Jalisco Pico de Gallo

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Jalisco Pico de Gallo! It wasn’t until recently I dined at a family-owned Mexican cantina where the recipes truly originated from Guadalajara. I know this because the waitress explained that Jalisco-style dishes might taste different than anything else I tried before. “For starters,” she explained, “only fresh vegetables are used. We use Mexican oregano for flavor.” I was intrigued. So much so, I made a batch of pico de gallo when I returned home. The Jalisco-style street tacos come later. Stick around and tell me what you think.

JALISCO PICO DE GALLO

Ingredients:

7 Roma tomatoes, sliced and chopped

1 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

6 Serrano chile, stems removed

3 jalapeño peppers, stems removed

1 sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons Mexican oregano, dried

2 teaspoons garlic powder

3 teaspoons cumin powder

1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon orange/mango juice

1 tablespoon lime juice

Instructions:

In a large bowl, place Roma tomato chunks. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Using a mini chopper, pulse Serrano peppers until finely chopped. Add to the bowl. Next, place jalapeño peppers in the mini chopper; pulse until finely chopped. Scrape sides and add to the bowl. Add chopped sweet onion to tomato mixture. Sprinkle on Mexican oregano, garlic powder, and cumin powder. Mix well. Fold in chopped cilantro leaves. Drizzle with orange/mango juice and lime juice. Gently stir. Transfer pico de gallo and liquid to covered jars and refrigerate. The flavors intensify as they marinate. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for Mexican dishes.

Huevos Rancheros Casserole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Huevos Rancheros Casserole! Looking for a little variety for a weekend breakfast? Take a trip down a rural road for an old classic that was served as “ranchers eggs” on the farms in Mexico. By turning it into a robust casserole, you can give it an American twist. It still has eggs, cheese, salsa, and tortillas in there. I chose street-size corn tortillas just because they were smaller and easier to work with. Obviously any type will do. Feel free to add beans and chorizo if you’re looking for hearty portions. Do ahead and refrigerate overnight so it’s ready to bake first thing in the morning.

HUEVOS RANCHEROS CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

10 street-size corn tortillas

1 cup chunky salsa

1 cup black beans, drain liquid

1 1/2 cups Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 pound chorizo sausage, coarsely chopped and cooked; drained

3 poblano peppers, stems and seeds removed, cut into strips

6 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon cumin

Sour cream, for garnish

Green onion snips, for garnish

Instructions:

Spray on 8-inch square casserole dish with nonstick oil. Line the sides and bottom with 8 street-size corn tortillas, slightly overlapping. Spread a layer of salsa over the bottom. Next, layer with black beans. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Top with cooked chorizo, poblano peppers, and another 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Cut the last 2 tortillas into strips and layer over cheese. In a bowl, combine eggs, milk, oregano, red pepper flakes, and cumin powder. Whisk together. Pour egg mixture over all. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese. Press lightly into egg mixture. Cover dish. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. To bake, preheat oven to 350°. Bake covered casserole 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake 15-20 minutes longer or until center is set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with sour cream and chopped green onions.

Turmeric Chicken Curry

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Turmeric Chicken Curry! For those who dabble in traditional ethnic dishes, turmeric is a well-known spice that typically gives food a rich golden yellow hue. Although turmeric has a slightly bitter taste, curry powder combines it with cumin and chili powder to catapult the flavor from mild to very spicy. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way when adding flavor and color. I find turmeric mildly aromatic with a slight scent of ginger, which is appealing when added to chicken. Also, it can jazz up boring white rice by making an ordinary dish look a bit fancy.

TURMERIC CHICKEN CURRY

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound boneless skinless chicken

1 onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 cup crushed tomatoes

4 teaspoons turmeric

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken to brown, turning once. Add onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Sauté for 5 minutes until onions are soft and fragrant. Add chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, turmeric, cloves, thyme, sea salt, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Pork Tamales

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Pork Tamales! I have high respect for the Mexican culture, especially when it comes to cooking. For years I have procrastinated about making tamales, probably because I love them and really don’t want that to change. Seriously though, for me the Mexican homemade version is labor intensive. Most little girls were taught the family traditions by their mothers and grannies. To them it comes easily as an art form after decades of making the traditional dish. Sauces from scratch can take an entire day if you begin with boiling the chilies and blending the spices. I left that labor of love for the pros. Now if you’re game, roll up your sleeves, tie on an apron, and let’s get started.

