Mexican Day at SFYI

Friday March 25th

Today I was given the reins  of the kitchen. It was my job to plan the menu and make a list of all the ingredients I would need.  Cooking for 20 plus is no easy task. A lot of planning and effort is required.   I knew that I wanted to have a vegetarian meal but I also had to cater to everyone’s pickiness’s . I went back and forth deciding what I should do but I finally settled on Mexican food.  I was eager for this day to come but unsure how the crowd would respond to my food.

I kept the food pretty mild and only used a few Jalapeños.   From the re-fried beans, which are un-heard of in France, to the homemade tortillas, everything was exceptional and fresh.  I had never done homemade flour tortillas before so I did a practice batch on Wednesday. When I got the approval from a few students, I knew I was off to a good start.  Today was one of the first days that all of the plates were empty at the end of the meal!

So what did we make that could have been so good?

Homemade Tortillas

Two cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
3/4 cups of water

1.Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil.
2. Slowly add the warm water. Stir until a loose, sticky ball has formed.
3. In the bowl, knead the dough for two minutes. You know that the dough is done when it is soft yet firm.
4. Place a damp cloth on top of the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
5.After the dough has rested, break off 3 to 4 ounce pieces of dough and roll each piece into a ball.
6. Place them on a plate, cover them with a damp cloth and allow to them rest for 10 more minutes.
7. After the dough has rested, one at a time place a dough balls on a floured surface, with a rolling pin, roll them out into circles that are about 1/8 of an inch thick.
8. Heat a non-stick pan, wipe it was an oiled paper towel and put the tortilla on. Heat the tortilla for about 45 seconds and then flip it. You want it to be a little brown but not burnt.

Re-fried Beans

1 recipe of homemade beans. See musical fruit post.
2-3 medium onions
1 ½ carrots
½ cup of olive oil
1 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2  jalapeños
2 teaspoons of paprika
Dried Epizota

  1. Dice the onions and carrots.
  2. Heat a pan and sauté the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil . When they start to turn translucent, add the carrots.  When the carrots become soft about ten minutes, add the jalapeños, epizota, salt, pepper, and paprika.
  3. Sauté them for a few minute and then add some of the bean liquid and oil. This is very important. When the liquid starts to boil off mash the beans with a masher.   When all the liquid has dissolved add more liquid and mash the beans or puree them with a blender or hand mixers.
  4. Return the beans to the stovetop, adjust the seasoning and serve.

Vegetable Fajitas with Lime Sauce

3-5 Red peppers
3-5Red Onions
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil for rubbing onto the veggies

1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. If you have a broil setting use it. It browns the veggies faster.
2. Cut off the tip of the onions and peel them. Cut the onions into rounds and leave the peppers whole. Cover the onions and peppers with a bit of olive oil.
3. Put the veggies into the oven and cook them for about 10-15 minutes. At this time, take the peppers out and flip the onions over.
4.  Remove the seeds from the peppers and cut them into long strips. Once they are baked, they are really easy to work with but a little juicy.
5. Remove the onions from the oven.
6. Put the peppers and onions onto a platter or into a bowl and cover them with the lime sauce.

Simple Lime Sauce

3-4 Limes
4 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 ¼ teaspoons of brown sugar
1 jalapeno chili, seeds removed
1 ½ tablespoons fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon of salt
¾ teaspoon of pepper

Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, the garlic, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, jalapeno, salt and pepper.  Once it is mixed taste it and then set it aside.

Spanish Rice

Making Spanish rice is similar to cooking a risotto or paella.

2-3 medium onions
½ cup of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
2-3 bell peppers
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
14 ounces of chopped tomatoes
2 cups of Paella Rice
2-3 cups of warm vegetable stock

  1. Dice the onions. Sauté them in oil until they are translucent.
  2. At this point add the peppers and garlic.  Cook the peppers until they are soft.
  3. Then add the tomato paste, and chopped tomatoes.
  4. When the liquid starts to boil off, add the rice and sauté it for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add a few ladles of vegetable stock and give the rice a few stirs.  Repeat this process every 5 minutes for 20 minutes and they rice should be cooked al dente.

