Mexican Gnocchi

I will admit, although living in Mexico, I don’t often make Mexican food.  Why should I, when the abuela’s (grand-mother’s) down the street who have been doing it for 70 years can do it better than me at crazy cheap prices?  (When I see what some of you ‘up north’ pay for tacos, it makes me cry).  Interestingly, we live in one of THE most expensive parts of the country.  When you visit Mexico City and it’s suburbs, the tacos are better, fresher, and even cheaper than they are here.  Every corner has another mom and pop establishment in which the smells wafting through the air will transform any ‘I don’t eat street food’ critic into a believer.  I’m sure they’re even cheaper in other parts of the country.

I will also admit that I find it kind of annoying when I see Mexican versions of dishes that claim to be ‘authentic’ that actually aren’t very Mexican.  For example, they don’t use cheddar cheese here people.  So when you see a “Mexican” dish that has cheddar, it’s the furthest thing from authentic.  Sour cream? Nope.  Here we buy something called ‘crema’ in little boxes.  It’s much thinner than sour cream when at room temperature, but quite similar after the box is opened and is has to be refrigerated.  It’s less sour than sour cream also.  It’s very popular here and can be found even at the local corner stores.  Hard shell tacos? You do know that I’ve never seen one in 9 years of eating here.  This country is all about it’s soft corn hand-made tortillas.  And the one that surprises people most: taco seasoning.  They don’t sell it here.  It’s a treat from home when it shows up.  Here they use good old fashioned spices.

When I was playing around with fusing Italian with Mexican, I just went to the grocery store and bought what is cheap, local, and popular.  That meant white onions, cilantro, corn, Manchego cheese, and jalapeno.  I played around with all these ingredients and added them to gnocchi that someone had given me.  I don’t eat a lot of gnocchi, but what I do like about it is that you don’t need a lot and it seems to go far.

Of course, what’s local to me, may not be local to you.  I am in no way recommending that you go and spend more money on ingredients than you have to.  If you can’t find Manchego, use mozzarella, if you like your pasta stringy.  If not, use another cheese (gasp, yes, even cheddar), it’s your meal, do what you want!   I won’t fight you on this because it’s obvious this isn’t ‘authentic’ anything; it’s a fusion of countries and flavors and cultures.  But sometimes, that’s the best!

This is a fast and easy meal that you can easily change up and I promise won’t disappoint.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 TAB vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 (19 oz) can black beans, drained
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup corn (optional)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 1/2 lbs gnocchi
  • 1 cup Manchego cheese (or mozzarella if you want stringy, cheddar if not)
  • cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  • 1 package taco seasoning OR 1 TAB chili powder, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, and salt

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent.  Add ground beef, in batches if necessary so it browns properly, and cook until no red is left.  Add spices, tomatoes, and beef broth and cook for a few minutes until simmering.  Add corn, beans, jalapeno and simmer another 10 minutes or so.

In the meantime, put a pot of water to boil. Cook gnocchi until they float, drain.  Toss with sauce and add cheese.  Add salt to taste if necessary, garnish with cilantro, and serve immediately.

Cochinita Nachos

Cochinita Nachos

I have a feeling over the next few months we will see a lot more nacho recipes popping up on the social media sites of food bloggers.  With football in full swing, it seems Sunday is for snacking . While we don’t live in a football frenzy area, we do live in a constant state of snacking.

You know how you feel in summer? When the weather is so nice you just want to sit outside and enjoy it for all it is, with good food and drink and friends? Well, it feels like that almost always here on the coast, especially though in winter when we have more tourists and visitors and everybody wants cheap Mexican beer, tacos, guacamole, and anything easy to snack on while spending the day on the white sands of the Mayan Riviera.

Nachos may be on of the easiest meals to make, I am not sure why I don’t make it more often.  Especially here, where corn chips are cheap, and you can buy a kilo of any fabulous Mexican style meat like cochinita that I don’t have to cook in the ground for two days.  I know I say happiness is homemade, and technically this is, but the best family run cochinita joint in town.  It is family owned and they only make two kinds of meat for tacos, and, as many places do here, only stay open until they run out.  They could make so much more money and stay open all day, but they prefer to make enough to live off, and not be a slave to their business.  I so do admire that way of life here.

Some days I’ll be there at 10:30 a.m. and they’re closed up.  Sold out.  Some days they’re still there at noon if I’m fortunate.  They are a family run business, he calls me by name when I drop by, and man, his cochinita is the best.

So for nachos here, I had to put cochinita on it.  I bought a kilo and shredded it finer, and tossed it onto those chips, and added the rest of my toppings, including the pickled onions that they include when you buy a kilo of meat.  Oh my, it was good.

nachos2

I am aware that you probably can’t go down the street and pick up authentic Mexican Cochinita.  But keep an eye out for it if you are in a big city, I am sure there are local markets where you can buy it.  Otherwise, toss some pulled pork on there for a change from beef.  Or if you want to keep it vegetarian, we see a lot of black bean nachos here too.

