Monthly Archives: May 2012

Homemade Corn Tortillas With Rajas Poblanas and Black Beans

Another Monday another Food Matters Project adventure.  This week our host, Jacqui, chose Beans and Greens Burritos–check out her beautiful blog:  Really inspiring photos and recipes.  To see a couple dozen variations on burritos, head to  The Food Matters Project site.

I decided to go the taco route for my beans and greens meal.  I visited the Super Mercado Mexican on Division Ave. in Grand Rapids and was happy to find a tortilla press (finally my tortillas won’t look like they have arms!) and some perfect avocados for guacamole.  I also bumped into some jicama and immediately knew what I was going to use it for:  jicama and pineapple slaw.  Finally, some tomatillos and some poblano peppers found their way into my basket.  It was so fun to make the homemade tortillas–they take just some masa flour, water, and a pinch of salt and about 3 extra minutes on top of the time it takes to prepare store-bought tortillas.  Having the press made the work quick and easy–much more so compared to rolling out the dough.

For toppings I offered:  roasted poblano peppers and onions with garlic and oregano, fresh tomatillo salsa, jicama-pineapple-radish slaw, black beans with cumin, guacamole, queso fresco, sour cream, shredded cabbage, and shredded chicken.  Jessie, Carrie and I piled our fresh, hot tortillas with our choice of toppings and dug in.  A great meal with great company to close the Memorial Weekend holiday!

Rajas Poblanas; adapted from June, 2012 issue of BonAppetit

  • 2poundsfresh large poblano  chiles
  • 1onion, quartered, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch  slices
  • 4garlic cloves, minced
  • 2teaspoonsdried oregano, preferably  Mexican
  • Kosher salt
  1. Preheat broiler and place chiles on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast, turning occasionally,  until tender and nicely charred all over, about 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer chiles to brown paper bag and close bag.  Let steam for 15 minutes. Peel chiles. Halve lengthwise; discard seeds. Cut  crosswise into 1/4-inch strips.
  3. Heat a large dry heavy skillet or cast iron griddle over medium-high heat. Add  onion; cook, stirring often, until beginning to char, about 10 minutes. Add garlic;  cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add oregano and salt to taste.
  4. Add chiles; cook until flavors meld, about 5 minutes.

Read More

Tomatillo Salsa

  • 2 cups chopped tomatillos
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 1 tsp minced garlic, or to taste
  • 1 fresh, hot chile, seeded and minced, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper

Place tomatillos and onion in a saucepan with water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Drain the water and let cool.  Puree tomatillos and onions and add remaining ingredients.  Let rest for half an hour to let the flavors meld.

Jicama-Pineapple Slaw

  • 1/2 cup pineapple, diced small
  • 1/2 cup jicama, grated
  • 2 radishes, grated
  • 1/8 cup cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • Salt to taste
  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit 1/2 hour for flavors to meld.

Simply Springtime

Ahhh….springtime  We are well into spring (and moving into summer quickly) here in Michigan.  What a perfect time of year.  Everyone is coming out of hibernation.  Neighbors reappear and porches fill up with people talking and laughing, enjoying happy hours and snacks.  I love the bonus day Memorial weekend gives…rather than crunching everything into 2 days, I have an extra day to use to relax and be spontaneous.  Today my meanderings took me to the newly renovated Fulton Farmer’s Market for the first time this year.  I ran into my favorite farmers, Devon and Chad, from Green Wagon Farm in Ada (They have shares and half shares!  Check them out at: and came home with some lovely sunflower sprouts, which turned into a quick lunch of thin crisps, goat cheese, and sprouts.

 I also came home with some delicious raw milk cheddar, blue and brown eggs, some Michigan asparagus, and a recommendation to check out a new documentary, Urban Roots (  Urban Roots is a documentary about the urban farming experimentation going on in Detroit.  Looks very interesting and very inspiring.

Today’s lunch reflected the spirit of my day:  simple and carefree.  It was a great reminder that the months ahead will be full of life and simple tastes.

