Mojo Verde

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What to do when you bought a whole bunch of cilantro, planning to make guacamole for National Guacamole Day yesterday, but get home only to discover that your avocados are all bad? We were way too lazy to go back out for avocados, so decided to save our bunch of cilantro for tonight and our steak dinner! We’re having our favorite cut of flank steak, which is a great vessel for this mojo verde. As we’ve been writing this blog, we’ve done bits of research here and there, learning a lot along the way. The Canary Islands, despite the fact that they’re a small group of islands, occupy an important place in culinary history. Canarian cuisine is especially known for mojos (sauces); the red and spicy mojo picón might be the most famous. Though perhaps not as famous, the mojo verde is a quick and easy and delicious sauce to add to our repertoire! Steak may not be the most traditional pairing (that award would go to Canarian wrinkled potatoes or maybe a white fish), but we enjoyed it! This green version isn’t the “spicy” mojo, but it actually has quite a bite from the garlic. Next time we’re going to try papas arrugadas, those wrinkled potatoes!

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Mojo Verde

(Adapted from Bon Appetit & Jose Andres)
Ingredients:
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch cilantro (~2 cups), de-stemmed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
Instructions: 
  1. Place the garlic, cilantro, cumin, and salt in a food processor and blitz. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil.
  2. Finish with the vinegar (and water if needed to thin to your desired consistency).
  3. Store in the refrigerator if not using immediately.

Lemon Aioli

 

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We made this light lemon aioli to dip our Shrimp Beignets in, which was a nice contrast the the fried spiciness of the beignets. This aioli is light and almost delicate – not so sour as to make your mouth pucker! It worked great as a dip for our beignets, but I think it would pair well with all sorts of seafood-based dishes.

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Lemon Aioli

Ingredients: 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup neutral oil
  • Zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Instructions: 
  1. Place garlic and egg yolks in a medium bowl.
  2. Zest the lemon into the bowl.
  3. Slowly drizzle the oil into the bowl, whisking continuously.
  4. Once base has come together, stir in the lemon juice.
  5. Refrigerate if not eating immediately.

Fig Chutney

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Ok y’all. Remember that fig chutney that we made last weekend to go on top of some roast pork (Pork Tenderloin with Fig Chutney)? We’ve been talking about it all week. It was that good! So good that we felt the need to make it again and share it as a standalone recipe. The super sweet figs create a balance with the acidic vinegar, creating just the perfect flavor! We planned to put it on some grilled cheeses last night, because we’re fancy like that, but we got home from work a little late… That meal might make an appearance in the next few days though. We did made enough to keep in the fridge, not that it’s going to last more than a few days! Tonight for dinner, we had a perfect football-watching snack meal, including this chutney with some cheese and crackers.

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This is a little different than the original chutney that went with the pork, though obviously that deliciousness was the inspiration for tonight. We added bacon to this recipe and made a few other tweaks tamp down on the sweetness a little bit more. It’s not that we don’t still love what we made last weekend; it’s just that it was the perfect topping to the pork as it was, whereas tonight we tried to think of how we would want it with a variety of other accompaniments! If you’re looking for a suggestions… cheddar cheese and crackers topped with this was delicious! We’re also thinking about it on top of a juicy cheeseburger or warm on top of baked brie. Or, obviously, as part of a snack-dinner platter ⇓ ⇓ ⇓ ⇓

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Fig Chutney

Ingredients: 
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 medium onions, halved & sliced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12oz fresh figs, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions: 
  1. Put a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Slice the bacon into lardons and fry until crispy and the fat has been released. Then remove the bacon to the side, leaving the bacon grease in the pan.
  2. Lower the heat to a medium-low and toss the onions in the bacon grease. (You can add some additional oil here if you need to.) Season with a pinch of salt and 10+ turns of fresh ground black pepper.
  3. Cook until caramelized, stirring every five to ten minutes, for 45+ minutes. Remove to the side with the bacon.
  4. Add the garlic and the figs to the pan. Cook for just a few minutes prior to deglazing the pan with the balsamic vinegar.
  5. Meanwhile, blitz the bacon and the onions in a food processor for just a few pulses. Then return this mixture to the pan.
  6.  Simmer over medium heat until all the liquid is absorbed and you’re left with a jammy concoction. Add crushed red pepper and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Serve hot or cold. Refrigerate when not eating.
Makes roughly 2 cups

