Fresh and Sweet: Tomatillo Salsa for Cinco de Mayo

Tomatillo sauce cinco de mayo

Tomatillos are a berry

I don’t love super spicy food. But, it’s Cinco de Mayo weekend – so spicy is the drill. To temper your spicy tacos, enchilada, burritos or whatever else you’re making, muchachas…Try this fresh and mild-ish tomatillo salsa.

Tomatillos are a berry. They come wrapped in a papery skin that needs to be removed and then they are sticky. Sounds gross. Isn’t. So just peel the skin off and wash them before using.

Fresh and Sweet Tomatillo Salsa (serves 6)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  • Make ahead and chill in the fridge to save pre party counter space for margarita making
  • Wash your hands WELL after handling the jalapeno – the oils on your hands from the pepper will burn your eyes or any super sensitive areas…nuff said

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium Tomatillos – peeled, washed and quartered
  • 1 jalapeno – remove seeds and vein if you want to diminish heat – quartered
  • 2 Garlic cloves – smashed
  • 2 small onions – quartered
  • 1 ripe Avocado – peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 TSP kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 TSP lime juice – just to freshen it up even more!

1. Put the onion, jalapeno and garlic in a Cuisinart food processor and finely chop

tomatillo salsa recipe

Love my Cuisinart

2. Add the tomatillos, avocado, lime juice and salt and pulse until chopped – but not totally smooth

avocado tomatillo salsa recipe

Add the green things

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cilantro

tomatillo salsa recipe

Stir in cilantro

Serve with the Skirt Steak from yesterday’s entry.

tomatillo avocado salsa recipe

Deliciously fresh salsa side

Adios! And, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

If Something Seems Simple, It Is Simple: Taco Soup

Taco Soup recipe el paso seasoning

Easiest Best Soup Ever

Before Super Storm Sandy hit, Chris Christie, New Jersey’s more than portly governor, held several press conferences. During one of the last ones preceding the storm, Chris said simply: If something seems stupid, it is stupid. His statement urged residents to stay off the beaches, move to higher ground, avoid downed power lines etc.

Tonight, we are hunkering down for what might be a significant winter snow event. In the suburbs such weather warnings result in a mad rush at the Stop ‘n Shop, Whole Foods, ShopRite, Price Chopper etc. In New York, we wonder which bars will be open and which restaurants might still deliver if the weather gets really bad.

In the event that (gasp!) restaurants, bars, etc. are closed at some point during the storm, you may want to prepare – You know, rent some movies, learn to knit, dust off the scrabble board…and, please have something ready to reheat and eat. So, you don’t really cook, like ever.

evansweather bill evans nyc abc 7 taco soup

ABC 7 Accuweather’s         Bill Evans

Don’t stress too much. Make something hearty that can sustain you and your crew through the storm…But, something that has ingredients easily accessible and something that’s more than simple to make. And, since Bill Evans, Lee Goldberg and the entire ABC7 Weather Team say that the storm will begin before we are up tomorrow…Please, make it today.

Paula Mac’s Taco Soup (Serves 8 – I know, a lot, but your doormen, neighbors etc. might be hungry too)

Ingredients:

  • rotel tomatoes for taco soup

    Ro*Tel

    2 lbs Ground Beef – 90/10

  • 1 Chopped Yellow Onion
  • 1 Can Kidney Beans
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Can Pinto Beans
  • 2 Cans Shoepeg Corn – Ho Ho Ho Green Giant makes one, but if you can’t find it, whole corn kernels are AOK as well
  • 2 Cans Rotel Tomatoes – in the Mexican Food Section
  • shoepeg corn green giant taco soup

    HoHoHo

    2 Packages of Taco Seasoning – El Paso makes this …I use less than the two packages to reduce spice

  • 1 Package Dry Ranch Dressing Mix – In the salad dressing area
  • 1 Heaping TBSP of Brown Sugar
  • 3 Cups of Water

1. In a large stock pot brown the beef and chopped onion over medium heat

easy taco soup cold weather cooking

Simply brown meat and onion

2. Once browned, drain off the excess fat

3. And…This is the hardest part…. Drain and rinse the beans and add those to the meat/onion mix

mise en place for taco soup

Simple Mise En Place: Can you open a can? You can make this soup

4. Drain the corn and add to the pot

5. Open the packages of taco seasoning and Ranch dressing mix and sprinkle over the meat, beans and corn

taco soup taco seasoning recipe

Simply Sprinkle in the dry stuff

6. Open up the cans of Rotel Tomatoes and pour ’em in

7. Add the brown sugar

8. Pour in the water

9. Stir to combine

taco soup recipe easy cooking

Simply BTB/RTS

10. BTB/RTS (Bring to boil, reduce to simmer) and Simmer covered for 1 hour

11. Let the soup cool…then put it in the fridge overnight. This allows the flavors to all meld together and for the soup to thicken a bit

12. Rent some movies, get all other hunkering activities done…..When ready to serve, reheat the soup over med/low and serve

13. Serve with shredded cheddar or Jack / Cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips

taco soup recipe easy hearty

Simply Garnish with cheese and sour cream

In all probability, NYC won’t be hit that hard with this storm. In any event, it’s a good idea to follow CC’s advice and if something looks stupid, it is stupid. You know what’s stupid? Having nothing to eat if you are stuck inside is stupid. Luckily, you don’t need to panic about starving in the event that you don’t cook and the weather is worse than expected. Paula Mac’s taco soup is not only hearty, impressive and delicious, it seems simple because it is simple.

