Easy Rice Pilaf Tex-Mex

Sometimes you want to eat well but you don’t feel like thinking too much or spending time and effort in the kitchen. This is when this dish comes in handy. Not to mention that it is really delicious, so you don’t really need excuses to make it. I like to eat it as is, but it is a great side dish for grilled meats and chicken.

3 tbs oil
2 cups rice
1 cup canned corn
1 cup salsa
2 cups water
Black pepper

In a medium pot, heat the oil. Add the rice and sauté it for a few minutes until the rice starts smelling nutty.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, lower the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes.

Tuna Pockets (Empanadas)

Recently, thanks to my daughter, I got hooked on The Great British Bake-Off show, on TV. I’m not much of a TV person and I don’t usually have the patience for all the drama around cooking competitions, but this show is different. I consider myself a pretty good baker, yet I learn so much about baking from this show. The show covers all the classic baked goods, whether it’s breads, pastries, quiches and pies, cakes, or other baked desserts. There are tips and techniques for baking that the judges actually go over and explain, something I haven’t seen in other shows, and to me, this is the added value of the show. It is both entertaining and educational, without all the drama that you find in American cooking competition shows.

Anyway, one of the crusts I was kind of introduced to in the show was hot-water crust. This crust is used for savory dishes like pies and empanadas. With this crust, instead of cutting cold fat into flour and then adding cold water, boiling water is whisked into fat (usually lard) until it forms an emulsion. This lard mixture is then added to flour. The result is an extremely pliable dough that’s easy to work with since it doesn’t crack or tear. I’ve never worked with lard or shortening, but I did bake with margarine ages ago, before it turned out that it was very bad for our health. Here, I chose to use shortening for religious reasons, although I’m sure that lard would be a tastier and healthier choice.

The filling is something my daughter, who also got inspired by the show, came up with. The result was delicious.

½ cup (120 ml) oil
100g shortening or lard
¾ cup (180ml) water
1 tsp salt
3 ½ cups (500g) flour

1 7oz cans of tuna in oil, drained
1 small onion, thinly diced
1 roasted bell pepper, diced
1 tsp salt
4 tbs romesco sauce
1 egg

Filling option 2 (shown in the pics):
1 7oz can tuna in oil, drained
1 small onion, diced
1 roasted bell pepper, diced
2 heaping tbs olive muffalata (I found it at Costco)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg

In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Add the oil and shortening and stir until melted.

Place the flour in a mixer bowl with the hook attachment. Turn on the mixer on low and while the engine is running, add the hot liquid gradually. Knead only until the dough comes together. Over kneading will result in a hard and less flaky dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for 20 minutes. This allows the gluten to rest and will prevent the dough from shrinking when you roll it out.

In the meantime, make the filling. Place all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.

Heat your oven to 360F.

Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on parchment paper to ¼ inch thick circle. You don’t need to flour the paper. The dough is oily and doesn’t stick to the paper. Using a cookie cutter or the rim of a cup, cut 8cm diameter circles.

Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle and fold it in half. Pinch the edges together to seal and using your fingertips create decorative dimples along the edge. Alternatively, press the edge using a fork.

Arrange the dough pockets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until dough turns lightly golden.

Basque Red Berry Pie

I came across this recipe in an Israeli cookbook, about eight years ago. It was love at first sight. I happen to love fruit cakes of almost any kind, and the rustic, homey look of this cake was so attractive, that I immediately knew I had to make it. And I was not disappointed.

Fast forward a couple of years, I decided to bake it as a gluten free version, to sell at my gluten free bakery for Thanksgiving. Between the home baked look of the pie, the red berries (I added cranberries, too), and the fact that it was so fit for a Thanksgiving meal, this pie was a real hit among my customers. And you couldn’t even tell it was gluten free.

So, I thought it would be nice to share the original recipe with you all, so this year you can have this pie at your Christmas table.

3 ½ cups (500g) flour
1 ½  teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups (300g) sugar
2 ½ sticks (300g) cold butter
2 eggs
1 egg yolk

¼ cup (60cc) water
½ cup (100g) sugar
21oz (600g) frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)
Zest from one lemon
1 egg yolk + 1 teaspoon water

In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and cold butter and pulse. Add the eggs and pulse only until the dough starts forming.

Divide the dough into two pieces – one piece of about two thirds of the dough, and the other piece of one third. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and flatten it to a disc. Refrigerate for one hour.

In a sauté pan, combine ¼ cup water with ½ cup sugar. Melt the sugar and bring to a boil. Add the mixed berries and lemon zest and sauté for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, chill and strain. (Keep the liquid to use as syrup in some drinks.)

Remove the dough from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Grease a 10” pie pan.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the larger disc of dough to about 14” in diameter and place it in the pie pan. Do not trim the edges. Pour the filling on the dough and spread it evenly.

Roll out the smaller dough to a 12” circle and place on top of the berries. Pinch together the ends of the two doughs. Make a hole in the center of the pie to allow steam to come out.

Brush the top of the pie with egg wash made of 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the dough has browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of sour cream.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Romesco Sauce

Native to the Catalonia region in Spain, romesco sauce was one of my pleasant surprises when visiting Barcelona a few months ago. I have heard the name before but never tasted the sauce. So it required a trip to Spain to get familiarized with this delicious and very unique sauce. Doron, my husband, and I first had it in a neighborhood café in one of the less touristy neighborhoods in Barcelona. We ordered all kinds of tapas and one of them was the famous patatas bravas, a Spanish version of French fries served with romesco sauce. We enjoyed all the other tapas immensely , but the romesco sauce was the highlight of our meal. We were blown away by the complexity of the flavors in the sauce and how much it complemented the potatoes. Of course, I had to get the recipe (I didn’t even know the name of the sauce), but unfortunately, the waiter was reluctant to share it with us. Which only made me more determined to find the recipe for this amazing sauce. We had patatas bravas with romesco sauce in other restaurants while in Barcelona (where I got introduced to the name of the sauce), but none of them was as good as the sauce we had at that small neighborhood café.

So I resorted to looking online, and I found a recipe that I really like. The recipe below is my adaptation of that recipe, and is a great version of romesco, if I do say so myself. It is supposedly close to the old, original recipe. Regrettably though, it does not exactly replicate the flavor of the divine romesco sauce we had in that neighborhood café.

3 red bell peppers
5-6 garlic cloves unpeeled
3 Roma tomatoes or 20 cherry tomatoes
1 slice of good bread
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground anise seeds
½ tsp hot paprika or ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
3 tsp sherry vinegar (red or white wine vinegar are an option too)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Place the peppers, tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes are well roasted and the garlic is soft. Remove them from the oven and set aside. Continue roasting the peppers for 20 more minutes, turning them halfway, until soft or until the skin is charred.

Remove from the oven and place in a covered pot. Set aside to cool.

Turn off the oven and place the slice of bread in for 5 minutes, until toasted. Remove from the oven and break into pieces.

When the veggies are cold, peel their skin off and discard of the pepper seeds. Place the vegetables in a food processor. Add half of the toasted bread, the almonds, spices, olive oil and vinegar and blend into a smooth sauce. If the sauce is too runny, add the rest of the toasted bread and continue blending.

Transfer to a jar and keep refrigerated. Most recipes I followed claimed the sauce would last up to a week. In my fridge it lasted for two weeks and was still delicious.