Batter Licker

May 4, 2011

quick, one-pot tomato-chile sauce

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With just tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, a couple pantry-staple spices, one pot, and 25 minutes of hands-off simmering, this spicy, satisfying and unapologetically healthy tomato-chile sauce comes together and is ready to satisfy any number of your weeknight Mexican food desires.

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Toss it with some pasta, corn, and black beans, topped with a dollop of sour cream (or Greek yogurt) to enjoy a break from and simple variation of the standard weeknight spaghetti with marinara. Or enjoy it as you would any other tomato and chile-based sauce (enchiladas? wet burrito? mixed into scrambled eggs or potatoes? hot salsa and/or bean dip? chilaquiles?). But my personal favorite is using it as the sauce for a Mexican Tortilla Lasagna. (more…)

March 31, 2011

smoky black bean and spinach soup

A few weeks ago, Jay and I enjoyed a weekend in Bodega Bay with his five other former roommates from college and their significant others. After a late morning and early afternoon of local wine tasting, we ventured upon a cute little cafe (whose name now escapes me) for lunch. It was in that cafe that I made a fatal error: I did not order the black bean soup. But luckily, our good friend Matt was up for swapping bites, and that one spoonful inspired this post.

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Subtly smoky from cumin and smoked paprika and very creamy thanks to pureed black beans, the soup was also lightened by the fresh, raw flavors of lime, cilantro, tomatoes, and peppers that clearly contributed more than just a colorful garnish to the bowl. (more…)

November 16, 2010

mexican rice and fajita-spiced steak, poblano peppers, and onions

I grew up eating Mexican rice of the Rice-a-Roni quality. In other words, boxed rice and unknown spices + canned tomatoes + butter + water. It was delicious. But it was not Mexican. And I clearly didn’t know any better. But even if I had known better, I have forgiven the follies of my foodie-less youth.

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Fast forward a few years, and I’ve figured out that this Mexican rice wonder of my childhood can not only be made at home, but (not surprisingly) tastes way better than the romanticized Rice-a-Roni of yore. Plus, this rice can be made without any canned vegetables and with discernible spices that I always have on hand anyway, making it fresher and cheaper than the boxed stuff.

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Because rice was always the highlight of Mexican feasts growing up, whether in my super plain bean-cheese-rice burrito or as a side dish to any number of restaurant main courses, I like to say that I “know” Mexican rice. That may or may not be true, but I have been exposed to a wide variety served everywhere from fancy Mexican joints to chintzy taco shops. (more…)

November 15, 2010

creole jambalaya

I love spicy foods, and when I have some peppers and onions left over from fajitas, jambalaya is a good way to make use of these veggies and other pantry items I always have on hand. Plus, jambalaya mixes it up a bit so the leftover-friendly dish has some bite without having the same Mexican flavor profile and doesn’t seem quite so left over.

Compared to other spicy, complex, and delicious Southern creole dishes, such as gumbos and étouffées, jambalaya is much simpler and less time consuming to prepare. But it still looks and tastes incredibly flavorful and much more labor intensive than it is, which is never a bad thing.

While there are several types of jambalaya out there, the creole variety is my personal preference. Not that I’d turn down a cajun jambalaya, but there’s something about the tomato-based creole version – probably the acidity of the tomatoes – that just really balances the spice intensiveness of this dish.

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Jambalaya is typically made with rice cooked directly in the sauce, but I usually do a pasta version. Pasta not only cooks faster than rice, but penne rigate is particularly fantastic for this dish because the ridges add texture and really catch more of the sauce. (more…)

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