Guacamole

5 avocados
1-2 juiced limes
2 cloves of garlic
1 -2 teaspoons of cumin
1/8 cup  of fresh cilantro
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

Take the avocados out of their skin and place them in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mash up the avocados.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Sweet Corn

3 cups fresh corn kernels
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 minced shallot
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper to taste.

  1. Preheat an oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Toss the corn with oil and spread it out on a large baking sheet.
  3. Bake, until some kernels begin to brown.
  4. Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.
  5. Add the corn. Mixed well and serve warm or cold. Both options are good

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Posted in Ethnic Foods, Lunch, Vegan | 7 Comments

Delectable Almond -Chocolate Bars

In this recipe I call for Whipped or Creamed honey. This is honey that has been processed to control crystallization. It contains a large number of small crystals and has a creamy and spreadable texture.  I believe that this honey makes the rice puffs stick together better than regular (unprocessed) honey.

In these bars the coconut oil has a notable taste. It is not overpowering but if you have access to coco butter, I recommend using it instead of coconut oil because coco butter has taste that is more akin to the rest of the bar and it will blend right in.

The Bars

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of Coconut oil
½ cup of whipped honey
½ cup raw almond butter
½ teaspoon of salt
4 cups of Rice Crispy’s


  1. In a pan heat the coconut oil over a low flame.
  2. Once it has melted, add the honey. When this mixture begins to bubble and smell delightful, turn it off and add the almond butter.
  3. Stir the mixture until the almond butter has completely dissolved.
  4. Now add the salt and mix again.   At this point, put the rice crispy’s in a bowl and pour half of the liquid mixture in.
  5. Stir well and then pour in the rest.

Now pour the rice crispys into a parchment covered or greased 9×9 baking pan and refrigerate it for 1 ½ hour or freeze it for 30 minutes.

 

Chocolate Topping

½ cup of dark chocolate 70 percent or more
½ teaspoon of salt

  1. When the rice crispys are close to setting. Start melting the chocolate. I did it in a pan over a “really” low flame and did it in increments. You don’t want the chocolate to burn or melt too fast.
  2. Start by breaking up the chocolate into small pieces and melting half of what you have.
  3. Once that has melted stir it and add ½ of what is left.
  4. When that has melted. Turn the heat off and add the remaining chocolate and the salt. This process of turning off the pan to melt the last of the chocolate is known as tempering the chocolate.
  5. Once it has melted, Pour the chocolate over the rice crispys and freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerated it for an hour or more.

 

Once the chocolate has set, cut the bar into pieces and serve. They will last in the refrigerator for a week.

 

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Posted in Chocolate, Snack, Vegan | 4 Comments

Indian Food

On Friday I assisted Fanny, one of the school’s chef’s in the kitchen. We made Indian food.  I don’t have much experience with Indian food but when you buy pre mixed spices, it’s pretty foolproof. We made sautéed spinach, Dal, fried cauliflower balls, coconut curry sauce, white rice, and roasted potatoes with green beans.   The base ingredients for the Dal, spinach, and sauce are really simple. We started out with equal parts olive oil, onion liquid, and ginger liquid. We bought the liquid onion and ginger but it is really easy to prepare at home. For the onions all you have to do is run them through the food processer for 30 seconds and (Walla,) you have liquid onions. The ginger you have to peel and then go through the same process.

Honestly after the liquid mixture has solidified, we used the same process of seasoning all three dishes as well.  9 ounces of chopped tomatoes, Garam Masala, which is a combination of many spices including: ginger, salt, peppercorns, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, etc and then we used extra salt, coriander and fennel seed.  Of course the curry received another curry mix and about 30 ounces of coconut milk.  Once all of these dishes were cooking, the work is pretty much over except for the occasional stirring so we went on to make the cauliflower balls.

