Enchiladas Verdes with Tomatillo – Chile Sauce

I’ve never been a big fan of “convenience foods” (blame it on my childhood diet of bologna sammies on Wonder Bread). And the more I learn about nutrition and our profit-driven food system, the more I want to make EVERY DARN THING from scratch.

Take canned enchilada sauce, for example. Looking at the label of a mainstream brand, the first ingredient is water, followed by dehydrated chiles, modified food starch (yum?), and my personal favorite, cottonseed oil. So canned enchilada sauce is essentially lightly spiced water tainted with frankenfoods. Not to mention it tastes like the can it comes in, which makes me wonder if the sauce itself is tainted with metal. When you go to a Mexican restaurant and order enchiladas are they ever in that dreadfully thin, maroon, metallic sauce? I sincerely hope not!

Making your own enchilada sauce is not difficult, and you’ll end up with a product that is not only actual food (cool!), it tastes fresh and delicious, too. Make this large, six cup batch and freeze two pints for later use. The total cost per pint of this sauce was around $3.00.

Green Enchilada Sauce:
*makes 6 cups*

2# peppers and/or chiles (I used Hatch chiles, but Poblanos, Anaheims, or a mix would be great, too)
2 large yellow or white onions, large dice
2# tomatillos (about 12 medium tomatillos), quartered
6-8 medium cloves garlic
1 C. water (or substitute 1 C. cream for a rich and creamy version like Enchiladas Suizas)
about a dozen sprigs of cilantro, stems included
juice of 1 lime
2 tsp. coarse salt

Preheat your grill to medium high and your oven to 375 degrees. Roast the chiles or peppers over direct heat on the grill until blistered and soft, about 4-5 minutes per side.  Alternatively you can roast them over the burners of a gas stove, turning regularly, or directly under the broiler.

Roast the chiles - Enchiladas Verdes with Tomatillo – Chile Sauce

Once the chiles are well charred over about 80% of their surface, transfer them to a paper bag and fold the top over so make a seal.  Set them aside to cool while you roast the veggies.

Chop the onions and tomatillos and peel the garlic cloves, leaving them whole.  Spread them all out onto a large sheet pan and roast, dry, in the 375 oven for 30 – 35 minutes total, stirring once about halfway through cooking. When they are ready they will be very soft and some bits and corners will have started to become dark brown.  Set the mixture aside to cool while you peel the peppers.

After steaming in the bag, the skins should slip off of the peppers quite easily.  Remove as much of the skin as possible, and then open them up and remove the seeds and any stringy pith.

Transfer the peppers to a blender along with the onion, tomatillo, and garlic mixture.  Add the water, cilantro, lime juice, and salt, and puree until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Taste to be sure you have enough salt.

The mixture can now be cooled and transferred to storage containers.  The sauce will last up to one week in the fridge or for several months in the freezer.

For the Potato, Vegetable, and Cheese Enchiladas:
*makes one 9×13 baking dish*

1 medium organic Russet Potato, peeled and medium diced
olive oil
1/2 a small red onion, small diced
1 red pepper, small diced
1 medium zucchini, medium diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
S & P
8 oz. Monterey Jack Cheese, grated (about 2 loose cups)
12 – 14 Food For Life Sprouted Corn Tortillas or substitute fresh, local tortillas
2 C. green enchilada sauce (recipe above)

 

Place the diced potatoes into salted, cold water and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 5-7 minutes or until just tender and then drain. In the meantime, chop all of your veggies.  Heat a wide saute pan over medium heat and add your olive oil.  Saute the onion for 2-3 minutes until tender, seasoning with a good pinch of salt.  Add the red pepper and zucchini and cook a few minutes more until the zucchini begins to soften.  Lastly, add the minced garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool.

Once the potatoes and veggies are cool enough to handle, transfer both to a large bowl and toss together will all but one handful of the grated cheese. Season to taste with salt.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. To assemble the enchiladas, spoon 1/4 C. of the green sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish and spread just to coat. To make the tortillas easier to work with, remove them from their package and wrap them in a slightly damp kitchen towel (paper towels are fine, too).  Microwave for 45-60 seconds or until the tortillas are soft and pliable.

Working with one tortilla at a time, spoon 2 heaping spoonfuls of filling into each tortilla (nice and full!) and roll up, placing it seam-side down in the pan.  Continue until all of the tortillas and filling are used up, placing them snugly in the pan together.

In the Pan - Enchiladas Verdes with Tomatillo – Chile Sauce

Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, cover tightly with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbling.  Remove the foil and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the enchiladas.  Baking them for an additional 5-15 minutes based on your preference (just 5 minutes and they will remain nice and soft, 15 minutes and they will begin to crisp around the edges. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

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Rye Sourdough Starter

I have been wanting to experiment with long-fermented breads for some time, but summer seemed like the wrong time to begin the project, what with all the great weather and outdoor activities I would surely be enjoying. Fortunately (perhaps), the summer started out so despicably hot in Chicago that I spent most of my time pureeing gazpacho and re-watching Frasier episodes in my air-conditioned apartment.

As I watched the grapes coming on in the backyard (through the window), I remembered that Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery made her sourdough started using grapes, and that memory was all I needed as motivation to finally begin a sourdough starter of my own.