Fruit Salad With Lime-Basil Dressing

Already week 16 of the The Food Matters Project!  This week was Mexican Style Fruit Salad with Grilled or Broiled Fish.  As you can already see, I didn’t make the fish.  And I went my own way and made a totally different fruit salad.  I posted this fruit salad with lime-basil dressing way back in the early stages of trying to start a blog (before a 1 and 1/2 year hiatus), when I had nary a clue about how to photograph food.  Apparently I didn’t even think to photograph my fruit salad so I jumped on this opportunity to make it again and give it the justice it deserved.  I have been having a great time learning how to photograph food and have had successes and failures, as you’ve seen.  I hope the photo of fruit salad does it justice because really and truly, you must try this fruit salad.  Do me a favor, do you a favor, do everyone you know and love a favor and make this fruit salad.  Fruit salad is perfect in its simplicity but this sweet dressing takes it to a place you never knew it could go.  You will want to make it this way every time.  And you can!  It takes an extra 3-4 minutes to make the dressing so just do it.

If you’d like to check out the Food Matters Project recipe for Mexican Fruit Salad with Broiled or Grilled Fish, go to Sarah W.‘s blog, Food and Frederick, and check it out–it looks wonderful.  The FMP group is a pretty spunky and innovative bunch so they have come up with some wildly delicious-looking variations on the recipe this week.  Check out their versions on The Food Matters Project website and be inspired.

Fruit Salad With Lime-Basil Dressing; Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, March 2008

  • 1/2 cup light agave nectar (you can substitute sugar if you don’t have agave)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime rind
  • 4 cups cubed pineapple (about 1 medium)
  • 1 cup quartered strawberries (about 1 pound)
  • 2 cups cubed peeled mango (about 2 large)
  • 2  kiwifruit, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 apple
  • 1 cup red or green seedless grapes
  1. Combine agave nectar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in basil and lime zest. Cool. Strain sugar mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
  2. Combine pineapple and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with agave mixture; toss gently.

NOTE:  You can use any fruit you want–the above fruits are suggestions only.

Sunday Dinner–Raw Vegetable Curry, Spring Rolls, and Raw Strawberry Shortcake

“Every beautiful thing has a natural pride in its own beauty, and today the world is allowing its pride to seep from every pore.” Albert Camus

This weekend was everything it needed to be for me.  I hung out at the beach with old friends, took long walks downtown, did yoga, did lots and lots (and lots) of yard work and ended the weekend with an incredible vegan (and mostly raw) dinner with Carrie and Abby.  Weekends like this make me feel that I have everything I need and more.  Maybe it is the weather or maybe I have just recently come out of a bit of a funk and feel like someone who wakes up feeling good after days of being sick.  For some reason I am bubbling over with gratitude for the life I have today.  At 30, I may not have everything I want but I have everything I need.  As I was walking up the beach on Saturday, it struck me that everything was perfect in that moment.  Of course there are always life’s difficulties and to-do lists (like the porch needing to be fixed, vacuuming to be done, a store I have been meaning to visit for 3 months, a report that needs writing, and trying to balance work-work, house-work, exercise, and fun).  But quite simply, what matters most was just right.  The weather was beautiful, I was walking at the edge of Lake Michigan with my feet being lapped by waves and I realized that I have a damned good life.  I live in a beautiful state where we are surrounded by water, dunes, woods, wildlife, and cool cities.  I have my health.  I have two arms and two legs, and everything else I need to experience the world fully.  I have a family I love and friends to share life with.  I have a house I am proud of, a yard full of flowers, and a job that supports me and allows me to be creative.  Nothing worth complaining about today.