Super Garlic Aioli

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As you’ve seen with some of our other recipes, like our pimento cheeses (Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese & Southern Pimento Cheese), we’ve learned that making our own mayonnaise and/or aioli is so much easier that we ever would have assumed previously. Yes, whisking it all together takes a little bit of muscle, but it’s really a fairly quick and painless process. Aioli in its original definition is mayonnaise flavored with garlic, but these days you can find all manner of aiolis. So this here is the original, but with a SUPER strong garlic flavor! You’ll definitely want to make this with Patatas Bravas!

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Super Garlic Aioli

Ingredients: 
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup neutral oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
Instructions: 
  1. Place garlic and egg yolks in a medium bowl.
  2. Slowly drizzle the oil into the bowl, whisking continuously.
  3. Once base has come together, stir in the salt and vinegar.
  4. Refrigerate if not eating immediately.

Afghani Spinach & Onion Dip (Sabse Borani)

Most people out there enjoy a good snack, but on Ally’s mom’s side of her extended family, they really embrace the snacking thing. When they’re together for a holiday or any sort of large gathering, they don’t just have three meals in a day. They add a fourth, solely devoted to snacks. Somewhere along the way, someone named this fourth meal “Dip Thirty.” (The alternate, but less popular name is “Dip O’Clock.”) Dip Thirty occurs between lunch and dinner, somewhere in the mid-afternoon. This allows dinner to be pushed back well into the evening, originally so no one had to waste the last hours of summer sunshine on preparing dinner or listen to whines of “I’m staaaaaaaarving!” Dip Thirty is so successful because with such a large family, everyone feels the need to bring something to contribute… which leads to counter-tops and picnic tables covered with a variety of snacks to sample!

Today we had a just-for-fun family gathering at Ally’s aunt & uncle’s home along the banks of the Potomac River, in Virginia’s Northern Neck. Now, Dip Thirty really isn’t the time to be calorie-counting, but we decided to bring a snack that leaned towards the healthier side of the spectrum, knowing there would be plenty of delicious cheese-packed dips from other family members.

This dish, sabse borani, is an Afghan spread which is more commonly eaten on flatbread. We decided to use it in more of a dip fashion with pita chips. It’s actually quite simple to make, with only a few ingredients, but your result is a lovely and flavorful yogurt-based dip/spread. I see why it’s used as a spread, but it definitely works as a dip too! We made a larger amount to share, but this recipe is easily halved.

Afghani Spinach & Onion Dip (Sabse Borani)

(Adapted from one of my faves – Global Table Adventure, with tips from the rest of the Internet in general)
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt (or any yogurt, strained)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium sweet onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 heaping cups fresh spinach
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
Instructions:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat in the oil. Top with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 20+ minutes, until the onions are deeply golden brown, soft, and nearly caramelized. Stir frequently.
  2. In the last few minutes of the onions cooking, add the garlic so it can soften
  3. Remove the onions and garlic to a large bowl.
  4. Lower the heat to a low-medium and then add the spinach to the same pan. Cover and wilt the spinach. Add a splash of water if needed. This only takes a minute or two.
  5. Allow the spinach and onions to cool and then stir them in with the yogurt.
  6. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes if desired. Adjust salt if needed.
Yields ~ 3 1/2 cups

Pickled Red Onions

 

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Pickles again? Didn’t we just do that? Yes, yes we did. I’ve been munching on the Midnight Quick Pickles from last week out of my fridge pretty much every day. Sorry for the repetition, but sometimes I can’t help the order of our culinary diary. This weekend, Selim’s parents came to visit us in Virginia, and we all joined my parents in Amherst for the day. Selim and I made dinner for the group, with a little assistance on the grill from my dad. Instead of brats and hot dogs, we grilled sucuk (a delicious Turkish sausage) and some spicy venison sausage (hunted & made by my cousin’s husband), with a variety of toppings. We quick pickled these onions earlier in the week, with the thought that they’d go well with the sucuk and feta cheese, but I thought they worked even better with the spicy venison sausage! The slightly sweet, very acidic pickled onions give your tastes buds a reprieve from the spiciness of the sausage with each bite.

