Posts tagged ‘cayenne’

October 5, 2013

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

Living in Houston I’ve learned that Texans LOVE spicy, hot food.  They serve everything with a side of Tabasco or hot salsa that makes your forehead sweat, and it’s already hot enough without the spicy food.  Eggs, steak, salads, burgers… everything is bursting with heat.  I spent my first few months in Houston downing gallons of milk every time I attempted to conquer the red salsa at our local Mexican restaurant.  Sadly, I never succeeded.  But in an effort to enbrace my new home I’ve tried to incorporate some spice into my classic recipes to satisfy my friends cravings.

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

The thing I like about these cookies is that they don’t immediately smack you in the face with heat, it gradually hits at the end and lingers ever so slightly.  I didn’t want to mess with a classic too much, but I do think this takes a traditional oatmeal cookie to a more grown up level.  The cranberries add to the chewy texture of the oats and give it an added sweetness needed with the earthy spices. I purposely left out cinnamon, usually a staple in oatmeal cookies, as I didn’t want it to mask the other spices. 

The secret ingredient in these cookies is grains of paradise, a spice native to West Africa. I crushed the grains with my mortar and pestle which released the most heavenly aroma — a combination of black pepper, cardamom, coriander and citrus with a lingering scent of something floral and woodsy.  If you crack one between your teeth, the flavor follows in much the same order as the aroma.  If you only get one thing from this recipe I hope it’s an introduction to this wonderful spice.  The floral, peppery flavor is going to make a wonderful addition to just about all your favorite foods.  Your grilled steaks, fish, vegetables and potatoes will thank you.

If you’re looking for something a little more special, pop two cookies in the oven at 350 for a few minutes and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a perfect ice cream sandwich. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you are adventurous)
  • 1 tsp. grains of paradise
  • 1 tsp.  baking soda
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Place nuts in a small pan and toast on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  As soon as they become fragrant take them off the heat and space them on the side to cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cayenne, grains of paradise and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugar, and vanilla until the mixture changes color and becomes a smooth, pale white… this is what you want so you have light, fluffy cookies.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  7. Add oats, pecans and cranberries and stir until mixed well.
  8. Scoop dough on to ungreased cookie sheets, I use a mini ice cream scoop to make it easier.  I also spray the spoon with pam so the dough doesn’t stick.
  9. Bake for 8-10 more minutes until the cookies are golden brown
  10. Let the cookies cool on pan for 1 minute before placing on wire rack.
  11. Enjoy!

 

January 22, 2012

Texas Chili

When I started dating my boyfriend, born and raised in El Paso Texas, there was one point in our relationship when it was almost over.  It was a chilly California evening, and I was preparing dinner while he opened the latest Netflix (which we have cancelled due to their price increase – bastards!).  Beer in hand, I started to serve up my warm chili, excited as ever to dig in.  This is when the evening turned… I had made the ultimate Texas blunder.  A mistake that could not be rectified… I had put BEANS, yes, I said it, BEANS in the chili!  WHAT?!?  I was then lectured on the fine making of chili and the short list of ingredients that qualify to be a part of this dish (beans was not one of them).  Needless to say, he ate it.

I learned my lesson, and have over the years perfected my bean-less chili with just the right amount of heat and spice.  I’ve experimented with many combinations of chiles, most of which were new to me after moving to Houston, and have been delighted by the variety of flavors I can unearth.  This chili develops a hidden smoky flavor, not like barbecue, but a delicate heat with warmth and spice from Anaheim chilies, cayenne and a touch of jalapeño.  The subtle sweet tomato and flavorful tender meat warms you from the inside out.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 1 tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  • I yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 jalapeño, finely diced with seeds removed (leave the seeds in if you like it hot)
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, finely diced with seeds removed
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 3 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. jalapeño powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chile and garlic
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Grated cheddar cheese (topping)
  • Sour cream (topping)
  • Onions (topping)

Method

  1. Heat a large, heavy bottom pan on the stove on medium with a tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  2. When the pan it hot, add in diced onion and cook on medium for 5 mins
  3. Add garlic, jalapeño and Anaheim chilies and cook additional 5 mins until onions are translucent
  4. Add in ground beef and brown meat, use a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces and turn occasionally until brown on all sides.  The meat will continue to break up as you cook it but this helps it along.
  5. Brown meat, then add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, jalapeño powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir to coat the meat evenly
  6. Add cans of tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper paste and water and stir
  7. Bring the chili to a low boil and reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes
  8. Add sugar and flour and stir.  Cover again and simmer for another 30-40 minutes
  9. Taste and see if you need to add more salt/pepper.  Be light-handed, you can always add more, you can never take it out. (TIP: you happen to add too much salt, the one thing that might help save your dish is to add some sugar.  It helps to mellow it out and remove some of the acidic flavor)
  10. Top with cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream and serve in a large warm bowl

 

September 27, 2011

Spiced Squash Seeds

I’ve always loved Halloween time because of the abundance of pumpkin seeds I get to toast up with hot spices, cinnamon and sugar, or just plain olive oil, salt and pepper.  But it wasn’t until this past weekend that a friend mentioned how good spaghetti squash seeds work.  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before, and I immediately began thinking of different combinations and flavors.

