Chipotle Mozzarella Cheese Spread for a World Cup Game

Chipotle Mozzarella Cheese Spread was just added to my list of different ways to use one of my favorite Mexican chiles, the fiery smoked jalapeño in adobo sauce. Company will be here soon to join us as the U.S. play Ghana in its bid for the World Cup. A two-ingredient dish is the key for getting a quick snack on the coffee table.

Keeping up with my blog and the World Cup soccer games — and everything else in my life — is proving a challenge. More quick meals and snacks are coming out of the kitchen so that few games are missed. Am I crazy to watch so much TV? The World Cup is only once every four years, I keep telling myself. Yes, I probably am crazy.

Chipotle Mozzarella  Cheese Spread

  • 1 lb. ( 438 grams) soft, fresh mozzarella cheese, drained, or any other soft cheese (see Notes below for suggestions)
  • 4 whole, canned chipotle chiles, or to taste

Blend cheese and chiles in a food processor until smooth. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with multi-grain crackers.

Chipotle mozzarella cheese spread on whole grain crackers

Notes:

Any soft cheese could be used instead of fresh mozzarella. Goat cheese, cream cheese or Mexican queso fresco or fresh panela would be just as good.

This spread would make an attractive topping piped onto cucumber slices or in cherry tomatoes for a fancy canapé, though served with a good, whole-grain crackers is more my style.

Update: Two days later, I saw Russ spreading Chipotle Mozzarella on crackers, and then topping them with a dab if guava jelly. I tried it — what a great taste combination with the hot and the sweet. The next day, I used the remainder in omelets with a filling of sautéed zucchini, onion and potato. Another winner. I’ll have to make Chipotle Cheese Spread again soon, if only to have left-overs to use in quesadillas and in lieu of compound butter on a hot slice of tenderloin of beef.

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Chipotle Deviled Eggs

Chipotle Deviled Eggs became another dish added to my list of “What Can I Add Chipotle Chile To and Not Ruin?” Not only were the eggs not ruined, they were so good that this will be the only way I make deviled eggs from now on.

Chipotle Deviled Eggs

  • 1 dozen hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise, preferably homemade
  • 1 tablespoon seeded, finely minced chipotle chile with adobo sauce
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro leaves and ground paprika for garnish

Halve eggs and carefully spoon out yolks. With the back of a spoon, press yolks through a sieve. This step is worth doing, as it results in a very smooth yolk mixture.

Blend sieved yolks with mayonnaise, minced chipotle chile and salt. Spoon or pipe yolk mixture into egg white halves. For piping, use a pastry bag and a large star tip — I used an 11 mm. sized tip. You might be rolling your eyes at this suggestion. I know — sometimes a recipe can be too tedious. If piping egg yolks is not your bag (bad pun!) your deviled eggs will be just as good if the yolk is spooned, not piped. All piping does is make the deviled eggs look fancy, but sometimes the plate is emptied so quickly, it doesn’t matter, anyway.

When yolk mixture is divided evenly among egg halves, garnish with a cilantro leaf or two and a dusting of ground paprika. Chill until ready to serve.

Here is where I am missing a photo. The FIFA World Cup game between Japan and Denmark had already started, and I didn’t want to miss the beginning. In my haste, I missed an opportunity to snap a picture of our lunch plates. Your imagination can make up for my haste. Picture a white plate piled high with romaine lettuce and radicchio leaves that have been tossed with homemade blue cheese dressing. Around the salad on each plate are four Chipotle Deviled Eggs and eight slices of very ripe, very red tomatoes. A cool lunch for a hot day. Japan won, 3-1.

Notes:

A fail-proof way to hard-boil and peel eggs: Put eggs in cold water in a covered pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the water reaches a boil, turn down the heat to the lowest possible setting and set the timer for 9 minutes (this is the time for sea level; if you live at a higher elevation, increase the time accordingly). As soon as the time is up, drain the pan and place eggs in a bowl of ice water with 3-4 ice cubes. Immediately take out the eggs one at a time, crack the shells on the counter and return to the ice water. As soon as the eggs are cool enough to handle, start peeling them, leaving the remaining eggs in cold water while you peel. If an egg is difficult to peel and the shell does not want to come away from the egg, put it back in the bowl and peel it under water. The peeled eggs can stay in the cold water until cool.

Low cooking heat results in a tender yolk and the timer prevents sulfurous eggs. Even eggs that cook a few minutes too long can have an unsavory green-gray color on the outer yolk. I’m asking for trouble if I try to cook hard-boiled eggs without a timer.

If you are fortunate enough to have freshly laid eggs, they will not peel easily until they are at least three days old.