This is another loose recipe, it’s all how much of everything that you like.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large bags corn chips
  • 1/2 kilo pulled pork
  • 2 cups mixed grated cheese (I used cheddar and Manchego, which is similar to mozzarella, nice and stringy)
  • 1/2 cup pickled onions (optional)
  • 1/2 cup green onions
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Lay tin foil down on large baking sheet.  Spread corn chips in a thin layer.  Add meat, cheese, onions.  Repeat with another layer of chips, meat, cheese.  Bake in a 400 oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Add additional toppings to baking sheet or let people add their own.

 

One-Pot Taco Skillet

I love to cook, I always have.  But I don’t always want to cook.  See the difference?  Some days I am out and about all day doing mom stuff and the last thing that I want to do is come home and make food.  (And don’t hate me for say this but in winter, sometimes I’m at the beach all day and I’m too sunned out to cook. Oh man I’m going to get hate mail for that).  I’m sure there’s way more of you out there, especially you moms who work.

I had a part-time job up until my daughter was born.  By that time we lived in Bolton, about 30 minutes north of Toronto.  I drove into the city with my son to my mom’s dropped him off, and took public transit into the heart of the city.  On a good day, this took only an hour and a half.  How many days are good days for traffic in Toronto? Not many.  Mostly, this trip took about two hours.

I was fortunate, sometimes my mom would hand me dinner when I picked up our son saying “There, now you don’t have to cook when you get home.” But of course, she had a life, and was watching a very active toddler all day for free, so some nights I (gasp) had to cook for myself.

There’s two  proteins I always have in the fridge and freezer: chicken and ground beef.  Either one can be concocted into a yummy weeknight meal under 30 minutes.  And while I didn’t have as many taco nights when I lived in Canada, we sure have a lot of them now.

This is by no means authentic Mexican.  Not even close.  You will never see ground beef for tacos on the menu here, it’s steak sliced, pork and chicken shredded, and so on.  But this is a kid-friendly meal that you can change up a million different way depending on what you like and what’s in your pantry.  I love chipotle so I’ll even throw a can of that in.  Also, we cannot buy taco seasoning here.  I guess to the locals it would just be called seasoning ha ha.  ANYWAY, you can omit all my seasonings and add some of your local taco seasoning if you want.

Try it the next time you’re tired but hungry and let me know how it turns out.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 12 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen or canned corn
  • 1 TAB chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano.
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika.
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (or monterrey jack or a mixture)
  • 4 green onions, chopped

In a large skillet, brown ground beef.  Add vegetables and cook a few minutes or until slightly softened.  Add canned tomatoes, seasonings, and any water needed to add more moisture if so desired (or even some tomato sauce).  Combine well and simmer for a few minutes.  Add cheese and stir until melted.  Turn off heat.  Add green onions to garnish.  Serve over lettuce, rice, or in tortillas.

Korean Beef

I am a little late to the Korean Beef, better known as Bulgogi, food train. The first time I heard of it was when my mother came home from someone’s home for dinner, raving about this Korean beef that the husband made for dinner.  When my mother raves about someone’s cooking, I pay attention.  Of course, as we do in our family, we look up recipes and history about the dish, and set about seeing which version we like best.

This recipe is a super simple marinade which actually works great on chicken as well.  I will admit, I don’t know how authentic this is.  I see all sorts of Bulgogi recipes out there, some with vegetables, some without.  If anyone has more authority on what authentic Bulgogi is, please comment and let me know.  I want to know!

Let it marinade as long as you can.  For this picture, I marinated the beef the night before and cooked it for 25 people the next morning.  The meat was tender and flavorful.  You can do it for just a few hours but I am a big fan of letting ingredients hang out together as long as is possible.

Gochujang is a hot pepper paste.  We have a 1 lb tub of it that we actually bring from Canada and keep it refrigerated after opening.  It keeps well in the fridge and even though we use it in different dishes, lasts us awhile.

We actually never eat this over rice.  Next time I make this I will update the picture, I only put it on rice as that’s how we served it to the group of 25 this week.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/3 pear, grated
  • 2 Tab soy sauce
  • 1 Tab gochugaru
  • 1 Tab ginger, diced
  • 1 Tab brown sugar
  • 1 Tab sesame oil
  • 1 lb boneless hanger steak (or boneless chicken breasts)
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Bibb Lettuce leaves, washed and dried

DIRECTIONS

Combine pear, soy sauce, gochugaru, ginger, brown sugar, and sesame oil in a bowl.  Slice steak into strips and add to bowl.  Combine well.  Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, or pour into a resealable ziploc bag, seal well, refrigerate up to 8 hours.  Heat a large skillet with vegetable oil, cook beef until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. (Or alternatively, grill on a bbq about a minute per side).  Transfer to plate, top with green onions.

Serve in washed and cleaned lettuce leaves, or over rice if it’s for a crowd.