These are a simple concept but you wouldn’t really think to make them.  The texture is akin to a falafel on the outside but the inside isn’t as crispy.  These are really easy to make the biggest problem is, especially when you are making a lot of them, rolling each individual ball.  There are ways around this, but when your not in your own kitchen, you don’t have the perfect sized cookie scooper.  You can use the two-spoon technique if you don’t want to get your hands dirty but this comes with a disadvantage; you can only roll one at a time. So I dug both my hands into the cauliflower mixture and roll out 2 simultaneously.  I almost forgot, How do you prepare the cauliflower mixture? Simple!

Put the grader attachment on the top of your food processer. Stuff each individual floret of cauliflower into the tube and gently press down with the press. Once you have graded all of the cauliflower or the food processer is full, dump the graded cauliflower into a bowl.  Follow the same seasoning procedure that we used with all the other stuff Garam Masala, salt, coriander, and fennel seed. Mix the spices into the cauliflower. Then add chickpea flour into the cauliflower. This is the crucial part.  As you are mixing, squeeze the cauliflower. You will notice that it will start to release water. At this point, heat a deep dish and fill it with sunflower or canola oil. You don’t want to use olive oil when you are frying something because its compounds change at high heat and it becomes a carcinogen.  Start rolling the cauliflower mixture into equally sized balls and then fry them. You want to make sure that the balls are brown but not chard. The easiest way to maneuver them once they are in the fryer is with a spider.  If you make a lot you will have to fry them in batches for best results. Once they are all cooked, serve them with the coconut curry sauce.

The Indian Food was really good. Although I would have liked some more variety in terms of the seasoning, given the circumstances, I couldn’t have ask for anything more. Everyone enjoyed the food and there are lots of leftovers for the weekend!

I will definitely do some more experimenting with Indian and other ethnic foods when I get back into my own kitchen in June. At which time, I will publish more thorough recipes.

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Posted in Ethnic Foods, Travel | 6 Comments

Barcelona

Like most modern European cities, Barcelona is very lively. To fully explore it you would need to spend a while there; however, I only had a day.  Just like a typical tourist, I carried my bulky Nikon SLR and a backpack.  Even though the Nikon is not very comfortable to carry around all day it took great pictures and added something to the experience.

Located only two and a half hours from the school, Barcelona was a day trip. We left early in the morning and came back late at night.  While there, we visited the Sagrada Familia, which is a very famous church that has been under construction since the late 1800’s .  People often ponder why the church has been under construction for so long.  We didn’t go inside because there was a 2 hours line but the detailed exterior was enough of an explanation. The architecture tells the story of the bible; it consists of animals, people, and designs all engraved into the very precious structure.  The other problem that faces this church is the funding.  No government or official church source has chipped in so all of the money is from private parties.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the church is under construction for another 10 or 20 years.  We continued to meanderer through the streets and ended up on La Rambla which is the main street where everything is located. From upscale shops, to street venders and gelato stands, to street entertainers, La Rambla is the center of Barcelona.

Half way down the avenue there is a market called La Boqueria. It is essentially a daily farmers market but it attracts large crowds and has a lot more to offer. There are multiple butchers, seafood purveyors, fruit and vegetable vendors, and nut/ chocolate sellers.  There are also great deals on liquor and wine and the sellers are knowledgeable on the wine flavors regions from which the wines come.  The other great thing about Spain is they don’t have all of the annoying taxes that the French government imposes so everything is cheap. I bought 40 dates for 1.5 euros, half a K.G of almonds and cashews for 10 euros, 2 chocolate truffles for a euro, and 10 fantastic bananas for 2 euros. The variety of produce is endless and all of the vendors are very friendly.

We will probably get back to Barcelona at some point in the next two months and I will have more to share. Until then, I enjoyed the time I spent there and I definitely recommend you visit at some point.

