for the number of pieces you're going to make.

Cucumber, Ham & Sriracha Bites
Printable Version

- cucumber sliced into just under 1/4" thick pieces on an angle (Baby Cukes or English Hot House are good for this recipe)
- mayonnaise
- ham (about 1/3 to 1/2 of one of those round, thin deli-sliced slices per cucumber slice)
- green onion, chopped

As you can see from the pic, you just take a slice of cucumber, schmear it with a little mayo (maybe 1/2 a teaspoon per slice), fold up your little piece of ham and lay that on top of the mayo, give it all a little squeeze of sriracha and top with 2 or 3 pieces of chopped green onion.

Enjoy! :)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Easy Kimchi Jjigae (김치 찌개 - Kimchi Stew) for Two

Printable Version (Recipe Only)

To make kimchi jjigae (TCHEEgeh), you really should use ripe (as in sour) kimchi.

You could make it with the fresh stuff, but that's not what this dish was invented for, which was to get rid of the kimchi that's been fermenting just a little too long when you've got huge earthenware jars full of fresher stuff still waiting to be eaten.

And because it's jjigae or stew, you don't want it to be all that soupy. Jjigae is meant to be thin enough to give you the occasional spoonful of intensely flavored piping hot broth to eat with your rice, but not so soupy that you could drink it.

This recipe is easily doubled if you'd like more servings. Just need a bigger pot. ;)

Easy Kimchi Jjigae
Makes 2 servings.
Time: 45 minutes
Printable Version

- 2 cups ripe kimchi
- 1.5 cups sliced pork shoulder (but you can use other protein)
- half an onion, sliced into roughly 1/4"thick pieces
- 1 serrano or jalapeño, sliced
- 5 dried anchovies of shrimp (You can sub a teaspoon of fish sauce or omit this component altogether if you have neither.)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1.5 cups water

*If you're going to eat this with steamed rice, best to get the rice started before you start on the jjigae.

1) Put all ingredients in a small pot (if you don't have the little earthenware pot like I used, you can use a medium saucepan.)

2) Turn the heat to medium high until it's actively boiling, uncovered, for a couple of minutes. At that point, give a few gentle stirs to evenly distribute all the ingredients.

3) Turn the heat down to medium, put lid askew, and let continue simmering for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the kimchi is soft and tender.

4) Depending on how much salt is in your kimchi and how the salt concentrated during cooking, you might want to adjust the seasoning about 5 minutes before it's down, adding salt in pinches, or fish sauce in dashes, to taste. Or, if too salty, adding just a little bit of water to dilute.

5) Enjoy with steamed rice. :)