PORK TAMALES

Ingredient Toppings for Tamales:

Tomatoes, diced

Green onions, sliced

Lettuce, chopped

Lime wedge, for garnish

Ingredients for Corn Husks:

6-ounce package dried corn husks

Instructions:

Soak corn husks in hot water for one hour or until softened. Drain husks; pat dry. Set aside.

Ingredients for Cornmeal Dough:

1 1/4 cups solid shortening

4 cups corn masa mix

1 3/4 cups warm chicken broth

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons paprika

Instructions for Cornmeal Dough:

In a large bowl, beat solid shortening on medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy, about 3 minutes. In another bowl, stir corn masa mix, chicken broth, salt, and paprika until combined. Gradually add corn masa mixture to shortening, beating on medium speed just until blended after each addition. Cover dough with plastic wrap until ready to use. Set aside.

Ingredients for Pork Filling:

2 cups fully cooked roast pork, shredded

10-ounce can mild diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained

3/4 cup barbecue sauce

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions for Pork Filling:

In a bowl, combine shredded pork, diced tomatoes and green chilies, barbecue sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir until well blended. Set aside.

Ingredients for Tamale Sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups unsalted beef broth

2 tablespoons adobo sauce from chipotles in adobo

2 teaspoons taco seasoning

Instructions for Tamale Sauce:

In a skillet over medium heat, warm unsalted butter. Do not scorch. Sprinkle in flour, whisking until a paste is formed. Stir 2 minutes longer. Gradually add beef broth, stirring constantly. Allow mixture to slightly thicken, about 5 minutes. Add adobo sauce and taco seasoning. Stir until combined. Set aside. Serve warm over tamales.

Instructions for Assembling Tamales:

Spread about 3 tablespoons of Cornmeal Dough into a 3”x3 1/2” rectangle in center of one corn husk. Spoon one heaping tablespoon of meat filling down the center of the Cornmeal Dough rectangle. Fold long side of husk over, enclosing meat filling with Cornmeal Dough. Fold bottom of husk over folded sides, leaving top end open. Tie with strips of corn husk or bakery twine. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients. In a 16-quart tamale steamer pot, fill water to about 1/2” from the bottom of the rack. Stand tamales above the water level, closed end down, on rack in steamer.* Cover the tamales with leftover husks and a clean cloth before placing the lid on the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and steam over medium heat for two hours until masa is no longer doughy. Add water as necessary. Take one tamale from the middle to check it is done before turning pot off. When done, allow tamales to cool for 10 minutes to set properly. To serve, transfer tamales to a platter. Unwrap a tamale, ladle on the sauce, and top with diced tomatoes, green onion slices, and chopped lettuce. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve immediately.

*In order to keep the tamales upright, put a heat-proof cup, bottom up, in the middle of the rack. It will help the tamales to balance upright.

Veggie Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Veggie Burger! For a quarter-pounder without all the fat, substitute red meat for black beans instead. Sound crazy? Actually, I conducted a little taste test on my husband recently. By using mashed black beans, onion, green pepper, egg, and bread crumbs, it seemed more like a meatloaf than a burger. It kinda did. The texture was the same and they fried up real nice in the iron skillet. By the time we added lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle, we practically did a double-take on the finished product. Go all out and slide it between a brioche bun. The veggie burger definitely crossed the finish line at the dinner table. Now that’s delicious.

VEGGIE BURGER

Ingredients:

16-ounce can organic black beans, drained and rinsed well

1/2 green pepper

1/2 yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

3 drops sriracha sauce

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

Butter for frying

Brioche hamburger buns

Condiments, per taste

Instructions:

Using a food processor set on Pulse, mash black beans until thick and chunky. Transfer to a bowl. Next, combine green pepper, yellow onion, and minced garlic in the food processor. Chop into small pieces. Stir into the black beans. Add egg, chili powder, cumin, and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Add bread crumbs. Mix together with gloved hands until consistency is dense enough to form into patties. Melt butter in an iron skillet over medium heat. Place patties into skillet and cook about 7-8 minutes until a crispy outer edge is present. Flip and cook 7-8 minutes longer. Serve with condiments of choice on a brioche bun.

Quest Fundido Poblano Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Quest Fundido Poblano Dip! When my garden harvested a nice crop of poblano peppers, I was already counting the days until I would take these mildly rich green peppers and transform them into an earthy Mexican favorite. Poblanos, you see, are a cross between a jalapeño and a bell pepper. Hot, but not a scorcher, if you know what I mean. You may be more familiar with them in a popular restaurant dish called a chile relleno or another known as chile poblano. Either way, they’re amazing.