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Posted in Travel | 4 Comments

Life In France

I have been in France for almost a month now so it is definitely time for an update.  I am living in a little village called ‪Villesèque-des-Corbières. It is 20 minutes from the ocean and an hour from Spain. I’ll be honest there is not a lot to do here; most of the town belongs to vineyard owners and Parisians who come here for the summer.  The school has a garden and we also have our own free-range chickens. We are also in the process of getting a goat. The garden doesn’t have a lot of veggies growing in it right now but that is why we just expanded the planting area and planted seeds.  Currently we have broccoli romanesco, cabbage, beans, and lettuces that have been harvested and will continue to ripen for another month.  This past week we planted potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and carrots.  The garden is just a five minute walked from the school and someone goes every day to take the compost, feed the chickens and collect eggs.  The chickens usually lay 1 egg per day. However, when we did our garden expansion, we found a lot of worms in the soil and fed them to the chickens. Since then, some of the chickens have been laying two eggs a day! The eggs are delicious especially when you collect them while they are still warm and then do something with them right away.

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Posted in Travel | 11 Comments

Sushi

Sushi is fantastic for parties and for an every day meal. Rolling it is somewhat time consuming but each roll can serve a few people. Also, you can have half of your sushi in rolls and the other half in bowls. Sushi is very versatile so have fun putting whatever combination  of veggies and fish you like.  We use cucumbers, carrots, roasted sweet potatoes, avocados, and sauteed mushrooms.

 

SOY & SESAME DIPPING SAUCE

 

1/2 Cup Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons dark sesame Oil
1/4 Cup toasted sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Rice

2 cups sushi rice, White or Brown
2 cups water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

I usually use a rice cooker to make rice because it is super easy. If you don’t have one, you can make it in a pot too.

1.Rinse the rice well. You want to rinse it two or three times because it is very starchy. 2.Once the rice is cleaned to your liking, put it in a pan along with the 2 cups of water. 3.Turn the pan on. Once it reaches a boil, turn it down to a simmer and let the rice cook for 15 minutes, uncovered.
4.Once the rice is done, turn off the heat and cover it. Leave it alone for 10 minutes.
5. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and heat it  in the microwave for 40 seconds.
6.Transfer the rice into a large wooden mixing bowl and pour the liquid mixture on top. 7. Mix thoroughly to insure that each grain of rice is equally seasoned.

Assembly

1. Using a bamboo mat, place one sheet of nori in the center.
2.Dip your hands into a small bowl of water and rice vinegar.  This step is important to prevent sticking to the rice.
3. Spread the rice evenly into a very thin layer on the whole piece of nori.
4.Put the vegetables on the end closest to you.
5. Using the bamboo, roll the nori up like a jellyroll.  This is the easiest way to make sushi but you may develop your own version.  You can also try beginning with smaller pieces of nori and creating a hand roll.
6. Serve the sushi with the dipping sauce and everyone will love it.

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Beets and Potatoes with Herbs

1 bunch of beets- about 4 cups
3 to 4-fingerling potatoes- about 2 ½ cups
3 cloves of diced garlic
6 twigs of thyme
3 twigs of rosemary
¼ cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon of granulated sugar (optional)

  1. Pre heat an oven to 350 degrees.
  2. I don’t like beet skin and it is impossible to peel off after the roast since I cut them so thin, so I peel the beet. After you have done that, cut them and the potatoes into equally sized matchsticks.  Make sure to cut everything uniformly so that it cooks evenly.
  3. In a bowl, drizzle the oil and vinegar on top of the veggies.
  4. Sprinkle the herbs and garlic on top.
  5. Add salt, pepper, and the sugar.
  6. Mix the beets and potatoes around to ensure that they are all covered with the seasoning.
  7. Put them in aluminum foil and seal tightly. If you want them to cook faster put them in two different packages.
  8. Put the packages in the oven for forty-five minutes.
  9. When the timer goes off, you should be able to put a table knife through the veggies as easily as if you were cutting through soft butter.
  10. Serve while hot.

Note… If you don’t finish this dish in one sitting save it for the next day and add it to a salad.

Variation: In the springtime, add spring onions and asparagus to the mix.

Be sure you check out my new post on the Gardening Page

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Posted in healthy, Just Veggies, Side Dish, Vegan | Leave a comment