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2011 - Volume 1 Issue 1
¡Comidas Sabrosas!
Entertaining at Home
Article: Bob Skolnick
Photos: Jesse Ramirez,
             and Bill Faulkner
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When planning your menu, summer is time for fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. Our menu for this edition of Ventanas – Comidas Sabrosas highlights a full spectrum of fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. We selected our appetizer to take advantage of the savory flavor of fresh mushrooms stuffed with artisan style cheeses. The salad is simple but takes advantage of the early season lettuce, cucumbers and asparagus. Our entree is completed by a southwest guacamole filling and served with a fresh vegetable coulee. The aside offers a bouquet of vegetables and the dessert captures many different fruit flavors to finish the dinner party with a palate of pleasing fruit variations.
  Click on any "Casual Summer" course below to reveal or hide its cooresponding recipe.

• Appetizer - Stuffed Mushrooms Lorraine - Serves 6

  18   each   white fresh mushrooms, medium size
  1   pint   chicken stock
  9   oz   Rondele or Boursin, soft cheese
  6   oz   roasted garlic
  6   oz   minced caramelized onions
  4   oz   minced cooked bacon
  12   oz   grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
  To Prepare Stuffed Mushrooms Lorraine
  1.   Remove the stems from the mushrooms and rinse lightly, removing any dirt.
  2.   Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a wide bottom sauté pan.
  3.   Place the mushrooms in the simmering stock, rounded side down. Cover the pan and remove from the heat. After 2 minutes, remove the mushrooms and drain on a paper towel. Keep at room temperature. You can save the chicken stock for use in another application.
  4.   In a glass or ceramic mixing bowl, combine the Rondele or Boursin cheese with the roasted garlic, minced caramelized onions, cooked minced bacon and grated Gruyer or Swiss cheese. Season with a little pepper or Tabasco sauce.
  5.   Once the cheese, onion, bacon and garlic mixture is fully blended, let it sit at room temperature until ready to finish your Mushroom Lorraine appetizer.
  6.   An hour before the guests arrive, fill each drained mushroom cap with the cheese mixture, rounding the top but not covering the edge of the mushroom cap. Sprinkle a little paprika on the top of each cheese-filled mushroom.
  7.   Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake the mushroom caps in a 350-degree oven for about ten minutes or until the interior of the filling is hot. Serve immediately upon removing from the oven.

• Starter - Cucumber and Asparagus Salad - Serves 6

  3   each   cucumber, medium size
  24   each   green asparagus spears, fresh
  2   each   romaine lettuce heads
  6   oz   yogurt, plain
  6   oz   sour cream
  1   each   lemon, large
  1   cup   cilantro, minced
  1   tsp   sumac seasoning
  2   cups   chicken stock
  6   each   cilantro sprigs
          salt and white pepper to taste
  To Prepare Roast Cucumber and Aparagus Salad
  1.   Trim asparagus to a 3-inch tip and stem, peel stem if necessary. (Save the remaining asparagus stalk for your vegetable coulee to be prepared for your menu entrée.)
  2.   Simmer the asparagus tips in the chicken stock until tender, but not fully cooked. When tender, remove the asparagus tips from the stock and place on a platter to air cool.
  3.   In a mixing bowl, combine the yogurt and sour cream with the minced cilantro, the sumac and the juice of one lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, cover and refrigerate over night to let the ingredients blend.
  4.   Peel the cucumbers, cut in half, length wise, and with a spoon remove the seeds. Cut the cucumber batonnet style (1⁄4 inch by 3 inches). Season lightly with salt and lemon and set aside in a mixing bowl.
  5.   Remove the outer leaves from each head of romaine. (Save them for your vegetable coulee.) Take your center romaine hearts and trim the stem end and cut each head into four long wedges. Wrap each wedge with a damp paper towel and set aside.
  6.   Add the blanched asparagus tips to the cucumber batonnets, add several ounces of the yogurt lemon dressing to the asparagus and cucumber mixture and toss until all are covered with the dressing.
  7.   Place the romaine wedges on the individual chilled salad plates. Spoon on the yogurt dressing over the center of the romaine. Then spoon on several ounces of the cucumber and asparagus mixture.
  8.   Garnish with fresh cilantro.