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My sister recently ranted to us about how “pickles are the cool new thing,” and how “every restaurant is putting pickled vegetables in things that don’t need pickles.” I respect her opinion, but I totally disagree. I think pickles, depending on their variety, could go on just about everything. I think anything spicy or fatty or really rich is improved with some type of pickle on top. I also eat these guys plain, but I’m not sure I’m in the the majority on that one.

Standard Quick Pickle Disclaimer: As we’ve mentioned with previous recipes (see: Midnight Quick Pickles, Red Quick Pickled Cauliflower and Radishes), these are not shelf-safe “real” pickles. They should not be left in pantry or cellar for eternity. They must stay refrigerated. Hence they’re called “quick pickles” or “refrigerator pickles.” We skipped the step of sterilizing the jar and lid that keeps you from getting botulism when canned goods are left on a shelf for months on end.

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Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients:
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
Instructions:
  1. Slice the onion length-wise and place in a jar.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the remaining ingredients to a simmer. As soon as the salt & sugar are dissolved, remove from the heat.
  3. Once the liquid has cooled, pour over the onions. Refrigerate for 48+ hours prior to using.

Chunky Pineapple Tomatillo Salsa

During our years living in Columbia, we loved going to the Soda City Market on Main Street in downtown Columbia. Now that we live in Richmond, we’ve turned to the South of the James market for our Saturday morning perusing. For better or for worse, Soda City Market isn’t exactly a farmers market in our opinion. There are a handful of farmers with fresh goods, but they are definitely outnumbered by food vendors and artisans. South of the James is more of a true farmers market, with quite a few farms and farmers in attendance, in addition to some other vendors. Pro: there are way more options of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats from which to choose! Con: there are not as many brunch-while-strolling-the-market options, though there are several.

This is in fact relevant to our recipe today and our goals of having this blog. While we were browsing through the produce at one stand, one of the proprietors was popping open these little tomatillos for people to taste. He told us these were “pineapple tomatillos” and would you believe it, they really do taste like a combination of a tangy, sweet pineapple and a sharply earthy green tomato. We bought a carton without a second thought. We’re certainly not tomatillo connoisseurs, but we’d never heard of these little guys. We also acquired some pretty purple beans, a few bell peppers and onions (which are also making their appearance in this salsa), and delicious plump blackberries that we finished before we even got to the car! Overall a successful trip 🙌🏼 Soooo… hopefully no one clicked on this link looking for a pineapple AND tomatillo salsa, because that’s not what we’re making tonight!

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Little pineapple tomatillos!

With a little research, we learned that tomatillos generally belong to two species of the same genus (Physalis philadelphica and Physalis ixocarpa), but that there are dozens of varieties. Tomatillos are native to Mexico and Central America, but are generally cultivated all over the Americas today outside of the coldest reaches to the north and south. The largest natural and cultivated variety of tomatillos grow in Mexico. Our pineapple tomatillos are one of those many varietals! Another interesting tidbit: the modern Spanish word tomatillo is derived from the Native American/Aztec word for the same plant and ingredient, tomatl.

I know these pineapple tomatillos aren’t exactly an ingredient everyone has on hand or can run out to the store and pick up, but if you come across them anywhere, get some! This salsa was refreshing – light and fresh! Everyone who ate it remarked that it tasted like a tropical fruit salsa, even though it obviously doesn’t contain any mangoes or pineapples or the like!


Chunky Pineapple Tomatillo Salsa

Ingredients:
  • ~2 cups pineapple tomatillos (~1 cup, husks removed)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 scant cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions:
  1. Husk the tomatillos and roughly chop. (These are pretty small, so we essentially quartered them.)
  2. Place in a medium-sized bowl and sprinkle with a shake or two of salt.
  3. Stir the onion, pepper, cilantro, vinegar, lime zest, and 4 turns fresh ground black pepper in with the tomatillos.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and until ready to serve.
Yields ~2 cups of salsa