QUEST FUNDIDO POBLANO DIP

Ingredients:

2-4 chili poblano peppers

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 ounces feta cheese

Corn tortilla chips

Instructions:

Heat an iron skillet on the stove over medium-high setting. Place poblano peppers into pan. Allow peppers to blister and blacken. Turn with tongs to allow even roasting. When the peppers are charred and soft, transfer them to a covered bowl to steam and cool, about 10-15 minutes. When able to handle, peel skins and discard. Cut poblano peppers into strips or chop into smaller pieces. Layer in the bottom of a casserole dish. Set aside. In a medium skillet, cook ground beef over medium-high heat. Break into small pieces, turning often until ground beef is browned and crumbled. Drain, if necessary. Add sea salt, cumin powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Mix well. Layer crumbled ground beef over poblano peppers. Top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese and feta cheese crumbles. Broil until cheeses are melted and golden brown in spots. Serve warm with corn tortilla chips.

Lamb Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Lamb Flatbread! I think I could eat my weight in flatbread simply because of the endless combination of ingredients. When I’m in the mood for something with a Greek twist, I turn to lamb meat permeated with ethnic spices such as oregano, dill, parsley, and coriander. A sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese is nice, especially when it melts around Kalamata olives grown under Grecian sunshine. At least, that’s what I imagine. Maybe you will, too.

LAMB FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 pound organic lamb, ground

1/2 cup water

1-2 beef bouillon cubes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/4 teaspoons coriander

1 1/4 teaspoons cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 cup prepared ranch dressing

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

2 baby cucumbers, chopped

1 garlic flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

4-5 cherry tomatoes, sliced

1 shallot, sliced

3-4 Kalamata olives, sliced

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Fresh arugula leaves

1/8 teaspoon oregano

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large skillet, combine ground lamb, water, bouillon cubes, sea salt, coriander, cumin powder, garlic powder, and dried parsley. Bring to boiling, crumbling meat with a fork to cook thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until all moisture is absorbed and meat is browned. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix ranch dressing, Greek yogurt, and dill weed. Stir until smooth. Brush bottom of garlic flatbread with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread half the ranch dressing mixture over the flatbread. Add the chopped cucumbers to the remaining sauce. Set aside. Top flatbread with mozzarella cheese, crumbled lamb mixture (you will have extra to use later on), cherry tomatoes, sliced shallot, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, arugula leaves, and oregano. Bake 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, slice accordingly, and use reserve cucumber dip as side condiment.

Old Mexico Street Poppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Old Mexico Street Poppers! As the garden brings forth a bounty of jalapeños, variety becomes the spice of life. Stuffed with cheese and veggies makes sinking your teeth into this spicy popper feel like eating from a Mexican cobblestone street vendor in Puerto Vallarta. Anything goes! Give your taste buds an “old town” vacation and then go shopping afterwards!

OLD MEXICO STREET POPPERS

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, snipped

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 cup organic black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup sweet corn, whole kernel

1/3 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/8 teaspoon taco seasoning

12 jalapeño peppers, cut lengthwise and seeded

1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet. Spray with nonso like. Set aside. In a bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, Mexican oregano, garlic powder, onion salt, cumin powder, black beans, sweet corn, and Monterey Jack cheese. Mix well. Set aside. In another bowl, combine panko bread crumbs, Mexican cheese, melted butter, and taco seasoning. Mix well. Set aside. To prepare jalapeños, wear rubber gloves. Leaving the stem on, slice the upper third portion lengthwise. Discard top. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Divide filling evenly between jalapeños. Place on wire rack. Cover top of jalapeños with crumb topping. Press gently into cream cheese mixture. Bake 30-35 minutes or until tops are golden brown and jalapeños are tender. Garnish with cilantro. Serve warm.

Restaurant-Style Salsa

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Restaurant-Style Salsa! Everyone goes crazy over the slightly chunky and spicy kicked salsa served in your favorite Mexican restaurant. Now you can make it yourself and enjoy it at home. With a few key (and secret) ingredients, you’ll find yourself doing a “Mexican Hat Dance” just like a pro. Combine everything in a food processor, press a button, and GO! Do it now. You can thank me later.

RESTAURANT-STYLE SALSA

Ingredients:

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

10 ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies

1/4 cup onion

1 carrot, peeled

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1 jalapeño, stem removed

1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

Instructions:

Combine diced tomatoes, tomatoes and green chilies, onion, carrot, cilantro, and jalapeño in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is smooth, but still slightly thick. Add lime juice, kosher salt, garlic powder, and cumin powder. Pulse until completely mixed and consistency looks desirable. Pour into a sealed container. Refrigerate one hour to enhance flavors. Serve with warm tortilla chips.