• Entree - Chicken Breast Diego with Spicy Vegetable Coulee - Serves 6

  Chickent Breast Diego
  6   each   chicken breast, 6 oz, boneless and skinless
  9   oz   Monterey Jack cheese, sliced thin
  3   each   avocado, medium size
  5   oz   mayonnaise flavored with wasabi paste
  1 ½   cups   fresh tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
  1   box   panko breadcrumbs
  2   cups   flour, seasoned
  2   each   whole eggs, large
  1   pint   olive oil, virgin
          salt and pepper, granulated garlic to taste
  To Prepare Chicken Breast Diego
  1.   Scoop the meat out of the avocados and cut chunky. Place the chunky avocado in a mixing bowl with the minced onion, peeled and diced tomato and chopped cilantro. Add half of the wasabi mayonnaise and gently toss the mixture, keeping the avocado chunky. Refrigerate until ready to stuff the chicken breasts.
  2.   Place each chicken breast between two layers of plastic wrap and flatten with a mallet or cleaver.
  3.   Place the flattened chicken on a plate and season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Spread a light coating of the wasabi mayonnaise on the upside of each chicken breast.
  4.   Place 11⁄2 ounces of sliced Monterey Jack cheese on each chicken breast, on top of the light coating of the wasabi mayonnaise leaving a 1⁄2-inch space from the edges of the breast.
  5.   Place several tablespoons of the avocado mixture off center of the chicken breast, on top of the Monterey Jack cheese and spread slightly. Fold in the ends of the flattened breast and roll up into a roll.
  6.   Wrap each roll in clear wrap and place in the freezer for about 30 to 45 minutes to firm up.
  7.   Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees.
  8.   Place flour in a platter and season with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and the New Mexico
chile powder.
  9.   Crack and beat the two eggs and add a little cold water. Set in a bowl.
  10.   Spread the panko bread crumbs on a platter.
  11.   Heat the olive oil in a heavy sauté pan until hot, but not smoking.
  12.   When you are ready to cook, pull the six wrapped, stuffed chicken breasts from the freezer
and unwrap.
  13.   Take each rolled breast and coat lightly with the seasoned flour, then dip in the egg wash and roll in the panko bread crumbs. Make sure they are fully covered with breadcrumbs on sides
and ends.
  14.   Test the oil to make sure it is not too hot. Place three stuffed chicken breasts at a time in the hot oil and brown on all sides until golden.
  15.   When the stuffed breasts are browned, remove them to a foil-lined baking sheet. When all the chicken breasts are browned, place them in the oven and cook at 325 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and hold warm until ready to plate.
  16.   To serve, place several spoonsful of the hot vegetable coulee on the individual dinner plate. Take a chicken breast and with a very sharp knife, slice into 3⁄4-inch slices and place the slices shingled on the sauce. Garnish with a little fresh cilantro sprigs.
  Spicy Vegetable Coulee
  24   oz   chicken stock
  6   oz   canned diced tomatoes and juice
  6   oz   carrots, use trimmings from the coin vegetables
  1   oz   onion, chopped medium
  4   oz   yellow & white turnips, use trimmings from the coin vegetables
  4   oz   asparagus stems, use trimmings from the salad
  1   cup   cilantro, chopped fine
  3   each   garlic cloves, peeled
  1   each   jalapeño, seeded, trimmed and diced (use more jalapeños if you like it hotter)
  2 ½   oz   New Mexico chile powder
          salt and black pepper to taste
  To Prepare Spicy Vegetable Coulee
  1.   Bring the chicken stock to a rapid simmer in a heavy saucepot and add all the ingredients at
one time.
  2.   Cover and simmer for several hours until all vegetables are soft. Remove from the heat and let stand until warm but not cool.
  3.   Ladle the vegetable and stock into a blender and blend to liquefy into to a puree the consistency of maple syrup. Thicken with Wonder Flour™ if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  4.   Strain through a fine mesh strainer pushing the mixture through with the back of a spoon and hold hot in a double boiler pan.

