Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer's Best flower

One of summer's most special and beautiful edible flower is the squash blossoms, with  more than 20 varieties with different shapes and colors to choose from. We can enjoy this delicacy raw, pickled, sauteed, deep fryed or however we prefer it.

This warm season specialty can be easily found at farmer's markets, but if you have your own garden don't be afraid to pick them for your enjoyment. Just keep in mind there both  female and male squash blossoms and only the females turn into a squash. How to tell the difference? Females grow in the center of the future squash and male ones are the numerous flowers that grow from long stems.

When preparing them to be consumed, they are two important steps to follow:
- carefully check for any insects inside 
- with the help of tweezers remove pistil off the center of the flower

All this information is going to be very useful for the delicious treat I have for you today, as I just got a freshly picked batch of squash blossoms from my Dad's farm.

We are going to be stuffing them with ...wait for it....goat cheese! But not only that, we are also going to be making a delicious and very Hispanic escabeche to give it more flavor and color.

- squash blossoms
- goat cheese
- chives and epazote finely chopped
- hot chili pepper, chopped
-salt and pepper

For the escabeche you will need:
- olive oil
- white onion, julienned
- cubanelle pepper, julienned
- tomatoes, cubed medium size
- garlic glove, minced
- capers
-salt and pepper

With a damp towel clean the squash blossoms, making sure to check for bugs and carefully taking the pistil out and set  the blossoms aside.

In a bowl combine the goat cheese, chives, epazote. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Carefully fill the squash blossoms and if needed secure with a wooden skewer. Save for later.

Next, we are going to make the escabeche. In a hot saute pan pour olive oil and saute onions, then add garlic and cubanelle pepper and let cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes and let cook. Remember to season with salt and pepper (you can even add a drizzle of lime juice to kick it up notch). Before removing from the heat add the capers.

Right before serving saute the already stuffed blossoms.  Serve over  the escabeche and surprise your guess with this treat.

You can serve it as an appetizer or as a side dish to a meal.

** I kept the recipe measurement free so you can adapt it to your liking!

'till next time

Monday, August 8, 2011

Guest Post: Marnely's Baklava!

Hello amigos!

Here at la cocina kitchen we are excitingly starting the week with a truly delicious sweet treat by one of my closest friends Marnely Rodriguez from cooking with books.

I don't even know how to introduce her, she is crazy by default (good happy crazy), funny (she should have her own stand up comedy show), talkative (talks like theres no tomorrow), pastry chef (runs in her genes), great writer (types like a 1960 secretary...NON STOP). Marnely is just a great friend, writer and pastry chef that pushed me start my blog, so for me is a true honor to have her do la cocina kitchen's first guest post ever.

I hope you all enjoy it and be sure to visit her awesome blog and then come back here for more.

Hello La Cocina Kitchen readers! As you know, I'm Nelly from over at Cooking with Books, almost like La Cocina Kitchen's sister! Francys and I have been friends for the past 7 years and our love of food is what has kept us together, cause God knows we've had our ups and downs! I came over here to share with you one of my favorite and very indulgent desserts: Baklava.

A sweet pastry made of delicate fillo sheets, melted clarified butter, nuts and sugar, a tiny piece of this will satisfy your sweet tooth perfectly. A great end to any meal, it's also a nice treat to bring along to dinner parties and get togethers (just be cautions of nut/gluten allergies).

Do I recommend you make your own fillo dough? No. Seriously, who does that? Raise your hand. If you do, than email me and I will send you praise and admiration. Making fillo dough takes time and a lot of effort, for something that is already done for you: perfectly cut, rolled out and packaged for you to use, why go through the trouble? You won't ever make it as perfect as the companies that sell it, so...what's the point? For the challenge? Oh well, than by all means, go challenge yourself!  I haven't seen, heard of, or worked at a bakery or restaurant were we had to make fillo dough. But I digress, here's the baklava!