And not to be forgotten (as this is a cooking blog, you know), I get to enjoy amazing food.  This week was no exception.  My friend, Carrie, is starting a one week detox plan so our Sunday Dinner theme focused on raw, vegan, and vegetarian foods so she could enjoy the meal.  My contribution was fresh spring rolls with two dipping sauces (one vegan, one not).  Abby made a raw and vegan vegetable curry and a raw and vegan strawberry shortcake inspired dessert.  Hearing the words “raw” and “vegan” usually scares people off.  But take it from this non-vegetarian–raw and vegan can be delicious.  I left dinner feeling refreshed and grateful for good friends and good food.  Looking forward to many more summer weekends and many more Sunday Dinners…

Fresh Spring Rolls–Adapted From

  • 4 oz bean thread noodles
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 16 rounds of rice paper (8-10 inches in diameter)
  • 8 Boston lettuce leaves, thick stem ends removed and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 4 scallions, green parts chopped, white parts saved for the seasoned tofu
  • 1 cup cucumber, julienned
  • 1/2 cup radishes, julienned
  • 2 cups seasoned tofu (see recipe below)

Seasoned Tofu–Adapted From the Food Network

  • 1 Tbsp bottled chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 16 ounces extra firm tofu
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 4 scallions, whites and about 1 inch of the greens, thinly sliced

Tofu Instructions:

  1. Drain tofu:  Place a towel on a plate and set your block of tofu onto the towel.  Wrap towel ends over the top of the tofu and set another plate on top of the tofu.  Let drain for at least 1/2 hour and up to 2 hours.  When drained, crumble tofu and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together chili-garlic sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, vinegar and sherry vinegar.
  3. Heat oil in a wok or extra-large skillet over medium heat.  Add the ginger and scallion whites and cook until scallion whites are translucent and ginger is fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add tofu and cook, stirring about 5 minutes.  Add reserved sauce.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, an additional 3 to 4 minutes to allow juices to be soaked up by tofu.

Spring Roll Assembly:

  1. Combine the carrot with the sugar and let stand for 10 minutes to soften.  In a medium saucepan, bring several cups of water to boil.  Add bean thread noodles and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water.
  2. Lay out the spring roll ingredients before beginning to assemble the rolls.
  3. Fill a shallow pie pan with very warm water.  Immerse a sheet of rice paper into the water and let soften, about 30 seconds.  Remove and lie flat on a plate or countertop.
  4. Lay your ingredients at the bottom of the rice paper, nearest to you.  Roll the paper halfway.  Fold both sides of the paper over the filling.  Keep rolling until the other edge of the rice paper is sealed and you have formed a roll.  Place the rolls, seam side down, on a plate and cover with a damp towel so they stay moist.  Slice each roll in half on a bias.
  5. Serve rolls with the dipping sauces.

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce (Not Vegetarian)–From

  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 1 small chili pepper, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup nuoc mam (fish sauce)
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Combine garlic, sugar, lime juice, water, vinegar, and fish sauce.  Stir to blend.  Add chili rounds to taste.

Peanut Sauce–Adapted From

  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp Sriracha chili paste
  • 1 Tbsp ketchup or tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chunky peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan on low-medium.  Be careful not to overheat or the ingredients you add next will splatter everywhere!  Add the garlic, chili and tomato pastes, and fry for about 30 seconds until the garlic is golden.  Add the water, sugar, peanut butter and hoisin sauce and whisk to dissolve.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve at room temperature.

Abby’s Raw Vegetable Coconut Curry

Thank Abby for this light and flavorful dish with just the right amount of spice.  I have much to learn from her…much to learn…  

  • 1 can coconut milk, shaken
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Panang curry paste to taste (start with 1 Tbsp and add as you like)
  • Tamari to taste (start with 1 Tbsp and add as you like)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp agave nectar, or to taste
  • 3 small summer squash, julienned
  • 2 small zucchini squash, julienned
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, stems removed
  1. Puree coconut milk, avocado, almonds, lime and lemon juice, curry paste, tamari, agave, and garlic in a food processor, Vitamix, or with an immersion blender.
  2. Mix squash, zucchini, carrots, and cilantro in a large bowl.  Pour sauce onto the vegetables and mix to coat.