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Fish tacos in Mexico, Baja Style, with recipes for chipotle tartar sauce, Mexican sliced cabbage, pickled onions and avocado salsa

Fish tacos have been on my dinner plate for three consecutive days and on my mind even longer, but blogging has taken a back seat to the World Cup. This is my first attempt to “speed blog” and get a fish taco post up before the next soccer game in one hour. I think I can do it.

From what I have read about fish tacos, I learned they became popular on menus in Baja, and spread to the mainland of Mexico, perhaps following the tourists. Fish tacos prepared in the Baja style are now all over the west coast of Mexico. This way of preparation involves an easy beer batter, sliced cabbage, pickled onions, avocado salsa, and thin mayonnaise and sour cream salsa. I’m sticking to tradition, except for substituting chipotle tartar sauce for the mayonnaise salsa, which is lackluster in taste when compared with the zing of chipotle chile.

At the La Cruz Fish Market, Martin recommended Chocho when I asked for a fish for tacos. Chocho? He saw me hesitate, but assured me it was a great choice. I had never heard this name before and don’t know what it is called in English. Here’s what it looks like.

Whatever it is, Martin always steers me right, and this was no exception. The fish was perfect for tacos, with great texture and flavor. If I can learn the English name, I’ll include it later. You probably won’t find chocho in your market, so ask your fish monger to make a recommendation. Please refer to the web page for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (see Links at top of page) for guidance in purchasing sustainable seafood choices or to The Pescatarian’s Dilemma.

Remember to trim out the dark strip of meat down the center of the fillet if it is present. Not all fish have this, but the mystery fish called Chocho does.

Baja Style Fish Tacos      12 tacos, serving 4 to 6

The elements for this recipe are chipotle tartar sauce, pickled onions, sliced cabbage, avocado salsa, corn tortillas and battered, fried fish. Garnish with lime wedges and chopped cilantro.

Chipotle Tartar Sauce Double the recipe found on the page for Fish Sandwiches.

Avocado Salsa — Process one avocado with canned, pickled jalapeños and pickling liquid in a blender until smooth. How much jalapeño and liquid is your call, depending on the heat level you like. I used  about 1/3 cup jalapeño with liquid, plus a few tablespoons of water to thin the salsa. (This reminds me of the story in one of Mary Francis Kennedy Fisher’s books about someone on the east coast of the U.S. receiving a box of avocados from California before they were well known in the east. She discarded all but the seeds, boiled them for hours, and then reported to the sender that they never did become tender.)

Pickled OnionsPeel and thinly slice one red or white onion, or both for an attractive color combination. Bring a small pan of water to a boil. Turn off heat, add onion slices for 30 seconds only, then drain immediately in a colander. For each cup of sliced onions, add 4 tablespoons of cider or white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of water, 1/4 teaspoon of Mexican oregano and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Vinegars can vary in their acidity, so test to see if your pickled onions need more water or vinegar to suit your taste. Stir to blend and let sit at room temperature for one hour or longer before serving.

Sliced CabbageBlend two cups of thinly sliced cabbage, green or red, with the juice of one small lime and salt to taste.

Prepare lime wedges, sliced tomato and chopped cilantro for garnish.

Beer-Battered Fish Fillets

  • 1 lb. (1/2 kilo) boneless white fish fillets, cut cross-wise if necessary so they are not more than 3/4″ to 1″ (20 – 25 mm.) thick and cut into 3″-4″ (75 – 100 mm.) length pieces
  • 1 cup (240 ml.) beer
  • 1 cup (240 ml.) sifted flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 12 warm corn tortillas
  1. Pour oil into a skillet to a depth of about 1/2″ (12 mm.) and heat until shimmering.
  2. Stir together beer, flour and salt.
  3. Coat fish pieces well with batter.
  4. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side, until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Time to assemble your tacos. Game time! Buen provecho!


Today’s catch at La Cruz Fish Market

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Range-Fed Ground Beef Patty for a World Cup Lunch

I had a hankering for meat today, something that doesn’t happen too often. So on the way home from my morning walk, I stopped at Kenny’s Carnicería, our local meat market in La Cruz, Mexico, and bought a half kilo of ground beef. Kenny’s meat is from cattle which graze on the fields outside of town until their time is up. Their only food is grass and they are uncontaminated by antibiotics or growth hormones.

After a number of years of being a pescatarian (a person who does not eat meat except for fish — it’s a real word), I’ve arrived at a point where I only eat meat from animals that have had a reasonably natural existence. (The same can not be said for the poultry and pork for sale in the stores here, so they never appear on my plate or on this blog.)

To completely change the subject, the highlight of my life most recently has been watching the World Cup on TV. Today’s match between Italy and Paraguay, the former being last year’s World Cup champion, and the latter being a very worthy opponent, has left me hungry. Maybe it was watching all these manly men run up and down the playing field chasing the soccer ball that left me hankering for red meat. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I have managed to eat coconut ice cream for lunch or breakfast for two days running. In any case, I needed meat.