I settled on something spicy.  The seeds paired well with the citrus, rosemary salad served by my boyfriend’s mother; it added a nice crunch and just the right amount of heat.  We left the rest of them out as a small snack and they were devoured within minutes of coming out of the oven.  Have fun with these, and please share your winning combinations.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup squash seeds, cleaned and dry (about 2 squash worth)
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Method

  • Preheat to 375
  • Clean and rinse seeds, pat dry with paper towel and place in small bowl
  • Coat seeds with olive oil, then add spices and coat the seeds evenly
  • Line a baking tray with foil
  • Spread out seeds so they aren’t overlapping
  • Place in oven for 15-20 minutes and toast until slightly golden brown
  • Let them cool for 5-10 minutes before serving

Serve them with some cheese and wine, pack them for an afternoon snack, or put them on top of a salad… enjoy!

September 25, 2011

Seared Petrale Sole

Growing up in San Francisco I was lucky to have access to come of the best fish in the country, one of my favorites is Petrale sole.  It’s a lean white fish about ½ an inch thick, with a mild favor that’s easily enhanced with mild spices and warm butter.  Petrale sole is exclusively found in the Pacific Ocean, but it’s close relative the Dover sole is more common on the east coast.  Both are beautifully delicate fish, perfect for a light dinner as we near the end of summer.

The key to cooking fish is cook it fast and don’t mess with it.  Fish already has great flavor, so I try to keep my methods and spices simple as to not overwhelm the natural taste.  I like to add a little touch of heat with either red pepper flakes or cayenne, but be light handed.  Good luck, and I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Petrale sole
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • Slice of lemon for garnish

Method

  • Mix flour, semolina, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper on a shallow plate.  I find it easier to dust the fish on a plate vs a bowl, and you also use up less flour in the process.
  • Preheat non stick frying pan to medium-high heat and add butter and olive oil
  • While the pan heats, lay the fish in the flour mixture and coat evenly.  It’s not like a batter, so it won’t be a thick layer, just an even dusting
  • Once the butter begins to foam, add fish and cook for 3 minutes
  • Flip and cook an additional 3 minutes.  Petrale sole is very thin, so it doesn’t take long.  You’re looking for a golden brown color on either side, which will give it a nice crust
  • Remove from pan and serve with a salad and potatoes

While I always encourage grilling, I would recommend it in this case.  Petrale sole will fall apart on the grill as it usually comes without skin and won’t stand up on the wire rack.  Leave grilling for something more hearty like salmon or tuna.

September 8, 2011

Alicia’s Chicken a.k.a Pollo de la Bandera

I tend to do most of the cooking in our house, but my boyfriend definitely has a few secret recipes up his sleeve.  This is one of them.  He made this for me when we started dating, and I loved it so much I forgo the tortillas all together so I could get a healthier portion of chicken.  Alicia, a family friend, taught him this recipe, which he later shared with me once it passed the taste test! Its true name is Pollo de la Bandera, “Mexican Flag Chicken”, because the green cilantro, red tomato and white chicken make up the colors of the Mexican flag.

The best thing about this recipe is it’s almost impossible to mess up. The chicken always comes out perfectly tender and moist, and you don’t need to fuss over it.  Just stick it on the stove and leave it alone, could that be any easier?  Of course, I encourage you to experiment with the spices, I LOVE cumin so I tend to go a bit crazy with it, but if you prefer something else go for it!  I’d love to hear your ideas.

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 pound chicken
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 diced large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Corn tortillas

Method

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil
  • Place whole chicken (with skin), peppercorns, salt, and half the onion in boiling water.  Leave it on a light boil for 1 hour with the lid on (start on high and then lower to medium once the water returns to a light boil)
  • Remove chicken and discard cooked onion.   Let the chicken cool and make sure to reserve the chicken stock.  You will use some of the stock in the recipe and the rest can be used throughout the week
  • Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the chicken with a fork.
  • Heat a large skillet on medium; add oil, left over onion, and a sprinkle of salt.
  • Add the minced garlic once the onions are translucent and cook an additional minute.
  • Add chicken and sprinkle with cumin, paprika and cayenne, and mix until the chicken is coated in spices
  • Add 1/2 cup of stock (or more as needed) and diced tomatoes
  • Simmer on stove for 5 mins and garnish with cilantro
  • Warm a few corn tortillas in the microwave.  Place the tortillas in a clean damp cloth and heat for 20 seconds.
  • Fill the tortillas with chicken and serve with a side of salsa or sour cream.
  • Enjoy!

I used the left overs in an omelet the following morning, throw a little cheese on top and you’ve got yourself a gourmet breakfast!

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