Subway Spanish And Indulgent Chicken Enchiladas Suiza

enchilada cuida green chiles mexican cooking

Oven Ready

When I first moved to NYC I lived in Brooklyn and commuted each day on the subway to midtown. The :20+ minute ride on the subway each way gave me time to read all of the ads on the trains. Not only did I learn that Dr. Jonathan Zizmor could help with anal warts and fissures (uhm…ewww) but I also picked up a little subway spanish. See, back then a lot of stuff on the subway was translated from english to spanish.

I learned very important phrases like ‘No Se Apoye Contra La Puerta’ = ‘Do Not Lean Against The Door’

and ‘No Pasar Entre Los Cochas‘ = ‘Do Not Pass Between Cars’

Very good information to know in any language.

decision subway campaignBut, I think the best spanish language lessons I ever received were from Julio and Marisol, the main characters in a then AIDS awareness campaign, ‘The Decision’ / ‘La Decision’.

La Decision was a cartoon soap opera that ran in both english and spanish. Every few weeks a new episode was released and we followed Marisol, Julio and their family and friends through the challenges of protecting themselves against HIV/AIDS.

Because the english and spanish versions ran side by side, I was able to read and memorize the spanish while comparing it to the english translation.

In ‘The Decision: I’ the dialogue in spanish goes something like:

chicken enchiladas suiza

Good Choice, Marisol

Marisol: Te amo Julio, pero si tu me amas, tu usas un condon.

An infuriated Julio responds: Un condon!?! Un condon! No!

Ultimately, Marisol wisely determines that though she loves Julio, she doesn’t love him enough to die.

There aren’t as many spanish translations on the subway anymore. A shame because I feel like I’ve maxed out the use of the three or so phrases I do know. I mean how often can I tell people not to lean on something?

I miss those La Decision cartoon episodes whenever I ride the trains now.

One big decision I have to face is how often to make super fattening, indulgent foods…

Warning: the following recipe is more than fattening…use sparingly.

Chicken Enchiladas Suiza (serves 6-8)

Small Space Smarts:

  1. It’s fried….so, your apt will smell like fried, but the aroma dissipates and is worth it. Use a deep pot when frying the tortillas to minimize fry splatter
  2. Buy the Goya Salsa Verde – yes, you can make your own, but it’s labor intensive and means more dirty dishes, expensive ingredients and hassle
  3. Use a rotisserie chicken – even in NYC the rotisserie chickens are more cost effective than buying and roasting a whole chicken or chicken pieces. Not to mention the rotisserie chix are better than you can make at home and time saving.
  4. Bonus – the enchiladas can be prepared well ahead of time and baked off later. So the work will be out of the way and your kitchen can be clear and cleaned when your guests arrive.

Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Cooked White Meat Chicken shredded (you can use dark as well – your call)
  • goya salsa verde enchiladas

    Let Goya do the work

    mild green chiles la preferida

    Roasted, Peeled and Diced

    1 4oz can La Preferida Mild Green Chiles – roasted, peeled and diced

  • 1 jar Goya Medium Salsa Verde
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Cups heavy whipping cream…you can use half/half as well, but not whole or skim milk
  • 12 Corn Tortillas – 8 inches in diameter – the medium sized ones from Mission work perfectly here
  • Vegetable or canola oil for frying – do not use Olive Oil
  • 2 Cups Monterrey Jack Cheese – shredded
  • 3-4 Green Onions – chopped
  • Sour Cream and Salsa as Condiments

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

1. Shred the rotisserie chicken and put into a bowl

Price Chopper rotisserie chicken enchilada

Carne de pollo blanco

2. Pour the chiles and salsa verde over the chicken and mix well. Your hands are your best tools here – so dig in and mix!

enchiladas suiza chiles le preferido brand

Add the Canned Chiles and Salsa Verde

mixing chicken enchiladas suiza

Mix with Las Manos (those are not my hands)