My lunch was wonderful:

Four ounces of ground beef mixed with a teaspoon of minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce, a tablespoon of minced shallot and a tablespoon of olive oil (to add moisture) and formed into a patty which was sauteed in olive oil.

Accompaniments: a simple slaw of thinly sliced red cabbage, grated carrot and pepinas (pumpkin seeds), and dressed with a  squeeze of lime juice and a splash of olive oil; verdolagas (purslane) sautéed with shallots and garlic; and sliced tomato.

Before:

In between:

After:

Notes:

The ground beef from Kenny’s is so lean that oil needs to be added to the pan. This is typical of range-fed beef which lack marbling, i.e., fat. I worked a full tablespoon of olive oil into the meat before it was cooked, which resulted in a moist patty. Maybe I’m on to something here.

Another trick for cooking a moist hamburger patty —  don’t press the patty with the spatula as it cooks. All this does is  press out the juices. I don’t know why all the hamburger cooks of the world think this is the way to cook hamburgers.

Verdolagas, known as purslane in the English speaking world, has the distinction of having one of the highest, if not the highest, content of omega-3 fatty acids of all vegetables. The succulent leaves can be added raw to salads, or cooked in soups and stews. Purslane is considered a weed in much of the world, and might even be growing in your side-walk cracks or backyard. Verdolagas are found in almost every Mexican grocery store.

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Breaking loose with coconut ice cream

Smooth, creamy, soft coconut ice cream

I don’t know if eating homemade coconut ice cream for breakfast will impress my sister or not. When she read that Russ had headed north for a while and I was dining alone on Pureed Cauliflower with Watercress, she Facebooked, “Girl, you really know how to PAR-TAY. Personally, I’d go for something a little more decadent if I were batching it!” Nothing like a smart-mouthed younger sister to remind me she gave up following my lead decades ago. OK, hermana. Does eating homemade coconut ice cream for breakfast restore my street cred? Probably not, but boy, is it good.

After learning where to buy raw milk in town, milk from cows that graze in the nearby fields, cows who receive no antibiotics, growth hormones, shots of any kind or feed-lot feed, I have resolved to no longer consume ultra-pasturized, homogenized, chemical laden store-bought dairy products. I’m making yogurt. And ice cream. Later today, I’m going to walk over and buy a small wheel of their fresh cheese.

Coconut Ice Cream

  • 2 oz. (60 grams) dried coconut
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 ml.) vodka or rum (optional) or coconut extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml.) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 (360 ml.) cups milk
  • 6 egg yolks or 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml.) agave syrup or to taste
  1. Steep coconut in vodka or rum for 24 hours to make your own coconut extract. Alcohol will prevent the ice cream from freezing hard. If  you don’t want the flavor of alcohol flavor, use vodka.
  2. Bring cream and milk to just below a simmer over medium heat, being careful not to boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in agave syrup.
  4. Temper the yolks by stirring in half a cup of hot milk mixture into beaten egg yolks. Gradually add the yolks to the hot milk and cream, whisking constantly.
  5. Return to heat and continue to cook, stirring or whisking frequently. When you can run your finger across the back of a wooden spoon, leaving a clean line, the custard is cooked. Remove from heat and continue to whisk until temperature lowers so that residual heat does not continue to cook the custard, causing it to break. If it does break and you see small curds, whisk vigorously until the custard is smooth again.
  6. Add coconut and alcohol.
  7. Chill the mixture overnight in the fridge.
  8. Freeze in an cream maker following manufacturer’s instructions.

All the ice cream recipes now say to pack the ice cream in a freezer to let it “ripen” for a few hours before serving. After going through the effort to make my own ice cream, and adding alcohol to keep it soft, why wait longer to let it harden? I’m ready to eat it as soon as it is done, and I like soft ice cream, anyway.

Notes:

I can’t  compare different models, but I like my Cuisinart ice cream maker enough to recommend it if you are thinking of buying one. The canister needs to be frozen in a very cold freezer, and it does make a fair amount of noise, but it makes smooth ice cream in about 20 minutes and costs under $50.

Some recipes say that if the ice cream custard starts to break while cooking (because the temperature is too high), process it in a blender to make it smooth again. Don’t do it. The high heat of the custard will cause it to explode out of the blender, despite the lid being held on firmly, resulting in hot custard all over the kitchen and maybe on you. I speak from experience. A vigorous whisking by hand will smooth it out.

If you want a richer ice cream, use two parts cream to one part milk and use egg yolks instead of whole eggs. This recipe’s lighter version of Coconut Ice Cream has fewer calories, but is still outstanding.

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