1 fillo package (you'll use 1/4 of it, but save the rest for a rainy day!)
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar

  1.  Make clarified butter: Place butter in saucepan and melt. Let sit and with the help of a spoon, skim the top. These are the dairy solids of the butter and you want to remove them. Keep skimming while slowly simmering the butter. Some solids will float to the bottom, so don't disturb the pan much. After you've done this, slowly strain through cheesecloth or a small strainer and reserve.
  2. In your food processor, pulse nuts, sugar, and cinnamon. About 5-7 pulses is enough; you're looking for small chunks, not a powder. Reserve.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  4. Cut fillo sheets to fit your mold. The sheets don't need to be perfect, you can play jigsaw puzzle and make a large sheet out of a few smaller sheets. 
  5. Dip a brush into your butter and brush the pan. Layer on fillo and brush each layer with butter; layer about 5 sheets and then sprinkle nut mixture evenly. 
  6. Repeat 5 more layers of fillo and butter; sprinkle more nuts. Do this until you run out of nuts! 
  7. With a sharp knife, cut through layers into squares or triangles before baking. Place in oven for about 30-40 minutes, until nice and golden brown.
  8. During the last few minutes of the baklava in the oven, make a syrup out of the water and sugar. For added flavor, steep cardamom pods or cinnamon sticks in the syrup.
  9. As the baklava comes out of the oven, re-cut where you previously had cut and drizzle syrup over it while still hot. This will allow it to absorb all the gorgeous syrup.
  • Use your favorite nuts!Pistachios, Hazelnuts or Pine Nuts; any of them work and would definitely put your signature touch on it.
  • Spice it up: with so many spices out there, you can add pretty much anything you love. Nutmeg or a scraping of vanilla bean in the nut mixture would be great.
  • Add a teaspoon of Rose Water or Orange Blossom Water to the syrup to infuse a new flavor!

Hope you enjoyed this recipe and you can come over to Cooking with Books for more recipes! Follow me on Twitter @nella22 or Like the Cooking with Books Facebook Page!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Braised Goat Meat

Hello friends!
This weekend Dominican Republic was celebrating fathers day, and the fam and I spent the weekend non stop cooking. Among all the delicious things we cooked  there was a special one that I brought to the table, one I had been wanting to cook for a while now...Goat meat!

Goat is a very traditional and loved dish by Dominicans, you can find different styles and recipes in every region of the country, all delicious in their own way.

I have been thinking about cooking goat meat for a while now, that's why I  recently joined Creative Culinary Goaterie goat challenge, which for me is not a challenge but a great opportunity for people all over America and the world to share their anything or everything goat recipes.

 Braised, salted or fried goat meat is a part of the dominican culture, so its not hard to find it here. You can go to the local markets to find fresh goat meat or simply go to the supermarket where they always have it, and if you are wise you would ask the days they get it fresh.
But is not always the same situation in other countries, my recommendations is to go to Latino or Jamaican markets and bodegas where I'm sure you would find it and if not they would tell you where they usually get it. Another helpful source to find out where you can buy goat meat locally is the internet, where you can find meat directories as Get your goat to find where to buy it near you or even buy it online and have it deliver to you door, as you can do at AGBASE.

How ever you get it, now you can prepare this delicious and easy Dominican style braised goat meat or as we say it in full dominican chivo guisao. Here it goes.

You can accompany this with rice, mash potatoes or sweet potatoes, a nice freshly made flat bread or even with mash plantains  "mangu" as we call it here. What ever you have it with I know you are going to love and enjoy this delicious, saucy and fork tender goat meat.

'till next time

2 pounds of goat
1 tablespoon of dry oregano
3 garlic cloves
1 medium white onion julienne
1 medium cubanelle pepper in strips
1 ripe tomato medium diced
1 teaspoon of Tabasco hot sauce (optional)

Clean and let water run through the meat (if the bones have marrow, try pushing it out and save). Season the goat meat with all the ingridients and work throroughly. Let marinate for 3 to 4 hours. 

Heat up a large sauce pot and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil. Start getting the meat in the pot slowly and over high heat. Make sure to reserve the vegatable and marinte juice.
The meat is going to release a lot of liquid. Let it cook in its own liquid until it reduces completely . After it reduces add more water, enough to cover the meat and let reduce completly again. Repeat this 2 to 3 more times until meat its tender. Let the last water you add reduce only half way and then add the vegetables, the bone marrow if you have it and the marinate juice. Let cook for 5 to 8 minutes more. You want the meat to be fork tender and for it to have a lot of sauce.