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Stone Fruit Dinner Party

Several months back my friend Mr. King, an exceptional photographer, suggested we pair up for a blog post. I would make some delicious food (with the help of his lovely wife, Mrs. King), and he would photograph the dishes. I was thrilled because the truth is that I struggle when it comes to taking photos for the blog. I don’t always know which recipes will turn out nicely enough to warrant a post, so the need for a photo is often a last minute decision that involves me running around the house trying to figure out where I left the camera before the food gets cold. For every decently composed, top-down shot of my Le Creuset full to the brim with some bubbling sauce, there are 25 other ridiculous photos in which the food is unrecognizable or the lens is steamed up with chicken stock.

Needless to say, I was thrilled about Mr. King’s idea and set to work coming up with  the perfect menu. The results are, if I do say so myself, pretty spectacular. And the food wasn’t too shabby, either!

My goal was to keep the menu seasonal, local, and simple. Peaches, nectarines, and plums from the Green City Market were the focus, alongside a succulent hunk of pork shoulder from Faith’s Farm, beautiful baby mustard greens from Growing Power, sopressata salami made at Publican Quality Meats, and Prairie Fruits Farm Goat Cheese. The dinner was made complete with a buttermilk ice cream, championed by Mrs. King herself, which provided a perfect balance of richness and tanginess. I’m sure you’ll agree the images are beautiful, and I hope they inspire you to create something wonderful in your own kitchen.

Stone Fruit Dinner Party

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Braised Goat Stew with Sofrito

Today’s recipe is for a rich and flavorful braised goat stew. Goat is certainly not a dinner mainstay in the U.S., but it plays a major role in the cuisines of many countries the world over including Mexico, Europe, and the Caribbean.

Goats are known for being a little nuts – they like to climb things (other animals included) and they’ll try and eat almost anything (see photo of a goat attempting to eat my windbreaker below). But before you decide that eating a goat is uncivilized or the the meat is “too gamey”, let me remind you that feedlot meat is no substitution, ethically nor flavor-wise, for any pasture-raised animal.

Little Tummyrumblr - Braised Goat Stew with Sofrito

I find it depressing that as a nation we tend to eat a lot of really bland food. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, American cheese, and feedlot beef come to mind. To some of us, foods like lamb, liver, and traditionally aged cheeses have a reputation of being too rich or even unhealthy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only are these foods incredibly flavorful when compared to their industrially produced counterparts, they are also healing to the body. The milk, fat, organs, and connective tissue from animals that eat a natural diet is full of beneficial minerals and many other compounds that are difficult to get from other sources in our diet.

The last several decades have been dominated by mass-produced foods that have less flavor as well as reduced nutritional value. The widely held belief that corn-fed beef is more delicious than pastured beef is one example of the the “dumbing down” of our collective tastes due to the influx of low-quality food to our society. If you’re not yet on board with naturally-raised meats, do yourself a favor and drive I-5 through Northern California and get a whiff of the Harris Ranch feedlot operation. I guarantee you, you won’t want to eat a burger without knowing where it came from for a long time.

Next time you visit your Farmer’s Market, talk to your farmer.  Buy what’s good, fresh, and in season, and ask about a CSA or meatshare, both of which will save you money and make preparing a dinner from scratch much easier to pull off.

If you’re here in Chicago, think about contacting my hardworking farmer, Paul, or visiting Mint Creek Farm at the Green City or Logan Square Farmer’s Markets. Both raise goats (and lots of other great things) in an ethical a manner as is possible.  Remember, every dollar you spend on food is a vote for a sustainable (or non-sustainable) food system.

Braised Goat Stew with Sofrito

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Seaweed & Vegetable Salad

A few weeks back there was a woman in front of me in line at Whole Foods and her cart was half-full of dried seaweed. “What do you do with your seaweed?”, I asked, hoping she might offer some recipe inspiration. “I actually just eat it right out of the bag”, she replied. That option hadn’t occurred to me, so when I got home I pulled out some of the seaweed that had been gathering dust in my pantry and gave it a whirl. No dice. There is not enough saliva in the world to get me to eat dried seaweed on the regular.

Most of us know how incredibly good seaweed is for us, but how many of us really incorporate into our diets regularly? I love to order a seaweed salad at a Japanese restaurant with my sushi, but they are often overly sweetened and they rarely offer much variety. For today’s recipe, I created a three-seaweed salad with radishes, carrots, scallions, and a lemon-sesame vinaigrette. When life gives you dried seaweed, make seaweed salad.

Seaweed & Vegetable Salad

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Lime and Pepper Lamb Chops

Lime Lamb Chops, you say? As peculiar as that may sound, lime is the perfect addition to this recipe because lamb has a bold flavor that pairs best with other bold flavors. That’s why lamb is often served with mint jelly and a glass of high-octane Zinfandel. Strong flavors are best alongside other strong flavors – that way nothing gets lost in the mix.

That’s not to say that you can’t have a glass of white wine with your lamb if you desire, but it does mean that any delicate flavors in that wine will likely be made undetectable as soon as you take your first bite. Thankfully, we don’t always drink wine for its flavor alone. I like to think of wine as nature’s Xanax and lamb as nature’s vitamin pill. Eating lovingly prepared homemade food and drinking good wine can and should make you feel great!

Lime and Pepper Lamb Chops

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