• Aside - Arroz Con Achiote with Vegetable Coins - Serves 6

  16   oz   white rice
  2 ½   qts   chicken stock
  ½   cup   olive oil
  2   cups   minced onion
  3   oz   minced garlic
  3   each   carrots, fresh, large
  2   each   zucchini, fresh
  3   each   beets, fresh
  3   each   yellow turnip, fresh
  3   each   white turnips, fresh
  3   pkgs   anchiote powder
  ¼   lb   salted butter
  To Prepare Arroz Con Achiote
  1.   Peel the yellow turnip, white turnip, fresh beets and carrots. Cut off the stem end and the tips of each vegetable.
  2.   In a saucepan, heat a pint of the chicken stock and simmer with the yellow turnip, then the white turnip and then the carrots, cooking each separately until tender but still firm. Remove each vegetable as it finishes and set aside to cool. (Save the cooking stock for the vegetable coulee.)
  3.   In a separate pan, simmer the fresh beets in a small amount of stock until tender but firm. Set aside to cool and save the cooking liquor.
  4.   Cut the zucchini into rounds. Slice the cooked carrots into rounds just using the large end. (Save the narrowing end of the cooked carrot for the vegetable coulee.)
  5.   Take the turnips and beets and slice into 1⁄4-inch slices. With a round cutter, cut 1-inch round coins from each slice. Set aside the vegetable coins. (Save the trimmings from each slice for the vegetable coulee.)
  6.   In an oven-capable saucepan, heat the olive oil and then sauté the minced white onion until slightly browned, add the garlic and sauté for several more minutes. Add the white rice and sauté for another two minutes on medium heat. Next, add 11⁄4 quarts of chicken stock.
  7.   Add the 3 packages of anchiote power, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a rapid simmer for several minutes. Cover and place in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Test after 30 minutes and return to the oven if necessary.
  8.   In a sauté pan, melt the salted butter. When bubbling, add the zucchini and quickly sauté, then add the carrot, yellow turnip and white turnip coins until all are hot and remove to a platter. Then add the beet coins and sauté until hot.
  9.   To plate, mound the anchiote rice on the plate and put the vegetable coins around the base of the rice.

• Dessert - Orange Custard Fruit Cups - Serves 6

  9   each   small oranges
  2   qts   custard style vanilla ice cream
  3   oz   triple sec
  3   oz   orange extract
  3   each   kiwi
  4   each   strawberries, large
  1   cup   pineapple, fresh or canned tidbits
  2   each   bananas, large
  1   cup   blueberries, fresh
  To Prepare Orange Custard Fruit Cups
  1.   Cut each orange in half and with a small paring knife, cut around the orange pulp and remove the pulp, leaving 18 small orange shells. Trim the bottom of each of the orange shells so it sits flat. When all 18 are done, place them on a pan or platter covered with clear wrap and place them in the freezer.
  2.   Take the orange pulp and with your paring knife, cut around each segment, then cut the segments into small bits.
  3.   Trim the kiwi and cut into small bits. Peel the bananas and cut into small bits. Trim the strawberries and also cut into bits.
  4.   Take the vanilla custard style ice cream, divide it into three equal batches and place in chilled stainless or glass bowls. Divide the triple sec and orange extract equally between each bowl and mix into the ice cream.
  5.   To the first bowl, add the banana and orange bits, then blend and fill six of the small frozen orange-shell halves with the banana – orange custard. Return those six filled halves to the freezer.
  6.   To the second bowl, add the strawberries and blueberries, then blend and fill six of the small frozen orange-shell halves with the blueberry – strawberry custard. Return those six filled halves to the freezer.
  7.   To the third bowl, add the kiwi and pineapple bits, then blend and fill six of the small frozen orange-shell halves with the kiwi – pineapple custard. Return those six filled halves to the freezer.
  8.   Chill six salad plates. Place one of each type of orange custard cups on the six salad plates with a few whole strawberries.
  Kitchen Tips - Serrano Ham

The people of Spain are passionate about their hams, like Jamón (pronounced Ha-MON) Serrano. In Madrid, Jamón Serrano of all shapes and sizes adorns the walls of tapas bars. In the tapas bars, patrons enjoy small slices of Jamón Serrano with a glass of wine or Spanish Sherry.

Often Jamón Serrano may be compared to the Italian Parma ham, but in fact they are quite different. A good Prosciutto de Parma is delicate, soft, sweet and succulent. A good Jamón Serrano has a wonderful aroma and is pungent and somewhat spicy. The color is rose with a bit of fat marbling and an outside fat coating.

Redondo Iglesias, located in the Valencia area town of Utiel, is one of the few Spanish firms authorized to produce and export Jamón Serrano for the American Market. The company is centuries old and the curing process handed down for centuries is the secret to the finished Jamón Serrano.

The Redondo family only uses fresh sea salt harvested along the Spanish Coast to cure the Jamón Serrano. The fresh pork is salted and held for 10 to 18 days in a cold room. The salt is then washed off and the Jamón Serrano is moved to a hanging room at 45 degrees to dry further. Then it is moved to a warmer temperature of 65 degrees for the final stage of the curing. The goal is to draw out moisture and concentrate the flavor. Air movement is also important to the curing process. A good Jamón Serrano will age 12 to 14 months or longer.