Abby’s Vegan and Raw Strawberry Shortcake With Coconut Whipped Cream

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup pitted dates, soaked in warm water for 1/2 hour
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 cup dried flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cans coconut milk, refrigerated for a couple of hours
  • Agave nectar to taste
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  1. Puree cashews in blender or food processor and add a little water if too dry.  Transfer to mixing bowl.
  2. Puree dates, leaving slightly chunky.  Transfer to mixing bowl with cashews.
  3. Grind almonds into a coarse flour-like consistency.  Add all other ingredients to blender or food processor and blend.  Mix with cashews and dates in mixing bowl.
  4. Make coconut cream:  Take can of coconut milk from refrigerator and open.  Scoop the thick coconut cream from the top of the can and save the remainder of coconut milk for another use.  Mix coconut cream with agave nectar to taste.
  5. Line loaf pan with plastic wrap and spread half of the nut/date/coconut mixture onto the bottom of the pan.  Top with a layer of 1/2 of the coconut whipped cream and half of the sliced strawberries.  Top cream and strawberry layer with the remainder of the nut/date/coconut mixture.
  6. Wrap plastic wrap over the top of the dessert and refrigerate for 1 hour.  To speed up setting, place in freezer for 1/2 hour and refrigerator for 1/2 hour instead.
  7. Remove from refrigerator when ready to serve and unwrap.  Slice the dessert into pieces and top with remaining coconut whipped cream and sliced strawberries.

Bruschetta Rethought–The Food Matters Project

Another week, another simple and healthy recipe from the Food Matters Cookbook.  While I kept mine prettty simple with two variations, I’m sure the other FMP bloggers got pretty creative with theirs!  Check out this week’s host, Laura J.‘s blog for her take on this classic dish–bruschetta with blue cheese and honey!  And if you are feeling inspired, head over to the Food Matters Project site to see everyone elses creations.  For a quick visual form of inspiration, head over the the FMP Pinterest board.  Kate from Cookie + Kate is always so kind to post all of our dishes every week.  Within the next couple of days, you will be able to see everyone’s choice of toppings for bruschetta.

When most people think of bruschetta, they think of the tomato mixture that many people use as a topping.  Bruschetta is actually the toasted bread itself.  Classic bruschetta is toasted bread rubbed with garlic then drizzled with olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.  Once you have made your bruschetta you can top it with whatever you like!

A simple meal can consist simply of bruschetta with several toppings scattered on the table, allowing your guests or family make their own perfect combination.  It can’t get any easier than this–and who doesn’t love bread topped with yummy stuff?

Simple Bruschetta {from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman}

  • 8 thick slices rustic bread, preferably whole grain
  • 1 or more garlic cloves, halved or crushed, optional
  • ¼ cup olive oil, or more as needed
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Prepare a grill or turn on the broiler; the heat should be medium-high and the rack about 4 inches from the fire.  Grill or broil the bread until lightly browned on both sides, ideally with some grill marks or light charring.  I used a double-burner cast iron griddle that has a side with grill slats on it–works great!
  2. While the bread is still hot, rub the slices with garlic, if using, on one or both sides.  Put the bread on a plate, then drizzle or brush it with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Serve warm with your favorite toppings.

I topped my first variation with thinly sliced tomato, arugula, basil, and parmesan cheese.  My second variation was a little more outside-of-the-box.  I chose Mark Bittman’s North African Style Cauliflower Salad to top my bruschetta.

Chopped Cauliflower Salad, North African Style

Makes: 4 servings; Time: 25 minutes

Quickly cooking the cumin, coriander, and cinnamon in the warm dressing concentrates their flavors and helps them soak into the cauliflower (the fragrance is amazing). This is one of those uncommon salads that benefits from refrigerating for a day, but it’s best served at room temperature.