3. Mix together the whipping cream and tsp of salt in a round baking dish – pie plate or similar would work nicely here

chicken enchiladas suiza

La Crema

4. Fry the tortillas in 1 inch of very hot oil just until blistered and limp. Try not to over-fry because the tortillas will then be hard to roll

fried flour tortillas for enchiladas

Tortillas Frita

5. Drain the fried tortillas on paper towels and blot to remove excess oil

6. Dip the fried tortillas into the cream/salt mixture

7. Place the fried and cream dipped tortilla onto a flat work surface and add about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture in a line to the center of the tortilla

chicken enchiladas suiza

Enchiladas Del Balanceo

8. Roll fairly tightly

9. Place the enchilada into an ungreased 9×13″ pan, flap side down

chicken enchiladas suiza nestling

Nestle the enchiladas

10. Repeat until all 12 tortillas are stuffed and rolled and nestled into the pan – depending on thickness, you may have to use two pans

nestled enchiladas suiza

Final Nesting Place

12. Pour the remaining cream/salt mixture over the rolled and nestled tortillas

13. Sprinkle the cheese over all of the enchiladas

14. Sprinkle the sliced green onions over the cheese

enchilada cuida green chiles mexican cooking

Oven Ready Enchiladas Suiza

15. Bake in the oven for :20 mins…until the cheese is melted and the enchiladas are well heated and bubbly

chicken enchiladas suiza out of the oven

Del Horno

16. Serve with a garnish of tomato salsa and sour cream…and refried beans and spanish rice on the side

I know this recipe says ‘serves 6’….but they really are rich, creamy and delicious and each of our dinner guests needed just one or one and a half. It depends how much chicken you put in each enchilada.

La Decision Uno here might be to make these enchiladas just once or twice a year. I wish I spoke more Spanish, because all I can tell you is that if you eat these enchiladas too frequently, you may not want to apoye contra la puerta – or against anything else.

Billy Doesn’t Like Cheese: Customized Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna with a ‘no-cheese’ zone

My friend, Billy, is, in his own words, ‘freaked out’ by cheese. He’s not allergic, it just ‘freaks’ him out. I find this particularly odd because of my intense love for cheese. All cheese. Even stinky cheese, soft cheese, hard cheese, moldy cheese. I love cheese. I even have a place in my heart for Kraft American Cheese Slices – that would be atop a greasy beach burger. You know, the ones made on the flat top griddle at the beachside or poolside snack stand by the guy you had a crush on in high school?

So, when this past weekend we decided to make Mexican Lasagna and Billy told me we could make the lasagna, but that he didn’t eat cheese, I was a bit taken aback. Uhm, first of all, he dissed my bff, cheese. Secondly, lasagna is like layers of meat and cheese.

And, what about the rest of us cheese-eating people who would be at the dinner? Why should we suffer and sacrifice just because one extremely fit, hot, gay guy says ‘no’ to cheese?

Luckily, I’ve come face to face with a picky eater or two in the past. One of my friends is an occasional vegetarian. Another eats no corn – you don’t want to know. My mother avoids all garlic. So, we formulated a plan that would satisfy everyone and made:

Customized Mexican Lasagna serves 6 (with a cheese-free Billy-Zone)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees

1. In a large skillet or saute pan, heat 2 TBSP of Olive Oil and saute one whole yellow onion, diced.

2. Once the onion is fragrant and slightly translucent, add 1 – 1 1/2lbs each of Ground Dark Meat Turkey and Ground Breast Meat Turkey (Billy doesn’t eat red meat either) and brown the meat. Once browned add salt and pepper to taste and 2 TBSP of chopped, fresh parsley and stir in.

Turkey Browning with Onions – Onions should be more translucent

3. While the turkey is browning, heat 1 small can of Enchilada Sauce in a small skillet over medium heat. You can make your own, but the nice people at Old El Paso will do it for you:

Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce

Heating Enchilada Sauce for Mexican Lasagna

Enchilada Sauce heating

4. Once the enchilada sauce is gently simmering but not boiling, add a tortilla one at a time and let soak in the warm sauce for about 1 minute. (We used corn tortillas…Billy doesn’t eat flour)

Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce Softening and Flavoring the Tortillas

5. Layer the bottom of a lasagna pan with the soaked tortillas. You will need 6 per layer for a total of 18 needed. This will depend upon the size of the tortillas and the size of your lasagna pan.

Messy Base Layer of Soaked Tortillas

6. Add a layer of 1/2 of the cooked ground turkey, onion, parsley

The Ground Turkey Layer

7. On top of the turkey, add 1/2 – 3/4 cup of  a combo of shredded Cheddar and Jack Cheese. BUT, Keep an area free of cheese for Billy – see Cheese-Free Zone on the Left of the Pan.

Mexican Lasagna with Cheese-Free Billy-Zone

8. Repeat …On top of the second layer of turkey and cheese, add a final layer of Enchilada Sauce Soaked Tortillas and top with the remaining shredded cheese

9. Cover with tin foil and bake for :30 mins. Remove tin foil and bake for an additional :10 mins.

10. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for :10 mins before serving

Mexican Lasagna with Cheese-Free Billy-Zone. On the table.

We served the Mexican Lasagna with sides of homemade spicy queso and homemade guacamole. Everyone seemed happy – especially, Billy, who ate his entire cheese-free zone.

I don’t really understand how people can live without cheese, but I cherish the differences like these that make life, and cooking more interesting. No cheese? No meat? No garlic? No corn…No problem.