Garlic - A Vegetable for All Seasonings

In its raw state, garlic can be quite pungent and emits a strong odor. In its cooked form, it is mellow and often buttery. Garlic is my favorite seasoning (even though garlic is a vegetable, I still call it a seasoning).

There are over 500 varieties of garlic. In grocery stores we are typically exposed to the soft-neck variety and occasionally find Elephant garlic. Garlic is available year round, but its prime season is in June and July.

Do not refrigerate your garlic, just keep it in an open container in a cool dry place. For maximum flavor, peel your garlic cloves daily as you need them to cook.

In the raw state, the degree of pungency has a direct relation to how you cut and use the cloves. Often, garlic cloves are used whole, peeled in dishes. The resulting cooked flavor is mild. Slicing increases flavor, dicing even more, and for maximum flavor release, the clove can be smashed with the blade of your French knife.

Garlic can be roasted and used as a seasoning for salad dressings, breads and sauces. Take the full bulb of garlic, level the bottom and then trim off the top far enough down to expose the tops of each clove. Cut a square of aluminum foil, place the trimmed bulb face up in the center of the foil and drizzle a little olive oil on the bulb. Fold the edges to make a sealed pouch. Place the garlic pouch in a 350-degree oven and cook until the garlic is soft. Remove from the oven and let cool until warm. Remove the bulb from the foil, placing the olive oil in a little dish. Grab the cooked garlic bulb and squeeze out the cooked garlic cloves.

Fennell - The Uncommon Vegetable

    Here’s a simple salad use
of fennel:

• 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
and quartered

• 2 oranges, trimmed and
cut into supreme wedges

• 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• Juice from one lemon

• Juice from one orange

Toss the fennel quarters
and orange supremes in a
glass bowl with 1⁄4 cup of
extra-virgin olive oil, juice of
one lemon and one orange.
Season with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Let
stand under refrigeration for
several hours. Toss and
serve on a trimmed romaine
leaf. Garnish with sprigs of
Italian parsley.

A Mediterranean favorite, fennel is a staple of Italian Cuisine. Fennel is both an herb and a vegetable. In its herb format, fennel is grown mostly for its seeds. Typically, what you see in stores is the vegetable variety. Often available year round, its prime season is fall to spring.

The entire vegetable can be eaten. The fronds make an excellent garnish, the stalk often is used for flavoring of soups and sauces. The bulb is the primary portion for consumption and can be sautéed as a vegetable or eaten raw as a salad.

In the raw state, it has a slight hint of licorice. In the cooked state, it takes on its own soft flavor. Fennel is often paired with seafood and compliments well with both white flesh fish or crustaceans.

5 Basic Herbs For Seasoning

Parsley - This herb is mild in flavor and can be a little acrid when eaten raw. There are two types of parsley, the curly leaf which is a favorite in Europe and the flat leaf version, often called Italian parsley. The stems close to the leaves are edible and should be used. The stems that are thicker at the bottom of the bunch can be used to flavor stocks or in the bottom of roasting pans.

Thyme - Leaf thyme comes in many varieties but the most common is lemon thyme and English (garden) thyme. Lemon thyme gives a subtle citrus flavor and aroma. Lemon thyme mates well with salads and seafood. English thyme is most common for use in soups, sauces and braised dishes. Thyme leaves should be removed from their stems. This can be done by grabbing the spring at the top and pulling backwards.

Oregano - Oregano is associated with Greek, Italian and Mexican cuisines. Greek oregano is often found dried and has a much stronger taste and aroma when used. Fresh oregano on the other hand is more subtle, adds well to many dishes and works in combination with other herbs such as basil, parsley and thyme. Oregano leaves should be removed from the stem and the leaves used as the enhancement.

Basil - Sweet basil has a subtle hint of anise and clove. In its raw state, basil can be strong. It is the essential ingredient for pesto and is a staple for flavoring Italian style tomato sauce. Basil dissipates with cooking and should always be added to the finish of a sauce or casserole dish. Dried basil is less pungent than fresh. Basil is delicate and the leaves brown easily. It should be used shortly after purchase or chopped and dried.

Rosemary - Rosemary’s pine-like flavor compliments both red meats and fowl. It also works well with breads. Rosemary is strong and can over power a dish if used in excess. When seasoning roasts, Rosemary needles can be removed from the stem or placed whole. Rosemary holds up very well under refrigeration. ///
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