  • Salt
  • 1 large cauliflower, cored
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Note:  I added a can of Great Northern beans to mine to add a creamy texture–be sure to drain and rinse before adding.
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it; set up a bowl of ice water. Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and cook until you can just barely pierce the center with a skewer or thin-bladed knife (you want it still quite crisp), 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the cauliflower, plunge it in the ice water, and let cool for a few minutes. Drain the cauliflower well and roughly chop.
  2. Dump the cooking water, put the oil in the same pot, and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring once or twice, until they are no longer raw. Stir in the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon juice and turn off the heat.
  3. Toss the cauliflower with the warm dressing in the pot. Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately. (Or wait to add the parsley, refrigerate for up to a day or 2, bring the salad back to room temperature, and toss with the parsley right before serving.)

Salsa Five Ways–The Food Matters Project

Four of the Five Salsas I made this weekend–photo of the fifth (and best!) salsa is below…

Week 14 of the Food Matters Project was very appropriately timed–salsas for Cinco de Mayo!  Abby made fajitas for Sunday Dinner and I was feeling inspired (and shut-in due to the rain) so I was thrilled to add five different salsas to the table.  I made Bittman’s pico de gallo recipe, a peach-mango chutney, a green apple-cucumber salsa, a tomatillo-black bean salsa, and a corn salsa.  I made several changes to Bittman’s recipes, which I have posted below.  My favorite of the five?  My black bean and tomatillo salsa that had a deep smoky flavor due to using dried black beans.  The great thing about salsa is that it is so easy and so versatile–many ingredients can be swapped out for whatever you have in your fridge.  If you haven’t made your own salsa before–please do try.  I’m sure you’ll be making it all summer long once you give it a go!

Head on over to Alissa‘s blog to see her spin on salsa (pureed and also a rhubarb salsa!).  For everyone else’s take check out the comments on the Food Matters Project website.

Pico de Gallo from The Food Matters Project Cookbook

  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 large white or red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic, or to taste
  • 1 fresh hot chili (like habanero or jalapeno), seeded and minced, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
  2. Let the mixture rest for 15 to 30 minutes if possible to allow the flavors to meld.
  3. Note:  If you like smoother salsa, puree it to your liking.

Peach-Mango Chutney

  • 2 cups of peach and mango, peeled and chopped (or use frozen chunks, as I did this time–turned out fine and save a ton of time)
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 fresh, hot chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • Small pinch of salt.
  1. For this chutney, toss everything into a saucepan and cook on low until the bell peppers and the fruits are nice and soft and the juices have reduced, leaving a jam-like consistency.

Tomatillo-Black Bean Salsa

  • 2 cups chopped tomatillos
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 1 cup black beans, cooked or canned
  • 1 tsp minced garlic, or to taste
  • 1 fresh, hot chile, seeded and minced, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. You can leave the tomatillos raw if you like (they have a tangy, slightly sour taste) or cook them.  I enjoy them cooked in a salsa more than raw and so I always cook mine after popping a few pieces of them raw into my mouth!
  2. Place tomatillos in a saucepan with water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Drain the water and let cool.  Mash tomatillos (I like them to be chunky) and add the remaining ingredients.  Let rest for half an hour to let the flavors meld.

Green Apple-Cucumber-Avocado Salsa

  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 dried red chili
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp champagne or pear vinegar
  • 1/2 avocado, chopped
  1. I took some cues from this month’s Bon Appetit and macerated the apple and cucumber.  To macerate, put garlic, chili, cilantro, mint, sugar, and salt into a large plastic baggie with zipper seal.  Crush everything inside by pounding on the baggie with a rolling pin.  Add cucumber and apple and let sit for 35-40 minutes, allowing the juices form at the bottom of the baggie.  Empty everything into a bowl and add lime juice and vinegar to taste.  Add avocado and serve immediately.

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

  • 2 cups corn kernels (can use thawed frozen corn)
  • 1/2 large white or red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic, or to taste
  • 1 fresh hot chile, seeded and minced, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. If you have the time, I strongly suggest grilling the corn–my corn salsa was good ungrilled but a little lacking in flavor.
  2. Mix all ingredients together and let rest to allow flavors to meld.